January 12, 2014

Red Velvet Pots

Posted in Food at 6:00 am by Mel

In the recent Parents magazine (Feb. 2014), I saw a recipe for a dessert, which looked awesome, easy and quick.  It was so easy that Ajax helped put most of it together.  It cooks in the microwave and we all hovered around watching it rise.   Ajax was quite proud of his dessert!

  • 1/4 C milk
  • 1/2 tsp white vinegar
  • 6 tbs flour
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp red food coloring (I didn’t have any food coloring)

Directions-

  • In a small cup, combine milk and white vinegar.
  • In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a separate small bowl combine the vegetable oil, egg, vanilla, and food coloring. Add the milk mixture and the oil mixture to the flour mixture.  Stir until well combined.  Divide batter between 2 mugs; do not fill more than halfway.
  • Microwave each mug individually for 1 1/2 minutes.  When done the cake should be firm and springy, not doughy.  If it isn’t done, microwave in 15-second intervals up to 2 1/2 minutes total.  Let cool for 3 minutes.  I think this would be excellent with a little hot fudge over top and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

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February 25, 2013

Making your own chicken stock

Posted in Food at 6:00 am by Mel

Tonight as I was ladling my homemade stock into mason jars I told Dave – ten years ago I never would have imagined myself doing this.  Look how time changes us?  I blame the kids.

I’ve been making my own stock for about two years now and highly recommend it.  Why?  Well, the bragging rights for one.  And two, the health benefits are incredible.  Oh and three, the cost (I don’t have a break down but it’s cheaper than buying a carton of stock at the grocery store).  You can make your own stock from whatever you have on hand – leftover veggie scraps, chicken bones/skin, really any odds and ends will do.

In the freezer I had the bones from the turkey from Thanksgiving and as the flu season has hit the family hard I decided we needed some homemade stock to bolster our immune systems.

I took the turkey carcass (bones, skin, gizzards, meat, etc) and threw it into a large pot and added enough cold water to cover the majority of the bones.   I read that some people, at this point, add some white vinegar and let the bones sit in the water/vinegar for a while to help the process of pulling that good stuff out of the bones.  I, however, am impatient and never bother with this step.  You could also throw in some onions and veggies if you wanted too.

Bring the pot up to a boil, then reduce to low.  Generally, I want to see a few bubbles moving things around at the low setting.  I want some action, but not a full out boil (if some foamy stuff comes to the surface, just skim it off with a spoon).  Then let it sit there for as long as you want with the lid on.  I try to shot for about 9 – 10  hours.  I’ve even let it simmer on low overnight.   At this point you should see yellow globs at the surface, yea!

Once you’ve cooked it long enough it’s time to strain the stock.  I generally put the pot into the sink and in the other side of the sink I put a plastic bag and then with a slotted spoon remove all the large pieces of bone.   Then place a colander inside a large bowl and then pour your stock into the colander.  This will remove the smaller bits that you missed with the spoon.  You can either leave the stock in this larger bowl or you can put it back into the cooking pot.  Then put the pot of stock in the fridge or the garage, someplace cold.

After a few hours, or overnight, check the stock.  It should have a wonderful solid layer on top, or if you’re very lucky the whole thing may be a gelatinous blob of greatness.  Ladle this greatness into jars or other containers and freeze for later use!

Now, as for the chickens to use.  I’ve done this with whole chickens that I’ve cooked myself.  I’ve done this with those rotisserie chickens you buy at the grocery store.  And I’ve done this with split chicken breast leftovers.  All work well and I have no complaints.  I generally have a bag of miscellaneous chicken parts in my freezer for making stock… so yea, beware if you poke around my freezer.

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This is after simmering all night on low.  Can you see the yellowish hue and glassy shin?  Yep, that’s the good stuff.

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The bones and waste are to the left (though you could pick through the bones and get the little bits of chicken. I’ve done this before, but Dave hates it and complained so much that it wasn’t worth it) and my colander is ready on the right.

