Monday, February 28, 2011

Weeknight Chicken Paprikash

How was your weekend? Mine was too short, like all the rest of them. This week is going to be one of those crazy busy ones, a perfect storm of recitals, lessons, meetings, classes, and responsibilities, culminating in an important Saturday afternoon with West getting baptized. I looked at West this weekend and I was feeling a little melancholy. Eight is a significant benchmark for LDS families. I've been squeezing my boy a little tighter, staring maybe a little too intently, feeling a little too emotional. I put my arm around his shoulder, and just like I have a hundred times in the last few weeks, said "I'm sad you are growing up so fast, West." This time I think he'd had it. He said, "Mom, look. I'm not that old and you're not that old. I'm not dead and you're not dead. So let's just be happy, OK?"
I meant to be offended, but I burst out laughing first. Oh, this kid. What will I ever do without him? Thank goodness I won't have to find out anytime soon, since we're both young and alive. Here's one of my boy's favorite dinners and mine, too. In about 25 minutes, you'll have a scrumptious sauce of paprika and sourcream over chicken and buttered noodles. It's perfect for busy weeks, like this one. It's also rich and satisfying on a cold winter night and will cure any melancholy you might have about your jam-packed schedule or your children growing up too fast. Weeknight Chicken Paprikash
Estimated Cost: $8.00 for four-six servings
Money Saving Tips: Don't run out to buy Hungarian paprika, if you don't have it on hand. Use my substitution below. Buy chicken breasts when it's on sale and cut it up and freeze it in 1 lb. portions. Put your water on to boil when you start cooking, and everything will be hot and ready at the same time.
1 tablespoon butter
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 bell pepper, chopped (optional)
1 lb chicken, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/4 cup Hungarian sweet paprika (OR sub 1/4 cup regular paprika, plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar and a pinch of red pepper flakes)
2 cups chicken broth (use bouillion cubes to save more)
1/2 cup sour cream, mixed with 1 tablespoon flour
a few drops of lemon juice
hot cooked noodles, tossed with 2 tablespoons butter
Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 7 minutes, stirring often. Add bell pepper and chicken and cook until chicken is browned on outside, about 6 minutes. Stir in garlic and paprika and cook for one minute. Add chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream and flour mixture. Return to heat and bring to a low boil to thicken sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper and a few drops of lemon juice. Serve over noodles.
Up Next: Microwave Carmels

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Orange Pecan Butter Cookies

This is a circle.

This is a more perfect circle. Num, num, num.
Here's another circle to consider: I've been nominated as a Circle of Mom Favorite for Money Saving Moms. I'm coming into the race a day late and a dollar short, so help me out by heading over and casting your vote. Much obliged, partner.
I don't know why it happens this way, but for some reason, whatever West is studying in school turns into something to eat. This week, he's been learning about the rotations and revolutions and seasons of the earth. We got an orange and marked it up with equators and poles. Then we poked a skewer through the center for an axis and headed to a dark room where I manned the flashlight in my role as the light-giving sun. Then in an elaborate and dizzy dance, West rotated and revolved with his orange-Earth. It was starting to get sticky. The orange, not the dance. What to do with a bleeding orange? I remembered a recipe I'd read recently in The Taste of Home Baking Book for orange pecan cookies. (I'm still in the money with pecans, thanks to Ramona. ) West and I mixed these up yesterday afternoon. Bonus-making a recipe helps him with two belt loops for Scouts, too. These little cookies are addictive. They're buttery and crisp, with more than a hint of orange and a crunch of pecan. They make a perfect after school or mid morning snack. So even if you don't have an assignment to finish or planet to imitate or a belt loop to learn, you're going to love them.
Orange Pecan Butter Cookies from Taste of Home
Estimated Cost: $1.50 for 2 dozen
Money Saving Tips: Stock up on butter and freeze it when you find it on sale. These cookies make good use of an orange by using up both the zest and juice. Don't fret if you don't have pecans-almonds, walnuts, or cashews would make good stand-ins. These will last all week in the fridge, so slice and bake only what you need for that day.
1/2 cup butter softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecan
In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add zest, orange juice and egg yolk, mixing well. Sprinkle salt and soda over dough and mix to combine. Gently mix in flour in three additions. Gently stir in pecans. Shape dough into 12 inch cylinder. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 1 week. Slice off generous 1/4 inch thick slices. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 400 degrees for about seven minutes.
Up Next: Chicken Paprikash with Buttered Noodles
PS Don't forget to vote for your
favorite money-saving Mom. Especially if it's me. :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Easy Cherry Crunch for George

