Thursday, June 28, 2012

Easy Peasy Chicken Legs {A New Family Favorite}

This is going to sound ridiculous, but this simple recipe for chicken legs is easily my favorite recipe of the year so far!  I know.  It's sounds crazy.  They're just chicken legs after all, but they are absolutely fantastic and everyone goes crazy for them, especially the kids. 

I found this recipe because my son begged me to buy a package of chicken legs.  It's kinda funny...I've made and shared hundreds of different recipes on my site, but I've never actually made a plain old chicken leg before.  I had no idea what to do with them so I did a quick recipe search online and found this recipe.  The recipe had wonderful ratings so I decided to go with it and boy am I happy that I did!

This is now the fifth time I've made this recipe!!  Yep, you heard me right.  We've made these chicken legs once every week for the past five weeks.  The kids gobble them up like crazy and me and my husband love them as well.  The outer coating of the chicken gets nice and crisp while the inside stays nice and tender.  Most importantly, the flavor of the chicken is insane.  I was actually blown away the first time I made them.  There are only five ingredients in this recipe (chicken, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a seasoning of your choice), but those ingredients come together to work some great magic. 

I've learned a few things since I first started making these.  I've noticed that the organic chicken legs in my market always look a bit bigger, and a little nicer, so I try to source them out. I like the results from using organic chicken legs the best.  If I can't find them, I don't sweat it.  Regular chicken legs are very tasty too (just a little smaller).  Also, the chicken has a tendency to stick to the baking sheet,  causing the skin to tear, so I make sure to add enough olive oil to prevent that (a silpat would be a great tool to help prevent sticking).  At first I was unsure about how much seasoning to use.  I was afraid to add too much seasoning because of the kids.  They didn't complain.  Now I lay the seasoning on pretty good.  Of course, you could season them half and half.  Leave half somewhat mild for the kids.  Go heavy on the seasoning for the adults. 

Either way, you can't go wrong with these.  They are succulent, crispy, juicy, tender, flavorful morsels of goodness.  Totally worth turning your oven on!
Easy Peasy Chicken Legs

2 packages of chicken legs (about 11-12)
olive oil (enough to cover generously)
salt and pepper (give them a good coating)
seasoning of your choice*

*Note: Use your favorite seasoning blend.  We've tried them with garlic powder, like suggested in the original recipe, but we like them best sprinkled with seasoned salt, such as Lowry's.

Preheat oven to 400F.  Place chicken legs on baking sheet.  Drizzle the olive oil generously over the chicken, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and seasoning (Lowry's, etc.).  Rub the oil and seasoning into the chicken.

Place in the oven for 30 minutes, then remove and flip the legs over.  Place back in the oven for another 30 minutes and enjoy!

**You can cook as many chicken legs as you can fit on your baking sheet, but you will most likely need to increase the time.  I always make 11-12 chicken legs each time and they are always done in 60 minutes.  However, the original recipe calls for 14 legs and states to cook them for 90 minutes. 
Leave the silverware in the drawer and eat with your hands!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cookbook Review: The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook {and Upside-Down Salsa Cornbread}

The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook
A Treasury of Timeless Delicious Recipes
288 pages

Eight Chapters:  Lodge Cast Iron: A Song for a Cook's Soul; Breakfast; Soup, Stew, Gumbo & Chili; The Main Course; Cooking Outdoors; Sides; Nothin' But Cornbread; Desserts, Biscuits, & Bread; and great features on the history of cast iron as well as caring for your cast iron. 

I am absolutely in love with cast iron.  I love the rustic and homey look of cast iron, but more important than that, I love the functionality and superior results from cooking with cast iron.  Cast iron goes from the stovetop to the oven and from the oven to the table. 

I had a chance to go to The Lodge Factory Store in Sevierville, TN this past winter.  It was a total dream come true.  There are four factory stores in the southeastern United States and I highly recommend stopping by one if you get the chance.  They have so many cast iron pieces to chose from.  I especially like the table in the back where you can buy "less than perfect" pieces for a fraction of the price.  After I stocked up on cast iron I spied this cookbook at the checkout and vowed that I would buy it when I got the chance. 

This is a beautiful softcover cookbook with lots of gorgeous pictures, both of the recipes and also the cast iron.  There are so many recipes that I'd like to make from this book, but I've been all about cornbread lately so I chose this Upside-Down Salsa Cornbread from the Nothin' But Cornbread chapter. We loved being able to cut a wedge of this and top it with additional salsa, sour cream, and a little bit of chopped green onion.  It was very pleasing to the eyes and the palate!

Upside-Down Salsa Cornbread
Serves 6-8

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound lean ground beef (I used 95% lean)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 medium green or red bell pepper, seeded and cut into rings

2 cups Martha White Buttermilk Self-Rising Corn Meal Mix
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 tablespoon sugar
1 (16-ounce) jar chunky-style salsa
1-1/4 cups milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 425F.  

