Saturday, November 19, 2011

Peanut butter bars

We're having Thanksgiving dinner at church tomorrow and I have to work. Generally, I'm out of work by the time church starts but I wanted to make something to bring with me. Since it had to be prepared tonight I decided on dessert. Peanut butter bars.

I wanted to make these for my small group a couple weeks ago but decided at the last minute to make something else (Oreo Cheesecake Cookies, yum). I pulled all the ingredients out tonight though and went at it. The recipe is very simple:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
4 tbsp peanut butter
The first 4 ingredients are mixed together well and pressed into an ungreased 9x13 pan. Then mix the chocolate chips and peanut butter and melt. I used a bowl and microwave, stirring every 30 seconds. That mixture is poured on top and spread evenly. Put a lid or cover on it (not anything that will touch the chocolate though!) and put it in the fridge at least an hour.

It tastes like Reese's cups. It's heaven.
Let me also admit that I stole this picture from someone else (because my phone had an accident and I haven't exactly figured this one out yet!) But they really do look and cut like that :-)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Chicken and Dumplings

Growing up I was quite deprived in my food choices. My Mom is kind of picky so I didn't know I liked a lot of food until I left home. Luckily, my Aunt Julie always sent my Dad home with his own container of Chicken and Dumplings and he was nice enough to share with me. Sunday's are my favorite cooking days because I have time to cook meals that take a little too long to cook during the week. Chicken and dumplings is one of those meals!

I started off with a two chopped onions in some oil in my already hot cast iron dutch oven. I cut up a whole chicken and put the pieces on top of the onion once it was translucent. You don't really have to cut up the chicken, you can throw it in there whole; I cut it into pieces so I can get more of the fat off. I used seasoned salt and pepper to season the chicken and onions. I used 32oz of chicken stock plus another 32oz of water so the chicken would be completely covered, put the lid on, and left it to cook for an hour.

Once your house smells delicious it's about time to take the chicken out. I pulled the meat off with a fork and then used my fingers to shred it into smaller pieces. I recommend using your fingers to do this so you can make sure you haven't missed a bone somewhere!

Put the chicken back into the chicken stock and start adding pieces of biscuit dough. There are multiple ways to speed up the process here. You can buy pre-made biscuit dough and chop it up; use Bisquick to make biscuit dough or you can do it the hard way and make your own biscuit dough from scratch. Since I never do anything easy can you guess which way I went? Exactly, I made my own dough. I made enough for 30 biscuits (based on my Aunt's recipe) because I wanted it to be thick (and hers is always thick!). You'll need to stir while you add and the dough will float. Let it cook/simmer about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the dough stays in the mixture you're ready to go. Probably you'll want to add more salt and pepper. You could also add carrots, celery, and garlic to give it some more flavor!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Southwest Chicken Wraps

I'm excited to put another pinterest find to test! This was quite easy and quite good. It reminds me of a Grilled Stuffed Burrito from Taco Bell, but I know what the meat is in this case :-)

I made some changes to the original recipe. Instead of black beans I used refried black beans. I liked the turn out because the beans were a good way to keep all the ingredients stuck to the tortilla. I think that might be the only change.

Here's how I did it!

I started with a tortilla.
To the tortilla I added the refried black beans. I scooped these straight from the can to the tortilla.
Next I added the rice chicken mixture. To about a cup of cooked rice I added 1T chili powder, 1t cumin and 1/2t garlic salt. I boiled a chicken breast and shredded the meat (it's a little over a cup of meat I would say) and mixed it with the rice. The rice is delicious, btw.

Next was the cheese. I used Colby jack and cheddar and sprinkled it all over. Then I added some dollops of sour cream and folded the wrap up.
Put your skillet on the stove and get some heat going. Spray both sides of the wrap with cooking spray and place it seam side down in the pan. Let it cook until it's nice and crisp, about 2 minutes each side. Delicious!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Dinner with the Browns

Dinner tonight was easy and delicious. I had chicken legs that I covered in barbecue sauce and then covered and put in the oven at 500 for 15 minutes and then 300 for an hour. I rubbed seasoned salt into the skin of two potatoes and placed them in the oven as well. I found the BEST corn bread recipe. Follow this recipe for absolute delight:

