Kitchen Concoctions: August 2012

Friday, August 31, 2012

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

Yesterday I went on an obnoxious rant about how I am terribly sad to see the summer end. One thing that I have enjoyed all summer was the ‘kids in the kitchen’ cooking series. I started it because I thought it would be a fun feature to inspire the kids to get in the kitchen during the summer and give them something to do. I also started it because I have featured kid cooking tips, recipes, etc., before and have gotten good feedback.

When I started these posts at the beginning of the summer, I mentioned that it was going to be a ‘mini series’ and these ‘kids in the kitchen’ posts would be every Friday for 10 weeks, basically just for the summer until school started again. With school is starting (or already started) for most of the country and this series should be winding down. But my question to you is; should I keep the Friday ‘kids in the kitchen’ series going? I have a lot of good ideas for future ‘kids in the kitchen’ posts, including recipes, tips, and fun suggestions that I am giddy to share with you. Should I save these ideas until next summer and bring back the kids cooking series then and do as I have done this summer? Or should I just feature kids cooking ideas periodically or should I make this a regular Friday feature?

Please let me know what you think! I really would love to hear!

Well for today’s kids in the kitchen post I am sharing Kid Friendly Restaurants (Part Two). I shared part one of this post earlier in the summer. Part one contained specific restaurants that are fun for kids or cater to kids. For part two, I am sharing ideas for fun restaurants for kids that are more ‘national’ or ‘international’ and you can find no matter where you live.

Coffee Shops- Ok I know what you are thinking, coffee and kids, totally don’t go together. But I beg to differ. Many coffee shops these days know Mommies need afternoon coffee breaks and while they may not be able to get away from the kids altogether, any time to sit back for a few minutes while the kiddos play or are entertained is appreciated. Coffee shops are taking note of this and there are quite a few around the country that offer everything from playgrounds, to toys, to Mommy and me classes. There are even coffee shops in my city that occasionally have children’s story time, puppet shows and kids musicians. And don’t worry these coffee shops know you don’t want to serve your kids coffee so they offer a variety of kid friendly beverages and snacks such as hot chocolate, smoothies, milk shakes, fruit and yogurt parfaits, cookies, and popcorn.

Tea Houses- Alight, not another common stomping ground for kids but just like the coffee shops, if you find the right one it can be perfect! Doesn’t every little girl loving playing dress up and having a tea party? Many tea houses realize this and offer tea party packages. I have seen some locations do only packages that you can purchase for a group (birthday parties, Girl Scout troops, etc.) and have to have a set number of children. But other locations offer specific tea times on certain days of the month for mothers and daughters and walk-ins. Again these ‘tea’ parties are designated for children and allow them to dress up, drink lemonade or sweet tea, and eat PB and J ‘tea sandwiches.’ Call tea houses in your area to see if they offer any programs like this.

Frozen Yogurt Shops- This is probably the most commonly available ‘kid’ restaurant. And compared to other frozen treat shops (ice cream parlors, sno cone stands, etc.) frozen yogurt shops are more ‘hands’ on and perfect for kids and adults because it allows you to be the ‘chef’ and freely prepare your self-serve yogurt treat by hand selecting your custom toppings. Just be sure and let kids be kids, even if it means strawberry yogurt with gummy worms and gum balls!

Pizza Buffets- This one is a no brainer. Kids and pizza go together like peanut butter and jelly. But the pizza buffet, well that is pure heaven for kids. From the extreme variety, not to mention dessert pizzas, to, most often than not, video arcade games, pizza buffets are a great place for a kid to be a kid!

Dinner Cruise- This is totally type of dinner but oh so worth it. A dinner cruise is defiantly a splurge for a special occasion, but because it is such a special experience it is defiantly a memorable one. I remember being able to go on a dinner cruise on a few occasions as a kid and I remember feeling so grown up. It was so much fun and one of my fondest childhood memories. Even if you don’t live on the ocean (I don’t), if you have a lake nearby I am sure you can find a cruse for you!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Parmesan Pesto Chicken Burgers

So long summer.

I am normally, totally, completely, a die-hard fall fan. Like can’t.wait.for. college football, chili and soup, pumpkin, Halloween, Thanksgiving, boot wearin’, cooler weather, fall.

It IS my favorite time of year.

But this year I can’t seem to get on board.

I want summer to last. I want need more lazy days by the pool, I need more time to tackle my summer reading list (I’ve been reading the same one book all summer), I need the long summer days and sunlight, I like my cute summer outfits, consisting of shorts and tank tops, my body craves the fresh summer fruit, like no body’s business, and I haven’t had nearly enough summer barbeques with my friends and family.

Yeah, sure it is hot, but we have actually had a rather ‘mild’ summer this year, with only a handful of triple digit days compared to, like 100-something last year.

I think it all stems from the fact that I was super busy at the beginning of summer and really didn’t get to start *enjoying* summer until just a few weeks ago. And I guess that is my underlying fear for fall. I was looking at my calendar a few days ago and realized that from the first week of October, until practically the middle of January I have something almost every weekend not to mention a busy weekday schedule. I just don’t want fall (not to mention Christmas) come and go in a blink of an eye and miss out on things like playing in the leaves, ‘pumpkin hunting,’ our annual horror movie marathon, or just simply a brisk fall walk.

