Kitchen Concoctions: August 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cooking Is Not Genetic

So my sister Rachel is not the cook in the family. I remember one time when we were kids she was trying to make cinnamon toast and asked my my what the ingredients were and how to make it. Toast! We all laughed and then I showed her where the pre-made cinnamon/sugar was kept and then how to make TOAST. This was even more funny because it is not like we were young kids she was probably 8 and I 11 at the time.

So from that moment on Rachel's claim to fame was her lack of cooking skills. Honestly, maybe had it not been for the cinnamon toast incident she may not have been terrified of the kitchen and may have attempted to cook. But that incident sacred her for life.

Well when it was getting closer to the time for Rachel to 'leave the nest' my mom was extremely worried that all she was going to eat off at college was cereal and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So my mom asked me to come up with some easy recipes that Rachel could make on her own.

One of the recipes I came up with was this chili recipe. Now there are probably several different recipes out there like this one- but this is my version created just for Rachel in mind. In fact this is what Rachel cooked for dinner when she introduced her future in-laws to my parents right after so got engaged AND she even made a vegetarian version for her vegetarian father-in-law. I am so proud- Rachel is no longer terrified of the kitchen!!!

Texas Chili
created by me for my sister Rachel

1 lb. ground beef or turkey
1 (15 oz)can corn
1 (15 oz) can yellow homonay
2 (15 oz) cans dark red kidney beans
1 (15 oz) can chili beans (in your desired 'hotness/spiciness')
1 (15 oz)can pinto beans
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 pkg. taco seasoning (or 2 Tablespoons)
1 pkg. ranch dressing seasoning
1 tablespoon chili powder

Toppings or sides:
cheese, chips, cornbread

Brown meat and drain. Drain juices from all of the beans, corn and homony- rense (don't drain tomatoes). Mix all ingredients and heat thoroughly- for at least 20 minutes or you could through it in the crockpot and let it simmer all day. This is a rough recipe. I usually just wing it- sometimes I add more beans or tomatoes just depending on how much I am going to make. You can also use different beans or all of the same bean if you would like. It freezes and reheats well (which is good since this makes enough to feed an army).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Taking All The Credit

Sunday was a friend of mines' birthday. So on Sunday when I was scrambling to figure out what to make for today's recipe from the cookbook of the month a cake seemed perfect (I don't like to make a lot of sweets unless I can share them with others because if they are left at my house then I eat WAY too many).
This month's cookbook had quite a few cake recipes and of course I wanted to try them all. I settled on this one since I have been craving red velvet cake and because the picture in the book looked sooo pretty (gotta love those pictures).

Anyways, I thought this cake (or cupcakes) turned out great and everyone raved about them (and ate them all up) at my friend's birthday get together, but I am still unsure how I feel about them. Don't get me wrong they tasted great and I ate one too many but it was not until I starting making the recipe that I realized that it might have been easier to just make a cake mix cake that was red velvet flavor and used cream cheese icing in a tub. Not that this was an extra hard cake to make and it did seem a bit more chocolaty than the boxed red velvet and we did add coconut extract to both the cake and icing (which by the way is a nice added touch) but it did not seem like we made that much of a difference from what a store bought boxed red velvet cake would be.

However, with the recipe below I can honestly say that I feel like I made the cake from 'scratch' because there was more work and ingredients involved rather than just completely buying a box mix and a tub of icing. So when people were complementing me on the cupcakes and asking if I made them from scratch I 'honestly' told them yes. Sandra, I have to say I like the way you think- if it is 'semi-homemade' it is still 'homemade' so you can still take all the credit that comes with making something from 'scratch'.

(Did y'all follow along with all that rambling or did I loose ya at the first sentence!)

(The picture in the book is WAY better then mine; but Sandra also made a six layer cake in the book and I just opted for cupcakes).

