Monday, December 26, 2016

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup



A long time ago, there was a tomato basil soup mix that I loved.

I made it a lot during the winter months and we would swoon over it.

I've not been able to find a mix similar, but we still love a creamy tomato basil soup.

I've looked for recipes that would seem to mimic that soup.

While this one doesn't remind me of that mix, I sure do like this one!

Since it's gotten cold, I had the Mr. grab the ingredients when he ran into town the other day.

We were wrapping presents and I whipped this up and kept it warm until we were ready to have dinner.

This is what the Mr. likes to do:

wait until the very end and wrap all the presents at once.

When Christmas day is practically here.

This is what it does to me:

causes me undo stress and tears.

22 years of this and I've said no more.

As we both grabbed our own set of paper, scissors, and tape, I divided the gifts between us.

While he was still finishing up the boy cherub's gifts,

I had wrapped and put bows on our girl cherub's, my mom's, my in-law's, and family friends' gifts.

He said he was being particular on how he was wrapping.

Sounds to me like he was insinuating that I was being sloppy!

I said call it what he wanted . . .but he was slow!

After a our wrapping fun, we had this delicious soup!

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

3 TBSP butter
1/2 onion,chopped
2 cans diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and onion
2 cans chicken broth
2 oz tomato paste
1 TBSP sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1 TBSP cornstarch, mixed with 1 TBSP cold water, optional
3/4 cup heavy cream
chopped basil, garnish
grated parmesan cheese, garnish
toasted croutons

Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the onion and cook until translucent.  Add the tomato paste and stir and mix together with the onion until well combined.

Add in the diced tomatoes and stir to combine. Add the chicken broth and the sugar.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup to the desired consistency.  You don't have to do this, but we prefer a "smooth" tomato soup.  You may prefer your soup with pieces of tomato, that's fine!  You can puree the ingredients just a bit, or a whole lot, or not at all!

Using a clean spoon, taste for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper, if desired.  Stir to combine then continue to heat until almost boiling.

If you like the consistency, do nothing.  If you want it just a wee bit thicker, and we did, this is where you will add the 1 TBSP cornstarch mixed with cold water.  Do not add the cornstarch while the soup is boiling.  You'll end up with an unpleasant glob.  While stirring, slowly add the cornstarch slurry in.  The soup base will "slightly" thicken quickly.  Keep stirring so that the cornstarch doesn't clump together and settle on the bottom of the pan.  After adding the cornstarch slurry, do not return to a boil. 

Remove from the heat. 


Stir in the cream.

As you serve, top each bowl of soup with a smidge of chopped basil, some grated parmesan cheese, and a few croutons. 


Serve immediately!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Holiday Cocktail Little Smokies




It doesn't seem like it's the holiday season until someone brings these gems to the party!

I'm not really big on this appetizer.

I've never really been impressed with small cocktail sized smokies in a bbq sauce.

Now!  There are other ways I like these done,

like wrapped in bacon,

or phyllo dough,

or even a crescent roll.

But not swimming in a sauce that I usually don't like.

So when the Mr. suggested we do a small snack break at the office,

and thought these would be good,

I went to searching for something different to do!

Do I mix them with grape jelly,

or cranberry sauce,

or pineapple preserves?

The options were great,

but I finally decided on this recipe!

Holiday Cocktail Little Smokies

28-32 oz package of little smokies
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup honey Dijon mustard

Place the little smokies in a crock pot.

In a bowl, mix the brown sugar, ketchup, and honey Dijon mustard together and pour over the little smokies.

Because the little smokies are fully cooked, you just really  need to heat them thoroughly. 

But I go way beyond that!

I heat them, on high, until they are fully heated, then I remove the lid and continue to cook in the crock pot until the sauce thickens.  I like the sauce to stick a bit to the cocktail smokie.

Serve warm.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Meal Thyme



I'm so excited to announce my new adventure!

This is for all of you who live in the OKC/surrounding area!

Here's the scoop!

I think meal time is one of the most important times of the day with your family;

regardless of how big or small your family is!

When at the table, with the TV off and phones down, you have some of the best conversations.

But meal times are difficult!

Schedules are full.

Meal planning takes time.

Whether it's coming in after a long day at work or after a packed schedule of practices;

That's why I have "Meal Thyme."

Each month, I'll have different meal kits, along with an optional dessert kit, that you can order.

All you have to do is buy the meat, put it in the bag of seasoning, and throw it in the freezer.

Then, when you're ready to cook, just thaw your meal and put it in the crock pot!

Come home to a hot meal ready to eat!

If you really want to "get fancy," you can add a veggie or side!

I also offer dessert kits.

While you don't add the meat . . .

you will have to add the wet ingredients and then bake.

It's that simple . . .

and good!

Have a homemade hot meal with little effort!

Best part is . . .every kit is gluten free!

