Sunday, January 30, 2011

I can Boil an Egg......perfect.....every time!

You remember that old nursery rhyme....

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the King's Horses and All the King's Men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

Anywho, Humpty Dumpty is typically depicted as an egg, since that old nursery rhyme has been modernized. I always wondered why a horse would try to put Mr. Dumpty back together...I mean it's not like a horse has hands. I just don't get it. Not that I'm interested in cooking Humpty Dumpty, that would just be wrong and cruel. But I can boil an egg....perfect....every time!

You'd be surprised at how many people can not properly boil an egg. Hard boiled Eggs are pretty much the perfect compliment to salads, sandwiches, breakfast, not to mention the all important Easter Egg!!

Here's a few more tips when hard boiling eggs:

*To peel hard boiled eggs easier and quicker, just after boiling, crack shell and set in cold water immediately. This will allow cold water to permeate between shell and membrane, allowing the shell to be removed quite easily.

*If you plan to put hard boiled eggs back into the fridge to chill, Add a few drops of food color to eggs when hard boiling so that they can be easily detected in the refrigerator.

*To prevent eggs breaking when boiled, Pierce the end of an egg with a pin and it shouldn't turn into a nursery Humpty Dumpty.

Here's my no fail method. If you have mastered this no further, but the photos are kind of cool.

In a saucepan (with a tight fitting lid), place just enough water to cover the top of your eggs.

Bring to a rolling boil.

As soon as the water starts to boil, cover with a lid. Remove from heat. Keep eggs covered for 10 minutes. Remove lid and you'll have beautiful perfect hard cooked eggs.

I like to shell mine under cold running water! Slice or chop and Enjoy!!

One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato, Four!!

I really need a kitchen redo! My kitchen could probably qualify as one of the ugliest kitchens in America. No. Really. I've been perusing some vintage ideas to add a little pop of excitement in there, but the light bulb hasn't come on yet. Yes, my kitchen is small, and by small I mean, like, I'm cramming my entire culinary art into a shoebox....a kid's shoebox....size infant.

Did you watch Julie and Julia? Me too. Imagine the kitchen that Amy Adams' character cooks in. That's my reality.

Although, the size of my kitchen hasn't hampered my cooking ability, I think a kitchen needs to be inspiring, where creativity can flow! Not just a kitchen with Granite or Corian counter tops or mahogany cabinets. Don't get me wrong, they are beautiful, but typically uninspiring. I need a kitchen with character. Yep, that's about the size of it.

It drives me crazy when I hear of people or see the kitchens of friends, clients, etc. who have these innovational kitchens and I hear the words, "I hate cooking!!" As if!! Open your imagination to the possibility that creative food comes from a creative kitchen, not just a pretty one.

Expose all of your senses to culinary passion!! It's delicious!!

Until I make improvements to the kitch', there's nothing wrong with the food.

I made a very simple potato salad to go alongside our barbecue beef sandwiches, pictured here.
I prefer using red potatoes or yukon gold potatoes. They hold up great in my Red Skin-On Potato Salad, and they taste great.

Here's how to make it:
3 pounds of rinsed potatoes, sliced and quartered (no need to peel) I like to exfoliate my potatoes using a good wire veggie scrubber, just to make sure they're clean!!
1 small red onion, finely chopped
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 1/2 cups of mayonnaise
1/3 cup of mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Add red potatoes, and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. (You don't wanna end up with mashed potato salad) Drain, cool, and Place in a medium bowl.

In a small bowl, stir together onions, mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the potatoes, and incorporate together with the eggs. (preparing it this way will keep the potatoes from becoming mushy)

Cover, and chill in the refrigerator approximately 2 hours before serving. Enjoy!!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Avacados are Green

It's so exciting when I get a message that says, "I tried your ______ recipe and it was fabulous!" It's great to know you read my blog, but it's even more exciting that you try the recipes and feed your family, and what's even better than that, is that you LIKE the recipes!!