If it had been your son who chopped down the cherry tree, would you have punished him or would you have let him off the hook because he told the truth about it? What if he was standing there, axe in hand, and then nobly said, "I cannot tell a lie; I chopped down the cherry tree." Good for you, Georgie. Who cares about that cherry tree when you are such a virtuous child? I have a child who is as honest as George. He never, ever tells even a fib. "Yep-I smacked my sister." "Yes, that was me that ate all the Oreos." "Me again-I didn't finish my spelling homework." "I was jealous that Sailor got more ice cream so I switched our bowls." I don't even have to ask. Sometimes I don't even know there is anything to ask, but he volunteers his misdeeds anyway. So the boy hasn't chopped down any fruit trees as of yet, but telling the truth hasn't exactly earned him a get-out-of-jail-free-card either. Or maybe it has. With him, I find myself saying, "Oh....well, just don't do that again." So let's hope he doesn't chop down the ornamental pear trees we just put in the backyard. But if he does, I won't have to stand around trying to figure out who did it. The boy cannot tell a lie. Maybe he's headed for the Oval Office.
Here's our favorite cherry dessert for President's Day. It's easy enough that honest young chaps can make it all by themselves. It's suprisingly good for having a mere three ingredients. If you don't get to it for George's sake, it would be nice with ham on Easter or with barbecue chicken for Fourth of July. Who am I kidding-it's good all the time. Honest.
Cherry Crunch
Estimated Cost: $8.00
Notes: Any fruit pie filling will work here so choose one that you can get for a reasonable price.
2 (21) ounce cans cherry pie filling
1 box yellow cake mix
1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup chopped nuts, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour pie filling into greased 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle cake mix over pie filling. Dot with butter and sprinkle with nuts, if using. Bake for 40 minutes, or until browned and bubbly. Serve with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.
Next Up:
Chicken Paprikash with Buttered Noodles

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cheddar Fondue-no special equipment needed

I've been craving fondue ever since my parents took my family to a steak and fondue restaurant for my birthday way back in November. But I don't own a fondue pot, I don't think. I used to own one. Where did it go? It is hiding somewhere with all of the other things I can't seem to find this week, like the Star Wars DVDs, the cable bill and my brown headband. Except the fondue pot has been hiding for over a decade through several moves, so I really think it may have actually run away from home. I was thinking of buying another one. Everytime I opened my cupboard to see where I would store a new fondue pot, I would change my mind. Mostly because I had to slam the cupboard shut FAST so my springform pans, rice cooker, pasta maker and drying rack, meatballer, and holiday bundt pans wouldn't come tumbling out. Maybe I could store the fondue pot in West's bedroom closet where I cram my cake stands and punch bowl. I put off making fondue while I wrestled with this dilemma. But then I saw a clever stand-in for a fondue pot in this month's Better Homes and Gardens. The idea is to place a heatproof bowl over two bricks with a tealight underneath. Simple! Brilliant! Best of all-Free! I made the fondue on my stovetop and then placed the pot directly onto the bricks. Next time I make it, I'll transfer it to a pretty bowl, but it was perfectly simple and functional in the pot. To serve, I just chopped up whatever storage vegetables and fruits and bread I had on hand. We sat around with our skewers, chatting and eating, and having a cheesy, good time. I can't wait to make it again and play around with the formula. I'm going for pepperjack cheese with tortilla chips this weekend. Here's a simple recipe below that's open to all kinds of variations. Enjoy!
Gooey Cheddar Fondue
Estimated Cost: $5.00
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced onion
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, tossed with 1 tablespoon flour
Set up two bricks on a napkin at your serving area. Place a small tealight candle in the middle. In a small saucepan, bring broth to a simmer over medium heat. Add garlic and onion. Simmer for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in cheese. when cheese is melted and mixture is bubbly, transfer to the bricks and light the candle. Serve with apples, peppers, carrots, celery, and bread cubes.
Up Next:
My Funny Valentines

