Yum Peaceful Cooking: January 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Banana Blueberry Muffins

I know I've mentioned before how my youngest daughter likes to eat "healthy". She's on a "no dessert" kick right now so I thought I'd make her some blueberry muffins that do not contain sugar. The recipe was for bread, but put them in those mini cupcake pans and made them into muffins instead. I personally do not like the taste of whole grains and whole wheat and honey sweetened things....but these weren't half bad. (oh...and I do apologize for my poor quality pictures..but I never took a photography class, which is most likely obvious. Either that or I failed! LOL)

1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 eggs
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour 
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup old fashioned oats, uncooked
1 cup blueberries
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350'

Combine oil, honey and eggs in a food processor. Beat in bananas; set aside

In a small bowl mix flour, baking soda and salt. Add oats. Carefully stir in blueberries and nuts. Add to banana mixture., stirring just until moistened.

Line muffin pan with paper cups or spray with nonstick cooking spray and fill 2/3 full with batter. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Crispy Lemon Chicken with Fried Rice

I've been trying to get this recipe right ever since "Simply Chicken" was sold, renamed and revamped, several years ago. Each time I think I'm close, I end up making a slight change the next time and it's even better. This time was no different. It's hit the spot perfectly, along with some fried rice and simple steamed vegetables. This recipe made 6 chicken thighs and there's only 2 left (only  3 of us ate tonight) and all the rice is gone. The veggies weren't a great culinary achievement but I wish the family ate more veggies.
Here's what I did for the chicken:

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, or 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
2/3 cup sour cream
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
essence from 2 lemons (save the lemons to squeeze over the chicken when served)
Flour (I don't have an exact measurement, but its not all that important)
Panko crumbs (a lot)

Combine sour cream, lemon juice and lemon essence. Add enough flour to make mixture the consistency of thin pancake batter. Dip the chicken into the batter, then cover with panko crumbs. Heat enough oil in a hot pan to cover the bottom with about 1/8" of oil. Add more as needed. Fry chicken until golden brown and thoroughly cooked (the amount of time will depend on what cuts of chicken you use.)

The fried rice recipe came from my old Betty Crocker Cookbook, with a couple of minor changes:

1 small onion, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped green pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups cooked rice (a little on the dry side is best)
1 garlic clove, chopped
4 oz sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 eggs, beaten

Cook and stir onion and green pepper in oil in 10" skillet until onion is tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in rice, mushrooms, garlic and soy sauce. Cover over low heat, stirring frequently, 5 - 7 minutes. Stir in eggs (I push everything to the sides to made an opening in the center to cook the eggs more solidly. You may need to add a bit more oil if the pan is on the dry side). Cook and stir until eggs are done, 4 - 5 minutes longer.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Turkey Hash with a Mexican Flair

Don't you just love it when you try a new recipe and it turns out even better than you expected? Anyway, one of my daughters is very health conscious. Not sure where she got it, cuz it sure wasn't from me!! Anyway, I try to accommodate her choices sometimes. I say sometimes because if it were up to her, we would be eating all organic, all free range and no sugar no where. We can't afford organic and free range. And as far as the sugar goes, I'd probably go into detox shock if I omitted that from my diet...LOL. I have to wonder why organic is so much more expensive. You'd think it would be less expensive since the farmer isn't buying all those pesticides.

Soo...In my quest to fit healthy food into our life style without going overboard on the budget and still keeping everyone else happy with the meals, I try to use ground turkey instead of ground beef more often. I have found that ground turkey has less flavor than beef and requires more seasonings. It also doesn't get that nice dark brown that adds flavor to ground beef...I have to learn to be a bit heavy handed when it comes to adding spices to my meals that cross over to the turkey side.

Btw...this is originally a Guy Fieri recipe that I made some minor adjustments to. If you want to see how the original recipe is suppose to be...check it out: Turkey Hash

Ok, when I came across the Turkey Hash recipe I was really excited. Something about fried potatoes really gets my taste buds going. When I started cooking everything I realized the turkey was going to very bland and I started dumping stuff in the pan. What I ended up with was soooo good! I don't really have exact measurements for a couple of the spices, sorry. It's not like baking so it really is just a matter of personal taste buds, ya know?

