Thursday, October 29, 2009

The men in my life..

are awesome!

I love getting emails like this:

Hi Cara,
I made your mexican casserole. It was great. Even better warmed up.

And that's the end of the e-mail I received from my dad. I am still holding on to a note he wrote me and put into my lunchbox in elementary on my birthday. It says:

"Hope you like your lunch. I liked it so much I ate the first one and made you another one."

(I was laughing out loud just typing that!)

And as I was walking out the door last night (to go see Wicked, which was AWESOME!! Shelby, you were right--Elphaba was amazing!)-- Norris sees the chocolate chips and decides to make chocolate chip cookies. I have never seen him make anything from scratch before, so I SO wanted to stay home and watch, but I had to get out the door. He made a batch from scratch, and even put the rest of the dough in the fridge for fresh cookies every night. Way to go!!

And can't forget this guy:

And I have lovely grandpas, and a soon to be brother in law and good guys for in laws on Norris' side. Blessed to be surrounded by good men who always make me laugh!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Weeknight Pizza

I should call this "weekLY" pizza instead of weeknight pizza, because I have made it every week for at least the last four weeks! Norris loves it, and I feel better about it since I know what I put in it. I can put it together in less than thirty minutes, most of which are just waiting time, and bake it in 20. Put a salad on the side and you're good to go--quick weeknight dinner, a lot cheaper than take out!

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

1 package fast rising yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (bread flour is best)
1 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

toppings I pretty much always use:
2% shredded mozzarella cheese (1 cup or so?)
turkey pepperonis (I can normally get three pizza's worth out of the little bag)
pasta sauce (yep, the cheap stuff straight from the jar!)
mushrooms (I buy 5 from the bulk bin and it covers the whole pizza perfectly)

Dissolve yeast and sugar into water in a medium bowl. Let it stand for about 10 minutes, or until it's creamy.
Stir in flour, olive oil, and salt until smooth. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes (depending on TV commercial breaks... :) Preheat oven to 450.
Sprinkle a little cornmeal on your pizza pan and then roll out your dough. I always use a little extra flour at this point too so it doesn't stick to me. I have to press it out from the middle to get it to cover the whole pan.
Top it with whatever you want--I need to branch out here!!--and bake in the 450 oven for 15-20 minutes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sproles Show

We had a great weekend in KC and going to the Chargers game! We got to watch Sproles, which is always fun and brought me back to college days for a minute. We tailgated with a group of 40 or so, and had a really good view from our seats, even though they were pretty far up there!

Our view (above) during the game. My view (below) during the game. My brother in law, who I almost reported via text to the rowdy fan police :)
This was pretty cool. It was military appreciation day and they actually had a group of people take their oath to start their careers in the military. I have never seen that before, and it was moving. Then a bunch of soldiers went out on the field with the flag. There were a couple of cool flyovers too.
And while we were on our looooong trek back home, my family was in Topeka celebrating Granddad's 80th birthday! Happy Birthday Granddad! (oops, sorry I outed your age..nobody would have ever guessed it though that's for sure!! :)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Microwave Caramel Corn

We are headed to the Chargers/Chiefs game this weekend (let's go SD!!) and we are tailgating with a group of fifty plus! It should be a good time. The hosts are bringing all the main stuff and we were asked to bring a snack/side of some sort. I decided on caramel corn and used the recipe one of the other Foods teachers at schools uses with her Food 1 students-- easy and quick and really good! I made three batches, check out the ridiculousness:

Microwave Caramel Popcorn

15 c popped corn (unsalted)
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c margarine or butter
1/4 c light corn syrup
1/2 tsp baking soda
brown paper grocery sack

Spray paper sack with cooking spray.
Pour popped corn into sack.
In a microwave safe dish, heat sugar, syrup, and butter on high for 5 minutes, stirring after the first and third minutes.
Remove from microwave and stir in soda.
Pour syrup mixture over corn in bag.
Close and shake.
Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes on high (yes, in the paper bag!).
Shake well again.
Pour out on large pan to cool.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mexican Lasagna

This recipe is from Cooking Light, and I found it from Mrs. Sac. I thought it was a little bland the first night we had it, but loved it as leftovers! I will make it again as one of those dishes I make on Sunday, bring to work on Monday and eat every day for lunch. (I do that a lot so I don't have to remember lunch every morning!)( do you photograph a casserole? again, just gotta trust me on this one! :)

