Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mango Stuffed French Toast

Somehow I forgot the most important recipe I made on Christmas--our breakfast!! I was looking at recipes on the Rick Bayless website recently and saw this recipe for Mango Stuffed French Toast. Oh man...I wanted to make it right then! I figured I'd save it for Christmas morning. I like to have some kind of breakfast casserole that can be in the oven while we're opening presents. It worked out even more perfectly because there were mangos in my basket from Bountiful Baskets.

Mango Stuffed French Toast
Copyright © 2009 Rick Bayless

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon softened butter for casserole dish
3 mangos (approximately 2 1/2 pounds) peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar (divided use)
12 ounces cream cheese (softened)
12 slices egg bread (challah) sandwich loaf
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups half & half
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Powdered sugar for garnish
Warm maple or agave syrup

In a very large (12-inch) non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Add the mango and saute for approximately 10 minutes or until soft. Sprinkle in a 1/4 cup sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, mix the softened cream cheese and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar.

Butter a 13 x 9 casserole dish with 1 tablespoon softened butter. Divide the cream cheese mixture equally between the slices of bread and spread, covering the entire surface. Place 6 of the slices in the bottom of the prepared dish with the tops of the bread facing out. You may need to squeeze the slices together to make them fit. Spoon the cooled mango slices and their syrup evenly over the bread. Press the remaining slices, cream cheese side down, on top of the mango layer.

Whisk together the eggs, half and half, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour the mixture over the top of the stuffed French toast, making sure to cover all the bread with the egg mixture. Wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, remove the baking dish from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until lightly browned and warmed through. Sprinkle the top with powdered sugar and serve with warm syrup.

*****

I just realized we didn't have any syrup or powdered sugar with ours--we just ate it as is (or as was). This was AMAZING. I have yet to be disappointed by a Rick Bayless recipe. I'm telling you, he's a god among men (but not in a blasphemous way). Jen B. and I are dying to take a trip to Chicago and eat at all three of his restaurants.

We all really liked this. It's definitely a breakfast dish I'd make again. It was easy to put together and tasted awesome. Just thinking about it makes me want it again!

Soggy and gooey, going in the fridge the night before!




Mmmmmm...pan of mango french toast...


See the yummy layers? Man I can't wait to have this again!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday Brie en Croute

As I mentioned in my last post the other dish I made for our Christmas Appetizer Feast was baked brie. Normally I just throw a round or wedge of brie onto a sheet of puff pastry, fold it up, put an egg wash on it, and then bake. I had gone to the Pepperidge Farm website for something recently and saw this recipe on the main page. To say the least, it looked freakin' awesome. Since I had planned on doing baked brie anyway, I figured I'd go for this dolled up version!

Holiday Brie en Croute
© 2009 Pepperidge Farm, Incorporated. All Rights Reserved

1 egg
1 tbsp. water
1/2 of a 17.3-ounce package Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet), thawed
1/2 cup apricot preserves or seedless raspberry jam
1/3 cup dried cranberry
1/4 cup toasted sliced almond
1 (13- to 16-ounce) Brie cheese round

Heat the oven to 400°F. Beat the egg and water in a small bowl with a fork.

Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry sheet into a 14-inch square. Spread the preserves on the pastry to within 2 inches of the edge. Sprinkle with the cranberries and almonds. Place the cheese in the center of the pastry. Fold the pastry up over the cheese to cover. Trim the excess pastry and press to seal. Brush the seam with the egg mixture. Place seam-side down onto a baking sheet. Decorate with the pastry scraps, if desired. Brush with the egg mixture.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Let stand for 45 minutes. Serve with crackers.

*****

I made this with apricot preserves because I just thought it sounded better than using raspberry, which is kind of weird because I don't like apricots. I guess I can appreciate their flavor, though. This was warm and gooey and cheesy and oozy...everything awesome that baked brie is supposed to be. There wasn't a whole lot of this left when the night was done. I did have some for lunch the next day; my mom said it was even good cold, so I figured I wouldn't be doing anyone justice if I didn't try it that way to report for myself. And of course she was right, but really my mom and I like just about anything cold, so it wasn't a big surprise.

I had planned on making baked brie for my friend Jen B's baby shower in a few weeks, and I think I might make this version because it was so good. Assuming, of course, that she approves of it.

Picture to come! (I think anyway...I might not have taken a picture...guess I'll find out.)

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

Merry (belated) Christmas, everyone! I hope you all had a good holiday. Ours was great, now I'm just trying to make room for all the toys and such my kids got from my very generous family. I need some serious toy organization in my house!! It was a fun day. Christmas gets more fun each year as my boys get older and get more excited about it. Well, really the older one is the only one that gets it, the baby just knew there was a big tree in the living room with a gate around it so he wouldn't touch it. ;)

Our Christmas Eve celebration consisted of church, take-out Chinese food, and then "snow" at a local outdoor mall. Next year we need to hit the "snow" earlier in the Christmas season because seeing "snow" and all the Christmas decorations really got me in the Christmas spirit.

Anyway, for Christmas dinner we went to my mom's house. Normally we have a big fancy dinner, but we had decided this year to just have an appetizer buffet like we do for a lot of birthday celebrations in our family. I have to say I liked it a lot better! Not that our dinner isn't usually good--it's usually VERY good--but it was nice to just have it all ready and my mom and whomever not have to rush around to get everything served while also opening presents. It was quite the feast! My mom made chicken wings, coconut shrimp, Lil' Smokies, bacon wrapped scallops, pepperoni bread...I think that was it. My contributions were stuffed mushrooms, baked brie, a Rick Bayless queso recipe, and a cheeseball. Although my mom said why didn't we skip the cheeseball because we had so much other stuff, so that bad boy is still in my freezer for another time. And I ended up making the queso the next night as we had another family dinner then.

I've kind of fallen behind in following the Barefoot Bloggers recipes lately. I don't remember what Novembers were. The first one for December was a croissant bread pudding which sounded awesome, but it made a lot, and I just didn't need to sit here and eat an entire 9x13 pan of bread pudding by myself. When I saw that this was the second one for the month I figured it would be perfect to make for our Christmas "Dinner" Appetizer Fest.

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms
2009, Ina Garten, All Rights Reserved

16 extra-large white mushrooms
5 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
2 1/2 tablespoons Marsala wine or medium sherry
3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from the casings
6 scallions, white and green parts, minced
2 garlic cloves minced
2/3 cup panko crumbs
5 ounces mascarpone cheese, preferably from Italy
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and chop them finely. Set aside. Place the mushroom caps in a shallow bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and Marsala. Set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage, crumbling it with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook the sausage for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until it's completely browned. Add the chopped mushroom stems and cook for 3 more minutes. Stir in the scallions and garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the panko crumbs, stirring to combine evenly with all the other ingredients. Finally, swirl in the mascarpone and continue cooking until the mascarpone has melted and made the sausage mixture creamy. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan, parsley, and season with salt and pepper, to taste, Cool slightly.

Fill each mushroom generously with the sausage mixture. Arrange the mushrooms in a baking dish large enough to hold all the mushrooms in a snug single layer. Bake until the stuffing for 50 minutes, until the stuffing is browned and crusty.

*****

The only thing I changed about the ingredients were to use regular Italian sausage instead of sweet, and I used a full pound since I used more than 16 mushrooms. I didn't realize how hot my mom's stove got, so a little bit of the sausage was slightly over-cooked because I was trying to get other things done while it was cooking. It was really a small amount and didn't make a difference in the taste at all.

These were a huge hit!! I was eating the stuffing mixture straight out of the pan, I thought it was so good. I changed the cooking time a bit, too. Everything else that was going in the oven was at 400, so I had them in there for probably 20 minutes. Plus 50 minutes seemed like a really long time since all the ingredients were already cooked. If the sausage hadn't been cooked I could see 50 minutes, but that sounded too long.

I would definitely make these again for a party or if I need to take an appetizer somewhere...or if I have all the stuff on hand and they just sound good to me. ;) It came together really easily and tasted awesome!! I even had one cold the next day and thought that was good, too.



Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Asian Pork Loin

My friend Michele is a very talented photographer. We were supposed to meet up on Tuesday afternoon to take some one year pics of the baby (a month late, but whatever). I was meeting her at 4:00 about half an hour from our house, so I wanted something in the crockpot for dinner since I figured we'd get home around dinner time. I pulled out at Southern Living slow cooker cookbook that I rarely use and flipped through. I had just bought a pork loin roast, so when I saw this recipe I thought it would be a good choice. Plus I had almost all the ingredients on hand.

Asian Pork Loin

1 2-pound lean boneless center-cut pork loin roast
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp grated peeled fresh ginger
1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic
2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp Chinese five spice powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp water

Trim fat from roast. Combine orange juice and next six ingredients in a large zipper top plastic bag. Add pork, seal bag, and marinate in refrigerator 8-24 hours.

Place pork and marinade in slow cooker. Cover with lid; cook on high heat for one hour. Reduce to low heat setting and cook 7 hours.

Remove pork from cooker; let stand 10 minutes before slicing. Pour cooking liquid into a 4-cup glass measuring cup or bowl. Let stand 5 minutes Skim fat from surface of liquid. Combine cornstarch and water in a small bowl; stir until well blended. Add cornstarch mixture to cooking liquid and stir well. Microwave on high 3 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring halfway through cooking time.

Slice pork, serve with sauce.

*****

I was glad I looked at this recipe on Sunday and saw how long it needed to marinate because I would have been mad had I gone to throw everything into the crockpot Tuesdasy morning and saw that. I had some oranges I got from a local produce co-op, and I'm not a real big fan of oranges (except Cuties...I love Cuties!!), so I used them for the juice called for in the recipe. Brilliant, eh. I cut back on the red pepper because the boy doesn't like spicy.

*****

We ended up having to cancel pictures because we had a random thunderstorm in Phoenix yesterday. I know, of all days, right?! But it was still nice to have dinner in the crockpot and not have to worry about it at all. I had even bought Minute Rice so dinner would be ready super fast when we got home. Oh well! Anyway, I don't think this is a keeper. All we could taste was heat, not flavor. I expected the sauce to be sweeter but it was super spicy. Normally I dig some spice in my food, but this was over the top. It was really the sauce that did it, the meat itself wasn't that spicy. I was glad I hadn't put any sauce on the kids' meat. I had mine in the crockpot for six hours on low, and it was pretty dried out. I think with less heat it might be okay, but I don't know if it's worth making again.

Three Cheese Pasta Skillet

What a crazy week it's been, yet somehow it's gone by SO SLOW. I think it's moved slowly in anticipation of the husband being home for four days. The husband is out for the night with a friend, so I figured I'd update my blog since I've once again fallen behind. I'm hoping to have better time management skills in the new year. And a cleaner house, but that's a story for another time.

I'm not sure if I've ever posted this recipe on here. I used to make it pretty often when it was just the husband and me. I'm not sure why I quit, other than that I'm trying to not used processed foods, and cream of mushroom soup is high on the list of processed foods. I had extra french fried onions from the green bean casserole at Thanksgiving #2, so I thought this would be a good way to use them up. Plus I figured it was kid-friendly which I always like since it means no fights at dinner. The recipe was from the Campbell's website.

Three Cheese Pasta Skillet

3 cups uncooked corkscrew-shaped pasta
1 can (10 3/4 oz.) Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
OR Campbell's® Condensed 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 cup water
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup shredded two-cheese blend
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 can (2.8 oz.) French's® French Fried Onions

1.COOK pasta according to pkg. directions. Drain.
2.MIX soup, water, pepper, cheeses and 2/3 cup onions in skillet. Heat to a boil.
3.ADD pasta and top with remaining onions. Cover and cook over low heat 2 min. or until hot.

*****

I add chicken when I make it, dice up two chicken breasts and cook them, then remove them from the skillet and start at step two, adding the chicken back in with the pasta. Although reading the recipe now I realized I didn't put the water in. Oops. We all really liked it, the baby had two or three helpings.

This isn't something I'll continue to make very often because of the cream of mushroom soup and the french fried onions--both of which I rarely have on hand--but it worked out great since I did have everything for it, and it comes together really easily, which is always a plus!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Julie's Caramel Bars

I'm not making Christmas treats this year in an effort to help mine and the husband's diets. There have been some points where I've regretted this decision and have really wanted to do some baking, but I've held strong. Mostly because I didn't have a lot of baking ingredients on hand. I wanted to make something for the boy's preschool teacher and the aide in his class, and I immediately thought of these. The recipe comes from an old family friend (as in she's been friends with our family for a long time, not that she is old), and I love making them at Christmastime. The only downside is the double boiler, but you can always use the microwave instead. I just decided to be true to the recipe this year.

Julie's Caramel Bars

35 light caramels
5 T. cream
3/4 cup melted butter
1 cup flour
1 cup oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 cup chopped nuts
6 ounces milk chocolate chips

Melt caramels and cream in a double boiler (or in the microwave).

Mix butter through salt and spread half the mixture in a greased 9x13 pan. Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Sprinkle chopped nuts and chocolate chips on crust. Pour caramel mix over this and sprinkle with remaining crust mixture. Bake 20 minutes. Chill two hours before cutting.

*****

This are insanely good. Like, ridiculously good. Like, sinfully good. I find I use slightly more than half the crust mixture on the bottom, otherwise I can't get it to completely cover the bottom of the pan. I probably do 2/3 on the bottom and sprinkle 1/3 on top. My mom had wondered if she could make these using a jar of caramel ice cream topping, but I don't know if she ever tried it. I really don't know why that wouldn't work. I put the caramels on to melt while the boy and I mixed up the crust ingredients, then I'd go stir it every now and then until it was done.

I was kind of sad to give these all away to the boy's teachers, but I'm sure they'll enjoy them. And the husband and I did sample a couple of them before I packaged them up, so we did indulge just a little. Hopefully next year he and I will both be skinny and can enjoy some extra treats this time of year!



Cook's Illustrated Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf

This was the only new thing we had this past week, so I probably won't bother posting the other recipes. I love meatloaf. My mom makes a version similar to this with bacon on the top, only hers has significantly less bacon. My brother and I would always fight over who got to eat the bacon off the top of the meatloaf because it was so good with the ketchup-y sauce on it. This recipe, though, solves that problem by having bacon go cross-ways on it instead of long-ways. And, yes, those are both official terms.

I had mentioned recently the Best Of Cook's Illustrated magazine I got recently at Costco. This was in it, and I'd been dying to try it. I recently bought a ton of ground beef (okay, not literally a ton, but it was six pounds which is quite a bit) and figured this was a good time to make it. Plus I could get it assembled during naptime and then just throw it in the oven when it was time for dinner. Thankfully I found it typed out online already because you know how I hate to type out recipes if I don't have to.

Cook's Illustrated Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf

Brown Sugar - Ketchup Glaze
1/2 cup ketchup or chili sauce
4 tablespoons brown sugar
4 teaspoons cider vinegar or white vinegar

Meat Loaf
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped medium
2 medium cloves garlic , minced
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 cup whole milk or plain yogurt
1 pound ground beef chuck
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal
2/3 cup Saltine crackers, crushed (about 16), or quick oatmeal, or 1 1/3 cups fresh bread crumbs
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
6 - 8 ounces bacon, thin sliced (8 to 12 slices, depending on loaf shape)

1. For the glaze: Mix all ingredients in small saucepan; set aside.
2. For the meat loaf: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in medium skillet. Add onion and garlic; sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool while preparing remaining ingredients.
3. Mix eggs with thyme, salt, pepper, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, pepper sauce, and milk or yogurt. Add egg mixture to meat in large bowl along with crackers, parsley, and cooked onion and garlic; mix with fork until evenly blended and meat mixture does not stick to bowl. (If mixture sticks, add additional milk or yogurt, a couple tablespoons at a time until mix no longer sticks.)
4. Turn meat mixture onto work surface. With wet hands, pat mixture into approximately 9-by-5-inch loaf shape. Place on foil-lined (for easy cleanup) shallow baking pan. Brush with half the glaze, then arrange bacon slices, crosswise, over loaf, overlapping slightly and tucking only bacon tip ends under loaf, (see illustration 1, below).
5. Bake loaf until bacon is crisp and loaf registers 160 degrees, about 1 hour. Cool at least 20 minutes. Simmer remaining glaze over medium heat until thickened slightly. Slice meat loaf and serve with extra glaze passed separately.

