Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pantry Casserole

I am one of those anal retentive people who plans out their meals a week in advance. This is great for budgeting, but not so great when Mrblocko is home unexpectedly for dinner. I try to have at least one back up meal in the arsenal for surprises like this. This time, I turned to Real Mom Kitchen's Hubby's Favorite Casserole. We just happened to have all the basics lurking in the pantry. (Well, except for the ground beef. That was hiding in the back of the freezer. The pantry would be pretty stinky if we stored ground beef there.)

This dish reminded me of a baked version of Hamburger Helper. (Yeah, I am one of those freaks who LIKES Hamburger Helper.) I think it was the ground beef/noodle combo. It came together just like boxed version too, with the exception of baking it in the oven. If you were hard pressed for time you could definately skip that step. Of course, then you wouldn't get the nicely browned crunchy bits of cheese on top. That would be pretty sad.

Speaking of cheese, I had a quite a bit of random bits of leftover cheeses that were all thinking about turning green. Instead of cheddar cheese, I used Swiss, cheddar, queso quesadilla, mozzarella, and Monterrey jack. Plain cheddar, or the shredded cheese with taco seasoning mixed in would have tasted better.

I didn't have any egg noodles, so I substituted medium shells and rainbow rotini. I happened to have just enough leftover in both boxes to make up 2 cups uncooked. I was a little uneasy that they wouldn't cook up properly because they were a thicker cut of pasta. They cooked up just fine. As an added bonus Blockette liked finding the "mermaid shells" amid the twisty noodles.

Since we've been eating so much chipotle, I think our taste buds have gone haywire. I wish that I had added spices to liven up the flavor. Mrblocko doused his portion in Tabasco sauce. (P.U!)) Next time I'll add some Chili powder and cumin or Italian seasoning. I also thought that black beans would be tasty if I went the chili/cumin route. Mrblocko suggested adding fire roasted tomatoes. That would be a nice addition to either spice addition.

(Edited to add: I removed the link because there was some sort of malicious virus attached to that particular website.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cheater Bacon-y Ranch Slaw

Thank you Kraft for this super easy cheater cheater Ranch slaw with bacon. The hardest part of making this coleslaw was cooking up the bacon. It was so hard that I had to reward myself with several pieces of crispity crunchy bacon.

Mrblocko was not jazzed when I told him I was going to make coleslaw as a side to grilled savory wings. How quickly his tune changed when I told him it was made with ranch dressing and bacon. Everything's better with bacon.

Blockette ate this under great duress, at least she did until I had the idea of cracking some fresh ground black pepper over my portion. Of course, then she wanted some pepper on hers too. That pepper made the delicious even more divine. The pepper enhanced the flavors of both the bacon and the ranch. MORE bacon-y ranch goodness??? YUM I say!!! Blockette gobbled hers up lickety split.

I do feel I owe Kraft an apology. They provided this uber easy scrumptious recipe and I had the nerve to use Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing. I'll go hang my head in shame now.

Kraft's Ranch Bacon Coleslaw
1 pkg. (16 oz.) coleslaw blend (cabbage slaw mix)
4 slices OSCAR MAYER Bacon, cooked, crumbled
1/2 cup KRAFT Ranch Dressing

Combine ingredients. Chill to let flavors combine

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Chipotle orange pork chops

When I decide to make something from the every growing stack of recipes I find on blogs, it's usually very random. I didn't realize until writing this post that the Enchiladas from my previous post and these Chipotle orange pork chops were both from the elly says opah! blog. Kudos to elly says opah! cause she is 2 for 2. The whole family went gaga over these chops.

I originally picked out this recipe because after making the enchiladas, I had almost a whole can of chipotles leftover. I bought the smallest can there was, but when you only use one or two at a time, that small can lasts and lasts. Luckily, the chipotles have a long shelf life in the fridge.

