“Since hunger is the most primitive and permanent of human wants, men always want to eat, but since their wish not to be a mere animal is also profound, they have always attended with special care to the manners which conceal the fact that at the table we are animals feeding.” - John Erskine

29 October 2011


Mmm, love those little bits of basil.
 I can’t quite remember when I first discovered how much I love bruschetta, but it hasn’t been all that long ago.  I was shopping at Sam’s Club and noticed a large (ish, but definitely not large enough for me) plastic jar of bruschetta in with the Italian cheeses.  (I tried to find a link, but apparently Sam’s doesn’t have it on their website, although it’s still offered in the store.)  I thought it was a type of salsa at first, but was quite pleased to find that onions and peppers were not on the list of ingredients.  I was intrigued, so I decided to bring it home and try it out.  It was love at first taste.

Not long after that I got a flier of recipes from church that had been tried out at a relief society meeting that I wasn’t able to attend.  Among the recipes was one for bruschetta.  I was excited at the prospect of saving a bit of money making the stuff myself.  I still haven’t found a recipe that I like as well as the stuff I can buy at Sam’s, but this one comes pretty close.  Can’t remember where I found it, and I’ve made a few adaptations, so I guess it’s my recipe now.
Tortilla chips?  Yep, that's right, tortilla chips.
 6 roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped (we don’t stick with just romas, but thow any kind of tomato we can get in there ~ but stick with romas if you don’t like your bruschetta too juicy)
3 cloves minced garlic
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (the original recipe called for balsamic, but we like it better with red wine)
¼ cup fresh basil, stems removed
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ cup parmesan cheese (optional) (we use this) 

In a large bowl, combine the garlic, olive oil, vinegar, basil, salt, and pepper, and cheese if using.  Place tomatoes and basil leaves in a food processor and process to desired consistency.  Alternately, chop tomatoes into small cubes.  Chop basil finely.  Stir into garlic mixture.  Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes before using.

Most people then spread the bruschetta on Italian bread toasted under the broiler, either with or without a little mozzarella or parmesan.  You can even use it as salad dressing.  We’re kind of weird around here and like to eat it with a little cheddar cheese and tortilla chips.  (My faves have to be these.  Mmm.)  Whatever way you like it, I hope you enjoy!  (Oldest sure did.)

twix caramel brownies

I had to show these off on the cutest paper plates ever.  Aren't they adorable?
I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about these brownies.  I was telling my friend about them and realized that I couldn’t find them anywhere on my site.  An oversight that must be rectified right away.

What can I say about these brownies?  Oh, goodness!  Gooey.  Chocolately.  Carameliscious.  And a great way to use up some of that Halloween candy you don’t really want to have lying around the house for the next few months.  Yeah, we don’t usually have leftover Twix bars either, so sneak them out of your kids’ stashes quickly!  You’re not going to want to miss trying these brownies.
There is just no way to show the gooey carmely goodness in a picture.
Twix Caramel Brownies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
¾ cup cocoa
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ cups chopped Twix candy bars
1/3 cup caramel ice cream topping

Heat oven to 350°.  Grease a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray.  Set aside.

Place butter in medium saucepan on the stove.  Heat over medium heat until butter is melted.  Remove from heat and stir in sugar and vanilla extract.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with spoon after each addition.  Add cocoa; stir until well blended.  Add flour, baking powder and salt; stir until combined.  Stir in Twix candy bar chunks.  Pour batter into prepared pan.

Drizzle caramel evenly over the brownies.  Using a toothpick, swirl caramel into brownies.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool brownies completely in pan on a wire rack.  Once cool, cut into squares and serve.
This is how I chop my Twix bars.  What you lose in big chunks of candy you make up for in convenience.

28 October 2011

mediterranean chicken

It was one of those days again.  I know I don’t need to go into detail.  We’ve all had ‘em and we’re all going to have ‘em again.  Run run run like crazy and then wonder what you could possibly make for dinner because you didn’t prepare when you had time.  I was wracking my brain, flipping through recipe books (wasting more time) when I remembered I had one of these babies in my cabinet.  Campbell’s to the rescue this time.  And it was actually culturally stimulating (not to mention really yummy.) 

