Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Crepes, Breakfast

I actually made these last month but never got around to adding the post.. so here it is!

I grew up with crepes. Every birthday, mine or my siblings, was almost always kicked off with a humongous crepe breakfast cooked up by my dad. Also whenever we had friends sleep over he'd make crepes as a special treat... which between 8 kids was just about every Saturday! So of course I had to master the crepe art myself. These little babies are so versatile. You can make them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizers, etc.. and they are always delicious. If made right anyway. Which I've come to find out that a LOT of people are skeptical about how easy they are to make. You can even buy pre-made crepes which I giggle at but I'm not surprised. I mean, there's even pre-made Peanut Butter & Jelly these days, right? The most difficult thing about crepes is the pour and the timing so I've included a video to demonstrate the proper way to make a crepe. Enjoy!

Breakfast Crepes
2 cups flour
6 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract (I always use almond)
1/3 cup melted butter or oil (I usually use olive)

1. Crack eggs into a large mixing bowl. Add sugar, flour and salt and mix until smooth. Mixture will be fairly thick at this point. Add milk and extract. Whisk vigorously until smooth. Add oil. Mix again. Drop by 1/4 cup into pre-heated hot pans. Cook each crepe about 10 seconds. Flip and cook an additional 5-10 seconds. Repeat. Serve warm with fresh fruit or syrup rolled into the center of each crepe. My favorite toppings include: fresh berries with vanilla yogurt, applesauce, mandarin oranges. Feel free to use whatever is your favorite!

Peach Syrup

A couple of weeks ago I bought a half a case of peaches with my Bountiful Basket. They were rock hard when I brought them home so naturally, I set them out on the counter to ripen… and forgot about them! Within a couple of days (probably because it’s been so hot!) they ripened to the point of mush. They still tasted good but they were too soft to bottle traditionally and I knew we’d never be able to eat them all before they would go bad. So to Josh’s delight (my 15-year-old) I made syrup. This kid LOVES syrup (evidenced by the syrup to pancake ration every time he eats breakfast).. Which means we can always use more syrup in our food storage!

First, wash and peel the peaches. These peaches were so ripe I only had to dunk them into hot water for a few seconds before the peel practically melted off. Huge timesaver! I also just used my fingers to break them apart and remove the seed. They were so ripe they offered no resistance so no knife needed! Another time saver. Once the peaches were all de-seeded and peeled, I mashed them thoroughly (again I used my hands- it was fun!- but you can use a food processor or a masher if you’d prefer) and added them to two large pots. Each pot’s ingredients were as follows:

Peach syrup

5 cups pureed/mashed peaches
10 cups sugar
¼ cup lemon juice
1 Tbsp butter (this helps keep mixture from getting too foamy- I don’t recommend going without it!)

Heat mixture over med-high heat until it reaches a full rolling boil. Boil 3-5 minutes then pour into prepared hot quart-sized mason jars. Wipe rims clean and seal with lids just until finger tight. Each pot makes about 3 ½ quarts. When jars are filled, lower into a water bath canner. Process 25 minutes (15 minutes for lower altitudes). Remove jars from canner and allow to sit undisturbed in a draft free area for 12-24 hours. Check each bottle for seal, remove lid and wipe clean before storing.

To peel peaches:

Heat a pot of water to boiling. Drop washed peaches into boiling water, 3-4 at a time. Allow to return to a boil (about 1 minute) then dunk hot peaches into a pot of icy water. Peel should slip right off of the peach at this point.

Squash Cookies, Squash bread, Squash cake

Multi-purpose Squash batter

2 cups cooked and mashed butternut squash (or pumpkin puree)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup white sugar
¼ cup dry powdered milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 cup chocolate chips
½ cup chopped walnuts

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, white sugar, salt and spices. In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix together milk, egg and butter. Stir in squash. Fold the squash mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened.

For muffins:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease a 12 cup muffin pan. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan, filling cups about 1/2 full. Bake 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from muffin pan and cool on a wire rack.

For cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch cake pan and sprinkle the bottom of the pan with granulated sugar. Pour batter into pan. Bake 40-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Cool and frost with cream cheese or chocolate frosting.

For cookies:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Drop batter by tablespoon onto lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake 12 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet and cool on a wire rack.