3 ounces olive oil
1 red onion, diced
1/2 each red, green and yellow bell pepper, julienne
6 oz sliced mushrooms
1 jalapeno, diced, seeds removed (unless you like it hotter)
1 lb ground turkey
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 tsp or so poultry seasoning
1 tsp or so cumin
1 lb red potatoes thinly sliced
1 tbs butter, cubed
1/2 cup roma tomatoes, diced
handful of chopped cilantro
handful of crumbled queso fresco
sliced avocado
lime slices

In large saute pan, add 1 oz olive oil, onions, peppers, jalapeno and mushrooms and saute until translucent. Remove veggies and set aside.

Add turkey to the pan and brown (you may need to add a little more oil as the turkey is pretty "dry"). Season with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and cumin. If you find there's a lot of liquid in the pan, scoop some of it out with a spoon.

Add veggies to turkey and heat through. mmmm....the aroma is heavenly!

While turkey is browning....in a separate pan, add 2 oz of oil, potatoes, dot with butter and season with salt and pepper. Fry until crispy, covering pan with a lid for the first 10 minutes to get the potatoes to cook. Try not to turn the potatoes too much, you don't want them to break up and get mushy.

On a serving plate, layer the turkey mixture on top of the crispy potatoes. Top with tomatoes, avocado, queso fresco and cilantro. Squeeze some fresh lime juice over everything.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday's Fast Feast

This could be on Rachael Ray's 30 Minutes meals no problem! Fast, easy and tasty. No ones home tonight, why spend hours in the kitchen just for me? Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of times when I've done just that, but tonight I'm more in the mood for a good movie or chatting with some good friends. 

I got the recipe from my BakeSpace buddy, Michele. She has a great blog dedicated to her Italian grandmother. If you get a chance, check out her blog.....it's really cool. This recipe is posted in her Pasta section. The only thing I didn't have were the black olives....darn. Her blog is here: http://myitaliangrandmother.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


There's nothing like a homemade taco. It just hits the spots. I don't think I've ever met someone who didn't like tacos. Please!!!! Don't buy those pre-cooked taco shells...those things are (in my opinion) pretty nasty tasting. I don't make my tortillas from scratch (might be a fun thing to do some day) but I do deep fry them. For me the thin corn tortillas work best. 

I had a few tortillas leftover so I cut them into triangles, fried them up as well (a bit longer than I do the taco shells) and man, they put those mexican chain restaurant style chips to shame. Well worth the effort, let me tell you!!

Other than the shells, the most important part of the taco is the meat. I use a recipe that I got from my 20 yr old Betty Crocker cookbook. It's easy and tastes great. You use 1 lb of ground beef, chopped onion...brown it all up. Toss in 2 TBS of chili powder, a chopped garlic clove, 1 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of cumin....mix that all up and sprinkle it over the meat. Then pour in 3/4 cup of water. Lower the heat and let it simmer until the liquid has reduced and thickened....and thats it. Chop up your favorite taco stuff, shred some cheddar cheese (and crumble up some queso fresco if you can get it) and enjoy! yum yum yum!!!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pizza, Pizza, Pizza!!!

A good day is a day spent in the kitchen and it was a good day! I love a challenge so I took one today. I've made homemade pizza before but I've always used the pre-made, pre-cooked pizza dough from the grocery store...and was never really impressed. I found a couple of recipes for pizza dough and thought I'd try them out. 

Most of my experience with yeast has been with bread machines. I do have a great recipe for no knead bread that uses yeast, but that's another blog for another time. When making pizza you add the yeast to water and once it foams, you add the flour. I discovered, through trial and error that there's a bit more to it than that. I made two kinds of dough. One was a regular, all purpose pizza dough from a recipe I found on a blog and the other was for a whole wheat pizza dough that I found in a Martha Stewart Everyday Food magazine. I started off by making the all purpose pizza dough because it took longer to rise. It's a good thing I did because out of the two of them, it was the one with the correct instructions, as follows:

1 package of active dry yeast (comes out to 2 1/2 tsp)
3 cups of all purose flour
1/2 TBS honey 
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup warm water (about 110 - 115 degrees)

Mix the honey and the water together. Add the yeast. Let sit for about 10 minutes, until it foams. Add salt and oil and give it a quick stir. Add 1 cup of flour and mix well. If you want to add some spices, now is the time. Add the rest of the flour. Mix together with a wooden spoon or by hand. If it's too wet, add a bit of flour (1 TBS at a time) until its dry enough. If it's too dry, add a bit of water (1 TBS at a time) until its right. Turn out onto a well floured surface and knead for a few minutes (1 -5). Form the dough into a ball and put into a large oiled bowl. Cover with a clean cloth and let it rise in a warm area until it has doubled in size (about 35 - 45 minutes). Punch down and let it rise again until it has doubled in size (about 1 - 1.5 hrs). Punch it down. Turn it onto a well floured surface and prepare your dough for pizza. I divided it up into 4 balls and made individual sized pizzas.

