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I’m originally from Indiana, where it’s crazy humid. I grew up in the mountains of Northern Colorado, where the winters are long, crazy cold & windy. So I figured I knew what I was getting into when we moved to South Dakota. Turns out I didn’t quite have it all figured out. The combination of cold, wind, and humidity are just plain bone chilling! People warned us- and it’s not that we didn’t listen, because we did. But you never REALLY know until you experience it. We are just getting into the start of the colder weather- it’s not truly cold yet. But while the temperature claims to be in the 40’s the windchill makes it feel at least 15 degrees colder. And as for the wind… well it blows what they get in Colorado and Wyoming pretty much out of the water. We’re kind of in the apex of the wind curve, if you will- so it’s strongest blowing across our little corner of the world. That being the case, it’s a good thing I have a cache of stick-to-your-ribs, warm-you-right-down-to-your-soul winter favorites that I can make to keep my family’s stomachs cozy and full! This soup is part of that cache.

I found the original on a recipe site and it was called something like “chicken, bacon, corn, and potato chowder”. It was ok- but not really what my family called stellar. And it certainly wasn’t chowder. It was barely thicker than a regular broth soup, despite having thickener in the recipe. So I fiddled around with it a bit and came up with a good soup that my family likes. I still use some flour to make it thicker than a regular soup, but it’s still definitely soup. If you wanted to make it a chowder, you certainly could- just use more fat and flour to make the roux thicker.

Here’s what you’ll need:

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As the name implies, I am using bacon. HOWEVER you could easily substitute ham or even smoked sausage or kielbasa- any of those would give the soup great flavor. And they are a bit cheaper than bacon (about $5 a pound in my neck of the woods!), which helps when making this as Broke Food. If you make one of those substitutions you’ll need to use butter or olive oil to saute the onion.

As for the potatoes, yes; those are frozen potato cubes, better known as Southern Style Hash Browns. They work a treat in soups and stews, actually. Most of the time I use actual whole potatoes from the produce section. But sometimes I just really need things to be easy and quick. So if you have frozen potatoes, now is the time to use them!

For the chicken, I simmered one chicken breast (about half a pound- I’m making a half batch because it’s just the kids & I) in the broth I would be using for the soup for about 2 hours so it would shred super easily… and then realized I didn’t have cream for the finish… and THEN realized I didn’t have an inch of space for a container of broth in the fridge. Yes; I had to throw it away :-( So if you have your poop in a group better than I did, simmer your chicken breast in the broth you will use for the soup (adding water at the end to make up for any evaporation). Or you could use leftover chicken- that works super well too.

Moving on! Cook your bacon over medium low heat to render as much fat out of it as you can. Drain the bacon with a slotted spoon and set it aside. Reserve about 1/3 cup or 5 tablespoons (which will probably be all of it, but you never know). If you have extra, put it in the fridge for future use. (If you use ham or sausage of some kind, now would be the time to fry it as well. Sometimes those things can be greasy and you want the fat rendered out before you put it in the soup.) Saute your diced onion in the bacon fat on medium until soft, 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the onion and stir.

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Cook the roux for about a minute to get rid of the raw flour taste, and then whisk in the broth. Add all of the ingredients except the cream, salt, and white pepper. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and let go for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally- it’s going to want to stick because of the roux. At this point all you’re doing is cooking the potatoes and corn through. Once those 2 are done, shut the stove off and stir in the cream. Give the soup a taste and add salt & white pepper to your liking. Remember to use white and not black pepper- no one likes little black floaties in their light colored soup!

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This is a wonderful soup to warm to you right down to your toes after a long, cold, and- here- windy day! Add some hot biscuits with butter (and maybe some honey) and you’re set. I’m looking forward to sharing some more of my winter proof meals with you :-)

 

The Recipe:

1/2 Lb. Bacon, diced

1/2 Onion, diced

1/3 C Flour

8 C Chicken Broth

1 Lb Chicken, cooked and shredded (can be halved and still have plenty of chicken)

2 C Potatoes, diced

2 C Corn

1/2 C Heavy Whipping Cream

Salt and White Pepper to taste

 

The Method:

*In a soup pot, cook the bacon over medium low heat to render as much fat as possible.

*Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Measure out 1/3 C of fat and put the rest in the fridge for another use.

*In the same unwashed soup pot, saute the onions in the 1/3 C bacon fat on medium heat until they are soft- about 3-5 minutes.

*Sprinkle the flour over the onions and bacon fat and stir for about 2 minutes.

*Whisk in the chicken broth until smooth.

*Add all ingredients except cream, salt, and pepper.

*Cover and bring to a boil, then back down to a simmer.

*Simmer 10-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. Stir fairly often- the roux will make the soup want to stick to the bottom.

*When the potatoes are done, add the cream and taste. Add salt and white pepper to taste.

 

 

 

I have a recipe up my sleeve that I wanted to share this week, but due to technical difficulties I couldn’t get it posted. I hope to have it up next week. In the meantime, I had something exciting happen last week: I was contacted by Endless Simmer to be featured in their Top 10 Gingersnap Recipes list! I consider myself (rightly) a small time food blogger. I’m not one of the big girls or boys who have hundreds or thousands of followers and their own cookbooks in the works. I can’t say it wouldn’t be fun sometimes to be that. But that’s not my goal. I like what I do and I like my blog. I think about the stress and the time taken away from my family to be a big blogger like that and I say, most assuredly, “I’ll pass, thanks.” So I was amazed that someone actually wanted to feature my post along with so many other wonderful posts from fantastic bloggers. Of course I jumped at the opportunity! So here you go; my first guest appearance :-)

Top 10 gingersnap Recipe Countdown:

http://www.endlesssimmer.com/2014/10/08/gingersnaps-gone-wild-top-ten-gingersnap-recipes/

In my wanderings around town lately I’ve heard many people bemoaning the end of summer and the cooler weather that’s settling in. I smile and say nothing, knowing that my opinion is in the minority currently. But when someone comments on the “end of all the really good summer food” I can’t keep quiet. Just because it gets colder doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some of your favorite summer foods! In my family we have ALWAYS grilled over the winter. We make sure we have a sheltered spot for the grill and go for it! Here in South Dakota that may have to change because the wind is so severe, but that’s ok. Sometimes instead of being the familiar, char-grilled food we’re accustomed to, our favorite summer foods must get a wardrobe change. Enter: Sticky Sausages. I found the original recipe on a blog from the UK and changed it to work for my family. The original called for English or Irish bangers- sadly thin on the ground here. Instead, I use bratwurst. They work perfectly! You can even play around with flavored brats if you want. Find your favorite and use it. You may have to buy some extras during the summer and freeze them though. I know in Colorado they really only sell brats at a good price during the summer. Here is South Dakota there are so many people of German and Polish decent it’s not a problem.

Let’s get started. Here’s what you’ll need:

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You could use pancake syrup instead of real maple syrup if that’s all you could get. It would certainly be cheaper. But it would add a little too much sweetness and it’s… well… fake. So if you can, use real maple syrup.

