Thursday, April 17, 2014

Homemade Butter

My kids are on Spring break this week and because this is the first time we haven't taken a vacation during Spring break, I've been challenging myself to come up with fun and interesting ways to keep my kids entertained. We've been reading the Little House on the Prairie series and I thought it would be fun to tie this into that time period.

Today, we made homemade butter!! We used my KitchenAid for a big batch - and while that was churning, each of the kids had smaller amounts of this recipe in jars with 3 marbles in the jars to help agitate the butter and make it easier for them. It was a good lesson as they each shook their jars to realize how much effort went into making butter "in the olden days" when people used a churn instead of an electric device.  

Homemade Butter
1/4 c milk
1 shredded carrot*
1 qt heavy cream
1 tsp table salt
1 tsp table sugar

1. Peel & finely grate a carrot (*or do what I did and just buy shredded carrots and use about 1/2 c from the bag). Heat in small saucepan with 1/4 cup milk until milk is bubbly. Put the carrots in a clean cheesecloth (I actually used a cloth napkin) and pour the hot milk over the carrots into the bowl of your stand mixer. Squeeze all the milk out of the carrots. Discard shredded carrot.

2. Pour cream into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add salt and sugar. Cover mixer with a towel it will be a little messy. Set mixer on low (2) and let the paddle do the work.

3. Continue mixing, checking on mixture frequently. It will first turn to whipped cream, then begin to get grainy and separate into butter and buttermilk. The butter is ready when it sticks in a clump to the paddle.

4. Strain the buttermilk off of the butter.

5. Using your hands or a spatula, press out excess buttermilk under cold running water until water runs clear. Shape into stick or ball. Butter will keep covered in refrigerator for up to 4 weeks. Serve with bread and enjoy!

**The butter we shook in jars didn't turn out as firm as the butter from the KitchenAid - not enough elbow grease I guess.

Number of servings (yield): Approximately 1 pound of butter + 3/4 cup of buttermilk

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Creamy Basil Pesto Tortellini

I came up with this idea based on craving and availability

Creamy Basil Pesto Tortellini
1 package of fresh Tortellini (may favorite is the 5 cheese at Costco)
Alfredo Sauce (My basic alfredo sauce is HERE)
Basil Pesto Sauce (I love the Kirkland brand - sheesh - I should get paid for all this advertising!!)
Pine Nuts

I didn't give you any measurements - bc I didn't use any. I made my alfredo sauce (which does have measurements - do don't worry) When the alfredo sauce was done, I turned it down to low and covered it so it could stay warm while I prepped everything else.

The Tortellini only takes about 3-5 minutes to cook so this comes together quick! On the back burner in your smallest skillet - add a handful of pine nuts - keep the heat pretty low. Every time I toast pine nuts I forget about them - so using a low setting works for me.

Then everything comes together! I serve this buffet style. My daughter only likes alfredo on hers. One of my daughters loves Pesto - and just adds pesto and pine nuts to hers. My hubby, son and I like to add both alfredo and pesto together - mine is a little heavier on the pesto than theirs. We all love toasted pine nuts.

Just as we were all sitting down I remembered that I had a block of Asiago in the freezer - so I put a few very fine shavings on top! Delish!!

Creamy Parmesan Romano Rice

I was at the grocery store the other day and those packets of rice & seasonings on display. I thought to myself - I used to love those when I was in college… I should try to make a version at home - that'll ensure I have control over what goes in to it - and that what goes in it won't be a "seasoning packet" and all those preservatives!!
Creamy Parmesan Romano Rice
1 stick (8 T)
3 or 4 garlic cloves, minced
2 c water
2 c 2%milk
2 c white rice
Salt and pepper to taste

1 T chopped fresh parsley
½  c parmesan – romano cheese, shredded or finely grated

Saute garlic in butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat until fragrant about 3 minutes. Add riceand stir to coat in butter. Add milk, water, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer – cover and cook for about 20 minutes. Stir only occasionally to ensure the rice isn’t sticking to the bottom – if it is, turn the heat down.

When the rice is done. Stir in parmesan romano cheese and parsley. If you’d like yours creamier, you can add a splash of milk. Taste for salt and pepper. Cover and take off the heat to rest 5 minutes.

