Friday, January 16, 2009

Grilled Chicken Breast with Pineapple Chutney (Healthy!)

The winter months are tough for many people. It's January, and that means the days are short and the thermostat is hitting single digits. I've always said I'm like a bear: I do well in the summer, but as soon as winter hits I want to eat more and sleep more, and don't try and wake me because I'll be cranky! I mentioned earlier that one of my goals this year was to keep away those winter trials and tribulations. I can attribute my success this year to getting regular exercise, letting go of unnecessary stress, and eating well. This is a great recipe to add to your Winter Survival Kit.

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Pineapple Chutney

When the weather outside is frightful, and all you can think about is what you ate over the holidays, it's time to take your brain (and your stomach) south of the equator. The flavors are fresh and zesty, the colors are vibrant, it's like Carnival on a plate! The best part? This is one healthy dish!

Grilled Chicken
5 Chicken Breasts (boneless, skinless)
2 Cloves Garlic
1/3 Cup Fresh Cilantro
1/2 Cup Lime Juice
1 1/2 Cups White Wine

1) In a food processor: Zap garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and white wine (I used a sauvignon blanc).

2) With the flat side of a meat tenderizer, beat the chicken breasts so they thin a little. No need to go overboard, they just need a few good whacks.

3) Twenty minutes before you're ready to cook the chicken, put breasts and marinade in a plastic ziploc bag to marinate. It's important not to keep the chicken in there too long, the acids in the wine and lime juice will actually start to cook the chicken a little, so keep your timing in mind.

*For this recipe, you could begin marinating the chicken when you begin simmering the chutney.

4) When you're ready to cook, grill the chicken over medium heat. Cooking them slowly over a low heat makes for juicy, tender chicken. Grill them for about 5-7 minutes on each side, until cooked all the way through.

5) Top with Pineapple Chutney!

Pineapple Chutney
(I got my original recipe for pineapple chutney years ago, and honestly cannot remember the source. I've changed a few things around and made it my own, but have to say the original mastermind of this one was somebody else.)

2 tblsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tblsp. Cumin Seeds
1 tsp. Mustard Seeds
2 tblsp. fresh ginger, diced
1 Yellow Onion, diced
4 Jalapenos, seeded and diced
3/4 cup Tequila
1 Pineapple, chopped
1/2 cup Lime Juice
1/2 cup Raw Sugar
1/2 cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped

1) In a saucepan, over medium heat, add olive oil, cumin, and mustard seeds to the pan.

2) Saute the seeds until begin to brown. Put a lid on for a few minutes, because the mustard seeds pop and fly.

3) After the mustard seeds calm down, add ginger, onion, and jalapenos. Saute until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

4) Add the tequila to the pot, let it simmer until the alcohol cooks off. The tequila will almost completely evaporate.

5) Next, add the pineapple, lime juice, and sugar. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer.

6) Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. The chutney will start to thicken and the flavors will blend together.

7) Remove from heat and add cilantro. Salt and pepper to taste.


A Good Point

Caroline wrote, "My first thought family is going to love this chicken but...not with jalapenos and tequila."

Tequila and jalapenos are not for everyone, they are definitely the ingredients that give this recipe an extra kick! However, if they're not your cup of tea you can use 1/2 a bell pepper instead of jalapenos. You can also leave the tequila out!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The BEST Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are the world's favorite comfort food. They're good for sick days, snow days, holidays, bad days, and every-days.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got from my mom was this: Bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies when moving in to a new place. It will instantly make your new digs smell like home!

With more chocolate chip recipes out there than you can imagine, it's hard to find one you can trust. The root of this cookie is the recipe that my mom has been making for as long as I have been alive (at least). Over the years it has evolved, step by step. Last week I made one final alteration to bring you the recipe below.

I am honored to present you with...

The BEST Chocolate Chip Cookie

2 cups Ground Oatmeal
1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 cup Salted Butter, Softened
3/4 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 Banana, pureed
1 Egg
2 cups Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350*f.

1) Combine flour, baking soda, sugar, and brown sugar in a medium sized bowl.
2) In a large bowl bowl, beat together butter, vanilla, egg, and banana.
3) Add flour mixture to butter mixture and beat on low until combined.
4) Stir in ground oatmeal with a spoon. The mixture should be thick and somewhat coarse.
5) Stir in chocolate chips.