Mexican Chicken Casserole

Adapted from Cooking Light

1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 (4.5-ounce) cans chopped green chiles, divided (I used a couple of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce instead because I had some and Norris doesn't like the diced green chiles)
1 3/4 pounds skinned, boned chicken breasts
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup evaporated skim milk
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup (2 ounces) tub-style light cream cheese (I used brick and it was fine)
1 (10-ounce) can enchilada sauce
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
Cooking spray
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded reduced-fat extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 ounce tortilla chips, crushed (about 6 chips)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

Combine broth and 1 can of chiles in a large skillet; bring to a boil. Add chicken; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until chicken is done, turning chicken once. Remove chicken from cooking liquid, reserving cooking liquid; cool chicken. Shred meat with two forks, and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°.Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 can of chiles and onion; sauté 3 minutes or until soft. Add reserved cooking liquid, milk, Monterey Jack, cream cheese, black beans, and enchilada sauce; stir well. Stir in shredded chicken; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place 4 tortillas in the bottom of a 2-quart casserole coated with cooking spray. Spoon 2 cups chicken mixture over tortillas. Repeat layers twice, ending with chicken mixture. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and chips. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pumpkin Dip

We hosted a baby shower for a friend and coworker. I needed to bring something that was snack/dessert-ish since we decided to have it right after lunch on a teacher work day. This recipe is from Erin's Food Files, adapted from some other places, and eventually made it to me. I didn't have any pumpkin pie spice, so I made my own mixture, and put those ingredients here also.

Pumpkin Dip

16 oz canned pumpkin (my can was 15 oz..I didn't want to open another can for 1 more oz.!)

8 oz cream cheese (used light)

1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 t ground ginger

1/8 t ground allspice

1/8 t ground nutmeg

(or use 1 t pumpkin pie spice in place of all of these spices)

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Mix the pumpkin, cream cheese, and pumpkin pie spice until smooth. Add sugar to taste until desired sweetness is reached.

I served with sliced green apples and graham cracker sticks.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Alton's Brownies

Friday night (at the freeeezing football game!) I was talking to someone about treats to bring to a shower this week and realized I'd only made homemade brownies one time before. They weren't as good as the boxed ones!! She said I definitely needed to try a new recipe since they are so much better.

I hardly ever make brownies, but had to after that conversation. I decided to try Alton Brown's, since it was something I saw on one of his episodes. We have most of the Good Eats series at school and occasionally watch an episode in class and I really love his style of explaining everything. He suggests to line the pan with parchment so you can remove them from the pan immediately after removing them from the oven so they stop cooking and they're more fudgy. I didn't have any parchment at home (all at school, oops!) so I just cooled them on a cooling rack and pulled them a little before they were actually done.
These are like eating fudge! Look how thick they are. I think if I make them again, I would make them in a 9x13 because I like them to be thinner. The recipe says it makes 9 or 12, but I think it makes more like 18 because you only need a tiny bite because they are super rich. My friend and I stayed in last night to watch football and eat grilled cheese and tomato soup with our HEATER on (weird, Oct. 10!!) and finished off with these. Yum!

Cocoa Brownies

from Alton Brown

soft butter for greasing the pan (I just sprayed mine)
flour for dusting the pan
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar, sifted
1 cup brown sugar, sifted
8 oz. melted butter (yep, 2 sticks. woah!!)
1 1/4 cups cocoa, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 300. Butter and flour an 8-inch square pan.
Beat eggs at medium speed until fluffy and light yellow. Add both sugars. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix to combine.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 45 minutes. Check for doneness with the toothpick method. This is where Alton's episode says to remove them to cool on a wire rack if you used parchment paper and can pull them out. Otherwise, cool, cut, and eat. Oddly enough, in his episode he also suggests to cut them immediately. I would veto that idea!!
Also, this week was spirit week and we have the best group of freshmen for our advocacy class. There was a door decorating contest, and while other classes used stuffed animals and things like that, our kids came up with everything homemade. They were pretty proud of it and we were proud of them! Hope they stay like this:)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Banana Chocolate Chip Souffle

We had a guest chef from Yia Yia's at Bonnie's a couple weeks ago who had this souffle on his menu. Normally the chefs bring recipes that are their own and typed out nicely, etc. He passed out his recipe--and it was printed straight from the Food Newtork! The only change he made was to use butterscotch chips instead of chocolate, which is amaaaazing. You could also use white chocolate.