*****

I used oatmeal for this because it's what I had. I buy instant oatmeal packets at Costco, but none of us like the plain ones. This was a great use for them--two packets was just the right amount! Also, I just used two pounds of ground beef because, again, it's what I had. I ended up brushing some more glaze on top of the bacon when there was about 20 minutes of cooking time left. Oh, and I wrapped a cooling rack in foil and poked some holes in it and placed that on a cookie sheet with the meatloaf on top of the cooling rack. In hindsight I should have covered the cookie sheet as well because it was a pain to clean off the spillage.

This was REALLY good! Like I said, I love meatloaf, so I was really excited to have this. We had leftover mashed potatoes with it from Thanksgiving #2 and some cooked carrots. I will definitely make this again, and laying the bacon cross-wise made sure that everyone had some bacon on their piece and no fights had to take place because of it. And trust me, in this house, a fight would break out over bacon!

Honestly, as much as I liked this, I view meatloaf strictly as a means to have meatloaf sandwiches the next day. As much as I love meatloaf, I love meatloaf sandwiches even more. And that's exactly what we had for dinner the next night. :)

Random Other Thanksgiving #2 Items

I figured I took pictures of everything, so I'd post them and the titles of the recipes. Recipes of everything I made have been posted (well, except for my mother-in-law's macaroni and cheese recipe, but that's on my blog several times already), so these are things my mom or my friend Jen B. made.

Cranberry salad...this has been on my family's Thanksgiving table for as long as I've been alive!


Jen's sweet potatoes (recipe on her blog):


Jen's dressing:


Turkey gravy, made by my mom:


And the aftermath of dishes:

Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy

My brother is a vegetarian, and while I'm sure he wishes he could indulge in the turkey gravy we had for Thanksgiving #2, he couldn't. His friend Siri made mushroom gravy for their turkey-less Thanksgiving celebration, and my mom got the recipe from her and made it for him for Thanksgiving #2. I didn't make it, so I didn't know if I should post it, but 1) it was really good, 2) she sent me the recipe, too, and 3) I took a picture of it. So, here you go.

Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy

3/4 cup white or button mushrooms, chopped
1 small yellow or white onion, minced
1/4 cup margarine
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup flour
1 tbsp poultry seasoning (or 1/2 tsp each of sage, thyme and marjoram)
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, melt the margarine and add onion and mushrooms. Sautee for just a minute or two over high heat.

Reduce heat to medium and add vegetable broth and soy sauce. Slowly add flour, stirring well to combine and prevent lumps from forming. Bring to a simmer or a low boil, then reduce heat.

Add poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, stirring consistently. Allow to cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until gravy thickens.

*****

This was really good gravy! It's something I would make if I wanted gravy for something but didn't want to use a packet or use drippings and go to all that trouble. I had turkey gravy on my dressing and this on my mashed potatoes. Way to go, Siri, for finding this yummy vegetarian gravy!! And way to go for my mom for making it for Thanksgiving #2!

PW's Mashed Potatoes

Oh man, what a crazy week it's been. The husband's been laid up in bed since Tuesday, so I've been a single parent for basically five days now. Kudos to those of you that do it all the time--you should all be nominated for sainthood! Everything has fallen to the wayside, including finishing my posts for Thanksgiving #2 that we had last weekend. This week has been so long it blows my mind that was just a week ago. Man. Of course I still have leftovers sitting in my fridge from it, so let's hope it really was just a week ago. ;)

The husband's family doesn't have mashed potatoes at their Thanksgiving dinner, and it's one of the things I miss having the most. So of course they were pretty high priority for Thanksgiving #2. I heart mashed potatoes very, very much. Normally I just boil up the potatoes, mash, add butter and milk and call it good, but I'd seen that The Pioneer Woman had a mashed potato recipe that could be made a couple days before and reheated in the oven, so I thought I'd give that a try. Plus PW has never led me astray.

PW's Creamy Mashed Potatoes

5 pounds Russet Or Yukon Gold Potatoes
3/4 cups Butter
1 package (8 Oz.) Cream Cheese, Softened*
½ cups (to 3/4 Cups) Half-and-Half
½ teaspoons (to 1 Teaspoon) Lawry's Seasoned Salt
½ teaspoons (to 1 Teaspoon) Black Pepper

Peel and cut the potatoes into pieces that are generally the same size. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. When they’re cooked through, the fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost, but not totally, fall apart.

Drain the potatoes in a large colander. When the potatoes have finished draining, place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape, before adding in all the other ingredients.

Turn off the stove and add 1 ½ sticks of butter, an 8-ounce package of cream cheese and about ½ cup of half-and-half. Mash, mash, mash! Next, add about ½ teaspoon of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt and ½ a teaspoon of black pepper.

Stir well and place in a medium-sized baking dish. Throw a few pats of butter over the top of the potatoes and place them in a 350-degree oven and heat until butter is melted and potatoes are warmed through.

Note: When making this dish a day or two in advance, take it out of the fridge about 2 to 3 hours before serving time. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 20 to 30 minutes or until warmed through.

*****

If you want to check out her post on them--with step by step pictures--check it out by following this link.

These were super yummy, although I did have some spillage issues when they were in the oven in that some of the potatoes somehow spewed out over the side onto the bottom of my oven. Thankfully it was towards the end of baking so they didn't burn and ruin everything else that was in there at that time, which was, like, all our side dishes. It was so nice to be able to have made these the day before and be done with them. Honestly these were much more decadent than I would normally make mashed potatoes, but isn't Thanksgiving supposed to be decadent?! I mean, really, if you're going to indulge, you should really go all out right?! These would work out really nicely to take somewhere, too, I think. I'd make these again for a special occasion, but I think for normal mashed potato eating I'll stick with my usual way to save on the calories and fat. Plus it made A LOT!

By the way, they were good cold too. You know, from the one bite I took out of the container when they were cold. It's not like I finished off more than a serving that was left while they were still cold. I wouldn't do that. Nope. Not me...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Green Bean Casserole

When Jen and I were figuring out the menu for Thanksgiving #2 I had thought about fixing Alton Brown's real-deal-don't-use-canned-soup green bean casserole. Jen said she'd made it, and it wasn't worth the time or effort. Our friend Danielle had made this for our Halloween party, and we both liked it, so Jen got the recipe from her. Turned out it was super easy, and the best part was NO CANNED SOUP! I have no idea where Danielle got this recipe, so I can only give her credit for it. I've always loved green bean casserole, but I thought this was much better than the typical green beans, cream of mushroom soup, french fried onion casserole most people are used to. Whenever I need to make a green bean casserole--which sadly isn't that often--this is what I'm going to make!

Norma Watkin's Green Bean Casserole

1 TBS butter
2 tsp flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp grated onion
1 pint sour cream
1/2 lb swiss cheese- grated
2 (16oz) cans green beans
cracker crumbs **(this is where I use the fried onion topping)

Melt butter in saucepan and stir in flour, salt, pepper, sugar, and onion. Add sour cream. Stir until thickened. Stir in cheese until melted. Grease a 1 1/2 qt casserole. Place beans in first, top with cheese sauce, and cover with cracker crumbs. Bake at 400 for 20 min. Serves 8.

