Thursday, December 31, 2009

Acorn Squash Pizzas

Let's just say some dinners sound/taste better in my head than in reality. I took the leftover filling from my raviolis from the other night and smeared it on some crescent roll dough. I par-cooked some shrimp and put it on top and baked for 20 minutes. The result: An almost pretty dinner (the stuffing sort of looked like scrambled eggs, which they weren't) and it was the way wrong texture. It sort of felt like raw dough. So, this one goes down as a failure! They can't all be masterpieces, can they?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tomato Chicken Burritos

Okay, I'm only posting this because it was very good and I want to remember it; but it needs some work. It was too runny. I got inspired to make this after watching a guest cook on the Paula Deen Food Network show. She made Crispy Fried Tacos with Salsa Verde. This isn't exactly that. I had some left over taco shells and I wanted to use them up tonight, but then my "stuffing" was too runny, so I put them in tortillas and baked them for a bit with some store bought salsa verde on top. Like I said, they were delicious, especially with some basic white rice mixed in each bite. Even the two year olds loved it! I think I put too much sauce and not enough chicken. Anyway, here is what I did because it's a bit off from what the original "inspiration" recipe was.

Tomato Chicken Burritos

4 small chicken breasts *
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 can of green chilis (I'd prefer a fresh one)
1/2 white onion
mexican cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tortilla that has been turned into bread crumbs in the food processor (or plain bread crumbs)

*like I said, I needed more I think. Oh, and I wish I had bone in, but I had boneless skinless, so that is what I used.

Place chicken in a pan and cover with water. Add garlic cloves and simmer for 20 minutes**. Do not boil or chicken will turn to rubber. Remove chicken and shred with two forks.

Put tomatoes, garlic cloves from the chicken pan, green chilis, oregano, cumin, onion, salt and pepper in a blender and puree. In the pan you removed the chicken from, pour sauce in. Add chicken back in and bring to a low boil. Add heavy cream, bread crumbs and cheese. Spoon in tortillas and wrap to form burritos. Pour some store bought salsa verde on the top. Cook at 375 for 20 minutes. Serve with white rice, makes 4-5 burritos.

(**hint: if you are using bone in chicken and you want to make some homemade chicken stock while you are at it, add an onion, celery and peppercorns to the water. Simmer on very low for 40 minutes. Remove chicken from bone, toss bones back and water and let simmer for however long you want. Strain, and you have homemade chicken broth, store in an air tight container and freeze)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Acorn Squash Raviolis

How does one spontaneously decide to make homemade ravioli? I guess that is just how I am. So last night about an hour before dinner I decided to make ravioli. I make fresh pasta from time to time on a whim, but ravioli are a bit harder and I usually (notice the usually part) plan them out in advance. Well I got a ravioli press for my birthday and have been wanting to use it. I made a quick attempt a few days after I received my press but I over stuffed my ravioli and they exploded. Well last night my dough didn't come together so I had to ditch that and whip up a fast dinner. So I woke up this morning feeling challenged. I made fresh ravioli for lunch!

Acorn Squash Ravioli with a simple Bechamel Sauce


1/2 acorn squash (Butternut squash would be tasty too!)
olive oil
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 tsp ground sage
salt and pepper

Cut acorn squash in half. Scoop out seeds and discard. Drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper on squash. Roast in a 425 degree oven for 30-45 minutes. (This can be done ahead of time.)

When squash is very fork tender and has cooled down, scoop out into a bowl. Add ricotta cheese and seasonings. Stir until well incorporated. Place filling in a pastry bag or ziplock back with the end snipped off.

1 1/4 cup flour
2 eggs
or wonton wrappers

Place ingredients in a food processor and process until a ball forms. Use a pasta machine to roll out sheets.

Assemble Raviolis:
If you have a ravioli press lay pasta out and put a tiny amount of filling in each square (depending on the size of your press.) Lay a second sheet of pasta ontop and with a rolling pin, roll the sheets together sealing in the filling.
If you don't have a ravioli press but still have a pasta machine, lay out a sheet of pasta. Place about a tbsp of filling every 2 inches or so on the pasta. Lay a second sheet on top. Gently press around each mound of filling making sure to press out any air. Cut around each mound of filling into ravioli squares.
Place filling in wonton wrappers and fold over into triangles.

Cook Pasta:
Fresh pasta only needs to boil for a couple of minutes. When the raviolis float to the top, cook for one minute longer and then drain.

1/2 cup fat free half and half
1/2 tbsp butter
pinch of sage, salt and pepper
3 tsp flour
2 tbsp ricotta cheese

Melt butter in a pan. Add flour and stir until flour is wet. Add half and half and seasonings. Stir until there are no lumps in the flour. Add ricotta cheese. Serve over ravioli.

