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Friday, February 28, 2014

Super Quick Corn Chowder

It's pouring rain, like it rarely does in Southern California, and I am enjoying listening to it as I sit here on the sofa digitally scrapbooking and sort of watching a favorite movie.  My reverie is broken when I realize that it is 3:30 pm and I have not done  anything about dinner tonight.  Then I remember we were going to have leftovers, but decided they weren't quite right for this weather, we really should have soup.

I sprang from the sofa and now, twenty minutes later, literally, the soup is in the crock pot and I'm writing about it.  It does help that I had all the ingredients on hand thanks to my once-a-month cooking preparations, they just hadn't been combined yet because it was much easier to store them in their original packaging.

I grabbed the bag of hash browns from the freezer and threw them into the microwave for 5 minutes.  Pulled out the crock pot and began to assemble the soup.

Double Corn Chowder
16 oz. shredded hash browns, frozen, but defrosted
1 can (15ish ounces) creamed corn
1 can (15ish ounces) corn
1 12-oz can evaporated milk
3/4 C crumbled bacon
1/2 tsp. onion powder or 1/2 C chopped onion
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Pour all ingredients into a crock pot and cook on high for 3-4 hours to help all the flavors mix.

Now for the my hurry I didn't notice that I had a 30-ounce bag of hash browns and so had to quickly double everything.  And that was still within the 20 minutes!  Oh, I'll be serving it in 2 1/2 hours. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dr. Seuss and the Missionaries

I've been thinking about this blog entry all day.  I feel a little bit like Marco in Dr. Seuss' book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.  Marco's dad asks him about all the sights he sees walking to and from school each day.  On this particular day, Marco lets his imagination run wild with all the things he could see becoming a fantastic parade down Mulberry Street and yet when he arrives home he confesses to only seeing a simple horse and wagon on Mulberry Street.

As for me I have thousands of recipes waiting for blogging, but none seem just right today.  What I am thinking of is one of the side benefits of preparing meals ahead.  You see, I've received two emails this week alerting me of friends in need.  One has a newborn and one had emergency surgery.  Both families are in need of some extra care, and one way to give that care is through a meal.  All day long I've thought through my list of meals and what I can do.  And then it hits me!  That lasagna will do nicely for the family with teens and meatball sandwich fixings for the newly enlarged family.  All I need to do is add some fruit or a salad for a complete meal.

Sure it will shorten the list of meals for my family, but in giving them away I will be following in the footsteps of the women (missionaries) who wrote the book, Once-a-Month Cooking.  These were women who kept extra meals on hand to meet the needs of their communities.  I will find great joy in the giving for it truly is more blessed to give than to receive.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Oregano Chicken

Several years ago I searched through some low fat and low cholesterol cookbooks for recipes that I could adapt for once-a-month cooking.  One that I found was Oregano Chicken.  It sounded easy enough, too.  After making it several times with mixed results, I believe that I've finally nailed the freezing and preparation for a yummy meal.

On the OAM cooking day, put 4 large, boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a Ziploc-style plastic bag.  Mix up the spices and place in a smaller bag. Put the small bag in the large bag and freeze together.

It's the day to eat and so take the bag out of the freezer and let it defrost.  Pour off all the juices.  Cut each breast in half.

Based on a recent discovery, spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on one side of each breast.   This will keep it moist.  (The original recipe called for Dijon mustard which is great for mustard eaters!)

Mix the spices very well and coat the chicken on both sides.  Place them in a lightly-greased or sprayed 9"x13" pan.  Bake for about 30 minutes for thinner pieces, and about 40-45 for thicker cuts.  (350 degrees F)

4 Costco sized chicken breasts
1/2 C dry bread crumbs
1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Serve with Roasted Asparagus and Mushrooms and Mashed Potatoes.
Asparagus and Mushrooms
Clean the veggies and slice the mushrooms, thickly.
Place on a jelly roll pan.
Drizzle generously with olive oil.
Sprinkle with McCormick Vegetable Grill Mates

Roast in a 400 degree F oven for about 20 minutes.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sweet Valentine Dessert

My current favorite dessert is Red Velvet anything - yogurt at Yogurtland, in a blizzard at Dairy Queen or cake heaped with cream cheese frosting.  I prefer at least a 50-50 ratio of cake to frosting to satisfy my sweet tooth.

In January 2015 our decorating theme for the Honduran Women's Bible Conference will be hearts.  February is the perfect month to practice with heart desserts which brought me to Red Velvet cupcakes today.

My co-leader had found some darling cupcake cups - no cupcake pan needed - and I needed to try them out.  How to bake with them, how full to fill them, how many can one box of cake mix make and of course, how to frost them.  I found the answers:
  • A jelly roll pan will hold 35 of these self-supporting cupcake cups.
  • They do not change color when baked as do some of the wrappers due to the color of the cake batter.
  • Fill them with about 1/3 C of batter.
  • One box made 22 unevenly sized cupcakes.  Next time, plan on 16-18.
  • I used Duncan Hines and have been happy with the results.
  • And then the frosting.  It is to "die for!"

I wish I had recorded where I found this recipe so that I could give credit to them.

2 8oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 sticks or 1 C butter also at room temperature
1 lb. powdered sugar (3 3/4 C)
2-3 T heavy cream (I had used fat-free milk)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract

Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add the rest of the ingredients and continue beating until smooth and slightly fluffy.  My didn't "fluff" because I didn't have cream on hand.

