Friday, November 30, 2012

November Foodie Penpal!

The Lean Green Bean

This month's Foodie Penpal comes from Kim of Peanut Butter and Push Ups.  She is a registered dietician and hails from fabulous New York.  I am always in awe of runners, mostly because I lack the stamina to do so.  Kim is no exception - she has a little widget on her blog that logs miles run.  Can you believe she's logged 500 miles in the year of 2012?!  That's amazing!  She recently participated in NY Runners in Support of Staten Island, where she and other runners ran through Staten Island delivering supplies and helping those in need from the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

Now that we've established how awesome Kim is.  Let's talk about the fantastic package she sent me.

The first thing I went for... Chocolate covered pretzel crisps with peppermint.  Uh-mazing!  We snuck these in with us when we went to see the latest James Bond film, Skyfall.  Talk about better than any of the snacks at the theater!  Second item, the terra chips.  I'm pretty sure I've had these before, but I'm not sure I ate a whole bag before.  Apparently, there is a first for everything.

Next, I read Kim's note.  How hilarious is it that she has a bacon card for me?!  I am just loving Foodie Penpals.  I love that my package came from New York and I sent a package off to Puerto Rico.  Puerto Rico, can you believe it?!

Kim says she's been making flatbread pizza with dried figs, goat cheese, and carmelized onions.  That sounds like a fabulous combination.  She had me at flatbread pizza.  And rounding out the package were a pack of dried tropical fruits, an apple crisp mix, and a tasty bar of chocolate (which I believe went in my husband's tummy because I haven't seen it lately).

I love Foodie Penpals!  It's like getting tasty birthday presents every month.  It's fun shopping for stuff to send and it's so much fun getting a box too.  Foodie Penpals unites foodies from all over the US, plus there's a Canada program too.  Lindsay at the Lean Green Bean is genius.

Note: Foodie Penpals is on hold for the month of December.  Lindsay is changing it up for December as a way to help those effected by Hurricane Sandy.  Check out the details at Foodie Penpals for Charity.

The Lean Green Bean

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chile Verde Chicken Enchiladas

My MIL is a busy bee. She always stocks our fridge with meats and bless her heart, she makes beef enchiladas (one of my husband's favorite meals) when she visits. This time, in addition to the beef enchiladas, she rolled up some chicken enchiladas and stuck them in our freezer. She left us a can of green chile enchilada sauce in the cupboard to pour on top when we were ready to bake them. My only contribution was a quick trip to Trader Joe's for some Jack cheese. Hubby shredded the cheese, popped it in the oven and voila! Dinner was ready in a half hour. I just might like these chicken ones better than the beef ones in red sauce.

Mr A, when served, immediately said, "I don't like that."  We insisted that he try a little and he did, and he ended up eating 1.5 enchiladas.  We were proud.  I think reading Green Eggs and Ham helps - gotta try something before you say you don't like it!

Chile Verde Chicken Enchiladas

2 c chicken, cooked & shredded
2 T olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
12 corn tortillas
1/4 t chili powder
1 28 oz can green chile enchilada sauce
1 c cheddar cheese, shredded
2 c Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/2 c sour cream, optional

  1. Heat olive oil and sauté onions until translucent and slightly browned. Remove from heat.
  2. Soften tortillas either by frying lightly in oil or heating in a cast iron skillet.
  3. Preheat oven to 375.
  4. Place a spoonful of chicken, onions, and cheddar cheese in the center of a tortilla.  Sprinkle a little chili powder, then roll the tortilla, placing the seam side down in a baking pan. Repeat with remaining filling and tortillas.*
  5. Pour green chile enchilada sauce on top of enchiladas and top with Jack cheese.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly.
  7. Serve with a dollop of sour cream on top.
* Rolled enchiladas can be frozen in a baking pan to eat later. Cooking time will be longer if frozen. Note: We moved the pan of enchiladas from the freezer to the fridge the night before so they had time to defrost in the fridge.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Tart Cherry Pie

My mom hosted Thanksgiving part 2 over the weekend. It was suppose to be a "light dinner" and everyone was suppose to bring something. She asked me to bring ham and mashed potatoes.

But I was thinking something sweet too... I've been eying the 2 cans of tart cherries left in my cupboard from my in-laws' visit last week. My MIL made this fantastic cherry pie with those cherries and I was regretting not eating more last week. Lo and behold! The recipe was on the back of the label. Even better, there was a recipe for homemade pie crust and then one for the cherry filling. I wasn't feeling like I wanted to make pie crust so I picked up some ready made pie crusts from Trader Joe's.

This cherry pie is way too easy. Why I don't make pies more often, I don't know. Using ready made pie crusts makes it so incredibly simple. Now I didn't look at the ingredient label of the pie crust, though if I did, I'd probably see additives and other things I don't like, but let's not focus on that.

