Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fresh Garlic 101, and some great easy recipes...

I absolutely love using fresh garlic in what I cook. I used to think that garlic just "grew" in those little jars, you know what I'm talking about. The jar of minced garlic, that sits in your fridge forever. What the heck is a "clove" of garlic? I know, you all know way more than me and probably already know everything I am about to tell you. But humor me! I just learned all about garlic. I never knew there were so many ways to use it!

One raw pressed or minced garlic clove is more powerful than 12 whole cooked cloves. SO, it matters how you prepare garlic in a recipe! For the least-intense flavor of garlic, whole peeled garlic should be used. When I make pasta sauce, the last step is always to add a few whole peeled cloves into the sauce and let simmer for a while. Sliced garlic adds a little more intensity to a recipe. The most intense flavor comes from pressing garlic. Of course, you need a good solid garlic press to get the job done right. The best garlic presses do not require you to peel the clove before pressing it. Of course, Pampered Chef has THE BEST garlic press on the market. ;)

Garlic comes in a "bulb" and needs to be stored in a cool, dry place. Do not put it in the refridgerator. It also needs air circulation, so don't put it in a plastic bag or anything like that. I keep mine in a bowl on the top of my refridgerator. When you are ready to use the bulb for the first time, put it on a countertop and roll it under your palm, applying pressure. You will hear it crackling and feel it breaking apart. This should release the "paper" covering enough for you to take out a few cloves. There, now you're ready to peel and use the garlic. To peel, you can place a knife blade flat overtop of the clove and whack the blade, breaking the peel and making it easy to remove. Or, there are also a number of garlic peelers on the market. Pampered Chef is releasing one March 1. :)

Here are some great recipes using garlic. The first recipe uses whole peeled garlic cloves, the second one uses sliced garlic, and the third one uses pressed garlic. Enjoy!

The Pampered Chef ®
Grilled Chicken Penne al FrescoRecipe

4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes
3 cups uncooked mezze penne pasta
3 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup dry white wine such as Chardonnay (see below for substitution)
1/2 tsp each salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, divided
1 oz Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/4 cup packed)
2 cups diced grilled chicken breasts
Additional grated fresh Parmesan cheese and coarsely ground black pepper (optional)
Spray Deep Covered Baker with olive oil using Kitchen Spritzer. Slice garlic into baker using Garlic Slicer. Add tomatoes. Cover; microwave on HIGH 4-5 minutes or until tomatoes begin to burst, stirring after 2 minutes. Crush tomatoes using Mix ‘N Chop. Add pasta, broth, wine, salt and black pepper. Return baker to microwave; cover and microwave on HIGH 16-18 minutes or until pasta is tender, stirring after 10 minutes. Meanwhile, coarsely chop basil with Chef's Knife. Reserve 2 tbsp for garnish. Grate cheese using Rotary Grater. Carefully remove baker from microwave and remove lid, lifting away from you. Add remaining basil, cheese and chicken to baker; mix well. Garnish with reserved 2 tbsp basil, additional Parmesan cheese and black pepper, if desired.
Yield: 8 servings
Cook's Tip: An additional 3/4 cup chicken broth can be substituted for the wine, if desired. Any tube-shaped pasta requiring 9-11 minutes cook time, such as penne or rigatoni, can be substituted for the mezze penne pasta.

The Pampered Chef ®
Microwave White Chicken Chili Recipe
3 whole heads garlic (about 48 cloves), unpeeled
3/4 tsp salt, divided
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 poblano peppers
1 medium onion
1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
2 tbsp Southwestern Seasoning Mix
2 cans (15.5 oz each) Great Northern beans, drained
1 jar (16 oz) salsa verde

Using (5-in.) Santoku Knife, slice about 1/4 in. off the pointed top of garlic heads to expose cloves. Place garlic cut side up in Classic Batter Bowl. Sprinkle garlic with 1/4 tsp of the salt and drizzle with 2 tbsp of the oil. Cover batter bowl with lid; microwave on HIGH 3 minutes or until garlic is soft. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, finely dice peppers using Santoku Knife. Chop onion using Food Chopper. Combine peppers and onion in Deep Covered Baker. Trim and finely dice chicken using Boning Knife. Add chicken, seasoning mix, remaining 1 tbsp oil and remaining 1/2 tsp salt to baker; mix well using Master Scraper. Microwave, covered, on HIGH 4 minutes; stir to separate chicken. Cover; microwave an additional 4-6 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Meanwhile, gently squeeze cooled garlic from heads into batter bowl (discard skins); mash using Mix ‘N Masher. Add beans and salsa to batter bowl. Transfer bean mixture to baker; mix well. Microwave, covered, on HIGH 5-7 minutes or until chili is heated through.
Yield: 8 servings (8 cups)

AMAZING Garlic Knots!
1 can refridgerated biscuits
1 stick butter
2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
3 garlic cloves, pressed

In a saute pan over medium heat, melt butter on stove-top. Add pressed garlic. Cut biscuits into quarters with Kitchen Shears, add to butter and toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle Italian Seasoning over mixture. MAKING SURE YOUR PAN IS OVEN-SAFE (all Pampered Chef pans are), place saute pan into 400 degree oven for 8 minutes, or until biscuits are browned and fully cooked.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Random tip I found...

