Jeanette - Off The Cuff

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Blogger at: and -- My name is Jeanette, and I was born in Sweden, but unlike the famous Muppet, I am not a professional Swedish Chef. I actually studied design and photography. I also was a freelance indie-rock critic for several magazines from 1998-2005, and had an in-house PR company for a while. Cooking is in my DNA--my dad's brother was a chef and their father was a pastry chef, my mom's mother was a caterer, who published a cookbook of traditional Finnish breads and pastries when she was 92. Everyone else in my family loves to cook, and we're not afraid to experiment. I have a yen for interior design and remodeling.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Chicken and Tomato pizza

I have been lazy for years, and make no excuse for the fact that this was my first time of trying an actual yeast-based pizza crust.  I always just made a yeast-free one, thinking it was somehow faster, but it was always quite dense, and not necessarily faster.
There is an overnight-fermented pizza dough that I intend to do next time I think of having pizza 24 hours in advance.  But for tonight, I found a  30-minute dough that I was willing to try.  I’ve pasted the recipe below, too, for convenience sake.
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 cups bread flour * I used 1 cup whole wheat, and 1 cup white flour*
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar
  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups bread flour, olive oil, salt, white sugar and the yeast mixture; stir well to combine. Beat well until a stiff dough has formed. Cover and rise until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  3. Turn dough out onto a well floured surface. Form dough into a round and roll out into a pizza crust shape. Cover with your favorite sauce and toppings and bake in preheated oven until golden brown, about 20 minutes.


    4-5 vine ripened tomatoes (depending on the size)
    1/2 yellow onion
    6 chicken tenders (frozen or defrosted)
    1-2 cloves minced garlic
    1/2  tsp rosemary, ground
    1 tsp oregano
    2 tbsp fresh basil, minced
    1 cup grated mozzarella
    2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
    2 tbsp Caesar dressing (or Ranch)
While the dough was rising, I thinly sliced half a yellow onion, and sautéed it in olive oil until caramelized, and then added thinly sliced tomatoes, a clove of minced garlic, and a couple of tablespoons of minced basil leaves into the skillet. In a separate skillet, I sautéed chicken tenders with a few pinches of ground rosemary, and oregano and seasoning salt, and when the chicken was cooked through, I sliced it up into small chunks.
Once the dough had risen, I followed step # 3 above,  and then covered the crust first with a couple of tablespoons of Caesar dressing, about 2/3 cup mozzarella, and then all the sautéed ingredients from above, and a bit more mozzarella and grated parmesan.   I baked the pizza about 25 minutes on a pizza stone, and it was good!  I regret that I did not take any pictures, but them’s them apples.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Almond-Fig Brown Rice Risotto

I think risotto is something that I always enjoy at restaurants, and even though it’s a fairly easy concept, I’ve generally avoided making it.  Why? I don’t know.  But I recently read a good risotto recipe over at Butter And Onions: Pea and Bacon Risotto, plus I had these figs, and sometimes I just say something out loud to see if it sounds good.  So I said “Fig risotto. Hmm… why not?”  I scoured around the internet to find comparable recipes, and found a few, but for most of them, I lacked other critical ingredients, so I basically just gleaned the basic cooking technique from reading several recipes, and came up with this.  My technique may not have been totally authentic, but the end result was savory and really good.

fig-risotto 001INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup whole raw almonds, chopped up
2-4 tbsp butter

5 fresh figs, stems cut off, washed, and diced up
1/2 yellow onion, diced

1 1/2 cups brown rice (or traditional arborio rice)
3-4 cups water
1 tbsp “Better than Bouillon” chicken stock
1/2 cup cream
1 oz white wine
Dash of nutmeg
1/4 cup grated Peccorino or Parmigiano

DIRECTIONS: fig-risotto 002
Since I used brown rice in this recipe, which takes a lot longer to cook, I was afraid of it being very under-cooked if I simply followed a traditional risotto technique.  Therefore, I decided to precook it about half way in a rice cooker.  

I started up my chicken bouillon with the rice & water in the rice cooker. 

