Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Summer Gone?

Oh where... oh where could it be?

Every year, my summer seems to play out in much the same manner. Right after Easter, when there are no more non weekend days off until the end of the school year, I start daydreaming about summer. I imagine the productive days and the relaxing evenings. I think of all of the organizing I will get done around the house, all of the fabulous meals I will make, the projects I will finish, the daily trips to the gym to work-out... And then the end of the school year comes, and I spend about a week *not* doing any of those things because I need time to decompress... And then suddenly it is the fourth of July, and I think, "I need to get on it... Summer is half over..." and then it is August and I have achieved nothing... And now I need to get ready to go back to work, convinced NEXT winter I will be able to park in my garage... really, I will...

Here is how this summer has played out thus far...

May 29: The kids' last day of school
June 1: My last day of school
June 2: My future in-laws arrive
June 3-5: folding programs, making cookies, finishing touches for wedding, doing laundry, packing, preparing the house for our 2 week absence.
June 6: 4 pm My wedding, followed by the reception
June 7: leave for honeymoon at 6:15 am (not optimal, I know... long story...)
June 8-16: Honeymoon
June 17-21: Doing laundry, dealing with mail, writing Thank-you notes
June 22: My 30th birthday
June 24 - July 15: Teaching summer school (Gotta pay for that honeymoon somehow!)
July 20 - 24: Summer Institute to teach AP English (Fabulous information ... 3 hours of commuting per day and lots of homework...)
July 24: Board a plane to Houston to visit family
July 27: Board a plane to meet up with husband in Ft. Lauderdale for a mini trip

... and so here I am... July 28, wondering where my summer has gone. It has not been bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it has been busy, and it has been work intensive, and I go back to work on August 10. As I have never taught ANY of the three courses I am teaching next year, I should probably figure out what is going on with that, and so again I say... NEXT winter I will be able to park in my garage... Really. I will...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fourth Of July

I desperately wanted someone to invite us to a BBQ for the fourth of July. I really wanted a grilled brat. Normally, we have several invitations, and this year... none. It was supposed to rain, so my aunt wasn't having anything. My friends were all busy or out of town. My mom offered to throw something together for us, and while I greatly appreciated it, she lives about an hour away, and Brad had to work at 4:30 am the next day. At about 8:30 on July 3, one of Brad's buddies called and invited us to come watch the fireworks from his front porch. We declined because Brad had to work at 4:30 am the next day. I asked him to call back, though, and tell him that I would bring all of the sides if he would BBQ me a brat. He declared he was up to the challenge. He grilled me a brat, and in exchange, I made baked beans, potato salad, marinated tomatoes and mushrooms, deviled eggs, Sangria and fruit pizza. It worked out well for all parties involved, I think. Why didn't we just barbecue our own brats, you ask? Our grill is currently buried in the garage. Grr.

Baked Beans
6 slices bacon, cut into one inch pieces
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 large can baked beans (I used Bush's Original, because that is what was on sale at Wal-Mart)

Pour can of baked beans into a slow cooker, set to medium or high (depending on what choices you have) heat. Add brown sugar, stir, and cover.

Place the bacon pieces in a skillet over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. When bacon is browned and crispy, remove from the grease using a slotted spoon and stir it into the baked bean mixture. Add onions to the skillet with bacon grease, (turn down to medium heat) stirring frequently. When they are lightly browned, remove them from the grease using a slotted spoon, and stir them into the bean mixture. Heat baked beans in the slow cooker for 2 - 12 hours. (The longer they cook, the "smokier" they taste, but they are still really good after 2 hours.)

Byrdhouse Marinated Tomatoes and Mushrooms (from
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
1 (8 ounce) package fresh mushrooms
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, vegetable oil, sugar, salt, and pepper in a bowl; add the tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and basil; toss until evenly coated. Cover and chill in refrigerator at least 3 hours. Stir before serving.

The flavor of this dish was really good, but the texture of the experience weirded me out a bit. Next time I make it, I am going to use it to dress a lettuce salad. It would add the dressing, and the tomatoes and mushrooms and green onions, which I would add anyway. I think it will be AMAZING.

Sweet Potato Salad
2 red potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup milk
2 celery ribs, chopped
1/3 cup sliced green onion

Heat a large pot of well salted water to boil. When barely boiling, place the red potatoes in the pot, and bring back to boil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 2 minutes. Add sweet potatoes; return to a boil. Cook 8-10 minutes longer or until potatoes are fork-tender.

In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Drain potatoes; add to vinegar mixture and stir gently to coat. Cool.

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise and milk. Stir in the celery and onion. Gently stir into cooled potato mixture. Cover and chill at least 2 hours before serving.

I don't have anything resembling a deviled egg recipe you could follow, so I will just show you the picture. I put mayo, Dijon mustard and pickle relish in them, but I just sort of eye the amounts.

1 bottle dry red wine
1 tablespoon sugar
Juice of 1 large orange
Juice of 1 large lemon
1 large orange, sliced thin crosswise
1 large lemon, sliced thin crosswise
2 medium peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
8 oz. cold club soda
Slice fruit and place it at the bottom of pitcher. Pour juice from lemon and orange over fruit. Sprinkle sugar on top. Pour wine over the entire mixture, and gently stir to mix the flavors. Cover, and refrigerate over night. Just before drinking, add the club soda, and stir gently.
Brad got into the fruit pizza before I could take a photo, which I think in and of itself is a testament to how incredibly delicious this dessert is.

Fruit Pizza
1 (18 ounce) package refrigerated sugar cookie dough
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups fresh fruit (I used strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, but any fruit that doesn't brown easily works great. In the past I've also used raspberries, kiwi and peaches.)

1/2 cup white sugar
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon orange zest

Preheat oven to 350 F. Arrange cookie dough on greased pizza pan, and press dough flat into pan, no closer than about 1/2 inch from the side of the pan. (The dough will expand upon baking. Don't push it all the way to the edges, or it will bake over.) Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Allow to cool.

In a large bowl, stir together cream cheese, whipped topping and vanilla. Spread over cooled crust. Then, add gently press fruit into mixture. Chill in refrigerator until ready to apply sauce.
In a small saucepan, combine sugar, salt, corn starch, orange juice, lemon juice and water. Cook and stir over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat, and add grated orange rind. Allow to cool for 10 - 15 minutes. Spoon over fruit. Chill for two hours, then cut into wedges and serve.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Friday Night's Ode to the Irish

Friday night I made the first really nice dinner I have cooked since Brad and I got home from our honeymoon two weeks ago. It began with...

Pears with Cashel Blue Cream and Walnuts
4 oz. cream cheese
3 oz. Cashel Blue Cheese (I used whatever they sell at Aldi, and it was still delicious)
2 Tablespoons light cream
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
6 ripe pears
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Mixed salad greens
6 cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper

juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel
generous pinch of sugar
4 tablespoons olive oil

Mix cream cheese and blue cheese together in a small mixing bowl with a generous grinding of black pepper (1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon). Add cream, and stir. Add 1/4 cup chopped walnuts and incorporate well. Cover and chill until needed.

