Thursday, February 18, 2010

Not Really

      I have come to the conclusion yet again that those who cannot "do", pretty much obsess over things that they can't "do". What I mean by this is that there are a million and one people out there that are not only natural cooks, but really know how to slow down and READ a recipe, do what they are told, and achieve ultimate cooking success. No I am not being a downer on myself and my cooking abilities (or lack thereof) but I am being a realist. No wonder my husband always asks, hey can't you just make the recipe like it says?  Well that wouldn't be any fun now would it. I would not only actually accomplish the end goal of a good meal, but I would not have anything fun to write about later! Not the best thing to post on a food blog, but what are you gonna do, I mean seriously, my nature is such that I really like to cut corners, find the easiest way to make ends meet, and eliminate any time wasted in food preparation or cooking. This sort of little personality disorder has led to many a flat cupcake, over browned cake crust, and even knocks to the head as I go so far to assume leaving a cupboard door open would actually save time from having to re-open it again later. Sick. Very sick. On the other hand though, someday I will have the benefit of saying I have tried it all, and that I know the absolute bar none best way to cook BBQ chicken on the planet, even if I set a kitchen towel on fire or over cook the drumsticks in the meantime. And with that food for thought, I have begged my dear friend to allow me to share her no fail bread recipe. Perfect for folks with instant gratification issues, like me.



     Jenny's Bread Recipe


1 1/3 c warm water
1/3 c honey
1 Tbsp Yeast
Mix above ingredients and let sit for about 5-10 min


1/2 - 3/4 c natural applesauce
1 egg
1 c dry milk
~5 c flour


Add additional ingredients after rest time, in the order listed. Use a kitchen aide OR a spatula to incorporate ingredients from the center out til well mixed. Let the bread rise for about an hour on a warm stove, then re mix and let rise another hour or so. You can skip the last rise cycle if pressed for time. This make WONDERFUL rolls, pizza crust, cinnamon rolls, etc.
Bake at 350^ for 15-20 min for rolls, bread for 45+

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why

     Why is a very important word. Not only does it help one relate to others or create understanding (i.e. Why someone is acting the way the are), but it can also explain a state of learning. For example, the "Why Phase" of childhood. It just hit me the other day that I am going to be in the never-ending, question asking, universal discovery phase for at least, oh- the next 5-10 years of my life. (I feel like I just recounted some prison sentence!) On the subject of understanding however, I have decided to look in retrospect at this last week by asking a few "Why" questions myself;  
Why am I feeling this way? (confusion) Why did we change our plans almost literally the day after we made them (some desperate attempt to remain in control) Why did Adam struggle with his first spanish question ever in the most important interview of his known military career, right before graduation, and thus affect the result of not only that test, but quite possibly the outcome of our future pay grade? (sick irony) Why did I dye my hair dark dark brown with fantastically 70'sish bangs? (I found out I was pregnant a few weeks ago and I thought this would be "easier", plus I got bored) Why do we still not have orders that will allow us to schedule our move that needs to be complete in exactly 1 week and 6 days because we already signed paperwork to sign out of a house that we will no longer be in come 2 weeks from now (Life can stink, people don't do their jobs, and sometimes it is just not fair) and of course on a more important philosophical note, Why do bad things happen to good people and thus good things happen to bad people (Again, life stinks, people can make their own choices...yadda yadda....the Gods must be crazy etc)
     So, what brings me to such a deep and introspective point in my life? Could it be that this whole move was seemingly dependent on this new little life we were so graciously and un-expectedly blessed with? Could it be that we have had more learning experiences in this last 6 months than the last 6 years of our marriage? Could it be that the Gods MUST be crazy, and thus even laughing at us and more specifically me at this very moment of thoughtful contemplation? And why wouldn't they laugh? Haven't we all laughed at others or our own children as they sort through the mysteries of life, not in a maniacal way (hopefully, if so you may need medication) but in a completely humane and personally relatable way, that is meant to bring compassion and a lightness of heart that could soften even the most hostile of environments? Alas, it is more for my own good. What are the words to that song from Anna Nalick, "2 am and I'm still awake writing a song and if I get it all down on paper it's no longer inside of me threatening the life it belongs to" (or something like that) I have found an outlet now, and other than the food that I love to experiment with and make, it's this new opportunity to write that has been most satisfying.
     And with that, I am going to add some completely satisfying dinner recipes for you to enjoy. While I am not guaranteeing that they are very healthy or nutritious in terms of fat and calories much less veggie content, they most certainly are gratifying comfort foods that will satiate your pallet, appease your appetite, and fortify any sullen spirit.


