Category Archives: Recipes

A Recipe Worth Coming Out Of Hiding To Share

Okay, so I wrote the post right below this one back in December–when I also had a “blog more often” sort of New Year’s resolution in mind.  It’s a good thing I don’t actually make New Year’s resolutions, or I’d be quite a failure this year.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this blog back when I wrote on a regular basis included having a repository for my favorite recipes.  If I’d misplaced one along the way–which, of course, rarely happens in my highly-organized kitchen–I could easily look it up in a post I’d shared earlier.

Like blogging, though, cooking seems to have gotten lost in the midst of all of the “life in general” stuff that’s going on around here. A heightened political climate that requires much more of my work time to be spent dealing with state-imposed “outside” issues while still trying to fit in all of my usual responsibilities in the school district means I’m working longer hours and feeling more stressed when I’m not working.  Throw in the final stages of my doctoral process, and logging in to write about it all seems more than a little overwhelming.  Did I mention I just moved my oldest to college a week ago?  No, because I’m not talking about that yet.

But, I have a bit of a break between courses, and school got off to a relatively smooth start last week.  Those two things combined left me feeling it was time to reach out a bit and spend a little more time socializing and a little less time working or lying about reading–a hobby I’ll always keep up regardless of the time factor involved.

One of the new teachers in All-American Public Schools happens to be the very first exchange teacher who came to our district from China.  Back then, I worked at the high school, and our family hosted this teacher for several weeks.  Soccer Boy had just turned 5, and so had Mr. N’s son—a son he’d left at home to come to the U. S. for a semester.  Mr. N really bonded with Soccer Boy, and we’ve kept up over the years.  He was able to come to the U. S. to earn his master’s degree and brought his son to visit us last year.  Now, the family is moving here and trying to settle in to American life.

I can only imagine what it would be like to attend a large American middle school without really knowing anyone.  Since Soccer Boy has plenty of friends to go around, we had several of them over and invited the N. family to join us for swimming and BBQ.  Sunday afternoon turned out just perfect for the event, with clear skies and mild temperatures.  We sat outside, and didn’t melt–quite a novel event around these parts lately.

But, the hit of the afternoon in my opinion came at the end. I’ve been searching for the perfect peach ice cream recipe for years.  I don’t like the ones that are essentially vanilla ice cream with some peaches stirred in.  I want real, peachy flavor.  I am thrilled to report I’ve finally found a recipe that delivered that and more.  I literally licked the container a few minutes ago to get the last little bit.  Yes, it’s that good.  I combined and changed enough details in a couple of online recipes to essentially make this one my own, so here it is.

Peach Ice Cream

6 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and diced

2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1 c. sugar, divided

2 c. heavy cream, divided

1 c. Half and half

6 egg yolks

Pinch of salt

1/4 c. Honey

1/8 tsp. almond extract

Peel, pit, and dice peaches. Fresh peaches can be frozen at this point and thawed prior to making ice cream. Reserve 1/2 c. peaches for later use. Place remaining peaches in saucepan with lemon juice and 1/2 c. sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat. After approximately 8 minutes, mash softened peaches with a potato masher and continue cooking approximately 10 more minutes. Remove from stove and cool.

Place 1 cup heavy cream in clean sauce pan. Pour remaining cup of cream in the ice cream maker container and keep cold. Add half and half to the cream in the sauce pan and heat until warm. Whisk egg yolks and  remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in bowl until smooth.  Stir in salt. Temper this mixture with approximately 1/3 cup of the hot milk mixture. Slowly add the egg mixture to the remaining milk mixture. Stir constantly until mixture thickens forms a custard. Strain custard into cold, heavy cream in the ice cream maker container. Add honey and almond extract.

Process cooled peach mixture in food processor until smooth. Add peach purée to ice cream maker and stir to combine. Freeze as directed. When ice cream maker stops, stir in reserved peach pieces. Transfer to a large freezer container and freeze for two to three hours before serving.

