Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chili-Cheese Dip

The little man recently got the go-ahead from his doctor to start solid food. Foodie that I am, I'd like to make as much of his food as I can. I'm stocked with an e-book from and a copy of Super Baby Food (which I presume will make my baby a Super Baby). I have a steamer, food processor, and blender.

And a baby who can't seem to eat anything except chocolate pudding. Granted, he's still sick and on antibiotics. But you would not believe the havoc wrought by a single tablespoon of mashed bananas. And I thought ALL babies could eat rice cereal.

Nevertheless, we'll keep on trying. (Tips are welcome.) And hopefully we can still find time to feed the adults in the house, too. (I actually have been cooking more than my blog would imply. The hubby and I have been cooking ahead on weekends, and we've been making a lot of our favorites because we're trying to compile everything into a cookbook for ourselves. With better pics!)

The little man actually enjoys hanging out in the kitchen with me. He sits in his Bumbo chair on the counter (yes, he's always supervised) and we chat while I cook. I explain everything that I'm doing, and he watches me and plays with the ingredients. (This is Jack, Keeper of the Bay Leaves.)

(He was on a bad mood and insisted on being photographed only from the torso down.)

Tonight, my tiny sous chef and I are making baked steak burritos, because my brother Cory is coming to visit. And for some pre-supper munchies, we're having chips with chili-cheese dip. This is one of those recipes that everyone has a version of. I've tried dozens, and this is my favorite. Very simple, very yummy.

Chili-Cheese Dip
Serves 2-4

1 can hot chili without beans
3 oz. cream cheese, cubed
1/2 c. shredded pepperjack cheese
1/2 tsp. chili powder

1. In a small saucepan, heat chili over medium heat. Stir in cream cheese, pepperjack cheese, and chili powder. Cook until thoroughly heated, stirring often.

2. Serve with chips.

General Mills offer

General Mills recently announced that they'll be reducing the amount of sugar in cereals for kids under the age of 12 so that each serving contains single-digit grams of sugar per serving. This is great news not only for those of us who eat cereal, but also for those of us who bake with it. (Now your homemade cereal bars will be even better for you!)

As part of the announcement, General Mills is offering a $1 off coupon for a single box of Trix, Cocoa Puffs, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, or Lucky Charms. In addition, General Mills (via MyBlogSpark) provided me with this information, and four coupons for free cereal. Woo!

My favorite cereal is Raisin Nut Bran, and the hubby sure loves his Reese's Puffs. While I've been playing around with recipe ideas (Sour Cream-Raisin Nut Bran Muffins, anyone?), the hubby says his favorite cereal recipe is still:

1. Pour cereal.
2. Add milk.
3. Dig in and enjoy.

Go eat your breakfast!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Caramel-Peanut Bites

I'm hungry for a Snickers, but still have a sick little man and some extremely icy roads. What's a girl to do? Make her own!

I saw an episode of Giada at Home on Food Network last fall that included a recipe for Smoked Almond Turtles that looked fabulous. And while that's still on my list of recipes to try, I decided to adapt the ingredients to make what I was craving. So I used Giada's caramel recipe, but changed, well, everything else. Including the size of the candies. I used mini muffin tins, because muffin-sized turtles sounded like a bit too much of a snack.

I'm speaking calorie-wise here. Appetite-wise, I could totally handle it.

Caramel-Peanut Bites
Makes 24

Cooking spray
1 c. halved or coarsely chopped peanuts
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. water
1 1/2 c. milk chocolate chips

1. Generously coat 24 mini muffin cups with cooking spray. Sprinkle peanuts in each muffin cup.

2. In a saucepan, combine cream, butter, brown sugar, and water. Stir over medium heat until combined. Then attach a candy thermometer and let mixture boil, without stirring, until it reaches 240 degrees.

3. Let caramel cool for about 30 seconds, and then pour a few teaspoons over the peanuts in each muffin cup. (I had some caramel left over.) Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

4. Melt chocolate chips in microwave or in a saucepan over low heat. Spoon melted chocolate over the top of each candy.

5. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

6. Use a small spatula or knife to remove the candies. Store in the refrigerator if you won't be eating them right away.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Slow-Cooked Chili con Carne

The NFC and AFC championship games are today. For those of you who could care less about football, these games determine who will be playing in the Superbowl in a few weeks. This is a bigger deal than usual 'round these parts, because we're in Vikings country. Big-time. I think that 90% of the Facebook posts I read today were "Skol, Vikings!" ("Skol" being the Scandinavian salute, as opposed to Skoal, the chewing tobacco.)

Everyone is wearing their purple and gold. Even the snowman across the street. (Seriously.)

I grew up rooting for the Vikes. The hubby is a Bears fan first, and a Vikes fan second. So we're definitely cheering for our ... well, not hometown team, but the closest team we've got. Although we're pretty low-key about it. I don't even own a Vikings shirt.

