Sunday, October 31, 2010

dinner in a pumpkin

Every fall, our little family has dinner in a pumpkin. It's a tradition and became one without real intent, which is pretty cool- as our family is young, and traditions are mostly ideas we have. This meal is so, so yummy (if I do say so myself) and very cozy. Something about it feels like comfort food to me. Maybe it's just the fact that my whole family is gathered around a table, eating warm and wonderful food- while outside, the world is wet and cold. Or maybe it's just some awesome grub! :) Either way, we love it. A lot.

I got the idea and original recipe from my friend, Brittney. This version is pretty much hers, with a few twists. Hers is really great, but I quite liked my version, too. It turned out great. I think we'll be having dinner in a pumpkin AGAIN this year! {The audacity, I know!}

RECIPE: Dinner in a Pumpkin

1 medium pumpkin*
1 lb. ground beef
1 large onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 c. celery, sliced
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 c. cooked rice
2 Tbsp. soy sauce (or to taste)
salt/pepper, to taste

{*Note: Choose a smaller medium... Also, the night/day before making this, bring your pumpkin in from outside. You don't want to start with a freezing cold pumpkin. It only makes the cooking time longer. Trust me.}

Preheat oven to 350F.

Wash the pumpkin. Carve a lid from the top; remove it, and scoop out the seeds and "goop." Replace the lid, place the pumpkin on a cookie sheet (foil lined = easier cleanup), and pop it in the oven. Let it warm up and start to cook a bit while you get everything else ready. {You'll appreciate the head start; cooking a whole pumpkin takes a while...}

Prepare the veggies if you haven't already. Then in a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the ground beef and onion until the meat is browned. (I like to add much of my seasoning here, too...) Add the garlic, celery and bell pepper. Cook until veggies are al dente {Can you use that term with veggies??}. Add the rice, and add (or add more of) the soy sauce, and salt/pepper. Taste as you go, and adjust seasonings accordingly. {Note: I like to season a little on the heavy side, since the pumpkin will be unseasoned and sharing.} Mix well and cook until warmed through.

Once the meat/veggies/rice mix is done, bring your pumpkin out of the oven for a minute. Fill the pumpkin with the innards mix. Replace the pumpkin's lid and return it to the oven. Bake at 350F for 1 hour, or until the pumpkin squash is tender {poke with a fork}. Also, the outside will start to "sag" a bit.

To serve, scoop out some pumpkin flesh along with the meat/veggies/rice mix and eat it all together, casserole style. Add a bit more soy sauce if desired. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

grilled pizza

I'd heard a bit about grilled pizza recently, but it wasn't until I saw this post on a blog I stalk called All Buttoned Up that I got "ballsy" enough to try it. We were absolutely unprepared and had to throw it all together in a minute {literally- since we had thrown the dough down on the grill before the toppings were even chopped}. But it turned out beautifully! The crust was deliciously crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. The veggies were cooked but not too soft. The entire thing was heavenly... and oh-so-quick-and-easy. We will definitely be trying this again! Here's our general recipe in case you'd like to as well.

RECIPE: Grilled Pizza

frozen pizza dough, thawed
pizza sauce (homemade or store-bought)
bell pepper
mozzerella cheese
freshly ground pepper

Before you start, remove the upper warming rack thing from your grill. You just want to work with the main rack and not have something above to and in your way. {If you forget this step, have your hubby whip out some pliers to do it while it's piping hot. I hear this works, too...} Now fire up your grill and brush it clean.

Roll out pizza dough. Prepare your toppings how you'd like (grate cheese, chop/julienne vegetables, etc.). Brush {or spread with your fingers... } olive oil on both sides of the dough. Place the dough on the grill, reducing the heat to low. Let this side cook for just about a minute, then flip it. Add your toppings and close the lid. Grill for about 5 minutes or until your toppings are done and the crust is nicely charred. {Easy, right?} Remove from the grill and eat up! :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

tin foil dinners

Nothing says summer like camping, and nothing says camping like tin foil dinners. Although we didn't feel up to driving up the canyon and building a fire (especially since it was past dinnertime already), we used our math skills and figured that if A = B and B = C, then A = C (that's right, Mr. Kerr, I was paying attention). So for us, nothing says summer like tin foil dinners... a la grill! :) We did eat them on our front porch whilst sitting in camping chairs. That counts for something, right?

They're easy-peasy. Here's how you make 'em.

