Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cinnamon Christmas Tree Ornaments

I made these this morning with five kids ages six and under. The mess was really minimal! :)

Mix together 4 cups cinnamon (use the dollar store variety!), 3 cups applesauce, 2 spoonfuls of cloves and 1/2 cup white glue. Mix and mash and knead these ingredients together.

Divide out the dough in small batches. I gave each kid a small hunk like I would have if they were playing with playdough. Roll the dough out (we just used our hands) and use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Lay them out on a cookie sheet and poke a hole in each one (I used a straw). Let them dry. The recipe I used says bake at 200 for 6 hours or let them sit out on the counter for four days! However, please note, I did this this morning and it didn't take NEARLY 6 hours. Mine were dry in 1-2 depending on the thickness of the ornament. Check on them after about an hour, if they still have a little give when you squeeze them let them dry longer. If they're all dry, they're all dry.

We plan to paint these, leave some plain and use glitter on some.


Friday, November 06, 2009

Spaghetti with Artichoke Hearts & Tomatoes

It's official: Ree Drummond (a/k/a "The Pioneer Woman"), is my new "go to gal" when I want something tasty to cook. Her websites are chock full of yummy goodness, she has a quirky sense of humor, and regularly does Ethel Merman impersonations. What's not to love? She recently published a cookbook (available on, if you're interested) called "The Pioneer Woman Cooks" - and, I gotta tell ya - it's number one on my list of wants. I've never actually DROOLED over a cookbook before, but hers sure got me salivating!

Anyway, I've been drooling over her recipe for Artichoke Hearts and Tomato Spaghetti since she posted it. I'm going to make it tonight. It looks fairly easy, I have everything the recipe calls for (well, with some substitutions), and it's pasta. Add a glass (or two or a dozen) of white wine, and this approaches taste bud heaven for me. I'll check in later and tell you how it tastes.

Spaghetti with Artichoke Hearts and Tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1 14.5 ounce can artichoke hearts (quartered or whole), drained
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken broth, more as needed
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste
1 pound thin spaghetti
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped chives or other herbs

Cook spaghetti till al dente. Drain and set aside.Melt olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Add artichoke hearts and tomatoes. Stir and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in cream and chicken broth. Add salt and pepper to taste (do not undersalt!) Cook over low heat until heated through, then turn off heat.Place drained pasta in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 cup Parmesan. Pour sauce over the top. Add chopped chives. Toss lightly to combine and coat; add a tiny bit of reserved pasta water if sauce seems too thick.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Roasted Garlic & New Potatoes a la Pioneer Woman

So, Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond) just posted this on her website. EVERYTHING this woman posts looks so yummy! This recipe has the added attraction of looking extremely easy. Just my kind of recipe! I'm making meatloaf either tonight or this weekend, and I know these will go oh so yummily (is that a word?) with meatloaf and spinach! FYI - Her cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks, is coming out very soon, and is already available for pre-order at This is on my wishlist, and if any of y'all out there like her stuff, this cook book is the MUST HAVE new cook book! Go check it out! Then (if you haven't already), go check out her website(s). This woman is insanely talented! The title below links to this recipe on her website. She has all sorts of pictures and funny commentary to go along with this recipe. You should go read it!

Roasted Garlic & New Potatoes

20 small to medium new potatoes
5 to 7 whole heads of garlic
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup dry white wine
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Quarter new potatoes and set on a large rimmed baking sheet. Lop off the very top of each garlic head and arrange throughout the potatoes. Drizzle olive oil over the tops of the garlic and all over potatoes; do the same with the wine. Generously salt and pepper potatoes and garlic. Toss potatoes to coat. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for 20 to 30 minutes until nice and golden. You can then pop the roasted garlic out of the "shell" and mix it with the potatoes in a bowl, or you can just dive in and scoop them up off the baking sheet - it's your call!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A Variation on Clara's "Poor Man's Meal"

So, a while back, Tooz posted a video of "Depression Cooking with Clara's" Pasta with Peas. I really liked this little granny, and liked the idea of relatively cheap ways to feed the family, so I went to YouTube and watched a couple more episodes. One of her recipes was for "Poor Man's Meal". Basically, you take some potatoes and peel them, chop up half of an onion (I used a sweet onion), and chop up some hotdogs (because hotdogs are cheap meat, and were cheap back during the depression, too). Put enough olive oil in a skillet to lightly coat the bottom, then fry up the potatoes and onions. When they are almost fried through, add the hotdogs. Clara notes you can add your favorite spices and anything else you have handy (she likes to use spaghetti sauce in everything). Then keep stirring to prevent sticking, until it is heated through. Serve some veggies or a salad on the side, and you have a filling, cheap meal.

