Saturday, August 30, 2008

Mmmmmm, Chocolate!

Chocolate is a staple in our house. I'm really the only one that eats it though. I have no qualms about throwing a few hand fulls of chocolate chips, into my pancake batter, before making myself some. I try to limit Mr.B's chocolate intake, because let's face it, a 3 yr old + sugar = chaos. So when one of the women from my cooking board, on BabyCenter, posted a review for brownies, I knew I just had to try them. All I have to say is YUMMMMM!!! These were so simple to make, I think it took 5 minutes to throw them together. These are more chewy fudgy brownies, as opposed to cake like brownies. There is the subtlest hint of cherry, but nothing too overwhelming. Nothing in life is better than a good brownie and a glass of cold milk. I substituted chopped Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate, for the chips.

Dark Chocolate and Cherry Brownies
via Cooking Light Sept '08

Cooking spray
3.4 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cherry preserves
1/3 cup water
5 tablespoons butter
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 large egg white
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Powdered sugar (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper; coat with cooking spray.
3. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 1 cup sugar, unsweetened cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Combine cherry preserves, 1/3 cup water, and butter in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Add preserves mixture to flour mixture; stir well. Add egg and egg white; stir until smooth. Stir in semisweet chocolate chips. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool in pan on wire rack. Garnish with powdered sugar, if desired.

Yield: 16 servings CALORIES 155 (31% from fat); FAT 5.4g (sat 3g,mono 1.4g,poly 0.2g); IRON 1mg; CHOLESTEROL 23mg; CALCIUM 10mg; CARBOHYDRATE 25.8g; SODIUM 168mg; PROTEIN 2.2g; FIBER 1.1g Cooking Light, SEPTEMBER 2008

Friday, August 29, 2008

Pasta Salad

With Labor Day just around the corner, I'd like to share one of my most requested recipes. Two years ago, the wonderful Mommy group I belong to, decided to have a Labor Day picnic. We had another, last year as well. Which is when my pasta salad made it's debut. I've been making this for hubby and I, since we met. It never lasts long in this house, so I knew hubby enjoys it. I had, however, never brought it to any social gathering. I'm always the one who brings dessert, to a gathering, but since a fellow Mommy had claimed desserts, I decided to bring pasta salad. I wasn't sure if it had went over well, with everyone, since we were so busy chasing the kids around, to discuss much of anything. A few days later, one of my girlfriends requested the recipe, saying she really enjoyed it. Since then I think I've brought pasta salad to her house 3 or so times. Every time she tells me how much she and her husband love it. Even her children love it, which I think is the biggest compliment. I've recently been asked for the recipe, by a few others, so I think I've got a hit on my hands, LOL.

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Pasta Salad

Lately, I've been using Roasted Red Pepper, but good ole green or red peppers are just as good.

1 box cooked pasta ( use your favorite)
4 green onions, finely sliced
1 green or red pepper, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, shredded
2 cups mayonaise , more if too dry
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp Lawry's season salt
1/2 tsp paprika
2 Tbs dry parsley

Cook pastain a large pot of salted water. Once cooked, rinse under cold water, to stop the cooking process. Drain well and let cool completely in fridge ( it should be kinda dry). Throw everything into a huge bowl and mix together. Refrigerate at least 2 hrs before serving, so all the flavors can meld. Taste again, to make sure seasoning is ok.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Leftover Chicken/pork

Don't you just hate when you take a picture and it turns out blurry? I took a few pictures of tonight's dinner, only for them to come out blurry. Arrgggg!!

Whenever I make dinner and hubby isn't home, there are always leftovers. I'm not a huge eater ( well on some things I am :p) and Mr.B is in his my tummy hurts phase, so there are plenty of leftovers. Last night we had chicken, so naturally there was leftovers. One of my favorite meals to make with leftover chicken is a stir fry. Sometimes I change it up and make Lo Mein, using plain Ramen noodles, instead of rice. Tonight we had Lo Mein. It happens to be one of Mr.B's favorite dishes. I think it's the noodles that intrigue him so much, LOL. Now by all means am I saying that my Lo Mein can rival the authentic deliciousness of a Chinese Restaurant's, but I've been told that mine is pretty tasty. So I'd love to share the recipe.