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January 19, 2013

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Posted in Food at 10:04 pm by Mel

This is my new favorite meal and what’s funny is that I don’t order this at restaurants.   I saw it on pinterest and then actually made it.  And now I seem to be making it every other Saturday… because I love it.   Dave and Ajax love it as well, though Dave has ranked it #2 with risotto as his top pick.  Risotto versus Sweet and Sour Chicken?   Right, no contest.

SWEET AND SOUR CHICKEN (my changes in italic)

INGREDIENTS:
Chicken:
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1 cup cornstarch
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil

Sauce:
3/4 cup granulated sugar (reduce to 1/4 to 1/2 Cup only)
4 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (I was out of apple cider, so I used plain white vinegar)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. While the oil is heating, cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Place the cornstarch in a gallon-sized ziploc bag. Put the chicken into the bag with the cornstarch and seal, tossing to coat the chicken (I mix mine in a big old bowl).

Whisk the eggs together in a shallow pie plate. Dip the cornstarch-coated chicken pieces in the egg and place them carefully in a single layer in the hot skillet. Cook for 1-2 minutes and then flip each piece over to cook on the other side until nicely golden but not all the way cooked through. Place in a single layer in a baking dish and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.

Mix the sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl and pour over the chicken in the baking dish. Double the sauce recipe.  Pour 1/2 over the chicken and place the rest in a small saucepan.  Cook the extra sauce over low heat for an hour, then bring up the heat when the chicken is almost done to thicken it up.  Bake for one hour, turning the chicken once or twice while cooking to coat evenly with sauce (I always forget to turn the chicken and it’s just fine).

Serve over hot, steamed rice (we like a lot of rice so I recommend making 5 servings … we just made white minute rice).

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Why are food pictures so hard?

June 24, 2012

Update on pumpkin pancakes

Posted in Food at 9:03 pm by Mel

I’m sure you’re tired of me talking about these fabulous pumpkin pancakes, but I wanted to give you a quick update.  As pumpkins aren’t in season right now, it’s a little tough to get fresh pumpkin.  Sweet potatoes, however, are always in season and very similar to pumpkin.   Ajax and I whipped up a double batch of these this morning and they were so tasty.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour (or whatever variation of flour your family likes so long as it equals 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk (use 1 Tbl vinegar and then fill up to 1 1/3 C milk as a substitute)
  • 1 cup cooked/mashed sweet potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Instructions:

  • Peel and dice two medium size sweet potatoes.  I usually steam them for about 5-10 minutes (I do a makeshift double boiler, by placing a strainer into a dutch oven with some water in the bottom and then bringing the water to a boil and putting a lid on the whole thing).  You know they are done if you stick it with a fork and it slides off.  Then mash them and let them cool a bit before starting your recipe.
  • Prep buttermilk substitute first as it needs to sit for 5 minutes.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the first 7 ingredients (dry). Set aside.
  • In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sweet potato, eggs, vanilla, and brown sugar.
  • Add wet mixture to dry and stir gently just until a batter forms (can be lumpy).
  • Cook pancakes on a greased and pre-heated griddle or skillet.   Be sure and grease your griddle with a spat of butter, preferably fresh, Amish butter as it will give the pancakes a crisp and slightly salty taste.  What you don’t have bricks of Amish butter in your fridge?
  • Ladle batter onto griddle.
  • These do take a little longer to cook than regular pancakes.  But just cook till they are brown/golden.

May 31, 2012

Pumpkin pancakes

Posted in Food at 6:00 am by Mel

When I was sifting through our deep freeze the other day I came across one last container of pureed pumpkin that I had forgotten about.   I had a pumpkin pancake recipe that I wanted to try out and thought what the heck, might as well use it up.

Ajax and I whipped up a batch on Sunday morning and they were delicious.  They were even good cold.  They were so good that Monday morning Dave requested them again.  So here’s how breakfast went.  Me, standing at the stove flipping pancakes, Dave hovering behind me with a plate, and Ajax sitting in a chair next to me (he pulled it up so that he could watch me cook, as I wouldn’t let him work at the stove).  Every time a batch came off the stove, I ate one, gave one to Ajax, and one to Dave.  We all ate standing up, lol.