I made this the other night, (I added shredded cheese over the top at the end) and Jamie loved it. Last night, he asked for it again. This time, I got creative. Instead of hotdogs, I used some cubed ham we had leftover from chef's salad. I also added a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning mix (if you don't have any ranch seasoning, adding ranch dressing after it is cooked is just as yummy). We also added a can of tomatoes (Jamie's idea), and it was okay - but not spectacular. I think it would have been better if we had used mushrooms instead, and two packets of ranch seasoning instead of just one.

Clara has three seasons' worth of episodes of depression cooking recipes on YouTube. She even has a DVD for sale, and a cookbook coming out this fall. With the economy the way it is, I'm planning on watching more episodes and getting tips on how to cook delicious meals that cost less. Clara's YouTube page is here.

Thanks, Tooz, for introducing us to Clara's recipes!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Puddin'... Southern Style

I've been a bad, bad mommy. I have deprived my child. Until earlier this week, he had NEVER had banana pudding "southern style". Do you know what I'm talking about? It's banana pudding with sliced bananas and Nilla wafers in it. I myself had never had it until I was about Jamie's age. Maybe that's why I neglected to ever fix it for him. Or maybe it's because I love the taste of banana, but hate the texture. Anyhoo, for anyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about, here's the recipe.


2 packages of Jell-O instant Banana Cream pudding (or you can do it the hard way and make the old-fashioned, cooked kind of pudding. To me, it's way too hot to do that, though!)
1 box of Nilla wafers
2-3 Bananas, sliced
1 tub of Cool Whip

  • Fix the pudding according to package directions, except do NOT pour into individual serving cups.
  • Layer a large, flat bottomed bowl (or casserole dish) with one layer of Nilla wafers, as many as you can fit across the bottom and up onto the sides
  • Put a relatively thin layer (about half of a package of pudding) of pudding on top of the Nilla wafers.
  • Take one of the sliced bananas and layer across the pudding.
  • Put another 1/2 package of pudding on top of the bananas.
  • Put another layer of Nilla wafers on top.
  • Put another layer of 1/2 package of pudding on top of that.
  • Put another layer of banana on top of that.
  • Put the last 1/2 package of pudding on top of that
  • Put another layer of Nilla wafers on top of that.
  • Layer on a thick layer of the Cool Whip, covering the whole top
  • Put the last bit of banana slices on top of that

For best results, let sit long enough for the Nilla wafers to get kind of soft - usually overnight. However, if you can't wait that long (and Jamie and I couldn't) go ahead and dig in. It will still be delicious!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Pioneer Woman's Potato Salad

Ever since I started following my old high school chum Jessi's blog, I've also followed Pioneer Woman's website, the link to which was on Jessi's blog. All I can say is, "Thank you, Jessi, for 'introducing' me to Ree!" Anyhoo, this recipe for homemade potato salad looked absolutely delish, so I couldn't resist posting a link to it here. I may just have to make this when I'm off work on Friday (woo hoo!)

Enjoy! I know I will!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ziploc Omelets

My sister sent me this recipe to post. I'm not an egg eater, but I am an egg cooker; this looks pretty cool:

Ziploc Omelets

This works great!!! Good for when you're alone or when all your family is together. The best feature is that no one has to wait for their special omelet. Have the guests write their name on a Quart Size Ziploc Freezer Bag with a permanent marker.

1. Crack 2 eggs into the quart size Ziploc bag (not more than 2) shake to combine them.
2. Put out a variety of ingredients such as: Cheeses, Ham, Onions, Green Peppers, Tomatoes, Hash Browns, Salsa, Etc.
3. Each guest adds prepared ingredients of choice to their bag and shake the bag to mix them well.
4. Make sure to get the air out of the bag and zip it up.
5. Place the bags into rolling, boiling water for exactly 13 minutes. You can usually cook 6-8 omelets in a large pot. If you have more omelets, make another pot of boiling water.
6. Cut the bags and the omelet will roll out easily. Be prepared for everyone to be amazed.
7. Nice to serve with fresh fruit and coffee cake; everyone gets involved in the process and it becomes a great conversation piece.

