Friday, July 31, 2009

Beer Can Chicken

This method of cooking chicken was all the rage a few years back. You couldn't watch a cooking show on TV without the host making this recipe. However, this is the first time I've ever made one, and I really wish I had done it sooner!

It's really super easy and looks incredibly impressive. The hardest part about the recipe is getting the hot chicken off the can when you're ready to eat. I ended up holding the can steady with a sturdy pair of tongs, while pulling the chicken off with another set of tongs. There's probably a better way to do it, so let me know if you figure one out!

I used this recipe from The Surreal Gourmet over at the Food Network as my starting point, and then I used this Tyler Florence recipe for a dry spice rub. I was very happy with the results of the rub on the chicken, but you could easily skip the rub and just be generous with the salt and pepper.

If you prefer not use beer, then I think you could probably use a can of Coke or Sprite with similar results. I really didn't taste the flavor of the beer in the chicken. The beer itself just helps add moistness to the meat, not so much flavor.

Beer Can Chicken

2 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. paprika
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. dry mustard
1 (4-pound) whole chicken
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 can beer

Prepare grill for indirect cooking. Combine the salt, pepper and spices together in a small bowl.

Remove neck and giblets from chicken and discard. Rinse chicken inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels. Rub chicken lightly with oil then rub inside and out with the dry rub. Set aside.

Open beer can and pour off (or drink) half the can. Place beer can on a solid surface. Grabbing a chicken leg in each hand, plunk the bird cavity over the beer can. Transfer the bird-on-a-can to your grill and place in the center of the grate, balancing the bird on its 2 legs and the can like a tripod.

Cook the chicken over medium-high, indirect heat (i.e. no coals or burners on directly under the bird), with the grill cover on, for approximately 60-85 minutes or until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees in the breast area and 180 degrees in the thigh, or until the thigh juice runs clear when stabbed with a sharp knife. (The exact cooking time will really depend on how hot your grill is, so be flexible and make sure you use a thermometer!) Remove from grill and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Quick Start with MSPI Mama: This is one of my Quick Start recipes

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Healthy Blueberry-Banana Muffins

These muffins are a super yummy way to kick start your day. And, as the name implies, they're healthy, too!

Just beware: If you give them to your kiddos, be prepared to change many diapers! JD ate one for breakfast, and we had to change FOUR diapers that day. Lots and lots of fiber!

The original recipe comes from Everyday Food. It calls for using wheat germ, but I used oat bran instead, so that's what I've listed in my version. Use what you have on hand or can find easily at your grocery store.

Healthy Blueberry-Banana Muffins

1 cup whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup oat bran
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup MSPI-friendly margarine, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 ripe bananas
1/3 cup MSPI-friendly milk substitute
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. In a bowl, whisk together flours, oat bran, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, beat margarine and sugars with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In another bowl, mash bananas with a fork (you should have 3/4 cup); stir in milk substitute and vanilla. With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture and banana mixture to margarine mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined. Fold in blueberries.

Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 28 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Let cool in pan 10 minutes; transfer muffins to a rack to cool 10 minutes more.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Beef and Vegetables on Polenta

My neighbors have been so generous in sharing some of their garden bounty. Lots and lots of zucchini and summer squash. I put the zucchini to work in this yummy change of pace for spaghetti. The original recipe comes from Woman's Day.

If you've never had polenta before, it's basically corn mush. Yeah, I know, it doesn't sound incredibly appetizing, but it's really good and it pairs beautifully with this chunky sauce.

The original recipe calls for mixing some Parmesan cheese into the polenta, but we obviously can't do that. However, if you would like a creamier polenta, try substituting all or part of the water in the recipe with your favorite MSPI-friendly milk substitute. You can also mix in a pat or two of MSPI-friendly margarine.

If you're still not sold on polenta -- which would probably make a cheap, homemade baby food! -- you can just put the sauce on pasta. And just leave the beef out for a yummy vegetarian option.