Make the filling:  Heat the oil in a 10-1/2 inch cast iron skillet over medium high heat until hot.  Add the ground beef, onion, chili powder, salt and garlic salt; cook until the beef is no longer pink, stirring frequently and breaking up any clumps of meat.  Remove the beef mixture from the skillet to a bowl.  Place the bell pepper rings in a single layer in the bottom of the skillet.  Spoon the mixture over the rings.

Make the topping:  Stir together the corn meal mix, cheese, sugar, salsa, milk, oil, and egg in a medium bowl; stir until well blended.  Spread the batter evenly over the beef mixture in the skillet.  Bake until golden brown, 32 to 38 minutes.

Place a serving plate over the skillet; carefully invert and remove the skillet.  Cut into wedges.  If desired, this can be served from the skillet:  Cut into wedges and carefully turn each wedge upside down onto a serving plate.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Spinach Salad with Warm Chorizo Dressing

I go back and forth on whether or not I want to post my recipe failures.  Usually I decide to go ahead and post them, mainly because it's nice to have a record of what didn't work.  I also feel like things get a little redundant when you love every dish that you make.  Let's face it.  Real life just isn't that way.  We make mistakes.  We have failures.  Sometimes we cook food that we just don't like.  

Nearly every recipe on this site is something that my family and I really enjoyed, but then there are an occasional few that we did not.  It's bound to happen.  This spinach salad with warm chorizo dressing falls under the failure category.

Theoretically, this spinach salad looks like a win.  It's pretty.  It's colorful.  It looks inviting.  The problem was with the warm chorizo dressing.  It was just too vinegary.  In the end, I suppose it comes down to personal taste because this dressing might be wonderful to someone else.  I do enjoy vinegar, but there was just something off about the vinegar when it was mixed with the chorizo. You know how you smell something and you can tell that you're not gonna like it?  That's how I felt about this dressing.  I could smell an overwhelming aroma of vinegar.  In his book, Bayless says you can replace the vinegar with the juice from a jar of pickled jalapenos and I actually wish that I'd done that.  I think using that makes way more sense and would actually taste great.  If only.

In an odd way, I'm a fan of a recipe fail.  My kitchen failures have taught me way more than my successes.  I take away important lessons from each failure.  Lessons that I tend to remember.  In this instance, I'm not likely to go mixing meat with vinegar anytime soon (unless of course it's a vinegary bbq sauce).  

Spinach Salad with Warm Chorizo Dressing
Adapted from Mexican Everyday
by Rick Bayless

1 (9 ounce) bag of spinach
4 hard boiled eggs, halved and quartered
1  (10.5 ounce) container cherub or 1 pint cherry tomatoes
1/2 half red onion, diced or sliced thinly (however you like your onion)
One recipe Warm Chorizo Dressing, recipe follows **

Chorizo Dressing:
2 ounces (a packed 1/4 cup) fresh Mexican chorizo sausage, casing removed
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely diced
2/3 cup vegetable oil, olive oil or a mixture of the two
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar**
1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano, preferably Mexican
*Note:  If you like spicy, replace part of the vinegar with the juice from a can of pickled jalapenos.

To make Chorizo Dressing:  Place the chorizo in a small skillet and set over medium heat.  Cook, stirring and breaking up clumps, until the sausage is browned and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and stir for a minute, then remove from heat.

Scrape the chorizo and garlic into a jar.  Add the oil, vinegar, oregano and 1/2 teaspoon salt if necessary.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  Shake well immediately before dressing a salad.

If you want to use this as a warm dressing (as is common for spinach salad), microwave uncovered for 15 to 20 seconds, secure the lid and shake again.

To Make the Salad:  Arrange spinach leaves on a plate.  Top with halved cherub or cherry tomatoes, quartered hard boiled egg, and sliced/diced red onion.  Pour desired amount of dressing on top and enjoy!

Theme: Summer Salads

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Crusty Black Bean-Chorizo Subs

My love of beans started back in my late teenage years. I spent seven years of my young life (from 17 to 24) as a vegetarian.  During this time period I pretty much lived on beans and pasta for two reasons.  The first reason being out of necessity.  Beans and pasta were cheap and I was broke.  The second reason, and really the more important reason, beans and pasta are damn fine eatin'. I made some dumb moves back in those days, but at the very least I can take a certain amount of comfort in the fact that I was smart about what I ate.

Now it's years later and even though I now eat meat I still have a special place in my heart for all things veggie, namely beans.  This black bean chorizo sub has been calling my name ever since I spied it in my copy of Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday.  There is no denying the deliciousness of chorizo and when mixed with black beans, avocado, tangy feta and placed between two layers of crusty bread....well, you really should find out for yourself.

