Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Rival Crockpot lid shattered

What the???

I had 2 chicken breasts in my crockpot cooking away like they're supposed to. I put them in a little later in the afternoon, so I had them on high. I was sitting in the computer room when I heard a loud pop from my kitchen. Upon inspection, the crockpot lid shattered into tons of pieces. It was all intact until Matt tried to lift it up. The handle came right off and the glass all fell into the pot. I have no clue why it would have done that. I've used the crockpot for so many things, but I've never had this happen. There was ample water, so it wasn't because it had boiled out or anything. Nothing else seemed amiss.

I JUST threw out the box too. I've had this crockpot for only a few months. Lame.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Candy Bar Bar Cookies

Matt was going to be out last night, so I decided to try and get a spur of the moment craft group together. After contacting a few people, I decided I ought to make a treat just in case. I needed something easy for which I had all the ingredients on hand. I love trying new recipes, so this recipe caught my eye.

I was afraid they'd be overpoweringly sweet, so I made some minor changes. They turned out quite good in my opinion. I usually can resist going back for more, but these kept calling my name and I had a few. My changes are in red.

Candy Bar Bar Cookies
3/4 C butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1/4 C peanut butter (I used organic natural PB)
1 C firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 C all purpose flour
1/2 C whole wheat flour
2 C rolled oats, pulsed a couple times in the food processor

1 egg
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated!)
3 C chopped candy bars (mixed is fine. I used a combo of snickers, almond joys, 1000 Grand, butterfingers, and a few peanut m&m's for kicks. The almond joys were my favorites)
1 C chopped nuts (I used pecans and walnuts)

  1. Preheat oven to 350*
  2. In a large bowl combine softened (room temp., not melted) butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add brown sugar and baking soda. Beat well and stir in flour and oats. Set aside 1 3/4 C oat mixture for later.
  3. Stir egg into the remaining oat mixture in bowl. Pat into a 9 X 13 in. baking dish (I used metal) and bake for 15 min. Remove from oven.
  4. Pour sweetened condensed milk over the crust and spread evenly. Stir together reserved oat mixture with the candy bars and nuts. Sprinkle mixture evenly over top.
  5. Bake 25 min. or until golden brown. Store left overs loosely covered at room temperature.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie
3 eggs
2/3 C sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 C melted butter
1 C corn syrup (I use dark)
1 1/2 C pecan halves

1 pie crust

Heat the oven to 375*. Beat everything together except pecans. Place pecans on the bottom of an unbaked pie crust (I used 9 in. pan). Pour mixture on top of pecans. Cover the crust with foil. Bake 45-55 min. or until it's not real jiggly. Uncover the crust and bake about 5-10 min. more until golden.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Classic Stir-fry Sauce

This was adapted from Restaurant Teriyaki Sauce recipe from Gourmet Mom on-the-Go. If you're looking for a good homemade teriyaki sauce, follow that link. It really is good. We just needed something not quite as sweet.

Classic Stir-fry Sauce
1/4 C. soy sauce
3/4 C. water
1-2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp. honey
1 1/2 Tbsp. corn starch dissolved in a couple Tbsp. water
a couple drops of sesame oil

In a small sauce pan stir together all ingredients. except the cornstarch/water mixture. Heat until sauce bubbles and thickens, stirring frequently with a whisk. It's important to get the sauce to bubble so it boils out the "cornstarch" taste. You can add more water if it gets too thick.

We both really liked the sauce for the veggie stir-fry.

I might try variations on this including ginger and crushed red pepper.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Basic Brownies

I wanted to provide treats last night for the recital. At first I thought I'd just purchase some cookies and fruit, but as I was going down the cookie isle and reading the ingredients, I decided the cheap cookies were cheap for a reason! And while the expensive cookies may have been good, they were TOO EXPENSIVE!

