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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chicken Soup from a Friend

"That cold" or "that flu" or whatever "that sickness" was sure hit our family hard!  And, it stuck around.  However, when those illnesses strike mom, the house falls apart.   Thankfully, my mom was visiting and kept the kitchen clean, and a friend called to say she was bringing us a pot of chicken soup. 

Now I've made a lot of chicken soup and turkey and split pea and always made them with the carcass.  My friend made it with a whole chicken and was it ever delicious!  Here's what I observed was in the pot:

  • 1 whole fryer
  • lots of water
  • 1-2 carrots sliced
  • 2-3 stalks of celery, thickly sliced
  • several whole cloves of garlic (this was new!)
  • some onion
  • whole wheat noodles

The broth was so flavorful!  I will certainly make some soup scratch just like this.  Thank you, Shirley!  I'm sure it was just what I needed to get well!

Part II - I DID make this soup using a whole chicken in my 6.5 quart crock-pot and it was delicious!

1 whole fryer, cleaned
water to nearly full
2-3 carrots, cut in chunks
4 stalks of celery
2 heaping T minced garlic
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1-2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Cook 6-7 hours.  Remove chicken from the crock to a cutting board.  Add noodles to the crock and turn crock-pot to high to cook while cutting chicken.  Debone the chicken, and return chicken to the crock of soup.  Enjoy!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Tea Party Beverages

We served three cold beverages at our tea:
  • Lemonade
  • Iced Tea
  • Water

My sister-in-law makes great lemonade and I got the original recipe from her.  However, like most of my recipes, I've tweaked it a bit to increase the amount and lessen the sweetness just a bit.  It starts with a simple syrup of which there are many variations.

Bring to boil in a saucepan:
4 C sugar
3 C water

Add this to 3 cups of lemon juice and 12 C of water/ice.  I use purchased lemon juice and serve it in a clear, 2-gallon container.

Slice strawberries and add to the lemonade.  You can also chop and slightly mash the berries and mix with a bit of sugar before adding to the lemonade.  This will color the lemonade, too.  Raspberries can also be used.

Iced Tea
Personally, I am not a tea drinker and searched the internet some time ago to find an easy and successful Iced Tea recipe to serve at family gatherings.  Wa-la!

Boil 1 C of water.  Add 8 tea bags and let steep for several minutes.  Dilute with 3 additional cups of water.  This multiplies easily for additional servings.  I usually make 3 recipes and set out next to the lemonade as many in our family will mix the two beverages for a refreshing drink.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Dinner Starts with Dessert

Today is one of those days that I've completely digressed from my menu.  Having hemmed and hawed a little too long, dinner reservations were made at Casa de Onceamonthchef rather than a fancy restaurant.  Let the creative juices flow!

Dessert is always planned first.  Creme Brulee without question, perhaps withsome fresh raspberries on top.  My favorite recipe for this delight came right off the box of ramekins I bought at Bed Bath and Beyond years ago, but still see on the shelf.

1 C heavy cream
2 T sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Warm the cream and sugar in a saucepan until the cream is just bubbly, not boiling.  Remove from heat.

Add the eggs and vanilla which have been beaten.  Mix well.  Pour through a seive into another bowl to capture any "cooked" eggs.  Then pour into 4 - 3" ramekins which have already been placed in 9" x 13" pans.  (I usually make a quadruple recipe with a quart of cream and that fills 9 - 6" ramekins.) 

Place pan in oven which has been preheated to 300 degrees F.  Without splashing, pour in hot water to the level of half way up the ramekins.  Bake for 30 minutes until set.  Cool completely and chill for 2-3 hours. 

Then generously sprinkle with additional white sugar and toast with a kitchen torch.  Add a few fresh berries and squirt of whipped cream for garnish and a treat for the eyes.  Enjoy!  And, Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tea Party Desserts

The menu items on our dessert table included:
  • Lemon Bars
  • Scones and Cream
  • Brownies
  • Almond Bars
You'll see a mix of scratch to store-bought items below.  When hosting a tea, choose a few items that will star and make them from scratch.  Purchase others.  I included 2 items from scratch, one from a mix and the fourth was store-bought.  It's similar to "choosing your battles" as a parent.  Where do you want to invest your time in the preparation? 

