Saturday, December 5, 2009

My New Best Friend

This year, as usual, my husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  Exactly as last year, I told him I wanted a large food processor.  He told me he couldn't get that for me because it's the same as buying me a vacuum for Christmas.  I argued again that cooking is my hobby and a food processor is an expensive toy for that hobby that I couldn't just go out and buy for myself.  Vacuuming is not a hobby, it's a chore.  He said I'd just have to buy one.  So I did.  She's beautiful!

I've only just begun playing with her.  She's so pretty.  We've sliced fruit several times, as Lil' Chef's are amazed (as am I) at how quickly she can slice a whole apple or orange.  We made cornbread batter.  We shredded potatoes for soup.  My Kitchenaid needs to watch her back.  She might be replaced on the countertop soon.  This new beauty works so quickly, and even makes dough.  I am in love.

I have a list of things I want her to try.  First, I think she needs a name.  (Turning now to ask Lil' Chef's what they think.)  We've decided on Gloria.

Gloria's List:
Cookie Dough
Ground Beef (she can grind up a steak in less than 20 seconds.)
Meatballs from freshly ground beef
Bread crumbs
Pizza dough
pie crust
cookie balls

I also told him that I wanted the Hershey's Classic Cookbook that I saw at Costco.  It has over 200 dessert recipes.  He said nothing for cooking is a gift.  I'll be buying that today.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Peanut Chicken becomes Burritos

Ok, so that would make a gross burrito.  Still, the menu said Peanut Chicken, and that's a far stretch from where we ended up.  I took too long decorating the house and mopping the kitchen floor, and didn't leave time to thaw chicken breast and make peanut chicken.  (Though I still might make it for my hubby, who won't be home for another hour.)

Our standard burrito:
Uncooked tortillas from Costco
1 lb. Ground Beef
Taco Seasoning
black or pinto beans (tonight, black)
Shredded cheese
sour cream

Brown tortillas.  Cook beef with seasoning, drain and add beans.  Assemble and enjoy.  Very easy!  Always a hit.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

White Bean and Cheese Soup - Almost Just like Mom's

The house smelled good, and I really liked the soup.  It was just the comfort food I needed after a completely sleepless night with a very cranky-unless-I-held-him baby.

Hubby, not so much.  He promised he wasn't trying to choke it down, but then he almost actually choked it down.  Subtlety and nonchalance are maybe not his strongest points.  He's adorable though, and knew how my day had been, so really he couldn't have given me another response.

1 bag navy beans (my bag said Great Northern Beans)
3 small to medium potatoes, shredded or diced
about 1/3 Velveeta log (not sure how else to say that so it doesn't sound gross.)
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 cup diced ham

Soak beans in crock pot overnight, following package directions.  In the morning add seasonings and potatoes, then turn crock pot to high.  About an hour or two before eating, add cheese and ham.  Mine cooked for six hours and it was just right.  The beans were cooked after 4 hours.

Cornbread accompanied.  I made it with my fancy shmancy new food processor, to which I will dedicate a whole post when I have time.  First batch, not good.  Kinda brick-like.  Second batch much better.  What I learned from the first:
1 Tbsp. and 1 tsp. are two completely different measurements and make a difference when using baking powder.
Don't overmix cornbread batter.  Just get it all moist and stop messing with it.

Reicpe on the back of the cornmeal box.  I'll use another next time and probably also add honey.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Menu Wednesday

Thursday - White Bean & Cheese soup with cornbread
Friday - Thai Peanut Chicken with snap peas and carrots - GLOP for dessert
Saturday - Brown Sugar Salmon with fresh green beans
Sunday - Orange Chicken with rice and egg rolls
Monday - Pineapple Enchiladas with black beans and Apple Crisp for dessert
Tuesday - Tri-Tip sandwiches with baked beans and fruit
Wednesday - Leftovers

My menu follows a few patterns.  First, I've assigned each day of the week a food type.  Monday - Mexican, Tuesday - Comfort Foods/American, Wednesday - Leftovers/Italian, Thursday - Soup/Salad, Friday - Ethnic/New, Saturday - FREE/Fresh, Sunday - Slow Cooker/Cassarole/Frozen.  Then Wednesday Lil' Chef #1 gets to pick and help prepare, Friday Lil' Chef #2 gets to pick and prepare, and Sunday, if he cares, Hubby gets to pick.

Shopping List:
Velveeta Cheese
coconut milk
peanut sauce packet
spanish peanuts
whole carrots
fresh snap peas
green beans
orange chicken sauce
sweet sandwich rolls
orange juice
diet coke
bread crumbs
italian herb mix

Salmon Filets
egg rolls
whipped cream

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Freezing ahead only works if you remember you did it.