Start by dicing your bacon. Pictured is half a pound of bacon. I take that half pound and just start slicing- just the way it is. I get thin strips- like these:

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You don’t want the bacon really crispy for this. There are two reasons for that: 1) Crunchy bacon throws off the texture of the final dish and 2) The fonde on the bottom of the pan would burn by the end and no one wants burned-bacon-flavored brats. Yuck.

While the bacon is cooking, mix your sauce ingredients. If you heat the honey you’ll have an easier time of it- especially since the other ingredients are cold. You can do that in the measuring cup if you use a glass one or you can heat it in the bowl you’re making the sauce in. I use a metal bowl to mix the sauce, so I heated the honey in a glass measuring cup. Anyway, whisk the sauce together.

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The mustard won’t want to fully incorporate, and that’s ok. Once you heat the whole thing it will smooth out. Once the bacon is done, empty the pan. Personally, I remove the bacon and strain the drippings into a container that I keep in the fridge to use for cooking other things. Why waste what you’ve already paid for?? Once your pan is empty, bring some chicken broth, beer, or ale to a boil. I can’t tell you how much. You’ll want it to come up to almost the top of the brats, like so…

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I used about 2 cups of broth for 6 brats. Now put a lid on this and let the brats boil for about 5 minutes, then turn the brats, put the cover back on, and cook for another 5 minutes. Then you can drain off the liquid.

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Pitiful looking, I know. The brats will be pale and a bit sickly looking, but they will be at least mostly cooked through and that’s what’s important. And we’re about to fix the pale and sickly problem. Put a little of the bacon fat back into the pan (or oil if you’ve thrown that beautiful bacon grease out already) and put it over medium heat. Once hot, add the brats back in and cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side (I do top and bottom rather than trying to hold the brats upright to get the backs). You’ll end up with this:

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Aren’t those handsome? Now we set those beauties aside and use the very same pan to boil the sauce. Pour the mixture into the pan and set over medium heat. Bring it to a boil and stir fairly regularly. You’re dealing with a sauce with a high sugar content, so it will burn if you put it over high heat or don’t give it a good stir pretty often.

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It will bubble up in the pan- don’t worry. You’re using a big pan so it won’t boil over. Cook this until it’s thickened. How long that takes depends on your stove and a lot of other things. So keep an eye on it when you stir it and when it’s a bit thicker than when you started, add the bacon and brats back in. Stir everything around so the brats are coated and heated through again and then take the pan off the heat and let the whole thing sit and cool. You’re dealing with a molten sugar mixture- IT WILL BURN YOU BADLY if you try to eat it right away. Let the pan sit for about 10 minutes before you even try to serve these. Even then it will be hot, so be careful.

Get yourself some good rolls and load them up…

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Caramelized onions are wonderful on these brats, but I prefer the sharp contrast of raw onion. Ron and the kids prefer theirs straight up. Feel free to play around and use what you like. I keep talking about the fact that you’re cooking a sugar mixture and, while it’s true that there are 2 super sweet substances in the sauce, these sticky sausages are NOT as sweet as you would think. The bacon, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard add a deep, beautiful savoriness that tames the sweetness. These really aren’t any sweeter than your average honey baked ham. And they are just perfect for an autumn get together of any kind. You can multiply this recipe as you need to and keep the whole thing warm in a foil covered pan in a low oven (about 180-200F) or on very low heat.

So just because summer is (finally) drawing to a close, it doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to fun foods! All you have to do is dress them differently. Kind of like putting away the sundresses and sandals and getting out the hoodies and boots :-)

 

The Recipe:

6 Bratwurst or Similar Type Sausages

1/2 LB Bacon, diced

5 Oz Honey

1/4 C Real Maple Syrup

3 T Soy Sauce

1 T Dijon Mustard

6-8 Shakes Worcestershire Sauce

 

The Method:

*Fry bacon until just done. Drain (reserve the drippings to cook with later) and set aside.

* While bacon is cooking, mix the sauce ingredients together. Don’t worry if the mustard won’t whisk in.

*Add raw brats to pan over medium heat.

*Pour broth, beer, ale, or a mixture of those over the brats, coming just up to the top. You don’t have to cover the brats.

*Cover the pan and bring to a boil.

*Boil 5 minutes, turn, and boil another 5 minutes.

*Remove brats and drain the pan. Do not wash the pan.

*Add bacon fat to the pan, to coat the bottom in a thin layer over medium heat.

* Put the brats back in and cook about 3-4 minutes on each side, until they are a deep brown on both sides.

*Remove the brats to a plate and set aside.

*Into the same, unwashed pan, pour the sauce ingredients.

* Cook, stirring regularly, until the mixture thickens.

*Add the brats and the bacon back to the pan and stir to coat and heat the sausages through.

* Take the pan off the heat and let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s that time of year again; the weather is getting cooler (well… it is here, anyway), school is back in session, and pretty soon it will be time to close the windows up for cold weather. All of that adds up to one thing: outbreaks of cold & flu bugs. While it’s true that people can get colds any time of year, they always spike when the weather gets colder and school is back in session. Lots of kids + enclosed space with little ventilation = Everyone gets sick.  The little germ mongers just can’t help it when it comes to spreading bugs around. So, try as you might, the odds are that you and those you love will get sick. It just so happens that I have something to help with that. And it’s much tastier than Ny-Quil! Ok, it won’t replace the Ny-Quil. But it will help wash the nauseating Ny-Quil taste out of your mouth.

It’s been proven that chicken soup really does help combat the cold & flu bugs. The protein from the chicken helps strengthen the body in it’s fight against the bugs, the liquid from the broth fights dehydration, and the garlic is a natural bug fighting powerhouse. If you look up the homeopathic properties of garlic, you might just be amazed. Garlic is an awesome superfood! (Here is a great starter article on the awesomeness of garlic.) I came up with the recipe for this soup when a dear friend was sick and I wanted to help her feel better and not have to cook her own dinner. I had never made chicken soup before in my life, but I knew the basics. Really, I just started throwing things in the pot and added salt & pepper until it was just right. My friend LOVED it and when my husband tasted it he told me “you’d better remember what you put in this because it’s amazing and there isn’t enough left over!” Thus was born a chicken soup so good that it garnered the compliment “people pay a lot of money in restaurants for soup that isn’t as good as this!” Yeah- it’s that good. Make it, sick or not, you won’t be sorry.

As the name implies, garlic is a main component in this soup. I usually put 8-10 large cloves of garlic in when I make it. You can, of course, cut back on the garlic. The soup will taste good with less. But it won’t taste as good. And it won’t be quite as healthy. Aside from the garlic, there are very few ingredients for this soup. It’s blessedly uncomplicated and unassuming. But it will surprise you with how good something so simple can be! This is what you’ll need:
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I used baby carrots because I already had some on hand. You can certainly use regular sized carrots and just dice them. I suppose if you really wanted to, you could even use frozen diced carrots. If you’re making this when you’re already feeling under the weather, that would be a great shortcut. I also use as little celery as I can. Typically I can’t stand celery. But it’s vital for this soup. I’ve made it without celery once before and it just didn’t taste right. So I use one extra large or 2 smaller ribs.

