Monday, November 22, 2010

My Favorite Things No. 2

This is my beloved 10-inch Pampered Chef skillet. And it is definitely one of my favorite things!

It is hard-anodized aluminum reinforced with titanium. It is the Best nonstick cookware I have ever used. Anything gooey, greasy, sticky, or messy literally slides off the pan or wipes out effortlessly. I'm not joking here! And it has a LIFETIME guarantee! That's right, I never have to buy pans again!

I wish the pictures (which by the way, it is rather difficult to take pictures of a skillet) could show you how sturdy and thick this skillet is. It has a heavy bottom and distributes heat beautifully. If you need new pans, I highly recommend this line of executive cookware! They also have stainless steel cookware too.

I was fortunate to have a Pampered Chef bridal shower (the best idea for any kitchen items!) and was able to receive the 5-piece and 7-piece executive cookware sets 50% off! And with a lifetime guarantee, that was one amazing deal! Just to say it one more time, I love these pans!

And just for fun, this is another of my favorite things:

It's even prettier with the white twinkling lights! Have a great week and Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Taco Dip

As you may know, I grew up in Iowa and recently moved to Texas. Among other challenges, I have had to overcome my withdrawl from Anderson Erickson dairy products. And in reference to this post, I greatly miss their Mexican dip. I'm still not over it.

Here in Texas, the chip dips just aren't the same. This is what inspired Jeremiah to make this taco dip. It is reminiscent of the AE Mexican dip, super simple, and a worthy substitution for the less fortunate folks who do not have access to Anderson Erickson dairy. You could also do so many things with this dip!

Here this dip is served with nacho Doritos. I think the cheese flavor goes well with the taco seasoning. But I'm sure you could use a different chip; maybe even use something healthy, like carrots or other vegetables. For all of you crazy sports fans out there, this would be a nice game time snack. Or you could be cool like me and have it as a snack while you watch Little House on the Prairie or Home Improvement!

Taco Dip (Print)
from Jeremiah, my husband
Prep: 5 minutes / Chill: 2 hours
Yield: 1 cup of dip

1/4 cup light mayonnaise
3/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1-1/2 tablespoons taco seasoning

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Cover, and chill!

My suggestions:
  • Use mild or spicy taco seasoning
  • Add in some jalapenos or other peppers
  • Use this to make a layered taco dip with refried beans, cheese, onions, and tomatoes
  • Use this in place of sour cream on your tacos

Friday, November 19, 2010

Homemade Waffles

Jeremiah and I tried an elaborate waffle recipe a while back, and let me just say that the work was not worth it in the end. The waffles weren't great, they kind of tasted like eggs. I decided to give homemade waffles another try. This recipe is more simple, and tastes better. However, I was skeptical; why is there no sugar in these things?? But that's where powdered heaven (aka powdered sugar) comes in!

You'll have to excuse the uneven edges. I may have found a better waffle recipe, but I have yet to master my waffle iron. It is designed for Belgian waffles and uses a ton of batter. I always feel like I'm pouring too much batter, and then when it's done, the batter didn't even make it to the edge! The first time we used the waffle iron, we thought the issue was because our counter is crooked. This may have contributed somewhat, but the fact is, I'm just not using enough batter. I'll get it right sometime.

And by the way, our counter is crooked. It slopes downward; I know this because I almost lost a few eggs last week as they were rolling toward their death. Thankfully, I caught them. But hey, the crooked counter fits right in with my 3 crooked stove burners that I mentioned in my favorite things post from Monday!

Homemade Waffles (Print)
from Taste of Home
Total time: 20-30 minutes
Yield: 4 waffles

1-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, separated
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter melted

1. Turn on waffle iron to preheat. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, milk, and melted butter. Stir into dry ingredients until just moistened.

3. In a small mixing bowl, beat egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gently fold into batter. To test for soft peaks, stop your mixer and lift the beaters up. The peaks of the egg whites should curl down.

