Friday, May 29, 2009

Creamy Alfredo - the Cheap Way

My husband and I love Alfredo sauce, but it can be a bit more pricey than we prefer. Making it calls for things like heavy cream and fresh Parmesan, which we never buy. And I just can't get myself to buy jars of pre-made pasta sauce when I know I can make it at home.

We've made do by making a mock Alfredo sauce, by adding Parmesan and garlic powder to a basic white sauce. But this always had a slightly gritty/chalky feel to it. Today I altered our mock Alfredo recipe by substituting corn starch for the flour in the white sauce, and that made it super creamy. I also used fresh garlic instead of powdered (we have a super cheap source of fresh garlic), which gave it a wonderful flavor. I'm thrilled with how it turned out, and this is how we'll be making it from now on.

Creamy Mock Alfredo Sauce
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced (or you can use 1-2 tsp. bottled minced garlic)
1 tbsp. corn starch
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup Parmesan (the cheap powdery stuff, of course)
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for a couple minutes. In a separate container, combine corn starch and milk and mix thoroughly - I used a container with a tight-fitting lid and just shook it up real good. Pour into the saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the sauce thickens. Add Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Heat through and serve with pasta.

We stirred in some small shell pasta (shells are so fun!) and topped with additional Parmesan. Yum!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Double-Quick Dinner Rolls

I have a TON of recipes - recipes in cookbooks, recipes printed off the internet, recipes copied from friends and family, recipes from all sorts of random sources. Sometimes I grab a book or a binder and just look through them, to get ideas for dinners or snacks. After all, what's the point in having an extensive recipe collection if you never look at the recipes?

Anyway, yesterday I pulled out a folder of recipes that I have collected from all over the place - it was a folder where I just tossed recipes that were on printer paper, for lack of a better place to put them. I hadn't looked in that folder in ages! Some recipes I didn't even recognize, despite the fact that they were written in my handwriting, or that they had notes in the margins, also in my handwriting. I went through the recipes and chose a few that I would like to try soon. I don't know if I've made them before, because I don't remember them at all!

This recipe is one that I apparently printed off the internet, from the Betty Crocker website. I don't remember writing ingredient substitutions in the margin, but again, it's in my handwriting so I guess I did. These are batter bread style dinner rolls, meaning that you stir the dough instead of kneading it. They only took an hour and a half start to finish, and made some delicious bologna sandwiches for our dinner tonight! I'll include in italics the margin notes that I wrote way back whenever it was that I printed the recipe.

Double-Quick Dinner Rolls
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (substitute 1 cup wheat flour)
2 tbsp. sugar (white or brown)
1 tsp. salt
1 package regular or quick active yeast (I didn't write this before, but 1 pkg yeast = 2 1/4 tsp.)
1 cup very warm water
2 tbsp. shortening (or oil)
1 egg

Mix 1 1/4 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt, and yeast in large bowl. Add water, shortening, and egg; beat with spoon until smooth. Stir in remaining flour until smooth. Scrape batter from side of bowl. Cover and let rise in warm place about 30 minutes or until double.

Grease 12 regular-size muffin cups. Stir down batter by beating about 25 strokes. Spoon into muffin cups. Let rise 20 to 30 minutes or until batter rounds over tops of cups.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

These were simple, quick, less messy than kneaded dough, and tasted great!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hot Fudge Cheesecake - Finally!!!

I finally made it! Yippee! And it's just as super wonderfully delicious as I remembered. Man, I love cheesecake!

Hot Fudge Cheesecake is rich and chocolaty, though quite small. It is served at room temperature with a creamy Hot Fudge Sauce. This cheesecake is baked in a 7-inch springform pan, which, though fun and cute, is not a very common size. If you don't have a 7-inch, I would try baking it in an 8-inch pan and reducing the baking time.

Hot Fudge Cheesecake
1 cup crushed saltine crackers (about one sleeve)
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
6 tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
3 tbsp. sugar
6 (1-ounce) squares semisweet chocolate (I use chocolate chips)
3/4 cup butter or margarine
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs

Hot Fudge Sauce:
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup half-and-half (I use evaporated milk)
1 tbsp. butter or margarine
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine first cracker crumbs, walnuts, 6 tbsp. melted butter, and 3 tbsp. sugar; stir well. Firmly press into bottom and 2 1/2 inches up sides of a lightly greased 7-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Set aside. Here's a picture of this step, so you can see how cute and little the 7-inch pan really is. Isn't it tiny?

Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. Combine chocolate squares and 3/4 cup butter in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until mixture is melted and smooth, stirring often. Remove from heat, and cool.

Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add 3/4 cup sugar; beat well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in cooled chocolate mixture. Pour into prepared crust.

Bake at 300 for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until almost set (Almost set means there's still some jiggle in the middle, but not too much. My oven runs slow, it took about an hour and fifteen minutes). Turn off oven. Let cheesecake cool in oven 30 minutes. Remove to a wire rack; cool to room temperature.

Gently run a knife around edge of cheesecake to release sides of pan; carefully remove pan. Another size comparison - the little hand belongs to my 3-year-old. Kids just can't keep their hands off yummy food, ya know?

Prepare Hot Fudge Sauce: Combine chocolate chips and half-and-half in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth, stirring often. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla.

Serve cheesecake with warm Hot Fudge Sauce. Store leftovers of both cheesecake and sauce covered in refrigerator. Leftover sauce can be served over ice cream or pound cake. :-)

Just a little side note: If you, perchance, accidentally buy milk chocolate chips instead of semisweet, just reduce the sugar to 1/2 cup. You can also use the milk chocolate in the sauce, it will just be sweeter than usual. Still yummy. Not that I, uh, speak from experience or anything. Because of course I would never do anything like that.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hashbrown Casserole

Casseroles tend to be some of the ugliest foods you can possibly make. Seriously, I don't think I've ever had a truly photogenic casserole. That said, this is one of the tastiest unphotogenic casseroles I've ever eaten.

This is one of the recipes that my mom would make when I was growing up. Actually, that's technically not entirely true - she first made it when I was a teenager. But I still had a bit of growing up to do at that point so I guess I can still say that. Anyway, no matter how long it's been since the first time I tried it, I still very much love it every time I eat it! It's a rich, fattening casserole that is full of comfort food goodness. Yummy potatoes baked with a tangy, cheesy, creamy sauce - yum! I made it tonight because it's a pregnancy craving I've been feeling for at least a week. Had to have it.

The recipe calls for frozen hashbrowns, but you can also use tater tots or other form of frozen potato food.

Hashbrown Casserole
2 lb. frozen hashbrowns
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) margarine, melted
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
16 oz. sour cream
1 lb. shredded cheese
1 lb. ground sausage or hamburger, cooked (having an aversion to ground beef lately, I skipped this)

Spread hashbrowns in bottom of 9x13 pan. Sprinkle with cooked meat. Mix soup, cheese, margarine, salt, and pepper. Pour over hashbrowns. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. You can sprinkle additional cheese on top.

This time I only made a half recipe; the full thing is a bit large for our little family, plus I only had enough sour cream for half. I didn't have frozen hashbrowns (we rarely buy them), so I microwave-baked one pound of fresh potatoes (3-4 medium) and diced them up. Since the potatoes were already fully cooked and I was only using an 8-inch baking pan, I was able to get away with cooking the casserole for only half an hour. I also skipped the additional cheese on top. Prepared this way, the casserole was even cheaper than usual. But still just as delicious!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Taste & Create - Magic in the Middles

This month's Taste and Create dish is so delicious! My partner for Taste and Create was Natalie of What's for Supper? I had a fun time perusing through her blog looking at all her delicious recipes. She has lots of fabulous looking desserts especially. There are several recipes that I found on her blog that I would like to make (such as Jewel Roasted Vegetables which she and her husband didn't enjoy but had me totally drooling).

The recipe I chose was Magic in the Middles, fun-looking chocolate cookies with a peanut butter surprise inside. Zaylee and I tied on our aprons and baked these up this afternoon. She enjoyed helping Mommy by stirring the dry ingredients, and helping to flatten the cookies with a glass. She especially enjoyed repeatedly sampling the peanut butter filling and the finished cookies!

