Friday, February 15, 2013

Greek Shrimp and Couscous

I cannot take credit for this dish.  I got my new issue of Food Network Magazine earlier this week, and flipped through it leisurely while sipping a glass of wine that night. 

Not really...I read it quickly while the girls were folding laundry and Theresa was napping.  Yeah...that sounds more realistic, doesn't it? ;-)

But I came across this recipe, and thought it would be perfect for Fridays during Lent.  So...all my fellow Catholic foodies...take note.  This ones's a keeper!

I only took pics of the finished dish.  I wish I had more...but I honestly just can't manage these days.  Theresa just turned 2, and the child wants to be held all the time!  I think I will just super-glue her to my hip!  

Here's the link to the recipe:  


And here's the finished dish.  Looks delicious, doesn't it?  


Happy Lent everyone, and God bless your table tonight!  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Candy Dipped Jumbo Marshmallows

I know...who in their right mind would dip giant marshmallows?  

We do...we did...and we are tellin' y'all they are good.  Mighty good.  In fact, I made nearly 30 of them for the MOMS (Ministry of Moms) spring bake sale, and we sold out before the 11:00 AM Mass today. 

Ahem...did I tell you how easy these things are to make? 

No?  

Well...here you go then.  Make these for your favorite Valentine, for bake sales, baby showers, birthday parties...the possibilities are endless.  And the kids can help you.  Just watch out for stray fingers and tongues...no eating leftover sprinkles or licking the spoon until you're all done!

Candy Dipped Jumbo Marshmallows

1 package jumbo marshmallows (Walmart sells them)
2-3 bags of Wilton Candy Melts (almond bark works well too)
Assorted sprinkles for decorating
Pure vegetable shortening (1-2 tablespoons per bag of candy melts)
Lollipop/cookie pop sticks (the bigger, taller ones work best)  

In a small deep bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water, melt the candy coating or almond bark along with 1-2 tablespoons of shortening.  I usually use just 1 tablespoon).  You can use a microwave, but I've found the double boiler method is just as simple.  Plus...it keeps the candy melts at the optimal temperature for dipping, and you don't have to keep running back and forth to the microwave.  Just make sure the bowl is not touching the water.  I keep the heat turned down as low as it will go on my gas range, and it works great.  


Insert a stick into each marshmallow.  I like to push it in pretty far...more than halfway, until I can feel it nearly to the top.  

Dip each marshmallow halfway into the melted candy.  Tap the stick gently with your free hand so any excess coating drips off. 

Immediately sprinkle with sugar crystals, nonpareils, etc.  I will say jumbo sprinkles don't work very well...they tend to fall off.  I stuck to smaller decorations.  

Stick upright in a block of styrofoam or in my case, the lid to a cardboard file box until completely dry.  As you can see, I used pink, red, vanilla (white), and chocolate candy coating and a variety of sprinkles.  I wanted to make several different designs for our bake sale.  If I make these again at home, I probably stick to one color of candy coating and one type of sprinkles, just to make the process go even faster. 


Aren't the so cute and pretty?  Too pretty to eat!  No...not really...not in our house anyway, LOL!  

Wrap them up in clear treat bags tied with a pretty ribbon.  Not that they'll last that long... ;-)  

I really wish I'd remembered to take a pictures of them at our wrapping party, but alas I did not.  We tied them with pink and red ribbon and put them in a large glass vase with pink and red gumdrops in the bottom.  It was SO PRETTY!  

But here's a couple of pics of them unwrapped to make up for it.  My apologies!


 
These are much easier to make than cake pops...and far less temperamental too.  My kids are already asking if I can make another batch for them...instead of selling them at the bake sale.  I think I will, but shhh...don't tell! 

