Sunday, December 23, 2007

Simple Supper

Once in a while, you just want a tasty dinner but don't want to have to spend all evening in the kitchen. Or, maybe that is just me! Tonight, I went all out with making dessert, so I made a simple supper. I had purchased a small container of premade pesto at the grocery store, so voila! Instant dinner. I sauteed some chicken breasts, which my husband seasoned quite nicely. While the chicken was cooking, I boiled water for pasta. Once the pasta was done, I mixed in pesto while it was still hot. Then, I added the chicken I had cooked (after I cut it into chunks). It was very satisfying and tasty! You don't even need a recipe for this, but I will post one anyways:

Chicken and Pesto Pasta
from Pachey

2 chicken breasts, cooked, seasoned how you wish (we used salt, pepper, fresh garlic, and dried basil)
cooked pasta - whatever kind you prefer and however much you want!
pemade pesto - 1/2 - 3/4 cup

1. Saute the chicken breasts until cooked. When cool, cut into bite sized chunks.
2. Cook the pasta to the desired firmness. Drain, but don't rinse!
3. Mix the pasta together with pesto. Stir together while hot.
4. Add the chicken and stir again.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Is this Asian Cooking?

One of my favorite family recipes is American Chop Suey. I believe my mom came up with this recipe about 40 years ago when she was in school. In the cafeteria at her school, they served this. She made note of the ingredients and recreated it for our family.

It isn't Asian cooking. I have no idea why it's named Chop Suey. There isn't any Chop or Suey. Instead, it's a mixture of ground beef, elbow macaroni, onion and green pepper with some tomatoes. I believe some people call this Ghoulash. But, it isn't very Hungarian either. Don't panic about the bacon fat. I realize that most people don't keep it on hand. If you don't have any, which we rarely do, you can use canola oil or vegetable oil. Also don't panic that you don't drain the ground beef or rinse the pasta. Just try and trust me here!

This is a favorite of our family. It's quick, easy, inexpensive and filling. When I was growing up, my whole family loved it. Now, my husband, who isn't all that impressed with some of my cooking, loves it too. What is not to love about beef and tomatoes (my favorite food)? Enjoy this hearty dish with a bread of some sort. French, Italian, Sourdough. It doesn't really matter.

American Chop Suey

3-4 teaspoons bacon fat
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 pound extra lean ground beef
1 small can tomato paste
1 large can tomatoes, diced
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 pound elbow macaroni

1. Boil water and cook macaroni according to package directions. While macaroni is cooking, saute the bacon fat, onion, and green pepper on medium heat. Onions and green pepper should be soft when thoroughly cooked.

2. Add ground beef, cooking until grey.

3. Add tomato paste, tomatoes, and spices. Simmer for about 15 minutes.

4. When macaroni is cooked, drain it and add it to the meat mixture.

That Doesn't Look Anything Like the Picture

Sometimes, cooking can be a disaster. I love making new recipes. Look forward to it actually. You can find your new favorite by trying new recipes. So, a few weeks ago, I found a really good chili cornbread recipe. You put beans, ground beef, spices and all kinds of yummy bits in your Crock Pot. Then, you topped it with a mix of cornmeal, creamed corn, milk and salt. This was supposed to turn out looking like thick chili with a cornbread topping. What it ended up looking like was this:

Keep in mind, this was well after the cooking time was up. I cooked it for three hours, then four, then FIVE and the cornbread never set up. Granted, it wasn't that much of a waste of money, but you know what? That is not the point! The point is that I was seriously looking forward to the recipe. IT DIDN'T LOOK LIKE THE PICTURE. It ended up being a congealed mass of goop. The chili didn't taste good either. Sigh.

What did we even end up eating for dinner that night? I don't even remember. Probably soup and sandwiches. Thank God those don't need a recipe.

Needless to say, I won't be trying that recipe again. Boooooo!

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Because it's the holidays, I tend to bake more than normal. I blame my husband for this. Every year, around Thanksgiving, he has to have his Spicy Chex Mix. He begs me to make it for him. I usually make a double or even a triple batch because, I admit it, the stuff is good. Very good. It's like crack. My prefered way to eat Spicy Chex Mix is with a spoon. Yes, a spoon. I don't subject myself to greasy, orange fingers this way. My husband finds this bizarre, and I am sure many of you out there probably will too.

