Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Roast Beef Sammies

I don't know what it is, but I love to dip foods. I like raw veggies in salad dressing, potato chips and french fries in ketchup, and I even dip my Chick-Fil-A sandwiches into their Honey-Roasted BBQ sauce instead of spreading it on the inside. It just stands to reason then that I'd love French dip sandwiches. Here's my version:

Roast Beef Sammies

1/2 recipe pizza dough
1/2 pound roast beef (use more if you like! I'm just cheap.)
3 slices provolone
3 slices Muenster
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil3-4 slices of onion
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 sprig rosemary
2 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

In a small sauce pan, saute the onion, pepper, rosemary and garlic in the olive oil until the onion begins to soften. (Sometimes I will saute the roast beef here, too, before I put it on the sandwich. Either way is fine. Remove the beef before adding the vinegar and broth.) Stir in the balsamic vinegar and the broth. Let simmer until you're ready to use it.

Meanwhile, on a lightly floured surface, roll out your dough into a rectangle about 8 inches by 14 inches. (This is a very crucial measurement because it's the size of my largest cutting board.) Anyway, spread the mustard in the middle third of the dough, top with the cheese slices. Top with the roast beef. Fold in the short ends and then fold the long sides over the filling, pressing to seal. Place the sandwich seam-side down on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

Serve the sandwich in slices with the broth on the side for dipping.

(Don't have time to make your own dough? Use a refrigerated, canned dough instead!)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sunday Night Review 9/25

When feeding a crowd it's hard to go wrong with Mexican food. This week I made my Burrito Casserole, doubled, which made 16 burritos. I used ground turkey, which most College People view as healthy and therefore not as tasty as beef, but they loved it anyway, and hey, it's free food! I served rice on the side, and by some weird hiccup of the brain, I didn't make as much as I should have. But no one went hungry!

For dessert, I wrapped Hershey's Kisses in wonton wrappers, brushed them with butter and baked them for 10 minutes at 350°. After placing them on a serving tray, I dusted them with powdered sugar. Yummy, easy, and cheap since the Kisses were on sale ($1.50) and the wontons were leftover from another meal.

On a side note: Before leaving for church, I put the cold, covered casseroles in the oven and set the delayed start function so they'd bake and be ready when we got home. I neglected (another brain hiccup!) to set the "stop time" on the oven. I remembered that towards the end of a long (but engaging and challenging) sermon by a guest preacher. Quickly, I petitioned God to please save our dinner. Well, when we arrived home, the casseroles were still perfect, despite having been in the oven for an hour and fifteen minutes when it should have only been 30! God is good.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ginger-Lemon Pear Freezer Jam

A couple of weeks ago, we went to dinner at the home of some delightful friends. The lady of the house had spent the best part of the day canning pears and she served some of the fruits of her labor with us at the table. One special touch she'd added to her canning recipe was to use ginger and lemon, and the pears were lovely! She send me home with a large bag of pears so I could make some freezer jam. Already, I was feeling inspired to try out the combination of ginger and lemon!

Ginger-Lemon Pear Freezer Jam

6 cups crushed pears (peel, core, and pulse in food processor - do not pureƩ)
4 cups sugar
Juice and peel from one lemon
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated (use a microplane, or chop finely)
1.75 ounce packet low-sugar pectin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place pear, lemon juice and peel, vanilla and ginger in a stock pot. Stir in pectin. Place pan over high heat; bring to a boil. Stir in sugar; cook 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam from surface; discard. Stir 5 minutes to ensure fruit is suspended in jam. Divide jam into jars, seal, and allow to come to room temperature. (Not more than 24 hours.) Store in refrigerator for 3 weeks or in the freezer for 12 - 18 months.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cheddar Snack Crackers

My Little One (and everyone else in the family, honestly) loves Goldfish snack crackers. They're a fairly cheap, easy snack and I don't have a problem with them being not technically "healthy" because Little One's diet is generally free of junk food. I decided recently to try my hand at making the homemade version. The recipe I tried was perfect! I made one minor addition (of paprika) and loved the way they turned out. We call ours Daisies because the only cookie cutter I had that was small enough is flower-shaped.

