Thursday, December 17, 2009

a new website!!!

From now on you can find me at The Red Bird Life. Here's the story:

Thanks to my rockstar of a husband, I have a brand-new website for my cooking blog, now called The Red Bird Life. He surprised me with it for my birthday this year and I am so excited to bring you recipes from this new place that he made for me, and, hey, you too, really! For those of you who have been following me over at EatingFoodNetwork this is where you will find me and my crazy kitchen starting this Christmas. He picked out a new name so it’d allow for more topics if I ever decide to tell you about my adventures outside of the kitchen too. As some of you may know, I have a soft spot for the St. Louis Cardinals and I even have another site called that describes my services for making invitations/announcements/cards and creative scrapbook gifts. So The Red Bird Life seems to fit.

This website will allow for some new features that I didn’t have over on the hosted blogger account. You will see changes in the formats of posts, the recipes will be better formatted and hopefully easier to copy and print. As we get used to the new site my husband will be tweaking the layout here and there to make sure everything works just right. And, maybe, just maybe, if you’ve been good this year, someday we’ll have a print function directly on the site. …or maybe it’s if I’ve been good… so I can’t make any promises. You’ll have to take that up with my husband. I’ve got no skills to bake up a printer button.

AND, as if all this wasn’t awesome enough, my husband got me a new camera so I can attempt to take pictures that aren’t blurry for you. Ahhhh!!!! I can hardly believe it!! He sure spoils me rotten. Thanks, Mr. Anderson, you absolutely made this birthday extra, extra special.

And thanks to all of you for reading my blog. It sure is fun sharing my food with you. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

fast, easy german chocolate fudge

We're doing fun activities every day this December leading up to Christmas to celebrate advent and today's excitement was all about fudge. And my husband even got in on the action because the baby needed fed when my daughter and I were in the middle of prepping. Might I say he is one mighty good-lookin' whisker. And I bet we have the smoothest fudge ever. Good job, honey.

This fudge recipe is delicious. Seriously. And sooooo easy. It takes no more than 15 minutes to prepare, including chopping the chocolate. Anyone can do it, and you can even get a little arm workout in the process. That'll be your excuse for eating many, many pieces of fudge. Because I promise you're going to want to.

German Chocolate Fudge
recipe adapted from The Mother Huddle

2 cups sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup butter
4 oz German chocolate, chopped
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup marshmallow cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Butter an 8 x 8 square baking dish. Set aside.

Cook sugar and milk at a medium boil, whisking constantly, for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and add the remaining ingredients. Whisk like a pro until you have it blended well. Pour into your buttered dish. ***Do not scrape the sides or bottom of your saucepan, just pour into your dish. Then you can scrape the sides and bottom into a separate bowl and, well, just see how long that lasts. We went ahead and ate the extras with spoons while it was still warm. Merry Christmas, tummies. Your welcome.

Cut fudge into squares once it's cooled and enjoy or give it away and really make someone's day.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

baked potato soup with bacon

In the midst of the chill in the air and the neverending cold season in our home, I was in the mood for a potato soup and saw I recipe I just had to try. Usually I'm more of a fan of runnier soups (wow, that doesn't sound appetizing, but you get the picture). Heartier soups tend to be too heavy for my tastes, but nonetheless, I decided to give Idaho Baked Potato Soup with Bacon a whirl.

I'm so glad I did. This soup is wonderful on a cold winter day and, dare I say, even better the second and third days reheated. My daughter and I gobbled it up for lunch this week. only took me about 30 minutes to put together, start to finish. I consider that pretty good for a soup. (I cooked my potatoes in the microwave instead of the oven, because I was hungry.)

Idaho Baked Potato Soup with Bacon
recipe from The Cooking Photographer

2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup flour
7 cups milk
4 large baking potatoes, microwaved and cubed (about 4 cups) - or baked in the oven if you have the time
4 green onions, sliced
12 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
1 1/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream
3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper, plus more to taste
garlic powder
onion powder

In my favorite kitchen cooking dish, the dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and whisk continuously until smooth and then for about a minute or so. Gradually add milk and whisk until thickened. (This will take a few minutes. I cooked my potatoes while I was assembling this first part of the soup.) Add potatoes and onions. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly (lose the whisk for this step). Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and stir until the cheese is completely melted. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve immediately. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

cheesy chicken nacho dip

One night this week, I had no idea what to make for dinner. Ever been there? :-) I had a few ideas of some ingredients in my fridge that I wanted to use, so I decided to consult with for some inspiration. Have you checked out that site? If not, you totally should. What a resource and I love that you can search by ingredients.

Here's what caught my eye: Outrageous Warm Chicken Nacho Dip

Now, if you know my husband, you'd know this sounds like something he probably wouldn't care for, but I was out of ideas and he didn't have any either, so I just went with it without mentioning my plan. I thought I'd go for the "surprise" factor tonight, and honestly, I was in a mood where I didn't care much if anyone liked it or not, I just wanted to get something on the table.

It had been one of those days.

And then as it turned out, when dinner was ready, I had to go take care of the baby so I left my husband to serve himself and our daughter and I told them I'd just eat later. When I came back downstairs, I was expecting some negative comments and I was trying to avoid eye contact so just maybe he wouldn't tell me what he thought after I'd just finished listened to my baby cry for 20 minutes, poor guy was sick and fighting sleep. Not tonight, Matty, not tonight. Just keep those thoughts to yourself and I'll make you whatever you want tomorrow.

But this is what he said (I kid you not), "I don't know how much merit this has as a dinner, but, WOW, this is good. You better get what you want so I can dig into the rest."

And he was serious.

I was stunned. And suddenly rejuvenated. For a recipe I didn't think I'd ever make again, let alone blog about and therefore didn't bother taking pictures of, I'm still thinking about his reaction days later so I had to share this with you.

Try it. It just might knock your socks off too.

Outrageous Warm Chicken Nacho Dip
recipe adapted from
note : the original recipe says it serves 12. I halved it (for some items), but my version only served 3.

1 can Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained
8 oz Velveeta, cubed
1/2 pound chicken breast, cooked and diced or shredded
3 tablespoons sour cream
2 scallions, diced
2 teaspoons taco seasoning mix
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
flour tortillas

Put Rotel, Velveeta, chicken, sour cream, scallions and taco seasoning mix in a slow cooker and stir to combine. Cook on high for 1 to 2 hours until cheese is melted and dip is hot. Add black beans to mixture 15 minutes before you're ready to serve.

Cut tortillas into wedges and bake on a cookie sheet for 5-8 minutes in a 350 degree oven or until crisp. Serve alongside dip as the "spoons".

Friday, December 4, 2009

ice cream sandwich - nutella style

Last night I happened upon a pretty amazing snack. And I couldn't not share it with you.

Two chocolate hazelnut smooches, minus the smooches.
One scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Yummy goodness. Thank you, God, that we still had nutella cookies in the freezer left over from Thanksgiving. My tummy is so happy right now.

Oh, and while I was writing this I was thinking, why not spread some nutella on the inside of the cookies before smooshing them together with the ice cream...

