Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What Santa brought

Even though I really didn't need anything else for the kitchen for Christmas, I got something, and it was just what I wanted...a Le Crueset Dutch Oven, a red one, no less. My husband had begun mentioning building some kind of elaborate shelving in our garage to hold my ever-growing supply of kitchen "stuff". Because of this, I didn't even ask for anything for the kitchen this Christmas. Of course, my mom picked up on the fact that I wanted one of these beauties when I kept entering online contests to win one. At least now I can stop entering the contests.

Now, I need to know what to cook in it. I mean, I know I can cook everything in it, but what do I start with? My brother got one too, and he's going to cook short ribs. I'm not quite that adventurous. Maybe a good slow cooked chili, or Coq a Vin (the recipe I was supposed to cook for Barefoot Bloggers this month), or fried chicken. I'm leaning towards soup, just because that always sounds good this time of year, but if you have suggestions, please send them my way!
Happy New Year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas baking and candy-making

This past Saturday, we had a big baking day at our house! We love to make treats for Christmas and give them away to friends. Usually we'll make caramels, fudge, dipped pretzels, covered pecans, pumpkin bread and then a new recipe or two. This year, I had visions of beautiful gingerbread people that we would ice with little white eyes and white buttons. Instead, this is what they looked like...

Maybe that's not exactly what I was imagining, but it was still fun! (But, we haven't eaten any of them yet.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Mexican Chicken Soup

Last night brought about a new resolution that I need to make in the new year. It does not work for me to get off of work at 5pm, go to the grocery store and do my shopping and then come home and make dinner. Well, it does work, but it doesn't get dinner on the table anytime before 7:30pm. And, then it feels like I've spent the whole evening on dinner.

Perhaps you would suggest that I find recipes that don't take quite so long. That would certainly be one solution and one that I like quite a lot and will definitely consider on non-Barefoot Contessa-cooking-nights. Leaving the grocery store last night, though (after waiting quite a while on the meat department to locate bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts) I decided that once January 1st rolls around, I need to do my grocery shopping on Saturday! Wish me luck.

Here's the recipe for last night's Barefoot Bloggers recipe. This soup was really tasty and was not all that complicated...don't know why it took me quite so long to make it.

4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed
2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional
6 (6-inch) fresh white corn tortillas

For serving: sliced avocado, sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and tortilla chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro, if using. Cut the tortillas in 1/2, then cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste. Serve the soup hot topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and broken tortilla chips.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers, take two (and three)

So, joining Barefoot Bloggers has revealed even more my tendency toward procratination...even with things I enjoy, like cooking. Last month's recipes were for Herb Roasted Onions and Mexican Chicken Soup, to be posted on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month, respectively. Well, I made the Herb Roasted Onions on the 2nd Thursday of the month, and they were good. Even halving the recipe still made far too many onions for our family of three. I served them with pan-fried pork chops and sauteed apples. The vinagrette on the onions is especially tasty. My big discovery with this recipe was that I really like fresh thyme (and added the leftover herb to a few of our Thanksgiving dishes). My other discovery was that onions can discolor baking sheets. It was a fun and different side dish. Click on the link to find the recipe. Notice that although I made the dish on the 2nd Thursday, it's taken my far longer to post about my results.

Recipe #2 Mexican Chicken Soup is on the menu for tonight...a little late for that 4th Thursday deadline. Oops. My plans had been to make it a couple nights before Thanksgiving, but my grocery list was so long, and my cooking plans for the next few days so extensive, that we decided a meal out was in order. So, the Mexican Chicken Soup had to wait. (It didn't help that I made Chicken Enchilada Soup and White Chicken Chili earlier in that very same week.)

Also, I have abandoned food photography. My pictures don't begin to do justice to the dish. If you go to Barefoot Bloggers, you can find many photos and ideas about these recipes from my fellow Barefoot Contessa fans.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Apple Oatmeal

Here's a great breakfast dish I tried this week. It's kind of like hot oatmeal applesauce. I divided the recipe in half and it turned out great for my family.

Recipe for Apple Oatmeal

This is a delicious as breakfast alone or as a breakfast side dish.

8 apples, peeled and sliced (pippin, roma, jonathans – the sweet and juicier the better)
2 cups of old fashioned oatmeal (not the quick oats)
1 cup of sugar
½ cup of butter
1 tsp cinnamon’
allspice – just a dash

Put in the order above in a crock pot. DO NOT STIR.
Cook on low overnight.
Just before serving, give it a good stir. It will be a dark brown cinnamon color.

