Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Golubtsy, a Russian Comfort Food

One of my husband's favorite foods is cabbage, so I am always on the hunt for new ways to cook it.  My husband's favorite cabbage dish would have to be golubtsy, or cabbage rolls.  Golubtsy is a Russian dish that consists of meat wrapped in a cabbage leaf and then stewed.  I have come across many versions of this dish, each one tasting as delicious as the other.  Here is how I make it:

Head of cabbage
Ground beef
Tomato paste
Can of beer
Worcestershire sauce

For my recipe, I use 8 big leaves from a head of cabbage.  Boil the leaves until tender.
*To make this easier, I boil the whole head and peel the 8 outer leaves.  This leaves me with the rest of the head which I continue to cook and save for another meal.

Chop and saute your onions until translucent.  
In a bowl, mix together 1 lb of ground beef, 1 cup of cooked rice, 1 tbsp of paprika, 1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce, and the cooked onion.

Spoon mixture into the center of each leaf and roll (into a burrito shape).
In a separate bowl, mix together a 1/4 cup of water, 1 can of tomato paste, and 1 can of beer.  This will be your sauce.

In the bottom of a Dutch oven, spread a spoonful of sauce to create a bed for the rolls.  Place your rolls seam side down.

Pour the remainder of your sauce over the rolls.  Cook over medium-high heat for about 45 minutes, the meat will have steamed inside of the rolls.  Serve with the sauce and a spoonful of sour cream.  This recipe serves 4-8 people (depending on how hungry your bunch is...my family had one per person).

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cheesy Chicken Open Faced Sandwich

Every once in a while, I'll look at the clock and realize that dinner time is only an hour or two away.  It's nights like these that I feel like we should just eat out instead.  But, we all know that it's not always that easy. It's times like these that we get creative.  And this was no exception.  As my daughter sits in the living room, she keeps asking what's for dinner, my response, I don't know!  Because I honestly have no clue what I'm going to serve until it's on the plate (and even then I may not know what I just served!).  We have named this dish the cheesy chicken open faced sandwich, and thankfully, it was well liked!

Cream of mushroom soup
Tomatoes (I used my canned tomatoes)
French bread (we got this delicious french bread with so much flavor for less than $1 on the "day old" rack!)
Chicken (leftover from a whole roasted chicken the night before)
Cheese (I used 2 slices of American)
Velveeta cheese (or a good melting cheese)
Parmesan cheese

What I Did...
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees (F).  Line a baking sheet with your tomatoes (mine were quartered already from the canning process).  Bake for 15 minutes.  Next, slice and carmalize your onions.  In the meantime, I cut the remaining breast off of my roasted chicken, and sliced it thinly.  In a saucepan, mix 1/4 cup of Velveeta, 1 can of cream of mushroom soup, 2 tbsp of Parmesan cheese, and 2 tbsp of cream.  Stir and simmer on low.  Slice your French bread into 4 half inch slices.  Place onto a baking sheet to toast in the oven (toast to your liking, mine went int for about 3 minutes).  Remove your bread.  Now to assemble.  Top your bread with your sliced chicken, followed by the onions, and then tomatoes.  Once assembled, top each sandwich with 1/2 a slice of American cheese (or any cheese you may have on hand).  Place into the oven until the cheese is melted (you could also broil it to get the cheese nice and bubbly.).  Once finished, top with your mushroom and cheese sauce and serve.  This recipe made 4 sandwiches.  My family loved it, so hopefully yours will too.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Basbousa Cupcakes

This past Friday was the start of Ramadan.  For those of you that don't know, Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar.  For one month, people of the Muslim faith fast from sun up to sun down.  So why is this relevant?  No, I am not Muslim (I'm Catholic), but plenty of my husband's coworkers are, and I wanted to make a dessert to help them celebrate.  So I went online and researched Ramadan desserts.  I found a dessert called Basbousa.  Now, after some alterations, I turned this dessert into a cupcake (and thankfully it was well liked!).