Red Velvet (Cup)Cakes
adapted from Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Cooking 3

1 box German chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup canola oil
3 eggs
1 1/3 cups milk
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 (1 oz) bottle red food coloring

1 can (12 oz)fluffy white whipped icing
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.
In a large bowl combine all cake ingredients. Use an electric mixer to beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides and beat for another minute or two or until no lumps. Fill muffin tins 3/4 full and bake 15-17 minutes or until done. Cool completely before icing.

Combine all icing ingredients in a owl. Use an electric mixer and beat until smooth. Frost cooled cupcakes with icing. Store cake in refrigerator to kept cream cheese icing from melting (especially important in August heat).

Monday, August 17, 2009

Kind-a Sandra's Recipe......

I usually tweak cookbook recipes (or any recipe for that matter) to fit my tastes, cooking styles, or to adjust to the ingredients I have on hand. But because I am doing these cookbook reviews I decided to try and make all of those selected recipes according to the directions- as best as possible.

With that said, I did make some changes to this recipe from August's cookbook of the month. Below is MY version of this recipe- if you want Sandra's exact measurements and ingredients you will have to get the book.

I thought these pork chops turned out really well. I think that was partly because I finally found the Bisquick at my grocery store- it is not with all the other 'pancake' mixes but with the cornbread mixes and flour. They are fired but because you are only using a little bit of oil (basically enough to cook one side at a time) they didn't seem too oily (like most fried food). I liked them and will make them again (using my recipe).

Fried Pork Chops
drastically adapted from Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Cooking 3

1 (4 oz) pork loin
1 cup Bisquik baking mix
1 packet (.87 oz) Grill Mates® Garlic Herb & Wine Marinade
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon parsley
2 1/4 teaspoons paprika
salt and pepper
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Cut pork loin into 1/2 inch chops. In a bowl mix Bisquik, grill seasoning and spices. In another bowl crack egg. Dip pork chops into egg and then into Bisquik mixture. Shake off any extra. In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Brown pork chops on both sides and cook until done; about 7-9 minutes, turning occasionally.

So after looking at my recipe and Sandra's I realized I made quite a few changes. So um...... I guess you could say it is really my recipe...... So when do you have permission to officially call a recipe yours and it not be plagiarism; how many changes must be made? Can I totally delete this post and re-blog this recipe as just my own and take all, or most of the credit?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Please Don't Gag

I have to admit that I was a notorious picky eater as a kid. There were many an argument at the dinner table "Eat at least 3 bites of everything on your plate" my mom would say. Or "There is not going to be anything else to eat tonight." Another common threat as that if we didn't clean our plate we wouldn't get dessert.

Well, I remember one particular incident when I was about 5 years old. My cousin came over after school and was staying for dinner. For dinner we were having zucchini and squash. My cousin and I had eaten every thing else on our plates, but my mom said that if we didn't eat at least 3 bites of our vegetables that we couldn't have dessert, which was ice cream.

We cried, and yelled, and threw temper tantrums. We tried our best at negotiating and then tried to trick my mom by putting the nasty stuff in our napkins or slipping it to our dog. But none of that worked. My mom was strict and was not going to budge.

So I sucked it up, plugged my nose, put as many of those damn green and yellow veggies that I could in my mouth and began to chew.... or at least tried to chew.... but the next thing I knew I was gaging and running to the bathroom... I guess because I was so worked up, or because I tried to fit so much in my mouth, or what but there was no way that night I was going to eat that zucchini and squash (my cousin tried to do the same thing, and ended up running outside- since I was hogging the bathroom- and 'got rid of' his dinner veggies there).

Sorry to be so colorful on my food blog; but according to this little story you would probably think there would never be any squash or zucchini recipes here... that I had been scared for life. But I actually over came my veggie fears and now LOVE squash and especially zucchini. I like to eat it so many ways....

And these Zucchini Chips are one way I LOVE zucchini. These little things are soooo yummy. I actually made them as an appetizer for dinner one night and ended up eating them all and not any of my dinner (if mom could see me now)!

