Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Smoke Alarm Chicken

I have never been able to live in a home where I didn't have to call 911 at least once, except my current home, but we haven't lived here for very long. Here are the calls:
  1. At my parents' house, I called the emergency number because our minivan started on fire in our driveway so we had to call before it set our garage and the neighbor's house on fire. No one was harmed.
  2. At my first apartment, I called 911 because there was a big fight that broke out in the parking lot next door and it sounded like someone was going to get their rear-end kicked or worse. I think one guy got punched in the face before the cops showed up.
  3. At my second apartment, I didn't actually call the cops myself, but my neighbor did because another neighbor was super drunk and was making a ruckus. My cousin and I took turns watching the action through the front door peep hole and the balcony doors. I think the drunk neighbor kicked a cop, but otherwise everyone was fine.
  4. At my third and final apartment before we got married, Smoke Alarm Chicken happened. No one was harmed.

Perfect temperature!
Last spring, my then-fiance and I decided to go for a short run while I had some chicken in the oven. I thought that I had the oven temperature low enough that nothing would happen while we were gone for about 30 minutes. Yes, I know that you're not supposed to leave the oven on and leave the house. Please don't scold me. I learned my lesson, which you will read about shortly.

Anyway, I had placed 3 chicken quarters in a lightly greased baking dish sprinkled with a seasoning of some sort (I'm pretty sure it was Penzeys Forward!). Then I placed it in the oven at 300 degrees. I figured I would need to crank it up to 400 degrees when we got back to my apartment because you need dark meat to reach an internal temperature of 170-180 degrees.

So we left to go running and on my way back, I couldn't help thinking what a dumb thing we just did. I was right. We were a half a block away when I could see all the lights on in the apartment, and I could hear sirens. Crap. Crappity Crap Crap...

My landlord met us at the door. He wasn't pleased with us, but he had also just taken nearly PERFECTLY cooked chicken out of the oven and told me to go talk to the firemen and he left. The firemen entered my apartment while my then-fiance-now-husband was in the living room fanning the smoke detector to get it to shut up.

"Ma'am, is everything OK?" Fireman #1 asked. He sniffs the air to check for smoke, I assumed, and looked around.

"Yes, we just have a really finicky smoke detector," I replied. "It sounds off if I'm boiling water." True story.

"Is that the item that was in the oven," Fireman #1 asked while pointing at the nearly PERFECTLY cooked chicken. Fireman #2 was standing behind him trying not to laugh.

"Yes, I had put the chicken in the oven while we went for a short run. I know I shouldn't have done that because of the fire danger. I'm very sorry," I tell him. Firemen #1 and #2 try to give me a stern look about leaving the oven while it was turned on, but the chuckles and remarks of "something smells good" from Fireman #3 didn't quite make them seem very angry.

After offering them a beverage or some chicken for their troubles (my then-fiance-now-husband was laughing in the other room), the firefighters politely declined saying that they had already eaten. Again, I was told to not leave the house with the oven on, and they left. I popped the chicken back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so to finish cooking. I went upstairs to apologize to my neighbors, who were very nice about the whole thing, and then we ate dinner, which was delicious.

Later that night, I called my dad with a, "You'll never guess what just happened to me!" story. After telling me that I shouldn't have left the apartment with the oven on and laughing at what happened, he said, "You should name this dish Smoke Alarm Chicken!" Thanks for the name Dad!

Last night, my husband and I decided on Smoke Alarm Chicken, broccoli and baked potato slices for dinner. This time we did not go out running or even leave the house to go to the mailbox. See? I learned my lesson.
This is what it will look like when done. New Year's resolution:
Learn better food photography.

