Thursday, September 24, 2009

Oatmeal Pumpkin Muffin Tops

The weather is still warm, but I feel like fall! Today I wanted to use up some extra pumpkin, so I made these cookies. They tasted more cake-y or muffin-ish so I have picked a name to suit.

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
(then I put just a dash each of nutmeg and cloves)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Additions: 1 cup raisins or chocolate chips or nuts. Just please don't pick raisins because they are so gross. It's like biting into a fly in the middle of your yummy cookie. Ewww!

Cream the first set of ingredients, add the second and then do any additions you want. The dough will be sticky. I found two spoons worked best for getting these on the baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 13 minutes.

This recipe isn't a 5 star for me yet. They needed a little more spice to them and maybe more oats just to give them more substance. They do taste super yummy with cream cheese frosting, though my poor daughter was so upset at me for skipping the chocolate chips.

I found a pretty similar recipe on foodista--you can try them both and let me know which one to make in the future. Happy fall, y'all!

Pumpkin Cookies on Foodista

Friday, September 4, 2009

Shredded Meaty Oreos

You read that right. According to Bryn, that's what we had for dinner. If they make fried Oreos, why not throw a little meat on top and make it a meal? Andrew was in a bit of shock when she told him that over the phone!

What we really had were shredded beef burritos.

Making Mexican style shredded beef is easy, but takes a lot of time. Break out the crock pot and follow this basic concept.

2 pound beef roast
3 or 4 cloves minced garlic
1 can petite diced tomatoes with green chilis
1 can red enchilada sauce
2 t chili powder
1 t cumin
1 t oregano

I like the sweet heat taste, so I will also throw in a little cayenne and then toward the end, a little bit of brown sugar. Leave it on the crock pot on high for 6 or so hours, until the meat shreds with a fork. Turn to low until you're ready to serve and the juicy goodness is all blended up. This is pretty versatile, so you can use regular tomatoes or rotel or just use tomato sauce and a can of green chilis, etc. You get the idea. This is a guideline recipe, instead of a follow it exactly recipe.

We had saffron rice, broccoli, and the burritos. Costco has some seriously tasty cook-it-yourself tortillas which we layered with cheese, shredded beef, green onions, cilantro and avacado. Yum!

And I do know the broccoli isn't very Mexican, but I bought one of those giant Costco bags so we've had it for the last five nights! (Hey Costco: I love you and hate you, at the same ti-iiiime...)

Mexican Meat Mix on Foodista

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Zucchini Cornbread Bake

This is the yummiest and super easiest, hearty side dish. In fact it was so well loved at our house that we ate it all before I even took a picture, and I'll be sure to double this when I make it again.

The cast of characters:

2-3 cups shredded zucchini
1/2 t salt
1 package cornbread mix (I used the 6.5 ounce Betty Crocker)
1/2 c chopped onion
1/2 c corn kernels
2 eggs
1/4 t ground pepper
8 ounces shredded cheese

350 degrees for 1 hour. (Yes, really--one whole hour)

Salt the shredded zucchini, and let it sit in a colander to remove excess moisture. Then stir everything together, except for a handful of cheese. Pour into a well-greased pan and bake. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top for the last 15 minutes of baking. Remove from oven and eat the whole pan in ten minutes. You don't really have to do that part, but I'm telling you that you will want to.

This comes out with a texture more like polenta, but it holds together well for cutting into squares. My not quite as food savvy husband described this as being like quiche, but not like quiche. I like this because I think there's great versatility to work with. Add bacon or sausage and it's a breakfast casserole. Put in some cayenne and use pepper jack cheese and serve it with black bean soup.

Foodie news flash: The big O has become an expert egg cracker. This is exciting stuff, but it means he wants to make cake all the time now!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Marshmallow Fondant for Claire's Birthday

My baby is one! Sweet Claire gets dragged along all the time, so I thought she needed a super cute birthday cake on a day that was all about her. Enter her fascination with oinking and pigs and, voila, piggy birthday cake for the big day.

I've heard about marshmallow fondant and read about marshmallow fondant, but I've never tried making it before. I think I was more intimidated than necessary, and I feel it turned out well all things considered.

The ingredients:
16 oz bag of mini marshmallows
32 oz powdered sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons water
shortening to grease your hands and work surface

I had a smaller bag of marshmallows on hand, so using the same proportions:
10.5 oz mini marshallow bag
16 oz powdered sugar box, plus 1/2 c
1.5 T water

The technique:
Get a nice big microwave safe bowl and spray with oil. I highly recommend you make sure your bowl will fit in your microwave. There are some people out there (not that I would know anything about that--ahem), who might not check that and then they'd have to get out a new bowl and for more dirty dishes.

