Friday, December 11, 2009

Baked Oatmeal

This is a nice warm breakfast for cold mornings. It can be both warm and quick if you make it the night before and reheat individual squares in the microwave the next morning.

1/3 c diced apples
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 c + 2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 cups uncooked oats
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp chopped walnuts
1 1/2 c milk
1/2 c applesauce
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 large egg, beaten

1. Preheat oven to 375 deg. F.
2. In a small bowl toss diced apples with cinnamon and 2 Tbsp of brown sugar.
3. In a larger bowl, mix oats, 1/3 c brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and walnuts.
4. Mix together milk, applesauce, melted butter, and egg and stir into the oat mixture. Fold the apple mixture into the oat mixture, too.
5. Pour into a greased 8" square pan and bake at 375 deg for 25 to 30 minutes.

Note: For a slightly quicker version, skip the apples and add raisins instead, mixing the cinnamon and 1/2 cup of brown sugar (rather than the 1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp) directly into the oat mixture before adding the milk et al. Hmm, craisins might be good, too.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Crispy Curry Chicken Salad Sandwiches

I made this up last night to stretch our leftover fried chicken, and it far exceeded my expectations. In fact my wh0le family loved it. It might even be worth buying fried chicken just to make it. This recipe makes 6 whole sandwiches.
3 pieces fried chicken (breasts and/or thighs), meat removed and chopped; I included a little bit of the fried breading, which gave this the best flavor
1 apple, finely chopped
2 carrots, grated
mayonnaise and curry powder mixed together (sorry, i didn't measure either one; just add what looks and tastes right to you)
Mix all of the ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to serve. Spread butter on one side of good dense bread (we recently discovered one we love from Trader Joe's called Whole Wheat Tuscan Pane) and grill in skillet until golden brown on both sides.
To assemble sandwich: put bread on plate, buttered side down; cover with fresh spinach leaves and chicken salad; top with another piece of bread, buttered side up. Cut in half and enjoy. I think nuts and golden raisins would be good in this also.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Not the Typical Quesadilla

I got this recipe a few years ago from a little cookbook at a grocery store checkout lane. This is my modified version. I always eat more of these than I should; they also make good leftovers.

Ranch Quesadillas

2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
2 cups (8 oz) Colby Jack cheese, shredded
1 cup Ranch dressing
1 medium tomato, diced and seeded
1/2 - 1 can (4 oz) diced green chiles, rinsed and drained (depends on how much you like)
8 flour tortillas, approximately
salsa (optional)
guacamole (optional)

Combine chicken, cheese, dressing, tomatoes, and chiles in a medium bowl. Place about 1/2 cup of the chicken mixture on each tortilla, then fold in half. Put quesadillas on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Cut in half or thirds. Serve with salsa and guacamole.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Peppermint Bark

Okay, so this is less of a recipe and more of a funny story. I was at Costco the other day and they had all their yummy Christmas food out. It was hard to keep from drooling on everything. They had some peppermint bark and I thought, "I have got to make some of that." It's Halloween though, so I wanted to make it look seasonal. I put some green food coloring in the white chocolate and called it Monster Mash-up. We had it last night for FHE. Maggie says, "This is so yummy, Mom. We should have it again." Aaron says, "Yeah, with a more seasonally appropriate name." I'm thinking, "Sure, peppermint bark." And then Hannah comes in with "Elf Disaster." I laughed so hard. I'm still laughing just thinking about it. Maybe we should pass it out as our neighbor gifts this year.

Here is what I did in case you need to make some Monster Mash-up or Elf Disaster--just for giggles. I melted 1 cup milk chocolate chips and spread them on a parchment lined cookie sheet and put it in the freezer to cool. Then I melted 1 cup white chocolate chips and added 1/2 tsp mint extract, green food coloring and 1/4 c (ish) crushed peppermint candy. I spread it on the milk chocolate and sprinkled more crushed peppermint candy over the top. I put it in the freezer again to cool and broke it up into pieces to serve. It was pretty good, but I think Emily's is better.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chicken and Rice

One really fun thing about living with Kristen is dinner time. Often we have to come up with something to eat with what we have on hand (we keep meaning to plan menus, honest) that will fill up all of the boys as well as the usuals of being yummy and healthy. And since that wasn't enough of a challenge, we decided to go on a diet together so dinner also has to fit within that. Well the other day, we were looking through the cupboards and thinking and bouncing ideas and ended up with this really yummy chicken and rice dish:

Chicken thighs cut into slices (Kristen really likes thighs because they tend to be more moist than breasts)
red, orange and yellow bell peppers, sliced (green would probably work too but we didn't have any of those)
chopped onion
cumin (a decent amount)
garlic salt
green salsa
splash of water
cooked brown rice

Season the chicken with cumin and garlic salt and saute lightly with the peppers. Add the salsa (almost the whole bottle) and a splash of water. Cover and let it boil until the chicken is cooked. Serve over rice.

It was really good that night but was even better the next day because the flavors had time to mix and mingle. It would also be good with green chiles.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fudge (need I say more?)

On a recent trip to California, I realized that I kept buying fudge at the sweet shops. Although I enjoyed the variety, I was always a little disappointed with the fudge itself. Then I thought, "I have a great fudge recipe. Why not make my own variations?" So I did. In August, no less. My family has a tradition of making fudge only at Christmas time. But it's not written in stone, so I broke the tradition! Mwahahahaha! (sugar induced maniacal laughter)

Abbott's Fudge
my great-grandma's recipe

2 1/4 cups sugar
6 oz (or 1/2 a can) evaporated milk
1/4 cup butter
1/2 pound Hershey chocolate bar
7 ounce jar marshmallow creme
1 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla

1) In a large bowl, break up the chocolate bar into small pieces. Add the marshmallow creme. Set aside.

