Saturday, March 29, 2014

My Project

Little wants so badly to be big like her sisters and sit in a chair to eat
Big gave a "Hostess" presentation at school last week with her ideas for planning a Camping party 
Middle loves to help me with any kind of cleaning or cooking

Those are some of the things the kids have been up too lately.  While I was on spring break, I finished a big project that I've been working on for the last couple months:  creating an index of the recipes on this blog.  The labels you seen on the right have been helpful, but now and then I'm looking for a specific recipe and it takes me awhile to find it (even though I'm the one who writes here and knows what lurks behind all these posts with non-recipe titles).  Most of the food blogs that I enjoy reading have an easily navigable index or recipe list of some sort and this has been a goal of mine for a long time.

After 5 years and almost 500 posts, I realized that what I've really been doing is creating an online recipe book & food journal for myself.  If you read my blog (Hi mom!  Hi Judy!) I appreciate you so much and if you'd like to pass along a link to this index to other cooks you know, that would be pretty awesome.

Rereading all 476 posts made me sentimental for how fast my kids have grown up, made me appreciate the kitchen I have today and the things I've learned along the way, and inspired me to revisit some great recipes I'd forgotten about.

Here are just a few of my other random observations about What's for Meat:

1.  I've made a lot of great stuff over the years!  I pointed out this fact to my husband (along with the reminder of how lucky he is to be eating it all).

2.  It can be hard to decide which category some recipes belong under.  I didn't spend too much time agonizing, but sometimes there is a salad recipe that is more of a main dish or a side dish that is really more of a salad (or the other way around).

3.  The labels are useful when you're looking for something with a particular ingredient (zucchini, lemon, etc) or some category like crock pot or vegetarian.  The only special distinction I make in the index is to mark gluten-free recipes.

4.  And about that . . . some recipes may call for flour tortillas but corn can be substituted and the rest of the ingredients are gluten free - I marked those gluten free.  However, if a not-so-obvious substitution (like gluten free soy sauce) can make a recipe gluten free, I did not mark it as gluten free.     The categories that had the most gluten free recipes are ice cream, soup, and salads.

5.  I have a thing for rosemary (and a plant in my backyard).  And chocolate chips.  And brownies.  And I cook way more chicken than any other main dish.

There have been moments over the years when I was sure it was the end of this blog.  I wasn't very inspired, I don't have anything that unique to say here on the good ol' internet, I had three kids . . . but, it's a fun little hobby for me and for now, I'm going to keep plugging along.

Thanks for supporting me!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Creamy Green Chicken Enchilada Soup

Now that it's officially spring, it finally feels like a California winter and soup weather.  In addition to the Irish Onion Soup, this is a new soup recipe that we just tried and loved.  It's like a cross between the white chicken chili that I love and a corn chowder.  It was delicious and so easy to make in the slow cooker.  I was looking forward to leftovers (I only made a half batch), but alas, there were none.

Creamy Green Chicken Enchilada Soup (8 servings)
Original recipe here

32 oz chicken broth
4 cups green enchilada sauce (or tomatillo salsa)
1.5 lbs chicken breasts
4 oz can diced green chills
3/4 cup water
2 T ground cumin
1 T chili powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup frozen corn
1 8 oz block cream cheese (not fat free)
3/4 cup rice
salt & pepper to taste

Stir together the broth, enchilada sauce, chills, water and spices in the bowl of a slow cooker.  Put the chicken breasts on top and cook on low for 6 hours.  Remove the chicken and shred with a fork.  Add it back to the pot.

Add the corn, cream cheese, and rice and cook for another hour.  Stir together.  If you want it a little soupier, you can add a little more water.  If you want it thicker, you can dissolve 1 T of cornstarch in 1/8 cup water and stir it in and wait another 15 minutes for it to thicken up.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Irish Onion Soup

Wow - I can't believe a week has gone by since my last post and St. Patrick's Day.  I gave finals on Monday and had a fun week & weekend hanging out with the family and seeing some friends.  One week of spring break and then back to work!

The main course I made to go with our rainbow cake was a variation on French Onion Soup that I had seen floating around Pinterest.  It has an Irish twist with some whiskey and stout and the end result is a little deeper flavor.  I like the traditional French Onion better with lots of Swiss cheese on top but my husband was a big fan of this recipe.  I left the onions in rings but would definitely dice them next time, as indicated in the recipe below.