But I guess it is all up to me. To seize the day. Soak it all in. Force fall to be in my life! : )

But until I am *forced* to recognize fall, I will still embrace summer as long as I can.

That means eat more burgers.

Well, we actually eat burgers year round, but these burgers, with homemade pesto and basil leaves, are simply summer. They have been our favorite burger as of late. I have made these with both ground chicken and ground chicken sausage, and love the added depth of flavor the sausage adds. But, if all you can find is regular ground chicken that works fine too. These burgers are complex, yet simple and incredibly flavorful, moist and juicy.

So before summer officially ends, gather up that last little bit of basil (if your plants are still producing, if not buy some from the store, or check out this article for other leafy greens you can use) and make these burgers, perfect for Labor Day.

One Year Ago: Week of: S'mores
Two Years Ago: Cookbook Review: Make It Fast, Cook It Slow: The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking
Three Years Ago: Texas Chili

Parmesan Pesto Chicken Burgers
By Heather of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes Serves: 4

1 pound ground chicken sausage
1/3 cup seasoned Italian bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground sage
1/3 cup prepared pesto
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 small onion, grated
4 hamburger buns, for serving

Tomatoes, sliced
Spinach or basil leaves

Preheat outdoor grill or indoor grill pan to medium high heat.

Combine the first nine burger ingredients in a large bowl, and mix thoroughly together. Form burger mixture into four patties.

Place prepared burgers on grill and cook 4-5 minutes per side, or until cooked through.

Spread additional pesto, as needed, on hamburger buns. Top pesto covered buns with cooked burger, basil leaves, and tomato.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Website Wednesday: Chile Rellenos

It’s Hatch Chile season folks!!

I don’t know about your neck of the woods but here in Texas when Hatch Chile season hits, it hits hard! Everyone from the grocery store, to the local restaurants, to yes, even bloggers, like to celebrate!

So what’s the big deal? Hatch Chiles are a variety of chile pepper from New Mexico. They have an incredibly short season, from mid-August to late-September, and have a mild to medium heat profile. Hatch Chiles are used in a variety of dishes, from salsa verde, to soups, to Chile Con Queso, and the infamous Chiles Rellenos.

Since the arrival of Hatch Chiles, Eric has been begging me to make something with them, specifically Chiles Rellenos, cheese stuffed peppers that are battered and deep fried. So if Eric wanted Chiles Rellenos I was going to make them, but in the classic way.

Unfortunately, he wanted something more elaborate. All fancy and such. Stuffed with things like shredded chicken, ground sausage and veggies.

Ahh, yes! I agree those things would be fab stuffed in a Hatch Chile, but there is just something about a classic dish.

This was actually my first time making Chile Rellenos at home. The recipe below is very simple and classic. The key is to make sure your oil is hot enough but not too hot as to burn your chiles. Using a thermometer is best but you can also check the oil by sprinkling some flour in the oil. If the flour begins to sizzle you are good to go! Another tip to these rellenos is to serve them immediately. Due to being battered and deep fried they do not keep well. So eat up!

Chile Rellenos
Printable Version
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 25 minutes Serves: 6

6 Hatch Chile peppers
1 (8 oz) package cheddar cheese, sliced into strips
1/2 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
canola oil, as needed
salsa, for serving, if desired

Preheat broiler.

Line baking sheet with foil and place peppers on baking sheet. Place peppers under broiler and cook 3-4 minutes per side until slightly charred.

Remove peppers from oven, place in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let peppers sit for 5 minutes then pull away charred skin, keeping pepper intact.

Slice a small 1-2 inch slit in the middle/top of the pepper and carefully stuff in strip of cheese.

In a small bowl combine milk, the 1/2 cup flour, egg, baking powder, baking soda, salt and black pepper. Mix well to make a batter.

Place remaining ½ cup of flour in large bowl.

Pour enough oil in heavy frying pan to reach 1 inch in depth and heat over medium-high heat. Roll each pepper in the remaining flour and dip in the batter. Fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove peppers from oil and drain on paper towels.

Serve immediately with salsa if desired.

Inspired by All Recipes as seen on Yummly

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pamper Yourself: Girls Night In: Homemade Spa Party

Recently my girlfriends and I got together for a girls night out. We decided to go to a play that was free in our city. It had been a while since we had all gotten together. I enjoy our visits with each other and decided we should get together on a more regular basis.

The problem is that it has gotten so expensive to go out! One of my favorite things to do with girlfriends is go to the nail salon and be pampered. But the last time we went it was $40 dollars just for a pedicure. With the price of things these days that is just not in the budget to do very often but I do not want to skip out on our girls night out! So I decided to host a budget friendly girls night ‘in.’ Since my favorite girly thing to do is be pampered I decided the theme of our girls night should be a spa night.

