Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Menu

Happy almost Christmas!   Sorry we've been inconsistent bloggers lately...'tis the season for being way too busy, I suppose.

I'm not sure if we'll have time to write between now and Christmas, so I wanted to just say thanks to everyone for swinging by our blog the past 1+ year.  We love your comments!

What are you doing for Christmas dinner this year?  I'll be making dinner for the whole family Christmas night.  I'm serving Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon with a nice salad and plenty of crusty bread.  For dessert, I'm making profiteroles with either Peppermint or French Vanilla ice cream (and a healthy glop of hot fudge sauce for good measure).  I'll report back with photos and reviews after the holiday.

Happy Holidays to you and yours.  We hope you get everything you want!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Stove Top Chicken Casserole

What to cook for dinner tonight? This is a question that I run into often. Followed by, what do I have on hand and what can I throw together and still be yummy? In answer to these questions, I look to the freezer (to see what type of meat I have on hand) and to the pantry (to see what canned/boxed goods are available). Throughout the years, there has been a staple that is usually handy, tasty, and a crowd pleaser - Stove Top Stuffing!

I use the Stove Top Stuffing to top casseroles and also add some seasoning to dishes. The nice thing about this casserole is that you really can make it with whatever you have available. The basics are Stove Top Stuffing, butter/margarine, cream of mushroom (or any cream of soup), meat/vegetables, cheese (if you please), and liquid (wine, water or broth). The following is a very loose recipe for the dish. Feel free to add/subtract whatever you like!

Stove Top Chicken Casserole

4 chicken breasts, boned and cut into chuncks
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup Marsala wine (or chicken broth, or white wine, or water)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
12 mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup frozen corn
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 box Chicken flavored Stove Top Stuffing (I prefer low sodium)
10-12 pats of butter

In a large pot, heat some cooking oil (~ 1 tablespoon) over medium-high heat. Add garlic, onions and chicken and cook unitl the chicken is no longer pink; season with salt & pepper. Turn down the heat to simmer-low and add the wine. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the soup and vegetables; mix well. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Transfer the meat mixture to a greased casserole dish. Top with cheese. Add the stuffing over the cheese and finally top with butter (place the butter evenly all over the top of the stuffing). Place casserole in preheated oven and cook until bubbly (about 30-40 minutes). Remove from oven, let stand for 5 minutes and serve with a salad.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Taming the Chaos

Right before Thanksgiving break, I finally decided to break down and clean out my pantry.  My pantry had been bugging me for ages, but with the huge cooking task of turkey dinner looming, I decided enough was enough and cleaned up my act.

Here are a few shots of how my pantry looks now:

To get my pantry looking like this, I had to do a lot of work.  I...
  • Took out every single thing in my pantry.
  • Sorted things into three categories: keep, toss, or donate.
  • Moved all the keep items onto my dining room table to be dealt with later.
  • Emptied out and recycled what I could from the toss pile.  We ended up with about 3+ bags of trash thanks to my pantry clean out!
  • Bagged up my donation items and searched for places to donate.
  • Cleaned out every shelf.
  • Lined each shelf.
  • Reorganized where my keepers would go.
I can't believe how much crap I had in my pantry.  There were opened bags of cookies, cans that expired in 2007(!?!), and things I don't remember buying shoved into the murky depths of my too-deep pantry.  It amazing how many boxes of pasta and cans of refried beans I have stashed away...and I have no idea what that says about me as a person.

I used to have all my canned goods on the top shelf, but have now come to the realization that that was madness.  Canned goods are now lower, just below eye-level so I can better see what's in there.  Pasta and grains have been moved to the top, with baking goods just below them followed by canned goods, then snacks, then cookies, then miscellaneous junk that has no better place to go.

I'm hoping to keep the pantry organized, but we'll see how long it lasts.  Pantries can be scary places, but for now, I'm happy that I've tamed the chaos!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hearty Vegetable Soup - Something To Warm You Up

Growing up, my Mom has a very beloved cookbook - McCall's Cookbook - it is old and tattered and pages are dogeared and ready to fall out. The spine has disintegrated, but my Mom goes back to it all the time. One of her recipes that I really enjoy is in the Low Calorie section, but it is full of vegetables and flavor and I absolutely love it. It is for Hearty Vegetable Soup - it is so good this time of year after being out in the cold and I love it with some good crusty bread. Here is the recipe from McCall's.

Hearty Vegetable Soup

2 lb shin beef

large soupbone

1 tablespoon salt

4 cups thinly sliced cabbage (1 lb)

1 1/2 cups chopped onion

6 carrots, pared and cut in 3-inch pieces

3/4 cup chopped celery

1/4 cup chopped green pepper

1 can (1 lb 12 oz) tomatoes, undrained

1/2 pkg (10 oz size) frozen lima beans

1/2 pkg (9 oz size) frozen cut green beans

1/2 pkg (10 oz size) frozen peas

1 can (12 oz) whole-kernel corn, drained

1 pared potato, cubed

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 can (6 oz) tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

  • Place beef, soupbone, salt, and 4 quarts water in very large kettle. Cover; bring to boiling. Skim surface.

  • Add cabbage, onion,carrots, celery, green pepper, and tomatoes.

  • Bring to boiling; simmer, covered, 30 minutes.

  • Add other ingredients; simmer, covered 3 1/2 hours.

  • Remove meat and bone; discard bone.

  • Let meat cool. Cut into cubes; add to soup. Refrigerate several hours.

  • Just before serving soup, skim fat from surface. Slowly heat soup to boiling. Store leftover soup, covered, in refrigerator.

So when my Mom makes this, she does not add the green pepper (thankfully); my Dad and I are not a fan of peppers. Also, I think that she uses stew meat that has already been cubed. The other nice thing about this soup is that the longer it cooks, the more delicious it gets - it also freezes well!