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By learning about basic ingredients and how to use them, you can create simple, quick and delicious meals your family will love!!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Peanut Butter and Cranberry Bar Cookies

Although I'm not much of a baker, I've been on a baking binge this week.  Besides, I'm always up to the challenge when I come across a new product and this new peanut butter from Planter's was just destined to be turned into cookies.

I love any kind of peanut butter and this new product from Planter's, called Nut-rition Energy Mix Berry Nut, takes regular peanut butter and adds a pretty generous amount of chopped peanuts and dries cranberries. Yum!  It tastes great on a piece of wheat toast, but in a cookie it is just heavenly.

To add an extra bit of texture to these cookies, I added some ground oat flour and it really added a nice oatmeal flavor, while letting the peanut butter stand out.  For more recipes using the oat flour check out the  Banana Bread and Banana Cookies

We tried this recipe with various additions like finely chopped peanuts, extra dried cranberries and even mini chocolate chips and wouldn't you know it, out of the 3 kids, one chose peanuts, one chose cranberries and one chose the chocolate chips as their favorite...lol.  All three varieties were equally good but I would probably choose the cranberries as my favorite.

I thought about making these into regular round cookies, which certainly is an option, but in order to make this a really quick project, I chose the bar cookie route.  ( Note to self:  If in need of cookies for school a.s.a.p., this is a great go-to recipe for my files.)

1/2 cup  Flour
1/2 cup  Oat Flour
1-1/4 tsp  Baking Powder
1/4 tsp  Salt
1/4 tsp  Nutmeg
1/2 tsp  Cinnamon
1/4 cup  Butter, softened
1/2 cup  Planters Nut-rition  Berry Nut Peanut Butter
1 cup  Sugar
2  Eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp  Vanilla Extract
1/4 cup  Your Choice - Craisins, Mini-Chocolate Chips, or Chopped Peanuts

In a medium bowl combine flour and oat flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon and set aside.

Use a mixer to blend the butter and peanut butter, then add the sugar and vanilla and blend, and finally add the eggs one at a time and blend until the mixture is smooth.

Add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture and blend until all of the flour is incorporated.  Stir the craisins or nuts into the dough using a spoon.

Pour the dough onto a lined baking sheet and spread to about 12 X 14 inches, and bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until the top is golden and the center is set.  Makes about 20 bar cookies.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Banana Cookies with Chocolate Chips

If you're a fan of Banana Bread, this little cookie will be your new favorite!  Like little bundles of moist banana bread, these cookies have lots of sweet banana flavor, combined with ground oatmeal flour for texture and tiny chocolate chips.  A couple of these, with a morning cup of coffee and you'll be ready to tackle the rest of your day.

The ground oatmeal flour is something I started using for regular Banana Bread, and it's very easy to make.  Instead of spending a crazy amount of money on already ground oatmeal, I make it myself.  When Old Fashioned Quaker Oatmeal goes on sale, I stock up, then grind the oats into flour using a coffee grinder.  I've been doing this for years and I can never figure out why people pay so much for pre-ground oat flour.  It's super easy, only takes a few minutes and I can grind just a few cups at a time so I always have some ready to use.  Enjoy!!

1/2 cup  Unsalted Butter, softened
1 cup  Sugar
1  Large Egg
1 cup  Mashed Ripe Banana, about 2 medium bananas
1 tsp  Baking Soda
1-1/2 cups  Flour
1-1/2 cups  Oat Flour
1/4 tsp  Salt
1/2 tsp  Cinnamon
1/2 tsp  Nutmeg
1 tsp  Vanilla
1 cup  Mini Chocolate Chips (semi-sweet or milk chocolate)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Blend the butter and sugar together until creamy.  Add the egg and blend.

Add the bananas and baking soda to the butter mixture and blend until combined.  Add the flour, oat flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla, blend the mixture again, then stir in the chocolate chips by hand, mixing just until combined.

Drop by heaping tablespoons onto the lined baking sheets, keeping about 1-1/2 inches between the cookies.  Bake for 12 - 14 minutes or until golden.  Let cookies rest on warm sheets for 2 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool.  Makes about 2 dozen cookies.  Store in an airtight container with waxed paper between the layers.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Soup Month 2013 - October 1st thru October 31st - 31 New Soups in 31 Days

Fall has officially begun and it's almost time for our Annual Soup Month 2013.  After this very warm summer, I'm looking forward to cooler temperatures and some new delicious soups.

Beginning October 1st and continuing all the way through Halloween, we will be posting a new soup, stew, chowder, chili or cobbler recipe each and every day, and there are some yummy recipes coming your way.  From creamy and elegant bisques worthy of your Holiday dinners, to hearty vegetable stews and savory cobblers to warm your winter evenings, there will be a new recipe to entice your taste buds each day. 

So get those crock-pots and soup pots ready and be sure to check back daily or follow us on Facebook or via email  so you don't miss a single recipe.

Just to get everyone in the mood for soup, here are a few of the most popular soups from the last few years.

