Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Jerk Chicken Casserole

The Recipe: Jerk Chicken Casserole from Betty Crocker's Casserole Recipe Cards Feb/Mar 2009. Recipe online here.

The Substitutions: I used a mix of cinnamon and cloves in place of a pre-bought pumpkin pie spice.

The Verdict: I am a total sucker when it comes to buying those pony sized recipe magazines at the grocery check-out. And I am usually sorry once I get them home. The more mainstream-y American publishers (you know, the Betty Crockers, Better Home and Gardens, and Ladies Home Journals of the world) tend to have so many recipes that consist of processed ingredients that I usually don't end up making any of them. This Betty Crocker Casserole Recipe Cards book is no exception -- a huge portion of the recipes are bulked up by cans of cream soup and huge quantities of mayo. Ick. But I did manage to find this little gem of a casserole.

My husband loves jerk chicken. This is not the most authentic jerk recipe I've seen, but it may be the easiest. Baked with sweet potatoes and black beans, it's also low-cal and healthy. And, may I add, incredibly delicious. Tasty, but not too spicy for the kids, our whole family devoured it. Then I made it a second time and it was also a hit. Betty Crocker, I need to give you some more credit. Just stop putting so much cream of mushroom soup in your recipes and we could actually be friends.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Project Bolognese: Jamie Oliver

The Recipe: Bolognese Sauce from Jamie's Food Revolution

The Substitutions: nada

The Verdict: Okay, here's the deal: I really like a good bolognese sauce. Rich, delicious, perfect over long pasta. But have I managed to find the perfect recipe? Not a chance. I think every couple of weeks or so (and this may stall over the summer), I will try a different bolognese until bolognese nirvana has been found. Sound good? Maybe not for the waistline, but otherwise I'm up for it.

I started with Jamie Oliver because in my current life, he and Martha Stewart seem to be my go tos (note: this will change, I am, after all, fickle). Everything in Food Revolution is designed to be easy and this recipe is no exception. Easy peasy. And I liked that it was full of veg other than just tomatoes. My kids didn't even really notice the carrots and celery, and it's always a bonus if I can shove a little extra nutrition into their white-bread and sweets loving bodies. So those are the pluses. The drawback? Not the most delicious sauce I've ever encountered.

It was okay, although a little watery. Since this is an experiment, I followed the recipe to the letter, but I really wanted to add some balsamic to liven it up a little bit. Is that crazy? Anyway, this is a good one in a pinch, but I must explore further. Bring on the spaghetti!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Spring-Vegetable Couscous With Chicken

The Recipe: Spring-Vegetable Couscous with Chicken from the May 2010 Everyday Food (not yet online).

The Substitutions: I used the whole chicken rather than just the dark parts.

The Verdict: You know when you're craving something nice and light and spring-like but can't bring yourself to just eat a salad for dinner? Or is that just me? Either way, this little dinner fits the bill. Plus it's super fast and easy, provided you don't mind cheating with the chicken prep.

I'm always surprised when the Martha Stewart people -- employees of a woman who would rather starve to death than eat a pre-made pie crust -- are so hot on using roasted deli chickens in their recipes. I'm usually not much of a deli chicken person -- they kind of freak me out, all roasty and tasty-smelling, sitting in their plastic boxes in the grocery store. But I also like the idea of eating a meal that contains roast chicken without actually having to, you know, roast a chicken. So, if you are into buying a deli chicken, hot in the box, this meal can be whipped up in no time flat.

And it is rather yummy. The couscous has an amazingly lemon-y flavour, which makes for that springtime feel. You cook the asparagus in the couscous, which means that it's not overcooked at all and is very crisp to the bite. It wasn't substantial enough or bombastic enough in flavour to satisfy my hungry-man husband, but I'll definitely try it another time when he's not around. Or for lunch. It would make a great lunch.

Lemon-Raspberry Whoopie Pies

The Recipe: Lemon-Raspberry Whoopie Pies from the May 2010 issue of Everyday Food.

The Substitutions: zilch

The Verdict: Well -- where to start? This was my first foray into whoopie pies. Since anyone will tell you that whoopie pies are "the new cupcake," I knew I had to get in on the action. The first thing I will say about this recipe is that this is not the greatest introduction to whoopie pies. They were okay, but no one was wowed. I blame this on the filling.

The recipe was easy enough -- first I made the cookies, which were not-too-sweet lemon biscuits. I think next time around I would have added the juice of the lemon as well as the zest, because they weren't lemon-y enough for my taste. But they were good. My problems came with the filling. First problem: my KitchenAid stand mixer broke and I've yet to get it fixed. So I borrowed my mom's flimsy little mixer and it was not whipping the cream as whippy as I needed it. So it wasn't as fluffy and delicious as I imagined. Also, I think I'd be better off with a more substantial filling -- this one is just whipped cream with raspberries folded in, which really squirts out the sides of the pies when assembled. Not great news. Finally, it's a little early for raspberry season in these parts and mine were not ripe and delicious. Slightly bitter even. Again, not great news.

But I am still intrigued by the concept of the whoopie pie. Since my husband's motto is "if it's not chocolate, it's a waste of dessert," I'm sure you can all see where this is going next...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Spinach and Meatball Calzones

The Recipe:Spinach and Meatball Calzones from the May 2010 issue of Everyday Food

The Substitutions: None, really. I used Pilsbury pizza dough.

The Verdict: Yum, but I need to give it another crack. Here's the thing: I rarely make anything that requires rolling out dough. I am the world's worst roller. It is just not one of my talents. So, I did have a bit of trouble rolling out the calzones and shaping them and then getting enough filling in them and folding them over and sealing them. It was sad. So I ended up with some messy calzones and some overly doughy calzones. I realize this is a problem with me, not with the recipe and I promise to try again.

That aside, these were pretty tasty. The "meatballs" are actually bits of sausage, and I do get a weird thrill out of these kinds of cheater recipes. Plus I always want to order a meatball sub when I go to Subway, but then cave and get a healthier option (not that I go to Subway very often), and this kind of satisfies that craving. I've made Everyday Food calzone recipes before and, obviously, you could pretty much put anything you want in them. This one was definitely a hit with my gang and felt like a good alternative to take-out pizza.