Kitchen Concoctions: January 2011

Monday, January 31, 2011

"Oatmeal Week" (and Month) is over... at least till next year!

I love doing my ‘Week of’ feature (even though I sometimes get busy and post a recipe {or two} a day {or two} late!!

I loved all of the oatmeal recipes I shared last week in honor of National Oatmeal Month. The only bad part is that when I decided I wanted to do oatmeal for January’s ‘Week of’ feature I had so many oatmeal recipes I wanted to try and unfortunately I never got around to making all of them. So I guess you will be seeing more oatmeal recipes in the months to come because I am having an unnatural desire for oatmeal raisin cookies and oatmeal cream pies that I know won’t go away until I make some!

 But in case you missed any of the oatmeal recipes I featured this week here is a recap (perfect since today is the last day of January and the last day of National Oatmeal Month)!

OMG! These meatballs were so moist and flavorful! We enjoyed them by themselves as well as on meatball subs! They would also be wonderful served over a big bowl of pasta!

Most people eat a bowl of oatmeal for a nice filling breakfast. But this flavorful, healthy oatmeal shake is quick and convent when you need to eat oatmeal on the run!

I couldn’t do oatmeal week without featuring an oatmeal cookie! And while I mentioned earlier that I have been craving oatmeal raisin cookies and oatmeal cream pies this No Bake Oatmeal Cookie is a childhood favorite and is SUPER easy. It totally tamed my oatmeal cookie craving (at least for now)!

Oatmeal makes breakfast fun because of all the endless oatmeal topping and mix-in possibilities. My current fav is Peanut Butter and Banana Oatmeal!

And my last oatmeal recipe of the week was this Oatmeal Crusted Chicken. Using oatmeal to bread chicken is a unique and budget friendly (not to mention healthy AND tasty) alternative to bread crumbs!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Oatmeal "Week" is Coming to an End

As I mentioned in my blog post that kicked off oatmeal week that I like to use oatmeal to replace bread crumbs called for in most recipes. Oatmeal works great as a binder in meatballs, meatloaf, or burgers.

But have you ever thought about grinding up oatmeal and using it to bread chicken? Since the oatmeal has a bland flavor on it's own it seasons well and provides a nice crunchy texture to to the chicken. What a pleasant and healthy change to our weekly chicken dish!

Oatmeal Crusted Chicken
by Heather of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version

Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 30 minutes Serves 5-6

1 1/4 cups oatmeal
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon season salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
2 eggs
5-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.

Place oatmeal and spices in food processor or blender and pulse until the oatmeal becomes a fine mixture.

Place prepared oatmeal in a bowl. In another bowl crack eggs and whisk with a fork. Dip chicken thighs first in the eggs and then in the pureed oatmeal mixture.

Place breaded chicken on prepared baking sheet. Spray chicken with cooking spray an bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the center of the chicken is no longer pink.

Friday, January 28, 2011

How do YOU top your oatmeal?

Oatmeal is so inexpensive and so healthy for you; but it can be rather bland on it's own. I like to look at my morning breakfast oatmeal as a blank canvas. I start with the basic oatmeal base and change up what I mix in or top it with.

Fresh fruit, dried fruit, frozen fruit. Milk, yogurt, cream, coconut milk, evaporated milk. Brown sugar, maple syrup, honey. Cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice. Vanilla, almond extract, lemon zest. Pumpkin puree, applesauce, peanut butter, jams and jellys. Flax seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts. Bacon, butter, cheese. Graham crackers, granola, chocolate chips.

I mean seriously the possibilities are endless. Mix and match. Or do 'em all if you have a big enough bowl!

Peanut butter and bananas are one of my favorite flavor combinations! So naturally these are some of my favorite oatmeal toppings/mix ins. I use crunchy peanut butter because I like the extra crunch it gives with the smooth oatmeal and soft bananas. Add a little milk and a dash of cinnamon and you've got my morning heaven!

So how do YOU make the perfect bowl of oatmeal?

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Pancakes with Apple Cider Syrup

Peanut Butter and Banana Oatmeal
by Heather of Kitchen Concoctions
Printable Version

Prep time: 4 minutes Cook time: 5 minutes Serves 1

1 cup water
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 1/2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
1 tablespoon milk
1 small banana, sliced
dash of cinnamon

Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir oats into rapidly boiling water. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter.

Spoon oatmeal into a bowl. Serve topped with milk, bananas, and a dash of cinnamon.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

That's how the cookie crumbles

I know I am a day late in posting the winner of the Progresso Souper You Giveaway (winner announced at the bottom of this post). And I know I am a day behind in my week of oatmeal recipes; but sometimes that's just how the cookie crumbles!

And speaking of cookies, I couldn't do oatmeal week without sharing an oatmeal cookie recipe. I mean we all know the health benefits of oatmeal and what a great breakfast it is. And on Monday I showed you how you can even replace the bread crumbs in recipes with oatmeal. But it is no hidden secret that everyone's favorite way to enjoy oatmeal is in the cookie form (wink, wink)!

