December 7, 2014

Spicy Franks and Beans



This is the happiest time of the year, unless you are shopping. At the grocery store this weekend I ran into multiple women who must be trying to do too many things on their to-do list. They not only looked frazzled, but they were more than a little snippy. Now if it was one or two people in the store I could understand. However, it was pretty much every woman except one. The one woman was very sweet and reminded me that not everyone is focused on doing too much at the expense of actually enjoying the holidays. I decided a couple of years back after I started snapping at my kids during most of the month of December, that I needed to stop trying to overdo Christmas. A simple Christmas is relaxing, and at the end of the day my kids love curling up and watching a movie with me as much as any over hyped Christmas toy that I spent multiple weekends searching for. So my Christmas gift list is already done, my meal plan is simple, and my Christmas card list is very short. I am also planning a few fun new Christmas adult drink recipes for my husband and I to enjoy on Christmas Eve after the kids go to bed. Being together and happy is the most important part of the season.



In the last month my fridge, oven, and toilet all broke in the same week. Needless to say I haven't had a lot of new recipe posts. Luckily everything is fixed now and Thanksgiving actually got on the table after having my oven prepared at 11:30 at night the day before. In December I try to make my meal plans simple and easy since there are so many other things to do and focus upon. The following recipe is for Spicy Franks and Beans.

Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Magazine.


Spicy Franks and Beans



Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients
  • 2 cups dried black-eyed peas
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped sweet onions (about 2 small)
  • 1 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 7 ounces small cooked smoked sausage links
  • 7 ounces andouille sausage links, sliced
  • 1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 1/2 cups water
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Rinse black-eyed peas and spread on bottom of greased 3 quart baking dish.
  3. Heat oil over medium heat in a 4 quart dutch oven.
  4. Add celery, garlic, green pepper, and onion.
  5. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes.
  6. Add sausage slices and links and cook 2 minutes.
  7. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and water and bring to a boil.
  8. Pour tomato mixture oven beans and cover with foil.
  9. Cook for 1 hour.
  10. Stir and uncover.
  11. Bake 45 minutes more, stirring 2-3 times.
Tips: 
  • The total cooking time can vary. Check the beans 20 minutes after uncovering (step 10). They maybe done, or can take up to an additional 20 minutes. 
  • My family loves sausage so oftentimes I use the entire package of small sausage links. I just make sure to add additional water so that nothing dries out. 
  • If you like a little bit of heat this recipe is great with the addition of cayenne or chili powder. It would also work with a minced jalapeño (seeded or unseeded). 
  • As a side or topping cornbread is great! 

November 30, 2014

Delicious Pumpkin Muffins Using Monk Fruit In The Raw

Disclaimer: I received this product for free from the sponsor of theMoms Meet SM program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meets SM blogger, I agree to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of this product.




It's baking season and I have been baking up a storm for what seems like months. With my two kids home last week for Thanksgiving I made a lot of snack foods, many of them involving pumpkin. Pumpkin is a big deal in my house during the month of November, my kids love pumpkin baked goods and I make a lot of cookies and muffins using fresh and canned pumpkin. Since I try to reduce the amount of sugar that my two kids consume I am always looking for new products to use in my baking. Recently I was given the opportunity to try Monk Fruit In The Raw and come up with a new recipe. 

Monk Fruit In The Raw is a zero calorie sweetener made from monk fruit. One packet is the same sweetness as two teaspoons of granulated sugar and is kosher, vegan, and gluten free. It can be substituted cup for cup in drinks and sauces, and used 1/2 and 1/2 with regular sugar in baked goods. 

I came up with the following recipe using Monk Fruit In The Raw.


Pumpkin Muffins

Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose or bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Monk Fruit In The Raw
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine flour, salt, baking soda, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger in a bowl.
  2. Mix well with a whisk.
  3. In another bowl combine sugar, Monk Fruit In The Raw, 1 egg, melted butter, and molasses.
  4. Mix well and then add other egg.
  5. Whisk well and then add in pumpkin and vanilla.
  6. Combine two bowls and mix.
  7. Slowly add buttermilk and combine just until ingredients are blended.
  8. Pour into a greased 12 cup muffin tin.
  9. Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes.
  10. Let cool ten minutes. 
For more information go to the following websites:

November 23, 2014

Negra Modelo: the Perfect Complement to a Great Homemade Meal

Disclaimer: I received products and compensation from Negra Modelo in order to facilitate this post. As always all opinions expressed are my own.



