Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Dinner Traditions

I can remember the smell of the cornish hens roasting in the oven, the sweet smell of Christmas cookies, and a lingering smell of wrapping paper.  These are all memories from my childhood Christmas with family.  Now that I am older and married.. we are starting new traditions.

The last few years I've started a new Christmas dinner tradition of mashed potatoes and pork tenderloin - among other things.  This year, I was trying to save myself $10 and decided to go with a regular cut of pork rather than a tenderloin.  Typically a pork tenderloin and can be found already seasoned.  The cut of pork that I bought was not seasoned.  It was time to get creative.

I found a couple of marinade tips on  Yes, I always claim not to use recipes from others but, I was in need of some help.  So I took a recipe and made it my own...

Recipe of Pork Marinade
- 1/2 cup of soy sauce
- 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
- 3 TBSP of Liquid Smoke
- 1/2 teaspoon Onion Powder
- 2 cloves of grated or minced garlic

I marinated the pork in liquid smokiness for about 4 hours.  I placed the pork in a baking pan and baked at 400 degrees for 75 minutes.  The internal temperature should be 170 degrees if you are using a meat thermometer.  Continue cooking until the internal temp reaches 170.

A bottle of liquid smoke will run you about $10.  The price might be steep but the flavor is outstanding.  It will add great flavor to any cut of meat.

I paired the pork with cheesy, garlic mashed potatoes and a salad with homemade dressing (Honey Mustard Vinaigrette).

We also enjoyed a nice bottle of Christmas wine, which complimented the pork very well.  We both look forward to building on this new tradition for many more years to come.

I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas.  Happy New Year too!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Set it and Forget it - Christmas Morning

Set it and forget it.  That was one of my favorite things about our Christmas morning breakfast.  This year I decided to have a breakfast already prepared for the morning.  

The day before Christmas I mixed a breakfast bake together.  All I had to do in the morning was preheat the oven and put the dish inside.  Set it and forget it.

There are so many different varieties of breakfast bakes.  But here is one that I made for our first Christmas as husband and wife.  :)

Sausage Breakfast Bake
- 10 to 12 breakfast sausage links  (You can also use bacon - which is what I prefer but, I had sausage left over and wanted to use it up)
- 12 eggs
- 1 small diced onion
- 1 diced tomato
- 1/2 cup of chopped spinach  (I used frozen and drained spinach)
- 1/4 cup of shredded Asiago cheese
- 1 TBSP Italian seasoning
- 1 TBSP seasoning salt
- 2 slices of diced white bread  (I had hoagie sandwich bread left over so I used that)

Brown the sausage (or bacon) in a skillet.  In a separate bowl combine the eggs and seasoning.  Whisk until completely combined.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl.  Pour into an oven-safe pan.  Cover and set aside until ready to bake.  

When ready to bake, keep it covered with aluminum foil.  Bake at 400 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes.  Serve and enjoy.  

Before baking in the oven.

Cooked and ready to eat on Christmas morning!

Our Christmas morning also included a special coffee.  I just used our regular coffee.  In the bottom of the coffee mug, I added a couple dashes of cinnamon and then about 1 shot of Irish Creme Liquor.  It was a nice treat on our day off.  If I wanted to get really fancy, I also would have added whip cream and a dash of cinnamon to the top.  Give it a try.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Family Christmas Appetizer's

Well, Merry Christmas to my faithful followers and readers.  I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!

"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." - Matthew 1:21

When I think about having Christmas with my family and with my in-laws.. I automatically think about the delicious food that will be served.  What does your family serve for Christmas?  Some of my families most favorite appetizers are...

Christmas Appetizers 

- Spinach dip with bread and rye chips
- Red Crab Meat dip
- Smoked Oysters (hey, don't knock it until you try it)
- Cookies made by Mom
- Shrimp and Cocktail Sauce

Every year I make a special request for my Mom's spinach dip - it is served cold, not hot.  I really enjoy the crunch from the water chestnuts and dipping rye bread in it.  Here is a quick fix if you would like to try it for a special family gathering.

Spinach Dip
- 16 oz of sour cream
- 1/4 cup of mayonnaise
- 1 package of vegetable soup mix
- 1 can of water chestnuts chopped
- 1 container of frozen spinach, drained
- 2 tsp of lemon juice

It's just that easy!!

I hope that you all have a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Man Needs Meat & Potatoes - Part 2

Let's be honest.. it is not very often that I, the woman, get a craving for a potato.  It's also not very often that I don't cook a meal with my husband's potato-loving tummy in mind.  So here is another one-pot meal that is similar to the first Meat & Potato post.