My kids gobbled this up!

Friday, April 11, 2014

April Fools Food Ideas

I realize April Fools came and went a week or so ago - but I want to get these ideas and pics in the book.

The "SUSHI BAR" rice kris pies, jelly worms, skittles, licorice, swedish fish…

Each child makes their own "roll"according to their tastes...
 Maisie is always the most creative and neat. She wants her faux roll to look just like a real one...
 Izzie is the greedy one. We don't eat a lot of candy around here - unless it's for a special occasion - so when she gets the chance - she goes for it!!

 Jack likes to keep his food separately - ALWAYS. Food doesn't touch another type of food on his plate - see those separations?

Kids favorite "jello" juice - I'm surprised that there is always on of them that fall for it every year...
 This lil one was super excited before she even knew what it was - "there is something red in my cup!"

Maisie made "cupcakes with frosting" which are really meatballs with sweet potato sauce

 Other fun things we've done in years past are hamburgers made by cutting cupcakes in half and decorating them with frosting, m&m's served with bread sticks rolled in butter then sugar and cinnamon. cut them in half and serve in half an envelope.

Last year I bought two new sponges and decorated them with frosting and sprinkles. First I had the kids try to each cut a slice. Then I sliced it in half and without getting the joke - they all took a bite!

I've done this one every year for several. Sometimes I do it the night before after the kids go to bed, sometimes I do it while they are at school, sometimes I do it while they are at extracurriculars - bc they don't know when to expect it - it always makes them laugh when they find all these goggly eyes on every single container in the fridge!!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Easy Chicken Pot Pie

I have had a craving for Chicken Pot Pie for a few weeks now - but I wanted to make one that was "homemade" but didn't want to spend an entire day making it. Solution?? This little recipe I came up with. I researched recipes from Ina Gartner, Ree Drummond to name a few - then took some awesome short cuts and came up with this!!!

*Picture thanks to Ree Drummond - we had company the night I made Chicken Pot Pie so taking a pic of it was the last thing on my mind.

For the record - my 4 kids and the 3 teenaged boys we had over for dinner ALL got seconds and all each finished their portions in record time.

Easy Chicken Pot Pie
1/4 c flour
4 T butter (half a stick)
2 c chicken stock
1 chicken bouillon cube or 1 t granulated chicken bouillon
1 "Traditional" rotisserie chicken
1 c frozen, diced onions
1 c frozen carrots, diced or crinkle cut
1 c frozen sweet peas
1 c frozen sweet corn
2 Marie Callendars frozen pie crusts
1 c heavy cream
1/4 c fresh parsley (or thyme), finely minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and *celery (we just found out that my son is allergic to celery – seriously.) Saute until the vegetables start to turn translucent, a couple of minutes.

Add 2 cups of the diced chicken and stir to combine. Sprinkle the flour evenly over the vegetables and chicken, and stir to combine. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring gently.

Pour in the chicken broth, stirring constantly. Stir in the bouillon cube. The flour will combine with the chicken to create a delicious gravy. Next, add the peas and corn.

Pour in the cream and stir. Allow the mixture to cook over low heat, thickening gradually, about 4 minutes. Season with the parsley (or thyme), salt and pepper, and continue to cook on low for 30-40 minutes. You want to have time for all of the veg to get soft and for the flavors to meld. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.

While the filling is melding on low, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and get the pie crusts out of the freezer to thaw.

Pour the chicken mixture into one of the pie crusts – don’t be afraid to pile it in there – the top crust will help keep it all in. Then cover with second pie crust. Use your fingers to pinch the edges of both crusts together to seal it. Use a fork to pierce a few holes in the top crust.

Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly, about 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Seriously SO DELICIOUS and comforting - and with all that veg!!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Greek Tortellini Salad

I made 5 cheese tortellini with Alfredo sauce 2 days ago. I also made pasta on Monday (4 days ago) and I wanted to use the left over pasta in a different way and I came up with this salad and one other HERE...

Greek Tortellini Salad
1 small red onion, diced
1 cucumber, diced
2 c grape tomatoes, halved
1 c feta, crumbled
12 oz. tortellini - I used the 5 cheese tortellini from Costco
1/2 bottle of Greek salad dressing (I used Paul Newmans Greek dressing) just add little by little and toss until it's to your liking

So delicious. So fresh. So filling!!

