Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sloppy Joes...without the can!

I have to admit that I have only ever made Sloppy Joes with Manwich from a can. We haven't had Sloppy Joes in a long time, and we have a can of Manwich hanging out in our kitchen, and Rob requested that I use it. I definitely wanted an easy dinner tonight, but I wasn't willing to make it that easy. So I started surfing the net for an easy, but yummy recipe. I found just what I was looking for on allrecipes, but I decided to change it up a bit. I used some of the recommendations from the reviewers on allrecipes and came up with something that was easy and delicious. I can't say we'll be eating this very often. It's not especially healthy, but it was wonderful in a pinch. And I think it's safe to say I'll never be buying a can of Manwich again. You can find the original recipe here.

Simple Sloppy Joes (source: me? adapted from allrecipes)

1.25 lbs extra lean ground beef
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp yellow mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup barbecue sauce (I used Hunt's Hickory and Brown Sugar, so I left out the brown sugar that the original recipe called for)
dash or 2 of chili powder
1 1/2 tsp cider vinegar
salt and ground pepper to taste

Brown beef and pepper; drain. Stir in remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Heat through about 5 minutes and transfer to slow cooker. Cook in slow cooker on low approximately 3-4 hours.

I served this with herb roasted red potatoes and roasted broccoli. One thing I will do differently next time is use chopped onion. I didn't realize that all of my onions had gone bad, so I had to use onion powder. Certainly not a gourmet meal, but yummy nonetheless!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Vegetable Gnocchi Soup

My first soup of the Fall! Ok, so it's not officially Fall yet. But it's close! And the weather has been a lot more Fall-like around here. Anyway, my friend Julie (aka ladychicago) from The Nest's What's Cooking message board shared a recipe she had for Chicken and Gnocchi Soup. I have had a package of premade gnocchi sitting around for a little while and I wanted to use it up. I didn't have any chicken in the freezer, so I decided to try this soup meatless. It was wonderful and flavorful and I will definitely be making this again, although next time I think I'll try it with the chicken and see how that goes.

The original recipe that Julie gave me called for frozen peas, and although I was positive that I had some lurking in my freezer, I did not have any. So I used frozen corn, much to the merriment of my husband. He doesn't like peas, but corn is one of his favorite vegetables. So he was very happy. He claims that the carrots were not cooked well enough, but I disagree. I think they were perfect. Maybe he just likes mushy carrots. Anyway, here's the recipe in it's original form, with my changes in italics and parenthesis.

Chicken and Gnocchi Soup (but I'm calling it Vegetable Gnocchi soup tonight :-)
Source: nestie ladychicago

6 cups chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium canned (I used fat free vegetable broth in a box)
4 cloves of garlic, minced (I have to admit that I used jarred, minced garlic here)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sugar
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 rib celery, thinly sliced
2 cups prepared potato gnocchi, about 11 ounces, thawed if frozen (I probably used more like 2 1/2 cups)
2 cups frozen peas, 8 ounces (I used frozen corn)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken, about 1 large chicken breast (I omitted this)
Freshly ground black pepper
Hunk of good Parmesan

Put chicken broth, garlic, butter and sugar in a large
saucepan over medium-low heat, bring it to a simmer,
and cook, uncovered until the garlic is tender, about
2 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and continue to
simmer until almost tender, 2 minutes. Bring to a full
boil, stir in gnocchi and, cooking until the gnocchi
are al dente, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in frozen peas and
chicken and turn off the heat. Season with salt —take
into consideration that Parmesan cheese is salty, and
a generous amount of pepper, to taste. Ladle the soup
into warmed shallow bowls and shower each with freshly
grated cheese.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

It's the most wonderful time of the year

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love when the temperature drops and I get to wear my sweaters and sweatshirts again. And I love the smell of fall. I also love the yummy baked goods that fall always brings. While I must admit that I don't really wait for fall to start baking with pumpkin, I definitely do feel so much more motivated to bake with it once the temperature changes. So when I was at the store a week ago, I picked up 3 cans of pumpkin and started keeping my eye out for new pumpkin recipes. While surfing around The Nest's What's Cooking message board, I came across a Pumpkin Bread recipe that Cara, of Cara's Cravings, says she loves. And knowing that Cara loves Pumpkin as much, if not more, than I do, I knew I had to give it a shot. I was not disappointed and I'm pondering the idea of baking a bunch of loaves of it for holiday gifts.