I’m making a half batch of this soup, so I have only one chicken breast pictured. That would be about half a pound of chicken. You can also use boneless, skinless chicken thighs if you’d prefer. I can’t stand gristle and sinew, so I rarely use them for anything (this recipe is the only one I can think of that I use thighs). There are 2 ways you can cook the chicken for this recipe: dice it small and fry it in the soup pot, or simmer it for a few hours in the broth you’ll use for the soup and shred it. I’ve done both and both work very well. I suppose it depends on if I have the time to simmer it and don’t want to get my hands all chicken-y (yes; even The Humble Food Snob gets lazy in the kitchen sometimes!). But dicing the chicken fine and frying it in a tiny bit of oil in the soup pot adds some very rich flavor (because of the fonde at the bottom of the pan- the browned bits that come up when you add liquid and deglaze the pan).

Start out by dicing your veggies and mincing the copious amount of garlic. Keep the garlic separate but mix all of the other veggies. Then dice your chicken. It needs to be in very small pieces so that it gets evenly distributed in the soup. Add a VERY small amount of oil to your pan. For half a pound of chicken I’ll use a scant 1-2 teaspoons of oil. If the chicken sticks to the pan a bit it’s ok- the bits will come up when you add the broth. What’s more important is that you don’t have an oil slick on the top of your soup. There is nothing in the soup to soak up the oil and incorporate it; you’ll have to skim the top to get rid of the excess if you use too much. So fry your chicken over medium high heat.

Next, add your veggies all at once, except the garlic. Stir everything together and cook until the onions are a bit soft, maybe about 3 minutes. Now you can add the garlic. But it only needs about 30-45 seconds, so be ready to either transfer the mixture to a bowl to make the broth (like I am because I’m using bullion cubes) or pour the broth in directly. You want the raw edge just barely taken off the garlic in the mixture- boiling the soup will cook it the rest of the way and give a distinct flavor to the soup.

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After adding the broth, add a good pinch of salt and a sprinkling of white pepper. I give it a good dose of pepper by the end and that’s part of what makes it so good. It’s almost spicy, but not overpowering. Also good for cold & flu sufferers as it opens the sinuses some. Just be sure to use white pepper and not black. Black pepper is harsher than white and no one wants little specks of what looks like dirt in their soup. Now give it a stir, cover it, bring it to a boil, then back it down to a fast simmer and cook until the carrots are tender. That usually takes about 20 minutes for me, but just keep an eye on it. Every 10 or 15 minutes, fish out a carrot and give it a poke with a fork or knife if you’re unsure whether or not they’re done.

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Doesn’t that just look like a steamy pot of comfort?? And it smells soooo good! The aroma actually brought the girls out of their bedroom to investigate and they were thrilled that we were having this soup. Kids love it!

Once the carrots are done, turn off the heat and give the soup a taste. Add more salt and pepper if you think it’s needed, and serve. A good yeasty, soft roll is excellent with this soup. Or you can go with a thick, crusty bread to dip in the broth and use as a sop for the last dregs of soup at the end of the bowl.

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If you want to, you can certainly add a starch to this soup. I’ve never liked chicken noodle or rice soup. But if that’s your thing, then by all means; add some noodles or rice. You could even add some barley if you have it.

This soup really is like a loving hug in a bowl. And, of course, you don’t have to be sick to enjoy it. It’s perfect for the cold nights that are coming. This is a perfect soup to serve to those you love after a day of enjoying the turning colors or picking apples in the brisk fall air. And this winter you won’t find anything much better than this soup for curling up with and watching the snow fall. So please; make this soup and share it with those you hold dear. It might just make them feel better. And it will certainly make them feel loved.

 

The Recipe:

1 Lb. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts or Thighs, diced as small as you can get them

1 Medium Onion (about the size of a baseball), diced

3 Large Carrots, diced

1 Extra Large or 2 Smaller Ribs Celery, diced fine

8-10 Large Cloves Garlic, minced

10 C Chicken Broth (homemade is awesome, but any good broth will do)

2-3 t Oil (of your choice)

Salt and White Pepper to taste

 

The Method:

*Heat the oil in a soup or stock pot over medium high heat. Watch it; that small amount of oil will heat fast and burn quickly.

*Add the chicken and cook until slightly browned. If it sticks a bit and tears, don’t worry; the bits will come up when you deglaze the pot with the broth.

*Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook 3-4 minutes, until the onion is softened a bit.

*Add the garlic and cook 30-45 seconds.

*Remove the mixture to a bowl to constitute broth if using bullion cubes, or add the ready broth to the pot with the meat and veggies.

*Return the mixture to the pot if it had to be removed.

*Season with some salt and white pepper, but don’t overdo it. You’ll adjust this later too.

*Bring to a boil, then back off to a fast simmer.

*Simmer until carrots are cooked through, 20-30 minutes.

*Turn off the heat and check for seasoning. Add more salt and white pepper if needed.

*Serve with a good bread.

I’ve certainly made no secret of my love for Autumn here on this blog and in life in general. However, that love doesn’t carry over to the sports that come with it. Well, one sport in particular: American football. It’s not that I’m against sports entirely; I’m not. Rugby is awesome, soccer is pretty damn cool, and jai alai just rocks. But American professional football… BLECH!! I despise it. The players are GROSSLY over paid and mostly they’re a bunch of thugs in tight pants made into (undeserving) idols. Thankfully I can pretty much ignore football season. I have several die hard football fan friends on Facebook, but I can either just ignore the posts or hide them if they get too numerous. In fact, I did such a good job of ignoring football the last couple of years that I didn’t even know who was playing in the Superbowl until a day or so before the game! HOWEVER, all that being said, I do have to admit that I like cooking for people who watch football. Cooking fun, comforting food for a group of people is always right up my alley and football watchers definitely require that! So while I know (and care) very little about the rules of the game, I certainly know what the game obsessed like to eat and I enjoy supplying the food they’ll eat and providing a fun atmosphere :-)

One of the best football watching/fall foods is chili… well, anything really. Chili dogs, chili cheese fries, chili nachos, chili mac, the list goes on. You can put chili on just about anything. But this isn’t chili such as you would eat out of a bowl with some cornbread on the side. Actually, I don’t care for that chili much. I think it’s the cumin- I’ve never really liked cumin as a defining flavor. That’s the version of chili you find in the Western US. What I like is the Eastern US’s version of chili: no beans, no cumin, and it’s usually served over spaghetti (look up “chili 5 way” and you’ll find an interesting meal!). This chili is more of a condiment than a meal in itself. And it’s incredibly easy to make. (You can also make this in the crock pot, but I’m doing the stove top version. I’ll put the crock pot directions below.) We’ll start with what you probably already have on hand…

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See? I bet you don’t even have to run to the store for any of that, do you? I love it when that happens! Oh- and I can hear you now “The Humble Food Snob is BUYING garlic in a jar?!?! Isn’t that contrary to what you’ve been saying all along about knife skills and economy?!” Sigh… Yes; it is. Under normal circumstances, I disdain jarred garlic. But under normal circumstances I have access to great garlic at one store or another. Large heads of garlic with nice big cloves and no green shoots in the center… what a fond memory. And that’s all it is; a memory. Because in my current locale, all that’s available at the 2 grocery stores are tiny heads of garlic about 3/4 the size of an egg with pathetic little cloves that are more work than they’re worth to peel. AND every head I’ve purchased so far has been growing already, which means I have to dissect the tiny cloves to remove the bitter shoots. So until I can grow my own garlic, I will be buying jarred garlic. Thankfully they offer it at a decent price here.

