Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Call it like it is - Apple Spice Muffins

OK, so the Packers lost by one point last night to the Seattle Seahawks in the weirdest and very upsetting way: an interception called a touchdown although it clearly wasn't. While this all could have been avoided if the Packers had just scored a touchdown or two in the first half, it was still a really bad ruling on the field that no one understood (especially the two refs in the end zone that alternatively called it a touchback and a touchdown). Just call it like it is, refs!

For those of you out there who consider yourself a fan and a citizen of Packer Nation and you had access to Twitter or Facebook or, you know, a TV last night, you can understand that this is just the tip of the iceberg of many problems with this year's NFL season. It's rough. But you know what's worse? This is just a game, and there are worse things in life than a bad call. I know about 10-11 people who have some form of cancer right now. I know a number of people who are going through a rough patch financially. I know there are people facing depression, death, destruction and war. I know that there are starving people around the world and in my own city. Life isn't fair, but your fantasy football team will probably be OK by next week. Let's all have a little perspective here and make the right call to not let this affect our day.

(Stepping off my soap box and putting it away)

OK, so back to the intended use of this blog: talking about FOOD!!! I find it very relaxing and fun to cook and bake. I also like to bake when I'm upset because somehow whipping eggs or beating batter makes me feel less like yelling at the TV or whoever... So during last night's game, I made cookies and what another blogger (who shall remain nameless because I like most of her stuff) called baked donut holes. WRONG! These were basically cinnamon and sugar-coated mini muffins. Just call it like it is, people.

Here is the recipe that I used, except that I used apple pie spice instead of cinnamon (I didn't have enough cinnamon), and I used regular muffin tins because I still have yet to buy a mini muffin tin. I have my eye on this one.

Apple Spice Muffins
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup milk (I used 1%)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3-4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon apple pie spice

Preheat oven to 350. Mix oil and sugar; beat in egg. Add vanilla and milk, and stir until combined.
Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add to wet ingredients and stir gently, just until combined. (a few lumps should remain).
Either line muffin tins with paper cups or grease them if they aren't non-stick. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full with batter. Bake for 15-17 minutes.
Combine sugar and cinnamon. Dip each muffin into the melted butter and then roll in the cinnamon sugar.

Don't they look delicious?
I had leftover sugar so I mixed it with the leftover butter and poured a little on top of each.
NOTE: I don't know if it's because I failed to use a mini muffin tin as the original blogger did or what, but mine did not taste as moist as all the commenters on the other blog claimed. I'm not sure what happened there. I think they would have been better if I added a cup of pumpkin or a mashed banana for more moisture. However, they go pretty well with my morning cup of coffee.

NOTE #2: I'm not going to post the chocolate chip cookie recipe because you can buy a bag of chocolate chips and follow the recipe just like I did! The only tip I have for you is to let the dough cool in the fridge for an hour or so after you mix it all together. Then after it has become firm, roll/mold it into a loaf just like the cookie dough you can buy in a tube. You can slice it with a sharp knife and place the (almost) perfectly round dough portions on your cookie sheet to bake. The cookies bake nice and evenly!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Smokey Chicken Pasta - Part 2 with pictures

Hi Crushers,

Sorry for the delay in sharing this recipe, but I had a really busy weekend! My lovely cousin got married to her sweet husband on Friday and I was the Matron of Honor. We had lots of wonderful family time including snuggling and hiking with my adorable nephew/godson, and sharing delicious meals including one of my husbands' favorites: BBQ Ham Balls. It sounds ridiculous, but is one of the best make-ahead meals ever! I hope to share that recipe with you in the future!

Ok, enough about ham... it's chicken time!

As I said, I was running out of time between work and babysitting to go out and buy ingredients to make the REAL Wildtree Chicken and Vegetables in Tomato Cream Sauce. Therefore, I modified the recipe. Let me tell you, while I did enjoy it and my husband gobbled it up, I felt like there was something missing. A little kick? Let me know if you try it and either love it just as it is or if you can tell me, "Duh, you forgot xyz ingredient!"

