Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Food for Thought

Today is all about gratitude and giving thanks.  So today's Food for Thought is about gratitude!

 {Very large and old tree at McConnell Springs}

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

~Melody Beattie

Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving!

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Black Bean and Spinach Enchiladas

I had enchiladas at one of my favorite restaurants, and to be honest, I wasn't impressed.  However, I saw this recipe, and it just sounded phenomenal so I made it.  Guys---most delicious enchiladas EVER!  Plus, this can be made completely vegetarian (which is how it was originally done, but the hubby has to have meat).

 {Black Bean and Spinach Enchiladas}

{Gathering ingredients for the sauce}

{Make a roux}

{Add broth and tomato paste then allow to thicken}

{Cooling the beef to add to the bean filling}

{Enchilada filling!}

{Roll into a burrito--learn how here}

{I did mine the day before so they laid in the baking dish in the fridge until it was time to bake}

{The hubby baked them--didn't he do a great job?}

One year ago:  Ravioli Lasagna

Black Bean and Spinach Enchiladas
from The Garden Grazer

Makes 4-5 servings of 2 enchiladas

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (use 1/4 if you don't like too much spice)
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
6 oz tomato paste

1 pound ground beef
1-15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed (make it vegetarian by using 2 cans of beans!)
1 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed
6 oz frozen spinach, thawed
6 green onions, diced
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 cups shredded Mexican cheese, divided
8-10 tortillas
  1. Make the sauce by heating butter in a skillet until hot.  Add flour and spices and cook for 1 minute (basically making a spiced roux).  Add broth and tomato paste stirring to combine.  Bring to a simmer and allow to thicken and reduce for about 10 minutes.  Pull to the side to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, brown beef in a skillet and cool.  If using just beans, go to the next step.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to the beef/beans, except 1 cup cheese and tortillas, stirring until well combined.
  4. Lay out tortillas and separate bean filling among them.  I had extra which made a delicious lunch the next day!
  5. Roll like burrito.
  6. Preheat oven to 375.
  7. Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray and pour about 1 cup of sauce into the bottom.
  8. Place enchiladas on top of sauce and cover with remaining sauce.
  9. Bake for 20-30 minutes (about 30 minutes if enchiladas were refrigerated) or until sauce is nice and bubbly.
  10. Top with remaining cheese and allow to melt before serving.
  11. Serve
The best part is that these can be frozen in the tortilla (sauce separate) and made another day!  How awesome is that?  Make a double batch and freeze half for another day! 

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tuesday Tip: How to Roll A Burrito or Enchilada

So let's get some brief background on me....

I used to work at Taco Bell in high school.  I had never eaten nor stepped foot in a Taco Bell (or any Mexican place to my knowledge) before then; my family had Mexican food at home.  I was trained in the ways of Taco Bell, and NO I do not eat there on a regular basis.  In fact, I can probably count on one hand the times I've gone since I quit over 6 years ago.

One of the skills I learned was how to roll a burrito properly, and let me tell you--that's one skill that I use to this day!  It's a simple and easy 4 step process so let's begin!

{These are actually enchiladas (recipe tomorrow!), but the principle still applies}

{Step 1: Fold over the left and right sides about 1 inch towards the center}

{Step 2: Fold the side closest to you over the filling}

{Step 3: Tuck the tortilla underneath the filling, tightening the filling as you go.  You should have a solid burrito--no air pockets!}

{Step 4: Roll the burrito closed and lay seam side down to serve}

Pretty cool, right?  This will work with any size soft tortilla and in multiple ways.  Breakfast burrito anyone?

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Chicken and Dumplings

When I visited my best friend over the summer, her mom made her favorite meals.  One of them--Chicken and Dumplings--was absolutely fantastic!  I asked for the recipe, and her mom listed just the ingredients which wasn't a big deal since cooking is less exact than baking.

It's a bit embarrassing how long it took me to get this right.  Why did it take me so long?  Well....  I could NEVER get the sauce thickened up right (or at least as her mom described it).  I tried as many as half a dozen times, and I just finally said "screw it" and used cornstarch to thicken the sauce.  My stomach won out over my pride, and in the end, it was damn good so I'm not too torn up about it!

