Skillet Sweet Potatoes

When I logged in today, I realized that my last recipe was chicken noodle soup.  It is insanely appropriate that I posted the classic feel-better recipe last Monday morning, because that afternoon, the cold hit my house hard.  And not just any cold.  I’ve dubbed this the death cold of 2015.  Even a week later my head is stuffy and pounding and there is a noticeable ringing in my ears.  I’ve been slipping chile into everything my family eats lately just to be sure that we kill this monster germ DEAD.  I’m glad to say that I’m feeling well enough to be sitting in front of the computer screen today and can therefore share this super-simple sweet potato recipe.

Start by peeling two medium sized sweet potatoes.  Then, slice them into 1/4″ thick rounds.  You’re going to want to use a sharp knife and be careful during this step.  Sweet potatoes are much harder than other potatoes and these do not taste as good with a side of finger. Just sayin’.

DSCN1706

Now, heat a tablespoon of butter in a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat.  When the butter is melted and starts to bubble, layer your sweet potatoes across the bottom.  I like to separate them and lay them in a layer at a time.  Season with salt, pepper, chile powder and onion powder between each layer. The picture only shows one layer, but I keep layering until I am out of potatoes.

DSCN1708

When you have all the potato slices layered in the pan, cover wit ha tight fitting lid and cook for 10-15 minutes.  I actually don’t have a lid for my non-stick skillet, but my pizza pan is a perfect fit and comes in handy for the next step.  I do not have photographs of the flipping step, and it can be a little intimidating.  Don’t fear, you can just use a spatula to flip these over a section at a time.  They won’t be quite as pretty, but they will taste just as good.  If you’re feeling adventurous, give this a try.  Take a flat tray (I use my pizza pan) that is large enough to completely cover the top of your skillet.  Use hot pads or oven mitts or other heat-protective gear to grab the skillet and the tray together.  Hold the tray and skillet tightly together and invert.  The potatoes will fall onto the tray.  Remove the skillet from the top and place it back on the heat.  Slide the potatoes off the tray and back into the skillet so that the cooked side is facing up.  Cook over low heat until the bottom is golden brown.  I’ve served this in slices before or just a scoop.  The top and bottom will be a beautiful golden brown and the inside will be soft and creamy.  You can see where the potatoes with direct skillet contact are caramelized and the inside ones are more pale.

DSCN1715

Recipe:

2 medium sweet potatoes

1 Tablespoon butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon chile powder

Peel sweet potatoes and slice into 1/4″ rounds.

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over low heat.  Layer sweet-potatoes into hot oil. Season between each layer.  Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes.

Place a tray or board over the top of the skillet.  Hold skillet and tray together tightly and flip.  Remove skillet and place back over low heat.  Slide potatoes, now cooked side up, back into the skillet.  Continue cooking until bottom in golden brown and all potatoes are tender.

Chicken Noodle Soup

We have had temperatures nearing 70 for almost two weeks  Though I have enjoyed wearing my tank tops and flip flops and getting some things done in the yard, I was really glad to wake up to a couple of inches of snow this morning.  Pair that with having a couple of sick kiddos in the house and it is the perfect day for the best medicine in my kitchen – chicken noodle soup.  I don’t know that there is anything novel in this recipe, just simple goodness.

If you don’t have pre-cooked chicken, go ahead and cube your chicken and cook it in your soup pot with a little oil.  Then just build your stock on top of that.  If you do have pre-cooked chicken, start by adding your broth to your soup pot.  Then, take half a lemon and quarter it.  Stick one clove in two of the lemon quarters.  Drop the lemons into the broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer and simmer for about a half hour.  Then, remove the lemon quarters and add the chicken, vegetables and parsley to the broth.  Return to boil.  The noodle you use is really up to you.  Sometimes, when I’m feeling really ambitious, I make noodles from scratch.  Usually, I buy frozen egg noodles. However, dried egg noodles work just as well.  I like the extra wide variety.

