Monday, December 29, 2008

Crepes

My husband and I were in the kitchen this morning when I opened the fridge, noticing how many left over ingredients we had from Thanksgiving and Christmas fixings. I hate a cramped fridge so my first thought was, "What can we make with oranges and cool whip or whipped cream?" My husband's eyes lit up as he exclaimed, "Crepes!" Brilliant idea, honey!

So we'll start with the crepe batter and then discuss some sweet and savory fillings.

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 egg
a pinch of salt

Mix ingredients thoroughly then cover and place batter in the fridge overnight (if you planned far enough in advance). By morning all those little lumps of flour and air bubbles will have dissolved and you'll have a smooth batter. Remove from fridge and let come to room temperature, you may need to add a touch of milk to thin the batter. You're looking for a very thin batter (slightly thicker than water) so it will quickly and easily coat the bottom of your skillet or crepe pan if you own one.

Some prefer to add sugar and vanilla to their batter if they are making sweet crepes, but I like this recipe for both sweet and savory.

Once batter is at room temperature and the correct consistency, heat a medium-sized, nonstick skillet over medium heat and spray lightly with cooking spray. You'll have to play with the next step a bit to adjust for your pan size but start with 1/4 cup of batter. Hold pan in one hand and batter in the other. Pour batter to one side of the pan and at the same time begin to rotate pan to cover the bottom with batter...this may take practice.

You can see in this picture that I did not wait for the batter to settle overnight, there are lumps but you would never know once it's cooked.

Let cook for 30 seconds - 1 minute. Using the edge of a spatula, lift the edge of the crepe to check for doneness...a tiny hint of brown is good, then flip. Cook for another 30 seconds - 1 minute or so and remove from the pan.

Now is the fun part...dressing your crepe. Here are some of my favorite ways to dress up a crepe:

Orange and Sugar - this is a very simple topping but by far a fave! Lightly sprinkle crepe with granulated white sugar then squeeze a fresh orange wedge all over the sugar...not too much or it will feel soggy and dribble. Fold in half then fold in half again to resemble a pie wedge. These don't last very long, we just pick up and eat by hand :) These are equally as delicious with fresh lemon juice.

Strawberry, Pomegranate and Balsamic - I made a lovely strawberry preserve mixture out of frozen strawberries, balsamic vinegar and pomegranate syrup. Slather the preserves onto the crepe and top with fresh whipped cream, roll and eat! Sooo yummy.

Lemon Curd, Mascarpone and Fresh Fruit - Mix equal parts lemon curd and mascarpone cheese, thinly slice apples, pears or strawberries. Slather on lemon cheese mixture, stack on fruit and top with whipped cream. This is particularly lovely because of the textures if using apples or pears. You get a nice crisp bite from the fruit, a slightly tart taste of lemon with a silky, creamy feel from the mascarpone....mmmmmmm.

Chicken, Baby Spinach and Feta - Sweat onions and garlic in olive oil, add chicken strips cut from the breast meat and some red pepper, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. You can add your spinach in this mixture to wilt it or layer it on the crepe if you prefer more texture. Put chicken mix on crepe, sprinkle with crumbled feta and roll.

Tonight we're having a Hawaiian inspired pork crepe. I sweated some onion and garlic then added pork chunks...I only had bone in pork chops in my freezer so I cut the meat from the bone before cooking. Seared the pork, then added soy sauce, brown sugar and crushed pineapple. Top with grated cheddar and viola!

Get creative with your toppings. Try bananas and chocolate, blueberries and whipped cream, the sky is the limit!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Orange Balsamic Chicken


We're not fancy schmancy people so no goose or duck for our Christmas feast just basic everyday chicken for us, please. Well, not everyday chicken, this chicken was truly tasty and a surprise to every one's taste buds.

I've been watching more TV than normal (normally I watch none) since I have hours each day to sit around and nurse my new baby. So I turn on the TV to entertain myself while I'm forced to sit still for so long. I'm not normally a Rachel Ray fan and avoid watching the show, but on Christmas Eve I was positioned in a manner that I could not reach the remote without disturbing the nursing baby....so I suffered through. Turns out I found this lovely recipe while being tortured...er, forced....er, stuck watching Rachel Ray.

Here is the original recipe for Orange Balsamic Rock Cornish Game Hens but I altered it a bit and here's my version:

Ingredients

1 cup orange juice concentrate
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dried rosemary
2 tsp grated orange zest
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and cracked whole cloves
1 whole chicken, butterflied
1 oven stuffer roaster (see note below)

I mixed all ingredients, except the chickens, in a bowl and then poured the mix over the chickens in a plastic bag. I marinaded the chickens overnight, then butterflied the whole chicken and placed on baking racks over sheet pans. Sprinkled with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.

I baked on 425 for 15 minutes then reduced to 375 until chickens were done according to my thermometer.

So here are my notes:

The oven stuffer roaster appeared to be really large bone-in breasts, I believe it probably had some sort of salt solution injected into it to create moister chicken...not my favorite choice in chicken, but it was what I had in the freezer and I was too sick to head to the grocery on Christmas Eve to get anything different.

To butterfly a chicken, use kitchen shears and cut right up the back of the chicken then flip it over, press lightly on the breast bone to flatten and tuck the wings back to secure them.

Use aluminum foil to line your sheet pan, this sauce is sticky and I may end up throwing away one of my pans rather than continuing to try to scrap and soak it. When I turned the heat of the oven down after 15 minutes, I transferred the chickens to a new pan because the drippings had burnt so severely in the first pan after only 15 minutes. In the new pan, I added all the marinade over the chicken and let it pool in the bottom of the pan. Once the chicken was done, I poured the drippings into a sauce pan and reduced to make a sauce. My brother-in-law really liked the strong flavor of the sauce whereas I found the balsamic too overpowering in the sauce. If I had felt better, I would have doctored the sauce with some honey to sweeten it or maybe even more orange juice concentrate and orange zest to bring out the orange flavor that was sort of lost in the balsamic.

My husband, who won't eat chicken breast because it's dry, found the marinade kept the breast very moist and he really enjoyed the flavor of the chicken...he nibbled a lot as he was cutting up the chicken breast :) I used the chicken on a salad and found the meat to be moist and flavorful without being too overpowering.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Buckeyes


My Aunt June use to make these when I was a young girl; these may have started my love for all things peanut butter and chocolate! I don't know that a more perfect combination of flavors exists, peanut butter was just made to go with chocolate...mmm I can taste these already! Buckeyes are small round balls of sweetened peanut butter dipped in melted chocolate with the top of the peanut butter ball exposed so it resembles a buckeye.


INGREDIENTS
2 cups peanut butter
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups confectioners' sugar
4 cups semisweet chocolate chips



DIRECTIONS
1. In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, butter, vanilla and confectioners' sugar. The dough will look dry. Roll into 1 inch balls and place on a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet.
Press a toothpick into the top of each ball (to be used later as the handle for dipping) and chill in freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.


2. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir frequently until smooth.


3. Dip frozen peanut butter balls in chocolate holding onto the toothpick. Leave a small portion of peanut butter showing at the top to make them look like Buckeyes. Put back on the cookie sheet and refrigerate until serving.


I have used the ghiradelli dipping chocolate you can pick up at Sam's during the holidays. I've also used Kron that has been given to us in holiday themed forms, I just chop it up and melt it down. The ghiradelli and Kron are superior to toll house chocolate chips and defintiely enhance the quality of the candy, but there's nothing wrong with toll house, either.


You can take the toothpick or skewer used for dipping and smooth over the hole for a more finished appearance.
NOTE: I increased the amount of peanut butter from the original recipe. I used a full 18oz jar of creamy peanut butter which is just over 2 cups.

Mexican Wedding Cakes


This is another long-standing favorite Christmas cookie around our house. These take a little bit of time, but are really worth it in taste and presentation. The recipe suggests several nut options, but I use almonds. I love the toasted almond flavor in this cookie and I must insist you take the time to toast the almonds. The cookie itself has a bit of crispness for texture combined with a silky feel from the powder sugar coating. Enjoy!


The original recipe and photo come from Joy of Baking.

