Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bourbon Chicken

I'm not exactly sure why this is called Bourbon Chicken, because it has no bourbon in it;  however, it tastes remarkably similar to the bourbon chicken you might buy at one of those food kiosks in the mall, which makes it a winner in my book!  I think it would taste even more authentic if you used chicken thigh meat, but I hardly ever buy that.
What do I love about this recipe?

  • It's fast - comes together in 30 minutes or less.
  • It's easy - no complicated instructions or ingredients
  • It's healthy - at least relatively so.  Unless you're avoiding soy.  
  • Number 1 reason - it's Delicious!  I mean really delicious!  All of my children loved it, which doesn't happen all the time, and Grant and I couldn't get enough of it.  I can't wait to make it again!

Recipe: (from Mel's Kitchen Cafe)

2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
4 T. oil (I used expeller pressed coconut oil - no flavor)
Cornstarch (for dusting, optional)

1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 c. apple juice
1/3 c. light brown sugar
2 T. ketchup
1 T. apple cider vinegar
1/2 c. water
1/3 c. soy sauce (reduced sodium)
Hot cooked rice, for serving

Cut chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces, and if you choose, lightly dust with cornstarch.  (I did not).
Heat oil in your skillet or wok and fry chicken in batches until lightly browned.  Remove to a plate and set aside.

In a bowl, combine all sauce ingredients.  Pour into skillet and bring to a boil.  Add chicken pieces back to the pan, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve over hot rice.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What a Weather Week....

A couple of days ago, I experienced my first earthquake.  
And the funny thing was, I didn't even know it was an earthquake until after it was over. 
Oh, I knew something weird was happening.  
I just thought it was my kids.  
Absurdly, I thought they were jumping on the bed upstairs and that was causing the whole house to shake. 
Earthquakes just don't happen in Virginia, so it literally didn't even cross my  mind.
So there I was, hollering up the stairs at the kids, 
and watching them come out of their rooms with puzzled faces saying,
"Nothing, Mom...why is everything shaking?"

Then I looked up in my entryway and saw my chandelier swinging back and forth.  
And I felt pretty dumb for thinking the kids were physically capable of making our whole house rumble.  
Which it did.  
A quick check on facebook confirmed that many of my local friends (and some not local) had also felt their houses shaking, so it was indeed an earthquake.  
I felt dizzy for a couple of hours that was like my whole equilibrium was knocked off course in that few seconds of shaking.  

And now Hurricane Irene is menacing our coastline.....
I pretty much blew off the warnings about her earlier in the week because in the seven+ years we've lived here, none of the hurricane threats have come to fruition, other than a couple of tropical storms and a nor'easter or two.  
Now, it's looking a lot more serious than that.  

We live in a pretty safe place as far as flooding goes, our neighborhood is actually the highest elevation in our whole community, but that doesn't put us out of danger of downed trees, power outages, that sort of thing. 
The last major hurricane that hit this area was Hurricane Isabel - she knocked Virginia for such a loop that there were people out of power for multiple weeks, countless homes damaged by falling trees, that sort of thing. 
Supposedly, if Irene doesn't change course, she could be more intense than Isabel.  

I'm not excited about that. 

I look out my window right now and see the sun shining brightly, a gentle breeze blowing,  a normal summer day.  Yet several people I know are already evacuating the area.  
There are no D batteries to be found in town, so I hear from friends, which is unfortunate because we're running pretty low. 
I did get 12 gallons of drinking water yesterday when I had the chance.  I'm going shopping again tonight to get more non-perishable food and such.  

And I'm praying like crazy that we are spared the horrific damages that people are panicked about.  

Any of you East Coast readers feeling the anxiety also?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Black Bean Soup

This bean, vegetable, and rice soup is so hearty and delicious, you won't even miss the meat.  
We didn't, although it is remarkably similar to our Turkey and Black Bean Soup, which we also love. 
It's nice to know we can have a meatless version that is equally satisfying and delicious.  

I started out with dry beans, soaked overnight, because it's more economical and less sodium - but I'm sure canned beans would work just fine.  The recipe didn't call for rice, but I thought it would be a nice addition.  Turned out well, but I did end up with less liquid than I planned at the end and the "soup" turned into more of a casserole consistency.  We still ate it in a bowl and it was still great, but I think next time I'll add a little more liquid (broth or water) if I add rice.  
You could easily make the soup without rice and serve it on top of cooked rice if you want, we might try that too.  

