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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

everyday simple suppers | review and giveaway

 

I've been a little M.I.A. lately (when did the end of summer get so busy?!), but I'm excited to announce that I've got another Gooseberry Patch giveaway for you!  Everyday Simple Suppers is a fabulous book.  It's not one of their traditional spiral bound, but it's full of pictures of the recipes that they feature.  This is great news for those of you who like to see a picture of the food you are getting ready to make.  There's 260 recipes, each with its own picture!

The book contains 8 delicious chapters: One-Dish Wonders, Farmers' Market Favorites, Sizzling Skillet Suppers, Pronto Pizza and Pasta, Speedy Sandwiches and Salads, Breakfast Anytime, Super Simple Sides, and Short and Sweet Desserts.  I've already bookmarked tons of recipes that I'll be making, including Chicken Cordon Bleu, Stuffed Artichoke Chicken, Potato Puff Casserole, and Florence's Meatball Surprise.  There are a lot of delicious-looking slow cooker recipes as well, like Best-Ever Slow-Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos, Lillian's Slow-Cooker Beef Stew, and Slow-Cooker Tortellini Harvest Soup.  We are huge fans of big breakfasts, so Nutty Maple Waffles and Mountaintop Bacon will be appearing on my table soon.  And who could resist the Peanut Butter Bars and Easy Cherry Cobbler?

As usual, we've picked a few recipes and given each a reward.  I just love this part of my review!


Most Filling
Chicken Fajita Chowder from the chapter One-Dish Wonders
This fajita chowder comes with an impressive list of ingredients, but it takes surprisingly little time and energy to put together.  Full of corn and beans, it's also amazingly filling.  Seriously.  This bowl is all I needed to feel totally satisfied after dinner.  We really enjoyed this soup, and it feeds a crowd!
Most Deceivingly Healthy
Granny's Overnight Pancakes from the chapter Breakfast Anytime
I was intrigued by these pancakes because of the overnight factor - I've never heard of anything like it!  Well, folks, they are delicious.  You soak oats in buttermilk the night before, and then in the morning you add the remaining ingredients.  They not only include oats but also whole wheat flour.  I added some flax seed in for some more fibrous fun!  They were incredibly healthy with all of those whole grains, but my family would never know. :)
Most Unique
Fried Pecan Okra from the chapter Super Simple Sides
We are okra LOVERS in this house.  Pan-fried okra is pretty much a staple here, so I knew that I had to try this recipe.  It's unique, not only because you fry whole okra, but also because the batter contains ground pecans.  I thought the pecans added a unique dimension to the flavor.  It was a bit hard to get the batter to stick to the okra, but I loved it anyway!
Quickest Sweet Fix
Snowballs from the chapter Short and Sweet Desserts

These little balls of chocolate have stolen my heart.  They took just minutes to make - no baking required!  Next time my sweet tooth rears its ugly head, I'll be whipping these babies up.  Is there anything better than chocolate?

It was hard to pick a favorite recipe to share with you in this post, but we ended up settling on the dessert...not surprisingly!  We hope you enjoy these treats as much as we did, and be sure to enter the giveaway below to win your own copy of this book!


Snowballs
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Combine chocolate chips and milk in a double boiler; heat over hot water until chocolate melts.  (Kristin's note: if you don't have a double boiler, just place a large bowl over the top of a saucepan...see example below.)  Stir to blend well.  Remove from heat; stir in powdered sugar and nuts.  Cool slightly.  Form into one-inch balls; roll in coconut.  Makes about 2 dozen.

PS - this is my homemade "double boiler."


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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

chicken florentine alfredo


I just love fettuccine alfredo, don't you?  It's so rich, creamy, and delicious that I have trouble keeping my portion size where it needs to be. 

I have usually bought the jarred alfredo sauce, but I've been less than impressed.  Lately, I decided to see for myself how hard it was to make alfredo sauce from scratch...turns out it's not hard at all! 

This fettuccine alfredo is much more delicious than the jarred version and much more special than what you typically get in restaurants.  I've added spinach (the florentine) as well as bacon and grilled chicken to make it a fabulous one-dish meal!


This dish takes relatively little time or energy.  You begin by cooking an entire package (1 pound) of fettuccine according to package directions.  Make sure you set your timer - you don't want mushy noodles!

Meanwhile, melt a stick of butter into a skillet.



Typically, you would add whipping cream to the butter - whipping cream gives alfredo sauce its rich, creamy consistency and flavor.  But, as usual, I forgot an ingredient...the whipping cream!  Instead, I used whole milk and cornstarch with pretty much the same result.

After cooking your cream and butter for a few minutes to let them thicken, add salt, pepper, nutmeg, fresh spinach, and Parmesan cheese.  Stir until the spinach wilts and the Parmesan has melted.


Finally, pour your alfredo sauce over your cooked and drained fettuccine noodles.  Top with grilled chicken and crisp bacon pieces for a delicious, one-dish dinner!




Chicken Florentine Alfredo
  • 1 lb. fettuccine
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup whipping cream (or 1 cup whole milk plus 1 T. cornstarch)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 chicken breasts, grilled and sliced
  • 5 slices bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled

Cook fettuccine according to package instructions; drain.  Meanwhile, melt butter on medium-low in a large skillet.  Whisk in whipping cream or whole milk and cornstarch; cook an additional 5 minutes or until thickened.  Add seasonings, spinach, and Parmesan.  Cook and stir until spinach has wilted and Parmesan has melted.  Pour cream mixture over noodles and toss.  Top with chicken and bacon before serving.  Serves 6-8.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

beef brisket


As I've mentioned recently, I'm now a Taste of Home field editor.  This new relationship with Taste of Home has really encouraged me to make more use of their website.  I have to say...I'm hooked!  I love looking at our grocery store's sale ads and then finding Taste of Home recipes for the ingredients that are on sale that particular week. 

