Friday, July 30, 2010

Project 365: Apr 1-30

It's here!  The April edition of my Project 365.  And I'm doing it "my way" which means that some days there are more than one picture while some days have no picture.  It's my project, and in the end it will still chronicle my year.  :)

There are a few things from this month I want to talk about, or explain further.

April 1: the Half+Half Tea.  See, I love sweet tea.  But during this pregnancy, it didn't love me.  I finally got where I could drink it if I ordered half sweet and half unsweet.  I looked down at my receipt and laughed over the fact that they actually have a setting for that.  It made me smile anyway!

Apr 20: that is the mess left over after doing my belly cast.  My friend sent me the stuff to make a belly cast -- this was the first time I'd done one!  One messy bathroom later it was finally done. 

Apr 22: belly pic taken shortly before leaving for the hospital! Note the 2 year old shining the flashlight on the belly.  It just cracks me up!

Enjoy!  :)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

TWD: Chewy, Chunky Blondies

We are going to pretend for a moment that in some alternate reality, it's actually Tuesday and not, in fact, Wednesday.  Cool?  Cool.

I think it goes without saying by now that I'm the Queen of Procrastinationland.  I had every intention of getting these baked up yesterday.  Um...yeah.  Didn't work out so well for me.

Anyway, this week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection was for Chewy, Chunky, Blondies chosen by Nicole of Cookies on Friday, and it was a perfect choice for me.

See, we live outside of the city limits and whenever we need our land mowed (and I'm using the term "mow" loosely takes a full size tractor) our neighbor has to do it for us.  When we first moved out here, I asked him what I could bake for him, and his response was butterscotch blondies.  To be honest, I've never strayed from the recipe on the back of the butterscotch chip bag...until now.  And I may never go back!

The flavors in this bar cookie are just wonderful.  In addition to butterscotch chips, Dorie calls for the addition of semisweet chocolate chips, walnuts and coconut.  Well, okay, I used pecans.  I'm from Texas.  What do you expect?  You can also vary up the flavors a bit, using toffee bits instead of the butterscotch chips, and I'm sure there are other ways you could change it up too.

These are actually still cooling as I type.  However, I couldn't stand it and dug a corner out to try.  They are definitely tasty.  I foresee this recipe becoming a permanent fixture at my house!

To view the recipe, check out Nicole's post.  And be sure to check out what the other TWD Bakers did with this weeks' selection!

Enjoy!  :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Baked Doughnut Bites

My oldest child is always trying to talk me into buying those mini powdered sugar doughnuts at the grocery store.  Why?  I don't know!  All you can taste is sugar.  Maybe the fact that I always say "No" makes them more appealing.  Or maybe it's hereditary - his father loves those things.  I may have found an alternative, though. 

I started with a recipe from King Arthur Flour, and made a couple small adjustments.  Also, I don't have a doughnut pan to bake them in.  Am tempted from time to time, but just can't see getting one.  Instead, I used my mini muffin pan. They turn out almost like baked doughnut holes!

These go together from start to finish quite quickly and easily, making them a perfect "anytime" treat.  I managed to get them whipped up between the baby's "mini naps" today.  Ugh.  Guess it's a Monday for us all today!

Use a scale to measure the flour if you can.  Also, don't over mix the batter.  Just a quick stir to get everything incorporated is all that is needed.  And make sure to spray your muffin pans, even if you are using non-stick pans!

Baked Doughnut Bites
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

4 oz (by weight) of all-purpose flour (or 7/8 cup)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking spice (or cinnamon)
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp buttermilk (or yogurt)
1/2 tsp single-strength vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar
additional cinnamon for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375'F and spray mini muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, baking spice and nutmeg.  In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, buttermilk and vanilla extract.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.

Fill prepared muffin pans half full.  Bake 9-11 minutes, or until the doughnuts spring back when touched lightly and are brown on top. 

Remove from muffin pans and allow to cool on a wire rack.  Once cool, place powdered sugar in a small paper lunch bag, add a few doughnuts, close the bag and toss to coat.  Repeat with remaining doughnuts.  Sprinkle lightly with additional cinnamon.

Makes 21 doughnut bites.

Enjoy!  :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

We love Mexican food at our house.  Well, Tex-Mex.  Er, Tex-Mex that you get around here.  See, in Texas, there are about as many different styles of Tex-Mex as there are restaurants, and what you get in North Texas won't be the same as what you get in South Texas, or anywhere else for that matter.

Our favorite Mexican restaurant is a locally owned place (dive?) that we've been going to for years.  They've seen our family grow larger, and we never need a menu when we go in.  This place cooks with a lot of green chiles, and enchiladas with green sauce tend to be my favorite.  This isn't exactly an attempt to replicate a particular dish there, but rather a combination of some of my favorite things! 

For some reason, I tend to prefer making chicken enchiladas with flour tortillas instead of corn.  The flour tortillas soak up the sauce and almost puff up during baking.  While you can definitely use store-bought tortillas for this recipe, try getting some from a local tortilla factory if at all possible.  Or you could certainly make your own, which brings me to a funny story.

