10/31/11

I've Arrived in the New State

For my regular readers, you know that I'm trying to buy a home, sell a home, update my websites and relocate 1000 miles away all at the same time.  In the middle of this, life goes on with running the busy schedules and lives of not just the three kids but my husband and I as well. 

I'm happy to say I just finished the solo trek across the country and arrived in my new home state.  I'm currently in the temporary corporate apartment my husband and daughter have been staying in but if all goes well we'll close on our home this week.

Can't wait to get moved into a new home and get back to work as an American Housewife and share some fabulous recipes and food photos with you.  Hang in there!  I'll be back soon!
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10/23/11

Fudge Nut Truffles - Perfectly Delicious


Sleeping on an air mattress, living among chaos, mere days before the moving truck shows up to pack up our lives into boxes that we won't see again for 7-12 days and I make... truffles?
Born out of frustration and the need to do 'something' mindless to vent built up energy I opened the almost bare cupboards last night and saw a box of Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate. Thinking I would make them into brownies, I grabbed the box and opening it, saw a simple recipe for fudge.  Did I really want fudge?  No, not really.  I don't like chocolate all that much and don't crave it so honestly I'd rather have a nice pile of caramelized onions or a bowl of steamed broccoli.  But... I was bugged, the semi-sweet chocolate was there and I needed something to do that wasn't moving related.

Since I always "play with my food" and view recipes as a guide for brainstorming, I looked at the recipe;

Fudge

2 packages of 8 squares each (16 total) Semi Sweet Baking Chocolate
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 t vanilla
1/2 c chopped walnuts

Melt the chocolate squares in the microwave with the milk.  Stir in nuts and vanilla and pour into a foil lined 8" square pan.  Let cool, lift from pan and cut into squares.

Obviously, being 'me', that's not what I would do.  I didn't have a plan yet, but I started in anyway.

The first thing I changed was to half the recipe
as I only had 1 box of Semi-Sweet Chocolate


I melted the chocolate with the sweetened condensed milk.
I then tasted it and decided I'd pour most of the rest of the can
of sweetened condensed milk into it.
I used about 3/4 of the can.  
(The rest I mixed with toasted chopped walnuts
and ate with a spoon).
I increased the amount of vanilla to about 3 teaspoons.


I poured the mixture onto foil and placed it in the refrigerator or freezer to set up.  I left mine all night as I went to bed after this point.  In the morning I took it back out.  It will still be soft and pliable since we used more sweetened condensed milk than fudge would have, but it sets up so you can scoop it out.

Scoop and form into balls rolled between your palms and place the balls back on foil.  Place the foil in the freezer.  Let the balls freeze for 30 minutes if you can wait that long.  At least 10-15 at minimum.  In the meantime, melt 1/2 lb. of almond bark.  I used vanilla but feel free to use chocolate as well.


 Dip each fudge nut ball into the melted almond bark.
Place on foil.  Sprinkle with jimmies if you wish or leave plain.
Let harden on the foil at room temperature.




 My Fudge Nut Truffles

1 packages of 8 squares each Semi Sweet Baking Chocolate (I only had 7 squares so that's fine!)
1 can sweetened condensed milk (use most of it, just shy of the whole can)
3 t vanilla
3/4 c chopped walnuts
1/2 lb. almond bark, melted at 50% power in the microwave and stirred smooth
Sprinkles if you wish

Melt the chocolate squares in the microwave with the milk.  Stir in nuts and vanilla and pour into a foil lined 8" square pan.  Let cool.  Scoop out heaping teaspoonfuls of chocolate mixture and roll between your hands to form balls.  Place on foil.  Place in freezer for at least 20 minutes and longer if you wish.  Melt the almond bark in the microwave at half power and stir until smooth (takes about 3-4 minutes depending on the microwave).  Use a skewer, fork or toothpick to dip the chocolate truffle balls into the melted almond bark and place on foil.  Sprinkle with jimmies if you wish.  Let stand at room temperature to set up and harden. 
*If you have leftover almond bark, don't throw it out.  Look into your cupboards to see what you have to make 'almond bark candy' out of it.  I used a cup of toasted coconut stirred into mine.  Then pour out onto foil and let harden at room temperature.  Other ideas:  M&M's, peanuts, cereal, crushed peppermint candies, chopped halloween candy corn, popcorn or chocolate chips.  When it is hard (about 20 minutes) break into pieces and enjoy!
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10/21/11

Hot Shrimp Dip

The moving trucks come in less than a week!  I am obviously cooking to 'use up' all the food in our refrigerator and freezer, but I highly doubt there are many of you out there doing the same. Instead, this is a recipe that you could use for that Sunday football party or a great Halloween party dip!  The red bell pepper I put in there more for looks than flavor.  I love the little red pieces it adds to the visual presentation.  You could leave them out if you don't care.  Or you could substitute a bit of green pepper, some spinach or even tiny diced tomatoes.

