Saturday, December 6, 2014

Ornaments!!!

I had a pretty productive today today…of course, not like “cleaning the house” or “mowing the yard” productive.  Instead, I made two new ornaments for our fabulous new Christmas tree.  Yup—I finally got to upgrade from our little scraggy 5-foot tree, to a beautiful, full, PRE-LIT-WITH-1000+-LIGHTS tree that I got at a thrift store for $100.  SO happy.

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Well, when you add 2.5 feet to your tree…you need more ornaments, amirite?  Not that I don’t already add to my ornament collection annually.  Or have a bunch of Eeyore and Marvin the Martian ornaments that I don’t even put up anymore since I switched tree themes.  But..I mean… come on… PINTEREST.

So I started the morning with a cup of coffee, and the fixings for a button ornament:

- styrofoam ornament (48c at WalMart)

- pearl-ended straight pins ($1.97 at WalMart)

- and LOTs of buttons (free, from my mom’s button collection)

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Instructions not really necessary on this one—you start with one button, add another… stagger colors & sizes and layer when appropriate to fill in the white spaces.

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And then, I wanted to do my own take on the “book pages” ornaments.  I didn’t have any old sheet music, but I do have this random old Catholic Missal from 1966. I’m not 100% sure where it came from—either I picked it up at a thrift store or it came from a box of books at my Nana’s house…either way, it’s been sitting on a shelf in my house, unused, for several years.  So I fugured I might as well put it to good use.

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Here’s hoping you can’t go to hell for cutting up a 50 year old liturgy.

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I pulled a few pages from the Advent, Christmas Vigil & Midnight Mass liturgies, and cut out poignant bits that referenced Christmas.

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Then I took a blank paper ornament (60c at Hobby Lobby) & used Modge Podge to adhere the paper to the ornament, turning the pieces at different angles and trying to get good coverage (while making sure lines that I really liked didn’t get too covered up).

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When it was fully covered, I did one final thin layer of Modge Podge, and sprinkled it with glitter.  Let that dry, and then I took it outside & sprayed it with a clear coat (to help the glitter not fall off).

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I’ve got a few other blank paper ornaments, so I might make a few more of these. I love the way it turned out!

And then, to wrap it up, I re-vamped this wreath.  Last year, I hung it on our front door, and the neighborhood birds thought the beautiful berries were real—so they pecked it to death.  I’m hoping no birds were harmed permanently.  So this year, I snipped off the sprigs with damaged berries, and then added all the pine cones & some extra greenery & cinnamon sticks. (Oh, and hung it indoors this year, so no birds would be at risk.)

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Oreo Cheesecake

Last Christmas, I got a springform pan…so I figured I should finally use it!  We’ve got a ton of toppings leftover from The Scoop; so when we were asked to bring a dessert for our Thanksgiving, we thought this would be a great way to use up some of it!!!

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INGREDIENTS:

Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups Oreo cookie bits (about 23 Oreo cookies finely chopped, if you don’t have a bag of pre-chopped crumbles like us)
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Filling:

  • Three 8 ounce packages of light cream cheese, room temp
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 5 large eggs, room temp
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 6 - 8 ounces nonfat Greek yogurt (or light sour cream, or a combination of both if your refrigerator requires it); room temp
  • 3/4 cup Oreo cookie crumbs
  • For the top: More Oreo cookie crumbs (or about 10 coarsely chopped Oreos)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 325F.

Crust: Mix the Oreo crumbs with the melted butter and press into the bottom of a 10-inch springform cheesecake pan.  Stick this in the fridge to chill while you prep everything else.

Put the cream cheese in a large bowl and beat on low speed with your mixer until it's light and fluffy (super easy if you have a stand mixer). Slowly add the sugar until well incorporated, scraping the bowl periodically.  Now add the salt, vanilla, flour and Greek yogurt/sour cream and beat some more until everything is mixed in and smooth.

With your mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time, beating each egg fully into the batter and scraping down the sides of the bowl again before adding the next egg. You don’t want to over-beat the mixture after the eggs have been added in.

Gently fold the 3/4 cup of Oreo crumbles into the mixture. Then pour the batter into the prepared springform pan. Sprinkle the top with more Oreo cookie crumbs.