Will serve about 8 people, pretty generously.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers, Take One

So, I recently joined a group called the Barefoot Bloggers. As a member (I guess that's what you would call it), you commit to making two Ina Garten (a.k.a. The Barefoot Contessa) recipes each month and posting about them on your blog on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays. Well, today is the day. The first assigned recipe of the month was Butternut Squash Risotto. I made it tonight...nothing like a little procrastination. It was pretty good, but it didn't wow me like it did some of the others who have blogged about it. There are probably several reasons for this.
1. I do not frequently cook with wine, so I'm not used to that flavor.
2. I have never in my life used (the very expensive) saffron and am still not sure if I can appreciate its flavor.
3. I used a richer chicken stock than I think was necessary for the dish.
4. I put in too much cheese.

I did love the butternut squash in the dish though. It was quite tasty. And, Phil thought the whole thing was just fine and helped himself to seconds. I did take some pictures, although my food photography falls far short of most bloggers. I'll try to post them tomorrow.

Although my first attempt was not the rip-roaring success I was hoping for, I'm still excited about being part of a group that tries out a variety of recipes. It's motivating and has the added element of accountability that I sometimes need to tackle all those recipes on my list. (And, it gives me an excuse to buy ingredients I might not on an ordinary day!)

Green Thumb?

My mom has an amazing green thumb. When I was a kid we had a huge garden, and it seemed like she could make ANYTHING grow. Not so with me. Right after Phil and I got married, I received this beautiful plant (couldn't tell you what kind) from a door prize drawing. For months, the plant was gorgeous and flowering. Then, I don't know what I did, but it started dying and nothing I did stopped the process. The same exact thing has happened with every single houseplant I've ever had. (It might have something to do with the chilly temperature we keep our house at in the winter.)

Well, this past May, we decided it was time to try container gardening. Mother's Day weekend, we went to the local garden store and bought 5 containers, 3 tomato plants, 3 pepper plants and a variety of herbs. I had such high hopes of making recipes like this one without having to spend a fortune on poor produce from the grocery store.

Well, the first couple months, I was so vigilant, caring carefully for my baby plants, watering them and checking on them every day. For a time, they flourished. But then, like all other green things in my life, they began to look a little sad...and then a little worse...until I thought for sure the end was near. I even pulled up some of the herbs, leaving only thyme and parsley. I tried asking for advice, but it was always conflictual...water them more, water them less. What to do?

I decided to ignore my plants as it seemed unlikely they would produce any fruit at all. It was a noble effort but an unsuccessful one. After at least a month of not even checking on the plants, I peeked around the corner of our house to find thriving tomato plants. Hmmm...I'm not sure what this means. Anyway, on October 1st, here's what the healthiest of the three looks like. I'm not sure if I should be proud or embarrassed. It's full of tomatoes that likely will not ripen, unless it stays unseasonably warm!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Pleasant Surprise

I've recently been bogged down by studying for a large exam, and my husband graciously has picked up the slack in the kitchen. Last weekend he did all of the grocery shopping, and even picked out a few new recipes for us to try. This is one that I was wishing he hadn't picked. To be completely honest, it just didn't look appealing to me at all. I doubted it right up until the first bite.

I'm happy to report that I was dead wrong on this one. This meal is simple, delicious and probably the cheapest dinner we can make. Trust me on this ... it's worth a try.

2 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
5 cups frozen shredded hash browns (~1/2 of a 26 oz package)
1 t. dried crushed thyme
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 lb. smoked sausage, chopped
1 medium apple (such as golden delicious), cored and cut into thin wedges

In a 10 inch skillet, heat oil and 1 T. butter over medium heat. Add potatoes in an even layer. Cook about 8 minutes or until lightly brown. Stir in half of the thyme and all of the pepper. Using a spatula, press potatoes down firmly into a cake. Cook for about 8 minutes more until potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, in another skillet, melt the remaining 1 T butter over medium heat. Add sausage and apple. Cook about 10 minutes or until apple is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining thyme.

Slide potatoes onto a cool plate; cover with another plate and flip the plates over so the nicely browned side of the potato pancake is on top. Spoon sausage-apple mixture over the potatoes and season to taste with salt.

