Kitchen Concoctions: July 2012

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Traditional Fish and Chips

I cannot get enough of the Olympics! Like since I was able to sit up and watch them on TV. I love that the whole world just stops what they are doing for two weeks to just watch, and stare, and root for their favorite team.

And that good ole’ American pride is strong and untied more than ever!

My obsession with the Olympics is so great that I raddle off facts and information to Eric while we watch.


And watching we are!

Every waking moment.

Practically 24/7.

And besides watching the covenant athletes sweat, cry, and grin from ear to ear; one of the things I love about the Olympics is learning about the host country and the other participating Olympic countries.

Oh yeah and Olympic history.

And our Olympic stars.

But back to the host city.

London, England.

Does that not make you just want to drink tea and eat crumpets?

Or go to an English pub and drink beer and eat fish and chips?

So in honor of the Olympics and the British, here is my version of that classic English meal!


Traditional Fish and Chips
By Heather of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes Serves: 4

2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch thick slices
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon each salt and black pepper, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup English beer (ex: Newcastle or Bass) , plus more as needed*
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 cod, haddock, or pollack fillets
3-4 cups vegetable oil
Malt vinegar, tartar sauce, fresh lemon juice, ketchup; optional for serving

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Heat oil in large, heavy pot to 350 degrees F. Working in batches, fry the prepared potatoes in hot oil until golden brown, turning to cook evenly, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and transfer to a baking sheet. Place in the oven to keep warm until ready to serve.

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, ½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper, baking powder, beer, and egg. Whisk to make a smooth batter the consistency of cream, adding more beer, as needed, to thin.

In another large bowl, combine the remaining 2/3 cups flour and ½ teaspoon salt and black pepper.

Dip the fish fillets first into flour to lightly coat, then into the beer batter, shaking to remove any excess. Fry the battered fish, one or two at a time, in the oil for 5-6 minutes or until crisp and golden brown, turning half way through cooking. Remove fish from oil and drain on paper towels. Transfer cooked fish to a baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm until ready to serve.

Serve immediately with the fried potatoes and topping of your choice.

*Note: Milk can be substituted for the beer.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Website Review: All Recipes

Wowzer! Here we come to the end of another month (I should go back and count how many times I have said that), which means it is time to wrap up and review another Website of the Month. This month I featured AllRecipes. All Recipes is probably one of the most popular recipe sites out there. There isn’t a person I know that doesn’t know about this site and doesn’t use it. It really is a top recipe resource for many.

(photo credit: All Recipes)
Incase All Recipes is new to you, here's what it is all about:

Pictures: Almost all recipes
I would say about 90-95% of all recipes have accompanying photos, many with multiple photos. However, these photos are added by users who are not professionals and therefore the quality of photo lacks greatly.

Prep Time, Cooking Time, and Number of Servings listed: Yes
Every recipe has this information provided!
Nutritional Information provided: Yes
Yes, every recipe contains the nutritional value for common nutritional needs such as fat, sodium, calories, etc.

Clear, easy to follow directions and ease of preparation: Yes and No
Most of the recipes are easy to make with clear directions. However, the recipes found on All Recipes are all submitted by the site users, so some of the recipes may have information missing.

Easily available ingredients and budget friendly: Yes
This is a very family friendly, user friendly website. Since all of the recipes are from users (users just like you and me), I’d say all most all of the ingredients are very easy to find and budget friendly.

Variety of recipes: All types of recipes! This site is huge and has tons of recipes.
Like tons! Great resource if you are looking for any type of recipe!

Meal Planning Feature: Yes
Honestly I didn’t play around with this feature much because while the basic menu planning feature is free, to really use it to its full capacity you have to pay for a membership. What I did gather and see is that the menu plan feature offers the ability to drag and drop recipes that are saved to your recipe box to your meal plan by day. You can add unlimited recipes per day and the menu plan feature will give you the nutritional data for the day based on consuming one serving of each recipe posted on that day. They also have a feature with menus already created with preselected recipes, for holidays, budget friendly, under a certain number of calories per day, gluten free, etc. These specialty menus, the ability to save your menus, and print off a grocery list are all available with the purchase of a membership which is $17.50 per year.