Now, Chex Mix is not the only treat I bake around the holidays. Typically, I like to make Christmas cookies. I really don't feel up to baking cookies this year. For a reason why, read The Ancient Mixer and you will understand. So, instead, I will settle for some nice banana bread. What's not to love about fresh, warm from the oven banana bread? If you are feeling sassy, you can add some blueberries or even chocolate chips to the batter. One time, I even added shredded coconut. Good times. I can always count on Mrs. Betty Crocker to provide a yummy banana bread.

Curl up on the couch with a bowl of Spicy Chex Mix and watch the Saturday Night Live Christmas Special. By the time the Schweddy Balls skit rolls around, your tummy will be full and you will be laughing so hard your eyes will water. There is hardly anything better than that!
Spicy Chex Mix
from General Mills

6 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 and 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3/4 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1-2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce (add more if you want it really spicy)
3 cups Corn Chex
3 cups Rice Chex
3 cups Wheat Chex
1 cup nuts (peanuts are best!)
1 cup pretzels
1 cup cheese crackers (such as Cheez Its)

1. Heat oven to 250 degrees.
2. Melt butter in a large roasting pan in the oven. Stir in seasonings. Gradually stir in remaining ingredients until evenly coated.
3. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Banana Bread
from Betty Crocker

2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons oil
3/4 cups milk
1 egg
2 to 3 medium ripened bananas, mashed

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9x5x3 inch pan or two 8.5x4.5x3.5 inch loaf pans.
2. Measure all ingredients into large mixing bowl; beat on medium speed 1/2 minute, scraping side and bottom of bowl constantly.
3. Pour into pans. Bake 55 to 65 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's my favorite holiday, and it's already gone. Booo! I love Thanksgiving and I look forward to it all year. It's the one time where we as Americans can gorge ourselves, eat three pieces of pie, have second helpings of stuffing and not feel guilty. Well, at least I don't feel guilty. I enjoyed Thanksgiving even more this year for two reasons: My husband didn't work for the first time in six years, and because I didn't have to make pie crust.

You have to understand, every year, I bake at least one, if not two pies. This doesn't sound like a big deal, but I make the pie crust from scratch. My aunt and uncle always request an apple pie with homeade crust. Great. No problem. Except, my kitchen is the size of a postage stamp. There is no place to roll out a pie crust. In years past, I would go to my mom's and use her kitchen. My mom now lives in Maine, so forget that plan.

So, I proudly went to the grocery store on Tuesday and bought (GASP!) the refrigerated roll-out pie crust. And I didn't feel guilty. Well, maybe a little, but the moment was fleeting.

On Wednesday, my pie took me a grand total of 30 minutes to prepare and another 50 to bake. I enjoyed every minute of it considering I didn't have to slave over a pastry blender, cold butter, aching arms and the 100 pound rolling pin.. I am a cheater and use the Pampered Chef Apple Peeler Corer Slicer which turns whole apples into peeled wedges with ease.

In the end, nobody cared that I used a store bought crust. I hardly could tell the difference. So, I sat back, ate entirely too much and then after my turkey coma went away, went back for a turkey sandwich. I am a glutton, what can I say?
Apple Pie
from Betty Crocker with Pachey's variation
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
dash of salt
6 cups thinly sliced apples (I use Macintosh, and if they are not available, Braeburn with one Granny Smith thrown in)
2 tablespoons butter
Cinnamon sugar mixture (1 teaspoon of cinnamon with 1 tablespoon of sugar)
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare pastry. Stir together sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt; mix with apples
2. Turn into pastry-lined pan. Dot with butter. Cover with top crust. Seal two crusts together.
3. Brush top of pie with melted butter (only a couple of tablespoons). Sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar mixture.
4. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hunter's Stew

When I think of Hunter's Stew, I think of a hearty stew with some sort of venison or weird meat (no offense to those that eat weird meat) that hunters would enjoy. I think maybe I am getting wrapped up in semantics, but this stew has chicken. Maybe the hunters I am thinking of are light eaters?

It's another dreary, rainy day in Portland, so that means........(drum roll.....)......A crock pot recipe! I love crockpots. You dump the ingredients, put the lid on and turn it on. A few hours later, you have a fully cooked, hot meal. Most of the crock pot recipes I make take very little preparation time, and this one is no exception. The ingredients are ones that most people would have in their cupboards: canned beans, spaghetti sauce, green pepper and onion.