Dump the mini marshmallows in and sprinkle the water over the top. In all my internet reading, people recommended using the name brand mallows and making sure they were fresh. I have no idea if it really makes a difference, but went along since I figured I should do anything that would up my chances for success. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between each, until you have some nice melted marshmallow goo. You want to get this melted enough to be smooth, but not too hot since you'll be plunging your hands into soon.

Then get your powdered sugar out and dump most all of it into the bowl. Stir like crazy until your spoon won't work anymore. Then get out the Crisco and grease your hands up very well. (Take off any rings or watches--this is the stickiest!) Start smooshing it in the bowl until the sugar is incorporated. Add more sugar if it's too sticky and don't forget to keep greasing your hands as needed. You may not need to add every bit of the called for sugar, so use your best judgment/guess.

Once you've reached approximate ball form, you can turn this out onto a greased work surface and knead, knead, knead and knead some more until smooth. This took me somewhere in the 5 minute range, I think. This is also where you'll want to add any coloring you're using. I added mine after the sugar was pretty well incorporated. The next few minutes of kneading got the color very even. Once again, Crisco all over the hands will keep the color from transferring to you. Mine still had a few tiny powdered sugar clumps, so I think I oversugared it.

Take your dough balls, coat with Crisco, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and pop those balls into the fridge. This is another step where I followed my reading, but have no actual knowledge. Apparently a nice overnight rest in the fridge does something good and makes the fondant roll out better, so I followed along yet again. This did seem to help with my little sugar pieces as when I got the balls out and rolled my pieces, they seemed to have pretty much disappeared. Moral: don't freak too badly if you have tiny sugar pieces in your fondant.

From what I've read (yes, blindly following once again!) you can leave these in the fridge well wrapped for a number of weeks or put them in the freezer for a few months. When cake day arrives, pull those babies out. They'll be crazy hard, but again the microwave comes in handy as you can microwave 10-20-30ish seconds depending on size just to get some pliability. Then roll out, cut, shape and place on your yummy dessert to your heart's content. You do need to coat cakes with buttercream first in order to have the fondant stick in place. My smaller than normal recipe made more enough for piggy, eight cupcakes and enough left over to at least double what I did.

Claire got sick on her actual birthday, so the cake sat a few days and the fondant got a bit less perfect and smooth looking; it was actually a bit cuter when first made. Little piggy isn't perfect, but I'm happy for a first attempt. And Claire was thrilled, which is really all that matters.

Happy Birthday, sweet baby!

Marshmallow Fondant on Foodista

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chicken Spaghetti ala Pioneer Woman

If you haven't read Ree (aka The Pioneer Woman), you really should. She's fun and quirky and has lots of recipes that sound tasty, but wow, oh wow to the photos. You'll probably start drooling and then licking the screen if you look too long. That's how good the photos are and how yummy the food sounds.

To be really honest here--and ya know, what's the point if I'm not--Chicken Spaghetti would not have been my first choice for what to make. It has cream of whatever soups in it, and cream of whatever soups are just gross. First of all, who knows what's in them, and second, I shudder just thinking about the blobby goop that come squelching out of the can. And for the record, yes I do have issues; that would be pretty much all meat and now cream of whatever soup, if you're keeping track. I'm sure you are.

Anyhow, all of my wonderful HYH ladies have great things to say about this casserole and make it regularly. That many women with generally good tastes can't be wrong, can they? So I tried it.

Here's the recipe:

And here's the tutorial and all the photos you could ever want:

Here's what I did differently:
Just used chicken breasts. Cooked them ahead and chopped. Then I cooked the spaghetti in half broth and half water. I also reduced the amount of cheese a little bit because it just seemed like a ton when I was putting it on. I don't think any of my changes made a substantial difference in the end product, so even though my husband mocks me for being unable to make a recipe as written, this one pretty much is. So there, honey!

What I liked about it:
Quick and simple casserole that's easy to freeze, but has flavor and isn't on the potluck table every time. There's a bit of chopping and assembling, but it can all be done ahead of time. Andrew, Bryn and Claire LOVED it and would probably eat it every day if I would serve it every day. It also makes enough for an army, so you can split it into two pans and use one now and freeze one for later.

What I didn't like:
Owen and Ella wouldn't eat it, but they live on crackers and air so that's not particularly unusual. It's too gloppy (see previous cream of whatever soup commentary), and I wanted a lot more veggies in there to balance this out. If I'm going to make a casserole, I don't really want to have to cook up side dishes. Maybe I'd do a salad, or some fruit, but no actual cooking beyond the casserole. Next time I'll try adding more veggies and making my own base instead of using the canned soup.