Imagine having these ready the night before, and putting the bag in boiling water while you get ready. And in just 13 minutes you have a nice omelet for a quick breakfast.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Pasta with peas"

I sort of like this little old granny--I wish I had one like her, or at least knew this one.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pasta for Daniel

At long last, we have a recipe for pasta that Daniel will eat.

He claimed to like pasta. He always tried it. He spoke of restaurant pasta he'd enjoyed (but couldn't describe it even far enough for me to make out wether it was alfredo or tomato sauce). But come to my apartment, and the variuos experiments (Rachel Ray, Saving Dinner, Better Homes and Gardens...), and no luck. He would try it. Sometimes even eat some for leftovers. But he was not happy. Maybe even kind of grossed out. "Tastes like white people food." This was true of the "Great Greek Pasta" with chicken and greek seasonings--he loves Greek food--from the "Saving Dinner" cookbook. This was true of the meat sauce we tried two weeks ago. He chose the recipe, and even the meat (lamb). "Tastes like tomatoes." I tasted the lamb, and the Italian parsley, in every bite, but Daniel only tasted tomatoes. He doesn't much care for tomatoes. Also true of the fresh tomato-heavy sauce from Better Homes and Gardens ("No flavor." This was before I figured out he didn't like tomatoes much.) and the Pasta Primavera recipe from the back of another box of pasta in Publix. The first time he liked it, but the second time, "It tastes different."

On to the succeess. My brother taught me how to make Naked Pasta. We grew up eating some pasta naked. It was usually served with Ragu heated in a saucepan. (Though my parents make good pasta with meat sauce--can't remember the name.) So we experimented a bit and found that we liked it just as much without the sauce. Thus he tried Naked Pasta. I think the recipe can be found somewhere on this blog. I tired Naked Pasta for Daniel. "White people food." I tried it again a little later, to the same answer. Then recently, I went much bolder with the add-ins. Much more crushed red pepper, more black pepper, fewer herbs, and added it all after draining the pasta instead of before. (I had wanted the dried herbs to soak up some of the water.) So the successful recipe was some dried oregano, garlic powder, fresh ground black pepper, a pinch of sea salt, generous layers of red pepper flakes. This last time I also used some of that leftover fresh Italian parsley. Success! I can say that, because he ate it once and asked for it again a couple of weeks later, and liked it again.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

100th Post! Woot!

If the counter on the home page is correct, this is the 100th post of R.O.U.S.-es! I came up with my own quick-n-easy recipe, using mainly left overs, and thought I would share in case any of you are as time-crunched as I am and need something fairly quick and nutritious to feed the fam. Usually when I make pasta of any sort, I wind up making way to much noodles for the amount of sauce I have made. Over the years, I've discovered this is actually a good thing, as it can be a way to stretch one cooking session into several meals, without eating the same stuff over and over and getting tired of it. I learned to store leftover sauce and the noodles separately so I can use them for other items. The noodles in question are the tri-flavored spirals (plain, spinach and tomato) we seem to prefer around here for our pasta. Seems like the sauce "sticks" to the crevices in these noodles better than it would to plain-old spaghetti. However, any noodle will do. The below recipe uses leftovers and/or common staples I keep in my pantry.

Alfredo a la Leftovers

  • Leftover spiral pasta (or whatever kind of pasta you prefer)
  • Can or jar of favored alfredo sauce of whatever type you prefer
  • leftover chicken or can of chicken breast or chicken from the freezer
  • can of mushrooms or fresh if you have them on hand
  • seasoning to taste (I like to add more Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste)
There are two ways you can make this a) Dump some pasta in a microwave safe bowl with the other ingredients, mix well, then microwave until it's hot; or b) For a better blended taste, mix ingredients in an oven safe casserole dish, sprinkle parmesan cheese and more Italian seasoning over the top and bake at 350 degrees until it's warm and the edges are lightly browned.

Serve this dish with a dinner salad, and you have a pretty well balanced and tasty quick meal!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Need Suggestions and Ideas, Please!