Recipe:
2/3 cup (65 grams) toasted nuts (pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts)
1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (30 grams) confectioners' (powdered or icing) sugar
1 teaspoon (2 grams) pure vanilla extract
2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Topping: 1 cup (110 grams) powdered (icing or confectioners) sugar, sifted
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

2. Toast Nuts: Place nuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 5- 8 minutes, or until lightly brown and fragrant. Cool. Once the nuts have cooled completely place them, along with 2 tablespoons (25 grams) of the flour from the recipe, into your food processor, fitted with a metal blade, and process until they are finely ground (but not a paste). Set aside.

3. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the remaining flour and salt and beat until combined. Stir in the nuts. Cover and refrigerate the dough for about 1 hour or until firm.

4. Form the dough into 1 inch (2.54 cm) balls and place them 2 inches (5 cm) apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 12 - 15 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies start to brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes.

5. Line another baking pan or tray with parchment or wax paper. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the confectioners' sugar on the bottom of the pan and then place the slightly cooled cookies on top of the sugar. Place the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a fine strainer or sieve and then sprinkle the tops of the cookies (or you can just roll the cookies in the sugar).

Store in an airtight container. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Gooey Butter Cookies


I decided I had the energy to do some baking this Christmas and asked my husband what he would like me to make. His response was, "MMMM...the butter cookies!" We first had these cookies when I was investigating the LDS church and a set of sister missionaries were coming over for regular visits. The sisters made these cookies for us and my husband was hooked! These cookies have become his favorite!


INGREDIENTS

8oz cream cheese

1 stick of butter, softened

1 egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow or butter cake mix

1/4 cup confectioners' sugar


DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


2. In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Stir in the egg and vanilla. Add cake mix, and stir until well blended.


3. Roll into 1 inch balls and roll the balls in the confectioners' sugar. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.


4. Bake for 10 to 13 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove from baking sheets to cool on wire racks.


I have one cookie sheet that gets really hot so I only cook them for 9 minutes on this particular pan. Watch them closely as they're best if you get them just as they start to barely turn brown.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ham and Beans


Sorry for the long stretch with no posts...I've not been cooking since having the baby. Last night was my first official meal post-partum. We had a spiral cut ham in the freezer so I stuck it in the oven, made honey carrots and oven crisped potatoes (dicedwhite potato, Lipton onion soup mix packet and a little olive oil baked in the oven) for my husband and father-in-law who adore white potatoes. The real treat of this meal was the ham bone, which I saved for tonight's dinner!

So on to my ham and beans! I don't measure, sorry. But I've found it always comes out delicious so I can't imagine being able to mess this one up.
I quick soak my beans - 1 lbs navy beans (or small white beans) in a pot covered with water. Bring to a boil for 3-4 minutes. Turn heat off, put tight fitting lid on pot and let sit for one hour. Drain the beans, add to a large pot with the ham bone, several hands full of baby carrots, 1-2 tbsp dried minced onions, garlic powder, salt and coriander (2 tsp or so). Add enough water to cover the beans by an inch (does not have to cover the ham bone). Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until ham is falling off bone and beans and carrots are tender; 3-4 hours. Remove lid to boil out any excess liquid and remove bone and any unwanted miscellaneous pieces from the bone.
UPDATE: I've been usuing Goya's Salvadorian Red Beans instead of white and I like it soooo much better!


Over-used Recipes Swap

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sugar Cookies



We love this recipe for sugar cookies. My husband found it a couple years ago and it's perfect for our tastes! These are great for rolling out and using fun cookie cutters with the kids. Our kids most enjoy decorating them with icing and sprinkles when they come out of the oven. A confectioner sugar and milk icing tinted food coloring is quick and easy or you can use a can of premade vanilla icing as a quick topping.

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt



DIRECTIONS

1.In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

3. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Pumpkin Cake



I totally stole this from the site bigredkitchen.com! It was a big hit yesterday. They also suggested you could use a chocolate cake mix. So easy!


One Cake mix- I used yellow
1 -15 ounce can pumpkin filling

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl mix cake mix with pumpkin filling using a hand mixer or a stand mixer. Beat on medium for 2 minutes. Pour batter into a greased 7 x 11 inch baking dish. Bake for 28 minutes or until tooth pick comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting. Serves 8.

Apple Cider Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
2 T. apple cider
1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice

In a small bowl blend all ingredients until smooth. Pour over Pumpkin Cake letting it drizzle down the sides of the cake. Let set before covering.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cassoulet


This recipe was presented at one of our Gourmet Night meetings almost 2 years ago. The recipe comes from Cooks Illustrated, which is a favorite recipe source for the lady who hosted this particular gourmet night. Although I do find this recipe to be more complicated than most of the dinners I put together, I highly recommend making it and I do so as often as I can because it's soooo delicious!


Simplified Cassoulet with Pork and Kielbasa
1/2000

This dish can be made without brining the chicken, but we recommend that you do so. To ensure the most time-efficient preparation of the cassoulet, while the chicken is brining and the beans are simmering, prepare the remaining ingredients. Look for dried flageolet beans in specialty food stores. If you can't find a boneless blade-end pork loin roast, a boneless Boston butt makes a fine substitution. Additional salt is not necessary because the brined chicken adds a good deal of it. If you skip the brining step, add salt to taste before serving.

Serves 8

Chicken
1 cup kosher salt or 1/2 cup table salt
1 cup granulated sugar
10 bone in chicken thighs (about 3 1/2 pounds), skin and excess fat removed

Topping
6 slices high-quality sandwich bread , cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 3 cups)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted

Beans
1 pound dried flageolet beans or Great Northern beans, picked over and rinsed
1 medium onion , peeled and left whole
1 medium head garlic , outer papery skin removed and top 1/2 inch sliced off
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 slices bacon (about 6 ounces), chopped medium
1 pound boneless pork loin roast (blade-end), trimmed of excess fat and silver skin and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small onion , chopped fine
2 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes , drained
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Ground black pepper
3 1/2 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cup dry white wine (you can sub more chicken stock in pace of the wine)
1/2 pound kielbasa sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices




1. Brining the Chicken: In gallon-sized zipper-lock plastic bag, dissolve salt and sugar in 1 quart cold water. Add chicken, pressing out as much air as possible; seal and refrigerate until fully seasoned, about 1 hour. Remove chicken from brine, rinse thoroughly under cold water, and pat dry with paper towels. Refrigerate until ready to use.

2. Preparing the Topping: While chicken is brining, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position; heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix bread crumbs and butter in small baking dish. Bake, tossing occasionally, until light golden brown and crisp, 8 to 12 minutes. Cool to room temperature; set aside.

3. Bring the beans, whole onion, garlic head, salt, pepper and 8 cups water to a boil in a stockpot or Dutch oven over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the beans are almost fully tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Drain the beans and discard the onion and garlic.

4. While the beans are cooking, fry the bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat until just beginning to crisp and most of the fat has rendered, 5 to 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, add half of the bacon to the pot with the beans; transfer the remaining bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Increase the heat to medium-high; when the bacon fat is shimmering, add half of the chicken thighs, fleshy-side down; cook until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned on second side, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to large plate; repeat with remaining thighs and set aside. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pot. Return pot to medium heat; add pork pieces and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add chopped onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add minced garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaf, cloves, and pepper to taste; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in chicken broth and wine, scraping up browned bits off bottom of pot with wooden spoon. Submerge the chicken in the pot, adding any accumulated juices. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer about 40 minutes. Remove the cover and continue to simmer until the chicken and pork are fully tender, 20 to 30 minutes more.

5. Gently stir the kielbasa, drained beans and reserved bacon into the pot with the chicken and pork; remove and discard the thyme and bay leaf and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the croutons evenly over the surface and bake at 425, uncovered, until the flavors have melded and the croutons are deep golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes and serve.

Crock Pot Ham

Is your oven going to be full of turkey and pies tomorrow? Consider slow cooking your ham to free up some oven time. Or this is perfect for cooking ham in the summer without heating up the house!

For a delicious, no-fuss ham that is juicy, good and does not monopolize your oven time, try this slow cooker sensation with only two ingredients or dress it up with your favorite additions – whole cloves, pineapple rings or plain if you don’t like a sweet glaze.

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 (8 pound) cured, bone-in picnic ham

DIRECTIONS:
1. Spread about 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar on the bottom of the slow cooker crock. Place the ham flat side down into the slow cooker - you might have to trim it a little to make it fit. Use your hands to rub the remaining brown sugar onto the ham. Cover, and cook on Low for 8 hours.