While that was going on, I sautéed my almonds in about 2 tbsp butter in a cast-iron skillet, until they were nice and golden and aromatic. 

fig-risotto 003   fig-risotto 004

I added my diced onion in, and continued sautéing until the onion was almost translucent, and at the tail end, dumped in my diced figs, and the white wine.  When the figs were cooked just a tiny bit, I turned off the heat, and set aside this mixture in a separate bowl.fig-risotto 005
fig-risotto 006 Once the rice approached a nearly cooked state, I added a little more butter to my skillet, and scooped in the parboiled rice filling up the bottom of the skillet.  I cooked this on medium heat until it started to stick to the skillet, and then poured in the remaining bouillon water from my rice cooker about 1/2 cup at a time until it was absorbed.  Since that didn’t seem to be enough liquid, I added about another 3/4 cup water into the skillet, and kept letting it absorb as the rice was cooking.  Towards the end, I stirred in 1/2 cup cream, the fig-mixture, and about 1/4 cup grated cheese, and a dash of nutmeg. fig-risotto 007





Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cranberry Almond Chicken Salad

What’s always funny to me is when people refer to things as “salad” that to me do not constitute a salad—case in point: the ubiquitous “marshmallow salad.” There are zero vegetables and absolutely no redeeming nutritional qualities to them—they are really a dessert, but I suppose by calling it a salad, people feel vindicated in eating it with their dinner.

A few nights ago I had a “salad with chicken.”  It was salad greens, with tomatoes, cucumbers, grilled chicken pieces, sauteed red bell peppers, feta cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.  So was that a chicken salad? Well, it was, but not the kind of chicken salad that this recipe entails. 

For most Americans, the “chicken salad” is something like 1 cup of mayo, canned chicken, and some chopped celery and salt & pepper.  This is kind of the cholesterol bomb lunch equivalent of the marshmallow salad I mentioned above. 

My sister-in-law-once-removed (i.e., my sister’s husband’s sister) makes a really good chicken salad that’s considerably healthier, and I’ve tweaked her version a little, and come up with my own version.  Most of the ingredients can be substituted, and I’ll make note of other suggestions that are equally good.

1 - 12 oz can of chicken breast (or approximately 1.5 cups of chopped, grilled chicken, whichever you prefer.)
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 carrots, peeled, and grated with a cheese grater
3/4 cup “craisins”
4 green onion stalks, cut into rings, about half-way up the green stem…(fresh chives will also suffice if approximately the same amount.)
1/2 cup slivered or chopped raw almonds – make sure the chopped or slivered pieces are small enough to blend in well with the salad’s texture, and just add a bit of crunch and extra protein.  Another option is salted, toasted sunflower seeds or pine nuts

Optional: 1 apple (preferably something like Gala, Fuji, Cameo, Jonagold…) diced, and/or 2/3 cup red grapes, sliced

2-3 tbsp mayo
1 tsp Dijon mustard (or try any other deli mustard that you like)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

Mix all together in a bowl until evenly coated, and serve in a tortilla, pita pocket, or with bread or crackers.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cedar-planked salmon

Our friend caught fresh King Salmon in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday and brought us one.cedar-planked salmon 004  So on Monday  I filleted it, (not very well, lacking the proper type of knife) and seasoned it with sea salt, fresh ground pepper, ground coriander and grilled it on a soaked cedar plank.  That’s pretty much the entirety of the recipe, and the directions… And it was so simple, and so delicious. I served it up with some brown rice, and  sautéed spinach, onions and bell peppers (I told you I have bell peppers with almost every meal, didn’t I?) which I grated fresh Peccorino cheese on top of.  Oh, and squirt some fresh lime or lemon juice on the fish, once it's off the grill.  Be careful about pre-seasoning with acidic things on fish, because the acid will start to 'cook' the fish prematurely.

The only tips I have for you, especially if you're a grilling beginner, are as follows: soak the grilling plank about 4 hours before dinner time to make sure it doesn’t fully catch fire on the grill; take your fish out of the fridge a half hour before grilling so that it’s temperature warms up a bit, which allows it to grill faster, and not dry out too much; last, but not least, preheat the grill ten minutes (if your grill has a thermostat on the lid, you’ll want it to be around 400 degrees in there) so the fillet will grill on the plank in about ten minutes.  The internal temp of the fish should hit 145, if you use a meat thermometer.
cedar-planked salmon 005 cedar-planked salmon 006

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Pot Roast with Mashed yam-potatoes, and gravy

eye of round roast (3)I am by no means any authority on the preparation of a roast.  In fact, this roast was the very first one I have ever made.  You see, my mother is the one who makes roasts, and so if she makes one, we just go over there and eat.  Thus, I’ve never made one.  Until today. Considering my lack of experience, I’m quite pleased with how it turned out.