Gotta go. I've got an ice cream sandwich, the sequel, to make with only 8 minutes left until the last episode of Monk. Ever.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

enchiladas verdes with mexican rice

Let's break up all this Thanksgiving recap with a dinner you might actually want to make this week. How about it? I really can be helpful. I bet you were starting to doubt that, but I'm here today to prove you wrong. Try this one out. Your family will thank you for it. Or at least I sure hope so. Otherwise, I'm going to feel really bad. My guys liked it. In fact, my daughter and I ate it for leftovers at least 3 different times. (That's a lot for us. We usually tire of things much quicker than that.)

And this rice was awesome. From this point on, anytime I make a Mexican-inspired main dish, this rice will serve as it's accompaniment.

Enchiladas Verdes
recipe from Taste of Home magazine

1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
8 ounces Velveeta cheese, cubed
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 can chopped green chilies, drained
12 flour or corn tortillas (6 inch), your choice
1/4 cup canola oil

In a large skillet, cook the beef, onion, garlic and salt over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Drain if necessary. Stir in cheddar cheese; set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, cook and stir the soup, Velveeta, and milk over medium heat until cheese is melted. Stir in chilies.

If using corn tortillas, in a large skillet, fry tortillas, one at a time, in oil for 5 seconds on each side or until golden. Drain on paper towels. Skip this step if you're using flour tortillas.

Place a scant 1/4 cup of meat mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll up and place seam side down in a greased 13 x 9 baking dish. Pour cheese sauce over the top.

Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until heated through.

Mexican Rice
recipe adapted from Pioneer Woman
Serves 8

2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups rice
1 can Rotel
1 can petite diced tomatoes (14.5 oz)
2 cups chicken broth (maybe a little more)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onions and garlic, then cook for 4 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add rice. Stir constantly, making sure the rice doesn't burn. Cook over low heat for 3 minutes.

Add Rotel and tomatoes. Stir to combine and let cook for 2 minutes.

Finally, add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until rice is done. Add more liquid as needed; rice shouldn't be sticky. I left the rice with a bit of a bite still to it, al dente, if you will, and we loved it like that.

Just before serving, sprinkle freshly chopped cilantro over the top.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

traditional green bean casserole

Please don't take it as an insult that I'm posting about this. It's just that, well, this is my husband's favorite holiday dish. The only thing he asks for. He just can't get enough of those crispy onions. And I can't really blame him. Those things are pretty good. Really, I just didn't think it'd showcase our family well if I left this out. Even if the recipe is plastered all over ever can of fried onions in every grocery store in the country. It makes my husband happy so I hope it makes you happy too.

Classic Green Bean Casserole
recipe courtesy of Campbell's Kitchen

1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon soy sauce
dash of black pepper
2 cans cut green beans, drained
1 large can french fried onions

Stir the soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, green beans and 2/3 cup onions in a 1 1/2 quart casserole baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until bubbling. Stir. Then sprinkle with remaining onions and bake for 5 minutes more or until the onions are golden brown.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

make ahead creamy mashed potatoes

Here's another tested and approved recipe for something else you can make ahead of time if you're cooking a big dinner. The recipe had most of the ingredients I use to make mashed potatoes on any ol' know, cream cheese, butter, milk...all the goodies, and I was stoked to find out they were good even made a day in advance too. I love that. Especially with two young ones in the house. Anything I can do ahead is always, always my friend. Although I will say, my short-little-nap-taker-of-a-baby took no short of miraculous, LONG naps while I was cooking Thanksgiving dinner, so really, I can't complain. He sure knows how to show his momma some love.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes
recipe adapted from Pioneer Woman (yes, I know, I've been making a ton of her recipes lately. Once you try them, though, you'll know why.)

5 pounds russet potatoes
3/4 cup butter, plus a little more...
1 package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (maybe, make that, probably, more) milk
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Peel and cut potatoes into roughly the same size. Put them all in a big pot and cover potatoes with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 minutes or so, until they are fork tender.

Drain the potatoes in a large colander and then put them back in the same pot you cooked them in and back on the stove. Mash the potatoes using a potato masher over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape.

Add the butter, cream cheese, and milk to the potatoes and mash til your heart's content. Next, add the seasoned salt and pepper and stir to combine. Taste and add more of whatever you think it's missing. I ended up adding more butter and milk and could have probably added more cream cheese too, if I'd have had some. Make sure they're just the way you like 'em.

Put the perfect mashed potatoes into a medium baking dish and put a couple small pats of butter on top. (Because we don't have enough butter already.) :-)

Now, you can either bake them in a 350 degree oven now until the butter is melted and the potatoes are warm or you can cover them and stick 'em in the fridge to eat the next day.

If you put the potatoes in the fridge, make sure you take them out of there about 2 to 3 hours before serving time and place on the counter. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until warmed through.

Monday, November 30, 2009

honey wheat dinner rolls

These rolls are great, not only because they're delicious, but because they don't require much work and you can make the dough the day before to cut down on rising time the day of your dinner. Or Thanksgiving in this case. And in the case of Thanksgiving, anything you can make ahead of time is a very, very good thing.

Overnight Honey-Wheat Rolls
recipe from Taste of Home Holiday magazine

1 package active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees), divided
2 egg whites
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
melted butter, optional

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add yeast mixture, honey, oil, salt, whole wheat flour and remaining water. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes or until smooth. Stir in all-purpose flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky). Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a well-floured surface and divide dough in half. Shape each portion into 9 balls. To form knots, roll each ball into a 10-inch rope and tie into a knot. Tuck ends under. Place rolls 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets.

Cover and let rise until doubled, about 50 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with melted butter if desired.

I served these rolls with honey butter and they were seriously delicious and really easy to make for a yeast bread. They will absolutely be on the menu again someday at the Anderson home.

And in case you're wondering about that honey butter I mentioned...

Honey Butter
recipe by Our Best Bites

2 sticks butter, (close to room temp - works best when slightly chilled)
2/3 cup honey
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Put all ingredients in a medium bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer for about 30 seconds. Serve with warm rolls. Or basically anything. This stuff is amazing.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

sweet potato casserole

Oh, there's SO much to write about from Thanksgiving dinner. I tried new dish after new dish after new dish after new dish after... You get the picture.

But I had to start with my favorite. And my brother-in-law's fave too. And I think I know why.

Double the topping.

Yep, I did it. I doubled the best part, cut down on the sweet potatoes a bit, and ended up squeezing a dessert into the main course. A to the awesome. Whatever that means.

And I know it's more than a little counterproductive to post these recipes after the holiday, but I thought someone might want to try them out for a Christmas dinner, or at the very least, you'll be armed and ready to go for next Thanksgiving.

Sweet Potatoes
recipe adapted from Pioneer Woman

3 good-sized sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup flour
1 1/2 sticks butter

Wash and dry sweet potatoes. Poke holes in them in a few places with a fork. Bake in a 375 degree oven until fork tender. (Mine took about an hour.)

Slice sweet potatoes open and scrape out the flesh into a large bowl.

Add white sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla extract and salt to sweet potatoes and mash with a potato masher to combine.

In a separate bowl, add brown sugar, pecans, flour and butter. Using a fork, mash all together until thoroughly combined.