I love me a good oatmeal raisin cookie. I love the chewy texture and plump raisins. And my childhood cookie crush was Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies. And when I decided I was going to do oatmeal week (and of course have an oatmeal cookie recipe) I wanted to make either oatmeal raisin or try a recipe I found that is supposed to be a homemade knock off of that dreamy oatmeal cream pie. However, I got too busy and the day I had a quick moment to make some oatmeal cookies I didn't have time to go to the store and make either of those.

What I did have time for and had all the ingredients on hand were these No Bake Oatmeal Cookies. These are a classic and also stem from my childhood. These No Bake Cookies were the first cookies I ever made all by myself! They literally only take a few minutes and use pantry staples. I have seen similar recipes for these cookies all over the place over the years but the version below is my tried and true recipe that comes from making these for (cough, cough) 15 plus years!

The chocolaty peanut buttery goodness of these cookies and the fact they are so quick and easy (an use pantry staples) mean you can have cookies whenever the mood strikes!

No-Bake Oatmeal Cookies
By Heather of Kitchen Concoctions
Printable Version
Prep Time: 3 minutes Cook Time: 2 minutes Makes about 15 cookies

1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup milk
4 Tablespoons cocoa
3 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Bring butter, sugar, milk, and cocoa to a boil for one minute. Boiling for one full minute is essential to make sure the cookies set up properly. Remove from heat.

Add peanut butter, vanilla, and oats. Stir well and drop spoonfuls onto waxed paper or parchment paper. Let them set up and cool, about 20 minutes.

And the winner of the Progresso Souper You Giveaway (generated by is:

True Random Number Generator Min: Max: Result: 11

Comment number 11 is from Karin who said...

My favorite is the split pea with ham.

Karin please email me at kitchen_concoctions at hotmail dot com with your mailing address.

Congrats Karin and thanks to all who entered!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gettin' My Healthy Back

Do you ever have those days where eating healthy is just not going to happen? Maybe you are super hormonal or you are just feeling lazy or you just have no will power. Well folks I have to admit that was me the other day. And it was all of the previously mentioned downfalls. It first started with a box variety muffins that some how ended up in my pantry. Variety... so of course I had to eat one of each. My only saving grace was the fact that they were 'mini' muffins. Then I was given a plate of sugar cookies, that I of course had to taste. Then it was time for lunch. I had all intentions of eating some healthy pork chops and roasted broccoli leftovers but then saw the Tupperware with leftover hot dogs and French fries and my hand made an un controllable beeline straight for them.

Then dinner rolled around and Eric called to see what I was making. I told him that I had planned on making chicken and yellow rice but got wrapped up in work instead. I told him I had the leftover previously mentioned pork chops or some cans of soup that I could heat up. He said he wasn’t in the mood for that and showed up 10 minutes later with Taco Hell, I mean Taco Bell. I told myself I couldn't eat any of it…. that a 'one point' can of soup was all I was allowed for dinner because of the day's previous transgressions. But (I am sure you know where this story is going) 'Hell' won and I had some quesadillas and crunchy tacos (and I am admitting... enjoyed every minute of it).

But today is a new day! I started my day, not with a variety of muffins but a nice 40 minute run with my dog. Then I made myself this hearty, healthy, high fiber shake! If you have never heard of an oatmeal shake don’t worry, I hadn't either, until recently. This is a thick shake that fills you up with all the oatmeal and bananas. I felt good drinking it and it left me feeling full satisfied for several hours. The best part is you could make it quickly at night and let it sit in a pitcher in the fridge, so the next morning you have breakfast that you can grab as you head out the door!

Notes: When my bananas start to head south (turn black) I put them in a plastic container in the freezer to use for baking. I just used 2 of these bananas for this recipe and because they were so ripe they added a nice natural sweet flavor. You could also freeze bananas (peeled) when you get home from the grocery store to use for this shake and others.

Healthy Oatmeal and Banana Shake
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 3 minutes Serves 2-3

3/4 cup quick oats
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup fat free milk
2 frozen bananas
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a small pot, bring water to a boil. Add oats and cook oats in water for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often until oatmeal becomes thick and bubbly. Remove cooked oatmeal from heat and let it cool a few minutes.

In a blender add milk, bananas, sugar, cinnamon, and cooked oats. Blend on high until very smooth. Chill in refrigerator or pour in a glass and enjoy. Can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator 2 to 3 days. Makes about 3 cups

adapted from Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes

Monday, January 24, 2011

January Is National Oatmeal Month Too!

Saturday I celebrated National Soup Month with you by sharing with you a festive Chicken Tortilla Soup and some handy soup making tips. But did you know January is also National Oatmeal Month? To celebrate oatmeal I will be featuring my first “Week of…” series for the new year. Every day this week I will share with you some ‘heart healthy’ oatmeal recipes and oatmeal tips and how-to’s.

