September 30, 2011

Martha Stewart Living Beef and Barley Soup

Autumn is my favorite time of year. I love everything about it, but most of all the cooking. There is nothing more comforting than sitting down on a cold day to a bowl of homemade soup. I think I love just about every soup I have ever tasted or made. There is something so warm and relaxing about eating homemade soup. I've been lucky that my two boys are also big soup fans and will eat just about any variety of soup I serve them. Recently, Martha Stewart Living magazine had a recipe for Beef and Barley Soup, which looked delicious and perfect for the cold snap we've been experiencing.

This recipe has 14 ingredients. It takes approximately 4 hours, 40 minutes of which is active. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. I was able to save money by using the red wine I keep in my fridge for cooking. Additionally, I made my own chicken stock from the leftover bones from a roasted chicken recipe a few weeks back. Making homemade chicken stock tastes so much better and saves a lot of money at the grocery store. I used pearl barley instead, of regular hulled since that was what was available to me. I chose not to add the horseradish garnish, since no one in my family is a fan. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

Slow cooked homemade soup is well worth the wait, and this recipe is no exception. The combination of the mushrooms and the barley are delicious and very filling. I was surprised by how well the leftovers re-heated and the recipe makes enough for multiple additional meals. My husband and I really enjoyed this recipe and it will be one that I will add to my recipe file to make again during the colder months.

This recipe is currently not available on-line, but can be found in the October 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine. There are a few recipes using many of the same ingredients on the Martha Stewart website and can be found here or here.

September 29, 2011

Taste of Home Italian Sausage Quiche

Growing up I loved eggs. My mom would make me sunny side up eggs and toast before school every morning and I was ecstatic. When I moved out on my own, my eggs never tasted as good as my moms and I stopped making them as frequently. However, I never stopped making one of my favorite egg dishes, quiche. I love just about every type of quiche, it's delicious. The October issue of Taste of Home magazine had a recipe for Italian Sausage Quiche, which looked perfect for my love of eggs.

This recipe has 14 ingredients. The prep time is 30 minutes, with 35 minutes of bake time. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store, and I had the majority already in my pantry cupboard. I was unable to find bulk Italian sausage, so I used regular Italian sausage and took it out of the casing, adding about 5 minutes to my prep time. The magazine recommends using disposable gloves when working with the jalapenos, I never do this step and have never had any problems, just make sure not to touch your eyes etc. Approximately half-way through the cooking time I had to tent the crust in order to prevent burning, I would recommend doing this step. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My husband and I enjoyed this quiche recipe. I appreciated how easy the prep was and how I had leftovers for breakfast the next morning. I love how versatile quiche is in that it can easily be used as either a dinner entree or a breakfast dish. This recipe is no exception and I was able to use it for multiple meals. My two boys were skeptical when I first served this recipe, but loved the recipe for breakfast the next day. Overall, an easy and delicious dish.

For the recipe go to Italian Sausage Quiche.

September 28, 2011

Taste of Home Two-Chip Chocolate Chippers

The three male members of my household eat a lot of sweets every week. I have tried cutting out all sweets and snacks at various points in the last couple of years and every time it has ended badly. My husband can be the worst. If there are no sweets in the house, he will eat bowls and bowls of cereal and then eventually stop and get something from the store. Since my family eats very healthy for the most part, I do allow homemade snacks and treats every week. Last week a recipe for Two-Chip Chocolate Chippers from the October issue of Taste of Home magazine caught my eye and looked perfect for my family.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes approximately 20 minutes of prep and 10 minutes of baking per batch. All the ingredients are very basic and I had all but two of them already in my pantry cupboard. I decided not to make the recipe with nuts, my husband is a nut fan, but I'm not and since I was the one making them I left them out. I did find that I made my cookies slightly larger than the recipe so I made a little over 4 dozen cookies, instead of 5 dozen. Be very careful about the cooking time on these cookies. By 10 minutes, the bottom of my cookies were on the darker brown side, so be sure to keep an eye on the timer. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My two boys loved these cookies. If you really love chocolate chips you will like this recipe. It is very sweet and chocolaty and the instant pudding mix gives the cookies an interesting taste dimension. My husband was the one nay-sayer that said the cookies were too soft and cakey. He would have liked them better if I had made them smaller and flatter. Overall, a great very chocolaty chocolate chip cookie recipe.

For the recipe go to Two-Chip Chocolate Chippers.

September 27, 2011

Family Fun Buffalo Chicken Tenders

In the last couple of weeks my five-year-old has decided he has some particular foods preferences and dislikes. He no longer likes anything with cheese, but loves spicy foods. Due to his new foods ideas I have been trying to find foods that we can all agree upon. Chicken is a popular food among all member of my household, especially my two children. The October issue of Family Fun magazine had a recipe for Buffalo Chicken Tenders, which looked perfect for all members of my household.