Spread the sweet potato mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle the crumb mixture all over the top.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Much more Thanksgiving goodness to come this week! And a huge thanks to my brother-in-law, Mark, for taking the pics of the food on the big day with his camera that's about a thousand times better than mine. You did a really great job. :-)Post Options

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

easy homemade cranberry sauce

I'm hosting my first Thanksgiving dinner this year and I am excited. To say the least. I don't want to leave anything out and I just realized I'm making almost three dishes per person. Crazy. Trust me, I know. But I love this stuff.

I've been scouring food network and foodie blogs trying to find just what I want to make for our dinner. This recipe for cranberry sauce from Our Best Bites caught my attention because of the way it's prepared. Instead of having to hover over the cranberries while they cook on the stovetop, you can stick them in a baking dish in the oven and forget about 'em. I like that.

I went ahead and made mine yesterday to have another dish out of the way before all my major cooking tomorrow and Thursday. Not only is it convenient, it's good too. I'd definitely recommend this recipe for a traditional cranberry sauce.

Cranberry Sauce
by Our Best Bites

1 bag fresh cranberries
1 cup orange juice
1 cup water
1 stick cinnamon
1 very small pinch ground cloves
1 cup white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash cranberries and place in 9x13 baking dish. Add orange juice, water, cloves, and cinnamon stick and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake 1 hour. Remove from oven, remove cinnamon stick, and allow to cool.

If you like it with more texture, mash berries with a potato masher; if you prefer it smooth, process in blender or food processor until desired consistency is reached. Or if you have an immersion blender, use that. That's what I did. What a good purchase. I highly recommend them. Saves dishes. Who doesn't like that?

Monday, November 23, 2009

braised short ribs and creamy polenta

When we have mixed feelings about a dish, I usually find myself at a loss for words. So today I'll start with the recipes, then I just might have a little something to say.

Braised Short Ribs
recipe adapted from Pioneer Woman

Serves 4

8 beef short ribs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 slices bacon
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 cups red wine
2 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried rosemary

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Salt and pepper ribs then dredge them in the flour. Set ribs aside.

In a dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy and all the fat is rendered. Remove bacon and set aside.

Add vegetable oil to the bacon grease and raise heat to high. Brown ribs on all sides, then remove and set aside. Turn heat back down to medium.

Add the chopped onions and carrots to the dutch oven and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in wine and scrape bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and then cook for 2 minutes.

Add beef broth, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed. Throw the bacon back in the pan. Add thyme and rosemary and stir. Then add the ribs to the liquid. They should be almost completely submerged.

Put on the lid to the dutch oven and place in the oven. Cook for 2 hours then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and cook for an additional 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let it sit for 20 minutes with the lid on before serving.

Creamy Polenta with Goat Cheese

4 1/2 cups water
1 scant cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
4 ounces goat cheese

Bring water to a boil.

Slowly add cornmeal to the water, whisking constantly as you pour.

Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, adding salt and extra water as needed if it looks to dry.

When finished cooking, stir in the butter and goat cheese until melted.

Serve with the braised short ribs on top.

These ribs are fall off the bone tender and very flavorful. We both really enjoyed them and the sauce they were cooked in. In fact, usually I'm not a fan of cooked carrots, but the ones submerged in this sauce for hours were spectacular. Truly. I think I would have been in love with this dish had I served mashed potatoes in place of the polenta. Oh polenta.

Not that you all wouldn't like it. You just might. It's different, something we're not quite used to, and I'm glad we tried it so we know what it takes like. But both me and Mr. Anderson wanted mashed potatoes. And I think my creamy, cheesy mashed potatoes would've brought those succulent ribs to another level. So if we have these ribs again, that's the plan. But I'm not saying you shouldn't try the polenta. If you're feeling adventurous, go for it. Just might surprise you.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

how to quickly frost cupcakes with style

Ever wonder if there is an easier way to frost cupcakes, something that doesn't take as long as smoothing it on with a knife? Honestly, it never crossed my mind until I found this post and put the tutorial to good use, making cupcakes and frosting them at record speed, well, for me at least. And the super speed was only for the frosting. Baking the cupcakes didn't go any quicker, just for the record.

To frost cupcakes quickly and with bakery style, you'll need a Wilton 1M star tip, a gallon freezer bag and frosting. Wal-Mart carries the Wilton line, but my Wal-Mart only had the tip in a kit of many tips, but I did find it at a kitchen specialty store for less than $2.

The tutorial shown on Our Best Bites is great. Simple to understand. And I seriously think I frosted 12 cupcakes in under 90 seconds. Maybe. I didn't time it so I can't be sure. But super speedy fast. Now don't those look cute, and it was only my first time. So if I can do it, you can definitely do it. Check out the tutorial and if your special someones want cupcakes for Thanksgiving dessert, you can fancy them right up.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

pumpkin crumble

Sometimes I get this determined look on my face. Like I'm gonna tackle my husband and his many, many dislikes in the world of food. He better watch out.

I've gained a fondness for pumpkin pie over the past couple years and really wanted to make something he would like too that we could have for our first Thanksgiving together when we're actually doing the cooking. So excited, by the way.

I came across this recipe for Pumpkin Crumble, which the author said she loves even though she's not a fan of pumpkin pie, so I thought I had a chance with the hubby and went to battle.

I followed the instructions exactly for this one and it was very simple to put together.

I had high hopes.

I liked it. It would be a great dessert for your upcoming Thanksgiving dinner if you want something a little different than the traditional pumpkin pie, but still desire those classic flavors.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for my husband. He didn't even take a bite when I served it. I basically had to force him to try it, just one bite, after our company had left for the evening. I felt like I was in negotiations with my toddler. All I got was an "Eh, it's alright...I guess."

So I admit defeat in this battle. My guy might never like pumpkin anything. I figure we're going to have to start having more people at our holidays so if he doesn't like something I want to make, it isn't such a big deal.

I've also decided it might be a good idea to include the recipes in my posts as well as linking to them, so I'm going to give this a try for now. We'll see if the kiddos give me enough time for this extra step.

Pumpkin Crumble
recipe from Our Best Bites

1 box of yellow or white cake mix - pick whatever brand you like
1-2 sticks butter
1 16 oz can pumpkin - or make your own puree
2 eggs
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
1/4 t ginger
1/8 t cloves
1/8 t nutmeg
1/2 t salt
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/2 t additional cinnamon for topping

Preheat oven to 350.

Place 2 cups of the cake mix in a bowl. Cut in 3 tablespoons chilled butter. Use your fingers to crumble the butter until it's in small crumbly pieces. Place mixture in a 9x13 baking dish and press it flat using your fingers.

Mix pumpkin, eggs, sweetened condensed milk, and spices until smooth. Pour on top of the cake mixture in the pan.

Measure the rest of the dry cake mix (they're all a little different.) Mix 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and the rest of the dry cake mix together. Sprinkle it all over the top of the pumpkin mixture.

Next sprinkle on the chopped pecans.

For every 1 cup of cake mix you sprinkled on top, you'll need 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Drizzle it right on top.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. The topping should be golden brown when done.

I served it with homemade sweetened whipped cream. Who doesn't like pumpkin with whipped cream on top? Well, except the guy I married.