I had 7 thin cut boneless pork chops, so I doubled all the ingredients except the chipotle. I wanted to go for zing verses heat. One chipotle was the perfect amount for us. The chops had just enough spice to make our lips tingle and no one was gulping down gallons of water. I used pulpless orange juice from concentrate instead of freshly squeezed the recipe calls for. This was a great time saver in more ways than one. We drank the last of the juice at breakfast so more juice needed to be made anyhow, and I didn't have to spend time juicing the orange without a citrus juicer.

The marinade itself was so simple but the flavors were very complimentary. It was salty, spicy, sweet and tangy, but none of the elements overpowered the other. Everything blended together harmoniously. Mrblocko thought this marinade would be good on chicken as well. We'll definitely be testing that out.

We were very lucky this meal did not start or end with disaster. Because the chops were so thin, Mrblocko was worried about them drying out under the broiler. We opted for grilling them instead. However, if you notice the picture, they don't really have much of a char to them. Mrblocko had a hard time keeping the grill lit and the flames at a decent level. It was very windy out and we thought perhaps we were low on propane. After dinner Mrblocko went to check the tank and THEN he noticed the tank was not hooked up properly. Thank goodness the whole thing didn't go kaboom.

Broiled Chipotle Orange Chicken from Elly Says Opa!
1/3 cup orange juice (about 1 juiced orange)
1 chipotle in adobo, chopped, plus 1 tsp. adobo sauce
1 tsp. soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pork chops

In a small food processor or blender, combine first 4 ingredients. Process until fairly smooth. Place pork chops in a non-reactive bowl and pour juice mix over them, rubbing it into the chops. Let them marinate 20-30 min. Preheat broiler. Sprinkle pork chops with salt and pepper and place on a broiling pan. Pour marinade into a saucepan. Broil pork chops until slightly undercooked (about 4 min per side for a boneless chop, longer for bone-in or fatter chops). Meanwhile, cook reserved marinade over med high til reduced by half. Brush pork chops on one side with the reduced marinade. Broil an additional minute. Flip and repeat with the other side.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Whole Enchilada

I am very wimpy when it comes to spices. Growing up, mild salsa used to set my mouth on fire. If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would be making something with chipotle peppers for dinner AND feeding it to my child I would have laughed in your face. There would have been no way I could have stomached the heat. I guess I've evolved, or at least my taste buds have.

Since the Blockette and I are still overcome with the creeping oozy gooey snot blecky blecky yucks, I thought something spicy for dinner might clear up our sinuses. Enter elly says opa!'s Chicken Enchiladas with Chipotle sauce. This is the only enchilada recipe I've ever made so I don't know if it is the best out there, but I like it. I especially like that you make your own sauce. I did the math once, and for the amount of sauce this recipe makes, it is cheaper to make your own than to buy the premade stuff. Plus, you get the added benefit of knowing exactly what is in your sauce.

A lot of people might think that enchiladas are a fussy dish. I actually thought they were less fussy than lasagna. I used leftover precooked chicken and leftover chopped onions so that saved a lot of prep work. The sauce heats up while you are warming the filling. The tortillas needed to be warmed, but I warmed one up while I was filling another. If you get an assembly line going the whole process zips along. I would guess the whole process from start to table, which included baking and cool down time, took about an hour. That's good for me since I'm not the speediest in the kitchen. (Rachael Ray's 30 minute meals usually take me an hour.)

Blockette does not like this dish. I knew this going into the meal and I prepared myself for the drama. I kept telling her that the spices would help her feel better. She ate her enchilada with plenty of whining and complaining, but I do think it helped get the nasal goo flowing, at least for a little while.

I changed absolutely nothing in this recipe. The first time I made it I used 2 chipotles,. Woah, too spicy for me. This time I only used one, much better on my system. I think you could totally omit the chipotle if you can't handle the heat. The sauce has plenty of other spices for flavor.

