Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pumpkin Bread and Orange Cranberry Loaf

I pulled out some fun baking pans and made a batch of pumpkin bread batter. I made heart-shaped muffins, a Razorback loaf and regular loaf + white chocolate chips. Then I made one loaf of orange-cranberry bread to use up some fresh cranberries I had. Both these recipes came from so you can read other cooks' reviews for ideas on modifications. For the pumpkin, I supstituted applesauce for half the oil. I didn't modify anything on the orange-cranberry. These make great breakfasts, snacks and dessert, yum!

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread

Orange Cranberry Loaf

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

White Bean Chili, Pumpkin Roll and Vanilla-Maple Steamer

White Bean Chili

Here's what you'll need.

Rich is not a fan of anything soup-like so he ate his with a fork to avoid the broth and onion.

I cooked the chili in my enameled cast iron dutch oven (aka french oven) and some cornbread in my newly resurfaced and reseasoned cast iron skillet.

Pumpkin Roll

Here's what you'll need.

You turn the cooked portion out onto a powdered sugar coated dish towel (clean and dry of course).

Then you roll it all up together.

After it cools, you unroll and frost, then later re-roll, chill and slice. Next time I'll use a larger jelly roll pan and a thinner dish towel to get a tighter roll, although this did turn out pretty well.

Vanilla-Almond Steamer

I didn't have almond extract so I used maple, and it was delicious. A nice nonalcoholic, decaffeinated alternative to something like a Bailey's and coffee.

Some new gadgets and scalloped potatoes

When we were in Arkansas over Thanksgiving, I was able to go visit my dear friend Kendra. We have been friends for about 17 years if I'm doing my math right. She had a little goodie bag for me for my 30th birthday. How cute is this stuff?? We used the mouse cheese grater and monkey veggie peeler when cooking the scalloped potatoes. I used the gorgeous reusable grocery bag at the store this morning. Thanks again Kendra!

Out of this World Scalloped Potatoes- these turned out great!
Very cheesy and yummy, a good comfort food to go with a meat and green veggie. It was supposed to contain green onions but after chopping them up, I forgot to actually add them. Oh well, it was great without them.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Wooo I finally cooked again!

It has been a long time since I've cooked. Being pregnant just zapped the energy and desire to prepare food right out of me. I got a new cookbook as an early Christmas present and some fun new kitchen gadgets for my birthday (pics to come) so I had some motivation to get back in the kitchen. I didn't want to let the whole fall/winter food season pass me by without using some of my favorite ingredients for this time of year like pumpkin, sweet potatoes, squash and cranberries.

This is my new cookbook and it's going to be the source of my December recipes. I flipped thru it and it has a ton of great looking recipes.

This morning I made Orange-Cranberry-Glazed Pork Tenderloin and it was wonderful. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture but it turned out great. I only had jellied cranberry sauce, not whole-berry sauce, and it turned out fine. Quick, easy and delish!

I also made Belgian Wassail, a nonalcoholic warm holiday punch. I halved the recipe but accidentally forgot to halve the sugar so it wound up being extra sweet. I had a big mug before work and am looking forward to another one when I get home from work tonight.

While the above 2 recipes turned out wonderfully, the 3rd was a huge fail. I won't even bother giving you a link to the recipe. It was for a peanut butter cookie, rolled in powdered sugar....sounds great but turned out very floury and dry and I wound up tossing the whole batch in the trash. Oh well, 2/3 isn't bad!

I'm excited to have some actual home cooked food leftover for dinner tonight. I brought some of the pork loin and a baked sweet potato. Unfortunately I ran out of time before I had to leave for work so poor Richard is going to come home to a sink full of dirty dishes and a dishwasher full of clean dishes needing to be put away....bets on whether it'll still be there when I get home a few hours later?:)

Saturday, October 17, 2009


So cooking has not been going so well this month...oh well, it's a process right? I have been juicing quite a bit so I thought I would share a little of that with you here. Two years ago my awesome mother-in-law got me a Jack Lalanne Power Juicer and I love it!! It's a great way to get in some fruits and veggies. While the pulp is discarded and you miss out on the nutrients and fiber it contains, homemade juice is still far superior to what you would buy in a store. It has no added sugar or preservatives, and is as fresh as it gets. I have The Complete Idiot's Guide to Juicing and it's got some great recipe ideas and general juicing tips.

I made some fruity carrot juice with apples, grapes, carrots, oranges and a hint of lime. You could also easily sneak some other kind of veggie in here since the sweetness of the fruit helps mask the flavor. You peel the oranges and lime, pull the grapes off the stem and quarter the apples, then drop them in the shoot and out comes the juice.

