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Chicken and cheese enchiladas

This doesn't really need a recipe since it's not really from scratch, but I wrote up a post so I can remember how much stuff I put into a serving for one.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

3.4 oz. of chicken breast tenders, cut into thin strips and seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Lightly brown in a sauté pan. When fully cooked, season with a little cayenne pepper, about 1.0 oz. of canned enchilada sauce (I used Old El Paso, hot), and a tablespoon or two of hot diced fire-roasted green chiles.

ate.2012.10.03.c1.jpgTo make the tortillas softer I heated them in a damp kitchen towel in the microwave for 40 seconds. This prevents cracking, especially with refrigerated tortillas. These are medium-sized. Enchiladas are supposed to be made with corn tortillas, but I rarely have them on hand so I usually use flour tortillas.

Add the filling and some cheese. I used a nacho/taco cheese grated cheese mixture.

ate.2012.10.03.c2.jpgLightly oil a 4x8" glass loaf pan. Roll the enchiladas and place in the pan, seam side down. Add more sauce and top with cheese. I ended up using about half of a 10 oz. can of sauce.

Bake uncovered for 15 minutes at 375°F until the sauce is hot and the cheese melted.

The trickiest thing is getting them out of the pan! I ended up tilting the pan over my serving plate and attempted to slide them out, which was only partially successful.

Update 11/3/2012: I tried putting the enchiladas in parchment paper slings. It works great!

ate.2012.11.03.c2.jpgPut the plate close by and lift the enchilada by its sling and put it on the plate. The only problem is that the sauce will want to run out the ends of the sling so do it quickly, and level.

ate.2012.11.03.c3.jpgThen just use a big spatula to slide it off the parchment paper. Since you're just sliding it, as opposed to slipping the spatula underneath it to lift it, the enchilada doesn't want to flip over when you plate it. Perfect!

Also, I reduced the serving size from 2 enchiladas to 1, since 2 seemed like too much.

Update 1/4/2013: I made this again with grilled chicken and a batch of salsa fresca. I put a little salsa fresca inside the enchilada.

And put a little on top after plating:

The rest I served with tortilla chips. It was delicious!

Update 5/16/2013: Instead of messing with the separate pan and/or parchment paper sling, this time I just baked it on my plate, 10 minutes at 375°F. Obviously this should only be done with an oven-safe plate! To serve it, I set the hot plate on a not hot plate; the two layers make it possible to carry and not damage the table. I do the same for nachos. This works, but I prefer the parchment paper sling method.

Also, I measured the shredded cheese and I used 0.5 oz., with about half inside and half on top. And I used the whole 3.0 oz. package of grilled chicken to make one big enchilada instead of two smaller ones.

Update 12/9/2013: You can freeze leftover enchilada sauce, and I do so in a vacuum sealed bag. I find it to be a little runny after freezing, however. I've been defrosting then reheating it in a saucepan over low heat to evaporate some of the excess moisture and return it to the correct consistency. It works right out of the bag, but it's better cooked down a bit.

Update 4/22/2014: I stopped using the deep glass loaf pan, because parchment sling keep blowing over when I put it in the oven and gets stuck to the cheese. A pie pan works much better:

Update September 22, 2015: It's still best with salsa fresca, but since I wasn't going to have chips today, it was too much work to make it. I added some Green Mountain Gringo spicy salsa and some chopped canned jalapeños instead, and it was still good!

I spread the salsa and jalapeños on a paper towel to soak up some of the excess liquid, and to also form it into the appropriate shape. Then I put the chicken on the tortilla and used the paper towel to pick up the salsa and flip it right on top of the chicken. Perfect!

Here it is assembled with enchilada sauce and cheese.

I heated it for 8 minutes at 350°F on parchment paper in an aluminum pie pan, as above, and it worked perfectly. Delicious!

I've been eating it with Mexican rice and refried beans lately. Delicious and the rice and beans can be portioned out into individual servings, vaccum sealed and frozen.


Jerk chicken #2

This is not really authentic, but it's quite tasty and really easy. It's pictured with tostones, fried green plantains.

Since I didn't have much luck with homemade jerk sauce I bought a jar of pre-made jerk marinade. I think it's a little too sweet, and not spicy enough but not bad. It's all they had at my supermarket.

Here are the chicken drumsticks and thighs I previously broke down from a whole chicken, vacuum sealed, froze and then defrosted. Seasoned with salt, black pepper, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.

I vacuum marinated it for about 36 hours in the refrigerator. That wasn't intentional; I had a menu change and didn't have a chance to cook it earlier.

And coming off the grill, 10 minutes total on high heat, flipping every 2 minutes, cooking to an internal temperature of 160°F.

Update 1/9/2013: While the sauce is still too sweet, Melinda's xxx habanero hot sauce gave it a nice kick!