This complete recipe made about 3 servings.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bread Bowl

I am so excited. I just discovered a super easy way to make bread bowls at home from scratch. The possibilities are endless. I really don't know how to contain my joy at this discovery! Traditional bread bowls that I have had are more crusty, usually made out of sourdough, but this was light fluffy and the main thing... EASY!

Bread Bowl

base ingredients:
1 package of dry active yeast
2/3 cup warm water
1 tbsp sugar (sugar substitute won't work, it's "food" for the yeast)
1 2/3 cup of flour
1/2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
few tablespoons of cornmeal reserved

For Mexican Bowl:
add 1/2 tbsp oregano and 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

For Italian Bowl:
add 1/2 tbsp dry basil and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Pour yeast into warm water. Warm tap water is fine, you don't want it to be boiling. Add the sugar and stir the yeast. Wait until it starts to foam and bubble. This way you know your yeast is still good. It should take about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place the rest of the ingredients (except cornmeal!) in a food processor (I'm sure you can do this by hand, just knead until dough comes together. You could probably also use a stand mixer with dough hook.) When yeast is good and foamy, turn on processor and pour the water-yeast mixture in slowly until incorporated. Keep the food processor on until the dough starts to ball up on the side. Remove from the food processor and knead a few times by hand to bring it together into one large ball.

Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and place dough ball in the bottom. Cover with a kitchen towel and place in a warm non-drafty spot. Let rise about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 375º. Divide the dough into two smaller balls. Sprinkly reserved cornmeal on a cookie sheet (this prevents dough from sticking!) Place balls onto the cookie sheet and cook for about 20 minutes. Dough should start to turn brown on top. A toothpick will come out clean.
Serves 2.

Possibilities are endless: Pictured above: I have a Mexican bowl with Shredded Salsa Beef, topped with cheese, onion and a pickled jalapeno. Diced tomato or black olives would be good too.

Italian bowl, fill with meat spaghetti sauce and top with mozzarella.

Or make a chili bowl, a clam chowder bowl, cheese and broccoli bowl, etc!

Monday, December 21, 2009

1 Can of Pumpkin - 2 Recipes

I love pumpkin. Pie, of course. But there’s a lot of baking that can be done with pumpkin, which adds moisture and fiber while cutting out some of those pesky calories. I’m not saying it makes a baked good particularly slenderizing, but it might just help the guilt factor of eating that second serving.

Many times, I’ll make a recipe that uses part of a can of pumpkin. Sure, I could freeze the remainder, but I have a very bad habit of freezing little bits and then losing them to the freezer monster (also known as forgetting it was ever there in the first place, at which point I open a fresh can, have another leftover, lather, rinse, repeat). So I gave myself a pat on the back for figuring out this way to make 2 tasty treats, use the whole can of pumpkin, and everybody wins.

Pumpkin Applesauce Muffins

½ cup pumpkin
1 cup applesauce
½ cup milk
¼ cup oil (or substitute another ¼ cup applesauce)
1 egg
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 cup flour*
½ cup wheat flour*
1 cup oats
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. cinnamon

Mix pumpkin, applesauce, milk, oil, sugar, and egg together until combined. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix until batter is formed. Fill muffin tins halfway. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes. Makes approximately 36 mini muffins or 18 regular sized muffins.

* Use any combination of flour that yields 1 ½ cups.

Pumpkin Bread

Remaining pumpkin (about 1 ½ cups)
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 egg white1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup plain yogurt (or vanilla yogurt – just adjust the next ingredient down a little)
1 cup flour
3/4 cup wheat flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Combine sugar and egg whites completely. Add pumpkin, applesauce, yogurt, and vanilla and mix to combine. Add remaining ingredients and mix into batter.

Pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes until it can pass the toothpick test.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holiday Cheer-Encouraged by Vodka.

Holiday parties are a-coming. I like to offer seasonal holiday beverages. Drinking with a theme seems classier. After college I moved to San Diego. My whole family lives on the East Coast. Because of this my holidays usually included close friends rather than family. To that effect I began to create my own holiday party traditions. I will share with you the most fun: The Apple Cider Martini. The schedule was usually wine and appetizers, meal and wine, then dessert and Apple Cider Martinis. Delicious, simple, and makes any party a rockin' party!

Apple Cider Martini

2 parts Apple Cider
1 part Vodka

Place vodka and cider in martini shaker with several ice cubes and shake well.
Strain ice out and pour into martini glasses with cinnamon-sugar rim.
If you cannot obtain apple cider, "Simply Apple" juice works well as a substitute.