  • 16 ounces spaghetti, cooked according to the package
  • 1-1.5 pound chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
  • 3 tablespoons Wildtree Grapeseed Oil or olive oil, divided 
  • 1 tsp Wildtree Garlic Galore seasoning blend or garlic salt
  • 1.5 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 2 green peppers, diced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons Wildtree Smoked Mozzarella and Tomato Blend
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups milk (I used 1%)
  • 1/3 cup jar pasta sauce (we had it leftover, but you could totally use tomato paste)
I'm going to assume that you all know how to boil water to cook pasta. If I'm wrong, please tell me in the comments!
Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet and cook chicken pieces until they aren't pink in the middle. Salmonella is bad. Sprinkle with garlic seasoning and turn the chicken so they are evenly cooked.
Generally, the chicken should be cooked when all the oil is gone.
The juice from the chicken will cook off as well.
 While that is in the pan, dice all your veggies if you haven't already done so. I find that it's just enough time. If you like your veggies crunchy, leave them until your sauce is done and then add them. Otherwise, put them to the pan with the chicken right away to saute.
In case you were wondering, that's a Pampered Chef (R) garlic press sitting all nice with the veggies.
 In another pan, or if you want, you can just set the chicken aside on a plate and use the same skillet (which is what I did), to saute your garlic over a medium heat. Then add the flour and seasoning blend until they make a nice paste. Then SLOWLY add the milk while stirring. You don't want to scald the milk. Otherwise it gets clumpy and gross. Once all the milk is in, add the tomato sauce or paste. Mix until it starts to thicken.
My husband was helping so I could take a picture while he stirred so the milk didn't burn.
Once you've got the sauce thickened up, add the chicken and veggies back into the skillet and bring everything back up to the same temperature in case your chicken and veggies started to cool.
This smelled so good, I almost ate it right out of the pan.
 You can either incorporate the chicken and vegetable mixture right in with the pasta or you could serve it on top.
Dinner is served!
I think what I was missing was garlic bread or some red pepper flakes or a glass of wine or all three... Let me know what you think and enjoy your meal!

NOTE: Anytime I mention a specific brand of seasoning or if you see a kitchen utensil with a logo on it, please understand that I'm not being paid by any of these companies to endorse their products. I just happen to like them. If you're a fan of something else and think I should try it, please let me know in the comments section. We are willing to try out lots of new products and foods!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Smokey Chicken Pasta

I have been thinking about what I was going to make for dinner tonight and how I forgot to thaw anything out. Whoops! Fortunately, the defrost on our microwave works great. I thought I would embrace my Giada Italian side tonight and go for pasta since I am babysitting for our niece and nephew later so my cooking time is short. Usually, you can whip together a pretty great meal in the time it takes for pasta to boil.

After searching I think I'm going to modify the Chicken and Vegetables in Tomato Cream Sauce from Wildtree tonight. However, I don't have all the ingredients or the time to go get them, so I'm going to make a "sort-of" version of it. Go check out their website for awesome dinner ideas, and I'll let you know how our dinner turned out tomorrow.

Happy cooking!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Spicy Shrimp Jambalaya

Hi y’all!
I feel a little southern while writing this since my house was filled with the amazing scent of jambalaya last night. Actually, it still smelled wonderful this morning, too! Today we’re going to talk about a southern kitchen crush, my friend Gena. (You thought I was going right to Paula Dean didn’t you?) She is from New Orleans, and when I worked with her, we always had wonderful southern dishes at all our office potluck lunches.

I can’t decide if Gena’s gumbo or jambalaya were better, so I figured I would start with cooking the one that sounded easier. Since I couldn’t get Gena’s exact recipe in time, I hopped on the Internet and used a modified version of Zatarain’s Crescent City Jambalaya.

I think Gena would have been proud and told me, “Bless your heart, that’s a good, spicy jambalaya!”

Spicy Shrimp Jambalaya:
Serves 6-8 people
Total time: 45-ish minutes

1-2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped (we like onion in our house)
1 large or 2 small green peppers (right from my husband’s garden!)
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
1 cup water 1 package ZATARAIN'S® Jambalaya Mix, Original
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 tbsp hot sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)
1 pound andouille sausage cut into ¼ inch slices (I would have added it if I had it)

1. Heat butter in large deep skillet or 5-quart Dutch oven so it melts, but doesn't start to brown (medium heat). Add onion, zucchini and bell peppers; cook and stir 7 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften.
This is what it looked like right after a dumped the can of tomatoes in the pot.

