Wednesday, October 27, 2010
While on our honeymoon in Jamaica nearly every meal was served with some variety of kale. At breakfast you could get steamed kale and roasted peppered potatoes, at lunch they had a crispy sweet potato chip with kale seasoned dip and at dinner it would come piled on risotto, next to mashed potatoes and in pretty little curls over steak. For some reason the entire time I was confusing the green with KELP thinking we were eating seaweed. So thinking that, I have been craving it but not really knowing how to get my hands on it. Thankfully while describing it to someone they corrected my confusion! SO, I grabbed a beautiful bunch of organic kale--on a whim-- at the grocery store the other day. I had no idea what I was going to do with it but every time I opened the fridge its gigantic leaves were peeking out of the crisper calling to me. I remembered reading a few recipes for kale chips which met all of my requirements. crunchy? check. salty? check. better than a fatty potato chip? CHECK. I am sitting here waiting for the last batch to come out of the oven after having literally eaten all of the first as I was transferring the chips to a bowl. I am so bad, but they are so good and, well, EASY (because that is automatically a standard for me). So, here is what you need: one bunch of kale, olive oil and sea salt:
Remove the stems and centers from the kale (slicing a knife down each side of the center ribbing worked really well). Pull apart with your hands but leave in big bunches. Toss in olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes or until crispy. ENJOY!
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
As I type this post I am looking through the sliding glass at leaves violently whirling around, rain pouring down and the television weather man warning all Michiganders of damaging wind gusts and tornados. While I don't like the thought of people getting injured or thousands of dollars of property damage, I DO love good storms. Unfortunately Michigan doesn't get thunder storms that rattle the house and shake your bones like Georgia did. I often wish I was back in the south, sitting on the front porch as a powerfully magnificent storm would flash lightning and boom thunder and refresh and relieve us from the heat of the summer. Storms remind me of how powerful our God is... it is pretty amazing to behold the sheer force of a bolt of lightning or a just forming tornado funnel. Which brings me to the title of this blog...60 days until Christmas! Okay, it really doesn't relate but I couldn't think of a good way to transition out of all my storm talk. The days are just flying by, I can't believe it is already time to start thinking about buying Christmas presents . This Christmas will be bittersweet for Jonathan and I since we (still) don't know what state we will be in. So much of the joy of Christmas comes from being with family, decorating and baking and singing cheesy Christmas songs --[me, I want a hool-a-hoop!] At the same time, we know we will be flying home to a sure to be snow covered state where we can share the holiday with the people we love the most. This past weekend the husband and I went to Cedar Point, a huge and pretty well known amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio to celebrate Halloweekend! The lines were INSANE (three hour waits for ALL rides) but the roller coasters were awesome, once we actually got a chance to ride them. On the way home J got pulled over (as usual) but talked his way out of a ticket. I swear he is going to lose his license because of his lead foot. We will finish our Halloween celebration this weekend and then look to the next two holidays coming up within these coming 60 days. We have Thanksgiving, birthdays and Christmas along with a move to who knows where! We can only pray that our hearts are listening enough to follow the direction and guidance God is surely laying out for us. In the meantime, there is a tornado siren going off so I better go get some make-up on in case it hits and I am put on the news to describe how I survived the Twister!
Friday, October 22, 2010
Peanut Butter Brownies from Smitten Kitchen
Adapted from Butterwood Desserts, West Falls, New York via Gourmet, October 2007
Makes 32 brownies, more or less, depending on how you cut them
These “brownies” are more blondie than cakey, with an excellent peanut butter-chocolate contrasts and fantastic edges, for those of you into that sort of thing. Have a glass of milk handy.
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (9 ounces)
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (9 ounces)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until mixture is light and fluffy, then add peanut butter and beat until incorporated. Beat in whole eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla. Reduce mixer sped to low, then mix in flour until just combined.
Mix in chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups) then spread batter in baking pan, smoothing top. (It will be thick, almost like cookie batter.)
Bake until brownies are deep golden, puffed on top and a wooden pick inserted in center come out with some crumbs adhering, 40 to 45 minutes.
Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 1 1/2 hours.
Make ganache: Put chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups) in a heatproof bowl.
Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan, then pour over chocolate chips and let mixture stand for one minute.
Gently whisk in butter until it is incorporated, chocolate is melted, and a smooth mixture forms.
Spread ganache on cooled brownies and let stand until set, about 15 minutes.
