Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chipotle for Dessert!

I have to admit that I grew up with a very bland palate.  Not that my parents didn't expose me to lots of foods, but it tended to be a very basic mid-western diet.  My grandfather and father both used to grow Hungarian Hot Peppers and I was taught at a very young age how to eat them.  But those couple of times when I didn't eat them correctly, it taught me that I did not like that burning sensation that seemed to last for an eternity.  I don't care what anyone tells me, bread and milk just do not cut that.

Sarge, on the other hand has what I have decided is a cast iron stomach.  During Desert Storm, he actually received a holster and several bottles of Tabasco sauce from McIlhenny corporation who returned his check and request for a couple of bottles to tide him over while he was deployed.  Since then, Sarge has expanded his taste and has gone through many different hot sauce tastes.  Sarge has worked diligently over the past twenty years to try and build up my heat tolerance, and while it is increasing, it is not where he is yet.   He and Thing One regularly use Sirachi sauce on the table when I cook.

A while back, when cruising through Costco, I came across a sample that was and interesting combination of flavors.  They had crackers that they were putting a swipe of cream cheese on and then a drop of a Raspberry Chipotle sauce on it.  Sarge loved the sauce, and surprisingly, I found it mild enough that I liked it too.  So we bought a bottle.

About two years ago, I started having occasions to bring desserts for different events, and was getting tired of making cupcakes, brownies and cookies for everything.  So, I found a recipe for mini cherry cheesecakes.  They are easy to make and travel pretty well.  It is also a nice surprise for people.  The cupcake size is good for eating without having too much of a good thing.

Then I had a brilliant idea of making the cheesecakes and using the Raspberry Chipotle Sauce on top.  We were having a dinner party, and I wanted to have a dessert that was not super sweet.  It was a huge success!    The sauce made it more of a savory dessert, rather than a sweet dessert.

Recently, I made them for our directors and a judge who had to do an evening deal.  I made some with the cherry topping, but also made some of them with the Raspberry Chipotle sauce.  The Judge loved the savory treats enough that our Hospitality Chair was emailing me during the competition because she was asking for what they were called.  Always a good feeling when something different turns out right. :)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Crock Potting again!!!

Sometimes life gets a little too busy even for me.  I have come to rely on my Crock Pot so much, that I am looking into getting a new one that is programmable.  I have two crock pots, one is a large 6 quart oval one that can do high and low for different times (4 and 6 hours on high, 8 and 10 on low) and a keep warm feature, but cannot just cook on low for 4 hours and go to warm.  I also have a smaller 4.5 quart round crock pot that has the basic high/low switch.  I also have several of the smaller "dip size" ones.

Friday was one of those busy days.  I forget there are only 24 hours in the day, and that some of that time really does need to be spent sleeping in order to be able to function.  Also, I forget how long some tasks really do take!  So I started early in the morning, after the Things' lunches were made, by putting together a family favorite of Loaded Potato Soup.  This is the third time we have had it this past spring, and it is still a favorite.  Of course today it was without the bacon crumbles since it was a Lenten meal, but the dollop of sour cream and green onions on top still made it yummy.

It is another recipe from one of my favorite sites - Crockin' Girls.  The first time I made it, we were eating in shifts, and there was barely any left by the time I got home for dinner!  The second time I made it, I did a batch and a half.  That was about the right amount for our family.  This time, I went back to the single batch since Thing One is on his own Lenten journey, and Thing Three would not be home for dinner.

The recipe is rather simple, 6 peeled diced potatoes, one diced large onion, a quart of chicken broth, some garlic, and 1/4 cup of butter.  Cook for about 8 hours, mash, add a cup of cream or half and half, and a cup of shredded cheese.  Yum!  We served it with cooked crumbled bacon, sour cream, sliced green onions, and cheese.  A simple salad completes the meal.

After I knew the soup was done for the day, I was able to cross that off my list and move onto the next task...desserts for the competition, but I will save that for another blog.  I think by the time I cried "Uncle" Friday evening, I had run several errands, made dinner, a salad and desserts for the directors,  Muffins for Saturday, ran errands, and took Thing Three to the gym for her long evening.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Quick Fix

Wow, this month is just sneaking up on me!  I forgot to purchase my potatoes, so I needed to find something  different for dinner today.  We had just fixed Sloppy Joes last night since everyone had to be out of the house quick, so I quickly scoured the internet looking for a recipe that I could put together.

