During December 2011, I experienced 3 gallbladder attacks within a week and a half. Although I don't think my diet was THAT bad before this happened, I decided after the third one to drastically alter my eating habits. So, for at least the next couple of months (until my baby comes), my goal is to seek out and share low-fat, high fiber, and low-sugar recipes. I figured as long as I was figuring things out for myself and my family, I may as well share what's working!

November 21, 2010

Butternut Squash Bake

With Thanksgiving approaching, my mind is spinning with all of the recipe possibilities.  This year, our Thanksgiving celebration will be a smaller affair with my family and my in-laws.  And I'm OK with that.  While it can seem like a lot of work for so few people, it's nice to know that it will be comfortable and I don't have to worry about impressing anyone.  Because of this, I'm still deciding what I'm going to do with the sweet potatoes this year.  Should I go savory or sweet?  Should I make a casserole or keep them in a recognizable form?  So many decisions to make.

One thing I have already decided, however, is that this Butternut Squash Bake will be making appearances on our table in the future.  I recently triend another similar casserole to see how they matched up--and this one is the knock-out champion at our house.  Even my husband, (who doesn't normally approve of winter squash), liked this version!  AND, he took seconds.  That's huge over here.

So, if you're like me and not sure what direction you're heading with a Thanksgiving side (or two), try adding this one to your menu.  You (and your guests) can thank me later.

(Sorry about the lack of pic AGAIN.  You'll just have to go with your gut on this one.  It should be growling by now.)

Butternut Squash Bake
Adapted from Taste of Home

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 tsp. oil
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup crushed saltines (about 8 crackers)
2 Tbls. Parmesan cheese
1 Tbls. butter, melted

Place squash in saucepan.  Cover with water and bring to boil.  Boil 20(ish) minutes until squash can be easily pierced with a fork.  Drain well and place in large bowl.  Mash until squash is nearly smooth.  Set aside to cool a bit.
While squash is boiling, heat oil in small skillet.  Add onion and saute until soft and translucent.
In medium bowl, mix mayonnaise, sauteed onion, egg, sugar, salt and pepper.  Add cooled squash; mix well.  Pour into greased casserole dish.
Mix saltines, Parmesan, and butter.  Sprinkle over squash mixture.  Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until heated through and top is golden.
NOTES: The original recipe doesn't have you sautee the onions.  I didn't.  If you're a fan of crunchy onions, then feel free to leave that step out.
As for the Parmesan, I use the pulverized Kraft Parmesan.  I'm sure it would look fancier if I shredded some myself, but it still tastes fantastic!

November 15, 2010

Philly Chicken and Pasta

I will admit right now that there was a point at which the scale and I were friends.  After I got pregnant with my third baby, our relationship became somewhat strained. And now, as I visit every day, I usually leave in a bit of a huff.  I fondly remember our happy times together--the scale and me--and I am looking forward to having a great relationship once again.  Therefore, my current challenge, as it relates to this blog, is to find amazing low-fat, calorie-counter's-dream recipes.  And, I will admit, this task does seem a little on the big deal side of things.  (I would say big FAT deal, but that's what we're trying to get away from...)  So, it's with this new goal in mind that I created tonight's recipe.  I know that I'm not the first person to combine these ingredients in this manner.  But, since I made it up tonight, sans recipe, I'm going to call it an original.

(Now, imagine a great pic here.  OK--well, mediocre.  Oh wait--that's what WOULD have been here if my camera battery hadn't died yesterday.)

Philly Chicken and Pasta
Servings: 4

2 large bell peppers
1 large onion
1 tsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (or pressed)
1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast
4 oz. neufatchel cheese (lite cream cheese)
1 cp. chicken stock
salt and pepper
8 oz. whole wheat spaghetti, prepared according to package directions

Chop bell peppers into thin slices.  Cut onion in half, then into thin slices (half-moons).  Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in large skillet; add peppers and onions; saute until soft.  Add garlic; saute for about a minute.  Slice chicken into very thin bite-sized pieces and add to pepper mixture.  Cook until no pink is left on chicken.  Add cream cheese and about 1/4 cup of stock.  Stir for a minute.  Add stock, about 1/4 cup at a time and stir until cream cheese is completely melted and incorporated into stock.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  If a thinner sauce is desired, add more stock about 2 Tbls. at a time until desired consistenct is reached.  Serve over hot spaghetti.

NOTES: I used both a red and a yellow bell pepper.  I prefer their sweetness over the bitterness of the green.

In the end, I probably used a little over 1 cup of stock.  I wanted a little more sauce and figured it was a lower-calorie way to cut the cream cheese a little more.

November 10, 2010

Black Beans and Rice

What kind of lame food blog is this anyway?  Doesn't she know she's supposed to actually POST recipes?  Not just collect them.  Not just prepare them and never talk about it.  Ahh, well, we can't all be terrific food bloggers, right?

I can't believe it's been nearly two months since I last posted!  I guess that's what I get for involving myself in a musical and then starting to work with the Young Women at church.  But finally, FINALLY, life is slowing down a little.  And I'm hoping that will mean a little more posting.  I'm sure that most of what I post for the next few weeks will be something we tried out long, long ago.  And, therefore, I'll be able to offer a slightly tempered review of each recipe.  Is this a benefit?  Not sure.  As for pictures, some have them, most don't.  Oh well.  I'll take what I can get at this point.  Lucky for you, this one has a picture!

I love beans.  I believe I have said that before on this blog, and I'll probably say it again.  When I found this recipe on My Kitchen Cafe, I couldn't wait to give it a try!  And, Oh. Boy.  This recipe truly stands out in my mind.  Of the many I have in the queue, this one was definitely a favorite.  It was full of flavor and incredibly satisfying--but completely simple to make.  Thus, it has already gone into the "Favorites" folder.  Oh, and I should also mention that Mel at My Kitchen Cafe adapted it from the Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook.  So it's completely calorie friendly--which we all need around the holiday season!

Black Beans and Rice
Yield: 4-6 servings

4 tsp. olive oil
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 (16-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup water
2 Tbls. finely chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add bell pepper, onion, and garlic; saute, stirring often, until vegetables are soft and tender. Stir in beans, tomatoes, chicken broth, thyme, bay leaf, oregano and water; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens and vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes. If mixture becomes too thick, add 1-2 Tbls. hot water to thin to desired consistency.

Stir in cilantro and season with salt and pepper; discard bay leaf. Serve over hot rice.

NOTES: I didn't use low-sodium chicken broth.  Just used less salt at the end.  And, I can't find anything but ground thyme anywhere, so I'm usually light-handed when I add the thyme.  Plus, I think ground thyme tastes a little like dust.  And no one likes the taste of dust in their food.

September 22, 2010

S'mores Bars

Should I start off by saying that the past 2+ months have been insanely busy?  Nah.  That's too cliche after not blogging for a while.  And, really, all that's important is that I'm making an effort now.

