Monthly Archives: March 2015

Chicken Alfredo

Pasta is one dish I never order in a restaurant because it’s so easy and inexpensive to make at home. Like this Chicken Alfredo. The most time consuming part of this dish is cooking the pasta. I make mine with angel hair because the sauce sticks to the noodles more.

DSC_0622 (2)
Chicken Alfredo

Serves 4

Both breasts from rotisserie chicken

8 ounces angel hair pasta

¼ cup butter

1 garlic clove

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 cusp fresh Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

2 tablespoons fresh basil

Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh chives (optional)

I use chives because we have them in our garden. It’s not worth buying chives for this dish, so the chives are optional. Also, I love basil in alfredo but you can skip it if you’re not crazy about basil.

Do not salt your sauce until the end because there is a lot of salt in cheese.

This dish comes together quickly at the end, so have everything prepped.

First, put water on to boil for pasta.

Then remove the chicken breasts and the skin and chop chicken into chunks and set aside.

Slice basil and chop parsley.

When water is ready, add the pasta

Cook pasta according to aldente directions on the box, strain and set aside.

In a large skillet , heat butter and garlic for 1 minute. Add heavy cream and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add Parmesan, chicken, pasta, parsley and basil. Cook 2 minutes until sauce sticks to pasta. Garnish with fresh  basil and chives, if desired. Serve immediately.

This photo does not do this dish justice. Just know it’s delicious!

Advertisements

Slow Cooker Stock

I’ve experimented a lot with slow cooker stock. My first batch, tasted like watered down stock. Not good. The next was a little better, but still not good enough.

I make a ton of traditional stock, but the problem with a slow cooker is it doesn’t maintain that simmer all day, like the stove does, to extract the flavor needed for a stock. So I realized I needed to add  a punch of flavor in the ingredients.  After many attempts, I have finally come up with this recipe which  uses two chicken carcasses, parsley, dried mushrooms (which are key), and a hint of soy sauce.  The result is a beautiful, dark, rich stock. It’s darker than traditional chicken stock and almost looks like beef stock.

This stock is particularly good in my vegetable, barley soup; chicken noodle soups; Asian soups; mushroom soup; potpie; rice dishes; sauces, etc.

This will yield 7-8 cups of stock, so you probably want to freeze extra.

If you are single and don’t buy two chickens at a time, just freeze a carcass when you’re done with one and the next time you buy one, make this stock.

DSC_0775 (2)

When making this stock, it’s important that you use the chicken skin, too. I never eat the skin because it’s so unhealthy, but it’s loaded with fat and seasoned, which adds flavor to your stock.

I also love how easy this is. I don’t have to monitor it like I do a stovetop stock. I toss it in and forget about it.

If you have to go buy all these ingredients, then this will be more expensive than store-bought stock, and not really worth it. But I always have all these ingredients on hand, so I make homemade stock all the time. I prefer the flavor and it has less sodium than commercial brands. If you are watching your sodium level, skip the soy sauce in this recipe. Plus, I freeze it so I can grab stock whenever I need.

DSC_0778 (2)

Slow Cooker Stock

8 cups water

2 rotisserie chicken carcasses

1 teaspoon peppercorns

3 bay leaves

2 carrots

1 large onion

4 stalks of celery with the leaves

1 clove chopped garlic or 1 teaspoon dehydrated garlic

3 tablespoons dried porcini mushrooms or another dried mushroom, like shiitake

½ teaspoon soy sauce

¼ cup fresh parsley with stems (optional)

Directions

Place all ingredients in large slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 6-8 hours. Note, if you have a slow cooker that cook in hours instead of heat, 4 hours, 6 hours, 10 hours—then if possible, cook it on 4 hours and then when it’s done, hit 4 hours again. This will be the highest possible temperature, which will yield the best results.

