Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lots 'O' Chicken Stock

I know it has been forever since I posted to my blog but, I have been super busy. The biggest change is that I am working. Not that I didn't work before . . . what I mean is, I got a job teaching at a new private school. My children are now attending the same school and we are all doing really well. I finally have time to sit down and post something. It has only taken me 3 months!

The other day after church, we had a couple over for lunch. I made roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and our guests brought a salad and a dirt cake (which my kids loved!!). I didn't take pictures of that meal but, I make roasted chicken alot so here is a picture from another time I made roasted chicken. YUM!

I made two 4 pound chickens at one time in my turkey roaster. They cooked while we were at church - 250 degrees for 5 hours. We had the equivalent of 1 whole chicken leftover so, I picked the meat from the bones and made some stock. That's nothing new. I always make stock after I make roasted chicken but, this time was different. It was different because of this beauty!

My mother bought me this wonderfully heavy 22 quart stock pot for my birthday back in October and I broke it in tonight. THANKS, MOM!!! I put all the bones and drippings from my roasted chickens into the pot with a few cloves of garlic, a few onions, a couple of carrots, a couple of celery stalks (with leaves) and a handful of grape tomatoes. I filled it up to within 3 inches of the top with cold water and left it on low heat for a few hours. I then strained the stock. I put the veggies into the blender with some stock, pureed the veggies and added it back into the stock. I measured out 6 cups of stock to make homemade Chicken and Dumplings. I used the leftover chicken meat and made a dough of flour, milk, baking powder and salt for the dumplings. It was delicious! This is what was left after we ate . . . just enough for me for lunch tomorrow! I put a little shredded cheese on it!

Including the 6 cups I used for tonight's dinner, I made 49 cups of chicken stock!!! That's a little more than 3 gallons! I measured it all out into containers in recipe sized portions. I just hope I have enought room in my freezer for all of it. I will be using some of it fairly soon. I will use some on Thanksgiving for my stuffing and for basting the turkey.

I plan on posting more often now that we are used to our new routine. If not sooner, I will post all of my Thanksgiving recipes.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Week in Food . . . Well The Highlights Anyway

So the past couple of weeks have been really busy but I thought that I would post a "best of" of what I cooked for you to see.

First, we had a Wednesday night potluck at church last week and I made this pasta salad.

So, I boiled a pound of elbows in salted water until done and drained them. Then I added a batch of roasted tomatoes like the ones I made HERE. Next, I added a 15 oz portion of cooked cannelini beans (drained and rinsed if using canned). Then I added 3 large handfuls of baby spinach leaves and tossed so the heat from the tomatoes and pasta would wilt the leaves a little. I then added a little grated cheese. This can be served hot as a pasta dinner or room temperature as a salad. It was well received by everyone who tried it.

On July 2nd, our middle boy, Jeremy, celebrated his 9th birthday. Instead of making treat bags loaded with candy, we opted for these homemade goodies as our party favors. Kids and parents really liked these . . . ALOT!

I prepared Rice Krispie Treats according to the recipe on the box but, I added 3/4 cup of creamy peanut butter. Then I divided the mixture into 24 equal sized balls. (HI, GINA!!!) I stuck toothpicks in the the balls (HI, AGAIN!!!)and dipped them into melted chocolate and then into rainbow sprinkles (UH OH!!!). I let them chill in the refrigerator on a baking sheet. We wrapped them in green party bags and gave them to all who attended the party.

On July 4th, we had another potluck after church but, it was at the park so I decided to bring fruit salad, Pumpkin Gingerbread, Zucchini Pie and Loaded Mashed Potato Pie to share with our church family. (Sorry, I did not take pictures of the fruit salad or the gingerbread.) There was alot of good stuff at the picnic including red velvet cupcakes (MMMMMM!!!!) and chicken curry (YUMMMMM!!!!). We ate our weight in food that day. This is a picture of the mashed potato filling. I had some leftover mashed potatoes and just doctored them up with dill weed, pepper, sour cream, cream cheese, shredded fiesta blend cheese and real bacon bits. I tasted it and adjusted the seasonings. Then I added 3 eggs so it would set as it baked.