1 roast cut of beef.  (I happened to have “eye of round”.)
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into halves
1/2 onion cut into wedges and separated
1 clove of garlic
2 tbsp fresh thyme
2 tbsp fresh sage
2 bay leaves
4 beef bouillon cubes
2 cups of boiling water
2 tsp fresh ground pepper

eye of round roast (1) First, sear the meat on all sides, on medium-high heat in a cast-iron skillet with about 2 tbsp butter until browned.  Put this browned meat in a Dutch oven, or oven proof deep dish. eye of round roast (2)I made beef bouillon with the cubes, and 2 cups boiling water, and added all the herbs and seasonings.  Pour this over the meat, and put in the carrots, and onions and garlic.  Finish cooking the roast in the oven for about 4-5 hours with a very low heat option (maybe around 200-250).  Check the meat with a thermometer every so often.  Since eye-of-round can be tough, I just kept it simmering in the broth well beyond the 160 degree internal temperature.  

Cut the strings off, and slice the meat across the grain, into the thinnest possible slices.

 eye of round roast

Mashed Yam-Potatoes:
8-10 potatoes (red or Yukon gold)
1 large yam
1 cup milk
1/4 stick of butter
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp seasoning salt

Boil the potatoes and yams in their peels until fork tender.  Drain water off, and then peel them (I stuck a fork in each potato using my left hand, and used a knife to peel them with my other hand.) Mash them up with butter, milk and seasonings.  You can also use a hand held mixer to really fluff them up.  The yams add vitamins, fiber and a soft, sweet flavor to the mashed potatoes, as well as a little color.

Now ordinarily I’d put a little more effort into a gravy, but since I was in a hurry last night, I just used the recipe on the back of the corn-starch container… I strained the broth from my pot roast through a sieve, and mixed that with corn-starch and simmered it up.  But for some reason it didn’t get very thick, so it was almost more like an Au Jus.  Nevertheless, it was still really good drizzled over the meat and potatoes.


Hawaiian Chicken casserole

hawaiian chicken This is one of my mom’s best-loved dishes, and the one we request multiple times a year when we visit our parents.   My dad's co-worker had shared this recipe with them, and perhaps she got it from a Swedish cooking magazines.  Of course, we still lived in Da Ol’ Country.  So, go figure – Hawaiian chicken, via a Finnish woman, who got it from a Swedish nurse. The Hawaiian part is the pineapple, but other than that, I don’t suppose this is an actual Hawaiian chicken dish.  Then again, I’m not Hawaiian, so someone may correct me if needed. 
Granted the ingredients may sound a little peculiar, but trust me, it’s so savory and delicious, it may just be one of your go-to recipes when dinner guests come over. 
4 chicken breasts (with or without skin, depending on your preference) (or 12-15 chicken tenders)
1 cup heavy cream
8-12 rings of fresh pineapple slices (or 1 can if fresh can’t be gotten)
1-2 TBSP Dijon mustard
1 egg yolk
Seasoning salt
Fresh ground pepper
First season each chicken breast with some Seasoning salt.  You could go all gourmet, but seriously, Lawry’s is really good on here, so the paprika should be a part of the equation. Then the two options are to either pre-bake the chicken in a casserole dish, which you will use again for the completed dish, or to fry the chicken in a skillet with some olive oil until cooked all the way through and reading 160 with a meat thermometer.
When the chicken is prepped, this would be a good time to get some long-grain white rice going in a pot or rice cooker.  For four chicken breasts, I’d probably use about 2 cups of uncooked rice and 4 cups of water.
hawaiian chicken (1)
Layer pineapple rings at the bottom of the casserole dish. 
hawaiian chicken (5)
Then put the fully cooked chicken on top (I used chicken tenders, because I always have them in the freezer.) 
Pour heavy cream into a bowl, and whip it until soft peaks form.
 hawaiian chicken (2)hawaiian chicken (3)hawaiian chicken (4)
Beat in the egg yolk and Dijon mustard, and whip another minute or so until you get a nice golden colored cream mixture.
Spread out the cream-mixture over the top, like you’re frosting a cake.
  hawaiian chicken (6)
Now, put it all back in the oven at about 400 for about 15-20 minutes until the cream bubbles up and browns. 
hawaiian chicken (7)
Serve over white rice, and don’t forget to ladle on that creamy goodness all over your rice… (And add a vegetable of your choice, to offset the ultra decadent cream-sauce!)