A Couple of Recipes I Don’t Want to Forget

We’ve found a few more winners in the dessert category this summer.  First off, I made myself these brownie ice cream sandwiches for my birthday this summer, and G and I loved them. They were better the second day than the day I made them; as the brownies froze, they got fudge-like. And I love the combination of salty and sweet, so the flakes of salt in the brownies were a great touch. I put Edy’s Grand Slow-Churned Light Mud Pie ice cream in the middle – I love the combination of coffee and chocolate, so it was right up my alley. I can’t wait for another occasion to make them! 

Friday night, I decided to try some of these Salted Caramel Rice Krispie Treats. Talk about elevating the rice krispie treat (and piling on some extra calories, but I try not to think TOO much about that) – these are sticky and salty sweet, and the caramel flavor is pronounced. It’s a good thing C doesn’t really like sweets, because I’m not sure I want to share! 

My sweet tooth was very satisfied with these recipes, and I know I’ll be making them again!  

 

 

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Dessert

Charlie is not big on ice cream, but when we were visiting my mom’s family in upstate NY, he decided he would try an ice cream cone when the other kids were, and suddenly he was a convert…sort of. When we got back home, he wanted me to buy cones and ice cream, but only vanilla – and he has yet to eat it. 

I like vanilla ice cream fine, but if I’m going to have the calories, I’d rather add something to it. So Friday night, I made a half recipe of this butterscotch sauce.

As the title says, it is VERY easy, and it has the combination of sweet and salty that I love. I used light rather than dark brown sugar, so mine isn’t the deep, dark color hers is, but it makes up for color in taste. 

My birthday is not far away, and I’m thinking there may be a homemade brownie sundae in my future, with this sauce on top! 

Mix and Match Mexican Night

My husband has been gone for twelve days now. We are ready to have him home!   In his absence, though, I have been buying some of the foods that I really like and he doesn’t care for: salmon, lamb chops, and ground beef.

Tonight it was time for the ground beef, which I purchased late last week (with no idea of what I would do with it). Yesterday would have been grocery day, but I took care of my friends’ three kids this weekend as well as my own little time sucker – and by the time the mess settled last night, I just didn’t have it in me to do a grocery run.

So I dug around in my pantry and on the internet tonight, and ended up with the following:

Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce – I didn’t have chicken stock so I used broth instead, and I was out of garlic powder (which, to be honest, I don’t love anyway – even though I love garlic) so I just skipped it.  I was really surprised to find a recipe for red sauce that contained no tomato paste or sauce. I was a little worried that it would just be overwhelmingly spicy, but it was actually really good and very flavorful.

Next, I used this recipe as my inspiration: Beef and Bean Burritos – but then I mixed it up a lot. We had no refried beans at the house, so I just cooked a can of black beans in a little olive oil with some red onion. And I like corn tortillas a lot better than flour, so I wanted to use those – but I didn’t want to make a full dish of enchiladas.  So I baked two small corn tortillas, sprayed with a little cooking spray, in a 350 degree oven until they were hot but not crispy (about half the time I bake them if I”m making homemade chips). I put one on the plate, put some meat and beans on top, layered another tortilla on that, and put a little more meat, some shredded mexican cheese, and a little more enchilada sauce on top, and popped it in the microwave for 30 seconds.  And it was great. And my sidekick got to have nachos, which he prefers to tacos/burritos/enchiladas – so we were both happy. And full. Success!

Salmon steaks

My husband is hitting the gym more often these days, thanks to a better schedule with his new job. This is good for lots of reasons, including that on gym nights, we fend for ourselves with dinner, which means I am cooking more fish (which he doesn’t eat). I’ve been on a salmon kick lately and have been cooking salmon filets, but this weekend, wild salmon steaks were on sale at the HT. So I decided to try a new recipe: Martha Stewart’s soy-glazed salmon steaks.