Those rolls for Thanksgiving,  Delicious.  Only I didn't find that out until we got back, because I forgot to bring them.  I ended up using my mother-in-laws kitchen after all.  It wasn't too bad.  She was in there cooking anyway.  I just felt like I was taking up more than my share of counter-top space.  Plus, when I asked my husband to clean my mess while I went to give the baby his favorite Thanksgiving fare, he let his mom clean it up.  NOT the plan.  Then I just felt like a heel.  Of course he says she insisted.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Almost a Brisket

I wanted to do Brisket.  Then I asked my supermarket butcher if he had some.  He pulled out something weird from the 'back' and said it was $5 a pound.  I said never mind and bought another cheap roast like last week.  I had been planning to entertain some friends, but still that would have been about $15 just for meat.  We'll save that for Christmas or something.

So, basically same as last week.

1 3ish lb. roast
1Tbsp. montreal steak seasoning
1 bottle bbq sauce

Slow cooker (oven) on low.  Rub meat with seasoning.  Pour on BBQ sauce.  Used shallow roaster.  Covered with foil.  Put it in at 9am, pulled it out at 5pm.  Tender, and juicy.  I literally couldn't taste it.  I have a cold.  I could have eaten the venison liver I saw in the store fridge (which, by the way, is disgusting!) and not known the difference.

Hubby said he liked it.  I slow roasted potatoes with it in a separate dish all day.  Can't tell you what they tasted like, but they were definitely done cooking :-)  Next time I think I'll roast them the traditional way so they are more crispy on the outside.  I like a crispy potato.

I did also make rolls.  I need to make rolls for Thanksgiving dinner, but I don't love working in my mother-in-law's kitchen.  No one has ever said anything to make me feel that way, I just always feel like I'm in the way and making lots of noise while everyone else tries to watch tv.  So I made enough for 4 dozen.  I ended up with 5 dozen.  I froze 4 dozen pre-shaped rolls and baked the other dozen for dinner.  They were gone by the end of the meal.  Lil' Chef's love 'em.

Kim's Dinner Rolls: (From my friend Kim, who always has the best recipes.)

Bake at 400 for 9 min.

Makes 4-6 dozen

1 stick (1/2 c.) butter or margarine
½ c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 c. milk
2 Tbsp. yeast
2 eggs
7 c. flour
½ c. water

Place butter, sugar and salt in mixing bowl.  Warm or scald milk, pour into mixing bowl to melt or soften butter.  Let cool for yeast.  Add yeast and proof 10 minutes.  Add eggs.  Mix using paddle or whisk attachment.  Add 6 cups flour.  Mix using bread hook.  Add ½ cup water and remaining 1 cup of flour.  Knead 1 to 2 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic.  Let rise until double.  Shape by rolling dough and cutting, or by pinching desired amount and rolling into a ball.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 9 minutes.

To freeze: shape rolls and layer over parchment paper.  One layer of rolls, one layer plastic wrap, then another layer of rolls in between, etc.  That way they can freeze all at once, and not stick together.  After they're frozen put them in a zip top bag all together. They'll keep for a couple of months.  To use, let thaw 2-4 hours depending on the temp. of the room they are in.  Keep covered with greased plastic wrap while rising.  Bake as usual.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Egg Drop Soup - Not a Hit

A friend made me some vegetable spring rolls a while back and I wanted to use them for a meal.  I decided spring rolls would go well with egg drop soup.  I got a recipe out that I've used once before and the Lil' Chef's wanted to help.

First, the spring rolls had to be fried.  I just put about half an inch of vegetable oil in a frying pan on lowish heat.  They were frozen, so I didn't want them to burn.  I let those fry, turning every now and then, while I made the soup.  We dipped them in Sweet and Sour sauce from a bottle I bought at the grocery store.

4 cups chicken broth
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
2 eggs plus one extra egg yolk

Scramble eggs and yolk, set aside.  Combine other ingredients in pot.  Bring to slight boil.  Using your third hand (this is where Lil' Chef got to help) stir while pouring egg through a fork.  Keep stirring until it's all used.  Egg should cook immediately.

This meal didn't go over well.  The soup was good.  The spring rolls were not the best.  Something seemed off about having freshly picked green beans in a spring roll.  My friend will teach me how to roll them soon, and I think I'll use carrots and cabbage and maybe some thinly sliced beef.

The Lil' Chef's were not in a good mood.  One was too tired to eat anything, the other one didn't like the idea of eggs in soup.

