Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Easy Croutons


I seriously love croutons.

Homemade croutons.

Oh, there are some pre-packaged croutons that I like . . .

but give me homemade croutons and I'm happy.

Truthfully, I was sad when my cherubs decided that they didn't like croutons and ranch dip for a snack anymore!

That's when they were very little preschool cherubs!

This weekend, I made more cinnamon grilled chicken.

I knew the cherubs could take chicken sandwiches in their lunch

and we could have the chicken on salad for dinner.

That's when I decided we needed croutons too!

Last week, I made bread and I took some of that

and transformed it into croutons!

I wouldn't suggest using regular sandwich white bread,

but you can definitely use any "sturdy" bread and make your own salad croutons . . .

or snacking croutons!

Easy Croutons

Leftover bread, cubed (you'll want a firm dense bread such as French bread or homemade bread)
olive oil
seasonings -- salt and pepper is a great place to start

Preheat oven to broil, 350 degrees.

Cube desired amount of bread.  Try to keep bread cubes uniform in size and bite sized.  This way the bread will toast and dry out more consistently.  Place bread cubes in a bowl.

LIGHTLY drizzle olive oil over the bread.  Do NOT soak the bread.  You want just enough to very lightly coat the bread so that the seasoning will stick. Toss the bread pieces around.

Sprinkle desired seasoning over the bread and toss to distribute the seasoning.  Go lightly -- it's much easier to add seasoning if needed.  It's impossible to take off too much!

Taste a bread cube for flavor.  If you don't like it now, you won't like it baked!  Adjust if necessary.

Spread the cubed bread onto a cookie sheet in a single layer.

Watch carefully, and stir every few minutes.  Essentially, you are allowing the bread to dry out and become crispy and browned. 

Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Keep leftovers in an airtight container.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Cinnamon Spiced Grilled Chicken with Mango Chutney and Brie Sandwiches



That's a mouthful!

And I want another bite!

I'm not even kidding!

I loved this sandwich!

Seriously loved it!

Soooooooooo  easy!

I utterly impressed myself when we made it!

Right now, we have no idea what season it will be when we wake up!

It's totally frustrating!

I love winter, so I'm sad to see it go . . .but I'm tired of having one foot in Winter and one foot in Spring!

Heck, we go to my boy cherub's baseball games and we don't know if we need sunscreen or a blanket!

We, and by "we" I mean "he," played Saturday and afterwards we,

and by "we" I mean "the Mr," was going to grill chicken.

I decided we'd have chicken sandwiches because when I made this decision it was Spring outside.

But when it came time to actually cook, we could have had soup because it was wintry.

But I stuck with the Spring menu and made this delish sandwich!

FYI:  I made 6 sandwiches -- I pound the chicken breasts out thin and cut them in half.

Cinnamon Spiced Grilled Chicken with Mango Chutney and Brie Sandwiches

3 chicken breasts, pounded thin and cut in half
2 TBSP oil
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. all spice
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
brie cheese, sliced
1/4 cup mango chutney
1/3-1/2 cup mayonnaise
red onion, sliced:  grilled, roasted, or raw -- your preference
spinach leaves
Hawaiian sweet bread hamburger buns

In a gallon sized ziplock, mix the chicken breasts, oil, cinnamon, ginger, all spice and nutmeg.  Allow to marinate 30 minutes to 1 hour, or longer if you desire.

Heat the grill and allow the chicken to continue to marinate until ready to cook.

Grill chicken until done and the juices run clear.

While the chicken is cooking, mix the mango chutney and mayonnaise together, allowing to blend flavors.

Whatever you decide to do with the red onion:  we roasted ours.  Slice the onion and drizzle lightly with olive oil if roasting in the oven or grilling.  If using raw, just slice and wait!  If you are cooking the onion, put these in the oven or on the grill when the chicken is put on to cook.

Slice the brie.

Slice open the Hawaiian hamburger rolls and broil until lightly toasted.

Remove from the oven and smear a nice layer of the chutney/mayo mixture on the top of each of the buns and place some brie cheese on each of the bottom buns; return to the oven and allow the brie to warm and the chutney/mayo mixture to warm also.

Remove from the oven, place spinach leaves on top of the brie, stack with the cooked chicken breast, top with the red onion that you either cooked or didn't cook, and place the bun, with the chutney mixture, neatly on top!

Enjoy!



Monday, March 17, 2014

Adobo Chili Won Ton Crisps



We crave Mexican food.