For bread:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 large bread pans and sprinkle bottoms of pans with granulated sugar. Pour batter into each pan until it is about ½ full. Bake 1 hour 15 minutes. Check for doneness at about 1 hour. A toothpick inserted into the center of the bread should come out clean when bread is done. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely before slicing.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bedroom Progress

OK, so the cat is out of the bag. I'm worthless when it comes to keeping secrets.. which I guess is a good thing as far as marriage goes, right? The first thing that Mike told me when I disclosed my refurbishing plans with him? "No your not." hahaha! See, the thing you have to understand about my honey is that he despises do-it-yourself-Home-Depot style furniture and decor. And while I always strive to do my best, sometimes I fall a bit short of professional. Just sometimes though. ;) He likes a clean, professional look. Wood should be stained, not painted. Walls should only be painted by a licensed professional. Etc, etc. Lucky for me though, Mike's a good guy and is allowing me to indulge in my divine design dreams. He even offered to buy us some brand new furniture (I think in an attempt to avoid the second-hand-Other-Man's-Trash look). But I wanted to try my hand at this design stuff so I'm plowing ahead without new things. I figure if it turns out awful, I can always sell it to somebody else, right?
I have an old set of drapes that have been floating around my house for a couple of years so I played with the idea of an apholstered headboard. I even taped it to the wall to see how it would look. It's this picture that made me decide our bedspread has got to go. It's a little too grandma for my taste. So I went fabric shopping for a new quilt..
Quilts are awesome because it allows you to use up some scraps. I didn't have quite enough laying around so, yes, I bought more scraps. But this is seriously the cheapest way to buy fabric. A friend of mine also gave me some of her extra fabric that matched my color scheme (thank you!) and I even cut up an old sheet to make up the difference. Ever stop to think about how much fabric goes into a king-sized quilt? A: Lots!

I was lucky enough to find the perfect headboard for a mere $30 in our local classifieds. Yay! Turns out all I'll need to make it work for our room is some touchup markers (for the wood) and a couple of screws. Cheaper than my fabric headboard idea even with free fabric and free plywood.

And I even found some nightstands, also in good condition, for $25 a piece. I haven't decided yet if I will paint them. I know Mike hates that idea, but I've always wanted to try it...

Anyway, so far I have spent $86 on bedroom improvements and the only thing left to buy is paint. I think... But now to get to work and make it all function in our space. Wish me luck!

Oh, and by the way... since this is a food blog... Payday was actually last Friday, but I've been holding out going to the grocery store until I had to. My man's gotta have his orange juice, afterall. This month's grocery list is SO short! Here's what's on the list this month:
orange juice
ziplock freezer bags
short-grain rice
Bountiful Basket x2
salt for the water softener
The rest of our "groceries" will come from our freezers and food storage this month. In fact, I can probably live off of my pantry and kitchen freezer alone this month so it will be good to use some things up. I have several prepared meals, leftovers, mixes, side dishes and more all waiting to be used. I figure this will be good practice for me. We can always use practice when it comes to using our food storage, right?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Grilled Veggies

I cooked some of these vegetables on the fire last night, but because we had SO much to cook, I threw several packages of veggies on the grill as well to save time. You can put just about any vegetable (or fruit) into these foil packets before grilling. I'll just tell you what I put into ours. They really turned out great!

Grilled Veggies

1 Tbsp butter
1/2 Tbsp Mrs. Dash type seasoning (I used Bragg)
1-2 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
about 5 asparagus spears
1 large carrot, cut into chunks
1 stalk of celery, cut into chunks
1/4 cup onion, cut into chunks
1/2 small zucchini, cut into large chunks
    (Summer squash cooks quickly so be sure to cut them bigger than the other vegetables)
1 Tbsp Miso

Cut a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil. Arrange vegetables in the center of the foil. Be sure you have enough foil on either side of the vegetables to fold completely over vegetables so you can be sure to get a tight wrap. Sprinkle miso over vegetables followed by Mrs. Dash. Add a pat of butter to the top of the pile and fold foil over, completely enclosing vegetables in a tight package. Heat grill to about 500 F. Arrange foil packets in a single layer on grill and close lid. Grill 10 minutes. Turn packets and grill an additional 8-10 minutes. If wrapped tightly, vegetables will stay hot for up to an hour giving you plenty of time to finish cooking your meal before serving if necessary.

Grilled Lime & Pepper Chicken

I know you all are wishing you could live at my house about right now. It's ok to admit it, I hear it all the time. We don't always have meals like this one, but we were entertaining some guests yesterday so I had to show off my skills. You know how it is... :)

Grilled Lime & Pepper Chicken


1/2 Tbsp ground pepper
1/4 cup Lime juice (juice from about 1 large lime)
1 clove minced garlic
1/4 cup finely diced chives
1/4 cup miso or soy sauce
2 Tbsp Olive Oil

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

In a small bowl combine the marinade ingredients. Remove the tenders from the underside of each breast (save for another use). One at a time, place each breast, smooth side down, between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound to an even 1/4-inch thickness. Place chicken in a large zip-top bag and pour marinade into bag. Place bag in a bowl and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. Remove from refrigerator about 5 minutes before grilling. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat. Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the chicken, smooth side down with the lid closed as much as possible, until no longer pink, 3-4 minutes. Turn over and grill just to sear the surface, about 1 minute. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter or individual plates.

