Friday, March 19, 2010

Adding some chipotles in your cheerio life

Sorry if my posts are coming a bit slower lately. I started a maternity leave subbing job that goes for about a month. With that said, I have a confession...

My house smells like Cheerios. Yes, Cheerios. Well, Great Value Toasted Whole Gran Oat Cereal to be exact. I'm sitting right by the box. (Starting this subbing job has made me just about full time again, although I'm not going to use that as an excuse to not clean...just yet.) My son has starting eating quite a variety of foods. But we always seem to go back to the cheerios for a snack. Why? Those little baby puffs come a variety of flavors, but cut into our grocery budget quickly. I suppose I could have a house that smells like fruit loops...but honestly, cheerios are simple and easy. They don't spoil, they don't get crushed in his diaper bag, and he loves them. And on certain days, he eats a lot of them. A LOT.
When he was a baby I looked up baby food recipes/baby snacks and planned to be a mother who gave her son a variety of good, wholesome foods so he would grow up being a healthy, non-picky eater. Riiight, then I came out of the colic coma I was in for about 4 months. And for now, throwing out a handful of cheerios onto the floor for him to chase after and eat while I am giving a few hours of lessons each day works. Well. Very well. I justify it by saying that they have fiber, which he needs to keep So my apologies if you stop by and smell my cheerio-house. For my latest recipe I decided to choose one of my favorite spicy recipes: Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Soup. Because sometimes you have to add a little chipotle into your cheerio life :-)

Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Soup
3 cups chicken stock
1 pound chicken
1 tablespoon oil
4 slices thick bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 chipotles in adobo, chopped, plus 2 tablespoons sauce (these will be a can in the Latino aisle...use gloves when chopping)
1 28-ounce can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
4 cups corn tortilla chips, lightly crushed
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1 lime, cut into wedges
1/2 red onion, chopped
Fresh cilantro

Bring broth to a simmer and add the chicken (cut if they are thick). Poach for 6-7 minutes.
While the chicken poaches, heat oil in a pot or deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook it until crisp then remove it with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate. Drain off the excess fat, leaving 2-3 tablespoons in the pan. Add the onions and garlic to the skillet and cook them for 5 minutes. Stir in chipotles and tomatoes.
Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid, dice it then add it to the tomatoes and chipotles. Pass the poaching liquid through a strainer then add it to the soup pot as well.
Place a pile of crushed tortilla chips in the bottom of each soup bowl. Cover it liberally with cheese then ladle the hot soup down over the top. Serve it with lime, raw onions and cilantro at the table.
*If you choose not to worry about poaching the chicken, you may cook and shred/cut it first and just bring the stock to a boil before adding it to the pot.
**This had the potential to be very spicy. If you'd rather have it less spicy, or edible :-), cut the peppers open and remove the seeds before adding them.
***I love adding things in this soup. I have added chili powder, taco seasoning, cumin, corn, green chili peppers, salsa, sour cream...whatever your family loves!

Friday, March 12, 2010

For your lazy (or busy!) days

It's been a dreary week here in NW Iowa. Rainy, on the verge of being snowy all week long. Cloudy. Muddy. Windy. Foggy. Slickery. We've had it all this week. Except for sunshine. At least the dirty snow is melting a bit. Because I had no plans this morning I decided to take advantage of the dreary weather. After sleeping in this morning, I got up, put on my big fluffy robe and slippers and made some amaretto coffee. I then took my hot cup of creamy coffee, fat free pastry and curled up with a good book. After finishing my coffee, I then worked out and burned a few hundred calories. I cooled down by sitting in the sunroom, listening to the rain and finishing my book. I then took off the chill of the morning by soaking in a bubble bath. I am now ready for my day. Unfortunately, at this point I was woken up by my crying baby boy and realized that none of this had happened and it was only 6:17 am. I should've realized it was all a dream when I was eating my fat-free pastry. Some things will just never happen.

Instead I've had one of "those" mornings. Yes, I am in my robe (still). I have had my coffee. But not much else has been accomplished. I have played all morning with my cranky teething son. I even let him win our "who can crawl to the ball rolling across the tile floor first" game.

Most people turn to their slow-cookers on days when they are very busy. I, on the other hand, like to turn to my crockpot on my unmotivated days. There is nothing better than the smell of a delicious dinner cooking all day long (with little clean-up!) So here's a recipe that cooks while you're mean working out to your 57 minute step aerobics video!

