Thursday, February 25, 2010

German Chocolate Brownies

So one of my chatboard girls mentioned German Chocolate Brownies and I thought I was going to slip all over myself right then and there from the copious amounts of drool eminating from my mouth. Seriously? German Chocolate BROWNIES? I've never thought of such a thing much less seen it or made it.

Ofcourse, I immediately scavenged the world wide web for recipes. Most used boxed cake mix etc. That's not for me. Brownies are too easy to make from scratch to use boxes of the lord only knows what all they put in those things. I finally found a recipe from Taste of Home that fit the bill. They were so easy to make and so delicious. The great thing is, this recipe doesn't make a large amount either so its perfect for a small get together or family of four.

German Chocolate Brownies

*Pictures coming this weekend*

Ingredients:
1 stick butter, cubed
4 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup Self Rising Flour

Topping:
2 tbs butter, melted
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup shredded or flaked coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 tbs corn syrup
2 tbs milk

Directions:
Melt butter and chocolate. Beat eggs and sugar in KA Mixer. Add vanilla and slightly cooled chocolate mixture. Add flour. Pour into an 8 x 9 greased pan and bake for 20 minutes at 350. Do not overbake. Let cool on wire rack.

Combine topping ingredients and mix well. Use a spoon or cookie scoop to drop topping on to slightly warm brownies. Gently spread.

I served them like this but the recipe recommends to broil for about 2 minutes and then recool. ENJOY!

Lemon and Garlic Roasted Chicken

I've been roasting chickens and turkeys for years using halved citrus fruit stuffed in the cavity but it wasn't until I watched INA GARTEN chop an entire garlic in half and stuff it in skin and all with lemon that I turly found perfection. For that Ina, I will forever be greatful! This truly changed my world of chicken.

The thing is, its SO EASY and so simple. I now roast one to two chickens on the weekend and debone and save the meat in portions in the fridge and freezer to use throughout the week. There really is no easier and quicker and CHEAPER method to using chicken for weeknight meals when you are on the go.

*Pictures coming this weekend*

Lemon and Garlic Roasted Chicken
Ingredients:
One whole Chicken, washed and dried
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 whole lemon
1 whole garlic

Directions:
Salt and pepper the inside and outside of the chicken. Cut the galric in half (through the cloves so they insides of all cloves are exposed) and place skin and all inside chicken. (both halves). Halve the lemon and place both halves in the chicken cavity.

Place chicken in roasting pan. Tuck winds underneath and truss the legs. Roast on 350-400 for about an hour or until thermometer reads 150-160. Take the chicken out and place in dish, cover with tinfoil and let rest for about 30 minutes.

TA DA, you are done! Serve slices fresh and warm, save diced chicken for later recipes, serve on sandwiches, make chicken salad, whatever you wish but the delicate infusion of lemon and garlic gives this chicken such a wonderful flavor its the perfect combination to use with vegetables of all kinds.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta with Lemon Vinaigrette

My second dish for Pasta week is a creation of my own comprised of reading SEVERAL recipes. There wasn't anything quite like I was looking for so I just made it up. It was a pretty big hit. Fresh and lively with strong flavors that tantalize your tongue. This healthy eating thing's not so bad after all! And it was QUICK. Just use leftover chicken from a Garlic Lemon Roasted Chicken and the rest of the recipe takes max 30 minutes! Enjoy!

*Pictures coming this weekend*

Roasted Vegetable Pasta with Lemon Vinaigrette

Ingredients:
1 large eggplant, diced large
2 straight neck squash, diced large
1 zuchini, diced large
1 small onion, sliced thick
1 shallot, sliced thick
4-5 cloves garlic, deskinned (either whole or halved)
4 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1-2 cups diced chicken
1 lb fusilli pasta (or penne)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (optional)
1 can diced tomatoes

Lemon Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice of One lemon
1 1/2 tsps of dijon mustard
1/2 tsp sugar
(I did not use lemon peel or shallot since I'm mixing with lemon chicken and roasted veggies.)