My husband and I really enjoyed these subs.  You get a little crunch and crispness from the bread, but the filling is nice and soft and really flavorful, especially when you load up on the hot sauce. 
Crusty Black Bean-Chorizo Subs
Adapted from Mexican Everyday 
by Rick Bayless
Serves 4

 8 ounces fresh Mexican chorizo sausage, casing removed (about 1 cup)
3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans
(or 3-1/2 cups home-cooked black beans with just enough liquid to cover them)
4 telera or bolillo rolls, or crusty French rolls or submarine sandwich rolls (6-8 inches long)
About 6 ounces Mexican queso fresco, feta, or goat cheese sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 ripe avocado, pitted flesh scooped from the skin and cut into 1/4-inch slices
Salsa or hot sauce, for serving

Set a very large skillet over medium heat and add the chorizo.  Cook, breaking up the clumps, until browned and thoroughly cooked, about 8 to 9 minutes.  Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the oil (depending on how much fat the chorizo has rendered) and the beans.  As the beans come to a simmer, mash them to a smooth paste with the back of a spoon or a potato masher.  Cook, stirring nearly constantly, until the consistency of very soft mashed potatoes- expect about 10 minutes after adding the beans.  Taste and season with salt if you think necessary.  Keep warm over the lowest heat, covered to keep the beans soft and moist.

Heat a large griddle or skillet over medium.  Slice the rolls open.  Use fingers or a spoon to scrape out some of the soft bread in the center of each half, making a small hollow.  Brush insides with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, then lay them cut side down on the griddle or skillet to crisp to a rich golden brown, about 2 minutes.  (You may have to toast your bread in batches)

Smear about 1/2 cup of the chorizo-bean mixture over the bottom half of each roll.  Top with the slices of the cheese of the cheese and avocado.  Spoon on the salsa or dash on the hot sauce.  Set the top of each roll in place and you're ready to serve.
Every Sunday @ Kahakai Kitchen
Theme:  Holy Frijoles!            

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Kale Tacos with Caramelized Onion, Fresh Cheese, and Red Chile

I've been wanting to try this taco recipe for months now and finally got around to it.  The reason?   I'm the only one in the family who likes greens.  And, I don't just like greens...I love them!  So, I waited and I waited and I waited...and finally the time had come.  My kids were gone and my husband said he wasn't hungry, so I ran into the kitchen and made these tacos just for myself.  They were everything I thought they'd be.  I loved them!

You can use any green for this recipe (swiss chard, kale, spinach, collards, etc.).  I decided on kale because that's what my little rinky dink store had on hand.  The recipe starts by caramelizing an onion and adding in some garlic and red pepper flakes.  Tthe greens are added in and cooked until tender.  I added in a pinch of cayenne pepper because I wanted to be sure it was good and spicy.  The kale mixture is so flavorful and full of texture.  I loved the spiciness of the kale against the sharp tang of the feta cheese.  If greens are your thing then you simply have to make these tacos.  As for me, I'm looking forward to the leftovers.  Good thing they're mine all mine!   

Kale Tacos with Caramelized Onion, Fresh Cheese & Red Chile
Adapted from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless
Serves 4

A 12-ounce bunch of Kale (Swiss Chard or Spinach) thick lower stems cut off
1-1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large white or red onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
About 1 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chicken broth or veggie broth or water
pinch of cayenne pepper 
8 warm corn tortillas
1 cup Mexican queso fresco (or feta)
About 3/4 cup salsa for topping (optional)

Cut the kale crosswise into 1/2-inch slices.  In a very large (12-inch) skillet, heat the oil over medium-high.  Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown but still crunchy, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and stir for a few seconds, until aromatic, then add the broth or water, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the greens.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and cook until the greens are almost tender, anywhere from 2 minutes for tender spinach to 7 or 8 minutes for thick greens.

Note:  I used kale and cooked it under cover for 10 minutes.

Uncover the pan, raise the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring continually, until the mixture is nearly dry.  Taste and season with additional salt if you think necessary.  Serve with the warm tortillas, crumbled cheese and salsa or hot sauce for making soft tacos.

Theme: Wrap it Up!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Yogurt and Blueberry Pie with Granola Crust

My Mom and I took my five year old son blueberry picking last week.  We were looking for something to do and we figured we'd give it a try and see if he liked it.  Between the two of us, we had no idea how much he was going to love blueberry picking.  It was actually really funny.  The entire time we were out there picking blueberries he was saying things like "this is the best day of my life" and "blueberry picking is so much fun" and "can we do this all the time".  He was on repeat over and over again and we had the best time. We picked several pounds of blueberries and ate most of them plain, or with whipped cream, or in smoothies.  I saved the rest for this pie.  It's something I've been wanting to make ever since I picked up a copy of Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts cookbook.