Makes 4 servings (but when we eat this it's more like 3)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Blog Addict

I have never been much of a TV watcher. I have a few shows I've followed now and then, but I don't typically spend a lot of time in front of the television. (Two exceptions: 1. The Olympics...we were total junkies. 2. The Food Network...I could watch all day on the rare occasions we have cable.)

But, with the internet, one no longer needs the television to waste copious amounts of time. And, it's no longer the original internet activities, looking up interesting information, following the news or shopping for clothes. No, now there is Blogland where I can get lost for hours reading about other peoples' lives, people I don't even know and will probably never meet, but I'm captivated by their stories.

I have recently discovered Google Reader. It's like an inbox for all the new blog entries that are posted on your favorite sites. You no longer have to click through your "favorites" checking to see if the blog has been updated. It's now delivered straight to Google Reader. At first, I thought, "What a time saver!" Now, I'm thinking something different. Google Reader makes these recommendations of other blogs you might enjoy based on your subscriptions. Oh, brother. I think I should probably go back to the "old" way of just pulling up the site once in awhile. I have way more posts to read than I can get to in a day!

All that to say, I'm inspired to post more on this blog and maybe another one where I talk about something other than recipes.

So, here's the Strawberry Sorbet recipe I mentioned last week. This is so very good!

Strawberry Sorbet

2 c. strawberries, hulled and quartered (can substitute 16 oz frozen strawberries, thawed)
2 c. buttermilk
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Process strawberries in a food processor/blender 30 seconds or until smooth, scraping down sides. Pour strawberry puree through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a large bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon. Discard solids. Add buttermilk, sugar and vanilla to puree. Stir until well blended. Cover and chill 1 hour.
Pour strawberry mixture into the freezer container of a 1 1/2 quart electric ice cream maker and freeze according to package directions. Yum!

After the ice cream was frozen we put it in a bowl and froze it overnight so that it was good and hard. This is not essential but allowed the ice cream to set up a little more.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Linking made easy

So, the last time I posted a link, it had taken me months to figure out the process, and even then, I knew there must be a better way. And, alas, I have found it. So, now I can link all the new recipes I made this past week and save lots of typing time. As you can see, it is a wide and varied selection with no particular theme. For the most part, all were a success. Here they are in no particular order:

Ah, but first a word about the blogs that I read...the main two couldn't be more different. One is written by a rancher's wife in rural Oklahoma with four kiddos and the other by a woman in New York City who has every ingredient I could ever dream of at her disposal (or so it seems).

From The Pioneer Woman (my current favorite cooking blog):
Oatmeal cookies
MM's favorite sandwich - You should definitely follow the instructions to toast the bread.
Breakfast burritos

From Smitten Kitchen (my original favorite cooking blog)
Huevos Rancheros - This was our very favorite recipe of the batch. The homeade pico was super tasty.
Blueberry Pancakes - These made very good basic pancakes too, much better than a mix from a box.

I also made some delicious Strawberry Sorbet, a recipe given to me by a friend. I'll post that soon. Just make sure you have some buttermilk (and a pound of strawberries) on hand.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Real Simple, Real Delicious

I get a lot of cooking magazines...a lot. My husband would say perhaps a few too many. There is no way I will ever make all the recipes that I read about each month. But, reading recipes is entertainment for me. (And, almost all of my subscriptions have been gifts...can't beat that). The only non-cooking magazine I receive is Real Simple, also a gift from a good friend. Of course, it has recipes in it, and that's the first thing I read when a new one arrives in my mailbox. This past week I was flipping through April's issue and checking out the "Five Easy Meals" that's a regular feature. They had a recipe for "Spiced Mini-Burgers and Couscous Salad." It didn't require many ingredients, and I already had a few of them (cucumber, green onions, feta cheese) that I was looking for a way to use before they went bad. So, I thought I would give it a try.
It tasted great, but more importantly, it was SUPER easy and fast. I love that, especially now when our evenings have been packed full with campaigning and baseball games. (It was also a great opportunity to introduce our foster son to couscous. Surprisingly, he did pretty well with it. It helped that it was chock-full of tomatoes and cucumbers, which he loves.)

Here's the recipe as written. (One note: I have some Pampered Chef Greek Seasoning, so we used that on the burgers instead of the cumin and oregano, and we probably could have used more than what we did.)