I also love the messages that start with, "I have ______ ingredient, what should I make? or I need a recipe for (dessert, dinner, breakfast) to take to (potluck, family dinner, to my friends who had a baby)."

One of my favorite office ladies does this often, because she knows that:
A. it will be easy to make
B. It will be delicious
C. it will be a limited ingredient list
D. I will have a recipe within seconds of her asking

Although I like to challenge my culinary skills, our busy lifestyle usually only allows for easy healthy meals.

Well, here is another easy recipe I pulled out as I was looking through my collection. I'm still compiling for the cookbook, ya know. But thought this was blog worthy.

Being in the midst of an awesome avocado season, here's a guacamole recipe that's so easy, delicious and with a few ingredients your chips will be thankin' you for letting them take a dive into this voluptuous dip!! This would be a great Super Bowl party dip, too!!

3 avocados, peeled and diced
juice of one lime
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno, minced
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin

Prepare the avocado and toss with the lime juice.
Add the remaining ingredients and mix until well blended. You can make this as smooth or as chunky as you like! Enjoy!!!

Barbecued Beef Sandwiches

As always, we have busy plans for this weekend that require a lot of time out of the house, lucky for me, tomorrow's forecast calls for a sunshiny 54 degrees. After chilly days in the 20s, I am more than ready to see beautiful pre-spring weather. Today, I made a quick stop by the market today to pick up a few things for the weekend. Spring warmth reminds me of barbecue, so I decided tomorrow we'd have some Barbecued Beef Sandwiches straight from the crock.

The meat department had a few great sales. I scored a Boneless Shoulder roast for a mere $4!! That should feed us all nicely. I decided we'd have a simple potato salad, pickles, and maybe some baked beans, if I'm feeling alive after our long day of cheerleading and Pom pom practice!!

Here's what you need to make these delicious barbecue beef sandwiches!!

3 pounds boneless beef shoulder roast
2 cups ketchup
1 medium onion chopped
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup dark molasses
2 TB Worcestershire sauce
1/2 Tbl minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Sesame Seed Buns or burger buns

Place roast in the crock.

In a large bowl, mix together all the sauce ingredients, (other than the buns). Pour sauce mixture over the roast, cook on low 8 to 10 hours.

Remove roast from the sauce liquid, cool slightly. Trim and discard excess fat. Then shred the meat with 2 forks.

Skim and discard fat from sauce liquid. Return meat to slow cooker, stir evenly to coat meat with sauce. Cover and cook on LOW for 20 minutes.

Spoon meat into sesame or burger buns and top with sauce if desired. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Berry Bread Pudding

Creamy Bread Pudding. How about Creamy Bread Pudding in the crock?? It can't be done you say? Oh, but it can. And here's how!!

6 cups bread, sourdough works best, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
1 cup raisins
6 large eggs, beaten
1 3/4 cups milk (try to use 2%)
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
2 cups fresh blueberries

Coat slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray or butter. Add bread, almonds and raisins and toss to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, brown sugar and cinnamon. Pour egg mixture over bread mix in the crock. Cook on low 4 hours.

Remove crock insert from the metal base and allow bread pudding to cool and set before you serve it. Serve with fresh berries!!

*To make this as a dessert, increase brown sugar to 2 cups.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I Dream In Macaroni

Chances are, your life has been touched in one way or another by mac and cheese. As it happens, I am a huge fan of the mac and cheese meal and It's a kids dream. But this ain't your ordinary Kraft dinner. This is a Fancy Pants Bacon and Tomato mac and cheese. Imagine taking the freshness of a BLT and putting it in a cheesy pasta casserole. It's divine!!

3 cups (8oz) uncooked rotini pasta
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt shopping list
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce
1 1/2 cups milk
4 oz cream cheese
2 cups (8oz) shredded sharp chedder cheese
1/2 lb bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled
2 medium tomatoes, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 1 1/2-quart shallow casserole.

Cook pasta according to package directions, but just shy of al dente.