Now, for Martha's Whole Wheat Pizza Dough recipe.... The only issue I had with it was the instructions. The instructions only said to mix the warm water and yeast together and let it sit until foam appeared. My first batch was foamless so I tossed it and tried again thinking I had the water temperature wrong. Still no foam. Again I tossed it and tried again. No foam. By this time I figured I needed to do  some research and see what the problem was. This is where the internet really comes in handy!!! Apparently the yeast needs sugar or honey to feed upon in order to create that foam. There is sugar in the ingredients for Martha's recipe, so why didn't they instruct their readers to add the sugar to the water??? Once I added the sugar...the yeast mixture foamed beautifully! Here's how the recipe goes (correctly!!)

1.5 cups warm water (110 - 115 degrees)
2 packets active dry yeast (3 tsps)
1/4 cup olive oil (I actually used 1/3 cup)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tsp salt
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour

Place water in a large bowl, mix in sugar and yeast. Let stand until foamy (about 5 - 15 minutes)
Whisk in oil and salt. Stir in flour with a wooden spoon until dough forms (I first stirred in about 1.5 cups of the flour then added the remaining flour). Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl; brush the top of the dough with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until dough as doubled in size, about 1 hour. Turn dough onto a well floured surface. With floured hands, knead until smooth, about 15 seconds. Divide into balls.
Besides the awesome flavor of a homemade pizza dough, you get to put whatever you want on your pizza. You can even make individual sized pizzas and let everyone in your household make their own, just the way they like it. I chopped and shredded everything I could think of to give my family what they wanted. There was shredded chicken, pepperoni, sliced tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, olives, onions, several kinds of cheese, sliced garlic, chopped basil, tomato sauce, alfredo sauce, pesto sauce, bbq sauce, fresh spinach. I forgot to get ham and pineapple. Guess I can't think of everything. 

Sooo......the first pizza shown at the top was made by my daughters friend. She didn't want any of the more unusual stuff on it...I guess you'd call her a purest. It had tomato sauce, cheese and pepperonis. The second picture is one of my daughters makings, using the whole wheat dough. Leave it to a teenage girl to make her pizza in the shape of a heart!!! LOL. I don't like tomato sauce on my pizza. I know...how weird is that?! If you've ever eaten at a California Pizza Kitchen, you may have had something like this first one. It had alfred sauce, shredded chicken, red onions, cheese and bbq sauce on it. YUM!!! My second pizza had the alfred sauce, cheese, mushrooms, sliced garlic and spinach. Loved it!!

I loved pizza when I was a kid (what kid doesn't!) but when I stopped liking the tomato sauce on it, I lost my taste for it. With the alfredo sauce, I have re-found my love for pizza! Oh, and I prefer my crust thin. 

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cherry Crunch

Probably one of my most requested desserts ever. Nothing fancy but it tastes great! My husbands grandmother gave me the recipe years ago. I have no idea where she got it but I'm glad she passed it down. Over the years I have tried other flavors with it such as blueberries and raspberries. Raspberries are usually what I use now when making it.

My oldest daughter played basketball for about 8 years. The girls on the team were like my own children. I feel like I have kids of every race out there. I love it! They all call me mom :). "Raspberry" Crunch became the preferred dessert of the high school basketball team. So much so that it was hijacked one year by the varsity girls during a potluck team dinner. I had it on the table with all the other desserts that were brought but the girls took the whole thing to their table, along with a dozen spoons and were eating it straight out of the pan!! Talk about a compliment!! Most of these girls have graduated and are off to college but when I talk to them, they always request some. One of the girls came home for the weekend and has been bugging me for over a month for Raspberry Crunch but I couldn't find any raspberry pie filling in the store so this time I used blueberries. She came over for lunch today and it's half gone already.