Below is an article and recipe that I wrote for Food on the Table. Hope you enjoy and you will come back and celebrate oatmeal all week!

Did you know January is National Oatmeal Month? Oatmeal is an excellent source of many essential vitamins and nutrients such as Vitamin B, Vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus. Oatmeal is also full of insoluble and soluble fiber. Studies have shown that because oatmeal is loaded with these vitamins, nutrients and is full of fiber, it can help fight heart disease, lower cholesterol, and help maintain blood sugar levels as well as maintaining the metabolism.

Not only does oatmeal have great health benefits, it extremely affordable and versatile. It is great cooked for breakfast and topped with some fruit and honey, or made into a classic after school snack of oatmeal raisin cookies. But have you ever thought about cooking with oatmeal? Since oatmeal is a pantry staple I often use it in cooking. A small container of bread crumbs is about the same price as a large canister of oatmeal. Oatmeal is a great ingredient to use in place of bread crumbs in recipes such as meatloaf, meatballs, and hamburgers. I will also often take oatmeal and blend it up in a food processor to use it to ‘bread’ chicken cutlets.  So if you are looking to eat healthy and on a budget, remember that canister of oatmeal sitting in your pantry and cook up something good to eat!
In honor of National Oatmeal Month, try making my Italian Meatballs! The meatballs use oatmeal as the binding agent instead of bread crumbs. They are full of flavor, are ready in no time, and use ingredients that I always have on hand. Try them on hoagie rolls for meatball subs, or over a bowl of pasta, or my favorite way to eat them is just by themselves with a simple side salad. Yum!
Italian Meatballs
Printable Version
By Heather of Kitchen Concoctions for Food on the Table
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook time: 30 minutes Serves 4 to 5
1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
½ cup rolled oats
1 egg
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 (26 ounce) jar marinara sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, chopped
½ tablespoon olive oil
1 cup mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl combine ground beef, oats, egg, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and 1/3 cup marinara sauce.

Heat olive oil in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and let cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Let onions/garlic mixture cool slightly and add to ground beef mixture and mix together.
Shape meat mixture into 12 to 14 large golf ball sized balls. Place meatballs in a 9x13 pan. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove meatballs from oven. Top each meatball with 1 to 2 tablespoons marinara sauce. Place meatballs back in oven and cook for 8 minutes more. Remove meatballs from oven. Top each meatball with 1/2 tablespoon mozzarella cheese. Place meatballs back in oven for 1 to 2 minutes to melt cheese.
Serve with additional warmed marinara sauce. These meatballs are great by themselves or served over pasta, or served on a hoagie as a meatball sub!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Happy National Soup Month!

The below article is one that I wrote for Food on the Table (read more about Food on the Table, here). Since January is National Soup Month I shared some tips to help your next bowl of soup come out perfectly. Enjoy!

When the weather outside is frightful… a big ‘ole bowl of soup is so delightful! I love when there is a bit of chill in the air because that means I can enjoy a nice comforting bowl of soup. Soup is a budget friendly meal; it is a great way to use up leftovers and utilize pantry staples. Another great thing about soup is it generally makes a lot, enough to eat for dinner now and freeze for later.

Want to make sure your pot of soup comes out great every time; well keep these few tips in mind!

• Start with the liquid. Most soups have a water, stock or broth base. In addition to broth or stock try adding vegetable/tomato juice to enhance the flavor. Another great flavor additive for soup is beer or wine. Try adding half a cup of wine or one cup beer for every three cups of soup.

• Want to make it thick? If you want to thicken your soup without the hassle and added calories of a roux (a fat and flour mixture) try substituting eight ounces of tomato sauce for one cup of the broth called for in the original recipe. Another quick thickener is to stir in one tablespoon of instant mashed potato flakes until your desired consistency is reached.

• Overzealous with the salt? If your soup ends up too salty, add a whole, peeled potato to the soup and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the potato (and save to eat later) and serve the soup as normal.

• On a tight budget? Adding beans or lentils is a great and inexpensive way to add protein to a soup; but remember to soak the beans ahead of time according to package directions. Another inexpensive way to stretch soup is by adding pasta or rice. Keep in mind if adding any of these ‘fillers’ you will have to add additional liquid to your soup.

• Freeze it. Soup makes a fantastic freezer meal because it can be kept frozen for up to 3 months. If freezing leftover soup, make sure you allow it to cool completely before freezing it. Also keep in mind that liquids expand when freezing; so use heavy duty plastic containers and leave about half an inch of space at the top.

Need to warm up? Well try my recipe for some comforting Chicken Tortilla Soup!