2) Combine sugar, milk and butter in a large pot. Bring to a rolling boil. Turn down the heat to medium and boil for 4 minutes, stirring constantly.

3) Immediately pour over the chocolate and marshmallow. Stir thoroughly.

4) Add chips and vanilla; mix until smooth.

5) Pour into a well greased pan (large pan = thinner fudge; smaller pan = thicker fudge). Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours before cutting. For easier cutting, dip a knife in hot water.

Toffee: During step 4, mix in 1 cup Heath bits. After it's poured in the pan, sprinkle a bunch on top.

Mint: Add 1 cup Andes mints bits in step 4, mixing until smooth. Sprinkle some on top, also.

Peanut Butter: Mix about 1 cup smooth peanut butter into step 4. Sprinkle mini Reese's pieces on top.

Rocky Road: Stir in 1 cup chopped walnuts in step 4. When it is mostly cool, gently stir in a couple handfuls of mini marshmallows and pour into the pan.

Snickers: Add 1 cup chopped peanuts during step 4. Pour half the fudge into the pan, followed by a thin layer of caramel (like the ice cream topping), and then carefully add the rest of the fudge. Sprinkle with diced peanuts and mini chocolate chips, then drizzle with caramel topping.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Summer Was Made for This

This salad is what summer tastes like for me: warm ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, cool cucumbers--yum! I got it out of a Weight Watchers cookbook and modified it a little.

Summer Tomato Salad

3 Tbsp. red-wine vinegar
4 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. spicy or Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. pepper
2-4 tomatoes, diced
2-4 cucumbers, diced
1/2 onion, chopped
1/3 c. basil leaves, shredded

1. To prepare the dressing, in your serving bowl, whisk the vinegar, salt, mustard, and pepper together. Add the olive oil in a steady, slow stream while whisking constantly.

2. Add the tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, and basil to the dressing. Toss to coat. Refrigerate, covered, tossing once, until the flavors are blended, at least one hour. (If you can wait that long, and mine usually needs to be on the table way before that. Plus I like it room temp.)

I added the cucumber, so feel free to leave it out, but I find that when I have lots of ripe tomatoes that need eating, I also have lots of cucumbers that need eating. Also, I don't usually measure the basil. Put in what you think will taste good.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My favorite fish tacos

We don't have these often, but man, when we do I snarff them! The whole combination is great to me, but the sauce is really what makes it. I didn't list any amounts; just expand or contract to the number of tacos you need. I'd figure on least 2 or 3 tacos per person (more if you have hungry boys who like fish).

Taco components:
Fish fillets (talpia, cod, whatever)
white corn tortillas
finely shredded cabbage
sliced green onions (opt)
diced fresh tomatoes (opt)

sour cream (or plain yogurt)
lime juice
Cayenne pepper

Lightly season the fish--I usually give it a light salting. Then grill it, or bake in the oven (I can't seem to handle grilling fish) until flakey and a little browned. Warm the tortillas either in the microwave or in a frying pan with a little oil, just to keep them flexible. Shred the cabbage and, if you want, mix it with green onions and diced tomatoes.

Make the sauce with equal parts mayonnaise and sour cream (or plain yogurt)--I would figure on 1/4 cup of each for 4 servings. Add lime juice until the mixture thins a little, and add the seasonings to your taste (go easy on the cumin--it can take over).

Set out all the components--fish, broken into bits; cabbage mixture; warmed tortillas; sauce. Everyone can put their tacos together with fish at the bottom, topped by the crunchy cabbage, topped with sauce. Enjoy! I'm drooling just thinking about it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


This one is an old family favorite that I had forgotten about.

Cheese Dreams
Whip up eggs with a bit of water or milk as if making french toast, omitting the vanilla and cinnamon if you use them in french toast. Dip one side of a piece of bread in the egg mixture and put it on a preheated skillet, egg side down. Add cheddar cheese and top with a second piece of bread dipped in egg, egg side up. Once the first side is brown, flip and cook until the cheese is melted and the second side is cooked. If desired, you can also add ham. (Yes, these are pretty much grilled cheese sandwiches with egg on the outside, the real difference is coming.) To serve, put on a plate and top with applesauce. Eat with a fork.

I know they sound strange but are actually really good. We had them for dinner the other day and it gave me an idea. This morning while having french toast for breakfast, I put applesauce on one of them instead of the powdered sugar I usually do. It was really great, like cheese dreams without the cheese. I'm thinking it's a good, healthier alternative to the uber surgary breakfast that french toast usually is.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Experimenting with Muffins

I started with a basic oatmeal muffin recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. It needed a lot of help. I have spent the last couple of years (I don't make muffins every day) experimenting and tweaking the recipe. For instance, I came up with the topping on my own. And I finally arrived at today's success. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Feel free to do your own experiments, and let me know how they turn out.

Oatmeal Muffins

1 1/3 cups flour
3/4 cup oats
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup milk or non-dairy creamer
1/4 cup oil

2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon chilled butter
1-2 Tablespoons chopped nuts

1) Preheat oven to 400. Grease muffin tin or line with baking cups.

2) Whisk together dry ingredients; set aside (whisking helps eliminate lumps). Beat together wet ingredients; add to dry mixture, stirring just until moistened. Spoon batter into muffin cups. Mix the topping ingredients and sprinkle over each muffin.

3) Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in a muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving with butter. Makes 12 muffins.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Jen asked me to post this recipe. We were talking about yummy Mexican food while we were at Los Hermanos. I was drooling about churros. Sometimes you just get a craving.