Cinnamon Sugar Rim

Mix equal amounts cinnamon and sugar. Pour onto plate. Use a lemon slice to moisten rim of martini glass. Dip rim in cinnamon and sugar so that the rim is evenly covered.

Warning: Serve these only after you have finished cooking. I cannot recommend using the stove or handling hot dishes while drinking these tasty martinis. Trust me. Please.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sweet and Sour Chicken

The other day John and I watched The Proposal. At the end of the movie the couple is being grilled by US customs about their relationship to see if it is legit. (She was a Canadian with an expired green card and he was her assistant.) Anyway, it was a good romantic comedy. But then John and I started asking each other questions to see if we knew all the answers about our "favorites" and things like that. Apparently I did not know his favorite fruit was pineapple. So when I was grocery shopping the other day and saw fresh pineapples on the shelf I had to buy it. Then I didn't know what to do with it. I asked him if he wanted to eat it straight up, as dessert grilled with brown sugar or as Sweet and Sour Chicken. This dish won out and it was very good, and I normally don't like Sweet and Sour Chicken!

Sweet and Sour Chicken

2 large chicken breasts
4 tbsp cornstarch
1 bell pepper (whatever color, I used green)
1/4 of a red onion
1 cup of sugar snap peas
1/2 a fresh pineapple or 1 can of pineapple chunks, drained
1 cup of button mushrooms (I didn't have any, but I wanted to put them in the dish!)
1 tbsp vegetable oil

1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp corn starch

Cut bell pepper & red onion into large chunks. Heat oil in a large skillet. Put the bell pepper and onion in the skillet on high heat and cook it until it starts to brown. Chop chicken into large chunks. In a large ziplock bag, pour the cornstarch and chicken chunks together. Coat the chicken thoroughly. Put the chicken in a colander to sift off extra cornstarch. You may need to add a bit more oil to the skillet. Add the chicken to the peppers and onions. Add the sugar snap peas and mushrooms. Dice the pineapple and add it to the chicken.

To make the sauce in a small bowl whisk together all ingredients and pour over the chicken and vegetables. Cook until thickened. Serve over white rice.

Mint Chocolate Cookies

John made these cookies for my neighbors annual Christmas cookie exchange. They are so perfect.

Mint Chocolate Cookies

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 tsp mint extract
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup Dark Cocoa Powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

1 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
1 1/2 tsp shortening
3 tsp min extract

Heat oven to 350º.
In a small bowl, melt 1/2 cup of the dark chocolate chips in the microwave for 1 minute or until melted when stirred.

Beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in a large bowl until well blended. Add melted chips; beat until well blended. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda. gradually beat into chocolate mixture. Drob by rounded teaspoons onto a cookie sheet.

Bake 8-9 minutes for chewy cookies or 10-11 for crispy cookies. Cool slightly. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

Place the 1 1/3 cups dark chocolate chips in a small bowl and melt with the shortening about 1 minute 20 seconds. Add the 3 teaspoons of mint extract and stir. Place in a ziplock bag and snip a corner. Drizzle over cookies.
Makes about 5 dozen cookies

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lemon Bars

I was having the whole family over for Kurban Bayram and wanted to make something they never had before. People love trying things they have never seen, and like it even better when those things are really delicious. I found this recipe on Tasty Kitchen. I love Bakerella, she does some amazing things. This dessert turned out great. It is Turkish-mother-in-law approved! It was sweet yet tangy. The crust just melts in your mouth. It really was a hit.

Lemon Bars


1 cup Butter

1-¾ cup Flour

⅔ cups Confectionary Sugar (plus More For Dusting)


1-½ cup Sugar

¼ cups Flour

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

½ cups Lemon Juice

4 whole Eggs, Beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. To make crust mix flour and confectioner’s sugar together, cut up the butter into small pieces, (I used a fork) until the mix is combined. If it is crumbly that is fine. Press mix into a greased 9X13 pan. Bake until golden or about 20 minutes.

Make the filling while the crust is in the oven. Mix sugar, flour, and baking powder, then add the beaten eggs and lemon juice. Mix well. Pour on the crust when the crust is finished, back for another 20 minutes. Cool lemon bars, cut into bars and dust with powdered sugar. Eat cold.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chili Casserole

Finished casserole.

Spoon chili into baking dishes.

This recipe is perfectly adaptable to campfire cooking. As a matter of fact that's how I had it the first time, prepared in a huge castiron dutch oven. It was so good I didn't want to wait until the next campout to have it again, so it can be done in your home oven. Substitute ingredients as you see fit, the main idea is to make a yummy chili and top it with a yummy cornbread.

My playgroup has decided to do a meal swap. I picked this meal to make for our first swap for a couple of reasons. It's easy to make in bulk (I needed enough for 3 families), it is perfect cold weather food, and I had all the ingredients on hand! You can scale it down to suit one family meal or make it in bulk and freeze the extra casseroles!