Magic in the Middles
1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I snuck in a half cup of whole wheat flour)
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ cup granulated sugar (plus extra for dipping)
½ cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup smooth peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg

¾ cup smooth peanut butter
¾ cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

Prepare dough: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In another medium bowl, beat together sugars, butter, and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg, beating to combine, then stir in dry ingredients, blending well.

Prepare filling: In a small bowl, stir together peanut butter and powdered sugar until smooth. With floured hands, roll the filling into 26 one-inch balls (I skipped this step, and just spooned in the filling in the next step. In hindsight, it would have been easier to shape the cookies with balls of filling instead of spoonfuls, so don't skip this step).

Shape cookies: Break off about 1 Tbsp. of the dough, make an indentation in the center with your finger, and press one of the peanut butter balls into the indentation. Bring the dough up and over the filling, pressing it closed; roll the cookie in the palms of your hand to smooth it out. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Dip the top of each cookie in granulated sugar and place on prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Grease the bottom of a drinking glass and use it to flatten each cookie to about ½-inch-thick (Due to overeager helping, some of the peanut butter squished out the sides of some of the cookies. Merely an aesthetic issue - they still tasted great).

Bake cookies for 7 to 9 minutes, until they're set. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack (I discovered that mine worked better when I let them sit on the baking sheet for a couple minutes before removing to a rack. They were too soft at first and needed to harden a bit).

Yield: About 26 cookies (Mine made 33 with more peanut butter filling left over)

All in all, I was very pleased with having chosen this recipe. These delicious cookies are lightly crispy on the outside edges, and soft and chewy inside. The chocolate and peanut butter flavors complement each other very well, neither overpowers the other. Super delicious cookies! They were quite a bit more work than I tend to go for in cookies, but it was lots of fun with Zaylee to help me.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fluffy Lime Pie

Curses, foiled again! Every time I decide I'm ready to make that cheesecake, Jeff goes and makes a different dessert item. I don't want too many sweets around the apartment at a time, so no cheesecake today. Pout.

That being said, this pie was fantastic! We've already eaten the whole thing, having only started eating it this afternoon after lunch. Rancho Market had limes on sale for super cheap (10 cents each, I think) this week, so we bought several. Jeff juiced a couple last night to make this fluffy, light, deliciously citrusy pie.

Fluffy Lime Pie
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup lime juice (or substitute lemon juice for lemon pie)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
Dash salt
2 drops green food color (optional, or use yellow for lemon)
2 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup water
2 eggs, divided
1/4 cup sugar

Combine 3/4 cup water, lime juice, 1/2 cup sugar, butter, salt, and food color in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Mix together cornstarch and 1/4 cup water; stir into the boiling mixture and cook for 2 minutes.

Beat egg yolks. Stir small amount of hot mixture into the beaten egg yolks. Add this to the balance of the boiling mixture. Remove immediately from the stove.

Beat egg whites until stiff. Blend 1/4 cup sugar into the egg white. Fold the hot filling into the beaten egg white and sugar mixture.

When cooled, pour into a pie shell (either a baked pastry shell or a graham cracker crust). If desired, top with whipped topping or meringue.

Jeff says he made the crust all messy like that on purpose. It does look pretty fun, doesn't it?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Simple, Tasty Toffee

You know, it's one thing to crave cheesecake and decide that I'm going to make it as soon as humanly possible. It's another to actually get up and make it, lol! Haven't made it yet, but I will soon.

In the meantime, Jeff took it into his own hands to make a delicious chocolaty treat. This is our absolutely favorite toffee recipe. It's easy, and turns out fabulous every time. You don't even need a candy thermometer. I think we've only had it fail once, and that was because Jeff used the wrong ingredients (though I'm not sure how, they're pretty simple ingredients). It ends up nice and crunchy, with a wonderful caramelized-sugar flavor. Yum!

We originally got this recipe from The Tightwad Gazette.

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Butter an 8-inch square pan. Spread the chopped walnuts in the pan.