Anyway… You may notice that the amounts in this picture and the amounts in the recipe below don’t jive. I know that. I went from a normal sized freezer plus a stand alone freezer to store things in at my last residence, to just a tiny freezer in a small, 30 year old fridge. That means it’s also got an inch of frost taking up room. Is being in our own home and away from the awful situation we were in worth it? A thousand times YES!! Does it mean I have to change the way I do some things? Yes again. And that’s ok. So instead of the full batch I’m making a half batch. (And incidentally, a recipe I found that helped inspire this makes double what’s below! :-o )

So brown your ground beef. You can also use ground turkey or chicken, but you’ll need to make sure there is about half a cup of fat of one kind or another to soak up the flour to make the roux. It can be olive or vegetable oil, or you could use bacon fat- that would be a great addition! While the meat is browning, dice your onion. Don’t drain your meat. Like I said; you’ll need the fat. Add the onions and cook until they’re soft- about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir. Cook, stirring for about 3 minutes. You want the flour to cook but not burn. It should look almost like there is no flour:

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Now you can add the water and the tomato sauce. I usually add the sauce first and then put the water in the can and swish it around to get the last traces of the sauce out of the can. Why waste it? Along with the water and tomato sauce, add the spices. Give it a good stir, and you’ve got this:

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Put a tight fitting lid on this and bring it to a boil. Give it a stir, lower the heat until it’s at a slow simmer, replace the lid, and go do something else for awhile. You’ll need to come back and stir the pot about twice an hour, but other than that you’ve got 2 hours to kill. I’d suggest watching something with Robin Williams in it. Never forget what it feels like to laugh with your whole body and soul- the world needs more of that. The Birdcage is my particular favorite of his :-)

Once 2 hours have ticked by, take the lid off, give the pot another stir, and let the chili simmer for about an hour without the lid, stirring every 15 minutes or so. It may take a little more or less than an hour. Just keep an eye on it. You want to end up with a chili that is very thick.

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I know; it doesn’t LOOK a whole lot different. But it has reduced by about two thirds to half. Go ahead and give it a taste and adjust the salt and/or pepper. Don’t add too much pepper though- now is when you add the red pepper flakes if you want a milder chili. If you’re looking for spicy chili, add the red pepper flakes with the rest of the spices before you simmer the pot.

I was supposed to have a wonderful money shot for this post: A plate with hot dogs smothered in chili with melty cheese on top. But then I went and landed myself in the urgent care. I’ll be ok. But it cost me my blog picture. So sadly, I do not have a great shot of this tasty chili in action. But I do have a tip for freezing the leftovers. Here you go:

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I prefer to have thinner, wrapped packages of food that I can stack several packages high instead of plastic containers that limit my storage and break when I inevitably drop one. So I line plastic food storage containers with plastic wrap and divide the (completely cooled) food into them. Each of these containers will make one meal’s worth of chili dogs.

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Put these in the freezer, come back in a couple of hours, lift the sides of the plastic to remove, wrap the food, and you’re good to go! I usually do 2 layers of plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil, like so:

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Make sure you mark the package with the contents and the date it was made. That way you don’t have to unwrap your packages and try to guess what’s in them.

So there you go: a jumping off point for lots of hearty recipes to get you through the fall and winter; from watching sports on TV to tail gating to coming in off the slopes or the sled hills.

 

As promised, Here is what you need to do to make this chili in a crock pot (slow cooker):

- Brown the meat, saute the onions and garlic, and add/cook the flour as described above.

- Transfer the mixture to the crock of the slow cooker and add the rest of the ingredients.

- Remember to not add the red pepper flakes until after cooking unless you want SPICY chili.

- Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 3-4 hours.

-Here’s the caveat to making this chili in the slow cooker: you need to let it cook with the lid off for about the last hour, just like the stove top version. And you need to stir it a few times. When it’s the consistency you want you can take it out. This is a deal breaker for some, because they want whatever is in the slow cooker to be ready when they get home from work or wherever. If that’s the case, I’d advise making it on a day off and reheating what you have set aside. You can’t tell it’s been reheated, so it’s not a problem.

 

The Recipe:

2 Lbs. Ground Beef

2 Onions, diced fine

4-6 Cloves Garlic, minced

1/2 C + 1 T All Purpose Flour

29 Oz. Can Tomato Sauce

8 Oz. Water

2 t Salt

2 t Seasoned Salt

2 t Pepper (Black or White, doesn’t matter)

1/4 C Chili Powder (don’t let the amount scare you- it’s not really spicy at all)

1/3 C Sugar

1 t (or to taste) Red Pepper Flakes (this is what will make it spicy)

 

The Method:

*In a large soup or stock pot, brown the ground beef. Do not drain!

*Add the onions and saute 3-4 minutes, until the onions are fragrant and soft.

*Add the garlic and saute 2-3 minutes.

*Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine, cooking 3-4 minutes. Don’t let the roux burn!

*Add the tomato sauce and the water, swishing the water in the sauce can to get the remnants out.

*Stir in the spices (adding the red pepper flakes now only if you want spicy chili).

*Cover the pot and bring the chili to a boil.

*Stir, lower the heat to a slow simmer, replace the cover and cook 2 – 2 1/2 hours, stirring a couple of times per hour.

*Uncover the pot and continue to slowly simmer for about an hour, until the chili is very thick.

*Taste for seasoning. Add more salt and/or pepper if needed.

*If you haven’t added them before now, stir the red pepper flakes in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, this is not just any old cookie recipe. No; this recipe is my last bastion of recipe secretiveness. In celebration of more than a month of our new life as well as the start of a promising new school year, I have decided to give you all the last recipe that I’ve been keeping locked up. Before now, the only person I’ve given this recipe to was my BFF- and I made her swear that she would NEVER give the recipe to anyone. I even went so far as to ask her to immediately delete the email that contained it. So, my dear BFF, you are hereby set free from your sworn secrecy. If you would like to share the recipe, be my guest. If you don’t, I understand ;-) So let’s get down to it and make some Oatmeal Cookies!!