Chicken/pork Stir Fry/ Lo Mein

2 Tbs veggie oil
3 C of your favorite mixed veggies ( I use broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery and onion)
2 C cooked chicken, cubed
1 cube of chicken bouillon
1-2 Tbs soy sauce
1/2 C water
1 tsp minced garlic ( 1 clove)
few sprinkles of ginger
Cooked rice or plain Ramen noodles

Heat oil in a large skillet. Once it starts to slightly ripple, add the vegetables and garlic. Season with pepper. Saute over med heat for until the vegetable are tender crisp, stirring frequently. Add the chicken, soy sauce, water, ginger and chicken bouillon. Bring up to a simmer. Combine cornstarch with cold water, to make a slurry. Add to skillet and stir thoroughly. Let simmer 2-3 minutes, until it thickens. Serve over hot cooked rice or toss with cooked, plain Ramen noodles.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mommy, Can I help???

Most days when I'm in the kitchen, Mr.B strolls in and asks if he can help. Most days I'm frazzled, making a last minute dinner, with the Queen either just waking up, needing to eat or crabby. So most days the answer is no. Lets face it, I'm a major control freak and don't deal well, when things don't go as I think they should. You'd think with children I'd learn to let that go, but that's something to talk to a therapist about, LOL.

Today was rainy day number 2, so I decided to bake something comforting. I had seen Sandra Lee make up a batch of Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars, on her show yesterday ( Semi Homemade with Sandra Lee), so I looked the recipe up on line. It looked good and super simple, so I printed it out and asked Mr.B if he'd like to help. He was beyond excited!! All went well, despite flour flying everywhere, and having to fish egg shells out of the bowl, due to Mr.B getting a little rough with the egg. We had fun, I measured, he poured. He stirred when he could and licked spoons, spatulas and measuring cups when he couldn't. All in all we had a good time. I'd like him to remember these times, when he gets older, because I love the memories I have of my Mom and I in the kitchen.

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The bars turned out OK. I'm not too crazy about them. They're not gross, just not what I thought they'd taste like. Maybe it's the cinnamon from the apple sauce, I don't know. Regardless, the quality time I spent with my sweet Mr.B, makes up for a not so stellar outcome of our work.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars

3/4C baking mix (such as Bisquick)
2 C quick cooking oats
1/2 C smooth peanut butter
1/2 C cinnamon flavored apple sauce
1/2 C raisins
1/2 C chocolate chips
1 egg
1/3 C honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x8 inch pan, with cooking spray. Mix baking mix and oats until well combined. Add other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Press into prepared baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool and cut into 16 squares.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Apple and Peach Dumplings

I have been lucky enough to find amazing sites full of creative people, to help with my adventures in cooking. One such site is the Cooking for your Family board on BabyCenter.com. I have grown to admire these talented women, who day after day are on the same mission I am. Feeding their families healthy and nutritious meals without getting bored or driving themselves insane. This recipe for Apple Dumplings is a favorite among the wonderful ladies on Baby Center. Without them, I never would have found this recipe, that has become a regular breakfast treat in our household.

This time I only had 1 apple left, so I decided to make half the recipe using a fresh peach. It turned out pretty darn good. Although I must admit, the apple dumplings are much better, LOL. Although I found this recipe on Baby Center, it is a Pioneer Woman recipe, so the credit must go to her.

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Pioneer Woman's Apple Dumplings
2 Granny Smith apples
2 cans crescent rolls
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla
1 small can Mountain Dew (About 6 oz)
Peel and core apples. Cut apples into 8 slices each. Roll each apple slice in a crescent roll. Place in a 9 x 13 buttered pan. Melt butter, then add sugar and barely stir. Add vanilla, stir, and pour over apples. Pour Mountain Dew around the edges of the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Serve with ice cream/ whipped cream, and spoon some of the sweet sauces from the pan over the top.
Cindy's notes: I used a peeled peach cut into 8 sections. I also used Sierra Mist, soda, instead of the Mountain Dew. I like to serve this with a nice dollop of whipped cream.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

My son, the food snob???

