Friday, December 19, 2014

December 19, 2014

It's been a few weeks - we've tried a lot of recipes, found some keepers, tried some duds, and been busy getting ready for Christmas and the New Year.  Thanksgiving was fabulous and it is hard to believe in a week Christmas will already be behind us.  2014 certainly is racing to close. 

2015 is going to bring big changes in our household.  I've just finished all my coursework and am ready to begin student teaching in January.  I've been working on my masters over the past few years and I am truly amazed that in just a few short weeks I'll be in the classroom full time; this is going to  bring a lot (and I mean A LOT) of changes for my family.  Needless to say, I don't think we'll be trying so many new recipes all the time, so I don't expect to be blogging every Friday.  Taco Tuesday will probably be brought back in full force, and we'll be relying on soups we know and love already on soup night.  But I love to cook and create in the kitchen, so I hope to be able to continue to post a few times a month to share new keeper recipes.  We'll just have to see how it goes!!!

To prepare for the next couple of months I've been marking easy recipes, slow cooker recipes, recipes that take 30 minutes or less from prep to table. We found a slow cooker pasta recipe (Easy Meaty Ziti)  that was an overwhelming hit and easily earned keeper status, and we've made it twice since I last posted.  We made a pork tenderloin recipe that everyone loved and was fast.  And my favorite recipe that earned keeper status this week?  Shredded Sweet Potatoes and Spinach.  I have always claimed to dislike sweet potatoes, but this recipe changed my mind!  I made it as the side dish for the pork, but then made it again today to eat for lunch!  (Truth be told, I want to see how it reheats to see if I can bring it with me to work for lunch - we'll see how it tastes tomorrow reheated.) 


Making anything good this week?  Any suggestions for dinner recipes as I head back into the workforce full-time?  Let me know (and wish me luck)!

Happy Cooking!

New Recipes
Shredded Sweet Potatoes and Spinach
Chili and Maple Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Easy Meaty Ziti

Shredded Sweet Potatoes and Spinach


Ingredients
* 1 large or 2 medium sized shallots, minced
* 2 tsp olive oil
* 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and shredded (about 1 lb)
* 4-5 oz fresh spinach, rough chopped
* salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
1. Saute the shallots in the oil over medium to medium-high heat for 3 minutes.  Add the shredded sweet potatoes and stir occasionally.  Cook the potatoes for 9 minutes.
2. Just prior to adding the spinach, season the potatoes with salt and pepper.  Add in the spinach.  Cook and stir until the spinach has wilted and fully heated through. Serve and enjoy!

Notes
If you feel like there isn't enough oil in the pan after sauteing the shallots add another tsp or so prior to adding the potatoes.  And feel free to scrape up the yummy brown bits from the pan when you stir; they are flavorful and delicious!  It will seem like a lot of potatoes and spinach, but both cook down and you will be surprised at the amount you will have when you are done.  And believe me...if you are all intrigued by this recipe I would absolutely suggest you give it a try.  It is neither expensive or time consuming to make, so you really have nothing to lose.  I anticipated not enjoying this dish at all and was so caught off guard at how much I loved it!  I made it not only as a side dish when we first tried it, but later in the week made it for lunch!   I only lightly seasoned this dish with salt and pepper while cooking, but then had the salt and pepper out on the table for everyone to add as suited them.

Chili and Maple Glazed Pork Tenderloin


Ingredients
* 1 pork tenderloin
* 1 tsp olive oil
* 1 tsp chili powder
* kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 2 tbsp pure maple syrup

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 450 F.
2. Trim the pork, then place it on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet.
3. Combine the oil, chili powder and salt and pepper.  Rub this all over the pork.  Cook the pork for 20-25 minutes.  Every 5-8 minutes brush the pork with the maple syrup.
4. Let the pork rest for 5 minutes and then slice and enjoy!

Notes
This was the right amount of time for my pork which was a little over one and a quarter lbs.  You may need to adjust the time if your tenderloin is larger or smaller.  Everyone loved this pork, it was very easy and quick to make.  Pork, for my family, is a nice alternative to chicken every now and then!

Easy Meaty Ziti


Ingredients
* 8 oz ground pork
* 8 oz ground beef
* 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
*  1 jar (25 oz) marinara sauce (or 3 cups if using homemade)
*  2 tbsp tomato paste
* salt & pepper
* 8-10 oz ziti
* 2 tsp olive oil
* 1 1/2 cups boiling water
* additional hot water, if needed

Directions
1. Microwave the two meats together with the Italian seasoning in a bowl, stirring every minute.  It will take about 5 minutes to make sure the meat is no longer pink.  Break up the meat and then drain off the fat.
2. Mix the meat with two cups of the marinara sauce, tomato paste, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.
3. Line the slow cooker with an aluminum foil collar and spray with cooking spray.
4. Microwave the ziti and oil in a bowl at 50% power for 3-5 minutes, stirring every 90 seconds.  Some pasta will look toasted and blistered when it is ready.  Transfer the pasta to the slow cooker and immediately stir in the boiling water.  Then stir in the meat and sauce mixture.  Cover, cook on high for 2 hours (or until pasta is tender).
5. Remove the foil collar and discard.  Gently stir in the last cup of sauce and adjust the consistency with hot water if needed.   Serve and enjoy!

Notes
If you are using jarred sauce I recommend Bertolli Tomato and Basil (that's what I've used each time I made it).  Apparently the reason a foil collar (which in this case is really only a half collar since it is only used on the back) is needed is because many slow cookers are hotter in the back (near the plug) then in the front, and you don't want to overcook the pasta.  To make the foil collar, fold aluminum foil until it is about 6 layers thick and a rectangle the size of the back of your slow cooker.  Press the foil into the backside of the slow cooker.I think I would prepare the meat and sauce in the morning or night before, then when I get home from work I could prep the pasta and get it going!  Only two hours to cook, but hands off if the prep is done ahead of time - sounds good to me!

Friday, November 21, 2014

November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving is next week...wow!!!  So hard to believe!  This week in addition to the new keeper recipes I've also added links to some dishes you might want to include at your Thanksgiving feast!

This week we made five new recipes and ended up with three keepers; there were two new recipes the kids enjoyed but I wouldn't make again.   Those were a caramel cinnamon quick bread (it had an odd flavor profile) and a chocolate peanut butter bar.  The bar just didn't taste like much other than the peanut butter.  That was a bummer because it was super easy to make.  Oh well, sometimes new recipes are deemed keepers and sometimes not.

But on to the keepers!  I made a cinnamon swirl bread and we loved it!  I have to admit - we actually made it twice this week!  Once we were running low on the first loaf I decided to make it again so we could keep enjoying it for breakfast.  The second time I made it the swirl was even better because I rolled the dough tighter.  I will definitely be making this bread again!