I did have a couple of problems with the recipe. It makes a TON of dough and the next time I make it, I will be sure not to overfill my loaf pans. I probably had enough batter to make 2 loaves, plus a few muffins. So that's what I'll do next time. I made one loaf plain for my mom, and then added chocolate chips to the rest of the dough. The problem came when I tried to fill my second loaf pan. I could see that it was filled way too high, and being that the recipe call for 1 tablespoon of baking soda, I just new it was going to overflow. Of course, I didn't think of the muffin idea until after I was finished baking the bread. There's always next time! My chocolate chip loaf did , in fact, overflow. And it did not cook all the way through. Bu I had a slice of my mom's plain, and much prettier, loaf this morning, slathered with cream cheese. It was incredible. Even with all the problems I had, I still highly recommend this recipe. It was only my first time making it, so I'm sure next time will be less of a mess. The original recipe can be found here. But I'm going to type my slightly modified version out as well :-)

Pumpkin Bread

  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 (16 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin (I used one 15 ounce can of pumpkin)
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs; mix well. Combine dry ingredients; stir into creamed mixture just until moistened. Stir in pumpkin. Pour batter into one greased 9x5 loaf pan. Add chocolate chips to the rest of dough and add to second greased 9x5 loaf pan. Be sure to only fill the pans up about 1/2 to 2/3 full. The batter does rise quite a bit. You can use any leftover batter to make muffins. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour or until bread tests done.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Baked pasta...minus the pasta

I have been wanting to try Spaghetti Squash for the longest time. The only thing that has been holding me back is the fact that my husband isn't usually keen on trying new things. And being that none of us had ever had it before, he really wasn't too interested. I should probably start off by saying that this was not the most successful meal. While it wasn't a total flop, I did not roast the squash long enough and so the texture was not so good. It was crunchy. Which we all found kind of gross :-) But the flavor was awesome I think I may give this another shot, knowing now that the squash really needs to roast for a long time. I started out in the microwave and moved to the oven. But I think next time I will just do it all on the oven. I also bought a pretty big squash, so next time I will look for a smaller one.

Baked Spaghetti Squash Casserole (source: me!)
1 large Spaghetti squash
1 medium zucchini squash, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
16 oz part skim Ricotta cheese
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
Italian seasoning
salt and pepper
garlic powder
1 jar spaghetti sauce (I used homemade), divided

Spray a casserole dish with olive oil cooking spray (I ended up having to use 2 smaller dishes for this one, but a 13x9 pan would probably work.)

Roast the squash in the oven in a pan with a little water for about an hour. It can be roasted whole or cut in half and then roasted, but it's pretty hard to cut through a big raw squash. When the squash has cooled down, slice it in half, remove the seeds, and remove the flesh with a fork.

Saute the zucchini slices in the oil and garlic in a skillet until tender. Set aside.

Combine cheeses (save some mozzarella for sprinkling), herbs and spices (to taste) in a large bowl. Add the squash and most of the sauce to the cheese mixture, saving a small amount of the sauce to put on top of the dish. Pour half of the mixture into prepared pan and and lay on most of the sauteed zucchini slices, reserving some for the top. Pour the rest of the mixture on top, add rest of the sauce, and lay the rest of the zucchini slices over the sauce. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese and bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Let rest for about 5-10 minutes before serving.

Herb Roasted Chicken

Wednesday night's dinner was easy and delicious. It was a sort of variation on a recipe i've made before. I took 3 split chicken breasts (bone in, a little bit of skin on) and sprayed them with olive oil. Then I rubbed them with some salt and pepper, Italian seasoning, basil, oregano and thyme. I like my chicken really herb-y :-) Then I sprayed a 13x9 pan with olive oil and laid the chicken breasts in the pan. I poured in enough vegetable broth (you could use chicken broth, but I didn't have any last night) to cover the bottom of the pan. Then, I roasted them at 350 degrees for about an hour, basting once or twice. I also had to add more vegetable broth halfway through. The chicken came out moist and delicious and I will definitely be making it this way again soon. I served it with steamed corn and roasted zucchini.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Chelle's Chocolate Chip Cookies

My good friend Michelle came up with a new chocolate chip recipe and when she said they were everything she dreamed a chocolate chip cookie would be, I knew I had to try them. And I am so glad I did. They are perfect. I did mess up a little at first. I forgot to stick the dough in the fridge before baking. But that's ok, they were still yummy. I also didn't have enough vanilla. I could definitely tell that the cookies needed more vanilla. Again, they were still delicious. Here's Chelle's recipe. My changes are in italics. But they really aren't changes. Anyway...

Chelle's Soft & Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Source: Sugar & Spice)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon milk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate chips because that's what I had. They are yummy!)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. (I set my oven to 350 because I was using nonstick pans)

2. Microwave butter for 30 seconds, stir and set aside. Do not worry if it is not completely melted.

3. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

4. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add milk and beat until combined. Gradually beat in flour mixture, beating just until combined (do NOT overmix!). Stir in chocolate chips.

5. Refrigerate dough for 15-30 minutes.

6. Drop by rounded spoonful (I used a Pampered Chef cookie scoop that holds approximately 2 tablespoons) onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 12 minutes (my cookies only needed 10 minutes) or until edges are just brown and middle is not quite set yet. Cool on pan for 2 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.

7. Before adding more dough to warm cookie sheets, place sheet in freezer for 5-7 minutes to cool.

Store in an airtight container. Recipe yielded 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

Parmesan Broccoli Orzo

I needed something easy and quick for dinner tonight. Rob and Maura made themselves pizza bagels, but I didn't want that. Also, I wasn't hungry when they ate. So later on, I had to cook for just me. Which hardly ever happens around here. I remembered that I had some orzo and that I hadn't had any in a while. So this is what I did.

