Friday, June 28, 2013

Give Your Veggies a Massage: Kale Salad

My kale looked like Russian Red.
Courtesy of Skyfire Gardens Seeds
I recently recommended this kale salad recipe to a friend and it sparked my desire to make it again, so I picked up some kale at the farmers' market over the weekend. The kale wasn't labeled so I'm not sure what type it is, but I'm certain it's not curly and it's not lacinato/dino.  It might be Russian Red kale.

Inspiration

Eating Well Magazine Massaged Kale Salad

The only customization I made was to use a little less oil, less Parmesan cheese, and skipped the salt since I figured my non-reduced-sodium soy sauce and anchovy paste would be enough.

I'm not sure how big a bunch of kale is officially supposed to be, so I picked up two from a stand and figured I'd go with it. 

Ingredients 


  • 2 bunches kale
  • 1/4-1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 minced anchovy fillet or 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Directions 

Wash and rinse your kale.  This is a good time to use a salad spinner, I'm glad I've got one during farmers' market season since otherwise I'm spoiled by the pre-rinsed bags of greens at the grocery store.  We picked up a nice Zyliss salad spinner at a rummage sale a few years ago for 50 cents and it has been great. We can wash some greens and stick the whole container in the fridge until we want to use it since the flat lid makes it easy to stack other containers on top.  I put it in the sink to help hold it down while I pull the handle to activate the "spin cycle". 

After washing and rinsing, tear your kale into small pieces and put into your biggest and widest bowl/container.  I used a 4-qt. (4.4liters) bowl from a set of Pyrex nesting bowls, which is quite large.  You can cut the kale with a knife, but I find it satisfying to rip it up.  Ripping the kale into a small size is important to me, I hate it when I have a salad out at a restaurant and it is filled with huge pieces.  So there I am, trying to shove a 6-inch square of lettuce in my mouth while still trying to look hot.  Not easy! 

Also avoid the stringy ribs/veins, they won't breakdown much.  I folded my leaves in half the long way and pulled the leaves off the other side. 
Tear the kale into bite-sized pieces.

One bunch of kale done, another to rip up.

Two bunches of kale in a big 4-quart bowl.
Toss all the rest of the ingredients on top and then get to massaging that salad.  I wasn't sure how long to massage since it looked pretty good only after a little bit of kneading action, but I did it for two minutes just to ensure it broke down the leaves. 
Adding anchovy paste from a tube.

After massaging, the volume drops significantly.
The kale will crumple up and reduce in size.  My refrigerator is so packed full of food right now that I had to move it to a smaller bowl anyway.  I went from the largest 4-qt. bowl down two sizes to the 1.5-qt/1.4 liter bowl. 
Transferred the final salad to a much smaller bowl.

Verdict 

Getting your greens never tasted so good! 

I love all the garlic in this recipe.  You could add some chopped nuts to add some texture.  This would also be great with a grilled chicken breast on top or a hearty fish like salmon.

There was a bit of dressing at the bottom of the bowl when I transferred this over, so I think you could easily use 3 bunches of kale and use the original full measurements and be fine. 

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

International Spice: Moroccan Quinoa

I made this recipe when my friend Rachel came over for dinner so Husband Jeff and I could meet her fiance Ron.  They're getting married in October and we can't wait to boogie down on the dance floor at their wedding receiption.  We love to show off our dance moves, even if Jeff has to work hard to keep me on the beat.  I am hopelessly rhythm-less. Rachel, I promise try not to ruin your wedding reception by making a fool of myself.  :)

Inspiration

Anja's Food 4 Thought Moroccan Quinoa Salad 

I skipped the cloves since I've found from previous recipes that I don't like it, also I used regular salt rather than sea salt.  Instead of shredding my own carrots, I went the quicker route and used a 10 oz. bag of shredded carrot.

Ingredients


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and massaged to remove yucky coating.
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 10 oz shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds 
  • 1/4 cup raisins

Directions

Saute the onion in the olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes.  

Add the spices and let cook for a minute to let them bloom.  
Before cooking - mixture of carrots, quinoa, and water.
Add the quinoa, water, carrots, almonds, and raisins and stir.  Cover and bring it to a light boil.  Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. 

After the 15 minutes, take it off the heat and let it sit with the lid on for 10 minutes.  Stir and enjoy!
Finished dish.

