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

Friday, October 23, 2009

Jill's Minestrone Soup

I made this soup back in June and I am now just getting around to posting it. I know soup in June sounds awful, but it was good and I was trying to find ways to use up my homemade stewed tomatoes and some of our garden fresh green beans and zucchini. Now it is soup weather, so it just might make the menu again soon. This soup is adapted from a recipe I found on familyfun.com

Minestrone Soup
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, sliced
3 onions, sliced
3-5 carrots, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced, diced, or cubed (personal preference)
1/2 lb green beans, 1-inch pieces
1/2 head cabbage, shredded (cheat and buy it already done!)
1 (16 oz) can tomatoes, or 1 cup tomato sauce, or 1 quart HOMEMADE Stewed Tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
1 can white beans of choice (or 2 cups cooked)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup elbow macaroni
Grated Parmesan Cheese

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the garlic, onions, carrots, zucchini, green beans, and cabbage. Do it one by one as you chop them. Stir to coat the vegetables with oil and cook 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes or sauce, chicken broth, and water to the pot, breaking up the tomatoes as you do so. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer partially covered for at least 30 minutes. Add the white beans and simmer 10 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper (to taste).

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water. When you are ready to serve the soup, put a spoonful of the macaroni in each bowl and spoon the soup over it. Sprinkle with grated cheese.

*Freeze the remaining soup with macaroni separately!

Praline-Apple Bread (Southern Living)

**Picture coming soon (Have the picture; need to find the disk!)

As promised I'm sharing the recipe I tried for Apple Bread. I personally didn't give this a 5 star, but many of the friends I shared it will loved it and asked me for the recipe. I thought it would be sweeter, more like a Banana Bread or Zucchini Bread. One friend suggested it might be that the apples I used might not have been as ripe or juicy as another variety. (I can't tell you what variety it was because they were off my sister-in-laws tree and they don't know what kind there are-came with the house;-) ) Give it a shot and if you have suggestions and thoughts on how to improve this bread, please share! Maybe I should have tried the Granny's!

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, divided (I cut cost here and only used 3/4- 1 cup)
1 (8 oz) container sour cream
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups finely chopped, peel Granny Smith apples (about 3/4 lb)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Bake 1/2 cup pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 6 to 8 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring after 4 minutes.

Beat sour cream and next 3 ingredients at low speed with an electric mixer 2 minutes or until blended. Stir together flour and next 3 ingredients. Add to sour cream mixture beating just until blended. Stir in apples and 1/2 cup toasted pecans. Spoon batter into greased and floured 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup chopped pecans; lightly press pecans into batter.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour to 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted comes out clean, shielding with aluminum foil after 50 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack.

Bring butter and brown sugar to a boil in a 1 quart heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stirring constantly; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat, and spoon over top of bread; let cool completely (about 1 hour).

Note: To freeze bread, cool completely; wrap in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil. Freeze up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature.

Southern Living Magazine September 2009 P. 120

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tex-Mex Beef Wraps

This crock-pot keeper came to me via e-mail one of my recipe newsletters. I printed it off and added it to the "to try" pile during the summer, but now that I have a chance to blog it I can't give the source-sorry about that! We enjoy the simplicity of using our crock-pot in many ways-easy meals and easy clean up are the top to reasons. As of late we have tried many different Mexican flavored meats in the crock-pot so I will try to spread them out in the postings. If you are looking for a quick toss it in the pot this one is for you. Takes 10 minutes tops.

Tex-Mex Beef Wraps
1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 boneless beef chuck pot roast (2 1/2 to 3 lbs), cut into 4 pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup salsa, divided (I used my homemade salsa and added nearly 2 cups)
12 (6 or 7-inch) Tortilla corn or flour, warmed
1 cup shredded cheddar of Monterey Jack Cheese
1 cup chopped tomato
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 ripe avocado, diced

Blend chili powder, cumin, salt and red pepper. Rub meat all over with spice mixture. Place onion and garlic in bottom of 4 1/2 quart crock-pot; top with meat. Spoon 1/2 cup (1 cup homemade) salsa over meat. Cover and cook on low 8 to 9 hours or on High 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours.

Remove meat from crock-pot; place on plate and use to forks to shred meat. Skim off and discard fat from cooking liquid; return meat to juices and mix well. Adjust seasonings. Place meat on warm tortillas; top with cheese, tomato, cilantro, and avocado. Roll up and enjoy!

We served with remaining salsa, sour cream, and a Mexican Lime Rice which I hope to post soon.

Quick and Easy Shrimp Tempura

Jack has been craving fried shrimp lately, so when I asked him, "What do you want for dinner tonight?" He replied, "I really want fried shrimp!" I grabbed the shrimp out of the freezer and did a quick search on Food Network. Our Disney Family Cookbook had a recipe for Vegetable Tempura that we loved, so I knew I could use it if I needed to (I just don't enjoy the fried splattered kitchen that comes with preparing fried foods without a deep fryer). When comparing the recipes they were quite different in the ratios of flour, cornstarch, and baking powder. So I guess I will have to post the vegetable tempura recipe at a later time. I was pleased with how quickly this tempura came together and Jack was pleased with the meal, so it was a win/win situation.