Brownies keep in one layer in an airtight container three days, and we hope much longer if hidden waaay in the back of the freezer.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Driving down the road today I watched the leaves coming off the trees in such large quantities.. It reminded me that weather like in the above photo (which was taken last winter in South Haven), is right around the corner! Jonathan and I are still trying to figure out what our next move is and where that will take us....but I am hoping it will take me away from the snow! I love these season changes in Michigan though. Fall is the perfect time for creamy pumpkin pies (which I baked last night), and all types of pumpkin and squash dishes (pumpkin risotto with butternut squash is on the menu this week). As the leaves continue to fall leaving the branches bare I am going to take the opportunity to cook all the good belly warming meals I can. Here is a great recipe for chicken pot pie, I made this last night and the bowl was licked clean, even with the promise of a pumpkin pie dessert!
Homemade Chicken Pot Pie
Okay, honesty time: I didn't make my own dough, I used two roll out pie crusts which you can found in the dairy section near the biscuits. I am going to give you a recipe for crust at home, but if you are busy like I was yesterday you can skip that step and the pre-made crusts does just fine!
1 package frozen veggies
1/3 c. butter
1/3 c. Bisquick baking mix
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 c. milk
1 3/4 c. cooked chicken or turkey (I boiled my chicken for about an hour and then ripped it into bite sized pieces)
2 1/3 c. bisquick mix
1/3 c. salted butter
1/4 c. boiling water
Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add baking mix, onion powder, and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly until bubbling. Remove from heat. Stir in soup and milk. Return to heat, bring to a boil, stir for one minute. Stir in chicken and frozen vegetables.
For crust, Combine baking mix and butter in a bowl. Ass boiling water, stir until dough forms. Divide in half, roll into balls. Flatten into patty and roll out to fit pie pan. Lay in dish.
Spoon in filling and cover with second pie crust. Cut holes in top for vent. Place 3 in. aluminum foil strips around edges to prevent excess browning. Bake 30 minutes at 425.
Serves 6 people, or TWO hungry Slaters!
Monday, October 18, 2010
Dear Husband, We went to the park yesterday and played on swings, chased ducks and you taught me how to make whistles out of acorn tops. Thanks for making fall so much fun. Dear SmittenKitchen.com, please keep your delicious recipes coming. The cheddar/apple scones made our Saturday morning perfect. Dear Sunshine (who always gets two letters), last night you had a full dinner, huge piece of apple pie, big 'ol cup of coffee and almost a whole carton of ice cream. You then tried to convince me you were not hyper while flipping around and hissing. (true story). It was cute that you actually thought you were acting normal.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
1. "Stop cheese from drying out by spreading butter or margarine on the cut sides to seal in moisture. This is most effective with hard cheeses sealed in wax." This wouldn't be a problem if someone (cough, husband, cough) would properly re-seal the ziplock bags!
2. "In order to make cottage cheese or sour cream last longer, place the container upside down in the fridge. Inverting the tub creates a vacuum that inhibits the growth of bacteria that causes food to spoil." This one sounds like a joke, but hey, its worth a shot.
3."Avoid separating bananas until you plan to eat them - they spoil less quickly in a bunch." Good to know.
4. "When radishes, celery, or carrots have lost their crunch, simply pop them in a bowl of iced water along with a slice of raw potato and watch the limp vegetables freshen up right before your eyes." This I am VERY interested to try!
5. "Line the bottom of your refrigerator's crisper drawer with paper towels. They'll absorb the excess moisture that causes veggies to rot." How about a tip to help me remember what I have bought before it has the chance to go bad? Unlikely.
Now it's your turn. What tricks do you use to keep groceries fresher, longer?
Thursday, October 14, 2010
I have been trying to find a reason to use my crock pot since we moved in. I thought I was for sure going to get to use it last weekend during the Michigan/State game but nooooo, the husband begged for guacamole. Alas, the crock went back in the cabinet...but finally I got a chance to use it when I came across a recipe that sounded delish. This is easy, creamy (slightly salty) crock pot chicken. Serve this over brown rice for a no hassle dinner (that is, if your husband makes it home with enough time to turn it off and not burn down the apartment.......... don't ask)
3-4 chicken breasts, whole, sliced, cubed...whatever you want
1 can mushroom soup
1/2 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 c. water
1/4 c. chicken stock
1/4 c. white wine****
1 TB minced dried onion
salt/pepper (about a pinch of each)
1/2 tbsp garlic salt
add everything to a crock, cook on high 4-5 hours. Serve over rice. Easy as cake.