Coq au vin #2

Coq au vin (chicken in wine) is one of those classic dishes that I don't make very often, because it's kind of labor intensive. I previously made it more or less using Alton Brown's recipe but this time I decided to give Michael Ruhlman's "Weekday Coq au vin" recipe from Ruhlman's Twenty a try. This version is quite a bit easier and still very delicious! And I highly recommend the book.

The recipe calls for 4 chicken legs. I'm making a half recipe (2 servings) with the legs from breaking down a 4.7 lb. whole chicken. I prefer to do it this way so I know exactly what I'm getting, and my grocery store sells natural (no antibiotic, no hormone, vegetable feed) whole chicken, but not parts.

I froze the breasts and wings and use the rest of the carcass for soup a few days ago. My two legs (drumstick and thigh) weighed 1 lb. 4.0 oz. with bone and skin.

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Since I was only making two legs I put the chicken, skin-side up, in a small roasting pan. I probably should have lightly oiled the pan because the chicken stuck to it.

And in the "I didn't expect that" department: When I broke down the chicken I vacuum sealed and refrigerated the legs. The vacuum sealing isn't strictly necessary but it's nice because it pretty much guarantees the chicken won't leak in my refrigerator. After a day or two in its vacuum sealed bag, pretty much all of the texture of the skin was gone and it became perfectly smooth. But the texture comes back after you finish cooking it. Weird!

Roast for 20 minutes, remove from the oven, and reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Chicken still looks oddly smooth.

The recipe calls for slab bacon lardons or raw bacon, but all I had was my frozen pre-cooked bacon, which worked fine. I probably should have added a little oil or bacon grease to compensate for the lack of fat, but it worked okay without it. I used 3 slices of cooked bacon, 1.8 oz.. I think the slab bacon lardons would have been better, however.

Finely dice 1/2 medium yellow onion. Mince 2 cloves of garlic.

I really like Ruhlman's technique for rendering the bacon and cooking the onion and garlic. Put the bacon, onion and garlic in a pot large enough to hold the chicken in one layer. Add enough water to just cover and heat on high heat until the water evaporates.

Lower the heat to medium-low (low on my stove) and cook until the onions begin to caramelize. This technique works really well and results in perfectly cooked onion and garlic without burning!

ate.2012.06.04.c4.jpgWhen done, add 1 1/2 tbsp. of all-purpose flour to the pan and cook for a minute or two.

While the water is boiling off, cut up 4 large white mushrooms (4.4 oz.). The recipe calls for quartering, but I cut them in half then into 4 slices because I don't like large mushroom pieces, though they do shrink so maybe quartering would be fine.

I should not have cut the carrot because it's just there for flavor and gets removed before serving. And I peeled 4 shallots. This is much less work than the pile of pearl onions in the other recipe!

To the pot with the cooked bacon, onions and garlic, add:

Roasted chicken, skin side down
Mushrooms, carrot, shallots
2 bay leaves
8 oz. red wine
1 tbsp. honey

Add water so the liquid covers 3/4 of the height of the chicken. Put in the oven and roast, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

I used malbec because that's what I had open, but I think burgundy or pinot noir would be more traditional. This recipe uses significantly less wine than the other recipe, which calls for 1 3/4 liters! 

Flip the chicken over so it's skin-side up and roast for 20 more minutes, uncovered. Looks good!

Remove the bay leaves and carrot. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Because I prepared this a day ahead and was going to freeze one of the servings I rapidly chilled the pot in a sink full of cold water. I then filled each vacuum bag with one chicken leg (about 8.8 oz. cooked weight, with bone, each), two shallots and 6 oz. of the liquid, mushrooms and bacon.

The original recipe says it can be reheated from refrigerator temperature in the oven, 30 minutes at 325°F. Since it was already in a vacuum sealed bag I reheated in the sous vide, 45 minutes at 160°F.

Serve with 1.5 oz. egg noodles.

Before serving, crisp the skin of the chicken. This can be done on the grill or broiler. I cooked it for about 5 minutes under the broiler while the noodles were cooking.

I plated by putting the drained noodles in a large bowl, added the chicken and and added the juice, mushroom and bacon mix. I possibly should have poured the juice everywhere but the chicken, because I ended up un-crisping the chicken pouring juice over the top of the chicken. It was still delicious, regardless.

Served with a little minced flat leaf parsley as garnish.

I tweeted the picture at the top of the page to @Ruhlman and he retweeted a nice response!


Roast beef (sous vide)

I tried several different techniques for browning before, browning after, using the broiler or not, and guess what? None of it is necessary. I just cook the beef in the sous vide, slice, vacuum seal and freeze it now. Because I make very thinly sliced roast beef either served with gravy or sandwiches, you can't tell that it was never browned because there is so little edge. And for the stir-fry, it doesn't matter because it will get browned when it's stir-fried.