Beef and Vegetables on Polenta

3 cups water
3⁄4 cup cornmeal
1⁄2 tsp. salt
1-1⁄2 tsp. olive oil
1 large zucchini, quartered lengthwise, sliced
1 package (8 oz.) sliced mushrooms
8 oz. lean ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp. chopped fresh (or 1⁄2 tsp. dried) rosemary
1 tsp. chopped fresh (or 1⁄2 tsp. dried) basil
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 jar (25 to 26 oz.) MSPI-friendly marinara sauce

Mix water, cornmeal and salt in a 2-quart microwave-safe bowl. Cover with vented plastic wrap and microwave on high, whisking every minute, until thick and smooth. This can take 6-10 minutes. Add more salt to taste. The polenta will continue to thicken upon standing.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute zucchini and mushrooms 5 minutes, stirring often, until tender. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Add beef and onion to skillet; cook, breaking up with a spoon, until browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in rosemary, basil and garlic; cook 1 minute. Stir in marinara and bring to a simmer.

Add zucchini and mushroom mixture; heat through. Spoon polenta onto plates and top with sauce.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Green Calzones

There's nothing more pitiful looking than a pizza without cheese. Yeah, we eat it that way because we don't have much choice, and if we close our eyes, we can pretend it's "normal" pizza because the flavor is still darn good. But a cheese-free pizza still looks naked. So I figure a calzone is a great way to get around this predicament because everything is hidden inside the crust!

I had some leftover pesto sauce and decided to throw it together in this recipe. It turned out really good!

You could easily adapt this recipe to whatever veggies and meats you have on hand. A vegetarian version with sauteed mushrooms, onion, spinach and bell peppers would be great! Not feeling especially "green" today? Red Calzones with pizza sauce, pepperoni and sauteed red peppers would be fun!

If you have any extra filling leftover after using all your pizza dough, just toss it up with some pasta.

Green Calzones

1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 lb. chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
9 oz. package frozen broccoli cuts, thawed
1/3 cup MSPI-friendly purchased or homemade pesto sauce
MSPI-friendly purchased or prepared homemade pizza dough, enough for a 12-14-inch pie

Heat olive oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat. Saute chicken breast until halfway cooked, add broccoli until everything is cooked through. Set pan aside to cool slightly. Mix in the pesto sauce.

Heat the oven to the temperature called for in the pizza dough instructions.

Cut pizza dough into four pieces. Roll or pat one piece out into an 8-by-5-inch oblong shape on a well-floured surface. Spoon 1/2 cup of filling onto one side of the dough, leaving a 1-inch edge. Fold the other side over the filling, pinching the edges together. Place calzone on a cookie sheet.

Repeat with other three pieces of dough and filling. Bake according to pizza dough instructions.

Optional: Brush tops of the calzones with olive oil prior to placing in oven.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Grilled Lemon Turkey Cutlets

There was a big meat sale at the store this week. I loaded up, big time: over 25 pounds of meat! Yes, I know, that seems crazy, but it all goes in the freezer. Stock up when it's cheap!

One of the things I purchased was a package of turkey cutlets. I didn't really know what I wanted to do with it, other than grill it. I found this recipe from Everyday Food and swapped the turkey for the chicken. It turned out great! The lemon juice marinade tenderizes the meat and gives it a nice, subtle flavor.

Grilled Lemon Turkey Cutlets

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges, for serving
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds turkey cutlets

Heat grill to high. Mince the garlic clove, and place in a shallow dish. Add lemon juice and the oil; season with salt and pepper. Add chicken, and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature at least 5 minutes (and up to 30).

Grill turkey until opaque throughout, 1 to 3 minutes per side. Serve with lemon wedges.

Quick Start with MSPI Mama: This is one of my Quick Start recipes

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Grilled Asparagus

I've grilled asparagus before, following directions I found online. It tasted good but was kinda chewy. I mentioned this to my mom -- aka Martha Stewart. She said to blanch it first. Duh! Why didn't I think of that!?!

