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Posts Tagged ‘Rachael Ray’

Jared and I had dinner at our sister and brother-in-law’s place this week (corned beef and cabbage for an early St. Patty’s day celebration – yum!). My sis Jessica was telling me all about her adventures learning to cook since she got married this past August. When Jared and I got married four years ago (next week!) I didn’t really know how to cook other than the typical choices of baked chicken and mashed potatoes, spaghetti, stir-fry, etc. I slowly learned what flavors tasted good together and how to multitask in the kitchen.

My love for all things culinary dates back to my childhood, however. I can remember being in elementary school and conducting my own “cooking shows” in our kitchen – I would mix together a ridiculous combination of spices and liquids in a large bowl, all while carefully narrating my steps to my “audience.” (Thank goodness no one ever ate it!) I also used to love watching Great Chefs and being mesmerized to see different courses from around the world made right in my living room.

I don’t even need to mention Rachael Ray and 30-Minute Meals. I used to watch her almost every weeknight in high school. Her cookbook was one of the first I ever received 🙂 I still watch her show sometimes while I’m cooking – even if I’m not making the same dish she is.

In 2006, I was cast in my church‘s production of Godspell. I had a great time singing, dancing, and performing again. When it was over, however, I was bored! I had been so used to being busy that I needed an activity to fill my time. Ever since, I’ve renewed my love for cooking. I go through phrases where I cook more or cook less, but I always have found it to be a stress reliever. And I love experimenting with new ingredients and flavors.

I’m not sure where the journey will end. Maybe I’ll go to culinary school. Maybe I’ll own a restaurant. Maybe Jared and I will drop everything and move to Paris and eat and drink for a living a la Julia Child. Whatever it is, I’m enjoying learning along the way.

One of the secrets, and pleasures, of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry; one of the lessons is to grin and bear it if it can’t be fixed. (Julia Child, My Life in France)

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Rachael Ray dedicated several pages in her 365: No Repeats cookbook to her beloved dog, Boo. Tonight I tried “Boo’s Smoky Chicken Patties.” With the exception of the first bowl of ingredients committing suicide (ie plunging to its shattery, glassy death when I turned away to get the can opener), this one was a success. The paprika makes it have a kick without being too spicy. I served these with carrot and celery sticks and some baked beans leftover from our camping trip this weekend. Yum!

  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground chicken breast (I used turkey)
  • 1 tbs. paprika
  • 1 1/2 tbs. grill seasoning
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tbs. EVOO
  • 8 slices sandwich white or whole-wheat bread
  • 2-3 tbs. unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups chopped baby spinach, watercress, or arugula

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Place the chicken in a bowl and add the paprika, grill seasoning, and parsley. Using a handheld grater, grate the onion into the chicken. Add the garlic and mix to combine. Make a mini patty, the size of a quarter, and cook it up, a minute on each side, to taste and check seasonings. If you want it really smoky, adjust the seasonings accordingly. Drizzle the chicken mixture with the EVOO and form 4 large, thin patties, then place them in the pan. Cook the patties for 5 minutes on each side. Toaste the bread slices and spread liberally with softened butter. Serve the patties on the buttered toast with some chopped dark greens. Makes 4 servings.

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I recently mentioned my new love for the often-ignored vegetables, fennel and leeks. The recipes I told you to try are not posted online, so I wanted to write them here. My favorite out of all three is the orzo with steak.

Grilled Skirt Steak and Orzo With the Works

(p. 252, 365: No Repeats; makes 4 servings)

  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs. skirt steak (I just used regular steak from Costco)
  • 3 tbs. balsamic vinegar (eyeball it)
  • 2 tbs. EVOO, plus some for drizzling
  • Coarse black pepper
  • Coarse salt
  • 1/2 lb. orzo
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (a couple of pinches)
  • 1 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes (I actually didn’t have any, and it still tasted great!)
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped or torn
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (a couple of generous handfuls), chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (a couple of overflowing handfuls)

Coat the skirt steak in balsamic vinegar, a good drizzle of EVOO, and a lot of freshly ground black pepper and marinate in a nonreactive dish for 5-10 minutes.

Preheat an outdoor grill or ridged grill pan to high.

Bring a large sauce pot of water to a boil to cook the orzo. Once boiling, salt the water and add the orzo. Cook until al dente, with a bite to it, about 12 minutes.

While the water is coming up to a boil, preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat with the 2 tbs. of EVOO (twice around the pan); add the onions, garlic, fennel, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the veggies are slightly tender.

Season the steak with salt and grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove the meat to a plate, tent loosely with foil, and let it rest for 5 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.

To the veggies, add the chicken stock and grape tomatoes, bring up to a bubble, and cook for 2 minutes, or until the grape tomatoes begin to burst. Add the cooked orzo, basil, parsley, and grated cheese and stir to combine.

Slice the meat very thin on a sharp angle. Serve alongside the orzo with the works.

