Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Blueberry Muffins

I found this recipe on RecipeZaar and thought it sounded like a good way to use up some of the fresh blueberries I have on hand. I made another trip to the local farmer's market on Sunday and picked up another four quarts. We've been snacking on them and I've frozen the majority again, but wanted to bake something new to try. Kevin is hoping for a blueberry pie here soon, so maybe I'll have to try that out, too. Anyway, back to the muffins. These were very tasty, very moist, and very good. I'll definitely make these again.

The Best Blueberry Muffins

1/2 cup butter or margarine, at room temp
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries or frozen blueberries
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk

For Topping:
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, mixed with
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Heat oven to 375°. Grease 18 regular-size muffin cups, or 12 large size muffins (I did 24 muffins with no problem). In bowl, mix butter until creamy. Add sugar and beat until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each. Beat in vanilla, baking powder and salt. With spoon, fold in half of flour then half of milk into batter; repeat. Fold in blueberries. Spoon into muffin cups and sprinkle topping onto each muffin. (I left the topping off because Kevin isn't much for them, he just likes plain muffins) Bake 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown and springy to touch.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Penne with Spring Pea-sto

This recipe is from Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Meals show on the Food Network. And believe it or not, it really did only take 30 minutes to make! :) I used basil from my garden to make the pesto. I also thawed some frozen grilled chicken I had in the freezer and tossed that in to make it a complete one dish meal. It was a great light dinner for a warm summer night. Both Kevin and I thought this was very tasty and we'll definitely be having this again. Next time I will do some prep ahead, though, to make it an even faster meal on a work night... mainly just have homemade pesto on hand or make it the night before. Then I can just put the pot of water on to boil and get some things accomplished rather than making the pesto while the pasta cooks. Also, it made a huge batch - an entire pound of pasta - so we have a couple lunches built right in. I love meals that do double duty.

Penne with Spring Pea-sto

1 pound whole-wheat penne pasta (for once I didn't have whole wheat penne on hand, so I just used normal penne)
1 package frozen peas, defrosted
1/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts
1 cup packed basil leaves
6 to 8 sprigs fresh tarragon, leaves stripped (I left this out and put in a few more leaves of basil since I didn't grow tarragon in my garden)
1 teaspoon lemon zest (I also left this out b/c I didn't have any lemons)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano, a couple of handfuls, plus more for serving (freshly grated was awesome, but the Kraft stuff would work, too)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, eyeball it
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water up to a boil then season water with salt and cook penne to al dente. Heads up: you will need to reserve 1 or 2 ladles of starchy cooking water, 1/2 to 3/4 cup, before draining the pasta.

Place 1/2 of the peas in the bottom of a large serving dish. Place the rest of the peas in a food processor with the pine nuts, basil, tarragon leaves, lemon zest, cheese and olive oil. Add a little salt and pepper then process the pesto into rough paste, adjust seasonings.

Pour starchy water over peas in bowl then add pesto. Pour hot, drained pasta over the pesto and toss vigorously to coat and combine. Adjust seasoning and serve, passing extra cheese at the table.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Veggie Burgers

This recipe comes from Sara Ross' mom. Sara and I used to make these when we were in college and eat them throughout the school year. Eating these now brings back lots of good memories of the years that Sara and I lived together. Sara is now in Denver and I miss her terribly (you need to move home, Sara!!) :) Anyway, I made up a batch of these veggie burgers just before Carson was born and froze them. We have them for dinner every few weeks or so - and we had them for dinner on Monday with some local sweet corn from Eichelberg's farm. They're very good, even Kevin likes them, which I was very surprised by! And they're very economical, too, as the ingredients are all pretty cheap.

Lentil Burgers for Bean Haters

2 cups cooked lentil-bulgur mixture (see below)
2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
4 Tablespoons mixed italian herbs
4 cloves minced garlic (or 4 teaspoons garlic powder)
2 eggs (or 2 T soy flour and 2 T water)
1/2 cup milk

Mix the first six ingredients. Mix in eggs. Add milk and mix well. Chill for one half hour in refrigerator. Form mixture into patties and fry 10 minutes per side, or bake on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 10 minutes on each side (I baked mine).

Lentil-bulgur mixture: Mix equal parts lentils and bulgur wheat. Simmer one part of this mixture with two parts water for 45 minutes. (I used brown lentils, but I've since read that the red and green lentils have a bit more flavor than the brown, so I might try them with red lentils next time to see what the difference is. Also, I used light bulgur wheat.)

We eat them like we'd eat a normal hamburger - with cheese, mayo, ketchup, mustard, pickles. Lettuce and tomato are very good on them, but I didn't have any on Monday, so no picture with all the toppings we'd normally have on them.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dried Cherries

On Sunday, I went into Swartz Creek to the local farmer's market to pick up some cherries and blueberries. I decided to dry the cherries to have on hand in the fall and winter for pork dishes and maybe some baking. I only bought a quart of Michigan cherries, which only yields about a cup and a half (maybe 2 cups, I didn't measure, just eyeballed it) of dried cherries. So I'm hoping to make another trip next week to pick up another quart or two. Dried cherries, or fruit of any kind really, are such a tasty addition to pork roasts, pork chops, and pork loins. They're also very tasty to eat just by themselves, but I'm hoping to be able to save these for my intended purpose of cooking with them.

