I am currently blogging about everything. Jump in where you are and thanks for coming by!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cheese Enchiladas

This is how we make enchiladas in my family.

Corn Tortillas
Chili Powder
Vegetable Oil
Shredded Cheese
Diced Onion
1 can of chili (your choice)

Take slightly stale corn tortillas and dip them briefly in a mixture of chili powder and water, the amounts are at your discretion but the water should have turned red from chili powder. Meanwhile pour an inch or two of oil into a small frying pan (just greater than the diameter of your corn tortillas. Set the oil on medium high heat. Make sure you "shake off" the tortillas a bit before you dip them in the oil and submerge them until the tortilla is fried and slightly crispy. Place the tortilla in a 9 x 13 pan and fill with cheese and onions, roll up and place seam side down in the pan. Keep adding tortillas until the pan is full. Take your canned chili (or an equal amount of homemade) and mix it with the leftover chili water and pour it over all of the enchiladas and then top that with cheese and bake at 350 degrees until it is all bubbly and hot. What works really well here (and I am not even kidding) is a small can of that cheap hot dog chili that is merely texturized vegetable protein and beef fat mixed together ("it's a beef process"). But you can ladle over some homemade chili or a can of vegetarian chili whatever you have on hand.

We generally serve this with some rice, a green salad, and some sauteed zucchini.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Meatless Monday: As meatless as you wanna be

Tonight we all had various holiday meal leftovers, some colorful boiled eggs, macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole, potato casserole and some honey baked ham slices and honey baked turkey breast. So some of us ate vegetarian and some of us had meat, but basically it was a fight to clean out our very, very full refrigerator.

I also had to put the leftover Easter candy on a very high shelf. Because I will eat it all. Seriously. I have to put it out of reach of myself. I had Cadbury Creme Eggs for breakfast. Oh, chocolate, my lover, my enemy.

Here is my Aunt Kathy's wonderful, wonderful potato casserole recipe. There are a jillion variations on this one, when I make the casserole for breakfast I add buttered corn flakes on the top, otherwise I leave it just cheesy on top.

Potato Casserole

(1) 2-pound bag frozen hash browns or frozen potatoes O’Brien
½ cup melted butter or margarine (1 stick)
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
½ cup chopped onion (omit if using potatoes O’Brien)
1 Can Cream of Chicken Soup (cream of anything works really)
1 Pint Sour Cream (have also used Greek yogurt here)
2 Cups Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese (Or save 1 cup cheese for top.)

Mix all ingredients (except potatoes). Add potatoes and mix well. Put into an ungreased oblong casserole. (I mix it all in the casserole pan actually.) Sprinkle top with 1 cup reserved cheese (if applicable)

Bake 350 F for 50-60 minutes.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Lasagna and Taco Tuesday

Hey! My parents came in to town for my oldest's First Communion so I have been hanging out with them and neglecting to blog. But not neglecting to cook! I love to cook with my parents and since they were the ones that taught me to cook I hope they like cooking with me.

Monday was Meatless of course, so I made a decadent Veggie Lasagna. I used the oven-ready noodles so they needn't be boiled first and put the first layer in the pan with some sauce according to package directions. However I did not have my ricotta mixture ready to go so the pasta was curling up by the time I got ready to put in the next layer. So that's my tip, have everything ready to go before you start assembling the lasagna layers. I mixed my ricotta cheese with 1 beaten egg, 2 tsp of Italian spices (dried), some defrosted and drained and squeezed chopped spinach, 1 grated carrot, and half a grated onion. I put down noodles, ricotta, tiny sprinkle of mozzarella, sauce and repeat until you lay down the top layer of noodles which are only topped with sauce and mozzarella. I baked it for 30 minutes under foil, then removed the foil and baked for 15 more minutes. I served the lasagna with a crispy green salad, but it also goes well with sauteed green beans tossed with a bit of Italian vinaigrette. If you lack ricotta cheese you can sub in some cottage cheese, simply blend the cottage cheese by itself with an immersion blender and then mix with the other ingredients. I swear no one can tell the difference. You can also do a 50/50 mix of ricotta and cottage cheese if you need to.

