I set my 30before30 goal of making paella because I’d recently been to Spain and enjoyed paella the best of all. I had my paella in Barcelona so it was more seafood heavy than some of the Valencian paellas that are known for their use of rabbit. Paella was the very first meal I ate in Spain so to me paella has a special place in my heart.
For my paella, I wanted to make a paella mixta. I remembered my paella having seafood and chicken in it with rice and a deep rich taste. The recipe I used was from Chow and it came out perfectly. You’ll want to consider buying a paella pan that can be grilled, used on the stovetop, or in the oven so your rice can cook evenly. I was able to find a deal on a paella pan at World Market. I also grabbed some Spanish chorizo while I was there. Make sure it is Spanish and not Mexican for the right flavorings. I bought all my seafood at Whole Foods since I wanted clams and mussels and you can’t always guarantee that will be available at my local grocers. For me, the biggest surprise was how hard it was to find the rice. You need a special short-grained rice known bomba rice and despite checking nearly every grocer in St. Louis, I had to go online. It goes by a couple different names but this is the one I bought.
The paella itself was fantastic. It makes a complete meal and then some. If you are eating it solo you can eat on it for a few days and if you plan to serve it to a crowd consider making some tapas to start with so there’s enough to go around. I chose a Spanish red wine, a Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva, with ours but with a paella mixtas you can go red, white, or even rosé/rosado.
- 2 medium, ripe tomatoes (about 12 ounces)
- 16 large shrimp (about 12 ounces), peeled and deveined
- 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 8 ounces Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
- 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, as needed
- 1 medium yellow onion, small dice
- 2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 large pinch saffron threads
- 2 cups paella rice (about 1 pound), sometimes labeled bomba or Valencia
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning the shrimp and chicken
- 4 cups (1 quart) low-sodium chicken broth
- 16 mussels, Manila clams, or a combination, scrubbed
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 2 medium lemons, cut into 8 wedges each, for serving
- Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
- Core and halve the tomatoes. Grate the flesh side of each half on the large holes of a box grater set over a medium bowl, stopping when you get to the skin. Discard the skins. You should have about 3/4 cup of tomato pulp and juice; set aside.
- Place the shrimp in a medium bowl, add 1/4 teaspoon of the paprika, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and refrigerate.
- Place the chicken in a medium bowl and season generously with salt and pepper; set aside.
- Place a 15-inch paella pan across two burners and heat over medium-high heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Add the chorizo to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until it has started to brown and the fat has rendered, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a large bowl; set aside.
- There should be a thin layer of rendered fat in the pan. If there’s not enough, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the seasoned chicken to the pan in a single layer and sear, stirring occasionally, until both sides are golden brown, about 6 minutes total. (You will need to rotate the pan occasionally over the burners to evenly distribute the heat.) Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to the bowl with the chorizo; set aside.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, remaining 3/4 teaspoon paprika, and saffron, stir to combine, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the reserved tomato pulp and juice and cook until the mixture has slightly darkened in color, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and measured salt and stir to coat in the tomato mixture.
- Increase the heat to medium high. Add the broth and stir to combine. Arrange the rice mixture in an even layer. Distribute the reserved chorizo and chicken over the rice, adding any accumulated juices from the bowl. (Do not stir the rice from this point on.)
- Bring to a lively simmer and continue to simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary and rotating the pan 90 degrees every few minutes, until the rice grains have swelled, most of the liquid has been absorbed, and the rice starts to make a crackling sound, about 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Arrange the reserved shrimp and the shellfish (hinge-side down) in the rice, nestling them slightly. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the shellfish have opened, the shrimp are just cooked through, and the rice is tender but still al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire rack. Cover with foil and let stand for 5 minutes. Before serving the paella, discard any unopened shellfish and sprinkle the dish with the parsley. Serve with the lemon wedges.
This past weekend was a relaxing time. It started with a soccer game at Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis. We got to watch Manchester City beat Chelsea. We aren’t the biggest soccer people living in a town without a pro team but it was great seeing everyone enjoying a game together.
I took Friday off work. It was nice since I haven’t missed work this year with the exception of being sick and that’s never a fun reason. It turned out to be the sunniest day of the weekend so I’m glad I did it. While I waited for my husband to get home, I took advantage of Ancestry.com’s bonus war records. Does anyone else do geneology? I like doing it on a weekend like Memorial Day when I can see all the past relatives who fought bravely. I feel like it can bring me closer to my family, even if I’m not with them all.