Peel and halve pears and scoop out the core. Place them in a bowl of water and 1 tablespoon lemon juice to prevent them from browning. To make dressing, whisk all dressing ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange a bed of lettuce on each of six salad plates. Place one tomato on each salad plate and sprinkle with remaining walnuts.

Drain pears well, and pat dry with a paper towel. Dip the pears halves in the dressing, and then set in the middle of the salad greens, hollowed side up. Divide the blue cheese mixture into sixths, and scoop it into the pears. Spoon dressing over the salads and serve.

Next, we had...

Pan Fried Gaelic Steaks
4 (8-12 oz) sirloin steaks
1 teaspoon oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup Irish Whiskey
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper

Dry the steaks with paper towels and season with pepper. Heat a heavy pan over high heat. When it is very hot, add oil and butter. When the butter is bubbling, add the steaks one at a time. Lower heat to medium. Thicker steaks will require more cooking time than thinner ones. Turn over half way through cooking time: for rare cook 3-4 minute, for medium cook 4-5 minutes, for well cook 5-6 minutes. To confirm, press gently in the center of the meat. If it is soft, it is rare. When there is some resistance, but the meat underneath feels soft, it is medium, and when it feels firm it is well done. (I bought my steaks at Costco, so they were about 2 inches thick. It took about 7 minutes per side to get them medium rare... I also cheat and use a meat thermometer to check the temperature.)

When steaks are properly prepared, remove them from the stove, place them on a plate, and loosely cover with foil to keep warm. Remove any excess fat drippings from the skillet. Saute garlic for about a minute. Add whiskey and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any sediment from cooking the steaks. Allow the liquid to reduce a little, then add the cream. Simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until mixture thickens a bit. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve next to or over the steaks.

Accompanied by...

Potato Cakes
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled (I used 3 large)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Boil potatoes in a large pot of water until tender, then drain well and mash. Salt well, the mix in the butter and allow to cool a bit.

Knead the flour (or as much as is needed to create a pliable dough). Roll to about 1/2 inch thick, and cut into triangles (or the shape of your choice, I suppose...)

Heat a griddle or heavy frying pan over low heat. Melt a small amount of butter in the pan. Cook the potato cakes for about 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Serve with butter or sugar.

This entire meal was fabulous. This was the first nice meal I made after Brad and I returned from our honeymoon, and it was SOO good. I would highly recommend any or all of these recipes.

Week 1 - Wednesday

Cilantro-Lime Pork Roll-Ups with Caramelized Onions

2 teaspoons grated lime peel
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound boneless pork loin chops or tenderloin, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 small onions thinly sliced
1 (16 oz.) can fat free refried beans
1 (11.5 oz) package flour tortillas for burritos (8 tortillas)
2 cups finely shredded pepper Jack or Monterrey Jack cheese
1 to 1/2 cups chunky salsa
1 (8 oz) container sour cream

In a large resealable Ziploc bag, mix lime peel, lime juice, garlic, cilantro, red pepper flakes and 1 tablespoon oil. Add pork; seal bag and turn to coat with lime marinade. Refrigerate 30 minutes to 2 hours.

In a medium - large sized skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add onions; cook 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions turn golden brown. Remove onions from skillet; keep warm.

Heat oven to 375 F. Remove pork from marinade; drain pork on paper towels to remove excess moisture. Discard Marinade.

In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add pork; cook 5 - 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink in the center. Remove skillet from heat; set aside.
Spray a 13 x 9 inch pan with non stick cooking spray.

To assemble, spoon t tablespoons beans down center of each tortilla. Top with pork, onions and cheese. Roll up tortillas; place seam sides down in baking dish.

Bake uncovered 18 - 24 minutes or until edges of tortillas are golden brown. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

These were really quite delicious. There are a couple of changes I will make when I make them again, and I WILL make them again. First, I am going to leave out the beans. The flavor of the beans doesn't quite go with the rest of the dish, I don't think. (I also don't love beans. If you are a lover of beans, I am sure you will enjoy them immensely.)

Second, I will either double the recipe, or use smaller tortillas. I guess I used tortillas that were too big, because the recipe only made 4 roll ups for me. I cut them in half and had 8 smaller ones, which is really all we needed, but If I needed 8 large tortillas worth of roll-ups, doubling the filling would be in order.

Finally, I did not think it needed salsa or sour cream at all, and that is saying quite a lot because I am addicted to sour cream. It is a food group for me. I put it on anything with melted cheese... except pizza, but that is only because I didn't think of it until now.... Maybe I'll try that. Anyway, I scooped the sour cream out of the container and onto my plate because by golly it called for sour cream, so I was going to use it. It didn't need sour cream. It was so delicious just by itself, that I didn't use ANY sour cream after the initial bite. In case you haven't been paying attention up to this point... The Cilantro Lime Pork Roll-Ups with Caramelized Onions are DYNAMITE!

Note: Brad and I ate the leftovers on Friday for lunch. I sprinkled a little extra jack cheese on top and microwaved until melted. Then, I topped the hot roll-ups with a dollop of sour cream and some chunky salsa. It was dynamite this way, as well.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Day 1 of The Cookbook Challenge

Okay, so I would really like to post my recipes daily, but I am teaching this pesky summer school class and between teaching it and planning for it, and taking my requisite daily nap in the summer, I don't seem to have as much time as I would like.

On Sunday, I made sloppy joes from the church cookbook, onions straws from Pioneer Woman's website and a Creamy Mojito Pie from the Bake-off Cookbook.

Sloppy Joes
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons ketchup
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon vinegar

Cook and drain ground beef. Combine ketchup, water, lemon juice, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and vinegar. Stir until all ingredients are combined. Simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in meat.

The recipe as written also called for a teaspoon of salt. I added it, and found it to be overkill, so I am leaving it out of the recipe here. I also simmered the sauce for closer to 30 minutes, and then simmered the meat in the sauce for probably close to 30 minutes, too - not because it needed it, but because I was preparing the onion straws during that time period. I had not had sloppy joes in years, and these were delicious.

Here is the link to the onion straws recipe on Pioneer Woman's website...

I followed her recipe exactly. These were work intensive, but really good.

I also made a dipping sauce for the onion straws, which was REALLY YUMMY.

Dipping Sauce for Onion Straws

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ketchup
2 tablespoons cream-style horseradish sauce
1/3 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1 pinch ground black pepper
1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to use.

The pie LOOKED and SMELLED delicious. Unfortunately, I didn't get to try any. I made it for Brad because he has recently become obsessed with the Mojito. He never ate any of it though, and so it sat, unloved, in my fridge for two days. I decided to give it a better life than I could provide and pawned it off on one of my friends. She said it has so far been a big hit among her family.

