Monday, November 24, 2008

Two Easy Pasta Dishes

Lately I have had a hard time coming up with things to make for dinner. This is mainly due to lack of planning on my part. . Do you know how I feel? You are staring at the fridge thinking, "What can I make that the kids will eat, that the husband will like, and that will take 4 minutes from fridge to table?" The answer for us is pasta. The girls will eat anything that has "noodles" in it. Shawn is game as long as the sauce isn't red (yes I know, what the heck?), and pasta is fast! So here are a few recipes I have made lately. So yummy and very easy!

Pasta with Mushrooms

12 ounces of any short twisted pasta (I used rotini)
1 lb. white button mushrooms- trimmed and quartered
2 Tbs. butter
2 green onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper
2 c. chicken stock
1/4 c. fresh grated Parmesan, plus more for serving

In a large pot of salted water, cook the pasta until al dente; drain and return to pot. Set aside.
While pasta is cooking, melt 1 Tbs. butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add green onion and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes- until onion softens and garlic becomes aromatic.
Add mushrooms. Cook, stirring occassionally, until mushrooms are tender and begin to brown, 6-8 minutes.
Add chicken stock to skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally until liquid is reduced by half, 2-4 minutes. Transfer mushroom mixture to pot with pasta. Add Parmesan and remaining Tbs. butter and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, and serve with more Parmesan grated on top.

Spaghetti with Lemon Zest and Chives

1 lb. spaghetti (I used angle hair pasta this time and it also worked well)
zest of 1 lemon
Juice from 1 lemon
1/4 c. butter
2 Tbs. fresh chives
1 c. coarsely grated Ricotta or Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook spaghetti until al dente. Grate zest into a large bowl. Add juice. Stir in butter, cut into small pieces, and cheese. Add drained pasta to lemon sauce and sprinkle with chives. Season with salt and pepper. Toss well, and serve.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Tip from Grandma: Involve the Kids

I'm not sure if this is a tip or just more of a philosophy Grandma had. She felt like kids should be involved with the cooking. She always told me to bring it down to their level. Grandma was really good at this and even let the kids help with dipping chocolates, and making yeast breads. Stuff that needs to be precise, but she was always very patient.
So in that spirit, I decided to involve my girls in dinner last night. We made waffles. Yes, I know, I pulled out all the stops. They were both cheering "We love brinner, we love brinner"!
Now I can't say that I always want to or enjoy involving my kids in the kitchen. Sometimes I just want to be left alone in my little domain. But the waffle-making was really fun. They asked for waffles, then were so eager to help, and so excited that it just made the whole event great. I let them measure and stir, pick their toppings and pour them on. They are getting old enough that pretty soon we should delve into reading the recipe and let them do things with no help.
As you can see the evening was a big success, the waffles were great, and the girls even helped clean up the dishes. After all that is part of cooking, right?

1 3/4 c. flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 3/4 c. milk
1/2 c. oil

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture, set aside.
In another bowl beat eggs slightly. Add milk and oil. Add mixture all at once to dry mixture. Stir just until combined. Batter will be lumpy.
Pour about 1 1/4 c. batter onto a hot, greased waffle iron. Close lid and bake according to manufacturer's directions. Makes about 6 6-inch waffles.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

We made these cookies on Halloween night. They were a big hit! Soft and chewy, and full of yummy flavor. I love the intense spice flavor. Along with the pumpkin and the chocolate, it is the perfect combination. We ate these cookies up instead of chewing on our nails while we watched Tremors.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 29-oz. can pumpkin
1 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs
5 c. all purpose flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

In a Kitchen-Aid mixer, combine pumpkin, sugars, oil, and eggs. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and baking soda. Add flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and mix well.
Add vanilla and chocolate chips.
Refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour.
After refrigerating and before you proceed, give the dough a good mixing. The chocolate chips have a tendency to sink to the bottom of the dough.
Drop by spoonful onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 13 minutes or until the center of the cookie is firm.
Cool on sheet for 2 minutes, the transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
Eat with cold milk and enjoy!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hawaiian Haystacks

First of all, let's just get this out there: I LOVE my book club! Not only is it made up of a group of fantastic women whom I love, but it is also great to get me thinking. As a stay-at-home-mom I sometimes feel that my brain ranges between a 20-watt bulb and a night-light. So to have actual discussions about moral, political, and social issues is so great.
We had a book club overnight retreat several weeks ago. We had a book exchange, did a little craftie(which by the way was super easy, cute, and fun, and would pretty up your kitchen! Go here to see what we did), ate way too much, and stayed up way too late. We ate Hawaiian haystacks. They were perfect. The meal was super-easy to prepare, it was easy to transport (we went to a cabin at Bear Lake), and everyone could tailor the meal to the tastes that best suited them.
Hawaiian Haystacks- serves 5-6 adults

Cooked rice– about 1 1/2 c. per person
2-3 c. cooked, shredded chicken
2 can cream of chicken soup
1 can of chicken broth
1 c. milk
1/2 tsp. Paprika

1/2 tsp. Garlic powder
1/4 tsp. Onion powder
1 tsp. or 1 cube chicken bouillon flavoring
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients, except rice, in a large pot. Stir well to combine. Heat over medium heat until hot, stirring often. This can also be done in a crock pot and left to warm all day. Serve sauce over hot rice with the following toppings:

Chinese noodles
Mandarin oranges
Pineapple tidbits
Edamame (green soy beans)
Water chestnuts
Slivered Almonds
Sunflower seeds

Green onions
Bell peppers
Soy sauce
Whatever else sounds good to you!

So yummy and so easy! Hope you enjoy!

Monday, November 3, 2008

A tip from Grandma: Blanching Almonds

Oh man, does anyone else out there feel like they have a candy hangover from the weekend? I sure do. We partied hard all weekend long. Halloween was a blast. Between family visits, tiny ghouls and goblins, yummy food, late nights, and pseudo-scary movies I am worn out today!
So an easy post for the day.

Have you ever tried to find blanched almonds in the grocery store? I don't know about you but I have never been able to find them around here. And lots of recipes call for them, darn it. So here is a tip from grandma. Blanch your own almonds. She was such a smart lady!

Buy whole almonds with the skins still on. When you get them home, prepare a largish bowl with an ice bath. Set aside. Then on your stove, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Throw your almonds in the boiling water and let the water return to a boil. Boil almonds for 2 minutes. When time is up, drain almonds and immediately put them in the ice bath. Let them sit until cool enough to handle. This won't take long. Drain off the water. Put a couple of paper towels on a plate. Then just go to work squeezing those almond right out of their skins. If you squeeze in the large end of the almond the skins should pop right off. Easy as that! Then you can use them or freeze them. I would give you one warning: be prepared to be squirted in the eye with cold water. Those little guys spit at you every once in a while. It keeps things interesting.