I recommend some specialized equipment for making these. You don't have to have it, but it makes it all so much easier.
1. a spider (a mesh scooper for frying)--you can also use a slotted spoon
2. a 12inch pastry bag--you can use a gallon plastic bag, but watch for breakouts when hot oil splatters on it.
3. a large open-star tip (the kind you would use for frosting a large cake)--you can use this with the plastic bag or with the pastry bag. You can also do it without the tip, but they look less like churros and more like, to quote Hannah, poop.
4. a helper
5. a candy thermometer--this you actually need.


2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 c. sugar
1 c. milk
6 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. flour
3 large eggs
5-6 c. vegetable oil, for frying

1. Stir together cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl (I like a pie plate This makes a ton, I usually reserve the rest for cinnamon and sugar toast, but you may want to reduce it.); set aside. Bring milk, butter, and salt to boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, and cook, stirring, until mixture forms a ball and pulls away from side of pan, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat, and let cool 3 minutes. Add eggs, and stir until batter is smooth. (I like to transfer to my mixer at this point. It goes so much easier.) Spoon mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large open-star tip.
2. Hear 4-5 inches oil in a large Dutch oven until it registers 330 on a deep-fry (candy) thermometer. (I heat it to around 300 on high and then turn it down to medium.) Holding pastry bag a few inches above the oil, squeeze out batter, snipping off 4-inch lengths with a knife or kitchen shears. (This is where the helper comes in handy. Watch for splattering hot oil.) Fry 6-8 churros at a time, turning once, until deep golden brown all over, about 5 minutes; transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.
3. Roll churros in cinnamon sugar. Serve immediately with hot chocolate. (I like Abuelita's Mexican Hot Chocolate with these.)
Makes about 20

These are best when warm, if you can wait that long. Our family easily finishes them off in an evening. Katrina has one right now. She keeps saying "umm" every time she takes a bite.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Greek Pizza

Here is a yummy Greek Pizza from Rachael Ray with a crust recipe from

Pizza Dough
3 cups flour
1 pkg yeast
1 tsp. salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup warm water

Combine flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Mix in oil and water. Spread in a large pizza pan and top as desired. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes. You can let it rise for a few minutes before putting it in the oven but it's not necessary. This recipe also makes really good bread sticks. To jazz it up for breadsticks, mixing in herbs or topping with cheese is really good. For the Greek Pizza below, I used one cup whole wheat flour (it was all I had left) and two cups regular white flour.

Spinach Feta Greek Pizza
I recipe wheat pizza dough
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves grated garlic
1 onion chopped
2 bunches spinach
salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste
1 cup feta cheese crumbles
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
fresh oregano, chopped

Preheat oven to 450. Press dough into pan and put in the oven for a few minutes. In a large skillet, saute the garlic and onion in oil. Add the spinach and wilt. Season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Top the lightly cooked dough with hte spinach mixture then top with feta and mozzarella. Put the pizza back in the oven until the cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. When the pizza comes out of the oven, top with tomatoes and oregano.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Importance of Being Fresh

I have eaten and made a lot of meatballs and meatloaf and up until recently have used dry bread crumbs almost exclusively. But, America's Test Kitchen recommends fresh bread crumbs for these items. Hey, I thought, let's give it a whirl. Wow! What a difference! Both turned out moist and tender and delicious. They're okay with the dry, but fresh is really better. Here are my favorite recipes for meatballs and meatloaf.


2 slices white sandwich bread
1/3 c. buttermilk
1 lb ground beef (or 3/4 lb beef and 1/4 lb pork)
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley (2 tsp. dried)
1 large egg yolk
1 garlic clove minced
3/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

1. Remove and discard crusts from the bread, then tear the bread into small pieces. Mash the bread pieces and buttermilk into a smooth paste in a large bowl with a fork.

2. Add the beef, Parmesan, parsley, egg yolk, garlic, salt and pepper to the mashed bread. Stir the mixture gently until combined a uniform. Gently form the mixture into 1 1/2 inch round meatballs (about 14).

3. You can cook these in a skillet, but they always turn out pyramidal and require a lot of tending. I usually cook them in the oven. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Spread the meatballs on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Enjoy!

I also like these with Montreal Steak seasoning. I leave out the Parmesan, salt, pepper, and garlic and add 1 Tbsp. of the steak seasoning.


1/2 c. ketchup
2 Tbsp. Dijon or spicy mustard (use a kind you like)
1 egg
1/4 c. milk
2/3 c. fresh bread crumbs (Pulse chunks of bread in the food processor or do as for meatballs.)
1 Tbsp Montreal Steak seasoning
(Or for Italian flavor--1 tsp. Italian seasoning, 1tsp. oregano, 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, 1 minced
garlic clove, onions to taste--1/4 c. finely minced does it for me)
2 tsp. parsley flakes (or 2 Tbsp. fresh)
1 lb. ground beef

1. Mix together the ketchup and mustard. Set aside 2 1/2 Tbsp. of the mix. Add the other ingredients and gently mix well.
2. On a rimmed baking sheet, form into four football shaped loaves. Top each loaf with the reserved ketchup and mustard mix. Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes.

I usually make this into as many loaves as we need. Two big ones for Mom and Dad and 3 or 4 smaller ones for the kids. This worked great until Maggie turned into a carnivore and started eating adult sized portions of meat and Katrina started to eat real food. We've had to move up to 1 1/2 lbs to feed everyone, so that makes bigger loaves or more of them. The kids love getting their own meatloaf and it's on the table way faster than traditional meatloaf.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Stuffed Peppers

This one is a bit time consuming but oh-so-good I couldn't resist adding it. Last time I made it I put together the inside in the afternoon during Anna's nap and then just stuffed and baked at dinner time. It's from the wonderful Costco cookbook.