Smoke Alarm Chicken and Baked Potato Slices:
2-3 Chicken quarters, thawed and trimmed (use more chicken if you are serving more than 2-3 people)
2-3 Russet potatoes, sliced (tips on that to come)
2 tbsp olive oil or garlic grapeseed oil
1 tbsp Cajun seasoning, divided (I couldn't find the Penzeys stuff!)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease the bottom of a 9x13" baking dish. Trim your chicken so that most of the fat is gone, but leave the skin on because it keeps it juicy. You can remove it later, which is way easier when cooked. Place the chicken in the dish, bone-side-down. You may need a buddy/sister/parent/brother/husband/boyfriend/wife/girlfriend/neighbor for this next step. From the thigh side, pull the skin up and hold it away from the meat to have your other person sprinkle the meat with some of the seasoning. Put the skin back down to cover the meat and sprinkle a bit more seasoning on it. Sorry, I don't have a picture of this procedure, but my hands were all chicken-slimy, which is why I didn't sprinkle it myself. I don't need salmonella on my spice jars.
Seasoned chicken ready to go in the oven.

Go wash your hands thoroughly and then scrub the potatoes so you get any extra dirt off of the potato skins. The skins are good for you, so leave those on unless you can't stand them. Slice the potatoes into 1/4 inch chips and place on a baking sheet.
Tip for slicing potatoes (no joke, I learned this from Tyra Banks on America's Next Top Model): If you don't have a mandolin slicer or food processor that you feel like getting out (and dirty), take a sharp knife and start slicing the potato at one end. When you get to the other end and you are running out of room to safely hold the potato without slicing off the tip of your finger, turn the end around so the small end is toward the knife and the bigger end is in your hand. Hold it with your fingers curled like a cat claw. This also works for onions or other round veggies. Remember, we don't want to have to call 911 again.
Note how I switched the direction of the potato end.
Drizzle a bit of oil over the potatoes and toss. Sprinkle with seasoning. Place both the chicken and the potatoes in the oven (chicken on the middle/low rack and the potatoes above it with space between). Bake for 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are tender (you should flip the potatoes on the baking sheet about half way through) and the chicken is done. That means NO pink insides, the juices run clear and the internal temperature reaches 170-180 degrees.
Finished potatoes.
Remove the skin (or not if you like it) and serve with some broccoli for bright green veggie goodness (or your veggie of choice). Enjoy the chicken in peace without a visit from the fire department.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pommes de Terre with photos!

Hey Crushers!
So the pan of cheesy potatoes I made got inhaled in about 5 seconds or however long it took for everyone to make it through the buffet that my mother-in-law set up in her kitchen. Here are the photos that I took, but didn't post with the recipe for some reason. Sorry about that.

A few pounds of potatoes all sliced thanks to the food processor.
While I had it running, I sliced the onions in there as well.
The onion juice seemed to prevent the potatoes from turning brown.

Mixing all the ingredients together. You need a really big bowl.

Put all the ingredients in a greased 13 x 9 inch pan and bake.

With 10 minutes left, top with some cheese and corn flakes and bake uncovered.

Melty crispy magic! Done!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving prep - Pommes de terre

Paula Deen

Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman)

Gina Neely

I love all of these ladies dearly, but there is no question that the real Queen of Comfort Food is Julia Child. She was the original celebrity chef who encouraged everyone to use butter and plenty of it. Yes, some of her food is ridiculously hard to make, but most of the time it's just delicious food that seems difficult to cook because it has a fancy French name. For instance, my husband's favorite side dish is Puree De Pommes De Terre A L'Ail, also known as garlic mashed potatoes. See? Not so scary after all. (Really not scary if you watch the clip at the end of the link I posted where they set some Julia Child to Guns N' Roses - HA!)

Thanksgiving is the food Superbowl of comfort food. There is turkey, which has the sleep-inducing tryptophan (although the wine and overeating are also culprits). There is starch everywhere from stuffing (or dressing) to rolls to potatoes. The creamy goodness of green bean casserole and mashed yams just make you think of napping. Oh, and that dollop of whipped topping (mock me, I'm a Cool Whip fan) sitting on top of a slice of pie doesn't hurt either. Everything about this day suggests comfort.

I try really hard to eat healthy meals with a variety of color and texture. My kitchen crush mom always said that you need at least three colors on your plate. I was assigned to bring potatoes to dinner at my in-law's house. Now, they didn't specify what kind of potatoes to bring. I thought I could try out a new recipe or put a twist on the Ina Garten roasted potatoes from this blog post by adding other root veggies like parsnips and beets for vibrant colors. Wouldn't that be fabulous?

