Friday, August 10, 2012

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

Several months ago (OK, about 11 months ago...but who's counting?) we made a pizza, and it was quite the success.  As soon as the tomatoes in our garden turn bright red we are going to try that one again.  This time, we also have fresh basil in the garden (we attempted a whole array of herbs, but all the grew were basil, a little bit of cilantro, and some sage...but the basil is beautiful).  I've toyed with the idea of making my own mozzarella, too...but...let's be serious.  I'm going to have a baby in less than three weeks, that's not going to happen.  Heck, let's be real, I'm not even going to make my own crust. (By the way - any suggestions out there on pretty-darn-good store-bought crusts?)

But...the tomatoes aren't ready yet, so that whole story is yet to be written.  We were craving some almost-homemade pizza the other night and came up with this: Barbecue Chicken Pizza.

Very Easy.  Very good.

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

1/2 cup tomato puree
1/2 cup favorite barbecue sauce

6 oz. Mesquite smoked, pre-cooked chicken cut into pieces
3 oz. shredded Monterrey Jack Cheese
3 oz. canned pineapple chunks

Pizza crust: store bought, homemade, whatever.

1. Pour and spread sauce over crust.
2. Top with half the cheese.
3. Top with chicken and pineapple.
4. Finish with rest of cheese.
5. Bake according to package directions; probably about 25 mins at 425.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Zucchini-mania, part two: Zucchini Brownies

The zucchini completely disappears in these incredibly rich brownies.  I can usually eat two or three of any bar or dessert.  But these, more than one (at a sitting, of course) and I'm over-done.  The brownies are very cake-like, but also a tad gooey.  They are, I think, my favorite zucchini-laden baked good that I've found to date.

My three-year-old twins wanted to help with the frosting.  They wanted green frosting, I wanted chocolate. We compromised with sprinkles :-)

Zucchini Brownies

1/2 C. vegetable oil
1-1/2 C. white sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 C. flour
1/2 C. unsweetened cocoa
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 C. shredded zucchini
1-1/2 C. chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350, grease and flour (or spray with cooking spray) a 9x13 inch pan.
2. Mix together the oil, sugar, and vanilla. (I used 1/4 c. applesauce and 1/4 c. vegetable oil)
3. Separately, mix together the flour, cocoa, soda, and salt.
4.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet.  This will be very dry.  I mean VERY dry.  I couldn't get everything quite mixed together until I added the zucchini.
5. Add the zucchini, and then fold in the chocolate chips.
6. Spread into the pan, again, this mixture will be thick, like a thick cookie dough.

Bake 25 - 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out mostly clean.

Frost with chocolate frosting.

For something like this, I just throw together a frosting from what I have on hand.  This time, I used:

7 Tbsp. butter (I usually use at least a half a stick...but whatever I might have that is between 1/2 and 1 whole stick).
1/3 C. unsweetened cocoa
About 3 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
4 C. powdered sugar

Mix everything together until creamy.  It usually works best to mix together the butter, vanilla, milk, and cocoa, then add half the powdered sugar, mix well, add the rest of the powdered sugar and mix well.  If the mixture needs more milk or sugar, then add it to make it the right consistency.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Zucchini-mania, part one: Zucchini-chip Mini Muffins

This year we planted a small garden.  We made a raised bed that is 4'x12', and filled it with spinach, lettuce and peas.  When those were done (awesome turnout of lettuce and spinach, about two meals worth of peas), we planted green beans, tomatoes, peppers, chiles, zucchini, and yellow summer squash.  The tomatoes and zucchini are taking over the garden.  We had no clue what we were doing when we started, so, all things considered, its going pretty well.  I'm not sure if we'll get any peppers and chiles as they are getting completely crowded out by the zucchini and tomatoes which are growing towards one another.  Our yellow squash seems to be dying, but we are constantly in the green zucchini.  As such, I've been experimenting with some different zucchini recipes.

Of course, we've had it boiled, steamed, and grilled with most dinners (the girls LOVED it at first, but I think they are finding it a tad tiresome).  So I've also been playing around with baking with zucchini.  We've had some so-so white cake (I didn't take any pictures, and it was only OK, so I won't be posting that recipe), some awesome brownies - look for those later - and, to start with, some Zucchini-chocolate chip mini muffins.  This was originally a bread recipe that I adapted to muffins.  And by "adapted" I mean: put in muffing pans instead of a bread pan.  And we prefer mini-muffins to regular-sized ones around here.  For a couple of reasons: The girls eat them better, because they are small (I think) and cute; and I think that they are easier to fill.  One level scoop from my regular-sized cookie scooper fills one perfectly.  Easy-peasy.