Fire Pit Salmon

This is one of my very favorite ways to eat salmon. It's so delicious!
Fire Pit Salmon

8 oz salmon fillet, 1/4 inch thick
2 Tbsp Miso (or soy sauce)
2 Tbsp fresh squeeed lime juice
about 1 Tbsp Lime or Lemon pepper

First of all you must make a large fire so you'll have plenty of hot coals at cooking time. It usually takes about 30 minutes for me to get my fire ready. About 10 minutes before cooking time, prepare salmon as follows: Sprinkle miso and lime juice all over both sides of salmon. Sprinkle lemon pepper all over both sides. Wrap fish tightly in heavy duty aluminum foil. When coals are ready (they should still be red hot but without flames) place the foil wrapped salmon on a bed of coals about 2-3 deep. Cook for 6 minutes, flip foil package (be sure to use heat proof gloves) and cook an additional 3-4 minutes.

Rasberry Lime-Aid

Ok, yes this is a Christmas cup.. but I like to think of snow when it's baking hot outside. I also like to drink ice cold Rasberry Lime-Aid. So refreshing!

Rasberry Lime-Aid
1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (about 4 large limes)
1/2 cup sugar, honey or agave (I used agave)
1 cup pureed fresh rasberries
about 5 cups cold water

Combine ingredients in a 2 qt. pitcher. Serve ice cold in frosted glasses or mugs.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Larb (similar to Chinese chicken wraps)

I LOVE Thai food. It's one of my favorite things. In fact when my hubby and I got out he has to wrestle me to get me to go anywhere other than my favorite Thai Village. Yum! Unfortunately, I can't go there every day so I've been experimenting with my own Larb (pronounced Lob) which is a Thai Salad. I don't know whether to call this recipe Larb yet.. it's not quite there. But it was still a hit at our family barbecue tonight.
1 large carrot, shredded
1/4 cup diced chives, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
1 hot banana pepper, diced
zest of one lime
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1 lb ground turkey or chicken
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
1 tsp sesame oil

Chop all vegetables. Preheat large skillet to medium high heat. Add oil and meat and cook until no longer pink. (Meanwhile make sauce.) When meat is cooked, add vegetables and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Pour sauce over all and chill. Serve cold over a bed of lettuce. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp (or to taste) green curry paste
2 Tbsp Agave (or honey)
juice from one lime
1 large garlice clove, minced
soy sauce or aminos to taste

In a small pan combine ingredients. Cook on medium heat to incorporate flavors. About 2-3 minutes. Set aside to pour over filling. Can make a double batch and serve some on the side with your salad.

Pineapple Mango Salsa

Pineapple Mango Salsa

1 large mango
2 cloves garlic
1 red onion
1 small pineapple
1 bunch cilantro
1 red bell pepper
1/4 cup rice vinegar

Dice produce and combine in a large bowl. Drizzle vinegar all over and mix until well combined. Serve with tortilla chips or spoon over grilled salmon or chicken.

Chicken Parm Pasta

While cleaning out my freezer I found a couple of cooked, breaded chicken breasts that needed to be used.

A few months ago I cooked several and froze them for easy chicken parmesan (which I did make a couple times) but apparently I didn't use them all. They weren't enough to make a meal with on their own, so I diced the chicken and added some home-made marinara sauce (also in my freezer) and served it over pasta. We topped it with some parmesan cheese and had corn on the cob on the side. A perfect meal. Nobody complained and everybody left the table full. And best of all? It only took about 20 minutes to put it all together!

Chicken Parm Pasta

2 pre-cooked breaded chicken breasts, diced
4 cups marinara sauce
1/2 lb pasta, cooked and drained
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (although the green can will do in a pinch)

Combine chicken and marinara in a 2 qt. saucepan and cook until heated through. Serve over hot noodles with parmesan sprinkled on top.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Another Payday...

Ok, so this post may not have much to do with food, but it goes along with this month's plan. Today is payday again and of course, I'm changing how we do our food budget... again. Here's why:
Believe it or not, this is my bedroom. Looks cozy, right? I happen to be married to a man who is in love with white and simplicity. Why paint when we'd just have to paint again in 8-9 years? Why buy new furniture when we have a a perfectly functional 1970's dilapidated ugly old dresser.. and who needs a headboard anyway? It does nothing for the functionality of the bed. Grrr! I don't hate anything or anybody in this life. I really don't.. but I'd have to say I'm pretty darn close to absolutely hating my room. It took me almost 6 years to finally get paint in our kitchen and livingroom. The rest of the house is still stark white... Most people would assume we're renting the place! So this month I'm determined to change things. I want our bedroom to be a retreat. A place where I can unwind without kids or toys. I want a grown-up room because, well, I'm a grown-up! ... right?
Now here's the dilemma. We already have a few projects on our plate and most of our extra money is spoken for. My poor husband is probably feeling overwhelmed with all the things I want him to get done around here. I want a fence. I want our basement finished. I want to plant more trees. I want to expand our garden. Yes, I know how this sounds. I want, I want, I want... Is it right to add one more thing to the list? Probably not. So here's the plan: I'll do it myself. And as for the money? Well, I'm going to practice living almost completely off of our food storage for a month. I'll use most of our grocery budget this month to try to improve our space. I don't know how far it will go. I have a few thrifty projects in mind to help things along so I can get as much done with as little money as possible.
As for this blog- I don't know how often I will have a chance to keep it updated. I will still try to add posts as often as possible, but I'm sure I'll be pretty busy with my little project this month. When I do update my blog, most likely you'll see plenty of food-storage type recipes. I will be using my garden this month and I plan to buy some fresh produce to go along with the food storage too.
So.. here we go! I'll post pictures along the way of my progess in the bedroom too. Good luck to me.