Let me tell you.  These S'mores Bars are worth the effort.  I took them to a potluck dinner tonight and everyone who had a chance to taste them absolutely raved.  And I mean begged-for-the-recipe raved.  So, in response to popular demand, here is the recipe.  (Which I got from Real Mom Kitchen and she got from Cooking With My Kid.)  Well, the recipe with a few changes...because I'm the Queen of Substitutions.

(Sorry there's no pic.  Remember the BYU Brownie post?  Same problem.  Just follow the links to the other blogs for a pic.)

S'mores Bars
(Adapted from Real Mom Kitchen)
Yield: 16 bars

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 6-7 full sized graham crackers)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 regular sized Hershey's bars, or 2 King-sized Hershey bars, or 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 8-in. square baking pan
Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla until well mixed.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, a little at a time, until combined.

Divide dough in half and press half of dough into an even layer on bottom of prepared pan.  Lay chocolate bars over dough.  You will have to break some of them to get them to fit.  Sprinkle marshmallows over chocolate.  Place remaining dough in a single layer on top of marshmallows.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely and cut into 16 bars.

NOTES: The original recipe calls for king-sized Hershey bars and 7 oz. jar of marshmallow fluff.  I had regular Hershey bars and 1/2 of a jar of marshmallow fluff.  And then I saw that the fluff expired in June of 2009.  Who knew that actually expired?  I would have grouped marshmallow fluff into the same group as Twinkies.  And we all know those will withstand a nuclear blast. So, into the trash that went. 

I also thought about melting the marshmallows before layering them on top of the chocolate, but who needs the extra work?  And, we all know that once you melt the marshmallows, everything somehow ends up sticky for days on end.  Or maybe that's just me.  So, I simplified my life and didn't melt them.

Also, adding that top layer of graham dough can get a little sticky.  I had to butter my hands and pull of small pieces of dough, flatten them, put them on top of the marshmallows, and then kind of press them together.  The top of my bars looked a lot bumpier than the pics on the other blogs, but they still tasted great!

July 15, 2010

Pepperoncini Beef

I'll be honest, I don't know how to start this post.  This Pepperoncini Beef has me nearly speechless.  Really.  It is an incredibly simple recipe, yet packs in so much flavor.  And it has become a favorite around these parts--one of those meals that I will make again and again.

I originally saw this recipe on "My Muffin Thursdays" (which has recently changed to One Lovely Life). And, since I like to share random stories, here's a story for you: It's been about a year since I started finding recipes on My Muffin Thursdays (MMT).  The hostess was from UT, had a husband in school, etc.  Just like we were a few short months before.  The world, when connected through Utah, is so small that I wondered if I knew this person or if we knew some of the same people.  A few months ago, one of my former neighbors (and good friend), mentioned that the hostess on MMT was her former neighbor as well.  Turns out that we moved out as they were moving in.  All I can say is that it really is a small world after all.

Pepperoncini Beef

2.5 lbs. beef roast
1/2 jar pepperoncinis (16 oz.)
1 cup beef broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Sandwich buns
Provolone cheese

Trim visible fat from your roast.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place in slow cooker.  Add pepperoncinis, about 1/4 cup of brine from pepperoncini jar, and beef broth.  Cook on low 7-8 hours.

Remove pepperonicinis from slow cooker; slice or chop.  Shred beef; add pepperoncinis back to slow cooker. 

Toast sandwich buns.  Top with beef then cheese.

NOTES: You can use any cheese that you like.  I do suggest staying away from cheddar, though, as it would probably overpower the beef.  And, I brush the buns with my Sotto Voce garlic olive oil before toasting.  It gives it just a little more flavor, (not that it really needs much more).  You could toast them and then rub them with garlic if you feel so inclined.  My mouth is seriously watering just typing this recipe up.  I wish we were having this for dinner tonight! 

July 13, 2010

Floating Tacos

Last year, my friend mentioned that she was making freezer meals before her baby came.  She took an entire Saturday to cook and stock her freezer so her family would actually have food while she was out of commission.  I was thoroughly impressed.  And, of course, knowing that my baby was coming a few months later, I checked out her recipes.  Not that I stocked my freezer before my baby came.  When I'm pregnant, I feel accomplished if I shower and get dressed in the same day.  That and my baby came a little sooner than I planned.  But if I had stocked my freezer, this would have been in there, (with a few adjustments).

Floating Tacos
Servings: A LOT (See notes)
(Adapted from Just Because I am Me)

1 lb. hamburger
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 can tomato sauce (8 oz)
1 can tomato paste (6oz.)
3 cups water
2 cans kidney beans
1 cup uncooked rice

1 T. sugar
1 T. cumin
1 T. oregano
1 T. chili powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Saute meat and onion in large saucepan (or dutch oven) until onion is tender. Add tomato sauce, paste, water, beans, and rice. Stir in sugar, cumin, oregano, chili powder; bring to boil. Cover; reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30 min., (or so) stirring occasionally until rice is fully cooked.  Add water as needed if mixture becomes too thick.
Serve over Fritos and top with lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, olives, and Ranch Sauce (recipe below).

Ranch Sauce
1 cup Ranch dressing
1 cup sour cream
Mix thoroughly.
NOTES: While I thought this was pretty good, I thought that it lacked SPICE.  I'm not talking "burn your mouth" spice--I'm not into that.  But, it just needed some more intense flavors.  And, I would most likely leave out the sugar.  When I used the leftovers, I added about 1/4 cup taco seasoning.  It was good--but, once again, could have used even more spice. 
This makes a TON of food.  It made 2 meals for our family, (with leftovers), in addition to a meal for another family of 4.  It's a great one to make ahead and freeze for easy meals later.
Oh--and the ranch sauce?  It reminded me of an amazing cucumber dressing from Romeo's in Gilbert, AZ.  Aadd some chopped green onions and finely chopped cucumber to your leftover sauce.  Then use as a dip for soft, warm pita bread.  Or french fries.  Or really anything.  It's that good.

July 6, 2010

Recipe Roundup: 4th of July

We had a great 4th of July weekend!  We spent it at my inlaw's cottage on the coast.  The week before got away from me a bit--as you can tell from the lack of recipes from last week.  But I'm back.  At least for today.

As we left the house, we thought we were completely packed and ready to go.  Well, we were.  Except for one thing.  The camera.  So, no pics with these recipes, but they're pretty simple and easy to envision.  I thought about drawing a few pics to go with this post, but really, that wouldn't make it any more appetizing.  Moving on...

