Friday, September 30, 2011

Crockpot Oriental Beef & Broccoli

Since we moved to Arizona, I've kept my eye out for slow cooker recipes to reduce the amount of heat coming from my kitchen. I scored this one out of the Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes. I'm always a sucker for Chinese recipes, and this dish did not disappoint. It was really easy and we enjoyed it very much. I couldn't find a "beef gravy" mix at the store, so I used a brown gravy mix packet and it worked fine. The meat turned out tender the flavors were really good. If you wanted, you could throw in a little bit of crushed red pepper flakes if you want a slight "kick" to the dish.

Oriental Beef & Broccoli

6 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium onions, cut into wedges (I used about 2 Tbl dehydrated onion flakes)
1-1/2 lbs beef round steak, bias-sliced into 1/2 inch strips
1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger (I used about 1 tsp ground ginger powder)
2 cloves garlic, minced (I used my garlic press)
1/2 c. water
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1, 3/4 oz. envelope of beef gravy mix
4 cups broccoli florets
3 cups hot cooked rice

1. In a 3-1/2 to 4 quart slow cooker, place carrots, onions, beef strips, ginger and garlic. Stir together water, soy sauce, and beef gravy mix. Pour over meat and vegetables in cooker.

2. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours.

3. If using low-heat setting, turn to high-heat setting. Stir in broccoli florets. Cover and cook 15 minutes more oruntil broccoli is crisp-tender. Serve over hot rice.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Shrimp Orzo Skillet

This dish comes from the Pampered Chef cookbook, 29 minutes to dinner. It was fast and easy, and my husband loved it- unfortunately, my boys refused to try it. Otherwise, a delicious, healthy, quick dinner!

Shrimp Orzo Skillet


8 oz. large uncooked shrimp (21-25 count per pound)

1 Tbsp. fegetable oil

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/8 tsp. sugar (it brings out the sweetnes in the shrimp)


8 oz. orzo pasta

1 garlic clove, pressed

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup clam juice (I used chicken broth)

1 lemon

1 Tbsp thinkly sliced fresh mint (I left out and sprinkled in dry parsley with the orzo)

1 cup frozen peas

1 Tbsp butter

1. For shirmp, peel and devein shrimp. Add oil to large skillet. Heat over medium-high heat 1-3 minutes or until simmering. As skillet heats, comine salt, pepper and sugar in small batter bowl; add shrimp and toss to coat (I threw everything in a ziploc baggie and tossed it that way).

2. Arrange shrimp in a single layer over bottom of skillet and cook about 1 minute or until one side is browned and edges are pink. Remove skillet from heat and turn shrimp over; let stand an additional 30 seconds or until centers are opaque and shrimp is cooked through. Remove shrimp from skillet and set aside.

3. For orzo, in same skillet, combine orzo, pressed garlic, broth and clam juice. Bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 10-12 minutes or until orzo is cooked through (there will still be sauce in the pan).

4. As orzo cooks, zest lemon to measure 1 Tbsp. and juice lemon to measure 1 Tbsp juice. Thinkly slice mint.

5. Remove skillet from heat and stir in peas, butter and lemon juice. Arrange shrimp over orzo; cover and let stand 3-5 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with lemon zest and mint before serving.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Chicken Club Pizza

My husband and I dined in on our anniversary this year, and this is what we made. We both loved it. My husband usually eats his vegetable grudgingly, but in his words, the tomato and lettuce on the top add a "nice crunch" and give it texture. I like this recipe, too, because I usually have everything on hand, except for maybe the bacon, so it's pretty easy to throw together. I made my own pizza crust instead of using store bought. If you use your own pizza dough, just make enough to cover an entire cookie sheet, or just use the topping ingredients to taste if you want to make a smaller pizza. The other thing I would suggest is that if you are going to have leftovers, leave the lettuce, tomato, and extra ranch off to be added onto the pizza as needed. That way the veggies don't wilt. This recipe came from a Kraft foods magazine.

Chicken Club Pizza

1 can (13.8 oz) refrigerated pizza crust (I made my own)
1/4 cup mayo (left this out)
1/2 cup Ranch Dressing, divided (I used probably close to 3/4 cup to 1 cup to make up for the mayo)
1-1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used cheddar)
1-1/2 cups finely chopped cooked chicken
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (don't cook it too crispy since it will also bake in the oven a little)
1-1/2 cups finely shredded lettuce
1 tomato, finely chopped (I also seeded my tomato)

Heat oven to 400*F.

Unroll pizza dough on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray; press into 15x10-inch rectangle. Bake 10 minutes. (If using your own dough, I would just roll the dough out top it as you would a normal pizza and bake it until the crust is done and the cheese is melted and bubbling.)

Mix may and 1/3 cup dressing; spread onto crust. Top with half the cheese, chicken, remaining cheese, and bacon.

Bake 5 minutes, or until crust is deep golden brown and cheese is melted. Top with lettuce and tomatoes; drizzle with remaining dressing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Blueberry Muffins

I made these muffins to use up some blueberries I had in the freezer, and I was surprised how fast my 3-year old gobbled these up. We will definitely be making these again as they make a good breakfast when paired with yogurt or milk. The recipe came from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.