I came across an interesting menu that is a take off on another sandwich.  See how long it takes you to figure it out.  I am guessing by the end of step 2.

First you brown some ground beef and mushrooms.

After they are browned, you put them into a 9x13 casserole dish.

Second you layer provolone cheese, enough to cover it all....  (did you get it??)

Then you saute onions and red bell peppers until the peppers are crisp tender... (how bout now?)

Last, but not least you cover it with a layer of biscuits.

Bake it in the oven for half an hour or so, and there you have it...

Philly Cheese and Ground Beef Casserole.   Yum!!!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What to fix???

Have you ever had one of those days when your brain just cannot figure out one more recipe?  I have been stumbling all month.  Instead of my usual plan for the whole month, I have gone down to a week by week basis.  There have just been so many interruptions that it has made it difficult to plan.  

So yesterday morning I sat down to make sure I knew what we were doing for the week, and just got to the point that I could not think anymore.  I went to our local grocery store's website to see what their "combo locos" were for this week.  That is their little promotional system where you buy one item, and get anywhere from 1-6 additional items for free.  Sometimes it works for us, sometimes it doesn't.  Some of their combos are just out there...

I didn't see anything there, but did go to their recipe box and started looking through there.  I knew I wanted a chicken recipe for dinner based on the other recipes for this week, of course, I realized today that Eggplant Parmesan will not work in Friday since Sarge said he will not be there and that was one dish that he wanted to try making.

I found this interesting recipe that only calls for a handful of ingredients and is quick to assemble/cook.  So I thought I would give it a spin.  

Green Chili and Tomatillo stew is a wonderful product that definitely made this dish.  You just mix a jar of it with a bag of tortilla chips (you can use tortillas, but you would lose the crunch) and a package of precooked chicken fajitas.  Pour it into a casserole dish, top with cheese and bake for half an hour (enough time for a glass of wine, if you are not running out the door to pick up a child!!).  Pull it out of the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes.  Ta-Da!  Dinner is served.  

I may have start looking for other products by this company...or maybe start figuring out how to make this stuff from was yummy!!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Italian Anyone???

What is more natural for a home cooked meal than a pasta dish?  I grew up loving Lasagna so much that it was what I asked for as my birthday dinner.  A family friend, Mrs. Schmidt made such an awesome version of it, even though she lived an hour and a half away, I was always excited to go to her house in hopes that we would be having lasagna (okay, so playing with my friend was also a big part!!).  Ahh....childhood memories.
photo courtesy of google images
I have tried several variations on lasagna, and still have not found the perfect recipe for us.  We have done it with Spinach and without, with ground beef, and with a beef and Italian sausage mix.  I have pre-boiled the noodles and have used the oven ready recipe ones.  I personally like doing it in the crock-pot  but the family does not, and truth be told, it does not really make it any easier than just doing it in the oven.

photo courtesy of google 
I have to say, my most recent variation used the oven ready noodles, and I did like that one.  You do not overlap the noodles, and just place them width wise across the pan instead of length wise.  They expand as they cook, so any extra space will be filled.  I made my meat sauce with a combination of ground beef and Italian sausage.  I cooked the meat before, so I could assemble in the morning before I went out for the day. That made for an easy prep for dinner after work and school.

When I make lasagna, I usually make two pans.  I figure if I am going to put forth the effort to make the dish, might as well have an extra one for in the freezer.  But, I hate having my good casserole dishes in the freezer, so I bought a disposable lasagna pan.  I looked at purchasing a regular pan, but several pans recommending not putting it in the freezer, so I went disposable.  A lasagna pan is about an inch deeper than a 9x13, but it is also about an inch wider in length and width.  So now I have a huge gap around that pan, but I through it in the freezer, and we will see when I bake it.

I also made homemade bread to go with it.  I baked the loaves in the morning, and turned one loaf into garlic bread that I popped into the oven while the lasagna set, and finished it off with a nice salad.  With Thing One on his Lenten journey, we had enough for 2 dinners and lunch for 2 on Sunday (so Thing One could have some!).  The second loaf went into the freezer and will accompany the second lasagna, probably sometime next month.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ash Wednesday, here we come!