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At Least There’s A Rainbow Somewhere

So, I had this lovely bunch of Swiss chard thanks to my monthly farmers’ co-op delivery (and, yes, I had this blog which I rarely bothered to update as of late, but that’s another story). Ordering Swiss chard, especially rainbow Swiss chard, always seems like a good idea. Then, I pick it up, and wonder what on earth I’m going to do with it all.

Fortunately, the Epicurious site contained plenty of ideas for putting my newly-acquired greens to good use. After reading the reviews and checking out the time commitment for each recipe, I settled on Penne Pasta with Swiss Chard for our Sunday evening dinner. When I shared that idea with Adventure Guy, he asked, “Does it have meat?” The answer clearly needed to be “yes,” so I added Italian sausage to the originally vegetarian recipe. I think it would be good either way, but I have to admit I enjoyed the extra flavor from the sausage. I also added some chopped onion and pine nuts to the mix. The recipe below includes my adaptations,

Penne Pasta With Italian Sausage and Swiss Chard
Two links Italian Sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 Tbs. chopped garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 c. water
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 large bunch rainbow Swiss chard
1 lb. penne pasta, cooked
1 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Remove stems from Swiss chard. Rinse and drain, then chop stems and leaves separately. Remove casings from sausage links and cook sausage and half of onions until sausage is well-browned. Drain and set aside in a separate bowl. Retain pan drippings and add remaining onion, garlic, pine nuts, and red pepper flakes to pan. Sauté until onions are transparent. Add half of the water and deglaze pan. Place chopped stems in pan, cover, and cook over low heat for five minutes. Stir and then add leaves. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook another five minutes. Add drained tomatoes, and sausage to chard mixture. Stir well and cook until warmed through. Add to cooked pasta and stir well to combine. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.Top individual bowls with the remaining cheese.

My family all loved this meal. It was fast and easy, and I’ll definitely be serving it again soon.

And now on to other things…like my lack of posting. I’m not sure anyone wants to read about school budget cuts and the stress of ending the semester in both my work life and my student life. There have been long meetings, longer classes, papers to write. Somewhere along the way, blogging began to feel like that proverbial “one more thing.”

So I didn’t do it. I also didn’t feel guilty about it, hence the lack of the traditional apology for neglecting things here so long. Rather unusually for me, I decided there was no need for guilt regarding something that is intended to be fun.

And, speaking of fun. I have to admit to getting quite a thrill out of my most recent comment. Gabrielle Burton stopped by to comment on my review of her book, Searching for Tamsen Donner.  I appreciate knowing that my words aren’t travelling out into space without any readers, even if I am a neglectful writer as of late.

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Cooking Up A Snow Day

I rarely buy into the rush to acquire bread and milk that breaks out each time the meteorologist predicts a little snow or ice in Suburbia.  We typically survive the brief homebound period without incident or extra carbs.  This storm, though?  From the beginning it seemed different–the weather reports more dire, the predicted snow accumulation above average.

So, yes, I went to the store.  I planned ahead for several meals to keep my family full and warm during what people have termed the Snowpocalypse of 2011.  Or maybe it’s Snowmaggedon.

In any event, we’re eating well.  First up was Italian beef and barley soup, followed by my favorite chicken enchiladas, then tonight’s roast sticky chicken in the crockpot. I served the leftover broccoli and rice casserole I froze after Christmas, glazed carrots, and biscuits with the chicken.  Interestingly, the carrots–which I added to mix things up a bit and appeal to the kids’ sweet tooth–did not win anyone over.  I should have gone with our usual plain steamed version.

Not that the kids don’t have a sweet tooth (they get that from their mother).  This whole forced togetherness thing brings out my need to bake.  Since yeast did not make my pre-storm shopping list, my efforts center on the sweet rather than the savory.  We’ve eaten our way through one batch of vanilla bars and half my banana bread, so tonight I figured it must be time for chocolate.  Better yet, time for a chocolate recipe from my childhood–cream cheese brownies.  These are easy, fast, and delicious.