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Set the top and bottom racks of the oven far enough apart so that you can set a pan of water on the lower rack and the cheesecake on the top rack. Set a roasting pan filled 2/3 of the way with water on the lower rack. (This acts as the "water bath" without having to go to all the trouble of actually putting the cheesecake in the water. Way easier—I’ve had other cheesecakes get a soggy crust because of water infiltrating the pan with a regular water bath.)

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Place the cheesecake on the top rack of the oven and bake for about an hour. When it’s ready, it should jiggle slightly in the middle. When you reach this point, turn the oven off, prop the door of the oven open, and let it sit for an hour. Then remove, cover, and stick it in the fridge for 8 hours (or overnight).

Run a knife around the edge of the pan before you pop off the springform.  Then serve at will!  It’s pretty rich, even with the lower-fat ingredients in there, so serve small slices.

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NUTRIFACTS: (16 slices)

  Calories 347.0

  Total Fat 18.2 g

  Saturated Fat 8.4 g

  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.3 g

  Monounsaturated Fat 0.9 g

  Cholesterol 116.4 mg

  Sodium 394.5 mg

  Potassium 114.0 mg

  Total Carbohydrate 36.6 g

  Dietary Fiber 1.2 g

  Sugars 26.7 g

  Protein 8.3 g

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Cranberry-Pineapple Refrigerator Jam

I can’t seem to commit to full-on canning & preserving.  I like the idea, but really, our pantry is full enough with random jams, jellies & salsas, and a lot of the time, I don’t want to make a full batch of something, using a new recipe, and then find out it sucks.  So I like that Ball offers these little packets of “small batch” pectin so you can make two half-pint, or one full pint jar. 

Cranberries are super-cheap this time of year, so I tend to stock up.  There’s at least two bags in the freezer right now, waiting to be turned into sauce or gooey butter bars, or who knows what.  But I also just made some of this cranberry-pineapple jam and was pretty pleased with the results.  Since I made only one jar, I can put it straight into the fridge and not have to worry about preserving it for shelf-storage.

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INGREDIENTS: (makes one pint)

  • One packet of small-batch pectin
  • 1 1/3 Cups cranberries
  • 1 Cup of crushed pineapple with juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 Tablespoon orange juice
  • 1/2 Tablespoons orange zest
  • 3/4 Cup sugar (to taste—I like my jam to be a little tart)
  • One sterilized pint jar (I use Easy Clean)

 

DIRECTIONS:

Pretty easy stuff--combine the cranberries, pineapple, juice, zest, nutmeg, sugar, and pectin in a pot & stir over low heat. Continue stirring  until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to boil.

Then, crush the fruit in the mixture with a potato masher over medium heat on the stove; let the jam boil for approximately 15 minutes; longer if you want a thicker jam.

If you plan on using right away, you don’t have to worry about doing a water bath or freezing. 

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Makes a mean PB & J!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Guest Post: Primo’s Red Beans & Fries

Time for another guest post from my cousin Primo, straight from his pad in NOLA!  Seemed perfect to post on a Monday!

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It’s Monday and that means it’s red beans & rice day down here in New Orleans. In the 19th century, Monday was laundry day in the city. Without washing machines, the women of the house had to wash all of the household’s laundry painstakingly by hand, leaving little time for cooking.  So dinner had to be something that could cook without being fussed over.

Enter the red kidney bean, brought to New Orleans by those fleeing Haiti’s slave rebellion. The beans needed to soak overnight before cooking. After soaking and draining them, housewives simply set the beans on the stove with fresh water to boil until tender, and then added a delicious helping of sautéed “trinity”– the Cajun/Creole cooking base of diced onions, celery and bell peppers.  This would typically also be combined with leftover ham from Sunday’s big family dinner.

While I love red beans and rice, I wanted to mix things up a bit and put a small twist on a local staple. While Monday is ‘red beans and rice day’ down here, it’s Monday Night Football for  the rest of the country. Football and finger foods go together like, well, red beans and rice. Thus, red beans and FRIES were born.