Chili Casserole

1 onion
2-3 pieces of bacon
2.5 lbs of lean ground beef
2 cans of black beans, drained
1 can of tomato paste
1 can of fire roasted tomatoes
1 can of diced green chilies
4 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
salt & pepper

Cornbread: (You can also use a Cornbread Kit)
2 1/2 cups of cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup shredded mexican cheese
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk (give or take)

Dice bacon into tiny bits. Saute the bacon with diced onion and garlic. Add ground beef. Break up the beef with the end of your spoon and add seasonings: chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Add tomato paste and mix it into the ground beef. Add drained beans and fire roasted diced tomatoes. Last, add the diced green chilies. Continue cooking over medium high heat until meat is fully cooked. Transfer over to baking dishes. I made 3, 9"x9" casseroles.

Preheat oven to 350º. Mix all the ingredients for the cornbread into a big mixing bowl. Spoon wet cornbread mixture over the chili in a thin layer. Sprinkle the top with extra cheese. Bake for 25 minutes.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chicken Spinach & Rice

Alot of times when I cook, I make things up on the fly. Other times I use an idea for a recipe and then change things as I go along. For instance tonight I wanted to make my Pantry Chicken and Rice Casserole. The problem was that I didn't have any broccoli, one of the main ingredients. So I used the basic idea for the dish and subbed in spinach and canned mushrooms for the broccoli. It was delicious and everyone pretty much cleared their plates, even my twin toddlers. I'm not posting a recipe because it's the same as the Pantry Chicken and Rice with the simple subsititution!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Balsamic Chicken Turnovers

The idea for this meal just sort of popped into my head today as I was looking at the ingredients I had on hand. I wish I had made more! This is one that is super easy to make but looks and sounds fancier!

Balsamic Chicken Turnovers

1 package of pizza dough or crescent rolls
1/2 chicken breast
4-5 asparagus, chopped into small pieces
1 clove garlic
2-3 button mushrooms
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese)
1 egg
spring of rosemary
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 375º. Cut the chicken into very small pieces. In a small skillet, cook the chicken, asparagus and mushrooms. Add the rosemary, salt and pepper to taste and the balsamic vinegar. Cook until the balsamic vinegar reduces. In a small mixing bowl combine the cheese and egg. Temper the cheese and the egg by adding a bit of the chicken mixture at a time. Cut the pizza dough into fourths. Place a couple of tablespoons of filling into each rectangle and fold over. Sprinke the top with extra kosher salt. Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle a bit more balsamic vinegar over the top before serving. Serves 4 small portions or 2 bigger ones.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Chocolate Pecan Carmel Cookies

John made these cookies for me to take to a Christmas cookie exchange party two years ago, a few days before Maddie and Izzie were born. I'm headed off to another cookie exchange and since these were such a hit, he made them again. They are from the cook book: Best Loved Cookies. A lot of the cookies from this book are a hit!

Chocolate Pecan Carmel Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg, separated
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Carmel filling (recipe follows)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp shortening (do not use butter, margarine, or oil)

1. Beat butter, sugar, egg yolk, milk and vanilla in a medium bowl until blended. Stir together flour, cocoa and salt; blend into butter mixture. Refridgerate dough at least 1 hour or until firm enough to handle.

2. Heat oven to 350º. Lightly grease cookie sheet.

3. Beat egg white slightly. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Dip each ball into egg white; roll in pecans to coat. Place on prepared cookie sheet. Press thumb gently in center of each ball. Bake 10-12 minutes or until set.

4. Meanwhile, prepare Carmel Filling. Remove cookies from oven; press center of each cookie again with thumb to make indentation. Immediately spoon about 1/2 tsp Caramel Filling in center of each cookie. Carefully remove from cookie sheets; cool on wire racks.

5. Place chocolate chips and shortenting in smal lmicrowave safe bowl. Microwave at High (100%) 1 minute or until softened; stir. Allow to stand several minutes to finish melting; stir until smooth. Place wax paper under wire rack with cookies. Drizzle chocolate mixure over top of cookies.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
Caramel Filling: In small saucepan, combine 14 unwrapped light caramels and 3 tbsp whipping cream. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until caramels are melted and mixture is smooth.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mushroom Risotto

I make this a dish that is sometimes called Chicken Mushroom Glop. I basically add rice, a can of cream of mushroom soup, diced mushrooms and chicken broth to a pot and cook on low until the chicken and rice are cooked through adding chicken broth if needed. I decided to glam up that recipe and make Mushroom Risotto with baked chicken. The only problem, I think the last time I made risotto was last December so my risotto rice has gone rancid. And eating rancid food can make you very ill. So I made this version with regular white rice, it was still creamy and delicious just not as creamy as real risotto would be. Risotto isn't hard, but you do have to babysit the pot and stir almost the entire time.