Zucchini Chips
by Heather of Kitchen Concoctions

1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
About 50 small pretzels, finely crushed to equal ½ cup
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ cup flour
1 egg
1 large zucchini, cut into thin circles

Mix first eight ingredients into bowl. In two separate bowls add flour and egg. Dip prepared zucchini first into flour and then into egg and last into seasoned bread crumb mixture. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Arrange prepared zucchini on baking sheet and bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with ranch dressing or marinara.

OH, and I know you are all wondering..... my mom really can't stay tuff for long especially when she looks at my cute little face- I still scored ice cream that night (cookies and cream to be exact) despite all my antics!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Another Dud?

So as I stated when I announced this month's cookbook that there were quite a few recipes I wanted to try. Well as I was combing through the cookbook and flagging all my recipes (I have become obsessed with these little things) I saw this recipe for lemon, ricotta pancakes. They sounded so good. So one morning I whipped them up. And to be honest they weren't as good as I hoped. One reason I didn't like them was because the lemon flavor was way too overwhelming. The recipe calls for lemon extract and lemon juice. I think that since there are both in the recipe that maybe the amounts could be a little less of each or just to use one or the other. Also I thought these 'pancakes' were too thin and more crape like rather than pancake like; which is fine but I was expecting fluffy pancakes. The pancakes, however, were very moist- I guess from the ricotta cheese.

I also made the mistake of doubling the recipe and since I was not a big fan of them, a lot of them went to waste. I was so disappointed that this recipe was another dud like the 'Lasagna Roll Ups' from last month's cookbook of the month. I am hoping that the remainder of the recipes I try from Sandra Lee's book are better then this one and are not duds. I might have had too high of expectations when I made these pancakes since the fried meatballs I made last week turned out so delicious (even as left overs).... I guess we will see how next week's recipe goes.

Danielle's Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
adapted from Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Cooking 3

1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
4 eggs, separated
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup baking mix (Bisquick)
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
raspberry or boysenberry syrup, to top pancakes

In large bowl, use electric mixture on low speed to combine ricotta, egg yolks, butter, baking mix, sugar, lemon, juice, lemon extract, and nutmeg. Using clean beaters, beat egg whites in small bowl until stiff but not dry. Carefully fold one-third of egg whites into batter, to loosen the batter. Gently fold in remaining egg whites. Lightly grease stove top griddle and set over medium-high heat. Pour 1/3 cup batter at a time onto griddle. Cook until edges are dry. Using rubber spatula, flip and cook until golden brown. Serve hot with fruit syrups.

Now when I made this I couldn't find the Bisquick and just used a regular pancake mix (this might have made a difference in the taste). Also I HATE beating egg whites into 'stiff peaks' because all I have is a hand-held mixer so this is very time consuming. So the day I made these I did not make them quite as 'stiff' as they probably should have been (this also might have made a difference in the final product). I did top mine with my Mom's homemade blackberry syrup (remind me to get the recipe from her and post it- it was absolutely divine and helped make the overwhelmingly strong lemon flavor not so overwhelming). That is the syrup which is what is pictured.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My Childhood In One Little Square Package

My passion for cooking started at a young age. It was a tradition in my house that for every holiday we made and decorated sugar cookies. There were an assortment of other foods that we also made on a regular basis- chocolate chip cookies, banana bread, granola..... But these were all things that we made together- my mom, my sisters and I. But I remember the first time I made something on my own, all by my self. And I knew that I had found one of my greatest passions in life and that was the art of cooking and the joy of sharing my master piece with others. Ever since that day when I was a young lad, I have been cooking for people ever since.

But I remember the very first things I ever cooked just like it was yesterday. In fact I don't even have these 'recipes' written down- they are just there- there in my brain somewhere wanting to be pulled out. You see the first things I ever 'cooked'- even though they were easy enough and yummy enough that an 8 year old could make them and eat them- I just guess that with time my palate has grown and my skills have become more advance that simple little things like Rice Krispie treats are too plain.....