When I suggested this to my husband, he was horrified. HORRIFIED. He couldn't believe that I wouldn't make cheesy potatoes. It's a staple in his holiday diet. So, I made the roasted veggies for my office's Thanksgiving potluck lunch and bought all the ingredients for cheesy potatoes.

Here is the recipe I'll be using:
Cheesy Potatoes
2 lbs shredded potatoes (you can cheat and buy the frozen hash browns and thaw them)
1/4 cup butter
1 (10 1/2 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup (if you can, find the low-sodium kind)
1 cup sour cream
1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (save some for topping)
1/2 cup onion, diced (more or less to taste)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup corn flakes
salt and pepper, to taste 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix all of the ingredients together in a big bowl except the corn flakes and a handful of the cheese. Pour the mix in a greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish and cover with foil. Remember, if the veggie grows underground, cover it up! Bake for 50 minutes. When the timer goes off, take the dish out of the oven and remove the foil without burning yourself. Steam is hot, people. Sprinkle the top of the whole dish with corn flakes and the cheese you saved. Put it back in the oven without the foil for 10 more minutes so it gets nice and crispy and melty. I don't know how it gets both crispy and melty, but it does. I don't question miracles. 

"But Jen, how do you shred all those potatoes?" Well, crushers, I usually cheat and buy the bags of frozen potatoes. However, this year I own a food processor with one of those fancy, schmancy slicer attachments, so I'm going to try that. If that doesn't work, I'll end up slicing them and making potatoes au gratin. I'll post that recipe next week.

I know I haven't been around much and I'll be MIA for the next few days, but that's because my sister is getting married this weekend, so I don't have to do much cooking! I'll be eating Thanksgiving potluck dinner, then leftovers and rehearsal dinner and then wedding food and then more leftovers all weekend! WHOO HOO!

Thank you to all the crushers who read this blog, make comments, share what you've learned or made you laugh and special thanks to those who take it one step further and either donates to get food to those who need it or just shares meals with others.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I don't want to be right - Breakfast style

Hi Crushers,

Last night after using lots of coupons and thinking we were saving all this money by working ahead on Christmas gifts, my car got rear-ended with me in the driver's seat and my mom in the passenger's seat. Hello new bumper and deductible. Goodbye all the money I just saved.


Obviously, I'm very glad that no one was hurt and that we weren't pushed into oncoming traffic. Being a little sore is the max of our injuries. There is a lot to be thankful for here.

However, the being annoyed part hasn't gone away yet. I got to work today after dropping my husband off (carpools are awesome!) at the school where he teaches, and sat down at my desk. I keep a big old canister of oatmeal at my desk for a nutritious breakfast since I usually fly out of the house before eating. Well, today that plain oatmeal didn't sound so appealing. It needed something. Think, think think... Time to dig around in my lunchbox for some inspiration.

My husband packed my lunch for me last night while I was dealing with the police and the (uninsured, license-less) young man that hit my car. He made me a very nice lunch including several dark chocolate Hersey Kisses (R). Yet, another reason why I love him!

*Click* goes the light bulb over my head.

Oatmeal + one Hersey Kiss + a spoonful of natural peanut butter that I keep in my desk for afternoon apples or celery snacks = GONE!

That was awesome, so I had to share it. Next time, if I lack the chocolate, I'm totally chopping up some apples.

Office breakfast deliciousness...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stuffed Shells with cheesy goodness

Every once in a while, I like buying a box of fun shaped pasta just for the heck of it. Some times I actually use the appropriate sauce. There was an episode of "Lydia's Italy" on PBS where Lydia talked about the appropriate combinations of sauce and pasta shape. Then I found this website called The Geometry of Pasta which also gives you a good idea of what to pair up. It's not all macaroni and spaghetti, crushers!

There are some pasta shapes that are begging to be filled with delicious ingredients. Shell pasta or conchiglioni is one of those types. These shells are stuff-able and bake-able. 