I honestly think we could eat it every day.

Tex-Mex is good,

but we also love authentic Mexican food.

Simple, basic; delicious!

We also love mock-Mexican food.

You know -- Mexican-ish!

The thoughts of Mexican, but not really!

That's what we had the other night for dinner.

I was making good use of the grilled chicken that was in the freezer

and the green chilies we roasted and froze from the Summer.

I was also making a "sort-of" Spanish rice to put with the chicken.

My boy cherub whipped up some salsa to go with it;

Which made me think we needed chips.

Kind of like an appetizer!

The cherubs are out of school for Spring Break and I like the idea of us all hanging around the kitchen, snacking and cooking together.

We were out of corn chips!

Uh-oh!

What to do!

It was cold outside and I was not going to the store just for chips!

Then I remembered there were won ton wrappers in the refrigerator.

I cut them,

heated the oil,

and my boy cherub cooked the won tons crisp.

As he pulled them from the hot oil,

I sprinkled them with a mixture of adobo seasoning and chili powder.










It was fun to cook with my cherub

and to make something a little different!

Adobo Chili Won Ton Crisps

Won ton Wrappers, cut into triangles
Oil, enough to float the wrappers
adobo seasoning
chili powder

Cut the won ton wrappers into eights.

Heat the oil in a sauce pan.

Test the oil by dropping the corner of the wrapper in.  If it "fries" then the oil is hot enough.

Gently add one wrapper at a time.  Cook on one side, then flip to the other.

When browned, remove from the oil and quickly sprinkle with seasoning.

Serve with dip, salsa, or enjoy by themselves.

Seasoning:

I totally didn't measure; I put more adobo seasoning than chili powder. 

I mixed the two together in a bowl and sprinkled by the pinch full as my cherub removed the wrappers from the oil, that way the seasoning sticks to the hot won ton wrapper.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Hot Fudge Sauce



If you've read the last post, you know we had sweet friends over for dessert recently.

Because we were having a "make your own chocolate chip ice cream sundae bar,"

I needed wanted hot fudge sauce.

Sure, I could have gone to my favorite ice cream dairy store (picture below)



and picked up a jar of their delicious hot fudge sauce.

But I didn't.

I was feeling way to domesticated for such radical behavior!

I have a great hot fudge sauce recipe.

But I couldn't find it.

This makes a woman like me crazy.

Crazy, I tell you!

I can tell you who we were with the last time I made it.

I can remember where I found the recipe the last time I made it.

So why, oh why, can't I find it now?

I don't know.

But I don't have time to panic.

I only have time for hot fudge sauce.

I searched and searched for a recipe that was similar to the one I wanted to make.

The one I wanted to make does NOT have sweetened condensed milk in it.

Not that sweetened condensed milk is bad.

It isn't.

Trust me!

I believe in the stuff.

But I didn't want it in my hot fudge sauce this time.

This recipe I found was on a blog, but I can't remember which one, but there are three listed below.  I feel for certain that if you are interested in the original source, you can locate it at one of those sites!

I changed the recipe, only slightly, for my preference.

Hot Fudge Sauce

2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup  brown sugar
1/4 cup  cocoa powder
3 ounces semi sweet chocolate, chopped
3 ounces white chocolate, chopped
2 TBSP  butter
1/2  tsp. coffee extract (NOT coffee.  It's from King Arthur Flour) OR 1 tsp. vanilla extract
In a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream, syrup, brown sugar, cocoa powder, and half of the chocolate to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low or low to maintain a slight simmer, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining chocolate, the butter, and the extract, stirring until smooth. Let cool for 20 to 30 minutes before using (it will thicken as it cools).

Store in a jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

To reheat, microwave for 30 seconds or until it's pourable but still thick.

Recipe adapted from Gourmet Today and Smitten Kitchen) and browneyedbaker.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Marshmallow Ice Cream Sauce

Imaged used from the Internet

We were having friends over for dessert.

We hadn't done that in such a long time!

It was fun!

They were going to be in the area and made it easy for them to drop by and hang out for awhile.

Since the cherubs are baking chocolate chip cookies for their March "Treat of the Month" club, I decided that for dessert we would have a chocolate chip sundae bar!

Of the 9 who would be eating dessert, 5 of them were kids.

"Make your own sundae" is always fun for kids . . .

and Karen!