Creamy Mojito Pie
1 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust, softened as directed on box

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup whole or 2% milk
1 (4 serving size) box vanilla instant pudding mix
1/2 cup frozen (thawed) limeade concentrate
1 1/2 teaspoons rum extract

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon mint extract

Heat oven to 450F. Make pie crust as directed on box for One-Crust Baked Shell using a 9-inch glass pie plate. Bake 10 - 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely on a cooling rack, about 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on low speed until creamy. Add remaining filling ingredients; beat on low speed about 30 seconds or until blended. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally, until thickened and creamy.

Spoon filling evenly into pie crust; refrigerate while making topping.

In same bowl, beat topping ingredients on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Spread topping evenly over filling. Refrigerate 1 hour or until set.

On Monday and Tuesday, I ate leftover sloppy joes for lunch and dinner. On Wednesday night I made Cilantro-Lime Pork Roll-Ups with Caramelized Onions from the Bake-Off cookbook. I was unable to take a picture because I could not get my camera to recognize the new memory card I put in there. I still can't, but I figured out how to use the internal memory it has, so I have pictures of last night's dinner.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Everyone Needs A Challenge...

Last summer began the "Clean out My Freezer and Pantry Challenge of 2008." As you recall, I only bought fresh produce and dairy for just over 3 months as I used up my canned goods and deep freeze items which had reached survivalist proportions. We are not just talking surviving a hurricane or a earthquake... we are talking full on End of Days Nuclear Proliferation survivalist here. (Hence the three months of buying neither meat nor pantry items...)

I got that mess under control. My freezer is full again, but that has more to do with logistics. I live in Podunk middle of nowhere rural Missouri, so I tend to buy meat in bulk at Costco and freeze it. I have, however, made sure I don't have too much of any one item. I have *some* ground beef. I have *some* chicken. I have *a* brisket.

This summer, I have decided to tackle my cookbook collection. Cookbooks take up 15 - 20% of the shelf space in my library. Some of them are well loved and some of them have never been utilized. This summer, I am going to choose 5 cookbooks at random each week, and am going to try to make as many recipes as possible from those five cookbooks that week. If I come across a cookbook that has NOTHING I have any desire to make, it gets the boot. I will find it a home with someone who will appreciate it more than I will. Here is a photo of the cookbooks I chose this week.

This week, I grabbed the Sweet Serendipity cookbook as one of my original 5. The only recipes in this cookbook are fancy desserts. I have NO REASON to make a fancy dessert this week. I decided, though, that since I've used it before and will use it again, it doesn't get the boot. I just grabbed another cookbook instead, and will utilize Sweet Serendipity next time I need a fancy dessert. Stay tuned for pictures and recipes of this exciting new challenge.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Smoky Mountain Chipotle Chicken

Smoky Mountain Chipotle Chicken

1 teaspoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, grated
1/4 cup bourbon
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon liquid smoke flavoring
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced 1 teaspoon adobo sauce from canned chipotle peppers
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 (6 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons seasoned salt
1 red onion, sliced thickly
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 slices provolone cheese

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onion; cook and stir until the onion softens and turns translucent, about 5 minutes. Pour in the bourbon, and simmer for 4 minutes.

Pour in the cider vinegar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, minced chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 10 minutes. Pour sauce into a bowl, and refrigerate until no longer hot, about 30 minutes.

Season chicken breasts with seasoned salt, and place into a shallow glass dish. Pour all but 1 cup of the cooled sauce over the chicken breasts, and turn to coat. Refrigerate remaining sauce.

Cover the chicken and refrigerate 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Leaving a thick coat of marinade sauce on the chicken, move it to a baking dish. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked and juices run clear.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat in a small skillet. Add onion, and saute about 5 minutes, or until onion begins to get soft.

Remove chicken from oven. Place red onion rings on top of chicken, and a slice of provolone cheese on top of onions. Return to oven for no more than 5 minutes to allow cheese to melt.

Creamed Corn
1 ½ tablespoons butter
1½ tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
3 cups fresh or frozen whole kernel corn

Melt butter in heavy saucepan; add flour and salt, stirring to blend. Slowly add whipping cream, stirring constantly until thickened. Add sugar and corn, heat thoroughly. For Au Gratin, place corn in a 9 or 10 inch shallow casserole dish; sprinkle with ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and brown under broiler.

This is a lovely picture of the whole meal. I think the mystery product in the lower right hand corner is instant mashed potatoes. I would never serve them to guests, but I have been rocking out the instant mashed potatoes lately. They are SO EASY, and since I slather them with butter and sour cream anyway, you can't hardly tell they are instant.

Orange Beef

Orange Beef
1 1/2 pounds beef top sirloin, thinly sliced
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 cup long grain rice
2 cups water
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons orange zest
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
8 broccoli florets, lightly steamed or blanched
1/4 cup vegetable, peanut or olive oil
Lay beef strips out in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Allow to dry in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, rice vinegar, orange juice concentrate, salt and soy sauce. Set aside.

Meanwhile, combine rice and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes, or until rice is tender. Add more water at the end if necessary.

Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Toss dried beef in cornstarch to coat. Fry in the hot oil in small batches until crispy and golden brown; set aside. Drain all of the oil except about 1 tablespoon.

Add orange zest, ginger and garlic to the remaining oil, and cook briefly until fragrant. Add the soy sauce mixture to the wok, bring to a boil, and cook until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Add beef, and heat through, stirring to coat. Serve immediately over steamed rice, and garnish with broccoli.

Dinner with Javier (The Crazy Peruvian Houseguest)

Pan Seared Tilapia with Boursin
tilapia Fillets
lemon juice
1 cup bread crumbs
boursin cheese
olive oil
Place bread crumbs on plate or in a pie plate. Heat olive oil (about 1 tablespoon per fillet) in a large skillet on medium high heat. Lightly brush both sides of each piece of fish with lemon juice. Then, place press fish into bread crumbs. Flip fish over to coat the other side with crumbs, and place the fish in the skillet. Repeat with any remaining fish. Cook for 3-5 minutes per side, depending on thickness of fish. The fish should be uniform in color, and flake when tested with a fork.
When fish is cooked, remove skillet from heat. Add Boursin cheese to the top, and serve.
Oven Roasted Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into bite-size florets (about 8 cups)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Toss the cauliflower with the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper on a baking sheet; sprinkle with the salt and thyme and toss again. Roast until golden and tender, about 20 minutes.

