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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Green Bean Spanish

Dinner meals when I was a child most often consisted of four items on the dinner plate; meat, potato, vegetable, and a salad.  Very seldom did we have casseroles or dishes like spaghetti or rice.  (My Dad ate a LOT of rice while he was in the Navy during WWII and Mom rarely cooked it because of that.) 

Mom made meals from things we had on hand, meat that we raised or vegetables that we grew. Sometimes cream, butter, and eggs that were produced at home were available to use as well. This vegetable dish, Green Bean Spanish, was a fun accompaniment for the meat, potato and salad that was so common.

I was going through my recipe cupboard a few weeks ago and came across a newspaper article I had saved that featured my Aunt Lois's "best recipes".   She had included this recipe of Green Bean Spanish with those.  Though she called it String Bean Spanish.

Rumor has it, that this recipe was handed down from my great-grandfather who lived in Mexico for a while as a child.  I never asked Mom where the recipe came from, but since her own Mom passed away when Mom was young, her mother-in-law, my Grandma Bolander, taught her a lot about cooking and caring for a family and I wouldn't be surprised if that rumor is true.  

You might like to give this recipe a try to dress up some green beans as a side dish for your next meat and potatoes meal!   

Green Bean Spanish
from Nora McGary Bolander, my grandmother

1 large can green beans  (I use a quart jar of home canned beans)
1/2 C. onion, diced

Boil until onion is tender.  Add and bring to boil

2 C. canned tomatoes, mashed up
1/2 C. crisply fried bacon, crumbled
2 T. sugar
2 T. vinegar
1/4-1/2 tsp. chili powder
dash of garlic powder (Mom really disliked garlic so she never added this)

In a small bowl combine 1 T. cornstarch and 1 T. water and stir.  Pour into boiling vegetables, stirring constantly, and cook until thickened. 

My Dad said this was one of his favorite dishes as a boy.  I love taking trips down memory lane with food, don't you?!   It is always interesting to me the memories that smells and tastes trigger that are tucked way back in your mind.  

Monday, February 16, 2015

Dinner for Two - Celebrating Valentine's with my Favorite Guy.

My Favorite Guy and I decided to stay home for Valentine's Day this year.   It just doesn't seem as romantic having an intimate dinner for two..... with 75 other people in the restaurant!  Not to mention waiting in line, waiting to be seated, waiting to order, and waiting for your food.  

We banned the kids to one of the bedrooms upstairs with a movie, chicken nuggets, apple slices, pop, and sugar cookies.  They seemed happy enough.  Their steak and crab days will come.  Right now the 6 year old is as happy with chicken nuggets as we are with steak and the 12 & 14 year old girls understand that we want space to ourselves and they got to pick the movie.

I set a small table in the living room by the fireplace. Rounded up a yard of Valentine'y fabric someone gave me a few years ago and set the flowers Favorite Guy had given me earlier in the day there to enjoy.   A nice Pandora station of Harry Connick Jr. gave us some nice background music.

We started with a simple tossed green salad with ranch.   You too can open a bag of chopped romaine, slice a cucumber and dice a tomato.   No secret recipe here.  Really.

I buy these frozen Tuscan Mini-Loaves from Alison's Pantry.  They are already baked so usually you just warm them in the oven.   For this dinner, I rubbed the loaf with garlic butter and then sprinkled it liberally with Parmesan cheese before heating in the oven.

Salads were finished, and FG (Favorite Guy) started the grill and steamed the crab, while I put the stuffed mushrooms in the oven, cooked the asparagus, and warmed the shrimp scampi while the steaks cooked.

As soon as the food was plated and table set just so, screams of anger and pain were heard from upstairs.  (Intimate dinner with 75 other people started to sound appealing!)   FG went to mediate.  By the time I went up to check I heard:   14yo daughter sobbing:   "He punched me in the eye!"  6 year old defending: "I did NOT punch her in the eye... my fist was not closed! I just hit her!"     6 year old put to bed.  14 year old calmed down and eye checked.   Back to a dinner we didn't have to worry about burning our mouths on!

Bacon and Cream Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms would have been a good appetizer if we'd done an appetizer course, but as it was, we just set them on with the rest of dinner.  YUMMY!  I couldn't find a stuffed mushroom recipe I liked so I made one up.   I think they are my new favorite stuffed mushrooms!    Here's the recipe:

Bacon and Cream Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

10-12 medium sized mushrooms (I used Crimini)
1/2 an 8 oz. package of cream cheese
1 slice bacon or real bacon bits
3 T. panko bread crumbs - or regular bread crumbs will work
1 T. Parmesan cheese
Gently pull stems from mushroom caps and rinse mushrooms.  Finely mince stems.   In a small pan fry bacon slice, remove, cool and crumble.  In bacon fat saute mushroom stems until tender, add cream cheese and crumbled bacon and stir until blended.   Add panko bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.  Mix well.   Toss mushroom caps with oil, place on baking dish.  Fill each cap with a good spoonful of filling.   Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Playing around with presentation can be fun if you're not in a hurry.  Heart shaped molds for the butter only took a few minutes.

