Thursday, July 28, 2011

Creamy Chicken &Broccoli Casserole

My wife chose this recipe from Kraft while working on the grocery list on a day I was at work. This dish is lives up to it's name as it's creamy, loaded with flavor, and has a veggie in it. Now broccoli is on of my toddlers favorite veggies, believe it or not, and she loved this dish because it had cheese melted onto the broccoli.

This recipe was in the spring edition of Kraft Food & Family and we fixed it smack in the middle of the dog days of summer, while delicious it was incredibly heavy for a hot day. But this recipe will definitely be making its way into our rotations come this fall and winter when we need a good healthy comfort food.
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 pkg. frozen broccoli florets, thawed, drained (it is very important to make sure their thawed as it will add more cooking time if they are not)
1 1/2 cups Kraft 2% milk shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 tub Philadelphia Savory Garlic Cooking Creme
1/2 cup milk
24 Ritz Crackers, crushed (about 1 cup)
1 tbsp. butter, melted

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Combine first 5 ingredients in 13x9-inch baking dish; cover
3. Bake 25 min. Meanwhile, mix cracker crumbs and butter
4. Stir chicken mixture; top with crumbs. Bake, uncovered, 10 min. or until topping is golden brown.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Blackberry Pie!

A few weekends ago the family and I went to pick fresh blackberries from a local grower. We had a blast and my little girl thought it was the coolest thing ever to be picking berries. Once we got home I needed to decide what to make with them. I initially had wanted to do blackberry cobbler outside in my dutch oven, but as the heat index was in the triple digits I opted instead for a blackberry pie. I used my usual butter pie crust recipe from and also used a blackberry pie recipe from the same website.
The final result was delicious! I've only made a few pie crusts with this recipe and I'm getting better at it, each one is a little flakier then that last. I love this recipe as it's easy to to throw together an only has a few ingredients.
Butter Flaky Pie Crust
I have prepared this recipe as is and doubled it with no problems or change in consistency.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, chilled and diced
1/4 cup ice water

1. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water, a tablespoon at a time, until mixture forms a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 4 hours  or overnight.
2. Roll dough out to fit a 9 inch pie plate. Place crust in pie plate. Press the dough evenly into the bottom and sides of the pie plate.

Blackberry Pie
4 cups fresh blackberries
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
2 tbsp milk
1/4 cup white sugar

1. Combine 3 1/2 cups berries with the sugar and flour. spoon the mixture into an unbaked pie shell. Spread the remaining 1/2 cup berries on top of the sweetened berries, and cover with the top crust. Seal and crimp the edges. Brush the top crust with milk, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar(I omitted brushing the crust with milk and sprinkling with sugar as I am still trying to improve my skills on the basic pie crust).
2. Bake at 425 degree F for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 375 degrees F, and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

BBQ Competition Cooking Class

    A few weekends ago I had the wonderful opportunity to set through a class on cooking in a BBQ Competition. The class was hosted by Backyard Bash, an outdoor cooking specialty store, and was instructed by Chris Marks of The Three Little Pigs BBQ team. Chris has won the American Royal BBQ competition 8 times as well as many other contests across the country, so it's safe to say he knows a thing or two when it comes to competing and what it means to be successful at it. I really enjoyed this class and had a really good time, despite the fact that the temperature that day was in the eighties by eight o'clock that day. Chris teaches the class using all his techniques, rubs, and spices but he does a great job on pushing you to develop your own flavor profile.
    This class covered how to cook all four categories of a KCBS sanctioned competition; ribs, chicken, pork, and brisket. It also included a competition supply check list, a DVD with a power point presentation of every topic discussed, box presentation for the four classes, as well as a homework slab of ribs.
  I believe this was the point where Chris was talking about the importance of having one guy/gal named as the team captain so as to prevent any arguments when it came time to decide what was going to be turned in to the judges. It was at this point that my Dad, who took the class with me and is wanting to compete as well, looked at me and said "That's you!". I don't remember what I said back, if anything, but I do remember feeling a little shocked and proud that he would name me the team captain like that.
  The prep of the ribs is hands on, which for me is the best way to learn and the most fun. We started with a cut down slab of baby back ribs and were walked through the process of removing the membrane, slathering with mustard, and finally giving the ribs a generous dusting of rub. Once the ribs were prepped and seasoned we placed them on the smoker, where the rested for the duration of the class. At the end of the class we collect our ribs and take them home, where they needed like another hour at 225ยบ to finish cooking.
   This is the same set up Chris cooks with on his BBQ team, which he also  works for the company that manufactures it. I have to say after seeing this thing in action it had me dreaming of owning one, but I'm afraid it's a little pricey for a person whose still hoping to do his first BBQ competition.
   I would like to extend a huge Thank you to Backyard Bash for hosting the class and to Chris for putting it on. I learned a great deal and had a great time doing it. If you know someone who loves to BBQ and wants to, or needs too, further their skills this is a great way to do it. They also host several other classes that are geared more for the backyard cook, which having taken one is well worth the time and money.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sunshine No Bake Cookies!