Directions:
In a large bowl coat ALL the veggies with olive oil. Spread out on greased baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 15-18 minutes on 450 in the oven.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted water till tender. In large bowl, combine drained pasta, chicken and roasted vegetables (and cheese if you opt to use it).

Whisk vingaigrette ingredients together and pour over pasta mixture and mix well. Serve warm or cool.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Penne with Asparagus and Tomatoes

First Recipe of Pasta Week! It was far different from most pastas I cook. Here in the south we smother everything with, creams, gravys, sauces, and cheese. Literally. If its not fried, its smothered in something. I'm trying to expand my horizons.

I'm not sure how you feel about Giada on the FoodNetwork but other than the fact that her arms are short and I feel like I'm watching a pretty little Tyranasaurus Rex (and I don't mean that to be mean in anyway, I have a lot of respect for her), the girl can cook up some pasta! So I have taken note of a few of her pasta dishes that incorporate veggies and barely any "sauce" to speak of other than some light broth and olive oil. So I'm kicking up our pasta palatte with the help of inspiration by Giada and so far, SO GOOD!

Unlike my love affair with all things spaghetti, I don't think I'll be making this dish once a week, but once a month? Yea, I can see that! Especially in the spring when asparagus is fresh! Definately worth a try and I felt NO GUILT eating it, AT ALL.

*Pictures coming this weekend*

Penne with Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes
Ingredients:
8 ounces penne pasta
3 tbs olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch thin asparagus (about 1 1/2 lbs), tough ends trimmed
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cherry tomatoes (my cherry tomatoes had mold on them -1 DAY after buying them, stupid Aldi's- so I used two roma's diced from the farmer's market)
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup grated moneterey jack cheese (My addition)
1 cup diced roasted chicken breast (my addition)

(Giada calls for parmesan and fresh basil but I didn't do this).

Directions:
Boil pasta in salted water till Just Tender.

Saute over medium-high heat the garlic in the oil for about 1 minute. Add asparagus and season with salt and pepper. Cook about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and peas and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer about 3-5 minutes.

Add the chicken just to heat it up. (1 minute). Combine drained pasta, vegetables and cheese in a large bowl and toss well. Serve hot.

Simple, tasty and pretty healthy.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Menu Monday

It's that time again. Monday. The most dreaded day of the week. I do look forward to posting those menues though. It makes me feel in control, prepared and organized. Three of my favorite feelings..LOL.

This week is being dubbed as "Pasta Week". I'm in the mood for pasta and want to experiment with a few ways of mixing pasta and veggies without the same old boring Alfredo or tomato sauce. So I'm mixing it up this week with some fresh flavors in Pasta!

Chicken Stew (we had this Sunday night -also my recipe for the Blog Challenge: Last week ladies!)

Fusilli wiht roasted chicken, spinach and asiago

Roasted Veggies

Baked Chicken & Pastini

Penne w/ Asparagus and Cherry tomatoes

I'm sure there will be something thrown in there to break up all the chicken and pasta. If you know anything about me, you can have a safe bet that Friday night will include Subway! LOL

My first Blog Award!

Okay, I know these are silly but they are so fun. And of coure my ego, being what it is, preens a little bit. I've recieved a few of these on another blog, but this is the first time the Garden Gourmet has recieved a blog award, and yea, I have a big fat smile on my face. (even though I'm a tiny bit late in posting this.)

So a huge shout out goes to my girl Valentine who is classy, witty, and a lover of all things cheese. MY KIND OF GIRL! Thank you!



The rules of the Award:

Thank and link the giver of the award. (Who wouldn't do this anyway?)

Copy the award to my blog. (Well Duh, who wouldn't do that either?)

D. List seven interesting things about myself.

1. I am obsessed with cooking. (What, you didn't know that?)

2. I love gardening. (I'm really shocking you here today aren't I?)

3. I flirt with danger. No really, I still TAN, IN FULL SUN with OIL despite all those pesky skin cancer warnings. Come ON, you expect me to float in my pool for hours and not rotessirie myself? Please. I'm southern, I bake and fry everything including my own skin.

