Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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Weekly(ish) Recipe: Liz’s White Chicken Chili

It hit the 30s in Macon, Georgia this past weekend.  It snowed in parts of South Carolina and northern Georgia.  And, quite simply, cold and snow makes me crave chili – spicy and hot, so it warms inside to out.  And thus I began the chili recipe search.

I enjoy chili, and so does Nick, so I make it fairly often.  It’s my favorite use of leftovers when we smoke a beef brisket, for example.  I refer time and again to the recipe for Leslie’s Chili, which is still my go-to beef chili recipe.  Chili is a double-win as a cost-effective, two-night plus meal for the two of us.  This early cold snap presented the perfect opportunity to try some type of white chili, using either chicken or ground turkey.  I found Liz’s White Chicken Chili on page 61 of Recipes from the Maine Kitchen.

Setting up!

Setting up!

You’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 – 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 can (4 oz.) diced green chiles
  • 1/2 can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 2 cans (13 oz.) of cannelini beans, undrained

Heat oil in large skillet and cook chicken approximately 5 minutes.  Remove with slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl.  Cook the onion and garlic in the pan juices for about two minutes, then stir in the chicken broth, chiles, and spices.

Nearly done!

Nearly done!

 

Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.  Stir in chicken and beans and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.

This recipe really is as easy and (relatively) quick as it sounds.  If you want to punch up the spice, which I did, simply add more of the cumin and other spices.  I also threw in some fresh, diced jalapenos from our garden, and a bit of cayenne pepper.

Here’s where I have to be honest: while I liked this meal, and I would make it again, I wasn’t wild about it.  The flavor was good, but it was missing something for me.  Here’s what I’ll do differently the next time around:

1) poach and shred the chicken.  I think having shredded chicken throughout would have enhanced the flavor and the texture.  You also may be able to enhance the flavor by poaching the chicken in a mix of water and white wine, with seasonings.

2) add other veggies.  I’ve made beef chili before that calls for diced carrots and other unique vegetable additions.  I think that would work well in this dish, too, and add more interesting flavors.

Ready to dig in!

Ready to dig in!

If you like white chili (and let’s face it, chicken is better for us than red meat), I’m sure you will like this recipe.  I’ll keep you all posted on round 2 and if my revisions work well!

Happy cooking!

 

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Weekly Recipes: The Week of Chicken

I’ve dubbed last week the “week of chicken” because I made two recipes featuring chicken as the primary protein (and they were both really tasty).  This is a fairly (very) unusual occurrence for me, which is why it’s noteworthy.  While I recognize that chicken is a healthy, low-fat source of protein, and I consider myself a health-focused omnivore, I’m simply not much of a “chicken person.”  I can happily go weeks with no chicken in my diet – eating a mix of vegetarian meals, fish, and red meat.  Although my disinclination toward chicken isn’t strong enough to be accurately termed an “aversion,” I do consciously make other alternative choices most of the time.  When asked why, I can think of any number of reasons (too many bites of unidentifiable gristle in my McDonald’s “chicken” nuggets growing up, perhaps?), but the most significant is that I don’t cook chicken particularly well.  I’m not being overly modest, folks, trust me.  Chicken cooked by my hand is frequently overdone and tough, having lost what little flavor and juiciness it naturally contained as a result of my fear of under-doing it.  My husband can attest to the unfortunate accuracy of this statement (although, good man that he is, he eats every bite and insists it “tastes good!”).

But!  As of last week, I have found not one, but TWO chicken recipes that I can cook to a successful and delicious end result.  Incredibly, these two recipes come from the same cookbook – Maine Home Cooking by Sandra Oliver – and are on pages 86 and 87 side-by-side.

First up is Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts with Balsamic Sauce.  Rather than use a roasting pan (I only have a large one meant for holiday turkey and ham), I used my cast iron skillet.  The original recipe serves 4.

You’ll need:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons teriyaki or soy sauce (I used soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Ready to prep!

Ready to prep!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the chicken, tomatoes, onion, garlic, oil, vinegar, soy sauce, salt, and pepper in a roasting pan.  Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until the chicken is done (will vary depending on thickness).

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Remove the chicken from the pan and cover it to keep warm.  Add chopped fresh tarragon to juices in the pan and bring them to a boil on a surface burner. Remove from heat.  To serve, put the chicken on a platter and spoon the sauce over it.

It doesn't look that pretty... but it tasted pretty great!

It doesn’t look that pretty… but it tasted pretty great!