I know it doesn't look that appetizing, but this one is delicious. Ya'll know how picky Rich is about all things health-food and he loved this one.

Next up is a mango/yellow bell pepper juice with some celery, orange and lime added. You remove the seeds and half the pepper, peel and seed the mango, and peel the orange and lime.

Here's the celery going in the juicer, you can see the juice coming out and going directly into the glass.

The only bad thing about juicing, other than the vast quantities of pricey organic fruit and veggies that we use, is the cleanup. You have to disassemble and clean after every use which takes about 5 minutes. It's really not that big of a deal, and a small price to pay for fresh, healthy juice.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Chicken in a mustard pan sauce with risotto and veggies and homemade brownies

Chicken in Mustard Pan Sauce

4 boneless chicken breasts (halved, with skin, about 2 lbs) Note: I used skinless
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (optional)

1Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Pat chicken dry . Season with salt and pepper. Add the oil to the hot pan and swirl to evenly coat. Lay chicken in pan skin side down; cook without moving the pieces until the skin crisps and browns, about 5 minutes. Flip chicken and cook about another 3 minutes. Transfer to a baking dish, skin side up, and bake until cooked through, about 10 minutes.
3Pour the wine into the hot skillet. Use wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits in the bottom of the pan. Boil until almost all the wine evaporates and it gets a little syrupy, about 3 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil.
4Mix the flour and water together to make thin paste. Whisk the paste and mustard into the broth and boil until the sauce thickens, 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat. Swirl in the butter, if using, to give the sauce a little richness. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce on top and serve.

It turned out pretty good, nothing super spectacular though. There are a million great chicken recipes out there so I don't think this one will be a keeper although there was really nothing wrong with it.

Here's the ingredients:

Rich was in charge of the sauce and somehow managed to crank the heat up so high that we had wine and oil splattered from ceiling to floor. but he missed the vital step of mixing the flour with the water and then adding to the sauce, and he just added the flour and water individually and wound up with a clumpy mess. This is his unhappy cooking face:)

We didn't love the risotto so I'm not going to post the recipe unless someone wants it, then I will be more than happy to. I enjoyed making it just to learn how since it's kind of complicated with the addition of small amounts of liquid while stirring constantly. I thought it was ok, but Rich said it just reminded him of gummy rice without much flavor. Next time I think I'll try a flavored one instead of just plain.

Risotto ingredients:

The finished products, with a side of steamed veggies.

I also made deep dish brownies from scratch but we each ate a piece and threw them out.
Fail! Their consistency was very dense, almost like a heavy dark chocolate cake. I like my brownies a little sweeter and chewier. These definitely did NOT top the boxed mixes so I'll keep searching for a good homemade brownie recipe.

One final misadventure was when I caught a dishrag on fire. I didn't notice that it was a bit too close to my favorite fall candle (Yankee Candle Pumpkin Pie...smells so good!) until the rag started smoking and flaming. Yikes! All in all not our favorite dinner. Oh well, I guess they can't all be great.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Reflections from month 1 and where to go from here

It's been a month already since I started this blog and I think September was a success. I really enjoyed all the cooking and blogging about it. I realized that with a little planning, it's not that difficult to plan meals, cook a couple days a week, and have leftovers for the rest of the week. Most of my recipes from the past month came from online. I have several cookbooks that go unused as I turn to the internet again and again for new recipes. So, the next phase of Adventures in our Kitchen is to choose a cookbook per month and cook only recipes from that particular cookbook during that month.

October's Cookbook of the Month is How to Boil Water from Food Network Kitchens. This cookbook is a must-have for any new cook or just for anybody who could use a review of some basics. It is full of great, easy recipes with pictures and notes on how to modify them, how to freeze and thaw them, where to find unusual ingredients, etc. In addition to recipes, it has lots of charts and information such as what to do with different vegetables, what different cuts of meat mean, what temperature to cook certain things to, how to tell when things are done, and lots more. I've made a few recipes from this cookbook over the last year or two, but I'm really looking forward to getting more in depth with this one. Here's to a tasty October!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Lemon Cream Pasta with Chicken

Yet another success from Here's the recipe.

I had some leftover heavy cream, bowtie pasta, a lemon and some thawed chicken breasts. Type all those ingredients in and this is what allrecipes gave me.

Here are the seasoned chicken breasts before going in the oven. I only had one lemon so I saved it for the sauce and used lime juice on the chicken for baking.

Here' s the finished product. It is a very bland colored meal, but oh so tasty and unhealthy.

