Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May 8th, 2012 - Recipe Challenge: Foil-Pack Chicken and Broccoli Dinner

I was excited for this meal, because it seemed super easy.
I like super easy.
I'm lazy when it comes to dinner.

So of course I was going to try this.

On the menu:

Chicken, broccoli, stuffing foil-pack dinner.
Here is the recipe I used.

Changes I made:

We accidentally used the bacon for this, for breakfast dinner the night before.
(my bad)
So I made it without bacon.

I forgot what I was making, so the chicken breasts were frozen.
Which is probably bad, but I didn't worry about it because all over the bag
(the costco bag)
it claims that you can cook the frozen chicken straightaway...
without thawing...
alas, I have yet to figure out how to do this properly it seems.

The foil... I could not possibly have "torn off a large piece" of tinfoil big enough for
everything to fit inside it and make the ends meet.
I wasn't using giant chicken, it just... was not going to fit.
So it put a second sheet on top, and rolled the edges closed all around.


Uh... what?
This recipe essentially says:
"1. Throw all ingredients into a foil sheet, and fold up.
2. Let it be in a hot oven for half an hour. Ta-da!!!"


You put all the ingredients in a foil casket and then put it in the oven.
And wait.
And then when the 30 minutes are up, you check, and the chicken isn't even cooked yet.
Then you wait some more.

Yes, my chicken was frozen - but it is thin, and even when I put the frozen chicken in,
by itself, it is usually fully cooked in 25-30 minutes max.
I kept checking the chicken, and it took 75 MINUTES for the chicken to cook.

Which is why, I assume, the broccoli was slightly over-cooked.

Insert here:
My son loved it though, and my husband had no complaints.
My daughter thought it was bad, but ate it anyways.

For ME...

Eating the stuffing was like... as if I had served this:

So, so very wrong.


Would I make this again? Probably not.
I like short cuts, but short cuts that were SO SHORTLY CUT that the food
came out like a disasterous lump from beyond the grave... makes the short cut
an unnecessary risk.

Like hacking through a jungle with a machete and there is a hole up ahead
and you can't see it, but you just keep hacking and walking
and then 
You're in the hole. 
Stuck in the hole.
You got yourself there!
And now all you can do is try not to go hacking through the jungle again.
Maybe next time you will look at a map.
Or bring along a guide.

So for now, 
we'll let bread do what it does best.

Be awesome.


Click here to learn more about Mr. Toast, and his friends. :o)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

May 6th, 2012 - Recipe Challenge: Broccoli Cheddar Soup & Homemade Rolls

Looks like the "day" count down lived just one day.

(Hey, I warned you, I am not a cook.)

I'm going to just go by recipe, instead of numbering anything.
Let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Don't want to get too ambitious...

So first, I have to apologize.
Because I'm going to make some of you mad, when I tell you,
I made all of this after church today.

(Say whaaaaaaa?)
After church.

On the menu:

I made this broccoli cheddar soup from scratch.
Here's the recipe I used.

Isn't it so pretty in that soup bowl?
Changes I made:

I didn't use any nutmeg.
(Seriously, fresh nutmeg? I don't have that laying around!)

Pancetta was too fancy for me.
What is pancetta?
How do you even say that?
Pan sett ah...
payn chetta
pan... pann...
Got it.

Instead of whole milk, I used heavy cream.

Instead of matchstick carrots, I actually shredded my carrots.
I know in this person's recipe they say "shredded carrots" but then...
in all of their pictures, it's the matchstick carrots.
You're not fooling anyone.

Lucky for me I had some muscle around to finely shred 1 cup of carrots.
So much better.

I did my broccoli different.

I didn't blend it like it says to.

While the 3 hours were cooking the broccoli, I fried up 1lb of bacon.
And chopped it. 
And at the very end, I stirred it into the soup.

I also added 1/3 cup of corn.

I used wheat flour instead of white flour.

I didn't have cheddar cheese, so I used that three-cheese blend you get in a giant bag at Costco.
I know, I'm referencing Costco again.
We'll be eating that cheese until our kids are in college.


I was feeling really impatient, finely chopping my broccoli, 
but it wasn't until later I realized that the recipe wants you to make small florets, not "rough cut" all of them. 

What the heck does "rough cut" even mean?

Just saying. 
I'm not a scientist, but I'm pretty sure that's a made-up cooker person term.

So I finely chopped mine - one medium floret became 4-6 pieces.
Which saved me time, because this recipe wanted me to cut and cook things, then cook it, and then take the vegetables OUT of the slow cooker (what is the point of a slow cooker then??) and reserve, and add, and cook, and blend, etc. So instead, I left the veggies as they were, added the cream for 4 mins, and then added the cheese n stuff from there. 