Chipotle chicken enchiladas from Elly says opa!
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 lb. chicken, cooked and shredded
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper
12-14 corn tortillas
canola oil or cooking spray
2 cups Mexican blend or cheese of your choice, shredded
1 batch enchilada sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a large baking/casserole dish with cooking oil and then pour about 1/2 c enchilada sauce into the baking dish, barely covering the bottom. In a large pan, heat the oil. Then add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic, chicken, oregano, cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a little while over low to combine the flavors. Heat another pan over med and spray with cooking spray. Add the corn tortillas one at a time, leaving in the pan for about 2 or 3 seconds per side - enough to make them pliable and have a little taste of oil. Add 1/2 cheese to chicken filling, or just put about 1 T cheese in each tortilla. Fill each tortilla, roll, and place seam side down in the prepared dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Pour remaining enchilada sauce over rolled tortillas, making an even layer and coating all enchiladas. Sprinkle with remaining 1 c cheese. Cover with foil and bake 20 min. Remove foil and bake an additional 5.

Chipotle Enchilada Sauce
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 chipotles in adobo (depending on how hot you want it), minced, plus 2 tsp. adobo sauce
1 Tbsp. flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
2 tsp. chili powder
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper

In a med pan, heat oil over med. Add onions and cook til translucent. Stir in garlic and chipotle and after 30 sec, add flour. Cook off the raw flour and add broth, tomato sauce, chili powder, bay leaf, oregano, cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer to combine flavors as your prepare the rest of the meal. Season to taste if necessary. Puree if you want.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pancakes? For Breakfast????

I'm a waffle girl. With waffles, both sides cook at the same time and the little light on the machine turns a happy green when the waffles are nice and brown. My waffle iron even makes a little clicking noise when it changes from red to green. It's brainless, which is my kind of cooking.

On the other hand, pancakes you gotta pay attention to. I in the almost 8 years Mrblocko and I have been married, I've only ever made pancakes once, and it was for dinner, not breakfast. They were less than scrumptious. OK, they were gross and I refused to eat them. I'm pretty sure they went into the garbage and we went out to dinner instead. We did that a lot back then, before I could cook.

I've had the baking/cooking bug lately, but I've been fighting this cold and just haven't had the energy for much of anything past breakfast. So I had an idea last night to make something for breakfast other than the usual cold cereal. Mrblocko said he didn't have to be into work until late and offered to take Blockette to Bible school in the morning. How perfect was that! We wouldn't be rushed to eat and I would have more time since I wouldn't have to get myself ready along with Blockette.

I didn't want to make waffles since I still had leftovers in the freezer from when Mrsthunder was over last week. Reheating leftovers wasn't going to do anything to sate my cooking bug. I decided that more than enough time had passed since I had made pancakes and my kitchen skills had greatly improved since then.

Last time I made pancakes, I used a box mix. I don't know if that was part of the problem. 9 times out of 10 when I make waffles I use a mix and they turn out fine. Just in case the mix was the culprit, I decided to make the pancakes from scratch. I thought the Chai Spiced Buttermilk Pancakes from Amelie Eats sounded particularly delicious. I even had the Fireside Chai from Zhena's Gypsy Tea the blogger suggests. (This is the best caffeine free chai I've ever had, plus it comes in a way cool tin.)
I was extremely proud that the pancakes were neither raw nor burnt! Mrblocko and Blockette loved them. Blockette even had seconds. She NEVER asks for seconds. Ever. Mrblocko made a comment that she could have a peanut butter and jelly pancake sandwich for lunch and Blockette's eyes got so huge I thought they were gonna pop right out of her head. She's a pretty dramatic girl and I don't think I've ever seen her that jubilant about anything, let alone food.

It took me some getting used to the chai spices, but once my palate became acclimated to the unexpected, I thought they were pretty good. If I had been thinking, I would have topped them with honey instead of the traditional maple syrup. The honey would have been more complimentary to the chai flavors.

I still like waffles better. There is something about the slight crunch of a waffle's exterior that I miss while eating a pancake. While I was eating breakfast, I couldn't help thinking how this batter would fare in the waffle iron. The next time I get the breakfast baking bug up my butt I just might give it a whirl.

Chai Spiced Pancakes from Amelie Eats
2 eggs
2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
healthy pinch of ground cloves
scant 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns (or a dash of freshly ground black pepper)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or 1.5 tbsp white vinegar and remaining amount milk)
1/2 cup brewed chai tea
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
½ teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large bowl beat eggs. Add buttermilk, chai tea, butter and vanilla and mix well. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Mix well until mostly smooth. Let batter set for a few minutes.