Heat the butter or margarine and sugar, and boil over medium heat in a 1-quart saucepan, stirring constantly. Do this until the mixture darkens and just begins to smoke, about 7 minutes (you've really got to pay attention. Let it go too long and it starts to burn). Immediately pour the mixture over the walnuts.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the hot mixture, and put a cookie sheet over the top to hold in the heat so that it melts the chips. Spread the chocolate with a knife. If desired, sprinkle ground walnuts on the melted chocolate.

Score into 1 1/2-inch squares while still warm (we usually skip this step, and end up with unevenly shaped toffee). Refrigerate. Break into squares when cool.

This time, Jeff found the ground walnuts that I was going to use for the cheesecake's crust and put them on top of the toffee before adding the chocolate chips (grrrrr....). He made up for his folly by immediately buying more walnuts for the cheesecake. Good man.

Showing the lovely caramel color of the toffee, yummy!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Seriously Craving...

Last night I dreamed about cheesecake. Not just any cheesecake - Hot Fudge Cheesecake. It's a recipe that I've made one time before, long before I started my blog. A fudgy chocolate cheesecake baked in a saltine-and-walnut crust, served with a rich hot fudge sauce. Pure decadence, I tell you! I dreamed that I was making sure I had all the ingredients, and I was looking at the picture on the recipe and seriously longing for this cheesecake. In my dream I knew it was just a dream, and I knew that as soon as I woke up I would be looking up the recipe to make sure that I could make it!

Now I'm craving it. I checked and we have all the ingredients except enough chocolate chips. And you can bet your boots that as soon as we buy more chocolate chips, I'll be making that super incredible cheesecake and posting it up here! We're doing our grocery shopping tomorrow, so it won't be long. :-)

Also craving - pickled beets and eggs. Gonna buy beets too and I'll make that and post it.

Oh, I'm so excited about fulfilling these super delicious cravings!!! Isn't pregnancy fun?

p.s. Got to hear the baby's heartbeat today. So exciting, teehee! I think that put me in a good mood, because reading through this post I think I sound positively giddy.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cream of Broccoli Soup

I used a recipe for Basic Cream of Vegetable Soup to make this warm and comforting dinner. After all the dips, spread, crackers, and chips at the church social this afternoon, I really needed something simple, healthy, and sort of "homespun" this evening. I liked this soup a lot (as did Thomas, he's busy scarfing down his third serving right now). I find it superior to the canned variety of cream soup - it's more flavorful and healthier. There's more calcium and other nutrients, and less sodium. All around good stuff.

Creamy Broccoli Soup with Cheese
1 cup frozen broccoli
1/2 small onion, diced
3 cups milk
1 tsp. bouillon, optional
2 tbsp. flour
1 cup shredded cheese

Combine broccoli, onion, milk, and bouillon in saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until broccoli is tender, stirring frequently. This took me about 40 minutes. You don't want to cook the broccoli quickly because the milk will scald and that changes the texture.

Once the broccoli is tender, you can either blend it for a smooth soup or mash it with a potato masher for a chunkier soup. Since my blender is dirty and I don't have an immersion blender (someday, sigh), I decided that I would definitely prefer a chunky soup today!

Gradually whisk in flour and cheese. Return to heat and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, until the soup is thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

To make this with other vegetables, simply substitute other veggie of choice for the broccoli. You can use peas, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, corn, celery, potatoes, etc. The cheese is optional. I can't wait to try a cream of potato soup, yum!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Jalapeno Bacon Cheese Ball

I made this to take to a "Linger Longer" at our church on Sunday. Once a month, people sign up to bring edibles and we stick around after church and eat. There is a different theme every month. Once it was sweet breads; I brought banana bread. One month it was soups, and I made a delicious turkey vegetable soup. This month everyone was supposed to bring something to be eaten with chips or crackers. I thought about doing salsa or some sort of dip for tortilla chips. But I figured that lots of people would take that route, and decided to do a cheese ball instead. I made it similar to my jalapeno popper spread that I've made before, because I just totally love the flavor of jalapeno poppers!

This is actually the first cheese ball I've made. I love cheese balls, and they're one of the first things I go to at a party if there's one being served. I didn't use a recipe, I just made one up and I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. Sauteing the jalapenos got rid of the spiciness, and there is plenty of bacon and cheese flavor. Yum!

