Dreamy's Delights

It's all about the food!

Triple Cheese Chicken Parmesan – Gluten Free

Jene and I have been eating mostly ground beef dishes this week so I decided to cook chicken for a change. Plus, we’re trying to get all the solid food out of the house. We just spent $430 on a new juicer (Omega VRT400HD) and are going on a juice fast when it gets here next week. So… anyway, back to talking about chicken.

I asked Jene if he was willing to have chicken and dumplings. He said No. Ok… So then I thought of chicken parmesan. I preserved lots of seasoned tomato sauce last year and this was a perfect excuse to use some up. I grabbed a quart and started it reducing in a saucepan. I wanted a nice THICK sauce for this, thus the reduction. I mixed together some home-made ricotta that I had left from making mozzarella earlier this week, some shredded parmesan cheese and shredded mozzarella. That’s where the title of the recipe comes from 😉

I wanted to add a note here after a comment made by a friend of mine. I know that chicken parm should be made with thin cutlets of white meat. I deliberately did it with the thighs. Honestly, I’ll eat white meat but I don’t much like it lol. Make it with whichever cut of meat makes you happiest!

Finally, I breaded and fried my chicken (boneless, skinless thighs) and finished it off in the oven because they were really BIG thighs and I couldn’t fry them to doneness without burning the breading. As usual, I didn’t actually measure anything so it’s a rough guess 🙂

Recipe

3.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs

4 ounces Penzeys Brady Street seasoning (or other Italian seasoning, Brady Street is made with parmesan cheese, it’s worth getting some)-this is also gluten free

quinoa flour (I used some for a plain dredge and some mixed with the Brady Street for the second dredge, maybe 2-3 cups total) – as an additional note, you can use regular all purpose flour, I just like the flavor of the quinoa

2 eggs

1/2 – 3/4 pint of heavy cream

1 quart thick, italian seasoned tomato sauce

3/4- 1 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

1-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

If your chicken thighs are large (there were only 8 in my 3.5lb package), preheat the oven to 350F. Get out a broiler pan and lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray. You can skip this step if the thighs are small.

Put the tomato sauce in a saucepan to heat up. If you want it thicker, start it early and let it reduce a bit.

Whisk together the eggs and cream in a shallow dish. Place some quinoa flour by itself on a paper plate. Place more quinoa flour one another paper plate and mix in the Brady Street Seasoning.

In a large skillet, melt 1 TB of butter with 1-2 TB of olive oil.

This part is messy… Take a thigh, dip it in the egg/cream mixture, dip it in the PLAIN flour, making sure it’s got a light coating of flour. Dip it in the egg/cream mixture again. Now dip it in the SEASONED flour mix. Shake off the extra and put it in the skillet to fry. Fix as many pieces in at a time as you can without crowding. In my case, in a 12 inch skillet, I was able to cook 3 thighs at a time. Because they were so thick I knew I would have to finish them in the oven to make sure they were cooked through. I used a broiler pan to make sure no liquid accumulated underneath making the bottom of the breading soggy.

friedchickenparmesan

As you can see, the breading came out beautifully. The dipping in liquid, flour, liquid, flour, helps to make a better bond so the breading doesn’t come off so easily. Using heavy cream and eggs for the liquid created an almost custard like mixture that turned into a gorgeous brown crust. I finished these off in the oven at 350F for 15-20. Basically until my thermometer gave me an internal temp of 180.

While stuff was cooking (since it was done in batches) I mixed together the cheeses. I gave those oh so precise measurements because i really had no idea how much I used. I know that I had roughly 1 cup of ricotta but it might have been more or less. It was in a bowl in the fridge and I just used the same bowl to mix it all together. Here’s what it looked like when I was done.

cheesemixtriplecheesechickenparmesan

As you can see, the ricotta adds some creaminess to it but not too much.

So, the final assembly. When the chicken is all done, spoon some tomato sauce on top of the chicken thigh. Put some of the cheese mixture on top of that. The cheese it not going to melt on it’s own so put the plate under the broiler in the oven for a couple of minutes. Just until the cheese is melty and starting to bubble a tiny bit. You can see where the cheese has started to turn golden around the edges.

finishedtriplecheesechickenparmesan

I apologize for the bad lighting in the photo. I forgot to turn the flash on and I was hungry! The verdict from Jene was that it was good and I could make it again. Myself, I was really happy with it. This is definitely going on the make again list. Maybe next time both the ricotta AND the mozzarella will be home made. 😀

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Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad is almost the most basic thing you can make. It has a whopping five ingredients (seven if count salt and pepper). What makes MY caprese salad amazing is that I’m using mozzarella that I made myself and basil that I grew myself. Later this summer, I’ll even be able to use my home grown tomatoes. How’s that for home made! lol

So the recipe is really simple. Slices of mozzarella cheese layered with a basil leaf and a slice of tomato, topped off with either olive oil or a balsamic vinegar reduction (or just the vinegar out of the bottle if you’re lazy like me).  Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper if you choose. I don’t but Jene loves lots of black pepper on his. 🙂

To me, this recipe is the epitome of summer decadence. If you’re lucky, you can eat it with tomatoes that are so fresh from the vine that they’re still warm from the kiss of the sun.

