Thursday, September 25, 2008

Risotto Attempt #2

Awhile back I decided to try my hand at risotto. It seemed to be all the rage around the foodie blog-o-sphere and I thought I would give it a whirl. I know risotto takes some time, so I set aside a Sunday afternoon to make it. The result was not so stellar. It was soupy & crunchy, a combination I do not like.

As the great grocery store boycott continues, I have to find meal ideas with what I have in the house. What do I find in the back of my pantry? Well a whole container of risotto rice. I thought, ok I will try it again. After my last post I had gotten a few pointers and thought I would be successful. I used Giada's basic recipe, but I cut it in half. I was serving this with salmon and I knew I didn't want any leftovers.

I didn't brown the rice as long as I did last time and this time I added very little broth each time. It turned out much better. Still a little crunchy but from what I have read, that is how risotto is supposed to be. So maybe I just don't like risotto.

Besides the risotto, I had roasted salmon in the oven in a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. Since I had quite a few tomatoes leftover, I roasted those as well.

I used roma tomatoes cut in half, drizzled with olive oil & seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh rosemary. They roasted for about an hour.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tortilla Soup with some Twists

This recipe is from quite some time ago, I just hadn't had a chance to blog about it. As I mentioned in my garden post, I made chicken tortilla soup with some of the tomatoes we had. To be real honest, I have no idea what recipe I used or how much of what I put in the soup. I am sorry, for two reasons, it was really good and now I have no idea how to make it again. I do know that I used a lot of leftovers for the soup, so I wasn't wasting any food in the house.

I believe this is what I had in the fridge:
Leftover Fajita Chicken
Leftover peppers & onions from the fajitas
Tomatoes from the garden
two ears of corn
garden salsa peppers from the garden
tomato juice
can of Ro-tel w/cilantro
chicken broth
Somehow I made very good soup. I froze most of it for later in the season. I did blanch the tomatoes to create my diced tomatoes, minus the skins, which is what took most of the time. I had some ambition to make my own chicken stock, but wussed out & decided to clean and reorganize my kitchen cabinets.
I saved one cup of the soup for me to have for lunch the day I made it. Since I was wiping down the fridge, I came across a little leftover mexi-rice. So I placed that in the bottom of my soup bowl & topped it with the simmering tortilla soup. Sprinkle with cheese and serve. It was so good! It was like a Mexican Rice Soup or something.

I felt good since I didn't waste anything in the fridge & I got about 6 lunch size servings out of it.

Apples for everyone!

Last time we visited my mother-in-law she had about ten 5 gallon buckets of apples in her kitchen. She had gotten them from a friend's orchard, so we picked up a bucket & brought it home with us. I finally had time, after all the garden work, to get a handle on the apples.

I wanted to bake with some of them, but I also know that come November & December, fresh apple pie would be delicious. Plus it will make my house smell good too! I believe the apples were McIntosh, which is a good thing, since my Hubs likes these the best when cooking. McIntosh & Cortland lose their texture as you bake them, making the mushy. He apparently loves this. Granny Smith & Jonathon keep their shape & texture making them more crisp. Its a preference thing, so pick whatever kind you like the best.

I found these on Good Things Catered & decided to make them to bring into work. These were very good & super easy to make. They kind of tasted like a cinnamon apple blondie. Our co-workers loved them, and b/c they have apples in them, they were a great morning snack. At least that is what I told them ;)

Apple Spice Cookie Bars

2 c. plus 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
small pinch ground cloves
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 apples, cored and diced (a little less than 2 c.)
cinnamon sugar for sprinkling

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 9x13 pan with foil and baking spray.
-In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves.
-Whisk to combine well and set aside.
-In bowl of stand mixer, combine sugars and butter and beat on medium high until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.
-Add eggs, one at a time, beating well to combine.
-Add vanilla extract and beat to combine.
-Turn mixer on slow and fold in flour mixture a little at a time until just combined.
-Fold in apples.
-Spread mixture evenly into prepared pan and sprinkle top generously with cinnamon sugar.
-Place in oven and bake until cooked through, when top slightly bounces back to the touch, about 30 minutes.
-Remove from oven and let cool completely before removing from pan, cutting and serving. (bars will be very soft)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tater Tot Casserole

My husband is born & bred Midwest. He loves steak & potatoes, a dish isn't a meal unless it has meat & his favorite foods are any kind of casserole. Since I am attempting to stretch our dollar & make some simple quick meals, Kraft Food Family has come in handy. Some of the meals I'll be making are not my norm. They will be casseroles & simple things, yet still tasty.

