Monday, September 29, 2008

Chicken and Veggie Soup

Today I decided to make chicken soup, even though its 100 degrees outside. I have lots of fresh veggies from the farmer's market, and chicken leftover from the whole roasted chicken I made yesterday. That just screams great soup to me. I LOVE soup and its one of the most healthy things we can eat.

Usually when I make soups, they are a bit of experimentation. I pretty much throw in whatever I have instead of following a recipe. Same with the spices. If I don't have fresh herbs, then I mostly use salt and pepper to season soups, I don't like lots of dried spices.

Chicken and Veggie Soup

make the broth:

1 chicken carcass
a few sprigs of fresh herbs (I used Thyme and Rosemary), don't bother chopping
several bay leaves

Put the carcass into a large stock pot and fill with water. Add the herbs and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour. Remove the carcass and herbs, strain if you like. ( I usually don't strain it). I also pour off several cups, usually 4 or more into a bowl to cool and bag up and freeze for later uses. Then what is left, is more than enough for a lot of soup.

make the soup:

1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery ribs, sliced
1 potato diced
2 small zucchini sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 ounces egg noodles

In a small skillet, heat oil and saute onions until softened. Add the garlic and cook about 15 more seconds, then add it to the broth that is remaining in the stock pot.

To the remaining chicken broth in the pot, add carrots, celery. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cover. Let it cook for awhile, as little as 30 minutes, but longer if you like. Then add the chicken and continue to simmer. 30 minutes before serving, add potatoes and zucchini. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 15 minutes before serving, add egg noodles. Serve hot when the pasta is al dente.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Whole Roasted Chicken

Yesterday, my mom gave me a 5 lb whole chicken. Ive never roasted a whole chicken before. I decided that today would be our roasted chicken day. I set out to find a yummy recipe and after looking at several places, America's Test Kitchen Cookbook, Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, and figured out how I was gonna roast this bird up.

I decided to make an herb butter and pack that between the skin and the breasts, and I rubbed it all over the outside and inside too. Then I rubbed lots of salt and pepper on it. I stuffed it with fruits and veggies then roasted it up. It turned out sooo good. Way better than I ever expected. It was so flavorful, we didnt even need salt and pepper to season it up on the table. Very moist and juicy. I cant believe how easy this was, and Im so excited about making chicken salad sandwiches, chicken soup, and lots of fresh chicken and veggie stock to freeze for later use, out of this one chicken.

This was just so easy and wonderful. I cant wait to roast chickens up with all different stuffings and seasonings. My dog Dude loved it, just by the smell. He didnt get much, but he was sure staring at it...intensely. I gave him and Scotty a few pieces of skin after dinner. I love the pic how Dude is just staring at the chicken. I didnt even notice him there at first. LOL

Here is my wonderful recipe that turned out so good:

1 5 lb whole chicken
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup chopped fresh Thyme
salt and pepper
veggies and fruit for stuffing (this adds a lot of flavor to the chicken and stock. I used 1 carrot, 1 celery, 1 apple halved, 2 long sprigs of fresh rosemary)
1-2 cups water or chicken broth (I used water)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Mix butter and thyme in a bowl until well blended.

Cut up veggies for the stuffing. Quarter a carrot stick and a celery rib. Halve and apple, add a couple sprigs of fresh herbs. I used rosemary. Stuff it all into the cavity. You can use any fruits and veggies you like, just fill it up.

Near the cavity, put your fingers between the skin over the breast and meat and seperate the skin from the bird, but being careful not to tear the skin. Make 2 large pockets over the breasts. Using a spoon or your hands, stuff the herb butter into the pocket between the skin and meat. Pat the skin down, rubbing the butter all over. Then rub herb butter over entire chicken. Season chicken with plenty of salt and pepper, inside and out.

Roast breast side up in a roasting pan, with a v shaped rack to hold the bird. Make sure the rack is greased with cooking spray. Roast the chicken for 2-3 hrs, basting every 30 minutes with drippings.

