Sunday, January 29, 2012

My New Favorite




A few weeks ago, I discovered Pinterest.

After browsing the site for all of about 5 minutes, I thought to myself "where have you been all my life?" and "how do I get on, so I can pin all of these completely necessary links on beautifully organized boards of my own?"

I quickly discovered an invitation to join was needed - either from someone already on Pinterest or from Pinterest itself. So I eagerly requested my invitation (from Pinterest because I didn't know anyone already on) and I waited.

One agonizing week later, my invitation to join came! I think I broke speed records getting signed up!

My life has been forever changed.

I cannot tell you how much I love Pinterest and I'm too embarassed to admit to how much time I spend there. All I'm going to say is, if you haven't been to Pinterest yet, check it out. You'll love it - I promise. I've even included the very handy "Pin It" button (look to your right and up just a little), so you can add any of the recipes you might want to try from this site to your own beautifully organized boards, as well as a button to follow me on Pinterest, if you like!


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 


I found the recipes for Taco Cupcakes and Bourbon Street Chicken on Pinterest and tried both of them this week. Both were extremely easy (and fast) to make. My son and I loved both, although each of us preferred a different one to the other. Needless to say, Taco Cupcakes and Bourbon Street Chicken will be making repeat visits to our dinner table.


Taco Cupcakes


This recipe originally comes from the Just Us & the many "Miles" traveled blog. Of the two recipes I found (and tried) this week from Pinterest, this was my son's favorite. I made a couple of changes to the original recipe:  I used a pound of ground beef, skipped the oil, browned the beef first, added the black beans, and then added the taco seasoning with the amount of water called for on the seasoning packet. The other change was how the taco cupcakes were served:  I put them on a a little bed of lettuce, cheese, and tomato (and added sour cream for me). Otherwise, I followed Gabrielle's instructions to the letter. If you and your family like tacos, you'll really enjoy the taco cupcakes! (They re-heat well in the microwave the next day, too.)



1 lb. ground beef (you can also use chicken or turkey if you like, but brown in 1 1/2 tbsp. chili or olive oil)

1 pkg. taco seasoning + water

3/4 cup black beans (cooked, drained & rinsed, if using canned beans)

wonton wrappers (usually found in the produce section of your grocery store)

queso or salsa con queso dip (usually by the chips and snacks)

salsa

Mexican-blend shredded cheese (I used colby-jack)

other toppings:  guacamole, tomatoes, lettuce, black olives, sour cream, etc.


Preheat the oven to 375° F . Lightly spray a regular muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray (at least 8 of the cups). Set aside.

Brown the beef. If you're using really lean (95%) beef, you might want to heat 1 1/2 tbsp. oil (chili or olive) in the skillet before adding the beef. If you're using beef with a higher fat content, you can probably skip the oil and may want (or need) to drain the fat once the beef is browned. Next, add the beans, taco seasoning, and the amount of water called for in the taco seasoning instructions. Continue cooking over medium-high heat until almost all of the liquid has been reduced.




Push a wonton wrapper into the bottom of each of the muffin cups. Add about 1 tsp. queso or salsa con queso dip to the bottom of each wonton wrapper. These measurements may not seem like a lot, but keep in mind, you don't want to "over-fill" the cup. Next, spoon about 2 tsp. of the meat/beans mixture on top of the dip, followed by about 1 tsp. salsa and a pinch of shredded cheese (distribute evenly over the sala).

Place another wonton wrapper over the first layer and press down gently around the edges to form a bit of a seal. Repeat as with the first layer:  queso or salsa con queso dip, meat/beans, salsa, and shredded cheese. You should be at the top of the muffin cup or slightly over.

Bake for 18-20 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool - in the pan - for about 5 minutes before removing them. I used an offset spatula to remove them from the pan.






Enjoy with your favorite toppings!

If you'd like to see the original recipe or Gabrielle's blog, just go to:  http://bricelife-gabrielle.blogspot.com/2012/01/taco-cupcakes.html.




Bourbon Street Chicken


Another keeper from Pinterest! Bourbon Street Chicken was my favorite. I followed the recipe pretty closely and the only change I made to the original BigOven recipe was not removing the browned chicken from the pan before adding the sauce to the pan. I was just too lazy to to do it. That, and the chicken gets added back in almost immediately after, so I figured it probably wouldn't hurt to just leave it in the pan. I cut this recipe in half - just for the first try - so my measurements weren't as accurate as they should've been. The chicken wasn't quite as "sticky" as  I would've liked it to be, but I think that's due to the adjustments I made to the measurements. Next time, I'm making 4 servings instead of just 2! I was in too big a hurry to eat this, so I didn't simmer it as long as I should have. Please learn from my mistake and follow the directions! I also mashed the garlic and ginger (see General Tso's Chicken) before adding it to the sauce mixture.



