Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Squash Soup

I've made this with both butternut and acorn squash. For some reason my kids prefer the one with butternut, but I thought they were both good. When I made this over the weekend, we had just returned from apple picking and so I was inspired to add an apple to the soup -- it was really good!

2 1/2 - 3 lb. butternut or acorn squash
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 can chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup milk or half & half (plus more if it's too thick)
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Cut the squash into large chunks and bake at 350 until soft, 30-45 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, saute the onion in olive oil until soft. Add apples, cover and keep cooking for 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute an additional minute. Set aside.
  3. Remove cooked squash from peel and add to onion mixture. Add one can of broth. Puree with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender.
  4. Add milk and stir. If it's too thick, add a bit more milk.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Enchilada Casserole

We had a bunch of family in over the weekend for my mother-in-law's 80th birthday. Great fun! I made dinner one night for everyone and there were a few restrictions... one relative can't eat wheat and another is a vegetarian. So, I was thrilled to find something EVERYONE could enjoy. I ended up making two -- one with chicken and the other without. I'll tell you how to do both:

This makes enough for one 9"x13" pan.

1 cup chopped onion
1 red pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1 cup salsa
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen corn, thawed and drained
14 six-inch corn tortillas, each one torn into around 8 pieces
8 oz. Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup sour cream
1 can enchilada sauce
Optional garnish: chopped fresh cilantro, sour cream, chopped black olives
If you're adding meat: 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Saute onion in a little oil until soft and starting to brown. Add red pepper and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and saute an additional minute. Set aside.
  3. Combine beans, salsa, corn and sour cream. Add onion mixture and stir until blended.
  4. Spray 9x13 pan with oil. Layer half of the torn tortillas on the bottom. Cover with the bean/sour cream/onion mixture. Sprinkle with half of the grated cheese. If you're adding chicken, put it on now. Top with remaining tortillas.
  5. Carefully pour one can of enchilada sauce over entire casserole. Try to cover eachtortilla with a little bit of sauce. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. (At this point you can cover it and put it in the fridge until you're ready to bake it. Make sure to add 15-20 extra minutes of cooking time if it's cold when you put it in the oven .)
  6. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking an addition 15 minutes, until heated through and starting to bubble on top.
  7. Serve hot and garnish with chopped cilantro, sour cream and black olives.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Chicken & Bean Main-Course Dip

My friend Maria passed on this recipe because her kids gave it rave reviews. Having made it the other night, we concur. It's awesome! It didn't come with a name, so we decided to call it "Chicken Dip" because you eat it on corn chips. If someone has a better name, let me know.

6-9 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces (If you choose to use breasts instead of thighs, increase the amount of salsa to 1 1/2 cups since breasts are dryer.)
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 cup salsa (use one that's a little spicy or it may come out kind of bland)
1 cup frozen corn
Corn chips

  1. Put chicken in crockpot; it's okay if it's still frozen. Top with beans, salsa and corn.
  2. Cover and cook on low for 6-9 hours, or high for 4-5. Cooking time will vary depending on whether or not your chicken is frozen and how big the pieces are. Check on it at the minimum number of hours so that it doesn't get dried out.
  3. Serve with corn chips used as dippers.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Zucchini bread

It's the season for zucchini and here's the recipe I've been using for a number of years...... (adapted from better homes and garden's new cook book)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I use a gluten free blend I make myself)
2 or 3 teaspoons cinnamon (use the good stuff, it makes such a difference)
1/2 teaspoon baking soada
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (more flavor if you use fresh)
1 cup sugar (or less, it’s pretty sweet if you use all)
1 cup shredded zucchini (unpeeled)
1/4 cup cooking oil (can substitute applesauce)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon zest of lemon peel
1/2 or more cup of chocolate chips

In mixing bowl combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, backing powder, and nutmeg. In another mixing bowl combine everything else except the chips. Mix well. Add the flour mixture to the rest and mix until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350F for 55-60 minutes (check doneness with a toothpick). Cool on wire rack. Makes one loaf. Double and freeze a loaf, freezes well.

Corn Bread

We make this almost every time we have chili. It tastes so good with a little dab of butter and a drizzle of honey, it makes me lick my lips just thinking about it. It's really wonderful right out of the oven, but seems to lose something with time. Serve generous slices so you don't have much left-over.

2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
4 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 1/3 cups milk

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square pan.
  2. Combine lemon juice and milk in small bowl. Set aside to curdle.
  3. Whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Push dry ingredients to the sides of the bowl and make a well.
  4. Crack the eggs into the well and stir lightly. Then add the milk/lemon juice. Stir quickly until almost combined. Finally, add the melted butter and blend.
  5. Pour batter into greased pan. Bake until the top is golden brown and lightly cracked, about 25 minutes.
  6. Cool on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes and then serve warm.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Easy Chocolate Fondue

There are many wonderful, complicated chocolate fondue recipes, but this one is super easy. And heck, isn't it really all about getting the chocolate onto a piece of fruit in the easiest manner possible?