Heat non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Pour one ladle of batter onto the pan, make sure it's not too thick as I've had issues with the pancakes not cooking properly in the middle. Cook on the first side until bubbles that form start to pop. Flip the pancake over with a spatula and cook until golden brown. Repeat as required.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

BBQ Ranch Chicken Pizza Roll 'Em Ups

I had high hopes for the BBQ Ranch Chicken Pizza Roll 'Em Ups from Picky Palate. I thought for sure Blockette was going to go completely gaga for them. Her words were, "These are good Mommy, but don't make them again." She was right on the money. They were good, but nothing to write home about.

The dough did not puff up and brown the way I thought they were supposed to. I think they should have baked at a higher heat. The recipe called for baking them at 350, but the pizza dough in a tube said to bake at 475. With the peanut butter bar fiasco this weekend, I wonder if the temp in my oven isn't off as well. It might be worth getting an oven thermometer to be sure.

I had to omit the fresh cilantro this recipe asked for. The cold weather we've been having turned the cilantro leaves a pale lemony yellow, and they smelled a bit off too. I thought about substituting fresh basil until I remembered the basil plants aren't faring any better. I don't think adding fresh herbs would have tipped the scales and made this dish a keeper in the meal rotation. It was a nice break from all the pasta we ate last week though.

BBQ Ranch Chicken and Cheddar Pizza Roll em’ Ups from Picky Palate
1 Roll Pillsbury Pizza dough in can (or use other pizza dough of choice)
1/4 Cup prepared ranch dressing
2 Cups prepared shredded BBQ Chicken
1/4 Cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 1/2 Cups shredded smoked cheddar cheese
Ranch Dressing for dipping

Preheat oven to 350F. Open can of dough and press into rectangle. Spread or drizzle ranch dressing evenly over dough then top with evenly with chicken, cilantro and cheddar cheese. Starting at long end roll dough into a log shape. Using a sharp knife, cut 1" pieces and place onto a greased baking sheet. Bake 20-22 min til golden brown. Serve with a side of ranch dressing for dipping.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Hot Mess

This weekend our church had a potluck picnic to kick off the start of Vacation Bible School. I had told Blockette we would make rainbow jello. I got the idea from here. Of course the photo on the Do Better website looks better than mine by leaps and bounds. She probably didn't cut the jello up like a drunken mummy either. I was ready to blame it on Blockette if anyone asked.
Wonky slices aside, this turned out really cool. I love it when something winds up looking like it took some skill to produce when that is secretly not the case. Blockette loved how as the different layers were added, the jello changed from blue to green to black, and then when you cut into it...magically, the rainbow appeared.

I felt guilty just bringing jello to the potluck, so at the last minute I decided to make some peanut butter bars. Oh my goodness. They looked so horrible I nearly cried. (OK, so I did. I hate being a weepy girl!)

If that doesn't scream "HOT MESS" I don't know what does. I got the recipe from Katie Blair Designs. Go to that link. Does that look anything like what I posted? These were one disaster after another.
First, they would not set up. I had to cook them for 25 min before they looked done. At 12 minutes, the suggested baking time, they were still gooey and raw looking. Maybe this was because I used a glass pan? Or maybe the type of pb I used? Maybe that was how they were supposed to be. I just didn't think the bars would hold together in that doughy state once they were cut.

Anyhow, after 25 min in the oven they had poofed up and the edges began to brown. So I took them out of the oven and put the chocolate chips on so they could melt...just like the recipe says. The weight of the chocolate chips caused the middle to sink.

Then the chocolate would not harden. It was a cool day so I don't see why this was a problem. It should have set up after 2 hours. So I put the peanut butter glaze on while the chocolate was still gooey. Remember that the middle sank when I put the chocolate chips on? That indentation created a nice little swimming pool for the peanut butter glaze to settle in.