We were in charge of lunch on Saturday.  And, we had the added challenge of a couple of Weight Watchers joining us for that meal.  Here's the menu I came up with:

Kangaroo Pocket sandwiches
Fruit with fruit dip
Multigrain chips
Peppers and carrots
Patriotic jello

I'll start with the Kangaroo Pockets.  Although I was aware of the idea for most of my life, this was something that really stuck when I married into my husband's family.  They are simple and easy to feed a crowd.  I made a large salad of lettuce and tomatoes, then added cubed ham and chicken breast.  I served cucumbers and shredded cheese on the side.  (My hubby doesn't like cucumbers and I wanted to let the WW decide whether to put cheese on.)  The salad was then served in pocket-style whole wheat pita bread, then topped with salad dressing.  My husband likes to mix his salad and dressing in a bowl and then put it into the pita.  Something about better distribution of dressing.  I figure it all just drips down and out the bottom anyway.  Either way, this is a light but filling lunch. 

On to the fruit dip.  Years and years and years ago, I was at a church youth function and tasted a fabulous and simple fruit dip.  From that time on, it has been my dip of choice when fruit is involved.  Are you ready for this?  Mix one small container of Cool Whip with one container of yogurt.  Voila!  Fruit dip.  This time, I used lite Cool Whip and lite mixed berry yogurt.  Again--a totally light, totally simple addition to the meal.  (By the way, although I didn't use them this time, my favorite flavors for this dip are lemon or vanilla.  Always great with fruit.  Or waffles.  Or cookies.  Or...)

Finally, the patriotic jello.  I found this recipe a few months ago on foodgawker--which led me to Brown Eyed Baker's post about stained glass jello.  I instantly knew I had to make it THIS YEAR.  It couldn't wait. I wish I had a pic of this--it looks so cool!  You'll just have to head over to Brown Eyed Baker and check out her pics.

Stained Glass Jello

1 box (6 oz.) cherry jello
1 box (6 oz) berry blue jello
2 envelopes Knox gelatin (unflavored)
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
Water for jello prep

Pour the jello powder into 2 separate bowls.  For each flavor, add 2 cups boiling water; stir until jello is dissolved.  Pour into 8x8 baking pan. Chill until firm. (Should be a few hours.)  Cut jello into small "blocks." 

In the mean time, bloom Knox gelatin in 1/2 cup cold water.  Add 1 1/2 cups boiling water; stir until dissolved.  Add sweetened condensed milk.  Set aside to cool.

Gently combine red and blue jello blocks in 9x13 pan.  Pour cooled Knox/milk mixture over cubes.  Chill in fridge until solid. 

NOTES: The original recipe called for 4 (3 oz.) boxes of jello.  Since I was only doing 2 colors, I used the larger boxes.  If you want to make more colors, just use 1 cup boiling water for every 3 oz. package of jello.

I didn't let my Knox/milk mixture cool enough before pouring it over the jello cubes.  As a result, my jello cubes melted just a little into the white--which made the colors just a bit less crisp than I would have liked.  Live and learn.

And, I didn't cut my final product into cute little stars or even boring cubes.  I just let people scoop it out of the glass cake pan with a spoon.  Hey--I was on vacation.

Hope you had a happy 4th of July celebration!

June 23, 2010

Buttermilk Corn Muffins: Updated

When I was pregnant with Clayton last year, I had a hankering for corn bread one evening.  I decided that the people who make corn meal are probably a pretty good resource for corn bread, and I gave the recipe on the box a try.  And we haven't looked back once.

If you like a savory, dense cornbread, then keep looking.  This cornbread is moist and sweet--in fact, we sometimes call it corn cake because of the sweetness and texture.

Sweet Buttermilk Corn Bread
(Adapted from the side panel of Alber's Corn Meal)
Makes 1 8x8 pan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornmeal (white or yellow)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup milk
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 Tbls butter, melted

Combine flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl.  In small bowl, combine milk, eggs, oil, and butter.  Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until moistened.  Pour into greased baking pan.

Bake 35 min. at 350 degrees or until toothpick comes out clean.

NOTES: Sometimes, I substitute brown sugar for 1/2 of the sugar.  Changes the flavor just a bit.  And, I usually sift my flour through a mesh strainer.  That disintigrates any flour lumps.  One more thing--this is a quick bread.  You don't want to overmix it.  (See my explanation in "Banana Crumb Muffins".)  For muffins, reduce baking time to about 20 min.  It makes about 12.

Extra Notes: (July 6, 2010) Recently, I adapted this recipe to use buttermilk.  It is HEAVENLY!  It makes the texture so much lighter and fluffier.  You would seriously be missing out if you didn't try it!  BUT--if you want to make it with plain milk, omit the baking soda and increase the baking powder to 1 Tbls.

June 21, 2010

Father's Day: 3 recipes in one

I am going to start this post with an apology.  By the time we served dinner on Father's Day, I was too hungry to take a pic.  So, you are just going to have to use your imagination with this one...

Originally, Ryan was planning to make a smoked brisket for Father's Day.  I was all for it.  Less planning and work on my part.  However, when we saw that the weather was going to be rainy and cold all weekend, we scrapped that idea.  Instead, Ryan requested the following:

Pot roast with carrots and onions
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Steamed broccoli

Yellow cake with strawberries and cream

(OK--I decided to have mashed potatoes and jello.  It just went!)
(The explanation paragraphs are color coded to match the colored items on the menu.)

I was reminded that just before we moved, my friend Anna Marie made us pot roast for dinner one evening.  It was seriously the BEST pot roast I had ever tasted and I demanded her recipe.  Turns out it was Pioneer Woman's Pot Roast.  So, that's where I went for Ryan's roast.  Because I forgot to add beef broth to my grocery list, I used 2 cans of chicken broth with 3 beef bullion cubes.  (Again. Has anyone else realized yet that these things are more the norm than the exception?)  I have to say, though, it was still absolutely fabulous.  This recipe has become my absolute favorite Sunday Roast recipe.

And, going back to the whole forgetfulness thing, I'll tell you about our Father's Day jello.  We painted our kitchen (red, of course) on Saturday.  Since it was drying overnight, we had a lot to put away on Sunday morning.  Between assembling the kitchen, getting all 5 of us ready for church, and prepping food, we had a very busy morning.  And, I didn't get a ton of time to prep food prior to our 11 o'clock church meeting.  I made our "Tropical Fusion" jello and put it in the fridge to wait for the pineapple tidbits and chopped maraschino cherries to go in.  When we got home from church, I realized that I had forgotten to stir the fruit into the jello.  By that time, the jello was completely set.  Instead of serving the fruit on top, I broke up the smooth, solid jello and stirred in the fruit bits.  And then I prepared a small box of peach jello (what I had on hand) according to the "Speed Set" directions, then stirred it into the Tropical Fusion and fruit.  By dinner time, the jello was set beautifully--once again smooth and beautiful.  The flavors blended perfectly and it was quite tasty.