I added a side of rice to this dish to soak up the extra sauce, which was far too tasty to go to waste!

Up second: Parmesan Chicken, page 87.  This recipe also serves 4.

You’ll need:

  •  4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • olive oil or milk sufficient to coat the chicken (I used olive oil)
  • 3/4 cup, more or less, breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup, more or less, parmesan cheese
  • 4 to 8 teaspoons coarsely shredded parmesan cheese for topping
  • Paprika

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a baking pan lightly with olive oil. Coat the chicken with the olive oil (or milk).  Roll in the breadcrumbs, seasonings, and grated parmesan cheese.  Place them in the baking dish and sprinkle with paprika.  Cover with aluminum foil, bake for 40 minutes, remove foil, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of coarsely shredded parmesan cheese to each piece of chicken to melt on top, and continue baking until the cheese is melted and chicken is golden, 5-10 minutes.

Looks good enough to eat!

Looks good enough to eat!

I served this recipe with sauteed asparagus.  It enabled me to pretend I was being healthy… despite the cheese and breadcrumbs all over the chicken.

As stated previously, both of these recipes were truly outstanding.  They will become regulars in our house – particularly because I can distinguish the difference between Nick’s “Really, it tastes good!” and the unprompted, “this is really good.”

I hope you try them and enjoy them, too!


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Weekly Recipe: Leslie’s Chili

Although it feels a little early in the cold weather seasons to be sharing a chili recipe, Nick requested chili specifically for tonight – so here we are!  Chili is one of those dishes that I rarely follow a recipe for.  Once you’ve made it a couple of times, you have the gist.  However, there can be a vast difference between standard chili – pretty much always good – and really delicious chili.  Since it is a Sunday and I had some extra time, I figured I’d see if I could find a chili recipe in one of my Maine cookbooks and give it a try.

Leslie’s Chili, on page 95 of Maine Home Cooking, was the winner.  Sandra Oliver’s intro to this recipe is what convinced me – her sentiments mirrored my own above – but she recalled having a particularly excellent chili at her friend Leslie’s house, so she tracked that recipe down to share with the rest of us.

You’ll need:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1 lb. lean ground meat (I used beef)
  • Two 14 oz. cans kidney or black beans
  • One 28 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • Squirt of ketchup

Brown the onion and garlic in a large, heavy pan.  Add the meat and brown it, then add the rest of the ingredients and cook for 1/2 an hour or so.  Taste occasionally and adjust seasoning.

A few additional notes:

I added some chopped jalapenos (pickled) to mine, and served with shredded cheddar cheese on top.  Leslie’s notes recommended using two colors of beans (for example, black beans and kidney beans), which I did.  She also sometimes adds a bit of hot sauce.

This chili recipe certainly hit the mark for me, and Nick said it was one of his favorites – it was really yummy and a clear step above your standard, thrown together chili.  The other bonus for me was how quick it was – a little less than an hour total.  My only (and very small) complaint is that I found the flavor to be a little too sweet.  Next time, I’d go with 1/8 cup of sugar, rather than 1/4.

Oh yum!

Oh yum!

Try it on a brisk fall evening or chilly winter night!


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Weekly Recipe: Baked Salmon Fillets with Cashew Coating

This recipe was passed on to me by my mom, so I don’t have a handy cookbook reference for you, but I can vouch with great confidence for how wonderful it is.  If you like salmon, you will love this meal.  It’s actually quite easy and still feels much fancier than marinated, baked salmon (which is what I usually do).  The crunchy cashew coating made me feel like I was eating a gussied-up salmon dish from a restaurant, rather than from my own kitchen.

In this post, you’re also going to get a bonus recipe, because the side dish I made to accompany the salmon is called ‘Ben’s Peppery Potato Wedges’ and is from The Maine Summers Cookbook.  These potato wedges might be my new favorite side.  I’m mad (in a good way) about them.  I thought these dishes went well together; we actually made this same meal when my mom was here visiting, and I repeated it last night.

A sneak peek at the tasty ingredients...

A sneak peek at the tasty ingredients…

To make the salmon, you’ll need:

  • 3 tablespoons of butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey (preferably from the Honey Exchange!)
  • 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs, unseasoned
  • 1/4 cup chopped cashews
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried Thyme (fresh would work also)
  • 3-4 salmon fillets
  • Salt and pepper to taste (both my mom and I have forgotten this ingredient in the past, and didn’t miss it a bit!  The other flavors make the dish fabulous)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together butter, honey, and mustard. In another bowl, combine bread crumbs, thyme, and cashews.

