Rice & Noodle Pilaf

Rice and Noodle Pilaf is a quick side dish to make anytime! {Brittany's Pantry}You can never have too may side dishes in your menu arsenal.  You can also never have too many quick and easy side dishes that go with everything.  As you may have guessed, that is what this is.  It never hurts to state the obvious.

It is easy to slip into a rut when it comes to meals and making the same old veggies or potatoes with your meal is a common gripe I get emails about.  As a gal who is kind of addicted to variety in my food, I totally understand.  I don’t mind leftovers, but I often will wait several months before making a dish a second time.  There are just too many foods out there to try and make and experiment with and enjoy!  Why limit yourself and repeat?

That said, I run into the same issues everyone else does.  Budget, time limits, busy lives, etc all play a factor in my menu planning.  Earlier this month I shared a recipe for jazzing up store-bought marinara sauce.  I pull out that method when I am in a hurry and have limited ingredients.  This side dish is similar, in that it uses pantry ingredients and is incredibly inexpensive.  While my husband and I continue to build our new home, our schedules are often interrupted, thus ruining my careful planning.  I am also faced with the current challenge of trying to feed our family of five on a fairly fixed budget.  To that end, I am trying to take advantage of what I already have available in the house.   That has been my goal recently and this dish couldn’t be more perfect.

I have been making it for a few years now and it never fails to fill in any gaps in my menus.  Kids love it, adults love it, and the simplicity lends itself to just about anything you can think of to serve it with.  Exactly what I need.  Think of it as a rice and noodle lifeline that you can tie together into a little rope to pull you up and out of that menu rut you may be in!

Rice and Noodle Pilaf is a quick side dish to make anytime! {Brittany's Pantry}Rice and Noodle Pilaf is a quick side dish to make anytime! {Brittany's Pantry}Rice & Noodle Pilaf
Recipe adapted from Mad Hungry

2 T butter
1 small onion, diced small
1/2 c dried angel hair, vermicelli, or thin spaghetti noodles, broken into small pieces
1 1/2 c white rice
3 c chicken broth or water
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saute pan with a lid, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté until translucent and cooked, about 5 minutes.  Don’t let them brown!  Add the dried pasta and stir it all together until toasted and fragrant.  Add the rice and stir in the liquid.  Bring to a boil stirring often, then lower the heat to slow simmer, cover, and let bubble until cooked and all the liquid is absorbed-about 20 minutes.  Be sure the heat is low enough so that it won’t burn, but keeps it cooking!  When it is finished and cooked through, stir and fluff, then taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary.  Enjoy!

Weeknight Marinara: How To Make Store-Bought Sauce Taste Homemade {Brittany's Pantry}If you could smell what I smell right now, you would swear I had spent hours in the kitchen chopping, dicing, mincing, and stirring my way to the awesome sauce you see above.  If you could taste what is in this picture, you just might start searching my house for the Italian grandmother you figure I must have hidden somewhere.  It is that good.

I do not, in fact, have an Italian grandmother.  Not genetically and not chained to the radiator in my pantry, ready to make cannoli at a moments notice.  I DO however, occasionally have the desperate need to feed my family quickly and with whatever is in my pantry.  Doing this inexpensively is always good too.  When those days sneak up on me, I make this marinara sauce.  Its fast and perfect for busy families, big or small.  It is so easy, I can make it in my sleep.  Come to think of it, I probably have made it in my sleep…

So.  This is my go-to method for those days when I am out of homemade sauce in the freezer and I just need something ready made.  With the addition of a few key  ingredients, you can boost the flavor in a matter of minutes.  Dried herbs are my friend here because it is just faster.  In the time it takes to boil water for pasta, I can whip this up and use it in a bazillion different ways.  Sometimes I add italian sausage, tons of bell peppers, or mushrooms.  Occasionally I skip the pasta and dunk cheesy bread in the sauce.  The addition of meatballs, homemade or store-bought, is great over pasta or on a toasted hoagie bun.  Whatever I have in the fridge to use up, this recipe can make use of it.  So smart.  Maybe not as handy has having an Italian grandmother in charge of your kitchen, but I work with what I have. :-)
Weeknight Marinara: How To Make Store-Bought Sauce Taste Homemade {Brittany's Pantry}Weeknight Marinara
This recipe can be doubled to feed a crowd without adding to any of the cooking time.  When it comes to jarred sauce, I usually pick the cheapest, most plain brand I can find to stash in my pantry for emergencies.  If I can find a brand that is preservative free and low sodium, even better. The addition of the butter and sugar here helps cut down on the acidity that is usually so high with purchased sauces.  If your brand isn’t that bad, omit the sugar.  If you need to stretch this just a bit, add an undrained can of petite diced tomatoes to the recipe.

1 T butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1-quart jar of store-bought marinara sauce
1 tsp dried basil (or 1 T chopped fresh basil if you have it lying around)
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp sugar
large pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
large pinch of red pepper flakes
1 large, dried bay leaf (optional)
chopped fresh parsley, if you have it

In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter and heat the garlic together over medium heat.  Once the garlic is fragrant (about 30 seconds) add the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer together, stirring often, for 10-15 minutes, and taste for seasoning.  Remove the bay leaf and top with parsley if you like.  Enjoy!

Carolina Cobb Salad

Carolina Cobb Salad is so full of flavor you don't even need to add a salad dressing! {Brittany's Pantry}Well hello!

For those of you who are noticing that this is the second salad recipe I have posted in a week, I would like to reply with, yes, I realize that too.  And I will not apologize for it, dang it!!

