Everyday recipes, life and craziness from Jen's house.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Strawberry/Banana/Orange Smoothie

We love smoothies in my house.  They are easy to make, and healthy, too!

Strawberry/Banana/Orange Smoothie

1-1/4 c. plain, fat-free yogurt
8 ounces frozen strawberries (I use VIP's whole frozen strawberries, no sugar added)
2 bananas
1 c. orange juice

Place all of the ingredients into a blender.  Blend until smooth.  You may need to stop the blender and stir the ingredients so everything will get blended.  I use the button "ice crush" or "liquefy" on my blender.  And voila...you have a smoothie.  Makes about 5 cups.

Substitutions:  There is no added sugar in this smoothie recipe, so you may find it a little tart.  You can add 2-3 T. honey or sugar if you find it too tart.  You can use whatever frozen fruit or juice (or even milk!) you'd like...this is just the combination we like the best.  Also, you can use low-fat vanilla yogurt instead of the fat-free.

Review:  This is very refreshing on a hot day!  It makes for a great breakfast drink, or snack during the day.  You may want to add a little sugar/honey to sweeten the smoothie, but we like it without the added sugar.  Enjoy~

Monday, May 24, 2010

BBQ Beef from Kelli

I made BBQ Beef on Friday night for my inlaws.  It was a new recipe and it was good!

For those of you who don't know, I am a full time grad student.  I'm also a full time GTA (Graduate Teaching Assistant), a full time mama and a full time military wife.  Those of you who are military wives (or military husbands) know what I mean when I say I'm a military wife...you get what all of that implies.  And yes, I'm very busy!  Soooo anyways, in my research class, we had a potluck on the last night of class.  Cassie brought Black Bean & Corn Salsa.  Check out her recipe on her blog, Thoughts from Casablanca.  It was good!  Kelli brought the BBQ Beef.  As soon as I took a bite, I knew I'd need the recipe.  It was good.  It was better than my BBQ Beef and as soon as there was a break during class, I asked her for the recipe.  And so Kelli sent out an email to everyone in the class with her recipe for BBQ Beef.  It's easy!  It's good!  It's easy!  It's good!  Make it this week!  You'll be glad you did!

BBQ Beef
1 boneless beef chuck roast (about 3 lbs)
1/2 c. ketchup
4 T. brown sugar
4 T. red wine vinegar
2 T. Dijon mustard
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. liquid smoke
1/4 t. black pepper

Place the beef in a crock pot.  Mix the sauce together and pour over the beef.  Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours.  Shred the meat and serve with crusty rolls for a BBQ beef sandwich.  Easy Peasy.

Kelli suggested not to use the bigger crock pots because it doesn't cook the same.  So I stuffed the beef into my medium sized crock pot.  Kelli also said that she mixes up the sauce the night before, so she can just put everything together quickly in the morning.

Review:  It was good!  The meat was very tender.  The sauce was a little watery, but still flavorful.  I didn't use a beef chuck roast...I used a rump roast instead and it was fine.  Next time:  Before I shred the meat, I'm going to drain most of the sauce/liquid.  I will make another batch of the sauce and add it to the shredded beef, stick it back in the crock pot and voila!  This is an quick and easy recipe to put together, and oh, so good!  Enjoy~

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Easy Grilled Chicken and Grilled Veggies

My inlaws left this afternoon after spending a few days with us.  They live about 260 miles away...close enough to visit, but far enough so they don't drop in unexpectedly!  It was great to see them and we had a wonderful time.  We traveled to the zoo in Salina yesterday and did some shopping.  My father-in-law, Leonard, did a few things around the house since Jeff is deployed, which I was very grateful for!  We played cards, did some geocaching, talked a lot and ate some pretty darned good food (of course, I'm biased a little bit!) 

Before they left this afternoon, I made a big dinner/lunch (another post for another day.)  It was terrific, but again, I'm a little biased!  The meal was different from my planned menu since we went out to eat last night and had a picnic lunch at the zoo.

Easy Grilled Chicken
Boneless/Skinless chicken breasts
Ken's Steak House Lite Northern Italian with Basil & Romano salad dressing
Gallon Ziploc-type Bag

Place the s/b chicken breasts in a Ziploc type gallon bag.  For every 3 chicken breasts, add 1/3 of the bottle of Ken's salad dressing.  So 3 chicken breasts = 1/3 of the bottle, 6 chicken breasts = 2/3 of the bottle, 9 chicken breasts = 1 bottle (you will need to use another bag if you're using 9 chicken breasts...it would be a little crowded in 1 bag with the dressing!)

