This is my chosen forum for testing other's recipes and sharing my own recipes developed over the years. Most of the recipes are cheap, easy and fast, which is perfect for us working folk on a budget. Food doesn't have to be expensive to be wonderful! Enjoy the deliciousness!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

BBQ in February, Like Christmas in July!

Living in Arizona means that we have the good fortune of being able to barbecue just about anytime we want. Unless, of course, you just don't want to or you have to work all day and barbecuing in the dark isn't that appealing. Here is my working mom's answer to craving barbecue food on a weeknight:  I used my handy dandy crockpot and little forethought to make Barbecue Chicken Sliders and Potato Salad. 

For the potato salad, I boiled the potatoes and eggs the night before and stored them in the refrigerator until I was ready to make the potato salad the next day.  Note: boil the potatoes with the skin on. If you peel them before boiling them, they get this weird tough outer layer on them, much like the skin and need to be peeled anyways.  Boiling potatoes with the skin on makes for a much nicer textured potato.

Without further ado, here is my weeknight barbecue meal:

Barbecue Chicken Sliders

2lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 bottle barbecue sauce (I like KC Masterpiece Original)
1 splash Liquid Smoke
1 cup sour cream (I prefer Daisy)
Hawaiian rolls

Mix the barbecue sauce and the splash of Liquid Smoke in a crockpot (4 qt or above will be fine). Add the chicken breasts and spoon sauce on top of the chicken. Cook on HIGH for 5 hours or LOW for 8 hours. Remove chicken, shred it and return it back to the crockpot. Mix the shredded chicken and the barbecue sauce. Add the sour cream and mix well. Serve on Hawaiian rolls and enjoy. Makes approximately 12 sliders.

Amy's Potato Salad

9 potatoes, about the size of your palm
3 large eggs
1/3 cup dill relish
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tbls spicy mustard

Boil potatoes until tender and eggs until hard.  Refrigerate boiled potatoes and eggs until chilled.  Peel the potatoes and eggs and cut into bite-size chunks.  Mix the potatoes, eggs, relish, mayonnaise and mustard together and chill until ready to serve.  Serves 8-10.

I hope you enjoy this meal as much as my family did!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Every day is a good day to be lazy!

As a working mom, I often find myself torn between wanting to cook a delicious meal for my family and having the time to do so.  Because I refuse to give in to the call of fast food more often than once a week (fiscally and physically smart!), I had to develop strategies to make weekday cooking easier.  Here's a list of my most frequently used strategies:

1)  Plan ahead.  I know this seems like a no-brainer but you'd be surprised how few people actually do this.  I take stock of what's in my pantry/freezer mid-week and plan my menu around what I already have.  My goal is to only do one big grocery trip per month, with weekly trips to the store for perishable items. Planning saves a lot of time and money and keeps me from impulse buying at the grocery store.

2)  Keep the basics in stock.  I always make sure to have canned broth, cream of chicken/mushroom soup, canned veggies, rice, beans, noodles of all shapes and sizes, bouillion, dried minced onions and other spices on hand.  You'd be surprised at how quickly you can whip something up with just the basics.

3)  Slice it and freeze it.  How many times have you made a recipe that calls for sliced carrots and celery and once you've done that, you still have tons of carrots and celery left over?  Tired of wasting these veggies that are staples for just about any soup, I started slicing these veggies and freezing them in one cup portions.  Granted, if you want crisp celery and carrots, you need to go with fresh produce.  However, if you're only going to throw these into a pot of soup, you won't miss the crispness that is lost in the freezing process.  I've done the same with green chiles, corn on the cob and grated zucchini.

4)  Cook it and freeze it.  I am in love with my crockpots (yes, plural) and they are easily my most utilized kitchen appliances.  One of the best ways to use them is in cooking meats with the intention of later freezing them, usually in 2 cup portions.  I crockpot roast, shred it and freeze it for making green chile burritos, shepherd's pie, roast and gravy over biscuits, etc.  I crockpot chicken with the skin removed, shred it and freeze it for soups, chicken enchiladas, etc.  And I recently browned over 4lbs of ground beef in the crockpot (cook it on HIGH for a few hours and frequently use a spatula to break up and stir the meat until done) and froze it in one pound portions.  You can use the one pound portions for tacos, tostadas or even add it to Hamburger Helper and cut down the prep time.

5)  Leftovers are your friends.  I know.  You hate leftovers.  Who wants to eat the same thing two nights in a row, right?  My solution to this is to go ahead and cook with leftovers in mind but freeze your leftovers.  This way, you can have a homemade frozen dinner right at your fingertips.  In my freezer now:  cheese enchiladas, bean soup, chile verde, homemade pasta sauce, etc.  Any one of these can be thawed and served in no time.  Viva la microwave!

