Sunday, December 29, 2013

Southern Living: Chicken-And-Collards Pilau

This past week has been a blur of activity between Christmas festivities and reorganizing our house in hopes of making it pop more for prospective buyers.  As a result, we've either eaten sandwiches or out of the house for dinner.  Believe it or not, I'm still cooking from Southern Living!  Tonight, I made the Chicken-and-Collards Pilau and it was absolutely delicious! It was a one pot meal and once I had the prep done, the cooking went quickly.  This meal won a thumbs up from my family and both boys ate the greens because they were so flavorful!  This will definetly be a repeat meal. 

For cooking instructions follow the link above.  Below is how I made it :o)

Gather all the ingredients...,

Next, get it all prepped to cook or as my chemist husband, get all my reagents ready....

After cooking the sausage , remove it from the pot and add the olive oil and chicken.  Once the chicken is cooked, add the veggies except the collard greens and cook for another 5-7 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients plus the sausage to the pot. The collard greens will look like too much, but the cook down like spinach so don't worry!  Bring the pot to boil then cover and place in a 360*F oven for 20-25 minutes.  Enjoy!!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Southern Living Week: King Ranch Breakfast Strata

Not only is today Christmas, but it is also my dad's birthday!  My sister and I take turns hosting breakfast to celebrate his birthday before the Christmas activities get into full swing.  After reading the "7 Meals A Making" article in last months Southern Living, I knew I had found my breakfast in the King Ranch Breakfast Strata.  

My dad enjoys Tex-Mex so this recipe seemed perfect!  The other pluses were that it was easy to put together and it was a make ahead dish so no fussing in the kitchen on Christmas morning :o). This recipe easily makes 10 servings so it works well for a crowd.  

Here is what I did, for the full recipe, use the link above:

Gathered all the ingredients,

Greased a 9x13 baking dish. Cubed the french bread and tossed it with the strips of tortilla. Then, I layered on pre-cooked chicken along with some pepper jack cheese I had shredded.

After getting those layers together,  I softened up the veggies and spices over medium heat and set them aside to cool while I put together the egg mixture and poured it over the ingredients in the casserole dish.

After the veggie mixture had cooled, I spooned it over the eggs.  Then the dish was covered and refrigerated until this morning.  45 minutes for baking it was taken out of the refridge and I poured a cup of milk in it and sprinkled the whole casserole with about a half cup of pepper jack cheese.  The strata baked for 70 minutes in a 325*F oven.  I let it sit for 5 minutes before serving.  

I will definitely serve this again.  It was really filling and had just the right amount of spice!

Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to my dad! 


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Southern Living Week: Slow-Cooker Pork Tacos Al Pastor With All TheFixings

On Wednesdays, we have piano lessons until 5:30pm so getting a dinner on the table before 7pm is a bit tricky!  I turn to my trusty crockpot to help me out!  There are two low cooker recipes in the 7 meals featured in Southern Living.  The beef roast is planned for Sunday.  The other recipe was the  Slow-Cooker Pork Tacos Al Pastor With All The Fixings.  This is a versatile dish.  
I did nachos while the boys had tacos.  There was very little prep, 10 minutes in the morning 
and 15 minutes about a half hour before serving.

Here's the morning action:

Trim off most of the fat on the pork roast.  Rub generously with salt and place in a slow cooker.  Pour the bottle of beer over the roast.  Add half of the can of pineapple chunks to the crockpot and toss the remainder in a blender with the chilies in adobo sauce.  Purée for 30 seconds and pour over the roast. Cook on low for 8-10 hours and enjoy the smell when you come back to your kitchen :o)

30 minutes before serving, shred the pork and remove the bone if there is one.  Put together the remaining ingredients into a sweet salsa.  Serve with cheese, avocado, and any other taco fixings you like and enjoy!

Southern Living Week: Pizza Casserole Deluxe

It's Southern Living week in my kitchen! On Sunday night, I made the One-Pot Shrimp and Grits.  Monday night was grilled cheese because we had the school Christmas concert.  On Tuesday, the boys went caroling at the local nursing home with their scout packs.  They had to be there at 6:30, so I  thought I had time to make the Pizza Casserole Deluxe recipe from the "7 Meals A Making" article. I did get dinner on the table before they needed to leave, but only 20 minutes before so they had to eat fast!  The meal took 90 minutes to make because of all the components that had to be prepped.  It was a delicious meal and I will make it again, but probably on a weekend night when we have more time!