While I have a very good lemon bar recipe, my favorite lemon bar is that of Krusteaz Lemon Bar Mix.  They are tart, bright in color and easy to make.  Use two boxes in a 9" x 13" glass pan.  Cool completely before cutting into about 1" squares.  (Best price on this package can be found at Target.)

By far the favorite, were the Almond Bars which I've already posted on my blog.

Brownies were included for a chocolate option.  I thought about making some from scratch or even a box and settled, happily, for pre-made mini-cake shaped brownies from Costco.  I wanted the different shape without too much work.  For fun, fill a pastry bag with two colors of frosting or simply vanilla on one side and chocolate on the other. Using a #22 tip, swirl frosting on top of each brownie.

The one item of which I ran short were the homemade scones.  I'm not sure where I got this recipe, except that it is page 76 in a chapter entitled Biscuits and Scones.  I have not changed it at all.  It is perfect!

2 1/2 C flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
8 T (1 stick) cold butter, cut up
1/3 C granulated sugar
2/3 C milk

Heat oven to 425 degrees F.  Put flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt into a large bowl.  Mix well.
Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender.  Add mix and stir with fork until a soft dough forms.  Divide into 3 even sections.  Knead 10-12 times on a floured surface until fairly smooth.  Shape into a circle about 6-8" in diameter.  You can use a rolling pin to flatten, but use your hands for shaping.  Cut into 8 triangles, but cutting an asterisk in the dough. 
Gently divide triangles and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake about 10-12 minutes until lightly browned.  Cool on a cotton dish towel laid over a wire rack. Cool completely before serving.
Yield is 24 "mini" scones.  For larger scones, divide dough into halves and make 16 triangles.  Next time, I will double this recipe and the cream below!

What are scones without Devonshire Cream?  This can be purchased at high-end grocery or import stores.  However, someone gave me this delicious version which can be made from a few readily available ingredients at home.

1 C sour cream (non-fat is okay)
3 T powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients together and chill.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Tea Party for 28 Begins with Tea Sandwiches

Our Menu:
  • Egg Salad Sandwiches
  • Cucumber Sandwiches
  • Baguettes with Dill Spread
  • Cut fruit
  • Chinese Chicken Salad (brought by a guest)
  • Mini-scones with Devonshire Cream
  • Brownie Bites
  • Almond Bars (see Blog)
  • Lemon Bars
  • Strawberry Lemonade
  • Iced Tea
Last week we were the happy hosts of a giant tea party; one serving 28!  I've already posted the Almond Bar recipe, and thought I'd work my way through the various menu items over the next week so that you'll be ready for those spring teas which are sure to come.  Or perhaps, you'll schedule one just so you can make these yummy goodies.  Today, I'll start with the sandwiches.

Egg Salad Sandwiches...It's likely you already have an idea of what to do or perhaps even a favorite recipe.  Here's what I did:

Hard boil 18 eggs and cool.  Peel shells away and cut eggs into chunks.
Add the following:

1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. garlic salt (or to taste)
about 1 C mayo (use fat-free to cut some calories)
Milk for "thinning" the mixture if needed

1 1/2 large loaves of white bread

Mix well with an electric mixer until mostly smooth.  Spread onto white bread and cover with a second slice.  Cut off crusts.  Cut remaining square into (long) thirds.  Place on a tray and cover with damp paper towels to keep moist until serving time.   Should be refrigerated.

Cucumber Sandwiches...This recipe made a TON, but the girls loved them so much that they took the leftovers.

1 large loaf of white bread
1 8oz. packages cream cheese - don't skimp on this ingredient!
little bit of milk
2 cucumbers, very thinly sliced

Soften cream cheese and add a bit of milk until creamy like canned frosting.  It will be easier to spread this way. 
Cut the crusts off the bread.  I didn't do this and regret not doing so, but mostly just for the look.  Cut the remaining square into 4 squares.
Spread some cream cheese on each quarter.  Top with a slice of cucumber.  Also cover with a damp paper towel and refrigerate until serving time.