I love to entertain. There is something about setting a great table, finding the perfect recipes to prepare, and being surrounded by great company that is part of the better things in life. In addition to the food and company finding a great complement to the meal is part of the fun. Recently I hosted a dinner centered around and complemented by Negra Modelo.

A little background on the brand. Negra Modelo is a dark style lager that is made by slow roasting caramel malts. The brewing process takes twice as long as other beers making for its distinct taste. The gold foil lined bottle is distinctive and attractive and the lager pairs beautifully with a variety of foods.



I'm a big fan of homemade comfort food. Simple dishes can be flavorful and make you feel warm and fuzzy. In order to host my meal I was sent a variety of spices from The Spice House to use in my recipes. I came up with 4 new recipes for my meal: a roasted butter-bicentennial seasoning rubbed chicken, bavarian style seasoning roasted potatoes, Italian bread, and chocolate cupcakes with Negra Modelo frosting (recipe to come later this week). The recipes are as follows.




Bavarian Seasoning Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 pounds fingerling potatoes
  • 1-2 teaspoons The Spice House bavarian style seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. In a bowl toss potatoes with seasoning, salt and olive oil.
  3. Place potatoes cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until nicely browned.



Butter-Bicentennial Rubbed Roasted Chicken

Ingredients
  • 5-6 pound roaster chicken
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1-2 teaspoons The Spice House bicentennial seasoning
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Combine seasning and butter in a bowl, softening butter with your fingers.
  3. Gently separate skin from meat on the roaster chicken.
  4. Rub butter mixture under the skin.
  5. Cook bird for 2 hours or until juices run clear and bird reaches temp.



Cheese-Italian Herb Bread

Ingredients
  • 1 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups plus 1 tablespoons bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons dry milk powder
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon The Spice House bavarian style seasoning
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
Cooking Directions
  1. Add ingredients to bread machine in order recommended by the manufacture.
  2. Select basic cycle.
  3. Let bread cool for one hour before slicing.
  4. If you don't have a bread machine the dough can be hand kneaded for 8 minutes.
  5. Place into a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled (approximately 1 hour).
  6. Punch down, shape into a loaf, and place in a greased loaf pan.
  7. Cover with plastic and let rise until doubled (approximately 1 hour).
  8. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes.
The Negra Modelo was a perfect accompiment to the meal. The taste was a complement to the food without being overbearing, and the seasonings made for nice flavors. 

For more information go to the following links: 

Website: http://www.negramodelousa.com/home
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NegraModeloUSA
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NegraModeloUSA
Instagram: http://instagram.com/negramodelousa

November 15, 2014

Pork and Tomatillo Chili



I've decided to scale Christmas down this year. It seems that Thanksgiving is almost forgotten with the rush to start buying Christmas gifts earlier and earlier. So this year I have talked to my kids about not overdoing the holidays. They will be receiving one large gift from my husband and I and that's it. Now granted they are wanting electronics this year so the one big gift will be a little pricey, but it will still be less than the madness of previous years. In past years between family on both sides my kids have gotten more toys than I would like to admit. This year we will enjoy a big meal with family and the gifts will take a back seat. No mad dash for gifts and the frustration over not finding the 5,000 toys on my kid's wish lists.



The weather here has been cold and is supposed to get colder this week. Since the weather has been less than pleasant I have been making a lot of hot meals. Chili is a family favorite and this recipe for Pork and Tomatillo has great flavor and the meat is very tender.

Adapted from the Food Network Magazine.


Pork and Tomatillo Chili



Ingredients
  • 1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 2 plum tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 4 poblano chili peppers
  • 2 jalapeno peppers
  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
Cooking Directions
  1. Toss 1 tablespoon canola oil with the tomatillos and tomatoes on a baking sheet.
  2. On the other side of the baking sheet place the poblanos and jalapeños.
  3. Broil in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until blackened.
  4. Place the peppers in a bowl and cover with a plate or plastic wrap.
  5. Let the peppers soften for 10 minutes.
  6. Take the skins off the tomatoes, then core and chop.
  7. Repeat with the tomatillos.
  8. Peel and seed the peppers.
  9. In a bowl combine the pork with the chili powder, cumin, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.
  10. In a pot over medium heat add 2 tablespoons canola oil.
  11. Add pork and cook 3 minutes until browned.
  12. Move to a plate.
  13. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil and add the onion and garlic.
  14. Cook 3 minutes until softened.
  15. Add cornmeal and cook for 1 minute.
  16. Add the peppers, tomatoes, and tomatillos.
  17. Scrap up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot.
  18. Add the broth and pork and bring to a simmer.
  19. Cover and let cook for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  20. Uncover and salt and let cook for another 30 minutes.
  21. Remove from the stove and let cool for 10 minutes.
  22. Skim off fat.
Tips: 
  • You can add sliced scallions, pickled jalapeños, or grated cheddar cheese for toppings. 
  • When you trim the pork make sure to keep some the fat for cooking. If you don't have some fat your chili will dry out and your pork won't be as tender. 
  • It may take longer for your peppers to char than 10-15 minutes. Just make sure to flip them when one side blackens so they cook evenly. 