Jalapeno Bacon Cheese Ball
2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
6 slices bacon
2-3 jalapenos, seeded and diced
Salt, garlic powder, chili powder to taste
Something to roll the ball in (I considered using bread crumbs, but decided on chopped walnuts)

Fry up the bacon until it's crispy. Crumble and add to cream cheese. Fry jalapenos in bacon grease until tender. Add to cream cheese and bacon. Add shredded cheese and seasonings. Mix together with fork (or your hands, teehee!) until well blended.

Form into a loose ball, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and chill.

Once hardened, take it out and pat it into a more perfect ball shape. Don't handle it too much or it will soften and you'll have to chill it again. Pour chopped nuts (or coating of choice) onto a plate, and roll the cheese ball in them until fully coated (This step was harder than it sounds. The nuts kept falling off. Just be persistent and keep pressing them into place). Wrap with plastic wrap. Chill until ready to serve (preferably overnight so the flavors have plenty of time to blend). Serve with crackers.

Isn't it pretty? Not bad for my first cheese ball!

If you want the cheese ball to be spicy, don't fry the jalapenos - add them raw. If you want it really spicy, you can even add more jalapenos. I wasn't sure how many people at church would appreciate a cheese ball that was super spicy, so I made sure to make it mild enough for everyone to enjoy.

Well, everyone except Jeff. He's in the process of being tested for food allergies, due to some very bad reactions he's been having. On the list are bacon and sausage and their various possible ingredients, and jalapenos. What terrible things to develop allergies to! So he won't be able to enjoy this particular cheese ball, but I'm sure there will be plenty of other things for him to eat tomorrow.

I mean, allergic to bacon? How unfair can life get?!

***Update*** Everyone loved the cheese ball! By the end of the Linger Longer, the entire ball had been eaten. Now that's what I like to see!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cookie Dough for Preggies!

I was craving cookie dough today. Not really cookies, but just the cookie dough. Of course, I knew that I wasn't supposed to eat dough with raw eggs in it, so I lucked out when I found this recipe for cookie dough for ice cream. It didn't have all the extra ingredients that are important when you're going to cook the dough, stuff like baking soda. And it was eggless, and super simple to make. I made a few adjustments based on the reviews (and doubled it in the process), and am pretty pleased with the results. I'm excited that I have a bowl of this stuff in the fridge just waiting to be snacked on throughout the day. :-)

Eggless Cookie Dough
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup milk
1 cup flour
Pinch salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, mix together the brown sugar and butter until smooth. Stir in vanilla and milk. Mix in the flour, salt, and chocolate chips until well blended. Chill in the refrigerator.

It's a bit wet right at first, chilling helps it to harden and get a better texture. If you like frozen cookie dough, shape the dough into balls and freeze on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. After a few hours, remove the dough and store it in the freezer in a ziploc bag. But I was too impatient for that. ;-)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

My Kitchen My World - Mexico

After a long absence from MKMW, I was eager to jump back on the wagon and participate this month. My Kitchen My World has changed around a little bit since the last time I participated. Now there are two countries each month, and recipes are posted on the second and fourth Saturday. The first country for May is Mexico, in honor of Cinco de Mayo - I knew I could do this one, because I love Mexican foods!

I have this great cookbook, the Better Homes and Gardens Mexican Cookbook, published 1977. It was my source for all the recipes in this post.

All I had to do was flip through the book and pick a few delicious-looking recipes. We have a plato mayor (main dish), sopa (soup), and postre (dessert).

Since I'm pregnant, we didn't do this whole menu all at once - we spread out the dishes over several days. If I were to try eating all this in one sitting, I would end up with a very upset tummy that would plague me for hours! Not to mention trying to plan and cook it all at once is just more than I could manage, even with Jeff doing a majority of the work. Doing each dish separately ended up being a great idea because we could enjoy and savor each individual recipe on its own, instead of having one big marathon meal where no one individual dish stood out. Also, it was like we got to celebrate Cinco de Mayo all week long! It worked out great!

