"It's the company, not the cooking, that makes the meal!" ~Perilee 
(Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jill's Homemade Granola

We love this granola. You can add any dried fruit you want to it, we tend to eat it better when I leave it plain. My kids love this on top of their yogurt in the morning with diced fresh fruit or frozen berries. My mom kept saying she needed this recipe and I kept telling her it was on the blog. We love this recipe and make it so frequently that I seriously thought I had already posted it. Sorry mom! Here it is...

4 Cups Old-Fashion Oats
1 cup slivered almonds (1/2 cup almonds and 1/2 cup pecans is also good)
1/2 cup Sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of Salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 325. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. In a large bowl, stir together oats, almonds, coconut, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine oil, honey, and sugar. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Drizzle syrup over oat mixture. Pour granola onto prepared baking sheets and spread out evenly. Bake stirring occasionally until golden brown (about 25 minutes). Let granola cool completely on a wire rack. Break into chunks and store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Eclair Cake

Thank you Paula Deen! This is a 5 star dessert at our house! One of our smallest guest gave this 10, 000 stars! If that doesn't say GOODNESS I don't know what does.
I have had this before back when we lived in Connecticut, it was served at a young women's function, but my friend Angie. I don't know how this recipe compares to hers, but it is very similar in looks and taste.
We served it as a FHE treat and seconds were wanted by all our guest too. I have to admit it was so rich! I must also I downed a second helping like everyone else-- I had less guilt because I made it with Sugar-free pudding, and Cool Whip Free to cut down on calories and it is good thing I did! This was "TOOlicious" aka Delicious.
I have to say that I didn't plan for 24 hours in the fridge, so it got more like 4-5 hours and nobody seemed to care! THIS IS A MUST TRY RECIPE is you like pudding, chocolate, and don't forget the strawberry on top it was the perfect touch. Can't wait to have more company over so I can have the excuse to make this simple and easy dessert. A great find before the summer heat when no one in their right mind wants to turn on the oven to bake treats!

1 (1-pound) box graham crackers
2 (3 1/4-ounce) boxes instant French vanilla pudding
3 1/2 cups milk
1 (8-ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Butter the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch pan. Line with whole graham crackers. In bowl of an electric mixer, mix pudding with milk; beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Fold in whipped topping. Pour half the pudding mixture over graham crackers. Place another layer of whole graham crackers on top of pudding layer. Pour over remaining half of pudding mixture and cover with another layer of graham crackers.

For frosting, blend together sugar and cocoa. Add butter and milk, mixing well. Add corn syrup and vanilla. Stir until creamy. Cover cake with frosting and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Creamy Lemon Pasta and Chicken

I want to thank Kitchen Cafe for this unique dish. You can read her original comments and post and look under her main pasta dish label.

This recipe was pleasing to the adults because it is something you just don't expect when you see a dish of creamy pasta in front if you. Its strong lemon flavor is a refreshing flavor and perfect for spring and summer. I loved that it came together in close to a half and hour. I served it with Baker's Illistrated French Bread which is always a hit. (Should be it takes a good 24 hours to make it!) A fresh tossed salad is the perfect texture partner for this dish in my opinion and also adds the right splash of color to the plate.
If you are looking for something totally new and different to serve your family give this a whirl. I served 4 adults and 6 kids from 1 recipe, but we also had the bread and salad sides which helped it stretch further. The only thing I would like to do the next time around is try to make it with a lowfat milk or less cream to make it more waistline friendly. Enjoy!
Lemon and Garlic Grilled Chicken
As posted on my kitchen cafe:
The chicken marinates overnight in a combination of lemon and garlic and the resulting combination makes for an intensely flavorful, tender chicken that can be used in so many dishes (which I'll be posting about in the next couple of days) or served simply with a side of rice or a baked potato. As a sidenote: if you don't have a grill, simply use an indoor grill pan or you can cook the chicken in a frying pan over medium heat, being careful not to turn too often so it can brown nicely on each side.