Blueberry Muffins

1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 beaten egg
3/4 c milk
1/4 c oil
3/4 blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 tsp lemon zest, optional (I left this out)

Streusel topping:
3 Tbl flour
3 Tbl brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbl cold butter
2 Tbl chopped nuts, optional (I left these out)

Grease twelve 2-1/2 inch muffin cups or line with paper bake cups; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In another bowl combine egg, milk, and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy).

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full.

Combine first three ingredients of streusel topping in a small bowl. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in nuts, if desired. Sprinkle over batter in muffin tins. Bake in a 400*F oven for 18-20 minutes or until golden and a wooden toothpick inserted in centers comesout clean. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rach for 5 minutes. Remove from muffin cups; serve warm.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Guiltless Alfredo sauce

My husband really likes Alfredo sauce, but it can be very heavy and loaded with fat. Which translates to a once in a long while type of dinner. I tried this version that utilizes low fat cream cheese for a lighter version, and it was delicious! Even the critics in our house who insist they hate cream cheese ate this up. Again, this recipe came from the Our Best Bites cookbook, and I'm telling you, those ladies really know what they are doing! Thanks Kate and Sara for another wonderful recipe!

Guiltless Alfredo Sauce

2 cups low-fat milk (I used 1%)

1/3 cup (3 oz.) low-fat cream cheese

2 Tbl flour

1 tsp kosher salt (I used regular salt)

1 Tbl butter

3 garlic cloves, minced (I used 1/2 tsp garlic powder, but I'll go down to 1/4 tsp next time)

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese***

In a blender, blend the milk, cream cheese, flour, and salt until smooth and set aside.

In a large, nonstick pan, melt butter on medium-high heat and add the garlic. Saute the garlic for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly to prevent the garlic from sticking and burning.

Add the milk mixture to the pan. Stir constantly for 3-4 minutes, or until it just comes to a simmer. Keep stirring and let it cook for a few minutes more or until the sauce thickens, about 6-7 minutes.

Once the sauce has started to thicken, remove from heat. Whisk the cheese into the sauce and immediately cover the pan.

Allow the sauce to stach for at least 10 minutes before using. It will continue to thicken upon standing.

Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers for upt to 5 days. The sauce will become very thick once refrigerated. To use it, reheat the sauce and add a little milk until the desired consistency is reached.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Spicy Honey Chicken

When we made the Naan bread I posted last time, we also made this yummy chicken and used it as a filling for the bread. We also filled the bread with lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, avocados and ranch dressing. The recipe came from the Our Best Bites cookbook that I perused while visiting my mom, but it can also be found on their blog here. If you click over, at the bottom of the recipe is a link to the salad they like to use this chicken for. They say it's one of their most popular recipes, and I can see why. This is a definite winner!

Spicy Honey Chicken

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs, about 2lbs (They say thighs work best, but I used breasts and it worked fine)

2 t vegetable oil
2 t granulated garlic

2 t chili powder

1/2 t onion powder

1/2 t coriander

1 t kosher salt

1 t cumin

1/2 t chipotle chili powder (I just used regular chili powder again)

1/2 C Honey

1T Cider Vinegar

Combine the rub spices in bowl and mix well. Use kitchen shears (or a pair of clean scissors) to trim off any excess fat from the chicken pieces. Pat dry. Drizzle oil over chicken and rub in with your hands to lightly coat all the pieces. Then toss chicken with the spice rub to coat all sides well. Use your hands and get in there! Grill chicken for 3-5 minutes on each side, until cooked through.
While chicken is cooking, warm honey in the microwave so it’s not so thick. Add the vinegar and combine well. Reserve 2T honey glaze for later. Take the rest and brush on chicken (both sides) in the final moments of grilling.
I’m gonna warn you that this can make a hot mess, literally. It’s sugar, and it’s gonna drip. But the smelly smoke is worth it for a minute or two. Just leave your grill on for a few minutes after the chicken is done to burn off any excess glaze. It’s totally worth it once you taste this stuff.
If you don’t have a bbq, try it on an indoor grill pan or use your broiler. Just be sure to open a window in case you burn your glaze! Drizzle the remaining glaze over the top and serve.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Naan is an indian flatbread, similar to a pita or tortilla. These are really easy, they just require planning since they do require a rise time. We filled these with some chicken, tomato, lettuce, avocado, and red onions (we used them like taco shells). I also substituted 1/2 of the flour with whole wheat flour and it worked great! I got this recipe from my mom, who got it from the wonderful Melanie from My Kitchen Cafe.


3-4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon active dry or instant yeast

1 1/2 cups milk

1 teaspoon sugar

3-4 tablespoons, melted butter

Pour the milk into a liquid measure and heat in the microwave until warm to the touch (about 110 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer). If using active dry yeast, mix the sugar and yeast into the milk and let it sit for 4-5 minutes until the mixture is foamy and the yeast has activated. Once the yeast/milk mixture is foamy, pour the mixture into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and add the salt and 2 1/2 cups of the flour (proceed with the second paragraph of the recipe). If using instant yeast, pour the warm milk into a large bowl or the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Add the sugar, instant yeast, salt and 2 1/2 cups of the flour. Proceed as directed below.

Mix well to combine. Continue adding flour gradually in small amounts, until a soft dough is formed that cleans the sides of the bowl. Knead the dough by mixer or hand until it is smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes in the mixer or 10 minutes by hand.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and let it rest at room temperature, covered lightly with greased plastic wrap, for about 2 hours.