So what's the one dish you're looking forward to gobbling up on Thanksgiving? (If you can pick just one.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

cranberry orange scones

When I think of scones, the first thing that comes to mind is something that's very dry and crumbly. And Starbucks. I think that's the only place I ever see those things and they never look very appetizing to me. Not exactly my idea of a good pastry. But when I was looking for recipes to use a bag of fresh cranberries in my fridge (we'd gotten tired of cranberry sauce and were longing for something different) this one caught my attention, and I'm thrilled it did.

I'm not even sure I'd call this a scone, it's more like a sweet biscuit. Warm (well that's how I'd recommend eating them). Flaky. Moist. Buttery. Sweet. Yum. Ina Garten's Cranberry Orange Scones are by far the best scone I've ever tasted.

You'll notice that this recipe calls for dried cranberries, but I thought I'd try it with fresh and they turned out great. I roughly chopped the cranberries and used the same amount as called for of dried ones in the recipe. I increased the sugar by 3 tablespoons to account for the substitution. (I halved this recipe because I only had 1/2 cup heavy cream, but when we get to the store next, I'm planning to make another batch, and a whole recipe this time because they freeze wonderfully. More on that in a bit.) I pulled my scones out of the oven on the short end of the time suggested, probably right around 21 minutes, because I was worried they might get too dry. They really were perfect, so check yours a little early just to make sure they don't get overdone.

Now to this freezing business. Scones, so I hear, are really only good the day of baking. Maybe the day after, but you might be pushing it. So I only baked what I knew we'd eat that day, and froze the rest on a plastic plate (or you could use a cookie sheet if your freezer is bigger than mine) in the freezer until frozen, then I moved them to a freezer storage bag. I froze the cut out dough, before eggwash and sugar sprinkle, just for the record. I'd do those steps right before baking. The next morning I was able to bake the frozen scones straight from freezer to oven, with only about a 2 minute increase in bake time. Worked like a charm. So I think from now on I'll need a supply of these in my freezer for a decadent breakfast, well, anytime. Oh, and one more note on my frozen scones, I had used the last of our orange juice earlier in the morning so I juiced a lemon to make the drizzle for the topping and it was just as delicious as the orange one.

So if you need a way to use up some extra cranberries, here's one excellent solution. I'd even buy a bag to make these. Without question.

Friday, November 13, 2009

white chicken enchiladas

White Chicken Enchiladas were on the menu this week when we had friends over for dinner. From the moment I read the recipe, I just knew I had to try them, and fast. Originally, I was planning to make a simple pasta for our company to make it a little easier on me since I knew I'd be cleaning too before our guests arrived. But no, once I saw these and my mouth started watering, it was the end of me. I buckled up the kids and away we went to the store for the ingredients.

Now this took way longer than the pasta I'd been planning. Like an hour and a half longer. But it was totally worth it. I'm already wondering how long I have to wait before I whip 'em up again. Maybe tomorrow. Yeah, tomorrow sounds perfect. My husband even recommended we skip a traditional turkey for Thanksgiving and make these with turkey in them instead. Not a bad idea.

Only two recipe modifications...I used flour tortillas instead of corn because that's what we prefer and I skipped putting the jalapeno pepper in and used a yellow bell pepper. I don't think I'd put a bell pepper in them again. The flavor didn't mesh as well as I'd wanted, but other than that, these are delicious.

And I'm sorry there's no picture for these, but sometimes we're too hungry for pictures. Pioneer Woman never leaves us lacking for pictures though, so check hers out in the recipe.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

french breakfast puffs

I don't even recommend reading this post unless you're in the mood to indulge. Know that after we snacked on a few, I knew I had to throw the rest out. Yes, we wasted food and I need to have my hand slapped for it, but it was for our own good. These are yummy, very yummy indeed, but oh so heavy and soaked in butter...did I mention that yet?

I knew from the beginning that these were going to be bad news, but sometimes, I just can't resist. I have fallen in love with Pioneer Woman and her blogs, and this was my first attempt trying one of her recipes. Many more to come, I'm sure. Everything she makes looks divine.

Okay, now to the recipe for French Breakfast Puffs. I started by cutting the recipe in half and making 24 mini muffins instead of 12 big ones. The mini muffins cooked for 15 minutes and came out perfectly. The only other change I made was only lightly tossing the muffins in the butter rather than letting them soak for 20-30 seconds like Pioneer Woman recommends. I just couldn't do it. Mine were only in there for 2-3 seconds, or plenty long enough, for my tiny cakes.

As you might expect, these are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. But unless you have the metabolism of a 13-year-old, I'm warning you, they may come at a price.

Monday, November 9, 2009

white chicken chili with a cheddar hushpuppy crust

Recently we've found quite a few 'keepers' to add to our list of regulars from our kitchen. White Chicken Chili with a Cheddar Hushpuppy Crust is no exception. Matt and I had been wanting white chicken chili for a couple weeks now, but I've never made it before and didn't have a recipe for it. This is what I found that sounded worth trying on Now, I have no idea who Gaynell Lawson is (the author of the recipe), but I do know he makes a rockin' chicken chili and just the sound of the word hushpuppy makes me drool.

Both the chili and the cornbread crust had fantastic flavor on their own and together... yum. I had a second helping and my husband, the guy who eats like a bird compared to most men, went back for thirds! Now if that doesn't shout, "Try me!" I don't know what will.

Recipe notes:

1. As far as ingredients in the chili go, I used northern beans instead of cannellini and I shredded the cooked chicken instead of cubing it.

2. For the hushpuppy crust, I used a box of Jiffy cornbread mix instead of the recommended brand and didn't put it all in since those boxes are a couple ounces more than the box the recipe calls for. I was nervous about how it would turn out since I didn't measure exactly, but for no reason. It was yummy and cooked up quite well.

3. I don't have a cast iron skillet yet, so I used my Dutch oven and it worked beautifully. I love that thing :-)

4. We garnished the dish with avocado and sour cream. And in my daughter's case, she garnished her sour cream with some chili. My brother would be so proud.

So, thanks, Gaynell Lawson, for adding to our list of 'regulars'. Well, for the fall and winter at least. Anyone who knows me well knows that, as a rule, I DO NOT eat chili in the summer. It just isn't right.

Friday, November 6, 2009


You might think all we eat are sweets. I could understand why too, based on what I blog about. But I promise, we have our dinner before dessert almost every night. I've been wanting to try these classic brownies from smitten kitchen for a few weeks now, and finally got around to making them on Wednesday. From the look of her pictures and what she had to say about them, I thought these would be the best brownies to hit our kitchen.

Not so much.

Don't get me wrong, they weren't bad, but when I think I'd rather have the Wal-Mart brand fudge brownie mix that costs less than a dollar and comes in a little pouch than something that came out of Cook's Illustrated magazine, well, then I'd say don't bother wasting your time on the extra effort. My overall favorite brownies are still my Grandma's recipe, but I don't make them often because I will seriously eat the whole pan by myself in less than 24 hours. And I just don't want to look pregnant when I'm not, so I try to exercise a little self-control. And I don't have much self-control when they're sitting on my counter. If I were you, I'd be wondering about my Grandma's recipe right about now, you know, if you're going to have a bunch of people to feed sometime soon. There's something about that cocoa powder and the immense amount of powdered sugar on top that's awesome. And I know what you'll be thinking when you see how much oil goes into these, but the soft, chewy texture it creates...mmmm...they just melt in your mouth. And I love that about a brownie.