Don't use fresh mushrooms in place of the canned. If you do, you will end up with burnt, pathetic looking mushrooms. This is pretty much a complete meal. If you are really hungry, you could serve this over pasta (we did and it was gooooood). Add a green salad and a crusty bread, and you have a meal any hunter would appreciate.

Hunter's Stew with Chicken
from Pillsbury One-Dish Meals Cookbook

1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 2x1-inch pieces
1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, drained
1 jar (14 oz) spaghetti sauce
1 can (8 oz) mushroom pieces and stems, drained

1. In a 3 1/2 to 4 quart slow cooker, combine all the ingredients; mix well.
2. Cover; cook on low setting for at least 6 hours.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

This is Light?!?

I love Turkey Divan. Correction, I love my Mom's Turkey Divan. However, unless you have leftover turkey meat, or feel like cooking an entire turkey to make divan, it is something that you can't make every day. I decided to find a recipe that was a compromise. Instead of turkey, this recipe uses chicken breast. It still has the traditional broccoli and creamy sauce which is part of my love affair with divan.
This recipe is from Cooking Light, and we love it! It takes a bit of time to prepare, but if you already have cooked chicken or turkey on hand, the prep time won't be as long. I served this alongside egg noodles with butter. I suppose with the egg noodles, it's night light anymore. Oh well! My husband, who fakes a choking fit when I mention a recipe is "light", even loves it. When I mentioned where I got the recipe, he seemed shocked. He then pretended to be mortified as he got his second helping.

It's creamy from the evaporated milk and soup, and very similar to Turkey Divan. With a little bit of a crispy crust on the top from the Parmesan, it makes a great recipe for a cold, rainy fall day. Enjoy!

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
from Cooking Light

1 package (12 oz) broccoli florets
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (6 oz each)
1 can (12 oz) evaporated fat-free milk
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
dash of nutmeg
1 cup fat-free mayonnaise
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 can (10.75 oz) 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup
1 cup (4 oz) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring water to a boil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add broccoli, and cook 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Transfer broccoli to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Add chicken to water; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until done. Transfer chicken to cutting board; cool slightly. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and add chicken to bowl with broccoli.

2. Combine evaporated milk, flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a saucepan, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add mayonnaise, next 4 ingredients, and 1/2 cup cheese, stirring until well combined. Add mayo mixture to broccoli mixture; stir gently until combined.

3. Spoon mixture into a 13x9 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake for 50 minutes or until mixture bubbles at the edges and cheese begins to brown.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Happy Anniversary to Us!

For months, my husband and I have been looking forward to our anniversary. It's our first year together and we wanted to share it at one of our favorite places: Sandlake Country Inn. Sandlake Country Inn is a beautiful, romantic, and cozy B&B on the Oregon Coast. We have stayed at other B&B's, but this one is the best. No, I don't work there, and I am not getting paid to advertise (really, we just love it!). My husband and I have stayed there several times and even got engaged there. Here is why we love it:

1. The breakfast: Typically, at a B&B, you get a tiny breakfast and it's not very tasty. Well, that isn't the case at Sandlake. The breakfasts are delicious! They are delivered to your door in the morning and you eat En Suite. That's in suite for you non-French speakers. Here is a sample menu from our weekend:

Orange Strawberry Banana Juice
Strawberry & Bavarian Cream Puff
Baked Apple Oatmeal and Milk
South of the Border Eggs
Blueberry Muffins

It's enough to feed more than two people. Seriously. We never finish and always end up packing up the muffins for later. Served on a tray, or in a basket with Ron's Home Roasted Coffee. It's heavenly. Here is what it looks like delivered to your room:

2. The special touches: The robes, slipper socks, personalized printed cards, handmade lotions and bubble bath, books, movie collection and cookies anytime during the day or night. Feel like hot apple cider and cookies at 3 in the morning? No problem. Just find the cookie jar in the front room. Every time we visit, we discover something new.

3. Jacuzzi tub: Now, I know this doesn't sound like a very big deal to some of you, but to us, this is a HUGE deal. To find a tub for two people to fit COMFORTABLY is a feat. There is nothing like soaking in the tub and then sitting in front of the fireplace in your robe and slipper socks. Nothing.

4. The atmosphere: Did I mention the jacuzzi tub? What about the fireplace? Sandlake Country Inn is very private, with only three guest rooms in the main house and a Cottage. It's surrounded by gardens, a stream and lots of nature. We stayed in the Cottage and it was pretty cool watching the birds in the morning while drinking my coffee. You don't even need to leave the B&B if you don't want to. Curl up on the couch with your honey and watch a movie. Or read. Or just nature watch.

