Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Another cold, snowy day...I am loving the time off from school, but it's kinda messing with my motivation!  

What is better than being cooped up inside on a cold day with a big pot of chili bubbling away on the stove?  Nothing!  Nothing at all!!  Go make yourself some chili NOW!!  (This snow is making me bossy...)

The Cast:
Onion
Green Pepper
Carrot
Garlic
Canned Tomatoes
Chili Powder
Beans
Ground Chicken (or any other meat you want!)


First, chop up your vegetables.  I used my Pampered Chef Food Chopper to cut them all up pretty fine, and it only took a few minutes to do them all!  I added a carrot to sweeten things up a little bit - and it never hurts to sneak in a few extra veggies! 



Brown your meat in a little bit of olive oil.  I used ground chicken because it was all we had in our freezer (we eat a LOT of chicken...lol).  It doesn't get really brown, but once the chili was done, you couldn't even tell!


Remove the meat from the pot and drain it.  Throw in the vegetables and cook until they are nice and soft.


Add your meat back in, and a good handful of chili powder.  I like a lot - I usually end up using around 1/4 cup.  Use as much or as little as you want, depending on how strongly spicy you want it!


Give it a good stir...


...then add in your tomatoes, some water, and your beans.  I used dried beans which I had soaked overnight; if you use canned beans, don't add them until the end.  Dried beans will need a while to cook.


Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cover and cook for a couple of hours, or until the beans are tender.


Once the beans are tender, turn off the heat and let your chili sit until it is cool enough to go in the fridge.  Then just put the whole pot in the refrigerator and let it sit for at least a day or two.  Trust me on this step - it tastes SO much better when it has a few days to rest!

When you are ready to serve it, warm it up on lowish heat until it is nice and toasty warm.


Get your sour cream and shredded cheddar ready, and - of course - make a batch of delicious homemade corn bread.  


Serve your chili in a big ugly green bowl, topped with shredded cheddar and a dollop of sour cream.  Delicious, soul-warming heaven on a cold, snowy day!!




Monday, January 6, 2014

Leftover Remix - Chicken Cacciatore

I hate leftovers.  My family hates leftovers.   Leftovers are icky!

I have become very good at cooking just enough to feed my family with no leftovers - nothing to save, nothing to throw away. 

But sometimes, the dreaded leftovers just can't be avoided.  And one of my favorite exemptions to the 'icky leftover' rule is spaghetti sauce.  There is something so wonderful about a huge pot of sauce, simmering away on the stove.  It's a great weekend,  clean out the fridge kind of meal.  Make a big pot of sauce, open your fridge, and go on a hunt for meat.  Whatever you have leftover in the fridge, throw it in there.  Couple pieces of chicken here, a pork chop there...throw it in the pot and give it new life.  You never know what you might find in there!

When I make sauce, I always have a ton of leftovers.  One pot is good for 5 or 6 family meals.  Throw it in the freezer and it just keeps getting better!

One of my favorite ways to serve leftover sauce is by turning it into a quick, easy chicken cacciatore.  By using the leftover sauce, you get that wonderful slow-cooked flavor, boosted by fresh peppers and quick-cooking chicken breast.  If you have a little extra time, legs and thighs are fantastic for this too!

The Cast:
Leftover spaghetti sauce
Peppers
Chicken




I used boneless chicken breasts for this batch.  Three breasts, cut into bite-size pieces.


Chop up your peppers into bite-size pieces too.  I used one green pepper for this batch, but I actually prefer it with sweeter peppers, like red or yellow.


Put your leftover sauce into a pan.  It's ok if it's still a little frozen in the middle, I never wait for it to thaw completely!   If you look carefully, you can see that there were a couple pieces of sausage in my leftover sauce...surprise!  I had no idea they were in there!


Toss the chicken and peppers into the sauce, give it a stir, and cover.  Simmer it on mediumish speed while you cook your pasta.


By the time your pasta is cooked, your sauce should be nice & hot and the chicken should be cooked through.  If you use bone-in chicken, it will take longer to cook.  Just make sure it doesn't boil hard or else the bottom will burn and your chicken will be rubbery (not that I've ever done something like that...*whistles innocently*)


Serve over pasta - our favorite is penne because it really holds the sauce.  Just make sure you pick something hearty enough to stand up to the heavy sauce!


Enjoy!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year!

