Monday, December 27, 2010

Cold day, warm dinner!

I love manicotti. Actually, I'm pretty sure you can just insert any sort of Italian food in place of 'manicotti' and it'll still be true. After making this recipe, I've come to the conclusion that there aren't really 'right' and 'wrong' ways of cooking/baking, but simply the 'easy' and 'hard' way to do things :) Manicotti are wonderful if you know the easy way to fill them (and I'll share my secret below)

From The Betty Crocker Cookbook; serves 7
14 uncooked manicotti shells
1 lb. lean (at least 80%) ground beef
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup...I didn't add this)
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped (or 1 tsp. garlic powder)
1 jar (26 to 30 oz.) tomato pasta sauce, any variety
2 boxes (9 or 10 oz. each) frozen chopped spinach,
2 c. small curd cottage cheese
1 can (8 oz.) mushroom pieces and stems, drained (I didn't add this either)
1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese (like the kind in the plastic jar)
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Cook and drain manicotti as directed on package using minimum cooking time (to help prevent the shells from tearing while filling).

Meanwhile, in a 10-inch skillet, cook beef, onion and garlic (only if using cloves) over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown; drain. Stir in pasta sauce (and garlic powder if applicable).

Heat oven to 350*. Spray 13"x9" glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Squeeze thawed spinach to drain (I just used my bare hands); spread on paper towels and pat dry (if you still have soggy, watery spinach). In medium bowl, mix spinach, cottage cheese, mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, and pepper.

In baking dish, spread ~1 c. of the beef sauce. Fill manicotti shells with spinach mixture. And here we have the hard vs. easy part...fully explained after the recipe. Pour remaining beef sauce evenly over shells, covering shells completely. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.

Cover (aluminum foil works nicely) and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 20 to 25 minutes longer, or until hot and bubbly.

Easy vs. hard:

-The hard way: use a spoon or skinny spatula to scoop and 'pour' the filling into the shells.

-The easy way: use a cake decorating bag (disposable or reusable, parchment or plastic, it doesn't matter; just don't use a coupler) to squeeze the filling into the shells. So. Easy.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmastime is cookie time!

This is another recipe complements of mom :) I'm not sure where she found it, but it is delicious! Best of all, you can find all the stuff to make these cookies at Aldi (if you're being budget-conscious like me). My sister isn't a huge fan of white chocolate: she suggested trying dark chocolate chips instead white chocolate ones...if you try any variations, let me know!

White Chocolate Cranberry-Pecan Cookies
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 c. dried cranberries
3/4 c. white baking chips
1/2 c. chopped pecans*

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine flour and baking soda in another bowl. Gradually add to creamed sugar/butter mixture and mix well. Fold in the cranberries, baking chips, and pecans.

Drop by tablespoonfuls 2" apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375* for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.

* An easy way to chop pecans is to stick them in a seal-able plastic bag and smush with a hammer. Or you can splurge and buy the little bag of chopped pecans in the first place. Whatever you like...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The best recipe you've never heard of...

My mom made this all the time (or at least I remember it that way) when my sister and I were younger. I loved loved loved it (except for the crispy edge parts...sorry mom) and haven't had it in eons...until very recently :) I introduce you to...

Spaghetti Pizza
Serves a lot of 10 or so
1 pkg. (16 oz.) spaghetti
2 eggs
1/2 c. milk
4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 jars (16 oz. each) spaghetti sauce, your choice of flavors/styles
1 1/2 tsp. oregano
1 pkg. (3 1/2 oz.) sliced pepperoni*

Break spaghetti into 2" pieces. Cook according to package directions. Drain and cool**.

Preheat oven to 400*. Beat eggs lightly in a large bowl. Stir in milk, 1 cup cheese, garlic powder, and salt. Add spaghetti and stir thoroughly. Spread in a greased 15" x 10" jelly roll pan. Bake 15 minutes; remove from oven and reduce temperature to 350*.

Spread spaghetti sauce evenly over spaghetti. (Make sure you cover all the spaghetti to prevent those oh-so-wonderful crispy edges.) Sprinkle on oregano and remaining mozzarella. Top with pepperoni. Bake 30 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before cutting.