Verdict

Good spices without it being weird or too much. 

I know you're not supposed to try new recipes out on guests, but I couldn't help myself.  I warned them the dish might not work out, but we were lucky and it was a success. I liked how it was flavorful and interesting without being too unusual.  Our guests requested half of the leftovers, so they liked it as well. 

I would definitely make this again.  I liked how it was pretty hands-off.  Although I admit I was a little afraid of cooking it for 15 minutes and then letting it sit for 10 minutes off the heat, I don't think that's a method I've used before but it worked great.  Next time I would chop the raisins up a bit so they disbursed more throughout the dish and also chop the shredded carrots into smaller pieces.

Sonny D wouldn't try it.  He kept saying "no bop, no bop". "Bop" is Korean for rice. 

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Enter to Win a Box of Kodiak Cakes!

Are you interested in winning a box of Kodiak Cakes flapjack and waffle mix?  Hurry over to the drawing at Danica's Daily to enter yourself before Thursday, June 27, 2013.

I've never really paid attention to the rest of the pancake mixes since I tend to buy a box of all-purpose baking mix that you can use to make biscuits and other things like pancakes, but after reading about these Kodiak mixes, I'm now interested to find them at my grocery store to try it out.

I compared the Kodiak Cakes pancake mix nutritional information against my usual pancake mix, and Kodiak Cakes mixes have  
  • 100% whole grain wheat and oat flour
  • no weird chemicals like tricalcium phosphate
  • less calories and sugar
  • more fiber and protein
Seems like an obvious choice to me.  I'm sold! Can't wait to try it!

If you don't win but you're still interested in getting some for yourself, you can check their list of where to buy Kodiak Cakes products such as pancake mixes, brownie mix, cookie mix, and berry syrups.  Good luck!

Wanna Chat?

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Mini Pizzas on Polenta

Inspiration

Momtastic polenta pizzas

My version had more toppings and went into the oven to cook rather than the microwave.  To determine the baking time, I found a recipe that was similar and winged it (of course, I can't find that recipe now). 

Ingredients

  • 18 oz tube of polenta
  • pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce (I used about 1/3 of a jar of spaghetti sauce, but you could probably use one of those little 8 oz cans of pizza sauce)
  • toppings of your choice - we used chopped turkey pepperoni along with chopped peppers and onions.
  • Shredded cheese

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. I wasn't sure if they would stick if I used just cooking spray on the baking sheet, so I lined it with parchment paper.  If you were making customized ones, you could draw on the parchment paper to indicate the different toppings. 

Polenta rounds.  Pay no attention to the one cut
in half in the front, Sonny D decided to grab the knife
and try out his cutting skills.
Slice your polenta into about 16 rounds and place them on the lined baking sheet. 
Adding chunky spaghetti sauce.
Spoon on some sauce and add your toppings.
Add your favorite toppings.
Throw on some cheese.
Top each slice with shredded cheese.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Hot and fresh out of the oven.

Verdict

Adorable super-mini personal pizzas; take that, Pizza Hut!  (Do they still have those personal pizzas?)

Sonny D and I had a great time putting these together.  He was up in his kitchen helper stool (we have one like this learning tower, totally recommended) and helped me spoon on the sauce, add the pepperoni and veggies, and sprinkle on the cheese.   And he did a great job!  He has a great attention for detail in the kitchen, he's careful and steady, and doesn't make a mess. 

I wish we had more toppings in the house, but it was the day before grocery shopping so we were out of a lot of things.   I would have used mushrooms and black olives if we had them. That's one advantage, you can customize it to each person's preferences.

I only had a couple things I would change for next time.  I would want to cut the toppings a little finer since sometimes you could eat all of your toppings in one bite and then your mouth would be sad for the rest of it.  It would also be nice to pre-cook the polenta for about 10-15 minutes without any toppings to let it dry out a little a little more and then add the toppings and put it back in the oven, but that would have been difficult to let my toddler help since they would be super-hot.  But they were still great even if you follow exactly what I did.

We ate them with a fork, but when Sonny D had his as leftovers the next day, he was able to pick it up and eat it. Husband Jeff suggested heating up the leftovers in the toaster oven for additional firmness, which was a good move. 

Wanna Chat?