Source of recipes: Member submitted
A recipe website with ONLY member submitted recipes can be tricky, because you never know the quality of the recipe you get. But almost every recipe I have found on this site and used has been good if not better with a few modifications. Be sure and read the user reviews, found on each recipe, for a better idea of the results of the recipes.

Cost: Free to browse recipes and save them to your profile and $17.50 per year to use the menu planning feature.

Special feature: This site has so much to offer! The menu planning services are very elaborate. And the site offers a phone app, which allows you to search by recipes by clicking first on the dish you want, then the ingredients, and then the method you wish to prepare. You can also search by ingredient or recipe title and click to filter by any dietary restrictions you have. The actual website also has a magnitude of cooking tips, how-to and informational articles, as well as helpful videos.

In case you missed is, this is what I made:

Friday, July 27, 2012

Kids in the Kitchen: Hand Tossed Ice Cream


I have never met a kid that doesn’t like love ice cream! The sweet, creamy treat can be served up a variety of ways and is popular for birthdays, severed over pie and as a treat all on its own!

The last recipe of ice cream week is perfect for all those ice cream loving kids! Hand-Tossed Ice Cream is a fun way for kids to get ‘hands-on’ in the kitchen by helping ‘toss’ the cream mixture into ice cream consistency.

This was something I remember making as a child (also the “Kick the Can Ice Cream” version) and is still popular today! So of course when I was asked to help develop recipes for a kid’s cooking camp this summer, this is one of the recipes/activities I thought of and it did not fail!


On several occasions the kids squealed with delight and declared that this was ‘the best recipe ever’ and enthusiastically thanked me for teaching them how to make it. If that isn’t a sign of a winner I don’t know what one is!


This ice cream is creamy (think soft serve) and has that perfect vanilla, to sugar, to cream ratio; making it hard to have *just* one bowl! Since I have made this now, more times than I can count, I have this recipe down to perfection which includes some tricks that I have learned along the way. I have included these tricks and a few extra photos showcasing these steps below.

So be the coolest Mom (Dad, aunt, teacher, big sister) eva, and let your kids toss up some ice cream!


Hand-Tossed Ice Cream
Heather of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Active Time: 10-15 minutes Wait Time: 15-20 minutes
Makes approximately 1 quart

Ingredients:
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 heaping cup sugar
½ tablespoon vanilla

Supplies:
2 (1-quart-sized) zip-top freezer bags
2 (1-gallon-sized) zip-top freezer bags
Ice, as needed
½ cup ice cream salt
Duct tape, as needed
Scissors

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, milk, whipping cream, and vanilla. Continue to whisk cream mixture until it begins to thicken, approximately 2-3 minutes.

Pour cream mixture into quart-sized zip-top bag and zip shut, squeezing out all the air. Seal bag opening with two pieces of duct tape. Place taped quart-sized into second quart-sized bag and seal.

Fill gallon-sized zip top bag a third of the way full with ice. Add ice cream salt to ice in baggie.

Place sealed quart-sized baggie (containing cream mixture) into gallon-sized bag containing ice. Maneuver the ice around to make sure ice us on all sides of the smaller bag inside. Squeeze out excess air and zip bag shut. Seal bag opening with two pieces of duct tape. Place sealed gallon-sized bag in remaining gallon-sized bag and seal.
Once baggie is sealed begin shaking and tossing the bag to mix the ice cream. Keep a towel handy as the bag may begin to leak. Gloves or a clean pair of socks may be used to keep your hands warm as you shake!

After about 10-15 minutes of shaking and tossing, cut top off gallon-sized baggie and remove the quart-sized bag and rinse off the saltwater. Ice cream will be the consistency of soft serve and can be served immediately or can be place in the freezer for 15-20 minutes to firm up. When ready to serve, cut a hole in one corner of the bag and squeeze the ice cream into individual dishes. Can be served as is, over pie or topped with fresh berries.