1/4 cup each white, brown and wild rice - I usually buy those box mixes of white and wild rice with the spices, cook it and mix in 1/2 to a cup of that with the brown rice
6 medium bell peppers, any color but the red ones are good because they are so sweet
1 lb sausage
1 small onion, chopped
4 crushed garlic cloves
1/2 lb fresh small mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
2 eggs, beaten
olive oil

Prepare rices and set aside. Preheat oven to 350. Wash and clean bell peppers. Slice off the tops (about 1/2 in) and clean insides thoroughly. If they don't stand up on their own, cut a tiny bit off the bottom for a base. Cook sausage in a large frying pan. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Pour off most of the grease but leave some in the pan. Saute onion, garlic, mushrooms and parsley in the pan until soft. Add walnuts and saute 2 minutes. Add back sausage to vegetable mixture and add cheese, rices, spices and eggs. Combine well. Rub the exterior of the peppers with olive oil and stuff with the sausage mixture. Place in a baking pan, cover loosely with foil and bake 1-1 1/2 hours.

If your kids aren't into the peppers, you could probably just mix in diced peppers and bake the innards in a pan. I don't think it would take the full hour but don't know how long it would take so let me know if you do it this way.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Lasagna- the Megan way

1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1 lb ground beef
9 lasagna noodles
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 Tbsp Parsley Flakes
1 egg
1/4 c parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozarella

Cook ground beef with onions until browned. Pour in spaghetti sauce and simmer for ten minutes. Cook Lasagna noodles as directed on the box. Mix ricotta cheese and egg and parsley and parmesan cheese together. (You can use cottage cheese but Josh specifically asked for ricotta this time). Butter 9 X 13 pan. Place 1/2 cup of meat mixture in pan. Then layer noodles, egg and ricotta cheese mixture, mozarella cheese and meat mixture. Repeat two more times. For the top, finish with meat mixture and some mozarella cheese. Cook at 350 for 30-40 minutes, let sit 10 minutes before serving and Enjoy!!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I've noticed that we haven't done much with dessert on this blog yet. Which is strange because it is my favorite part of any meal. Plus, I don't really think of baking as too different than cooking.

Something about pudding and cool whip really make me think of spring. This one is from a Kraft Food and Family magazine.

Old-Fashioned Ice Box Dessert
graham crackers broken into squares - it could also be good with a graham cracker crust
1 pkg. (8 oz) cream cheese
2 cups milk
1 pkg (4 servings) instant pudding - it calls for vanilla but I think any flavor could be good
1 tub cool whip - be sure to defrost it or it's not as firm
1 cup chopped strawberries
1 cup chopped kiwis
1/2 cup toasted coconut

Arrange graham crackers in an even layer on the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Beat cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add milk, mixing until well bended after each addition. Add dry pudding mix and beat 1 minute. Gently stir in half of the cool whip. Spread over the crackers in the pan. Cover with remaining cool whip and top with fruit. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Sprinkle with coconut just before serving. Also good without the fruit or coconut.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Dinner with a Twist

This year for Easter dinner, we had a pretty traditional meal. I made a couple of little changes that spruced it up a bit.

I didn't do anything to the ham. I know there are all kinds of yummy glazes and the such but we went with a plain ham this year. As a note to people cooking for a small group, this year I decided to just get a ham steak. Usually, I get all into the big hams and we end up eating ham for weeks with it getting pretty old. So this year, I thought ahead (go me) and realized we don't need 10 pounds of ham, we just need about 2 (and still had leftovers). I cooked it in the broiler and it was yummy and quick (the thick cut was done in less than 15 minutes).

For the vegetable, I went with asparagus (I cuss, you cuss we all cuss for asparagus). I wanted to try my hand at a hollondaise sauce but had already boiled all of our eggs for dying. Oops. Instead, I made a little mustard sauce that was simply dijon mustard thinned out with milk. I thought it might have needed something else and tried adding some lemon juice but the mustard was so strong that I couldn't taste the lemon. Once it was the right consistency, I microwaved it a bit to warm it up. The sauce also went well with the ham.

Finally, the potatoes. This is just the recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook but rather than cheddar, I used gruyere cheese.
Au Gratin Potatoes
1/2 cup chopped onion - I used two good sized green onions
clove garlic, minced
2 T butter
2 T flour
1 1/4 cup milk
3 medium potatoes, sliced

Melt butter and saute onion and garlic. Add flour, slat and pepper and let it soak up the butter. Add milk all at once. Cook until thick and bubbly. Stir in cheese and cook until melted. Place potatoes in a greased 7x11 baking dish and pour sauce on top. Bake, covered, in a 350 oven for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 - 20 minutes.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Here are two Indian dishes that use mangoes. I didn't really get to like mangoes until after we went to India so they remind me of there. The first one is from and the second one is from an Indian cookbook I got for Christmas called Indian in 6 (Indian dishes with 6 ingredients or less).

Chicken and Mango Curry
2 mangoes peeled, chopped and divided
can coconut milk
1 T vegetable oil
1 T curry paste - the spiciness of the dish will depend on the curry paste, if you can find Indian curry paste it would be more authentic and you can always add more if it needs more spice
14 oz chicken, cut into cubes - to make this vegetarian, I used paneer instead
4 medium shallots, sliced
1 large cucumber, seeded and chopped

Blend half of the mangoes with the coconut milk in a blender until smooth. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Stir in the curry paste and cook about a minute (until fragrant). Add the chicken and shallot and cook until chicken is cooked and shallot is soft. If not using chicken, just cook the shallots. Pour in the mango puree and cook until warmed through. Add the rest of the mangoes, the cucumber and paneer, if using, just before serving. Serve over rice.