Tonight (Tuesday) was taco night! My dad made the BEST homemade salsa, I made black beans and yellow rice. My dad actually made the seasoning blend for the beans for me, chopped onion, cilantro and peppered bacon. The results were deee-lish! We seasoned the taco meat with chopped onion and garlic, cumin, adobo, and a bit of chili powder and just a few tablespoons of plain tomato sauce. We toasted some crunchy taco shells, sliced some romaine lettuce, set out the shredded cheese and sour cream and of course Dad's amazing salsa. We also sliced and ate some deliciously decadent avocado, dressed in only salt and lime juice. Fantastic!

I will post Dad's salsa recipe when he gets back from taking some pictures of the sunset. Adios!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Night Fights

So today is my husband's birthday (hi Honey!) and I decided to try and make him his favorite dessert, apple pie. Now a sane person would have gone to the store and picked up a Mrs. Smith's frozen pie and called it a day, but NOOOOOO, I had to get all cocky and Suzy-Homemaker and try to make a FROM SCRATCH apple pie. This was a mistake.

Here's the thing. I am actually a pretty decent baker, I can make bread and cookies and cake and even pretzels and doughnuts, but pie crusts have always been my Achille's Heel. I just can't seem to get it right, too little water, too much water, the butter never seems to melt into the crust enough, or sometimes too much. It all gets very confusing and then I have to go lay down for awhile.

I decided to try and make a butter/lard pie crust because I don't use vegetable shortening (unless I am making something for a vegetarian) and my previous attempts at an all butter crust (pate brisee) have all been unmitigated disasters. The Hindenburgs of pastry making really, people standing around weeping, screaming, "Oh, the humanity!". My last pie looked like someone had dropped an apple cobbler from a very high place, and then maybe stepped on it. The others... I can no longer recall anything except the acrid smell of burnt crust and defeat.

Today was going to be different. I had a nice clean kitchen to work in. The kids were down for a nap. I had been studying pie techniques for months. I had all of my ingredients, bowl, pastry blender, even the glass holding the ice water for the crust in the freezer and refrigerator. I was told by a reliable source to keep everything, right down to the salt and sugar in the ice box for at least a half an hour.

I got out my chilled bowl and added the cold butter, flour, salt and sugar and began to work it in with my pastry blender when no more than 30 seconds into blending did I feel a "snap" and one of the tines broke right off into the flour. I pressed on now adding my lard. The butter had been really easy to cut into the flour, but the lard had FROZEN right into the stainless steel measuring cup I had placed it in. I managed to dig it out, but mostly in one large piece, it took a lot of arm muscle to get it broken down at all.

Then you are to add 3 TB of ice water to the proceedings. If the dough holds together when you squeeze it then you leave it alone, if not you need more water, 1 TB at a time. Sounds pretty easy right? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! See, some of the dough squeezed together, but some of it stayed crumbly. I tried to push the crumbs into the part that was holding together, but it was all slipping through my fingers. The I tried adding more water, but it made the dough gummy in spots and stuck to the bowl, my hands, everywhere but to the OTHER PIECES OF PIE CRUST. I managed to squish some of it into a ball like mass and wrap it into plastic wrap as the instructions indicated, and the other half as well. One ball/disc/blob as supposed to be larger than the other, but neither was to be larger than 6 inches. Yeah, a ruler would have been helpful in this situation since I have all the spatial relations God gave a duck. Actually, ducks fly and can take-off and land on water, so I bet they are pretty good at visual estimation after all. Whatever the case, I am not good at estimating.

