The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a star. -- Anthelme Brillat-Savarin --

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fast-to-Fix Pasta Dinner

Hi all…just popping in to share another recipe.  This one is something my hubby & I made up out of things we had on hand years ago.  We’ve enjoyed it many times since (although the recipe varies a bit, depending on what’s in the fridge).  The amounts YOU use will depend on your personal taste, and how many people you’re cooking for.  Just experiment with it to come up with your own favorite version! 

And…let me know if you come up with something really good!

Ingredients:
Red, yellow & orange bell peppers - chopped & divided
    (Neither of us really like green bell peppers, but we love all the others.  You can pick your own favorite here.  We just use whatever we have - usually a mix of all three.  NOTE:  I always buy these when they’re on sale, then quarter & seed them - you can even go ahead and chop them if you like.  Then I put them in a sealed freezer bag in my freezer until I’m ready to use them.  They freeze beautifully!  It makes it really simple and easy to pull them out and use them on short notice later, and you don’t have to worry about them going bad before you can use them.)
Sweet onion - chopped & divided
    (We like 1015’s, but again just use whatever YOU like)
Garlic - chopped & divided
    (We’re both garlic fiends so we can use a whole head of garlic just for the 2 of us, but you may not want quite that much.  Just be sure you have enough to cook with the chicken, and with the vegetables.  Also, I always use fresh garlic, but feel free to use chopped garlic in a jar if that’s what you have or prefer.)
Diced chicken breast
    (When we’re just cooking for the 2 of us, one large chicken breast is plenty.  I usually keep a diced one in the freezer ready to go for such occasions.)
Diced zucchini
    (When our garden is producing, I often use a combination of yellow squash, white squash & zucchini - any or all work fine.  If you like another vegetable better than squash, throw that in, I’m sure it will be great. I’ve tried fresh asparagus and green beans - separately of course -  a few times, and both are delish!)
Diced tomatoes
    (I generally use my home-canned diced tomatoes, as long as I have some, but you can use store-bought whole or diced tomatoes as well.  If tomatoes are in season, I often use fresh ones.  If you want a completely different flavor you can even use sundried tomatoes that have been rehydrated and chopped - if you do that, be sure to reserve the broth you rehydrated them in to help loosen up the dish right before serving. It’s got loads of flavor!  When I use those, I usually add a few chopped Kalamata olives with them.)
Fresh herbs
    (I love to add fresh basil and oregano from my herb garden when it’s in season.  You can use any type of herb mixture you like - dill can be good if you don’t use too much, and I’ve even used mint.  If you don’t have fresh herbs on hand, dried ones work fine.  Just add them earlier in the cooking process - with the canned tomatoes.  Fresh ones will need to be added at the end to keep their color and flavor.)
Chopped green onions or chives
Regular olive oil
Extra Virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper, to taste
Your favorite pasta
    (We like to use miniature whole grain penne or linguini, but any kind of pasta will do!  Be sure to reserve the cooking water after you’ve drained the pasta.)

Okay, now that all the slicing & dicing is done…it’s time to get cooking.

If you want things to come together about the same time, be sure to start your pasta water before anything else.  Getting it to boil is probably the most time-consuming part of the entire process.

Next, you’ll want to pre-cook your chicken.  Pour a little regular olive oil (not too much, just a Tablespoon or two - depending on how much chicken you’re cooking) into a hot pan, then add a little of your chopped peppers and sweet onion.  Reduce heat and cook until it starts to sweat.  Add a little of your chopped garlic and cook until everything is softened well.  (At this stage you only need a little of the peppers, onions & garlic - you’ll use more later.)

Add the diced chicken and cook until it is lightly browned and any juices run clear.  Remove cooked chicken from the pan and set aside.  DO NOT CLEAN OR RINSE YOUR PAN…you’ll want to keep all the flavors in it!  J

By now your water should be hot so you can start your pasta cooking.  (For some great pasta cooking tips, check out this link.)

Return your pan to the heat, and add a little extra virgin olive oil this time (it has more flavor than the other - but will burn more quickly, so keep an eye on it!).  Add the rest of your peppers and sweet onion.  Once again, bring it to a sweat over medium heat and add the remainder of your garlic.  Cook for about a minute and add your chopped zucchini (or whatever veggies you decided on).
Cook until veggies start to soften (but don’t overcook them - mushy vegetables are NOT our friends!), stirring often to keep everything from sticking.  (If you need to loosen things up, you can deglaze your pan, as you go, with a little of your pasta - or sun-dried tomato - water.)

Once veggies are almost done, add your tomatoes and mix well.  While they’re cooking for a minute or two, you should have time to drain your pasta.