I don't know about you, but my eyes go crazy whenever I am slicing a big juicy onion. I always get so nervous when I am using an onion at a shows, because I know what they can do to me (it's not pretty, especially if I forgot to wear waterproof mascara!) I have heard many different theories on how to help out with the "crying" factor of chopping onions, but I finally found one that works for me! So for all "onion cryers", next time you slice an onion run it under cold water while you're peeling it and making that first slice. The sulfuric acid in the onion is washed away, and you are tear-free. You may have heard this millions of times, but it's news to me! It worked tears! Revolutioned my kitchen experience... :)

Monday, February 16, 2009

One of our favorites...

I wanted to post one of our favorite recipes to make right now. I'm totally not into recipes that have a lot of ingredients. Usually, if a recipe has a long list of ingredients, I turn the page. Ben and I love this recipe, and usually end up having it (or a variation of it) once a week. It is super easy because you make it all in one skillet. Feel free to change it to suit your tastes. You can substitute different vegetables, like carrots and zuccini. You can also switch it up by making it with chicken, pork, shrimp, etc. It's very inexpensive...only about $2 per serving! Again, courtesy of The Pampered Chef (do you expect any less??? :o)

The Pampered Chef® Asian Pork & Noodle Skillet Recipe

1 medium red bell pepper
1 medium onion
2 pork tenderloins (about 1 lb each), or 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp Pampered Chef's Asian Seasoning Mix, optional
4 pkg (3 oz each) chicken or oriental flavor ramen noodles
4 cups water
1 cup broccoli, coarsely chopped

Cut bell pepper lengthwise into 1/4-in. strips using Chef's Knife. Chop onion and broccoli, set aside. Slice pork lengthwise into strips. Thinly slice strips crosswise. Combine pork, 1 Tablespoon of oil, seasoning mix and two of the ramen seasoning packets in Classic Batter Bowl; mix well. Add 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil to (12-in.) Skillet; heat over medium-high heat 1-3 minutes or until shimmering. Cook pork until browned; remove from Skillet and keep warm. Add broccoli and bell pepper to Skillet. Cook 1-2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add water and remaining ramen seasoning packets. Add ramen noodles and onions to Skillet. Cover; bring to a boil and cook 4-5 minutes or until noodles are softened. Add pork; stir to break apart noodles. Remove Skillet from heat; let stand, covered, 3-4 minutes or until pork is heated through.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrients per serving: Calories 490, Total Fat 20 g, Saturated Fat 7 g, Cholesterol 100 mg, Carbohydrate 38 g, Protein 39 g, Sodium 1300 mg, Fiber 2 g


Monday, February 9, 2009

Am I the only one...

…who is obsessed with saving money these days? We used to eat out a lot, even though I do enjoy cooking. Now that we are eating at home a lot more (like many people), I have become obsessed with finding the cheapest way to shop for groceries. Well, I left the grocery store today, having spent the MOST money I have spent at the grocery store in a long time. The bill? $68.23. I don’t clip coupons. I'm just not good at it. I used to take the time to cut them out, and by the time I got around to needing what was on the coupon, it had expired. I know, some of you are really good at using coupons and can pay only $3 for 3 whole carts of groceries…but I am just not that organized and diligent. So, back to my grocery bill. Yes, $68.23. I bought 4 pounds of frozen chicken (we eat a lot of chicken, almost every meal), ham, turkey, and some beef tenderloins. I bought lots of fruit and veggies, including bell peppers, tomatoes, pineapple, limes, lemons, onions, avocados, strawberries, and corn. I also bought milk, eggs, sour cream, Monterrey Jack cheese, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, and parmesan cheese, plus lots of other small things. OK, I completely understand that you really do not care what I am buying at the grocery store, but I am trying to get you to realize that I bought a LOT of stuff here. So, I know you are DYING to know my secret. But you have to promise to keep it a secret and not tell anyone else. How did I pay only $68.23 for all of these groceries? ALDI. It is the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. Sad, I know, but true. Many of you are probably nodding your heads in agreement right now, because you are already an avid Aldi shopper. I had heard of it for years, but thought “Um, no. I’m not going there.” I don’t know why. I guess I thought they didn’t have everything the regular stores had, or that their stuff would not be fresh or whatever. But seriously, I would never, ever, ever go to another grocery store for my grocery shopping again. Unless, of course, Aldi does not have something I need, which doesn’t happen too often. SO, with everyone eating at home more and trying to feed their families for less money, I thought I would share my secret. But you really cannot tell anyone else. Just kidding, you can tell 2 people. But no more. Seriously, I don’t want to have to wait in long lines or go to another store because they are out of something I need. :o)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Save some room...

