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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Korean-style Beef Ribs

It's Tuesday, and during the school year, the kids and I are gone from the house from 8 until about 5, so dinner makes a dive into the crock pot in the morning and all I need to do is make the sides (or in this case, ask Nate to text David and ask him to put the rice on the stove and cook the green beans).  The short ribs were boneless and on sale at HG Hills, so it was an easy choice to make. The result was delicious and filling, even if it was a bit spicy. I had a long day, so I'll just get right to the recipe.



Korean-style Beef Ribs in the Crock Pot

8-10 boneless short ribs (go for the bone-in ones, if you want)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. soy sauce
2 T. sesame oil
4 T. red wine vinegar
4 garlic cloves, minced
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 - 1 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 c. sliced green onion
1/2 c. grated carrot

Place the ribs in the crock pot. Combine the remaining ingredients (except onions and carrots) and whisk together until well-blended. Top ribs with the green onions and carrots and then pour the sauce over the top. Cook on low for 8-9 hours or on high for 3-4. Remove the ribs from the sauce and pour sauce into a small pan. Thicken with 1/2 c. water combined with 1 T of cornstarch (repeat the procedure if it is not quite thick enough). Serve with rice and top with thickened sauce and additional green onions and sesame seeds.

I hope you enjoy this. My whole family ate it. I think yours might too :)
Until next time, stay full and loved, my friends!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Slaw Dogs and Sprained Ankles

Thursday was interesting. One minute I was up and the next I was on the floor with my head smashed into the metal frame of a chair and my ankle pulsating with pain... and a room full (ok, there were five, but still...) of adults staring me down. Well, not actually staring me down, two of them catapulted from their chairs and were at my side in seconds, another tossed over a bottle of ibuprofen. Two boys were dispatched to find ice packs and I sat on the floor for a good thirty minutes waiting for the pain to subside, which it never really did. I sat for 2 hours with my foot encased in ice and then headed to Baptist Sports Medicine (thanks, Cher) to let a PT look at it and decide if it was broken, torn or sprained. Thankfully it was the latter. She encased it again in ice (much colder than any ice pack I had ever had in my life), gave me a stretchy band and some exercises and sent me on my merry way... R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and ibuprofen was her diagnosis.

Friday am I called the doctor's office and headed in for their diagnosis. They concurred and gave me a slightly (make that really really) stronger medicine and again sent me on my merry way - back to the couch, ice packs and rest.

Today I was back to teaching - thankfully able to sit for two of the three hours that I taught. Then I did the brilliant thing and went grocery shopping for an hour... but I had little choice. And now we have food :) Tonight's dinner was Slaw dogs and curly fries. I made the slaw, and Kami threw the fries in the oven and the hot dogs on the stove to cook. Slaw is something that I throw together quite often. I'm pretty sure that you have all the makings for a delicious dressing in your refrigerator and pantry. Don't by the bottled stuff - save some $$ and make a much tastier dressing at home. Here is my recipe that makes enough dressing for two small (1 lb.) bags of slaw mix from the produce section of the grocery store.



Slaw Dressing
1 c. mayonnaise (NOT miracle whip/salad dressing)
4 T. red wine vinegar
6 T. honey
1/2 - 1 t. salt
1/2 - 1 t. fresh cracked pepper
(if you want to play with the flavors, you can add 1/2 t. celery seed or garlic powder, possibly some brown or Dijon mustard. You could add some fresh herbs like cilantro and replace the vinegar for lime juice and make a Mexican slaw... or just keep it simple. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl until well-combined, then pour over the cabbage and combine well. I always allow mine to sit for a little while before serving. Some of the liquid from the cabbage will come out and make the dressing a little more wet, so give it a good stir before serving. Tonight I piled mine on hot dogs, but it is good with barbecue, burgers, ham, pork, fried or grilled chicken.

I hope you enjoy it. Until next time, stay warm (or cool - the weather is so fickle in the fall) and full and loved, my friends!!


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steak Wrapped Asparagus

I can often find thin sliced steaks on sale - Milenese-style, or so they are called. I love them because they absorb the marinade easily and quickly. They cook up fast and they are juicy and delicious! I had these done in about 15 minutes tonight. That is quick for a steak dinner!



Steak Wrapped Asparagus

5-10 thin sliced sirloin steaks
1-2 bunches thin asparagus, washed and ends snapped
2 T olive oil
2 T vegetable oil
4 T pomegranate infused red wine vinegar
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1-2 T. steak seasoning

In a large bowl whisk together all of the marinade ingredients. Add the steaks and allow to marinate for an hour or two. In a microwave safe bowl, put the prepped asparagus along with 1/4 cup of water and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for 5 minutes until crisp but tender.

Remove steak from marinade and lay flat. Put 4-5 stalks of asparagus on one end and roll up. You can secure with a toothpick, if you'd like to, or just lay seam side down. Repeat with all steaks and asparagus. Grill for a few minutes on each side until steak is cooked through to desired doneness.





Serve with those crispy potatoes, from my earlier post.

It's a long week. Somehow I need to fit grocery shopping in so I can continue to feed this crew. For some reason I can't just cook one meal a week and expect them to be happy. I must have done something wrong!

Until next time, stay full and loved!!




Crispy Baked Potatoes

This is a simple and very tasty baked potato dish. You can pump up the volume by adding some garlic or any other seasoning. It is delicious with a sour cream cilantro sauce. Both recipes follow.

Crispy Baked Potatoes

6 large baking potatoes
6 T butter
salt
pepper
olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Scrub the potatoes thoroughly. Lay them on the counter between the handles of two wooden spoons. Slice the potato into 1/8-inch slices, stopping when the knife hits the handles of the spoon, so you don't cut all the way through the potato.


Lay the potatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt and ground black pepper. Dot each potato with 1 T butter.


Bake at 425 for 45 minutes until potatoes are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.


Drizzle with sour cream cilantro sauce.
1 c. sour cream
juice of 1 lime
1 bunch cilantro
1 clove garlic
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Combine all in a food processor. Chill before serving.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Apple Pancakes and Childhood

Today is Tuesday. In my world it is one of my busiest days. I teach at four homeschool co-op programs throughout the week and Tuesday is CHET day. We have classes from 9am to 4:30 and I am teaching all of that time except for a 30 minutes lunch break. I then have to come home and make dinner and be sure that Kami gets off to cheer practice. Normally I am pretty smart and I take something out of the freezer a day or two before so it is thawed and ready on Tuesday morning, so I can just toss it into the crockpot. It might be a beef or pork roast, a chicken dish or some kind of soup or stew. I was not so smart this week. It was that and the fact that I was out of town Saturday and Sunday celebrating with my siblings. My older sisters, twins, turned 50 on Sunday. I am sure that is some kind of mistake because they are 4 years older than I am and I KNOW I am not just 4 years away from fifty... but I digress. Dinner... that is what I was talking about.

I realized too late that I had not remembered to thaw the requisite roast and therefore the crock remained under the cupboard and dinner was a mystery - for everyone. When in doubt, make breakfast, right? So, bacon is quickly thawed in a sink full of warm water (thanks, Ali) and a box of Bisquick (shoot me, I didn't do them from scratch this time) made quick work of supper. But I am not such a slouch. I grabbed the bag of chocolate chips and created chocolate chip pancakes from half of the batter and then in the other half, I made some very yummy apple pancakes. No recipe, just what sounded good to me, and I have a bunch of apples on my kitchen table, so it was an easy decision. Try them!

Apple Pancakes

2 cups Bisquick (or whatever pancake mix)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 small apple, peeled and grated with the box grater
1/2 t. cinnamon
dash nutmeg

Mix all the ingredients together and cook on a greased griddle. Serve with butter and real maple syrup (and bacon).

As a child I remember Saturday morning breakfasts. Sometimes we had "sugar cereal," which was a real treat. We only got it on the weekends. In those days the boxes had some sort of toy inside. My mom would remove all the toys and on the days when we would have cereal, or when she had an abundance of the toys (I can't remember which), she would distribute the toys. Lani swears my mom would intentionally give her the bad ones. In retrospect, they were probably all pretty bad. Sometimes she would make doughnuts...chocolate, plain, and molasses. They would fry in lard on the kitchen stove. I wish someone had written down her recipe. This weekend Lani brought her Le Creuset enormous dutch oven (totally jealous and REALLY NEEEEEEEED one of those, btw) and a bucket of lard and fried up some doughnuts for HER birthday (and Lori's). The smell in Mark's kitchen brought back some amazing memories. I felt like my mom or even my grandmother must have been in the kitchen - the smell was haunting. Another breakfast memory is of the waffles and my mother's waffle iron. I lucked out and found one exactly like it several years ago, thanks to my friend Lacey. It makes me happy every time I use it. Breakfast holds many happy memories. I hope it does for you too.

Until next time, stay full and loved, my friends
ps. Yes, Grandmother, I licked my plate. I know you are smiling from Heaven.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Beef Enchiladas... and anticipating the great reunion

Nate has a craving for Mexican food - at least he knew better than to ask me to stop at Taco Bell. The easy way out is to make tacos - you know, brown some meat, throw in a packet of taco seasoning, toss a bag of lettuce and a bag of shredded cheese on the counter and let them make their own. Not tonight. I am making enchiladas, which takes a little more time, but not that much. I am throwing some yellow rice on the stove and hopefully Nate will be satisfied. I snuck a few vegetables in here, so if you have picky eaters, this might be a good way to get in a few veggies. My crew is not picky for the most part - a trait for which I am eternally grateful.