Sauteed Garlic Spinach
1 1/2 pounds baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped garlic (6 cloves)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Sea or kosher salt, optional

In a very large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and saute the garlic over medium heat for about 1 minute, but NOT browned. Add the spinach, the salt, and pepper to the pot, toss it with the garlic and oil, cover the pot, and cook it for 2 minutes. Uncover the pot, turn the heat on high, and cook the spinach for another minute, stirring until all the spinach is wilted. Using a slotted spoon, lift the spinach to a serving bowl and top with the butter, a squeeze of lemon, and a pinch of sea or kosher salt.
Baked Sweet Potato Fries
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into fry shape
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
Preheat oven to 425 F. Place sweet potato fries on a baking sheet. Evenly drizzle olive oil over fries, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Moons over My Hammy

Technically Mondays are Brad's night to cook. Brad ACTUALLY cooks about 1 out of every 10 Mondays. Two Mondays ago he made Chicken Picatta. It was delicious. It is disturbing that we stock all of the ingredients one needs to make Chicken Picatta, but we do. Last Monday I think he had frozen pizza. I was dining at the delicious Emperor's Palace for family Girl's Night. Yesterday was a prime example of what normally happens on Monday, though...

Sometime on Sunday, I receive a text inquiring as to what I want for supper the following night. Sometimes I suggest something, sometimes I mention a particular product that needs to be used, sometimes I say something utterly brilliant and helpful, like "dunno." Around 3 pm on Monday, I usually get this text: "I am uninspired." When I arrive home 1-6 hours later, depending on what I have going on, either *I* cook something, or we go out. How did this play out this week? On Sunday afternoon, I got a text. "What do you want me to make you for dinner tomorrow?" I responded, "Biscuits and gravy, because I already have the sausage thawed." At 2 pm on Monday, I got a text. "You might have to help me make the gravy." My response. "You don't know how to make gravy?" Wait for it... Wait for it... "Not if it isn't premade."

I guess I am making dinner.

I didn't feel good, though. I got home and just wanted to lounge on the sofa. I did, too, successfully. I kept saying I would make dinner, but I didn't, and I didn't. Then, a Denny's commercial came on TV. The Original Grand Slam breakfast for $3.99. "Do you want to go to Denny's?" Brad asked, "I'll drive." SOLD.

Unfortunately, though, the $3.99 Grand Slam is only available Monday - Friday, 6 am - 4 pm. I got the Moons Over My Hammy.... mostly because I like to say Moons Over My Hammy. Brad got the Lumberjack Breakfast. I ate his pancakes.

Brad might not ever cook on "his night," but I'm not perfect either. This first photo is of my entertainment center. Notice the matching Christmas Ornament Trees on either side of the candle holder? Yeah. I forgot to take them down when I finally took down my Christmas decorations the first week in FEBRUARY. Now, almost April, the ornament trees remain firmly planted atop the entertainment center. I figure I'll take them down before my in-laws get here for my wedding... in June. Hopefully by that point we will also have removed the dead Christmas tree from the side of the house. I am sure my neighbors have called into some morning radio show to complain about us.

We still needed to use the sausage, though, so we had biscuits and gravy tonight.

2 1/4 cup Bisquick baking mix
2/3 cup 2% milk

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Mix together mix and milk until thoroughly combined. Spread 1/2 cup Bisquick on a clean dry surface. Place dough in the middle. Knead dough 20 times. Roll out to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut biscuits out of dough. Place biscuits on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8 - 10 minutes, or until golden brown. (This recipe is also on the side of the box. You really don't need me to tell you what it is...)

Sausage Gravy
1 pound sausage
1/4 cup flour
2 cups 2% milk
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet on medium heat, saute sausage until cooked throughout. Crumble. Add flour, and stir until sausage and flour are combined. Add milk. Increase heat to medium-high. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cook over medium high heat until sauce thickens. Reduce heat to low until ready to serve.

Hash Brown Casserole
1 medium onion, chopped
Olive oil
1 stick butter or margarine
1 cup sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 pounds frozen hash browns, thawed
Preheat oven to 375 F.
In a small skillet on medium heat, saute onion in olive oil for about 5 minutes, or until onion begins to brown. Meanwhile, melt butter or margarine in a large bowl. Stir in sour cream, cream of mushroom soup, pepper, salts and cheddar cheese. Add onions. Add hash browns and mix well.
Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Spread mixture into pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes.

Here is a picture of the biscuits and gravy, along with hash brown casserole, and some mediocre scrambled eggs. How does one make a mediocre scrambled egg? Beats me. I did what I always do, but this time they seemed bland. Also, it is a good darned thing my plates are colorful, because that is the most "yellow" meal ever. It needs something green, or perhaps orange.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Chicken Tetrazzini

Chicken Tetrazzini

5 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 pound white mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk, room temperature
1 cup heavy whipping cream, room temperature
1 cup chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
12 ounces linguine
3/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 cups grated cheese (mozzarella, provel, provolone or some combination therein)
1 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup dried Italian-style breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Generously spray a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Melt 1 tablespoon each of butter and oil in a deep large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the hot pan and cook until pale golden and just cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate to cool slightly. Coarsely shred the chicken into bite-size pieces and place in a large bowl.

Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon each of butter and oil to the same pan. Add the mushrooms and saute over medium-high heat until the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates and the mushrooms become pale golden, about 12 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, and thyme, and saute until the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until it evaporates, about 2 minutes. Transfer the mushroom mixture to the bowl with the chicken.

Melt 3 more tablespoons butter in the same pan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk, cream, broth, nutmeg, remaining 1 3/4 teaspoons salt, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Increase the heat to high. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 cups of cheese.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the linguine and cook until it is tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 9 minutes. Drain. Add the linguine peas, and parsley to the chicken mixture. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Pour sauce over mixture. Stir a bit so sauce coats the the mixture and is blended.

Stir the cheese and breadcrumbs in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the pasta. Bake, uncovered, until golden brown on top and the sauce bubbles, about 25 minutes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Today's Chocolate Cake

Amazing Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Mousse Filling and Ganache Frosting
1 (18.25 ounce) package devil's food cake mix
1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and sliced
1/3 cup strawberry preserves
Ganache Frosting
1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
6 tablespoons butter (DO NOT USE MARGARINE)
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease and flour 3 8 inch cake pans.

In a large bowl, mix together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, beaten eggs and water. Pour equal portions of batter into each cake pan.
Bake according to cake mix package directions for 8 inch cake pans, or until top is springy to the touch and a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool cake thoroughly in pan at least 20 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack. Cool thoroughly before assembling.
In a medium sized bowl, combine sliced strawberries and preserves. Fold to combine.
In a large bowl, beat whipping cream, gradually adding powdered sugar, until stiff peaks form.
Gently fold strawberry mixture into whipped cream. Cover and Refrigerate until needed.
Place one layer of cake in the center of a serving platter. Place 1/2 of the mousse mixture in the center of the cake. and spread evenly to within 1/4 inch of the edge of the cake. (The weight of the remaining pieces will push the mousse out to the edges.) Gently place the second layer of cake on top of the mousse. Repeat step with the strawberry mousse. Gently add the final layer of cake on top. Refrigerate at least an hour before icing cake.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add all ganache ingredients together. Stir constantly until ingredients are melted and smooth. Allow to cool about 20 minutes. Place saucepan in the refrigerator to cool an additional 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
To frost, spread ganache evenly on the top and sides of cake. Return to refrigerator for at least one hour before serving. Ganache will harden up and retain the moisture of the cake.