OK. Last one. I love watching Alton Brown.  And I consider it quite fortunate that I happened to catch his "Gold Cake" episode sometime last week.  When it came time to make Ryan's yellow cake, I knew I had to give Alton's recipe a try.  Ryan described the cake as "Alton Inspired" because I had to make a few subs.  First of all, I didn't have an accurate kitchen scale.  So, I wasn't able to weigh the ingredients.  Secondly, I didn't have cake flour.  I subbed all-purpose flour. (1 cup cake flour = 1 cup minus 2 Tbls AP flour)  And thirdly, I eyeballed the vanilla and accidentally added way too much.  This being said, it was not my favorite yellow cake.  I thought the butter flavored shortening and too much vanilla gave it an artificial flavor.  And it was a little dry and not very sweet.  Next time, I think I'll switch back to "David's Yellow Cake" from allrecipes.com.  That's my favorite so far.

There you have it.  I hope your Father's Day was as tasty as ours was!

June 18, 2010

Carb Loading: Pasta with Creamy Bacon and Pea Sauce

Now that Ryan's marathon is in a little over a week, I've finally put myself together enough to post Carb Loading on Friday!  Tonight will be my last Friday night pasta for a while.  Next week, Ryan's brother is making his delicious lasagna for the pre-marathon meal.  We're looking forward to that!  And then there will be no more need to carb load the night before long Saturday morning runs.  (Which I'm OK with--the whole pasta every Friday night is starting to get a little too routine for my culinary tastes.)

On to the recipe.  This recipe sounds AMAZING.  And that's what I thought when I bookmarked it.  And, that's what my father-in-law said when he read the recipe sitting on my counter.  In reality, it wasn't amazing.  I'm not sure why.  It could have easily been my techniques or substitutions, but something about it just didn't jive well for us.  I'm not saying it was gross.  (I wouldn't post a gross recipe on here.)  But, it just wasn't anything to write home about.  And that, my friends, is the entire point of this blog.  We tried something new and decided it just wasn't our thing.  However, it might be your thing.  Let me know if it is.

Pasta with Creamy Bacon and Pea Sauce
(Adapted from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Cookbook)
Serves 4

1 lb. small shaped pasta
1-2 Tbls olive oil
1-2 Tbls butter
10 slices bacon or pancetta, cut into short thin strips
2 cups frozen peas
2 heaping Tbls creme fraiche
1 small bunch mint, finely chopped
salt and pepper
juice of one lemon
6 oz. parmesan cheese

Boil a large pot of well-salted water.  Add pasta.  While pasta is cooking, melt olive oil and butter in saute pan; add bacon and cook until crispy.  Add peas; stir to combine and let peas defrost a little.  Add mint and creme fraiche; stir until creme fraiche is melted and peas are coated.  Drain pasta; add to pea mixture.  Pour lemon juice over top and stir well to combine.  Top with parmesan cheese and serve.

NOTES: OK--so I think that our rejection of this dish was probably based on my substitutions.  I have a Costco-sized bag of bacon bits.  They are useful and add great flavor to so many foods.  I didn't want to have to use bacon when the bits, (some of which are just fat), would do just fine.  So, I used those instead.  I let them cook in the oil/butter for a few minutes.  It improved their texture and released some flavor.  But, it didn't release much of the grease.

I also didn't happen to have creme fraiche.  And, I couldn't find it at my local grocery.  I'm sure I could have tried another store--but trucking 3 kids into another store wasn't worth the possibility of creme fraiche.  I already had low-fat sour cream, so I used about 1/3 cup of that instead.  In hindsight, I probably should have added a little milk to make it more of a sauce than just a coating.

And, apparently, not finding certain ingredients is the story of my life.  I couldn't find the fresh mint either. I used dried--although the fresh probably would have improved the taste.

June 16, 2010

Chocolate Cobbler

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the mood to make a Sunday evening dessert.  I was all set for something cinnamon-y or almond-y, but my normally sugar-shy husband requested something chocolate-y.  For once in my life, I wasn't in the mood for chocolate.  But, since Ryan rarely requests the stuff, I obliged.  I scanned my "Try It Out" folder and saw that I had all of the ingredients on hand for this one.  This chocolate cobbler is just right--a little cake, a little fudge sauce, and a lot of deliciousness.

(Apparently, I didn't take a picture of this one after it was served.)

Chocolate Cobbler
Makes 1 8x8 pan

1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
7 Tbls cocoa powder, divided
1 1/4 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup melted butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cup hot tap water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In medium bowl, add flour, baking powder, salt, 3 Tbls cocoa, and 3/4 cup white sugar.  Mix well.  Add milk, melted butter, and vanilla.  Stir until smooth; pour into ungreased 8 in. baking dish.

In small bowl, combine 1/2 cup white sugar, brown sugar, and 4 Tbls cocoa.  Sprinkle mixture evenly over batter.  Pour hot tap water over all.  DO NOT STIR!!

Bake for about 40 min. or until center is set.  Remove from oven; let sit for 5-10 min. before serving.

NOTES:  I didn't change one thing on this!  I will say, it's hard to tell when the center is set.  After all, it's a solid over a not-quite-solid.  So, use your best judgement, but don't overcook it.  And, really, if it's undercooked, I doubt you'd know.  By the way, the sauce is really great over ice cream.

June 14, 2010

Cassoulet for Today

I realize that just about everywhere else in the country, you are in the thick of summer.  Well, here in the Pacific Northwest, I'm starting to wonder if summer will ever appear.  The highs are still in the 60's, (if we're lucky), and pants and a light jacket are still necessary most days.  While I can't wait to heap on the summer grillin' and salads, the weather here feels more like fall at the moment.  So, when I found this recipe in my recent Taste of Home, it fit the weather and my taste.

I could not get enough of this dish!  Seriously.  It was a little more time-consuming than other recipes, but OH MY GOODNESS!  This was completely worth a little extra work.

Cassoulet for Today
(Adapted from Taste of Home, April/May 2010)

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. coarsly ground pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
2 cans (15 oz. each) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 lb. turkey kielbasa, chopped
1/4 cup real bacon pieces
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.  Brown chicken in 2 tsp. oil in skillet.  Remove chicken to medium casserole dish.

In same pan, saute onion in remaining oil until tender.  Add 1 clove garlic; cook 1 min. longer.  Add broth, stirring to loosen browned bits from pan.  Stir in tomatoes, bay leaf, rosemary, and thyme; bring to boil.  Pour over chicken; cover and bake at 325 degrees for 30 min.  Add beans and kielbasa; cover and bake 20-25 min. or until chicken is tender.  Discard bay leaf.  Stir in bacon.

Combine bread crumbs, parsley, and remaining garlic; sprinkle over cassoulet.  Broil 3-4 inches from heat for 2-3 min. or until golden brown.