* Hokay, so I bought turkey pepperoni for this recipe. It only comes in a 6 oz. package and I used most of it. Don't be afraid of the pepperoni! It is pizza after all :)
** To cool your spaghetti quickly AND prevent it from sticking together, rinse with cold water. Use your hands to toss it around as you're rinsing it with the cold water and make sure you drain it really, really well.


Since this is a pizza recipe, feel free to experiment with toppings and/or spaghetti sauce. You can also make this a vegetarian recipe really easily by just topping with fake meat stuff or just lots of veggies. For my version, I used green pepper sauce (since I really like green peppers on my pizza) in addition to the (healthier!) turkey pepperoni. J. agreed that it was an awesome success too!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Good stuff, the easy version!

I love chicken pot pie. I don't love making chicken pot pie. If I make a pie crust, it better be filled something fruity, chocolatey, or pumpkiny. Chicken doesn't fall into any of those categories...

This recipe is awesome because you still get all the yummy parts of a real pot pie (minus the pie crust work) and the yummy addition of a biscuit-y topping.

Cheesy Chicken Pot Pie
(makes 4 servings)
2 c. chopped chicken breasts (cooked)
2 c. frozen mixed veggies
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
1 c. chicken stock*
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
1 c. biscuit mix
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 c. milk

Preheat oven to 400*.

Lightly spray a pie plate (I used a 9" one) or 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray. Place chicken and veggies in a large-ish bowl.

In a small saucepan, melt butter; stir in flour. Cook for 1 minute. Whisk in chicken broth and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add salt & pepper. Remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted. Pour sauce over veggies/chicken and mix well.

In a small bowl, combine biscuit mix, cheese, and milk; stir to combine. Pour chicken/veggies into pie plate (or baking dish) and spread cheesy biscuit mix over the top. (Don't worry if it doesn't cover the chicken stuff completely.)

Bake for 25 minutes (or until crust is golden brown).

* I really didn't want to buy chicken broth (or stock), so I cooked my chicken with boiling water. Just pick the chicken out when it's done cooking, then measure out however much of the broth you need! Bam! So easy :)

FYI: I separated the ingredients list based on what gets to hang out with what. Obviously, then, the 1/2 c. cheese goes with the biscuit topping and the 1 c. cheese is part of the sauce stuff.

ALSO: You have been warned (as of the end of this sentence) that this is a kitchen killer recipe...
This is my kitchen at the end of this recipe. I think all the mess was worth it though :) Let me know if you agree!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Apple Crisp

I think this is another 4-H recipe. Regardless of where it came from, I love love love apple crisp! You can also use peaches or rhubarb in this as well.

Apple Crisp

(Serves 4-6)
1 c. rolled oats (quick or regular)
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
4 c. peeled, sliced apples (~4-5 medium apples)

Peel, core, and slice apples. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350*.
Mix oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Add butter/margarine and blend well.
Arrange apples in a greased baking dish (I use an 8"x8" pan). Spread oatmeal mixture on top; press down slightly.
Bake for 30 minutes.

You can also use (in place of fresh apples):
4 c. peeled, sliced, fresh peaches (or drained canned equivalent)
4 c. sliced fresh apricots (never tried this before...)
3 c. canned apple slices, drained
4 c. cut rhubarb (you'll probably need to add more sugar to the fruit mixture when using rhubarb)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Butter my buns...

These are the easiest biscuits to make. Really. Why would I lie to you about delicious biscuits? They're also really good with the previous post recipe :)

4-H Biscuits
2 c. flour
1 T. baking
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 c. shortening
or margarine
3/4 c. milk

Measure dry ingredients into mixing bowl and stir. Cut shortening into flour mixture. Make a "well" in the mixture and add milk all at once. Stir vigorously with a fork, just until the mixture forms a ball. Place on lightly-floured board (or countertop, like I do!) and knead 20 times*. Pat out dough and cut out biscuits (I use a floured drinking glass like a cookie-cutter on the biscuit dough). Bake at 450* for 10-12 minutes

* Note on kneading dough: Make sure you count! Also, the dough is going to puff up as you knead it...that's the entire point of kneading! This is the most fun part of making biscuits, so don't screw it up :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

It's Crockpot season!

I have a confession to make: Before this recipe, I've never made chili in the Crockpot. I am so glad that's changed :)My magic crockpot :)

Crockpot Chili
(Thanks Betty Crocker!)