I DO own a Vikings helmet, complete with blonde braids, but I have no idea where it went. The last time I saw it, the cat was wearing it. (Again, seriously.)

In any case, it's a day for good football food. Like chili. The hubby and I have several favorite chili recipes, but I have yet to try traditional chili con carne -- chili with meat, but no beans, tomatoes, or onions. It's just slow-cooked meat simmered with spices and water, and then thickened with masa harina. This recipe is from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker: Recipes for Entertaining by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. I followed the recipe almost to the letter, except that I halved it, as I often do when trying a new recipe that can feed a crowd. (No use making 10 servings of something you don't like, right?)

The chili was quite spicy -- much more so than I'm used to. But very good. I think it would be even better rolled up in a tortilla with some cheese (which is how the hubby plans to eat his).

Slow-Cooked Chili con Carne
8-10 servings

2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 lbs. boneless beef round steak, trimmed and cut in 1/4" cubes, or chili-grind beef (I used sirloin tip, cut in cubes)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cayenne pepper or 2 Tbsp. New Mexican red chile powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. dried oregano (I used Mexican oregano)
1 Tbsp. hot pepper sauce
6 c. water or more, to cover (might depend on the size of your slow cooker)
Salt, to taste
3 Tbsp. masa harina
Recommended accompaniments: Crumbled saltines, shredded cheese, diced onion, diced jalapenos

1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook beef until no longer pink (about 6-8 minutes).

2. Drain fat off beef and add to slow cooker.

3. Add the garlic, chili powder, cayenne, cumin, oregano, hot pepper sauce, and enough water to cover the mixture by 1 inch. Stir to combine.

4. Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours. During the last hour, season with salt. Mix the masa harina with enough cold water to make a paste. Stir it in, cover, and cook until chili is thick.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A public service announcement

Hi. I'm Jack.

You might recognize me from such blog postings as Lovin' from the oven, You don't know Jack, and Happy holidays!

My mom doesn't like to use her blog as a social platform. She's too busy making cookies or stir-fry or hopefully chocolate pudding (please please PLEASE make chocolate pudding). But I'm here to talk to you today about a very serious subject. You might not know this about me, but I have feet.

I didn't know this, myself, until recently.

Another thing you might not know about me -- unless you read my mom's post last March -- is that I'm the result of in-vitro fertilization. A test tube baby, if you will. In fact, this was me, exactly one year ago.

I'm sure you can see the resemblence. And here I am today.

What a difference a year makes, huh? Now I've got all these fingers, and toes, and this super-cool Justice League t-shirt.

My mom and dad tried for a baby like me for many years, and there are thousands of others like them who are going through the same issues. And yet there are always critics -- a recent example being Jennifer Lopez -- who think that IVF is wrong or that it's messing with "God's plan."


This is what I have to say to them. And you, too, J.Lo.

You can kiss my dirty diapers.

And to those of you who are currently dealing with infertility issues, hang in there. Miracles do happen.

Peace out, yo.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Slow Cooker Pork Stew

So I went back to work a few weeks ago, and the little man went to daycare, and everyone was sleeping well and getting into a routine. Life was good. And then ... the little man got his first cold.
It's weird how something as simple as a cold can wreak such havoc. The little man was born with some upper respiratory issues that he'll hopefully grow out of, but for now, he sounds miserable. He can't breathe well anough to eat, he can't breathe well enough to sleep, his eyes are watery, and he's got a heavy cough. And yet, he's such a trouper. He takes his nose drops every few hours, smiles at the doctor, and giggles at the funny noises that his nose makes. He's still been our happy little camper, for the most part.

He has required a lot of attention, though. He's extra cuddly right now. And he needs to be sitting up to breathe and swallow. So the hubby and I have spent dozens of sleepless hours in the recliner, where the little man tosses and turns and coughs and snorts. And kicks. He really likes to kick.

So we were quite lazy this week. We ate a lot of leftovers. We picked up takeout. Some nights we even forgot to eat.

Hopefully the little man will start feeling better soon. His jumparoo misses him. In the meantime, we're going to rely on the slow cooker this weekend, in the hopes that we can all take some quality naps.

Today I made a pork stew, which is almost identical to my beef stew recipe, but with pork and chicken broth. I used some beautifully lean country-style ribs (one of my favorite cuts of meat) for this recipe. I just used regular old potatoes and carrots, but I think using some sweet potatoes would be lovely, as would using some parsnips for some of the carrots.