RECIPE: Tin Foil Dinners

Tin foil dinners can be made with just about anything. The way we make them generally includes the following staples:

tin foil
ground beef
potatoes, thinly sliced
onions, chopped
carrots, chopped
seasoning* (a good amount)

*For seasoning, we generally use Lawry's seasoning salt and freshly ground pepper, but use what sounds good to you. Also, we generally use white/yellow onions, but this time all we had in the house were green ones. So we used those, and it was really tasty! Seriously, tin foil dinners are so easy and versatile. Almost anything goes.

Then we throw in whatever else sounds yummy. This time, we had leftover kabob-ingredients (cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers) in the fridge, so we chopped them up and used them too.

I stop there, but Derek likes to add a dollop of Cream of Mushroom soup to his. Both ways are super yummy.

Assembling the lil' guys is easy as well. Lay out a big piece of tin foil (or layer two, if you want to be on the safe side)- about 2 ft. long. Put your meat down in the center; flatten it into a patty of sorts; season it. Then pile on the veggies and whatever else you decided to add, seasoning that as well. Seal the foil up like a package- pulling the longer sides up and rolling them together first, then closing up the ends.

Toss those puppies on the grill, over med-high heat, for 20 minutes- flipping them half way (so 10 minutes on each side).

Serve warm and enjoy. Mmm... summertime!

PS. This is a great meal to let kids help with (which almost guarantees they'll eat it afterward). James assembled his own, grabbing a handful of this and a handful of that. I even let him help with the seasoning. Super fun, and healthy too!

What do YOU put in your tin foil dinners?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

chicken parmesan

Last week, I made spaghetti. I had to leave for work right after dinner, so the process was a bit chaotic. I put green beans in the microwave and bread in the toaster (to make a quick version of garlic toast)... and I absolutely forgot about the bread. The next day, I discovered the toast. I decided I would have to try my hand at homemade breadcrumbs. The toast has been sitting on the counter since then. Needless to say, it was nice and stale. Perfect, really.

The idea for this recipe came from my sister-in-law's post (find it here). Mine is certainly not her healthy version, but BY GOLLY- it is delicious! Try it out. I think you'll like it.

RECIPE: Chicken Parmesan

4 pieces whole wheat bread, toasted
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. {ish?} freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp. EVOO
1 1/2 lbs. chicken breast (or 3 small)
2 eggs
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. Canola/vegetable oil {I think; I didn't measure.}
1 1/2 c. Mozzarella cheese
spaghetti noodles
spaghetti sauce (about 2 c.)
1 can green beans

Preheat oven to 450F.

Pound the chicken breasts until they are about 1/2 inch thick. This step is important. It not only tenderizes the chicken but also thins it out so that it cooks uniformly... and doesn't burn on the outside before it's cooked through. {I like to do this in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag... using a rubber mallet.}

*Note: I had two massive chicken boobies that I cut into four pieces. I only ended up using three since I didn't quite have enough breadcrumbs. Hence the three breasts recommendation.

Using a food processor, pulse the toast, 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, garlic, S&P and EVOO - in that order- until breadcrumbs form.
Prepare your assembly line of bread-crumbing ingredients. Dump the flour onto a plate. Beat two eggs and a splash of water in a bowl of some sort. Dump your super-savory breadcrumbs onto another plate.
{Like so}
Heat your Canola/vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Meanwhile, dredge each chicken breast in flour, shake off excess; slosh around in egg mixture, coating fully; then press into breadcrumbs, pressing crumbs into chicken until absolutely coated. Fry the prepared chicken in oil (again, in a large skillet over med to med-high heat) for about 3-4 minutes per side, or until golden and fabulous {see below}.

Note: Get your water boiling now for your pasta. Don't forget to salt the water.
Place the fried chicken on a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet {or stone, if that's what you had out before you thought of the cooling rack idea}. This will help keep the breadcrumbs crispy later on.
Top liberally with Mozzarella cheese and lightly with Parmesan cheese. Throw some pepper up on there if you feel the need.
Bake at 450F for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and browned.

Note: The bake time for the chicken perfectly coincides with the spaghetti cooking time. So as soon as you throw the birdies in the oven, start cooking your pasta. I'm a horrid judge of pasta quantities, so use your own {better} judgement. Cook according to package instructions.

Also, open up a can of green beans. Drain 'em a bit, then dump 'em in a bowl. Microwave for dos minutos. Easy-peasy.