So I came home and made my own lemon bars and brownies. I'm not giving you the lemon bar recipe. It was a new one and it was ok, but not good enough to give out with my stamp of approval.

The brownie recipe is SO easy, and I got it from my friend Pam (the same friend from whom I got the apple pie and crust recipe). They are chewy without being gloppy/gooey and underdone or cakey. They're really good.

Brownies: Full 9X13 batch
2 c sugar
2 cubes butter
4 eggs
1 ½ c flour
1/3 c cocoa
dash of salt

Cream sugar and butter, add eggs then dry ingredients. Cook at 350 for 25-30. Greased 9X13 pan

Brownies: Half batch for 8X8 pan
1 c sugar
1 cube butter
2 eggs
3/4 c flour
1/8 C + 1 Tbsp cocoa
pinch salt

Cream sugar and butter, add eggs then dry ingredients. Cook at 350 for 25-30. Greased 8X8 pan.

I don't frost mine, but she does.

Easy Chocolate Frosting
Melt 2 tbsp butter. Add powder sugar until you get a consistency a little thicker than you want. Add a little milk, a little cocoa, a little vanilla. (Real specific, hu? That's how I like it!!)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The best cheese enchiladas I've made yet

So I've struggled with enchiladas in the past. I continually try and make them, but Matt (and I) are always disappointed. The only enchiladas he's ever eaten that he's liked are Amy's brand organic cheese enchiladas. So that's what I am supposed to try and emulate.

I made a red chili sauce earlier this week for the tamales and it was the best chili sauce I've made yet. So I decided I ought to try the enchiladas yet again. I thought they were good. Matt said they were the best I've made, but they weren't as good as Amy's. I told him it's a good thing I'm not trying to mass market them. He even went back for seconds (gasp!). I thought it was a keeper.

10 min. Red Chili Sauce- Originally found on Allrecipes.com (all my changes are in this color.)
1/4 C vegetable oil
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 C chili powder (Mexican style)
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 1/2 C water
1/4 tsp cumin
2 large cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 onion, finely diced
salt to taste

  1. Soften the onion in the oil (in a medium saucepan) over med. high heat.
  2. Just as they are getting soft, add in the pressed garlic for a few seconds, stirring to make sure it doesn't burn.
  3. Stir in flour and chili powder, reduce to medium heat, and cook until lightly brown, stirring constantly to prevent burning flour.
  4. Gradually stir in tomato sauce, water and cumin, and continue cooking over medium heat approximately 10 minutes, or until thickened slightly. Season to taste with salt.
  5. After it's cooled a little, blend with a blender or stick blender if you want a smooth sauce.
Cheese Enchiladas-my own recipe I made up tonight (made 6 corn tortilla enchiladas)
2-3 nice sized handfuls of shredded cheese.
(I used cheddar and mozzarella because that's what I had. Monterrey Jack, Pepper Jack, Colby, and/or Colby Jack should work fine as well.)
1/4 bell pepper, diced very finely
(I used yellow because it's what I had. The flavor worked well for me.)
1/4 red onion, diced very finely
handful of black olives, diced very finely
a spoonful or two of sour cream
A little salt

6 corn tortillas
Red chili sauce (see above)

  1. Mix the ingredients (except the sauce and tortillas) all together.
  2. In an 8x8 baking dish, spread sauce on the bottom.
  3. In a skillet (I used my trusty cast iron), put a small amount of oil (I used olive oil), and heat. Warm each tortilla on the skillet before you fill it. If you don't do this, your tortillas will most likely crack when you roll them. My mom used hot water to soften them when she made hers growing up, but every time I try that, they fall apart on me.
  4. Fill each tortilla down the middle with the cheese mixture and roll it up.
  5. Spoon a good amount of sauce over the top and cover the dish with foil.
  6. Bake at 375* for 30 ish min. (or until cheese is bubbly).
Serve with a side of beans or rice, lettuce, guacamole, pico, and anything else that floats your Mexican boat.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Something like "Cafe Rio" Salad

I've seen this recipe all over, so I'm not citing my source. Also, I've changed it up a bit to my own liking. The rice/water measurements on all of the recipes I saw were way off. You should have twice as much liquid as rice. Most recipes I saw had 1:1 ratio!! Not right at all.