We had a new keeper dinner that was pretty different from anything we normally have and everyone really enjoyed it.  Creamy rice, chicken and spinach - and it was creamy with a nice flavor.  If you made the rice ahead of time, or even have some leftover from a previous dinner of stir fry or other dish then the dinner will really come together quickly, and all in one large skillet.  Thumbs up for only one pot to clean after dinner.

The last keeper - I finally made a banana cake.  I've had my eye on this since October, but with Halloween I didn't want to make an extra dessert.  But we enjoyed this cake with friends that came over and it was a hit.  You can use any kind of frosting that you love or have on hand, or use a mix.  I used a caramel cream cheese frosting in the layers vanilla on the outside.  This cake has great banana flavor - give it a try if you have some bananas that aren't getting much love.

Well Happy Cooking - especially if you are hosting the Thanksgiving feast for your friends and family!

New Recipes
Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Creamy Rice, Chicken and Spinach
Banana Cake

Links to recipes for Thanksgiving
Turkey Brine
Traditional Stuffing
Crescent Rolls
Popovers
Classic Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Dutch Apple Pie

Cinnamon Swirl Bread


Ingredients
* 3 cups (12 3/4 oz) AP flour
* 1/4 cup (1 1/2 oz) potato flour
* 1/4 cup (1 1/4 oz) non fat dry milk
* 1 1/4 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp cinnamon
* 3 tbsp (1 1/4 oz) sugar
* 2 1/2 tsp yeast
* 4 tbsp butter
* 1 cup water

Filling
* 1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) sugar
* 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
* 1/4 cup (1 1/2 oz) raisins
* 2 tsp AP flour
* egg wash made from one egg beaten with 1 tbsp water

Directions
1. In a large mixing bowl combine all the dough ingredients, mixing until the dough begins to form and come away from the sides of the bowl.  Knead  - about 12 minutes by hand or 10-15 minuted in the bowl of a stand mixer on level 2.  The doigh should be smooth and satiny when it has been kneaded enough.
2. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and set it aside to rise for  90 minutes.  It will be puffy and have risen, but may not be quite doubled in bulk.
3. Near the end of the rise time create the filling.  Pulse all the filling ingredients in a food processor until combined.
4. Roll out or press the dough into a 16 inch by 8 inch rectangle on a lightly oiled surface.  Brush the dough with some of the egg wash (you will not need it all) and then press the filling onto the dough.
5. Beginning with the short end roll the dough into a log.  Pinch the side seams and the top seam to seal in the filling so it will not escape during baking.
6. Place the log into a lightly greased 8 1/2 inch x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan.  Cover the pan and let the dough rise for a second time, approximately one hour.  If using a traditional pan, let the dough crown about 1 inch over the sides of the pan.  If using a pullman loaf pan, let the bread rise until 1 inch below the edge of the pan.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  If using a traditional pan and the loaf is browning too quickly tent the loaf with foil for the last 15 minutes.  If using a pullman loaf pan, bake with the lid on for 25 minutes and then remove the lid and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
8. Remove the loaf from the oven and let it cool for 3-5 minutes and then remove from the pan to complete cooling on a cooling rack.
9. Slice with a serrated or electric knife after the bread has fully cooled.  Enjoy!

Notes
I used my pullman pan and it turned out fabulous!  We loved it toasted with butter, but I think it would also make great French toast!

Creamy Rice, Chicken and Spinach


Ingredients
* 3/4 cup Italian salad dressing, divided (I used Kraft Roasted Red Pepper Italian)
* 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into 1 inch cubes
* 1 cup chicken broth
* 1/2 tsp garlic powder
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 3 cups cooked brown rice
* 4 oz Cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat kind, Neufchatel)
* 2 big handfuls of fresh spinach, torn into smaller pieces
* 1 large tomato, chopped

Directions
1. Marinate the chicken in 1/2 cup of the salad dressing for 3-4 hours, or all day if desired
2. Heat 1/4 cup of dressing in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the chicken and marinade, and cook until cooked through, 6-8 minutes.
3. Stir in the broth, garlic powder and salt.  Stir to combine, bring to a boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
4. Add in the cream cheese and stir constantly to melt it into the sauce.  Add in the rice and stir to combine.  Simmer on low for 5-7 minutes to reheat the previously cooked rice.
5. Add in the tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add the spinach and stir gently to combine.  Cook just long enough to wilt the spinach.  Serve and enjoy!

Notes
This recipe was inspired by a recipe that called for instant rice.  I adapted it and added the additional garlic powder, salt, marinating the chicken and so forth.  We loved it and it was a dinner that came together very quickly!  I can definitely see myself prepping the chicken and rice in the morning, and then cooking the dinner in the evening.  If everything is prepped and ready this really comes together without much fuss.

To make the rice ahead, bring 3 quarts of water and 2 tsp salt to a boil in a large pot.  When the water is boiling add 1 1/2 cups of brown rice.  Cook and stir occasionally for 30 minutes.  Drain the rice and spread it out on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Drizzle the rice with 2 tsp of liquid (lime juice, chicken broth, in this case I drizzled additional Italian salad dressing) and let the rice cool for 15-20 minutes.  Use in a rice salad, or in  dish that calls for white or brown rice, or refrigerate it for use in the near future.

Banana Cake



Ingredients
* 3/4 cup butter, softened
* 1 1/4 cup sugar
* 3 large eggs
* 1 tsp vanilla
* 4 very ripe bananas, mashed
* 3 cups AP flour
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1 tsp ground cinnamon
* 1 cup buttermilk  (Or 1 cup milk and 1/2 tsp cream of tartar - add the tartar to the flour mixture)
* 1/4 cup sour cream or vanilla yogurt

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and mix until creamy. Add eggs one at a time and mix until incorporated.
3. Add vanilla and mashed bananas. Mix until combined.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
5. In another bowl, mix together buttermilk or milk and sour cream or yogurt.
6. Add 1/3 of dry mixture to mixing bowl, followed by half of buttermilk. Repeat and end with remaining 1/3 of dry mixture. Mix until flour is incorporated into batter.
7. Divide batter between the two prepared cake pans. Smooth out and level batter using mini off spatula or spoon.
8. Bake for 30-40 minutes, rotating pan halfway thru baking. Insert toothpick in center of cake to check for done-ness. Toothpick should come out clean. Otherwise, bake for another 5-10 minutes or so.
9. Let cake cool in pan for 5 minutes. Then loosen edges of cake with an offset spatula. Remove cake from pan and let cool to room temperature on wire rack.


Notes
You can frost this with any kind of frosting you desire - butter-cream, vanilla, peanut butter, chocolate, whipped cream, cream cheese.  I used a caramel cream cheese frosting in between the layers (I cut each cake in half so I ended up with 4 layers), and then vanilla frosting on the outside.