What child, or adult for that matter, does not have a love affair with the chocolate oatmeal no bake cookies? I mean it's practically a staple of memories for me as it's tied to some really fun times. The only problem is that most recipes call for the use of peanut butter, something that I must avoid in my kitchen at all costs. Thankfully though with the ever expanding market of alternatives, there our two good options for those who must avoid peanut butter. Currently on the shelves I have found Soy Butter and Sunflower Butter. The Soy Butter tastes very similar to Peanut Butter and has a very similar consistency. The Sunflower Butter is made with the meats of sunflower seeds, so it has a different flavor of course but it's consistency is similar to Peanut Butter. I took a recipe that my wife had from a long time ago, well it looks more like an ingredient list but I was able to decifer it well enough to make the cookies. The end result was delicious with a hint of the sunflower seeds, making this a very good replacement for those with Peanut allergies or those wanting to try a new spin on a classic.

My Mother-in-law has made these cookies using the Soy Butter and stated that they came out delicious as well.

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup cocoa
3 cups oatmeal
1/2 cup Sunflower butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Comine sugar milk, butter, and cocoa in a medium sauce pot. Bring to a boil and maintain for 2 minutes being sure to stir constantly. Remove pan from heat and add Sunflower Butter, oatmeal, and vanilla and mix well. Spoon the mixture onto waiting wax paper and allow to cool to set.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Blueberry Pancakes

With the recent diagnosis of my daughter being allergic to peanuts I have had to go through my pantry and cupboards with a fine tooth comb and throw out anything that either "contains" or "may contain peanuts". Which to my surprise my quick and lazy box of pancake batter was marked with the dreaded "may contain peanuts". So instead of looking at the store for a box of pancake batter that was safe I did the next logical thing, make my pancakes from scratch! This was something I had thought about doing long before having to worry about peanut allergies, but had not followed through do to pure laziness. My search for a recipe was pretty short, like looking in one cookbook short. I opened up my Cooking Light Cookbook as I wanted a recipe that was a little healthier and this book has always come threw for me in the past. Sure enough, it had two pages dedicated to pancakes and waffles. I settled on the recipe for Buttermilk Pancakes, as I always preferred the box buttermilk pancakes. The recipe is super easy to follow and has doubled with no problems. The final product was a light fluffy pancake with wonderful flavor. In fact it was so good, I am going to have a hard time trying some different recipes.
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup low-fat or nonfat buttermilk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Maple syrup

1. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Combine buttermilk, oil and egg; add to flour mixture, stirring until smooth.
2. Spoon about 1/4 cup batter onto a hot nonstick griddle or nonstick skillet. turn pancakes when tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked. Serve with maple syrup, if desired. Yield 3 servings (serving size 3 pancakes). Calories 276