But wait, what the heck am I saying! You are never too old for Rice Krispie treats! Rice Krispie treats are the essence of childhood, they are what every kid in America traded their entire sack lunch for- an ewy-gooy Rice Krispie treat, every bake sale was sure to have them. So the other day Eric was asking for them. That got the wheels in my head turning... Rice Krispie treats eh? How could I make a good thing even better... could I make an already classic treat, gourmet?

Well let me tell you I did. I never thought I would describe a Rice Krispie treat as being 'rich' but this thing totally is. It is my childhood in one little square package but with my adult personality rolled in.

Homemade Star Crunch**
recipe by Kitchen Concoctions

3 tablespoons butter
35 large marshmallows
25 soft caramel candies
1 (12 oz) package milk chocolate chips, divided
5-6 cups Rice Krispie Treats

Melt butter over low meat. Once butter is melted add marshmallows. Let marshmallows melt down and add the caramel candies and half of the milk chocolate chips, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add Rice Krispies. Press Rice Krispie mixture into a 9x13 inch pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Melt remaining chocolate chips in the microwave in 15 to 20 second intervals; stirring every few seconds. Pour melted chocolate chips on top of Rice Krispies and spread out. Enjoy!

**Another thing that was a popular treat when I was a kid was the Little Debbie snacks. Eric reminded me of them when he said that these Rice Krispie treats tasted like Little Debbie's Star Crunch. Awww the flavor's of childhood!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Just A Recipe

I always like taking 'classic' recipes and switching them up a bit. Meatballs, hamburgers, meatloaf, brownies.... anything. I like making it more gourmet or trying different flavor combinations.

So when I saw these meatballs in this month's cookbook I wanted to give them a try. I thought these meatballs turned out great- very filling, but would make a few slight changes. I unfortunately did not get to make the sauce since my blender was missing the all important blade (who knows where that went- kinda dangerous that I have no clue where it is and could reach in a box or drawer one day and.......). But if any of y'all try this recipe and make the sauce you will have to let me know how it turns out.

It has been a long Monday so not much as far as interesting or not so interesting ramblings go. Maybe next time I will tell you about a cooking experience from my childhood or my recent movie star in counter....

Zesty Fried Meatballs with Red Pepper Sauce
adapted from Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Cooking 3

1 pound lean round beef
4 eggs, divided
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (I used powdered Parmesan)
1 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs, divided
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 cups vegetable oil
2 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into small chunks (this was my own adding)

1 jar (7.25 oz) roasted red bell peppers, drained
1/2 cup Catalina salad dressing
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly spray heavy duty baking sheet with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine beef, 3 eggs, milk, Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup bread crumbs (the original recipe said to add 3/4 cup bread crumbs to the beef- I thought this made the meatballs a little to dry and breading tasting so I would just do 1/2 cup next time), and Italian seasoning. Mix thoroughly and shape mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Once balls are formed make a small indention add a mozzarella cheese chunk and re-roll.

In a small bowl, lightly beat 1 egg with 1 tablespoon water to make egg wash. In another small bowl, add remaining bread crumbs (I also added some of the Parmesan cheese to this). Dip meatballs in egg mixture and then roll in bread crumbs and place on baking sheet.

Heat oil in large pot over high heat. Using spoon add meatballs to oil. Fry until golden brown. remove meatballs from oil and arrange on baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.

Combine all ingredients in blender and puree until smooth. Serve sauce on side to dip meatballs in.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Hello; Meet Rachael's Friend Sandra...

Well it is August and time for a new cookbook of the month. This month I didn't do Rachael Ray again but did go with one of her fellow Food Network stars. I chose Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Cooking 3, I really like this cookbook and of all of the the recipes I have made so far, I have had great success.

