Friday, March 23, 2012

How-To: Boil Water

Hello again!  Remember me?  It just seems like my breaks between posts keep getting longer and longer, don't they?  But I promise I'll always return!

Anyway, we're down to 36 days until the wedding!  Can you freakin' believe it?!  Just yesterday, I could remember it being ages away (like 2 years away!).  And it's coming up quickly.  We pretty much have everything taken care of, just need to make the final payments on some things and we'll be good to go. 

I'm in between quarters at school (next quarter starts Monday - BAKING! - so expect a bunch of baked goods in the near future) and catching up on some spring cleaning, so I haven't done much cooking - especially since life is crazy busy!  I know the title of this post may deter some of you, I mean, hell... shouldn't we all know how to boil water?  Believe it or not, I've actually seen a lot of people that do this incorrectly!  Take my lovely other half, for instance.  I find him putting the pasta in the pot, covering it with water, and THEN putting it on the stove.  I can even admit that I'm guilty of this every now and then.  A lot of people think that it's faster to do it that way, but honestly - it just wastes more time! 

So this isn't necessarily a "how-to" per se, but more of a post of tips.  So let's get to it!

1. Starting with cold water, put enough water into a pot to cover whatever you'll end up boiling (i.e. pasta).  Bring water to a boil over high heat.  Add salt to season.

2. Add your desired food to the water (in my case, pasta).  The temperature will drop when you add the food, so you'll want to keep the heat on high to bring it back to a boil.  Then reduce the temperature, as needed, just to maintain a boil.

3. Cook the food until it reaches your desired texture/doneness.

You want to serve boiled food right away, unless you plan on shocking it after (placing in ice water). 

I know this may have seemed like a pointless post to some of you, but I've come to learn that the little things are what make your meals amazing.  Whether it be properly heating up a saute pan, bringing water to a full boil, or even something as simple as adding a pinch more salt to something.  It's the little things that don't get the credit, but it's also the little things that bring something from "meh" to "wow, what's your secret?!" 

Hope everyone has a great weekend!  I've got to work at the restaurant tonight, but I've got the whole weekend off.  Andy and I are planning on being lazy - but that never works out!  See you guys in a few days =)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Country Ham & Manchego-Stuffed Chicken Breasts


The wedding countdown is on.  Less than 2 months away, we're starting to chip at what we have left to  do bit by bit.  The past week or so, my engagement ring has been at the jeweler's in order to get the bands molded.  I almost feel naked without it!  Like men are just gawking at me like I'm a single woman.  Hehe, I'm pretty vain aren't I?

The end of this quarter of Culinary School is almost upon us.  And I'm definitely ready for the break.  The middle of the month is also my last day at my day job at the pharmacy.  I've worked there for 7 years and it'll be hard to say good-bye.  But I know I've been lifelong friends and it won't be good-bye to those people.  But it also marks the day I'll be moving on.  Really getting on.  I'll be able to work at the restaurant more, especially since I'll be switching to Day-time classes for the next quarter.  Nights and weekends were alright, but I'd be there double the time.  Day-time classes allow me to finished faster (and cook more!) - as well as being able to work at the restaurant more often. 

But all in all, everything is great - except for the fact I've cut myself twice in the past two weeks.  Once on my pinky (sliced the sucker right open) while cleaning my knife - and the second time was just this past Sunday at work - with a bread knife.  Not pretty.  And by the time I went to the Immediate Care Center (my stubborn ass went the next day instead of right after work), it was too late to get stitched up.  So I'll just have to suffer with the battle wounds for now.

Anyway, this is an easy weeknight dinner that's tasty and quick!  Let's get at it!


2 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
2 pieces of country ham
2 slices of manchego cheese (or cheese of your choice)
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or olive oil)

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Wrap your chicken breasts loosely in plastic wrap.  You want it loose enough that they'll be able to comfortably expand, but not too loose that they're "expand" in little pieces all over your kitchen when you smack the crap out of them.

Take a meat mallet or bottom side of a pan and get to smacking.  Flatten the breasts to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness.

Remove plastic wrap from chicken breasts.

Place a piece of country ham on chicken breast.

Place a piece of manchego cheese on top of country ham.

Using butcher's twine or toothpicks (these are more ideal), wrap the chicken breast around the ham and cheese.  If I had toothpicks handy, I would have used those, but the twine sufficed.

Place the flour in a shallow dish.  Season with salt and pepper.  Dredge the chicken in the flour, shaking off any excess flour.

Heat the oil in an oven-proof skillet under medium high heat.  Place the chicken in the pan, seam-side up.  Cook chicken until you get a nice golden crust, about 3-4 minutes.  Flip chicken over and cook for an additional minute.

Transfer chicken to the oven to finish, about 10 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165F.

Serve chicken with barbecue sauce (or sauce of your choice) and side of your choice.  We paired this with macaroni and cheese for a nice comforting meal!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Secret Recipe Club: Cranberry Salsa Dip

It's my favorite time of the month!  Secret Recipe Club Reveal time!

This month, I was assigned the blog I Was Born To Cook.  I wasn't familiar with this blog, but I found tons of great things - and Melissa is definitely true to her blog's name - she was born to cook!

I've been on a cranberry kick lately (I know they're a tad out of season, but hey, I've never been one to let that stop me from feeding a craving!).  This Cranberry Salsa was the perfect lazy Sunday snack.  Both Andy and I found ourselves going back for more - this definitely will be on rotation when we have a snack craving!

The only change I made was that I used dried cranberries, and just rehydrated them in some apple juice for about 30 minutes.  Also I omitted the sugar and the jalapenos (mostly because I forgot that they were on the ingredient list, but the dip tasted just fine without them, although next time I definitely will not be forgetting the jalapeno - we could all use a little spice in our lives!)

Adapted from I Was Born To Cook's Recipe

1 cup dried cranberries
1 & 1/2 cups apple juice
juice from 1 lime
1/4 cup cilantro
2 green onions, chopped
salt, to taste
8 oz. cream cheese, softened

Place the cranberries in a small bowl and pour apple juice over top.  Let sit for at least 30 minutes to rehydrate.  Drain.

In a blender (I've been experimenting with my new Magic Bullet - it actually is pretty awesome), combine the cranberries, lime, cilantro, green onions, and salt.  Puree until you reach your desired consistency.

Place the cream cheese on the center of a plate.  Spread the cranberry mixture over top and serve with crackers.  Prepare to get your snack on!

Like I said, this was an awesome dip, just different enough to make you say "Wow!"  I'll definitely be checking out Melissa's blog from now on because she's always coming up with tasty eats!

Want to join the Secret Recipe Club?  Check out the website now!  Be paired off with another "Secret" blogger and enjoy the fun of seeing someone recreate a recipe of yours as well!  All the cool kids are doing it =)