Monsoon Salad
1 large mango, diced
4 thick rings fresh pineapple cut into 1/2 inch pieces (or use canned rings)
2 bananas sliced
1 T lemon juice
2 in piece very fresh ginger root
1 T brown sugar

Combine the mango, pineapple and banana in a mixing bowl. Season with salt and add the lemon juice. Shred the ginger root finely and squeeze to collect the juice. Add to the bowl. Sprinkle in the sugar and mix lightly. Serve immediately.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


I realize these are more wintery recipes and as it is getting to be spring we should be looking forward to the fun springy recipes but oh well.

I was talking to a friend the other day and we were talking about how healthy beans are (particularly lima beans). So then I made this bean casserole as a way to eat lima beans without them tasting like the horrible lima beans I remember from my childhood. I thought it turned out pretty good and Anna liked it so much I worried about how her little intestines would handle so many beans.

Fruity Baked Bean Casserole
1/2 pound bacon
3 medium onions chopped
can lima beans, drained
can kidney beans, drained
can baked beans
can cannelloni beans, drained (I think that's what they were, they were big and white and I had an extra can. The recipe calls for two cans of the baked beans)
can pineapple chunks
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup ketchup
2 T mustard (I used dijon)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 green pepper, chopped

Cook bacon in skillet and place in crock pot. Pour off most of the grease and cook the onions in the bacon grease until soft. Add to crock pot along with all of the beans. In a separate bowl (I used a 2 cup measuring cup) combine the rest of the ingredients. Stir into crock pot. Cover. Cook on high 2-3 hours.

I served this with cornbread. The pineapple is what interested me in this and I thought it added a nice sweet and tangy element.

This other bean recipe is one that I have been making for a while. I recommend halving the recipe if making it for a small group or you will have leftovers forever (believe me).

Ban Casserole
1/2 pound hamburger
1/2 pound bacon
1 onion
1 large can pork and beans
1 can kidney beans
2 cans BBQ beans (I use the Bush's baked beans)
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp dry mustard
2 T vinegar
2 T molasses

Brown hamburger, bacon and onion. Pour off the grease. Drain beans. All all ingredients. Mix well and cook until heated through. Also goes well with cornbread.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Corned beef -- tastes like ham

I know this is a bit delayed, but I wanted to mention the lovely corned beef we had for St. Patrick's Day. I may have had it once before, but I've certainly never made it. It got mixed reviews at our house. I absolutely loved it; Uchenna tried to pretend it didn't exist and only ate colcannon (the mashed potatoes-cabbage side dish).

Here's how you make it:

  • Buy the ready-to-boil beef brisket that has already been brined.
  • Rinse it, put it in a pot and barely cover it with water.
  • Dump in the little spice-peppercorn packet that comes with it (is it called corned beef because of the peppercorns? I never could figure out what corn had to do with anything).
  • Boil it for about two hours (just make sure the water doesn't completely boil away), and voila!

It's very greasy-fatty, just so you know. And red. I was a bit surprised that it was fully cooked but red. Actually it looked, smelled, and tasked somewhat like ham, but with a beefy texture. Yummy. Hmm, maybe that ham resemblance is what put Uchenna off.

When only one person eats the corned beef, you have to figure out what to do with the leftovers. I snuck them into a (also lovely) pasta dish and hoped he wouldn't notice. I think he noticed. He ate some, but not much, and went rummaging for snacks an hour later.

But for people who do like corned beef and/or ham, here is the pasta recipe:

  • Cook and drain pasta (I used penne. Bowties or egg noodles would probably be just as good).
  • Dice the left-over corned beef. Sauté with diced onions and sliced mushrooms (since the beef is fatty all on its own, don't add any extra oil) until the onions are soft, the mushrooms are browned, and the beef is warmed through and somewhat browned (this may take some tasting to make sure the beef really is hot all through--a cook's gotta do what a cook's gotta do).
  • Add a little garlic and green beans and cook another minute or two (asparagus might work in place of the green beans, if you're into that sort of thing).
  • Sprinkle the sautéed mixture with a tablespoon or so of flour and stir until everything is evenly coated.
  • Add enough milk to make it all saucy (two cups or so, depending on how much you're making). Stir and simmer for a few minutes until the sauce cooks down and thickens up a little.
  • Add the cooked and drained pasta to the sauce. Add green peas.
  • Mix until the sauce and pasta are well combined. Turn off the heat (quick, before the peas start to lose their green, and get that awful cooked-peas color!). Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.
  • Serve immediately with a crisp salad.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Whole Wheat Pasta with Kale and Fontina

Every time we have this, I love it. I pick in it while it's on the stove, eat too much at dinner and am all over the left overs. Jason thinks it's nothing special and would prefer it only occasionally. We have it now and then. It's from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food.

4 slices of bacon (not pre-cooked)
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 bunch kale ( 1 pound) thick stems trimmed and chopped
salt and pepper
2 cups chicken broth (It says low sodium but then why add the salt? Last time I used salt and normal sodium broth and it was too salty. I'm thinking next time I'll not add the salt and use regular broth)
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
1/2 cup grated fontina cheese

Cook bacon in a large skillet and set aside. Pour off most of the grease. It says to leave three tablespoons but I can never tell that so I just leave a little bit. Start the water for boiling the pasta. Cook garlic in the grease until golden. Add the kale in batches and cook until wilted (2 minutes). Add broth, cover and simmer 10 minutes (until kale is tender). Meanwhile, cook the pasta. The recipe recommends reserving some of the water to add later if you want but I don't usually do/need that. Toss the cooked pasta with the kale, fontina and bacon.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Saint Patrick's Day dinner

Did anyone else have fun with their Saint Patrick's Day dinner? I know that the traditional meal is corned beef and cabbage, but I made that one year and wasn't too impressed. So I like to have fun with green food coloring instead. Yesterday I made green chicken nuggets (recipe to follow), green mashed potatoes (simply added the food coloring at the end) and green peas. I didn't know how green the chicken nuggets would end up, and they turned out very green. The kids loved it!