Lots of ingredients in this recipe!  I made it gluten free by substituting the pasta and flour with GF versions. The first step was to boil the pasta per package directions.  I then drained and rinsed it with cold water so the noodles wouldn't clump together while I worked on the other components.

The next steps were to brown the sausage and make the cheese sauce, yummy!

After the sauce was done, I kept it warm on low. I also drained the sausage and combined it with the marinara and 1/2 tsp of salt. Next, I cooked the onion mixture. 

After the onion mixture was done, I put it all together! First the cheese sauce goes over the pasta.

Then mix in 3/4 of the onion mixture and place all in a greased 9x13 casserole dish.

Next layer on the sausage and marinara sauce.

The next step is supposed to be layering in the last 1/4 of the onion mixture, but I goofed and put the cheese and pepperonis on before I discovered my error! 

I threw the onion mixture on top so it isn't picture perfect, but that's okay!  It was good to eat and was a great lunch the next day!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Southern Living Week: One-Pot Shrimp and Grits

While on Thanksgiving vacation,  I read my mother-in-laws Southern Living and loved the recipes in the "7 Meals A Making" story.  

When I got home, I bought my own copy and decided that I could make these recipes over this week. I  went to the grocery with magazine in hand and checked off the ingredients as I filled my cart.  People always talk about how expensive fresh food is, but the total bill came in at $192 which breaks down to just $3.43 a serving!  The meals make 8 servings so we are getting dinner for 4 plus 4 lunches which is saving lots of money as our cafeteria lunch at work averages $7-8.  From my way of thinking, fresh food is cheaper in the long run, even fast food costs more than $3.43 a meal!

All meals are copied from the following edition and can be found on

On Sunday, I made the first meal which was the One-Pot Shrimp and Grits.  I had never cooked grits before so I was a bit hesitant, but they were super easy!  Another plus for grits is they are made of corn so they are gluten free!  This was a low mess meal since it was in one pot.  I did a couple of short cuts using quick cook grits and already deveined and shelled shrimp so my total time from start to finish was about 50 minutes.  

My pictures aren't as pretty as the food magazine photographers.  They don't do justice to how good this meal tasted.  My family wants it to stay high in the rotation :o)

Here is what I did.  After chopping and dicing all the ingredients, I browned the andouille sausage.

After the sausage, the shrimp got a quick sauté,

Then all the veggies were softened up before the broth was added.

Last, but not least the grits were added and after cooking for 15 minutes, I added the andouille and shrimp back to the pot to heat for 5 minutes before serving.  I would recommend this recipe for all shrimp lovers! :o)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

GF Christmas Cookies: Pioneer Woman Coconut Lime Butter Cookies

This time of year has to be the most fun for me as a baker as everyone wants a sweet treat during holiday gatherings!  There are cookie exchanges, teacher gifts, and neighborhood gift giving opportunities to share homemade goodies!  My license to bake has been approved and I am taking full advantage!!  Even though it is the season of cookies and cakes, I continue to be mindful of our gluten intake. King Arthur GF multi-purpose flour and also the GF baking mix have made my life so simple because they have solved my struggle of getting the right combination of flours and binders!  You just use the King Arthur GF products in a 1:1 conversion from the wheat flour.  The dough of GF cookies are fluffier and a bit wetter so I do add 2-3 minutes to baking times of regular recipes.  I'm sure there are other great GF flours out there you could try too, but I've had the most success with these flours.  

Now on to the cookies!  A few weeks ago, I saw Ree Drummond make coconut lime butter cookies on her show and they reminded me of the yummy lemon cookies that I remember my aunt making.  I'm sure she still makes them, but unfortunately, we don't live near each other and I only see her on Facebook now!  These cookies were easy to pull together as I had all the ingredients already available in my pantry.  Even if you don't cook GF on a regular basis, finding items such as coconut cream (aka coconut milk) is easily done in the international aisle of your local grocery store.  I did these cookies over two days because like most moms my time is short! I baked the cookies and stored them overnight in an airtight container and then iced them the next afternoon in about 15 minutes between gymnastics and the piano recital!