4. Bake in waffle iron according to manufacturer's instructions. Top with powdered sugar, fruit, syrup, peanut butter, whipped cream, or anything else you can think of!

These waffles made for a great Saturday morning breakfast! They aren't very difficult and can easily be frozen too! As a tip, turn your oven to warm, or between 150 and 200 degrees before you start. Then as each waffle is done, put it on a plate in your oven to keep it warm. While the waffles will lose some of their crispiness, they stay warm so that everyone can eat at the same time. If I discover a way to keep them warm and crispy, I will definitely let you know! Read more for my complete review, and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stuffing Casserole

I found this recipe online last week and I wanted to share it with you because it's a great way to use your leftover Thanksgiving turkey! This casserole is very easy and quick, making it a good choice for busy weeknights.

Stuffing Casserole (Print)
from Taste of Home online
Prep: 20 minutes / Bake: 30 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

1 box (6 ounces) chicken flavored stuffing mix
1 cup turkey or chicken, shredded or cubed, cooked or raw
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1 (10-3/4 ounce) can 98% fat-free condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 (8 ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, drained

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the stuffing mix according to package directions and set aside. Meanwhile, if you are using raw poultry, cut it up and cook it on medium heat, with a small amount of oil, in a skillet.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the meat, vegetables, soup, water chestnuts and 2 tablespoons of water.

3. Transfer to an ungreased 2-quart or 8x8-inch baking dish. Top with the stuffing . Bake for 25-30 minutes or until heated through.

My Review
  • Preparation: 4
    • This casserole was very easy to put together; I started with raw chicken and it would be even faster if your meat was already cooked. It takes about 50 minutes start to finish.
  • Taste: 4
    • This recipe was very good. The stuffing gives it a nice flavor and made me feel like I was already enjoying my Thanksgiving meal. I will probably make it again sometime.
  • Cost: 5
    • I don't think the ingredients for this cost more than $5.00, and it gives you 6 servings! It's a great way to use leftovers too.
  • Clean-up: 4
    • I had a pan for the stuffing, a skillet for the chicken, the mixing bowl, and the baking dish.
  • Changes
    • You could probably use some of your leftover Thanksgiving stuffing too if you have it!
    • As mentioned above, you can use chicken or turkey, leftovers or raw.
    • I wrote 98% fat free cream of chicken soup because that's what the can said, but it's probably equivalent to a light cream of chicken soup. I have also used the Campbell's Healthy Request soup too, but if my memory serves right, the 98% fat free had less sodium and fat than the healthy request.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Favorite Things No. 1

This is the first of a new weekly post I am going to present. As I'm sure you all know, I love everything that has to do with a kitchen, cooking, and baking. I want a way to show the tools, gadgets, techniques, and products I use everyday in the kitchen. Every Monday you will be introduced to one of my favorite kitchen items, be it a pan, knife, or random food product. For the first week, I'm going to start with my stove.

Ah, yes. The stove. So basic, so essential, so taken for granted.

And don't forget its better half, the oven! I have friends from South Korea, and they don't even have ovens! Can you imagine?!? No cookies, cakes, casseroles, bread. None. They buy those items from a bakery on special occasions. How sad to not have an oven!

So you might be thinking I'm strange, maybe even a little crazy. After all, I did take pictures of my stove and oven. But when you think about it, where would we be without this amazing kitchen appliance?

This is the first stove that I can call my very own. It's not stainless steel, cool black, or even white; it's actually kind of a dingy yellow. It isn't very new and it's home is in a 7x8 foot kitchen (yeah you read that right, 56 square inches, with only 44 inches of walking space between the counters...I've done the math). The hood is a different brand than the stove. My oven likes to cook things hot and fast, and 3 out of 4 of the burners are crooked. I mean, visibly and unmistakeably crooked.

But I love my stove. Because it's just that, my stove! And it never lets me down.