Due to the chaos of the Christmas season, the busyness that comes from working at a church, and the every day tasks.... I am almost embarrassed to say that I have not done a thorough grocery trip in over 3 weeks (I'm talking the kind of shopping that you hit every area of the store).  Shocking, I know.

My husband's job is seasonal and allows him to have off in the winter.  This means that our refrigerator primarily consists of manly substances - such as bacon and beer.  Yes, I am due for a large overhaul of my refrigerator.  I must take back my territory and fill it with heart-healthy non-bacon foods.. like lettuce, soy, and turkey.

Well until I have the opportunity to get to the grocery store, I was forced to tap into my food creativity yet again this week.  I looked through my slim-pickings and came up with this....

Country Chicken & Potato Bake
- 3 or 4 Chicken breast.. cut into chunks
- 4 potatoes thinly sliced (any kind of potato is fine.. no red potato though)
- 1 medium onion diced (If you don't like onion.. substitute this with celery or broccoli)
- 1 can Cream of Chicken
- 2 cups of white or brown rice
- 2 TBSP of basil
- 1 TBSP of 4/S Special Seasoning Salt (or just use regular seasoning salt and paprika) 
- Pepper to taste (do not add more salt until after baking - if needed.. the seasoning salt provides enough)

In a skillet, brown the chicken breast pieces and sprinkle with the seasoning salt.  In a medium sauce pan, cook 2 cups of rice.  Read the directions on the package or box of rice but it's typically twice the amount of water to the rice.  Once the chicken and rice is done cooking.. combine ingredients in a separate baking dish.  Add the rice, chicken, onion, and cream of chicken... mix thoroughly.  Add the potatoes, basil, and pepper to the top.  Bake covered at 400 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.  Uncover and add the cheese.  Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the potatoes are fork-tender.

It is hearty meal that your man will love.  My husband had about 3 servings.  It's simple and probably includes ingredients that you already have.  Try this recipe tonight if you find yourself in a similar refrigerator crisis.  Enjoy!  

Monday, December 13, 2010

Casserole Creativity 101

Have you ever had one of those days that you know the refrigerator stock is running low and what ever is in the pantry is not appealing?  Well this happens to me every so often - which forces me to become really creative with dinner that night.

If you ever find yourself in this situation... DO NOT PANIC!  Sometimes getting creative is much better for your pocket book and waste line because, often times we would rather have someone else make us dinner (i.e. pizza, freaky-fast sub sandwiches, etc).  So open up the pantry and get the creative juices flowing.

There was one particular week that I had made the Enchilada Casserole and had a leftover bag of hash browns.  The next day I was in desperate need of a trip to the grocery store but running on very little sleep and energy.  SO, I got creative.

I do not have the exact recipe written down for this dish but, I'd like to suggest trying something like this for a casserole dinner some night.

Crunchy Southwest Chicken Casserole
- 1/2 bag of diced hashbrowns
- 1-2 lbs. of chopped chicken breast or tenderloin (feel free to use shredded chicken if you have that)
- 1 medium chopped onion
- 1 bag of frozen corn
- 1 1/2 cup of crushed tortilla chips
- 1 can of green chili's
- 1 can of black beans
- 1 chopped green pepper
- 1 cup of shredded marble jack cheese
- 1 can of chopped tomatoes (or use fresh if you have it)
- 3 to 4 slices of cubed cheddar cheese
- 1 1/2 TBSP of Arizona Dreaming (or use Smoked Paprika)
- Salt & pepper to taste

Brown the chopped chicken breast in a pan.  Combine all ingredients into a pan.  Tuck the cubed cheddar cheese in various places of the dish and then cover with a thin layer of more cheese. Bake covered for 35 minutes.  Uncover and bake 10 minutes.

If you feel that it's too dry.. I would suggest adding salsa to it or creating a type of "gravy" from the pan drippings left over by the chicken.  If you want it to be SPICY.. I would recommend adding some chipotle seasoning OR perhaps a little Adobo sauce if you have any canned chipotle's on hand.  I love adobo sauce.  Do not use too much.. maybe 1/4 to 1/2 of a tablespoon.  A little goes a long way.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Art of Pasta Salad's

When invited to a party or planning a party.. you know of specific people with specific food specialities.  Do you have a speciality?  I have a few party favorites but, my over all favorite is definitely... pasta salads.  And when I say pasta salad, I am not talking about your traditional multi-colored noodle salad.