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Eating Off the Table: Spaghetti on the Board

If you're looking for a food adventure in Madison, WI, head to Bunky's Cafe for "spaghetti on the board". I had first heard of the concept from another local Italian place, but they closed before I ever got over there to try it out.  When I heard Bunky's had it as well, I put it on my "must-do" list. 

I made reservations for our family, another family, and a couple other friends (9 people total).   We had no idea what we were going to encounter, but figured we should try it out.

The Details


When you arrive you might notice your table looks a little different.  It's covered with a standard tablecloth, but over that is a huge white industrial cutting board that completely covers the table top. 

They offer you a glass of Chianti, lemonade, or tea.  You can order other beverages as well, but they're not included in the price. 
Bread and beverages.
Then they bring out a plate of bread for each table and everybody gets a plated salad with a nice Italian dressing.  Well, they skipped the kids, but let's face it, most kids don't eat salad.   

My partially eaten salad, was so excited I forgot to take a picture!
After we slaked our initial hunger with bread and salad, the waitress handed out a lot of paper napkins, which we used to line all around the edge of table because the cutting board heaves up when they add the hot food.  So the napkins are a barrier to prevent the sauce from making its way onto your lap due to gravity.

Then she came out with a big bowl and plopped down two huge piles of hot noodles right on the tabletop.   
Our waitress putting down a big pile of noodles on the table.
Check out the napkins around the edge. 
She topped each big pile of noodles with spaghetti sauce and big meatballs. 
Ladles full of sauce and meatballs.
Then you use your fork to pull some food towards you and you eat directly off the table surface.
Digging in.
After the initial chowing, they offer you more noodles, sauce, and meatballs.  We needed a little more noodles on our side, while our other table needed more sauce.  They were quick with the additional food.  I think they might have brought us more bread, too. 
A big, tasty meatball.

Slurping down.

What a messy table!
Once the spaghetti part of the meal is done, they clean up the cutting boards and pick them up off the table, which is good because there was sauce everywhere.

Then they bring a mini cannoli for each person.  It looked small, but it was the perfect little dessert to end the meal after stuffing ourselves.
Um, there was a cannoli there.  But I ate it.

Verdict 

A fun food adventure! So glad we tried it. 

We all had a ton of fun with this meal out.  Sonny D ate so much food!  I think he loved being able to eat the spaghetti in whatever way he wanted.  Toddlers usually have a difficult time with spaghetti noodles, but he did a great job with his fork (and hands).  He loves meat, so the meatballs were also quite popular.

I would say all of the meal is completely homemade.  You can definitely tell the sauce didn't come out of a jar or at least they've jazzed it up with good ingredients.  The meatballs seemed like a nice mixture of beef and pork.  The cannoli seemed like they were made with real ricotta and not too sweet. 

Wanna Chat?

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Menu Plan: Week of June 24

I was going to say that this is going to be another hectic week with a lot of things going on, but it seems like our summer is just going to be this way.  I have this personal goal to try to take advantage of the summer since the winters are so long here in Wisconsin, so I end up putting a lot of events on our calendar.

This week our meals are going to focus on the produce I bought at a couple farmers' markets over the weekend. 

  • Monday - We're going to an outdoor concert at a nearby park with another family and I'm thinking about packing our food up to be a picnic so we can eat it at the park.  But no matter where we eat, it's probably going to be sandwiches, kale salad (kale from the farmers' market), chips and salsa.
  • Tuesday - Sonny D starts swimming lessons tonight, so dinner has to be quick but not too filling, don't want anybody to get sick in the water.  I'm aiming to make sweet potato-chipotle soup in the slow cooker, throw together some salads, and saute some Swiss chard (farmers' market). 
  • Wednesday - I'm either meeting my best friend for lunch or for dinner, still not sure what's going on yet since her availability depends on someone else.  If we eat dinner at home, it's going to be grilled steak (farmers' market) along with, salads, pesto veggies and pasta (either as a cold salad or hot side dish. The basil for the pesto comes from our garden and the veggies are leftover from the weekend).
  • Thursday - Grandma and Grandpa will pick up Sonny D from daycare and I've got an exercise class, so I'll eat whatever I can find.
  • Friday - We're going to visit family for the weekend.  I'm going to pack a lunch for our drive, so probably more sandwiches, salads, and whatever items we should eat before they go bad. 
  • Saturday - away.  I'm going to try to make it my goal to go to a farmers' market while we're away.  I love exploring food in other places to see how it's different than at home.  I might find something interesting that I'll need to bring back and use to create some dishes.
  • Sunday - away

Wanna Chat?

