Monday, November 29, 2010

Texas Chili

Chili is especially delicious on a cold day. cold days here in Texas! It's been in the high 70's...and even a few days in the 80's! I'm not really complaining..... :)

I decided to make chili because I really wanted to make cornbread and you can't really have one without the other-right? Right! Glad you agree with me...

I found this recipe after a couple Google searches. I was going for something pretty easy. I wasn't interested in making a fancy chili with brewed coffee or anything...yes I did come across a recipe like that! I bet it's good, but I just wanted something easy, cheap and delicious. I found it! This is a pretty simple recipe and you can definitely add more of what you like- canned tomatoes, green chilies, Rotel, jalapenos, etc.

I bought one pack of McCormick chili seasoning at the store and then realized I needed 2 packs for this recipe. So I did a little research and added the following based on what I had, and it worked!
  • 2 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp Italian seasoning
The bf thought this was a little too spicy at first, but I was making it for myself and I like spicy. He's lucky he was invited over. :)

Texas Chili
Makes enough for 6
  • 1 lb ground sirloin
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 2 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 8oz jar of salsa- I used "hot"
  • 4 TBSP chili seasoning (or 1 package seasoning and spices listed above)
  • 1 15 oz. can dark red kidney beans
  • 1 15 oz can light red kidney beans
In a large pot of medium heat, combine ground beef and onion and saute for 10 minutes, or until meat is brown and onion is tender.

Drain the grease. Add rest of ingredients, mixing well. Reduce heat to low and simmer 1-3 hours. I left mine on for around 2 hours, but you can definitely do less if you don't have that much time.

Cool it off with some sour cream and shredded cheese.


P.S. Apologies for the lack of/poor photos...I haven't had the bf's camera handy lately and my point and shoot is looking worse and worse... Sometimes my iphone even does a better job. Do you feel sorry for me? Sorry enough to send me a Canon Rebel and some photography lessons? ;)


Friday, November 26, 2010

I'll make you banana pancakes, pretend like it's the weekend now...

Since this is a short week with a LONG weekend- you know you will probably need some pancakes! I know I kind of already have a banana pancake recipe on here (made from leftover waffle batter), but this one is really good- so good that it deserved its own special post. It's made specifically for pancake perfection. I used to not like pancakes (too soggy), but lately I've been a pancake fanatic! I think I only like pancakes with special goodies inside (bananas, chocolate chips, pumpkin). I even had some leftover pancakes for dinner last week! DELISH! :)

A lot of times pancake batter can be runny. This is not good in my book. I like thick, puffy pancake batter. This makes it easy to flip and easier to shape. The best pancake recipe I've come across so far is this pumpkin spice one. I used this as a guide and came up with my "Pretend like its the Weekend Banana Pancakes." The bf's verdict? "These are really good. Perfect. Thanks Babe!" Mission complete. The thing you need to know about this recipe is that your banana should be VERY ripe- so ripe that you only want to pick it up with two fingers and toss it in the trash. Those bananas make perfect pancakes and banana muffins.

Pretend like its the Weekend Banana Pancakes
  • 1 1/4 cups AP flour
  • 2 TBSP brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • dash of ground nutmeg
  • dash of ground cloves
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 very ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 TBSP melted butter
Preheat oven to 200- keep pancakes warm on a baking tray until you're finished making the whole batch- love this trick! :)

Whisk together dry ingredients in small bowl. Mix wet ingredients in larger bowl. Slowly incorporate wet into dry until just combined. Lumpy is OK! :)

Heat skillet/griddle over medium heat and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Pour batter by 1/3 cup-fulls and cook until top and sides bubble. Flip over and cook a few more minutes until both sides are golden brown.

Serve with hot maple syrup or PB syrup (my fav). To make PB syrup, heat 1 part smooth PB and 2 parts maple syrup in the micro until melted. Mix well and enjoy!