If you want to make your kids smile, make this simple dessert for them.

Cherry Crunch

1 package of while deluxe cake mix (I've used yellow before and it was just fine)
1 can of cherry pie filling (or raspberry or blueberry or what ever your favorite pie filling happens to be)
1 tsp lemon juice (of course fresh is best)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I usually use pecans)
1/2 cup melted butter

Spread the pie filling in the bottom of a 9' square pan. Sprinkle the filling with the lemon juice. Combine the cake mix, nuts and melted butter. Sprinkle evenly over the pie filling. Bake in a preheated 350' oven for about 40-50 minutes, until golden brown. ENJOY!!!

Garlic Pepper Chicken - Fast Favorite

Last nights dinner isn't worth mentioning. I had tried a new "healthy" recipe that was just...eh. Sooo....tonights dinner is one of my favorites ,and its quick and easy! I call it Garlic Pepper Chicken. There use to be a mom and pop restaurant near my old work that made an incredible Garlic Chicken meal. When the place sold, the meal left with the chef. She told me how to make it but as soon as the ingredient MSG was mentioned, my mind rejected the recipe and I never remembered it. As the years went by, I really missed it so I came up with my own version thats not quite the same but it works.

If you love garlic and like it hot....then you might want to try this out.

Garlic Pepper Chicken
6 - boneless skinless chicken thighs (4 boneless skinless chicken breasts will work but it won't be as tender)
1 TBS garlic powder (one of the few times I use garlic powder)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne or
red pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1 TBS olive oil
1 TBS butter
1 cup chicken broth

Cut the chicken into tiny strips about the size of your pinkie finger. Mix together the dry ingredients and sprinkle over the chicken, mixing well so that all the chicken is evenly coated.

Heat up the butter and olive in a pan, making sure the pan gets nice and hot but don't brown your butter. You want the pan hot so that the chicken gets nicely browned when cooked. Add the chicken and brown, turning once.

Add the chicken broth and scrape up all the brown crunchies off the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat down and let the chicken broth reduce by about half. Serve over white rice. One of the best parts is when the rice absorbs some of those juices.

Slight Alteration: I've started increasing the amount of chicken broth added to 1 1/2 cups. More juices to go around......yum

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Roasted Turkey Soup

Last nights dinner was just something I threw together. I had some boneless skinless chicken breast that I sliced up. I infused some olive oil with garlic then cooked the chicken until mostly done; removed from the pan. I then added sliced mushrooms and onions and sauteed until the mushrooms just began to release their juices and at that time I returned the chicken to the pan. Added a bit of salt and pepper, and some chicken broth and let that reduce until it was almost gone. I had some fettucini left over from the other night that I heated up and then put some pesto in that. The best part was the artichokes. I love artichokes. I boiled 2 of them until tender. I found a website dedicated just to artichokes and saw some recipes for dip. I usually use melted garlic butter and / or some mayonnaise (separate bowls). One of the dips on this site was for pesto mayo. I had never thought about having pesto with my artichokes. It was really good and a nice change. I did put the plain mayo out as well as some melted butter for everyone else incase they didn't care for the pesto blend. Of course my husband wouldn't even TRY the new dip. Whaaaaaaaatever. His loss.

I'm not feeling motivated today. I think stress does that to you. I have some Turkey Soup that I made a while back in the freezer that I plan on defrosting for tonight's meal. Turkey Soup is really easy but can be time consuming. After you eat a turkey, save all the bones and boil them in seasoned water. I just dump whatever seasonings sound / smell good at the time...salt, pepper, garlic (of course) cumin, coriander, parsley, onions...etc. Once that has cooked for a few hours, let it cool then strain all the stuff. Set it in the refrigerator over night so that you can remove the fat. From what I hear, leaving the fat in will dilute the flavor of the broth. For me, a good soup is all about the broth. What's the point if it tastes like water??? What you end up with is a very rich, gel like broth.  The next day, heat up your broth and let it cook down a bit before you add all your veggies and maybe a handful of barley. After the veggies have cooked, add some chopped up leftover Turkey....voila! A very tasty, hearty soup. Now, if you want to add even more flavor to the soup, (and this is what I usually do) then you need to roast the carcass before you boil it. The aroma alone reminds one of Thanksgiving all over again. Imagine this with a warm rustic loaf of home made bread! My mouth is watering. I wish I had thought of this last night so I could have that loaf of bread ready. Damn. Well then, it will just have to be some Italian bread I have stashed in the freezer. :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Oven baked Ribs