I let the dough "chill" in the fridge for 30 minutes as instructed while I worked on the apple filling. I watched a handy little YouTube video but he doesn't give exact amounts so I just sort of improvised. The thing that REALLY bugged me was how beautifully and quickly he can skin an apple with a paring knife. I have all the knife skills God gave a... duck? We WILL go with duck this time.

My timer went off and I was ready to roll out the dough. Meanwhile the children had decided that even though they had not slept AT ALL they were ready to be up. There was much crying and tearful pleading and some screaming and red faces. The kids were pretty upset too. I tried to roll out my first (the smaller) crust. It exploded into a dust ball much like when Buffy stakes a vampire. POOF!

I added some more water and then it was sticking to the plastic wrap and I was sobbing and one or both of my children were attached to my ankles at various times, asking me if they could "help?" and I was like, "GRRR! Mommy is having a melt down, go watch TV if you know what's good for ya!" I put in the filling, which I must say looked and smelled pretty good, then I attempted to put the top crust on. This was an even worse experience if you can believe that. I tried rolling the crust out between two pieces of plastic wrap, but it kept crumbling around the edges and sort of was thicker and heavier than one would ideally prefer a pie dough to be. It was somewhat more like a piece of fraying wet felt, smeared with concrete and big hunks of butter. There was no crimping the edges, or fluting the edges. There were no edges. The top and the bottom simply, sullenly, fused together like some sort of grayish-beige (possibly deadly) mold. I carved some vents in the top and threw the whole thing dejectedly into the oven.

When my husband called home to tell me he was on his way, the kids were watching cartoons and wrecking my living room and I was reading celebrity gossip on the internet to calm my shattered nerves. He sweetly asked if I needed anything from the store. I answered in one poignant word, "dinner". He brought home some rotisserie chicken, a tub of already mashed potatoes, and amazingly a tub of Edy's Vanilla Ice Cream! I made a salad and some green beans. Afterwards we attempted the pie with generous scoops of ice cream with it (because, what can't ice cream fix?) and it was eh, the crust was flaky but not tender at all, too heavy by half and the apples were somewhat over done since my "air vents" that I had carved into the top crust had sealed themselves shut in the oven. To put a good spin on it... best pie I ever made!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Whoopsie Wednesday: Forgot to Post and Thursday's Dinner

Wednesday's dinner was a great success, I made a spicy black bean soup and my husband made some corn bread waffles. You can find corn bread waffle recipes online, but our recipe came from the KitchenAid Belgian Waffle Maker cookbook that came with our super-studly, mack-daddy, dual belgian waffle maker, (with chrome exhaust and V-8 engine). Seriously, it's an awesome waffle maker.

Basically you use flour, corn meal, eggs, milk, cheese and cayenne pepper and make a nice thick waffle batter. You cook each waffle for 3 minutes and 45 seconds and they are light and crispy and cheesy and delicious. It made a sort of nice quick bread to serve with the bean soup.

I rinsed, sorted and soaked my beans and set them aside. In the bottom of my pressure cooker I sweated some roughly chopped onions, garlic, yellow bell pepper, and 2 tsp of Emeril's Southwest Seasoning and 1 tsp of chili powder and a single bay leaf. I added the drained beans and stirred them all together and then added a partial container beef broth I had in my fridge that needed using up. You could use chicken or vegetable broth or a mixture if you are so inclined. I cooked the beans with the veggies for 25 minutes on high pressure and then did quick release after 10 minutes. We served everything with a nice green salad. I was so tired though that I fell asleep without remembering to post. So sorry!

Tonight (Thursday's) dinner was sort of a chaotic adventure. My oldest daughter came home today with an earache, which necessitated some phone calls to local doctors to see if anyone could see her before 5 and dosing her with tylenol. Then trying to get her sister to get dressed and both kids to find their shoes to get them in the car to the doctors. No sooner had I texted my friend (and Sarah's softball coach) that we couldn't make it to practice, (my husband is the assistant coach) I get a call from Coach's Wife (and also my friend) that their beloved Golden Retriever had JUST passed away suddenly and could we please go coach the other kids?

