Currently Reading:

Currently Reading:

Station Eleven

by: Emily St. John Mandel

Monday, April 14, 2008

Chicken a la Queen?

Well I decided to use up the last of the chicken I had in the fridge as well as some veggies I have had sitting around for too long. Being that it rained hard all day today I thought this recipe by Rachael Ray sounded good.

So I set to work on this recipe - chopping the veggies.
Easy to follow, however I decided to use a can of cream of chicken soup instead of the heavy cream. I also did not add asparagus as I didn't have any at home. I halved the recipe for two of us but forgot to half the chicken stock so my recipe came out like chicken a la queen soup. I served it with some store bought oven ready biscuits and some apple juice.
It was comforting and yummy but would like to see it more creamy next time.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Memories of Home

Yesterday I didn't post but did do cooking in the kitchen. The reason I didn't post is because what I created took a good chunk of the day and evening. I was then distracted by my neighbor stopping by for a chat and the next thing I knew it was 2 am and I was shooing her home to bed (she had to work today) and I was stumbling to bed where my wonderful husband had been since about 9:30 due to a headache.

So Saturday after work I came home and pulled out the George Foreman grill and plopped some hot dogs on the grill because it was 75 degrees outside. While enjoying the grill my Mexican neighbors were celebrating their daughter's 6 birthday with a party including two pinatas to bust open.

This combined with a phone call to my mom had me hankering for some home made refried beans, home made flour tortillas and Spanish rice.

The first milestone in making this ambitiously yummy dinner was to sort the beans
(you're looking for any rocks that may be in with the beans
or any nasty looking beans you don't want to eat...)

Place them into a slow-cooker in the morning on low. One of the things my mom does with the beans in the slow-cooker is add 2-3 strips of bacon to help flavor the beans.

Refried Beans
1 lb bag of pinto beans, sorted
4-6 strips of bacon
4-5 slices of Kraft American Cheese
dash of salt

Soak beans and half the bacon in slow-cooker for 8 hours on low (or follow stove top directions on package). Take other half of bacon and snip into small strips with kitchen shears. Heat in a deep pan until bacon has render some liquid and is cooked well. Add beans and a bit of the liquid it cooked in to the pan and use a potato masher to crush up the beans. Add more liquid as needed to keep beans moist but not runny. Once mashed to your liking add torn up pieces of sliced cheese and mix into the beans. Add a dash of salt. Let cheese melt completely and serve hot. Save left over liquid from slow-cooker and add to whatever beans are left over to keep them from drying out in the fridge.

So as those cooked slowly I turned to my second project...Home made flour tortillas. These recipes were made so many times by my mom growing up and we all helped.

Tortillas are interesting because they are made out of four ingredients: flour, lard, water, and salt. It's a neat thing to see the dough come together. The trick my mom said with making th dough is to let it sit for 2 hours after you form them into balls because it helps the dough become more elastic and in turn will roll out thinner.

I always double the batch of tortillas because they go so fast. (because they are so good and I can just have one at a time.) So after that was done I chopped tomatoes, olives, and grated cheese.

Finally the two hours passed and I could start rolling and flipping the tortillas then browning them. I had 44 for make with the double batch of dough. This is a picture of me flipping the dough back and forth in my ands, my mom is so good at this and does it so fast. I remember being young and never understanding how she did it so well. Mom always said, "I've had lots of years of practice."

Here is the assembly line in my small kitchen. First i pat it with some flour then roll it out with the rolling pin, then pick it up and flip it between my hands to thin it out a bit more then place it on a hot griddle to brown up on either side. After it's done browning I place it in a waiting pocket of a tea towel around aluminum foil.

Here's a picture of the tortilla on the griddle with my third recipe on the stove behind it.

Flour Tortillas
4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 to 2 cups tepid water

Combined flour and salt, cut in shortening until well blended. Add water slowly, maybe 1/2 cup at a time until dough pulls away from the edge of a bowl. Using hands, form a dough ball and knead out on a well floured surface for 8 to 10 minutes. Take dough ball and make two halves. Take one half and pinch off golf ball sized pieces of dough, roll into a ball and coat with shortening on your hands so the ball is well "greased" Continue with dough until all the halves are into balls. Cover with Cling Wrap and let set for 2 hours. Then take a well floured surface, dip the ball in a bit of flour on either side and roll out to a basic size of what you want. Then pick up the dough and flip back and forth between your hand to thin out the tortilla more. Place tortilla on heated griddle (medium to medium-high heat). When dough bubbles flip with a spatula and brown second size. Place in a sheet of aluminum foil that has been set inside a tea towel to keep them warm. Continue until done cooking. When storing left over tortillas place tea towel and foil wrapped tortillas inside a large zip lock bag and seal. Refrigerate.