1 10-oz box couscous
1 lb. ground beef
Kosher salt and pepper
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 TB dried oregano
4 TB extra-virgin olive oil
6 scallions, trimmed and sliced
4 Roma tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 cucumber, sliced into half-moons
3 TB fresh lemon juice
Feta cheese, optional

Place the couscous in a medium bowl and pour 1 1/2 cups hot tap water over the top. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.
Form the beef into 12 small 1/2-inch-thick patties. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt, `1/4 tsp. pepper, the cumin, and oregano.
Heat 1 TB of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the patties and cook to desired doneness.
Combine the couscous, scallions, tomatoes, cucumber, lemon juice, 1 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper and the remaining oil in a large bowl.

We added the feta cheese to our individual portions, and it was a great addition, just not perhaps as child-friendly. Also, while this says it makes four servings, we probably had close to 8 servings of salad.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Computer Illiterate

Unfortunately, I am just old enough to have missed growing up with a computer, and so there are many things that I do not understand about the machine. But, today, I am going to try to enter the world of "real blogging" where I use a link to a recipe. Wow. I know you are impressed at the thought.

So, the other night we had a tasty meal for dinner out of Everyday Food, one of my most favorite cooking magazines. Nearly all of the recipes I have made have been quite good. I can be confident when cooking from EF that I am not making something that will turn out to be a dud. Nevertheless, not every recipe is a home run, but each is at least a solid base hit. (Aren't you glad baseball season is here?)

(This post was started on May 9, 2008...finally, today July 7, 2008, I figured out how to insert the link.)

Mini Honey-Mustard Meatloaves with Roasted Potatoes

Who needs a name?

So, for those of you who took Les's advice and have started (compulsively) reading http://www.thepioneerwoman.com/, you've already seen this recipe. Right up front, I'm admitting to stealing it and wouldn't dare claim it as my own. All that to say, you've got to try it...soon! Calling it a recipe is generous. It's just a little treat that kids and adults will enjoy. Now for those of you who are smores-lovers, you may scoff at the absence of chocolate in this, but I promise it's still delicious. The real beauty lies in the fact that you can make as many or as few as you need. (Confession: last week, we made some every night.)

I don't know what these are called. We're just calling them tasty treats.

So, here's what you do. Take some Ritz crackers, spread them with a little peanut butter and put them on a cookie sheet, place a large marshmallow on top (on its side), and put under the broiler until the tops of the marshmallows turn golden to dark brown (depending on your taste). Take them out and eat them and get melty marshmallow all over your face. I didn't say they weren't messy!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Chicken-Bow Tie Primavera

This pasta dish is from the July/August Simple and Delicious. If you like the flavor of Parmesan cheese, you'll love it (my husband sure did!). Very simple--the only time consuming element is cutting all the veggies.

3.5 cups bow tie pasta (I just used a regular sized box--12 oz?)
1 lb. bonelesss skinless chicken cut into cubes
2/3 cup fresh carrots, sliced
1 T. olive oil
1 zucchini, halved and sliced
1 yellow summer squash quartered and sliced
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1.5 cups shredded Parmesan cheese (I shredded it myself)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in large skillet, saute chicken and carrot in oil until chicken is cooked.
2. Add zucchini, squash, seasoned salt, and pepper. Cook, uncovered, until veggies are tender, stirring occasionally.
3. Drain pasta. Add pasta, cream and Parmesan cheese to chicken mixture; stir to combine. Cook, uncovered until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with additional cheese if desired.

6 servings

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Creamy Lemon Squares

Here's the recipe I mentioned in the last post. These were really tasty. And tart. And easy. Enjoy!

Creamy Lemon Squares

1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. flour
4 large egg yolks
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
3/4 c. fresh lemon juice (from 3 large lemons)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butten an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides; butter paper.
Make crust: Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Add flour, mix on low just until combined. Press dough into the bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of prepared pan; prick all over with a fork. Bake until lightly golden 15-20 minutes.
Make filling: In a large bowl, whisk together yolks, sweetened condensed milk, and lemon juice until smooth. Pour over hot crust in pan; return to oven, and bake until filling is set 25-30 minutes (I baked mine a little longer). Cool completely in pan.
Refrigerate until filling is firm, about 2 hours or up to 3 days. Using paper overhang lift cake onto work surface, cut into 16 squares and dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Working through the List

I always have a long list of recipes that I want to try. But, I'm not always very good at working my way through the list. Lately, though, I've been trying to take that list, compare it with what is in the pantry and freezer and try some new meals (and hopefully save a few dollars at the grocery store). So, here are a couple things that we've liked. The first recipe is for a very simple grilled chicken...something I've never managed to master. (And, I still don't do the grilling, just the pre-work. It's my husband's job to actually cook the meat, and he has a new grill, so he doesn't mind in the least). The marinade is easy and hopefully uses things you already have on hand, and the chicken comes out tasty and tender. One of the best parts is that this chicken is great right off the grill, but it's also very tasty in a salad, which is how we used our leftovers the first time we made it. Without further adieu...