Oh, and warm up some spaghetti sauce. I did it on the stove; you could also nuke it. Whatev. But you do want it warm... so take care of that.

Once your 10 minutes are up, the entire meal should be ready to assemble. Grab a plate and dish up some spaghetti noodles. Top with sauce. Top that with your oh-so-yummy chicken. And serve with a side of green beans.

Mmm... amazing!

Friday, April 2, 2010

honey-mustard pork chops

When we had our little Jolie, several people from our ward {church} brought us dinner. It was the kindest thing... and not too shabby in the tasty department. :) One couple in particular brought us something that absolutely Hit.The.Spot. They were breaded chicken tenders, but they had a kick of unexpected flavor that I couldn't identify but LOVED. Anyway, eventually I called them and asked for the recipe. It was an "equal parts of this and that and a splash of this other" sort of recipe- the kind I love, btw. And it worked pretty well. Somehow we couldn't get the chicken as tender nor the frying as down pat, but still- delish.

Then last night Derek and I were searching for a dinner idea and came across some pork loin chops in the freezer. I rarely cook with pork, mostly because I am not sure what to do with it, but I thought I'd give it a try. I searched through several of the foodie blogs I stalk, checked on, and looked through Rachael Ray's recipes. Rach {yep, we're that close} had a similar-to-the-Welling's recipe but with pork loin chops. I stole ideas from these two recipes and made up my own rendition. The results were pretty fabulous, if I do say so myself. Super tender, super tasty, and not too difficult to make. Feel free to try it with chicken breast or tenders, too. It's yum either way. Mmm... now where are those leftovers?

{Note: We didn't have thin-cut loin chops; we just had regular ones. The problem with regular ones is they're thick and require longer cooking- which could result in burned breadcrumbs or over-cooked-and-therefore-tough pork. We cut ours in half to make them thinner. It worked super great! But if you're buying the chops after seeing this recipe, ask your butcher for thin-cut boneless loin chops.}

RECIPE: Honey-Mustard Pork Chops

4 thin-cut boneless pork loin chops
1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. dijon mustard
3 tsp. vinegar
1 c. breadcrumbs
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
4-ish Tbsp. canola/vegetable oil

First, tenderize the loin chops. To do this, place the chops in a ziplock bag, press out extra air and seal. Then get a mallet and pound. Pound them until they are about 1cm thick.

In a small-medium bowl {I use a square tupperware dish}, mix honey, dijon mustard and vinegar until combined. On a large plate, dump out breadcrumbs and mix in the S&P. Dip each tenderized pork chop in the honey-mustard mixture, then in the breadcrumbs, coating well.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-heat. (You'll know the oil's ready when a wooden spoon pressed to the bottom results in little bubbles coming up around it.) Cook the now-breaded pork loin chops for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until they are golden brown.

Note: If you need to keep the chops warm while you wait for your side, etc., put them on a wire rack inside of a rimmed cookie sheet and into a 300F oven. This will keep them crisp.

Serve warm and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Becky Homecky Cooking Tip No. 1

Freeze your uber-ripe bananas!

You heard me. Freeze them. When my bananas get too ripe/old and I don't want to utilize them now nor toss them, I pop them into the freezer. Just like that. Don't peel them, chop them, nothin'. Then when you want to use them in a muffin recipe, etc., pull them out of the freezer, nuke them for a few seconds {I do about a minute for 3 bananas}, goop them out of their peels, and Ta Da! Your bananas are prime for baking. It works like a charm, is super quick and easy, and really- who doesn't love stretching produce life a little longer? Give it a try... and let me know what you think.

chocolate banana muffins

This recipe originally comes from a food blog I frequent, For the Love of Cooking. The concept of adding cocoa powder to banana muffins was super appealing to me, so I decided to give it a try. I changed a few things {adding a few ingredients... skipping a few steps...etc.}, but the recipe is mostly hers. It was a success! We all loved them, and James {let's be honest... Derek} didn't even know that they were good for him. :)

RECIPE: Chocolate Banana Muffins

Yield: 2 dozen muffins

1 egg
2-3 ripe bananas
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1/3 c. canola oil