Ham and Split Pea Soup 

Ham and Bean Soup 

Savory Pumpkin Soup in the Crock-Pot 

Shrimp Bisque 

Pork Harvest Chili 

Oktoberfest Beef Stew 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Chorizo Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Chorizo and chicken always work well together, with the spicy chorizo adding a generous layer of flavor to the mild white-meat chicken.  To make this combination even better, we added creamy Monterey Jack cheese and finely minced poblano peppers.

Many people think making chicken bundles like these is difficult, but once you learn the method, these are super easy to prepare.  Here are a few hints:  By slicing the chicken breasts horizontally, but not all of the way through, you can open the chicken up like a book, lay it flat, then pound the chicken until it is as thin as you'd like. Second, instead of using toothpicks to secure the bundles, I use metal turkey lacers.  You can buy 6 or 8 of these at the grocery for about $2 and they work great for meals like this one.  (Toothpicks always scare me.  I really don't want a piece of wood in someone's dinner! lol)  Last tip, Be sure to place the bundles seam side down and try to tuck the end pieces in under the bundle.  This will keep the cheese and other ingredients inside of the bundle as much as possible.

For the sauce we prepared a homemade enchilada sauce, but if you're in a hurry, you could also use a can of premade sauce.  The sauce was served on the side so the chicken can be dipped, or it can be spooned over the chicken before serving.  Serve with Green Chili Cornbread and Enjoy!!

4 large  Boneless and Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 large  Poblano Chili, finely minced
1/4 lb  Bulk Chorizo Sausage, cooked and crumbled
4 oz  Monterey Jack Cheese, cut into 4 thick slices
1/2 cup  Bread Crumbs
1 tsp  Chili Powder
1 tsp  Kosher Salt
1 tsp  Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp  Cumin
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
6 tb  Butter, melted
Chopped Green Onions for Garnish

Enchilada Sauce
8 oz  Tomato Sauce
1/2 tsp  Cumin
1/4 tsp  Chili Powder
1/2 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp  Ground Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside.

Combine the bread crumbs, chili powder, salt, garlic powder, cumin and pepper in a shallow dish and set aside.

Using a sharp knife, slice each chicken breast horizontally about 3/4 through.  Open the chicken breast so you have a large fillet.  Place a piece of waxed paper over the chicken and pound the meat until it is about 1/4-inch thick.  Do this carefully so the meat does not pull apart.  Set aside and prepare the other pieces of chicken.

Spread each piece of chicken with equal amounts of chopped poblano and chorizo, then top with a slice of Monterey Jack cheese.  Roll up each bundle and secure with a toothpick or metal skewer.

Dip each bundle into the melted butter, then roll it in the bread crumb mixture, pressing firmly so the crumbs will adhere.  Place the bundles seam-side down on the baking sheet and bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until golden and the chicken juices run clear.

Prepare the sauce while the chicken is cooking.

Combine the tomato sauce, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper in a small skillet and heat to a low boil, then reduce heat to warm until ready to serve.

Remove chicken from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.  Slice each piece of chicken, place on a plate and spoon the sauce over the chicken or serve it on the side.  Sprinkle with green onions for a garnish.

Green Chili Cornbread

Home-style cornbread is a great side dish for many meals, especially soup or chili, and only takes a few minutes to prepare.  With the winter months just around the corner, this is a great recipe to keep handy.  We served this bread with Chorizo Stuffed Chicken Breasts, and it complimented the dish nicely.

I got a little sneaky with this bread in order to get past my daughter's picky personality, and I actually loved the results.

Since my daughter does not like "little green things" in foods, I decided to puree the corn and chilies together and the results were delicious.  Not only did she not notice the little flecks of green chilies, the flavor of the chilies was infused into the cornbread. 

This same recipe can be used with white or yellow corn meal mix and you could also add some extra flair to the bread by adding minced jalapenos, grated cheddar cheese or even crumbled bacon.

I used my 12-inch "everyday pan" for this bread and it cooked beautifully, but you could also use a 9-inch cake pan for a thicker bread, just add about 5 minutes to your cook time.

2 TB  Butter
1/3 cup  Canola or Vegetable Oil
2 cups  Self-Rising White Corn Meal Mix
2/3 cup  Milk
2/3 cup  Buttermilk
2  Eggs
2 TB  Sugar
1 4-oz can  Diced Green Chilies, (pureed if desired)
1 cup  Frozen Corn, defrosted, (pureed if desired)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spread butter in a large cast-iron or glass baking dish, making sure to coat up the sides of the pan.

In a medium bowl combine the remaining ingredients and stir until blended.

Place the buttered pan in the oven for 3 - 4 minutes or until the butter has melted.  Remove the pan from the oven, pour the batter into the pan and bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until golden on the edges.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Vanilla Ice Cream with Peanut Butter Oreos

OK.  So, I know this is not a low calorie treat.  But, if you like to treat yourself to a really decadent dessert every once in a while, this is the one to try.  Since the weather has been unbelievably hot this week, we decided it was time for something cool for dessert.