The entree for our Mexican menu was an absolutely fabulous dish called Pollo Aguascalientes, or Chicken Aguascalientes-Style. Aguascalientes ("hot waters") is a region of Mexico located northwest of Mexico City. It is so named because of the abundance of hot springs in the area. Based on this dish, I would say that they have a pretty good handle on making good food - this was absolutely fantastic! I loved loved loved! the combination of flavors in this chicken and we will definitely be making this again and again.

Pollo Aguascalientes
2 1/2- to 3-pound broiler-fryer chicken, cut up (instead of buying a whole chicken, we used what we had available - two thighs and three drumsticks)
2 tbsp. cooking oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped (I skipped the peeling and seeding and it worked fine)
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. cornstarch

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. In 12-inch skillet brown chicken in cooking oil about 15 minutes. Add onion and garlic, cook 5 minutes more. Add tomatoes, lemon juice, sugar, salt, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, and 1/2 cup water. Cover; simmer 30-35 minutes or till chicken is tender and cooked through.

Remove chicken to platter; keep warm. Measure pan juices; add water to make 2 cups. Return to skillet. Combine cornstarch and 2 tbsp. cold water; add to skillet. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly.

Spoon some sauce over chicken; pass remainder. Traditionally served with shredded lettuce, jalapeno peppers, fried potatoes (slice a potato or two, and fry in butter), and chorizo (we skipped the chorizo). Makes 4 servings.

This chicken dish, though supremely delicious, was a lot of work, so next time I really want to try cooking it in the slow cooker. I think the recipe will convert to slow cooker really easily. Just add the ingredients into the cooker all at once, then cook until the chicken is done. When we do it that way, I'll post how it goes.

The soup we chose to make was a deliciously simple Sopa Ranchera, or Ranch-Style Soup. With basic ingredients and easy instructions, the soup was quick and easy to make, and very delicious. This is another one that I wouldn't hesitate to make again.

Sopa Ranchera
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tbsp. cooking oil
4 cups chicken broth (we used turkey broth from a turkey we roasted up a while ago)
1/4 cup long grain rice
1/4 cup tomato puree
1/4 tsp. salt
Dash pepper
1 cup frozen peas

In saucepan cook onion in hot oil till tender but not brown. Stir in chicken broth, rice, tomato puree, salt, and pepper. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 25 minutes. Stir in frozen peas; simmer, covered, 5 minutes longer. Makes 4 servings.

Dessert was absolutely delicious. I decided to make the same thing that we did for Cinco de Mayo last year - Leche Quemada, or Caramel Milk Pudding. It's basically sweetened condensed milk that's baked until it's browned and set - super rich and super delicious, it ends up similar to caramel. Last time I baked this in individual ramekins, but this time I poured it all in one pan, and we served it with fresh fruit and whipped topping.

My bowl, nice and pretty

Leche Quemada con Frutas
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 mango, sliced
1 banana, sliced
1 apple, sliced
Frozen whipped topping, thawed (or I guess you could do real whipped cream if you wanted)

Pour milk into an 8-inch square baking dish; cover with foil. Place in shallow pan; pour boiling water around it to a depth of 3/4 inch. Bake in 425-degree oven for 1 hour. Serve warm or cold over sliced fruit, top with whipped topping. Serves 4 to 5. We did one serving over mango and banana, then wanted more so did another serving over apple. It tasted like caramel apple! But we only took pictures of the mango/banana bowls.

Jeff's bowl, lots more whipped topping!

There will be a round-up of all the other Mexican menus at My Kitchen My World. I'm excited to see what everyone else made! Buen provecho!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

I woke up this morning and didn't want eggs for breakfast. Cereal sounded good, but I was a bit disappointed to find the empty milk gallon sitting forlornly on the table - Jeff and the kids finished off the milk last night. So no cereal.

So I pulled out this old recipe that I've made several times, a recipe for a cornbread-like coffee cake. I haven't made it in quite a while (not since last March!), so I feel like we were due to have it again. Last time I made it with coconut in the topping, but this time I added chocolate chips instead for a special treat.

Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
1/4 cup chocolate chips

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk (1/3 cup dry milk and 1 cup water)
1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted shortening
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

For topping, combine brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter; set aside.