Beef Enchiladas

1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, grated
2 medium carrots, grated
1 T olive oil
1 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1 t. cumin
1 can corn kernels
1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 c. salsa verde or 1 small can diced green chilies
1 1/2 c. shredded cheese
1 lg. can enchilada sauce
12 8-inch flour tortillas

Preheat oven to 350. In a large skillet heat the oil over medium high heat. Saute the onion and carrot until it is tender. Add in the ground beef and brown until no longer pink. In a large bowl, place the corn, salsa or chilies, and beef mixture, stirring well. Stir in the sour cream and then stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese.

Pour 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. In a cake pan, pour 1 cup of enchilada sauce. Place one tortilla in the cake pan and coat both sides with sauce. While it is still in the pan, place 1/3 cup of the filling in the tortilla and roll up. Place it seam side down in the baking dish and repeat with all of the tortillas. I can fit 10 along the pan and the other two I fit in the sides. Top with the remaining sauce and 1 cup of cheese. Spray a sheet of foil with non-stick spray and cover the dish tightly with the foil. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes until thoroughly heated.

If you read my blog, consider subscribing, or sharing it on Facebook. I have had pretty low blog views lately, which is a bit discouraging. Hopefully if I start writing more again, the numbers will go back up. If you have questions or meal ideas, something you want me to come up with a recipe for, give me a holler. I love to try new things.

This weekend I am heading to South Carolina for exactly 24 hours. That is 24 hours with my amazing siblings. We are going to "Eat, Drink & Be Merry" as much as we possibly can in 24 hours. Not sure how much sleep it going to be done, but we can do that on the plane. We have not all been together for 10 years. Two more sleeps!!

Until next time, be filled and loved :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

fantastically famished: Seriously Good Vegetable Soup

fantastically famished: Seriously Good Vegetable Soup: I am going to attempt a blog post in under 10 minutes. That's the story of my life. I never seem to be able to stay in one place for very lo...

Caramel Brownie Cheesecake

Labor Day Weekend I made this dessert. I meant to post the recipe and never really got around to it. Now seemed like a good time :) It was definitely enjoyed.

 
Caramel Brownie Cheesecake
 
Ingredients:
1 box brownie mix, baked according to package directions and cooled completely
 
Chocolate Crust:
45 vanilla wafers
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1/3 c. powdered sugar
1 stick butter, melted
 
Cheesecake:
4 8oz. packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 c. sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla

1 jar caramel sauce

Make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350. In your food processor with the blade attachment, crush the cookies and pulse in the sugar and cocoa powder until well-combined. Drizzle in the melted butter while the processor is running and combine. Dump the crumb mixture into a 9" springform pan and push the crumbs firmly into the bottom and 1-2 inches up the sides. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes and allow to cool while you are making the cheesecake filling.

In a mixer bowl, add the cream cheese and the sugar and beat until fluffy and well-combined. Add eggs one at a time, then add in the vanilla. Pour the mixture into the cooled crust. 

Cut 1/2 of the pan of brownies into small pieces and place them on top of the cheesecake mixture, pushing them down into the filling. Drizzle about 1/2 - 1 cup of caramel sauce over the top of the cheesecake. Bake in a 350 oven for 1 hour or until completely cooked. Remove from the oven and allow to cool about 30 minutes. Loosen the cheesecake from the pan by running a sharp knife around the edge. Let it finish cooling to room temperature before covering in plastic wrap and putting in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours.

I may get around to another post tonight. I am making a yummy chicken dish. Don't forget to check out the soup I posted yesterday!! It's that time of year again!

Until next time, stay warm and filled, my friends!!































Sunday, September 18, 2011

Seriously Good Vegetable Soup

I am going to attempt a blog post in under 10 minutes. That's the story of my life. I never seem to be able to stay in one place for very long. I always have to be somewhere doing something other than what I would really like to be doing, which would be sitting on the couch like a vegetable ... or a potato... but I digress. I am going to write this recipe for seriously good vegetable soup (or so Ali called it today) so I can remember it again. Try it!

Seriously Good Vegetable Soup

1 lb. ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
4-5 med. carrots, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lb. fresh green beans, cut in 1-2 inch pieces
2 handfuls of baby spinach/arugala mix
1 can cannellini beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can garbanzo beans
2 cans fire-roasted tomatoes
4 cups beef broth
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper

In a large pot, brown the ground beef until no longer pink. Add in the onions, carrots and garlic and saute until the onion is tender. Add in the green beans, tomatoes, beef broth and 2 tomato cans of water (about 3-4 cups), salt and pepper and cook until the carrots are tender. Add the beans and the greens and cook until everything is heated through. I cooked some ditalini pasta and served the soup over the pasta, so it was like minestrone.

Trust me, it's good. 8 minutes down, I gotta run!
Until next time, stay cool/warm, well-fed and loved, my friends!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Chili - With No Problems!

I made chili on Friday night (to go with the cornbread) and I actually ate it without any problems. I am one of those freaks of nature that can make gallstones with no gallbladder. Chili always seemed to complicate issues. I don't know what it was about it. I would be in excruciating pain about an hour after a bowl of the stuff. A year and a half ago I had a procedure to remove a couple of stones and the surgeon made a little incision to hopefully allow future stones to pass along through - and so far, it seems it has been a success. I was a little unsure until I ate that chili and passed the rest of the evening is satisfied peace.

Chili is chili is chili (don't shoot me) - even though we all have different recipes and different levels of heat we enjoy, and we all think that OUR RECIPE is the best, when all is said and done, they have similar ingredients and taste pretty much the same. I am a non-measurer. I don't think I ever make my chili the same way twice, and Friday night was no exception. It tasted delicious to me and to four teenagers and one husband, on Friday night, and I think I even got Savannah Tawater (The Queen of Picky Eaters - really, the kid lives on buttered spaghetti noodles and french fries) to eat a little bit of it yesterday, so it must be pretty good. So I will do my best to recreate the recipe in writing here. You give it a try and let me know how yours comes out.

Painless Chili

Ingredients:
3 lbs. ground beef
2 large onions
3 stalks celery
3 medium carrots
3 cloves garlic
1 28 oz. can tomato puree
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 14 oz. cans fire-roasted tomatoes
2 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 T. salt
1 t. fresh ground black pepper
2 t. ground cumin
1 t. adobo seasoning
1 T. cowboy rub (this is a McCormick seasoning blend I found and LOVE)
4 T. chili powder
2 T. olive oil

In a food processor, finely chop the onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Heat olive oil in a VERY large pot. Add in the chopped vegetables and sauteed about 5 minutes just until they begin to soften. Add in the ground beef and cook thoroughly, until the meat is no longer pink. Drain the grease off of the meat and return to the pot. Add all remaining ingredients except the beans and stir well. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer and let it go. Mine simmered about 2 hours. About 30 minutes before serving, stir in the beans and heat through. Serve with that cornbread I posted on Friday night :)

Tonight we are going to attempt a trip to the Franklin Drive-in. The remnant of Tropical Storm Lee is rolling though town, so we will see if we actually make it. Tomorrow is a day of either fun in the sun or fun inside... and cheesecake :)

Until next time, stay dry and loved, my friends!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Yankee-fied Southern Cornbread

Necessity is the Mother of Invention, right? Tonight is one of those make-do-with-what-you-have kind of meals. I will post the recipes as separate blog posts, just because I haven't posted in FOREVER!! Think I will even hold off a little bit and post the other one in the morning. Also, I have a yummy dessert to post, which will have to wait until Sunday.

Have you noticed how your cooking changes in the summer? In the winter we make lots of soups and stews and casseroles and roasts and things in the crockpot - soothing, comforting, warm, and full of flavor. Summer is just so darn hot! I don't feel inspired to cook much in the summer. We make salad, grill chicken, the occasional burger and macaroni and cheese (yes, from scratch, are you kidding??) and lots of veggies. I still make spaghetti sauce in the summer. Otherwise we eat differently.

School started back for my kiddos this week, and despite the fact that it was 100 degrees outside today, I felt the urge to make something warm and comforting. So a pot of chili is simmering on the stove and 2 loaves of a Yankee-fied cornbread are in the oven baking away happily. I am not the Queen of Cornbread. I have one recipe that I love, but didn't have the ingredients for it. So, off I went to find one that I could make with what I have. First of all, I have self-rising cornmeal... I feel a bit ashamed of myself. It seems like a cheater's way of baking - the whole self-rising flour thing. I grew up where everything was made from scratch and this seems kind of half-way between scratch and a mix. I think I have blogged about my feelings for self-rising flour before, so I will just leave it at that and say that I have it because my husband bought it :) Yeah, I'll just blame it on him and move on. I like sweet cornbread that is more like a cake and this fits the bill. I have made cornbread in a skillet in the oven, in a square baking dish, in a glass pie plate (my favorite recipe is done this way) and in muffin tins. This is a first in loaf pans. This is Yankee-fied because I made it sweet and did not make it in the skillet like my southern friends would do. I think I finally hit on a winner.