When I bought the shell pasta, my husband asked me when I would actually make time to do this. I reminded him that sometimes I bake things at 10 p.m., so I would for sure find time to make these. Well, yesterday was a bit trying since it was SLOW at work until the last 45 minutes. Of course, this is when we needed to carpool and I was the picker-upper. Then traffic just sucked. 
Yes, I know I live in Wisconsin where the biggest city is still relatively small compared to larger cities. You're welcome to your 6-lane highways. I get fed up with slow drivers when we have only 3 lanes!
Plus, it was starting to get really cold and snow. Now, I love snow, and it will be perfect for my sister's holiday wedding coming up, but I just didn't want it to snow right then since we wanted to go running. What to do?
It's hard to tell, but that is snow on my windshield (taken after cooking - not while driving).
Make a delicious meal for your loved one. Relax in knowledge that water will boil when heated and onions will soften and release their yummy fragrance when cooked in olive oil. Knowing that a hot, delicious, cheesy meal is only an hour away can make all the difference. Or is it the glass of wine you drink while browning the ground beef? Who cares?!

I (mostly) followed this recipe for Three Cheese-Stuffed Shells with Meaty Tomato Sauce by one of my all time Kitchen Crushes, Ree Drummond, also known as The Pioneer Woman. This woman is an amazing cook. Also, if I ever thought I could be a red head, I'd want her hair.

Anyway, here is the recipe that I used. It is almost the recipe that Ree used. She has awesome pictures and the full recipe on her site, so you should check it out. Or, if you accidentally bought the wrong cheese and spinach instead of basil, you can use mine below:

Pasta and Sauce Ingredients:
  • 12 oz, weight Jumbo Pasta Shells
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/2 whole Medium Onion, Chopped
  • 5 cloves Garlic, Minced or crushed
  • 1 lb ground beef or Italian sausage
  • 1/2 cup Red Wine
  • 1 whole 28 Ounce Can Crushed Tomatoes 
  • 1 cup pasta sauce
  • 15 oz, weight Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 heaping cup of Parmesan Cheese, Grated, Divided
  • 15 oz cottage cheese (the smaller the curd, the better)
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 2-3 handfuls of spinach, washed and chopped
  • 1 tsp dried basil or a few leaves of the fresh stuff if you've got it
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
You're going to start with the sauce because it takes longer. First, heat up the olive oil in a large skillet. When that's hot, but not bubbling, toss in the diced onion and crushed garlic cloves. Let those cook away until the onions start to get all soft and fragrant. When that happens, add in a pound of ground beef. Break that up so it's in small, bite-size pieces and let it brown, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, get water boiling and cook the pasta shells as directed, but only for half the time. I kind of forgot the HALF part, so I think my shells were too soft and that's why they ripped easily. Fortunately, cheese works as a good glue to hold things together!
Ground beef + onions + garlic + spinach + tomatoes + wine = happy smelling kitchen
Going back to the sauce, once the meat is all browned, drain off the fat, but reserve 1 tsp-tbsp. This can be hard to do or get it all the way drained, so feel free to put the meat, onion and garlic on a plate covered with paper towels and pat it like you would for bacon. When you've got the fat drained off, put the meat back in the pan with it's onion pals and introduce it to a half cup of red wine. Let them make friends and bubble away for a few minutes. Then add the crushed tomatoes and some pieces of chopped spinach. I also had some leftover pasta sauce, so I added that. Let that all simmer in the pan for awhile. I would give it at least 15 minutes.

By now your pasta is done. Drain it and set it aside. So that you don't get ANOTHER pan dirty, you should put in the spoonful of reserved meat juice in the pot that you cooked the noodles in. Take the two large handfuls of spinach and chop it up. Put the chopped spinach in the pot and let it cook down. If you don't, all the water from the spinach will make the shells kind of runny. Once those are all limp-looking, then you should take them out of the pot so they can cool. You can always put it in the fridge or freezer to cool quickly.

