Friday, April 30, 2010

Chicken Salad in a Pita

A light and tasty lunch. I didn't used to even like chicken salad until recently, and now it's one of my favorite lunches! I whipped these pita pockets up quickly this afternoon since it is a  bread that doesn't have to have a long rise time.

Chicken Salad in a Pita

1 recipe of Homemade Pita Bread (I used 1/2 wheat and 1/2 white this time)
1 baked chicken breast (I bake up about 8-10 at at time with just olive oil & salt and then freeze them for use in casseroles or dishes like this!)
3/4 cup grapes cut in half
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2-3 tbsp of real mayo (you could also use thick greek yogurt, which is tangier)
dash of salt
some shredded lettuce

Cut pockets in half. You may have to use a serrated knife to gently open the pocket. I used my Magic Bullet to shred the chicken breast, but a mini-food processor of any kind would work. Add the cut grapes, walnuts, mayo and salt. Stir until well incorporated. Stuff pocket with lettuce and top with chicken salad. I served mine with a diced apple and chopped raw carrot.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Homemade Peanut Butter

Sometimes when I make something homemade for the first time, I just have to laugh and wonder why it took me so long to try and make it from scratch! This peanut butter is delicious and tastes nothing like jarred peanut butter. I'm so thrilled I think I'm going to try almond butter next. I bought my peanuts in a bulk bin at the store already roasted (no salt) but they still had the skins on. My twins helped me peel all the skins off the nuts, which was fun since the three of us sat around the table concentrating on slipping the skin off each nut. (For photos, visit my personal blog.) Next time I'll try and buy nuts that don't have the skin, but even so, it was still simple.

I don't have a recipe, I just did it by "feel" and taste. I started with about 3 cups of peanuts in my food processor. I pulsed for about 30 seconds, then I drizzled in some honey (a tablespoon or so.) Then I added a few pinches of salt and about 3-4 tablespoons of peanut oil until I got a consistency and a taste that I liked. I read that homemade peanut butter will be good in an airtight container in the refridgerator for 2 months.

I made my girls grilled peanut butter and banana sandwiches on homemade wheat bread for dinner, a childhood favorite of mine.

Another Beef Taco

I have really been enjoying the homemade from scratch cooking I've been doing. Everything tastes so much better. Meals have become simpler because the ingredients are more complicated. Instead of fixing a fancy side dish to go along with these tacos, I cut up a fresh pear, because my focus was on making homemade wheat tortillas. I used to take about 30-45 minutes to cook a meal. I got this one on the table in 30 minutes and everything was fresh. My dough was already prepared ahead of time, but I did roll it out and cook it in the 30 minute time slot.)

Another Beef Taco
8 small tortillas
1 lb lean ground beef
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
1 small red bell pepper
1 small onion
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
salt to taste
favorite cheese as garnish

Saute beef in a large skillet (I prefer cast iron.) When it is about half way cooked, add diced onions. Add seasonings as beef is still cooking (oregano, chili powder, cumin and salt.) Add corn and last bell pepper. Cook just a few minutes, but leave bell pepper a bit crunchy. Put about 1/4 cup of meat mixture on each tortilla and grate fresh cheese on top. Serve with fresh fruit.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Homemade Graham Crackers

In attempt to get processed foods out of our diet, I needed to ditch the store bought graham crackers and gold fishies. These are so great with a bit of all natural, no sugar added apple butter! I have not made my own apple butter... yet! I'm still in the baking realm of homemade cooking, I have not ventured into canning. I have dabbled a bit with a few condiments (ketchup and bar-b-q sauce.) I got this graham cracker recipe from Not Dabbling In Normal. Although next time I make it I'm going to sub some of the butter for coconut oil, and instead of white flour I want to try white wheat flour. (I also used a food processor instead of doing it by hand.)

Graham Crackers
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup whole barley flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp clove
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled
1/4 cup milk

Combine flours, sugars baking powder, cinnamon, salt and cloves in a food processor. Add chilled butter and pulse until crumbly. Add milk and mix until you get a stiff dough. Knead the dough lightly to be sure it is smooth. Cut into 2 pieces and flatten each into a rectangle. Wrap the pieces in plastic wrap and chill until firm (at least 1 hr.)