Okay, people. I need your help. More specifically, I need ideas and suggestions as to quick, easy, tasty, NUT FREE meals for me and my kid. I'm burned out on eating restaurant/fast food. Then we did the chef salad thing for a while. Everything in my own library of recipes that is fast and simple has been done over and over again. I need your recipes! If you're a member of this blog, please post your favorite quick and easies as a new post. If you aren't, please add it in a comment. I'm too busy to cook and oh so tired of what I've been doing for dinner up to now. Your help is much appreciated!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Baking/Cooking Jag

I took a week off work last week, just because, and have been home this week sick. In the meantime, I've been on quite the jag in my kitchen.

During my timeoff, armed with print-outs of Good Eats transcripts (from Good Eats Fan Page), I made Blueberry Muffins, Very Basic Bread (2 loaves), Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto, and Premium Mint Chip Ice Cream.

The Blueberry Muffins were really good. A bit denser than I expected, but I think that might be from the yogurt. The Very Basic Bread was excellent. The second time I made it, I forgot to glaze it with water and cornstarch and slash it, but it came out better--still had a nice crust, but nothing requiring gnawing to get through.

The Mint Chip Ice Cream is sublime! I had two quarts worth after churning, and it's better than anything I've bought at the store! I used 2t of peppermint extract instead of peppermint oil and got exactly the mint taste I wanted, without the chemical/alcohol aftertaste. This recipe sounds scarier than it is, with the scalding of the dairy and tempering with eggs for a custard, but it wasn't that hard. I did use my mixer to beat the eggs and sugar and temper the custard. The only difference was that I had a foam develop that went away on the second heating to 170 degrees.

A tip on the Risotto--scale this recipe way down. 2 cups of rice is a ton after cooking, and it was hard to ensure a even finish with that much rice. I'm going to try it again, but scaled for 1/2 cup of rice to better control the product. Also, the leftovers heated nicely in the microwave. I also found the mushroom and asparagus paired with leftover roast very well, making me wish I had used beef broth instead of chicken broth.

I tried Pate a Choux to make eclairs and cream puffs. This recipe is easy to put together, but very fussy. I blew out my Ziploc pastry bag on my first try piping, and the dough was very sticky. I didn't get much of a rise, so my eclairs came out the size of circus peanuts. I whipped up a quick whipped cream and stuffed them, then threw them in a Ziploc bag and into the freezer. The frozen "cream puffs" are not bad, but nothing near what I was going for. I think if I try this again, I might use a disher (#20) to get the rough size I want for the eclairs.

After reading the recent news about traces of mercury in high-fructose corn syrup, I bought popsicle molds to make CJ's favorite snack on my own. I made cranberry-grape popsicles that he loves--3 cups Cranberry-Grape Juice (100%), 3/4 cup sugar, and 2 T of lime juice. Stir till dissolved, then pour into molds, assemble sticks, and freeze. They came out very well, and CJ likes them very much. I have a Good Eats fudgsicle recipe to try next.

Monday, I made ham and lentil soup, loosely based on Alton's recipe, and paired it with a fresh loaf of Very Basic Bread. Yummy! Too bad I forgot to add the swiss chard I had intended. Tuesday, as the cold was overtaking me, I was able to make a fresh Chicken Noodle Soup--Chopped half a sweet onion, 3 carrots, and a stalk of celery, a couple cloves of garlic, sweated that in olive oil, then added two chicken leg quarters and 3 qts of water. Add salt, two bay leaves, pepper, a bit of curry powder, a bit of sage, and a bit of turmeric. Bring to boil, then simmer two hours. Pull out the leg quarters to cool, remove the bay leaves, add an 8oz bag of egg noodles and let boil till noodles are done. Meanwhile, remove chicken meat from bones and fat, roughly chop, and add back to pot. Another success, and also very yummy with the leftovers of that loaf of bread.

Right now, I have dough from Suze's recipe for bread rising in the oven, and should be ready to bake it in a few hours. It's coming along nicely--I realized after I got it together I had forgotten to add oil, and I added 2t of honey, so we'll see. I used my mixer to assemble it, per the Very Basic Bread recipe, and that seemed to work.

This weekend, provided I feel better, I plan to make another batch of muffins, the Premium Chocolate Ice Creams, more cranberry popsicles, fudgsicles, and maybe try the risotto again. No pressure.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A week for creativity

Woo, seems like it's been years since I posted on here! This week I had a couple of occasions to make new (to me) dishes. Tuesday, I fixed a corn casserole for a friend's family. It was pretty much the standard corn casserole recipe, so I shan't post it. If you would like to see it, let me know in the comment section, and I'll put it up. When I took the casserole to the house, there was no one there, so I had to leave it on the back stoop. I asked another friend later if they had found the casserole I left (as well as the dish of green beans and salad that someone else left). I was assured that they had, and that they thought the corn casserole was very good.

