Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Quick Broccoli Slaw Stir-Fry with Turkey

After about a week and a half of the "Buddy the Elf" diet (cookies, candy, sugar, and syrup), it's high time David and I had green vegetables again! Sunday evening, I fixed a light and healthy dinner that was chock full of green vegetables. And there wasn't a stick of butter, glop of cheese, or can of cream of something soup in sight! Quite a change from the last several meals we'd eaten during the Christmas season! I don't know if it was really as good as we thought it was, or if it was just the fact that we hadn't eaten something healthy in so long, but this was gone in no time! It went together quickly, which is a huge plus, since we're in the middle of packing up everythingwe own in anticipation of moving. If you're tired of eating "junk", this is the perfect meal to get you back on the healthy eating train!
Quick Broccoli Slaw Stir-Fry with Turkey
adapted from a recipe by Weight Watchers International
1 Tbs. canola oil
4 green onions, sliced
1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
12 oz. broccoli slaw
5 oz. baby spinach
2 Tbs. teriyaki sauce
1 cup cooked turkey (leftover from Christmas!)
Brown rice
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok; add the scallions, ginger and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the broccoli slaw and cook until just softened, about 2 minutes.
Stir in the spinach, a handful at a time, and the teriyaki sauce; cook, stirring, until the spinach is nearly wilted, about 2 minutes more. Sprinkle with the turkey and heat through; serve at once over hot brown rice.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Swedish Nuts

I gave lots of food gifts for Christmas this year, and the most popular were the tins of Swedish Nuts. I have no idea what makes them "Swedish", but they remind me a little of a praline. They're absolutely delicious, keep really well, and make a really nice presentation. They're by far the most "gourmet" gift that I give. Several people have asked me how to make them, so I thought I'd share a little tutorial with you.The first thing you need to do is make your coating, which is just a mixture of whipped egg whites, sugar, salt, vanilla, and cinnamon. It's really simple, and you can find the recipe at the bottom of the post. Next, you'll pour your coating over your nuts. Use any kind you'd like, but I used a mixture of pecans and walnuts. You've got to get the nuts coated really well. You want that yummy, sugary goodness over every surface!
While making your coating, you'll melt a stick of butter in a 325-degree oven in a 9x13-inch pan. Once it's melted and the nuts are well-coated, spread the nuts in an even layer over the butter. The nuts will bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, but every 8 minutes or so, you'll need to turn them and coat them in the butter.
This is what the nuts will look like after the first turn:
I think I turned my nuts about 4 times, but I have a feeling that the number of turns will be dependent on how hot your oven runs. Just make sure that you turn all of the nuts each time so that they get evenly coated with the butter. They'll get a little drier, browner, and crunchier with each turn. Once they're finished, they'll look like this:
You're in the home stretch now! All that's left to do is let the nuts cool off. I spread mine out on a piece of aluminum foil until they cool off. Then, you can package them in a festive tin, or just put them in a fancy dish. I haven't met anyone who doesn't love these nuts! You can keep them in an airtight container for a couple of weeks. But they won't last more than a couple of days!
Swedish Nuts
2 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 lb. nuts (pecans, walnuts, or a mixture of both)
1/2 cup butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Beat egg whites until soft peaks begin to form. Add sugar, salt, and vanilla. Beat until stiff peaks form and turn glossy. Fold in nuts and coat well with the egg white mixture.
Melt butter in a 9x13-inch baking pan by placing it in the oven. Evenly spread coated nuts over melted butter in pan.
Bake for about 30 minutes (or until no butter remains in the pan), stirring and turning nuts every 8 minutes. Place hot nuts on foil and allow to cool.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

