Sunday, October 31, 2010

A note about my recipes...

I'm sure you've all noticed that I don't write down many measurements in my recipes unless I'm baking.  I like to have a recipe to begin with, but then it becomes a "feel as I go" kind of thing.  I like to tweak and fix recipes to my liking.  And most of the time, I don't remember from one time to the next exactly what I did, so it's different each time anyway. 

Baking is another matter.  If your ingredients aren't exact, your food won't turn out right.  It's all in the chemistry of the ingredients, something that I have zero knowledge of.  And I'm not ashamed to say it.

For those of you who feel lost without a recipe, I'll do my best from now on to take note of the things that I use and the amounts I use.  I can't promise that every recipe will be exact.  But that's the fun of cooking.  You can take what someone else has done and make it your own.  Try it sometime - you'll feel extremely liberated and you'll want to burn your bra and make up your own recipes!

Well, you may not want to burn your bra.  Unless you have one to spare.  ;)


Greek Chicken Wraps

It's Sunday and I made something that I've had several times at my friend, Katie's, house.  It's a great, easy dinner and since I happen to be rather fond of Greek food and seasonings, it's no trouble to make!  It's even easier than this Greek Chicken recipe I used to make.  Although it is rather good, this way that I'm going to show you is much easier!

I don't have a picture of the lineup of ingredients - sorry.  But here's a list!

boneless, skinless chicken breasts - about 1/2 breast for each person
feta cheese
black or kalamata olives
diced tomatoes
sliced red onion
tzatziki sauce - recipe following
Greek salad dressing
salt and pepper
lemon juice

Cut your chicken into cubes or strips - your choice - and place in a ziploc bag.  Add enough Greek Salad dressing to cover the chicken, a squirt or two of lemon juice, salt and pepper to the bag.  Mush (yes, that's a technical term) it all around and place into your refrigerator for a couple of hours to marinate. 

When I buy chicken and am putting it into ziploc bags to go into the freezer, I actually add the Greek dressing to a couple of bags right then.  That way, on the day I want to make these, all I have to do is take the bag out of the freezer and let it thaw out.  Easy peasy.

Another note - you don't want to add too much lemon juice to the bag either.  Too much, and the acid will start the 'cook' the chicken.  Not pretty and not at all tasty. You just want enough lemon juice to cut the oil from the dressing.

I have to say a word about cast iron skillets.  This is my largest one - 12 inches - and I love it.  I mean, I LOVE IT.  I know this is a horrible picture, but trust this Southern girl.  You'll never find a better retainer of heat than this.  This one is my chicken frying skillet.  Nice deep sides.

These are my three cast iron skillets, nested on each other.  12 inches, 10 inches and 8 inches.  See the cut marks on the 8 inch one?  Those are from the knives we've used to cut the cornbread right when it comes out of the oven.  An 8 inch cast iron skillet is the best way to make corn bread.  It gets crusty on the outside but inside stays nice and moist.  The middle skillet was my paternal grandmother's.  My husband decided one day that it was dirty and needed a good scrubbing - with a brillo pad.  Years and years of seasoning washed down the drain.  I've never let him forget.  I'm still trying to get that perfect seasoning back on it.  :(

Anyway, sorrow aside - let's cook some chicken!

Place a few pieces of chicken in your pan.  Don't crowd them, or they'll steam more than they will sear, which is not what you want.  You want them to get nice and brown on the first side...

Like this!  Ain't it a pretty thing?  After they're nicely cooked, remove them from the pan and add the rest of your chicken.  I only had 2 batches as I only used one large chicken breast.  If you have more chicken, you'll obviously have more batches to cook.

After all the chicken is cooked, it's time to assemble!  Take a warmed tortilla (I nuke a few in a damp paper towel) and spread tzatziki sauce on it (recipe at the end).  Then add as few or as many pieces of chicken on top of that, then top with feta cheese.  Black olives, red onion and tomatoes are especially good, but my children won't eat any of those things, so I left them off.

I also didn't add feta cheese tonight.  Mine had gone bad in the refrigerator.  So I ended up using an Italian cheese blend that I had.  Same difference...

Roll up your tortilla securing all the goodness inside.  And voila!  A Greek Chicken Wrap!!