 

Friday, November 14, 2014

November 14, 2014

Pumpkin...pumpkin...who wants something with pumpkin in it???  Yum!  We love pumpkin, and this week I processed 2 pumpkins to use in recipes.  I used a new technique to cook them and it was so much quicker; I've included it for you this week.  Likely if you are going to process pumpkin this fall you have already done so, but maybe bookmark it for next fall.  And if you've never processed a pumpkin before and your family loves pumpkin recipes (breads, muffins, cookies, pie, pancakes...) then you should definitely try this next autumn!

So yes, I processed our pumpkins to use not only for Thanksgiving pies in a few weeks (pumpkin freezes beautifully), but of course we used it in a few other things as well this week.  We made a pumpkin pie, a batch of pumpkin squares, and tried a new pumpkin pancake recipe.  The pancakes were a hit!  The first keeper of the week.

We did a lot of cooking, but primarily some of our favorite recipes from the blog.  I did the really long slow cooker pork recipe not only so we could eat it for dinner this week, but also so that I could freeze it away for use in quesadillas in the new year when things get really busy!  We had friends over for dinner and had chicken Parmesan pasta (but used pasta noodles instead of spaghetti and it worked great!).

The second keeper this week was Dutch Apple Pie.  I couldn't believe how quickly this came together!  It tasted like an apple crumble but it sliced like a pie.  I will definitely make this again.  Each bite tasted like fall!

Happy Cooking!

New Recipes
Dutch Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pancakes
How to process pumpkin

Dutch Apple Pie



Ingredients
* 2 cups AP flour
* 1 cup packed brown sugar
* 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
* 3/4 cup butter
* 4 apples, peeled and diced
* 4 tbsp AP flour
* 4 tbsp sugar
* 2 tsp cinnamon

Directions
1. In a large bowl mix the first four ingredients.  Set aside 1 cup and then press the rest into an ungreased 9inch pie plate.
2. Mix the apples with the flour, sugar and cinnamon.  Pour in the pie crust.
3. Top the apples with the reserved crumb mixture.
4. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.  Enjoy!

Notes
I am not a huge traditional pie crust fan, so this pie recipe intrigued me.  The filling that went with the pie looked a little strange so I adjusted it to my preference and ended up with this simple filling.  I used 2 granny smith apples and 2 honeycrisp apples.  This pie was easy to put together since there is no crust to roll out - you simply press it in the pie plate.  I made this one weeknight "just because" and it was a hit.  I will definitely make this again!

Pumpkin Pancakes


Ingredients
* 2/3 cup AP flour
* 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 3/4 tsp cinnamon
* 1/8 tsp salt
* 2 eggs
* 1 cup milk (I used skim)
* 2/3 cup vanilla yogurt
* 2/3 cup pumpkin (I used fresh, but you can used canned)
* 2 tbsp canola oil
* 1/4 tsp vanilla

Directions
1. In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients (AP flour through salt).
2. In a second bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, yogurt, pumpkin, oil and vanilla until well blended.
3. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix until fully combined.
4. Cook pancakes as you normally do (on a hot griddle, in a skillet, etc).
5. Serve hot, and enjoy!!!

Notes
Delicious!!! They tasted a bit like pumpkin muffins and were incredibly fluffy.  Everyone loved these, and we will definitely make them again!

How to process pumpkin

1. Wash your pumpkins.  Remove the stems, then cut in half from the top to the bottom.
2. Remove the pumpkin seeds.  Sprinkle the pumpkin flesh with kosher salt.
3. On a baking tray lined with parchment paper lay the pumpkin halves flesh side down.
4. Cook in a 400 F oven for 30-45 minutes or until a knife inserted into the pumpkin glides in easily without resistance.
5. Let the pumpkin cool until you can easily handle them, approximately 1 hour.
6. Remove the skin, then process in a food processor or blender until very smooth.
7. Store the pumpkin puree in the fridge for 1 week, or in the freezer for longer.

Notes
I like to store my pumpkin in 2 cup batches as this is most often the amount I need for a recipe.  If I need less I can use the remaining in another recipe. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

November 7, 2014

This week we finally have a new keeper dinner recipe!!!  Yay!!!  Pork chops with tomatoes and onions; talk about delicious!  And to add to the fabulousness this was an incredibly easy recipe to pull together.  We will definitely be making this one again.

We also made a new side dish this week, Broccoli Cheese Bites.  Ryan and I thought these were really good, The O-man thought they were okay, Miss H tried them but didn't like them (not a surprise since she doesn't like melted cheese) and Lima Bean wouldn't even try them.  They didn't earn keeper status but thought a link to this recipe might be worth a look for some of you.  Let me know if you do try them!

I haven't even thought about the meal plan for the week ahead so I am not sure what is on the menu.  Maybe a cinnamon bread?  Wouldn't that be fantastic in the morning?  Or I used to love Corn Muffin bread that Thomas' brand made years ago.  Apparently not enough of us loved it because they stopped producing it, but I wonder if I might be able to replicate a similar bread?  Hmmm.....  I guess check in next week and see what I ended up testing out!

Happy Cooking!

New Recipe
Pork Chops with Tomatoes and Onions

Quick Pork Chops with Tomatoes and Onions


Ingredients
* 2 tsp oil
* 6 boneless pork chops
* salt and pepper to taste
* 1 small onion, sliced thin
* 1 cup canned diced tomatoes, undrained
* 1 cup beef broth
* 1 1/2 tsp dried parsley
* 1/8 tsp dried basil
* 1/8 tsp dried oregano
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1/4 tsp pepper

Directions
1. In a large nonstick skillet heat the oil over medium to medium high heat.   Pat dry the pork chops and then season with salt and pepper.  In the skillet brown the pork chops on both sides.  Remove from the pan.
2. Add the onions to the now empty skillet and cook 3-5 minutes or until they are tender and beginning to caramelize.  Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
3. Once boiling, add the pork chops back to the skillet. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, and then flip the pork chops and simmer for another 5 minutes.  Test for doneness (when the pork is cut into the juice should be clear).
4. Place the pork on a platter and top with the tomato and onion sauce.  Serve with mashed potatoes, rice or noodles.  Enjoy!

Notes
This was incredibly easy and delicious!  It could easily be put together even on a hectic weeknight.  The cooking time when the pork goes back into the sauce may be a bit longer or shorter depending on the thickness of your chops.  Mine were of average thickness (a little more than 1/2 inch each), so this timing described in the directions worked well for our pork chops.  The boys asked for mashed potatoes so that was our side dish (along with both roasted and steamed broccoli - so everyone would eat their veggies!).  We will definitely make these again.

Friday, October 31, 2014

October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!!!  Hope you are ready to have some fun tonight!

This week was another tough week in the test kitchen.  First up - a new oatmeal muffin recipe.  Yikes!  I am not sure exactly what went wrong, but the muffins were terrible.  The boys and I tried one when they came out of the oven (it was close to dinner so we shared one), and none of us could even finish our piece.  What a bummer.

