Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Cheesy Day

Today's recipes are courtesy of my trolling around on Pinterest.  Cheesy Potato Soup and Spinach, Chicken and Pasta Casserole.

First up:  the soup.  The first instruction is to cook a pound of diced bacon.  OH YEAH!!!  The chopping was almost theraputic today, onions, celery and garlic and then, potato all having a turn on the cutting board.  Brian got a new peeler set for Christmas, and I didn't realize until today just how DULL our old one is!    It took forever to cook the potatoes because I didn't cut them up small enough, making our lunch a very quick one at that because we had movie plans.  It was delicious though, and there's enough for leftovers AND the freezer.  Hooray!

The casserole was good, but a bit of a pain to make.  The only reason it was a pain was our lack of planning, though.  Brian browned red onion in the oven while I defrosted chicken and frozen spinach.  And I'm making a decision:  no more frozen spinach in casseroles.  Or maybe at all:  why would you put yourself through squeezing all the moisture out of it with paper towels if you don't have to?  Peeling chopped spinach out of a paper towel is tedious, next time I'll just wilt some fresh spinach in a skillet and add it later.  The cheesy part of this casserole that I liked best was adding 8 oz of chive and onion cream cheese to the pasta, chicken and spinach.  It melted beautifully and combined with a can of diced Italian-style tomatoes to make a thick "sauce."  And the mozzarella cheese melted on the top was pretty fantastic, too.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Week Dinners

Two dinners worth commenting on this week:  Cheesy Southwest Meatloaf and Barbecue Chicken Pizza.  Both recipes are from our standby favorite that we just call "Simple," by America's Test Kitchen.  I say "simple" because it's in the title, I'm drawing a blank on the rest of it.

First, the meatloaf:

served with mashed potatoes and mixed veggies

Lots of good flavor!  Definitely some kick, which is fine with us.  I also liked how there were individual "patties" instead of one big loaf.  Plus the recipe had a great tip for canned chipotle en adobo.  Usually Brian doesn't like to buy cans of this because it's wasteful.  But the freezer tip of putting them in individual cups and freezing, then stacking individually in a bag for future use:  genius!  

Barbecue Chicken Pizza:

complete with lime-cilantro sour cream

This was OK.  Not terrible, because there was a lot of good flavors happening here.  The problem was the dough.  Who knew that pizza dough fresh as the grocery store is precious and tough to find two days before Christmas??  Brian had to settle on whole wheat, which baked up kind of like a cracker.  Won't stop us from trying again sometime.  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Holiday Baking, Days Three and Four

Did a ton of baking this weekend.  Gingerbread cookies (which aren't as easy to cut out as sugar cookie doug), pecan sables and another batch of macaroons.  I'm doing something a little different with this latest batch of macaroons....dipping them in melted dark chocolate.  I will also make another batch of fudge.....some has been given away as Brian had a work party that needed treats, but we ate a bit of it.  I think I've discovered the reason why I haven't made it in the past few years!

We have houseguests this weekend, my friend Maureen and her boyfriend, Sky.  Maureen LOVES our chocolate Rollo cookies so I am saving them for when she is here.  Maybe we'll even bake them together.

I think the 2013 baking is complete.  Minus the decorating that I will do with the boys tonight.  

One thing I need to remember for next year:  keep some healthy snacks around for noshing while baking cookies instead of nibbling on the product.  Yeah.....that'll be a good thing next year.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Holiday Baking, Day Two

The kids had early release from school on Tuesday due to the impending snowstorm.  Snowstorms ALWAYS make me feel like baking!  So there was homemade fudge, which I haven't made in a few years.  Not sure why I stopped but I'm glad I made it this year.  Also, there were snickerdoodles and coconut macaroons.  I'm the snickerdoodle fan in the house, and Brian adores the macaroons.  My parents are huge fans of coconut macaroons as well, so I got them done before they came over for my birthday on Thursday.  I sent a half-dozen home as "medicine" with them, as my Dad has a bad back right now.

This year I'm going back on something that I've said before, and I've embraced box mix.  I was searching for cream of tartar in the grocery store, when I passed the prepackaged bags of Betty Crocker snickerdoodle mix.  It got me to thinking....the only thing that I use cream of tartar for is to make snickerdoodles, and though I love them, I really only make them at Christmas.  So I brought home two of them and didn't look back.  And today?  A tube of ready-made gingerbread cookie dough came home with me from the grocery store.  It doesn't make them any less homemade, and the snickerdoodles tasted good.  Plus they took a lot less time.  I'm happy about it, I wish I could've convinced my purist Cookie Self years ago that this is OK!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Holiday Baking: Day One

Today's Baking:

Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies

I've used Alton Brown's recipe for these cookies for years, it's truly the best based on both taste and technique.  This is a really good episode of "Good Eats and worth catching.

I made up the dough yesterday and put it in the fridge for the obligatory  "2-4 hour chill."  And to be honest....I forgot about them.  Until I was walking around Target this afternoon, trying to finish up the last of the Christmas shopping.  No matter, the cookie dough just needed to be worked a little before getting rolled out and cut with holiday cookie cutters.

Decorating never happens same-day, as these need to cool.  Next up.....snickerdoodles or coconut macaroons.....but not today!  My mood will decide which one we'll be making.

Hello, Coffeecake

Hubby said that we had an abundance of blueberries in the it was either time for blueberry pancakes or coffeecake.  I appear to be the only one in the house that likes blueberry pancakes, and it seems silly just to make them for me.  Plus, that wouldn't use up a lot of blueberries.  So coffeecake it was!

I poked around on Pinterest and was not disappointed with how many recipes came up for blueberry coffeecake.  Most of them required sour cream or greek yogurt.  Although I like these kinds of coffeecakes better, I only had a smidge of sour cream in the house and the greek yogurt that I had on hand was black cherry.  I discovered a recipe using vegetable oil instead, which we also have a hearty amount of in our kitchen.

I was really glad that I read the recipe through, because it listed sugar as an ingredient, but didn't incorporate it in the instructions!  Luckily this isn't my first rodeo though....I knew that sugar is a WET ingredient and added it to the milk, oil and eggs.  I also tinkered with it a little....instead of 1.5 cups of blueberries, I added a cup of blueberries and a cup of sweetened, dried coconut.  Hubby ADORES coconut.

The end result was satisfying and used up some blueberries.  All in all, a win.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving weekend is wrapping up... we head home from Philly tomorrow morning.

But I didn't want to wait to write about the night before's Dinner!!

I came home from work and decided to start dinner.  I had every intention to make what we'd written on the menu, some sort of glazed chicken and quinoa.  But then I saw the plethora of vegetable oil in the lazy susan (Hubby sometimes forgets we already have some and brings home more from the grocery store) and I wanted fried chicken.  So guess what......we had fried chicken!

One bread crumbs.  It wasn't a problem for long:

That, my friend, is crushed Ritz crackers.  And in my opinion, is one of the BEST chicken coatings ever!!!!  Ev en the leftovers were fantastic.  I would certainly do this again.