This recipe has 5 ingredients for the dressing, 3 for the sauce and 8 for the chicken. The total time is approximately 45 minutes, with 25 being active. All the ingredients I either had in my pantry or were easily found at my local grocery store. This recipe serves 8 people, more than enough for my family of four. I did make a few modifications to the recipe. Instead of using plain bread crumbs, I substituted panko, since I already had it in my cupboard and I prefer it for breading. Additionally, I used Frank's RedHot extra hot buffalo sauce, since it was what was already open in the fridge. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My chicken tenders turned out extremely spicy due to the extra hot buffalo sauce. Luckily, my 5-year-old liked the recipe, even though it was really hot and so did my husband. If you like your tenders less hot use Frank's original or leave off the sauce completely. The blue cheese sauce turned out delicious and was very easy to prepare. The sauce would also taste great with steak or other dishes. I liked that this recipe was easy to prepare and very child friendly. For oven baked chicken it was particularly delicious.

For the recipe go to Buffalo Chicken Tenders.

Martha Stewart Living Three-Cheese Macaroni

Most days I eat very healthy. However, I still love comfort food and make it relatively frequently. Growing up my mother made the best homemade macaroni and cheese. She had a hand written recipe for my grandmother's macaroni and cheese that I still keep in my recipe file. It was simple and delicious. My two sons will eat any type of macaroni and cheese that I give them, boxed or homemade, so I am always looking for a recipe that my husband and I will also enjoy. The October issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine had a recipe for Three-Cheese Macaroni, which loved like a delicious grown-up comfort food.

This recipe has 13 ingredients and takes 1 hour and 10 minutes, 40 minutes of which is active. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store and had the majority already in my pantry cupboard. The three cheeses used in the recipe are sharp cheddar, Gruyere and Fontina. I used a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, rather than mini pie plates. The total cooking time, I found to be longer than the suggested 15 minutes due to the larger pan. My total cooking time was probably closer to 20-25 minutes. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The cayenne in this recipe gave a nice kick to the macaroni, making it not bland like many macaroni and cheese recipes can be. This makes a large pan of macaroni, so it would be perfect for a potluck or dinner party. I actually thought that the dish tasted even better after it had sat in the fridge overnight and then was re-heated in the oven. It gave the macaroni a nice thick consistency, so I recommend letting the recipe sit in the refrigerator. This dish was a hit with my two-year-old, he absolutely loved it, a very family friendly recipe.

As with most of the October 2011 Martha Stewart Living magazine recipes, this recipe is currently unavailable on-line. It can be found in the October 2011 issue or there is another recipe for Macaroni and Three Cheeses on the Martha Stewart website.

September 26, 2011

Martha Stewart Living Smoky Sweet-Potato Soup

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. I love everything about it, the smells, the decorations, and most importantly the cooking and baking. One of the foods that I absolutely love to cook in the fall is soup. This week I decided to make a whole week of soup and chili. The first soup that I decided to make was from Martha Stewart Living magazine and the recipe was for Smoky Sweet-Potato Soup.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes a total of 40 minutes to prepare, 20 minutes of which is active. I was pleased to find that my local grocery store is now carrying both leeks and pepitas, which made me very happy. In the past I have been unable to find either ingredient. I used homemade chicken stock which I already had in my freezer. I did find that it took longer than the suggested 20 minutes for the sweet potatoes to fully cook, probably closer to 30-35 minutes. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

If you like spicy soup, you will like this recipe. It definitely has a kick from the chipotle chile. To cut down on the heat, you could always seed the chili before adding it to the soup. I like that this soup doesn't use heavy cream or butter, making it far less in fat than many soup recipes. My husband and two-year-old liked this recipe, my five-year-old ate too many cookies and didn't want to try any of the soup for dinner. Overall, a delicious, easy, and low-far soup, perfect for the fall season.

This recipe is currently unavailable on-line, but can be found in the October 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine. There is a recipe for Sweet Potato and Chipotle Soup and Roasted Sweet Potato Soup with Curried Apples, which use some of the same ingredients and would have some of the same flavors. These recipe can be found on the Martha Stewart website. 

September 25, 2011

Taste of Home Crunchy Asian Coleslaw

When I first started cooking as much as I could from scratch, I would make a great main dish and buy a bagged salad as a side dish. I do love bagged salad, but you can only have it so many times a week before it becomes redundant. So approximately 6 months ago I started making a conscious effort to make one side dish and one main meal for dinner every night. Some weeks it takes a lot of creative thinking to figure out dishes to go together, but I was lucky that the August/September issue of Taste of Home magazine had a delicious recipe for Thai Shrimp Curry and a side dish recipe for Crunchy Asian Coleslaw. I have already posted my review of the Thai Shrimp Curry, here is my post for the Crunchy Asian Coleslaw.

This recipe has 10 ingredients and takes minutes to prepare. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store and already had everything except the vegetables in my pantry cupboard. Since the original recipe is for 2 servings, I doubled it to feed my family of four. Instead, of using reduced-sodium soy sauce, I used the regular bottle I already had in my fridge. The taste did not turn out overly salty, so the substitution was fine. I don't know if I had used the reduced sodium soy sauce if I would have needed to add additional salt. I followed the remainder of the recipe as stated.

I was impressed with how well this coleslaw turned out and paired with the Thai Shrimp. The doubled recipe made enough for my family of four and leftovers for the next day. I appreciated how easy the prep work was and how simple the ingredients were. A great simple, coleslaw recipe that would go well with a number of spicy dishes.