I made bbq ribs in the oven tonight for the first time ever. They turned out so tender and juicy and messy and all those good things that ribs are suppose to be. I made a simple rub for the ribs that included brown sugar, paprika, onion powder, dried mustard, chili powder and a few other ingredients that I can't remember off the top of my head. I got a large pan and filled it halfway with water then place a rack over the top. The ribs were set on the rack, tightly covered with tin foil then placed in a 225' oven for about 4 hours. At that point I removed the foil and slathered bbq sauce all over them and put the pan back in the oven for another hour. OMG!! Fantastic! (sorry I don't have a picture but they just looked like all those other ribs with bbq sauce on them!)

To accompany the ribs I made some corn and what's called Raw Fries. Very simple recipe...you peel about 5 or 6. medium potatoes. Thinly slice them and an onion. Fry it all in a pan with butter and oil, salt and pepper. Oh...cover the pan for the first 15 or 20 mins then remove the lid and continue cooking until browned...flipping once. I've been making these potatoes occasionally for about 15 years. Its one of my husbands favorites. I figured...ribs, favorite potatoes...I'm batting 1000. He didn't eat until about 8:00 pm. No biggy. I asked him how the ribs were (new recipe...need an opinion. my youngest daughter won't eat them because they aren't "healthy", my oldest is at work). His response was...."They're ok...they're ribs" (shrug). During the summer when he bbq'd ribs in foil directly on the hot coals in the grill for only 30 minutes, he thought ribs were great!! (btw, which ever idiot told him about THAT method needs to be smacked upside the head....seriously) Next he looked at the potatoes and proceeded to comment..."We're having hash browns with them??" huh? I'm ready to bang my head against the wall now. He said he had no idea what potatoes I had made and doesn't remember ever eating them before. Did he have a frontal lobotomy when I wasn't looking? WTF?!! 

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Gringo Margarita

Dinner tonight is something to look forward to. There's a local mexican market that sells "marinated chicken steaks". I wish I knew what they used cuz its really good. I'm just going to chop up these "steaks" (which happen to be the leg and thigh meat, cut off the bone but still all connected) and saute them in olive oil. I'll make a simple spanish rice which is basically white rice cooked in tomato sauce and water. Then I have this really nice recipe for veggies...it's called Calabacitas. Very easy to make and full of fabulous flavor.

2 tablespoons oil
1 garlic clove (more if you're a garlic lover)
1 med onion chopped or sliced
4 med. zucchini chopped or sliced
1 12oz can of corn, drained (I usually use frozen corn)
1 4oz can diced green chilies or 2 fresh peeled chilies
Salt to taste
1/2 cup grated cheddar, jack or longhorn cheese

In a large heavy skillet, saute the onion, garlic and zucchini in oil. Discard the garlic. (ummm....why? I leave it in), Mix in corn, chopped chilies and salt. Cover tightly and heat through. Mix in cheese and serve. 

I don't always go by the book. I've added mushrooms, tomatoes, yellow squash to this mix. If you're really feeling it...roast a bell pepper, chop that up and toss it in....wow! One of my daughters doesn't like cheese, so I don't add that until its on each persons plate. I also like to garnish with Ranchero Queso Fresco and chopped cilantro. Pile it all on a warm tortilla and enjoy. 

Btw, my husband is no longer on his "hunger strike". It's amazing what sex can accomplish. I wonder how many wars it has stopped. And how many wars it has caused. Anyways, I'll be feeding the entire household tonight. As I did for lunch. I heated up frozen buffalo wings (gag), frozen curly fries and made some cheeseburgers on my "nifty" old fashioned grill pan (smoked out the kitchen...again). My daughter had a few friends over so they all ate as well. Good news.....green beans, black eyed peas and cole slaw leftovers are all gone! whew. 

Now...I did mention gringo margarita's didn't I? The only thing that this margarita has in common with the traditional margarita is the tequila. I'd be surprised if you found anyone related to someone south of the border making these babies. Most call them beer margaritas. I like to think of them as sparkling margaritas. But you can't get any more gringo than this when making a margarita. Funny thing is, one of my sisters (who lives in Alabama) gave me this recipe. So maybe you can call it a redneck margarita!!!