For Cake:
1 cup of semolina
1 cup of flour
1 cup of sugar
Pictured without the almonds.
1 stick (or 1/2 a cup) of butter
1 cup of whole milk
1 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
1/2 tsp of almond extract
1 tbsp of baking powder
1 tbsp of baking soda
For Syrup:
2 1/4 cups of sugar
1 1/2 cups of water
Juice of one lemon
For Icing:
Heavy cream
Powdered sugar
Unflavored gelatin

Prepare the syrup first by dissolving the sugar in the water.  Add your lemon juice and bring to a boil.  Once the syrup starts to boil, add your honey.  Reduce the heat and slowly boil for about 8 minutes.  Once finished, set aside.
For the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F).  Mix together the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, mix together the semolina, flour, baking powder, and baking soda.  Add the butter/sugar mixture.  Then add your milk.  
Line your cupcake tin with liners.  Scoop your batter into the liners.  Push an almond slice into the top of each cupcake.  Bake for 19 minutes.  Once removed from oven, top each cupcake with the syrup.  Allow to cool the rest of the way.
In a bowl, mix one pint of whipping cream with 1/2 tsp of unflavored gelatin.  Let sit in the fridge for about 5 minutes.  Remove and begin to whip.  Add about 1/4 cup of powdered sugar (more or less if you'd like) to help sweeten the frosting.  Add 1 tbsp of honey to mixture as well.  Continue to whip until stiff peeks have formed.  The gelatin will help keep the frosting firm.  Top the cupcake with the frosting, and then top the frosting with the almond slices.

This recipe will yield approx. 24 cupcakes.  If you plan on making this, please remember that this dish is meant to be dense.  The semolina gives it a texture similar to cornbread.  Enjoy!

Copyright: This recipe is my own personal recipe that I created.  If you plan on using this recipe for reasons other than personal use, credit must be given accordingly.  Thank you.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tomato and Cream Cheese Penne

So I got to use one of my jars of tomatoes I canned a little over a week ago.  It was one of those nights where I hadn't put much though into dinner, so pasta tends to be my go to meal.  My family love spaghetti, but it gets old after a while if you don't switch it up.

1 lb of penne
1 jar of tomatoes (1 pint)
1 can of tomato sauce
4 big leaves of fresh basil
4 oz (1/2 a block) of cream cheese
Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta in salted water as you would normally do.  Cook until al dente.  Drain and set aside.  Remove the liquid from your jar of tomatoes.  Add your tomato sauce and canned tomatoes to your sauce pan.  Use an emulsion blender to smooth out the sauce.  Add your cream cheese.  Cook over med heat until cheese starts to melt.  Add your penne.  Continue cooking until the cream cheese is melted, about 4 minutes or so.  Cut your basil and toss it into your pasta.  When you are ready to serve, toss with Parmesean cheese (this is a personal preference, add as much or little as you'd like).  The cream cheese gives the pasta a nice creamy flavor without over powering it.  You never have to settle for just pasta and tomato sauce.  Get creative, you could end up with a new family favorite!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ain't My Grandma's Banana Bread

And it isn't, my Grandma's banana bread that is.  I couldn't very well share her secret recipe with you all (what kind of granddaughter would I be?).  Ok, I'll admit, this is my first time making banana bread.  The first thing I thought when I pulled it out was why haven't I made this before?  I mean, I had ALL of the ingredients in my pantry already.  Easiest quick bread ever!  So, here is my recipe for a simple banana bread.

1 1/2 cups of  flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla 
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter (melted)
4 ripe bananas (smashed)
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). Mix your melted butter into the smashed bananas.  Then mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Add your baking soda and salt to the the mixture and mix in.  Add the flour last.  Mix together Pour mixture into a buttered 4x8 inch loaf pan.  Bake for 1 hour. Cook for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.  Cool on a wire rack until cool to the tough.

I have mine sitting on the counter cooling for breakfast!  This may not be my grandma's recipe, but it will sure bring a smile to everyone's faces!  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie

Last night was chicken pot pie night at my house.  This is one of my favorite chilly night meals, even though it's 100+ degrees outside right now!  Regardless, I felt as though it was a pot pie kind of night.