After the dough has rested, turn it onto a lightly floured surface (I like to use my roul’pat for this) and divide the dough into 12 equal pieces, rounding each into a ball shape. Cover the pieces with a towel and let them rest for 30 minutes. While the dough rests, preheat your oven to 500 degrees F and place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven. (If you don’t have a pizza stone, try grilling the dough on a lightly oiled outdoor grill or use a hot griddle to bake the naan – you’ll have to experiment with cooking times but I’ve seen either of those methods used with cooking naan also.)

Once the dough has rested for 30 minutes, one by one, roll each piece into a circle about 6-8 inches wide, depending on how thin or thick you want your naan. Lay the circle of dough on the hot pizza stone and spritz lightly with water. Close the oven and bake the naan for 2-4 minutes, until it is lightly puffed (some pieces will puff more than others) and brown spots begin to appear on the top. Remove the naan from the baking stone and place on a cooling rack. Brush lightly with melted butter. Stack the hot naan on top of each other as it comes out of the oven. Cover with a towel and let the naan cool completely or serve warm.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Black Bean Taquitos

I was visiting my family for a couple of weeks and my mom bought the Our Best Bites cookbook. I was flipping it through to see if there were any recipes I wanted to snag before I came home, and I came across this version of taquitos. It's the same idea as the chicken taquitos I posted before (also from Our Best Bites) but it is a bean version. To be honest, I was a little concerned that one of the ingredients was spinach. I thought, really? I don't want the earthy flavor of the spinach in a taquito, but I gave it a try anyways. I was so surprised because you couldn't taste the spinach at all! In fact, my husband, who always tries to avoid eating as many vegetables as possible gobbled these right up. We served them with salsa and sour cream, but I think they'd also be great with some guacamole. I hope you try these, they were awesome!

Black Bean Taquitos

1, 14-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tbl. bottled salsa

1 garlic clove, minced (I used a garlic press)

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbl. fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)

1, 10-oz. box frozen spinach, thawed, drained, and roughly chopped (I bought chopped frozen spinach, but once it's frozen, be sure to squeeze as much water as you can out of the spinach)

3/4 cup frozen corn kernels

1/2 cup diced roasted red peppers (I made my own and used a total of 1 whole pepper)

1 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar)

8-10 soft taco-sized whole wheat tortillas (regular flour tortillas would work)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Place 3/4 cup of bean in a food processor with the salsa, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, and lime juice. Process until mostly smooth. (I think it would be possible to just mash the beans if you don't have a food processor, or you could also use a blender) Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and add remaining ingredients (except tortillas), including the rest of the beans. Mix together.

Place about 1/4 cup of the bean mixture on each tortilla. Roll up the tortillas and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until edges are golden brown and crisp.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tuna Noodle Casserole

When I was growing up, I loved it when my mom would make tuna noodle casserole. Unfortunately, my dad isn't a huge fan of warm tuna, so it was very rare that we had it for dinner. So she taught me how to make it so I could satisfy my cravings. I remember everyone complaining about the tuna smell whenever I'd heat up the leftovers. Funny enought, my mom actually sent me a recipe recently for a tuna casserole that is a little more refined than what I used to whip up in high school and college. It doesn't use cream of soups, instead it's a white sauce base and the tuna smell and taste is very mild. This was a crowd pleaser at our house and we will definitely revisit it in the future!

Tuna Noodle Casserole

1/2 cup butter, divided
1 (8 ounce) package uncooked medium egg noodles
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced (I used 1 can of sliced mushrooms)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste
2 (6 ounce) cans tuna, drained and flaked
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375 degree. Butter a medium baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add egg noodles, cook for 8 to 10minutes, until al dente, and drain.
3. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the onion, celery,and garlic, and cook 5 minutes, until tender. Increase heat to medium-high, and mixin mushrooms. Continue to cook and stir 5 minutes, or until most of the liquid hasevaporated.
4. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan, and whisk in flour until smooth.Gradually whisk in milk, and continue cooking 5 minutes, until sauce is smooth andslightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in tuna, peas, mushroom mixture,and cooked noodles. Transfer to the baking dish. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in asmall bowl, mix with bread crumbs, and sprinkle over the casserole. Top with cheese.
5. Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until bubbly and lightly browned.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Asian Drumsticks

I was skeptical about this recipe, but since chicken drumsticks are cheap and the rest of the ingredients are pretty cheap, I figured I give it a shot. And it was great! The chicken really had a lot of flavor- but maybe a little too much cayenne pepper. We'll cut that down next time to 1/2 of the amount. But otherwise, I heard zero complaints and it gave me another recipe to throw in the mix when I have a craving for Chinese Food. We served these with fried rice and the recipe comes from the Better Homes and Gardens "Dinners for Less" magazine.

Asian Drumsticks

8-12 chicken drumsticks (about 2-3 pounds; I also removed the skin)
2/3 cup frozen pineapple-orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 Tbl soy sauce
1-1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3 Tbl packed brown sugar

Place chicken in a resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish. In a small bowl, combine the juice, soy sauce, ginger, garlic salt, and cayenne. Reserve 1/3 cup of the marinade for sauce. Pour the remaining marinade over chicken. Seal bag; turn to coat chicken. Marinate in the refrigerator for 4 to 24 hours, turning bag occassionally.

In a small bowl, combine the reserved marinade and brown sugar; chill sauce until needed.