1 cup flour
1 cup corn meal
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Mix all the dry ingredients and then mix in the egg, milk and oil. Pour into a greased muffin tin (or 9in round pan if you prefer) and bake four 20-30 minutes at 375. I turned the oven up and added these in when there was 20 minutes left on the clock. Once the chicken had baked an hour I removed the foil covering and put it back in. I also took the potatoes out. I cut each potato in half and scooped out the insides, mixed them with butter and cheese and put them back in the potato for twice baked potatoes! I put each half on a cookie sheet and put them back in the oven about 3 minutes. You WISH you were a Brown tonight, I know! 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cheesy Bleu Cheese potatoes

Yesterday on Pinterest (my new addiction thanks to Katrina), I found a recipe for Cheesy Ranch Potatoes. I was super excited to make them today and then realized two things. 1) I didn't have any ranch dressing. 2) I didn't have any chili powder. Now, the first one didn't surprise me too much. I don't really use dressing too much so it was really dependent on what my husband was using this month. The second one surprised me a lot. I must have used the last of it with the chili I made last month. Well, that couldn't stop this desire for cheesy potatoes.

First, I used some spices from my cabinet to replace the chili powder. These are pretty much my fall back spices when I'm not feeling super creative. They're always good though. I peeled and chopped two very large potatoes (the recipe called for red potatoes but I don't use them very often and I always have white potatoes so that's what I used!) and added the spices and some butter. Into the oven they went at 400 degrees for an hour.

When the hour was up the potatoes came out and I added a handful of cheddar jack and probably about 2-3 tablespoons of Bleu Cheese dressing! I don't tend to like bleu cheese unless it's mixed in something so I figured it was pretty safe to mix it with some other cheese and potatoes. Mix it up and put it back in the oven for about 5 minutes.

It looked yummy. Tastes pretty good too!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Easy Apple Turnover

I read lots of recipes regarding apple turnovers today. I wanted to make them and I wanted them to be simple and I wanted to make them from what I had in the house. So here's what I took from the recipes I read. One apple, peeled and chopped; a little less than 1/4c of brown sugar; 1 tbsp of flour; 1 tsp sugar; 1 tsp vanilla. I mixed them all up and opened a package of crescent rolls. Unfortunately, my crescent rolls got cut weird. They weren't in triangles they were in long diagonal strips. Weird. I kept them in four large pieces and split the apple mixture in all of them. I sprayed them with a couple squirts of spray butter and folded the crescent roll over, pinching the sides together. I sprayed the tops of each with butter and sprinkled with a cinnamon/sugar mix. Into the oven they went at 400 for about 12 minutes. The apples weren't cooked all the way. Probably I should have sliced them thinner. Regardless, they were good!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Quick Chicken Wings

Just a quicky tonight. Mix 1 cup bread crumbs with 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese (I used freshly shredded but grated will work) with about 2 tbsp lemon pepper and 2 tsp thyme. I soaked 12 wings in Chipotle lime marinade, pressed them in the dry mix and put them in the oven for about 50 minutes at 430F. They came out really crispy and pretty decent tasting with a nice little bite at the end. Josiah always yells at me for doing crazy things with wings (because clearly chicken wings are great without all the fancy stuff) but even he liked them (or at least he said he did!)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Huevos Rancheros

This is probably one of my favorite meals. We almost always have the ingredients needed to make and best of all, none of them require defrosting (which is really good for forgetful people like me!)
 Start with a tortilla. Spray your skillet with whatever spray oil you have and put it over medium heat. Once it's hot throw a tortilla on and spray the other side with oil. Flip it after about 2-3 minutes and let it crisp on the other side. The goal is to make it crunchy but not chip crunchy, make sense?
Add some fried potatoes. These are simply just chopped potatoes seasoned with season salt and pepper.
To those add some beans. I used black beans here. I've made these with refried beans, refried black beans and just regular pinto beans. They're all good. I like the refried beans better though because they make everything stick. If I have them I will generally put them on the tortilla first.
Next add cheese. We're out of shredded cheese. It may be the first time. Ever. So, I made due with a slice; however, that is not American cheese, it is a Colby, cheddar, jack blend. :-)
Huevos. Or eggs for you gringos. I like them over easy so the yolk mixes in with everything. My husband likes scrambled. Take your pick.
Add salsa and you have yourself some huevos rancheros. I sometimes add sour cream, too. Simple. Easy. Delicious.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fried Chicken and Waffles

I've always thought this combination sounded interesting. This evening as I was looking in the freezer and trying to decide what to cook I saw our frozen waffles (that we almost never make). I just decided what the heck, I'll give it a shot. I know, I know, some of you are saying to yourself frozen waffles? really? Yes. Really.