Wayyyy easier.
I'm always looking for lazy recipe short cuts when I'm running out of steam.

Or when I'm hitting a "yeeaaah.... I'm so sure that's ""necessary"" ... uh uh."


My shortcuts were worth it!
It tasted amazing, and my whole family loved it.
Will I make it again?
But I will never again be fooled by the title "slow-cooker-meal"...
since it was more like a,

Also on the menu:

Tiny gingerbread bears! I wanted to make these for my daughter for some time now.
I made these tiny bears using a tiny cookie cutter I bought from Hobby Lobby,
and a recipe for gingerbread that I got from The Gingerbread Queen, Julie Trent.
(You'd crown her if you knew her.)

Look how tiny they are! 

The Recipe:

2 cups molasses
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup melted margarine (I use butter)
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking soda, dissolved in 1/3 cup hot water
7-8 cups flour

Mix all wet together.
Add 6 cups flour, and the spices, and stir.
Work in 1 more cup of flour and chill.
Knead in more flour if needed.
Roll 1/4" thick.
Cut out your shapes and bake on greased cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes at 375ºF.

Work with a small amount of dough each time, 
and keep it chilled so it remains slightly tough.

This also freezes amazing, 
just wrap it in waxed paper and tuck into a gallon zippy bag for later.

This is best used for gingerbread people shapes, 
not for building a house.

Also on the menu:

Homemade rolls...
...Mom's recipe.
My mom's rolls are... amazing.
I wanted to make them to go along with the broccoli cheddar soup, 
but this time I made them with half white flour and half wheat flour.

I also tweaked this for my lazy nature, 
by including the microwave. 

The Recipe:

1 cup water
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 c shortening
1 tsp salt

(Place this in a mixing bowl and microwave until the shortening melts.
Stir a few times, and set aside to let it cool to lukewarm.)

1/4 cup lukewarm water
3/4 tbsp yeast (or one packet)
pinch of granulated sugar

(Sprinkle the sugar and yeast in a bowl. Pour in the lukewarm water, and let sit.)

1 beaten egg
3 1/2 cups flour

When the shortening mixture is lukewarm, add the yeast mixture to it and stir.

Then add the egg, and 2 cups of flour, and beat until smooth.

Mix in another cup of flour.

Knead in the last 1/2 cup of flour.
(basically, add flour and stir while it's in the bowl, until it loses it's sticky nature,
so that you can put it on the counter - sprinkle some flour on your surface first - and
knead it without it sticking.)

Knead for a few minutes, form the dough into a ball (tuck ends under, don't bunch/smash).

Grease your bowl with shortening, and put your dough back in it.

Lightly grease the top with shortening, lay a clean dish towel over the bowl 
and wait 30-60 minutes for your dough to rise.
(until it's twice as big as it was originally)

When your dough has risen, punch it. 

punch it.
It will feel great after how angry you are at having to knead it for all that time.

Use a sharp knife and cut into 12 even pieces - I do straight through, to quarter it,
and then slice each quarter into three.
Not really a science, but then I don't have to eyeball it.

Form your rolls by tucking the ends up and under so there is a smooth surface on top, 
and place in a greased 8" circle pan. 
In my pan, I get 8 around the outside and squeeze the last 4 into the middle.

Cover with your almost-totally-clean-now dish towel and wait 30-60 more minutes 
for the dough to rise until it's twice as big.

Preheat your oven while you wait, to 350ºF.

Bake for 20 minutes.

The top should be golden colored, and if you tap the top it should sound hollow.

Let cool 10 minutes before removing from pan & putting on your cooling rack.

Butter the tops of the rolls by using a pastry brush.
No need to melt the butter, the hot buns will do that.

Makes 1 dozen rolls.

I hope I haven't overwhelmed anybody.
I'm feeling pretty burnt out on baking/cookery today, if it's any consolation.

Let me know if you try any of this!

And remember... 

It's ok to burn stuff.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

May 2nd, 2012 - Recipe Challenge: Enchiladas

of the recipe challenge 
of doom!

On the Menu:


Here's the recipe I used.

Changes I made:

Instead of green chiles, since I didn't have any, I just did the 1 jalapeño.

I didn't use bone-in chicken,
(let's be realistic, that was never going to happen)
instead I used 5 boneless skinless chicken breasts.
(Hey, Costco had a 10lb bag of frozen for like $20)

I didn't chop the chicken into cubes, I shredded it with two forks,
because shredded chicken is all I've ever seen in enchiladas.


This wasn't too hard, I loved that the top got crunchy - so there was crunch and moosh.
I'll probably make this with green peppers next time, 
because one of my kids was not a huge fan of the jalapeño.
And neither was my digestive tract.
(I never eat spicy food.)

