Sunday, July 31, 2016

SRC: Summer Spaghetti

For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned the blog Dancing Veggies.  Is that a cute name or what?  Dancing Veggies is written by a mom named Amanda who is a vegetarian and enjoys looking for and thinking up recipes that are delicious and not too hard on the wallet.

This was one of those months where I made my SRC recipe really quickly, within a couple days of receiving the assignment.  There were lots of tasty looking options on the blog, and I actually made the delicious Peach Dutch Baby, too, but decided I would share Summer Spaghetti because we loved it so much.  This is a very flavorful dish, but it's not super saucy.  It isn't spaghetti with marinara sauce, it's more like spaghetti in chopped up tomato heaven.  I used a combination of smallish on the vine tomatoes and yellow cherry tomatoes.

Thanks for the recipe, Amanda, my husband and I were crazy about it!

Quick Note:  The original recipe called for 1/4 C minced fresh basil.  The store didn't have any, so I purchased fresh oregano.  I used it and thought it was delicious, but will probably use dried in the future unless I happen to be growing some.  We didn't notice a big flavor difference between fresh and dried of this particular herb, and that little bundle of oregano cost like $3.  Fresh basil is a different story, though, and would definitely be good in this!

Also, to reheat the leftovers, I put the pasta in a large nonstick skillet with a little chicken broth (you could use veggie broth) and heated it over low until the pasta was tender again.  It was almost as good as the first night, which definitely would not have been the case had I heated it in the microwave!  We would have been eating a giant clump of noodles that way.

Summer Spaghetti

3 Tbsp butter
1/2 vidalia onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 lbs tomatoes, stems removed and chopped coarsely
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano or 1/4 C minced fresh basil
12 oz angel hair pasta, cooked until just before it reaches al dente
salt to taste

Melt butter in large skillet over medium-low heat.  Add onion and saute until completely softened, about 15 minutes.  It's okay if the onions turn a little brown, but that's not the goal.  Add the garlic and saute for another couple of minutes.  Add tomatoes, red pepper flakes, oregano (add later if you use fresh basil), and salt to taste.  Turn to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.  You want the sauce to be at a gentle simmer.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil while the tomatoes simmer.  Add angel hair and cook until it's a little firmer than you want, then drain and add to the skillet with the sauce.  Cook and stir for a couple of minutes, until pasta is completely coated in sauce and tender.   Add the fresh basil if you're using it, and serve.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Oatmeal Flax Chocolate Chip Cookies aka Lactation Cookies

My beautiful little nephew was born recently and my sister-in-law was having some issues with breastfeeding while I was visiting, so I searched the internet and found a cookie recipe that's supposed to help increase a mother's milk supply.  I decided to go with this recipe from, but was forced to leave out the brewer's yeast after not finding any in the 4 stores I looked in.  Brewer's yeast is supposed to increase milk production, but so is flax seed, so I decided to quadruple the flax instead.  The other changes were due to necessity (mini chocolate chips!) and advice (the baking powder to help them puff up a bit more).  
I can't know for sure whether they helped with the milk supply, but I can say they were surprisingly good even for us non-lactaters.  Nice and sweet and soft, and rather unique because of the flax meal, which adds some pleasant texture.  Even my 6 year old nephew enjoyed them, as did my parents and brother.  Honestly, I'd like to make these again, lactation cookie or not.  If you'd like, you can add 4 Tbsp brewer's yeast, though that has a pretty distinctive flavor and probably will not improve the flavor of the cookie.  That's beside the point though if you're making them for milk supply purposes!
Oatmeal Flax Chocolate Chip Cookies aka Lactation Cookies
1/2 C flax meal
10 Tbsp water
1 C butter, softened
1 C sugar
1 C brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 C flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 C oats
6 oz by weight mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Stir together flax meal and water and set aside for 5 minutes while you begin to make the cookie dough.
Beat butter and sugars until fluffy.  Beat in eggs, then flax meal mixture and vanilla extract.  Add flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, and mix in.  Add oats and stir just until combined (don't over mix), then stir in mini chocolate chips.
Drop spoonfuls of dough (make as big or small as you'd like, ranging from large cherry to large walnut) onto prepared baking sheets, leaving an inch or two between cookies.  Bake until they begin to turn golden on the edges and on the little craggy bits on the top, anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes depending on your oven and the size of the cookies.  Cool cookies for 10 minutes on cookie sheets, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.
Yield:  About 60 average size cookies