Which means not only is it delicious BUT aslo my family can come have dinner with you!



Here's how it works:

Order here:  leave a message with your name/contact number (I'll remove it as soon as I write it down)
Place your order for the December meal kit by November 27.
Pay for it when you pick up your order.
Pick up is Monday, December 5 from 9-10 am OR 5-6:30 pm (Bethany area:  I'll contact you for pickup details)

http://www.smilebox.com/playBlog/4e4451324f4459334e7a6b3d0d0a&blogview=true

I can't wait to help you and your family make "Meal Thyme" memorable!


Monday, November 7, 2016

Egg Souffle Muffins



Recently, we were a host home for our girls' retreat at church.

Let me translate what that means:

  • I clean like a mad-woman for several days before, as if high school girls are even going to care about what the house looks like!  I spent days thinking through the "snack" menu and what to do for breakfast for them on Saturday, and through it all, the Mr. and my boy cherub leave the nest and are gone the entire time!
So by "we," I mean me!

But it was a GREAT time and I'd do it again!  The girls that were at my house were amazing!

They commented on how good the house smelled . . .which I really have no idea what they were smelling!

And they loved the pancake bar we did on Friday night and the were so appreciative of breakfast!

They also drank a lot of coffee!

Who knew!  I clearly didn't plan well in that area, but that's ok!

Another mom was my co-host.  She was a trooper!

On Friday night, she came over and helped me cook pancakes for the girls.

We had set out butter, syrup, peanut butter, whipped cream, and chocolate chips.

It was fun and the girls devoured their snack!

On Saturday, we served them a wonderful breakfast.

I tried a new recipe.

If you know me, then you know that I think company is a great place to try out a new recipe.

I like to serve egg casseroles, but you know, they always take longer to bake than what the recipe says.

Sometimes the casseroles are a bit watery after they're baked.

And then you have to cut the casserole into servings.

Some people don't like the size of the piece, so they want to cut it smaller.

And some egg casseroles don't cut very pretty.

It can be a little stressful on me!

For the girls, I wanted to make egg casserole muffins.

I thought it would be easier to serve and they would cook a bit easier and more even.

I looked at several recipes, because I knew some of the basic ingredients I wanted to use.

I also didn't want the egg casserole to be to egg-y so that hopefully my boy cherub would eat them.

I know he wasn't with us for breakfast, but I am always searching for something egg-y that he'll eat.

Let me just say, these were a hit!

Every girl commented about how great they were!

Some girls ate two of them.

A few of the girls asked for the recipe to give to their mom.

Two girls asked what kind of bread I used in it.

Guess what!  There's no bread! 

I made these gluten free, of course, but you could easily substitute regular baking mix and have fabulous results, I believe.

While I served these fresh baked to the girls, the few I had left-over reheated perfectly the next morning for my family.

Egg Soufflé Muffins

1/2 cup gluten free baking mix (I used Pamela's, but any would work)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 cups grated white cheese (I used provolone)
1 container, 16 oz, cottage cheese
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
10 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray 12 count muffin tin with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients together, whisking until well incorporated.

Using an ice cream scoop, fill each muffin tin 3/4 full.  The ice cream scoop only makes it easier to fill the muffin tin and to get each tin filled with the same amount.

Bake the egg soufflé for 35-40 minutes or until done completely through and golden brown on top.

Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the muffin tin.

To remove easier, use a knife to run around the edge of the egg soufflé for easy release.

This recipe would easily adapt to the addition of chopped ham, crumbled bacon, cooked sausage, or diced Canadian bacon.  Also, you could easily add sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, or cooked and diced green peppers, or a small can of diced green chilies.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Fancy Taco Meat



A loooong time ago, a friend of mine had a football watch party.

At the party, she served all kinds of tailgate-type food.

One of the things she served, of course, was nachos.

But they were so much tastier than just plain 'ol nachos.

She had "jazzed up" the meat that she put on the nachos.

The other day, I texted her to ask what her recipe was.

Remember, it was a long time ago . . . but I kind of helped to jog her memory

and she gave me, "it was probably  . . . "

" . . .or it could have been . . ."

But thinking back to what it looked like, I went with the first option of possibility.

Here's my dilemma:  I typically like tacos, etc, but I don't typically prefer the taco meat.

It is usually dry.

It's seasoned fine, but to me, it's just kinda dry.

Not so dry you have to choke it down or chase it with a big glass of water.

But just sorta dry.

So I took my friend's suggestion, tweeked it a bit for what I thought we might like,

and served it to my cherubs for dinner.

The Mr. was out of town, so the judging was down by 1/4, but we decided we liked this as an option.

What I like about it is the versatility of the "fancy taco meat."

You could serve it on top of corn chips . . . not the "fancy, restraint-style thin" type,

but hearty, hold their own, corn chips.