NOTES: The original recipe calls for fresh herbs.  But, since I rarely have those, I used the dried versions instead.  It also tells you to stir in the bacon at the end--but you might find, as I did, that it's nearly impossible to stir.  So, I just sprinkled mine over the top.  And, finally, I served mine with cornbread, (recipe coming soon!).

June 8, 2010

Sweet and Spicy Chicken

Now that I've been keeping up with this blog for...what?...2 weeks now, I feel like I'm starting to say the same things over and over about recipes.  Here's the form, in case you haven't caught on:

I wanted to try this recipe.  We liked it.  Hope you like it, too.

I really need to change things up a little.  Well, I'll start off by saying that last week, a few days after I made this chicken, my husband took the leftovers to work for lunch.  (He was eating it on a salad.  Have I mentioned that my husband has lost 30 lbs. in the past few months?  He has.  Maybe I should eat more salads for lunch.) 

Anyway...when he got home that night, he said, "Have you blogged about that chicken yet?  Because you need to tell them it's not that great."  You have to understand, my husband has, (in the past year or so), gotten a little more into barbecuing. While he's certainly not a pro (yet), he now actually cares about the spices on the meat. So, in his amatuer barbecuer opinion, this spice rub was only alright--really nothing special.

Really?  Could I post about something that was only mediocre in his opinion?  To be quite honest, I thought it was fine.  Sure it wasn't anything out of the ordinary, but as an easy weeknight meal, I thought it was good.  After this kind of an introduction, I'm sure you're chomping at the bit to get it on your grill.  Well, without further ado, here is the recipe.  (Which I found at realmomkitchen.com, and she got from Simple and Delicious.)

Sweet and Spicy Chicken
5 servings

2 Tbls brown sugar
1 Tbls paprika
2 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
5 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (6 ounces each)

Combine spices.  Rub on chicken.  Grill until chicken is no longer pink inside.

NOTES: I have no notes on this one.  Can you believe it?  I had all of the ingredients on hand...and there's not a ton to adjust on this recipe without completely changing it.

June 7, 2010

Banana Crumb Muffins

Bananas are a popular item in our home.  In fact, we usually buy 2 Costco bunches each week.  And, with as many as we actually eat, there are always a few that don't make it to the end of the week.  Because of this, I'm always in the market for a good overripe-banana recipe.  A few Sundays ago, my extra time coincided with a few overripe bananas.  So, I hopped on allrecipes.com and found this deliciousness. 

These muffins had a great topping.  And, the inside of the muffin was totally moist.  They were even moist and delicious the next day!

Banana Crumb Muffins
12 muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 bananas, mashed
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbls all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbls butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease (or line with paper) 12 muffin cups.

In large bowl, mix together first 4 ingredients.  In another bowl, mix bananas, white sugar, egg, and melted butter.  Add the banana mixture to the flour mixture just until moistened.  Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.

In small bowl, mix the brown sugar, 2 Tbls flour, and cinnamon.  Cut in 1 Tbls butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.  Sprinkle topping over muffin batter.

Bake for 18-20 min, or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

NOTES: When I was in college, I took a "Family Cooking" kind of class.  It wasn't as in depth as culinary school would have been, but I did learn a few tricks of the trade.  One of these tricks involved quick breads, which are made with baking powder instead of yeast.  (Examples are pancakes, muffins, banana-type breads...) 

Whenever you are making a quick bread, you should mix your wet and dry ingredients separately.  After you add them together, you should mix only until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Mixing too much causes the gluten in the flour to develop, which creates a more dense structure.  The leavening power in baking powder can't compete with the strands of gluten and you end up with a dense, rubbery quick texture.

In the past, some of my quick breads have ended up with lumps of flour and/or baking soda in the batter.  If you've ever taken a bite with a lump like that, you know it's not a pleasant experience.  I have found that sifting my dry ingredients through a mesh strainer into the wet ingredients helps avoid this problem.

Carb Loading: Muffaletta Pasta

I have had this recipe in my Favorites for a while now.  I would visit it every so often on the Taste of Home website and then decide not to make it.  Since we're eating mandatory pasta once a week, I've been pulling all of the pasta recipes on my list.  We've had tomato based pasta for the last few weeks, so I wanted to try something different last Friday.

I love this picture because you can see all of the different colors of the ingredients.  This was very tasty!  Even my husband, who is NOT a fan of olives, liked it.  (He liked it so much that he ate some of the leftovers the next day!)  But, really, with a butter and cream sauce, how can it not be tasty?

Muffaletta Pasta
8 servings

1 package (16 ounces) bow tie pasta
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons plus 1/4 cup butter, divided
1 package (16 ounces) cubed fully cooked ham
1 jar (12.36 ounces) tapenade or ripe olive bruschetta topping, drained
1 package (3-1/2 ounces) sliced pepperoni
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Italian cheese blend
Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute onions and garlic in 2 teaspoons butter until tender. Add the ham, tapenade and pepperoni; saute 2 minutes longer. Cube remaining butter; stir butter and cream into skillet. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 3 minutes.

Drain pasta; toss with ham mixture. Sprinkle with cheese.
NOTES: I used turkey pepperoni.  You know, to save a few calories. *wink*  Honestly, in a recipe like this, I don't think it matters much.  But the turkey kind was on sale.  So that's what I got.  Also, I didn't buy pre-cubed packaged ham.  I had some leftover ham in my freezer--so I cubed it myself.
I spent 10 minutes looking for tapenade at my usual grocery store.  I looked near the pickles, near the mayo, near the cheese, near the deli...and never could find it.  I was just going to add chopped olives.  But, I ended up going back to a different store before I made this.  I was almost immediately successful at locating the tapenade.  BUT, it was $9 for about a cup.  There was NO WAY I was paying that much for chopped up olives.  Instead, I bought a can of chopped black olives and a jar of green olives and attempted my own tapenade using a little lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and garlic.  It turned out great!
As far as the cheese goes, I put the pasta in a big bowl and sprinkled the cheese on top.  Between the time I put it on the table and we ate, the cheese melted and cooled a bit on the top.  Next time, I would put the cheese in a bowl on the table and add it to the individual portions. 
Would I make this again?  For the taste, YES.  It was good!  The one thing that would hold me back is the cream sauce.  So, this one will have to wait for some special occasion to make another appearance.

June 2, 2010

Black Bean Pizza Burgers

I love foodgawker.com.  I head over there almost daily and check out the lastest thing in food blogging.  Sometimes I go for the humor of the situation, "The BEST Tofu Cookies EVER!"  (OK--I just made that up.  But if you're a Gawker, then you know it could be true.)  And you can always see what's going around--like Macarons.  (Must have perfect feet.  Thanks to foodgawker, I know what that means.  And maybe someday I'll give them a try.)  Usually I see the site as a thrift store of recipes.  There are a lot of treasures in there.  You just have to sift through them and pick out the gems.  This recipe was one of those gems!