DSCN1861

When the soup is boiling, add the noodles and cook until just tender.  If you plan on serving this several times, you can cook the noodles separately and add them to each bowl of soup.  If you are storing this for even a day, the noodles will soak up most of the soup liquid and get fairly soggy (of course, no one in my house really minds this, but if I was making it for company I’d probably cook the noodles separately).  However you do the noodles, taste for seasoning and serve piping hot.

DSCN1863

Recipe:

6 cups chicken stock

1/2 lemon

2 whole cloves

2 cups diced, cooked chicken

1 cup diced carrots

1/2 cup sliced celery

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

8 ounce package extra wide egg noodles

salt and pepper to taste

Pour stock into large soup pot and bring to boil.  Cut lemon half into quarters.  Stick each clove into a lemon quarter.  Add lemons and cloves to stock.  Reduce heat to simmer and simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove lemon quarters and cloves from stock.

Add chicken, carrots, celery and parsley to broth.  Return to boil.  Add noodles and cook according to package directions.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Jumbalaya

I am not Catholic.  I grew up in an area where Catholics were much more prone to celebrate Ash Wednesday than they were to celebrate Mardi Gras.  In fact, except for the bar celebrations, Mardi Gras is basically a non-event here.  However, I grew up with family in South Louisiana.  Of course, the celebration in New Orleans gets a lot of coverage, but every little town makes a HUGE deal out of Mardi Gras.  I never went to a celebration, but the Mardi Gras coverage every year makes me crave Cajun food something awful.  Hence, Jumbalaya.  I love Jumbalaya for one simple reason – flexibility!  The French root of Jumbalaya actually means mish mash.  So, if you’ve got some rice, stock, protein and spices on hand, you can make Jumbalaya.  The recipe here only has chicken in it.  Usually, I’d also add Andouille sausage and shrimp.  You can adapt the rice to protein ratio any way you want – more rice feeds a crowd a flavorful meal on a budget, more meat makes a super hearty dish that will please even the most carnivorous eater in your house.  This recipe is only slightly spicy (I’d say medium if I was designating it the way salsa’s are)  Reduce the amount of Cajun seasoning for a milder dish or add a little cayenne pepper to amp up the spice.

Almost all Cajun food starts with the trinity – that’s onion, bell pepper and celery – sautéed in your pan as the base.  I like to add some rough chopped garlic, because it suits my tastes (or wards off unwanted vampire attacks – either way).  It doesn’t really matter how uniformly it is chopped since this is going to simmer away for quite a while.

DSCN1848

I also put diced, fresh tomatoes in with the trinity and garlic.  You can use tomato paste too.  Add it just before you add the stock. When the veggies start to soften, add your meat and get a little brown on it.  Then stir in the stock.

DSCN1850

Bring this to a boil.  Stir in the rice.  Reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover.  Simmer until rice is cooked through and most of the liquid is absorbed.  This takes about and hour (hey, I said it was flexible, not fast).  You can cut the cook time down by using minute rice, but you are going to compromise some flavor and texture to do it. Serve it up with a nice, fluffy biscuit.

DSCN1853

Recipe:

1 Tablespoon oil

1/2 onion, diced

3 ribs celery, diced

1 bell pepper, seeded and diced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tomatoes, diced

2 pounds chicken, diced (or 1 pound chicken and 1 pound sausage)

3 cups chicken stock

1 cup brown rice

1 Tablespoon Cajun seasoning

Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium high heat.  Add onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic and tomatoes.  Cook until vegetables are soft.  Add chicken and cook for 5 minutes.  Add stock.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Stir in rice.  Reduce heat to low, so that liquid is just at a simmer.  Simmer, covered, for 1 hour (or until rice is done).  Stir quickly after 30 minutes have passed and again after 45 minutes have passed.