For the recipe go to Crunchy Asian Coleslaw. (registration required)

September 23, 2011

Taste of Home Thai Shrimp

To say that my five-year-old loves shrimp would be an understatement. He absolutely adores anything to do with shrimp, and devours it when I make a recipe. Recently, he has gotten to the age that he is able to help me peel the shrimp, while I de-vein, which works great as a kitchen learning project. He learns important kitchen steps and I am able to save a bunch of time. Recently, the August/September issue of Taste of Home magazine had a recipe for Thai Shrimp, which looked delicious and a perfect kitchen project for my oldest son and I.

This recipe has 16 ingredients, 20 minutes of prep and 15 minutes of cooking time. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. Instead of using store bought chicken broth I used the homemade stock I had in my freezer. I found that it took me longer than the stated 20 minutes to prep my shrimp and the rest of the recipe, but I was working with my five-year-old. The only curry powder I had in my cupboard was madras curry, so my curry ended up slightly spicy. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

If your family size is larger than two or if you are a big shrimp eater, you will want to at least double this recipe. This recipe was written as a date recipe, so it makes very few servings. My whole family loved this recipe, it was delicious. and very easy to prepare. The tomatoes make a nice addition to the shrimp and work well together. Since this recipe was small and had a great taste, we had no leftovers to put away after dinner. A delicious and easy way to prepare shrimp.

For the recipe go to Thai Shrimp.

September 22, 2011

Better Homes and Gardens Gemelli with Asparagus and Sausage

My family really loves pasta. Growing up the one dish I would always eat that my mother made was pasta. I loved it anyway she prepared it and ate multiple servings. My two boys have inherited my love of all things pasta and ask for it frequently. I make pasta about once a week, so I am always looking for new ways to prepare it. The September issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine had a recipe for Gemelli with Asparagus and Sausage, which looked different than my usual pasta routine and very easy to prepare.

This recipe has 11 ingredients (if you use the optional ingredients). The total time start to finish is approximately 40 minutes. All the ingredients were easy to find at my local grocery store. I did make a few modifications in order to save money. Instead of using asparagus, which can be quite expensive, I used broccoli. Instead of bulk Italian sausage, I bough linked sausage and took it out of the casing. I did use pine nuts, since I already had some in my cupboard from previous recipes. Finally, I used whole milk ricotta instead of the sheep's milk cheese. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My two boys liked this recipe. I liked that the prep work was minimal and the dish turned out well. My husband took the leftovers to work the next day and they re-heated great. Substituting the broccoli for the asparagus was a great way to save money and tasted delicious. Overall, an easy pasta dish with vegetables and protein which can easily be made in less than an hour.

For the recipe go to Gemelli with Asparagus and Sausage.

September 21, 2011

Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies

I love baking. The smell, the taste, the whole process is something I thoroughly enjoy. I'm lucky that my five-year-old loves to help me bake and cook and is becoming a great kitchen helper. However, he is also very vocal about his likes and dislikes. Oatmeal cookies fall into his dislike category. The spices in regular oatmeal cookies aren't among his favorites and he will rarely eat them. A couple of years back my mother-in-law gave me a recipe for Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies, which my five-year-old actually loves and I make pretty frequently. This is the recipe.
  •  1 1/2 C Flour ( I use all-purpose)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 2 C. Instant Oats
  • 1 C Shortening ( normally just use unsalted butter)
  • 1 C Brown Sugar
  • 1 C White Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
Combine flour, soda, salt and cinnamon, set aside. Cream sugars and shortening. Add eggs and beat mixture. Add oats and flour mixture. Roll into balls and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 325 degree for 15 minutes.

These cookies have a slightly crunchy texture. They have less spice than a lot of other oatmeal cookie recipes and the addition of the brown sugar is delicious. An easy and tasty cookie recipe.

Adapted from a family friend's recipe. 

September 20, 2011

Buttermilk Waffles

I am horrible about eating breakfast. Most days I just drink a cup of coffee and then nothing else until the middle of the afternoon. I haven't always been this way, before having kids I was great about sitting down and eating a healthy breakfast every morning. Since kids my morning eating habits haven't been as great. It seems that my two boys are following in my footsteps. It is horrible trying to get them to eat anything for breakfast. However, the one food that they will normally consistently eat is waffles. This is my quick and easy recipe for Buttermilk Waffles.

Beat two eggs well and add:
  • 2 cups Buttermilk
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 cup Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 6 Tbsp Shortening
Beat well and cook on a hot waffle iron.

It's that easy, a quick way to get breakfast on the table with very little effort. My two boys love this recipe, I appreciate how little time it takes me to make breakfast. A great, simple waffle recipe!

Recipe adapted from Richwood, WV Spanish Club Recipe Book.

Gluten-Free Raspberry Oatmeal Bars

Oftentimes at the end of the week I am left with ingredients that I didn't use all of in my weekly menu plans. With meat and commonly used items like bread flour that is never a problem. However, when I buy specialty items for a particular recipe, I am left with trying to figure out what to do with the remaining ingredients. A couple of months back, I made a batch of delicious spelt pancakes. The pancakes turned out great, but I was left with half of a package of whole grain oat flour and no idea what to use it for. Last week while trying to decide on an afternoon school snack for my oldest son, I came up with the idea of using homemade jam and the oat flour to bake Raspberry Oatmeal Bars. Here is the recipe:
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) Unsalted Butter
  • 2 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup Oat Flour
  • 1 cup Rolled Oats
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1 1/2 Xanthan Gum
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp. grated Lemon Zest
  • 1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 2/3 cup Raspberry Jam
Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 8 by 8 pan. Combine melted butter, and 1 tsp. vanilla in a bowl. Add flour, oats, sugar, xanthan gum, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt until well mixed. Press 1 cup of the mixture firmly into bottom of the greased pan. Add remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla into raspberry jam and spread evenly over top. Sprinkle remaining oat mixture over top and bake 20-25 minutes. Let bars cool at least 30 minutes before slicing. Makes 16 bars.