For batter, sift together corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt (I didn't sift, I just stirred it with a fork). Add milk, oil, and egg; stir only until dry ingredients are moistened.

Pour 1/2 of the batter into prepared baking pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 of cinnamon topping. Sprinkle chocolate chips over topping. Top with remaining batter and sprinkle with remaining topping.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Let sit for about five minutes. Serve warm.

This time, both layers of topping ended up sinking down to the bottom. I think that not using coconut made the topping more clumpy and less crumbly, so it didn't sit on top of the dough like it usually does. So maybe it would be a good idea to use only 2 tablespoons of butter instead of 3, if making this without the coconut.

By the way, to make this with coconut - add 2/3 cup coconut to the cinnamon topping. Or you can use 2/3 cup raisins, or 2/3 cup chopped nuts. We usually do it with coconut because we really like it, but didn't have coconut today.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jalapenos and Cactuses!

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, we made some delicious Jalapeno Poppers (not so authentic Mexican) and Ensalada de Nopal, a cactus salad (about as authentic Mexican as they come). Both the jalapenos and the nopales were purchased at our favorite Mexican store, Rancho Market. And bother were super cheap and super delicious!

This recipe for jalapeno poppers comes from my Taste of Home Cookbook. We've made them a couple times, and love them so much! These are very flavorful, and so much better than the kind in the frozen food section. I made a half recipe, because these are best right out of the oven. If we want more, we'll just make more fresh. And since I've been craving them ever since we finished eating them, we probably will make some more later. :-)

Jalapeno Poppers
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
6 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled(I substituted imitation bacon bits, since that's what we had)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1 pound fresh jalapenos, halved lengthwise and seeded
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
Sour cream, onion dip, or ranch dressing, if desired

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cheeses, bacon, and seasonings; mix well. Spoon about 2 tablespoonfuls into each pepper half. Roll in bread crumbs.

Place in a greased baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 300 degrees for 20 minutes for spicy flavor, 30 minutes for medium, and 40 minutes for mild. Serve with sour cream, dip, or dressing if desired (they're really good with or without this extra stuff).

I cooked them for 35 minutes today, because I wasn't in the mood for pain in my mouth - I just wanted the flavor. Other times we've done them spicier. They're delicious either way.

As for the Ensalada de Nopal, this was our very first time ever working with nopales, or cactus. Having never done anything with these before, we decided to buy them first and ask questions later. So today I googled "how to prepare nopales" and found this wonderful page, complete with tutorial and photos to help us in our journey. So following the steps outlined there, we plopped our cactus paddles down on a cutting board:

Sliced off the spines:

Cut it up into bite-sized chunks:

And boiled it up until it looked like mutated green beans. We were excited when our finished product looked just like the ones in the pictures we were referring to:

Then we used the guidelines given for making ensalada de nopal, omitting ingredients we didn't have. We ended up combining our boiled nopalitos with a chopped tomato and half of a thinly sliced white onion (a tip for reducing the bite in fresh onion - soak the slices in ice water for five to ten minutes before adding to the salad). We added a spoonful of canned green chilies (in place of the serrano chili), some salt and pepper, and a bit of vegetable oil and lemon juice. Mmm, doesn't it look good?

As for the taste, I found that I really liked this salad. The cactus was similar to green beans, but with a wilder, more cactusy flavor, more tangy. The texture was a bit different, but I didn't mind it. Jeff wasn't a fan of the salad until he added some sweet vinegar salad dressing we have, then he liked it a bit more.

All in all, it was a fun culinary adventure. I've been cooking a bit more often now, usually simple things like scrambled eggs, pancakes, boxed macaroni and cheese, stuff like that. But it does seem like I'm getting a bit of my kitchen mojo back, which is a wonderful thing to me!

Stay tuned for more wonderful Mexican recipes on Saturday, when I post for My Kitchen My World. We've got some really good stuff planned!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Forgotten Quiche

I was cruising through some of my old recipes, when I was reminded of a post that I was going to do but never got around to. We made this quite a while ago and I took pictures and everything, but it just never made it to the blog. So yippee, I have a recipe to post without having to do any work for it!