Coconut Lime Butter Cookies:
(Makes 3-4 dozen depending on scoop size)

Cookie Ingredients:

4 sticks (1 pound) salted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lime zest
4 cups GF baking mix or multi-purpose flour
1 tablespoons each of lemon and lime juice
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract


Preheat oven to 350*F.  Cream the butter and granulated sugar together. 

Next, add the egg yolks and mix until combined. Add the lemon and lime zest. 

Add the flour and mix until just combined. Then add the citrus juice and coconut extract. Mix on low until a soft dough forms.

Scoop out dough, roll into balls between your hands and place on a baking sheet.

Bake until not quite starting to turn brown, 14-15 minutes. Remove from the oven but keep the cookies on the baking sheet for 3 to 4 minutes. Use a spatula to move them to a cooling rack to cool completely.  At this point, you can store in an airtight container until you are ready to ice.

Icing Ingredients:

3 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cream of coconut (aka coconut milk)
1 tablespoon lemon zest, plus extra for decorating
1 tablespoon lime zest, plus extra for decorating
3 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg white
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lime


In a large bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, cream of coconut, lemon and lime zest, milk, coconut extract, salt, egg white and lemon and lime juice to a large bowl.  Add either more powdered sugar or more milk until it reaches a pourable but still thick consistency. Using a teaspoon, drizzle the icing in a criss-cross pattern over the cookies and then sprinkle a little zest on them.  Icing will set up in. 15-20 minutes and then you can again store in an airtight container for up to two weeks if they last that long :o)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

2013 Birthday Cakes: Minecraft!

Today, we had a joint birthday party for our boys.  We took the kids to see Thor 2.  Movie parties are great because all the kids stay put and are quiet, LOL!  I missed the last 15  minutes of the movie as I had to slip out to set up the party room.  I may need to sneak into the theatre to see the ending and the Easter egg trailer in the credits! ;o). Instead of super hero cakes, the boys wanted a Minecraft theme.   Ry asked for a TNT cake and Colin wanted cupcakes with the animal figures from the game.

I started with 4 Duncan Hines boxed cakes.  My Wilton teacher recommended them and they have never let me down!  I made the cakes on Friday & Saturday. Ryan helped me make the animal figures on Saturday afternoon. He took stills of the game so I could see what the animals looked like.  We did, chickens, pigs, sheep and creepers!  We made them out of fondant.  He helped me make the sheep which look more like puppies to me, but he didn't care!  

This morning, I frosted everything and then put the fondant on the TNT cake.  I was rushing so it's not my best work. While I was fixing my blunders, I kept imaging Kerry Vincent from the Foodnetwork cake competitions tsk tsking behind me!!  

I made the TNT cake three layers.  After I put them together, I had to do a little trimming to get the cube which made my husband happy because there is now a baggy of un frosted cake in the pantry.  Before putting the fondant on, I iced the entire cake in buttercream.

The perfectionist in me was upset with the imperfections, but both boys loved their cakes which means more to me than anything else!  Happy Birthday, Ryan & Colin!  XOXO Mom

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Easy Asian: Crockpot Honey Sesame Chicken!

Last night's dinner was of Asian influence.  It was a super simple crockpot meal that was done in 3 hours!  I started it after the boys got home from school and while it was cooking, I had time to bake a cake and 24 cupcakes :)

This was another recipe that I found on Pinterest from 

I made some modifications to the recipe.  Because our family of 4 really only eats about 3.5 servings, I cut down on the chicken and only used 1 package of chicken breasts which held 3 pieces.  This was plenty for us!  Also because I watch our sodium intake, I used a Worstershire sauce/water solution in place of the soy sauce.  The mixture was 6 tbsp Worstershire sauce and 3 tbsp water which equaled roughly 1/2 cup of soy sauce.

Lastly, I cooked the chicken on high for 2 hours, shredded it and then put it back into the crockpot after the cornstarch mixture.  I then cooked it for an additional 40 minutes as the chicken was still a bit pink when I shredded it.  You should always use your best judgement about cooking times because appliances do vary in temperature!  This is a recipe that everyone liked and I will definitely make again!–