Saturday, December 17, 2011

Baking cookies!

I think  might finally be catching on to this blog networking thing. It only took  five months. haha1

I've had the yen lately to make cookies! Gee, dunno why!

I have flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, eggs, butter and vanilla. Cookies! Now to make up my mind on what kind to make. I hear tell I may have some Christmas carolers tomorrow night, so I'd like to have a cookie or two to hand out.  I'd like to wrap them like a little package, just two or three cookies each, and tie with a ribbon. I think it'd be a nice little thank you for the carolers.

Perhaps I'll make a traditional frosted sugar cookie, a thumbprint cookie with raspberry jam, and..hmm..  I need a third. Do you have a favorite cookie you always make for  the holidays?

Merry  Christmas and happy baking!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Beef Lo Mein (stir fry with noodles)

The sauce and noodles make this delicious dish.  Use whatever vegetables you prefer, and linguine noodles can be used in place of the udon noodles. I just love the  udon noodles because they're so quick  cooking and tender, and  they're less than a dollar more than linguine noodles, so why not?

I didn't specify a certain cut of meat because preference varies and you really can use just about any cut you have on  hand,  just cut it super thin, on a bias, and against the grain, and cook it fast, to ensure tender beef.  This is  a great dish to stretch a buck with steak.

While you slice and dice your veggies, marinade the beef for about 20-30 minutes.

Marinade:1-2 lb piece of beef, I used two thin cut top round steaks because they're cheap where I get them. :)
Marinate them whole in large resealable plastic baggies, with:
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 fat Tablespoons grated garlic
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
pinch of black pepper

Squeeze all the air out of the baggie,  and squish the marinade around the beef real well so all the meat gets coated.  Refrigerate 20-30 minutes.

For the stir fry:
about 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil for frying
1 cup beef broth
1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
1 Tablespoon cooking Sherry
1 Tablespoon honey
2 Tablespoons soy, divided
1 Tablespoon Black Bean and Garlic sauce(in a small dark jar in the Asia section of the grocery)

slice the marinated  beef very thin, on the bias, and against the grain
1 carrot, ribboned with a potato peeler
large handful of mushrooms, sliced
1 green  bell pepper, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 small  head of cabbage, very thinly sliced
baby corn,  cut  into about 1-inch  pieces
scallions, to garnish

1 heaping Tablespoon cornstarch melted into about 2 Tablespoons of cool or room temp beef broth or water.

about 2 cups of cooked and drained udon or linguine noodles.

The cooking goes fast, so be sure to have everything you need assembled and  ready.

In a large, high sided frying pan or wok, over high heat, cook the beef in small batches, so it doesn't become steamed  by too  much in the pan and overcook.
Set the beef aside on a plate as you finish each batch.

Add bell peppers, mushrooms, and carrots in the vegetable oil, if needed.
Keep the veggies moving, and when the mushrooms begin to darken and cook, remove veggies with a slotted spoon and set a side on a plate.

Turn heat down just a hair, and add beef broth,  oyster sauce, rice wine vinegar, sherry,  and half the  soy sauce.
Stir to combine well, and add veggies and beef back to the pan. Add baby corn and cabbage,tossing everything together well, and keeping it all moving until baby corn is heated and cabbage  starts  to wilt. Just a minute or two.
Add the other Tablespoon of soy.
Push everything to the side a  little and add  cornstarch mixture. Toss all together well.
Add noodles and  toss  well.
Turn off heat, but keep tossing everything well to coat noodles, wilt cabbage a bit more (I like my cabbage with  a little crunch  left), and sauce thickens.  This isn't a real saucy dish,  just enough to coat.

Top with scallions and serve!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Easy, Cheesy Baked Cauliflower and Butter-Thyme Chicken Breasts

Easy Cheesy Baked Cauliflower with Butter-Thyme Chicken Breasts

With cauliflower in a cheesy, creamy sauce, and nestled under a crunchy bread crumb and parmesan topping, and pairs well with a juicy Butter-Thyme Chicken Breast (recipe below); your plate won't miss those mashed potatoes.

Cauliflower! I freeze my own in a gallon freezer baggie,and I used  a whole bag. So,  I would guess that would be about 1 1/2 - 2 regular sized store bought bags. Enough to fill a 9x13 inch baking dish halfway.

Be sure not only fully thaw the cauliflower, but to dry it. After thawing, I lay mine out on a clean towel to ensure it's fully thawed and dry. This way, it won't turn out watery.

You can use fresh cauliflower, I would just partially cook it first. Depending how you like your cauliflower. I like mine on the softer side.

You'll need:
bag of cauliflower, thawed and well drained
4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 cup hot milk
1 cup heavy cream (can be omitted and just use all milk), hot
1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
kosher salt & pepper to taste
12 oz cheddar cheese, grated
1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese, divided in half
2 heaping  Tablespoons sour cream

For the topping:
2 cups coarse bread crumbs
3 Tablespoons soft butter
remaining  grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon parsley
pinch kosher salt
pinch pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Fill greased (or cooking spray) 9x13 inch baking dish half full of thawed, well drained cauliflower. Se  aside.

In a small saucepan, gently warm up milk and cream until hot, being careful not to burn the milk.

Melt 4 Tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over low heat and cook onion in it until onion begins to turn translucent,  5-7 minutes.

Add flour, whisk until all the butter is absorbed. Continue to whisk and cook over low heat about 2-3 minutes.

Slowly whisk in hot milk and cream in about 3 batches, whisking until smooth before each batch addition.

Add salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until sauce is thickened and  the floury taste is cooked out.

Add cheeses and stir until  smooth. Remove from heat and stir in 2 fat Tablespoons of sour cream.
Taste again for salt and pepper, keeping in mind the bread crumb topping will have parmesan and  salt in in too.

Pour cheese  sauce over cauliflower.

Add topping ingredients to bread crumbs and stir until butter is incorporated well into the crumbs.

Spread topping evenly over cauliflower. Sprinkle with parsley.

Bake, uncovered, at 350, for about 30-40  minutes, or until hot and bubbly.
Let sit for about 5-10 minutes before serving.

Makes a great  next day casserole with ham added to it!

One of my  favorite  things to make with this is Butter-Thyme chicken breasts.

This is for 4 large bone-in chicken breasts.
Mix 1/2 teaspoon of crushed thyme, 1/4 garlic powder, and a pinch of salt and pepper, with 4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter.
Gently   stick your finger up under the chicken breast skins and separate along the length  of the breast, keeping the sides of the skin intact with the breast. 
Divide the seasoned  butter  between the chicken,  and spread very well under the skins, and on top of the skins. Smear the butter around well, but with most of  it under the skin in thick layers. Sprinkle chicken  with a little more pepper, and salt, if desired.