4. I love to mow the yard if I have time. It's a chore when I'm strapped for time (which is most often) but occasionally when there isn't much to do for some reaon, I love to mow.

5. I have an obsession with putting clothes on my dog. I've never been a little dog person or one to dress them up other than fancy colors and bandannas. But since getting my tiny female Doxie who shivers and loves sweaters, I'm obsessed with buying clothes for her. She has quite the wardrobe.

6. I LOVE to bake. LOVE. There is nothing more pleasing then popping a hot, fluffy cake out of the oven or biting into fresh warm, oozing cookies with a cold glass of milk. (Just don't tell my husband, he might be offended.)

7. If I could afford to, I would have fresh cut flowers all over my house, every day. I love candles and flowers but for some reason, I can't grow flowers. I can grow veggies, but not flowers. And I can't afford to BUY cut flowers. But there is nothing better than a southern ladies tea party with good girlfriends, fresh flowers, awesome food, and lots of gossiping on a spring afternoon. (I think I was born in the wrong decade.)

Now I have to nominate seven bloggers for this award. I'm sure some of them have gotten them before but I don't care:

1) FK. I love her new fashion blog and I'm hoping she will include some great garden friendly duds at some point just for little ole me *wink*

2) Isha's Scoreboard because I know what its like to struggle losing weight. Especially when she is faithfully trying my recipes almost every week! Love you girl.

3)Mama Bird, a new blog friend I found through the Lady Bloggers who has some great recipes and a charming personality.

4)Tracey, new to the blogging world, she's getting her writer's feet wet and ofcourse, she is required to rave about my cooking since she's my sister and all. *wink*

5)Mrs. Rootbeer, who I just have much love for.

6) Stephanie, ofcourse, as my co-conspirator in all things tasty, I love the recipes she leaves on this blog, like a kid on Christmas, I get so excited to see what Santa Steph has cooked up!

7) Jlee, my girl appreciates good food, good friends, and babies, all wrapped up in a sarcastic witty package. How can you not love her?

That's it! there are so many blogs I read, so many friends I have who blog, and I just want to tell you all, I love sharing your adventures, recipes, and life stories. Keep living, eating, cooking and sharing. Now go forth everyone and follow these rules for your blog award!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bacon Biscuits-for Fido

My dogs are my faithful companions and are often (okay ALWAYS) under my feet when I'm cooking. If you here yelps, obscenities, and other war like sounds from the direction of my kitchen? Yea, its my dogs getting stepped on, tripping me, or otherwise causing themselves or me harm. They are AWESOME floor cleaners when I make a mess though!

So to be fair, I decided to start making them treats. (and lets face it, I need to use that whole flour up for something because its frankly not that great in people food. LOL)

This is the first recipe I've tried and while the dough is a bit dry and the "biscuits" are not very pretty, my dogs think they are the greatest things on the planet and have not left my side in two days. I also find them staring at the green bowl on the table and drooling.

Bacon Biscuits
Ingredients:
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup milk
1/2 c. water
10 tbsp bacon fat
5 cups whole wheat flour

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray cookie sheet.

In KA Mixer with paddle attachment, mix ingredients to a thick dough. Use a small cookie scoop to create biscuit balls on the cookie sheet. Bake for 35 minutes till crispy.

Makes about 2 dozen.

Orange Chocolate Chip Scones

This recipe post has been a long time coming. Why you ask? Because I've been too busy making these decadent little darlings, to post. I've kept this recipe all to myself savoring the complete joy and utter bliss that are these concoctions. This by far, has to be one of my all time favorite sweet treats. The Orange Glaze I add is the PERFECT addition and I do not recommend you changing a thing. Seriously. Do not mess up my perfection. ;)

*Warning*-These little rascals have a tendency to jump into your mouth out of nowhere. I periodically wrangle them back into the cake plate but I find stowaways in my work bag, purse, plate and other obscene places (like stuffed into my cheeks) constantly. They are wiley little devils when it comes to disappearing into your tummy. Also, may cause eyes to roll back in your head, moaning and other embarrassing sounds to eminate from your body so be careful where you eat these.