{So delicious and comforting!}

{Cooking the chicken in broth}

{Mixing the dumpling dough}

{Rolling out the dumplings--necessary?  Not really.  You can pinch off pieces instead}

{Chicken is done!  Take them out to cook the dumplings}

{Hubby wanted "lots of large dumplings" so I did it.  He said they were a little too big--oh well}

{Add evaporated milk and cook dumplings.  I made flat dumplings, but my hubby prefers fluffy dumplings.  It's easy--just add baking powder shown in the recipe below!}

{Dice chicken and add back in}

{Thickened sauce for chicken and dumplings}

Chicken and Dumplings
from many trials and errors

Makes 4 servings

6 3/4 cups chicken broth, divided
3 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, optional (add for fluffy dumplings or leave out for flat dumplings)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 can evaporated milk
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Ground black pepper
  1. Place 6 cups broth in a large pot and heat until boiling.
  2. Add chicken breasts to hot broth and cook until done, about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, combine flour and salt in a bowl and add 1/2 cup broth to form a dough.  Dough should be pliable without being sticky.  You might need to add more broth or flour just a bit at a time to get it to the right consistency.
  4. Flour a flat surface and roll out dumpling dough until 1/4 inch thick.  Cut into squares with a knife or pizza cutter.
  5. Remove cooked chicken from the broth and set aside to cool.
  6. Add dumplings to hot broth; stir to keep them from sticking.
  7. Add evaporate milk to broth.
  8. Cut chicken into bite-sized chunks and add back to broth.
  9. Whisk remaining 1/4 cup broth and 3 tablespoons cornstarch until dissolved.
  10. Add cornstarch mixture to chicken and dumplings until sauce is the desired thickness.
  11. Season to taste with black pepper.
  12. Serve.
Have you ever tried and tried to get a recipe just right and then finally got fed up and improvised?  Did it turn out how you wanted it?

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Food for Thought

 {Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona}

When you are going through difficult times, remember: you might have lost some major battles, but you survived and you're still here.  That is a victory.  Show your happiness and celebrate your ability to go forward.

~Paulo Coelho

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving: Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I know it's traditional to have pumpkin pie as dessert for Thanksgiving (I know we will!), but it's nice to offer alternatives especially for those that don't like pumpkin pie. 

 {Top with pumpkin butter for extra pumpkin flavor and pretty presentation!}

 {Such a delicious cupcake!  This might have been my second....}

{Creamed butter, sugar and eggs}

{Whisking dry ingredients together}

{I tried to get a close up of the batter after adding the water and pumpkin because the batter will look like this!  It's okay--it will work out--promise!}

{Add dry ingredients--see?  It worked!}

{Fill baking cups with pumpkin batter goodness!}

{Whipped cream cheese frosting}

{I am not a very good put-frosting-on-the-cupcakes-prettily person.  I can put it in a bag and squeeze it out sorta okay--we all can't be great at everything}

One year ago:  Apple-Cranberry Bars

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 16

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup milk

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
1/2 to 1 cup powdered sugar
Pumpkin butter (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add eggs to creamed butter and beat until light and fluffy about 2-3 minutes.
  4.  Meanwhile, mix all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl until combined.
  5. Add pumpkin, vanilla, and milk to the creamed butter mixture until well combined.
  6. Add dry ingredients to the wet until just combined.
  7. Line a muffin tin and scoop batter into cups until 3/4 full.
  8. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  9. While cupcakes are baking, combine cream cheese and butter in a bowl and whip for 5-6 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and pinch of salt, whipping for another minute.  Add powdered sugar until desired sweetness is achieved.  I don't like my frosting sweet so I used about 1/2 cup.  Frosting should be room temperature when frosting cupcakes as it will be harder when chilled.
  10. Let cupcakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
  11. Cool cupcakes until room temperature and top with frosting.
  12. Serve.
Do you serve a traditional Thanksgiving dessert or do you mix it up?
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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thanksgiving: Roasted Chicken with Herbed Butter and Gravy

We have reached the crowning glory of any Thanksgiving meal....  The chicken!