I have never been a huge fan of oatmeal cookies. I like them ok but they’ve never been my favorite. My husband, on the other hand, really likes them and asked me to make him some awesome oatmeal cookies. So I started researching recipes and came up with this one. It’s not a cakey cookie but it is a soft cookie so just that starts it off right. I don’t like crunchy cookies unless they’re Oreos or the like (which I can still take or leave) and Ron made it clear he doesn’t like crunchy oatmeal cookies. So these will be soft and chewy. These are also incredibly mediocre if you try to eat them straight out of the oven. You almost can’t taste the spices in them at all when they’re fresh. But let them sit overnight or freeze and then thaw them and they are phenomenal!! Spicy (not the hot kind!), sweet, and chewy- everything an old fashioned oatmeal cookie should be!

These cookies are incredibly basic. All you need is this:

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(Can I just say right now that I DESPISE doing the ingredient picture!! It seems I always forget something! This time it’s the brown sugar. Completely forgot it while I was fussing with everything, trying to make it look right and readable. HATE ingredients pictures!! Rant over.)

Make sure your butter is soft, measure out your ingredients, and you’re ready for SCP. That would be Standard Cookie Procedure. If you were to take a look at the cards in my recipe box, you would see a lot of recipes with no directions at all. I’ve been cooking and baking long enough that I know how to make most of my recipes just by looking at the title and the ingredients. And, honestly, most recipes fall under one of a few categories: Standard Quick Bread Procedure, Standard Yeast Bread Procedure, Standard Soup/Stew Procedure, Standard Casserole Procedure… you get the point. On most of my cookie recipes you’ll find, if anything, SCP. By that I know that I am to cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition, then add the vanilla and any other liquid ingredient, beat some more, and then start adding the combined dry ingredients, scraping down the bowl at least once. After that it’s scoop and bake. If the dough needs to chill I’ll usually note that because, for me, that is outside SCP. So simply follow SCP and you’re good to go!!

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Make sure the butter and sugar are completely creamed together. Then add your eggs…

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Let the mixer run for about 30 seconds after each egg to make sure they are well incorporated. And scrape the bowl down like I did above. Add your dry ingredients, flour mixture first and then the oatmeal…

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Your dough should still be very moist. It shouldn’t be crumbly at all. Make sure you use large eggs or else you won’t have enough liquid and protein from them for the cookies to turn out properly soft.

Ron and Zachariah like raisins, Liliana and I can take them or leave them, and Gloriana flat hates them. She likes oatmeal cookies, but always asks for them plain so I have to split the batch. This time Gloriana had a wonderful idea: dried apples. It was a stroke of genius! She’s good at that. My other two kids have good suggestions for meals and things when I ask them what they want. But Gloriana is really great at ideas for recipes. I’ve gotten a few recipe ideas from her over the years and she loves to help :-) As I’m splitting the batch anyway, it’s no big deal. So I bought some of the chewy dried apples and used kitchen shears to chop them into roughly raisins sized pieces. Once you’ve got the dry ingredients mixed in and have your basic dough, split the dough into two bowls. Mix the raisins into one and the apples into the other. Hmmm… or you could put both into the one batch of dough. That sounds good. Might have to try that! Anyway, add the fruits and mix well.

Now all that’s left is to scoop these onto cookie sheets and bake them in your (hopefully already preheated) oven. I use regular sized spoons like you’d eat ice cream with. Someday soon I’ll get cool little cookie scoops, but for now it’s spoons. I suppose it comes out to about 1 & 1/2 – 2 tablespoons of dough for each cookie. Space them about 2 inches apart and put one sheet at a time into the oven. You could do two sheets and swap the bottom sheet for the top halfway through, but I prefer to just do one at a time.

Bake the cookies for anywhere from 8-12 minutes. I usually set the timer for the least amount of time for the first batch and adjust accordingly. Some people do a test cookie. I don’t, but I can certainly see why some do. If you want to, please go ahead :-) When the first batch is about 3 minutes from being done, start scooping the next batch onto a cookie sheet. That way, when the batch in the oven is done you’ll have another sheet ready to go in and you’ll save time.

When the cookies are done, let them sit on the cookie sheet for about a minute and then take a spatula and transfer them to a cooling rack.

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The end of Summer is in sight and soon the school buses will reappear. My kids are super excited about school starting. They’ve always loved school, but this year is special because they get to go to a new school in a different state. But if your kids are lamenting the end of summer, this is a wonderful way to help them ease back into the school year. It will be a little taste of home and how much they are loved :-)

 

The Recipe:

1 C Butter, softened (Room Temperature)

1 C Brown Sugar, packed

1/2 C Granulated Sugar

2 Eggs (Large)

1 t Vanilla

1 1/2 C All Purpose Flour

1 t Baking Soda

1/2 t Salt

1 t Cinnamon

1/4 t Nutmeg

3 C Oats

1 C Raisins or other dried fruit, in raisin sized pieces (optional)

 

The Method:

*Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

*Follow SCP ;-)

In other words…

*Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices and set aside.

*In the bowl of a stand mixer of in a large bowl with a hand mixer beat butter until smooth.

*Add sugars to butter and cream at medium speed until lightened and as smooth as you can get it.(See picture above)

*Add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, beating after each.

*Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

*On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Make sure the flour is completely mixed in.

*Still on low, mix in the oats. Make sure they are completely incorporated.

*If using, add in the dried fruit.

*Scoop onto cookie sheets, spacing each scoop about 2 inches apart.

*Bake each tray for 8-12 minutes, until the cookies are cooked through but only just and beginning to turn golden around the edges.

*Once removed from the oven, let the cookies sit on the tray for one minute. Then carefully remove to a cooling rack with a spatula (the thinner the spatula the better).

*To ensure the cookies stay nice and soft, I put them into the zip top bags or containers while they are still slightly warm and close the bag or put the cover on the container.

*Store in an airtight container. Will keep for about 3-4 days before they start getting crumbly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seems like forever ago that I wrote about my two year long craving for Chinese food and shared my recipe for Mongolian Beef. But really it was only last year. I’ve wanted to write about today’s recipe since shortly after that post, but it just never worked out. But it’s certainly been a life saver when a Chinese food craving strikes. Why is it that Chinese food is such an iconic craving? So many people I know lament that they crave Chinese food but can’t find a decent restaurant for it. Sure; people get cravings for pizza, sandwiches, soups, Mexican food, and any number of sweets. But Chinese food is what you always see the characters ordering for delivery in the movies. It’s what you always hear mentioned during conversations about late night bar crawls or whirlwind trips. And almost invariably the expression of the craving is followed by “but there just isn’t anywhere nearby to get good Chinese!” Someone will say “Such & Such has decent food, but it’s (insert location that is most definitely out of the question for whatever reason).” And that usually leads to the party agreeing to either eat at some mediocre Chinese place or forgo it altogether. Neither option does anything to satisfy the craving. In fact, that usually just makes it worse. Yeah… been there done that. Got really sick of it. Once that happened, I went on a search for a good chicken recipe. I found a copycat of the recipe that P.F. Chang’s uses for their Crispy Honey Chicken. I’ve never been to P.F. Chang’s, but I’ve heard they’re really good, so I started with that recipe and went about tweaking it so it went beyond “good”. That’s what I do. And I’m good at it ;-) What I ended up with is a definite family favorite that my kids rejoice over when they see it on the menu. Chinese Food Craving- 0, Humble Food Snob- 2 :-)

This is a recipe that is highly adaptable. You can swap out ingredients or add veggies with ease. I’m going to give the basic recipe and method and then suggest substitutions and additions at the end. This is also a super simple recipe that doesn’t use any specialty ingredients at all. All you really need is this:

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Start with a pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs, if you prefer). Slice them thin or cut them into small cubes (about half an inch). Combine the cut up chicken with about 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 2 or 3 cloves of finely minced garlic. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour. You can certainly skip the marinating step- I do sometimes- but it adds a really nice, yet subtle, flavor to the chicken.