2 lb. lean (at least 80%) ground beef
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
2 T. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin OR cajun/creole seasoning
1 can (15 to 16 oz.) kidney or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
Shredded Cheddar cheese, if desired

In large skillet, cook beef over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until brown; drain.

In 3 1/2 to 6 quart slow cooker, mix beef and everything BUT beans and cheese.

Cover and cook on LOW heat for 6-8 hours (or high 3-4 but it tastes better when cooked on low).

Stir in beans. Increase heat to HIGH. Cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until slightly thickened. Serve and top with cheese.

I just used half an onion because it's what I had laying around. I also added a can of (drained) mushrooms because good chili always has mushrooms in it! This is delicious when served with cornbread...I think chili is one of the best cool/cold weather recipes :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fall fun!

Ok, this isn't really a real recipe as much as something fun to do with pumpkin guts when you carve your jack-o-lantern. I made them with K this past weekend and they are delicious!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Gut your pumpkin. (I found that an ice cream scoop works really well.) Try to separate out as much of the goo/stringy stuff as you can at this point. Now rinse the pumpkin seeds off in cold water. I dumped them into a strainer/colander and rinsed. A lot. Now dry your pumpkin seeds!

Heat over to 325*. Either pour a very thin layer of cooking oil onto a big pan (make sure it has edges) or spray with cooking spray. Pour seeds on to pan, then stir to make sure they're coated in oil/cooking spray. Now arrange the seeds in a single layer on the pan. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10 minutes; stir, then bake for 15 more minutes, until toasty :)

Store in an air tight container.

These little goobers are delicious, kind of like a cross between popcorn and sunflower seeds. Mmmm, fall :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How to be amazing...

...without exerting too much energy :)

This is one of those recipes where you can tell people, 'Oh, I'll make thisandsuch' and they'll get this face like 'WOW' and then you show up with your whatever and everyone complements you out the whazoo and you really didn't have to do anything spectacular. I love recipes like that.

In this case, your 'thisandsuch' is LASAGNA and everyone really will love you because, seriously, who doesn't love good lasagna?

Overnight/Lazy-Day Lasagna

1 lb. mild Italian sausage or ground beef (I always use moo-meat over oink-meat)
1 30 oz. jar spaghetti sauce (Since more is better, don't be afraid to buy the 2lb. 13oz. jar. It'll work out just fine. I promise.)
1 c. water
1 15 oz. container ricotta cheese
2 T. fresh chives (optional...aka, I never use fresh chives)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 egg
8 oz. uncooked lasagna noodles
1 16 oz. pkg. mozzarella cheese (I always go with shredded)

Brown meat in large skillet over medium-high heat; drain well. Add spaghetti sauce and water; blend well. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

In medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, chives, oregano, and egg; mix well. In bottom of ungreased 9" x 13" baking dish (or lasagna pan if you're all fancy), spread 1 1/2 c. meat sauce; top with half the noodles, half the ricotta cheese mixture, and half the mozzarella cheese. Repeat noodles/ricotta stuff/mozzarella. Top with remaining meat sauce.

**Cover. Refrigerate overnight (at least 12 hours).**

Heat oven to 350*. Uncover baking dish. Bake 50-60 minutes or until casserole is bubbly. Cover (I use aluminum foil) and let stand for 15 minutes before serving. (Optional: top with Parmesan cheese!) Makes ~12 servings.

I'll post pictures later, if there's any lasagna left when I remember :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I'm still alive...and cooking!

Healthy, fast, and easy (and vegetarian)! This is another recipe from the '20-minute meals' section of Ms. Betty Crocker's cookbook. Don't be scared of the's really tasty!

Polenta and Beans
1 c. yellow cornmeal
1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes , undrained
1 c. bottled salsa (with cilantro or whatever...basically any kind of salsa you prefer)
3/4 c. shredded cheese (Mexican or cheddar)

For polenta (the cornmeal thing):
- In a large saucepan, bring 3 cups water to boiling. In a bowl, combine cornmeal, 1 cup cold water, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Stir cornmeal mixture slowly into boiling water. Cook and stir mixture slowly into boiling water. Cook and stir until mixture returns to boiling. Reduce heat to low. Cook 5 to 10 minutes or until mixture is thick, stirring occasionally. (If mixture gets too thick, stir in additional water. It will get thick pretty quick, so keep stirring and watch this stuff carefully!)

