Sunday, September 30, 2012

Celebration Dinner!

Tonight we had dinner at my parents' house to celebrate my nephew's Confirmation!  My mother made a family favorite, beef brisket along with mashed potatoes, broccoli, baked acorn squash, salad and biscuits.  The brisket slow roasts which makes it so tender you can cut it with a butter knife!  The mashed potatoes were simply potatoes, milk, butter and salt.  The acorn squash were halved and placed flesh side down on a baking sheet.  Then it was baked for 40 minutes at 375*.  After the time is up, check them by pressing on them.  If your finger makes an indentation, they are done.  If not, continue cooking for another ten minutes. The recipe for the brisket is pictured below.  My mother cut it out of a magazine several years go.  It feeds 12 so there were plenty of leftovers!

Treason for Breakfast

This morning, I tried my hand at Eggs Benedict. Surprisingly, the most difficult part was not the Hollandaise sauce, it was the poached eggs! The keys to the sauce were whisking like crazy and adding a little hot water to keep it from getting too thick. You have to be aggressive when whisking the sauce! I don't have any special poaching pans or rings so I tried to just poach them freestyle in a pot of hot water. I poached them for 3 minutes, but when I tried to remove them from the water, they just fell apart! I ended up pouring the whole mess down the drain and fried some eggs in a little bit of oil. It wasn't exactly how I planned, but it worked out. Cooking sometimes is like the 2 minute drill in football. Time is ticking down and things aren't in your favor for a good meal, you need to take a deep breath and figure out how to change course for a successful outcome. There are always things you can do like frying the eggs when a recipe isn't cooperating! Be fearless!

Hollandaise Sauce:

4 egg yokes
1/8 tsp Worcestershire sauce
pinch of pepper
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup butter melted
1/4 tsp salt

Crest a double boiler by filling a pot about half way with water. Place a smaller pot or stainless steel bowl on top of the first pot and simmer over medium heat. Whisk the first four ingredients together then add the butter 1-2 tbsp at a time while risking vigorously! Add hot water by the tablespoon if the sauce is too thick. When all the butter is whisked in add the salt and remove from heat and cover to keep warm. You may have to whisk it again prior to serving.

Messy Eggs Benedict:
2 English muffins sliced and toasted
4 slices of Canadian bacon, browned
4 eggs fried in a 1tbps olive oil
Hollandaise Sauce

Assemble in above order and enjoy!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fall Dinner Party

Some dear friends are visiting my parents this weekend.  We don't see them often so we thought  it would be nice to have them over for dinner. This meal took a little over 4 hours to complete so it is a little more labor intensive.  While I was cooking, my husband came home and cleaned the house for me.  The Messy Cook would be nothing without her supporting spouse! The menu was:

Horseradish-Herb Crusted Beef Rib Roast
Scalloped Potatoes
Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta and Parmesan
Green Salad
Rhodes Rolls
Pumpkin Cake

This meal was all about timing and I was very happy that I managed to get it all on the table at the same time!  The pumpkin cake and table decorations were courtesy of Pinterest while the Brussels sprout was a recipe that I found in Southern Living years ago.  It can convert any sprout hater into a sprout eater!

We had a great time visiting with our friends and hope to see them again soon!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Breakfast for Dinner!

Tonight I took a crack at converting a recipe to gluten free. It all started a few weeks ago in a Williams Sonoma store when I saw a cornmeal waffle mix. The mix contained wheat so I put it down as we are trying to cut down on gluten, but the idea of trying cornmeal waffles stuck with me and I decided tonight would be a great time to try making them. I found a basic cornmeal recipe and made my modifications. I didn't have enough milk so I mixed skim milk with heavy cream. I figured that would make a nice 2% milk, right?  The other modifications were rice flour instead of wheat and I only used 1 tbsp of sugar instead of the 2 that it called for.  Lastly, I added 2 tsp of almond extract.  My husband said they tasted like funnel cakes! I also made bacon in the oven which is a trick I learned from my sister-in-law's brother-in-law. Thanks, Bryan!   You cook the bacon on a broiler pan at 425* for 15-20 minutes and there is no greasy mess!