Place on foil lined baking sheet sprayed  with cooking oil, and bake at 325 for 40-50 minutes, rotating pan about  halfway through cooking. Cook  until meat thermometer reads 165 and juices run clear.
Cover loosely with foil and let stand about 10 minutes before slicing.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Easy Ground Beef Pastitsio

This is my take on various pastitsios I've see over the years. Budget friendly by using only ground beef, and family friendly by being lightly, yet deliciously seasoned.

meat filling:2  lbs ground beef
1 cup diced white onion
1/2 cup beef broth
2 teaspoons grated garlic
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed between your fingertips
pinch  cayenne
1 (28 oz) can  whole tomatoes, chopped, with juices (I take kitchen scissors and chop them right in the can)
kosher salt & pepper to taste

for the pasta topping:
1/2 lb elbow macaroni, or small shell pasta, cooked but not until fully done. It's going to cook more in the oven, so just barely al dente is fine. Drained.
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cup milk
1 cup heavy  cream
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
kosher salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups fresh grated parmesan, divided

for breadcrumb topping:
2 cups coarse bread crumbs
1/4 of the grated parmesan
2 Tablespoons very soft butter
pinch kosher salt and pepper
parsley to sprinkle

To Make! :

Cook pasta as directed above, and set aside.
In a large skillet, brown ground beef, being careful not to mash up the ground beef too much. Larger chunks than  you would for spaghetti sauce is nice.
Add onion, garlic, herbs and spices, tomato paste, salt and pepper, and stir just to melt the tomato paste in  and distribute the spices.
Drain off accumulated fat, if needed.
Add beef  broth and tomatoes. Stir to combine, taste for salt and pepper, keeping in mind the parmesan added later will lend some saltiness.
Lower heat to a simmer, being careful to not stir too much,  and start on the white sauce for the pasta.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter.
When the butter begins to bubble a bit, add flour all at once, and whisk quickly until all butter is absorbed. Stir constantly for about 2-3 minutes over low heat.
Slowly whisk  in the milk, whisking vigorously to avoid lumps.
When mixture is smooth, add cream and turn up heat just a bit to thicken a little quicker.
Add pinch of kosher salt and a good amount of pepper (or to your pepper preference).
Grate in about 1/8-1/4  teaspoon nutmeg
Turn off heat and stir in parmesan cheese and yogurt.
Quickly stir in beaten eggs, stirring until completely blended in.
Stir in pasta. Set aside.

Preheat oven to  350 degrees

for the crispy bread crumb topping:
 Mix together  all bread crumb topping until  well combined. Set aside.

Assemble !:

In a 9x13 baking dish, spread the  meat mixture evenly.
Carefully spoon pasta mixture over meat mixture, even  as possible without mixing meat and pasta.
Sprinkle on bread crumb topping  and parsley.

Bake, uncovered, until hot and bubbly and golden! About 30-45 minutes.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sausage and Leek Stuffed Acorn Squash

A beautiful fall dish offering some of our favorite flavors to sink our fork into on a cold winter evening.
You can use any meat or veggie you like, though I have to say I'm partial to the mild Italian sausage and light spices I mixed with fluffy homemade bread crumbs.

A bag of small dice plain stuffing cubes works fine too. Just stick the amount you need into a large plastic storage bag and give a few whacks with a heavy pan or rolling pin.  You don't want real fine bread crumbs like the kind sold in stores, but not real big chunks either.  Unless you like it chunky, then go ahead. :)

Leeks! Like an overgrown green onion, trim off ends, slice in half, then slice into half moons. 

Leeks! Right now they're very cheap and so yummy. They're a nice change to add to dishes instead of the same old (and expensive sometimes!) white onion.
I know some say just give them a rinse in water, but eh..I slice them first, then let them sit in a big bowl of water while I assemble other things, just to be sure all the dirt and grit is out. Make sure to dry them a bit, a salad spinner works great, before adding them.

Okay, before I go any further, I suppose I better get to the recipe!

3 acorn squash
1 lb mild Italian bulk sausage, browned, but not completely cooked through
1 leek, sliced and cleaned
1 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup reserved pan drippings from sausage
2 teaspoons grated white onion
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed between your palms
1 fat clove, or two small, of fresh garlic, grated
kosher salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese, divided
3 cups large bread crumbs or slightly crushed small cubed plain bread stuffing
3/4 cup beef broth

Nutmeg butter for topping:
1/4 cup melted butter or margarine with
1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350
With a very sharp knife, slice each squash in half width-wise. Scoop out seeds and strings. Save seeds for making salted seed snacks or granola, if you like.  Trim the the tops and a bit of the bottom off each half so they sit without wobbling everywhere. 
Try to get them even, but they don't have to be perfect. Just cook the bigger ones a bit longer. I accidentally trimmed a little too much off a couple bottoms, I just put a bit of folded foil under them, so the stuffing wouldn't fall out when transferring them to a plate.

Foil a baking sheet and spray with nonstick spray. Spray the acorns with spray oil too, and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. With a fork, prick each half very well.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, depending on your squash and how thick it is. Cook them until fork tender, but not squishy soft.

In the meantime, brown the Italian sausage, but don't cook all the way. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Pour out all but 1/4 cup of the pan drippings. If your sausage is lean, add enough butter to make about 1/4 cup of drippings and butter.
Over medium-low heat, add celery, leeks, sage, thyme and a pinch of kosher salt and pepper. Stir occassionally until celery begins to soften. Grate onion and garlic down into the pan and stir.
Also add breadcrumbs and cook for a minute or so until the bread begins to toast, then add sausage back to pan, and stir in up to 3/4 cup of broth, more if needed, but not too much. Pour in enough broth to soften bread crumbs, but not so much as to make it soggy.
Add salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

Remove from heat and let cool a bit while you melt 1/4 cup butter or margarine with 1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg.  If using unsalted butter, add just a wee pinch of salt.

When squash are soften, remove from oven.
To the stuffing, add half of the parmesan.

Fill all the acorn squash halve and top with remaining parmesan and drizzle nutmeg butter over all.
Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees, for about 10-15 minutes, or until hot and tops are crusty.
Serve! :)

I can't seem to upload any pics to blogger at this time. I'll try to add more of the stuffed acorn squash later.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

And before we know's December..

In a couple weeks, it will be 6 months since I started this blog. My, how time flies when you're having fun!
It'll also be my 1 year anniversary being smoke free. Yay me!

I've been slacking on this blog lately because I've been a bit obsessive on finding THE perfect French bread, or one that would work for garlic bread, I can use to make garlic bread for at least 100 people. A recipe that doesn't use a ton of flour was a challenge too.

After a lot of Youtubing, blog and Google searching; and much time in the kitchen mixing, kneading, flouring, baking and misting, I think I've finally come up with a combination of all I've made and learned that will work for my goal.  whew!

Through all my bread practicing, I have learned there's no such thing as a failed loaf of bread, because one loaf's failure is an awesome bag of bread crumbs or bread pudding!  Score! 

I had also looked forward to sharing great Thanksgiving leftover recipes, but we ended up not having much turkey leftover. So we had sandwiches, always yum, and turkey pot pie. I'll be sharing the pot pie soon. It's very easy and so delicious.