Preheat oven to 350degrees. Working with one piece of dough at a time, turn out onto floured parchment paper and roll until it is 1/16 inch thick, the thinner, the crispier the cracker. Trim edges (use the trimming later for another batch) and you will have about a 9x12 inch rectangle. Cut into squares and prick with a fork, transfer to baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned 12-15 minutes. Cool on rack.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Corn Relish

I'm not a huge fan of chicken legs. I'm one of the crazy people that prefers white meat over dark meat. But we've been eating a lot of chicken and I was getting tired of the same type of dishes. These chicken legs went on sale and so I thought I'd change it up a bit. I marinated them in a quick homemade bar-b-q sauce. I don't have the recipe for that because I kind of just kept adding and tweaking until I liked the flavor. I used: 1 can of diced tomatoes, some grated onion, a few tbsp homemade brown sugar, mustard seed, celery seed, dried pepper flakes, vinegar, salt & pepper. I added a squirt of my homemade ketchup, and then let it simmer until thickened. Then I pureed it and marinated the chicken in half of it. The rest I reserved to serve with it. Here is the recipe for the corn relish:

Corn Relish
2-3 ears of fresh corn
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1/4 red onion, diced small
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 springs fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp dried
1/8 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Saute the onion, garlic and bell pepper in a skillet. When they start to get tender, add the corn. Add cumin, oregano and salt. Last remove from heat and stir in cilantro. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Carrot & Applesauce Puree

Lately my two year old twins have gotten picky about certain vegetables. I think it's a phase most two year old's go through, but I'm determined to power through it and get to the other side. Right now, they love peas almost every time you serve it to them. Broccoli on the other hand is hit or miss. One day they "love" broccoli, the next day it is, "yucky, NO like it!!" As for mushrooms, Izzie likes them, Maddie has eaten them on accident. And for reasons beyond my comprehension, they don't like carrots. I thought carrots were supposed be one of the "give" veggies that all kids liked. They don't like them raw, cooked, shredded or roasted. Today I decided to go back to the babyfood days when they actually loved carrots and puree them. I got the idea watching Food Network. On some of the fancy cooking shows the contestants will serve a "puree of blah blah blah vegetable." I always laughed at the critics who were basically eating baby food and saying how wonderful it is. Now all this is to say, I made pureed carrots for the girls, and they did turn them down, but I'm going to serve them again at dinner and see how it goes. I think the fact that they saw me make the carrots was my downfall in this instance. One success I've had with the girls is to offer the same vegetable several meals in a row, until they get so used to it, they don't think about "not liking" it.

Pureed Carrots & Applesauce
for a Toddler palette (I hope!)

2 large carrots
1 tsp olive oil
pinch of salt
1/2 cup plain, full fat greek or organic yogurt
1/4 cup natural, no sugar added applesauce

Cut carrots into round slices and place them on a cookie sheet or roasting pan. Drizzle olive oil and salt over them and toss to coat. Roast in the oven at 475 degrees for about 25 minutes or until tender. (They are great for adults this way! I pulled out some for me to eat at this point.)

Scrape all the carrots and oil into a blender. Add yogurt and applesauce and puree until smooth. This dish is really sweet, too sweet for me, but if you like sweet vegetables, I'm sure it would be a good side dish even for an adult.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

From Scratch Chicken Pot Pie

I have a potluck dinner to go to tonight so I decided that a Chicken Pot Pie would be a great dish to bring.

From Scratch Chicken Pot Pie

Pastry recipe from: Betty Crocker's Cookbook, bridal edition.
Two-Crust Pie
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup plus 2 tbsp shortening (cold)
4-5 tbsp ice cold water

Place shortening, flour and salt in food processor. Cover and process, using quick on and off motions, until mixture is crumbly. With food processor running pour cold water all at once through feed tube just until dough leaves side of bowl. Dough should not form a  ball.

Gather the crumbs into a ball on your counter. Divide into two. Shape into a flattened circle on a lightly floured surface. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll pastry out on lightly floured surface using floured rolling pin, into circles 2 in larger than the upside down pie plate. Line pie dish with crust. Fill with the chicken filling (see below.) Top with a second pie crust rolled out the same way.