Hot Shrimp Dip

2 lbs. cream cheese, diced
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped fine
1/2 pound chopped cooked shrimp
1/2 T  minced fresh garlic or 1/2 t garlic powder
4 banana peppers, chopped fine

Microwave the mixture and stir smooth.  Serve in a fondue pot or a warming dish. Serve with a variety of crackers and thick tortilla chips.
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10/18/11

Edited: A Free Cookbook for My Readers

I am often contacted by companies and individuals who want me to talk about their product, help sell their product or do a contest for my readers.  This week I was contacted by Jeff Pirtle, better known as Chef Jeff.  After attending culinary school, being a food service director, a chef on a yacht and more, he put his experience and some of his recipes into an easy to read and easy to follow cookbook for families.  He left out the pretentious recipes and instead chose family-friendly recipes that were healthy, used less than 10 ingredients and involved fresh foods.

Before I would offer this free download to my readers I scanned through the recipes myself to be sure they were 'real food' for 'real families' like I feature (and cook) on An American Housewife for my own family.  They were!  I was thrilled with the delicious recipes and the simplicity style of his writing (much like mine when I tell you to just 'mix it all together!').   Here is a sample of just one... and at the bottom of the page, a link to get his ebook for free.


Balsamic Chicken

This is a nice recipe where the sauce coats the chicken with the onions- yum! I like to add
a pinch of fresh rosemary when cooking the onions, but that is optional.

Serves 4
Cook time: 25 minutes

1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 pound Chicken Breast
1 sliced Onion
1 tablespoon minced Garlic
1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 cup Chicken Broth low sodium
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brown the chicken in the oil in skillet over medium-high
heat, Place in a baking dish. Add the onions to the skillet and turn to medium. When they
start to soften and caramelize, add the garlic, balsamic, and chicken broth, and cook until
it starts to thicken. Pour on top of chicken and bake for 15 minutes.

per serving: 279.25 calories; 25 gram protein; 17 grams total fat; 0.5 gram fiber; 5 gram
saturated fat; 9.75 grams carbohydrates; 72 mgs cholesterol; 219.5 mgs sodium
Over 200 healthy and mouthwatering dinner recipes and all recipes have less than 10 ingredients and take less than 30 minutes to prepare. An amazing variety of recipes including vegetarian and
simple side dishes... all available to my readers for free;  (normally a $27 cookbook):  DinneRevolution

 *Edited to add:  It's a two step process - when you sign up for the ebook you'll get a page that says it isn't found.  About 2 minutes later you'll get an email verification with a link to click on to get the free book.  Click on the link and you are there!  200 delicious recipes at your fingertips.


Thanks Chef Jeff!
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10/16/11

If it's in the freezer, I Grilled It. Improptu Chipotle Shrimp

Yesterdays plans included trying to give away our grill in anticipation of the move.  However, my husband wants me to save the empty propane tank and bring it with me so we have an extra tank as we do grill a lot and often run out in the middle of grilling our steaks! 

Yesterday I opened the freezer and the pickings were sparse, but I grilled everything in there that was grill-able.  A pound of shrimp, 2 burgers, 1 pork chop, 2 chicken breasts....  the propane was still going strong.  I let it run about 30 or 40 minutes more and used the time to scrub it clean with the wire brush.  Still showing no sign of letting up I decided to turn it off, admit I wasn't going to be able to give it away yet and resigned myself to buying a steak later this week for dinner. 

Here is last nights shrimp marinade - although I didn't measure anything, I can guesstimate.  Marinades are like that.  Just play with your food!

Impromptu Shrimp Marinade

In a large ziploc baggy place the cleaned shrimp.  Add oil (canola or olive) - about 1/3 cup.  I added about 2 teaspoons Chipotle chile powder seasoning.  About 1 teaspoon garlic pepper seasoning.  Massage the baggy to coat the shrimp.  Thread on a metal skewer and grill about 4-5 minutes per side over medium heat until pink and white and no longer gray.  Mmmm!
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10/13/11

Store Bought Almond Scones - Quick Review


With only a couple weeks to go before moving, I'm trying to use up all the food in the house, not buy more.  Of course I still have to keep stocking up on the basics and during a quick grocery trip this week I gave into a craving I got when I spied these Barista Baking Company brand scones. 

In the refrigerated section of the store, they were priced cheap enough (at about $2.50) to give them a try.  I love scones.  I love almond.  It would hopefully be a win/win situation.