Sunday, February 13, 2011

XOXO Valentine

Well, I did it again. I let another holiday sneak up behind me and startle me to death. AHHHHH!! Who let you in? Thankfully, I have an arsenal of Valentine favorites to choose from. I'm going for a six AM run to the grocery store and then I'll be all set. I'm thinking about these XOXO cupcakes to share with friends. Easy.For our dinner, we'll start off with a little crostini with homeade ricotta and roasted red pepper hearts.
Then some red and white pasta. I always have everything I need on hand for this one. I can't think of anything more satisfying on a cold, February night.
Maybe some heart shaped brownies for dessert. Am I going a little too crazy? Maybe we'll just go with the XO cupcakes. And I almost forgot. How's about some a short stack of buttermilk pancakes with strawberry jam and maple syrup.
Good eats and Happy Love Day to all!
Did anybody get a candy gram for Valentine's Day? I got one. It was from my clever girl. She attached a sticky note to a lollipop and wrote Happy Valentine's Day Prudy! Love, Ronnie, Louis, Dan and Daddy. This time I didn't throw the note in the trash.
Next Up: Cheddar Cheese Fondue

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chocolate Mint Brownie Cookies for your Valentine

Valentine's Day has always been a bit toooo much for me. Maybe it started in first grade. A little boy named Ronnie dropped his cache of Valentine cards. I kindly told Mrs. Hiatt I would help him pick them up. As I was bending down, he planted a soggy, wet kiss on my virginal cheek. I did what every self-respecting tomboy would do: I slugged him with a lean upper cut to the ribs followed by a kick to the shins. Then in fourth grade, Louis asked me to be his Valentine on February 13th. I told him "Up your nose with a rubber hose." The next day I got a Valentine from Louis. "Dear Prudy, I hate you. Love, Louis. " By the time I got to Junior High, everyone who was anyone was sending a candygram. You could pay fifty cents to have a lollipop and a love-note delivered to your secret love during sixth period. I think I got three, a couple from my best friend Wendy Foss and one from a hefty boy named Dan that I'd been hiding from for the last six months. Dan wrote: "Dear Prudy, Everytime I call your house, some kid answers and says you're not home. Are you avoiding me? I love you. Dan" I tore the note up and threw it in the trashcan, then I ate the lollipop. On the other hand, my sister Michelle got so many candy grams that she couldn't even carry them. Wendy and I had to help her heft them home. " Dear Michelle, I think we might get married some day." "Dear Michelle, You're like totally the prettiest girl I ever saw. Let's make out during Home Ec." "Dear Michelle, you are soooo much more awesome than your sister. How can you stand her?"
See what I mean? Valentine's Day! And now I'm happily married with a bonafide Valentine, but he's out of town on a business trip. Maybe I should send a candygram to his hotel. "Dear Quiet Man. It's lonely without you. I miss your....quiet. Your calm. Your stillness. Come home soon and we will sit in solitude. Together." Love, Prudy
Here's a Valentine that will always work out for you-Chocolate. I baked up these lovely chocolate mint cookies last night while the charges were filling out their Valentines. I found the recipe on the Nestle Very Best Baking website. They've got all sorts of fantastic Valentine treat ideas, so swing by and check it out. I found what I was looking for. These cookies have got just the perfect amount of mint and vanilla to make them refreshingly delicious, plus they are easy and cheap to make. I wish I could send some to Ronnie, Louis, Dan and most especially my Quiet Man. Here's hoping they all have a chocolate-y Valentine's Day.
Chocolate Mint Brownie Cookies from Nestle
Estimated Cost: $3.50 for about 2 and 1/2 dozen
1 1/2 cups (9 oz.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels, divided
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cup chopped nuts
MELT 3/4 cup morsels in small, heavy saucepan over lowest possible heat. When morsels begin to melt, remove from heat; stir. Return to heat for a few seconds at a time, stirring until smooth. Cool to room temperature.COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, peppermint extract and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in melted chocolate. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in remaining morsels and nuts. Drop dough by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.BAKE in preheated 350° F. oven for 8 to 12 minutes or until sides are set but centers are still soft. Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Next Up:
Cheddar Fondue