Taco Seasoning

I have been inexcusably absent the last couple of weeks.  But, I’m back today – and, it’s Taco Tuesday!  I reference taco seasoning in a lot of my recipes.  Sometimes, I’ll be honest, I grab a packet at the store – especially if I don’t have any mixed up and the brand with a box top coupon is on sale.  Really though, I prefer to mix up my own.  It’s simple and stores well and you can use it to liven up just about any southwestern dish.  What I like best is that it allows me to control the amount of salt and eliminate the sugar (yes, commercial mixes typically have sugar in them, who knew?).  It couldn’t be easier to mix this up.  Just measure out your dried spices, toss them in a container and stir to combine.  Then use as little or as much as you want to season up a pan full of meat for tacos. I like to add my seasoning as the meat is cooking.  Serve with a tortilla shell (these are crispy corn tortilla bowls), some lettuce and cheese and whatever else your family likes on tacos..

DSCN1631

Recipe:

1 Tablespoon chile powder

1 Tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon oregano

Place all spices in a container and stir to combing.  Store, tightly sealed, for up to 6 months.

Pretzel Rolls

My husband loves hamburgers.  He could eat them 3 or 4 meals a week.  And while I appreciate a good burger, I need a little variety in my life.  So, when he asked me to put hamburgers on my menu even though we had just had them, I started thinking about a way to mix it up a bit.  I knew I wanted to make fresh buns.  And that’s when I decided that I should make pretzel buns.  I looked up Alton Brown’s very popular soft pretzel recipe and then adapted it to meet my needs.  I swapped out some of the white flour for whole wheat flour and added a little honey just because.

After you have mixed your dough and let it rise, you’re going to want to shape your rolls.  Surface tension is important.  Divide your dough into 8 equal parts.  Then, make a circle with the thumb and middle finger of your non-dominant hand.  Use your dominant hand to press each piece of dough up through the circle.  Then pinch the bottom edges together tightly.

DSCN1813

I flattened mine a little so they were a more appropriate size for hamburgers.  If you want to use these like dinner rolls, I’d probably cut my dough into 12 sections instead of 8.

DSCN1814

The next step is where the magic happens.  This is what turns these from dinner rolls into pretzels.  In a soup pot, mix together water and baking soda.  Bring it to a rapid boil.  Drop your shaped dough into the boiling water and boil for 20-30 seconds per side.

DSCN1816

Drain and place on baking sheets.  Sprinkle with coarse salt and use a sharp knife to slash an x in the top of each bun. You can use an egg wash, but if you sprinkle the salt right after you take them out of the water, the moisture from boiling will make the salt adhere.

DSCN1817

Bake these rolls in an oven preheated to 425* for 12-15 minutes.  They’ll be deep golden brown and chewy deliciousness.

DSCN1822

Recipe:

1 1/2 cups warm water

1 Tablespoon honey

1 package instant dry yeast

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups whole wheat flour

2 Tablespoons melted butter

1 1/2-2 cups all purpose flour

For boiling:

5 cups water

1/3 cup baking soda

Combine the 1 1/2 cups warm water, honey and yeast.  Let bloom for 5-10 minutes.  Add salt, whole wheat flour and melted butter to make sponge.  Let sponge rise for 30 minutes.

Using your dough hook, add all purpose flour to sponge 1/2 cup at a time.  Dough will form a ball and clean the sides of the bowl.  Knead 4-5 minutes. Cover and let rise at room temperature for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425*.

In a small stock pot, stir together water and baking soda. Place over high heat and bring to rapid boil.

While water is coming to a boil, divide your dough into 8 equal parts.  Shape each portion into a roll by pushing it through a circle made with your fingers and then pinching edges together tightly.

Drop formed rolls into boiling water and boil for 20-30 seconds per side.  Drain and place on baking sheet.  Sprinkle with coarse salt and score with sharp knife.

Bake at 425* for 12-15 minutes.

Stuffed Bell Pepper Soup

My last produce basket came with 4 onions and 7 bell peppers.  I usually struggle to use one or two of each of those in a regular menu cycle.  Then, someone suggested they were going to make stuffed bell pepper soup.  I was intrigued.  I make stuffed peppers on occasion, but I don’t really like them.  I end up eating the filling and tossing the pepper.  But, it’s winter.  I love soup in winter.  And, here I was with all these bell peppers. So I figured I would give it a try.