Orange Chocolate Chip Scones
Ingredients:

2 cups Self Rising Flour
1/3 cup sugar
6 tbs cold unsalted butter diced
1 large egg
1/2 cup heavy cream
4-5 tsps orange zest (two oranges)
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
Juice from two oranges (about 3-4 tbs)
1/2 tsp grated orange zest (should be enough leftover from the two oranges)
1/4 tsp vanilla

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425. use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the sugar and flour (till pea size chuncks or smaller). Whisk together the rest of your ingredients and then add them to the flour/sugar/butter mixture. combine with wood spoon. When just mixed together, turn out onto a floured surface and kneed gently until smooth. Press out into a 1/2 thick square. Cut into 12 wedges and place on greased baking sheet. Brush top with cream. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Cool on wire rack. Blend together Glaze ingredients. When scones are cool, pour glaze over the top and let harden. ENJOY!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

1st Garden Gourmet Blog Challenge

I have recruited a group of bloggers to participate in a Challenge. The goal is to do one per month. I have some wonderful ideas on how to expand this and some future surprises in store. What I am hoping to gain from this for everyone is a lot of great cuisine and shared readership. (If that is even a word!) So if you would like to participate along with us, I welcome ALL PARTICIPANTS from a beginning cook to a professional chef!

1st Blog Challenge
After much thought, I think our first challenge will be a little loose in interpretation to see how everyone does. Here are the rules:

1) Make and photograph your favorite Crockpot Soup/Stew recipe. (This will preferably be one that has regional fair or traditional to your part of your country/family etc.)

2) Write up a post on your blog (or email to me if you don't have a blog). Link to my blog from yours. ( Link to this original entry).

3) Include a bit of info about the recipe (is it passed down in your family, from a cook book etc.)

4) I will post copies with links from my blog to yours or just your post (if you email it to me).

5) Entries must be submitted or posted by: March 1st

6) Send me an email letting me know that its done (thegardengourmet@gmail.com) (if you post it on your blog) with a link to make sure I see it.

7) HAPPY COOKING and I can't wait to see all your delicious RECIPES!!

Biscuit Surprise a.k.a Stuffed Biscuits

I got the bright idea to play with my empanada stuffing using buttermilk biscuits instead of pie crust. I chuncked up the chicken in large dices to make it a little more substantial and whipped up some Buttermilk Biscuits. The beauty of this is that you can add and change anything about the recipe and still have a fabulous meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner that is perfect to reheat and on the go. For example, add some green peas and celery for a nice spring dinner. Add some bacon bits, cranberry and apple for a great fall breakfast. This is one of those PERFECT starter recipes that is delicious on its own but can be taylored for you and I'm very proud of this one. It was light, hearty, fluffy, soft, warm, cozy and satisfying all in one dish. A big hit amongst friends and family.

One of the few dishes my husband said "Mmmm, this is good, make this again!" He calls them Biscuit Surprise because when you bite into them, there is yummy filling in what looks like an ordinary biscuit. ENJOY!!

Stuffed Biscuits
Filling Ingredients:
1 tsp salt
5 ounces cream cheese
6 ounces colby jack shredded cheese
4 cups diced cooked chicken (I used leftover of the roasted lemon garlic chicken)
1 diced small onion
1 diced small shallot
1/2 tsp pepper

Biscuit Ingredients:
Ingredients:
5 cups of flour
3/4 cup crisco
2 cups buttermilk

Directions:
Mix your filling ingredients and set aside. Mix your flour and shortening with a pastry cutter and add in your buttermilk. Mix until moistened. Turn your biscuits out on a floured service and kneed gently to form a ball. Press out with your hands to about a 1/2 inch thick, square it up and cut into large squares (about nine pieces) (as if you were cutting for scones). The pieces will be about the size of your hand. Place a generous cookie scoop size dollop of filling in the center of each square and fold the endes up around it. Smooth into a rounded biscuit. (you should see no filling).