Baguettes with Dill Spread...These went fast!

2 long baguettes, sliced about 3/8" thick  (I found a double pack at Costco)
2 - 8oz. packages cream cheese (again, don't skimp on this product)
Dill mix (I love the Pampered Chef product for this)

Soften cream cheese.  Add about 6 T dill mix and stir well.  Add milk as needed to reach a spreading consistency.
Slice baguettes.  Spread dill mixture on thickly.  Loosely cover and refrigerate until serving time.

How did we get all of these made?  Well, we had a sandwich making party before the tea party.  I had set up stations for each of the sandwiches, and a group of girls made them. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Almond Bars were at hit at ADX Preference Tea

I first tasted these delicious dessert bars in the Teachers' Lounge at my first school.  I immediately tracked down the baker, and she graciously shared the recipe which originally came from Barbara Almlie (1988).  I still have that original copy in my cookbook.  It's a little dirty, and definitely yellowing, but still legible and a favorite "go-to" recipe.  Thank you for sharing Doris and Barbara!

Today, I baked it for a tea to be held at our house tonight.  The girls LOVED it!

1 package yellow cake mix, dry
1/2 cup or one stick of butter, softened
1 egg

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp. almond flavoring
1 lb. or 3 3/4 C powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the ingredients for the crust and press into the bottom of a 9" x 13" metal pan (preferred over glass for this recipe).

In the same mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Add eggs and flavoring and mix well.  Add the powedered sugar and continue to mix until smooth.  Pour over the unbaked crust and spread evenly.

Bake for 45-50 minutes.  Cake will sink in the middle after removing from the oven.

Let cool completely.  Cut into one-inch-ish bars to serve.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Triple Chocolate Mess, the One Pot Birthday Cake

Years ago someone shared this recipe with me.  At first it sounded a bit odd, but I was intrigued as it used my favorite kitchen appliance, the crock-pot.  I chose a special event with a large group of people to test this new recipe, and it was a hit.

Last weekend, it was the birthday cake for my son, and once again, much loved by the guests.  Even the "cake-haters" liked it!   But beware the candles as they melt from the bottom when placed in the hot cake.  :)

1 chocolate fudge cake mix, dry
8 oz. or 1 C sour cream
1 - 3oz. package chocolate pudding, dry
3/4 C oil
4 eggs
1 1/2 C water
1 small bag chocolate chips (about 1 cup)

Spray the crock-pot with non-stick spray.  Mix all the ingredients together in a separate bowl and pour into the crock-pot.  Cook on low for about 6 hours.  Serve by the scoop and add your favorite ice cream.  Yum, delicious!

My new crock-pot is 6 1/2 quarts.  I doubled the recipe and it fit perfectly in the crock.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

My Favorite Lasagna and the One We Serve in Honduras

At the request of the committee planning the Women's Bible Conference in Honduras, we serve "American" meals or maybe better stated, foods not readily served in Honduras.  One of our team favorites to prepare and eat is Lasagna.  We usually make at least 19 - 9"x13" pans of this entree and freeze it for later in the week.  It's very easy to prepare in an assembly line with a team of 5, but also works one pan at a time for a family.

What you will need:
4 cups of your favorite red/spaghetti sauce (see blog for Versatile Red Sauce)
1 1/2 pounds ground meat or Italian sausage, browned and drained of fat
1 lb. mozzarella cheese, grated
2 lbs. ricotta cheese mixed with 2 eggs, 1 T dried parsley and 1 tsp. lemon juice
6-8 oven ready lasagna noodles

After years of pre-cooking noodles and ending up with watery lasagna or over-done noodles, I am all in favor of using oven-ready noodles if you plan to bake and eat it right away.  If you plan to freeze it, any noodle will do and will cook as it bakes.

To assemble the lasagna:
Lay 3-4 uncooked noodles in the bottom of the 9"x13" pan.
Cover with half of the ricotta cheese mixture
Sprinkle half of the meat over the cheese.
Gently pour 2 cups of red sauce over the meat and use a rubber spatula to gently spread around.
Sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese over this.

