Monday, May 30, 2011

BBQ Pasta Salad

Once again I found myself needing a salad for a family dinner this morning and I wanted to do something different. I know, the ABC Shrimp Salad is a perennial favorite but I just wasn't feeling it today. I was watching Food Network again while I was sick this past week and the Neelys made a version of this salad on their show. I was intrigued with the dressing, I love BBQ sauce on just about everything so how wrong could it be on pasta?? It was actually very good. Next time I'll make a bit more sauce so that it's more moist but overall this was a very, very good salad. I can see lots of options to customize it to your individual tastes. They used pulled pork on the show. I had baked chicken in the fridge so I used that instead of the pork. I also added corn and bacon. I can also see a vegetarian version using black beans being very good. I'm also going on the assumption that you can add about any vegetable that you like and it would work. The sky's the limit.

BBQ Pasta Salad
Adapted from Food Network-Down Home with the Neelys
8-10 servings

1 lb curly pasta
2 T. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 cup mayo
1/2 c. BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped fine
2 ribs celery, chopped fine
2 green onions, sliced thin
8-12 oz chicken
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup corn
Salt and pepper

Bring 4 qts water to a boil in a large pot. Salt water and cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse and cool. Transfer to a large bowl.

In another bowl combine vinegar, hot sauce, chili powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, mayo and BBQ sauce. Whisk together until smooth. Add chopped vegetables and toss to coat. Pour dressing over pasta and mix well. Add chicken and bacon. Stir in if desired.

Cheesy Potatoes

Party potatoes, funeral potatoes, cheesy potatoes...all names for essentially the same dish. This is another staple at church functions and big family dinners here in Utah and there are more variations on the basic recipe than there are names for it. Seriously. Not kidding. There are also differing opinions on topping; yes you should have one, none is better, cornflakes or potato chips or maybe buttered bread crumbs. I've even used Chex cereal in a pinch so as far as that goes do what makes you happy. Cornflakes make me happy.

This is certainly not the only way to make these potatoes but it's without question one of the best that I've tasted. I am asked for the recipe every time I take them somewhere.  An added bonus is that it's super easy and fast to put together and stick in the oven so that you can concentrate your energy somewhere dessert. You know, the important stuff!

I typically use low fat sour cream and fat free soup in an effort to make it just a bit less artery clogging. I'm not sure that it is actually working but the effort is placating the skinny chick trapped inside me. It's all about the mind games people.

Cheesy Potatoes

1 pkg frozen hash browns (my family prefers shredded but the diced works fine too)
1 cube butter
2 c. sour cream
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1/3-1/2 c. dehydrated onion
1 1/2 c. shredded cheese (cheddar or a colby jack blend work well)
2.T. melted butter
2 c. crushed cornflakes

Microwave hash browns on high for 2-3 min. Dump them in 9x13 baking dish.

In a med. saucepan melt butter. Stir in sour cream, soups and onions and mix well. When mixture starts to bubble add cheese. Stir until cheese is melted.

Pour cheese sauce over potatoes and mix together until evenly distributed.

Combine cornflakes and melted butter and spread over potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour until hot and bubbly all the way through.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Peanut Butterscotch Chews

This was the Food Porn Friday recipe for the week. It was my turn to pick and I confess I forgot so this was more of an impulse choice than an informed wish to increase my baking skills. I was totally sucked in by the butterscotch in the title and the fact that I had everything I needed to make it in my pantry already, always a bonus.

These were more peanuty than butterscotch in my opinion but were still pretty tasty. Easy to put together, held together well when cut into bars, overall a good bar cookie. I think that the next time I will drizzle a little semi sweet chocolate over the top to balance some of the peanut taste but they were still good without. I did have to adjust the baking time and temp and have written the recipe to reflect those changes. Maybe it was my oven so take that under advisement.

Peanut Butterscotch Chews
Baking in America-Greg Patent

1 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 T. (1/2 cube) butter
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 c. evaporated milk
1 large egg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/3 c. dry roasted peanuts, finely chopped

Place rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 8 in square baking pan and set aside.

Sift the flour, soda, salt, and cinnamon together in a bowl and set aside.

Melt the butter in a med. saucepan over med. heat. Add the brown sugar and stir constantly with a wooden spoon for 1 minute or until the mixture starts to smell kind of toasty. Add the evaporated milk and blend well. Bring mixture to a boil. Cook while stirring constantly for exactly 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool to warm.