Moroccan Veggie Stew

Stew
6 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups 1 1/2-inch carrot chunks
2 cups 1 1/2-inch peeled sweet potato
2 cups 1 1/2-inch onion chunks
2 cups peeled 1 1/2-inch turnip chunks
2 cups shredded green or white cabbage
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped celery
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
3 tablespoons dried parsley

Couscous
2 cups dried couscous
4 to 5 cups boiling vegetable broth

To make the stew: Combine all the stew ingredients in a crockpot and cook on HIGH for 6 or more hours. Adjust seasonings.
To make the couscous: Pour the boiling broth over couscous in a medium bowl and allow to sit for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.

Serve stew hot over couscous.

Cranberry Pecan Bars

This is my special holiday recipe that I created a couple of years ago for a cookie exchange; VERY few people have this recipe (until now, that is). I hope you enjoy this as much as I have!

Cranberry Pecan Bars

Ingredients:

Shortbread base

1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour

Cranberry pecan filling

3/4 - 1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped
1 egg
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
3 tbls butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp allspice
pinch of salt
1/2 cup pecans, chopped


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Base - Combine butter and sugar in mixing bowl and beat at medium speed until well mixed. Reduce speed to low and add flour. Press dough into ungreased 8 inch square pan. Prick with a fork and bake for 18-20 minutes until lightly browned.

Filling - Lightly beat egg in mixing bowl and add sugar, corn syrup, butter, vanilla, allspice and salt. Stir after the addition of each ingredient.

Chop cranberries and spread evenly onto the baked shortbread. Pour egg mixture over the cranberries and sprinkle with chopped pecans.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the filling looks set and is brown on top. Cool completely before cutting.

Overnight Oatmeal

A hot, filling breakfast with no work in the morning!

Ingredients:
1 cup EACH: Barley, Steel Cut Oats, Wheat Berries
10 cups water
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 handful dried cranberries
1 handful pecans
1 tablespoon butter
brown sugar and cinnamon to taste


Directions:

Put in crock pot just before bedtime, cook on low all night. Serve with milk. Reheats well in the microwave.

NOTE: If you like crunchy nuts you might want to toss in the pecans in the morning.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Stir Fry Chicken with Snow Peas

Here is another single serving meal using my frozen chicken chunks to create a fast and filling healthy meal.

Ingredients

1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup snow peas
1 cup spinach, fresh
1/2 cup water chestnuts
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts
1/4 cup kidney beans
1-2 oz chicken chunks
1.5 tsp safflower oil
1 clove minced garlic

Optional
Cooked brown rice

Chop veggies and set aside in a bowl.

Add oil to skillet, saute garlic and onions for 1 minute, then add all other ingredients and simmer until everything is hot. Serve over brown rice.

NOTE: I forgot to mention, I have high blood pressure and usually avoid adding salt to most dishes so please feel free to add in favorite flavorings and spices. I think this would be great with some crushed red pepper flakes or spicy szechuan sauce, but my husband would never touch it as black pepper is too spicy for him.

Avocado and Tomato Scramble

This is another healthy family favorite which packs in 16 grams of protein and only 215 calories and 7 grams of fat! It's very filling, which is why my husband loves it.

Ingredients

1 tbls diced avocado
1/2 cup mushrooms
1/4 cup diced onion
1 medium tomato
3 egg whites
1/2 tsp safflower oil
1 slice of rye, pumpernickel or flourless bread

Optional Spices
black pepper
dried parsley
paprika


Slice and dice tomato, onion, avocado and mushrooms, set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites and desired spices.

Add oil to non-stick skillet, add onion and cook for 1-2 minutes, add in mushrooms, cook for one minutes, add in tomato, cook for 1-2 minutes, toss in avocado and egg mixture and scramble over low to medium heat until eggs are cooked.

Pile this on your toasted slice of rye or eat with bread on the side.

You can attempt an omelet with this, but I find there's way too many ingredients and I end up making a scramble, instead :) However, if you prefer your veggies uncooked, an omelet is ideal. Cook the eggs, layer veggies on one half of egg, fold over and serve.

Chinese Chicken Salad

Another super simple and refreshing salad! It's also healthy, which is a bonus when it tastes so good :) This recipe is for a single serving salad.

1-2 oz chicken
2 cups lettuce
1/4 cup mandarin oranges
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 - 1 tsp safflower oil
1 tbls slivered almonds
1/4 cup bean sprouts

Optional croutons - 1 piece of rye or pumpernickel bread twice toasted and cut into pieces.

I love to buy those super huge packs of chicken breasts when they go on sale (I'm a thrifty cook!), cut the entire package into approximately 1 inch cubes, cook in a non-stick skillet with a squirt of Pam and a heavy layer of Mrs Dash Herb & Garlic seasoning. Once the chicken pieces are cooked through, I drain off any excess liquids that did not cook out and then place in a freezer safe container and store in the freezer. This way I can pull out small quantities of cooked chicken as needed for various recipes (and the Mrs Dash seasoning goes well in so many of my recipes).

So for this salad, I would snag 1-2 oz of frozen chicken pieces from the freezer place in the microwave for 30 seconds and my salad is well on it's way to being made in less than 5 minutes.

Once chicken is warmed, you mix the oil, vinegar and soy sauce to make your dressing. Place lettuce in your serving dish, layer all other ingredients, drizzle with dressing and VIOLA - quick, healthy, delicious salad.

Sweet Pecan Apple Salad

About 5 years ago, I was asked to bring "something red" to a church dinner as we were having a Valentine's Day party. This was definitely the first time I had ever thought of food based on it's color. I agreed to bring something red, having no idea what I was going to prepare.

I love the earthy flavor of beets (my husband says they smell like dirt and won't touch them) and combined with the slightly, crispy crunch of a sweet apple and caramel coated pecans this is a simple, colorful salad full of fun textures.

1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp butter
1/3 cup pecan halves
3 tbsp oil
5 tsp cider vinegar
1 can (14.5 oz) sliced beets, drained
1 medium golden delicious apple, cored and diced

1. Melt sugar and butter in skillet; add pecans. Cook and stir over low heat 3-4 minutes until caramel colored; cool.

2. Combine oil and vinegar; toss with beets and apple. Add pecans just before serving and serve oer lettuce, if desired.

NOTE: The color of the beets will bleed onto the apple. If you want to keep the colors separate for presentation, toss apples and beets in oil and vinegar separately then layer on your serving plate.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Orange Pie

I've been eating this cream and refreshing pie for more than 20 years and it's still a favorite that I never get tired of. This orange pie is great for a light and cool dessert in warm weather, but I am craving it now because I have a sore throat and I was thinking of how soothing it would be.

So here is the orange pie:

CRUST
1/2 cup self rising flour
2 tbsl butter or margarine, softened
1 egg
1/2 cup oil
1 cup chopped pecans
2 small packagaes of instant french vanilla pudding (you can use regular vanilla, coconut cream, whatever suits your fancy)

Mix the above items and press into a 9X13 pan and bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool completely.

FILLING
1 can sweetened condensed milk
8 oz Cool Whip
1 pt sour cream
1/2 cup Tang

Mix the filling ingredients in a large bowl and put in cooled pie crust. Chill for 24 hours. Keep and serve cold.

My mom likes to make these even easier by using graham cracker crusts. The filling is enough for two 9 inch pie crusts.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Brown Sugar Pound Cake

I LOVE this cake!!!! It's one of my all-time favorites for simple and tasty desserts. I took it from a Cooking Light magazine many years ago.

Cooking Spray
3 tbls graham cracker crumbs or plain bread crumbs
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 tbls vanilla
3 large eggs
1 cup fat free milk

1. Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 10-inch tube pan with cooking spray; dust with graham cracker or bread crumbs.

2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and stir well.

3. Beat butter in a large bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add the brown sugar and vanilla, beating until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time beating well afer each addition.

4. Add flour mixture to the sugar mixture alternately with milk, beating at low speed, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

5. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour 5 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean.

6. Cool in pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack then remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.

Raisin Nut Bar

As I am preparing for our new baby to arrive (nesting), I found a stack of recipes I've not used in awhile and decided to share them. This is a healthy snacking favorite! My father-in-law loves how filling (and LARGE) these are and I like how quickly they can be made. This is a single serving size but is really large enough for 2 snacks, in my opinion.