You can never have too many fresh, flavor-filled salads in your rotation and I have been on a particular binge with them lately.  You too?  Oh good.  This particular salad was created when I had something similar in the deli section of a supermarket.  When I started researching the name, Carolina Cobb Salad, I realized that it was just a title.  As far as I could tell, there is no specific formula for this kind of salad.  So after a few tries, I realized that this is the combination that I love.  Then I realized I better right it down before I forget it.  No that that ever happens, but, you know…

You want to know the best part?  The last time I ate this, I skipped the dressing entirely.  There was so much going on in my mouth with the whole crunchy, tangy, crispy, and sour thing, I didn’t even need it.  Which means, you can toss this whole she-bang in a container on your way to work and just grab a fork.  Staying home with the kids, I have been making one for myself and tucking it in the fridge so that I have no excuse not to eat healthy for lunch that day.  Even though, with this salad, it isn’t exactly a taxing experience.  My biggest issue?  Keeping my 2 1/2 year old from stealing all of mine.  So now I just make him his own.  Neither of us miss the dressing and the rainbow of colors is incredibly satisfying on these January days.  Salads for the win!
Carolina Cobb Salad is so full of flavor you don't even need to add a salad dressing! {Brittany's Pantry}Carolina Cobb Salad is so full of flavor you don't even need to add a salad dressing! {Brittany's Pantry} Carolina Cobb Salad
In the interest of keeping this salad healthy, keep your portions of bleu cheese and dried fruit to a minimum.  This combo of flavors is absolutely stellar but if you really need to add dressing, use it sparingly.

Layer on individual plates:
lettuce (I happened to have romaine on hand when I photographed this but use whatever you like)
walnuts
tart diced apples, such as granny smith or gala (I use 1/2 an apple per person)
crumbled bleu cheese
hard boiled egg
diced cooked chicken or turkey
unsweetened, dried cranberries
cherry tomatoes, or whatever tomatoes look good at the time
Optional: bleu cheese dressing or ranch dressing

Enjoy!

Winter Salad W/Dried Cranberries & Feta is as tasty as it is beautiful! {Brittany's Pantry}Just popping in quick to share one of my most favorite salads with you.  Yes, those are sugared almonds.  Yes, that is one of the reasons its my favorite.  So sue me.

I like to call this my winter salad because it looks so fresh and crisp and clean and bright!  Like a cold, cloudless winter day.  Don’t you think?  Ok, the connection sounded better in my head….Also, its perfect to serve during the colder months because it doesn’t rely on an abundance of fresh produce.  Decent spinach and/or spring mix can be found most anytime of year nowadays, especially if you live in an area where they can still grow it during the colder months.  The rest of the ingredients aren’t seasonal, making it a great, fresh addition to winter menus that may be heavy with baked pastas, dairy laden casseroles, and football party food.  Add some grilled chicken on top and you have an incredibly speedy meal that won’t leave you feeling droopy.  Because feeling droopy is no bueno.

And can I just say that it is kinda pretty?  The colors of food get me every time and that is one of the reasons I come back to this salad again and again.  Side dish?  Yup.  Paired with a quick quiche?  You bet.  Topped with grilled chicken or steamed salmon?  Gaaaaaahhhh.  Come to momma.  It covers all the bases.  And don’t worry.  If you happen to eat it in April, and start calling it a Spring salad, I won’t tell a soul.
Winter Salad W/Dried Cranberries & Feta is as tasty as it is beautiful! {Brittany's Pantry} Winter Salad W/Cranberries, Feta, & Sugared Almonds
Like I mentioned above, sliced chicken or flaked salmon, cold or warm, is just about the best thing ever on top of this salad.

fresh spinach
dried cranberries
crumbled feta
sugared almonds
vinaigrette of your choice

Layer all the salad ingredients on a plate or in larger quantities in a serving bowl.  Light and simple vinaigrettes work best with this so be sure to avoid anything too heavy.  Enjoy!

Light and Tangy Tuna Wraps are full of bright, crisp flavors! Sure to become a lunchtime favorite! {Brittany's Pantry}After a quick break to celebrate the holidays, I am thrilled to say that I am back and full to the brim with incredible recipes to share with all of you!  I can’t promise that they will all be healthy (I know we all want to follow those brand spankin’ new resolutions…) but I can promise that they will all be good.  Really good.  As in, good enough that I serve them to my husband and kids, family, and friends.  Ere go, they are good enough to post here.

I am going to start off 2015 with a sandwich that likes to do a disappearing act at my house.  My kids inhale this wrap like it is their last meal and since it is full of only light and healthy good things for them, I am totally fine with that.  I make it for lunch and BOOM! they make it disappear.  Its a deal we have.  I practically have to hide my serving just to make sure my family doesn’t swipe it.  Sheesh!  You would think that no one feeds them around here!!

That was a figure of speech.  All I seem to do is feed ‘em, the leeches….

This wrap has no dairy in it, and no sauce.  It gets the wonderful crunch from the veggies and the refreshing bite and tang from the capers and lemon.  Your tastebuds definitely stand up with a happy salute with this one.  I like a whole wheat wrap as a delivery vessel for my lunch, but this exact same recipe is stellar in a lettuce wrap as well so do whatever is right for you.  Either way, it is an awesome way to start the new year-with or without a healthy resolution!
Light and Tangy Tuna Wraps are full of bright, crisp flavors! Sure to become a lunchtime favorite! {Brittany's Pantry}Light & Tangy Tuna Wraps
This recipe makes four, nice sized wraps. Add whatever veggies suit your fancy. Listed below are the ones that go well with the flavors here but I generally use whatever I have on hand at the time. This tuna mixture is also great just added as a scoop on top of fresh spinach and veggies so feel free to skip the wrap altogether!