I hope each and every one of you is enjoying the holiday season with lots of fellowship and family time.

Sally and Bacon

Friday, November 18, 2011

Chorizo and Butternut Squash Crostata

A light and flaky crust dusted in cornmeal tastes so good wrapped around a butternut, potato and chorizo hash. Perfect for breakfast, brunch or dinner!
This easy Savory Pie Crust can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge, ready to roll out and fill with this awesome filling, for a satisfying meal.

You'll need:

  • 1 recipe of Savory Pie Crust, dusted with about 1-2 Tablespoons of cornmeal and chilled about an hour
  • 3 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes (about 1/2 small butternut squash)
  • 2 1/2 cups russet potatoes, peeled and diced into about 1/2 inch cubes
  • 9 oz log of Mexican chorizo, beef or pork, I used beef. Don't confuse it with the hard Spanish chorizo.
  • 1 cup small diced white onion, about half an onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped pineapple
  • 1 1/2cups fresh shredded mozzarella, the preshredded in the bags just don't melt the same, nor have the same flavor. And with the real, a little goes a long way.
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 dried thyme, crushed in your palms
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten with a pinch of tap water, maybe 1 Tablespoon, for the crust
  • sour cream for serving

In a large pan, cook chorizo, potato and butternut over medium-high heat, only stirring to keep the chorizo from burning.

Leave the chorizo and veggies to cook and get a nice crust like with hash. When one side begins to brown, turn heat down to medium and add onion, a very small pinch of salt and pinch of pepper. The chorizo has salt in it and is spicy and the veggies soak some of that up, so there's very little need for too much salt and pepper.
Add thyme and cinnamon and cook chorizo and veggies for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it so chorizo doesn't burn.
When veggies are a little tender, add pineapple, and I add the juice on the board from when I was chopping the pineapple. Just for a bit extra flavor :)

Remove chorizo mix from heat and let cool a bit while you make the crostata crust.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Unwrap the cornmeal dusted dough disk, but don't remove it from the plastic wrap.
Quickly roll the dough out to about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Carefully slid it onto a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray, covered with parchment paper and sprayed again. Slid the plastic wrap out from under the crostata crust.
 Pile the crust high with the chorizo and butternut mixture.
Then top with a cup of mozzarella cheese, leaving about 1 1/2 inch edge.
 Lift edge up and over the filling, stretching, but being careful not to tear dough.
 I take kitchen scissors and make a little slit so the edges lie down flatter when I'm folding the edges over.
Brush on the egg wash, so it'll get nice and golden.
Sprinkle on the rest of the mozzarella and bake at 400 for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown.
Let it rest for about 10-15 minutes.

Serve with sour cream and garnish with cilantro, if desired. But the sour cream is a must. oh yum!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Savory Pie Crust

I love this recipe. It's a basic pie crust recipe I've had forever and I don't remember where I adapted it from. I just know this is one of those recipes I'd just as soon use than to try a new one. LOL

This makes a great traditional savory pie, or like pictured above, a rustic galette (free form savory pie, not cooked in a pie pan).  Also, in the pic above, I dusted the crust in cornmeal before chilling. The cornmeal is not needed at all. I just like to use cornmeal with some recipes.

It's incredibly easy too! It only takes a couple minutes to whizz together and throw into the fridge. After chilling at least an hour, roll the dough out and top with whatever savory topping you'd like. The crust doesn't rise, so roll it out to the thickness you desire, as even as possible. I poke a knife into the center to see if it's about the same thickness as the edges.

Also, make sure your butter and water is super cold! I measure the water into a glass measuring cup and stick it into the fridge while I get things together. You can also stick a cube of ice into it, just don't use the ice cube in your dough.  And handle little as possible.  Try to resist your inner perfectionist and just gitRdone and into the fridge to chill.

You'll need:

2.5 cups of flour
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed, I cut it lengthwise and then crosswise into about 14 cubes.
1/2 super cold water, you might not use all of it.
2 Tablespoons of cornmeal for dusting, optional

Put flour and salt into food processor with cold cubed butter and pulse just a couple times, until you get pea-sized crumbles, don't worry if you have some bigger chunks.

Slowly pulse in the cold water until dough just begins to hold together when you pinch it. You probably won't use all the 1/2 cup of water.

Carefully dump dough out onto a large piece of plastic cling wrap, and using the wrap, form a rough disk.

Cut disk in half and put half of it onto another piece of plastic wrap dusted with about 1-2 T of cornmeal.

Fold wrap up around dough to make it easier to form a disk.

Chill in fridge for at least one hour.
Roll out and use in pie pans for savory pies or simply onto baking sheets for rustic "pies," calzones, etc.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Home Ground Chicken Patties

Wonderfully easy and delicious.
Why buy overpriced ground chicken that sometimes has as much fat thrown into it as hamburger?
Buy chicken breasts on sale and debone them yourself. There are tons of videos on YouTube demonstrating how to do this. All you need is a sharp knife (not serrated, smooth) and after practicing on one or two, you'll have it.
Cut your boneless, skinless chicken in large 2-inch or so cubes, toss into a food processor with the sharp blade (not too much at once, so not to overheat it, unless you have a large one).  I put in about 1 1/2-2 lbs of chicken chunks and pulsed it about 16-18 times.  Just until it was processed enough to form patties, but not pate`. There were still about 1/2 centimeter sized pieces mixed in.

Now you're ready to make some chicken patties!
for the patties you'll need:
about 2 lbs of  home ground chicken
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs, plus more for coating
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
salt and pepper

the coating:
2 cups plain bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons fresh grated parmesan cheese
pepper, enough so you can see the flecks in the bread crumbs
dash Italian seasoning, just a couple shakes, enough so you can see just a hint of the flecks in the bread crumbs

Mix the ingredients for the chicken patties and chill mixture for about 10 minutes.
Mix the coating ingredients.

Using a measuring cup, I used 1/2 cup measure but I didn't fill it all the way, scoop up some mixture and drop it into the coating mixture like this:
Then, using your hands, scoop crumb mixture on top of the chicken, patting it down gently and forming a rough pattie, like this:

Then carefully slide your hand under the patty, picking it up. The patties will be very fragile feeling. Turn it over once in your other palm and cupping your free hand, just go around the edges of the pattie to make it more uniform. It won't pack down and feel like a firm beef pattie, so just make sure it has a coating and is the thickness you like. Work quickly and if mixture gets too difficult to work with, chill a few more minutes.
I have found this way of making the chicken patties the easiest and less messiest.

Heat up a frying pan, over medium heat, with some vegetable oil.
Using a spatula, carefully set the pattie into the hot pan. Fry each side about 3-4 minutes, depending what size they are. If they are browning too quick, lower the heat a little. You may need to add a bit more oil as you cook.
Patties are done when deep golden brown and center feels firm, but not hard.
I like to sprinkle them with a little kosher salt at this point.