12 oz beer
12 oz sprite
12 oz frozen limeade concentrate
12 oz tequila

Mix together and garnish with a slice of orange and lemon. You might even want to serve it in a mason jar. Get-er done!! 

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Steaks in Winter

Living in SoCal, you'd think we would bbq year round. Thats not the case. During the winter we rarely bbq at all. My husband says he doesn't like to bbq when it's dark outside. That doesn't make sense because 9 times out of 10, he'd be out there after dark bbq'ing during the summer. I know people that bbq in the snow. Until recently we rarely had a good steak unless it was summer. I have a nifty little grill pan that's probably 30 years old (it use to be his mothers) that I've tried to use for steaks on the stove. Every time I cooked a steak on it, not only did it fill the kitchen with smoke, but I ended up over cooking the darned things. Then, one day as I was watching the Food Network I saw Giada de Laurentiis sear a couple of steaks on the stove and then pop them in the oven! OMG! I can do THAT!! duh! Guess what I made for dinner tonight?! 

I decided to heat up the black eyed peas and green beans from the other nights dinner, simple enough. Microwaves are wonderful for this sort of thing. The cole slaw was still good. I then pulled out one of my smaller cast iron pans so that I could sear my tri tip and stick it in the oven for a few minutes. Due to all the times I had messed up a steak, I've gotten used to using meat tenderizer "just in case". I can't stand trying to eat an over cooked, chewy steak. I knooow....its not the "thing" to do. If you're a diehard steak bbq'er, I mean no offense. If it helps, I only get the tenderizer without MSG. So...I sprayed the pan with a little Pam and put the pan on the stove to  heat up and sprinkled the meat with pepper and meat tenderizer. Somehow I got sidetracked and next thing I knew the pan was over heated and the Pam was smoking like a chimney. I turned on the fan over the stove, opened the front door and the kitchen window and proceeded to clean the pan and start over. Meanwhile one of my cats started meowing like crazy. He wouldn't shut up. He kept looking towards the kitchen and howling. The poor thing looked truly concerned. This continued until all the smoke had cleared up. During that time he hung out by the front door with my other cat. It wasn't the first time I'd smoked out the kitchen, so what was his problem this time? Then I got kinda freaked out (that superstitious part of me that I don't like admitting to) and kept checking my steak as it cooked in the oven to make sure it didn't go up in flames!

Towards the end of the steak cooking I noticed part of some french bread I had leftover from lunch (I tried my hand at making French Dip sandwiches) and decided that garlic bread would be a good addition to the menu. For my birthday I received "What Can I Bring? Cookbook" from my friend and had noticed a recipe for garlic bread in there called Cheesy Garlic Bread. It was awesome!! You mix together some butter, a bit of olive oil, garlic and oregano. Slice the bread into 1 - 2 inch slices, but don't go all the way through (all the slices are still connected along the bottom of the loaf). Then you spread the butter mixture on each side of each slice, sprinkle some shredded mozzarella cheese on top and plop it on the oven. mmm mmm. 

Once again, I had dinner alone. One daughter was working and the other went out with friends. Teenagers do keep themselves busy, which is fine. My husband is still on his "I'm not hungry" kick. There's no way he has gone 2 days without food. Have I mentioned that he is addicted to fast food? He can't go a weekend without it. I have no idea how often he eats it during the week while he's at work. This one time (in band camp.....:P) when we were arguing and he "wasn't hungry" he did offer to go to Del Taco to get me a burrito (?). When he handed me the bag, he failed to remove the receipt that showed 2 burrito's purchased. Its funny how he always has an errand to run around noon on the weekends. I don't think car wash facilities offer french fry as an air freshener.

