Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Crock Pot Fascination

It is crock pot season (it always co-exists with soup season). I love it because I can throw it together the night before, set it to low in the morning, and presto! Dinner when I get home from work. It's great.

I also like using my crock pot in the summer because it doesn't heat up the house. Sloppy Joes, BBQ sandwiches, Franks hot chicken tenders- Yum! So easy to get supper on the table without sweating!

I made a creamy Italian chicken dish the other day that turned out to be much like chicken tetrazzini. Jon and I agreed it was very good and so, it was added to the keeper list.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tetrazzini
Serves 3

¾ lb boneless, skinless chicken- frozen
1/2 pkg Good Seasons Italian dressing mix
1/4 cup water
2 cloves garlic
1 small shallot, minced
4 oz neufchatel or cream cheese
1/2 can healthy request cream of chicken soup
Cooked spaghetti
*Optional* fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese to garnish

Mix together Italian dressing mix and water in a medium small crock pot. Add chicken, garlic, and shallot to pot. Season with fresh cracked pepper.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Mix together cream cheese and soup in separate bowl.

Carefully remove chicken from crock. Shred chicken and return to crock pot.

Pour cream cheese/soup mixture into crock pot and mix gently. Heat over low until heated through.

Serve over warm, cooked spaghetti. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Monday, October 26, 2009

When the cats away...

When the cats away the mice will play. At least that's the old saying.

God blessed us with one last surge of fall beauty while my mom was visiting. It was cool, but it wasn't too cold or snowing, and the sun was shining. Today, however, the wintery cold has returned and the blue skies gave way to dingy gray clouds.

I can make the entire world disappear from the sanctuary of my kitchen. I can put on music to set the energy of the room. I can change the mood of my entire house with the smells of baking bread, spicy soups, or sweet treats. I can take risks, try new ingredients, and experiment with ethnic flavors without anyone interfering. This is MY kitchen.

I needed something to warm up my newly empty house and since Jon was away for a few hours I did what I always do when he's gone- I cooked.

I made a chicken tortilla soup I've been itching to try. It turned out wonderful! Jon requested it go on the "make this again" list. :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Serves 3-5

8 oz frozen boneless, skinless chicken
1/2 (15 oz) can Mexican style diced tomatoes, undrained
5 ounces enchilada sauce
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 ounces canned, chopped green chile peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2(14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
5 ounces frozen corn
1/2 can black beans or kidney beans, rinsed

Place all ingredients in a medium sized slow cooker. Cover and cook on Low setting for 6 to 8 hours or on High setting for 3 to 4 hours. Shred chicken and return to soup for an additional 10 minutes.

Garnish with crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, or shredded cheese.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Classics Revisited

My Great-Grandma Zimmy was a fantastic cook. I suppose when you live to be 104 you pick up a few skills along the way! She was an old farm cook- that means loads of meat, potatoes, cheese, and butter. Seriously, how can anything bad ever come from any of those things?!

When I was a kid, my dad used to make us grandma's hamburger pinwheels and creamed peas. I still like the pinwheels when I need a true comfort food.

I only had ground pork on hand when I made these, so I made some modifications to the original recipe and they were fantastic. I will post both versions. And, if you ask my dad, they must be served with creamed peas :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Hamburger Pinwheels
Serves 6-8

3 TBS chopped onion
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/3 cup milk
2 cups Bisquick, prepared
1 TBS shortening
1/3 cup fresh, soft breadcrumbs
1 lb fresh ground beef

In a small skillet, saute onion in shortening until soft.

Mix in a bowl with salt, pepper, bread crumbs, milk, and beef.

On a floured board, turn out Bisquick. Roll flat into a rectangle. Spread meat mixture over the top, leaving a boarder of about 1/2 inch all around. Roll up lengthwise, like a jelly roll.

Place seam side down and cut into 2 inch slices. Place on a greased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Pork Pinwheels
Serves 4

1/2 small sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1/2 TBS butter or margarine
salt and pepper
1/4 cup beef stock
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1/8 cup +2 TBS dry bread crumbs
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 1/4 cup Bisquick + 1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 lb ground pork

Saute onion and garlic in butter until soft. Season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, mix together cooked onions, beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, Italian seasoning, breadcrumbs, and pork.

In a separate bowl mix Bisquick and milk.

Lightly dust a clean counter top or large clean cutting board with flour or dry Bisquick. Roll prepared Bisquick out into a rectangle.

Leaving a boarder of about 1/2 inch all around the edge, spread out pork mixture. Begin to roll up lengthwise. After the first roll, fold the two short sides in slightly. Continue rolling lengthwise, place seam side down. Cut in half, then half again, and finally, half again so you have 8 even slices.

Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 25 minutes. Serve with BBQ sauce on the side.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Snow, Rain, Sunshine: Friday weather at my house

The weather doesn't know what to do today. It snowed all morning. There was a couple inches on the ground. Then it began to sleet. Then, rain. And finally, sunshine! Crazy weather patterns make me tired. Seriously, have you ever tried to change 3 seasons within an 8 hour time frame?! It takes a lot out of a gal.