We also tried a new banana bread, but it wasn't banana-y enough.  After we made those I still had enough bananas that were ready for one of two fates: be baked into something or be tossed into the freezer for future use in a smoothie. I have been wanting to make a new banana snack cake recipe but since it is Halloween I opted to freeze those bananas.  Who needs a cake in the house on October 31?

I am planning on making a new zucchini side dish this week, and there is a zucchini cake one of my sisters made that looked amazing (again, I know, who needs cake this time of year?  But it looks so good!).  Hopefully there will be success in the kitchen this first week of November!

Happy Halloween, and Happy Cooking!


Friday, October 24, 2014

October 24, 2014

Early in the week we tried 2 new slow cooker recipes.  The ingredient lists looked fabulous, and making dessert in the crock pot was very intriguing.  Because it was very chilly on Saturday it seemed the perfect time to try a new beef stew as well an apple pudding cake recipe.  While both were good, they just weren't great.  I have had so many better apple desserts (pie, crumble, crisp, bars) so this didn't earn keeper status.  And the beef stew was fine, but definitely not better than our dutch oven beef stew that I make in the oven.

I thought that was going to be it for new recipes, but we have a church function tonight and I made some s'mores fudge to bring.  Wow!!! This was easy, and delicious, and just perfect for a bake sale or for giving as gifts to friends and teachers at the holidays.  Perhaps you should bookmark or pin the recipe for the upcoming holiday season.

One last thing from this week...we had roasted split chicken breasts one night and then made homemade chicken soup the next day.  It was probably one of my best batches ever, and I think that was in due in large part to my whim of tossing in some homemade poultry seasoning into the stock!  I am definitely going to do that again  the next time I make soup!!

Let's see what next week brings...and Happy Halloween in advance!!!

Happy Cooking!

New Recipe
S'mores fudge

S'mores Fudge


Ingredients
* 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
* 1/4 cup butter
* 2 cups chocolate chips (360g)
* 3 to 4 whole graham cracker sheets, broken into pieced
* 2 cups mini marshmallows (120g or so)

Directions
1. Line a 11 x 7 (or even 9 x13) pan with aluminum foil or wax paper.  Set aside.
2.Melt the chocolate chips, butter and milk in a pan over medium-low heat, stirring constantly.
3.  Off the heat, add in half of the marshmallows.  Let the mixture sit for 2-3 minutes.
4. Add in the remaining marshmallows and graham crackers.  Spread into the prepared pan.
5. Let the fudge set up and cool in the refrigerator for 4 hours and then cut into pieces.  Store in the fridge.

Notes
So easy - I can definitely envision making this fudge to give away during the holiday season.  And you can make it thick by putting it in an 8 x 8 pan, or thin if you put it in a 9 x 13 pan.  My 11 x 7 pan seemed to be the perfect size - the fudge wasn't too thick or too thin.  This fudge is scrumptious no matter what size pan you put it in!!!  Enjoy!

Friday, October 17, 2014

October 17, 2014

It was a good week for recipes except we had one major flop - a dilly zucchini casserole.  It had a great ingredients list, but ended up with very little flavor.  It was a bust.  I suppose that is what happens when you try out tons of new recipes all the time...some are good, some are amazing, and some are terrible.

We did have 4 recipes earn keeper status this week, though!  We perfected that banana muffin from a week or two ago, and we found a fabulous peanut butter recipe!  Ryan was out of town early in the week so the kids enjoyed a south of the border mac and cheese one night.  And then late in the week Ryan and I loved a spicy tomato sauce with shrimp recipe!  All in all we had quite a variety of keepers, and peppered the week with some favorite tried and true meals like salmon, hurry up ham, and leftovers night.

Not sure what is on tap for next week - I have a huge midterm so I don't anticipate being too adventurous in the kitchen until that is complete.  Keep your fingers crossed for me for the test, and then hopefully I'll find some time to try out a new recipe or 2!

Happy Cooking!

New Recipes

Homemade Peanut Butter
South of the border mac and cheese
Banana muffins
Spicy Tomato Sauce with Shrimp

Homemade Peanut Butter


Ingredients
* 10 oz roasted peanuts
* 2/3 tsp kosher salt
* 1 tsp honey
* 1 tbsp peanut oil

Directions
1. In your food processor or blender combine the peanuts, salt and honey until crumbly.  Add in the peanut oil and process until you reach the smooth consistency you prefer.
2. Store in the fridge, and use as you would any other peanut butter.

Notes
Oh my word!  Talk about delicious!!!!  I've tried a few peanut butter recipes before, but this is by far the best we've tried.  My kids told me I should stop buying peanut butter and just make this from now on...that is a serious endorsement because my kids eat peanut butter almost every day!  I had the ingredients on hand, so decided to give the recipe a whirl.  I used dry roasted peanuts and that give it a fabulous flavor!

This recipe makes about 2/3 cup of peanut butter.

South of the Border Mac and Cheese


Ingredients
* 2 1/2 cups rotini pasta
* 1 can evaporated milk (12 oz)
* 1 can cheddar cheese soup (10oz)
* 4 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
* 2 tsp chili powder
* 1 can tomatoes with green chiles, undrained
* 8 green onions, sliced

Directions
1. Cook the rotini in boiling water as directed on the package, probably 8 minutes.  Drain.
2. Spray the inside of your slow cooker with non-stick spray.  Mix the pasta, milk, soup, cheddar cheese and chili powder together.  Pour in the slow cooker.
3. Cook on high for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring after 30 minutes.
4. Add the tomatoes and green onions, and mix.  Heat for another 10-15 minutes.
5.  Serve and enjoy!

Notes
Not a glamorous meal, but an easy to put together twist on mac and cheese.  My older kids and I loved the flavors of this dish, and you could even use a spicy cheese like pepper jack instead of cheddar if you wanted to add even more heat.  But we enjoyed it just like this - we hope you will, too!

Banana Muffins

Ingredients
* 3 cups AP flour
* 1 tbsp baking powder
* 1/2 tsp baking soda
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp cinnamon
* 10 tbsp butter, softened
* 1 cup brown sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1 1/2 cups plain vanilla yogurt
* 4 ripe bananas, mashed very well (at least 1 1/2 cups of mashed banana)
* 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Directions
1. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a  bowl.  Set aside.
2. Cream the butter and brown sugar on medium speed for 5 minutes.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated.
4. Slowly add the dry ingredients and the yogurt, going back and forth3 times, until all is incorporated.  Do not overmix - only mix until there are little to no streaks of flour remaining.
5. Fold in the bananas, and then if using, fold in the walnuts.
5. Divide the batter into greased muffin tins, filling almost to the top.
6. Bake at 425 F for the first 5 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375 and bake for an additional 15-18 minutes (a toothpick inserted into a muffin should come out clean).