My husband is TRULY a meat and potatoes kind of guy.  So, when I introduced the idea of black bean burgers (a LONG time ago), he balked at the idea.  But lately, health and physique have come more into play and Ryan has grown a little more adventurous.  Thus, black bean burgers made it onto our weekly menu last week.  The general consensus was that they were tasty and definitely a meal we would eat again! 

Black Bean Pizza Burgers
(Original recipe at feaston.wordpress.com)
4 burgers

1 can of black beans (16 oz., rinsed and drained)

1/2 green pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 egg
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Oil for cooking (Very small amount)
Burger buns
Provolone cheese
Pasta/pizza sauce
Basil leaves (optional)

Put black beans in large bowl and mash. Pulse green pepper, onion, and garlic in food processor.  Be careful not to overdo it. Add to beans; mix well.

In a small bowl, blend egg and seasonings. Add egg and bread crumbs to bean mixture. Mix until all elements are well incorporated.  Heat a little oil in a large skillet. Shape mixture into 4 patties; cook in oil until outside is crisp and patties are cooked through, (2-3 min. each side).  Place cooked patties on plate lined with paper towels, (This makes them sound greasy.  They're not.)

To assemble: Place patty on toasted bun, top with cheese, tomato slices, and basil leaves.  Enjoy!

NOTES: From the original recipe, it seemed like the bean mixture should be pretty dry by the time you're making it into patties.  I think I over-processed my peppers and onions, so mine was still a bit moist and sticky.  I separated my mixture into four sections and then didn't make them into a patty shape until I placed them in the pan.  I cooked 2 at a time because I didn't have a pan large enough for all 4 at once.  Once they were cooked, the patties held together fairly well, but were still delicate enough that I had to handle them with care.  Make sure to use a spatula large enough to hold the entire patty. 

This recipe make 4 "fits-on-a-large-potato-bun" sized patties.  You could easily get 6 smaller "fits-on-your-run-of-the-mill-burger-bun" sized patties from it.

As for the buns, we used those sandwich-thins style buns and I toasted them using my garlic olive oil.  (I told you, I can't get enough of that stuff!)  And, since I LOVE basil, I added a lot of leaves to my burger.  I won't do that again!  I tasted more basil than anything else--and while it's a great herb, it's not good enough that I recommend making an entire meal out of it.

I've already decided that next time I make them, I'm going to omit the Italian seasoning and Worchestershire sauce and leave off the basil and cheese.  Instead, I'm going to add chili powder and top with tomato, avocado, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.  Oooh...my mouth is watering just thinking about that.

May 31, 2010

Rosemary Focaccia

A few months ago, I made a batter-style focaccia that I found food-blog-hopping...and I can't find the blog anymore!  It was very fast, very easy, and very tasty--and I've been looking for something similar ever since.  Friday night, I had promised my husband that I would make some italian bread to go along with our spaghetti dinner.  Well, as you would expect, I forgot about this promise until about 4:30.  After searching foodgawker for a minute or two, I found this Rosemary Focaccia recipe.  (Which was minus the rosemary for us, since I didn't have any.  I have since remedied the situation.)  It was quick and fantastic!

Rosemary Focaccia
Yeild: 1 9-in. round loaf

1 pkg. active dry yeast, (2 1/4 Tbls.)
1 tsp. sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup warm water, plus more for loosening dough
1/2 tsp. salt
Kosher salt
1 tsp. dried rosemary
2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for greasing

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water.  Let stand till foamy, 5-10 min.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In large bowl, mix flour and salt.  Add yeast mixture; stir to combine.  Gradually add water, one Tablespoon at a time, until dough is moistened enough to form a ball.  Knead dough in bowl until smooth.  Remove dough and oil bowl; replace dough and cover with a moist cloth.  Let rise until doubled, about 30 min.

Drizzle 1-2 Tbls. olive oil into 9-in. glass pie pan.  Very lightly press dough into dish.  Let rise until dough reaches edges of pie pan.  Using your fingers or the handle of a wooden spoon, poke indentations evenly over the surface of the dough.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with rosemary and Kosher salt.  Bake for 10-15 min. or until top crust begins to brown.

NOTES: You know the part where it tells you to add water one Tbls. at a time?  Well, I added too much.  So, I had to toss in a bit of flour to balance it out.  Still turned out great!  (Whew.)

Prior to kneading the dough the first time, I coated my hands with olive oil.  It kept them from sticking before the dough was holding together just right.  And, instead of coating the bowl with flour, I just coated the dough ball.

If you are in the Seattle area, I *HIGHLY* (is there enough emphasis on that word?) recommend heading to Pike Place Market and picking up some garlic-infused olive oil from Sotto Voce, (they're on the triangle block across from the main market).  I have been using their oil for several years now and just can't get enough.  I've even brought Ryan on board the Sotto Voce train--and when we start getting low, he reminds me that we need to make a trip to PPM.  This oil is fabulous on EVERYTHING, but especially delicious on bread and pizza.  That's what I used to coat my dough, oil my pan, and drizzle on top of the focaccia.  It totally transforms the taste.  If you're starting to get jealous because you don't live in Seattle, you'll just have to come visit.  Or check out the Sotto Voce website and order a bottle (or 2 or 3).  Our favorite is Olio Santo, but we also like Olio Pomodoro and Olio Basilico and I like Olio al Funghi.

I didn't punch my dough down before I put it in the pie pan.  I just plopped it in and spread it out a little--I didn't have time to wait for it to rise again.  And, I'm not sure how long I did let it rise once I put it in the pan.  But, it was what I felt was the perfect thickness when all was said and done.  If you have time to wait for another 30 min. rise, by all means, punch it down, knead it a bit (to develop the gluten strands), and then let it rise again before baking.

Finally, if you don't have rosemary...or if you don't like rosemary, you can use any herb combo you happen to appreciate.  I didn't use any herbs--just the Kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper.  If you are using dried rosemary, pour it into your hand and crush the leaves before sprinkling them on the dough.  It will give you a slightly stronger rosemary flavor.

Most importantly--ENJOY this bread!  It's much easier than my long-winded explanation would make it seem. And let me know what you think when you try it!

May 30, 2010

Carb Loading: Summertime Spaghetti Sauce

My husband, Ryan, will run his fourth marathon in about 4 weeks.  In addition to these races, he has run a few 5k's, half-marathons, and a triathlon.  His long training runs happen Saturday mornings--thus from now until the marathon, every Friday is dedicated to carb-loading.  Instead of doing the standard spaghetti sauce over noodles, I've been finding new and interesting ways to present the needed carbs.  Last Friday, Taste of Home (June/July 2009) provided me with the recipe for Summertime Spaghetti Sauce.

It was definitely different than the spaghetti standard and we both enjoyed it.  Ryan commented a few times that it was good, but tasted different than he expected.  That's probably because he didn't see the recipe and expected it to taste like normal, boring red sauce.  He also said that it's probably something he would request again.  That's always a good sign.