I needed some comfort with all that mental disturbance, so I made veggie soup. So yummy, and so easy. It's a great dish whatever the season.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Vegetable Beef Soup with Alphabet Pasta
Make approximately 8 cups

1 (12 oz) package frozen mixed veggies
10 oz stew meat, diced into small pieces
1 (14.5 oz) can diced Italian tomatoes, undrained
14 oz beef stock
14 oz V-8 vegetable juice
1 diced sweet onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Italian seasoning
salt and pepper
1/2 cup alphabet shaped pasta

In a stock pot, brown onion and stew meat.

Add all remaining ingredients except pasta. Simmer, covered for 25 minutes.

Add pasta, stir. Cover and return to a simmer for 10-12 more minutes, until pasta is tender.

Serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's October

I don't really know what happened to August, let alone September. But, here are at almost the midway point of October.

Jon's birthday is Thursday and so we will make birthday cupcakes and celebrate quietly with his younger brother, Brandon. I enjoy our small get togethers, a birthday is just an excuse to have a good time with good friends.

With Halloween coming up quickly, I have begun to carve my pumpkins. Here's the first one of the year! This one only took about an hour and a half from start to finish. The more complex designs take me anywhere from 2-4 hours to complete.

I came into the living room the other night and this is what I saw:

Yes, those are the two men in my life holding all the remote controls to every electronic device in our living room. I kid you not, even the cat. It was very humorous to me, so I took a picture :)

I was flipping through some seasonal recipe ideas looking for inspiration. I came up with one based on a treat my dad used to make. At Christmas, my Dad always made buckeyes. They are a peanut butter candy dipped in chocolate. Then, he would spread Ritz crackers with peanut butter and dip them in the leftover chocolate. Seeing as how it is almost Halloween, I figured why not put a creepy spin on things. And so, Squished Spiders were born!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Squished Spiders

Ritz crackers
Creamy peanut butter
Chow Mien noodles
1 bag Chocolate chips
Food grade paraffin wax

Melt together chocolate chips about 1/4 sheet of paraffin. This will thin the chocolate while still allowing it to set.

Meanwhile, spread some peanut butter on the top side of the Ritz crackers. Place 3 chow mien noodles on each side to make 6 spider legs on each cracker.

When chocolate is melted, stir to ensure the paraffin is distributed evenly. Dip spiders in chocolate. Cool on wax paper or aluminum foil. Chill to set hard quickly.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Banana Rama

Jon brought me home some perfectly ripe bananas for banana bread last week. A while back, I found a hand-written recipe from my great-grandma tucked into one of my cookbooks. It made the best banana bread I have ever had!

Summer officially died last night at 10:29pm CST. We had about 5 minutes of fall before it began. The "S" word. Sn*w. We got about 1 1/2 inches of powdery fluff that stayed on the ground. Ick.

So, I am off to make a pot of soup and enjoy a quiet night of quilting and big band orchestra music.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend! Cheers!

Banana Coffee Cake
Makes 1 large loaf

1 stick butter (I used I can't believe it's not butter for baking, it works great)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup- not packed- brown sugar
2 eggs
3 large very ripe bananas, mashed well
1 tsp vanilla
dash of cinnamon
dash of nutmeg- optional
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream together sugars and butter until light and fluffy.

Beat in eggs, one at a time until fluffy. The mixture should be a smooth, and pale in color at this point.

Gently mix in mashed bananas. Fold in vanilla,cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and soda.

Fold in flour.

Pour into a prepared bread loaf pan.

Bake in a preheated oven for 40 minutes. Check for doneness.

If needed return to oven 10 additional minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Spreading the spark

I have been using the "Spark" program online since March 29. I have lost 30 some pounds.I have 20 or so left to loose. I love this program. It lets me eat the foods I love, just in a healthier way. I've learned it's ok to indulge, once in a while. I've learned to like exercise. I've learned stumbling is normal and easy to do, getting back up is the challenge. I am thrilled Spark program creator Chris Downie finally wrote a book that is coming out in January with a "jump start" program that lasts 28 days. It's about setting up your long term and short term goals. But more importantly, how to actually achieve them.

The folks at work have noticed my changes. People are asking to walk with me, to workout with me, to know what I eat, how have I managed to stick to it? Co-workers are swapping recipes and workout tapes. It's a great thing! Sparking a change in those around me, what a feeling.

One of the gals gave me a recipe for Tex-Mex burgers. I tried them out at home with hubby- they were a hit!

I challenge you to make 1 healthy change, even if it's just to cut back to 1 can of pop a day, and really stick to it. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it takes preparation and planning. It's worth your time and effort. You are worth the effort.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Ms. Liz's Tex-Mex Turkey Burgers
Serves 4

1 ¼ # ground turkey
1 envelope reduced sodium taco seasoning
1 TBS dried cilantro or parsley
1 cup shredded 2% Mexican cheese blend
1/3 cup light sour cream
1/3 cup salsa
4 buns
4 lettuce

In a large bowl, combine the turkey, taco seasoning, and cilantro. Shape into four patties. Grill, uncovered, or broil for 5 minutes on each side.

Sprinkle with cheese. Grill until cheese melts and burgers reach temp. Combine sour cream and salsa. Serve on buns, with salsa/sour cream and lettuce.