A note about the balsamic vinegar reduction. Reducing the vinegar will give you a thick, syrupy sauce to make graceful and elegant zig zag lines across your salad. It also refines and concentrates the flavor. If I were serving this for a party, I would make the reduction. When it’s just Jene and I and just a couple of bites worth, I don’t bother. 🙂

And here’s a lovely picture of my salad that I’m about to eat!capresesalad

You can see a tiny little corner of basil leaf sticking out from the top right bit. It’s lovely to be able to wander out onto the desk and pick a couple of basil leaves for this. I’m growing Genovese Basil and African Blue Basil. This particular one is the African. It’s milder than the Genovese which makes it rather nice for this dish. The basil flavor isn’t quite so over whelming. Enjoy!

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Mozzarella Cheese: Take 1

With the long weekend I decided I better get back into the cheese making pool again. I had picked up a little e-book called Keep Calm and Make Cheese by Gavin Webber. It’s got a quick mozzarella cheese recipe in it I thought I’d try out.

One of the things I’ve mentioned in past posts is how hard it is to find cream top (or cream line) milk. This is milk that has been unhomogenized. I thought I’d show a couple of pictures of what I’m talking about.

creamlinemilk1

In this picture you can see a line a couple inches down from the lid. The milk looks a little darker and more yellow above the line. That’s because that portion is all solid cream. It’s also where the name “cream line” comes from. The majority of the milk you buy at the store is homogenized. The homogenization process breaks the cream down into such tiny particles that it can’t come back together again. How many of you still shake your milk jug before you open it? That’s leftover from when you HAD to shake it to mix the cream back in.

creamlinemilk2It’s not a very clear picture but that clump on my knife is the cream from the top of the milk. I have to break it up a bit before I can pour the milk into the pot for making cheese. Once I have most of the milk out of the bottle I put the cap back on and shake it vigorously to finish getting the cream off the sides of the bottle. In the pot you can see these clumps of cream floating around until the milk is warm enough to melt it. Then you see this yellow fluid on top, that’s actually butter fat from the cream. Pretty cool, huh?

So… about that mozzarella. It was a pretty easy recipe to make. Took me maybe an hour tops from starting to gather my equipment and sanitizing it to having a finished process. The fun part is kneading the cheese and pulling and folding it to make it the right consistency.

mozzarellaMay272013

I got four balls, each about 2-3 inches in diameter. Yesterday, it had very little flavor. I tried some this morning and I’m not sure I like the flavor. The recipe called for lipase which can add extra flavor to the cheese. I found the flavor to be slightly sour and leave an unpleasant after taste in my mouth. I’ll have to wait and see if this mellows over the next day or so. This recipe is easy enough to make that I’ll be making it again, perhaps even later this week. The recipe only calls for 1 gallon of milk which is nice since many of my cheese recipes use 2 gallons.

There is also a mozzarella recipe that takes much longer to make, several hours. Once I get this fast version down, I’ll try my hand at making the long version. I’d like to be able to make some beautiful mozzarella braids.

 

 

 

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Oven Baked Pot Roast

Jene and have I have been eating a lot of chicken and pork lately. I had a craving for some beef. So in addition to the 5 lbs of hamburger, I also got a couple of nice London Broil steaks. I got a rough idea from another source but then turned it into something completely different. Now, you’ll notice that the title of the post says “pot roast.” That’s because we decided that london broil is really much too lean for this sort of long cooking period. The flavor was there but the meat was really dry. So this would be perfect with a tough fatty cut like chuck roast.

Recipe

3-4 lbs of Chuck Roast

1 28oz can of San Marzano (or stewed) tomatoes – I used San Marzano because I could

6 cloves garlic minced

1 large onion chopped

several fresh sprigs lemon thyme (you can use normal thyme)

4-5 large fresh basil leaves torn into pieces

4 large celery stalks chopped

4 large carrots chopped

1 – 1.5 lbs crimini mushrooms quartered

Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the london broil in the bottom of the pan, season with a bit of salt and pepper. I laid the springs of thyme directly on the meat. Pour the tomatoes over the steak. The San Marzano tomatoes were whole in the can so I broke them up with my hands a bit. I sprinkled in the torn basil, minced garlic, chopped onion, celery, carrots and mushrooms. Total cooking time is about 2.5-3  hours (possibly longer, you want the meat fork tender).