Summertime Spaghetti Sauce
5 cups of sauce

3 Italian sausage links (4 oz. each)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
3 cups chopped, seeded, peeled tomatoes (about 8 medium)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Remove casings from sausage; cut into 1-in. pieces.  In large skillet, brown sausage over medium heat.  Drain and set aside.  Heat oil in same skillet; add onions and green pepper.  Cook and stir until tender.

Add tomatoes, jalapeno, brown sugar, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.  Return sausage to the pan.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 12-15 min. or until meat is no longer pink and sauce is thickened.

Serve over spaghetti with parmesan cheese.

NOTES: I used 5 Italian sausages.  Mine came in a pack of 5 and I no other use for the extra 2--so I added them.  Also, after I removed the casings, the sausages had nothing to help them keep their shape.  I still cut them into chunks and added them to the pan.  I carefully sauteed them and didn't break them up.  They ended up looking like little meatballs. 

After cooking the sausage, there wasn't a ton of grease.  There was just enough to give a sheen to the bottom of the pan.  So, instead of cooking the veggies in oil, I just added them to the pan.  Their small amount of liquid helped loosen the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  YUM!

I used a yellow bell pepper, (it's what I had), and only 2 onions.  I also used Roma tomatoes, and since they're more firm than other varieties, I didn't seed or peel my tomatoes.  (Really, I just didn't see that instruction.  But, honestly, who has time for that?)  The sauce was probably meant to be a little thicker, but it still tasted fantastic.  If you choose not to seed your tomatoes and want thicker sauce, just plan for it to simmer for an hour or two so it can cook down a bit.

One more thing: Remember when handling the jalapeno that it is spicy.  Don't rub your eyes, touch your face, etc. immediately after cutting it.  I used a strawberry huller to scrape out the seeds from mine and then washed my hands.  There was definitely a slight burning before I washed them!

May 27, 2010

BYU Mint Brownies

A few years ago,my BYU Alumni newsletter announced that the recipe for the famous BYU Mint Brownies was available.  I quickly bookmarked the link so that when I was no longer anywhere near campus, (let alone across the street from the Creamery where I could BUY these wonders), I would still be able to indulge.  Sometime within the past few months, as I was wandering through the baking aisle, I saw peppermint extract and put some in my cart...just in case.  Just in case what?  I don't know.

Yesterday morning, while looking over the recipe I had planned to make for that evening's potluck dinner, (Tex-Mex sheetcake), I realized it called for sweetened condensed milk.  I didn't have sweetened condensed milk--and my day was too busy to go out and get a can--so on to Plan B.  Which, it turned out, was actually Plan BYU.  Apparently, the peppermint extract went into my cart just in case my Plan A dessert fell through and I wanted to try making BYU Mint Brownies.  And try them I did.

Due to our crazy day, we arrived about 25 min. late for the dinner.  Ryan put the brownies on the table and by the time he got his dinner and sat down, 1/4 of the brownies were already gone.  By the time I made it up to the table to grab some, they were half-gone.  And when Ryan went back a minute later to grab a drink, the pan was empty.  Brings back memories of BYU's Women's Conference, doesn't it?

Thank goodness I have the recipe and can make them anytime I want!  Here it is for you--straight from BYU's Alumni website...

BYU Mint Brownies
Makes 9x13 pan (You decide how many servings...)

1 c. margarine
1/2 c. cocoa
2 Tbsp. honey
4 eggs
2 c. sugar
1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. chopped walnuts

5 Tbsp. margarine
dash of salt
3 Tbsp. milk
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
2 1/3 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. mint extract
1-2 drops green food coloring

12 oz. chocolate icing (recipe follows)

Melt margarine and mix in cocoa. Allow to cool. Add honey, eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well. Add nuts. Pour batter into a greased 9-by-13 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool.

Prepare mint icing: Soften margarine. Add salt, corn syrup, and powdered sugar. Beat until smooth and fluffy. Add mint extract and food coloring. Mix. Add milk gradually until the consistency is a little thinner than cake frosting.

Spread mint icing over cooled brownies. Place brownies in the freezer for a short time to stiffen the icing. Remove from the freezer and carefully add a layer of chocolate icing.

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Frosting
(From the back of the Hershey's Cocoa container)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

NOTES: I didn't happen to have walnuts, so I added 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips instead.  Nothing wrong with a little more decadence, right?  Also, it says to bake them for 25 min.  Which is exactly what I did.  They came out PRETTY gooey.  I'm not talking prefect-brownie-gooey--I'm talking about "not-quite-cooked-in-the-middle" gooey.  I thought they might firm up a little.  They didn't.  Check them at 25 min., but be careful not to overbake. I didn't mind the gooey-ness, though.  It was like mint brownie batter ice cream, but warm.  YUM!

I didn't add any salt to the mint mixture.  I was using salted butter and figured that included the dash already.

Finally, instead of the milk called for in the frosting recipe, I added chocolate milk.  Again, nothing wrong with a little more decadence.  And, I did need to add more to make it spreadable.

May 26, 2010

Sticky Chicky

Last week, it seemed that I was reaching the end of each day and wondering what to make for dinner.  It wasn't that I didn't have ideas.  I got busy doing something else, (or something came up), and suddenly, Ryan was coming home in 45 min.  And, most of my dinner ideas needed about an hour.  (You know, 30 min., plus time to feed the baby, break up arguments, wipe off the table from lunch, rotate a load of laundry, etc.)  So, I grabbed my Taste of Home magazines and started scanning the index page.  When I got to the May/June 2009 issue, I found a quick and yummy recipe that I actually had all most of the ingredients for.  (And, yes, the picture is one of the worst so far--there is only so much sunlight we get here in WA!)

Sticky Chicky
8 servings

16 boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 3 lbs.)
1/2 cup BBQ sauce (use your favorite kind)
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
1 Tbl. chili powder
1 Tbl. Dijon mustard
1 Tbl. grated gingerroot
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbl. cornstarch

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray 9x13 in. baking pan with cooking spray.  Arrange chicken thighs in pan in single layer.

In medium bowl, whisk together remaning ingredients except cornstarch.  Pour evenly over chicken.  Turn pieces to coat both sides  Bake, uncovered, for about 40 min. or until chicken is no longer pink in the center.

Remove chicken from pan and keep warm.  Carefully pour sauce into small saucepan.  Bring to boil over med-high heat.  Combine cornstarch with 1 Tbl. water; mix until smooth.  Add to sauce.  Cook until sauce is thickened, about 1 min.  Serve hot chicken with sauce on top.