Chicken Filling:
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pint mushrooms
1/2 cup frozen carrots
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 chicken breasts
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup milk
1/3 cup flour
1 cup chicken broth
salt, pepper, thyme, oregano

Dice one small onion into small pieces and saute in a large skillet with olive oil. Add garlic. Cut chicken into small pieces. Add the chicken to the onions. Saute until chicken is half way cooked. Add chopped mushrooms, frozen carrots and peas. Season with salt, pepper, oregano and thyme. Make a slurry of milk and flour. When chicken is cooked through, add flour slurry and stir. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil, continuing to stir. Add chicken to pie filling and bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

Roasted Garlic Bread

This is an easy and impressive bread to bring to your next dinner party.

Roasted Garlic Bread

Roasted Garlic:
1 head of garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 piece of foil about 6 in square

1 package or 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/4 cup of warm water
3 cups bread flour (or all purpose)
2 tsp honey
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
cornmeal for dusting

To roast the garlic, peel all the garlic cloves and cut them in half. Place them in the middle of foil. Cup the foil up and drizzle salt and olive oil over the garlic. Close the garlic in the foil and put in the oven at 250 for an hour. I use my toaster oven and I also place the garlic in a small oven proof bowl because somehow the oil always leaks out.

Dough: Combine yeast, water and honey. Let sit for 5 minutes until the yeast gets really bubbly. In your stand mixer, using a dough hook, put the flour, oil and salt in the bowl. Add yeast mixture. Knead in the machine for about 8 minutes. Dough should be smooth and satiny. Add more flour a tiny bit at a time if needed. Sometimes I like to finish the kneading off by hand, slightly dusting my hands and counter top. Form the dough into a ball. In a clean oiled bowl, place the dough ball in and spray or rub oil ontop of it. Cover and let rise for 1 hour. After one hour, punch down the dough. Sprinkle cornmeal on a cookie sheet (I used a stone baking pan) and then form dough into a rectangle that is about 4 inches across and 8 inches long. The dough will double in size, so keep that in mind. (Alternately you could make two smaller loaves.) With a sharp knife make small slits throughout the top of the dough and insert one garlic clove in each slit. Drizzle the olive oil that was baking with the garlic over the dough. Cover dough with lent free towel and let rise for another hour. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve warm!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Homemade Ketchup

I made homemade ketchup today! I didn't realize how many spices go into ketchup. They aren't all pictured here because I used up the anaheim chili and the last of my chili flakes. I also somehow misplaced my allspice and celery seed. I wonder if I absentmindedly stuck it in the freezer?? More than likely the girls carted them off when I wasn't looking. We went to the store this morning and I let them hold the spices while we shopped. I think they thought they were theirs to play with.

I got the ketchup recipe from You start with 2 lbs of tomatoes and end up with about two cups of ketchup. It's sweet, tangy and a bit spicy!

Homemade Ketchup
4 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 stick cinnamon
1/4 tsp celery seeds
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp whole allspice
2 pounds tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup white vinegar
5 tbsp brown sugar (since I used my homemade brown sugar, it was extra sweet, next time I'll use less!)
1 onion, chopped
1 anaheim chile, chopped
1 clove garlic

   1. Wrap cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon, celery seeds, red pepper flakes, and allspice in a layer of cheesecloth; tie into a bundle and put into a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat along with tomatoes, salt, vinegar, sugar, onion, and chile; smash and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until onions and chiles are very soft, 40 minutes.
   2. Remove spice bundle; purée sauce in a blender until smooth. Strain sauce through a mesh strainer into a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 30 minutes. Add more salt, sugar, or vinegar, if you like.
   3. Transfer ketchup to a glass jar. Set aside; let cool. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

UPDATE I need to rewrite this recipe and one day I will. Changes... instead of brown sugar I used backstrap molasses and instead of white vinegar I used Braggs Raw Apple Cider Vinegar. This last time, I blended really well with the stick blender and then I didn't strain the ketchup. It was a bit thicker but no one seemed to mind. Plus that keeps all the fiber of the vegetables in the ketchup, making it that much healthier!