Shrimp Tempura
Soak the Shrimp in a Brine for 20 minutes
The recipe I printed called for 1/2 cup rice wine (which I didn't have on hand and probably don't have readily available to me at the local grocery store) and 1/4 teaspoon salt. For 1/2 pound fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined.

1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 lb frozen, peeled and deveined Shrimp thawed.
Brine under refrigeration

For the Tempura Batter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup ice water
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

In a medium bowl, mix together all the batter ingredients. Dip shrimp into the flour mixture until coated with flour mixture (2-3 at a time works). Carefully place a few shrimp at a time in the hot oil (375 F Degrees) and deep fry until golden brown on all sides, about 1 1/2 minutes total. (I usually watch for the shrimp to start turning pink and then flip them to cook the other side. I more or less pan fry mine, because I don't want to waste so much oil just to fry food. If you have a deep fryer, let it do its thing! ;-)) Remove the shrimp when cooked to a plate lined with paper towels.

You can serve it with extra soy sauce, duck sauce, or any other favorite oriental sauces.

Spooky Jell-O

This fun little Jell-O was my sister-in-laws idea. She brought the Jell-O to our Sunday dinner. It was grape flavor with whole pears in it. I didn't think anything of it when her daughter brought it in and sat it on the counter. When Echo arrived she asked if I liked the Halloween Jell-O. She then informed me the pears reminded her of skulls. I said they need eyes, so we added mini chocolate chips for kicks. Then everyone that passed it said those are cute ghost! Oh well, skulls or ghost it is all in fun and spooky! I was surprised that the grape flavor with the pear was actually okay together. I just had to post it! Use Echo's creative idea to make a fun Halloween Jell-O! The kids will love it!

German Pancakes

My mom used to make these often when I was growing up. I make them a few times a year and my boys love them. We have always called them "German Pancakes". I have also heard them called "Puffy Pancakes". They are very similar to "pop over bread" We eat them as a breakfast food. I know my brother-in-laws family eats it as a bread for dinner. Take your pick and enjoy.

6 eggs (9 eggs)
1 cup milk (1 1/2 cups)
5 Tablespoons butter or margarine (8 Tablespoons)
1 cup flour (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon salt (same)

Preheat oven to 450 F degrees. Whip eggs until thick and lemon colored in a blender. Add milk, flour, and salt. Blend until smooth. Melt butter in a 9 x 13 pan (amounts in parenthesis are for a 9.5 x 13.5 Pyrex glass dish). Pour butter into pan 9 x 13 with melted butter. Bake 15 to 20 minutes. Be sure that center has the same firmness as the edges.

Serve with syrup of choice (we like maple) or powdered sugar.

Pumpkin Spice Magic Bars Mini's (Picky Palate)

So this fun little treat is a recipe I got from Picky Palate. I have always loved the Magic Bars (recipe on back of Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk) Jenny-Picky Palate blogger kicked it up a notch by adding pumpkin to them. It is a fun variation. Mine never turn out as pretty as hers (guess I need to put the William Sonoma mini-cheesecake pan on my wish list!). I used muffin tins and mini muffin tins (Wish I would have taken a picture of the bite size morsels they were a hit.) I did double the batch and got 12 regular and 24 mini's using regular muffin pans. I didn't drizzle it with the extra carmel, but it is a fun touch.

1/4 Cup melted butter

3/4 Cup graham cracker crumbs

2 oz softened cream cheese

3/4 Cup pumpkin puree, Libby’s

3 Tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 Cup chocolate chips

1/2 Cup coarsely chopped cashews

3/4 Cup sweetened shredded coconut

1/2 Cup sweetened condensed milk

Caramel ice cream topping to drizzle (or make your own if you’d rather)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place melted butter and graham cracker crumbs into a bowl; mix to combine. Press into the bottom of mini cheesecake cups. Bake for 8 minutes then remove from oven.

2. In a bowl beat the pumpkin, softened cream cheese, sugar and cinnamon until smooth. Spoon evenly over each graham cracker crust, about 2 small spoonfuls. Next layer chocolate chips evenly over pumpkin layer following with cashews, coconut and condensed milk. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until top is golden brown. Remove and let cool. *Before bars completely cool, take a plastic knife and run around edges to loosen. It becomes very sticky and difficult to remove from the cups if you do not loosen.

3. Once cooled, carefully remove from cups and arrange onto serving tray. Drizzle with warm caramel and serve.

Monday, October 19, 2009

As Simple as a Sandwich Can Get

This tasty grilled sandwich really hit the spot! Talk about simple! I used the left over Peasant Bread from the night before. (I have started dividing each batch in to 6-smaller rolls which works perfect!) We sliced some of our favorite cheese and added meat of choice which happened to be Hickory Smoked Turkey; toasted it in a little pan and added a little side salad. Meal in 10 minutes or less. I need to do this quick meal more frequently!!