Food and Garden Dailies started as a way to record my family's favorite recipes. It has come in handy many times when I'm asked for a recipe. I simply email a link to the blog! But I couldn't just stick to recipes. The kitchen is tied to the garden in so many ways...and so I let you into my ever changing garden as well.

If you're interested in my all-time favorite recipes, check out this post first: My Favorite Recipes

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Oven "Fried" Chicken (and Tofu)

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The tofu is the rectangle on the bottom right
This is another recipe I found on Pinterest.  It's been shared over and over with glowing reviews.  Why did it take me so long to try this?  Perhaps because I just assumed it would be a bland, run-of-the mill seasoning that tried to be crispy, but really couldn't get there.  Oh, my.  I was wrong. 

Mixed together, and prepared as follows, it made a zippy, crispy chicken coating. The flavor, and a little bit of spiciness, creeps up on you.  Not too spicy.  Just right.  But if you don't like anything spicy, I'd suggest halving the cayenne.  But our six year old guest devoured it, and asked me to make it the next time she visits.  Success!

I also baked some extra-firm tofu with this recipe for my vegetarian daughter who is hard to please.  When she learned I was (yet again...) trying to make one of my chicken recipes with tofu, she pretty much  told me I "didn't have to", claiming she only liked my pecan crusted tofu.   Well, I already had the tofu.  So I made it.  And she ate it!  A little of it (she's sick and not eating much of anything).  She asked me to make it again, as she thinks it'll be even better without a cold.  More success!!

Oven "Fried" Chicken (and Tofu)
(Food Network)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Set a rack on a jelly roll pan. Spray the rack generously with cooking spray.

Finely grind in a food processor:
     1 1/3 C Crispex cereal
     2 1/4 C melba toast (I used the entire 5.25 oz.  box) 
Transfer crumbs to a large bowl. Add, and mix thoroughly:
     1 TB canola oil
     2 tsp kosher salt
     1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or less if you don't like that much spice)
     1/2 tsp sweet paprika
     1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
In a medium shallow bowl, mix together:
     1/2 C light mayonnaise
     1 tsp Dijon mustard
Add chicken*  (or extra-firm tofu**) to mayonnaise mixture and turn to coat all the pieces evenly. Place the chicken into the breading bowl, evenly coating each piece.  Place coated pieces on the prepared rack. Spray the chicken pieces evenly with cooking spray, and bake until the coating crisps and browns and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the pieces registers 160 degrees F, 35 to 40 minutes.

Transfer to a platter and serve hot or at room temperature.
*(Food Network's note) We like to cook the chicken on the bone for a real moist and juicy chicken experience. If you can't find bone-in skinless chicken, simply pull off the skin before coating. Chicken breast halves can be quite large. To get a healthy 6 ounce portion, cut the breast pieces crosswise with a heavy knife into pieces about the same size as a chicken thigh.
*(My note) I used thinly sliced boneless skinless chicken breast, as that's what I had on hand.
**To prepare the tofu, cut it into 1" thick slices.  Place paper towels beneath and on top of the tofu slices.  Put a flat pan/cutting board on top of the paper towel, and place something heavy on top. This presses out the water of the tofu, and helps keep it from crumbling. 

Swedish Meatballs

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I blame Pinterest.  For all the fabulous recipes I've tried in the last 18 months and haven't shared.  Yes, I blame Pinterest.  You see, it's so easy to just press "Pin It" and share it.  But what happens if the blog (because they mostly come from blogs) disappears?  What if Pinterest goes kaput?  I have found so many great (and some not-so-great) recipes on Pinterest.  I need to make an effort to save them all to my hard drive or print them out for safe keeping.  I need to take the time to share them on my blog.  Because there are a few recipes I'd hate to lose.  This is one of them.

Swedish Meatballs.

I originally found this recipe from Cooking With Mel.  I've been making it for at least a year now, and found that while I really don't like the gravy (too bland...but that's kind of how it's supposed to be), I LOVE the meatballs.  They have been my go-to meatball to use with all sorts of sauces.  In fact they are incredible to eat as a stand-alone plain meatball.  If you bake a pan of these and leave them out, they will be gone.  Gone. 

But each time I eat them, I curse myself for not adding a little salt and a bit more onion.    Because while they're darn good, they could be better.