Serve on a bun like a chicken sandwich, or a chicken salad, or with mashed potatoes and gravy, or freeze for fast microwavable snacks and sandwiches. So crunchy on the outside, juicy in the middle and soo yummy!
And the best part is you KNOW what is in THESE chicken patties. :)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Kale Pesto

 I was pleasantly surprised by this. I wasn't sure kale would work out considering it can be bitter and is so different from basil.  This pesto would be SO good spread on garlic bread!

Oh, I used one bunch of kale minus about 3 cups (fresh)or so. 
Makes 1 1/2 cup pesto

small bunch of kale, washed and drained, thick stems trimmed out (I left some smaller ones) and chopped into large chunks, just so they fit into the pan better.
1/3 cup toasted walnuts
1 cup parmesan, fresh grated, divided
2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon
1 Tablespoon honey
1 garlic clove, grated
healthy pinch of kosher salt
wee pinch of red pepper flakes, crushed between your fingers as you sprinkle it into the kale
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cups rotini pasta
medium saucepan filled 3/4 way up with water and salted well.
1 Tablespoon butter

 Bring salted water to a nice boil.  Squish in all your kale. Wait until the water comes back up to a boil and cook about 2-3 minutes. I don't care to boil mine down until they're super wilted.  Just until they're softened up and bright green.  So pretty!
Turn off the heat and let the kale sit in the hot water while you get a large bowl of super cold tap water.
Using a slotted spoon or spider spatula, put all the kale into the cold water to cool off and stop the cooking.
Save the water in the saucepan from cooking the kale.
Drain the kale.
Bring the water up to a boil and add 2 cups rotini pasta.  The water should still be plenty salty, so you shouldn't need to add any more salt.
While pasta cooks, make the pesto.

Dump drained kale into food processor, add all the ingredients except the evoo and 1/2 the parmesan cheese. Pulse while slowly adding in the olive oil.  Should only take a few pulses to get the consistency you like. I like mine pretty well whizzed up. :)

Drain pasta, add pasta back to pan and stir in 1/2 cup of the pesto, butter and the rest of the parmesan.
You can freeze the leftover pesto or keep it in your fridge for garlic bread, quick lunches or dinners, as a veggie dip for snacking..and it should last quite awhile.

Very healthy and surprisingly very filling!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Creamy Chicken and Spinach Meatball Soup with Fluffy Dumplings

After basking  in the after-dinner glow of noshing on these wonderful little morsels of chicken meatballs in a delectable creamy spinach and leek soup with mounds of light, fluffy dumplings to sop up the soup, I am saddened.  Saddened because there won't be any leftovers tomorrow! haha!

Like me, you may rethink ever eating beef meatballs again! okay, maybe not. But they're SO good.

Before you start anything, thaw a 10oz package of frozen spinach, put it into a mesh strainer and strain that spinach the best you can. Squeeze, squeeze, and then squeeze it some more. It's very important to get the spinach dry as possible so your meatballs don't fall apart and your soup isn't watery. So do this first, then let the spinach hang out in a strainer over a bowl. By the time you're ready for it, it'll be pretty dry and good to go.

Be sure to clean your leeks. Little bits of dirt and sand get caught up in the layers and layers of the leek. I've found the quickest way is to slice them in about 1/2 inch slices, or less, and put them in a large bowl (or salad spinner) of water. Swish them a round, separating the layers, then let them sit a minute. The dirt and sand will sink to the bottom and the leeks will float. Salad spinners are awesome and time savers for this step!

for the meatballs (makes 25-28 small):
  • extra-virgin olive oil, about 2 Tablespoons, for browning meatballs
  • 1 lb of ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tablespoons plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped spinach, drained and squeezed VERY well
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon grated onion (with the juice, I just grate it over the chicken in the bowl)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 clove garlic, grated (again, just grate it over the chicken in the bowl)
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried Thyme, crushed a bit
  • kosher salt and pepper, few pinches each

for the soup:
  • 32 oz box chicken broth
  • 2 leeks, sliced, cleaned and drained. (I use the light green part too, just like on green onions/scallions)
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced carrot, fairly thin so it cooks with everything else
  • 1/2 cup chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed VERY dry
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced fine or grated
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon dried, crushed thyme. I used 1/2, but that may be a wee too thyme-y for some people. Scale it back if you aren't sure.
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch

dumpling instructions to follow.

       Combine ground chicken with 2 Tablespoons breadcrumbs, spinach, egg, grated onion, parmesan, grated garlic, dried thyme, and a few good pinches of salt and pepper. Use your hands and gently combine all. Mixture will be wet.

Chill for a few minutes, about 5-10 minutes.

Mix the 1/2 cup of plain breadcrumbs with a healthy pinch of salt, some pepper, and the Italian seasoning.

Using a small ice cream scoop (for about one inch balls), scoop small meatballs and drop into breadcrumbs to coat.  I find it easier and less messy to drop the meatballs from the scoop, right into the breadcrumbs, coat them and then gently roll them between my palms just a bit to give them a little shape. You don't want to take too much time rolling them in your hands. They won't be firm like ground beef meatballs.
Put them in one layer on a plate.

When all meatballs are made, put them into the fridge to chill while you heat up a heavy bottomed pan with a lid like a dutch oven.  If you don't have a lid, use a round pizza pan. Works great! You need something that won't allow steam to escape for the dumplings.

When pan is hot over medium-low heat, add about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil carefully. Evoo can spit when too hot.
Brown meatballs, trying not to fuss with them too much or they'll break up. Browning just two sides is fine. Don't cook the meatballs all the way through.

Be sure not to crowd the pan. It may be necessary to cook the meatballs in two batches.
Add more olive oil, if needed to keep balls browning and the bottom of the pan from burning.

Remove browned, but not all the way cooked, meatballs and set them aside.

Add 2 Tablespoons of margarine or butter to the pan after you've removed the meatballs.

Add carrots, celery, thyme, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook and stir around a bit for about 3 minutes or so. Enough to give the carrots a head start.

Add leeks, spinach, garlic, and pinch more of salt and pepper; cook and stir a couple minutes.

Turn heat up to medium and add chicken broth and all but about two tablespoons of the milk and bring up just to a boil, then reduce heat to low. So that it simmers, but not so hard as to make it stick to the bottom of the pan.

Mix cornstarch with the leftover milk until cornstarch is dissolved and stir into soup.  Keep stirring until soup starts to thicken a bit.

Carefully add the meatballs to the soup.

While soup returns to a nice simmer, make the dumplings.

 for the dumplings:
I use a shortcut! I adore Bisquick dumplings. They're light and fluffy and just perfect every time!
(no, I don't work for them, nor do I know anyone who does, and I don't get paid to say that! LOL)

2 cups bisquick (yellow box, just the good ol' fashioned kind)
2/3 cup milk

Put bisquick in small bowl and make a well in the center. Pour in the milk all at once. Stir with a wooden spoon just until all the liquid is absorbed and you have a soft dough. Dip a tablespoon measuring spoon into the hot, simmering soup to scoop out little spoonfuls of dough onto the soup. Works perfect this way and no mess! Except for having to use your finger sometimes. :)
Just like that.
Don't worry about overcrowding your pan. As long as the soup is simmering gently and your pan is covered, with no peeking!, you'll get soft, fluffy dumplings.