Is it any surprise that I left the dinner in the oven? When I got home I was able to salvage the now somewhat sad and shriveled pork loins I had prepared by putting some barbecue sauce on them, but I still felt bad.

These are delicious when prepared correctly, but pretty good even if you leave them in about 30 minutes longer than you should have.

Take both pieces of a pork loin and lay them in a lidded dutch oven or large oven safe lidded pot; mine is an enamel over cast iron piece from the Martha Stewart collection. Sprinkle the loins all over with your favorite BBQ rub or rib rub. Drizzle the meat with a combination of liquid smoke, worcestershire sauce, apple juice and a splash of mojo marinade. (If you lack mojo you can sub in some citrus juices, lemon, lime, orange etc.) I put some large hunks of onion and a quartered apple around the meat to cook down and add moisture and flavor. They did help keep the meat somewhat moist as well.

After I pulled the meat out I took some pre-steamed green beans and put them in a pan with hot bacon fat and let them sit and sizzle till they were golden brown, then I peppered them and turned them and let them get brown on the other side. While those were cooking over medium heat I added some butter to a smaller pan and put that on low. Then I sliced an un-peeled apple into many nice thin slices and fried them in butter. When they were brown and soft on both sides I added the apples to a bowl with a goodly dash of cinnamon. Then I added some frozen corn to a microwave safe bowl and cooked the corn niblets with salt, pepper and butter. You could also add a bit of cream or sour cream after they are heated through to make a sort of "creamed corn" that is also very good.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Slow Cooker Tuesday: Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore

Apparently, cacciatore means "hunter" in Italian, (according to Wikipedia.) Who knew? Anyhow, it means prepared in the hunter style. If you have ever had marinara sauce, that means prepared in the sailor style, and if you want to know what style puttanesca is I suggest you look it up yourself. ;)

This is how I made my cacciatore this morning. I defrosted 2 chicken breasts and salt and peppered them. To the slow cooker I added 1 bay leaf, 2 tsp of Italian seasoning, 1/2 sauteed onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 sauteed bell pepper and 1/2 small bag of carrots. I put the chicken pieces on top of the veggies and poured a small can of tomato sauce over all. If you had fresh cooked mushrooms or a well-drained can of mushrooms I add those as well, I was in fact OUT of mushrooms so my cacciatore isn't going to be as awesome as it could be.

We had penne pasta last night, so instead of serving this over pasta this evening we are going to have it over washed and slightly torn spinach leaves. The heat from the chicken and sauce will lightly wilt the leaves and then we top it all off with some fresh parmesan cheese.

I may also need a glass red wine tonight after the school board meeting. Wish me luck!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Meatless Monday: Penne in Fresh Tomato Sauce

Today I made some whole wheat penne pasta with a sauce made from 2 garden fresh tomatoes (thanks Gina), onions, garlic and yellow pepper. All the veggies were chopped into small bits and sauteed in olive oil, then I skinned and chopped the tomatoes and put them into the pot with a generous amount of salt, to flavor them and to help them break down. Then I added 2 heaping tsp of dried italian herbs. I let all of that simmer on low as the water came to a boil in my stock pot for the penne and added a small can of plain tomato sauce (I didn't have enough fresh tomatoes!). I tried the Barilla brand of whole wheat penne for the first time and it was pretty good, if a little starchy tasting. It takes some getting used to whole wheat pastas at first but we have been eating them for years now. When I first made the switch I only served whole wheat pasta under very hearty bolognese sauces because it hid the flavor a bit better, but now we are used to them and I can make a lighter, even primavera style sauce for it. I steamed some fresh green beans and dressed them with butter, salt, pepper and some fresh parmesan and called it a night.