Zip the bag and stick in the refrigerator for 4 hours, or up to 2 days.

Place the chicken on a med/hot grill.  Discard the salad dressing/chicken juice.  Grill 4-5 minutes and turn.  Continue grilling until chicken is no longer pink and cooked through....15-25 minutes, depending on the heat of the grill.

Review:  I've used a lot of different Italian salad dressings over the years and have found that I like Ken's Steak House Lite Northern Italian with Basil & Romano the best for marinating chicken.  It makes the chicken moist, and doesn't have a strong vinegary flavor.  Enjoy~

Grilled Veggies
1-2 medium zucchini squash
1 medium yellow squash
2 medium onions
1 medium green pepper
1 medium red pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes
8 ounces whole mushrooms
3 T. red wine vinegar
2 T. olive oil
2 T. Italian seasoning (Penzeys makes a good one, as does McCormick)
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. onion powder
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
Gallon Ziploc-type bag
Bamboo skewers

Slice the zucchini and yellow squash lengthwise.  Chop into 1-inch chunks.  Seed and cut the peppers into large chunks (2 inch x 2 inch or so chunks.)   Put the spices, oil and vinegar into the Ziploc-type bag.  Add the chopped zucchini, yellow squash and pepper chunks.  Seal the bag and squish around so that all pieces are coated with the spice mixture.  Shake it up, baby!  Twist and shout!    (Click on the link!  My mum sings this song every time something needs to be shaken....and so do I!)Place in the refrigerator for 4 hours, or up to 2 days.

When you're ready to cook the veggies, slice the onions in half, then with each half, lay the sliced part on your cutting board and cut at 10 o'clock, 12 o'clock and 2 o'clock (you'll get 4 chunks of onion per half.)    Take the marinated veggies out of the refrigerator.  Thread the marinated veggies, mushrooms, onions, and cherry tomatoes onto wooden skewers.  You can put them in any order, but I like the zucchini or yellow squash on the ends...they don't shrink as much while cooking and fall off less than peppers, tomatoes, onions or mushrooms.  (You may want to soak the skewers in water before doing this step.  I never remember to do it, and the ends get a little charred, but that's OK.  If you don't want the ends of the skewers charred, soak them in water for 20 minutes.  It's up to you...)

Place on a med/hot grill.  Grill 4-5 minutes and turn.  Grill 4-5 minutes more.  It may take you more or less time depending on the temperature of your grill.  I like my veggies a little crisp with a little char on them them.  (Cook according to your tastes...not mine!)

Review:  I LOVE these veggies!  I've experimented with more/less oil, vinegar, spices and ready made Italian salad dressings, and this is what I've come up with.  The veggies are moist, flavorful, without being too vinegary.  I don't like to marinate the mushrooms (they get soggy), the onions (they fall apart) or the tomatoes (they get squished.)  However, feel free to change a few things to make it fit your tastes!  Enjoy~

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Amish Breakfast Casserole

I found this recipe for Amish Breakfast Casserole on allrecipes.com.  I made some changes to the recipe, but overall, it was pretty good, I would make it again, but with more changes.  The recipe calls for 1 pound of bacon and I only used 1/2 pound of center cut bacon.  I also used 3 c. of shredded 2% Cheddar cheese instead of Cheddar and Swiss.

Amish Breakfast Casserole (from allrecipes.com, submitted by Beth Notaro)
1 lb sliced bacon, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
6 eggs, slightly beaten
4 c. frozen hash brown potatoes (shredded potatoes)
2 c. Cheddar cheese, shredded
1-1/2 c. cottage cheese (I used 1%)
1-1/4 c. Swiss cheese, shredded

In a large skillet, cook bacon and onion until bacon is crisp.  Drain.  In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.  Stir in bacon mixture.  Transfer to a 13x9x2 inch baking dish.  Bake uncovered at 350* 35-40 minutes or until set and bubbly.  Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

My review:  I thought this was a little bland.  Next time I would add 1/2 t. powdered mustard, 1/2 t. black pepper, and a dash of Cayenne pepper.  I'd also add a chopped green pepper, and 2-3 sliced green onions (in addition to the chopped onion.)  I think diced ham would go well in this, as well as the Swiss cheese it originally called for.  The texture was good, I didn't think it needed any more eggs or cream as some of the reviewers suggested on allrecipes.com.  The cottage cheese made the casserole moist.  I also needed to cook the casserole for 50 minutes instead of the 35-40 minutes in the original recipe. 