Interesting, I googled the recipe for this pie off of the Oregon Cherries site, and it calls for twice as much sugar on the website as on the label. On the back of the label, it says 1/2-3/4 cup of sugar, but the website says 1 1/2 cups of sugar. I used 1/2 cup and it was plenty for me.

Tart Cherry Pie

1/2 cup sugar (more or less to taste)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cans Oregon Red Tart Pie Cherries, drained, reserve juice from one can
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 tablespoon butter
Pastry for two-crust 9-inch pie

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Drain the cherries and reserve the juice from only one can. In a saucepan, stir the cherry juice into the combined mixture of the cornstarch and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Gently stir in cherries and almond extract. Remove from heat.
  3. Pour filling into pastry lined pie pan. Dot with butter.
  4. Place the second pie crust on top. Adjust crust, seal and vent. Alternatively, create lattice for top.
  5. Bake 45 minutes or until crust browns and filling begins to bubble. If necessary, cover edges with aluminum foil during the last 15 minutes to prevent over-browning.
  6. Cool pie several hours to allow filling to thicken before slicing.
Makes 8 servings.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turkey Soup

Thanksgiving is over. What do you do with leftovers? Aside from just eating more turkey and stuffing (which I totally did), turkey sandwiches, frittatas, fried rice, and soup are my favorite.

Remember my Cheater's Chicken Soup? Here's a turkey version.  Same basic idea.  Saute your mirepoix.  Add in turkey broth from your turkey.  If you made gravy out of the turkey juices, you could add that too.  A can of chicken or vegetable broth would work too.  Add in some of your leftover turkey and simmer.  I wanted some green in my soup.  I had some of my go to frozen broccoli, so I added that.  I used my leftover rice yesterday for fried rice, so I cooked up some pasta to go with this soup.

A complete and healthy meal in less than 20 minutes!

2 T olive oil
3 ribs celery, diced
1/2 onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 c broccoli florets, chopped
1 c turkey (cooked), diced
1/4 t garlic, crushed
2 c turkey broth
2 c water
1/4 t poultry seasoning
1/4 t sugar
salt & pepper to taste

  1. Heat a large soup pot. Add olive oil and coat bottom of the pan. Add celery, carrots, and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Add turkey, broth, water, poultry seasoning, and salt & pepper to taste. Bring to a boil.
  3. Simmer for 7-8 min, add broccoli, and simmer additional 5-7 min until veggies are tender.
  4. Adjust seasonings if desired.
  5. Serve with rice or pasta.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Early T-Day Lunch

My in-laws are were in town. It's never worked out that they're here during Thanksgiving. But this year, they were here the weekend before so why not have turkey dinner one week early? Uh, hello... Genius!

Usually, Thanksgiving and other big holidays are spent with my Mom's side of the family, though sometimes we'll have my Dad's side too. It's typically at least 15 people, if not 20+. And we're growing too, now that my generation has significant others and babies too.

It was a little odd that we all fit around the table and it was just 6 adults and Mr A, since the baby was sleeping. But the food was still fantastic and it was still all about family. We had turkey, ham, zucchini, butternut squash, and dressing. Ahhh... So yummy! And did I mention we ate at 1pm? Again, genius. Because it was lunch time, I don't think I over ate. I took a nice post turkey nap afterwards and then it was time for dinner (leftovers of course).

Other genius moments of the day:
  • Turkey cooked in an oven bag, resulting in a super moist turkey.  I'm definitely gonna do this next time.
  • A homemade tart cherry pie - OMG, to die for! Canned cherry pie filling has always had a metallic taste to me, but not this bad boy!
  • Butternut squash - I've never cooked this in my life, but we had them oven roasted with a little salt and butter. Yum.
  • Dressing - What is the difference between dressing and stuffing? My MIL makes fantastic dressing with homemade cornbread, onions, celery, cream of mushroom, and sage.  Usually, she puts an egg in there too, but this time, she left it out because of Mr A's egg allergy.  I believe the egg is a binding agent but it was fine without.  In fact, I think I liked it better without because it was less mushy.  Well, the dressing is all gone now, mostly in my tummy.
Because we had turkey and ham this past weekend, we decided to forgo another turkey dinner today.  It was kind of nice, just being home, just another day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Beef Stroganoff

A few years ago, I picked up Paula Deen's autobiography from the library. It was an easy and interesting read. 3 things particularly stick in my head after reading it. 1) Paula has agoraphobia. 2) There was a time when she lived in a roach infested place. 3) She made this beef stroganoff recipe for one of her first big catering shindigs and hates it now.

Don't get me wrong. This Paula Deen recipe is a fantastic. It's so easy and the ingredients, so simple. I think it's because she made so much that day that now she can't stand it. Too much of a good thing.

But I'm not sick of this baby yet. I could eat it for days. And I have. Like 3 meals a day until it was gone. This is good stuff and it makes a lot. Today, I halved the recipe, but added extra mushrooms, and left out the sour cream because I didn't have any. I also used whole wheat rotini because Mr A is allergic to egg and whole wheat pasta is just a little healthier.