1 large can (12 oz) chunk tuna packed in water, drained well
1 T capers
1 T chopped parsley
1 T extra virgin olive oil or grape seed oil
pinch of salt and pepper
zest of 1/2 lemon, optional
1/2 large english cucumber (or regular cucumber, peeled or scored), cut into strips
1 carrot, julienned or grated
1 sweet bell pepper, cleaned and julienned
fresh spinach
1 avocado, sliced
4 whole wheat tortillas, fajita sized

In a medium bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients gently with a fork until combined.  Divide the mixture among the four tortillas.  Add the fresh vegetables that you prefer and wrap.  Enjoy!

Note: This is a good wrap to prepare and take with you for lunch!

Holiday Shepherd’s Pie

Holiday Shepherd's Pie is made completely from the leftovers of your Thanksgiving or Christmas meal! {Brittany's Pantry}Shepherd’s Pie is kind of a funny thing.

I have posted about it before with this non-traditional version and I have to say that I stick to my original thoughts about this: If it is covered in mashed potatoes, it is a good thing.  But today’s recipe wasn’t my brilliant idea and it is still, I have to say, ‘non’ traditional shepherd’s pie.  I’ll explain.

Years ago, when all six of us siblings still lived at home, we used to travel to my Aunt Mary’s house on New Years Day to celebrate the holidays with her and my Grandmother.  With such a big family, we knew how exhausting it could be to cook for us.  My Aunt solved that problem by making a big turkey dinner earlier in the week, then assembling this casserole with the leftovers.  Then all she had to do on the day was to heat up this big pan in the oven and it would feed everyone, with almost no effort from her.  Genius, right?!  She was free to play and visit and catch up with us.  Now, mind you, my family is not full of picky eaters and we will generally devour anything you put in front of us.

But the first year she made this version of shepherd’s pie, I began to look forward to those holidays at my Aunt Mary’s house for the food, just as much for the company.  What is not to love?  It is all the wonderful parts of a holiday meal rolled into one dish.  Meat?  Good.  Veggies?  Good.  Stuffing?  Gooooooood.  It is like home and family and comfort and love all wrapped up right there and topped with potatoes.  I am sure Aunt Mary has no idea that I remember what she used to serve us all those years ago, but really.  Is it all that surprising that food is at the center of my memories?  I didn’t think so.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can make it with whatever you have.  Beef?  That is perfect.  No stuffing?  Fine.  Sweet potatoes instead of mashed potatoes?  Great.  It is ALL good.  The point is that you are just layering in the different categories of your leftovers, wrapping it up, and tossing it in the oven whenever you have need of it.  Heck!  Freeze the darn thing and enjoy it later if you like!  You have already gone to the trouble of making all these individual dishes, and now you can use them up in one perfect meal.  No matter if you have a little or a lot of any one thing, it all works.  My favorite part?  All those little leftover containers that you end up having to find a place for in your fridge?  Gone.  One casserole and you are done.  And then you can take that one casserole and feed whoever you are getting together with the next weekend and you don’t have to lift a finger.  Nice, huh?  I told you my Aunt Mary is a genius.
Holiday Shepherd's Pie is made completely from the leftovers of your Thanksgiving or Christmas meal! {Brittany's Pantry}Holiday Shepherd’s Pie
Remember.  The key to this is the process, not the specific ingredients.  Every version you make will be different based on your leftovers so just embrace the spontaneity.  Also, feel free to make each layer as big or little as you like.  No stuffing?  Just skip it.  If you are vegetarian, just omit the first layer of meat.  Customize it to whatever you have on hand.

leftover meat-turkey, chicken, beef, or ham chunked or shredded into bit sized pieces
leftover vegetables-steamed, candied, or even green bean casserole
leftover stuffing
leftover mashed white or sweet ptoatoes
Gravy (optional)

In a large casserole dish (or even just a small one, depending on who you are feeding), spray or butter the dish lightly.  Spread the cooked, leftover meat in the bottom of the dish.  Layer on vegetables or spoon on leftover gratin or casseroles.  Whatever works.  Evenly top with stuffing, or dressing, and top with a layer of mashed potatoes.  Cover well and chill or wrap well and freeze.  When ready to serve it, put the dish, uncovered, into a cold oven and turn it on to 350.  Heat the casserole through until it is hot in the middle and potatoes are lightly browned, about 45 minutes if thawed.  Serve with a side of gravy to pour over the top if you like.  Leftover cranberries and rolls are good too!

Grilled Sausage W/Apple-Cabbage Saute

Grilled Sausage W/Apple-Cabbage Saute | Brittany's PantryJust a quick post to share one of our favorite autumnal dinners!  Believe me when I say that this recipe is a winner.  I mean, you should always believe me (I am very trustworthy) but for SERIOUS, you should believe me now.

It is fast to throw together, full of flavor, and inexpensive to make; three points that make this a great fall dish and perfect for this time of year.  As our days get busier as we get closer to the holidays, I love being able to make this in a matter of minutes.  This meal is one of those things that I just kind of make without a lot of thought and that means that it is virtually fool proof.  Handy when I am in and out of the house between ballet, church, playdates, meetings, book club, and appointments.  You can practically just throw it in the pan.  Like, take a pan, and throw it in.  Throw it.

These flavors are a natural fit for my family, seeing as how we have quite a streak of German blood.  It is very much inspired by dishes of my youth.  Cabbage and sausage is rather prevalent in Minnesota cuisine and this reminds my husband and I of home.  A little warm, Northern comfort food here in South Carolina!

Grilled Sausage W/Apple-Cabbage Saute
This is great served with extra applesauce on the side and a huge hunk of whole grain bread with salty butter.