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, combine beans, undrained tomatoes, and salsa. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir 1/2 c. of the cheese into polenta. Divide polenta among four shallow bowls. Top with bean mixture and remaining cheese.

**There will probably be a lot of the cornmeal stuff (polenta) left over, so feel free to double the salsa/tomato/bean stuff!**

Friday, July 23, 2010

My first recipe in need of help...

This recipe screams HEALTHY but it's still pretty tasty! I haven't quite worked out all the kinks yet, so there might be edits to this recipe in the future.

Rice with Chicken
2 lb. chicken, cut up into bite-sized pieces
2 c. water
1 c. uncooked rice
2 med. onions, diced
1 1 lb. can diced tomatoes
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
10 oz. frozen peas OR 2 c. fresh peas

Combine chicken and water in saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer 30 minutes. Drain chicken, reserving broth. In a very large saucepan, layer rice, onions, and tomatoes over chicken. Stir seasonings into broth and pour over rice/chicken mixture. Cover and cook on low heat for 30 minutes, until rice is tender. Place peas over hot chicken mixture. Cover tightly and cook for 5 minutes.

Hokay, so, here's the deal: this is a very liquid-y recipe (see above picture!) if you don't drain the tomatoes, use all the broth, and use instant rice. Some suggestions to fix this:
  • Don't use minute/instant rice! Since stuff is cooking for 30 minutes, this is probably what you're supposed to do.
  • If you DO use minute/instant rice, perhaps just cook the rice/chicken mixture for 5 or 10 minutes instead of 30.
  • Maybe just set aside half the chicken broth instead of all of it (especially if using minute/instant rice)
  • Drain the tomatoes? I'm not such a big fan of this idea...
Another comment: I didn't add anything besides the garlic powder the first time I made this, and honestly, it was a bit bland. Try some salt and pepper or maybe garlic salt instead of garlic powder. If anyone tries something that improves the quality of this recipe, leave a comment and let me know!


Unrelated food note: I'll be out of town and moving and out of town again this next week, so no new recipes until early August. Let me know if there's anything you'd like to see for when I get back from Nashville! Maybe I'll be inspired by some good Southern cookin'!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cheese + chicken = yum!

This is another one of my go-to recipes because it's so fast and easy! It doesn't hurt that it's really tasty as well :)

Cheesy Chicken Strips
2 c. cheese-flavored crackers, crushed (will be ~1 cup crushed)^
1/2 c. finely shredded cheddar cheese
1 egg
1 lb. chicken breast tenders (not breaded)^^

Heat oven to 400*. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a large resealable bag, mix crushed crackers and cheese (crush your crackers in a resealable bag by using a rolling pin or by rolling a large can of something over the crackers). In a large bowl, beat the egg.

(I do this step one piece of chicken at a time.) Add chicken to egg; toss to coat. Remove from egg, allowing excess to drip into bowl, then place chicken in bag of cracker mixture. Seal bag and shake to coat evenly. Place in single layer on baking sheet.

Bake uncovered 10-12 minutes, or until no longer pink in the center (I always do 12 minutes). Serve with BBQ or other sauce, if desired.

^ It's fun to try other flavors of cheese crackers too. And it really doesn't matter if you use CheezIts or the WalMart brand or the low fat or whatever version. As long as they're crackers and they taste cheesy, it'll work...

^^ I just buy whatever type of boneless chicken is on sale and trim/cut it up into appropriate chicken-tender-sized pieces.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Summertime, summertime, sum sum summertime...

Mmm, fresh fruit! I think that's my favorite part of summer and this recipe makes great use of it! You can also substitute canned or frozen peaches (thawed) for fresh if you're pressed for time, but nothing beats the fresh, real deal...

Peach and Blueberry Cobbler

4 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced (or 3 cans, drained, or I'm not sure of the frozen equivalent...once you pour them into the baking pan, add more if it doesn't look peachy enough)
1 c. fresh blueberries
1/4 c. + 2T. sugar
3/4 c. + 1T. Bisquick
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/3 c. milk (I use just a tiny little bit more)

Preheat oven to 425*. Spray a 7"x11" glass baking dish and set aside. (I don't have a 7"x11" dish, but I do have a 9"x9". Just do the math to find square inches if you don't have the exact size pan and use what you do have that's closest to what you need.)

In a medium bowl, mix together peaches, blueberries, 1/4 c. sugar, and 1T. Bisquick. Pour fruit mixture into baking dish.