Beef Stroganoff

Adapted from Paula Deen 

2 T olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
3/4 lb chuck steak, cut into thin strips
1/4 t salt
1/8 t garlic powder
1/8 t black pepper
1/8 t garlic, crushed
2 T Worchestire Sauce
1 lb crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 (10 3/4 oz) can beef broth
1/2 (10 3/4 oz) can cream of mushroom soup
3/4 lb whole wheat pasta

1/2 c sour cream
1 c frozen peas

  1. Cook pasta, drain.
  2. Heat a large skillet.  Add olive oil and onion.  Saute until slightly brown and translucent.
  3. Add steak strips.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and cook until brown.
  4. Add beef broth, crushed garlic, and Worchestire sauce.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Add cream of mushroom and stir until well combined.  Add mushrooms.  Cook about 5 minutes, or until mushrooms have softened.
  6. Add sour cream if desired, pasta, and green peas.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sausage, Potato & Kale Soup

Kale, never eaten it, until yesterday. I understand it's quite the "it" food right now. I've seen kale chips at Trader Joe's and have read about its health benefits. Then, I saw this awesome recipe at Serena Cooks From Scratch for an Olive Garden knock off Sausage, Potato, & Kale soup. Now, I can't tell you the last time I went to the Olice Garden, so I have no idea what soup she's referring to, but bacon meets potatoes and Parmesan cheese sounded delicious.

Over the weekend, I bought a bag of frozen kale, chicken broth, and some sweet Italian sausage. Apparently, I didn't read the ingredients on Serena's recipe very well because I didn't buy cream or Parmesan cheese. I had dried oregano but no rosemary (though I suppose I could have snipped some of this bush that's right on the corner). I had some Yukon gold potatoes in the fridge so I used those instead of russets. There are some people who follow recipes to the T. (Where exactly does that saying come from?). I pretty much never follow recipes. I think recipes are just a starting point and you put your own personal touch to it.

So I give you my version of Sausage, Potato, and Kale soup. By the way, I tossed in my entire 1 lb bag of frozen kale. As hearty as it made my soup, it seemed to suck up all the broth, so in my recipe below, I'm cutting it down to 1/2 lb frozen kale.

update: While I've been enjoying my soup, I've been thinking some cannellini beans might be nice in there too.

Sausage, Potato, and Kale Soup

adapted from Serena Bakes Simply From Scratch
3/4 pounds sweet Italian sausage
1 lb crimini mushrooms, sliced
4 slices bacon, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 t garlic, crushed
1/8 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t oregano, dried
3 Yukon gold potatoes, medium sized, sliced 1/4" thick
1/2 t salt
1/8 t ground black pepper
1 qt chicken broth
1/2 lb frozen Kale (large stems removed and chopped)

1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/2 cup Milk
1 cup Parmesan Cheese, Grated

  1. In a large soup pot, brown sausage. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté until cooked down. Remove from pot and set aside.
  2. Add diced bacon to pot, adding a few tablespoons of chicken broth or liquid from the sausage and mushrooms to help render the fat. When bacon is starting to crisp, add diced onion.
  3. Sauté until onions are soft and translucent. Return sausage, mushrooms, and their juices to pot and add sliced potatoes. Add crushed garlic, oregano, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
  4. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender.
  5. Add frozen kale and return to a boil. Simmer additional 2 minutes. Adjust seasonings as desired.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Crockpot Applesauce

I was inspired by my Foodie Penpals' box from Amy, of A Couple in the Kitchen. The cinnamon sticks she sent smelled divine and were begging to be paired with apples. I wanted something easy, not too sweet, and in the healthier side. Hello, crockpot applesauce!

I googled several different recipes (like this, this, and this). Since I intended to make this for my first graders, I wanted a recipe low in sugar and no cinnamon. In the end I threw Fuji, Gala, golden delicious, Granny Smith, and Cameo apples in the crockpot and cooked them in apple juice. I had a lonely half of a lime squeezed, to put apple pieces in to prevent browning. But then wouldn't you know it - I knocked it over in the sink and it was gone.

That's when I remembered my mom using salt water to prevent oxidation. Moms are the best, especially when she's right!

Crockpot Applesauce

12-16 apples (use several varieties of apples), peeled, cored, and cut into chunks
3/4 c apple juice

  1. Pour apple juice into the crockpot. Place peeled and cored apple chunks into crockpot.
  2. Cook on high for - at least 3.5 hours, or until apples are soft.
  3. Drain and reserve extra liquid.
  4. Mash with apples with potato masher, or blend for smoother texture.  Add reserved liquid to desired consistency.

Update: The applesauce seemed to get sweeter overnight. I think next time I'll try plain water instead of apple juice.