I've made this 3-4 times now and it fulfills my Cafe Rio cravings. The chicken is not exact, but it's good. The rice here, in my opinion, is a little better. The dressing was right on.
The Chicken (for 2-4 people):

1/3 small bottle Zesty Italian Dressing (I don't measure-I just cover the chicken)
1 tps. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1-2 minced garlic clove

2-3 chicken breasts

For optimal taste: marinate the chicken for a couple of hours. Grill on a charcoal grill with some soaked hickory wood chips for added flavor. Chop and serve with salad.

For shredded/easy cooking: Combine all sauce ingredients and pour over chicken in the crock pot. Cook for 5-8 hours on low, shred, and let sit in sauce until ready to eat.

The Rice (for 4-6 people so I generally cut this in half for us):

aprrox 2-2 1/2 C. water + 2-2 1/2 tsp bullion (or that much chicken broth)
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 bunch cilantro
1/2 can green chilies
1/4 med. onion

1 1/2 C. rice
1/2 tsp salt

Puree cilantro, onions, and green chilies together in food processor or blender to a liquid state. Scrape it into a large measuring cup (with measurements on the side). Add enough broth to make 3 cups liquid total. Pour into a medium saucepan and heat liquid to a boil, add rice and salt, turn down the heat to a simmer (on our electric range I turn it to 1 or 2). Cook covered approx. 25-30 min. or until all liquid absorbed and it's not crunchy. If the liquid is absorbed and it's crunchy still, add a little more water and cover again (try not to stir it too much at this point) for a few more minutes so it doesn't burn. After it's done, it's better if you let it sit covered for about 10- 20 min.

*I've made this a couple times and tonight I forgot to add my "Better than Bullion" to the water since I was rushing about. It was NOT as good without it.*

The Creamy Tomatillo Dressing (makes a little over a cup of dressing)
1/2 packet buttermilk ranch powder
1/4 C sour cream
1/4 C milk
1/2 C mayo
1 small tomatillo (green tomato with husk. Take off the husk and wash before use.)
1/4 bunch cilantro (nice big handful)
1 clove garlic, pressed
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 jalapeño, seeded (optional)

Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender until well combined. Let sit in the refrigerator a little while to set up.

*I've tried this a couple ways, and this is by far the closest I've gotten to Cafe Rio's dressing. The sour cream made a HUGE difference in consistency and taste. I use full fat, so I don't know if reduced fat or fat free works. Matt actually said it tasted almost exactly like it, so that's saying something!!*

The Beans (4-6 people)
1-2 can black or pinto beans, drained. (we use 1 can for the 2 of us and have a little left over)
1-2 cloves garlic, pressed
pinto bean seasoning (if available) or season with cumin, chilli powder, liquid smoke, onion powder or minced onion, salt etc. to taste

Put beans in a sauce pan and add about 1/2-1 can new water to it. Put in cloves of garlic and shake the pinto bean seasoning in it. You can add a little (couple drops) liquid smoke if you so desire. Let it simmer on med-low covered for 15 min-1/2 hour, depending on how tough they are out of the can. Taste it and add salt or more seasoning to your liking.

The Guacamole (2-3 people)
1 Avocado smashed
very finely chopped onion (less than 1/4 of a small one)
lime juice to taste
1 garlic clove pressed
jalapeño salt to taste (or regular salt. the jalapeño salt just adds a nice kick.)
a little chopped cilantro if you want
a little cumin if you want
a little red pepper if you want

Mix all together.

(or you could just do smashed avocado mixed with store bought pico or salsa if you're short on time.)

