Chicken Puff Pastry With Asparagus

Number of people: 5
Time from start to finish: 1.5 hours

Menu:
Chicken Puff Pastry
Asparagus

1 Rotisserie chicken, about 2 cups deboned
1 8 oz container of cream cheese (room temperature)
2 stalks of celery
1 small white onion
2 sheets of puff pastry
1 egg white
2 tbsp butter
2 pounds asparagus

Lay out 2 sheets of puff pastry to defrost on a lightly floured cookie sheet or counter (takes about 40 minutes). Diced celery and onions, then sauté in a small skillet with the butter until the celery is soft. Debone the chicken (you could also use leftover chicken, or fried chicken) and cut into bite size pieces.

Heat oven to 400⁰ F. In a medium sized bowl, mix the chicken, cream cheese, softened onions and celery until well incorporated. Unroll and stretch out 1 sheet of puff pastry on a cookie sheet that has be lightly sprayed with non-stick spray until the pastry covers most of the pan. Starting in the middle, place the chicken mixture on top of the puff pastry sheet and, with a spoon, spread out the mixture until the chicken covers all but about 1/2 inch of the sheet.

Place the second sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface (I used a second cookie sheet) and stretch or roll it to almost the same size as the first sheet. Once stretched, place the second sheet on top of the first sheet and chicken mixture. With a pastry brush, use the egg whites to lightly moisten the edges of the puff pastry. Once all the edges have been moistened, crimp and fold the edges up so that the pastry makes a sealed pocket (it will look like a pillow). You can use a fork around the sides to help the pastry join together like you would with a pie crust. Brush the top of puff pastry lightly with the egg whites. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden brown.

For the asparagus, I cut off about an inch off the bottom to remove the woody/dry part. I then steamed the asparagus in a large skillet with about an inch of salted boiling water for about 10 minutes or until desired tenderness and added 2 tbsp. of butter.

Friday, 9/30/11

Number of people: 6
Time from start to finish: 40 minutes

Menu:
Grilled Salmon
Jasmine Rice
Roasted Green Bean and Brocolli

2 lbs frozen salmon
2 cups Jasmine Rice, rinsed (see tip below)
4 cups of water
1.5 lbs fresh green beans
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
12 oz frozen broccoli

Let the salmon defrost either in the refrigerator, or in a bowl of cold water if individually wrapped. Once the salmon is defrosted, brush both sides with olive oil then season with salt, pepper, dill (fresh is better if you have it), and lemon juice. My husband then grilled the salmon on aluminum  foil until the salmon started to flake when touched with a fork.

I use a rice cooker to cook my rice, to me, Jasmine rice tastes better this way. I use a fine mesh strainer and run cool water over the rice 1 cup at a time until the water runs clear to cut down on the starchiness of it. I then add 4 cups of water, and then cook until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender.

I wash then green beans, then snap off then ends. Once they are ready, I place them on a foil or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Toss the green beans with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt (I prefer kosher), and 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper. Bake at 425 for about 10 minutes, then toss the green beans, and return to the oven for another 5 minutes or until they are tender.

Green beans tend to shrink when you cook them. My husband and I decided that we just did not have enough vegetables, so I steamed some frozen broccoli to make up the difference.

Tips:

When purchasing Jasmine rice, be sure to check the section of your store that stocks the regular rice (usually near the pasta) AND the section that stocks International foods for prices. Usually I find the Jasmine rice is $1 to $2 a pound cheaper in the International foods section.

Also, I have found that Jasmine rice cooked in a rice cooker tastes very different than if cooked in a pot on the stove. I’m not exactly sure why this is, maybe it has something to do with the material of the pots, or maybe it’s that the rice cooker seems to steam the rice more so than boil the rice. To me it just taste a LOT better when cooked in a rice cooker.

Nachos con carne

Number of people: 5
Time from start to finish: 30 minutes

Menu:
Nachos

2 pounds ground hamburger meat
2 packets taco seasoning (we use mild)
Shredded lettuce
Diced fresh tomatoes (I use Romas)
Shredded cheese (we use colby jack)
1 can re-fried beans
1 16 ounce tub sour cream
Green onions (2 – 3 stalks), cut into about ¼ inch pieces, green and white parts
Tortillas chips

Brown the hamburger meat, then drain. Return to the skillet and add the taco seasoning plus the water required in the directions (the brand we used required ¾ cup each, so we used 1 ½ cups of water). You can heat up the re-fried beans in a bowl in the microwave, or in a pan on the stove.