One more word about cast iron skillets:

See the yummy bits on the bottom of the pan?  Don't even try to scrape them off with a knife or with a blade of any sort.  That's the kind of stuff that seasons your pan - that makes it work even better than you ever thought it could.  The best way to clean a cast iron skillet is this:  When it cools down, fill it with hot water and let it soak for a few minutes.  Then with the hot water running, scrape all those bits out with a plastic scraper.  I have a brush that I use for this very job.  Scrape all the big pieces off, but don't worry too much about the rest.  Then place it on your stovetop on a burner set to high.  This will cause the remaining water to boil off and dry your skillet keeping it from rusting.  And rust is the mortal enemy of iron.  Do cast iron skillets even have a soul?  Maybe they do - that's why they cook so well. 

I hope you enjoy this recipe!  I know I sure do!  And the leftover chicken is great on a salad the next day!

Greek Chicken Wraps

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Greek salad dressing
salt and pepper
feta cheese
lemon juice
black or kalamata olives
red onion - sliced
tomato - diced
tzatziki sauce

Tzatziki Sauce
Sour cream or plain yogurt
about a 1 inch slice of cucumber
fresh garlic or garlic powder
salt and pepper
dried dill or dried oregano

Seed the cucumber and grate it all (even the skin) into a bowl.  Mix in the other ingredients, tasting as you go and adding as needed to get the right consistency and flavor that you're looking for.

Marinate chicken breasts in a salad dressing, salt, pepper and lemon juice mixture in a ziploc bag for a few hours.  Cut chicken into strips or cubes.  Cook on the stovetop until cooked through.  Nuke tortillas for a few seconds to make them pliable.  Spread on some tzatziki sauce, top with chicken, cheese and other toppings.  Roll up to secure ingredients.  Eat to your heart's content and be full!!  Opa!!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

11/1 Muffin Tin on 10/27!

OK- yeah, I know - It's the Wednesday before the actual Muffin Tin Monday for 11/1.  I get that you're not supposed to be making Muffin Tin Monday meals on Wednesdays.  I get it.  However, I had a spark of creativity and when that happens, you just gotta roll with it.  Right? 

So here's the boy's muffin tin meal for next Monday, served Wednesday 10/27.  If I tried to save it until Monday, it would be all gross and icky and not at all cute.  The theme is trees, leaves and harvest.  I'm not sure I hit on all those points, but I gave it my best shot.  :)


There's food for both boys in this 12 cup muffin stone - that's why it looks so full!  Since both sides are the same, I'll only explain what's in them once.

Top row - L to R - Stir fried broccoli 'trees' with apple and cheese flowers, banana muffin with pumpkin pick
Middle row - L to R - Acorn shaped apple cinnamon french toast with 'sap' (syrup) for dipping (to be added later), oak leaf shaped apple pieces
Bottom row - L to R - 1/2 Babybel cheese with apple shape in the wax, bologna sammy on 15 grain bread with cheese leaf - face of cucumber peel.
Sugar pumpkins scattered about...

This was so much fun!  Time consuming, yes.  I spent all of nap time making this.  But I know they're going to love it when they see it.  :)


Update, later this afternoon...

So I served the boys their muffin tin as a before dinner snack.  I decided we'd meet some friends for dinner at CiCi's, and I knew that what I'd fixed for them would be WAY healthier than the copious amount of pizza they'd eat there.  Here are some shots of them enjoying their tin.  :)

Timothy's first look at the tin.

Asher's first look and his first tin!

This is what Asher looked like the entire time!

Timothy is enjoying a piece of cheese.

Here is the afternath of said Muffin Tin Meal.  All that's pretty much left is the broccoli and the banana muffins.  Then we went to dinner with some friends and Timothy ate 1 1/2 pieces of pizza, a breadstick and a half and a piece of apple pizza and Asher ate 1 piece of pizza, a breadstick and several bites of dessert pizza.  Wow.  Lots of food consumed today by my children.  I can't imagine they'll wake up hungry.  :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

I made the most amazing soup today for dinner.  I got the recipe from my sister and I'm so thankful that she shared it with me! 