Cheddar Snack Crackers

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 tablespoons butter, cut up
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2-3 tablespoons water

In a food processor, pulse the cheese, butter, flour, salt and paprika until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, pulsing until mixture comes together. You just want it to stick together, not to make an actual smooth "dough". (Like a pie crust if you're familiar with that process.) Anyway, take the mixture out of the processor and place in a large square of plastic wrap. Wrap tightly, pressing together into a disc. Place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. (If you leave it over an hour, you'll want to take it out to warm slightly before working with it.) On an area lightly dusted with flour, roll the dough out thinly, about an 1/8 of an inch. Use a small cookie cutter to make your crackers, transferring them to a greased baking sheet. You can make the sheet pretty full, as long as the shapes don't touch.

Bake at 350° for 12-14 minutes. They'll puff, but you don't want them to brown. Remove from the baking sheet onto a cooling rack lined with a paper towel.

This picture shows some of them flipped over so you can see the lightly browned bottoms.

I can't wait to try little variations on these like combining cheeses, dusting them with seasoning, and substituting whole wheat flour!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Chicken Nuggets

Well, after battling a cold for a week, I'm finally feeling better today! It's nice to be "back". 

I've seen recipes on-line for fake Chick-Fil-A nuggets, and thought I'd try my hand at it. None of the recipes I looked at seemed to have just the right ingredients, though, so I ended up making up my own concoction. Basically, though these don't taste exactly like the real deal, they were very yummy and the entire family loved them and were disappointed when they were gone!

1-1/2 to 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/3 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon pickle juice (for that special CFA touch, or you could use apple cider vinegar instead)
1 egg white
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Oil, for frying

In a medium-sized bowl, stir together all ingredients except chicken and oil.  The mixture will be thick and sludgy, but smooth. Stir in the chicken and let marinate for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When you're ready to start frying, preheat the oil in a large skillet to about 350° to 375°. (An inch to inch and a half of oil should be enough. You're not deep-frying.) Drop the chicken in, one piece at a time, making sure the pan is not overcrowded and the pieces do not touch each other. Fry for 3-4 minutes, then flip to the other side to fry for another 3-4 minutes, until cooked through. I did mine in two batches, so depending on the size of your skillet you'll need to do two or three batches. Drain them on paper towels, and serve with your favorite dipping sauce! Little One eats hers plain, Handsome and I love barbecue sauce, Oldest Girl prefers Ranch ... and the Boy likes a mixture of Ranch and ketchup he calls "Retchup". Nice, huh?

And if you haven't seen Tim Hawkins' touching tribute to our favorite place to "Eat Mor Chikin", you should check it out HERE.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ginger Tea

Nothing says "It's Fall!" like cold and flu season! Though my kids are homeschooled, I get a sore throat at the beginning of the school year every fall just because of all the instructing/reading aloud I'm doing that my voice is not used to. And inevitably we get those winter sniffles.

This year, though, I have a "secret" weapon! People have told me for years to use honey, ginger, garlic, etc. to fight colds and I'm doing it this go-round. Today, I made peppery, sweet, surprisingly scrumptious Ginger Tea to soothe the sore throat that's been creeping up on me.

Ginger Tea

1-1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and shredded
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey

In a small saucepan, bring two cups of water and the ginger to a boil. Simmer the tea for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the lemon juice and honey into a mug. When the tea is ready, strain it into the mug. Enjoy!

(You can certainly adjust the lemon and honey to your taste.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

General Tso's Chicken

Handsome and I love Chinese food. It just so happens we don't have a really good place around here to get it, which makes it a rare treat. When I recently came across a recipe for General Tso's Chicken, I knew I had to make it - it's Handsome's favorite!

While there are a few steps involved, each one is key to making the dish a success. The chicken has to be cubed and coated with marinade/batter and fried, the veggies have to be prepped and steamed, the rice cooked, the sauce whisked ... but it's all totally worth it! This was head and shoulders over any, ANY restaurant I've ever tried. Being General Tso's, it IS spicy, but that can be adjusted. And I only had to buy one special ingredient to make this recipe - the Chinese chile-garlic sauce - which was essential since that's the source of the heat.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sunday Night Review 9/11

I am a huge fan of warm weather! To me, the worst part of summer is how super-cooled people keep any given building. I dread that blast of air conditioning that hits after the warmth of the sun. But I know I'm mostly alone on that point, though Handsome shares my opinion, thankfully!