P.S. I haven't told Mike about this yet... I'm thinking I'll just let it be a surprise. That way he can't say no, right? hehe. So everybody Shhhh! Also any thrifty decorating tips would be more than welcome. Thank you, that is all.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hobo Dinners

This is not so much a recipe as it is an event. We invited some friends over the other night to share this one with us. We all had a great time and enjoyed some delicious food! My family loves it when we have Hobo dinners (aka Foil Dinners) because, of course, that means roasted marshmallows for dessert. Not to mention that they all get to "make their own dinner." My 15-year-old even got to start the fire!

Here's how it works...

Step One:  Start a big fire. (In a fire pit, not your kitchen please.)

Step Two:  Chop a variety of vegetables. There is no set thing that you must include, but here is what we used: onions, potatoes, peppers, asparagus, zucchini and yellow squash. We also used peas and carrots from the garden (yum!). You can add anything you like such as: spinach, corn on the cob, broccoli, etc..

Step Three: Chop one or two (or three) meats. We used ground beef, chicken and Linguica (Portugese sausage- the best!). I lightly marinated the chicken in some sesame oil and rice vinegar just a few minutes before assembling the meals.

Step Four:  Grab an assortment of spices and sauces. We used Bragg (like soy sauce), Tapatio (hot sauce), pepper, Mrs. Dash type seasoning and Montreal Steak Seasoning. I also got out some butter to add to any meals if necessary.

Step Five:  Assemble meals in Heavy Duty Aluminum foil. Let each person assemble their own if desired. Make sure not to overfill and wrap foil tightly so juices don't spill out onto the fire. You can write names onto the foil to easily identify each meal once cooked.

Step Six:  Break up your fire, getting a nice big pile of hot (not flaming) coals. Set the meals directly onto hot coals in a single layer.

Step Seven:  Cook for about 15 minutes, turning once. Check each meal for doneness before serving. If the potatoes and carrots are soft, the rest of the meal (including meat) should be fully cooked.

Step Eight:  Dump onto a plate or eat straight from the foil. Recycle your foil when you are finished.

Milk Cubes & Peanut Butter Banana Milkshake

There's nothing I love more than a cool Summer Smoothie.. in case you haven't noticed all my smoothie recipes. Sometimes I have to hold back when I come home from buying fresh fruit.. I immediately want to put it all into freezer bags since a smoothie is my favorite way to enjoy it. Of course I love it frosty cold so naturally I want to freeze everything much to my family's disdain. Every so often I find myself with fresh fruit on the counter... and NONE in the freezer. Now I can still have my frosty cold smoothie, but I'd have to add ice to make it as cold as I like it which, in my opinion, makes the smoothie taste bland. So.... when I find a deal like this:
Then I make a few trays of milk cubes. Once they are frozen, I transfer them to freezer bags to use with my fresh fruit. Yum! I used some of these little babies today making one of my favorite drinks ever.

Peanut Butter Banana Milkshake

1 whole banana
1 scoop vanilla (or chocolate) flavored protein powder
6 frozen milk cubes
2 Tbsp. Creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup water (add only if you have a cheap blender like mine that won't mix without it)

Place ingredients to blender in this order: Bananas, peanut butter, protein powder, milk cubes, water (if necessary). Blend & enjoy!

The Science of Bread

My family used to tease me mercilessly when I was younger because I was so horrible in the kitchen. I burned microwave popcorn. I turned boxed Mac N Cheese into mush. I couldn't even butter bread without tearing it to pieces. My parents were sure my only chance for survival was to marry a good cook... which I didn't. Luckily over the years I have become a much better cook. There are two reasons for this. One- I have practiced and practiced... then practiced some more. And two: Understanding. I have made it a goal to not only try things to see if they work, but to also learn why when things don't work the way I had hoped.
One of the latest skills I've been developing is bread making. Over the years I've made plenty of bricks, but a good soft, moist loaf of fresh bread has only been in my skill set for about 12 months. Since that time I've come up with several original recipes based on the information that I've finally learned. Here are a few things I've learned:

Humidity- I live in a high, dry climate so flour tends to be drier and absorbs more liquid. A little less flour, or slightly more liquid, may be needed to maintain the proper dough consistency. So a basic rule to follow? There isn't one! Changes in humidity will affect the flour's dryness and the amount needed in the same recipe on different days. (This is true of cakes & cookies as well.) A good method to follow is to add 1/3 of the flour at a time until you have a soft dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Altitude- affects the rising time of doughs. Here in the higher elevations your bread will double faster than at lower altitudes. The higher the altitude, the shorter the time required for dough to rise. Is this a good thing? It can be if you know how to make it work for you, but it can also cause problems.
A certain rising time is necessary for good flavor and a light-texture bread. Using less yeast, or letting the dough rise twice before shaping into loaves or rolls usually allows enough rising time for good flavor. Although letting bread rise too long may cause over-fermentation and result in a course, open-textured bread with a yeast-like flavor.