1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 c. cocoa
1/4 c. flax seed meal
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix first set of ingredients, whisking well. Then add dry ingredients, minus the chocolate chips {you could and probably should pre-mix these dry ingredients separately, but I never do... who needs another dirty bowl??} and mix/whisk well. Fold in the chocolate chips. Then spray muffin tins with non-stick spray and spoon the batter into greased muffin tins. Bake at 350F for 20-ish minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool on a rack and then gobble 'em up!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

biscuits and gravy

Biscuits and gravy are a staple breakfast in this household. I make them from scratch, which makes Derek think I'm amazing {don't tell him they're easy} and makes me feel pretty domestic. If we ever have a lazy Saturday morning or something, these are often on the menu. James will request them by name {While looking in the pantry like I often do when considering meals, he'll say, "hm... how about biscuits and grabey?"}... and when we have time, I'll honor his adorable little request. So try them out. They're fabulous. And watch your family devour!

RECIPE: Biscuits and Gravy

Tip: I seem to take forever to get the gravy to the right consistency {reduced down enough}, so I find that starting on the gravy first then doing the biscuits while the gravy reduces down is the best way to get the whole meal ready around the same time.

Recipe: Country-style Sausage Gravy

1 lb. sausage {I prefer Jimmy Dean Mild sausage in the lil' tube.}
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 c. flour
milk (lots- like 1/2 gallon)
salt/ground pepper- lots, to taste

First brown the sausage in a large skillet, over med-high heat. Then (I don't drain the grease; I use it to flavor the gravy and add to the roux.) add the butter and let it melt. Sprinkle the flour on top and mix it in a bit. Let the flour bubble for a minute to cook the floury/glue taste out. Increase heat to high. Add milk, a cup or two at a time, whisking it in as you go. Let the milk get hot/boil before you add more. This hopefully will speed up your thickening. Add as much milk as you think you want; I add about 1/2 gallon... we like gravy around here. Season as you go with salt and freshly ground pepper. You'll want a good deal of both and probably more than you'd think {taste it to see what you like}, especially the pepper. Once the gravy's reached the consistency you like (it should at least coat the back of a spoon), you're done!

Recipe: Biscuits

{Note: The biscuits recipe is not in any way mine. I got it from my Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book -- p. 129 of my pink, breast-cancer edition. I do the "Drop Biscuits Supreme" version. Here it is.}

3 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cream of tartar
3/4 c. butter (or 1/2 c. butter and 1/4 c. shortening)
1 1/4 c. milk

Preheat oven to 450F. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cream of tartar. Using a pastry blender {pastry cutter?}, cut in butter until mixture resembles course crumbs {I do until they're about pea-sized}. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add milk all at once. Using a fork, stir until mixture is moistened. {Note: I do none of those last couple of things... just dump in the milk and mix it up with my wooden spoon or whatever. It works fine.}

Using a large spoon, drop dough into 12 mounds onto a greased baking sheet. {I often make about a dozen and a half or so, liking smaller biscuits. Derek likes 'em big, so he does the 12. Also, we cook them on our Pampered Chef stone... not greased. They turn out great!} Bake for 10-14 minutes or until golden. Remove biscuits from baking sheet and serve warm.

Monday, January 18, 2010

chicken tomato spinach alfredo pasta

Derek and I love, love, LOVE the Chicken Tomato Spinach Alfredo pizza from Papa John's. {Can Papa John's go wrong, really? I say, "nay."} One day I thought I'd try out a pasta version {pizza pasta is a hit at this house generally}. It turned out really well! And it was so, so easy and quick. Perfect combo, imo. Try it and let me know what you think.

Note: For the record, I like this better sans chicken. Maybe it's the pregnancy {this girlie is a vegetarian, I think} or maybe it's just better that way. Derek likes the meat-factor, though, so I make it with chicken and just pick it out of mine. Anyway- thought I'd let you know. You'll have to decide which way you like it best.

RECIPE: Chicken Tomato Spinach Alfredo Pasta

spaghetti noodles {sorry... I'm really bad at pasta quantities}
1 lb. chicken breast
2 Tbsp. (ish) EVOO
1 c. (ish) frozen spinach
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 pkg. Western Family {Seriously, this is the BEST!} Alfredo mix
Parmesan cheese, shredded
salt/pepper, to taste

First get your water boiling and cook spaghetti noodles according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a frying pan, dice the chicken breast(s) and brown the chicken in the EVOO over medium-high heat. Make sure the chicken is cooked through.