I was starting to run out of time so I popped the whole thing into the fridge. After about an hour the chocolate had set but the glaze was still tacky. Tacky was better than liquid goo though.
Mrblocko tried to reassure me that things wouldn't look so bad if we cut and plated the bars. I was sceptical though. Remember how I said I put the bars in the fridge to get the chocolate to set? Yeah, that made the chocolate hard as a rock. I had to have Mrblocko cut them with our biggest sharpest knife. The chocolate topping cracked completely away from the base on a few of the edge pieces. The swimming pool pieces held together much better.

Mrblocko and I tested the broken ones. I was so sure that with all the problems and ugliness they would be chucked right into the rubbage bin. OH HO! They were good! Really good. I plated them up and hoped for the best. Mrblocko was right, they didn't look quite as disgusting as they did in the pan.
In the end it didn't matter how they looked. There was a whole table full of desserts and these bars were one of the first things to go. Mrblocko said he overheard a few people complaining they were gone. He walked over to them and said, "My wife made those, weren't they delicious?" Wasn't that sweet? I think I'll keep him.

Peanut Butter Fingers from Katie Blair Designs
3/4 c. butter
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1 egg
2/3 c. peanut butter
3/4 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. oatmeal
1 1/2 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix butter, sugar, brown sugar, egg, peanut butter, soda, salt, vanilla, flour and oatmeal in mixing bowl. Spread in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top of hot crust. Wait 10 minutes and spread the melted chocolate evenly over the top. Let cool; then drizzle or spread with topping.

1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. peanut butter
2-4 T. milk

Blend these together and spread over bars. Cool and cut into squares.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Corn dog dressing bake

You want four words to describe The Homesteading Housewife's Corn dog dressing bake? How about " Om nom nom nummy!!!!" This was so good that after one bite Blockette exclaimed with a full mouth, "Mommy, you gotta make this again!" The kid was right. It's darn good. The sage makes it savory, but there is a scant amount of sugar that gives it just the right amount of sweet for balance. The hot dogs are chopped and browned in a skillet before adding them to the casserole. Never ever skip this step. It doesn't add that much time to the meal prep, but adds all kinds of caramelized crispy goodness.

The only thing I changed about this recipe was halving it and baking it in a 8x8 pan. I learned from my previous mistake with the baked ziti. A 9x13 pan of anything is just too much for us to eat without getting sick of it. The halved recipe was a great amount for us. There was enough for one meal and leftovers. Next time I think I will add a bit of corn. Mrblocko suggested adding a bit of mustard, powdered or prepared. I think he was on to something. I'll be experimenting with that next time around.

Corn Dog Dressing Bake from the Homesteading Housewife
1 cup celery, chopped finely
1 large onion, chopped finely OR 1 heaping cup of sliced green onion
2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
2 pounds (2 packages) Hot Dogs.
two 8.5 oz. packages Corn Bread Mix (I love Jiffy Brand!)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons rubbed sage
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 400F. In a skillet, combine celery, onions & butter. Saute for 5 min. Pour into a large bowl. Cut hot dogs into fourths lengthwise. Then cut each hot dog strip into 4 pieces. Pour hot dog pieces into the same skillet you used for the celery/onion mixture, saute hot dog pieces for 5 min or until lightly browned. Add browned hot dog pieces into the celery/onion mixture bowl. In another large bowl, combine; eggs, milk, sugar, sage, & pepper. Add 1/2 hot dog/celery mix ans 1 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese, into the milk mix. Stir in the corn bread mix.Spread mixture in 13x9 baking dish. Top with remaining half of hot dog/celery mix. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 c cheese over top. Bake, uncovered,35 min, til knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Gingerbread waffles

Today MrsThunder and her daughter came over for a play date. I made them Gingerbread waffles for lunch. Blockette often refers to them as "Black waffles" because the molasses makes them so dark. (Brown waffles are regular homemade waffles, while white waffles are Eggo. She won't eat the white waffles anymore. I guess I've ruined her with homemade ones. )

MrsThunder asked for the recipe, but as she doesn't have a waffle iron yet, I figured I'd link the recipe here. That way, when she gets around to getting a waffle iron, she doesn't have to search for a random email.