Notes:
• Don’t skimp on the name brand zip-top baggies or duct tape.

• Double bagging each bag is essential to help prevent leakage and salt seeping into your ice cream.

• Whisk cream mixture for a solid 2-3 minutes to help it thicken as much as possible before placing into zip-top bag.

• Shake ice cream for the full 10-15 minutes to achieve best results, even freezing for 15-20 minutes before serving.

• Keep a towel handy as the bag may begin to leak.
• Gloves or a clean pair of socks may be used to keep your hands warm as you shake!

Prepare cream mixture and place in quart-sized zip-top baggie, zipped and sealed awith duct tape.

Ice and ice cream salt in gallon-sized zip-top baggie.

Place quart-sized baggie in gallon-sized baggie with ice.

Zip and seal gallon-sized baggie with duct tape. Place in second gallon-sized bag and then...
Shake, Shake, Shake!
ENJOY!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Loaded S'mores Ice Cream

As I type this I am telling Eric about a conversation I had with someone regarding food photography and food styling. It is pretty ironic that this conversation is taking place because I was already going to write about food styling today.


You see, I am by no means a food photography/styling expert. I know this. But I do know a few tips and tricks and can get a pretty darn good photo every once and a while (actually surprising myself sometimes). But everything I do know, are things I have just taught myself, and from no professional or formal training.

What I get hung up on sometimes is the styling part. While of course each dish is going to look different as they are prepared differently and have different sides, toppings, etc.; how do I make the presentation and styling look different for each chicken dish, each smoothie, and so forth so they truly look like different photos and dishes?


I photographed today’s ice cream recipe awhile back and as I sit and edit photos and choose what ones to share, I am slightly discouraged because these photos look almost exactly like the ones from yesterday, that I took only a few days ago. I guess that the styling for these ice cream photos is just what I was naturally/automatically drawn to (without realizing it) or maybe I just have no creativity to change it up and need some new styling inspiration!


Despite the similarities in yesterday’s and today’s ice cream photos, this recipe blows yesterday’s out of the water! If you are a s’mores fan (and by now you all know I am!!!) this is the ice cream for you! This s’mores ice cream chockfull of the flavors of s’mores chocolate (yes), marshmallow (yes) and grahams (yes)! These classic flavors are combined in a classic creamy vanilla ice cream for a cool summertime treat!

One Year Ago: Spicy Sweet Potato Fries
Two Years Ago: Cookies n' Cream Ice Cream

Three Years Ago: Aunt Grace's Potato Salad


Loaded S’mores Ice Cream
by Heather of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version
Prep Time: 25 minutes Chill Time: Overnight Churn Time: 20 minutes Makes about 1 quart

2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups milk
1 1/3 cups heavy whipping cream
1 egg, beaten
1 King Size Hershey Chocolate bar, chopped
6 chocolate covered graham crackers, chopped; plus more, as desired, for topping
1 cup chocolate covered marshmallows
4 tablespoons marshmallow sauce; plus more, as desired, for topping
4 tablespoons chocolate syrup; plus more, as desired, for topping

Bring the milk, sugar, vanilla, and cream to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Slowly beat 1-2 tablespoons of the hot milk into the whisked egg. Pour the egg mixture back into the pan and place over low heat. Stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the custard thickens slightly, about 3-4 minutes. Be careful not to let the mixture boil or the egg will scramble. Remove from the heat. Allow the custard to cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

After refrigerating overnight, stir the chilled custard, then freeze in your ice cream machine according the manufacturer’s instructions (my machine took about 20 minutes), until the ice cream is soft serve consistency. Fold the chopped chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows into the ice cream.

In a freezer-safe container, spoon about ½-1 cup of the prepared ice cream mixture. Drizzle 2 tablespoons each marshmallow sauce and chocolate syrup over ice cream being careful not to blend into ice cream. Carefully top sauce with another ½-1 cup of the prepared ice cream mixture, making sure not to blend the sauces into ice cream. Repeat layers with remaining sauces and ice cream.