2. Stir in tomatoes, water and Jambalaya Mix. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer 15 minutes.
The rice is almost tender at this point, and it has already started to smell really good!

3. Stir in shrimp, and if we had it sausage, and hot sauce (optional). Cover and cook 10 minutes longer or just until shrimp turn pink and rice and vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.
This is what the jambalaya looks like right when I stirred in the shrimp. The shrimp look kind of limp and grey.

4. Remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes.
The finished dish that had my husband sneaking bites! Notice how firm and pink the shrimp are.
Serving suggestion: heat up a big bowl of this and serve with some crusty French bread or corn bread and maybe even some greens. Perhaps a cold glass of Abita beer (popular in New Orleans according to Gena) would help put out the fire on your tastebuds. Remember, we like foods really spicy at our house, so watch out if this recipe makes you break out in a sweat!

You could easily freeze this, give it as a "sorry you're not feeling up to cook" gift or just save it for later in the week, like I'm going to do. I think I might freeze a little as a surprise dinner on a cold night. I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Easiest. Recipe. Ever.

As you know from reading this blog, football is a big part of our household. Our first date was to watch a Green Bay Packer game together. The year we got engaged, the Packers won the Superbowl over the Pittsburgh Steelers and both Aaron Rodgers and I got a ring (mine did not have diamonds in the shape of a G though).

Tonight, the Green Bay Packers are playing their long time rivals, the Chicago Bears. I have my fingers crossed and prayers said that "The Pack" plays well and beats the Bears with no one getting injured! I usually help "coach" the team by yelling at them from the comfort of my living room couch. The only thing that's better is being at the game.

Unfortunately, my book club is scheduled to meet tonight. I know, I know. Poor planning on our part. While I'm discussing Shanghai Girls by Lisa See (read it!), my husband and his buddies will be at our house in the "man cave" watching and "coaching" (aka yelling at the TV). Since I'm the kind of person who can't let anyone ever enter our house without being offered food, I made a big batch of crockpot chicken chili. It is seriously the easiest recipe I've ever made, and my husband and his friends LOVE it.

Crockpot Chicken Chili (adapted from Weight Watchers (R) Southwest Soup)
Makes 8 bowl-fulls or feeds 3-4 hungry men
3-4 Frozen Chicken Breasts
3 tbsp Wildtree Taco Seasoning
2 tbsp Wildtree Garlic Galore Seasoning
1 medium onion, diced
1 can crushed or diced tomatoes (the fire roasted ones are good, but I go for the low sodium ones)
1 can white beans (navy or northern)
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can baked beans (don't use the maple kind; original, vegetarian or spicy are best)
1 can kernel corn

Directions: Put everything in the crockpot in order. Do not thaw the chicken. Do not drain the beans, tomatoes or corn. Do not stir. See how easy this is?! Cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 8-10 hours. Before you serve it, remove the chicken and shred it with two forks or chop it up. Put the chicken back in and now you stir. Serve and enjoy!

My lunch today
Serving suggestions: top with a little shredded cheese and sour cream. You can add hot sauce if it's not spicy enough. It is always better the second day, but there are rarely leftovers! Here's a tip: if you start the crockpot before you go to bed, it'll be done by the time you wake up. Then all you have to do is put it in the fridge (and take a little for yourself for lunch), and then it thickens up so you have nice hearty chili by dinner time!

This also freezes well, so I'm going to take some and put it in a bowl for my friend's sister who was just diagnosed with cancer. This way she has an easy delicious meal too!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Kitchen Catch Ups

Hello blog world!

I have been cooking relatively simple things lately and working on other house projects, so I haven't made anything cool lately. Unless you want some pictures of Sloppy Joes or brats on a grill, I've got nothing. We had corn on the cob, baked beans, and (gasp!) box pasta salads as side dishes.