Chicken and Dumplings

The first meal I remember making was my lunch back when I was in 1st or 2nd grade. My biological mother was probably hung over in bed....again. I don't remember what I put into my little metal lunch box except for the defrosted strawberries. I loved (and still do) strawberries and was hell bent on having them for lunch that day. So I put my sandwich in one of those little folding plastic sandwich bags. Then got another bag for the strawberries (zip lock had not been invented yet). On my way to school as I was walking down the sidewalk, I felt something dripping down my leg. Those little sandwich bags were not meant to contain defrosted strawberries in juice and those little metal lunch boxes certainly did not keep that juice inside the box. What a mess!
I did make cookies and pancakes and things of that nature as I grew up. One Christmas, Santa gave me my first ever cookbook....The Nancy Drew Cookbook. I still have it...some 30 years later. The one recipe that I remember using often was "99 Steps French Toast". When I was in Middle School (back then we called it Junior High School) my mom (she's really my stepmother but in my heart she is my "mom") went to work a few days a week. On those days I'd call her when I got home from school and she'd walk me through the process of cooking dinner. I know I made several different meals over the months but what I remember most was this tuna and green peas mixture that got served over toast. I had to make dinner for my parents and us four kids. Bless his heart, my dad never complained about anything I made. 

When I moved out my grandparents gave me a huge cast iron skillet (I still have to use both hands when I pick this baby up) and a Betty Crocker cookbook. Both items are well worn, well loved and of constant use in my kitchen today. Back in the 80's there was no such thing as nationwide free calling. My grandparents and parents moved to the south, forcing me to make some expensive calls to learn how to cook while on my own. My grandmother would patiently give me the ingredients over the phone and explain how to cook it. Some of the first phone call recipes I got were Chicken and Dumplings, Chicken Divan (back then I called it Chicken and Broccoli with cheese since I had no idea there was a real recipe for it) and Potato Soup. The papers I used to write these recipes down on are in a huge folder containing my hand written recipes. Over the years I've made very few changes to them. I guess you could say that most of my cooking education was done over the phone. There's a difference between helping out in the kitchen and cooking a whole meal all by yourself. When I helped out in the kitchen at home I was put on potato peeling patrol or I had to make the salad. Boring boring stuff. Oh, and never ask grandmother what you can do in the kitchen on Thanksgiving....she'll make you slowly stir the gravy....forever. 

So...here's my recipe for Chicken and Dumplings:

1 whole chicken
1 bay leaf
Garlic, salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp poultry season

Place all ingredients in a pot of water and simmer for at least an hour, or until chicken is tender. Remove chicken from pot and cool. Put broth in the fridge to cool completely. Skim fat off the top of the broth. Remove chicken from the bones and set aside.


To the broth add your choice of veggies such as:
1 -2 carrots, chopped
1 potato, pealed and diced
1/2 or so onion, chopped
1 turnip, pealed and diced
1 - 2 celery stocks, sliced

You can even add some corn, broccoli, green beans...what ever your little heart desires. Simmer until veggies are done...maybe 30 - 45  minutes. You may need to add more water and increase your seasoning during this time. Even a little bit of chicken bouillon adds some great flavor. I believe that its the flavor of the broth that makes a great soup. Sometimes I even add some italian seasoning. 

Once the veggies are done or close to it, add about 2 cups chopped chicken. (save the rest of the chicken for another meal). Bring to a boil and make your dumplings. I use the recipe thats on the Bisquick box. Add some garlic or italian seasoning to the dumplings for added flavor. Be careful....its really hot. The dumplings really hold in that heat so don't burn your mouth (I do almost every time!!).

Friday, January 2, 2009

Chicken in Garlic and Herb Sauce

I cook dinner almost every night. I don't cook breakfast often (making toast is not cooking) and I rarely "cook" lunch. I get to rack my brain for good things to put on my families plates night after night. I don't mind eating leftovers but my husband is a bit of a "snob" about it. Thats when I get to remake last nights dinner into something else tonight that he won't recognize. When it comes to preparing dinner, I have to consider what's in the cupboards, whos going to be home and who likes what. You won't believe how many times I've gone to make something (that really sounded good!!) and discovered that I'm missing one major ingredient, or didnt make enough because I didn't know one of my daughters was coming home with a friend. Frustrating. I guess thats where flexibility comes in handy and we add another veggie or bowl of salad to the menu,