Yankee-fied Southern Cornbread

Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 2/3 cups self-rising white cornmeal
2 cups self-rising flour
2/3 cup packed brown sugar (I used light, either way I think it would work)
2 cups milk
4 large eggs, beaten
Honey to top with
* Recipe makes two 9-by-4 1/2-inch loaves.
Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9x4 ½ inch loaf pans  and line with parchment paper, set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal and flour, set aside. Melt the butter in the microwave for 2 minutes, stir in the brown sugar, and whisk until mixture is smooth. Whisk in milk and then eggs. Pour into the dry mixture and stir until blended. Evenly pour batter into loaf pans, making sure the tops are smoothed. Bake until loaves are golden, about 30-35 minutes. Let cornbread loaves cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or cold with butter, honey, jam...

Ps. When I go to Cracker Barrel, I like to ask for corn muffins and a bottle of maple syrup (one of the only places you can get the REAL THING) and I make that my dessert. I see something like that in my future this evening!

Until next time, stay cool and loved, my friends!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Watermelon-Mint Granita

The other day Ali posted on her status that she wanted watermelon. Hopefully she found one somewhere at a market. I look forward to hearing how they will celebrate the 4th of July in the Dominican Republic. I am not a huge fan of watermelon... it's not that I don't like it, I just prefer other melons, plus I never understood why someone would actually want to eat something that you have to pick the seeds out of while you eat it! I know they make seedless versions and this recipe is best with one of those small, seedless varieties. It is perfect for a hot summer day. I think it would be a great addition to your Independence Day celebration this weekend. It is ultra-simple to make!



Watermelon-Mint Granita

1 small seedless watermelon
1 large bunch fresh mint
1 large lemon
2 cups water
2 cups sugar

In a saucepan, heat the water until it is just simmering. Pour in the sugar and stir on the heat until all of the sugar dissolves. Toss in 1/2 of the mint, stems and all, remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. While the simple syrup cools, cut the watermelon up into chunks. You should have about 8 cups (roughly). Remove the mint leaves from the remainder of the bunch discarding the stems. Zest and juice the lemon. Place the melon, mint, lemon juice/zest and cooled simple syrup (remove the mint leaves/stems that have been steeping in it) into a blender container and blend until smooth. Pour into a 9x13 glass baking dish and place in the freezer for at least 4 hours. You can scrape it with a fork every hour to create fluffy ice crystals or you can be lazy and cut it up after it is frozen through.

This works well with any melon, so try it with cantaloupe or honeydew, or all three and serve them together - that would be pretty!!

Keep cool this weekend! It's gonna be a scorcher!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lemon-Caper Chicken, Mashed Potato Cakes and Missing Children

Okay, so my kids are not missing and this blog is not about children who have disappeared or been kidnapped. It is about me - missing my children. I can understand now why parents have children later in life. Don't worry, I have no plans for more children. That last one just about killed me... literally.

Ali left on June 1 very early in the morning. She got on a plane all by herself and flew roughly 1500 miles away to stay 2 months in Dajabon, Dominican Republic while helping an old high school friend of mine whose family is ministering in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Glen Clementi and his wife Debbie are in the process of building an orphanage in Haiti. Ali has been learning Spanish and Haitian Creole, playing with and teaching the children, helping out in the Clementi home and obviously growing closer to God as she is used however He sees fit to use her. It has been 3 weeks and she has 5 more to go. She is settling in to a routine and really seems to be flourishing there. I miss talking to her, hearing her voice and seeing her laughter. She is doing some great things and I know she is being forever changed by this opportunity.

Nate and Kami got on several vans carrying 32 students and adults to Orlando, Florida to go to Lifeway's SonPower. It is a choir/mission camp that the youth choir, 4:12 has been to for the last several years. It is an amazing opportunity and this year there are 1400 students there. They will make a recording on Friday of all of the music they have been working on, 13 songs in all. I wish I could be there with them :)

Needless to say, I am missing the kiddos. But they will be home soon and once again noise, laughter, fighting, complaining and more noise will again fill the house. This silence is KILLING me!

The other night I made Lemon-Caper Chicken and had a good bit of mashed potatoes that needed to be used up. I am not a fan of leftover potatoes because they tend to be mealy. I decided to try my hand at making them into pancakes and came up with this recipe. They came out really tasty. As I was eating them, I thought how much better they would be with some crumbled up bacon and green onions stirred in - like stuffed potato skins...maybe even with a sour cream sauce drizzled on the top... I'll get right on the re-make of this recipe.


It's been a while. I am teaching writing seminars this summer and this week I have a "Parent Seminar" and one of the parents inspired me to write today. Apparently I have readers that I don't even know about :) That made me smile and realize that I really have no excuse for not getting back at this. Enjoy your chicken and potatoes!! I love to hear comments so let me know you are reading!



Lemon-Caper Chicken Breasts

4-6 boneless chicken breasts
1-2 large lemons
2-3 cloves of garlic (1 per every 2 chicken pieces)
2 T. capers, drained
kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle olive oil in a 9x13 baking dish. Lay the chicken in the pan and grate the garlic using a microplane over the pieces. Zest the lemons using the same microplane then juice the lemons letting the zest and the juice cover the chicken pieces. Sprinkle the capers over all and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Mashed Potato Cakes

2-3 cups leftover real mashed potatoes (don't use the fake stuff PLEASE!!)
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup shredded cheddar (or any cheese you like)
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
3T butter
3T olive oil

Thoroughly mix the eggs into the potatoes. Stir in the cheese, salt and pepper (here is where one MIGHT have added in 1/2 c. crumbled bacon and 1/4 c. finely chopped green onion IF one was thinking straight the other night). In a large nonstick skillet, heat butter and oil. Take approximately 1/2 cup of the potato mixture and pat into a 1/2-thick circle. Coat both sides with bread crumbs and lay gently in the hot oil. Repeat and put as many as will fit the pan with a little space between. I did this in 2 batches in a 12-inch skillet. Let them sit undisturbed for at least 12 minutes until the bottom side is golden brown. Turn gently and allow the other side to cook completely. Don't be tempted to turn them too early or they will fall apart! Don't make them wider than your spatula or you will have difficulty turning them.

Until next time - stay COOL and loved, my friends!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lasagna - Garfield knew what he was talking about!

Comfort food - why is it that MOST of the things that we love so much, that make us happy, that remind us of home, of love, of comfort, of true joy, are horribly bad for us?? Lasagna is one of those things that is full of the stuff that we are supposed to avoid. I absolutely refuse to make it with turkey sausage or soy cheese or fat free ricotta... that would just ruin it! Some things need to be done RIGHT :)

That brings to the table the other challenge for this particular lasagna. David and Nate did my grocery shopping for me. I was very specific about the brand of toilet paper and the conditioner that Kami needed for her hair. I guess I thought some things just go without saying. We eat out of the same refrigerator, right? I typically buy the same brands, the same things week in and week out. When I buy shredded cheese, it is always in the biggest bag I can find. Parmesan is almost always a hard wedge that I grate myself as I need it. And while we are on the subject - if I put hard taco shells on the shopping list, get hard taco shells. Don't leave them out because I am the only one that wants them... there... I feel better now!

Cindi told me that if I am making lasagna tonight, I need to post the recipe. So that is what I am doing. I will say that I use my own homemade sauce (recipe posted a while ago. look it up, make it and freeze it in 4-6 cup containers for nights such as this). So Cindi - here you go. I will try and remember to bring you a piece tomorrow night :)

Lasagna

1 box lasagna noodles - UNcooked (trust me - it works every time)
4-6 cups of meat spaghetti sauce
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese (freshly grated, of course)
2 eggs
1/4 c. parsley
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
4 cups shredded mozzarella (or apparently colby-jack works, too)
1 1/2 c. water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line your lasagna dish with extra long pieces of aluminum foil. It makes clean-up much easier! In a large bowl thoroughly mix the ricotta, 1 c. of the Parmesan, 2 eggs, the parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper. In the bottom of the baking dish spoon 1/2 c. spaghetti sauce and 1/2 c. water. Layer one layer of lasagna noodles (about 5-7 depending on the size of your dish). Top with 1/3 of the ricotta mixture. Spread over the noodles. Top with 1 cup of shredded mozzarella and 1 cup of spaghetti sauce. Drizzle over 1/2 cup of water. Layer 2nd layer of noodles, top with 1/2 of remaining ricotta mixture, 1 cup mozzarella, then another cup of sauce and then the remaining ricotta mixture. Top with third layer of noodles, remaining sauce and final 1/2 cup of water. Wrap tightly with foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees. Remove the foil wrapping and top with remaining 1 cup shredded cheese and 1/2 c. Parmesan. Return to the oven uncovered for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Allow it to rest for 15-20 minutes before serving.

In this particular lasagna I added 6 Italian sausages that I baked last night and sliced in thin slices between the layers of pasta.

