Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Kids are Cooking Again

Tonight is the night I work late, and it seems my family is really catching on to the idea that if they want to eat, they'd better cook something! ;o)

Oldest daughter and her fiancé are making pizza tonight. I hear rumor that there may be a Chicken Broccoli Alfredo Pizza in the works.

So, when your kids cook, what are their go-to recipes? Leave a comment, and tell us what you've been surprised with.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Salisbury Steak and Mashed Potatoes

If you follow my Facebook at all, you'll know that I spent last night sitting up until the wee hours talking with my best girlfriend. We were so engrossed in our conversation, we had no idea that it was 3 am! All that to say, I've been off kilter all day, which is why I'm posting my regular Monday recipe at 11 pm!

I had decided on a crock pot meal today so we would be free to spend Memorial Day doing whatever we felt like doing, (which ended up including a nap!) This is one of my meals that I never measure, so I am attempting to write it down for you. On very little sleep. Check back for edits in the coming days... ;o)

I urge you to remove from your thought process everything you might know about Salisbury Steak. No cream of mushroom soup. No cream of chicken (what?!) or canned mushrooms. And for heaven's sake, don't cook it in a microwave! This meal is simple and easy without taking nasty shortcuts.

Leni's Notes:

~I made these with sirloin patties this time, which were very lacking in flavor despite my best efforts. They just didn't take on the great flavor of the gravy. Next time I will make a meat-loaf type mixture for the patties.
~Planning to use the leftover gravy with homemade meatballs.
~Serve with rice, noodles or mashed potatoes. But if you really love your family, you'll make the mashed potatoes. Real ones. With lumps.


1/2 C butter
1 C flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 quart beef broth (Rachael Ray was the choice today)
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Everything else:
Burger patties (straight burger, meat loaf mixture or meatballs, whatever floats your boat)
flour for dredging patties
olive oil for browning patties
8-16 oz  sliced fresh mushrooms, depending on how many you like
1/4 C dry onion

To make your roux, melt the butter, and slowly add in the flour, whisking as you go.
Let this cook, while sirring, for about a minute, and then start to drizzle in the broth, continuing to whisk so it remains smooth.
Add in spices and Worcestershire sauce.
Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally so it doesn't stick. When mixture is bubbly and thick, remove from heat and set aside.

In my trusty cast iron pan, I heated some olive oil and then browned the patties that I had dredged in flour. As the patties finish, stack them in your greased crock pot. Kind of criss-cross them, leaving some space for the sauce to flow between.

When they are all done, pour just a bit of water in the pan to deglaze it, and pour all of that into the crock also. Top with the mushrooms and onions, and cover all with the roux.

Cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 4.

Since you've come this far, go ahead and make the mashed potatoes! Your family will cheer. Or at least mine did. ;o)


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Apple Drop Doughnuts

Reposting this because in my clumsiness, I deleted it this morning while attempting to delete something else. Oy!

Our family has an exciting time coming up, as my oldest daughter is getting married in September. In preparation for that event, we have a need to empty as much as possible from our chest freezer. Problem is, that freezer is full of the applesauce we made last season! So, in order to do my part, I am going to make an old favorite that we haven't had in ages.

Apple Drop Doughnuts are ridiculously easy to make, and so very good. I don't often fry things, but these are worth it. They will make your family smile. They will make you smile. I'm smiling just thinking about it.

Leni's Notes:
~In theory, these should work with any pureed fruit. I used to use jars of baby food pears, and they turned out great.
~As with most fried foods, these are best eaten the day they are made, but I never heard any complaints from my kids when they were eating leftovers.
~Save a step and skip rolling them in sugar. Serve with warm maple syrup or glaze for dipping.

3 T. softened butter
3/4 cup raw sugar (adjust if you use a sweeter fruit)
3 eggs
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 tsp. vanilla
4 1/2 cups flour
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 cup milk
Oil for frying
sugar to roll in after frying

Combine wet ingredients except milk. Sift dry ingredients, mix into wet alternately with milk. Batter should be thick.

Heat oil to 375. Drop by teaspoonfuls carefully into oil. Fry about 1 minute on each side. Drain and roll in sugar while warm. Makes about 5 dozen.

What to do When the Cook Doesn't Want to Cook?

And then there are days when you wake up in a bad mood, and the day continues to do go downhill from there. You ever have those days? I woke up in a bad mood today. There was no reason for it, but there it was. Fibro has sapped my energy for the last three days, and I just am not in a mood to be around people. Please don't touch me, or try to have conversation with me, I might bite! 

On these days, I tend to be very clumsy, and working in the kitchen is just a bad idea that might result in a trip to the ER for cuts or burns...

On days like these, I am so thankful for back up plans! 

I try to keep the makings for 'fast food at home' in the freezer and pantry. Tonight ended up being Chicken Parmesan. 