Temperature- At altitudes over 3,500 feet, it is sugested to increase baking temperature by 25 F. Most recipes require baking temperatures between 375 and 400 F, so here the best temperature is between 400 and 425 F. This higher temperature sets the cell walls quickly  and stop further rising, preventing the dough from becoming too light.

Kneading- Seriously, you NEED to knead. Kneading is so important in making good bread for several reasons. First of all kneading helps the gluten to form and gain strength allowing the loaf to take on a cohesive texture that will allow the substance to not fall apart during baking. (Think of gluten as the glue that holds the bread together.) Secondly, as the gluten is forming it is also helping to create small air pockets of bubbles in the dough. This is very important, as these bubbles are necessary to allow for the formation of small pockets of carbon dioxide as the dough is rising. The carbon dioxide is created by the interaction of the yeast with the other ingredients in the recipe. By filling the small air pockets in the structure of the dough, the bread has a chance to rise and become supple enough to result in a loaf of bread that is light, flavorful, and airy. Most recipes call for kneading to be done for 8-10 minutes. Don't skip it! Or your loaves will suffer...  Also, all you Bosch and Kitchen Aid people out there- you are seriously missing out on some really fine exercise. Bakers have a chance to work their upper body muscles, and gain some mental satisfaction from the process as well. While that has nothing to do with the quality of the bread, it really can improve the temperment of the baker!

Yeast - There are several different types of yeast...
Cake (moist) - the traditional live yeast; needs to be dissolved in water

Active dry - the traditional dry yeast; needs to be dissolved in water, usually with a bit of sugar
Instant - possibly more concentrated than active dry; does not need to be dissolved
Bread Machine - exactly the same as instant in a different package
Rapid Rise - may contain yeast enhancers and other packaging changes to the granules. Does not have to be dissolved.
An important thing to remember when dealing with yeast is that it is ALIVE. Active dry yeast is yeast that has been so severely dried that all the live yeast have formed a hard, dry outer layer of dead yeast cells. The reason you have to soak this yeast in warm water is to sluff off those dead cells and rehydrate the yeast and wake them from their dormant state. Instant yeast is dried in a gentle method that leaves more of the yeast spores alive than with other drying methods. While it is the same yeast, as a species, it will rise faster because you are starting with more live spores.

If you are using Instant Yeast in lieu of Active Dry- just use 25% less. So if a recipe calls for 2 tsp Active Dry yeast, you'd use 1.5 tsp Instant, Rapid Rise, or Bread Machine yeast. (Round up if necessary.)
*A note about my One Hour Bread.. The reason you are cooking this bread at only 350 F is because this lower temperature helps the bread continue to rise while baking at the same time.
Ok, enough spewing information for one day. Back to some recipes!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Taco Pizza

Taco Pizza

1 12-inch pre-cooked pizza crust
1 can Refried Beans
1 cup salsa
2 cups chopped lettuce
1 cup chopped cilantro
2 avocados, diced
2 cups tomatoes, diced
2 cups Pepper Jack cheese, shredded (optional)
2 cups taco seasoned ground beef (optional)

Spread beans all over pizza crust. Sprinkle cheese (if using) all over beans. If you want the cheese melted, put pizza under broiler for about 5 minutes then continue to add toppings such as salsa, shredded lettuce, cilantro, chopped tomatoes and avocados.

Flat Bread Sandwiches

If you look carefully at this picture, you'll see that a chunk is torn from the bread. This would be the result of my 3-year-old begging for a "taste" of every piece as I pulled these off the grill.
This was a really great way to use our leftover Rib-eyes from our 4th of July party. For our "flat bread" I just used my One Hour Bread Recipe and grilled them similarly to what I do for Grilled Pizzas.

Flat Bread Sandwiches

2 Rib-eye steaks, grilled medium
8 pieces flat bread
10 oz baby spinache
2 cups chopped cilantro
1 large tomato, chopped
Ranch or Bleu-cheese dressing
Salt and Pepper

Slice cold steaks thinly across the grain of the meat. Add meat and vegetables to folded flat bread. Drizzle salad dressing over all. Enjoy!