I know, I haven't posted in ages.  But I am now!  Woohoo!

Last semester ended great, with straight A's again.  I loved all of my cooking classes - they were a blast!  Classes start up again next week, and I am taking a whopping 18 credits.  Lots of cooking!
One of the best things to come out of last semester was a newfound love for corned beef, coutesy of my American Regional Cuisine class.  I had never tried it before preparing it in class, and it has become a new favorite.  AND it doesn't clash with my total hatred for leftovers...can you say corned beef hash??!
Corned beef hash has become my go-to breakfast.  I was craving it this morning,  but had no corned beef.  

What's a girl to do??!

I came up with a delicious solution...leftover beef tenderloin from Christmas dinner!  (No, I didn't have two week old beef sitting in the fridge...I was going to throw it away - it was mostly scraps, and we were going out of town for a week, but I just can't bear to throw food away, so I tossed it in the freezer!)  I gave it a quick thaw, tossed it with some pickling spices for a hint of corned beefiness, and I was ready to go!

The Cast:
Potatoes (boiled until tender, then cubed)
Onion
Leftover beef (tossed with pickling spice)
Oil
Eggs
Bacon grease (you keep a jar of it in your fridge to fry eggs, right?)



Heat up your oil until it is nice and hot 'n shimmery in a big pan.  (Yeah, I used a wok...I got it for Christmas and want to use it for EVERYTHING!)


Once your pan is hot 'n ready, toss in the potatoes and onions and give them a stir to get them nice and coated with oil.  Make sure you have enough oil to really cover them - you don't want it to stick!!


Once your potatoes and onions are all mixed around, toss in the meat and give it a stir.  Press down to a nice, even level, then LEAVE IT ALONE!  You want it to get nice and crispy on the bottom, so don't stir it around.  I usually set the timer then walk away, because I just can't resist the temptation to stir.  Start with 5 minutes, then stir them around to see how they are - you want them to start to brown and get nice and crispy.


While you are resisting temptation to stir your hash, get your eggs ready to go.



Melt a bit of bacon grease in a nonstick skillet.  (I suppose you could use butter or nonstick spray, but...BACON!  Need I say more??!)


Toss in a couple of eggs (gently, of course) and fry those babies up however you like them.  My house goes for over easy or sunny side up, but I won't judge you if you want to cook them another way.  


Plate up your beautiful hash and top them with your eggs.  A bit of salt and peper, and maybe a little squirt of ketchup (if you're into that kind of thing), and you have pure breakfast perfection!!


Go make yourself a big old plate of hash...then enjoy your nap afterwards!!  Isn't that what Sunday is for??!!

Sweet dreams!!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

One Last Summer Fling!

Oh, summer...how I love you.  I can't believe you left us so soon.  I will miss your sunny goodness.  Lounging poolside.  Trips to the beach.  Soaking up the sun.  Delicious summer fruits and vegetables.

*sigh*

Is it just me, or did this summer go by FAST?

One of my favorite summer treats is fresh, sweet corn on the cob.  The last time I went grocery shopping, Walmart had a great sale on corn, so I snatched some up.  Then, I put in in the fridge and forgot about it.

Oops.

By the time I got around to making it, the corn had lost some of its summery perfection.  Don't get me wrong - it was still beautiful.  Just...not quite as beautiful as when I first got it.  Some of us get better with age, but unfortunately for this beautiful sweet treat, fresh corn really should be eaten as soon as it's picked.

As I was pondering what to do with these less-than-perfect summer gems, it hit me.  There isn't a food on the planet that doesn't benefit from a little butter and cream.  And corn is no different!  Plus, it was SUPER easy to make, and it turned out GREAT!!



The Cast:
Fresh corn on the cob (I had 5 of them)
Butter (2-3 Tbsp)
Heavy Cream (1/2 cup)
Salt, Pepper, and Sugar to taste



Use a sharp knife to remove the kernels of corn from the cobs.  Then, use the back of the knife (or a spoon) to give the naked cobs a good scrape to get all of the sweet, corny, milky goodness left on the cobs.  There is a lot of liquid left in there!  I cut and scraped directly into a saucepan, then added a little bit of butter (about 3 Tbsp) and the cream.  If your corn isn't sweet enough, add a touch of sugar, and season with salt and pepper.  Then, just simmer the corny, creamy  mixture until it's nice and tender, about 15 minutes.