Cream Cheese Brownies

Brownies:

1 box brownie mix

2 eggs

2/3 cup water

Filling:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar

6 oz. chocolate chips

Combine brownie mix, eggs, and water and stir until just combined.  Line muffin tin with cupcake wrappers and fill each wrapper two-thirds full with batter.  In a separate bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Place 1 tablespoon of cream cheese mixture in the center of each cupcake.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until brownies are done.

The cupcakes went over significantly better than did the carrots!

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Comfort Food

Growing up, I managed to vicariously learn a few things here and there.  One of those things included a list of foods that every good Southern woman should know how to prepare:  mashed potatoes, chicken pot pie, biscuits, banana pudding, chicken fried steak, fruit cobbler, and chicken and dumplings. Since I grew up in a family that notoriously has no family recipes other than those for desserts, if I weren’t embarrassed to mention it,  I’d add divinity, pecan pie, and  Texas sheet cake to the list. 

I’ve spoken before about my trials in candy-making.  I’ll admit I’ve never even attempted chicken fried steak, though I’ve enjoyed plenty made by others.  I’m proud to say that I’ve mastered mashed potatoes, chicken pot pie, banana pudding, and fruit cobblers.  My few shots at biscuits taught me that there’s nothing wrong with Pillsbury.  But until tonight, I hadn’t found just the right chicken and dumplings recipe. 

In order to earn a spot on the Southern heritage recipe list, chicken and dumplings cannot include such ingredients as canned biscuit dough (ignore my Pillsbury comment above) or cream of chicken soup.  The dumplings should be rolled and cut so that they remain thin and come out without a “doughy” taste, the broth rich and flavorful.  This is one of those times when I figured that I’d “know it when I saw it” but hadn’t yet found a recipe that included all the requirements for success.

That is, until I stumbled across this entry on The Pioneer Woman’s Tasty Kitchen site.  It looked promising, especially when I found I had all the ingredients on hand to prepare dinner without a Sunday afternoon trip to the grocery store.  I poached a couple of chicken breasts then followed the recipe with the exception of adding a 1/2 tsp. of poultry seasoning and a couple of handfuls of chopped carrots to the broth prior to dropping in the dumplings.  I believe the fact that I have not quite a full serving left for lunch tomorrow speaks for the success of this dish with my family.  DD1’s boyfriend and one of Soccer Boy’s friends joined us for dinner and cleaned their bowls too.

I think I can mark another item off that list!

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One Down

Ever since Adventure Guy and I married, we’ve alternated between our two families for the Thanksgiving holiday.  So, one year we travel to Texas and the next we celebrate here in Suburbia.  But, this year is different.  Though our schedule typically would have us staying put this year, plans changed when my mom called with news that the woman who spent a year living with my family as an exchange student when my sister was a senior in high school was not only coming for a visit but also bringing along her husband and two children I’ve never met.  Thanks to my mother-in-law’s understanding of the uniqueness of this situation, we’ll be loading up the Suburban on Wednesday and making the trip to Texas for the second year in a row.

When we travel, I have less responsibility for Thanksgiving cooking.  Adventure Guy will deep fry the turkey my mom currently has thawing in her refrigerator, and my brother-in-law will put his chef skills to good use.  But I’m still on for pecan pie and sweet potato casserole, two of my favorite parts of the meal. 

I made the casserole tonight and popped it in the freezer.  This recipe holds up well to freezing before baking, which makes it great for busy holidays. I’ll tackle the pies tomorrow.  This year, I’m considering adding this recipe  to the traditional pecan pie I usually make. 

Also, if you’re interested, find the sweet potato casserole recipe here.

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Recipes, Old and New

I enjoy cooking–at least in a theoretical sense.  What I really enjoy involves putting on a spread for an event or party or whipping up a special dessert.  What I don’t enjoy quite so much is the daily task of putting dinner on the table.  I’ll admit, I’ve fallen down on the job in that capacity lately.