Slow Cooker Pork Stew
Serves 4-6

4 medium carrots, cut in chunks
2 lb. potatoes, cut in chunks
2 tsp. canola oil
1½ lbs. boneless lean pork, cut in chunks
Flour, for dusting pork
Salt, pepper, onion salt, and garlic salt, for sprinkling on pork
32 oz. chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. onion powder
1½ tsp. seasoned salt
¼ c. cornstarch
½ c. water
Additional salt, pepper, onion salt, and garlic salt, to taste

1. Put potatoes and carrots in slow cooker.

2. Heat 1 tsp. oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Dredge half the pork with flour and add to pan, seasoning with salt, pepper, onion salt, and garlic salt. Cook until pork starts to brown a bit.

3. Add pork to slow cooker. Repeat with remaining oil and pork.

4. Add some of the broth to the pan -- just enough to loosen up the bits on the bottom -- and pour into slow cooker. Add remaining broth, bay leaf, onion powder, and seasoned salt.

5. Cook on low 6-8 hours, or until pork is cooked and vegetables are tender.

6. Combine cornstarch and water, and stir into stew. If stew thickens immediately, season to taste and serve anytime. Otherwise, turn heat to high and cook stew an additional 30 minutes.

7. Serve in bowls. Unless you're like the hubby. Then you'll need these additional instructions -- and I conveniently found the pictures already on the camera for me.

7a. Take two pieces of bread.

7b. Put bread in toaster. Push down button.

7c. Remove toast from toaster.

7d. Serve stew on toast. Drink with Coke.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mexican Chicken Soup

This soup has been one of the hubby's favorites for about a decade. (He got the recipe from a friend of his who is now the food critic for a major newspaper, so of course it's got to be good.) It's very healthy, but packed with flavor. Chipotles will do that for ya.

Speaking of which, the first time I tasted this soup was the first time I ever tried chipotles. Or Swiss chard. Or zucchini. Or garlic. And look how far we've come!

But I digress. You can substitute any dark green in this soup. The hubby prefers Swiss chard, and our local supermarket used to carry it, probably just for him. (They kept it in back and would bring him some when he asked.) But alas, the Swiss chard is no more. We used collard greens this time 'round, but you could also use red chard, spinach, kale, or whatever floats your boat.

The hubby has this recipe committed to memory, and basically does everything by feel, so I attempted to document the recipe by watching and listening. Although we did have a few terminology issues. "And then you roast the garlic in the pan ..." Um, actually, that's sauteeing. "Well I call it 'roasting.' And then you slice the chipotles ..." It looks like you're mincing them. "I call it 'slicing.'"

You're so lucky I was there.

Mexican Chicken Soup
Serves 4

1 tsp. oil
2 c. peeled and cubed zucchini (about 2 small zucchini)
1 c. sliced carrots (about 2 carrots)
1 c. Swiss chard or other dark greens, cut in ribbons
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 chipotle peppers, seeded and minced
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken
7 c. chicken broth

1. Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until golden, about 2 minutes. Add carrots, zucchini, and Swiss chard.

2. Cook about 2-3 minutes, or until the veggies start to get soft and the Swiss chard start to wilt.

You don't want the greens cooked down too much, because you still want them a bit ribbony in the soup.

3. Meanwhile, cut chicken into bite-sized cubes. Like this.

4. Pour broth over veggies, and add chicken and chipotles.

5. Bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook about 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

6. The hubby says to drink this with Coke, especially if you can still find it in the Santa cans. It tastes better that way.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Beef and Broccoli

It's been an interesting week around the house. I returned to work full-time and the little man started daycare. So far, so good -- but holy hectic, Batman. I feel like I'm running around nonstop for at least 16 hours each day.

The little is happy with his setup. It's a very small daycare, but he seems to find the new surroundings terribly interesting. He sings in the car on the way there in the mornings, smiles and talks to his teachers, and thinks the other kids are fascinating. (Unless they cry or scream. Then they're just an-NOY-ing.) He gets to play with new toys and be involved in the daily activities (tummy time class, anyone?).

It makes for some stressful meal-planning, however, because I never know what I'll find when I pick him up in the afternoon -- happy baby, sleeping baby, or monster baby. Some evenings I might have an hour to prepare supper, and some evenings I finally make some scrambled eggs at 7. Needless to say, the hubby and I will be cooking ahead on the weekends for a while.

However, we did have another snowstorm this week. The roads were so awful that the hubby was sent home from work early (he works about 40 miles away). So while the hubby spent some quality Jack-baby time, I made some beef and broccoli. This is based on a recipe from Great American Recipes, which is a company that sends sample recipe cards in the mail, hoping you'll buy more. I don't, but I also can't help but flip through them, and I'm still looking for my favorite beef and broccoli recipe.

Surprisingly enough, this one might be it. Not too salty, saucy, or beefy, this stir-fry manages to be both light and very flavorful. And the pepper gives it just a bit of kick, especially if you use freshly ground.

Beef and Broccoli
Serves 3-4

1/4 c. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar (I'm assuming light works, as well)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
1 lb. sirloin, thinly sliced
1/2 medium onion, cut in bite-sized slices
1 medium head broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets
Cooked rice, for serving

1. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, lemon juice, cornstarch, sugar, garlic, pepper, and ginger.