One Year Ago: Chocolate Chex Mix and Fruit and Yogurt Parfait

Chicken Tortilla Soup
By Heather of Kitchen Concoctions for Food on the Table
Printable Version
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 25 minutes Serves: 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
1 (10 ounce) can Mexican style diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
4 cups chicken broth
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 ½ cups frozen corn
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1-2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Tortilla chips
Colby Jack cheese
Avocado slices

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, red bell pepper, and jalapeƱo. Let vegetables cook for 4 minutes until soft. Add minced garlic and let cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Pour in the Mexican style tomatoes, tomato sauce and chicken broth. Stir in the prepared chicken, black beans, corn and seasonings. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Ladle into bowls and top with tortilla chips, cheese, and avocado.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Following My Dreams

After Eric’s brother passed away and our world got shaken to the core, we really started thinking about our personal happiness. Everything in my life was good and made me happy... everything but my job. I worked a boring 8 to 5er at a financial company. I saw the walls of cubical more than anything else. Not only was 8 hours of my day dedicated to my job (40 hours a week) I spent at least 1 hour a day driving each way to and from work (10 more hours dedicated to work each week). The people I worked for weren't very nice and did not have good business management skills. I was literally sick and tired from my job. After Joe passed away I decided to take life in my own hands. I had been looking for something else for quite sometime, something that I was passionate about (food, writing, photography) and something that used my hard earned degree. Life was to precious to be working so hard at a job that made me miserable.

Through some very fortunate circumstances I was able to meet with the owner/founder of the website Food on the Table. He liked my personality, skills, and go get it attitude. He offered me a job as a freelance chef consultant. I have been working there for the past 3 months and absolutely love it and am totally happy!!

Food on the Table is such a great website and there is nothing else out there like it. You go to the website, register, fill out your address, and a questioner about your food preferences. The website then pools up stores in your area and you choose 3 stores you most frequently shop at (ie: Whole Foods, Kroger, Randall’s). You can then compare each of those 3 stores’ sale ads for the week (side by side) and choose which one you want to shop at (based on the number of things on sale that you like). After you select the store you select which meats, veggies, etc that are on sale that you would like to cook with that week. If you choose chicken then you will be given several chicken recipes to choose from that use other ingredients that are also on sale. After you select your week’s worth of recipes you can then print the recipes and your shopping list.

Food on the Table is such a great tool in menu planning and cooking on a budget. And even better is that Food on the Table is free for it’s basic services (a more advanced membership can be purchased for $69 a year)!

My job is so fun! I do website maintenance for them, test and edit recipes in their recipe collections, develop my own recipes for the site and their blog, and write articles about food, cooking on a budget, and kitchen tips for their blog as well. For me this is such a huge dream come true, I get to work from home, doing what I love: cooking, writing, and taking pictures of the food and recipes I develop! I am so excited and happy to be doing what I am doing!

Here are some links to some of my articles and recipes which have been featured on the Food on the Table blog:

No Whine Wednesday: Read first. Cry once. Zest often.

No Whine Wednesday: Bruschetta is Betta

And here are some links to other articles I have written for them that have been featured on other websites:

New Year's Day Black Eyed Pea Soup

A Little Southern Luck

(both articles are also featured on the and

You all should totally check out the Food on the Table website and stop by and leave a comment for me on their blog! : )

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Souper You Giveaway

We are already half way through the month of January… so the question is… who is still doing good on their healthy eating and exercising??? I can officially say that I am still doing good on the healthy eating but haven’t been exercising as much as I had hoped. But I give it my best effort!

One thing that has been a healthy, filling, and an easy lunch or dinner lately is Progresso Soups. Did you know Progresso Soups are available in 40 delicious flavors with 100 calories or less? Progresso Soup can help curb your hunger, making it easier for you to stick to your weight management plan all year long. With hearty ingredients like pasta, beans, corn and rice, and flavor-packed vegetables like tomatoes, carrots, and peppers, Progresso Soup varieties with 100 calories or less offer a good source of fiber and a full serving of vegetables.

To help kick off a new outlook on the New Year, Progresso is excited to announce the return of the "Souper You Debut" contest! From January 3rd through March 16th, you can visit Progresso on Facebook to enter for the chance to win a full makeover in New York City.

Three grand prize winners will be awarded a trip for two to New York City from May 20th-22nd. The prize includes roundtrip airfare, a two-night stay in an NYC hotel, a full makeover, a guided wardrobe shopping spree with a personal consultation at a New York City department store, and $1,000 in spending money.

To enter, you´ll need to do the following:
• Go to Progresso on Facebook to learn more and enter the contest
• Submit your essay (200 characters or less) telling Progresso why you love their soups that contain 100 calories or less, and why you deserve a chance to win a trip to NYC for a full fashion overhaul
• In addition, please submit a photo of yourself that visually reinforces the theme of your essay
Once the 10 finalists are announced, you can visit Progresso on Facebook from March 30th through April 13th to vote for your favorite.

And don’t worry if it IS 2 weeks into January and you are needing a little bit of help getting into that habit of exercise! I have a GIVEAWAY today that might just get you in the exercise sprit. Today, courtesy of Progresso I am giving away a gift pack that contains a VIP coupon for a free can of Progresso soup, as well as a yoga mat, water bottle, set of aerobic bands, sport headband and two sport wristbands! The yoga mat is totally my favorite because it has a convenient carrying case!