1/4 tsp vanilla
5 tbls uncooked oatmeal
1 tsp raisins
4 egg whites
1 tsp safflower oil
1 tbls slivered almonds
1/4 cup applesauce, unsweetened
1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon, to taste

You could add a packet of splenda or use sweetened applesauce if you wanted to make a bit sweeter. I use homemade unsweetened applesauce and my applesauce tends to be sweeter than store bought unsweetened applesauce.

Combine all ingredients, spray microwave safe bowl with cooking spray and add mixture. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. Continue cooking in 30 second increments until done. Let cool and eat. I would make larger batches and store in the refrigerator.

Please remember, this is health food...not a decadent dessert :)

Lemon Bars

These are to die for.

Recipe courtesy of Alice Medrich (from her book Alice Medrich's Cookies and Brownies)

Ingredients:

Crust:
8 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

Topping:
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1.5 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup strained fresh lemon juice
2 to 3 Tbsp powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:1. Line an 8-inch square pan with foil on all 4 sides. Preheat oven to 350 F. Position a rack in the lower third of oven.

For crust: melt butter in medium saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated. Press the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the crust is well browned at the edges and lightly browned in center.

For topping: while the crust is baking, stir together the sugar and flour in a medium bowl until well mixed. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the lemon zest and juice. When crust is ready, turn the oven down to 300 F and slide the rack out without removing the pan. Pour filling over hot crust.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the topping is puffed at the edges and no longer jiggles in the center when pan is tapped. Set on a rack and cool completely in pan. When cooled, lift the foil liner and transfer to cutting board and cut into 16 bars. Sieve powdered sugar over bars just before serving.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jane's Cake


That is not the official title, but it should be :) My mother-in-law, Jane, loves this cake and I had hoped to make it for her on her birthday, but I couldn't get to the store to purchase the mixes it called for (I'm usually a 'from-scratch' kind of person so I don't stock these sort of items). However, the cake is so good it's worth planning for.

This is super chocolately and brownie like. The reason I like this recipe is because it's thick and rich like a brownie, it still holds itself like a cake! It's easy to put together and never a piece goes to waste...at least that's true in our house.

INGREDIENTS
1 (18.25 ounce) package devil's food cake mix
1 (3.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips



DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan. Have all ingredients at room temperature.

2. In a large bowl, stir together cake mix and pudding mix. Make a well in the center and pour in eggs, sour cream, oil and water. Beat on low speed until blended. Scrape bowl, and beat 4 minutes on medium speed. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan.

3. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Taco Soup

1 lb. hamburger
1 med. onion- chopped
1 can of Pinto Beans (Do not drain)
1 can of Kidney Beans " "
1 can of Hominy " "
2 cans diced tomatoes " "
1 can Rotel tomatoes " " (we use mild, but feel free to go with hot)
1 dry pack of Taco Mix
1 dry pack of Ranch dressing
1 tsp. chili powder
1 cup water (if needed)


Brown Meat with onions

Mix all ingredients together in a slow cooker (yes everything is already cooked, this just helps the flavors meld)

Add hambuger mixture and stir well

When this has had time (at least 2 hours on low) to meld; serve with Fritos cornchips in the bottom of bowl and top with your favorite cheese. (sour cream is a good addendum to the cheese).

Strawberry Cheesecake Trifle

2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese
2 C. powdered sugar
1C. sour cream
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract (divided use)
2 T. plus 1/4 t. almond extract (divided use)
1/2 pint whipping cream
4 T. sugar (divided use)
1 angel food cake, torn into bite-size pieces
2 quarts fresh strawberries, cleaned, stemmed and thinly sliced

In a large bowl, cream together cream cheese and powdered sugar. Add sour cream, 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla and 1/4 teaspoon of the almond extract. Set aside.

In a small, deep bowl, whip the whipping cream, 1 teaspoon of the vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture. Fold in cake pieces and set aside.

Combine strawberries, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and remaining 2 tablespoons almond extract.

In a large glass serving bowl, layer ingredients in this order: one-third of the strawberries, one-half of the cake mixture, another third of the berries, remaining cake mixture, remaining strawberries.

Cover and chill well before serving.

So-Easy Cherry Fudge Cake

1 (18.25-oz) package devils food cake mix
1 (21 oz) can cherry pie filling
2 large eggs
1 tsp. almond extract
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
5 Tbsp. butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat first 4 ingredients at low speed; increase speed to med and beat 1 minute.
Pour batter into a greased and floured 13x9 pan

Bake at 350 for 27 to 30 min. or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool cake on wire rack for 10 minutes

Bring sugar milk and butter tio a boil in a heavy 2-qt. saucepan over med-high heat, stirring occasionally; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in chocolate morsels until melted and smooth. Quickly spread frosting over warm cake. Cool completely(about 1 hour) Enjoy

We're missing desserts

We seem to be slim on desserts...do you have any yummy, easy favorites to share? I know my parents have a new favorite chocolate cake that gets better every day it sits. I am waiting for that recipe *hint, hint for my dad*

I do not often make dessert and I do not enjoy baking very much so I have few desserts in my recipe collection. And the one I make the best is made with strawberries which aren't very tasty or cheap this time of year. However, I'll post it anyway just to get you thinking about tasty treats you enjoy :)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Balsamic Chicken

This goes right along with the Dijon chicken as it is super simple and quick with minimal ingredients.

Chicken Breasts
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Cut chicken breasts into 4oz portions (a lot of chicken breasts found in the grocery are 11-12oz which is 3 full adult size portions per breast). Salt and pepper each chicken piece. Spray saute pan with cooking oil and and heat over medium high heat. Once pan is hot, add chicken pieces and cook until brown on each side and almost cooked through. Add balsamic vinegar and chicken broth to the pan and reduce. Careful not to over cook the chicken while the broth is reducing, if necessary remove the chicken from the pan and return to sauce once thickened.

I also double this sauce as my family loves the sticky sweetness of the balsamic.

Dijon Chicken

Super simple and quick with minimal ingredients.

Chicken breasts or tenderloins
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup chicken broth
salt & pepper

Cut your chicken breast into 1-2 inch strips or use tenderloins as is. Salt and pepper each chicken piece. Spray saute pan with cooking oil and heat to medium high. When pan is hot, add chicken pieces and cook on both sides until chicken is brown and almost cooked through. Add chicken broth and Dijon mustard to saute pan with chicken. Stir until smooth and reduce until sauce thickens.

I actually double the sauce as my family loves this served over rice. This is a basic recipe that has good flavor but you can add your favorite herbs and spices to dress it up for your taste buds.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Yummy Salmon!

I've been using this simple recipe for years and it always receives great reviews, even from people who do not like fish. Have any of you met my mother-in-law? She has a saying that covers everything she will not eat....it goes something like this:

"I will not eat anything that speaks another language, swims in the ocean or is blue."


Technically, Italian foods like spaghetti and pizza are perfectly ok but she will not eat Mexican, Chinese, Indian, the list goes on and on. Seafood is really off her list, she can not stand to be in the house when I'm cooking seafood. HOWEVER! I did get her to try this salmon once and she even said, "It's not bad." That's HUGE!

So anyway, on to the recipe. My dad just called and wanted the recipe so we decided this was a good place to share it. When you cook this, take a picture for me so we can post one :)

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets
lemon pepper to taste
garlic powder to taste
salt to taste
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil


DIRECTIONS

Season salmon fillets with lemon pepper, garlic powder, and salt.

In a small bowl, stir together soy sauce, brown sugar, water, and vegetable oil until sugar is dissolved. Place fish in a large resealable plastic bag with the soy sauce mixture, seal, and turn to coat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat grill for medium heat.

Lightly oil grill grate. Place salmon on the preheated grill, and discard marinade. Cook salmon for 6 to 8 minutes per side, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

NOTES:
I have used frozen salmon fillets (4-6oz each) and large fresh salmon fillets weighing 2 lbs or so. I do not use the lemon pepper as my husband does not like pepper, but when he's not around, I do use pepper. I also just add the pepper and garlic powder to the marinade in the bag. I cut back on the oil a bit, I think salmon is a fairly oily fish and does not need a lot of extra oil. I do not typically add extra salt as soy sauce is so salty to my taste buds so experiment and see what works for you. I've also broiled this in the oven when it's too cold to grill.