These bars only lasted a couple hours after I made them, they were delicious. I used homemade raspberry jam, which I had canned last month. The recipe would work just as well with store bought preserves or jam. A very easy gluten-free dessert recipe.

Adapted from the back of the Bob's Red Mill Whole Grain Oat Flour package.

September 18, 2011

Chili-Toasted Pecans with Dried Cherries

I have never been a big fan of nuts. I can tolerate hazelnuts and almonds, but just about every other nut I could leave well enough alone. However, I they are a great source of protein and a perfect snack for my two growing boys so I have been trying to find recipes to incorporate more nuts into my family's diet. I came across a recipe for Chili-Toasted Pecans with Dried Cherries, which looked like a perfect way to encourage my family to eat more nuts. The recipe is as follows:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon bottled hot pepper sauce
  • 2 cups pecans (the recipe called for halves, but I used pieces)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 cup dried cherries (or a combo of raisins and dried raisins)
Combine oil and hot pepper sauce, add pecans, toss. In another bowl combine chili powder, salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano. Add mixture to pecans. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Bake at 325 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Stir in cherries. Store in an air tight container.

My husband and I loved this recipe. I normally am not a fan of pecans, but when combined with the spices and cherries, the combination is delicious. My two boys were unsure of these nuts until they tried them, and then ate multiple servings. A great, easy nut recipe.

Adapted from a special insert of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

September 17, 2011

Better Homes and Gardens Butternut Squash Bake

To say that pasta is a popular dish in my household would be an understatement. My two boys absolutely adore any dish containing pasta, and oftentimes will only eat the pasta, picking around the vegetables and other ingredients. Since pasta is a such a popular item in my household, I try to incorporated as many vegetables as I can for taste and variety. Recently Better Homes and Gardens magazine had a special insert with a recipe for Butternut Squash Bake, which looked perfect for the fall season.

This recipe has 12 ingredients and takes approximately 30 minutes to prepare and 40 minutes to roast and bake. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. I did find that I could only find giant butternut squash, so I used the squash for two recipes, this dish and butternut squash chili. The panko was easy to find, so I used it instead of plain soft bread crumbs. I followed the remainder of the recipe as stated.

Butternut squash is one of my favorite winter squash, so finding a pasta recipe incorporating it excited me. I found the dish to be a little on the sweet side, I recommend adding crushed red pepper to accent the flavor. This addition would balance the flavors well. This recipe is a great way to use winter squash currently available at local farmers markets.

For the recipe go to Butternut Squash Bake.

September 16, 2011

All You Pork Lo Mein

After my husband and I finished graduate school, we had very little money to spend on entertainment. When I say very little money, I mean very little money. We had gotten married our second year of grad school and then traveled to Europe for me to finish my master's thesis. Due to both of these things, plus schools expenses we had very little extra money. So I learned to make as many recipes as I could, so we didn't miss eating out at restaurants. Two kids later, my frugal ways haven't changed, we still rarely eat out at restaurants, maybe once or twice every two or three months. Luckily I have become quite efficient at making most dishes. My two boys have fallen in love with noodle dishes, so I was I was excited when the September issue of All You magazine had a recipe for Pork Lo Mein.

This recipe has 14 ingredients and take approximately 15 minutes of prep and 20 minutes of cooking time. I was pleased that I was able to find soba noodles and didn't have to make any modifications to the noodles. I did make a modification to the pork. Instead of using bone-less pork chops, I used pork tenderloin that I already had in my freezer. I followed the remainder of the recipe as stated.

I made this recipe when my in-laws were over for dinner and it was a big hit with everyone. My two boys loved the noodles and I liked that it was easy to put together and made enough for a crowd. I would suggest eating the dish the day it's made, it didn't re-heat very well the next day. Overall, a great family friendly recipe that makes enough to feed a crowd.

Saveur Stewed Green Beans

Before moving to West Virginia I had never eaten southern style green beans. The beans my mom made growing up were french style green beans, not the runner style beans popular around here. The first year my mother-in-law gave me a bunch to cook I was unaware that I needed to take the strings off of the green beans, and as imagined they were a disaster. The following year my mother-in-law was kind enough to show me how to make green beans using oil, onions, a ham hock and a lot of time on the stove. That is the way I have been making them ever since, however, every cook book and food magazine I have read talks about southern style green beans using a smoked turkey leg. When I opened up a recent issue of Saveur magazine and saw a recipe for Stewed Green Beans using a smoked turkey leg, I decided to try the recipe to see how it compared to the West Virginia style green beans I always make.