You have FOUR separate ways to enter to win the Progresso gift pack (NOTE: Please leave a SEPARATE comment for each response below):

1. Go to Progresso’s website and check out all the flavors of soup they offer. Come back to Kitchen Concoctions and leave a comment on this post sharing which one is your favorite or the one you would like to try.
2. Become a follower of Kitchen Concoctions through Google Friend Connect and leave a comment letting me know.

3. Tell someone about this giveaway, whether it be on a blog, Facebook or Twitter and leave a new comment letting me know.
4. And finally, if you have not noticed Kitchen Concoctions is now on Facebook! For a fourth entry to this giveaway, head over to Kitchen Concoction’s Facebook page and click ”Like”. Then come back here and leave a separate comment letting me know you did.

This give-away closes Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 10 pm CST. Winner will be chosen at random and will be announced sometime shortly after the give-away ends.

Please note the giveaway here on Kitchen Concoctions is for the Progresso Soup gift pack NOT the make-over.

 Disclaimer: Progresso Soup provided me with the information and gift pack for the giveaway as well as myself through My Blog Spark.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Food and Wine

In case you haven't heard, for the cookbook of the month series for the year 2011 I will be featuring food magazines (so now magazine of the month). I first decided on Food and Wine because it was the first food magazine I started reading and had a subscription to. I love this magazine and although, at first the recipes may seem a bit tedious and daunting they all are not.

For me Food and Wine is the King of all food magazines (ok my thoughts on this may change as I explore other magazines but of the ones I have read to date this is my opinion). It has everything from restaurant reviews, to interviews with chefs and foodies, to kitchen tips and reviews of specialty cooking/food items. And of course every issue has a section on wine: food and wine parings, popular wines of the season, tips on picking out a good wine, etc. Even if you are not a big wine-o, I find this information helpful in cooking and to speak knowledgably about food.

Pictures: Yes: about 90 percent of the recipes
This is a major plus to getting recipes from a food magazine (as opposed to a cookbook or even a magazine with recipes but one that is not known for recipes). About 90% of all the recipes in Food and Wine have pictures, good quality pictures at that.

Prep Time, Cooking Time, and Number of Servings listed: Yes and No
The number of servings are listed on all recipes, however the recipes only have a 'total time' listed (not a separate cooking and prep time).

Clear, easy to follow directions: somewhat
I will be honest, I don't think Food and Wine is a beginner cook's magazine. All of the recipes are written by chefs, which means clear understandable directions for a cook with a little bit more experience (due to terminology, ingredients, etc).

Variety of recipes: extensive
This is the beauty of a magazine, the variety of recipes. Everything from condiments, to breads, to desserts, to soups, salads, and entrees; they have it all!

Ease of preparation: medium
Since there is such a variety of recipes this is a tough question to answer. Some of the recipes are extremely easy, allowing you to have dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes. While others are a lot more labor intensive.

Easily available ingredients and budget friendly: yes, for the most part
This falls into the whole variety of recipes. The large majority of recipes have readily available ingredients and none of the ingredients are too expensive; but this is not the case for all the recipes.

Special feature:
Travel section: In each issue the Food and Wine staff take us to a different location and talk about the food, cooking trends and restaurants of that area. Not only are there restaurant reviews but they select one of the reviewed restaurants from that region and share a recipe.

Cost: $5 for a single issue and $12-15 dollars for a year subscription (which is 12 months/issues)

I totally think that Food and Wine is worth the subscription! All of the recipes I made (with the exception of one) turned out wonderfully!

Fish tacos are such a nice change from the traditional ground beef version. And these are a crispy (even better because they are not fried) flavorful version.

I love to eat comfort foods such as soups, stews and pastas when it is chilly out. They feel so homey and hearty. This Black Bean and Hominy Stew took me to that wonderful comfy place!

Speaking of comfort foods... this Pear Spiked Applesauce not only brought me right back to my childhood but tasted like hot apple pie but in a healthy kind of way!
On the fence about broccoli? Well you will be on broccoli's side after trying this unique Roasted Broccoli with Chili Butter!

And well there is always a trouble maker among the group and these churros were them (so bad not even a picture). They were a bit of a disappointment but hey 4 out of 5 ain't bad!

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Not-So-Magical Food

Churros: Warm. Crunchy. Cinnamon Goodness.

Please tell me I am not the only one who can't resist that wonderful smell of a hot crispy churro being pulled from the fryer and then rolled around in cinnamon and sugar. It is a simple and wonderful treat that I look forward to indulging in at every festival, carnival, fair, amusement park, or trip to Sam's Club.  ; ).  To me they are magical.

And then Food and Wine had to go there. By taking that warm cinnamon sugar crusted treat and dip it in warm chocolate. Why? Did they have to do that? Cinnamon + chocolate = another magical, no mysterious food combo that just can't be beat.