     Chicken Alfredo con Broccoli


1 pint heavy cream of whole milk
1/2 c butter + a little more for the pan 
1/2-3/4 c parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic powder or more if desired
salt and pepper to taste, other seasonings for chicken
8 oz fettucini noodles cooked and drained
4 chicken breasts
1 crown broccoli or steamer bag of broccoli
olive oil for pan


Heat saute pan over med-high. Add a little olive oil and butter to coat pan. Cook chicken breasts with a little garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper (or other desired seasonings) for about 3-4 minutes per side til no longer pink. Drain pan and set chicken aside to rest (this is major, don't cut it up for at least 5 minutes). Combine butter and cream. Simmer til melted, add parmesan and garlic, and simmer for another 15-20 over low. While simmering, cook and salt broccoli in a saucepan of shallow water over med. heat til soft (or use those fantastically economical and time saving steamer bags of broccoli from Birds Eye in the microwave, awe-some). Make sure you cook the fettucini in the meantime. Chunk chicken into bite-sized pieces. Toss pasts lightly with sauce, chicken bites and broccoli. Serve Hot, with extra parmesan if desired. Tip* a little cream cheese added to the sauce will thicken and add more substance to the alfredo.


     Easy Chicken Pot Pie


1 box ready crust with 2 pie crusts (or your own recipe)
1 can cream of mushroom and 1 can cream of chicken soup (opt for 99% fat free)
any left over mixed veggies (also a great use for Birds Eye steamer mixed veggies)
Optional; 1 diced potato and onion, any addt'l mushrooms
1 can chicken or leftover cooked chicken
salt and pepper to taste


Cook potato and onion in a saute pan til soft. Add mushroom if using, chicken and vegetables. Heat through, and add cans of soup and mix thoroughly. Place a pie crust in a 9'' pie pan, prick the bottom a couple times. Add the mixture, place addt'l crust on top (or fill the pie plate without a crust and only top with a crust to save on calories) Bake at 425^ for about 20 min or til crust is golden brown. Let rest a few minutes if you can! Kids love this topped with cheese


     Sweet and Quick Turkey Meatloaf


1 lb ground turkey
1/2-1 c pureed leftover veggies (usually tomato, broccoli, mixed veggies, whatever)
1/4 - 1/2 c diced onion (sometimes I blend this as well for ease)
1 egg
crushed saltines or breadcrumbs (leftover rice pureed as well works here! or even oats, basically whatever type of grain you have on hand to absorb the juices/fat)
spices to taste (basil, onion, garlic, salt, pepper etc)
about 1 tbsp ketchup plus 2 tbsp ketchup
brown sugar
BBQ sauce


Preheat oven to 375^. Mix (by hand is a little easier) all above ingredients in a large bowl except the 2 tbsp of ketchup and brown sugar. Add to a lightly sprayed large loaf pan (not the little ones!) Mix ketchup and brown sugar and add to the top of the meatloaf. Poke a couple of times with a knife. Bake at 375^ for about and hour til meat is no longer pink. If your family does not like the ketchup kind (my hubby doesn't) then omit ketchup topping. We just leave a little uncovered and make a smidge of chicken gravy on the side for him, and even the kids for dipping. 


      Paula Deen's Baked French Toast Casserole (from the Food Network)



  • 1 loaf French bread (13 to 16 ounces)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Dash salt
  • Praline Topping, recipe follows
  • Maple syrup

Directions

Slice French bread into 20 slices, 1-inch each. (Use any extra bread for garlic toast or bread crumbs). Arrange slices in a generously buttered 9 by 13-inch flat baking dish in 2 rows, overlapping the slices. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and beat with a rotary beater or whisk until blended but not too bubbly. Pour mixture over the bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly with the milk-egg mixture. Spoon some of the mixture in between the slices. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Spread Praline Topping evenly over the bread and bake for 40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden. Serve with maple syrup.