In another bowl, combine ginger, cinnamon, milk, and remaining 2 T. sugar and 3/4 c. Bisquick. Stir until mixture forms a soft dough. Drop spoonfuls of dough evenly over fruit mixture. (It won't completely cover the fruit, but that's why it's a cobbler!)

Bake cobbler till the fruit is tender and Bisquick topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving (and it's really good warm, especially with vanilla ice cream!).

Mmm...this is my official dessert of summer!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pasta salad...perfect summer side

Mmm, pasta salad! I love eating this stuff as a snack, at dinner, for lunch...that's a good thing, too, since I have a pound of it and it's just me munching away :-)

Pasta Salad
1 lb. tricolor pasta
2 c. cherry (or grape) tomatoes
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
Olives (optional)
Italian salad dressing

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water, then drain again. Pour cooled pasta into a (really, really big) bowl.

Chop the peppers into little bite-sized pieces. Add to pasta.

Olives can be purchased whole (just slice in half) or canned in either the chopped (really little pieces) or whole (again, cut in half) or halved varieties. In all cases, just be sure to drain the olives before adding to the pasta.

Wash the tomatoes and chop in half before adding to pasta.

Add enough Italian salad dressing to coat everything and kinda stick it all together. (I bought a 16 oz. bottle and used maybe half of it.)

For best taste, refrigerate overnight before serving (but it tastes good right after you make it too!).

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Summer's BEST Peach Pie

Yes, yes, another pie...and peach at that! But this one is different!

Pastry for double-crust 9" pie (use this recipe)
1/2 to 3/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 T. quick cooking tapioca (find it with the pudding and jello)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 T. ginger (optional)
6 c. sliced, peeled peaches (can use fresh or canned OR frozen!)

Make your pie crust and line the bottom of the pie tin.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, tapioca, and cinnamon. Mix in ginger. Add peaches and toss to coat. (If using frozen peaches, let stand 15-30 minutes or until peaches are partially thawed but still icy.)

Spoon peach mixture into pastry-lined pie tin.

Put your top crust on! Brush with milk and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Cover edge to prevent overbrowning. Bake at 375* for 25 minutes (50 minutes if using frozen peaches). Remove foil, then bake for 20-25 more minutes.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Twilight madness!

Since I haven't updated in a while, y'all get a two-fer this time! My friend J. and I went to see Twilight: Eclipse the night it came out. We decided to be prepared for a long wait in line, so not only did we make tshirts, but we made two kinds of cookies: chocolate chip, and sugar -- with *sprinkles* since Edward isn't the only thing that can sparkle!

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes ~4 dozen -- from The Betty Crocker Cookbook

3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c.
packed brown sugar (light)
1 c. butter or margarine,
1 egg
2 1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. coarsely chopped nuts (optional--I never add nuts to choc. chip cookies!)
1 12 oz. package chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375*.

Mix sugars, butter and egg in large bowl. (I cream my butter first, then add the other stuff.) In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt. Stir dry ingredients into butter/egg/sugar. (It's easiest to add it in thirds because the dough will get stiff by the end.) Stir in chocolate chips. (and nuts).

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until light brown. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet. Cool.

*Having soft butter is important! Just watch it to make sure it doesn't start to actually melt. Then your cookies will be really flat and kinda gross :-(

And now...the SPARKLE COOKIES!

Sugar Cookies
Makes ~4 dozen

2 3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking
1/2 tsp. baking
1 c. butter, softened (the above butter warning applies here too...)
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 375*.

In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Roll (or drop, like I did) rounded tablespoonfuls of dough onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes.

Decorate your cooled sugar cookies!

Butter Icing
Makes icing for 2-4 dozen cookies depending on size

2 1/2 T. soft butter (again, really soft = good, melty = bad)
1 1/2 c. confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar, like you'd put on French Toast,
not the kind you usually use in baking or to make Kool-Aid)
1 1/2 T. milk
3/4 tsp. vanilla

Blend soft butter and sugar together. Stir in vanilla. Stir in milk until smooth. Add more milk or powdered sugar depending on consistency.


Sunday, June 27, 2010!

I think this is another 4H recipe. It's super quick (as in, 30 minutes, very beginning start to very end finish) and requires only 5 or 6 ingredients. Intrigued? Then read on for...