I couldn't stop thinking about these churros and finally broke down to make them. I couldn't resist the temptation. However, I was sorely disappointed. All that I had hyped this recipe up to be in my head it turned out not so.  : (  Maybe because I messed up on the recipe somewhere along the way or maybe it is my poor frying skills or maybe it was just not as good as a recipe as I hoped. But these failed. The chocolate sauce was extremely runny. The churros where cooked on the outside (almost even burnt) and slightly doughy on the inside. Major disappointment. I will try making churros again but not for a while... I need to recover from this.

I did take a picture of these churros and the chocolate sauce but the pictures turned out just as bad as the food so I will not be posting them. I guess better luck next time.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Warm Churros and Hot Chocolate
Printable Version
Prep Time: 20 minutes Wait Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 8 minutes Serves 8

2 sticks unsalted butter (1/2 pound)
Kosher salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 large egg white
2 1/4 cups water
2 cups whole milk
2 cups half and half
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 quart vegetable oil, for frying
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

In a large saucepan, bring 1 3/4 cups of water to a boil with the butter and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Remove from the heat, add the flour and stir vigorously until incorporated. Return to moderate heat and cook, stirring, until the dough pulls away from the side, 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Using an electric mixer, beat the dough at low speed for 1 minute, just until slightly cooled. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat in the eggs and egg white, one at a time. Transfer the dough to a bowl, press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate until cooled to room temperature, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat the milk and half and half with 1/2 cup of water until small bubbles appear around the edge. Add the chocolate chips, cocoa powder, 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar and a pinch of salt and whisk over low heat until the chocolate is melted. Keep warm over very low heat.

In another large saucepan, heat the oil to 375°. Set a rack on a large baking sheet and cover with paper towels. In a pie plate, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar with the cinnamon. Scoop the dough into a large pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.

Working quickly, squeeze 6-inch lengths of the dough into the hot oil, cutting them off with a knife. Fry no more than 8 churros at a time; they expand a bit as they cook. Fry over moderately high heat, turning once or twice, until browned, about 8 minutes. Drain the churros on the rack for 2 minutes, then toss with the cinnamon sugar in the pie plate. Serve at once with hot chocolate.

adapted from Food and Wine, February 2007

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's all about the peanuts...

I never was a big broccoli eater but Eric loves the stuff (like wanting it for almost every meal). Shortly after we first started dating I had to figure out how to make it so that I would like it too. I quickly discovered I liked broccoli roasted and have been making this way ever since. Well enter in this recipe for Roasted Broccoli with Chili Butter. It takes my roasted broccoli to a whole new level. This recipe has a few more steps than the version I have been making (now for years) but those steps bring this broccoli to a new (and different) level.

This broccoli had all the roasted flavors but with extra flavor from the spices. And the added peanuts sounds unusual but they add a nice crunch to the broccoli (and in my humble opinion what MAKES this broccoli oh so tasty). I couldn't get enough! This version of roasted broccoli will defiantly be added into the side dish rotation from here on out!

Notes: The original recipe called for dried ancho chilies. This was an extra ingredient and steps. So I used chili powder I had on hand and it worked great. It also called for pine nuts but unfortunately those are pretty expensive so I used the peanuts, which because they are a bigger nut provided the wonderful crunch that I loved in this recipe. I used frozen broccoli because that is what I had but by all means use fresh if you got it! One last note, to save time you can make the the chili butter up to 3 days in advance.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Roasted Broccoli with Chili Butter
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes Serves 12

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup peanuts
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (16 ounce) bag frozen broccoli

Preheat the oven to 450°.

In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the peanuts and cook over moderately high heat, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the chili powder, garlic, cumin and coriander and cook, stirring, until the garlic is softened and the peanuts are deep golden, about 1 minute longer. Let cool.

In a food processor, puree the peanut mixture with the butter. Season the chili butter with salt and scrape into a bowl.

In a large bowl, toss the broccoli with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then spread on 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Roast the broccoli in the upper and lower thirds of the oven for 15 minutes, or until crisp-tender, shifting the pans from top to bottom and back to front halfway through. Add the chili butter to the broccoli and toss to coat. Roast for 10 minutes longer, or until the broccoli is tender. Transfer to a platter and serve warm or at room temperature.

The chili butter can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

adapted from Food and Wine, November 2002

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Baby Boom

One thing that I am totally loving about this magazine of the month series is that there is such variety in the recipes. Fish tacos one day and homemade applesauce the next! It is great... a major plus to having food magazine subscriptions.

When I saw this recipe for homemade applesauce in my trusty blue binder I knew I wanted to make it this week because it would be nice and comforting. It reminded me of my childhood. It also reminded me of that movie Baby Boom, the one were Diane Keaton is some big wig working woman in New York who gets pulled away from her hectic lifestyle when her cousin passes away and asks Diane's character to care for her baby in her will. Diane moves out to the country to raise her cousin's baby and decides to make homemade gourmet baby food, which starts with her making applesauce! Ha! When I first saw this moving in 5th or 6th grade it got the wheels in my head turning (I have always had the entrepreneur spirit) and I thought, wow! making baby food or applesauce is that easy!?! So I couldn't shake that thought of making my own and so I did, all by myself at age 11 or 12! As far as the whole gourmet baby food idea? Well I realized at that tender age that Gerber had a monopoly over that industry and decided to pursue other dreams (still related to food)! LOL!