When finished, freeze for at least 2-3 hours, then serve topped with additional chopped chocolate covered graham crackers, marshmallow sauce and chocolate syrup; as desired.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Website Wednesday: Hot Fudge Sauce

All I want is THE perfect homemade hot sauce recipe. Is that too hard to ask?


I featured a Chocolate Syrup recipe when I did my first ice cream week a few years ago. While that sauce had that classic syrup-ie texture and chocolate flavor, it used corn syrup, and that is an ingredient that I never have in my pantry because I don’t ever cook with.

So I wanted something that used ingredients I usually have on hand and was more fudge-ie. When I saw this recipe I thought it was it. It has great reviews and looked promising.


And while this is a thick, rich and fudge-ie sauce, unless you use it immediately it clumps together and becomes unusable after it sits. Sure you can heat it on the stove top again and again but it will not have the smooth and velvety texture as it did after the first cooking.


And because of the whole texture thing after recooking I actually think this sauce would be better on a slice of cheesecake or something.

Or maybe I just need to make a smaller batch so that I can use all of it in one sitting on one massive ice cream sundae. In the meantime, while I figure this one out, if you have a chocolate/hot fudge sauce that is da bomb please, send it my way!

One Year Ago: Spicy Sweet Potato Fries
Two Years Ago: Cookies n' Cream Ice Cream
Three Years Ago: Aunt Grace's Potato Salad


Hot Fudge Sauce
Printable Version
Prep Time: 2 minutes Cook Time: 8-10 minutes Makes approximately 2 cups

1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a heavy saucepan, combine the milk, chocolate and butter. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until chocolate is melted, approximately 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Serve immediately.

Adapted from All Recipes

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chocolate Covered Banana Popsicles

When I was a kid I loved banana popsicles.

Not the all-natural banana popsicles, but the artificially flavored and colored, tastes like a banana Runt, banana popsicles, specifically these.

Since I don’t live near a store that sells these popsicles anymore and because I am trying to eat more homemade foods, I don’t really get to enjoy those popsicles of my childhood very often anymore; that is except for every time I go home and visit my Mom, then she has a freezer stocked with them. ; )

Now as an adult, I have a more sophisticated taste and like I said, am trying to do more of the homemade thang.


So popsicles made with real bananas, covered in rich chocolate, rolled in crunchy toppings, now that’s a banana popsicle I puffy heart love!

I don’t know whoever thought to cover fruit (strawberries, bananas, apples) in chocolate, but it is the most sinfully pleasing, makes you feel less guilty for devouring chocolate, snack ever. While the concept is simple, the possibilities are endless. My banana pop pictured is simply white chocolate and colorful sprinkles, but take note of some of my suggestions below and go crazy with your frozen banana pop concoctions!

One Year Ago: Paradise Granita
Two Years Ago: Cookies n' Cream Ice Cream
Three Years Ago: Honey Mustard Chicken

Chocolate Covered Banana Popsicles
Heather of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 1 minute Wait Time: 6-8 hours Serves: 4

2 large bananas, halved
4 wooden popsicle sticks
1 cup chocolate chips, chocolate bark, or candy melts; in desired flavor (milk chocolate, dark chocolate, peanut butter, white chocolate, butterscotch, etc.)
1/2 cup (or as needed) desired toppings (sprinkles, chopped nuts, toffee bits, mini chocolate chips, mini M&M’s, etc.)

Insert popsicle stick into banana halves. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment/wax paper. Freeze for 3-4 hours or until frozen solid.

Place candy melts/chocolate in microwave safe bowl. Microwave on medium-high heat for 30 seconds. Remove and stir. Microwave again for 30 seconds and stir until chocolate is thoroughly melted.

Dip frozen banana popsicles in melted chocolate, completely covering the entire banana. Dip chocolate covered banana in desired toppings. Place dipped banana on lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining bananas.

Place prepared bananas back into freezer and freeze for 3-4 hours or until frozen. Serve after freezing or place in freezer safe packaging and store in freezer.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Kicking Off Ice Cream Week: Strawberry Banana Sherbet

Besides s’mores my most favorite summertime treat is ice cream.