Melt butter over medium-low heat in 2-quart saucepan. Whisk in flour, salt, mustard and pepper, and hot sauce; cook and stir 1 minute. Whisk in milk. Bring to a slow boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute. Add 4 oz of cream cheese. Remove from heat. Add shredded cheese; stir until melted.

Add cheese mixture and bacon to pasta; stir until well blended.

Transfer to buttered baking dish. Bake uncovered 20 minutes.

Arrange tomato slices on casserole. Bake additional 5 to 8 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and tomatoes are hot.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Coal Miner's Spaghetti a.k.a. Chicken Carbonara

This dish probably originated sometime before World War 2. Many American troops were stationed in Italy during that time and this dish was favorited. I imagine it was created by a witty heavyset Italian woman named Luciana, who grew her own vegetables in the garden behind her rustic little villa....well that's my version.

Adapted along the way and popularity driven, Coal Miner's Spaghetti, or Chicken Carbonara was brought home and is a flavorful pasta dish with a not-so-traditional cream sauce. This version is a super easy weeknight zap of Coal Miner's spaghetti combining the simplest of ingredients, onion and garlic, chicken, pasta, and a creamy cheese sauce flavored with bacon.

*Note: I typically don't make a lot of bacon, but I highly recommend using real bacon and real bacon fat for this dish. It gives it that punch of flavor this dish needs. Traditionally, its made with pancetta, but if you can't find or don't have it on hand bacon is the next real deal.*

1 package (7 ounces) spaghetti
8 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 cups cut-up cooked chicken
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup whipping (heavy) cream

Cook and drain spaghetti as directed on package.

While spaghetti is cooking, cook bacon in 3-quart saucepan over low heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until crisp. Remove bacon from saucepan with slotted spoon; drain. Drain fat from saucepan, reserving 1 tablespoon in saucepan. Cook onion and garlic in bacon fat over medium heat about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until onion is tender. Stir in spaghetti, chicken, cheese and whipping cream. Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Toss with bacon.

If you are anti-pork, vegan, or vegetarian, you can use a touch of oil to saute the onion and garlic, and omit the bacon all-together.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cowboy and Indian Smothered Salisbury Steaks

Anytime I watch a western I get an urge to make this recipe. Probably because cowboys like meat. Scott's been watching some old John Wayne movies recently and that's probably whet my appetite for a salibury steak. But no ordinary salisbury steak, a hearty beef cake smothered with carmelized onions and mushrooms and will keep you stuffed!! You'll be walking like Wyatt Earp when it's over....guaranteed!!

I love my local market, because they have the best fresh beef cuts and will grind any meat into the perfect ground beef. This recipe is one of those times to use that fresh ground beef.

1lb ground beef
1/2 packet dry onion soup mix (or 2 1/2 Tbsp homemade)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4c milk
1/4c fresh bread crumbs
1 egg
1 1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, divided

2-3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
1/2lb baby bella (or cremini) mushrooms, halved or quartered, if large
1 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp flour
1 1/2c beef broth (can use 1 1/2tsp bouillon and 1 1/2c water)

In a medium bowl, combine ground beef, soup mix, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Add milk, bread crumbs, egg and 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce and mix with your hands until combined (try not to over-mix, as this can make the patties tough). Divide into 6 equal portions and shape into patties.

In a large saute pan, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the patties on both sides and place in a 9×13″ baking dish. Set aside and reduce heat to medium. Add mushrooms to the pan and cook 4-5 minutes or until browned and tender. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the patties.

Return pan to medium heat and add onions. Add a little more olive oil if necessary to keep the onions from sticking. Cook onions until golden and tender, about 5-6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the patties.

Add remaining butter, olive oil, and the flour to the pan. Stir over medium heat 1-2 minutes. Pour in beef broth and remaining 1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce and stir to dissolve flour mixture. Cook 3-4 minutes over medium heat or until thickened to desired consistency. Pour gravy over patties, mushrooms, and onions.