Simple Grilled Flat Bread

Olive Oil
Parchment Paper

When bread dough has been thoroughly kneaded and is ready to shape into loaves, instead divide into 8 equal pieces. Using your fingers or a small roller, flatten each piece of dough on a sheet of parchment paper to create 8 rounds. Each round should be about 1/4 in. thick. Lightly brush the tops with oil. Let the rounds sit at room temperature 5-10 minutes. While dough is resting, pre-heat grill to 400 F. Brush cooking grates clean. Work with 2-4 rounds at a time depending on what can fit onto your grill (mine fits two). Remove dough from parchment paper, place the dough on the cooking grate and grill with lid closed as much as possible, until the dough is well marked and slightly firm on the underside, about 2 minutes. Rotate as needed for even cooking. Flip dough and cook the other side for about 1 more minute. Dough should be cooked, but still soft.

Grandpa Roses Ice Cream

My favorite thing about Holidays are the traditions that come with them. Mike and I have had tradition of making home-made ice cream for Independence Day since the first year we were married. Of course we always have to use his dad's delicious recipe. It's like he's with us again everytime we dig into it!

Grandpa Roses Ice Cream

3 quarts half & half
1 quart whipping cream
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp vanilla

Put the whipping cream into the tank. Add half & half until it fills to the fill line on a gallon-sized ice cream machine. Add sugar, salt and vanilla. Stir before putting in the paddle. When mixed  well, put in the paddle and cover. Follow machine directions to complete the recipe.
We have added fresh fruit (puree in blender first or add chopped fruit about 10 minutes before ice cream is finished), chocolate, and chocolate chips.

And of course.. if we're having home-made ice cream, we'd better have some home made cones to go with it! My parents gave me a waffle cone maker for Christmas last year and it's been fun to try out some different recipes and ideas with it. This time we just went with a basic waffle cone recipe. Eventually, when I have time, I'd like to experiment with some recipes for cones without using the cone maker... just for fun! But for now I'll just stick with easy.

Waffle Cone Base Recipe

3 eggs
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 Tbsp almond extract
1/2 cup butter melted and cooled
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup sugar

Beat eggs, adding sugar gradually. Beat until smooth. Add cooled butter and vanilla. Sift flour and baking powder. Blend into egg mixture until smooth. Dough will be sticky. Drop a heaping spoonful onto center of waffle cone maker. Close lid and bake about 20 seconds. Carefully remove cone and pat between hands until it is cool enough to handle. Roll into cone shape, holding until the cone cools enough to set. Repeat. Makes about 10 cones.

Chicken Paillards

These little beauties grill up super fast so make sure the rest of your meal is ready or close to ready by the time you take the meat to the grill. We had this for a simple meal a few nights ago. I served the chicken with some angel-hair pasta seasoned with butter, my home-made pesto, diced tomatoes and peppers. Also, the leftover chicken made some awesome grilled chicken sandwiches for Mike to take to work with him this week. I just topped a home-made roll with chicken breast, lettuce and tomato.

Chicken Paillards

1/2 Tbsp ground fennel seed
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 Tbsp. dried parsley flakes

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Olive Oil

In a small bowl combine the rub ingredients. Remove the tenders from the underside of each breast (save for another use). One at a time, place each breast, smooth side down, between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound to an even 1/4-inch thickness. Lightly brush the chicken with oil and season both sides with the rub. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat. Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the chicken, smooth side down with the lid closed as much as possible, until no longer pink, 3-4 minutes. Turn over and grill just to sear the surface, about 1 minute. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter or individual plates.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Boiled Eggs

Ok... sometimes I take for granted some of the simplest cooking techniques like boiling an egg. So here it is! A detailed description of "How to boil an egg".

Step 1: Carefully place eggs in a single layer across the bottom of a medium sauce pan.
Step 2: Cover eggs with about 1 inch of water. Cover pan with a tight fitting lid.
Step 3: Heat to boiling.
Step 4: Remove from heat and allow to sit for 20 minutes without removing lid.
Step 5: Drain hot water and rinse eggs with cool water to stop cooking process. Serve cold.

Quinoa Cookies

Mike always scoffs at me when I make "healthy" cookies. Afterall, he says, when somebody is reaching for a cookie they aren't exactly looking for a healthy choice, so why waste the ingredients? He has a point... but sometimes it's nice to just sneak some whole grain into these unsuspecting treat seekers (ie. my kids... and Mike). These cookies also have half the butter, half the chocolate, and half the sugar as your traditional chocolate chip recipe. I know what you're thinking... eew. Why would anybody do such a thing to a cookie?! But I promise they really do taste good. I even fed some to my sweet tooth friend and she couldn't tell they were half the sugar. There's not very much quinoa in this recipe- just enough to give the cookies a pleasant little crunch and a hint of nuttiness. I think it adds character, but you could easily leave it out if you don't have it.

Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup LF plain yogurt
3/4 cup NF dry milk
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup quinoa
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Cream butter, yogurt, sugar and dry milk in medium mixing bowl. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Add baking soda and salt. Mix well. Add flour and oats and mix/stir until combined. Stir in chocolate chips and quinoa. Drop by teaspoonful onto greased cookie sheets and bake 10 minutes. Allow to cool on cookie trays a couple minutes then transfer to a wire rack. When cool, transfer to freezer bags and freeze up to 3 months. Makes 4 dozen cookies.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Where does all the money go?