This was a memorable weekend for us. We got to celebrate our first year together and had some time to relax at one of our favorite places. I rave about it, because well, it's awesome! You won't be disappointed if you decide to visit, I promise.
Happy Anniversary to us! Thank you Diane and Ron! We will be back soon!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Mmmm doughnuts

Homer Simpson would be proud. I made doughnuts. Well, the cheater's kind at least. I saw a recipe in Real Simple magazine for Fake It, Don't Make It. Instead of using yeast, and allowing the doughnut dough to rise, you use packaged biscuits. My husband and I were hankering for something sweet, and I happen to have biscuits in the refrigerator (there goes my chicken and dumpling fixings......). So, why not?

I was hesitant. After all, biscuits can make doughnuts? Well, they did! With a little cinnamon and sugar, they turned out great! How can anyone resist cinnamon and sugar and cute little doughnut holes! So, next time you are in the mood for warm doughnuts, try these. Now I just need Homer Simpson to visit to take care of the leftovers.

Easy Doughnuts
from Real Simple Magazine, May 2007

3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 package (8 count) large refrigerated biscuits (such as Pillsbury Grands)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat 1/2 cup of the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Place the biscuits on a cutting board. Using a 1-inch round cookie cutter or shot glass, cut a hole in the center of each biscuit, reserving the extra dough for "holes". Test the heat of the oil by dripping the edge of a doughnut in the pan. When the oil is hot enough, the edge will bubble. Place 4 of the doughnuts and holes in the skillet and cook until golden brown, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer to a wire rack or paper towel-lined plate to drain. Add the remaining oil to the skillet, reheat, and cook the remaining doughnuts and holes. In a large bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Gently toss the warm doughnuts in the mixture a few at a time. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit

My husband and I really like chili. All kinds of chili. He introduced me to the world of spicy foods 6 years ago and I am officially hooked! I am always on the prowl for new chili recipes. I probably have a dozen or so in my recipe box. I have tried ones with sirloin, ground beef, ground turkey, stew meat, and various types of beans. I haven't found a chili recipe we DON'T like.

This recipe is one I have made before. Really, there is nothing fancy about it. As a matter of fact, some of the ingredients sound pretty bizarre. Cornmeal? Barbeque sauce? Okaaaaay. Trust me, it tastes good. I think the reason I especially love this recipe is that it's a lazy man's chili. Meaning, you dump the ingredients in your Crock Pot and let the heat do the rest. No stirring, chopping, dicing. Just pour and in 4 hours, dinner is served! The result is a cross between a thick soup and a thin chili. Would that make it a soupili? A chiloup?

Just throw in some cornbread and a nice salad, and you have got a complete meal. If you prefer spicier foods, I would suggest adding some Tabasco to your chili. And maybe some cheddar cheese. Or heck, go all out and have cheese, sour cream and some diced onions as toppers. Now, let's just hope that beans don't affect you. If you know what I mean.

Six-Can Slow-Cooked Chili
from Pillsbury One-Dish Meals Cookbook

1/4 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 barbeque sauce
1 can (28 ounce) whole tomatoes, undrained, cut up
2 cans (15 ounces) chili without beans.
1 can (15 ounce) pinto or red kidney beans, undrained
1 can (15 ounce) spicy chili beans, undrained
1 can (10.75 ounce) condensed French onion soup

1. In a 3 1/2 to 4-quart slow cooker, combine all ingredients; mix well.
2. Cover; cook on high setting for 2 to 4 hours, or on low setting for 8 to 9 hours or until thoroughly heated.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Comfort Food

During the fall and winter months, many of us turn to comfort foods to ward off the dreary-weather blues. You know the food I am talking about: Macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, casseroles. Even though the weather is beautiful this weekend, I was hankering for some comfort food. What could be better than warm beef, sour cream and some mushrooms? You all know this as Beef Stroganoff. defines stroganoff as a dish of meat sautéed with onion and cooked in a sauce of sour cream, seasonings, and, usually, mushrooms. Some people choose to make their stroganoff with chicken, but I feel this is blasphemy. Why would you ruin a perfectly good comfort food dish with CHICKEN? Go all out people! Use the steak. It doesn't have to be expensive cuts of meat. As a matter of fact, I use stew beef for mine. For less than $3.00 for a pound, you can have the goodness of red meat.