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(FeauxNote: if you’ve made up a big batch of red beans & have some leftovers, this is a great way to use them up.)

INGREDIENTS:

Frozen waffle fries (or if you have a mandoline, you can make your own)

1 can Blue Runner red beans

1 lb smoked sausage (traditionally andouille or tasso, but use what you like best)

1/2 – 1 cup of trinity (diced bell pepper, celery & onion)

Green onions for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 400F and when at temp, throw in your French fries (waffle fries hold up best for our purposes; Alexia makes some seasoned waffle fries, and Great Value sells a generic for about $2.00).

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While I have the luxury of a modern washing machine, I decided to cheat and use a can of Blue Runner creamed red beans for experimentation purposes (and because I felt lazy). (FeauxNote: I can get Blue Runner at Wal-Mart in Missouri, but if you can’t find them, you can try this Crockpot recipe.)

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While the beans heat up on the stovetop, dice a link or two of your favorite sausage—andouille in my case (FeauxNote: Johnsonville makes a New Orleans style smoked sausage if you can’t find real andouille near you) and drop the sausage in a medium skillet or saucepan to begin heating up and releasing that delicious fat. Enter your “trinity”. Again, I cheated and bought a container of pre-chopped veggies.

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Add as much or as little to taste. Sauté those fine ingredients together until your onions become translucent. At this point, your peppers and celery will retain their crunch for a good texture contrast. Remove from heat.P1010246.JPG

Place a good base layer of your fries on a plate (platter if serving family style). Add a layer of the trinity/sausage. Heap your creamed red beans on top (FeauxNote: I added the Blue Runner beans to the pot and mixed it all together, rather than keeping them separate & layering—still tastes awesome). Lastly, garnish with some freshly diced green onions from your window garden…

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…add a dash (or 5) of hot sauce, and serve.

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Oh, and watch out for aliens posing as butternut squash. (Compliments of Feaux’s Hubs.)

Since the serving size on this varies (especially if you’re sharing with a group), I won’t attempt a NutriFacts sheet, but just use your brain—stop when you’re full.

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Hey….I didn’t say it would EASY.  But just TRY to have some restraint.

Have a great week, folks!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Baked Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya Egg Rolls

Hey there—remember back in the day when I made St. Patty’s Day Egg Rolls?  Well, that little venture got a lot of gears turning, so that I just started making baked egg rolls with just about anything.  There’s the Southwest Egg Rolls, and at some point I’ll finish my post about the Sushi Egg Rolls (I forgot to take a photo of the finished product before we ate them all, which means I need to make them again!).

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Really, my egg roll recipes are typically born out of necessity.  Because when you buy egg roll wrappers, there’s 20 in a pack.  And as much as I love them, we really can’t eat more than 8 between the two of us in a sitting.  Which means you still have 12 wrappers laying around, mocking you—“okay Captain Kitchen Improv, now what are you going to do with US????”  And oddly enough, I’ve never just said, “well, I have some pork & cabbage…guess I’ll just make normal egg rolls with you.”  Because that’s not how I roll. And I prefer to make baked rolls, because they’re just WAY better for you, and as long as you give a nice light spritz of olive oil on the wrapper, they still get a really satisfying crunch.

As we move through this post, you’re going to notice something---between the prep photos & the final product photos, it looks as though my jambalaya stuffing has magically changed color.  It hasn’t.  But the first time I made these, I was using my Crock Pot Jambalaya recipe, and then the second time I made them with my Chef Folse recipe.  You can choose either, depending upon your preference, time allotted, etc.  Or you can even cheat & buy some Zatarain’s jambalaya mix.  You can also mix it up & use seafood instead of chicken or sausage (or even venison).  Totes up to you.

PS—this is an awesome way to use up leftovers, if you’ve made a pot of jambalaya the night before.  And these are perfect for any upcoming SuperBowl parties you might have!

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INGREDIENTS: (makes 8 egg rolls)

8 egg roll wrappers (you should find these in the produce section, usually near the tofu.  My Wal-Mart stocks them near the shredded cabbage/bagged lettuce & veggies)

about 3-4 cups of jambalaya (it can be cold or hot)

water

Olive Oil mister

 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 425F.