This recipe has 6 ingredients and takes approximately an hour to cook. The prep time will very depending on how long it takes you to string green beans. I normally string all my green beans at once while watching TV, since it's not the most exciting kitchen prep work. My two boys 'helped' me string the pound of green beans for this recipe plus an additional pound to freeze, which took approximately an hour total. I used bacon fat, instead of unsalted butter. I keep a cup of bacon fat in my fridge to use for cooking, my husband prefers the taste in cornbread and green beans. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

These green beans turned out delicious. I preferred the taste of the smoked turkey leg to the use of the ham hock. The rest of my family just loves green beans in general so ate them happily, as they would have if I had used a ham hock. A great easy way to use fresh runner beans when in season.

For the recipe go to Stewed Green Beans.

All You Black Bean and Butternut Squash Chili

I absolutely love fall. The weather gets cooler (but not too cold), the leaves turn and best of all fall baking and cooking season begins. There is something about the smells of cinnamon, all-spice and nutmeg that I find comforting and reminiscent of childhood. My mother used to cook tons during the fall season and the smells bring back great memories of the family meals my mother would prepare. The other fall cooking tradition I love is using my crockpot. My crockpot gets a lot of use making stews and chili during the colder months. One of my favorite ingredients to use in chili is butternut squash, so I was pleased the September issue of All You magazine had a recipe for Black Bean and Butternut Squash Chili. 

This recipe has 14 ingredients. The prep time is approximately 20 minutes and then 6 hours of cooking in the crockpot. The ingredients are all basic and I was easily able to find all of them at my local grocery store. To save money I used dried black beans instead of canned, 4 cans of black beans is a lot more expensive than buying them dry and preparing. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written. 

The weather in our area has turned cold the last week and this chili was perfect. My two boys ate out all the beans and refused to eat the butternut squash, but that is usual behavior for them. I appreciated that all the work is done in the crockpot, saving me time right before dinner. My husband took the leftovers to work and said that they re-heated well. Overall, a great crockpot recipe for the cooler months ahead. 

For the recipe go to Black Bean and Butternut Squash Chili.

September 15, 2011

Easy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

I love this time of year, when the weather starts getting cooler and fall produce starts appearing. One of my favorite activities during the fall is baking. The smell of nutmeg, cinnamon and all spice are wonderful. In my post yesterday, I did a step-by-step of how to make pureed pumpkin. The other great thing to make with pumpkins, besides the yummy puree are roasted pumpkin seeds. They are very easy and a variety of spices can be added to them.

The first step is to scrape out the seeds from the pumpkin. It doesn't matter whether you use a baking pumpkin or the pumpkin you helped your kids carve for a jack-o-lantern, either one will do. Run the pumpkin seeds under water and get rid of the pumpkin strings and flesh. Now the next step is to dry the seeds before spicing. There are a couple of different ways this can be done. First, you may wrap them in a couple of layers of paper towels and let them sit until they are dry. If you don't want to wait that long, the easiest trick is a hair dryer. My mom taught me this trick and it works great, just dry the seeds until they are no longer wet and your set. Now you can add seasoning. You can pretty much use any seasoning you wish, the seeds I made this week had a 'Halloween' flavor. I added the following spices: 
  • 3 tablespoons Unsalted Butter (you can also substitute vegetable oil)
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon all spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
 Toss seeds in the spice mix and place into a 325 degree oven for approximately 25 minutes. You will want to stir and check on the progress at 10 minutes and every 5 minutes there after to prevent burning. The drier your seeds are to start the less time they will take in the oven. You seeds will look something like the picture below before going in the oven.

If you prefer traditional roasted pumpkin seeds the only ingredients you need are sea salt and oil or butter. If you are watching your fat or cholesterol you could also use cooking spray to coat the seeds. I have read of people soaking the seeds in apple juice or sugar water for a sweeter flavor or salt water overnight for a more savory flavor. I haven't personally tried either of these methods, but they sound yummy!

That's it, it's that simple. Pumpkin seeds are a great snack and very easy to make. Plus, it's a great recipe to have the kids help out with in the kitchen. My five-year-old got a kick out of making the pumpkin puree and roasted pumpkin seeds this year.

September 14, 2011

Easy Homemade Chicken Stock

Growing up I remember my mother keeping every single piece of the chicken that we didn't eat to reuse for stock or gravy. Her frugality rubbed off on me from an early age and as an adult I attempt to reuse as much as possible in the kitchen. Not only does it reduce waste, but it's an easy way to keep costs down in recipes and meal planning. Often times home cooks can be intimidated by making stock from scratch, but is actually very easy and costs next to nothing to prepare. This is my recipe for chicken stock, which only takes 6 ingredients (plus water) and turns out delicious.

Many stock recipes use a multitude of vegetables and have lists of steps; this isn't one of those recipes. Everything that is seen in the photo is added to the chicken carcass and water, and that's the end of the ingredients. The ingredients are as follows:
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 8-10 Peppercorns
  • 1 Onion, wedged 
  • 3 Carrots
  • 2 Celery Stalks, leave on. The leaves contain most of the flavor for the broth, so the more leaves the better.
  • Chicken Carcass 
  • Water to cover the carcass. More water will need to be added throughout the cooking process as it evaporates.
I don't add salt to my stock. The salt from the roasted chicken is more than adequate for salting, and creates a great flavor on its own.

