Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Whirlwind!

Whew!  Did you feel that rush?  That was all the people who have been at my little ol' blog in the past 7 days - 2451 to date!  So, I want to welcome all those you of just happening by from one of the places the wonderful article, Kim Murphy of the LA Times wrote about me, has appeared.  All I can say is.... Thank you, Kim!  You did such a wonderful job catching my cooking enthusiasm, the "wry" looks my chickies throw me when I tell them what is for dinner, and the general hick-ness of my life!  I loved it! 

For the 17 of  you who come to my blog on a regular basis - LOL and haven't seen the articles yet here are some links:

From potluck queen to Pillsbury Bake-off Finalist 
This is the full article as it appeared on the front page of the 12/24 edition of the LA Times.  (Can you believe that - the front page, I'm still in shock about it!)

Pillsbury Bake-off fires up Grant County 'Hick Chick' cook
This is a version of the same article that appeared in the Seattle Times on 12/26.

'Hick Chick' reinvents burger for competition 
Here is the version that was in the Chicago Tribune on 12/27.  I hear rumors that it appeared on page 34.  I'm hoping to get a copy of this from relatives of friend.....

It was also in the Yakima Herald-Republic on Sunday.  They don't have it on their website though, but again - it was the same article!  LOL

I hope some of you that just discovered my little corner of the web will stick around.... I can't promise that'll be all that and bag of chips - but hey, ya never know!  I'm planning a chip and cheese fiesta on New Years Eve! 

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Eats - The Reviews

I already reviewed most of the goodies I made during the Christmas season, but I did try other recipes through the holiday dinner season that I want to tell ya about.


Holiday Sweet Potatoes - ***** +++
I like sweet potatoes, I like 'em mixed up in a mashed casserole - I've made Tyler Florence's Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Bananas & Honey, which is a very nice recipe for a "sweet" version.  The crusty top of pecans is very good & it's fun to roast bananas, not something I do everyday.  But................... this savory version of a sweet potato casserole IS THE BEST USE of sweet potatoes.  It comes from my cooking friend, Cookin' Mama who said she got the recipe years ago from a neighbor. My other cooking friend, Jam -says they should be called "Sweet Potatoes Alfredo" and I agree with that.... maybe it is because I rarely cook with full fat heavy cream - but I can't wax lyrical enough about how good these were!


Holiday Sweet Potatoes

4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
3 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. flour
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. dried bread crumbs
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese

In a saucepan melt butter. Add flour & garlic and stir until color deepens a bit. Add cream and simmer until mixture thickens slightly.

Layer sweet potatoes in a buttered casserole dish.

Pour sauce over and bake @ 325 degrees for 1 hour.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with bread crumbs and cheese and bake for 10-15 more minutes.

For Christmas dinner I was invited to Mrs. S's  in-laws...... got that??  By BFF's husbands parents - which I thought was about the sweetest thing in the whole entire world for them to invite me.  The chickies had ran off with their dad (and rightly so - they spent Christmas eve & morning with me), so I was "unattended".  LOL So, I took a veggie tray and these two dips:

Vegetable Dip ****
Of the two, I liked this one best.  It was creamy and fresh tasting and perfect to dip a veggie into.  And I had some of the heavy cream left over from the sweet potatoes that needed to be used up!

Italian Vegetable Dip *** 1/2
This one was too chunky for veggies - it might be better with chips or a nice sourdough to dip into.

I hope your holiday table was filled with as much love, laughter, and joy as mine was!

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pantry Cooking or I Need to Use the Food I Have

I have decided that Christmas has made me broke.  LOL I'm just finished sketching out the meal plan for the week, and I only have two things on the grocery list - well, if you don't count the copious amounts of milk and cereal I'm required to buy each week.  I'm not sure how two little girls eat so much cereal!!  LOL


Monday - Back to work... sigh.... We still have quite a bit of ham left from the Christmas Eve dinner the chickies and I had.  And since you can never, ever go wrong with potatoes and this recipe has been in my allrecipes.com recipe box for about 6 years, I figured the time was right for Heavenly Potatoes & Ham.

Tuesday -  I freely admit that sometimes I make a meal-plan and life gets in the way and everything doesn't always happen according to "plan" and that's what happened to Creamy Chicken Lasagna from a couple of weeks ago, but I really like the looks of this - so it is making its second appearance.