Praline Topping:

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and blend well. Makes enough for Baked French Toast Casserole.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Decisions Decisions Decisions

    Whew, and what a weekend too! So I haven't been on lately to grace you with my most recent exploits in healthy cooking or soap-box diatribes in child rearing or how one should run their family. I guess I figured I would give you a break for a while, that, and when I am coming up on big decisions or lots of family concerns I tend to close up a little. Well, at least I try to. Not many days can go by without me finding something I just need to say or share my opinion about. Ask my husband, silent treatment does not last long around here. Since I think I am always right, my purposes are served much better by stating the fact that I am right vs. quietly living it! Oh well, a fault, and hopefully a blessing I will learn to develop over time. Suffice it to say, this is a busy time for our family. We went out of town and up to Oakland for most of the weekend to visit with some family. While there, we were given the opportunity to attend a temple for our church without our children and spend some time reflecting on our current choices, life direction, family needs (you know, the little stuff!) We felt strongly that the time has come to settle down more. I know, how much more settled can I get right? I mean I got married, started having children, and never did quite get that amazing high powered business career or ultra impressive specialist doctorate. NO, the settling I am referring to is the "no moving" for anything less than 2 years kind of settling. Since my hubby is in the military, this seemed like a reasonable goal, as he has four different places to attend for training this year alone, not including Utah where we are supposed to end up temporarily while he finishes his training. The original plan was to follow him around, live a little more ghetto style (anyone who has done this recently knows what I mean, and when you have kids, bringing only the very bare necessities in the back of a 8 x 8 trailer definitely constitutes as ghetto in my book, complete with cheap apartments and steering wheel club locks, yeah you remember those, while you hope your car doesn't get stolen!) The current plan (and this is also not including all the in betweens we have been to and back, our parents got to hear all of those schemes day in and day out for the last 3 weeks!) is to head up to Utah right after the hubs graduation here from language school, visit with family and get help with little ones while we search for a house. If we find one, then we start the buying process. The hubs goes on to Texas for the first part of training, and we hang around leeching off family in Utah, Denver, and the like while we wait for the house to close. Doesn't seem like much of a big deal now looking back, but there were a lot of sleepless nights over needlessly separating our family, how to use our money, and what would be best for the rugrats. We seem to have made it, at least to a decision point and although all the little steps, worries, and concerns are not yet ironed out, we have the faith to go forward and act now. A big leap from two crippling weeks ago (or even two crippling days ago!) And while there was not much by way of creative cooking this weekend, I have a couple of comfort food favorite recipes I will share with you. Enjoy, and be prepared for a potentially adventurous (or not!) next couple of weeks as we pack, vacation, and start a new segment of our life!

     Easy Chicken Saute


5-8 frozen chicken tenderloins (or more depending on number of people eating)
2 cups chopped veggies of choice (for example carrots, potatoes, butternut squash, sweet potato, beets, zucchini, green beans; usually the kind that you would roast)
1/2 -1 diced onion
2-3 Tbsp olive oil for the pan
favorite seasonings


Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. Add chicken tenders, and all veggies on top. Season with favorite seasoning (we really like the Mrs. Dash Italian or Garlic and Herb blend) salt and pepper etc. Cover, and check every 3 minutes or so turning chicken and giving vegetables time on the bottom too. Dish is done when chicken is no longer pink in the center and veggies are tender, usually about 15 min. Serve with a green salad.




     Sweet and Sour Pork 
(I realized this was more originally one of my hubby's brother's recipes, so I am going to check with him to make sure I can share our version of it, check back soon!)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Simple Life

     I have decided to take this moment to tribute my simple life. No, not the kind where Paris Hilton discovers that Walmart has tons of 5 and 10$ shoes and cheap clothes because they have been spoiled (or not?) with hundred dollar socks and toilet paper for all these years. This is the kind of simplicity like, "Yeah we have a Wii now, but my kids are not junkies and we are still a family even with out it", or "So what if we don't have a lot of toys to play with, mine do fine with paper bags or boxes, and some markers and glue, or even just books!" I am just very appreciative at this time that guess what, I am the mom, and I can run my home how I like, not my kids run me! (I should re-phrase that as the only running I do right now, is get run ragged!) On a completely serious note, I have often wondered, would I even be able to handle much money if I ever had more than what we have now. We are always comfortable, I can always experiment with new foods and yummy things, but within limits as we have a budget and need to practice self control. And most days, it's ok since I like to cook, and on days that it isn't, I have my husband do it, we can go out, or just eat cereal! I like the rhythm we have going, so my floor may not always be clean but my kids are happy and fed, and most times not too whiny! And while some people may joy over a nice Gucci or Prada purse, my mommy carpet bag filled with diapers, wipes, toys and snacks suits me fine. (I will just occasionally empty some of those goods before a long night out!)  Not that there is anything wrong with nice things, believe me I look forward to the day that my couch is in one piece, and not covered in old kid stains or smelling of wet dog or wet who knows what (no I am not dirty either!) It will be nice when my bedroom furniture matches and is even the kind I would like to buy, not just end up with because it is cheap if not free. I still look forward to the day when a big fat house with chickens and goats in the backyard, complete with fruit trees and a small veggie garden is what we have to call home. Where my kids know how to dig a hole and really get dirty, because they helped their dad dig a well at the neighbor's and they start each morning with feeding the chickens and collecting eggs. It's not a farm, just a sustainable piece of something that gives us a little more to work for than get handed each day. And while we have to go to the store for most everything still because the last time I tried to make fruit leather on the dehydrator let's just say it was no longer recognizable (since I am still learning!) someday I will truly get to bask in the simplicity of fresh cage-free eggs and family canning parties, from my very own raspberry bushes.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