Cornmeal Waffles:

1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 cup rice flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
2 eggs beaten
1/2 cup safflower oil
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tsp almond extract

Mix dry ingredients together and then add wet ingredients. The batter will be a bit thicker than regular batter. Cook as normal.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Care and Concern Through Comfort Food

Every now and then, we could all use a little comfort.  Many times when a family member or friend is faced with some sort of crisis, people will express their care and concern through food.  When our neighbor had surgery, I sent some tomato soup over and I know many other neighbors sent meals to them too!  Today, one of my Godsons had a three hour surgery to correct a birth issue and some close friends faced a cancer diagnosis of a parent. These times are never easy, but hopefully a small gesture such as a container of soup let's the recipients know that we are thinking of them and are hoping and praying for a quick end to the crisis at hand.  For my family and friends, I made a revised version of Paula Deen's, The Lady's Chicken Noodle Soup.  I left out the garlic and mushrooms as some of the recipients have sensitivities to those items.  I did use the optional ingredients to make the soup more filling.  I split a loaf of sourdough bread and sent half with each delivery of soup because there is nothing better than a crusty piece of bread to sop up the last of a warm bowl of soup!  I made a double batch and it provided about 15 servings so I was able to keep a container for our freezer too!

Our dinner tonight was another comfort recipe, GF macaroni and cheese which is a recipe from my friend Lisa.  I've mentioned it before.  It is super simple and only takes 15 minutes to prepare and another 25 to bake.  Both of my boys like it better than the "regular" kind (ie, boxed)!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Winners and Losers

Today, was a day of wins and loses.  Traci knew her veggies and won the cooking class and I had a minor loss when I tried a GF biscuit mix which started out so promising, but went from biscuits to cookies!  They tasted alright and made it to the table.  Root vegetables and squashes are some great reasons to love Fall.  They offer you  alternatives to potatoes when thinking about serving a starch.  I roasted the vegetables and also made London broil which is flank steak cut against the grain. You can marinade the meat overnight and prep the veggies the night before too so it can be an easy meal to throw together in little over an hour before putting it on the table.

London Broil:

1-2 lbs of London broil
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tbsp Worstershire sauce
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp thyme
1 tbsp basil
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp lime juice

Place beef in a gallon size plastic bag.  Whisk remaining ingredients together in a small bowl.  Pour liquid mixture over beef and seal bag.  Marinade in the refrigerator at least 2 hours.  On a medium- hot grill, cook the beef for 5-7 minutes per side depending on personal taste.

Roasted Vegetables:

1 butternut squash
4 parsnips
1 rutabaga
Safflower oil
1 tbsp parsley flakes
1-2 tbsp season salt

Peel and cube all vegetables.  In a large bowl, toss all ingredients together.  Preheat a baking sheet in a 425* oven for about 5 minutes.  Remove baking sheet from oven, sprinkle additional safflower and season salt on the warm sheet and then spread the veggies on the sheet tray. Roast for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so to prevent over browning of any one side of the veggies.

Weekend Cooking Class Winner!

Traci Hoopingarner knew her root vegetables! They are from left to right: parsnip, butternut squash and rutabaga. Traci has chosen to learn how to make Paula Deen's Caramel Cake. Congratulations!!!

Weekend Cooking Lesson Giveaway: Who knows their vegetables?

I'm using these veggies in tonight's dinner. Do you know what they are? The first correct answer here or on Facebook will win a weekend cooking or baking class in your kitchen! You must live a distance within 1 hour of Indianapolis. You have until 8pm eastern to post a guess. I'll hopefully post a winner later tonight with the recipe I used on the veggies. Good Luck!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Variations On A Theme Plus Q&A

Tonight's dinner was a variation of a dinner from a couple of weeks ago.  I did the prep work last night so it only took 15 minutes to get dinner on the table tonight.  I fixed The Pioneer  Woman's Ranch Chicken Sandwiches with peas and Bobby Flay's Creamy Cole Slaw.  I didn't have cheddar or Dijon mustard for the chicken, but I did have shredded asiago and yellow mustard which made fair substitutes.  Not always adhering to the recipe is part of what makes cooking interesting to me.  You never know what new flavors you can bring out!  

I've had a couple of questions about my posts:

Where are the chili and cornbread recipes?

Skillet Cornbread

Simply Perfect Chili

What did 73/27 mean for the ground beef in the meatloaf recipe?

It means the meat is 73% lean and 27% fat.  

What does GF stand for?

It is the abbreviation for Gluten Free.

Were the tortillas used for the chicken soft tacos really corn?

Yes, they are Chi Chi's white corn tortillas.

We are going camping this weekend so my next post will be around campfire cooking!  Send me any easy recipes that you would like to share!  I've had requests for recipes for hollandaise sauce and also mexican pork stew both of which I will be making in the next couple of weeks!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Guinness Beef Stew

Beef stew was on the menu for this evening. I found an Irish beef stew recipe online. The stew was ladled over mashed potatoes! Yummy, who wouldn't love that! The original recipe was just made with beef broth. I substituted a bottle of Guinness Stout for some of the broth. It added a greater depth of flavor. I forgot to add the peas so if you try this, remember the peas! This stew simmers for a couple of hours so it is a weekend recipe. It makes enough for two meals which is always a plus!