I'm off to eat, now that I have blogged about it :)

Enjoy your dinner. Until next time, stay warm (it's freezing in Tennessee) and safe, my friends!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Oven Baked Talapia

I keep wondering if I will ever get back to this on a consistent basis. I hope that I will this summer. For now, I made Talapia tonight with corn and a pasta salad. Kami started the salad... she cooked the pasta, made vinaigrette and tossed in some black olives. She was happy to leave it at that. I, on the other hand, had to take half of it out and add in marinated artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, green peas and cooked diced carrot. It was much tastier that way :)

I love my "job", if you can call being a self-employed writing teacher a job. I have great students that may not always want to be there, but they engage (most of the time) and at least they do their work (most of the time). I will miss them during the summer, but to tell you the truth, I need a break - and they do too!

Baked Talapia

Talapia fillets
olive oil
lemons
dill
parsley
paprika
bread crumbs
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly oil a baking sheet with olive oil. Lay the fish fillets in an even layer. Sprinkle with dill, parsley, salt, pepper, zest of lemon (save lemons for juicing over the fish when cooked), and bread crumbs. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and toss in the oven. Bake until cooked through - around 15 minutes.

ps. I was gifted with some delicious coarse sea salt (some from Sicily and some from Spain), Hungarian paprika and several other spices/seasonings from some of my students. I used the Hungarian paprika and the Sicilian sea salt to make this dish. Thanks Lilly, Abigail and Tyler!

Until next time (I'm thinking lasagna??)
Stay warm and dry, my friends!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Croissant French Toast - Ali's Last Trip Home from College

Now don't freak out by the title. She is moving home on Wednesday at the end of her first year of college. Next year she is going to live at home, so she will no longer be "coming home" from college :) I cannot believe how fast this year has gone by. She is one-quarter of the way through college - at least her undergraduate degree. Knowing this typical first child, she will not stop with an undergrad degree. Anyway, she came home for breakfast yesterday and spent a little time at home relaxing before heading off for her last 4 days on campus. A couple of weeks ago, Ronda and I went to Mache is East Nashville and I had the most AMAZING french toast made with croissants. That was the inspiration for breakfast yesterday morning.

Speaking of french toast... When I was a senior in high school my mom and dad took my sister Marcy and me (yes, "me" not "I") to Disney World and Epcot Center. It had just been open for a few months, so there are a lot of exhibits there now that were not there or were not yet opened. We made some amazing memories that holiday. I remember eating breakfast one morning in one of the park restaurants. My mother ordered french toast (she lived on bread, practically) and a woman with a foreign accent asked my mother what she was eating. Turns out the woman was from France and she had never heard of french toast :) I know now they call it something different there - Pain Perdue, or something like that. I also remember one of the "cast members" from Germany flirting with my dad, but that is a  story for another day.



Croissant French Toast

12 croissants
4 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 t. nutmeg
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. vanilla
dash salt

In a bowl whisk the eggs, cream, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Butter a hot griddle. Cut the croissants in half horizontally and dip in egg custard. Grill until lightly browned. Serve with butter, REAL maple syrup, powdered sugar, berries, or whatever your favorite french toast toppings are. It couldn't be simpler. Do me a favor, though, buy croissants from the bakery or bakery section - DO NOT use the Pillsbury crescent rolls. That would just be a travesty!

Got to get ready for church and a full rainy day.
Until next time, stay DRY and loved, my friends!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sour Cream Lemon Pie - It's Raining Again!

Around this time last year Nashville experienced one of those so-called "200 year floods". I hope we are not about to get another one. Isn't it supposed to wait 200 years before it does that again? Thankfully we live in a place that stays pretty "flood free", but so many friends experienced damage. My sister-in-law's hill behind her house slid and damaged their garage. The contractor was supposed to have the hill fixed by May 6. Let's hope the hill does not slide again before he finishes the job!

Easter Sunday was the first holiday that one of my children was not around to be with the family. Ali had to work and so did David. Nate, Kami and I went to Sandy's for traditional Easter dinner. I made lemon pies, one of my dad's favorites as well as David's dad's favorites. My mom made a sour cream lemon pie that I remember so fondly. I have made it a few times, so this year I made a regular one (Alton Brown's recipe) and one of her sour cream ones. I don't know if I have said this before, but I do NOT make my own pie crust. I don't pretend or even try to make people think that I do it myself... I do buy the Pillsbury refrigerated kind so that if someone is polite enough to not ask (just kidding - you can ask), they MIGHT think that I made it since I did crimp the crust!



Sour Cream Lemon Pie

1 c. white sugar
1/3 c. corn starch
1/2 t. salt
2 c. milk
1/2 c. sour cream
3 egg yolks
1/4 c. butter
1 1/2 t. finely shredded lemon peel
1/4 c. lemon juice
whipped cream (fresh, of course)
9-inch pie shell, baked


In a saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Gradually stir in milk. Cook and stir on medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat and cook and stir 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks slightly. Gradually whisk in 1 cup of thickened mixture into yolks. Return egg mixture to the saucepan and whisk completely. Return pan to heat and bring to a gentle boil. cook and stir 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter, peel and lemon juice. Stir in sour cream. Pour filling into baked pie shell and cool completely. Serve with fresh whipped cream.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Quinoa Pilaf... Never had it before? You will LOVE it!

I have been in a cooking slump. Kind of like the Red Sox, as my dear friend Sheri pointed out. Only mine is not causing the New England states to rise up and almost change their allegiance to the Yankees... I said ALMOST. I doubt that is ever going to happen. Thankfully 2 days ago I shook off my own cooking slump and got the creative juices flowing again. I made this delicious pilaf and some black cherry glazed pork shops and I could feel the fires beginning to smoulder. At about the same time (ie, the next day) the Red Sox broke their 0-6 losing streak and actually beat those (ahem) DARN Yankees :) That was an extra step toward their redemption, much better than if they had beat the Indians or the Orioles... yeesh! So the Bo Sox and I are back :) Hopefully we will both keep it alive for a while and maybe even win The Series :) (do they have one of those for cooking??)

Now for Quinoa... I wasn't so sure the first time I heard of it. I even watched a few episodes of shows on Food Network that used the stuff and I still wasn't convinced. But then I made it and experimented with it and found that not only do I love it, but the whole family eats it, too! Quinoa is a seed, so it is a little like a grain and a little like a nut. For people who are gluten-intolerant (Melissa), it is a great alternative. And it is as easy as rice to cook. It has a slightly nutty flavor and a nice texture. I'm glad I tried it! The pilaf is the result of an experiment and it came out delicious, if I do say so myself.

Quinoa Pilaf

1 1/2 c. quinoa
3 c. broth (I used homemade chicken)
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. chopped green pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c. pine nuts
1 T. olive oil
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper

In large saucepan heat the olive oil and saute the peppers, onions and garlic until the onion is translucent and the peppers are softened. Stir in the broth, quinoa, salt & pepper and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to simmer and allow to cook for approximately 20 minutes (see, just like rice!).

The pork chops were equally delicious.

6 pork chops
1/2 c. black cherry preserves (I buy mine from the Amish!)
2 T. soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 t. black pepper

Thin the preserves with soy and remaining ingredients. Place pork on a lightly greased baking sheet and brush the sauce over pork chops and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, or until done. It depends on how thick your chops are. Mine were about 1/2 inch. I think this would work with just about any preserves you have. Next time I am going to try it with balsamic vinegar instead of soy sauce.

and she's back :)

Until next time... stay warm (or cool) and loved, my friends!!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Thai Grilled Chicken with Peanut Dipping Sauce and Italian Pasta Salad - It's an International Dinner Delight!

Ok, today I couldn't decide what "nation" I should visit for dinner, so we are having Thai and Italian. I cheated with the marinade and used store bought. It isn't really Thai - it's actually Teriyaki marinade, but the dipping sauce is Thai inspired... ok, it's an international nightmare, but I can guarantee it will taste great! The dressing on the pasta salad is bottled dressing, too. Not everything has to be from scratch :)

I took 3 boneless breasts and sliced them into about 4-5 strips each and tossed them in a 1/2 c. teriyaki marinade with a teaspoon each of garlic and onion powders and tossed it well. They are marinating in the fridge for about an hour and then I will grill them on the grill pan or in a non-stick skillet. I am thinking non-stick since I don't really feel like scrubbing the grill pan - I just did my nails. The recipe for the peanut sauce and the pasta salad follow. I get tired of dipping chicken in ranch or honey mustard. This peanut sauce is easy - 3 ingredients!! The pasta salad can take whatever you want to throw at it. Kami is a veggie-phob, so I would have put more in, but she kept nixing everything I suggested. I did sneak in a few frozen peas. Personally I would throw in some artichoke hearts, zucchini and roasted red peppers...and maybe a handful of feta cheese, but this is going to be a simple one. The beauty of pasta salad is how versatile it is. Just cook some pasta, toss in salad dressing and feel free to experiment and put in what you like and leave out what you don't!




PEANUT DIPPING SAUCE

1/3 c. peanut butter (if you use chunky, make is a 1/2 cup)
1/3 c. milk
1/3. c. teriyaki sauce/marinade

Pop this in a microwave safe bowl and nuke it for 2 minutes. Stir to combine well. Serve warm or at room temp. Easy, huh?