This has a lot of different things going on that I thought would be perfect for our ProStart Kitchen Basics lab (weigh ingredients on a food scale, chop, diagonal slice bananas, whip eggs whites, fold in, brown butter, measure, etc.) so I made this for my kids as a demonstration and then they made it themselves. They really enjoyed it! It's also really good with butterscotch chips (that's how I like it best) or with white chocolate chips.

Here's the link.

No pictures. Oops. I wanted the kids to eat it before it started falling (it's something you eat pretty much straight out of the oven). We baked it in these cute little soup crocks and it would be a perfect company dessert. It takes a little extra time to beat the egg whites, but if you have a stand mixer, just set it to go and forget it for a while!

Oohh...this is definitely in my "to make" list chocolate souffle!!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Amaretto Peaches

This is so good with those cheap peaches in the grocery store right now.
These really taste like peach candy to me. I think it's enough "marinade" to cover more like 6 peaches. I served these over ice cream with a little sauce drizzled on top and sprinkled with french vanilla granola. YUM!!
Marinated Peaches
Serves 4

Marinated peaches:
¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 T Amaretto
1 T Peach Schnapps
4 large ripe peaches (about 1 ½ lb) seeded, peeled, and sliced
lemon juice or Fruit fresh (optional)—if making ahead, use it so the peaches will not turn brown

1. Combine peach slices, sugars, Amaretto, and Peach Schnapps in a bowl. Stir gently to combine. Set aside for 10 minutes for juices to develop. If peaches will stand longer than 30 minutes, it is best to sprinkle with fruit fresh to hold color (or with lemon juice).

idea from Epicurious

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Israeli Couscous with lemon oregano oil

This is what I served under the salmon and chicken. This is a recipe from Epicurious. The lemon oregano oil smells fantastic. I kept stirring it and breathing in the aroma because it smelled so great. I haven't yet decided what I'm going to do with the rest of it, but I'll find something. Definitely worth it and worth hunting down fresh basil--definitely go for the fresh rather than dried for this one. I did used a sprinkle of dried oregano though. (same picture as before)

Israeli couscous with lemon oregano oil
Serves 6

1 ¼ t sugar
¾ t salt
½ t black pepper
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
10 fresh basil leaves
12 whole fresh oregano leaves plus 3 T finely chopped
2 t fresh lemon zest
2 T fresh lemon juice
1. Combine sugar, ½ t salt, and ¼ t pepper in small bowl and set aside.
2. Heat oil in a small heavy skillet over medium heat and add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in basil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and whole oregano leaves.
3. Combine with sugar mixture from before and set aside.

1 T olive oil
2 1/3 cups pearl (Israeli) couscous (12 oz)
2 ¾ c reduced sodium chicken broth
¼ t salt
1/8 t Cayenne pepper
2 ½ T lemon-oregano oil (from earlier recipe)
¼ cup chopped fresh chives
1. Heat olive oil in a 3-qt heavy saucepan over medium heat and add couscous. Cook until toasted, fragrant, and pale golden, about 3 minutes.
2. Add broth, salt, and cayenne pepper; bring back to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer, covered, until liquid is absorbed and couscous is al dente—about 10 to 12 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand, covered, 10 minutes. Before serving, stir in 2 ½ tablespoons lemon-oregano oil and fresh chives. Season to taste with more salt if desired.

Serve beneath a salmon filet.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Pistachio Crusted Salmon

We had my grandparents and aunt over for a birthday dinner since both grandparents have birthdays in September. We just barely squeezed it in actually in their birthday month since tomorrow is October! My grandpa loves fish, but grandma's allergic, so I thought it would be fun to serve him some salmon. I just made the same recipe with chicken also and baked it a little longer. I really like the pistachios on top, and served on top of the Israeli couscous (will post recipe tomorrow), it's a great overall combo. It's also light!
I made my own "pesto" but just combined fresh basil leaves and olive oil in my food processor.
I absolutely love this stuff!!

Pistachio Crusted SalmonServes 6
6 (5 oz) boneless, skinless salmon fillets
1 lemon
Salt and pepper
½ cup basil pesto (commercially prepared or homemade)
1 cup roasted, shelled pistachios, chopped coarsely

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper for easy cleanup. Using tweezers or your fingers, remove any bones running down filets. Place the filets on the parchment and season lightly with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a light squeeze of lemon juice. Spread pesto sauce over the tops of the filets. Firmly press the chopped pistachios into the salmon to form a crust.
3. Bake on rack in middle of preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes, depending on the size of the filets. The salmon should just flake a bit and no longer be transparent in the center. Let rest a minute or two before serving.