Sunday, November 2, 2014

Stuffed Pepper Soup

For some reason I've never made a stuffed pepper recipe worth repeating.  They've never turned out gross or anything, just not anything special.  I'll undoubtedly try more stuffed pepper recipes in the future because I love them when done well, but it's not very urgent because this soup has amazing stuffed pepper flavor!  This was dinner last night, and it was one heck of a dinner.  The recipe is simple for sure, but extremely tasty.  Everything just works together really nicely.  My husband and I made it together.  Our new kitchen is so much bigger than the old one and we had a lot of fun cooking this.  We made Garlic Butter Dips to go with it.  We just loved this soup, my husband even handed out a rare 10 out of 10 rating.

This recipe is from AllRecipes.  I made a few changes, namely more bell pepper, garlic, crushed tomatoes instead of diced, and more broth (since crushed tomatoes have thicker juice than diced).

Stuffed Pepper Soup
1 Tbsp butter
1 lb ground beef
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 C chicken (or beef) broth
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
15 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/4 t dried thyme
1/4 t dried sage

for serving:
1 C uncooked rice
fresh minced parsley

Place butter in a large pot and melt over medium-high heat.  Add ground beef and break it up with a spoon.  Add bell pepper and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until meat is cooked through and onions are translucent.  Add garlic and cook another minute.  Drain fat if necessary.  Stir in broth, tomato products, and seasonings, bring to a boil, cover pot, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Let simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

After 30 minutes, steam rice in a separate pot.  Meanwhile, continue to simmer the soup.  To serve, either stir the rice directly into the pot of soup (only if you're planning to eat all the soup immediately), or scoop individual portions of rice into bowls and top with the soup and a sprinkle of minced parsley.

Yield: 6-8 main dish servings

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken

 I came upon this recipe for Teriyaki Chicken on the Cooking Classy blog a couple of weeks ago.  The sauce ingredients looked so good that I had to try it!  It turned out great.  A bit spicy, gingery, sweet (but not too sweet), and tangy.  My husband gave it a 10 out of 10, which isn't a rating he hands out willy nilly.  I had to add a little more cornstarch than the original recipe called for, but other than that, the recipe was spot on.  Next time I'm going to try adding the orange marmalade to the sauce pan after the cooking liquid has been strained so that the little bits of orange peel won't be strained out (I like the orange flavor), but that's the only change I would make.

Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken

1/3 C packed brown sugar
1/4 C honey
3 Tbsp orange marmalade
6 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 C low sodium soy sauce (the low sodium part is important!)
1 Tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp cold water

In a medium bowl, mix together everything except chicken, cornstarch, and water until sugar and marmalade are partly dissolved.  Pour into a slow cooker.  Add chicken breasts to slow cooker and turn to coat in the sauce.  Cover and cook on either low or high heat until chicken breasts are cooked through.  How long this take will depend completely on your slow cooker!

When chicken is done, remove it to a plate and refrigerate so it can cool down a bit while you finish the sauce.  Strain liquid in slow cooker into a small saucepan and discard the solids left in the strainer.  Bring cooking liquid to a boil.  Stir together the cornstarch and cold water until smooth, then pour it into the liquid, stirring constantly.  Simmer sauce for at least a minute or two so it can thicken and the cornstarch can cook completely.  Pour sauce back into slow cooker.

Shred the cooked chicken breasts, return them to the slow cooker, and toss with the sauce to coat.  Cover again and let cook until heated through, about 20-30 minutes.  Serve chicken over rice.

Yield: about 8 servings

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Jumbo Monster Cookies

They may seem like an odd choice for an adult, but Monster Cookies are my favorite kind of cookie!  They're easy to make, bright and cheery to look at, and most importantly, they taste great.  The peanut butter flavor is wonderful and the mix of 3 kinds of chocolate works really well.  There are tons of versions of Monster Cookies out there, and this is just my version.  Many use less peanut butter, have nuts or other things like pretzels or raisins, and I haven't seen any with white chocolate chips, but the white chocolate chips add a lot!  My version is based on Paula Deen's recipe.

For this batch, I used a giant 1/3 C cookie scoop that my mother-in-law gave us recently.  The cookies turned out comically huge, big enough that even cookie lovers like us break them in half to share.  You can make them smaller (slightly larger than a golf ball is good), but come on, they're Monster Cookies- they should be bigger than average!

Monster Cookies

1 stick salted butter, softened
1 C sugar
1 1/4 C packed brown sugar
16 oz jar of peanut butter
3 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking soda
4 1/2 C quick oats (not instant)
3/4 C semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 C white chocolate chips
3/4 C M&Ms, plus more for the top of the cookies
Preheat oven to 350 and line large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together butter, the sugars, peanut butter, eggs, salt, and vanilla until smooth.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add baking soda, oats, and chocolate, and stir until everything is well combined, but don't over mix. 