Brush biscuits with cream or butter.

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until biscuits are lightly browned. Enjoy a warm flaky gooey biscuit and be sure to come back and tell me how much you love them because I know you will! And the only reason I added this dark blurry picture is because Cody is in the bottom corner begging which I didn't notice until I uploaded it. Hillarious.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Menu Monday

I am going to take a break from cooking much this week and maybe next, simply because I'm so far behind on my posting. I've been doing so much cooking the past few weeks that I can't get caught up recording my recipes.

Not only that, but there are "housekeeping" things I need to do with my blog, a book to finish reading so I can review it for you guys/gals, and sometimes, even the best cook needs to get out of the kitchen and breathe life so she doesn't go stale.

So this weeks menu looks a little pitiful so far:

Turkey Meatloaf with rice and broccoli

Chicken salad over wedges of iceburg lettuce

Baked potatoes with grilled/baked chicken and green beans.

Leftover chili from the freezer

Frozen lasagna

I do think I will make some dog treats. That is the one thing I didn't get around to this weekend and I NEED dog treats. I'm almost out of the store bought ones.

What does that mean for the blog? Catching up on recipes, articles, reviews, ordering seeds and planning planting calendar.

The Lady Bloggers

The Lady Bloggers is a new blog group taking the web by storm. They just recently started but via twitter have already expanded to over 100 members. Someone found my twitter and blog and added me via twitter. I checked them out (as I do all new twitter followers) and joined up.

This past weekend they held their first Saturday Tea party and while I missed it, many girls discovered my blog and left me lots of lovin'. So to The Lady Bloggers, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I'm very happy to be a party of this new group.

I can't wait to join you for a Tea Party and catch up on some of YOUR lovely blogs as well!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Busy Weekend

I am behind in posting recipes. I have several, I promise. Being a wife, a corporate woman, keeping the house up, the garden, the pets, budding author, the cooking and the blogging, get to be an overloaded experience sometimes. There are not enough hours in the day and I'm always on catch up mode! How on earth am I going to fit being a MOTHER in there one day?

This morning, the pups woke me up at 6am (on a SATURDAY-they are SOOO grounded). We walked out to a fresh coating of powdery snow. The winter olympics have none and little ole southern NC has it EVERY.FREAKING.WEEKEND? Gaia has her axis twisted in a bunch huh?

Hopefully, this snow won't stop my plans today. Between the SUV and the high of 37, I'm pretty sure the roads will be okay soon and I HAVE to go to the Farmer's Market today.

I'm planning on remaking a few of the newest recipes, maybe doing a photoshoot of the kitchen, grocery shopping, doing our Valentines venture tonight and sometime this weekend visiting my family if I can. The high winds Wednesday took some shingles off our house so my husband has to patch the roof this weekend and I won't leave him up there on his own while I galavant off to the folk's house.

So needless to say, in all that indecisive rambling above, its going to be a packed weekend but HOPEFULLY I will find some time to post some recipes, an article and get caught up again! Hold tight to your fry pans guys and gals, this garden gourmet has a lot in store.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Snow!

Here in NC, we have had quite a hard winter. We don't get those very often but we have been getting repeatedly traumatized with snow, freezing rain, and cold temperatures week after week. I KNOW many of you get WAY more than what we've been dealing with but darn it people, I live in the south for a reason! Besides the fact, that my family was among the first settlers (and natives!) and my butt is rooted here in tradition I LOVE living here where our climate is mild but we still experience ALL the seasons for a decent length of time.

Winter, we've experienced you for several weeks now. You are welcome to depart ANY TIME NOW!

My quaint little brick ranch:


My sweet Scarlett trying to climb my legs to get out of the snow:


Our Barn (now empty of horses) buried in a sea of snow:


Our driveway: (It took us a few days to dig my little mustang out!)