That's it!


I let mine to a little too long without watching it, and the cream evaporated too much.  Some of the kernels got a little brown.  But that's ok!  It was still delicious!  Next time, I won't walk away while it's cooking (I have a bad habit of doing that!) and add a little milk if it starts to evaporate too much. 

The ultimate test is the family - if they don't like something, I'll never make it again.  What did they think of my creamed corn?


As you can see, they thought it was awful.  ;)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Back to School - International Cuisine Thursday!! :)

I am SO excited to be back in school.  I have more cooking classes this semester, and if today's class was any indication, they are going to be GREAT!

Thursdays, I have International Cuisine.  Today's class was China and Korea.  Boy, did we cook!!

Here is what we made!!

China:
  • Hot & Sour Soup
  • Pot Stickers
  • Stir-Fried Bok Choy
  • Porcupine Meatballs
  • Emerald Shrimp
  • Fried Rice
  • Bean Curd in Oyster Sauce
 
Korea:
  • Beef Bulgogi
  • Seasoned Soy
  • Vinegar Soy
  • Spicy Radish
  • Seasoned Mushrooms
  • Korean Pancakes
  • Quick Kimchi



My friend and I were in charge of the Stir-Fried Bok Choy and Porcupine Meatballs.  I had never had either of them, so it was a great experience! 

For the Porcupine Meatballs, we ground our own pork using the grinder attachment for the KitchenAid Mixer.  I REALLY want this attachment - it was so nice!!  They also had lots of ginger, spices, and bamboo shoots.  After shaping, the meatballs were rolled in glutinous rice and steamed.  After they were cooked, we took some of them and threw them in the deep fryer.  The rice got crispy and was SO delicious...I loved the mix of textures in the fried meatballs.  We served them with a sauce made of rice vinegar and ginger.  We had some leftover pork filling and used it in two ways - wrapped in wonton wrappers and deep fried, and made into little patties and fried on the stovetop.  Every bite was great!


The Stir-Fried Bok Choy we made was so easy - the hardest part was chopping up all of the vegetables!  It had bok choy (duh), mushrooms, and onions, quickly stir-fried and finished with a little chicken stock and sesame oil, thickened with cornstarch.  Simply delicious!!


This class is going to be great - I can tell already!  We all worked really well together, and everybody pulled their weight in the kitchen, so there wasn't any one person stuck doing all the work.  I am EXCITED about this delicious new semester!!


Next International Cuisine class, we are going to Japan...I can't wait to see what yummies we are going to make!!!  :)


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake.  Sounds yummy, doesn't it?


The inspiration was this post on Shugary Sweets.  I wanted to make something sugar-free and fruity for my hubby though, so I ended up with my cherry version.  And boy, did it turn out GOOD!!

The Cast - Cake:

Flour
Splenda
Baking Powder
Baking Soda
Salt
Butter
Eggs
Vanilla Extract
Buttermilk  (I didn't have any buttermilk, so I made my own with vinegar and milk.)

Cream Cheese Filling:

Cream Cheese
Eggs
Splenda
Cherries (I used 1 can no-sugar-added cherry pie filling)


Mix all dry ingredients together.  Add softened butter.  (If you forget to take your butter out of the fridge like I did, just use your grater to grate the butter!  It worked perfectly!


Mix together until the butter is incorporated and crumbly.


Add the wet ingredients and mix well until it's well-mixed and fluffy.


Spread half of the cake batter into a greased and floured 13x9 inch pan.  Set the other half aside.


In another bowl, mix together the cream cheese, eggs, and Splenda.  If you are planning on posting on your blog, it would help if you remember to take pictures.  Oops.

Spread the cream cheese mixture over the batter in the pan.


Spread the remaining cake batter over the cream cheese.  I used a scoop to scoop out blobs of batter to make it easier to spread.


The batter is pretty sticky, so just work it the best you can to get it as spread out as possible.  It doesn't have to be perfect - the cherries will cover up a lot!


And speaking of cherries....open that can and spread it on top of the cake batter!


Pop this baby into a 325 degree oven.  The original recipe says 45 minutes, but I ended up baking it for about 55.  My oven is a poky little puppy!

Behold...the finished Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake!

 
Delicious!!
 


