Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Money Saving Idea - Make Your Own Chicken or Beef Stock

I love to cook and I love to find ways to add extra flavors to my favorite recipes.  Often times I add chicken or beef stock to a recipe that calls for water.  It's wonderful in veggie recipes, casseroles, and soups.  I don't know about you, but the price of a 15 oz can of chicken stock surprises me.  It really isn't cheap.  So . . . I make my own.

I buy split chicken breasts (on sale at Food For Less for 98 cents per pound this week) and remove the skin and remove the bone.  Place the skin and bones in a stock pot with two carrots, 1/2 onion (diced), one potato (diced - not peeled), three stalks of celery (sliced and including leaves), 16 cups of water, salt and pepper to taste.  If you happen to have a tomato that you need to use, throw it in too.  Cook over high heat, bringing to a full boil.  Allow to simmer for 30 minutes.  Allow to cool.  Remove the skin, bones, and veggies.  Place stock into 4 cup containers with a slight amount of air space to spare.  Freeze until ready to use.

Do the same thing with beef scraps when you buy a roast and trim it and cut it into stew meat or stir fry meat.  It makes a delicious stock and can be used in so many recipes.  And ... yes, it's so much cheaper than buying canned or boxed stock.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Super Bowl Party Recipes - Layered Taco Dip

Regular Sunday football food just won't suffice for your Super Bowl Party.  Layered Taco Dip is one of our favorites for Super Bowl Sunday.  Give it a try for your party.  Oh, this is so good!

1 (16 oz) can refried beans
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese (softened)
1 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp Southwestern Seasoning Mix
2 garlic cloves pressed
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Optional toppings such as diced tomatoes, thinly sliced green onions, sliced pitted ripe olives, snipped fresh cilantro or additional sour cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread refried beans over bottom of baking dish.  Combine cream cheese, sour cream, seasoning mix and garlic; mix well. 

Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over beans.  Spread cheddar cheese over top.  Bake 15 - 20 minutes or until cheese is melted. 

If desired, dice tomatoes and thinly slice green onions.  Slice olives.  Sprinkle tomato, onions, and olives.  Garnish with additional sour cream.  Serve with Tostitos.

Cook's Tip:  Taco seasoning mix can be substituted for the Southwest Seasoning, if desired.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Daffodils Are Coming Up!

Earlier in the week I noticed that the daffodils are starting to come up.  I know it will be at least a month or more before they bloom, but it gives me hope that these grey cold days of winter will come to an end.  It has been more than two weeks since we last saw the sun here in St. Louis.  For those of us whose mood is so sunshine dependent, it makes it rather hard to stay happy and upbeat.  Around 5:00 p.m. today we did see just a few peeks of sun through a couple of breaks in the clouds, but the weather forecast for the coming week is all clouds and snow flurries for the week.  Yuk - it's even going to be cold again!

Look carefully at the picture and you'll find the little green leaves poking up through the mulch.

Thank you, Mother Nature.  Spring will come again!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I Just Love The Dierbergs Shopping Experience

I've said this again and again, shopping at Dierbergs is not like shopping at any other grocery store in the area.  The stores are clean and bright.  The aisles are wide.  The produce is fresh and it just looks so good.  The meat looks wonderful too.  There is a large variety of items - I can find things at Dierbergs that I just can't find at other grocery stores.  The employees are great too.  They are always friendly and very professional.  The whole shopping experience is many steps above shopping anywhere else.  It doesn't hurt that my daughter works there.  But, I loved it even before she started working there.

If you're a cook who uses lots of produce, it's definitely worth the extra money to check out Dierbergs.  It's certainly worth the trip.  I think you'll be sold like me.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beef & Broccoli

Our family really likes Chinese food, but I have to admit, I've never been any good at duplicating any Chinese dish.  Well, tonight was the exception.  Emily and I tried our hand at Beef & Broccoli and it was a dish we were both proud of.  We even got compliments from Luke, which almost never happens.

1 lb of beef (sliced thinly across the grain)
1/2 cup corn starch
3 large heads broccoli (cut into florets)
1 large onion (cut into thin slices)
1/2 lb baby carrots (sliced very thin)
1 lb button mushrooms (sliced very thin)
1 can water chestnuts sliced
6 green onions (sliced very thin)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp Ponzu
4 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp ground ginger (or 4 tsp grated fresh ginger)
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
4 Tbsp soy sauce
2 1/2 Tbsp plum sauce
2 1/2 Tbsp honey

Combine the garlic, ginger, vinegar, soy sauce, plum sauce and honey.  Mix well and set aside until ready to use.

Prep and slice the veggies into individual dishes ready to add the pan when needed.