Today I am sharing some of my suggestions on how to host a budget friendly girls night ‘in’ to pamper yourself, catch up with friends, escape responsibilities, relax a little; all without breaking the bank. I have shared homemade beauty treatments before and I have another one today. I think that I have become slightly obsessed with different homemade beauty treatments because, quite frankly, I am shocked with the success of them. I also like these treatments because not only of the ‘all-natural’ aspect but because they use ingredients right in my pantry (you know ones I can pronounce) and only cost a fraction of the department, heck even drug store, brands. Below are some recipes I recommend. I suggest, as the host of a spa party (focused on pampering yourself), to provide the ingredients for one beauty treatment and ask your guests to each bring a different treatment and the recipe to exchange. It is so much fun trying the different homemade beauty treatments and you and your girlfriends can compare each one and exchange the ‘recipes.’ A fun twist on the ‘old’ recipe exchange, don’t ya think!

I have shared so many homemade beauty treatments over the years but this is the first time I have shared a homemade foot bath. Which is kind of strange considering soaking my feet in the tub at the nail salon is my favorite part of the pedicure. Except this in the comfort of my own home! I love just sitting there ‘soaking’ it all in!

Coconut Foot Treatment
Printable Version
Prep Time: 5 minutes Makes one soak

1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons almonds
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 lemon, cut in half
¼ cup sea salt
Warm water, as needed

In a large enough bowl to soak both feet, combine the honey, almonds and milk. Add enough warm water to fill bowl. Soak your feet for 5 few minutes, then dip the lemon halves in the salt and rub them on your feet to exfoliate. Soak your feet for 10 minutes more.

Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray

Additional homemade spa treatments:

Chocolate Martini Face Mask
Avocado Banana Hair Mask
Heavenly Honey Oatmeal Mask
Vanilla Spice Body Scrub
Now although one of my favorite parts of visiting with girlfriends is laughing and catching up on the latest news in their lives, it doesn’t hurt to watch a few chick flicks! Pick out a few to play in the background while visiting and pampering or blast some good 80’s music!

Now for the food! To keep things budget friendly plan on serving light snacks and finger foods. Again to keep costs low for everyone, ask guests to contribute by bringing a food or drink to share. Here are a few spa worthy menu options.

Pamper Yourself With Drinks:

Sassy Spa Water
Tropical Sangria
Brazilian Lemonade
Pina Colada Smoothie
Cranberry Mimosa

Light Snacks and Finger Foods:

Chicken-Salad Tea Sandwiches
Chesapeake Bay Snack Mix
Ranch Crackers
Strawberry Banana Bread
S’mores Snack Mix
Greek Pasta Salad
Artichoke 'n Bacon Pizza Squares
Creamy Fruit Salad
Lemonade Fruit Dip

Pamper Yourself With Dessert:

No Bake Raspberry Tarts
The S’more Cookie
No-Bake Cheesecake
Peanut Butter Brownie Cupcakes
'Perfectly' Peppermint Brownies
Chocolate Ribbon Pie

A few more things to consider, making sure your girls night in is a hit:
  • Ask husbands to watch the kiddos. If they are unavailable, team up and hire a babysitter. Go in together with friends and hire one or two sitters to watch all the kids together at one house.
  • In addition to the homemade spa treatments, have baskets full of nail polish, nail polish remover, cotton balls, etc. for manicures and pedicuress.
  • Have plenty of wash cloths, new hair ties, bowls (for beauty products), etc. on hand for guests.
  • Don’t forget paper products for food, wine/champagne glasses, forks, serving utensils, etc.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Strawberry Banana Bread

Strawberries (and blueberries) (and bananas) are probably my favorite fruit. I snatch them up quickly and to extreme excess during prime strawberry season, the spring and summer months. I devour these sweet, juicy berries and then freeze whatever I can’t eat to consume for later.

My daily strawberry consumption is either in a smoothie or fruit and yogurt parfait for breakfast or an afternoon snack. I then consume this or even this fruit salad at least once a week.

My other, almost daily fruit consumption is bananas. Straight up, topped with peanut butter or thrown in a smoothie or bowl of plain Jane Cheerios; bananas come and go in our house like candy. But as quickly as I try to consume this inexpensive fruit, I always have two bananas that go too far past my liking. So I freeze them, to make smoothies or banana bread (or these cupcakes or this baked oatmeal); but because no one makes traditional banana bread like my Momma, I have to do something different.

So earlier this summer, when I had more strawberries than even I knew what to do with and a few ripe bananas just lying around, I knew I had to combine the two. Into bread. To be consumed. By me.

Strawberry and bananas go together like peanut butter and chocolate. This bread was incredibly moist (see cooking and storing tips in recipe below) and highlighted each flavor profile perfectly, with neither out shining the other.

And while I know strawberry season is almost over, quickly grab up some of these crimson beauties and whip up this bread one afternoon. If heaven forbid, fresh strawberries are no longer in your neck of the woods, frozen sliced strawberries (NOT in syrup) can be used, without thawing beforehand.