This pie is fabulous.  It's basically a yogurt parfait turned into a pie. You could almost feel okay about eating it for breakfast.  The crust is a blend of granola (buy it or make your own), sugar, cinnamon and butter.  Once mixed, the crust is refrigerated (so that it holds together better) and then it's baked until fragrant.  When the crust is cooled, a cool and creamy mixture of strained plain yogurt and cream cheese is poured in and the whole thing is topped with fresh blueberries and honey.  It's easy, it's beyond delicious, and it's a dessert you don't have to feel too guilty about eating.

Blueberries are in season right now and I would recommend them for this pie, but any fruit (or blend of fresh fruit) would be great.  One of the things I like about this recipe is that you can change it up to suit your tastes.  

Yogurt and Blueberry Pie with Granola Crust
Makes One 9-inch Pie

For the Crust:
1-1/2 cups plain granola
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Filling:
1 cup plain yogurt
8 ounces cream cheese, room temp (I used reduced fat)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Topping:
5 ounces (1 cup) blueberries, picked over
Mild honey, such as acacia

Make the crust:  Preheat oven to 350F.  In a food processor, pulse 1 cup granola with the sugar and cinnamon until fine crumbs form.  Drizzle in butter, and process until combined.  Add remaining 1/2 cup granola, and process until combined but mixture is still crumbly.

Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate, and press mixture evenly into bottom and up sides.  Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.  Bake until crust is golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the filling:  Place yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined sieve set over a medium bowl; let drain at least 30 minutes.  Discard liquid.

With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat cream cheese until very smooth.  Add sugar and vanilla; beat until smooth.  Add strained yogurt, and beat on low speed until smooth.

Pour filling into prepared crust, and refrigerate until set, 6 hours or up to 1 day.  Just before serving, arrange blueberries on top, drizzle with honey, and cut into wedges.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Carne Asada Brava with Chipotle Steak Sauce

Tender juicy steak marinated in a bit of oil, lime juice, garlic, and jalapeno then grilled outdoors.  Succulent, spicy, and full of flavor.  Gorgeous steaks like this call for a little something special.  This Chipotle Steak Sauce is a fun way to spice things up and it's really good.  It may look a lot like tomato sauce, but I can assure you it tastes nothing like it.  It's spicy (from the three chipotles) and garlicky, almost reminiscent of Sriracha in a way.  I look forward to pairing this sauce with several other things.
"Brava" Steak
Carne Asada Brava
recipe found online here
Serves 6

 For the marinade:
6 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
4 fresh serrano or 2 fresh jalapeno chiles, stemmed
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil, plus more for the steaks
6 ribeye steaks about 1-inch thick (they'll weigh about 10 to 12 ounces each)

    The marinade:  In a small ungreased skillet, roast the unpeeled garlic and the chiles over medium heat, turning occasionally, until both are soft  and blotchy black in places - 5 to 10 minutes for the chiles, 10 to 15 minutes for the garlic.  Cool, then peel the garlic.  Place both garlic and chiles in a food processor along with the lime juice and oil.  Run the machine until the mixture is as smoothly pureed as possible. Season highly with salt, usually about 1 1/2 teaspoons.
    Marinate the steaks:  Smear the mixture over both sides of the steaks, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

  Grill the steaks:  Light a charcoal fire and let the coals burn until they are covered with gray ash; position the grill grate and let it heat for a couple of minutes. Spray or brush the steaks on both sides with a little oil.  Lay on the grill grates and let cook for 3 or 4 minutes, until the grates have nicely seared beautiful grill marks into the meat - don't attempt to move the steaks until you can see nice grill marks.  Flip the steaks and cook until as done as you like (typically about 2 to 3 minutes longer for medium rare).  I like to let the steaks rest for a few minutes (on a cool part of the grill, a grate suspended over the back of the grill or a very low oven) before serving to allow the meat to reabsorb all the juices.  Serve with chipotle steak sauce, salsa, or hot sauce of your liking.

Chipotle Steak Sauce
recipe found online here
Makes 1-1/2 cups

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
3 canned chipotle chiles en adobo
    1/2  teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican oregano
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Salt, to taste after cooking*

*Do not add the salt until after cooking.  If you add the salt prior it may become too salty once it cooks down

In a food processor or blender, combine, the tomatoes, garlic, chiles, oregano and vinegar.  Process until smooth.  Pour into a small (2-quart) saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Simmer 15 minutes, remove from the heat and stir in water, if necessary, to give the sauce the consistency of steak sauce.  Taste and season highly with salt, usually 1 1/2 teaspoons.  Cool, pour into a bottle and refrigerate until needed.

Theme: Turn on the Grill!