Grandma Pease's Brownies
Note: I often halve this recipe since it makes such a large pan of brownies. A half portion will fit in a small jellyroll pan nicely.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
8 tablespoons cocoa
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour into a greased rimmed cookie sheet and bake only 15-20 minutes. Do not overbake. Sprinkle, or spoon large amounts of powdered sugar on top. Just be careful not to inhale when you take a bite. :-)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


When I saw these, I just knew we had to try them. I'd never made Snickerdoodles before, and wanted a good recipe for my collection. This sure is it; I won't need to try any others. We even mailed some and turns out they'll hold up well being shipped. I did bake and ship in the same day which helped them stay fresh longer for the birthday girl. (I whipped up the dough the night before and let it chill so the balls would be easy to handle when baking in the morning, just like the recipe suggests.)

These cookies are crisp on the outside and cakey in the middle and a wonderful bundle of cinnamony-sugar goodness. They didn't last long in our house and I'm going to guess they won't in yours either.

On a completely unrelated note...

I think this month of not eating out really had an effect on us. I've always been one to LOVE eating out, I'd pretty much always choose that over eating in, even with my love of cooking. I think I liked the event of it, something different AND not having to do dishes. But Monday night we went out to dinner for the first time in weeks, and I found myself wishing we were back at home, eating something I'd cooked up and just enjoying time around our own dinner table, folding chairs and all. And the surprising thing is, when I shared with my husband what I'd been thinking, he said he'd felt the same way. I never would have guessed all we'd want to do after a month minus restaurants is to stay home, but I'm pleasantly surprised that that's the case.

Monday, November 2, 2009

we're still here, just a little under the weather

the cold and flu season struck our house a couple weeks ago, and has yet to leave. when matt and i got sick too last week, it pretty much put an end to just about everything around here, including trying new recipes. that's why i haven't been posting. i don't have anything to write about. we have made some recipes over again. the chocolate-hazelnut smooches, buttermilk pancakes and chicken pot pie are still awesome, even with a raw throat. my daughter and i also tried making the pumpkin bread again, but something went wrong. i'm not sure what, but it ended up dense and not like bread at all. we were bummed, to say the least.

anyways, matt's back at work today and i'm starting, some moments i think so at least, to feel better. there's a chance for new recipes this week, so don't count me out. in fact, i'm going to turn on food network right now and see what's cooking. until later, my friends...

oh, wait, one more thing. we finished our month-long no eating out challenge this weekend. we made it! i was, however, disappointed that we only saved $200 on our food budget from the previous month. we still think it's too high and are trying to figure out how we spend so much in this area. yesterday i went to the grocery store and bought enough chicken and ground beef for the month because they were both $1.99/pound and that's cheaper than what we've been paying. i separated them out into meal-size portions and froze them all. if i only buy meat when it's on sale, that should help a little more, right?

if anyone has any money-saving tips on grocery shopping, i'm all ears.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

chocolate-hazelnut cookies

Giada's always using Nutella on her show, it's like she knows how addicting it is and just sticks it in everything so more people try her recipes. That nerve!

Okay, Giada, I'm just kidding. Please don't be mad. We love Nutella and will make whatever you decide to put it in with smiles on our faces. And a little chocolate on our chin.

Today's recipe is Chocolate-Hazelnut Smooches, minus the smooch for us. (I'll get to that in a second.) I saw her making these on Everyday Italian this week and thought they'd be a fun Halloween cookie to make with my daughter. We followed the recipe closely, only one modification, leaving out the chocolate kisses on top, which means we baked the cookies for 11 minutes straight. I just didn't feel like smooches on our cookies this time around. My daughter, Ava, and I had so much fun making these. (She got to roll them in the sugar and lick her fingers afterwards. Yum.)

I won't leave you in suspense. These are awesome. The sugar coating provides a fun crunch to the cookie, but they are still chewy in the middle. Such a perfect balance of texture, and the taste is delicious. How could it not be with yummy Nutella goodness inside?

When I told my husband what we were baking today, he was less than excited. But I brought him a sample anyways, and he took a bite with an apprehensive look on his face. I'm not exactly sure what look was on his face while he continued to eat a few more cookies, but, you get the picture. These are good, even for the toughest critic.

Monday, October 26, 2009

no need for take-out: general tso's chicken

My husband's FAVORITE meal is Chang's Spicy Chicken from P.F. Chang's, their version of General Tso's Chicken. Most of the time (even now that we don't live near one) when I ask him what he'd like for dinner, that's his answer. So when Sunny Anderson was making her version of General Tso's on Cooking For Real this week, I decided to see if it would compete with Chang's, or at least get my hubby excited about what's for dinner.

Sunny calls hers Airman Anderson's husband actually thought I came up with the name.

Here's what I did differently:

1. I used chicken breasts instead of thighs since that's what we prefer.
2. Instead of serving it with her Stormy Rice, I made my Citrus Rice-tastic instead. I thought the slight orange flavor in my rice would complement the orange in the sauce of this recipe.
3. We sauteed sliced carrots, mushrooms, celery and scallions to toss with the chicken.

This recipe was more work than I initially anticipated, but after my husband's reaction, totally worth it. He says it doesn't beat out Chang's (not yet at least, I'm not giving up that easily) but it was very good, much better than what you'd get at any other Asian restaurant. My husband raved about the sauce, and that was the easiest part of the recipe. I have to say I really enjoyed it as well, but it was a little too spicy for my tastes. I think the next time I make it I'll dial back the cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes a notch or two so it's a little more enjoyable for me.

We'd absolutely recommend this recipe. As long as you have the time, this is much better than your typical take-out and is even yummy reheated for lunch the next day too, as we just found out.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

brownie pudding

Oh my chocolaty goodness. If you get together with a group of girls, be it a book club, girls night in, bible study, whatever...this dessert would be a welcome addition to the festivities; you have my word. It reminds me of college when my roommates and I would sit around the kitchen counter, each armed with our own spoon, eating under baked brownies fresh out of the oven. Granted, we were all athletes at the time so doing something like that had absolutely no effect on our waistline, not so much the case now. This is not a healthy dessert, not even close. BUT if you're sharing with friends, it's worth the indulgence. (Even if you're not, that's okay too. Who cares what anybody else thinks.) Trust me, you don't want to go through life having not experienced Ina Garten's Brownie Pudding. It would be a crying shame.

A few recipe notes: I had to look up what framboise liqueur is so it obviously didn't make it into the mix, but I now know that it's a raspberry liqueur and you could easily substitute raspberry juice for it. Yum. What's not to love about chocolate and raspberries? Also, I didn't have a vanilla bean so I used 1 tablespoon vanilla extract instead. The closest baking dish I have to what Ina recommended is an 11 x 7 x 1 1/2 and it worked without any modifications to the baking time. Oh, and one more thing, when beating the eggs and sugar together, I had the mixer going for 7 minutes to get the thick, light yellow consistency that the recipe desires.