*****

Like I already said, this was awesome. Everyone really liked it. I was worried the sauce was going to be a pain to put together, like a normal roux, but it really came together fast. My sauce seemed to separate a little when they cooked, but no one really noticed, even when I mentioned it. I didn't have an entire half pound of swiss cheese, so I used six ounces of that and a handful or so of Monterey Jack. I also used fresh green beans--at the request of my brother--instead of canned. Really I wouldn't have used canned anyway, at the least I would use frozen. This was so yummy...my new go-to Green Bean Casserole!

My Grandma's Super Yummy Dressing

Dressing, stuffing...my family always called it dressing because we didn't stuff the turkey with it, but I always wonder if people will think I mean salad dressing if I say dressing instead of stuffing. I know, random things that go through my head. My grandma's dressing is one of my all-time absolute most favorite foods. I could eat an entire pan of it. Although it does make me a little sad now because my grandpa felt the same way about it as I do, so now eating it (and when I was making it) made me miss him a lot. Every year my grandpa would be in charge of toasting the bread for the dressing and he'd always want to do way more loaves of bread than my grandma thought was necessary. I always sided with my grandpa because more dressing is never a bad thing.

I had made this once before, I think for Thanksgiving at my parents' house one year when my grandparents weren't there for Thanksgiving. It was only okay--I think I forgot to add the salt because something was just off. I hadn't attempted to make it since then, just enjoyed it when I could get it. It used to be when we'd go to TX for Thanksgiving, my grandma would make up a plate for me from my family's Thanksgiving dinner and save it for me when we got back because they'd always keep our dog while we were gone. When I could I'd take leftovers home and eat it cold for breakfast the next day. This dish is probably the #1 thing I miss about not having Thanksgiving with my family.

Now that I've waxed poetic and gone on and on about the dressing I guess I should just get down to posting the recipe. I was really pretty surprised with how easy this was to do. Let me tell you--the next time I'm on my own for dinner (although I have no idea when or why that would ever happen) I may just make up a 9x13 pan of this to eat...and I won't even use a plate!

My Grandma's Super Yummy Dressing

1 loaf white sandwich bread, toasted and broken in small pieces (my grandpa usually did 1-1/2 loaves, so that's what I went with)
2 cups chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion

Saute celery and onion in 1/4 stick butter until it looks tender.

Add celery and onion to bread. Add about 1-1/2 Tbsp sage and a little salt. Mix with broth until it looks damp. You may need to use a can of chicken broth if there isn't enough turkey broth, but don't add it all at once--wait and see how much you need. Bake about 35 minutes at 350.

*****

Let me tell you...I was tempted to eat this straight out of the bowl once I had everything mixed together. Then I was tempted to eat it straight out of the pan before I put it in the oven. Then I was tempted to dump the entire pan out on my plate at dinner--but I thought that might be a little rude since my mom and brother love grandma's dressing, too. But it would have only been a little rude because Jen had made dressing too.

Anyway, this is super easy, super tasty, and I'm sad I finished off the leftovers for breakfast this morning. Let me tell you--I savored that last bite for a ridiculously long time!

Bread and veggies, just waiting on the broth...


Mmmm...pre-baked dressing...


The finished product (after dinner, we were all too hungry for me to take pictures before we ate)...

Kittencal's Perfected Roasted Whole Turkey

Wow, I had no idea it would take me until Monday to get the recipes for Thanksgiving #2, although I should have expected it since most of Saturday was spent preparing the meal, then most of yesterday was spent at my mom's hanging out with my brother since it was his last day here.

Anyway, I'd only ever cooked a whole turkey once before, but I didn't want to use that same recipe. In case you're interested in it, it was from the magazine Real Simple, Roast Turkey with Sage and Orange Gravy. My friend Benah made it one time for the Supper Club we used to do every month, and it was awesome. But, you have to spread Boursin under the skin of the turkey, and Jen is having a hard time with dairy while she's pregnant, so I wanted something different. I turned to RecipeZaar.com because that's just where I go when I need to find a recipe. I looked at a ton of the turkey recipes on there and thought this one sounded simple and easy...totally what I wanted in a turkey! Kittencal is the name of the person that submitted the recipe; I have several of her recipes bookmarked to try, and they all sound fantastic.

Kittencal's Perfect Roasted Whole Turkey
RecipeZaar.com Recipe #199612

1 (18 lb) whole turkey
1/3 cup melted butter, cooled (can use margarine)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white salt (or use as much salt as desired)
fresh ground black pepper (lots of pepper!)
2 quarts chicken stock (might use less)
8 cups favorite prepared stuffing (optional)

Set oven to 325 degrees F, convection oven heat set to 320 degrees F. Set oven rack to lowest position.

Remove the giblets and neck from the cavity. Rinse the turkey well with cold water inside and out then pat dry with a paper towel. Place the turkey on a rack on a roasting pan.

In a small bowl mix together the melted butter with oil (add in 1 teaspoon garlic powder with the oil/butter mixture if you are a garlic-lover). If you are stuffing the bird, fill the inside cavity loosley with prepared stuffing (if you are not using stuffing then tie the legs together with cotton butchers twine).

Using clean hands rub the outside of the turkey with the oil/butter/garlic mixture. Season the turkey all over with salt and lots fresh ground black pepper.

If you are NOT stuffing the bird place breast-side down on the rack, if stuffing leave breast-side up. Place/tent a large piece of heavy foil over the turkey. Place the pan in the oven, then pour about 4-5 cups chicken broth in the pan. Keep basting the turkey about every 30-40 minutes with the pan juices on the bottom of the pan (removing the foil and re-tenting every time you baste). If you see the juices starting to evaporate then add in more broth to the pan about 2 cups at a time.

After about 2-1/2 hours of cooking time remove the foil. Keep roasting (325 degrees F) until the internal thermometer reads 180 degrees F (80 degrees C). The total cooking time for this 18-pound stuffed bird should be about 4 hours. Transfer the cooked turkey to a large serving platter, cover loosley with foil and let rest 30 minutes before carving (DO NOT slice the turkey before 30 minutes or all juices will flow out of the bird!).

**NOTE** cooking times for whole turkeys cooked at 325 degrees are as follows.
- For an 8-12 pound turkey, roast for 2-3/4 to 3 hours.
- For a 12-14 pound turkey, roast for 3 to 3-3/4 hours.
- For a 14-18 pound turkey, roast for 3-3/4 to 4-1/4 hours.
- For an 18-20 pound turkey, roast for 4-1/2 to 4-3/4 hours.

*****

See? Totally simple! I wasn't really sure how it was going to work getting the bird out of the roasting pan and then flipping it over, but Jen came up with the brilliant idea of using a big fork and the honing blade for my knives. Smart cookie that one!! The only bummer was that the skin on the breast side of the turkey wasn't all golden and shiny and crispy like the side that had cooked facing up, but the breast meat was really juicy and good.

Actually the cooking time worked out perfectly. The turkey I had was 17 pounds, so I left it in there just a little over four hours, then took it out and let it set the recommended 30 minutes, which was great because most of the sides I needed to throw in the oven needed 30 minutes of bake time! I love when meals come together like that--especially big ones like this!

When the need arises for me to cook another turkey this is definitely the way I'm going to do it! Oh, and I did use the garlic powder in the butter/oil mixture. It smelled awesome, and I'm generally not a turkey skin eater, but I did have a bit, and it was quite tasty!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thanksgiving #2

I can't remember if I've shared that we generally spend Thanksgiving in TX with my in-laws. It's the only time the husband's entire family--his bro and sis and their spouses and kids, his parents, and us--are together. We haven't gone the last two years because last year the baby was only a week old, and the year before that my best friend was getting married in Vegas a week later, and those trips were too close together. The last time we went, the boy was only nine months old, so I did look forward to our trip to see everyone and for them to meet the baby, but I was going to miss my family's Thanksgiving dinner.