Preheat a large skillet.  Add the olive oil and sesame oil.  Place the beef into the corn starch and lightly dredge.  Shake off any excess cornstarch.  Add the beef to the hot pan and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the carrots and water chestnuts and cook for two minutes.  Add the onions and broccoli and cook for another two minutes while tossing all ingredients constantly.  Add the Ponzu to the pan and cook for another two minutes.  Pour the reserved sauce over the beef and vegetables.  Add the mushrooms and green onions.  Stir while cooking for another minute or until well mixed and the mushrooms are slightly cooked.

Serve this over thin spaghetti or white rice.

This one got thumbs up from even our pickiest family members.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mandarin Orange Cake

If you're looking for a unique dessert, give this one a try.  It's very good, and not nearly as rich as most.

2 cups flour                              2 tsp baking soda
2 cups sugar                             2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs                                      2 cans Mandarin oranges (drained)

Mix all ingredients together and beat 3 minutes.  Pour into 13 x 9" pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes.

1 1/2 cup brown sugar
6 Tbsp butter
6 Tbsp milk

Place all ingredients over low heat on the stove until melted and well combined.  Poke holes all over the cake and pour the topping over the cake while it's still warm.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Do you like Ribs?

If you like ribs, you'll love this recipe.  It is so good!

Dry Rub
8 Tbsp brown sugar                    1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
3 Tbsp kosher salt                      1/2 tsp thyme
1 Tbsp chili powder                     1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper        1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

This dry rub mix will probably season 3 - 4 batches of ribs.  Store it in an airtight container for future use.  I like to use boneless country style ribs, but I've used spare ribs and baby back ribs too.  Select the ribs you plan to cook.  Sprinkle with Lawry's Seasoning Salt.

Place a 4 quart stock pot over medium high heat.  Add 2 Tbsp vegetable oil.  Once the oil is hot, place the rib racks in the hot oil to sear both sides.  Once all sides are seared, place all racks back in the pot and add two 12 oz cans of Dr. Pepper and 1/4 cup vinegar.  Cover and cook over medium heat for at least one hour.

Remove from the stock pot and place in a baking dish or crock pot.  Cover both sides of ribs with honey (be generous).  Once covered with honey, sprinkle with dry rub mix on both sides and then cover with honey again.  Cover and place in refrigerator overnight.  At least two hours before ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator and cover with two bottles of your favorite barbecue sauce.  Place in the oven at 285 degrees or place in crock pot on low heat for two hours or more.

The secret to these ribs is cooking them low and slow.  They will be very tender/fall off the bone. And very well seasoned.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Crispy Ranch Chicken

This is a good recipe if you're having guests for dinner.  Most people like chicken and there is simply nothing not-to-like about this recipe.

2 cups crushed corn flakes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 envelope (1 oz) ranch salad dressing mix
2 egg whites (beaten)
8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 oz each)
4 Tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.  Combine the corn flakes, Parmesan cheese and ranch dressing mix in a large bowl.

Place beaten egg whites in a medium bowl.  Dip each chicken breast in the egg whites and then in the cereal mixture to coat evenly.  Arrange the coated chicken on the baking sheet.

Melt butter and drizzle over the chicken.  Bake until crust is golden brown and juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a knife (about 30 - 40 minutes).

Serve this with fresh roasted carrots, a salad, and buttered noodles for a complete dinner.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Quick Tip - Bacon

Our family loves bacon.  We usually include bacon with breakfast at least one day of the weekend.  I like to use bacon in lots of other recipes, but there isn't always time to defrost and then fry a few pieces to use in a recipe that calls for bacon bits for week night dinners.  It doesn't take that much extra time to fry more bacon.

I always fry two pounds of bacon when I make it for breakfast.  We usually eat a little bit more than one pound. That leaves me with a fair amount of leftover bacon which I put into a Ziploc Freezer bag and put it in the freezer.  When I have a recipe that calls for bacon during the week I simply take what I need from the freezer.  It's a great time saver and it tastes so much better than the packaged bacon bits (real or otherwise).  It's so much cheaper too!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Roasted Tri-Potatoes

Potatoes are comfort food in my book.  And this recipe ranks right up there.  It's the perfect combination of three types of potatoes and spices and makes a great side dish with beef, pork or chicken.

3 sweet potatoes                                 1/3 cup olive oil
4 Yukon Gold potatoes                         1 garlic clove
4 Red potatoes                                    1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried tarragon                             1/8 tsp pepper

If you don't care for tarragon, you may substitute 1 tsp of dried thyme or rosemary.

Preheat oven to 425°.  Peel and cube the sweet potatoes.  Scrub the Yukon and Red potatoes and cut them into cubes.  Place the cubes in a 9 x 13" roasting pan.

Combine the olive oil with the minced garlic clove, tarragon, salt and pepper.  Pour the mixture over the potatoes and stir.  Roast potatoes in the oven for about one hour until browned and crisp.