*Sorry my pics are out of focus - I'm learning to use my 50mm and I'm not having much luck yet...

Broccoli Grape Cucumber Salad

I didn't take this gorgeous picture - while I did make this salad, we had company in town and it was gobbled up so quickly I didn't get a picture of mine. This picture and recipe can be seen HERE on NatashasKitchen

I did, however, use another tried and true dressing recipe instead of the one she used...

Broccoli Grape Cucumber Salad
2 medium heads of broccoli, finely chopped/ diced
1/2 english cucumber, diced
1 cup red/purple grapes, chopped
3 Tbsp onion, finely chopped
2 to 3 Tbsp unsalted sunflower seeds

1 c mayonnaise
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c apple cider vinegar (red wine vinegar is also good) 
1/2 red onion, diced

Pretty self explanatory as far as putting it together...

Friday, March 28, 2014

Almosty Cristo

My son's good friend introduced me to the MOST AMAZING sandwich I've EVER had in my life. Her Aunt owns a food truck called "CHEESY STREET."

Nearly every Saturday at the park across the street from my house. You can check out their FB page HERE - they list when and where they'll be so you locals can try it out for yourselves!! 

The description they post on the ALMOSTY CRISTO:

A classic favorite reimagined!! Ham, mustard, raspberry jam and a blend of swiss and gruyere cheese come together in a tasty grilled cheese dusted with powdered sugar.

I'll post a pic when I make it myself at home - but for now I'm thrilled to walk across the street and have them make it for me!

What's your favorite sandwich??

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Green Chili White Sauce Beef Enchiladas

I felt like Mexican food but only had ground beef on hand - I found this recipe on Pinterest (of course) and tweaked it a little. I can't find the site I found it on - I'll link that in later. 

All my kids (including 2 year old babe) loved it - yummy noises all around - one of my favorite sounds:)

Green Chili White Sauce Beef Enchiladas
1 lb ground beef
1/3 c finely chopped onion
1 t cumin
1/2 t chili powder
1/2 t garlic powder
juice of 1/2 lime
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

For the Enchilada Sauce 
2 T butter
2-3 T flour
1 c chicken broth
1/3 - 1/2 c salsa verde
1/2 t cumin
1 c sour cream

To Prepare
Monterey Jack cheese, shredded*
Cheddar cheese, shredded
6-8 flour tortillas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brown ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute another few minutes.  Add the cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, lime juice and black beans.  Stir to combine.  Mine looked a bit dry - so I added a few Tablespoons of chicken stock.

Meanwhile, for the sauce: melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Stir in the flour until a thick paste forms (roux).  Cook for a few minutes to cook out the flour taste.  Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and stir until smooth.  Continue cooking until sauce thickens, whisking occasionally.  Stir in the salsa verde, cumin and sour cream.

To prepare: Divide meat mixture between tortillas and top each with a small amount of cheese.  Roll up tightly and place, seam side down, in a casserole dish.  Pour sauce over the top, covering each enchilada completely.  Top with remaining cheese.  Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until heated through and bubbly.  Broil for the last few minutes to brown the cheese on top.  Serve.   

I got 5 FAT tortillas side by side in a 9x13" casserole. 

*I didn't have Monterey Jack on hand so I used mozzarella 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Yogurt Fruit Salad

I saw this recipe on Pinterest originally HERE

Delicious, refreshing and low fat!! 
It's not the prettiest "salad" but it sure is nummy… savoring every bite
Yogurt Fruit Salad
2 6 oz containers yogurt (orange cream)
8 oz light cool whip
2 small cans of mandarine oranges (drained)
1 large can of pineapple tidbits (drained)

Mix everything together and chill before serving.

Spring Pasta with Pancetta and Lemon

Spring is in the air here and I am so excited!! I wanted to make a quick pasta dish with bright Spring flavors and what do you know? I had everything I needed on hand!

Spring Pasta with Pancetta and Lemon
1 lb of your favorite pasta (I used germelli)
1/2 lb pancetta (or bacon or ham)
1/2 small diced red onion
2 t minced garlic
1 c reserved pasta water
Zest of 1/4 lemon
1/2 c finely shredded Asiago cheese
1/2 c finely shredded Parmesan
1/4 c finely chopped parsley
3 - 4 T evoo

Cook pasta according to package directions.