2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

1-2 tbsp. olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed (mashed)

1/4 tsp. ginger (I used fresh ginger)

3/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (the recipe calls for crushed, but I used whole flakes)

1/4 cup apple juice

1/3 cup light brown sugar

2 tbsp. ketchup

1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup soy sauce

1 tbsp. cornstarach


* Note:  I served this over rice and started the rice before I started the chicken. Like General Tso's Chicken, this also comes together very quickly so mise en place is a must!





Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Pat the chicken pieces with a paper towel to be sure they are as dry as possible. This helps them to brown better. Brown the chicken pieces in the oil until all sides are lightly browned.

While the chicken browns, mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Add the sauce mixture to the chicken and bring to a hard boil.





Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.






 Serve over rice. Enjoy!



* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Heathly and a money-saver: water!

Did you know, water helps you to look younger and healthier? It's true! You look younger and healthier when your skin is properly hydrated. Water helps to replenish skin tissues, moisturize skin, and increase skin elasticity.

Encourage your kids (and you, too!) to drink a full serving of milk at each meal, but then drink water whenever they're thirsty throughout the day instead of drinking juice or pop. Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge so it's always nice and cold!






This post is linked with love to the following:








StumbleUpon

Sunday, January 22, 2012

What's in the Oven? Going Bananas






This week's recipe isn't so much "in the oven" as it is "in the refrigerator", but one layer of it does get baked so it qualifies!

I'm sure this recipe will look familiar to many of you. I don't think I've picked up a church cookbook, yet and not found some variation of it in there. It's a versatile recipe and you can change the flavor of it very easily - all you need to do is change the flavor of the pudding and maybe the type of crust you use.

Today, I decided on banana.

Layered Banana Pudding Dessert

1st Layer (the crust):
1 cup ‘Nilla Wafer cookies, crushed (about 35 cookies)
1/2 cup pecans, crushed
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, melted

I used a food processor to crush and mix the cookies, pecans, and flour. If  you don't have a food processor, you can use a blender or mix the crust by hand (crush the cookies and pecans first).


Add the melted butter to the dry ingredients and pulse (or mix) until the mixture resembles wet sand.


Using your hands, press the mixture into a 9" x 13" pan. It may not look like there is enough to cover the bottom of the pan, but there will be – this is meant to be a thin crust. Bake for 15 minutes at 350° F. Cool completely before adding the next layer.

2nd Layer:

1 - 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups whipped topping (Cool Whip)

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and whipped topping until well blended and smooth. Very carefully, spread the cream cheese mixture over the crust. It helps to use an offset spatula and keep the filling between the spatula and the crust. This helps keep the crust from tearing.




3rd Layer:

3-4 medium sized bananas

Slice the bananas and lay the slices on top of the cream cheese layer, covering completely.




4th Layer:

2 small pkgs. instant banana-flavored pudding
3 cups cold milk

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the pudding and milk until smooth. Pour over the bananas. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Spread whipped topping (as much as you like!) over the pudding. If you like, you can sprinkle shaved chocolate or toasted coconut over the whipped topping just before serving.





This post is linked with love to the following:


















StumbleUpon

I Did It My Way



Winter finally came this week and brought about 5" of snow and bitterly cold temperatures with it. Needless to say, comfort food was on my mind as I was deciding what to write about this week. I have my favorite go-to recipes when I'm looking for comfort in the form of food, but this week I decided to try something new. Something different.

I started thinking about chicken and waffles. It's classic soul food fare that combines fried chicken with waffles and not something generally served in our area. It's typically served with the chicken on top of the waffle and then covered with butter and syrup. What could be more comforting than that?

We've had chicken on the menu quite a bit lately, but the waffle part sounded really good. So, I started thinking about what else I could combine with the waffles and still get (kind of) the same effect? Pork! The other white meat! I don't recall the exact thought process, but I settled on apple cider-brined pork, breaded with a savory sage coating, and then fried just like chicken. Pork and sage pair wonderfully with maple - or in this case, maple syrup.