PASTA SALAD

1 lb. bow tie pasta
1 c. vinegar-based dressing (your choice...or Kami's, lol),
1/2 small red onion, minced
1 med. can sliced black olives
1/2 c. frozen peas
1 c. chopped broccoli
Optional: diced tomato, diced cucumber, diced bell pepper, zucchini, whole snow peas, artichoke hearts... whatever veggies you like raw or lightly steamed

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and immediately toss in 1/2 c. salad dressing while it is still hot. When the pasta is cool, add in remaining ingredients, the additional 1/2 c. salad dressing and salt/pepper to taste.

Simple, easy, fast. I like meals like that! Tomorrow I am tossing beef stew in the crockpot to cook while we are at CHET. I'll coerce David into cooking some rice before we get home and dinner will be ready and yummy.

Until next time, stay warm and loved, my friends!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Southwestern Black Bean Soup - It's a Cheerleading Competition Kinda Day!

It's been a busy week. I wish I had time during this last week to post a few recipes, but it was not meant to be. I think last night was the first night that I was home all week. I feel like I wake up in the morning and hit the ground running, barely having time to grab a cup of coffee before I have to head out the door. Kami's birthday was on Monday and she turned 14. I remember being pregnant with her - it feels like it was just the other day. It is hard to believe that God has blessed us so tremendously with her. For those of you who don't know her story, here are a few highlights:

In early June of 1996 I found out I was pregnant for the 3rd time. It was a bit of a surprise - ask David. he didn't want to even talk about it for almost 2 months. At the same time I had been experiencing some stomach pains. We went on a family vacation and while we were gone I had a horrible attack of abdominal pain. When we got home I went to the doctor. They did tests, blood work, ultra-sound... all showed nothing. He said it "sounded like" gallstones, but they saw nothing. He advised me to go on a fat-free diet and rest as much as possible. If it WAS gallstones, they wanted to wait until after I had the baby to do any kind of surgical procedure. On July 3 I was in the emergency room and headed for surgery. There were 15 stones in my gallbladder and I had already passed 13 that were lodged in my bile duct. I spent 2 weeks in the hospital at which time they thought I may be miscarrying... but that did not happen, thankfully.

I have horrible morning sickness issues. Both of my other pregnancies landed me either in the hospital (Ali) or sent me to an outpatient clinic a couple of times for IV fluids because of severe dehydration. This one was no different and I begged for fluids at home instead, which the doctor allowed. David learned how to change the fluid bags and a home health nurse came in frequently to help. I was pretty sick... it went on for about 8 weeks (nothing to eat or drink) and I developed a pseudo-cyst on my pancreas - think pancreatitis pain and throwing up all the time - so NOT fun! Back to the hospital I went. I had not eaten for 8 weeks, so needless to say my body was depleted of all nutrients. It took 2 weeks of a variety of fluids as well as 2 or 3 blood transfusions before they would even consider surgery... still pregnant and about to hit my 2nd trimester. I spent another month in the hospital after the surgery before I begged to go home. They did. The doctors said that because of all the radiation I had, the baby would have developmental delays, possible learning disabilities, etc. What do they know?? :) Kami was born 4 weeks early, walked at 7 1/2 months, is brilliant, an incredibly talented cheerleader/tumbler and so full of energy and spunk, you would never know she had gone through so much before she breathed her first breath. Thank you God for blessing us so richly!!

So... today we are off to the World Spirit Association's competition at David Lipscomb University. Kami's squad is competing for the 5th time this year. Please let them win it!! Soup will be waiting in the crockpot when we get home! YUM!

BLACK BEAN SOUP

1 lb. dry black beans, soaked over night
1 med. onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. diced carrots
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 can whole kernel corn
5-6 cups chicken broth (homemade from the freezer!)
1 t. cumin
1 T. chili powder
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper

Soak the beans overnight or bring to a boil, boil 2 min. then turn off heat, cover and let sit for an hour. Add to crockpot with all remaining ingredients. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Enjoy :)

That was quick, but yet again, I have to hit the ground running! If I had celery, I would have put that in too. Until next time, stay warm and loved, my friends!

Go STARS!!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Basil Garlic Chicken Breasts or Finding Time To Be Creative

I spent the morning (and early afternoon) with Ronda. Friendships are amazing. This one always has a way of leaving me refreshed, energized, feeling loved and encouraged... everyone needs a Ronda in their lives! We laugh together, have cried together, have held each other accountable, told each other when our ideas are both crazy and wonderful. I'm still waiting for our first "road trip" together. That will be fun. Yesterday we went to Southern Salvage. She is wanting to put in new cabinets in her kitchen and she is trying to figure out how much it is going to cost - weighing the pros and cons of buying unfinished v. finished, what will the configuration be, etc. Me, I'm looking to paint a bathroom and put in new mirrors...and hopefully a new floor, but beggars can't be choosers!!

We hit Home Depot and then had a delicious lunch at Baja Burrito. They are the home of the most amazing fish tacos in Nashville. Really. Don't try to argue with me because nothing can compare to them. I think that is because they are the first ones I ever had and everything else, in my opinion, pales in comparison.

Behind Baja Burrito is this cool, funky little shop full of the most amazing little finds. They have some handmade things in there and Ronda thinks we can pull together some of our own knitted creations and sell them. I'm thinking it would be fun, but I am trying to figure out where the time will come from... right now I need to finish out this busy year of teaching plus direct the drama portion of the church's Easter production AND my CHET drama class's production in May. I think I will have to wait until summer to be creative. It is fun to dream, though. Anyway, it was a fun 6 hours yesterday with Ronda. I don't often get 6 hours to just do what I want, so it was energizing and a BLAST!!

We had chicken again last night. I love chicken, so it was no big deal. Ali wanted baked chicken, so this is what we had (along with baked sweet potatoes, broccoli and garlic spinach)

BASIL GARLIC CHICKEN

6 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (or 1 per person)
fresh basil leaves
6 whole garlic cloves
olive oil
kosher salt
cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 375'. Cut each garlic clove in half through both ends (not across the middle) so you have 2 flatter pieces of garlic. Loosen the skin on the chicken and slide in a leaf of basil and the two halves of the clove of garlic. If you like it really garlicky, next time try more - but try it this way first and see how you like it. Repeat with all the pieces of chicken. Place on baking sheet, drizzle with a good drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper and roast in the oven for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

The garlic gets all soft and smooshy under the skin and adds a great taste to the chicken. If you have to make chicken for chicken salad or another casserole recipe, this is a great way to have some really flavorful chicken instead of boiling it on the stove!

Off to get ready for church this morning. It's a busy day in the Brasells' house. Hope you all have a wonderful, blessed day! Until next time, stay warm and loved, my friends!!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sticky Chicken (that isn't sticky) - It's a Wonderful and CRAZY Life!

It's been a few days, I know. Sometimes life just gets busy and I need to remember my priorities. As much as I love blogging, I know there are times when I have to get papers graded and laundry done and dinners cooked. With all of the snow we had over the last month, classes were a bit sporadic and I guess I had a little more time on my hands than usual. This week was back to the steady grind. We even had church on Wednesday night, which we had missed the previous week. It is good to be in a routine, but it reminds me how little time I actually have that is just mine to do with as I choose. Between being a mom and wife, I have to teach classes to about 120 students, most of which turn in pesky essays every week that need grading :) It is also time to start putting together both the Easter musical at church and the CHET drama performance...more on the script chosen as soon as I let the kids know ... but it is going to be lots of fun!

Tuesday night's dinner was Sticky Chicken. It is really not sticky, so I don't know how it got that name, but it is very good. When it is not on a Tuesday and I make it in the oven, I make two. This week I put it in the crockpot and came home to dinner all ready because David cooked the rice and the vegetable. It is simple and easy and delicious!! It reminds me of the rotisserie chickens that you get in the deli case at the grocery store.

STICKY CHICKEN

For each 4-5 lb. whole chicken you will need the following spices (if you are doing 2, double the amounts):
2T paprika
1 T. garlic powder
1 T. onion powder
1 T. thyme leaves
1 T. salt
1/2 T. white pepper

Combine the dry ingredients and then coat the chicken well. Place in a ziploc bag and put in the fridge overnight, or a minimum of 6 hours. Heat the oven to 250'. Place a whole peeled onion in the cavity of the chicken and roast for 5 hours, uncovered. Yes, 5 hours at 250'. It takes some time, but worth the wait. You can do the same thing on low in a crockpot. Either way, it is delicious!!

I'm on the run. Maybe some more entries this weekend...after I grade papers :)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sun Dried Tomato Couscous and the IRS

I tried to do my taxes yesterday. Honestly, I did. My first job was to figure out how much we spent in medical expenses over the last year. I opened all of the statements of benefits, or whatever they were, I even went online to the health insurance website and downloaded our quarterly reports. I guess I just don't get it. I am going to have to call someone, and that means sitting on the phone for hours listening to either someone-with-very-bad-musical-taste's choice of music or announcements about how much they value my time and appreciate my call and how I will be helped by the next available representative...blah, blah, blah. Needless to say, I didn't get very far with the taxes yesterday. How did I get roped into doing the taxes every year? Probably because I cringe at the thought of paying someone to do it for me! So Monday, Cigna and I have a date on the telephone. Unless I can figure it out before then. I will, however, get them done on Monday.