Now for the best trick I have learned. Use the steamer basket to keep all the ingredients weighed down. This gives the stock a nice flavor and keeps all the ingredients submerged during cooking.
I normally cook my stock on medium-low for 6-8 hours. Every hour or so check the water level and skim any foam off, adding more water as necessary. After the 6-8 hours take the stock off the heat and pour through a strainer, separating out the solids from the liquid stock.
Your stock should look something like the picture below.
Place the bowl of stock in the fridge overnight. After sitting in the fridge your stock should look like the picture below.
Skim off the thick layer of fat and throw away. Your stock is now finished and ready to use. I store my stock in freezer bags and take it out as needed.

That's it, simple and inexpensive. Homemade chicken stock is a great way to re-use the leftovers from a roasted chicken and makes enough stock for multiple uses.

How to Make Homemade Pumpkin Puree

When I was younger and lived near a number of natural and whole food markets I took for granted how easy it was for me to find unusual or seasonal ingredients year round. Now that I live in a region that is limited in availability for many ingredients, I have learned to make many items from scratch and freeze for later use. Canned pumpkin is one ingredient that is nearly impossible to find in my area unless it's around Thanksgiving. I'm not talking about the pre-seasoned pie filling, but rather plain pureed pumpkin to use in pancakes, muffins and other baked goods (and yummy pumpkin soup). In order to enjoy pumpkin year round I have taken to cooking, pureeing and freezing pumpkin when it's in season. Here is the quick (and inexpensive) way that I make Homemade Pumpkin Puree.

The first step is to buy a quality pie pumpkin. I purchased my pumpkins this year at the farmer's market in Charleston (WV) which had a great selection of pie pumpkins at a much cheaper price then the grocery store. Next cut the pumpkin in half. I use a serrated knife, an non-serrated blade has a much greater chance of slipping and leading to kitchen accidents. Now the fun part, scrape out all the seeds and orange pulp. I use just a regular large kitchen spoon and it works fine. Save the seeds to make roasted pumpkins seeds later (recipe to follow later in the week). I cook my pumpkin in the microwave, it's easy and doesn't create a lot of dishes or mess.

So the next step, cut up the pumpkin into chunks that are small enough to fit into a microwave dish with a lid.

Depending on the size of your microwave your pieces will be larger or smaller. Now pour in a couple of inches of water into the dish, put on the lid and microwave for 20 to 30 minutes. I normally check my pumpkin after about 10 minutes and continue checking every 10 minutes until it's done.

Next step is to remove the pumpkin from the skin. Most of the time the skin will fall right off, and you will end up with cooked pumpkin that looks like the picture below.
Now the final step, pureeing. I use my blender, but a hand blender, food processor or hand mixer would also work. Puree until smooth and it will look something like the picture below.
After the puree is done, I place it in freezer bags, remove the air and stick in the freezer for future baking/cooking. It's much cheaper than purchasing at the store and is very easy to make! So the next time your at the farmer's market or grocery store and see pie pumpkins are a good price, don't forget to pick up a few to make into puree and freeze for yummy treats and recipes.

September 13, 2011

Saveur Carne Adobada (Red Chile and Pork Stew)

Growing up my mother never really made stews or chili. I'm not sure if she didn't like them or never learned to cook them, but any of the chili or stew we had came from a can or was eaten at a restaurant. I taught myself to cook from cookbooks as a young teenagers and used my parents as guinea pigs for my food experiments It was during these experimenting that I fell in love with making chili and stew. I mostly made vegetarian stews and chili since I was a vegetarian for most of my teens years. However, in my twenties I went back to eating meat and married my husband, a huge meat fan. In the last 10 years I have been making meat stews and chili from scratch more frequently and was interested when a recent issue of Saveur magazine had a recipe for Carne Adobada (Red Chili and Pork Stew), which looked delicious and different from the usual beef and pork dishes I am used to making.

This recipe has 13 ingredients, including the tortillas for serving. I had to make some major modifications due to availability of ingredients in my area. I was unable to find either New Mexico chile powder or dried New Mexico chiles, so I substituted with locally attainable ingredients. For the chile powder, I substitute Ancho chile powder and for the dried New Mexico chiles I used dried Ancho chiles. Since I was using a different type of chili, I seeded and stemmed them before toasting. I find dried Ancho chiles to be too tough and they don't fully liquefy in the blender when the seeds are left in, therefore I prefer seeding them for recipes. When salting the stew make sure to taste the pork with the sauce, or you will be tempted to add to much salt. The sauce is somewhat bitter on it's own, but the flavors blend perfectly when paired with the pork. I did find that I had to add slightly more honey than the recipe suggested maybe another tablespoon and the other 1/2 of the lime, in order to reduce the bitterness from the ancho chiles. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I was pleased with the results of this stew. The sauce had a delicious, slightly chocolate undertone and the pork was tender and perfect. My two-year-old loved the pork in this dish and picked it out and ate his whole serving. My husband liked that it was something different than out usual pork routine and appreciated the multitude of flavors. This is a delicious stew recipe and worked well even with my ingredient modifications.

For the recipe go to Saveur Carne Adobada (Red Chile and Pork Stew).