The first time I went along (prior to getting married we always spent Thanksgiving apart) I had a really hard time because I LOVE Thanksgiving and had never spent it away from my family...which also meant I'd had the same Thanksgiving dinner for 27 years at that point. I'm a girl that does not like change, so not having my grandma's dressing, special cranberry salad, and other random dishes I'd come to know, expect, and love at Thanksgiving was difficult. I made it through and even lived to tell about it. The dinner my mother-in-law makes is very good, it's just not what I'm used to. My friend Jen B. is in a similar predicament every year in that they spend Thanksgiving with her in-laws who also have a dinner that's completely different than what she grew up with.

This year when I was looking at grocery ads around Thanksgiving I thought about buying a turkey to stick in the freezer while they were so cheap. I wasn't really sure why because the husband isn't a big fan of turkey, but they were SO CHEAP.

Then it hit me...we could have a SECOND Thanksgiving!! I asked Jen what she thought, and she was on board right away. So we are making our favorite Thanksgiving dishes that we don't get to have when we have dinner with our in-laws. I'm beyond excited!! It's going to be quite the feast. The turkey is in the oven now, and I did a bunch of prep work last night to get things ready. Thankfully most of the recipes I'm making are online or typed out already, so it will be easy to add them to the blog here.

Right now, though, I need to get my kids to take naps, but my Thanksgiving #2 recipes will be coming!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fisher Nutty Bacon Cheese Ball

This is one of the recipes I meant to blog about but never did. The pictures had been uploaded, so I figured I'd go ahead and post it. The Christmas party for my MOMS Club was one night last week, and everyone was asked to bring an appetizer or dessert. I chose appetizer, and was trying to come up with something to make when I remembered this cheese ball recipe I'd made once before several years ago. I saw it on an episode of Oprah around Christmastime and had bookmarked it. I don't know how I thought of it, but I figured it would be tasty. I mean really...cheese and bacon?! How can you go wrong?! Paula Deen prepared the recipe, but apparently it's from a KitchenAid mixer cookbook, so any of the mixer references in the recipe refer to that.

Fisher Nutty Bacon Cheese Ball

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese , softened
1/2 cup milk
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) blue cheese , crumbled
1/4 cup finely minced green onions (white part only)
1 jar diced pimento , drained
3/4 cup Fisher pecans , divided
10 slices bacon , cooked, drained, finely crumbled and divided
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Place cream cheese in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and flat beater to mixer. Turn to Speed Two and mix 1 minute. Stop and scrape bowl. Turn to Speed Two and gradually add milk, mixing until well blended about 1 minute. Stop and scrape bowl. Add cheeses, onions, pimientos, half of the bacon and half the pecans. Turn to Speed 4 and beat until well blended, about another minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer mixture to a large piece of plastic wrap. Form into a ball and wrap tightly.

Repeat with the remaining mixture. Refrigerate (or freeze) at least 2 hours.

Combine the remaining bacon and remaining pecans, parsley and poppy seeds in a pie plate. Then, remove the plastic wrap and roll the cheese ball lightly in the bacon/nut mixture until evenly coated. Wrap it back up in plastic wrap and refrigerate again until ready to use.

*****

Since it had literally been years since I made this I didn't really remember anything about the recipe. I questioned the addition of the milk, but I went with it...and then regretted it. I really don't think it was necessary as the mixture didn't hold together hardly at all. I put it in the freezer for two hours hoping that would help bring it together more than just having it in the fridge, but when two hours was up the outside of the ball was frozen and the middle was still really squishy. I reshaped it in the plastic wrap and let it go a little longer. I thought about taking something different, but I didn't want to have to stop at the store, so I went ahead and took it, even though it was more cheese blob than ball. THere were only a few bites left at the end of the night, so it tasted fine, it just didn't look the greatest. I think next time I will either skip the milk entirely or cut it back to 1/4 cup or less. I made two cheese balls out of the recipe and have the second one in the freezer, saving it for Christmas.





I have to say that I was pretty pleased with my "plating." Since I had to take it somewhere I wanted an easy way to transport it, so I stuck the cheese blog in a pie plate and then surrounded with crackers. I thought it was ingenious!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Macaroni and Cheese with Ham and Peas

So I didn't get to go back and update recipes from my hiatus today like I had planned. I had a little breakdown last night with how completely overwhelmed I'm feeling with all the holiday stuff I need to get done and getting ready for a house guest and big event this weekend. The house guest is my brother, so it's not like my house needs to be spotless or anything, but I'd still like it presentable.

Anyway, at some point I'll go back and post at least two recipes I made while I was "gone" because I know I have pictures of what I made. There may be more but now I can only think of those two. I was trying to come up with meals that didn't require a lot of extra ingredients this week, mostly because I was feeling lazy. A couple months ago I spied "Cook's Illustrated All-Time Best Recipes" magazine at Costco. The darn thing just jumped off the rack into my cart...can you believe it?! One of the recipes is Classic Macaroni and Cheese, and there's a variation that adds in ham and peas. I had some ham in the freezer I wanted to use up, and all I needed to buy for the recipe were the two cheeses.

(The downside of Cook's Illustrated recipes are that I have to type them out becuase you have to have a subscription to the website, not just the magazine, to access the recipes on the website.)

Classic Macaroni and Cheese with Ham and Peas

Bread Crumb Topping
6 slices large white sandwich bread, torn into rough pieces
3 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

Pasta and Cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni
Table salt
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
6 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp powdered mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
5 cups milk (whole, lowfat, or skim)
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)

For the bread crumb topping: Pulse bread and butter in food processor until crumbs are about 1/8 inch, 10 to 15 1-second pulses. Set aside.

For the pasta and cheese: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat broiler. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Add macaroni and 1 tablespoon salt; cook until pasta is tender. Drain pasta and set aside in colander.

In now-empty Dutch oven, heat butter over medium-high heat until foaming. Add flour, mustard, and cayenne (if using) and whisk well to combine. Continue whisking until mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk; bring mixture to boil, whisking constantly (mixture must reach full boil to fully thicken). Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes. Off heat, whisk in cheeses and 1 teaspoon salt until cheeses are fully melted. Add pasta, ham, and peas and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is steaming and heated through, about 6 minutes.

Transfer mixture to broiler-safe 13x9 inch baking dish and sprinkle evenly with bread crumbs. Broil until crumbs are deep golden brown, 3-5 minutes, rotating pan if necessary for even browning. Cool about 5 minutes, then serve.

*****

This definitely sounds like more work than my usual macaroni and cheese, but I'm curious to try it. I don't think Cook's Illustrated has ever done me wrong, so I have pretty high hopes for this. I always feel kind of guilty if I think about--or actually do--change around a Cook's Illustrated recipe since they go through a lot of work developing them (another reason I love the magazine--you get to read how they came up with the recipe!). I think we may have a salad on the side with this, but since there are peas mixed in, I'm not sure if we'll have another vegetable or not.

*****

Well, this was good, but I'm not sure it was good enough for all the work involved. Or maybe it just seemed like a lot of work because dinner time around here is crazy. For whatever reason both my kids feel the need to be around me, even though daddy is home and hasn't seen them all day. So it could be that it just seemed like I was in the kitchen forever because I had to keep removing my now-walking one year old from the kitchen.

I used spiral pasta because it's what I had, and the boy complained that he didn't like the shape and where were the macaronis. The husband said he'd like it better without the peas. I really didn't think it was any better than my mother-in-law's recipe that I normally make, which is much less time-consuming. I think if you have the time, make this and you'll like it, but it's definitely not something you can rush through with the roux and all that.

(Okay, somehow I never hit Publish Post...oops. Since I still need to post it I will add that the husband and I both liked the leftovers better than the first time we ate it.)



Monday, December 7, 2009

Basil Pork Chops

I just got an angry phone call from my friend Jen B. yelling at me for not updating my blog in so long. She's right--I've been a total slacker. I'm thinking I don't like the new format I was going to try. I figure it's better to just post and then go back and add the picture in when (okay, if...) I take one. So I'm going back to my old way, then I'm guaranteed to update more often.

I have a couple entries to go back and post about, but I figured I'd start with what we're having tonight and then at some point go back and fill you all in on what you've missed. Or rather what I can remember that I've made over the last couple weeks.

