Sunday, January 31, 2016

Secret Recipe Club: Cheesy Mashed Potatoes

For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned Susan's blog, The Wimpy Vegetarian.  Susan is the leader of the subgroup I'm in, so I must admit I was rather nervous!  Thankfully, Susan is very nice.  She's also very creative in the kitchen and has all kinds of fantastic looking recipes on her blog!  She has formal culinary school training, which I think is pretty awesome.  She also gets to live in nice, warm California, says the lady trapped in the dead of an Alaskan winter.  Can I come visit you, Susan?
Anyway, like I said, Susan has lots of great recipes.  I was particularly drawn to Figgy Cardamom Snickerdoodles (how amazing do those look?), Lemony Three Bean Salad, and Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad with Caramelized Onions.  As tasty as those looked, I ended up choosing Cheesy Mashed Potatoes because I'd only ever used russet potatoes for mashed potatoes and haven't really ever added cheese to them.
The mashed potatoes turned out really well and seemed rather fancy, especially considering how easy they were to make.  I couldn't find the the Frieda's Butter Babies potatoes that the recipe called for, but thought they looked rather like Yukon Gold, so went with those.  The mashed potatoes were so soft and tender, and had a rather sweet quality to them because of the Yukon Golds.  We liked them for sure and I will make them again, but think I'll use either good ol' russets, or try baby red potatoes instead because we prefer the sweetness of Yukon Gold potatoes on their own.  I served the potatoes with baked salmon and roasted green beans, it was a great meal.
Thank you, Susan!
Cheesy Mashed Potatoes
2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
2 1/2 Tbsp butter
1/3 C half and half
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp dried parsley or 2 Tbsp fresh minced parsley
1 C smoothly melting cheese (I used cheddar)
Wash potatoes, then cook until soft using whatever method you like.  I used my pressure cooker.  Place potatoes in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher.  Melt butter in the microwave, then add milk and heat 30 more seconds, until warm.  Add to potatoes along with seasonings, and continue to mash.  Stir in cheese.  Cover with foil if you aren't going to serve within a minute or two.
Yield:  About 6 servings

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Slow Cooker Honey Carrots

I made these carrots for both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner in 2015.  They couldn't be any easier and are quite tasty!  Usually we eat steamed carrots either completely plain (not even salt added), with a little butter and dill, or we have Rosemary Roasted Carrots.  Adding sugar and lots of butter to carrots isn't something I'd do usually, but I figure the holidays are the time to do it!  There are lots of different versions of these carrots to be found on the internet, and I made up my own proportions anyway, so I'm not going to link to a source recipe.
Slow Cooker Honey Carrots
2 lbs baby carrots
1/2 stick salted butter
1/4 C brown sugar
2 Tbsp honey

Place all ingredients in small brown crock pot, cook on high 2 hours, stir, cook on high 2 hours more, or until as tender as you'd like.
Yield: 6-8 servings

