Sunday, May 27, 2012

Homemade trail mix

I travel to different stores daily for my job and hate eating fast food when I'm feeling munchy. I bought craisins and a deluxe nut mix (aka the one with no peanuts) today. When I got home I used snack sized baggies to make my own trail mix baggies with about a 1/4cu of each in a baggies. You could add in mini chocolate chips if you have Jo worries about them melting or mini pretzels. They're easy to just grab and go for light lunch with fruit and milk.

Sunday morning breakfast

Waffles with honey goat cheese, strawberries and a drizzle of syrup, eggs, and a 4 berry banana smoothie...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lunch for the kiddos

A tortilla spread with pb and rolled around a banana, orange, vanilla yogurt with strawberries, and snack mix of cherrios, craisins, and sesame cashews...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Crock Pot Chili

One of the best parts about cooking chili in the slow cooker is you can start with dry beans and frozen meat, but a delicious meal is ready come dinner time. It's much more affordable than cracking open cans and you control the seasonings used. I like to use a bagged 15 bean mix so I get variety of beans, peas, and lentils without buying a bunch of different kinds. This recipe can be used for any combination of meats and beans. Today I used some cubed beef chunks that I bought on sale. If you want to use ground meat I would suggest you brown it off before adding to the crockpot. You don't have to cook it through all the way. Just enough so it starts to crumble or you will end up with one big chunk in the pot come dinner time. I always season my meat and allow it to marinade then add additional seasoning once the food hits the crockpot. I don't have much room in my kitchen for a full array of cooking supplies, so the convenient seasoning packets you find in most stores are my favorite.

1lb of meat
1 1/2cu frozen corn kernels
1 small sweet onion, diced
1/2 red, yellow, and orange bell pepper, diced
1/2 20oz bag of 15 bean soup
2 10oz cans of tomatoes and chile, undrained

Add all of the ingredients to the crock pot and turn on to your desired time. I suggest using a slow cooker liner for easy cleanup. The beans DO NOT have to be soaked overnight and the meat doesn't have to be unfrozen. If you prefer your chili to be thick no additional liquid is needed. Add up to 1cu of liquid to the chili if you like it to be a bit thinner. You can always thicken it up by boiling off some of the liquid later.

Before cooking

After cooking

Surf and Turf Dinner for 4 less than $15

I'm doing a simple surf and turf dinner tonight for the family. Chuck steaks, salmon fillets, steamed veggies, and a quickie scallopped style potatoe. The steak and salmon were each less than $5 a pack for four pieces at Walmart. For the potatoes I scrub them, pricked all over and nuked until just tender. Then I sliced them, placed into a buttered pan, topped with bechamel sauce, and sprinkled with cheese. My bechamel (white sauce) recipe is below. You could add in about a cup of shredded cheese to make your own cheese sauce as well. The meat and potatoes both baked at 450* for 10 minutes before being served. The steak and salmon was perfectly cooked. The potatoes had a slight browning around the edges as well...

Bechemel Sauce
2tbsp butter
2tbsp flour
1 1/2cu milk, warmed
herbs and seasonings

1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add in the flour. Cook while stirring for 1-2 minutes until well combined.

2. Add in your herbs/seasonings and slowly whisk in the warm milk. Cook for another 5 minutes or until thickened making sure to stir regularly. I used two whole basil leaves, three smashed garlic cloves, salt, and pepper to season my bechemel sauce. I removed the basil leaves and garlic cloves before pouring over the potatoes for a hint of flavor. If the sauce is too thick just whisk in a bit more milk. If it is too thin cook it down some more.

These are the steaks and salmon fillets. Just simple seasonings on the steaks. The salmon is brushed with honey mustard and sprinkled with seasonings before they're both baked right on the same sheet.

Make enough potatoes so that you have an even layer in the pan you're baking them in. Normally you'll spend about an hour making scalloped potatoes, but these are ready in 20 minutes or less.

After you pour the bechemel sauce over the cheese and potatoes it's ready for the oven!

Less than 20 minutes and this dinner is served!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Tenders

BACON!!!! Now that I have your attention, join me for a delicious dish that features a meat which has inspired countless products that should not taste or smell like it (bacon scented bandaids anyone?). Bacon wrapped about bonless skinless chicken breast tenders are great to serve for dinner with the family or at your next party. They're also super easy to make. You can get away with just two ingredients, but I'm all about punching up flavor, so I take it a step further.

3 boneless skinless chicken breast cut into 24 pieces
8 slices of bacon cut into thirds
Brown sugar
Spicy seasoning of choice

1. Preheat oven to 425* and fit a baking sheet with a baking rack. If you don't have one, that's ok. You can still bake straight on the sheet, but you might want to drain the chicken on a paper towel before serving to remove excess bacon fat.