You'll notice the recipe for waffles is a classic Belgian waffle. They're very easy to make, but they do require a standing time of about 8 hours, so you'll want to mix them up in advance. We had the waffles for supper, so I mixed them up earlier, in the morning, to allow the batter to be refrigerated for 8 hours. If you don't have a Belgian waffle maker, you can still make these using a regular waffle iron. I don't have a Belgian waffle maker and mine turn out great - just a little different.

Also, be sure to check out the giveaway at the end of the post!

Waffles and Pork Chops



Classic Belgian Waffles

Makes:  about 6-8 waffles

2 1/4 cups flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 pkg. active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 milk, divided
2 eggs, separated
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled

In a small bowl, slightly warm 1/4 cup of milk; dissolve the yeast in the milk. Let stand until creamy.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Whisk in the yeast mixture, egg yolks, vanilla, butter, and remaining milk until smooth.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.

Fold the egg whites into the batter, cover loosely, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 225 F. Heat and lightly grease waffle iron. Pour about 1 cup waffle batter onto the waffle iron, close lid quickly, and cook until the waffles are golden - about 6 minutes, depending on the waffle iron. Transfer waffles to oven (right on the rack - not on a plate or a pan or they'll get soggy). Repeat with the remaining batter.

Serve with your favorite toppings!


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Whenever a recipe calls for apple cider, I substitute apple juice instead. Apple cider, while delicious, just isn't something I keep on hand (we're not apple juice or cider drinkers), but I do keep a can of the concentrated apple juice in the freezer and mix-up whatever amount the recipe calls for. The concentrate is usually mixed at a ratio of 2 parts water to 1 part apple juice concentrate. Just remember the conversions you probably learned at some point in school:  3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon, 16 tablespoons = 1 cup, etc . . . You get the idea. Don't worry about being exact. Most recipes are a little forgiving, so you don't have to be precise. If this all seems like too much work for apple juice, just buy the apple juice!

I saw this technique watching Sunny Anderson make fried chicken on Food Network. Her recipe is now my go-to recipe for fried chicken and it also works great with pork! You'll be amazed at how juicy your fried chicken or pork is when you use this recipe. The only change I make when I use it for pork is in the breading. I add a little sage which adds savory notes to the pork and pairs nicely with the sweetness of the maple syrup on the waffles. I also use half the amount of flour called for in Sunny's recipe and add 1/2 cup of panko crumbs for extra crispiness.


Cider-Brined Breaded Pork
Serves: 4

2 cups apple cider or juice
1/2 cup salt
pork chops (you can cut them into smaller strips, if you like)
water
1 tsp. sage
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup panko crumbs (or bread crumbs)
1/4 cup cornstarch
vegetable shortening for frying

In a large bowl, whisk together the apple cider or juice and salt until the salt dissolves. Add the pork and enough water to cover all the pork. The pork should be completely submerged in the brine. Cover and place the pork/brine in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Try not to soak the pork for more than 1 hour because there's a lot of salt in this brine and the pork may be too salty.

In a bowl with a lid, combine the flour, panko crumbs, pepper, cornstarch, and sage and mix well. Shake the excess brine off the pork chops (leave the pork chops somewhat wet so the breading will stick to them) and place in the bowl with the flour mixture, cover, and shake until all the chops are well coated.

Heat about an inch of oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and add the pork chops. You may have to work in batches so you don't crowd the pan. If you have too many pork chops in the pan at once, they won't brown properly. Also, be sure the oil is heated through before adding the pork chops. If the oil temperature is too low, the pork chops will absorb the oil and you could end up with soggy, oil-soaked meat. A good way to test the oil to see if it's hot enough is to drop a small (1/8 tsp.) of flour into the oil. If it sizzles, the oil's ready. Fry until each side is golden brown and crispy. Turn the chops over to cook the other side until golden and crispy. Remove from pan and place on a paper towel-lined plate.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *





Did you know, water is a natural remedy for headaches? It's true! Dehydration is a common cause of headaches. Water helps to relieve headaches and back pains due to dehydration.

Encourage your kids (and you, too!) to drink a full serving of milk at each meal, but then drink water whenever they're thirsty throughout the day instead of drinking juice or pop. Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge so it's always nice and cold!




* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

GIVEAWAY CONTEST!

I think it's time for a giveaway, don't you?




A few days ago, I was browsing Stonewall Kitchen's website and discovered they've brought back their Pink Grapefruit Marmalade! This marmalade is something you absolutely have to try at least once in your life - even if you don't like grapefruit. Like all of their other marmalades, Pink Grapefruit Marmalade is delicious, especially in combination with cream cheese on toasted bread, english muffins, or bagels.