Over-used Recipes Swap

Monday, November 3, 2008

Mediterranean Rice

Once again, totally stolen from Wild Mountain Foods. It was simple, flavorful and we did not use the golden raisins, but could definitely see how the raisins would compliment the rice and I'll use the raisins next time. I've not found a flavored rice my kids would eat, but all three of them cleaned their plates tonight!



Mom's Mediterranean Pilaf
3 c. chicken broth
1 1/2 c. uncooked rice
4 Tbsp oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp curry
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 c. golden raisins (optional, duh.)

In a 1-quart saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil. In a medium saucepan, mix dry rice, oil, turmeric, curry, soy sauce, and raisins. Pour in broth. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.

Honey Soy Chicken

I totally stole this from another food blog that my sister-in-law belongs to. It was SOOOO yummy and super simple! My kids could not get enough, Connor asked for thirds, the girls asked for seconds and Lillee is not a fan of meat.

We served this with Mediterranean Rice, sauteed cauliflower and roasted Brussels sprouts.



From: Everyday Foods magazine

Serves 4
Prep time: 5 min
Total time: 40 min

1/2 cup honey
2 Tbsp soy sauce
8 skinless chicken drumsticks (3 lbs.)
course salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 475. Line a shallow roasting pan or 9X13" baking dish with foil. In a large bowl, mix together honey, soy sauce, and 1/3 cup water. Add chicken, and toss to coat; season with salt and pepper.

2. Bake chicken, basting with juices from edges of pan every 10 minutes, until well browned and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the drumstick (avoiding the bone) read 165, about 30 - 40 minutes. Serve chicken drizzled with pan juices.

Changes we made: we doubled the sauce as we were feeding 9 people, did not line the pan with foil and used boneless skinless chicken thighs and breast tenderloins. Cooked for 10 minutes, flipped each piece rather than basting and cooked for 10 minutes more. You could use less water, or none at all, for a thicker sauce but we found that the consistency as stated in recipe was perfect to add some sweetness to the chicken without having a really sticky sweet sauce.

Over-used Recipes Swap

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Quiche

Now I'm thinking about breakfast foods that can also be used for any other meal. I've never eaten quiche and really liked it until I went to a baby shower a few years ago and had quiche made by my very french friend, Agnes. It was a simple cheese quiche but I loved it! The flavor was light yet sharp, the texture of the crust was tender yet substantial enough to handle the filling and the egg was so fluffy and perfect.

I'm not a baker; I don't have the patience nor the ability to be precise with ingredients, it's just a stretch for me. However, Agnes showed me how to make pie dough and she didn't measure a thing! She actually tried to measure ingredients just to make everyone else comfortable :) I've slightly altered the dough recipe over the years, but I still credit it all to Agnes!

So here is the basic dough:

Approximately 2 cups all purpose flour (cold! I put in the freezer for 15-20 minutes)
1 stick butter cut into small pieces (I cut the pieces then place in the freezer with the flour)
salt (I guess about 1/2 tsp - 1 tsp depending on whether you're butter is salted)
about 3/4 cup cold water

Put flour into a food processer, add salt and pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse until you have chunks of butter about the size of small peas.

Begin adding the cold water (I would start with 1/2 cup and add more as needed) then pulse just until dough begins to form. You can bring it all together by hand.

Turn onto a floured work surface, knead as little as possible (adding a bit of flour if dough is too wet) then roll gently with a rolling pin.

Transfer to a greased pie plate (I prefer a deep pie plate for a quiche).

Now for the filling! Our favorite is simply ham and cheese, however we really like bacon and mushroom and I love spinach and tomato.

I thinly slice Gruyere cheese with a vegetable peeler and make a thin layer across the bottom of the pan with dough; you don't need a lot of Gruyere as it has a strong flavor. I add ham chunks, cooked and crumbled bacon, fresh mushrooms, baby spinach or whatever I want to add in, but always use Gruyere cheese!

Using my pampered chef measuring/mixing/pouring bowl I crack 4 eggs and add enough milk to reach the 2 cup line (Agnes insists on whole, but I have used 1% and skim, but the result requires longer cooking time as the eggs are more watery and less creamy). Whip eggs with a fork, add salt and pepper (and/or garlic, onion powder, whatever works for you!) to taste then pour over the cheese and other ingredients. Bake at 375 degrees for 35-45 minutes until eggs are set.

If I'm making tomato and spinach quiche, I thinly slice the tomato and place on a paper towel. I then salt them to help draw moisture from the tomatoes. After letting them sit for a few minutes, I wipe off the salt, pat dry then flip the tomato and repeat the process. I then layer the tomatoes on top, after adding the eggs.

Get creative, have fun and enjoy quiche the way it's meant to be enjoyed!

Over-used Recipes Swap

Peanut Butter Pancakes

I took this from my parents who saw it on the Food Network, I believe.

Mix up your favorite pancake mix (for these pancakes I use an easy mix that you just add water to - Krusteaz Brand - and follow package directions) then add peanut butter. I don't measure, I just scoop a cup or so into a microwave bowl, nuke until thin to make for easy stirring then pour into already mixed batter. You may need to add extra water to thin the mix a bit, incorporate it all then cook as a normal pancake.

Now comes the really special part, top with your favorite jelly for a yummy treat! You can smear it on or soften some in the microwave and pour on like syrup. Grape jelly is REALLY good warmed and poured on, but my kids like them smeared with strawberry jelly, honey and even syrup.

Buttermilk Pancakes

This is more What's For Breakfast but I was thinking about these pancakes and felt I needed to share them.

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons white sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups buttermilk (see NOTE below)
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla


1. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together buttermilk, milk, eggs, vanilla and melted butter. Keep the two mixtures separate until you are ready to cook.

2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. You can flick water across the surface and if it beads up and sizzles, it's ready!

3. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, using a wooden spoon or fork to blend. Stir until it's just blended together. Do not over stir, lumps are ok, "just walk away," in the words of Alton Brown! Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/2 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

NOTE: I don't keep buttermilk in the fridge so I make buttermilk as I need it. Use 1 tablespoon of vinegar - I've used white and apple cider for this - to one cup of milk, let sit for 5 minutes to thicken.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Stahle Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe comes from Paul's family and it is awesome! It's the cookie recipe we make most often.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 to 2 cups flour (eyeball this)
3 cups oats
As many chocolate chips as you want

Mix beat the butter and sugar until well blended. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix.

Mix the baking powder, baking soad, salt, and flour in a separate bowl. Add to the butter, sugar, and egg mixture. Mix in oats. Add in chocolate chips.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes (eyeball this too).

Yum!

When I make these, I like the batter to be a bit stiff so the cookies are a little thicker. If you like a flatter cookie, stay on the lower end of the flour spectrum.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Chili

It was cold today and even though I'm not a huge fan of chili, it seemed appropriate. We had meat loaf for dinner on Sunday so I decided to utilize the leftovers.

In a large pot I sweat some onion in olive oil, salt & garlic powder. I added the cold meat loaf cut into 1/2 x 1/2 inch chunks. Two cans of diced tomatoes, 1 can of tomato sauce, 1 can of drained kidney beans, 1 can drained navy beans about 1 tsp cumin and chili powder (we like chili pretty mild so feel free to spice it up for your family), 3/4 tsp smoked paprika, 1-2 cubes beef bouillon and about 1/2 cup water. I simmered for about an hour, made a pan of cornbread and had a warm and delicious dinner!

Taco Ring




Another recipe stolen from my sister- my kids are eating this as we speak, so I thought to post it

2 cans of crescent rolls- layout with the base of the triangles touching as shown in the photos

For the filling, make taco meat with whatever recipe you like. I used:
ground beef
diced tomatoes
package of taco seasoning
can of corn

You can also layer refried beans and add cheese (to be honest, I usually leave out the cheese and it tastes just fine)

Bake 350 for about 20 minutes

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Easy Breezy!

The other night I looked in my pantry wondering that famous question "What's for dinner?"  I had some frozen chicken, some cubed butternut squash, some red onions, and some red potatoes. I cut up all the vegetables so they were the same size and then tossed them with olive oil, dried rosemary, and a couple of chopped garlic cloves.  I defrosted the chicken, put some salt and pepper on it then placed it in a 9x13 pan and covered it with the vegetables.   I baked it at 350 for about 35 minutes and it was so delicious and so easy!!!!

