Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

h1

Hey! It’s not Monday, but here’s a recipe…

November 12, 2009

Sometimes when I don’t feel like preparing regular oatmeal, I make homemade granola.

Some other times, though, when I want something that isn’t crunchy and cold in a bowl, I make these oatmeal muffins. They are really delicious and handy to grab and heat up in the morning with a little butter. This recipe is a combination ofa couple basic recipes I found online, along a few tweaks that I made to suit me. It makes about 24 muffins.

muffinsVT

Oatmeal Muffins

Preheat your oven to 400º.

2C old fashioned oats
2C buttermilk
2 eggs
1/2C sugar
1/2C granulated Splenda
2/3C canola oil
~1/2C natural applesauce (i.e. a single-serve cup like for school lunches)

Combine all the above and let sit a few minutes while the oats soften up a little. Meanwhile, combine…

2 1/2C flour (photo shows them made with all white flour, but I usually do half or more of the amount as whole wheat flour)
1t salt
1t baking soda
2t baking powder

Mix wet and dry ingredients until just moistened.

Taste the batter. You know you want to. 🙂

Fill muffin cups, should be able to make about 24. I use the paper liners but you can do whatever you want. I’m not going to tell.

Bake about 20 minutes.

Remove from oven, let cool.

Be sure to eat at least one right out of the oven, while it’s still warm. Put some butter (Smart Balance in our house) on it. Ponder how long it might take you to eat all of them. Figure out in your head how many days they should last if only you were to eat them. Subtract several days because of those pesky kids and husband who will also eat them. Frown a little (on the inside) when you realize that you can’t have them all. Plan to bake them again soon.

Enjoy!

h1

Monday Menu: Barbecue!!

May 25, 2009

barbecue

When I was little, every so often my Mom would make up a big pot of pork chops in barbecue sauce for supper. I always loved the flavor, and how tender the meat was. When she made it, she usually used bone-in chops and cooked them in the sauce in the oven for a couple hours. The end result was very tasty and very “saucy,” and the only thing I didn’t really care for was the fact that I had to pick out the bones while eating dinner.

I started cooking this dish myself a couple years ago when I discovered the sauce recipe with Mom’s name on it in an old church cookbook. I have tweaked it so that the end result resembles something more like a pulled pork barbecue (even though the pork isn’t pulled). And I must say… YUM. This stuff is absolutely, 100% addictive. Which is to say, I doubt you can ever just take a bite and walk away. It’s hard to stop eating it! Very. Difficult. To. Stop.

Totally Addictive Pork Barbecue (by Laura, with apologies to Mom)

First, buy some pork chops. I have used boneless, bone-in, thick, thin, butterfly… you really only need the inexpensive “assorted chops” that you can often find in the meat case, but I have used the higher priced cuts when I don’t feel like messing with bones. Basically, I will snap up any of the meat when it gets marked down at the grocery, then put it in the freezer and make barbecue when I have several pounds of it to make use of. So… buy whichever cut you prefer, just make sure you have plenty of it. It’s nice to make a nice big pot of this stuff. I promise, it won’t last long.

To make the pot shown in the photo above, I had two trays of frozen “assorted chops” from the freezer section at Aldi, plus one other tray of assorted chops that had been just marked down at the Wal-mart grocery. The exact quantity of meat isn’t crucial. I let the frozen chops thaw about a day in the fridge to get them at flexible enough to work with.

Once you have your meat on hand and ready to work with… set it aside and get the sauce going first. 🙂

Set a large dutch oven on the stove top over medium-high heat with a couple tablespoons of canola oil in the bottom. Add 2 medium onions (chopped) and about 1 cup of chopped celery… let it start to cook and brown a bit. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic toward the end of browning time (so the garlic doesn’t burn).