These are excellent with just a bit of butter, we didn’t use any syrup.   I don’t remember where I got the original recipe, but here is my variation.   These are filling and wonderful and I kind of want some right now as a snack.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour (or whatever variation of flour your family likes so long as it equals 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk (use 1 Tbl vinegar and then fill up to 1 1/3 C milk as a substitute)
  • 1 cup mashed/canned pumpkin
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Instructions:

  • Prep buttermilk substitute first as it needs to sit for 5 minutes.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the first 7 ingredients (dry). Set aside.
  • In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, pumpkin, eggs, vanilla, and brown sugar.
  • Add wet mixture to dry and stir gently just until a batter forms (can be lumpy).
  • Cook pancakes on a greased and pre-heated griddle or skillet. Ladle batter onto griddle.
  • These do take a little longer to cook than regular pancakes.  But just cook till they are brown/golden.

I don’t have pictures of the pancakes, but here’s a photo of Ajax watching the Big Green Tractor video on Youtube

May 24, 2012

Quick spaghetti carbonera

Posted in Food at 8:15 pm by Mel

I’m loving my Rachel Ray magazine.  I remember that I used to get it a few years ago when I was in law school, but at the time I was too busy and stressed to do any real cooking that didn’t involve a box, so the tips and recipes were totally lost on me.  With my new cooking interest though I decided to give the magazine another try and I’m glad I did.  I’ve been finding some awesome quick and simple recipes.  Here is one that my family loves, my thoughts/changes in italics.

  •   salt/black pepper (though I usually omit)
  • 1 lb dried pasta (1 lb is way way way too much for my family of 2 adults, 1 nino, reduce to 1/2 lb)
  • 1/2 lb bacon
  • 8 small spring onions or scallions, trimmed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup finely grated parmigiano-reggiano (I use whatever I have on hand… mozzarella works well)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Fill large pot with water and bring to boil.  As water heats, season with salt.  Add spaghetti and cook, stirring often. Cook till al dente.
  • Drain pasta over medium bowl, reserve 2 cups of the liquid.
  • Cut bacon into pieces and cook in large deep skillet over medium heat.  Cook till crisp and then transfer to a paper towel, reserve fat in pan.
  • Slice onions and chop garlic.
  • Add olive oil, onion, and garlic to skillet and cook over low heat for 1 minute.   Turn off heat and let cool, 1 min.   At this point I also added in some fresh corn… I had some left over corn on the cob, so I cut the corn off and added it in.
  • Whisk egg in separate bowl till blended.   Stir it into onion mixture on skillet.
  • Dump hot spaghetti into the skillet. Using tongs, toss pasta with egg mixture (I find that a 12 in skillet isn’t big enough, so I dump it into a very large mixing bowl).
  • Add some of the reserved pasta water to thin sauce.  Wait till egg mixture has coated spaghetti, then sprinkle in cheese and bacon and continue tossing, adding cooking water as needed.
  • Season with salt/pepper and toss.
  • Squeeze lemon over pasta (don’t skip the lemon!).

Look my first and only good photo of food.

Ajax loves this meal.

April 12, 2012

Crockpot chicken and rice

Posted in Food at 8:00 am by Mel

I wanted to throw together a quick crockpot meal the other day but could not locate the perfect recipe.   Oh, I found plenty of mediocre recipes, but none seemed very interesting and all had varying comments.   Although I usually never do this, I decided to Frankenstein my own chicken crockpot recipe.  I must tell you the results were awesome.  So awesome that I’m not even embarrassed to share.