I love using my crock pot.  I've been using it more often because of how easy it is to throw things together.  I don't like cleaning it though.  6 quart ceramic insert and lid - HEAVY.  I usually stick it in my dishwasher.   ;)

I wish that I had thought to take a picture of all the ingredients together, the process of making it, etc.  I did manage to take a picture of the final product.  Hope you enjoy!

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts - frozen!
1 family size cream of chicken soup
2 boxes Uncle Ben's Long grain and wild rice WITH seasoning packets
Milk (I used skim)
Chicken broth
12 slices of pepper jack cheese

In your crock pot, place frozen chicken, soup and at least 1/2 can of milk.  Cook on low until chicken falls apart (couple of hours).  Shred chicken with 2 forks and return to crock pot.

Meanwhile, cook rice according to package directions.  (I omitted the butter/oil.  Didn't see any reason to use it.)  When rice is done and chicken is shredded, add rice to crock pot and stir to combine.  Begin crumbling pepper jack slices into crock pot - taste as you add the cheese.  Continue to simmer soup in crock pot until cheese is melted.  Add chicken broth to thin soup if it seems too thick for you.  Serve with crusty bread.  :)

Some notes on this soup:

I didn't add any measurements for the milk or broth because I didn't bother measuring them when I added them to the soup.  I poured and stirred until it looked good to me.  Feel free to use as much or as little as you like.  Feel free to use whole milk and organic chicken broth if that's what will make you happy.  I used Great Value skim milk and broth.  That's what I had on hand and they work for me.  :)

About the cheese - I'm not a huge fan of pepper jack cheese, but it's REALLY good in this soup.  The cheese doesn't add any heat to the soup, just a nice cheesy, pepper-y flavor.  I used 11 of 12 slices and wish now that I'd only used 8.  I don't care for the taste of peppers, so 11 slices is a bit much - for ME.  Don't worry, we'll still eat the soup.  I just may not like it as much as I would if it had only 8 slices of cheese in it.

My crock pot has 4 settings - HIGH (4 hours and 6 hours) and LOW (8 hours and 10 hours).  I initially set my crock pot for 8 hours.  I knew I'd have about that much time from when I put the chicken in frozen until we needed to eat dinner.  Set your crock pot however you have to.  There are so many on the market now that do so many things. 

I'm taking my crock o'soup to PWOC tomorrow (Protestant Women Of the Chapel to you non-military folks) to share during fellowship time.  I'm sure there won't be much left.  :)  I just wish it wasn't going to be 90 degrees tomorrow.  Soup is a COLD WEATHER MEAL.  Do you hear me, 90 degree day?  It's the end of October - go away and bring us back our football weather!!!

Go forth and make soup and be happy! :)


Monday, October 25, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

OK, so I've completely fallen in love with this idea.  Putting kids snacks/meals into a muffin tin.  Crazy, right?  WRONG!  Timothy has SO enjoyed this.  I get 2 or 3 made in a week - that's all my creative juices have going on right now.  The sad thing is that I don't plan far enough ahead to really do something extra special.  I know that that's how all these other moms did it - doing what they could with what they had.  Then it became 'part of them' so much so that it's just part of their day.  I long to be at that place!!  My MIL commented recently that I had "too much time on my hands."  I know she was kidding.  I told her no, doing this breaks up the monotony of a 12 month deployment.  Anything to make the day more fun, right?  :)

Anyway, each Monday there is a theme.  This week happens to be Halloween.  I wonder why?  Just kidding!  I stole 5 of the 6 ideas from other tins I have seen recently.  Only one is original, but I'm sure someone has done it in the past.  No matter.  Timothy has never seen it and I've never made a Halloween muffin tin meal.  It's brand new to us!

Top row - L to R
Pumpkin carved orange with mandarin oranges
Banana Bread Bars with Cat pick
Green tinted chocolate milk

Bottom row - L to R
cheese, plain and caramel popcorn with jack o'lantern pick
Banana cream pudding with sugar pumpkins
Vanilla wafers with jack o'lanterns drawn on with pb/nutella mix for dipping.

Love doing this for my little guy.  And I love that I can be creative with it.  Stealing ideas at first, but then making them my own.  Thanks to Michelle at Muffin Tin Mom for this wonderful idea!!