Tuesday, December 27, 2011

ChrisMASH time was here...

Good morning dear readers. Are you in a puffy detox from the holiday festivities like I am? That sounds too sugar coated and believe me I am ready to rid the sugar from my diet. How about a more truthful statement of current status: “I am in holiday party aftermath from the constant eating, drinking, family overload.” Truth hurts, I know. You can just consult my waistline and bags under my eyes.


Sorry darlings, that may have been too harsh of reality to bring to you first thing but I imagine you are in a quazi similar boat. If not, I am in envy of you.

Hopping back to the family frenzied days and nights, I was of course asked to bring something to our potluck Christmas dinner. I chose mashed potatoes. No not the box kind that comes in a horrifying dried flake form. I boil my own thank you very much, and add a little extra somethin’ somethin’. No shocker to you all I am sure. It was a great compliment when my cousin Meredith turned to me at the dinner and asked what I did to spruce the taters up. At least I hope it was a compliment. They seemed to be a hit though because there wasn’t a dollop left!

Before I bounce to the recipe I have a confession friends... I used to be buddy-buddy with those boxed flakes. We all had to start somewhere right? I thought attempting the “homemade way” would be too much work. I also served those processed puppies with “Minute Steaks” that I thought only needed to be cooked for one minute. When I saw that they still didn’t look down I went ahead and threw in one more minute on each side just to be safe. No, I have never lived that one down.

So, I think I have come along way. This recipe is simple and not at all scary. I wanted to make 'southern' mashed potatoes but after looking at the heart clogging recipes I decided to dumb the butter down and dish up a delicious digression. It is still rich and heavy but hey it’s the holidays! Add gravy if you like, but this dish can stand on its own two feet!

Home-style Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients
• 8 yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• ¼ cup low fat cream cheese
• 3 tbs butter
• 3 tbs half and half
• Kosher Salt
• Pepper
• Chicken Broth (optional)

Directions
Place potatoes in a stock pot and cover with water (I added half broth half water more flavor). Boil for 20-25 minutes, then drain.

Add all remaining ingredients back to the stock pot. Top with warm potatoes. Mash until desired consistency. I like mine to have a slightly thick texture.
Salt and Pepper to taste. YUM!

Oh, and you can always work off the calories by enjoying a long bike ride with Santa’s gift…



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

You don’t eat no MEAT?

Well, I didn’t for a while. Now, every here and there. Going straight vegetarian helped me sort out things digestively and while I still mainly want veggies for the main course, I will eat meat here and there. I preface that when I do, it is free range and organic. Being vegetarian and reading all the horrific stories, anything but doesn’t exactly appeal to me anymore.

But, this blog isn’t about my opinions on that and you know very well by now that I am all about good food!

That said, let me tell you about my latest infatuation with my slow cooker. The name of that little gem almost says it all! Slow cooking. Slow simmering. Slowly soaking up savory and sumptuous flavors and letting off a slow steam of juicy fragrance. My life is pretty “go, go, go” so anything that involves the word slow without actually slowing me down makes my ears perk.

From harvest soups to porkchops (recipe to come) my slow cooker has been working overtime. Don’t feel sorry for it though my dear readers, it has been thanking me for finally filling it to the brim and giving it a work out. My husband and son have been praising me too. Sorry slow cooker, I’m taking some of your credit.

The last couple weeks have had me bopping about to Christmas lunches galore and frankly I have been missing my precious hour at home! To relax of course, and to prepare a home cooked meal. Yesterday I had those miraculous moments of freedom and decided I had to take advantage and use the ol’ cooker. First thing that popped in my head? Greek Chicken and Potatoes. From where? No clue. But it sure made one heck of a spontaneous decision into a delicious, inexpensive, and healthy home cooked meal.

You know I am a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants and ignore deviate from a recipe kind of gal so it’s no surprise that I winged it right? Oh being so reckless never tasted so good. This recipe could feed four quite heartily. I am happy it was just the two of us last night so now I have leftovers. Yiayia watch out, this may give you a run for your euro.