Thankfully I do have a great family. Nova, Daniel and I had fun taking a walk in the park. My little doggie was thrilled to finally have nice weather to take a nice walk. She’s used to running 5Ks but if the rain comes she will trot right back inside.
Speaking of reasons to trot back inside…
This guy showed up in our yard this weekend. We’re used to squirrels, rabbits, opossums, racoons and a deer or turkey now and then but this weekend we saw a coyote and a snapping turtle. We live next to some underdeveloped park land that got a little makeover this week so I’m wondering if we’ll get more visitors.
It wasn’t just a yard full of animals though. We had a nice grilling session each night. Just us, the dog, some burgers and some beers. Oh, and of course some dessert.
How do you dress up your burgers? We set up some fun burger creations for ourselves this weekend. Here were our top three:
Chicken Parm Burger
- Ground chicken mixed with breadcrumbs and some seasonings, grilled
- Top with provolone cheese and marinara
- Ground beef mixed with Italian breadcrumbs, onion powder and Italian seasonings
- Top with pepperoni, provolone cheese, marinara and some white cheddar
Western Burger (pictured above right)
- Ground beef mixed with BBQ sauce, Monterrey cheddar cheese mix, seasoning salt, ground black pepper
- Top with American cheese, BBQ sauce, pickle, mustard, and french fried onions
The fabulous strawberry pie pictured below came from The Country Cook. I wasn’t sure if I liked strawberry pie but I ended up loving it so I’m glad I tried some. I’m going to go eat some right now in fact.
Before I run off for the night, I want to give you a tease about a project I started this weekend but will have to wait a couple months till it is ready. Don’t worry, I won’t hold you off that long!
(And no, those aren’t potatoes. They smell much nicer than that, they’re just a little naked right now)
I hope you all had a great weekend!Pin It
My new year did not start off quite as planned. I spent New Year’s Eve at work, then at a lovely gathering at a friend’s house. By the time I made it home from her house I had a fever and chills. I managed to get some awful cold (though thankfully not the flu) but I’m still recovering. I’ve got some medicine helping me fight this thing now but I don’t think I’ve had this many illnesses in years. I hope it’s just a fluke!
When I get sick, I always like soup. This soup I’m featuring today is so much better than the Ramen I tend to grab from the store. This is a copycat recipe you can find almost anywhere based on the Chicken and Gnocchi Soup at Olive Garden. I’m not a huge Olive Garden fan (blasphemy in my Midwest city) but I do like to make a big pot of this at home. It has so much goodness in one pot: chicken, fresh veggies, gnocchi, garlic, and cheese.
- 4 Tablespoons butter
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 1 cup onion, finely diced
- 4 Tablespoons flour
- 1 quart half and half
- 1 pound potato gnocchi
- 1 cup carrots, finely diced
- 1 cup chicken breasts, cooked and diced
- 1-14 ounce can chicken broth
- 1 cup fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon parsley
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheeses
- Heat the butter in a dutch oven over medium heat. When melted, saute the garlic and onion until the onion is translucent.
- Add the flour and stir until the flour has browned and a roux is formed. Let it cook another minute, then add the half and half stirring until fully incorporated.
- Let the cream mix thicken while you boil the gnocchi in a separate pot. Strain the gnocchi after it is fully cooked and set aside as you prepare the rest of the soup.
- Once your cream mixture is warmed and has thickened, add in your carrots and chicken. Slowly stir in the chicken broth. Let the soup thicken again and add the gnocchi, spinach, and parsley.
- Serve your soup hot and topped with some fresh pepper or fresh grated Parmesan cheese.
In the summer there’s nothing better than throwing food on the grill and eating leftovers for days. Just because I like to eat some tasty food doesn’t mean I don’t love an effortless meal. When I saw the idea of these Pesto Chicken Skewers that La Kocinera shared, I knew I had to try them.
To prep for this recipe I soaked 7 skewers in water so they wouldn’t catch fire on the grill. I also pulled out 3 of my frozen pesto cubes to thaw during the day. The only other ingredients you’ll need are 2 chicken breasts and a half pint of grape tomatoes. Just cut up the chicken into bite-sized pieces and alternate the pieces on the skewer with the tomatoes. Brush on some pesto and grill until the chicken is done. That’s it! It’s so easy you barely even need a recipe.