You could serve this on top of rice for a taco salad.

You could do as we did with some of the left-overs the following night and make "taco tots."

That's right -- cook tater tots in the oven until crispy and top with the meat mixture and other "taco toppings."

But for our first go 'round, we just stuffed it into corn tortillas, topped it with shredded cabbage mix, grilled onions and peppers and enjoyed!

Fancy Taco Meat

1 lb. ground beef
1 can pinto beans (or black beans), drained
1 can cream of corn (can substitute kernel corn, drained)
1 small can green chilies, drained
1 package taco seasoning (I used gluten free)
1 package dry ranch dressing mix (I used gluten free)

In a skillet, cook the ground beef until no longer pink.

Add in the drained beans, cream of corn, green chilies, and both packages of seasoning.  Stir to incorporate all ingredients and heat mixture all the way through.

If serving immediately, great!  If needed, place in a small crock pot, on low or warm setting until ready to serve, or place in the refrigerator.  This freezes beautifully!

Top with chopped tomatoes, onions, sour cream, salsa, jalapenos, or anything else your heart desires!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Gluten Free Oatmeal Cookies



My boy cherub has loved oatmeal cookies since the time he could say, "cick-koo."

And as a little guy, I knew exactly what he was saying when he asked!

Not much has changed as he's grown . . . and oatmeal cookie is still a great treat to him.

This week, he has been asking for dessert.

Well, he and the girl cherub both!

But I haven't made anything.

Not because I didn't want to.

But we were in and out so much this week,

and we were all going to be gone this weekend,

that I didn't think it was necessary to bake this week.

But here it is, Sunday afternoon,

and the weather is perfect,

and the house is quiet,

so I decided to make the cherubs happy and bake!

I'm not really certain that I've made an oatmeal cookie since we've been gluten free,

which has been about 2 1/2 years,

so it's about time I get a good recipe!

This one, I do think, is a keeper.

If you're not gluten free . . . but you've kept reading just to see, let me say that our favorite,

"gluten filled oatmeal cookie" recipe is on the back of the Quaker Oatmeal box.

But!  If you're like our family, and need . . . or even want, a gluten free option, give this a try!

Gluten Free Oatmeal Cookies

1/4 cup softened butter
1/4 cup Crisco (plain or butter flavored)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg, room temperature if you've planned ahead
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup gluten free flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
14 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. xantham gum (omit if your flour blend already has it)
1 cup oats (gluten free)
3/4 cup raisins

In a stand mixer, add the butter, Crisco, and sugars.  Beat together until well combined and pale in color; about 5 minutes.  Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  While the butter and sugar whisk together, in a small bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, ground cloves, ginger, and salt.

Add in the egg and vanilla.  Beat until well incorporated.

Add in the flour mixture and mix well.  Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary.

Add in the xantham gum, oats, and raisins.  Mix together just until combined.

Allow the dough to sit for at least one hour, if you can stand it.  This allows the flour to absorb the liquid well and "do it's thing."  If you don't have the time or patience, go ahead and bake the cookies!

In a 350 degree preheated oven, drop the dough by 1 TBSP scoop onto a silpat lined, or greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 6-9 minutes, depending on how you prefer your cookies.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the pan for 3 minutes before removing to a cookie cooling sheet.

Enjoy warm or completely cooled.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Honey Mustard Grilled Chicken

This past weekend was spent at the lake with the Mr.'s family.

We had a great time of hanging out, laughing, and sitting by the fire.

The 7 cousins played marathon air hockey . . .so much that my girl cherub's arm was sore!

With 4 families represented, we decided that each family would take one dinner for each of the days we were together and be responsible to provide the food for everybody.

Breakfast and lunch . . .each family brought what they wanted and just shared.

But dinner was a little more organized.

The Mr. and I had the Saturday night dinner.

We had big shoes to fill because my brother in law and sister in law did a shrimp boil for everyone on Friday night.

It was fantastic!

So Saturday afternoon, we set about our dinner preparation.

I did all of the prep work that could be done ahead of time at home so that cooking on Saturday night would be as easy as possible.

We had the roasted potatoes that I posted a few weeks ago.
http://karen-proverbs31.blogspot.com/2016/09/ranch-roasted-potatoes.html

Salad with the ranch dressing that I posted last week.
http://karen-proverbs31.blogspot.com/2016/09/buttermilk-ranch-dressing.html

Garlic biscuits from a gluten free Martha White mix.

And this delicious chicken!

Holy Cow!  Seriously, who doesn't love grilled chicken?

Top it with caramelized onions, bacon, and cheese . . .and it's a real winner!

The marinade is super simple.

I pound the boneless, skinless chicken breast out thin and throw them into a ziplock bag to marinate.

I made this marinade on Thursday and threw the bags of chicken into the freezer.

The chicken marinates while freezing and continues when defrosting.

