At our house, we have a saying..."Don't yuk my yum!". We are trying to raise kids that aren't picky eaters by exposing them to many different kinds of food. It wasn't that long ago that one of my kids asked "Why can't you cook food like everyone else? Like tater tot hotdish?" The reason? It's not very healthy or creative and I think it's kind of gross. I don't cook like that. I like to use fresh, healthy ingredients to make great tasting good for you dishes. I've created this blog to share my favorite recipes with you.

Follow my kitchen adventures from using up vegetables from our weekly CSA box to baking and creative cooking.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Granny's Pumpkin Bars

My dinner menu this week was nothing to write home about, so I'm just going to post about my Granny's Pumpkin Bars.  Trust me, they're worthy of their own post.
It all started out as a squash-roasting session.  I had a bunch of squash that looked enough like pumpkin that I decided to treat it like pumpkin.  I cut them in half, scooped out the seeds and put them cut side down in a pan with a little water.  I baked them for about an hour at 350, until they were nice and tender.  After they cooled a bit, I scooped out the flesh and pureed it.  I was just going to freeze it all in 2 cup portions when I got a call from my sister in law telling me to bring dessert for supper that night.  Then she suggested pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting.  She didn't have to tell me twice!

I have always loved my Granny's recipe for pumpkin bars.  She used to make them for us whenever we visited her house in Williston.  After much begging, she shared the recipe with me a few years ago.  I even have the recipe in her handwriting!

These make a huge pan, but they never last long.  And be careful...I think I gained ten pounds in the last two days eating these!
Granny's Pumpkin Bars
1.  Mix together:
4 eggs
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. canola oil
1 can pumpkin ( or 2 c. fresh roasted and pureed pumpkin or squash)

2.  Sift together:
2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
1/2 t. cloves

3.  Combine wet ingredients and dry ingredients, mix well.
4.  Pour into an 11 x 17 pan or two smaller pans that have been greased and dusted well with flour.
5.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
6. After cooling top with Cream Cheese frosting:
1 brick cream cheese
1 stick butter
1 t. vanilla
1 T. milk or cream
3-4 c. powdered sugar
(Combine in a bowl, adding enough sugar to make it yummy!)
The original recipe called for a full cup of oil, but I thought that was a little much, so I cut it in half to see what happened and I couldn't tell the difference.  Also, I didn't have any ground cloves, but the bars were delicious without.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Chicken Enchiladas

Even in October, I still open the fridge to a crisper full of peppers, so this week, I once again attempted to use them all up before our next produce box arrived on Wednesday.   I call my first attempt Steak and Pepper Kebabs, but don't be limited by the name.  A quick marinade made from soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, chopped rosemary and garlic (if I remember it) makes for a very tasty steak.  Pair it with bite sized peppers and onions and some oven roasted beets (peeled beets, cut into 1/2 inch slices and drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, baked at 400 for about 45 minutes) and you have a super tasty meal.  I  like to add mushrooms if we have them and I always add onions.  I didn't even make them into kebabs this time, I just roasted the peppers and onions and sautéed the cubed steak.
Steak and Pepper Un-Kebabs with roasted beets
The abundance of apples this time of year and my sweet tooth collided in this amazing Monday night dessert...Baked Apples.  I consulted a few recipes, but for mine, I just cored the apples (from Red Goose Gardens), and filled them with a mixture of a handful of brown sugar, a small handful of raisins and and equal amount of craisins and chopped walnuts, sprinkled with cinnamon and covered in a cup of apple juice.  I baked at 350 for about an hour, basting with the juices every 10 or 15 minutes.  The apple juice and brown sugar cooked down into a yummy syrup that nicely went over the ice cream I served with these apples.  A healthy dessert?  I can tell myself that.
The baked apples look kind of old and wrinkly.  Maybe I'll peel them next time.  But there will be a next time.  
On Tuesday, I had a little bit of extra time in the evening so I threw together two make-ahead meals for later in the week.   First, I used up some of the abundant peppers in the fridge by making some Stuffed Peppers, from my own recipe posted in January.
Green peppers stuffed with Mexican style ground beef and quinoa.
The peppers were delicious served with a sliced up giant roasted beet we got in our box from Red Goose Gardens.
Check out how huge this beet is compared to the average sized apple.  Crazy!
I also made some Spinach and Sausage Lasagna Rolls, from my own recipe adapted from the Eat This, Not That guys.  This recipe is for a double batch, so I stashed a pan in the freezer for another night.
mmm...Sausage and Spinach Lasagna Rolls
Friday night was sleepover night at our house, so I planned ahead and made some pizza dough at lunch time so we could have some home made pizza for supper.  If you haven't made pizza dough, give it a try.  This recipe is super easy and doesn't require a lot of kneading.  I topped the  pre-baked pizza crust with a bunch of stuff I had in the fridge and freezer:  jarred pizza sauce, mozzarella and shredded parmesan cheeses, sliced red, green and purple peppers, sliced onion, sliced mushrooms and a little pepperoni.  The result?  Crispy, chewy deliciousness that disappeared in about five minutes.
Look at the crispy crust and nicely browned cheese on this home made pizza!
For breakfast the morning after the sleepover, I whipped up some "Baked Pumpkin Donuts" that I actually made into mini muffins because I don't have a donut shaped pan.  No worries, they were still delicious and they disappeared quickly.  The recipe makes 48 mini-muffin sized "donut holes".  I used the last frozen container of last year's pumpkin crop (actually kabocha squash) instead of canned pumpkin, which I discussed in this post last October.
I call them donut holes, but they are probably Pumpkin mini-muffins.  Either way, they are yummy!
This weekend, my cooking blitz included Chicken Enchiladas, Crock Pot Butternut Squash Soup, Stuffed Mushrooms and Kale Waldorf Salad.