White Chocolate Covered Peppermint Rice Krispie Treats

Late last week, I was in Cracker Barrell looking for an exchange gift, when I saw a box of white chocolate covered peppermint Rice Krispie treats. They looked absolutely adorable, and so festive. I didn't buy a box, because I knew I could recreate them very easily at home, and probably much cheaper! So...on my way home, I stopped and bought marshmallows, vanilla almond bark, and candy canes. I had the Rice Krispies and butter at home.
I whipped up a batch of Rice Krispie treats using the recipe on the box, which only took a matter of minutes. Instead of pressing them into a 9x13-inch pan, I used a rimmed cookie sheet. I wanted them thinner than a traditional Rice Krispie treat. After they cooled and set up, I cut them pretty small..about 2x2 inches. Then, I melted the almond bark and added a couple of teaspoons of shortening, just to make the almond bark a little thinner. Instead of dipping them, which took ages when I made the Chocolate Billionaires, I put the treats on a cooling rack, then poured the melted almond bark over them. It worked much better! Not all of the treats were completely covered, but I think they looked nice! I sprinkle of chopped candy cane finished the treats off. I packaged them in a festive Christmas tin and gave them to my Secret Pal for Christmas. I'm pretty sure she doesn't read my blog, so I feel pretty safe in showing them here!
Speaking of Chocolate Billionaires, I had a little of the dark chocolate left over from that recipe, so I used those on a few of the Rice Krispie treats that wouldn't fit in the gift tin. I topped these with mini chocolate chips and chopped peanuts. Honestly, I liked the chocolate covered treats better than the peppermint version, but that's mostly because I'm not really a huge fan of peppermint. These were an easy and quick food gift to make, and they're a nice change of pace from a plate of cookies. Yum!

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Whirlwind

Whew! Between this...
And this...
my little food blog has been woefully neglected lately! Our house is so close to being finished! We won't make it in by Christmas, but we won't miss it by much. We'll take a little photo tour here in a few minutes. But what about that good looking group of grads? Those are the very first graduates from the Lindsey Wilson College School of Professional Counseling extended campus in Louisville! They're the group of students I've been working with since I started my new job in April. Last Tuesday evening, we held their pinning ceremony at The Bunbury Theatre at The Henry Clay. It took a lot of work to put together, but it was worth it! If you'd like to see more pictures, visit LWC's Flickr page.
Now, this house! It's kicking my butt, and I'm not really doing anything but picking things out...how can it possibly consume so much time?! We went over tonight and got a wonderful surprise, which you'll see at the very end. I just can't believe how much I love it. Standing in that house makes me realize how fortunate I am. Let's take a tour!
These are the steps leading up the stairs to the upstairs bedrooms. Please pardon the dusty floors...we're still under construction!
This is the view of the living room and the fireplace from the catwalk upstairs. The mantle isn't finished, but you get the idea...
Here's a view of the living room and fireplace from the breakfast room. Again, pardon the dust and garbage!
This was my surprise tonight! I'm so daggum excited about getting into this kitchen that I can't stand it! When I saw these cabinets tonight, I just fell in love with the kitchen. I've had my doubts about it, but tonight, I could tell that it would all come together beautifully!
There are still more cabinets to install, but you get the idea. The fridge goes right there in the center. The cooktop and microwave go in the space on the right. The sink will be on the left, and my double wall oven will be where those two ladders are. I can't wait!
Another view of the kitchen. I just can't wait! Now, even with all this excitement going on, I assure you, I've been in my tiny little kitchen baking up a storm. I've got loads of Christmas goodies to show you, and I'll do my best to get those up in the next few days. I've got several days off work coming up soon, but I'll be sure to post in between packing up all of our stuff!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chocolate Billionaires