I poured it into a greased pie plate and topped with more cheese.

I baked both pies together in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until set. The pie on the top rack is a zucchini pie.

This is something we ate alot in the summer when I was growing up and zucchini was in abundance. All you do, is mix the following ingredients together in a large bowl until fully combined and then pour it into a greased pie plate and bake as directed above.

3 1/2 cups finely chopped or shredded zucchini
1 onion finely chopped
4 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
3 tsp dried parsley or 3 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup flour

This is what it looks like when it is done. It is light and delicious.

This potato pie was also delicious but . . . not so light.

Although I failed to photograph it, the Pumpkin Gingerbread was devoured and several people asked me for the recipe.

15 oz can of solid pack pumpkin
4 eggs
3/4 cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3 1/2 cups flour

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl until completely incorporated. Pour into 2 greased and floured loaf pans. Bake for 50 minutes in a 350 degree preheated oven. Do the toothpick test and bake until done.

I went to an antique store with my friend Sarah today. I will post pictures of our adventure tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mexican Dinner From Leftovers and Crazy Hair Day!

Tonight we had a wonderful Mexican inspired meal made from leftovers and freezer/pantry staples. On Sunday night, I made some chicken thighs in the oven and had 2 leftover. I picked all the meat from the bones and shredded it up for Chicken Quesadillas. I was going to grill some veggies to add to the quesadillas but Michael was working late and I didn't want to deal with complaints about veggies so, I steamed one of the zucchinis from my friend Tanya's garden pureed it. I mixed it into the shredded chicken and tasted it. It needed something else.

I had a little bit of homemade salsa left in the refrigerator so I add a couple of tablespoons to the chicken and stirred. That was just what it needed. The Salsa Recipe can be found here.

Next, I laid out 6 soft taco sized flour tortillas and topped each with a thick slice of Colby-Jack Cheese.

Then, I evenly divided the chicken mixture between the 6 tortillas.

We like things really cheesy and I noticed that my entire tortilla was not covered in cheese so I added an extra slice of cheese to each tortilla. I broke each one into 4 equal strips and framed the chicken to achieve full cheese coverage.

I then covered each one with another tortilla. It was then that I realized that there were only 4 tortillas left in the bag so I made 2 cheese only quesadillas. I set them all aside and preheat the oven to 350 degrees and started on my side dish.

I pulled a bag of red beans out of the freezer. I usually make 2 pounds of dried beans at a time and then measure them out into can sized portions for recipes. Black beans and red beans can always be found in my freezer. These beans were prepared in the crock pot with a ham bone and other seasonings.

I also prepared 1 cup of regular white rice and added it to the reheated beans. My boys love red beans and rice as a side but will also eat it topped with cheese for lunch or as a burrito filling.

While the rice was cooking, I heated the quesadillas until the cheese was melted and then let them sit for 5 minutes cool a little before I cut them into quarters. The cheese only ones are stacked at the top of the picture. The rest of the platter was chicken and veggie quesadillas.

Mmmm! A Mexican dinner that everyone ate without complaints! We had about half the rice and beans leftover and 7 wedges of quesadilla. I know what we are having for lunch tomorrow.

This baby ate without complaining or trying to walk around the table! YAY! Today was crazy hair day so he has red hair glue in his hair. He kept checking his hair all day giving me updates like, "Yup, Mom! My hair is still red!" Thanks, Judah! I was really worried about that!

Tomorrow night we have a cookout at church but, I will post more on Thursday night as our mealtime adventures continue.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The London Broil and Happy Birthday, Michael!

