Friday, June 27, 2014

June 27, 2014

We tried a bunch of new things this week...including one meal that continued cooking while we took shelter during a real tornado warning (the sirens went off and we got a call from the village telling everyone to take immediate was quite the experience!).  In any case- it turns out that dinner, Mexican Chicken Alfredo, was a keeper!

This week we also went strawberry picking - our second annual trip to the strawberry patch.  We really picked a lot (A LOT!) and so this week we had strawberry shortcake, strawberry sorbet, made strawberry jam, strawberry-blueberry jam, and strawberry syrup (for pancakes and ice cream).   We made bread and the strawberry-blueberry jam on it was fabulous!  Hold on...I need to go make some toast. 

And, just because I am completely ambitious in the kitchen (or a hippie, or both), we made our own flour tortillas for taco night.  I know what you are thinking...come on, you can buy a dozen for $.99!  Yes, I know.  But I have been wanting to try making them, and now that I am done with my coursework I could finally try it!  They were really good!  Fun to make, and easy, but if tacos are your go-to dinner when you have 1000 other things going on, they are certainly not worth it since they are a bit time consuming.  But, if you have time on your hands, and the kids are looking for something to do, and maybe the weather isn't good enough to hit the pool or bike to the tennis courts, then yes, I recommend you give these a try. It was really fun to put tacos on the table having made the tortillas and the taco seasoning for the meat.  As soon as the garden is bearing fruits and veggies we can make our own salsa with home-grown tomatoes and hot peppers!  Then I will be really smiling at the dinner table.  Or maybe it will be a smirk - agreeing with those around me that I am a bit over the edge when it comes to cooking. 

All in all it was an extremely successful week!  Lets see what the upcoming week has in store.

Happy Cooking!

New Recipes
Alfredo Sauce
Mexican Chicken Alfredo
Flour Tortillas
Strawberry Sorbet

Alfredo Sauce

* 1 stick butter
* 1 cup heavy cream
* salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
* 2 cups freshly grates Parmesan cheese

1. In a saucepan or skillet over low heat, warm the butter and cream. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Place half of the Parmesan into the sauce and stir.  When fully combined add the rest of the Parmesan and stir until creamy.

This makes 2 cups of sauce.  Hannah is in love with this - but I am not surprised because she loves Parmesan cheese so much!

Mexican Chicken Alfredo

* 12 oz pasta (gemelli, bowtie, etc)
* 1 lb boneless skinless chicken, cubed
* 1/2 cup onion, chopped
* 1/8 tsp salt
* 1/8 tsp pepper
* 1 tbs oil
* 15 oz Alfredo sauce (DIY if you want)
* 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
* 1/2 cup salsa
* 1/4 cup 2% milk
* 2 tsp taco seasoning (DIY if you want)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Cook pasta according to the directions
2.  In a large skillet over medium heat cook the chicken, onion, salt and pepper in oil until the chicken is no longer pink.  Stir in the Alfredo sauce and bring to a boil.
3. Once boiling, add in cheese, salsa, milk and taco seasoning.  Stir until combined.  Remove from heat.
4. Drain the pasta and toss with the chicken mixture.  Pour into a greased 9x13 glass baking dish.  Cover with foil and bake 25-30 minutes or until bubbly.  Enjoy!

We used our homemade taco seasoning and homemade Alfredo sauce. 

Flour Tortillas

* 3 cups flour
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 1/3 cup vegetable oil
* 1 cup warm water

1. Combine flour, salt and baking powder in the bowl of a stand mixer. With the dough hook attached mix dry ingredients until well combined. Add oil and water with mixer running at a medium speed. Mix for 1 minute, stopping several times to scrape the sides of the bowl. After about 1 minute, or when mixture comes together and begins to form a ball, decrease mixing speed to low. Continue to mix for 1 minute or until dough is smooth. 
2. Transfer from mixing bowl to a well-floured work surface. Divide dough in half, then in half again. Continue until you have 16 fairly equal portions. Form each piece into a ball and flatten with the palm of your hand as much as possible. If dough is sticky, use a bit more flour. Cover flattened balls of dough with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rest for 15 minutes before proceeding. 
3. After rest period, heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Roll each dough piece into a rough circle, about 6-7 inches in diameter, keep work surface and rolling pin extremely lightly floured. Don’t stack uncooked tortillas on top of each other or they will get soggy. 
4. When pan is very hot, place one dough circle into pan and allow to cook about 1 minute or until bottom surface has a few pale brown spots. The uncooked surface will begin to show a few little bubbles. If tortilla is browning too fast, reduced heat a bit. If it’s taking longer than a minute to see a few pale golden brown spots on underside of tortillas, increase heat a bit. Flip to other side and cook for about 30 seconds. You want the tortilla to be soft but have a few small pale golden brown spots on surface. Remove from pan with tongs and stack in a covered container or zippered bag till all tortillas are cooked. This will keep them soft and pliable. 
5. Wipe out the pan in between tortillas if flour is started to accumulate. 
6. Serve warm or allow to cool for later use. 

We certainly got better with these as we went along.  The first few we made we ensured the surface was well floured when we rolled them out - but then the excess flour burned in the hot pan.  (And don't get me started on how long it took to get my favorite stainless pan back to its typical beautiful condition!)  We found the dough to be easy to work with without too much flour, and we used a bench scraper to move it when it was time to cook it.  The pan that we ended up using with great results was my 10" Calphalon frying pan.  Also, when the tortilla began to create bubbles as it cooks on the first side, before the bubble gets a chance to get too big, lightly prick it with the tines of a fork.  This was a great trick we learned with the about 4 to go.  Definitely the last tortillas of the group turned out the best.  By the end we had figured out to roll them decently round, nice a thin, with very little to no excess flour.  They were fun to make, and tasted like tortillas!  They worked great for taco night!  If you have time on your hands and you are making tacos, give this a try.  If taco night made your weekly meal plan because life is hectic and full of competing schedules and you need a quick and easy dinner everyone loves, grab a package of tortillas from the store!

Fresh Strawberry Sorbet

* 1 cup sugar
* 1 cup water
* 1/4 cup corn syrup
* 4 cups of strawberries that have been pulsed prior to being measured
* 4 tbsp lemon juice

1. Make a simple syrup by bringing the sugar and water together to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer without stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Transfer to a bowl or other container and let cool completely.
2. Combine the already pulsed strawberries with the lemon juice and puree completely in a food processor or blender.  Press the strawberry puree through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds.
3. Combine the seedless strawberry puree with the simple syrup and the corn syrup.  Chill for at least 1 hour.
4. Freeze the sorbet mix according to your ice cream freezer manufacturer directions.  After frozen, eat the sorbet or let it ripen in the freezer for 2 hours or so.

Wow - was this delicious!!!!  Even Liam, who doesn't like to eat strawberries, just cannot get enough of this!  It is amazingly refreshing on a hot and humid summer afternoon or evening. If you have an ice cream maker I would absolutely suggest you try this at home.