 
Opening the package I found them to be a little slimy and shiny but that is to be expected with a store bought product.  The aroma of almond was heavenly and I could see slivers of almond in the dough.


They say to break the scones apart on the pre-scored lines which was simple to do but I did note that the scones are not uniform in size.  This actually makes them look more homemade in the end, and gives you a choice of a small scone or a larger size depending on what you wish so it's not a bad thing.

You simply place them on an ungreased baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.  The result?  Delicious.  You can tell they are not homemade scones and they quite like an almond cookie in many ways, but for 'quick and easy' and tasty, they went great with coffee and yes, I'd even buy them again.




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10/5/11

Streusel Coffee Cake (when I was out of eggs and brown sugar)



Remember this past Spring when I made this coffee cake? Over the past 3 weeks or so I've been thinking about it and craving it.  Life has been so busy with the relocation that I didn't have time to even think about baking and of course I didn't have a yellow cake mix on hand.  Yesterday when I stopped the grocery store for some basics, (I just returned from a house hunting trip 1000 miles away in the new state and of course needed groceries after being gone for 9 days)  somehow a yellow cake mix found its way into my cart. 

When I came home I laughed at myself when I realized I was a little short on the amount of cinnamon needed, out of brown sugar and I was completely out of eggs.  I had a dozen when I left to drive down south, but my college aged son had been home last weekend and went on a deviled egg kick and used them all up! I had used the last of the brown sugar making cookies a few weeks ago and because I'm trying to 'use up' the groceries in the house in preparation for the move, I don't buy basics anymore unless I need them for a particular recipe.

No worries.  Play with your food.  Recipes are just guides anyway.

Here is the recipe and at the bottom I'll post what I did differently.

Streusel Coffee Cake 

1/3 c graham cracker crumbs
3/4 c brown sugar
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
2/3 c butter, melted

1 regular sized package yellow cake mix
1 c water
1/4 c canola oil
3 eggs

1 c powdered sugar
1 1/2 t vanilla
water


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a tube or bundt pan.  Make the streusal by combining the crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and butter.  Sprinkle half in the bottom of the pan.  Set the other half to the side.

Mix the cake mix with the water, oil and eggs.  Beat on low with 1 minute, beat on medium for 2 minutes.  Spread half the batter in the pan, sprinkle the reserved crumb mixture over the batter and then pour the rest of the batter on the over streusel.  Bake for about an hour but watch as all pans and ovens are different.  Test for doneness when the center is done.  Let it cool for about an hour, loosen and turn out of the pan.  Make the powdered sugar glaze with the vanilla and just enough drops of water to make it a drizzle consistency.  Drizzle over the cake.  Serve warm, room temperature or cold. 

 *How I substituted ingredients:

Instead of oil and eggs:  I used about 3/4 cup real mayonnaise.  (When substituting mayonnaise for eggs in a recipe, the mayonnaise also replaces the fat in the recipe as well).
Instead of brown sugar:  Use white sugar and mix in a tablespoon of molasses.  Blend and press with a fork until incorporated.
Instead of the full amount of cinnamon:  I just used what I had on hand, which was about a teaspoon -and because I was doubling the amount of streusel (it's my favorite part) I thought it might be too faint but it was simply delicious and perfectly yummy!

Unfortunately for me, this cake is most excellent with coffee... and I'm the only one home this week... and I love it so much that there is a good chance I'm going to eat the whole darn thing myself! 
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10/1/11

Beer Battered Fish

As a child some of my earliest memories are going fishing at the river.  By the time I was 2 years old I was holding my own fishing pole.  Over the years we camped and fished often and I only have to think about beer battered fish to taste it in my memory. 

As I got to be a teenager I lost interest in fishing and soon was married and off on a life of my own that rarely, if ever includes fishing.  As a matter of fact I think the last time I camped, fished and had beer batter fish I caught on my own was an extended family camping trip to Canada when I was pregnant with our third child.  Funny though, I can still taste the beer battered Walleye I had on that trip. 

About once a year I make beer battered fish for our family, although it's usually with fish I've 'caught' in the seafood aisle of my local grocery.  It's quick and easy to make and if you have beer already on hand, use what you have.  It's really good with a heavy, dark beer like Guinness but any beer will do.

Beer Battered Fish

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup heavy beer

Oil for frying
Fish fillets
Flour

In a bowl, sift the flour and salt. Add the egg and whisk to blend. Slowly add the beer while continuing to whisk until all the beer is added.

Heat the oil in the pan, about a third of the way up the side.

Wash the fish under cold water and roll in the flour to coat. Dip the fish pieces, one at a time into the batter and drop into the oil.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until golden brown. Remove and drain on a paper towel.  Serve immediately plain, or with vinegar and oil or tartar sauce.
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