NOTES:  When I grabbed my Dijon mustard from the fridge, the bottle was pretty much empty.  So, I swapped it for some ground mustard.  And, Ryan is NOT a fan of ginger--so I used a small amount of powdered ginger instead.  Also, I used a mixture of thighs and breasts--and the thighs were much better.  Then again, thighs are my favorte part of the chicken, so I'm probably biased on that one.

May 24, 2010

Hummin' for Hummus: UPDATED!

When I was pregnant with C, one of my frequent craves was hummus with those multi-grain chips from Costco.  A couple of months ago, I started feeling the crave sneaking back in and this time, I decided to make it myself. 

The first batch was, well, alright.  I think the store-bought stuff I had during my pregnancy was much better.  At this point, I decided that experimenting with different flavors might be fun, so I tried sweet potato hummus, black bean hummus, and roasted garlic and rosemary hummus.  While it was also jsut alright, the sweet potato flavor didn't do much for me.  The black bean hummus simply tasted like a creamy bean dip.  And, the roasted garlic and rosemary was good--but certainly not to-die-for.  However, experimenting with these flavors firmed up my position as a hummus purist.  I am a fan of plain jane, garbanzo bean hummus.

So, I searched for a recipe better than the first batch.  I found one on allrecipes that was really quite good.  And then, while gawking at foodgawker a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a recipe for "The Best Hummus You Will Ever Eat" (that's really the title of the recipe) at Edible Moments.  I thought, "Sure. Why not?" and filed it into my internet favorites. 

Well, today, it came out of the "Try It Out" folder...and will head straight into the "Favorite Foods" folder.  This hummus really is the BEST I've ever tasted!  So much tastier than previous recipes and SO much better than purchased hummus.  If you've never tried hummus and even if you have, you need to give this recipe a try!  It will make you hum for hummus.

The Best Hummus You Will Ever Eat
(Adapted from Edible Moments)

3 Tbls cup tahini (sesame paste)
3 Tbls fresh lemon juice
3 Tbls olive oil
2 or 3 cloves of garlic (minced)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp hot sauce
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree. Place in bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with paprika.  Serve with multigrain chips, corn chips, pita wedges, and/or chopped veggies.  (Or really, serve with anything you want.  It's GOOD stuff!)

NOTES: I am a fan of garlic, so I tend to add the max amount.  I used 3 LARGE cloves of garlic.  I also added in some extra olive oil (maybe 1/2 Tbls.) and extra lemon juice (maybe 1/2 tsp.) to loosen up the texture a little.  Also, I didn't measure the hot sauce, just splashed some in.

Extras Notes: (July 6, 2010) After playing with this recipe a few times, I updated the amounts of ingredients to reflect the changes I make when I make this hummus.  (I make it a few times a week now...)  That's the beauty of recipes--a few tweaks make them more personal.

May 23, 2010

Peanutty Candy Bars

I have a confession to make.  I love food magazines.  First of all, I love getting fun mail--you know, the things that aren't bills or personalized ads.  And, I love reading magazines.  Magazines have short enough articles that I can usually read them before being interrupted by one of the three littles.  After several years of receiving "Simple and Delicious," some of the recipes started to look the same.  So, I let my subscription end.  I thought I wouldn't miss it.  Turns out that I did.  So, I decided to try "Taste of Home" instead.  While I've really enjoyed receiving the magazine regularly, I haven't used as many of the recipes as I would have liked.  (Chalk up one more reason for this blog.)  So, I've pulled out my back issues and have been trying a little here and a little there.

Thursday afternoon was rainy and dreary.  I needed something fun to do with my girls, so I decided to give this recipe a try.  I figured all the oats had to make it ever so slightly healthy.  We LOVED it--and if you like chocolate and peanut butter, you'll love it too! 

Peanutty Candy Bars
Yeild: 2 Doz.

4 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup plus 2/3 cup peanut butter, divided
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 pkg. (11 oz.) butterscotch chips
1 cup (6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup salted chopped peanuts

In a large bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, butter, 1/2 cup peanut butter, corn syrup, and vanilla.  Press into a greased 9x13 in. pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for 12-14 min. or until mixture is bubbly around the edges. 
In a microwave-safe bowl, melt butterscotch and chocolate chips; stir until smooth.  Stir in peanuts and remaining peanut butter; spread over the oat mixture.  Refrigerate for at least an hour before cutting.

NOTES: The note in the magazine says that low-fat or generic brands of peanut butter don't work in this recipe.  I used Adam's Peanut Butter, which is the kind that doesn't have sugar and has to be refrigerated after opening--and, as you can see, mine turned out fine.  Also, I had to make a few substitutions--white sugar for the brown sugar (forgot I didn't have the brown) and peanut butter chips for the butterscotch chips (because that's what I had in my freezer).  I made a 1/2 recipe and put it in an 8x8 pan, which worked just great.

May 19, 2010

Hamburger Supper

Years ago, I received a gift subscription to "Quick Cooking" magazine.  I was newly married and definitely excited to cook for my husband every day!  These days, the shine has worn off a bit, but I kept a few years' worth of Quick Cooking, (which was later changed to Simple and Delicious).  And, I'm glad I did.  Hamburger Supper has become a favorite at our house.  It's one of the few recipes that I have made repeatedly.  It's incredibly easy and very tasty.  Give it a try!

Hamburger Supper
Serves 4

1 lb. ground beef
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 envelope brown gravy mix
1 medium onion, sliced and separated into rings
1 medium carrot, sliced
2 medium potatoes, sliced
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese

In large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain.  Stir in water, poultry seasoning, and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Stir in gravy mix.  Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Arrange onion, carrot, and potatoes over beef.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer 10-15 min., or until vegetables are tender.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Cover and cook 3-5 min. longer or until cheese is melted.

NOTES: It seems I'm always adjusting recipes to deal with something at the last minute.  This recipe is no exception.  I stopped purchasing the individual packets of brown gravy mix a while ago.  Instead, I bought a Costco sized container of it.  (It's great to have on hand.)  I use 3 Tablespoons of mix in this recipe.  Also, if I don't have an onion on hand, I use about 1/3 cup of dehydrated onions and add them with a little extra water when the water is added to the beef.  I was out of onions this time around, so that's why you don't see beautiful rings of onion in the picture.

May 16, 2010

Back in Business

We have successfully made it through our move!  The kitchen has been reassembled and I'm excited to really get cooking again.  I did have a chance to try a few new things, but just didn't take pics.  At this point, I will apologize beforehand for the lack of beautiful pictures.  Sure, there will be pictures--they just may not be amazing.  Watch for recipes to appear this week!

April 20, 2010


Welcome to My Little Red Kitchen.  I'm excited to start trying new things and sharing them with you!  In the mean time, we're moving and I'm packing lots of boxes.  The good news is that my family still has to eat--so I hope I'll have a chance to try a few new recipes before my kitchen is out of commission!  

I hope you'll come back often to check out what's cookin' in My Little Red Kitchen!