Grilled Sirloin Steak with sauteed mushrooms - easy peasy!  No recipe needed!   Steamed asparagus is easy too!   FG took care of the king crab.  He just googled directions.  Put in steamer basket, steam 10 minutes.  Easy.   The Shrimp Scampi (minus the pasta) was super easy too and the first time I'd tried it using precooked and then frozen shrimp.   Recipe follows:

Quick & Easy Appetizer Shrimp Scampi

1/2 lb frozen precooked shrimp,  medium - 60-80 per pound
1/4 C. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced or 2 tsp. heaping of that lovely minced garlic in a jar

Melt butter in saucepan and add garlic.  Cook stirring constantly for about a minute.   Turn off heat and place frozen shrimp in melted butter and stir until shrimp are coated.   Let sit until you're ready to serve and then heat on a low temperature until butter is melted again and shrimp are heated through.  DO NOT overcook or they'll be tough.  Serve immediately.

I planned to serve Creamy Chocolate Fondue for dessert.  Sadly, by the time we finished all of our delicious dinner, we were too full to have it that night!   SO.....   we shared it the next day for dessert with the family.

We used some beautiful strawberries cut in half, a pound cake cubed, and sliced bananas.  Personally, I could do with JUST the bananas.  There is just something wonderful about a healthy banana smothered in creamy chocolate that makes happiness all over in my mouth. Mmmm!     FG's favorite thing to dip in chocolate fondue is a spoon.  He figures the other stuff is just a carrier for the best part anyway.

We got a fondue pot a few years ago for Christmas but if you don't have one, it is easy to make this on the stove top if you have patience and a LOW heat setting.  Don't try to rush it or it'll scorch.

Creamy Chocolate Fondue:

1 package of milk chocolate chips (I love Ghiradelli brand but any will do)
3/4 C. heavy whipping cream

Put chips and cream in saucepan.  Turn on low heat and stir constantly until chocolate is melted and all is well blended.  Serve with sliced fruit, pound cake, marshmallows, pretzels or anything else you could dip and enjoy!

We certainly enjoyed some long-awaited "alone" time cooking and eating together.  Even with the few minutes refereeing, it was worth staying home!   

I am not sure what this would cost at a restaurant, but I think it cost us about $25-30 to do this entire meal for the two of us.  The king crab was a huge splurge, and my 6 oz. steaks were about $3 each.  Many of the ingredients we had on hand.  Definitely more than we usually spend on dinner at home, but considering our menu I'm pretty sure we saved ourselves at least half of what we would have spent dining out.

Happy Eating!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Valentine Treats for my Sweeties!

I just LOVE Valentine's Day!   I love baking and doing nice little things for my husband and the children. I bake and do nice things throughout the year, but it is fun to have a theme for it once in a while!   Some years I have more time than others to do treats and sweet things.   This year I found this cute candy/cookie mold on clearance and thought I'd give it a try.  How can you go wrong with chocolate and Oreo's?  I mean really?!

You can order one of these on the Wilton website.  Hearts Cookie Candy Mold  is what it's called and it's very inexpensive.   The mold does 8 cookies at a time.  It takes maybe 45 minutes to chill them enough to turn out and do the next set.

I used some red candy melts to add the accent colors and then I just melted some of my 10 lb chocolate block I got for holiday candy  making and melted for the rest.  Candy melts are easy to use, but I love the dipping chocolate best if I need plain, delicious, milk chocolate.

I melted my chocolate in a glass bowl in the oven.  Just turn the oven on to 300 degrees and once it warms up, turn it off and put the chocolate in.  Check every so often to stir and see how close it is to melted.   My first batch took about 20 minutes or so to melt.   

It does NOT work well to put the bowl in the oven while it heats.... just in case you sit down at the computer and forget to turn it off once it's reached temperature! If your chocolate melts at too high of a temperature it goes thick and can be lumpy and you may just have to salvage it by dipping banana slices in as best you can and eating them while they're still warm.  Personal experience speaking here.  

So to do these you will:

  • Use a squeeze bottle to outline the heart shape with red candy melts if desired, or skip this step.
  • Add about 1 T. of melted chocolate to each mold.
  • Tap mold tray lightly on the counter to settle bubbles out.
  • Press an Oreo cookie into the chocolate until they're close to level with the top of the mold.
  • Refrigerate until chocolate is set firmly - about 30 minutes.
  • Turn out onto a sheet, twisting the mold very gently or press gently on the front of each mold to loosen cookies.  (If they don't pop out easy - chill a few more minutes)
  • Keep in cool, dry, place until ready to enjoy!

My daughter is taking these to share with friends at school tomorrow. At least I hope she's planning to share with friends, she asked for 18-20!

If you don't have time to find the mold and do these this year, now is a great time to order a mold to have on hand for next year!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Banana Cookies

This week I've had some banana's that look like this sitting on my counter.  They were screaming at me to be used!