My Friend Frank’s Famous Chicken

(p. 138, 30-Minute Meals; makes 4 servings)

  • 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • EVOO
  • 1 large bulb fennel, halved, then thinly sliced
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, sliced into strips, lengthwise
  • A handful golden raisins (about 1/4 cup packed)
  • 1 can (14 oz.) no-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
  • A handful chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Toasted pignoli (pine nuts) to garnish

Rub the balsamic vinegar into the chicken to tenderize it.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Go twice around the pan with EVOO. Cook chicken breasts 5 minutes on each side and remove from pan. Add fennel and onion. Cook, shaking pan every so often, until onion begins to caramelize (sweeten or turn caramel-golden in color), about 5 minutes. Return chicken to pan. Add raisins, broth, parsley, and salt and pepper. Heat through. Pour dish out onto a serving platter and granish with toasted pine nuts.

Shrimp Primavera Pasta With Asparagus, Peas, and Leeks

(p. 46, 2-4-6-8 Great Meals; makes 2-4 servings)

  • Salt
  • 1/2 lb. spaghetti
  • 1 leek
  • 2 tbs. EVOO
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/2 lb. medium-to-large shrimp, peeled and deveined (you can also substitute chicken for the shrimp)
  • 3/4 to 1 lb. asparagus (1 bundle), trimmed to 4 inches then cut into thirds
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tbs. butter, cut into small pieces
  • Black pepper
  • 1 cup shaved or grated Romano cheese
  • Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

Place a large covered pot of water on the stove and bring it up to a boil for the pasta. Salt the water and cook the spaghetti to al dente.

While the pasta is working, trim the tough green tops and the roots from the leek. Halve the leek lengthwise and dice it thin. Place the leeks in a colander and rinse them vigorously to release any grit. Drain the leeks well.

Heat the EVOO in a large, deep skillet over medium heat, add the garlic, and cook for a minute. Add the leeks and shiitakes and cook until they are tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the stock, raise the heat a little, and bring it up to a bubble. Once the stock bubbles, add the zest and the shrimp and cook it for 2 minutes, then add the asparagus and peas to the pan and cook them for 2 minutes more.

Melt the butter into the sauce, add the drained pasta to the pan, and toss to combine the shrimp and vegetables with the spaghetti. Season with a little pepper, adjust the salt to taste, and garnish with the cheese and parsley.

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I get tired of using the same vegetables over and over again in dishes – peas, green beans, corn – they taste great, but I need a little variety in my life! Enter two new vegetables that are quickly making their way to the top of my list: fennel and leeks. I was very intimidated the first time I purchased them at the store, not knowing how to cut, clean, or prepare them – but they were ingredients in two dishes I wanted to make so I plunged in headfirst!

First up – fennel. I shouldn’t be surprised that I love this vegetable, considering it contains many of the same flavorings as anise, which is behind the black licorice jelly beans I covet every Easter! Fennel comes in bulbs (often two that are connected) with large, feathery, leafy fronds emerging from the top of the bulbs. I have never eaten the leaves, although they are edible; the white bulbs have a less pungent flavor that does not overtake a dish. Rachael Ray has two dishes that made me fall in love with fennel: Grilled Skirt Steak and Orzo With the Works (p. 252, 365: No Repeats) and My Friend Frank’s Favorite Chicken (p. 138, 30-Minute Meals). She also has a Fennel, Sausage, and Potato Stoup recipe on her Every Day With Rachael Ray site that I’m dying to try!

Next up – leeks. I always thought of leeks as a vegetable your mom would force you to eat (even though I am part of the minority crowd that enjoys brussels sprouts). Their light, oniony flavor is actually refreshing – if you can get past the time-consuming cleaning process (soaking in water until the grit has washed away). Rachael Ray’s refreshing, light Shrimp Primavera With Asparagus, Peas, and Leeks (p. 46, 2-4-6-8 Great Meals) is a great summer supper. I cooked it for 12 people during our beach vacation – serve it up with a side salad and some white wine, and it’s delicious!

In doing research for this post I came across this recipe for Red-Pepper Fennel Soup With Pita Chips, which includes both fennel AND leeks! The best of both worlds 🙂

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Tonight’s meal took longer than 30 minutes, but it sure was worth it! I made Charred Tomato Soup With Stromboli (p. 194, 365: No Repeats by Rachael Ray). Charring the tomatoes and onions under the broiler before pureeing them into a chunky soup gave the dish a really smoky flavor that Jared and I both loved. The recipe called for a cup of heavy cream to thicken it, but I used fat-free half-and-half instead. Although we saved some calories, it did make the soup a little more watery than I would have planned. If I make this again (and I plan to!) I will probably use a little less chicken stock to account for the difference.

The best part of the meal, in my opinion, was the stromboli. I’m not a big fan of proscuitto – not only do I find it difficult to locate at the grocery store, I find the flavor to be a bit salty for my taste. Instead, I substituted turkey pepperoni, and the result added a bit of spice that I really enjoyed. Rachael Ray suggested making the stromboli into a breadstick-like form, but I had some trouble rolling out the refrigerated pizza dough (note to self – allow dough to come to room temperature before rolling next time). Instead I cut the dough into four pieces and rolled them into crescent-like rolls. The results were fantastic! They turned out golden and just chewy enough to melt in your mouth after soaking them in the soup.