2. Heat 1/2 Tbsp. oil in a wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef and stir-fry until cooked.

3. Remove beef from pan.

4. Heat remaining oil in skillet. Add onion and broccoli and stir-fry about 3-4 minutes, or until veggies are crisp-tender.

5. Return beef to skillet. Reduce heat to medium and add sauce. Cook until sauce is slightly thickened, about two minutes.

6. Serve over rice.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Gaucho Steak Sandwiches

I've been very hungry for steak lately, and thought these steak sandwiches would be a fun treat for the hubby and I to try. This is a slightly modified version of a Rachael Ray recipe; I decided not to involve the oven and not to drench the steak in the chimichurri sauce. I also used my own favorite cheese, and I halved the recipe -- although both the hubby and I agree that this would easily still feed four people.

If you've never tried chimichurri, it's an Argentinean condiment that's sort of like a dressing, but that is typically used as a sauce or marinade. The basic components are parsley, garlic, vinegar, oil, and chiles of some sort, although I've seen dozens of versions. Chimichurri is sometimes referred to as "gaucho," which is also the term for a South American cowboy.

Chimichurri is designed to complement beef because, well, Argentineans like their beef. They eat more of it than anyone else in the world. The Pampas, which are low-lying grasslands, are excellent grazing lands for beef cattle.

I included that last part just to prove that I was listening in my eleventh-grade history and geography class. Thank you.

Gaucho Steak Sandwiches
Serves 4

1/2 c. lightly packed flat-leaf parsley
3 garlic cloves
1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Juice of 1 lime
2 1/2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 c. plus 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced and chopped
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 1/4 lb. sirloin or other steak

Steak seasoning
4 sub-style sandwich rolls, split
4 oz. whole-milk mozzarella, shredded

1. In a food processor, pulse the parsley, garlic, and jalapeño a few times, until the mixture is finely chopped. Add the red pepper flakes, lime juice, vinegar, 1/2 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Process until combined.

2. Pour half the sauce in a bowl and add the sliced red onion and tomato wedges. (Save the remaining sauce for passing at the table.)

3. Heat a large, preferably cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Season steak with steak seasoning. Add the remaining ½ Tbsp. olive oil to the pan. Cook the steak 5-10 minutes per side, and then let rest for at least 5 minutes. Thinly slice steak across the grain.

4. Heat a nonstick skillet to medium heat. For each sandwich, add one-fourth the steak, and pour some of the tomato and onion mixture over the top. Cook until steak is heated through.

5. Put steak mixture on a split roll, and top with one-fourth of the cheese.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cheeseburger Soup

Happy New Year! I hope everyone is finally shoveled out from the Christmas blizzard. It was a pretty awesome task. (Almost as awesome as uploading anything to Blogger this weekend. Am I the only person having issues?)

That was my brother's car. And this was my parents' backyard.

I don't think they'll be grilling anytime soon. We got just slightly less snow in Fargo, so when the interstate opened and the hubby and I made it home, we had to hike through the snow drifts in the driveway with the baby and the pups, because the SUV couldn't make it through. The hubby spent more than three hours of quality time with the snowblower -- and we have a small driveway.

The little man and I have both been sick this week, so we've been lying low. We stayed in our jammies and watched movies. And I spent hours teaching him how to stick out his tongue. He starts daycare on Monday. I thought this would be an important skill when he meets the other kids.

I still have a raging cold this weekend, and woke up to this on my friendly neighborhood WeatherBug this morning.

I have three words for you: "Soup." And "grocery delivery."

This is a recipe from Cuisine at Home, made with a few omissions and substitutions because said soup will be made before said grocery delivery. This is a half-day slow cooker recipe, and I'm sure it could be easily adapted for the stovetop -- just simmer until the veggies are tender.

Cheeseburger Soup
Serves 6

4 Tbsp. butter
1 lb. lean ground beef
Salt and pepper
1 c. diced onion
3/4 c. diced celery
1/2 c. diced carrot
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 c. flour
1 1/2 c. milk (I used skim)
3 c. chicken broth
2 c. peeled, diced potatoes
2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used 75% reduced fat, which was much better in the soup than it was by itself)
Additional salt and pepper, to taste

1. Melt butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add ground beef, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until meat begins to brown.

2. Add onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and basil. Cook 5 minutes.

P.S. I did not have any celery.

3. Add flour and stir. Cook 1 minute.

4. Stir in milk until mixture is smooth. Bring to a boil, and then cook 2 minutes. The mixture will be thick, kind of like milk gravy.

5. Transfer to a slow cooker. Stir in broth and potatoes.

6. Cover and cook on low 3-4 hours, or until potatoes are tender. Stir in cheese before serving.