Its done when it registers 185 degrees on a meat thermometer stuck into the biggest part of the thigh.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Beef and Fresh Veggies over Polenta

I know this isn't the most beautiful picture of food, but it really was good! Its loaded with fresh green beans and zucchini. The veggie filled meat sauce tops a yummy creamy Parmesan polenta. I have tried polenta with my family several ways and they did not like it, but this time around...everyone ate it. Carl even said it was OK. I love polenta, so I'm happy to have found a way to get it into the rotation. I got this from this month's Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine.

The next day, I took the meat and veggie mixture and minced it all up with a food chopper, into a pulp pretty much. Then I froze it into 1/2 cup servings in freezer bags. Its so easy to grab a bag and thaw it in warm water. Its thawed by the time you have pasta or rice cooked and makes for an easy, healthy, veggie packed meal for kids.

Beefy Polenta and Veggie Pie (adapted from Rachael Ray)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

One small zucchini, thinly sliced

1 onion, chopped

1 1/4 pounds ground beef

Salt and pepper
One 14.5-ounce can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes

1 cup instant polenta

1/2 cup half and half

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling

One 10-ounce package frozen green beans, thawed and drained

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and zucchini and cook, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the beef, season with salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, lower the heat and simmer.

2. In a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups water and 3/4 teaspoon salt to a boil. Whisk in the polenta until thickened, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the half and half, Parmesan and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until smooth; pour into a large casserole dish.
3. Stir the green beans into the beef mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring, until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture over the polenta and top with more Parmesan.

Bacon and Egg Mini Muffins

These are a great breakfast that can be made ahead and then frozen in individual baggies for rushed mornings. I love these muffins because they aren't so eggy, and more like the texture of muffins, instead of an omlette. Charlie hates eggs, but he will eat these cause they have more of a bread texture. I adapted this recipe from a recipe in a little Bisquick handout I grabbed from the grocery store years ago. The original recipe is called Shrimp Tarts, but I used bacon instead of shrimp, and cheddar cheese instead of Parmesan. I also added another egg and bit more Bisquick and I'm glad I did because it was the perfect amount for 24 mini muffins. Next time I make these, and it will be soon, I will add another egg or 2 and probably make them in regular sized muffin tins.

Bacon and Egg Mini Muffins

2/3 cup original Bisquick Mix
1/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 eggs
2/3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2-2/3 cup cooked chopped bacon
4 medium green onions, thinly sliced

Heat oven to 400 degrees and spray 24 small muffin cups.

Whisk together Bisquick, half and half, yogurt, Worcestershire sauce and eggs in a small bowl until blended.

Divide the bacon, green onions and cheese in the bottom of each muffin cup. Spoon a Tbsp of the egg mixture into each muffin cup.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden. Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then remove from pan and either eat right away, or cool completely and put into bags and refrigerate for several days, or freeze for 3 months.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Spicy Pumpkin Muffins

These are so yummy. Sam and Charlie are eating them as I type this out. Sam helped me make these babies and now my house smells delicious! I really like these muffins because they have whole wheat flour, and all the spices. I love the ginger and cloves in this! Gives it a little zing!

adapted from a recipe by Joe at Culinary in the Country

Spiced Pumpkin Muffins

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup low fat sour cream (I subbed plain yogurt)
1/4 cup milk (I used Soy)
1 & 1/2 to 2/3 cup mashed pumpkin
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours and the next 6 ingredients (through cloves) and set aside.

In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugars. Add the yogurt, milk, pumpkin, egg, and vanilla. Mix well.

Add the dry flour mixture into the wet and stir just until combined. The batter will be thick.

Lightly coat a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray. Spoon muffin batter into each cup and place in the oven for 25-35 minutes until a wooden toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.

(I also sprinkled on a crumb mix I made of brown sugar, white sugar, flour and butter.)

12 Big muffins

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

E for Excellence Award!

What a nice suprise yesterday when I found out Id received an E for Excellence blog award. Thank you Shawna! If you havent checked out her blog yet, she has a lot of delicious stuff at Daily Deliciousness! Her blog was just started this year (like mine) so go check it out.