One Year Ag: S’mores Ice Cream Sundae
Two Years Ago: Foil Packet Tilapia
Three Years Ago: Texas Chili

Strawberry Banana Bread
By Heather of Kitchen Concoction:
Printable Version
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 40-45 minutes Makes: 2 (9 x 5 inch) loaves, 4 (5 3/4 x 3 x 2) loafs or 12 muffins

½ cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ cups mashed ripe bananas, approximately
3 bananas
1/3 cup vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 4 (5 3/4 x 3 x 2) inch mini loaf pans (or prefered size pans).

Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, beating until blended. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Then beat in bananas, yogurt and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine 2 ¾ cups flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and baking powder; mix well. Beat dry ingredients into wet ingredients until thoroughly mixed.

Place sliced strawberries in medium-sized bowl. Sprinkle lightly with remaining flour, and toss to evenly to coat. Gently stir strawberries into batter. Divide batter into prepared pans.

Bake bread until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes (adjust cooking times based on size pans using). Cool bread in pan on rack for 15 minutes. Cut around bread at short ends to loosen from pan. Turn bread out onto rack. Cool bread completely. Serve immediately.

Note: Due to the moisture of the bananas and strawberries this bread is best eaten within a day or two of baking. Leftover bread can then be frozen and thawed to room temperature or in the microwave.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Kids in the Kitchen: Peanut Butter Banana S’mores

I had to laugh at today’s blog post title, because, while this is totally a kid friendly recipe that the kids can make (with supervision) it is not made in a kitchen. Well, I guess you could make it in the kitchen but the preferred method is over a campfire on a camping trip! (Smile!)

You all know by now that I am a tiny bit s’mores obsessed. This obsession all started when I was about seven years old. That was the year my Mom became my Girl Scout leader. That was also the year I went on my first ‘camping trip’. I use this term loosely because we really didn’t go camping, we just went to my Uncle’s ranch and did camping 'stuff' like roast hot dogs, ride horses, play in the leaves, chase armadillos (remember this is Texas y’all!!) and build a campfire to do what I do best, make a kickin’ s’more.

Seriously what kid doesn’t like holding a stick (by the way, we thought it was so cool to use real sticks we found on the ground) with a mallow in rangin’ flames and then smushin’ it in between two grahams and chocolate.

This is the essence of childhood!

I couldn’t end camping week without a s’more recipe, cuz seriously campin’ isn’t the real deal without s’mores! I love this dressed up version of a s’more. The classic s’more flavor is transformed with my other favorite flavors: chocolate, banana and peanut butter!

Um…. Holla!

PS: Want more crazy s’more combos? Check out some of my other favorite versions here!

One Year Ago: S'mores Oatmeal
Two Years Ago: Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Three Years Ago: Red Velvet Cupcakes

Peanut Butter Banana S’mores
By Heather of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version
Prep Time: 3 minutes Cook Time: 3 minutes Serves: 1

1 sheet chocolate graham cracker, broken in half
1 chocolate peanut butter cup
1/3 medium banana
1 large marshmallow
Roasting stick

Prepare campfire.

Place peanut butter cup on one half of chocolate graham cracker.

Thread banana piece onto roasting stick and roast over camp fire for about 3 minutes or until starting to heat through and caramelize. During the last 20-30 seconds of cooking thread marshmallow onto end of roasting stick and cook until beginning to turn golden brown.

Once cooked sandwich roasted banana and marshmallow between cracker pieces on top of peanut butter cup.

Enjoy immediately!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Happy Trails: Five Tips for Camp Cooking

Hi Y’all! I hope you guys have been enjoying all the camping recipes and tips this week. Eric and I are going on another camping trip here soon and even though this trip is just for one night (not like our longest trip of five days at the beginning of the summer) I feel easy going about things.

Maybe because it is just one night, maybe it is because it is just us going on the trip (no friends tagging along), but I am just so laid back about this trip. I am chalking it up to the fact I am becoming an old pro at this stuff and the fact that I have all my tips/camping do’s and don’ts written down now (not just floating around in my head) for easy access and to show camping really is easy (for all you skeptics).

Today, I am sharing an article I wrote for meal planning/recipe site, Food on the Table, all about camp cooking preparation, food safety, and organization. Also check out the roundup of camp recipes from the blog-o-sphere at the end of the article!

Clear blue skies, fresh mountain air, and the peace and quiet of nature. Summer is a popular time to explore the great outdoors and for many that means camping! If you are planning a camping trip this summer, special camp cooking techniques and food safety are important to know. Below are five tips to keep in mind as you plan and enjoy your next trip outdoors.

• Research and plan ahead. This is the most important tip to a successful camping trip. Even though you will be away from home, making a meal plan for your camping trip is crucial to keeping your travel budget on track, as well as insures no one goes hungry and no ingredients are left behind. As you plan your trip, research your campsite and surrounding areas, taking note of the closest grocery store or gas station for ice refills or forgotten supplies.

• Gather your supplies. As you prepare your meal plan, gather the supplies and tools needed for preparing your food. Pots, utensils, can openers, aluminum foil, coal, matches, lighter fluid, cleaning and sanitation supplies, ice and a meat thermometer are all items that should be packed.