Chicken (I used 2 leg quarters, $2.35)
Frozen veggie blend, one bag ($1.60)
Onion (had diced and frozen in my freezer already)
Leek (had sliced and frozen in my freezer already)
Garlic, 4 gloves ($.48)
Cream cheese, 2 tbsp. (Store brand was on sale 10/$10)
Refrigerated biscuits ($.49)
Beer (bought a 6 pack for $5.69, so the one beer cost $.95)
Butter, 3 tbsp (had in my fridge already)
Flour, 4 tbsp (had in my pantry already)
Bake your chicken at 375 degrees (F) for 45 minutes.  Let cool slightly.

 In a saucepan, melt 2 tbsp of butter over med-high heat.  Add your diced onions and sliced leeks.  Mince your garlic then add to the onion/leek mixture.  Cook until translucent (about 2-3 minutes).  Add the frozen mixed vegetables.  Pull your chicken off of the bones and add.  Once cooked, add 1 cup of beer, stir, add your flour.  Once the mixture begins to thicken, add the cream cheese.

 Once the cheese has melted, spoon the mixture into small baking dishes.  Take your refrigerated biscuits, roll them out, and cut circles (or squares) large enough to cover the top of the dishes.  Brush the tops with the remaining butter and bake for 20 minutes at 365 degrees (F).

Once finished each person will have their own little dish to eat from.  My recipe feeds 3-4 people (depending on how hungry your family is!).  Usually I like to add fennel instead of leeks and white wine instead of beer, but I used what I had on hand.  No matter the dish you plan to make, know what you can substitute to save money or an extra trip to the grocery store.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Orange Cream Cupcakes

I love using gelatin and pudding to help flavor boxed cake mixes.  One of my favorites is using orange flavored gelatin.  Making great cupcakes doesn't require superior baking skills.  And it's ok to cheat sometimes and use boxed mix.  You just have to know that you don't have to stick to just having yellow cake with white frosting.  For my orange cream cupcakes, I use a box of white cake mix (mix according to box directions) and add half of a pouch of orange gelatin.  Bake as the box directs you to.  When it comes to icing the cupcakes, take a tub of vanilla or fluffy white frosting and add 1 tbsp of orange gelatin powder (just to get the orange color and a bit of orange flavor).  Stir then frost.  It is that simple.  This is one of my favorite "semi-homemade" cupcakes to eat!  So next time you bake a cake, bust out your favorite gelatin or pudding mix!
Sorry for the blurry picture, photo was taken using my phone!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Creamy Sweet Pea Risotto

Like pasta, one staple I always keep in my kitchen is white rice.  You can use rice to help fill in the blanks on many dishes.  Rice is very bland, so it will easily take on any flavor you add to it.  I use rice for stuffed peppers, taco rice, fried rice, and even risotto.  Making a simple risotto at home is easier than you may think.  It can take a good dish to a different level.  Here is how I make my creamy sweet pea risotto.
1 1/2 cups rice
3 cans of chicken broth
4 oz (1/2 box) of cream cheese
1 tbsp butter
1 leek
1 cup of frozen peas (thawed)
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
1/8 cup of mozzarella cheese
In a saucepan, heat your 3 cans of broth.  Melt butter in a skillet.  Add leeks and cook until tender, med-high heat.  Add rice to skillet and cook for about 3 minutes, stir frequently.  Slowly add 1/2 cup of broth.  Cook for about 3 minutes, stir frequently.  Once the broth has absorbed, repeat the previous step until you have used all of the broth.  Once all of the broth has been added and absorbed, add you cream cheese and mozzarella cheese.  Stir until the cheese has melted.  Once the cheese is melted, add your peas.  Cook for 2 minutes then remove from heat.  Add your Parmesan cheese, stir and serve.