  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup or so of frozen edamame (or any veggie really.  I just had this in my freezer)
  • 2 cups whole grain brown rice
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream (next time I make this I’m only going to add 1/2 cup cream as I thought the dish was a little too heavy)
  • 1-2 lbs of chicken, cut into portions (about the size of your palm or so)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, basil
  • 2 tbl onion soup mix

Add about 1/2-1 tbl olive oil to sauce pan and heat over medium.  Add in onions and garlic and saute for about 2 minutes.  Add in salt, cumin, oregano, and bay leaf (you could add in any seasonings you’d like… I think I also added a little Hungarian paprika).   Stir/cook for another 2 minutes or so.  Add in the rice and toast for about 2-5 minutes (you know, however long you feel like it).  Stir it up well so that the rice soaks up all the oil and juices.  Then add in the frozen edamame.

Dump rice mixture into the bottom of your crockpot.  Season liberally with salt.  Add pepper to taste.   Pour in stock and cream.  Arrange chicken on top of all of that.  Sprinkle onion mix over top.  Cook for 4-5 hours.  It won’t take as long to cook as you think and I accidentally let it cook too long and it kind of burned the bottom… we just ate around it.

When Dave got home he kind of stirred it up and the chicken fell apart, so we ate it all kind of mixed together.  That’s how we roll.   I guess some would say that with the extra work on the stove this isn’t a traditional crockpot-fast meal.  You could skip the stove step.  Other than that I have no apologies.

I took a picture but it turned out so bad I didn’t want to add it.  Just picture a glorious chicken rice medley and yea, that was my meal.

March 15, 2012

Chicken Pasta Bake

Posted in Food at 8:25 pm by Mel

I’ve found a new awesome freezer meal, courtesy of Heavenly Homemakers and just had to share (my thoughts are in italics)!   When I stumbled across this recipe I was a little doubtful.   It calls for a basic white sauce using milk and my track record with such sauces has been so disastrous, that if I even mention a white sauce for dinner Dave cringes (that may be an exaggeration, but I’ve made some spectacular messes of white sauces).   This one however is so easy that even I managed to pull it off.  All three of us agreed that it was a winner and Ajax even ate the broccoli that was mixed in.  I told him they were trees and that dinosaurs LOVE trees!  He gobbled them up.

  • 2 C cooked chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 1/2 C whole wheat pasta
  • 3 C whole milk (I used 2% as that’s what we had)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • I added in more seasonings- cumin, a little pepper, paprika, etc.
  • 1/4 C grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 ounces softened cream cheese (I added a little less than 4 ounces)
  • Shredded cheese
  • Green veggie

In a large cooking pot, combine cooked chicken, uncooked pasta, milk, and seasonings.  Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until the pasta is tender (the starch from the pasta will thicken the milk creating a creamy sauce).  I left my sauce a tiny bit runny as I stuck this in the freezer and wanted to be sure if was liquidy enough when I cooked it.  Note:  at first your gonna think, this isn’t working I’m just stirring milk around a pot, but keep stirring, once the sauce starts thickening it’ll go fast and you want to be sure to stir stir stir or the bottom will burn… think 10 – 12 minutes or so.

Remove cooking pot from heat.  Stir in parmesan cheese and cream cheese till mixed through.  I also added in fresh, steamed broccoli, chopped.     Pour pasta mixture into a casserole dish (9×13).  Sprinkle a little cheese on top and bake in oven at 350 for about 15 minutes.  Or, you can stop after adding it to the casserole dish, cover and freeze.  To cook, just thaw and bake at 350 for about 30-40 min, or till heated through.  I can’t wait to get a few of these into the freezer for my maternity leave.

I made two of these dishes. One I mixed the veggies through, but Dave isn’t a fan of broccoli, so for this one I just put it on top to one side and it was great.