Preheat oven to 375* F. Drain chicken and discard marinade. Place chicken in a shallow baking pan (I used a baking sheet lined with foil). Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Brush both sides of chicken with some of the sauce. Bake for 15-20 minutes more, or until chicken is no longer pink (180*F; my chicken took about 30 minutes after the initial 25- so make sure to check!), brushing twice with the remaining sauce.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Root Beer BBQ Pork Sandwiches

This was really good despite the fact that it has sweet soda in it! In fact, you can't really taste the sweetness or rootbeer flavor in the pork. It's just a juicy, tender pork roast, that is shreds wonderfully and is perfect as a sandwich filling. You could also use it in a salad or wrapped up in a tortilla with your favorite taco fillings. I used a 2-liter bottle of A&W rootbeer, but you can use cans if you want- it's just cheaper to buy a 2-liter bottle. The only adjustment I think that I'll make next time is to drain the juices from the roast before I shred it and add the BBQ sauce- the meat was just really wet and made our buns really soggy. If your roast looks dry, you could reserve the drained juices and add them back into the roast as needed to help add some moisture. And if you are concerned about the cut of the pork roast- it doesn't really matter. A cut without the bone is easiest for shredding, but even then if you roast has a bone, it should slip out pretty easy once the roast is done cooking. The recipe comes from a freezer meal computer software program called 30 Meals in One Day and it's a welcome addition to my crockpot recipes!

Root Beer BBQ Pork Sandwiches

1, 3 lb pork sirloin roast
1 cup root beer
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cups onion, wedges (about 2 small onions; I would thinly slice the onions if you are going to keep the onions in with the pork at the end)
2 Tbl garlic, minced (I used somewhere around 7-8 cloves)
2 12 oz cans root beer (about 3 cups of rootbeer)
1 12 oz bottle chili sauce

Trim any visible fat from roast. Cut roast into 4 pieces and place in slow cooker. Pour 1 cup root beer over roast. Sprinkle meat with the salt and pepper. Add onions and garlic. Cover and cook on Low for 8 to 10 hours or on High for 4 to 5 hours (Low will help the roast be more tender and easier to shred). In a medium saucepan combine root beer and chili sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Boil gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes or until mixture is reduced to 2 cups. Remove roast and onions from slow cooker. Allow to cool enough to handle. Discard broth (I didn't this time, but I will next time- the buns were soaked by the extra juices). Shred meat and combine with onions (I didn't add the onions back in). Pour root beer sauce over all. Stir to coat. Serve on buns with lettuce and tomatoes, if desired.

Directions for freezing:

Allow to cool completely. Place in freezer bag or container. For individual servings, spray a muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Fill muffin cups with meat and sauce. Cover and place pan in freezer just until frozen. Pop out and place in gallon freezer bag. Label and freeze.

To serve: Thaw and heat. Line buns with lettuce leaves and tomato slices. Add meat, onions and sauce.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Crockpot Macaroni and Cheese

Since my husband was recently accepted into optometry school in Arizona, I've been trying to come up with ways to survive the heat. One of my solutions is to try and use the crockpot more in my cooking to cut down on the amount of heat coming from my oven. So I've been on the lookout for good crockpot recipes, and I am so glad I came across this one. Macaroni and Cheese is always big around my house, and this recipe makes quite a bit. I would say that you could feed around 5-6 adults with one recipe, and that's if you serve it with sides. We had it with peas and orange jello with madarin oranges in it. Adding a roll or biscuit or muffin of sometype would also allow you to stretch the amount if needed. Either way, thanks Lynn from Lynn's Kitchen Adventures for sharing this wonderful recipe! One last thing- if you are wondering about the egg, it just helps the whole dish set up so it isn't soupy.

Crockpot Macaroni and Cheese

1 package (16 ounces) elbow macaroni
1/2 cup stick margarine, melted

2 eggs, beaten

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk

1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed cheddar cheese soup, undiluted

1 cup milk

4 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain. Place in a 5-qt. slow cooker (the ingredients will only fill the crock between 1/2 and 2/3 of the way- so if your crockpot is a little bit smaller, it would probably work, too); add margarine. In a bowl, combine the eggs, evaporated milk, soup, milk and 4 cups cheese. Pour over macaroni mixture; stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. (this will vary by crockpot, Lynn's takes about 3 hours and mine took almost 4 hours.)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dinner Crepes