Mediterranean Chicken
serves 6
source: Campbell’s Fabulous One-Dish Recipes
1½ cups bulgur wheat or regular long-grain rice, uncooked
1 can (about 16 ounces) stewed tomatoes, cut up
1 can (10½ ounces) condensed chicken broth
½ soup can water
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup sliced pitted ripe olives
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon pepper
6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1½ pounds)
½ teaspoon garlic salt

In a 3-quart oblong baking dish, combine bulgur wheat, tomatoes, broth, water, parsley, olives, lemon juice and pepper. 

Arrange chicken on bulgur mixture; press each chicken breast into bulgur mixture, covering halfway.  Sprinkle garlic salt and paprika over chicken.  Cover with foil. 

Bake at 375° for 30 minutes.  Uncover; bake 10 minutes more or until chicken is no longer pink.  Garnish with additional parsley and olives, if desired.

I decided I better double the recipe, but how was I going to do that when the biggest baking dish I have is a 9x13 incher?  It just so happened that my clean electric fry pan was sitting on the counter waiting to be put away (it looks something like this, but bigger ~ a great huge mondo thing) and I figured what the hay?  Popped all the stuff in there, stuck the lid on and cranked it to 375°.  It worked great!   

I’ve never tried bulgur wheat before, have you?, but it just so happened that I had some in the house that I apparently bought for another recipe and forgot about.  Very easy, and if you’re like my friend Renée (hi Renée!) who’s afraid of brown rice, this is a great alternative.  It cooked up really easily and was soft and had a similar flavor to brown rice.  I’m going to have to use bulgur more often!  Might even try some for breakfast one of these days.  And although I did use the bulgur, I also made some modifications.  (Of course.)  I didn’t have any stewed tomatoes (nor would I have wanted to cut them up if I’d had them ~ probably wouldnt have needed to anyway) so I used diced (just 1 can since Middlest doesn’t like tomatoes much).  No cutting necessary.  I didn’t have any parsley, so I added a little dry basil.  Love basil and it goes well with tomatoes and chicken.  Even though my husband doesn’t like olives much, I did pop open a can and sliced them with my handy dandy egg slicer.  (Ever tried that trick?  Works amazingly on olives.  Easy peasy olive squeezy, hehe.  But be careful with the cheapy ones, olives can bend the wires.)  I didn’t feel like climbing on a stool and trolling through my spice cabinet either, so the paprika may have felt a little left out.  It still tasted wonderful, and much to my surprise, everyone ate it and loved it.  Seems I’m turning my family into adventurous eaters after all.

27 October 2011

giant molasses cookies

We were booed the other night.  Have you ever been booed?  (If not, click here to check it out.)  It’s a great tradition and the kids really have fun with it (although sometimes I’m fairly certain I the kids could do without the extra Halloween-time treats).  Oldest was skulking through the neighborhood in his jammies last night trying to find a ghostless house, sneaking around with his flashlight and almost getting caught in the neighbors’ driveway.  I think the kids actually enjoy the booing better than being booed.

My point?  That I am very grateful I found this delicious-sounding recipe in my mom’s Taste of Home magazine and had time to try it out evening before we were booed.  How lucky was I (more to the point, how lucky were the neighbors we booed) that I actually had a treat on hand to give away?  (Not to mention that there were plenty of cookies left over that we could share.)  That never happens!  And even more to the point, how lucky was I that the neighbors helped us eat these cookies so I didn’t end up stuffing them all in my face eating more than I should.  Yep, they’re that good.

Giant Molasses Cookies
makes 24 giant or 36 regular-sized cookies
1½ cups butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
½ cup molasses
4½ cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup chopped pecans
¾ cup coarse sugar

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs and molasses.  Combine the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.  Fold in pecans.

Shape into 2-inch balls and roll in coarse sugar.  Place 2½ inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.  Bake at 400° for 16-18 minutes or until tops are cracked.  Remove to wire racks to cool.

The magazine article I took this recipe from talked about how great they were for sending to the troops overseas, since they hold up well during shipping.  So I want to challenge you to bake a batch to send to a soldier.  If you don’t know any soldiers currently serving, you can adopt a soldier from Soldier’sAngels, a non-profit organization that works to find “families” for soldiers who may not have anyone waiting for them at home.  A great way to get your kids involved in helping someone else this coming holiday season.

double layered soufflé

I didn’t get any pictures of this meal, so I’m using the one from the website.  My “soufflé” dish (did YOU know that’s what it was?) was dirty being used for something else so I used my 8x8” Pyrex.
When making this recipe be forewarned ~ it takes about 1½ hours to bake, so make sure you have enough time.  I did not, so we ended up eating at 7:00.  Oh well, there are just some nights like that I guess.

I found this recipe at my mom’s house while Littlest had a heyday in her kitchen, sniffing out candy and cookies and drinking up all her orange juice.  I was looking through a copy of Taste of Home about inventive ways to use your Thanksgiving dinner leftovers.  I don’t know why I was looking through those recipes ~ other than the fact that I’m a recipophile or whatever you call recipe-obsessors ~ since my husband gets upset if I make anything with his leftovers.  He likes them just the way they are.  But I found this recipe and the woman who sent it in (Sharon Amidon from Guthrie Oklahoma) says that she uses chicken to make it if she doesn’t have any turkey.  Well, you know me and canned chicken.  (What can I say, I love the ease and convenience.  Don’t judge me!)  Anyway, it sounded good, so I came home and made it.

Double Layered Soufflé
serves 8
6 eggs
¼ cup butter, cubed
1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
3 cups cubed cooked turkey breast

Soufflé layer:
1/3 cup butter, cubed
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups milk
1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1½ cups (6 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese

Separate eggs; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Grease a 2½-quart soufflé dish and lightly sprinkle with flour; set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter.  Add mushrooms; sauté until tender.  Stir in flour and salt until blended; gradually whisk in milk.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir for 2-3 minutes or until thickened.  Add turkey; heat through.  Transfer to prepared dish.

For soufflé layer, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter.  Add shallot; sauté until tender.  Stir in flour and salt until blended; gradually whisk in milk.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir for 2-3 minutes or until thickened.  Transfer to a large bowl; stir in spinach and cheese.

Stir a small amount of hot spinach mixture into egg yolks; return all to the bowl, stirring constantly.  Allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl with clean beaters, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.  With a spatula, stir a fourth of the egg whites into spinach mixture until no white streaks remain.  Fold in remaining egg whites until combined.  Pour over turkey layer.

Bake at 325° for 1¼ to 1½ hours or until the top is puffed and center appears set.  Serve immediately.

Here are my changes:  I used this instead of the turkey, as we have already established, and canned mushrooms instead of fresh.  I also actually had a shallot (maybe the first to enter my house in the almost 11 years we’ve lived here) but I used it in the pulled pork enchiladas, since I didn’t have any onions.  Boo!  So I fell back on onion powder as usual, adding a little granulated garlic for good measure.  It did make the sauce a little thicker, so if you follow my example, be aware of that.  (Not bad thicker, just thicker.  I actually think I liked it thicker.)  I also didn’t have any Swiss cheese, so I used about 1 cup of shredded cheddar jack and ½ a cup of stinky cheese (what my family calls this).  And I used season salt instead of boring old plain salt.  It still tasted a little bland to me.  Not sure what I need to do next time to make it taste a little better.  My husband smothered it in ketchup (as he does all eggs and eggish meals) and liked it considerably.  All of the kidlettes seemed to like it very well too.  Maybe it’s just me...

26 October 2011

simple pulled pork enchiladas ~ a tutorial

I thought I might surprise you all with an actual tutorial.  You can take a minute to get over your shock and awe and to jump up and down excitedly, Ill wait...  (Insert me humming to annoying hold music here.)  ...Are you finished?  Can we move on now?  Ok.

Ill warn you now, don’t get used to tutorials from me.  In other words, you can stop holding your breath for the next one.  (You’re going to have a great Halloween costume if you do because you’ll be among the walking dead.)  The whole point of this blog is, after all, for me to try out new recipes, so I’m learning myself and most days I’m not going to feel quite up to teaching you too.  I have, however, made enchiladas for many many many years (one of my husband’s favorites; and no, I’m not going to get into just how many years, suffice it to say that I’m fairly experienced at it) and since finding the right technique can be tricky I thought I’d share mine.  And on that note, are we ready?  Ok, here we go.