The steps going 'UP' to our inground pool: (I thought with the sun shining down this looked very heavenly and ethereal...just me?)

Deep Fried Mozzerella Balls

Ahh my attempt to make HOMEMADE Fried Mozzerella balls. Was a complete Failure. They only tasted good hot out of the grease but they exploded and so they were a cheese mass of breaded oozing cheese that when cool, held on to the grease!

I'm glad I only breaded and tried about a dozen so I didn't waste all that mozzerella! I think I got TWO that came out like they were supposed to! (Since its a failure I'll show you the pile of greasy cheese to prove it and NO we did not eat it. We ate the two good ones and that was it! LOL)

Fried Mozzerella Balls:

Ingredients:
3 eggs whisked
12 fresh Mozzerella balls (use a melon ball scooper and a fresh round of mozzerella)
Bread crumbs
1 cup of flour
salt and pepper
OIL

Directions:
Dip dried mozzerella in egg, then flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Drop into a preheated Cast Iron Dutch oven with about a 1/2 inch of 300 degree oil for about 45 seconds, or until crispy and golden brown. Drain.

Hot Artichoke Dip

I can't take credit for this recipe. It is straight up from Paula Deen ya'll. I'll post it below to save you a click but I made it almost identically to her's so I can no credit for this at all. I barely changed a 'thang'!

I can tell you this, the guys at work wiped out one whole dish in 10 minutes and were testifying to its orgasmic qualities! (I heart you guys and the ego boost you give me over my cooking skillz!)

Hot Artichoke Dip

Ingredients:
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 green onions, sliced thin
1 (14 ounces) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1 (8 ounces) block cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded Mexican Blend
2 dashes Texas Pete Hot Sauce (My dashes were on the timid side..LOL)
dash Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand held electric mixer until smooth. Then beat in the mayonnaise until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and beat together until combined. Transfer the dip to gratin dish. Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes until the top is golden brown and the dip is bubbling. Serve hot with tortilla chips.

Stuffed New Potatoes

I found several new recipes that were pleasing to my husband...you know, the meat and potatoes guy? Well, ofcourse this was a potato recipe. He liked it so well, that he asked if I could add the potato filling back to the sauce and make it in BIG potatoes as twice baked. GO ME! I think this is a much better plan since using a tiny melon ball scooper to dig out baby Red potatoes was a pain in my ass anyway. But they sure were tasty (if a little messy since my filling was more like a sauce..whoops.)

*And I profusely apologize for my picture quality lately. They look good and then I download them and they are blurry. I don't know WHAT The deal is!

Stuffed New Potatoes

Ingredients:
5 oz softened cream cheese
1 lb New Red Potatoes
4 tbs butter, softened (mine was melted thus the liquidy texture)
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/8 tsp of garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Boil potatoes in salted water till tender. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop cooking process immediately and cool down enough to handle. Cut the tiniest sliver off the bottom so potatoes "stand up" and use a small melon ball scooper to scoop out the tops for filling.

With electric mixer combine the rest of your ingredients and whip till fluffy. Pour into a pastry bag or ziploc bag (twist and clip the end for a makeshift pastry bag)and pipe filling into potatoes. Chill.

YUM!

Menu Monday

Let me start off with my cooking orgy yesterday for the SuperBowl. Holy Cow so much food and it was just the two of us! I'm thinking "finger foods" but even those recipes make a ton! The guys at work are happy and the Hubs is super happy with his leftovers for lunch today!.

SuperBowl Menu: (recipes to be posted soon)
Hot Artichoke Dip
Chicken Quesidillas
Boccincini (aka Fried Mozzerella Balls)
Stuffed Baby Potatoes
Orange Chocolate Chip Scones

This week: (It's clean out Pantry and freezer week)!
Potato Tien
Turkey something or other (maybe meatloaf)
Chicken Noodles Soup
Fried Cabbage and Pinto Bean Casserole
Grilled Eggplant Salad
Probably a Frozen Lasagna in there somewhere (of the Schwann's variety).