Ummm… there’s supposed to be a picture of chicken marinating here. As you can see, there isn’t. I had no garlic. Sigh. And I forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer last night. Oh well. Use your imagination ;-)

Once the chicken is done marinating (if you choose to do so), set it to drain in a colander. Once the chicken is well drained, put in into a large bowl. Add enough cornstarch (corn flour) to completely coat the chicken. I can’t tell you how much that will be- it differs with each batch I do. You might have to add cornstarch a few times until your chicken is coated. Just start stirring and see how it goes. It should look something like this:

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Let the chicken sit while you heat up the oil in which to fry it. If you have an actual fryer, awesome! Go for it! I don’t. I tend to go back and forth on whether or not I want one. It would be nice to have an actual deep fryer, but I never have a place to store it. Maybe once we move again. But then again, as I’m working on getting rid of appliances and gadgets that use electricity, I’ll most likely pass even if I have the chance to get a fryer. For me, a pot or deep sided pan works just fine. So get out your frying equipment and get ready to fry your chicken. My “fryer” is an old dutch oven. It was my grandmothers. It’s in an atrocious state. I need to see to that. Later. Anyway, I’ve filled my fryer about halfway. Don’t fill anything you fry in more than half full. If you do, the oil could bubble up over the top and start a fire. Heat the oil to about 350 degrees. This usually takes about 10 minutes for me but it will vary according to the size and shape of your fryer. I have a frying/candy thermometer, but I don’t usually use it for frying. I use my experience to tell me when it’s about ready and then try a tiny piece of whatever I’m frying. If you don’t have a thermometer, put a small piece of bread in the hot oil. If it takes about 30 seconds to brown, you’re right around 350 degrees. Or you can take a wooden spoon and stick the handle into the oil. If the oil bubbles around the handle you’re there. When your oil is hot, take a small handful of chicken and jiggle it a bit in your partly open fingers to get rid of excess cornstarch and gently put the pieces in the fryer, one at a time. Wash your hands and then use a slotted spoon or wire frying spider to stir the chicken around a bit. Let the chicken cook until it’s just barely golden. That can take anywhere from 3-5 minutes, depending on the way you cut your chicken.

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Once done, use the spoon or spider to retrieve the chicken and transfer it to a colander over a heat proof bowl to drain (that’s the easiest way I’ve found) and put another batch of chicken in. Repeat the process until all of the chicken is cooked. It really is supposed to be this pale. If you marinate it before cooking it will be a little darker.

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Now you can start on the sauce. Spray a measuring cup with cooking spray or brush the inside with a tiny bit of oil and measure out the honey. The oil will prevent having to wrestle the honey out of the cup. Pour the honey into a pan large enough to hold all of the chicken. Add the rest of the ingredients- except the slurry ingredients- and turn the heat up to medium high. Whisk to dissolve the sugar and bring the sauce to a boil. Once boiling, add the chicken and stir to coat. Boil once again for about 3 minutes to see what effect the cornstarch coating on the chicken will have. Mix up the slurry during that time. Stir in about half of the slurry. Boil and check the consistency. It’s supposed to be very thick- almost like a gel. If you would prefer it thinner, add only 1/4 of the slurry to begin with. If needed, add more. It should only take a minute or so after the addition of the slurry to see what the sauce will do. Watch it closely- it will seize on you pretty quickly. If it does (you’ll know; it gets clumpy), add apple or pineapple juice to thin it out a bit, stirring to make the sauce a sauce again.

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Normally I serve this over noodles because my family doesn’t really like rice. In fact, most of this went over noodles (the same ones pictured in the Mongolian Beef post). But I wanted mine over rice and I didn’t want to have both Chinese food posts over noodles, so I made this serving with white rice. But isn’t it pretty?? And it’s SO good! It’s one of my favorites- my kids’ too. The leftovers (if there are any) are fabulous!

I promised you some adaptations, so here they are:

-Shrimp could easily be substituted for chicken. Marinate them if you want, coat them in cornstarch, and fry like the chicken.

-You could add some ginger to the marinade if you wanted to. About 2 teaspoons of fresh grated or 1 teaspoon of dry ginger is very tasty.

-You could make this chicken without frying it, but it’s not the same. It’s still really good, don’t get me wrong. But coating and frying the chicken adds enormously to the texture and flavor of the finished dish.

-If you wanted to add garlic and/or onions (green, white, or both) it would be a very welcome addition! Simply saute them in as small amount of oil as you can manage in the pan you will make the sauce in. Once they are sauteed, add the sauce ingredients and proceed as directed above.

-You could also add some steamed veggies and/or water chestnuts. Steam the veggies on their own and then add them at the last moment. OR, if you want them crunchy, stir fry the veggies quickly in the pan you’ll make the sauce in. If you add water chestnuts, slice them (if they aren’t that way when you buy them) and put them in the sauce along with the chicken to make sure they are heated through. I’ll put the substitution ideas in the ingredients list.

 

The Recipe:

FOR THE CHICKEN:

1 LB Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts or Thighs, sliced or cubed as directed above

2-3 Cloves Garlic, minced fine

2-3 T Soy Sauce

Enough Cornstarch to thoroughly coat the chicken

FOR THE SAUCE:

1/2 C Chicken Broth (Sake, Rice wine, White Wine, or even plain Water will work too- but will add zero flavor. I avoid cooking with it when I can!)

1/2 C Honey

2 Oz Apple Cider Vinegar (Rice Vinegar or White Wine Vinegar will also work- just don’t use plain, white vinegar. It’s much too harsh.)

3 T Soy Sauce

1/4 C + 2 T Sugar (Granulated is what’s called for, but Brown Sugar will work fine)

FOR THE SLURRY:

1/4 C Pineapple Juice (I take mine from canned pineapple I feed my kids :-) You can also use Apple Juice like I did here or plain Water. My preference is pineapple, but I was out.)

1/4 C Cornstarch

The Method:

*Combine the chicken ingredients- except for the cornstarch- and refrigerate for about an hour (or as long as possible if you don’t have an hour to spare.)