I started off by roasting 4 tomatoes.  I just cut them in half, placed them face down and tossed them into a 450* oven.  My tomatoes were slightly under ripe, so I wanted to be sure I helped the flavor any way I could.  You could definitely use canned tomatoes here, but I had fresh ones in my basket and in this house they would have spoiled before we ate them all.

DSCN1825

I let the tomatoes cool for quite a while.  I started browning a pound of hamburger in my big soup pot.  Whie the meat was browning, I diced up an onion, some celery and 3 good sized bell peppers. When the meat was brown, I pulled it out of the pot with a slotted spoon and set it in a bowl lined with coffee filters to finish draining.  I poured off all but about a tablespoon of the fat from the hamburger.  I used that fat to sweat down my veggies.  I added the onion and celery first with a little salt.  When they started to get tender, I stirred in the bell peppers.  While that cooked away, I pureed my tomatoes with a couple of cloves of garlic.  Now, you don’t HAVE to puree your tomatoes, but I do not really like chunks of tomato in my food.  Add the tomatoes and garlic, pureed or otherwise, into the pot with the veggies.

DSCN1829

Give it a stir. Add in broth, rice, cooked hamburger and seasoning.  Then taste it.  My tomatoes were on the acidic side, so I employed a new trick I learned.  I tossed in about an 1/8 of a teaspoon of baking soda.  It’s going to make your soup froth a little bit, but it really does work to mellow the acidity.

DSCN1830

Cover and simmer until your rice is done.  Taste for seasoning before you serve.  You’ll probably want to add a little more salt.

DSCN1831

Recipe:

4 whole tomatoes

1 pound ground beef

1 small onion, diced

3 ribs celery, diced

3 green bell peppers, diced

2 cloves garlic

3-4 cups broth (chicken or beef)

1 cup brown rice, uncooked

1 teaspoon chile powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

dash cinnamon

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450*.  Cut tomatoes in half.  Place cut-side down in a baking dish.  Bake at 450* for 25-35 minutes or until skins begin to crack and tomatoes are soft and fragrant.

Heat large soup pot over medium high heat.  Add ground beef and cook through.  Remove beef, but reserve 1 Tablespoon of the drippings in the pot.  Add onion and celery to the pot. Season with salt and sweat until translucent and tender.  Add bell pepper.  While bell pepper is starting to soften, place roasted tomatoes and 2 cloves garlic in blender.  Process until smooth.  Add tomatoes to vegetables.  Stir in broth, hamburger meat, uncooked rice, chile powder, paprika, cinnamon and salt and pepper to taste.  If your soup seems a little acidic, add a tiny bit of baking powder and let it foam.  Simmer over low heat until rice is tender.

Oatmeal Pancakes

The other day, I  had some egg whites leftover.  I was searching the lovely internet for ideas on how to use them.  That’s where I came across this recipe for Oatmeal Protein Pancakes over at Slender Kitchen.  I skimmed the recipe, decided I didn’t have (and probably never would have) the exact ingredients used, but knew I could come up with something that would work.  Now, I love me some pancakes, but they’re basically everything I’m not supposed to be eating now.  These use whole oatmeal, eggs, greek yogurt and no white flour or sugar.  I made them silver dollar sized and ate 4.  My boys ate 6 each.  I’m hooked and I hope you will be too.

The process is simple.  Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Feel free to mix up the spices however you want.  Then, generously grease a non-stick skillet or griddle that is over low heat.  Pour batter onto greased griddle until pancakes are the size you want.  Smaller pancakes are easier to flip and these can stick.  When the batter is bubbly and dry around the edges, flip.

DSCN1809

They’ll be golden brown and fluffy.  I didn’t even use any syrup on mine (though, the boys did).