Mushroom Risotto

1 cup of rice (preferably risotto)
3 cups of chicken broth/stock
1/2 diced onion
1 stalk of celery (optional)
1/2 pint of button mushrooms
1/2 can cream of chicken or mushroom soup
pat of butter

In a small pot bring the chicken broth up to a low simmer. You don't want to add cold (or room temperature) stock to your rice.

In a medium size pot, melt the butter and saute the onions and celery until soft. Add 1 cup of rice and about 1 cup of the chicken broth to your rice. Stir constantly until the rice mostly absorbs the broth. Adding a laddle at a time of chicken broth stir until rice keeps absorbing the broth. It usually takes about 2 minutes between adding more broth. When you have about one or two ladles of broth left in your small pot, add the 1/2 can of cream of chicken soup to the stock and mix well. When the soup has come up to temperature incorporate it into the rice the same way you were doing with the stock. The entire process will take about 30 minutes until the rice is cooked through. The best way to tell is to taste and see if the rice is cooked all the way. It will also get thicker and creamier as it cooks. Keep the heat on medium on your rice pot, you don't want it to boil, just simmer.

While the rice is cooking quickly chop about 1/2 pint of mushrooms and saute them in a skillet on high heat. Add the mushrooms to the rice when it is finished cooking. Melt in a second pat of butter. Serves 4. I served with oven baked chicken breast and green beans.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bacon Wrapped Smokies

I'm headed out to my first Christmas party of the season. I was asked to bring an appetizer or a dessert. Since I don't bake unless I get a wild hair (with usually disastrous results,) I picked the appetizer category. After asking some of my Mommy friends for suggestions this was recommended to me from I have to say, they are a perfect balance of smokey, sweet and salty.

Bacon Wrapped Smokies

2 packages of little smokies
2 packages of bacon
1 cup or so of brown sugar.

Cut bacon into thirds. Wrap each smokie with the bacon really tightly. Put brown sugar in a bowl and roll the bacon wrapped smokie in the sugar. Cover a cookie sheet with foil. Place a wire rack on the cookie sheet and line your smokies up on the rack with space between each one. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and cook for 40 minutes. Serve warm OR After cooling, place all smokies in a crock pot, add 1/2 cup of maple syrup and serve with fancy toothpicks on the side.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ham and Spinach Casserole

Some dishes don't photograph very well. I mean, I don't claim to be a food photographer by any means, but this didn't photograph that well. Anyway, it was very good. It brought back some childhood taste that I couldn't quite place. This would make a great brunch item, perfect for the holidays that are coming up! The girls asked for 3rds not even realizing that it was laced with SPINACH. Then again, that ingredient is probably the lone healthy thing in the dish...

Ham and Spinach Casserole

20-24 oz shredded potatoes (or about 5 smallish baking potatoes)
2 cups shredded cheese, divided
1 can cream of celery soup
1/2 onion diced small
1 stalk celery diced very small
8-10 oz diced ham
1 cup of sour cream
10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained
salt and pepper
1 egg (optional)

In a pot, saute the onions and celery until soft. Add soup, sour cream, 1 1/2 cups of cheese, spinach and ham. Stir very well. Add potatoes. (You can either use a grater, a food processor or buy pre-shredded potatoes.) Stir everything really well and pour into a greased baking dish. Top with remaining cheese and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Take out of the oven and break an egg on top and bake for an addtional 10-15 minutes or until the egg whites are cooked through and the yellow is still runny.

Thanksgiving Cornbread Dressing

In my family the dressing is prized over the turkey. As a matter of fact we usually make the turkey to compliment the dressing. We need the turkey "juices" as my Mema calls them. Also, with the leftover turkey we'd chop it up and add it to the dressing and eat on it for days. Why days? Because we make a small bathtubs worth of dressing every year so that everyone in the family can have leftovers. The thing is, this recipe is simple and I totally get that it isn't for everyone, because one thing I've learned is that people like and want the dressing they grew up with. Here's our family version. This makes a big lasagna pan, for a smaller amount, half the recipe, we usually triple it at least! Oh, one other thing. I'll run this recipe by my Mema to make sure it gets the final stamp of approval!

Thanksgiving Cornbread Dressing

2 recipes of cornbread (Homemade, CornKit, whatever suits you)
6 hard boiled eggs
1 onion finely diced
3 stalks of celery finely diced
4 pieces of the whitest white bread you can find
salt & pepper to taste
ground sage to tast <- this is hard to put a measure on, but probably at LEAST 3-4 tbsp.
6-8 cups of liquid: which means as much turkey "stock/juice" as you can get your sticky fingers on (the gravy people in the family also fight for this high prized commodity!) Supplement turkey drippings with chicken STOCK (not broth) and water if you must.