Cover baking dish with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve warm with your favorite side dishes. You know how we love our rice. And spinach compliments this dish very well. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Every now and then I crave sweet and sour chicken from the Chinese place in the neighborhood. They use fresh ingredients and are the BEST in town! Not just your ordinary chinese joint, I have to say. However, I am not crazy about eating out, especially when I like to have more control over what we eat.

Here's a take on Sweet and Sour that combines lean meatballs with a yummy sauce that's done in just over 30 minutes.

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup orange-pineapple juice from concentrate
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Combine the brown sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Stir in the vinegar, juice, and soy sauce. Add the ginger and garlic powder.

Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is thick and bubbling. Set aside to cool.

1 lb lean (at least 80%) ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 egg
1 jar (10 oz) sweet-and-sour sauce

Heat oven to 400°F. In large bowl, mix beef, onion, bread crumbs, milk, salt, pepper and egg. Shape mixture into thirty 1-inch meatballs. In ungreased 13x9-inch pan, place meatballs.

Bake uncovered about 15 minutes or until meatballs are no longer pink in center and thermometer inserted in center reads 160°F.

In 2-quart saucepan, mix meatballs and sweet-and-sour sauce. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce and meatballs are hot.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Kristen's Homemade Hot Pockets

My friend Kristen, whom I went to high school with, made these homemade hot pockets and what a great idea. She graciously shared her recipe with me!! (And the photo too.) So, I thought I'd share with you.

12-16 Frozen yeast rolls thawed (these are the kind that are suppose to rise, not the re-heat kind) the amount you need depends on how much you stuff in each pocket

1 lb. ground turkey/beef
1 packet of McCormick's hamburger seasoning
1 &1/2 cup Velveeta shreds or other shredded cheese
1/4 cup (or to taste) ketchup
1/4 cup (or to taste) mustard

*Thaw the yeast rolls, but do not let them rise*

1.) Pre-heat oven to 350
2.) Brown meat and add seasoning packet to meat
3.) Allow meat to cool while flouring each roll and flattening them (don't stretch the dough too thin or it will split after filling)
4.) Place flattened dough on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with oil
5.) Mix hamburger, cheese, ketchup, & mustard together
6.) Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon (more or less) of meat mixture into the center of each dough round
7.) Fold sides of dough round together into a half moon and pinch sides to close (make sure that sides are sealed well)
8.) Make a slit in the top of each pocket to allow steam to escape
9.) Bake until pocket is golden brown about 15-20 minutes

*If you notice the pockets splitting on the side use toothpicks to hold them together*

Thank you Kristen for this yummy recipe!!

You can make different varieties too! Pizza flavors, Ham & Cheese....Yum!!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again So Help Me Soup

Well, the holidays are over. Decorations are safely stowed. The kids are in school. Work at the office is catching up now that everyone is back. And for me, I'm just getting started on all of the exciting events for 2011.

So many possibilities enter my mind for the year ahead. I'm very excited about my first ever recipe book form!! If all goes as planned, the cookin' book will be published and available this spring.

In addition to all that happens in my kitchen, my other two businesses are booming. I'm in love with my life!! That's all there is to it!!

But no matter how busy I get, there's always one thing that has to happen! We have to eat :)

Here is a dinner that takes a boxed beef helper meal and turns it into a soup. It's done in 30 minutes, so we have time to finish homework, work on projects, and spend some time together.

So Help Me Soup

1 lb lean (at least 80%) ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 box helper lasagna flavored meal
5 cups hot water
1 can (14.5 oz) whole tomatoes, undrained
1 cup frozen corn
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 small zucchini, chopped (1 cup)
Additional grated Parmesan cheese, if desired

In 4-quart Dutch oven, cook beef and onion over medium-high heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is thoroughly cooked; drain.
Stir in hot water, contents of sauce mix pouch (from helper box), tomatoes, corn and cheese; break up tomatoes. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.
Reduce heat; cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in contents of uncooked pasta pouch (from helper box) and zucchini. Cover; cook 10 minutes longer. Sprinkle each serving with additional grated Parmesan cheese.