Let's start with the fried chicken. The first thing to do is get some oil on the stove. I put about what I thought was an inch of canola oil in my cast iron pan and turned the heat on medium. This way the oil can heat up as you prepare the chicken.

I defrosted four chicken thighs (bone in) and batter them very simply. If you've ever been in a spice slump I recommend Emeril's Essence. It's wonderful. I mixed a tablespoon of that into 1 cup of flour which I put in a big Ziploc bag. Shake it up and then removed about 3-4 tablespoons to use later. Add the chicken one at a time to coat it and lay it on a baking rack. I don't have a baking rack so I used one of the shelves in my stove and put it over the sink. Practical and very easy to clean up! Let it sit about 10 minutes. (This is so it can get to room temperature which makes it fry a little more even!)

Flick some water into you oil and if it sizzles it's ready! I added all four chicken thighs. I then discovered I had way too much oil as it spilled all over the stove. Oh well, more clean up. I let it cook ten minutes on each side. Right before flipping, I gave each piece some good pierces to make sure they'd cook all the way through. When they were done I moved them back to the make shift baking rack (over the sink still) and let them drain oil off.

I know I've mentioned before and yes I know it's odd, but I don't really care for maple syrup. I knew I didn't want to cover the chicken and waffles in it. So I had this frying pan with oil and bits of chicken and the leftover flour I put aside...gravy! I dumped nearly all the oil out, leaving about 3-4 tablespoons I would guess. I added the seasoned flour I set aside early and scraped the pan to get all the good drippings into the mixture. Once it was well mixed I slowly added a cup of milk, stirring the whole time. Also, I probably should mention I had turned the heat off. The cast iron pan stays hot enough to make this without any further heat. It will thicken pretty quickly and it will be slightly orange from the seasoning but don't worry. I put a piece of chicken over two of my freezer to toaster waffles and covered them with gravy. I don't think even I was expecting it to taste as fabulous as it did! Definitely recommend it for future meals!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cool Ranch Experiment

I knew coming home today that I was going to make chicken. I also knew I wanted to do something different. Yesterday Josiah was snacking on Cool Ranch Doritos and I was contemplating trying to make them from home (something I still plan on trying!) but then thought to myself, "what if I make cool ranch chicken?"
So that's exactly what I did. I came home and made oven fried chicken with cool ranch Doritos. Let me start with the spicy potato wedges though. These wedges might be one of my favorite things I've gotten from Down Home with the Neely's. The recipe is super simple. Mix 1/3 cup of melted butter and olive oil, add a tablespoon of seasoned salt and a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Toss 3-4 potatoes cut into wedges in the mix and spread them out on a cookie sheet. Their recipe calls for mixing fresh parsley and grated Parmesan cheese as well. I am stingy with my freshly grated Parmesan so I grate that over the wedges once they're on the cookie sheet and then I sprinkle dried parsley on them. Stick them in the oven for 50 minutes at 450. Since I was cooking chicken at the same time I cooked them at 400 today.
When you finish with the wedges there is always a lot of the oil mix left over. If you have a lipped cookie sheet you can poor the oil over the wedges. I decided to use the mix as a base for the chicken. I put four half chicken breasts in it and made sure they were evenly coated. There weren't many chips left in the bag but I went ahead and put them in a big Ziploc bag anyway and then crushed them up. I added the chicken one at a time and shook the bag until each piece was well coated. Into a foiled pan they went and they baked for 50 minutesas well.
About half way through baking the potato wedges need to be flipped. At that time I also turned the heat down to 375. Our oven tends to get hotter than most so that may not be necessary should you try this. When it was done I was a little nervous, I have to admit. I did mention in my very first post that about 1 in every 3 to 4 creative attempts of mine fail. Alas, I chalk this one up not so much as failure, but it didn't accomplish what I really wanted. I wanted more ranch flavor. It was good though. The chicken was really moist and the chips were crunchy and did maintain their flavor. Next time I think I'll add dry ranch mix. It sure did look pretty though :-)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Going all Out

Josiah's been giving me grief for the last week about my lack of cooking lately. Today I decided to surprise him by going all out. Can you guess what I made by the ingredients in this picture?