November 11, 2014

Southern Skillet Cornbread



When my husband and I first got married my mother-in-law gifted me a set of cast iron skillets. I had no idea what to do with them. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest the only cornbread my mother really made came from a box or we ate at restaurants. So not knowing what to do with them, I washed the skillets and let them sit to dry. Never, ever, do that to your cast iron skillets. They rust; really, really, rust. In order to hide the evidence I stuck the skillets in a drawer. Then after a few years had passed I decided to take out my skillets and see if they could be saved. After a lot of seasoning they look awesome now. They never get washed, just wiped out and then wiped again with a bit of oil. Cast iron skillets are great, they never stick if you season them correctly and they last for years. My kids are already fighting about who will inherit mine when the time comes.



The best thing about cast iron skillets is cornbread. You really can't compare cornbread made in a cast iron skillet with cornbread made in a regular pan. The skillet makes a delicious golden brown outside crust that is so good! The following is a recipe for skillet corn bread. This recipe has a small amount of sugar, my husband prefers no sugar whatsoever in his cornbread, but my kids like a small amount so this is the compromise. If you want true southern cornbread leave out the sugar.

Adapted from here.


Classic Southern Skillet Cornbread


Ingredients
  • 2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose or bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
Cooking Directions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Place 1-2 tablespoons of oil (or bacon fat) in a 10 inch cast iron skillet and place on the center rack of the oven.
  3. Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
  4. Mix until well blended.
  5. In another bowl combine the oil, buttermilk, and eggs.
  6. Make a well in the middle of the bowl with the dry ingredients and add the bowl with the wet ingredients.
  7. Do not overmix or your cornbread won't taste as good.
  8. Remove the preheated skillet from the oven and turn the skillet in order for the sides of the skillet to be coated in oil.
  9. Pour batter into skillet and bake for 15-20 minutes.
  10. Let sit for 5 minutes and then run a knife around the edge to pop the cornbread out of the skillet.
  11. Serve with butter, honey, or sorghum.
Tips: 
  • If you don't have a cast iron skillet this recipe can also be made in a 9 inch pyrex or metal pan. Don't pre-heat the pan. 
  • I do not recommend changing the oil to anything other than canola. Olive oil and coconut oil do not work for cornbread. Trust me I tried once just to see and it was pretty much horrible. Bacon grease works great, but I'm pretty sure I'm the only one with a giant cup of bacon grease in my fridge (my husband insists on bacon grease to oil the cast iron skillet). 
  • You can add jalapeños and cheddar cheese for a variation on this recipe. I have done it many times and it's great to go with chili! 
How to season your cast iron skillet: 
  • To season your cast iron skillet. scrub with soapy water. Then scour with coarse salt. This will get any of the dried food bits and dullness off. Rinse and dry well, do not let the skillet air dry this will lead to rust. Rub the skillet with vegetable oil using a paper towel. Place skillet upside down in a  350 degree oven and bake for one hour. Let skillet cool in oven. 
  • Once your skillet is seasoned it just need to be wiped out and then oiled after every use. You only need to re-season your skillet if it rusts or the surface looks dull or starts to stick. I haven't had to season my skillet in years, I just wipe it out, rub with oil and then store. 

November 9, 2014

Homemade Raisin Bread



When my oldest was born my husband acquired a new habit, he started insisting on having our door closed at night. Part of the reason is that we have two cats who come in and make noises, waking us (mostly my husband) up. The other part is that we have to leave a light on in order for my kids to be able to find the bathroom at night. I'm a pretty good sleeper, so having the light or noise doesn't bother me. My husband is noise and light sensitive, he has to have the room quiet and dark or he can't sleep. We are also opposite when we wake up, I wake right up and am ready to go. My husband can be a little grouchy in the morning, it's best to let him get ready by himself. I don't mind the door being closed, except our room stays warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter with the door open. Plus I like my door open, that way my kids don't knock loudly when they wake up in the middle of the night. Then I have to get up out of bed to open the door (my husband likes it locked also), and see what the problem is. Honestly, I like my sleep and that is one extra step I don't seem to have in the middle of the night. Maybe when we are empty nesters my husband will allow me to sleep with the door open once again....