You should know that this is a very rich dessert so you'll need a tall glass of milk to wash it down, as my husband reminds me to make sure I mention. (I don't drink milk so water worked just fine for me.) Or vanilla ice cream would be great with it too.

My daughter helped me put the brownie pudding together last night, but because it has such a long baking time, she was in bed by the time it was done. There's no lapse in her memory, though. When she came downstairs this morning and I asked what she'd like for breakfast, her answer, as sweet as she can sound, "A brownie, please." You'll just have to guess whether we ate brownie pudding for breakfast though, because we aren't telling.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

herbed garlic bread

If you're having pasta tonight, or chicken, or steak, or pork, or...well, you get the picture, then I've got a recipe for excellent garlic bread to go alongside your main course. Tyler Florence doesn't disappoint with his Herbed Garlic Bread.

I've made this recipe using the fresh herbs like it calls for and also with dried ones when I don't have fresh on hand. As you'd expect, the fresh tastes better, but I certainly still enjoy it with the dried herbs too. One other note, when I mash it all up together, I usually end up adding some additional olive oil to make the butter paste easier to spread over the bread. Enjoy!

Monday, October 19, 2009

a better biscuit

I absolutely love it when I come across a recipe that I just know is going to be a mainstay in our home for years to come. Actually, I'm going to tell you about two of them today. The first one is Alton Brown's Southern Biscuits. A few weeks ago I'd given Ina Garten's Biscuits a try and we liked the way they came out, but I'd mentioned that I still wanted to give Alton Brown's recipe a shot. I'm so glad I did. These are just the way biscuits should be, truly the perfect biscuit. I don't feel any need to try any other biscuit recipe, ever. Yum. (I didn't get a chance to take pictures of the biscuits this time around. It was just one of those nights that got a little crazy right before dinner and, honestly, all I wanted to do was sit down and dig in, so...maybe next time.)

We had the biscuits with one of my favorite meals...pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy. The pot roast recipe is another one of our faves. It came from my Uncle John and is very much worth the try. And you can use the exact same recipe to make Italian Beef! The only extra thing you'll need is rolls for the sandwiches.

A roast of your choice
1 package Italian Seasonings salad dressing mix
1 package onion soup mix
2 cups water

Put the roast in a slow cooker. Mix both seasoning packets in the water. Pour the mixture over the roast and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Shred meat for Italian beef or tear into larger pieces for pot roast.

The leftover juices in the slow cooker make an excellent gravy. All you need is a rue, no additional seasoning needed. It's awesome. Thanks for the idea, Penny! I've always been intimidated to make gravy, but this really is one that's hard to mess up. So simple, so delicious.

This is a great meal for a cool fall evening. Mmmm, and I can't wait to make those biscuits again.

Friday, October 16, 2009

roasted asparagus

Some things taste best when treated simply and left very close to their true form. I discovered this weekend that I love asparagus this way. Tossed with a little extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and pepper and roasted in the oven for 20 minutes. That's it. Ina Garten can give you all the specifics in her recipe, Roasted Asparagus. I've been craving it since then and can't wait to make it again tomorrow night for dinner.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

pumpkin bread at its finest

And now to the most delicious pumpkin bread we've ever tasted. (We finished off our loaf today and both my daughter and I were a little sad at lunch when it was all gone. What's better with 'roni and cheese than warm slices of pumpkin bread?)

This recipe was inspired by Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread from, but I made quite a few modifications so I'll spell out the recipe here in the blog this time.

2 generous cups fresh pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce
2/3 cup water
2 cups white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
cinnamon/sugar mixture
melted butter/brown sugar/cinnamon mixture

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and coat with cinnamon/sugar mixture one loaf pan and put baking cups in regular muffin pans for 16-18 muffins.
2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, applesauce, water and both sugars until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the loaf pan and then pour remaining batter into the muffin pans.
3. Bake muffins for 30 minutes and the loaf for 1 hour 10 minutes. (Times are approximate, make sure you're checking on them from time to time.) They are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
4. Place loaf pan on a greased rimmed baking sheet immediately after it's done baking. Poke holes all over the top of the bread and pour a melted butter, brown sugar and cinnamon mixture over the holes. (I didn't do any measuring for this mixture so just start with a couple tablespoons melted butter and add brown sugar and cinnamon until it's to a consistency you like. It needs to be runny enough to seep into the holes.) Let cool and dig in! Or you can eat it before it cools if you're just too excited like we were.
5. Let the muffins cool. I topped some of them with cream cheese frosting and orange sugar sprinkles for dessert for a dinner party this weekend. (I halved this recipe except for the powdered sugar. I still used 2 cups of that.)

Now, let me start by saying my husband doesn't like pumpkin OR cream cheese, until now. I didn't expect that he'd eat any of our pumpkin bread and definitely not the icing-topped muffins. I didn't even bother offering him any because I didn't want my feelings hurt when he wasn't interested in trying it. But he didn't even want to share with our daughter. She had to have her own muffin, and that wasn't even her request. I loved it too. Best pumpkin bread I've ever had. We've found a new fall staple for our home. Can't wait to go back to the pumpkin patch next week so we can find our next right pumpkin.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

how to make your own pumpkin puree

Playdate at a pumpkin patch: $7

Wrong pumpkins selected before she found the right one: 4

Oven temperature to roast a pumpkin and help warm our chilly house: 375 degrees F

Watching my daughter find such joy in turning her pumpkin into something delicious: Priceless

Last week the kids and I met up with a few other families at a local pumpkin patch for a hayride, a walk through a straw maze and a pumpkin patch. We had fun, although my daughter becomes so quiet around other kids it's hard to tell what she's thinking. She got to pick out a small pumpkin which was perfect because the small ones are best to cook with and I promised her we'd make something yummy out of her find. She's developing such an eager desire for helping me cook; I love getting to share my time in the kitchen with her.

And now I'll share our creation with you (Part 1 of 2)...

First, let's roast those pumpkins. Not as easy as picking up a can of pumpkin at the grocery store, but worth the learning experience for me and my baby and the upgrade in flavor of your chosen pumpkin dish.

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Cover a baking dish or rimmed cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. (I used a 13x9 pan.)

2. Cut the pumpkin in half and cut out the stem section and remove the stringy pulp and seeds. I used an ice cream scoop for this and it worked wonderfully. I'd also recommend a serrated knife for cutting the pumpkin for a little more stabilization.

3. Place the two halves face down in your baking pan and cover with foil.

4. Bake in the oven for about 1½ hours for a smaller pumpkin, or until tender.

5. Once the baked pumpkin has cooled, scoop out the flesh and puree or mash it.

Tomorrow I'll continue this pumpkin adventure with what we made with our pumpkin puree. You won't want to miss it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

pancakes: no box mix allowed

We've conquered the first week of our month-long No Eating Out Challenge!

but not without a few cravings...