Beat the egg with a fork in a cup; add to mixture and blend until smooth. Add vanilla and blend well. Stir in the flour mixture only until incorporated, then add the peanuts. Spread the batter evenly in the pan.

Bake for approx 30 min, until a toothpick comes out moist with a few crumbs sticking to it. Do not overbake-bars are intended to be very moist. Cool on wire rack for 5 minutes, them tamp down the sides of the cake with your fingertips to level it. Cool completely and cut into squares.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Shannon's Gammie's Lemon Bars

Woo! Food Porn Friday rises again! Hopefully. If we can get our acts together.

This week rather than choosing a recipe from our books Shannon was kind enough to share a family recipe from her Gammie with us. It is so fun to see her grandmother's handwriting on the recipe card. It reminds me of my own Grandma's handwriting and the good memories I have of awesome deliciousness coming out of her kitchen for the long car rides home from her house. I imagine that her recipe cards looked very similar...well that is if she actually wrote things down. Her chocolate chip cookie recipe is lost forever. Flashlight Girl (Julie, my sister) actually has come close to duplicating them but they are still slightly different. ANYWAY...

Lemon Bars. I love them but have had poor luck finding a recipe that I liked enough to do more than once so I usually content myself with indulging when they are brought to me as a gift or I find them at pot lucks. This recipe is quick and easy enough that I will probably just do my own now. :) This makes me very, very happy!

Things I learned:
1. Pyrex shatters into dust when tapped just right with a lid from another pan. My favorite frog dish is now just a fond memory.
2. Always double check the recipe if it doesn't seem quite right, you may have omitted something vital like sugar.
3. If you have an heirloom like a recipe card written in your Grandma's handwriting take care of it. It can never be replaced, it's truly priceless.

Shannon's Gammie's Lemon Bars

1 c. butter
1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 c. flour
4 eggs
2 c. sugar
4 T. flour
4 T. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt

1. Mix powdered sugar, flour and butter with mixer until crumbly. Press into bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of 9x13 buttered baking dish. Bake 20-25 min in 350 degree oven.
2. Beat eggs, sugar, flour, lemon juice and salt together. Pour over baked crust. Bake 25 minutes in 350 degree oven.
3. Sprinkle top with powdered sugar while still hot.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

I'm always at a loss when I'm asked to take dinner to someone for what to take. I know that when I was in bed for months I ate more Chicken Broccoli casserole than I had ever eaten before and I can honestly say I haven't eaten it voluntarily since then...15 years ago. So, I try to figure out dishes that are a little bit different than your standard CB casserole or lasagna but that are still universally appealing enough for everyone.

This is a dish that my family likes a lot. It's filling and homey tasting and it's pretty hard to mess it up. You can certainly make this with store bought pie crusts...I went to buy some today and couldn't find any. Is this a Thanksgiving kind of deal that I wasn't aware of?? At any rate, I made my own crust from my Perfect Pie Crust recipe and it was definitely better tasting than Pillsbury would have been.

If you have lots of time and don't mind chopping veggies you can certainly chop your own but I used a bag of mixed veggies from the freezer section with some hash browns and it worked great. I think I may need a second helping...

Chicken Pot Pie
1 10 inch pie

2 pie crusts

2 c. water
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast cut into 1/2 in. pieces
1 onion diced fine
1 bag mixed vegetables
1 c. Southern style hash browns
2 T. chicken bouillon granules or soup base
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
4 T. cornstarch
1 T. flour
1 c. heavy cream

In a lg saucepan combine onions and chicken (include carrots, celery etc if you chopped your own). Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 5 min stirring occasionally. Add veggies, hash browns, bouillon, salt, pepper and poultry seasoning and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Dissolve cornstarch and flour in cream. Stir into chicken mixture; simmer an additional 3 minutes until thickened. Set aside.

Put bottom crust in pie pan trimming crust even with the edge. Pour filling into bottom crust. Roll top crust on top, cut slits for steam (if you are Bri write your name). Fold top crust under bottom crust edge. Seal well and flute edge. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 35-40 min or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. (I usually shield the pie with tin foil for the first 20 minutes of bake time)

Let stand for 15-20 minutes before serving.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Caramel Frosting

Mmmm, cupcakes. They are the perfect ratio of moist cake to frosting all wrapped up in a pretty paper liner so that you can eat it on the go. It's the perfect solution for those of us that will never eat a whole cake in sheet cake form. I don't know why it's different but it is. I know, one of those things that makes you go hmmm.