This recipe reminds me of one of my favorite new meals, Tomato Bisque – a recipe I actually got from the Contemporary Resort at Disney World when I attended training there in April. What a fantastic, creamy dish! I’ll have to post that recipe soon. Bon appetit! Here’s the recipe:

  • 6 ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 small red onion, cut into chunks
  • 2 tbs EVOO
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tube refrigerated pizza dough
  • 1 tbs flour or cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • 12 slices proscuitto di parma (I used turkey pepperoni)
  • 4 slices provolone cheese
  • 2 tbs sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 quart chicken stock or broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream (I used fat-free half-and-half)
  • 20 fresh basil leaves, shredded or torn

Preheat the broiler to high.

Arrange the plum tomato halves skin side down, with the onions on a rimmed cookie sheet. Drizzle EVOO on the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Broil for about 4 minutes, flip and continue to broil for 3 minutes, or until the tomatoes and onions are slightly charred. Lower the oven setting to 400 degrees.

Dust your hands and the dough lightly with flour or cornmeal and unroll the dough out onto a work surface. Stretch out the dough, gently spreading its rectangle shape. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces: working across the dough cut it in half and cut each half in half again. Cover each piece of dough with 2 tbs of pesto.

Fold 3 slices of the prosciutto and 1 slice of the provolone to fit each pesto-covered piece of dough, then roll each piece on an angle from corner to corner, making a long roll that is thicker in the middle and thinner on each end. Brush the rolls with EVOO, then mix the sesame seeds, dried italian seasoning and 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes in a small cup. Sprinkle and pat the mixture onto the stromboli, place in the oven, and bake until evenly golden, 12 to 14 minutes.

Place the tomatoes and onions in a blender or food processor, and puree until somewhat smooth.

Preheat a soup pot over medium high heat, add the 2 tbs of EVOO, add the garlic and the remaining 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes. Saute the garlic for a minute, then add the pureed veggies and the chicken stock. When the soup comes to a bubble, add the cream, then season with salt and pepper. Simmer the soup for 8 to 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, turn off the soup and stir in the basil. Adjust the salt and pepper. Serve the soup alongside the pesto and stromboli, dipping them into the soup as you eat them.

Makes 4 servings.

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Monday’s dinner was supposed to be Polenta With Chunky Chicken and Chorizo Chili from 2-4-6-8 Great Meals (p. 181). I set out all the ingredients, including an opened bottle of Yuengling Light, and began chopping peppers and onions as the ground chicken started to cook. I opened a cabinet to get a storage container and ka-BOOM! A jar of honey fell from the top shelf and knocked the beer bottle to the floor, splashing all over the tile and cabinet doors.

What surprised me the most was that I didn’t overreact – I actually laughed, drank the remainder of the beer (and opened a new one for the chili), wiped the floor, and kept going. I think back to past kitchen mishaps – dropping an entire pot of rice and beans on the floor, spilling various spice jars, etc. At the time I wanted to cry. Haven’t we all had those moments?

I was curious as to what polenta and chili would taste like, and the answer is a very interesting combination of chunky and smooth. The polenta is spooned into the bottom of the bowl and the chili (and its light sauce of beer and tomato sauce) rests on top. The recipe called for chorizo in the chili, but I’m not a fan of its spicy, gritty flavor, so I left it out. I added a little sour cream on top to cool it all down.

Polenta is one of my new favorite ingredients to use – cooking it with chicken stock instead of water enhances the flavor and makes it taste like you’ve been cooking it all day. This meal had polenta mixed with scallions, butter, and thyme, and I’ve made it also with butter, parmesan cheese, and a little half-and-half. A few of Rachael Ray’s recipes call for polenta cakes in a twist on traditional lasagna – I think that will be my next attempt.

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On Sunday night I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to make for dinner – eggs, hamburgers, or just give up and make PB&J. I decided on an Olive Frittata and Tomato Bean Stoup from the 2-4-6-8 Great Meals for Couples or Crowds cookbook by Rachael Ray (p. 56-57). I like how she’s divided the recipes into how many people each will serve, although I tend to focus mainly on the “4” section. (I’ll admit I’m the queen of leftovers for lunch the next day.) This meal was listed in the “2” section, but it ended up making enough for 4 people.

This was the first time I’ve ever made a frittata from the stove to the oven, and it turned out great! I used the small skillet from Rachael Ray’s cookware line, which is the only skillet I have that is oven-safe (up to 400 degrees). I started the frittata on the stove and finished it up in the oven, and it was much faster than making it in the oven from the start. The frittata had a nice blend of green olives, roasted red peppers, and onions, with a creamy finish from the eggs. Next time I’ll fold the eggs more evenly on the stove so it has a flatter surface on top when it goes in the oven.

The stoup was wonderful because it had a great combination of fresh and canned ingredients. The red pepper flakes added a spicy note to the stoup without overwhelming it, and the mixture of beans and vegetables made the consistency of the dish hearty enough to stand on its own. I can see a wide range of possibilities with the tomato sauce/chicken broth/garlic/red pepper flakes base – for example, the recipe called for a 15-oz. can of small white beans, which I didn’t have, but a substitution of a can of soy beans worked equally as well.

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