A lot of recipes have you saute your veggies before you add them to the dressing, our family likes the crunch so we put the veggies in raw. So, dice up your onions, celery and the hard boiled eggs and set aside. In a very large mixing bowl crumble up your cornbread into various sized pieces. With the white bread, tear off small pieces and roll and crumble them between your fingers to evenly distribute throughout the cornbread. Add veggies and egg and mix well. Add salt and pepper. Add sage. Stirring everything in very well. Now you do a "dry" taste until the seasonings taste right. Add the liquids. Transfer to baking dishes and cook on 325 degrees until the top gets browned. It is important to taste every 10-15 minutes just to make "sure" the seasoning is correct. Also just as important to have multiple tasters available.

I can't say how long you bake it because other things are usually crowding the oven and the temp goes up and down depending on what else is in the oven. That is just a Thanksgiving issue!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Creamy Chicken Broccoli Noodles

Since today is the day after Thanksgiving and the leftovers didn't seem to make it past lunch time in our house, I wanted a simple dinner for tonight. It dawned on me that this would also work great for leftover turkey if you are lucky enough to have any left. This hit the spot with my twin toddlers. It is the first time they have ever asked for thirds in their life.

Creamy Chicken Broccoli Noodles.

2-3 chicken breasts
1 package of frozen broccoli florets
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1 can of mushrooms (or sliced fresh mushrooms)
1/2 cup fat free half and half
1/2 cup mozzarella
8-10 oz noodles (I used egg noodles)

Boil noodles according to package directions and drain.
Meanwhile, cut chicken into small squares. In a large skillet start the chicken cooking. Season with salt and pepper. When it is about half cooked, add the frozen broccoli, can of mushrooms, can of mushroom soup and fat free half and half. Stir everything together. Add noodles and sprinkle with cheese.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Best Stuffing EVER!

Stuffing is a matter of taste. People tend to be very particular about their stuffings or dressings. They like them a certain way. My favorite is the basic bread stuffing recipe (made from scratch or the package from the store) with breakfast sausage and apples.

Best Stuffing EVER

Use any basic stuffing recipe but before you sauté the vegetable cook one pound of breakfast sausage (crumbled up) and and a cup and a half of diced apples. Amazing!! It is my favorite way to eat stuffing. There will be no picture because I am not hosting Thanksgiving (for the first time in my adult life.) There also probably will not be sausage and apple stuffing in my future since I am living in a Muslim country where it is hard to find pork products. So make this and send me a picture!! Best wishes for a happy and safe holiday. Or as we say here, Iyi Bayramlar!


Monday, November 23, 2009

Creamy Parmesan PestoTomato Soup

While I could probably eat Chicken Tortilla Soup every single day forever (okay, maybe not...) I think John could do the same with Tomato Soup. Almost every time I check out of the grocery store, I have about 10 cans of Campbell's Tomato Soup in my cart. I thought I'd try my hand at making homemade, but wasn't sure if I'd match up to the store bought variety that he's used to. John gave this soup a passing, but told me not to fancy it up with fire roasted tomatoes (sorry, it was what I had in the pantry!) He also recommended that I puree it a bit longer than I did, and I have to agree with him on that one. The random chunk of onion really threw off the texture. But the flavor was really good and this is coming from someone who cannot stand canned tomato soup. I'll definitely make this again, and with the grilled cheese sandwich on the side it was superb!

Creamy Parmesan Pesto Tomato Soup

2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 onions
1 garlic clove
2 cans of diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted)
1 1/2 cup yogurt
1/2 cup heavy cream
dash of pepper
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pesto (homemade or prepared)

Rough chop the onions into small pieces and mince up the garlic clove. In a medium pot, melt the butter and saute the onion and garlic on medium heat until it becomes translucent. Add canned tomatoes. Using either an immersion blender or a regular blender, puree onions and tomatoes.

Add yogurt and heavy cream to the pot and lower the heat all the way. Add salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese. Stir until cheese has melted in the soup. Add a dollop of pesto to individual bowls when serving. Serves about 4.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup is my favorite homemade soup. I think there have been days that I've eaten it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yes, I know... call me weird. Every time I make it I make it a bit different. Sometimes I make it with no chicken, so it's a Vegetable Tortilla Soup, sometimes I combine the two and add a ton of veggies, with chicken. Sometimes I throw in some rice, other times I leave out the rice. This version is just a simplified Chicken version without too many bells and whistles.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Some of the pantry ingredients: Green Chili Peppers, Chicken Broth (or stock), tomato sauce and a can of black beans.