Recently I was reading through the recipe and realized it was slightly adapted from this Alton Brown recipe.  Hmmmm...guess what?  His recipe uses 25% less beef/pork to the  same amount of onions and spices.  He also adds nutmeg, which Mel omitted.  And he uses salt in the mixture.  I knew I was onto something!

So this week as I made about 10 batches of the meatballs (I told you I love them!  They freeze well too!), I tweaked each batch a bit to see what I liked best.  And I found that I preferred a little nutmeg, but not as much as Alton.  Same with the salt...I liked a little bit, but found a whole teaspoon was too salty.  Using Alton's ratio of meat:seasonings created a more tender meatball.   So after all my testing and tweaking, here is my version of Swedish Meatballs. 

And I'll even include the gravy recipe, though I don't care for it.  I would like a bit more pep, more flavor.  It's a very bland gravy.  But in my Swedish Meatball research, I learned that this is not supposed to be a spiced up gravy.  It's made in the traditional Swedish style.  I have made it and added a bit of ground marjoram, thyme, and a kick of Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning.  I just kept adding a little of this and that until I liked it.

Swedish Meatballs
adapted slightly from Alton Brown

Place in a mixing bowl (I use my KitchenAid*):
     2 pieces of torn bread (I've used all kinds, even sourdough)

Pour over the bread:
     1/4 C milk

Let the bread/milk stand while you prepare the onions.

Add to a skillet:
     1 TB butter
     1/2 C finely chopped onions
     dash of kosher salt (regular will work too)

Sautee until the onions are soft.  Set aside.

Add to your bread/milk mixture:
     3/4 tsp kosher salt (if using regular reduce to 1/2 tsp)
     1/4 tsp ground allspice
     1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
     1/2 tsp ground black pepper
     2 large egg yolks**

At this point I like to mix it up a bit so that all the seasonings will mix evenly into the meat mixture.

Add to the bowl:
     3/4 lb ground pork
     3/4 lb ground beef (I use lean)

Mix well.  Form the mixture into 1" balls.   Roll them with your hands instead of using a cookie'll get a better shaped meatball.

To cook them you have a few options.  I use the oven, because it's easier and faster.  And they taste great this way.  Alton Brown puts butter in a frying pan, then adds the meatballs.  That must be amazing.  But I'm usually making so many that I just don't have the time to fry up smaller batches. If I were going to make the gravy, I'd go the frying route so I'd have some pan juices to whisk into the gravy.


Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.   Place your meatballs in a jelly-roll pan (cookie sheet with a bit of a lip).  They can be close together, but shouldn't touch.  Cook for 14 minutes.


Heat 2 TB clarified butter in the saute pan over medium-low heat, or in an electric skillet set to 250 degrees F. Add the meatballs and saute until golden brown on all sides, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs to an ovenproof dish using a slotted spoon and place in the warmed oven.

Once all of the meatballs are cooked, decrease the heat to low and add 1/4 C all-purpose flour to the pan or skillet. Whisk until lightly browned, approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add 3 C beef stock and whisk until sauce begins to thicken. Add 1/4 C heavy cream and continue to cook until the gravy reaches the desired consistency. Remove the meatballs from the oven, cover with the gravy and serve.
The meatballs freeze well. Let the meatballs cool, and then place them on a baking sheet.  Flash-freeze and vacuum pack for best result.

*In my 5 qt. KitchenAid  Artisan mixer I can easily make a double batch of these.  

**Save the egg whites!  They can be frozen and used later.  Have you ever made a home-made angel food cake?  They are to-die-for!!  And soooo easy!  That will be tomorrow's project. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Free Things!

Pin It Since my photos seem to be too large for the Freecycle group, I'm putting them on the blog.

Free two person swing.  In good shape.  Optional canopy needs to be cleaned and needs a few bolts to attach.  You'll need a truck or tools to disassemble.  You load.

Also free ...up to 1 cubic yard of 50/50 soil  (half compost, half topsoil).  Take as much or as little as you'd like.  You shovel/load. 

Both need to be taken by Monday. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Favorite Recipes

Pin It These are my tried and true favorites...the recipes I turn to when company is coming and I need a "sure thing" on the table.  These are the recipes that have been made over and over...some I've made for over 20 years. Try a few...and let me know what you think!