And I guess I should clarify, frozen treats of all kinds. So in honor of the hot days of summer, my love of ice cream and the fact that July is National Ice Cream Month (Yes! It is true, a month dedicated to honor ice cream by national mandate.); I am bringing you the third annual ice cream week.

Yes, friends, every year I have brought you a special ice cream themed week, honoring none other than this sweet cold treat, and this year is no exception!
If you have been a KC reader for all these years you will know what goodies to expect, no not just ice cream, but all things relating to ice cream and frozen treats; floats, and milk shakes, and granitas, and sorbets, and ice cream sandwiches, and even some yummy ice cream toppings.


First up a creamy, yet light sherbet.

As much as I love ice cream, if I am picking up a store bought frozen treat I tend to lend towards sherbet or those all natural full fruit popsicles. This is because I have a major sweet tooth and have to have some sort of sweet treat every night to end my day (everyone has their vice). While I wish I could be on an ice cream diet, this is real life is, this is swimsuit season. So I lean towards these ‘lighter’ sweets that still give me a cold treat.

And if you ever wondered what the difference between sherbet and sorbet is, I’ve got you covered. While both are very similar they are slightly different. Sorbet is an icy treat made with puréed fruits, sugar, and water (see this blueberry version I made two years ago). Sherbet is made of those ingredients but also has the addition of milk, gelatin, or egg whites.
So there you go!

I love this version of Strawberry Banana Sherbet! Classic fruit flavor combinations whipped together (you don’t even need an ice cream maker) to make a soft, creamy treat.

One Year Ago: Paradise Granita
Two Years Ago: Cookies n' Cream Ice Cream
Three Years Ago: Honey Mustard Chicken


Strawberry Banana Sherbet
Heather of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Serves: 2-4 Makes approximately 2 cups

2 ripe frozen bananas, sliced
3 cups chopped frozen strawberries
1 tablespoon honey
1/3 cup vanilla flavored soy, almond, or coconut milk

Place all ingredients in food processor or blender and puree until creamy (this may take a few minutes). Scrape down the sides as needed.

Enjoy immediately or place in a freezer safe container and freeze until ready to eat.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Kids in the Kitchen: Kid Friendly Restaurants (Part One)

A few weeks ago I featured ideas for “Foodie Field Trips” for kids as part of my “Kids in the Kitchen” series. I shared in that particular post that I had so many ideas for “Foodie Field Trips” just for kids and had to break it down into multiple blog posts. Well today’s “Kids in the Kitchen” is a twist on the “Foodie Field Trip” and is all about fun restaurants that cater to kids (and I’m not talking Mickey D’s or Chucky Cheese).


While most restaurants these days claim to be family friendly and have children’s menus, there are still many people who feel they can’t bring their children out to eat for whatever reason, whether they will get dirty looks from other diners, worry the restaurant won’t have an acceptable children’s menu or proper seating for kids, etc.  But good news, there are restaurants out there that are for kids and their parents; perfect for a kids “Foodie Field Trip,” family outing, or special birthday celebration.

Below are a few (part one) of these special kid friendly restaurants. I will first apologize that most of them are in Texas, since that is where I am, but I wanted feature places I have been to or have heard great feedback about from friends and family. But the good news is some are chains with locations nationwide, and if not, well I guess you are just going to have to plan a vacation! And if there is a great restaurant in your neck of the woods that caters to kids please share in the comments!
These places will certainly make dinner time exciting!

The Magic Time Machine- This one is an all-time favorite of mine! Every year we took a regular spring break or Easter weekend vacation to San Antonio, Texas hitting up the usual sites including Six Flags, Sea World, the Alamo, the famous River Walk, and The Magic Time Machine. With locations in San Antonio and Dallas, The Magic Time Machine is hands down a magical restaurant for kids and adults. At this popular restaurant, full of eye catching décor, the servers come dressed to impress, as popular movie and cartoon characters such as Cinderella, Cruel Ella de Vile, Captain Jack Sparrow, and more; each providing exceptional service and even penalized table side entertainment with jokes, song, and dance. While the menu is full of tasty options for kids and adults, including a mysterious ‘potions,’ with prices starting out at $8 for kids entrees and $13 for adults. But be warned, this restaurant is only open for dinner during the week and is open for lunch and dinner on the weekends. However, they do not have set hours of operation other than opening hours and closing is ‘to be determined’. So word of advice call before heading out, as Eric and I have learned you may be showing up to a closed restaurant.