Chicken Nuggets

vegetable oil (enough to barely cover pan, adding as necessary)
boneless skinless chicken breasts (I defrosted 4 large ones for my family, and there was more than enough)
corn starch or flour
2 beaten eggs (optional: add a few drops of food coloring)
Italian bread crumbs

Heat thin layer of oil in large skillet over medium heat. Pound chicken until uniformly thin. Cut into nugget-sized pieces. Dip in corn starch or flour, then dip in egg, then coat with bread crumbs. Fry in batches, turning over when golden brown. They will cook quickly if you have pounded them thin enough. Drain on paper towels. Serve with dipping options: BBQ sauce, ketchup, honey mustard, and hot sauce (my family's favorite). These are a huge hit with adults and kids alike.

Monday, March 9, 2009


This is a question for Ellen, but I thought we would all benefit from the answer, so I am posting it. I made the honey butter pork loin tonight for dinner. It was very good, but I wonder if the sauce I made is the actual sauce. I put the honey and the butter in my cast iron skillet and browned the pork in it. Then I was waiting for oven space, so I just put my stove top on low for about 7 minutes until what was in the oven was done. But when I took the lid off the pan to check on it before I put it in the oven, the sauce was burnt. I poured it out and started over again. I put the pork in the oven for 25 minutes with a lid on and when I took it out, the sauce had a burny flavor to it and was a dark brown color. It tasted good on the pork, but I'm wondering if this was just a bad experience with it, if that's what it's supposed to be like, or if I have done something wrong. (Aaron would like to note that the sauce did not taste burny to him when he ate it.)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Turtle Cake

This is one of Dominic's favorite cakes, which translates to very rich and chocolaty.

Note: For ease of transcribing recipes, I'll just write milk. For those with a milk allergy or intolerance, I replace the milk in all my recipes with a non-dairy coffee creamer, which works fine.

1 chocolate cake mix
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
5 T butter
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup caramel topping
1 cup pecans, crushed

1) Bake cake mix according to the package directions, using a 9x13" pan.
2) Toast pecans on a cookie sheet in a single layer @ 400 degrees for about 8 minutes. Put chocolate chips in a bowl; set aside.
3) In a small saucepan, mix sugar and milk over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add butter and bring to a boil; pour over chips. Stir until smooth.
4) Spread warm chocolate mixture over the cooled cake. Drizzle caramel over the chocolate. Sprinkle with pecans.

Serve warm or cooled.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Other White Meat

Note: I have opened up posting on this blog to my sisters. Not everything will be from me.

I love a good pork tenderloin. Sometimes they can be hard to find in grocery stores and harder to find without some kind of marinade already on them. I've noticed it's not uncommon to find them to packs of two so here are the two things I make with them.

Pork Tenderloin with Honey Butter
(from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food)
4 T butter
2 T honey
pork tenderloin
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375. In an oven proof skillet, melt butter and honey over medium heat. Season the pork with salt and pepper and brown on all sides. Turn the heat down if the honey starts to burn. Transfer to the oven. I usually cover it and it takes at least 25 minutes (or more) to cook. In looking back over the recipe on Martha's website, she doesn't say to and seems to think it will cook in 7-10 minutes. I think she's crazy but will try not covering it next time, the honey butter mixture left over is usually pretty thin. Transfer the meat to a plate. Add a bit of water to the pan and simmer over medium heat, scraping the brown bits off of the sides. Add the juices that have ended up on the plate and simmer until it is reduced to half a cup. Slice and drizzle the sauce over the meat.

I like to serve it with something green and mashed potatoes which are also very good with the sauce drizzled over them.

The next port recipe is from a cookbook I have from Costco. It has a picture for every page and specifies Costco products in the recipes. Plus, the food is really good.

Pork Tenderloin with Cilantro Lime Pesto and Smokey Bacon Bits
1 T minced garlic
2 T minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup minced green onions
1 T minced fresh cilantro
1 tsp minced jalapeno pepper (I never add it but you can if you want it spicier)
1/2 tsp pepper
2 T lime juice
2 T orange juice
2 T olive oil
1 1/2 - 2 lbs pork tenderloin
1/2 cup grated jalapeno jack cheese
1/4 cup chopped sunflower seed
1/2 cup crumbled bacon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine the first 8 ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree. Slowly add olive oil until mixture thickens.
Cut tenderloin in half lengthwise and lay out flat. Spread half of pesto over tenderloin and sprinkle with half of the cheese, seeds and bacon.
Close the tenderloin and tie with string to hold together. Top with the rest of the pesto, cheese, seeds and bacon. The recipe says to refrigerate it for several hours or overnight but I never have.
Place tenderloin on a rack and bake until firm 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sauerkraut and wurst

I told Hilary I would post this recipe for her. I have eaten a lot of sauerkraut and this is my favorite way. German sauerkraut is different than this. It is much more mild. It often has things like apple and bits of bacon in it. I imagine that this recipe is the Dutch peasant way of making it, modernized, of course, to fit American grocery stores.