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Spring Cooking: Asparagus Risotto

This asparagus risotto recipe is one we've made for years, Husband Jeff and I have loved it from the start.  We made this because we were having a friend over for dinner and this seemed like the perfect springtime side dish incorporating the fresh asparagus I bought at the farmers' market.

Yes, risotto is a bit of work with all the stirring involved, but it's not particularly difficult.  I can understand why you would be intimidated by it, but I think you should try it out. 

Inspiration

Whole Foods Market Asparagus Risotto

When we make this recipe we only make half a batch since the full recipe makes a ton, but we keep the full amount of asparagus and Parmesan (this is Wisconsin, after all!).  With half of the recipe, we have enough for a meal plus a good amount of leftovers.

In the off-season, I use a box of cut frozen asparagus. 

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed
  •  3.5 cups broth/stock
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • Fresh cracked black pepper and salt
  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated

Directions

Heat the stock up in a medium-size pot until it comes to a low boil.  You'll need this to be hot as you add it to the risotto pot, otherwise it'll slow down your cooking. 

Beautiful fresh asparagus
Lightly cook the asparagus in whatever manner you choose.  I'm not as fussy as the original recipe, I cook the asparagus all together rather than separating out the tips.  This time I used the "fresh vegetables" setting on my microwave and it turned out great.   Other times I just defrost the box of frozen asparagus and move on to the next step.  You should leave the asparagus a bit underdone since it will continue to cook in the risotto for the next 20 minutes.
Stir, stir, stir
In your risotto pot, saute the onion in the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the cooked asparagus and rice.  Add 1/2 cup of the broth and stir continuously until the liquid is absorbed.  Repeat adding liquid and stirring for the next 20 minutes or until the rice is tender. 

When the rice is finally done (sometimes it can take longer than 20 minutes), turn off the heat, add salt and pepper to taste, and the freshly grated parmesan. 

Super-green risotto

Verdict 

Rich and creamy taste of spring.

We love this recipe and I love making it for new people so they can discover how great it is, so I was glad to make it for our friend.  Husband Jeff made this dish, and he did a great job.  Our friend thought it was excellent, so that's good.  I sent him home with leftovers since this makes so much.

Sonny D wouldn't try it even though he loves rice.  He might like it if he tried it, but getting a toddler to try a new food (let alone a green one!) can be quite difficult.  Hopefully some day he realizes what he's been missing out on. 

Question

 Do you experience the phenomenon known as "asparagus pee"?  That's where pretty much immediately after eating asparagus, your urine smells funny.  That doesn't happen to me! I guess I don't have the enzymes or whatever causes it. 

If you have any recommendations for other risotto recipes you've made and loved, I would love to hear about it. Once upon a time we made jalapeƱo risotto.  We were worried about it being too spicy, but apparently jalapeƱos without the ribs and seeds tastes a lot like a green bell pepper (boring!).    

Wanna Chat?

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Oatmeal Crush: PB Oatmeal Bars

My huge love affair with oatmeal isn't only limited to the breakfast table, I also try to include oatmeal in dishes for other times of the day.  I made these bars for dessert when we had a friend over for dinner.

Inspiration

Mix It Up Funfetti Baked Oatmeal Bars

I think I might actually have the sprinkles this recipe calls for, but I was too lazy to haul my butt up to the top of the pantry to check my baking supplies to be sure.  Plus I wanted to do something a little different.  Instead of sprinkles I added some powdered peanut butter to the batter and pressed some Trader Joe's mini peanut butter cups into half of the batch. I also switched out the maple syrup for brown sugar since our kitchen lacks maple syrup (I admit it, we tried it and didn't like it!). 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup applesauce (4 oz. cup)
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup water
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 4 T PB2 powdered peanut butter, chocolate-peanut butter flavor
  • 1/2 banana, sliced into small chunks
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup mini peanut butter cups 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8x8 pan with cooking spray.
These guys are in there.