So simple, but so good!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pray For My Friend Lydia

Lydia had a stroke over the weekend.  Her second in the last year.  Unfortunately, I don't know any of the details right now.  She is still in ICU and no non-family visitors are allowed.  She's had a really rough time the last many months, but has shown remarkable courage and remained positive through circumstances that would be too much for many of us to endure.

Lydia is a genuinely good person who cares for people.  She is a good friend and a person who, unlike most of us, has no vices - she doesn't drink, smoke, or indulge in other unhealthy habits.  At the age of 48, I would guess she might be all of a size 4, so weight is certainly not an issue.

Please add Lydia to your prayer list.  I believe prayer makes a difference, and Lydia can certainly use the thoughts and prayers of many!

Get well my friend.

For All You Chocoholics - This Cake's For You!

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

1 chocolate cake mix        8 oz sour cream
3/4 cup oil                       1 small box chocolate instant pudding
3/4 cup water                  1 (12 oz) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Using your mixer, mix at low speed for one minute or until ingredients are mixed.  Beat at medium speed for one minute until fluffy.

Pour into bundt pan sprayed with cooking spray.  Pour cake mixture into pan and spread evenly.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.  (I like to check it at 45 minutes)  Cake is done when you see cracks in the top and the cake feels firm to the touch.  Remove from oven and allow to cool (about one hour).  Invert onto plate and dust with powdered sugar.

Oh, this is soooo good!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Call Me Lazy!

I couldn't believe it when I sat down at the computer tonight.  I haven't posted anything since last Monday!  That's terrible.  I'll get back to the normal routine this week.  We've been busy dismantling Christmas.  At our house, that's a job.  There are lights and decorations in every room of the house, upstairs and down.  Right now, the kitchen and dining room are full of storage tubs that have been packed and re-labeled.  Now, they just need to be carried to the basement or shed.  We still have the miles of lights and garland to remove from the ceilings of  the kitchen, dining room, and bedrooms.  That, in itself, will take several more hours.

Every year I ask myself, "Is it really all worth it?"  Yes, it is.  Just seeing the wide eyes of every child that walks into our house at Christmas time once the lights are plugged in makes it more than worth it.  It really is an experience to see "PaPa's lights".  Just last week, we had a now 20-year old young man stop by unannounced.  He grew up in the neighborhood and spent lots of time at our house as a youngster.  He said he always loved coming to our house to see the tree and lights when he was young.  Eddie and I were both very touched!  You never know who is affected by the things you choose to do.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Honey Lemon Chicken

Oh, this is a good one if you need a quick and easy dinner.  It's pretty enough for company if they show up unexpectedly.

2 lbs chicken breasts
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup lemon juice (fresh) - save the lemon to slice for garnish
1 tsp dried Rosemary
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Arrange chicken in one layer on in 13 x 9" pan and season with salt and pepper (I like to use McCormick's Worcestershire Pepper).

Whisk the lemon juice, hone, Rosemary, and garlic in a bowl.  Pour over chicken.  Arrange lemon slices on top of chicken and bake for 30 minutes or until done.

That's all there is to it, and it's so good.  Your guests will be so impressed!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

What to do with the Leftovers???

We had lots of chicken, beef, and veggies left over.  And . . . with temps only in the 20s, that spelled soup to me.  I made a big pot of Chicken & Gnocchi Soup (the recipe was posted on the blog on October 29th) with the left over chicken.

The beef was coated in flour and then placed in a frying pan with vegetable oil heated over medium high heat.  Once browned, the beef was placed in a crock pot with four cups of beef stock (made from the beef and veggie scraps from prep night).  Add the leftover potatoes, carrots, celery, mushrooms, and one onion.  I diced one medium tomato and then put the lid on the crock pot.  I put the lid on and let it cook for 6 hours.  It made a great pot of beef stew.  It definitely warms you up inside.

I really haven't had to cook all weekend.

2010 - Hard to Believe

After all the prepping Emma and I did on Wednesday night, we had a wonderful fondue meal New Year's Eve.  We had one pot of chicken stock and one pot of beef stock with two garlic cloves and a bay leaf added to each.  We let these come to a boil and used them to cook our cut up potatoes, carrots, button mushrooms, and broccoli, as well as our chicken, teriyaki marinated beef, and shrimp.  Mmmm Good!

We made a cheese fondue of (2) 8 oz bags of Vermont Cheddar Cheese, 1/4 cup flour, a 12 oz can of Bud Light. 1/2 stick of butter, 1/4 cup of milk, 1/2 tsp ground mustard, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, and 1/2 tsp salt.  Mix all of the ingredients together and let melt over medium low heat.  Stir frequently.  We added 1/3 cup of bacon bits - yummy!  We used the cheese for dipping bread, broccoli and cauliflower.

Emma melted chocolate for dessert.  We sliced strawberries, bananas, apples, and marshmallows to dip in the chocolate.  What a finish!

Needless to say, nobody went home hungry.

Happy New Year!  I hope it's a year filled with blessings for all.