Archive | June, 2013

Summer Salad

30 Jun

Not sure why, but I lose my appetite when it’s hot. I just don’t feel like eating much. Snacking I can do, but full meals? Blah. We have been enjoying a heat wave in these parts (I have to remember that I was craving this kind of weather a few months ago when the snow didn’t seem to want to go away!), so lately, my creative dinner juices have just not been flowing. I have one little munchkin that loves salads and she begged me to buy some lettuce on our last trip to Costco. Costco sized lettuce means that you have to make a serious effort to eat salad…a lot…before it goes bad. Luckily, this Summer Salad hit the spot for all of us – light and fresh for me, full of lettuce for her and my Costco stash. I don’t have too many measurements for the ingredients – I usually have small bowls filled with optional toppings and let everyone make up their own. So have fun with this one! But make sure not to skip out on the candied pecans – there can never be enough of those on my plate!

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Ingredients:

Lettuce

1 or 2 diced apples

Cooked chicken – cubed or shredded

Candied Pecans

Craisins

*Grapes and strawberries are also a great addition

Toss together and top with dressing

Candied Pecans:

1/2 cup pecans

1/4 cup sugar

To make the candied pecans, pour the sugar in a small skillet and pour the pecans on top. Cook over medium heat until sugar melts and turns a caramel color stirring constantly so that the nuts and sugar do not burn. Once the sugar turns a caramel color coat keep stirring to coat the pecans with it. Pour pecans onto greased wax paper or aluminum foil to cool. Once pecans are cooled, break them into pieces. I usually double this – I like a lot of pecans 🙂

Honey Red Wine Vinaigrette Dressing:
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup honey
1-2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 cup canola oil
In a blender, combine vinegar, honey, garlic, salt, and pepper. Place lid on blender and blend on high. While blender is running, add oil in a steady stream. Store in refrigerator for about 2-3 weeks. Shake well before serving.
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Strawberry Agua Fresca

29 Jun

So, my sister is moving to Florida. Please do not make me discuss this because I will cry. While I am super excited for their family’s new adventure, I heartily feel that the other side of the county is simply too far away. The end. However, because of this rather heart-wrenching move, their family has bequeathed my family with a bit of an heirloom – a good ol’ fashioned Coleman Williamsburg tent trailer, circa 1991. Many fond memories in that baby! My parents gave it to my sister’s family a few years back, and since traveling cross country with all of your belongings is hard enough, they decided that maybe dragging a not-so-frequently-used tent trailer behind said mass of belongings wasn’t ideal. Enter good ol’ fashioned tent trailer parked on my driveway – it is there for some major plastic surgery. Come to find out, while my sister’s family was not using it, a small family of mice decided to make the trailer their home. This arrangement did not bode well for the canvas tenting…or the toilet paper left in there. Fifteen to twenty ‘sky-lights’ later :), the mice were kicked out, having not followed the rule of thumb for any tenant: leave the place better than you found it. And on top of that, having been out in the not-so-sunshiny state of Oregon for the past few years, water took its toll as well, rusting out the roof and all the curtain hooks. “What, in heaven’s name, does this have to do with Agua Fresca,” you may be asking yourself? Well! Not only do I have a tent trailer in desperate need of TLC sitting on my driveway, but it is sitting there in 100^F heat. And I need to clean it. That gets hot – really, really hot. I also have a glorious little planter spilling over with fresh strawberries in my back yard (my husband hates eating strawberries but loves growing them – I’m not complaining). In the midst of vacuuming, sanitizing, and pulling down mouse nibbled curtains – sweat running down every crevice imaginable – this super easy concoction was just what the doctor ordered! The sad thing is that I really wasn’t even the one slaving out in the oven of a trailer for most of the time because I had to take care of baby. My sweet mom came over to ‘help’ me and I left her out there to do it herself half the day. So, thank you, MOM!!! I’ll make you a whole pitcher of Agua Fresca if you ever decide to come back. 🙂

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Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups water

1 lb strawberries

1/4 cup sugar

juice of one lime

Puree all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Chill before serving or pour over ice.

*Super easy and so fresh and tasty!!! I usually use bottled lime juice – about 1 tsp is equal to the juice of one lime. I also will do sugar to taste.

