Saturday, October 12, 2013

German Style Potato and Sausage Stew

It is fall! Time to start eating soup 24/7 and staying in warm clothes and boots for the next 6 months, haha! I whipped this one up last week and could stand to make it again this week. While it isn't the most gorgeous soup ever, it is delightful. Enjoy!

German Style Potato and Sausage Stew

German Style Potato and Sausage Stew
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 package chicken sausage
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
3 cloves garlic
1 bottle lager beer
3 medium carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, diced
5 medium russet potatoes, cubed
3 cups chicken stock, hot
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2-3 teaspoons parsley

1. Heat up a medium-sized dutch oven or pot with olive oil over medium heat. When hot, placed sliced chicken sausage into oil. Allow to brown well, the crunchy bits are delicious. Grind the caraway seeds to a fine powder separately.
2. When sausage is done, add garlic, caraway powder, black pepper. When this starts to smell amazing, add the lager slowly. Make sure you scrape the bottom of the pot to get any of the "burned" parts up, should turn your broth very dark.
3. Add the carrots, celery, and potatoes. I chose not to peel my potatoes, but if you want, go for it.  Carefully add the hot chicken stock to the pot. Stir carefully to incorporate everything together.
4. Allow this to cook on medium-medium low until the potatoes are tender, 40-45 minutes.
5. Mash a few of the potatoes to bring the consistency up to your desired thickness.
6. Just before serving, add the ACV and stir well. Top with parsley. I served mine with fresh French bread that I added a few teaspoons of olive oil, sea salt, chile powder, and garlic powder. Then I toasted the sliced bread up for a few minutes in the oven and it was the perfect accompaniment to this rich soup.

See Ya Later Nasty Backyard!

We bought a foreclosure, a foreclosure in pretty bad shape none the less. In August, we will have been here for 2 years. The first year, we spent all our time and energy getting the inside how we wanted it. This spring, we started with the outside. We hired a painting company to revamp the outside and it made quite the impact. Neither of us really know how to deal with high desert climate and how to start landscaping in that climate. So, instead of landscaping a ton, we have decided to do a paver patio with some major flower beds to increase our privacy from the golf course and make it known that people actually live here now! This backyard project was quite a bit of work and there were many times we just wanted to quit. Now that it is done, it was so worth it!

First, we decided on our space taking into account that we wanted the flower beds to flow seamlessly from the patio. We dug down our area between 6-8 inches depending on how far it needed to be to be level... sort of!

When we finished digging down, we filled the hole back up with 3 inches of sand in order to make a solid base for the pavers.

Then we started laying the pavers. I started at the high side of the space and leveled each paver according to the previous one. I worked out in angles to keep it as level as possible. This was the most time consuming part. Only one person could really work on it at a time to preserve the level-ness.

Once the outside edges were done, we could start with the flower beds. I wanted it to be smooth on top and graduated on the bottom, this way it seems more solid to me. That also meant we needed to dig out a pathway for the bottom row to stay level. We did this same process on the flower bed that the previous owner had done, but they had used large boulders as the retaining wall. We also added in a small veggie garden to grow some tomatoes and jalapeno peppers - guacamole anyone?!
Once the patio was finished, we added 100 lbs of playground sand on top and brushed it in each seam to help with the solidity of the patio. We did this over a few days - brushed it around, sprayed it with the hose, let dry. Repeat. When this was all done, we added a small fire pit to the center, some great Target furnishings with Home Depot cushions and voila! Looks much, MUCH better! Now to let some plants grow, grab some more landscaping base rocks to fill in where we had to dig up and our back yard fits in with the much more prestigious homes in the neighborhood!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Fourth of July Cakeballs

Happy 4th of July!! These cakeballs are super festive and easy to share with a large crowd.  We served these at our picnic and they went over so well - especially with the "fireworks" inside!