Next, stir in your reserved chicken, fresh herbs and green onions/chives.  (If you’re using fresh tomatoes, just add them at the same time as the herbs.  You don’t really want fresh herbs or tomatoes to cook, you’re basically just warming them up.)

Now stir in your hot pasta and serve!  (Again, if you need to loosen things up a little, just add a bit of pasta water - or sun-dried tomato broth - and deglaze before serving.)
For a special touch, sprinkle with a little shredded parmesan cheese (or crumbled feta if you’re using the sun-dried tomatoes & Kalamata olives).

Mmmmm…quick & easy, fresh and delicious! 

NOTE:  It’s really good with a fresh loaf of hot crusty bread on the side.  J

If you try it, please let me know what you think!  I’ll be waiting for your reviews...

Blessings,
--Faithy

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Happy Wednesday friends!

Found another good coffee cake recipe in my inherited cookbook stash.  This time it's from Southern Living:  Homestyle Cooking cookbook (published by Oxmoor House)...a great book, full of yummy homestyle recipes from community cookbooks all across the South!
I must say, I’ve had pretty good luck with Southern Living recipes over the years.  They’re not always the most healthy or figure friendly recipes, but boy are they good!  You can find this on pg. 120, in the Breads, Breakfasts & Brunches chapter.

As usual, I can’t just seem to make a recipe the way it’s printed, so this one is adapted with my usual substitutions.
Cream Cheese Coffee Cake 

1/2 cup Smart Balance Butter Blend sticks (or butter/margarine - softened)
1 (8 oz.) pkg. fat free cream cheese (softened at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup HEB Real Egg (or 2 whole eggs)
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup skim milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Crumb Topping (see below)

Beat butter and cream cheese (with an electric mixer) until smooth & creamy.  Gradually add sugar and beat well.  Add eggs (1 at a time if you’re using regular eggs), and beat thoroughly.

Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Add to butter mixture, alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Mix on low speed until just blended.  Stir in vanilla.

Pour into a greased 13x9” baking pan.  Sprinkle with crumb topping.  Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan, on a wire rack.

Crumb Topping:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup chopped almonds (the original recipe called for chopped pecans, but I was out…OH, THE HORROR!!...these substituted nicely though, I may use them again)

Combine all ingredients to make 1-1/2 cups.

Makes approximately 12 servings.
This one got a “thumbs up” from my hubby, uncle and brother (all who got a chance to try it).  It has a good flavor, and a wonderful texture.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!!
Blessings,
--Faithy 

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Special THANKS to all you faithful readers who have helped me reach 1000 views.  Keep reading, and please share your insights and tips.

Love ya!!
--Faithy


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Kickin' Kiwifruit Muffins

Howdy friends…I hope this Sunday afternoon finds you well and happy.  I’ve been blessed with another busy weekend to enjoy with my family, so I can’t complain.  I’m finally back home relaxing a bit this afternoon, so I thought I’d catch up on my blog.

I was looking through another cookbook this weekend and came across a recipe for Kiwifruit Muffins.  I had a couple of kiwi in the fridge, and it sounded interesting, so I thought I’d give it a try.

I thought they turned out pretty yummy.  My hubby said he didn’t like the chunky texture too much, but he thought the flavor was good.  (I’m thinkin’ I might try using kiwi puree next time to see if he likes that better --my food processor would make that a snap!)
Anyway…while I was working on this blog, I decided to do a little Kiwi research.  I’ve always heard that they were a power-packed little fruit, and guess what…THEY ARE!!  When you have a minute, go check out my new blog Faithy’s Fleeting Thoughts to see what I learned.

If you have time (and a couple of kiwifruit), go pop some of these in the oven to cook while you’re reading.  J

Kiwifruit Muffins
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (the original recipe called for all-purpose flour, but as usual, I used part whole wheat)
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup Smart Sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (this was okay, but I think next time I’ll leave it out)
1/4 cup HEB Real Egg (or 1 whole egg)
1/2 cup skim milk (or whole milk - as per the original recipe - if you prefer)
2 Tablespoons Smart Balance Butter Blend sticks (or butter/margarine)
2 kiwifruit, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup raisins (I used my homemade ones, which were kinda big so I chopped them too)

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk the egg, milk and butter.  Stir into dry ingredients until just moistened.  Fold in fruit.

Fill greased muffin cups 3/4 full (I always use a large cookie scoop or ice cream scoop for the perfect amount of batter and MUCH less mess!), and bake at 425°F for 15 to 18 minutes or until they pass the “toothpick test”.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.  Serve warm.

Yield:  10 muffins

I found this recipe in another great cookbook from my friends at Taste of Home.  This one is called Fresh & Easy, and it’s full of wonderful, easy-to-fix recipes using seasonal produce.  I found this one on page 163.  Please note that the original recipe HAS been adapted for my blog, using my typical substitutions, etc.

