February 25, 2011

Summer Lemonade

I love lemonade.  Who doesn't?  But I don't like lemonade that's too tart or too sweet or too...fake.  I adapted this recipe from one I found on allrecipes.com.  It's great plain, or if you're feeling like giving it something extra, go ahead and put it in the blender with some strawberries or peaches or even both.  Just make sure that if you are going to add fruit of some kind that you use less sugar to begin with (since the natural sugar in the fruit may overpower the tartness of the lemon).  So go ahead and invite summer a little early with some delicious lemonade.

Summer Lemonade

1 1/4 cups sugar (remember, less if you're adding fruit for strawberry or peach lemonade)
8 cups water
1 1/2 cups lemon juice

1. Combine sugar and one cup water in a small saucepan.  Bring just to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar completely.  As soon as the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.  Once cool, refrigerate until chilled.
2. In a pitcher, combine sugar water, lemon juice, and remaining 7 cups of water.  When serving your lemonade iced, be sure to include the volume of the ice in that 7 cups or it could end up tasting diluted. 
3. If adding fruit, blend fruit and a cup or so of the lemonade in a blender.  Then add the fruit to the lemonade pitcher, stirring until well blended.  If the fruit sweetens it too much for your taste, just add a little bit more water and a tiny bit more lemon juice.
4. Sit on the porch and sip away.

Beef Stroganoff

This is a total comfort food for me.  I would claim credit for this recipe, but in reality I pretty much stole it from my sister.  It's not just your everyday cream of mushroom soup on noodles.  It's actually extremely flavorful.  Give it a shot if you're feeling adventurous.

Beef Stroganoff

10 oz wide egg noodles
1/2 lb ground beef (You can always use more, but that also means that your meal will cost more)
1/4 onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, julienned (Orange is my favorite, but green or red work well too.  Save time by cutting up the whole bell pepper and freezing the other half for next time you make this recipe.)
1 can mushroom pieces
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup sour cream
1-2 tsp lemon juice (more if you want more of a kick)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Cook egg noodles according to package directions.  Use the time waiting for the water to boil to chop up your vegetables.  If you start the sauce at roughly the same time you put the water on to boil, they will be done at about the same time.
2. Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat.  Brown ground beef in skillet with peppers and onion.  The juices from the meat will saute the peppers and onion.  Drain excess drippings.
3. Add mushrooms, cream of mushroom soup, our cream, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to meat mixture and reduce heat to low.  Simmer covered, stirring occasionally until noodles are finished cooking (approximately 5-10 minutes more).
4. Drain noodles and top with sauce.
5. Eat and taste the deliciousness.

February 24, 2011

Cinnamon Nutmeg Banana Bread

Do you ever buy a bunch of delicious looking bananas, only to discover the next day that they're already turning brown?  I do.  And since I found this recipe, sometimes I even buy older-looking bananas specifically to use for banana bread.  Remember, the key to good banana bread is in having really, really ripe bananas.  If they aren't ripe enough, you could put in 12 bananas, and it still wouldn't taste much like banana bread.  I got this recipe from Heather Chapple and adapted it just a bit to my taste.  It is delicious every time.

Cinnamon Nutmeg Banana Bread
3-4 large, very ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup applesauce
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).
2. Combine mashed bananas, sugar, egg, butter, and applesauce.
3. Add four, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg until well blended.  A lot of people say that it turns out better if you mix all of the dry ingredients in a separate bowl before mixing them into the wet ingredients, but if you want to save time, just dump them all in the same bowl and try to make sure that you sprinkled them fairly evenly.
4. Pour into an ungreased loaf pan.  Bake for one hour at 350 degrees.
5. Cool for 5-10 minutes in pan, then remove to cooling rack.
6. Eat!  I love it best warm with butter.

Italian Chicken Soup

After searching for the perfect chicken soup, I decided that it was taking way too long to find one that called for the ingredients I had.  As a result, I meshed together a few recipes that sounded tasty and ended up with this.  I love this recipe because it's incredibly easy to make, tasty, and has a bit of a different flavor from ordinary chicken soup.  It's definitely become a comfort food for me.

Image thanks to quick-and-easy-dinner.com
Italian Chicken Soup

1 chicken breast (don't worry if it's frozen, just stick it in the slow cooker and it can thaw as it cooks)
5 cups chicken broth
1/4 large onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
1/2 cup carrots, sliced
1 Tbsp italian seasoning
2 clove garlic or 1/2 tsp garlic salt (real garlic will give the best flavor, but I usually use garlic salt because it's cheap and convenient)
Salt and pepper to taste
10 oz wide egg noodles
1 cup half and half
Hot water as needed

1. Place chicken breast, whole into crock pot.  Add 3 cups of the chicken broth (yes, just 3 cups--the other 2 cups will come in later), onion, celery, carrots, and seasonings.  Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours.  If you're running late on time, just turn the slow cooker to high and cook for half the time instead.  The chicken may not be quite as tender this way, but it will still taste delicious.
2. Remove the chicken breast from the slow cooker.  Shred chicken and replace chicken into the broth mixture.  Don't forget to put the lid back on while you're shredding the chicken or too much moisture will escape.
3. Add half and half, egg noodles, and remaining 2 cups of broth.  Add just enough hot water to cover all ingredients, and replace lid.  Cook on HIGH for approximately 15-20 minutes or until noodles are just tender.
4. Serve and enjoy!


Legendary Coffee Cake

This is probably my most requested recipe.  I found the recipe originally on allrecipes.com (one of my favorite spots to find new recipes) and altered it a bit to make it healthier and more to my taste.  After a few adaptations, this is what we've got.  It tastes incredible right out of the oven, but you'll find that every day it seems to get better and better as the flavors all blend together into coffee cake goodness.

Legendary Coffee Cake

1 pkg yellow cake mix (or try butter recipe yellow for variety), unprepared
1 cup sour cream
4 eggs
2/3 cup oil
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (F) and grease a tube or bundt cake pan.  I find that a tube pan works best for this recipe because it's easier to get the layers right, but either works great.
2. Combine cake mix, sour cream, eggs, and oil in a large mixing bowl.
3. In a separate, small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon until well-mixed.
4. Pour half of the cake batter into the pan.  Sprinkle with brown sugar mixture until there is a thin layer covering the top of the cake mix.  This should take no more than half of the sugar mixture.  Finished it up by layering the rest of the batter on top and sprinkling it with another layer of brown sugar mixture.  If you end up having extra brown sugar mixture, no worries!  You can just mix it into the glaze when you get to that step.  
5. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean.
6. Prepare glaze by mixing together powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and any extra brown sugar mixture (if you had any left over) until well blended.  If you find that you want more glaze, just double the recipe, but I usually find that this works well, since the cake is sweet already.
7. Drizzle glaze over warm cake while still in pan.  Continue cooling cake until ready to serve.  It can be served warm or cool, whichever you prefer.

Why I started this blog

Welcome to my new recipe blog.  I've been wanting a way to keep track of my best recipes (without stacks of index cards) and share them with others.  I love trying out new recipes and increasing my knowledge about cooking and baking.  I used to be scared of cooking--and I had a particularly large fear of yeast--but in the last year or two I decided to conquer my fear.  And it turns out that I'm not a bad cook after all.  I can cook! And so can you.  All it takes is a little courage, a few inexpensive ingredients, and a bit of creativity.  So give some of these recipes a shot and let me know when one works out for you. 
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