Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sausage and Rice Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Hallelujah, I'm feeling well enough to start experimenting in the kitchen again!  The first one out of the gate is a winner, winner!  We found some really great poblano peppers at a local farm and I couldn't wait to get them cooking.  I knew I wanted stuffed peppers, but I wasn't sure what to do.  And then, as if someone was reading my mind, I was walking through the meat department at HEB and stumbled upon "Poblano, Cheddar, Chicken Sausage."  What?  That's exactly what I needed!  How fitting.  I have to be honest and say that I've never stuffed a pepper (except my bacon wrapped, cream cheese stuffed jalapenos, but that's a little different).  I always saw photos in cookbooks with the bell pepper stuffed with rice and tomatoes and other various foods.  To me they just weren't appetizing, but these bad boys changed my mind!  So let's get started.  You'll need the following:
Poblano Peppers, Your Favorite Rice, Chicken Sausage (I used the Poblano, Cheddar that I gushed about above, but you could do just about anything here), some cheddar cheese and a sprinkle of Mrs. Dash Chipotle Southwest Seasoning.  And that's it, nothing fancy here...just good, simple ingredients.
Start by cooking your rice according to the package directions.  C and I bought a rice cooker over the holidays to speed up his sushi making process.  I must say I always thought they were a useless, waste of counter/cabinet space appliance, but this little guy has changed my mind.  I love being able to throw the rice in there and let it work it's magic.  The one we have knows when the rice is done.  Can you believe that, I can't!  We've made many different types and they all come out perfect, how does it do that?  Anyway, I made two servings of rice and I added a sprinkle (maybe a teaspoon full) of the Mrs. Dash Chipotle Seasoning to the rice as it was cooking.  While that was cooking, I removed the chicken sausage from it's casing and started cooking it in a skillet over medium-high heat.  I find it easiest to break the sausage apart by using a potato masher, unconventional yes, but it works like a charm.  Thanks for the tip Rachael Ray!  Anyway, brown the sausage and then toss in the rice and about a cup full of cheddar!  That's it, really it sounds so simple and it is.  When you have a really great flavored sausage, you don't have to add much else to the mix.  Here's the stuffing in all it's cheesy, gooey glory!  Oh my...perfection!
While your stuffing is melting together, wash the peppers and slice a great big "T" in them.   Scoop out the innards *why does that word make me laugh?*, leave a few seeds if you like it spicy!  Oh, and don't touch your eyes after you touch the pepper insides, these little dudes are worse than jalapenos!  Next, take a giant spoon and start stuffing the peppers.  Don't worry if you make a mess, it adds to the dish!  Here's what you'll have:
Make sure you stuff them to the top, you wouldn't want any of that stuffing to go to waste!  If you have some rice and sausage mixture that won't stuff into the peppers, then by all means go at it with a spoon.  I wish I had taken a picture of C and I with our faces over the pan, shoveling the leftover stuffing into our mouths as if we hadn't eaten all day!  Yes, it was that good!
I tossed them in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.  Long enough for the peppers to soften up, the stuffing to get a little crunchy on top and the skin of the pepper to char a little.  After a little time in the oven, you're going to end up with this:
Look at it, it's so...what's the work I'm looking for?  It's so amazing, fantastic, wonderful, superb, splendid...yes that's it!  Can you see the charred skin and the crunchy stuffing top?  Just looking at these pictures again makes me want to get in the kitchen and cook them up right now!  I know I'm going on and on about these peppers, but I have to say it was a pretty brilliant creation!  It's a Rachael Raves original, I can't say that about too many of my posts, YET!  Serve it up with some corn on the side, if you must!  We did that so that Little Man would eat more (we mixed the stuffing and the corn together for him, tricky, tricky)! 

I'm already scheming other pepper/stuffing combos.  After all, this is just a method and you can do just about whatever floats your boat, within reason of course.  Be sure to check out the pre-flavored sausages at your local store, they really are great.  You could even do a beef mixture, or a pork, or...anyway you get the idea.  Or you could make it just like I did and stick with perfection!  I kid...I'm not perfect, nor or my experiments, but I am very proud of this one if you couldn't tell!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pretzel Crusted Chicken

Where have I been?  I wish I knew...I feel like the first part of this year has just flown by.  Between the strep throat/restricted airways incident in January and the flu outbreak a few weeks ago, I just can't seem to stay healthy!  Things are changing soon, I can feel it!  C and I have made a plan to ease back into working out and eating healthier.  I know that not all of my flu and strep throat is related to these things, but it can't hurt right?  Anyway, before we get into the full swing of "healthier eating," I thought I would share a family "not so healthy" favorite!  It's chicken coated in pretzels then smothered in a cheesy mustard sauce, what's not to love?

Pretzel Crusted Chicken Breasts with Cheddar Mustard Sauce
from: Rachael Ray
4 quart-size plastic food storage bags
4 small, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 5-ounce bag of salted pretzels, any shape
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs
Vegetable oil, for frying
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
3/4 pound, about 2 1/2 cups, sharp yellow cheddar cheese, shredded
2 heaping tablespoons spicy brown mustard
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, a generous handful, chopped
1/4 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large sour dill pickle, finely chopped
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Preheat a large non-stick skillet with a 1/4-inch of vegetable oil over medium-high heat.
Sprinkle a little water into four medium food storage baggies. Place 1 chicken breast in each bag and seal it up, pushing out excess air. Use the bottom of a heavy pot or pan and pound each breast until flat, just shy of busting out of the bag. Repeat with the other 3 chicken breasts.
Place the pretzels in a food processor or blender and grind until fine. Transfer the ground pretzels to a shallow dish, add the thyme and some salt and pepper. Crack and beat 2 eggs in a second shallow dish with a splash of water. One at a time, coat each chicken breast in the egg and then the ground pretzels.
Add the pretzel-coated chicken breast to the hot oil. Cook in a single layer, in 2 batches if necessary, about 3 or 4 minutes on each side, until the juices run clear and breading is evenly browned.
While the chicken is frying, in a medium saucepot over medium heat, melt the butter and add the flour to it. Cook flour and butter for 1 minute and then whisk in the milk. When the milk comes to a bubble, stir in the cheese and mustard with a wooden spoon. Season with a little salt and pepper, and remove cheese sauce from the heat.
Transfer the fried pretzel-crusted chicken breast to a serving plate, drizzle with the mustard cheddar sauce, then sprinkle with a little parsley, finely chopped onion and sour dill pickle. Serve lemon wedges alongside.

My notes on the recipe:  I omit the lemon wedges, the onion and the dill pickle.  I'm not a fan of garnishes on top of my dishes, it just doesn't float my boat!  I love having the crunchy pretzel coating surrounding the super moist chicken!  And the cheesy mustard sauce is really good.  It does make way too much though, so I try to halve the recipe when I remember.  I like this dish, it's not one of C's favorites though.  He doesn't care for the mustard in the cheesy sauce, to each his own.

It has been SOOOOOO long since I have blogged, I almost feel like I forgot how!  :)  I promise that this blog is going back on my high priority list.  For the last few weeks the only things on that list have been laying on the couch, drinking Gatorade and trying not to cough up a lung!  I've got so many things to catch up on, but I promise there will be more posts!

Let the cooking experiments commence.  I added Peanut Butter Extract to my pantry today, now I'm just trying to figure out what to do with it! :)  Suggestions?  C already claimed it for buttercream icing...what else?  Stay tuned, I know it's going to be fantastic!


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