Repeat.  However, I spread the ricotta on the noodles before laying them in the pan on top of the mozzarella cheese.  Then, use a rubber spatula to gently cover the noodles and smooth out the layer.  Continue as above.

To enjoy tonight simply bake at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes until bubbly and top layer of cheese is lightly browned.  Let cool for about 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

To enjoy later.  Cover with waxed paper (so that the tomato sauce does not "eat" through the foil) and then a layer of heavy-duty foil.  Freeze.  Defrost before baking to cut bake time, or allow up to two hours to fully warm a frozen Lasagna.

This is one meal that's easy to replicate and have on hand to feed extra mouths or give away to a family in need.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Where's the Recipe for Turkey Chili?

Sitting in my freezer is a container of Turkey Chili just waiting for a cold day to be heated up and enjoyed perhaps along with some Corn Casserole.  The recipe that I started with is from Weight Watchers, but of course I made a few tweaks.

Brown 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey.
Put in a 9-cup freezer container and add the following:

1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 T chili powder
1 T paprika
1 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 15oz. can tomato sauce
1 15oz. can diced tomatoes
1 C chicken broth
1 1/2 T apple cider vinegar
1 15 oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper

Optional ingredients:
1 green pepper choppped
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced into coins
1/4 green onions, for garnish

To enjoy tonight:  put all ingredients in a large pot and simmer for 30-45 minutes.

To enjoy later:  Freeze.  Defrost and bring to a boil in a large pot.  Continue to simmer for 30-45 minutes or until carrots are tender.

With all those spices, this should be flavorful!  Happy cooking!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

One pan + One spatula + One-ish hour = 8 meals

One Pan + One spatuala + One-ish hour = 8 meals is a wonderful equation in the kitchen although it won't get you too far in math.  Do you have one-two hours in your week that you could devote to meal prep?  Although it's likely your first response is no, I believe you could carve the small chunk out of your week with the benefit of gaining them back and more each day at dinner time.
As I was preparing my ground turkey, which I've substitued ground beef in all my recipes, I thought back to our family kitchen growing up.  My mom usually bought a large amount of ground beef and then separated it into 1-pound groups and froze them in true Tupperware containers.  We always knew that those containers in the freezer contained raw ground beef.  I also remember the semi-frantic calls to take one out of the freezer for dinner.  Then there was the cooking of the frozen meat which took great patience to cook.  We would brown one side at a time, "slice" it off with a spatula and turn it over to brown the other side. and so the routine continued until all the meat was browned.  Then we could continue with the recipe.  However, it was a great first step towards the Once-a-month Cooking that I now do.
Part of my recent OAM (Once-a-Month) shopping list included purchasing 8 packages of ground turkey to be included in 2 lasagnas, 4 pasta dinners, 1 taco salad, and a batch of turkey chili.  On cooking day I found my favorite meat frying pan in the cupboard and chose a spatula from the drawer.  On the counter next to the stove were the 8 packages of turkey.  One at a time I browned each package of turkey.  When it was fully cooked I emptied the meat into a 3-cup freezer container and set it aside on stacking cookie racks to cool.  The fat went into a large can which I had emptied when making a batch of spaghetti sauce.  I repeated this for 4 packages of turkey.
The fifth package went into a slightly larger container to which I added 1/3 cup of taco seasoning and 1 cup of water and then labeled it "Taco Salad."
The sixth package went into a 9-cup container to become Turkey Chili.  I added the rest of the ingredients after finishing all of the cooking of the turkey.
As the seventh and eighth packages were cooking I added an Italian Sausage Seasoning to give it the flavor without the fat of real Italian Sausage.  After preparing the turkey chili I then put together 2 lasagnas.  One for our family and one to take to a family friend with a newborn. 

Now by the time I finished cooking 8 packages of ground turkey, my pan was pretty well used as was the spatula, but I only had to clean each one time instead of 8 times.  What a time-saver already!  And after a good soak, both cleaned up nicely.

Once the meat had cooled I put lids on everything an put them in the freezer. 

P.S.  For the curious, I will post the Chili, Lasagna and Taco Salad recipes later this week.