Post eating note: Don’t bother with the basil until the very end. The flavor is too delicate for this long of a bake. Sprinkle it over the dish about 15 minutes before you pull it out of the oven.

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Chicken and Broccoli: Perfected!

I wrote the other day about roasting veggies before putting them in casseroles. I think I even mentioned trying it with Chicken and Broccoli. Well, I gave it a try tonight and WOW! It came out fantastic!

So the steps for perfect Chicken and Broccoli..

Make your own cream of chicken soup

Roast the broccoli at 500F for about 15 minutes

Follow the recipe as otherwise stated.

Those two simple changes create an amazing depth of flavor and make it a much better dish. Jene, who is notorious for not noticing changes, said that he noticed it and really liked it. This pleases me greatly.

Now, I will mention that with making your own soup and roasting the broccoli, prep time is probably about an 45-60 minutes but that also might just be because I’m slow moving. I’ve learned that it’s better to take my time to cook stuff and be able to enjoy eating it than it is to rush around and then feel too awful to want to eat. I suspect a faster person could do the prep in 30 minutes and then 30 minutes of baking.

Enjoy!

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Balsamic Vinaigrette

Salad dressing is one of those things that it’s just soooo easy to buy at the store. We can have half a dozen flavors in the fridge and not even think about it. Unfortunately, many (if not most) of them have added sugar and too much salt, not to mention all the preservatives. One easy way to make your salads healthier is to make your own dressing. People tend to think this is hard to do but it’s really not. I prefer the tangy sharpness of a vinaigrette over a creamy dressing so that’s what I make most.

Tonight Jene was making a salad and realized we were out of our favorite store bought dressing, Marie Callendar’s Creamy Greek Vinaigrette. He asked me if I thought it would be ok to mix some balsamic vinegar and oil to season his salad. I told him sure but if he would give me a couple of minutes I’d make him something with a bit more flavor. So, here’s what I put together.

Recipe

1/2 cup oil

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1 TB freeze dried shallots (or finely minced fresh)

1 TB dijon mustard

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp dried dill

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp black pepper

You can use a salad cruet or a pint jar, which ever you have on hand. Add the vinegar and seasonings and give it a shake to combine them. Let it sit for a few minutes for the salt to dissolve and the flavors to absorb into the vinegar. Then add the mustard and oil. Shake vigorously for a couple of minutes until everything is blended up. Serve immediately.

Now, as far as the mustard goes, you can use any flavor you like, I just prefer dijon. The purpose of the mustard is to act as an emulsifier and keep the oil and vinegar blended together longer.

Store the dressing in the fridge and just give it a good shake before you use it next time.

Oh! Before I forget, the standard ratio of vinegar to oil is 1 part vinegar to 2 parts oil. I like my dressing to be a bit sharper so I use a bit more vinegar. If you want this a bit mellower, go with 1/4 cup of vinegar.

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2013 Garden: Completed!

Well, it’s taken me a couple of weeks but I finally have the last of the plants in the garden. Everything is staked and trellised and ready to grow!

My final tally is:

Indeterminate Tomatoes- Big Rainbow, Orange Strawberry, Indigo Rose, Japanese Black Trifele and Sungold – These will produce fruit all summer long.

Determinate Tomatoes – San Marzano (2 plants), Principe Borghese, and a Roma. These plants will grow, blossom and produce fruit pretty much all at one time. These are the ones that I’ll be canning and sharing with my friend Cat in exchange for peppers. 🙂

Cucumbers – 1 pickling variety, 1 gherkin variety

Chard – 2 sets of Rainbow Chard

Kale – 1 green and 1 red russian

Green Beans – I got a six pack of Romano Green Beans which grow a bean 5-6″ in length. This is my first try at growing green beans so I hope they do well.

While I was at Dale Hardware today I made a new friend named Brian. He showed me this cool method of creating a trellis called a “basketweave” trellis. You take bambo sticks and literally weave them together to create a trellis. Then I sent Brian on a hunt for tomato cages which, much to my embarrassment, I had walked past three times. Turns out they were hiding behind some other cages. I’m very particular, I only use the Ultomato cages. Fortunately, Brian took it in good grace and wasn’t grumpy with me. We had a great time discussing gardening, guns and all sorts of other random stuff.