Monday, February 7, 2011

Orange Scented Beef with Broccoli

Happy February. It's only been here for a week, but already we've had Groundhog's Day, Superbowl Sunday, and Chinese New Year. At my house, the first week of February also means birthday time for West, complete with family and friend parties, cupcakes and a "mint-apolitan" ice cream pie. February is the fastest month, not just because it has 28 days, but also because we don't stop celebrating. (Stay tuned-here comes Mardi Gras, Valentine's Day, and President's Day.) For someone who loves to cook, you couldn't ask for a better month. January has only Martin Luther King day to keep it peppy, and most people are only eating diet cabbage soups and the like. Then comes Feb and everyone chucks the diet and celebrates with chocolate for romance and chili for football and cherries for Washington (and thin mints for the Girl Scouts-smart girls to come knockin' in February). We're working on Chinese New Year over her. Some sources say the holiday lasts for three weeks, so it's perfect for procrastinators, like me. I've got a fantastic orange scented beef with broccoli recipe served over white rice. The beef is tender and juicy and even broccoli nay-sayers will cozy up to the sweet orange and soy. No need to worry about take out prices; this one will feed four all for about $7.00. Best of all-it's table ready in less than thirty minutes. That will give you more time to start thinking about what you're going to make for all of the other holidays that are waiting just around the corner. It is February, you know.

Orange Scented Beef with Broccoli
Estimated Cost: $7.00
Notes: Use any inexpensive cut of lean, tender beef. If you're unsure if the meat is tender enough for stir-fry, ask your butcher. Read through the recipe and have everything ready before you heat the skillet.
5 tablespoons soy sauce
5 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 pound boneless beef steak, cut across the grain into thin strips
1 bunch of broccoli, cut into bite sized florettes
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/3 cup chopped green onions
4 cups hot cooked rice
In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, orange juice, orange zest, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, and cornstarch. Heat 1 tablespoon oil over high heat in large skillet. Add beef and stir fry until browned, about three minutes. Transfer beef to a plate. Add broccoli and 4 tablespoons water to skillet. Cover and let steam for two minutes. Uncover and cook until liquid evaporates. Add garlic and green onions to skillet. Stir fry for 30 seconds. Add orange juice mixture and beef back to skillet. Cook until sauce is well blended and beef and broccoli are coated in sauce. Serve over white rice.
Feel like Chicken? Try my Orange Sesame Chicken
with Honey and Soy Broccoli and Mushrooms... with Almond Brown Sugar Cookies for dessert. Next Up: Thinking about Valentine's Day...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Ultimate Classic Tacos

When I was writing about the Taco Bell lawsuit a couple of days ago, I thought it would be handy to link to my own recipe for meaty, ground beef tacos. If you're craving tacos, you don't have to go out to eat or resort to one of those yawn-inducing taco seasoning packets. You can make them yourselves with my handy recipe! Um, just a second while I find that recipe. It must be crumpled and dog-eared at the bottom of my blog somewhere. Where is that darn recipe? It's not here. It never was. If a tree falls in the forest, or if a recipe is made but never written about on a blog, did it ever really exist? But hang on; we love tacos. We eat them all the time. Why weren't they here? What excuse could I have for this glaring omission? I think this is it: Sometimes I forget to share the everyday classics, maybe because they seem a little, well ordinary. But ordinary food is usually the favorite food, the food you return to again and again and find yourself making for dinner every Tuesday night. It's the food I like to make when people come to dinner because I know the grown-ups and the kids will both love it. There's nothing wildly exotic about these tacos. They're the ultimate classic with fried corn tortillas, chili and tomato flavored ground beef, shredded cheddar cheese and spicy and cooling pico de gallo. They'd be just as heavenly teetering on a plate on your lap while you watch the Super Bowl, as they would be around the dinnertable on a plain old weekday. So here they are, never to be lost forgotten or non-existent ever again. Long live ordinary, extraordinary tacos.
Ground Beef Tacos:
Estimated Cost for Ground Beef: $5.00-enough for 20 tacos
Notes: I love to double this recipe and freeze the leftovers.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 lb ground beef
2-4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon chili powder
pinch of cayenne or crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce (If you like it spicy, use El Pato)
In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking up with a spoon. When the beef is almost cooked through, drain off the fat. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cayenne, and salt and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for five minutes.
Serve inside lightly fried corn tortillas with homemade pico de gallo, cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, and sour cream. I like to make refried beans in the crockpot to go along side; they're so easy, it won' take you but a moment.

Up Next: Chinese New Year favorites