So here's her version. Libby couldn't get enough of it. She would have literally eaten the ENTIRE bunch of asparagus, but I had to cut her off at 10 spears, in order to save some for the rest of us!

Grilled Asparagus

1 bunch asparagus, rinsed and tough ends removed
1-2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Light your grill and get it nice and hot.

While it's heating, fill a large frying pan with about a quarter-inch of water and set it on high on the stove. Once it starts to slightly boil, add the asparagus and simmer for 2 minutes. (You aren't looking to completely cook the asparagus at this point. You want it to remain somewhat crispy.) Remove asparagus from the pan and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Pat asparagus with a towel to remove excess water.

Place asparagus in a shallow dish and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss together.

Once grill is ready, place asparagus on the grates and grill, flipping occasionally, until the spears are slightly charred and warmed through. About 2-3 minutes, depending on the grill's heat.

Return asparagus to the shallow dish, to sop up any excess oil, salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Make-ahead tip: Prepare the asparagus through the oil, salt and pepper step. Cover and place in the fridge, up to a few hours, until you're ready to grill.

Quick Start with MSPI Mama: This is one of my Quick Start recipes

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hawaiian Popsicles

Want to make your kids (and you!) super happy? Then make this uber-delicious, oh-so-cool summertime treat! My daughter, Libby, obviously can't get enough of them!

I found this super-simple recipe on Weelicious, which is a fun baby and toddler food blog. Go check it out!

I made the recipe as directed, but I was thinking that it easily could be adapted to your favorite fruits or whatever you happen to have on hand.

And if you aren't in the mood for Popsicles, when refrigerated, the mixture gets nice and think and creamy -- almost pudding-like. So yummy!

Hawaiian Popsicles

1 13.5-oz. can coconut milk (regular or light)
1 14-oz. can pineapple, drained
1 banana

Pour ingredients into a blender and puree. Pour into Popsicle molds and freeze at least four hours or until set. Serve.

Quick Start with MSPI Mama: This is one of my Quick Start recipes

Friday, July 10, 2009

Couscous Tabbouleh

I've always made tabbouleh salad with cracked bulgur wheat, which is delicious but it takes quite a bit of time because you have to soak the grain for several hours. This recipe from the July '09 issue of Woman's Day uses couscous, which cuts back dramatically on the preparation time. And it tastes great, too!

You may be asking: Ummm, what's tabbouleh? Pronounced "tuh-boo-lee," it's basically a Middle Eastern pasta salad.

I served this with the Armenian Beef Kebabs. An excellent pairing!

I tweaked the recipe a little bit because I didn't have any fresh mint on hand. Here's my version.

Couscous Tabbouleh
1 cup water
3⁄4 cup whole-wheat couscous
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 large seedless cucumber, chopped
4 scallions, chopped
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. olive oil
1⁄4 tsp. salt

Heat water in small saucepan to a boil. Stir in couscous, cover with lid and remove from the heat. Allow couscous to soak up water for several minutes. Once water is absorbed, fluff couscous with fork, then let cool.

Once cool, toss with remaining tabbouleh ingredients in a large bowl.

Quick Start with MSPI Mama: This is one of my Quick Start recipes

Armenian Beef Kebabs

There's just something about food on a stick that gets people -- especially husbands and kiddos -- excited. When I saw this recipe in the July '09 issue of Woman's Day, I figured it would be fun to try and a new way to use ground beef. It didn't fail me!

Libby was absolutely fascinated by the skewers, and my husband loved it, too. I broiled the kebabs, as directed by the recipe, but next time I'm going to use the grill and keep the heat outside.

I tweaked the recipe, not because of MSPI but because I didn't have all the ingredients. I also explained some of the directions a little better. Here's my version below, but go ahead and try the original, too.

(Yes, I know the kebabs kind of look like something your dog might leave in the yard, but they really do taste good!) If you would rather not bother with the skewers, then just form the meat into patties, but like I said, the sticks make it fun!