To the mixture in the pan, add:

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 1/4 cup worcestershire
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice (or the juice of one large lemon)
  • 2 tsp dry mustard (I usually just add a little prepared mustard)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

Stir it all together and let it reach a boil, then cut the heat back and let it simmer a bit OR just turn the heat off but leave the pan on the burner while you prepare the chops.

Now, pull out a large frying pan or something similar that you can brown your chops in… I like to use a cast-iron skillet. Turn the burner on medium-high to high heat and add a touch of oil to keep the chops from sticking too much. Add the chops in batches so that they can brown a bit before adding them to the sauce. If you are using bone-in chops, I guess you could leave the bones intact and pull them out of the pot after they’ve cooked, but I prefer to remove any bones before cooking because I don’t like to deal with them later.

Anyway, brown up the chops a few at a time, adding them to your dutch oven as you go. You may need to refresh your frying pan with a little oil between batches. Remember that the chops don’t have to cook through in the frying pan… you are just looking for some browning action to help with the flavor of the dish.

However much meat you are using, try to make sure the chops are fairly submerged in the sauce. Poke around and tuck them in as best you can. They don’t have completely disappear beneath the surface… once they start to cook down it should all work itself out… but there should be enough sauce to keep them from drying out.

Once all the chops are in the sauce, look at your frying pan. Did you get a nice brown layer of tastiness on the bottom?  Good! Now de-glaze that pan with a bit of tap water while the burner is still on… just enough water to loosen up the brown bits with a spatula. Then pour that liquid into your dutch oven with the chops and the sauce. and give it all a stir.

Oven temperature and cooking times can vary depending on how much time you have before you need to serve supper… but the general rule is, the longer you can let it cook, the better the end result. Here is the process I used to get the results shown above:

  • Cover the dutch oven and put in the oven at 300º
  • After about 5 hours, uncover the pan, stir and break up the pork into smaller pieces (it should be at the falling apart stage by then)
  • Turn heat down to maybe 225º and put the pan back in, uncovered.
  • Let it cook down and caramelize as long as you can stand to wait. Maybe another 2 or 3 hours? Turn the heat down even lower if you like, and do peek in now and then to give it a stir. If it looks like it might get too dry, put the lid back on.

This barbecue can be served in sandwiches OR plated up with your favorite side dishes.

Also, you can just stand there at the stove and eat it right out of the pan. It’s been known to happen. I’m just saying.

h1

By Popular Demand

May 23, 2009

Ever since I posted these photos on Facebook a couple weeks ago…

biscuits-by-laura

biscuits-n-gravy

… I’ve had friends requesting the recipes I used to produce these delightful breakfast items.

I do not claim to be any kind of cooking expert, much less a true southern cook, but I must say that I’ve gotten pretty good at making biscuits and gravy lately.  I must warn you, though, that I tend to execute recipes with more focus on a process or technique than I do on a precise measurement of ingredients… I’ll do my best to give the particulars of how I created the food shown above (and I promise, it really was just as tasty as the pictures suggest!) but there will be a certain amount of guesswork involved, especially with the gravy.

Baking Powder Biscuits

I’m not going to pretend to have a secret family recipe here… if you already know how to make good biscuits, go for it with your own recipe. I start with the “baking powder biscuit” recipe found in an old tattered paperback edition of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook… then I double it (because my husband and boys can never have too many biscuits) and make some other adjustments that account for the acidity of buttermilk instead of regular milk. Here is the recipe with all those adjustments made:

Sift together:  4 C all-purpose flour +  4 tsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp baking soda + 2 tsp salt

With pastry blender work in 8 Tbsp of shortening. (I usually use butter, crisco sticks, or a combination of the two.)

With a fork, quickly stir in 1 – 1/3 C buttermilk

Add more milk (little by little) if needed until the dough is soft and light but not too sticky. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead about 20 strokes until smooth. Roll lightly to 3/4″ thickness. Cut or shape the biscuits as you like — I use a plastic tumbler from the cupboard that might be about 3″ in diameter, because we like fairly large biscuits.

