Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Candy Corn Sugar Cookies

Aren't these super cute? And they are really easy which makes them even better. Just whip up your favorite sugar cookie dough, add food coloring, and you have a cute cookie. I made these for our church youth group meeting this month. They were a big hit with the teens and adults there.

Sugar Cookies

1 Cup Butter, Softened
¾ Cup Sugar
1 Egg
1 Tablespoon Milk or Cream
1 ½ teaspoon Vanilla
3 Cups of Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
½ teaspoon Salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.
Add the egg, milk/cream, and vanilla. Mix until combined.
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix only until blended.

For basic sugar cookies:
Form into 2 balls and flatten into a disk. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. I usually make my dough the night before and let it warm up at room temp for a bit.

Roll out flat, cut into desired shapes. Bake for 5-8 Minutes

For Candy Corn cookies:
Divide dough (I made two batches, one colored orange, the other batch divided with 3 oz melted chocolate chips added to make it brown) Line a loaf pan with wax paper and leave some wax paper hanging over the side of the pan. Layer the colors into the loaf pan. Put it in the refrigerator to firm. When firm, make slices and then cut them into triangles.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pretzel Crusted Chicken Breasts

I rarely make anything fried, but every now and then we just have to have something fried. I don't dare make regular southern fried chicken because there is no way mine will match up to my grandmother's chicken. We have dinner with her almost every Sunday after church and she makes fried chicken regularly because we all love it.

For my pretzel fried chicken you need:

10 oz bag of pretzels, crushed finely
2 eggs beaten
4 chicken breasts, pounded flat

vegetable oil for frying

Flatten out chicken breasts. Dip in pretzel, then egg, and the pretzel again. If possible, do this at least an hour in advance so you can refrigerate it before frying. This will help the crust stay on during frying. Fry the chicken about 4 minutes on each side or until done.

One of our favorite sides with this dish is macaroni and cheese. I make extra cheese sauce for dipping the chicken or sometimes we'll have honey mustard or other mustard dip.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Chicken with Wild Mushroom and Balsamic Cream Sauce

I've said before one of my go to cookbooks is Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats. I do not like to watch Rachael on TV, but I do love her recipes. I love how she takes every day ingredients but switches them around to make new dishes, dishes that come together quickly.

This recipe is one I've made a few times. My husband rarely asks for certain dishes, he is just happy to have a wife who likes to cook, but this recipe he actually asks for by name. It's one of his favorites.


* Salt
* 1/2 pound orzo pasta
* 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
* 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 6 ounces
* Pepper
* 2 tablespoons butter
* 12 cremini or baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
* 12 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
* 12 white mushrooms, sliced
* 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
* 1 tablespoon thyme leaves, a couple of sprigs, chopped
* 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
* 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
* 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, eyeball it
* 3 tablespoons heavy cream or half-and-half, a couple turns of the pan
* 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, a generous handful


Heat a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and add orzo pasta. Cook to al dente.

Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper and add to the hot skillet. Cook the chicken for 5 to 6 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the pan and cover with foil to keep warm.

Return the skillet to the heat, turn heat back a bit, and add the butter. Once the butter melts add the mushrooms and brown stirring occasionally for about 4 to 5 minutes. Once the mushrooms are brown season with salt and pepper then add the garlic, thyme and shallots. Cook stirring occasionally for about 2 minutes or until the shallots are wilted. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and cook 2 minutes more. Whisk in the stock, balsamic vinegar and the cream. Turn the heat up to high and simmer for about 2 minutes or until thickened. Slice the chicken on an angle. Add the parsley and the chicken back to the skillet to heat up, about 1 minute.

To serve, pile orzo on dinner plates and top with the sliced chicken and sauce.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Black beans and corn

You know when you ask someone for a recipe and they say, I don't really follow a recipe, I add a little of this and a bit of that? This "recipe" is one of those. I've made it several times for a crowd because it always goes over well and I've received many requests for the recipe. This recipe is great for a crowd, you just keep doubling the amounts until you have the amount you need. This particular time, I made it for an 80th birthday party for 80 people.

