July 21, 2013

Chicken Fajita Tin Foil Dinners

Well, I think it's been far too long since I've posted any new recipes on here.  I could blame my neglect on the fact that we're expecting another baby (due in December!) or on the fact that I haven't really tried many new recipes lately, but really the reason is just that I haven't gotten around to it.  Instead, I've been spending my time going camping and enjoying the great out of doors with my family.  Consequently, we've been trying new things that we can cook on the campfire that aren't your traditional ground beef and potatoes tin foil dinner.  I found this gem because I randomly downloaded a kindle book called 100 Easy Camping Recipes because it happened to be free that day.  And we've tried it with three families, and all three have raved about it.  Score!

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 Pretend that in this picture, the fajita is coming out of tin foil, not a frying pan, and it's landing on a paper plate, and there's a campfire in the background...

Chicken Fajita Tin Foil Dinners
(adapted from 100 Easy Camping Recipes by Bonnie Scott)

*Yields 4 servings
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup water
1 packet fajita seasoning mix
1 bell pepper (I prefer to use half of a red pepper and half of a green pepper)
1/2 onion
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
Large flour tortillas
Sour cream
Cheddar Cheese

1. Chop all ingredients into 1/2 or 1 inch chunks.
2. Place the chicken pieces in a large ziploc bag.  In a small cup or bowl, combine the water and fajita seasoning mix.  Pour the fajita mix into the chicken bag, seal the bag, and mash it until the chicken is covered in the sauce.  Refrigerate or keep in a cooler until you're ready to cook (ideally at least two hours).  I usually do all of the previous steps before we leave for the camping trip.  That way, prep at the campsite is minimal.
3. On a large square of heavy duty aluminum foil, add 1/4 of the chicken and 1/4 of all of the vegetables.  Seal the packet, making sure to sprinkle about a tablespoon of water into your packet before you seal up the last side.  This will help the vegetables steam and cook more quickly and evenly.  
4. Cook over hot coals in the fire for 15-20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.  Open your packet, and pour it into a tortilla.  Top with sour cream, salsa, and cheddar cheese. 
5. Yay!  You just made an amazingly delicious meal on a campfire!  Don't you feel kind of like a culinary cowboy of sorts?  I do.

March 13, 2013

30-Minute Meals

Dear readers,

I just wanted to let you know that I've created a new tab listing all of the recipes on this blog that can be made in 30 minutes or less--because we all have those days when we get caught up doing something awesome (like playing at the park on a sunny day with your toddler or re-reading a Harry Potter book) or sometimes not-quite-so-awesome things (like cleaning out your fridge or wasting time on the internet)--and next thing you know, it's dinner time.  So if you're in a hurry to put dinner on the table, check it out.

Also, there is no shame in having breakfast for dinner.  Or just have sandwiches on a blanket on the living room floor--because seriously, forgetting about dinner feels lame, but having an indoor picnic is cool.

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Curry Cauliflower Soup

This blender soup is surprisingly easy and delicious.  You just need a few ingredients, and it's ready in about half an hour.  The roasted vegetables are light, and the curry powder gives it a lot of flavor, which makes this a perfect dish for spicing up your regular menu.

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Curry Cauliflower Soup
(adapted from the Blendtec recipe, and no, you don't need a fancy blender for this one to work)

1 head cauliflower
1/2 onion, cut into rings or slices
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
3 cups water
2 tsp chicken bouillon

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Chop the head of cauliflower into florets.  Place the cauliflower and onions in a shallow baking dish, and brush them with olive oil.  Evenly sprinkle the curry powder and salt over the vegetables.  If needed, toss them to make sure they're evenly coated.
3. Roast the vegetables for 25 minutes.  When they're tender, place half of the vegetables in a blender with all of the water and bouillon.  Blend until smooth.
4. Serve the soup topped with the rest of the vegetables and enjoy this light, refreshing soup.

February 25, 2013

Bean Dip

My husband introduced me to bean dip the other day.  It was simple, I had the ingredients on hand, and it was the perfect food to eat while watching a movie.  What's not to love?

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Bean Dip

1 large can refried beans
1 cup salsa
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp lime juice

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine all ingredients.  Warm over medium heat until the cheese melts.
2. Grab some tortilla chips and a good movie.  Enjoy!