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Jellied Pineapple Rings

I have an odd fondness for Jell-o, considering that I didn't grow up in a household where Jell-o was made frequently (the one time I remember making it with my dad as a kid, it didn't set up!), and I've never really cared for the texture of plain Jell-o without anything added to it, but the fondness is there nonetheless.  It's no surprise, then, that I decided to make these pineapple rings right after I came across the recipe on Joy of Jell-o.
This is seriously one of the quickest, easiest recipes a person could ever make and is about 1/2 a step up from just making a plain box of Jell-o.  It's been around for quite a while, as evidenced by the cute 1960s style ads describing how to make it.  My one change was to use the drained pineapple juice in the Jell-o instead of just dumping it and using water.  I've included that in the directions below, because the added pineapple juice really punched up the flavor.  My husband and I both really enjoyed them, much more than I expected.  
As adorably tacky as these pineapple rings are, I'll probably make a can with lime Jell-o and a can with cherry Jell-o for Christmas.  How cute would they be arranged in alternating colors in a spiral on a platter?
Quick Note:  I suggest using name brand pineapple vs store brand.  We tried it both ways and liked the name brand better.  We also tried both strawberry and lime Jell-o and preferred the lime.
Jellied Pineapple Rings
20 oz can pineapple slices
3 oz box Jell-o powder (I used lime)
Drain pineapple juice from can into a measuring cup.  Add enough water to it so that you have 1 cup total liquid.  Bring liquid to a boil in a small sauce pan, remove from heat, and stir in the Jell-o powder until completely dissolved.  Pour Jell-o mixture over the pineapple rings.  You will have some Jell-o mixture left over, just pour that into an extra bowl to enjoy as a snack.  Place the can of pineapple rings and bowl of extra Jell-o in the refrigerator to solidify.  This will take several hours.
When you're ready to eat the pineapple, dip the can into a bowl of hot water for about 10 seconds.  Flip it upside down over a plate and open it from the bottom with a can opener.  If the can is the traditional style that you had to open with a can opener, you can just gently push/shake the pineapple out of the top of the can.  If the can is the newer style with the pull tab, flip it right side up again and gently push/shake the pineapple slices out the bottom of the can onto the plate.  You want the pineapple to come out the bottom of the can because they will get mangled if they come out the top, since pineapple cans have the pull tabs and are slightly narrower at the top.
Gently slice the rings apart with a knife, and serve.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Old Fashioned Sour Cream Donuts

My husband and I made these donuts a few months ago after I saw Tasty's short video showing how to make them.  It was the first time we'd made donuts, and they were a lot of fun.  These are cake style donuts, not the typical yeast dough based glazed donuts.  Someday I'd like to try yeast donuts, but this was a good recipe to start with and very yummy!  They're awesome either glazed or rolled in cinnamon sugar, I actually couldn't decide which I liked better.  Even nicer, they keep very well.  After the first day, they're softer, but pleasantly so and the flavors are very well melded together.  
For the glaze, feel free to use whatever type of extract you want.  I've mentioned it before on this blog, but I despise the flavor of powdered sugar.  I think it's the cornstarch.  Whatever it is, powdered sugar has a very overpowering, unpleasant flavor to me, so I had to use a lot of lemon extract to cover it.  One of these days, I'll buy a bag of powdered sugar that only has sugar as an ingredient, but it's so expensive!  If you don't want to use glaze, you can either leave them plain (not as sweet of course, but really tasty), or roll them in cinnamon sugar.  Or how about lemon sugar, or allspice sugar?  So many possibilities!
One last thing, you can fry the donut holes along with the donuts, they just won't need to cook as long.  If you don't want donut holes, just squish the holes together and roll them out to make more big donuts, but we think donut holes have their own charm.
Quick Note:  The original recipe says to score the donuts so they puff properly while frying, which you are free to do- just make 3 shallow cuts forming a large triangle.  I forgot to do that for the first half of the donuts and they didn't suffer any ill effects.  They puffed up and split around the outside, but I thought they looked cute that way.  
Old Fashioned Sour Cream Donuts
For the donuts:
2 1/4 cup (255 grams) cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sour cream
about 2-3 Tbsp milk
Canola or vegetable oil, for frying (about 2 C)
For the glaze:

