Saturday, March 23, 2013

Adventures in Pasta Making (A Picture Story)

Once upon a time....

The End.

Special thanks to:
Melissa Knickerbocker (my sister)
Camille Knickerbocker (my niece)
Danny Allen (my husband, he also ate it)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Taco Soup

     Finally, finally, finally a day that is cool enough for soup!!  Changes in the weather are very exciting for me.  Because that means I get to start changing up the ideas for dinner.  I think my favorite time of the year for cooking are the cooler months.  I love being able to be in my kitchen and just start creating and not worry about heating up the house too much :).  I really enjoy cooking things that take time and thought.  I like trying new things out.  I like learning what works and what doesn't.  And so, tonight was a "let's try this" kind of night.
     It all started with a pound of hamburger I took out this morning to thaw.  I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do with it by lunch time.  It's been a wonderfully cool day and what better for that then a nice hot bowl of soup?  Taco soup to be exact.  And you know what's great about soup?  The fact that you can pretty much throw anything into it.  
     After I finished eating lunch I put probably about 3/4 cup of dried black beans in my slow cooker along with 6 cups or so of water and a lot of salt.  Set it on high and let her go.  (I've decided to start buying dried black beans because they are less expensive and easy to make.  Four hours in a slow cooker on high or about 30 minutes or so in a pressure cooker).
     When I got home at the end of the day I melted about 2 tablespoons of butter in a good sized soup pot, started browning the hamburger seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, and chili powder.  I added in one medium sized yellow onion chopped up.  After the meat and onion started to cook into each other I drained the beans and added them along with a drained can of corn, about 2 tablespoons of sliced jalapenos from a jar (I chopped them up really fine hand cranked food processor), about a cup of salsa (medium), and a box of chicken stock (4 cups).  I did also add in one bay leaf, cause it's not soup without a bay leaf :).  Covered it and let it come up to a boil and then turned it down.  It cooked for about 15 minutes before I tasted it.  I added a bit more salt and let continue to simmering, covered.
     As the soup was simmering away, I sliced up some corn tortillas into strips, sprayed some oil on them and seasoned with salt and baked them at 400 degrees until crispy (keep an eye on those puppies, they burn quick!)  
     When the tortilla strips were done I served up the soup with some shredded pepper jack cheese, a dollup of sour cream, and the tortillas strips.  
     Danny was a happy husband :)
     The spiciness can be adjusted any way you like.  You can substitute the jalapenos for Ortega chilies and use a mild salsa if you would like it less spicy or add more jalapenos and spicier salsa if you like a lot of kick.  It's an easy soup to make and inexpensive.  I didn't have to make any special trips to the store.  And as it cooked, the starches from the corn and beans thickened up the liquid perfectly.  I didn't have to add anything to thicken it.
     I hope you try it out and try other ideas you come up with.  Don't be afraid!  Have fun in the kitchen!  Learn!  Laugh!  Eat!
     Happy cooking!!



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Getting Creative in September