DSCN1812

Recipe:

1 cup old fashioned oatmel

1 5.3 ounce container greek yogurt

6 egg whites or 3 whole eggs

1 medium banana or 1/2 cup cooked sweet potato

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.  Heat a non-stick skillet or griddle over low heat. When surface is hot, grease liberally.

Pour out a small amount (2-3 tablespoons) of batter onto skillet.  Cook until bubbly and dry around the edges.  Flip and cook until golden brown.  Serve warm with butter and maple syrup if desired.

Egg Roll Tostadas

I do not like egg rolls.  When we have Chinese out, my husband orders 6.  My daughter eats two and my husband eats the rest.  All that slimy cabbage and barely any meat.  I do like the crispy part of the wrapper though.  In fact, I’ve been known to peel the crispy wrapper off and eat it – leaving behind any soft wrapper and all the filling.  So, when I was scanning Pinterest for new dinner ideas the other day, I saw a pin for egg roll bowls.  I’ll be honest, I didn’t even click on the pin.  I saw the title and thought, “I can do this.  And, I can do it in a way I like that is as healthy as it is delicious!”  And thus, this recipe was born.  There’s another budget tip here.  I got broccoli in my Bountiful Baskets basket last time.  So many people toss the stems, but I just can’t see doing that.  I know when I buy it from the store, I pay per pound for those stems.  Instead, I use those pieces in soups or slaws or, now, in these delicious tostadas.  Wanna cut back on the carbs even more, serve it up in a bowl with one or two wrappers on the side (or just eat the filling alone, it is THAT good).

This recipe does take quite a bit of prep time.  If you’re crunched for time, you could buy broccoli slaw and shredded carrots at your local grocery, or you could run this all through the grater (the texture will be different though).  I started by julienning equal parts carrots, bell pepper and broccoli stems and shredding twice as much cabbage. Aren’t they beautiful!

DSCN1788

After your veggies are prepped, cook your meat, drain it and set it to the side.  I used ground beef, but pork or even turkey would be just as delicious.  Then, in the same pan you cooked your meat in, heat 2 Tablespoons oil.  Add onion, garlic, ginger and red chile flake to the hot oil and sauté just until onion is soft.  Add carrot, bell pepper and broccoli to the pan and sauté for 4-5 minutes, or until it just starts to get a little tender.  Add your cabbage and stir for 2-3 minutes.  Then, add the meat  and soy sauce and heat through.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

DSCN1790

Fry up some round won ton wrappers and serve a generous spoonful of filling on top.  These are garnished with julienned cucumber.

DSCN1793

Recipe:

1 cup julienned bell pepper

1 cup julienned carrot

1 cup julienned broccoli stems

2 cups shredded cabbage

1 pound ground beef (or pork or turkey)

2 Tablespoons oil

1/2 medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1″ ginger, diced

pinch red chile flake

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

Fried round won ton wrappers

In a large skillet, brown ground beef.  Drain and set aside.

In the same skillet, heat oil over high heat.  Add onion, garlic, ginger and chile flake.  Sauté until the onion is translucent.  Add bell pepper, carrot and broccoli.  Sauté 4-5 minutes, until vegetables just start to get tender.  Add cabbage and sauté 2-3 minutes more.  Stir in meat and soy sauce until heated through.  Season with salt and pepper if necessary.  Serve on crispy won ton skins.

More Than Microwaving – Broccoli Cheese Casserole

If you grew up anywhere even remotely near the South, chances are you’ve had a generous amount of broccoli cheese casserole.  It’s ok, but I just really don’t care for those canned, condensed soups.  My husband, however, LOVES this casserole.  Our compromise? I make it with leftover, homemade broccoli cheese soup.  I’ve seen this served as a side or even with whole chicken breasts or thighs roasted on top of the casserole so it makes a one dish meal.  I like to do it that way, but this time of year is lean for us. My husband works in the oilfield.  Seems these companies always underestimate their yearly operating expenses and work gets cut to the bare minimum toward the end on the year.  This recipe uses up your leftovers, stretches a little bit of meat and makes a hearty meal that is a crowd pleaser. Oh, and did I mention it is seriously easy?