*Drain the chicken well and place in a large bowl. You want a bowl with high sides because cornstarch’s fondest wish is to make a huge mess!

*Coat the chicken with the cornstarch and set aside.

*Heat a fryer, large pot, or large, deep pan with oil for frying the chicken to 350 degrees.

*Fry the chicken in batches, draining each batch well.

*Combine the sauce ingredients in a pan large enough to hold the chicken as well as the sauce.

*Whisk the sauce to dissolve the sugar and turn the heat to medium.

*Bring the sauce to a boil and then add the chicken.

*Boil gently for about 3 minutes then add one quarter to half of the slurry. Boil once again.

*Check for consistency. If you want the sauce thicker, add the more of the slurry. Bring back to a boil. Don’t let it overcook- it will seize and get clumpy and gummy. If that happens, use juice, broth, or water to thin out and correct the sauce.

*Serve over noodles or rice.

When Ron & I started dating I was a single mom of 15 month old twins and to say that money was tight would be a gross understatement. Ron was a student, so his finances weren’t any better. Most of our dates consisted of staying in and watching a movie after the girls went to bed. That continued after we got married (10 months after we started dating). For our first anniversary I wanted to have a special dinner, but we didn’t know anyone in the town we had moved to so we couldn’t call a sitter. And money was still an issue. We were quite fond of our evenings in, but I didn’t want our anniversary to be just another date night on the couch. So ’round about April (3 months before our anniversary- I like to be prepared well in advance) I started really thinking about what I could do to give the two of us a special evening. I started by making a playlist on Youtube of romantic songs to listen to while we ate. Then I decided on dinner: pan seared filet mignon, Caesar Salad, good, crusty, fresh bread, and cheesecake for dessert (to find the recipe for the AMAZING cheesecake I make, click here). I know what you’re thinking “Filet mignon?! How is that cost conscious??” But if you watch the sales at a lot of grocery stores, you’ll find they offer filet mignon as part of a 2 for $5 (-ish; stores differ, but they usually offer them at a price that’s far less than what you’d normally pay) special at least once a year- usually 2 or 3 times. That makes it completely affordable! And I’ve found that deal in three different states in three different parts of the country, so there’s a good chance you’ll find it where ever you live. If I can get the steaks on sale I can make the whole dinner for about $25-$30 or so, give or take. Try getting 2 steak dinners with cheesecake for dessert at a nice restaurant for $30 or less and you’ll know why I’m perfectly fine with staying home and making our special occasion dinners when we’re low on money!

Once the night of our anniversary arrived, we put the girls to bed as usual and then set up the living room with a small coffee table in the middle of the room set with candles and Ron’s laptop set up next it for the music. Ron sat at the breakfast bar in the kitchen while I cooked and we talked. When dinner was ready we sat in the dark living room at the candle lit table, talking about our life together so far and what we’d like the future to hold as we ate a delicious dinner and listened to music that we both loved. By the end of dessert we had decided that the evening was so wonderful that we didn’t miss going out in the least. In fact, Ron requests the exact same dinner for his birthdays- even when we do have the money to go out. It’s truly a magical experience for us!

For our anniversary this year Ron had to work. For some, that means having a late dinner. For us that means postponing it completely because for now Ron spends Sunday night through Friday afternoon away from home, on the road with the railroad. So I had to plan the big night for the weekend after. I wanted to go all out this year because this is the first time in 4 years we’ve been able to have our special meal. I even bought flowers for the centerpiece this year. I’ve included pictures of the table for our special evening. But for now, I’ll give you the method for the steak I cook…

You’ll need 2 bacon-wrapped pieces of filet mignon. Sometimes the ones that are on sale come vacuum packed in a package of 2. I got this year’s steaks from the butcher counter at my local grocery store. About a day before you plan to cook them, coat both sides with seasoning. I’ve used McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning on these (I haven’t gotten around to making my own yet- but I will soon). Press the seasoning onto both sides so it sticks. IMG_20140719_204407536 Wrap the steaks in plastic and put them in the fridge until about 30-40 minutes before you plan to cook them. Let them come to room temperature while you let the oven heat up to 400 degrees. Yes; my anniversary is in July. Yes; I did this anyway. It was worth it!

Once the steaks are at room temperature and the oven has heated up, put a small oven proof skillet on medium high heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom. When the oil shimmers (it will happen fast so stand and watch it) put the steaks in and cook on the first side for about 2-4 minutes. My steaks are only about an inch to an inch & a half thick, so they will only take about 2 minutes to sear. It may seem like the seasoning is going to burn- don’t worry; it will be fine. So long as you put a good thick layer of seasoning on, it will form a crust instead of actually burning. If you don’t want a crust of seasonings, just sprinkle the steaks with a little seasoned salt. Or you can leave them plain too.

Cook the steaks for about a minute on the second side and then put the whole pan into the oven. Let the steaks cook for about 10 minutes for rare. (Despite the color on the outside of the steak in the picture below, it really was rare in the center.) This will give you time to plate up the sides you’ll be serving. I just did mixed greens and bread because we were going to be eating dessert immediately after dinner and I didn’t want us to be stuffed from a huge meal and therefore unable to truly enjoy our dessert. Well, that and other reasons ;-) If you make sides other than salad and bread, you’ll need to have them ready and standing by for when the steaks are ready to go. Once the steaks come out of the oven, plate them with the other sides and you’re ready to go! IMG_20140719_210231824

(Note: because of the lighting in my kitchen at 9 pm, the steak looks darker than it was. In reality the color was about a shade & a half lighter than in the picture.)

Here is what this year’s anniversary dinner looked like: IMG_20140719_210422052

 

In the light when I set this table up it looked like this: IMG_20140719_193756588_HDR

 

It’s super easy to turn a table that seats 6 into cozy seating for 2 or 3. See the stepped risers the candles are on? They’re made of these: IMG_20140719_193907100

Yep. Four 12 packs of soda. The single cans are for stability and the gallons of water are to help insure the top boxes don’t move around. Throw a (clean!) bed sheet over the whole thing and you have a beautifully appointed romantic table for 2, complete with ambiance! And all for WAY less than you’d pay in a restaurant. For fun, Ron & I did the math. Including decorations (which we already had but we included into the price to account for people buying them specifically for this dinner), rum to go in the sodas we had, and all of the ingredients, we had dinner for less than $50. Money isn’t an issue for us now, but it’s always wise to be judicious with the resources we have. And it feels good to know I can provide a top-notch meal for less than we’d have to pay elsewhere.