Here's the menu for the week:

Monday: Penne Pasta with sauteed green beans
Tuesday: Slow cooker Chicken Cacciatore over spinach
Wednesday: Cheesy cornmeal waffles and chili
Thursday: Pork loin with mashed potatoes and cooked cinnamon apples
Friday: Fish! From the fish guy!
Saturday: Hamburgers on the grill
Sunday: Lemon roast chicken, salad, and fresh bread

Tuesday night's dinner has to be a slow cooker meal since I will be at a school board meeting and my husband will be coaching our older daughter at softball. I adore slow cookers for that convenience. You don't have to even be home to have a meal ready to go. Maybe I should make Tuesdays a regular slow cooker feature?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fish Friday: Cobia Wrapped in Bacon

This one goes out to my friend, Katie Collins, who believes deeply and spiritually in the healing power of bacon.

Dry the fillets with paper towels. Season the cobia fillets all over with pepper and lemon zest. Wrap the fillets in overlapping rashers of bacon. Heat a heavy bottomed skillet on the stove. Place the fillets in the pan and brown and crisp the bacon, then flip. Put the pan in the oven at 400 degrees for 8-12 minutes (depending on thickness of fillets). You can use toothpicks to keep the bacon on if you need to, but take care not to pierce the fish. Fish is done when it is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.

Served this with steamed broccoli, whichu made me realize I am the luckiest woman on earth, as my kids actually CHEERED at the thought of having more broccoli. If you still had say, some asparagus, leftover you could steam it, season it with sea salt and serve with a simple dressing of mayo thinned with lemon juice and a few capers stirred in it. Very good and easy recipe I got from my Mother in law.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Orange chicken, curry pineapple rice, steamed haricot vert

So tonight I made sort of a citrusy-fruity themed dinner and it was pretty tasty! Here are the recipes.

Orange Chicken Breasts

Squeeze the juice of 2 clementine oranges and half a lemon and add a bit of orange zest to the juice mix. Salt and pepper the chicken breasts. Turn a heavy bottomed skillet onto medium high heat and coat the bottom of the pan in olive oil. When hot, place the chicken breasts dow in the pan and let get a lovely brown color, about 3 minutes per side. Pour in the juice mixture and let the breasts steam to finish cooking about 5 minutes. Remove the breasts from the pan and reduce juice mixture by half, then add the breasts back in and coat in thickened reduced juice.

Curry Pineapple Rice

Take (1) 20 oz. can of pineapple rings or bits (packed in juice, not syrup) and drain into a measuring cup. Fill measuring cup the rest of the way with water or broth according to package directions. For my brown rice I required 2 1/4 C of liquid and I got about 1 C of juice from the can. I used another 1 1/4 of chicken broth to make up the difference. Saute a bit of finely chopped onion (and garlic if desired) in a large pan with olive oil. Add the rice, the liquid, 1 tsp of curry powder and salt according to package directions and cook for appropriate amount of time. (On the stove top brown rice takes about 45 minutes.) When rice is done stir pineapple pieces into hot rice along with a handful of pine nuts or a small can of drained water chestnuts.

Hubby got some lovely tiny green beans (haricot vert) at Costco, super yummy and skinny they cook very quickly. I steamed them in a bit of butter and water and then simply seasoned them with sea salt. Took about 5 minutes in the microwave.

Some of those sweet delicious Hawaiian rolls would be good with this!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Weird Wednesday: Lasagna with Asparagus and White Beans

Okay, my image of a lasagna is either a succulent, multi cheese and herb vegetarian lasagna or a rich tomatoey sauce and Italian sausage blend. This is neither... in fact at first glance bears only an academic resemblance to lasagna, but don't let this deter you. This is a tasty and luxurious entry into the ranks of the finest lasagnas.

My husband found the recipe on "Choosy Beggars" and I have to say at first I was resistant. Then he explained there would be a cream sauce and I edged carefully into hesitant. Then he showed me the gorgeous pictures of the lasagna and I was reticent, and then we actually pulled the hot, bubbly, aromatic lasagna from the oven and I was ardent!