Our house was chilly, so I just set it on a plate on the counter.
I have no idea how that one onion jumped in with the spinach.
While you are waiting for the sauce, it is time to make the cheesy shell stuffing and pre-heat the oven to 350. This is a lot like the cheese you would mix together for lasagna. In a big bowl, combine the ricotta, cottage and half of the Parmesan cheese. Add in one egg. Sprinkle with dried basil. Mix that all up. If the spinach has cooled, stir it in the cheese mix. It is important that it doesn't cook the egg. Otherwise, you get this weird spinach-y-egg-y thing going on that looks gross.

Not that this looks much better, but there are no weird half scrambled egg bits.
Take a 9x13 pan (or two 8x8 pans if you're cooking for two and want to have a freezer meal) and cover the bottom of the pan with the meat sauce. Fill the shells with your cheese mix by the spoonful. Don't worry if the pasta rips because the cheese will hold it together. Place the filled shells open-side-down on the meat sauce. Repeat until you have that pan full! Cover with the remaining sauce and the Parmesan cheese that you saved. You saved it, didn't you?
Shell o'cheese

Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees uncovered. This is enough time to run two miles and walk a little cool down. Or if you discovered that you and your husband under-dressed for running in the snow, run about a mile and then come inside and do this abs/core routine:

  • 10 sit ups 
  • 10 leg lifts 
  • 10 side leg lifts 
  • 10 push ups 
  • 10 side leg lifts on the other side
  • Repeat! I go around so I'm on my back, my right side, my stomach, my left side and then back again.
If you're really speedy, you can even do some of the dirty dishes from making the sauce, throw in a load of laundry or run back outside to take a picture of the snow on your car for your blog and to show your friend Susan, who lives in Colorado and already had snow.

When it's all done, it's is basically stuffed shells with cheesy goodness that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. I would have called Ree just to thank her for this recipe if I could have tracked down her number. Lucky for her, I was in a cheesy coma enjoying a relaxing end to a weird Monday. Also, that would have been creepy, and I'm not like that.

Party Food and Thanks

Hey Crushers,

I hope you all enjoyed your weekend. Mine was a whirlwind as usual. But that's the way I like 'em!

On Saturday, Mom and I went shopping for some fabulous new boots before going home to make some snacks for my sister's bachelorette party.

I made cupcakes and decorated them as matching lingerie sets:
We went a little crazy with the sprinkles too.
Did you know that you can bake sprinkles or colored sugar into the dough, so that it's like Funfetti (R) cake? It's awesome and you can do it in whatever color or color combo you like!

We had a few other snacks to munch on with fun labels!
In addition to getting to celebrate another milestone as my sister and her fiance get closer to their wedding day (11 days!), there was another important holiday to celebrate: Veteran's Day.

I sincerely hope that everyone in the US and around the world took a moment to say thanks either in prayer or directly to a soldier/veteran for the peace and freedom you have. If you are reading this and you are not in a country that has peace, we will all say a prayer for you that your country will soon know peace.

My great-grandfather served in WWI in the Army. My grandfather served in WWII in the Army along with my great-uncle and his cousins. Another great-uncle was a career Marine and served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars. I have some cousins who served in the Navy and in the Marines. Some made it home; some did not. I'm sure you know many others as well.

For those serving now, for those who served in the past, for the ones who made it home, for the ones who did not, thank you.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Food bloggers care!

Hi Crushers,

Due to leftovers, a new work/carpool schedule, and getting to eat delicious Chinese takeout for my sister's birthday earlier this week, I haven't been cooking like normal. I promise that I'll have stuffed shells to share with you shortly.

In the meantime, I suggest that you all head over to Liz's blog That Skinny Chick Can Bake for a delicious red velvet whoopie pie recipe and information on how you can help support the people affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Here is the link to the American Red Cross. If you have another organization that you donate through like your church or a local nonprofit, I encourage you to make a donation if you can.

In general, all the people I know who love to cook and feed others are generous in other areas of their lives. Thanks for your kind support and willingness to improve the lives of others.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tailgating: Grill vs. Slow Cooker

From Wikipedia:

In the United States, a tailgate party is a social event held on and around the open tailgate of a vehicle. Tailgating often involves consuming alcoholic beverages and grilling food. Tailgate parties usually occur in the parking lots at stadiums and arenas, before and occasionally after games and concerts. People attending such a party are said to be tailgating. Many people participate even if their vehicles do not have tailgates.