I can't remember where I first heard about "Chocolate Billionaires," but when I found out that they were made from caramel, Rice Krispies, pecans, and chocolate, I knew that they had to be something worth trying! These delightful little sweets were quite a hit at the Christmas party David and I went to on Saturday. These were well-loved by everyone, and I was lucky to get home with a couple to photograph! They were very easy to make, but a little time-consuming because of the fact that they're dipped in chocolate. I've got to find an easier, quicker way to enrobe my chocolate goodies!
If you Google "Chocolate Billionaires," you'll get hundreds of recipes. I chose one from the Taste of Home website, because I knew I couldn't go wrong with one of their selections. With just a few ingredients, you'll have a ton of these crunchy, caramel delights to give as holiday gifts (or to keep for yourself!).
Chocolate Billionaires
14 oz caramels
3 Tbs. water
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup crisp rice cereal
3 cups milk chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)
1 1/2 tsp. shortening
Line two baking sheets with waxed paper; grease the paper and set aside. In a large heavy saucepan, combine the caramels and water; cook and stir over low heat until smooth. Stir in pecans and cereal until coated. Drop by teaspoonsful onto prepared pans. Refrigerate for 10 minutes or until firms.
Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips and shortening; stir until smooth. Dip candy into chocolate, coating all sides. Place on prepared pans. Refrigerate until set. Store in an airtight container. Yields about 2 pounds.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chili-Rubbed Tilapia

David and I are pretty wimpy when it comes to spicy foods. Neither of us can tolerate heat very well, so when I found this recipe for Chili-Rubbed Tilapia, I was a little wary of trying it. It sounded so good though, that I went ahead and tried it. It turned out to be one of the best things we had last week for dinner!
The original recipe included a side dish of asparagus, but I decided to go with broccoli. It's not that we don't like asparagus (in fact, we love it), but it's just kind of expensive. We wait around for spring to harvest Mama's asparagus, and we have it at least three times a week. Oh, we get spoiled in the spring. The broccoli was a pretty good substitute, but I'll have to try it again this spring and use some fresh asparagus.
Chili-Rubbed Tilapia with Broccoli and Lemon
Adapted from a recipe from Heather's Website
1 lb. fresh broccoli, cut into florets
2 Tbs. chili powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
4 tilapia fillets (about 5 oz. each)
1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1.5 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Bring 1 inch of water to boil in a large pan. Place broccoli in a steamer basket; place basket in pan. Cover and steam for 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Transfer to a large plate; spread out to cool.
Combine chili powder, garlic powder and 1/4 tsp. salt on a separate plate. Dredge fillets in mixture to coat. Heat 1 Tbs. oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add tilapia and cook 5-7 minutes, gently turning halfway. Fish will be done when it is opaque in the center and flakes easily. Remove fish from skillet and cover to keep warm. Immediately add lemon juice, remaining salt, and 1 tsp. oil to pan. Add broccoli and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly until broccoli is coated and heated through. Serve broccoli with tilapia.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TWD: Sables

Every Christmas, David and I look forward to those blue tins of Royal Dansk butter cookies. It seems like someone always has one of those tins, and he and I love them! I always go for the pretzel-shaped ones with the sugar crystals on them, but they all taste the same. When I pulled these cookies out of the oven, David said, "They look like those Christmas cookies in the blue tin!" And they do. Only they taste even better!
Bungalow Barbara chose this week's TWD recipe...Sables! They're sandy, buttery shortbread cookies, and they're delicious! This week's recipe can be found on Barbara's blog, or in Baking: From My Home to Yours on pages 131-133. Dorie offers several variations on the basic sable recipe, and I chose to make the spice sables, since we're so close to the holidays. They're full of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg...some of my favorite flavors!
It's important to have a light hand when mixing the dough, so that you can keep the sandy, tender texture that's characteristic of sables. I tend to have a heavy hand when mixing, so I purposely tried to work the dough less. And this time, I think maybe I didn't work the dough enough, because some of my cookies fell apart. But they still tasted great! Isn't the sugar on the outside pretty? Some of the TWDers rolled their cookies in pretty sanding sugar, but I just used regular ol' turbinado sugar. Still a very pretty effect!
These cookies would be perfect if you're going to a cookie exchange, or if you plan to give some food gifts to friends and family. Visit Bungalow Barbara for the recipe, variations, and a couple of tips on how to get perfectly round logs of dough. Happy baking!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Skillet Chicken Stroganoff