This makes enough for 2 adults and 2 kids. We ate 16 strawberries and two whole bananas. If you need to make more, increase the amount of chocolate chips and half and half in a 1 to 1/4 ratio.

1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup half and half (you can probably use milk, I just had half and half on hand)
Possible dippers: strawberries, banana, pineapple, apple, pound cake, short bread cookies, etc.

  1. Combine chocolate chips and half and half in a microwave safe bowl.
  2. Heat at 50% power until chips melt, stirring periodically until creamy and smooth.
  3. Transfer to a small crock pot or fondue pot.
  4. Start dipping.
  5. Don't lick the inside of the crock pot or fondue pot when you're done... you could burn your tongue.

Mexican Cheese Fondue

Fondue pots must be the most ubiquitous wedding present ever, so go find yours. I'll bet you have one. If you've never used it with your kids, now is the time. They'll think it's the coolest dinner ever.

Anyway, it's hard not to like fondue -- especially the cheese kind. This version is very kid-friendly as it doesn't include wine or expensive French ingredients. The kids and Dave made this for dinner last weekend and there wasn't a drop left-over. This makes enough for four -- 2 adults and 2 kids.

3 Tbs. butter
3 Tbs. flour
1 garlic clove, minced
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup chicken broth, plus more to thin the sauce if needed
8 oz shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese
3 Tbs. salsa (mild or hot -- you choose)
Possible dippers: cubes of French bread, pre-cooked broccoli or cauliflower florets, chunks of grilled chicken, sauteed whole mushrooms, red and yellow pepper strips, carrot sticks, jicama slices (almost everything tastes good when it's dipped in cheese!)

  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until just starting to brown, around 1 minute. Whisk in flour until blended.
  2. Whisk in the milk and chicken broth.
  3. Continue cooking until it thickens and starts to boil, 2-4 minutes. Reduce heat to low.
  4. Gradually add the cheese, stirring until it's melted.
  5. Stir in the salsa. If sauce seems too thick, add a little chicken broth.
  6. Transfer the sauce to a fondue pot and set the flame to keep it warm.
  7. Start dipping

Friday, September 4, 2009

Easy Quiche

We had this for dinner the other night. Everyone was getting home at different times, so it was nice to have something that could be eaten "whenever". This crust is not a traditional flakey one, but it tastes pretty good and is really easy to make.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. milk

  1. Combine flour, sugar and salt in bottom of pie plate.
  2. Add milk to oil and whisk until blended.
  3. Pour oil/milk mixture over flour and combine. Once blended, press into pie shell to form crust.
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup grated cheese (cheddar, swiss, monterey jack, etc,.)
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1 tsp. butter
Optional additions -- make sure they're all well drained: cooked spinach (chopped), sauteed mushrooms, diced and cooked zucchini or yellow squash. diced ham or crisp bacon.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Saute onions until soft and starting to brown. Add garlic and continue cooking for 30-45 seconds. Set aside.
  3. Whisk eggs, milk and salt and pepper.
  4. Spread onion and garlic around bottom of crust. Add optional additions. Top with grated cheese.
  5. Pour egg mixture into crust. Dot top with small pieces of butter (this helps keeps the top tender).
  6. Bake for 35-45 minutes until set and starting to brown on top.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Vegetarian Tostadas

These are really easy to make and my kids like them because they get to choose what goes on top. Meriel tends to stick with black beans and cheese, but Gavin is a little more adventurous, adding onion and mushrooms. You can dice the vegetables ahead of time and keep them in the fridge until you're ready to use them.

Corn tostada shells
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 onion, diced
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
Selection of diced vegetables: red pepper, yellow squash, zucchini, spinach, mushrooms, etc. All put in separate bowls.
Optional condiments: salsa, guacamole, hot pepper sauce

  1. Microwave the diced vegetables briefly so that they're partially cooked. (Put in the fridge if you're not going to use them right away.)
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Give each person a tostada shell and have them layer their selected ingredients putting cheese on the top.
  4. Place the tostadas on a cookie sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.
  5. Serve with salsa, guacamole or hot pepper sauce.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

World-Beater Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's hard to beat a fresh chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven and it's really hard to find a recipe that will deliver that experience better than this one will. If you like chewy, gooey cookies this is for you... if you prefer cookies that are bit puffier, almost cakey, you'll need to keep looking.

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups oatmeal, blended finely in food processor
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup crushed Heath Bar
1 1/2 cups walnuts or pecans, toasted (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla.
  3. Stir in salt, baking powder and baking soda.
  4. Add flour and then oats. Mix well.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips, Heath bar and nuts (if desired).
  6. Spoon onto cookie sheet leaving 2" between... these will spread as they bake.
  7. Bake for 9-10 minutes. Remove from oven while they still look a little under done. Cool for 5 minutes on pan and then transfer to a cooling rack.
  8. Eat immediately with a glass of milk. Save a few for your kids or wipe your mouth well to remove the evidence.