Use a large frosting bag and pipe the frosting on in a snail-fashion starting on the outside.  Place a candy heart on top.

Bag at least 12", tip 5FT (giant)

I should probably add that I have made this recipe from scratch with good success, but I have also found that it's cheaper to buy a box of mix than a bottle of red food coloring. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Mexicali Pork Chops

 This is a very easy meal to prepare fresh the day you want to eat it.  Simply rinse your pork, I like boneless chops, and toss in a generous portion of Taco Seasoning in a Ziploc-style bag until well-coated.
Warm a few tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and cook several minutes on both sides until the meat reaches the proper temperature.
Serve with warm corn tortillas, refried beans and Mexican cheese.

A recipe?  Four pork chops with one packet of seasoning mix is a good ratio.  I prefer to buy the Costco-sized bottles of seasoning and just dumped a good portion of seasoning in the bag. 
For a "freezer" meal, simply freeze the pork.

Cheddar-Ranch-Bacon Dip is a Party Favorite

Superbowl Sunday and what should you bring to the party?  Ideas were all over the internet from chicken wings to sweets to salty munchies all in an effort to satisfy the need to eat while watching football.  Our favorite party appetizer is Cheddar-Ranch-Bacon Dip served with a thick-cut, salty potato chip.

Party-sized recipe
2 lbs. (32 oz.) sour cream
7 T dry Ranch dressing mix
1/4 C milk (I used fat-free)
4 C shredded cheese
1 1/4 C crumbled bacon

Mix the sour cream and dressing mix thoroughly.  Add the other ingredients and stir well.  This can be served immediately, but also works well if the flavors have a chance to "marry."  I prefer Ruffles chips with this dip.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

We Should Make Something Yummy - Cheesecake? Could it be chocolate?

Cheesecake is not usually something that can be successfully made on a whim.  For starters, the cream cheese really needs to be a room temperature so that it can be beaten smooth.  However, I ignored all of that when my son's girlfriend wanted to make chocolate cheesecake on a whim.  The result was quite tasty, although speckled.  Next time, I will wait for or force a warmer cream cheese.

I have a few different cookbooks which we consulted looking for a recipe that would work with my limited ingredients which were only 16oz. of cream cheese and butter shortbread-style cookies, no graham crackers were to be found in the pantry.  We found a recipe for marbled cheesecake that required 32oz. of cream cheese and so roughly halved it and made up our own recipe which doubled the original amount of chocolate.  I will definitely make it again with an Oreo crust!

At 8" it's a perfect size for a small gathering or a gift. 

For the crust:
Finely crush shortbread cookies to 1 1/2 C (mine were from Honduras)
Add 6 T melted butter and 1/4 C sugar.  Mix well and press into a 8" springform pan.  Set aside.

For the filling:
In a double boiler melt:
4 oz. semi-sweet unsweetened chocolate
Add 1/2 C sugar
Set aside.

Beat 16 oz. of cream cheese until smooth. Then add:
2 eggs
1/2 C sour cream
1/3 C sugar

Now add the chocolate mixture to the cream cheese, beating until smooth.
Pour over the crust and bake for 45-55 minutes at 350 degrees F.  Turn off the oven and open the door to begin cooling.  Completely cool before refrigerating. 

Once again we rushed it, and I served it lukewarm with a good squirt of whipped cream and a few chocolate chips.  The flavor was great, but cheesecake is best cold.

I Don't Want to Cook Today

Saturday had been set aside as my day for a Once-a-Month Cooking.  Thursday night we shopped, and I had all that I needed to prepare a month of meals.  When Saturday came, I had everything but motivation.

I have not spent that much time preparing meals in a long time, but it did give me some insights to share.

Just start!  Do something.  You did set aside the time!

Pick one meat and make all the recipes which include it.  I started with the Italian Sausage.  I divided it into 3 equal groups of 8 links each and then browned each group.  One was set aside to use in a Lasagna.  One was set aside for a Sausage Skillet Pasta which will be finished fresh.  And the third, set aside for a Sausage Polenta Lasagna. 

Then I prepared a batch of red sauce, which is posted on my blog.  I use the 106oz. cans of tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Part of it was used to complete the Lasagna.  The rest was divided into 3-cup containers and frozen.

Keep going!

Make Lentil Soup.  Let it cool before freezing.

Next meat!  You can do this!  You'll be so happy when it's done.

Chicken.  I had 28 a frozen, boneless, skinless breasts to deal with. 
5 became Creamy Chicken Bake
4 became Oregano Chicken
5 for Crock-pot Chicken Cordon Bleu
Those were frozen right away.

I cooked the rest by boiling in a 16 quart stock pot.  After the meat cooled I divided it into containers by the following list and then shredded or diced each group based on the recipe it would be used for.
3 for Chicken Pesto Pasta
3 for chicken tacos
4 for Garlic Parmesan Chicken and Noodles
2 for Chicken Enchiladas
2 for a Chicken Pot Pie

I am so slow today!  Not feeling at all efficient.

Freeze the beef for stroganoff.  Cook it fresh.  That's okay.

Pork.  Save it until Monday when I'm cooking it anyway.

Ground Turkey.  Hmmm.  Save this, too. 

It can always be frozen, it will just be a pain to defrost.

And so my day went.  While it wasn't the best day of cooking, I did accomplish much, and am glad that I did so.  Tomorrow I'll finish the turkey meat.  I think it will be browned for tacos and taco soup, and some will become my favorite meatloaf.