1 whole beef sausage, such as Hillshire Farms

1 onion, sliced
4 T butter
salt and pepper
1/2 c applesauce, preferably chunky
2 T brown sugar
2 T apple cider vinegar
1/4 c apple cider or juice
1 small green cabbage, outer leaves removed and sliced to shreds, or one large bag pre-shredded cabbage

Grill the sausage over medium high heat until it has nice color.  Alternatively, sear it in a tiny bit of oil in a cast-iron pan.
While the sausage is grilling, melt the butter over medium heat in a large sauté pan and toss the onions in.  Season with salt and pepper.  When onions are soft, add the remaining ingredients.  Stir to combine and keep the heat good and hot to wilt the cabbage and thicken the liquid a bit.  When the cabbage is just wilted but still has some crunch to it, remove the pan from the heat and taste for seasoning.  Serve with the grilled sausage.

Cheesy Bread

Easy Cheesy Bread | Brittany's PantryMmm.  Cheesy Bread.  Just absorb that thought for a second.

It is spectacularly comforting which is why I am posting my favorite, easy version of this now.  It is the perfect food for the cozy theme I am following during the duration of my Pine Tree Goods Giveaway!  Melted cheese on chewy bread paired with a green salad or bowl of soup?  Yeah baby!!

As you may have guessed from my previous postings of Garlic Toast and Herbed Garlic Bread, I like having a carbohydrate to dip in my food.  I may or may not make noises like a crane on a construction site when I scoop with tools of bread.  One of my favorite hot lunches when I was a kid was the dunkers; big slabs of bread with melted mozzarella on top served with a scoop of spaghetti sauce.  Scrumptious.  Essentially, that is what I make this bread for.  The salad just makes me feel less guilty about eating a dinner centered around bread.

I was reading a recipe by Pioneer Woman recently and she mentioned that she freezes hers.  This never once occurred to me, but you can bet I am going to be doing that from now on!  Smear on the cheese mixture, wrap it up tightly, and pull out to thaw and toast whenever it is needed.  Genius.  And speaking of smart ideas, whoever paired bread and cheese together the first time (probably someone French…) and warmed it up and called it a meal, well they are my forever friend.

Here in South Carolina, I am learning about Southern Caviar (aka Pimento Cheese) and all its versions, uses, and adaptations.  In some ways this recipe is a simpler version of that.  I have been holding out on making my own pimento cheese but since it is everywhere down here, I am sure I won’t be able to resist for long.  Then, of course, I may just have to smear it on bread and toast it up.  That recipe and this recipe can be buddies.  Hehe!

Oy vey…I really shouldn’t blog when I’m tired….
Easy Cheesy Bread | Brittany's PantryEasy Cheesy Bread | Brittany's PantryEasy Cheesy Bread | Brittany's Pantry***Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win some one of a kind accessories from the top rated Etsy Shop, Pine Tree Goods!  FREE STUFF FOR THE WIN!!!  There are still a few days left to get your name in and it is just so darn easy, there is no excuse!!  Want to get your Christmas shopping done early?  Hannah, the artisan behind the goods, is offering a free shipping code just for Brittany’s Pantry readers!  Simple enter BPGIVEAWAY14 to get your items shipped free!  She does special orders too, so be sure to contact her if you want something specific!  Click here to zip over to the post to enter and see official rules.  Good luck!!***

Simple Cheesy Bread

1 large loaf french bread (not baguette-you want it softer than that)
8 oz grated colby-jack cheese
1/2 c good mayonnaise
1 stick (1/2 c) softened butter

Combine the cheese, mayo, and butter in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Cut the bread in half down the side lengthwise and open like a book.  I cut it in half crosswise as well so that the pieces fit on my pan butter, but whatever works for you is fine!  Divide the mixture evenly between the pieces of bread and smear evenly all the way out to the edges! Don’t forget the edges!  **If you are freezing this for later, gently sandwich the bread together, wrap well in plastic wrap, and then again in foil, or place in a zip top freezer bag.  Defrost in the fridge and proceed with recipe.**  Preheat the oven to 375.  Place the bread cheese side up on a parchment or foil lined sheet pan (because burnt cheese is a major bummer to clean off of metal) and toast for 10 minutes.  Check the bread to see how it is melting and proceed at 5 minute intervals until it is toasted to your preference.  Some like their cheese barely melted, other like it to be bubbling and turning brown.  Your choice!  Pull it out and let it set for a minute-if you can wait that long-before slicing and enjoying!

Basic Chicken Stock | Brittany's Pantry I feel like chicken stock (or chicken broth) is one of those things that scare people.  The whole business of a DIY process for something you can buy very easily in a can at the store is, I am sure, absurd to some people.  Like making your own corn flakes or churning your own butter.  It just isn’t necessary.  I would like to convince you otherwise.

Why?  Because it is just so darn easy.  There is MUCH less of a science to it than say, baking, and the payoff is tenfold.  It takes so very little effort and can be simmering away while you do something else.  No babysitting.  Also, as my Mother would say, its good for what ails you.  Seriously good eats when the sniffles set in.

Technically, stock like we are talking about today, tends to be made from the bones of an animal; chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, pork.  Often, the flavor is much richer.  Chicken broth, which I confess is really the only kind I ever make (lamb broth is SO not my specialty), usually is much more subtle in taste and made with the whole bird, meat and all.  Ultimately, I make them the same and have never noticed much of a difference in flavor.  I am sure there are some chefs somewhere shaking their heads and emphatically disagreeing with me, but I am willing to risk that as I doubt many of them are spending their spare time reading this blog. :)

For purposes of ease and the fact that I am just not that fancy, you can call this broth or stock-whatever floats your boat.  K?  K.