Everyone tailgates differently. I wish, oh how I wish I had taken pictures of the many types of tailgate parties I saw at the Packer game yesterday when The Pack beat the Arizona Cardinals. Some people just sat in chairs at the back of their cars eating sub sandwiches and some people had multiple grills for a buffet feast. I've seen catered groups with fancy cocktails and wine to tiny grills with 20-something men drinking crappy beer. It varies by sport, location, and local cuisine. However, the basics are all there: parking lot, sporting event, food and fun.

Here are some fun links about tailgating food, tips and accessories (the magnetic beer koozie cracks me up):

Home Tailgating

Tailgate Warriors

American Tailgaters

When I tailgate for baseball games, I usually have a grill with some brats and burgers with chips and salsa or taco dip, some sort of dessert, and some sort of salad like potato, pasta or coleslaw. Generally, the weather is nicer so you can hang out for hours before (or after) the game with your fellow-fans. Oh, and don't forget to have some tasty beverages handy, too!
Tailgate picture from October 2010 - not much changes year-to-year.

We're at Lambeau Field!
(You can't tell that we've got a ton of layers of clothes on to keep us warm!)
Everyone in the stands had a piece of colored paper
to hold up to make a "Thank You Veterans" card stunt
during the Star Spangled Banner. I took this picture from
behind my red card.

When I go to a Packer game, which if you are from Wisconsin, then you know it's a big deal even if you're not a fan, I want warm, tasty comfort food that will stick to my insides and keep me warm through the whole game at Lambeau Field. It's not called "the Frozen Tundra" for nothing, folks!

If we go to an afternoon game (3 p.m. kickoff), then you're more likely to have time to start the grill and cook some brats or burgers. However, we went to a noon game, which means that we were there around 10:30 a.m. I don't know about you, but that's a little early to be eating brats for me. What to do? Breakfast casserole, bloody mary's and spiked coffee!

Unfortunately, since I make this slow cooker breakfast casserole as the very last thing before I went to bed, I was not thinking about taking pictures. I also spent most of the day learning how to caulk our bathtub so I was tired of scrubbing and just wanted to get cooking. It's so easy, you can do half asleep!

Anyway, you can go over to this website where there are pictures. I took Ott, A's recipe and only changed it by using crumbled Italian sausage in the layers for a little kick. Also, I did not saute the garlic and onions. I just put them in fresh.
Funny story: I found this recipe through, and I later found out that one of my co-workers is related to the blog author. Small world!
6-8 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2-1 pound of Italian sausage (as mild or hot as you like), browned
1-2 onions, peeled and chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 green pepper, seeds removed and chopped
1 - 2 lb bag of frozen hash browns, I like using the string kind instead of the cubes
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, pepper jack would probably be good too
12 eggs
1 cup of milk
salt and pepper to taste

You might want hot sauce or ketchup available in case you have people who like condiments.

While you are browning the Italian sausage and/or cooking the bacon, take the time to chop up your veggies. It makes the assembly time much quicker! Depending on how fast you chop, you might also have time to crack the eggs in a big bowl and whisk in a cup of milk. Ott, A's recipe called for whole milk, but we just always use whatever we have in the fridge (skim, 1% or 2%).

Once you've got your bacon cooked and crumbled and the sausage is browned and all the fat is drained off of both, it is assembly time! Grease the inside of the slow cooker all the way TO THE TOP with butter or cooking spray. Layer 1/3 of the hash browns, cheese, onion, peppers, meat, salt and pepper in order and repeat. You will have three layers. This will fill up your slow cooker all the way to the top. Although, you think that you can't possibly fit in any more ingredients, you pour the egg mixture over the whole thing. It sinks right in!

Now turn the cooker to low and cook for 8-10 hours. Then go to bed since you're going to be up early to hit the road to see your beloved team (hopefully) squash the other team.