My daughter and I particularly fancy the pancakes from Mem's Country Cupboard, a local diner that serves breakfast and lunch. So this morning when I asked her if she'd like pancakes for breakfast, her answer was a very enthusiastic, "Yes!" (She must have been missing Mem's too.) Since we had breakfast there the first time, I've been researching pancake recipes, trying to figure out exactly what they do to make their flapjacks so yummy. I settled on a recipe to try and this morning we made these pancakes from

Oh, can I tell you, our bellies were happy this morning. I will never make pancakes from a box mix again. After tasting these, it would be a crime. Seriously, they were incredible. Absolutely incredible. The recipe was simple to put together too so there's no reason your family shouldn't enjoy these pancakes this weekend too. My husband isn't a pancake enthusiast, but he came back with an empty plate saying, "Those were REALLY good." (He works from home so he gets goodies delivered to his office courtesy of our toddler whenever we're in the mood to make a mess in the kitchen.) And, I know, I know, I keep telling him he needs to be more descriptive about his food critique, otherwise the blog will be BORING, but right now, I can tell you that most of the time he describes food as "fine," so to say that these pancakes were "REALLY good" well, that's something.

Two recipe notes: I didn't have blueberries so I made them without. I'm sure they'd be great with berries too. And I wouldn't use a buttermilk substitute for this one. I think the buttermilk adds flavor that you'd otherwise be missing.

And finally, what I'm learning from our challenge: you really can make restaurant quality food even better at home. All you need are the right recipes...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

pulled pork sandwiches with maui onion straws

Two new "firsts" were created in our kitchen last night. I tried my hand at pulled pork sandwiches, recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence. The paste to marinate the pork had a great flavor combination, I thought the meat would be very tasty, but unfortunately I was disappointed by the outcome. It tasted like every other pulled pork sandwich I've had at restaurants (before they pour on the BBQ sauce). I even let it marinate overnight for maximum effectiveness. Not that it wasn't good, but I was frankly expecting so much more. The meat really does have to be sliced like the recipe calls for, it's too tough to shred apart with forks, but it wasn't chewy to eat, even my daughter didn't have a problem eating it and she sometimes doesn't care for the texture of meat. I was hoping for the pork to be more like the fall apart texture that a roast gets when it's cooked in the slow cooker all day and a greater penetration of the flavors of the paste.

I choose an alternate topping to the sandwich which brings me to my second "first" from last night. Rather than the coleslaw that Tyler recommends in his recipe, I went with Guy Fieri's Maui Onion Straws to top off the pork. Great decision. They were awesome. My husband would be very upset if we didn't have those again. The only bad thing about this part of the dinner was that I halved the recipe. We could have eaten the whole onion, no problem. I think you could pretty much top any sandwich with those onion straws and it would bring it to a whole new level, except maybe peanut butter and jelly. That, my friends, might not be a great idea.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

a new take on chicken pot pie

While watching the chicken pot pie episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay, his challengers said the magic words...puff pastry. I was instantly inspired to write my own recipe, void of carrots and peas (two veggies I don't enjoy eating when cooked). Here's what I came up with:

Mama Anderson's Pot Pie Extravaganza (until I come up with a better name)
Note: This is made for a smaller audience. It wouldn't be enough to fill a 13x9 pan. Since there's only 3 of us, I made it to fit a smaller dish. If you want to make a 13x9 size pie, I'd double the recipe.

1 pound chicken breast, cut into small cubes
1 cup diced potatoes, cut into small cubes
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
3 chicken bouillon cubes
1/2 cup onions, finely chopped
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 3/4 cups chicken stock
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 sheet puff pastry
1 egg, plus one tablespoon water, whisked to combine
grated parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 11x8 dish (you could probably fit it in an 8x8 pan too).
2. In a large saucepan, combine chicken, potatoes, celery and mushrooms. Add water to cover and the bouillon cubes and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.
3. While that is cooking, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until translucent. Stir in flour, salt, garlic powder and black pepper. Continually stir while it cooks for a minute then slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Pour chicken mixture in pan. Pour sauce over the top and mix gently. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Roll out puff pastry to make sure it will fit over dish. Cover dish with puff pastry. Brush pastry with egg wash and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
5. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

We all loved it and we'll definitely be having this one again. My husband even said this would be great to serve at our restaurant. (Yes, we dream of maybe opening a restaurant someday.)

I served it with the Taste of Fall salad from the latest issue of Taste of Home magazine and it went very well with the chicken pot pie. If anyone would like the recipe, I'd be happy to post that one too.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

thirty-one days

It's almost here...

Starting tomorrow, our family is taking the month off from going out to eat. No more Saturday morning breakfasts at the local diner. No more fast food for lunch for my husband. No more walks to the frozen custard place up the street. And no more saying we have nothing for dinner and off we head to Osage Beach.

We're doing this mainly to see what kind of effect it will have on our monthly food budget. We'll need to be more creative and definitely more motivated to make it to the grocery store so we always have something on hand. Quite frankly, I'm excited. It's a challenge and I love challenges. I'm hoping to try many new recipes and even come up with some of my own. (I'm thinking of entering recipe contests to see if I can make some extra money.)

So here's to having many great recipes to blog about in October. And hopefully we save a bunch of money too.

Monday, September 28, 2009

an easy salmon recipe

On a date night this summer, my hubby and I went to a seafood restaurant on the lake and I ordered the special. Salmon with spinach, bacon, mushrooms and feta cheese all wrapped up in phyllo dough and baked to perfection. Yummy! And the best part, the salmon didn't taste like fish at all. Just the way I like it.

This weekend we tried a recipe from the newest Food Network star, Melissa d'Arabian. Her Kid-Friendly Salmon was a cinch to make. I threw the marinade together in the morning, let the salmon go for a swim in it all afternoon and put it under the broiler for a few minutes right before dinner. The marinade gave a nice flavor to the salmon, but it was still a little fishy for me. The dipping sauce (reduced marinade) was so pungent that it only took a little to take away any remaining fishy flavor.

I served the salmon over rice and thought I'd include the recipe for it since my husband said it was rice-tastic. (I think we've been watching a few too many episodes of Bathtastic on DIY network lately.) The recipe is adapted from one in the most recent edition of Southern Living magazine.

Citrus Rice-tastic
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 cup uncooked jasmine rice

Stir the chicken broth, butter and orange juice together in a medium saucepan over high heat. Let it come to a boil and then stir in the rice. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes.

The marinade did give the salmon a good flavor, although I'm not sure I'd have called it "kid-friendly." My daughter really likes fish and she only ate took a couple bites before proclaiming, "No like this." I am still on the hunt for a repeatable salmon recipe...maybe one with bacon and feta and...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

"worth the effort" hot chocolate

I may have been reaching when I served Giada's Hot Chocolate with our breakfast for dinner menu this summer, but hey, why not. Turns out I'm the only one in our family who is willing to drink a warm beverage while sweating.

After making hot chocolate from scratch a few years ago, I've never went back to the packets. It may be a bit easier, but you really sacrifice in flavor and if I'm going to drink hot chocolate, I want it to be good. To the recipe I added 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. I like the extra flavor this touch gives.