February 13, 2012

Granola Bars

Posted in Food at 7:00 am by Mel

Ajax loves helping me make granola bars.  It is his most favorite thing to assist with in the kitchen.  I think because he likes taste testing all the individual ingredients as we add them in.  He’ll say, rolled oats mom, can I try some?  Then it’ll be, oh coconut, can I try some? So on and so forth.  Today when we were making them, his “helping” became a bit too adventurous and he put the mixer on high, sending flour and oats flying all over the kitchen.  I was none too pleased.   Anywho, we love this recipe and I make it every 2 weeks for lunches.   I have never done a cost/benefit analysis so I don’t know if these are cheaper than buying a box at the store, but we like them better and I enjoy making them, so that’s good enough for me.

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 cups rolled oats
    1 cup whole wheat flour
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 cup butter, softened* (I use coconut oil)
    1 cup honey
  • Wheat germ (I never measure, I just dump some in)
  • Add-ins: 1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1 cup chopped walnuts
    other options include dried fruits, sunflower seeds, coconut, nuts…  I always add in sliced almonds, coconut, and raisins.

Lightly butter a 9×13-inch pan.  In a large mixing bowl combine all ingredients except add-ins.  Beat hard until combined.  Stir in add-ins.  Press mixture into pan — really jam it in there so your bars don’t fall apart.  Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes until golden brown.  Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting into bars.  Let bars cool completely in pan before removing and serving.  (You could also add in maple syrup as a sweetener, but it will not act as a binding agent, so you will still need the honey to hold your bars together.  I’ve reduced the honey and added syrup with good results).

February 10, 2012

Easiest calzone ever

Posted in Food at 8:34 pm by Mel

I’ve had a mental list of recipes I wanted to share and it seems none of them have actually made it up on the blog.  Well that’s going to change, starting with this wonderfully simple calzone recipe.   I found this recipe on Allrecipes.com and feel it is truly a winner.  I first made it around Christmas and my family immediately declared that it was good enough to add into our regular meal rotation.   I’ve even made this the night before, stuck it in the frig and then just heated it up for dinner the next day, still excellent.  I wonder if I could modify this as a freezer meal…

Also, on a quick family update, Ajax is a eating machine we went out to dinner tonight and he ordered pancakes.  A full order of silver dollars.  And guess what?  He ate almost every one on his plate, plus some of Dave’s sausage and two of my fries.  On a food note, I’m just over 16 weeks now and am still sick in the morning, some evenings, and sometimes even at night… which is odd.  I also want to eat almost everything.  Currently, I’m craving California rolls, any type of seafood (tuna, shrimp, etc… oh tuna fish with salsa, yum), chow-chow, a brown rice pilaf (a recipe I’ll share next), and chili.

 Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon dry milk powder (I always omit)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar (I only use a pinch of sugar… less than 1 tsp, but if you like a sweeter bread add away!)
  • I also add in herbs to the dough- basil, oregano, etc.
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup pizza sauce (or plain spaghetti sauce, whatever you have)
  • 4 ounces pepperoni sausage, chopped (can also use, ham, onions, green peppers, mushrooms…)
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (I’ve made this without cheese and it’s still good)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions

  1. Place water, salt, bread flour, dry milk, sugar, herbs, and yeast in the pan of the bread machine in the order suggested by the manufacturer.   Usually you just dump in your water, then add everything else on top, and then make a small dip for the yeast.   Select Dough cycle.
  2. After cycle ends, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface; shape into a 16 x 10 inch rectangle.  I try to eyeball it, making it the rough shape of a cookie pan. Transfer to a lightly greased cookie sheet.   To transfer successfully, fold the dough in half before trying to move it, and then unfold it once it’s on the cookie sheet.
  3. Spoon sauce in a stripe down the center of dough lengthwise; add pepperoni and cheese filling (or whatever filling you like.  I loved ham and mushroom).
  4. Make diagonal cuts 1 1/2 inches apart down each side, cutting within a 1/2 inch of the filling. Criss-cross the strips over the filling, sealing with water (I’ve sealed it with water and I’ve also forgotten that step, no biggie either way).  Tuck loose end up however you like. Brush top with melted butter.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 35 to 45 minutes.

For some odd reason I did not take a picture of the finished product.  But, look at the pic above, now imagine it golden brown and delicious!

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