Notes
We finally got this right!  We previously had used vanilla yogurt, but that began to overpower the banana flavor.  We added an additional banana, and swapped out nutmeg for cinnamon.  When we made these we left some batter without walnuts, and then added them into the remaining.  I definitely prefer the muffins with the walnuts, but the kids prefer without, so this was a great compromise!  I hope you enjoy these!  (These are definitely best the the first day or 2, so freeze some if you aren't going to eat them all right away, or make a half batch!  The recipe as written about made 17 muffins for me.)

Spicy Tomato Sauce with Shrimp



Ingredients
* 4 garlic cloves, minced
* 3 tbsp olive oil
* 1 1/2 lbs of uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
* 1 cup tomato juice
* 1 cup tomato sauce
* 1/2 - 1 tsp red pepper flakes
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 1/4 tsp pepper
* 4 tsp corn starch
* 1/4 cup white wine or chicken broth
* 2 tbsp minced fresh basil
* pasta, rice or zoodles of your choice, cooked as directed

Directions
1. In a large nonstick skillet saute the garlic in oil until tender.  Then cook the shrimp for 2-3 minutes per side. Remove the shrimp from the pan and keep warm.
2. Add the tomato juice, tomato sauce, pepper flakes, salt and pepper to the oil and garlic in the pan.  Stir and and combine well.
3. Mix the corn starch with the wine (or chicken broth).  Stir this mixture into the tomato sauce.  Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5-6 minutes.  Add the basil to the sauce and let the cook for 1 minutes.  Stir the shrimp and any accumulated juice back into the sauce and cook until the shrimp are fully warmed through again.
4. Serve the shrimp and sauce over pasta, rice or zoodles!  Enjoy!

Notes
Wow - super yummy!  I had mine over zoodles (spiralized zucchini), and Ryan had his over angel hair.  We both really enjoyed this.  I saved the leftover sauce and made fresh zoodles to use with the sauce for lunch.  And the I also used the sauce on my pizza for dinner.  Can you tell I loved it???  Give it a try and let me know how you enjoy it!

For the tomato juice, I actually used 11 oz instead of 8 oz, because I had small cans of tomato juice and each can is 5.5 oz.  So if you also have those little cans, feel free to add the extra to the sauce - it won't hurt it!

Friday, October 10, 2014

October 10, 2014

There are a couple of family birthdays this week....so Happy Birthday!!!  Wish we could all be together, but we are together in spirit!

In the test kitchen it was a good week for fall treats, but the two new dinner we tried were lackluster at best.  Too bad!  Both had ingredient lists that appeared to be fantastic, but both had the same sort of problem, they were just kind of odd.  Oh well, better luck this next week with dinner recipes.  Maybe we'll try out some new side dishes or veggies.

But back to the keepers!  Miss H's class at middle school made a dessert called Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars.  She was raving about them, and salted caramel anything these days is so trendy, I thought we should give them a try here at home.  Over the weekend she actually made them with her brothers!  I was out doing school stuff, Ryan was home but he just let them do their own thing in the kitchen.  The bars were a huge success...Ryan enjoyed them so much (and as you know he isn't much of a dessert guy) that I made them myself later in the week!  These bars are fantastic, and a cinch to whip together.  You can add the caramel sauce or not, and they are delicious warm or straight out of the fridge (I think that is why we ran out...people were enjoying them out of the fridge without so much as a plate, let alone the sauce!).

The other fall treat that was a hit at bookclub was Snickerdoodle bars.  They were also easy to put together and require ingredients I imagine are in your pantry at this very moment.  No chocolate, just cinnamon sugar yumminess.

Three keepers this week, but hoping for a new dinner or side dish keeper this coming week!  Wish me luck.

Happy Cooking

New Recipes
Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars
Salted Caramel Sauce
Snickerdoodle Bars

Salted Caramal Apple Pie Bars


Ingredients for shortbread crust
* 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 1 cup AP flour

Ingredients for apple filling
* 2 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced and chopped
* 2 tbsp AP flour
* 2 tbsp sugar
* 1 tsp cinnamon
* 1/8 tsp nutmeg

Ingredients for streusel
* 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
* 1/3 cup light brown sugar
* 1/4 tsp cinnamon
* 1/4 cup AP flour
* 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold, cubed

Optional Salted Caramel Sauce (click here for recipe)

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 300 F.  Line an 8 x8  baking pan with aluminum foil leaving an overhang on all sides.
2. Stir the melted butter, sugar, vanilla and salt together in a medium bowl.  Add the flour and stir until everything is well combined.  Press the shortbread crust mixture into the the prepared baking pan.  Bake for 15 minutes.
3. Combine the apples, flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a large bowl until all the apples are evenly coated.  Set aside.
4. Whisk the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and flour together in a medium bowl.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender, two knives, or even your hands.  The mixture should begin to resemble coarse crumbs.
5. When the crust comes out of the oven, turn the oven up to 350 F.
6. Pour the apples over the crust and press them in to fit.  (It may seem like too many but it will work).
7. Sprinkle the streusel over the apples and bake for 30-35 minutes of until the streusel is golden brown.
8. After cooking, let the bars cool in the pan for 20 minutes at room temperature, and then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
9. When ready to serve, cut into bars and pour the salted caramel sauce on the bars (if desired). Enjoy!

Notes
These bars are fantastic!  Easy to make, and good out of the fridge, or warmed up in the microwave.  The sauce adds a bit of sophistication to the dessert making it company worthy, but they are delicious even without the sauce!  If you are going to the orchard to pick apples, when you are pulling out your apple sauce and apple crisp recipes to use all the apples up add this recipe to the list of the options.  You won't be disappointed!

Snickerdoodle Bars


Ingredients for bars
* 1 cup of butter, softened
* 2 cups packed brown sugar
* 2 eggs
* 3 tsp vanilla extract
* 2 2/3 cups AP flour
* 2 tsp baking powder
* 1 tsp cinnamon
* 1/4 tsp nutmeg
* 1/2 tsp salt

Ingredients for topping
* 1 1/2 tsp sugar
* 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Cream the butter and brown sugar for five minutes. Add in the eggs and vanilla, and mix for another 3 minutes.
3. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Slowly incorporate the flour mixture into the creamed ingredients.
4. Spread the mixture in greased (or parchment or foil lined) 9 x 13 pan.  Mix the topping ingredients and sprinkle over the top.  Bake for 25 minutes.   Cool the pan on a wire rack and then cut into bars.