The hardest part of these enchiladas, in my opinion (feel free to disagree, it can take some time learning how to wrestle these little beauts) is pulling the pork.  I happened to have a couple of extra cooked pork roasts lying around (yeah right, who has cooked pork roasts lying around?  Well, me, since I didn’t realize the GIANT pork roast I bought at Sam’s Club last time I was there was actually 4 roasts until I had them out of the package and in the crock pot.  Since I was already late for church I just figured I’d cook them anyway and figure out what to do with them later.  Hence the pulled pork enchilada idea) so I pulled one out of the fridge and started “pulling”.  Which means, I used two forks and a whole lotta elbow grease to break the pork up.  NOT one of my favorite jobs, but I managed it.  (Too bad the kidlettes were at school, it would have been a great job for them.  Then again, most of the pork would probably have ended up flipped off the forks ~ on accident or purpose ~ and all over my kitchen, so maybe I should just be grateful for small favors...)  So first off, take about a pound of cooked pork roast (see my flavorful pot roast post for a great way to cook it) and start forking pulling.

Simple Pulled Pork Enchiladas
serves 7
1 pound cooked pork roast, shredded or “pulled”
1 envelope McCormick Enchilada Sauce Mix (or 1 can or equivalent of your favorite enchilada sauce)
1 large can tomato sauce (omit if using canned enchilada sauce)
1½ cups water (omit if using canned enchilada sauce)
7 medium-large tortillas (I used these ~ the recipe actually calls for 8, but I tend to fill my enchiladas fairly full and can’t seem to fit 8 into my dish)
4 tablespoons cream cheese (½ a standard brick)
1 cup (or more) shredded cheese (I used this)
chopped onions, black olives, chiles, sour cream, etc. as desired

Put dry enchilada sauce into a small saucepan and add tomato sauce and water.  Stir to mix well.  (If using canned enchilada sauce, pour can into small saucepan.)  Bring sauce to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Put pork into a medium-sized bowl.  Pour about ½ cup warm sauce over meat.  Add cream cheese and stir with warmed sauce to partially melt.  Add about ½ cup shredded cheese and mix well. 
Mine came out looking a lot like devilled ham.
If your whole family likes add-ins ~ onions, olives, chiles ~ go ahead and add them to the meat mixture, but don’t add the sour cream.  If only some of you like onions or olives, you can add them to a few enchiladas as you fill them (see photo where I added onions below).

Since I’m about to dip my tortillas in hot sauce I generally don’t bother warming them.  Just pull them out of the fridge and start dipping, but if you want to warm them first, go ahead and do it now.  Then preheat your oven to 350°.

Now pull out your 9x13” or equivalent sized dish.  I find that my 9x13” works perfectly, as the tortillas sit in there nice and cozily.  (Is cozily a word?  I don’t know, but I’m using it as one.)  You might be tempted to spray it with cooking spray; go ahead, but it’s pretty pointless if you’re using my technique ~ you’ll just end up with cooking spray all over your enchiladas.  Pour about ¼ cup of sauce into the bottom of your dish.  Take a tortilla and mop it into the sauce, coating first one side and then the other.  Then lay your soggy tortilla flat in the bottom.  Spoon a generous amount of the meat mixture down the center of the tortilla and roll up, tucking it to the edge of the pan.
Continue to pour, coat, fill and roll the remaining tortillas, using the empty areas of the pan until all the tortillas are filled and tucking each rolled tortilla up against the last.  (If you’re confused or having difficulties, refer to the pictures.  If you’re STILL confused or having difficulties, I’m happy to answer any questions.)
Put the part of the tortilla you're going to add filling to against the last rolled tortilla.
Then fill, roll and tuck, ending with the seam down if possible.
Filling the last tortilla can be tricky.  Just make the most of the space you have left.  Here I've added the onions (ok, they're actually shallots) on top of the meat mixture.  If you or someone in your family doesn't like the added fillings make sure you do something to remember which ones have them.
Now tuck and roll baby!
Pour any remaining sauce over tortillas and sprinkle with remaining cheese.  (My friend Stormy doesn’t pour any additional sauce on, nor does she put any sauce on the inside of the tortilla.  Totally up to you, depending on how much sauce you like.  My husband is a very saucy guy, so we use all the sauce, pouring most of it on his oniony side of the pan.  You can also sprinkle onions, olives or chiles on top of the sauce if you prefer them on the outside.  Makes it easier to tell whose is whose if some of you don’t like onions the same toppings.)
All dressed up and ready to go in the oven.  You can totally add olives, chiles, even onions on top here.
Bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly. 
Hot and yummy right out of the oven.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream.  (You can also serve with the extras on the side and let everyone add their own as desired.)
Mmm, enchiladas and broccolli.  What's not to like?
My family thought these were amazing.  I don’t think Ive ever found an enchilada they don’t like yet.  Wait, I take that back.  They really don’t like those cream of chicken soup enchiladas.  Someone very thoughtfully brought us some after I had surgery once, and the next time I made enchiladas Littlest actually cried at the thought of having to eat that kind again.  Hopefully he wont ever have to.