Irish Onion Soup (serves 6)
from The Fox & She

4 T unsalted butter
4 medium yellow onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/3 cup whiskey
3 T flour
kosher salt
1 cup Guinness Stout
6 sprigs thyme
12 cups beef stock
1 tsp. black pepper
Day old baguette slices
Irish cheddar cheese (sliced or grated - Comte or gruyere would also work)

In a heavy bottomed Dutch oven or pot, melt the butter and cook the onions over medium-low heat for an hour.  Be careful not to burn / brown the onions.  They will get brown as they cook but it's not like sauteing and you don't want burning).

Add the whiskey, flour, pinch of salt and cook for a few minutes more.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes more.

Add the Guinness and simmer until reduced by 1/3, about 5 minutes.  Add broth, thyme, pepper, and 2 teaspoons of salt.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer for 45 minutes.

Remove thyme sprigs.  Ladle into oven safe bowls and top with baguette slices and cheese.  Place under the broiler until the cheese is bubbly - watch closely so it doesn't burn!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Rainbow Cake for Little Leprechauns

I have these times where I feel like all I say is "no" to my kids.  It's not that I'm particularly mean or contrary, it's just that they ask me things like this:

Can we have candy for breakfast?
Can I wear pajamas to the store?
Can I skip brushing my teeth and washing my hands?
Can I drive the car?  Okay, then sit in the front without a car seat? Pour water on my sister? Give the baby some candy?  Drink a soda? Give the baby a soda?

You get the gist.  So, every now and then when it's not convenient or exactly how I had planned, I just have to say yes.  Like today:  I took all three girls to the grocery store, Target, on a bike ride and to the park.   Before noon.  Then I come home, put the baby down for a nap, start making lunch and planning how I can get the big girls to do something quietly so I can sit down and grade the last 15 papers and they ask me, "Can we please make that rainbow cake now?"


It was worth it - they loved using food coloring and making the colored layers and I frosted and assembled it later without them so that when I cut into it to make the first slice they were awestruck.  And, shortly after, running around like leprechauns happy from the sugar high.

This rainbow cake was inspired by the rainbow cupcakes I once attempted and the new cake pans I got with a birthday gift card to Sur La Table (Thanks K & S!).  I made Little's birthday cake in the pans and was wanting to try something else.  Here's what the cake pans look like:  At 6 inches, they make the perfect little cake and the bonus is that one boxed cake mix works to fill all 5 pans.

Rainbow Cake (makes 1 6 inch round, 5 layer cake)

White cake mix
White frosting
Food coloring

Make the white cake batter according to package instructions.  Evenly divide the batter into 5 small bowls (I used a kitchen scale).  Using your food coloring, dye the batter 5 different colors.  We used 10 drops of food coloring for the red, green, blue, and yellow and then 7 drops yellow and 3 drops red to make orange.

Pour the batter into greased cake pans and bake for 14-17 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool for 5 minutes, turn out onto wire racks and cool completely.  Layer and frost the cake.  Prepare to amaze your friends and leprechauns!  (One note:  While one box of white cake mix was enough, one can of prepared frosting was not . . . buy 2!)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Homemade Pretzels

About a week and a half ago, it finally rained in Southern California.  And it rained, and rained and rained.  We were a little cooped up inside and had to come up with some projects to keep the kids busy (and the TV off!).  We made Big's Cat in the Hat outfit for Dr. Seuss Day at school, did some other art, and made homemade pretzels.  As soon as I pulled them out of the oven, I immediately began to wonder why I had never done this before!  

I love big soft pretzels and they were super easy and delicious.  It takes a little time because the dough has to raise, but the process isn't hard and believe me, I had plenty of little hands trying to help.  It was fun shaping them and doing all the steps of the process and did I mention that they were delicious??  We just ate them plain with the salt on top but you can also roll them in cinnamon sugar before baking for a sweet version or make a dipping sauce of some sort (spicy cheese?).  The only downside (if it even counts as a downside) is they're best right out of the oven or within a few hours.  The leftovers weren't good the next day and we tossed them out.