Fourth of July Cakeballs
Festive Fourth Fireworks Cakeballs
1 box of confetti cake, prepared as directed on box in 13x9 pan
1 container confetti frosting (or cream cheese frosting)
2 containers of dipping white chocolate
Red and blue food coloring

1. Take cooled confetti cake and crumble in large bowl.
2. Warm frosting in microwave for about 20 seconds, just to soften it up.
3. Combine crumbled cake and container of frosting until it is fully mixed. It will be pretty mushy and a little wet, that is ok!
4. Form 1-inch balls of cake/frosting; place on waxed paper on a baking sheet. When all cake is formed into balls, place baking sheets in freezer for about 2 hours to firm.
5. Melt white chocolate. Divide into 3 bowls. Will need smallest amount of red, medium amount of blue, largest amount of white. Add several drops of food coloring to the chocolate until you get the color you desire.
6. Arrange the balls into a rectangle on a sheet pan and decide how you'd like your flag to look. Dip into white and blue colored chocolate. Allow these to harden slightly. Drizzle red chocolate over white cakeballs to simulate the red and white stripes of the flag.
7. Pop the sheet pan back in the freezer to allow the chocolate to set up quickly and continue to harden the cake inside. This helps to prevent everything from getting melty in the hot July weather.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Easy Peasy Steak Marinade

Despite its obnoxious color, Rick Bayless is onto something with this marinade. I have a slight obsession with Chef Bayless and he has never failed me! This green yumminess takes seconds to whip up and flavors the steak (or any other meat!) quickly. I left it on our steaks for about an hour and it was delectable!

Easy Steak Marinade (modified from the great Rick Bayless)
1/2 cup sliced, pickled jalapeƱos
2 tablespoons garlic
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
Salt and pepper

1. Char the garlic and jalapenos over medium heat for 10 minutes.


2. In a food processor (or in our case, the Magic Bullet (R)), combine the juices, peppers, and garlic. Mix until smooth.

3. Prepare the steaks with salt and pepper. What I have been told is to overdo it with the salt to impart more flavor. I tend to overdo it with the pepper as well :)

4. Add the marinade to a Ziploc bag, then cover the steaks with the marinade. I kept our steak/marinade bag in the refrigerator for about an hour. I then let the combo come to a warmer temperature for about a half hour before grilling by leaving it out on the counter. Make sure your grill is nice and hot before you place your steaks on it to get those gorgeous grill marks! I was too hungry to take a picture of the finished product, but trust me - delish!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Ta-Da!! New Kitchen!!

Backsplash 101

We are trying to slowly upgrade our home on a budget. We started in the kitchen with a backsplash. When we bought the house, the kitchen was fine, but compared to the beautiful and open spaces in the rest of the house, it just seem OK. Wow, what a difference the backsplash has made. It has taken this barebones kitchen to fantastic. Check it out!

We started the transformation by clearing off all the countertops and scrubbing down the wall where we would be tiling.

 Then we added SimpleMat tile adhesive. This saved us quite a bit of money and time. We were able to do the mat over 2 days and not need to worry about it drying out overnight. Since we had a party to go to Saturday afternoon, we started in the morning and got about halfway through the mats before heading out. When we started the next morning, we were able to keep going with the mat and start the tiles.

According to the packaging, we could grout immediately. So, we grouted and let it sit for a few hours before cleaning off. We love the results! Not bad for our first major DIY project!  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Eggless Chocolate Cake

I am obsessed with sweets and desserts... I could have them all day, every day. It hit me hard yesterday. I found some chocolate cake mix, opened the fridge and low and behold, no eggs. After a quick search through a book I have with cooking substitutions, I found a flax-egg substitute. I'll be honest, I was very skeptical at how it would turn out - it didn't get as airy as normal, but we are also at 7000 feet elevation, so it could be that. I also didn't have chocolate frosting, only cream cheese flavored so I had to improvise on that as well.

Eggless Chocolate Cake
1 box of cake mix - I used devil's food. I think this would work fine with anything with some color to it.
3 tablespoons flax meal
9 tablespoons water
1 and 1/2 cup water (per package)
1/2 cup vegetable oil (per package)

Chocolate Frosting
1 container cream cheese frosting
1 package chocolate pudding
1/2 cup soy milk

I love that we can get Kroger brand out here in AZ!
For the cake:
1. In a separate bowl, combine flax meal and 9 tablespoons of water to substitute for 3 eggs. (1 egg = 1 tablespoon flax to 3 tablespoons water). Stir to combine and pop in the fridge for 5-10 minutes.
2. Prepare cake according to package, substituting flax for egg after it has chilled and thickened. Bake as directed.
3. Frost when cooled.