Surprisingly, it hasn’t cost me a whole lot to eat healthy. As it turns out, I had almost everything that I needed to eat right in my food storage already. And while I haven’t been the picture of perfect healthy cooking, so far this month I have managed to cut added fat and incorporate whole grains and vegetables into almost every meal. I admit, I have been using food storage this month to supplement our grocery budget, but I’ve also been able to stock up on a few things we’ll use down the road as well, so hopefully it will all even out.
Some of the things that I’ve been using or will use from food storage this month are: whole grains, pasta, cereal, chips, apple juice, hamburger, ground turkey, chicken, oil and spices. Some things that I’ve added to our storage include: tuna fish, canned beans, toilet paper, chips, ketchup, hot dogs, flour, and olive oil. I’ve also packaged and frozen several quarts of various fruits and vegetables from the surplus in our Bountiful Baskets.

This is a breakdown of where our money has gone so far this month in regard to groceries:

Bountiful Baskets x3 = $50
Bountiful Basket add-ons (including Italian pack and ½ case of peaches) = $20
Other Produce (including onions, celery, peppers, potatoes, corn, watermelon) = $25
Dairy (eggs, milk, butter, sour cream, cottage cheese, plain yogurt) = $36.50
Meat (Rib-eye Steaks, Deli-meat) = $19.50
Grains (25lb bag of bread flour) = $6
Other (Olive Oil, Orange Juice) = $20
Non-Consumables (diapers, toilet paper, deodorant) = $36
Sales = $23
(Tuna Fish $.28/can x 16 = $4.50; Pork & Beans $.28 x 10 = $2.80; Chips $.98/bag x10 = $9.80; Ketchup $.78/bottle x2 = $1.56; HotDogs $.28/package x8 = $2.24)

That leaves me with a whopping $14! But we've got a refrigerator full of food including 3 gallons of milk and 1 1/2 dozen eggs. I shouldn't have to go to the store again unless I want to.
And just a note about the "Non-cunsumables." This month I've only had to buy toilet paper, diapers and deordorant. I found the toilet paper on an amazing sale and used some coupons so I was able to buy enough for the next three months for only $10. This is for the good stuff.. not the fall apart, eew gross variety.
I try to space out my non-food items so that I only have to buy 1-2 things each month. This way I can stay within my budget. Diapers are my flex item. If I have a lot of other things to buy, I will use cloth diapers and wipes that month to stretch my grocery dollar. These are not my favorite months... but in the end it's worth it... to me anyway! I'm also extremely lucky that we don't use as many diapers anymore now that my almost-two-year-old is learning to go potty. This makes it a lot easier to sneak disposable diapers into my cart without a huge impact on my wallet.

Monday, July 05, 2010

"Happily Ever After" Potato Salad

I call this my "Happily Ever After" Potato Salad because when I was preparing this dish on Saturday, my 5-year-old helped me by tasting it to see if it was good. She loved it so much she asked for more. I told her "this is for dinner tomorrow, so we'll save it until then" to which she replied "If we have that for dinner tomorrow, our family will live happily ever after!"  This coming from my picky eater... lol!

Potato Salad

10 small potatoes, peeled & diced into 1 in. cubes
5 hard boiled eggs, roughly chopped
3/4 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, or to taste
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, or to taste
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 teaspoon celery salt
salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill weed

Place the potatoes in a large pot, cover them with water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through but still firm, about 15 minutes. Remove from the water, let cool. While potatoes are cooking, chop vegetables (onion, pepper, celery) and dill and add to a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, stir together the sour cream, mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, celery salt, and salt and pepper until well mixed. Place the cooled potatoes and eggs into the large salad bowl, and stir to combine. Pour the dressing over the potatoes and eggs, and mix lightly. Cover and refrigerate the salad for at least 30 minutes. For best taste prepare a day ahead of time to allow flavors to blend. Serve cold.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Minestrone Soup & Pesto Dip

Here's another one for the Crock-Pot on hot days. In my bountiful basket Saturday, I bought the Italian pack add-on which had a bag full of herbs. I used some to season my soup and the rest I used for a yummy pesto sauce to spread on my bread to go with dinner. Some of the herbs are growing in my garden also, so I had lots of oregano and rosemary to make a strong pesto instead of an all-basil version.