First up was tater tot casserole. The hubs found it entertaining that I had never made this before, yet I can make fettuccine alfredo from scratch. He said he usually makes it with just green beans & not mixed veggies. I think its because he only likes green beans.

Tater-Topped Casserole
Kraft Food & Family
1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 can (10-3/4 oz.) condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/4 cup milk 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
1 cup KRAFT Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 lb. (1/2 of 32-oz. pkg.) frozen bite-size seasoned potato nuggets

HEAT oven to 375ºF. Brown meat with onions in large skillet, stirring occasionally; drain. Spoon into 2-qt. casserole dish.

MIX soup and milk; pour over meat mixture. Top with layers of vegetables, cheese and potatoes.

BAKE 45 min. or until potatoes are golden brown and casserole is heated through.

This is super easy, you can keep all the ingredients on hand & they won't go bad, plus you will have some leftovers.

Been Busy

I realize I haven't been posting lately and for that I apologize. The hubs and I are preparing for a trip to Ireland and have been spending most of our free time doing research. On top of that, work has been crazy busy as people realized the summer is over and there are only 3 months left of 2008.

I have been cooking & prepping & gardening. I don't have many pictures, as some of the things I made are in the freezer waiting for a cold winter day. Good thing we have a deep freeze, because there would be no room for all these goodies.

To lead off, we'll start with the garden. KC has seen some crazy weather over the past few months. Our tomato plants become diseased and due to all the rain, the hubs was unable to save them. So we harvested as many tomatoes as we could & pulled them out. Good bye tomatoes! I ended up making chicken tortilla soup,
tomato basil soup, tomato sauce & quite a few bags of diced tomatoes. I think I ended up with about 6 bags of 32 oz diced tomatoes, 4 bags of 16 oz tomatoes, 2 containers of 32 oz tomato sauce, and probably 5 containers of 24 oz marinara sauce. Oh and I can't forget the 25+ jars of salsa we made. The tomatoes were good to use this year.

Our pepper plants grew as tall as the tomato plants. Unfortunately, a round of heavy storms plummeted KC & the plants perished. Most just lots some limbs, but one green pepper plant broke in half. I just sliced the poblanos and green peppers & placed them freezer bags. My mother in law bought us one of those
Reynolds Vacuum seal things. It rocks!

Our basil plant also perished in the storms. It split right in half. I harvested as much as I could handle within a two hour time frame & called it quits.

On a more positive note, the hubs planted another squash & zucchini plant. They are starting to sprout produce. Who knows what I will do with this stuff.

Hopefully I can post pictures of some of the things I have made soon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fall-like weather

Kansas City has been feeling some fall-like weather the past few days. Some rain, some sun, but over all cool days. I am a summer sun gal. I love the sun, I love the warmth. I think part of this is because I am always cold. But while I love the summer, I enjoy the foods of fall so much more. Chili, soups, chowders, casseroles, slow cooker meals & baking of course.

So of course I jumped at the opportunity to make chowder over the weekend. I really wanted a soup & salad. That's it. That is all I have wanted for the past 4 days. But we had so many leftovers, I felt guilty eating out.
I checked my fridge to see what I had to make a soup. I needed to use some ears of corn & with my handy dandy corn scrapper thingie, I thought, corn chowder!

I based my recipe off of a few recipes, so this is sort of my own.

Corn Chowder
4-6 ears of corn
4-5 potatoes
1 bunch of green onions
4 cups of chicken broth
2 1/2 cups of milk
2 1/2 Tbsp flour
salt, pepper & garlic powder

Boil your ears of corn, then strip corn off the ears.
Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into bite-sized diced pieces.
Place potatoes, chopped green onions & chicken broth in a large pot or dutch oven.
Bring to a boil. Cover & simmer for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Add corn.
In a separate bowl, mix the milk, flour & seasonings. Add to the potato mixture. Stir continuously until bubbly. Reduce heat & continue to cook until it is at the thickness you like.

Now you can add bacon or chicken to this as well. I just wanted a vegetarian soup.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fajitas & Football!

After the heavy dinner we had earlier this week, I needed to make something a little more healthy & light.
The hubs signed me up for a fantasy football league and I have become obsessed. Seriously, in one week I have a serious problem. And it doesn't help that Tom Brady was my QB. Man Tom! I used to really like you.
Anyway, onto my food. I decided fajitas & football sounded good and easy. I found a recipe for a fajita marinade on I usually just buy the packet, but realized I have all of these spices in my house. Being that it was a Paula Deen recipe, I knew it would be great!