I had a good amount of candy coating left over, so I dropped spoonfuls of all the different colors (red, pink, white and chocolate) on a cookie sheet lined with foil.  I just did it in a random pattern.  Then I took a toothpick and swirled all the colors together, and spinkled M&M's, almonds, and sweetend coconut flakes over the top.  Simple, sweet, and EASY.  I broke it up in big pieces and we bagged it for the bake sale too.  Best of all...no wasted candy coating.  :-)


Make some of these for your next celebration...I promise they will disappear in two winks!

God bless your table tonight!  

*Note:  I made a few more marshmallows for the kids for Valentine's Day.  I put them in a tall candy dish (or try a short, wide vase) and it worked very well once the candy coating was completely set.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and they'll keep for a few days...but trust me...they're be snapped up quick!  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chicken Noodle Soup

Around these here parts (lol), the flu is going around like crazy, and people are dropping like flies.  Literally.  My four older kiddos were all down for the count 2 weeks ago, and my sweet Gabriel only started to feel better last weekend.  Poor little guy!  After making homemade applesauce and letting the kids nosh on graham crackers and sprite for about a week, I decided to make a pot of soup.  I mean...who doesn't want chicken noodle soup when you're getting over the flu, right? 


I firmly believe good chicken soup starts with good stock, and that means cooking the chicken with the skin on and bone-in.  None of that "boneless, skinless chicken" stuff here!  You wanna make some hard core soup?  Stick with me...and we'll make a pot with a lot more flavor if you have the bones...all righty?  Trust me, there's nothing to it...just takes a wee bit more time.  


I used just chicken drumsticks (I had two big family sized packs in the freezer), but you can use a whole, cut up chicken, bone-in thighs, whatever you fancy.  Just please...for the love of heaven get you some chicken with bones in it...they sell cut up chickens right in the poultry case at the grocery store.  I promise...I saw some at my local Kroger just today.  ;-)

Chicken Noodle Soup

2 pounds meaty chicken pieces (bone-in thighs, breasts, legs, or a combination)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 stalks celery, diced
2 cups diced carrots 
2 medium onions, diced
2 teaspoons fresh sage or thyme, chopped 
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes (seasoned with basil, thyme, and oregano) 
12 ounces wide egg noodles +
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a large pot, place the chicken and enough water to just cover the meat.  Bring to a boil and let gently simmer for 45 minutes, or until the chicken is tender (juices should run clear if pierced with a knife). 

Remove from the pot, and let cool. 
SAVE THE BROTH!  Shred the meat from the bones, discarding the skin and bones.  Chop coarsely into bite-sized pieces.  Set aside. 

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the celery, carrots, and onions and saute until tender, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.  

Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes or until the garlic is soft and fragrant.  Remove from the heat. 

At this point, the broth will have settled a bit, and you may see some fat at the surface.  Skim it off, along with any visible bits of marrow or skin.  You can leave them in, but it makes for an unattractive broth...and if you kids are like mine, you will hear cries of, "EWW...what's THAT!" at the table.  So if you want a peaceful dinner, I would skim it out.  Just sayin'.  ;-)


 Now, add the cooked vegetables to the broth, along with the chicken and the undrained tomatoes.  Bring back up to a boil and add the egg noodles.  Cook the noodles in the soup according to the package directions (probably about 8 minutes or so).  At the last minute, stir in the fresh sage, dill, and parsley.  

Ladle into bowls and serve immediately with some crusty bread for sopping if desired.  
My kids were grateful for warm bowls of comfort to ease their achy throats and stop the fever shivers.  Even the baby (who was the only one to escape the flu bug) happily slurped down a few noodles.  Yeah! 

I pray everyone at your table is healthy and stays that way!  Enjoy, and God bless your table tonight!  

Friday, January 11, 2013

Crockpot Applesauce

Sheesh, I know...it's been a while.  I didn't disappear off the face of the earth...but cooking just hasn't been getting top billing around here these days.  When the hubby is working 75-85 hours a week, you don't really feel motivated to spend even one hour in the kitchen cooking dinner, since the kids would be perfectly happy with something simple like eggs.  Or pancakes.  Or chicken nuggets and french fries (yeah...the frozen variety).  Or deli ham slices and apples.  Thank goodness my kids are not gourmet, LOL!  