Mix all the ingredients and dump it in the pan.
Raw batter in the oven.  Apparently we were
having an earthquake at the time, hence the shaky look. 
 Bake for 40 minutes or until not gooey in the center. 
Bit of chocolate goodness on the top there. 

Verdict

Boring with dull flavor.

I liked these well enough, but the powdered peanut butter I added didn't add much flavor.  The bars with the mini peanut butter cups were the only tasty ones in the pan so I topped the rest of the pieces with a smear of peanut butter when we ate them.  They need more of something -- a strong ingredient (chocolate, coffee, more banana) or at least more sugar -- to be more interesting.

I don't know if they need to be kept in the fridge, but I figured with the yogurt in the batter they should be, and the flavor is really dull when they're cold.   
The original recipe had it baking for only 25-27 minutes, but at that point mine certainly wasn't even close to done. I ended up adding 15 more minutes, for be a total baking time of 40 minutes. I don't think my oven is way off since I haven't had other recipes lately that needed to be cooked more, but who knows.  The photos on the original website show the bar looking thinner than mine, hers look to be about only 1 inch thick at the most while mine were more like 2+ inches.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Throw it in a Pita: BBQ Beef Pita Melts

This is less of a recipe and more like a concept for loose-meat sandwiches, sort of like a Sloppy Joe. Pre-cooked ground beef really helps to get this on the table quickly.  Serve with a pouch of microwave steamed veggies and some fresh fruit for a super-fast weeknight meal.

Customize it any way you want. You could switch out the BBQ sauce with taco sauce to make this a cheater version of tacos.  Or marinara to make Italian sandwiches.  Thai peanut sauce with ground chicken or turkey or cubes of tofu would be great.  And of course if you like veggies, throw those in too, I kept mine veggie-free since I know that would be an immediate turnoff for the toddler.  A tasty vegetarian version would be roasted veggies with some pesto sauce and mozzarella cheese. 

Ingredients

makes 4-6 pocket sandwiches
  • 1 lb ground beef (mine was a frozen bag of pre-cooked ground beef)  
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup your favorite BBQ sauce, plus more for topping (ours was Smoky Jon's, only blocks away from our house)
  • shredded cheese
  • 4-6 pita bread pockets (we used Arnold Bread 100% whole wheat pocket thins)

Directions

Heat up the pre-cooked ground beef or brown and drain if yours isn't pre-cooked.  Add the 1/4 to 1/3 cup BBQ sauce and ensure everything is heated through. 
Ground beef with BBQ sauce
When your saucy meat is sufficiently warmed up, turn the heat off.  Grab a pita pocket and add some of meat, some cheese, and top it with more sauce.  Enjoy! 

BBQ meat stuffed in a pita with cheese and more sauce

Verdict

Husband Jeff really liked this, but he loves Smoky Jon's.  I think I could pour that stuff on a shoe and he would be half-way through eating it before he noticed.  So he was totally accepting of this meal.  I liked it too.  Sonny D wouldn't even try the meat nor the sandwich, but some days he's such a toddler. 

Wanna Chat?

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Menu Plan: Week of June 10

My meal plans are always my best intentions, but sometimes things come up that change those plans.  Like last week our dinner plans were derailed by lots of ranch chicken taco leftovers.  I can't believe I didn't realize that 2 pounds of meat would result in leftovers. Plus we took advantage of Husband Jeff's parents watching Sonny D on Wednesday so we went out to eat and had leftovers from that as well.  Then we switched around plans to have a friend over for dinner on Saturday, so not many of my intentions actually happened last week. 
  • Monday - Planning to go to Milwaukee to see my favorite band The Architects so we're going out to eat on our way to the show.
  • Tuesday - I'm going to try a new Zumba class after dinner so we'll have to eat something quick, which will likely be banana pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon/turkey sausage.
  • Wednesday - I'd like to make the chipotle sweet potato soup I picked out last week, hopefully the weather won't be too warm for soup. 
  • Thursday - Going with friends to Bunky's Cafe for spaghetti on the board, where they dump a bunch of spaghetti on the table and you pull a serving towards you to eat.  Sounds like an interesting adventure and a lot of fun for the kids.   
  • Friday - I'm leaving for a girls' weekend in Galena, so Husband Jeff and Sonny D are on their own for a few days. 
  • Saturday - Husband Jeff said they might have pizza.
  • Sunday - Not sure we'll eat much for dinner since my husband's parents are having a Father's Day grillout in the afternoon. My only plan would be the standard Sunday plans of a can of soup and sandwiches.  I would also love popcorn. 