We have this great little ice cream maker that can even be used to make fruit sorbets or frozen yogurt.  It's so much fun to use and with just a few ingredients, you can have incredible creamy ice cream at home. 

The processing time is only about 25 minutes or so, and you have delicious soft-serve ice cream.  For a firmer consistency, we like to freeze the mixture in an airtight bowl for a few hours so the ice cream is completely frozen.

Tonight we went with basic vanilla ice cream and added crumbled Peanut Butter Filled Oreos to the mixture just before the processing was complete.  After a couple of hours in the freezer, dessert was ready to serve.

1 cup  Whole Milk
3/4 cup  Sugar
2 cups  Heavy Cream
1-1/2 tsp  Pure Vanilla Extract
3/4 cup  Peanut Butter-Filled Oreo Crumbles (about 4 cookies, crushed)
Extra Oreos for Garnish

In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer to blend the milk and sugar on low speed until all of the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla.

Add the mixture to the frozen ice cream bowl, turn the ice cream machine on and mix until thickened, about 20-25 minutes.  During the last 5 minutes of this process, add the cookie crumbles to the mixture.

Serve immediately with a sprinkle of crumbled Oreos.  For hard-frozen ice cream, place the soft ice cream in a plastic, air-tight bowl with a lid, and freeze for 2 - 4 hours or overnight.    Makes about 10 1/2-cup servings.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Red Potato Salad

On a hot summer night, nothing tastes better with a grilled steak dinner than a cool and creamy Red Potato Salad.  This recipe is one of my favorites and is a great go-to recipe for weekend barbecues.

We combined the cooked potatoes with bacon, chopped hard-boiled eggs and grated cheese, and added cool cucumbers and radishes for some bright summer flavor and color.  The Green Goddess Dressing, which is made with lots of fresh herbs, adds a nice creamy coating to the salad, but if you don't have time to prepare the dressing, you can also use bottled Caesar dressing, or any of your favorite creamy dressings that you have on hand would work fine.

3 lbs Red Potatoes, washed and rinsed
1/2 lb thick cut Bacon, diced in small pieces
1  medium Cucumber, peeled, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds removed and then diced
6-8  Radishes, thinly sliced
6  Hard-Boiled Eggs, cooled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmesan and Romano Cheese
1 tsp  Salt
1/2 tsp  Black Pepper
Green Goddess Dressing - click here for recipe, or use your favorite bottled dressing
Fresh Chives, chopped, for garnish
Diced Pimiento for garnish

Cut red potatoes into 1-inch cubes and place in a large pot.  cover the potatoes with water and boil gently until just tender, but not fully cooked. Drain and cool completely. While potatoes cool, cook bacon and then set it aside to cool.

To assemble the salad: Place potatoes in a large bowl and add bacon, cucumbers, radishes, eggs, cheese, salt and pepper. Pour the Green Goddess Dressing over the salad, adding about a 3/4 cup to start, then gently blend the salad with a spatula. You can add more dressing, if needed, to suit your own taste. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.  Sprinkle with chopped fresh chives and diced pimiento before serving.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Red Pepper Pasta Sauce

Now that the kids are back in school, dinnertime has again become a race against the clock.  Between travel time between the schools, then homework and this huge pile of papers that have to be signed right away (gee thanks teachers), getting dinner on the table fast is a challenge.

Well, tonight we have a solution for you.  This is a delicious and easy to make Italian dinner that everyone in your family will love. Even the picky kids!  Add some crunchy garlic bread and you can have dinner on the table in about 45 minutes.

Since my daughter is allergic to tomatoes, but she really likes spaghetti, we created this sauce using roasted red peppers that come in a jar.  The peppers already have that nice bright roasted flavor, so most of the seasoning is already there, just add some dried Italian spices, a bit of half and half and cream cheese to create a rich, creamy sauce.  We also added some spicy-hot Italian sausage and balanced the sauce with a dash of white wine.  For a little extra heat add a sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes.

5 links  Hot Italian Sausage, casing removed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large  Green Pepper, chopped
1 medium  Yellow Onion, chopped
1 TB  Minced Garlic
6 oz  Mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1/2 cup  Dry White Wine
2 tsp  Dry Italian Seasoning
1-1/2 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
2 jars  Mezzetta Roasted Red Peppers, half of liquid drained then pureed
1/2 cup  Half and Half
4 oz  Cream Cheese
2 oz  Grated Parmesan Cheese
Grated Parmesan Cheese for Garnish
Red Pepper Flakes for Garnish
Cooked Whole Wheat Spaghetti or Pasta of Your Choice

In a large skillet, brown the sausage pieces over medium-high heat, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When the sausage is no longer pink add the peppers, onions, garlic and mushrooms and cook until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. 

Add the wine to the skillet to deglaze the bottom, stirring to loosen and browned bits from the pan.  When the wine has reduced by half, add the remaining ingredients to the pan, stir and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cream cheese has melted.

Spoon the sauce over cooked pasta and serve with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.  Enjoy!!