The enchiladas are my own concoction that I have developed over the years, see below for the recipe.  Orignally, I used canned enchilada sauce, canned chicken and a whole brick of cream cheese, but I have made an effort to make this much more healthy.  The six enchiladas I made are so overstuffed, they will provide two suppers for the four of us.
These two enchiladas fed me and both of my kids.  Very filling!
We got a ton of different kinds of squash in our produce boxes over the last few weeks, so I am always looking for recipes to use them in.  I found this easy recipe for Crock Pot Butternut Squash soup on pinterest and gave it a shot.  Roasting the squash and onion really brought out the sweet flavor. I used one butternut and one acorn squash, because I only had one butternut.  At the end, I stirred in some sour cream, half and half and some garlic powder on top of the coriander, salt and pepper.   A perfect accompaniment to a crispy kale salad.
Squash soup and kale waldorf salad
On Saturday night, I decided at the last minute to whip up an appetizer of stuffed mushrooms to enjoy before our Chicken Enchiladas.  I was looking for something that used ingredients I already had, so this recipe with bacon, cream cheese and onions fit the bill.  Needless to say, they were amazing and made my eyes roll into the back of my head.  A definite "make again" recipe.
Look at the cheesy bacony goodness of these stuffed mushrooms!
Off to study for my teacher licensure exam...hope it's not as difficult as the study guide makes it seem.  You would think that earning a 4.0 in my Master's program would be proof enough that I can teach special education.  Oh well, what's one more hoop to jump though, right?

Chicken Enchiladas
2 chopped cooked chicken breasts or the equivalent (canned works, too)
1/2 brick light cream cheese
1/2 jar salsa (I used corn black bean salsa)
1/2 T. Mrs. Dash Southwestern Chipotle Seasoning
6-8 flour tortillas
1 pkg spanish rice, cooked
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 jar salsa or enchilada sauce (I used frozen Salsa Verde and 1/2 a jar of regular salsa)
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese, divided

1.  Cook spanish rice according to package directions, stir in black beans and spread in the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 pan.
2.  Mix together the chicken, cream cheese, salsa, seasoning and 1/2 c. shredded cheese.
3.  Evenly divide chicken mixture between tortillas, roll up and place seam side down over rice and beans.
4.  Top tortillas with salsa or enchilada sauce and the rest of the shredded cheese.
5.  Bake, covered with foil, for about 30 minutes in a 400 oven.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sausage, Pepper and Fennel Pasta

This week started so beautifully.  We had unseasonably warm fall weather, with the high temperatures hitting the mid-70's.  Then the snow came.  I had the worst drive to work ever on Thursday, with a ton of slushy snow and wind.  I was happy when school was released at noon and I got to spend the afternoon at home with my girls.  After we watched "The Goonies", we took a little time to make a double batch of my Rosemary Focaccia Sandwich Bread, which I cut into meal-size portions and stashed in the freezer for later.  I could get used to working half-days.  Think of everything I could accomplish!

