Saturday, November 24, 2012

What's Cooking?

So it turns out that cakes aren't the only thing I'll be baking over the next few months - we've got a bun in the oven! A friend of mine told me that now I'd have to change the name of the blog to Barefoot (and Pregnant!) in the Kitchen.

We are, of course, very excited about the new addition to our family and look forward to meeting him or her sometime in July.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tomato Tortellini Soup

For dinner last night, I made a creamy, simple soup using tomato soup and tortellini. I don't often make meat-free meals, but this one is hearty enough that it works for us. I served it with this incredible Rosemary Olive Oil Bread that has become a family favorite.

Tomato Tortellini Soup

1 32-ounce carton tomato soup (I use Imagine brand)
2 cups chicken broth (or veggie broth)
1 cup half and half (or milk)
1 9-ounce package refrigerated cheese tortellini
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Feta or Parmesan cheese, to taste

In a large saucepan, combine the tomato soup, broth, half and half, and seasonings. Heat completely through, then stir in cheese if desired. I used a few tablespoons of feta. Meanwhile, in another pot, cook tortellini according to package directions, then drain and stir into soup. Serve immediately.

* Between the combination of ingredients, I found the soup didn't need any extra salt, but you might prefer a bit more.

* For a more intense tomato flavor you can add in a tablespoon of tomato paste.

* Because the Rosemary Olive Oil Bread is so flavorful, I didn't even use Italian seasoning in this batch of soup, and it was still delicious!

* I like the simplicity of this soup, but to stretch it further, cooked cubed or shredded chicken, cooked and crumbled Italian sausage, a can of canellini beans or a couple handfuls of raw spinach would be really great additions without adding to the cooking time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Honey Vanilla Granola

My friend Leah is a creative cook with a delicious granola recipe! I've made it several times and I love having it on hand for snacking and adding to yogurt parfaits. I'm going to share with you the recipe as I generally make it, but as with most granola recipes it's extremely versatile. Use your imagination!

These are all the ingredients I used in my last batch.
Honey Vanilla Granola

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp maple extract
2 tsp cinnamon
dash salt
4 cups whole oats
3/4 cup additional add-ins (shredded coconut, wheat germ, flax seed, sunflower seeds)

Preheat oven to 325°. In small saucepan melt the butter and honey together. Stir in cinnamon, vanilla, maple extract and salt until thoroughly mixed. I like to bring the mixture to a boil for one minute to be sure it is thoroughly mixed, and to help it harden as it bakes. In separate bowl, stir together oats and any add-ins. Pour butter mixture over oats and mix well. Spread coated oats in a thin even layer on a greased cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Bake for 9-10 minutes, remove from oven and stir thoroughly. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 8-10 minutes. The granola needs to be lightly golden. It will darken and harden as it cools. You may have to adjust baking times and temperatures -- if the granola is brown, it will have a burnt taste. (I usually bake mine for about 8 minutes each time because I don't like it to be too crunchy.)

The finished product! Scrumptious.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cornbread to the Rescue!

The other day we weren't supposed to be home at dinner time, but our appointment got cancelled, leaving me with no dinner plans and a husband coming home in an hour! To make matters worse, going out was out of the question and it was Thursday - we get groceries on Friday. (I buy our food weekly, which means very little "stocked up". I had pantry staples like flour and condiments to work with.) After staring into the open fridge and pantry with the dull stare of a dairy cow, inspiration finally struck.

I took my favorite cornbread recipe and added about a cup each of cooked, shredded chicken and cheddar cheese. If I had had a jalapeƱo and whole kernel corn, I would totally have added that, too. Since I use bacon fat in place of some the shortening in my cornbread, the flavor was really terrific! I added the extras after mixing the batter and before the melted shortening/fat.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a couple of Honeycrisp apples in the fridge, too, so I sliced them up and served them. An odd combination, to be sure, but everyone in my family ate it up and asked for seconds. I do have to say, though, that I did have more to choose from than I normally would. Fresh fruit is almost always gone by Thursday night, I had just forgotten about those somehow. 

Halfway through dinner, a friend texted and asked if she could come over for an hour or so. Knowing she was going to pick up fast food for her own dinner, I tentatively offered her some of ours. She agreed, and then was so glad she did - she loved it!

I have to say, one of my favorite things about cooking is handling these little challenges - it's like Iron Chef, Secret Ingredient: Shredded Chicken! Allez Cuisine!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Caesar Dressing

A few months ago a sweet, crazy friend of mine had me and a couple other ladies over for dinner. She made a salad for us using a homemade Caesar dressing that was very tasty! Now, I'm aware that true Caesar includes such dubious ingredients as a raw egg yolk and anchovy, but ... yuck. So, this isn't "authentic", but it is really, really good! (I modified it a bit for my taste.)

Caesar Dressing

1/3 cup olive oil mayonnaise
2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 T. lemon juice
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic (minced)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 T milk 

Combine all ingredients in a Mason jar and shake 'em up. Or whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl. That's it!