Consider using onions instead of leeks.  Asparagus and asiago cheese go well together in risotto.  Get creative and you'll be able to serve this dish any way you'd like.  Enjoy!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sugar Free Pineapple-Mango Cupcakes

I love to bake.  Especially cupcakes!  However, my husband's grandpa is diabetic, so I always have to keep him in mind when baking for family gatherings.  I'm sure Grandpa gets sick of eating the same old sugar free desserts over, and over again (I mean come on, there isn't a ginormous variety of sugar free desserts!).  Grandpa has been known to favor fruit flavored desserts, so I figured I'd hit him with some tropical flavors.  What my 7 year old daughter and I came up with was a pineapple mango cupcake, dressed with these cute little pineapple flowers we found on Pinterest.

Sugar Free Pineapple Cake
3 cups Bisquick mix
1/2 cup powdered milk

1 tsp. baking powder
2 cups Splenda
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks butter
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 cup pineapple juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees(F).  Mix together the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the butter (room temp) and beat with mixer until little dough balls start to form (about 2-3 minutes).  Add the remaining wet ingredients.  Blend together.  Fill cupcake liners with batter.  Bake for 18-25 minutes (you'll know it's finished when your toothpick comes out clean!).  Let cool before frosting.  If you don't feel comfortable making your own batter, Pillsbury makes a great tasting sugar free cake mix!

Mango Cream Filling
2 cups of sugar free Cool Whip
1 mango, mashed
Blend the whip cream and the mango until smooth.  To fill cupcakes, use the bottom of a wooden spoon to make a hole in the center of your cupcakes.  Use a piping bag to fill the centers.

For the frosting, I mix one container of Sugar Free Vanilla frosting by Pillsbury with 1 tbsp. of pineapple juice.  I top my cupcakes with a dried pineapple flower.  For directions on how to make this, visit Mrs. Regueiro's Plate.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Croque Monsieur

Before you go and get intimidated, croque monsieur is just a fancy French name for a hot ham and cheese sandwich.  Now, I don't tend to cook a lot of French cuisine in my house, except for the recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by the one and only Julia Child.  This sandwich is typically made with Gruyere cheese.  However, it is one of those dishes that is open for interpretation and can be made to the cook's liking.    

French bread (or whatever bread you have available)
Cream cheese
Ham (thinly sliced)
Swiss cheese

Heat your oven to 375 degrees (F).  Slice your bread (not too thick, but not too thin).  Place your bread onto a baking sheet and toast for 3 minutes.  Slice your onion and tomato.  Saute your onion in butter.  Remove your bread from the oven and spread about 1/2 tbsp of cream cheese on each slice of toasted bread.  Top your bread with your onions, tomato, ham, and then cheese.  Place back into the oven until your cheese is melted (I like mine to get all bubbly...this works best in the broiler for about 30 seconds).  You can  eat this as an open face sandwich, or use two pieces to make one sandwich.  Try making this with provolone or mozzarella cheese, or even use salami, chicken, or roast beef.  As Julia Child would say, "bon app├ętit!"

Friday, July 13, 2012

Cheese Beer Dip

If you know me, I'm always the one who brings dessert to the family functions.  However, this 4th of July, I was told to bring the dip (at that moment my heart grew two sizes smaller).  DIP!  I've been told that I can't just do anything normal, so this was no exception.  I had to wow.  One of the dips I made was this Cheese Beer Dip (also known as "Shut the Front Door" dip).  I found a few different recipes, but none were to my liking, so I changed it up a bit.  I couldn't stand the idea of only using one type of cheese.  Cheese, in my opinion, is one of the greatest gifts to man!  So without further ado, here is the recipe for my Cheese Beer Dip:

4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups Monterrey jack cheese, shredded
1 -12 ounce can of beer
6 tbsp of butter
1 tbsp of Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp hot sauce
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

In a large bowl, combine the cheese and beer.  Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 30 minutes until the cheese softens.  In a food processor, blend the cheese/beer mixture with the reaming ingredients.  Blend until smooth.  This recipe will stay good in your refrigerator for up to a month or frozen for up to 3 months (or less than 24 hours if you're family likes it as much as mine!).  This dip goes great with chips and soft pretzels.  You could add extra hot sauce to make this a bit more spicy if you'd prefer it that way.  The beer in this is not cooked out, so this dip is not kid friendly.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Canning Tomatoes: My First Attempt

I am still fairly new to canning, so bear with me on this one.  Summer is canning season simply because that is when fruits and vegetables are most plentiful.  Two days ago I took my first shot at canning tomatoes.  The process, for me, was relaxing.  Knowing that I can help support and supply for my family while being a homemaker gives me great joy.  So I pulled out my Blue Book and got started!