2. Wrap each piece of chicken in a piece of bacon. If the pieces are smaller you can just wrap it right around the piece and place into the pan loose ends down. If the chicken is longer wrap it around spiral style and place with both loose ends down. Sprinkle with seasoning if using. I left the seasoning off the pieces I was feeding my anti-spicy kids.

3. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes and flip over. Sprinkle brown sugar and more seasoning. Rotate pan and place back into oven for another 15 minutes. The bacon should be nice and crispy. Enjoy!

These are the three spicy seasonings I have in my cupboard. I used my Jim Beam Spicy Bourbon tonight.

This is how big I cut the chicken and bacon.

You can see the smaller pieces at the top have the bacon just wrapped around them. The larger pieces have the bacon going around in a spiral style.

This is what the chicken should look like after 20min when you're ready to flip. The ones in the bottom left do not have spicy seasoning on them.

Flip them over and sprinkle with brown sugar and more seasoning if using.

All done!

Crispy Oven Fries

It's possible to get deliciously crispy fries in the oven just from baking at a higher temperature and using a little cooking spray. Cut your potatoes thin and leave the peel on for extra fiber. I like to bake mine with fresh herbs or garlic for even more flavor!

3 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into thin wedges
3 cloves minced garlic
Cooking spray

1. Place baking sheet into oven and preheat to 450* as you slice the potatoes.

2. Once you slice the potatoes and any herbs you might want to use generously spray your sheet. Add the potatoes and herbs then spray their tops with more spray.

3. Cook in 15 minute increments turning for even cooking until desired doneness. My kids like their french fries extra crispy, so mine went for over 30 minutes.

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Chicken cordon bleu seems like a really complicated meal, but it's actually pretty easy to make since there are three variations to it. The basic flavors of chicken, ham, and cheese with a crunchy outer layer will be there no matter how you choose to make it. In order from easiest to hardest here are the ways you can make it. First, you can just lay the ham and cheese on top of the chicken breast and carefully bread the whole thing before setting into the baking pan. Second, you can cut a slit into the chicken breast taking care not to slice all the way through and stuff the ham/cheese inside before breading. Third, you can pound the chicken breast until they are very thin (or save the hassle and start with cutlets) then lay the ham/cheese on top and roll them up before breading. In this rendition I go for the middle ground with the slit cut into the chicken breast.

4 boneless skinless chicken breast
4 slices cheese
4 slices deli ham
1 egg
1/2cu milk
bread crumbs

1. Preheat the oven to 450* and spray a baking pan. Prepare the chicken breast however you please. I cut a slit running about a half inch from each end and almost all the way through to the other side. Stuff a slice of ham and cheese into each chicken breast.

2. Beat together the egg and milk then dip each chicken breast before fully coating with bread crumbs. Place each breast into the prepared pan and spray with more cooking spray.

3. Bake on a lower rack in the oven for 20 minutes or until the edges of the breast start to brown. Rotate the pan and finish baking another 10-15 minutes until the juices from the chicken run clear and the bread crumbs are golden brown.

It's Friday!

For many people the work week is over and they're ready to enjoy the weekend. I'm going to enjoy a brew while I cook some bacon wrapped chicken tenders. Stay tuned for new blog post :-) I've got chicken cordon bleu, garlic oven fries, and tonight's dinner to post! What do you have cooking?

Monday, May 14, 2012

What I'm baking...

This Nestle recipe for chewy cocoa brownies is my favorite!
I will edit this post later to add the recipe if you can't see the pic. I'm posting this from my phone :-)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Drunk Pulled Pork

Meat taste better when its drunk. I mean cooked in alcohol. It imparts a depth of flavor that's hard to get with a standard marinade. Tonight for dinner I cooked a pork roast in the slow cooker with a can of Jeremiah Weed Spiked Cola. It's flavors are reminiscent of Jack and Coke with a much lower price tag. I seasoned my roast with brown sugar and a Jim Beam barbeque rub I found at Walmart. In the crock pot while I enjoyed Mother's Day! There's no real recipe here. Just put enough meat in the pot to feed your family, add a cup or two of your favorite beverage combo, and let the slow cooker do all the work...

Roasted Chicken and Veggie Pasta Salad

Super simple pasta salad that is perfect for summertime meals! I roasted the chicken with red onion, asparagus, zucchini, and yellow squash tossed with sun dried tomato vinegrette. When it came out the oven I added halved grape tomatoes and chopped black olives.

Boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
Oil based dressing
Choice of pasta
Choice of veggies

1. Preheat oven to 425*. Toss chicken and veggies with dressing on a baking sheet. Roast for 20-25min, stirring occassionaly.