...for this AMAZING dessert! I heard rave reviews about our "Tiramisu Brownie Trifle", but never really thought I would try it on my own. That is, until a good friend of mine absolutely insisted that I make it. SO I did and let me tell you it is TO DIE FOR! Here are the simple instructions...

The Pampered Chef ®Tiramisu Brownie Trifle Recipe
1 pkg (18-21 oz) fudge brownie mix (plus ingredients to make brownies)
1 container (16 oz) frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided
2 bars (1.45 oz each) dark chocolate candy, divided
1/2-1 cup special coffee mixture (combine 3/4 cup water, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tbsp instant coffee granules and 1 tsp rum extract in Large Micro-Cooker®. Microwave on HIGH 2-3 minutes or until sugar is dissolved), divided
1/2 cup water
3 tbsp instant coffee granules
2 pkg (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened
1 pkg (3.3 oz) vanilla instant pudding and pie filling

Preheat oven to 375°F. Prepare brownie mix according to package directions. Pour batter into pan; bake 20-22 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove brownie from pan to Stackable Cooling Rack.
Meanwhile, fill medium-sized Ziplock bag with about 3/4 cup of the whipped topping; set aside. Chop 1 1/2 of the chocolate bars using Food Chopper; set aside. For filling, combine 1/2 cup "special coffee mixture", water and instant coffee in Small Batter Bowl; stir until dissolved using Stainless Whisk. In Stainless (4-qt.) Mixing Bowl, whisk cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add coffee mixture to cream cheese; whisk until smooth. Add pudding mix to cream cheese mixture; whisk until mixture begins to thicken. Fold in remaining whipped topping and chopped chocolate using Master Scraper; set aside.
Cut brownie into 1-in. cubes using Pizza Cutter. If desired, using Chef's Silicone Basting Brush, brush brownie cubes with additional 1/2 cup "special coffee mixture".
To assemble trifle, place one-third of the brownie cubes into Trifle Bowl. Layer one-third of the filling evenly over brownies. Repeat layers two more times. Squeeze whipped topping in rows over filling. Grate remaining chocolate bar over whipped topping using Rotary Grater.
Yield: 20 servings

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Dinner in 15 minutes, plus a fabulous chicken recipe!

As promised, I am going to show you a complete meal that can be prepared in about 15 minutes. I know, sounds crazy! It involves cooking in an awesome piece of stoneware called the Deep Covered Baker. I can almost hear some of you cheering right now! :o) This baker is amazing, and I will show you why. The recipe we'll be making in it today is a BBQ Pork Tenderloin. All you need is a one pound pork tenderloin, a little vegetable oil, an onion, and some of your favorite seasoning (I use Smoky BBQ Rub). Place the tenderloin in your baker, rubbing it down with a tablespoon of oil and a tablespoon or two of the seasoning. Chop up an onion and place it around the tenderloin, if desired. Then, place the lid on the baker and pop it in the....microwave. In only 8 minutes, you will have a delicious, tender, juicy pork tenderloin. I promise! Those of you who have tried this or seen it in action, speak up and tell everyone what you think! I would love to hear how you are varying it up in your own kitchen. FYI: If your tenderloin is closer to two pounds, put it in for 10-12 minutes. While the tenderloin is cooking, you have just enough time to saute some fresh veggies to add to your delicious pork tenderloin. Now, some of you may be thinking, "Well, I don't have a Deep Covered Baker, so this blog post is not helpful to me." So, I have come prepared today with TWO amazing recipes for you! I came across this recipe while watching "Regis and Kelly" last week. They were doing Super Bowl recipes (I know, I should have posted this last week!), and I just had to try the "Aaron McCargo Jr.'s Tortilla Chip-Crusted Chicken Tenders". I will post my version of the recipe here today. His version sounded great, but included blue tortilla chips, grapeseed oil, and a couple of other things I never have on-hand. So, here is my version (if you are dying to see his version, you can find it on their web site).

1/2 bag tortilla chips
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch strips OR just use about 6 chicken tenders
1 Tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

Special Seasoning:
1 Tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons onion powder 2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 Tablespoons seasoned salt/regular salt
2 teaspoons pepper

Crush chips separately into a shallow dish. In another shallow dish, add 1 cup of flour and in another shallow dish; beat 2 eggs. Dredge chicken strips in flour, then egg and finally into the crushed tortillas. Transfer to plate. Sprinkle with special seasoning.In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add oil. Add chicken strips 1 at a time and pan- fry until golden and cooked through, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan onto a plate and reserve.

So good! We loved it! It's super easy and uses common everyday ingredients. Enjoy! Let me know what you think if you try it!