Other ingredients:

2 chicken breasts chopped into bite size pieces.

3 cloves of garlic (pictured above) 1 onion, diced, 1 bell pepper, diced & 1 cup frozen corn (not pictured)

About a tbsp of Ancho Chili in Adobo Sauce. It comes in a can. I empty the can into a freezer safe ziplock bag and freeze it. That way I can chip off just the amount I need. This stuff is spicy!

In a large pot, saute the onion, garlic and bell pepper in 1 tbsp of oil on high heat until it starts to brown around the edges.

Add salt (about a tablespoon of kosher)

And seasonings... I use cumin and oregano. About 2-3 tsp of ground cumin and about 1/2 tbsp of dried oregano.

Add frozen corn (about 1 cup) and black beans. I usually don't drain them.

Add tomato sauce and about 4 cups of chicken broth. Simmer on low for 30-45 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Do not boil or chicken will get tough.

Serve with tortilla chips, cheese, avocado and sour cream if you like.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Semolina Helva


This dessert is delicious. It is really quick to make and is really neat because it is not something you often see served for dessert (in the States at least.) This makes it ideal for dinner parties. It is yummy, soft and warm. It is really excellent served for dessert after strong tasting foods. It is not a particularly diet conscious food, but really is worth it.

Semolina Helva (Irmik Helvasi)

1 cup semolina flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 tbsp pine nuts

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup milk

Put the milk, water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. While that is going on-- in a heavy saucepan melt the butter, and add the semolina and nuts. Brown the semolina and pine nuts lightly. Watch them!! They burn quickly.

Stir together the liquid and the dry ingredients. It will sputter so be careful. Mix until thoroughly incorporated let cool until warm and not hot. Fluff mixture then press into a bowl and invert onto a plate to serve. You could top it with cinnamon or toasted pine nuts.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Curry Burger with Cinnamon Sweet Potato Fries

I asked John if he had any ideas for dinner this week and he said we hadn't had hamburgers or spaghetti in a while. The poor boy he asks for spaghetti and hamburgers... last night I served chicken puttanesca (sorry, I didn't photograph it for The Frickin Chicken!) and tonight I made Curry Burgers. Not exactly what he had in mind! But they were SO good. I was licking my fingers. The girls ate them too, while saying yummy, yummy. The other thing... they were a snap to make!

Curry Burgers

16 oz ground turkey meat (I'm don't know how beef would taste but it worth a try)
3 tablespoons of a tandoori chicken seasoning mix

Gently mix the seasoning into meat. Don't over mix or your burgers will become tough. Divide into very thin 4 oz patties. Cook on a hot griddle, about 3-4 min per side, you must cook turkey until it is done, but don't over cook it. I served on Oroweat Sandwich thins with a curry mayo.

Curry Aioli (Fancy Mayonnaise)

1 small grated garlic clove
1 tsp lemon juice
3 tbsp mayo
1 tsp curry powder

Stir all ingredients together.

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Fries

1 large sweet potato
1 tsp cinnamon

Cut sweet potato into french fry lengths. Coat all of the fries in oil. Sprinkle with salt and cinnamon. Broil for 10 minutes, flip the fries with a spatula and then broil for 10 more minutes.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tomato Chicken Stew

I figured tonight was a good night to cook chicken. Mostly because I bought a bunch of chicken at the store the other day and haven't had any creative inspiration on cooking it. Since I'm trying to eat smaller portions of meat, I've been really into one pot meals. This way a scarce amount of meat doesn't seem as noticeable if you can fill up on veggies. I've never made anything quite like this but it was really tasty. I'll definitely be making it again.

Tomato Chicken Stew

10 oz chicken breast
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
2 carrots
2 stalks of celery
1 bell pepper (I used red)
1 can of green beans
1 large baking potato or two smaller ones
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 can of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce
about 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth
2 tbsp flour

Dice onion and garlic. Pour oil in very large skillet or pot on low heat and add the onion and garlic. Chop carrots, bell pepper and celery and add to the onions. Cut potato into moons and add that to the skillet. Cook for a few minutes on medium heat to get the potatoes started cooking. Add seasonings: oregano, thyme, turmeric, salt and pepper. Cut chicken into small squares. Add to the skillet. Add a can of tomato sauce or diced tomatoes. (I didn't have tomato sauce but I didn't really want chunks of tomato, so I pureed it in my blender.) Drain the green beans and add them to the skillet too. In a small bowl mix 1/2 cup of chicken broth and the flour whisking with a fork until there are no lumps. Pour into the skillet and stir. Add more chicken broth depending on how thick you want it. Bring to a simmer and cook covered for about 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Do not boil or the chicken will get tough.

weight watchers: Serves 4 at 4 pts per serving.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Stuffed Bell Peppers

First, let me apologize for how horrible this picture is. I am a terribly food photographer. I’m working on it. If it means I need a fancy new camera, then so be it. That’s the lengths I will go to for you people. I’m just that generous.