I made Meatloaf! I used 2lbs ground beef, Worcestershire, ground sage, garlic powder, ground mustard, salt, pepper and breadcrumbs. Plus, my little secret ingredient. I used egg and milk to make it a mixture, covered it in ketchup and put it in the oven. Easy.

I don't think you can make meatloaf and not have mashed potatoes. My mashed potatoes are pretty simple. I salt water and boil the potatoes and mash them with a lot of butter. The next best thing after the meatloaf though, were the cheddar and herb biscuits from scratch. I love the Neely's on the Food Network and I use their recipe. They've got a little cayenne pepper for a kick. Yum!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Smoked Ribs!

Today I made ribs on the grill for the very first time. They looked beautiful. Of course, I do nothing simple. I found a recipe for a Memphis style dry rub and coated both sides of the ribs. Also, this is a full slab of spare ribs, if you're curious about the cut. I used a couple tablespoons of oil and rubbed everything in well. I let them sit in the fridge for an hour.

While the ribs marinaded, I got the grill set up. The grill was set up for indirect heat because the best way to cook ribs is slow roasted. I also got some hickory wood chips. Once the coals were lit I let the grill sit and build some heat. Everything I read about cooking ribs said you want to get them cooking at about 225 degrees. I even found a website that explains how to calibrate your grill to determine how much heat you get with the amount of coals you have and whether one side cooks hotter than the other...I didn't do any of that. I put the coals on and let it sit until the coals were white. I added some hickory wood chips and put the ribs on. I added a pan of water to the coal side to keep moisture in while cooking. The only time I opened the grill was to add more water to the pan. I let them cook 5 hours. Another thing I read was that your ribs are done when you pick them up and the bark (the black, crispy coating) cracks. I'm not really a rib connoisseur so I really don't know how they compared. I liked them though. I thought the flavor was good and they were really moist. I only coated them with a thin layer of BBQ sauce. Probably wouldn't hurt to add some more as I personally think BBQ sauce makes just about everything better.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chicken Brushetta Pasta (TGIFriday's style!)

Again, no pictures. Sorry. Sometimes pictures are just a hassle. I picked a boat load of tomatoes from the garden yesterday and decided this evening that I was going to try my hand at Brushetta. My method for finding recipes is usually to first google it and then I read a bunch. I always look at reviews and I try to pick the best things from the recipes I read. My friend Kelly and I go to Friday's for pretty much every meal we get together for. I really enjoy their Brushetta Chicken so when I saw a couple recipes saying they were copycats from Friday's that's where my mind went. It actually turned out really good. Maybe a little too sweet for my liking but that can be adjusted next time. Here's what I did.

Peel a bunch of tomatoes (I don't know how many I had, I didn't really count)
Get rid of the seeds and excess juice and chop them up
Chop some garlic, about 2-3 cloves
Chop about 10 fresh basil leaves
mix it all together with salt and pepper and about 2 tablespoons of olive oil
I put the tomato mixture in the fridge while I got the rest of the stuff together. This mixture would also be really tasty on bread for the classic version of brushetta.

In a small sauce pan I boiled a cup of balsamic vinegar with 2 tablespoons of sugar. I cooked it down until it was reduced about 50%. It should be thick, almost syrup like. I found it way too sweet. Next time I'll use one tablespoon of sugar.

Dice two more cloves of garlic and add them to another two tablespoons of olive oil. Put them in a skillet until the garlic is fragrant. Don't over cook the garlic. Cook some angel hair pasta and once it's done add it to the skillet with the oil and garlic. Toss the noodles to get them a good coating.

I added a half cup of some homemade spaghetti sauce (made and canned last week by yours truly) to the tomato mixture and mixed it up. Then I added the noodle and balsamic glaze and mixed everything again. I made a couple chicken breast that were seasoned with just some salt and pepper, sliced them and put them on top. It was quite good!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mac & Cheese

This morning we had worship in the park. I love having church outside because nature consistently reminds me of how great God is. But, this is supposed to be about food and did we have a lot of that today! Everyone brings a side dish and after the service we eat and if you're me and your husband is Josiah Brown, you then watch the kids (husband included) play football (that could be a whole blog on it's own as those kids are too funny.)

