Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Parmesean Pasta

Tonight I had to finish the Thanksgiving chicken or it was going to start walking around again...  Or you know, oozing around and eating stuff off the floor.  Granted, I have always wanted a pet that would vacuum stuff off my floors, but the frugal Mom in me got the upper hand.  So I went scrounging in the box.  This one appears to have come in some sort of mailer or something.  It's from Kraft, so it recommends all Kraft products.  And also, it's really old, so there's no telling if some of the products it recommends even still exist...  So there's a disclaimer for ya.

Parmesan Pasta
Prep: 5 minutes  Cook: 10 minutes  Servings: 4

8 oz. pasta, uncooked
1 pkg (16 oz) frozen broccoli flowerets [sic] or 3 C fresh broccoli flowerets [sic]
1 clove garlic, minced or 1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 pkg. (6 oz) Louis Rich grilled chicken breast strips
1/4 C (1/2 stick) butter, margarine or olive oil
3/4 C Kraft 100% grated Parmesan cheese

1. Prepare pasta as directed on package in large sauce pot, adding vegetables to pasta cooking water during last 5 minutes of cooking time; drain.

2. Cook and stir garlic and chicken breast strips in butter in same sauce pot on medium heat 1-2 minutes or until garlic is tended but not brown and chicken is thoroughly heated.

3. Add pasta and vegetables; toss lightly.  Sprinkle with cheese; toss to coat.  Serve immediately.

Try serving with quick bagged salad tossed with your favorite Kraft dressing, such as House Italian.

Tip! Great Substitute: Substitute 1-1/2 to 2 C chopped cooked ham, turkey or chicken for chicken breast strips.  A great way to use leftovers!

My substitutions/additions:
  • Obviously, I didn't use the breast strips.  I also didn't use the Kraft cheese (Sorry Kraft.  I didn't have any and I prefer freshly grated parm to canned...).
  • I did not use anywhere near 1/4 C olive oil.  Maybe a tablespoon.  
  • I made one skillet for the boys with the chicken and garlic, and a separate one for myself with tofu and garlic.
  • Also, I think this recipe is worded awkwardly.  Don't cook the chicken and garlic in the same pot as the pasta.  Use a different pot.  It's easy enough to figure out I guess, it just reads a little clunky and it makes the English major in me want to fix it... I know, I know, my neurosis is showing...
They're right!  This is a great way to use up leftovers.  The overall consensus was favorable.  Not something to write home about, but a good, solid mid-week meal that doesn't take too long to make and keeps the refrigerator beasts at bay.  It's a keeper!

Monday, November 29, 2010


I make really good biscuits.  There.  I said it.  Don't hate me because I'm awesome, I'm about to show you how I do it!  The big secret in biscuit making isn't the ingredients, they're usually pretty much the same.  But technique can mean the difference between warm and fluffy comfort and warm and pasty bricks.  This recipe came off the Internet about 10 years ago.


2 C flour
1 T baking powder
1 t salt
3/4 stick (6 Tbs) butter (divided)
3/4 C milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Mix together flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl.  Incorporate 5 T butter.  Add milk, and mix till just combined.  Cut and place on baking sheet.  Melt and brush remaining butter over tops.  Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Here's how to do it:

Think of biscuits as you would pastry.  The colder and faster you work, the better.  The butter is what gives these little guys layers.  As they bake, the butter *pops* and causes the spaces.  To get good layers, you want to squish the butter in your fingers like this.  I use frozen butter so I can work it a little longer without making the dough too tough.  Smaller pea-size balls of butter will make the biscuits tender.

This is what the dough should look like before you add the milk.  Big lumps and little lumps all mixed in with the flour.

This is after the milk has been added, about the time I start kneading.  Again, not too much, this isn't bread, it's pastry.  I dump this on the counter and use the leftover flour/butter scraps in the bowl to keep the dough from sticking to the counter.  Knead it 3 or 4 times until it forms a ball.

I pat mine out with my hands, but you can use a rolling pin if you really want to.  I find the more I work with my hands, the better feel I have for the dough.  I can tell immediately when it's starting to get too tough.  With practice, you will, too.  And also, I don't want to have one more thing to wash...

 In keeping with not wanting to wash a bunch of dishes, I don't melt the butter, I just put little pats on them.  If the tops look a little raw near the end of baking, flip them over for a minute or two.  (See that weird one bottom left?  That's hubby's favorite!)

There you go!  Big, fat, fluffy, flaky biscuits!  These are a mixture of half whole wheat and half white flour.  You can do two cups of wheat or two of white.  White will make more classic biscuits, but all wheat is interesting, too.

Yield: about 12 depending on the size of your cutter
Serving suggestions: eggs and sausage, apple sauce, butter, honey, molasses, or jam.  Also great with soup, or as a topper for pot pies.  And if you're lucky, you can serve it with your neighbor's super yummy apple butter!

These are awesome.  Absolutely a keeper!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Squash Casserole

Our CSA gave us three huge acorn squash this past week, and I figured I'd better use one up.  The recipe I found in my box uses yellow summer squash, so the acorn was pretty neutral substitution.  Not sure where this one came from, probably that mystical source for all things edible: the Internet...