For the frosting:
1. Mix soy milk and package of pudding.
2. Warm the frosting for 20 seconds in the microwave to soften and make it easier to mix.
3. Combine frosting with pudding mixture. Stir for several minutes then let it sit for a few minutes to thicken.
4. Frost cake, add chocolate chips to top if desired.
Eggless Chocolate Cake

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Homemade Spiced Garlic Bread

My inspiration for starting up this "blog"... aka recipe book... was Joy the Baker and she's also the source of this recipe. I made this a few months ago and we both loved it. I ended up giving half of it to our friends who had recently had a baby. It is a very dense bread that does so great with a soup, chili, or pasta. We had it with homemade potato and cheese pierogi.

Amazing Dinner!

Spicy Garlic Bread (from Joy the Baker)
1 cup water
2 and 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
4 ounces butter, melted
1 tablespoon thyme (I used dried)
1 tablespoon chives, chopped (I used fresh)
1 teaspoon chili flakes
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
~4 cups flour
Black pepper
Sea salt

1. Sprinkle yeast over warm water and add sugar, stir.
2. Melt butter, add herbs, chili, and garlic. Stir.
3. Using bread hook, mix flour, salt, and pepper. Add yeast mixture, stir on low until ball forms.
4. Place in greased bowl and allow to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size.
5. Heat oven to 450.
6. Knead dough on slightly floured surface for about 2 minutes.
7. Coat a dutch oven with olive oil and place dough in the pot. You want to use a pot that is large enough for the cover to be placed over the dough. Slice an X in the top of the dough and coat with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, fresh cracked pepper, and salt.
8. Bake covered for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 400 and bake for another 15-20 minutes uncovered.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Homemade Oatmeal Cups

I've gotten sick of eating pre-packaged granola bars at work for breakfast. They always seem to upset my stomach and never fill me up. I did a search on Pinterest for oatmeal breakfast bars and couldn't find ones with enough "umph" in them. I've added quite a bit of extra healthy parts to sub out some of the not so healthy parts.

Oatmeal Breakfast Cups (24 cupcakes)
2 eggs
1 and 1/2 banana, the riper the better!
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups applesauce
~4 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cups flax meal
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup flour
~2 and 1/2 cups soymilk

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Combine eggs, vanilla, banana, applesauce, and sugar until smooth.
3. Add oats, chia, cinnamon, baking powder, and flour.
4. Add enough soymilk to make the batter a slightly liquidy consistency; it took me about 2 and 1/2 cups.
5. Add by 1/4 cup to lined cupcake tin.
6. Before baking, top as desired. Suggestions: frozen berries; chocolate chips; butterscotch chips; coconut; dried cranberries; any combination of them. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Blackened Chicken and Veggie Bake

I was in the mood for something a little different for dinner the other day. I checked out the pantry and found a bunch of spices and some potatoes. I decided to make blackened chicken with blackened potatoes and green beans. Holy, it turned out delicious and was so easy!

The green beans got a little dark, but still very tasty!

Blackening Spices (I used all dried spices)
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 tablespoon fresh black pepper
1/2 tablespoon garlic
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme

Blackened Chicken and Veggie Bake
Blackening spices
4 boneless chicken breasts
3-4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cups fresh or frozen green beans
Olive oil
Cooking spray

1. Combine all of the spices and stir well. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Spray a 13x9 baking pan with cooking spray.
3. Add chicken, potatoes and green beans to pan.
4. Drizzle olive oil over contents of pan.
5. Add spices to top of chicken, potatoes, and green beans. Stir potatoes to ensure the bottom layers get some spice on them.

All ready for the oven!
 6. Bake at 350 until chicken is thoroughly cooked. I used frozen chicken breasts and it took about an hour.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Chicken Wing Sliders

I failed miserably at frying up some chicken wings at our Super Bowl party and we've both been craving that taste of home. So I came up with these delicious sliders the other day while staring at our pantry with 2 bottles of Anchor Bar wing sauce, a Franks hot sauce, and some bleu cheese dressing. We had some sliders on St. Patty's Day so one, two, six we have chicken wing sliders!