Today started the Lenten season, and for us that meant a day of fasting and abstaining from meat.   Wednesday is also the day that Ms. Daisy and I go to Seguin so she can volunteer at their Family History Center.  So that means that we get home late in the afternoon.  Trying to put a meatless meal on the table by 5:30ish so we can get to be ready to leave for Church on time takes a little planning.  Since it was a fasting day, I was trying for something lighter as well.

I looked through The Soup Bible cookbook, and finally found a recipe that seemed interesting.  I was a little leery of the outcome because of the ingredients and also wondering if my finicky Thing Three would eat it.  It has those Legumes that we do not speak of if we want her to eat it.  Navy version. :)  But I figured that since it was pureed, that I might be able to pull it off.

Wednesday morning started and after I had lunches made, started chopping.  I, of course, have to double the recipe to have enough servings, but did forget that Thing One has gone to rice only for lunch and dinner.  I know, I know, that it totally unhealthy.

I did convince him to eat a hard boiled egg for breakfast, so at least he is getting some protein.  And, it is only for 40 days.  If he makes it, I will be proud of him, but I will be surprised as well.  I will continue to monitor him and make sure that he stays healthy.

So I started chopping and the original recipe called for 2 large onions, 4 stalks of celery and 1 parsnip.  Now, I have never cooked parsnips, so I decided to baggie them separately "just in case".  I could have saved the baggie, since they really are just like a carrot, white and a little sweeter in my opinion.  I decided to only use 3 onions since it just seemed like so much onion.  I did substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock to keep it a Lenten meal.

By doing the chopping I was able to start cooking as soon as I got home.  I soaked the legumes the overnight, so they were ready to go, but still cooking for 1-2 hours seemed like a long time.  I cooked them just over an hour, and they seemed pretty tender to me.  Sarge later said that the could have cooked for longer, but time was of the essence, so it was what it was.  After sauteing and adding the other veggies, it cooked for a while longer and then I pureed the whole thing with my stick blender.  Thing Three would be none the wiser about the base ingredient.

When I served it, it was well received.  It did have a sweet taste to it.  Even Thing Three ate most of her bowl.  I did serve it with some homemade rolls that I had programmed the bread machine to have ready when we got home.  It was a light meal, and while it will not be a mainstay in our repertoire, I will use it again.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Just Make It Up!!!

Sarge called me in the middle of a cookie booth to ask what we were doing for dinner.  I had thought about actually preparing a meal, but since all three Things were going to be gone (retreat, dance, gym), I figured we could just make some sandwiches for dinner and call it quits.  

I told him we have bacon that needed to be cooked up and an assortment of cheeses.  Just make up some sandwiches.  Well, that was the beginning of a new creation.

He fried the bacon.   That was going to be a definite in the sandwich.

Next he decided to fry some jalapeno slices in the bacon fat.  Yes, I know it was wrong, but oh did it taste good!!!

Next, he started assembling the sandwiches.  To keep the sandwich healthy (one can hope, right??) he added fresh spinach to the sandwich.

For the cheese, he used the leftover cheese mixture from the poppers that we made for Super Bowl Sunday.  It is a mixture of mexican cheese, cream cheese, fresh cilantro and spices.  Said assembled sandwiches were then buttered and more cheese (cheddar) was added to the outside of the sandwich before grilling.

Here is the finished product!  All we could say was "Oh my goodness!!".  It may not have been good for the diet, but was a great way to end the booth night.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Kale Chips

"How do these taste good???" was the statement from Thing One after putting a Kale chip in his mouth.

Ms. Daisy decided that she would try something new, and found a recipe for Kale chips.  So she bought some Kale, looked up a recipe and made some.  

The Kale chips seemed to be liked by all who tried them.  Some in the household said they tasted like fries.  

Basically all she did was wash and take the leaf off the stem.  Then she tore them into chip size pieces.  Drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with Seasoned Salt.  Bake in the oven, and voile!  you have a crunchy healthy snack.  

I didn't try them, just cannot fathom that one, but maybe next batch I will.  I know as soon as the Things read that  I did not try they that I will have to next time.  

