Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Baked Ziti

So, I finally got around to making baked ziti. I hunted for a recipe on RecipeZaar and I found one I could work with that didn't call for ricotta (BF hates ricotta). I also added a little more to it to make it a little heartier.

Baked Ziti

about 20 oz spaghetti sauce

about 8 oz sour cream

1/2 cup milk

16 oz vegetable broth - (I only had chicken broth on hand)

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

16 oz ziti pasta, uncooked

1 lb browned ground meat (I used lean beef)

1 1/2 cup fresh chopped mushrooms

Preheat oven to 425°F. In a very large mixing bowl, combine spaghetti sauce with sour cream and milk. Stir in broth. Add 1/2 cup mozzarella, parmesan cheese, mushrooms and browned meat. Stir in ziti and blend well. Pour out into 9x13-inch baking dish, cover with foil, and bake for one hour. After one hour, take out baking dish, uncover (carefully—very hot steam), and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella (add more if you like). Return dish to oven without cover and bake 5 more minutes, or until cheese is melted.

~Note: This FILLED the baking dish. Just to be safe, I put it on a foil covered baking sheet so if it bubbled up too much, I wouldn't have a mess to clean in the oven.

This turned out nice and creamy and very delicious! I'll be making this again for sure.

Peach Muffins / Peach Bread

Before my car went in the shop, I bought a bunch of peaches to eat for lunch during the week and for general snacks. Well, since I didn't go to work they got all smooshy.... I couldn't let them go bad so I cleaned, peeled, pitted, and diced them up. Then I went hunting for something sweet to make with them. I stumbled upon Kristen's Peach Cobbler Muffins! PERFECT! I modified it a little to use what I had. They smelled HEAVENLY!!!

Here's my version:

Peach Muffins / Peach Bread

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup oil
1/3 cup applesauce
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups peeled, pitted, chopped peaches

Preheat oven to 400*. Lightly grease muffin pan. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix the oil, eggs, sugar and milk. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until just moist. Fold in the peaches. Using a 1/3 cup, spoon batter into muffin tins. Bake 18-20 minutes. Let sit on the counter for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling wrack. Makes about 2 dozen.

I only made 1 dozen and opted to make a peach bread loaf with the remaining batter. It had to stay in the oven a bit longer. I think I left it in for a total of about 30 mins - just keep testing with a toothpick until it comes out *fairly* clean - remember: THIS IS VERY MOIST! It was freakin' delicious. Now I have breakfast/lunch muffins for a week! Luckily my BF doesn't like peaches. I get to have them ALL TO MYSELF!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Butter Experiment

Since last Friday, my car has been in the shop to get some body work done.  Hence, I have been without a car since then.  I have been bored out of my mind as a result.  I'd rather be at work being productive.  Well, in any case, my sisters visited yesterday and I made my homemade pizza which they LOVED!  (I love it when people go back for seconds ^_^) They also chauffeured me around to pick up some groceries.  Since I knew I was going to be car-less for another day, I bought a tiny container of heavy cream.  To keep myself entertained I figured I'd try to make butter.

Basically, fill a mason jar half full with heavy cream that is at room temperature.  If it's cold, this whole process will take a lot longer.  Shake until the contents seize up and you have a mass of butter sloshing around in buttermilk.  For me, this took about 15-20 minutes of shaking.  Place the mason jar contents in a small bowl.  Drain off the buttermilk.  Store it in another mason jar and use it in pancakes or biscuits or whatever.  Rinse off the remaining butter until the water runs clear.  This makes sure that all the buttermilk is removed from the butter.  Any small amount of buttermilk will cause the butter to spoil.  Add salt or other seasonings (garlic powder, paprika.....) at the point.  Make sure it is well mixed.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge or place on wax paper, roll into logs and freeze for later use.  

Anywho, this was a fun experiment.  If I were a SAHM I'd maybe try to do this on a regular basis but between a full time job and starting school in August, I don't think I'll have time to make my own butter.

Besides the good arm workout, the butter was DELICIOUS!  I highly recommend trying this at least once. 


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Copy-Cat McDonald's Chicken McNuggets

My last experiment with chicken nuggets was kinda sucky. However, this recipe I modified was delicious! Don't they look yummy!