I used to serve my stroganoff the traditional way: Over egg noodles. When my husband and I started dating, he introduced me to the concept of eating stroganoff over rice. It sounded bizarre to me, but you know what? It's REALLY good. I won't go back to egg noodles again.

Enjoy the comfort food weather! And enjoy my Beef Stroganoff!

Beef Stroganoff
from with some slight modifications

1 pound sirloin steak, cut into bite size strips (you can also use leftover steak, or stew meat)
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (10 3/4 oz) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 1/4 cups fat-free sour cream
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
steamed rice

1. Brown the beef strips in a large skillet over medium high heat and drain excess fat. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes, or until tender. Stir in the flour, salt, paprika and pepper.

2. Add the soup and mushrooms, reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 15 minutes. Then add the sour cream, stirring well.

3. Prepare the rice. Serve beef mixture over the rice.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Ancient Mixer

Many people wonder why I don't cook or bake more often. Well, since my family consists of my husband and myself, and our schedules are completely different, I don't cook large meals during the week. I do however, love to bake no matter what day of the week it is. Lately, I haven't been making many cakes or recipes that require a mixer. Why? Well, my mixer is very old. I mean, from the 70's old. It still works, but it sits in an upper cabinet out of sight. It's a hassle to drag it down and plug it in.

I admit, I am jealous of all those people who have the shiny, new KitchenAid mixers. Heck, I would even settle for a nice hand mixer! No, I am stuck with this lovely contraption.

It does the job. Even today, when I decided I would make a lovely chocolate pound cake for company. So, I dragged down the ancient mixer, cleaned it off, plugged it in and went to town. The results were worth it.

A Lighter Chocolate Pound Cake

Chocolate from the Cake Mix Doctor

Vegetable oil spray for misting the pan
Flour for dusting the pan
1 package (18.25 ounces) plain devil's food cake mix
1 package (3.9 ounces) chocolate instant pudding mix
1 cup vanilla low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly mist a 12-cup Bundt pan with vegetable oil spray, then dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour. Set the pan aside.

2. Place all the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. The batter should look thick and well combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it out with the rubber spatula. Place the pan in the oven.

3. Bake the cake until it springs back when lightly pressed with your finger, 48 to 52 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Run a long, sharp knife around the edge of the cake and invert it onto a rack to cool completely, 20 minutes more.

4. Slide the cake onto a serving platter and slice. Serve with toppings, if desired.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

It's Fall!

I consider myself a fairly decent cook. Although, I have a hard time getting too creative or inventing recipes on my own. As a result, I have quite the arsenal of recipes that I have collected over the years.

I find it hard to cook for only two people, especially when my husband and I see each other on the weekends only. As a result, I try to make yummy meals to make up for a lack of cooking during the week. It's no fun to cook a whole meal for just yourself.

Today, I really felt like I should take advantage of the fall weather. It's rainy and cold in Portland (imagine that?!?) and I felt like making some "comfort" food. Since my husband is a meat eater, I decided to make roasted chicken and vegetables.

I have made a whole roasted chicken before, but of course, I had to consult Betty Crocker for the correct cooking time and temperature. I bought a four pound chicken, some onion, baby carrots and a ruby yam. After a generous rubbing of olive oil, kosher salt, pepper, some fresh sprigs of rosemary, and some chicken broth to the bottom of the pan my chicken went into the oven. After just a few minutes, the house smelled just look home cookin'!

The meal came out wonderful! The carrots and yams were nice and caramelized, and the chicken was juicy. Add a little Stove Top (Gasp!) and it made a lovely, hearty fall meal. I think my mother would be mortified that I made stuffing from a box, but I don't care. It just sounded good!

The picture is a little dark, but you get the idea! Give me a break anyways, because this is my first post!

Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

1 whole (4 pound) chicken
1 ruby red yam, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 large sweet onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 small onion (for the cavity), cut up
2 cups baby carrots
olive oil
Kosher salt
ground pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Wash and pat dry the chicken. Stuff the inside of the chicken with the small onion, and place in a large roasting pan.
3. Generously rub the chicken with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and rosemary.
4. Bake for 90 minutes
5. Remove pan from oven and add vegetables. Bake for an additional 60 minutes.
6. Remove pan from oven and let the chicken set for 15 minutes before carving.