No Carbs Tonight???

Today we needed to make a special meal for Ms. Daisy.  She has to have a special scan done tomorrow that requires her to have no carbs after lunch today.  While many people do have the carb free diet on a regular basis, this household is not used to that, so we need to have something that is good for all, but will be within the carb free requirements for her.   I found a yummy recipe for prepping for this test that is called Stuffed Steak Ole.  You use a flank steak, slice it open and then fill it with onions, peppers and tomatoes.  The first time I made this, I spent the time to finely chop all those veggies into little pieces.  This time, I thought about it, and realized that it is just Pico de Gallo.  We love that stuff, but I don't waste my time making it.  Since we live in south Texas, it is just as easy to run to any grocery store and pick it up fresh.  It might be a little be more expensive, but so worth the time savings.

Thing One was gone for the night with his youth retreat, so that was one less mouth to feed.  Thing Two needed to be picked up from Tennis try-outs.  Still waiting to hear if she made the squad (of course she will, and it will just add to the craziness of my meals), and Thing Three wanted to head to her schools Math & Science night).

So I prepped the Steak and left if for Sarge to cook.  The original recipe called for it to be cooked on our George Forman grill, and when he was in Korea, that is what I did.  I told him he could either do that, or cook it on the grill.  I found out when I got home that he grilled it.

We needed something to go with the steak, and it cannot be a potato, so I started cauliflower on the stove and left directions with Ms. Daisy on how to finish the mock mashed potatoes (using the cauliflower).  The girls actually liked it.  No one felt like they were missing out with dinner.  That was the ultimate result that I wanted.  Mission accomplished.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Monthly Outlook

A couple of years ago I was looking at my meals, and they started to all blend together.  Every week we had variations on the same thing.  Chicken, Pasta, Sausage, blah, blah, blah.  So after hearing many grumblings, I started asking the family what they wanted, and making a list.  That evolved to making a calender so the kids could see what was for dinner.

Now I use Cozi for my calendar.  It is a great mobile and desktop application that allows me to put all my stuff on one calendar, and I can send either email or text reminders to family member about events that they need to be aware of.  It also has a shopping list on there.  I have Thing Three pretty well trained to add stuff to the shopping list and also look on the calendar.  She even added her own things to it.  Thing One refuses to conform, go figure.  Thing Two is about 50%, so that probably makes sense.  Its nice when we use it because if someone is going somewhere they can get other items as well. :)

This month we add in Lent, so that will bring in additional yummy dishes.  We also have cookie booths going on which will effect meal plans.  As well as all the other activities that my family has in store for me. :)

I try and make sure that there is a variety each week, so I do not have Italian meals three days in a row, or several soups the same week.  Sometimes that does not always work since we need to work around what is going on each week.  If you are looking for a great app that you can use for planning, reminders and shopping lists, check out Cozi!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Yellow Broth

This week poses its own challenges in the kitchen.  We had a lot of rich treats to eat during the Super Bowl, and still have a lot leftover.  We also have several nights that we will be out and about.  Tuesdays is one of those days.  The first Tuesday of the month becomes a huge challenge for me.

Thing Three has team practice from 5:30-9:00, but doesn't get released from honor band rehearsal until 4:00, so that gives me just over an hour to get her home, changed and feed her something before heading out the door.

Ms. Daisy needs to be at the local library for her meeting at 6:30.  It is close to where Thing One has Boy Scouts, so he drops her off on his way to his meeting at 7:00.  She only has the meeting on the first Tuesday of the month, so it is only once a month that we are asking him to speed up his schedule by a half an hour.

Sarge and Thing Two have choir rehearsal at 7:00 as well.  As long as the weather is nice he takes them on the bike.  If it is icky out, he drives them in the jeep and then has to drop off Thing One and pick him up afterwards.

Crazy, right???

So as I was looking at meals for the month (yes, I plan for a whole month, but that is another blog), I came across a recipe for Yellow Broth.  There are several different variations for this recipe of Irish origination.  I think with just a slight change from chicken broth to vegetable broth, you could have a good soup for during lent.   So while I do not normally include recipes, I thought this might be worth sharing:

photo from
Yellow Broth
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 onion, minced
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 3/4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup medium steel cut oats
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 Tablespoons cream (I used creme fraiche)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Fresh chopped parsley to garnish

1. Melt butter in pan and add onion, celery, and carrot.  Cook for about 2 minutes or until the onion begins to become soft.

2. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute more, stirring constantly.  Add chicken stock and bring to boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

3. Stir in the oats and chopped spinach.  Cook for 15 minutes more stirring from time to time.

4. Stir in the cream and season well.  Serve garnished with parsley, if desired.  Serves 4.

How easy is that!!!  I was told that the several in the family had 2 servings.  Oh, I had made a double batch to begin with, since it only serves 4.  I did get the thumbs up to keep it in the recipe book for us.  I also did not finely chop and mince my vegetables.  We would like to have something to actually taste when we are eating.  And having the Steel Cut Oats adds a different texture and flavor.  I would not substitute regular oats for it, as the Steel Cut Oats have more of a Barley texture to them.  I chose to use the Creme Fraiche with this meal since I did not want a sour cream, but wanted something of more substance than a heavy cream or whipping cream.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Super Bowl Sunday

Everyone has different ways of celebrating the Super Bowl.  We used to have a party or go to a party a long time ago, but after having kids, it just doesn't seem like a good environment for them when they are little.

A couple of years ago, Sarge had to go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras festivities which that year was before and after the Super Bowl.  The Things were kind of bummed that dad was not going to be around, so we decided to have our own little party and have some fun foods for them to eat.  We have kept the tradition going ever since.  We have done large spreads, but this past year I decided to slim it down a little.  No sense in having a huge buffet that has to be put into the fridge at the end of the night.

I asked everyone for one thing they wanted, and then figured that I could fill it out from there:

Add caption

Thing Three wanted spray cheese.  She asks for the same thing every year.  And every year it giggles me.  It is something that I never have in the house, so she thinks it is just the best thing!  Although, I did notice that she did not eat that much of it.  She did eat a couple of plain wings and a popper or two.  Its nice to see her taste buds maturing.

Photo credit: The South in my Mouth

Ms. Daisy wanted a cheesy salsa dip with Rotel tomatoes and Velveeta   It is something that goes back a long way and is just yummy.  Nice thing about this dip is that we can reheat it easily later on.

photo credit: Ole & Shaina Olmanson

Thing Two wanted our jalapeno poppers.  These are bacon wrapped jalapenos that are stuffed with a cheese mixture made from cream cheese, Mexican cheese, seasonings, and fresh cilantro.  Sarge had these once while we were stationed in Kentucky, and we have been making them ever since.  We did do them with Turkey Bacon a couple of times, and while they were okay, it is just not the same.  We have tried them also using a more mild pepper, but we have decided to keep them the same.

photo credit: Grades First

Someone asked for hot wings, might have been me, I cannot remember.  So Sarge fixed those for us as well.    Unfortunately, I purchased the wrong chicken wings, so instead of those cute little drummettes, we had these huge things that seemed way to big for the concept.  They still tasted fabulous, but were nothing like what you think of when you order buffalo wings.

Thing One had a Teen ACTS meeting on Super Bowl Sunday to get ready for the retreat coming up this week, so he did not get a vote in what to have.  He might have been the wings.  We told him we would have enough that he could have some when he got home.  He was bummed that he was going to be missing the Super Bowl, but excited about the upcoming retreat.

Our own Gumbo!!!
Sarge decided that he was going to try his hand at making gumbo for the Super Bowl since it was in New Orleans this year.  I think the hardest thing that I had to find for that was the File powder.  It was very good, and I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it.   I had never had a gumbo before.  I was never much of a spice person growing up, I was more of the Kraft Mac & Cheese with Burgers type.  Not that my parents didn't cook wonderful foods, I just tended to stick with the more mild tastes.  Sarge has slowly worked me up to having spicier foods.  I know it has been a challenge for him, but he seems up to the challenge.

The kids also had some yummy cupcakes for dessert, but I just could not hang.  All in all it was a great menu, and a wonderful Super Bowl.  The only thing that could have made it better would have been for my team to have been in it, but it just was not in the cards. Oh well, maybe next year...