In this house, we loooooove crepes. We typically have them for breakfast, sometimes for dessert, but I'd never heard of savory fillings until a few years ago. I hadn't really ever bothered to make them for dinner, though, because the only time I'd ever had a savory crepe had left me feeling gypped. Then my Taste of Home magazine came this month and there was a recipe called "Hubby's Favorite Crepes." It's got it all: chicken, mushrooms, sour cream...mmmmmmmmmmm... We had them last week, and really enjoyed them! I have my own crepe recipe, but it's ALL the way over in the kitchen and my apartment suddenly feels huge. This one is from Taste of Home as well.
1 1/2 c. milk (2%)
4 eggs
1 c. flour
1 1/2 t. sugar
1/8 t. salt
8 t. butter
1. In a small bowl, whisk milk and eggs. Combine the flour, sugar and salt. Add to milk mixture and mix well. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. Melt 1 t. butter in 8-in. pan over medium heat. Pour 2 T. butter into center of skillet. Lift and tilt pan to coat bottom evenly. Cook until top appears dry; turn and cook 15-20 seconds longer. Remove to a wire rack. 
3. Repeat with remaining batter, adding butter to skillet as needed. When cool, stack crepes with waxed paper or paper towels between. 
Note: I just use some cooking spray to spray the pan rather than melting butter, although I did start out doing it the other way. I just figure it saves on butter and it's fast. Just don't do too much or you'll get crispy edges--which, maybe, you like.
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/4 c. chopped onion
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
2 c. milk
2 t. chicken bouillon granules
1/2 t. Italian seasoning
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 c. sour cream
3 T. sherry (cooking sherry is just a low-quality red wine; dark grape juice works fine)
2 c. cooked chicken, chopped
minced parsley
1. Cook mushrooms and onion in butter; stir in flour. Add milk, bouillon, Italian seasoning and pepper. Bring to a boil. Stir in sour cream and sherry/grape juice. Reserve 1 c. of sauce to use as a gravy.
2. Add chicken and parsley to remaining sauce. Spoon filling into 15 prepared crepes (I don't think I got that many). Roll and drizzle with remaining sauce.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chinese Pork, Broccoli and Peppers

Aaah, cooking.... I am finally back on track to be cooking more frequently, which means that there might actually be more posts to read more frequently! To get back in the swing of things, I decided to give a new Chinese food recipe a whirl. This particular recipe is adapted from another library find, "Dinners in a Dash or a Dish" by Jean Anderson. And can I say, this was the BEST homemade stir-fry I have ever made! I think the reason I liked it more than the other ones is that the majority of this sauce comes from soy sauce whereas the other stir-fry sauces I've made were based on chicken broth- which is yummy, but soy sauce has so much more flavor. We will be making this again! I also think that it would be delicious with snow peas thrown in with the broccoli and peppers, as well as some bean sprouts thrown in when you add the sauce. The recipe also stated that it would be good using beef and chicken as well, which means it can be even more budget friendly because you can use whatever is on sale or whatever you have hanging around in the fridge or freezer! I love those kinds of meals!

Chinese Pork, Broccoli and Peppers

1/4 c. soy sauce

3 Tbl. chicken broth (I used 3 Tbl. water + 1/2 tsp. chicken boullion)

1 Tbl. brown sugar

2 tsp. cornstarch

3 Tbl. oil (I used olive oil, but use whatever you have)

1 lb. well'trimmed boneless pork loin, cut into 1/2" strips

1 medium onion, quartered lengthwise and each quarter thinly sliced

1 large garlic clove, finely minced (or use a garlic press)

1 Tbl finely minced fresh ginger (or 1/2 to 1 tsp powdered ginger)

1/8 to 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2" strips

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2" strips

1 to 1-1/2 c. broccoli florets

Combine soy sauce, chicken broth, brown sugar, and cornstarch in small bowl and set aside.

Heat oil in large, heavey skillet or wok over high heat. When hot, add pork and stir-fry until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Note: The pork will not be completely cooked through at this point since it will be cooked again when you add the sauce to the skillet. With slotted spoon, lift pork to large bowl and reserve.

Add onion, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, and greed and red bell peppers to skillet and stir-fry over high heat until onion begins to turn translucent, about 3 minutes.

Return pork to skillet, add soy mixture, and cook and stir just until mixture bubbles, thickens slightly, and turns clear, 3 to 4 minutes. Note: Make sure the pork is cooked all the way through before serving. Serve hot over rice or noodles.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Buttercream Frosting and Cake Decorating Tip

As promised, here is the frosting recipe I used for the birthday cake from last week as well as how I typically decorate my cakes using frosting, not fondant (And don't worry, it's super easy!). I just used a simple buttercream frosting (I used the one from Wilton, and it follows my decorating tip) and then dyed it the colors I needed for decorating. When dying the frosting, I like to use the food coloring gels you can get in the cake decorating section of the craft store because it allows the color to be more bold while using less coloring. Then I frost the entire cake using whatever color I want to be the background of my "artwork". Then I make an imprint in the frosting base using a cookie cutter or other template, like this:

To create your own template, you can draw the design on a piece of paper, cut it out, and then use that as your template, or you can find a picture in Microsoft Word's clip art or on the internet, cut it out, and then trace onto the cake using a skewer or toothpick. I have found that images with clean lines work the best. Then you can either continue cutting your template to trace the inside designs, or if you are feeling artistic, you can free hand it. Then I just pipe the icing onto the top of the cake directly ontop of the lines you created in the frosting. That way, no one will no you traced! I like to start by outlining the area before I fill it in because I feel it gives it a cleaner edge. As for piping decorative borders, I just fake it. But I'm sure you could probably find a tutorial somewhere for that. Or check out a cake decorating book from the library and practice. Here are some pictures of a couple of more cakes I made using this method:

Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened (I used butter)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approximately 1 lb.) 2 tablespoons milk

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. Yields about 3 cups of icing. If you find your frosting is too thin, add a little more powdered sugar, if it is too thick, add 1 tsp of milk at a time until it is the right consistency.

For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.

For thin (spreading) consistency icing, add 2 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk.