February 19, 2013

Cream Cheese Frosting

For those of you who were wondering, the red velvet cake was a total success!  I found this recipe for cream cheese frosting on allrecipes.com and used some of the ideas from the reviews.  It was amazing.  My husband loved it so much that when we ran out of cake and had extra frosting, he said I should make another cake and not let the extra frosting go to waste.  This isn't one of those fluffy, sugary, just a hint of cream cheese kinds of frosting.  It's cream cheese goodness to the core.

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Cream Cheese Frosting
(adapted from this recipe)

8 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup butter (not margarine)
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

1. Let the cream cheese and butter sit on the counter until they are soft and room temperature.  Skipping this step is no bueno.
2. In a mixing bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter.  Add the vanilla, and slowly mix in the powdered sugar.  Beat for 2-3 minutes or until it's deliciously creamy.
3. Frost your cake, brownies, pumpkin cookies...and enjoy!  Store whatever you frosted and any leftovers in the fridge.

February 12, 2013

How to Rock Your Valentine's World With a Cake Mix...and Some Kitchen Magic

Cake mixes are easy.  I love them.  Sometimes you want something just a bit fancier than a plain old cake mix, but you don't have time to make something amazing from scratch--because you're spending all day making an awesome lasagna for your Valentine's Day dinner...or because your child is sick and wants you to read Little Blue Truck to him all day long.  In any case, there are a couple of ways you can spice up a cake mix to make it taste divine without putting in hardly any extra time or effort.

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  • Use applesauce instead of oil to make the cake more moist.  Make sure your applesauce isn't chunky though.  In some cake flavors, there might be a slight apple taste, but for the most part it works great.
  • Add a bit of extract to the cake batter--vanilla, almond, mint, etc.  Just a touch should do it.
  • Give it some texture by mixing in nuts, marshmallows, chocolate chips, dried fruit, or fresh fruit pieces.  Just keep in mind that if you're using fresh fruit, the moisture content can affect the cake batter.  If it seems too runny, just add a bit of flour to even things out.
  • Do something cool for icing, rather than just plain icing.  Press nuts into the frosting along the sides of the cake.  Use stabilized whipped cream or cream cheese icing.  Lay down a layer or lace or a paper doily and shake powdered sugar over it, then remove the doily and admire powdered sugar "lace."  You can also do the same thing with a paper stencil and icing to make words, as shown here.  Or top it with chocolate or white chocolate shavings.  Who can resist that?
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Or you can do my personal favorite.  Throw out the directions on the cake mix box entirely and add:
    • 4 eggs
    • 2/3 cup oil
    • 1/3 cup water
    • 1 cup sour cream
    • 1 large (5 oz) box instant pudding mix.  
    • 2/3 cup sugar (definitely optional, but if you're going all out, why not?)
Bake the cake in a bundt or tube pan for 1 hour at 350 degrees.  This one is particularly fun because you can change up the flavors of pudding, depending on what cake flavor you have.  Some tasty combos are:
    • Chocolate pudding with yellow or red velvet cake
    • Butterscotch pudding with Devil's Food cake
    • Vanilla pudding with carrot cake
I'm making a red velvet cake with chocolate pudding and cream cheese icing for Valentine's Day.  That's two whole days away.  I don't know if I can make it...

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February 7, 2013

Thai Peanut Noodles

There's this awesome Thai place we like to go to every once in while--one of those hole in the wall types that you never hear about unless your husband's boss used to live in Thailand and loves to scope out Thai restaurants and happens to tell you about it.  It's called Tea Rose Diner (doesn't really look or sound Thai, but it is), and as far as I can tell, the food is authentic and delicious.  While I'd love to go there all the time, I can't.  Sometimes you've got to make it yourself to keep your budget happy.  Thai recipes often have long lists of ingredients that I have never heard of before.  So when a friend made this recipe for me and I saw that it only calls for normal-ish ingredients, I knew it was going in the recipe box.  We're having it for dinner tonight, actually (and probably for three more nights afterward).  This is a make-ahead kind of recipe, so I made it this morning, and I've definitely snacked on it already.  Mmm... Is it dinner time yet?