Also meanwhile {you should have time for both chicken and sauce; pasta takes a while}, prepare the alfredo sauce according to package directions. {This only takes a couple of minutes... it's quick, easy, cheap, and so yummy!}

When the spaghetti is nearly done (about a minute or so shy), add the frozen spinach to it. Let the pasta finish and the spinach defrost and blanche. Then remove from heat and drain.

Add the chicken, diced tomatoes, and alfredo sauce to the pasta/spinach pot. Toss well to coat/mix. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper- to taste.

Serve warm with fresh Parmesan cheese on top... and garlic bread on the side {mmm}. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

ham fried rice

I was craving something Asian and was too unambitious to make manapuas (which is the Hawaiian name for them, I suppose, making them not-so-Asian... if you're curious as to what they are, stay tuned. I intend to make them sometime in the near future). So I made ham fried rice. Easy. Quick. And it used up several ingredients we had around from the holidays. I hadn't really made this before, but I think it turned out pretty yummy. We were going to have this accompany pot stickers, but it made a ton and we wanted to eat ASAP. So this was our meal. Hey, at least we had grain, protein and veggies. It's a relatively balanced meal. :) Either way, it was good. And hey- a little Asian good luck to start of the new year is never a bad thing, right?

RECIPE: Ham Fried Rice

1/4 c. diced onion
1 c. diced ham
2 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, divided
2 tsp. vegetable oil {or canola or whatever, but probably not EVOO}
1 c. frozen peas
1 c. shredded carrots
3 eggs {I'd probably do 4 next time}
4 c. cooked, cool white rice
soy sauce, to taste
sesame seed oil
ginger powder

If you have leftover rice, use that. Otherwise {I didn't} cook 2 c. rice according to package directions (it will double once cooked) and throw in the freezer for at least 30 min. or so, preferably with the lid off. You want it cold and slightly dried out... leftover-like, if you will.

Over medium-high heat, fry onion, ham and 1/2 tsp. garlic powder in 1 tsp. vegetable oil in a large skillet/frying pan. Fry/cook for about 2 minutes or so, or until the onion is soft and the whole thing's a little browned. Reduce to medium heat and add 1 tsp. oil, peas and carrots. Fry for another couple of minutes, until peas are thawed and all is warmed and cooked a bit. Add eggs and stir to scramble. Once eggs are cooked, add the rice. Mix well to combine, then add the remaining seasonings to taste.

{Note: I put in about 7 glug-glug-glug turns around the pan of soy sauce (sorry for the crumby terminology), about 1/8 tsp. sesame seed oil (be careful with this guy; a little goes a very long way), 2 tsp.-ish garlic powder and oh... 1 tsp. ginger powder, along with a decent amount of ground pepper and a bit of salt (you don't need much; the soy sauce is pretty salty). Just add a bit, taste it, add a bit, taste it... that sort of thing. Ultimately YOU will eat it, so make it taste good to you.}

Serve warm... alone or otherwise. And enjoy!

salmon chowder

Note: Picture AND recipe courtesy of Kurt & Bonnie Anderson. Kurt ice-fished and brought home some gorgeous, delicious salmon. Kurt de-scaled and de-boned (I know there are real words for these things, but I don't know them) the fish at his own apartment- which was especially kind (ick). And he and Bonnie came over and cooked up this amazing soup for us. They even took the picture. Absolutely none of this is mine, but it was a delicious recipe, and I wanted to share it. Thank you, Kurt and Bonnie! Try it. You will thank them too!

PS. I don't like fish as a general rule. At all. And I LOVED this. It's not really "fishy" and tastes great. So if you're leery of fish like I am, still try it. It really is that good!

RECIPE: Salmon Chowder

2 lbs. red potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 large onion, chopped
1 (49.5 fl. oz.) can chicken broth
1 lb. salmon steaks, bones removed, cut into 1" cubes
1/2 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 c. milk
1 c. half-and-half cream
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1/2 tsp. salt
pepper, to taste

In a soup kettle or Dutch oven, bring potatoes, onion and broth to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook until potatoes are tender. Add salmon and bacon; cook over medium heat until fish flakes easily with a fork. Reduce heat; stir in milk, cream, butter, salt and pepper; heat through (do not boil). Thicken if desired.

{Note: He did have to thicken it and used probably 3-4 Tbsp. corn starch (mixed first with cold water) to do so. Also- don't be afraid to bring it to a boil (it needs it to thicken with the corn starch); just don't leave it there.}

Mmm... try it. It's wonderful.