Slow-Cooker BBQ Beef Sandwiches
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons prepared Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 (4 pound) boneless chuck roast
Hard Buns (the kind you get from the grocery store, not your step aerobics video)

Season roast with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Place chuck roast in a slow cooker. Mix together the first 6 ingredients. Pour mixture over chuck roast. Cover, and cook on Low for 8 to 10 hours.
Remove chuck roast from slow cooker, shred with a fork, and return to the slow cooker. Stir meat to evenly coat with sauce. Continue cooking approximately 1 hour. Serve on buns. I like to thicken the juice up a little and used it as a dipping sauce on the side (aujus style)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A side dish for all seasons

Sorry it has been a little while since my last recipe. I really love hearing from everyone who tries the recipes, whether or not you like them. But especially if you like them. My next recipe that I'll share comes from my Christmas dinner menu. And it comes from my love for pineapple. I love all things pineapple (who lives in a pineapple under the sea...) Yet I'm not such a big fan of cutting it up. That's why a sweet pineapple cutter is on my belated Christmas /early birthday /St. Patrick's day list. When cutting a fresh pineapple I find myself scraping for every last good edible piece. That is probably because I've already eaten half of it, my mouth is burning from the citrus juice and now I don't have enough for the recipe. Good thing canned pineapple is usually a good back up.
Pineapple should be used for more than just a fruit salad. Pineapple is a fruit that you should be creative with. Who would have thought to put it on a pizza? (Genius!) Mix it into your Mojito. Pineapple contains a protelytic enzyme bromelain, which breaks down protein. Pineapple juice can thus be used as a marinade and tenderizer for meat. That's right, I can google! But seriously, if you have a tough piece of meat, pineapple makes a great marinade. It really goes well with pig. Think Hawaiian Pig Roast. It also makes a great side dish. I made this simple side dish to go along with a pork tenderloin that I baked for our Christmas dinner. So don't be afraid of venturing out of the fruit salad and into the main dish, or the side dish as the case may be.

Pineapple Casserole
1/2 c. margarine
1/2 c. white sugar
4 eggs
ground cinnamon (I don't measure it, I just dump)
ground nutmeg (a little less than a dump, it's up to you)
6 slices white bread, torn (thicker bread is better)
1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a medium-sized casserole dish. (If you want to use a 9x13 dish, add a few more slices of bread.)
In a mixing bowl, cream together margarine with sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir bread and crushed pineapple into the mixture. Transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish.
Bake 60 minutes until bubbly and lightly browned.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Eli's Cheesecake-thank you!

A BIG thank you to Eli's Cheesecake. They sent me their Burnt Caramel Flan cheesecake in the mail. I even shared! :-) Here are a few pics of the cheesecake:

From my old home Chicago. I do miss this cheesecake. My husband actually toured their factory on a business trip!

Can you see that beautiful caramel color? It was so smooth and creamy. Thank you again, Eli's!
(more pics to come later of us enjoying the cheesecake!)

It's Amore!

Pizza. Could there be a better food out there? Kids love it, adults love it. Even the pickiest person can find some form of pizza that he/she loves. Ordering out for pizza can ensue a large debate among family members. Pizza Hut or Aurelios? Giordano's or Connie's (both my favorites!) Pizza Ranch or...well, out here nothing can really compare to Pizza Ranch, right? Pizza can be dangerously flat or so deep that you can't open your mouth wide enough (like my beloved deep dish Chicago pizza). There's New York style, so large you have to fold it (think mall-style). Then there's pizzas that are meant to be baked folded, such as calzones. Thin, regular, skillet, deep...oh the crusts. And sauce - sweet? tangy? spicy? red saucey? And of course the toppings. Oh, the toppings. My favorite is ham/canadian bacon and pineapple (much to the chagrin of my father)- the Hawaiian as it is known to the world, or Sweet Swine as it is known to the Pizza Ranch world. The wacky taco pizza. The ever-faithful pepperoni and sausage. My family's favorite growing up - pepperoni and green pepper. My favorite frozen - supreme (with most of the black olives picked off). Extra cheese? No cheese (for those on a diet)? My favorite food from my trip to Europe: Margherita pizza. (well, after gelato, that is).
I won't even go into the fork/no fork debate.
When having pizza, I think that homemade is the best. You can substitute anything and everything to make it truly your own. Here is my favorite American/Mexican version of the classic Italian-born pizza.

BBQ Chicken Calzones
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 cups shredded, cooked chicken breast meat
1 cup barbeque sauce
1 loaf of frozen bread dough, thawed (I guess it wouldn't be frozen then, huh?)
1 cup or more shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to the temperature indicated on the bread dough package.
Cook bacon in skillet over medium high heat until crisp. Remove, place on paper towel and crumble when cooled.
Add the onion and shredded chicken to the bacon grease. Fry over medium heat until onion is tender. Stir in some of barbeque sauce, and remove from the heat. Mix in the cooked bacon.
Roll the bread dough out onto a greased cookie sheet or stone. Press out to an even thickness. Spread the chicken mixture out to within 1/2 inch of the edge. Drizzle the remaining BBQ sauce over the filling. Sprinkle the cheese and cilantro over the top. Fold the dough over the filling, and press the edges together with a fork to seal.
Bake for 25-30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until browned to your liking. Cool for a few minutes before eating.
*I used an egg wash with some Italian seasoning mixed in on the dough before putting it into the oven.