As a bonus, I have these beautiful handmade towels that I received as a wedding gift. Each day has a different picture and they add aesthetic beauty to my slightly ghetto stove.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Enchilada Casserole

Jeremiah had been asking for this for a few weeks and I finally remembered to put it on my grocery list and make it for him. It's hearty (slightly unhealthy I'm sure) and you can double the recipe and freeze one for later. There's lots of layers; it doesn't stay together when you take it out of the pan (of course). Pardon the picture as it is a bit messy, but it's tasty too!

As a side note, I'm experimenting with a google document to make a printable version of my recipes for you. I will see how (or if) this works, please let me know how it goes if you try it!

Enchilada Casserole (Printable Recipe)
from Cooking, It's Elementary
Prep: 20 minutes / Bake: 40-45 minutes
Yield: 4-6 servings

3/4 pound ground beef or turkey
1 small onion, chopped
1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons chili powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup salsa
5 (7 inch) flour tortillas, cut into 3/4 inch strips
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
1 can corn, no salt added
1-1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

1. In a 10-inch skillet, brown beef or turkey and the onion. Drain. Stir in 1/2 cup water, chili powder, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Bring to a bubble. Reduce heat to low, simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes.

2. Place 1/4 cup of salsa into the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Add a layer of tortilla strips and another 1/4 cup salsa on top of the tortillas.

3. Add meat mixture. Top with sour cream. Add the corn. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of cheese on casserole, then top with remaining salsa, followed by the remaining tortillas. Add remaining cheese on top. Don't worry about making your layers or tortillas perfect, you won't be able to tell at the end anyway!

4. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until heated through.

5. If you double the recipe, you can freeze the extra casserole for up to one month. To use frozen casserole: thaw in refrigerator for 24 hours. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake as directed above.

There you have it! Enchilada casserole. Simple and tasty, it's sure to please any picky tastebuds! If you like spicy foods, use a hot salsa and the maximum chili powder. Enjoy! Read more for my review.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Pecan Muffins

I would like you to read the title one more time. Apple Cinnamon Pecan Muffins. Read it slowly and really ponder those words.

Now allow yourself to imagine the flavors, all combined into a delicious muffin drizzled with a sweet glaze. Visualize yourself eating these on a chilly Saturday morning, at 10:00, in your pajamas with a glass of milk, or coffee, if you're into that sort of thing.

Are you hooked yet? Because these are amazing!

I think that muffins are becoming one of my favorite things to make for breakfast. They are easy, versatile, and delicious, what more could a girl want? Check out my Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins if you missed those last month, and make sure to give this recipe a try!

Apple Cinnamon Pecan Muffins
adapted from Taste of Home online
Prep: 20 minutes / Bake: 12-15 minutes
Yield: 12 muffins

For the muffins:
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1 medium tart apple
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1-1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened or light apple juice

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toast pecans: place pecans in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occassionally. Between stirring, peel apple (I used a honeycrisp), and cut into small pieces.

2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Stir in milk. Tip: save the butter wrapper to grease your muffin tin in step 5.

The sight of butter and sugar in my mixing bowl makes me giddy
4. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Pour into butter mixture, stirring just until moistened. Fold in the apples and pecans.

5. Grease a 12-muffin tin or line with paper cups. Fill muffin cups about three-fourths full. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

6. While muffins are baking, combine the powdered sugar and apple juice in a small bowl. Mix until smooth. Cool muffins for 5 minutes before removing from the pan. Place muffins on a plate or serving platter and drizzle evenly with the glaze. Serve warm.

Nutrition Facts: 235 calories, 10 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 32 mg cholesterol, 240 mg sodium, 37 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein

Click below for my review, freezer tips, additional mix-ins, and a link to my beloved muffin tin! P.S. I am working on getting a link to a printable version of my recipes to make cooking easier for you!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Garlic Bread

I made up this garlic bread recipe several years ago and it has become a staple whenever we have spaghetti. It is super simple and very delicious! Most of the time I just use normal slices of bread, but I had some of my french bread on hand, so I decided to make it with that. Either way, it's a winner!