My favorite kitchen gadget is this chopper - a gift from my dad!

My favorite kitchen gadget is this chopper – a gift from my dad!

Place the salmon in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish that you have lightly coated with cooking spray or oil. Brush the salmon with the butter mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the fillets and pat down.

Ready to bake!

Ready to bake!

Bake until fish flakes or about 15 to 18 minutes (I went with 18).

You could choose to garnish this dish with lemon slices, but I didn’t (and didn’t miss it).  Also, I took my mom’s advice and brushed on some of the butter mixture, retaining part of it to mix with the bread crumbs and cashews to form a crumble, and then smoothed that over the salmon and patted it down.

If you know my mother, you know she tends to be very modest about her own cooking, and is by far her own harshest critic.  So when she sent the following quote at the end of her email, I knew this dish was a winner: “This recipe was delicious…really and truly good!”
And it was.
For Ben’s Peppery Potato Wedges, which can be found on page 153, you’ll need:
  • 4 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed (I confess, I went with Yukon Gold this time)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (last night, I did these at 400 to work with the salmon – I simply added 5-10 minutes to the cooking time, and they were still great).  Cut each potato lengthwise into 8 wedges.  Toss the wedges in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper until well coated.
Prepped for baking...

Prepped for baking…

Generously oil a shallow baking pan and place the potato wedges, one cut side down, in the pan.  Tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil and roast for 10 minutes.  Remove the foil and turn the wedges over, placing the other cut side down.  Roast for 10 minutes, uncovered.  Turn the wedges again and roast for 10 minutes more, or until nicely browned.
I’m not exaggerating when I say these potato wedges are excellent.  I love potatoes (as you know), and I really enjoy a little spice – so the inclusion of cayenne pepper makes this a perfect dish for me.  You could probably swap in garlic powder for garlic potato wedges, or go without any particular spice if you’d like a more traditional style.
Oh yum!

Oh yum!

I hope you try one or both of these recipes – and send your thoughts and feedback!


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Weekly Recipe: Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese

Happy Saturday!  I enjoyed this recipe so much that despite this meaning two “weekly” recipe posts back-to-back in one week, I couldn’t resist.  I really like cauliflower, but we rarely eat it because Nick isn’t a big fan.  When I saw this recipe, I thought he could probably stomach it (and maybe even like it), if it was baked and covered in cheese.  After all, cheese really does make everything better.

This is the Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese recipe found in my Maine Home Cooking cookbook on page 236.

You’ll need:

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 to 2 cups uncooked macaroni or shaped pasta
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • milk
  • cheeses of your choice (I went with 1 1/2 cups of cheddar, and a 1/4 cup parmesan)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • dill, parsley, scallions, or nutmeg (optional)
Chopped scallions and dill (this is my favorite method for chopping herbs - pop them in a cup, grab the scissors, and snip away!  It's so easy)

Chopped scallions and dill (this is my favorite method for chopping herbs – pop them in a cup, grab the scissors, and snip away! It’s so easy)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the cauliflower into bite size pieces and steam or simmer until barely tender.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions and drain.  Mix the pasta and cauliflower in a lightly greased baking dish.  Put the butter into a heavy pan over medium heat, melt it, add flour, and cook together until bubbly, then add milk (I used about 1 1/2 cups).  Whisk and cook until slightly thickened, and add the cheese.  If the sauce is very thick, add a bit more milk, and whisk until smooth.

Mmm, cheesy sauce...

Mmm, cheesy sauce…

Add seasonings, and pour the sauce over the pasta and cauliflower, stirring it a little to distribute evenly.  Top with a bit more cheese and bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Time to dish it up!

Time to dish it up!

This was a truly delicious dish.  I loved it in every way – the pasta, the cauliflower, the cheese, the seasonings.. well, you get the idea.  If I made it again, I would probably make it as a side rather than a main dish.  I think it would complement roasted or fried chicken really nicely.  Nick liked it as well, and I didn’t see any pieces of cauliflower left on his plate, so I considered it a victory.

I hope you try it and enjoy it as well!


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Weekly Recipe: Blueberry Molasses Cake

I’d been looking forward to making this blueberry molasses cake recipe, so rather than cave to my post-work exhaustion and sit on the couch, I decided to push through and give it a try.  Others gave this cake rave reviews – I admit, up front, that I was less enamored with it, but I think it would be delicious as a muffin or blueberry bread – it just wasn’t what I expected from a “cake.”