This is a 3 pound eye of round roast. Trim off the fat and silverskin and season with salt, freshly ground pepper and garlic powder on the top and bottom.

ate.2012.05.17.c2.jpgVacuum seal and sous vide for 90 minutes at 132°F for medium rare. The beauty of the sous vide is that it's foolproof - every time, every slice is exactly medium rare.

I packaged this into:

1x 5.0 oz. sliced for dinner
1x 3.0 oz. sliced for sandwich
8x 3.2 oz. cut into strips for stir-fry

The roast was $ 15.07 but there was a $ 3.50 off instant coupon on it, so it was only $ 11.57 but I got 1 dinner and 9 lunches out of it, so that's a pretty good deal!

Sausage and green pepper pizza

I had a sudden urge for pizza so I threw together this simple sausage and green pepper pizza.

I started with 6.4 oz. pizza dough that I had previous made, vacuum sealed and frozen. I defrosted the sealed bag of dough in cold water for about 45 minutes, then opened the package to let it dry out and warm up for another 45 minutes. That's semolina flour on the cutting board to prevent sticking.

I also defrosted a pre-cooked spicy Italian sausage and a 6.0 oz. package of my homemade tomato sauce since I was out of my homemade pizza sauce.

I previously discovered that even with the pizza sauce, which I cook thicker initially, it's necessary to put it back on the stove and cook out the excess moisture that seems to appear when freezing the sauce. That's especially true for my pasta sauce, which needed to be thicker and less wet for pizza. Here it is, far too wet.

40 minutes before I was ready to cook the pizza I put the pizza stone in my oven and turned it on to 500°F. I have only used the pizza stone once, and it was not a successful endeavor in the least, so I was hesitant, but I thought I'd give it another try.

Here's the dough flattened out with the reduced sauce.

After the sauce went mozzarella cheese, sausage, green peppers and Parmesan cheese. I forgot to take a picture of that.

The one other time I attempted to use the pizza stone I failed miserably in getting the pizza off the peel and into the oven. This time was also a failure, but I very quickly scooped the topping that slid off and back onto the pizza, closed the door and hoped for the best.

10 minutes at 500°F on the pizza stone and it was perfect! Crispy on the bottom and fully cooked through.

Loosening the pizza with a large spatula and sliding it on the peel was uneventful and the stone does make a much crisper and well-browned crust than a sheet pan. I just need a lot more practice with the peel.

Update 8/17/2012
. Here's a version with Salame Toscano and mushrooms.

I also, for the first time ever, got the pizza off the peel and onto the pizza stone successfully! The trick was to make sure the dough was sufficiently floured, with regular flour, after rolling, then putting a lot of semolina flour on the peel. And I mean a lot. I'm not sure, but I'd guess the better part of 1/8 cup.

November 28, 2012: I think I'm getting the hang of this!


Chicken balsamic #2

I used to make this dish fairly often a decade or two ago, then for some reason I stopped. I don't know why, because it's quite delicious!

This recipe makes exactly one serving with no leftovers, so be sure to scale it up if you want more.

6.0 oz. chicken breast tenders [or pork chop, see update below]
half a medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
3 large white mushrooms
1 tbsp. More than Gourmet fond de poulet gold chicken stock concentrate
6.0 oz. hot water
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

The meal is pictured with 3.6 oz. of garlic mashed potatoes, previously vacuum sealed and frozen. To reheat the mashed potatoes, bring a pot of boil to a boil, add the frozen vacuum sealed bag, bring back to a boil, reduce to a simmer and simmer for 20 minutes. This takes the longest of any part of the meal, so it makes sense to start that first.

For one serving I use approximately 6.0 oz. of chicken breast tenders. This is 5.8 oz. A single piece of chicken breast also works well. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and granulated garlic on both sides.

Also finely dice half a yellow onion, mince 1 clove of garlic and slice 3 large white mushrooms.

ate.2012.04.19.c2.jpgBring 6.0 oz. of water to a boil. I use my electric tea kettle to heat the water and pour 6.0 oz. into a Pyrex measuring cup. Or you could microwave the water in the measuring chip. Add the chicken stock concentrate and dissolve. You could use actual chicken stock, but you should probably add a little extra and reduce it. The concentrate is great because you can make it any strength and the concentrate keeps forever in the refrigerator unlike an opened package of chicken stock.

Heat a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add 1 tbsp. butter. Add the chicken on one half and the onions on the other. Lightly brown the chicken, the flip over to brown the other side. Add the mushrooms and garlic to the onions. When the chicken is browned, add the hot chicken stock to the pan.

ate.2012.04.19.c3.jpgCover and cook until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160°F, less than 10 minutes for chicken breast tenders, maybe 12 minutes for a thicker chicken breast piece. Flip the chicken once or twice during cooking.

