Monday, February 25, 2013

My Favorite Kitchen Gadgets

I am sure this will be edited and added to several times.

I just wanted to share some of my favorite tools and what I use them for. I am sure I will never get paid for this, so its all me and my opinion. :)

Also this is in no particular order.

Except my Kitchenaid will always be Numero Uno.

This is my girl. 6qt top lift Empire Red. Love her. Makes bread making a breeze. As well as mashing potatoes, whipping cream, and about a bajillion other things


One of the newest additions to my collection. A mandoline slicer. Oh my goodness. I have been using it so much. It slices which is nice, but its the thin julienne that I love. It basically shreds things. Its faster than using a cheese grater. I actually do not own a food processor yet, so this is a great tool. Even if I did, it would still be used often because of the fast cleanup and easy access.

I do however have and love this
A mini food chopper. Great for pie dough, salsa, cracker dough, pureeing sauces. Awesome. And small.

A microplane! Why spend for.ev.er. mincing the garlic. Spend 4.3 seconds grating it over this bad boy. Also great for ginger and citrus zest.


Yes, you are sensing a trend. My kitchen is RED. I love it. 
Anyway, dutch oven. Slow cook, braise, and even bake bread. Love this guy. 

Immersion blender. I don't use this a *ton* but its great for baby food or blending soups. 


Bench scraper. Use it to scoop up fresh chopped veggies off the chopping block. Or to cut dough. Or to scrape off the leftover dough off your surface.

Adjustable measuring cup. Great for mayo, peanut butter, honey, sour cream. Anything thick and a PITA to scrape out of a regular measuring cup

Apple corer/slicer/peeler. Great for apple pie or crisp.

This is the best thing EVER. Totally worth the investment. No more parchment paper or the gross non stick spray! http://www.amazon.com/Silpat-Non-Stick-Baking-2-inches-Sheet/dp/B00008T960/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363993696&sr=8-1&keywords=silpat

RICE COOKER! How could I forget this til last? Best thing ever! Don't need anything fancy. Basic models are great

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Easy Mint Cookies and Cream Ice Cream

Yes, you need a ice cream maker for this one. Sorry!

You can add food coloring if you really can't handle mint ice cream that isn't green. :)

This is super fast. Stir and pour into the mixer.

You don't need to do the fudge oreos, but I think it makes it great! Like a mix of mint chip and mint cookies and cream.

Easy Mint Cookies and Cream Ice Cream


2 cups 2% or whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp peppermint extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup crushed fudge dipped Oreo's (half a package)

Whisk the milk, cream, sugar, extracts, and salt until all the sugar is dissolved

Pour into a ice cream maker and freeze according to directions for 10-15 minutes, until starting to thicken.

Add the cookies

Finish the freezing process.

Scoop into a container and freeze another 1-2 hours if possible.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Bacon Rainbow Chard

I got a bunch of chard in my produce box this week. So I feared it was time to attempt the sauteed greens. We have never attempted or even eaten it before. So the thought was daunting. But I decided to start with bacon. Because everything is good with bacon...And garlic. Recipe from Anne Burell 

Its good! Kind of earthy and....green tasting. But really good!

Bacon Chard


Oil of choice
2-3 pieces bacon, diced
2 smashed garlic cloves
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 bunch chard-
Stems, 1/2 inch slices
leaves, 1 inch tall strips
1/2 cup low sodium chick stock

Coat a pan lightly with oil. Add bacon, garlic, and red pepper flakes and heat over medium high. Once garlic browns, discard garlic. 

Continue cooking until bacon is crisp. 

Add stems and chicken stock. Cook until chicken stock is mostly gone.

 Add leaves and cook until wilted. 

Season with salt if needed (bacon and broth might be plenty. My stock was homemade with no salt, so I added some)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Parmesan and Basil Orzo

We were huge fans of "pasta sides" or "rice sides" for the first year of marriage. But my cooking has evolved a bit and we have kind of dropped them. But sometimes its nice to just have a generic pasta or rice side that is fast and simple. I decided to give one I found on Pinterest a try.

PS< I love orzo. MMMMM

Parmesan and Basil Orzo


3 tbsp butter
2 cups orzo
4 cups chicken (or veg) stock
1 handful of fresh chopped basil (or 1-2 tbsp of the basil in a tube from the produce section)
1 cup parmesan
salt and pepper

Melt butter in a saucepan on medium

Add orzo and toast until orzo turns golden brown

Add broth, cover and simmer 20 minutes or until broth is absorbed

Remove from heat. Add parmesan, basil, and salt and pepper. Stir well.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Apple Brined Porkchops

If you have never brined anything, you are missing out! It brings flavor and moisture like you would never believe. Many people brine a Thanksgiving turkey. Amazing! I haven't done a full on Thanksgiving yet, but that is what I would do.

Personally, I always hated porkchops. Boring, bland, tough. Then I came across a apple brine in a George Foreman cookbook of all places. It was FANTASTIC. Moist, tender, and FULL of flavor.

Brining takes 5 minutes of prep work, and a few hours of soaking, but it makes making a flavorful piece of meat easy.

Apple Brined Pork Chops

4 pork chops (bone in or boneless, doesn't matter)

Brine ingredients:

2 cups apple juice or apple cider (I get the can of concentrate  because I don't keep apple juice in the house. Ick)
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 onion, quartered and peeled
1 apple, quartered
a pinch of ground thyme (or a sprig or two if you have fresh on hand)
2 smashed garlic cloves

In a small sauce pan, heat all the brine ingredients, minus ice of course. Once salt and sugar dissolve, remove from heat. As long as its not insanely hot, we are good to move on.
Yummy, no?