I'm a big fan of cake mixes because I'm kind of a sketchy baker from scratch but I decided that it was silly to be afraid of the scratch cake and jumped right in to a recipe I found in "The Joy of Baking". It's a book that I've had a long time and have made very little out of because the recipes appear to have 7 trillion ingredients and I always mentally check out about half way through the recipe.

The cupcake batter came together quickly and easily. I baked the cupcakes for 17 min so that they didn't dry out, the liners peeled off without pulling the cake all to pieces and the frosting was delightful so I'm calling this one a "WIN". Oh, the frosting is just your basic vanilla butter cream drizzled with caramel. You could either make your own caramel or use ice cream topping if you have one that you prefer. I did sprinkle just a very light sprinkle of sea salt on the caramel...I love salted caramel. :) Definitely a do again.

Chocolate Cupcakes
16 cupcakes

1/2 c. cocoa powder
1 c. boiling water
1 1/3 c. flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
1 c. white sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter or line 16 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a small bowl stir together the cocoa powder and the boiling water until smooth. Let cool to room temp. (I just stuck it in the fridge while I finished everything else up)

In your mixer beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time beating until smooth. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Add vanilla.

Add the flour mixture and beat only until flour is incorporated. Then add the cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.

Fill each muffin cup with approx. 1/3 c. bake batter. Bake for 16-20 minutes or until the cake springs back when touched or a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Caramel Vanilla Frosting

1/2 c. caramel cut (I used the Kraft caramel bits)
1/2 c. heavy cream.
1/2 c. butter softened
4 c. powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 T. milk or cream

Stir the caramel and cream together over med heat until melted and mixed together. Set aside to cool to room temp.

Beat the butter until fluffy in your mixer. Carefully add the powdered sugar, vanilla and milk and beat until fluffy and spreading texture.

Frost cupcake with a knife or with a pastry bag and large tip. Drizzle caramel over the tops. If desired sprinkle a tiny bit of sea salt on the caramel.

 Post linked to:
Themed Baker's Sunday 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Honey Poppy Seed Fruit Salad

One of the things that I love the most about spring is the fruit. I love that I start to see the prices in the store inch down to where I feel like I can actually eat fresh fruit again without feeling like I need to get a second job. I'm pretty sure that I could live on fruit salad if it came right down to it.

Bri had to take a salad to a church activity the other day and we both had busy days right up to almost the time she needed to walk out the door. We needed something fast and easy and this definitely qualified and was deliciously yummy to boot.

We used fresh strawberries and bananas with frozen blackberries and blueberries because that is what we had at home that didn't require a special trip to the store. Personally I think that fresh raspberries and pineapple would be particularly good as well. Use the fruit you like and that your family will enjoy the most. The dressing is super mild and just enhances the flavor of the fruit rather than overpowering it so what ever you choose to use will be fabulous!

Honey Poppy Seed Fruit Salad
servings 8-10

3 cups sliced strawberries
3 largish bananas
2 cups blackberries
1 1/2 cup blueberries
5 T. honey
2 tsp lemon juice
1 T. poppy seeds

In a large bowl combine the bananas and berries. In a small bowl combine the honey, lemon juice and poppy seeds. Pour over fruit and toss or stir gently to coat.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sweet and Spicy Buffalo Wings

I am a big fan of the quick/easy kind of dinners that you can throw together with a minimum of fuss in about 20 minutes. This recipe definitely fits that description. I keep trying to duplicate Winger's Amazing Sauce, with little success, and this is my latest attempt. It's not even close to the Winger's sauce but it's still very good and was licked up by the whole family. I doubled the recipe so we would have some to dip the "wings" in and to drizzle on our rice.

The broccoli wasn't a huge hit however... ;)

Sweet and Spicy Wings

1 bag frozen chicken tenders prepared in the oven
6 T. Frank's Original Red Hot Sauce
5 T. brown sugar
4 T. water
1 T. cornstarch or arrowroot
1 T. water

Heat hot sauce, brown sugar and water in a small sauce pan until the sugar is dissolved.