Notes: This is a great basic recipe, you could use any kind of pasta and add chicken, shrimp, scallops or veggies. It is creamy and rich and begs for a green salad or a side of green vegetables. Rich LOVED this one (naturally, the meat and pasta only/veggie-free dish he raves about ;))

You could probably modify the sauce with low-fat milk, or half and half instead of all heavy cream but I didn't. Yum, you need to try this!

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mmmm, bread

Apple Walnut Bread from
click here for the recipe

I had some leftover walnuts from the pesto, and several apples on hand so I typed in those ingredients and allrecipes gave me the recipe for this bread. Yum!!

Here is is after coming out of the oven.

Here's a cross section so you can see all the apple chunks.

Notes: This recipe was excellent, and pretty healthy. I used half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour, decreased the oil to 1/2 cup and increased the applesauce to 1/2 cup, and decreased the sugar to about a 1.5 cups. It made 2 short and dinky loaves, so next time I think I would just make one jumbo loaf. I only baked it either 50 or 60 minutes, not the 70 that the recipe suggested, so just start checking it around 45 or 50 minutes and take out when the toothpick or knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Rich liked this one but said he would prefer smaller apple chunks next time and I agree that dicing the apples smaller is a good idea. All in all, 2 thumbs up!

Beer Bread

There is really no recipe here since it uses a mix. You just mix these 3 things up and bake.

It turned out great. This mix makes a dense, heavy, sweet and salty loaf of bread that is really good with soup. It wouldn't be ideal for sandwiches because of it's texture but on its own it is delicious. The box lists several suggetions for making it your own, such as adding italian herbs and parmesan cheese to the batter, so maybe I'll try that next time.

Carb heaven!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Making use of fresh, local seafood

Creole Shrimp and Sausage Stew from this months Sept '09 Cooking Light.

Click here for recipe.

This is a fast, easy meal. The longest part was peeling and deveining the shrimp, but if you buy them already peeled and deveined, you can have this ready to eat about 20 minutes. I served this over some brown rice seasoned with Cajun seasoning (we like Tony Cachere's in the green container). My step-father-in-law is from Louisiana and can cook some mean Cajun dishes. I have a few of his recipes that I'll be trying out soon. This one can't hold a candle to his cooking, but for what it is---a fast, fairly healthy, yummy warm meal---it's excellent.

Here's the ingredients. You can see the peeled/deveined shrimp on the black & white plate, but you could probably use thawed frozen shrimp in place of fresh in this dish.

Here's what Cooking Light's looks like:

Here's what my finished product looks like: not quite as pretty:)

My first hummus attempt...success!

Hot and Spicy Hummus Vegetarian Times Cookbook p. 122

I really like hummus, and often buy it at the grocery store. It's several dollars per container, and I found this recipe and decided to try to make my own. Much cheaper and better!

We've eaten it as a dip with veggies and pita chips, on salad, and as a spread on wraps and sandwiches. It's full of protein, fiber and good fats and is extremely versatile.

What you'll need:
3 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I used canned)
1/4 cup tahini, olive oil or light sesame oil (I used a mix of EVOO and toasted sesame oil)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup minced jalapeno or other chile
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
salt and pepper to taste

How to make it:
1. Put chickpeas, tahini (or oil) and lemon juice in food processor or blender, puree until smooth, adding wter as needed to make a creamy mixture. Transfer to bowl.
2. Add garlic, cumin, cayenne, jalapeno and bell pepper to the mixture and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill 2-4 hours to allow flavors to blend.

I added the spices and peppers while still in the food processor and pureed it all together because Rich doesn't like chunks of peppers. It turned out great that way and he actually gave it 2 thumbs up.

Yum, it's great as a dip with veggies!

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More fun with herbs

Rosemary Roasted Almonds from Cooking Light magazine, Sept'09 pg 113.

I have a rosemary plant potted in the backyard that I've had for a couple years, and I love the flavor of fresh rosemary. If you've never tried to roast and flavor your own almonds, or any type of nuts, you should give it a shot. It's very easy and there are endless different sweet and savory variations you can make.

What you'll need:
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tbs EVOO
1 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
Dash of ground red pepper
about 2 cups whole almonds (you want plain ones, not ones that are roasted/salted/otherwise flavored)

1.Preheat oven to 325.
2. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, toss to coat. Arrange nut mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with foil (makes clean-up a snap). Bake at 325 for 20 minutes or until lightly toasted (you'll be able to tell by smell when they're done). cool to room temperature.

Here's the mix before going on the baking sheet. I didn't have kosher salt so I used sea salt. I also used blood orange infused olive oil from The Olive Press. If you need a unique gift for a food lover, I highly recommend ordering something from The Olive Press, they have several different oils and they are all delicious!

