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.