Last night I pulled "something" out of the freezer for dinner. I have no clue what it was - I think some kind of chili at one time, but I did not date it or label it and when it thawed it smelled like plastic, so I dumped it out and pulled ham out of the freezer - THAT I recognized. I am going to have to be better at dating and labeling what goes into the freezer!! We had carrots and I had 2 boxes of couscous that I decided to make along with the ham. Couscous doesn't have much flavor on its own, but you can doctor it up a little and have quite a tasty dish. It was originally "roasted garlic and olive oil" flavored, but it still needed a little kick to make it even better. Here is what I came up with.

SUN DRIED TOMATO COUSCOUS

2 boxes couscous (any flavor, or none at all - your choice)
1 small onion, minced
2 T olive oil
2 T. butter
5-6 sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil, diced
3 c. chicken stock
1 t. salt
1/2 t. freshly cracked pepper

In large saucepan heat olive oil and butter. Add onion and saute until tender and slightly golden. (If I did not have garlic flavored couscous I would probably have tossed in a minced clove of garlic or two towards the end of the cooking time here). Add the couscous and stir to coat in the onion mixture coating as much as possible. Add in the seasoning packets from the boxes of couscous and salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add in the stock and tomatoes, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and allow to steam for 20 minutes. I do not wait until it comes to a boil before reducing the heat. It will heat on its own and be nice and done. trust me on this. DON'T PEEK!! Fluff with a fork before serving. Stirring and boiling are the sworn enemies of couscous. It will become a gummy ball if you do any peeking and stirring!!

Hope you love it!! Until next time - be warm and loved, my friends!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Shepherd's Pie vs. 3 Teenaged Boys (It Wasn't a Fair Fight!)

Didn't I tell you about teenage boys yesterday?? My afternoon centered around taking 6 teenagers (3 girls, 3 boys) shopping. Insanity probably runs in my family, but we hide it well from the general public. I was smart, but not smart enough. I dropped the boys off at the mall and they had a grand time talking to strangers (some were not amused), yelling at benches (they won't be doing that again!), playing hide & seek and hanging upside down from the "inversion tables" at Sears. (David and I came up with that name. Neither one of us is really sure what they are called). They were smart (or dumb) enough to take some videos... good evidence for later, I guess. I kinda wish I had gone with them instead of the girls. I am not much of a shopper :)

The girls and I hit Target - Kami has been trying to find something to spend a $10 gift card on for a while and can't quite settle on anything. I feel another trip up there in the not too distant future. This one was trip number 4. Still left empty handed. Me, I would have hit the chocolate aisle and called it a day. Or a scarf... nah, it would have been chocolate.

Ali met us there since we were "in the neighborhood" and then we headed to TJ Maxx. Kami found a few cute things and one thing that I put the old "Mom Kibosh" on. Lord have mercy!! Honestly, one lucky shorts manufacturer out there would make a killing if they realized the apparently untapped market for modest shorts that may not come all the way down to the knee, but somewhere decently in between there and what she put on! Gracious! So the shorts were a "no-go" but a cute dress and a cute top later (plus the athletic shorts I bought for her and the washcloths for Jessica) we dropped Ali off at her truck and headed over to Kohl's. She managed to spend every last penny of her babysitting money (plus a little bit of MY money) on jeans and another top.

Next we headed to the mall, nabbed the boys, had a snack, a quick trip through American Eagle and I shuffled them out to the car - it was late and I had kids to return to their homes. David worked on dinner at home while I played taxi driver. It was nice to come home to dinner ready and waiting. It is one of our family's favorites and I am pretty sure if you don't already make it, you will, and you will add it to your regular monthly menu. It is simple and not quite like the British version, but more like what you had in the school lunchroom of your childhood. I had leftover mashed potatoes from the other day, which saved a lot of time and made it easy to throw together. All he had to do was brown the meat and make the layers.


SHEPHERD'S PIE

1 lb. ground beef (or turkey)
1 med. onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic minced
1 can cream of celery (or whatever kind) soup (low-fat works well in this recipe)
1 1/2 c. frozen corn (or 1 can) (really, any veggie works great - use what is leftover in the fridge)
1 c. shredded cheddar
3-4 cups mashed potatoes
salt/pepper

In large skillet, brown ground beef, onion and garlic until meat is no longer pink. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the cream of celery soup and heat it through. Pour this into the bottom of a casserole dish (David did it in an iron skillet last night - they do everything in iron skillets at the fire hall). Top this with the corn, then the cheese and finally top with the mashed potatoes. If you want to be really nostalgic, sprinkle on some paprika and you will feel like you are back in grade school "back in the day". Throw it in a 350' oven for 20-30 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Add a green salad and you are good to go! You can brown the meat right in the same iron skillet that you bake it in and save a dish or two!

I don't have a photo... did I mention I had 3 teenage boys in the house last night??

Until next time, stay warm and safe, my friends!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Steak Gyro Sandwiches and Tzatziki Sauce (and pictures from Greece!)

I love Greek food. I think I have said that before when I wrote about the Greek salad. One of my dreams in life, based purely on photographs, was to go to Greece. The color of the Mediterranean Sea against the rocky cliffs dotted with the white houses topped with blue domes matching the color of the sea really called to me. I was fortunate enough to be able to see that in person back in 2004, and it is every bit as spectacular and then some more. I don't think pictures can capture the depth of color and they certainly don't capture the smells and sounds and the panoramic beauty. One of our visits was to Rhodes. We rode donkeys that day (I will never do THAT again!) in Lindos up to the Acropolis (see it in the distace?) and went to the Valley of Butterflies. It was breath-takingly beautiful.

view of Lindos and Acropolis
View of Lindos and Acropolis in Rhodes

"artsy" shot
Rhodes


To see some more of the incredible shots (mostly taken by David) go here: http://community.webshots.com/user/szazzy61265

So back to the food. I had a craving for some Greek flavors. While I was grocery shopping I got a great deal on some petite sirloin steaks and had a bright idea for a great knock-off of a gyro (correctly pronounced "year-oh"). They came out quite delicious. Here is the recipe. Enjoy it!

STEAK GYRO SANDWICHES

8 petite sirloin steaks (You can use any steak you like. This is just what was on sale last week)

Marinade:
2 T. olive oil
2 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper

Combine and pour into gallon-size zip-lock bag. Add steaks, toss and refrigerate 2+ hours - turning occasionally. When you are ready to prepare dinner, grill or broil the steaks to desired doneness, allow to sit for several minutes before slicing into thin slices against the grain.

TZATZIKI SAUCE - this is vital and yummy and works as a great veggie dip or salad dressing, too. Greek yogurt is easily found now in the grocery store, produced by both Dannon and Stonyfield Farms (from Londonderry, NH - one of my best friends in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD lives there practically in the backyard of the house she grew up in and where I spent many many nights... remind me to tell you about the night her hamster slept in my hair)

16 oz. Greek yogurt (or plain yogurt...not vanilla, and certainly NOT blueberry)
1 large cucumber
3 cloves garlic
1 lemon, juiced
1 t. dried dill (or fresh up it to 1 T)
2 T. olive oil
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper

Place the yogurt in a bowl. Peel the cucumber and grate it on a box grater using the larger grate as you would for cheese, right into the yogurt. Mince, crush or microplane 3 cloves of garlic into the yogurt and add in the remaining ingredients. Whisk until well combined, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Taste before serving - you may need to add some more salt.

For the sandwiches you will need:
Pita pocket bread
cucumber, sliced thin
tomatoes, sliced thin
red onion, sliced thin
feta cheese
black or kalamata olives

In the pocket bread add your choice of vegetables, top with some of the sliced steak then top with feta, olives and a couple of spoonfuls of tzatziki sauce.

I had teenage girls eat this last night and tell me it was yummy... they are some of the best critics. Teenage boys will eat ANYTHING, so I don't usually trust their palates. The girls ate it all up, so I am satisfied that this is a keeper... plus Kami told me I needed to make it more often. So this time I am grateful for the blog so I know where to find the recipe next time :) I would love it if you would pass the blog posts on to your friends. I am really enjoying doing these on an almost daily basis and hope that you are both inspired to try new things and to cook more often for your friends and family. I would love to see some "followers" who are not my personal friends on facebook, so if you are reading this and not a "follower" sign on and follow me. Also, I love the comments when you post them. Remember, you can post as "anonymous" if you don't have an account. Just tell me who you are :)

It was 4 degrees here this morning. I love winter, really I do. I am just glad to see the sunshine. It has warmed up 20 degrees in less than 3 hours! Until next time, stay WARM and loved, my friends!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pumpkin Gingerbread - It's just that kinda day

I love winter. Really, I do. But I live in the South and we don't get Winter, we get winter... BIG difference. Apparently someone didn't tell the jet stream or whatever it is that makes weather happen. We have had 7 snow storms this winter according to Channel 4. That's a lot! It is very pretty, though, when the sun shines on it and it is all sparkly and fresh. I am, however, ready for Spring.