You could use any root vegetable for the roasting...carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, etc.  Enjoy!

Amy

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mock BBQ Chicken Breasts

I used this recipe a couple years ago while I was cookig for a client who was on a diet called The Fat Flush. I truly love this diet and really enjoy the food, as well! This recipe is for Chicken breasts, wonderfully spiced, minus the ketchup, brown sugar, corn syrup, etc found in most BBQ sauces. So once again, a healthy alternative with all the flavor!


Chicken breasts, skinless (and possibly boneless)

Chicken broth

Cayenne, cumin, garlic and onion powder (I mix these in a small bowl rather than applying each one individually, but play with the mixture to suit your tastes, we don't do spicy so I have to go psaringly with the cayenne and light on the cumin). I would also add in some smoked paprika for a sweet smokey flavor (this spice wasn't available when I first started making this dish).


Sprinkle the cayenne, cumin, garlic and onion powder on both sides of the chicken. Place chicken in non stick pan, add broth to the pan until the breasts are half covered. Cover with a tight-fitting lid on medium to medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Turn chicken pieces, cook until done.

Sometimes I have to add more broth to keep from burning the chicken if the pan gets dry. If you're not counting fat and calories, you could certainly use some olive oil.

Lamb and mashed root veggies

This is not a regular dinner for us as lamb is pretty expensive, but it is my husband's favorite and this is such a yummy and simple way to prepare lamb!

1 (3-4 pound) boneless leg of lamb
3 cloves garlic, cut into slivers
3 teaspoons dried dill weed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

Puncture the leg of lamb with the tip of a knife just far enough to insert slivers of garlic into the holes. Mix together the dill, salt and rosemary, and rub over the leg of lamb. Place the lamb, fatty side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.
Roast uncovered for 2 to 2 1/2 hours in the preheated oven, to an internal temperature of 155 degrees F (68 degrees C) for medium. Tent with aluminum foil and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes before carving. The lamb will continue to cook a little bit, and the juices will set up better for carving.

My favorite addition to this lamb is mashed root veggies, as opposed to mashed potatoes. These root veggies are so healthy and do not scream for cream and butter like starchy mashed potatoes.

2 medium celery root (celeriac), peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
4-6 large cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 of medium onion, chopped
1 cup beef broth
1 T. parsley

1) Bring broth to boil in sauce pan. Add in everything but the parsley and cover. Simmer for 25 minutes or until veggies are soft.

2) Pour off any broth and hold onto it. Mash the veggies until they are consistency of mashed potatoes. Add back a little broth if veggies are too thick to mash well.

3) Garnish with parsley. Enjoy

Over-used Recipes Swap

Monday, October 20, 2008

Peanut Butter Pie

My dear friend, Julie Trent, made this pie for a church dinner and my husband fell in love with it. We had some family visiting this evening so I decided to make this pie as a special treat...boy did it get rave reviews! Grandma Ros even requested it for our family's Thanksgiving Eve Pie Night. Thanks Julie, we sure love this pie and you can't beat a good dessert made from ingredients that are always in the pantry!

Julie uses a standard flour and shortening pie crust, but I really prefer a different one; more like a sugar cookie crust.

Pie Crust

1 egg
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 pinch salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces

1. Grease a 9 inch pie pan.
2. In a small bowl, mix egg and sugar together. In a separate bowl, combine salt and flour. Cut in butter. Stir in egg mixture, then knead dough into a smooth ball.
3. Keep refrigerated for 15 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
5. Pat dough evenly into pie pan, no need to roll.
6. Bake in oven for 20 minutes.

Pie Filling

3 eggs, separated
3/4 c sugar, divided
3 T cornstarch
1 T Flour
1/8 t salt
3 c milk
2 t butter
1 t vanilla
3/4 c powdered sugar
1/2 c peanut butter (I use crunchy)
1/4 t cream of tartar

Separate eggs. In saucepan combine 1/2 c sugar, cornstarch, flour, & salt. Add egg yolks & milk. Bring to boil over med. heat. Cook, stirring 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add butter and vanilla.

Cut peanut butter into powdered sugar. Sprinkle 1/3 peanut butter crumbs over bottom of crust. Spoon 1/2 filling over crumbs. Sprinkle 1/3 crumbs, top w/ remaining filling.

Combine egg whites and cream of tartar. Beat until foamy. Beat in remaining sugar until peaks form. Spread meringue over pie. Sprinkle on remaining peanut butter crumbs. Bake 8-10 minutes @ 375 until meringue is light golden. Cool completely.

The Cool completely. step is actually the hardest part of the whole process.

I was able to get a picture, but not before half the pie was already missing. And even though I warned everyone that it should cool more, the compliments kept flooding in about how good it was, even a bit warm. The peanut butter flavor really comes through once it's cool, though.

Shepherd's Pie

Paul loves shepherd's pie. The first time we made it together was when we were engaged. We followed Paul's family's standard recipe that consisted of green beans in tomato soup, topped with ground beef and mashed potatoes. Not bad. But when St. Patrick's Day came around the following year, I decided to make sheperd's pie but searched for a more authentic recipe in honor of the holiday. I'm not sure how truly authentic this recipe is, but it has now become our standard. We love it and hope you will too!

Sheperd's Pie

Ingredients

2 lbs ground beef
1 tablespoon oil
2 onions(finely chopped)
6 large carrots (sliced in rounds)
2 tomatoes(chopped)
1 cup beef stock or bouillon
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper(to taste)
5 large potatoes potatoes (boiled and mashed)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Directions
1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Brown the beef in oil. Remove from pan and set aside.
3. Drain most of the accumulated fat from the pan.
4. Sauté onions and carrots in reserved beef drippings until tender, and then add chopped tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes.
5. Add broth and stir in herbs and seasonings.
6. Add beef to the broth and vegetable mixture and continue cooking for 5 minutes.
7.Transfer all ingredients to a 9x13 inch ovenproof casserole.
8. Top with mashed potatoes and sprinkle cheese on top.
9. Bake uncovered in 375-degree oven for 30-40 minutes, or until cheese is melted. We like to turn on the broiler for the last few minutes to get a nice, bubbly cheese crust on top.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cake Balls!



I totally stole this photo off of http://therecipegirl.blogspot.com/2008/10/pumpkin-cake-pops.html but this is a variation on my famous cakeballs

Here's how you make them:
Bake a cake (any kind)
Get a can of frosting (any kind)
start melting your almond bark (or chocolate chips work fine)

Crumple the cake into a bowl, add 2/3 can of frosting and squish all together. Roll into little balls of cake. Put on a cookie sheet and freeze for a while. Dip them in the melted chocolate, sprinkle with tiny chips or sprinkles.

I've used chocolate cake/chocolate frosting/melted chocolate chips and also yellow cake/white frosting/melted white almond bark. It's all good! They are ESPECIALLY good if you make them from your sister-in-law's leftover raspberry wedding cake! Delish!

Butter Chicken



1oz butter
1 onion chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 large boneless chicken breasts
1t ginger
1t chili powder
1t tumeric
1t cinnamon
1t salt
¾ c cream (I use whole milk just fine)
1T tomato paste
½ t garam masala (I usually forget this and it is fine)


Saute onion and garlic in butter. Cut chicken into bite size pieces. Combine spices and salt and toss chicken until well coated. Saute chicken until golden brown. Stir in cream and tomato paste. Cover pan and simmer 10 min or until cooked through. Sprinkle with garam masala. (I serve with rice)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Roasted Asparagus

This is sort of the same story as my Brussels Sprouts...I never thought I'd get my husband to eat this, but now he loves it! This veggie is simple, very quick and presents well!

You can use fresh or frozen asparagus. If using fresh asparagus, select spears that have purple tips and thin stalks; the thicker the stalk the woodier the texture. Cut or snap off the woody ends. If using frozen, I would suggest petite, whole spears and there is no need to thaw the small spears, they'll cook super quick in the oven.

Spread asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use your hands, massaging the oil onto the asparagus to ensure even coating all around. Place in a 400 degree oven. Time with vary depending on size of stalk. Watch closely as thin and petite spears can take as few at 5 minutes while thicker stalks could take 10-15 minutes. You're looking for a tender stalks but not limp so don't overcook!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Kids and adults alike love these sweet potato fries! My mom buys sweet potatoes every time I visit so I can make these for her.