Garlic Bread
Prep: 5 minutes / Bake: 5-10 minutes
Yield: how ever many you want!

Bread, as many slices as you need (whole wheat, white, french...whatever you have)
Butter (real butter, margarine, or spread. Again, whatever you have on hand. We use Smart Balance)
Garlic Garlic (from Tastefully Simple)
Parmesan cheese (I use the pre-grated, processed kind haha)

1. Butter your bread!

2. Sprinkle with Garlic Garlic

3. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, however much you like!

4. Bake the bread. This can vary. I range anywhere from 350 degrees for 10 minutes or 400 degrees for 5 minutes. I usually just gauge it off of when my pasta will be done. There's no real set time. Just check the crust and when it gets to your desired crispiness, it's ready!

I hope you enjoyed my super simple garlic bread! I'm not even gonna bother with a review... I made it up on my very own, I eat it often, aaand I'm feeling kinda lazy! Have a good weekend and don't forget to set your clocks back tonight!


Friday, November 5, 2010

Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing

I spotted these little gems in my cookbook last night and wrote the ingredients on my grocery list.

And boy am I glad I did.  

So moist, light, pumpkin-spiced, delectable, fallish, and heavenly.

I love them.

A lot.

Probably too much.

And you will too when you make them. They are what I said and more. I was skeptical about the icing; I love my frosting, especially cream cheese frosting when it comes to pumpkin, and I didn't think the icing would meet my standards, but it was delicious! I had never done the brown butter thing before so that was fun to try too. They aren't too difficult to make and the recipe yields enough for a crowd.

As you may recall from these cookies, I altered Martha's method a bit because it didn't seem too realistic. I almost changed this one too, because the recipe said to pipe the batter onto the baking sheet...what?!? Who ever heard of piping cookies? Well I hadn't, so I wasn't going to. But I decided to go all Martha on this one and followed exactly what the recipe said. The cookie 'dough' is more like a thick cake batter, so the drop method probably wouldn't have looked quite right. Here's to fall and good ol' pumpkin!

Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing
from Martha Stewart's Cookies
Prep: 60 minutes / Bake: 10-12 minutes
Yield: about 6 dozen (I halved the recipe when I made them!)

For the cookies:
2-3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1-1/4 teaspoons ginger
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2-1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups canned pumpkin
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the icing:
4 cups powdered sugar
10 tablespoons (1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon evaporated milk, plus more if needed
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 375. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a bowl.

2. In a separate bowl, beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs. Add pumpkin, evaporated milk, and vanilla; mix on low until well blended. Add flour mixture and beat on low until combined.

3. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper. Transfer batter to a pastry bag (not all of it of course) fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip. I just used the bag without a tip. Pipe 1-1/2 inch circles onto parchment paper, about 1-inch apart.

4. Bake cookies until tops spring back, 10-12 minutes. Cool on sheets on racks 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack; let cool completely.

5. Make the icing. Put powdered sugar in a medium bowl. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Then  butter about 3 minutes longer, swirling the pan occassionally, until golden brown. Immediately add butter to powered sugar, scraping any brown bits from pan. Add evaporated milk and vanilla; stir until smooth.

6. Spread icing on cookies, about 1 teaspoon each. If icing is too thick, add more evaporated milk. I added more and then a little too much. As you can see in the pictures, my icing was a little thin and slightly lumpy, but that's ok!

Oops! I dropped one frosting-side down.
According to Martha, these cookies can be stored in single layers in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

French Bread

I think that most people would agree, there is nothing like the smell of homemade bread baking in the oven. Slicing your very own loaf of bread that you made from scratch is a great feeling. You feel powerful, accomplished, successful, amazing, and... hungry!