Measure dough into 1/3 C portions and roll each portion into a ball.  Place dough balls about 3 1/2 inches apart on the cookie sheets.  Top each dough ball with 6 more M&Ms, then flatten the cookies with the palm of your hand because they don't spread a ton on their own.

Bake cookies until light golden, about 15-20 minutes depending on your oven.  Let the cookies cool on the pans for 10 minutes, then place them on a cooling rack to finish.

Yield: 14 jumbo cookies or about 3 dozen smaller ones

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Mrs Jones' Baked Macaroni & Cheese

As my blog name hints, I am a huge mac and cheese lover and always have been.  I've probably tried more mac and cheese recipes than any other type!  At the same time, I'm pretty particular about my mac and cheese.  A recipe has to be just right to get two thumbs up from me.  Maybe 1 in 8 mac and cheese recipes I try are ones I deem tasty enough to make it to my blog.  Those include the magnificent Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese (my husband's favorite), Beer Mac and Cheese, and Stove Top Mac and Cheese.  I also made Ina Garten's Mac and Cheese for Ina Fridays and enjoyed it, but wouldn't have posted it on the blog if I hadn't made it specifically for that recipe group.

So what I'm getting at here is that I'm always trolling for more mac and cheese recipes, and when I do make one, it has to be freaking fantastic if it's going to join my little mac and cheese recipe family.  Ladies and gentlemen, I'm happy to say there's a new cheesy, noodley member of the family!  The recipe is called Mrs Jones' Baked Macaroni and Cheese and I found it on a blog called Chick in the Kitchen.  I honestly have no recollection of how I came upon the recipe, I just know it was a couple of months ago.  We moved recently and with all the craziness of buying a house, packing, moving, and not being able to use the kitchen for several weeks, I had in the back of my mind the idea that I would make this mac and cheese recipe once I made my way back into the kitchen.  That happy day finally occurred recently, so of course this is one of the first things I made!  Oh and for those wondering, apparently Mrs Jones was the preschool teacher of the cousin of the blog author, Dara, some number of years ago, and the recipe has been in her family ever since. I altered it a smidgen (increased the Worcestershire sauce and added some salt), but my version is pretty true to the original.

Okay, on to what people may actually care about: a description of the recipe.  This is NOT a creamy, saucy mac and cheese.  There's actually no sauce to speak of.  Instead, the cheese, eggs, and milk make a rich, custard-like binder for the noodles.  It's not dry at all, either, and that's coming from someone who loves lots of sauce!  The mac and cheese also has awesome flavor from all of the sharp cheddar and the dried mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and cayenne pepper in the sauce.  All the flavors really work together perfectly.  Even my husband really liked this mac and cheese, and he's a guy who groans whenever I make any recipe other than Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese because he loves that one.  This recipe is definitely a keeper and one I'll still be making 50 years from now!  Thank you, Dara, Dara's aunt, and Mrs Jones!

Mrs Jones' Baked Macaroni & Cheese

1 lb regular or whole wheat small pasta shells (I used Barilla White Fiber)
2 Tbsp butter
1 lb shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 eggs
12 oz can evaporated (NOT condensed) milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground mustard
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 by 13 casserole dish.  Boil shells in salted water, drain, and return to pot.  Add butter and stir until it's melted, then let the pasta cool for a few minutes so it won't melt the cheese.  Stir it occasionally so it will cool faster.

While the shells cool, whisk the eggs in a small bowl until smooth.  Whisk in evaporated milk, salt, ground mustard, cayenne pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.
When pasta has cooled a bit, stir in the grated cheese until it's evenly distributed.  Spoon pasta into the prepared baking dish and pack it down lightly with the back of a spoon.  Pour the egg mixture evenly over top.

Bake, uncovered, until the edges are bubbly and the top is golden, about 30 minutes.

Yield: 8-10 main dish servings or twice as many side servings.  Mac and cheese is ALWAYS a main dish at my house!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Secret Recipe Club: Buttermilk Spice Cake

For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned Lisa's blog, Sweet As Sugar Cookies!  I had such a hard time choosing a recipe because Lisa's blog is just full of amazing looking desserts.  She makes other things, too, and I almost chose either Oyster Sauce Meatballs or Spicy Peanut Butter Meatballs (will have to try those later), but ended up choosing her Buttermilk Spice Cake because it looked like the perfect recipe for autumn.  We just purchased and moved into our first house, and this cake had the honor of being the first dessert I made!  It was definitely a good choice, because we loved how the cake turned out.  The spices were fantastic and the amount of ginger gave it a little bit of a burn, in the best way possible.