Lemon and Garlic Grilled Chicken
Juice of 1 lemon, approximately 3 tablespoons
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic, about 2 medium cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 pound chicken breasts (I usually cut really thick chicken breasts down to thin them out and make the pieces a little smaller so they absorb the marinade better)

Combine all marinade ingredients. Place chicken in a ziploc bag and pour marinade over chicken. Seal bag and place in fridge overnight. Grill (or cook in frying pan). Serve with sides of your choice or cut into bite sized pieces and add to desired recipe (I'll be sharing a few with you soon). Note: If you cut your chicken into smaller, bite-sized pieces and then marinate it, you can get away with only letting it marinate for 5 or 6 hours instead of overnight.
Often, I will double the marinade and chicken and grill it all up and freeze the extras to use later.
This pasta was the second stellar application of the Lemon Garlic Chicken. I saw the recipe on Clouse Cousins Cookin' at the perfect time when I needed a recipe in which to use the rest of the chicken. It was fantastic! Creamy and light - it really hit the spot when I made it for dinner and the lemon garlic chicken was incredible paired with the chewy pasta and lemony cream sauce. Plus, I just love pasta dishes that cook the pasta in the main flavors of the recipe (in this case, the pasta cooks in chicken broth and lemon juice). I doubled the original recipe to feed our family and made a few small changes so my adapted recipe is below. This will definitely be a remake at our house!

Lemon Cream Pasta with Chicken
adapted from allrecipes.com via Clouse Cousins Cookin'

Serves 4-6

3 cups shredded or cubed Lemon Garlic Chicken
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 (16 ounce) package tube pasta (I used rigatoni)
2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

In a large saucepan, season the chicken broth with the garlic powder and pepper. Bring to a boil and add lemon juice and pasta. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until all liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes.

Stir chicken into cooked pasta, along with the cream, parmesan cheese and lemon zest. Cook, stirring, over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Stir thoroughly before serving.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Jillette Oatmeal- Chocolate Chip Cookies

I named these Jillette cookies because they are a combination of my friends Lynnette Best Ever Chocolate chip cookies, which we are all crazy about and my favorite Oatmeal with chocolate chips-not raisins (I don't love cooked raisins in baked goodies for some reason. An abonination to my dad! Sorry dad!! I loved them in Gorp or cooked, but not baked! Okay T.M.I.!!)

1 cup margarine
1/4 cup Unsalted Butter
1 1/4 cup (10oz) Brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons (8 oz) White sugar
2 Large eggs
2 teaspoons Vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups (14 ounces) all-purpose flour
4 cups (10 ounces) Regular Rolled Oats
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt OR 3/4 teaspoon table salt

1 1/2 to 2 cups Mini Chocolate Chips or 1 1/2 Regular Chocolate chips.
Toasted walnuts or pecans are great additions if you love nuts.

Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place on cookie sheet and bake until light golden brown but still soft. (I use my smallest cookie/ice cream scoop and cook them 9-10 minutes) The cookies will still look moist when you take them out; don't be tempted to leave them in a minute longer this will insure that they stay nice and soft! Let cookies rest on cookie sheet for only 1 or 2 minutes.

If you are like us you don't need to worry about dirtying a cooling rack -hot cookies seem to disappear into thin air. Best enjoyed with a tall glass of cold milk and good company.

Notes on the recipe: Milk or dark chocolate? You decide. Use half milk and half dark, if it makes everyone happy. The draw back for milk chocolate lovers is that mini morsels (chips, M&M's etc. only come in dark) *These cookies always taste better if you freeze the dough first and cook them from the frozen state – just add a couple of minutes to the baking time. The dough keeps well for about a month in the freezer-If it last that long. Just form into balls before freezing. I generally scooping them out on top of a wax paper lined cookie sheet, freeze them, once frozen I toss them all into a big gallon freezer bag. This come in handy when you have to take a meal into someone last minute. I simply remove the frozen dough balls in the desired amount to another back and deliver with the hot meal and baking instructions so they can eat them HOT! The BEST way to eat a cookie.

Broccoli Salad

This is a great little salad that comes together quick.

4-6 cups Broccoli, cut into bite size pieces
4 Green Onions-whites and greens, finely chopped
2 ribs Celery, chopped finely
2 cups Red grapes (or a combination of red and green), cut in half
1/2 lb bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled. (I have also used diced Ham we've had left over)
1 cup slivered almonds toasted (I have also used 1/2 cup sunflower seeds)

1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon White Vinegar or Cider Vinegar

Toss together salad ingredients except almonds (can be made night before). Add almonds and dressing just before serving.