(Well, except for Rebecca, who has become an expert in making eggs in a hole all by herself.  Yeah, I'm proud of her).   

I did make a fantastic Christmas Day dinner--roast turkey, dressing, gravy, buttermilk mashed potatoes, roasted green beans, vanilla bean pound cake, and deep dish apple pie.  Yep...it was good.  Really good.  And what made it even more special were friends who came over to share the meal with us that day.  

Anyways... ;-)

I was motivated to make crockpot applesauce yesterday.  Apples are plentiful and in season right now, plus it's fun to buy 3-4 different kinds to make your own applesauce.  I bought 6 Golden Delicious, 4 Granny Smith, and 6 Galas.  You can honestly use whatever you fancy.  Be prepared for the lovely smell of baking apples permeating every corner of your house.  It's amazing...and you'll be so proud of yourself for making it homemade. :-)

Crockpot Applesauce

10-12 mixed apples, such as Golden Delicious, Gala, Granny Smith, or Jonagold.  Use what you like!
(You can even throw in a few pears, peaches, plums, strawberries or other fruit.)
6 tablespoons light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 whole cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 small strip lemon peel
Pinch of salt

Peel, core, and slice apples 1/2 inch thick.  Using an apple slicer like this one really helps.  If you buy one, make sure it's ALL metal.  The plastic frame with metal spokes type will break in no time (yes...I know this from experience!) 



Toss all the apples into your crockpot, along with the lemon juice, lemon peel, brown sugar, cinnamon stick, cinnamon, and salt.  Make sure you fill your slow cooker all the way to the top.  Once the apples cook down, it'll only be about 1/2 full, and most crockpots work better if they're half to two-thirds full.  I used both ground cinnamon and a cinnamon stick because we're fans of the spice over here.  Whole cinnamon sticks can be found right in the baking aisle of the grocery store. 

Set your crockpot on "LOW" and let it go for about 8 hours.  You don't even have to stir it, but I did every couple of hours so you can see what it looks like.


Ready for some time lapsed pictures?  Of course you are.  

After 2 hours...

After 4 hours...

After 8 hours...

Now, you can leave it chunky like I did, or pureed it further with an immersion blender/regular blender for a very smooth texture.  I used to do that when Theresa was just starting with solids, but now she eats it no matter what. ;-)

Let the applesauce cool until it's a manageable temperature for kids before consuming with gusto.  I like it a bit warm, but 3 of my 5 kids prefer it cold, so you can certainly chill it in the fridge for later.  

We love this applesauce plain, or with pancakes, waffles, or on warm biscuits.  And let's not forget pork chops...my hubby's favorite.  He has fond memories of homemade applesauce with pork chops growing up. Best of all, it makes the whole house smell like apples and cinnamon all day...who doesn't love that?  

All righty guys, I've got to run. I've had 4 out of 5 kids down with the flu this week, but everyone is watching a movie with their juice cups and blankies right now...so I had a few minutes to bang this post out for you. 

God bless your table tonight, and Happy New Year!  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Baked Chicken Flautas with Spanish Rice, Refried Beans, and Cilantro Cream Sauce

Yesterday, I got a serious craving for some Mexican food.  I'd pinned a yummy looking recipe for Baked Chicken Flautas some time ago...and decided to make them last night for dinner. 