The book is divided into chapters and each chapter is a different type of food. From "Comfort Food" to "Italian" to "Mexican" to "French" and "Soul Food" and "Pan Asian" and "Restaurant Remakes" and a "Secret Family Recipe" section; this book had it all. It had a wide variety of desserts, tasty breakfast foods, hearty entrees, and even a variety of beverages for the whole family. There is even a section at the front of the book that has information about 'specialty' ingredients and what to stock your pantry with for each section of the cookbook.

I like Sandra Lee's recipes because 'semi-homemade' is sometimes a necessity in this busy world we live in. However, the majority of the recipes appear to be very tasty and you could easily pass them off as 'made from scratch' (I won't tell if you won't).

One of the best parts of this book is that not only are all of the recipes quick, easy and use ingredients you can find at you local grocery store; BUT there are tons and tons of pictures. Pretty much each and every recipe has a picture.

Of course, like pretty much every cookbook I get there are a bazillion recipes I want to try and I am having a hard time narrowing it down. Luckily there are 5 Mondays this month!

When I was trying to decide on the title of this post ( because you know I can't just title it anything) it got me thinking..... Do you think that all the Food Network stars are friends or do you think they are secretly enemies? Do you think they all have a love hate relationship and get along and support each other on TV but secretly are out to get one another? Just wondering....

Saturday, August 1, 2009

An Organized Outlet

My first month of the cookbook review is over and I made it out alive. Actually I enjoyed doing the cookbook review and having the challenge to pick out and create several recipes from one book and post them on a specific day.

You see, I am some what of a cookbook fanatic. I drool over cookbooks every time I walk into a bookstore or any store that might happen to sell any books. I will stand there for hours and hours on end looking and finally will narrow it down to one book to get. Or sometimes I just spend hours and hours and am cheap and just 'barrow" ideas (SHHH don't tell anyone).

So this little cookbook review challenge gives me an outlet and a more organized way for me to use my stacks of cookbooks. Plus a benefit for you, the readers, is that you get my honest opinion and feedback about the cookbooks and recipes within (and you get the actual recipes- win, win situation here).

For July's book I featured Rachael Ray's Classic 30-Minute Meals: The All Occasion Cookbook. In which overall I had a great experience with. This book is a collection of her recipes from pretty much all her books and website. There are several different sections with appropriate themed recipes for each section (read more about that here). I really enjoyed how the book was set up and that there were lots of pictures (you know how I feel about that). Unfortunately, a lot of the pictures were just of Rachel and not food (hum... this is a cookbook right- not Rachael's personal photo album). I would defiantly recommend this book. It is a cookbook for the whole family (with a kids section included) and it definitely gets you familiar with Rachael's way of cooking and style of recipe writing- in case you are interested in checking out any of her other cookbooks (she does have a gazillion).

I would say the Crunchy Oven-Baked Chicken Toes was probably my most favorite recipe from this book. This is probably a swayed opinion since this was Eric's favorite too, and the only one that out of all the recipes I tired from the book that he has asked for again!

The next one I really liked was the Super-Stuffed French Bread Pizza Rustica. It was really 'stuffed' and had so many flavors going on in it. To make it even better it was soooo easy to make (love those types of inners- ones that seem complex but are really easy) and it made enough to feed a crowd.
It was a toss up for which recipe I thought was best out of the two 'chicken and sauce' recipes that I tried from this book. Both were super easy and tasted great, but I would have to say that I favored Vicki's Chicken and Grapes because of it's uniqueness (chicken and grapes and mustard sauce???- I am still confused on how it works out but it does).

The last chicken recipe I tried was Honey Mustard BBQ Chicken- AKA "Honey Mustard Chicken" . I really liked this recipe. It tasted great, but for some reason it did not turn out like the picture in the book (I totally blame Rachael Ray- not me for the mishap).

And the last recipe I tried (my bonus recipe for you all) was Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna Roll-ups with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce. Which in my humble opinion was not that great. But hey winners with 4 out of 5 tried recipes- not bad!
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