Let me know what you think of this!

Happy cooking and enjoy~

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Inlaws are Coming! The Inlaws are Coming!

Yes, the Inlaws are coming to spend the weekend with us.  This is a good thing...my inlaws are not the evil, stereotypical inlaws, they are nice and I love them!  I was very worried that I'd end up with EVIL inlaws.  I was living in Germany, Jeff was in Georgia and we flew to Maine to get married (almost 15 years ago!)  I met Jeff's family the day before we got married...Leonard, Helen, brother Steve and sister Julie flew in the day before and Jeff's grandparents drove (from Iowa...it took 5 days of driving for them to get to Maine!)  Right before I left Germany, I watched some talk show...Sally Jessy, Oprah, Maury (this was before Maury was all about finding the right baby-daddy) ... anyways, it was about EVIL inlaws.  I was afraid I would end up with EVIL inlaws...however that wasn't the case...they're great!

Soooo...with Leonard and Helen coming into town, I have a menu planned for the weekend.  I'm trying new recipes (one is in the crock pot now!) as well as tried and true ones. 

BBQ beef sandwiches
cole slaw

Saturday Breakfast
Amish Breakfast Casserole (new recipe)

Saturday Lunch
Eating out

Saturday Dinner or Supper (that's a post for another day)
Grilled Chicken
Grilled veggies and asparagus
Grilled potatoes

Sunday Breakfast
Cinnamon Rolls

Sunday Dinner/Lunch (again, another post for another day)
Baked fish
Boiled potatoes
Green beans or broccoli, I haven't decided

I'm baking a pan of strawberry/rhubarb crunch for dessert during the weekend

Yumm!  Should be a great weekend with great company and great food!

Enjoy your day~

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cajun Chicken Pasta

I made Cajun Chicken Pasta last night for supper and it was good! I got the recipe from The Pioneer Woman a few weeks ago. I've made a few changes to the original recipe. I have a hard time using cream and excessive butter that are in many of her recipes...My genes (and jeans) don't do well with the extra calories! So here is my version of Cajun Chicken Pasta! ~Enjoy~

Cajun Chicken Pasta
(serves 4 generous portions)

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1-1/2 T. Cajun Spice Mix

Mix together and let marinate while you get everything ready!

2 T. olive oil
1 green pepper, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 onion, halved and sliced
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1-1/2 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. white wine (If you don't want to use wine, just increase the chicken broth to 2 cups)

1 c. milk
3 T. flour
Whisk flour and milk together.

Enough spaghetti for 4 people

1/2 t. Crushed Red pepper (optional)
1/2 t. Cajun Spice Mix (optional)

This cooks quickly, so it's best to have all of the ingredients ready to go before you start cooking! Trust me on this... Also, start your pasta so it will be done when the chicken is done!

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium/high heat. A cast iron pan is great, but if you don't have one to use, that's OK. Use what you have! Add half of the chicken, but don't stir. Allow the chicken to brown. (I have a hard time with this...I want to stir it. Resist!) Flip the chicken to the other side and cook about 1 minute, or until it's brown. Remove the cooked chicken and add the rest of the uncooked chicken, repeat the cooking the chicken steps. Remove the chicken from the pan.

Add the sliced peppers and onion to the hot pan and cook for about 1 min. You want the peppers and onions to get brown...not burned, but brown parts. Stir every so often so they don't burn. The bottom of your pan will be dark brown, but don't worry! If you're using cast iron, I don't know if the bottom of the pan looks dark brown. After the veggies have dark brown parts, add the garlic and the drained tomatoes. Give a quick stir and cook for about 1 minute.

Add the wine (if using) and chicken broth. Scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. I like to use a whisk to help get the browned bits up. Add the chicken back to the pan and stir.

Scoot the chicken and veggies to the side of the pan and add the milk and flour mixed mixture. Whisk until it starts to thicken and bubble. Turn down the heat to low. Stir the veggies and chicken into the bubbling sauce and mix well. Cook about 1 min. I add about 1/2 t. more of the Cajun spice mix and about 1/2 t. Crushed Red Pepper, but I like things spicy! Use your judgment and your tastes!

Add the cooked pasta and mix well. If your frying pan isn't big enough to add the cooked pasta, you can serve the pasta on plates and spoon the Cajun Chicken over it.