Now.  This post is really more about the tips of making good chicken stock than a recipe.  No rocket science involved.  Ultimately, you should know that stock can-and should-be made from the leftover ingredients that you don’t want to throw away.  Waste not, want not.  So read on and be confident!
Keep Calm and Make Chicken StockThe Ingredients 

1. Chicken

Today I used the leftover carcass of a rotisserie chicken from the local deli.  You can use the bones of any chicken you eat, or use a whole, raw chicken.  The process is the same, you would just add more water.  I have a hard time tossing our perfectly good chicken so when I am separating a whole chicken into parts, I usually cut out the back and neck pieces and then toss them in a freezer bag in the freezer.  Over time, I keep adding miscellaneous raw chicken pieces to it and when I have a good sized amount, I make chicken stock.  If I know that I am going to roast a chicken or be picking up a roasted chicken, I usually plan for soup later in the week because I will have a carcass to use to make the stock.  If soup isn’t on the agenda, I just freeze the stock after I make it.

2.  Vegetables

In general, I like to keep things simple when making stock and broth.  I stick to the items that give great flavor, but that I am most likely to have on hand.  That means carrots, celery, and onions.  Garlic if you are feeling fancy.  They are basics that are always around so I never have to worry about making sure I have the ingredients available.  What I suggest (because I do this and it works well :) ) is that when you have some carrots or celery that you didn’t use up and are about to go kinda rubbery on you, is to toss them in a gallon zip top bag.  Just like the chicken parts, they can sit in the freezer until you are ready for them.  Then you have veggies that are maybe a smidge past their prime for munching on, but perfect to add flavor to your stock.

3.  Herbs & Spices

Here is where you can go crazy if you like.  Me?  I add a pinch of whole peppercorns, a few dried bay leaves, and a large clump of fresh thyme.  If I don’t have fresh thyme, I add 1 tsp of dried, mainly because thyme and chicken just go so darn well together.  And that is it!  If I have parsley stems leftover, I will add those, but generally, I like the flavor to be simple and true.  You want your chicken stock (broth) to be flavorful, but multipurpose and not overpowering.  If I am immediately turning the broth into soup, I may add something specific to that recipe.  Otherwise, I keep it simple.  If you are a major fan of sage, add a clump of fresh or a pinch of dried.  A bit of dill would be yummy too.  As long as you have some base flavors, you can jazz it up to your liking.

4.  Water

Ummm…thats it.  Add water.  Fancy, huh?

The Process

If you have the bones of one chicken, use:

1 chicken carcass, picked clean of meat
2 carrots, or the equivalent, rinsed (peeling is unnecessary)
2-3 stalks of celery, or the equivalent, rinsed of any dirt
1 onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic, smashed (optional)
5 whole pepper corns
2 dried bay leaves
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1 large pinch dried
two big pinches of salt-Don’t overdo this because you can’t take it back out again.
4-6 quarts of water
Basic Chicken Stock | Brittany's Pantry Ok.  Put what you are using in a large pot and pour in 4-6 quarts of water.  I always just fill up the pot until the ingredients are covered and it always comes out about the same.  If you have an extra big carcass from something like a turkey or maybe even from two chickens, you will need to add more water and more veggies.  If you are using a whole raw chicken, add more water to allow for the extra volume.
Basic Chicken Stock | Brittany's Pantry Put the pot, uncovered, over medium heat and let the stock simmer.  DO NOT LET IT BOIL!  When it bubbles vigorously, it tosses the ingredients around and makes for a rather cloudy, and not as nice looking broth.  Simmer for an hour, hour and half or so, until the ingredients are all cooked, and it smells AMAZING!  Cool slightly and use a tongs to remove and discard the large pieces of bone and vegetables.  Being VERY careful, pour the stock through a fine mesh sieve.  If you want a very clear broth, line the sieve with cheesecloth.  Let the stock cool, preferably overnight in the fridge, and skim the solidified fat off the top and either discard, or save to use for frying!  Freeze the broth in airtight containers labeled well, or use within the week!
Basic Chicken Stock | Brittany's Pantry A few quick tips:

If I have some store-bought broth leftover from something, I mix it in before I freeze it.

I go light on the salt.  Depending on your chicken carcass, it can add a lot of salt already to the broth if you aren’t careful.  You can always add it to the recipe you are using the broth for, but salty chicken stock is NOT good eats.

You do NOT have to strain the broth through anything finer than a colander.  Sometimes the bits of veggie and meat in there is what you want in your soup and that rustic look is just fine.  Its up to you.

Freeze your stock in quart containers, but maybe a few 1 c containers as well.  Its nice to have a smaller quantity when you need just a bit to deglaze a pan.

TASTE IT!  Be sure to taste your broth so that you know what it is you like in your recipe.  Adjust accordingly.

Don’t fret about the color.  The shade and clarity of your stock will depend on your chicken, your bones, your veggies, etc.  Just check the taste.  That is most important!

Enjoy!

 

Sweet Northern Cornbread (Yankee Cornbread)

Sweet Northern Cornbread | Brittany's PantryIf you read my blog with any regularity, you know that my family moved to South Carolina a few months ago.  I am finding it a bit of a trial to keep a balance between my Northern upbringing and wanting to experience and immerse myself in my new region of the south.  Case in point-cornbread.

So why, you may be asking, am I not posting a good southern cornbread recipe where the batter is poured into a cast iron skillet and baked to a perfectly crusty disc?  The kind of cornbread that practically thirsts to be doused in black eyed peas?  Cornbread that is to gravy as Curly is to Moe?

Because I haven’t perfected it yet.  Everyone makes their cornbread a bit different around here and since I have Mississippi ‘family’ that influences me as well, I need to cover all the bases and possibilities.  This requires more testing to come up with the final version and it will be, I assure you, coming soon.  It will even be baked to the perfect state of crustiness in my cast iron skillet.