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

I love making homemade bread. The whole process of kneading, waiting for it to rise, the punch down, the forming of the loaf, I enjoy the whole process. However, it wasn't until about 4 years ago that I started making my own bread. At first I used the bread machine that my mother-in-law gave me, but I quickly got frustrated by the shape of the loaf and the inability to make certain breads without having to finish the process by hand. Therefore, when my bread machine broke, I started making all my breads from hand and haven't looked back. One of my boy's favorite recipes is Cinnamon Swirl Bread, they absolutely love it and it is very easy to make. The recipe is as follows:
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup dry milk powder
  • 2 cups quick-cook oats
  • 5 cups flour (if bread is too sticky up to another 1/2 cup of flour can be added)
1. Combine 2 cups of the flour, oats, milk powder, brown sugar, yeast and salt. In a sauce pan melt butter and water and heat to approximately 120 degrees. Add butter and water to dry ingredients, beat until combined. Add egg, beat until smooth. Add remaining flour until a firm dough forms (the amount of flour can vary, add
enough flour so the dough isn't overly sticky, but not too stiff). Stir in raisins.

2. Knead on a floured surface for 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning to coat top and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for about an hour or until doubled.

3. Punch down dough. Divide dough in half and roll each half into a 18 by 9 inch rectangle. Combine sugar and cinnamon, reserving 2 tablespoons for topping, Sprinkle mixture over each rectangle to within a half inch of the edge. Roll up rectangles starting from the short side and pinch seams to seal.

4. Place loafs into two greased loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled in size. Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar mixture.

5. Bake for 35-40 minutes at 375 degrees. If tops begin to overly brown, place a tent foil over top. Makes two loafs.

This recipe is very easy and I has consistent results. It is delicious with butter or makes great cinnamon toast. My whole family has fallen in love with this bread and I make it about once every two weeks. A great, simple bread recipe.

Note: I use bread flour for my bread baking, but all-purpose flour works fine also. I added to the recipe that additional flour can be added if the dough is too sticky to handle and realized when I made this bread last night that I normally use 4 1/2 teaspoons of yeast, not 5 teaspoons. The recipe is now exactly as I bake it.

I adapted this recipe from page 543 of The Taste of Home Cookbook 2009 edition.

September 12, 2011

Fudgey Brownies

Every couple of weeks I get a giant chocolate craving. When I say a giant craving, I mean a giant craving, if I don't get something chocolate I get cranky. The men in my house aren't much better than me and have their own version of a chocolate craving about once a month. Therefore, about once or twice a month I make some sort of chocolate dessert. Last month I decided that I was bored of my usual brownie recipes and searched the Internet for new options. I stumbled upon a recipe for what claimed to be the Best Brownie recipe ever, so I decided to try it out for myself.

This recipe has 8 ingredients for the brownies and 5 for the frosting. The prep time is 25 minutes and the brownies take approximately 35 minutes to bake. This recipe has over 4,000 reviews, so I was confident that it would produce a decent result. The only modification I made was to bake the brownies for exactly 25 minutes, any time more would have resulted in the brownies being overdone. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The frosting in this recipe uses honey as ingredient, which initially made me skeptical. However, after tasting these brownies I was totally impressed by how delicious these brownies turned out. If you are a fan of cake like brownies, this isn't the recipe for you. These brownies are incredibly fudgey, which I prefer. I actually had to make this recipe twice because the first time my family ate them all before I was able to get a photo. So this is the second batch I baked and both batches were delicious. If you are a fan of fudgey brownies I highly recommend this recipe, it's delicious.

For the recipe go to All Recipes Best Brownies Ever.

September 11, 2011

Gluten Free Pomegranate Muffins

Baking is one of my favorite activities and I find it very relaxing. There's something about baking that is different for me than other types of cooking. I love the whole process and bake something at least twice a week. Mostly I bake bread and sweets, but every once in a while I make muffins or other breakfast baked goods. A couple of months back after I made spelt pancakes, I was left with a large amount of gluten free ingredients to find a new use for. I figured muffins would be the easiest use for the white rice flour so I prepared a double batch of Gluten Free Pomegranate Muffins.

This is a very easy recipe. The original recipe I found used dried blueberries, which I can never find at my local grocery stores, so I modified with dried pomegranates. The recipe is as follows for 12 muffins:

  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 cup Milk (can also use water or juice)
  • 4 Tbsp. Sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. Oil ( I use vegetable, my husband isn't a fan of canola oil).
  • 2 cups White Rice Flour
  • 4 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 cup dried Pomegranates
Combine all ingredients until well mixed. Pour into a greased muffin pan (or use muffin liners). Bake 25-30 minutes in a preheated 425 degree oven. Allow to cool before removing from pan.
These muffins are very easy to prepare. A couple of helpful hints. The batter is not thin like many muffin recipes, but instead more the consistency of a biscuit. Second, these muffins go stale very quickly. I recommend eating them hot or within a day. Any longer and they may become tough. My husband ate these muffins with no complaints about them being gluten free and my boys ate multiple servings. A quick easy gluten free recipe.

Recipe adapted from the back of the Bob's Red Mill White Rice Flour package.

September 10, 2011

All You Corn and Cheddar Waffles

Breakfast is the one meal that I consistently struggle with my family over. My husband seems to only want to eat cereal and my boys will go for the worst possible choices in the cupboard and fridge. I might possibly be the worst of us all, I tend to grab coffee and not eat or drink anything else until the middle of the afternoon. Since my children are getting older and learning from both my good and bad habits I have been trying to make a greater effort to eat breakfast every morning. I was intrigued when a recent issue of All You magazine had a recipe for Corn and Cheddar Waffles, which looked perfect for my normally non-breakfast eating family.