You can either make the big traditional shaped ones or little pretzel bites.  I liked the bites and think it would be good to make for a group of kids or with friends to watch football or something.  I made my dad a deal that we'll have to get together with some of his home brew and eat pretzels.  The recipe will make about 5-6 dozen bites depending on how big you cut the pieces.

Homemade Soft Pretzels 

1.5 cups warm water
2 T light brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
3 oz. unsalted butter, melted & slightly cooled
2.5 tsp. kosher salt
4-5 cups all purpose flour
vegetable oil
3 quarts water
1/2 cup baking soda
1 whole egg, beaten with 1 T cold water
coarse sea salt

Combine the 1.5 cups water, sugar, yeast and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the dough hook until combined.  Let sit for 5 minutes.

Add the salt and 4 cups of the flour and mix on low speed until combined.  Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes.  If the dough is too wet, add more flour 1-2 Tablespoons at a time.

Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a floured flat surface and knead into a ball with your hands.  Oil a large bowl with vegetable oil, add the dough and turn to coat with the oil.  Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Bring the 3 quarts of water to a boil in a pot over high heat and add the baking soda (a wide shallower pot will work better than a narrower deep pot - if you have a stove safe roasting pan, you could use that).

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface.  Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.  Roll each piece into a long rope (about 20 inches) and shape into pretzels or cut into one inch pieces to make pretzel bites.

Using a slotted spoon, boil the pretzel bites in the baking soda water solution in batches.  I would do 2 big pretzels or about 10 bites at a time.  Boil for about 30 seconds and remove with the large slotted spoon.  Place on a baking sheet that has been coated with cooking spray.  Make sure they're not touching and there's a little room - they will rise again in the oven.  Brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with the salt.  Place in the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove to a rack and let rest 5 minutes before eating. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Chicken Tamale Casserole

I was getting ready to post this recipe on the blog and I got an email from my Aunt Sue this morning with the exact same recipe - great minds think alike!  I've made different tamale pie variations over the year but I haven't made any of them twice.  This one, I'll be making again.

My husband thought that the corn bread part on the bottom was too sweet (I used a Jiff mix) so I think I'd add some more spices (more of the cumin & chili powder plus some cayenne) next time to offset that.  I also used a very mild green enchilada sauce and a red sauce or one with a little more kick might also balance out the sweetness better.  Also, the cream corn I used had sugar - does anyone know if you can buy it canned without?  I will investigate that more.  All that being said, the kiddos liked it "as is" and I was thrilled to make something everybody would eat!

Chicken Tamale Casserole (makes a 9x13 pan)

1 package (8.5oz) corn muffin mix
1 can (14 3/4 oz) cream corn
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used TJs Mexican blend)
1 can (10-12 oz) enchilada sauce
3 cups cooked, shredded chicken
sour cream for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine corn muffin mix, cream corn, eggs, milk, chili powder and cumin.  Pour into a greased 9x13 pan and bake for 20 minutes.

Toss chicken in the enchilada sauce and spread it over the cornbread.  Top with the cheese.  Bake for 15 minutes more.  Allow for it to cool 5 minutes before slicing and serving.  Serve with sour cream.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Cilantro Lime Chicken

I had some of extra cilantro and chicken a few months ago and made this meal and put it in the freezer for another time.  This week, busy with work, I pulled it out on Sunday and put it in the crockpot before work on Monday.  We ate it over rice but it would be a good filling for tacos or burritos.  All 3 girls liked it which is a bonus! 

You can make it right away or double the ingredients - one meal tonight and one in the freezer - or just freeze it for another time.  

Cilantro Lime Chicken (4 servings)

1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 limes, juiced
1 cup or 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1.5 cups frozen corn
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper

Make it now:  Put all the ingredients in the crock pot and stir to combine.  Cook on low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours.  If desired, shred the chicken before serving.

Make-ahead freezer meal:
Write the cooking instructions on the outside of a gallon sized freezer bag.  Place all ingredients inside the freezer bag.  Seal bag and shake to mix the ingredients together.  Lay it flat and freeze.  To prepare:  Let it thaw overnight (24 hours is good) and dump the whole thing into the crockpot.  Cook on low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours.  If desired, shred chicken at the end and stir it all together.