Cube up one large or two small chicken breasts.  Seriously, I hate that when I buy frozen chicken breasts there are always a couple of monster pieces and then some that are so small it is obvious they aren’t whole breasts.  I use those for this.  Here is the chicken I started with.  It made about a cup and a half of cooked cubes.

DSCN1779

That is seriously all the chicken I used.  After your chicken is cooked, add equal parts prepared brown rice (or you could use half as much uncooked minute rice) and leftover broccoli cheese soup (or, if you prefer, used condensed soup and some milk) to the pan with your chicken. Pour the whole mixture into a large casserole dish (9×13), and sprinkle with cheese.

DSCN1780

Bake until the cheese is melted and the edges are bubbly.  It doesn’t take long since everything is cooked through already (you may have to cook it longer if you use uncooked rice).  Serve wit ha nice salad and you’ve got a full meal.

DSCN1785

Recipe:

1 large or 2 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed

1 Tablespoon oil

salt and pepper

4 cups leftover broccoli cheese soup

4 cups prepared brown rice

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350*

Heat oil in large skillet.  Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.  Brown chicken in skillet and remove from heat.

Stir in leftover soup and loosen any brown bits that remain from cooking the chicken.  Stir in rice.

Transfer the meat, soup and rice mixture to a 9×13 casserole dish and sprinkle with shredded cheese.  Bake at 350* for 15-20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Rainbow Chard with Italian Sausage

I have never bought any kind of chard in my life.  So, when I got a bunch of beautiful rainbow chard in my Bountiful Basket, I had to do a little research.  I’d seen it used on cooking shows before.  And everything I read said that you could use it pretty much anywhere you would use kale.  I knew that I wanted to use those beautifully colored stalks.  I decided the best use would be to pair it with a protein and make it a main dish.  I make a soup with Italian sausage and kale, so I figured that would be a good bet.  I started chopping stuff up, tossed it in the skillet and what came out was delicious.  I served it with butter and garlic whole wheat spaghetti.  My 3 year old called it leaves and worms and gobbled it up.  My 6 year old had seconds (and maybe thirds).  In my book, that’s a major win.  I diced a couple of small red potatoes in this recipe.  Honestly, this would be just as good (and maybe even better) without them, but I had some I needed to use.

Start by browning a pound of Italian sausage in a hot skillet.  I use mild Italian sausage because my kids prefer it.  This dish would be great with either mild or hot.  I don’t use any oil in the skillet.  The sausage cooks out enough oil for the entire dish.  Don’t be afraid to let it get nice and brown.  Crumble it into the hot pan and walk away for a minute or two.  If you stir it around too much, your sausage will be all grey and, honestly, missing a flavor that only a good browning can give. I tried to take a picture of this, but all of the shots I took were too close up and looked decidedly unappealing.

When the sausage is nice and brown, add onion, garlic, bell pepper and potatoes (if you’re using them) and sautee until onions are translucent and potatoes start to soften.  Use a little white wine or chicken stock (or even water) to deglaze the pan.  Once you’ve loosened all the little brown bits off the bottom of the pan, add the chard to the top of the pan, cover with a lid and reduce heat to low.  Let this cook with the lid on for about 5 minutes.  Remove lid and stir. Season with a dash or two of nutmeg and some salt and pepper to taste before serving.

DSCN1778

Recipe:

1 pound Italian sausage

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small onion, diced

1 small bell pepper, seeded and diced

2 small red potatoes, diced (optional)

1/4 cup chicken stock or white wine

1 bunch rainbow chard, chopped

dash nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

Place a large, heavy bottomed skillet over high heat.  Crumble Italian sausage into skillet and brown, stirring occasionally.  When sausage is brown, add garlic, onion, bell pepper and red potato.  Saute over high heat until onion is translucent and potatoes are almost cooked through.  Deglaze pan with stock or wine, stirring to release brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add chopped chard on top of meat mixture, cover with lid, reduce heat to low and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove lit, stir, season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.