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Thai Peanut Noodles
(adapted from this recipe and this recipe)

16 oz whole wheat linguine
1/4 cup sesame oil
1.5 - 2 tsp crushed red pepper (You can use more or less, depending on how spicy you want it to be.  If you're used to the ratings in Thai restaurants, 1.5 tsp would be about a level 1, while 1 Tbsp would be about a level 3.  If you're making this for the first time, start out with less--that way you can add more the next time and don't end up with a whole pile of noodles that are too spicy to enjoy.)
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 carrots, peeled and shredded (the carrots neutralize the spiciness a bit, so if you made it too spicy, just pile on the carrots)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
3/4 cup peanuts, roughly chopped

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain and rinse in cool water.
2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the sesame oil and crushed red pepper.  Warm the oil over medium heat for about 2 minutes.  It doesn't need to boil or anything, just get a little warm.  You'll smell it when it starts to work.
3. Strain out the crushed red pepper using a fine mesh sieve, and reserve the sesame oil in a large mixing bowl.  You can toss out the red pepper now.  It's done its job already.  Mix the honey and soy sauce into the oil, and stir to until combined.  Throw in the noodles, and mix well.  Cover the bowl, and refrigerate it overnight or until it's cold (which can actually take quite a while, so make sure you start early).
4. To serve, simply toss with green onions, carrots, cilantro, and peanuts.  You're in business!  

Also, here's a fun fact about spicy food: Did you know that eating spicy food causes your body to release endorphins?  So you will feel happier after eating a really spicy meal?  True story.

February 5, 2013

Tip Tuesday #14 {Use Ice Cubes to Get Crusty Bread}

Did you know that steam is actually what causes bread to have deliciously crusty crusts?  You can do it a few ways, but one of the best ways I've heard of is to stick a metal pan or rimmed cookie sheet into the oven as the oven is preheating.  Then when you stick the dough in to cook, throw a few ice cubes onto the hot pan and shut the door quickly.  The ice will melt and steam in the oven, leaving you with delicious, crusty bread.  Also, this way, you don't have to worry about burned with hot water or shattering glass bowls or any such dangerous nonsense.  Nice, eh?

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This lovely tip was brought to me (and, consequently, to you) in this post by the lovely Becky Pitcher, whose blog has lately become one of my favorites.

February 1, 2013

Fluffernutter Apple Dip

Well folks, it's been a while.  My keyboard was broken there for about three months, but I've got a keyboard now, and all 26 letters work!  And the space bar--the glorious space bar!  So we're back in business.  Thanks for sticking with me.

You know how you hardly have any memories of when you were a little kid?  Well let me tell you, this fluffernutter dip is one of my few memories. When I was maybe three, my parents signed us up for sign language classes.  At the end of every lesson, we'd get apples and fluffernutter dip.  Now, two decades later, do I remember any signs?  Maybe banana and umbrella...  But I remember this dip!  If that doesn't tell you how life-changing it is, I don't know what will.  It's best with apples, but I bet it would be killer with celery too.  Give it a try!

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Fluffernutter Apple Dip

1/2 cup marshmallow fluff
1/2 cup peanut butter
Sliced Apples (or celery)

1. Combine marshmallow fluff and peanut butter.  Mix until smooth.
2. Grab apple.  Dip.  Fluffy nutty glory!  

Alright, alright.  This may be the shortest recipe in the history of this blog, but sometimes the simple things are  the best, you know?  

November 8, 2012

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Growing up, sweet potatoes were always a part of Thanksgiving dinner--my favorite part (besides the stuffing, of course).  We'd have them baked and slathered with butter and brown sugar.  So the other night I wondered how they would taste in the form of mashed potatoes.  I added a little of this and a little of that.  They've got just a hint of sweetness, but you still feel like you're eating a vegetable, which is probably the best of both worlds.  We took them to dinner at a friend's house, and they were complimented several times.  I'd say that if you test out a recipe on friends and they like it, that's definitely success.

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Mashed Sweet Potatoes

4 lbs sweet potatoes (I used 3 extra-extra-large ones)
6 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk

1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.  Wash the sweet potatoes, then prick the skin with a fork several times.  Place the sweet potatoes in the oven and bake for about an hour or until the potato is cooked through.
2. When the potatoes have cooled enough to handle them, remove the skins, and mash them in a large mixing bowl.  Either an electric mixer or a good old fashioned potato masher will work just fine.  Add the butter, brown sugar, and salt, and mix until thoroughly mixed.  Add the milk, and continue mixing until smooth and creamy.
3. Serve up some sweet potato goodness.  Is anyone in the mood for Thanksgiving yet?
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