Guinness Beef Stew:

2 lbs stew meat
flour for coating
2-3 tbsp safflower oil
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small onion diced
2 cloves of garlic minced
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp rosemary
2 bay leaves
salt & pepper to taste
1 bottle of Guinness Stout
1 32oz carton of beef broth
1/2 cup frozen peas
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour

Heat safflower oil on low. Coat beef cubes with flour and brown in oil. Don't cook through. This is just to brown the meat and it will finish cooking during the long simmering time. While meat is browning, cut up the carrots, onion and garlic. Remove meat from pot to a paper towel covered plate. Add a little more oil if needed and put the carrots into the pot and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add onion ad garlic, cook 1 minute more. Turn heat up to medium and add the bottle of stout to deglaze the pot. Add the beef broth and spices. Cover pot and simmer over low heat for 2-3 hours. Allow butter to soften during the simmering time. About 30 minutes prior to serving, stir in frozen peas. Mix butter with 4 tbsp of flour. Add the mixture to the stew when 15 minutes remain in the cook time. This will thicken the liquid into a gravy. Serve over mashed potatoes if desired.

Mashed Potatoes:

3 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 pint heavy whipping cream
4oz cream cheese cubed
salt & pepper to taste

Boil potatoes for about 20 minutes. They are done if a fork pierces them easily. Drain potatoes, add cream cheese, cover and let rest for 5 minutes. Add heavy cream and mash to desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Meatloaf Miracle

Meatloaf is one of my husband's favorite main dishes from his childhood. I try to replicate it for him on a regular basis, but no matter what recipe I tried, I could never get it to hold together until I used instant, yes instant oatmeal! This recipe is one that I think tastes as good as it looks!


2 lbs ground beef ( I used 73/27)
1 cup Parmesan
2 packets of instant Quaker original oatmeal
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp parsley flakes
1 cup ketchup
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp dry ground mustard

Mix the ground beef and next six ingredients with your hands. When everything is well mixed, form into a loaf shape and place on a broiler pan which allows the fat to drain away during cooking. I line the drip pan with foil for easy clean up. In a small bowl, mix together the ketchup, brown sugar and ground mustard. Use 1/2 of the sauce to cover the meatloaf. Bake for 45 minutes at 450*. Brush on remaking sauce and bake for 15 more minutes. When out of the oven, let the meatloaf rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Crockpot Chicken Soft Tacos

After last night's dinner debacle, I turned to a tried and true recipe that I copied from a friend on a parenting board several years ago. It is super simple to make! I substituted the taco seasoning package with the homemade taco seasoning that I made a few weeks ago with the nachos. I also made Jamie Deen's fresh guacamole after seeing him make it on his new show. My oldest son helped make the guacamole. He tried his hand at squeezing the lime and also peeling the avocado. It took us less than 10 minutes to put together.

Crockpot Chicken Soft Tacos:
(makes 6-8 servings)

1 pkg of boneless, skinless chicken breast (~3lbs)
1 can of black beans drained & rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes with jalapeño
1 pkg taco seasoning
Shredded Mexican cheese
Sour cream
Pico de Gallo
Corn tortillas

Place chicken breast in crockpot. Mix the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning together in a small bowl and pour over the chicken. Lastly, place the black beans on top. Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours. About a 1/2 hour prior to serving, shred chicken and stir. serve chicken mixture on corn tortillas. Top with Pico de Gallo, cheese and sour cream if desired.

Guacamole Recipe:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Not According to Plan

Tonight, my husband and youngest son had a 9/11 scouting event at 6:30pm. Their dinner is in the warmer as I finished preparing it about 15 minutes after they left. On top of that, I put in too much cornbread mix and the mini corndogs didn't come out of the muffin tin so we ended up with mini hotdogs on a bed of cornbread! My oldest son gave them a rating of 20,000 out of 10 so they passed the taste test! Next time, I'll coat the muffin tin with nonstick spray. I also steamed green beans and made the Pioneer Woman's French fries. Both of which I didn't clean and cut until I started cooking so that made the cooking time longer. I think if I just took 15 minutes to prep before work then the dinner would have been completed before the scout meeting!

Mini Corndog is from my friend, Lisa B.'s blog:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Apple Pie, A Lesson From My Nana's Kitchen

My Nana was a wonderful cook as was her mother. Every Sunday, she made a big family meal which would include two pies. When we visited, she would make chocolate, my sister's favorite and apple, my favorite. She got up and made the pies before the rest of the house awoke. I would sneak down to join her. On those mornings, she taught me the secret to a tender crust (ice water), what apples are the best for baking (golden delicious & jonathan) plus many other techniques for a variety of pies. She has been gone for over 18 years, but I can still see her rolling out a beautiful crust and sharing her kitchen wisdom!