What to change:
1. Some other filling for spring rolls. No green beans.
2. Less egg in the soup.  It was tasty, but a little to eggy.  Plus a few chopped carrots and celery would probably have been yummy.
3. Don't tell Lil' Chef's what's in it, if it might be something too unusual for them to process.  Taste first, explain later.  Kinda like fast food.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ok Chili

There's a restaurant near by our house called OK Chinese Food.  Hubby and I have never been adventurous enough to try it out.  If the owners don't even toot their own horns, we figure it's not worth our time.  Dinner last night was kinda like that.

Menu Item: Chili and Cornbread

Cornbread didn't happen.  I ended up babysitting last minute for a friend, and I don't like to have my oven on when there are lots of little ones running around.

Chili was simple:
1 lb. ground beef
1 packet Chili seasoning from McCormick
1 Can kidney beans, drained
1 can chili beans, drained
1 can prepared chili
1 can tomato sauce

Brown beef, drain.  Return to pot and add seasoning and canned foods.  Stir and heat through for at least 15 minutes to let flavors blend.

Usually I've made this with my own seasonings.  A little garlic, a little onion powder, some chili powder, salt and pepper.  I saw the seasoning packet at Safeway and thought I'd give it a try.  Not bad, not great.

Next time I'll stick with my own seasonings to taste.

Served with cheese and sour cream.  Everyone finished and was full.  That's the point.

What I learned:
1. Shortcuts save on time and usually skimp on flavor
2. I need to recycle more, all those cans just don't look right in the trash.

Gave some extra chili to a friend who had already made baked potatoes.  I wished I'd done that too, but again, it would have required using my oven so it probably wasn't going to happen anyway.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Menu Wednesday

My menu starts on Thursday, because that's when I shop for fresh food.

Thursday - Chili and Cornbread
Friday - Egg drop soup (a favorite for Lil' Chefs to help with) and spring rolls (from a friend)
Saturday - Brown Sugar Salmon and roasted potatoes
Sunday - BBQ Beef Brisket
Monday - Navajo Tacos with meat from Sunday
Tuesday - out of town for Thanksgiving, no cooking for me till Friday
Wednesday - still out of town, baking rolls for family dinner tomorrow

Wish me luck.  Shopping should be easy this week.  Beans for chilis, sweet & sour chicken from TJ's, a brisket and a new bag of frozen salmon from Costco.  Of course lots of fruits and veg.  Gotta get those vitamins to keep away the winter bugs.

It's late, Dude's asleep, now it's my turn.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I made a delicious dinner for the Lil' chefs tonight.  Baby carrots, in individual baggies.  One each: 100 calorie pack oreo cakesters, Kellogs cereal bars, mini bottled water, fruit snacks.

Don't pretend you aren't jealous of how well I've got it all together.  I'm just that good.

And off to Enrichment...

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Lotta Lasagna

Tomorrow I'm taking a lasagna to a potluck, so tonight I made two large pans.  I had half a box of regular noodles and half a box of no-boil noodles.

I ate the no-boil version because I was worried the noodles wouldn't be cooked through (like last time) and didn't want to put my name on that one at church.

The noodles were cooked, but I have to say, the no-boil noodles are sometimes like eating rubbery paper.  I won't be buying them again.  Great in a pinch, but just don't make a fantastic dish.

The sauce was good, but basic.  Ground beef, seasoned with Italian Seasoning (I should find out what's in that), onion powder because Hubby doesn't think he likes onions and doesn't know I use it - he compliments the flavor every time I put it in, and some garlic salt.

So, another success.

What I learned:
1. I'm not a huge fan of no-boil noodles.
2.  It takes a lot of sauce to make a lasagna.
3.  I can stretch the cheese mix if I have to and it's fine.

I'm going to bed now and the dishes aren't done.  I'll wake up to the lovely smell of uncooked cheese mixture and pasta sauce.  At least everything made it as far as the sink.  Tonight I remembered to turn on the dishwasher with yesterdays dishes.  Also I cleaned under the oven and fridge today.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I boiled you a Roast

Actually, I've done roasts before in the crock pot.  That's the easy way.  Mom always did them in the oven, but mine never turned out well that way (In my imagination, because I never actually tried it before.)  So today I thought I'd experiment with the slow-cooker feature on my oven.

Two thoughts have prevented me from doing this before.  They are 1: My gas oven will be running for hours, and gas costs like $3.50 a gallon these days.  2:  Will it really work? and 3: Can I trust it not to burn my house down while I'm away?