Salted Caramel Sauce

Ingredients
* 1 cup granulated sugar
* 6 tbsp butter, cut up
* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 1 tsp salt

Directions
1. Heat sugar in a medium saucepan over medium to medium high heat, stirring constantly.  Eventually the sugar will clump and then liquify.   Keep stirring.
2. Once the sugar is completely melted add in the butter.  The mixture will bubble when you add the butter, but keep stirring.  Stir until the butter is completely melted and incorporated, 2-3minutes.
3. Very slowly add the cream.  Keep stirring!  Again the mixture will bubble.  Once all the cream is mixed in let the mixture boil for one minute, and keep stirring.
4. Remove the pan from the heat.  Add in the salt and mix.  Let the sauce cool before using.
5. When the sauce is cool, if desired, pour it into a mason jar (or other glass container) and cover tightly with a lid.  Store the sauce in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.
6. To use cold sauce, reheat it in the microwave, slowly, stirring after every 15 seconds so you do not overheat the sauce.

Notes 
Yum!!!  Imagine this over vanilla ice cream, brownies, zucchini cake, apple slices.... the possibilities are endless.  It will solidify in the fridge, but it reheats beautifully and is delicious!  Try it out!

Friday, October 3, 2014

October 3, 2014

What changes in the weather this week brought - from the low 80's last weekend to a high in the 40's expected tomorrow...no wonder everyone has a cold!  We enjoyed a visit with my parents, and saw Miss H run a few cross country races.  All in all it was a great week, though not for new recipes. We tried 3 new things this week and none were voted keepers.  One came really really close (a new banana muffin recipe) but I need to work out the kinks on the baking time and flavor.  The other two were not even close.  Homemade vanilla pudding tasted good, but took a really long time to make, and it didn't look very appetizing.  Two thumbs down on that.  And then a pork Marsala saute was so quick and easy, but the sauce just wasn't quite right.  Bummer.

The week ahead looks good - from the Seahawks playing on Monday night to the xc conference meet, hopefully we'll have lots of smiling faces around the dinner table.  I hope we'll have some keepers this week!

Happy Cooking!

Friday, September 19, 2014

September 20, 2014

Hannah is out playing with the High School Pep band at the football game tonight - indications of what is coming not too far down the road.  Where have the years gone?  I was especially struck this week one evening at dinner watching her interact with her youngest brother.  9 years between the two of them and they are still amazingly close!  I don't know what he'll do when she heads off to college...but I digress; I better switch the subject before I send myself into a severe depression!

What a Sunday dinner we had!  Owen had a flag football game and we didn't get home until pretty late in the afternoon.  The dinner, chicken with caramelized pearl onions and almonds, was on the meal plan for last week but just never happened so I made it for Sunday.  All I can say...YUM!  It was beautiful, it was delicious, it was a keeper!  (You should seriously try this one!)  It was a beautiful meal that definitely qualifies as company-worthy, but it was also quick to put together.  What a winning combination!

This week I've also posted a recipe that I picked up this summer from my mom.  She loves turkey burgers and she told me her secret to making them - onion soup mix, bread crumbs, no eggs.  They are so easy to make, and they freeze wonderfully well.  It is nice to have these on hand in the freezer for when the family wants to grill out but I just don't feel like a traditional hamburger.

 My sister C shared a great (and easy - notice a pattern this week?) dinner that her family had raved about.  I made it a few days after she shared it with me and my family had the same reaction.  Chicken Parmesan Casserole was fabulous and paired well with spinach salad.  No pasta or rice needed and everyone was still satisfied.  Though next time we have it and if we have any leftover pizza dough in the fridge perhaps I will throw together a flat bread to pair with diner.

And finally, a new-ish banana muffin.  My kids are crazy for muffins, quick breads and the like.  A while back my sister M gave me a fabulous banana muffin recipe which I have made numerous times and posted here.  I went to make them this week and as I pulled out all my ingredients I found, ugh, my sour cream was no longer good.  Of course, I had already started on the muffins and adding the sour cream is the last step!  I quickly substituted vanilla yogurt and an additional bit of baking soda and wham - they were fantastic!  I added a topping that I had seen for a pumpkin quick bread and that just put them over the top.  We always have vanilla yogurt on hand so this may be our new favorite way to make banana muffins!

It's been a successful week around here - 4 keepers.  Let's see what next week brings!

Happy Cooking!

New Recipes
Chicken with Caramelized Pearl Onions and Almonds
Turkey Burgers
Chicken Parmesan Casserole
Vanilla Yogurt Banana Muffins

Chicken with Caramelized Pearl Onions and Almonds


Ingredients
*2-4 bone in chicken breasts, halved
* salt and pepper
* 1 tbsp vegetable oil
* 1 bag of frozen pearl onions (10-16 oz), thawed
* 2 tbsp unsalted butter
* 1 tbsp brown sugar
* 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
* 1/2 cup chopped almonds
* 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives

Direction
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Pat the chicken dry with paper towels then season with salt and pepper.  Cook the chicken, skin side down, for 5 minutes or until well-browned. Flip the chicken, reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for 15 more minutes or until the meat is cooked through.  Transfer the chicken to a platter and keep warm.
2. While the chicken is cooking, place the thawed onions in a medium bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave until tender, 4 to 5 minutes; drain well.
3. Melt the butter in the now empty skillet over medium high heat.  Add the onions, brown sugar and vinegar and cook until the onions are caramelized, about 5 minutes.  Add the almonds to the skillet and cook and stir for another 1-2 minutes.  Remove from the heat and nest the chicken back into the onion mixture.  Sprinkle the chicken with chives and serve.

Notes
Wow! We loved this!!!!  It took less than 30 minutes and we all agreed it was a restaurant quality meal.  It looked beautiful and tasted delicious.  I had never used or tasted pearl onions before this dinner though they are typically one of the side dishes at Thanksgiving!  I was a bit skeptical but figured we like onions so I might as well give the recipe a try.  I am so glad I did!  45 minutes before I needed the onions I had taken them out of the freezer and poured them into the bowl I was going to microwave them in and let them thaw on the counter.  I microwaved my onions for 4 minutes and that worked.  My grocery store only had onions in a 10 oz bag. The original recipe calls for a 16 oz bag but this worked out just fine.  Also, I cut the chicken up even further prior to nesting it back in the skillet which made it easier for the kids to handle and cut themselves.  We will definitely make this meal again!!!

Turkey Burgers

Ingredients
* 1.5-2 lbs ground turkey
* 1 envelope onion soup mix (I used Lipton)
* bread crumbs (just enough to bind the meat)

Direction
1. Mix the turkey and onion soup mix together.  Slowly add the breadcrumbs until the mixture will hold together.
2. Form patties and grill right away, or place them on wax paper lined cookie sheet to quick freeze.  After freezing, put the burgers in a zipper freezer bag for longer term storage.

Notes
These were so moist and delicious!  Sometimes I've encountered some very dry or tough turkey burgers but these are fantastic.  Using breadcrumbs instead of egg for binder definitely helps combat dryness.  You can use Panko breadcrumbs or traditional, whichever you have on hand.  Last time I made these I then froze them for future use.  I took one out to defrost and cooked it and it was still amazing.  So nice to be able to take one (or a few) out at a time!