2 boneless skinless Chicken Breasts (that’s 4 breast fillets)
1 teaspoon of Salt
1/2 teaspoon of Oregano
1/4 teaspoon of Onion powder

1/4 teaspoon of Garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon of Pepper
2 Eggs, beaten
1 Cup of Flour
about 1.5 Cups of Oil for frying (I used Canola oil)

Heat oil in a heavy-duty skillet on medium-high heat while preparing the chicken nuggets - it should be ready to work with once half of your nuggets are ready to go in.

Cube chicken and place in a food processor. Blend chicken until it has all been taken apart and is a fine paste. Remove to a bowl and add salt, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper, and combine well.

Pour out flour on a plate and have your beaten eggs in a small bowl ready to work with.

Roll the chicken paste mixture into 34 ping-pong ball-sized balls (smaller than a golf ball).

Roll ball a “chicken ball” in flour, then in egg, and then in flour again. Then, press the ball down to make a nugget. Set nuggets aside.

Sprinkle the hot oil with some flour and if it bubbles really quickly right away, your oil is ready for frying. Place as many nuggets as possible in the oil, and fry until the bottoms are golden, turn and fry until the other side is golden. Will take about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove to a towel-lined plate (to catch any excess oil).

The original site has tips for making them perfect. Check it out.

~ adapted from recipe at For the Love of Food

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Being Productive

So tonight I needed to bake some of my Whole Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies for a guy at work for his birthday - they're his favorite. Since my oven was already going to be on, I figured I'd make some more granola for breakfast (I'm almost out!) and some more granola bars for lunches and quick breakfasts.

Here are the fruits of my labor ^_^

Chewy Granola Bars - Milk Chocolate Chip
Chewy Granola Bars - White Chocolate Chip

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Vanilla-Honey Bunch Granola

I have to thank my best friend Erin for showing me this granola recipe.  I will never be going back to store bought cereal after making this.  It is so versatile and delicious ^_^ and super easy to make!

Vanilla-Honey Bunch Granola

4 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans....)
1/2 cup golden brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter
3-4 tablespoons oil
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons sugar
5 teaspoons vanilla extract

Position rack to middle of oven and preheat to 325*.  Lightly spray 2-9x13 baking sheets with nonstick spray.  Mix first 5 ingredients in large bowl.  Combine butter, oil, honey and sugar in small saucepan; bring to simmer over medium heat.  Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.  Pour hot liquid over oat mixture; stir well until thoroughly mixed.  Spread granola on prepared baking sheets.

Bake until golden brown, stirring occasionaly.  After 8 minutes, rotate pans.  Keep an eye on the pans to make sure the granola doesn't burn.  If you like clumps, do not stir while baking.  Remove after a total of about 18-20 minutes.  Transfer sheet to rack; cool granola completely.  (Can be made two weeks ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.)

For cereal, I don't add anything else.  If I want it as a snack, I eat plain or throw in some raisins, coconut, chocolate, craisins .... whatever I have on hand.  I'm tellin' you, this is the best granola ever!

~ adapted from RecipeZaar recipe

To Do List

So much to do today....  Since I was at work yesterday nothing much got done.

groceries ..... done
prep ground meat and freeze ..... done
prep pizza crusts ..... done
make pizza sauce .... done
laundry ..... done
iron BFs pants ..... done (I never do this so this needed to be a separate item in the list)

make more granola
make more granola bars
make gnocchi and freeze
make a meal plan to eat what's in the pantry

I'm so tired.....

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Homemade Pizza

I've been wanting to make pizza for a while but I've been too much of a wuss to try. Well after my BF failed to convince me that frozen chicken pot pies were appetizing, I decided to give it a shot. For a first attempt, this was DELICIOUS! I adapted the recipe for the dough from this recipe at RecipeZaar. Even my BF loved it ^_^

Pizza Dough

1-1/2 cups water
2 tsp sugar
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp cornmeal
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1 tsp oregano
1-1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

Add ingredients (except for cornmeal) to machine bread pan in order as per manufacturer's instructions. Set to "Dough" cycle. Lightly grease one 9 x 13-inch pan and sprinkle with cornmeal. When the dough cycle is complete, roll out dough and place in pan. With a fork, pierce the dough a few times towards the middle of the pan. Here you can brush it with olive oil or butter. Let rest in pans for 10-15 minutes. Bake at 400°F for 8 minutes to set the crust (this will make the crust cook evenly with your toppings). Add toppings of your choice (I used Chef Boyardee pizza sauce, mozzarella and fresh mushrooms). Bake at 400°F until done (approximately 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of toppings).