That said, I am, as you know, from the North.  We Minnesota folk like our cornbread tall, fluffy, and sweet and I am not ashamed of it!  That is how I grew up with it, and, if I may be so bold as to say, it is still my favorite way to eat it.  *gasp*  Its true.  This is a safe place, friends.  We accept fans of all kinds of cornbread here.  No judgement.

Often called Yankee Cornbread, my version has flour in it, as well as cornmeal, to lighten the batter a bit.  Most traditional southern cornbread recipes I have come across, either researched or those served to me by southern women, have little or no flour in them and much less baking powder, if any at all.  The Northern version gets flack for being more cake like, while its counterpart is often criticized for lack of flavor.

Never one to discriminate against food (I am an equal opportunity eater), I like them both.  In turn, I like to eat them in different applications.  Today’s recipe is fantastic served with breakfast or brunch, spread with butter and jam.  Generally though, my kids and I like to eat it plain.  The texture and flavor is enough to warrant only a glass of milk on the side.  It is great baked into muffins as well and is a nice balance between crumbly enough to still be cornbread but firm enough to eat out of hand.  Since cornbread is just so darn easy to mix up, this is SO much tastier-and better for you-than reaching for a box of processed mix.  Occasionally, those come in handy, but for straight up cornbread, there is no substitute.

So below is my staple, straight-up, no messing around, no frills recipe for sweet cornbread.  Use it well and enjoy.  No matter which side of the Mason-Dixon Line you call home.
Sweet Northern Cornbread | Brittany's PantrySweet Northern Cornbread
Equal parts flour and cornmeal have always been my standard for cornbread.  My mom made it that way, so I make it that way.  I add a bit more baking powder to mine because I like it extra fluffy.  The white sugar forms just a bit of a sweet crust on the top that I can’t resist.  Makes great muffins too!!

1 c flour
1 c cornmeal
2/3 c sugar
pinch of salt
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 c milk
1/3 c grape seed, canola oil, or even melted butter

Preheat oven to 375.
Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl with a whisk.  In a large measuring cup, mix the egg, milk, and oil together with a fork.  Slowly combine the wet and dry ingredients with the whisk, careful not to over mix!  Pour into a greased, 9X9 glass or metal baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until puffed, golden, and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pan until just barely warm.  Cut into squares and enjoy!

Garlic Toast

Garlic Toast | Brittany's PantryA few days ago I posted a quick, weeknight worthy recipe for a simple Pasta Puttanesca.  It is essentially foolproof, is made with all things from your pantry, and if  you make it with whole wheat pasta, is actually quite healthy.  Like the main dish, the garlic toast that accompanied it was easy and fuss free.  My secret?

The freezer.

An earth shattering revelation, I know.  You see, my freezer and I have a special, mutually beneficial relationship.  I keep it organized (usually) and clean, and in turn, it provides me with quick meals and the occasional pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie.  When I am pressed for time or simply lack the energy and drive to make dinner, pulling something out of the freezer that requires little or no action is the best feeling in the world.  Am I right?  It is like winning the lottery.  Its 5:30 pm on a Tuesday and you are digging through bags of frozen edamame and blocks of ground beef when suddenly you find a quart container of Chicken & Barley Soup, ready to be microwaved.  I can’t be the only person out there who would hold it up in victory and shout Eureka!!  And it is equally gratifying if you are pulling out dinner for one or two people at eight o’clock at night after a long day of work, or if you are a stay at home mom without the time to whip something up between laundry, grocery shopping, homework checks, piano lessons, PTO meetings, and ballet rehearsal.  It is for these exact moments in life that I keep certain items in my freezer.

In this case, it is pre-sliced french bread.  Every once in awhile, I rifle through the day old section of baked goods in the bakery of my local supermarket.  When I find the big loaves of thinly sliced french bread for 1.99, I buy two!  I bring them home and toss them right in the freezer.  They aren’t perfectly wrapped to store long term, but it is enough to let them slowly dry out over the next few weeks.  Then, when I need a quick dinner, I have stale, frozen bread that I can use to make french toast, panini, bread crumbs, bread pudding, croutons, and in this case, garlic toast.  The smaller, chewier baguettes are better for crostini or bruschetta and can be a bit tough for just toast.  So for this, you want the softer, country type loaves that aren’t so crusty on the outside.  Perfect to slather with garlic butter.

Garlic Toast

thinly sliced french bread, preferably slightly stale
1/2 stick (4 T) of soft, salted butter
1 large garlic clove, minced finely

Preheat the oven to 350.  Combine the butter and garlic in a small bowl and set aside.  Arrange your bread in a single layer on a dry sheet pan and oh so very thinly spread with garlic butter.  You want this toast to get crunchy and crispy, so be sure to spread the butter to the very edges and use it sparingly.  Just a VERY thin layer.  Be sure the bread is butter side up on the pan and toast in the oven for 10 minutes.  Check the toast.  If it is firm and overall golden brown, then it is done.  If not, rotate the pan 180 degrees and let it go for a few more minutes.  Watch it closely!  Toast can go from nothing to burnt in a short amount of time.  Essentially, toast until your preference and enjoy!  This is fantastic served with chili too!  Leftover garlic butter can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge to be used for more garlic toast but is also good spread on the outside of panini, stirred into mashed potatoes, rubbed on chicken before roasting, or anything else you can think of!

Weeknight Pasta Puttanesca

Weeknight Pasta Puttanesca | Brittany's PantryIts no secret the our family loves food with a tang to it.  We are just ‘tangy’ people, I guess.