Recipe:  (modified from Allrecipes)

1 lb. dry black beans (soaked overnight, drained, and rinsed) - can substitute 4 (15 oz) cans black beans
1 quart vegetable broth (or chicken or beef if you prefer)
1-1/2 T. chili powder
1 T. cumin
1-1/2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1 (14.5 oz) can chili-ready tomatoes (or diced tomatoes)
3-4 large carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 c. brown rice (uncooked, optional)
Additional broth or water, if using rice

Combine all ingredients except the rice in a large slow-cooker.  Cook on low heat for 8-10 hours, depending on how hot your slow-cooker gets.  Add uncooked rice and a little additional liquid for the last two hours if desired.  

Serve with shredded cheese, corn chips, corn bread, or on top of hot cooked rice if desired.  

Monday, August 22, 2011

Old Fashioned Cornbread - Seriously Good Stuff

This is definitely the best cornbread I've ever made, hands down.  I love the texture, the flavor, everything about it.  It's delicious as leftovers, it doesn't dry out and get super crumbly like most cornbreads I've made.  It was wonderful served with bean soup, a perfect accompaniment to brown beans, and just amazing on its own, either with a little butter or with some honey or molasses drizzled on top for a sweet ending to our dinner.

I had honestly never known that you could grind up popcorn to make corn bread - did you know that?
I also never knew or considered how important it is to have organic popcorn.  Apparently popcorn is one of the most heavily sprayed-with-pesticides crops there is,  and obviously we don't wash it before we pop it.  Not to mention that regular popcorn is a GMO (genetically modified organism), which carries its own set of risks.
You can probably find organic popcorn at health food stores, or order from Amazon.  I got the 5 lb bag of Great Northern Organic Yellow Gourmet Popcorn for less than $8, which I thought was a pretty good deal.

Recipe: (adapted from the Nutrimill owner's manual)

2 cups cornmeal (I grind mine from organic popcorn)
2 cups white whole wheat flour (or all purpose)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted (or canola oil)
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1-1/2 cups water
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. coconut oil or bacon grease (butter can be used)

Preheat oven to 400°.  While oven is preheating, put a large (12") cast iron skillet in the oven with the 2 T. oil or bacon grease.
Mix all remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl for two minutes.
Remove the very hot skillet from the oven and pour in batter.  Place back in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Baked Pasta with Chicken Sausage

Pasta dishes are usually a popular item around our house, not to mention great for pot-lucks or for taking to friends in need.  This one is a really delicious variation that we all very much enjoyed and I'm looking forward to having again.  The flavor of the chicken sausage goes great with the spinach (which is one of those veggies I don't even try to get into my kids apart from a casserole, where they don't even notice it!) and adding a little cream to the tomato sauce takes it to a whole new level of yumminess.  Plus having two kinds of cheeses doesn't hurt anything.  Does it ever?  

It makes a lot, a very full 13x9" pan.  Freezing part is definitely an option, instructions are included at the end.

Note: The original recipe called for using a pound of pasta, which I did, but I felt like the dish would have been slightly better (more saucy, less dry) with a little less pasta, so next time I'll use a 13.25 oz box of whole wheat pasta.  

Recipe (adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe)

1 T. olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. dried basil (or 1 T. fresh basil, chopped)
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 (13.25 oz) box whole wheat pasta (rigatoni or rotini)
10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained well (can substitute 1 9-oz bag fresh spinach)
12-16 oz. precooked smoked chicken or turkey sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4"  thick (you'll find this in the same section as the hot dogs, next to precooked kielbasa
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, 4 oz. cut into small cubes and 4 oz. shredded
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese (fresh or from a can)

Preheat oven to 400°.
Cook pasta in salted water as directed on box. (If using fresh spinach, add it to the pot of boiling pasta right at the end and cook until wilted.) Drain and return contents to pot. 
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion; cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic.  Cook for another minute.
Stir in tomatoes, oregano, and basil; simmer for 8-10 minutes.  Add cream; cook until warmed through, about  2-3 minutes.  Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
Add tomato sauce, sausage, spinach, and cubed mozzarella to the pasta in the pot; toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.  Scoop pasta into a lightly greased 13x9" pan (or divide evenly between two 8x8"pans).
Top with grated mozzarella and Parmesan.  Bake until browned and edges are crisp, 20-25 minutes.

*Freezable Meal: Prepare recipe right up until the baking step and then cover with a double layer of aluminum foil. Freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. To bake, increase baking time to 1 to 1 1/4 hours. If baking from frozen, bake covered for 1 hour and 15 minutes, uncover and bake 30 minutes longer.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Taco Salad Dippers

I love meals that combine healthy, frugal, crowd-pleasing, filling, and easy into one pan.  That's exactly what this meal does.  You have meat, rice, and beans all simmering together in a tomato sauce with spices until it comes together into a lovely thick (although not extremely visually appealing, I have to admit) mixture that is delicious served over tortilla chips with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and salsa on top - or equally tasty spread over a tortilla and made into a quesadilla.  