Sugar Cookie Bars

28 Jun

We had some sweet neighbors bring our family dinner after the baby was born, so I had to (had to) make treats to thank them. Unfortunately, I didn’t give them all away and decided to eat half the pan myself. I have a deep and abiding love for sugar cookies, but I kind of hate to make them – they are a pain. Mix the dough, chill the dough, roll the dough, hurry up and cut out your shapes and re-roll and re-cut…all before the dough gets too warm to work with. And if you aren’t fast enough, you have to re-chill and then start all over again. A lot of work! No good. So I only make them on real special occasions (I will have to do it eventually because I do have a killer recipe – super soft and fluffy…but I’m getting way ahead of myself! you’ll get those on one of those special occasion posts :)). So! Imagine my delight, stumbling upon this awesome recipe that gives you some smashing sugar cookies in super simple bar form. Hopefully I didn’t find it so easy that I make them all the time. Remember that baby bulge I still have to get rid of?

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Cookies:

1 cup butter, room temperature

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

5 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp lemon zest (optional)

Frosting:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese (1/2 of an 8 oz block) softened
1 tsp vanilla (I used almond extract for half of the frosting)
¼ tsp salt
4 cups powdered sugar
5 Tbsp milk
food coloring (if desired)
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each egg. Add vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl combine flour, salt, baking soda and stir with a whisk to combine. Add to wet mixture and mix just until combined. Spread on a greased baking sheet (use a 13 x 18 pan). Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 min, until light golden brown or until a toothpick comes out clean (they won’t look done so do the toothpick test). Cool completely and frost.
For the frosting: Combine butter and cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and salt. Add powdered sugar in 1-2 cup increments until combined, then add milk a little at a time and mix until smooth and spreading consistency. You may not need all the milk! Spread over cooled cookie bars.

Creamed Chicken and Biscuits

28 Jun

I got this recipe in the mail from the mortgage company that we got our very first home loan through – have I mentioned that we changed mortgage companies almost seven years ago and I am still on their mailing list? I’m grateful regardless, because gems like this one pop up here and there. Plus, we get free tickets to the local water park every year for ‘customer appreciation day’ – is it dishonest of us to still go? 🙂 You can go the lazy route (I’m all about lazy…no judging here!) and use the pre-made biscuits, or a biscuit mix. Most of the time I don’t pre-plan my meals (so wish I had the self discipline to do that!), so I don’t usually have either of those stocked in my kitchen. Luckily, homemade biscuits are pretty easy, if a little messy, and require very basic ingredients. So, you can always make your own in a pinch!

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Creamed Chicken:

4 cups shredded, cooked chicken (can use canned)

1 (10 oz) can cream of chicken soup

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350^F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9×13 baking dish. Combine chicken, soup, sour cream, and milk in a medium bowl and mix well. Spoon mixture into baking dish. Bake for 15 min (this is a good time to prepare your biscuits if you are making your own). Remove from over. Sprinkle baked layer with 3/4 cup cheese. Arrange uncooked biscuits in a single layer over top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake until biscuits are golden brown and the sauce is bubbly – about 20 min longer.

Buttermilk Biscuits:

1 3/4 cup flour

1/3 cup bread flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 Tbsp sugar

1/2 cup shortening

3/4 cup buttermilk or sour milk

Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl (I don’t usually have bread flour, so I will use regular all purpose for both the 1 3/4 cup and 1/3 cup). Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk all at once and stir just until dough forms a ball – it works best if you mix with your hands. Pat or roll 1/2 inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut into rounds. If baking separate from recipe above: bake on a greased baking sheet for 15-20 min at 425^F until golden brown and flaky.

Mac and Cheese

28 Jun

This is a staple at my house. Way better than the boxed stuff, and just as easy to make – my picky eaters snarf it down and it is fast for those summer nights when you suddenly realize its 8:00 and you haven’t fed your kids (this has never happened to me…ever). The recipe calls for more pepper than I like to use – the first time I made it fir my kids, they said it was too spicy, and the next ten times I tried to feed it to them they wouldn’t eat ‘the spicy noodles!’ They came around eventually. Now I just pepper to taste. I made this last night – on top of having a 2 week old baby, I had the brilliant idea to potty train my two year old. Not sure what possessed me. But, yesterday was day three and going pretty well, considering the fact that it is potty training and that’s really all you can ask for. But, after cleaning up a million and a half pee accidents, I needed something fast and easy for dinner – something that no one could call ‘yucky’ and push away. Mac and cheese to the rescue! It’s a good thing too…while it was baking, I caught said two year old doodling on the couch and throw pillows with a pen! So, since dinner was already worked out, I could dish up plates and feed their little faces while I wiped the tears from mine and scrubbed the couch.

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Preheat oven to 350^F

Prepare elbow macaroni (can use any kind of noodles – this is a grab and dump what you have kind of recipe!) – enough to fill a 9×13 baking dish – in boiling water until soft.