After bottling, I added about 1/4 cup of whey and let sit on the counter for 1-2 days to lacto-ferment. Then refrigerate. Fermenting the ketchup will keep it safe to eat in the refrigerator for 6-8 months instead of a few weeks and it adds probiotics (like yogurt!) If you don't want to ferment it, freezing half or more of the recipe in ice cube trays and pulling out what you  need in smaller batches keeps it longer. After they freeze put them in a freezer zip bag. That way you can pull out as little or as much as you need.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Kofte and Yogurt Carrot Salad Part 2 of 2

Köfte are a Turkish dish, a kind of a mix between meatballs and hamburgers. Every region has their own specialty which usually include slight different spices and shapes. Some are flat and round like hamburgers (but smaller) some are shaped like sausages, some are skewered and grilled. They are very tasty and quick. With these köftes I veered off the traditional recipe because I was trying to make it lighter but keep the savory flavor.



1 half pound of lean ground beef
5 carrots shredded (should be just about the same volume as the beef)
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 handful of parsley chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon red pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

The shredded carrots should be about the same volume as the meat. You may have to adjust based on the size of your carrots. Chop everything finely and kneed together (like meat loaf.) I recommend then putting it in the fridge for an hour. The tastes develop more if you let everything mingle and get friendly. Then shape meat mix into small patties about the size of silver dollars and fairly thin. Pre heat a non stick skillet—you want a little char. If they stick use a little olive oil on the pan. Cook up as many as you would like. Serve with salad and bread.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Brown Sugar

Did you know that brown sugar is super easy to make? And apparently it's cheaper too. I ran out of brown sugar the other day trying to make some homemade oatmeal raisin cookies so I looked it up and found out that brown sugar is basically 1 cup of white sugar mixed thoroughly with 2 tbsp of molasses. I went ahead and made a big batch of it. Also worth mentioning, if you want to keep your brown sugar soft, place a piece of terracotta in the jar. Any clean, unglazed will do. They sell decorative ones, but if you have a clean terracotta pot that broke into shards, a piece of that will do nicely!

Avocado Black Bean Veggie Wrap

Last night my mom and I went to a presentation put on by Dee McCaffrey at a Sprouts Market. I heard about the class from the Dallas Morning News Moms Blog. The topic was "How to eat Organic on a Budget." Dee is also a proponent of getting all processed foods out of your diet, including white flour and white sugar. She lost 100lbs this way and has kept it off for 17 years. And when she said that you should eat some avocado everyday, she had my attention! She did a demo of this recipe and it was really great! I did not buy her Plan-D Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas, but I did make my own from scratch using The Homesick Texan's recipe. Currently I am using 1/2 wheat and 1/2 white but in the future I want to play around with a "white" wheat that Dee McCaffrey told me about; she said it was good for baked goods.

Avocado Black Bean Veggie Wrap 

1 1/2 cups black beans (about 1 15oz can, drained and rinsed)
1 large, ripe avocado
1/2 cup shredded or crumbled cheese
2 tbsp minced red onion
1 cup shredded red cabbage (I used green, since it is what I had on hand)
1 carrot, shredded
1/4 cup cilantro
1/2 cup cucumber, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup salsa
4  whole wheat tortillas*

Mash the beans adn avocado in a bowl with a potato masher or fork. Add in the cheese, minced onion and salsa. (I also added the juice of one lime.) Stir to mix.

Warm tortillas by placing on a hot griddle on high heat. Spread about 1/2 cup of the avocado-bean mixture onto one of the tortillas. Top with cucumber, carrot and cabbage. Roll up and serve. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and ingredients.

*Homemade Tortillas, courtesy of The Homesick Texan
(adapted from The Border Cookbook by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison)
Two cups of all-purpose flour (can make them whole wheat by substituting one cup of whole-wheat flour for white flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of vegetable oil**
3/4 cups of warm milk