Pippi watching guard over my tomatoes!
The first step is to prepare all of your supplies.  You want to make sure there aren't any issues with your jars or lids that would cause sealing issues.  Next you're going to wash the jars and lids.  Heat the jars in water to 180 degrees (F).  Do not boil the lids.  Keep the jars hot until ready for use.  Fill your canner with hot water and heat to 180 degrees.  

Pick tomatoes that are fresh, firm, and free of cracks and bruises. Cut an X in the bottom of the tomato skins and blanch for 60 seconds.  Dip into cold water immediately.  
The skins will slip right off of your tomatoes.  The photo above is what they will look like.  Next you'll want to cut away any green areas and core them.  I them quartered my tomatoes, although you can leave them whole or halve them.  I packed mine in water, so at this point, you'll put your tomatoes into a large sauce pot, barley covering the tomatoes with water.  Boil gently for 5 minutes.  Remove one canning jar at a time.  Add 1 tbsp of lemon juice (this is for a pint jar, use 2 tbsp for a quart jar).  Using your jar funnel, pack your tomatoes into the jar and ladle the hot water over the top.  You'll want a 1?2 inch of head space.  Use a plastic spatula to release the trapped air.  Make sure to wipe the rims before placing the lid and bands on the jars.  Once you have the lid on, start placing your jars onto the rack in your boiling-water canner.  Process for 40 minutes (or 45 minutes for quarts).  Once finished, turn off the heat, let sit for 5 minutes, then remove.  Place onto a towel and let cool.  Do not touch the jars for 12 to 234 hours.  You'll want to listen for the infamous "ping" sound indicating that the lids are sealing.  After 24 hours, press the center of the lids to make sure they don't flex.  You'll also want to unscrew the bands to make sure the lids are sealed.    

When I first saw my jars, I noticed (although tightly packed) my tomatoes floated leaving a gap in the bottom.  I have learned that this is normal and that it will not affect my tomatoes.  All in all, I think this was a success!

For more information, visit Ball's website or check out the YouTube video posted by Ball on preserving tomatoes.  Happy canning!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

BBQ Sauce Done My Way

I love BBQ, but of course, who doesn't?  I also love to make my own BBQ sauce.  But, there are times when I don't have the time, or I just don't feel like it.  I always like to keep a mini stockpile of condiments on hand (because you never know...), so I tend to always have bottled BBQ sauce on hand.  Like most prepackaged foods, I like to spice up my sauce.  You know, add something special to change up the flavor and make it different.  Yesterday I posted a recipe for blueberry BBQ sauce (sorry, wiping my drool off the keyboard!), so why not add blueberries to my bottled sauce?                   

Bust out your blenders!  For this, all you need to do is blend one bottle of BBQ sauce with a handful of blueberries (make sure you strain your sauce to eliminate any skins).  Yep, that is seriously all I did., well that and make sure you cook it on low heat for 15 minutes (don't want cold sauce on hot BBQ).  And boy did it taste yummy!  And the great thing, you can do this with anything!  You can add beer, wine, honey, roasted garlic, raspberries, peaches, whatever your heart desires.  You can turn that bottle of boring sauce into something that your friends and family will beg for...and you never have to tell them your secret!