****While buying wine for this dish, I grabbed the cheapest thing because the alcohol cooks out and in my experience, when cooking, the cheaper the wine the better. Turns out however, the wine I bought was just on sale, it called Seven Daughters-- a blend of seven types of wine from riesling to symphony to Gewürztraminer. Pairs perfectly with sushi or pasta. YUH to the UM.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Groceries are expensive, and there is really no way around it. In general, I choose the name brands because subconsciously I believe they are: healthier, higher quality and will be much tastier. Recently I have been subbing a few of my name brand go-to's with -GASP- store brands. The thing is, there hasn't been much difference in flavor. In fact, sometimes the store brands TASTE even better than the name brand. On the other hand, there are some things you absolutely should go with the name brand on. Here are a few that I will personally vouch for. Please let me know what items YOU buy store brand to save the extra cash....
Store brands just as good as the (sometimes) $3.00 more name brand item:
Spices: If you are like me and love to cook different meals that feature an array of flavor profiles, you need armloads of spices. Spices are expensive, McCormick brand will run you around $3.00, Simply Organic (which I love and would buy exclusively if I won the lottery) is around $4.20. Buying the store brand will save you over 50% and the taste is so close you can hardly tell a difference.
Dry Pasta: Noodles are pretty much noodles, you know? And if you can tell a difference, you can throw in some of those super inexpensive spices you just bought.
Canned Vegetables: Depending on where you are shopping you can sometimes taste a slight difference. Generally store brands have less sodium and are actually healthier. I chop onions and throw in with my green beans, butter with my corn, etc. If you add a spice or throw another ingredient in to flavor your veggies, all you will be noticing is a huge SAVINGS.
Eggs, Flour, Sugar, Butter: I have bought/used at least 4 different butters in the past 2 weeks. No flavor difference. Same with the others, these are places you can save the extra money at no cost to quality.
Orange Juice: My husband goes through a container of orange juice a week, easily. After buying Simply, I subbed it for store brand and the taste was about the same. Even if you purchase the minute maid brand you get more for less money.
Name brands you should spend the extra money on...
Miracle Whip/Mayo: Flavor difference is huge. Store brand is bland and oily.
Ketchup: Go wit Heinz. The store brand is a little more tomato-y and watery.
Peanut Butter: Store brand...how do I describe it... well, it stuck in your mouth longer. It was not as creamy and it almost tasted a little burnt. Name brand doesn't even compare, it is that much better.
Potato Chips: Name brand seems to be less greasy and high on flavor.
As I continue to shop & try store brands I will be posting more money savers! Please share YOUR money savers!
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
I have to begin this post with an apology for being so absent the past few days. The husband and I had such a magnificently busy weekend it has taken me until today to catch up! Friday we went to the Griffins season opener with our good friends, Mike & Katie Elders.
Griffins games are great for so many reasons. For one, you can't get much better for people watching unless you go to your local Wal-Mart. Second, you can heckle almost anyone and get away with it. Third: $1 items at the concession stand. And last, the fights on the ice. I love hockey fights because, in general, they are not broken up until someone hits the ground and they are usually getting the life beat out of them. (blood is a bonus!)
We had a blast at the game, even though the Griffins lost, and headed back to the Elders for --(in my mind)-- the MAIN event of the night....Wait for it. Okay, I won't make you: GOURMET GRILLED CHEESE. I know that I don't even have to try and convince you to try them because these sandwiches were just as amazing as they sound. While the boys played Call of Duty [a video game from the DEVIL], Katie and I were in the kitchen grilling up sheer perfection.
Seriously, I wouldn't lie to you about SHEER PERFECTION.
First, we gathered all our ingredients... you will need a few breads: white, rye, sourdough (We just used wheat).
Cheeses: Cheddar, Fontina, Gruyère
(We just used Cheddar and Gruyère because it was so expensive--it is a very famous swiss cheese made from cow's milk and has a slightly nutty taste with undertones of musty mushroom. It is delicious!)
Then, of course you need all your fancy toppings: cilantro, jalepeno, red onion, prosciutto, bacon, tomato, avocado, dijon mustard, sage, apple, etc. You can tweak your toppings based on your preference.