Keep the lid on for 10 minutes, or until the dumplings are dry on top. I topped mine with more parmesan cheese.
Dinner's ready! YUMMY!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Apple Pomegranate Crisp

For this recipe, I used Michigan apples. They were great. Not too sweet, not too tart. I often steer away from apples because they're just too sweet to me.  These were so yummy.  So use whatever apples you like, just take a nibble to adjust the sugar level. You may not need as much sugar as I used, or you may need more.

Toasted and chopped walnuts would be awesome in and/or in the topping, but I forgot to add them. lol

But don't forget the FRESH lemon. It adds such a great tang to things, as well as keeping your apples from browning as you get everything ready.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and butter a 8x8 glass baking dish.

5 -6 cups peeled and sliced apples (this doesn't take as many apples as it sounds like it does)
juice of 1/2 lemon, about 2-3 Tablespoons
1 whole pomegranate, seeded (put whole pom in deep bowl of water, cut, pull apart, and pop out pom seeds under water to avoid the messy staining. Also, the membranes and bad seeds float to the top and you can skim them off, then drain all the good seeds.)
small handful of golden raisins (1/2 cup, more or less if you like)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
pinch of kosher salt


1 cup of flour
1 cup oats
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup of butter (8 Tablespoons or one stick), room temperature, but not soggy, and cubed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch fresh grated nutmeg
pinch kosher (coarse) salt

Peel, core and slice the apples thin.
Keep sliced apples in the lemon juice in a big bowl while you peel and slice them, to keep them from browning.
Add the rest of the filling ingredients to the sliced apples, mix well, and spread evenly into the greased baking dish.

Prepare topping: Whisk together in a small bowl, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar until all are thoroughly combined.
With a fork, add cubed butter to the flour mixture until the dry ingredients are crumbly. 
Like this. :)

Spoon topping evenly over apple mixture and pop into the oven, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes. Turn off oven and let sit in the oven for about 10 more minutes with the oven door ajar.
Take out of oven and let sit for about 10 more minutes.

When the torture is over, serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.  Fantastic!
(the pomegranate seeds will stay crunchy)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Chicken Cacciatore Stew

Perhaps not a classic Cacciatore, but I simply adore this recipe. Store chicken in the leftover stewed veggies and sauce, and the next day you have the makings of an awesome hot sandwich on garlic bread!

I suppose you could use boneless chicken thighs, but I think the bone-in thighs and skin gives a lot of flavor to the wonderfully rich sauce and vegetables as everything simmers in the same pot.

You can add cooked pasta at the end, but I didn't feel this need it. It was a delicious and very filling meal without pasta. Chicken thighs do tend to get a little more greasy, but as the sauce reduces and as it cools, that really isn't noticeable much. And the next day, just spoon off the thickened fat on top of the sauce before you heat it up.

Speaking of the next day...this is so incredibly yummy the next day. Because the thighs are stored in the veggies and sauce, they stay moist.
A bit messy to dig out and debone for a sandwich, but SO worth it! I deboned a thigh, added some veggie and sauce, warmed up while a cut a fat piece of sourdough bread (or you could use sub bun, hamburger bun, hotdog bun, anything that is a bit more sturdy than regular white store bought bread), lightly spread with evoo or butter, sprinkle on some garlic powder, add some cheese like parmesan and/or mozzarella slices, add the warm sauce and bake, fry in a pan with a heavier pan on top of it until crisp and golden, or stick into your old George Foreman grill like I did and have a "panini." 

I love making recipes that can be made into something else the next day, or are even better the next day! Give me a day off, so to speak, with an awesome dinner!

Crockpotters, I bet this would be a great crock recipe!
Enough chat, here's the recipe!

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 6 chicken thighs
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder
  •  1/2 cup chopped white onion        
  • 1/2 cup chopped medium carrot
  • 1/2 cup roasted red bell pepper, chopped
  • small - medium zucchini, sliced in quarter moons
  • 4 oz  Mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 small can tomato paste
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes with juice
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, divided
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Asiago cheese

Add a small amount of evoo to a medium-hot dutch oven, or large deep-sided pan.  Season chicken thighs with salt, pepper and garlic powder on both sides.  Brown well on both sides, don't worry the chicken isn't all the way done, it'll cook up in the stew.

When chicken is a nice golden color on both sides, remove from pan, reduce heat to medium, and add the onions, carrots, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Add a pinch (about 1/4 tsp) of red pepper flakes, crushing them between your fingertips as you sprinkle them.
Cook and stir for about 2-3 minutes.

Add zucchini and mushrooms, another small pinch of salt and pepper and the other 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, crushed between your fingertips, and half of the basil. 
Cook and stir over medium heat until mushrooms begin to soften.

With a small grater, grate the garlic cloves down into the vegetables. If you don't have a grater with a small side, mince the garlic up super tiny.

Add tomato paste and balsamic vinegar and stir around the veggies real well. Add chicken stock, stirring until tomato paste is incorporated into the chicken stock.

Drain some of the tomato juice from the can into the pot of vegetables and, using your hands, reach into the hand and crush the tomatoes up. Empty can of crushed tomatoes into the pot.

Add the rest of the basil, a pinch of salt and pepper, if needed, and add chicken back into pot.
Cook with a lid tilted to let a bit of steam escape during cooking, reduce heat to low and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 30 -45 minutes, taking the lid off the last 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, add cheeses and stir carefully to incorporate cheese into the stew. Let stand about 10 minutes.
Serve with garlic bread and parmesan cheese to pass!

Note: Resist the urge to add things to thicken it up, because the next day it'll be VERY thick. Thick enough to use the stew as a sauce on your panini bread! oooooooooooooooooo so good!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gluten-free Carrot Ginger Muffins with Tangy Cream Cheese Frosting

I had a great time with these lovely little muffins. Dolloped with a tangy cream
cheese frosting and they were instantly a delicious dessert!
And to think I was skittish about trying to bake gluten-free! Wasting resources isn't a thing one wants to do nowadays. Waste not, want not.  Everything I read said; "You'll get used to the taste," or "put your past baking expectations aside, this is different, and will taste different-but good!"  Etc.So I was afraid to try baking with the gf flour and end up having to throw all that away.
Well. I really didn't find it different.  Or that it tasted all that different from regular morning muffins. I've tasted regular flour bakery bran muffins that tasted drier :(
These had a great texture, moistness and taste. They are a little drier the next day, but still really good.

