Thursday, September 25, 2014

Italian Heritage Casserole

I can't believe I haven't shared this recipe with y'all, since it's been a long-time family favorite. When I was a kid, my mom often made "think-outside-the-box" Christmas dinners, like steak and shrimp or lasagna. This casserole was one everyone enjoyed. The flavor and aroma can't be beat! We like to serve it over rice so we don't miss a tablespoon of the fantastic broth! My slow cooker is filled with Italian Heritage Casserole right now and my house smells wonderful.

Italian Heritage Casserole

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 pound Polska Kielbasa sausage cut into 3-inch lengths
6 red potatoes, quartered
1 green pepper, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chicken broth

Place about 1/2 of the peppers, onion and garlic in a slow cooker.
Top with chicken. Sprinkle with about 1/2 of the seasonings. Add the
rest of the veggies, including potatoes, and sprinkle with the
remaining seasoning. Top with the kielbasa. Drizzle all with the
olive oil and pour in the broth. Cook on low for approximately 8
hours. Yield: serves 6

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Black Bean Soup

This is a really simple soup that only takes about 15 minutes from start to finish! It makes 2 servings, which is nice because I make it once and have lunch for two days. It helps that it is a quick, healthy alternative to eating a boring sandwich. To go with it today, I made a quesadilla filled with spinach, cilantro, black pepper and cheese.

Black Bean Soup

1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
dash of crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup spinach
1 can black beans
3 tablespoons salsa
2 tablespoons cilantro
additional chopped cilantro, optional
lime juice, optional

In a small saucepan, saute the onion, garlic, pepper flakes and spinach in the olive oil until the onion is tender and fragrant. Transfer that to a blender with 1/2 the can of black beans, the cilantro and the salsa. Blend until smooth. Pour back into the saucepan along with the rest of the beans. Heat through, about 5 minutes. Before serving, top with additional chopped cilantro and a splash of lime juice.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Blueberry-Orange Quick Bread

A while back, I found a recipe for Buttermilk Quick Bread that can be adapted to lots of different flavors, sweet or savory. I've enjoyed playing around with it with different combinations. A few days ago I wanted a sweet treat to serve with evening coffee. The kids were in bed early (mama was done!) and Jeff was leaving to go out of town the next day. I immediately thought of two things recently added to my freezer: pecans from my in-laws' trees, and blueberries from their neighbor's bushes. Jeff declared the bread "awesome" and I ended up making it again for Saturday morning breakfast!

Blueberry-Orange Quick Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup fresh or frozen (do not thaw) blueberries
3/4 cup buttermilk (approximate)
1 orange, zest and juice
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°. In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients, including the pecans. To the cup of blueberries, add a spoonful of the flour mixture and shake to coat. (This keeps them "floating" in the batter instead of sinking to the bottom.) Set aside. In a measuring cup, zest and juice half of the orange. Add enough buttermilk to make one cup of liquid. Whisk in the egg and butter. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry, then add in the blueberries. Do not over-stir - you want the ingredients to *just* come together. Pour the batter into a greased 9x5 loaf pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes. Use a toothpick to test it. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then top with the glaze.

Orange Glaze

In a small bowl, combine the other half of the orange zest and juice with a dash of vanilla extract. Stir in about 1 to 1-1/2 cups of powdered sugar. How much will depend on the amount of juice you were able to get from the orange. This is really forgiving! You want a pourable consistency that coats the bread, so if it's too thin add in more sugar. Too thick and you can splash in some milk.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tasty Little Bites

It's a well-known fact that given the choice between a salty snack or a sweet one I'd choose salty every time. There are times, though, that I enjoy a sweet treat. A few days ago I put together these simple but tasty little bites. They were just what I was craving!

In a zip-top bag, I melted some semi-sweet chocolate using the microwave - 30 seconds at a time, mushing the chocolate around in between each time. Then I snipped the corner off of the bag and piped little circles of melted chocolate onto waxed paper.