2. Remove from oven and toss together on baking sheet with prepared pasta. Can be enjoyed warm or cold.

Homemade Pizza Rolls

If you want to incite excitement, cheers, and dancing just by telling my kids what's for dinner pizza rolls is the way to go. The pizza dough is incredibly easy to make and if your kids are old enough they can definitely help with the most labor intensive part of making the actual rolls. This is another recipe that can be customized as you like. I enjoy the extra flavor the dough gets by using garlic salt, but you can use regular salt in it's place. If you don't like pepperoni then go for just cheese or maybe a bbq chicken bite. You can also use the dough to bake you own pizza. Just stretch a piece to your desired shape, bake until slightly brown, add your toppings, and continue baking until it reaches your desired doneness. I will include the recipe for a single batch of dough. The pictures however are a double batch. I don't own a stand mixer, so this is done completely by hand with great results. I will include directions for both stand mixing and by hand. I make separate ones for the boyfriend and the kids due to a difference in cheese. These are a favorite leftover for lunches.

1/2 cup warm water (comfortable bath water temp, 110*)
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 tsp. salt
olive oil or non-stick cooking spray for greasing the bowl and baking pan
16oz block cheese cut, into bite sized pieces
Parmesan or pecorino romano (goat's milk) cheese
italian seasoning
Dipping sauce

1. Into a small bowl or large measuring cup measure the warm water and sprinkle in the yeast, stir immediately.  After the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5-10 minutes, stir in the room temperature water and the oil.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, pour in the measured flour and salt.  Briefly mix at low speed, using the paddle attachment.  Continuing to mix at low speed, add the yeast mixture slowly. Once the dough is formed, stop the mixer and attach the dough hook. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. The dough will probably be a bit sticky. Brush the inside of a large bowl with olive oil.  With floured hands, form the dough into a ball, and place in the oiled bowl. Allow to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until double in size. Punch down to deflate.

    If mixing by hand, mix together the flour and salt in a large bowl with a rubber spatula/bowl scrapper. While mixing slowly pour in the yeast mixture. Once the flour and liquid are all incorporated sprinkle flour onto a clean countertop, turn the dough out on to the counter and sprinkle with another 1/4cu of flour on top. Flour your hands and begin to knead with the heel of your hand. Press the dough into the counter, fold the side over, and press again. Continue doing this for about five minutes, reflouring your hands as the dough gets too sticky. Place into oiled bowl and allow to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until double in size. Punch down to deflate.

3. Preheat oven to 425*. Sprinkle italian seasoning, garlic salt, and parmesan onto the greased baking pan. Pull a small piece of dough off and flatten into a circle. Place a piece of pepperoni and cheese onto the circle, press the edges together, and place seam side down on the pan. Continue until all the ingredients are gone. This step is best done sitting because it takes a bit. If you run out of cheese and pepperoni you can press the rest of the dough onto the pan in the shape of breadsticks or tightly wrap in plastic wrap, place into a ziploc, and freeze for a later time.

4. Sprinkle the top of the rolls with the same italian seasoning, garlic salt, and parmesan. Place into oven and bake for 10minutes. Rotate the pan and bake until golden brown about another 10 minutes.

These are the ingredients you will need for the dough.
This is what the yeast looks like when you mix it into the water.

This is 5-10 minutes later after it swells. It will have risen to the top.

Your dough will look like this once the flour is incorporated. This is when you switch to the dough hook or turn out onto your floured counter to knead.

Well floured counter and a little flour on top when you're hand kneading.
This is how the dough should look when its ready to go into the greased bowl and rise.

Double in size.

Punch to deflate.

The ingredients for the pizza rolls. Mozzarella and pecorino romano are made with goat's milk, so they're perfect to cook for someone who is lactose intolerant.

The size of the cheese versus the pepperoni.

Placing the pepperoni and cheese onto the dough.

Press the seams together.

Place seam side down into the baking pan.

Sprinkle the finished bites with cheese.

Golden brown and ready to enjoy!

Oven Baked Bacon

If you've ever wondered how restaurants manage to make perfectly crisp bacon that stays flat let me tell you their secret. They bake it. That's right folks! They bake the bacon in the oven. This allows it to stay flat instead of turning into a curly mess that just doesn't work well on sandwiches. It also allows you to make way more bacon than you could in a single conventional skillet. This is usually how I make my bacon. I haven't really noticed that much bacon grease splatter in the oven which I know can be a concern. I like the addition of a sprinkle of brown sugar and chipotle chile powder when I flip it over. It adds a sweetness with a gentle smoky heat that is divine. This bacon is sooooo tasty that my friend Jessica STILL talks about it and it's been years since I made her some. She even told my boyfriend to make sure I make it for him, haha.

brown sugar
chipotle chile powder

1. Put a piece of parchment paper onto a baking sheet and lay your bacon onto it width-wise.

2. Place into a COLD oven and turn to 375*. Once you start to smell the bacon cooking and hear it sizzling check on it. Now, depending on how crispy you like your bacon it will cook for various times. Mine usually goes for 10 minutes the first round.

