Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Creating a Menu: July 27

I have one main goal in the summertime: Keep cool. The first way I accomplish this is to take my kids swimming in the morning and stay in our wet swimsuits all day. Yes, all day. Believe it or not, even my 80 degree house feels cool when I'm wet.

The next way is to avoid using my kitchen. My kitchen easily becomes the hottest room in the house. It's the farthest from the AC and it's got lots of windows and lots of action. So I try not to cook in it. I do this by grilling a lot, using the crockpot, and make sandwiches.

So this week's menu is:

Grilled Cornish hens with green beans and cornbread (all on the grill)


vegetable soup (crockpot) with chicken salad pita sandwiches

baked beans (crockpot) with Turkey and swiss sandwiches

Turkey, apple, and brie sandwiches with leftover soup and beans

Almond butter, honey, and banana pitas with turkey wild rice soup (crockpot)

Turkey-presto wraps with leftover soup

How do you beat the heat?


Friday, July 24, 2015

Jicama and Chicken Saute

The jicama is an underused root vegetable. It has the consistency of an apple and the flavor of a potato. I received several in my food basket a few weeks ago, and they kept quite well in the fridge, seeing as how they are a root.

I got a bit impatient with all the recipes I found for them, though. There are salads galore. And a few dips. But nothing that really showcased the vegetable. So when I found this one, I was a bit hesitant to try it. It looked a little suspect. What if we didn't even like the vegetable, after all?

We were pleasantly surprised. Serve this with rice, and you'll enjoy the crisp flavor the jicama with chicken.

2 chicken breasts, defrosted and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp curry powder, divided
1/2 C chicken broth
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 T olive oil
2 C jicama, cut into matchsticks
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 C dry roasted peanuts

Sprinkle the chicken cubes with salt and 1/2 tsp of the curry powder.

In a small bowl, combine the broth, onions, crushed red pepper flakes, and remaining curry powder. Set aside. In another bowl have your bell pepper and jicama ready to go.

In a wok, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the chicken and cook about 7 minutes or until browned. Add the jicama and bell pepper. Cook another three minutes, stirring often.

Add the broth mixture and cook three more minutes or until heated through.

Serve over rice and garnish with peanuts.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Pecan and Rhubarb Sticky Buns

I made these wonderful confections for breakfast at my recent family reunion. I was in a hurry with each step and sixteen hungry people, so I didn't take the best pictures. Please forgive me. Although it takes time for the dough to rise, these were easy to make and not too much trouble.

I do like my sticky buns sweet. Think, Cinnabon sweet. So if it looks like too much sugar to you, feel free to adjust. 

Don't skip the rhubarb! The soft, slightly tangy vegetable is the best part.

4 1/4 to 5 1/4 C flour
2 pkg active dry yeast
1 1/2 C water
1/3 C sugar
1/3 C butter
1 tsp salt
1 egg
2 C packed brown sugar
1 C butter, softened
2 C chopped fresh rhubarb or frozen, thawed and drained
1/2 C chopped pecans
1 C sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
6 T butter, melted

In a large mixing bowl, stir together 2 1/4 C flour and the yeast; set aside. In a saucepan, heat the water, 1/3 C sugar, 1/3 C butter, and the salt until warm and the butter almost melts (don't make it too hot or boiling or your yeast will die).

Add to the flour mixture along with the egg. Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can. Kneed for 3 to 5 minutes. Dough should be soft and malleable but not sticky. Add more flour as needed. Shape into a ball, cover, and let rest 20 minutes.

Grease a 9x13 pan. In a medium bowl, stir together the brown sugar and 1 C butter. Add the rhubarb and pecans. 

Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together 1 C sugar and the cinnamon. On a floured surface, roll dough to an 18x12 inch rectangle. Spread dough evenly with the 6 T melted butter. Sprinkle with the sugar mixture, making sure to spread it out to the edges. Roll up, starting with the long side. Using a sharp knife, cut roll into 16 even slices. Arrange rolls in the prepared pan on top of the rhubarb mixture.

Cover and let rise 30 minutes. 

Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for five minutes.

Invert onto a serving platter. Cool at least 20 minutes before serving.

Serve warm with milk. Makes 16 rolls.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Blueberry Sour Cream Pie

My absolute most favorite thing to make is pie. Pie is for birthdays. Family reunions. It's for Thanksgiving and Christmas and breakfast, even dinner. 

And it's definitely for the Fourth of July.

I made several over the weekend, and while we enjoyed all of them, this one was the clear favorite. Now, let me make a disclaimer: I don't like blueberries. I find them to be mushy in texture and ho-hum in flavor. 