I added blue berries to these, as their one of my daughters favorites. I always keep a bag of frozen blue berries and thaw them with luke warm water in a measuring cup. I then add the blue berries after I pour the pancakes on the griddle. I do this to prevent the pancake batter from turning blue from the blueberry juice and the pancakes cook more evenly with thawed blueberries instead of frozen ones.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Taco Burger

I came up with this idea from a cook book I recently got, it's Bugers by Paul Gayler. While thumbing through the book I came across teh new Mexican Burger, which is a buger on a corn tortilla served with salsa, sour cream, lettuce, and guacamole. I decided to take this recipe and give it my own spin while trying to keep with the theme. I seasoned the meat with my favorite taco seasoning, served it on a bun and covered it with all the ussual taco toppings. The end result was delicious and loads of fun to eat. The best part is it's Tot approved! My little girl loves tacos so it was no big deal to be eating all the ussual taco ingredients.
Hamburger buns
1lb lean ground beef
1 packet taco seasoning
sliced cheese
sour cream
taco sauce
2 avacados
1 small onion
2 roma tomatos
1 tbsp Lime juice
salt to taste

Make the guacamole by slicing the avacado in half, remove the pit by striking it with the sharp edge of your knife and simply twisting the pit loose. Next take an avacado half and slice the avacado with a kitchen kife into small cubes then scoop out with a spoon into a small bowl. Chop the onion and roma tomatos into small pieces and combine with the avacado. Add the lime juice and mix well with a fork, add enough salt to taste.

Combine the taco seasoning with 1lb ground beef, being sure to fully incoporate the two. Set the grill up for direct grilling and cook through, approximately 3-4 minutes per side. To assemble place the hamburger patties on a bun and topped with cheese, lettuce, a spoonfull of guacamole, and a touch of taco sauce.

Inspired by the book Burgers by Paul Gayler

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summertime Shakes

It's summer time and you need something to cool of with, so why not make your self a chocolate shake? I got this recipe from my Mother-in-law so that I could keep my wife happy, since she grew up on them. Well I've not changed the recipe, but I do pick the ingredients to suit our tastes or my tastes I should say.

1-1/2 cup Milk
3 cups Ice Cream (I use vanilla, but you could use chocolate if you want double the flavor)
1/2 cup Chocolate syrup

Place the 1/2 cup chocolate syrup into the blender, add the 1-1/2 cups of milk, and finally add the 3 cups of vanilla ice cream. Blend until well combined and serve.

Makes 2 cups


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Peanut Allergy

A few weeks ago I mentioned that my daughter had been diagnosed with a peanut allergy and that my cooking would have to change, well little did I realize at the time that it would effect so many aspects of our daily lives. For those who don't know anyone with a food allergy I must mention this is not like seasonal allergies where you get puffy itchy eyes, itchy throat, sneezing, and a runny nose. Food allergies can range from a rash to a full blown anaphlaxis reaction, which can be followed by death. The scary part about food allergies, peanuts in particular, is the person doesn't have to come into contact with the allergen, some people are so allergic that a reaction can be initiated by simply being breathed on by another person who ate a peanut product. This is why so many places, like schools, have taken such a proactive stance and banned all peanut products or even banning lunches from home. While this seems unfair and over reacting, a feeling even I'm guilty of, it's extremely comforting knowing my child will be safe.

Now my wife has spent ours on the internet researching any product that may contain peanuts. So far she has found products from Kraft, Burt's Bees Wax, various bread product's, premixed Pancake batter, most candy bars,  and the list goes on. Then there's the places we can not take our daughter due to either preparing food on general equipment with peanut products or having peanuts on the premises; Baseball stadiums, Olive Garden, Texas Road House, and Pizza Hut to list a few. As you can see the impact this has on our daily life as well as the rest of our family, all who have been very accommodating, is quite intrusive.

I must extend a huge thank you to my wife for all the research she has and is doing. Her attention to detail and tendency to be a worry wort, though rightly placed, is doing so much to keep our daughter safe. As Sam grows up we will be teaching her how to live with this food allergy while still getting to enjoy life, and Jennie's research will play a huge roll in doing that.

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