I served this recipe with some sirloin skewers and some of my frozen twice-baked potatoes along with a salad. Like I said, my goal is to eat off a meal for days and we had a weekend’s worth of food with this meal.
Recipe from La Kocinera
- 2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/2 pint grape tomatoes
- 1/4 cup prepared pesto
- If using wooden skewers, soak in water for at least 20 minutes to prevent burning on the grill.
- Alternate sliding chicken pieces and grape tomatoes onto your skewers. Brush with pesto.
- Heat your grill to a medium heat and cook about 5 minutes per side until the chicken juices run clear.
So the other day I shared my top 5 tips for freezer cooking and as promised I’m back to show you how I prepped 26 meals while I cooked dinner and cleaned the dishes. This big project focused on Step 2: Make Your Meals Speedy. Do you ever run into that dreaded feeling around 5 o’clock that you didn’t pull anything out to thaw and now dinner won’t be ready until the end of time when all you want to do is sit on the couch, drink some wine and watch some trash TV? I hope I’m not alone in those kind of days.
The best way to avoid those days is to cook your meat ahead of time. I don’t suggest cooking all meats ahead of time by any means but ground beef and chicken cuts are the perfect thing to prepare and have ready in a pinch.
Pay close attention to these supplies as you plan your freezer cooking. You’ll be cooking several meats so save money by shopping the sales (rule 5) and visiting Costco (rule 4). I also had luck at my local Aldi store since you can’t beat their celery prices most days.
- An empty dishwasher
- A clean stockpot
- A clean crockpot
- 10 pounds ground beef
- 1 stalk celery
- 9 chicken breasts
- Water, chicken broth, or a combination of the two
- Measuring cup
- Containers (I used Ziplock bags)
- Labeling tools (sharpie, address labels)
- Bonus: A kitchenaid mixer, a strainer, and a food processor
The night before your cooking day, thaw some chicken breasts. Some people will stick frozen chicken breasts straight in a crockpot and while some modern crockpots may keep your food in a safe zone, it’s safer to put thawed chicken in your crockpot so that’s what we’ll be doing for this project.
About 4 hours before dinner, place your thawed chicken breasts in a crockpot. I have a small Rival crockpot so 9 chicken breasts fit about perfectly. This will vary based on the size of your crockpot and chicken pieces. You’ll want to fill the crockpot at least halfway with liquid. I like to pour in one can of chicken broth and fill the rest with water. Set your crockpot on high and cook about 4 hours.
Let the cooking begin!
I was making a long but hands off meal in the kitchen so I prepped my meal and my bulk cooking at the same time and finished assembling while dinner was in the oven.
First, I chopped up the entire stalk of celery. Rather than waste time with a knife I just threw it in my food processor attachment and chopped it up very finely. I had two separate packs of ground beef I had gotten on sale so I chose the smaller pack (3.4 pounds) and threw it and the diced celery into the preheated stockpot on the stove. I use my Pampered Chef Mix n Chop to separate the beef, then I throw the lid on so the meat cooks faster. After about 10 minutes with some occasional stirring, all my meat was cooked and finely chopped. I poured the meat into a strainer to drain the fat and let it cool. While it was cooling I cooked the other 6.6 pounds of meat I had in the same method, sans celery. You can season these meat batches any way you want while cooking them.
While the beef was cooking and dinner was still in the oven, I had strained my chicken of all the liquids. I then threw the chicken breasts into my Kitchenaid mixer with the batter blade attached and in seconds I had perfectly shredded chicken. I could easily chop the chicken by hand but remember, this is a speed run.
My dinner was nearing completion as I rushed to finish my last pre-dinner task. I used my handy Pampered Chef Measure-All Cup and set it for 2 cups. I had quart sized Ziplock bags* set aside and I filled each bag with 2 cups (1 lb) of whatever meat I had prepped. I threw an address label on some bags and wrote out what was in the bag (1 lb ground beef + veggies) and the date. I left all the bags open and on the counter to finish cooling (since steam=water=ice crystals=freezer burn) and I served up that night’s dinner while the cooling took place.
After dinner I came in, sealed the bags after squeezing out as much air as possible, and stacked them flat in my freezer. After frozen you can store the bags upright in a mail crate in your deep freeze. One person takes care of the bags while the other loads the dishwasher and you can still fit in your wine and TV time.