     I've been itchin' to get creative in the kitchen.  It all started on Saturday while Danny was at work.  I was pondering what to make for dinner.  So once again, I opened my freezer to view what I had in there.  After digging around for a bit I came upon an idea.... Chicken Enchiladas.  But not your run of the mill, regular chicken enchiladas.  I was craving creamy goodness.  Yet still, that wasn't enough.  I wanted bacon too.  Hmmm.... Ok, "Let's try this," I told myself.  "Let's mix chicken, bacon, and spinach together with a few other goodies, wrap it up on a corn tortilla, and then cover the everything in a creamy sauce and cheese."  So I got to cookin' (after everything was thawed out).  
     Here's how it played out:
Boil 2 chicken breasts in chicken stock.  I used chicken stock and water with salt (didn't have enough stock).  Season the liquid with a smoky type seasoning.  I used Pampered Chef's Smoky Applewood Rub.  Boil until the juices run clear.  Set aside to rest.
While the chicken is boiling, cut up about 4 strips of thick cut bacon and cook until nice and crispy.  Drain on a paper towel and set aside.  After the chicken has cooled for a bit, cut it into smaller pieces and place in a food processor.  Pulse until the chicken is finely chopped.. Mix one package of frozen, chopped spinach (thawed and drained well), bacon, chicken, about a 1/4 cup sour cream, less than a 1/4 cup of fresh chives, salt/pepper/garlic powder all to taste, and a couple tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese.  Set aside.
Mix one can of cream of mushroom soup, about a cup of milk or half and half (until the mix is a "saucy" consistency), salt/pepper/garlic powder to taste, and a teaspoon or so of the smoky seasoning (used in the boiling liquid).
After the chicken has cooled for a bit, cut it into smaller pieces and place in a food processor.  Pulse until the chicken is finely chopped.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Wrap a big heaping spoonful of the chicken mixture into a corn tortilla and place it in a 9x13.  I made about 13 enchiladas.  Pour the creamy sauce over the top and sprinkle a cup (or more) of cheddar cheese on the top.
Bake until very bubbly and the cheese has browned a bit (about 20 minutes).
Let it simmer down before you serve.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

National Chocolate Day

     To honor National Chocolate Day properly, I decided to create something with chocolate :).  I pulled out my "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" cookbook and turned straight to the dessert section.  Thumbing through the pages of deliciousness, I came across Mousseline Au Chocolat, aka Chocolate Mousse.  
     I read through the recipe a couple of times, making sure I understood how this chocolaty goodness all came together.  I had most of the ingredients.  I was only missing a few, the essential ones actually.  Off to the store I went in search of semi sweet chocolate, unsalted butter, orange liqueur, and heavy whipping cream.
     On my way to good ol WinCo, I started thinking about where in the store would I find the orange liqueur.  I've never looked for it before.  So, I text my good friend and fellow cook, Brooke.  She informed me that it would be in the "hard liquor" section.  Great, where is the "hard liquor" section at WinCo lol.  I found it.  It's up front away from everything else, quite cut off from the rest of the store :).  I made my purchases and headed home for my Chocolate Mousse adventure.
     I read through the recipe again and did all my prep.  I usually don't do that.  I'm bad and get things going as I'm in the middle of making the recipe. Prepping is quite important actually.  It just makes things move along so much smoother.  
     This is how it goes basically: egg yolks, egg whites, sugar, a lot of butter :), chocolate, orange liqueur, and some coffee all mixed together strategically to form this luscious, creamy, rich dessert called Mousseline Au Chocolat.  It cools in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (that's about as long as I could wait).  Make up a batch of whipped cream, serve some mousse and top with that wonderful whipped cream and have at it!  Danny and I greatly enjoyed it :).
     Side Note:  There was one thing I did differently with it.  I used Splenda instead of sugar and it came out perfect.  I'll make it with sugar if I'm making it for other people.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Yum! Can You Say Grilled Chicken?