**UPDATE: I don't use processed vegetable oils any more. I now would make this with coconut oil**
Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and oil.
Slowly add the warm milk.
Stir until a loose, sticky ball is formed.
Knead for two minutes on a floured surface. Dough should be firm and soft.
Place dough in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap for 20 minutes.
After the dough has rested, break off eight sections, roll them into balls in your hands, place on a plate (make sure they aren’t touching) and then cover balls with damp cloth or plastic wrap for 10 minutes. (It’s very important to let the dough rest, otherwise it will be like elastic and won’t roll out to a proper thickness and shape.)
After dough has rested, one at a time place a dough ball on a floured surface, pat it out into a four-inch circle, and then roll with a rolling pin from the center until it’s thin and about eight inches in diameter. (If you roll out pie crusts you’ll have no problem with this.) Don’t over work the dough, or it’ll be stiff. Keep rolled-out tortillas covered until ready to cook.
In a dry iron skillet or comal heated on high, cook the tortilla about thirty seconds on each side. It should start to puff a bit when it’s done.
Keep cooked tortillas covered wrapped in a napkin until ready to eat.
Can be reheated in a dry iron skillet, over your gas-burner flame or in the oven wrapped in foil.
While you probably won’t have any leftovers, you can store in the fridge tightly wrapped in foil or plastic for a day or so.
Makes eight tortillas.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Balsamic Roasted Chicken and Nectarines

I needed a quick and easy dinner to prepare tonight. This fit the bill and was delicious to boot! I also had to make some more rice pilaf again because it was so good the a few nights ago. This time around I ended up breaking spaghetti noodles into tiny pieces since I was out of orzo pasta and I used cremini mushrooms instead of button. It's all about flexibility in the kitchen! I used nectarines in this dish, but peaches would work just as well, the nectarines were on sale today. This would be even better if I had marinated the chicken in the balsamic and a boned in chicken breast would add even more flavor (not that it needed it, just thinking ahead to next time I make the dish!)

Balsamic Roasted Chicken and Nectarines

4 chicken breasts
4-6 nectarines (or peaches)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
4-5 sprigs fresh rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Cut your nectarines in quarters and place in the bottom of a deep casserole dish. I used a stoneware dish. Lay the rosemary sprigs across the fruit. Place chicken breasts on top of the rosemary. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the top of everything. Place in the middle of the oven and bake uncovered about 20 minutes (longer if using boned in chicken breast.) I used a meat thermometer that beeps when my chicken reaches 165 degrees internal temperature so I don't dry it out at that high oven temp. When serving, drizzle the pan drippings over chicken.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Omelet Braid

I made this by using a Pampered Chef recipe from the "All the Best" cookbook as my launching point. I changed the croissant dough for homemade pizza dough and I just made a simple egg/bacon/cheese stuffing. I brought it to a kid friendly brunch this morning and it was a hit for the grown-ups and kids alike.

Omelet Braid

Basic Pizza Dough (or crescent dough package)
8 eggs
1/4 cup Greek Yogurt or cream cheese
8 strips of bacon
1/2 cup shredded cheese
1 tbsp flour

Cook your bacon using your favorite method. (I laid it out on my Pampered Chef Stoneware Bar Pan and baked at 400 for 20 minutes, then chopped it.) While bacon is cooking, in a big bowl crack 7 eggs and the yolk of the 8th egg. Reserve the 1 egg white for later. Add yogurt to the eggs. Whisk to mix together. Add salt and pepper and 1 tbsp of flour. Last mix in chopped bacon. Roll pizza dough into a large rectangle. Every 1.5 inches cut a slice in the dough to almost the middle.

Lay egg mixture down the center of the dough. Then bring each section together over the egg mixture, twisting the sides together and laying it down over the eggs. Work your way down the length of the dough. Pinch off any dough that is too thick and discard. Brush the dough with the egg white. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.

Rice Pilaf

This is a very tasty and easy side dish. Side benefit? It hid a bunch of vegetables and my twins at it right up! I used it as a side dish with a fish packet. The sauce on the plate is from the juices in the fish packet, not the rice. To really hide the zucchini, peel it first, but a lot of the nutrients are found in the skin.

Rice Pilaf

1/2 cup orzo pasta
1/2 cup white rice
1 zucchini, grated
8-10 button mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced
3 3/4 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter and olive oil in a medium pot. Add rice and orzo, stiring to coat and slightly brown. Add grated zucchini, mushrooms, garlic, salt & pepper. Cover with chicken stock and stir. Bring to a boil, cover the pot with a lid and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes or until rice is tender.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin