Monday, September 28, 2009

Menu 4 - "Best of" Menu

I've been on vacation at my mom's house - hence, there has been very little cooking and mostly just lots of eating going on around here. My husband is always getting after me for not recycling recipes (so I like to try new things, so sue me!), so enjoy this menu with some of my favorite recent repeats from past menus!

Butternut Squash and Corn Chowder - I've made this twice now - and that's rare around my house. I just think it is perfection in a bowl. Even my 2-year old loves it! Add a dash of nutmeg to it to spice it up.
Stewed Vegetable Gratin - So yummy and really guilt-free!

Thai Chicken Curry - Again, so so delicious and easy to make.
Chicken Quesadilla Pie - My family (and I) loved this. I also threw in some extra mushrooms and zucchini to lower the amount of meat and increase veggies without the knowledge of my picky little eaters. =)

Slow Cooker:
Smoky Beef Tacos - These had a fun flavor and were just the perfect spiciness. I loved that they were a little different than your normal slow cooker taco recipe.
Thai Chicken and Noodles - So fun and different for a slow cooker!

Grilled Salmon with Sweet Corn and Avocado Relish - This will please even non-fish lovers, honestly. It was so easy, so delicious. I will be making this for years to come! Click here for a picture and information on how I did it.
Ultimate Steak Sandwiches - I know it would be expensive to make these sandwiches and Salmon in one menu cycle - but these were my two favorite fun recipes recently. I just couldn't get over the tenderness of the steak and the delicious flavors together. I did cut costs and just used normal cheeses that I had on hand.

Tomato and Mozzarella Quesadillas with Basil - I serve all the ingredients on the quesadilla itself. Fresh basil is key to this recipe. The ingredients themselves are very simple, but SO delicious together.
Mexican Lasagna - Easy, filling, fast, and best of all: YUMMY!

Sweet Treat:
Let's give one last shout-out to summer with Stacie's delicious Black-bottom Banana Cream Pie!

See you in 2 weeks with more autumn harvest recipes - and I promise, pictures this time. =)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Nutella Frosting

If there's one thing Alicia and I share (besides genetics), it's a love for Nutella. For a while now I've been wondering if there's more to eating Nutella than standing in my kitchen with a big spoon and a guilty- but heavenly- feeling. Which, don't get me wrong, is more than enough for me. But I got to thinking about making cupcakes one day, and well, one thing led to another. I found a recipe for Nutella frosting online, and the rest is history.

Nutella Frosting

3/4 c. butter, softened
3 c. powdered sugar
1/3 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. Nutella

Here's the thing. It was a bit runny for my liking. It tasted divine. But next time, I would either add the milk one tablespoon at a time until I reach the consistency I want, or add a bit more powdered sugar. Just something to keep in mind!


Monday, September 14, 2009

Menu 3

Whew, another 2 weeks, another menu. Enjoy!

Almond-Apricot Chicken with Mint Pesto - also a guest-impressing dish...and yummy!
Spicy Grilled Tilapia with Creamy Grits and Mushroom Scallion Sauce

Meatloaf** - This is a simple recipe, but it's my favorite meatloaf - you just can't beat your mom's cooking. I served it with these amazing little bite-sized pieces of Heaven. In addition - whenever I make meatloaf, I double or triple the recipe and then freeze it in a loaf pan and then transfer it to a ziploc bag. Then I have a delicious and easy meal any night of the week - and a lot more healthy than a frozen dinner from the grocery store! I've included instructions for freezing in the recipe below if you are interested. Thai Chicken Curry - An all-time-favorite. Please try this. Rumored to come from an Thai/French Fusion restaurant, this dish is just delicious, easy to make, and comforting. Not very exotic in technique, however, so if you haven't cooked Thai food before, do NOT be intimidated. I like to add extra veggies - zucchini, a bell pepper (any color), potatoes, etc. Sauteed or fried tofu is also a great substitute for the chicken, if you're in the mood. You can find Red Curry Paste in the Asian aisle of almost any grocery store.

Tomato and Mozzarella Quesadillas with Basil - Another favorite! If you have nut allergies, just skip the pine nuts, they're still delicious. I believe fresh basil is the key ingredient in this dish.
Corn and Butternut Squash Chowder** - Unbelievably good. This is in the September 2009 Everyday Food Magazine. I could go on and on about how easy it was to prepare, about how I was licking my bowl when it was done because it was SO delicious, but really, you should just make it. Like, tonight. SO SO good. I served it with a rustic loaf of sourdough bread and fresh strawberries. The recipe is below. Please try it - and if you don't subscribe to this magazine, I think you ought to take a jaunt over here right now because it's so helpful in the kitchen!

Middle Eastern Grilled Chicken
Salmon with Sweet Corn, Tomato, and Avocado Relish - This dish blew me away. Definitely fast and DEFINITELY worth it. Even if you don't love fish! Just absolutely an A+ dish. Here's how to make it super fast and easy:
1) Make the relish in the afternoon and then let it just sit in the fridge until serving, then most of your chopping is done
2) Use frozen corn over fresh (unless you have the time)
3) Use a broiler to cook the fish (about 4-5 minutes per side) and for the last 5 minutes, just throw the asparagus and maybe some mushrooms next to it - no sauce needed for the veggies
4) For the spice rub, don't worry about ingredients you don't have - as long as you have paprika and salt, the spice will work with bits and pieces of the rest (for instance, I used minced garlic instead of garlic powder and Italian seasoning instead of Thyme).
Slow Cooker:
Creamy Farmhouse Chicken and Garden Soup
Thai Chicken and Noodles - This dish comes from our guest blogger, Karen, last week. I loved it - not the usual salty, processed meal that you think of when you think of a slow cooker. I followed her advice and used 1/4 C lemon/lime juice instead of chicken broth and thought that was a nice touch. I also used rice instead of Vermicelli Noodles because, frankly, I just forgot to buy them. Still delicious!

Sweet Treat: We're taking a bit of a sugar-break at our house, so this week we'll be eating Homemade Microwave Popcorn! I originally got this idea from a cousin of mine and I have been hooked ever since. Delicious, easy, cheap, and fun! Listen carefully to your microwave, I've found that the cooking time varies depending on the microwave. Also, you can use olive oil, cooking spray, anything really. Lastly, yellow kernels work better than white because of the higher burning temperature.

**Recipes not found on internet:
Mom's Meatloaf:
1 ½ pounds hamburger (or 1 pound hamburger and ½ pound sausage)
8 oz. Tomato juice
¾ cup dry oatmeal
1 egg –beaten
1/3 cup onion
1 ¼ salt
Combine and mix well.
(If you are freezing it, at this point: place in bag and press flat. Freeze.) Bake in greased loaf pan at 350 for 55 minutes. (If using from frozen, thaw, and then follow directions accordingly.)
Corn and Butternut Squash Chowder from Everyday Food Magazine, September 2009 issue
2 T Vegetable Oil
1.5 Pounds Butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks (most grocery stores and some farmer's markets will sell it cut this way, or at least peeled and seeded if you are short on time!)\
1 Medium Onion, chopped
10 ounces frozen corn kernels, thawed
1.5 t Curry powder
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 Cans (14.5 ounces each) vegetable broth
1/2 Cup Heavy cream
In a large heavy pot, heat oil over medium high; add squash and onion. Cook until onion is soft, about 6 minutes. Add corn and curry powder; cook until curry is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add broth and simmer until squash is tender, about 25 minutes. In a blender, blend half the soup until smooth. Return to pot and stir in cream; heat through over medium-low (do not boil).
Serves 4. Prep Time: 15 Minutes. Total Time: 40 minutes.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Who you calling a dip!?

Looking for something to make for a crowd? share at a party? enjoy just for yourself!? Well, you've come to the right place. So without further ado... here's to dips!

Nut free Pesto
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup fresh basil
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1/3 cup olive oil (extra virgin please!!)
1 tsp salt, more to taste
1 lemon zest (grated)
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp freshly ground (or not, whatev) black pepper
(if you want to add some pine nuts you can, but don't call it nut free if you do!)

Mmmmm.... Is it just me or are olives just plain good!?
I love all kinds and colors and stuffed with anything! I love them sliced or diced or hey, even puree!

Olive Tapenade
20 pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp rinsed, drained, and chopped capers
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp olive oil
Fresh cracked black pepper (to taste)
**Serve with water crackers or unsalted saltines to spread on.Combine everything in a food processor (I use my magic bullet!) Put it in a bowl and chill until ready to serve. Will keep for up to 2 weeks refrigerated.

Guilt Free Salsa from my mom - DELICIOUS and addictive =)

Corn and Black Bean Salsa
2 16-oz. cans black beans
1 16 oz. can of corn
5 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 medium avocado, chopped (I usually put either one large one or two small ones because I love them!)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime
Hint of Lime Tortilla Chips

Drain the black beans and corn. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except for the lime and chips. Toss to mix well.Before serving, squeeze the juice from one lime over the topServe with lime chips

Monday, September 7, 2009

Guest Blogger: Homemade Pancake Mix

I know I promised another dessert, but I've come across something wonderful recently, and it's my very own pancake mix! I purchased a wheat grinder a few weeks ago and have been incorporating whole wheat into every recipe I think can handle it.