The Munchkin, my 8 year old, is taking a class at a local museum this week, called the "Taste of Texas".  Yesterday they just happened to make their own tortillas in class.  We actually did this at home when he was younger, but not lately.  I've been slacker-mom lately, with the two little ones around, when it comes to doing fun stuff and getting them involved in the kitchen.  I've resolved to do better with that...  But, anyway, back to the story!  When I stopped to pick up some tortillas on the way home, he said "but you haven't even tried the one I made yet!"  He was quite offended that I was buying tortillas.  It was really quite cute.  I explained that I needed more than one for the enchiladas, but I was certain his was good and we'd share it after supper.  And you know what?  It was really quite good.  He gets tortilla making duties from now on!

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

2 Tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14 oz) can green chile enchilada sauce (I prefer the Hatch brand)
1 small can chopped green chiles, undrained
1 tsp ground cumin
1 cup chicken stock
1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 Tbsp butter, softened
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup sour cream
4 oz. Monterrey jack cheese, grated
4 oz. white cheddar cheese, grated
8 (6") flour tortillas
fresh cilantro, optional

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the enchilada sauce, chopped green chiles, cumin and chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then add to the pan. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400'F. Coat a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

When the chicken is done, remove and shred with 2 forks.

Mash together the softened butter and flour to make a smooth paste. Add to the sauce in the pan. Raise heat to medium and cook until thickened, stirring occasionally, 5-10 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add the sour cream, and stir until heated through. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, about 1/3 of the grated cheese (just eyeball it), and 1/2 cup of the green sauce.

Pour about 1 cup of the sauce in the prepared baking dish, just enough to coat the bottom of the dish with a thin layer. Spoon some of the chicken mixture evenly down the center of a tortilla (they will be full -- I like substantial enchiladas!). Tightly roll the tortilla around the filling and place seam-side down in the baking dish. You may need to warm the tortillas slightly in the microwave to get them pliable enough to roll without tearing. 

Cover the enchiladas with the remaining sauce* and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Bake, uncovered, until the sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted, 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven, and top with freshly chopped cilantro, if desired.

Makes 8 enchiladas.

*I had some extra sauce. You don't want to overfill the baking dish; you want to add just enough to come approximately half-way up the sides. I added my extra sauce to some leftover plain cooked rice and heated through. Very good!
Enjoy!  :)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Grilling: An Education

My education, that is.  In a previous post, I mentioned that we don't grill very often.  Part of that is because I don't know what I'm doing! 

Growing up, "grilling" at my house meant that about once every year, we would buy a bag of charcoal at the store, listen to my dad curse under his breath trying to get the fire started (while smelling an overwhelming amount of lighter fluid in the air) and then throw some hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill.  Yep, good times...good times.  Needless to say, I didn't get many lessons on grilling at home.

I realize that this it is a stereotypical role, but many husbands are the grill masters at their houses.  Not mine.  I love him dearly, but D doesn't have much more knowledge than I do when it comes to grilling.  Plus, and I'll be honest here, I'm a bit of a control freak when it comes to cooking, so I have a hard time letting someone else be in charge.  He's okay with that.  Or at least he pretends to be.  :)

But I've slowly been learning, and becoming more adventurous when it comes to cooking on the grill.  During a recent trip to Barnes & Noble, I spotted a copy of Cook's Illustrated Summer Grilling edition.  Perfect!  I don't subscribe to Cook's Illustrated, but I probably should.  I love how detailed their instructions are, and I love the lack of advertising in the magazines. 

This edition is packed with tips, tricks, and great sounding recipes.  I'm all kinds of inspired, and ready to fire up the grill all summer long.

Enjoy!  :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summertime Grillin' - Sausage and Veggie Packets

Every few months, D and I look at each other and say "You know, we really should use our grill more often."  Yes, we should.  And we have actually been using it more lately, and not just for hamburgers.  I've been running a little rib experiment, that hopefully I'll be able to post about before too long.  I've grilled corn on the cob (definitely a winner).  And I even want to try grilling pizza!

But today, I'm going to post about some sausage and vegetable packets I threw together last night.  It turned out to be an adaptation of several different recipes and ideas that I have seen recently.  This method was quick, easy, and I didn't have to heat the house up with the oven in the process! 

This recipe can easily be adapted to your personal tastes by switching out the meat, veggies and seasonings as you desire.  I can see myself playing with this one all summer long!

Sausage and Veggie Packets on the Grill

1 lb smoked sausage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch slices
2 medium yellow summer squash, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1-1/2 lbs small red potatoes (or I used Yukon gold) quartered, (or cut into eighths if larger)
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 tsp Italian herb seasoning

In a large mixing bowl, toss sausage and vegetables with olive oil and seasonings.  Divide between two double thicknesses of heavy duty foil, approx 20"x18" in size.  Fold over tightly to seal.

Grill, covered, over medium heat for 20-25 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Open packets carefully to avoid steam.

Yield:  8 servings

Enjoy!  :)