I pulled out some Tyson Chicken Breast Fillets. Popped those in the oven while I cooked up some whole wheat spaghetti (and promptly burned myself!) When the chicken was done, I topped it with some Classico Marinara and shredded mozzerella, and popped it back in the oven for a couple minutes.

I then was a gracious host to my family and yelled, "FOOD!" Everyone served themselves and I reveled in the fact that they were fed and I was guilt free. Now I am collapsing and hoping there's something good to watch on TV because I am beat. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

3 Packet Pot Roast

Today's recipe is one for the days when you need a good meal and have zero time to cook.
I originally found this recipe on A Year of Slow Cooking. I was told afterward that it's been around forever, but I had never seen it! 

This produces a pot roast that is tender and flavorful with little work on your part. I served this to guests and they were astonished that their 3 year old was eating it, because she never eats meat. She was even stealing bites off of mom and dad's plates. ;o) Not that's an endorsement!

Leni's Notes:
~As you'll notice in the picture, I used Simply Organic Ranch mix. I like to get things as clean and chemical-free as possible. I've made it many times with the Hidden Valley Ranch, also.

~Instead of spending money on individual packets of McCormick Grill Mates, I bought the seasoning by the bottle, and used a capful on the roast (probably about a Tablespoon, give or take.)

~We like to thicken the juices with corn starch and serve this with whole wheat cous cous or crock pot baked potatoes. Makes a nice meal for inviting company over after church.

~My husband suggested using this mixture on a pork shoulder roast and it was a big hit!

~PLEASE do not skip the last step of adding extra water, or your roast will be seriously over-seasoned. If you add it ahead of time, it won't hurt the taste, but it will stew the meat, rather than roast it. Totally different texture.

1 packet of Ranch salad dressing and seasoning mix
1 packet of Italian salad dressing mix
1 packet McCormick Grill Montreal Steak Seasoning (or whichever flavor you prefer)
3 C water

Place roast (about 3 lbs, but we have used much larger) in crock pot.
Mix seasonings in a small bowl, then sprinkle entire amount over the roast, turning to get it evenly covered.
Pour in 1 cup of water
Cook : Low for 8 hours, or High for 4-5. (Low is better.)
Half and hour before serving, pour in 2 more cups of water and set on high.

Serve with noodles, rice or potatoes, and veggie of choice.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Who Taught These Kids Kitchen Skills?

Sometimes, teaching your kids to work in the kitchen really works against you.

Hubby was out of town, and I was working late. So I gave the kids two easy options for dinner, told them the ingredients were in the freezer, and I'd eat when I got home.

When I got home, they had decided to make tuna sandwiches with chunks of raw celery. That was not on my list. Mostly because I hate tuna. And raw celery.

I feel so loved. ;o)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Not Your Momma's Stew

This stew has morphed so many times over the years! This is the version we made last week, and it got a big thumbs-up and "I need another bowl of stew" reactions. Sometimes the best indicator of success is how much is leftover! 

This is a hearty, spicy meal, and sometimes more spicy than you intended. The recipe calls for Chili Powder. Well, my sweet husband, always on the lookout for interesting new ingredients to have me play with, brought me chili powder from an Indian market. Let me tell you, it was NOT the same thing! It was pure ground chili peppers, and I didn't notice til later that they were marked "extra hot." Of course, I would use this powder when we were having guests. Thankfully, Uncle Dave loves a good spicy dish. But his poor daughter in law was nursing a baby, and I could not feed her that! And this is why we keep chicken strips in the freezer... Good thing hospitality is not all about food, huh? 

Leni's Tips
~If you use plain old store-bought chili powder, this will have a mild warmth to it. If you use extra hot Indian chili powder, use about 1/4 teaspoon! 
~If you don't like chunks of meat, cook this without the veggies, then put your blender right in the soup, and the meat will shred. Then add your veggies and let those cook.
~This is wonderful with a nice crusty bread or over rice.
~Also great with some beans thrown in. Great Northerns or Garbanzos would be my choice.

~This recipe filled an 8 Quart crock.

4 1/2 pounds stew beef
6 large potatoes, washed and cubed
3 large carrots, coined
2 large stalks celery, chopped
1/4 C dry onion
48 ounces beef broth (I prefer Rachael Ray Beef Stock) 
5 cloves garlic, minced
5 Tablespoons chili powder
3 teaspoons ground cumin
5 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Tablespoons dried oregano
1 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Sour Cream
Lime wedges or lime juice

Dump everything but the garnish into the crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.

Serve with a squeeze of lime and a dollop of sour cream.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cous Cous Davis Style

Cous Cous is a ridiculously easy dish to make, and so versatile. If you have any type of broth or gravy with your main dish, you can just make cous cous plain, and serve it along side. However, if you want a wonderful dish that stands on it's own, might I suggest you make it Davis style?