I grilled 24 pieces of chicken -- so I made a lot of marinade!

However, the marinade is SO easy because it's equal parts Dijon mustard and honey.

Yep!  That's it!

Sure!  You can add a dash of salt if you want.

But the basics are those two ingredients!

Honey Mustard Grilled Chicken

1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup honey
1/2 tsp. salt

For 4-6 chicken breasts, combine the marinade ingredients together and place all of the contents into a ziplock bag.  Squish together to coat the chicken well.

Allow to marinate 4 or more hours in the refrigerator, or the freezer if it's going to be a few days before you cook the chicken.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and place on hot grill.  Continue cooking until the chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear.

If you wish:  top the chicken with grated Monterrey jack cheese, crumbled bacon, and caramelized onions.  But it's great by itself, of sliced on top of a salad, or put into a wrap.  The sky's the limit with the possibilities!



Thursday, September 29, 2016

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing



I'm a self-proclaimed ranch dressing snob.

I like ranch dressing, but I'm particular about it.

So please do not offer the bottled ranch dressing to me.

It's not my preference.

Which is a nice way of saying I don't like it.

It's nothing against bottled ranch dressing . . . it's that I just don't really like most bottled dressings.

Confession time is over;  back to the ranch dressing.

I like good ranch dressing.

Ranch dressing with flavor.

Ranch dressing with zip.

Ranch dressing with depth.

Ranch dressing that has "character" to it.

That's why I like this ranch dressing.

I think I ought to call it "green ranch dressing," because I mix it together in a blender, which does change the color of the dressing.

But if you want to mix it by hand, then I think you'll not call your dressing "green ranch dressing."

So, why do I mix it together in the blender, you ask?

Because I like it really, really, really mixed up.

Preference.

What's also good about this recipe is that it is "yours."

By that I mean you adjust the spices to your ranch fancy.

I have a girl cherub here that has a wee fancy for garlic.

So we added a wee bit more garlic for her fancy ranch taste.

But I'm great with that.

Because I like her taste!

So, I'll give you the amounts I used, which may or may not include things like "a dash,"

or "a smidge."

Work your ranch magic and be delighted with your preference!

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 TBSP buttermilk, and more for desired consistency
2 cloves garlic, peeled (I used 3 cloves and it is noticeable)
1/4 cup loosely packed flat leaf parsley
3/4 oz package fresh dill, stems removed (can use dried dill if you'd rather, to taste)
1 tsp. vinegar Or fresh lemon juice
dash of Worcestershire sauce
3 dashes Tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

In a blender, place all of the ingredients. In my blender, it works best to put the liquids in first, then the sour cream and mayo, then the garlic, parsley, and dill, followed by the spices.

Blend until well mixed.  Check for two things:  flavor profile and consistency. To thin:  add buttermilk, 1 TBSP at a time, mixing well after each addition.  For flavor:  what do you think you want?  Salt, dill, another dash or Worcestershire sauce?  Another thing you can do is let it set for a couple of hours and re-taste, giving the flavors time to come together.


IF you choose not to mix by hand:  in a large bowl, whisk together the mayo, sour cream and buttermilk.  Add the garlic, finely chopped, the flat leaf parsley, finely chopped, the dill and remaining ingredients.  Whisk together until combined. 
Check for two things:  flavor profile and consistency. To thin:  add buttermilk, 1 TBSP at a time, mixing well after each addition.  For flavor:  what do you think you want?  Salt, dill, another dash or Worcestershire sauce?  Another thing you can do is let it set for a couple of hours and re-taste, giving the flavors time to come together.

Store the dressing in the refrigerator until ready to use.



Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Smoked Chicken Pasta with Artichoke Cream Sauce

Smoking meat is one of those things I really want to learn to do.

Correction:  smoking meat is really one of those things I really want the MR. to learn to do!

He has smoked meat a several times.

But truthfully, there is an art to doing it well.

Some people call that "a knack!"

The problem is that the Mr. doesn't want to learn how to do this "art," as much as I want him to learn!

Oh, the problems we have!

But!  My smoking meat dilemma was cured a few weeks ago when a friend of ours offered to smoke some meat for us.

He's really good at what he does!

He's even won a "smoking competition."

Now!  Before you go making wise cracks about that statement . . .I already know what you might say.

Honestly, though . . . there's a lot to being able to smoke meat well.

And well he did!

After the meat was smoked, the Mr. and I put it into the freezer so that we'd have it when we wanted it.

This week, with the crazy schedule we're running around here, I pulled some of the wonderfully cooked chicken from the freezer and defrosted it.

This is what I made . . . pulled smoked chicken with pasta and artichoke cream sauce.

Sounds fancy, huh?

It is sooooo easy!

You know what "pulled smoked chicken" really is?

A lazy way of serving chicken!

Sounds fancy.