Peel your sweet potatoes and cut into wedge-type fries. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet, sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper then drizzle with olive oil. I use my hands and massage all the potatoes with the oil to ensure they're coated on all sides. Position potatoes in a single layer again and cook in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Turn all the potatoes, return back to the oven and finish roasting until potatoes are tender.

This roasting process really brings out the natural sweetness of the potato and couple with the oil you get a crispy outer with a soft inner and they're just wonderful!

Edamame

You an purchase these so there is no prep work, whatsoever. However, not all edamame are the same so pay close attention when purchasing. Edamame is green soy bean (literally in Japanese). You can purchase in the pod or shelled, (we prefer in the pod) fresh or frozen (we prefer frozen).

The reason I prefer frozen is most of what's available frozen has already been cooked (not all so read the package!!!). So preparing frozen, in the pod edamame is as simple as thawing (a microwave or rinsing in warm water can make quick work of this process), sprinkle with kosher salt and serve. My kids would prefer eating these to potato chips. You cannot eat the pod so use your teeth to rake the beans out of the pod and you get a tiny hint of salt from the outside of the pod.

If your edamame are not pre-cooked (whether fresh or frozen), simply toss them in a pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes, drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Salt and eat.

Buttercup Squash

OK, this has NOTHING to do with prep and everything to do with buttercup squash just being delicious! I do find it hard to locate in most grocery stores, but if you ask your produce guy or gal, I'm betting they can order it for you. Buttercup looks like an acorn squash but has a mottled looking skin rather than just the solid green-black skin.

Cut squash in half, scoop out seeds and gunk. Turn upside on microwave safe plate and nuke until soft. Scoop from skin, pile into a bowl, add a bit of butter and tiny bit of salt to serve! You can also try it with a dash of ginger or cinnamon and brown sugar, but my family just prefers it plain. And since this is a winter squash it will store for a longer period of time than summer squashes. So when you find it in the store, don't hesitate to buy a couple and store in a cool, dark place.

Sauteed Spinach

This works for any greens. However, the tougher the green, such as a collard, the longer you would need to cook them. A soft green like spinach or beet greens cooks quickly. Spinach is especially nice because you can purchase baby spinach and never have to prep the greens, just open the bag and dump in the pan. If using a green with a tough spine, remove the spine and cut leaves into small strips.

In a saute pan over medium heat, bring olive oil to medium - medium high temperature, add minced garlic for 30 seconds then pile in the greens. If you have more greens than pan space, be patient and work them in as the greens begin to wilt. Add salt to taste, toss and cook just until wilting begins (just a minute or two). If you're cooking a heavier green, you may need to add a couple teaspoons of water and cover with a lid to cook until tender. Remove from pan and top with some fresh grated parmesan or I like vinegar on my greens.

This is a great way to try new greens to see which one you prefer. Greens have such varying flavors and I must say, I haven't found one I don't like.

Roasted Beets

My girls and I really adore these, not so popular with the males in our family, though. If you are selective about your beets, you can get two veggies out of one bunch of beets! I love beet greens so when I am sorting through bunches of beets i the grocery store, I look for big, green leaves as well as bulbs that are 3 inches or less in diameter (1.5-2 inches is my preference). At one of our local organic markets they separate the bulb from the greens and this is especially nice for sorting through and finding the smaller beets.

If greens aren't separated, snip with a pair of kitchen shears about one inch above the bulbs. Wash but don't feel a need to scrub the outside as you will peel it off once cooked. Place beets on a piece of tin foil, large enough to completely wrap around the beets and make a foil packet. If your beets are large (3 inches or more), cut into smaller pieces for faster cooking. Dice 1-2 shallots and strip 2-3 stems of thyme, add both to beets. Drizzle with olive oil. Salt is not necessary as beets are naturally high in sodium. Wrap in foil making a pouch. Place on pan and roast in 400 degree oven for 40 or so minutes (time will vary greatly based on size of beets). You can check for doneness by inserting a fork into the center of the bulb, when beet is soft all the way through, it's done.

Remove from foil and allow to cool a bit. You can use a knife to rake the outer skin off or you can rub them off by hand, but beware that the beets will stain clothes and skin. I use kitchen grade gloves and a knife to cut the top and bottom off and then run skin off from there.

My father-in-law likes his beets with vinegar on them, I prefer them plan or you can even put a small pat of butter on them. The greens can be prepared in the same manor as sauteed spinach.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

For those of you who know my meat-and-potatoes husband, I can't tell you how hard it was to get him to try Brussels Sprouts for the first time. Now they are his favorite and he requests them often.

I purchase frozen petite Brussels Sprouts and allow them to thaw (microwave makes quick work of this process). In a saute pan, add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, heat oil to medium add finely diced onion and dump in the Brussels Sprouts, saute until sprouts get a bit of brown on the outer leaves. Add 3/4 - 1 cup chicken stock, cover reduce heat and cook until sprouts are tender. Remove lid and reduce until all liquid is gone.

Spread sprouts and onions onto a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle lightly with salt (remember the chicken stock has lots of sodium in it) and roast in 400 degree oven until outer leaves become slightly brown and crispy.

This is more labor-intensive than most of my veggies, but the chicken stock step removes the bitterness of the sprouts and the roasting helps draw out the natural sweetness and moisture out so your sprouts aren't soggy.

Sauteed Broccoli & Cauliflower


My husband and children LOVE this one, too. This is a nice alternative when you tire of steamed veggies.

Cut broccoli and/or cauliflower into small florets (or you can purchase bags of cut-up florets). You can also use frozen broccoli, but you'll need to adjust the cooking time. Thaw broccoli in the microwave for a few minutes and remove any excess moisture from the bag before dumping into the pan.

In a large saute pan, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom and heat to about medium high, toss in some minced garlic for 30 seconds, then add broccoli and/or cauliflower. Season with salt (my husband also likes onion powder on this and if you do not have fresh garlic you can use garlic powder at this stage, too), cover and cook until soft, stirring often. If your veggies are beginning to stick and burn, add a couple teaspoons of water and keep covered until tender. Once broccoli is soft, remove cover and allow any moisture to cook out of the pan. You want the veggies to get some of that yummy brown caramelly coloring and flavor.

A soft, tender veggie with lots of flavor and no need to coat in butter or cheese sauce!

Honey Carrots

This one is so simple, but everyone always says how yummy these are. You can use baby carrots for ease, but I purchase 5lbs bags of regular carrots at Sam's Club to save money. Peel, cut into rounds (I usually shoot for about 1/2 inch thick) plunk into pot. Cover with water and add a big scoop of honey. We also buy bulk honey so sometimes by the time we get to the end of the bottle the honey has started crystallizing. I use this for my carrots since I can't squeeze it onto peanut butter and honey sandwiches, which is also a favorite for my kids.

These are so yummy and do not need butter or salt!

Favorite Veggies

What are your favorite veggies and how do you prepare them?

A friend of ours has been coming to our house for dinner each week and what seems like simple veggies to me, he finds quite tasty and always remarks on them. So I thought it might be an enlightening exercise to have everyone post your favorite veggies and how you prepare them for your family.

Here is my list for favorite family veggies:
Honey Carrots
Sauteed Broccoli & Cauliflower
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Roasted Beets
Sauteed Spinach
Garlicky Green Beans
Buttercup Squash
Edamame
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Roasted Asparagus

Prep on all of these is very simple, which is one reason they're my favorite, as well. I'll post each veggie in a separate post and you can simply click on the veggie above for a direct link.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce

Image and recipe courtesy of www.smittenkitchen.com

One of my new favorite places to find recipes is a website called Smitten Kitchen. I've found dozens of recipes there that I want to try. One we've recently add to our repetoire is for poached eggs in tomato sauce. It could be a breakfast dish or served at dinner with a side of spinach sauteed in garlic (as suggested in the original post.) Enjoy!

Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce

-1 can (14 ounces) tomato puree (I used a can of diced tomatoes, and it worked great)
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1 clove garlic, minced
-Big pinch of sugar
-Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
-Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
-4 large eggs
-4 slices toasted country bread, for serving
-Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add tomato sauce and bring to a boil; season with sugar, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 to 20 minutes.