I need to bake. I am going to make this once I drop Kami and Emily off at cheer practice. Ella has been sick this week so she is going to hang out at the house with me and while they are tumbling around, I am going to make a batch of this bread. It is warm and so yummy. I got the recipe at the same place where I got the Santaberry Sauce that I posted back in December. I wanted to bake this several times over the course of the last year, but apparently something tragic happened to the pumpkin crop in the US and I could not find canned pumpkin to save my life until around October. I nearly had a little party in the canned fruit aisle when I saw it. I bought several cans and am building up my arsenal. You never know when you will need pumpkin bread. This is the best recipe I know. It should actually be called "Gingery Pumpkin Bread" because it is not gingerbread at all. Won't you bake some too?? It may end up replacing your favorite recipe.

PUMPKIN GINGERBREAD

3 c. sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
4 eggs
2/3 c. water
16 oz. can pumpkin
2 t. ginger
1 t. each (all ground) cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice
3 1/2 c. flour (all-purpose)
2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. salt

Preheat oven to 350'. In large bowl, mix together sugar, oil and eggs; add water. Beat in pumpkin and spices. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; add to pumpkin mixture and stir just until blended. Pour into two greased 5x9 inch loaf pans. Bake 1 hour or until bread tests done (toothpick inserted into center comes out clean). Occasionally I have to bake it a little longer.

Lemon glaze: combine 4 T soft butter with 2 c. powdered sugar and then thin with lemon juice until it is just thin enough to spread, but not too thin. Frost when bread is cool.

May your house smell wonderful, warm and sweet! Until next time, stay warm and loved, my friends!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Andrew's Fudgies - School Lunch memories

I grew up in New England - contrary to some (cough cough, Emilie), it is not a foreign country :) I had the joy of attending the local public schools. In those days they were small - not quite one room schoolhouses, but small - Memorial School housed 1st and 2nd grade and then I was in the first 3rd grade class at the brand new Peter Woodbury Elementary. It housed 3rd and 4th grades. Middle School was at McKelvie Middle School - all in Bedford, New Hampshire. I think all of the schools are still there, but I am not sure how they are being used. I do remember school lunches... Hot lunches were .40 or $2 a week. I remember milk being .05 and when I was really little, it came in glass bottles with paper stoppers. We drank it through red and white paper straws. We would get two straws because they did become soggy midway through lunch. I even worked in the cafeteria for a while in middle school. I don't remember why I did it, but I remember serving jello and bread and cake - and a wonderful dessert called Andrew's Fudgies. In the 70s, when I was a youngin', I recall Fridays being fish (or meatless) days - since the majority of the population was Catholic, that is not surprising. I also remember the government allotments of soybeans and peanut butter often found their way onto our lunch trays. It wasn't all that bad; in fact, today's school cafeterias might want to take a step back into the 70s for a lesson in healthy meals. Pizza was rare, fries were non-existent, and there were vegetables every day. Granted they were from a can, but still, they were there none-the-less!

But back to dessert - one of the most memorable items on the tray - a favorite was Andrew's Fudgies. I think it is a New England recipe. I looked it up online to see if I could find its origin and found some links to an old radio show host and some other things. All of the posts mentioned it being from New England, so that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Apparently it is also Portuguese - who knew? I found a "Provincetown [Massachusetts] Portuguese Cookbook" with the following history:
"Andrew's Fudgies
Rachel Silva White
Rachel White's friend Mary Anastasi, who was born in Portugal, obtained this recipe as a gift for her husband Andrew from a baker in Fatima. Hence the name Andrew's Fudgies. In exchange for the recipe, Mary had to give the baker all of her silk stockings as a gift for his wife, including the pair she was wearing. She flew home happy, but bare legged.
The baker told Mary that the original recipe called for one cup of oil and two or three squares of solid chocolate. He was forced to substitute cocoa and increase the oil because solid chocolate was not available in Portugal in the 1960's."
http://www.iamprovincetown.com/Cookbook/sweets/fudgies.html

My recipe card for this is old, stained, and folded in several places, so I figured I would make a more permanent copy here on the blog. Mine seems to be almost exactly the same as Mary's recipe. I hope you enjoy it!

ANDREW'S FUDGIES

2/3 c. plus 1/4 c. cooking oil
3/4 c. cocoa
2 eggs
2 c. plus 3 T sugar
2 1/2 c. flour
1 t. soda
1 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. cold water
1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. nuts (pecans or walnuts)

Preheat oven to 350'. Beat all ingredients, except for the chocolate chips, nuts and 3 T. sugar. Place mixture in UNGREASED 9x13 or 11x17 pan (the bigger the pan, the thinner the fudgies). Sprinkle with chocolate chips, nut and last the sugar. Bake at 350' for 45 minutes.

There is your chocolate fix for now! We are expecting more snow tomorrow afternoon. Yeesh! This Yankee is DONE with winter!! Until next time stay WARM and loved!!

Monday, February 7, 2011

My "Apparently Big Football Game That I Didn't Watch" Party Recipes

I am not a fan of football... so shoot me. Fortunately for me I did not marry a football fanatic. He watches the games, but I don't think he has ever owned a jersey or called a team "his". The kids also are not big sports fans. My dad watched sports. I remember even watching bowling on Saturdays, listening to the Red Sox on the car radio on the way home from somewhere... church, the Shuler's house, somewhere obviously less memorable... I remember him yelling at the TV, but somehow those genes were not passed along to me. I really could care less, don't understand the game, and don't have any allegiance, other than to the Patriots because, let's face it, New England really is The Promised Land :) I have watched very few football games in my life. Until a year and a half ago I could honestly say that I had never even watched on. Joey Keefe at church looked at me with such shock and horrified amazement when he found out that little tidbit of trivia that I thought I must really be missing something and decided that I would be come a fan. I watched a few games, even watched the BIG ONE last year. I tried, honestly I did. It didn't take. This year I was positioned so I could barely see the screen. I didn't mind a bit. I would rather talk than watch... except for the commercials and half-time.

This year I listened in horror as Christina Aguilera (or however you spell her name) totally botched our National Anthem. Really... they should have to sign a contract and pass a couple of memorization tests before they are allowed to sing that song. How can you mess it up? It really is not that long... apparently she likes the line, "What so proudly we hail at the twilight's last gleaming" more than "Or the ramparts we watch were so gallantly streaming" since she sang that twice. I guess I shouldn't knock it. I am not the one singing it in front of billions of people. I would be under the stage in a fetal position...not that they'd ever ask me to sing it, I'm just sayin'. The Black Eyed Peas were not that great either, disappointing in fact. I thought Fergie was the singer of the bunch, not the screamer. She should stick to singing.

What I do love, is the fellowship and the snacking. I made some delicious Oreo truffles and a pizza fondue. I thought I would share those recipes with you. One comes straight from Nabisco, the other from my own head, and what I can remember of the recipe that was in my crockpot's cookbook from 22 years ago, now long gone. Don't be chintzy with the cookies. Buy the real thing.

OREO TRUFFLES

1 1b. pkg. Oreos
1 8oz. block of cream cheese
16 oz. white or chocolate almond bark

In food processor, reduce the entire package of cookies to crumbs. Add in block of softened cream cheese and process until thoroughly combines. You will have a nice scoopable dough. Make this into balls. I use a small scoop, but you could use teaspoons. The point is to make them bite-sized. You should get about 48 of them. Cut up the chocolate and melt it in the microwave according to the package directions. Dip the balls into the chocolate and place on parchment or wax paper to harden. Store in airtight container in the fridge. I recommend putting a motion sensor alarm on them, too, if you want them to make it to game day :)

For the fondue, feel free to add whatever "toppings" you like and leave out what you do not like. It is very versatile. It is everything you would put on a pizza without the crust.

PIZZA FONDUE

1 lb. Italian sausage, browned
1 pkg. pepperoni, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 pkg. mushroom, chopped
2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1 28 oz. can tomato puree
1 t. garlic powder/granulated garlic
2 t. oregano
2 t. basil
2 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1 T. sugar
1 c. freshly shredded Parmesan
1 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella

Brown the sausage, put all ingredients into the crock pot, except for the cheese. Allow it to cook for 2-3 hours on high so it is really hot and the flavors meld together. About 30 minutes before serving, first stir in the Parmesan cheese, about 1/3 c. at a time. Then stir in the cheese about 1/2 c. at a time. Serve with tortilla chips or chunks of Italian bread for dipping.

I have some leftover that is going on pasta tonight with melted mozzarella on top :) Should be yummy!!

Until next time, stay warm and loved, my friends!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Summer Squash Casserole and the Daily Grammar Lesson

It's Friday. I am so glad to have made it through the week. Snow and icy weather threatens us for the next week. Wonder how much we will get and how or if it will affect the roads. We shall see!

I am pretty much a stickler for grammar and spelling; however, I am not perfect myself. I often make typos and sometimes forget to hit "spell check" before I hit "publish post" and then pay for it. It is odd that the spelling errors or typos don't show up when I skim over it, but when I hit post and then look at it, they are like strobe lights!! Most of my friends (and family) know that there are things that stick out to me and make my skin crawl. When I hear someone say, "Now, that's a whole nother story!" I have to admit it is like fingernails on a chalkboard...my kids will crane their necks to see my reaction if they are in the same room. There is NO SUCH WORD AS "NOTHER"... or is there? I looked it up. Apparently its first known use (notice the lack of apostrophe in "its" - possessive) was in 1909 - over 100 years ago. It does say that it's (contraction for "it" + "is") primarily used in speech and informal writing. I guess I can give it that. I guess I just don't understand why we feel the need to give a dictionary entry to a word that is the result of "poor English." Why can't people just say it properly... "That is an entirely different story!"