*Some people might freak out at Ziplock bags but here’s the deal: since you’re working with cooked meat you can reuse the bags and they take up the least amount of space in a freezer. Just cover up your old label with your new one each time you cook and you are good to go.
My chicken batch produced 7 1/2 cups of shredded chicken. This meant I had 3 bags plus a small container set aside for a lunch. I can thaw a bag of cooked chicken on the counter in 30 minutes, under hot water in 5 minutes, or it can go straight onto the stove. I use the shredded chicken for chicken salad, chicken pot pies, chicken burritos, or many other dishes. The chicken batch created 4 meals.
My ground beef mixed with celery started off as 3.4 pounds of meat but the vegetable added stretched it to 12 cups. I would have had 7 bags of meat but I cheated and used one bag’s worth of meat in that night’s dinner. I thaw it the same way as the chicken and I use the meat+veggie combo in tomato based dishes like sloppy joes and spaghetti. The ground beef plus veggies batch created 7 meals.
My plain ground beef batch started as 6.6 pounds of meat and created 25 cups of beef. I separated these into 10-2 cup batches that I’ll use for tacos and lasagna and 5-1 cup batches when I want a meal light on meat like ziti. The ground beef batch created 15 meals.
The average cost of my beef packs ended up at $1.40 per pack since my original 10 pounds of ground beef turned into 22 meals. I don’t remember the chicken price but I’ll take a look the next time I stop by Costco.
While I don’t have 26 complete meals on hand, I prepped ingredients so now none of the above recipes will take longer than boiling noodles. That’s a huge way to shave time off your cooking and with most of your prep work done on those meals, you’ll have more time to watch Game of Thrones or How I Met Your Mother.
I had some Costco pesto in my fridge nearing the expiration date so the night before my cook day I threw it into ice cube trays and froze it. While I was bagging all my other goods I put the ice cubes into some bags and stored them back in my freezer. Now I have perfect servings of pesto for baked potatoes or pasta, I didn’t waste my goods and I followed rule 5: freeze seasonally. If you can fit all 5 freezing rules into one cook day, you know you’ve done well.Pin It
There seems to be two camps when it comes to chicken and dumplings. The northerners love a dumpling that is more ball-shaped and is light and fluffy and the sauce is broth-based. The southerners love a dumpling that is more biscuit and chewy while the sauce is more of a gravy. Living in Missouri my life has always been a mix of northern and southern traditions so chicken and dumplings are always a hot topic. The average southern style is always better than the average northern style but the best northern style will ALWAYS beat the best southern style. That’s just how it is for me.
Thankfully, this recipe is one of those best northern style chicken and dumpling recipes. Pam from For the Love of Cooking has tweaked a Cooking Light recipe to be amazing. She even understands my irrational hatred of rosemary and uses basil as her herb of choice. Rather than repost her recipe I want Pam to have all the credit so if you need to try some of the best northern chicken and dumplings out there, try Pam’s Chicken and Basil Dumplings.
How about you? What’s your favorite style of chicken and dumplings? I’d love to be convinced by your recipes.Pin It
When I was 10 I had a new baby brother who was barely a month old. My mom was hardly interested in cooking some big huge dinner for all of us kids so when we said we wanted pizza, she jumped on it. Maybe she was still under the influence of anesthesia but that year began the tradition of Christmas pizza. We started off pretty basic and we’ve since evolved to a more artisan style. If you’re thinking of starting a Christmas pizza tradition, I’m here to help.
First up, you need to make your dough. I’ve included the recipe at the bottom of the page but here’s a quick look at making a yeast-based pizza dough. You’ll need to combine yeast, sugar, and warm water. (Here’s a cool tip I learned from Alton Brown, check the water temperature with your fingers. The perfect temperature for the water is just above an average person’s body temperature so the water will feel just a bit warm to you if it’s the right temperature.) When you combine these ingredients, let them sit for 5 minutes until the mix gets bubbly. If it bubbles, your yeast is good and your dough will rise!
Here’s a batch of yeast I’ve proofed. You can see the bubbles so you know it’s good to go.