The Rain Forest Café- This one has been a favorite of ours for years! I remember even when my younger siblings were kids and that being a top choice for their birthdays. With locations nationwide, the Rain Forest Café offers up unique rainforest themed décor, complete with live plants, mist, waterfalls, thunderstorms, star gazing, and robotic animals and insects. Keeping with the theme, staff are dressed in safari guide attire. I will admit though, while a fun treat, for being a children’s restaurant it is on the pricer end, however full of quite a few choices for kids and adults. Before you leave, if your budget allows, be sure and stop by the restaurant gift shop full of all sorts of rainforest souvenirs.
California Pizza Kitchen- Who doesn’t love pizza, especially kids! California Pizza Kitchen offers free special kitchen tours just for kids. The tours teach the kids the ins and outs of pizza making as well as provides each child with an activity book, pencil, and a coupon for a free meal on their next visit. The catch? These tours are only available for schools and non-profit organizations.
American Girl Café and Bistro- I don’t know what girl doesn’t lust after the American Girl Dolls, and the books, and the magazine, and the whole company. My sisters and I each read every single book, got dolls for Christmas one year and obsessed over accessories. Years after I out grew the dolls they started building a handful of American Girl Stores which include the American Girl Café and American Girl Bistro (12 locations nationwide). I have never been but have heard that little girls will have the grandest time visiting. With an elegant atmosphere, full of special seats and place settings for your child’s doll, and a menu with everything from Macaroni and Cheese to Tilapia with Pineapple Relish, this place will surely make every young girl’s dreams come true.

Downtown Aquarium- Another restaurant I remember visiting with my family growing up. But this is not any restaurant, diners enjoy dinner surrounded on all sides by a 150,000 gallon aquarium full of sea life. And while the adult menu caters to all taste buds with a variety of seafood dishes, steaks, and salads; the kid’s menu is actually quite basic with fish sticks, grilled cheese, and burgers. Oh and prepare to stay a while, this is not only a beautiful restaurant but also has games, rides, and educational exhibits (all for additional fees).

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Website Wednesday: Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

This month’s website of the month, All Recipes, is a huge recipe site. Like thousands and thousands of recipes. Not only are there a large number of recipes, the recipes found on this site (not to mention the site in general) are quite popular.


Take today’s recipe. I have seen it all over the web. So it offers up this question, did it originate on All Recipes and go viral from there, or was it popular somewhere else and was just shared on All Recipes. Humm, who knows!?!

But where ever this recipe originated, it is super easy and with all the workin’ and playin’ I’ve been doin’ all summer, easy is right up my alley.

Cacciatore is a classic Italian dish. It means ‘hunter’ which just means basically a rustic style stew. This meal varies slightly by region in Italy but usually involves chicken or rabbit, herbs and spices, and various rustic vegetables, such as onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms. Traditionally slow cooked for an hour or so on the stove top or in the oven, this version is cooked in the crock-pot. Serve this rustic style over pasta or simply as is with a side of crusty bread.

Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
Printable Version
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 8 hours on low Serves: 4

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into a large dice
1 (28 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and cubed
1 (8 ounce) package fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 small onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper
½ pound pasta, cooked according to package directions

Put the chicken in the slow cooker. Top with the spaghetti sauce, green bell peppers, mushrooms, onion, garlic and seasonings.
Cover, and cook on Low for 7 to 9 hours.

Serve over prepared pasta.
Adapted from All Recipes

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Blueberries are Bouncing into a Store Near You

With yesterday’s recipe for Chicken with Blueberry BarbequeSauce and my obnoxious rave all about summer fruit, I am sure you suspected this post was coming.