3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
about 2 tsp lemon extract, or to taste (or use a different flavor extract)
1/3 cup hot water
Stir together dry ingredients (cake flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg) in a smaller bowl. Set aside.
In mixer bowl, combine butter and sugar on a low speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and mix together on medium speed. Add half the dry ingredients, blend. Add the sour cream, blend. Add in the rest of the dry ingredients and blend until the dough is well-combined, add enough milk for dough to come together. Place dough in greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for an hour or overnight.
Place chilled dough on a floured surface. Roll out to about 1/3 inch thickness. Cut the donut shapes with round cookie cutters or use a larger glass and a shot glass.
Pour oil into a large skillet so it's about 1 inch deep.  Heat oil to 325°F.  Carefully place the donuts in the oil with heat safe tongs and cook until golden, then flip and cook until golden on the other side. Remove donuts to cookie cooling racks set over paper towels.
After all the donuts are done frying, make the glaze by combining the powdered sugar, extracts, corn syrup, and hot water until it becomes smooth.  Dip the top of each donut in the glaze and set on a drying rack to allow glaze to dry and any extra to drip off.  Double dip if necessary.  Alternatively, you can roll the hot donuts in cinnamon sugar.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Cream Scones Two Ways

I've developed a real love of scones.  I never ate them growing up, probably because my mother doesn't care for them and I took her word that they weren't very good.  Honestly, the first time I had a scone (other than one unimpressive grocery store bakery scone) was when I was about 27 and decided to try a recipe.  Since then, I've made several more recipes for scones and have really liked them all.
This recipe came about because I wanted to make two different types of scones- savory and sweet- but didn't want to end up with 24 scones for 2 people.  I found a rather neutral scone recipe on the King Arthur Flour website, made it as a base, then divided the dough and added mix ins to each bowl.  Both varieties turned out really nice, and complemented each other well: one with dried cherries, chocolate, and almond extract, and the other with cheddar and a generous amount of black pepper.  I served the scones with scrambled eggs, bacon, and grapes on a Sunday morning, and it was an awesome, rather extravagant seeming breakfast.
Quick Note:  The original recipe says to try freezing the scones for 15 minutes before baking because they'll rise even more, but I skipped this part.  Next time I'd like to try it, but the scones turned out really well anyway.  The recipe also said you can sprinkle coarse sugar over the sweet scones before baking.  I didn't have any, so just skipped it, but would like to try it at some point.
Cream Scones Two Ways
For base mixture:
3 C flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 400 and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Mix together in a large bowl.  Scoop 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon of the mixture into a second mixing bowl.
For Cherry Chocolate Almond Scones:
3 Tbsp sugar
1/3 C dried cherries
1/3 C milk chocolate chips
about 1 C cream (may need more or less)
1 tsp almond extract
Into one of the bowls of base scone mixture, stir the 3 Tbsp extra sugar.  Stir in cherries and chocolate chips.  Measure out 3/4 C cream and stir the almond extract into it, drizzle over flour mixture.  Gently toss and stir dough together, adding a little more cream if needed so you have a soft, not too sticky dough.  You may need to use your hands.  Be sure to combine the dough just enough so it comes together, form into a ball.  Set dough aside.
For Peppery Cheddar Scones:
3/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 C sharp cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
Into the other bowl of base scone mixture, stir pepper and cheddar.  Measure out 3/4 C cream and drizzle over flour mixture.  Gently toss and stir dough together, adding a little more cream if needed so you have a soft, not too sticky dough.  You may need to use your hands.  Be sure to combine the dough just enough so it comes together.
Make the dough into a ball and place it off to the side on the parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Place the other dough ball on the other side of the pan, near the opposite corner.  Pat the dough balls out into 6 inch wide rounds.  Brush with cream, then cut each round into 6 wedges.  Pull the wedges slightly apart from one another.
Bake scones in preheated oven until golden on top and they look cooked through on the sides, about 18 minutes.  Let cool on the pans for a few minutes, then pull them gently apart and serve with butter.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Slow Cooker Mississippi Chicken