Makes the price go up if you're ordering it in a restaurant.

But truthfully, it's a fast way to remove the meat from the bone and the best part is this;

you don't even have to chop it or anything!

You just pull it . . .you get what you get!

It's awesome!

If you don't have a Mr. that will smoke the chicken for you,

or a friend who will . . .

just use unsmoked chicken.

Or go to your favorite bbq joint and order yourself a chicken quarter or two and pull your own chicken.

Smoked Chicken Pasta with Artichoke Cream Sauce

1 jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
2 cups heavy cream or 1/2 and 1/2 . . . whichever you have
8 oz dried pasta, cooked (you know I used gluten free)
pulled smoked chicken (use as much or as little as you want or have)
salt and pepper to taste

After draining the artichoke hearts, pour the cream or 1/2 and 1/2 (or a mixture of the two) into a sauce pan and add the artichoke hearts.  Bring the two to a low simmer and heat thoroughly for 5-6 minutes.

Meanwhile, place a large pan of water, seasoned generously with salt, onto boil.  When the water is at a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook according to directions.  The last 3 minutes of cooking, I added the pulled chicken to the boiling pasta to heat the chicken thoroughly.  Drain the pasta and chicken when the pasta is done.

After the cream and artichokes are heated and been simmering a bit, add the cream mixture to a blender and puree.  Do this in small batches so that the hot liquid doesn't create a huge mess in your kitchen or on you!  I ran the blender for several minutes, as I wanted as smooth of a sauce as possible.

Taste the sauce and season accordingly with salt and pepper.

In a bowl, place the pasta and chicken and pour the hot cream sauce and mix well.

Serve immediately.

*If you need more sauce, just add more heavy cream, 1/2 and 1/2, or even milk.  I used 1/2 and 1/2, because that's what I had . . .but it also cuts the calories from the heavy cream and we didn't know any better to know if the taste was compromised!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Ranch Roasted Potatoes




I can't even remember what I was fixing but I needed a side dish to serve with it.

Oh wait!  Just typing that sentence made me remember what I was making!

Ham!

Which reminded me . . .

I'm going to post my ham recipe!

But not right now.

Right now, it is about the potatoes.

Since I was making a ham, I wanted to have a complete meal.

You know, not the one-dish-call-it-good meal.

But a meal that resembled thought,

and preparation,

and time,

and love,

and all those things!

I had some potatoes in the refrigerator.

I keep my potatoes there because I don't use them fast enough to keep them in a cute potato basket.

Because if I kept them in a cute potato basket, my potatoes would be gross.

And unusable.

So I keep them cold so they won't get gross so fast.

Now, before you start thinking about all the bad things that happen to cold potatoes.

I know.

The starch changes to sugar.

They don't taste the same as if you store them "naturally."

They have a different texture if they've been stored in the refrigerator.

Yes -- you are right.

But I'm neither a potato farmer, or a potato connoisseur,

so I don't mind the subtle difference that I can't even really detect.

I took my cold potatoes and made this recipe.

My premise:  an old recipe for oyster crackers.

If it's good enough for crackers, then it's got to be good enough for potatoes!

Ranch Roasted Potatoes

2 lbs. of your favorite potato, cleaned and cut into potato cubes*
1 pkg. dry ranch seasoning mix
2 TBSP oil
11/2 tsp dried dill
1tsp. lemon pepper
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, optional
1 tsp. course ground pepper
1/2 tsp. salt

With cleaned and cubed potatoes in a mixing bowl, sprinkle all of the dry ingredients over the potatoes.  Pour the 2 TBSP of oil over the potatoes and stir to coat evenly, mixing the potatoes, oil, and seasonings together well.

Crockpot Method:

Spray the crock liner with pam and place the seasoned potatoes into the crock pot.  Cook on low for 4 hours or high for 2.  Check for desired doneness half-way through the cooking time.  Make adjustments as necessary for your size crock pot, the size of potato cubes, and the amount of potatoes being cooked. (Perhaps you are like me and you made this and doubled the recipe for a  larger group).

Baked Method:

Preheat the over to 400 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with pam, or line the cookie sheet with a silpat liner.  Place the seasoned potatoes on the lined cookie sheet.  Place in the oven and roast for 30-45 minutes.  Check for desired doneness.  Stir the potatoes occasionally to allow for even cooking and browning.

*I used russet potatoes, as it is what I had in the refrigerator.  Yukon gold, red potatoes, or fingerlings would be great to use.  2 lbs. of potatoes easily serves 4-6 people.  Of course, it all depends on serving size.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Art and Science

By the looks of it, you might think it's been a slow month at our house!

Truthfully, though, it's been kinda busy.

Just this month, we have spent a week in the mountains, prepared for the start of school, and I've gotten to share with a group of ladies about meal preparation.

That's why I decided to write today.

Because of my time with the moms.