Yesterday, I showed you my Top Round Roast and how I prepped it to become a London Broil. Well, tonight we had this lovely steak with some basic buttery mashed potatoes. I preheated the oven to broil and set my roast on the counter to bring it up to room temperature. Then I broiled it for 4 minutes per side and let it rest on the cutting board for 10 minutes to redistribute the juices. I then sliced it at a 45 degree angle going against the grain of the meat. It came out perfect!

I boiled the remaining marinade and served it on the side but, I didn't think that it really needed anything extra. Since it was his birthday, we gave my husband the "You Are Special" plate tonight. Dinner is served on this plate to the birthday person, a special guest, someone who has done a good job or has been extra kind, someone who needs cheering up, or just because. I try to rotate it to keep it fair. You can buy a plate like this but, I made mine at the local Pottery Pad. I painted the words and the detail on it and Caleb painted the middle blue with white dots (about 8 or 9 years ago). The Pottery Pad glazed and fired it for me.

Here is the birthday boy taking his first bite of London Broil.

Here he is being all dorky and dramatic.

We pause here to insert my husband's theme song. I hope you enjoy! When he calls my cell phone, this is the song that plays.

This is what happens when you set a plate of tasty meat on a table of carnivores. Notice Michael's plate is also empty.

Here is the birthday boy after he has eaten too much. His words: "It was totally worth it!!!" Do you like the shirt that I got him for Father's Day? It says, "I may be left handed but, I am always right!" We'll let him think that for now.

I was planning on making a chocolate butter cake with a layer of sweetened peanut butter in between the cake layers and chocolate butter cream frosting. However, we are on our umpteenth consecutive day of temperature about 457,000 degrees so I was not baking and heating up the house. We went to Bruster's for ice cream. I love this picture of Caleb and Judah! They are so cute! I wish Jeremy was in it but, he was spending the night at his friend's house.

Pay no attention to the 13 year old wearing an old man hat. He thinks he is Indiana Jones. I wouldn't care except that he is wearing it with black basketball shorts (with paint on them) and a Super Mario Galaxy t-shirt. Oh Well!

This child is a mess with Cotton Candy Explosion ice cream running down his chin. Don't let that angelic face fool you. He makes me very tired.

Here is the birthday boy again. He was very excited because they had his favorite flavor today . . . Chocolate Peanut Butter Buckeye! YUM!!! I also had some Chocolate Peanut Butter Buckeye as well as a scoop of Banana Chocolate Chip. My day is complete.

SO . . . Happy 35th Birthday, Honey! I love you!!!

Tomorrow, I will be making quesadillas with the leftover chicken from yesterday and the fresh veggies from my friend, Tanya's garden. Stay tuned!!!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Chicken Was Awesome BUT . . . Where's The Beef?

So yesterday I talked about my trip to Sam's Club and the awesome deal I got on chicken. The chicken thighs soaked in the sweet sauce all night. I cooked 6 chicken thighs at 400 degrees for 35 minutes just like the recipe said to do. It was delicious and I served them with fresh sliced peaches and homemade rolls that a sweet lady from church made for us. Thanks, Nora! We have 2 pieces leftover that I am shredding for Tuesday's chicken quesadillas. Here are the 2 that are left after we had dinner.

And this is the picture from Food Network's site of Robin Miller's chicken. Mine didn't brown like hers. Maybe she put them under the broiler for a couple of minutes or something. OR Maybe the orange marmalade would have browned better than my peach preserves? Who knows? Anyway, They were still sticky and delicious and I will make it again (with my changes of course).

What I failed to mention yesterday was that I also scored some awesome deals on beef. I got a 4+ pound pack of short ribs REDUCED FOR QUICK SALE which I promptly repackaged and put into the freezer. I also got 2 chuck roasts (which I wrapped and froze) and 2 top round roasts for London Broil. My husband is a Midwest boy who loves his meat and potatoes so we are having London Broil tomorrow for his birthday dinner.