One of the things that I love about Taste of Home is that their recipes are submitted by “real” home cooks like me…not gourmet chefs using specialized ingredients I never seem to have on hand.

Blessings,
Well…I’m off to bed…another busy week ahead!
--Faithy


“For those who love it, cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy.
And cooking done with care is an act of love.”
-- Craig Claiborne --

Monday, September 19, 2011

ESCAPE!!

Happy Belated Lord’s Day my friends…I spent the morning at worship, had Sunday dinner with my family, helped my husband try out our new bikes this afternoon, and spent the rest of my day playing "catch-up" at home and getting ready for another busy week ahead.  My weekend was topped off by a short-lived but WONDERFUL and much-needed rain shower here in Zig Zag!  THANKS GOD!!!

Last weekend my hubby and I decided to head for the hills to celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary.  We made our getaway on Friday afternoon, and arrived in Fredericksburg, TX in time for dinner.  While there we enjoyed a delightfully relaxing weekend at a wonderful little B&B called Meusebach Creek.  

What an appropriate welcome!

The place was somewhat secluded and just far enough away from the hustle & bustle of life.  Whew...just what we needed!

Our little hideaway was close enough to town so that we could go in and enjoy some window shopping and a couple of meals at the wonderful restaurants there, yet far enough away from it all that we could truly relax and enjoy the blessing of God's creation. 


Meusebach Creek Farm - front porch

With its small (but fully equipped) kitchen, we had the wonderful option of just sleeping in and having leisurely breakfasts "at home".  We also enjoyed some simple dinners there while watching movies on the couch.

The back porch faced the sunrises (which were incredible), and the front porch faced the sunsets (also incredible). 


The back porch…


We got to sit out there and enjoy our morning devotions every day, and we were able to see lots of wildlife too…all kinds of birds (cardinals, hummingbirds, hawks, and MANY more), deer, a variety of insects (no bothersome ones though) and even an armadillo. 


One of the incredible sunsets from the front porch…GO GOD!



The morning and evening nature sounds were so relaxing and peaceful.  We have plenty of those available at home too, but sadly, we don’t often take the time to enjoy them!




Pretty nice for a weed huh?
The only thing that might have made the weekend better was some much needed rain.  So sad to see such a beautiful place so dry and parched (just like home)…however, there are still some tough beauties proving that God always gives us signs of his grace, even in the deserts of life.


Our hostess, Leola Mills, provided us with delicious home-baked breads, cookies and homemade jams throughout our stay, so I asked her permission to share some of her recipes with you all.  She graciously agreed, so I’m sharing these recipes as they came to me - without my usual adaptations…enjoy!

Homemade bread & jams…
Zucchini-Honey Bread
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans
2 large zucchini
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1-1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup honey
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine first 5 ingredients; stir in pecans.  Shred enough zucchini to measure 2 cups.  Combine zucchini and remaining ingredients; add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Spoon batter into 2 greased and floured 9x5x3 inch loaf pans.  Bake at 350°F for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pans 10 minutes;  remove from pans, and let cool on wire racks.

Yield:  2 loaves.
(Leola noted that she uses smaller pans which makes more loaves.)

Leola's zucchini-honey bread…mmm, mmm good…
Banana Bread

1/2 cup shortening or butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon soda in 4 Tablespoons buttermilk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cups bananas, mashed
1 cups nuts, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all together.  Pour in greased loaf pan.  Bake at 350°F for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Yield:  1 loaf

Another note from Leola:  “I like to sprinkle my loaf pans with sugar rather than flour and then sprinkle sugar on top of the mixture before baking.”

Special thanks to Leola for sharing her lovely place AND her delightful recipes with us!

If you’re ever looking for a place to stay in Fredericksburg…give Meusebach Creek Farm B&B a try.  You’ll be glad you did!  And if you do, don’t forget to tell Leola that Faithy sent you!

Blessings,
--Faithy

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Faithy’s Fig Jam

Once again, I’ve been busy, and have neglected my blog.  Sorry folks.  I haven’t had time to do much cooking in the past few weeks, but I thought I’d share my fig jam recipe with you in the meanwhile.

There is a wonderfully productive fig tree in my parent’s yard, and it has been providing abundant fruit for many years.  I started making this jam when I was in high school, and have made several batches a year (almost every year) since then.

I’ve found that many people have fond memories associated with fig jam (or preserves), so it’s fun to share it with as many people as possible every time I make some.

I’ve had many requests for my recipe over the years, so here it is.  It’s really simple, and oh so good!  I always like to have a fresh batch of Faithy's Favorite English Muffin Bread ready to test it on while the jam is still warm.  YUM!!