Pavlova filled with lemon curd and Grand Marnier soaked blackberries

I love my rotisserie chicken, but I am also a dessert fan.  I have been whipping up these Easter worthy desserts for my columns in the Joplin Globe, MO and Claremore Daily Progress in Claremore, Ok.

I made a Pavlova, which hails from New Zealand.

Pavlova is a meringue dessert named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova (a New Zealand chef created this in her honor). It has a crusty exterior but the center is soft and tastes like a marshmallow. I used vanilla and coconut extract to flavor my meringue, but you can be playful and use anything from almond to raspberry extract (just plan your filling accordingly).

You can fill a Pavlova with anything, too, but I filled mine with store-bought lemon curd, whipped topping and Grand Marnier marinated blackberries. If you don’t have Grand Marnier, it may not be worth buying a bottle because it’s expensive. You could substitute sherry, another orange liqueur, or omit the alcohol and just soak berries in 2 tablespoons orange juice, if desired. This also excellent with blueberries or raspberries or a combination.

DSC_0951 (2)

Pavlova’s are light and so even if you’re stuffed after the meal, you can still squeeze in a little dessert.

Enjoy

Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Grand Marnier Soaked Blackberries

For the Pavlova:

5 large egg whites

1 ¼ cups of granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon coconut extract

2 teaspoons corn starch

Parchment paper

For the filling

1 (10-ounce) jar lemon curd

2 cups whipped topping

1 ½ cups fresh blackberries or raspberries

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

For the Pavlova:

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Place a large piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

Beat egg whites on high speed (or meringue setting if your mixer has one) for 1 minute. Then gradually start adding the sugar, only 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat until stiff peaks form. Then fold in both types of extract and corn starch.

Spread mixture onto parchment paper, making it an 11-inch circle of oval. Shape with spatula; you want the sides slightly higher than the center because you’re going to fill the center.

Bake for 60-70 minutes. Then turn off the oven, but leave the door ajar and leave the Pavlova in the oven another hour.

The center will be collapsed, which is fine because you want to fill it.

While it cools, place blackberries in a bowl and add Grand Marnier. Set aside.

When it’s time to fill Pavlova, fill with whipped topping and spread that in the center. Then take teaspoons at a time of the lemon curd and drop dollops around the center. Cover with blackberries and serve. Note: for the sake of the photo, I left space to see the lemon curd to show contrasting colors, but I would cover the top in berries when serving.

Easter Macaroon Nests

It’s not chicken, but it’s delicious. For the next few days, I am taking a break from my rotisserie chicken and sharing some great Easter desserts with you.

These macaroon nests are the BEST macaroons I’ve ever tried.

Instead of just egg whites, I use sweetened condensed milk. My husband came home the other night and I handed him a cookie and he said “I only want half.” I said “Trust me, you will want the whole thing. I used sweetened condensed milk.” That’s his weakness. He took a bite and said “You’re right. Can I have another?”

If children are going to be part of the celebration, you have to try my macaroon nests. These are absolutely delicious, and so easy for children to make. There’s only five ingredients and you mix it by hand, so you don’t have to mess with a beater and there’s no flour to spill all over the floor.

If the cookies don’t bake up into perfect rounds, when you take them out of the oven, you can shave off any edges and reshape them slightly while still warm. My recipe only makes about 10 cookies, but they are good size and the recipe can easily be doubled if that’s not enough.

Once you’ve filled the macaroon nests with jellybeans or a candy egg of your choice, them place them on a long platter and use it to decorate the center of the table.

If you don’t like the idea of food dye, leave them white.

These are gluten-free!

Macaroon Nests

Makes 10

1 egg white

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup sweetened condensed milk

2 1/3 cups shredded sweet coconut

4 drops green food coloring (optional)

Jelly beans or candy eggs of some sort

Parchment paper

Preheat oven to 325.

In a large bowl, whisk egg white for 20 seconds, until frothy. Whisk in vanilla and condensed milk and food coloring until combined. Stir in coconut until combined.