We eat a lot of bread in my house. My kids are constantly hungry and homemade bread is a great way to save money. We use it for toast, sandwiches, french toast, croutons, you name it. Plus homemade bread makes great breadcrumbs. The following is a recipe for Homemade Raisin Bread. It can be made with or without a bread maker.


Homemade Raisin Bread



Ingredients
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dry milk
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup raisins
Cooking Directions
  1. If using a bread maker add liquid ingredients to the bread pan.
  2. Add dry ingredients (except yeast) to the pan.
  3. Man a will in the flour and add yeast.
  4. Select regular/basic setting on your bread maker, makes 1.5 pound loaf.
  5. If making by hand or with a mixer, mix wet ingredients together.
  6. In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients.
  7. Add yeast to dry ingredients.
  8. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and combine until dough forms.
  9. On a floured surface or in your mixer knead dough for 5 minutes.
  10. Add raisins.
  11. Knead 3 more minutes.
  12. Roll dough into ball and add to an oiled bowl.
  13. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit until doubled (1-2 hours).
  14. Punch dough down.
  15. Form dough into a loaf shape and add to a greased loaf pan.
  16. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until 1 inch above the top of the pan (1-2 hours).
  17. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.
  18. Tent with foil if crust and top brown too quickly.
  19. Wait until cool to slice.
Tips:
  • All-purpose flour can be used instead of bread flour, however, bread flour makes a superior rise and flavor. 
  • I prefer dry milk and water in bread recipes. However, I have made this recipe with regular milk (omit the dry milk and add 1 cup regular milk). Heat the milk with the butter on the stove and then add to other ingredients. 
  • Don't let this dough over rise in the loaf pan or the top will fall in the oven (trust me I did it once). 
  • Don't worry if the bread begins to get really brown on top, my family loves the really browned outside. The first time I made it I thought it was burnt, but they absolutely loved the browned sugar tasting crust! 

November 6, 2014

Potato and Egg Cake



I'm a bit of a procrastinator this year in regards to Thanksgiving. I have absolutely no idea where we are going or what I am cooking if I do indeed host. A large part of the procrastination has to do with the weather. West Virginia weather in November is really unpredictable. Some years it's in the 60's and other years it's snowing. Plus my in-laws live in the mountains so their weather is even more unpredictable than ours. So all in all I have no idea what we are doing for Thanksgiving this year, yet. I'm hoping that by next week I will be able to figure out if I'm hosting or not. Then the debate about what to fix starts, with my kids insisting on Cornish game hens, my in-laws preferring turkey and we not wanting either. Honestly I prefer the sides and dessert, I have never been a big fan of turkey.



I have been trying to reduce the amount of snacks that my kids eat. If given the option they will only eat snacks and never eat an actual dinner all week. So to combat this habit I have been reducing their snacks and making dinners that they are likely to at least try. The following is a recipe for Potato and Egg Cake, which is kid friendly and makes delicious leftovers.

Adapted from the Food Network Magazine.


Potato and Egg Cake



Ingredients
  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp
  • 4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 4 ounces sliced provolone cheese
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced jarred roasted red peppers, drained and patted dried
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
  2. Add a rimmed baking sheet to the oven to preheat.
  3. Fill saucepan with enough water to cover potatoes.
  4. Add potatoes to boiling water over high heat.
  5. Let cook until potatoes are soft, 15-20 minutes.
  6. Butter an 8 inch cake pan.
  7. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs.
  8. Add 4 tablespoons of the butter and the parmesan to the potatoes, mash.
  9. Season with salt and pepper.
  10. Add in the beaten eggs, slowly and mash.
  11. Spread half to the mixture to the buttered cake pan.
  12. Top with provolone, peppers, and parsley.
  13. Make sure to keep an inch border all around the edge.
  14. Top with the rest of the potato mixture, and smooth top.
  15. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs.
  16. Grate the remaining 1 tablespoon butter over top.
  17. Place the cake pan on the heated baking sheet and baked for 15-20 minutes, or until nicely browned on top.
  18. Loosen the edges of the cake with a knife.
  19. Unmold and let the cake rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
Tips:
  • The version from the picture is made with gluten free panko. Gluten free panko is a great substitute for regular bread crumbs and I use it a lot in recipes. 
  • The gluten free version takes a little longer to brown, approximately 5 minutes. 
  • If you aren't a fan of provolone this would also work with Havarti or swiss. 

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