This is a recipe that will find it's way into our meal rotation regularly for sure.  

Recipe: (from Mel's Kitchen Cafe)

2 lbs. ground turkey or beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups water
1 cup rice (white or brown)
1 t. oregano
1 T. sugar
2 t. chili powder
2 t. salt
2 t. cumin
2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
1 (15 oz) can pinto or black beans, rinsed and drained

In a large pot, brown the ground turkey or beef with the onion and garlic and cook until the meat is no longer pink.  Drain any grease.  Add the water, rice, seasonings, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and beans.  Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, watching to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. (If you're using brown rice, it may need to simmer up to 60-70 minutes).
The mixture will seem watery at first, but it will thicken to perfection as the rice absorbs water and all the ingredients meld together.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Banana Bread

Who doesn't have a go-to recipe for banana bread?  I didn't.  
There are several I'd use from time to time, one from my good old standby Betty Crocker cookbook, one from a friend's mom, a couple of different variations from cooking websites or blogs.  
When I had a stack of quickly over-ripening bananas recently, I decided to give this recipe a try, with a few modifications to make it even healthier.  It turned out so tasty, I don't know if I'll ever resort to banana bread browsing again.  
Can I tell you again, if you've never bought or tried barley flour, give it a shot sometime.  It adds such a light and lovely texture to baked goods, without altering the taste if used in small amounts......I just love it!
Recipe (adapted from Tammy's Recipes)

3 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup barley flour (can use whole wheat or all-purpose)
4 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 cup sucanat (can use white sugar)
2 cups mashed bananas (about 4 large)
2/3 c. coconut oil, melted (can use melted butter or substitute some applesauce in equal amounts)
4 T. milk
4 eggs
1/2 c. chopped nuts, optional
Cinnamon/sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl with a whisk, making a well in the center.
In another bowl, mash together the bananas, oil, milk, and eggs.
Add banana mixture to dry ingredients and stir briskly until well combined.  Stir in nuts, if using.
Pour batter into greased and floured loaf pans. 
Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar if desired.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  If bread is browning too quickly, lay a piece of foil on top of the loaves while they're baking.
Cool on a wire rack.  Remove from pans after 10 or 15 minutes.  When cool, slice with a thin knife.  Bread can be frozen.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

I am loving our new grain mill.....and making lots of things with freshly ground hard white wheat.  It is just so satisfying to know the nutrition level of the bread products we're eating is significantly better than before, not to mention absolutely delicious.
When Grant asked for Spicy Turkey Burgers this week, I decided to try out homemade hamburger buns.  Believe it or not, I had never really considered making our own buns before.  But as I stood in the bread aisle of Wal-Mart analyzing the ingredient list of the only 100% whole wheat buns available and saw that the list was at least a couple of inches long and included who knows what, I thought, "For heaven's sake, I can do better than that."  So I did.

These are lovely - nice texture, slightly chewy, full of homemade goodness.  The whole family enjoyed them, although the girls were a bit disappointed when they came in from playing outside and thought from the bread smell we were having homemade pizza......but they sure didn't complain when they were eating the burgers!

The original recipe included directions for using an egg wash and topping with sesame seeds, which would make them look more like hamburger buns, but I don't really prefer sesame seeds on buns anyways, so I omitted that step.

Recipe: (adapted from Annie's Eats)

1 c. warm water
3 T. milk
1 T. instant yeast (or 1 packet)
2-1/2 T. sugar
1-1/2 t. salt
1 large egg
3 c. white whole wheat flour (can use bread flour if desired)
3 T. gluten (omit if using bread flour)
1/2 t. lecithin (omit if using bread flour)
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
2-1/2 T. butter, softened

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water, milk, yeast, sugar, salt, and egg.  Mix briefly to combine.  Add the flours, plus gluten and lecithin if using, and mix until incorporated.  Mix in the butter.  Knead for about 6-8 minutes.  The dough may be somewhat tacky, but don't add too much extra flour which could create tough buns.

Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  Using a dough scraper, divide the dough into 8 equal parts.  Gently roll each portion of dough into a ball and place on the baking sheet, 2-3 inches apart.  Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise again, 30 minutes or so, until puffed up and nearly doubled.