These roasted almonds turned out great. I'll definitley use this recipe again!
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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sweet Treat

Orange Juice Cake from (you know the drill, click here for recipe)

I chose this recipe because I had a package of instant pudding and some orange juice that needed using. Allrecipes has a feature where you can search by ingredients so I just searched for recipes that contained both vanilla instant pudding mix and orange juice and voila, there it was. I never said it was a healthy sweet treat....

This is the sauce simmering on the stove. You cook the cake, then poke holes in it while still in the bundt pan and pour the sauce over. It soaks in and makes for an incredibly moist cake.

I almost forgot to get a picture before it was gone!

How was it? Fabulous! Even a proclaimed orange-cake-disliker thought it was excellent. The cake mix I used already had pudding in the mix, plus the extra pudding made it very moist and soft. I had to cook it longer than the 30 minutes the recipe called for, and just kept toothpick testing it every few minutes until it was done. I would definitely make this again.

Modifications I made or would make next time: used Canola oil instead of vegetable oil (not really sure what the difference is), used about 2/3 cup sugar instead of 3/4 and it was definitely sweet enough. Next time I will cut down on the butter and sub in some unsweetened applesauce. Also, it would look prettier with a dusting of powdered sugar on top.

What did I learn? That the easiest way to get this cake from the bundt pan to the cake platter was to put the platter over the pan, hold them together and invert quickly. Grease your pan well!

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Using more garden goodness

Three Cheese Stuffed Banana Peppers
from (click here for recipe)

This is not something I would ordinarily choose to make, but we had a lot of banana peppers in the garden that I picked Saturday morning that I didn't know what to do with. Thanks to google, this little gem of a recipe was printing out minutes later.

Here are the ingredients, nice and simple. Of course, homemade spaghetti sauce would be ideal but Bertolli it was for us!

You have to cut the ends off the peppers and remove the seeds, and there doesn't seem to be a great way to do it. I just cut the ends off, then used my fingers to scoop out the seeds. Some of them, like the really curly deformed looking ones, I had to slit the side and pull out the seeds that way. Then you stuff them with the mozarella, feta and parmesan mixture and top with sauce.

Easy cheesy and ready to go in the oven.

I didn't get a fresh from the oven pic, but you want to cook them until the cheese is bubbly and peppers are soft. The recipe recommends 30-40 minutes, but we took ours out at 40 minutes and they were still a little hard so you'll just have to judge by look and feel.

How were they? Really good, and had they cooked a little longer and softened up a bit more they would have been excellent. If you like peppers, you'll like this recipe. They were a big hit with everyone at dinner Saturday night (except Rich, he's not a fan of peppers which is why I said that I wouldn't have made this had we not had the peppers already)

Modifications I made or would make next time: none

What did I learn? To not always trust the cook time on recipes.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Homemade Pesto Sauce

This summer we planted a couple basil plants, and I have been meaning to make pesto while the basil is still good this season. I used my trusty friend for the recipe. I am not a huge pine nut fan, so I liked that this recipe uses walnuts instead. It is super easy and turned out great.
Here's what you need, plus a food processor.

It looks yucky, but it is really yummy! I think it just turns a little brown and loses some of its bright-greeness when exposed to air.

We took it over to our friends for dinner and it was a hit. We just tossed it with some whole wheat penne and grilled chicken. Yum!!

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Veggie Fajitas from

Click the link above for the recipe. It's called Vegan Fajitas, but since I'm adding sour cream and cheese to my finished product I'm calling it Veggie Fajitas. I love LOVE I like the daily recipes, and that each recipe is rated 1-5 stars and that people leave reviews and comments on modifications they made when cooking each recipe, which is really helpful. I'm not sure how Rich will feel about this one...he'll probably turn his nose up and want a chicken and cheese only fajita but maybe he'll at least try some.

Modifications I made: I made my own fajita seasoning and added it to the veggies when I put them in the pan to sautee. It was a mix of paprika, garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, and onion powder. I like that better than buying a prepacked fajita seasoning that has preservatives and/or extra salt. Added some shredded mexican cheese, sour cream, salsa and wrapped it all up in a whole wheat tortilla. Next time I think I will add some sliced avocado or quacamole as well.

How was it? Wow, it's delicious. I'm impressed! I'll add an edit later once Rich gets home and tries it. He works til 9 so I have to go ahead and eat.

What I learned: How easy it is to mix up your own fajita seasoning and that you can have a quick, healthy and hearty main dish without meat.

You marinate the veggies for at least half an hour. Mine were probably in there for about 2 or 3 hours. This is after taking them out of the fridge and right before tossing them in the skillet.

Once the onion, zucchini, yellow squash and peppers are soft, you add in your black beans and corn.

And here it is all ready to go in my belly.