Lay a wrapper on a clean, dry surface with a corner toward you.  Spoon about 1/3 – 1/2 cup of jambalaya onto the wrapper, not quite in the middle.

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Roll the point that’s closest to you over the filling, gently squishing a bit so the filling is uniform in thickness. 

Now fold in the sides, and then roll over once toward the far point.  Now wet the far point with the water, and then finish rolling it up.

Spray a cookie sheet with olive oil, add the rolls, and then lightly spray each of the rolls with olive oil (you can use a brush to get good coverage).  This will help them to brown all over.

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Bake for 10 minutes on each side (20 minutes total) so you get a good crust/seal on them. Then booyah—you’re done!

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Now: dipping sauces.  They REALLY don’t need one.  But it’s an egg roll—so you sorta feel inclined to dip it.  I tried Cajun mustard, but it was a no-go: just WAY overpowered the flavor of the jambalaya.  However, you could try a remoulade with it…or ranch goes with about anything.  If you get creative & find a great sauce to go with these, please leave me a note! Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Zucchini Pasta

I grew up in the era when pasta was good for you.  “YAYYY CARBS!!!” we would scream in Health Class. (This is a lie. I’m pretty sure I didn’t actually know what a carb was until I was halfway through college.)  But anyway, pasta was totally acceptable and not at all the evil monster it’s portrayed as today.  My dad would drive us 45 minutes to the nearest “big city” (Missourites: I’m talking about Jeff City.  Feel free to snicker now.) once a year for Olive Garden’s Never Ending Pasta Bowl Feast.  Hamburger Helper was a staple in our house.  Spaghetti was one of the first things I ever learned to cook from scratch (though my earliest memories of helping my mom “cook” always involved Jiffy cake & cornbread boxes). 

When you grow up with that sort of mindset, it’s REALLY hard to break away and start thinking of pasta as something that should be moderated…heaven forbid be left out of one’s diet altogether.  But alas, I am an adult, and I am old enough to understand that MAYBEEE we should be dining on dishes that are a bit more veggie-and-protein-dense than my beloved trough of fettuccini alfredo from the O.G.

So when a friend who had recently decided to do the low-carb thing told me about the Veggie Spiralizer, I figured it was worth $15 to try it out.  Especially since we were growing zucchini in our container garden this year, and I am typically very boring with zucchini—either sautéing it with garlic & parm, or baking it into bread.

We threw this recipe together after a long day, and I’m a LITTLE proud that so many of the ingredients came from our garden—the zucchini, the tomatoes, the basil, rosemary…

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This recipe can be Paleo (if you use the right sauce) and even Whole-30 approved (if you use a pasta sauce with no sugar and nitrate/sugar free bacon, and leave off the cheese).

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 INGREDIENTS: (makes 2 servings)

1 zucchini, spiral sliced into noodles

olive oil

1 sprig rosemary

1 tsp garlic, minced

1/2 jar of your favorite pasta sauce (we used Bertolli’s Organic Olive Oil, Basil & Garlic sauce)

small handful of fresh basil

2-3 slices bacon, cooked & chopped

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

1 green onion

1/4 cup shredded parmesan (I get Priano from Aldis—great quality & CHEAP)

 

DIRECTIONS:

Spiral-slice your zucchini.

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Then add your noodles to a large skillet w/olive oil, rosemary & garlic over medium heat, tossing/stirring frequently for about 5 minutes.

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Then add the pasta sauce and tomatoes to the pan, lower heat to medium-low to heat the sauce.

Add the basil (julienned) near the end so it doesn’t get bitter.  Then transfer into two bowls, top with the bacon, cheese, & green onions (and the rosemary sprig for garnish). 

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NUTRIFACTS:

 Calories 269.2

  Total Fat 15.2 g

  Saturated Fat 4.9 g

  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.3 g

  Monounsaturated Fat 2.1 g

  Cholesterol 18.6 mg

  Sodium 909.0 mg

  Potassium 627.3 mg

  Total Carbohydrate 20.7 g

  Dietary Fiber 6.1 g

  Sugars 13.6 g

  Protein 11.1 g