I had made a spicy asian dressing last night with some of the same ingredients (but also some fiery sesame oil giving it much more spice than sweetness) – so I tossed some kale in the spicy dressing and then put the hot salmon steak right on top. The sweetness of the salmon glaze was a good balance for the dressing, and the warm, wilted kale was great with the salmon. I was skipping the carbs tonight thanks to a large chocolate chip cookie I had after lunch – but next time, I might add some sushi rice to round it out. This is one I will definitely make again – even if I’m the only one to eat it!

Best Sugar Cookies Ever

I signed up for the Valentines treat at Charlie’s school – and Valentines Day was a snow-out, so the kids are celebrating today (Presidents Day). Which was actually perfect, because instead of having to throw something together on a weeknight, I had the whole weekend to make a treat. So I decided to bake and decorate cookies.

I am not a huge sugar cookie fan generally, and I’ve tried recipes in the past that I really haven’t liked. I don’t like shortening, and even the ones I’ve tried without shortening haven’t been very good.

Enter Our Best Bites Sugar Cookies. I will never make another. These are delicious!  Buttery almost like shortbread, but not at all greasy – and perfect for decorating! I followed her tips to freeze the cookies overnight after they were done baking and fully cooled (lesson there – the first batch wasn’t cool enough when I stacked and froze them, and I ended up throwing away a large blob of stuck-together cookies!) and then made her glace icing and decorated them yesterday. I am no gourmet decorator (you can see a photo on Charlie’s blog – pretty funny) but they dried really nicely and, more importantly, tasted delicious. How can you go wrong with pink, red, and white cookies? I think the kids will love them.

Leftovers

On Sunday, I made this chicken. And then, something MIRACULOUS happened. Tonight, my husband called home from work, where he’s staying late thanks to the POTUS needing to address us this evening, and said (and I quote), “Tonight’s leftover night, right? Is there any of that delicious chicken left?”  I’m not sure I can remember the last time the hubs sounded excited about leftovers. Usually, when I say it’s leftover night, that means I eat leftovers and he makes himself a sandwich. So it’s a big deal that he actually wants to eat the chicken again.

Tonight, I made some homemade tortilla chips by brushing corn tortillas lightly with vegetable oil, sprinkling them with kosher salt, cutting them into quarters, and baking them for 15 minutes at 350. I love them – they’re firmer than store-bought tortilla chips and you can control how salty they are. And then I reheated some of the chicken, mashed half an avocado with some red onion, salt, and lime, and grated some cheese – and voila, delicious nachos out of leftovers.  Yum!

Pancakes

My boys like pancakes. One likes chocolate chips in his, the other prefers them au natural. I don’t make them every weekend by any means, but now and then, they make for a good start of a Saturday or Sunday. Or new year!   Today, they were requested, but I am out of Bisquick (the easy way to make pancakes) and the Trader Joe’s mix I bought to replace the Bisquick isn’t a favorite. I’ll have to use it for biscuits or something. Anyway, I got on the internet (what did cooks do before the internet??  I guess that’s why everyone had Joy of Cooking…) and searched for a homemade pancake recipe, and found this one: Good Old Fashioned Pancakes. I read a few of the reviews and took their advice – cut the salt down to 3/4 teaspoon, and threw in a teaspoon of vanilla – and these turned out delicious. They were crisp on the outsides and soft in the middle, just how a good pancake should be if you ask me. Thanks to the butter, they are a little more decadent than the Bisquick ones, so I may not make them every time – but I’m definitely saving this recipe for the next time I want to make ‘cakes from scratch.

Ringing in the new year with…more soup

The year is coming to an end, and while I would love to say we have fabulous plans to ring in 2014, it’s not even 7 p.m. and I’m in my bed, with my best little buddy next to me watching tv. I’ve got a cough I can’t kick and a monster headache, and am feeling glad we have nothing to do tonight other than enjoy each other. I love having my little guy right next to me, even if it means I have to listen to Disney Jr shows while I type.