I had planned on doing a pork crockpot recipe tonight, but then I realized I didn't have a very necessary ingredient, so I needed to come up with something else. I was going to make gnocchi with pesto, chicken, and mozzarella, but I remembered I used the last of my pine nuts last night. The only other nuts I have on hand are pecans which might be kind of weird. Jen called asking about our friend Danielle's pork chop recipe that I've made a few times, and since I had already thought about doing something with pork I figured I'd just go ahead and make that too.

Danielle's Basil Pork Chops

I don't have any mushrooms on hand, so I'm skipping that part of the recipe. This is so yummy and really easy. Last time we had it the husband said it was probably his favorite pork chop recipe, so I'm sure he'll be pleased to hear that's what's on the menu for tonight. I have two butternut squash I need to be using soon, so I think I'm going to make Barefoot Contessa's Caramelized Butternut Squash as a side dish and then maybe some broccoli or green beans to go with it.

Strangely the boy has gone back to napping after not doing so for months, so I've been having lovely quiet afternoons while both my kids nap at the same time. If I can convince him to nap again tomorrow I'll make sure I put "update blog" on my to-do list for the afternoon!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Chicken Spectacular

Neither of my kids are napping today like they were supposed to, so this is going to be really short. Years ago when I was doing Weight Watchers I stumbled across a WW recipe website that had a ton of great recipes on it. This was one I printed off, and we've loved it ever since. It's one of my most favorite casserole recipes. Have I mentioned I'm on a casserole and crockpot kick lately? I don't know why, maybe because dinner time has been so crazy lately I want something easy in an effort to make things slightly calmer. Anyway, I had originally planned on roasting a chicken on Thursday night (the baby's birthday) and then using the leftover chicken meat to make this casserole tomorrow night. But, I got too excited at the idea of having this casserole because we haven't had it in forever, so I changed it around and just cooked up some chicken breasts to use for it.

Chicken Spectacular

By the way, it's 8 points per serving. I have a hard time sticking to just one serving though. ;)



Rick Bayless Salsa Mac and Cheese

The husband is obsessed with the NCAA 2010 college football game for the Xbox, so the other night while he was playing it I decided to dig around on the Rick Bayless website and see what I could find. There were some very tasty sounding recipes I came across and emailed to myself. This was one I wanted to try as soon as I possibly could. I had wanted to make Quick and Easy Mexican Chicken because we hadn't had it in a long time, and it's so tasty and easy. I figured since this would have some of the same flavors as the chicken, it would be a decent pairing.

Chef Rick Bayless' Salsa Mac and Cheese
Recipe from Season 7 of Mexico - One Plate at a Time

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 1/2 to 2 cups Fire-Roasted Tomato Salsa or your favorite salsa
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Salt
1 pound dried pasta (though elbow macaroni will do, I suggest you try cork-screw cavatappi or the spiral rotini or fusilli)

Pour 4 quarts of water into a large pot, cover and set over high heat.

In a medium-size saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then stir in the flour and whisk until the mixture turns a deep golden, about 2 minutes. Add the milk and continue to whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and comes to a full boil, 4 or 5 minutes. (Whisk diligently and there will be no lumps.) Stir in the salsa, remove from the heat, then stir in cheese. Continue stirring until all the cheese has melted. Taste and season generously with salt, usually 1 1/2 teaspoons. Cover to keep warm until the pasta is done.

When the water has come to a boil, add the dried pasta. Stir well to keep the pasta from sticking together and boil until the pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly and add the pasta to the sauce. Stir until all the pasta is covered in the salsa cheese sauce. You’re ready to dig in.

*****

I've mentioned before the difficulties I have making a roux, but I have to say a butter roux versus an oil roux is so much easier! Or maybe I'm just getting better at them. Hard to say. I didn't want to mess with making my own salsa, so I bought some fire roasted tomato salsa instead. I also cut the recipe in half. This was tasty, but I used reduced fat cheese, which I think was a mistake. It would have been better with regular cheese I think, and I think mine had a bit too much salsa. We all really liked it--especially the baby! He'd literally scream when he didn't have any left on his tray. I'll definitely make this again. Oh, Rick Bayless, how I heart you.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Crockpot Deviled Chicken

Okay, if I'm going to follow this new format I decided on--to post after the fact instead of before--I need to either post right away the next day or at the very least keep my meal plan from the prior week so I can remember what exactly it was that we had. I checked my "Cooking Blog" photo folder, and this was the only new thing in there. I just uploaded pics, so I know there aren't any on the camera that I just forgot to upload. Well, that's not entirely true because I did take pics of last night's dinner that need to get uploaded. Anyway, I guess we had all repeat dinners last week and that's why I didn't take any pictures. I swear before I had kids I had a fantastic memory, but if you have kids you're familiar with both "pregnancy brain" and "mommy brain." I don't know how that woman with 19 kids does it...I'm pretty sure if I had that many kids I'd be walking around with my mouth hanging open and a dazed look on my face.

I don't even remember how I decided to make this. I think I had slated chicken of some sort but wasn't really excited about the recipe I had chosen, so I went to RecipeZaar.com to find something different. Or maybe I just wanted something that could go in the crockpot. Regardless, I searched for crockpot recipes that had chicken. I had everything on hand for this one, and it sounded pretty good...and I had enough time for it to cook!

Crockpot Deviled Chicken
RecipeZaar Recipe #41882

3 lbs skinless chicken breasts or skinless chicken legs or skinless chicken thighs
2-4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup prepared mustard
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoon curry powder

Place chicken in slow cooker. Combine all remaining ingredients and pour over chicken. Cook for 4 to 6 hours on high or 6 to 8 hours on low.

*****

I didn't change it around a whole lot. I used chicken drumsticks because I had some in the freezer that needed to be used soon. I used dijon mustard instead of regular, and I went kind of easy on the curry powder because the husband doesn't like curry. So hopefully he doesn't read this and find out there was curry in it. I also went easy on the butter to make it slightly healthier.

This was really tasty, and it was so easy to throw together--especially since all the sauce ingredients are things I always have on hand. A lot of the comments on the recipe said they thickened the sauce and poured it over the chicken, but I didn't bother. They also served it over rice or noodles, but no one in my family is really a rice fan, so I skipped it. Plus I think I was out of rice anyway. Hmmmm...now I remember why I ended up making this. I was going to make a Rick Bayless dish with chicken, rice, and beans, but I didn't have enough rice. See? If I can get some kind of trigger I'm much better at remembering! We had some leftover roasted butternut squash and a frozen peas/carrots blend as side dishes.

This is definitely something I'd make again. We all really liked it, although I think I would maybe cut back on the honey. I didn't measure it so it's entirely possible my estimate of half a cup was actually more than that. It was just a little bit on the sweet side, so I think I'd cut back the honey (or measure it) and be a bit more generous with the curry powder.




Monday, November 16, 2009

Hello? (tap, tap) Is this thing on?

Yeah, yeah, I'm still here. We had the baby's birthday party this past weekend, so most of my time last week was spent cleaning house and getting all ready for that. I think most of what I made were things I've posted already, so you really haven't missed out on anything. I did make a yummy last minute chicken drumstick recipe in the crockpot one night (so it really wasn't that last minute since I had time to do it in the crockpot), and I don't remember other than that right now what else we had. I'm pretty excited for what's coming this week, and I'll try to be better about posting the day after I make something.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Pioneer Woman Comes to Phoenix!!

As you may know, I really, really, really, really, really heart The Pioneer Woman. She recently published a cookbook and is going on a book tour. My friend Jen B. and I were beyond excited to find out that Phoenix was one of her stops. The signing was at a local independent book store. I called a couple weeks ahead of time to order our books so we could be in one of the first groups and be assured a seat for the Q&A portion.