Garlic-Marinated Chicken Cutlets (I used tenders)

2 TB olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
3 TB fresh thyme (I used dried thyme leaves, maybe 1/2 tsp)
coarse salt and ground pepper
3 lb. chicken cutlets, about 12 (again, I used tenders, just read the recipe wrong, but they worked great)

To make marinade, whisk together oil, garlic, vinegar, thyme, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a large shallow dish. Add chicken; turn to coat. Let marinate at room temperature 10 minutes or up to 30 minutes. Lift chicken from marinade and grill (be sure to oil grates) until browned and cooked through, 2-3 minutes per side. This makes enough to serve 4 (with side dishes...we grilled potatoes, and had cucumber and onion salad and watermelon with ours) and then there is enough chicken leftover to use in another meal.

That's it. It was so easy. For the Cobb Salad a couple days later, we tossed Romaine lettuce with an easy Honey Dijon vinaigrette (let me know if you want the recipe). Then, we topped the lettuce with the leftover sliced chicken, crumbled bacon, grape tomatoes, diced avocado and feta cheese. It was really good and a fast and easy summer supper.

Stay tuned for a lemon bar recipe that only required 3 ingredients for the filling!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sopapilla Cheesecake

This is a yummy recipe, that could pass for a coffee cake if you wanted it to!!

2 (8 oz.) pkgs cream cheese (can use fat free)
2 cans crescent rolls
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 stick melted butter

1/2 cup sugar
1 Tlbs. cinnamon

Spread 1 can of rolls in a 9X13 pan (best to use clear to make sure the bottom browns).
Mix together cr. cheese, sugar and vanilla then spread evenly over the rolls.
Spread second can of rolls over the cr. cheese mixture.
Drizzle butter over the rolls.
Sprinkle cinnamon/sugar mixture over top.
Bake at 350 for 30-40 min. (however long it takes to get the top and bottom layer of rolls browned).
Best served warm!

The Pioneer Woman

For those of you looking for new recipes, and I'm guessing you are because you read this blog.... I've recently found a very entertaining blog with some yummy recipes. The blogger is a California city girl who married a rancher, and now lives out in the boonies. She's got some great recipes, and I'll warn you a head of time, nearly every one calls for at least a stick of butter. Not for the clogged of heart!!
Check her out, you'll enjoy it! www.thepioneerwoman.com

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Macaroni, Two Ways

I keep thinking that I will get back in the swing of things and start posting recipes more regularly. Somehow life continues to derail my good intentions. It's a new month and a new opportunity. We'll see how I do. Let's get straight to these two delicious macaroni recipes. First, the one I mentioned in a previous post that we thoroughly enjoyed, Skillet Macaroni and Beef, from the Cook's Country magazine. This was a quick and easy dinner and made more than expected.

Skillet Macaroni and Beef

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 lg. onion, choppped fine
1 red bell pepper, chopped fine
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 c. elbow macaroni
1 (29 oz) can tomato sauce
2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Cook beef in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until no longer pink, about 7 minutes. Drain beef, leaving 2 TB fat in the skillet, and reserve. Add onion, red pepper, and garlic to fat in skillet and cook, covered, until softened, about 3-5 minutes.
Add macaroni, tomato sauce, broth, oregano and reserved beef to skillet and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender, 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve. (I covered it and let the cheese melt before serving).
Yield: While the recipe says 4, I would say 6.

Okay, on to the next recipe. If you buy the right size of macaroni (although I have no idea what the "right" size is) you should have enough left to try this recipe as well. It's another recipe from Cook's Country and is yet another skillet recipe too. We made this about a week ago. I was very impressed with how creamy the macaroni turned out. I'm hard to please when it comes to homeade mac and cheese, but this hit the spot.