The exception is fresh-picked blueberries from the blueberry farm. Every summer, we go out and pick several pounds, and I bake. It's the only time I make anything with blueberries. 

So keep that in mind as you try this recipe.

dough for 9-inch pie crust

1 C sour cream
1/4 C sugar
2 1/2 T flour
1 egg, beaten
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 C fresh blueberries

6 T flour
1/4 C butter, chilled and cubed
1/2 C chopped pecans
2 T sugar

Roll out your pie crust. Line a 9-inch pie plate, trimming and crimping the edges. FREEZE your pie plate with the crust for ten minutes. If you skip this step, your pie crust will burn!

Remove from freezer. Line your pie crust with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights/beans. Set aside.

Whisk sour cream, sugar, flour, egg, salt, and almond extract together. Mix in blueberries. Spoon into pie crust. Bake until set, about 25 minutes. Check your pie crust around 15 minutes. If it's getting too dark, place a pie shield or aluminum foil on the edges.

Remove from oven. Set aside while you make the topping.

In a bowl, combine the flour and butter with your fingers until small clumps form. Mix in pecans and sugar. Sprinkle over the pie. Leaving the pie shield in place, bake another 12 minutes until the topping browns slightly.

Cool completely and serve at room temperature.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Double Italian Sausage and 3-pepper pizza

In my personal opinion, there are few things as yummy as a homemade pizza. But I also tend to buck the trend, only making pepperoni pizza for my children's birthday parties and making something more "interesting" for myself.

This would be a prime example.

I love sausage, and this uses two kinds. I don't love bell peppers, but these ones are sauteed before baking, and so the texture and flavor is pleasing and mild. I used a recipe for a thin, New York-style hand-tossed pizza crust here, but feel free to use any crust or sauce that you prefer.

The recipe makes for two large pizzas.

pizza dough for 2 pizzas
1 C pizza sauce
4 T olive oil
1 large green bell pepper, seeded, ribbed, and sliced
1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded, ribbed, and sliced
1 large red bell, seeded, ribbed, and sliced
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
4 mild Italian pork sausage links, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
16 oz. shredded cheese (I used a mixture of mozzarella and cheddar)
1/2 lb. bulk Italian sausage, separated into small chunks
1 T parmesan cheese

Get your dough/crust ready. Make sure if it was frozen, you brought it to room temperature.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. I used a tablespoon of chili-infused olive oil to add a bit more kick. Add the sliced peppers.

Saute until crisp-tender, about four minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, cayenne (more cayenne if you want it hotter), and salt. Saute one minute longer.

I like to place my dough directly on my pizza stone (love my pizza stone) to roll it out. If you're rolling on the counter, make sure you flour it first.

Roll or stretch the dough out to the edges of the pizza stone or to a 12-inch round. Roll the edges of the dough back to form a crust.

Spread the sauce evenly over the dough, all the way to the crust. (Remember the recipe makes for two.) Sprinkle the peppers over the sauce. Arrange the sausage slices over the top.

Sprinkle the cheese over the toppings, and then add the bulk sausage chunks, placing them on top of the cheese.

Bake at 500 degrees F for 12-14 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with parmesan cheese, and slice into wedges.

So, so good! Even the next day! 


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Quick and Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

I am back! And I have a brief two weeks at home before the summer traveling resumes. My goal is to buy only as many groceries as I can use so that I'm not left giving away or freezing food when we travel again. It does make menu planning a little bit more challenging than usual, but we'll see what we come up with.

Yesterday was my son's birthday. One of our traditions is the birthday person gets to choose what they want for dinner. Anything they want, and I'll make it. My son chose Chicken-Noodle soup, with some prompting from my husband.

I'm not a huge fan of chicken-noodle soup. To me, the star character is the broth, and the rest of it is a distraction. I'm in the minority. My husband loves it stock full of noodles and meat, with the broth playing a minor note.

This recipe is an excellent compromise. It's got all the stuff my husband loves, and the broth is plentiful and flavorful for me. It also comes together super quick, which is an added bonus.

2 qt. chicken broth
1 C onion, diced
1 C celery, sliced
1 C carrot, sliced
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 C or more of water
12 oz. egg noodles (such as Kluski)
2 12-oz cans canned chicken (undrained)

Combine first four ingredients and bring to a boil in a large stockpan. Simmer 20-30 minutes until the veggies are soft. Add the 2 cups of water, the noodles, and the chicken. Cook another 10-12 minutes until the noodles are done, according to package directions.

The soup will thicken the longer it cooks. Serve it immediately or let is simmer, but have water on hand to thin it if necessary.

I love how the flavor of the broth shines through and think it needs no additional flavor, but feel free to add salt and pepper as you see fit. Enjoy with bread or crackers.


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