We had dinner at a restaurant connected to the book store and then headed over to get in our spot in line an hour before the event was to start...only to find out that our tickets really meant nothing because at the last minute they had changed to giving seats in order of people in line, not the letter group on our tickets (which, by the way, we were in the B group and pretty darn excited about it). We filed through the store and got to the seating area to find that pretty much every seat was taken. Thankfully Jen is pregnant with twins, and she loves to play the pregnancy card whenever given the chance (honestly, when I was pregnant, so did I). She's only around 21 weeks, but since it's twins she looks a lot further along. She quickly found a store employee and said, "Hey, I'm eight months pregnant, there is no way I can stand this whole time. I need two seats." Said employee immediately began looking for seats for us and found two--in the third row! Awesome. Way to go Jen!! We felt pretty good about the somewhat con she had pulled, but it was only a partial lie since she is pregnant, just not as far along as she said.

The event was PACKED. I couldn't believe how many people were there. At 7:00 PW came out and was just as funny in person as she is on her website. She joked about wearing Spanx and said that as a blogger she wasn't really comfortable talking in front of people, so why didn't we ask her questions. Some of them were kind of lame. Jen got one in and asked why she doesn't ever use a slow cooker. The best question, however, was from a little girl who was probably about the same age as the boy. She said really loudly, "Hey Ree?" and PW said, "Yes, honey?" and the girl asked if she had elephants. PW (and the entire audience) laughed, and said she never knew until that moment that her life was missing an elephant. It was so sweet.

Following the Q&A session was the book signing. Honestly I thought we were going to be there most of the night. The signing was done by letter group, but between A and B they had anyone with kids under the age of four go so that they could get home. Jen and I were almost wishing we had taken our little bobos so we could get in line sooner...plus we figured since our three year olds would probably be atrocious, everyone would have let us go to the front of the line. We did play Jen's pregnancy card one more time to get in at the back of the kids line as other preggos had been told they could join that group. It didn't make a whole lot of difference because the woman in line behind us was the start of B group.

PW was so nice in person. We obviously didn't get a whole lot of time to chat with her as there were so many people, but we did get our pictures taken with her. I also asked a question I didn't have a chance to during the Q&A. She's posted a few recipes from a binder of recipes she "borrowed" from her mom. They've been fantastic, so I asked if she still had the binder and would be posting more recipes from it. She said she had given it back but did keep some recipes from it.

It was such a fun night and so great to see that PW is really as fun and laidback in person as she comes across on her website.

PW at the podium


Jen chatting it up with PW about being pregnant with twins (or at least I think that's what they were talking about)


Jen and PW


Me and PW

Barefoot Contessa's Caramelized Butternut Squash

This past week Barefoot Bloggers had a Bonus Recipe Challenge (BRC) where five recipes were posted that were optional to try throughout the week. One of them I'd made before--Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars--and didn't have all the ingredients on hand to make them. There was a Potato Leek Soup I thought about making, but my friend Jen B. had made it before and wasn't impressed, so I figured it wasn't worth it. There was a chicken chili recipe that sounded good, but I already had minestrone slated for one night during the week and thought two soups might be overkill. We've been on a big butternut squash kick lately, so I thought this one sounded perfect!

Caramelized Butternut Squash
1999, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, All rights reserved

2 medium butternut squash (4 to 5 pounds total)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut off and discard the ends of each butternut squash. Peel the squash, cut them in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Cut the squash into 1 1/4 to 1 1/2-inch cubes and place them on a baking sheet. Add the melted butter, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. With clean hands, toss all the ingredients together and spread in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 45 to 55 minutes, until the squash is tender and the glaze begins to caramelize. While roasting, turn the squash a few times with a spatula, to be sure it browns evenly. Taste for seasonings and serve hot.

*****

I only used one squash, and it was plenty for a side dish for my family. This was REALLY tasty!! The husband loved it, I think butternut squash is his new favorite food. The boy didn't really eat a whole lot of it, but the baby liked it too. This was such an easy way to make a tasty and pretty healthy side dish. I actually went to Trader Joe's again and bought two more squash. I think I may use one of them to make this again sometime this coming week...it was that tasty!!





Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Vegetable Parmesan

I wanted to get some vegetarian recipes on the menu plan this week that we hadn't had in awhile or ones that were new to us. So, when I need ideas like that I go check my friend Jen B's blog. I used her vegetarian tag to come up with some ideas. This sounded yummy, and I had recently purchased the bag of grilled eggplant and zucchini from Trader Joe's. Perfect!

Jen B's Vegetable Parmesan

Cooking spray
2 large portobello mushroom caps, whole but stems and gills removed
1 bag of Trader Joe's marinaded grilled eggplant and zucchini (frozen)
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 jar of marinara sauce
6 cloves of minced garlic
1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup of shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup of shredded Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Clean mushroom caps with damp paper towel, then brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oiled grill pan over medium high heat. Grill mushrooms until tender, about 2-4 minutes per side. Grill marks should be present. Place mushrooms in a greased large 9 x 13 casserole dish, cup side up. Cook Trader Joe's eggplant/zucchini according to package directions. Once cooked, place in casserole dish with mushrooms. Sprinkle minced garlic over all the vegetables. Sprinkle all of Pecorino Romano cheese and half of the mozzarella over the vegetables. Spoon marinara sauce over veggies, making sure to spread evenly. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese and all of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Bake for 15 minutes, or until cheese melts and is golden and bubbly.

*****

For whatever reason I really didn't feel like making this on Monday (oh yeah...I felt a cold coming on and the idea of cooking anything really didn't appeal to me), but I went with it anyway because I knew it would be easy. Man alive I was glad I did because this was awesome!!!!! I ended up slicing up my mushrooms after grilling them so they'd be a bit more spread out through the dish.



The husband, baby, and I absolutely loved this. The baby had three helpings!!! He was quite a sight by the time he was done...I thought I'd document it for you all. Sorry for the blur, I only had my phone with which to take a picture and the shutter speed on that camera is less than stellar.



(Actually this was only partway through dinner...his was face was even messier by the time he finished his thirds!)

This is definitely something I'll make again. It was so simple to throw together, and so incredibly tasty. I love those grilled TJ's veggies--I've been pleased with them everytime I've used them. And it's so much faster than grilling (and buying and slicing and seasoning) my own.



Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tuna Cakes with Dill Tartar Sauce

Two cans of tuna were on my list of ingredients I had to work with this week without going to the grocery store, and I found this recipe on a Weight Watchers recipe website I turn to fairly often when I'm doing WW. I had everything on hand, so it sounded like a great addition to the meal plan.

Tuna Cakes with Dill Tartar Sauce

Tuna Cakes With Dill Tartar Sauce
4 Points per Serving

Vegetable cooking spray
3/4 cup finely chopped celery
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons light process cream cheese product, softened
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
dash ground red pepper
1/3 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon dried whole dillweed
1 9-1/4-ounce can 60%-less salt tuna in water, drained
1 egg white

Dill Tartar Sauce (see recipe)

Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add celery and onion; saute until tender. Remove from skillet, and place in a medium bowl. Add cream cheese and next 3 ingredients; stir well. Add breadcrumbs and next 3 ingredients; stir well. Divide mixture into 8 equal portions, shaping each into a 2-1/2-inch cake.

Coat skillet with cooking spray; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add 4 cakes, and cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove cakes from skillet; set aside, and keep warm. Repeat proceudre with remaining cakes. Serve with Dill Tartar Sauce.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 2 cakes and 1 tablespoon sauce).

Dill Tartar Sauce
1 Point per serving

2 tablespoons reduced-calorie mayonnaise
1 tablespoon plain nonfat yogurt
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon peeled, finely chopped cucumber
1 teaspoon dried whole dillweed
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine all ingredients; stir well.

*****

I was really intrigued with this and thought it might go over well with the boy because he really likes tuna salad. So how did it turn out? It didn't. We ended up going with my universal dinner back-up plan of Little Ceasar's pizza. Everything mixed up fine, but the darn cakes would not stay together when I went to flip them. I don't know if they needed more breadcrumbs or egg or what, but out of the eight patties, only three held together. I had one the next day for lunch on a sandwich roll, and as a sandwich it was decent, but I don't think this is one I'll be trying again.