3. Flip the bacon over and sprinkle with as much brown sugar and chipotle chile powder as you want. Let cook until browned to your liking. For me this is another 5-10 minutes. Place onto paper towels with the brown sugar side UP to absorb excess grease and enjoy!

McCormick is the only brand of Chipotle Chile powder I use...

You can cook a lot more bacon on a baking sheet than a standard skillet

This is how the bacon looks when you flip it over. On the right you can see the brown sugar and chipotle.

Perfectly crisp and ready for a BLT! The bacon on the left has the chipotle on it.

Apple Cinnamon Hootenany

Hootenany is such a funny word to say, but it's an even more delicious and easy breakfast to make. I can almost guarantee you have the supplies on hand right now to make one. This super easy and delicious baked pancake (also known as a German pancake) puffs up incredibly in the oven, so make sure you put it on a rack that's not too close to the top of the oven. I like the addition of apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon for extra flavor. You can make this plain or with any combination of flavor add-ins. Experiment and tell me what you liked!

1/2cu (1 stick) butter
6 eggs
1cu milk
1/2tsp vanilla
1cu flour
1/2cu light brown sugar, divided
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, divided
1 thinly sliced apple

1. Place butter, 1/2tsp cinnamon and 1/4cu brown sugar into 9x13 baking dish. Place into oven and preheat to 425*. Remove the pan once the butter has melted.

2. Whisk together eggs, milk, 1/2tsp cinnamon and vanilla until frothy then add in flour. Pour on top of butter in baking dish. Toss apples with the remaining brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over the top of the batter.

3. Put dish into oven and bake for 25 or until the center is set and the edges are browned. Pour maple syrup over as it comes out of the oven, slice, and enjoy!

Let the butter melt in the oven as it preheats.

Mix the apples with the cinnamon and brown sugar

Pour the batter on top of the butter and top with the apples.

This is how it looks when it comes out of the oven and is done.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Redbox Mother's Day rental

Redbox has a code posted right now that gets you a free one night rental. It is good until 11:59pm 5/13/2012. It is good once per card. MAY13

*Disclaimer: I have not personally used this code, so I can't validate that it does work. It comes from a reliable source though...

This weekend...

I'm going to be posting a few recipes today and tomorrow. This morning I made brown sugar bacon and an apple cinnamon hootenany for breakfast. I have pizza roll dough rising right now. Tomorrow I'm going to make a couple of different types of brownies to have here at home, mail to my mom, and give our neighbor as thanks for fixing my car last week. Stay tuned for the recipes and pictures! As always there will be step by step pictures...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Spinach artichoke crusted chicken

In the Recipes I'm Trying This Week blog post earlier this week I mentioned trying the artichoke crusted chicken from the Sugar Laws website. Just reading the website I decided I was going to use the idea as a basis and make my own recipe up. I'm already thinking about the veggie/cheese mixture added to precooked chicken and pasta then baked. Also, I think this could be done easily in the slow cooker, but you won't get the same browning on the chicken and cheese unless you're lucky enough to own the AMAZING Cuisinart Multicooker from William Sonoma. This recipe is easily customizable. I'm also thinking it would be good with a caprese style mixture (mozzarella, basil, and sun dried tomatoes). Here's what I did for this chicken...

1/4 red onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced
3 cu fresh spinach leaves
13.75oz canned artichokes drained and chopped
fresh black pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breast pounded flat
1/2cu mayonnaise
1cu shredded cheese (I used goat's milk mozzarella)

1. Preheat oven to 425* and oil a baking pan. Saute garlic and red onion in about a tablespoon of heated olive oil a few minutes until the onion is translucent. You'll know the oil is ready for the aromatics if a small drop of water dripped into the pan immediately sizzles. Add in the spinach and artichokes. Cook until spinach has wilted down and place into a large bowl. This will make about two cups of a veggie mix.

2. Add a little more oil into the skillet and cook the chicken on each side for 4-5 minutes. Don't touch the chicken. You will know it's ready to flip when it whitens around the edge. It should have some nice browning when flipped. Place the chicken into the prepared pan.

3. Into the bowl of veggies add the mayo and cheese mixing well. Spread this mixture all over the tops of the chicken in the pan and place into the oven uncovered. Let cook for 15-20min. Turn after about 10 minutes for even browning. The chicken juices should run clear while the top is brown and bubbling. Let rest a few minutes before serving.

The aromatics should look like this when you add in the veggies.

Saute until the spinach is wilted down.

The bottom piece of chicken is white around the edges. That's how you know it's time to flip it over so you get that nice browning like the top piece of chicken. Don't bother wiping out the pan between veggies and chicken. No worries for cross contamination and it adds extra flavor!

Place the browned chicken into the pan. I had to cook my chicken in two batches.

This is what the top of your chicken should look like when done. So tasty!!