Remove the chicken from the pan, increase the heat to medium-high and reduce the sauce, stirring frequently.

Plate the chicken, mashed potatoes and pour the reduce sauce, mushrooms and onions over the chicken.

The original recipe is here, but this recipe is better.

Update 6/21/2013: It also goes well with wild rice mix.

Update 9/9/2013: Here it is with a better recipe for wild rice mix.. I really like this combination!

Update 11/22/2013: I made the recipe with a thick-cut bone-in pork chop instead of chicken breast and it was excellent!


Pasta with zucchini, onion and meat sauce


This simple dish is delicious and quite healthy, thanks to careful portion control. 

There's 2.0 oz. of whole wheat pasta, the recommended serving size. And that is a surprisingly small amount of pasta.


To fill up the dish there's one small zucchini and a half an onion - and that's for one serving! 


The rest is 3.1 oz. of organic ground beef and 4.1 oz. of Bove's marinara sauce. It could have used a little more sauce, but I had pre-cooked the beef, added sauce, vacuum sealed and froze the individual serving packages. 

Topped with a very tiny amount microplaned Parmesano Reggiano cheese.

And one small slice of wheat Italian bread with olive oil.

What I ate: January 11, 2012

Breakfast: Chorizo breakfast burrito and a glass of orange juice.


Snack: 1.0 oz. Sriracha Chex Mix and a Spicy V-8.

Lunch: Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich on Barowski's wheat bread with Kettle Chips barbecue potato chips.


I finished cooking my pork spare ribs. I took them out of the sous vide after 18 hours at 155°F. Then chilled, removed from their vacuum bags and sauced with barbecue sauce. Sometimes I use my homemade barbecue sauce but I had some Brooks BBQ sauce in a jar so I used that this time. Into the smoker with hickory for 60 minutes.

All done. Looks and smells great!

I cut, divided, vacuum sealed and froze all of the ribs.


Snack: 0.7 oz. peanuts. And later, 3 Late July crackers (organic Ritz-type crackers) with Yancey's Fancy horseradish cheddar. And a half glass of Monkey Bay sauvignon blanc. This was a much better combination; using a bigger piece of cheese and a milder cracker did the trick.


And 2 glasses of delicious Four Vines zinfandel.


Weight at beginning of the day: 114.2 lbs.
Weight at the beginning of the next day: 114.8 lbs.

Chicken Parmesan

Most of the time I have my pasta with Italian sausage or meatballs. But once in a while I'll make Chicken Parmesan.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta and prepare according to package directions. For the 2.0 oz. of Barilla spaghetti here, 9 minutes.

Start with 5.0 to 6.0 oz. of chicken breast or chicken breast tenders. If the breast is thick I find it works best to slice it into two thin slices to make it easier to cook.

Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and granulated garlic.

Set up a breading station with a plate of all-purpose flour, a bowl with an egg, beaten, and finally seasoned breadcrumbs with freshly grated Parmesan cheese in it.

Dredge the chicken in flour, then egg, then the bread crumb and cheese mixture.

Heat a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add olive oil and cook the chicken until browned and cooked through (160°F in the center), 5 to 10 minutes. Update 3/12/2012: See note below for alternate cooking method.

Since I don't use enough tomato sauce to consume an entire 26 oz. jar of sauce before it goes bad, I vacuum seal and freeze 5 oz. packages of my homemade sauce, or sometimes sauce from a jar.

I defrost the sauce ahead of time - the vacuum sealed bags can go into a bowl of cold water for 1 to 2 hours, about the amount of time a slice of frozen bread, wrapped in plastic wrap, will defrost at room temperature.

Pour the sauce into a bowl, add some seasonings (I like red pepper flakes and oregano), cover, and microwave for 1:20.

Plate the chicken, the pasta, and add sauce. Serve!

The chicken can be frozen, but like many breaded foods, it really is best fresh.

Update 3/27/2012:

Instead of cooking in a sauté pan, it really is much easier to deep fry it. 3 minutes at 360°F for boneless chicken breast tenders works great. The chicken is perfectly browned, moist and juicy, and you don't have to worry about the cheese and breading sticking to the pan!


Roasted pork, rice, gravy and broccoli


I often cook a boneless center-cut pork roast in the sous video to make pork stir-fry meat. But sometimes I cook it in the oven without any special equipment at all!

The advantage of this is that I can also get 5.0 oz. servings of thinly sliced roasted pork with gravy. 

The pork can be frozen, but I usually eat this one fresh because the gravy is better fresh.

For the broccoli, cut into small pieces. Add to a bowl, rinse, drain, add a little water back in, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 1:20.

For Japanese white sushi rice, stored in the refrigerator, plate one serving, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 0:40.

I also have a bone-in roasted pork recipe, which doesn't have gravy.

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