This recipe does make a metric ton of waffles, so, unless you have a crowd to feed, be prepared for leftovers. Luckily, the leftovers can be frozen and taste great reheated in the toaster, oven, or on a skillet. I prefer to reheat them on the skillet. It makes them just a bit crunchy, which I think makes them taste even better than the first time around.

Gingerbread Waffles from Rachael Ray
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, eyeball it
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter, plus some to butter the iron
Syrup, whipped cream or fresh fruits for topping, to pass at table

Preheat waffle iron. In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and brown sugar until fluffy, then beat in pumpkin, milk, molasses and melted butter. Stir the wet into dry until just moist. Do not overstir the waffle batter. Brush the iron with a little melted butter and cook 4 waffles, 4 sections each. Serve with toppings of choice.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pucker up

I had chicken thighs that had been in the freezer forever so I decided to make Moroccan chicken with lemon and olives last night. I doubled the recipe because I had quite a few thighs. I should have paid closer attention to what I was doing. The original recipe called for 1 lemon. So if you double the recipe you should use 2 lemons right?

NO!!!! Wrong!!! Danger! Danger!!

I did this and wow, was it mega sour. Well, duh. Two whole lemons would make something excessively sour. The chicken itself was tender and tasty, but when I served it up I poured the sauce over rice. Bleck. I think the garbage can even thought the sauce was too sour.

Blockette asked me not to make this again. I think I will honor her request. There are plenty of other recipes that call for chicken thighs I'd rather try. In fact, just this morning I came across this recipe for Five spice grilled chicken thighs with blackberry glaze. It sounds delicious. Hopefully, when I get around to testing it, I will have better luck than with the Moroccan Chicken.

Moroccan Chicken with Lemon & Olives from A Good Appetite
1 lemon
1/2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, cut in half & then sliced thin
salt &pepper
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/2 T paprika
1 t cumin
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t ground ginger
1 c chicken broth
4 chicken thighs, on the bone with skin removed
10 green olives

Slice the lemon in half. Cut one half into 4 wedges. Squeeze the juice from the other half. Set juice & wedges aside. In a skillet heat oil over med-high heat. Add onions & season with salt & pepper. Sauté til golden brown. Stir in garlic paprika, cumin, cinnamon and ginger & cook while stirring for 1 min. Add chicken broth & bring to a boil. Add chicken thighs & lemon wedges. Cover & reduce heat to medium-low. Let simmer for 30 min, turning chicken from time to time. Remove chicken to a plate. Add lemon juice &olives to the skillet. Turn heat to high & let boil for about 5 min til slightly thickened. Serve sauce over the chicken.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Garden update

This is my experimentation with a photo montage. I'm not sure it worked out very well. I wrote on each pic what it was but on the blog it looks so tiny. I think if you click on the picture it will take you to a bigger photo. Anyhow the photos are top left: front garden, top right: violas and lobelias, bottom left: side garden, bottom right: the only zinnia that has survived long enough to bloom. I think it's looking pretty feeble.
These pictures are of the evil stump in the side garden. We got an axe on Sunday and the top photo is after Mrblocko hacked at it with an axe for 30 min or so. The bottom pic is what it looked like before, but he had been hacking away at it with the maddoc for about a month. The top pic gives you a better idea of the scale of the pic. Yes, Blockette is wearing my shoes. The stump is currently roughly 12x12". Mrblocko took out 3 stumps in the backyard that were a fraction of the size of the one in the front. He had some time to kill when he thought he ruined the mower by accidentally mowing over one of the stumps. Why the previous owners planted all these shrubs I haven't the foggiest. And why they never bothered to take out the stumps after they chopped down the shrubs will remain a mystery of the ages. We've been tripping over them, they must have too. It's not like we have a huge backyard.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Neapolitan Krispies

I made these bars for a get together this weekend. I wanted to bring a dessert the kids would enjoy eating. Ironically, it wound up that none of the kids wanted to stop playing long enough to eat dessert. So, you guessed it, there were a ton of leftovers. You can't tell the size of these bars from the photo, but they are monstrous. I used a pan that is slightly larger than 9x13 and each layer has 6 cups of rice krispies!