Slow Cooker Greek Chicken and Potatoes

Ingredients

• 1 package free range chicken quarters
• Free range chicken broth (I used Pacific, half carton)
• 4 potatoes, peeled and quartered
• 4 lemons
• Oregano (a LOT)
• Salt
• Pepper
• Good Olive Oil (I am Greek, I have to specific the “good” part)
• 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced



Directions

Peel and quarter your potatoes and place them in the bottom of your slow cooker. Pour chicken broth over them until it almost covers the tops. Add the juice of one lemon and coat with a heavy layer of pepper and oregano, then lightly sprinkle a teaspoon or two of kosher salt.

Place chicken quarters in a small bowl and add about 3 tablespoons olive oil and the juice of 2 lemons. Rub with oregano, pepper, and a little salt on the skin (or remove skin if you like and massage right into the chicken). Add the chicken on top of the potatoes.

Slice your last lemon thinly and top chicken quarters. Add garlic to top it off. Cook on high for 4-6 hours. I let mine cook on high for 5, low for one.

Try not to eat the entire pot in a sitting I dare you! In fact I have to apologize because we gobbled so quickly that I forgot to take a pretty picture of the final product. Trust me, you'll understand once you make it. And Yiayia, I am coming for you….

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Carols & Candy Cane Crumbles

Ah the holidays are upon us. I have Christmas music blaring from all speakers of my house, car, and office and am burning down my multiple pine scented candles to the bare bottom. My kettle is brimming with Christmas teas and my fridge busting with Christmas brew. But amidst the poinsettia laden playground in my house, is a more prominent tradition…making sweet, after sweet, after sweet. Christmas cookies, candies, and cakes are swarming my recipe box. This is the way I like to spread my Christmas cheer!


As I believe I mentioned before, fate brought a couple of gluten free, Greek neighbors when we moved. Crazy right? Myrsini has been helping me brush up on my Greek and I am helping her map through America’s maze of gluten free recipes, blogs, and books. We planned to meet last weekend to go Christmas shopping for her house and decorate with all the bulbs and baubles of the holiday. A couple stops and bursting shopping bags later we arrived back at her house armed with holiday gear. Since it was a Friday afternoon, we were setting up Christmas d├ęcor, and my 7 year old was feigning for weekend sugar, we knew we had to make some sort of treat. Bonus of a gluten free Greek neighbor? A ready made gluten free brownie mix to play with together.

While I trimmed the tree, my neighbor Myrsini and my son Mitch got to working on the brownies. It would be my first foray with Pamela’s gluten free brownie mix and I was eager to taste test! They decided that they were going to make mini brownie cupcakes, a concoction that was formed in Mitch’s brain and concurred with Myrsini’s direction in the kitchen. The highlight was the two trying to figure out why the dough looked dry…they skipped the oil and water part of the directions. No worries, the blonde saved the day!

Topping the Tree with our neighbor!


After much hand mixing, throwing of dough, dotting each other’s noses, and much taste testing, we patted the mix into Winnie the pooh baking cups, and let them rest peacefully in the oven.

I have never put brownie mix into baking cups but i have to admit it was one of the best/least messy gluten free baking experiences I have ever had. Well, at least the time in the oven…I suppose I cannot discount the before and after bouts of hilarity.

Case in point, Pamela’s brownie mix was deliciously delivered in muffin cups. Some mixes can get gritty but I have always had success with Pamela's mixes. The brownies were crammed with sweet chocolate taste, and had the perfect dense and moist texture. Baking them in individual cups made them easy to serve and kept me from devouring half the pan (it's bad to do that right? right?) It didn't stop me from licking the bowl though. And spoon. And dough off my nose. Sshh don't tell Santa.

I think I will be recreating them this weekend with maybe chocolate icing and candy cane crumbles…Who’s with me!?