Pronto Chili
Serves 4
1 lb. lean ground beef or turkey
15 1/2 oz. can kidney beans (dark or light), drained
{14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes and 5.5 oz. tomato juice (2/3 c.)} OR the big can of whole tomatoes (chop them up into bite-sized pieces with kitchen scissors or a knife when you add them)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 T. chili powder
7 oz. can mushrooms, drained (optional)

Cook ground meat and onion in large saucepan until lightly browned (you can also use a skillet but make sure it's a.) really big and b.) really deep because you're going to put all the ingredients in this skillet and then simmer). Drain off fat. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer (baby boil) for 10-15 minutes.


A couple of notes: The picture to the left is the size pot I make this recipe in. The skillet thing just doesn't work for me. Also, if you just add the diced tomatoes (no tomato juice), your chili will not be very soup-y. Using whole tomatoes and chopping them up as you add them provides enough extra juice that you'll be fine, as will adding the can (see right...I like the little cans so I don't have a ton of leftover tomato juice just sitting in my fridge) of tomato juice along with diced tomatoes.I usually don't measure out 1 T. of chili powder (it doesn't seem to be enough); I just coat my ingredients (see above) and that generally works for me :-)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How to impress your mother...

Silly me...with the *excitement* of writing a conference paper and starting this blog, I completely forgot the most important rule of cooking and Girl Scouting: BE PREPARED. In this case, preparation starts with the most basic of basics: kitchen stuff and a bit of cooking know-how.

Kitchen Stuff
You can cook or bake pretty much anything if you're equipped with the following:
Mixing bowl
Mixing spoon
Liquid measuring cup
Dry measuring cups
Measuring spoons
9"x13" baking pan (metal or glass)
Skillet or frying pan (12" is a pretty good size)
At least two saucepans, one 'big' and one 'small'
Flipper-type spatula
Clean-out-the-bowl spatula
2 or 3-qt. microwave and oven safe bowl or casserole dish
Cutting board
Good sharp kitchen knife

Nifty little extras:
Electric hand-held mixer
Rolling pin
9"x9" or 8"x8" baking pan
Bread/loaf pan
Larger/small saucepans and skillets
Cutting board (use one for stuff you can eat raw and one for stuff that you need to cook before eating)
Paring knife

Please note that I'm not endorsing any of the products I've linked to, although I do recommend that you find a really nice silicon spatula since it won't melt and generally holds up better in the kitchen. Also, I really like this measuring cup since it has the measurement lines on the inside so you don't have to squat to see how much of whatever you've poured.

Kitchen Know-How

I try to keep my directions relatively simple. Heck, I don't know what they mean by 'julienne' or what the difference is between scalloped potatoes and au gratin potatoes. That said, I think I'll leave the explanations to those who don't get mincing and dicing confused :-)

Bon Appetit!

**I absolutely reserve the right to come back to this post and add stuff. I'm sure there are things I've forgotten to add but since I'm not cooking right now, I have no idea. That's the fun of cooking,'s always an adventure, usually with a tasty outcome!**

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Another microwave miracle dinner

I have no idea where this recipe came from. All I know is that K. and I would make it for dinner a lot in undergrad since it's really easy, fast, and doesn't require weird stuff.

Overnight Tuna Casserole*
Serves 4

1 can (10.75 oz) cream of celery soup
1 c. milk
1 can (6.5 oz) water-packed tuna, drained**
1 c.
uncooked elbow macaroni (or similar small pasta)
1 c. frozen peas
1/2 c. chopped onion (optional--I usually don't put it in)
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Whisk/stir together soup and milk in a 2-quart microwave-safe bowl until well-blended (just use the same dish you used to make the Sweet & Sour Chicken!). Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate at least 12 hours (so just make it the night before and stick it in the fridge!).

Cover with lid or vented plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 15-17 minutes, until bubbly. Let stand uncovered 5-7 minutes.

* Instead of using canned tuna, you can substitute canned chicken. Although I've actually never tried this substitution, I'm sure it would be quite tasty as well.

** I know, I can't find a 6.5 oz can of tuna because they only sell 5 oz cans. Using the 5 oz can will work just fine. If you like extra tuna (or chicken...I'm not sure what's up with package sizes there), go ahead and use two cans.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I love my microwave

This is another fantastic 4H recipe and it's perfect for summer because you cook it in the MICROWAVE! If I had to pick the best appliance ever (besides the refrigerator and possibly the invent of the KitchenAid stand mixer), I'd say the microwave takes top honors.

