Monday, November 30, 2009

It's OK to eat with your hands

These chicken taquitos make a fun, quick and delicious dinner. I am a huge fan! Even kids seem to like them. Plus, they're baked instead of fried, which increases their health value. You could make the filling ahead of time and refrigerate it. I got the recipe from My Kitchen Cafe, although I tweaked it according to the ingredients I had on hand. Dip them in salsa, sour cream and guacamole.

THE RECIPE:

4 ounces low-fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. green salsa (I used red)
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
3 Tbsp. chopped cilantro*
1 green onion, finely sliced
2 c. chopped cooked chicken
1 c. shredded cheese

Corn tortillas
Salt
Cooking spray

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Mix filling ingredients in order. Place three tortillas between damp paper towels and microwave for 45 seconds until really pliable. Place about 3 Tbsp. mixture near edge of tortilla and roll up fairly tightly. Place seam-side down on baking sheet. Spray tops lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt. (The original recipe recommends kosher salt.) Bake about 15 minutes, or until crispy and golden on edges.

*I didn't have cilantro, but they were still delicious. I love cilantro, though, so I will try it next time.

Stuff yourself with this

I made this stuffing, along with some creamed corn, for Thanksgiving this year. My husband said it was his favorite dish of the day. It has an excellent homemade -- kind of gourmet -- taste brought on, I think, by the use of sourdough bread. I'm not normally a fan of sourdough, but this really is wonderful. You can't go wrong with the other ingredients, either -- spinach, cashews, bacon. It's a winner! By the way, the recipe came from Smitten Kitchen.

THE RECIPE:

1/2 pound bacon, sliced crosswise into 1-inch pieces
2 ribs celery, sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 c. chopped red onion
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
7 1/2 ounces fresh spinach, trimmed and coarsely chopped (7 cups)
5 c. country-style sourdough bread cubes*
1 c. salted, roasted cashews/pieces
1/4 c. melted butter
1/2 c. plus 1/8 c. chicken broth

Lightly toast bread cubes for a few minutes under a broiler set to low. You want them kind of dry and crispy. Then preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook bacon in skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon to paper towel to drain. Reserve about 3 tablespoons bacon grease in skillet. Add onion, celery, salt and pepper to skillet. Saute a few minutes, until tender. Add garlic and saute a minute more. Transfer mixture to large bowl, then stir in spinach, bread, cashews, butter, broth and bacon. Put stuffing in greased 9x13 pan, then bake uncovered for about 25 minutes. Stuffing is best reheated in oven, as microwave makes the bread chewy.

*Country-style bread is dense and stiff with a hard crust. I used La Brea's country sourdough, which I got at Albertson's. You don't have to use that, but just be sure not to get a light, soft, airy bread.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Southern treat

Have you ever heard of chocolate chess pie? I hadn't, until maybe a year ago. I guess it's a Southern thing. It's really, really good. It has a crispy, brownie-type top with a chocolate custard filling.

This recipe, which supposedly comes from the award-winning Angus Barn in North Carolina, is easy to throw together. The only hard part is that you want it to cook just the right amount of time so the filling will set properly. I think I undercooked mine slightly because the middle was a bit runny. Or maybe I didn't let it sit long enough after it finished cooking. That's the other must. Don't worry, though, because it tastes good no matter what you do to it. I served mine with homemade cinnamon whipped cream. Oh, and I just used a store-bought pie crust, but feel free to make your own.


THE RECIPE:

1 unbaked pie shell
1/2 c. butter
2 squares Baker's semi-sweet chocolate (1 ounce each)
1 c. sugar
2 beaten eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
Dash of salt

If you're using a store-bought crust, follow directions on package. (For example, set shell on cookie sheet and let thaw 15 minutes.) Melt together butter and chocolate. Add remaining ingredients. Pour batter into pie crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. It feels jiggly when you pull it out. Let pie sit AT LEAST 30 minutes -- I'd recommend more -- before slicing into it. You must resist the temptation. Serve with cinnamon whipped cream.

*Note: Do not bake more than one pie at a time. I tried baking two, and for some reason they kind of explode on themselves, which requires you to take them out early and leave them undercooked.

Cinnamon whipped cream:

1/2 c. whipping cream
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

Beat together ingredients with electric mixer until soft peaks form. Makes 1 cup.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Eat your veggies

I love to dip bread in soup. One of my favorite things to dip is garlic toast. I cut French bread about a half-inch thick, spread real butter on it, sprinkle garlic powder on top, then broil it. I then proceed to eat at least five slices with my soup -- no joke. It complements any creamy soup magnificently. Wanna try? Here's a recipe for cream of vegetable soup. My kids gobbled it up -- even the picky 1-year-old, who won't eat vegetables to save her life. Tweak the recipe according to what vegetables you have on hand.

THE RECIPE:

1/2 c. roughly chopped onion
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 Tbsp. butter
6 c. chicken broth
1 c. dried split peas
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. rosemary
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
3 smallish potatoes, cut into chunks
1 c. milk (I used whole)

Saute onion and celery in butter in bottom of pot. Add broth, peas and seasonings. Bring to boil, then cover and simmer about 10 minutes. Add carrots and potatoes, then simmer about 20 minutes more, or until vegetables fall off fork when pierced. Add milk. In blender, puree soup in batches, then mix together again in a different pot or bowl. Be careful when blending hot liquids. Leave the lid partially off for steam to escape or you'll get a volcano effect.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Orange you glad you saw this?

If your sweet tooth is in the mood for something different, try this orange-flavored cream cheese frosting. I threw together a carrot cake from a mix and topped it with this delectable treat. The frosting was the best part. If I had had a real orange on hand, I would have sprinkled orange zest on the finished product. Keep this recipe in mind for spice cake, carrot cake, pumpkin desserts -- anything really.

THE RECIPE:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. butter or spread, softened
2 tsp. orange extract*
6 c. powdered sugar (more or less)

Beat cream cheese, butter and extract with mixer. Gradually add powdered sugar to reach spreading consistency. This is enough to frost the tops and sides of two 9-inch layers. You could easily halve it if desired.

*It's fun to keep a few different extracts on hand to experiment with.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Highly appetizing appetizer

These stuffed mushrooms are so wonderful. I just love them. Sometimes I crave them. I've been making them for years, and I have heard only compliments -- even from people who say they usually don't like mushrooms. Everyone thinks they are SO good and asks how to make them. They are incredibly easy. I got the recipe from my cousins, so the credit goes to them!

THE RECIPE:

4 8-oz. packages whole mushrooms
1 16-oz. roll uncooked pork sausage*
8 oz. plain reduced-fat cream cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix softened cream cheese with uncooked sausage. Scrub your hands well, and then dive in! Rinse mushrooms and twist out stems. Spoon filling into mushrooms, then arrange in rimmed, ungreased pan lined with foil for easier cleanup. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Sausage will get cooked through and be nicely browned on top.

*I used Farmland original pork sausage, because I got a good deal. My cousins use Jimmy Dean hot sausage.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloween snack

No sense in throwing away perfectly edible pumpkin seeds after carving a pumpkin, right? These are flavorful and crunchy and savory -- a snack my whole family loves.

THE RECIPE:

2 c. pumpkin seeds, rinsed and patted dry
1 1/2 Tbsp. melted butter OR olive oil
2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. paprika

Toss pumpkin seeds thoroughly with other ingredients. Spread out on cookie sheet. Bake at 275 degrees for 1 hour, stirring about every 15 minutes. They will seem done before the hour is up, but the longer they cook, the crunchier they will be, rather than chewy.