Today is my husbands birthday. We can't afford to go out for a special dinner so I was going to make Chicken Piccata, which happens to be a family favorite. The only thing I needed to get from the market was a jar of capers and a few fresh lemons. When, my husband got home from work I asked him what time he wanted to eat (he likes to eat late which would give me plenty of time to run to the market). Did I mention that he and I are in a pretty big fight? Its about the financial mess that I got us into by us purchasing a business a few years ago. (one of the major things that I'm hiding in the kitchen from...so when he drags our crap in there it really pisses me off). Having filled you in on that, he told me that he wasn't hungry and probably wouldn't be eating dinner tonight (he likes to pull this little stunt when we're in an argument. After 20 years, I still have no idea what his objective is. One time he even went as far as eating something from a fast food joint, that I wasn't suppose to know about. Gotta love mind games). Anyways....There goes his special birthday dinner. We have been fighting for a couple of days now but I was going to put it aside today. Guess thats not happening. At least I don't have to go to the market now....wooo hooo. Instead of the Chicken Piccata, I'm going to make Chicken in Garlic & Herb Sauce over Fettucini. Its shamefully very similar to something Sandra Lee would make (she irritates me to no end!!!). It tastes great, but I don't like using processed foods all that often. 

Soooo, I'll get to eat dinner in peace tonight since no one is home. If you stop by, you'll find me standing over the kitchen counter with a glass of wine in one hand (my 2nd or 3rd no doubt) and a fork in the other.

Anyway...here's the recipe. Sorry I don't have a picture, but I'll add one eventually. It basically looks like any other dish of chicken in sauce over noodles..ha ha.

5 chicken thighs (boneless, skinless)
2 -3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
6 oz sliced fresh mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter
1 packet of Knorr Garlic Herb Sauce Mix
1 1/2 cups milk

Heat olive oil in skillet, season chicken with salt and pepper. (I usually cut the chicken into chunks). Cook over medium / high head until chicken is brown on both sides. Remove from skillet.
Melt butter in skillet. Saute mushrooms and garlic (don't saute the garlic until the end when the mushrooms are almost done.) Combine sauce mix with milk in  a bowl. Stir until blended. Add sauce mixture to mushrooms, stir and scrape bottom of pan to get the "crunchies" up. Return chicken to pan. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until chicken is done, turning once. 
Serve over your favorite pasta.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Southern New Years Day Meal

Happy New Year! I'm not sure what my objective here is. I'm not an experienced blogger and not a very entertaining writer either. What I am is a stressed wife and mother who uses cooking as an escape mechanism. I've always enjoyed food and cooking. I love how it brings people together. There's nothing like a family gathering, that always ends up in the kitchen, with lots of good food and good humor. Most of my family lives out of state, so I miss those gatherings a lot. My husbands family isn't close and we rarely see them, let alone eat with them. How sad is it to have family in the same town and only see them once or twice a year? Well, thats all another story. I'll stick to the cooking purpose. Since it's New Years day, I'm making a southern dish (thats where most of my family lives) and will be preparing the traditional "good luck" black eyed peas along with fried chicken, fried okra, green beans, corn bread and cole slaw. Not the most healthy meal, but all homemade none the less. Anything to keep my mind busy in the kitchen rather than thinking about the economy and how it's seriously effecting us. Hence....my purpose for cooking.
When I figure this blogging stuff out a little more, maybe I'll start posting pictures of what I'm doing in the kitchen. 

Well, I figured out how to post a picture. I forgot to put the okra on my plate, but I did make it. Ironically I'm the least pleased with the okra. I cooked it in regular vegetable oil instead of the bacon fat I usually use. As bad as it is for you, bacon grease truely makes a huge difference in the flavor. The okra wasn't horrible by any means but it could've better. The recipes are very basic. I used Paula Deens fried chicken recipe, for the most part. I didn't deep fry it. I heated about 1 - 2 inches of veggie oil and cooked the chicken in that, turning once, until a nice golden brown. Then I put it in the oven with the corn bread for 30 minutes. When I made the black eyed peas and green beans, I cooked both of them with chopped onions, salt pork, salt and pepper. The okra was also a Paula Deens recipe. The cole slaw was just cabbage mixed with mayo, salt, pepper and a tiny bit of chopped onions. Albers brand corn meal has a great recipe for corn bread. And that was about it. Filling, comforting and very fattening. One more thing...when working with all that hot oil be careful, you don't want to burn yourself like I did. Makes for a very crabby cook. But I suppose that's allowed, since the "peace" in my title is a mental and emotional reference...not a physical one. Not that I've gotten there, but a few minutes in the kitchen is better than nothing.