Double Crust:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup shortening (I use butter flavored Crisco)
Ice water

Mix together the flour and salt. Cut the shortening into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles a crumble. Add water 1 tbsp at a time to the mix and work with a fork. Keep adding water until a soft dough forms. Form the dough into a ball without over working it or it will be tough. Wrap dough in waxed paper and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before rolling out.

Apple Pie:

1/2-3/4 cups of sugar (amount depends on tartness of apples)
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
lemon zest
2 tsp lemon juice
6-8 apples
2 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 425*. Roll out half the crust and place in the bottom of pie plate. Mix the sugar and next 5 ingredients. Place half of the sugar mixture into the crust. Peel, core and slice apples. Add apples to the pie plate and top with remaining sugar mixture. Dot top with butter. Roll out rest of the dough to form the top crust. Before placing the top crust on the pie, brush the edges of the bottom crust with milk so the edges seal together when the top crust is laid on the pie. Pinch crust together and remove excess. Vent crust to allow steam to escape. Bake for 40-50 minutes. I place my pies on a jelly roll pan to prevent pie filling bubbling over onto the oven. About 30 minutes into baking, cover the edges of the crust with aluminum foil to prevent over browning.

Sunday Night Dinner at Mimi & Papa's

Tonight, we had dinner at my parents' house along with my sister's family. My mom made a family favorite that she was able to put together in less than 90 minutes. We call it goulash although it isn't a traditional goulash recipe! This is a recipe that my dad's mother taught my mom when she was a new wife. Mom paired it with both green beans and corn so all of her grandsons would eat their veggies!

(serves 6)

2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 lb ground beef
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 16oz bag of medium wide egg noodles cooked per pkg instrp

Brown the beef and minced garlic in a sauce pot. Place stewed tomatoes in food processor and purée. Add the puréed tomatoes, sauce, sugar and Parmesan to the sauce pot. Let simmer for at least 1 hour. 15 minutes before serving, cook noodles according to package directions. Drain noodles and incorporate noodles into the sauce mixture. Serve immediately.

Weekly Meal Planning

For many years, my trips to the grocery store were driven by what coupons I had. I gave little thought to doing any serious meal planning. Consequently, we would end up eating out many times as I wouldn't know what I was making ahead of time or I didn't have everything I needed when I tried to cook! I was wasting lots of food too! Now, I do a meal plan on Sunday as it is the quietest day of the week for us. I spend about an hour planning our meals based on our activities, how many days the boys will pack their lunches and if we plan any meals out. Once my meal plan is in place, I take stock of what I have on hand and make my grocery list from the missing ingredients. I spend about $175 each week and that also includes non-food items. This mode of operation has cut down not only on the waste of money, food, and time!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Chicken Enchilada Soup

The other day, someone told me that they didn't cook because recipes are either too complicated, too expensive, or too time consuming. To cut down on cost, I will plan 2-3 meals around a group of ingredients. For example, I've made nachos, chili and tonight's recipe with the same cheese and spices. I also tend to keep my meal recipes down to 10-15 ingredients or so and I usually get at least 2 meals out of one cooking session. Soup is a great meal because you can fix it and then let it simmer until you're ready to eat. I was able to make this soup in about 15 minutes! This is a slimmed down version of Chili's Chicken Enchilada Soup from Taste of Home Healthy Cooking. It is 266 calories vs 380 calories per cup.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fast Food, Pinterest Style

I've recently been introduced to Pinterest by my friend and neighbor, Mindi. Tonight, I needed a quick meal as the boys were supposed to have soccer practice until Mother Nature intervened and sent an afternoon rain shower! I had planned on just having regular ham and cheese until I saw this easy recipe pinned to one of Mindi's boards. I paired it with a mini watermelon and a cole slaw pulled together from bagged cabbage, slaw dressing, a couple of teaspoons of poppy seeds and salt & pepper to taste.

Hawaiian Ham and Swiss Sandwiches:
(The version below is my adjustment to half of all ingredients except the rolls.)

1 12 pack of King's Hawaiian
1/2 lb shaved deli ham
1/2 lb Swiss cheese sliced thin
3/4 stick of butter
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 small onion sliced thin
2 tsp poppy seeds

1. Heat oven to 350. Melt butter and mix in mustard, Worcestershire sauce, onion and poppy seed. Simmer for several minutes.