Place biscuits on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 450º for 12-15 minutes (check for doneness, sometimes the bigger biscuits take an extra minute or two). Remove from oven and fight the hungry children off with a stick while you finish making…

Sausage Gravy

My recipe for sausage gravy is something that came about from reading various cookbook recipes, watching friends make their versions of the dish, and of course, watching a lot of Food Network. While I don’t remember his specific recipe for sausage gravy, I must mention here that I learned everything there is to know about making gravy in general by watching Alton Brown. People, laugh if you want to at his quirky demeanor… the man knows his stuff and I go looking for his recipes or techniques first whenever I want to try something new in the kitchen. Yay Alton!

To make the gravy pictured above…

Brown 1 lb. bulk breakfast sausage well in a nice deep frying pan, preferably non-stick.

After the sausage is well browned and most of the fat is rendered, remove the sausage to drain on paper towels and pour off most or all of the fat remaining in the pan. Don’t wash the pan… keep any of the brown carmelized tastyness that you (hopefully) have on the bottom, but get rid of the grease. You’ll add your own fat in a minute.

Put the pan back on the burner at medium heat and add some cooking oil to the pan. I use canola. Here is where the amount gets fuzzy… so play along with me… I don’t have a specific measurement, but I’d say it is probably 1/3 to 1/2 cup?  It’s enough to basically cover the bottom of the pan. If you want, you could also use a combination of canola oil and some butter to melt in there with it. Or, gee… you can use all the original grease from the sausage if you want. But for some reason that seems a little too gross.

Anyway, you have the oil in there, now you need to add a few tablespoons or so of flour. Here again, I am sorry that I don’t have specific amounts. I take a scoop from my flour canister and kind of sprinkle it all over the oil in the pan, and immediately whisk it so that it combines with the fat and also starts to loosen up a little bit of the brown goodness. You are making a roux, in case you didn’t know 🙂 Keep on whisking! You need to cook some of the raw flour flavor out, but don’t overcook so as to lose too much of the roux’s thickening power. When I make mine for this gravy, I usually end up tweaking a bit… adding a touch more oil, or a touch more flour, until I get something that is the consistency of… I don’t know… cream of wheat? Maybe.

Once you have your flour and oil combined and cooked a bit, grab your milk jug and start pouring milk in the pan. Pour and whisk at the same time.. keep the heat up so that you can get the mixture bubbling again. My guess is that I might have added about 3-4 cups of milk. Whatever fits in your frying pan I guess. At first the milk will seem like it’s too much and you will wonder if your gravy will be runny… but then it will start to thicken up and you might even decide that you need to thin it out some more. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Once you’ve gotten the gravy to the thickness you desire, add the sausage back to the pan and combine thoroughly.

Serve over split biscuits. Yum!

h1

Monday Menu: Chicken Noodle Soup

January 19, 2009

chickensoup

I like Campbell’s as much as the next person, but homemade chicken noodle soup is not hard to make. Here’s how I do it… again, this is a recipe that is not so much about amounts as it is about methods:

Take several bone-in chicken breasts – I often use the frozen ones that come in the big plastic bags at Wal-Mart or Sam’s. Put the breasts in a large pot and cover with water, then set your burner on high to bring them to a boil.

Here’s a tip I read from Tom Colicchio of Bravo’s “Top Chef:” when the water  starts to boil a bit, and you start to see that scum develop on top?  Just dump it out. You can dump out all the water, save the chicken, then just refill the pot with fresh water and boil again. No one really likes scummy broth, and Tom says that  this early in the process, you aren’t sacrificing anything much in the way of flavor. We now resume our regular programming…

Once you have your pot boiling well, turn the heat down and let the chicken simmer for… oh, for however long you have. I like to let it simmer an hour at least, sometimes more. You might need 30-60 minutes later to finish it all off and serve it, so plan accordingly.