While the meat is cooking, use the time to dice the tomatoes and cut the green onions (I use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut the onions).

Once the meat is cooked, the beans are heated, and the veggies diced, just put a hand-full (or two) of chips on your plate and add the toppings. My husband came up with the idea of adding the meat first, then the cheese and microwaving it for 1 minutes. Surprisingly, the chips stayed crisp and the cheese melted nicely.

Baked Boneless Pork Chops

Number of people: 5
Time from start to finish: about 1.5 hours

Menu:
Baked Boneless Pork Chops
2 packages of Kraft Homestyle Macaroni & Cheese
1.5 pounds of frozen broccoli

I got this recipe from Cooks.com and tweaked it a bit:

Baked Boneless Pork Chops

½  cup all-purpose flour – divided into ¼ cups
2 tsp. paprika
1 ½  tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
2 lbs. boneless pork chops
½  cup. butter
1 minced small onion
1 can (4 oz.) sliced mushrooms, drained
2 cup. milk
Juice of 1 lemon

Mix ¼ cup flour, paprika, salt and pepper. Dredge chops lightly in mixture. Brown chops on both sides in butter.

Transfer to shallow baking dish. Add onion and mushrooms to skillet. Cook until onion is soft and golden.

Stir in remaining 1/4 cup flour. Slowly and little by little, whisk in the milk, stirring constantly and cook until sauce is smooth and thickened. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice. Pour sauce over chops.

Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven 350°F for 1 hour.

For the macaroni and cheese, I just followed the directions, except we left the breadcrumbs off (my daughter dislikes them). Just remember when you are adding the milk to the seasoning mix, use a whisk and add the milk a little at a time. To me it was just like making a roux.

The broccoli was boiled in lightly salted water, about 1 cup, lid on, until tender.

KFC Bowls

Number of people: 5
Time from start to finish: about 1 hour

Menu:
Tyson Chicken Breast Tenders
Shredded Colby Jack Cheese
Pioneer Biscuit Gravy
Canned Whole Corn
Mashed Potatoes

First I peeled and diced the potatoes, about 8 of them. I used 3 different types (red, gold, and russet) because I needed to use them before they went bad. I suggest using 2 types of potatoes, one that’s starchy (like a russet) and one that has less starch (like a red or gold) because it gives you a creamier taste and texture. Also, while dicing the potatoes, I try to make sure I have a few pieces of russet that are a little larger than the others, this will give you those yummy lumps.

I boiled the potatoes in salted water that was about ½ an inch above the potatoes until they were fork tender. I then set the potatoes aside, still in the water, while I put the chicken tenders in the oven.

Next I started the gravy. Since I was using 2 packets, I used 3 cups of water on the stove, and 1 ½ cups of water to mix the gravy powder with. The directions only call for ½ a cup of water to mix the gravy powder with per packet, but I’ve found that it comes out a little to thick, so I use ¾ a cup per packet instead. While waiting for the water to boil for the gravy, I opened 2 cans of corn and emptied them into a plastic bowl for the microwave. Once the water was boiling, I poured in the gravy/water mixture and stirred with a whisk until the gravy came to a boil. I then set the gravy aside.

Since the chicken was close to being ready, I drained the potatoes, returned them to the pot, added ½ a stick (¼ cup) butter and about ¼ to ½ a cup of milk. I used a hand mixer on low until the milk and butter were incorporated into the potatoes, but not so much so that I didn’t have lumps. If you prefer a smoother mashed potato, just add a little more milk and continue to mix until they are smooth. Just be careful not to over beat your potatoes, otherwise they become gummy.

Now it was time to remove the chicken from the oven and get out the shredded cheese. The kids and I like to start with the potatoes, then add the corn, chicken, gravy and shredded cheese on top (sort of like KFC bowls).

Velveeta Cheesy Skillets Nacho Supreme

Number of people: 5
Time from start to finish: 37 minutes

Menu:
Velveeta Cheesy Skillets Nacho Supreme

I used 1 lb of hamburger meat and 1 lb of ground turkey and 2 boxes of the Cheesy Skillets.
I prepared according to package directions, only I used ½ cup additional water.
Served with sour cream and shredded cheddar jack cheese.

I didn’t really plan out this evenings meal very well when I went shopping last week, normally I would serve this with a lettuce and tomato salad.

Tips:

When browning the meats, add a bit of water (½  to 1 cup) to help with breaking the meat up. The water also makes it easier to drain the meat.