22 October 2011

bread talk part III ~ rockin' rye

“Here is bread, which strengthens man’s heart, and therefore is called the staff of Life.” -Matthew Henry
You really have to taste this bread to understand how flavorful and SOFT it is.  Mmmm, rye.
Have I mentioned before how much I love bread.  I LOVE bread.  Just thinking about it makes me drool like Homer Simpson.  And have I mentioned (I have, just wanted to see if you were paying attention; were you paying attention?) that I can now bake bread?  It’s such a novelty for me to have my bread rise correctly and come out of the oven smelling warm and homey and delicious that I’m still very excited about it.  All kudos go to my rock star friend Chef Tess, who prodded and nudged first indirectly through her awesome blog and then personally through classes and e-mails and unending praise and encouragement.  Love you Steph, you totally ROCK!  MUAH!!!

So since I can accept no credit or glory for my own personal bread triumphs, I am not posting the recipe for my amazingly perfect bread.  Please follow this link to experience your own personal bread journey, guided by the sweet and witty Chef Tess.  (If youre new to breadmaking, or simply not happy with how your bread is turning out, you will want to start here.)  Mmm, homemade rye bread.  It’s (almost) better than a trip to Disneyland.

21 October 2011

Cheesy Potato Soup

This is the soup in my crock pot on my beautifully set fall table.  Isnt it gorgeous?
A gorgeous, gorgeous fall day, and what could be better for dinner than an amazing soup that cooks itself all day in the crock pot?  (An amazing soup that someone else cooks all day in the crock pot for you?)  This soup was really easy, and very delish.  The only real gripe I have about it is that I had to peel and cut up the potatoes.  I know, I know, I’m trying really hard to become more of a Holly Homemaker, and that’s part of the job.  *sigh*  And thanks to my mother ~ who was a total soup saver by picking up Littlest from kindergarten ~ I did just that?  Are you proud of me?  You totally should be.
Soup topped with bacon with salad and roll.  I was totally going to make rolls, but the craziness of the day called for Rhodes warm and serve instead.  Yum!
 Cheesy Potato Soup
serves 6
4 slices bacon
1½ cups chopped onion
5 cups diced peeled russet potatoes (about 5 medium)
1 medium stalk celery, chopped (½ cup)
4 cups chicken broth
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup all-purpose flour
1½ cups half-and-half
2 cups shredded American and cheddar cheese blend

In a 12-inch skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, turning occasionally, until browned and crispy.  Remove from skillet, reserving fat in skillet.  Drain bacon on paper towel, then refrigerate.  In same skillet, cook onion in bacon fat over medium heat 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender.

Spray slow cooker with cooking spray.  In cooker, mix onion, potatoes, celery, broth, salt and pepper.

Cover; cook on Low heat setting 6 to 7 hours.
In small bowl, beat flour and half-and-half with wire whisk until well blended; stir into soup.  Increase heat setting to High.  Cover; cook about 30 minutes longer or until thickened.  Stir in cheese until well melted.  Crumble bacon; sprinkle over soup.

Of course I made some changes.  (Did you expect anything different?  So silly of you.)  I thought I had celery, but it had evolved into some primordial ooze in my crisper.  (Thought those things were supposed to keep things crisp.  Go figure.)  So instead of celery, I used a couple of sprinkles of celery seed and some season salt instead of the regular salt.  (I think theres some celery flavor in that season salt, isnt there?)  And for a little more on that celery-ish flavor I used half vegetable broth and half chicken.  And you KNOW I didn't use the onion.  Sprinkled liberally (very liberally, since it called for so much onion) with onion powder.  And I didnt bother with the American cheese either.  Just used a nice couple of handfulls of cheddar jack.

Everyone loved this soup.  Middlest ~ who has claimed for the last two years that he hates potatoes and tomatoes and everything associated with them ~ even ate it and loved it.  We had grandpa over for dinner and he raved, eating two helpings and taking some home for lunch tomorrow.  Since my husband told me he didn’t want leftovers, I gave them to our other grandpa and grandma and they loved it too.  Gotta love it when everyone’s digging on a recipe!
Doesnt my table set for fall look fabulous?  Mmm, soup!