It got me thinking.

One of the things I did at the cooking class was show how to prepare five meals with five pounds of ground beef.

Easy enough.

But there was really more to it than that.

The "more to it" was this:

  • eating at home is cheaper than eating out.
  • cooking at home tastes better than eating out.
  • cooking takes a little bit of prep, but it's worth the effort
  • eating dinner together, as a family, is more than the meal; it's about sharing together 
 For some, cooking is intimidating.

But I've shared this thought with so many . . .and I shared it with the moms at the cooking class.

The thought:  "cooking is an art, baking is a science."

So, why do I say that?

Because art is open to interpretation and interest.

And if cooking is an art . . .than it is open for your own personal touch!

Baking is a science; the outcome is dependent on balance of ingredients so that a correct reaction can occur and result is a delicious masterpiece. 

But cooking . . .cooking is an art; what one person likes, another may not.

In baking, you cannot change the equilibrium of wet and dry ingredients and end up with a pleasing product.

But cooking!  You can change whatever you want . . .

you can add,

you can delete,

and you can substitute,

and you're going to be ok!

I can think of some of the bests cooks I know.

They all share a common characteristic.

And that is they went by taste, sight, and smell.

I remember my grandma, when she was going to teach me to cook, she'd say,

"stand right here and watch."

"You do a little of this . . .or you can do that."

"That looks about right."

"See how that feels?  That's what you're looking for."

  . . .and that's how you cook!

Yes, recipes are great.

Recipes give us a starting point.

But after you've cooking awhile, look at the recipe and see where you'd want to change it.

Not because it needs changing . . .

but because you're an artist!
 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Chicken Salad





Everyone has their favorite chicken salad.

But if you're like me, you're always on the search for "the best" chicken salad.

I've scoured lots of church cookbooks, tea room recipes, and magazines searching for an even better chicken salad recipe.

Truthfully, I've had some delicious chicken salads.

But this one . . .

this is one of my favs!

I've used this recipe for more than 15 years.

Honestly, though, I don't make it a lot.

And for that, I'm not sure as to the reason.

Bust as we planned a get-away this Summer, I decided to make this to take with us.

When we travel to the mountains, that is our let down and relax time.

I don't mind cooking . . .but I want to do it at home and just take it with us in the cooler.

That way, while we're away, I feel like I'm getting a vacation too -- rather than having to spend so much time preparing meals!

Chicken Salad

3 cups cooked & cubed chicken (I roast a whole chicken and use the meat from the chicken)
2 cups grapes, cut in half
1 1/2 cups celery, or substitute granny smith apples if you don't prefer celery
2 TBSP red onion, chopped (this is NOT enough onion for my preference . . .I always do more)
1 small can pineapple tidbit, drained -- reserve 1 tsp. of the juice
1/2 cup chopped nuts (Walnuts or pecans are best)
1 cup mayo*
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. pineapple juice (if you forgot, just use lemon juice)
2 TBSP honey
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger

In a very large bowl, add the cubed chicken, grapes, celery or apple, onion, pineapple, and the nuts.

In a small bowl, combine the mayo, sour cream, pineapple juice, honey, cinnamon, and ginger.  Stir together well.

Pour the dressing over the chicken mixture.  Stirring well to incorporate the ingredients.

Refrigerate  to allow the flavor to blend.

Serve as a sandwich or with crackers.

*I start with half of the dressing recipe because sometimes a whole recipe is too much.  For your first time, you may want to try that to determine if you want more dressing or if half is enough.  You can always make the entire dressing recipe and serve the remaining half on the side for those who wish to have more.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Brazilian Lemonade





If you're like us, you are glued to the TV for the next few days.

As in, glued to the Olympics!

Since the Opening Ceremony, we have been watching relentlessly!

There is something about the Olympics that we love!

Matter of fact, we'll watch sports, that at any other time, we're not really interested in!

For example, the last time we watched ladies volleyball was . . .

four years ago.

But put the infamous 5 Olympic rings on the screen, and we become mesmerized by sports!

Along with the sports, is the excitement of the host country!

We like to learn a little about the country,

think of things we'd like to do if we could ever visit,

and look at the pretty landscape of the host country as we learn about it through the watching of the Olympics!

Typically, on the evening of the Opening Ceremony, I'll make food from the host country.

This year, I planned to do that,

but our schedule kept us from having a watch party.

But I still had the ingredients from my meal planning.

So, on this hot Sunday afternoon, I made a delicious Brazilian treat!

I'm not even kidding!

This is one delicious drink!

The Mr. said, "I could suck this down in one big gulp!"

The cherubs both loved it too!

You're going to look at the title,

then look at the ingredients,

and be confused!

"Lemonade."

and no lemons!

Only limes.

I have no idea . . .

but it doesn't really matter!

This drink is so good that you're going to want to make sure you have plenty of limes!