Wanna Chat?

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Homemade Frozen Yogurt Pops

Photo from OneGoodThingByJillee.com blog
I doubt I'll ever end up making this since I've got a couple little silicone molds for frozen treats but I had to share because I thought it was so cute and innovative.  Make homemade frozen yogurt pops by inserting popsicle sticks or spoons through the lid on containers of yogurt. I was thinking you would have to be sure that your yogurt container has the right shape so you can easily pull the frozen pop out of the container, but Jillee solved that issue, she has instructions for cutting out the bottom of a yogurt cup, add a piece of foil for a new lid, insert the sticks, and freeze inverted.  

Wanna Chat?

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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Slow Cooker Ranch Chicken Tacos

Usually we make ground beef tacos but I know Husband Jeff likes chicken tacos as well, so I thought this recipe that combines taco seasoning and dry ranch dressing powder would be worth trying.

Inspiration

LaaLoosh Crock Pot Chicken Ranch Tacos

I did my standard substitution of chicken thighs instead of breasts.   I don't think the chicken stock is necessary for this recipe when you cook dark-meat thighs since they're jucier than white meat, but I went with it anyway since I had a can of chicken stock.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. chicken 
  • 1 packet dry ranch seasoning mix
  • 1 packet taco seasoning mix (I used Penzey's)
  • 14.5 oz. chicken stock

Directions

Simple ingredients (plus the chicken thighs
are already in the slow cooker)
Put the ingredients in the slow cooker and cook on low for four hours.

raw chicken swimming in the mixture

After four hours, remove the meat and shred it using two forks.  My meat had a bit of fat and skin on it, so I used this as an opportunity to pick through and take away any of those bits.  I also strained the liquid since some of the fat and skin had already detached from the meat. This would have also been a nice time to use a fat separator to remove the liquid fat floating on the top, but I don't have a fat separator and would rarely use it, so I accepted that the liquid would just have some fat floating on top. 
Cooked and shredded meat returned to the strained liquid
Let the meat cook on low for an additional four hours, for a total of about 8-10 hours.  You don't need to shred it at the half-way point, but that's when I come home for lunch and I prefer my meat shredded rather than cut.    

I served this with soft corn tortillas, slaw mix for crunch, black olives, cheese, avocado, tomatoes, taco sauce, etc. 

Verdict 

Mild flavor, not really worth the effort.  

The meat was tender and good, but the flavor wasn't amazing.  There was a softness that the ranch seasoning added to counteract the pungent sharpness of the taco seasoning, but it wasn't anything special.  I don't regret making it, but I don't think I need to make this again. 

The can of chicken stock was fine, but I was right, you really don't need that liquid when cooking thighs.  You could probably thicken the liquid by adding some cornstarch and cooking it down.  That would create a nice sauce that would cling to the meat, otherwise you need to strain the meat out of the liquid when you add it to your tacos. 

Husband Jeff liked it so much that he ate at least three tacos.  Sonny D had two servings of meat as well.  He doesn't usually care for Mexican flavors much, so maybe the softer taste made it more appropriate for him. 

Wanna Chat?

I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) gmail.com. It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Wait, What is French Toast doing in the Waffle Maker?

This recipe is the standard French toast recipe, but you cook it in your waffle maker.   Yet another novel idea brought to me by the internet that seems so obvious! The results are quite tasty, so without further ado, here is French Toast Waffles.

Inspiration

Cooking with My Kid Waffle Iron French Toast

I increased the recipe a bit since the original only made four slices and I was feeding two adults and one toddler and that was definitely not going to be enough food.  I figured if it made more than we could eat, we could see how well it froze.  Unfortunately we ate all of it so there were no leftovers!

I switched out the maple syrup (don't have any) for an equal amount of brown sugar.  I also skipped sprinkling it with powdered sugar since we put butter and pancake syrup on our waffles.  And I mixed the cinnamon directly into the egg mixture like I normally do for French toast.  I usually would add a splash of vanilla extract to something like this, but since it didn't magically appear in front of me when I opened the cupboard and I was too lazy to dig around to find it, I grabbed the first semi-appropriate thing I saw, caramel syrup used for flavoring coffee.  Yum!