Squash Casserole

4 C sliced yellow squash
1/2 C onion
1/2 C crushed crackers
1 C shredded cheese
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 C milk
1/4 C butter, melted
1 t salt
ground pepper
2 T butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cook squash and onion in a skillet with water (about 5 minutes) till squash is tender.  Drain.  Mix crackers and cheese in a medium bowl.  Stir half of the cracker/cheese mixture into squash.  Mix eggs and milk in a small bowl.  Add to squash.  Stir in butter, salt and pepper.  Spread into 9X13 inch pan.  Sprinkle with cracker mixture, and dot with 2T butter.  Bake 25 minutes or until brown.

Yield: 4-6 servings
Serving suggestions: I served ours with peas, but it would have been good with green beans, a salad, carrots, corn, or as a side with chicken or turkey.

My substitutions/additions:
Subbed 4 C cooked* acorn squash, cubed and peeled (1 whole squash depending on its size).
I omitted the 2 T butter on top.  There's plenty of fat in this without guilding that lily.
It fit easily into a regular casserole dish.

*I pre-cooked the squash in the microwave for 8 minutes.  To cook winter squash in the microwave, halve it, clean it out and cook it cut side down in a little water.  It's OK if it's a little underdone, the rest of it will cook in the oven.  You can do this with butternut squash too, but it might take a little longer...

I use my grandmother's grapefruit spoon to scrape the seeds out of winter squash.  It seems to get rid of the grody strings a little faster than a regular spoon.

5-year-old's initial reaction: "It looks gross.  No, I mean it looks really gross."  The 2-year-old wouldn't touch it at first. They both later conceded its yumminess.  Me and the Mister both liked it, too.  A good, quick meal to make with stuff I usually have hanging around, though it would have been quicker to make with yellow squash since I wouldn't have had all the extra squash prep.  It's a keeper!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Welcome to Crackers on the Couch!

What is this thing?  Well, I've got this recipe box, see?  And it's full of recipes I've either never made or made once and not again.  I have got to go through this box.  It's a huge box.  It's a disorganized box.  I need to purge.  And what better way to purge than by making one every night and deciding if it's any good?  And then, of course, dragging a few readers along with me... =) Sometimes I'll post tutorials, but not always.  I didn't create most of these recipes.  Most of them are stolen from the Interwebs or clipped out of magazines.  Some are from family members and friends.  If I've written down the URL, I'll post it.  And I will always post a review and substitutions.  One caveat, I'm vegetarian.  I've got several meat recipes here so I'm going to rely on my husband and kid's reactions to review these.  I've been told I make a mean roast chicken...  So here it is!  This is our Thanksgiving/special guest chicken recipe.  It is from Country Living Magazine.

Apple and Sage Roast Chicken with Pan Juices

1 roasting chicken
3/4 t salt
3 medium apples, cored and quartered
3 small onions
2 celery stalks
2 cloves garlic
2 T fresh sage, chopped
1/4 C butter, softenend
1 T whole-grain mustard
1/8 t cracked white pepper
1 t fresh thyme
1/4 C fruity white wine, such as Riesling
3/4 C fresh apple cider

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Rub the inside of the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Chop 1 apple, 1 onion, and the celery into 2-inch pieces. Toss the apple mixture with the garlic and 1 tablespoon sage, and place it all in the chicken cavity.
  2. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine, and tuck the wings securely under. Mix the butter and mustard to a smooth paste and rub over the chicken skin and sprinkle with the remaining salt and white pepper. Place the bird in a medium roasting pan. Roast in the lower third of the oven for 30 minutes. Brush any remaining mustard-butter over the bird and continue to roast for 1 1/4 more hours.
  3. Baste the chicken with the pan drippings, and sprinkle with remaining sage and the thyme. Scatter the remaining apples and onions around the bird, tossing lightly to coat with the drippings. Add the white wine, and roast the chicken 20 minutes. Baste the bird, and toss the apples and onions again for even browning. Continue to roast until bird juices run clear and the meat between the leg and thigh reaches 160°F. Remove from the oven and transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Arrange the apples and onions around the chicken.
  4. Prepare the jus: Tip the roasting pan so the liquid pools to one end, and use a large spoon to remove any excess fat from the pan juices. Add apple cider and place the pan over medium-high heat. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan, and then pour the jus over the chicken, apples, and onions. Serve warm.

My substitutions/additions:
I rarely have white pepper.  I sub black.

I never make the jus.  I don't like to try to re-plate.  I just put it on the table and let the guests spoon out what they want.  Haven't had any complaints.

I also add 1T black or yellow whole mustard seed to the butter rub.  It just looks pretty...

We're not big wine drinkers at this house, so I buy the little bottles in the four pack, so I always have some on hand to cook with.

Pinot Grigio is a good sub for Riesling.

When my guests don't want me to cook with wine, I sub apple cider for the wine.

Everyone I've ever fed this to has loved it including super-foodies and little kids.  It's a keeper!
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