     With the weather getting warmer, a lot warmer, I thought we would celebrate Friday night with grilled chicken for dinner.  I found this simple marinade recipe and tried it out.  There does need to be a bit of planning ahead for this recipe.  You need to make sure your chicken breasts are completely thawed out and they need to marinate for a least an hour.  Another great thing about this marinade recipe is that I had almost all the ingredients at home.  All I needed to purchase was a lime :)  Oh, you can find it on under "Spicy Grilled Chicken."  BTW, it's really not spicy for those of you who don't like things spicy.
     All you need is some veggie oil, a lime, garlic, oregano (fresh is best), red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.  Combine all of those tasty goodies together in a plastic bag, toss in your chicken breasts, move them around a bit and put them in the fridge for an hour and there ya go.
     Now, I'm not the bbq'er in our small family of two.  That's Danny's job :).  But last night he was busy getting a hair cut so I decided to tackle our little Smokey Joe BBQ.  I got the coals going without burning my eyebrows off :).  Came close to it, but they are still in tact.
     Once the chicken has marinated for an hour and your coals are all ready to go, put the chicken on the grill and put the lid on (make sure the vents are open).  I cooked them about 7 minutes on each side.  Keep an eye on them though.  If your coals are pretty hot, it probably will cook faster and dry out.  To check for doneness, I used my meat thermometer but mostly relied on the juices running clear.  I took them off the grill and covered them with foil then placed them in my oven on warm.
     Proceed to making the rest of dinner.
     I found a box of mac and cheese in the pantry and cooked that up.  Spiced it up a bit with added black pepper and some garlic.  Danny loves garlic.  Then made a quick ranch dressing with sour cream, milk, Parmesan cheese, dried dill, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper and we poured that over a salad of fresh baby spinach and a couple of carrots.
     The chicken came out so moist and tender and full of flavor.  And you can never go wrong with mac and cheese, especially if you tweak it up a bit.  Fresh spinach makes a great salad full of nutrients.
     I'm very thankful for everything the Lord has provided for us and the joy I get from cooking!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Fun with Yeast Dough

I'm on a new kick now, making things with yeast dough. It's a lot of fun for me and a bit of an arm workout when I get to kneed the dough. The dough smells so good while it's rising and even better while it's baking. I think I'm going to start making my own bread from now on. It's less expensive that way and I know exactly what's in it. I've looked up quite a lot of whole wheat bread recipes but I haven't found one that really caught my eye yet. If anyone has a recipe, I'd love to hear about it.
My first "fun with yeast dough" adventure was
making a meat roll. I got the idea from watching "Diners, Drive-In's, and Dives." It's basically the same idea as a cinnamon roll, only with pesto sauce, sausage and hamburger, and cheese. My sister, Melissa, and her husband, Michael, came over and we got to try the experiment together.
It was a little messy to make, but nothing that wasn't difficult to clean up. I found a cinnamon roll recipe for the dough and just replaced all the sweet
fillings for the savory ones. We decided th
at it would be really good with an extra sauce of some kind to go over the top. I was thinking a cheesy sauce, but I bet a tomato sauce would be really good too if you didn't want it as heavy.
The next adventure was making pretzels. This was insanely easy. I do believe there were only 4 ingredients for the dough. If found the recipe on I didn't attempt to do the cute twist that pretzels have. That took a bit too much thinking at 9 pm. They definitely need salt on top. Probably more than I put on there.
I tried to make a beer cheese sauce to go with the soft pretzels. That was a huge flop. I didn't follow a recipe. I just tried to wing it.
It didn't work. Next time, I'll be sure to look at a recipe to get some ideas before I try that one again. I do know that canned nacho cheese would have been great with the pretzels.
The last adventure took place last weekend. I made a oxtail stew and wanted fresh bread to go with it. I found the great recipe for egg bread in one of my cookbooks. And one of the great things about it was that I
had all the ingredients already. It came out nice and dense and moist. It looked pretty too :). I had to stop and think about braiding again. (I haven't braided in a long time).

It's really been a blast trying out these yeast dough recipes. It's neat to kinda do things the way they used to be done a long time ago. It also makes me appreciate the things I make more, because I put effort into it instead of just going to the store and buying a loaf of bread. It's fun thinking about what I could make with the ingredients I have in my pantry. It's awesome to realize how blessed by God we are to be able to enjoy our kitchen and the bounty He has given us.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Couple of Weeknight Dinners

It's been a little while since I've been on here. Since that time I made a couple of easy weeknight dinners. One is great for a drizzly evening and the other is a great one for getting your spouse or children involved.