The other thing that really "chaps my hide" is that we were so beat over the head to say "she and I" that we forget that "her and me" is still proper English, too! You should say "She and I went to the store." when "I" is part of the subject of the sentence. If it is not, the word "me" may be perfectly acceptable, in fact, it is probably right! "They gave the awards to her and me." You wouldn't say, "They gave the awards to she." or "They gave the awards to I." I heard a public speaker say it wrong the other day a couple of times and I have to say, I wished I wore hearing aids so I could turn them off :)

Ok, off my soapbox for now... Summer Squash Casserole (Melissa, you have my permission to leave the cracker crumbs off of the top). When I was in college they made a casserole similar to this on the Sundays that they made fried chicken for Sunday dinner. It was one of the best things to come out of "that school," lol. This is not their recipe, which I am sure was loaded with butter and other very fattening things. But it is just as yummy!!

SUMMER SQUASH CASSEROLE

4-5 summer squash or a mix of summer squash and zucchini, sliced in 1/2-inch thick rounds
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T. olive oil
1/2 c. sour cream
1 c. shredded cheddar
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
salt and pepper

In a saucepan, heat oil and saute the onion just until it begins to soften, then stir in the squash and garlic. Add in about 1 t. salt and 1/4 t. black pepper. Cover and let it steam until the squash is soft, but not mush! Preheat the oven to 350' and grease a 9x13 casserole dish. Toss the squash with 1/2 c. sour cream and 1/2 c. shredded cheese. Taste for seasoning then spread in prepared pan. Mix together the cracker crumbs and the other 1/2 c. cheese and top the squash. Slide into the hot oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Kale Soup - The Portuguese Way

Yesterday I posted a Portuguese recipe for cabbage rolls. That is just one of the Brasells family traditional recipes, with a few little additions of my own (I can't help it). My sister-in-law, Beth, knows all about the history of the Brasells family... how they came over from the Azores, where they had migrated from Portugal to escape the Spanish Inquisition, how they changed the original spelling of their last name from Barcellos to Brasells, which family members came, who got mad at whom and never spoke to them again (I almost imagine those grandmothers of old spitting and casting an old Portuguese curse, lol)... I just have a couple of recipes. I hope those continue on in the Brasells family. Nate is the only boy of the only boy of the only boy of his great grandfather, so he is the one to carry on the family name in this particular line. He can cook - I hope he passes this one on to his children... and has a couple of boys, instead of just one :)



PORTUGUESE KALE SOUP

1 med. onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 beef soup bone, shank or other
2 t. salt
2 cans kidney beans
2 bunches Kale, cleaned well and chopped
6 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 head cabbage, shredded
1 lb. linguica, sliced
1 lb. elbow macaroni, cooked

In stock pot, place onion, garlic, soup bone and water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer until meat on the bone is cooked through. Add kale and cabbage, and return to a boil. Simmer until kale and cabbage is about half cooked, then add linguica, potatoes and kidney beans, cook an additional 30 minutes until potatoes are tender. Serve over elbow macaroni.

David likes to cook the macaroni in the soup, but for me, I do it separate. When you eat the leftovers, and there WILL be leftovers, the macaroni tends to absorb all the broth and get too mushy for my liking, so I keep them separate. Do it either way you like it. Also, I prefer to eat it up as opposed to putting this on in the freezer since freezing cooked potatoes is not a good idea either - they get all grainy.

Today is Pepperoncini Pulled Pork in the crockpot :) Doesn't that sound yummy!!
Big snow heading to the Midwest - missing us, thankfully!!
Until next time, stay warm and loved, my friends!!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Portuguese Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

My husband is Portuguese - pretty much 100%, with a dash of "Pollock" tossed in for good measure. Explains a lot, huh? :) I'm kidding - he is a great man, very hard-working, pretty smart and a good cook in his own right. They practically beg him to cook at the firehall! Anyway, because of his heritage, there are a few Portuguese recipes floating around in the family. One of them is for Cabbage Rolls. Then there is Kale Soup and Portuguese Sweet Bread. An old friend from my days in Tucson was looking for a recipe for cabbage rolls, and since my red pen needs a rest from its busy day of essay grading, I hopped on up to look for the recipe and type it up. So you get lucky today and get two awesome recipes. You can get the linguica in Kroger sometimes. It is a spicy portuguese sausage... kind of a cross between hard chorizo and pepperoni... hard to explain, but worth the find.



PORTUGUESE STUFFED CABBAGE ROLLS

1 lg. head green cabbage
1 1/2 t. salt

Stuffing:
1 3/4 lb. linguica, chopped
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 c. onion, chopped
1 c. celery, chopped
1 c. mushrooms
1/2 c. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
12 oz. can whole tomatoes, crushed and drained (reserve the liquid)

In a large pot, place cabbage in salted water. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 2 minutes or until leaves are flexible. Drain and cool.

Heat oil in saute pan. Lightly saute onion for about 2-3 minutes. Add in sausage, beef, celery, mushrooms, tomatoes and garlic and saute on medium low for about an hour stirring occasionally.

Separate cabbage leaves while filling cooks. chop the smaller leaves and stems of larger leaves and add to filling mixture.

When filling is cooked, preheat oven to 350'. In each leave, place approximately 1/2 c. of cooked stuffing. Fold two sides over stuffing, then roll up from the end. Arrange the rolls, seam side down in a well-greased casserole dish. Pour the reserved tomato liquid over all. Cover tightly and bake for 30 minutes. Serve over rice.

That's all for today!! Until next time, stay warm and loved, my friends!

Mexican Chicken Stew

Yesterday was one of those fairly relaxing Sundays. Ali was home and her friend Jessica stayed the night. They went to the cheer competition with us and then they took Kami and Nate up to see Tangled. The movie didn't start until 9:45, which happens to be about my bedtime, so I decided I would stay home. After church we had a quiet afternoon. David and Nate painted the ramps to the newly refurbished trailer that David has been working on, Kami took a nap and Ali and Jessica looked online at apartments and Westmoorland terriers. Oy! I decided to get dinner going early since I had to take the two younger ones to youth choir at 4 and needed it pretty much done so David just had to add the finishing touches before we got home to eat.

This is one of those happy disasters. I had every intention of making the Chicken Stew recipe from Christy Jordan's Southern Plate cookbook. Even got the chicken going in the pot. Then I realized that my bag of potatoes only held 2 small red potatoes - that wasn't going to cut it. Oh, and Zippy has been enjoying the daily carrot treat, so my bag of carrots was down to two, too... (haha! not sure if I have ever done that before - used all three spellings of that word in succession) So, I had to switch gears and got out another starch, a box of Quick Barley that I had bought because I wanted to try something new... and had yet to try it out. So last night was the night. I remember cans of Campbell's Beef and Barley soup when I was a child. I liked it then, so why not now. Barley is kind of like rice - a starchy grain that gets a bit puffy when it is cooked. When I started adjusting the stew recipe, I decided I would go in the "Mexican" direction with the seasonings and added beans and ended up with a very delicious stew. When I use whole tomatoes I usually take the lid off of the can and then use a serrated steak knife and stab all of the tomatoes several times so they don't squirt their juices everywhere. Then run my knife through the inside of the can to try and cut up the tomatoes a bit while they are still in the can. If I am going to cook something for a couple of hours, they will continue to break down, this just gets them started. If I leave them whole, they will just stay that way. It is a keeper recipe, for sure. I hope you enjoy it!



MEXICAN CHICKEN STEW

1 3-4lb whole chicken
2 med. onions
2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28oz can whole tomatoes
1 14 oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 can small red beans (or black if you like)
1 1/2 c. frozen corn kernels
1 c. quick barley
1 T. cumin
1 T. chili powder
2 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper

In a large pot place the chicken and enough water to cover it on high heat. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan and allow to cook on a low boil for 45 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. You know it is cooked all the way when you grab the leg and it basically falls off the chicken (grab it with tongs...boiling water is a bit rough on the hands). Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside until it is cool enough to handle and then remove the chicken from the bones (I like big pieces, as you see from the picture) and set meat aside for later. Skim as much of the fat off the top of the broth and reserve 6 cups of the broth (I put the remainder into a plastic container and freeze for future use in soups, rice, potatoes... lots of things). In the same pot heat the oil and saute the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and saute just another minute - be careful not to burn the garlic or it will be bitter and ruin the entire dish. Add in the broth, tomatoes and seasonings. Test the broth at this point to be sure it tastes good. You may need to adjust the salt and may have to add more later especially after the beans cook later. Bring this all to a simmer and cover. Allow this to simmer for about an hour then stir in the corn, beans, chicken and barley. Check the seasonings. This will need to simmer for another 30-45 minutes until the barley is soft.

I put some garlic bread under the broiler and we had a tasty stew for dinner. Plus I have some broth for something else later this week or month. With the exception of the barley, it is all ingredients that you either have or probably normally buy. I would encourage you to give it a try.

Today is an essay-grading kinda day. The couch and my red pen are both calling me. Until next time, stay warm and loved, my friends!