Wednesday - It does seem like "pantry cooking" is comfort cooking for me.  I love this Chow Mein Noodle Casserole, but don't make it very often.  I even know why, it is kinda high in fat & calories - even if I use low fat ingredients, but I've decided given the amount of Christmas "cheer" I have ingested over the past month - this week isn't the week to start showing restraint.... that's next week!  LOL


Thursday - I'm not exactly sure what our New Years Eve plans are yet.  Maybe the movies?  Maybe staying home and playing board games with the chickies?  Maybe an all night Wii marathon?  Maybe all of the above.  At any rate, it will be all about cheese and chips in some form or another!  


Friday - I know the traditional thing for New Years Day is black-eyed peas, but I don't really like black-eyed peas that much.  I've only made them a couple of times, but I'd rather have some Southern Ham & Brown Beans.  I know I love these guys with the best cornbread ever!


Saturday - As with my quest for the best spaghetti sauce, meatloaf, and macaroni and cheese - I long quested for the perfect roast chicken, until this Famous Dave's Country Roasted Chicken knock-off happened across my radar.  This is pretty much chicken perfection - KK loves her chicken all lemony and well SS... she always happy if she gets a leg!


Saturday - I received The Pioneer Woman Cooks from the chickies for Christmas.  THEY WERE LISTENING!  I'm not sure how I missed the basic macaroni and cheese on the website, but I thought all her mac & cheese recipes there were different and unique versions, not just plain ol' creaminess.  I saw it in the cookbook and thought... "Is this the answer to my macaroni and cheese prayers?" I've been searching for something that rivals that red box blazen with "Stouffers".  We'll have to see if PW's version can stand up to my scrutiny.  I don't recall having made a version that has both a roux and an egg.  Maybe it will be "it".  


Thanks everybody for stopping by my little corner of the web.  I would love if you would leave comments/feedback.  


HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!

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Friday, December 25, 2009

The Spaghetti Sauce Saga

I have been asked a few times of late (uh - like in the last 24 hours) what this is spaghetti sauce recipe is that I have searched the whole world looking for.  Well, my friends let me tell you the tale.

It all started when I discovered Prego Mushroom with Extra spice.  I loved this sauce - it was thick and had a bit of a bite.... in my youth (okay, my 20's) this was my sauce of choice.  My favorite - prepared with ground beef and smothered over mashed potatoes (usually instant - ohhh... the horror!).  


As I grew, and my need to cook expanded I went through a phase of "doctoring up" jarred sauces (never my beloved Prego because it was perfection).  I would saute a onions, celery, carrots, and occasional zucchini to simmer with a bottle of jarred sauce.  Add mushroom, black olives - it was a chunky sauce at its best. I'd usually brown ground beef and freeze up big batches
.  

This continued for quite a number of years - and I liked my chunky doctored sauce, but jars of Prego still lurked in my pantry, nothing could match is smooth, thick, rich, tangy goodness for certain uses.  At that time, a couple of things happened - the Prego with Extra Spice was becoming harder and harder to find.  If I would see it on a supermarket shelf, I'd snatch up 3-5 jars of it and it got me to thinking - "I bet I could make a sauce this good."

Thus, began my search.  I've tried a lot of sauce. At first my attention focused on sauces that were an "all-in-one" with meats added.  I have quite a few in my recipe box at Allrecipes - here were some the contenders:

Very Special Spaghetti Sauce I never rated it - so I don't remember if I made it... but it looks promising.

Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce got a 4-star rating from me and was in serious contention as "it" for awhile.  But it still didn't have the the "it" quality I was searching for.


Pasta Sauce with Hot Sausage only garnered 3-stars from me.  I noted it was greasy (because the instructions instruct not to drain the sausage) and too spicy for the chickies, even though they are used to a little spice in their food.

I even tried Bryan's Sweet and Hot Tomato Sauce - but let's just say it wasn't any Prego with Extra spice!

I tried random sauces I'd find in cookbooks, on the internet, but none of them were making it for me.  I then decided that my problem was I was searching for sauces that always started with the meat simmered in.  Prego was strictly sauce - maybe I wasn't searching down the right alley.

Then I ran into Not World Famous Spaghetti Sauce.  It promises in the lead-in by the submitter "you've tried the rest - no try the best".  I really liked this sauce, it had a lot of flavor with a long list of ingredients and interestingly, celery salt.  I made this sauce for a long time - froze big batches of it, used it in lots of things.  It was a right fine sauce.... but still - I longed for my prego.