In a large ziplock, place all the meat. Pour the brine in. Fill with ice. Slosh around to make sure its all in between the meat.

Place in bowl in fridge (still in bag) for at least 1 hour, better if its 4 or 5. Try no more than 6 though.

Once ready to cook, rinse pork and discard brine.

Cook however you would like. Its great grilled (be careful of burning because of the sugars). Or you can sear in a pan and then cover and cook on the stove top or oven until cooked through.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mexican Chicken and Rice

This was kind of a wing it type recipe. I made it in the oven and it was fine. But a few bits of the rice was still crunchy, and that bugs me. But if you wanted to do it all in the oven, just mix the raw rice with the soup, top with frozen chicken, and then top with other ingredients and bake covered for 1 hour 40 minutes.

But I personally think the crock pot is best for this.

It ended up so yummy and had a lot of the things in it that are my favorites :)

Mexican Chicken and Rice

2 cans cream of chicken (or from scratch)
1 cup water or broth
1 packet of taco seasoning (or: 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder)
4-6 frozen chicken breasts
1 can rotel
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1.5 cups frozen corn
1 handful cilantro, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (or mex blend)

1.5 cups rice

Mix the soup, water/broth, and taco seasoning. If you use homemade soup and seasoning, add some salt and pepper.

Place frozen chicken in crock pot and cover with soup.

Mix rotel, beans, corn, cilantro, and green onions.

Pour on top of chicken.

Cook on low for 8 hours.

30 minutes before dinner, add cheese to crock pot and cook rice according to directions. I prefer a 1:1.5 ration of rice to liquids and use broth when I can.

Serve chicken over the rice.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

5 Minute Bean Dip

I have been making this stuff for years, and its always a huge hit. Couldn't be easier or more addictive.

5 Minute Bean Dip
1 can fat free refried beans
1 can low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup salsa
1 cup sour cream
1 cup frozen corn.

Mix well and add more salsa if needed.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Savory Cottage Cheese Bowl

This is fresh and filling, but also light somehow. A great, fast lunch.
I can't wrap my brain around cottage cheese and fruit mixed. Ew. Thats not how I was raised. I was raised with plain cottage cheese and Lowry's seasoning salt. MMMm. And that evolved (thanks to Valentino's salad bar) to cottage cheese and black olives, with seasoned salt.

This stage of pregnancy has brought me to cottage cheese cravings for some reason. Ever use Doritos to scoop bites of cottage cheese? HEAVEN.

I had a ton of roma tomatoes sitting around, so one day I mixed that with seasoned salt and cottage cheese. MMMM.

So one night I was thinking about that tomato and cottage cheese I had a few days before. And thinking about black olives and how good that would be. And then the really ripe avocado I had in the fridge. And this was born...

Oh, and one of my favorite parts about cottage cheese is it makes my husband gag. Seriously. I have to eat it in another room, which amuses me...

Savory Cottage Cheese Bowl

3/4-1 cup cottage cheese (it HAS to be 4% for me. Anything else is gross and not worth it. And we all know the "low fat" craze is horrible for you)
1 avocado, cubed
1/4 cup small or sliced black olives (or katamala if that nastiness floats your boat)
1 roma tomato (or a handful of grape/cherry tomatos, halved)
1/4 tsp seasoned salt

Pretty simple. Mix and eat. :)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Southwestern Bowl

I got some beautiful sweet potatoes, avocados, cilantro, lemons, and red bell peppers in my produce box this week. It reminded me of this bowl I used to make a few years back. Pretty easy, healthy, and filling. This made enough for lunch for myself, Husb, and the toddler. So portion accordingly. Some rice or a salad could stretch this out into a dinner meal.

Southwestern Bowl

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1-2 red bell peppers, large diced
oil, salt, and pepper
1-2 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp garlic powder
1-2 tsp chili powder
1-2 avocados, cubed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1.5 cups frozen corn (or one drained can)
1 handful cilantro, chopped
juice of one lemon or lime

Toss the sweet potato and bell pepper in salt, pepper, and some oil.

Roast at 400 until done and browning. 20 minutes, give or take. Sorry, I never time this...

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss avocado, cilantro, corn, beans, citrus juice, and 1 tsp of each of the seasonings.

Let pepper and potato cool a bit and then add to bowl and toss. Adjust seasoning as needed.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Weeknight Ravioli Bake

This is one of those "semi-homemade" type meals. Fast, pantry friendly, and yummy. Its kind of a lazy lasagna.

Weeknight Ravioli Bake

1 24oz jar Marinara sauce (I used Newman's)
1 15oz jar alfredo sauce (Used Newman's)
2 cups mozzarella shredded cheese
1.5 bags frozen ravioli (I got 2 bags, 1 cheese, 1 beef. I recommend this. Saved the leftovers for a fast lunch)

Preheat to 375
Mix the sauces in a bowl. Spoon a little into the bottom of a 9x13.
Layer 1 even layer of ravioli.
Lightly top with sauce.
Top with some cheese.
Repeat 3 times.

I was frustrated that I might not have enough sauce, but if you are very careful with just barely covering them, it works out so well and evens out nicely while cooking.

Cover with foil
Bake 45 minutes covered, 15 uncovered.