For Pure White Icing (stiff consistency), omit butter; substitute an additional 1/2 cup shortening for butter and add 1/2 teaspoon No-Color Butter Flavor. Add up to 4 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk to thin for icing cakes.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Golden Vanilla Cake with Strawberry Filling

I feel like such a slacker with posting here on Budget Bites, but I've been spoiled as my mother-in-law has been doing most of the cooking the last month. I did finally get a chance to try a few new recipes out when I made a birthday cake for a good friend's son's birthday last week. So I'm going to share the cake and filling recipes today, and then I'll share the frosting recipe as well as my simple method for decorating birthday cakes using frosting (I've never tasted fondant and I've never used fondant, so I stick with frosting). But just to be clear, I have never taken a cake decorating class, and I don't claim to be an expert cake decorator by any stretch of the imagination. I just have a couple of tricks up my sleeve. So I hope I can give you a little bit of courage/motivation to try to make a special cake for your next special occasion instead of forking over the big bucks for a store-bought version.

Recipe #1- The cake

This recipe came from the King Arthur Flour website and is not a light and fluffy cake. It was closer to a pound cake, but it still wasn't that heavy. I think that it is the perfect texture to stand up to a wet filling such as a strawberry filling because it resists becoming soggy. I found the recipe to be really easy to combine as long as you follow the tips listed on the recipe. What tips? Well for starters, the butter and milk should be room temperature (I also allowed my eggs to reach room temperature) and the butter should be "very soft". All that "very soft" means is that if you touch the butter gently with your finger, you leave an imprint. The original recipe suggested that if you need help warming up the butter, you can place the stick of butter in warm, not hot, water for 10 minutes. I'd just suggest setting the butter out the night before you want to do your baking, and set the milk and eggs out 2-3 hours before you start baking. I did have to adjust my baking time for a little longer, but the way to guage that for yourself and your oven is to start with the lowest baking time and checking the center of the cake with a toothpick. If it's not done, bake for 5 minutes and then check again for doneness. Repeat as needed. Also, if you have questions about what the batter should look like, visit the King Arthur website as they have a picture for each step. This recipe yields about 6 cups of batter, which will allow for approximately 1-9"x13" cake, 2- 9" round cakes, 3- 8" round cakes, or 24 cupcakes.

Golden Vanilla Cake

2 cups sugar 3 1/4 cups flour 2 1/2 teaspoons bakig powder

1 teaspoon salt 3/4 cup unsalted butter, soft (I used salted butter and decreased the salt to 3/4 tsp) 1 1/4 cups milk, at room temperature 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour your choice of pan(s): one 9" x 13" pan, two 9" round cake pans, three 8" round pans, or the wells of two muffin tins (24 muffin cups). You can also line the muffin tins with papers, and spray the insides of the papers. I like to also cut a piece of parchment paper to fit inside the bottom of my cake pans so that I don't have the bottom of my cake stuck to the inside of the pan when I remove the cake. Just trace the bottom of the pan onto a piece of parchment paper and cut out inside of the line. Place in bottom of pan and spray with cooking spray.

1- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt.

2- Add the butter and beat with an electric mixer at low speed, until the mixture looks sandy.

3- Combine the milk and vanilla and add, all at once. Mix at low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds.

4- Scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl.

5- With the mixer running at low speed, add 1 egg. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds.

6- Repeat this procedure with the second egg. Continue adding the eggs, scraping after each addition, until all 4 are added.

7- After the last egg is added, scrape the bowl once more, then beat at medium-high speed for 30 more seconds.

8- Transfer the batter to the pans of your choice. For layers, divide the batter among the pans. Smooth out the tops with an offset spatula or the back of a tablespoon.For cupcakes, scoop by heaping 1/4-cupfuls into the prepared muffin tins.

9- Bake for 40 minutes for a 9" x 13" pan; 27 minutes for 9" layers (mine took 40 minutes); 24 minutes for 8" layers, or 23 to 25 minutes for cupcakes (mine took about 30 minutes).

10- The cake is done when it's golden brown around the edges and just beginning to pull away from the edge of the pan. A toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.

11- Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a rack to cool before removing it from the pan.

Recipe #2- The filling

The request I had for the cake was to just have a normal flavor, hence why I chose the vanilla cake since not everyone is into chocolate (heaven knows why! :) But I didn't want it to be boring, so I decided a flavored filling would be good instead of the buttercream that I would normally put between layers. And since it was my first time making a cake filling, I turned to Wilton, the cake experts. This filling closely resembles jam and is not too sweet. The only change I made to this recipe is that instead of adding the sliced strawberries to the filling at the end, I pureed them in the food processor so the filling would be more smooth and the strawberries more evenly distributed. And if you end up with extra filling, it freezes well, or you could use it for the filling in crepes or a topping on pancakes/waffles or heck, you could even use it as a jam if you wanted to! This recipe makes about 2 cups of filling and can be used to make raspberry or pineapple filling as well (use 16 oz. frozen raspberries in syrup or 16 oz. can crushed pineapple in syrup in place of the frozen strawberries).

Strawberry Filling

1 pkg (16 ounces) frozen sliced strawberries , packed in sugar and thawed 1/3 cup granulated sugar 3 tablespoons cornstarch 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Drain strawberries; reserving liquid. Add enough water to liquid to equal 1 1/4 cups. In large saucepan, combine strawberry liquid, sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice; mix well. Heat and stir until mixture boils and thickens. Cool completely. Stir strawberries into the cooled mixture. Refrigerate until ready to use.