* The dressing seems to drain to the bottom. I would recommend using only 1/2 to 3/4 cup for starters. I like my salads crisp, and the dressing seems to make it turn soggy after a while. "Less is more" for me here.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Chocolate-Strawberry Panini

We served this to some friends we had in for dinner and it was a big hit!! Mike (our trusty taste tester) suggest that it needed whipping cream. I just happened to have some thawed cool whip in the fridge so we tried it out. Mike was right the cream added the right sweetness to it, but more than that it was the cool and hot temperatures that made it complete (just like warm apple pie topped with a scoop of ice cream). Hope you get to sink your teeth in to this great dessert. Bon Appetite

Recipe is courtesy Giada De Laurentiis via the Food Network
1/4 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread (recommended: Nutella)
12 (1/2-inch slices pound cake (from 1 )10.75-ounce) loaf (* I use Costco's pound cake. It's great!)
6 fresh strawberries, hulled and very thinly sliced
Butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray ( I just used a small amount of butter)

Heat a panini grill to medium according to the manufacturer's instructions. Spread the chocolate-hazelnut spread over 1 side of all of the pound cake slices. Arrange the sliced strawberries over 6 cake slices. Cover with the remaining cake slices, chocolate side down. Spray panini grill with nonstick spray and grill each panino until the pound cake is crisp ad golden and the fillings are warm, about 2 minutes. Cut each panino in half and serve.

(If you don't have a a panini grill toast it like you would a grilled cheese sandwich and I think it would work fine.)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Black Beans and Rice

We like black beans and rice around our house and I like to serve it so we have a good vegetarian dish from time to time. I usually make the same old recipe every time, so I thought I would give this one a try to mix it up. It was good, but not a 5 star for my family, but I think we will make it again just to have a variety. It comes together nice and quick.

From February 2005 Real Simple magazine or www.myrecipes.com
Yield:Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups long-grain rice
1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 large green or red pepper, chopped (1 ½ cups)
2 medium cloves garlic, minced (1 tablespoon)
2 15-ounce cans black beans, undrained
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup sliced scallions (optional)
In a medium saucepan, combine 4 cups of water with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1 ½ teaspoons of the olive oil. Bring to a boil. Stir in the rice, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender.

In a large saucepan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion, green or red pepper, and garlic until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the beans, broth, vinegar, bay leaves, black pepper, cumin, and remaining salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes; remove the bay leaves. Spoon the beans over the rice and sprinkle with the scallions, if desired. Serve warm.

Tip: For a quick black bean soup, follow this recipe. Then remove the bay leaves and process the mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth. Instead of serving it with rice, spoon a dollop of sour cream onto each serving and sprinkle with sliced scallions.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Oreo Banana Bread-Picky Palate

My kids loved this and we thought it was tasty. I had a hard time getting it out of my little loaf man (like a muffin tin), but in a small loaf pan it wasn't as much of a problem. I opted not to use the glaze and we enjoyed it all the same. I asked Jack his honest opinion of it and he said, "I thought when you told me it had oreo's in it that it was going to be SO GOOD, but it was just okay and it probably isn't worth the calories." YIKES am I rubbing off on my husband!? Since when did men start worrying about the total number of calories in comparison to how things taste! I thought it was good. I like that the chocolate was just enough and didn't overpower the banana bread flavor itself. If you haven't checked out the Picky-Palate you might find it to be a fun experience. This gal is creative and I love her writing style when she post.

Cookies and Cream Banana Bread from Picky-Palate

1 1/2 sticks butter
1 Cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
4 medium size ripe bananas (or 3 Large bananas)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
15 Oreo cookies, broken into pieces

1 Cup powdered sugar
2-3 Tablespoons heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a stand or electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until well combined. Slowly beat in egg, bananas and vanilla until combined. Place flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a large bowl. Slowly add to wet ingredients. Stir in Oreos until just combined.

2. Scoop dough into 16 very mini loaf pans or 2 bread pans that have been sprayed with cooking spray. Muffin tins would work great too. Bake for 28-35 minutes if you are using the mini pan or 45-55 minutes for the normal bread pan. Toothpick comes clean from center.

3. Whisk powdered sugar and cream in a medium bowl until a nice drizzling consistency is reached. Drizzle over top of each bread and serve. Makes 16 mini loaves or 2 full loaves.