This recipe interested me for a couple of reasons.  Maine Home Cooking frequently includes a brief editorial about the history of each recipe and the significance of its ingredients, and in this case, the cookbook included a description of how molasses has been used by Maine cooks as a sweetener for all sorts of baked goods as a result of “necessary frugality.”  I liked this factoid because thrifty common sense is one of the first things that comes to mind when I think of the Maine people.  Another reason for my particular interest in this recipe, as described in an earlier blog post, is because the wild blueberry is such a significant role player in Maine’s economy, history, and identity.

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For this cake, you’ll need:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour (since beginning my ‘Weekly Recipe’ posts, I have used more flour than I had in the last several years combined)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of your choice of spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, or ginger – I went with cinnamon and nutmeg)
  • 2/3 cup molasses
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup lightly floured blueberries

Remove two tablespoons of flour (for flouring the blueberries).  Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 9″ x 13″ pan.  Sift the flour, baking soda, and spices together.  Mix together the molasses, sugar, oil, and egg, and combine with the flour and spices, then mix in the boiling water (this batter becomes markedly easier to mix once the boiling water works its magic!).

Wet ingredients... and dry ingredients...

Wet ingredients… and dry ingredients…

Add the blueberries last, and pour into pan.  Bake for 30 minutes or until a tester inserted comes out clean.  Serve with whipped cream.

This recipe, like some of the other baked goods I’ve made, is pretty quick and easy.  When we took it to my cousin’s for a family gathering, people dug in and all said it was delicious.  It’s pretty, too:

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Enjoy!


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Weekly Recipe: Spinach, Ricotta, and Pasta Casserole

I really, really hate letting anything go to waste.  I purposefully select recipes and “meal plan” our week to use up any ingredients in our fridge.  For example, if a recipe calls for chicken broth, I specifically seek out other recipes (that are varied enough not to bore us) that require chicken broth so that I can use it within the 10 days specified on the carton.  Same goes for any veggies, dairy products, etc. that might be living in our refrigerator.

The one area in which I have failed repeatedly to accomplish this feat is with ricotta cheese.  My husband loves lasagna, so I make it fairly frequently, but I haven’t found a use for the remaining ricotta, which inevitably goes bad before I make lasagna again.  So, imagine my surprise and delight when I stumbled across this recipe in my Maine Home Cooking cookbook.  It resides on page 218, under the ‘Fresh and Seasonal’ category, and it requires nearly the exact amount of ricotta cheese that I had left over from making lasagna late last week.  Additionally, it includes spinach, which I am coincidentally trying to eat more of (along with kale, and other dark green vegetables), because my eye doctor recommended it for my long-term eye health.  Perfection!

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 package frozen, chopped spinach or 1 lb. bagged fresh spinach (I used fresh)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced (optional)
  • 1 pint of ricotta cheese
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of pesto (optional)
  • 8 ounces bow tie or rotini pasta
  • 1/2 lb. of mozzarella, grated

I added both the garlic and pesto (which my mother had made herself), and I highly recommend both.  It really set the dish off.

If using fresh spinach, wash it and spin it to remove excess water, then blanch or steam it.  Squeeze the water out of the steamed or frozen spinach and chop it up.

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Steaming spinach, boiling pasta…

Saute the chopped onion and minced garlic in the olive oil until soft.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put the ricotta cheese in a medium bowl and stir into it the spinach, onions, garlic, and pesto (or your choice of seasonings).  I should mention, I also added about a 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese – because I had it, and it’s delicious – what other reason do I need?

Next step – boil and drain the pasta and mix into the seasoned spinach and ricotta.

Mix it all together...

Mix it all together…

Brush or spray a little oil in a 2-quart baking dish.  Put in half the mixture and sprinkle half the grated mozzarella, then add the other half and top with remaining mozzarella.

Layered pasta, spinach, and cheese, pre-baking

Layered pasta, spinach, and cheese, pre-baking

Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted on top and it is heated through.  Then enjoy!

Yum!

Yum!

This dish was exceptional.  I love pasta and cheese, so it wasn’t a long shot to wow me, but Nick is a little tougher.  While he (pretty much) always likes my cooking, I can tell when he really enjoys it because he says something along the lines of “wow, honey, this is really good.”  When that happens, I put it on my “make again” list.  This recipe just landed there.  I can’t recommend it highly enough!