 
The Full Recipe (My revised version):

Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Adapted from Shugary Sweets

For the Cake:
  • 2 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup Splenda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
For the Filling:
  • 2 pkg (8oz each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup Splenda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 can No-Sugar-Added Cherry Pie Filling
 
Instructions
  1. For the cake, grease and flour a 13x9 baking dish and set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat flour, Splenda, baking powder, baking soda and salt on low until combined. Beat in softened butter until mixture is crumbly. Add in eggs, vanilla and buttermilk and beat until fully combined and fluffy. Pour half the batter into baking dish, spreading evenly.
  2. In a separate mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, Splenda and egg until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Pour over batter. Top with remaining half of cake batter.
  3. Spread pie filling over the top.
  4. Bake cake in a 325 degree oven for about 45 minutes, until fully cooked. Cool completely and serve.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Best Carrot Cake EVER!!


Mmmmm...carrot cake...

I LOVE carrot cake.  Especially GOOD carrot cake.  So when I found this post on Sally's Baking Addiction, I knew I had to try it.

And boy, am I glad I did!  I think our card-playing guests from last night are glad I did, too!!

Not only was it super-delicious, but it was super-easy to make, too!

The Cast:
 
  • Brown Sugar
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Banana Yogurt (the original recipe called for Greek yogurt but if you read my previous post, you know I didn't have any!  lol)
  • Eggs
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Baking Soda
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Flour
  • Carrots
  • Almonds (the original recipe called for pecans, but I didn't have any)
  • Craisins (another change from the original recipe!)

This recipe calls for the carrots to be finely shredded.  I used the shredding disk on my food processor, but I didn't think they were fine enough, so I ended up switching to the regular blade to get them nice and fine.


After removing and measuring the carrots, I ground up my almonds in the food processor.  I like the texture they ended up being - some fine, some chunky.  Measure those and set aside, too.  But make sure you forget to take a picture of that step!

Next, the oil and brown sugar are mixed together using either a stand mixer or hand mixer.


Next, add in the yogurt.  (Action shot!)



After the yogurt is mixed in, add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating between each one until they are incorporated.


I also add my spices and baking soda into the wet ingredients at this point.  I hate dirtying an extra bowl to mix them with the flour! 

I also "added" my whole nutmeg at this point (oops!) and had to fish it out of the bowl.  TWICE. 

 
 
Add the flour and mix just until it is incorporated.  Do not overmix.
 


Add the carrots, almonds, and Craisins.


Mix until incorporated.  Get a spoon and have a bite or two, just to test it out.  (This is THE most important step in baking if you ask me!)



Spread it into a greased Springform pan and pop that baby into the oven!


The original recipe says to bake at 350 for 32 to 38 minutes.  I took mine out after 35 minutes, but I really should have baked it longer.  The middle ended up not quite done.  I was paranoid about OVER baking it though!!  Next time, I will definitely do it at LEAST 40 minutes!


Now is the hardest part...let it cool completely.  Luckily, we had people coming over the night I made this, so I had some cleaning up to do.  Otherwise...who knows if the cake would have ended up intact.  It smelled THAT GOOD!

The fact that I had THIS huge mess to clean up after making my cake didn't hurt!


I am SUCH a messy cook.  I end up tossing all of the dishes in one side of the sink and the trash in the other as I cook, then clean it all up at the end. 

Once the messy sink is clean, the living room is vacuumed, and the cake is completely cool, it's time to frost!



The Cast:

Cream Cheese, Softened
Butter, Softened
Powdered Sugar
Vanilla Extract
Heavy Cream




Cream the cream cheese together until they are thoroughly mixed and fluffy.


Mix in the powdered sugar and vanilla until combined, then mix in vanilla and heavy cream.


I beat the heck out of mine so it was SUPER light and fluffy.  I got SO many compliments on the frosting! 

Remove the cake from the Springform pan and turn it out onto your serving platter.  Spread the top with the frosting, then sprinkle with almonds.



Get ready for a slice of heaven.  This carrot cake is SO moist and delicious.  The almonds get soft, but still have enough crunch to give it some texture.  The Craisins add the perfect little bursts of sweet, tart flavor.  And the frosting - oh man, was it good! So light and fluffy...I'm drooling just thinking about it!!

The original recipe says this cake will last up to 6 days at room temperature.  I don't see how this cake could last ANYWHERE for 6 days - I made it a day ago, and it is almost gone already!  Only one piece left!!  I am DEFINITELY going to be making this cake again and again!!