This stage of banana ripeness usually turns into banana bread.  NOT TODAY!  

I found a few that looked okay but the one I followed closest was this one:   Banana Cookies at Simply Recipes.    I changed it up a bit for my own tastes (and because it's hard for me to leave a recipe alone) and these cookies turned out delicious! 

(I'm curious to see if my banana despising daughter will eat them when she gets home from school today - they do have chocolate chips in them to tempt her!)

As you mix this you'll notice it is more of a batter than a dough.  I used my 1 oz. cookie scoop to place them on the parchment paper.  I love my cookie scoop!   I have a few.  I like the one on the left best because I love the squeezey handle rather than the thumb squeeze,  and my girls like the one on the right best.  Maybe because it has a pretty purple handle.  

If you have some aged banana's sitting on your counter, and you like banana bread but would like to try something different, I really think you'll love these!

Banana Cookies

1 C. sugar
1/2 C. butter or margarine
1 egg
1 C. mashed banana
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/4 C. flour
1/4 C. chopped walnuts (optional)
1/3 C. chocolate chips (I used mini chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Cream sugar and butter or margarine.  Add one egg and beat well.  Add banana and vanilla and mix.  Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl and then add to banana mixture, stirring well.   Add chocolate chips and nuts if desired.   Spoon on to cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. 

Bake for 10-13 minutes or until lightly brown around the edges.   

Cool on cookie sheet a few minutes and remove to a cooling rack.    Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Feeding the Freezer - Breakfast

I love breakfast!   I love cooking  breakfast!   I do NOT, however, love cooking breakfast at 6:30 a.m.!    

 My children need to catch the bus by 7:30 a.m.  I let them sleep until 6:40 and then it's a mad rush getting lunches packed, kids dressed, and bags found.  Most mornings the past year they've had cold cereal (which they love actually) or eggs and toast, or oatmeal, or sometimes toast with homemade bread and some hot chocolate to drink. But 90% of the time on school mornings it's cold cereal.  Sometimes there are pancakes or waffles left from a Saturday and then frozen and they love those.  

I have 3 children at home right now... I adore them.  They are 6, 12, and 14 years old.  I have 5 children who are grown and have moved away. (I adore them too!)   I used to cook for 8-10 people on a regular basis.  I used to cook breakfast quite often.  I used to be more organized.  It's time to get back to planning ahead!   

Today I decided to spend the day making breakfast foods to be frozen.  Feed the Freezer so to speak.  All of these will be easy to grab, heat, and eat even on a busy morning!  I also made a nice batch of granola (which I used to do all the time when my older kids were home) to use as a breakfast option as well.  I love homemade granola.  So tasty and filling and good for you!  You can find my granola recipe HERE.

You can find my waffle recipe HERE. - just kidding....  I didn't realize it hasn't been posted yet!  I will remedy that and provide the link as soon as possible!   Any waffle recipe will do for your freezer waffles (though I think MINE is BEST!) just be sure to reheat them in a toaster or toaster oven rather than the microwave.

Today I was able to feed the freezer:

6  Egg and Cheese Biscuits

12 individual Ham and Cheese Frittata's

12 individual Sausage and Cheese Frittata's

18 Breakfast Burrito's

24 Waffles

That's at LEAST two weeks worth of breakfast for our little family on school mornings - even if my two grandchildren who come in the mornings eat with us!  This is GOOD NEWS!

My freezer is happy!   My family will be even happier when they find out there are more delicious options for breakfast!  I can't wait to hear the joyful noise when I tell them!

Most of these items you can figure out how to put together on your own.  Like the biscuit sandwiches......  you just beat an egg and pour into the bottom of each cup on a jumbo muffin tin, add diced ham, and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. (check to see if they're set in the middle).  At the same time you can bake a tube of the jumbo biscuits you find in the refrigerator section.   Top the eggs with a sprinkle of cheese when they're done - butter biscuits - put sandwiches together and wrap individually.  See....  you pretty much already knew how to do those.  Right?!


Heat oven to 325
Grease a regular sized muffin tin.
Fill each cup 1/2 full of frozen shredded hash browns
put about a tablespoon of diced ham or cooked sausage on top of the hash browns.
sprinkle with cheese
beat about 12 eggs, add 1/2 C. milk, 1/2 tsp. salt and some pepper (thyme would be good too) and pour some of that mixture into each cup - not quite to the top or it will over flow while cooking.

Place filled pan in oven and bake about 15-20 minutes or until set.

Breakfast Burrito's

Scramble 8-12 eggs
brown 1/2 lb. sausage with some diced onion
fry a few cups of hash browns
Mix all of the above together after it has cooked.

Place about 1/2 C. filling on  one end of a medium sized flour tortilla.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Roll, tucking sides in to keep filling in place. 

I planned to bake Bran Muffins as well, but it's almost time for kids to be home from school and I need the kitchen back to cook dinner.  (and take a nap! - like that's gonna happen.)

This has been so much fun, I think soon I will Feed the Freezer - Dinner.