We made 5 sandwiches and cut them up so everyone could taste each sandwich....here is a picture of our little feast and, of course, the cherry wine sangria!
and katie and I, proudly displaying our de-LISH sandwiches...
and one more..this one is great because Katie is clearly disturbed by my husband's juvenile behavior. And Mike just doesn't want to be in the picture :) But please notice the empty plates...we seriously scarfed these down in about 10 minutes.
Gourmet Grilled Cheese
Sandwich #1: Rye, Gruyère, Prosciutto, Arugula, Tomato
Sandwich #2:Rye, Cheddar, Dijon Mustard, Bacon, Tomato, Avocado, Pepper
Sandwich #3:Rye, Gruyère, Apple, Sage
Sandwich #4:White, Cheddar, Jalepeno, Cilantro
Sandwich #5: Rye, Gruyère, Red Onion, Prosciutto, Pepper
Sandwich #6: White, Fontina, Tuna, Relish
Sandwich #7: White, Cheddar, Cherry Preserves, Basil
Sandwich #8: Sourdough, Cheddar, Bacon, Pickles
Sandwich #9:Rye, Gruyère, Sardines, Peppadew Peppers, Arugula
Tips: Generously butter your bread and once sandwich is assembled and on grill don't press them down...it's NOT a panini!
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Last night we ate AVOCADO and chicken enchiladas. These made us close are eyes and hold out the "mmmMMMmmmmm" sound while shakin' our hiney bones. If you love avocado like we do then you will just love these. I have to say sorry for the lack of pictures, I am convinced my husband broke the camera so he can buy a new one. Until then, I am stuck with my crappy photo booth--and it is a little challenging to get the correct angle when you are aiming a laptop. So, forgive me.
Mash up 3-4 large avocados.
Add half a red onion, diced.
Add 1 cup cilantro, chopped.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add 1 minced garlic clove (I added this, because we LURVE the garlic.)
Squeeze juice of 1 lime in mixture.
Brown up some chicken in a skillet, toss in avocado mixture. In same skillet brown tortillas, roll in enchilada sauce and fill up. Roll up until your dish is full. I guess I should mention you should pour one can of enchilada sauce in the pan before placing in enchiladas. Once they are all in, cover with remaining sauce (you should have two cans). Cover THAT with about 1/2 a bag of mexican cheese. Back 25 minutes covered, and an additional 5 minutes uncovered. YUM, YUM & YUMMMMMMMMMMMM.
Meanwhile, I am working on some juice glasses for the nephews and nieces. Lauren's was the easiest, because she loves Little Mermaid... so here is just a pic of the START. I need to re-do Ariel's eyes...free hand painting on glass is HARD though! Now, back to cleaning...bummer!
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Yesterday I decided to start doing what I have been talking about doing for the past 3 months which is hand painting glasses. My first two glasses were projects for friends who helped me during my wedding. Originally I wanted to paint custom glasses for all of my bridesmaids, but that just never happened! So, it has been a little IFFY but I am on my second glass and I think I am getting the swing of things. Hopefully within the next year I will have several crafts to share with friends and family. I have so many ideas in my head and I hope I can bring them all to you SOON! Here is a picture of my first EVER painted wine glass...
Also, last night I made pesto and cream cheese stuffed chicken. I love cream cheese, I love pesto so I was SURE this was going to be a hit, and it was! Now, I couldn't find any pre-made pesto at the grocery store so I made it fresh and it was pretty simple. To yield about a cup of pesto you need 1 cup of basil leaves, finely ground. Add about 1/2 cup finely ground pine nuts (I used walnuts and the taste was about the same). Next slowly mix in 1/4 cup of olive oil. Toss in three minced garlic cloves. Add 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese. Mix vigorously. Add pinch of salt and pepper to taste. With that done, you can place sauce in a mixer and add cream cheese. I used about 3/4 cup. Mix WELL! Meanwhile, slice chicken thighs or breasts nearly in half. Stuff with the cream cheese and pesto mixture. In separate bowl beat one egg and add one cup of finely ground bread crumbs (I used a few ritz crackers) Dip chicken in egg and roll in bread crumbs. Brown the chicken in oil on each side. Place on backing sheet sprayed with oil and back at 350 for 25 minutes or until chicken is done.
This turned out SO WELL that I didn't even have any left for pictures because the husband scarfed it down. Also, to get sympathy from you I will now include a picture of my stitches which come out tomorrow!