Chicken:  Barbecued Herb-Mustard Chicken

In the late 1980s my mother in law introduced me to this recipe from Sunset magazine.  She made it frequently for family get-togethers and Brian and I continue to make it on a regular basis. In fact, when I make it, I quadruple the recipe and fill up the freezer for easy-to-make meals at a later date.

Something else I should mention, is that it's worth trying even if you don't like mustard.  I HATE mustard.  Hate it. I don't even scrape it off of things...I simply won't eat mustard-y foods.   Yet I LOVE this recipe.  And speaking of mustard, the type/brand of mustard you use does matter. I've mentioned two easy-to-find national brands that work well with this.  But I've had it with other mustards and it's just not the same. 

Beef:  Marinated Flank Steak

This recipe really needs a better name because "marinated" doesn't describe the soy-ginger-garlicy goodness that leaves you drooling.  There are many similar marinades out there with different names, and I'm sure they're all good.  But I have no need to even try them because this one is so damn good.   And while the title says "flank" steak, it also works well with sirloins.  The flank is best, but for the budget dinners, it does wonders to a cheap sirloin.

Make sure to use fresh ingredients...onions, ginger, garlic.  None of that dried stuff, please.   

Pie:  Old-Fashioned Apple Pie

This recipe came from the McCalls cookbook we got for a wedding gift 21 years ago.  I've been making it ever since.  You can pretty much count on it for Thanksgiving and Christmas at my house.  Even if I make another pie, I still make the apple.  It's not a holiday meal without my apple pie.  When we have benefit pie auctions, my apple pie brings in a solid bid each time.  What can be better than that?  Pies for charity!!

When I first began making this I used the Pilsbury refrigerated pie crusts.  Now I make my own crust, but if you're looking for a short-cut, get the Pilsbury crusts.

Cake:  Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Incredibly moist carrot cake and the creamiest cream cheese frosting ever.  Make sure you thaw out the cream cheese before mixing so it's not lumpy.  Since the shredded carrots are the most time-consuming part of this recipe, I've found a short-cut:  I buy a bag of carrots and shred all of them in the food processor (using the fine shredding blade).  Then I bag them up in 4 cup servings, and freeze them!  I usually have a few bags of shredded carrots in my freezer.  When I need (or want!) to make this cake it's super easy to grab a bag of don't even need to defrost them...just dump them in the mixing bowl.

Stir-Fry: Kung Pao Chicken

This is another recipe we've been making for 20 some years.  The only downside is that I haven't found a way to freeze parts of it for a make ahead meal....something to work on this summer!  Anyway, I just love the flavors in this much better than any jarred/premade sauces you can pick up at the grocery store.  And, you can add just about any veggie to make it to your liking.  Shrimp or tofu is easily added or substituted for the chicken too.

Cookies:  Van's Chocolate Chip Cookies

The first thing you may notice is that these aren't so chocolate-y.  Don't let that stop you.  I'm not a fan of a lot of chocolate, and prefer to use about half the recommend chocolate chips in my cookies.  The linked recipe will give you a generous amount of chocolate!

This recipe comes from a woman named Van, whom I met when we lived in Indiana. These were the first home-made chocolate chip cookies that I fell in love with.  They just always turn out perfectly.    Van said the key was the Fleishmann's margarine and the Gold Medal brand flour.  I don't mess with perfection, so I always make them as she did.

Pudding:  Rice Pudding

The ultimate comfort food.   This version is baked in a water bath, leaving a creamy rice mixture on the bottom with custard on top.  Soooooooooo good!!

PastaBaked Macaroni and Cheese

This is one of my newer favorites, as I've only been making it for 5 years.  I love the creaminess. Cook's Illustrated insists it's because of the colby cheese...which I've had difficulty finding at times.  It seems it used to be more readily available, but now I just find colby-jack, which is not what you want.   So go on a colby hunt. It's worth it!

Another's just as easy to quadruple the recipe and make up a bunch of pans to freeze.  I LOVE having this on hand in the freezer for some quick comfort food. When someone's in need and meals are being arranged, I can always volunteer immediately because this is stocked in my freezer.  It's kid-family friendly, vegetarian, and not spicy...all great pluses when you're cooking for someone recovering from an illness.