This is another universal recipe from the Tightwad Gazette - Universal Quiche. You can put just about anything in a quiche and have it taste good, as is evidenced by my offering here tonight - we made it with canned salmon and green beans and it was really good. So here you go - the recipe for Universal Quiche, quoted from Amy Dacyczyn's Tightwad Gazette. My additional comments are in italics and parentheses.

Universal Quiche

Crust. Use a standard pastry crust. Some recipes suggest prebaking this before filling to prevent sogginess. I don't. Instead, I prepare the crust, then prepare the various components of quiche, and then assemble the quiche all at once just before putting it on a lower shelf in my preheated oven. You can also make a rice crust using 2 cups of cooked rice, 1 1/2 ounces of grated cheese, and one egg. Combine the ingredients, pat into a Pam-sprayed pie tin, and prebake at 425 for 15 minutes or until just firm.

Eggs. Use 3 or 4.

Cheese. Most recipes call for 1 to 2 cups (4 to 8 ounces) of a grated hard cheese. I use about 1 cup. You can use Swiss, cheddar, feta*, Monterey Jack, or Gruyere*. Or use from 2 tablespoons to 1/2 cup of Parmesan or Romano. Or use a combination of these. Some softer cheeses, such as mozzarella and American, will not set up well (I have used mozzarella in combination with another cheese, like cheddar, with satisfactory results).

Milk or cream. Use 1 to 2 cups of milk, half and half, cream, evaporated milk, or powdered milk made with half the usual water. You may also use part sour cream, cottage cheese, or yogurt.

Filling. Use 1 to 2 cups of a combination of meats and/or vegetables. Meat possibilities include crisply fried and crumbled bacon, or pieces of crab*, lobster*, shrimp*, tuna, chicken or ham (and I can add salmon, having tried it and liked it). Use virtually any cooked or steamed vegetables, but squeeze out excess liquid. Don't be afraid to take risks. Once I made a sauerkraut quiche that was very tasty.

*Ha ha. Only if you have a free or cheap source of these items.

Seasoning. For a basic quiche, use up to 1 teaspoon of salt (bearing in mind the saltiness of the other ingredients), 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and a dash of nutmeg (I usually skip the nutmeg). If you're a bit more adventurous, experiment with other seasonings such as chives, Tabasco, tarragon, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, parsley, paprika, dill, garlic, onion powder, lemon juice, basil, and/or oregano.

To make the quiche: Prepare the crust in a 9-inch pie plate. Grate cheese and prepare the filling ingredients (saute, cook, chop, crumble, etc.) Beat eggs, milk, and seasonings together until just combined. Spread filling ingredients in crust, top this with grated cheese, and cover with egg/milk mixture. (If you've made too little egg/milk mixture, mix up slightly more. If you've made too much, toss the surplus in tomorrow morning's universal muffin recipe.) Bake for 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 425 degrees. Then turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until it's done. The quiche is done when it's golden brown and slightly puffed, and when a knife inserted comes out clean.

In a later article, Amy shares this recipe for a low-fat potato crust, which I used in my salmon and green bean quiche: In a 9-inch pie pan, stir together 3 tablespoons vegetable oil with 3 cups of coarsely shredded raw potato. Or you can spray Pam in the bottom of a pie pan and omit the additional oil. Press the grated potato into a pie-crust shape. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes or until just beginning to brown.

Sigh. It feels good to post a real recipe again. :-)

And now I'm craving salmon quiche.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Look, Look! A Recipe! (Well, sort of...)

Okay, this isn't so much a post about a recipe as it is a post to prove that I actually set foot in the kitchen today, for more than a drink of water or a tablet of anti-nausea medication!

I made these little treats for Zaylee and I after lunch (mac and cheese with a can of chili mixed in, Jeff made it because I don't cook anymore lately). So here you go, a recipe for one of the only foods I've actually prepared for what feels like a very long time.

Colorful S'mores
Graham crackers (I used cinnamon)
Colorful marshmallows

Place half of a graham cracker on a microwave-safe plate. Top with several colorful little marshmallows. Microwave for several seconds, until the marshmallows are puffed up. Remove from microwave and top with other half of cracker.

Ah, sweet gooey goodness!