My one change from the original recipe was to use a maple glaze on top instead of cream cheese frosting.  I used the glaze recipe from Pound Cake with Maple Glaze, and it was the perfect accompaniment to the spicy, flavorful cake.

I will definitely make this cake (and the glaze!) again, but will try using cake flour instead of all purpose flour, and a 7 by 11 pan instead of 8 by 8.  There was a lot of batter for an 8 by 8 pan and by the time the center was cooked, the edges were a bit dry and it was a bit over browned, to the point that I covered the cake with foil for the last 10 or 15 minutes of baking.  I think a slightly larger pan will help with this!

Buttermilk Spice Cake

1 stick butter, softened
3/4 C sugar
3/4 C brown sugar
2 eggs
2 C flour
2 Tbsp ground dried ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 C buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease either an 8 by 8 pan or a 7 by 11 pan (see my note above).

Cream together butter and sugars, then beat in eggs.  Stir together dry ingredients in another bowl.  Alternate beating dry ingredients and buttermilk into butter-sugar mixture in 3 additions each, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

Spread batter in the prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes.  You may need to cover the cake with a sheet of aluminum foil, shiny side up, if it browns too much.

Remove cake from oven and allow to cool about 20 minutes.  It does not need to be completely cooled before you add the glaze.

Maple Glaze

2 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp maple syrup
1 C powdered sugar

Place butter and maple syrup in a small pan and heat over medium until butter is melted.  Remove from heat and whisk in the powdered sugar until smooth.  Spread over partly cooled spice cake.  Let cool until the glaze has set.  You can either serve it while still warm, or let it cool completely- it's great either way!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Secret Recipe Club: Green Beans Amandine

Secret Recipe Club
My blog assignment for this month's Secret Recipe Club was The Tasty Gardener!  This blog is absolutely stuffed with really good looking recipes, and it was hard to choose one.  I ended up going with Green Beans Amandine.  It's a recipe I've wanted to try for years and years, so this was a great opportunity!  The recipe turned out wonderfully.  It's very simple, with just 5 ingredients (plus salt and pepper), but all the flavors really come together and are so good.  The almonds get fried in the butter and olive oil, and I think that's what really makes the flavor incredible.  My husband and I ate the whole pound of green beans in one sitting, they're that good.  Most definitely a repeat recipe.  Thanks, Heather!

I tweaked a couple of little things.  First, I used black pepper instead of white because I absolutely cannot stand white pepper.  I also changed the directions so you cook the almonds a little before adding the garlic, because I found the garlic cooked a lot faster than the almonds.

Green Beans Amandine

1 lb green beans, rinsed and ends trimmed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 C sliced almonds
2 cloves minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook beans until crisp-tender, about 5-7 minutes (length of time depends on how soft you want them).  Drain beans and keep the lid on the pot so they stay hot while you cook the almonds and garlic.

In a large skillet, melt olive oil and butter over medium heat.  Add almonds and cook just until they begin to barely change color, then add the garlic.  The almonds and garlic cook quickly, so don't walk away!  When the almonds and garlic are golden, add green beans to skillet and toss to coat.  Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.   Place the beans in a serving bowl so the almonds and garlic don't burn on the bottom of the still hot skillet.

Yield: About 4 servings

Friday, July 4, 2014

Ina Fridays: Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars

It's Ina Friday again!  This month I was supposed to make a dessert.  My husband and I both love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and I've only made ONE PBJ dessert before (some cookies about 10 years ago), so it was pretty quick to settle on Ina's recipe for Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars.  You can find the recipe here.  My small changes were to cut back the salt from 1 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp because my butter was salted, and leave out the peanut topping because as much as we love peanut butter, neither of us is crazy about peanuts sprinkled on things.

It was such an easy recipe to throw together, and a perfect, all American, homey dessert for the 4th of July!  We loved how they turned out, it's hard to imagine the bars being much better than they are.  Unlike some other bars that need to sit over night before serving (thinking of Carmelitas), they held up together very well when cut about 4 hours after coming after the oven, and the flavors are perfect.  Can't wait to see how they taste tomorrow after the flavors have had a chance to blend and balance out!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars

1/2 lb salted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 C sugar
3 C flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
18 oz jar smooth peanut butter
2 eggs
18 oz jar jam (I used seedless blackberry)
2/3 C salted, chopped peanuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 by 13 pan.  Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until fluffy and light yellow, about 2 minutes.

In the meantime, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a separate bowl.

Add vanilla extract, peanut butter, and eggs to butter-sugar mixture and mix on low until well combined, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Add the flour mixture and mix on low just until completely combined (do not over mix).

Press 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Spoon jam over the top and spread evenly.  Drop remaining dough in small pieces over the jam.

Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes.  Allow bars to cool completely (at least 4 hours) before attempting to cut them into squares.

Yield:  About 16 servings