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Valentines Dinner Spread

My sister and I have been doing girl's night once a week while DH is off doing his School thing. It's been a blast and gives me a chance to experiment with food and have a captive audience other than my husband. Since she is the Make-up queen it usually grants me a free facial and experiments with new masks, exfoliaters etc. She blogs about life as a fashionable country girl here.

Because I know my sister well, I know what her favorite meal is. Whenever we go out to eat and the entire way through her pregnancy, this girl can put away some Fried Chicken Tender Salad with Honey Mustard and a bowl of French Onion Soup. So to celebrate Valentines (a little early) I endeavored to make her favorite meal, topped off by Red Velvet Cupcakes.

All recipes will be posted on my blog today! I hope you enjoy and let me know how they turn out for you!

French Onion Soup

This is my adapted version of French Onion soup. There are many out there and some use more herbs and flavors but I'm still being careful what I eat (due to previous allergy attack). This recipe is simple, hardy and good and really, there is no reason to try to add to it too much. Let the onions, sourdough bread and gruyere take center stage because really, you can't beat that combination anyway. It's Heavenly!

French Onion Soup

Ingredients:
1/3 cup olive oil
6-7 LARGE Yellow onions, sliced
2 tbs garlic, minced
3 tablespoon flour
8 cup beef stock (two boxes)
salt and pepper to taste
1 loaf Crusty Sourdough bread
1 cup Mozzerella blend shredded cheese
Thinly sliced Gruyere cheese

Directions
Saute onions in oil over low heat until tender and golden yellow. Sprinkle flour over onions, cook a few minutes more, browning the flour well. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently for 20 minutes or so. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, slice bread into 3/4 slices and butter both sides. Toast slices on grill pan until golden brown. Ladle soup into an ovenproof bowl, add toasted bread and cover with a sprinkle of mozzerella blend and then gently place slices of gruyere cheese over top. Place ovenproof bowl on a baking sheet lined. Bake at 350 degrees for about five minutes (or use the broiler and watch super close).

Fried Chicken Tender Salad with Honey Mustard

This is SUPER EASY and super yummy and can be made anyway you like. Sometimes the simple is the most comforting.

Fried Chicken Tender Salad

Cook your chicken tenders just like you would Fried Chicken. The only thing I did different was to add some breadcrumbs to the flour mixture to give it extra crispness since it didn't have the skin.

Toss your salad ingredients together and serve with Honey Mustard Sauce.

Honey Mustard Sauce
Ingredients:
1/4 cup mayonaise
1 tbs Prepared Mustard
1 tbs honey
1/2 tablespoon Lemon juice ( I used half of one lemon)

Directions:
Whisk ingredients until smooth. Serve.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I've always wanted to try Red Velvet and Valentines is a perfect time for Red. It was far easier than I thought and this recipe courtesy of Paula Deen, came out moist and fluffy. Now, I will be the first to admit that I've always had issues with cupcakes for some reason. Muffins, no problem. Cupcakes? They are the Murphy's Law of my kitchen. They never come out perfect and are a pain in my rear to make pretty. (and NO, you do not get to see the hole batch because it looked like a bloody warzone of cake carnage on my counter.)

I will caution you to be careful about what food coloring you use. There is some disturbing information out on the web about Red Dye 40 and how people can react to it etc. There are organic substitutes that will give you the rich red color such as beet powder. I see no reason that you can't change the color or leave it out completely (subsitute water).

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Ingredients:
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. Beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla. I used the paddle attachment and my KA Mixer on low. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely on wire rack before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
Ingredients:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
Chopped pecans and fresh raspberries or strawberries, for garnish

In a KA Mixer (or with an electric mixer), beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

I put the cream cheese in a sandwich bag and cut the corner off so I could "pipe" it onto the cupcakes.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Nod to FastFood

I try really hard not to eat Fast Food. My husband is a Fast Food junkie and for a long time I followed in his footsteps because it was convenient.