So, the recipe:

Zucchini-Chip Mini Muffins
makes about 60 mini-muffins

3 eggs
3/4 C. vegetable oil
2 C. grated zucchini
1-1/2 C. white sugar
1/2 C. brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
3 C. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/4 C. mini chocolate chips

1. Mix together the first 6 ingredients.  Mix well, you want the eggs well-mixed and no lumps of brown sugar.
2. Separately, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well.  Fold in chocolate chips.

Bake at 325, 15 minutes for mini-muffins, about 30 mins for regular muffins.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Oatmeal Creme Pies

There are about five or six food blogs that I regularly “follow”.  I can’t handle too much more than that, because I have to, you know, work and stuff.  Most of the time I follow these blogs and see things that look awesome and say to myself: I’m going to have to try that.  And then I forget about it, and then later I stare at my kitchen cupboards wondering what to make, knowing that sometime I saw something somewhere that looked fabulous.  So sad.
But sometimes something jumps out enough to get me to make it right away.  Or at least to get me to remember it when I’m staring at my  kitchen cupboards wondering what to make.  These cookies fall into the second set of sometimes.
Originally from the kitchen of the Pioneer Woman (and then, a little more recently from mine), come these Oatmeal Creme Pies.  Only she calls them “Oatmeal Whoopie Pies”.  I couldn’t really call them that, because my cookies didn’t really turn out like hers.  Mine didn’t rise to cake-like consistency, but instead stayed rather flat, but still delightfully soft and chewy.  More like Oatmeal Creme Pies (think Little Debbie, only about a million times better).  And I think that I prefer them this way.  I’m not sure what I did wrong following her recipe, but I hope that I do it again next time.  They will probably be very good if they turn out like they’re *supposed* to, but I really hope that I never get to find out.  Practically perfect the way they are.
The thing about the recipe that really jumped out at me, though, wasn’t the cookie portion of the cookie…but rather the creme filling.  It came from a post on the Pioneer Woman’s  recipe sharing site Tasty Kitchen called “That’s the Best Frosting I Ever Had”, and ya know, I think they might be on to something.  It’s also some of the most bizarre frosting I’ve ever had – it has flour in it.  And you start out making it like gravy.  Totally bizarre, but totally amazing.  It’s the main reason I tried these in the first place, and a big part of the reason why I’ll be coming back for more.
Oatmeal Creme Pies
Ingredients (cookies):
2 C. brown sugar
1/2 C. butter
1/4 C. shortening
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
3 Tbsp. boiling water
1 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
2 C. oats
1. Cream together the brown sugar, butter and shortening.
2. Add the two eggs and mix to thoroughly combine.
3. Add the salt, cinnamon, and baking powder.  Again, mix to combine.
4. Seperately, mix together the boiling water and the baking soda.  Then add to the rest of the ingredients, and mix to combine.
5. Add the four and the oats and mix well.
Spoon by the tablespoonful onto parchment lined baking sheets.  Bake 9-10 minutes at 350.  When cookies are completely cool, spoon one tablespoonful of frosting on to the underside of a cookie, then top with another cookie.   Makes about 25 – 30 sandwich cookies.
Ingredients (frosting)
5 Tbsp. flour
1 C. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 C. butter
1 C. sugar
Method1. Whisk together the milk and flour over medium-high heat in a saucepan, stirring constantly until thick.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
2. Add the vanilla to the milk mixture and stir in.
3. Seperately, cream together the butter and sugar until completely combined and sugar graininess is gone.
4. Add the milk mixture to the butter mixture and beat with an electric mixture until combined and texture resemples whipped cream.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Back online...with Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes and Hamburger Skillet to share