Faithy’s Fig Jam

5 cups prepared fruit (about 3-1/4 lb. fully ripe figs)
(I usually trim the ends and bad spots off, then roughly chop them, but you can also leave them whole - except for the ends and spots - and mash them while they are cooking if you like bigger chunks.  For smaller chunks you can grind the fruit or run it through your food processor before cooking.)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
(I often leave the lemon juice out…but it does help with the jelling process, if you like a firm jam.)
1/2 cup water
1 box SURE.JELL Fruit Pectin (powder)
1/2 tsp. butter or margarine
(optional - I often leave this out as well, but adding it helps to reduce foaming)
7 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl
         (I've also used Whey-Low Type D Granular to make a more diabetic-friendly jam - it works great!)
WASH jars and screw bands in hot, soapy water; rinse with warm water.  Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan - off the heat.  Let stand in hot water until ready to use.  Drain jars well before filling.
BRING boiling-water canner, half-full with water, to simmer (for use later, after jam is ready to process).  
MEASURE exactly 5 cups prepared fruit into 6- or 8-quart saucepot.  Stir lemon juice and water into the prepared fruit in saucepot.  Add pectin, and stir well.
ADD butter, if desired, and bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly.
STIR in all sugar quickly.  Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Skim off any foam with metal spoon.   (NOTE:  I strongly recommend that you use an oven mitt while stirring, to prevent burns.  This mixture gets VERY hot and bubbly, and will stick to your skin and create a nasty burn if any of it lands on your skin during this process.)
LADLE quickly into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops.  Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids.  Screw bands on firmly.

Now this next part is the “official” water-bath way to seal the jars, but I have an easier method which I’ll share below.  It works well, & I’ve been using the easy way on jams & jellies for years.  Can’t remember where I learned it though.  You can just pick whichever way you want to try…

Place jars on elevated rack in canner.  Lower rack into canner.  Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches; add boiling water if needed.  Cover; bring water to gentle boil.  Process 10 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely.

Easy Method:
After screwing the bands on the jars, just turn the jars upside down on a flat surface for 5 minutes, then flip back over.  Let them set for 24 hours to assure a proper seal.  They will usually begin to “pop” and let you know they are sealed within an hour or so…  If any do not seal, just stick them in the fridge, and keep them there until you use them or use the water-bath method above on them now.  They’ll keep quite a while.

After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger.  (If a lid springs back, it is not sealed and refrigeration will be necessary.)

Let me know if you try it out, and don't forget to make enough to share!
Blessings,
--Faithy

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Night "Lites"

Friday nights are a perfect time for burgers at home with the family.  This past Friday night, I came home from work to find this delicious meal waiting for me, thanks to my wonderful husband!

I got the basic recipe for the turkey patties from Rachael Ray several years ago, and have adapted it to fit our tastes.  This healthier alternative to regular burgers is so good, you’ll WANT to have them instead of your usual fare!

Turkey burgers often tend to be very dry and flavorless, but these are really juicy and flavorful.  Just don’t cook them too long or like anything else, they will tend to dry out.

Turkey Patties

1-1/2 pounds ground turkey breast
1/4 cup fat free sour cream
4 scallions, chopped (be sure to use both the white & green parts)
coarsely ground black pepper (or whatever seasonings you like)
2 Tablespoons canola oil

Mix all ingredients (except the canola oil) in a large mixing bowl.  I always do this with my hands…(it’s fun, and a great stress reliever - but ALWAYS be sure to wash your hands really good before and after you do this!)

Divide the meat mixture into 4 equal portions and shape into 1/2” thick patties.

Add canola oil to a large skillet over medium heat.  Swirl the oil around the pan to get a thin coat across the bottom.  Cook the patties until golden brown and cooked through.  (If you’re a grill person, you could also toss ‘em on the grill.)


Before removing from the pan, top with a slice of your favorite cheese (muenster and havarti are my favorites for this, but any type is fine) and leave it on the heat just until the cheese melts.

Remove from heat and serve on your favorite bun.  (My preference is a toasted whole wheat bun.)

To keep things fairly healthy, my hubby and I generally forego the fries or chips with our burgers when we make them at home.  Instead we serve them with green beans or asparagus spears lightly sautéed with a little extra virgin olive oil and LOTS of chopped garlic.  Sometimes we add a few fresh herbs (from our garden) as well.  Just depends on the mood.  Be sure to leave the veggies “whole” so they keep the “finger food” option open.  This may be a little messy (because of the olive oil), but it’s finger-lickin’ good!


If you want to check out Rachael’s take on these, you can find her recipe at http://rachaelray.com/recipe.php?recipe_id=2234

Have a FANTASTIC holiday weekend!!
Blessings,
--Faithy