Sunday, February 1, 2015

New Recipe, Old Recipes

So food.  Love food.  Love cooking.  Have 4 kids, work just about full time, run 4 days a week, volunteer, everything else.  How in heaven's name do I feed my family?!

Well, it's taken a while (like almost 20 years?!) to hone it.  But over the last several years I've been teaching anyone interested in how to cook for your family practically every night, no matter how busy you are.  And that's something I plan to share here soon.

But for now - I've been cooking a lot this week!  I tried a new recipe that I've been carrying around for at least 10 years, baked a favorite recipe that I got out of USA Weekend Magazine at least a dozen years ago, and tonight I made Chicken Cacciatore the way TMT likes it (instead of the even-easier crockpot one I've been using for a few years).

First, the new recipe!  I got some kind of Betty Crocker recipe pamphlet a million years ago, like before Pinterest became a thing.  Or maybe even before the interwebs.  But I tore the page with this recipe on it out and tossed the rest and saved it, waiting for the chance to try it.  Sure enough, I found it on Betty Crocker's website here.  Wish I'd known, cause I could have tossed the paper recipe ages ago!

Since we live at an altitude of 4,700 feet where it's also dry as a bone, my recipes tend to need more liquid, so keep that in mind when you compare my modifications to the original recipe.

Bistro Lentil Barley Soup
(adapted from Betty Crocker link above)


1     bag (16 ounces) brown lentils, sorted and rinsed  (okay, I never do this - but you can)
2     medium onions, chopped (1 cup) (I use giant sweet onions, so about half of one of those babies makes a cup)
2     medium carrots, diced (1 cup)
1     can (14 1/2 oz) diced tomatoes with roasted garlic, undrained (I used plain old diced tomatoes, and added garlic powder - cause I'm lazy)
12    oz smoked turkey kielbasa, cut lengthwise into fourths, then sliced
1/3   c uncooked barley
2     cans (14 1/2 oz each) ready-to-serve beef broth
7     cups water
1    15 oz. can tomato sauce
Put the whole shebang in the slow cooker (and use liners - makes cleanup WAY easier), except the tomato sauce.  Cover and cook on Low for 7-8 hours.  I felt like the soup was a little bit watery, so I added the can of tomato sauce.  Add half of it, taste, then add the rest if you'd like.  

Next is the coffeecake!  This is the bomb dot com.  I love it because it's kind of modular - a customizable recipe, if you will.  Our favorite way is with raspberry jam - ideally, homemade jam!  If you have a cheesecake hater like we do, you can leave that part out, no biggie.

Here is the original recipe.  Below is how I make it.

Custom Coffeecake
(adapted from Pam Anderson's recipe in USA Weekend magazine)

Crumble topping:
 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
 6 tablespoons butter, melted but not hot

 1/2 cup of your choice - coarsely chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds), old-fashioned oatmeal or sweetened flaked coconut.  I've been known to do nuts AND oatmeal AND coconut, and to go more like 1 c. total of these, combined.

Optional cream cheese filling:
 6 ounces softened cream cheese
 1/3 cup sugar
 1 egg
 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Coffeecake batter:
 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
 1/4 teaspoon salt
 5 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
 1/2 cup sugar
 1 egg
 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt OR sour cream (fat free okay)

Optional fruit (or chocolate) filling:
 1/2 cup of your choice - raspberry or strawberry jam; peach, cherry, or pineapple preserves; apple butter; orange marmalade or mini chocolate chips

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9-inch square metal baking pan with cooking spray. **Fold a 17-inch length of heavy-duty foil to 8 1/2 inches wide and fit in the pan bottom and up 2 sides, so you can use the foil overhang as a handle to pull the baked cake from the pan.** (I do NOT mess with this whole foil sling thing.  Life is waay too short.)

Topping: Use hands to thoroughly mix ingredients in a medium bowl, pressing together to form large clumps; set aside.

Cream cheese filling: Beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until thoroughly mixed. Beat in egg and vanilla until smooth; set aside.

Cake: Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
Beat butter, sugar and egg with an electric mixer set on medium-high until light and fluffy. Beat in half the dry ingredients, then the yogurt. then add the rest of the dry ingredients.  Beat until ingredients are fully incorporated.  Batter will be kind of stiff.

Spread batter evenly over prepared pan (NOTE - it will be a challenge to cover the bottom of the pan entirely - but don't worry, do your best). Spread cream cheese filling over batter. Dollop fruit filling (or sprinkle chocolate chips) over cream cheese filling. Finally, sprinkle evenly with crumble topping.

Bake until batter is fully set and topping is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Run a thin-bladed knife around the sides, then use foil handles to pull cake from pan onto the wire rack. Cool to room temperature and serve. Can be covered with foil/plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for one day.  Refrigerate leftovers, if there are any.

LAST ONE - okay, maybe I should break these up into separate entries, eh?!  I do not have any recollection whatsoever of where this recipe came from.  So I'm not trying to plagiarize at all - but I've also changed it over the years, so hopefully it's "original" enough that I don't run afoul of some recipe author out there.

Chicken Cacciatore

1 (3-1/2 to 4 lb) broiler-fryer chicken, cut up
   -can use thighs and breasts; cut breasts into 2 pieces and remove    skin from thighs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1.5 c chopped onions
2 garlic doves, minced (or 1/2 t garlic powder if you're lazy like me)
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 (14-1/2 oz) can cut-up, peeled tomatoes, undrained
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons basil
3 teaspoons crushed oregano
1/4 cup dry white wine (or chicken broth if you don't cook with wine)
1 15 oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained

1. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons flour to coat lightly.
2. In a 5-quart or larger Dutch oven, heat oil. Add chicken thighs ONLY (not breasts) and cook over medium-high heat, turning, until browned on both sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove to a plate.
3. In drippings remaining in pan, cook onions and garlic, stirring constantly, until onions are softened and light golden, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, 3 minutes longer. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute longer, until thoroughly blended. Deglaze pan with wine or broth for a minute or two, scraping up browned bits. Stir in tomatoes with their liquid, tomato sauce, oregano and basil. Heat to boiling.
4. Return chicken to pan and spoon sauce over pieces. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat 35 minutes. Stir in beans and simmer over low heat, uncovered, 10 minutes longer.

Now, TMT is into thick.  Thick everything.  Gravy, sauces, etc.  He says he's not, and it's my idea, but I disagree ;)  So, if you like things thick the way we make it at our house - add in some cornstarch mixed with a little water and cook until it thickens up.  About 2T with same amount of water.

Serve over pasta.  Or not!  It's delicious just as is.

I hope you enjoy some of these yummy items when the mood strikes.  I'll add in some pics so you can add a link to your Pinterest page shortly!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Why? Because!

I've been threatening to blog for years.  Figuratively!  I wanted to blog about food and how I manage to work nearly full time and still cook from mostly scratch for my family 29 nights a month, or about my running obsession that's developed over the last five years, or any of a number of other topics.

The title of this blog came to me at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, when Mr. MT (music teacher!) started his new job as a high school choir director, after 8 years as choir/orchestra teacher at our kids' middle school.  Over the years, we've had a LOT of crazy, inane, borderline intrusive questions asked of his job, his compensation, his workload (or perceived lack thereof); this new position took the questions to a new level of nutso.  Thus, I determined that it was time to be able to not only write about cooking, food, meal planning, running, kids, and life - but also to be able to vent about the less-than-bright things that people say to my darling Mr. MT.

So, this is just the why.  I'll be posting the push-me-over-the-edge to the blog title story soon enough.  In the meantime, thanks for reading, and whatever you do - always remember that the glass is half full, and enjoy the ride!