I've gone to the King Arthur Flour's website for past baking questions and tips, even though I don't use their pricey regular flour (sorry! lol), and have received great advice and tips. So I went to them when it came to a flour replacer to buy. In my local Meijer (large grocery store chain) I found King Arthur's Gluten-Free All-Purpose flour. Yes, it was pricey, but worth it for a treat or for a gift :)

You will also need Xanthan Gum. Usually you can find it in the spice isle along with other spice jars. It's a fine, white powdery substance that will help replace the gluten EFFECT in your batter. At least that's the conclusion I've come to in my research.  Meijer was apparently out, couldn't find it..boohoo, so I borrowed some.  My friend put it into a little baggie and I headed out the door. Then I stopped.  Considering I live in the city, perhaps I should put it into my purse before heading out. It'd really suck to get slammed to the ground and cuffed over Xanthan Gum. I ache enough as it is.  But could you imagine? LOL

Another thing. I usually don't care for any kind of nuts in my yummies, but I toasted the walnuts before I chopped them and it really made a difference. I urge you to try it if you don't care for walnuts in your baked yummies.  SO good!

When it comes to the carrots, walnuts, and golden raisins, this is not written in stone. I think this batter can handle more, or less, or different nuts and fruits. Just adjust your baking time accordingly.  I'm just typing out what I had on hand to use.

So preheat the oven to 325, stick some paper cupcake holders into two muffin pans and let's get on with the recipe!

Makes 20-24 muffins, depending on size. They don't rise much at all.
The wet ingredients:
  • 2/3 cup Canola oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
The dry ingredients:
  • 2 3/4 cup All-purpose gluten-free flour, such as King Arthur brand
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon Xanthan Gum
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
The fun add-ins:
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup toasted and chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger (buy a fresh little knob of it and keep it in the freezer. Grate whenever you need it. No need to defrost first. Lasts forever. Or seems like it.)

In a large, glass bowl (plastics contain oils from other foods that have been in them, this will affect the baking), whisk your dry ingredients well and make a little well in the center.

In a smaller glass bowl, add the oil and sugars and beat well with a hand mixer for about 3 minutes. Until well combined. It won't "fluff" up like if you used butter, but I still give it a good beating to incorporate it all.
Add vanilla.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each egg to really get it mixed in well. About 2-3 minutes total time.

Add the wet mixture to the dry, and using a spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet, rotating the bowl as you fold and gently mix.
Using your hand mixer, mix on 2 or 3, about a medium speed for about 3 more minutes. Mixture will begin to thicken a lot.

Grate the ginger into the shredded carrots (freshly grated carrots are best, they're moist and not dehydrated like the pre-grated packages in the store. I really don't know if they'd work in this recipe.) and give a little mix to combine the ginger with the carrots.

Using a spatula or wooden spoon, carefully fold in the carrots, walnuts and raisins until just combined.

Like I mentioned before, the batter doesn't rise much, so you can fill muffin papers almost full. The batter is pretty sticky and gummy, so I used a small ice cream scoop, and it worked well.

Bake one pan at a time, rotating it half way through cooking, for 12-16 minutes. Use your nose (the nose knows! haha) and when a toothpick stuck in the fattest one near the center comes out clean. Try not to overbake. They won't have that real golden 'done' look that regular flour muffins have.

Let cool just a moment or two, until you can handle them to take them out to cool and put the other batch into the oven.

Awesome breakfast muffins, or frost them with my Tangy Cream Cheese Frosting for a real treat!

Tangy Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 oz brick of 1/3 less fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 to 1 cup powdered sugar, adjust to your tastes. I used close to one cup.
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Again, adjust to your tastes, but you don't want to actually TASTE lemon, just the nice tang of it.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • teeny tiny pinch of table salt (yeah, that's a pre-fessional cookery term right there! haha)
Beat in high with hand mixer until completely combined and fluffy and yummy! If it feels a little too thick for frosting, you can add a teeny tiny bit of milk to smooth it out.  But you shouldn't need that.

Spoon into a small storage baggy, snip off a small corner of the bag, and gently squeeze onto the muffins!

These freeze very well without the frosting too!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Crockpot Pork Chops and Gravy dinner

Rachel Lynne  shares with us another family favorite.
Nothing says comfort food like fall-off-the-bone delicious pork with gravy, mashed potatoes and corn! How wonderful to come home to the fantastic smell of pork bubbling away in your crockpot, welcoming you home on a cold fall day.

  • 4 bone-in pork chops
  • one medium onion, sliced
  • 1 cup flour
  • Salt, Pepper
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of garlic powder
  • 1 cup milk

1.  Mix salt, pepper, garlic powder with about 3/4 cups of flour, coat pork chops and then brown in oil and place in crock pot.

2.  Turn heat to low and caramelize onions then add two to three tablespoons of flour, adding oil/butter if needed to make a loose flour mixture. Brown this roux until lightly golden.

3.  Whisk milk into flour mixture and stir until a thin gravy forms.  Sprinkle in a pinch of nutmeg (about 1/8 teaspoon) and cook a few minutes to get rid of the flour taste. Pour gravy over pork chops.

4.  Cook pork chops on low in crock pot for about 5 hours.
Serve with mashed potatoes and corn, YUM!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Vintage Custard Filling Recipe

I love this stuff. I could eat it right out of the bowl with a spoon!
This is a Betty Crocker recipe from 1966 and I don't think I've found another I like better. The key is like with making gravy; be sure to cook it as directed so you don't have a floury taste.

Be sure to put plastic wrap down onto the top of the custard so it doesn't develop a skin as it cools. I also don't seal the edges tight, so the condensation doesn't leak down into the custard and make it yucky.

  •  1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon butter, unsalted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix sugar, flour and salt in a saucepan.
Slowly whisk in milk, and cook over low heat, stirring until it comes up to a boil.
Boil while whisking, for 1 minute.
Remove from heat.
Very slowly, drizzle hot mixture into egg yolks while whisking eggs vigorously, until all of the hot mixture is into the eggs.
Pour all back into the saucepan and bring up to a boil again. <--important so your custard doesn't taste like flour paste.
Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla.
Cover and chill !

This is a FILLING recipe, so you can use it between cake layers, to fill cupcakes, donuts...just about anything you want to fill.

I used it to fill a cupcake recipe I saw on the Today Show.  I also used semi-sweet in the gnache, instead of the bittersweet the recipe called for. And I waited until the chocolate was thicker set before I put it on the cupcakes. I wanted them easier to eat. :)
The result was a Boston Cream cupcake that tasted JUST like my favorite Boston Creme doughnuts! 
SO good! I'm already wondering who I can give some too, so I can stay out of the rest. haha!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sesame Orange Chicken

I love the flavors of orange and chicken together, with a subtle heat that slowly builds, but won't burn your mouth off. I'm not a big fan of real hot things. I'd like to taste the other flavors, please. lol

A quick and easy dish you can serve over rice, quinoa, angelhair pasta, or by itself, you can play with the combination of veggies and amount of heat, to make it your own.  Stick leftovers in a container, and you have an awesome lunch at work the next day!