What the heck happened??? Mr.B, our little chef and food connoisseur, has become a food snob? It started with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You'd think those little buggers are harmless, but not in this house hold. For about 2 months now, I've heard the same request, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. "Mommy I want PB&J". Now, I usually allow Mr.B to have PB&J at least once a day. Either breakfast or lunch. But it has gotten to the point where he will take a few bites of dinner, put his fork down and tell us he does not like dinner and wants his beloved PB&J. I know I like to cook new recipes, but I make sure that they include foods I know Mr.B will eat. So his not liking dinner, is not a probability. I told myself I'd never force my children to eat something they didn't like ( flash back to me having to eat ground beef, gagging the whole time, when I was younger), but this is ridiculous. I know my child likes the food we eat, otherwise I wouldn't make it. This kid use to request tuna sandwiches for lunch, roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, for dinner. But now that bloody PB&J monster has taken over his very soul and has corrupted his taste buds. What will I do........

Saturday, August 23, 2008

How my love for food began

I guess I should explain why food is so comforting to me. Why I can find solace in mixing up a batch of cookies, or making a recipe that my mom has passed down from our childhood.

Well, I've always been a mommy and daddy's girl. While most kids dreaded hanging out with their parents, I enjoyed it. I felt safe. No one was judging me, my parents love me for who I am. My Mom was and still is a Stay at home wife. So I grew up with her in the kitchen, making our meals and any special treats we might like. I remember pulling a chair up, to the counter and watching her make batch after batch of cookies, cakes, homemade bread, etc. I just loved to watch her throw ingredients together and out came heaven on earth. That is one of the things I miss most about my mother, watching her bake, chatting about our lives and being friends.

Once I was old enough to use the oven, I started baking. I remember trying to surprise my parents with a cake, on one of their anniversaries. I didn't know you had to let the cake cool, before removing it from the pan, so it pretty much all crumbled. I tried to piece it back together with frosting, but it still looked pretty bad. I was so disappointed, but my parents were so happy that I had made them a cake. They didn't care if the frosting was full of crumbs and that it looked more like a mountain, than a cake. We enjoyed it anyway. So I kept at it and eventually started helping my mom, while she would make dinner. She was my teacher, and I have to say a damn good one at that.

Now a days I bake when I need to decompress. Following a recipe helps me forget about my worries. When I bite into a warm cookie, or a moist piece of cake, it brings me back to my childhood, standing at the kitchen counter, watching Mom make he creations. I feel safe, worry free, if only for that moment, all is right with the world.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bring on the soft foods.

Well, after spending an agonizing night in pain, I finally got my broken tooth pulled. It had been bothering me for a while now, but I couldn't find a dentist who would just pull it. They all insisted on a root canal. After already having a couple thousand dollars worth of medical bills, from giving birth to Queenie McBeanie, I was not ready to drop another thousand or so on a tooth, especially when there was a great possibility of having to get it fixed again in the future. So in desperation I called every dentist covered by our insurance, and finally found one that would pull the tooth for me. Yay!!! I feel so much better, but have been put on a soft food diet, for 4 days. So I guess I'll be living on scrambled eggs, soups, mashed potatoes and pudding for the next few days.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Holy Bananas!!!