Alcoholic Beverage:  Minty Mojitos

Refreshing and light...perfect for a warm summer evening.  Kids seem to like the virgin versions of these too...just leave out the rum for theirs!  When you make this recipe, leave some room at the top.  That way you can adjust the taste....adding a bit more simple sugar, rum, or lime.  I tend to like a bit more lime!

Potato Dish:  Smoky Scalloped Potatoes

Another more recent favorite from Cook's Illustrated.  This is just soooooo darn good.  Creamy and cheesy.  It's a little time consuming and not anywhere near calorie-conscious so it gets made once a year for Thanksgiving or Christmas.  It fits in nicely with my holiday meal schedule, as it needs a 425 degree oven which is exactly the same as my cornbread and apple the three of them can cook up right after the turkey comes out of the oven.  Oh, and it can be assembled the day before, which helps with holiday stresses!

Appetizer:  Herbed Puffs

Hot little mouth-watering morsels of cheesy-herby goodness.  Can be made ahead and frozen. Enough said!

Dip:  Cilantro Dip

The best party dip.  Pour over a block of cream cheese and serve with water crackers. This one's been making the rounds within my circle of friends for several years.  You can make it as hot or mild as you like (just add the jalapenos a little at a time until it's just right for you). 

Holiday Meal Plan

When it comes to Thanksgiving and Christmas, I pretty much make the same dishes each year.  While that might seem boring, most of these dishes are only made for the holidays, so we look forward to them each year.

My holiday meals usually include the following dishes, which are all freshly home-made:
  • Apple Streusel Coffeecake (morning)
  • Turkey
  • Tofurky
  • Gravy
  • Mashed Potatoes (or Scalloped Potatoes)
  • Cornbread
  • Broccoli with Garlic Butter and Cashews
  • Green Beens with Pecans
  • Sausage Stuffing
  • Vegetarian Stuffing
  • Apple Pie
  • Turkey Pot Pie (for the day after)
The prep work and timing for these dishes could be overwhelming if I didn't do a lot of work the week before.  In this meal plan you'll find the shopping list, recipes, and a schedule for all the prep work.

The beauty behind this plan is the prep bowl chart.  I line up all my bowls, number them, and get out the ingredients. Then I fill the bowls assembly-line style.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Man-Pleasing Chicken?

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So, this one image has been on my "Chicken Recipes To Try" Pinterest board F-O-R-E-V-E-R.  I keep looking at it thinking it's just got to be amazing...or not.  Now, I'm not a mustard fan, but my all-time favorite chicken recipe (Barbecued Herb-Mustard Chicken) uses mustard in its marinade, and I LOVE it.  So I kept an open mind.  My husband loves mustard, and since this is called "Man-Pleasing Chicken" he was really my target wow him.

On the difficulty scale this ranks a 1 out of 10.  You mix three ingredients in a pan. Sprinkle salt and pepper over your chicken, spoon the sauce over the chicken and bake.  EASY.  I had all the ingredients on hand too, so that was a plus.

The first thing I noticed was that my sauce was pretty watery.  And not as smooth.  The original recipe said it used Dijon mustard.  And there are OODLES of consistencies with Dijon mustard.  But since the recipe was adapted from a Trader Joe's one, I figured I was safe with my Trader Joe's brand which was simply called, "Dijon Mustard".    As you can see, mine looks NOTHING like the picture from Pinterest.  But I was willing to look past that, as taste is what it's all about.

So, here's the recipe:

Man-Pleasing Chicken
(Witty in the City)

Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees.

Mix together in a bowl (or directly in the pan):
     1/2 C dijon mustard
     1/4 C maple syrup
     1 TB rice wine vinegar

Place 1 1/2 lbs. of chicken thighs* in the baking dish and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.

Pour or spoon the sauce over the chicken, turning the pieces until all are coated.

Bake for about 40 minutes** or until cooked through.

Garnish with fresh rosemary bits.

*OK...I didn't use thighs; I used boneless-skinless chicken breasts.  Still, that wouldn't alter the taste test of the dish...just the tenderness of the chicken itself.