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese

2 TB unsalted butter
2 c. fresh bread crumbs (I made them in the food processor with white bread, but you could eliminate all this and just use dried ones and I think it would probably work...although the fresh were delicious)
Salt and pepper
3 3/4 c. water, plus more as needed
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
3 c. elbow macaroni
1 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. hot sauce
3 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 c. shredded monterey jack cheese
(I bought both cheeses in blocks and shredded them, so that they would melt better)

For breadcrumbs: Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bread crumbs, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and wipe out skillet.

Bring water, 1 1/4 c. evaporated milk and 1/2 tsp salt to simmer in skillet over medium-high heat. Add macaroni and cook, stirring often, until macaroni is al dente, 8-10 minutes.
Whisk remaining evaporated milk, cornstarch and hot sauce in small bowl, then stir into skillet. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Off heat, stir in cheeses, one handful at a time, adding water as needed to adjust consistency. Sprinkle with toasted bread crumbs. Serve.

Yield: 4-6
(The hot sauce does not make this dish at all spicy. It just adds flavor.)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Creative Leftovers

I can't take any credit for these recipes whatsoever. All I did was finally get my act together enough to try something out of a magazine I received over 1 year ago. Here are two recipes from Everyday Food intended for the same week. They use many of the same ingredients and were delicious and healthy. I love the efficiency!

Roast Beef with roasted vegetables

3 red bell peppers, cut into strips
2 yellow bell peppers, cut into strips
2 medium red onions, cut into wedges
3/4 lb new potatoes, cut into 1" chunks
3 whole garlic cloves
2 garlic cloves, cut into slivers (~12)
2 T. olive oil
coarse salt and ground pepper
2.5 lb eye-of-round beef roast
3/4 t. dried thyme

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place peppers, onions, potatoes and whole garlic on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with half the oil, season with salt and pepper, then toss to coat.
2. Using a paring knife, make small slits in top and sides of roast; push in garlic slivers. Coat beef with remaining oil, 1.5 t. salt, 1/2 t. pepper and thyme. Either place on same tray with vegetable or separate dish, depending on size.
3. Roast beef and vegetables 50 minutes for medium rare (I like my meat cooked a little more, so I did 1 hour and got a nice medium). Toss vegetables occasionally.
4. Cut half of the roast into thin slices and serve with vegetables. Reserve half the roast for the recipe below.

Beef and Mango Wraps

1 T. Dijon mustard
3 T. lime juice
1 T. olive oil
coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 mango, peeled and cut into strips
4 cups loose spinach leaves
cooked beef, reserved from above, thinly sliced

1. In a large bowl, whisk together mustard, lime juice and oil; season with salt and pepper. Add onion, bell pepper and mango. Toss to combine.
2. Lay tortillas out on a flat working surface. Line each with spinach, arrange beef slices in the center and top with mango mixture.
3. Serve with black bean salsa and chips!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Not exactly in season

Last week my husband went to the grocery store over the lunch hour to pick up a few things we were needing for dinner that night. Because so many have graciously provided meals for us the past few weeks, I haven't done much cooking on weeknights. Last Wednesday was an exception, though. We had decided to make paninis. I got a panini press for Christmas a couple years ago, and we've just begun to discover the joy of pressed sandwiches, especially when made with really good bread. We especially enjoy grilling some red pepper slices on the press and then adding those to sandwiches made with turkey and pepper jack cheese. Yum. Anyway, my husband was supposed to get some meat from the deli and then a couple sweet potatoes, which we were going to make fries out of. That was the plan. When I got home and pulled the potatoes out of the bad, it was immediately apparent that these were not sweet potatoes, but regular old potatoes. Not to be disuaded, we cut them into wedges and coated them with cornflakes and seasonings and baked them in the oven. They tasted pretty good, but they weren't the sweet potato fries we were looking forward to. So, since we were having company for lunch on Sunday, we decided it would be a good time to try again. This time I went to the store, thinking that sweet potatoes cannot be nearly as elusive as my husband made them out to be. However, he was right. The label said sweet potatoes, but the bin contained regular potatoes. However, the grocery store usually carries these pre-wrapped sweet potatoes (I think for microwaving). Anyway, I broke down and paid extra for the plastic wrap so that we could enjoy our fries. This was much too long of a story, and now it's time for the recipe. We love these fries...just wish we could find sweet potatoes all the time.