Once the chicken has simmered good and long, pull the pieces out with tongs and set them in a large bowl or on a cutting board to cool off a bit. Then if desired, you can skim the fat off the stock. I usually pour the stock into some large container, straining it as I go to catch any stray chicken parts or other nasty bits. In the end I have a nice, clean stock which I pour back into my pot and return to the stove.

At this point, add in chopped carrots, celery, and perhaps a little finely chopped onion (not much). Season with plenty of salt and pepper, and maybe some parsley. Depending on how much stock you ended up with and how many people you need to feed, you might decide to supplement with some canned broth or water and bouillon to reach the desired amount of soup.

Now that the chicken has cooled enough to handle, pull it off the bones and cut it up or just shred it with your hands and return it to the pot with the stock. Sometimes I have more chicken meat than I really need, so I save a couple breasts and put them in the fridge to make chicken salad the next day.

Once all the veggies and meat are in the pot, heat it up to boiling again and then add the noodles of your choice. I usually use the “No Yolks” extra wide ribbons, and I put a lot in so that there is a high noodle-to-broth ratio. You can adjust to your own preferences.

When the noodles are cooked, the soup is ready to serve!

h1

Monday Menu: Lentils and Sausage with Pasta

January 5, 2009

lentils-n-sausage-w-pasta

Mmmmmmm, lentils!  So yummy and good for you, and they don’t take all that long to cook like other dried beans or legumes.  This is a recipe that I made up on my own… which is not to say that it’s any sort of culinary breakthrough or anything. It’s one of my favorites, very filling and tasty.

[I’m not going to give amounts for this recipe so much as just tell you how I make it. This is one of those recipes where you can tweak just about anything in it to your taste.]

*Make sure you have a large covered frying pan, or maybe a dutch oven.

Start with a beef smoked sausage... you know the ones that are shrink wrapped in a big awkward U shape?  I buy Hillshire Farms brand. Now, you could say that you don’t eat beef and you could buy another kind of sausage. You could try turkey sausage or pork sausage or I’m-not-sure-what-meats-are-in-here sausage. But I’m telling you, beef tastes the best and you can live with a little fat. Also, I went for  jog this morning, how about you?

Now, take the sausage out of the shrink wrap and grab your 9″ chef knife and… ladies, please contain your laughter. I’m just saying. It’s really not that funny but… you’ll know what I mean. ANYWAY… cut up the sausage into bite size slices or smaller bits, and fry it up in a pan so that it gets nice and brown and starts to render down a bit. Remove the cooked sausage and let it drain on paper towels. This will give you time to get rid of the fat in the pan and maybe even clean it up a bit if things got too brown in there. I usually like to start the next step with a clean pan.

Return the pan to the burner and add in a little olive or canola oil. Add some chopped onions and celery and sautée a bit until it’s nice and soft… then throw in 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic (minced) and let it cook up a bit as well. You don’t want the garlic to get brown, though. Because everyone on the Food Network says that that is BAD.

Now, add your lentils to the pan. Maybe a one-pound bag of dried lentils? Something like that. I like to add them to the veggies in the pan and stir them around a bit. I pretend that this is a special secret method that gives the dish all its special flavor, but honestly it probably doesn’t make a difference how you do it. The main thing is, add the lentils and then add water, chicken broth, or a combination of the two. Be sure to add enough liquid to cover the lentils well (you may add more later on) and give everything a stir and then cover it and let it simmer a while. Lentils usually cook in 30-40 minutes I think. I let it get bubbling and then I check it now and then and add more liquid if it looks like it’s drying out. This is not rocket science. It’s lentil science.

Be sure to season with salt and pepper as you go along, according to your family’s tastes. I use kosher salt because Alton Brown says kosher salt is cool, and I want to be cool.