Seafood Night!

So it turns out I don't love the little scallops. I really enjoy the big ones, but the little ones, not so much. Dinner on this particular evening had a seafood theme. I made Near East Rice Pilaf rice box and roasted broccoli to accompany the following two recipes.

Scallops Scampi
1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon prepared Dijon-style mustard
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, or 1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 pound scallops, rinsed and dried. (Peeled, deveined raw shrimp would also work nicely)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, and parsley. When the butter melts completely, remove from heat.

Arrange scallops in a shallow baking dish. Pour the butter mixture over the scallops.
Bake in preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until the scallops are opaque.

Baked Dijon Salmon
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
4 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
4 (4 ounce) fillets salmon
salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a small bowl, stir together butter, mustard, and honey. Set aside. In another bowl, mix together bread crumbs, pecans, and parsley.

Brush each salmon fillet lightly with honey mustard mixture, and sprinkle the tops of the fillets with the bread crumb mixture.

Bake salmon 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until it flakes easily with a fork. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with a wedge of lemon.
I got out pork chops to make Pork Chops and Pierogies, a new favorite of ours, but I didn't make it and didn't make it, and then I didn't want it. Instead, I made this delicious stir fry experience, but I cannot for the life of me find the recipe. I know there were scrambled eggs in there, and fried garlic chips, and I think some mushrooms... I am still searching. It was GOOD!... Good Grief.... It has been 10 minutes, and I am still looking. Where could I have possibly gotten this recipe? Well, I give up. I can't find it. I remember it well, because it was really delicious and really easy, but I had to keep moving ingredients in and out of the pan. Fry the garlic, then remove. Cook the eggs, then remove, etc. At any rate, it was delicious and I served it with roasted broccoli. When I find the recipe, I will send it your way.

Below is a picture of a delicious salad. It is red leaf lettuce with chicken, peas, mushrooms, cucumbers, provel cheese, homemade croutons and some Zia's Sweet Italian Dressing. Yum!

I'm behind... again.

I have been a grading fool lately, which means I have not branched out in the cooking department. I figure it will get really redundant if the title for multiple posts is "Grilled Cheese... It's What's For Dinner, though it is. I am taking this opportunity to catch up on some recipes for some pictures I have taken of meals, and then, I am going to write about the delicious cake I made today for my luncheon with the girls!

Penne with Tomato Sauce and Sausage

1 (16 ounce) package penne
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 (14 ounce) cans Italian-style diced tomatoes, drained
1 small can tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or 3 teaspoons dried Parsley

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook pasta in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente; drain.

Heat oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Cook sausage and pepper flakes until sausage is evenly brown. Stir in onion and garlic, and cook until onion is tender. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, cream, and salt. Simmer until mixture thickens, 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir cooked pasta into sauce, and heat through. Sprinkle with parsley.

*This was really delicious, though I thought it needed to be a bit more wet. In the future, I will probably either use a bit less pasta, or create half again as much sauce. Brad thought it was great, and though he is awesome and eats anything I put in front of him with out complaint, I really do think he thought it was great the way it was. I am a saucy girl. I like lots of sauce. *

I also just remembered that if I add another picture now, it will be at the very top of this document, thus giving me a headache trying to format everything, so I am just moving on to a new post.... I'll be back!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Slacker? Yes, But Not in the Way You Think...

It isn't that I have been lazy about posting... It is that I have been lazy about COOKING. Partly, this is due to the fact that we purchased a Honeybaked Ham on President's Day, and ate it in some form or another for about 3 dinners.

Monday night (President's Day), we had Honeybaked ham, roasted vegetables and roasted garlic mashed potatoes. My mom started roasting the vegetables this way a year or two ago, and MAN are they good! On that particular day, I made carrots and broccoli.

Roasted Vegetables
Fresh Vegetables
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place vegetables on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle sparingly with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. (I always use freshly milled/grated/ground... whatever it is you do when you start out with chunks and turn the thingy so flakes of salt and pepper come out on your food...) Bake vegetables about 20 minutes, or until cooked to desired texture. It takes about 20 minutes for broccoli. Carrots and other dense veggies take a bit longer. I put the carrots in for 8 minutes, then pulled them out and added the broccoli, and cooked for an additional 20 minutes.

In addition to roasted vegetables, we also had roasted garlic mashed potatoes. The link to the recipe is to the left. Here is a photo of the entire meal.
For Brad's lesson this week, I made Cheesecake filled Red Velvet Cupcakes. They were AMAZING! For whatever reason, the pictures do not do them justice, but they were
Cheesecake Filled Cupcakes
1 cake mix, prepared per the
package directions
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese,
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 muffin tins (24 muffins)
with cupcake liners.
Prepare cake mix per the package directions. (I used red velvet cake this time, which was amazingly good. I would definitely recommend red velvet or some form of chocolate as the best options, because they will not get overpowered by the cream cheese filling. )
In a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese and sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Beat until thoroughly mixed. Stir in chocolate chips.
Pour about 1/3 cup batter into each cupcake liner. Add or subtract a bit if you run out or end up with too much. Drop 2 tablespoons cream cheese mixture into the center of the cake batter. Again, add or subtract a bit if you run out or end up with too much.
Bake cupcakes per the cake mix package directions for cupcakes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before icing.
Cream Cheese Icing (Yet another recipe that won't make any sense to you if you don't already have a clue about what I am describing... You can always depend on me for that!)
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
4-6 cups powdered sugar
In a medium bowl, thoroughly combine cream cheese and butter. Add 4 cups powdered sugar, and stir until well combined. Add more powdered sugar if necessary, until icing is the desired consistency and sweetness.
Spread a generous amount of icing on each cup cake.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My Boys!

Okay, so my dog looks a little possessed in this photo, but really, he is a very sweet, loving puppy.

Grilled Cheese... It's What's For Dinner...

This post could also aptly be titled... Motivation... It's What I Lack...

Brad and I went out of town this past weekend, and as a result, I didn't cook much the previous week. Other than sheer laziness and a lack of motivation, I have no excuse for this week.
Monday, we arrived in sunny St. Louis around 3 pm from our adventures in Pennsylvania.
Because we could, we drove further into the city (away from our home beyond where the sidewalk ends) to eat at my favorite restaurant, Pho Grand. I had my usual, #2303, tofu with coconut curry. Yum!