In the mean time, cook your pancetta until crisp - add the onions and cook until soft. Add garlic and cook for about 20 seconds. Add reserved pasta water. Drain pasta and add to pan and incorporate.

Remove from heat and add parsley, cheeses, lemon zest and evoo. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bad Bad Baked Cauli-Tots

My kids know what tater tots are thanks to school lunch. I've never served them at home because I think I would be 100 pounds heavier than I am and I try to keep our meals either healthy, worth it or interesting.

I saw this recipe on Pinterest and she had me sold.

You can see the recipe HERE on Cupcakes and Kale Chips.

Personally, I thought these were disgusting. I tried 3 or 4 of them to try to taste any remote goodness, but no. Not even ketchup could make these babies taste good to me.

BUT. BUT. My kids ate them and told me that they liked them. I'd love to hear if you have tried something like this and liked them - or whether you have a different recipe you prefer that you think I'd like.

How to Prepare a Whole Dungeness Crab

I bought these Dungeness Crabs for Valentines Day. Even though I love food, I have an aversion to pulling apart protein. I won't go into detail with you bc if I did - you would also have a problem but I'll tell you this... When I was pregnant with child #3 I decided to buy an Easter Ham and julienne and dice it for quick snacks and meals for my then 3 and 4 year old. Ham (and BACON) are my favorite meats in the world and I didn't eat ham for 2 years - TWO YEARS. So, my sweet husband steps in and does the dirty work for me - from the Thanksgiving turkey, the Easter ham and now, the Dungeness crab.

I googled "How to prepare a whole dungeness crab" and got great instructions HERE. After my Sweetness got all the good crab meat out of the shell, I warmed it up by pan frying it in a little butter. 

Crab Cakes with Lemon Dill Sauce

 I had some kind of allergic reaction back in October when my hubby took me to the Dominican Republic. When it happened, we were eating at a seafood restaurant, so I have abstained from all seafood ever since - which was absolutely pain staking for me as seafood is my absolute favorite type of food. I finally got in to a food allergist last week and had a "scratch test" that proved I am NOT allergic to seafood - YAHOO!!

I also took my 10 year old son, who had his last scratch test at age 5 that showed he was allergic to eggs, seafood and shellfish. The test they did was much more specific and we found out that he is ONLY allergic to eggs, shrimp and salmon. We are having his blood work done next week. Anyway... seafood. Since I found out I'm not allergic, we have had sushi, salmon, and crab two ways. Seriously delicious.

I got this recipe from Paula Deen...

Lemon Dill Sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced

Crab Cakes:
3 tablespoons butter
1 green onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
Cayenne pepper
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 pound white or claw crabmeat, picked free of any bits of shell (I got a pound of lump crab meat at Costco that was amazing!)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

To make the sauce, combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Refrigerate until chilled. The sauce will thicken as it chills.

To prepare the crab cakes, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion, bell pepper, and garlic until the pepper is limp, approximately 3 minutes. Add the cream, mustard, 1 egg, parsley, cayenne pepper and 1/2 cup bread crumbs, to taste, and mix well. Gently fold in the crabmeat.

Form the mixture into 8 patties, about 1/2-inch thick. In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of bread crumbs with the Parmesan. Pat this topping onto both sides of the patties. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Using a skillet, combine the oil and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Saute the crab cakes in the hot oil-butter mixture for approximately 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. These crab cakes can also be baked for 7 to 10 minutes in a 400 degree F oven.

To serve, spoon a dollop of the lemon dill sauce along side each crab cake.

*I cleaned out the skillet in between batches so the crab cakes wouldn't get any "burned" flavor from the patties that were in before them. Also, before adding the cream, mustard... I took the skillet off the heat - I was worried that the egg may scramble. Also, I formed the crab mixture into patties and set them on a cookie sheet (covered in aluminum) then topped them with the panko and parm. After they were in the refrigerator for a little over an hour, I flipped them over and coated the other side - I had a really busy day and that seemed to make things less of a mess and less time consuming for me.


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