I loved Giada's idea of a Hot Chocolate Bar with a selection of toppings. I think this would be great to serve if you're having a get-together at your home. (Just not in the summer.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

a fun way to have eggs

To go along with the breakfast pizza, I made another entree from Giada's Breakfast in Bed menu, Lemon and Basil Eggs over Foccacia. (We ate ours at the table though. I didn't think it was worth the mess my 2 year old would make eating in bed this time. Although I am getting an idea for an indoor picnic dinner as I write.)

I made no changes to this recipe. It's easy and doesn't take much time to assemble. We all liked it well husband actually went back for seconds which is rare for him. He typically doesn't eat very much. My daughter enjoyed her piece too. It was a fun, out of the ordinary way to serve eggs to her. I thought it was okay, but nothing I would call fantastic and I usually only make things I think are incredible more than once so this probably won't be making it to our dinner table again, but I'm glad I gave it a try once.

Come to think of it, we really don't have meals we have on a regular basis at our home when it comes to dinner. I am always finding new recipes to try so it's almost always something we've never had before. Some things make a repeat appearance the following week or so, and then usually aren't seen again. Maybe through this blog adventure we'll find things we want to bring back again and first thought it the Ultimate Chicken Parmesan. (My husband asked for that again a few days ago. So good.)

So what are your family staple meals? (If there are any readers out there.) :-)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

i challenge you

Not so long ago, in an episode of Good Eats , Alton Brown challenged his viewers to scope out foods in our local grocery stores that we've never cooked with before and try them. Feeling inspired by his challenge, I went searching for something new, well, new to me at least. The ingredient I found...mascarpone cheese. I decided on a breakfast for dinner meal that I saw on Giada de Laurentiis' show, Everyday Italian, and made the Breakfast Pizza which uses my not-so-secret ingredient.

A few notes about this recipe:

1. I didn't have a vanilla bean to add to my cinnamon-sugar mix, but I think it still tasted good without it. I do think the vanilla bean would have added another depth of flavor, but who has those on hand?

2. I used whole milk instead of heavy cream to make the mascarpone cheese creamier and easier to work with because that's what I had on hand. The recipe calls for 1 tablespoon, but I used 3-4 tablespoons before I really felt like I could spread the cheese mixture easily over the pizza crust.

3. The recipe says to put the berries on THEN sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon-sugar mix, but doing so makes the berries look dirty. I'd recommend spreading the cheese mixture, then sprinkling with cinnamon-sugar and put the berries on last for a nicer presentation.

We all enjoyed the breakfast pizza. I found it to be a bit heavy with the other things I made from her menu for the meal, but I think it would be nice in a small serving and I may consider making it again someday when there are more people to feed.

So now I want to pass along Alton's challenge to you. Step out of your comfort zone and try a new ingredient. I hope you'll be delighted with your choice.

(And more on the rest of the recipes I tried from that episode of Everyday Italian later this week.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

tips on making an easy trifle

"It was better than I thought it was going to be," says my husband when I asked him what he thought of our dessert from dinner last night. "I liked it."

Knowing he's not a fan of whipped cream, I didn't think he would swoon over my first ever trifle, so I was pleasantly surprised that his comments were positive. He liked the flavor of the whipped cream (I added almond extract to it, around a teaspoon.) Other changes to the recipe: I didn't have the amaretto cookies and demerara sugar for garnish, so I used raspberries instead. I made an angel food cake and tore that up instead of using pound cake and I bought light whipped cream instead of whipping my own to save me a bowl to clean :-) I guess you could say I was more inspired by Giada's Strawberry Trifle than I actually followed it.

I was a little disappointed in the lack of flavor from the strawberries. I thought marinating them in the balsamic vinegar would add a nice kick to the dish, but none of us could taste the vinegar. I drained them before adding to the trifle, and maybe that's where I went wrong. The recipe doesn't specify, but I think I'd recommend adding some of the juices from the marinade into the trifle.

My daughter sure enjoyed it (I think she got a bite from everyone at the table), and she didn't even ask for ketchup for this one.

Now that I have a trifle bowl, does anyone have any good recipes I can try with it?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

in the shape of a...

pumpkin! In celebration of our "decorate for fall" day on Thursday, I made our biscuits in the shape of pumpkins. I wanted to try a from-scratch recipe so I used Ina Garten's Chive Biscuits recipe, even though I didn't want the herbs in them this time. She had mentioned in her show that she uses the base recipe and then flavors them however she wants...fresh herbs, cheeses, whatever you fancy, but I just wanted plain biscuits for our dinner. (If you can even call them "plain" when there's homemade strawberry jam involved. Yum.)

We all gave two thumbs up on the way the biscuits turned out. They were thinner than what we usually think of for a biscuit, but that didn't seem to matter. Taste and texture were nice, and the recipe was easy to throw together for a nice addition to our meal. I could taste little pockets of butter and I think I was able to achieve that from freezing my stick of butter for a few minutes before I added it to the other ingredients to keep it as cold as possible so it wouldn't melt until it got in the oven. I do think at some point I will try out Alton Brown's biscuit recipe and see how they compare. I wouldn't mind having a great fluffier biscuit recipe too.

And, for the record, this was my husband's favorite of the three new recipes I tried for dinner Thursday night. I think I will have to concur.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

lemon-basil potatoes

The second recipe I tried with the Parmesan Chicken was Giada de Laurentiis' Lemon-Basil Potatoes. I followed this recipe to the letter and came up with very different reviews.

My husband didn't care for them. He thought they were way too lemony and he wouldn't ever want to have them again. I, on the other hand, liked the flavors the potatoes soaked up from cooking in the chicken broth and lemon juice. (Usually I cook my potatoes in water, as I'm guessing most of you do too.) The fresh basil was a nice addition to finish them as well. I'm not sure I can say what my daughter thought, because, just like the chicken, they were topped with a big scoop of ketchup. I didn't try them her way, but I'm guessing the ketchup masks just about any flavor she might have otherwise experienced. Come to think of it, maybe I should have served them that way to my husband too.

I know we haven't had great success with the first two dishes from Thursday night's meal, but stick around, I saved the best for last.

Friday, September 18, 2009

he said, she said

Even after making Tyler Florence's Ultimate Chicken Parmigiana and loving it, I still wanted to try Ina Garten's recipe for Parmesan Chicken to see how it compared. In retrospect, it was a silly thing to do. The recipes only offer slight variations so I'm not sure what I was expecting. On the plus side, now you don't have to try both, you can just take my word for it, Tyler's is much tastier. He only adds chopped fresh parsley and garlic powder, but those ingredients must really make a difference. My husband and I thought Ina's recipe was bland. My daughter happily ate it dunked in ketchup, which apparently is how she likes to eat everything right now.

One other note, Tyler's recipe called for the chicken to be cooked on medium-high heat and Ina's said to cook the chicken over a medium-low burner. The time she said it would take for the chicken to cook didn't nearly get the job done. I ended up having to finish it off in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes and I still had the thickest piece undercooked. Even though you have to watch the chicken very carefully to make sure you don't burn the coating in the hotter pan, I think it cooked the chicken much better that way and also helped the coating to stay on the chicken when it was flipped.

We tried two other recipes with this chicken...stay tuned to find out what we had and how our tastebuds reacted...on another installment of Eating Food Network.