Brazilian Lemonade





2 limes, cut into wedges (don't skimp by using lime juice.  Use the real fruit)
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups water
3 TBSP sweetened condensed milk

In a blender, add the lime wedges, sugar, and water.

Pulse until well blended.

Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the lime mixture into a pitcher.






















Return the strained liquid to the blender container and add the 3 TBSP of sweetened condensed milk.

Pulse quickly to blend.

Serve over lots of ice.

This recipe easily doubles! 

Also, this drink needs to be served immediately after making, as it does not hold well.

If you're wanting to serve to a large group, do the prep work of blending the limes/sugar/water and straining.  But wait until ready to serve to mix the lime juice mixture with the sweetened condensed milk.




Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Company Iced Tea



We were having a weekend of guests.

Not over-night guests; just a weekend with a variety of guests.

Breakfast guests.

Hang-out-after-church- guests.

Neighbor guests.

That got me thinking.

"What can I serve to drink besides the regular stuff?"

Which that got me looking at different options.

I went to one of my trusty cookbooks . . .

the one my mom put together for me when I was getting married.

She collected recipes from family and friends, from both sides of our family,

and compiled all the recipes into a cute little cookbook.

Which I still use today.

This recipe is from our "Auntie Ronda," who, more than 30 years ago, started out as a neighbor and turned into family!

There, in the appetizer section, was this recipe.

Note:  maybe that's why I've missed it before . . .it was in "appetizer," rather than drinks, or miscellaneous . . . .

But for whatever reason, I saw it.

The ingredients are simple.

At the bottom of the recipe, my mom wrote, "very good."

With that kind of simple endorsement, I put the necessary ingredients on my shopping list.

Since then, I have made this about a bazillion times . . .this week!

It's so easy, even the Mr. is making it;

From memory!!

Pretty amazing, huh?

After serving it this past weekend, I was even asked for the recipe!

It was equally consumed by both the men, women, and children.

Company Iced Tea

2/3 cup instant lemon iced tea
6 cups water
1 cup white grape juice

Mix all of the ingredients into a pretty pitcher.

Stir well.

Serve over ice.

*easily doubled . . .or halved!



Saturday, July 30, 2016

Cheesy Breakfast Grits



One Saturday, we were having guests for breakfast.

But to do that, you have to start the prep work a bit earlier than I really want to function on a Saturday morning.

I looked through my recipes to find some of our favorites . . . that were easy!

And by "easy," I mean not extremely time consuming but tastes good!

I decided on a menu that included fruit, breakfast cake, yogurt, egg cups, and . . .

GRITS!

Yes, grits!

We love grits!

What I particularly love about grits is their unassuming ability to take on just about any flavor!

Plain grits.

Sweet grits.

Cheese grits.

Savory grits.

You can't go wrong with well-done grits!

Even people who say they don't like grits will love well-done grits!

Our guests had to end up changing plans the night before,

but I went ahead with our brunch plans for our family.

The best memories are made around the table, laughing, talking, and enjoying a Saturday morning together!

Cheesy Breakfast Grits

1 cup "old fashioned" grits, not instant
1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
3/4 cup half and half (or milk . . .or even water if you're in a pinch)
1/4 tsp. chili powder
2 oz cream cheese
2 oz Velveeta cheese
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

In a 4 cup liquid measuring cup, add the broth, evaporated milk, and the half and half (or plain milk, or water, if necessary) to equal 4 cups of total liquid.

Pour into a large sauce pan that has a lid that will fit.

Over medium heat, bring the liquid to a boil.  Because there is milk in the recipe, you do not want to heat the liquid too fast.

Once the liquid is at a boil, gently pour in the 1 cup of grits, stirring while adding the grits.

Return the liquid to a boil, then lower the heat and put a lid on the pan.

Cook over low heat, covered, until the grits are done; about 15-20 minutes.  Stir occasionally so the grits do not stick to the bottom of the pan.

Once the grits are done, remove from the heat.

Add the 2 oz of cream cheese and 2 oz of Velveeta.  Stir until both of the cheeses are melted into the grits.  Add in the dash of Worcestershire sauce, and both the onion  and garlic powder.  Stir until well incorporated.

Serve immediately.

We topped our grits with cooked sausage and soft scrambled eggs; but they're great any way you want to serve them!

Any left-over grits can be refrigerated.  The next day, cut the grits into serving sizes and toast in a small skillet until heated thoroughly.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Fruit and Cream




We are finally all home, together again, as a family!

My boy cherub lived in DC this Summer and was a Page in the U.S. Senate.

My girl cherub and I spent time at different camps and on mission trips.

The Mr. did a little bit of everything, including a smidge of travel for work.

So it's been awhile since we've all been together, under "our" roof.

Now that we're back together . . . I really like it!

Since my boy cherub was away, I have spent time making him some of his favorites.