College cafeterias are supposed to be miserable, right? Poor quality, high calorie, all seemingly designed to accelerate the addition of the Freshman 10 (or 15 or 20) to the fastest rate possible. Mine was no different. Although, I will admit, after a little awhile, I developed a sort of Stockholm syndrome and actually started liking the food. It is with a heavy heart (among other heavy things) that I make that admission.

One of my favorite meals was stuffed bell peppers. I’m sure they were just mass produced Stouffers numbers, but Stouffers knows how to make nicely edible comfort food, so points to the cafeteria for knowing what works.

I wanted to make this dish at home, but the versions I’ve always had included cooked rice, which I usually did not have on hand, and I didn’t want to add extra time to a dish that already needed a fair amount of oven time. By then, my husband’s beloved Giada (his foodie princess) showcase a recipe that didn’t use rice. Yay for no extra carbs! Plus, ketchup! I always have plenty of ketchup (say what you will about the carbs there, but I don’t care)! Win win!

So I’ve tweaked the plan a bit, and this is how I make it at home. Feel free to make a Mexican version with salsa as a topper (as said husband does even though I’ve already made it with slightly Italian leanings).

Stuffed Bell Peppers

1 large bell pepper
½ lb. lean ground sirloin or ground turkey (or ground chicken, it’s versatile)
1 egg
½ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup ketchup
¼ cup (or whatever good amount you like) grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
Dash of dried oregano and parsley, unless you have fresh, then go for it
Diced tomatoes or bruschetta topping

Cut the bell pepper in half and remove seeds and ribs to create a small pepper boat. Mix the remaining ingredients (expect for the tomato topping) gently until combined. Fill each pepper boat with stuffing and top with tomatoes. Sprinkle with cheese. Arrange in a casserole dish and bake in a 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Turkey Chili Mac

This is another one of those dinners that I was just going through my pantry/fridge and came up with. There are lots of versions of this, my Mother-in-law makes something similar she calls Chili Soup because hers is thinner and this is thick. Since I made it while the girls were napping and my kitchen was clean, I took pictures of the steps. I'd like to do that more often, but I usually don't have the time or I forget. And don't let the long list of ingredients worry you, at the end of the recipe I put some easy substitutions! Oh and this passed the toddler test, although after they ate about half of it they decided it was too spicy. (But they kept eating more!)

Turkey Chili Mac

10 oz ground turkey meat
1 can of pinto beans
1 can of fire roasted tomatoes (or stewed)
1 can of tomato sauce
1 carrot
1 stalk of celery
1 small onion
3 cloves of garlic
banana pepper or can of green chilies
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup parsley
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 cup beef stock
2 cups dried pasta

This is most of the ingredients. I decided not to put in two cans of tomatoes, instead I used some beef stock for more liquid. I also added some vinegar and Worcestershire sauce to "brighten" the flavor at the end.

Chop your onion, garlic & peppers pretty small (especially if you are hiding them for toddlers)

Put them in a big skillet and saute.

While they are sauteing chop your celery and carrot and add to the skillet.

Add your turkey meat.

This is a nifty tool I bought from Pampered Chef. It helps break up meat and it works really well. Lean meats can sometimes be harder to break up than higher fat meat. Also, I never drain my meat, because I cook with such lean meat there is usually no fat to drain. If you sub a higher fat beef or even a higher fat turkey meat you may have to drain before you add seasonings.

Once the meat is broken up a bit, add the seasonings. I like to add them before the meat is fully browned. I think this flavors the meat more. Once it is brown, it doesn't take in the seasoning as much (in my opinion.) Stir the seasoning in to mix with the meat and veggies.

Add your liquids: the tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans and beef stock. I added the Worcestershire sauce and vinegar later because it needed the acidic element added. I didn't drain or rinse the beans because the liquid that they are packed in is high in starch (leached from the beans) and will help thicken the chili. Add your raw noodles, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes or until the noodles are tender.
Serves 6 (Weight Watchers 4pts per serving)

substitutions: you can sub beef for the turkey. If you don't have tomato sauce use either some tomato paste and extra beef stock or water. OR use a squirt or two of ketchup. You can skip the parsley, I just had it on hand. You can probably play around with the seasonings but I'd stick with the chili season or perhaps substitute a taco seasoning (it'll taste a bit different of course!) The main idea is cook with what you have and don't feel like you have to follow the recipe exactly!
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