Wednesday, I made my first veggie appetizer pizza. Again, this was a standard recipe, so I'll omit posting it with the same suggestion: if you want the recipe, let me know. I took that to our Friendship program in Lexington, for the mothers of the babies we babysit every Thursday as well as all the other international wives who show up. It disappeared, so I guess it was okay, too.

After I finished the pizza, I baked a cake. (Thursday was my birthday.) It was an extremely simple recipe--a box of spice cake mix and a 16-oz can of pumpkin puree. That's it. Mix those two ingredients, put in a greased 9x13 pan, and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 23-25 minutes. That recipe can also be baked in muffin pans, for a baking time of 20 minutes. It looked pretty messy, but it tastes pretty good.

Now, for my best recipe of the week (in my opinion). Today David and I are watching the SEC conference on TV, and lunchtime sneaked up on us. I knew I had an extra bag of raw mixed vegetables left from the pizza on Wednesday, and I needed to use them up. I also knew I had ramen noodles. The result of combining those two ingredients was terrific.

bag of mixed veggies from the produce department (broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots)
2 pkgs of beef-flavored ramen noodles

Rinse the veggies in a colander. Place them in some sort of microwave safe dish that has a lid (or a way to cover). Add a scant 1/4 cup of water. Cover and microwave for two minutes. Drain.

Bring a quart of water to boil in a 4-quart saucepan or small dutch oven. When the water is boiling, add the seasoning packets from the ramen noodles and stir. Then add the noodles; stir to separate. Finally, add the vegetables. Stir again. When the pot starts to boil again, cover and cook for two minutes.

That's it, folks! Easy, cheap, and with the vegetables, reasonably nutritious. David says we could always add meat if we wanted to do so--that would be a good use for the leftover chicken or ham or whatever you might have in the ice box.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Haven't Cooked Much Lately

Been too busy with trying to do midterms, assignments and wade through legal crap to cook much, but I did cook last night. You may already know from my blog that I cooked shrimp scampi again last night. I noticed the lack of vegetables, and it got me wondering what shrimp scampi would taste like on a bed of grilled squash and zuccini, or nested on top of a pile of spagetti squash. I'll have to try it soon (if I can figure out how to COOK spagetti squash) and let you know how it turns out.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Easy Calzones

Tonight I made a quick and easy dinner.

I took Rhodes rolls (frozen dinner rolls) and thawed them (this takes about an hour give or take a bit). I then smooshed a roll out and topped him with cooked chicken and cheese. I added either fresh mushrooms or broccoli. I topped the entire puddle of filling with another smooshed out roll and pinched the edges together to make a little pouch of roll stuffed with stuff. At this point you have two options. Stick them in the freezer or bake them at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Either way you're good to go! (To serve from frozen thaw them a little. Or not. Whatever.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Vegetable Curry Stew

I've been reading Wicked Anomie's sociology blog for a while now, and began reading her recipe blog recently, too. This recipe for vegetable curry stew sounded so good, I just had to post a link to it here. I'm planning on trying this one out really soon!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Becca's No Clue Curry

I'm a little nervous posting this one, since I'm afraid Ann and Daniel might come hunting me for messing up a classic. I've discovered Indian food over the past year and found that I love it, especially lamb! I had the good fortune of working with an awesome Indian woman named Radhika last year who shared some secrets about cooking Indian food, and helped me realize it's not as scary as I thought.