Earlier in the day, I made a homemade hot fudge sauce,

homemade caramel sauce,

bought vanilla ice cream from my favorite dairy store, Braums,

pulled out the sprinkles to dash on top,

and got the chocolate chip cookies ready.

At the very last minute, I thought that a marshmallow sauce would be fun to have too.

I've never been one to live or die by marshmallow sauce, but it couldn't be all bad, huh?

And it definitely couldn't be too hard either!

I just needed pourable marshmallow!

I thought this turned out great for what I wanted!

I totally just threw ingredients into the bowl. 

I knew that I didn't need a ton of sauce, as I didn't think the leftover sauce would keep well.

The idea of this recipe:  make what you need, don't stress about the amount of ingredients.

Make it up, taste it, adjust if necessary, but most importantly:

Enjoy!

Marshmallow Ice Cream Sauce

1 cup mini marshmallows
1 tsp. butter
2-3 TBSP heavy cream

In a double boiler*, heat the water and place the marshmallows in the top.

Add the butter.

As the water heats and the marshmallows begin to melt, stir the ingredients around.

Add the cream and continue to stir until all is melted and well incorporated.

If you need more sauce, add more marshmallows and a bit more cream.

If you want a thinner sauce, add more cream.  If you want a thicker sauce, add a few more marshmallows.

*I use a saucepan, filled 1/2 way or so with water.  I place a clear bowl that rests on the edge of the pan rim as my double boiler. I heat the water to a gently simmer.  Once I have the sauce made, I turn the stove to low to keep the sauce warm, as I don't want it to set up; I want it to be pourable and I served it warm over the ice cream, as I did with the hot fudge and the caramel sauce.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Chocolate "Oops" Brownies

I don't know what I'd really call these?

I made these by accident.

Oh, I didn't make brownies by accident .  . .

I knew full well what I was doing.

Sort of!
But what I wanted didn't work,

so I scooped the messed up dough off the cookie sheet and started over.

Let me start from the beginning.

This was my week to feed the baseball team.

In my dream, there would be plenty of time for the boys to sit and enjoy a feast that is brought to them.

They'd chew with their mouths closed, say thank you and yes ma'am, and ask for seconds.

They'd offer to clean up and ask if there is anything else they could do to help.

REALITY!!!

There's no time for any of that!

Their lunch, dinner, heavy snack . . .whatever it's called

has to be quick!

They're throwing it down as they get dressed out and head to the field to take batting practice.

It needs to be something easy, quick, and little-to-no cleanup for them OR me!

After all, who needs or wants a mom in the locker room?

Yeah, me either!

As I was creating a menu that involved food that could go in ziplock bags or Glad press and seal, I thought of a dessert of brownie cookies.

That sounds interesting, huh?

I've never had one, but surely it couldn't be too hard.

My thought:  start with a brownie mix and go from there.

Add some of this, throw in some of that and scoop it out and bake and 10 minutes later I'd have a cookie that was the taste of a brownie,

with the texture of a cookie,

and it's could go into a ziplock bag!

I would have won!

But that's not what happened!

I add a little of this,

mixed in a little of that,

and scooped it onto the cookie sheet

and watched the dough not hold it's shape!

I could tell I wasn't going to be happy with this!

So I took my favorite spoon/spatula and scooped it all off of the baking sheet

and back into the bowl.

I added a bit more stuff and baked it in a 9 X 13 pan.

The brownies turned out great!

I cut them,

wrapped them in Glad press and seal,

and the boys were happy!

Chocolate "Oops" Brownies

1 box brownie mix, for a 9 X 13 pan
1/2 cup of flour
1/2 cup of water
1/4 cup of oil
1 egg
1 cup (or more!) of chocolate chips (I probably added close to 2 cups)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9 X 13 pan with Pam.

Mix everything in a large bowl.  Stir until well mixed.

Pour into prepared baking pan.

Bake for 25-40 minutes**, or until middle is done.

Cool and cut into serving pieces.

**Yeah, I know that's a big time difference!  The box says 25-30 minutes, but my brownies weren't done then -- it took about 10 extra minutes.  The center was soft, but set, when I removed it from the oven.  I let the brownies set overnight before cutting into serving pieces.



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Pecan Pralines



The Mr. and I were in Charleston a few weeks ago.

He went for a meeting . . .

I went to relax.

It isn't often that the two of us get away without the cherubs.

We took advantage of returning to a city that we love!

When we were first married, we lived in Columbia, SC.