So, I prepared the simplest roast I could think of.  A three lb. three and a half dollar roast I bought on sale at Safeway.  No sure what cut of meat it was, but I asked the butcher for something "really really cheap."  I figured if I might ruin it, I didn't want to pay much.

Then I put my simple roast in a roasting pan, without a rack.  Then I put some carrots beside it so it would look like I tried to serve more than one food group (or food pyramid piece) to my family.  Slow Cooker button on Hi (like Hello, interestingly)  and off to church I went feeling like a domestic queen for sure.  I didn't tell Hubby that the oven would be on the whole time.  He would likely have nixed the whole idea.

When we came back, the house was still standing and it smelled beautiful and beefy.  The meat fell apart and the carrots were really salty from having cooked in beef juice and seasonings for 5 hours.  It was delicious.  Hubby requested that I make it ALL THE TIME.  I'm pretty sure he clings to my successes with a little more intensity so he doesn't have to test out all my failures as often.  The gravy was even good.


3 lbs cheap meat
2 Tbsp. Montreal Steak Seasoning

Rub meat with seasoning.  Put in oven.  Make sure oven is on.


2ish Tbsp. butter
1/4 c. flour
2 c. beef stock
seasonings to taste (salt, pepper, more montreal)
beef drippings

Melt butter, stir in flour and mix well.  Add stock, seasonings and drippings.  Stir until thickened.  (I cheated here and used some potato flakes from the mashed potatoes I made from a bag, because my gravy wasn't as thick as I wanted.)

Voila!  Dinner that hubby liked!

What I learned:
1. Meat is meat.  Cheaper is not worse than expensive when slow cooked.
2. The slow cooker feature is for real on my oven and I may not be able to live without it from now on.

Still awaiting PG&E bill...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dang "Easy" Instructions!

So I bought a box of Reese's Cookie bars at Target.  It would supposedly take two minutes to make.

Surprisingly, it did.  It went in the fridge, and I was ready to wow my friends with my skills after lunch.  Then during my quick clean-up, I realize I've left the peanut butter out.  A whole packet of peanut butter filling is not in my peanut butter bars.  C'mon!

And that's why I write this blog...

What I learned:

1. Read instructions carefully, because some times I'm an idiot.
2. When poured on top, peanut butter is peanut butter and will fix anything.  When we ate them during the football game the next day, they were gone in minutes, totally delicious!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ah Fudge! - Even I can't mess this one up

So my favorite recipe website, All Recipes, had this recipe on their front page yesterday. It's from Eagle Brand and because it looked so easy, I decided to try it.

Lil' Chefs helped and it was Soooooo easy! Plus, it tasted really good and gets me started off well on my holiday 5-15 lb. tradition.

Cookies 'n' Creme Fudge:

18 oz. white chocolate peices, or baking squares
1 can (14 oz.) Sweetened Condensed Milk
3 cups coarsely crushed chocolate sandwich cookies
1/8 tsp. salt

1. In heavy saucepan, melt chocolate, milk, and salt over low heat
2. Stir in crushed cookies
3. Pour into wax paper lined pan (9x13 or 8x8)
4. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
5. Turn on to cutting board and remove paper. Cut into 1 inch squares. Store covered in fridge.

By - Eagle Brand

Questions to experiment with:
1. Would this work as well with milk chocolate?
2. How much can I make before my family and I are sick of it?
3. What other fillings would go well here?

What I learned was that making impressive desserts doesn't have to be hard. Lil' Chef actually did most of the stirring, and that was the hardest part. Lil' other Chef did more of the cookie smashing, which is more in line with her personality. Lil'st chef kept watch from his perch in the Bjorn.

I think next time I will try using some kind of jam or fruit. Maybe raspberries or cranberries in the holiday spirit. That would be pretty. The cookies I used were the Christmas ones (which are out a little early this year, if anybody cares what I think.) so they had red filling. The whole fudge ended up being pink which delighted Lil' chef's to no end.

Now I have something super easy and quick to give to friends for the Holiday's and they'll be impressed with my craftiness and holiday spirit. Maybe they'll all want to be just like me!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A mix it a mash it...

A few years ago santa bought me a lovely stand mixer at Costco. Did you know that you can use a stand mixer to actually make food?! Like bread dough and cookie dough, and even mashed potatoes? To my surprise, and my husbands delight, my mixer was able make many desserts (from boxes) that he wasn't accustomed to. Like birthday cake and fresh bread. He put on a few pounds from eating, and then lost it while cleaning up my mess. He's got a great body and now I can take all the credit.

My baking repertoire expanded from brownies from a box to:

Basic White Bread
Birthday cake (still from a box)
Better boxed brownies

I'm practically a chef!