Another post all about fruit.

While some may find these informational articles (written for meal planning/recipe site Food on the Table) boring, especially when compared to such posts as the S’mores Party and Backyard Campout (honestly how can you top s’mores), I love all the useful information they provide, which always comes in handy later on, like when doing important things like playing along with Alex Trebek and the contests of Jeopardy every afternoon at 4:00 (man too bad these articles don’t teach me how to avoid run-on sentences).
Anywho…. Today’s article is about…. Yup, you guessed it, blueberries.

So go forth.
Gain useful knowledge and don’t forget to check out all the tasty blueberry recipes below.

Crunch. Pop. Savor. Biting into a fresh summer blueberry will cause an explosion in your mouth. Berry season is here and these beautiful, plump, indigo berries can be found making their way to produce stands across the country.

Blueberries, once known as ‘star-berries’ because of the star like shape on their skin, are one of the few fruits native to North America.  They belong to the heath family, which includes cranberries, azaleas, and mountain laurel.

Considered a powerful super food, blueberries are loaded with vital vitamins and nutrients. Blueberries are an excellent source vitamins C, K, and E, as well as, fiber, manganese and other antioxidants. Studies have shown that blueberries, as part of a well-balanced diet, can reduce heart disease, cancer, cognitive degeneration, and lower cholesterol.

Blueberry season starts in mid-May for the southern states and moves north as the season progresses to the end of September. When selecting, lightly shake the container the berries are sold in; as fresh berries should move around freely within the container while moldy or rotten berries will clump together. Also, look for berries that are deep blue in color, firm and have a slight sheen to their skin

Since blueberries are ripe and ready to eat when purchased, they can be stored at room temperature for up to two days and then should be stored in the refrigerator for about one week. For best results, pick through and remove any moldy, discolored, or smashed berries before storing. Berries should be washed right before using, not before storing, as the extra moisture will cause them to age more quickly. If freezing fresh blueberries for later use, wash and thoroughly dry berries. Then, place blueberries on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and place in the freezer until frozen. Transfer individually frozen berries to freezer safe packaging and freeze for up to twelve months.

With their unique flavor, texture, and health benefits; blueberries are a versatile food that can be incorporated into any diet using a variety of cooking techniques. Enjoy blueberries raw as a healthy snack, or added to salads, cereals and smoothies. Blueberries can be baked in pies, muffins, or pancakes; and even lend themselves to savory dishes.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chicken with Blueberry Barbeque Sauce

Most people claim that they eat lighter in the summer. But as for me, I am obsessed with the flavors of summer, like fresh fruits and veggies, salads, burgers, ice cream, refreshing beverages, oh and don’t forget the s’mores.


I take advantage of these seasonal summer favorites and stuff myself silly for as long as I can. Of all these summer flavors, fresh summer fruit is my absolute favorite! Ok, honestly of course s’mores are my all-time favorite summer treat, BUT, as much as I would love to live on S’mores and S’mores alone that is not a very figure friendly diet.

But summer fruit; it sustains me. From salads to smoothies to fruit salsas on fish to toping my morning cereal, and even transformed into a barbeque sauce for chicken!

If fruit in your barbeque sauce sounds alarming, well don’t let it be. I first heard of this last summer when my Aunt and Uncle hosted us for 4th of July and had barbeque catered from a local barbeque joint. This place was known for their barbeque sauce, one of which was a blackberry barbeque sauce. That blackberry sauce served up on some pork ribs was sweet, and tangy with a slight kick. Perfect, and all be, not overly fruity.
This barbeque sauce is the same, complex and fruity, with just less heat of that blackberry sauce. If you are skeptical it is worth the try, you might actually get a wild hair and become a berry barbeque sauce lover.