Charleston was a little over an hour away and we were young, childless, and spunky!

We would get in the car with our dear friends, Clay and Amy, and we'd spend the day in Charleston.

Much hasn't changed in 20 years in the city of Charleston:

The market is still the place to shop,

the restaurants are still amazing,

and the time walking the battery and enjoying the beautiful surrounds is still relaxing.

We always loved getting pralines when we were in Charleston.

There's something about that buttery, brown sugary, pecan treat that is purely the best!

While we were on this trip, we walked by the store front every day that offered a free sample!

If they were giving,

we were getting!

We didn't buy any pralines until our last day so that we could bring a treat home for the cherubs!

Today, being Fat Tuesday, we are celebrating New Orlean's style!

For dessert, I decided to make pecan pralines.

I found this recipe on about.com.  Of all the recipes I looked at, this seemed to be most like the pralines that we like to eat. 

We prefer the soft, almost crumbly. pecan pralines versus the soft-chewy caramel type.

I did three things:
  1. I didn't use a candy thermometer . . .I don't have one.  I used the "water test" to know if my candy mixture was ready.
  2. I didn't toast the pecans.  I didn't think it would make that much of a difference.
  3. I halved the recipe.  I ended up with 8 pralines, which is plenty for my family!  The recipe I'm posting is not halved, but it's easily to do so!

Pecan Pralines

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
4 tbsp butter, cubed
2 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 cups toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil and spraying the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium saucepan combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and evaporated milk over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then insert a candy thermometer.

Cook the candy, stirring occasionally, until the candy reaches 240 degrees on the thermometer.

Once the proper temperature is reached, remove the pan from the heat and drop the chunks of butter on top, but do not stir. Allow the pan to sit for one minute.

After a minute, add the vanilla extract and the pecans, and begin to stir smoothly and constantly with a wooden spoon. Soon the candy will begin to get thicker and lighter in color.

Continue to stir until the candy starts to hold its shape. It should still be easy to stir, however. It is important not to stir too much, as pralines quickly go from fluid to rock-solid. Once it is a lighter, opaque brown and holds its shape, quickly begin to drop small spoonfuls of the candy onto the prepared baking sheet.

Work quickly to form the candies, as the pralines will start to set in the saucepan. If the candy stiffens before you’re done scooping, add a spoonful of very hot water and stir until it loosens, then continue scooping until you have formed all the pralines.

Allow the candy to fully set at room temperature, for about 30 minutes. Store New Orleans Pralines in an airtight container at room temperature.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Squash Casserole



I bought frozen, yellow squash when I went to the store last.

I'm really not sure why!

It sounded good.

Odd, huh?

I put the squash in the freezer and waited for a reason to cook it.

Truthfully, I waited until I found a recipe I wanted to make.

Because honestly, I'm not sure that I'd want to eat cooked, frozen squash.

I think it would be mushy.

I'm not sure -- but I'm just guessing.

After a beautiful Spring day on Saturday;

one we spent running cherubs to their activities and

a great j.v. baseball game,

I decided that squash casserole would be great with our dinner of grilled pork loin.

Out to the freezer I went to get that bag of frozen squash!

My boy cherub especially liked this side dish!

This is basically a recipe from Paula Deen, just altered a bit for my preference.  If you want her recipe, which uses fresh squash, then you can find that at Paula Deen.com


Squash Casserole

1/2 tsp. salt and pepper (or to taste)
1/4cup sour cream*
1/2 sleeve of Ritz crackers, crushed
1 regular bag of frozen squash
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 of an onion, chopped
1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the squash, in the bag, in the microwave, just enough to basically defrost the squash and slightly heat the vegetable.

Place the squash in a colander and gently press/squeeze excess water from the squash.

While the squash is cooking, in a saute pan, place the butter and heat until it is melted.  Add the chopped onion and saute until translucent.  Add the salt and pepper and continue heating.

Remove the onion mixture from the heat.  Add the squash to the pan and stir, incorporating all of the ingredients.

Sprinkle the cheese over the onions and squash and mix in the sour cream.  Stir until it is well mixed. 

If your pan is oven proof, then sprinkle the top with the crushed Ritz crackers.  If your pan is not, then place the squash mixture in an oven-proof casserole dish and then sprinkle the cracker crumbs on top.

Place  the dish in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes until well heated and slightly browned around the edges.

Serve hot.

* If you want more cheese or sour cream, then just add to your liking!