Next was the fun part! Before the chocolate set, I sprinkled it with deliciousness. I made several different combinations using whatever little treats I had in the pantry - orange zest, pistachios, almonds, coconut, cinnamon, raisins, flax seeds, dried cranberries, etc.

If I were a patient person I suppose I could have just left them on the counter to set, but I'm not and I didn't. I popped them into the freezer for 10 minutes and then transferred them to a plastic container - after I taste-tested them, of course. These can be stored in the fridge, freezer, or even out on the counter.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Veggie-Turkey Burgers

I love a good, beefy bacon cheeseburger as much as the next red-blooded American. However, my children have genetically high cholesterol so I try to incorporate more lean meats into our diet. These turkey burgers, even though they are made with very lean turkey breast, are quite juicy and flavorful. We all cleaned our plates when I made these last night. As a side, what's a burger without potatoes? Roasted Rosemary Potatoes are a perfect complement.

Veggie-Turkey Burgers

1 pound ground turkey breast
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup shredded zucchini (about 1/2 a small, unpeeled squash)
1/4 cup shredded onion
2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
1 egg
salt and pepper
olive oil
hamburger buns

Drizzle a little olive oil (about a tablespoon) into a large skillet or grill pan. Heat the pan to just over medium heat. Combine the turkey, veggies, cheese, egg, salt and pepper. Form the turkey mixture into 6 patties. Cook for 5 minutes on each side. Serve on buns with your favorite toppings.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies

This recipe is based on one I received from my mother-in-law when Handsome and I got married - they're his favorite cookie!

Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies

3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 package (10 ounces) cinnamon chips
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°. Beat together the shortening and sugars until creamy.  Add in the egg, water, and vanilla and beat until incorporated well. In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Gradually add to the wet ingredients and mix well. Stir in the cinnamon chips and pecans. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto greased baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove to wire cooling racks.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Baby Food!

I have to confess, one of my first thoughts on learning we were expecting baby number four was, "I get to make baby food again!"  (That was after the slightly panicky, "But where are we going to PUT it?!") Now, the time has come! Our little one is six months old and after a steady diet of breast milk she's ready to sink her gums into some veggies! I'd like to start by saying I'm just sharing how I prepare like to prepare food for my babies. Everyone does things differently and that's cool.

I like to start with vegetables - sweet potatoes, acorn/butternut squash, peas, green beans, avocado, etc. After Lauryn has tried several different veggies and enjoys them eagerly, I'll slowly begin adding in natural applesauce, mashed banana, pureed peaches, etc. While I prepare a lot of vegetables ahead of time and keep them in the fridge and freezer, I mostly use fresh fruits. I do puree peaches and plums, but that's pretty much it. As she slowly weans, I will begin adding some dairy into her diet - cottage cheese, plain Greek yogurt. The older babies are, the more they want to feed themselves. I usually put a few things on their highchair tray for entertainment and occasional consumption while I am feeding them. Cooked pasta, whole peas, diced cooked carrots, even plain Cheerios all work well. That slowly transitions to them feeding themselves alone!

Here's what I prepared today:
Green beans and peas (1/2 bag each); acorn squash and sweet potatoes
The squash and potatoes I roasted on a baking sheet in the oven for about an hour. After they cooled I scooped the flesh out (minus the squash seeds, of course!) into my food processor and blended them with some water.

The frozen veggies I microwaved with a little water, then cooled and pureed in the food processor.

"Whatcha doin', Mama?"
I poured each veggie puree into separate 4-ounce containers:

I don't bother labeling each container, since it's pretty obvious what's inside, but I do like to mark the green beans with a "G" since the difference in color is so subtle.
Green beans, peas, squash, and sweet potatoes.
To make this batch of food, I spent about $0.57 per container. That price includes the food purchased as well as 16 of the containers. Obviously, the containers are reusable, so the next batch of food I make could cost as little as $0.30!