Focaccia bread--for sandwiches or dipping in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

For supper on Thursday, I used a bunch of items we got in our produce box from Red Goose Gardens. We had red, green and purple peppers, a bunch of tiny fennel bulbs, onions and tomatoes.  I sliced and sautéed the peppers, fennel and onions, then added about a dozen two-inch tomatoes that I chopped and a little rosemary-garlic seasoning I picked up at Sams Club.  I love how tomatoes melt down into a delicious sauce and make everything taste so much better.  I tossed the resulting sauce with hot pasta (the end of two boxes) and some chicken italian sausage (which we got in the meat clearance bin at the grocery store) I sliced up and sautéed.  Seriously delicious.  As I told the girls, they are so lucky their mama can cook! See my recipe below.

Sausage, pepper and fennel pasta.

Then Thursday night I still had the cooking bug, so I whipped up some Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark.  You should make it.  Seriously.  I'm not sharing my batch.  Pretzels coated in butter and brown sugar boiled into caramel sauce and topped with melted chocolate chips.  Cool, break apart and eat.  Enough said.  
Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark

Figure skating started this week.  Yep, October 3 was our first evening at the arena.  The girls really enjoy their time on the ice learning new moves and visiting with their friends while Phil and I walk many laps around the quarter-mile track.  With the start of figure skating, our Wednesday nights became very cramped for time.  We had a couple of avocados aging on the windowsill and I had a bunch of cilantro in the fridge and some limes leftover from last time I made mojitos, so I searched online for recipes that incorporated all of those ingredients.  I came up with Creamy Avocado Pasta, a recipe in which I threw the avocados, cilantro, lime juice and garlic into the food processor and tossed the pesto-like sauce with hot pasta.  I decided the meal needed some protein, so I dug a couple of chicken breasts out of the freezer and baked them topped with chopped cilantro, minced garlic and a squeeze of lime juice.  I'm not sure I would make the pasta again, but the chicken was sure yummy.  

Creamy Avocado Pasta topped with a chicken breast.
I also made my favorite breakfast foods for supper this week--Eggs Benedict and Hash Browns.   As I have discussed in the past, our chickens are good little producers.  Right now we have ten chickens, but only five of them are of laying age.  The other five are still maturing.  Nonetheless, the three or four eggs we get each day are enough for our needs.  I used six of them to make Eggs Benedict.  I had ham and english muffins in the freezer and bought a packet of  Hollandaise sauce mix and poached the eggs.  Almost as good as Perkins, though they probably make their own Hollandaise.  Along with the Eggs Benedict, I served hash browns (shredded baked potatoes) that I cooked on the waffle iron to get them nice and crispy (thanks Pinterest!) and an acorn squash I quartered, baked and sprinkled with cinnamon and brown sugar.

Eggs Benedict with waffle iron hash browns and brown sugar squash.

This weekend, we got together with my family to celebrate a couple of birthdays.  We grilled steaks and shrimp skewers and served them with sautéed green beans and Pioneer Woman's Crash Hot Potatoes.  Have you tried these potatoes yet?  They have been circulating around Pinterest for quite awhile now and I saw them in the Grand Forks Herald a couple months ago.  If you haven't had them yet, give them a try.  They are totally worth the effort of the two step recipe:  First you boil the potatoes, then you crush them, sprinkle them with with seasonings (I used rosemary and cracked pepper) and bake them until they are crispy.  Every time I make these, my girls beg for more!  My brother suggested that they would be really good with cheese on them...why not add bacon, too?

Pioneer Woman's Crash Hot Potatoes
For dessert, I made Apple Crisp with vanilla ice cream.  I always use the recipe from the Betty Crocker cookbook we got for a wedding gift.  An old standby that is always delicious...especially with apples from my Grandpa's trees.

Apple Crisp

Tonight for supper, it's chicken cooked in the crock pot.  I jammed two frozen chickens in my large crock pot at lunch time today, sprinkled them with seasoning and turned the cooker on high.  By 6:00 tonight, supper will be done and I will have leftovers for at least two meals this week and the makings of home made chicken broth that I will stash in the freezer for another day.  Check out this link for the recipe!

Two whole chickens roasting in the crock pot.
Sausage and Pepper Pasta
1 package chicken Italian Sausage
3 sliced peppers (one red, one green, one purple)--about 2 cups total
1 sliced red onion--about 1 cup
5 small fennel bulbs, sliced--about 1 cup
12 small (2-inch) tomatoes, cored and chopped
seasoning to taste
cooked pasta

1.  Slice and sauté the sausage over medium heat until mostly cooked.  Move to a plate.
2.  In same skillet, drizzle a little olive oil, then add in peppers, onion and fennel.  Cook for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.  Add the tomatoes and seasonings (I used a garlic rosemary seasoning mix and some salt and pepper).  Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the sauce comes together.  Add in sausage for the last ten minutes to blend all flavors.
3.  Serve over or mixed with hot pasta.