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Friday, October 28, 2011

The Neal Burger

I have become very cheap now that we are living on one income. In order to help save money, I definitely try not to make too large of meals since I'm not a fan of leftovers. Last night's dinner was tator tot casserole, but I only made a half pan of it, using only half the pound of ground beef. With that left over ground beef, we decided to make hamburgers tonight.

The title of this blog was totally true for us tonight. Trip after trip, I have forgotten to buy bread crumbs at the grocery store. We had to be creative tonight in making our burgers. Here's what we did to make two burger patties tonight.

Ingredients:
1/2 pound of ground beef
1 egg
French fried onions
Chicken flavored stuffing mix

Directions:
Mush it all together and form 2 patties. Cook it up and enjoy!

We're not too big on measuring so just go with the flow. This made the most delicious burger I have ever had. We topped them with mushrooms that were sauteed on the burger pan and swiss cheese. The herbs in the stuffing mix and salt from the onions made everything perfect.

To add to our meal, we had Italian Parmesan potato wedges. Very simple, very tasty. Once again, this recipe is for 2 people, but can easily be made for more.

Ingredients:
3 potatoes
1/3 olive oil
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
Salt
Pepper

Directions:
Heat oven to 425.
Slice the potatoes into wedges.
Mix together the oil, cheese, and Italian seasoning and place potato wedges into mix. Stir to coat.
Place wedges on a baking pan covered in foil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake for 25 minutes. Flip potatoes half way through.

The original recipe called for melted butter instead of olive oil, but since we do not have a microwave, I substituted the olive oil. It also did not call for flipping the potatoes, but I found they got a little too crispy on one side. This recipe was from the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chicken Breast with Mushroom Cream Sauce


Tonight's dinner is classified under "a bit tougher than I would have liked." I found the recipe on Delish.com and it sounded soooooo good. It was very tasty, even though I kind of over did one side of the chicken.

Ingredients:
  • 2 5-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon(s) salt
  • 1 tablespoon(s) canola oil
  • 1 medium shallot, minced (I left this out because no matter how many grocery lists I make, I never remember everything)
  • 1 cup(s) thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps (I used white button mushrooms)
  • 2 tablespoon(s) dry vermouth, or dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup(s) reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoon(s) heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoon(s) minced fresh chives, or scallion greens (Couldn't find either at my local grocery store, so I substituted green onions, a very good choice!)
Directions:
  1. Season chicken with pepper and salt on both sides.
  2. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook, turning once or twice and adjusting the heat to prevent burning, until brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165°F, 12 to 16 minutes. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
  3. Add shallot to the pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 2 minutes. Pour in vermouth (or wine); simmer until almost evaporated, scraping up any browned bits, about 1 minute. Pour in broth and cook until reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in cream and chives (or scallions); return to a simmer. Return the chicken to the pan, turn to coat with sauce and cook until heated through, about 1 minute.
It took a lot of effort to get the chicken done enough and that's where I made my screw up. Any one who knows how to accurately operate a stove will have no problem. The cream sauce is really not that much. When I remake this recipe, I will add more cream and broth to have more of a sauce. Since I put this over bowtie pasta, we would have appreciated more of a sauce.

On the side I made roasted asparagus. I'm surprised my husband hasn't banned me from buying it, but it's so tasty! I just trim the asparagus, lay on a baking sheet with sides, coat with olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes. It's quick, easy, and delicious!

Even Morgan got into it!

Spooky Cat Cupcakes


I started this week as a leader for the 4-H ambassador program for our county and wanted to bring a special, festive treat for the kids. Because I'm ridiculously (and sometimes crazily) ambitious I decided to make the chocolate cat topped cupcakes from the book "What's New Cupcake?" I used the same method for making the cupcakes as I did for making the red velvet cake from a previous post, but I used a white mix this time. I also made a delicious buttercream found in the same book. It's supposed to look like a black cat standing in front of a full moon. The dark cupcakes are supposed to be a black sky filled with stars. The picture makes the black frosting more purple, but it really is black.

Ingredients:
3 sticks of butter
1 16 oz. container of marshmallow fluff
vanilla (I never measure it)
1/2 cup powdered sugar and more if you feel like it.

Directions:
In my stand mixer I beat the butter until it looked fluffy, then add the fluff and vanilla and mix until fully combined. Make sure to scrape down the bowl once in a while. Finally add the powdered sugar until it's completely combined.