So, all these tips lead me to the dinner I made last night.  It was fast, easy and most importantly, delicious. Enjoy!!!

Busy Mom's Chicken & Dumplings

4 cans chicken broth
2 cans cream of chicken soup
4 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 can corn, drained
1 can green beans, drained
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup sliced celery
1/4 cup dried minced onions
1 tbl dried parsley
4 heaping tbls chicken bouillon
1 can Grands biscuits - uncooked

Add all ingredients, EXCEPT the biscuits, into a large stockpot.  Add 4 cups of water and bring ingredients to a boil.  Lower heat to medium, cover and cook for about 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  While soup is cooking, cut the Grands biscuits into chunks, about 6-8 chunks per biscuit.  After the vegetables are tender, drop the biscuit dough into the pot, stir and cover.  Cook for about 10 minutes and stir again.  Your soup should have a gravy/stew consistency.  Makes 10-12 hearty servings and reheats easily for next day leftovers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March Madness...PFFT!!!

Forget March Madness. In this home, it was Mango Madness today. I had 10 mangoes staring me in the face today (at least I think they were...everytime I tried to catch them looking in my direction, they looked the other way!) and I decided my hand at making jam. Aside from horrible mess left in my kitchen after I was done, this was a great experience. The jam is amazing and will taste wonderful on toast or heated up and served over icecream. Nice bonus: cooking this made my home smell lovely!

SPICED MANGO JAM 


5 ripe mangoes
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsps pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup water

1. Peel, seed and chop the mangoes. Microwave the mangoes until soft, about two cycles of 1 minute each. Use a fork or potato masher to mash the mango into pulp.

2.  Place the sugars, spice and water in a large saucepan over low heat, stir mixture, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. When mixture begins boiling, increase heat to medium-high. Continue boiling until fine, soft threads form, 270 degrees F (135 degrees C). Stir in the mango pulp and boil until the mixture thickens, about 10-15 minutes.

3.  Pour cooked jam into sterilized jars and seal according to canning directions. Recipe yields 3 pints.

Carrot Pecan Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

If you love carrot cake, and you know you do, have I got a recipe for you! I've been tinkering with a carrot cake recipe for years, trying to get it just right. For me, I find that I prefer a simpler carrot cake, whereas most carrot cakes have raisins, pineapple, coconut and/or walnuts in them. Also, I wanted to do something different with the frosting. Traditionally, carrot cakes have cream cheese frosting, which I love but I was feeling a little more adventurous. So, I decided to make a carrot pecan cake with a dark chocolate cream cheese frosting and lordy, lordy, is it good!!! I knew I had a hit when my boyfriend, who usually doesn't care for cake, went back for seconds. Enjoy!

CARROT PECAN CAKE


4 eggs
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
2 cups white sugar
1 tbl vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp grated orange peel
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups finely grated carrots
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan.

2.  In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, white sugar and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, orange peel and cinnamon. Stir in carrots. Fold in pecans. Pour into prepared pan.

3.  Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. You can also leave the cake in the pan, if you choose. Frost when completely cool.

 DARK CHOCOLATE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING


4 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
3-4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons milk

1.  Have all ingredients at room temperature. Melt the chocolate in the microwave oven.

2.  In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Pour melted chocolate into cream cheese and mix on medium speed until well blended. Add vanilla, milk and salt. Slowly mix in the confectioners sugar, checking the sweetness of the frosting periodically.

3.  Frost fully cooled cake and store in the refrigerator, so the cream cheese does not spoil.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

And They Called It Pumpkin Loooove...

Welcome to the first posting on my home-cookin' foodie blog! This week, I was blessed to receive a huge amount of zucchini and carrots in a produce basket. Being that I am not a big veggie eater, nor is anyone else in my  home, I had to figure out a way for these veggies not to go to waste. My solution was to go on a baking spree and cook the veggies into delicious breakfast breads/loaves. Behold, faithful reader, my delicious Pumpkin Zucchini Bread:


PUMPKIN ZUCCHINI BREAD

3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup shredded zucchini
1 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
11.5 oz pkg of milk chocolate chips

In a mixing bowl, combine eggs and sugar. Add pumpkin, zucchini, butter and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients; gradually add to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into two greased and floured 9-in. x 5-in. x 3-in. loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in bread comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove to a wire rack.
 
Word to the wise: Definitely wait at least 10 minutes before trying to remove the breads from the pans. I got impatient and as a result, these moist, wonderful breads started to fall apart. I was able to save one intact but the other one separated into about four chunks. So maybe it isn't suitable for serving to company but, on the other hand, all the calories leaked out when it broke!