Thirdly was Spanish Rice. This rice turns out so good with flavor and is relatively easy to make. (Rice is the one thing I have a hard time cooking.)

Spanish Rice
1 cup long grain rice, uncooked
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 of a white onion diced (you can use up to the whole onion if desired)
1 can Mexican Stewed tomatoes, drained and cut into bite size pieces.
1 tbsp of oil
wax paper

Take oil onions and rice and heat over medium heat in a medium sized pot. Once onions are starting to brown add in chicken stock and stewed tomatoes. Bring to a boil then turn down to where it is barely boiling/simmering place wax paper over the top of the pot and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes (or until the liquid has disappeared) Discard wax paper and fluff rice with fork.

My poor husband was so hungry he got a headache waiting for this scrumptious meal. I was dumb and start the tortillas at 4 pm so I could start cooking them until 630 or so. So we were finally eating around 845pm. I'm so glad to have a husband who would suffer for my cooking. He had three burritos then put himself to bed to sleep off the headache.

I served these tortillas with some pan fried chicken pieces, some of my father-in-law's salsa and something to drink. You could also do a variation on scrambled eggs and beans that I will have to do a blog on soon with tortillas in the house.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Chilled Grape/Apple Chicken Salad

This is the truest form of experiment in the kitchen. A co-worker brought something like this in for a birthday party a few weeks ago and I decided to try to make it today because it's fresh and light and a nice lunch. I did not have specific amounts to include, just the list of what she had in her dish.

Chilled Grape/Apple Chicken Salad

1 red Jonsgold Apple, diced
1 Granny Smith apple, diced
3 rips celery, chopped
2 small cans white meat chicken breast (rotisserie chicken would work too)
1 cup red seedless grapes, halved
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese cubes
1/2 cup Colby cheese cubes
1/4 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp Light Mayo
1/4 cup pecan pieces (almonds would work too)
dash of salt and pepper

Take all these pieces and
toss with the mayo, sour cream
and add a dash of salt and pepper.
Refrigerate until serving.

What I did differently than the original:
I added two types of cheese, and I think the original cheese was just jack cheese. I also added two kinds of apples.

What I would do differently next time:
Not sure, i like it the way it is. Maybe leave the nuts out or try like cashews or something.

***EDIT*** I sent the leftovers with my husband for lunch today and he sent me a message saying it didn't look like it was suppose to be a main course (he thought it was a fruity dessert salad) but was pleasantly surprised to find it really good! Yay me \o/***

Lemon Yogurt Anything Cake

The Second thing I made while the pretzel rolls were rising was a Lemon Yogurt Anything cake. This was also a Smitten Kitchen recipe that looks so yummy in her picture that I didn't care that I didn't have any berries in the house.

So what did I do differently:

Well no berries meant it became just a Lemon Yogurt cake, but to make up for it I added Orange zest and some fresh squeezed orange juice to the dough. It was a perfect consistency for a bread/cake batter. I popped it in the oven and while that was cooking I decide the cake would need some kind of dressing up. SO... I made and Orange Mango sauce.

Recipe for sauce:
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
orange zest
1 mango peeled, sliced and cubed
1/4 cup sugar

take juice, zest, and sugar and
simmer for 15 minutes in a medium pot.
Add Mango and set aside for bread.

Lemon Yogurt Anything Cake:
Adapted by Smitten Kitchen from Ina Garten

1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (if you’re skipping the fruit, you can also skip the last tablespoon of flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (approximately 2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and rinsed (miniature wild blueberries are great for this, and pose the least risk of sinking)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour, and fold them very gently into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 (+) minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before flipping out onto a cooling rack. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in (a pastry brush works great for this, as does using a toothpick to make tiny holes that draw the syrup in better). Cool.

What I would do different next time:

I would like to try the blueberries in with the lemon cake, I would also like to try strawberries, and a version of oranges with chocolate chips in it.