Now to nominate a few blogs that have caught my attention recently:

Milk & Honey: Great recipes and stories to go with them.
Sunshine in my Soul: not a cooking blog, but a really inspirational mom of 4 kids just writing about their lives and lots of GREAT photography and decorating ideas.
The Expatriate's Kitchen: A great blog about all things food related! Some great recipes, some great stories, information and articles.
Mrs Sac's Purple Kitchen: well she has some adorable cats. Lots and lots of great recipes and photos of those recipes. Lots of fresh produce, which I like a lot.

Now it is your turn:

Please find at least 10 more blogs, of any kind that you love to read. Write a post about the blogs you picked, linking back to me and to them. Once you’ve posted, return here to let me know your post done and be sure to let them know too!!! (If you don't come up with 10, that's fine too!)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ringing in the Fall: Autumn Cheesecake

This was the recipe of the day on a couple days ago and I kept checking back to it all day looking at the picture. I could almost smell it from the computer screen!

I have been itching to get into some fall cooking, even though its not really fall weather here yet. Its hard when I go to the grocery store and see pumpkins and all the other fall stuff. I caved on this one though and I am so glad I did. We took a trip to Walmart yesterday so I could pick up a spring form pan. I ended up with a set of 3 for $11.00! I think that's a steal! But I'm not sure what kind of quality these pans are, but they are Wilton and the cake did turn out FAB! This made my house smell like spicy and sweet fall. We all loved it! Carl is not a huge cheesecake fan, but he went back for seconds on this one. So did I. Charlie wanted seconds, he was standing at the counter screaming and trying to climb up the side of the cabinet to get more. We decided that I have to make this for Thanksgiving this year. This was definitely a 10!

The only modifications I made was that I sliced up my apples really thin and I tossed them in the sugar and cinnamon, then microwaved them for 2 minutes, to soften them a bit. I was worried that the cheesecake would cook up but the apples would be too firm. This worked great and the apples were the perfect soft consistency for this cheesecake.

Autumn Cheesecake (from
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups apples - peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a large bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and melted butter; press into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar. Mix at medium speed until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in vanilla; pour filling into the baked crust.

In a small bowl, stir together 1/3 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Toss the cinnamon-sugar with the apples to coat. Spoon apple mixture over cream cheese layer and sprinkle with 1/4 cup chopped pecans.

Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 70 minutes. With a knife, loosen cake from rim of pan. Let cool, then remove the rim of pan. Chill cake before serving.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Caprese Salad

This is one of my favorite salads. I love to sprinkle a little balsamic vinaigrette over the top right before digging in.

3-4 ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2 in. thick slices
enough fresh basil to cover the tops of each tomato
sliced fresh mozzarella cheese, as many slices as tomatoes
olive oil
salt and fresh ground pepper

Set the tomatoes on a plate, top with a basil leave, then a slice of cheese. When they are all finished, arrange them how you prefer, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes before serving to get the tomatoes cold.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Crispy Polenta with Cinnamon and Syrup

I love polenta. I just discovered it recently and I was so bummed that Carl didnt like it at all. I tried it several ways and he wasnt keen on any of it! Bummer! It looks like I have to add Polenta to the growing list of things that I only make when he is gone, or when I am up late at night alone, craving a midnight snack.

I love polenta sliced up and fried in olive oil until its crispy on the outside, but creamy on the inside. Then sprinkled with some cinnamon a pat of butter and some maple syrup....YUMMY!

Crispy Polenta with Cinnamon and Syrup

Sliced cold polenta about 1/2 inch thick
1 Tbsp olive oil
a dash of cinnamon
1 Tbsp Maple Syrup

Heat olive oil on medium high heat in a cast iron skillet until hot and almost smoking. Fry polenta slices for several minutes on both sides until golden and crispy. Drizzle syrup onto a plate, top with crispy polenta slices. Sprinkle cinnamon over the top and dab with a pat of butter. Enjoy.

Crispy Chicken Parmesan

I used to work at The Olive Garden and one of my favorite dishes they served was Chicken Parmesan. I loved how crispy it was, but the chicken inside that crispy crust was dry and bland.