One Year Ago: Kung Pao Style Ramen Noodles
Two Years Ago: 'Angry' Sausage and Pepper Pasta
Three Years Ago: Super-Stuffed French Bread Pizza Rustica


Chicken with Blueberry Barbeque Sauce
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes Serves: 4

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons finely minced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoons ground ginger
1/8 teaspoons ground allspice
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
1 (pound) chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine vinegar, sugar, onion, ginger, allspice, ketchup, and blueberries in a saucepan and cook over medium heat stirring occasionally for about 8-10 minutes or until sauce has thickened and is fairly smooth.

Meanwhile, sprinkle salt and pepper over chicken. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add seasoned chicken and cook for 4 minutes per side or until cooked through.

Serve cooked chicken topped with blueberry barbeque sauce.

Adapted from Food on the Table

Friday, July 13, 2012

Kids in the Kitchen: Peach Smoothie

I don’t know why I associate smoothies as kid’s food. I mean last time I did a ‘kids in the kitchen’ series I featured a smoothie and here I go again.


I think maybe it is because they are so easy, so nutritious and so tasty, that how can they NOT be perfect for kids (oh and adults too! Smiley face!)

Not only is this a recipe that kids of all ages will enjoy it is one that kids can help with too. Since ingredients do not have to be exact in a smoothie, this is the perfect recipe for kids to practice measuring ingredients and slicing peaches.


I have shared this before but I will share it again, my tip to the perfect smoothie is to use frozen fruit in lieu of ice to get a perfectly cold smoothie with the best consistency without watering down your drink. Since the frozen peaches may be a little difficult for children to cut, I suggest letting them thaw slightly or you can substitute canned or fresh peaches that have been peeled.

So get blendin’ and make this ‘saweet’ smoothie that screams summer!

One Year Ago: Kung Pao Style Ramen Noodles
Two Years Ago: 'Angry' Sausage and Pepper Pasta
Three Years Ago: Super-Stuffed French Bread Pizza Rustica



Peach Smoothie
By Heather of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version
Prep Time: 5 minutes Serves: 2

2 tablespoons honey
1 cup peach or vanilla yogurt
2/3 cup vanilla flavored soy, almond or coconut milk
2 cups chopped frozen peaches (peeled)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Honey Pork Tenderloin Kabobs

This one’s for my sister.


You see she loves, and I mean loves, honey mustard.

And honestly this was a new fact to me until just recently; when I went to visit her a few months back and we went to grab lunch at one of our favorite places, Chick-fil-a. She got her chicken sandwich with fries and honey mustard and I got mine with Polynesian sauce and Chick-fil-a sauce. We both then debated which sauces were better and she was honey mustard hands down all the way!

So I know she would love this recipe!


These kabobs are so simple and perfect for summer. Eric’s favorite part was of course the pork, and I loved everything else but unfortunately the peaches. (Boo!) I normally love grilled peaches but I think that the ones I used for this recipe where just still not ripe enough and I really didn’t think the mustard flavor really pared well with them. Next time I make this I will probably do the veggies and pork (because those things benefited greatly from the honey mustard glaze) on skewers by themselves and then grill the peaches on skewers all by themselves with honey drizzled on afterwards.

Ahhh. The tastes of summer!

One Year Ago: Grilled Paradise Pork Chops and In Season: Mangos
Two Years Ago: 'Angry' Sausage and Pepper Pasta
Three Years Ago: Hearty Bolognese Sauce


Honey Pork Tenderloin Kabobs
Printable Version
Prep time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes Serves: 4

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup mustard
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into one-inch cubes
1 1/2 (pound) pork tenderloin, cut into one-inch cubes
3 medium unpeeled peaches, pitted and quartered
2 small yellow onions, each cut into
4 two-inch pieces
(as needed) salt and pepper
(as needed) skewers

Preheat grill to medium high heat.

Soak skewers in water for at least 15 minutes, while preparing vegetables.

Mix honey, mustard and tarragon in a bowl; stir well and set aside. Steam sweet potatoes until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Thread 2 sweet potato cubes, 2 pork cubes, 2 peach quarters, 2 onion pieces alternately onto each skewer. Brush kabobs with honey glaze mixture and season with salt and pepper.

Lightly oil grill. Grill over medium-hot coals 5 minutes on each side.

Adapted from Food on the Table
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