Now that I’ve told you about my garden, here’s some pictures!

basketweavetrellisThis is the basket weave trellis. It’s really easy to make and I think it was about $7 for 20 stakes. The poor little plant at the bottom is my gherkin cucumber. The snails have eaten the crap out of it. I put down a heavy dose of snail bait today so with luck, they’ll pull through. The chunks of brick are holding down the newspaper I’m using for mulch. So far it’s working really well at keeping the weeds down.

 

This next picture is the short side of the garden. It’s hard to see since it’s in shade but I have 3 bean plants in front of the trellis, 2 kale plants to the right of that and off the side where you can see them, 2 chard plants. At the very corner, where two trellises meet is my pickling cucumber plant. It’s doing better than my gherkin too. This arrangement will allow the cucumber to climb up both trellises around the corner.

gardenshortside

gardenlongsidThis is most of the long side of the garden.  There’s actually two more tomato plants to the left that you can’t see. The cages look a little funky right now because I haven’t put them together completely. The plants are large enough yet to need all the cross pieces. I’ll add them as I need them AND I was pretty exhausted at this point lol.

Finally, the last thing we did was put out some lady bugs. Aphids can be a real problem and since there are also a couple of rose plants in the yard, they help in lots of ways. Here’s a few of them clustered at the top of a stake. It’s fun to let them loose because they crawl all over your hands and arms and it tickles. 😀

ladybugs

So that’s it, my final garden after planting. I am SO excited to see how things grow and produce. Getting my garden in makes me feel like I’m a productive person instead of a useless lump.

I should mention I also have an herb garden growing on my patio. I have a big batch of genovese basil, african blue basil, cat nip, lemon thyme and dill. I’ve been using lots of lemon thyme and dill lately. It’s a lovely combo. 🙂

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Roasting Veggies for Other Uses

This isn’t really a recipe per se but more of a way to help eliminate a problem in certain recipes.

Those of you who have tried my chicken and broccoli recipe are aware that the broccoli leaves a watery residue in the bottom of the pan. It’s not icky, I just find it annoying and it waters down that luscious cheese sauce.

Last week I decided to put together a simple casserole using some leftover ham, rice, eggs, milk, cheese, broccoli and mushrooms. I knew the broccoli and mushrooms would leave liquid behind as they cooked so I decided to try and circumvent the problem.

Admittedly, this dirties some extra pans but I’ve never been shy about making a mess of the kitchen lol. Jene is blessedly patient with me and just sighs and cleans up after me.

So… I preheated the oven to 500F. I put about 12 ounces of frozen broccoli on a cookie sheet and lightly drizzled it with olive oil. I could have just tossed the sliced mushrooms on the sheet at this point and called it good. However, I wanted the mushrooms to have some extra flavor so I took another step with them.

Mushrooms went into a saute pan with a tablespoon of butter, a 1/4 cup of freeze dried shallots and a splash of white wine. When they had released most of their water, but not all. I added them to the sheet pan and spread them evenly among the broccoli.

Then I put the whole thing in the oven and roasted them for about 10 minutes (maybe 15, I wasn’t watching the clock). I pulled them out when the broccoli was still firm and bright green but starting the caramelize. At this point, the moisture had been cooked off and the mushrooms had released the last of their moisture.

The results were excellent. There was no wateriness in the casserole at all. It came out with tender veggies and not the least soggy. In addition, the roasting process added another layer of flavor. I will be doing this roasting process again when I make Chicken and Broccoli later this weekend.

And just because some people might wonder… here’s a rough recipe for the casserole I made. I didn’t measure anything so please forgive me for it being a big vague.

Ham, Veggie and Rice Casserole Stuff

5 cups diced ham (this was leftover from a ham I’d baked earlier that week)

5-6 cups cooked rice

6 eggs (i think)

1/2 – 1 cup milk

2-3 cups grated cheese (I used colby jack but cheddar would work well too)

10-12 ounces sliced mushrooms

12 ounces frozen broccoli

1/4 cup freeze dried shallots (or 2 fresh shallots finely minced)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9×13 pan. Prepare the broccoli and mushrooms as described above. Mix everything except the eggs, milk and cheese together in a large bowl. Whisk the eggs, milk and cheese together in a separate bowl, then mix into the rest of the ingredients. If your rice is freshly cooked and still hot, mix fast so that the eggs don’t curdle. Mix in some black pepper or other spices as you choose. I used Penzeys Mural of Flavor for seasoning. It doesn’t really need salt because of the ham.