After his first "home cooked" meal, I made this for dessert.

On a whim, we added vanilla ice cream to it; and just like that . . .

A new dessert was made!

We were kind of sad when we ran out of the fruit mixture!

Ok, not really!

But we did say we'd need to make this again!

I like that it was super easy!

Fruit and Cream

1 regular can of sliced peaches, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 regular can of pears, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 bananas, sliced (but not thinly sliced)
1 1/2 cups quartered strawberries
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 small box instant vanilla pudding
"homestyle" vanilla bean ice cream

Place all of the fruit in a large bowl.

Sprinkle the instant vanilla pudding on the top and stir to mix.  The juice from the fruit will thicken, which is exactly what you want!  Also, as a side note, the bananas will not turn brown.

In a tall glass, layer a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, topped with the fruit mixture.  Then add another small scoop of ice cream, and top with the fruit.  At this point, you can serve the dessert, or you can indulge with another small scoop of ice cream on top!

Refrigerate unused fruit mixture.  However, the doesn't hold well, so do not make it more than 1 day in advance.

Return the ice cream to the freezer!


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Mango Salsa



We really do love mango.

I'm not certain what it is about this fruit that is so enticing.

Maybe it's their beautiful color! 

Seriously!  Look at the picture!  The yellow, green, red, and orange  . . .

they're amazing!

And they can sometimes be a little expensive.

But not necessarily in the summer.

That's when the mangos are the best!

Yesterday, the girl cherub and I bought a box of mangos.

Now, we like mango . . .but my boy cherub is the one who really digs mango!

But he's not at home this summer.

So with that in mind, I needed to come up with some things to make with our many mangos.

One of the things I want to try is mango agua fresco.

I think it would taste great!

But until I figure out how to do that, I want to share with you the recipe for mango salsa that my girl cherub made.

The Mr. and my boy cherub are gone, so we girls made fish tacos for dinner.

Topped with mango salsa.

She looked at different recipes and discovered they were all about the same.  She really went by taste and the quantities are an estimate . . .except for the mango!

We thought it was a hit!

It was not only delicious on the fish tacos, but it was also tasty on the salty corn chips!

Enjoy the sweet-ripened mango this summer!



Mango Salsa

1 mango, peeled and chopped
1/4 of a red onion, finely diced
a splash of lime juice
sprinkle of salt
a dash of pepper
3 TBSP fresh cilantro, chopped
1 mini sweet red pepper, chopped

Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix together.  Make adjustments as your taste buds direct!

Serve over grilled fish, chicken, or as a fresh dip for corn chips.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa




When my girl Cherub goes to a party and comes home wanting to cook;

we may be in trouble!

Honestly!  She comes home from being at a bunco party with my mom and tells me about two different appetizers she had that we just "have" to make!

The next day, she gets herself into the pantry and starts looking for the necessary ingredients.

Don't you know:  we have them!

She sets off telling me what she thinks is in the corn and bean salsa.

And we commence to making it.

She tastes.

We adjust.

She tastes.

She gives the thumbs up.

When my mom arrives, and reveals that the bunco host is going to send the recipes from the game night,

my girl cherub says, "We don't need it.  We've got it figured out. It's not that hard!"

Well, I can say this about my girl cherub; her taster is pretty on point!

That girl can detect flavors better than anybody I know!

True story:  We were having one of our favorite crackers and this is our conversation:

Cherub:  "I taste rosemary in this." 
Me:  "Well, I don't taste rosemary, but I do taste caraway seeds"
Cherub:  "You don't taste the rosemary?"
Me:  "No.  But look at the ingredients and see if it's in there; but I don't think it is."
Cherub:  "Yep.  I knew it.  Rosemary extract."
Me:  "Seriously!  You can taste rosemary EXTRACT?  That's crazy!



So I don't know if it resembles the recipe from the bunco party,

but it does resemble a recipe that my girl cherub approves of!

Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa

2 ears of corn, shucked, and roasted -- if desired (can substitute 1 can corn, drained)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 purple onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup rough chopped cilantro, if desired
1 clove garlic, minced
3 TBSP lime juice
1 TBSP olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
pepper, to taste


If using fresh corn, remove the husks and silks from the corn and roast the corn over a hot grill or on top of your gas stove, if you have one.  Once the corn has cooled, use a sharp knife to remove the corn from the cob.

In a small bowl, mix the chopped garlic, lime juice, olive oil, cumin, and salt and pepper together.  Set to the side.

Place the corn, black beans, and all the chopped veggies, and the cilantro into a large bowl.  If you desire to have more of anything -- just add it!

Toss the veggies together.

Drizzle the dressing over the veggies and toss to coat.

Taste; make adjustments as your taste buds direct.

Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

This is great with tortillas, chips, to top a grilled chicken breast, or as a light side salad.