2. Cut the entire pack of rolls in half, horizontally (keeping all top and bottom halves in tact).

3. In a 9x13 pan lined with foil that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, place bottom half of rolls and spread 1/3 of the onion mixture over the bottom of the rolls followed by the ham and cheese.

4. Replace the tops of the rolls and spread the remaining onion mixture over top.

5. Cover and bake for 15-20 minutes and, once finished, separate for serving.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Aunt Kate's Banana Split Cake

Aunt Kate brought this yummy cake to dinner last night. It is a modification of Paula Deen's version. This is a great recipe for a crowd!

Banana Split Cake

4 cups crushed graham crackers (I used the box kind that had the graham cracker crumbs) –I’d cut it down to 2 cups. I also would like to try this with crushed chocolate cookies for the crust.
3 sticks of butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, use homogenized eggs if you are worried about raw eggs.
16 oz. box of powdered sugar
20 oz. can crushed of pineapple, drained
2-3 bananas – I used 4 and could have used more
12 ounce container of whipped topping.

For the crust, mix graham crackers and 1 stick of butter. Line the bottom and sides of a 13x9-inch pan with this mixture and bake at 350 for 5-7 min.
Beat the eggs, 2 sticks of butter, and the powdered sugar until fluffy. Spread mixture on cooled crust. Add layers of bananas and pineapple, topped with the whipped topping.
Sprinkle with nuts or graham cracker crumbs. – I added maraschino cherries with stems and chocolate jimmies. Refrigerate 1 hour.
- I also took choc. Syrup for any who wanted this flavor.

Spaghetti Memories

Spaghetti is a meal that I associate with family. When I was younger, we would travel back to the town where I was born and visit with family. One of the highlights of those visits would be going to my aunt and uncle's house for fresh pasta and sauce that my aunt and her mom would prepare. The pasta was hand cut and they would have it wrapped in butcher paper. They started their sauce from tomatoes they would pick each August! There would always be 20 or 30 people sitting at long tables covered in white paper. My uncle made wine and you knew you had come of age when you were offered a glass with your dinner. After dinner there would be wonderful cookie trays along with espresso in demi tasse cups.On his first visit, my aunt's mother offered my husband a cup and he thought he was just drinking regular coffee in little cups. He ended up drinking 3 cups before someone told him that was espresso! Needless to say, he didn't get much sleep that night!

I use canned tomatoes and my KitchenAid, but hopefully the memories I'm making for my children are the same. Yesterday, they were full of anticipation waiting for their cousins to arrive! They helped my husband and I make ready for our guests and worked their own dough as I made the pasta. As anyone who knows me can tell you, I am a very sentimental person and when we all were sitting down enjoying the meal that we had prepared, I was remembering those meals of my youth. The faces may change at the table as families grow and change, but the love is there making a simple meal extra special!


Spaghetti marinara with sausage
Tossed greens with candied walnuts
Pepperoni bread
Banana Split Cake (recipe to be added)

I start with my pasta as the dough needs to rest for an hour during which time, I make my sauce.

Semolina Pasta:
(1.5 lbs)
2 cups semolina
1 1/3 cups pasta flour
2 tbsp water plus more as needed
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

Place all ingredients in mixing bowl. If you're using a KitchenAid mixer attach the flat beater and run that speed to 30 seconds. Change out the flat beater for the dough hook. Knead for two minutes. Add additional water 1 tbdp at a time as needed to bring the dough together. Turn out of the bowl and hand knead for 1 to 2 minutes don't overwork. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the refridge for 1 hour. When you start to cut the dough, I've found it best to wrap the resting dough in damp paper towels as pictured below. Follow the tool instructions for flattening and cutting the pasta. Let dry for 1 hour on clean towels. If you are using it at another time, store in an airtight container or vacumn sealed bag.


4 29oz cans of tomato sauce ( I use Hunt's)
1 8 oz can of tomato paste
2 cans of diced tomatoes
1/2 small onion diced fine
4 cloves of garlic
3 bay leaves
1 tbsp each of basil, oregano and thyme
3 tbsp sugar
1 lb sausage links ( I use Johnsonville mild Italian)
2 cups water

Cook sausage in skillet and drain on a paper plate. Drizzle 2-3 tbps of the sausage drippings into the pot you are using for your sauce. Heat up over low-med heat. Add the diced onion and cook until translucent. Add diced garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Add the spices and cook another minute to start releasing the flavors. Add the cans of sauce, paste and diced tomatoes. Stir gently to combine. Add sugar and watering stirring again. Turn heat to low and simmer for 1-2 hours. Stirring occasionally. Taste after 1 hour and add spices and/or sugar to taste.

(Pictures not in order, I need a blog guru to help me!)