Serving suggestions: Enjoy with coffee (spiked or regular), a Bloody Mary (with all the fixings or not), some coffee cake and a heaping dose of friendly trash talk with tailgaters wearing the other team's colors.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Mushroom and Beef Stroganoff-ish

Thinking all the way back to Monday night, I am finally posting my version of the Skinny Taste Mushroom Stroganoff. That version did not have any beef and Gina at used different noodles. I only had these veggie penne at my house, so I got a bonus serving of veggies!

However, I also used more wine in my recipe than hers called for, so perhaps it was a wash?

Once my husband takes a bite, he usually tells me it's great and gobbles up a whole serving or two. The real question is, "Would you like me to make it again?" If the answer is "sure..." then I know I should only make it again if I have to. That has only happened once, by the way. Usually, the answer is "yes!"

I know I've hit the proverbial kitchen jackpot when I get a, "Can we have it again soon? Like tomorrow?" This was one of those recipes! WHOO HOO!

Mushroom and Beef Stroganoff-ish
  • 1 pound ground beef - the leaner the better!
  • 1 box noodles - we used the veggie noodles
  • 2 tbsp butter, divided so it's about 1/2 and 1 1/2 sections
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups fat-free, less-sodium vegetable broth (or beef if you're a carnivore)
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce - don't use if you have a seafood allergy
  • 2 tsp tomato paste divided
  • 5 oz sliced Cremini or plain button mushrooms
  • 8 oz sliced baby Bella mushrooms
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 shot-glasses white wine or sherry
  • 1/4-1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
First, you should start with the beef and the noodles. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles as directed. It's OK if you leave them a little undone because you're going to end up mixing them in the sauce later.

Put the smaller portion of butter in the pan and let it melt, but not burn. Break up the ground beef in small-ish pieces and let it brown, stirring/flipping occasionally. Feel free to keep this on low while you're making the sauce. It'll take about as much time to brown the meat as it will for the noodles to boil unless you have super beef.
Ground beef waiting to be added to the sauce!
Once the beef is done, drain off any excess grease. Add about a shot glass-ful of wine to the beef along with 1 tbsp tomato paste. I know this isn't very stroganoff-y, but I think it tasted really good. You can stir this well and then set it on low to keep warm. The creamy part will be coming up, so don't worry. Anyway, we have some friends who brew their own beer and make their own wine. Since I didn't have any white wine in the house (NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE), I uncorked a blush wine from our friends and used that. It was very tasty!

Ok, now for the amazing mushroom creamy part. I just drained the pasta and set it aside so that I could use my big stock pot for making the sauce. Melt the remaining butter (the bigger portion) in the big pot. When it is nice and melty, add in your onions until they are soft and translucent. This takes a little over 2 minutes. When they're ready to go, add in the flour and stir it all up. You don't want it to stick or burn.
NOTE: We didn't have broth at home, but I had veggie bouillon, so I made 2 cups of that in the microwave while the butter and onions were doing their job.
Simmering away!
 Add in the broth, Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste. Stir this constantly until it's all mixed in well. After that, add your mushrooms and spices. Stir and cook for about 4-5 minutes or until the sauce is thickened and bubbly. Add the wine and let it come to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for another 4 minutes or so. Once it looks all amazing and creamy, stir in the beef and noodles so you have one big pot of amazing noodles, mushroom and beef.
So good and you'll get 4-6 servings of this lovely pasta dish!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hard Workin' Oven

Last night, I made two things: Jalapeño Roll Ups and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies. Both were "Man Cave" approved by my husband and his friends during their card night! I figured I might as well make both in one night so I didn’t have to fire up the oven more than once. Technically though, it’s electric, so there’s no actual fire involved. Details, schmeetails...

First, I made the Jalapeño Roll Ups based on this recipe from Sally's blog, My Homemade Life. The only thing that I did differently was use jalapeños from a jar. I had to slice them myself, but that was easy. Just remember DO NOT rub your eyes or any part of your face unless you scrub your hands really well first. Otherwise, PAIN WILL HAPPEN. Your eyes will burn like heck and your face will itch.