They are there, waiting for me to open the door. The never ending pile of frozen ripe bananas. For some reason, our bananas seem to ripen faster than we can eat them lately. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I won't touch a banana, unless it still has a slight tinge of green to it. I don't know why, but fully yellow bananas gross me out. Anyway, that's a story for another time. As I was saying, I have a huge pile of ripe bananas in the freezer. I've been making banana bread for months now, and to be honest, I'm getting sick of it. So I scoured the online recipe sites and found a recipe for Banana Cake Cookies. These are ridiculously good cookies. The are soft and chewy and the cloves gives it an extra little hint of something. It's like "Hmmm, I don't know what that is, but it sure tastes good". Mister B loves bananas and cookies, so I knew these would be a hit with him. I'm almost embarrassed to say, I ate about a half dozen, the day I made them and about another 5-6 yesterday. Instead of frosting them, I drizzled them with frosting and dark chocolate. It adds just the perfect amount of sweetness, without it being too sweet.

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Banana Cake Cookies
Found on Allrecipes.com
Submitted by: Robin J.
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Cream shortening; add brown sugar, beating well. Add eggs and banana; beat well. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Add to creamed mixture; mix well. Stir in pecans. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart onto greased cookies sheets. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool. Dip half of cooled cookies into Powdered Sugar Icing. To Make Icing: Combine 3 cups confectioner's sugar, 1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine, and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add milk to yield desired consistency (you may need to add a little extra), beating until smooth.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Last minute success!! Pork Pizzaiola

It's 4:45 and here I was thinking, "what the heck am I going to make for dinner?". This has been an on going question for months now. Giving birth to my second precious child has turned me into quite a food snob. All I want and crave is fast food, so deciding what to make for dinner, has become a challenge. So while browsing my many favorite websites for inspiration, I came about the meal plan on the Family Fun Magazine website. There it was, in all it's glory, the recipe for Pork Pizzaiola. Pork and Pizza, what could be better right? I quickly thawed some chops in the microwave and assembled my ingredients. Queenie McBeanie would be waking up any minute now, so I had to act fast. Side dish, I need a side dish!!! I remembered seeing a recipe for Creamy Orzo of some sort on the cooking board I frequent on Babycenter.com. Drat, I'm short on red peppers, but I'll improvise. So the mission began. To make dinner, for Mister B and I while entertaining and feeding the Queen. No problem right???

To my tremendous pleasure, dinner turned out great! The pork was tender and moist, the Orzo rich and creamy. A success!!! How do I know for sure? My husband gladly ate the leftovers when he came home from work. A miracle in the least, LOL.

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Pork Pizzaiola

Simmered in spicy pizza sauce, pork chops or tenderloin slices make a quick and easy supper. The key is to not overcook the meat, so it stays nice and tender. Serve it with a green vegetable and Italian bread or breadsticks to complete your meal.

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless pork chops or 1 large pork tenderloin (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut on the diagonal into 1-inch-thick slices
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 cups canned chopped tomatoes with onion and green pepper, their juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of crushed red pepper(optional)
Pinch of salt
4 slices mozzarella (about 2 ounces)

Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Rinse the pork chops or tenderloin slices and pat them dry with paper towels. Place them in the pan to cook, turning them once, until they are nicely browned on both sides (about 10 minutes for chops, 6 minutes for tenderloin slices). Transfer them to a plate and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
Lower the heat to medium and add the garlic to the pan, cooking it until it is fragrant (about 30 to 45 seconds). Add the tomatoes, oregano, crushed red pepper, and pinch of salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer and let it cook for 15 minutes to thicken it slightly.
Return the pork to the pan to cook through, about 8 to 10 minutes for chops or 5 to 7 minutes for tenderloin slices (if you pierce them with a fork, the juice should run clear).
Place the mozzarella slices on top of the meat, then cover the pan and remove it from the heat. Let it stand for a minute or so for the cheese to melt. Serves 4 to 6.

Creamy Orzo
1 cup dried orzo pasta
½ tbsp butter
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 wedges garlic and herb Laughing Cow cheese, chunked
Parmesan cheese
a splash of milk

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook orzo according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a medium sauté pan, heat butter and olive oil together. Sauté onion, until it develops a dark golden brown color, about 10-15 minutes. Add wedges of cheese, milk and season with salt and pepper. Cook and stir until cheese has melted, then add pasta and toss to coat. Top with parsley and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.