Sweet and Sour Pork (or Chicken)
Serves 4-6
1 1/2 lb. cubed lean pork or chicken (I always do chicken)
2 T. cornstarch
3 T. soy sauce
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. vinegar
1/4 tsp. ginger
1 15 oz. can pineapple chunks,
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 medium green pepper, sliced

Toss together pork/chicken cubes and cornstarch in a 2 quart casserole dish or microwave-safe bowl. (I use a 2.5 quart glass bowl and it works just fine.) Stir in remaining ingredients except green pepper. Cover dish with lid or plastic wrap.

Microwave on medium for 15 minutes. Stir. Microwave on medium for 10 more minutes. Add green pepper and cook on low to medium for 5 minutes, or until meat is tender. (If the meat is tender when you go to add the green pepper, just cook on low. If it still needs a little more cook time, use medium.) Let stand, covered, for 5-10 minutes (to thicken). Serve over rice.

**Be really careful when you take the lid/plastic wrap off to stir. Definitely use oven mitts or potholders when moving the dish and removing the lid/plastic wrap because it's going to be really hot. I tell you this from previous experience...**

Mmm, delicious and healthy and microwave-y!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bear, nab an ad...

...or BANANA BREAD! This is one of my favorite quick bread (no yeast required) recipes, right up there with pumpkin bread...mmm :-)

Banana Bread

1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking
1/4 tsp. baking
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (I usually use a little more)
1 egg
1 c. mashed bananas (~3 medium)
**Make sure your bananas are really ripe!**
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. cooking oil (aka veggie, canola, etc. oil)
Optional: 1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans

Grease the bottom and sides of a loaf pan (mine's 9"x5" and was cheap-o at Target). In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp. salt.

In another bowl, mash the bananas (you can use a fork or, if you're really fancy, a potato masher or wooden kitchen mallet). Then add the egg, sugar, cooking oil and mix well. Add egg mixture all at once to dry mixture.

Stir until just moistened (batter should be lumpy!). Fold in nuts (if desired).

Pour batter into your greased loaf pan. Bake at 350* for 50-55 minutes. Make sure loaf is completely cool before removing from pan!

Mmm, who knew potassium could taste so good?

When I say 'really ripe' bananas, I mean like this...lots of brown, soft (but not mushy...yet). The riper your bananas, the more banana-y your bread will be:

Also, don't be worried if your bread loaf pan isn't very full when you pour the batter into it...your bread will rise (thanks, Mr. Baking Soda and Mr. Baking Powder!) and it will be deeeee-licious!

This wonderful recipe is from one of my Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks. That's right. I have multiple cookbooks, and multiples by the same kitchen/publisher. You know I mean business...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Summer is pie season!

I started making pies way back in my 4H days...I think summer is the perfect pie season since there's so much fresh fruit around. If you're like me, though, canned works in most cases. Since peaches aren't quite ripe yet, I used canned for this recipe:

Prizewinning Peach Pie
Two-crust pie (for a 9" pie tin)
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 c. plus 2 Tablespoons shortening
4-6 T. cold water (I use water from the fridge)

In a medium bowl, mix flour and salt. Cut in shortening, using a pastry blender or a fork or knife (I use a fork instead of a pastry blender; it's easier to clean up and it works just as good), until particles are the size of small peas. Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork (or your hands!) until all flour is moistened and pastry almost leaves the sides of the bowl.
Your pie dough should look something like this

Gather pastry into a ball. Divide into two equal parts. Shape each part into a flattened round. **Ok, here's where things get a little tricky since you're dealing with two dough balls. I roll out one of the dough balls and put it in my pie tin, then make my filling, then roll out the other dough ball and put it on top. While I'm making the filling, I wrap the second dough ball in plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge.** Roll pastry on lightly floured surface into a circle ~2" larger than the pie plate. Fold pastry into fourths and place in pie plate OR roll pastry loosely around rolling pin OR use a big spatula (like one you'd flip pancakes with) and/or an extra set of hands to just drag the pastry into the pie tin.