Tuesday was a busy, busy day for us. I taught all day, then Brad had his flight lesson, then we worked the Speech Meet for one of my colleagues. We didn't get finished until 8-ish, so we went to Ruby Tuesday for supper. I am so used to using our coupons that I feel like if we are spending $40 for dinner, it should be way better than Ruby Tuesday. I had some butterflied, fried shrimp and the salad bar, and Brad had some sort of seafood experience and the salad bar. It was okay (though I'll admit better than what I made for supper tonight).
Wednesday, I made... um... grilled cheese? I had to work the concession stand for NHS, and then I went to the grocery store afterwards. When I got home, I prepared myself a delicious grilled cheese.

Thursday, I made... um... grilled cheese? I planned on leaving work early on Thursday, (meaning before 5) but in the end, I stayed a lot later. I am pretty sure I had grilled cheese. Did I make anything for Brad? Signs point to no.

Friday night, I made Summer Squash Enchiladas (picture above... recipe link to the left...). Normally, I use mushrooms and zucchini and yellow squash, but I only had zucchini, so that is all that was in them. They were pretty good, but the flavor lacked the complexity they sometimes have. On the other hand, the lack of mushrooms made the vegetable mixture firmer, so that was good.

On Thursday, I pirated a recipe from a friend...

Cookie Dough Cupcakes
1 box cake mix (I used yellow)
1/2 recipe cookie dough (I made chocolate chip)
1 tub icing (I used chocolate fudge)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Roll cookie dough into 1 inch balls and freeze until firm.

Prepare cake mix using package directions.

Line 24 muffin tins with liners. Fill half full with cake mix. Push a cookie ball into the center of each cupcake.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Transfer cupcakes to a cooling rack. Allow to cool at least 30 minutes. Frost cupcakes.

The true joy of this recipe, other than its ease, is that it is very versatile. You can use pretty much any flavor cake mix, many different types of cookie, and any flavor of icing. They were really good.

I got the deep frier out on Monday to make crab rangoon (recipe to the left!) Because it is such a pain, I usually go fry crazy for about a week every time I get the frier out, then scrub it and put it away, where it gets ignored for about 6 months until I get it out again. Last night we had the last of the crab rangoon, some frozen breaded shrimp I bought, and some premade hush puppies I bought. (I worked hard on our Valentine's Day meal!)

This evening, I made buffalo chicken fingers. They were mediocre. I think they needed to be battered, and the frozen, and then fried. The first batch, I laid the chicken pieces onto the little basket and the batter dripped through and then cooked, so the chicken pieces had to be surgically removed from the fry basket. The remaining rounds, I just lightly dropped them into the oil, with the basket already lowered. That helped, but not much. They tasted okay, but there are quite a few leftovers, and sadly I think we are going to feed them to the Lincoln County garbage dump. Fried food isn't good the next day. For supper, we also had some frozen sweet potato fries (from the freezer... from Trader Joes... baked!), and mixed vegetables.

Buffalo Chicken Fingers
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut longways into 4 strips each
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups light beer
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 cup flour

1 bottle wing sauce (I used Sybergs... a local favorite)

Heat oil in frier to 375 F. Mix flour, salt and paprika together. Whisk beer into the mixture until well incorporated. Dredge chicken pieces through flour, and then coat with batter. Gently lay battered chicken in the hot oil. Cook for about 3 minutes, then flip over. Cook for an additional 3 minutes. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Toss in buffalo sauce before serving.

Friday, January 30, 2009

This Week in Dinner...

On Sunday night, I made a calamitous Beef Brisket. It was bad. It was very, very bad. I threw it away bad, and I don't do that. I don't remember what I had for supper on Monday, but I am sure it involved cheese. Tuesday night, I made Pasta Bake and Italian Bread from a tube. Wednesday night, I made BBQ ribs, and then I augmented the ribs on Thursday night by adding a box of Kraft Shells and Cheese from the pantry.

I just spent a considerable amount of time creating links for all of my recipes. I have previously posted the Pasta Bake recipe, so in order to get it, you need just click on "Pasta Bake" to the left. The link will take you to the post with the recipe. You might have to scroll down a bit, but it will be there. (Thanks, Luis, for the tutorial!)

BBQ Ribs - Slow Cooker Style
2-3 pounds pork spare ribs
1 large bottle BBQ sauce
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
Trim the ribs of any excess fat, and cut into portions containing 4-5 ribs. Place the ribs in a large stock pot, and fill the pot with enough water to cover the ribs. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and cayenne. Bring water to a boil, and then allow to boil for 30 minutes on medium high heat.
Pour 1/2 of the BBQ sauce into crock pot, and turn to low. When ribs are finished boiling, place them in the crock pot, and cover with the remaining BBQ sauce. Cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What does a person do with pounds of apples?

Make apple stuff, apparently. I bought a bag of apples for $1 during one of the grocery stores' big "Lots of Stuff is $1" sale with the express intention of making an apple pie. Then, I bought another bag of apples a week later. I have no excuse or explanation for that one. When I finally sat down the other day to prepare my pie (s), I realized I had a handful of apples I had originally purchased to eat, as well. I had planned to make one apple pie, so I did. This is the only apple pie recipe I use, because it always turns out delicious, and I prefer the crumb topping to two pie crusts.

Apple Pie
1 (9 inch) pie crust
6 cups apples, cored, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons tapioca

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare pie plate with crust. Mix together apples, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour and tapioca. Mix well. Pour mixture into crust. In the same bowl, mix together brown sugar and flour. Cut the butter into the mixture until coarse crumbs form. Gently press the strudel mixture evenly onto the apple mixture. Bake in the preheated oven 25 - 35 minutes or until golden brown.

I still had 12 cups worth of sliced apples, though. I wanted to make some apple bread to freeze, but all of the recipes I could find called for butter, not oil. I like to substitute half or more of the oil with applesauce because it makes it lower in fat, but it doesn't work as well with butter. My brother found the recipe for an apple cake he wanted, but it called for caramel, and I didn't have any, and have been snowed in for several days, so that wasn't an option. I ended up making a second apple pie and tossing it in the freezer (precooked).

I also made an apple-cranberry crisp. This was great, because it used up some of the cranberries in the freezer, too!

Apple Cranberry Crisp
6 cups apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
3/4 cup cranberries
1/3 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup quick-cooking oats
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray an 8 inch square baking dish with non stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, mix together apples, cranberries, white sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Place evenly into baking dish. In the same bowl, combine oats, flour and brown sugar. With a fork, mix in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over apples. Bake in preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until topping is golden brown, and apples are tender.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Pesky Pork Loin I Procrastinated...