P.S.!

     Dr. G has an amazing pumpkin soup recipe that is not on her recipe website (the "You are what you eat" site) so I am going to add it because the asparagus makes it better than any pumpkin soup I have ever had!

     Hemp Pumpkin Soup


1 pumpkin peeled, deseeded and cut into 3-4 inch pieces
1 bunch of asparagus roughly chopped (save tips for a salad)
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3-4 inch pieces
3 carrots
1-2 onions depending on what you can stand (I reduced the amount, she used 6)
1 veggies stock cube
1 garlic clove minced
2 tbsp crushed coriander seed, coriander powder or fresh chopped coriander
2 tbsp hemp and pumpkin seeds


Bring a large pan with 1 liter water to boil, then add pumpkin, asparagus, sweet potato, carrot, onion and stock cube, and garlic (and coriander if not fresh). Bring back to boil, then lower heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes til veggies are tender when pierced with a knife. Remove from heat and add fresh coriander. Cool slightly and blend til desired consistency. Reheat gently if desired, and serve in warmed bowls with seeds to garnish. Also, if you only have a small pumpkin, some butternut squash and sweet potato substitute nicely!

Pumpkin is the Word of the Day

     So dinner last night was no less than amazing considering the lack of time or ingredients, thanks to Gary of course. I whipped up some kind of tortilla soup (one that comes with the recipe book, but because I didn't have all the ingredients I improvised) and it took like 2 minutes to make. We included some leftover beans and rice and the kids went wild over getting to eat tortilla chips for dinner; dippy style. Who knew?
     Back to the real exciting crux of this post however...pumpkin. It is on my top 10 list of top 10 favorite foods (Hey at least I condensed my favorites down to 10 top 10 lists ok?!) It is amazingly versatile, creating  everything from soup to pie and back again with muffins and cookies. This mornings triumph was a fantastically filling batch of Honey-Grain Pumpkin Muffins that did not last past breakfast. Of course I wasn't surprised though, as I may or may not have added mini chocolate chips to the top of a few of those decadent breakfast treats, in hope of a pre-pick-me-up for the day (at least for me!) Below I have included some recipes for you to try your hand at. Notice the pumpkin bean cookies. It may sound weird but when you are trying to skip on fat and need a quick treat, nothing beats a gooey pumpkin chocolate chip cookie fresh from the oven. My friend gave me the idea years ago when she told me you can substitute pureed beans for butter in most recipes. Well, I went on some crazy bean cooking kick, and while my white bean pie crusts were not much of a success, the pumpkin cookies have been off the charts and provided many a surprising smile for a couple of years now. Not that it would be a problem, but be sure to eat them all within the first day or two, as they are the most fresh and yummy right away!

     Honey-Grain Pumpkin Muffins

1/2 c.  buttermilk (other milk would probably work fine here, but buttermilk was best)
1 c. whole grain hot cereal (like Hodson's Mill Flax N Oat, just plain oats would probably work great here too only make sure the oats are blended a little more fine to create more of a flour)
1 c. unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 c. honey
1/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1/3 c. canola oil
1 c. canned pumpkin
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
optional mini chocolate chips for the top

Preheat oven to 375^. Mix the first two ingredients and let sit for about 5 minutes. Then add remaining dry ingredients, mix well and add remaining wet ingredients mixing thoroughly. Fill muffin cups completely and sprinkle with optional choc. chips before baking for 20 min. Makes 12 very dense and filling yummy muffins.