Wow...these were really good.  Baked...not fried!  Which means they are healthier...but not short on flavor at all.  I did make a few changes from the original.  I added some canned, diced green chiles instead of jalapeno...less heat for my kiddos.  I used half a package of taco seasoning for 8 chicken thighs because every time I leave the spice cabinet open, my little wee one runs off with a (gasp!) glass jar of something.  I decided to play it safe!  And I used fajita sized tortillas instead of burrito sized ones cut in half...just because I though it would be less prep time. 
There's plenty of meat leftover to make more, or you can freeze it to make something else later.  We are definitely going to make these again sometime!
Baked Chicken Flautas with Spanish Rice, Refried Beans, and Cilantro Cream Sauce
FOR THE FLAUTAS:
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (use chicken breasts if you prefer)
1 bottle of beer
2 cans low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups fresh spinach
Fajita sized tortillas
1/2 to one whole package of taco seasoning mix (I usually go light on it)
8 ounces (1 large can, or 2 smaller cans) diced green chiles 
Queso quesadilla (found right in the shredded cheese section)
Bring the beer and chicken broth to a boil over high heat.  Add the chicken.  When the liquid comes back to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.  Let cool and shred meat with your fingers.  Mix in the taco seasoning and green chiles.  Reserve 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the cooking broth.  Bring it back to a simmer, add the spinach and stir for a couple of minutes or until bright green and wilted.  Remove from the pot, drain excess liquid, and roughly chop.  Set aside.
Oil a large baking sheet, and preheat the oven to 450.  Spread out one flour tortilla and put 1 tablespoon of chicken in the middle.  Add 2 tablespoons of queso quesadilla and a bit of spinach (you can leave it out for all the spinach haters in your house).  Roll up very tightly, and place seam side down on the baking sheet.  Repeat until you've made enough for your crew...I made 12, and it was just enough.

Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, turn the flautas over, and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or until light golden brown and crispy.  Mine only needed 15 minutes of baking.

Serve warm with salsa, guacamole, or this awesome Cilantro Cream Sauce.  It's our favorite! 
FOR THE SPANISH RICE:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium carrot, diced small
1 cup long-grain white rice (substitute brown rice if you prefer, but add and additional 1/4 cup broth and at least 30 minutes to the cooking time)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 envelope Sazon seasoning mix (optional--I really like the flavor and color it adds to the rice.  You can find it in the international/mexican aisle)
In a medium pot, heat the olive oil over moderate heat.  Add the onion and carrot and let it saute for 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and rice, and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Carefully pour in the chicken broth, the tomato paste, salt and pepper, and Sazon if desired.  Stir once or twice, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, or until the rice is tender, and all the broth is absorbed.  Fluff with a fork and serve. 
FOR THE REFRIED BEANS:
Open a can of premade refried beans.   Or make some from scratch.  Either way, there's no judgement here.  :-) 
Four out of my 5 kids gobbled these flautas up.  Rebecca ate nearly 3, with rice and beans...I only ate 2!  Goodness gracious.  Didn't someone invent a way to stop kids from growing yet? ;-).
Okay...I hope you satisfy your own craving for some tasty...and healty...Mexican food.  God bless your table tonight!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Rasberry Crumb Bars

Aren't you proud of yourself when you put something together really quick, using nothing but the ingredients you have on hand?  Last week, I threw together coriander rubbed pork roast, wild and brown rice medley, and braised cabbage with caraway seeds.  Yes..I was proud of myself!  
I found myself in that situation again yesterday, when at the last minute, I volunteered to host Bible Study at my house.  My darling husband pitched in and vacuumed the entire downstairs (even the staircase--thanks honey!) I ran around the house with a dust cloth, and glass cleaner, while one of the girls cleaned the powder room.  It's so great to have help when you need it. ;-)


During the cleaning frenzy, I set my butter out to soften, and by the time we were done, it was ready to go.  I'd done a quick search on the internet for crumb bars, and decided to go with the fresh raspberries I had in the fridge.  I wasn't sure the only other fruit I had--frozen cranberries would be sweet enough.   I also substituted brown sugar for some of the white sugar for a bit of chewiness, and some rolled oats for texture.  Feel free to use blackberries, blueberries, or a mix of berries instead of raspberries.  This is a great way to give a final nod to summer's bounty and welcome the first hint of cooler weather. :-)

Raspberry Crumb Bars 

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats (not the instant oats)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large egg
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
4 cups fresh raspberries rinsed lightly and gently patted dry
1/2 cup white sugar
3 teaspoons cornstarch 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9x13 baking pan and set it aside. 