Chicken Parmesan Casserole



Ingredients
* 4 cups precooked and shredded chicken
* 1 jar of marinara sauce (24 oz)
* 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
* 1 cup mozzarella cheese
* 1 cup breadcrumbs, Panko or homemade
* 1-2 tbsp olive oil
* 1 1/2 dry tsp Italian seasoning, plus fresh minced basil if desired

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Grease an 8 x 8 or 11 x 7 casserole dish with cooking spray.
3. Mix the chicken and marinara sauce together and place in the dish.  Top with the cheese to cover the chicken.
4. In a small bowl mix the breadcrumbs, oil and herbs together.  Add salt and pepper if desired.  Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top of the chicken.
5. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the crumbs are golden and the casserole is bubbling on the sides.

Notes
I needed to cook this on the longer side, but it depends on how much you really put in your casserole, how hot your oven runs, if you took it right from the fridge to put it in the oven, etc.  This is definitely a meal you could make in the morning and cook in the evening when you get home.  To make it super easy, shred a rotisserie chicken and use part of the chicken meat from that for this recipe.  We loved this and will definitely be making it again.  So often you think of chicken Parmesan and pairing it with pasta but we didn't miss the pasta!  We served it with spinach salad and were all satisfied.

Vanilla Yogurt Banana Muffins


Ingredients
* 4 ripe bananas
* 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
* 1/2 cup canola oil
* 1 large egg
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 1 cup whole-wheat flour
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
* 1 tbsp vanilla extract
Ingredients for topping
* 5 tbsp packed light brown sugar
* 1 tbsp AP flour
* 1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
* 1 tsp cinnamon
* 1/8 tsp salt

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan, regular or mini, with paper liners.
2. Peel four bananas, and place them in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until mashed, about 1 minute. Add brown sugar, oil, and egg; beat until smooth. Reduce speed to low. Add flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; beat until smooth. Add vanilla yogurt and vanilla; beat until combined.
3. Fill muffin liners three-quarters full. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes for regular muffins and 18 for mini, rotating pan halfway through. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Store, covered, at room temperature.
Notes
Don't be worried if you get a small hole in the top of your muffin, or if you get a crack.  This might happen because your topping had a bit of butter that wasn't fully incorporated and melted right into the muffin. I must say - my kids sought these ones out because then inside the muffin had a little bit of extra sweetness and yumminess in the center.  They might look a little different, but they taste fabulous.

Friday, September 12, 2014

September 12, 2014

We had two keepers this week, one almost keeper, and a new dish we planned but never got to try.  It was busy!  My family (the kids especially) love pasta and potatoes, so it shouldn't be a big surprise that those were the main ingredients in both keepers.  The first keeper recipe made some fabulous super crispy baked french fries - truly the crispiest french fries I've ever had at home or out to eat. With the first bite everyone voted them to keeper status.  The second keeper dish is called Garlic Chicken Rigatoni.  This is a quick dinner that we thought was fantastic and will definitely become a regular in our dinner rotation.  One way to make it even easier...when you buy chicken breasts in bulk and are freezing them in meal size portions, go the extra step with one or two of the portions and cut them up into bite sized pieces prior to freezing.  This way, when you are ready to make stir fry or some other dish that calls for cut up chicken you are already to go!  It saves serious prep (and clean up) time!

Our almost keeper was popcorn marshmallow bars.  I was in the mood to bring rice kispie treats to our book club meeting this week, but I did not have any cereal on hand.  I did, however, have popcorn kernels.  I popped some up and mixed it with a marshmallow mixture and they were good.  Good, but not yet great, so I'll try again soon and see if I can get it right!  And the other dish  that didn't get tested this past week will make it on the meal plan again this week...here's hoping that we have time to make it!  School, my class, 2 cross country meets, flag football practice, a handful of soccer practice, an out of town business trip...a lot going  on this week so we'll see how (and what) meals turn out!

Our youngest has started soccer and is loving it. In fact, when practice was cancelled this week because of the heavy rain he was absolutely bereft.  Miss Hannah even offered him an Oreo and he declined.  Yikes!  He was seriously devastated!  Fingers crossed that the rain predicted for tomorrow morning passes us and he gets to play soccer!

Happy Cooking!

New Recipes
Garlic Chicken Rigatoni 
Crispy Baked French Fries

Garlic Chicken Rigatoni


Ingredients
* 10 oz uncooked rigatoni or penne pasta
* 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
* 1/2 cup boiling water
* 1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken breast cut into 1 inch cubes
* 1/4 tsp garlic salt
* 2 tbsp AP flour
* 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
* 8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
*3 garlic cloves, minced
* 1/2 cup white wine, divided
* 2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
* 1/4 tsp dried basil
* 1/8 tsp salt
* 1/8 tsp pepper
* 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
* grated Parmesan, for serving

Directions
1. Cook the pasta according to the box directions.
2. In a small bowl combine the sun-dried tomatoes and the boiling water.  Let stand 5 minutes, then drain and chop the tomatoes.
3. Sprinkle the chicken with the garlic salt and then toss with the flour.  In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp of oil over medium high heat.  Add the chicken; cook and stir for 4-5 minutes or until no longer pink.  Remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm.
4. In the now empty skillet heat the remaining oil over medium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook and stir until tender, 4-5 minutes.  De-glaze the pan with 1/4 cup of wine.  Combine the remaining wine, chicken broth, parsley, basil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and tomatoes.  Stir this mixture into the mushrooms and bring to a boil.  Stir in the chicken and heat through.
5. Drain the pasta and add it to the chicken mixture.  Serve with Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

Notes
We absolutely loved this - all of us!  And you cannot believe how easy this was to throw together.  I had 3/4 lb of chicken in the freezer so I used that, and I didn't need to adjust any of the ingredients.  This is similar to another favorite or ours,chicken, broccoli and sun-dried tomato stir fry, but definitely not the same.  The leftovers were delicious the next day; I look forward to making this again!

Super Crispy Baked French Fries


Ingredients
* 4-5 russet potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch thick fries
* 5 tbsp oil, divided
* 1 tbsp cornstarch
* 1 tsp salt

Directions
1. Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position and preheat the oven to 450 F.
2. Place the potatoes in a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Microwave the potatoes for 2 minutes.  Shake the potatoes and then microwave for an additional 2 minutes.  Transfer the potatoes to a cooling rack and blot the potatoes dry with paper towels.
3. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with 4 tbsp of oil.  Place the baking sheet in the oven to heat the oil, for 4-5 minutes.
4. Mix one tbsp of oil with the cornstarch and salt.  Add the potatoes to the oil mixture and toss them to coat.
5. Carefully arrange the potatoes on the baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake for 15 minutes, then flip and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.
6. When finished baking transfer the potatoes to a towel lined plate and blot with additional paper towels.  Move the potatoes to a bowl and serve while hot.  Enjoy!