Note: I thought the crust was a little too thick. Next time, I think I'll make 2 crusts and freeze one after I bake it for 8 minutes.

~ adapted from RecipeZaar

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Strawberry Fig Muffins (no-oil)

My mom gave me this random bag of dehydrated fig bits she got on sale somewhere.  I know... it's random.  But I LOVE figs so I obviously needed to do something yummy with them.  Well I saw Snow White's no-oil muffin recipe and I knew that I had a winner on my hands.  
They were sooo good, between me and my bf, we polished off half of them just after them cooled enough to shovel into our mouths ^_^  Here's my modified version:

Strawberry Fig Muffins

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup applesauce (I used the pre-made cinnamon applesauce I had laying around)
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup white flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup dehydrated fig bits
1 cup frozen strawberry chunks

Mix everything but the strawberry and figs together (haphazardly is my method :)) in a large bowl.  Once well mixed, fold in the strawberries and figs.  Spoon into a greased muffin pan.  Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Makes a dozen delicious muffins.

~adapted from recipe at http://joyinmykitchen.blogspot.com/

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Strawberry Jam

I've never made jam before.  I found this recipe on RecipeZaar and I modified it to try to just make 1 pint since I don't have any way to properly can anything.  Hopefully this will be ok in the freezer :)

Strawberry Jam

1 1/2 cups crushed strawberries

2 tsp lemon juice

1/3 (1.75 oz) box dry pectin (this turned out to be a little over 5 tsp)

1/4 tsp margarine

2-1/3 cups sugar

Crush berries.  

Add fruit to large pot with lemon juice pectin and margarine. Stir well and place over high heat, bring to hard boil. 

Add sugar all at once and bring to hard boil, one that can't be stirred down. Boil hard 1 minute. Remove from heat, stirring for 5 minutes to prevent floating fruit. Quickly ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. 

*Note: Somehow this made 1 and a half pints.  I dunno.... I suck at conversions.  I think I added more strawberries than it called for.  It turned out SPECTACULAR though!!

~ adapted from recipe at RecipeZaar

Friday, June 5, 2009

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I had a few bananas that were about to get thrown out.  Obviously I needed to do something about that.  I've been in a rut with my breakfast (raisin bran cereal) so I marched on over to Lynn's site and made some muffins :)  I grab one of these in the morning and I'm out the door.  I'm all about efficiency :) 
I modified it a little since I was craving a bit of chocolate.  Turned out pretty good!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 bananas, mashed
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F . Lightly grease 12 muffin cups, or line with muffin papers.
In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.

Rice-A-Roni Mix

I used to love the pre-made rice-a-roni mixes because no thought had to go into making them.  I tried this method and it's sooooo much better.  I think the powdered bullion makes the difference.  Even my picky BF liked it :)

Rice Mix

1 cup of spaghetti, broken into small pieces

2 cups rice, uncooked

1/4 cup dried parsley flakes

6 tablespoons instant chicken or beef bouillon powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon thyme (I leave this out of the beef version)

Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight container. To use, place 1 cup mix, 2 tablespoons of butter, and 2 cups of water into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until rice is tender.

Note: I like to heat my rice mix with the butter until the butter is melted and the rice and pasta are just slightly browned before I add the water. But either way will work fine.

~ stolen verbatim (it's perfect as it is) from http://www.lynnskitchenadventures.com

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Homemade Chicken Nuggets

So there are no pics for this one because I got lazy and I had too many things going on at once.  Oh well.  They turned out pretty good.  I think I might experiment with a McDonalds version I found next time.

egg wash: 
1 egg with 2-3 tbsp of water, whisked
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
dash of Lawrys seasoned salt
dash of cayenne
dash of pepper
dash of oregano

Place on wire rack on top of aluminum foil on top of baking sheet.
Baked at 400* for about 20 minutes flipping them half way through.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Happy Monday!

Hello Everyone!
Sorry about not updating for the last few days. My bf and I were attending the wedding of some friends down in southern MD. The wedding was beautiful but the trip itself was an "adventure". The hotel was scary and the drive was horrendous (3 hrs thru traffic and torrential downpour). However, I would not have wanted to spend it with anyone else. It made me realize how truly lucky I am to have him. Even though the trip was awful we made the best of it. He even danced with me at the wedding (even though it was forced since he was a groomsmen). At least it was open bar :)

Many thanks to my little sister for taking care of out kitty ^_^

Hopefully this week will be less eventful. I want to get some food prep done for the week.