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.