• Know your cooking method. Research your campsite’s current fire bans and restrictions. Some locations may not allow any type of fire; while others may simply have a few restrictions. Propane and charcoal grills, portable stoves, campfires, and even crock-pot cooking are all popular camp cooking techniques depending on your resources. No matter your preferred cooking technique, practice proper fire safety. Prepare your fire or grill well away from tents, and vegetation. Have plenty of water on hand for emergencies and never leave a fire unattended.

• Store food properly. With record high summer temperatures, this is vital for avoiding illness. Canned food is convenient and the safe even if left outdoors. However, if the can is slightly dented or bulging it should be discarded. Perishable food should be stored in a well-sealed cooler and covered completely with ice. Drain old ice and add fresh ice frequently to ensure food is kept cool. If camping in areas prone to bears, food should be stored in a food locker.

• Keep it simple. Camping is all about enjoying the great outdoors and good company. Remember camp food does not have to be gourmet. Do as much prep ahead of time at home and simply transport to your campsite.

Planing a trip into the great outdoors? Below are some great camping recipes from around the web.

Make-ahead Hawaiian Chicken Packets for Camping (Kitchen Concoctions)
Dutch Oven Focaccia Bread (Matt and Erin's Dutch Oven Experiments)
S’mores Banana Boat (Kitchen Concoctions)
Lumberjack Breakfast Packets (Echoes of Laughter)
S'mores Party and Backyard Campout (Kitchen Concoctions)
Campfire Flatbread Pizza (Dirty Gourmet)
Campfire Parmesan Popcorn (Kitchen Concoctions)
Grilled Stuffed Mushroom Recipe (Eating Richly)
Campfire Meatballs (Kitchen Concoctions)
Dutch Oven Black Forest Cake and Dutch Oven Cobbler (Taste and Tell on Cafe Zupas Blog)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Make-Ahead Hawaiian Chicken Packets for Camping

Today’s campin’ n’ cookin’ tip is to not try a new recipe for the first time out on the camp site. Obviously, camp cooking is very different than cooking in your home kitchen and even grilling in your own back yard. And even though you may not have a bonfire to practice camp cooking at home, at least make every recipe you plan on cooking in your home kitchen/grill before you go. A little practice is critical because you don’t want to be out in the middle of nowhere with little resources and little food (for back up or do overs).

This leads me to tip number two. Even if you carefully plan your meals to cook from scratch, like the recipes I am featuring this week, bring back up food. From peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to tuna, have simple easy to prepare food on hand in case, something happens, like it rains and you can’t cook on an open fire.

The camping recipe for today is one I had a little trouble with. Don’t get me wrong this was some of the most tender chicken I have ever eaten, so juicy, yet it lacked in flavor and execution. First the sauce leaked out of the packets getting everywhere, so make sure you use heavy duty foil and double wrap it (I made these changes to the recipe below). And while this meal wasn’t totally flavorless, there was something missing, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Maybe I needed to marinate the chicken or maybe the sauce needs just something else. This recipe has tons of potential, especially when chicken traditionally grilled or baked can sometimes come on the dry side. So I will try this one again and try a few tweaks!

One Year Ago: S’mores Snack Mix
Two Years Ago: Cookbook Review: Make It Fast, Cook It Slow
Three Years Ago: Red Velvet Cupcakes

Make-ahead Hawaiian Chicken Packets for Camping
Printable Version
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 25-35 minutes Serves: 4

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
¼ teaspoon salt and black pepper
2/3 cup teriyaki sauce
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 green bell peppers (seeded and sliced)
1 red bell peppers (seeded and sliced into strips)
1 onions (chopped)
1 (20 ounce) can pineapple tidbits
8 pieces (about) 20" x 12" heavy-duty aluminum foil

Drain pineapple and set aside juice.

Combine pineapple juice with teriyaki sauce, crushed red pepper and soy sauce in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup.

Place 1 chicken breast over the foil then season with salt and black pepper on both sides. Pour 1/4 of the teriyaki sauce mixture over chicken and turn the breast to coat with the sauce. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts. Divide equal amounts of green and red bell pepper slices, chopped onions and pineapple tidbits and place on top of chicken breast.

Fold the short ends of the foil together over the center and seal, allowing room for expansion and circulation. Fold in the open edges, sealing each packet securely. Wrap each packet with additional pieces of foil to prevent leakage.

When ready to grill, punch a couple of small holes in the TOP each packet to allow steam to escape. Place on medium hot grill and cook for about 25-35 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Note: Packets can be made up to 24 hours in advance.

Baking directions: Prepare foil packets according to directions. Place on baking sheet and bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through.

Adapted from as seen on Yummly

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Campfire Parmesan Popcorn

One of the reasons I love camping so much is the simplicity. Yeah it is a lot of work to pack and prepare and get your tent and campsite set up, but after that it is just relaxing and hanging out. No cell phones, computers, or TV’s to be connected to. No places to be or deadlines to meet.

Just the great outdoors and good company.

I think that a lot of people forget that this is what camping is all about. Yes you need to be prepared and organized (this key to a successful camping trip), but keep things simple and don’t sweat it.