If you would like to skip the bottled sauce and make your own, here is my recipe for my Blueberry BBQ Sauce:


2 14 oz cans of tomato sauce
1 Tbsp of molasses or honey
3/4 cup of cider vinegar
1/8 cup of beer, white wine, or bourbon
2 Tbsp of brown sugar
1 Tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1 cup pureed blueberries
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan.  Simmer over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Once the sauce has reduced and thicken, run through a strainer to remove any blueberry skins that didn't break down all the way.  Your sauce is ready to serve.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Blueberries and Strawberries: Summer's Harvest

Summer brings us a variety of fruits and vegetables.  Two of my favorites are strawberries and blueberries.  Not only do they scream summer, but they are full of vitamins and antioxidants.  Their sweet flavor makes them perfect to enjoy in desserts, for breakfast, or even just by themselves.  Too often are they overlooked as being a delicious ingredient during your summer cooking.  Here are some recipes that I have found that help bring out the delicious flavor of these fruits!

Blueberry BBQ Sauce
Pickled Blueberries
Spinach, Goat Cheese, and Strawberry Salad
Almond Chicken with a Strawberry-Balsamic Sauce
Blueberry and Cranberry Relish
Strawberry Balsamic Dressing
Blueberry and Peach Chutney (served over pork....yum!)

Next time you buy one of your favorite fruits, try to think outside the box and never overlook their potential! 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cooking with Chile Peppers

One of my favorite ingredients to work with is chile peppers.  However, they can be quiet intimidating.  Before you buy a bunch of peppers and toss them into your dish, know what flavor and how much heat it will add.  One of my favorite peppers is the poblano.  They are medium-hot peppers that offer a sweet undertone.  I prefer to roast them and use them in soups and my chili recipe.  They are large in size so they are great to stuff.  I love stuffing them with black beans, chicken and cheese.  Another chile you might find in your local grocery store is the Anaheim chile.  They offer a mild flavor and are most often used in chili verde.  Anaheim's and poblano's can both be used to make chili relleno.  One of the most common chile's used in American cooking is the jalapeno.  Jalapeno's give off more heat than the Anaheim and poblano, but offer a more distinct flavor.  They are available pickled which is how I enjoy them (yep, right out of the jar!).  When smoked, jalapenos become chipotle pepper.  The serrano resembles the jalapeno in shape and color, but are smaller in size.  They are about 2-4 inches long, but offer more heat than the previous chiles.  They offer a more intense bite than the jalapeno as well.  You can help tame the heat while keeping the flavor by using it with mild ingredients or in sauces, such as a cilantro serrano cream sauce.  Another favorite of mine is the habanero.  The habanero is a very hot pepper whose heat can be balanced by other ingredients, my favorite, mango!  I have a love addiction to mango habanero salsa (yum!).  Whatever chile you decide to use, make sure you know the flavor and intensity of the heat before you bite into it!  Happy cooking!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Homemade Pop Tarts

I am a fan and avid reader of Better Homes & Gardens magazine.  So as I was flipping through the May 2012 issue looking for ideas for decorating my home and recipes, I came across a recipe for homemade pop tarts.  The recipe called for three ingredients: refrigerated pie crust, jelly, and frosting.  Lucky for me, I had all three in my kitchen already (bought extra pie crust when I made apple pie)!  
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (Fahrenheit).  Roll out your pie crust.  Cut the dough into small uniform squares, about 3 inches across.  Since the pie dough is round, I rolled it out a few times so I could get the most out of my dough.

Take half of your squares and spread jelly across the center (I used strawberry).  To get the dough to stick, I brushed a little water around the edges of the squares before placing the tops on them.

Use a fork to crimp the edges and the pierce the top (so nothing explodes in the oven!).

 Place on your baking sheet and bake for 9 minutes.  Let cool.

Once cool, ice the tops of your pop tarts with frosting and feel free to decorate with sprinkles.

My kids loved making these almost as much as they loved eating them!  You can use any frosting and filling you desire.  Maybe next time we'll try blueberry jam with a lemon frosting......yum!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fried Potatoes - Mom's American Fries

Growing up, we went through some rough times.  My mom was the queen of throwing together a full meal out of random items she found in the pantry.  One of her dishes was fried potatoes, or as she called them, American fries.  Potatoes are one of the cheapest vegetables you can buy, so we always have an abundance of them.  I like to switch up my mom's original dish slightly from time to time, but here is what I like to refer to as her original recipe.  You see, my mom's original recipe doesn't have exact measurements.  She likes to eyeball a lot of things.