This Chicken Parmesan that I made turned out way better than The Olive Garden. The key to a good Chicken Parmesan or other similar dishes like Eggplant Parmesan, or Schnitzel, is a CRISPY crust. Not a soggy greasy crust that falls off before you take the first bite. I think the secret to a crispy crust lies in the temp of the oil when you fry it, and also the way you bread it. I like to dip mine in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs. And the oil needs to be almost smoking hot before you put the chicken into the pan. And don't overcrowd the pan. Just a few pieces at a time, or the oil temp goes down and they don't fry and crisp up properly. Keep the finished ones in a warm oven while the rest are frying.

My mother in law came over, unexpectedly tonight and had dinner with us. She said this was Sooo good. I was thinking I kinda slacked since I used a jarred marinara sauce, but I do have to admit, the sauce was yummy and the chicken came out was good!!

Chicken Parmesan

1 lb chicken breast cutlets
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
3 cups bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 eggs
2 tbsp water
enough oil to fill a pan up 1/4 inch
1 jar prepared marinara sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Pound out the chicken breasts so that they are 1/2 inch thick. Salt and pepper both sides.

In a shallow dish, mix flour, salt, pepper, and paprika. In another shallow dish, mix bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, oregano, salt and pepper. In another shallow dish whisk the eggs with the water.

Heat oil in a pan until hot and almost smoking. Dip the chicken cutlets into the flour, then the egg mixture, then into the bread crumbs...pressing to make the crumbs stick to the chicken. Fry for several minutes on each side. When golden brown and crisp, remove from pan onto a paper towel lined baking dish. Keep hot in a 200 degree oven until all chicken in fried. Increase oven temp to 435. When chicken is cooked, put into a greased baking dish and spoon marinara sauce over the cutlets. Top with cheese. Put back into oven and bake 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted and browned. Serve with spaghetti and marinara sauce on the side.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mahi Mahi with Almond and fresh Thyme crust

What a great dinner this turned out to be. I didnt follow a recipe, just made it up as I went. I loved the almond and thyme in this. Gave it such a great flavor! We like our fish seasoned simply with a little salt and pepper and maybe some lemon or fresh herbs. This was so simple and fresh. For the bread crumbs, I used a slice of Hawaiian Delight bread, by Alpine Valley Bread Co...some of my favorite bread ever. It is white bread with little shreds of coconut and dried pineapple. Perfect for Mahi Mahi. I served this with grilled veggie skewers and Jasmine Rice with Tom Yum sauce, from Trader Joes, and a lemon wedge. It all came together nicely and was a great combo!

Mahi Mahi steaks with Almond and fresh Thyme crust.

2 Mahi Mahi steaks
salt, pepper and olive oil

Almond topping:
1/4 cup finely chopped almonds
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 Tbsp chopped fresh Thyme
1 Tbsp chopped lemon zest
dash of salt and pepper
1-2 tsp butter cut into small pieces

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Put both Mahi Mahi steaks onto baking sheet and season both sides lightly with salt and pepper. Brush the tops with olive oil, or spray with cooking spray.

To make the topping for the crust, take a slice of fresh white bread and toast it, then process it in the food processor to make crumbs. Use 1/4 cup of the crumbs and mix with almonds, cheese, thyme, lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste. Press 1/2 of the topping onto the tops of each Mahi Mahi steak. Top the crust with little pats of butter. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork and the crust is golden brown. Serve immediately.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Peach Crisp

A couple days ago, my neighbor gave me a bunch of peaches that she had shipped in from Utah. I was so excited to have something to inspire me to try a new recipe. Ive been so busy lately, I just havent had time to try out new stuff that is blog worthy. We've been eating the usual standby's, and as good as they are, I get antsy to try new recipes when its been awhile. I found this recipe for Peach Crisp in my mom's America's Test Kitchen cookbook. I like the ingredients of a crisp more than a cobbler. Im not for such a huge floury crust. So I added some granola to the topping to crunch it up even more. This was so sweet and yummy. I thought it would be hard to core and peel the peaches, but it was a cinch. This definitely would mark my first "Fall" recipe. My house smelled beautiful today...all spicy and fruity, like Fall should smell! I am so happy the weather is cooling down and my kitchen wont be so hot...I cant wait to cook more fall stuff!