Prepare a slurry with the cornstarch and water; add to sauce. Bring to a boil and let boil for 1 min or until desired thickness.

Put chicken in large bowl and drizzle sauce over tossing to coat.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mexican Lasagna

I love lasagna and I love Mexican food. So when I first ran across a Mexican lasagna recipe on The Pioneer Woman's website a couple of years ago I filed it away to use another day. Then I started to see them everywhere... I hadn't made my own and I got bogged down in the millions of variations out there in cyberspace; corn tortillas or flour tortillas? Maybe noodles would be better. Do I want to use taco seasoning or the dump stuff from my spice cupboard technique? Chicken or beef? Which sauce would be better? Red? Green? It quickly overwhelmed me and even though I was intrigued I didn't ever try it.

As I was planning my menu for the week I happened to scroll through my recipe file and I had 3 different recipes saved. I decided that was just silly, printed them, and spread them out on my desk to pick apart. None of them seemed quite right for my family on their own but surely I could combine the parts I liked and omit the things I didn't...Jeff was pretty sure I had lost my mind but I think he was convinced that maybe Mom isn't completely clueless after all after tasting the final product.

The only thing I would do differently is remember to leave the cheese off the top until the last 15 minutes of cooking time (you'd think I would learn....) and possibly leave the olives out to be put on the side as some people in our house aren't olive fans but other than that it was pretty darned good and I'll definitely do it again.

*Lasagna tip: Lay your noodles in opposite directions for each layer; it will help the finished product stay together better when you serve it. i.e. the bottom layer is horizontal in the pan, the second layer is vertical and the third layer is horizontal again. Who knew?!?

Mexican Lasagna
Serves 10

1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef or turkey (I used beef)
1 yellow onion minced
2 cups long grain rice, unprepared
4 cups chicken broth ( I used water and soup base, it worked great)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. chili powder
2 t. cumin
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1 t. dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 can diced tomatoes or 3-4 fresh tomatoes, diced
1 can black beans undrained
2 c. frozen corn
1 can olives, sliced
1 16 oz salsa verde, medium
1 10 oz can enchilada sauce
1 box no boil lasagna noodles
3 c. Mexican cheese blend (or whatever you have on hand)

1. Prepare rice with broth. While rice is cooking saute onions, garlic, and tomatoes with approx 1/2 of the spices until onions are tender. When rice is done mix the rice, onion mixture, and black beans together.
2. Brown hamburger; add approx 1/2 c water and remaining spices and let simmer for a few minutes. Set aside.
3. In a 9x13 casserole dish pour 1/2 bottle salsa verde and spread evenly. Layer noodles.
4. Divide rice mixture in half. Spread 1/2 over noodles; add cheese.
5. Add another layer of noodles; spread enchilada sauce over noodles evenly.
6. Layer taco meat; corn, cheese and another layer of noodles.
7. Spread remaining rice mixture over noodles. Top with olives if using and evenly pour remaining salsa verde over the top.
8. Bake at 375 for 50 min. Top with cheese; bake an additional 10-15 minutes.
9. Let rest 5-10 minutes before serving. Garnish with cilantro and sour cream. (I live in a house of cilantro haters so that didn't make it to the picture...)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Strawberry Banana Fluff

I watched an episode of Top Chef a couple of weeks ago that the challenge was to "update" a recipe from the 60's. The foods they listed are all ones that appear in your standard neighborhood cookbook and there are as many variations of them as there are cooks almost. This salad is kind of in that same category but it's one that I end up taking to family functions quite often because as kitschy and common as it is people like it and I always bring back an empty bowl.

Tonight's the first family BBQ of the season and my assignment is salad. Because this is the family that would rather die than eat lettuce or green things this is the perfect choice. In the winter I typically make this with mandarin oranges and orange jello or a raspberry version using frozen raspberries but the strawberries are so pretty right now that I decided a strawberry banana version was in order today.

Strawberry Banana Fluff
Servings 20

2 cartons lite Cool Whip
32 oz cottage cheese (I used fat free but whatever you like works great)
2 small packages strawberry banana Jello
1 1/2 cartons strawberries cut into small pieces
3 med bananas

1. In a large bowl mix Cool Whip and cottage cheese until blended well.
2. Stir in Jello
3. Gently fold in fruit until evenly distributed.
4. Chill until set.