Basically you make a roasted red pepper and garlic sauce in place of the tomato sauce. Then you make a bechamel and you use port salut cheese and asiago (we didn't have those and subbed in parmesan and mozzarella). The asparagus was on sale and the white beans already in the cupboard so this was an economical meal since we didn't have to make a special trip to go buy any complicated ingredients.

The prep time would have been easier had we made the roasted red pepper sauce the night before, but at least the beans were already cooked and waiting in the fridge. Using the same ingredients in different ways (as we used asparagus and white beans in Monday's soup) is also a time saver. Do yourselves a favor and go look at the website, the lasagna was super yummy, the kids even had seconds and we all had a small green salad and some sliced pears on the side. Different and delicious!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I'm baaaaaack!

I needed to spend some more time with BFF. It was great to spend a lot of time with her, even if our kids were acting like crazed wildebeests most of the time. When someone suffers a great and sudden loss there isn't much you can do except be there and I was honored and pleased to be there for my friend and her family. Shout-out to my other BFF KC who spent the whole week with our mutual BFF in between my two weekend visits.

Menu for the Week:

Meatless Monday -- Asparagus and white bean puree soup
Tuesday-- Meatloaf cupcakes, pressure cooker garlic mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli
Wacky Wednesday -- White bean and asparagus lasagna
Thursday -- Baked chicken breasts in a orange demi-glaze, pineapple brown rice, sauteed bell peppers and onion
Fish Friday -- Got to put in an order with my fish guy (plus an interview with the Fish Guy coming soon!)

Got home late on Monday night and the Hubby had made an AMAZING white bean and asparagus soup that he found on the blog Lisa's Kitchen. It was super tasty and just the thing you wanted after a 5 hour car trip, light but hearty, filling but not heavy. My husband actually kind of hates asparagus but has recently come around on accepting them when they are mixed in with other things. It was great to see him buy and prepare the asparagus on his own. Moms of fussy eaters take note, sometimes they DO come around, even if it is 37 years later. You laid the ground work, their spouses will thank you.

Tonight's dinner was supposed to be a super fast meal due to softball practice, but softball practice was cancelled. But here is a really fast way to make meatloaf nonetheless. Mix up 1 pound of ground meat (your choice of turkey, beef, chicken, pork or any combo you like) with half a cup of oatmeal, chopped fresh tomato, chopped half of bell pepper (any color), chopped half an onion, 1 grated zucchini, 1 egg, 2 tsp of House Blend, and enough of any ketchup, BBQ sauce, A-1 sauce, worcestershire sauce you like (your choice) to get ingredients nice and flavorful. Mix well in a mixing bowl and then take individual 1/4 C scoops of the meat mixture and place them in a lightly greased muffin tin. This makes 1 dozen mini-meatloaves. REALLY pack the mixture into the measuring cup, leaving no air pockets, so that meat stays together when serving. Cook at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, chop and steam broccoli in the microwave by placing florets in a glass bowl, adding 1 TB of butter, 2 TB of water, and some salt to the florets and steaming until softened but still bright green. I usually cook them for about 3-5 minutes depending on amount of broccoli.

I made the garlic mashed potatoes in my Cuisinart brand pressure cooker by slicing Yukon Gold potatoes into slices, plus peeling 6 cloves of garlic, adding 2 C of chicken broth (I had an open container of broth that needed using up) and 1 TB of salt and 1 tsp of white vinegar (to keep color bright). I cooked the potatoes and garlic on high pressure for 7 minutes and then immediately released the pressure. I drained the potatoes and added them to a pan on the stove with milk, half and half and butter and mashed them. I added salt, pepper and Italian spices to taste.

This is a really fast meal, if you have defrosted meat you can make everything in the time it takes the meatloaves to bake, so a true 30 minute meal! Everything tasted great too and the kids even had seconds on their broccoli.