P.S. You've probably noticed that I've been showing off my cute little ceramic bird couple lately. Aren't they the cutest salt and pepper shakers you've ever seen? I spotted them at Pier One a while back and my mom picked them up for me for about $2- what a sweet deal!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What I'll be making this Thanksgiving...

My parents cooking away in their matching aprons last year.

Umm not much! haha I don't mean that I won't be volunteering to help- its just that I won't be allowed to stray from the things we always make and the way "we" make them.

The bf and I are headed to visit my family in New Orleans today and my mommy dearest will be cooking. She has her menu down pat- in fact, it rarely changes year to year. I don't blame her. If you finally had the perfect Thanksgiving figured out after 20-something years, would you change it? That being said, I will be a kitchen helper to make the following dishes:
  • BIG turkey that no one can ever finish the leftovers of
  • cranberry sauce
  • gravy
  • mashed potatoes
  • sweet potato casserole with marshmallows
  • fresh green beans
  • Gulliver's Creamed Corn
  • strawberry banana jello with cool whip mixed in
  • Mimi's Italin sausage stuffing
  • pumpkin pie
  • caramel pecan pie (AMAZING)
Lil bro, Dad and me at my mom's gorgeous table last year. See the jello on the right next to Dad?

This year, my loving little brother has decided he must attend the Saints v. Cowboys game on Thanksgiving, so we're celebrating on Friday. I'm a little upset, but since we get to have a ham dinner on Thursday and Turkey linner (lunch/dinner) on Friday, I guess that's OK. Not sure how I'm going to get my Black Friday shopping done though...hmmm...

I called my mom and asked if she needed any recipes and she said I could be in charge of potatoes to go with the ham. Woo-hoo! I volunteered to make some homemade yeast rolls, but she said my father had already purchased 4 packs of Sister Schubert's (NOT Sara-Lee- I stand corrected) yeast rolls. She is doubtful that any rolls could beat Sister Schubert's. This is partially true.

So I offered to make a few breakfasty things for the whole gang. This will include my parents, my Mimi (Dad's mom) visiting from the west coast, little bro, the bf and moi. Just for fun, here's a few photos of everyone:

(The fam + the bf in Mexico this summer.)

(More Mexico. I miss being tan.)

(Dad and Mimi in Texas in April)

(And let's not forget baby Jackson- posing as the Easter bunny earlier this year!)

I sent over the ingredient list for the following. Inevitably, my father will make about 10 more runs to the grocery store for 1-2 items each. Such a good sport!
  • Pumpkin Pancakes
  • Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls- recipe coming soon!
  • The BEST Au Gratin Potatoes - recipe coming soon
There are also several things that Mimi must be commissioned to make whenever she visits. This includes:
  • wedding cookies- the shortbread balls with ground pecans rolled in powdered sugar
  • homemade chicken noodle soup- with dumpling noodles
I can't wait to smell all those familiar smells and watch the boys sit on their rumps watching football while the girls slave away in the kitchen. What are your Thanksgiving staples/favorite moments? hehe :)

I do have a lot to be thankful for! Happy Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 22, 2010

The bf baked for me!

Isn't that sweet? While I was at game night with this cookie cake, the bf felt inspired by my recent baking frenzy. He set off to make his version of the "Brookie" bars. I'm not too sure what exactly he altered in the recipe, but I do know he added some cocoa powder and some chocolate icing and baked in my 9 inch cake pans... The icing was to cover the overcooked parts... They were tasty, but VERY slightly we used them as doorstops..hehe just kidding!

It was the thought that counts. Just him trying to bake something for me really touched my heart. He was so disappointed that they did not turn out well- it was so cute!

That OK- thanks for trying sweetie! :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Root Beer Chocolate Bundt Cake

*UPDATE*- I made this again for my friend Danielle's birthday in the big bundt. The icing worked much better this time. I just globbed it on and swirled it around a bit. Do not try to spread it like normal icing. Isn't it cute with the pink sprinkles?
I packed it in a cake box and tied with a pretty pink ribbon! (Sorry for the tiny iphone pic!)