I made mac & cheese as my side dish. The last couple events we've had I always make this twice baked potato casserole, which is amazing but it's complicated and I needed something I could make this morning. Mac & cheese is everyone's favorite. It's especially good if you're part of the Hudson household. I'm not sure mine will ever be as good as Garland Hudson's secret recipe but I keep trying.

Here's what I did: 2lbs large elbow macaroni cooked al dente and drained. That's the easy part. For the sauce I melted 4 tbsp of butter in a sauce pan and added a quarter cup of cornstarch. I added one cup of cream and one cup of whole milk slowly, stirring the whole time. I seasoned the milk mixture with salt, pepper, ground mustard, and garlic powder. Next time I will add a quarter of an onion chopped. To that I then added a can of cream of mushroom soup. Once the the soup was incorporated, I added 8oz sharp cheddar and 8oz Colby/Monterrey. This really makes the sauce thick and creamy. I mixed it with the noodles and spread more cheese on top and baked it 10 minutes at 350 (just to make the cheese on top melt.) It was pretty good. I think next time I will only use sharp cheddar but maybe white and yellow. Also, I think baking it dries it out some so I may skip that part all together. If not skip it then at least add another cup of milk so the creaminess stays there.

I didn't get to take any home, so I guess it must have been good. Overall, I'd say it was a pretty good attempt but I'm gonna keep trying to make it better :-)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Homemade Chips & Salsa

I think my favorite part of growing tomatos is going to be the fresh salsa!! I had a nice lot that I pulled this week and decided salsa was just what I needed.

I found this neat little trick online to peeling tomatos very easily. First, you boil water. Once it's rolling, drop the tomatos in for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Transfer the tomatos to a bowl of ice water. The skin just peels right off, it's amazing.

I like simple salsa so this is basically pico de gallo but soupier! I chopped an onion and a garlic clove and tossed them in the food processor.

I pulled a hot red pepper from the garden. Side note: I have no idea what kind of pepper this is. It's supposed to be a red bell pepper but trust me, it's not! I also pulled a green bell pepper from the garden. I chopped them both and added them to the onion and garlic. I gave the food processor a couple good pulses once I had them all together.

I took my peeled tomatos and either threw them in whole or roughly chopped. I let the food processor go for about 30 seconds and stopped.

Then I realized we didn't have any tortilla chips. Sad day, I tell ya. Of course, I am stubborn and didn't let that stop me. I took about 8 tortillas from the fridge and cut them in quarters. I used oil to coat both sides and salted them. Set the oven to about 400-450 and let them cook about 5-7 minutes. It doesn't take long so you have to pay attention or they'll burn.

Yay. Chips and salsa. Thanks to Janet Potter for the lovely blue bowl she made. It's the perfect sized salsa bowl :-)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Red Curry Chicken

I LOVE Thai food. LOVE it! I was spoiled while working in Melrose Park, IL by this little restaurant called Sala Thai that had a lunch buffet during the week. My favorite dish was Red Curry Chicken. It was a red curry sauce with chicken and bamboo shoots, which I ate over rice. Didn't really matter if it was fried rice or steamed, it's good over both! I found this lovely premade sauce at Kroger and Bamboo Shoots as well (since I'd honestly have no idea where to begin to look for those!)

The first thing I did was season the chicken. I found a couple tips online on Thai seasoning since I didn't have a clue where to start. I didn't measure anything but here's what I used: Cilantro, Mint, Garlic powder, Cumin, salt, pepper and ground ginger.

Next I started the rice. If you don't have one of these inventions you need to go buy one right now. They are wonderful. I put the rice and water in, turn it on, and walk away. No worries about it sticking to the pan or drying out. It's fantastic. Plus, whatever I'm making is usually done right around the same time as the right, which is handy.

I sauteed the chicken strips in a couple tablespoons of oil, added the bamboo shoots and sauce. I turned the heat down a little and put a lid on it. I let it simmer for about 10-12 minutes.

Put the rice in a bowl and cover it with the chicken and sauce and you're set. I actually really enjoyed the mint seasoning in this. It really gives it a nice authentic feel, which is pretty awesome since it's a premade sauce :-)