I mix my dough in my Kitchenaid mixer. Yes, it is good for more than just making cookies in bulk. You’ll want to attach the dough hook (it looks like the pirate hook) and mix 3 cups of flour, salt, and oil with your yeast mix. Gradually add in 3 more cups of flour. You’re looking to make sure your dough is pliable but firm enough to not fall off your hook immediately when you raise the head of your machine. Check out the difference 1 cup makes:
Your dough should be sticky. That’s okay- do not flour it up more. Plop it out of the mixer bowl, grease your bowl with some olive oil, roll your dough into a ball, and place it back into the bowl. Cover with a towel and place it in a warm place until it’s doubled in size. Punch it down (yes, really punch it!), then let it double one more time. See the difference it makes?
At this point you’ll want to separate your dough into two balls, preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and roll the dough out for your pans. I use Pampered Chef’s stoneware for my pizza. I roll out the dough and bake it for 10-15 minutes to get nice and firm before loading it up with toppings.
Once you’ve cooked your dough you can add toppings of your choice. You’ll bake again for 15 or so minutes until your cheese is nice and melted. On this day I made a BBQ chicken pizza and a pesto pizza. The BBQ chicken pizza used BBQ sauce as a base and I topped it with chicken tossed in BBQ sauce, feta cheese, and fresh mozzarella. For the pesto pizza I used pesto sauce as a base and I topped it with plum tomato slices, feta cheese, and fresh mozzarella. You can’t go wrong with either combination or something simple like pepperoni or sausage.
This pizza dough is a perfect thick crust. For a wonderful sturdy dough, use half white and half wheat flour. Be as creative as you want with toppings.
If you don't have time to wait for the dough to rise, prepare the dough the night before, cover, and place in your fridge overnight. Let the dough come to room temperature before spreading into pans the next day.
- 1 heaping tablespoon yeast
- Dash of sugar
- 2 1/4 cups warm water
- 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 4 1/2 tablespoons oil
- 6 cups flour
- In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water (105-110 degrees). Add a dash of sugar. Proof it until it begins to foam.
- Attach your dough hook to your Kitchenaid mixer. Pour the yeast mixture into the bowl and add salt, oil, and 3 cups of flour. Run your mixer on low.
- Gradually add in the additional 3 cups of flour, 1 at a time.
- Let your mixer run on medium for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
- Pull the dough from your mixer and grease the bowl. Place the dough back in, cover, and let rise until doubled in size (30 minutes-1 hour).
- Punch down and let rise again until double.
- Punch down and divide into two dough balls. Roll out into two pizza pans greased with olive oil.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
- Top with pizza sauce & toppings. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 more minutes.
Is anyone else having a heck of a week? I’ve been making over furniture (expect pics next week!), painting a room (next week!), buying Christmas gifts, buying normal household items, fitting in a checkup at the doctor, heading to Christmas concerts, and getting ready for out of town guests. It’s madness. Trying to cook a big fancy meal in a week like this isn’t going to happen and my normal Tuesday grocery trip isn’t happening until today. Thank goodness I have a big stash of food staples for my safety meals. I have a handful of recipes set aside during a week of chaos like this one and I always keep my pantry or freezer stocked with the ingredients so I don’t have to do an emergency Chinese food run.
I’ve told you before about how I quadruple my chili and freeze it. Another thing I do is fill my crock pot up with frozen chicken breasts, add water or chicken broth until it is 2/3 of the way full and crank it up to high. In about 4 hours you’ll have boiled chicken perfect for shredding. I separate the shredded chicken into ziplock bags with about 2 cups in each. That usually means 3-4 emergency chicken packs so I can do this once a month and be done with it.
For today’s recipe you’ll need 1 chicken pack, a can of soup, frozen veggies, some milk, and puff pastry shells. 5 simple ingredients for a warm meal that tastes home cooked and hits the spot on a cold winter’s day.
One of my favorite speedy meals comes from Pepperidge Farm and their puff pastry shells.
- 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Cream of Chicken Soup (Regular, 98% Fat Free or Healthy Request are all fine)
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 10-ounce package frozen peas and carrots
- 2 cups shredded chicken
- 1 10-ounce package Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Shells
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Place puff pastry shells on a cookie sheet and bake in oven for 15-20 minutes.
- Stir together the soup, milk, and frozen veggies in a pot and let them come to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.
- Stir in the chicken and let the mixture cook uncovered for 3 minutes more.
- Pull the shells out of the oven and remove the tops. Spoon chicken and veggie mixture into the shells and enjoy.