I'll let you know how that works for me.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rustic Italian Sausage Soup and Pitzas

I had nothing planned for dinner today and looking through the fridge and cabinets was not inspiring.  Note to self: go grocery shopping.

Random Leftover Things Italian soup (or you can use the nice name in the title):

2/3 lb sausage
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 or so baby carrots, chopped
1 large potato, diced
2 tsp or so of Italian type spices (mostly basil and oregano with thyme, sage, and marjoram)
3 cups liquid (I did about half chicken broth, half water)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 can kidney beans

Throw the onion, garlic and sausage into a pan and cook until onions are mostly done.  Add in the baby carrots, potato and spices.  Stir it around a few minutes more. 

Then add the liquid, tomatoes and beans.  Bring to a boil and cook until the carrots and potatoes are done.

I used Turkey Polska Kielbasa since my kids love it and we usually have some around.  I think this would probably be better with a real sausage and no casing.  I thought it was a bit like putting hot dogs in soup (c'mon, admit it, that's what you thought when you saw that picture up above!), but everyone else liked it.  I'd also probably replace the kidney beans with white beans, but that's just me not liking the size of kidney beans even though the flavor was good. This soup was quick, cheap and everyone but Owen ate it up.  Claire was scary with how much and how fast she was eating.

We also made Pitzas.  Claire inhaled those, too as you can see.  The kids love to do these since it's so hands on and fun for them.  Just take pita bread, add some type of sauce (Ragu in our case--so fancy!) and sprinkle the cheese on top.  Sometimes we'll do these and the kids get to choose their own toppings, but tonight was just cheese.  Then throw them in the oven under the broiler until the cheese is good and melty and serve.   The soup wasn't as kid friendly for my little helpers, but the pitzas made up for that in their opinion.   I did let Owen use a plastic knife and slice the sausage.  That took all kinds of soap afterwards since ew, yuck, my baby touched meat! but he was so incredibly proud.  He even had an opinion on how to pose for a photo and which photo to put on here.  We disagree on that one, so I'm putting up thumbnails of both and you can choose your favorite.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Artichoke Chicken

I've never been good with meat.  When I was a kid, I refused to eat on the nights we had chicken with bones in it.  My brothers would tease me other nights by squeezing their strips of steak so the blood oozed out.  I felt faint, I felt sick inside, I felt like I would never ever want to eat meat.  I loved it when my parents had a date night and we were fed macaroni and cheese with carrot sticks. 

So anyhow, all that to say that meat is icky, gross, disgusting and unpleasant and I really try to avoid cooking it whenever I can.  I've figured out that it actually can taste good a lot of times, but ugh do I hate the thought of it.  When my mom visits me, she buys chicken, dices it up and freezes it for me so I can plop it into a dish later without having to touch it.  Yes, I really am that wimpy.

But tonight I was brave.  I touched chicken, I trimmed it and I am even going to try to eat it.  (Yeah, that's another problem.  If I have to prepare meat, then I'm kind of grossed out about eating it, even though I can eat just fine when someone else makes it.  Double standard?  You bet!) 

Tonight's meal is Artichoke Chicken, based on a recipe I saw in a blog that was based on a recipe from   How's that for kinda sorta giving credit where credit is due?  It pretty much sounded like artichoke dip on top of chicken, so how can that possibly be bad?

Here's the cast of characters in our case:

salt and pepper
1/4 c parmesan cheese
1/2 c italian shredded cheese
1/2 c mayo
1/4 c sour cream
1/2 tsp minced garlic
12.5 ounce jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
5 boneless skinless chicken breasts
bread crumbs to sprinkle on top

Combine all ingredients except chicken breast in a bowl and mix.  Place chicken in a dish and top with the mix.  Sprinkle bread crumbs on top.  I did this just to add color since it looked so very white.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until juices run clear.

The big O loves to help in the kitchen and this was a great recipe for him since he could mix like crazy and then got to plop it all over.  I just made sure he didn't get contaminated by the chicken in the process.

So dinner is done.  We ate this with risotto and peas and some fruit on the side.  I'd call it successful enough to repeat again, since everyone did eat (though some of them just happened to scrape the topping off).  It would also be an easy dish for company since you can do everything ahead of time and then just pop it in the oven.

The original recipe called for parmesan, but since all the parmesan I had in the house was in the form of extra pizza packets, that's what we ended up using.  Real parmesan probably would have been better.  I'd also add a little cayenne or more garlic or something to kick it up a bit if I made it again.   And somewhere inside this recipe is a tasty casserole with rice waiting to get out.

Artichoke on Foodista