Keeping things simple also applies to camp cooking. Nothing tastes better than a roasted (or grilled) hot dog served simply in a bun topped with nothing but mustard when deep in the heart of a camping trip!

So today’s tip is to remember simple is best when planning your camp menu! Simple like hot dogs, s’mores, and this Parmesan Campfire Popcorn. Nothing fancy about this, just popcorn kernels, a little oil, parmesan cheese, aluminum foil and a good ole’ campfire or grill!

And I know what you are saying, but can’t you just buy one of those campfire popcorn pots to make popcorn in? Yeah you could but why spend extra money or take up precious space in your supply box when some foil will suffice.

Oh and here is camping tip number two of the day, something I learned from my Mom. Throughout the year when you treat yourself to take out, save the extra condiment packets (the little packets of soy sauce, mayo, parmesan cheese, etc.). Usually these are thrown away but due to their size, can easily be stored in a plastic baggie and placed in a cooler or dry food storage box for camping. I love using these for camping because I don’t have to haul around a ton of different condiments in their regular sized containers (when I only need a small amount), which can take up valuable space, and I don’t have to worry about an entire container of something or another going bad, spilling, etc. If you don’t get take out a lot, usually you can purchase these small condiment packets at a warehouse store, in large quantities, so you might want to go in with neighbors or a women’s group (unless you camp A.LOT).

So there you have it! More camping tips and recipes! Oh and if you are wondering, YES you can make this popcorn in the oven (directions below) and NO it does not use butter. I don’t like trying to camp with butter, can get melty and messy, and the parmesan cheese coats the popcorn just fine, for a ‘lighter’ yet salty snack (but never fear my butter loving friends, I did include butter in the at home directions).

One Year Ago: Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa and In Season: Corn
Two Years Ago: Canadian Bacon and Pineapple Pizza
Three Years Ago: Fried Pork Chops

Campfire Parmesan Popcorn
By Heather of Kitchen Concoctions,
Printable Version
Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 8-10 minutes Serves: 1-2

¼ cup unpopped popcorn kernels
1 tablespoon canola oil
½ tablespoon parmesan cheese
Salt, to taste

Build campfire or heat grill. Tear off a piece of aluminum foil, approximately 18-inches long. Pour the popcorn in the middle of the foil and drizzle with the oil. Fold the short ends of the foil together over the center and seal, allowing room for expansion and circulation. Fold in the open edges, sealing each packet securely.

Using long tongs hold pouch over campfire, or place pouch directly on grill rack over prepared coals.

Wait approximately 3-5 minutes for the corn kernels to start popping. Once the kernels start popping use tongs to gently shake over coals/fire until popping is done, about 2-3 minutes.

Once popped, carefully open pouch, immediately add parmesan cheese and salt to taste. Shake to evenly coat popcorn with seasoning. Serve immediately.

Note: To make this in the oven, prepare as directed above and place foil packet on baking sheet in preheated 450 degree oven. Carefully monitor cooking, listening for the kernels to start popping. Once beginning to pop, carefully open oven door and use tongs to shake foil packet. After popping remove foil packet from oven and continue with recipe as directed. At home, add 1 tablespoon melted butter to popcorn before adding parmesan cheese and salt.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Campin' n' Cookin': Campfire Meatballs

You asked for it!

And I am here to give it to you!

I mentioned casually awhile back (after Eric and I got back from a five day camping trip) that I wanted to do a whole themed week on camp cooking. I got a lot of positive feedback and requests from you all that you wanted to hear some of those tips and see some of my camping recipes.

So this week is that week!

A whole week of recipes and tips about cooking while enjoying the great outdoors! First, let me say I am no “expert” when it comes to camping. I did earn my ‘camping badge’ when I was in girl scouts many, many moons ago AND camping is still something I enjoy doing today!

In fact, this was a hobby that I was able to share/teach Eric about (he had NEVER been camping until he meet me). We have been camping everywhere from Wyoming to Arkansas to Tennessee. And while a lot of people take camping trips during the summer (we have been twice this summer and have one more trip planned in a few weeks) here in Texas a lot of camping takes place in the fall and spring when it is MUCH cooler.

So if camping ‘season’ is just getting started for you I hope you find these tips useful, and if it is beginning to wind down for your neck of the woods then ‘pin’ these tips/recipes for next year!

One thing I have learned from camping for so many years is to bring separate coolers; one for meat and another for drinks and other foods (cheese, condiments, fruit, etc.). Having two coolers is essential to prevent raw meat from accidently getting onto other food/drinks. Also pack meat in plastic storage containers, not plastic baggies, before placing in coolers. This will help avoid cross contamination and prevent raw meat from leaking everywhere.

The last tip/suggestion (for today) is to prepare as much food as possible before hand. Bring fresh onions already chopped, stored in plastic storage containers. Things like hamburger patties or the meatballs below can be mixed and shaped at home. Preparing as much as possible at home limits the number of supplies/utensils you need to bring as well as the amount of work needed to be done at the campgrounds (time that can be spent swimming in the lake or hiking!!).