Sweet Potato Fries
(This recipe is scaled for two people. Sometimes a little extra coating is needed. It doesn't hurt to double that part of the recipe.)

2 tablespoons beaten egg
1 tablespoon water
1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 large sweet potato (14 ounces), peeled
2 teaspoons olive oil

Directions: In a shallow bowl, whisk egg and water. In a resealable plastic bag, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, cayenne and pepper. Cut sweet potato into 1/4-in. strips. Add to egg mixture, a few at a time, and toss to coat. Add to the crumb mixture, a few at a time; seal bag and shake to coat. Arrange potato strips in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; drizzle with oil. Bake at 450° for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and crisp, turning occasionally. Sprinkle with salt. Eat hot if you can!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Asian salmon and sweet potatoes

This is the recipe you pull out when you want to impress someone without really having much talent for cooking. I've made it a few times now, and it always comes out delicious. It does take a little more work to prepare, but don't be scared by the number of steps or ingredients. They're all easy steps and it will be worth it.

1.5-2 lb fresh or frozen salmon filet
2 lbs. sweet potatoes
1 T. cooking oil
2 T. sesame oil, divided
salt & pepper to taste

1/3 c. teriyaki sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. apricot or peach preserves
2 T. orange juice
2 t. grated fresh ginger
1 t. dijon mustard
1/4 t. black pepper

1/4 c. sliced green onion
1 T. toasted sesame seeds

Thaw fish (if frozen). Rinse and pat dry with paper towels.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 1" chunks. In a large bowl, combine potatoes, oil, and 1 T. sesame oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Place in a large roasting pan and bake uncovered for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, stir together 1 T. sesame oil, teriyaki, garlic, preserves, orange juice, ginger, mustard and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for ~5 minutes until slightly thickened.

Remove potatoes from the over and push to the side of the pan. Place salmon filet in the center of the pan. Set aside 1/4 c. of prepared sauce, and pour the rest over fish and potatoes. Roast uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until fish flakes easily and potatoes are tender.

Drizzle with reserved sauce. Garnish with green onion and sesame seeds.

Mexican Corn Bread

Well, I'm bored at my current work assignment, so I'm going to post a few more. I know I can never stand up to the cooking prowess of J, but at least they'll be a few recipes on here for your amusement. This is another family classic that goes quite nicely with chile verde.

3 c. cornbread mix (1 large box, not Jiffy sized)
2 c. milk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. chopped jalepenos (or 1 small can)
2 eggs, beaten
2 T. sugar
1/2 lb. bacon, fried and crumbled
medium onion, chopped
1 c. shredded yellow cheese

Mix it all together in a large bowl, then transfer to a 9x13 inch greased pan. Bake according to the directions on the box mix.

Chile Verde

One of the pleasant surprises of my pending marriage is the advantage of new (to me) family recipes. This is my absolute favorite dish that my future mother-in-law makes, and I think it's somewhat regional to California. Of course, there's just a little pressure to be able to cook this well and live up to its reputation. Good thing this is an easy one.

2-3 lbs. cubed pork
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cans tomatillos (14.5oz each) or ~1.5 lbs fresh
1 large jar green salsa
1 T. cumin
1 T. chili powder
1 (or 2) small cans chopped jalepenos

I couldn't find cubed pork in my grocery store, so I cut up a pork tenderloin. Toss the cubed pork in flour, then brown with the onion in a small amount of oil. Put into a crock pot with all other ingredients and let simmer on low all day. The spices and jalepenos should be adjusted depending on how much heat you like. This can be served with tortillas and topped with cheese and sour cream. I've also had it over eggs for a delicious spicy omlet. It can also be cooked on the stove top, and doesn't really need to cook all day. It does need at least 1-2 hours to simmer and really let those flavors develop.

Monday, March 10, 2008

I'll be back

I have not forgotten about this blog, although my actions might reflect the contrary. In fact, I do have recipes that have been tried and are ready to be posted. The most recent success was a recipe from Cook's Country magazine, "Skillet Macaroni & Beef". It was quick, easy and kid-friendly, a new concern at our house. In fact, all three of those characteristics are suddenly much more important now that we are "parents." It's still hard for me to use that word and feel like it is actually true of us, but I'm sure it will grow on me. So, if you can be patient a while longer, I will promise more posts in the future. The first of which will be the recipe mentioned above. (Oh, and I tried a great new biscuit recipe that was delicious, especially covered in sausage gravy.)