These are the ingredients:

1 jar of sauerkraut--make sure to buy it in a jar, the canned stuff is nasty. I haven't tried the deli section kind. I usually buy a big jar of Steinfeld's. You may want to start with the smaller jar.
1 polska kielbasa--I prefer the lite kind.
1 package of bacon--don't substitute pre-cooked.
1 pot of potatoes

Here's what you do, in no particular order:
1. Cut up the kielbasa into serving sized pieces. (A package has eight servings.) Put them in the bottom of a pot. Pour the sauerkraut and juice over them and heat until bubbly. I usually put this on about the same time as the potatoes and just let it simmer until the potatoes are done.
2. Cut the potatoes into bit sized pieces. I peel them, but that is a taste issue you'll have to decide. Put them in the pot and cover them with water. Salt them heavily. Potatoes are where flavor goes to die. Cook the potatoes until they are tender, drain them, and then put them back on the hot burner to dry a bit. This won't work for those of you with gas stoves, but the pot usually is hot enough to dry them on its own.
3. Cook the bacon. You can do it in a pan, but I like this method from America's Test Kitchen: Preheat your oven to 400 and put your oven rack in the middle. Arrange the bacon on a rimmed baking sheet (the slices can overlap just slightly), and bake until crisp and brown, 10 to 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheet front to back halfway through. I find I like my bacon in a little longer. Save the bacon grease.

So here you are at the table with your pot of sauerkraut and kielbasa, your pot of potatoes, your plate of bacon, and your bowl with the bacon grease in it. Now what?

This is how I like to eat it. My kids, the deconstructionists, eat everything separate. I put some potatoes on my plate and I mash them up a bit with my fork. I put some sauerkraut on top and a kielbasa piece next to it. I take a piece or two of bacon and crumble it over the sauerkraut and then I top it all off with a spoonful of bacon grease. I usually salt and pepper too, but I don't think Aaron does. Then I mix everything together lightly to work that bacon grease throughout.

A magazine I was reading a while ago polled its staff about their favorite comfort foods. This is one of mine. I smell the sauerkraut and the bacon, and I know I'm about to enjoy something wonderful with fond memories of Opa. Aychamahockies. (That's what Opa said after the prayer and before we ate. I imagine it means bon appetit and I know it's spelled wrong.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Your best tips

This is more of a discussion question than an actual recipe: what are your favorite tips for cooking good food while also (1) keeping the food bill down or (2) making the cooking quicker and more convenient? Discuss. Use examples. (That's my short stint in teaching composition coming through).

I'll start. Our local Walmart sells a 10 lb bag of chicken legs for under $5. That's the thigh and drumstick still in one piece, with bones and skins still very much in evidence. They're not even the handy Individual Quick Frozen variety. Okay, they're so cheap I can't pass them up, but they're obviously inconvenient.

So lately (now that my oven is available again), I buy this package, dump the pieces in a big ol' mixing bowl with marinade and somehow manage to shove it into my fridge. Sometime later when I remember, I throw it all in the oven and cook until the meat is falling off the bones. I usually have baked chicken with potatoes that night for dinner, which for the two of us barely makes a dent in the amount of chicken produced. So I let the rest of it cool, pull the meat off, and keep enough for three or four individual meals in freezer bags in the freezer.

I guess that is a lot of steps, but it doesn't seem like extra work, and then you've got chicken ready to throw into just about anything (chicken quesadillas at the drop of a hat). Someday I guess I'll have to weigh the meat and compare it to the weight of the bones, skin, gristle, fat and all that gets thrown out. What is the real price per pound here?

Oh, and I have to mention that you can drain off the fat and keep the juices. Is that the stock or is stock something different? Anyway, it gels in the fridge (really, like jell-o), and you can put a couple of spoonfulls into lovely sauces.

Now it's your turn. What do you do?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Yummy Chicken

Well, here goes! All those chicken recipes made me think of my one of my favorite chicken recipes. It's from America's Test Kitchen. I usually serve it sitting in the sauce; that way the kids get some of the taste of it without being grossed out because their food is touching.

Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts with Sweet-Tart Sauce with Tomato and Thyme

1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil (I usually just spray the pan good with spray fat.)

Sweet-Tart Sauce
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil (again with the spray fat)
1 shallot, minced (or 1/4 c. onion)
2 tsp. tomato paste
1 c. chicken broth
1 Tbsp. white vinegar (The recipe calls for 3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar--any combo of mild vinegars would work. This is what I like and have on hand.)
2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. dried thyme (2 tsp. fresh)
1 1/2 tsp. light brown sugar
3 Tbsp. butter (I only use 1)

For the chicken:
1. Spread the flour in a shallow dish.
2. Pound the thicker ends of the breasts to get an even piece of meat. (The thinner your meat, the quicker it cooks.) Pat dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. (I like garlic powder too.) Dredge through the flour to coat and shake off any excess.
3. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add the chicken and cook until light golden brown on both sides. Transfer the chicken to a plate and keep warm in a 200 oven, if desired.

For the sauce:
Add the oil to the skillet and return to medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the shallot, tomato paste, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Cook until the shallot is softened, about 1 minute. Stir in the broth, vinegar, thyme, and brown sugar, scraping up any browned bits. Simmer until reduced and slightly syrupy, about 8 minutes. Stir in any accumulated chicken juice. Turn the heat to low and whisk in the butter, one piece at a time. Off the heat, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Greek Couscous Salad

I came up with this one day when Anna needed lunch and just used what I had on hand. Later, I added a few more things after thinking about it.