Parmesan Broccoli Orzo

2 oz orzo pasta (any pasta would work for this)
1 tbsp butter
1/3 cut broccoli florets, cut into very small pieces
1 1/2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Bring water to a boil in a saucepan and salt the water. Add pasta after water has come to a boil and boil for about 9-10 minutes. Add broccoli during last 5 minutes of cooking time. Drain well. Toss with all other ingredients and enjoy!

How easy is that??!! I realize with the addition of butter, this isn't an especially healthy meal. But it has veggies!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Pumpkin Scones

I love pumpkin but I really haven't baked with it much yet. I did make some yummy, and healthy, pumpkin muffins. But that's pretty much it so far. I normally just use it for my pumpkin oatmeal, which is delicious by the way! Or I feed it to my dog. But I realized that I need to start baking with it more. I had some buttermilk left over from making buttermilk pancakes for dinner last week and I wanted to use it up before it went bad. I found this recipe on Annie's blog and I knew I had to try it. These scones are easy and delicious!! I'm looking forward to having them for breakfast this week. Here is the recipe, with my adjustments in italics.

Pumpkin Scones
2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup light or dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger (i didn't have ginger, so i used ground nutmeg)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup white chocolate chips (optional) (i used semisweet chips because thats what i had)
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the eggs wash:
1 large egg, beaten
1 tbsp milk or cream (i used fat free half and half)

Preheat oven to 400 and place rack in the middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives. I cut my butter into pieces and then refrigerated it for a few minutes so that it stayed cold. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Stir in the chocolate chips. In a separate bowl mix together the buttermilk, pumpkin and vanilla, and then add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Mix just until the dough comes together. Do not overmix the dough.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for or five times and then pat the dough into a circle that is about 7 inches round. Cut the circle into six equal triangles (i was able to get 8 scones out of this recipe) Place the scones on the baking sheet. Brush the tops of the scones with the egg wash.

Place the baking sheet inside another baking sheet to prevent the bottoms of the scones from over browning. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothepick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Snap, Crackle, Pop

Chicken fingers!! When I decided to make chicken fingers tonight, I decided to try something new. I have always used bread crumbs to bread my chicken, but my Dad always used cereal, so I decided to give that a shot. And I though Rice Krispies would be perfect. Partly because I had some, but partly because they're so crunchy. It worked out wonderfully and I can honestly say I don't think I'll be using breadcrumbs to bread my chicken ever again. Here's how I did it:

Kayte's Chicken Fingers (serves 3-4)
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into nuggets or strips
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups Rice Krispies cereal, crushed
1/4 cup Canola oil

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Season chicken pieces with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Dredge strips or nuggets in flour, coat with egg, then coat in crushed Rice Krispies (I crushed mine in a gallon sized freezer bag and used my hands). Add chicken pieces to pan and cook, flipping once, about 5-7 minutes per side. If your skillet isn't big enough to fit all of the chicken (mine wasn't) keep the cooked chicken pieces in the oven to keep them warm. I laid mine out on a plate covered with a paper towel to soak up some of the oil.

I served the chicken with oven fries and roasted broccoli.

Oven Fries (serves 3-4)
2 medium sized Yukon Gold potatoes
olive oil cooking spray
salt and pepper to taste

Cut potatoes into strips. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and lay the potato strips out in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and spray with cooking spray. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway through so that they cook evenly.

Roasting broccoli is done pretty much the same way as the fries, except the broccoli only has to roast for about 10-15 minutes.

Hershey's Best Brownies

These really are the best brownies. I have been making the Deep Dish Brownies recipe from allrecipes, with some adjustments, for a while now and they had been my favorite. But I think they have been replaced. [EDIT: After making my Deep Dish Brownie recipe several more times, as well as this one, it has been decided that my Deep Dish Brownie recipe reigns supreme. Althought these are pretty yummy too :-)] I found the Hershey's recipe on Jessica's blog and I made them exactly the way she did. They were chewy and fudgy and wonderful. I made a second batch to take to my aunt's house yesterday and they were a big hit there as well. So here's the recipe the way Jessica (and I) made them.
Hershey's Best Brownie
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa (I used Hershey's Special Dark cocoa)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts(optional) (I did not add these)
  • CREAMY BROWNIE FROSTING(recipe follows) (I did not use the frosting)
  • as per Jessica's alterations, I also added about 2 tbsp of Hershey's Chocolate Syrup and about 1/3 cup of semisweet chocolate chips
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 9-inch square baking pan.

2. Stir together butter, sugar and vanilla in bowl. Add eggs; beat well with spoon. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in nuts, if desired. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.

3. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Prepare CREAMY BROWNIE FROSTING; spread over brownies. Cut into squares. About 16 brownies.

Jessica used a 9" round pan. I did this as well, since I didn't have a 9" square pan

Oh, and here's a link to the original.