I knew I needed to make this cake after I saw it on my friend Erika's blog.The original recipe is from here. Mmmm I love root beer, I love chocolate, and I love cake. Match made in heaven right? Right. :) Just a few hurdles to overcome before I could get this bundt in my oven.

My first obstacle- no bundt pans. No problem! I hopped on Amazon last week and ordered these babies. One baby bundt and one momma bundt for $16.95 to be exact.

Second obstacle- root beer made with cane sugar.

No problemo. I got off work early on Friday and hit up Central Market (yes, I lame of me...) and picked up a six-pack of this Hansen's version, along with these gorgeous Japanese orchids (they're from the bf, he just didn't know it...)- Thanks honey! :)

I can't help showing off my adorable etched vase- $8 from Marshalls!

OK. So those were basically all my obstacles... Phew! I decided to make half of this recipe since we certainly didn't need a whole one. Besides, I knew a baby bundt would look super cute on my never-been-out-of-the-cupboard mini cake stand. Ding ding ding- sooo right! OK don't make fun of my icing job...I had some issues as I note at the end of this post...Let's focus on the good stuff.

The cane sugar in the root beer really makes this cake so sweet, moist and extra delicious! I really didn't think you could taste the root beer, but I wouldn't have minded either way. After I made this cake I handed a piece to the bf who dug in- "This is delicious! So moist!" he said. Then right after the next sentence left my mouth, "It's root beer chocolate cake!" I remembered... He hates root beer! His face dropped. "Eww! This is disgusting! It tastes like root beer!" Hmmm... he totally had NO clue, and I ruined it for him. I started cracking up. "Fine. More for me!" :) He really wanted to like it every time he saw me eating it, so he tried it again a couple days later. He asked if I could switch the frosting for him..."Umm do you want me to wash it off?"... He thought the frosting tasted too "root beery." The frosting did not taste like root beer (my half portion had 1/8 cup of soda), but it did have a little zing to it- delicious in my opinion- especially warmed up! Extra bonus about this recipe- it's easy- no mixer needed! :) I think I'll make this again soon with Coca Cola made with cane sugar instead. I bet its equally delicious and the bf will be oh-so-happy!

Surprisingly Quick Root Beer Bundt Cake
Makes one 12 cup bundt cake

  • 2 cups root beer (made with cane sugar)
  • 1 cup dark, unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup root beer (made with cane sugar)
  • 2/3 cup dark, unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 325. Butter and flour bundt pan (I use the baking spray that does both for you). In a small saucepan, heat the root beer, cocoa powder and butter over medium heat until butter is melted.

Add sugars and whisk until dissolved.

Remove from heat and let cool ( I put mine in the fridge for 5 minutes). In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs until just beaten and whisk into cooled cocoa mixture until just combined (make sure cocoa mixture is cool enough that it doesn't cook the eggs).

Gently fold flour mixture into cocoa mixture. The batter will be slightly lumpy- that's OK-do not over-beat or the cake will be tough.

Pour batter into prepared bundt pan and set onto larger baking pan (to avoid burning).

Bake 35-40, rotating halfway through baking time (Hmm I think I forgot this part and mine turned out fine). Make sure small knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing. *If you want to make a baby bundt like mine, just halve everything and bake 30 minutes.

For the frosting, melt the chocolate over low heat on the stove (or in micro). Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Take mixture off heat and allow to cool in fridge for 2 minutes. Whisk cooled mixture and make sure its stiff enough to frost.

OK. So I had some trouble icing this cake. MAYBE I didn't wait until it was cool enough, but does anyone have tips for icing a bundt?

Mmm so rich and delicious!

Oops- looks like I didn't mix my flour in enough... I honestly did not notice while chowing down though...


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Macaroni and Cheese - without the blues!

Macaroni and cheese! Macaroni and cheese! Who doesn't love this stuff? I've never made a wholehearted attempt at making my own before. A couple times when I was nannying and the pantry didn't have anymore blue Kraft boxes, I tried. I would cook noodles- add melted butter, milk, cheese and salt and pepper and cook on the stove. I never thought of thickening the sauce and baking it- genius! Besides, I got a couple quizzical looks and "Hey! This does not look like mac and cheese..."'s...