Set a large pan of water on the lowest rack of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 400°F. with a rack in the center.  Bake the buns about 12-15 minutes, rotating halfway through baking, until the tops are golden brown.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Must be Slacking.....

My three dancing Princesses.  Marissa (5) dressed them all up and they were thoroughly enjoying dancing together.  Melted my heart in a really big way.  

See that one in the middle?
That's Annika.  She's turning 4 in a month.
We started up our home school this week and she is doing work from the Abeka K-4 program.  
She loves doing workbooks and feeling big like her siblings.  
She loves to color (and does it remarkably well for her age) and is currently practicing sounds of letters, especially short vowel sounds.  
After our first day of school was complete, she came to me with a look of total dismay.

"Mom!"  she exclaimed loudly.  "You forgot to teach me how to read!!" 

I giggled and tried to explain that learning how to read is a process, you don't learn in just a day, that practicing the sounds of the letters is the beginning stages of reading, etc etc.....but she was not satisfied.  
Every day since, she's insistent on getting her "reading" time and is still expectant that she'll be reading books independently immediately.  

Oh, how fast they grow up.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Quick and Easy Banana Cake

I generally stay away from packaged mixes, but there are certain times that it just makes life so much easier.  This is a nice recipe to have on hand for those times.  
This banana cake is so moist, full of banana flavor, and lightly spiced that it tastes great without a frosting.
I've made it before in muffin tins and served them for a brunch, where they were very well received.
However, if you want to jazz it up a little, you can't go wrong with a basic cream cheese frosting.  
That makes just about any cake better!  

Recipe: (adapted from Allrecipes)

1 white or yellow cake mix
Oil, eggs and water called for on box
2-3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°.
Prepare cake mix according to package directions with oil, eggs, and water.  Mix mashed bananas and baking soda together, then add to cake mix.  Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg.
Pour into a greased and floured 13x9" cake pan or muffin tins lined with paper liners or greased.  
Bake cake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Bake cupcakes as directed on box.  
Cool completely and frost if desired. 

Frosting (optional)
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
chopped nuts (optional)

With an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.  Slowly add powdered sugar and continue to whip together.  Add vanilla and stir well.  Spread on top of cake or cupcakes and sprinkle with cinnamon and nuts if desired.  

Monday, August 1, 2011

Super Bean Burritos

Another attempt at a vegetarian meal, this one was a huge hit with the entire family.  The filling is so tasty and satisfying, you don't miss having meat at all.  Although they can reportedly be frozen and reheated with great success, I didn't get the chance to try that because we gobbled up the leftovers for lunches the next couple of days.  I might prefer them with a little less corn personally, but they were great as is.  

Recipe: (from Mel's Kitchen Cafe)

1 cup brown or white rice (or 2 cups already cooked rice)
2 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 jalapeno, seeds and membrane removed, finely diced (can substitute 1 (4 0z) can green chiles)
1 t. cumin
salt and pepper to taste
3 T. tomato paste
2 cans beans (pinto or black), drained and rinsed
1-1/2 c. water
1 (10 oz) package frozen corn or 1 can whole kernel corn, drained
6 green onions, white and green parts finely chopped
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. onion powder

14-16 soft-taco sized flour tortillas
2-3 cups shredded cheese (Monterey Jack or cheddar)
Cook rice; set aside. Meanwhile, heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, jalapeno and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened and golden, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring for 1 minute.
Add one can of beans and mash gently in the pan (a potato masher or fork works great here). Add the second can of beans and the water and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 10-12 minutes, being careful not to let the mixture stick to the bottom of the pot. Add corn; cook to heat through, 2-3 minutes. Stir in onion and garlic powders. Remove from heat; stir in green onions and cooked rice.
Heat tortillas in microwave for about 30-45 seconds or until all are warmed through.
Fill each tortilla with about 2/3 cup bean and rice mixture and  a good sprinkling cheese on one side of tortilla. Fold, and hold in sides. Starting from filled end, holding sides in as you work, tightly roll into a bundle. Place on a baking sheet, seam side down, and prepare remaining burritos.
Serve warm immediately, with salsa and sour cream if desired — or, to freeze for later consumption, put the baking sheet of burritos into the freezer for at least 30 minutes, or until very cold so that they don’t come apart in the wrapping process. Remove them from the freezer and wrap each burrito individually in plastic wrap and place all the wrapped burritos in a freezer-safe resealable bag and freeze up to three months.
To reheat from frozen:
Remove plastic wrap from the burrito. Poke holes in the top several times with a fork. Microwave on high for two minutes. Gently poke a few more holes in the burrito and microwave for another minute. Be careful as the burrito will be piping hot!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...