So that is the reason I just HAD to make this applesauce. To take me back to that moment in my childhood! And I loved this applesauce! It is a chunky applesauce but if you want it more smooth all you have to do is puree the applesauce (after it is cooked and has cooled slightly) in a blender or food processor. This is a nice and healthy snack. I ate mine warm and it reminded me of warm apple pie (put without all the calories)! This was great by it's self or would be wonderful on top of some oatmeal or as topping on pork chops if that is how you like 'em!

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Apple Muffins

Pear Spiked Applesauce
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes Makes 4 cups

4 McIntosh apples (1 1/2 pounds)--peeled, quartered and cored
2 Bartlett pears--peeled, quartered and cored
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, plus additional for topping

In a large, heavy saucepan, bring the apples, pears, water and lemon juice to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the fruit breaks down to a thick, chunky puree, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and cinnamon. Serve with additional cinnamon sprinkled on top. Can be served warm or chilled.

The applesauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

adapted from Food and Wine, December 2002

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

ToO CoLd tO TyPE

It’s late… I’m tired… and it’s cold. All of which makes it really hard to think right now and hard to type. I am not a big fan of Snuggies but I really wish I had one right now… trying to wrap up in a blanket is so not working as I try to type.

Anywho, just a quick post tonight. Let’s jump right to today’s MOM recipe. This Black Bean and Hominy Stew was easy-peasy. Seriously it came together so fast and used ingredients I already had on hand… perfect since it has been so cold the last several days… a meal that warms you up and one that you don’t need to run out into the cold to make a trip to the store!

Notes: The original recipe did not say to serve this over rice but I did. And it was even more delish. So eat that way. That’s an order! : )

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Apple Muffins

Black Bean and Hominy Stew
Printable Version
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook time: 15 minutes Serves: 5

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 ribs celery chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 cups cooked ham, diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained
1 (15-ounce) can hominy, drained
3 cups chicken broth
Cooked rice for serving

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the bell pepper, onion, celery and garlic and cook over medium high heat for about 4 minutes. Add the ham, cumin, coriander, chili powder, salt and pepper and cook until the ham is lightly browned, about 3 minutes longer. Add the black beans, hominy and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer the stew over moderate heat until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

Serve the stew over cooked rice.

adapted from Food and Wine, February 2003

Monday, January 10, 2011

Kicking off the MOM series

I am kicking off the new magazine of the month (MOM) series today. If you read my post from Saturday I shared some of my goals for Kitchen Concoctions for the year 2011. One thing I shared was that I was going to change my cookbook of the month series to feature food magazines. I decided to make this change because I have had many a magazine subscription over the years and I always go through and cut out the recipes I want to try before I throw the issue away. I then file the clipped recipe away into my trusty blue binder which is dived by category. Making my slightly OCD self happy because I can easily flip through this binder when I am looking for a particular recipe. Problem is, although I am good about updating my binder I don't actually use the binder to cook from as frequently as I would like. THAT is why I will be featuring magazines this year for the cookbook of the month series, so I can actually use all these recipes I have so carefully filed away!

So this is what I have planned. Each month (hopefully the second or third week of the month) I will feature 5 recipes (one for each day of the work week) from that month's selected magazine. They may be recipes from past or present editions of the magazine. Then on the Saturday of the MOM week I will highlight each recipe I shared and do the general 'review' of the magazine and give you a head's up as to what next month's magazine will be! Sound good? Good?

This month's magazine is Food and Wine, which is the first food magazine ever picked up and had a subscription to. I have been subscribing to it for years and have an overwhelmingly large amount of recipes from Food and Wine saved in my blue binder. So this was a natural choice for the first magazine I chose to highlight.

And the first recipe I tried were these Crispy Fish Tacos. We love taco night around here and fish tacos are a nice change from the usual beef or chicken. These were so tasty and if you are on the fence about the sauce... make it! The hoisin sauce totally makes these tacos!

Notes: The original recipe said to fry the fish once breaded, however since I am trying to cook a little bit healthier and since panko is so crispy I baked these and they baked up perfectly. Also I did slightly adjust the seasonings and taco 'fillers' as well.

One Year Ago: Why-the-Chicken-Crossed-the-Road Santa Fe Tortilla Soup

Crispy Fish Tacos
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 12 minutes Serves: 6 (2 tacos each)

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon fish seasoning
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound tilapia fillets, cut into 4-by-1-inch strips
2 large eggs, beaten
3 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
12 corn tortillas, warmed

lettuce leaves, shredded
carrots shredded,
scallions, slciced
tomatoes, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the hoisin sauce and lemon juice.