Flour Tortillas-makes 8 large tortillas
2 C. all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt (I'm sure regular salt works fine, but I always cook with kosher)
1/4 C vegetable shortening

3/4 C warm milk

  1. Mix together first 4 ingredients, cutting in the shortening with a pastry cutter or two knives or forks.
  2. Add the warm milk a little at a time until completely incorporated.
  3. Flour a workspace and dump out dough. It'll probably be a little sticky, so flour your hands and have a little extra flour on the side. Hand kneed the dough for about 5 min.
  4. Put in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let it sit for about 15-20 min. If it's too tough or rubbery, let it sit a few more min.
  5. After 20 min. cut the dough into 8 equal parts. Roll these pieces into balls.* Flatten into a disk and roll into tortillas. It's okay if they're not quite as large as you want them. Cover and let sit another 5-10 min.**
  6. Warm up a cast iron skillet (or a non-stick pan, but honestly, they cook better on cast iron) Keep it dry-don't add oil or anything. Once the pan is nice and hot, slap your tortillas on about 30 seconds on each side (more or less depending on how hot your pan really is). If your pan is hot enough, they'll start to puff up and get big bubbles. Keep the cooked ones warm under a clean kitchen towel until you're ready to eat. them
*If you used a stand mixer to knead, you may need to let them rest a little longer. If your dough is ever too elastic or rubbery, just let it sit a bit longer to relax.
**I have stacked them in between pieces of wax paper and put them in a ziploc in the fridge for a couple hours. It worked just fine after sitting a couple hours, but the next day the final product was a little brittle and not quite chewy.

The Salad: You need a lot of Romaine
Use a pie pan and place a warmed burrito sized tortilla on the bottom. Layer the rice and beans and chicken. Cover with a good amount of chopped crisp ROMAINE lettuce. Add a little cilantro. Put on dressing and guac. to your liking. Squirt lime on top. You can crumble fresh cotija cheese (fresh mexican cheese) on top if you like.

A great topper:
Slice up some corn tortillas and pan or deep fry them till crisp. Salt them. Put them on top. Sometimes we opt out of the bottom tortillas as long as we have some of these.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Non-soupy Blueberry Pie

I couldn't find any recipes specifically for frozen blueberries, so I did what I always do and combined a lot of recipes. It turned out better than I could have hoped; it was a very "pure" pie that tasted like blueberries. The filling wasn't overly sweet. I think it could have used a little salt and a little more lemon to bring out the flavors. The filling was not soupy at all, and may have been a tad bit too thick/solid. If you like a nice, solid pie, keep the tapioca to berry ratio 4 Tbsp tapioca to 4 C berries. If you like it a little runnier, I'd probably do 3 Tbsp tapioca to 4 cups berries. It was really easy. I used frozen pie crusts that I made probably 3-4 weeks ago. I just let them thaw on the counter.

Here's the recipe I created:
A Non-Soupy Blueberry pie made with frozen berries


4 C frozen blueberries

¾ C sugar (increase to 1 cup+ if you like really sweet pies-this pie tastes more like fruit than sugar)

3-4 T instant tapioca (4 makes the filling really thick)

1-2 tsp lemon

dash cinnamon
dash nutmeg
dash salt

2 pie crusts (for a great recipe, see this post)

Optional: sugar to dust the top (and food coloring if you want to color it. That's why my pie is colored)


Partially thaw blueberries by putting them in a strainer and running water over them a few seconds. Transfer to a bowl and mix with sugar and tapioca. Let sit for 15+ min. Mix in remaining ingredients. Spoon into crust. Do what you want with the top crust (lattice, shapes, full crust). Bake (covered with foil) for 30 min. at 425. Uncover top (leave perimeter crust covered) and bake another 10-15 min. Take it out and let it cool. Eat and enjoy.

I would imagine you could make this with any frozen berry, but the sugar and extra seasonings would probably need to be altered according to berry sweetness and flavor...