One of my favorite memories is my grandma's homemade bread, it was absolutely delicious, and it smelled sooo good! She would save old bread bags and then use them to give away her homemade loaves to her children, which meant that I had one of grandma's yummy loaves in my own house! I never had the chance to make bread with her. She cooked with all her grandkids, but you had to be a certain age before you could make bread. At the time, I didn't mind not being able to make bread with her; I thought of it as such a priviledge and I anticipated the day when I would be old enough. I wish now that I could have at least observed her while she prepared her famous bread. This isn't her recipe, I still have yet to get my hands on it and give it a try. My aunt has tried to make it but said it never turns out the same. My grandma swore by her old-fashioned bread mixer; someday we'll see if I can make it just like her.

I have so many wonderful memories in my grandma's kitchen, and I am starting to make new ones in my own kitchen. I never had anyone teach me to knead bread or the best way to mix it, but I am learning along the way, which I think is one of the best ways to do so. Then someday, when I'm old and have grandbabies, I can pass on all of my learned wisdom to them. And I will sound very smart, even if I'm not there yet. To get to my point here, this is a relatively easy bread to make. And if you are willing to follow my novice, self-learned advice, you can make it too!

This one's for my grandma.

French Bread
from The Old Farmer's Everyday Cookbook Almanac
Prep: 25 minutes + rising / Bake: 22-30 minutes
Yield: 2 loaves

2-1/4 teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast  
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
melted butter, for the top (I leave this part out)

1. Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm (110-115 degrees) water and set aside. Add the yeast to the water and give it a few stirs. It will do the rest on it's own. I use a meat thermometer to test the water temperature.

2. In a large bowl, stir together 1 cup warm water with the sugar and salt. Add the yeast and the melted butter, stir with a wooden spoon until blended.

3. Mix in the flour, one cup at a time, until a soft dough forms. I used 4-1/2 cups but probably should have used 5 because it was pretty sticky when I first started kneading it. If you're not sure how much to use, go with 4 and you can add flour while you are kneading. When you have enough flour, the dough will start to pull away from the sides of the bowl (see photos). The first cup or two of flour will be lumpy, don't worry about that, it will smooth out. The easiest way I found to mix the flour is to stir the spoon around the edge of the bowl; the dough will sort of mix in the flour itself. Trying to fold the dough over to mix in the flour is more difficult.

1 cup flour, don't fret over the lumps.
2 cups flour
3 cups flour
4-1/2 cups flour, notice how the dough pulled away from the side of the bowl.
4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 1 minute. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Knead again for 1 mintue and let it rest 10 more minutes. To knead: sprinkle a small amount of flour on a clean counter. Place the dough on the counter and dip your fingers in the flour if you dough is sticky. Fold the dough towards you, then, using your palms, press the dough away from you. Rotate the dough a quarter turn and repeat. Add flour as needed, yet sparingly. Adding too much flour or overkneading will make the dough tough.

After the first minute
After the second minute, notice how it's smoother
5. Divide the dough in half and use your hands to gently shape each half into an 8x12-inch rectangle. Starting at the long end, roll up tightly. Place the dough seam side down on an ungreased baking sheet. Using a sharp kife, slash the top every 2 inches, cover and let rise until doubled in size. I used a pizza cutter to divide the dough. The shaping part is easier said than done. Press with your palms initially and then use your fingers to do the edges. Don't worry if it's not perfect! Mine sure wasn't! After rolling up the dough, tuck the ends under to hide any uneven edges. I let the dough rise in the oven (turned off of course) so that there weren't any drafts. To speed up the process, fill a 9x13 pan with hot water and place it on the rack under the bread. This will take about 30 minutes.

My very imperfect rectangle
6. Preheat the oven to 400. Bake for 24-30 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow when tapped. Place on racks to cool and brush the tops with melted butter, optional. The recipe says to bake 30-40 minutes, but mine was done at 24 minutes. Go by how your oven cooks, mine usually cooks faster than most recipes say. I don't use the melted butter on top.

I know this was a long post and thanks for sticking with me! I felt that the many pictures and explanations with each step were necessary. If you're not too bored yet, click below for my review. This bread is great with soup and it freezes very well. Enjoy!