We've only got a round waffle iron, which doesn't play nicely with the square shape of the bread, so I only made one slice at a time.  Yeah, it took longer, bit it was worth it!

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)
  • 2 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 T caramel syrup
  • 6-8 slices bread 

Directions

Heat up your waffle iron.  You know your waffle iron better than I do, so you might want to grab the cooking spray to give it a spritz to ensure the waffles don't stick.  I used olive oil cooking spray on the first one, but our waffle iron has a non-stick coating, so I skipped it for all the subsequent slices. 
Egg mixture for dipping.
In a medium size bowl, mix up the eggs, milk, brown sugar, cinnamon, and caramel syrup until the eggs are fully broken down. I find it easier to beat the ingredients in a separate container because the bowl I use for dipping the bread into is so shallow that it would make a total mess. 
Square bread in a round waffle iron.
Pour the egg mixture into a shallow bowl and briefly dip a piece of bread into the egg mixture and flop it into the waffle iron.  For my waffle iron I find it's easiest to set a timer for 2 minutes and then remove the finished waffle rather than listening for the 'click' of the "hot" light turning off on the top. 
Golden brown and delicious.

    Verdict

    What an awesome mash-up of waffles and French toast!

    I loved the thick texture of these French toast waffles. Usually a regular waffle doesn't get too crispy in a standard home waffle maker, so it can end up kind of lifeless and "nothing special".  This version has a lot of body and denseness (but not too much), even though I used light 12-grain bread, which can be thin and puny.  This was a total homestyle "breakfast for dinner" success. 

    Husband Jeff really liked these as well, and Sonny D ate at least one and a half slices, so that's another favorable review from the toddler.  I think I'm on a roll here! 

    I would most definitely make this again, and probably would keep the caramel syrup addition as well.  The caramel syrup gave it a depth that was enhanced by the pancake syrup.  It would also be really good with a homemade strawberry sauce and whipped cream.  I love whipped cream on waffles! Those little puddles of creamy syrup are so tasty.  A huge thanks to my brother-in-law Scott and his wife Stacy who taught us that one.

    Wanna Chat?

    I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) gmail.com. It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!

    Thursday, June 6, 2013

    Where Should We Meet?

    Let's say you need to connect with some people and want to pick a centrally-located spot to meet up, like where to have lunch!  I've got two recommendations for you.  For both websites, you enter addresses and it will find you the midpoint and give some suggestions for what's nearby.  For both websites you don't have to enter an exact address, you can enter a street name in a city and state or even a city and state and it will work with the information to give you locations.
    • MeetWays (Only Two Addresses)
      Meetways has a straight-forward, simple interface but only allows two addresses/ZIP codes.   This one cuts straight to the chase and right away recommends businesses (usually restaurants) to meet at.
    • Let's Meet in the Middle (Multiple Addresses)
      This website is a little more complicated, but it works for multiple addresses.  You add individual addresses to a list and as you add each address, it works out a midpoint and a halfway point along the driving route. That midpoint isn't necessarily a useful location, in Madison it seems that it's frequently in the middle of a lake.  From there you have the option to search Google for locations that are near the halfway point.  
    Both are handy tools when you want some help figuring out where to meet.  I've used them several times and loved the results they've given me.  I hope you like them!

    Wanna Chat?

    I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) gmail.com. It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!

    Wednesday, June 5, 2013

    Taking it to the Oven: Baked Pancake Squares

    I found this recipe on Pinterest, which is a great place to discover random recipes you might not go looking for (most involve loads cream cheese and all look fabulous!).  Making pancakes in a baking dish sounded appealing since I'm not good at making pancakes on the stove.  I've got enough patience to wait until the bubbles stay open before flipping them over to the other side, but that's where I get into trouble.  I'm completely unskilled at flipping pancakes without their tops landing on the other cooked pancakes, so now there's raw batter on part that was already done.  Grosses me out.

    I was in a hurry to make dinner this night, that's why there aren't any pictures of the batter.

    Inspiration

    Big Red Kitchen Pancake Squares

    I used almond milk instead of cow milk and added a little baking spice. 