But by this point, Prego had discontinued my favorite flavor.  I couldn't find it on a supermarket shelf at all anymore.  A quick look at the website confirmed my fears, it was not longer listed in the "products" at all. 
It was time to get serious.


I happened across Kittencal's Marinara Sauce.  While on the surface it my seem like every other sauce out there - for it me it hit the right notes.  I use crushed tomatoes rather than whole because I like the thick richness provided by crushed.  I urge you to use the best canned tomatoes you can afford, now isn't the time to go all store brand on me. (Trust me on this, I have plenty of store brand stuff in my cupboards, but canned tomatoes aren't one of them!)  I'm heavy-handed with the spices, and I use good fresh quality spices - usually from Penzeys.  I use a cabernet sauvignon for the red wine, as I do in most of my recipes calling for red wine. While still not my beloved Prego - this sauce has ended the search.  I don't try new recipes anymore (gasp! shock! horror!).  It has a permanent home in my recipe box and freezer.

I hope you've enjoyed this tale of spaghetti sauce and I urge you to stayed tuned as I continue my quest for perfect meatloaf and macaroni and cheese!


psssttt.... Try Kittencal's meatballs too... simmer in the sauce to cook instead of baking - it adds another dimension to both the meatballs and the sauce.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

What I've Been Cooking

Here are some the recipes and reviews from things I've made been making - lots of holiday goodies included!


Eggnog Pancakes ***** 
I do not like pancakes.  I make pancakes about once a year - maybe!  I've made these little gems using some Hood Gingerbread Eggnog.  They were amazing... I ate two!  Then, I even bought another carton of eggnog to make them again - the snow day we had last week was perfect day to make 'em again for my chickies.  I even had two again!!  I did add some regular milk along with the full amount of eggnog to get the batter thinner.  I can't praise these guys enough!!

Slow Cooker Pineapple Pork ***
I wasn't impressed at all.  The pork was okay - the "stuff" in the crockpot wasn't good at all. It does not make me happy to waste all the stuff as just a cooking liquid.  I won't make it again, when there are better recipes for use of my pork roasts.

Slow Cooker Cranberry Roast ****
This was pretty good - I made it exactly as written, thickening the gravy with butter and flour (I'm usually a cornstarch slurry kinda girl).  The gravy was very sweet - KK wasn't a huge fan (SS doesn't eat any gravy except over biscuits!) but it might get made again.


Fudge ***** 
This is the easiest fudge ever.  It lends it self well to flavors - using peanut butter chips & 1/2 cup peanut butter, a blend of semi-sweet and milk chocolate, different nuts.  I've even added coconut and almonds (for a mounds treat) and peanuts and marshmallows (for a rocky road treat).  It is only limited to your imagination!


Microwave Peanut Brittle ***** 
This has been my go to peanut brittle recipe for a couple of years.  It is soooooooo easy.  The trick is knowing what wattage your microwave is - after that just make sure you are using the power recommended in the recipe.  After a couple of tries you'll know what it should look like for the texture you like.  It doesn't make a huge amount - which can be nice if you don't want to eat peanut brittle until Easter!  LOL  I don't recommend doubling the recipe though - just make two batches if you want more.  It is so easy & quick you can do two batches in less than 45 minutes.


Saltine Candy Treats ***** 
I've made similar candies in the past, but this is the recipe I used recently.  It turned out very good.  It is another easy candy that can be made without a candy thermometer (mine cracked yesterday!).


Divinity ***** 
This is not an easy candy.  It can be fickle and easily persuaded to be a good texture or a bad texture by the weather.  The batch I made was quite good - not gooey, not too dry.  It does require a candy thermometer and a lot of patience.  And a good hand mixer! (or better yet a kitchenaid, which I do not own!  I know, be sad for me!!).


Boston Market Copycat Meatloaf **** 
This was a different meatloaf.  The binder, rather than bread, breadcrumbs, or even oatmeal, is flour.  KK wasn't a huge fan - but I liked it well enough.  It still isn't the definitive answer for the meatloaf to end the search for the perfect meatloaf - but I would make it again.


Herbed Rice Pilaf ***** 
We had this with meatloaf and KK loved it (SS didn't partake of the meatloaf/pilaf meal - she was having tummy troubles).  I did add about 2 tsp. of Better than Bouillon instead of any salt - I like the chicken-y flavor it added.  I will definitely be making this again!





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Merry Christmas to All!