Blockette and I had fun making them. I think most of the fun on her part was from eating marshmellows that I "accidently" dropped. At one point I was measuring out the marshmellows and I slipped and half the bag wound up on the table. Her eyes got as big as saucers and she started cramming as many of the little guys in her mouth as she could. I had to tell her to stop because I really did accidently drop them, and if she kept eating them we wouldnt have enough to make the bars. She listened but I could tell she was having a dilly of a time restraining herself.

I originally saw this on Cookie Madness, but she had a peanut butter layer instead of the pink layer. The pink layer looked better visually due to the contrast between the layers, but I think the peanut butter would have tasted better. I used strawberry jet puffed marshmellows. I'd never had them before. They had this weird artificial taste. I don't plan on buying them again.

I modified the recipe slighly from what cookie madness has on her site. Here are the ingredient ratios I used, keeping in mind I used a pan that was slightly bigger than 9x13 (probably 10x14. I'm to lazy to search for a ruler). You won't get all the layers to fit in a 9x13 pan. I really had to smash down the layers to get them all to fit, and the bars were up to the top of my pan. I followed the rest of the directions with the exception that I found wax paper sprayed with cooking spray to be better than parchment paper for smooshing down the layers. The krispies kept sticking to the parchment which was rather irritating.

Layer 1:
3T butter
4 c mini marshmellows
6 c krispies (you could use cocoa krispies. I don't care for them. The regular kind worked just fine.)
1 c semi sweet chocolate chips

Layer 2:
3T butter
4 c mini marshmellows
6 c krispies

Layer 3:
3T butter
1 10 oz. bag of strawberry jet puffed marshmellows
6 c krispies

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Baked Ziti and Easy Cheese bread

I guess you can't technically call it Baked Ziti since I used Rigatoni, but close enough. Head on over to the Crepes of Wrath for the recipe and great pics of the Baked Ziti. This dish reminded me a lot of lasgana. While no bake lasagna noodles make lasagna easy to make, this Baked Ziti was even more of a breeze.

Holy cow did it make a lot though. We will be eating leftovers of this for days. Good thing everyone liked it so much. Blockette plowed through her bowl. We didn't have to remind her to eat once.

Next time, unless I'm making this for company, (which I definitely will), I'm going to half the recipe, with the following changes: use a pound of meat and a heaping half cup of sour cream. I like my red sauce dishes to be meaty and the original 1 lb of meat to 2 jars of sauce spread it a little thin for my tastes. I also thought there was a bit too much sour cream. I didn't like scooping into the dish to find that white layer. The sour cream was a bit too thick to melt into the provolone. Stirring the serving eliminated the white layer, but for presentation sake I'd rather not have to do that if I was serving it for company. I'm guessing the thinner layer of sour cream would melt better into the cheese. I guess you could use ricotta. Ricotta would melt nice, but I'm not a fan of ricotta.

The Cheese bread from My Kitchen Cafe was really an after thought. I realized that I had forgotten to buy garlic bread and all we had was regular old sandwich bread. I wanted something that could sop up the red sauce a little better than that. (Or maybe we could blame Mrsthunder who was talking about how she was making garlic basil bread in her bread machine the other day.) I had debated on making the no knead bread but I didn't have enough time. I also didn't want to have the oven on for that long either.
I rummaged through my recipe folder and came across a few different ideas. Most of them you either needed a stand mixer or you had to knead by hand. I have bad luck kneading by hand so those were out as well. This particular bread recipe is technically a quick bread. There is no yeast and no kneading involved. Right up my alley!

Naturally, I didn't have the exact ingredients for this bread. I wasn't about to go to the store because, hey, if I was going to go to the store I could have just bought a loaf of garlic bread. I didn't have the sharp cheddar cheese to chop up. I did have twisted cheddar and mozzarella string cheese. I used that instead. I also didn't have whole milk. The recipe specifically says not to use skim milk but that was all I had. Would it have tasted better with the intended ingredients? You bet, but the end result of this loaf was still mighty tasty.