**40 minutes would have killed my boneless skinless breasts.  Mine were done in about 15 minutes.

The results:  I asked Brian to rate them on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the above-mentioned Barbecued Herb-Mustard chicken, and a 1 being the horrible chicken I made years ago that we dubbed "Hot Dog Chicken" because the chicken ended up tasting like a hot dog!!   He gave it a 5.  I gave it a 2.  Now, in all fairness, I am not a mustard fan, and with mustard being the main ingredient out of 3 ingredients, it's very mustard-y!   But man-pleasing it wasn't.  With so many great recipes out there, there's no way I'm going to spend my time on a recipe with a combined score of 3.5/10.

****BUT**** this recipe wouldn't be getting so much attention on Pinterest if others didn't like it.  Here are some of the (very mixed) reviews I found for this recipe:

Made this last night...def a man pleaser!

This is seriously ridiculously amazing. I made it a couple weeks ago and HAVE to make again real soon, so so so goooood!

I tried this recipe to the letter, and I want to caution that if you don't LOVE the very strong taste of mustard this recipe isn't for you. My whole family said it was unedible. The picture is so misleading!!

I like mustard but you have to love it to like this chicken-- just put mine in fridge hoping I could find someone who will eat it so I'm not wasting food! This didn't please my man or my children- when all of them will eat mustard- this is the third recipe I've tried when people say it is the "best" and I have learned everyone has extremely different tastes!

Overpowering dijon mustard. tried it. not a fan

I made this for dinner the other night and my family hated it. Even my "I'll eat anything" husband. I like mustard...I thought it was ok. First recipe I've found on Pinterest that was a flop. :/

I made this and my husband actually like it and he is not much on chicken

Made this and it was amazing...used honey mustard.

My boyfriend loved it!

Made this last night...really gross

I thought it was pretty gross too. My husband didn't like it either, I'll never make it again.

Just was not that good. We ate it, but hubby asked me not to cook it again. lol!! That's the truth.

I made this for my 25 year old son - He Loved IT!!! Very good and very easy...It's a keeper! 

This recipe is AWESOME! My husband and I loved it!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fruit Sparklers (aka Fruit Kebabs)

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I made these for our annual 4th of July cul-de-sac potluck dinner.  The fruit was a HIT!  The stick fruit definitely went faster than the fruit salad in a bowl...which was the same exact fruit.  Cuteness matters!  (Blueberries, watermelon, strawberries, and pineapple.)

Just as we were starting to light up the (real) sparklers and fireworks, I passed these goodies out.  The top star is a Rice Krispy treat.  YUM!! (Blueberries, strawberries, marshmallows, and Rice Krispy treats.)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Grilled Rosemary Chicken Kebabs with Sweet and Sour Orange Dipping Sauce

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Tonight I selected grilled recipe #5 to try for the summer.  I'm requiring myself to make a new grilled recipe each week.  I've had two good ones, one great one, one so-so one so far.  Tonight was another great one!

I was pleasantly surprised by the flavoring from the chicken...even without the sauce.  It could definitely stand on its own.  And, I was actually really hesitant about the sauce because I'm not a huge fan of really sweet (and orange flavored) sauces.  But this was delicious!  I did find the original sauce a bit too sweet for my taste.  Nothing a dash of Siracha couldn't cure though!

Grilled Rosemary Chicken Kebabs 
with Sweet and Sour Orange Dipping Sauce
(adapted from Tracey's Culinary Adventures)

In a medium bowl mix together:
     1 1/2  teaspoons minced fresh rosemary     1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
     1 teaspoon kosher salt
     1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
     1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
     1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Cut up 4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts into 1" pieces.  Place the chicken pieces in the bowl and evenly coat with the mixture.

In a small pan, combine:
      1/4 cup orange marmalade
      1 tablespoon rice vinegar
      1/2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
      1/4 tsp Siracha hot sauce (can leave out if you want it mild)

Heat on low and then pour into a small serving bowl.

Place the chicken pieces on skewers, and grill on both sides until the chicken is done.

Remove from the skewers and serve with the dipping sauce. 

To make ahead and freeze:  Place the chicken mixture in a freezer bag, sucking out all the air (or use a FoodSaver).  Defrost and prepare the sauce while the chicken is defrosting.