Remember the blueberry flax pancakes Alicia posted from a few weeks ago? One of the reviewers on that site said to try it using a pancake mix that was also on It's part wheat flour and part white flour, which is exactly what I was looking for. My kids love pancakes, and I love that you make the mix up, store it, and just add milk and eggs when you're ready.

Pancake Mix

4 c. white flour
2 c. wheat flour
2/3 c. sugar
2 tbsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. baking soda

Store in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months.
To make, mix 1 c. pancake mix with 1 egg and 3/4 c. milk.
Pour onto hot griddle, bake, and enjoy!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

365 Days of Slow Cooking

I'm very excited about this week's guest blogger. Who doesn't love a good meal from the slow cooker? Mmmm, that comfort food taste that you just can't quite find anywhere else that takes you right back to Sunday dinners as a child.
Well, slow cookers aren't just for Sundays anymore! Karen Petersen has been doing an experiment for the last 219 days (and will continue until she hits 365): eat a meal from her sl0w cooker - every. single. day. I've asked her to share with us a couple of tips she's learned along the way - and a few of her favorite recipes (hurray!), which she also has available on her blog,

Here's what she had to say:

I have been using my slow cooker everyday for 219 days! Before I started this little “project” I had one recipe that I made in my slow cooker. ONE! Now I have over 219. Some good and some I will never make again. I didn’t really know anything about slow cookers before I started. I just kind of experimented with things and have learned a lot along the way. I just want to say that I love my slow cooker now and it has so many benefits! It’s great for busy families and serving in shifts, it doesn’t heat up the kitchen, it’s economical, and inexpensive, tough meats become tender…I could go on and on!

I’d love to share 3 things that have helped me and hope that you will find that they help you too. Check out my blog for more tips, recipes, and reviews.

Tip #1: Use the right size of slow cooker! It is important to fill the slow cooker about 2/3 to ¾ full. If it is not filled enough it will overcook and burn. I started out at the beginning of my experiment with solely a 6-quart slow cooker. Keep in mind that I am cooking for my husband, my 2 kids, and myself. This size was way too big and things would not turn out that great. Then I purchased a 3-quart slow cooker and it seems to be the perfect size for us on a daily basis. Every now and then I use my 6-quart for big cuts of meat or if I’m cooking for company.

Tip #2: As a general rule, lifting the lid off the slow cooker lengthens the cooking time by 30 minutes to an hour. The steam builds up inside the slow cooker and creates a vacuum seal. Each time the lid is lifted the steam and heat escape, extending the cooking time. Again, I’ve learned this little tip along the way. I used to always lift the lid…several times over the course of its cooking time. Now that I know this little tidbit, meals turn out a lot better and don’t take near as long.

Tip #3: Tenderness of the meat is directly correlated to the cooking time. Tough cuts of meat can become tender in one extra hour of cooking time. When you check your meat for doneness, if it isn't tender, let it cook for another hour and check again.

Interestingly, some of my favorite recipes have been desserts. One of my favorite desserts is the caramel chocolate cake. I also did an applesauce that my kids and I loved. My husband loved the garlic lime chicken and my mouth watered over the Garlic Caesar Chicken with Spinach Fettuccine. Because I want you to succeed in your slow cooking adventures (by succeed, I mean your family will eat your meal without complaining), I’ve ranked all of my recipes with a star rating. The ratings are as follows:
5 stars: I love this dish, I would make it once a week if I could!
4 stars: This is a tasty dish; it will go in our rotation of meals.
3 stars: I liked it okay, I probably won't make it more than once every several months.
2 stars: I ate it, but I won't make it again.
1 star: It was gross and I didn't even finish it.

Good luck in your slow cooking and email me if you have any questions or comments…I’d love to hear from you!

And here are some questions answered about Karen:
EAAM: Where are you from?
KP: I grew up in Montana and moved to Utah when I was 18 for college. I now live in Utah, just north of Salt Lake.

EAAM: What got you into cooking?
KP: The reason I cook is because I have to! I have a husband and two kids...I was always more of a baker until this year. Now I cook everyday. It saves money too...which is always nice.

EAAM: What is your go-to; that meal/food/dessert/snack that you find yourself eating over and over and over again?
KP: Peanut butter sandwich, peanut butter plain, peanut butter and chocolate! Love them all!!

EAAM: What is your favorite food?
KP: I love most all food! The only thing I don't like is watermelon and cantaloupe. Everything else is wonderful!

EAAM: What is the one kitchen appliance/accessory/utensil you just can't live without?
KP: The slow cooker, of course!!

EAAM: You're going to live on the moon for 1 year and can only bring 1 kind of dessert, what do you bring?
KP: Only one? I'm such a dessert fan. I would have to say brownies, or cookies that were kind of brownie-like.