While I thoroughly enjoyed our recent trip to New York, it involved a significant number of restaurant meals. By the time we returned home, all of us wanted one thing–a good, home-cooked meal.  I managed to make a grocery store run in between loads of laundry on Sunday, so we started the week much more prepared to meet the challenge.

First up?  Italian beef and barley soup.  I highly recommend this recipe–a new one for me that I popped in the crock pot yesterday around noon. 

Italian Beef and Barley Soup

1 (approx. 1.5 lbs.) boneless beef top sirloin steak

1 TBS. olive oil

4 medium carrots, cut into 1/4 inch slices

1 small onion, chopped

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/3 cup uncooked pearl barley

2 cans (14 0z., each) beef broth

1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning, undrained

Cut beef into 1-inch pieces.  Heat oil over medium-high heat in large skillet.  Brown beef on all sides and set aside.  Place carrots and onion in slow cooker.  Sprinkle with thyme, rosemary, and pepper.  Top with barley and beef.  Pour broth and tomatoes with juice over meat.  Cover and cook on low 8 to 10 hours or high for 4 to 5 hours.  Serves 6.

The kids and Adventure Guy all loved the soup, which I served with cornbread and salad.

Tonight, having branched out last night, I decided to rely on an old favorite, Chicken Imperial.  This family pleaser was the first meal I ever made for Adventure Guy after we returned home from our honeymoon.  It’s remained in rotation ever since.  I typically serve it with broccoli and crescent rolls.  Yummy!

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Meals For New Moms Take Six

One of the topics that generates the most hits here in Suburbia is the “what to take to a new mother” category.  Though, unfortunately, this most recent recipe will be delivered not for celebration, but for comfort after a friend’s loss, it also makes the perfect offering for a new mom, especially one who is fortunate enough to receive lots of meals right in the beginning. 

These little packets of chicken and rice can be made ahead and frozen or served immediately.  I like to make up enough for a couple of meals to take to families who may need to have something on hand that they can just pull out of the freezer and bake.  I usually deliver a package of the frozen microwavable vegetable side dishes and some frozen rolls as well.  That way, a whole meal is ready to go with no preparation needed.

Chicken In a Packet

1 cup raw rice for every four packets of chicken

For each packet:

1 teaspoon butter

2 teaspoons dehydrated onion soup mix

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast

Freshly ground pepper

2 teaspoons butter

2 teaspoons cream

Paprika

Partially cook the rice by halving the amount of water normally used.  On a sheet of heavy aluminum foil, layer the ingredients in the above order, beginning with the partially cooked rice.  Wrap packet tightly and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.  Packets can be frozen prior to baking.  Each packet serves one.

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Not Too Late For Cake

This summer, I’ve officially entered a new stage in life–the waiting up for your daughter to come home from a date stage.  I don’t much like it on nights like tonight when I have to get up for work the following morning.  DD1’s usual curfew is midnight, which I believe is entirely reasonable for weekends, but it’s not an hour I want to see on a nightly basis.  She, of course, is unconcerned about the lateness of the hour considering that she will be sleeping in, rather than getting up.  Since I’m not comfortable going to sleep before she gets home, I’ll be revising that curfew to eleven for weeknights.  That plus encouraging renewed job seeking now that she’s finished with her daily PSAT prep course.

In addition to waiting around for my oldest to arrive home, I also had the chance to host my in-laws for dinner tonight.  They wanted to see DD2 and Soccer Boy since they’ve returned home from camp.  Adventure Guy threw some steaks on the grill and made his famous french fries.  I roasted some vegetables, and MIL brought along a yummy fruit salad and a cake for dessert.

I was particularly pleased with the roasted vegetables.  I used a yellow summer squash, a zucchini, a sweet onion, and some mushrooms cut in chunks.  I tossed that with two tablespoons of olive oil, a teaspoon of Emeril’s Original Essence, a little salt, some fresh ground pepper, and some chopped rosemary.  After roasting the veggies on a foil-lined pan for 20 minutes at 425 degrees, I had an easy and yummy side dish for the steaks.