London Broil (despite what some may think) is not a cut of meat but actually a method of cooking. The cut of meat that people are really getting when they asked the butcher for London Broil is Top Round Roast (cut at least 2 inches thick and weighing 5-6 pounds). Now that that's out of the way . . . Top Round can be tough and London Broil is a relatively quick cooking method so you need to tenderize the roast. I pounded the roast using the spiked side of a meat mallet for about a minute or 2 per side. Then I sprinkled on a nice layer of Jane's Crazy Mixed Up Salt. I bought this once when I was out of seasoned salt because it has no MSG and we like it on everything. We even sprinkle it on popcorn and use it as table salt. Now I won't buy anything else. I also sprinkled on a layer of Pampered Chef's Greek Rub. This stuff is delicious. It has lemon peel and oregano in it. So I sprinkled both on a side and then pressed it with my hand into the meat. I flipped the meat and repeated the process. Here is a picture of my tools.

Here is the roast seasoned in a Zip Loc bag. I was not done yet. I had tenderized with a mallet and salt but I still needed a marinade to keep the meat moist and juicy and tenderize it some more with an acid.

Here are the ingredients that I used to make a flavorful marinade that would also tenderize the meat:

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup Bragg's Liquid Aminos (you could use soy sauce if don't have Bragg's)
a few generous dashes of Worcestershire sauce
about a Tablespoon of minced garlic

I stirred the ingredients all together in the measuring cup and tasted to see if it needed anything else. I thought it tasted great.

I poured the marinade over the roast in the bag, pressed all the air out and sealed it. It is sitting in the refrigerator overnight and tomorrow, I will broil it in the broiler of my oven for 4 minutes per side for Medium rare.

I plan to serve the steak with potatoes of some sort . . . mashed, sliced and fried, twice baked . . . I haven't decided yet. We'll also have a spinach salad and probably some form of chocolate dessert (his favorite).

Yesterday, I went to pick up my oldest son from his friend's house and his mom handed me a bag of produce from her garden. I will probably grill these and serve them with the leftover chicken on Tuesday in the quesadillas. Thanks, Tanya! Aren't they pretty?

I will let you know how the birthday dinner goes. Stay tuned . . .

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Chicken, Pickles, Frogs and GOOBERS!!!

Well, I am back! So many things have happened since my last post. I will be sure to post pictures later this week of vacations and graduations and other happenings around here. For now, I want to share about my awesome trip to Sam's Club. I hit the jackpot of "Reduced For Quick Sale" Meats yesterday! Today, I processed it all. I purchased 12 large chicken leg quarters for about 8 dollars. They were so large, I didn't realize they were leg quarters until I got home. I thought they were breasts. I guess I didn't read the package because I was blinded by the bright sticker that said "REDUCED"! Pardon my fuzzy picture, my camera is dying.

First, I separated the drumsticks from the thighs and packed all 12 drumsticks together for a dinner (with planned leftovers). I will probably either fry them or baste them in BBQ sauce and grill them. YUM! For now, they are in the freezer. I then peeled the skin off the thighs and removed some of the large fat pockets. I put 6 thighs each into 2 gallon sized freezer bags and one went right into the freezer. The other bag was bathed in a marinade using these ingredients below and THIS Robin Miller recipe as a starting point. Of course, I changed it. I don't think that I have ever followed a recipe to the letter.

The original recipe called for orange marmalade which makes me want to gag so, I substituted peach preserves. I doubled the amount of soy sauce and added a teaspoon of ground ginger. I mixed all 4 ingredients in a bowl until smooth and then poured it all over the chicken thighs in the bag. Don't they look happy in their sticky bath? I bet they will be delicious tomorrow after church when we eat them for lunch! Right now, they are marinating in the refrigerator overnight and tomorrow I will bake them for 35 minutes at 400 degrees just like the recipe says to.