This was creamy, and delicious, and would probably be great topped with salsa!
And sour cream! And maybe some chives!


I will make this again.
With some tweaks.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cook! Who, me?!

Oh, sweet-hearted women of the world.

You women, who compare yourselves to others 
(and by 'others' I mean their shiny candy-coated outside)
and wish wish wish
you were better at X, Y, Z.

I'm not sure this is a confession, so it's really just one of my posts. You know the kind.
I feel that after a few misconceptions, I should clarify something.

I make cakes.

And I would love nothing more than to have these moments with my children:
(If it wasn't for the whining or the insane mess, 
I would have little helpers every time, 
instead of when I can have my mind in the right place.)

But I need to tell you I am NOT a chef.

I am NOT Betty Crocker.
Or Martha Stewart.
Or... Betsy Ross.
(That's for you sewers and quilters) get the point.

I do not cook.
I have never been beamingly proud of my kitchen thingies.
 And I am the very last person who is trying to find a new casserole recipe to whip together for her family.

This is how I want you to see me, while I make cakes...

But in reality, it is so not pretty.
(We're talking pjs, hair in a bun, icing sugar in said hair...)

I hate cooking.
I hate thinking up meals, and spending the time preparing them.
It makes a ton of dishes. 
I actually feel bored of food sometimes. Hey, it's all going to the same place. This recipe has chicken in it, that recipe has chicken in it, it's pretty much the same.

My family has been thriving on veggies (fresh or canned), fruit (only fresh... come on.. canned can be so gross), chicken, potatoes (sliced/mashed/baked... what's the difference?), rice, spaghetti, mac & cheese, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, fries, ...stuff you can microwave... 

Gahhh I love my microwave.
Best. Invention. Ever.
I put it right up there with the iPad on my list of great inventions 
that give mothers time to use the bathroom.

while I may loathe preparing dinners,
I must.

And I married a man who actually likes variety in meals!
Someone creative with food!?
I don't even know what to do with him.
He's way more adventurous in the kitchen than me.
And so,
for the first time in my life,
(okay not the first)
I wished I had shadowed my mother 
in the kitchen more often.
(Betty Crocker'd hang up her apron permanently if she were to compete)

I admit, 
over the years I have had to learn things.
Like sifting, chopping, grating... 
what all this means, 
how to do it wrong, etc.

Occasionally I would want to get all "domestic" and try a new recipe.
I'd get all geared up and excited for it, and sometimes it would be incredible.
And sometimes it would be bland, or boring.
Or not what I expected.
And sometimes... it would be horribly, horribly wrong
And then I would go back to mac & cheese.
And spaghetti.

I have many people I admire for their kitchen prowess...
One of my friends has mastered so many recipes, 
I actually wish I could follow her around her kitchen 
watching her make her (epic!) lemon bars because then, maybe 
- just maybe! - 
I would know why my pressed crust miraculously floated away from the pan 
into the filling and baked all crooked and funny. 
Or why there was a weird foam on it.
Or why it never set.
...I digress.

I've accepted that cooking and me... are not friends.
(I'd compare it to a visit to the dentist, but my dentist is amazing. 
I've honestly never had a bad visit.)

It's ...
well I have a terrible imagination right now.
But you get my point.

I love my husband, and my kids...
...I do shrivel inside a little each time my son demands spaghetti only, 
or requests McDonald's, or pizza.
He swears he's Mario/Superman, and they only eat Italian food.
(McDonalds = not Italian. Just a heads up there.)
Okay, a little dramatic.
SUM UP: we need to branch out

So I'm challenging myself.


<insert here the gauntlet hitting the floor>
(and me with a smashingly awesome twizzle mustache)

I'm going to make new recipes (easy ones..!) and then report here,
on what it was like - as someone who has never cooked before, really -
what my obstacles were, what I did about it,
and whether or not the recipe is really worth trying.

Worth a shot.

So over the next 14 days, I will be making 10 new recipes.
Recipes that I have never made before.


And really, 
you know what?

I challenge you too! 

Even if it's just one new recipe, in one month, or one year...
I'd love to hear about it.

You know you want to.
I know you can do it!

And remember, I'm pretty sure even the kitchen geniuses that we know now, 
burned something, or ruined a meal, or ran out of an ingredient and substituted it with an almost similar but not quite exactly what you needed ingredient instead... 

(No? Nobody? Just me? Okay then.)

Nobody is perfect,
some are just great at hiding imperfections,
and some just practice, practice, practice.

But carpe diem!

I don't cook.
But I will.

Go find an adventure!
I'm starting with enchiladas.