I don't really have a plan to share this week.............. I'm just gonna "wing it" and regroup after Christmas.

I wish each and everyone of you who visit my blog the very Happiest of Holidays and a Jolly New Year!

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Monday, December 14, 2009

It Was Crazy ....


...in my life last week!  Thing happened to way-lay my meal plan - some were good, some not so much.  I lost water one day (not do to the cold, but due to a faulty electrical something-or-another in my control box for my pump) and I lost power to half the house another day, again due to electrical issues.

The other good stuff had to do with Pillsbury and as soon as it is available I'll share.  Trust me, it is super cool!  This week we are again filled with much holiday merriment and activities.

Monday - I'm trying to "perfect" my chicken noodle soup recipe. The chickies are willing recipients of all the trying.  :)

Tuesday - This Slower Cooker Cranberry Roast looks interesting.  I would think that cranberries would go better with a pork roast and some of the reviews even suggest that, but I'm going to try it as written with a chuck roast.

Wednesday - We might be going out and about Wednesday depending on the weather.  So, we will have leftovers.

Thursday - We have been invited to a Mother-Daughter Christmas party.  I'm sure it will be tons of fun and KK is very excited.  In addition, today is SS's Christmas concert at school.  She will be full of Christmas cheer and song.  I love it!

Friday - KK has declared (very publicly in fact) that this Simple Hamburger Stroganoff is her favorite thing I make.  I can't believe it dethroned the ever-popular shake n' bake pork chops!! 

Saturday - I want to give this Creamy Chicken Lasagna a try.  It seems pretty basic, I'll use my marinara instead of jarred sauce.

Sunday - I'm still want a terrific meatloaf.  Tasty, slice-able, the kind that melts in your mouth.  I thought this Boston Market Copycat looked pretty good.

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tis the Season......


to be totally overwhelmed and crazy! LOL  I'm have an extra busy week at work - payroll has to be done 12 days earlier than normal.  Plus, I want to go to a cookie exchange.  I see lots of late nights this week, but the meal plan is gonna save me!

Monday - I wish I had PW's Cookbook 'cuz I saw a picture of a chicken fried steak that look extra yummy, but I'll just make my momma's recipe (basic breading with saltine crackers), mashed potatoes and a cream gravy.  YUMMY!

Tuesday - Crockpot day - I had everything on hand for this Slow Cooker Pineapple Pork Roast.  I love it when I like a recipe that doesn't require any grocery shopping!

Wednesday - This is the day of the Cookie Exchange.  Since I'm not a baker, I'm contributing fudge.

Thursday - Poor SS.... we haven't had spaghetti and meatballs for at least two weeks!  LOL I'll make her happy tonight.

Friday - I'm so in love with that Chicken Alla Puttenseca, here is another recipe that is reminiscent of that with spanish olives and capers.   This one comes via my cooking friend and all round sweetie pie, Dishy.

Famous Puerto Rican Chicken

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 sweet bell peppers, any color, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
8 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 2 TBS fresh)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
12 oz. canned tomato paste
2-3 chicken bouillon cubes, or 2-3 teaspoons Better than Bouillon, chicken flavor
2 large potatoes, unpeeled, cut in bite-size pieces
2-3 cups water

1/2 cup (more or less) Spanish olives, drained
2-3 TBS. capers, drained

Place chicken in large shallow baking dish (I just used a 9x13; if you use a larger baking pan you could use more chicken). Spread chopped bell peppers, onion, garlic, cilantro, oregano, cumin seeds, ground cumin, and tomato paste over chicken. Then add the chicken bouillon (dissolved in the water), and potatoes over this mixture. Bake at 400 F for 90 minutes. Add the olives and capers after the chicken has baked for 45 minutes. Serve with rice.

Saturday - We HAVE to go Christmas shopping.  We will brave the crazies and go to a "real mall" and I think we will go to Famous Dave's BBQ, 'cuz when I went before they gave me a coupon for my next visit.  I'm a sucker for a coupon!

Sunday - Two weeks ago I made a double batch of chicken noodle soup and froze the leftovers.  As of now, IT IS ALL GONE!  My chickies are lurve my chicken noodle soup (which makes my heart sing with happiness!).  So, we are gonna make another giant batch. :)

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

More of My 15 Minutes

Yesterday I was lucky enough to have a really nice article on the front page of the Columbia Basin Herald. I'm soaking up my 15 minutes of fame and counting the days until April!

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