It isn’t as though you couldn’t tell by the kinds of recipes I post here.  They are a direct reflection of what is on my table every day.  Hence, the evidence is in the Zesty Bolognese, the Mediterranean Quinoa Salad, Panzanella, and the Sweet Potato Salad W/Vinaigrette.  We love the brine and sourness of pickles, lemon, vinegar sauces, and olives.  Our family recently discovered Zoes Kitchen, a restaurant chain here in the south that I had never heard of or been to, but am now obsessed with.  Why did no one tell me about this place?!  If you follow BP in Instagram you saw our excitement over our first meal!  They serve greek and mediterranean type food, sandwiches and salads and fresh ingredients with a famous chocolate sheet cake they sell for dessert, and it hits all our good food buttons.  Outrageously scrumptious.
via Brittany's Pantry InstagramItalian food is part of that whole category of great, regional food that uses an delightful excess of vinegar, feta, olive, and oils and…*drool* I’m making myself hungry.  Luckily, I have this pasta to keep me happy!  Isn’t it fun to say?  Pa-stah Poot-a-nesk-ah!  Mmm.  Also, if you and/or your kids have ever read Lemony Snickets: A Series Of Unfortunate Events, they will know exactly what pasta puttanesca is.  Score!  Its a famous dish!

It also happens to be quick, easy, and (my favorite part) is made with pantry ingredients.  That is always nice when you are in a hurry or trying to stretch what you have in your cupboards between grocery trips.  You literally dump all the sauce ingredients together and heat.  Did you catch that?  Dump and heat.  Could this recipe BE any easier?  Add the freshness of a vegetable on the side and you have dinner!  In this case, you also have garlic toast with it, but that is for a future post!  But trust me, you will want to come back.  Come baaaaack for garlic toooooaaaast…
Weeknight Pasta Puttanesca | Brittany's PantryWeeknight Pasta Puttanesca | Brittany's PantryWeeknight Pasta Puttanesca 
This is my version.  While it may not be perfectly authentic, it hits all the major puttanesca flavors.  This will feed four people with a serving leftover for lunch the next day!

3/4 lb of thin spaghetti, cooked according to package directions

2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T extra virgin olive oil
large pinch of red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tsp anchovy paste, optional
1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 c roughly chopped pitted kalamata olives
2 heaping T capers, drained
1 tsp dried oregano
1 T dried parsley
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese for serving

While the pasta cooks, heat the oil and garlic in a large sauté pan over medium heat until just starting to sizzle.  DO NOT LET IT BROWN AND BURN! As soon as it is fragrant, add the anchovy paste, red pepper flakes, and oregano.  Cook for about 15 seconds stirring well to dissolve the anchovies and dump in the crushed tomatoes.  Add the olives, capers, dried parsley and sugar.  Give it a few cranks of black pepper and let it come up to a slow bubble.  Taste it for salt and pepper seasoning, and let the whole thing bubble gently until the pasta is done.  Dump all the pasta into the sauce and toss gently with a tongs until combined well.  Serve with plenty of parmesan cheese.

Roast Chicken Waldorf Salad | Brittany's PantryI will be the first one to admit that I have not always been a Waldorf salad fan.

The Waldorf salads of the 70’s and 80’s usually contained WAY too much celery (not my fav), nuts (which I generally avoided unless it was in a dessert), and were often completely tasteless.  A mayonnaise-y covered fruit blob.  If any of you have been to a church, neighborhood, or sport team pot luck dinner, then you know ex-ACTLY what I am talking about.  You could usually find it right next to the lime green jello with the carrots shredded on the top and beside the macaroni salad.  Mm mmm, right?

*shudder*  Not always good eats.

However, several weeks ago, I started thinking about those traditional Waldorf salads of my youth and imagined it as more of a really good chicken salad with all the Waldorf elements.  I took to the kitchen and this recipe was the result.  My first attempt came out so well I didn’t change anything and it was so darn good, I couldn’t keep my hands out of the bowl.  The second time I made it I served it to company, hoping to use them as my test subjects and glean some sort of constructive criticism from them.  I was not prepared for the first clean plates and shouts for seconds to come from the kids table.  They inhaled it.  I knew it was good, but I was trying to be objective.  No need.  The only complaint was that I didn’t make enough.

And so, our new favorite summer dish was born!  My aversion to celery has faded over the years and the added crunch of walnuts is no longer something I avoid, so both have modest but suitable amounts in this dish.  The tangy and slightly sweet dressing is light and meant to just coat the ingredients, not overload or weigh them down.  The addition of some plain yogurt, an ingredient I always have in my kitchen and a natural addition for me to add to this salad, lightens up the richness of the mayo and pairs OH so well with the fruit!  As a one dish summer dinner, it just can’t be beat.
Roast Chicken Waldorf Salad | Brittany's PantryREMEMBER!!  This post is the third recipe in the continuing series of healthy recipes that are being featured over at the J Rose Fitness Facebook page!  Check it out for fitness tips and inspiration, along with the occasional healthy recipe from yours truly!!

Roast Chicken Waldorf Salad
Feel free to use lemon juice in place of the vinegar in this recipe.  Both acids work well.  Personally, I prefer the more round taste of the vinegar with this combination of ingredients as opposed to the more bright flavor of lemon juice, but its your call!

2 large roasted chicken breast, boned and skinned, and cubed into bite sized pieces
2 c of grapes (red or green) halved
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
2 large apples, cored and cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 c plain yogurt (I use fat free or low fat)
1/3 c good mayonnaise
1 heaping T of raw honey
1 T of red wine vinegar
pinch of salt
black pepper to taste
1/2 c chopped walnuts, optional
Spring greens

In a large serving bowl, add the first four ingredients and let sit covered in the fridge until the dressing is made.  If you are concerned about the apples oxidizing, just wait until the end to add them at the last minute.  Combine the mayo, yogurt, honey, vinegar, and seasoning.  Pour over salad ingredients and gently toss until evenly coated.  Serve over a bed of greens and garnish with a heavy pinch of walnuts, if desired.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes W/Orange

Orange Mashed Sweet PotatoesGreetings friends!  Just stopping in quick during my vacation to post one of my favorite summer side dishes.