Spread a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Spoon about 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons onto parchment paper and form a nest. Use your thumb to press gently down on the center to make an indentation so you can fill it later, but be sure not to press all the way through. You just need a little spot in the center. If you press through, the cookie may not hold its shape.

Bake for 18-20 minutes. Cool before placing candy eggs in the nest.

Les Bourgeois Winery in Rocheport, MO, is worth a visit

Missouri’s third largest winery is tops in my book.

Les Bourgeois Winery, nestled on a bluff in Rocheport, has it all: a great selection of wine; a spectacular view of the Missouri River; a lovely restaurant; and an American success story.

DSC_0130 (2)

This family-owned vineyard was started by Curtis and Martha Bourgeois who hailed from Louisiana. In 1974, they bought 15 acres of bluff top property on the Missouri River and relocated to the Show-Me state.

lb2

Initially, they planted grapes to beautify their land and make wine as a hobby.

But in 1985, they had a huge harvest- five tons of grapes that yielded nearly 500 gallons of wine—which they sold to a winery in Rolla.  It was then that the family realized the potential for a vineyard.

A year later, they renovated a building on their property, added a sales counter and opened as “Les Bourgeois Winery.”

In two months, their entire vintage of “Jeunette Rouge” sold out.

In time, they began to buy more land and plant more grapes. In 1994, they purchased more bluff top property adjacent to their home to build a bistro.

Their son, Stephen Bourgeois, an architect, designed the Blufftop Bistro, which is a gorgeous restaurant and a must if you visit. Aside from good food, the view is fantastic.

DSC_0125 (2)

If you visit the winery, first stop at the tasting room for a free tasting. You can sample six wines for free or the entire menu of 23 wines, for $8 per person.  The tasting room is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

I was just there to celebrate my birthday and the staff were friendly and helpful.

I prefer dry wines and Les Bourgeois has a good selection.

Most of my favorites sips were in the “Collector’s Series” which are higher-end wines. Wine is all about personal taste, but my top picks were:

The Collector’s Series 2013 Vidal Blanc: it was a crisp, vibrant, dry white with citrus flavors.

The Collector’s Series 2011 Syrah: is one of the best Missouri reds I’ve tasted (but in fairness, they bring in California grapes for this wine). It was a full bodied red with hints of pepper, smoke and berries. I loved it and this was my overall favorite.

photo 1 (9)

Collector’s Series 2012 Valvin Muscat: was very unusual. It struck a lovely balance between sweet and semi-dry. It had strong flavors of orange but hints of pineapple, melon, and strawberry.

I also loved the Vignoles. Vignoles tends to be my favorite Missouri varietal and I drink it in the summer when it’s hot because it’s a refreshing wine (even though I don’t typically like sweet wine and many Vignoles are sweet). This one was dryer than most and had a beautiful floral bouquet, with apricot undertones.

Again, I typically do not like Rose, but there was a sparkling Brut Rose that was light, lively, floral and had hints of berries.  This sparkling wine received a gold medal of excellence at the Jefferson Cup Invitational Competition, a wine competition.

The great thing about wine tasting is it opens you up to things you might never try but end up enjoying.

After the wine tasting, we headed to the Blufftop Bistro, which is one of my favorite Missouri restaurants.

DSC_0136 (2)

First, the architecture is stunning and it has great ambience.  Huge windows look out on the Missouri River Valley.  You can sit a table draped in a white linen tablecloth and admire the scenery or the sunset.

Dinner is pricey, but I think it’s worth it. My favorite main course is the filet: it’s melt-in-your mouth tender, served with mashed potatoes, and topped with a red wine demi-glace ($36).

This time, we were between meals so we only had salads and appetizers to choose from. We ordered the meat board and sent it back because we disliked it. They replaced it with a hummus board, which was great. We also had a nice house salad.

If you plan to have dinner in the bistro, make reservations in advance because it’s a popular restaurant in high season or on weekend.

