Monday, July 25, 2011

Cheesy Chili Mac

If you enjoy cooking, you need this recipe. If you cook out of necessity, you need this recipe. If you have hungry persons in your life who demand more than PB&J, you need this recipe. If you are a newlywed with a hungry husband, you need this recipe. If you like to eat, you need this recipe. The point is, you need this recipe in your life!

Move over Hamburger Helper, because once you try this recipe, you'll never go back! It's simple, inexpensive, and much healthier for you; not to mention it tastes 100 times better! Tender pasta in a sweet tomato sauce with melted cheese. It all cooks in one skillet in 30 minutes! What's not to love, my friends? I served it with some Mexican seasoned zucchini squash, which I will have to share with you in the near future. And I know that the first picture looks like it has nasty little greasy pools, but they're actually delicious puddles of tomato sauce. My husband absolutely loved this meal and even talked about it for a few days after I made it! The leftovers are fantastic too, if you're lucky enough to have any that is.

Cheesy Chili Mac
Total time: 30 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1 medium white onion, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 pound ground turkey or beef
2 cups water
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
8 ounces elbow macaroni (about 2 cups)
6 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1. In a large skillet (It called for a 12-inch skillet but I only have a 10-inch. Use a 12-inch if you have it, but if not, a 10-inch will be very full but will work just fine) heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, chili powder, cumin, coriander, and salt. Cook and stir frequently until the onion is transparent, 4-6 minutes.

2. Add the garlic and brown sugar and cook for 30 seconds. Add the ground turkey or beef and brown completely.

3. Once the turkey is browned, stir in the water and the tomato sauce. Mix in the pasta. Cover and cook on medium-high for 10-13 minutes, stirring occassionally to prevent sticking, until the pasta is to your desired tenderness. The sauce should be thickened by this point.

4. Remove from heat and add 4 ounces (1 cup) of the cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste if needed. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and cover for 2 minutes until the cheese is melted. Sprinkle with fresh or dried parsley if desired and serve.

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Recipe adapted from tracey's culinary adventures

My Review

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fresh Strawberry Lemonade

Refreshing and sweet, this combination is the perfect taste of summer. The tart lemon juice combines with the succulent strawberries to make a beverage that is sure to please anyone. While I must tell you that the inevitable strawberry seeds deterred my husband from drinking this, I thoroughly enjoyed the drink myself and have been doing so for the last few days. I think that it gets better with age, and my husband would agree as he drank some today and said that it tasted better (I assume mostly because the seeds have all floated to the bottom of the pitcher). But don't let the tiny strawberry seeds discourage you; I loved this drink, and I'm one who can't stand the slightest bit of pulp or chunks in my beverages. Enjoy!

Fresh Strawberry Lemonade
Prep: 10-15 minutes
Yield: 2.5-3 quarts

1 cup white sugar
8 ounces strawberries, hulled
1 cup fresh lemon juice (8-9 small/medium lemons)

1. Combine the sugar and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occassionally. Place in the fridge to cool. This is called a simple syrup.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the strawberries. Puree the strawberries in a blender with 1/2 cup water. Squeeze the lemon juice.

3. In a large pitcher, combine the cooled simple syrup, stawberry puree, and lemon juice. Add 4-6 cups of cold water, depending on your taste preference. I used 5 cups of cold water.

4. Serve and enjoy!

Click here to print this recipe

Recipe adapted from my baking addiction

My Review

Monday, July 11, 2011

Simplified Chicken Cordon Bleu

Layers of chicken, provolone cheese, ham, fresh and buttery bread crumbs, with a creamy parmesan topping...what's not to love? I've never attempted to make the official chicken cordon bleu with the rolling and stuffing, but my thought now is, why bother? This is so much easier! And it tastes just as good, if not better than the fancy version, I'm sure of it. If your wish is to impress, go ahead; do the pounding, rolling, stuffing, and praying that it all stays together. As for me, I'll do the layers, thankyouverymuch.

Simplified Chicken Cordon Bleu
Prep: 10 minutes / Bake: 25-30 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
12 slices deli ham
6 slices provolone or swiss cheese
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules or one chicken bouillon cube, crushed
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish. Cut the chicken breasts lengthwise to get 6 thin pieces. Mine weren't perfect at all, just try to make everything the same thickness.

2. Place the chicken in a single layer in the baking dish. Top each piece with 2 slices ham and 1 slice cheese. Combine the bread crumbs and butter; sprinkle over the entire dish.

3. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the bread crumbs golden.

4. While chicken is baking, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk and slowly add the milk. Stir in the chicken bouillon and continue cooking, whisking slowly, for 3-5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Add the Dijon and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in the parmesan cheese until melted.

5. Remove from heat. Stir in the remaining ingredients until cheese is melted. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

Click here to print recipe

Recipe adapted from mel's kitchen cafe

My Review

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Milk and Honey White Bread

It has been months since I bought a loaf of bread from the grocery store. Making homemade bread is very rewarding in several ways. Number one, you know exactly what ingredients are in the food you're eating. Number two, you can alter it according to your personal preferences. I have experimented with wheat flour, vital wheat gluten, wheat gluten, flax meal and oatmeal; the possibilities are endless! Number three, smelling bread in the oven that you made yourself is very satisfying. And finally, the taste! Nothing beats the taste of homemade bread.

This bread was the most like store-bought bread that I have ever made. It was extremely soft and tender, with an airy texture and just the right amount of crumbles. The flavor was mildly sweet and very addicting. I would like to adapt this recipe to include part wheat flour and possibly some other healthy add-ins, like wheat germ and grains.

Bread can be intimidating to many people, but I think you just have to go for it! I make mistakes along the way but always learn from them. My bread making skills have definitely improved since my french bread post and I'm still learning. Please ask me any questions that you may have, I will be happy to offer my advice!

Milk and Honey White Bread (Print)
adapted from Taste of Home Baking Book
Prep: 15 min. + rising / Bake: 30 min. + cooling
Yield: 2 loaves

2 packages (or 4-1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
2-1/2 cups warm milk (110 to 115 degrees)
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten (optional)
7 to 8-1/2 cups flour*

1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm milk and allow to rest for a few minutes. Add the honey, butter, salt, wheat gluten, and 5 cups flour. Mix with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. *The original recipe said 8 to 8-1/2 cups flour. I found that it was nearly impossible to mix the dough by hand after 7 cups. So I kneaded the dough in the bowl for a few minutes to incorporate the 7th cup of flour. Then probably used an additional 1/2 cup when I kneaded it on the counter. The amount of flour varies depending on humidity and the size of your 'cup.'

2. Turn onto a lightly floured counter and knead until smooth and dough is elastic when stretched, 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl. Turn the dough once to grease top. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45-60 minutes.

3. Punch the dough down. Divide the dough in half and shape each portion into a loaf. Place each in a greased 9x5 loaf pan. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

4. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. When I think the bread is done, I take it out of the pan to inspect the bottom. I say it's done when the bottom is evenly golden and it sounds hollow when tapped; others may tell you differently but I have found that only judging doneness by the top of the bread is unreliable. You can cover the top loosely with foil if it browns too quickly.

5. Remove from pans and place on wire racks to cool. Important: do not cut the bread until it is completely cool! It is tempting, I understand, but if you cut it too soon you will have a gummy interior that will make you think the bread is not done. I know this from experience.

It was taller than my bread box!
 My Review