You know what though? The more I cook the less taste I have for it. I gave up on Pizza years ago. I'm not a pizza fan. I'm good with a gourmet pizza now and again or a home made concoction of gooey cheese but I am not a pizza person.

I did love Hardees but the past few times, I've noticed they have no flavor, just salt. I make a mean hamburger and Hardees just can not compare.

The one Fast Food that still holds my heart though? Subway. I know that I can always go in Subway and get a Grilled Chicken breast on Wheat with all the veggies my little heart desires and I don't even feel guilty!

Plus I watch them make it RIGHT there so I can truly get it my way.

I may be a little snotty about my cooking skills but I don't think I will ever go completely NO FAST FOOD...as long as there is Subway.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Chicken Empanadas

This post was a long time coming. I "southerned" up some Chicken Empanadas and reduced the spice. What this did, was make the pie crust seem a little salty in comparison to the filling but they were still good. I will make them again, with a homemade crust and add some green chili's for kick.

Chicken Empanadas (Mild Southern style)
Ingredients:
1 tsp salt
4 ounces cream cheese
6 ounces shredded mexican blend cheese
3 cups chopped, cooked chicken
1/4 tsp pepper
1 package Pillsbury Roll out pie crusts

Directions:
Mix all of your ingredients together. Roll out pie crusts on a floured surface and use a biscuit cutter or large glass to cut out circles. Dab some filling into the center of one, wet the outside edge and cover with another circle. mash edges together and seal with a fork. Brush the tops lightly with butter or cream. Bake at 400 on a lightly greased cookie sheet for 15 minutes.

I loved the crispy shells and the softy gooey centers. This dish was fun to eat and would be great for parties.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Simple Chicken Soup

On a cold blustery winter day, there is nothing more comforting then a pot of soup, stew or chili. Many people go after bread, milk and eggs. Not me. I'm going after soup fixings. When bad weather strikes, I made a big pot of soup. If we lose power, I can heat it up on the grill and if you are stuck in a cold house, you definately want something WARM to eat, not cold sandwiches! This recipe can be done in the crock pot or on the stove. I at least start it in the crock pot.

Simple Chicken Soup

Ingredients:
4 carrots, peeled and coined
2 ribs of celergy, finely diced
1 onion, diced
1 whole chicken
1/2 pint of cream
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 box elbow macaroni noodles, cooked just under al dente

Directions:
Cook chicken in crock pot (covered in water) for 8-10 hours until it falls off the bone. Debone chicken and use 3/4 of the meat. (I save enough meat out to do a small dinner or make chicken salad for lunches) as this recipe will feed a family for a few days.

Use about 4-6 cups of the broth, and place all your ingredients (except cream) in a pot and simmer until noodles are finished cooking. Add cream. Serve hot.

Menu Monday

After a weekend full of SNOW (I'm talking 9" in the South, holey moley) it doesn't look like we will get much of a break from it this week. Calling for freezing rain on Tuesday and a possibility of another snow storm on Thursday and Friday.

Our roads are a MESS. For some reason, that is really throwing me off my stride. I've been dealing with rather bland foods lately to preserve my sanity and prevent more sick time. With the onslaught of cold though, the only thing I want to make is WARM, SPICY hardy foods, but those don't appeal to my appetite at the moment. I can feel myself trying to slide into a rut!

Menu:
Chicken Empanadas (I'm going to try these but take some of the spice out of them and see what happens).

Girls Night: I'm aiming for some of my sisters favorites-
Fried Chicken Tender Salad
French Onion Soup
Red Velvet Cupcakes

For my company Chili Cook off, I'll be dishing up one of my chili's. I'm leaning toward White Chicken Chili just to throw a curve ball into the traditional line up of dark/red bean chili's.

The rest of this week is a mystery. Maybe Turkey burgers and Frozen Lasagna. (Yes, I do convenience foods every now and again).