While the lentils are cooking, you can cook up your pasta. Here again is a critical point: the best tasting pasta on the planet is “Barilla Plus.”  It’s tasty AND has extra fiber and omega-3s or other things that will make you live for 100 years… so, go get that brand. You can thank me later. It’s delicious.  Use your favorite pasta shape here… it’s your party! But I recommend either penne (shown above) or angel hair. I cook up the pasta, drain it, then put it back in the pot and toss it with a little olive oil, and some parsley flakes. The olive oil gives it a little flavor. The parsley flakes make people think you are fancy.

To serve it up, just dole out a portion of pasta, put the lentil-sausage mixture on top, and add a bit of parmesan. The shredded kind is best but for the photo above, all I had at the time was the stuff from the shaker. It still tastes good!

h1

How to Make Popcorn Haiku

October 9, 2008

(thought I’d attempt a recipe in haiku form, just to see if it could be done)

Half cup of popcorn —
whichever kind you like best —
into a big pot.

Add your cooking oil
enough to coat the kernels
and turn on the heat.

Grind some kosher salt
in a coffee grinder, fine.
Shake in and combine.

Grab a piece of foil
and be sure to punch some holes
for steam to escape.

Cover pot with foil
and wait for the popping sounds.
Potholders are good.

Shake shake shake shake shake.
Keep on shaking till it’s done…
your arms might get tired.

Dump it in a bowl.
You won’t need any butter
if the oil was right.

Make another batch, quick,
because chances are your kids
will take all of yours!

h1

You’d think I enjoyed cooking or something.

October 7, 2008

I make good turkey burgers.

My kids think so, anyway. And so does Glenn.

This evening I whipped up a batch because it had been a while since we’d had them. And while I was cooking them, I thought they looked so good that I ought to take a picture of them and post it here. So with the granola recipe yesterday and then this recipe today… I guess it’s turning in to Food Week at the Doolittles’!

This is a recipe that I just kind of made up in my head one day, and I’ve played with it a little over the last few years trying to perfect it. I don’t know if it’s perfect yet, but it’s pretty darn good. Forgive me for not having exact amounts written down… when I cook I tend to do a lot of estimating along the way. Also, there may be a couple things about this recipe that make you scratch your head. Just roll with it, because the end result really is delicious.

“Who Gobbled Up All The” Turkey Burgers

  • two packages ground turkey breast (roughly 2.25-2.5 lbs total)
  • ~3/4 can fat free condensed cream of chicken soup
  • maybe 1/2 C or so of bread crumbs or Pepperidge Farm herb seasoned stuffing mix, crushed fine
  • shredded parmesan cheese, maybe about 1/2 C, or to taste
  • parsley or cilantro flakes because it makes you look like a gourmet
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients with your hands in a large mixing bowl. The mixture will be very sticky and soft… you will wonder if it’s really going to work, and how you will get your hands clean again?  But it will work. And the sink is right there in the kitchen, so you can wash up afterward. It’s OK, really. If you are a big scaredy cat, you can tweak the amounts of bread crumbs and soup to adjust the texture a bit.

For best results, fry them up in a non-stick pan (spray it with a little oil even if you’re using teflon) over medium-high heat. Or higher if you like. I won’t tell you how to cook things! Just know that it’s turkey, so you don’t want to eat it when it’s pink in the middle. They are more tender than anything you will get in a restaurant, so turn them carefully the first time. If you are patient and work hard and stay in school, you can end up with them looking a beautiful golden brown as in the photo above.

Serve them up to your family, who will rave about how delicious they are, and what a wonderful person you are for making them.

A couple notes: these work great in buns, but I love to eat my burgers “nekkid” and these are so tender that they work really well that way. I usually serve them up with some sort of rice and broccoli on the side. Also, I have done a version that has an outstanding flavor, using some regular mayonnaise in place of some of the cream soup. I still make it that way sometimes, just depending on the mood. And finally… when I say ground turkey breast, I mean just that… it’s worth it to buy the white meat, not just run-of-the-mill ground turkey.

Enjoy!