First of Many

Today I started by cleaning up the kitchen, doing all the dishes, cleaning the counters, the stove-top, and the dining area. That means I was preparing for a day in the kitchen. First thing to try today was from Smitten Kitchen one of my food links on this blog.

I chose these Bretzel Rolls:

Smitten Kitchen's Bretzel Roll

It's a pretty simple recipe and the original picture just looked like you could dip it in some cheese and munch on them all day (or at the movies). So I mixed up the dough. Smitten's recipe calls for a food processor but I mixed this by hand. I put it in a bowl with cling wrap then a towel over it and placed in on top of the oven that I had put on Warm setting. I left it set for 35-45 minutes to rise once, then on a floured surface punched it down and formed 8 balls with it. I took the balls in my hand and pulled over the sides to create a nice round shaped dome. I then covered them back up with a towel and let them rise for another 25-30 minutes. This is where the experiments get fun. I followed the recipe about boiling water and adding baking soda and sugar, yes the liquid did foam up *not far though* and then flash cooked the rolls for 30 seconds on each side in the water. I took one of Smitten's commenter's advice and snip the x into the buns after this step, then brush egg white over the top of them and down the cracks and popped them in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes.

They are so good.

What I did differently:

I already mentioned how I shaped the balls, I also didn't have cornmeal so the second time I just used All Purpose flour.

What I would try next time...

I would make them in bit pieces and make a creamy cheese dip. I am sure this would be a good smuggle into the movies when you don't want to buy the food there...hmmm I didn't say that.

Bretzel Rolls:
Adapted by Smitten Kitchen from Bon Appetit January 1994

2 3/4 cups bread flour
1 envelope quick-rising yeast*
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (about) hot water (125°F to 130°F)
8 cups water
1/4 cup baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg white, beaten to blend (glaze)
Coarse salt

Combine bread flour, 1 envelope yeast, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon sugar in food processor and blend. With machine running, gradually pour hot water through feed tube, adding enough water to form smooth elastic dough. Process 1 minute to knead. Grease medium bowl. Add dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then towel; let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 35 minutes.

Flour baking sheet, or clear area of counter. Punch dough down and knead on lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide into 8 pieces. Form each dough piece into ball. Place dough balls on prepared surface, flattening each slightly. Using serrated knife, cut X in top center of each dough ball.** Cover with towel and let dough balls rise until almost doubled in volume, about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease another baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal.*** Bring 8 cups water to boil in large saucepan. Add baking soda and 2 tablespoons sugar (water will foam up). Add 4 rolls and cook 30 seconds per side. Using slotted spoon, transfer rolls to prepared sheet, arranging X side up. Repeat with remaining rolls.

Brush rolls with egg white glaze. Sprinkle rolls generously with coarse salt. Bake rolls until brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Serve rolls warm or room temperature.

So That's experiment number one!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Gooey Grilled Cheese Toast

Well food wise I played it safe today, dinner was the good old blue box mac and cheese. But for lunch I found my new favorite way to make a grill cheese sandwich. Sorry I forgot to take a picture because I was so hungry.

Gooey Grilled Cheese Toast

2 slices of bread
1 pad of butter
2 thin slices of mozzarella
2 slices of Colby cheese

Toast bread slices in toaster, then butter the insides. Add one slice of each cheese to each piece of bread. Microwave for 30-45 seconds. ENJOY gooey goodness!

It is a great snack, dinner, lunch, or breakfast if you substitute the bread for an English muffin! MMM mm mmm! You could add a tomato or some other things to change things up!

This next few days should be major updates because I am going to do a bit of baking as well as some home-made Mexican goodness to use with the salsa! So check back!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Great Aunt Lu's "Hot Sauce"

While visiting my Great Aunt Guadalupe on the Olympic Peninsula, she made some home made "hot sauce" for her husband Jerry. Well I tried it and it was addictive in a good, so I asked for the recipe. I loved it because it was so spicy you wanted more but not too spicy to keep going. Aunt Lu thought it was way too hot (and she is more Mexican than I) and even had to drink some milk to calm her tongue down. Jerry Loved it. Lu put this salsa into my scrabbled eggs the next morning - home made Huevos Rancheros!

The first thing the recipe calls for is 3 jalapeños and this is how Aunt Lu told me to prepare them:

This is the completed salsa:

I don't think it's as spicy as my Aunt Lu's but I did just try it and the jalapeño flavor is sinking in some with the rest.