But, as good as I though they were, my vegetables could not hold a candle to MIL’s contribution–Trisha Yearwood’s Key Lime Cake.  I loved the contrast between the tartness of the limes and the sweetness of the cream cheese frosting–a personal favorite of mine.  I may have to try this recipe myself, though if I do, I’m likely to bake it in a 9×13 pan rather than making the layer cake version. 

And, now there’s good news—DD1 just walked in, so I can officially call it a night!

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Pooling My Resources

Taking full advantage of her only child status now that both of her siblings vacated the premises in favor of camp, DD1 requested her dad smoke some brisket and ribs for her and a few good friends. This ideas eventually morphed into combing BBQ eating with another favorite summer activity, swimming. We’ll be headed to my inlaws’ in a few hours to take full advantage of their backyard patio and pool.

Of course, the BBQ represents only part of the required menu for this evening.  While Adventure Guy shouldered the bulk of the work with preparing the meat, I took on the sides.  We’ll be having baked beans, potato chips, and mandarin orange salad with brownies and vanilla bars for dessert.  As I type, everything but the beans is ready to go.  I’m waiting to put those in the oven until closer to dinner time. Check out the links for the recipes.  I took the “old favorites” route with this menu!

In keeping with the Summer Black-Out 2010 challenge, my outfit for today includes one of my favorite print shirts and olive green shorts.  I may or may not eventually change into a swimsuit.  And if I do, I’ll be counting it as “workout wear” since it includes a solid black skirt bottom! 

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Mamma Said There’d Be Nights Like This

It’s the little moments when I realize how easy it would be to become my mother.  And in the spirit of open disclosure, I should admit that, in my case, that wouldn’t cause me much concern. Though I thank the hair color powers that be that I didn’t inherit the prematurely gray gene and curse the fact that her tall, thin traits seem to have flowed right on through me and on to DD1, I’d be happy to have inherited even a little of her genuine goodness and caring for people.

But I wasn’t thinking about that tonight when I had a flashback to my own childhood–my childhood and the moments when my genuinely good, caring mother, said, “You all are going to sit here at this dinner table and talk to me while I finish eating. I haven’t cooked all this to eat it by myself.”

Tonight as my family beat a hasty retreat toward homework, meeting, and work commitments, I couldn’t help myself.  The words came tumbling out, just as they did thirty years ago.  And I was rewarded with some time spent with Soccer Boy who regaled me with the ins and outs of the preparation he and his classmates are doing for the upcoming state writing test.  We talked some strategy; I finished my dinner, and he helped me clean up.

Blast-from-the-past moment notwithstanding, a good time was had by all.

And, for a little added reassurance that hopefully I’m only taking on the best of my mother’s traits, I’ll share the following recipes.  Mom never made anything like this.

Chinese Chicken Stirfry

10 ounces chicken breast

2 Tbs. oil

1 heaping cup cashews

6 green onions, sliced

1 can sliced water chestnuts

6 fresh mushrooms, sliced

Sauce:

2 chicken bouillon cubes

2/3 c. hot water

2 tsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce

1 Tbs. corn starch

1 Tbs. water

3 Tbs. green peas

Saute chicken in hot oil.  Add nuts, and saute lightly.  Add onions, water chestnuts, and mushrooms.  Dissolve bouillon cubes in hot water.  Add sugar, garlic powder, and soy sauce.  Pour over chicken and saute for several more minutes.  Combine corn starch and water.  Stir into chicken mixture.  Add peas and simmer until thickened.  Serve over rice.

The recipe above, an old favorite here in Suburbia, paired well with a new one from the Tasty Kitchen website.  Try the Asian Dumpling Soup with Vegetables.  It’s awesome, a point agreed upon by the entire group, which is a rarity around here.

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