I found this recipe from Bree and I love it! The mustard powder and Worcestershire sauce really give it that tasty, mature flavor. It definitely won't give you the blues... OK now that we're all singing that jingle...moving on..

Again, I halved this recipe and baked in a 9inch Pyrex pie dish (because someone broke my sweet little 8x8 glass pan...). This worked well, and I wouldn't change a thing (Except maybe buy a new pan..hint hint G, if you're reading this) ! You can experiment with different types of noodles. I used the kind that look like little shells (I forget what they're called) and it was super tasty. To give you an idea of how much this makes, half of this recipe was enough for 2 dinners for 2 people. Perfect with these baked chicken fingers. The bf said he loved it- especially the crunchy bits on top. This is a perfect "grown up" mac and cheese.

Macaroni and Cheese

  • 2 TBSP butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb. pasta shells (or pasta of choice)
  • 1/4 cup AP flour
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 12 oz shredded cheese (I did 1/3 cheddar, 1/3 Monterrey jack, 1/3 Italian blend)
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Crumb topping:
  • 3/4 cup Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 4 TBSP melted butter
  • salt and pepper
  • chives for garnish (I didn't feel like doing any chopping...)

Preheat oven to 375. Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add mustard and flour. Whisk together for 1 minute.

Pour in milk and whisk until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until sauce is thickened (3+ minutes). It should coat the back of a spoon.

Remove from heat and whisk in cheeses.

Add Worcestershire sauce and season GENEROUSLY with salt and pepper.

Add pasta and toss together. Check the seasonings- add more salt/pepper if needed.

Pour into buttered 13x9 dish (or smaller single-serving dishes). Mix together topping ingredients until crumbs are well-coated.

Sprinkle on top of mac and cheese.

Bake 20 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Garnish with chives, if desired and serve!

Goes well with baked chicken fingers!

*Update- I made a second time with whole wheat mini shells, skim milk and Italian breadcrumbs in my NEW 8x8 Pyrex dish. It was just as tasty and the leftovers are delicious! :)



Monday, November 15, 2010

Baked Chicken Fingers

G is a kid at heart. OK, he acts like a kid most of the time. :) hehe love you sweetie! Since he rode the back of the grocery cart down to the car last night, its no surprise that he loves chicken fingers. I was originally inspired by this chicken nugget recipe from Bree, although my chicken fingers ended up to be pretty different. I then found this recipe and this recipe for baked chicken fingers- a lot more what I was looking for based on what was in my pantry. Based on some reviews from these, I came up with my own recipe. It's so easy! You can add whatever spices you like to change the flavor. What I love about these is how wholesome they are- 100% natural, organic chicken breast! Nothing sketchy a la the movie Food Inc. I used Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) for an extra crispiness, but you could use regular breadcrumbs too. What makes these so perfectly crispy is baking them on a rack on top of a baking tray. By not letting the crumbs squish against the pan, you're maximizing the crispiness!

I served with some fab homemade mac & cheese (recipe here!). PERFECT comfort food. :) Oops...forgot the veggies...

Crispy Baked Chicken Fingers
Makes enough for 3-4 hungry adults
  • 1 1/4 cups Panko (I got mine at Central Market, in the Asian foods aisle)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • dash of ground oregano
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into strips

Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking pan with foil. Place a wire rack on top and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Season chicken with salt and pepper and set up your chicken assembly line.

Coat strips in egg and then Panko mixture, pressing crumbs to make sure they stick. Place on top of wire rack. (At this point, you can freeze uncooked strips to cook later- just add 5-10 minutes to cooking time)

Bake for 12-13 minutes on each side, until golden-brown. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce (mine is old-fashioned ketchup, but the bf only eats BBQ sauce).

What suggestions do you have to make these even more delicious? What spices would you add?

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