Minestrone Soup

1 large onion
1 lb cooked ground beef (optional- we didn't use it)
2 (15oz) cans diced tomatoes
3 cups water or vegetable broth (I used the vegetable broth I saved from blanching my veggies on Saturday)
2 c. beef broth (again, leftovers from the last roast I made- it's been int he freezer)
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (or 1 Tbsp. dried)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 large cloves garlic
1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans
1/2 lb fresh green beans, cut (or 1 15 oz can)
1 (15oz) can kidney beans
1 cup. uncooked pasta
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 cup fresh spinach, optional

Chop and slice onions and carrots into bite-sized pieces. Add to slow cooker. Add remaining ingredients except pasta, zucchini, and spinach. Mix thoroughly. Cook on LOW 6 hours. Add pasta, zucchini and spinach if desired. Cover and cook 1 hour longer until pasta is tender. Serve with hard rolls and fresh pesto.

Strong Italian Pesto
1/4 cup roasted whole almonds*
2 large cloves garlic, peeled
2 oz. (about 2 cups packed) fresh Italian herbs
    (I used a combination of basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme and marjarom)
1 medium fresh tomato, quartered
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (or more if desired)

Process the almonds and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the herbs, cheese, tomato and salt and process until thoroughly combined and the consistency you like. With the food processor running, drizzle in the olive oil through the chute. Add more salt to taste if necessary and more olive oil if desired. This will keep several days in the refrigerator or you can freeze it. Pour it into an ice cube tray to freeze, then transfer pesto cubes to a heavy-duty freezer bag.
*If using raw almonds, spread them on a baking sheet and place in a 350 F degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Use your toaster oven if possible.

The "GOOD" Brownies

This recipe qualifies neither as cheap nor healthy.. but it is dubbed (around my house anyway) the "good" brownies. They are super rich. It's almost a must to eat these with a glass of milk standing by. We don't have these very often, but a friend of mine gave me some caramels so I had to make these little devils since they are my boys (meaning my husband and son) absolute favorite treat!

Caramel Fudge Brownies

10.5 oz caramels (3/4 of a 14oz bag)
1 can sweetened condensed milk, divided
1 German Chocolate cake mix
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup chopped nuts
6 oz chocolate chips (half of a 12 oz bag)

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Combine caramels with 1/2 can of condensed milk over very low heat until caramels are melted and smooth. Meanwhile, Mix cake mix with butter and other half of condensed milk until mixture is soft and holds together. Press half of this mixture into a 9x13 in. greased baking dish, reserving other half for later. Bake until slightly set- for 6 minutes; remove from oven. Pour caramel mixture over set cake mix. Sprinkle nuts and chocolate chips over caramel and top with remaining 1/2 of cake mixture. Don't worry if all the caramel is not covered, just get it as even as possible-the cake mixture will spread as it bakes. Bake 18 minutes at 350 F. Cool before cutting into bars.
*I had extra nuts and chocolate chips, so I sprinkled some on top of the bars before baking as well.

Chicken & Broccoli- Crock Pot Style

Italian Chicken with Broccoli

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
2 cups sliced mushrooms (8oz package fresh or two 4-oz cans)
1 cup chopped onion
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 lb broccoli, chopped
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 pkg (8oz) cream cheese (optional)
hot cooked pasta or rice

Toss chicken with olive oil. Sprinkle with Italian Seasoning. Place in a 5-qt slow -cooker. Cover; Cook on LOW 3 hours. After 3 hours, Coat large skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Add mushrooms and onions, cook 5 minutes over medium heat or until onions are tender, stirring occasionally. Add soup, broccoli and sherry (and cream cheese, if using) to skillet, cook and stir until hot. Transfer to slow-cooker. Cover, cook LOW 1 hour. Serve chicken over pasta or rice.

Vegetable Lasagna for the Crock-pot

It's still much too hot to turn on the oven so I converted this lasagna recipe for the Crockpot. For this veggie lasagna you can use any kind of vegetable. I used about 1 cup broiled eggplant, 1 cup steamed Swiss Chard, and 1 cup zucchini- all chopped and mixed together before assembling. You can also use shredded carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes or whatever you like best!

Veggie Lasagna (in the Crock-Pot)

28 ounce pasta sauce
8-12 ounces lasagna noodles
16 oz part skim cottage cheese
3 cups lightly steamed vegetables
8 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 cup shredded parmesan

Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of CrockPot. Cover with a layer of noodles (3 or 4 noodles should be enough). Spread 1/3 of the cottage cheese over the pasta (you can use a cake spatula). Spread 1/3 of the remaining pasta sauce over the cheese. Spread 1/3 of the vegetables over the sauce. Sprinkle 1/3 of the mozzarella over the veggies. Repeat twice starting with the noodles and ending with the mozzarella. Sprinkle parmesan on top. Cover and cook on Low 4 hours. Remove cover and allow to stand 5-15 minutes before serving.

To prepare eggplant:

Cut eggplant in half lengthwise then slice into 1/4 inch slices. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle 2 Tbsp lemon juice and dried basil (if desired)on top. Put under a hot broiler for 8-10 minutes until eggplant is golden brown. Chop into bite-sized pieces.
*You can use any lasagna recipe in the Crock-pot. Just don't pre-boil the noodles and assemble as usual. Cook on low for 4 hours.