One of my main ambitions in life is to put a book of pasta salads together.  Everyone has there thing and this is just one of mine.  I truly see a bowl of pasta like a painter sees a blank canvas.  It is one of favorite kinds of art.. because you can eat it too.  :)

This weekend, we were invited to a Christmas party for church and the theme was "Italian Christmas".  We were asked to bring some type of salad.  PERFECT, I thought.  Immediately I thought of mini-pepperoni's and some type of oil dressing.  That's about as far as my mind went.  While walking through the grocery store.. the ideas began to flow.  I guess an artist just needs to be in their artistic environment in order to flourish.

Prep time = 10 minutes
Cook time = 10 minutes

Pizza Topping Pasta Salad
- 1 box of Rotelle pasta (or any type of pasta that is not flat)
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 5 to 6 scallions, chopped
- 1 container of halved grape tomatoes
- 3/4 cup of chopped or torn Arugula
- 1/2 to 3/4 of Italian dressing
- 1 TBSP of sea salt
- 2 TBSP of Italian seasoning
- 1/2 cup of mini or regular size pepperoni
- 1/2 cup of Asiago & Parmesan cheese

In a large pot.. add water, sea salt, and 1 TBSP of Italian seasoning.  Bring to a boil and add the pasta.  When the pasta is tender, drain and shock with ice or cold water.  This will cool off the pasta quickly.  In a large bowl combine the rest of the ingredients.. including an additional TBSP of Italian seasoning and the Italian dressing.  Feel free to add salt or pepper to taste.  The arugula already adds a nice peppery taste and the pasta should be boiled with salt so adding additional salt of pepper won't be too necessary.

Everything combined.

Close up of the salad.

I hope that you enjoy this pasta salad.  There are many more to come.  

Monday, December 6, 2010

Beefy Soup Gone Right!

Beef stew feels like winter in a bowl to me.  Although I haven't always been a fan of beef.. I do enjoy this hearty meal.  My husband is an enthusiast of beef stew so, I bought the ingredients to fix him a healthy, filling stew.

After all that excitement and preparation, I ended up skipping a major step.  I forgot to add flour to the meat after it was browned.  Our stew was more of a super delicious SOUP.... and we were actually okay with it.  So I'm rolling with my not-so-unfortunate mistake and calling this "Rosey's Beef and Vegetable Soup".

The great thing about home-made soup in the winter is that you can make 3 or 4 meals out of it.  You can also freeze it for a later date too.  Simple sides, such as dinner rolls or biscuits, add to a complete dinner.

Rosey's Beef and Veggie Soup
- 1 1/2 to 2 lbs. of stew meat (I buy it pre-cut because I am spoiled)
- 5 or 6 large, peeled carrots (chop into bite size pieces)
- 5 or 6 large celery stalks (don't be afraid to use the celery leaves - chop all into bite size pieces)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 5 or 6 chopped potatoes (doesn't matter what kind of potato you use, as long as the pieces are the same size)
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 container of cherry tomatoes, whole
- 2 cups of beef stock
- 1 cup of chicken stock
- 1 cup of water
- 1 can of stewed tomatoes
- 2 TBSP of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 TBSP of dry Basil
- 2 TBSP of dry Tarragon
- 1 TBSP of Sea Salt
- Cracked pepper to taste

Brown the meat in a separate skillet or in a large pot with EVOO.  Once the meat is browned combine all the ingredients in the large pot and bring to a boil.  After it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover.  Let the soup simmer for 35-40 minutes.  Serve and enjoy!

Before boiling

Check out those colors! This was after simmering for 40 minutes.

The fork didn't work so well after I realized this was a soup.

You may notice from the pictures that the vegetable pieces are larger in size and probably the size you would see in a stew.  When I make this again, I will cut the vegetables smaller for the soup.  I may even add some type of bean or lentil.  Yum!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Delicious Medley - Every Time!

It never fails... any time I combine spinach, tomato, and garlic on ANYTHING... the flavors will explode. My husband and I had some left over jars of Bloody Mary ingredients and I wanted to use up what was left of the artichoke hearts.  So I decided to combine the artichoke with shrimp and the delicious medley. Wow!

I still need to spend some time perfecting this recipe before I can give it out but, I'm definitely on the right track with something.  I'll give you a few tips as I continue to work on this one though.

- Butter, garlic and chardonnay make a great sauce when combined. It's so light and pairs well with a seafood pasta dish.
- I tried whole wheat linguine in this shrimp dish and... not a fan. I'm not sure that I believe anyone that actually enjoys eating it. "It's healthier".. yes, I know. But I want my food to taste GOOD, not like cardboard. Use the good noodles.. I insist.
- Do not use to many artichokes from a jar or can. Chop them finely if you choose not to use fresh artichoke. The flavor will compliment the medley but too much of anything canned can leave a bad taste.
- Try Asiago cheese on a pasta dish. I recommend it.