LuLu's Hot Sauce:

3 jalapeños
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4 cup onion chopped (can add more)
1/2 can tomatoes chopped (about 4 ounces for a small batch)
a dash of salt and pepper
1/2 tsp of vinegar and oil
1/8 tsp of white sugar

Simmer the 3 peppers for 20 minutes until they are soft. wrap them in a wet paper towel and then a dry paper towel, leave set for 5 minutes. *Unwrap and take the seeds and membranes out. Chop all other ingredients finely and blend together. Serve with crackers, chips, eggs, and other things that would use hot sauce or salsa.

* Warning: Please wear gloves when chopping Jalapeñod. If braving the chop without gloves make sure to thoroughly wash your hands before touching your eyes. Jalapeños can burn the eyes and if you have dry skin can get in the cracks and burn for hours. I know from first hand experience. I chopped one, then washed my hands really well but it was in Minnesota in the winter and my hands were so dry that the Jalapeño turned my hands red and burned through the next day. Needless to say I wear gloves now when handling them.

How I strayed from the original: Well I added 2 red bell peppers, a full white onion, 3 extra garlic cloves, and way too many tomatoes (was trying to use some up). I also added 1 tsp of vinegar because there was so many veggies.

What I would do different next time: I think for the salsa I would add less tomatoes. I will try it just as Lu made it next time to see if mine was as hot.

Also I made baked cod with roasted veggies for dinner tonight. I took frozen pub-house battered cod and bake it at 425 for 15 minutes and roasted potatoes, zucchini, and yellow squash with a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper. I sprinkled grated Parmesan cheese over the top and served it like this. Jeremy took the salsa and dabbed some on the cod. We've had this before. It's pretty simple and the zucchini is sweet, potatoes perfect, and Parmesan just enough.
Over all rating from the husband on a scale of one to ten was: 8. It's a keeper.

Tomorrow I am going to try some baking of some sort.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Well I decided I would like to try to make Ratatoullie from Smitten Kitchens website last week. We bought a Mandolin slicer with one of our wedding gift cards and I wanted to work with it to get better at using it. Ratatoullie made perfect sense. I had zucchini in the fridge to use up and the rest is all fresh veggies.

So I came home from work and set to work slicing. The Zucchini and yellow Squash went quite well, as did the red pepper, however when I started slicing the egg plant is where I ran into issues. I sliced my thumb straight down the middle as well as on the side (both cuts on my left hand (I am left-handed). It was a big cut with blood and I was worried for a bit about having to get stitches. This mainly worries me because I use my hands for teaching art and that would put me out of commission somewhat. But I stanched the blood and bandaged it and went back to work. Everything smelled wonderful Thyme, Oregano, Majoram, and Basil. While that baked in the oven I boiled red skin potatoes and sauteed some chicken in a pan. I topped everything with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. My husband thought was great. I was partial to the potatoes and chicken, but am willing to experiment more with the recipe and try again. It sounds and looks great. I had enough veggies to make two dishes so I passed on along to my neighbor and she texted me later that night saying it was really good!

While I was gone this weekend my husband ate more of the leftovers but didn't realize that the chicken wasn't in the he was still hungry later on and didn't know why until he found out there was no chicken in the actual dish. Silly Husbands!

Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Soup

I have been experimenting with soups since moving out to the Pacific Northwest, as with the rain comes yummy weather for soups! What I like most about soups is the creamy or cheesy type of soup that "sticks to your ribs" as my dad would say and leaves you full for a long time. The latest experiment was a slow-cooker Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Soup:


1 can pinto beans
1 can creamed corn
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can of mild enchilada sauce (average heat)
1 can nacho cheese soup
1 can diced tomatoes
2 boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
a dash each of cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper

Dump all ingredients but chicken into crop pot, add chicken breasts and push them down so they are covered in the liquids. Cook on low setting for 8 hours, or high setting for 4 hours. When chicken is cooked through, pull the breasts out and shredded the meat back into the soup.

Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips for scooping!

What I thought:

I loved it! I love the flavors and that you can taste the enchilada sauce. I also like the way it tastes with tortilla chips and cheese. When making it again I would add a can of diced green chiles or some jalepeno (seeded and cored) for more heat. I will be making this again!