6) On a baking sheet, use teaspoons to spoon dough into little balls on the cookie sheet. Because of the butter the cookies spread, so make sure they have a little room to grow. Make them as evenly sized as possible to keep from burning.

7) Bake at 350*f for about 10 minutes, until edges start to brown. Let cool on the sheet before transferring them to a cooling rack.

These cookies are great! The oatmeal makes them taste nutty, the banana gives them something special. They have a quintessential home-made taste and are guaranteed to brighten any day! Especially a cold day.

Need convincing?

I told my friend Mark that I was making chocolate chip cookies at work. His reply was "I don't really like cookies." I know, it's crazy. I assured him he'd like my cookies, but I wanted his honest opinion.

I sent him a couple and received a phone call within minutes to tell me how much he enjoyed them. He even called back later to say, "Jenny, I'm not pulling your leg, these are really good cookies."

But don't take my word for it, try them for yourself! Hopefully it'll be a chocolate chip recipe you'll use for years to come!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Something Completely Different

And now for something completely different.

I've mentioned before that I come from a long line of "cooks". We all know the old adage, "too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth". For this reason, I chose to take a back seat in the family dining department for this holiday season. This turned out to be to my benefit. Sitting at the island, sipping coffee, and watching my mom and Grandma Leonard prepare our Christmas dinner always puts things in to perspective for me.

They stood above a massive beef tenderloin. I commented on the size and glanced wearily at the price tag, wondering if Success would ever allow me to prepare such an impressive piece of beef. We were not able to find a roasting pan big enough to house this thing. I noted that if we tucked the thin end under, it would fit and also cook more evenly. My grandmother agreed. My mom wanted to just cut it off, but eventually followed suit.

As we took out the chopped liver that my grandmother made as an hors d'oeuvre, she made mention that it would taste different because our electric mixer made it more "whipped" than usual. I thought it still tasted great, and my mom gave me a look that was clearly saying "it's fine, who cares".

I have watched this dynamic between my mother and grandmother for years. My mom's style is very impromptu. She cooks with a complete absence of fussiness, which can be mistaken for carelessness if you aren't watching closely. No matter what the steps in between, the end result is always something good. She never fails to impresses, especially when entertaining.

My Grandma, on the other hand, is incredibly fastidious. When I was a child, I used to help her make the giblet at gravy at Thanksgiving. Making gravy is nothing short of an art form, and my grandma was adamant in leaving this impression on me. Once, as a teenager, I had been stirring the gravy over a low simmer for what felt like an eternity. My grandma saw the slight wane in my interest and yelled from across the room, "If you aren't going to stir it with love, you aren't going to stir it at all!" I quickly stepped up my game. She would stop by every now and then to ask me if I was still stirring it with love. I now stir everything with love.

What I wound up with is what I consider a happy marriage of their two approaches. From my Grandma Leonard, I have retained the fastidiousness and a passion for a wide variety of culinary styles, tastes, and procedures. From my mom, a low-key attitude; A gift that enables me to be at ease and stress-free in the kitchen, no matter what's catching on fire. Sitting in the kitchen, watching the two of them, only strengthened my realization that as long as I am cooking and creating, I'm happy. There are few things which I hold as much passion for, and my kitchen is my oasis. I can visit Italy, France, Asia, Russia. I can be in a five-star bakery, restaurant, or burger joint. The best part is watching the faces of the people I love as they enjoy the sensory experience I've prepared for them.


In this new year, per usual, I have plans. "Oh God, here we go again," was my sister's remark. Don't worry, they aren't big, wild-and-crazy plans. They're more on the level of, "I want to try to make a danish".

I plan on expanding this blog. I will continue to post recipes and stories, but I intend to show a broader spectrum in the skill level to include some more advanced recipes. I truly want this to be a well-rounded archive.

I also intend to expand the "brand", if you will. Pursuing publication and credit in the year to come will be paramount.

If all works out, there should be more Q/A entries. I was pleasantly surprised with the number of e-mails I received with questions and asking for suggestions for the site, and I look forward to posting some of those. I would love this site to become more interactive. Keep them coming!

Finally, I have been inspired to learn. I am going to actively seek to expand the experience and learn as much as I can.

I can't give it all away, I do have some surprises up my sleeve.

I just want to thank everyone who reads, asks, and e-mails. I hope you all spend the new year rediscovering your passions and pursuing your dreams. Learn as much as you can, and share it with as many people as possible.

Be happy, be healthy, and enjoy!