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, fish seasoning, salt and black pepper. Seal the bag and shake. Add the fish and shake to coat.

Put the eggs and panko in separate shallow bowls. Dip the fish in the egg and then in the panko. Transfer the fish to a baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated 350 degree oven for 12 minutes until cooked through.

Serve the cooked fish in the tortillas, with the hoisin mayonnaise, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and scallions.

adapted from Food and Wine, May 2010

Saturday, January 8, 2011

2011 and BEYOND...

One thing that I wanted to do for the new year (before we get to far into it) is jot down type up my goals for Kitchen Concoctions for the year 2011 and BEYOND(sorry I am channeling my inner Buzz Lightyear).

I have said it before and I will say it again, I love to write lists. They keep me organized and on track. So I thought what better way to keep me focused (and to keep you all in the loop) I would share my plans, or New Year’s resolutions goals, if you will, with all of you. Public resolutions goals keep you accountable… right?

Cookbook of the Month Series: I love this part of my blog. It challenges me and makes me actually use the over abundance of cookbooks that clutter line my bookshelves. However, my little recipe hoarding collecting problem isn’t just limited to cookbooks. You see I love good cooking magazines too! AND I have had many a subscription over the years. But to make sure my house stays clean (God bless those people who ARE hoarders and need professional help) I carefully pick a handful of recipes from each magazine clip them and then file them away into my trusty blue binder. My double HEART my blue binder. It is a gold mine for recipes but yet it gets over looked a lot. So I decided this year to change my CBOM series and feature a new food MAGAZINE each month. Similar to my CBOM series I will review a new magazine each month and tell you all the good the bad and the u-g-l-y (you ain’t got no alibi). On the WEEKS (one week each month of course) I feature the MOM (magazine of the month) I will feature 5 recipes; some from current editions of that magazine and others from past editions, like from 1996 (when I first started reading my Mom’s Family Circle).

• Restaurant Reviews: Now I know what you are thinking this is a cooking blog; and yes I love to cook but really who doesn’t love to eat out every now and again. I have done restaurant reviews in the past but they have not been consistent. I am going to work a better ‘reviewing scale’ to give my most informed opinion possible. And I am working on getting over my fear of taking pictures of food in public places so that these reviews can be more picture friendly!
• 'Week of…' Series: This is something I started in the middle of last year. I did a week of recipes to say so long to summer and a week’s worth of cute Halloween recipes and even what to do with all those turkey leftovers. I had so much fun and loved the challenge of creating/finding recipes that tied to a theme that I what to keep it going. So at least once a month I will have one whole week that all the recipes will be dedicated or inspired by a particular theme/ingredient/cooking technique.

• My Food 101: When I was in 6th grade I remember reading about a lady who wrote down her list of 100 things she wanted to do in her life time (a Bucket List of sorts) and then created a scrapbook of the events as she accomplished them. I LOVED the idea. So that very day I started writing my own list. Over the years things have been accomplished and things removed as I have matured but the list still goes on. Then one day I realized that a good portion of my list consisted of food related goals… so then I started a new list, one just for my food 101. My goal for 2011 is to finally type this list up, and make it public (again the whole accountability thing). But what makes it fun now is that I have a blog to document my adventures in accomplishing my food 101!!!
• Tips/How-To/Fun Facts: This is something that I wanted to do ever since I started blogging. Have posts/articles that share cooking tips and step-by-step photo how-to demonstrations of common cooking techniques such as how to make a roux, cut a pineapple, make a cookie bouquet, etc. Also I wanted to start sharing fun facts/information about food, ingredients, food topics, etc (this will tie in great with the Week of series).

• Guest Bloggers and Interviews: I hope to start bringing you some blog posts written by other bloggers (guest bloggers) and do interviews/features of some of my favorite blogs. I started to do this a while back and had fun with it but for some reason did not do a good job of keeping it going. So I am excited to bring it back.
• Friday Favs: This is where I will re-feature some of my favorite recipes that I have already shared but with updated photos, tips, and so forth.

• Update/Revamp/Add to the blog: I have been working on updating/remodeling Kitchen Concoctions for quite sometime. There are several things I am working on to make this site more user friendly and accessible. Some things I am working on are the overall layout and design of Kitchen Concoctions, creating a recipe index which will have all of the recipes I have featured alphabetically listed by category (drinks, main dish chicken, breakfast, etc), creating a list of all the cookbooks/magazines and restaurants I have reviewed and links to the review, cleaning up my side bars, and creating a link of other places I have been featured.

• Attend more food/blogger events and go on "foodie field trips" and document them.

• And last but not least I hope to have even more giveaways this year than I had last year!

WOW!!!! That was a lot of rambling and more for my sake than yours but I hope you enjoyed hearing about the things I have in the works for Kitchen Concoctions and I hope you will help me stay on track!

I would love to hear your input! What do you think? Do you have any suggestions? Is there anything you would like to see here on Kitchen Concoctions?
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