Despite my preference for summer, I do love fall for various reasons: the leaves changing color, the crisp (not cold!) air, the smell of burning leaves, marching band season, and the fact that fall is so perfect for comfort food like soups and stews. Last night for dinner I made two simple soups - Veggie Beef, and Cheesy Potato. Both were very simple to throw together, and turned out to be quite tasty, too! I made Honey-Wheat Yeast Rolls to go with the soups, and Autumn Cupcakes for dessert.

Cheesy Potato Soup

1 (30 ounce) package shredded hash browns
1 (10-3/4 ounce) can cream of chicken soup
6 cups chicken broth (1-1/2 cartons)
1/2 onion, chopped
8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese 
salt and pepper
8 ounces cream cheese (I used reduced-fat, but fat-free will NOT melt)

In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients except the cream cheese. Cook on low for 6 hours. Add in cream cheese, stirring and continuing to heat until melted, about 30 minutes to an hour.

(See, I told you it was easy!)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bored With Breakfast?

I've done a few posts in the past on how to make baked goods better for you by boosting their nutritional content, but this morning I thought I'd encourage you to change things up if the kids (or you) are bored with the same old thing. It's amazing how a little change can make something taste so different.

Pancakes are such an easy breakfast! I don't make them often because my kids prefer cereal over most everything else, but I like to have them once in a while anyway. I rarely make plain pancakes, but prefer to add different flours and flavor combinations. This morning I used a recipe from Simple & Delicious with cornmeal (it adds such delicious sweetness!) and whole wheat flour and served the pancakes with Honey-Cinnamon Butter instead of syrup. All three kids loved them! The Boy rated them a 100 on a scale of 1 to 10.

(Note: The link for Simple & Delicious is just to their site, not for the recipe, since it's a new one and therefore "subscriber-only")

Monday, September 5, 2011

Cake Solutions- Trifle!

One thing I hate to do in the kitchen is to waste anything! It happens, but I truly do my best to make the most out of everything we have. It's amazing what little bits of food can be re-created into for future meals. One example is cake. Ever had a cake layer fall apart when you tried to remove it from the pan? Turn the mess into a trifle! Want a cake for your small family but don't need the amount that's in a two-layer? Freeze the second layer and make it into a trifle later. I don't make a lot of baked goods to have around the house. One reason is that we flat don't need it! But last week we had The Boy's birthday party. I just needed 4 cupcakes - one for each boy - and instead of trying to adapt a recipe to make a tiny amount like that I simply used a boxed cake mix and baked 'em all! I used what I needed for the party and rather than let the rest sit around for a few days, they went in the freezer. A week later, on Saturday night, they went into the fridge to slowly thaw. Sunday afternoon, I made them into a delicious trifle!

There's no real recipe involved here. You just break leftover cake/cupcakes (undecorated) into a trifle bowl, layer with prepared pudding, add more cake, more pudding, and top the whole thing off with whipped cream. My cupcakes were chocolate and I used white chocolate and chocolate fudge puddings (since I was making this for a crowd I used 2 packages of pudding), and also crumbled a Butterfinger candy bar into the layers, too.

Trifle is so easy to throw together since you can keep everything you need on hand. It's versatile since it's hard to go wrong combining cake and pudding. Fruits make a interesting addition, too. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Apple-Cinnamon Rolls

Since Handsome was going to be home Friday, I decided Thursday night to set up some cinnamon rolls for baking as a breakfast treat. Since Handsome loves all things apple, I decided to try an experiment with said cinnamon rolls. I made my standard recipe, but also sprinkled diced apples on the dough after the cinnamon, sugars, and pecans. I then proceeded as usual.

My friends, they were divine!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sunday Night Review 8/28

This past week I asked a friend who often comes on Sunday nights to bring dessert to our gathering. She is a lot of fun and is known for her cooking skills, especially sweets! She brings breakfast for the youth Sunday School class she teaches, and they love it. For us, she made a strawberry swirl cream cheese pound cake. It was fabulous! One of our guys especially kept going back and back ... and back! Our two big kids had the two leftover pieces for breakfast the next morning. For dinner I made Chicken Ranch Casserole, one with veggies and one without. Both 9 x 13 dishes were scraped clean by the end of the night! I also served Bisclettes, and when the second batch was ready to come out of the oven I had a crowd waiting for them.