I don't have a food dehydrator yet - I've been looking for a good deal on one on CraigsList for awhile now and I think I may be getting one on Tuesday if it turns out to be as nice in person as it sounds. So for this batch of cherries, I used my normal oven. I have one of those Maytag Gemini ovens, its a free-standing range, but has two separate ovens. A small one on top (the size of the drawer on the bottom of a normal oven) and a regular sized oven on the bottom. I used the smaller top one as it takes less energy to maintain the temperature. I preheated the oven to 170, my lowest heat setting, but I've read that others have done this on 200, which was their lowest heat setting. I then pitted all of the cherries by running a paring knife around the cherry and peeling it apart. I put all of the pitted cherries onto a parchment lined baking sheet and put them in the oven basically all day and into the night. It took mine about 9.5 hours, but depending on your heat setting and your oven, I've read it can take as little as 5 hours and as many as 12 hours. I then just shut the oven off and left the baking sheet in the oven overnight to dry them up a little more. This morning, I put them into a plastic Ziploc storage bag for the time being until I can get a half-pint canning jar cleaned tonight. Then I'll transfer them to that and store them in the pantry.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Crockpot Parmesan Chicken

I tried out another recipe I found on A Year of CrockPotting for parmesan chicken last night. This turned out very tasty and I'll definitely make this again. This was another very easy recipe to throw together. This only cooked for about 6 hours on low and it was perfect, so I doubt I'll be able to make it on a normal workday once Kevin returns to work (which reminds me, if you have any good crockpot recipes that can be in there for 12 hours, let me know!). I did make some modifications to the original recipe which I hope made it a little more healthy. Even though I didn't bread the chicken, as is typical for chicken parm, it still tasted very good, definitely didn't miss the breadcrumbs. I've put my comments in parentheses within the recipe below.

Crockpot Parmesan Chicken

2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (I used boneless skinless chicken breast tenders)
1/2 cup bread crumbs (I omitted this and just sprinkled the chicken with some Mrs. Dash italian seasoning)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (I did sprinkle a little on the chicken, but probably only a total of about 1/8 cup)
1/2 t Italian Seasoning (I used Mrs. Dash brand)
1/4 t black pepper
1/4 t kosher salt (I omitted this)
1 T olive oil (I just used my olive oil spray to spritz the inside of the crock)
1 beaten egg (I omitted this since I wasn't breading the chicken)
sliced mozzarella cheese (I used low-fat)
favorite jarred marinara sauce (I used homemade)

Spread the 1 T of olive oil into the bottom of your crockpot stoneware insert. Whip the egg with a fork in a separate bowl. Mix the bread crumbs with the seasonings and the parmesan cheese in another separate dish. Dip the chicken into the egg, then into the bread crumb mixture, coating both sides with crumbs, cheese and seasonings (I omitted the breading step and just sprinkled the chicken with some Mrs. Dash italian seasoning and a small amount of parmesan cheese). Place the chicken breast pieces in the bottom of the crock. Layer 2-3 slices of mozzarella cheese on top (I only put one slice on each). Cover with entire jar of marinara sauce. Close lid and cook on low for 6-7 hours or high for 3-4. If your chicken is still frozen, it will take longer. Serve with your favorite pasta (we had ours over tri-color fusilli because that is what I had on hand).

Friday, July 18, 2008

Crockpot Margarita Chicken

On Thursday, I tried out a recipe from A Year of CrockPotting for margarita chicken. I thought it was very good, but Kevin wasn't too happy with it. I loved the flavor combination with the dijon, soy sauce, garlic and honey... but since Kevin basically doesn't care for any of the ingedients in the sauce (except for the garlic), he didn't like it too much. So I guess I won't be keeping this recipe since Kevin didn't care for it, but wanted to post it here anyway since it was so easy to make. I guess I can always make it sometime when its just me at home for dinner, too.

Margarita Chicken

4-5 frozen boneless skinless chicken thighs (I used boneless skinless chicken tenders)
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey
1 T coconut aminos (substitute for soy sauce)
2 minced garlic cloves
3 T margarita mix (I used Jose Cuervo with the tequila already in it, but you could use the stuff without tequila in it just as well)

Mix your sauce ingredients in a mixing bowl. Place the frozen chicken in the bottom of your crockpot. Cover with the sauce. Cook on low for 7-9 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. If your chicken is fresh, check it after 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Crockpot Rotisserie Chicken

I made this about a month ago and it was delish! It really did taste like rotisserie chicken. It was so moist and tender and it just fell right off all the bones. Very economical, too, if you buy your chicken on a good sale (I got mine for 59 cents a pound). I shredded the leftovers and froze it for later use in enchiladas or for BBQ chicken sandwiches or something. Then I used the carcass to make homemade chicken stock, which I put in the freezer, too.

The recipe comes from Aimee's Adventures. The original recipe is below with my comments/changes in parentheses. You can wrap some potatoes in the foil and let them cook with the chicken and you'd have a meal all in one pot. I'm going to try this next time.

Crockpot Rotisserie Chicken

1 Whole Chicken
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Spice rub of your favorite spices (I like garlic, onion, thyme, and sage)
Aluminum foil

Clean chicken inside and out. Rub with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and spices. Do not put any water in the crockpot. Roll some wads of aluminum foil into balls and put them in the bottom of the crockpot. The chicken is going to sit on these. Put chicken back side down in crockpot on top of aluminum balls. Cook on High (will not come out the same on low), 4-6 hours. (I cooked mine on low for about 12 hours by the time I got home from work and it turned out delicious, so I don't really agree with Aimee that it won't turn out on low.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Another Blog?

Yes, I've created yet another blog. This one will be devoted to my adventures in the kitchen. I regularly peruse many different foodie blogs and have found lots of new recipes to try out that I hope to share here with our thoughts on them. I also hope to share some recipes I've collected, from random cookbooks and treasured family recipes. If you find a recipe you like and decide to try it on your own, please share your thoughts in the comment section of the post - I'd love to hear from you!