Last week we had a cold and wet night. As usual, I'm at working thinking of what to make for dinner. I've been in the mood for chicken but I don't want to bake a whole chicken. That's more a weekend kind of dinner for me. I also want to get some veggies in my system. Thinking, thinking.... Chicken and Dumpling Soup! Perfect for a night like this. And on top of that, it's EASY.
I did make a run to the store to pick up a whole chicken. I used half of the hen because there are only two of us at home. I've made chicken soup with the whole chicken before and it just ends up going to waste because there are way too many leftovers. I cut the bird in half and then cut off the leg, the thigh, and the wing. I removed the breast from the bones and put it all in my stock pot. I also put all the gizzards and the bones from that half in the pot as well. Bones and gizzards add really good flavor.
I added about three cups of water, enough to cover the chicken, along with one can of chicken broth. Tossed in some chicken granules, a little salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, a bay leaf, dried thyme, dried sage, and dried parsley. I don't know who much of those seasonings, but you can just eyeball it. If the flavor is not right after you taste it when the chicken is done cooking, just add some more of whatever works. Bring the soup to a boil and let her go until the chicken is almost done.
At this point, I added one stalk of chopped celery, one chopped onion (I used a yellow one), and one chopped carrot. Add these to the soup and continue to cook for about another ten minutes or so.
Once the chicken is done, remove from the soup along with the gizzards and any extra bones. Let it cool for a bit if you like. Remove the skin and the flesh from the bones and cut into bite size pieces. Add those back to the soup.
I then added probably about 3/4 of a cup to a cup each of frozen peas and green beans to the soup. Bring back up to a boil.
While the soup is coming back up to a boil, make your dumplings.
There is a great recipe on the side of the Bisquick box for dumplings. 2 cups of Bisquick and 3/4 cup of milk mixed together. I added salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried parsley to the mix. It will be sticky, like drop biscuit dough. Set it aside.
To thicken the soup, I put about three heaping tablespoons of flour in a bowl and mixed it with enough of the hot cooking liquid until it made a paste. Add that to the soup and stir until dissolved. The soup will thicken immediately.
Take large spoonfuls of the dumpling mixture and add them to the bubbling soup. They will float. Cook them uncovered for a few minutes and then cover them and cook for another few minutes. You can test the "doneness" of them simply by breaking one open. They should be the consistency of a biscuit.
Serve up the yummy, heart-warming supper in your favorite big bowl and be sure to be in your favorite pair of jammies too :).

The next one I made last night. I took out a pound of hamburger and again, thinking, "What am I going to make with this?" at work. I'm on a crunchy food kick right now. The last couple of times we've gone to a Mexican restaurant I've ordered taquitos. And guess what, I had a bunch of corn tortillas in my fridge :).
Taquitos it was! Now this is easy.
Brown your hamburger seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I decided to add cumin, chili powder, and a pinch of cayenne pepper along with a yellow onion finely chopped. When the hamburger was all done, I ran it through my food processor for a little bit to make sure it was nice and finely ground. Not mush, nice a small pieces of hamburger. Like you get at the Mexican restaurants.
I heated up some peanut oil in an 8 inch pan. About a half inch of oil. I decided to use the peanut oil because it has a very high smoke point and I had it. You can use veggie oil and it would work just fine. The one thing I did find out about the peanut oil was that it doesn't stink up the place like veggie oil does. Before you start frying your taquitos make sure the oil is hot enough. You can test this by putting a little bit of the hamburger mixture in the oil. If it bubbles and sizzles, it's ready.
Warm up your corn tortillas in the microwave, this makes them much easier to work with. Place a small amount of hamburger mix off center of the tortilla and roll nice and tight. Secure with a toothpick. Once you have a few of them made place them carefully in the hot oil, seam side down, and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Remove from the hot oil and let them drain on a cooling rack with paper towels under it. Salt them lightly immediately. You have to make these in batches, so you can keep them warm in your oven heated to "Warm".
Serve them with anything you like. I love guacamole, but we didn't have any. So I used sour cream, salsa, cheddar cheese, and cabbage.
Danny helped with these. He was in charge of rolling them up for me :). He did a very good job! Love you babe <3,

I hope you try these out and enjoy them :)