I got a pork tenderloin out on Wednesday night, but it was not defrosted enough by Thursday to marinade it. On Thursday night, I was too tired to deal with it, so I finally got around to marinating in on Friday night. I made it Saturday morning, and then packed it in Brad's lunch Saturday and Sunday. (I also ate it myself for dinner Saturday night!) I served this delicious pork loin with a box of Stove Top Pork Stuffing from the survivalist cabinet.

Marinated Pork Tenderloin
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons sherry (I use whatever white wine I have available, or chicken broth)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried minced onion
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pinch garlic powder
2 (3/4 pound) pork tenderloins

Place soy sauce, brown sugar, sherry, dried onion, cinnamon, olive oil, and a touch of garlic powder in a large resealable plastic bag. Seal, and shake to mix. Place pork in bag with marinade, seal, and refrigerate for 6 to 12 hours. (I usually stick it in the marinade the night before I want to make it for supper.)

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Place marinated tenderloins in dish. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until thermometer stuck in the middle of the pork reads 160 degrees F.

Allow to sit for a few minutes before slicing.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Thursday night everyone I know was having a bad day. My day was fine, but my empathy coffers were running over because I was really feeling it for my friends and family. As such, I made some pumpkin cookies as a pick-me-up for those who needed one. The recipe for these delicious and highly sought after treats can be found on the Friday, November 14 post (Pumpkin Cookies with Penuche).

Wednesday night, I made a blackberry pie. It was pretty good. Blackberries, have seeds, though, and I feel like there is a little something extra (and unwanted) if my dessert involves seeds. Also, I think I needed many more blackberries than I had, as each bite of pie featured about equal parts crust and fruit middle. However, given that I had pie crusts I needed to use and blackberries I needed to use, I would consider this a successful endeavor.

Blackberry Pie

2 pie crusts (Once again... I used Betty Crocker)
3-4 cups fresh blackberries (I only used about 2 1/2 cups... NOT ENOUGH!)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons tapioca
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons cinnamon/sugar mixture

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Fit bottom pie crust into a 9 inch circular pie plate. Mix blackberries, sugar, cornstarch, tapioca, lemon juice and cinnamon. Pour mixture into pie crust. Set second pie crust on top of fruit mixture. Seal crust edges together, and then sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over top of pie. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I Feel Like Chicken Tonight...

...Like Chicken Tonight

Baked Chicken with Mushroom Sauce (from my Mediterranean Flavors cookbook, modified)

4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
salt and pepper

3/4 pound mushrooms, sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
Combine mushrooms and garlic and allow to sit together for a few minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Pat chicken breasts with salt and pepper to taste. Place on baking sheets, and bake in oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until juices are clear.
Meanwhile, heat butter and red pepper flakes in a large skillet on high heat until the butter is melted and sizzling, about 1 minute. Add the mushroom mixture and cook until the mushrooms are limp and have released their juices, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the wine and boil until reduced by half, about 2-3 minutes. Add the cream, chicken stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Stir in the cream cheese and cook until it has completely melted. Continue to cook over high heat until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat, and add Parmesan and Swiss cheeses, stirring until completely melted.
Serve sauce warm over chicken breasts.

Tonight for supper, I also prepared a box of Near East rice pilaf (from the survivalist cupboard) and some frozen green beans. It was really delicious, and there are enough leftovers for Brad and I both to take some for lunch tomorrow.

In other news, Brad and I went out for supper last night (it was his night to cook...) I had concession stand duty for NHS. I had two kids signed up to work, so I was just going to get them started and then leave. Unfortunately, though, one of the kids had to work (even though she signed up for concession stand duty MONTHS ago). Fortunately, though, as I was being informed of this, another kid volunteered to come work, so I was back to the original plan. Upon arriving at the concession stand, though, the kid who was originally scheduled to work said she needed to leave an hour and a half early because she had a lot of homework. As I am the adult in the student/teacher relationship, I of course stayed and worked the concession stand all evening with a girl who hadn't even planned on doing the duty at all...

...So Brad and I did not get to dinner until close to 9 pm. We went to a delicious restaurant called McGurks in O'Fallon. We've been there before, and we really like it because they have coupons on The coupon is for $25 off the purchase of $40 or more. Last night we ordered an AMAZING appetizer, which consisted of scallops baked in a garlic Parmesan cream sauce with smoked bacon, mushrooms and asparagus. YUM! I got an order of fish and chips, minus the chips plus mashed potatoes (didn't want all the fried chips in addition to the fried fish), and Brad ordered the "grande" size beef tenderloin with Cabernet sauce, Gorgonzola mashed potatoes and fresh steamed green beans and carrots, PLUS a glass of wine. Our total after the coupon? $24. It was marvelous. It was also nice to have a lovely date.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Introducing... Pictures!

Coffee Cake with Fruit Preserves
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup cold butter
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup fruit preserves/jam/jelly (I used
seedless blackberry jam)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and sugar; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside 1 cup for topping. To the remaining crumb mixture, add the sour cream, baking powder, baking soda, egg and extract; beat until blended. Press onto the bottom and 2 in. up the sides of a greased 9-in. springform pan.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, sugar and egg. Spoon into prepared crust. Top with preserves. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-50 minutes or until filling is set and crust is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of the pan to loosen; remove sides of pan. Cool for 1-1/2 hours before slicing. Store in the refrigerator.

Nuts about Cookies!
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups mixed nuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix together butter and sugars until thoroughly combined. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Stir in baking soda and flour. Add nuts and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake about 10 minutes, or until edges are golden brown and center is set. Remove from sheet immediately and allow to cool on racks.

I made the coffee cake for my riveting professional development meeting at work on Friday, and the cookies for Brad to take to work on Saturday. Deliciousness all around!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Contents of My Freezer

Any of you who have been around since the beginning know I began this blog because I needed to clean out my freezer and pantry, and was recording for posterity the manner in which I attempted that task. It is time to start over, because, once again, my freezer and pantry have reached survivalist capacity, and frankly that isn't a group of individuals with whom I want to be associated.

Last time Katie requested a list of the contents of my freezer so she could keep up on the progress as I posted recipes. I actually made a comprehensive list of what is in my freezer (and organized my freezer at the time), so Katie... this one's for you.