I thought "I have to order some of this" and then, it hit me! I'll order one for me and one to giveaway!

So, how do you win Stonewall Kitchen's Pink Grapefruit Marmalade? To be entered in the drawing, answer the question below in the comments section:


"What is your favorite toasted food?"


Maybe it's toasted cheese sandwiches or submarine sandwiches. How about quesadillas? Or even angel food cake. What is your favorite food to toast?

Please note:  to enter a comment, just click on the comments link at the end of the post. Please don't put your email address in the comment!

You can also have your name entered (to increase your chances of winning) by doing any or all of the following (be sure to let me know which of these you do in the comments section so I can be sure to enter your name for each one - for a total of up to 5 entries):
  • follow this blog (if you already follow, please let me know in the comments)
  • "Like" us on Facebook (if you follow us on Facebook, please let me know in the comments)
  • share this on Facebook
  • tweet about this post

This contest is open until 11:59 p.m. (CST), Saturday, January 28, 2012. A winner will be drawn at random after the contest closes and will be announced in the Sunday, January 29, 2012 post.

Please note: Comments need to be approved. If you don’t see yours right away, don’t worry…I will get to it as soon as I can!

* This contest is open to anyone with a valid shipping address within the 50 United States *



    StumbleUpon

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    What's in the Oven? What is a Fat Rascal?




    I follow The English Kitchen, a delightful blog from England. I have never met - online or otherwise - the author of this blog, but I'm really hoping someday I'll have the opportunity to meet her. She writes wonderful posts about her family and her life and I am completely infatuated with all things British - literature, television, films, cooking, everyday life! It's my dream to someday take a trip to England.

    Anyway, Marie, the author of The English Kitchen, posted a recipe for Fat Rascals a couple of weeks ago. I think England has such interesting names for their food (dont' you?) and I when I saw that post I just had to find out what a Fat Rascal is. I mean, how can you not want to know what a Fat Rascal is?

    As it turns out, a Fat Rascal is similar to a biscuit here in the U.S. Marie's recipe is a very basic biscuit recipe, having only 6 ingredients. Reading through the recipe, I noticed the recipe she posted also did not use eggs, baking powder, or any type of spices commonly found in biscuit recipes.

    I followed Marie's recipe and didn't alter the ingredients. I did, however, make a couple of changes. First, I used raisins instead of currents because I had raisins on hand and didn't want to make a trip to the store for just one thing. Marie's recipe called for dried currents, but I don't care for the texture of dried raisins, so I soaked my raisins in hot water and used used that water in the recipe. If you do this, remember to soak first, then measure. The only other change I made was in the mixing process. I used a stand mixer instead of mixing by hand. If you do make these by hand, the easiest way to incorporate the butter into the flour is to rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingertips. As for sifting the flour, a really easy way to achieve this is to combine your dry ingredients - flour, salt, and sugar - in the bowl and mix it with a whisk until the dry ingredients are well blended. Voilá! Your dry ingredients are sifted.

    In addition to being really easy to make, these biscuits are flaky and moist. Fat Rascals are great with coffee and make a beautiful addition to a Sunday brunch.

    Marie is also a very talented artist. You can see her artwork at another one of her blogs, The Artful Heart.


    Fat Rascals

    Makes:  7-8

    2 cups flour
    1/8 tsp. salt
    3 1/2 tbsp. sugar + more for dusting
    1/2 cup butter
    1/3 cup dried currents (may substitute raisins)
    2-3 fluid ounces milk and water, mixed

    Preheat oven to 400° F/200° C. Grease baking sheet with butter and set aside.

    Sift together the flour, salt, and sugar. Cut (or rub) butter into flour mixture until it resembles bread crumbs. Add the currents. Using a fork, stir in enough milk/water to make a firm dough. Pat dough to a 1/2" thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 3" rounds with a sharp biscuit or cookie cutter. Place the rounds on the prepared baking sheet. Dust lightly with sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a pale golden color. Cook on a wire rack.

    Sifting the dry ingredients

    A firm dough

    Ready for the oven

    Fat Rascals!


    Enjoy!


    To view Marie's post for Fat Rascals go to:  http://theenglishkitchen.blogspot.com/2012/01/fat-rascals.html.


    This post is linked with love to the following:








    StumbleUpon

    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    Teach Your Child(ren) To Cook . . .