So I didn’t quite achieve my goal of a new recipe a week, but I think I posted at least 1 new dish a month, and some months I managed more. And more importantly, I found some things that have been repeated. I spatchcocked chickens twice this month, and twice made chicken and barley soup out of the bones. Safe to say those are keepers. I also have made the chicken tikka masala a couple of times, as well as the pork tenderloin, and the panzanella continues to deliver. Oh, and that cornmeal crusted chicken – it just keeps showing up, and one of my best friends sent me a REAL meat tenderizer for Christmas so I can quit beating the crud out of chicken with a wimpy wooden spoon. I’m really happy with my year of testing recipes, and plan to keep up the blog in 2014, if only so I remember what we liked (and what we didn’t).

On the “what we liked” note, thanks to the aforementioned cough, I’ve been wanting soup again. Yesterday was my last vacation day for the holiday season (not including New Years Day, of course), so I had time to make a soup that is a little too involved for a weeknight. The recipe comes from the Pioneer Woman’s website. If you’re not familiar with the Pioneer Woman, you are missing out – she’s a former suburbanite who now lives out in the country, a chef of decadent recipes, and an author  of the “Charlie the Ranch Dog” children’s books (of which we have several, for obvious reasons). And she has a fabulous recipe for chicken tortilla soup.  I served it last night with cubed avocado, crumbled queso fresco, corn tortillas that I fried in a little olive oil and turned into crispy strips, sour cream, and cilantro. I know cilantro is one of those love it or hate it things – but I LOVE it, so mine was topped heavily. But that’s the nice thing about this soup – there are lots of topping options, so each person can make it his or her own. G enjoyed it a lot too, but maybe not as much as I did – I brought leftovers to work today for lunch, and am going to eat it again for dinner!  I think it’s just what the doctor ordered for this cold.

Wishing you a very happy 2014!!   

Turning Bones into Soup

The recipe I used to spatchcock the chicken last night suggested saving the backbone for soup. My mom makes soup or stock out of chicken or turkey carcasses plenty, but I hadn’t ever tried it. But considering we’re COLD here and I’m working from home tomorrow (meaning I can eat out of the fridge instead of off the expensive streets of DC), I decided to give it a try. I like chicken noodle soup fine, but I really like barley, so I decided to try Chicken Barley Soup. I chose this over my mom’s recipe because my mom’s takes several hours – whereas with this one, you cook the barley separately while you cook the soup and drain the barley and stir it in at the end. So this recipe gets bonus points for being quicker (but not quick – you still have to cook the soup for an hour, and use regular barley, which I prefer to quick cooking barley anyway).

I saved the raw backbone and the roasted bones from last night’s chicken, and added some of the leftover chicken, since I like my soup meaty. Add to that a little additional stock/broth, carrots, onion, celery, and barley – and voila, hearty chicken soup. I loved it – it has a really nice chicken flavor, isn’t salty (I added a little salt and some pepper to my bowl), and I really prefer the chewiness of the barley to soft noodles. Canned chicken soup really can’t hold a candle to homemade. I think I’ll be saving chicken carcasses more often!

Spatchcocking

We had a very nice Thanksgiving with my parents, but ended up at home earlier than planned due to some illness. So I was home this afternoon in plenty of time to get to the store and cook dinner tonight. I was planning on a nice roasted chicken (my go-to in time of illness, I guess) but decided to try a new technique. I cut the backbone out of my chicken and flattened it out, browned it in my cast iron skillet on the stovetop, and popped it in the oven for 35 minutes. I think it actually could have cooked a little less, as it was pretty hot when I pulled it out. No added fat (other than the veggie oil I use to season my skillet), no spice other than kosher salt and fresh ground pepper (I skipped the red pepper flakes since I was feeding the kiddo, but will add next time). I roasted some of our favorite smashed potatoes at the same time, since they roast at the same temp (if you haven’t made these potatoes, you should – they are crisp and salty and delicious) and served some raw veggies (my favorite) on the side. Even little C, who usually asks for “kid food”, eagerly ate his chicken and potatoes, and a handful of raw red peppers on the side. Bonus: I have lots of leftover chicken for chicken salad,and I saved the bones to make chicken stock. And the chicken cooks quickly enough that I could roast it on a weeknight, which is great, since my family always enjoys roast chicken.

Happy belated Thanksgiving!  I’m thankful for these quick meals that my whole family enjoys!