I left for awhile...I thought that I needed a new name on the blog and a new site to work with.  But they didn't help me to post more often.  In fact, I posted far, far less often because I just didn't get over to wordpress (all the blogs that I follow are saved on my blogger dashboard).  So, I decided to make a "come back" once again.  I guess if it fails this time, then I'm out. better time to start something new than two weeks before school starts and four weeks before the birth of my third kiddo.  Perhaps this is doomed.  Or perhaps there will be all sorts of new baby food things on here in about 6 months.
So, there were two dishes that made it on the other blog that didn't make it here.  And because it is so easy, I thought I'd start with them.   First up: a healthy, completely homemade version of a scalloped potato and hamburger skillet meal.  I’ll preface it with saying that it has cheese in it…but, as far as I’m concerned, if consumed in relative moderation, cheese isn’t that bad.  Especially if you make the sauce with pureed cauliflower instead of cream.
Substituting cauliflower for cream in savory sauces has been one of the greatest discoveries in my cooking life.  I think it was around New Year’s 2011, I found it as one of about 25 tips for healthy eating on some website, and thought I would have to give it a try.  Amazing discovery.   I will readily admit that I don’t have the most refined palate out there, but I can’t tell any difference in a sauce made with this or made with actual, real cream.  No fat, and lots of vegetable goodness.  Here’s what I do:  Every couple of months I buy a bunch of cauliflower (if it is in season, I get fresh…if not, I opt for frozen since when its frozen it is picked at the optimal time and then flash frozen, instead of picked early and left to ripen on a truck or store shelf), cook it until very soft, drain (but keep the water), then I use my immersion blender to puree, using the retained cooking water to thin.  Then I store it in freezer bags in about 2 cup portions and freeze until I’m ready to use.
If you want to make this, I have one word of advice: get a mandolin slicer if you don’t already.  I wouldn’t have made it if I didn’t – who on earth can actually cut 1/8 in thick slices of potato with one?  Perhaps if you have mad knife skills you can make it happen.  If not, get one of these.  I got mine at Target.
Here’s how to do this thing:
Cheesy Scalloped Potato and Hamburger Skillet
*This has lots of steps, but isn’t really that scary; nor does it take that long to put together.
1 lb ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tsp. minced garlic
1-1/2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 onion, chopped
1-1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1-1/4 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (or 1/4 tsp. store-bought, pre-ground black pepper)
1-1/2 C. puree’d cauliflower
1-1/2 C. skim milk
1 bay leaf
3 lb potatoes, sliced 1/8-inch thick
1-1/2 C. each: loosely packed Monteray Jack and Sharp Cheddar cheese
Step One: The meat
In a large skillet, brown the beef, onion and garlic. Drain off fat and set aside (I let it side on a plate lined with three or four paper towels to absorb and residual grease.
Step Two: Potato Prep
While the meat is browning, slice the potatoes.
Step Three: Sauce
In the large skillet used for the meat, begin with sauteing the other half of the chopped onion in the butter until translucent (around 3 – 5 minutes), during the last minute or two, add the garlic (it cooks faster and might burn) over medium-high heat.  Add the flour, thyme, salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes.  Add the cauliflower and skim milk and stir until smooth and beginning to thicken.
Step Four: Cooking Potatoes
Add the potatoes and the bay leaf.  Stir gently so that potatoes are immersed in the sauce.  Cover and cook until potatoes are tender, around 15 mintues.
Step Five: Finishing touches
When potatoes are almost tender, add the meat and cook for a few mintues more.  Then, add the cheese and gently fold in to combine until cheese is completely melted.
Let stand about five mintues to thicken and set.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sausage and Bean Stew

Things that I can prep or cook ahead of time are an absolute MUST for keeping my sanity.  Which I think is why I am such a fan of crock-pot cooking and one-dish meals.  During the school year, just about everything that we eat is a casserole, stirfry, soup or stew.  Lately Sunday has been our cooking day - we get everything for the week prepped, cook the things we can, and then we are good to go for the rest of the week. 

This Suausage and Bean Stew is one of those meals - easy to make, easy to enjoy.

Sausage and Bean Stew

1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves minced garlic
4 slices bacon
1 lb chicken sausage (any flavor - we used roasted red pepper)
2 cans navy beans
1 can red kidney beans
2 C. frozen sweet corn
1Tbsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper
2/3 C. water (use the water from rinsing out the cans of beans)

If the sausage is not fully cooked, then brown before using.  Cook the bacon until crispy and cut into pieces, set aside.  Cut the sausage links in half, and then in 1/4 inch slices.  Dump all ingredients (except bacon) into a crock pot and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.  Add bacon with about 10 -20 minutes left.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Birthday Cake

My husband is addicted to Skittles.  He keeps a giant jar of them in his desk at work.  He keeps a giant jar of them above the refridgerator.  The external motivator that we used to potty train our daughters was Skittles (aka "Daddy Treats").  Skittles are, to him, the perfect snack, ending to every meal, and solution to any sort of hunger twang or bad taste in the mouth.  With one exception - he picks out all the yellow ones. 

Yes.  You read that right.  I am married to a man who buys gigantic bags of Skittles, opens them, and picks out every. single. yellow skittle and tosses it before he fills up his Skittles jars.

So for his birthday, I decided to make him a "Skittle" themed cake.

This is very similar to the cake that I made last year for my girls' birthday...but that was before I started this blog.  Maybe I'll post a pick at some point, it was a caterpillar, and pretty cute (if I do say so myself).  But the best thing about this Skittles cake is the fuity frosting.  Yup.  That's right.  White cake, fruity frosting.  Delicious.

I used the "White Cake" recipe in the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook.  I will post the recipe at some point, too.  But not now.  Now I want to focus on the frosting.  Very, very easy.  And very, very good.  It pairs perfectly with the cake.  A spot-on combination that I would urge you to try:

Jello-Cream-Cheese Frosting

Beat 4 oz. of softened cream cheese (use the real, full-fat stuff) until smooth.  Add 1 tsp. vanilla and 1/8 c. granulated sugar, and 1 box of your favorite flavor of jello and beat until smooth.  Add 1-1/2 C. heavy whipping cream all at once and beat until stiff peaks (start on low or it will splatter everywhere).  For vibrant color, add some food coloring.