White Sauce:

4 Tbsp butter

4 Tbsp flour

2 cups milk

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper (or to taste)

Melt butter in medium sized sauce pan. Add flour and cook over medium heat until light brown in color (a couple of minutes). Slowly add milk. Add salt and pepper and stir constantly until thickened. Add to noodles and place in 9×13 baking dish. Top with grated cheddar cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Blueberry Cinnamon Rolls

27 Jun

So, I have 2 confessions to make:

1. I love cinnamon rolls

2. I am an epic failure at making cinnamon rolls

When I was about 12, my grandma had me come over to her house for a bread making tutorial. She spent hours with me teaching me what temperature to keep the water at to activate but not kill the yeast, how to roll out the dough and get rid of air bubbles, the best conditions for rising bread…the result? She declared me the worst bread maker she had ever had the pleasure of teaching. That hasn’t stopped me from continuing my efforts, however :). About 1 in 10 tries I get it right. This wasn’t one of those. But I did like the recipe – even though my dough didn’t rise (I blame the yeast…something has to be wrong with it) the dough was still soft and easy to work with. The rolls didn’t even get close to doubling in size, but they looked pretty enough and tasted even better. I just had a baby and am homebound for a bit, which means I make things that aren’t really all that conducive to shrinking my post-baby-belly. This was my effort to make cinnamon rolls into a healthy treat. If you add fruit, that makes it good for you, right? 😉

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Ingredients for the dough:
1 cup milk
⅔ cup sugar
1 ½ tablespoons active dry yeast
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon fine sea salt or kosher salt
4 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Ingredients for the filling:
2 tablespoons softened butter
10-ounces frozen berries, not thawed Use any type of berries you like. We love blueberry and raspberry. I used the tiny wild blueberries for the rolls in the photo.
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Ingredients for the glaze: 
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 ½ tablespoons half and half or whole milkDirections for the dough:
1. Warm the milk in the microwave or on the stove top over moderately low heat until it reaches 110-115°F. Remove from heat and pour the warm milk into the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Stir in the sugar and yeast. Let stand until the yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes.2. Add the softened butter, eggs, grated lemon zest and sea salt. Add the flour and beat at medium speed until a soft dough forms, about 3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the dough is soft and supple, about 10 minutes longer.3. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it with your hands 2 or 3 times. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly buttered bowl. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.

4. Generously butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or two 9-inch baking pans.

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and, using a rolling pin, roll it into a 10-by-24-inch rectangle. In a medium bowl, toss the frozen raspberries with the sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch. Spread the softened butter over the dough, then scatter the raspberry mixture evenly over the dough.

6. Tightly roll up the dough to form a 24-inch-long log. Working quickly, cut the log into quarters. Cut each quarter into 4 slices and arrange them in the baking pan(s), cut sides up. Scrape any berries and juice from the work surface into the baking pan between the rolls.

7. Cover the rolls and let them rise in a warm place until they are puffy and have filled the baking pan, about 2 hours.

8. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the rolls for about 25 minutes, until they are golden and the berries are bubbling. Cover with foil if browning too fast.

9. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 30 minutes.

10. In a small bowl, whisk the confectioners’ sugar with the butter and half and half (or milk) until the glaze is thick and spreadable. Invert the rolls onto the rack, then invert the rolls again onto a platter. Drizzle glaze over rolls and spread with an offset spatula, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes:

~ To make ahead, prepare the recipe through Step 7. Cover the rolls, refrigerate overnight and then return to room temperature before baking.
~ For variation the sweet rolls can be filled with a variety of frozen fruit. Try blackberries, strawberries, blueberries or chopped sweet cherries.

A little about me

27 Jun

 

First of all – I am not a chef. Nothing about the way I cook is fancy or complicated. I cook dinner for my family. I bake sweets when I have a hankering. If the recipe calls for something I have never heard of, I pretty much steer clear. I have tried and true recipes that I fall back on in a pinch, but I love finding new dishes to try as well. I have about 147 cookbooks (I may or may not be exaggerating a tiny bit!) and can’t keep track of the many websites I like to steal recipes from, which is the main reason for this blog. I’m tired of sifting and surfing through the endless options. A lot of the time, I’ll make something that my family loved and then I can’t remember where I found the recipe. No more! Here is my sanctuary for the food I love. Where it will never be lost, or spilled on; the pages will never stick together, and I won’t have to spend hours searching blogs and web postings for that one recipe I tried that one time…this is the plan. Just remember: Keep and open mouth 🙂 

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