Notes on Cajun Spice Mix. Last night I used McCormick's Perfect Pinch Cajun. I found it in the spice section of the grocery store. I've also used Penzeys Cajun Style Seasoning. I like the flavor of Penzeys Cajun Spice, however, it's not as hot/spicy as the McCormick's brand.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Salad Dressings

We love salad! Usually, we have salad for supper as the main dish once a week, sometimes more often...especially in the summer! If salad isn't the main dish, we often have a small salad with our supper. With a little planning, salads are quick and easy...and GOOD!

My downfall with salads is the dressing. I love salad dressings! They can make or break the salad. Jacob often eats his salads without the dressing, while Jeff likes Dorthy Lynch or French dressing. I like to be adventurous and try different salad dressings...which leads to the main purpose of this post. Salad dressings! I made 2 different salad dressings today, both new recipes (House Salad Dressing and Grandma's Salad Dressing.) I'm not sure where I got the recipes, they've been kicking around in my recipe box, scribbled on a sticky note. I made a few minor changes (used Splenda instead of sugar, 1/2 an onion instead of a whole and decreased the oil in both.) I also used Light Olive Oil instead of Canola, which the recipes called for. I'm also posting a tried and true salad dressing recipe, Mixed Herb Salad Dressing, which I love. I think these dressings would be awesome with fresh herbs! Feel free to use real sugar instead of Splenda, the full 1 cup of Canola oil, decrease or increase the onion/garlic or anything else to make them according to your tastes!


House Salad Dressing

1/2 c. white vinegar
2 T. red wine vinegar
2 T. honey
1 T. sesame oil
1 t. dried rosemary
1 t. dried basil
1 t. dried marjoram
1 t. dry mustard powder
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 c. light olive oil

In a food processor, whirl all ingredients together except olive oil. Pulse 3-4 times. Turn on the food processor, and in a slow and steady stream, pour in the oil. Pour into an empty jar, or vinaigrette shaker. Refrigerate overnight. If you don't have a food processor, you can use a blender. Or you also could whisk the ingredients together, and whisk before serving.

This salad dressing was pretty good. Next time I would decrease the garlic to 1 clove...it was a little too garlicy for my taste. This would make an awesome marinade for chicken! I will keep this in my recipe file! Hope you do, too!

Grandma's Salad Dressing

1/2 c. light olive oil
3/4 c. white vinegar
1 c. Splenda
1/2 c. ketchup
1 T. honey
2 t. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 onion chopped

In a food processor, whirl the onion until finely chopped. Add the other ingredients except the oil. Pulse 3-4 times. Turn on the food processor and in a slow and steady stream, pour in the oil. Pour into an empty jar or vinaigrette shaker. Refrigerate overnight. If you don't have a food processor, you can use a blender. Or you also could whisk the ingredients together, and whisk before serving.

This salad dressing is similar to Catalina. It was good, but a little too sweet. Next time I will decrease the Splenda/sugar to 2/3 c. instead of 1 cup. I was a little strong in the onion department and I was worried it would overpower the salad. However, the flavor worked well once it was on the salad. I will keep this recipe in my file! Enjoy~

Mixed Herb Salad Dressing

6 T. white vinegar
6 T. light olive oil
1 finely chopped shallot
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. dried chives
1/2 t. dried chervil
1/2 t. dried tarragon
1/2 t. dried dill weed

In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, oil, shallot and seasonings until blended. Refrigerate.

LOVE THIS ONE! It reminds me of the house dressings in Germany.

Left: Mixed Herb Salad Dressing
Middle: Grandma's Salad Dressing
Right: House Salad Dressing

What's Cooking at Jen's House?

I've decided to create a new blog...as if I don't have enough on my plate right now...oh wow, my first pun. Get it? Plate? Cooking? Smile if you get it! Anyways, why start a new blog?? Well, I love cooking, reading cookbooks, finding new recipes and experimenting with recipes. Some recipes have become family favorites, but others...well, Jeff likes to call those recipes TLS. Yes, TLS. Tastes Like S***. But this blog isn't about TLS recipes, it's about good recipes. Every time I take food someplace...a potluck, a BBQ, Bunco night, work, family get-togethers...you get the picture, well, someone always asks for a recipe. So I thought I'd share my recipes, my kitchen stories and the craziness I call my life.

Enjoy the recipes, the stories and the fun you have...whether you make the recipes or just read my adventures. Savor the experience. Oh, and there's the second pun of the blog. :)