This week and next week are going to be pretty busy, between work, Christmas prep, and getting ready to move. I knew I'd have to work a little late this evening, so that meant that I'd have to find something quick and easy (but stil tasty!) for dinner.
I found this Skillet Chicken Stroganoff online about a week ago, but never got around to making it. It went together really quickly, which was my main requirement for this evening's meal. It used lots of mushrooms, so I enlisted David with his help in cleaning them so that we could eat supper sooner. Tonight, I used Hunt's fire-roasted diced tomatoes with garlic, instead of my regular diced tomatoes, and they really added a ton of flavor! Overall, this meal gets an "okay" rating. I probably won't make it again, but it was good in a pinch, and it was something new (which I need pretty frequently, if I'm going to keep up with this food-blogging thing)!
Skillet Chicken Stroganoff
Heather's Website
14.5 oz stewed tomatoes (I used diced)
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 lb. mushrooms, quartered (I used about twice this much...we love mushrooms)
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
4-6 oz. whole wheat pasta, uncooked
1/2 cup sour cream
Drain tomatoes, reserving liquid. Add water to liquid, if necessary, to measure 3/4 cup. In a large skillet coated with nonstick spray, cook chicken, mushrooms, onion, and thyme. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
Stir in pasta, reserved liquid, and tomatoes. Cover and cook over medium heat, ten minutes or until pasta is done, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Best Flank Steak Marinade and a Shortcut

David and I have discovered that we both love flank steak, so I've been experimenting with different marinades in order to find the best one. We tried one marinade with honey, which was really quite good. Then, we tried a couple that really weren't anything special, which is why they never made it to this blog. But the other night, I found The Pioneer Woman's flank steak marinade. I knew I'd probably found my answer to the best flank steak marinade. For the one or two of you left in the country who aren't familiar with The Pioneer Woman, let me fill you in. She's one hilarious lady (whose real name is Ree) living her dream life on a cattle ranch in Oklahoma. She's got one handsome husband (Marlboro Man), four super-cute kiddos, and the laziest basset hound in the universe. Her website is updated daily with her regular musings on country life, what she's been cooking, helpful hints around the house, and updates on her adventures home-schooling her kids. She recently published a cookbook and has been on a whirlwind book tour, which sadly, isn't stopping anywhere in Kentucky. Anyway, I've tried several of her recipes, and they've all been really good. This one was really good.
You know what I love most about Ree's style of cooking? She does everything you're not "supposed" to do. She rinses her mushrooms! And her chicken! She uses "cooking sherry" instead of table wine! But her food is delicious. She likes to make "fancy" recipes now and again, but the bulk of her cooking is done for her husband and kids, who like simple, good food! And who doesn't? Anyway, here's the recipe for the most delicious flank steak I've ever put in my mouth.
The Pioneer Woman's Flank Steak
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup cooking sherry
3 Tbs. honey
2 Tbs. sesame oil
2 heaping Tbs. minced ginger
3-5 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flake
1 whole flank steak
Combine all ingredients in a glass or ceramic dish. Remove flank steak from package and give it a quick rinse. Coat both sides of the meat with the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 3-6 hours.
Now, for the shortcut I promised you. The night we had the flank steak, I had to work late. But I really wanted a baked sweet potato with my meal. Instead of putting my sweet potato (and David's regular potato) in the oven to bake for an hour when I got home (which would have resulted in a very late supper), I stuck it in my crock pot on low before I left for work! It was perfect! The sweet potato and regular potato were absolutely wonderful with our flank steak and green beans. I can't take credit for this stroke of genius, though. I overheard my friend Leslie telling someone that she cooked baked potatoes in the crockpot sometimes. So I stole her idea, and I'm so thankful for her wonderful suggestion! It makes for a quick, easy side dish that's ready whenever you are!
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