Monday, November 30, 2009

Poor Man's Paella

Believe it or not folks, this recipe is from my ex-husband. (yep, that's right, I am once divorced) I'm actually not sure you can call it a recipe, since it uses mainly prepared food items and only has three ingredients, but even now, it is a standby in my house when I need something fast and easy.

Start by chopping about three boneless, skinless chicken breasts into bite sized pieces. Season them with salt and pepper if you want and saute them in a little oil until golden and cooked through.While you are cooking the chicken, prepare two packages of Knorr Chicken Rice, according to the directions. While the rice is still pretty liquid, but starting to soften, add in about 3 ounces or so of Velveeta, chopped up, until it melts into the mix.
When the chicken and rice are both done, mix the rice into the pan with the chicken and scrape up any brown bits into the rice. And serve!Ok, so this is absolutely nothing like paella, other than the rice and chicken, but hey, "Poor Man's Paella" is a lot more fun to say than "Cheesy Chicken Rice". Got your attention, didn't it?

In any case, its a cheap, fast, easy, and very satisfying dish for a cold night when you don't much feel like cooking.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'll Walk You On The Plank!

Or, at least, that's what my son would say when he is in pirate-mode. Which, he was! For Halloween this year, my Little Man put on his hat and boots and went as a pirate. Isn't he just an adorable matey??He and his best buddy Brayden both dressed up as pirates and we all made the rounds together. It was the first year he really got into the spirit of the day and we all had a blast. It would have been better without the rain, but it was still a whole lot of fun.

Coconut Spiced Pumpkin Pie

It is the holiday season, and for some reason my son has been asking for pumpkin pie (even though he has never had it before). I suspect it has something to do with an episode of Bob the Builder he watched (for the millionth time) recently. I do like pumpkin pie, but I’ll admit that it has never been a show stopper for me. I don’t eagerly anticipate it when Thanksgiving rolls around, but its good, and I’ll usually have a slice. So, when I agreed to make a pie for the boy (so he’d shut the heck up about it already), I didn’t want to go too traditional. I found this lovely recipe on Tastespotting, and they had me at “coconut milk”. I don’t know what it is about the coconut, but it really made all the difference. Also, I did not put the hazelnut paste in mine, because, well, I couldn’t find any hazelnuts in this po-dunk town. (it’s a conspiracy, I tell ya!) I took this pie to work for the boss’ birthday food table and it went over like hot cakes. Ironically, Ty discovered that Pumpkin Pie isn’t his favorite thing, either, but the poor kid is going to be seeing more of it in our house from now on!

I put the original recipe in here, with my notes in red.

Coconut Spiced Kissed Pumpkin Pie
1 graham crust (I just used the recipe on the side of the box of graham cracker crumbs)
1 1/2 C. hazelnuts – toasted
1/2 C. brown sugar
1 T. pumpkin pie spice blend
1 t. salt
1 T. arrowroot or cornstarch
1 1/2 C. roasted pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin (if you use canned pumpkin, its one 15 ounce can)
1 t. vanilla extract
3 extra large eggs – lightly beaten (really? Who uses extra large eggs? I converted to 4 large eggs)
1 C. coconut milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, racks in the middle.
Puree 1 1/2 cups of the toasted hazelnuts in a food processor until they turn into a hazelnut paste, past the ‘crumble’ stage. Set aside. Chop the remaining 1/2 cup of hazelnuts and set aside separately, these will be sprinkled on top after the pie is baked.
To make the pumpkin pie filling, whisk together the brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice blend, salt, and cornstarch. Stir in the pumpkin puree, and vanilla. Now stir in the eggs and coconut milk until just combined. Set aside.
Before filling the pie crust, crumble the hazelnut paste on top of the pie dough into the pie plate, quickly and gently press it into a thin layer across the bottom creating a layer of hazlenuts that will sit between the dough and the filling. Using the last egg gently brush the decorative edges of the pie dough. (Ok, I missed the part in the ingredient list where it said to save an egg for the crust. Because it didn’t say that….I was confused. All of mine went into the batter, and I used a graham crust anyway, so I didn’t need the extra egg. It turned out fine.) Use a fork to prick the pie dough a few times to prevent air bubbles. Fill the pie crust with the filling and bake for about 50 minutes – the center of the pie should just barely jiggle when you move the pie – the edges should be set. (I ended up cooking mine quite a bit longer, maybe by 20 extra minutes or more.)
Let the pie cool a bit, this makes slicing less messy. Serve straight or with a dollop of sweetenend whipped cream or ice cream.
Makes one 9 or 10-inch pie.


This post has been a long while in the making and is considerably overdue. Today I picked up my Log Cabin quilt from the quilter. I still have to take it home and bind it this weekend, but I have it back.
This quilt is only the second quilt I have ever made...for myself. The first was only recently, as well, and was a t-shirt quilt made of all my beloved Alpha Phi Omega shirts from college. The Log Cabin is the quilt I have always wanted to see on my rustic bed in my little country school house and I went to great pains to make sure it was exactly what I wanted it to be. I can't wait to get it home and put the blue binding on it this weekend so it can be on display for the holidays.(a view of the borders from the reverse)(two of the three borders from the front)(detail on the blocks)(center shot, showing the "Barn Raising" pattern)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Butterbean Soup

I can't believe how the last few weeks have flown by! I have not had time to do much cooking at all, and, obviously, no blogging! Well, I'm back again, and I've got some new recipes in mind with the holidays coming up, so I'm going to try and get back on track, starting with this recipe.

Back when I was just someone's ambitious girlfriend, and still learning to cook, I often experimented with ingredients I wasn't familiar with. When I first met Matt, I decided to try butterbeans. I had never had them before, but they looked kind of like lima beans, which I was familiar with and enjoyed growing up. Being the naiive little aspiring cook that I was, I thought they could just be warmed and eaten as a side dish. Matt was a trooper (should have written THAT date on the calendar!), but clearly I was on the wrong track and I did not try them again.
Down the road, we moved back to Matt's small-town home and his mother couldn't wait to take me to their local chili parlor. I can honestly say I was less than impressed with the "famous" chili (if you have to spoon a layer of grease off the top of the bowl before you eat it, I'm really not interested), but I was intrigued by another menu item. Butter Bean Soup. Now, I am a soup girl, no doubt about it, but I had never heard of butter bean soup. Over the years, I have come across a number of recipes for it, and this one is the closest to the real deal that I have found. Although I still don't eat the chili there, on the occasional rainy day (like today) I will run over there and pick up a large bowl of Butter Bean "With" (meaning I want a dollop of their seasoned chili meat plopped in the center of the dish for extra flavor) and it really hits the spot. Hearty, with just a little bit of a kick, its a great cold weather treat.

Butter Bean Soup
5 cans of large butter beans
1 can tomato sauce
2 sticks of butter
3/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Mix all the ingredients together and let simmer for a couple of hours. Although it is just fine right out of the pot, it will thicken up in the fridge and is much better the next day. Since it started raining around 7:00 Sunday morning and is predicted to keep it up for the next few days, I made a pot of this on Sunday afternoon for us to eat on all this week.

I topped this with a spoonful of chili dog topping. The same chili parlor markets their own brand, but you can find many other varieties readily available on the market as well.