Gently crack eggs into tomato mixture, cover, and let cook 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, uncover, and let stand 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer each egg to a piece of toast. Spoon over sauce, garnish with cheese, and season with salt and pepper; serve immediately.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Chicken Casserole

I rarely make casserole anymore (due to high blood pressure and the fact that most casseroles use prepackaged foods with more sodium than I can handle), but this was a favorite when I was growing up and I just needed to share it's simple goodness!

1 chicken cut-up (or whatever kind of chicken you like)
1 pkg pepperidge farm stuffing (small package, can't remember exact ounces)
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1/2 stick of butter

Place chicken in large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook until chicken is done, remove from liquid and let cool. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in bottom of 13X9 pan. Pull chicken from bone, removing skin and place chicken pieces in the buttered pan. Combine 2 cans of soup with one can of water then pour over chicken. Mix stuffing with liquid left from cooking chicken. Make a really moist stuffing mixture as it will be baked for awhile and will dry out a bit. Spoon stuffing mixture on top of soup and bake for approximately 30 minutes.

The Beauty of Bread

I am linking this from my sister-in-law's blog. The Beauty of Bread If any of you follow my personal blog you would have recently heard me talking about how much I love this recipe...it's so easy and versatile. The idea is from one batch of yeast dough you can get cinnamon rolls, bread sticks and a leftover-casserole-wrapped-in-bread dinner. I've not made the casserole in bread, but I've made tons of cinnamon rolls, bread sticks (I use less butter and sprinkle with garlic salt and parmesan cheese) and yeast rolls. This recipe is so quick and easy...and I'm not a fan of bread baking.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Refried Beans

When Paul was on his mission in Italy, he served with a Sister from Mexico. She taught him an easy, tasty recipe for refried beans . It is, in my opinion, so much better than the canned refried beans that I grew up eating. It's also super simple.

You'll notice I use canned pinto beans. You can always start with dried beans and soak them if you want. I've done this before, but I found it didn't taste much different than starting with the whole, canned beans.

Refried Beans:

1 can pinto beans, undrained
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons of oil
1 chicken boullion cube (beef also works well.)

Fry the onion in the oil over medium heat. When onions become translucent, add the pinto beans the chicken boullion cube. Cook the beans until they start to become soft and easy to mash(5-10 mins), stirring occasionally. Once beans the beans are soft, take a wooden spoon, scrape some of the beans from the center of the pot and mash them on the side. (I hope this makes sense. You could probably just use a masher, but I don't have one.) Keep mashing the beans until they reach your desired consistency.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sour Cream Scones

Well, since there is officially a scone label on this blog, I have to add in my favorite scone recipe. I recently posted this to my family blog so I'll just copy and paste it in here. ENJOY!

9/25/2008
This recipe is one I've used for years and absolutely adore! I don't care for traditional dry scones so this recipe is perfect as it makes the most moist, buttery and melt-in-your mouth scones. This is a lovely base so get creative and add your favorite berries, raisins, orange peel, chocolate chips, etc.

1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
1 egg

In a small bowl, blend the sour cream and baking soda, and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a large baking sheet.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt. Cut in the butter. Stir the sour cream mixture and egg into the flour mixture until just moistened.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead briefly. This is a moist dough so only use enough flour to keep from sticking to your work surface. Pat dough into a 3/4 inch thick round. Using a pizza cutter, cut into 12 wedges, and place them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. I also use cookie cutters, especially for Christmas morning breakfast fun, try not to overwork the dough when reshaping excess from cookie cutters.



Bake 18 - 22 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown on the bottom. Tops may not appear to be browning so watch the bottoms.



Connor has become a bit leery of trying new foods this past year so we've created a reward system for him trying new foods. For every 10 new foods he tries, he can have anything he wants for dinner. Now, Connor being the wonderful kid he is, has not figured out that anything could be ice cream, cake, candy, etc. He asks for Frosted Mini Wheats almost every time. Anyway, sorry for the tangent. Connor was not so sure about eating the scone...even though I told him how much he'd love them. He replied with, "I don't want to taste the scum!" Then Lillee chimed in, "I want a scum, I love scum!" This is her response to anything that someone else may be getting and she feels she might miss out on.

I gave the kids the option of hot scone with butter and fresh canned strawberry jam or cinnamon sugar.


After one bite, they were all in love with the scum and begging for seconds within no time. Cinnamon sugar was the favorite amongst the kids, Al included, but I preferred the strawberry jam.

Rosemary Scones

Scones are not usually something I really really enjoy. They are in my opinion very dry and hard, which is why i call them stones.
The following recipe is titled as a scone but is more in the realm of a biscuit.
I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

2 cups self rising flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp finely choped rosemary
1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup milk


Preheat oven to 450 degrees, grease Baking pan(I use non stick foil)
Sift flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl, stir in rosemary
Cut in butter
Add Milk and mix to form a soft dough knead on a floured board
Roll to a thickness of about 3/4 of an inch
cut into rounds and bake for 8-10 min.

This is great as is, but rest assured that I will try other variations such as blueberry.
Feel free to experiment, but most of all enjoy yourself

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tonight's dinner

Well tonight was a rare occasion. Connor and Lillee had been gone all afternoon with Grandma and I spent this time baking a pear preserve cake and biscuits for my cultural cooking meeting. By the time I cleaned the kitchen and the kids got back home I was running out of time. Lillee said she wanted pancakes for dinner and, I NEVER do this, but I gave in to the exhaustion, being behind schedule and wanting to be out of the kitchen. Pancakes it was...for the kids.

I went to my cultural cooking group and had some really delicious food! Our theme this month was pears, apples and cheese...anything you can do with one or all three of these components. I chose pears. I had canned spicy pear preserves last month and one of my favorite foods growing up was hot biscuits and pear preserves. So I made some fresh biscuits and also put together a pear preserve cake (think spiced bundt cake with layers of pear preserves and pecans).

The other ladies had brought wonderful contributions that served to be a delicious and not too unhealthy dinner. I had 7 different kinds of cheese...my favorites were:

1. Parrano - think Parmesan but softer...a texture like butter that's between fridge cold and room temperature

2. St Andre - think intense brie, but buttery

3. Port Salut - this is a very mild cheese with a soft texture, but with substance. I'm not sure how to describe it, you could poke it with your finger and see an indentation, but it would return to it's original form, yet not rubbery. Loved the texture and the mild flavor, a good cheese to serve to a crowd without fear of it being too overwhelming.

We had several different varieties of apples and pears. A wonderfully balanced salad with spinach, avocado, apple, walnuts and some Paul Newman dressing...LOVELY! There were several truly divine baked goods including an apple cake and an apple, pear and cranberry crumble...YUM!

However, my favorite is something you can easily replicate without a recipe! Take some good feta...my friend Gloree suggested a Bulgarian Feta instead of a Greek Feta, but we actually had a nice Greek Feta (not Athenos brand). Crumble the feta on a plate, sprinkle with chopped walnuts and drizzle with honey. The layers in this simple piece are amazing. You get a silky, yet pungent bite from the feta with a sticky sweet honey flavor mixing with the crunch and the slightly bitter, yet not offensive, taste that is distinctly walnut.

So dinner was pretty shabby for my kids, but a HUGE splurge for them. And mine was spectacular and not at all conventional :) My poor husband got nothing. I bet he'll be nuking a can of spaghettiO's later tonight.

UPDATE: I had no sooner posted this when my husband ran to the kitchen proclaiming he was starved and had to eat....he's making Ramen, his other standby.

Pumpkin Muffins

This is a recipe our family makes all the time. It's a great breakfast or a snack. Better yet, it's healthy and my kids love it. I originally found it here, and have adapted it a little by using whole wheat flour, less sugar, and and chocolate chips instead of raisins. The recipe makes a large batch (36 muffins!) but you can easily scale it down. We usually make the full batch and throw them in the freezer. They do really well warmed up in the microwave for 20 seconds.

Enjoy!

Pumpkin Muffins

4 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
6 eggs
1 (29 oz) can pumpkin
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/4 cups chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C). Grease three 12 cup muffin pans, or line with paper muffin liners.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ground cloves. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, pumpkin, and applesauce, until smooth.

3. Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly to make a smooth batter. Stir in the chocolate chips. Spoon batter into the prepared muffin cups.

4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.