4-6 potatoes 
1 yellow onion
1 tbsp hot sauce
5 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp butter

Cut your potatoes into small, uniform, bite size pieces.  Chop your onion as well.  Melt 2 tbsp. of butter over med-high heat.  Add onions.  Saute until almost caramelized (they will continue to cook more, so don't over cook them).  Add the remainder of the butter as well as the potatoes, hot sauce, and soy sauce.  Stir and cover with a lid.  Cook over medium heat.  Stir every so often to ensure the potatoes don't stick.  Cook for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.

For my version pictured above, I didn't have onions on hand (shockingly).  I used half the amount of butter and used 3 tbsp. of canola oil instead (to give the potatoes more of a fried crust on the outside.  I also added Monterey Jack cheese to the top after I plated my potatoes.

You can take something with a mild flavor such as potatoes and add anything to it to give it a completely different flavor!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Quickie Canned Tomato Sauce

I always try to have a jar of pasta sauce in my house.  My reason for this is that I ALWAYS have lots of pasta.  Sometimes life gets busy, and we just don't have a lot of time to spend making a giant meal.  So making pasta is something we can throw together at the last minute.  Sometimes I don't have pasta sauce, but what I ALWAYS have is canned tomatoes.  So here is my Quickie Canned Tomato Sauce recipe for those times when I need a sauce in a hurry.

One can of diced tomatoes
4 tbsp. tomato paste
8 gloves of garlic
3 tbsp. of red wine (I like Burgundy)
3 tsp. oregano
1 tbsp. basil
If you have time, I like to roast my garlic, but since this is a "quickie", start off by mincing your garlic, and heating it in a pan with olive oil over med-low heat.  Once soften, but not burnt, remove from heat.  Add all of the remaining ingredients.  At this time, if you have a emulsion blender, use it to make your sauce the consistency you like it (chunky to smooth).  If you don't have one, you can toss everything into your blender. Simmer the ingredients for 20 minutes, then serve.  That simple!  By the time your pasta is ready, your sauce will be too.

Try adding different ingredients like eggplant, vodka, onions, peppers, and even peas and carrots!  You can hide lots of vegetables in your sauce so your kids will eat them (I like to hide carrots in mine)!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Jazz Up Them Noodles

One of my favorite things to buy is the packs of pasta, you know, the flavored ones that come in a variety of flavors.  My local grocery store usually has the name brand or the store brand on sale for $1, sometimes less!  So when I get a chance, I stock up.  Now, eating the same pasta side dish can get old pretty quickly.  So to "jazz" them up, we add lots of different ingredients like fresh/frozen veggies, meat, seafood, cheese, and spices/herbs.  For dinner last night, we had a pack of chicken flavored noodles in the pantry.  So I went to the fridge, grabbed out my Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and a bag of frozen peas.  Now I love peas.  especially frozen ones.  You can toss them into any dish at the last minute and add flavor, texture, and nutrients.  I made my noodles just like the package said to, but after I was finished, I tossed in my peas, gave it a stir, and let them sit while I finished up my pan gravy for my chicken (chicken drippings, Dijon mustard, white wine, butter, flour, and lemon juice....you know the drill!).  Right before I poured them into my serving bowl, I added about 5 tbsp. of mozzarella cheese, poured it, then sprinkled it with my Parmesan!  This may be one of the only ways my kids will eat peas.

Here is a list of items we like to toss into our noodles:
Frozen veggies ~ our favorites are peas, carrots, spinach, and broccoli.
Fresh veggies~ you can use almost any vegetable you'd like, but our favorites include onions, cabbage, peppers, tomatoes, fresh spinach, leeks, and broccoli.
Red pepper flakes

Any store bought item can be turned into something completely different and unique.  Get creative!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tomato Parmesan Sandwich