We are blessed to have a great Mennonite shop in a nearby town where we can get bulk ingredients, and some healthier options like whole wheat cous cous. Admittedly, the whoopie pies we stock up on while there no doubt cancel out the whole wheat benefit, but what are you going to do?

Here's a shot at what you need to gather up.

Leni's Notes:

The proportions for this recipe feed my family of 6, with leftovers for 2 or 3 lunches.

In pan, place:
2 1/2  C water
2 T butter
2 T dry chopped onion
1 T dry parsley
2 tsp. better than bouillon
1 tsp. minced garlic

In bowl, place:
2 C plain cous cous
1/4 C grated parmesan cheese

Put it all together:
Bring the ingredients in the pan to a boil.
Add the dry mixture, stir, cover and remove from heat.
Let stand for 5 minutes, fluff with a fork.
Add salt as needed.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Crock Pot Pork Stroganoff

You're in for a treat today. A family favorite that is simple yet hearty. Great for a Tuesday night family dinner or a Saturday night dinner party. But either way, you throw it in the crock pot in the morning and forget about it. Half an hour before dinner, add in the last ingredients and enjoy.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do. So satisfying to hear the oohs and ahhs when I make it. ;o)

Spreading the love one plate at a time,

Leni's Notes:
~Goes well with egg noodles, mashed potatoes or cous cous.
~A nice green salad adds some nice color to the table.
~This full recipe will feed our family of six for two solid dinners and a couple of lunches.
~We use pork tenderloin because it is convenient for us. Use whatever cut you have available, and trim it well.
~To use ground beef or stew meat, swap out the chicken broth for beef broth.

For a 6 qt crockpot

4 lbs pork loin, cubed
1 lb. mushrooms, diced or sliced
1/2 C diced onions
4 C water
4 tsp Better than Bouillon
1/2 C corn starch
3 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
2 T prepared mustard
2 C sour cream
2 T parsley

Place meat, mushrooms and onions in greased crockpot.
Mix all other ingredients except sour cream and parsely, pour over meat.
Cook on high for 4-6 hours, or low for 8 hours.
If mixture is thin, add more cornstarch, or thicken with instant potatoes.

Just before serving, add in sour cream and parsley.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Let Your Kids Make a Mess in the Kitchen

A word to families with younger kids. If you're anything like me, you'd really rather they NOT make a mess in your kitchen. I will admit that cooking with the my kids stressed me out in ways I didn't know were possible. I knew it was a good thing to do, and I knew it was the homeschool mom thing to do. But I still hated it. So I compromised a little bit.

When my children were wee, I focused on kitchen safety. I taught them how to properly mix, measure, cut and handle the stove and oven. I taught them how to follow a recipe (and subsequently ignore it completely!) And then I left the kitchen. Turns out, what was stressing me was watching the process and fighting the urge to take over.

When it was time for them to play in the kitchen I would step out and let them go to it. I was always nearby for questions and to step in if there was any kind of emergency. Pretty much, I was a security blanket. As you would expect, they regularly destroyed my kitchen. And then they learned how to clean it up. They made some fantastic disasters along the way. They made amazing discoveries. They learned how to cook!

When my oldest got old enough to babysit, they would always make something adventurous while we were gone. The girls still do this with the kids they now babysit. Sometime I must get and share the recipe for Sugar Delight. Helpful menu item if you were hoping to go into a diabetic coma.

Fast forward to the current day. My kids are now 19, 17 and 15. My oldest is going to college and preparing to get married, my middle is graduated and trying to find work so he can afford to go to college. My youngest is working, working, working and seeing what amazing thing she'll tackle next. (Have to throw my daughter's fiancé in the mix, because while I didn't raise him, he's family and cooks just as much as everyone else around here does.;o)

In addition to continuing to homeschool our youngest, I work part time at the library and battle daily health issues. Sometimes life is great, and I can do it all. Sometimes not, but still everyone needs to eat! As I was hobbling through the grocery store this weekend, I knew that I probably had another difficult week ahead of me, pain wise. So I shopped with that in mind, and basically just stocked the kitchen with enough meat, veggies and fruits and work with and hoped for the best.

When I got home from a late doctor's appointment last night, I was hurting, but what a sight to come home to. Everyone had gotten home from work/school and gotten started on dinner. They were on the porch grilling, and it smelled wonderful. They had raided the kitchen and come up with fresh grilled burgers served with whole wheat bread, fresh grilled pineapple, sautéed mushrooms and onions, some romaine and for the brave, guacamole. Wonderful meal!!

It really pays to have kids that aren't afraid of the kitchen, and who don't see food as magically appearing on the table.

Whatever your 'Kid in the Kitchen' time looks like, make it happen. It will benefit everyone, and with any luck they won't move out and eat nothing but microwaved frozen dinners.