     Pumpkin "Bean" Cookies

2 1/4 c. unbleached all purpose flour (or half white half whole wheat)
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 c. white beans (about 1 15 oz. can)
3/4 c. to 1 c. honey
1 15 oz. can pumpkin
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 c mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375^. Puree beans until NO chunks, add honey and cream well. Add pumpkin, vanilla, and eggs, mix well. Add flour, baking soda & powder and spice. Mix again, stir in choc. chips. Drop by rounded tablespoon on lightly sprayed cookie sheet and bake for about 10-15 min (check after 10, can be soft then let set out of oven if lightly browned)

     Crustless Pumpkin Pie 
(although this is typically a holiday treat, this recipe is such an easy favorite in our house, we do it all the time, including for snacks!)

1 1/2 c sugar
4 eggs
4 tbsp butter soft
2 13 oz cans evaporated milk
1 tsp salt
1 c. Bisquick baking mix 
2 15. oz can pumpkin (about 4 cups fresh, 1 29oz can works too)
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350^. Spray 2 large pie plates. Beat all the ingredients well, add to pans and bake til golden or knife comes out clean. Can even serve with just a glass of milk and it is pretty much amazing. 

     Mom's Jumbo Batch Pumpkin Cookies 
(another old time family favorite, the dough refrigerates easy for making some whenever you want. makes a HUGE batch, you can cut it in half for easier use too)

10 c. whole wheat flour
4 c. oats
3 c. butter
4 c. sugar and brown sugar (yes that is 4 c each!)
4 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp salt
1 29 oz can pumpkin 
2 bag chocolate chips

Hey, this may be big, but we lived in a house of 5 kids, and 2 growing boys. Make these ahead and freeze them, they even seemed to taste better! Mix all the ingredients, and bake at 350^ for about 15 min.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

This Time it is 5 min. to Five

     Help! I am doing a food blog, and have nothing to blog about today! It is five minutes til, I am not even sure what to make for dinner, the kids are again covered in mud (it might only be dirt since it hasn't rained in what, 3 days?) and time is ticking away. I did get to talk to my sister several times today as she is back in country from Iraq and we are planning vacation, yay! Now it is well after 5 because the kids were screaming and trying to get on the trampoline (ok for the 4 and 3 year old, not the 22 month old). Wish me luck!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Just Another Manic Monday

     I don't have much for you today. It is monday, so I actually have been quite proactive in terms of home, food, kids etc. I had dinner planned this morning, and even braved Costco with all three this afternoon even after I had run my youngest two ragged between my typical monday cleaning mania and all other errands, including the bank.  I guess that is my lot for now. We have spent days, weeks even going over and re-hashing out what is to become of our little crew after Feb 25th, since my hubby graduates military language training that day, we sign out of our house, and better have some sort of plan in order as it is currently proposed (not set, just proposed) that the movers should actually be here a few days before the 25th. The wheels are in motion, somehow we just seem to have missed the bus. Oh well, it looked a little crowded anyway. We'll wait for the next one. On that adventurous note, here is a perfectly delightful sort of caribbean jerk style Better Homes and Gardens inspired marinated salmon that was designed (and I am quite sure of this) to melt all the Monday doldrums and craziness away (try saying that 3 times fast!) You can use it on any type of meat, but then, it wouldn't be quite as adventurous would it?!

     Herbed Adobo Salmon Fillets 


2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp orange juice
2 Tbsp snipped FRESH cilantro (dried works, but fresh is best!)
1 Tbsp red wine or cider vinegar
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried, crushed oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 cloves fresh minced garlic
4-6 salmon fillets (depending on size, try 4-6oz each and this should be plenty for 6)


Mix all above ingredients in a gallon ziploc bag or a fairly large shallow dish. Add salmon fillets, make sure they are good and covered. Marinate for at least 1 hour (can be done the night before though, turning occasionally) These cook the best on a grill for about 3-4 min per side, til the salmon flakes with a fork. If no grill, try the oven for 8-10 or so (may need longer with more fillets!) at 375^. Also works pan sauteed (that is my next choice if there is no BBQ option). Heat about 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large pan til hot, place salmon in. Do not crowd, cook for about 3-4 min per side til fish flakes (more minutes if fish is over 1/2 inch thick). Serve with baked sweet potatoes or wild rice, salad and a yummy steamed veggie favorite.

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