Since I don't have time to cook traditionally, I'm posting a few modified recipes that I make at home. This is from studying traditional recipes and figuring out how to modify for the time I have. I don't have a recipe set in stone, but just cook; this is what I did last night. I'll borrow from Tara's structure--Dishes first, recipes to follow:

Quick Chicken Curry
Basmati Rice

Quick Chicken Curry
Roughly 2 cups cooked chicken (about half of a rotissarie chicken left over from a night or two before)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can green chilis, diced
1/4 onion, chopped or frenched (or onion powder)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced (I cheat, I use a heaping tablespoon of garlic from a jar I get at Costco)
6-8 oz plain yogurt (whatever size carton you get at the grocery store)
Curry powder, turmeric, ground cumin, red pepper flake, ground ginger, black pepper, kosher salt

In your favorite skillet on medium heat, add a pat of butter and melt. Add the onions and cook till soft. Add 5/6 of the tomatoes and all the green chilis. Add curry powder, cumin, and pepper flake to your taste. Add pinch of kosher salt, few cracks of black pepper, and sprinkles of turmeric and ginger. Turn to medium-high heat and cook until the liquid begin to boil; turn heat to medium and stir in carton of yogurt. Stir in cooked chicken; reduce on medium heat until sauce thickens and reduces, stirring occasionally (about 10-15 minutes, depending on the amount of liquid). Adjust taste and add more curry, cumin, or salt as you desire.

Basmati Rice
(note: If you have frozen peas, you can add them directly to the saucepan after the broth comes to a boil and you turn the heat down, or about 5 minutes before the rice is done--it depends on the texture you want. Closer to the end makes for peas that are crisper to the bite. You might need to adjust the salt and seasoning with the extra moisture from the peas)
1 pat butter
1 cup basmati rice (you can use white rice, but there's a nuttiness to the flavor that you'll lose)
1 1/2 cups water or chicken broth
Pinches of salt, turmeric, and black pepper

In a saucepan on medium heat, melt the butter then add the rice, stirring to coat. Once you start smelling the aroma that gets unlocked from the rice, add the broth or water, salt, pepper, and turmeric. Bring to a boil, then turn to low heat. Let simmer about 15 minutes (start checking around 12 minutes to make sure rice doesn't overcook). Done.

(I cheat quite a bit here)
1 can garbanzo beans
1/6 can diced tomatoes (kept from the curry above, or you could chop a tomato if making this alone)
1 t. dried cilantro
1 t. lemon juice
Kosher salt, black pepper, garam masala (or curry powder, cumin, and nutmeg)

In a small saucepan, combine beans, tomatoes, cilantro, and lemon juice. Add pinch of kosher salt, few cracks of black pepper, and sprinkles of chosen seasoning. Cook on medium low heat until heated through, stirring occasionally.

(This is Tom's favorite part)
2 fresh tomatoes (good ripe ones)
1 cucumber
6-8 oz carton of plain yogurt
1t - 1T lemon juice
Kosher salt, black pepper, ground ginger, honey

Peel cucumber and dissect, removing seeds. Cube and place in bowl. Cut tomatoes in quarters, remove seeds, and dice. Add to cucumber. Add pinch of salt, cracks of pepper, sprinkles of ground ginger, one squirt of honey. Stir together, then add lemon juice and yogurt. Stir--done.

Last night, I managed to get the timing down so that I started the rice, got the curry going, put on the chickpeas after the rice was done, and let the rice cook while made the raita and the chickpeas and curry finished. Around half an hour from start to finish.

Here's what's cooking!

I've got an extra kid today since his mom is at appointments with his little brother ALL DAY LONG. Since I'm totally insane I'm also tossing together some dinner for them. (Have I mentioned that I'm totally insane?)

Here's the menu, recipes to follow.

Farmer's Casserole
Focaccia Bread
Chocolate chip/M&M cookies

Farmers Casserole (Once A Month Cooking cookbook)

6 cups frozen shredded hash browns
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers (using plain, lots of kids)
1 cup diced fully cooked ham (leftovers from the other night, bonus!)
1/2 cup sliced green onion
4 beaten large eggs
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1/8 t pepper
1/4 t salt

Grease 9x13 pan. Arrange potatoes evenly on the bottom of the dish (which means dump them in and spread them around). Sprinkle with cheese, ham and green onion.

In a medium mixing bowl combine eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over potato mixture.

**At this point you can freeze this dish and make it for later. When you go to use it, thaw it out and bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until center appears set. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

***I'm making two smaller pans of this instead of the one. One for us, one for them!

Focaccia Bread: I got this one at Antique Mommy this morning. Instead of copying the entire thing I'll just link!

And the yummy sounding cookies I have no recipe for. They're from a jar mix we were given when we moved in! :) Happy cooking!