This recipe has 10 ingredients and takes approximately 10 minutes to prepare and 7 minutes per waffle to cook. I was easily able to find all the ingredients at my local grocery store and I already had the majority in my pantry. I chose to use fresh corn, I prefer the taste to frozen when it's in season. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I actually ended up using this recipe initially as a side dish for a meal and then used the leftovers for breakfast the next day. The taste was delicious and the only topping I used was butter. My youngest son loved these waffles and ate the majority of the servings. I liked that they were savory and worked well as both a bread side and a breakfast food. A great easy, recipe to change up your breakfast routine.

For the recipe go to All You Corn and Cheddar Waffles.

September 8, 2011

Everyday Food One-Pot Chicken with Sausage and Potatoes

My household does not have a dish washer. This might not seem like a big deal, until you realize how much I cook and bake on a daily basis. Most days I end up doing at least two large loads of hand washed dishes, and then there's the drying and putting away on top of it all. There are some nights that I have absolutely no desire to clean-up, but it still has to be done. Due to my dishwasher-free status, my favorite meals are ones that can be done with minimal clean-up. As I was glancing through a recent issue of Everyday Food magazine I noticed a recipe for One-Pot Chicken with Sausage and Potatoes, which looked perfect from my dishwasher-free household.

This recipe has 10 ingredients, including salt and pepper. The total time is 50 minutes, with 30 active. I was easily able to find all the ingredients at my local store, however I did make one substitution. Instead of using chicken breasts I used thighs. My whole family prefers thighs and if I made breasts they most likely wouldn't be eaten. Additionally, when preparing the recipe I didn't notice that the skins should be removed, so I left them on. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I loved that this recipe only uses one pot, reducing the amount of dishes that I would have to hand wash. My two boys loved the sweet Italian sausage and picked it out from the potatoes. As always the chicken thighs were the biggest hit with my sons, chicken is one of their favorite foods. I found the potato-sausage mixture to be delicious and the highlight of the dish. This recipe is a quick, easy way to get dinner on the table, with minimal clean-up required.

For the recipe go to Everyday Food One-Pot Chicken with Sausage and Potatoes.

Taste of Home Roasted Pepper Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette


As I've stated before, my oldest son loves tomatoes. It doesn't matter what variety, he will eat them all. Pepper are another of his favorite vegetables. Whenever I buy red or yellow sweet peppers, he pesters me to slice them into strips for him. Given my son's love of peppers and tomatoes I have tried a number of salads with vinaigrette, but none have been delicious enough to make again. As I was flipping through the August/September issue of Taste of Home magazine I noticed a recipe for Roasted Pepper Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, which looked like a perfect combination of sweet peppers and tomatoes.

This recipe has 14 ingredients, including salt and pepper. The total time is 40 minutes, plus marinating. I was able to easily find all of the ingredients at my local grocery store, with the exception of fresh rosemary. The herbs in my area are always hit or miss, so I left out the rosemary from the recipe. I found that my peppers took a lot longer than the 20 minutes stated in the recipe. Since my oven broiler is broken, I have been using the broiler oven on my toaster. My peppers took approximately 30 minutes to get all sides of the pepper blistered and blackened. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My oldest son loved this recipe, with the exception of the cheese. He is going through an anti-cheese phase and won't eat any type of cheese I try to give him. My husband and I also enjoyed this recipe. The balsamic vinaigrette was delicious and complimented the vegetables well. I appreciated how easy this salad is to put together and can easily be made early to save time during dinner prep.

For the recipe go to Taste of Home Roasted Pepper Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette.

September 7, 2011

Saveur Cornbread

Growing up my mom seldom made cornbread. The cornbread that she did make came from a jiffy box, which while not bad, wasn't as great as the cornbread I had eaten at restaurants. As I grew up and learned to cook, I seldom made cornbread, maybe a couple of times a year. That all changed when I moved to the state of West Virginia. Everyone that I met had a mother that made great cornbread or corn pone. Over the years I slowly began to make more and more cornbread and experiment with various recipes. Today I can say that I make pretty decent cornbread and will try just about any cornbread recipe that I can find. A recent issue of Saveur magazine had a cornbread recipes, which looked simple and just a little sweet, which was perfect as a side for the pork stew I was cooking.

This recipe has 8 ingredients and takes approximately 30 minutes of prep and bake time. As with most cornbread recipes, this is a very simple dish to prepare. My husband prefers salty cornbread and I prefer sweet, this recipe has 1/4 cup of sugar so it's definitely on the sweeter side. I followed the recipe as written with no modifications.

While slightly sweeter than the normal cornbread my husband prefers, this cornbread was the perfect accompaniment to the Red Chile and Pork Stew I served (recipe to be posted tomorrow). Since the stew was slightly spicy, the sweet cornbread worked perfectly. If you prefer saltier southern style cornbread like my husband, make sure you serve this cornbread with something savory. Of course my two boys love any type of cornbread and ate half the recipe. This recipe is a simple, sweet cornbread, which would go well with a variety of dishes.

For the recipe go to Saveur Cornbread.
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