Armenian Beef Kebabs
1 tbsp. dry minced onion
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp. finely chopped Italian parsley
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. paprika
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 lb. lean ground beef
6 bamboo or metal skewers

Mix together all ingredients, except the beef, in a medium bowl until well blended. Mix in the beef.

Divide mixture into six equal portions (about 1⁄3 cup each). With hands, form each into a meatball shape, the force skewer through meatball. Then form the meat into a long sausage-like shape, about 1 inch thick, around each skewer.

Place skewers on a broiler pan and broil 8 to 10 minutes, turning once.

A note about skewers: If you use bamboo skewers, then make sure you soak them in water prior to putting the meat on them. This will keep them from catching fire.

Quick Start with MSPI Mama: This is one of my Quick Start recipes.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Blueberry-Strawberry Buckle

Berries are on sale and so delicious this time of year, so why not make a yummy dessert that showcases some of your favorites?

This recipe, which I adapted from "Life's Little Berry Cookbook," is simple to mix up and just melts in your mouth. Libby had a lot of fun helping me layer the blueberries and strawberries on top of the batter.

Feel free to use whatever types of fruit you like or have on hand. Peaches and raspberries would be excellent! I would normally serve this with a drizzle of cream, but that's obviously not an option. Instead, why not try a drizzle of coconut milk? Make sure you serve this while it's still warm from the oven!

Blueberry-Strawberry Buckle

1/2 cup MSPI-friendly margarine, room temperature, divided
1 cup sugar, divided
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1-1/4 cup flour, divided
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup MSPI-friendly milk substitute
1 cup blueberries
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan. In a small bowl, cream 1/4 cup margarine and 1/2 cup sugar. Blend in the egg and vanilla.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together 1 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternating with the milk substitute. Stir until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Arrange fruit over the batter.

In a small bowl, combine remaining sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut in remaining margarine until mixture is crumbly and sprinkle mixture over fruit.

Bake for 35 minutes or until golden on the edges and the middle is set. An 8-inch pan will take longer to bake.

A note about margarine: There are only a few margarines on the market that are MSPI-friendly. Some of these are "light" versions. I highly recommend NOT using light margarines in your baking. If you can't find an MSPI-friendly, non-light margarine (I use Fleischmann's Unsalted for baking.) then I recommend using a butter-flavored shortening. Light margarines have too much water in them, which won't allow your dessert to bake correctly.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

18-month update and blog news

Well, I've been away for awhile. We've been enjoying summer and just plain busy! But I do plan to get some more updates on here a little more regularly now.

First, some blog news. In case you only read my updates via e-mail or a reader, you might want to stop by sometime and see the change I've made. Things are looking kind of nice, if I do say so myself! My intent is to be more a little more "uptown" like some of those nifty food blogs I like to read. I'm planning to take photos of the food I make (I'm no professional, so please forgive my amateurish attempts!) and to have fun with those photos by making them look kind of scrapbooky. So I hope you like the changes!

Now for an update on JD and our diet. I'm no longer nursing and am eating dairy. Yay! It was a long 16-plus months of no dairy/soy, but I'm living proof that it can be done! I must admit, it's been nice getting to eat those forbidden foods again! However, JD is still touch-and-go when it comes to dairy -- he's OK with soy -- and I'm still cooking our family meals sans dairy. So don't worry, I'll still be putting new recipes here!

Now, one last bit of news. You can now e-mail me with your questions at mspimama(at)gmail(dot)com. (I'm trying to avoid spam, thus the funky spelling out of "at" and "dot.") Please feel free to continue leaving comments -- I think they can be helpful for the other readers -- but if you have more personal correspondence, send me a note! Please be aware I can be kind of slow to reply, but I will reply ... ;)

Anyway, hope you all are having a great summer! We are here in Omaha -- as can be seen in the photo below. Libby's eating McDonald's ice cream, and JD's chowing down on a McD's apple pie -- yes, those pies are MSPI-friendly!