Here's the recipe as best as I can put it down on paper:

2 cans black beans, rinsed
1 can corn, drained
1 onion, diced
1 jalapeño, diced
1-2 yellow, red or orange bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 cups chicken broth (depending on how thick it gets)
1 TBS or so cumin
1 TBS or so chili powder
1 TBS or so chipotle chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the onion, jalapeño, pepper,garlic, and spices in a little olive oil until softened. Add the corn and beans and allow to cook for at least 30 minutes but it's really better when you can cook it on low for a few hours. Toss in a handful of chopped cilantro at the end. You can adjust the spices to taste, add more jalapeño if you want it spicier.

This is a picture from the Texas barbeque style dinner for 80 where I made these. It's not the greatest quality picture, but it's the best I could get since I was busy working in the kitchen. I grabbed a 12 year old who was at the party and asked himto shoot a picture of it for my blog since I'd been asked by several people for the recipe.

There was about 2 quarts left from this party and I put it in the freezer. I'm going to add more broth, rotel style tomatoes, and shredded chicken to make what I hope will be similar to taco soup.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Grocery shopping and meal planning

Back when we first got married, we were living in New Jersey. We lived almost an hour from the base, so I started making a menu plan and shopping once a month. It was easier to go to the commissary once a month than go weekly, and the commissary was then (and still is) a better bargain. The only bad part about the monthly shopping when we were first married was the three flights of stairs I had to climb taking the groceries up to our apartment. I turned what was supposed to be the linen closet into a pantry and we put a small chest freezer in the dining room.

This monthly shopping is something I've continued throughout our being married even at times when we lived on base or the commissary was just around the corner. I usually spend a couple of hours going through my favorite cookbooks and recipe sites online and create the menu. I create my grocery list from this and go shopping. It takes a couple of hours to shop and put things away, but I like knowing I have everything I need (save some fresh fruit and vegetables) for at least a month's worth of dinners.

This is the menu plan I made for this month. (click on the menu for a bigger picture so you can read it)

It has 35 different dinner ideas on it and really this plan will probably last us at least six weeks. We don't eat at home on Sundays and I didn't plan for quick meals like hamburgers, hotdogs, or brats when we're late from work or nights I have class and don't have time to cook.

One thing if you try this you have to look out for is sticker shock. When they finish scanning everything and you get your total, it seems like so much. It really is a lot, but when you figure for our family, we feed three adults three meals a day (we take leftovers for lunches), it really is not a lot. The total for today was $365. There are a couple of things I'll have to pick up at the regular grocery store because they do not carry them at the commissary. If you take $365 and divide it by only the 35 meals planned, it is $10.50 per meal. Remember, this feeds three adults with 1-2 servings leftover. It is certainly cheaper than eating out.

If you make a menu plan, leave me a note and let me know how you do your plan.

365:# means the recipe comes from Rachael Ray's 365 cookbook, C Ill comes from Cook's Illustrated.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Cider Vinegar Chicken and Garlic Smashed Potatoes

Don't let the picture fool you. It may look white and plain, but trust me it has a ton of flavor. This is a Rachael Ray recipe from my favorite 365 book I've mentioned here before.

4 6oz boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (I cut mine into bit size pieces)
coarse black pepper
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 TB thyme leaves
3 TB honey
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups chicken stock

Preheat skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 TB EVOO. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to hot skillet. Brown chicken. Remove and reserve the meat. Cover it with foil. Add another TB of EVOO to the pan then the onions, thyme, honey, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the onions are brown and caramelized. Add the cider vinegar and stock. Turn up the heat to high and bring liquids to simmer. Add chicken to skillet, cook for about 10 minutes. Serve with your favorite garlic mashed potatoes. The sauce it delicious on the potatoes.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream Cheese Filling

First let me say, thank you to the bloggers who emailed me asking where I've been. It's nice to know someone missed me :) I started school and work at the same time after a couple of years of being a stay at home wife. It's been a transition for everyone. Plus for the last couple of weeks any of my extra time has been working on my grandmother's 80th birthday party. I hope to have pictures for the blog when it finally gets here.

Now on to the whoopie pies. I haven't had a lot of free time to cook, but I still find a little time to surf some of my favorite blog sites. When I saw the Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream Cheese Filling on Culinary Concoctions, I could not wait to make them.

It's homecoming at our church tomorrow and everyone will be bringing lots of cakes and pies. I wanted to make something a little different and this recipe fits the bill. I usually would not make a new recipe to take somewhere, but since this made little bites, I knew I could give it a taste before taking it to church. Now I just hope everyone else loves them as much as we do.