Here are a few quick tips for the foods mentioned above.
1. The canned Sloppy Joe sauce says that it has a whole serving of veggies for every sandwich. I'm not sure I buy that, so I always add diced onions, mushrooms and green peppers. I like a little crunch, so I add them to the browned ground beef after it's cooked but before I add the sauce. If you like them with less crunch, then add them right away.
2. Both the baked beans and the pasta salad give you lots of options for "add-ins". With the baked beans, we added some hot sauce (like Franks) and onions. With the pasta salad, I added some chopped tomatoes. You could also add some grated carrots or cucumbers, but I had neither in the house.
3. Corn on the cob is amazing no matter what. If you eat it with mayonnaise and chili powder as my friend learned to do in Mexico or with a little butter and salt or with nothing at all. It's pretty hard to screw up this amazingly summer-fresh veggie.
4. With the brats, make sure your grill is nice and hot and that there's a beer or other beverage of choice in your hand. Then just go enjoy the great outdoors and the sizzle of brats on the grill.

We ate relatively easy things this week because we've been so busy in other parts of our lives that we haven't spent much time in the kitchen. However, I'm hosting a Thirty-One party soon, so I'll have some fun party snacks to share soon. Plus, it's Football Season, which is like a weekly holiday in Wisconsin or for any NFL or College ball fan. This means that there will be some fun finger foods coming up!

If you have a recipe to share, please post it in the comments!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fajitas - a little bit of this and a little bit of that

Everyone has a fajita recipe. This delicious Tex-Mex dish can be found in cookbooks everywhere, so I'm going to encourage you to find your own Kitchen Crush and follow their recipe.

Here is what I made last night, but I am not 100% sure on the quantities, so I am also going to encourage you to follow the scents and tastes to guide you.

1-2 pounds of chicken thawed and cut into strips
1 tbsp olive oil or grapeseed oil
1/2 banana pepper diced (you can use green pepper for a milder taste)
1 tsp BBQ 3000 spice from Penzey's
1 tsp Taco Seasoning from Wildtree
1 tsp Garlic Galore from Wildtree (you could use two garlic cloves, crushed)
1-2 tsp hot sauce
1 medium onion cut into slices
1/2 cup water
1/2 lemon or whole lime
1-2 tbsp tequila (optional)
flour tortillas-any size you like
your favorite toppings - we used salsa, cheese and sour cream (I didn't have any guacamole on hand)

Makes about 4 servings

Heat the oil in a skillet on Medium-High and spread the oil around by rolling the skillet in the air (make figure eights with your hand). Put the chicken in the pan and make sure that the bottom cooks. I try to not have to flip meat more than once on each side, but sometimes that doesn't work. I look to make sure that the edges of the chicken turn white so you know it is pretty done. Flip the chicken. In a bowl or cup, mix the water, seasonings and hot sauce (and optional tequila). When the chicken has cooked on both sides, add in the spicy mixture and let simmer on a lower heat. Add onions and peppers. Squeeze the half lemon over everything. Limes would work, too.

HINT - in order to avoid putting lemon seeds in the pan and accidentally eating them later, squeeze the juice in a cup first and take out the seeds. Or you can squeeze it over a strainer, but I couldn't find mine until after I had cleaned up dinner and was putting away the dishes.

While the chicken is simmering (about 5-7 minutes), you have time to set the table and put out all the extras like shredded cheese, sour cream or salsa. We also made red beans and rice as a side dish.

Now if you're my husband and your mouth is made of asbestos here is his serving suggestion:
Put lots of chicken on the tortilla and cover in cheese and hot salsa - sour cream is for wimps. Either eat the rice on the side or put some right on top of the cheese. If you are sweating while you eat, it's just right. This is when I tease him and call him "hot stuff".

My serving suggestion:
Put chicken (equal in size/portion to a deck of cards) in the tortilla. Add cheese and a bit of sour cream to fight the heat. Eat the rice on the side.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. If you have a favorite fajita recipe, please let me know. I'd be glad to try it out. I'm always open to suggestions.

Coming soon: pork roast, beer brats, shrimp pasta and my husband's sloppy sandwiches. We'll see which ones make the blog!