Seeing as how I now live in the south on the east coast, you would think that sweet potatoes would be everywhere, right?  At least that is what I expected.  Remember that friend I mentioned that introduced me to sweet potatoes?  She would return from trips home to Mississippi with paper grocery sacks full of these wonderful vegetables purchased right from the side of the road.  Naturally, I assumed that when I moved south I would encounter these sweet orange tubers everywhere.  Would people toss them through my open windows when I went through the drive-thru at Chic-Fil-A?  Is there such an abundance of them that they give them away at the DMV?  Could I expect piles of them discarded in the far corners of parking lots?

Apparently, no.  I have yet to encounter any sweet potato vendors, solicitors, or peddlers in South Carolina.  There have been several other food surprises, but those will have to wait for another day as there is way too much to tell.  In the meantime, I plan to continue to purchase my sweet potatoes, or yams, at the regular market.  But you can bet your buttons that the first time I see a dusty farmer on the side of the road with paper bags full of sweet potatoes, my breaks will be squealing.  Because, by golly, I break for sweet potatoes*.  Even if they do give them away at the DMV.

**Wouldn’t that be a great bumper sticker?
Orange Mashed Sweet PotatoesMashed Sweet Potatoes W/Orange
What makes this dish so lovely is not just the simplicity of it, but that the ingredients taste so darn awesome together you would swear that they were made for each other.  I generally keep them on the healthier side and stick to the recipe below, but as you can imagine, a big ol hunk of butter swirled in makes you want to swoon.  It is so unbelievably fantastic (without butter) as a light side dish for the holidays, I implore you to remember this when November rolls around.  The fact that it goes so well with grilled or roasted food makes this a year round staple.

3-4 pounds of sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
zest of 1 large orange
juice of 1 large orange
large pinch of salt and lots of fresh ground pepper

Steam the chunked sweet potatoes until very soft.  Alternatively, you can boil them, but I find when I steam them the end result is less watery.  With a potato masher or large fork, hand mash the potatoes until desired smoothness.  I prefer it with consistently tiny chunks but no big bites.  Add the zest and juice of the orange, salt and pepper, and taste for flavor.  Be generous with the black pepper!  If the mash is too thick, add a small splash of hot water, chicken broth, or if you have it, more orange juice.  Enjoy!

Weeknight Chicken Teriyaki

Slow Cooker TeriyakiHappy Monday!  I have been extremely busy these last few days as my husband and I are desperately trying to make a decision about our living situation.  Since the move to South Carolina, and the SUPER fun craziness that I mentioned here (please note the heavy sarcasm in that statement), we have been renting a smallish house while we build our home.  But finding a builder, closing on a plot of land, designing a house, etc is keeping us very occupied.  I have literally been running from one place to another, always with Evelyn, Eli, and Lane at my side and I haven’t been home all that much to prep dinner ahead.

So.  Quick and easy stovetop recipes have been my main go-to choices this summer.  Especially since our grill broke.  Say what??  Yes.  It broke.  In July.  Talk about rotten luck.  Maybe Mike and I should make shopping for a new grill our next date night?!  A little dinner, a little dancing, a little flirting over BTU’s and automatic ignition switches…

My slow cooker has also gotten a ton of use as well and there will be several recipes coming your way soon.  I have been keeping it by my side more than usual.  And I don’t mean that figuratively; sometimes I set it on my nightstand for safe keeping while I sleep… because yowzah!  Its true what they say!  South Carolina is HOT!  Granted, its not unbearable and we are kind of loving it, but heed my words friends.  Yes!  South Carolina summers are hot and I ain’t just whistling dixie!  So anytime I can get away with ignoring the ‘ol oven is a good day.

This chicken teriyaki recipe was one I had been messing around with the last few months we were still living in IL.  I really really love teriyaki of any kind and I have been making several different versions over the years.  But when I decided to just break it down to the basic teriyaki ingredients with no extra frills, I discovered we all really liked that best.  Go figure!  The simplest and easiest version  is our favorite!

A few things to note:  There is white rice in these pictures because when I photographed this recipe, I was cleaning out my pantry for the move and found some instant white rice in the back corners of the cupboard.  I rarely purchase white rice anymore so PLEASE be sure to eat this with brown rice for the crazy amounts of nutrition it contains.  That said, its your life.  This is fantastic with any kind of rice, rice noodles, or plain old linguini.  Heck!  Scoop it up with cardboard and this stuff would still be outrageous.  I won’t tell.
Slow Cooker TeriyakiWeeknight Chicken Teriyaki 
Inspired by Nigella
Cut up the chicken and make the sauce the night before and you can have dinner on the table in no time!  Mirin is traditional to teriyaki and gives it a flavor you can’t skip.  It is a Japanese rice wine that has a sweet taste and I keep the open bottle in my pantry just for asian recipes.  I easily use a small bottle before it spoils.  Look for it in the asian/international food section of your store.

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat and cut into large, bite sized pieces (about 8 thighs)
1/4 c mirin
1/4 c low sodium soy sauce
1 heaping tsp of sesame oil
1 heaping T of brown sugar
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and grated, about 1 T
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes or to taste

Mix all ingredients together and let marinade for half an hour.  Heat a large skillet-preferably non-sitck-and add just a bit of olive oil.  Using a slotted spoon, lift the chicken out of the marinade and fry over medium heat until it gets good color and is almost cooked through, turning so it doesn’t burn, 5-10 minutes.  Add the marinade to the pan and let bubbly slowly while the chicken cooks the rest of the way and the sauce thickens, a further 5 minutes.  Sauce will thicken a bit more as the dish cools.  Serve over brown rice with fresh veggies!