 

Over dinner we discussed our favorite memories from the last year and from the 8 years we’ve been together. That’s our anniversary tradition, and this year it was extra sweet :-) It was a beautiful evening with my beloved.  After all we’ve been through and with how bright our future looks, it was wonderful to have a special dinner just the two of us with great food and a romantic atmosphere. Ron was happy to have our special dinner again and I was happy to be able to make it for him. I’m very lucky to have the life I have and I really couldn’t ask for more. Life is good :-)

As it turns out, we have traded a very hot and dry summer for a slightly less hot but humid summer. However, I’m not complaining. It’s over 90 in Colorado, where we just left. And when the breeze blows, it’s frighteningly similar to a convection oven.  I’ll take 85 with humidity any day! But I do still have to take care in heating up the kitchen, of course. We have air conditioning, but only in the living room. So I am limited in what I can cook still. I started looking around for some versatile main dishes that won’t heat things up too much. I thought about starting another Summer Sucks type series (to find the entire 14 week series from Summer of 2013, click here), but decided against it. Life is better than it was last summer, and for that I’m grateful. Summer is still by far my least favorite season but now that we’re free of my oppressive in laws, Summer doesn’t suck nearly as bad as it used to!

In my search, I found some recipes for chicken cutlets in a super simple coating that are pan fried. They can be whole cutlets to eat with pasta salad on the side, they can be cooked and cut up over some greens and veggies as a salad, or they can be cut into strips and breaded then fried to be an easy finger food main for the kids to dip. Oh- and they make wonderful sandwiches; always a nice option when it’s hot outside! And the flavor is wonderful! The coating has only 2 ingredients- and only one has flavor of any kind, so I was surprised at how flavorful this recipe was. All you need is this:

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Seriously- this is all you need! This recipe is so easy that you can have it on the table in about 15 minutes. It’s perfect for a fast dinner after work or after a long day playing in your garden. The breadcrumbs have to be panko. You could make these with regular breadcrumbs, but the results won’t be nearly as crunchy. The Parmesan, on the other hand, gives you a little wiggle room. You can buy it already grated in the deli section or you can buy shredded and just rub it between your hands until you achieve a “grated” texture. OR you can even use the pre-grated stuff in the can that you find in the non-refrigerated section. The results will be a tiny bit different, but I’ve had to use it before (I was out of the real stuff and couldn’t get to the store) and the chicken was still tasty. As for the chicken, you can buy pre-sliced cutlets or whole, boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cut them horizontally into thinner slices.

If you want to make sure your chicken stays nice and juicy, give it a brine first. To 4 cups of cool water, add 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce along with 2 tablespoons salt and stir to dissolve. Soak the chicken in the brine in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but not more than about 8 hours; these are thin pieces of chicken and you don’t want them too salty. When you’re ready to cook the chicken, drain and rinse it, then pat it dry with paper towels and proceed with the recipe.

In a shallow baking dish or on a platter with sides, pour the Parmesan cheese. If you bought shredded, take some between your (hopefully freshly washed and dried!) hands and rub. Continue to do this until the cheese is broken up into a grated consistency. (Yes; there are shreds of Parmesan left in my mixture. I like to leave some of the cheese shredded. It gives a good consistency to the breading. Yet another option to add to the suggestions above. The beauty of cooking! :-) ) Then add an equal amount of Panko crumbs and mix the two together with your fingers.

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Now take a piece of chicken and lay it into the mixture. Pick up some of the crumbs and spread them over the meat. Press them into the chicken then turn the cutlet over and repeat. Carefully pick the chicken up by one end, give it a tiny shake to get rid of the excess coating, and lay it on a plate to go into the hot pan. Only coat as many pieces as will fit into your pan at one time- you don’t want the coating to get soggy while the chicken is waiting to be cooked.

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In a large, heavy bottomed frying pan on medium high heat, add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan by about a 1/4 inch. Once the oil begins to shimmer, carefully add the chicken cutlets to the pan. Let cook for about 2-4 minutes and gently turn the cutlets over with a spatula. Let cook another 2-4 minutes and firmly but gently slide the spatula under the chicken. It will stick, so you have to make sure you get under the breading. Remove to a rack or paper towel lined plate to drain a bit. While the chicken is cooking, you can go ahead and bread the next batch of cutlets. Repeat until you’ve used up your chicken.

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I can tell you truthfully that this chicken is every bit as tasty as it looks! I still haven’t found a satisfactory breading recipe that uses an egg or milk dip to adhere the coating. They’ve all been a disappointment. But THIS recipe… this one satisfies every single time. It even makes good leftovers. Just heat a little oil in a pan and re-fry the cutlet for about 1 minute per side. It takes a tiny bit longer than the microwave, but it’s so worth it!

I hope you are all having a great summer so far! It feels wonderful to be back and blogging. I’m very excited about the future and am thankful that you’ll be right there with me!

 

The Recipe:

You can make as many or as few cutlets as you wish; just purchase the breading ingredients accordingly. 

Chicken Breast Cutlets or Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts sliced into cutlets

Panko Bread Crumbs (plain or seasoned, as you wish), enough to coat the chicken cutlets

Parmesan Cheese, Shredded or Grated, in an equal amount to the Panko

 

The Method:

*In a large, shallow dish, mix the cheese and the bread crumbs.

*Heat a large, heavy bottomed skillet or frying pan over medium high heat. Add oil to a depth of about 1/4 inch.

* Lay a cutlet in the mixture and put some of the mixture on top, spreading it over and then pressing down.

*Turn the chicken over and repeat.

*Lift the cutlet and shake gently to remove the excess breading and set aside on a plate.

*Bread only as many cutlets as will fit into the pan at one time.

*Once the oil is hot, place in it only as many cutlets as will fit without crowding. I have a 12 inch frying pan and can usually fit 3-4 cutlets in each batch.

*Fry the cutlets 2-4 minutes on each side (depending on how thick your cutlets are). Take care when turning them over; they may very well stick if you aren’t using a non-stick pan.

*Remove when cooked through and golden brown and drain on a rack or paper towels.

*While the first batch is cooking you can bread the next batch and have it ready.

*Repeat the process for the remaining chicken.

 

 

 

Ok, so it’s definitely not new. It’s older than I am by at least 10 years. And it’s a run down kitchen in a run down place. But it’s only until next summer, and it’s not in my in-law’s house! Yes, we’ve finally moved! Thanks to my husband’s awesome job with the rail road, we were able to get our own place! We had to relocate to do it, but sometimes that’s the way of things. We moved from Loveland, in Northern Colorado, to Watertown, South Dakota. We really like it here, but with the way things worked out we had to take a place that’s not in good shape. We will move next summer, hopefully into our own house that we buy. But for now I’ll make this kitchen work. I’ll be posting a new recipe soon; next week, actually. An easy chicken recipe that kids and adults alike will love and doesn’t involve the oven. At least, that’s the plan. I also have something up my sleeve for a little later; a special recipe that will make going back to school feel not quite so hard (for those kids who hate to see summer end. My kids can’t wait to get back to school, but they love the recipe I’ll be sharing too :-) )

I’m very happy to be getting back to blogging after such a long absence. I have several posts in mind for this fall and winter that I’m really looking forward to sharing with you- we just have to get through the dreaded summer first. Thankfully, the cooler weather comes to South Dakota faster than it does to Colorado and I’ll be enjoying fall and winter soon. Thank you for sticking with me and making this whole crazy blog thing work. :-)

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