Peach Pie Filling
2/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. flour
1/4 t. cinnamon
6 cups sliced, peeled fresh peaches (6-8 medium) OR 2 cans of peaches, drained (you'll have leftovers, but you can just stick them in a little casserole dish and bake it along with the pie or just eat them because peaches are tasty however you fix them!)
1 tsp. lemon juice

Heat over to 425*F.

In a large bowl, mix sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Stir in peaches and lemon juice. Spoon into pastry-lined pie plate. Cover with top pastry; cut slits in the pastry, then seal edges.
I'm in the process of rolling my edges under so I can seal them
Pie is ready to bake!

Bake about 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and/or juice beings to bubble through slits in crust. Cool at least 2 hours before cutting.
Ta-da! The finished product. You can put strips of aluminum foil on the crust edges for all but the last ~10 minutes of baking to keep them from getting as well-done as mine did...

Now that you've made it all the way down here, I'll let you in on my secret (aka, the 'prizewinning' part) of my peach pie: buy canned peaches in raspberry sauce/juice. Honest to goodness, it's the best combination ever. I have to give my mom credit for this one, as she thought we had normal canned peaches during my first 4H peach pie adventure, but we really only had the raspberry kind. This awesome recipe (crust by Betty Crocker, filling by J. S.) won 1st place in the senior pie division at the Fairfield County Fair some years ago. I guarantee that you'll love it :-)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Manly man recipe!

Tonight's cooking adventure is brought to you by the letter P: Pork Chops! I made these and served them with Pierogis and Phaseolus vulgaris (aka, green beans). Also, Pounding (ok, crushing) is involved! Get ready for...

Breaded Pork Chops
From THE Betty Crocker Cookbook, the 20 minute meals section!

1/2 c. Bisquick mix

12 saltine crackers, crushed*

1 tsp. seasoned salt (I don't add this)

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 large egg

2 T. water

3 T. vegetable oil (for cooking)

8 pork boneless loin chops, 1/2" thick**

In a small-ish bowl, mix Bisquick, cracker crumbs, seasoned salt, and pepper. In another bowl, mix egg and water.

Dip pork into egg mixture, then coat with Bisquick mixture.

In 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook pork in oil 10-12 minutes, turning once, until no longer pink in center.

*The easiest way to crush crackers is to put them in a zippy bag and then use a rolling pin:

**The pork chops will cook faster if they're closer to 1/2" thick instead of an inch. Mine were a little on the thick side and ended up looking a little crispy. They were delicious, just looked slightly well-done.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cupcakes always make me smile :-)

I originally got the idea to start this blog from one of my friends back home who occasionally posted recipes and her finished product. As an engineering grad student with a bakery as Plan B, I really liked this idea. After wandering through some of the blogosphere, I found lots of moms who started blogs in hopes of helping other frazzled moms in the same situation as themselves.

What about grad students!??!

We're a step above your average college student; after all, most of us are getting paid to go to school. In terms of our cooking skills, some of us are still stuck in junior high. True story: A guy at my lab never cooked. He always ate out, ate at our advisor's house, or planned his meals around when and where groups were having meetings with free food.

This blog aims to save you from an existance of pizza and moochery. I've made everything from cupcakes to Easter dinner for 15. If you're looking for a new recipe to impress your parents or a cute girl from your ME 610 class, this might be the place. I'm aiming for weekly updates at the least, but remember that I'm a grad student too.

So without further ado...

Chocolate Frosting
Be warned that this recipe makes more than enough frosting for 24 cupcakes. It'll probably be more than enough for a 9"x13" cake as well

2/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. flour
3 T. unsweetened cocoa powder (baking cocoa)
1 c. milk

1 c. butter, softened
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips, melted

Melt the chocolate chips and set aside to cool.

In a medium saucepan, whisk (or stir) together sugar, flour, cocoa, and milk; bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Boil 1-3 minutes, or until thickened like a thinned pudding (watch this gets thick pretty quickly once it starts to boil). Remove pan from heat and cool completely in the fridge. (You will probably want to try and strain it or at least pick out flour blobs with a fork while it's still warm.)

When the cooked mixture is cooled, beat the butter until creamy (~1 minute). Beat in the cooled cooked chocolate mixture until fluffy, ~1 minute. Finally, add in the melted chocolate chips and beat again until well-combined and fluffy (~2 minutes).

You can store any unused frosting in the fridge. Just let it warm to room temperature before using. You can also beat it again before frosting.