From The America's Test Kitchen Cookbook

Peach Crisp

6 Tbsp Flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
(I added 1/2 cup granola to this)

3 lbs peaches (7-9)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (or to taste based on sweetness of peaches)
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon zest (I omitted)
2 tsp corn starch

1. For the topping: Mix the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and granola together. Add the butter and toss to coat. Pinch the butter chunks and dry mixture between your fingertips until the mixture looks like crumbly wet sand. Add the nuts and toss to incorporate, Refrigerate the topping for at least 15 minutes before baking.

2. For the filling: Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix the peaches, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and corn starch together and place in a 9 inch pie plate. Distribute the chilled topping evenly over the fruit.

3. Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is deep golden brown, about 40 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Creamy Ziti with Peas and Ham

My mom came over the other day and left one of her cookbooks here for me to look at. The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. Its a compilation of 1200 recipes that have been tested with different and sometimes mediocre kitchen equipment, and even wrong ingredients, to come up with tried and true recipes that work the first time.

I was flipping through it with Sam and every single page, he would point to pictures and ask, "whats that?" And I would lovingly answer his questions. Well, you can imagine that after a few chapters of that, it was time to be done with looking through cook books. I did make it through the pasta section and I came across this recipe that I had almost everything on hand, so I tried it for dinner tonight.

This recipe took less than the 25 minutes it says it takes. It was easy and actually pretty light compared to other creamy pasta dishes Ive made. Carl even went back for 2nds, and he normally hated creamy pasta dishes. The pic just doesnt do this justice. It looked and tasted great!

Creamy Ziti with Peas and Ham
(adapted from America's Test Kitchen)

1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp butter, cut into 8 pieces
4 ounces thick sliced ham, diced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb small pasta (I used mini ziti, the recipe called for mini shells)
2 cups frozen peas
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (half of one lemon squeezed)

1. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil for the pasta.

2. Combine the ricotta, Parmesan, butter, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, in a serving bowl large enough to hold the pasta.

3. Cook the ham in the oil in a 12 inch skillet until the ham is cooked through and browned. Drain onto a plate lined with paper towels, reserving the oil.

4. Cook the onions in the oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Remove from heat and add to the ricotta mixture, stir to mix well.

5. When the water is boiling, stir in 1 tbsp salt and the pasta. Cook stirring often, until the pasta is almost tender, but still a little firm to the bite. Add the peas during the final 30 seconds of the pasta cooking.

6. Reserve 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain the shells and peas. Whisk the lemon juice and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water into the ricotta mixture until smooth. Add the shells and peas and toss to coat. Add the reserved ham, and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Save the remaining 1/4 cup pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce before serving.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Yummy Grilled Veggie Skewers

This is a really easy, healthy way to eat veggies with grilled meats. In a little while, our neighbors are coming over to swim and grill and I'm making the Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon that I recently posted about. I want to tell you how I make these wonderful veggie skewers. Its so easy and so yummy! A delicious way of getting more fresh veggies into our diets.

1/2 cup olive oil
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 cloves of garlic
veggies chopped into 1 inch pieces such as onions, bell peppers, whole cherry tomatoes, zucchini, whole mushrooms.
bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes

Just wash the rosemary and set aside, you don't need to chop it up or anything. Smash the garlic cloves and peel off the outside layer and discard. Don't chop the cloves, just leave them smashed. Heat the olive oil on low heat and add the rosemary sprigs and garlic cloves. When it gets hot enough for the herbs to start sizzling, remove from heat and stir a bit to cool it down then just let it sit and cool for several hrs, letting all that fragrant rosemary and garlic infuse into the oil

When you're ready to make your veggie skewers, assemble the skewers with all the veggies, then brush them with the rosemary garlic infused oil on all sides. Season with plenty of salt and fresh ground pepper. They are ready to go on the grill. You can also cover them and let them sit and marinate for up to 2 hrs before grilling.