***IMPORTANT***: If using this filling between layers of cake, be sure to pipe a "wall" of frosting all the way around the edge of the "bottom" cake layer before spooning the filling onto the cake. I didn't do this the first time, and the filling got smeared with my frosting on the outside of the cake and the filling didn't look as neat and even as it did the second time around.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cheesy Baked Pasta Casserole

This was really easy to throw together and used things I keep on hand--perfect for a last-minute meal option. It's originally from Woman's Day magazine.

12 oz. bowtie pasta
1 bag (12 oz.) broccoli florets
1 T. butter
2 shallots, chopped (I used green onions)
1 pkg. (8 oz) sliced mushrooms
4 c. whole milk (I used 2% and it came out fine)
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
ground pepper
1 bag (5 oz.) baby spinach (I just threw in two or three big handfuls since I don't buy 5 oz. bags)
1 1/4 c. grated white cheese of your choice
1/2 c. grated Parmesan

1. Heat oven to 425* F. Grease a 3-qt. baking dish.
2. Cook pasta according to package. Add broccoli the last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain and return to pot.
3. Meanwhile, melt butter in large deep skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and mushrooms and saute until tender (about 5 minutes).
4. In medium bowl, whisk together milk, flour, salt and pepper. Pour into skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened (about 5 minutes); stir in spinach. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of white cheese and the Parmesan.
5. Pour sauce into pasta and broccoli. Toss to coat. Transfer to prepared baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
6. Bake until the cheese melts and is beginning to brown (about 10 minutes).

Note: As is typical with casseroles, this was better the second day. WD gives these instructions for making it ahead: 
1. After completing step 5, let casserole cool for 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
2. On the night you plan to serve it, remove casserole from refrigerator and replace plastic wrap with nonstick aluminum foil. Bake at 425* F. oven for 30 minutes; uncover and bake until beginning to brown (about 10 minutes). 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Farmstyle Spaghetti and Meatballs

This tasted great and seemed to be a family pleaser. We will be revisiting this recipe again. Thanks mom for the great meal idea!

Farmstyle Spaghetti and Meatballs

Note from the original recipe: "The sauce on this dish is not a thick and chunky sauce like many of you might be used to. It is a light, “soupy” sauce, which complements the seasoned meatballs and pasta perfectly, in my opinion!"

For the meatballs:
2 pounds ground beef
1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup Mix
1 egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used Italian bread crumbs and omitted the aditional Italian seasoning)
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning

Using your hands, combine all the ingredients until well blended. Pinch off pieces of the meat mixture and shape into meatballs. Place in a large stock pot or dutch oven, then follow remaining instructions.

For the sauce:
1, 29 oz. can Tomato Sauce
1/2 of tomato sauce can of water
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup Mix
1 pinch ground cloves (don’t skip this… it is the “secret” ingredient)

In a large bowl, stir together sauce ingredients. Add to the stock pot with the meatballs and stir. Bring sauce to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium low, place the lid on the pot, and cook until meatballs are cooked through. Depending on the size of your meatballs, this will be 30-45 minutes. (You can simmer this over low heat on your stove for a longer period of time, just remember to occasionally stir.).
Serve over 1 lb. thick spaghetti. Make sure to reserve a small amount of your pasta water and toss with your spaghetti after draining. This will help the sauce to stick to the pasta. Now, tuck your napkin in your shirt and enjoy! (I did notice that the sauce seemed really runny at first, but after I let it sit for a couple of minutes, the pasta soaked some of it up so it wasn't too bad)

45 Minute Bread Sticks

Another recipe from my mom, these bread sticks are perfect to get started before making a quick dinner such as spaghetti or soup. They come together really fast (hence the name) and are soft and chewy, plus they make a lot. I had enough plus leftovers when serving 6 adults and 2 kids (We had the spaghetti with them, and it was yummy!). You can also use whatever seasonings you want to on top. My mom used a garlic bread seasoning, but I just used garlic salt in addition to the parmesan cheese. I hope you enjoy them, too!

45 Minute Bread Sticks

1 1/2 C warm water
2 T sugar
1 T yeast
1/2 t salt
3 1/2- 4 C flour
1/4 C butter
3/4 C grated Parmesan or mozzarella cheese (I used parmesan in the can)
Johnny's Garlic Seasoning (or seasoning of choice- I used garlic salt)

1. Mix the water, sugar and yeast together in a measuring cup or in the bottom of your mixer. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
2. Add the salt and the flour, one cup at a time, until it is well incorporated. Mix on high for 5 minutes. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
3. Melt the butter and pour half of it into a jelly roll pan (large cookie sheet).
4. Place the dough in the center of the pan. Let it sit for 2 or 3 minutes. Letting the dough rest makes it MUCH easier to shape.
5. Spread the dough out flat onto the pan until it reaches all of the edges. Doing all of the spreading and cutting of these bread sticks, in the pan makes cleaning up your counter so much easier!
6. Pour the other half of the butter onto the dough. Spread it around with your hands. Sprinkle the Johnny's Garlic Seasoning all over the dough, and then the Parmesan cheese.
7. With a pizza cutter cut the dough into three rows lengthwise (I only made 2 rows), and then into about 12 little height wise rows.
8. Put the pan into a 170 degree oven for about 7-10 minutes. The breadsticks should rise about 1 inch.
9. Turn you oven up to 350 and bake for about 12 minutes, or until golden brown.
10. When they come out of the oven let them sit and rest again for about 5 minutes. Then redefine your cutting lines with the pizza cutter.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Monster Cookies