If you don’t want to eat, you can savor a glass of wine on the balcony at the Blufftop Bistro and still enjoy the gorgeous views.

Spring is a lovely time to visit the winery, before it gets too hot outside. And if you’ve never been to Rocheport, be sure to pencil in a little time to walk around there, too.   Rocheport is a quaint town with lovely little antique shops, cafes and bed and breakfasts. The Katy trail runs through here the countryside is beautiful for a bike ride or short drive.

As the weather warms, Les Bourgeois Winery is a perfect place to explore.

lb3

I wrote this article for the Joplin Globe. It appeared today in the paper’s Explore section. I write weekly food and travel features for that newspaper.

Want to go?

Les Bourgeois Winery, 14020 W. Hwy. BB, Rocheport. Wine tasting daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Blufftop Bistro is closed Mondays. There are limited winter hours, too. For a complete list, check the website. There’s a cool feature at the bottom of the website that allows you to try and calculate when the sun will set so you can be there for that. Visit: http://missouriwine.com/hours/

Easy Chicken Enchiladas

Alas, it’s Friday and I am looking forward to the weekend. The weather is supposed to be nice, so I plan to be outside. Here’s a quick dinner for anyone else you wants to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible. It takes about 15 minutes to assemble these and then you bake them and enjoy. They are so easy and delicious.

These are dryer enchiladas, which is the style I like. If you like really wet, swimming in sauce enchiladas, then buy two cans or sauce or a large one.

1 rotisserie chicken

2/3 cup chunky salsa

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1  (15-ounce) jar green or red enchilada sauce (use two jars if you like really wet enchiladas)

Refried beans (optional)

2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese, or a cheddar and Colby-Jack combination

10-12 Corn tortillas

Tomatoes, sour cream, guacamole to garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Debone and de-skin your chicken. Then pull off all the meat and shred it with your hands and place in a large bowl.

Add salsa, cumin and half the jar of enchilada sauce and stir to coat. Taste and adjust seasoning if you’d like.

Spray a glass pan with cooking spray. If you like refried beans, spread about 1-2 tablespoons on each tortilla.

Fill each tortilla with chicken and a sprinkle of cheese. Roll shut and place face down on the pan. Repeat until you’ve used all your chicken. Then top with remaining cheese and drizzle the rest of the enchilada sauce over the dish.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve garnished with tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream and any desired toppings.

Jumbo Shells Stuffed with Feta, Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Chicken- SO EASY!

This dish comes together so quickly that the longest part is typically boiling water. It’s an excellent dish and is good warm, at room temperature and even cold, so you can pack any leftover for lunch.

In the winter, I add dried rosemary, but in the summer, sprinkle the dish with fresh basil.

In this dish, you use 2 ounces of feta cheese crumbles and to give you perspective, the containers in the store are usually four ounces, so you want half that much feta.

This pasta just explodes with the flavor of feta, roasted red pepper and has lean protein. It’s easy and do delicious.

Jumbo Shells Stuffed with Feta, Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Chicken

Serves 2

12 Jumbo Shells

2 ounces feta cheese crumbles

¼ cup artichoke hearts

¾ cup jarred roasted red bell peppers (half of a 14 ounce jar)

¾ cup finely chopped rotisserie chicken

Pinch of dried Rosemary or fresh basil

Cook jumbo shells according to package directions (usually about 12 minutes). Drain.

While the shells cook, place feta cheese, artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers in a food processor and pulse until mixture is fairly smooth. You will see plenty of specks of feta and that is fine, but you want the red pepper and artichoke to be smooth.

shell5

Finely chop your chicken and stir it into the roasted red pepper sauce. Add a pinch of dried rosemary or fresh basil. If I have fresh basil, I garnish the tops of the dish with it.

When shells are cool enough to handle, spoon filling into shells and serve. It’s that easy! Enjoy.

In terms of vegetables, this goes great with sautéed spinach or roasted asparagus.

shells