These meatballs are a fun and simple recipe to make while grilling on your summer camping trip or on the backyard grill. Serve with some crusty bread and grilled veggies or a green salad for a complete meal!

One Year Ago: Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa and In Season: Corn
Two Years Ago: Canadian Bacon and Pineapple Pizza
Three Years Ago: Fried Pork Chops

Campfire Meatballs
Printable Version
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes Serves: 4

1 pound lean ground beef
1/4 cup Italian style bread crumbs
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper
1 (24 oz) jar marinara sauce
Grated Parmesan cheese, as desired, for serving

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the ground beef, bread crumbs, 1/4 cup marinara sauce, egg, and seasonings; mix well. Shape into meatballs, each about 1 1/4 inches across.

Cut pieces of aluminum foil about 18" x 12" each. Place equal amounts of the meatballs in the center of each piece of foil. Top each meatball with 3-4 tablespoons marinara sauce. Fold the short ends of the foil together over the center and seal, allowing room for expansion and circulation. Fold in the open edges, sealing each packet securely.

Place the packets on the grill for 20 to 25 minutes, or until no pink remains in the meat, turning the packets over once during the grilling. Carefully open the tops of the packets to avoid steam burns and sprinkle with cheese just before serving, if desired.

Optional: Serve with garlic bread sticks for dipping into the spaghetti sauce, if desired.

Note: For camping, these meatballs can be made ahead of time. Mix ground beef mixture as directed and shape into meatballs. Place prepared meatballs on baking sheet and place in freezer. Freeze for 4-5 hours or until frozen solid. Once frozen, transfer frozen meatballs to freezer safe packaging and freeze until ready to be placed in cooler to transfer to campsite to complete preparation and cooking. Or place frozen meatballs in foil as directed and place in plastic zip-top bag or storage container to place in cooler to transfer to campsite. Once at campsite continue with recipe as directed, making sure meatballs have thawed before cooking.

adapted from Food on the Table

Friday, August 17, 2012

Kids in the Kitchen: Crunchy Oven-Baked Chicken Toes

This ‘kids in the kitchen’ series is near and dear to my heart. I began cooking and baking when I was just a child, and ever since I have had a strong passion for cooking and about sharing the knowledge of cooking with others, including kids!

I hope that this passion has come through in my writing, recipes, and stories, here on this blog. Because of this desire to share this passion and knowledge of cooking with others, especially children, I started sharing kids cooking tips, recipes, etc. when I first started this blog over three years ago.

Today’s ‘kids in the kitchen’ recipe is actually one of the very first kid’s recipes I shared on this blog after just a few months of blogging (boy, have my pictures come a long way).

This is a great recipe, and one of our favorites. The recipe is written for kids specifically and is one that even the pickiest of eaters will have a hard time turning their noses up at! In fact, these chicken nuggets, a.k.a chicken ‘toes,’ are ones that Eric and I enjoy on a regular bases!

The cornflakes stay extra crispy, even after baking in the oven, and they provide a protective coating around the chicken to ensure tender, juicy chicken. Not only do these chicken ‘toes’ have perfect texture profiles going for them, the slight hint of spice in the crunchy bready paired with the sweet and tangy sauce makes for a finger-lickin’ dinner that so happens to be both kid and adult approved!

One Year Ago: Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa and In Season: Corn
Two Years Ago: Canadian Bacon and Pineapple Pizza
Three Years Ago: Fried Pork Chops

Crunchy Oven-Baked Chicken Toes
Printable Version
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 15-20 minutes Serves: 4

2 1/2 cups cornflakes cereal
1 cup breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon allspice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 pounds chicken breast tenders, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup barbecue sauce

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Make the breading: pour the cornflakes into a pie pan or other large, shallow dish. Crush the cereal up with your hands. Mix in bread crumbs, brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon each salt, pepper and allspice.

Drizzle the vegetable oil evenly over the breading. Toss and turn it to mix the oil all through the bread crumbs and crushed up corn flakes.

Pour the flour into another shallow dish. Add the ¼ teaspoon each salt, pepper and allspice to the flour. Add the beaten eggs into a third shallow dish.

Season chicken pieces with remaining salt, pepper and allspice. Turn the chicken in flour, then in the eggs and then in the special, crunchy breading. Arrange the chicken toes on prepared baking sheet.

Place the chicken toes in the oven and cook until crisp and brown all over, about 15-20 minutes.

When the toes come out of the oven, it's time to stir up the sauce for dipping them. Mix together honey, mustard and barbecue sauce in a small bowl. Dip your hot chicken toes into the honey mustard barbecue sauce.

adapted from Rachael Ray's Classic 30 Minute Meals: The All Occasion Cookbook

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cooking Basics: Working with Fresh Herbs

While the triple digit temps, don’t show any indication that summer is winding down, the calendar, as well as the sight of school busses rolling through neighborhoods is a clear sign that the lazy days of summer won’t be with us for much longer.