Cooked couscous
Can of chopped tomatoes, drained
Sliced olives - I used black but can use kalamata if you want more of a kick
Crumbled feta
Seasoned chicken (optional)
Sliced fresh basil

Mix it all together in proportions that you like.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pasta Primavera

We are working on eating less meat these days (India really got us out of the habit) so I try to make a meatless dish about three times a week. Here is one of the ones that I like to just put together (hence the lack of amounts, just kind of use what works for your group). This is also really quick and simple.

Pasta - usually something chunky like rotini or penne, I've been into whole wheat of late
Chopped Broccoli
Chopped Cauliflower
Sliced Carrots
Alfredo Sauce - I usually use a jar sauce but have made a simple Parmesan cheese sauce before

When the pasta is cooking and has about five minutes left, I add the vegetables. When I think about it, I add the broccoli later because it doesn't need as much cook time as the cauliflower and carrots. Then they are already mixed together and I just have to add the sauce. If you decide not to heat up the sauce before mixing it into the pasta, then you will probably need to keep it on the stove for a bit to heat up the sauce.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Indian Food Extravaganza

On New Year's Eve, I coordinated an Indian food feast for my family in town at the time. This included: 10 adults and 16 children including 2 teenagers. Naturally I was intimidated by this many people and planned a lot of food. Also naturally there was no way I could have done this all on my own. I had a lot of helpers and I was almost more like the supervisor. So, along with rice, here is what we made:

Palak Paneer 
1/3 cup ghee (clarified butter- we used oil so Brennan, who is allergic to dairy, could eat it)
1 bulb garlic - I think we used one bulb but had doubled the recipe
1/2 tsp toasted cumin seed
1 6 oz can of tomato paste
fresh ginger - I have no idea how much we used. It says a 3 in piece
1 tsp garam masala - a spice you should be able to find in a regular grocery store
1 tsp salt
1 onion, chopped
1 cup water or as needed
fresh spinach - when I made this for just me, I would use 1 1/2 - 2 bags
1 lb paneer or queso fresco - a non-melting cheese, you can make it if you are feeling really ambitious

Melt ghee in large saucepan and saute the garlic, cumin seed and onion. Add the tomato paste, ginger, garam masala, salt and water. Stir until tomato paste dissolves then simmer for 1 hour, adding water if necessary. 

Stir in spinach, a little at a time, and cook until spinach is wilted. Mix in the paneer just before serving. You can garnish it with cilantro but I always seem to forget that part. 

Lamb Madras Curry
This one is pretty spicy. The recipe calls for a make your own curry paste. I wasn't able to find the ingredients for the paste so I used a powdered blend of madras spices. Some day I want to actually make the paste. For now, to the best of my recollection, this is what I did.

1 1/2 tsp tumeric
2 1/4 lb lamb meat cut into 1/2 inch cubes
few T Madras Spice Blend - we bought it at the Asian food market but it was also at the regular grocery store but more expensive
1/4 cup oil
4 onions diced (or just a bunch)
1 can coconut milk
2 cups water, divided
1 tsp fennel seeds
10 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp sugar
3 T warm water

Sprinkle tumeric over the lamb. Toast the fennel seeds and set aside. In a dutch over, over medium, saute the onions in the oil. Add the meat and spice mix and fry for a minute. Stir in 2/3 of the can of coconut milk and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. 

Stir in the rest of the coconut milk and 1 cup water along with the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and fennel seeds. Cover with the lid ajar and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender. Stir occasionally and thin if needed.

When the lamb is tender, stir in the garam masala and sugar. Cook 5 minutes longer or until the sauce thickens. Remove the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods before serving. 

Butter Chicken
diced onion
swirl of oil
2 T butter
2 tsp lemon juice
1 T ginger garlic paste - I just use chopped ginger and chopped garlic in equal amounts
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup tomato puree
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or to taset
pinch salt
pinch pepper

1 lb chicken thighs cut into cubes
1 tsp garam masala
pinch cayenne pepper

Heat oil and saute onion. Stir in butter, lemon juice, ginger garlic paste, garam masala, chili powder, cumin and bay leaf. Cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add tomato puree and cook 2 minutes while stirring. Stir in half-and-half and yogurt and simmer 10 minutes on low, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside. 

Heat oil in large skillet and cook chicken until lightly browned. Reduce heat and season with garam masala and cayenne pepper. Stir cooked chicken into sauce. (Emily, did we add the cornstarch to this one? I didn't think so but wasn't too sure.)

Aloo Matar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
chopped onion
1 T ginger garlic paste
1 bay leaf
4 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted (or the amount that gives you the proportions you like)
1/2 cup tomato puree
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 T cilantro

Cook the potatoes. Heat oil and saute onion (are you sensing a theme?), ginger garlic paste and bay leaf. Mix in potatoes and peas. Add tomato puree, garam masala, paprika, sugar and salt. Continue cooking until it's all mixed through. Add cilantro before serving. 

swirl oil

Stir together flour, salt and oil. Add the amount of water that makes it the consistency of bread dough. Kneed it on a floured surface a few times. Take a small handfull of dough and roll it out onto a floured surface. In a dry pan heated over medium heat, cook until it begins to bubble up (if the heat is too low, it won't bubble up and if it's too hot, it will burn in places). Flip. It should bubble more. If the first side needs more browning, flip again. 

To eat, tear it into pieces and pick up the food with it. This can be messy but really is better. For amounts, Jason and I will eat between 2 and 3 roti per meal depending on how big they are. 

This all probably sounds very intimidating. For a regular dinner, I will often make two meals: a meat and a vegetable. Also to remember, while Indian food has a lot of ingredients, the process isn't usually too bad. I do recommend chopping everything before you start cooking. I have overcooked a number of spices because I was still working on chopping something.