This is a super easy, super quick to assemble recipe that uses a couple of packets.  It's not even remotely fancy, and decidedly unbeautiful, but tastes pretty good.  Herby from the ranch, savory from the gravy mix, and with a tiny bit of heat and tang from the peperoncinis.  I found it on the Recipes that Crock blog and had to make it because I was so curious about what the odd ingredients would taste like together!  It's kind of funny that I managed to make a couple of changes to a 5 ingredient recipe, but I did.  Namely, I used chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs and thickened the sauce.  Also, we didn't shred the chicken for chicken sandwiches, but my husband and I agreed it would be really good that way.
Mississippi Chicken
3 lbs chicken breasts
1 packet ranch dressing mix
1 packet brown gravy mix
6 peperoncinis (I used the approximate equivalent of sliced)
1/2 stick butter, cut into pats
Grease slow cooker and evenly arrange chicken breasts inside.  Sprinkle with ranch and gravy packets, top with peperoncinis, and arrange butter pats over top.  Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through (low maybe 6 hours, high maybe 4, this will depend entirely on your slow cooker), then break the chicken into serving pieces and stir thoroughly so sauce evenly coats everything.  You can either serve as is, or thicken the sauce.
To thicken the sauce, remove the chicken and place in a bowl.  Pour sauce through a strainer into a sauce pan, and heat over medium-high.  While it heats, stir together 1 Tbsp water and 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch.  When sauce is boiling, pour cornstarch mixture into the pan in a thin stream while stirring.  Continue to cook for a minute or two.  Remove from heat, pour back into slow cooker, add chicken, and stir to coat.
If you want to make this into shredded chicken for chicken sandwiches, just pull out the cooked chicken (don't add cornstarch), shred it, return it to the slow cooker, stir, and turn to high.  Leave the lid off so excess liquid can cook off.  Cook on high for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes so it doesn't burn.  Serve on buns.
Yield: 8 servings

Sunday, July 3, 2016

SRC: Cheesy Rigatoni Bake

I think this month's Secret Recipe Club was just about my quickest turnaround between getting my blog assignment and making the recipe!  I was assigned the blog Crazed Mom, which is written by a mom of 5 (and grandma of 1!) named Nicole.  Nicole is a very prolific blogger and has a ton of recipes to pick from.  I'll probably make more of her recipes this month (specifically looking at Ranch Mac & Cheese, Weeknight Philly Cheesesteaks, Tuna Stuffed Tomatoes, and the very intriguing Buffalo Chicken Spring Rolls), but the first one I made turned out so well, that I'm choosing it for SRC.
The recipe I made is Cheesy Rigatoni Bake.  I chose it because my husband and I love cheesy tomato noodle type casseroles, and I hadn't made one in months and months.  This one looked interesting because it has two types of sauces, neither of which are stirred into the rigatoni, and I liked that it didn't have nearly as much cheese as most similar recipes.  My husband loves cheese, but can't have a ton of it.
The casserole was really good.  As expected, the sauces did seep down into the rigatoni some (in a very delicious way!), but the two types didn't completely blend together.  Between the white sauce and the cheese, the top got perfectly bubbly and golden and irresistible.  The casserole cut into pieces better than most because of the eggs that help bind the pasta together.  I added pepperoni to the top of half of the casserole since there's no meat in the recipe and the layering kind of reminded me of pizza anyway.  We thought the pepperoni was really nice and I'll probably top the entire thing with pepperoni next time.  This is a definite repeat recipe!
Pardon the especially bad photo, my camera broke and I had to use my iPad.
Cheesy Rigatoni Bake
1 lb rigatoni pasta
4 eggs
1 tsp salt, divided
16 oz can Four Cheese Hunt's spaghetti sauce (or another flavor)
4 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp flour
2 1/4 C milk
2 C grated mozzarella
sliced pepperoni (optional)
1/3 C grated fresh parmesan 
Preheat oven to 375 and grease a 9 by 13 baking dish.
Cook the rigatoni in lightly salted water until al dente.  You want it to be a little less cooked than you'd prefer because it will cook longer in the oven and the noodles will get softer.  Drain noodles and set aside to cool for a few minutes so the eggs won't cook on contact.
Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium-high heat and whisk in flour.  Whisk constantly for about a minute, then whisk in about 1/4 C milk until completely smooth.  Add milk in 1/4 C additions, being sure to whisk between additions until the sauce is completely smooth.  Once all the milk has been added, bring sauce to a simmer while whisking constantly, and cook for about a minute.  Stir in 1/2 tsp salt.  Remove from heat and set aside.
Whisk eggs in a small bowl, then add to rigatoni with 1/2 tsp salt.  Stir until pasta is coated, then pour into prepared baking dish.  Spread spaghetti sauce evenly over top.  Sprinkle with mozzarella.  Spread white sauce over the cheese, then top with the pepperoni, if you're using it.  Sprinkle with the parmesan.  
Bake casserole until bubbly all over and the top is golden, about 40 minutes.  Let sit for 15 minutes before serving so it can set up some.
Yield: 8 servings