On to the next cooking project of the day. These monstrous beauties are supposed to be pickling cucumbers. They are ginormous! They came from my mother's garden and she asked me to make pickles with them. They are far too fat to leave whole so I decided on sandwich slices. You may only need one slice to cover your whole burger with one of these pickles.

Here are the ingredients I use to make some awesome garlic dills very similar to Claussen Pickles. In case you can't read the labels in the picture (have I mentioned that my camera is dying?), there is minced garlic, salt, vinegar, dill seed (not weed), and Mixed peppercorns (pink, green, white and black).

The cucumbers were so big that each one filled its own quart sized Mason Jar. I even had to gently fold the larger rounds to get them in the mouth of the jars. So, I loaded each jar with cucumber slices, 1 Tbsp of dill seed, 1/2 Tbsp of Peppercorns and 1 & 1/2 teaspoons of minced garlic. You could use 3 whole peeled cloves of garlic per jar but, I was out of fresh garlic so I used the jar stuff.

While I was filling the jars, the brine was coming to a boil on the stove top. The brine was 8 cups of water, 4 cups of vinegar and 1/2 cup of salt.

Once it was up to a rolling boil and all the salt had dissolved, I carefully topped each jar off with the brine. I then sealed the jars and let them sit on the counter until they reached room temperature. Then they went into the refrigerator to brine for at least a week but 2 weeks is better. If you can wait that long!!!

In unrelated news, these creatures decided to hang out on the glass sliding door last night. For at least 20 minutes, they didn't move. I thought for sure the frog was going to eat the moth but he never did. We all got bored and walked away.

In other unrelated news . . . this child is a GOOBER!!! He is wearing an undershirt (inside out I might add), goggles, a cowboy hat (backwards), dog tags and he is holding an Indiana Jones whip. He is just as adorable as can be but . . . I am not quite sure what this whole ensemble is all about. He went outside to dig in the red Carolina clay barefooted and dressed like this. Not the backyard . . . the front yard . . . so all the neighbors could see him and wonder what in the world goes on in our house. Strange but I love him!

Stay tuned for picture from our trips to the Creation Museum and the Smokey Mountains. I also have pictures from the above GOOBER'S graduation. I will do my best to get them all posted this coming week.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Homemade Soft Pretzels

I am a salty food person. When I am craving a snack, I usually end up wanting something salty like: beef jerky, nuts, pretzels, Tostitos Hint of Lime . . . you get the picture. Yesterday, I was in the mood for some soft pretzels so I decided to make some but I thought it might be fun to make the dough with beer instead of water and to add some honey for a hint of sweetness. They came out really good. I was impressed. However, I think next time I will cut the yeast by half because the beer made the dough rise much more than it would have with water. They rose so much that all the holes closed up so that they look like knotted rolls instead of pretzels. They were still delicious. Take a look. The recipe follows the picture.

1 cup room temperature beer
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp kosher salt
2 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp instant yeast

Mix all the ingredients together in the either the bowl of a stand mixer or in the pan of the bread machine. If you use the stand mixer, knead for about 10 minutes. If you use the bread machine, like I did, set it on the dough setting and walk away. When the bread machine beeps, your dough has already risen. If you use the mixer, cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rise for 1 hour in a warm place.

Turn the dough out on a floured surface and divide into 16 equal pieces. Grease 2 baking sheets or baking stones and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll the pieces into 12 inch long ropes and shape into pretzels. Beat 1 egg and brush on the pretzels and sprinkle with kosher or pretzel salt. Bake 8 pretzels per sheet for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Serve warm with cheese sauce. YUM!

SO there you have it! Soft Pretzels!

Today after church, we went out with friends for lunch and I had 1 one of these for dessert. So good!

I have made cannoli cream before many times but, I do not have a frying tube so I cannot make the shells myself. If I ever get one, I will have to have a wider door installed on my house because I will make them ALL THE TIME!!! Probably a good thing that I don't have one.