I think next time I might omit the Parmesan cheese. I couldn't get it to shred nicely. It all sort of crumbled into a coarse grit. That was more of a visual thing though. I don't think the way the cheese shredded had an effect on the taste of the bread. If you go to My Kitchen Cafe and look at her pic, the large grate of the cheese on top looks much better than the crumbled stuff on my loaf. The Parmesan made the bread rather salty as well. I think a different cheese could make just as pretty of a crunchy crust without the saltiness.

Baked Ziti from Crepes of Wrath
1 pound dry ziti pasta
1 onion, chopped
1 pound ground turkey
2 (26 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce, dealer’s choice
6 ounces provolone cheese, sliced
1 1/2 cups low-fat sour cream
6 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente, 8 min; drain and set aside. In a large skillet, brown onion and ground turkey over med heat. Add spaghetti sauce, and simmer 15 min. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and/or line a 9×13" dish. Layer as follows: 1/2 of ziti, Provolone cheese, sour cream, 1/2 sauce mix, remaining ziti, mozzarella and remaining sauce mix. Top with grated Parmesan. Bake 30 min til cheeses melted. Let sit for a few min before serving.

Simple and Delicious Cheese Bread from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
**If the toothpick comes out with what looks like uncooked batter after testing the bread for doneness, try again in a different spot since the toothpick may have hit a pocket of cheese the first time. You definitely don’t want to overbake the bread or it will be dry. According to the original recipe, the texture of the bread improves as it cools, so if you can, resist the urge to slice the bread while it is still very hot. I can attest that this leftover cheese bread makes excellent toast. Use a toaster oven or baking sheet in a 425-degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes (a conventional toaster can be messy because the pockets of cheese will melt and burn).**

3 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded on large holes of box grater (about 1 cup)
3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
4-5 ounces sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 1/4 cups whole milk (2% milk may be substituted but don’t use skim milk)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg lightly beaten
3/4 cup sour cream

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position in the oven and preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 5x9"loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray, then sprinkle 1/2 c of the Parmesan evenly in bottom of pan.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper to combine. Using a rubber spatula, mix in cheddar cheese cubes, breaking up clumps, until cheese is coated with flour. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, melted butter, egg, and sour cream. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined (the batter will be heavy and thick). Do not overmix. Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan; spread to sides of pan and level surface with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 c Parmesan evenly over surface.

Bake until deep golden brown and toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, 45-50 min. Cool in pan on wire rack 5 min; invert loaf from pan and continue to cool until warm, about 45 min. Cut into slices and serve.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Today Blockette and I went to the Library (Bookatorium for those of you in the know). As we were entering, another woman and her child were leaving. The woman and I were both holding onto the door to keep it open. (The Blockette likes to stand in the doorway and on more than one occasion I have assumed that she has passed through the threshold only to see the door smacking her in the face or butt. This happened less than a week ago and the door hit her so hard in the head it knocked her to the ground. Naturally, I was more concerned with my child not getting hurt than this random woman holding the door open. ) This lady turns around and in a snotty voice says "You're welcome."

EXCUSE ME??? How is it that you get to be rude when you are in essence scolding me for being rude to you? Hypocrite!!! The "you're welcome" said before someone says "Thank you" is one of my pet peeves. It's a sure fire way to piss me off. I don't even think you should do it to kids. It's much better to tell them to say thank you than to do the preemptive you're welcome. I think it just reinforces the rudeness cycle. No one needs that.

I was already not having the best day dealing with an uncooperative munchkin. This just tipped the scales to totally pooptastic. Thanks snotty lady! You're number 1.

I do have to say that I can think of one exception where I wouldn't be angry at the "You're welcome." If Mrblocko came up to me and gave me a peck on the cheek and said "You're welcome" in a loving voice, and then proceeded to tell me he just killed the King Kong of spiders in Blockette's room without her knowing. I would be totally OK with that.