Gold Medal Sizzling Fajitas
Paula Deen

1/4 cup vegetable oil, divided
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Dash hot sauce (I used cayenne pepper in place of the the hot sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds meat (boneless, skinless chicken breast, skirt steak or peeled and deveined shrimp)
1 medium onion, halved and sliced lengthwise
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
8 (8-inch) flour tortillas
1 lime, juiced, for topping
Sour cream, for topping
Salsa, for topping
Guacamole, for topping
Cheddar cheese, shredded, for topping

In a heavy duty resealable plastic bag, combine 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, hot sauce, salt, pepper and your choice of meat. Seal and toss the bag around to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator. *Cook's Note: 15 minutes for shrimp, 20 minutes for chicken and 1 hour for skirt steak.
Preheat your cast iron servers in a preheated 400 degree F oven for at least 20 minutes, to get a good sizzle when you plate the fajitas. I don't have these fancy skillet things.

Heat the outside grill or a large indoor grill pan to medium-high heat. Remove the meat from the marinade and place it on the hot grill, discard the marinade. Cook chicken until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side, skirt steak about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare and about 2 minutes for shrimp. Slice the chicken and steak into strips if you are using.

In a large skillet heat up the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and fry the onions and bell peppers until crisp-tender with some salt and pepper.

Wrap the tortillas in foil and warm them in the oven with the servers for 15 minutes.

When you are ready to serve, remove the cast iron servers from the oven and quickly arrange the meat and peppers and onions on it. It will immediately start to sizzle from their fat and moisture. Serve sizzling immediately with the warm tortillas and other accompaniments. I just served them on plate.

A few changes, I used green peppers, onions & mushrooms. They were so good & just the light meal I was looking for. I served them with the infamous mexi-rice.

Sweet Potato Fries

I had every intention of baking these do I could have a healthier version of fries. Only every time I try to make "Oven Sweet Potato Fries" they end up like roasted sweet potatoes.

So I threw caution to the wind & deep fried them. I sure hope you were sitting down b/c that can be a lot to handle. Now I didn't use the Fry Daddy, that thing is buried in a kitchen cabinet behind many of the other kitchen gadgets I use all the time , like my toaster oven, mandoline slicer, etc... I just pan fried them. I used my candy thermometer to get the oil to the right temperature & tossed the cut potatoes in for about 5 -7 minutes.

Now I like my fries crispy & well these were not. They were good, just not as crispy as I would have liked them to be. I seasoned them with Lawry's Salt Seasoning. They were a nice addition to our ribs & green beans.

Slow Cooker Ribs

Earlier this summer I bought 2 giant slabs of ribs at the grocery store. They were on sale & the hubs said he wanted to smoke them. Well I went to the store alone & was like "Man these things are HUGE". But, having zero experience with smoking ribs, I tossed the pack in my cart & went on my way.

So I get home, unload the car & show the ribs to the Hubs. He says "oh wow. Those won't fit on the smoker." Um great. Good thing I had room in the deep freeze. And there they sat, since June I would guess, until last Monday. Over Labor Day weekend, I actually remembered to pull them out to let the defrost. I went on a search for a slow-cooker/crock-pot recipe. Two of my friends had a pretty simple recipe.

Some type of rub
beer or coke
slow cooker
BBQ sauce

On Sunday night, I cut the ribs into manageable pieces & rubbed them down. Then let them marinate over night. Before I came into work, I pulled out my crock pot, filled it up with ribs & one can of beer. Set it to cook for 4 hours on low. Only, I still had about 15 ribs left in my bag. Good thing I had ANOTHER crock pot. So I dumped the ribs in there with whatever leftover flat coke I had in the fridge & set it on low for the day.

When we got home from work I had success! (Which makes me like 2 for 5 on slow cooker recipes.) According to my friends, I needed to heat the oven to 325F. Take the ribs out of the slow cooker & baste with BBQ sauce on a cookie sheet. Place the ribs in the oven for 10 minutes per side.

These were soooo good! The meat was falling off the bone as I was trying to use my tongs to get them out of the crock pot. I had to use a spatula to get them off the cookie sheet. The coke ones were sweeter than the beer ones and I liked the taste more on those, but the beer ones had better meat texture.

Now the only problem I have is that I only have 2 people living in my house. That's a lot of ribs!