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, white sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Add the butter and using a pastry cutter, cut it in until you have a crumbly dough.  Take half of the dough and pat into a thin layer on the bottom of the prepared baking dish.  Set aside. 

In another medium bowl, gently toss the raspberries with the 1/2 cup white sugar and cornstarch.  Pour the raspberries into the pan, and evenly distribute any remaining sugar/cornstarch mixture.  Take the other half of the dough and crumble it over the top of the berries.  

Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly.  Let cool to room temperature before cutting into squares.  Serve alone, or with ice cream (black raspberry ice cream anyone? ;-)

I will be perfectly honest and say that only 1 person was able to come to Bible Study.  Oh well, more raspberry bars for the rest of us.  I know somebody snuck another helping when I wasn't looking (my money's on Rebecca), and both girls begged for a bar in their lunchboxes for today.  Of course, I let them...these things are so good, I'd better get 'em out of the house!

I hope you are lovin' the "cool" front we got over the weekend.  Sure, it's still warm (around 90 degrees today), but the humidity is only at 32%--REALLY nice for our part of Texas this time of year).  Break out the bowls, turn on the oven, and bake these up--you can have them ready in no time!  

God bless your table tonight!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pan Seared Pork Chops with Apples and Sage

It's not quite fall yet here (today's high is supposed to be 99 degrees!), but sometimes you just get a hankering for fall flavors.  That's what happened about 2 weeks ago, while I was digging through the deep freezer to find something to make for dinner.  I came across a package of bone-in pork chops, there were plenty of apples in the fruit bowl, and fresh sage in the herb garden outside--bingo!  Pork chops and apples. :-)

This is a simple, fast meal to get on the table on a busy weeknight.  I went so fast, I didn't take pictures of the cooking process---sorry guys.  It took me 35 minutes, start to finish...not bad!  And it's healthy to boot.  All you have to do is make a green veggie or salad on the side, and you're all set. ;-)

Pan Seared Pork Chops with Apples and Sage

6-8 fresh sage leaves
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
4-6 bone-in or boneless pork chops, about 1/4 inch thick 
2 gala or golden delicious apples, cored and cut into 1/4 slices 
1/4 cup apple butter or unsweetened applesauce 
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 to 1 cup white wine 

In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  When it's hot, but not smoking, drop in the sage leaves.  Fry for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until crispy.  Remove to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.  By frying the sage leaves, we'll impart that great flavor from the sage to flavor the oil, and use it to infuse the pork chops. 

Season the pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper.  In the same pan you used for the sage leaves, heat another 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Brown the chops (in batches if necessary to prevent crowding the pan) on both sides and remove to a plate.  It's not necessary at this point to cook the pork chops through...they'll finish in the sauce. 

Now drop the butter into the pan, and toss in the apples.  Saute the apples for about 6-8 minutes until they're nice and golden brown, but not cooked through.  Add the white wine, apple butter, and more salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a gentle boil, and put the pork chops back in, along with any juices that accumulated on the plate (don't throw that out...it's flavor for your sauce!).  

Simmer for about 8-10 minutes.  You want the pork cooked through, and the apples tender, but take care not to overcook both.  

Plate the pork chops and apples on a large serving platter, and pour the pan sauce over the top.  Garnish with the fried sage leaves.  

You could certainly add onions to the pan along with the apples, but that usually starts a riot with 2 of my kids, so I left them out.  Everyone loved the apples...who can resist warm apple slices and pork?  Not me! ;-)

David was home late as usual, but he loved this dish too, and took leftovers to work the next day for  lunch.  You'll notice in the pictures that I made 10 pork chops.  Four to six chops doesn't feed us anymore, so I usually double just about every recipe I post.  


 Let me know if it's getting cooler in your next of the woods, and if you're cooking fall flavors.  We'll be sweatin' it out here in southeast Texas for another month or so before we cool off, so enjoy it for me!  

God bless your table tonight!