Because of my realization horror of this, I am squeezing in as many summer-y things as possible before I wake up and it is pitch black outside at 5:00, at NIGHT! (Man, if I was waking up at 5:00pm I am sure I have bigger issues at hand than just the fact summer is over!)

One thing that I’ll miss about summer, besides the pool, long nights, and more sno-cones than I can count, is all the fresh summer foods; fruit, veggies and fresh herbs!

If you still have fresh herbs thriving in your garden or happen to pick some up at the grocery store or farmer’s market, be sure and read this article I wrote for meal planning/recipe site Food on the Table, with cooking, storage, and growing tips for fresh herbs. Also be sure and check out all the recipes at the bottom of this article from around the web that use fresh herbs!

For many, cooking with fresh herbs is easy and effortless, while others struggle with basic herb knowledge. However, fresh herbs can add a bounty of flavor to sweet and savory dishes, which simply cannot be obtained from their dried counterparts.

Below are several tips on how to use fresh herbs in everyday cooking.

Grow your own:

Having a garden can be intimidating; but maintaining an herb garden is quite manageable and will provide the freshest herbs possible. While, planting herbs directly from seeds is the cheapest route, this time of year many grocery stores sell sprouting herb plants for mere dollars that simply need to be replanted.


When purchasing packaged or loose herbs, look for herbs that are vibrant in color and aroma. Avoid herbs that are limp, yellow in color, or contain dark spots.


Loosely wrap herbs in a damp paper towel, place in a plastic zip-top bag and store in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. If stored in this fashion, herbs will keep for 6-7 days. Use caution if freezing fresh herbs, as freezing can cause them to blacken and become slimy. For best results, hard herbs, such as rosemary or thyme, can be frozen as is in freezer safe packaging. While soft herbs, such as cilantro or basil, should be washed and chopped, then frozen in ice cube trays filled with water.


Wash herbs only when ready to use, as extra moisture will cause herbs to age quickly. To wash herbs, place them in a large bowl of cool water and shake them around. After washing, dry herbs using a salad spinner or simply pat dry with a paper towel.


Herbs should be chopped right before using. Strong, hard herbs, such as marjoram and thyme, should be added at the beginning of cooking as they can withstand long cooking times. Tender herbs, such as parsley or cilantro, should be added at the end of cooking or simply used as a garnish. In general, avoid using the woody stems of herbs; however, when making soups or stocks, stems can withstand the long cooking process and add extra flavor, but should be removed before serving.

Get cookin’ with fresh herbs and try one of these recipes below!

Cilantro Lime Rice (Kitchen Concoctions)
Iced Green Tea Mojito (Skinny Taste)
Marinated Tomato Salad (Kitchen Concoctions)
Cauliflower, Thyme and Green Tea Cream Soup (Zizi's Adventures)
Tomato Basil Orzo Salad with Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette (Kitchen Concoctions)
5 Minute Lemon Basil Guacamole Dip (New Nostalgia)
Classic Pesto Sauce (Kitchen Concoctions)
Almond and Rosemary Shortbread Cookies (London Bakes)
Sassy Spa Water (Kitchen Concoctions)
Minty Watermelon Soda Floats (How Sweet It Is)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Website Wednesday: Cornflake Waffles with Honey Sauce

Waffle? Pancake? Or French Toast?

Which one are you? You know when you go to get breakfast at the local diner, do you get one or the other or all three?

Whether I am at home or eating out it depends what mood I am in and if it is National Pancake Day or not.

I love pancakes for their light, fluffy texture; but they tend to get soggy quickly and are a pain in the butt to cook because you can only cook two or so at a time. Unless that is you have a large electric griddle that you can make like ten at one time.

I love French toast because it brings back memories of breakfast with my Dad, but if done wrong it can be a complete soggy mess.

But waffles, waffles have so much going for them. Nice spongy like texture which holds up to the drenching of syrup without getting soggy and because of those special grooves, holds a pocket of syrup for every bite. Plus with a waffle iron you can make at least four at a time!

There are defiantly two parts to these waffles, the slightly crunchy (made possible by the addition of corn flakes) yet still chewy waffle. Then the buttery, honey sauce with a hint of spicy aromatic cinnamon and nutmeg. With their powers combine, these were a delightful and sunshiny start to my day!

One Year Ago: Week of: Lemonade
Two Years Ago: Cookbook Review: The Ultimate Ice Cream Book
Three Years Ago: Fried Pork Chops

Cornflake Waffles with Honey Sauce
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes Makes approximately 8 waffles
Printable Version

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup crushed cornflakes, plus more as desired for serving
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, separated
1 3/4 cups milk
1/3 cup canola oil

Honey Sauce:
1 cup honey
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat waffle iron.

In a bowl, combine flour, cornflakes, baking powder and salt. Beat egg yolks lightly; add milk and oil. Stir into dry ingredients just until combined. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; fold into batter.

Bake in a preheated waffle iron according to manufacturer's directions until golden brown.

For honey sauce, combine honey, syrup, butter, cinnamon and nutmeg in a saucepan. Cook and stir on medium-low until heated through.

Serve waffles topped with honey sauce and additional crushed corn flakes.

Adapted from Yummly

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