    . . . . Grilled Pizza Sandwiches and Cheesy Scrambled Eggs with Ham!


    Adam and Hugo's Excellent Cooking Adventure Begins

    Introducing Hugo (L) and Adam (R)!


    One of my (many) resolutions for the new year is to teach my youngest son - my baby - to cook. I'm not sure what happened with my last child. By the time his brother and sister were his age, they could cook, at least to survive. If it's not ready-to-serve or microwaveable, I'm convinced my baby would starve. It's not his fault. It's mine. All I can say in my defense is, "it's true - you really do run out of energy with the last one and they really do have it better/easier than their siblings!"

    Adam has learned some basic cooking skills watching and helping me cook. He can also read and has great comprehension abilities, so I'm thinking he could read a recipe and cook to survive - if he had to. But I'd like for him to have the knowledge and skills necessary to help him be a confident cook.

    Well, there's no time like the present, so I decided this was the day to begin teaching Adam and his friend, Hugo (who was visiting), to cook. That, and I didn't feel like making supper tonight. So, we - I mean they - made grilled pizza sandwiches. I supervised. All in all, they didn't do too bad.

    If you've never had a grilled pizza sandwich, give them a try. They're very tasty, easy to make, and a great alternative to regular grilled cheese sandwiches.


    Grilled Pizza Sandwich


    I don't have a recipe for these sandwiches - just instructions. To make them, you'll need bread (we used french bread, but any kind of bread will do), pizza sauce (you can use whatever kind you like, even a white sauce is good), cheese (we used mozzarella, but you can use any kind of cheese - shredded or not - that you prefer), any other toppings you enjoy on your regular pizzas (we used pepperoni), butter (or margarine), and a little olive oil (or other - vegetable, canola - oil).



    First, get all your ingredients ready (mise en place).


    Bread, pizza sauce, pepperoni, cheese, butter - all ready to go!


    Next, spread pizza sauce on the bread slices. Only spread sauce on one side of each slice.


    Spreading pizza sauce on the bread . . . .

    Then, add your cheese.

    Do you like a little or a lot of cheese?
    Add your other toppings.

    Pepperoni!


    And a little more cheese . . .

    If you're Adam, A LOT of cheese!
    . . . .  top with the other slice of bread and butter the top of that slice.



    Warm about a tablespoon of olive (or other) oil in your pan over medium heat.



    Place your sandwich, butter side down, in the pan and cook until golden brown. Butter the other side while the sandwich cooks. Be careful, the pan is hot and you have to respect the equipment!

    Don't crowd the pan or the sandwich won't brown properly.
    Chef Adam.
    Chef Hugo.
    Enjoy!

    The best part of cooking - the eating!
    Cheesey Scrambled Eggs with Ham


    As with the grilled pizza sandwich, I don't have a recipe and I'm not out to change how anyone makes their scrambled eggs. There's so many opinions out there:  add milk, don't add milk, use water instead of milk, cream is the only thing that should be added, don't add anything to the eggs. It's exhausting! I say, continue making them the way YOU like them. I supervised Adam and Hugo, so they were forced to learn my technique - a little water added to the eggs while scrambling them and cooking them until they're dry.

    In this little lesson, we also got to talk about cross-contamination, why it's bad, and how to avoid it. You'll see how this came up in the photos below.

    We used just 2 eggs for this lesson because it was just a lesson and not a meal.

    Melt about a tablespoon of butter in the pan over low heat.
    Crack the eggs into a bowl.

    It's all in the wrist. Scramble the eggs like you mean it! The yolk
    and the whites should be completely mixed and you shouldn't be
    able to see any of the whites.

    Into the pan. Do you see where Adam put the eggshells?
    Right next to the ham and cheese. We talked about cross-
    contamination while he replaced the ham and cheese.

    The scrambling continues.

    Add the ham and then the cheese. Lower heat and cover.

    Once the cheese has melted, turn off the heat, and on to a plate.

    Tasting!




    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

    Heathly and a money-saver: water!

    Did you know, water helps relieve fatigue? It's true! Water helps your body flush out toxins and waste products. When your body lacks water, your heart, for instance, needs to work harder, as do the rest of your vital organs. This leaves you (and your organs) exhausted!

    Encourage your kids (and you, too!) to drink a full serving of milk at each meal, but then drink water whenever they're thirsty throughout the day instead of drinking juice or pop. Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge so it's always nice and cold!





    This post is linked with love to the following:




    StumbleUpon