For the chocolate cats, I used dark chocolate melting wafers, melted down in a double boiler pot, and then piped, using a pastry bag and a very narrow end, over a template I found in the book. You could easily choose any image off the internet, print it out, and stick under some parchment paper to make whatever shape you want to top your cupcakes. I then sprinkled the still melted cats with black decorating sugar.

Sounds easy enough, right? This is quite possibly one of the more frustrating things I have attempted. By the end of this venture my whole kitchen was covered in hardened chocolate, sprinkles that leave a lovely dark green smear when they get wet, and cats (real ones) trying to steal my cupcakes.

So, what would I improve on the next go round? I would use a bigger decorating tip then what I started with. It was difficult to quickly fill in my outline and sprinkle the sugar on before it set when it took so long with the small tip. Otherwise, make sure you have plenty of time and space. You'll need it. The cupcakes were a hit though. All the kids thought they were pretty neat. If you're going for the wow factor, this one will get you it!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

One Skillet Pork with Wild Rice


Finally, a truly one dish meal that is pretty darn tasty! I have so many of those cookbooks that say "One Dish Meals" that are absolutely not. I have to mess up every mixing bowl, plate, pot, and frying pan even before I have to put it into a baking dish and shove it in the oven. This recipe is exactly what it says it is. I picked this little number up from the Pork Board's 20 for 20 website. Due to getting bored quickly with foods, I try to make a least one new meal that I've never made before a week. This one definitely goes into the "keep" pile of recipes. Husband approved.

This can also easily be cut down to feed two people, with some leftovers for lunch. The only pork tenderloin I could find was 28 oz. so I cut it in half and put one half in the freezer. I also only used half the 8 oz. container of mushrooms. The servings for this recipe say for four, but I find that hard to believe. You could easily feed six or eight people with it. Cut it down, save some money.

Ingredients:
1 pound pork tenderloin, lean, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 (8 ounce) package sliced white mushrooms, OR brown mushrooms
1 1/2 cups chicken broth, reduced sodium
1 cup uncooked white and wild rice blend ( I used Uncle Ben's Long Grain White and Wild Rice, but you can use any brand as long as it has a cook time around 20-25 minutes)
1 tablespoon Italian herbs, herbes de Provence OR other dried herb blend
1 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed

Directions

  1. In a large skillet or saute pan with a tight-fitting lid over high heat, combine pork, mushrooms, broth, rice, and herbs. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook 15 minutes. Stir in mixed vegetables and continue to cook until liquid has absorbed, rice is tender, and pork is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.
Super easy, super quick.

Morgan's Half Birthday


A week and a half ago, my son turned 6 months old. I'm not one of those crazy mothers that will throw a party every month, but I do like cake and my mom, granny, and sister just happened to be coming to visit that day. I saw a wonderful idea on "The Bump," a website for moms that has lots of great people full of advice, and I had to try it. The idea was a half birthday cake.

It's actually quite a simple thing to make and it looks really cool once it's finished. All you do is bake a round cake and cut it in half. I used a box mix of red velvet, but used the method of mixing it found in the book "What's New Cupcake?" You take the mix, 4 eggs, 1 cup buttermilk, and however much oil the box calls for. You end up with a very moist, non-crumbly cake.

I poured about half of the batter into a greased 9-inch round cake pan and used the rest of the batter to make cupcakes. Bake the cake for about 30-35 minutes and the cupcakes for 15 minutes. Let the cake cool completely. Once it's cool, I used a bread knife to even out the top (go ahead and just eat those pieces) and then cut the cake in half as evenly as you can. I then put a generous layer of cream cheese frosting on one half and then stuck the other half on top so you get half of a circle. Frost the rest of the cake and decorate to your liking.

The cream cheese frosting I used was from the "Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook" but I made some modifications, mostly because I ran out of ingredients, but it totally works! I doubled the recipe to have enough frosting to decorate the cake and the cupcakes.

Ingredients for double batch:
2 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter, softened
6-7 cups powdered sugar (the original recipe calls for 11-12 cups but it gets WAY too sweet)

I put the butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer and let it go on medium speed until it looks fluffy. Then add in the powdered sugar gradually. Mix it all completely and enjoy!

The cake was a hit and it was hard to keep Morgan from digging his little mitts into it.

What the?


I like to cook. Simple as that. The problem is I'm not that great at it so I have to do a lot of researching before I give something a shot. This blog is devoted to my attempts (and sometimes failures) at cooking. I'll post pictures, good or bad, so others can enjoy the experience. Hey, if nothing else it will be good for a laugh!