Arbol chilies are little red dehydrated chilies found in your Mexican spice section of the store. I'm lucky to live in within a large Hispanic community, so my local groceries have a huge section of  a Mexican brand spices, in cellophane bags and more often than not, good quality and MUCH cheaper than their American name brands in the regular spice isle of the store. The brand I find around me is Mi Constentina.  I bought 8 oz of sesame seeds for 2.49.  Better than 5 bucks for a little, dinky, useless amount, I find in the other isle. And I can't tell the difference in taste!
Reconstitute the chili in hot water until soft, about 30 minutes. Don't use the inner seeds and veins unless you like using the use of your taste buds for awhile. Oh, and as always, use gloves or wash your hands VERY well when messing with chilis.
If you prefer, you can sub the chili with a different kind of chili or a minced jalapeno. I just like the subtle, smoky heat these little Arbol chilies give. ahh.. I'm hungry, let's cook!
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken, cubed
  • 1 small Arbol chili, reconstituted, seeded, deveined, and minced very fine
  • dash of Sesame oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded, sliced lengthwise and then in half. More or less to suit your tastes.
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions (scallions)
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
The Sauce:
  • 1 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1/3 cup juice and zest from one orange
  • 1/3 cup apple cider
  • 3 1/2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • few grates of fresh ginger (I keep mine in a freezer bag in the freezer, it keeps practically forever and saves $$)
  • the rest of the reconstituted and minced red chili, about 1/2 teaspoon
  • about one teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  • few drops sesame oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch melted in about 2 Tablespoons cool tap water
sliced green onions and toasted sesame seeds for topping. As many as you like.

In large frying pan, heat about 2 Tablespoons veggie oil over fairly high heat.
Put chicken in one layer into the hot pan. Season with salt and pepper.
Flip pieces over when golden, reduce heat to medium-high and season that side with salt and pepper.
Add red bell pepper, grate a garlic clove down over the chicken, add couple drops sesame oil and green onions, pinch of the chilies, and stir for about one more minute and remove chicken from pan, unless chicken is still very raw. Depends on your chicken chunk sizes.

In same pan used to cook chicken, add the rest of the sauce ingredients, saving out a pinch of the orange zest for garnish, and stir until it begins to thicken.
Add chicken back to pan and stir until chicken is cooked through and sauce is thick. Maybe 5 minutes, not too long so the red bells don't get soggy. Taste for salt. I had to add just a pinch more before serving. Be careful judging heat level. It builds after a couple bites. ;)

Toast about a Tablespoon or two, of sesame seeds over medium heat, in a small frying pan,  moving pan about, until seeds begin to let off a little aroma. This is quite fast after the pan is hot, so be careful not to burn them.
Garnish with more green onions, orange zest, and toasted sesame seeds!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Awesome Au Gratin Potatoes

I love piling these onto green beans! SO good!  You can make this ahead of time, just save the french fried onion topper until the potatoes are in the oven and almost done so they don't get soggy.

Keep peeled potatoes in water to keep them from turning brown while you peel and slice the rest!

You can choose to just slice the onions, instead of dicing, I just dice them due to the preferences of others I cook for.
The amount of cheese, salt and pepper in this dish is up to you and your tastes too.
Also, if you like some zip to your dishes, try adding one seeded & deveined minced jalapeno to this, and pepperjack cheese instead of cheddar. Fantastic!
  • 4-5 cups of peeled (your choice) and thin sliced potatoes, about 5-6 small/medium.
  • 1/2 cup diced white onion
  • 1 can cream of celery soup (undiluted)
  • 2-3 cups cheddar cheese, grated. Try not to get the pre-grated, not only do you get LESS cheese (they add cornstarch and such so the cheese doesn't stick together, and since it's sold by weight- you get less), but grating your own results in much creamier texture.
  • fresh grated parmesan cheese, maybe 1/2 cup
  • small (2.8 oz) can french fried onions
  • dried rosemary
  • dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • butter or margarine
  • dried or fresh parsley for garnish
Spray a 2.5 quart round casserole dish with spray oil.
In a large bowl, combine potatoes, onion and undiluted soup.Try to separate as many of the slices as possible, when mixing, so they all get coated and they cook better.
Sprinkle with couple good pinches of salt and pepper.
Take a good pinch of rosemary, maybe about 1/8 teaspoon, and rub it between your fingertips, crushing so not have big twigs of rosemary and to get the flavor out. Do the same for the thyme.

Put a layer of potato mixture in the bottom of casserole dish, about 5 pea-sized dots of butter or margarine, sprinkle a handful of cheddar cheese, and grate some parmesan cheese down over it; maybe a tablespoon or two.
Repeat twice, for a total of 3 layers, ending the top layer with cheese and parmesan.
Cover and cook at 350 degrees for about 1.5-2 hours, depending on how soft you want your potatoes. Test with fork in the center.
When the potatoes are your desired doneness, uncover and add the French's onions, more pepper and parsley. 

Cook uncovered, for about 5 minutes. Be careful because the onions can burn fast.
Serve over green beans! YUMM!

If you wish, you can instead, top the potatoes with a mixture of breadcrumbs, butter and parmesan.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Meatballs! Stroganoff and a Sub!

Stroganoff pictured here

 This recipe makes enough meatballs to set some aside in the freezer for spaghetti, meatball subs (scroll to the bottom of this post for my meatball sub), or any other recipe you'd like to have a batch of meatballs ready to go. I forgot to write down exactly how many it made, but I baked two baking sheets of about one-inch meatballs. So 40-50 meatballs. I strongly suggest chilling the meatballs, as it helps them hold their shape and it's easier to form them. They can be prepped the night before, so all you have to do is throw them into the oven.

As always, much of this recipe is personal preference. For example, the mushrooms. I would have preferred large slices of mushrooms, but I live with mushroom-haters (haha), so I chopped them up pretty small. Same with the onions.  The meatballs were a big hit with them, by the way.  Score one for me. I won't tell if you don't. :)
Oh, also, a mixture of ground meats, such as pork, lamb and beef is preferable for ultimate meatballs, but I used just ground beef for the sake of my wallet.  They were still moist and wonderful!
But enough of that! Let's get to the recipe..

  • 3 lbs ground beef
  • roughly 2 cups torn bread chunks from a thick bread like a sub bun
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup minced white onion
  • 1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry as possible
  • 1/4 cup fresh fine chopped mushrooms
  • 2 lightly beaten eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire 
  • few good pinches of black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground sage
Stroganoff gravy:
  •  5 Tablespoons margarine, plus 1 Tablespoon
  • 1 cup minced onion 
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms, chopped small
  • 1 small dried bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire 
  • salt and pepper to taste (keep in mind the meatballs will add salt taste)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, plus more to top with, if desired
To make meatballs:
Soak bread chunks in 3/4 cup of milk in small bowl for about 10-20 minutes, until all the milk is soaked up. 

Combine all meatball ingredients in a bowl. Mix with your hands to combine, but try not to over mix or squish too harsh. Cover bowl and chill for at least an hour; up to overnight.  

Line a cookie sheet (one with a small edge so the meatball drippings don't get all over your oven, that's always joyful) with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Using a small ice cream scoop, gently make about 1 inch meatballs. They don't have to be exact, but try to make them even sized as possible for even cooking.  When baking sheet is full, put leftover mix into fridge until the first batch is done.

Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your meatballs. I usually find when they are firm, but not hard, to the touch, they are done.

Let meatballs stand for about 3-5 minutes before removing from the baking sheet.

Remove and make the last batch of meatballs.

You should have 40-60 meatballs. Save some for this recipe and in labeled freezer bags, freeze the others for quick meals or snacks.

Stroganoff Gravy:
In large pan, use 5 Tablespoons of margarine, with bay leaf, to soften onions about 3-4 minutes over medium heat and then add mushrooms and dash of salt and pepper. Stir and cook a couple more minutes, but not so long as to soak up all the moisture in the pan.

Add 1 Tablespoon margarine and using a wooden spoon, slowly stir in flour.

Cook and stir until all flour is moistened and you have a thick mixture, or roux. Keep stirring for about 2-3 minutes, lowering the heat just a touch, if needed, so as not to burn the flour.

In a slow, but steady stream, add beef broth while stirring vigorously to avoid lumping. Keep stirring and adding broth slowly, until all the broth is added.  Add milk and keep stirring until thickening slows.

Add nutmeg, Worcestershire and then salt and pepper to taste, if needed. 

When gravy is thick, remove from heat and add sour cream. Stir, then add meatballs.

Serve over medium egg noodles, rice, or alone, and with extra sour cream, if desired.
 Mmmm.. I love extra sour cream!

What I did with some extra meatballs I saved out:
Add about 2 Tablespoons fresh grated Parmesan to a small can (15 oz) of spaghetti sauce to about 15 meatballs or so, depending out saucy you like them. Put on a buttered and toasted sub bun sprinkled with garlic powder. Arrange meatballs, spoon sauce over, top with a bit more grated parmesan, some thin sliced mozzarella, teeeny pinch of Italian seasoning, stick under broiler to melt and tada! LUNCH! yum!
Ahhh...nothing like a hot meatball sub for a Saturday lunch!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Arepas stuffed with Chipotle Lime Shredded Chicken

This is a delicious shredded chicken  that can be served in tortillas, in a taco salad, on a toasted sub bun, so many possibilities!
The warmth of the chipotle can be increased if you desire a hotter chicken, and is offset by a wonderful subtle sweetness given by the honey that should also be increased a bit if you increase the heat.
Make the day before a potluck, or freeze for quick lunches!

I'm sure you could make this in a crockpot too, but I don't have a crockpot now, so can't tell you what the heat and time would be on this. If you make this in a crock, feel free to drop me a note and I'll add the heat and cook time to this, crediting you, of course.

You can use the Mexican cheese, cotija, but I served this on arepas with avacado and feta cheese. The tangy-ness of the feta went SO well with the sweet heat of the chicken, and was easier on my wallet. I'll include the arepa recipe below.

I'm getting hungry, so on with the recipe!
  • 5 lbs chicken leg quarters
  • 2 cups crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced purple onion
  • 1 (4 oz) can LaPreferida roasted green chilies (found in ethnic foods or Mexican isle, look for a small red and white label. About a dollar and SO good!)
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded & deveined, unless you prefer very hot foods :)
  • 1/2 chipotle, with its sauce, chopped (small cans of chipotles can be found next to the green chilies, freeze the rest of the chipotles and sauce for a quick flavor and heat boost to many dishes)
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
  • juice from 2 REAL (lol please don't use the bitter bottled stuff) limes (about 3-4 Tablespoons)
Season chicken on both sides with salt, pepper and garlic powder. In a large pot with lid, or dutch oven, brown chicken on both sides, in a little vegetable or olive oil.

When chicken is browned, remove from pan and set aside.
Add onion and jalapeno. Reduce heat to medium heat. Cook and stir about 2 or 3 minutes, then add the can of chilies, chipotle and sauce, and tomato paste. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook and stir a minute or two and add crushed tomatoes, seasonings, bay leaf, honey, and salt and pepper to taste, and lime juice.

Reduce heat to a low simmer, and add chicken back into the pan, stirring them around so all the chicken gets a coating of sauce.

Cover and cook 30-45 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and practically falling off the bone. Remove chicken to a plate to cool to the touch so you can pick the meat off the bone and shred.

Add cooked chicken back to sauce and, leaving the lid off, cook and stir over a very low heat while you prepare tortillas, or arepas, or the rest of your meal.

Arepas are to South America what english muffins are to North America. Sort of.
They're wonderful little pockets of yumminess almost the size of an english muffin and can be filled with just about anything you like.
They're made of a gluten-free precooked white cornmeal that is ground very fine into a flour. It's found in the ethnic isle of a grocery store or a Mexican/Latino grocery, and is no more expensive than regular white flour. Common names are P.A.N, masarepa, harina precocida, but NOT to be confused with masa harina
, that is used for corn tortillas.

I LOVE these as an alternative to tortillas. They're yummy like a tortilla, but easier to make and have a crunchy exterior, but a soft interior and split easily apart much like english muffins. Fill them with egg, ham and cheese for a quick breakfast, a variety of meats and cheeses for snacks, lunches, or paired with soup and salad for a complete meal.

To get a better feel of how to make these, visit youtube and look up arepas. There are tons of videos to show you how to make them.  Don't be intimidated, they're easy as heck once you get your heat and grease just so. Much like pancakes, the first one or two might not turn out until you get the heat and grease "just so". 

I don't find these do too well in a dry pan like tortillas, they need some kind of help. So you can use the spray stuff, margarine or butter.  I don't recommend  butter or olive oil as these may burn in the medium-high heat needed to cook the arepas. 

I'm getting hungry typing about these! Let's get to the recipe!

To get started, you'll need:
  • large frying pan or griddle
  • 1 cup masarepa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cup hot water
  • butter or vegetable oil for frying
Masarepa flour will have directions on the back, but what they don't tell you is the water should be HOT tap water, not warm or lukewarm.

Put hot water in medium bowl FIRST (they don't tell you this either), then add the masarepa and salt. Using your hands, mix it until you get a nice, pliable dough. This is where videos come in handy! Form a ball, and using your palms, slap into an english muffin size, but a bit thinner than an english muffin.

Put a dab of margarine or oil in a pan or griddle preheated over medium-high heat, and set the arepas in it and move them about a bit, so they all have a bit of butter under them.

Cook 5 minutes. They'll be a nice, golden  brown, with darker spots. Flip, adding more butter or oil as needed, and cook 5 more minutes until done. When done, they'll have a hollow sound when you tap on them.

Remove from heat onto paper towels, and cool to the touch. Slid a thin knife into the side of them to open up a little pocket like with a pita.

This recipe makes 6-8, depending on size.
Fill as you desire! so yummy.  These can be made ahead of time, and once cooled, wrapped in foil and refrigerated. Warm up in the oven, or hot pan, to crisp up.  I haven't tried putting them into a toaster to reheat and crisp, but I'm thinking that might work too!