The Contents of My Deep Freezer
2 slabs pork ribs
3 pork tenderloin
5 portions (2-3 servings each) pork tenderloin chops
2 pounds bacon
3 tubes of Jimmy Dean sausage... two regular, one maple flavored
4 Italian sausage links
4 apple cinnamon sausage links (from our trip to Swiss Meats in Hermann, MO last Christmas)
1 package bratwurst

1 whole chicken
1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
5 portions (serves 2-3) boneless skinless chicken breast

1 beef brisket
4 (1 pound portions) ground beef
2 hamburgers (From Omaha Steaks)
2 New York strip steaks
1 Polish Sausage Link
1 eye of round roast
1 large sirloin tip
2 chuck roasts

1 (3 pound) box Panko encrusted Tilapia
1 (2 pound) box shrimp scampi
3/4 pound raw, tail on shrimp
2 salmon steaks
1 fresh salmon fillet, frozen
1 pound fresh tilapia, frozen
5 jumbo scallops

2 pounds Butternut Squash Ravioli
2 pounds Brie and Garlic Ravioli
1 pound toasted cheese ravioli
1 pound cheese tortellini

1 Red Baron 5 cheese frozen pizza
1 Palermo Hearth Italian frozen pizza
1 Palermo Greek frozen pizza
1 California Pizza Kitchen BBQ chicken pizza for one
2 small boxes pizza rolls
1 box fried shrimp
1 small box TGIFriday's hot wings
1 large box potato boats
1 box Spanikopita appetizers

1 package Voila Chicken 3 Cheese Chicken meal
1 package Contessa Mongolian Beef
1 package Trader Joe's BBQ Chicken Terriyaki
6 pounds (yes POUNDS) pierogies
1 Marie Calendars individual chicken pot pie

2 packages Trader Joe's frozen naan
1 box Texas toast
1 package yeast rolls
3 packages English Muffins
1 box Pizza Amore Cinnamon sticks

2 boxes Betty crocker whole grain waffles
12 Jimmy Dean Sausage, eggs and cheese croissants
1 Bob Evans pouch sausage gravy

1 (2 pound) bag hash browns
1 bag crinkle cut french fries
2 bags sweet potato fries

11 bags frozen vegetables
4 small boxes frozen vegetables
at least 3 pounds frozen cranberries

2 pie crusts
3 (8 ounce) containers cool whip... 1 regular, 2 light
4 pounds butter

I am just one person.... This CANNOT be normal!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

For the third consecutive year, I have had my family over for lunch on New Year's Day. This year, my grandma and my aunt Jan and my cousin Jessie came as well. I love having people over, but because I live an hour away from everyone, I don't get visitors as often as I would like. We had a fantastic time, though, and here is what we ate...

Beef Barley Soup (From my New England Soup Factory Cookbook, modified)
3 pounds stew beef, cut into bite sized pieces (I buy it already cut up... from Aldi of all places)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
12 cups water
2 teaspoons kosher salt

3 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium sized red onion, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, diced
3 portabella mushrooms, diced
1 (8 oz.) package sliced mushrooms, baby portabella or button
5 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 pound pearl barley (the only kind I could find was quick cooking, and it worked fine)
1 bottle burgundy or other fruity red wine
1 can tomato paste
5 (14 oz.) cans beef broth
2 bay leaves
5 generous dashes Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Place beef, vinegar, water and salt in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Drain. If not using right away, be sure to cover so the meat does not dry out.

Over medium-high heat, in a large stockpot, combine olive oil, garlic, onion, mushrooms, celery and carrots. Saute for 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the cooked beef, barley, wine, tomato paste, stock, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring every 15 minutes or so for at least 1 1/2 hours (The longer it simmers the more the water cooks off and leaves just the delicious flavor.) Remove from heat. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Add the Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.

*I actually made this last night, and reheated it, so I think by the time all was said and done, it probably simmered close to hours. It was a hit, though!

Potato, Bacon, and Chive Soup with Horseradish (From my New England Soup Factory Cookbook)
3 tablespoons butter
5 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 large red onion, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, sliced
8 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3 (14 oz.) cans chicken broth
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 cup sour cream
2 cups half and half, light cream, heavy cream, 2% milk, or some combination therein
4 tablespoons bottled minced white horseradish
4 generous dashes Worcestershire sauce
4 dashes Tobasco sauce
1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large stockpot, melt butter over medium high heat. Add garlic, red onion and celery. Saute for 7 minutes. Add the potatoes and stir to coat with the butter and vegetables. Add chicken broth, onion powder and garlic powder. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are soft and tender, 30 - 35 minutes. (Be careful not to let all of the liquid cook out, or you will have a burnt mess...) When potatoes are soft, remove pot from heat.

Puree the potatoes. There are several ways to do this, depending on how many dishes you want to dirty and what kind of equipment you have.
1. Use an immersion blender. This is ideal, but I don't actually know anyone who has one.
2. Mash the mixture together with a potato masher -- this will get the job done, but will be the lumpiest option
3. Use a hand mixer. Be careful not to scratch up your nonstick pans, though
4. Place portions of the mixture in a blender, and blend until smooth

Add sour cream, milk product of choice, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce and Tobasco sauce. Mix well. Return pot to stove. Add salt and pepper. Simmer for 5 additional minutes. Garnish each serving with bacon, green onions, and sour cream, if desired.

I totally forgot to serve the green onions today, and no one complained! Otherwise, this was a big hit, as well.

Chicken with Wild Rice Soup
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
3 cooked, boneless chicken breast halves, shredded
1 package Uncle Ben's Original flavor quick cooking long grain and wild rice box

1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter
2 cups heavy cream, light cream, half and half, or 2% milk, or some combination therein

In a medium pot over medium heat, combine broth, water and chicken. Bring just to boiling, then stir in rice, reserving seasoning packet. Cover and allow to cook on low for 20 minutes or so.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Saute for 7 minutes. Stir in contents of seasoning packet until mixture is bubbly. Reduce heat to low, then stir in flour, salt and pepper. Stir in cream, a little at a time, until fully incorporated and smooth. Cook until thickened, 5 minutes.

Pour rice mixture into cream mixture, and stir until well incorporated. Cook over medium heat until heated through, 10 to 15 minutes. If it gets too thick, add milk or chicken broth to thin it out.

Rosemary Bread *My description of how to make this bread won't do you a whole lot of good if you don't already know how to make yeast bread... If you have questions, let me know.
1 cup warm water
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
about 2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Pour warm water in a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over water, and allow to sit for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, mix together oil, margarine and sugar. Pour in yeast mixture, and stir gently. Add flour to mixture gradually, until a sticky ball forms. On a well floured surface and with floured hands, knead the heck out of the dough. Sprinkle the salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and rosemary over the dough, and continue to knead until spices are incorporated throughout the loaf. Drizzle olive oil in the bowl, and coat the ball of dough. Cover bowl and put in a warm place for one hour. Punch down dough, and allow to rise for another hour. Shape dough, and place on a greased cookie sheet. coat the top of the loaf with olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake at 375 F until golden brown and crusty... about 25 minutes.

Cherry Pie
2 pie crusts... I used the Pillsbury kind, but if you want to make one from scratch, don't let me stop you...
2 (16 ounce) cans tart cherries
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter or margarine

Line a pie plate with first crust.

Drain cherries, reserving 1/4 cup juice. Mix cherries, juice, sugar, tapioca, extract, and salt; pour into the crust. Dot with butter. Top with second crust. Make sure to seal the edges of the crust tightly.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 55-60 minutes, or until golden brown. Sprinkle with sugar.