This year, I decided to make it in the crock-pot for a few reasons--1) it frees up the oven for other yummies and 2) so the kitchen is not an inferno and 3) because who wants to get up at 5 AM on your day off just to sit a bird in the oven (see reason 2).  I rest my case.

The one downfall is that the skin isn't crispy.  That's fine with my family since we don't eat it anyway.

Anyway!  On to the bird!

{Roasted Chicken with Herbed Butter and Gravy!}

{Use any herb(s) for the butter that you want!  I used country herbs (rosemary, thyme, mint, oregano--I believe)}

{Separate the skin from the meat as much as you can.  You can separate more than this--it's just hard to do it one handed and take a picture LOL}

{Take 2/3 of the herbed butter and rub it under the skin}

{Rub the remaining butter on the outside and place in a crock-pot}


{Bonus!  The chicken literally falls apart when you take it out of the crock-pot--no carving needed!}

{Strain the juices that are in the crock-pot.  The top is fat, but you need that to make your gravy!}

{Skim off fat, add flour, and make a roux}

 {Add the broth back in to make the gravy!}

One year ago: Garlic Roasted Chicken

Roasted Chicken with Herbed Butter and Gravy

Makes 4 servings

3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons mixed herbs (or if you want to focus on a particular herb, feel free)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 whole chicken, 3-4 pounds, rinsed and patted dry
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 cup flour
Broth to get chicken juices to 2 cups
  1. Mix butter, herbs, pepper, and salt together until well combined.
  2. Rub chicken under the skin with 2/3 of the butter mixture.  Rub the remaining butter mixture on the outsides of the chicken.
  3. Stuff the chicken with thyme and garlic.
  4. Place in a crock-pot and cook on high for 4-5 hours, on low for 6-7 hours.
  5. Pull chicken out of crock-pot and strain big pieces of chicken out.
  6. Spoon the fat that will rise to the top into a saucepan.
  7. Heat the fat and add flour to make a roux.
  8. Add broth to the chicken juices to get 2 cups of liquid.  I didn't need to add any, but just in case!
  9. Add liquid to roux and cook until thick, about 5 minutes.
  10. Serve! 
What do you typically have as the centerpiece to your Thanksgiving?  Is it a ham?  A goose?  A turducken?
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thanksgiving: Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Sweet Thai Chili Sauce

Continuing our Thanksgiving week, I made one of my favorite (and quite under-used) vegetables, the Brussel sprout.  I love Brussel sprouts!  They can be made sweet or savory and are extra yummy oven roasted!  Although this might not be a traditional sauce for Thanksgiving, it does give you a sweet, spicy flavor to balance out all of the other richness of the meal!

{Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Thai Chili Sauce}

{Brussels sprouts cut in half}

{Place cut side down on a baking sheet}

{Sweet Thai Chili Sauce (brand name Mae Ploy) is pretty popular and can be found in large grocery stores like Kroger in the Asian section}

{Sprouts just beginning to caramelize}

{Pour chili sauce mixture over sprouts and place them in the oven for a few more minutes}

One year ago:  Roasted Cauliflower Gratin  and Sweet Potato Casserole

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Sweet Thai Chili Sauce

Makes 4 servings

2 pound Brussels sprouts, cut in half
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons Sweet Thai Chili sauce
4 teaspoons soy sauce
4 cloves garlic, minced
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Place a sheet of foil on a sheet pan (easier clean-up!).
  3. Toss Brussels sprouts with oil until coated.
  4. Place Brussels sprouts cut edge down on the baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cut edge begins to caramelize (brown).
  6. Meanwhile, mix Sweet Thai Chili sauce, soy sauce, and garlic together.
  7. Pull Brussels sprouts out of the oven and top with chili sauce mixture.
  8. Place in the oven for another 3-5 minutes.
  9. Serve.
 What sides do you typically serve with your Thanksgiving meal?

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