After my Three Days of Pizza, I was left with my French bread, tomatoes, and lots of Parmesan cheese, even after using a good portion of the bread to make crostini for my boeuf bourguignon.  So here I am, just made the kids lunch, and I can't decide what I want.  One day on Pinterest, I saw a pin for Parmesan tomatoes, so I decided to play off that.
French bread
Parmesan cheese
Balsamic vinegar
Basil (from my garden window)
Salt and pepper
Start off by cutting your bread down to sandwich size (mine was 6 inches).  Then cut the bread in half length wise.  Slice your tomato and lay them on one half of the sandwich (preferably the bottom half).  Drizzle the other half with the balsamic vinegar.  Sprinkle your finely minced garlic over the side with the balsamic.  Salt and pepper your tomatoes, then sprinkle 2 tbsp. of Parmesan cheese.  Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.  You want the tomatoes warm, the cheese to brown ever so slightly, and the bread toasted.  At this point, you can either place whole bsil leaves on your sandwich, or cut them into a chiffonade as I did.

All of these ingredients, other than the French Bread, I always have in my kitchen!  Creating a great meal from ingredients you already have takes a little inspiration and lots of creativity.  Don't be afraid to create something new with resources you already have at your disposal.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Cookies n' Cream Cucpakes

One thing that I am for praised is my cupcakes.  Most I bake from scratch.  Everything from the batter to the frosting.  But I'll admit, there are some that I use boxed cake mix for.  There is nothing wrong with doctoring up a box of cake mix.  In fact, one of my daughter's favorite cupcakes comes from using this method, as Sandra Lee calls it, the semi-homemade method.  

Photo Courtesy of A. Little, Birds of a Feather Photography
1 box of yellow cake mix
3 large eggs
1 1/3 cups water
1/3 cup oil
1 box of Oreo/cookies n' cream pudding mix
1 can of vanilla frosting
8 Oreos (crushed)

Preheat oven according to cake mix directions.  Mix the cake mix, oil, water, and eggs together according to the box.  Once mixed, fold in one packet of cookies n' cream pudding mix.  Line your muffin tin and fill cups.  Bake according to box directions.  Once cooled, use a piping bag to frost the cupcakes, then top with crushed Oreos.

The pudding will help keep the cupcakes super moist!  I hope you enjoy this recipe and have fun experimenting on your own!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Three Days of Pizza

If you are joining me from my sister blog, Motherhood and Money, then you probably read my "Three Days of Pizza" series.  I paid approx. $12 for all of my ingredients, and was able to make 3 meals.  Let's get started with my shopping list, and a list of ingredients I already had.

Shopping List:
Pepperoni - $2.50
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese - $2
String Cheese - $.25
Garlic Bread (Texas toast style) - $1 (on sale 10/$10)
French Bread - $1.78

Ingredients on Hand:
Oregano - $1.50
Crescent Rolls - $1 (on sale 10/$10)
Pizza Sauce 

Approx. Total: $10.03 

Pizza Rolls: Original Post
Pizza Rolls
Ingredients: Crescent rolls, pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, oregano, string cheese, pepperoni.
How to make: Preheat your oven according to the directions on the crescent rolls.  Slice your string cheese into eight pieces.  Open the rolls and lay flat (separating them).  In the center of each roll, place a piece of pepperoni, a tsb. of shredded mozzarella cheese, then place a piece of string cheese and a sprinkle of oregano.  Roll up the crescent rolls being sure to tuck in the sides so no cheese spills out.  Bake according to the directions.  Serve with pizza sauce.

Garlic Bread Pizza: Original Post
Garlic Bread Pizza
Ingredients: One box of Texas toast style garlic bread, pizza sauce, pepperoni, tomato.
How to make: Preheat the oven according to the directions of the garlic bread box.  Separate the garlic bread into a baking dish.  Top each with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and pepperoni or tomatoes.  Bake according to the directions for the bread.

French Bread Pizza: Original Post
French Bread Pizza
Ingredients: French bread, mozzarella cheese, pizza sauce, tomato, pepperoni.
How to make: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the French bread in half.  Place each half soft side up in a baking dish.  Top with pizza sauce, cheese, then tomatoes and pepperoni.  Bake for 15-20 minutes just until the cheese has melted and the bread is slightly toasted.  Slice and enjoy!