Jen's Butternut Squash Soup

I've never been much of a squash fan, but I'm trying to branch out and embrace the squash. Last fall my friend Jen B. forced me to try making butternut squash soup. I was hesitant to say the least, given my dislike of all things squash (which may very well stem from my mom sneaking zucchini into everything when I was growing up), but I went ahead and tried it. The result? I LOVED it!! It was tasty and creamy and yummy and tasted like fall. I couldn't wait for fall this year to start making it again. I almost bought a butternut squash a couple weeks ago at the regular grocery store but decided to hold off because I wasn't going to be able to make the soup before we went out of town. Man alive, was I glad I waited because Trader Joe's had them for $1.49 each. EACH!!!!!!!!!!! Do you know what an awesome deal that is?! Everywhere else I'd seen them they were $0.99 per pound, and some of those can be big suckers! I only bought one at the time and kind of kicked myself when I got home for not getting more. I went back this week and got four--although two were for my friend Jen A..

This soup is so, so, so easy to make and equally tasty! Jen's original recipe called for two squash, but when I first made it I cut it in half in case I didn't like it. I cut it in half this time as well because I knew I'd be the only one in my house eating it. So, if you want the full recipe check out the link, but I'm going to post the half version.

Jen's Butternut Squash Soup

1 whole butternut squash
olive oil
salt
pepper
nutmeg
garlic powder
3 tablespoons chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter (not margarine)
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Dash ground cayenne pepper
1/2 package cream cheese

Roast Butternut Squash on a cookie sheet as follows: First, season with olive oil, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and garlic powder. Then, roast halved squash face down for 25 minutes and then face up for 25 minutes @ 375 degrees for a total of 50 minutes roasting time. When cool enough to handle, peel squash, and cut into chunks.

In a large saucepan, saute onions in margarine until tender. Add squash, chicken stock, marjoram, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Bring to boil; add cream cheese.

Puree squash and cream cheese in a blender or food processor in batches until smooth. Return to saucepan, and heat through. Do not allow to boil.

*****

I've been eating this for my lunch this past week, but I'll probably freeze some to have on hand for later. I ended up adding in more chicken broth because it was REALLY thick after I blended it. Actually I used my immersion blender right in the saucepan. When I've reheated it in the microwave it's come out really thick, too, so I don't know if I should have added even more chicken broth or just added some in each time I've reheated it.

Go to Trader Joe's (if you have one near you), get a butternut squash, and make this right now!! Today! Hurry!

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice

I have some massive blog updating to do! I was really trying this week to get back into a normal groove and get my house back in order after all the traveling we've been doing, but in doing that my blog fell to the wayside.

As I said in my last post, my challenge this week was to make dinners using only ingredients I had on hand. I cheated only a little and had to buy some chicken broth and brown rice, but that was it. I was excited to realize I had everything on hand for this recipe because it's one we really like, but for some reason I don't make it very often. I definitely need to add it to the rotation more often!

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice

I had some andouille sausage in the freezer that needed to be used up, so I cooked that in a skillet to render off some of the fat, then I sliced it and threw it in the slow cooker. The husband and I always enjoy this when we have it for dinner, the boy ate it okay, but I was SHOCKED that the baby shoveled it down! He ate about as much as I did! He's going to be my spicy food kid for sure, even though it wasn't that spicy, but I have to imagine for a baby it was.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Blog Change-Up

I think I'm going to change my blog format a bit. I'm so bad about coming back and uploading pictures of what I made and reviewing, so instead I'm going to post the next day instead of the day of. Does that make sense? I don't know. Like last night we had Portobello Mushroom Burgers, so instead of posting it yesterday and then last night or today adding a picture and review I would just do the whole thing today. Theoretically anyway, as I didn't take pictures last night, and it's something I've made before. So, that's my new plan.

Sorry for my lack of posting lately. I've felt completely overwhelmed constantly, so my blog has fallen pretty low on the priority list. I blame it on my insane travel schedule as of late. Since August we've been on five trips. Yikes. I couldn't put my finger on why I felt so behind constantly with everything, until I realized how little we've been home. But now we don't have any more trips for awhile, so I'm hoping things will fall back into our normal routine. It's kind of funny because I've noticed a lot of the blogs I follow haven't been posting as often lately either, so it must be something going around.

I'm challenging myself this coming week to plan meals using only items I have on hand. I have four out of five dinners planned for the coming week (we have plans next Saturday and Sunday that don't require me to cook) and lunches figured out, so I'm feeling pretty good about it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Balsamic Chicken Drumsticks

first let me say that one of the shift keys on my computer isn't working, so I'm having a hard time capitalizing some letters. i was recently looking through my freezer and saw some chicken drumsticks that I had forgotten were out there. I got really excited when I remembered this recipe. We had only had it once before, but I liked it. Plus this time I can correct the mistakes I made last time!

(By the way, this will be my last post for awhile. The husband's birthday is Friday, so tomorrow night we're getting pizza for dinner, and then he and I are heading out for a weekend SANS KIDS!!!!!! You have no idea how excited I am!! Or if you have kids, maybe you do have an idea...)

Balsamic Chicken Drumsticks

I wanted to have some kind of couscous side with it, but wasn't sure what to do. I didn't see anything on RecipeZaar.com that looked especially good, so I checked allrecipes.com and found something that sounded good. I'll just link to it:

Company Couscous

I don't have red peppers but I do have green, so I figure I'll just substitute that.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Barefoot Contessa's Cheddar Corn Chowder

I forgot last week when planning out my menu that it was a Barefoot Bloggers recipe week! Oops! So I decided I'd make it this week to have for lunches. It's still not soup weather here in AZ (really it's only soup weather for maybe a week or two out of the whole year), but it's cooler so I figured it would work. Plus I love a good soup! This recipe is from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, but it's also available on the Food Network website. Jill from My Next Life chose this recipe for us to try.

Cheddar Corn Chowder
Copyright, 1999, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, All rights reserved

8 ounces bacon, chopped
1/4 cup good olive oil
6 cups chopped yellow onions (4 large onions)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
12 cups chicken stock
6 cups medium-diced white boiling potatoes, unpeeled (2 pounds)
10 cups corn kernels, fresh (10 ears) or frozen (3 pounds)
2 cups half-and-half
8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cob and blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. (If using frozen corn you can skip this step.) Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a garnish of bacon.

*****

I read the ingredient list and thought, "Wow, that makes A LOT of soup!" Then I realized it said 10-12 servings. I'm really the only person in my house that eats soup, so that was going to be way too much. I decided to cut it in half. I also figured there were a few things I could do to make it slightly healthier. I figured since the bacon would render a lot of fat, and the recipe called for butter I could easily cut down on the olive oil. I used maybe two teaspoons, but it was probably closer to just one. I also used fat free half and half. I wasn't about to skimp on the cheese because I heart cheese. :)

*****

I sat down to have a nice bowl of this soup for my lunch once both kids were down for their naps. I was a bit leery of it because the picture in the cookbook didn't really look like a chowder to me, it looked more broth-y. Mine ended up looking like chowder, but I definitely had my reservations while it was cooking until it had that creamy chowder look to it. I'd read another Barefoot Bloggers review of this recipe, and she thought it was under-seasoned as it's written in the recipe and had added in Old Bay. I was ready to add some in if it needed it, but I really liked the flavor of it without adding anything additional. I had one bite that had the perfect amount of cheese flavor, a bacon piece, potato, and corn in it...it was fantastic!! The other bites were good but that one especially was great.

This was pretty easy to put together, and really tasty. I used frozen corn for mine and thought it was fine. Plus it's much easier to pour some frozen corn into the soup pot than having to cut the kernels off cobs.

I will definitely make this again at some point! Oh, and I put the recipe into the Recipe Calculator on the Weight Watchers website, and it came out to seven Points per serving, which I thought was pretty decent, considering chowders can be pretty decadent soups.