A Simple Drink

This is a short one, but as I'm curled up with this drink right now, I thought I would share. If you're looking for an alternative to $4 Starbucks, here you go:

1 packet hot cocoa mix of your choice
6 oz brewed coffee

Open packet, dump contents in mug. Pour in coffee and stir. Mmm, that's great mocha!

In college we discovered this when we were working in the radio station at odd hours and the coffee was sitting so long it got bitter. We called it Cafe del Diablo. If you have coffee that's been sitting for a while, go ahead and mix in some cocoa and pour over ice--if you're so inclined, throw it all in a blender and you have a Frappuccino!

This is also really good for those times when you buy a brand of coffee on sale, like a store brand, even though you haven't had it before, but you can't resist the deal and go ahead and buy the 32oz can for 3.99 and after you get it home and open it and brew a pot, you realize that it's fairly disgusting and you have a WHOOOOOOOOOOOLE lot of coffee left before you could justify opening another can.

And if that happens, and you happen to have a box of fat-free, 25% less sugar hot cocoa packets sitting in your pantry for a year because you stumbled upon them on sale and thought to yourself, "Fat-free, less sugar, but it's cocoa--how can you screw that up?" but then you tried them and realized that indeed, that could get screwed up fairly badly, then you have everything you need for some Cafe del Diablo.

Just sayin'.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

steak fajitas

I know it's been ages since I posted a recipe or even a comment, but that doesn't mean I haven't been reading! Here's a recipe I just put up on Madtown Mama...

This past fall we split an order of a quarter steer with a friend of mine. The animal was organic, grass-fed, and lived on a farm not far from Madison. It's good meat. Since I didn't eat meat regularly as an adult until I got pregnant with Daniel (I craved protein and it never let up!), I am pretty clueless as to how to cook it. Ground beef isn't so difficult (taco meat, hamburgers), but we have all these roasts and steaks that take actual culinary skill to prepare. My mom's coming up for a week next month, and I'm hoping we can do a roast together so I can learn how to do that. But steaks? I'm not a big fan of steak, never have been, and I know that they can be tricky to get right. I tend to be paranoid about undercooked meat, so if I tried to cook a steak, it would probably be completely overdone and tough and, frankly, a waste of time and good meat.

When meat is cut up into little pieces, I find it much less intimidating. When it's combined with other things like vegetables, I find it much more appetizing. Thus, I've come up with one solution to this particular problem: steak fajitas. They can be rather labor-intensive to prepare, but they're so delicious, they're worth the effort.

First of all, I make my own tortillas. I think I've posted this recipe before, but that was a long while ago, so you get it again. Once you make your own tortillas, it's awfully hard to go back. If you live in Chicago or New York or someplace with lots of Hispanic/Latino markets with fresh, cheap tortillas, consider yourself lucky. Madison is not such a place, so I make my own.

Flour Tortillas (1 recipe makes about 16 flatbreads; I usually do half for me and Stu)
4 cups flour (can sub up to half with whole wheat)
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 tsp baking powder
Cut in:
1 stick unsalted butter OR 1/2 cup shortening OR 1/2 cup lard
Add and knead just for a minute or so:
1 and 1/4 cup warm water, more if the dough is dry, less if it's sticky
Cover and let rest for an hour or so.
Divide dough into 12-16 balls of equal size, depending on how big you want the tortillas to be. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Do not add oil; the skillet should be seasoned, but dry. One at a time, roll the balls into flat rounds. To cook, place the tortilla on the hot pan, flip after 10 seconds, flip again after about 30 seconds, then remove when it starts to brown, but not smoke.

Steak filling
Slice 1 medium onion, 1 green or bell pepper, and 1-2 cloves of garlic, mix with 2 T. fajita seasoning (Penzey's is good) or 1 T. chili powder and set aside in a bowl.
Slice a steak of your choosing (I've used tenderloin, porterhouse, and sirloin because I really don't know the difference...) into very thin slices. Sprinkle with fajita seasoning or chili powder, then add to a very hot cast iron skillet with a little oil and stir fry 1-2 minutes, or until pieces are browned through. Remove meat from heat and save in a bowl. Turn heat to medium and sauté vegetable mixture 3-5 minutes, or until onions are clear. Add meat and stir until everything's heated through.

Wrap the filling in tortillas with any or all of the following:
chopped lettuce
chopped tomatoes
sour cream
shredded cheese (jack, queso fresco, etc)
avocado or guacamole

I can eat these until, well, until the cows come home.