This cookie recipe came from one of my mom's good friends, Dana. Her boys are allergic to several things, one thing being wheat gluten, so she is always on the look out for gluten-free recipes. The original recipe makes A TON of cookies- in fact so much that even when I quartered the recipe, it made 7 dozen cookies! I made normal sized cookies, but there are instructions for the recipe for making cookies that are the size of a saucer. So just remember, the recipe I have below is 1/4 of the original recipe. The only other thing I want to add is that you could add in raisins or nuts, too, if you wanted. We hope you enjoy this recipe as it is now one of our favorites!

Monster Cookies

3 eggs
1 c. sugar
1 c. + 2 Tbl. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1-1/4 c. peanut butter (I used creamy, but you could use crunchy)
scant 2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. vanilla
4-1/2 c. oatmeal
1 c. plain M&M'S®
1 c. chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)

In a very large bowl, mix ingredients in order given. Make sure the dough is mixed well. Drop on a cookie sheet about 5 cookies to a sheet with ice cream scoop and flatten. Or use a regular cookie scoop and flatten slightly for smaller cookies. Preheat oven to 350* F (175* C). Bake for 12 minutes for larger cookies and 9 for smaller . These burn easily so don't overcook. Makes about 20-30 saucer size cookies or 7 dozen regular size.

Note: This recipe does not call for flour.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tatertot Casserole

I decided that I'm going to only be posting when I have something to share that I want to share. I don't really like the pressure of posting frequently just to have posts up. It makes me feel like I have to post whatever I make, even if I don't completely love the recipe. Plus I'm only cooking 50% of the time since I'm living with my in-laws. So sorry if posts are a bit more sparatic.

Anyways, this recipe comes from my MIL Schenk Family cookbook. I never had tatertot casserole before I lived with my inlaws, but when my MIL cooked it for dinner one night, I fell in love! (In fact I had a craving for it during the last couple of weeks, so I finally made it for dinner last night!) In the cookbook it was titled "Finicky Kids Casserole", so obviously this was someone's solution to getting their kids to actually eat their dinner. It can be a little on the saltier side (but not super bad) so I would use low sodium soup to help cut the salt. Something that I'll try next time is instead of layering the ground beef, tatertots and soups, I am going to mix them up together and then add the cheese on top. The reason being just that when I made it, the cream of chicken soup didn't go all the way to the meat and so the meat didn't really "stick" to the rest of the casserole (Plus it would make it less noticeable if I were to reduce the ground beef to 1 lb.). Also, you could probably use whatever cream soups you have on hand. I was thinking it might be fun to try a cream of celery with a cream of mushroom. However you make it, I hope you enjoy this too!

Tatertot Casserole

1-1/2 pounds ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large pkg. tatertots (My package was 32 oz.)

2 cans cream of chicken soup, undiluted

1-1/2 c. cheddar cheese, grated

1 pkg. Lipton Onion Soup

Brown beef and chopped onion; drain well. Spread in a 9X13" pan. Sprinkle onion soup mix over beef. Evenly distribute tatertots over onion. Spoon soup over potatoes. Sprinkle cheese over top and bake for 35-45 minutes at 350* F (I baked mine for a little more than 45 minutes and it was perfect. Just make sure the casserole is warm all the way through and that the tatertots aren't raw.)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pear Scones

I made these this morning for breakfast. They're quick and easy and only use one pear--which makes them great in my book! (I like having pears to eat fresh too!) I found this off of

1 3/4 c. flour
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/3 c. butter, chilled
1 egg
1/2 c. half-and-half
1 chopped pear

1. Preheat oven to 375*.
2. Sift together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly texture. In separate bowl, whisk together egg and half-and-half. Add to the flour mixture until combined. Stir in pear.
3. On lightly floured surface, turn out dough. Pat down until it's about 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick. Cut into triangles or rounds and place on ungreased baking sheet.
4. Bake until golden brown (about 15 minutes); rest briefly on a cooling rack before serving. Serve with butter and honey or any jam.

Note: Instead of half-and-half, I used evaporated milk, which, by the way, you can make from dry milk by mixing together 2/3 c. with 3/4 c. water. (Makes 1 cup.) I also added chopped walnuts. They were really good!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Marinated Pork Chops

We made these for dinner last month and I've been meaning to post them because they were sooo good! In fact, my almost-1-year-old picked all the meat out of his dinner and ate it before he ate anything else. The recipe comes from a family friend that gave me the recipe at my bridal shower a little over 3 years ago. I did grill the chops, but you could also bake them (since I know not everywhere has weather condusive to grilling in the middle of winter!). I would probably bake them at 375*F for about 45 minutes- I'm guessing at the time. Just make sure that the juices run clear and the meat is cooked through. Or if you are a broiler pro (I am not) you could also broil the chops. However you cook them, these will be sure to please!

Marinated Pork Chops

4 boneless pork loin chops (you could use any cut of pork chop)
1 cup apple cider
2 Tbl brown sugar
1 Tbl Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp garlic powder

Mix the marinade together, add the chops and marinate 4-6 hours. Bake till juice runs clear or grill!
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