Notes
Wow - these were incredibly crispy!  I was hesitant to try these fries out given the amount of oil for them to cook in, but in the end decided to to give the recipe a try.  They were such a hit that I am glad I did!  In the future I will try with a little less oil and will update this recipe posting if I have success!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Septemeber 5, 2014

Oh my...I almost missed posting this week!  That is one of the good parts about the fall...getting back on a regular schedule.  Certainly it is tough to get back in the swing of things - athletic schedules resume, homework piles up, the sunlight fades quicker and quicker each evening.  But a schedule and some organization...that helps the whole house run smoother.   Typically I draft the keeper recipes as they are found and then on Fridays I write my musing and it is easy to post.  But when I get behind I feel the pressure to get it published...it is "due" Friday evening.  Ha!

In any case, this week we had one keeper: crispy potatoes.  We had them with dinner and everyone enjoyed them.  As I mentioned in an earlier post all the kids discovered breakfast potatoes while we vacationed out east.  These potatoes were outstanding and would be good for both breakfast or dinner.

Soccer gets underway this weekend, and our little Lima Bean is playing on a team for the first time!  It should be really fun to watch and the weather is predicted to be fantastic!  The O-man also has his first game, and Miss Banana is reffing a rec game tomorrow.  We'll be at the fields all morning!

Not sure what we're cooking this week, but hopefully we'll get at least one keeper!

Happy Cooking!

New Recipe
Crispy Potatoes

Crispy Potatoes


Ingredients
* 1/4 cup vegetable oil
* 4-6 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
* 1 small onion, finely diced
* kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
* 3 tbsp water
* 1 tbsp unsalted butter

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. In a large saute pan heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the potato cubes and onion and season with salt and pepper.  Saute, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.
3. Turn up the heat to high and add the water.  Stir and then cover with a lid.  Steam the potatoes until the water evaporates about 4 minutes.  TO ensue that the potatoes don't stick (or don't stick too much) open the lid and quickly stir every minute or two while the water is evaporating.
4. Lower the heat to medium, remove the lid and allow all, or nearly all, the remaining water the evaporate.
5. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter to the potatoes. Toss to coat.  Spread the potatoes on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake in the oven for 25-40 minutes, checking to see when they have reached your desired level of color and crispness.  Transfer the potatoes to a serving bowl and enjoy!

Notes
These were outstanding potatoes.  I did think they were a bit messy when I turned them onto the baking sheet - definitely not all of the potatoes had retained their cube shape during the course of this cooking, but they were all fabulous when it was time to eat!  So while they were a little involved, I do believe they were worth the effort as they were so incredibly scrumptious!)

Friday, August 29, 2014

August 29, 2014

Another week, another taste test!  You know me...I love to try out several versions of a recipe and try to find the best.  Because our garden is producing so many tomatoes this year that I decided to make 3 fresh tomato sauce recipes.  One was based on our usual sauce, one was from Giada, and one was based on a quick marinara that we make.  Hmmm...we didn't really love them; no keepers among them.  But, we still have more tomatoes coming so perhaps we'll still find one.

We did make scratch meatballs to use with the sauce taste test dinner, and they were an amazing hit, voted to unanimous keeper status.  They are made the way my mom makes them, though I had never made them this way before.  Now I doubt I'll make them any other way again!  Super easy, and super delicious.  They are fall apart tender without falling apart...you'll have to make them to see what I mean!

A few new recipes in the works for the week ahead...we'll see what pans out!

Happy Cooking

New Recipe
Mom's Meatballs

Mom's Meatballs


Ingredients
* 1 lb ground beef
* 1/4 cup tomato sauce
* 1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
* 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
* salt and pepper

Directions
1.  Place a piece of tinfoil on a cookie sheet and then place a rack on top.  Spray the rack with cooking spray.  Preheat the oven to 425 F.
2. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. 
3. Form small meatballs from the mixture and place them on the rack.  Bake the meatballs for approximately 12 minutes or until browned and coked through. 
4. Use with your favorite pasta sauce or for meatball subs, or however you want to! 

Notes
Talk about easy and delicious!  The absence of egg in the meat mixture creates a more tender texture to the finished meatball.  The breadcrumbs and cheese help bind the meat, and cooking them in the oven ensures they get cooked through.  Add more or less of the ingredients as you desire, or change the ground beef to chicken, turkey or venison.  This recipe can be your jumping off point!  Enjoy!

Friday, August 22, 2014

August 22, 2014

The summer is fading away.  Dusk is arriving earlier, school supplies are taking over my guest room, and all of our vacations are now excellent memories.  I cannot believe school is about to begin (though in previous years it had always started by now!).

We actually got home today from our trip out east.  What do you make for dinner on the night you arrive home and have very little in the fridge and pantry?  Breakfast for dinner, of course!  Hannah and Liam fell in love with diner home fries while we were away.  I had a recipe for home fries and actually had all the ingredients on hand!  We made them and loved them so we actually have a keeper this week!

This weekend we are going to defrost our freezer so we shall see what ends up on the dinner menu - some new chicken dishes, I am sure.  And a few loaves of bread, perhaps...you should have seen how much bread flour I had in the freezer! I am hoping we'll turn out some keepers in the days ahead. Keep your fingers crossed!

Happy Cooking!

New Recipe
Home Fries

Home Fries


Ingredients
* 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
* 1 tbsp butter
* 1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped into small pieces
* 1/2 cup sweet pepper (any color), seeded and chopped into small pieces
* 2 medium-large baking potatoes, skin on and cubed
* salt and pepper to taste

Directions
1.      Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a heavy 12” skillet over medium-high heat. Do not let it smoke.
2.      Add the onion & pepper and cook until browned about 8-10 minutes. Do not let this burn. Stir frequently. 
3.      When done, remove from heat and transfer to a bowl.
4.      While the onions and peppers are cooking add the potatoes into a large sauce pan.
5.      Add just enough cool water just until the tops of the potatoes are covered and they float slightly.
6.      Place the pan over high heat.
7.      As soon as the water begins to boil, remove from the heat and drain the potatoes in a colander for approximately 5 minutes.
8.      In the pan the onions and peppers were sautéed in, place it back on the burner to medium-high and add the butter and remaining oil.
9.      When the butter foams, add the potatoes in a single layer, making sure each potato is touching the surface of the skillet.
10.  Allow to cook for 4-5 minutes without stirring. You want the sides to brown.
11.  Once browned on one side, carefully flip and brown the other sides.  You will need to do this a few times and it will probably take about 15-20 minutes total.
12.  Once all the sides are crispy brown, add the onions and peppers back in and gently stir.  Then add in the salt and pepper; stir once more then serve.

Notes
Wow!  Hannah was interested in adding home fries to our breakfast for dinner menu, and we had all these ingredients on hand the night we got home from vacation.  We loved this!  We had an orange pepper in the fridge so we used that; use whatever you have on hand.  Delish!