Recently, our store had brisket on an outstanding sale.  So guess what I did? :)


I looked on www.tasteofhome.com and searched for brisket recipes!  This one looked amazing.  I modified it a bit to suit our family's tastes, and it ended up tasting so good, I just had to share!  You can find my recipe below or the original one here.  It's pretty much foolproof!



Beef Brisket
modified from Taste of Home online
2 t. chipotle chili powder, divided
1/2 t. paprika
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. ground mustard
1/2 t. steak seasoning
1 fresh beef brisket, trimmed (4 pounds)
2 cups water
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 T. brown sugar
2 t. Liquid Smoke

Sprinkle 1 t. of chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, ground mustard, and steak seasoning over top of brisket.  Place on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.  Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees for 2 hours.  Let stand for 20 minutes.  Thinly slice meat across the grain.  Place in a foil-lined baking dish.  In a bowl, combine remaining ingredients; pour over meat.  Cover tightly with foil and bake an additional 3 hours, or until tender.  Serves 16.

Monday, August 5, 2013

bacon-mushroom focaccia


I love pizzas of all kinds, especially the non-traditional ones.  I've had ravioli and meatballs as pizza toppings, experimented with white pizzas, and now am trying different variations of crusts.  This pizza recipe actually uses an herb focaccia as its crust, giving it a delicious and chewy foundation.

My original idea was to top it with just mushrooms and spinach, but Cookie Bandit kinda freaked out about that.  "Mushrooms, spinach, and bread are NOT a meal," he announced.  So....I added a half pound of bacon.  That satisfied him, and my taste buds approved as well.  Nothing like bacon to jazz up a vegetarian meal! :)


If you've never tried a completely from-scratch pizza, you must do it soon!  It's well worth the effort for the combination of herbs and chewy crusts.

I'd love to know - what are your favorite unique pizza flavor combos?


Bacon-Mushroom Focaccia
For the focaccia:
  • 3 c. bread flour
  • 1 T. dried rosemary
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 1/4 t. (or 1 packet) instant dry yeast
  • 3 T. olive oil, divided
  • 1 c. very warm water, 120 to 130 degrees
For the topping:
  • 1/2 pound bacon, diced
  • 1 cup baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 t. minced garlic
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. oregano
  • 1 T. basil
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • 1 cup fresh spinach 
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • Ranch dressing (optional)

Combine all focaccia ingredients in a large mixing bowl and knead until dough forms.  Cover and let rise for 30 minutes or until doubled.  Roll into a large circle and place on pizza pan.  Let rise an additional 30 minutes.

In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp.  Add mushrooms and garlic; cook and stir until mushrooms are tender, about five minutes.  Spread olive oil on focaccia dough.  Sprinkle oregano, basil, and salt over the olive oil.  Spread mushroom-bacon mixture over the dough.  Top with spinach, onions, and cheese.  Drizzle with Ranch dressing, if desired.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

stitching for the kitchen | bread basket, review, and giveaway!




 Check out what I made - isn't it cute?!


Can anyone else remember the good old days when Gooseberry Patch sent out those beautiful mail order catalogs?  I just loved all of the country decor and kitchen accessories.  I especially loved all things crafty - I bought a Gooseberry Patch quilting book several years ago and saved it for the day I learned to quilt. Fortunately, I don't have to wait until that day to get my craftiness on. :)

Gooseberry Patch has done it again, coming out with a fabulous new book full of kitchen crafts for the beginner to advanced.  Stitching for the Kitchen is a delicious book - the projects are SO CUTE!  There's so much I want to make - the matching mother-daughter aprons, embroidered napkins, plastic bag dispenser, tote bag, rag rug, and denim placemat.  The quilted wall hanging looks like a perfect intro to quilting for me, and the recycled sweater wine bottle cover is easy enough that anyone can do it!


The other thing I love, love, love about this book is that there are recipes to go with just about every project!

Take the project I picked - the divided bread basket.  Not only do you get full instructions for making this cute and easy bread basket, but you also get a recipe for delicious dinner rolls to fill it.  Yummy!



I have very limited sewing skills, but I still found this bread basket doable in just an afternoon.  I liked it because it required very few supplies - just 2 pieces of fabric, matching thread, and some snaps!

The book recommends an OmniGrid circular ruler, but I didn't have one and didn't want to shell out the expense.  So...I improvised!


I just took the side of a cereal box, poked two holes the appropriate distance apart, stuck a pencil in one side and a pin in the other, and drew my circle!  Voila!  A "pattern" made out of freezer paper - cost me nothing.

From there it was easy to cut circles out of my fabric...


Sew them together...


And finally assemble the finished product.  The only thing I would suggest different from the instructions in the book would be to measure and mark guide lines on all circles before sewing them together - just makes things easier!


I just love my little bread basket.  It was so easy that I am foreseeing lots of Christmas and hostess gifts in my future. :)


So how can you win Stitching for the Kitchen?  Visit the rafflecopter below for a chance to enter. 



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