Other than the different jalapeños, I pretty much followed the recipe. The only problem was that I made them really fat, so I only got 16 appetizers out of one tube instead of 32. Not sure how she cut these or if I just rolled them the wrong direction. I’m pretty sure it was that I rolled them the short way and not the long way. Whoops!

You should head over to Sally’s blog for the recipe. She did it the right way, so you should probably learn from her on this one. Plus, she’s got a really fun math explanation for how to slice things. Brilliant and simple! She also has the funniest "Man Cave" explanation here. I'll just share a few pictures from my adventures:

Here's the filling. It would probably be a good dip if you melted it, too.
I think I rolled it the wrong direction...
Pre-baking roll-ups.
I couldn't get a picture of them after because the guys ate them so quick!
Now before I start writing about these great pumpkin cookies I made, please note the following:
DO NOT use the same spatula/flipper, cookie sheets or bowls unless you clean them thoroughly between recipes. I know this probably goes without saying, but I don’t know if you’re like me and think, “Hey, that spatula only got used for 30 seconds to move some crescent rolls on to a plate.” Remember that it got used with jalapeños, and you don’t want that spicy flavor to touch sweet cookies. That would confuse the heck out of your taste buds. Just wash them, OK?

So, about those amazing cookies that I found thanks to Christi’s blog Love From the Oven… 

She was extra super healthy and used white wheat flour. I used all-purpose flour. I couldn’t find pumpkin pie spice in my cupboard at 9 p.m., but I did find apple pie spice. Don’t ask why I always seem to bake late at night, but I think it’s nice to fall asleep to a great smelling house. That, and I never seem to get around to baking until late. Meh. I’m a busy person.

  • 1 cup pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or the healthy stuff like Christi used)
  • 3 cups of rolled oats (note: old fashioned oats are the same thing)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (break up the clumps)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (feel free to use more if you want)
  • 2 tsp apple pie spice (Christi used pumpkin pie spice)
  • One regular sized bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Note: Christi also suggests using mix-ins like pecans, walnuts or raisins. I’d like to add dried cranberries or mini M&M’s to that list, too.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Get all of your ingredients out and ready to go. You might also want to get your cookie baking sheets out, as well.

In a mixing bowl combine pumpkin, eggs and vanilla until well combined. I love that this recipe uses a WHOLE can of pumpkin puree so that I don’t have a random half of a can leftover to use in who-knows-what.

Pumpkin goodness (AKA the wet ingredients)
In a separate bowl, combine flour, oats, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, spices and chocolate chips. Combine wet and dry ingredients until mixed. The cookie dough will be VERY thick. Unless you have a stand mixer, just use a strong spoon and some muscle. I think I could have worn down another hand mixer with these cookies.

Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheets about 2" apart. All I did was take a regular cereal spoonful of the dough and pushed it off the spoon with my fingers. It made a nice little round drop cookie. If you want, flatten the cookie dough slightly with a fork. It was great to know ahead of time that these won’t spread out much, so I could fit 15 cookies on each cookie sheet (3 rows x 5 columns).

I already made 30 cookies and had all of this dough left to use!
Can't you tell how it'll make nice chunky cookies?
Bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned. It's best to remove them from the cookie sheet quickly after baking to prevent them from sticking to the sheet.

Now, Christi said that this makes 36 cookies. I don’t know if I just made smaller cookies or what, but I got 75 cookies out of this recipe! This was a fortunate happening because these cookies are for my husband’s football team’s pizza party. These cookies will be no match for 30 teenage boys. 

The end result. Soooooo gooooood...
What I especially love about these cookies is that they are not only easy and delicious and made my kitchen smell A-MAZING, but they are actually pretty good for you. From the ingredients, you can see that there isn’t any butter or oil and it’s got whole grain oats, so you kind of get the idea that they’re healthy. Then I found this great website where you punch in all your ingredients and it spits out the nutritional facts. It says that these cookies are about 110 calories for two of them. How great is that? Delicious and healthy-ish!

Enjoy and please share your favorite pumpkin cookies or jalapeño appetizers in the comments!