Spread the mixture into the baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes or until everything is bubbly and it starts to brown on top. I didn’t actually look at a clock to see for sure how long this was.

For someone who’s supposed to be sharing recipes, I’m not very good at writing them down!

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Apple Spice Dump Cake Crumble: Perfected!

I’ve posted about dump cakes before. It’s certainly not a new idea. However, I think that dump cake is “make your teeth hurt” sweet. So I’ve been working on making a dump cake that is a little less sweet and a little more sophisticated. I’ve finally perfected it 🙂

The occasion for making this was a party to meet a dear friend of mine face to face for the first time. Doug and I have been friends for something like ten years but (like my husband and I) we met online playing a video game. Since Doug lives in Japan, there hasn’t been a chance for us to meet in person before. In celebration of seeing him, I cooked. Anyone who knows me at all, knows that means I cooked a LOT lol. I smoked four tri-tips, made my Greek style quinoa salad, a pan of my brownies and two pans of this dump cake. We managed to eat three of the tri-tips, about two thirds of the brownies, most of the salad and one of the dump cakes. This means that I currently have an entire dump cake in my kitchen. No one else wanted to take something quite that calorie and carb laden lol. Imagine that! 😉  However, it received rave reviews so I’ve posted the recipe for everyone to enjoy.

Recipe

1 box Spice Cake Mix

3 cans More Fruit Apple Pie Filling

1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

1 1/2 sticks cold butter

1/2-1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground cloves

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9×13 baking dish.

Open the cans of pie filling and dump them into the baking dish, spreading them out evenly. Sprinkle the cinnamon and cloves over the apples. This gives a nice little bit of extra spice to the apples.

Pour the cake mix into a gallon ziplock bag, add the rolled oats. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the bag. Press most of the air out of the bag and shake it several times to mix the oats, cake mix and butter. Now comes the fun part! Squeeze the bag between your fingers to break the butter into smaller pieces. You could use a pastry cutter to do this (like making biscuits or pie crust) but I found that this is easier and less messy. You can just throw the bag away when you’re done.

Once you have the butter broken up into the cake mix/oats, pour it over the top of the apples and spread it evenly.

Bake for about 45 minutes, until the pie filling is bubbly and the top of the cake is golden brown.

When the cake is done, you’ve got something that sort of resembles an apple cobbler or an apple crisp. It’s not quite as cakey as cobbler or as crumbly as crisp. The rolled oats help to cut the sweetness of the cake mix down to something that I find much tastier.

A more traditional dump cake would only use one stick of butter but I’ve added another half stick to help account for the rolled oats. Plus, I love butter lol.

Please let me know if you try this and what you think. 😀

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Let there be plants!

Well, it’s not finished yet but Jene and I got the majority of the garden planted today. It was a long day’s work because we had to dig up all of last year’s weeds and work in some good compost. Sadly, I had to buy the compost because I don’t have place to create my own. However, the shredded remains of our juicing will be going into the garden. I think this year will be very productive.

So after two years of bad luck with peppers, I’ve given up on growing them. I do not know what I’m doing wrong with them but they just will not grow for me. Tomatoes grow great so I’m focusing on those lol.

We put in two types of cucumbers, a pickling variety (imagine that) and a gherkin. Now I can make MINI pickles lol. If they produce as well as I hope I will have pickles for decades.

Tomatoes (so far) consist of an Italian paste tomato who’s name I can’t remember, a Roma-style paste tomato (both are determinate) and several indeterminate plants.

For those who don’t know the different, determinate plants blossom all at once so that the plants are pretty much ready to harvest all at once. Indeterminate plants blossom and produce fruit over the course of the season. You don’t get as many plants all at once  but you get them for longer.

The reason for planting the two types is to allow me to have a big harvest all at once to process for sauce or canned tomatoes. Then the indeterminates can be harvested and processed as the summer goes along, depending on my energy levels. I’m also sharing my harvest with my friend Cat. She’s growing peppers for me and I’m growing tomatoes for her lol.

So the indeterminate varieties are my go to trio of flavors, Big Rainbow, Japanese Black Trifele, and Sungold. In addition I’ve got a couple of new flavors I’m trying this year. Indigo Rose is a dark purple, plum sized tomato and Orange Strawberry is another orange/red stripped beef steak similar to the Big Rainbow.

Finally, we have some leafy greens. We’ve got a couple of batches of Rainbow Chard and a Curly Green Kale. I plan on putting in some more because you can NOT have empty garden space.

I’ll also add at least one more plum tomato for Cat. However, that is a task for NEXT weekend. I’m done for this week lol. Thank goodness for Epsom Salt!

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