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Monterey Chicken

My husband has declared this to be the best chicken he's ever had.  I really like it, too!  In spite of the rather long directions, this is a really easy recipe.  I originally found it over on the Real Housemoms blog a few months ago and have made it twice.  I added dijon mustard to the marinade and cut out the barbecue sauce you're supposed to brush on the chicken at the end.  I made it with the barbecue sauce the first time and it was great, but the marinade itself is so flavorful that I decided to try it on its own.  My suspicions were correct, it's just as good/maybe better without the barbecue sauce, which just covers the flavor of the marinade.  If I ever decide to make this last minute, I'll just skip the marinade completely, sprinkle the chicken with seasoned salt and garlic powder, then brush it with barbecue sauce before adding the chicken and bacon.
Quick Note:  How many this will serve really is up to you.  My 2 1/2 lbs of chicken breasts were just two enormous ones, and I cut them in half right down the middle to make two thinner pieces, so we ended up with 4 large servings.  If you have smaller chicken breasts and end up with 5 or 6 serving pieces, that's fine as well, just make sure they all get covered properly with cheese and bacon!
If you accidentally cook your bacon a little too long during the first round and worry about it burning if it spends any more time in the oven, you can either try putting the bacon under the cheese before baking it again, or stick the bacon on top of the melted cheese as soon as the finished chicken comes out of the oven.
Monterey Chicken
2 to 2 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts (this was 2 very large breasts cut down the middle for me), cleaned of excess gunk
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 lb bacon
4-6 slices of pepper jack cheese
Place chicken breasts in a gallon ziploc bag.  Stir together remaining ingredients except bacon and cheese, and pour over chicken in bag.  Seal bag and squish it around so the chicken is coated.  Refrigerate for 4 to 12 hours.
When you're ready to cook the chicken, arrange 2 racks in the oven so that they're more or less centered in the middle.  Grease a 9 by 13 inch baking dish and arrange the chicken breasts in the dish, then pour the marinade from the bag on top.  Place this on the lower rack in the oven.  Line a large baking pan with foil and fold the edges up to contain the bacon grease, then evenly arrange the bacon on the foil.  Place the bacon in the oven on the upper rack.
Bake chicken and bacon until bacon is cooked almost as much as you like, about 15-25 minutes depending on your preferences and the thickness of the bacon.  Carefully remove both pans from the oven and rearrange the baking racks so one is in the middle.  Return the chicken to this rack and continue to bake until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of one of the breasts registers 165.  Meanwhile, remove the cooked bacon to a paper towel lined plate and dab off the excess grease.
When the chicken is cooked through, remove the pan from the oven and top the chicken with the sliced cheese, tearing the slices to fit.  Top the cheese evenly with the bacon, tearing it into pieces.  Return the pan to the oven and cook until the cheese is melted and the bacon is cooked to your desired doneness, about 5 minutes more.
Yield: 4-6 servings

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Jamboree Muffins

This is the most recent recipe I've made from Joanne Fluke's murder-mystery series about Hannah Swensen that also focuses a lot on baking.  This recipe is from The Red Velvet Cupcake Murder.  I was lying in bed Saturday night and had decided to make muffins, but didn't have a particular recipe in mind.  10 minutes later, I was reading the book and came upon the recipe for Jamboree Muffins.  I had all the ingredients and they sounded good, so why not?
These muffins are GREAT.  Definitely among the best I've ever had.  They're very interesting, too.  The finished muffin is like a cross between a muffin and a biscuit, both in texture and flavor.  When I looked the recipe over the first time, I had my suspicions they'd be rather biscuit-like because the ingredients look more like a biscuit dough than muffin batter, and I was right!  They aren't very sweet and have a texture reminiscent of a buttermilk biscuit, but are rather airy, like a muffin.  The jam in the middle is an awesome addition.  I used strawberry, but pretty much any flavor would be really good.  I've tried making jam filled muffins in the past and they haven't been particularly good to start with, but the leftovers were awful because the jam made them very soggy.  The texture of these muffins is dense enough that they don't get soggy and were still tasty the next day.
In the future, I'd like to experiment with making these muffins with other ingredients added instead of jam.  They'd make great dinner biscuit/muffins with green chiles and cheddar added, or any number of other ingredients.  I'll bet they'd even be great left completely plain.  It's such an easy, one bowl recipe, that I'm sure I'll try several variations.
Jamboree Muffins
1 egg
3/4 C milk
1/2 C vegetable oil
1/3 C sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 C flour
about 1/3 C jam
Preheat oven to 400 and grease a 12 cup muffin pan with oil, or use muffin papers.
In a large bowl, beat egg with a fork.  Mix in milk, vegetable oil, and sugar with a spoon until smooth, then stir in baking powder and salt.  Stir in flour and mix thoroughly, but don't worry about lumps.  This is basically a wet biscuit dough, so you don't want to over mix it!
Fill each muffin cup 1/3 full with batter, then top each with a small spoonful of jam.  Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups.
Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes (mine took 17).
Yield: 12 muffins