    Ingredients

    • 3/4 cup milk
    • 2 T. melted butter
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 T. sugar
    • 1 cup flour
    • 2 t. baking powder
    • 1/4 t. salt
    • sprinkle of Penzey's baking spice (cinnamon mixture)

    Directions

    Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Coat an 8x8 pan with cooking spray.

    Mix together the liquid ingredients and the sugar.  Mix together the dry ingredients. Pour into the sprayed pan.  Bake for 20-25 minutes. 
    Freshly cooked

    dry top

    slice of goodness



    Verdict 

     A novel way to make pancakes. 

    We all liked this and I would totally make it again since I think it's easier than making regular pancakes.  The only thing I would do differently is to leave out the baking spice, it was unwelcome. Usually it's great in baked goods, but as I discovered, it seems that pancakes are supposed to be plain flavored and not jazzed up. 

    To me it tasted like there was a lot of baking powder in it, but it might be because I was looking for it.  Not sure what's going on with that, but I've noticed it in other recipes as well.  Probably some weird obsession I've got.   

    I would like to make this again in one of our family's favorite pancake variations, banana pancakes.  I think to do that I would reduce the milk to 1/2 cup and add at least one frozen over-ripe banana, if not two. 

    Wanna Chat?

    I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) gmail.com. It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!

    Tuesday, June 4, 2013

    Two-Timin' Pasta Sauce

    I'm surprised I've never heard of this idea before, mixing marinara sauce with alfredo sauce to make a creamy tomato sauce for pasta.  It seems like an obvious combo when you think about it.  I made this recipe for my mom and her husband when they came over for dinner. 

    Oops, more alfredo sauce mix than
    what fits in my immersion blender cup.

    Inspiration

    Pearls, Handcuffs, and Happy Hour Two-Timin' Pasta

    Instead of using a jar of alfredo sauce, I made my own.  The light recipe I used (listed below) is my favorite, I've used it to make alfredo sauce several times and I highly recommend it.  I really need to try it out on a pizza with spinach, chicken, sun-dried tomatoes.

    This can be made gluten-free when served with gluten-free pasta and using arrowroot powder or cornstarch in the alfredo sauce recipe. 

    Ingredients

    • 1 jar marinara sauce
    • 1 recipe guiltless alfredo sauce
    • 1 12 oz box of pasta (I used Barilla white fiber mini penne)
      sautee the garlic

    Directions

    Make the pasta according to the box.  Make the alfredo sauce recipe.  Heat up the marinara sauce.  When the alfredo and marinara sauces are ready, mix them together and serve with the pasta. So easy!


    Add milk (I used almond milk)

    cook the sauce for a while.  hard to tell, but it's thicker here
    mixing the red sauce and the alfredo

    swirly combo

    turkey meatballs with two timin' sauce

    Verdict

    Creamy tomato goodness.

    Everybody loved this.  We all had several servings of pasta with turkey meatballs.  Sonny D had one and a half servings, so that's a big thumbs up from a toddler. 

    Wanna Chat?

    I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) gmail.com. It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!

    Sunday, June 2, 2013

    Menu Plan: Week of June 3

    Here's our family's menu plan for the first week of June. I've got several new recipes that I'm planning to try this week on Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, I hope they turn out! I'm kind of glad the weather isn't going to be really warm this week so I can make the sweet potato soup.  I love soup season, but we don't really eat hot soup in summer.
    • Monday - ranch chicken tacos (taco seasoning and ranch dressing mix in the slow cooker with chicken thighs), refried beans
    • Tuesday - banana pancakes, eggs, sausage or bacon. It seems like I've got breakfast on the menu for dinner most weeks but it's so easy to throw together after work and so good!
    • Wednesday - chipotle sweet potato soup, salads
    • Thursday - I planned a ladies' night out with some friends at DLUX, so Husband Jeff will take care of dinner for himself and Sonny D.  They might make frozen pizza, but they might go to my in-laws' house because they love seeing Sonny D.
    • Friday - crab cakes (I've made this recipe before), rice, California blend veggies
    • Saturday - BBQ beef melts in pitas with sweet potato fries
    • Sunday - polenta pizza rounds.  I've been planning to make this for a couple weeks now, but haven't actually gotten around to it. 

    Wanna Chat?

    I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) gmail.com. It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!