Buffalo Chicken Sliders with Bleu Cheese Spread and Cheese

Chicken Wing Sliders (Makes at least 12 sliders)
5 chicken breasts, frozen
1 bottle of Franks hot sauce
3 celery stalks
1 cup bleu cheese dressing
12 Hawaiian rolls
Shredded cheddar, if desired

1. As per my usual, stick the chicken and almost all the hot sauce in the crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours.
2. When its all done, shred the chicken in the hot sauce juices.

3. Let that sit with the top off while you chop up the celery into tiny pieces.
4. Mix the chopped celery with the bleu cheese and the tablespoon+ of hot sauce you saved.

5. Cut open your rolls and toast.
6. Assemble your slider with a pinch of cheese, a spoonful of bleu cheese mix, and a scoop of chicken.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

S'mores Balls

Today I am longing for summer. We are in the middle of planning the patio we are going to install this spring and I'm considering adding a small firepit for the chilly evenings we have here in the mountains. The first thing I think of when summer and bonfires come up is a gooey s'more. A perfectly toasted marshmallow, warmed chocolate pieces, and crunchy graham crackers adds up to an amazing combination. Since it is still snowing, I am craving an indoor substitute... that is where this creation came from.

S'mores balls

S'mores Balls - Makes 24-28

Ingredients for S'mores Balls. I didn't end up using the dipping chocolate since the chips melted beautifully!!

1 box Golden Grahams or similar graham cracker cereal
1 stick butter or margarine
1 bag mini marshmallows
1 bag mini chocolate chips

1. Crush about 1 cup of the cereal to fine pieces, reserve.

2. Place marshmallows in a baking pan, toast in oven on broil until desired toasty brownness is achieved.

3. Melt butter in large pot. When melted, add toasted marshmallows, stirring constantly until melted.

4. Add remaining cereal and mini chocolate chips to pot, combine well.
5. Using clean hands, roll into 1 inch balls.
6. After you've rolled all the balls, shake individually in the bag of crushed graham cereal.

Freezer Meals #1

To celebrate a long, holiday weekend I decided to do my monthly freezer meal "cooking." Most of the sites I have seen in the past actually require you to cook certain parts of the freezer meal. Since that bothers me for some reason, my freezer "cooking" day requires zero cooking at all which makes it super easy, super quick. I spent less than 2 hours from the time I started taking out the ingredients to a clean kitchen.

Today's adventure gave me 15 meals that will last us at least a month. Since it is just the two of us, each meal feeds us plus gives at least one of lunch the next day; each meal could feed a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 kids). With eating out once a week, nights we just aren't hungry, or eating leftovers, today's work will enable me to ignore major grocery shopping and prepping for awhile. A lot of my meals are adopted from ones I have found on Pinterest (Six Sisters' Stuff, When the Dinner Bell Rings, Loving My Nest) and made to fit our particular taste.

It is amazing to start the slow cooker before we head off to work and walk in to a home with a delish dinner ready to eat. All we have to do is come up with a side dish (usually mashed potatoes, pasta, rice, other grains). By the time we clean up whatever mess Zoe has left for us and change out of our work clothes, we have a complete meal ready to devour.

Below are the recipes as well as a shopping list. I made 2 of each of the chicken dishes and 1 of each pork dish. The recipes are for 1 bag while the shopping list is everything *I* used today. To save time, chop all the onions and cilantro before putting the bags together.

Creamy Ranch Chicken – 2 bags

2 cans “cream of” soups (I used celery and potato)
2 packets ranch dressing mix
8 chicken breasts

Combine ranch dressing mix and soups. Divide between bags. Place 4 chicken breasts in each bag. Seal well. Cook x8 hours on low. Serve with buttered noodles or mashed potatoes.
Cilantro Black Bean Chicken – 1 bag

1/4  bunch cilantro, washed and coarsely chopped
1 can black bean
2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
1 tablespoon garlic per bag
1/4 cup shredded cheese
4 chicken breasts

In bag place ¼ bunch cilantro, beans, juice, garlic and cheese. Combine in bag. Add 4 breasts chicken to bag. Cook on low x8 hours. Serve with rice or quinoa.

Spicy Coconut Chicken -- 1 bag

1 can coconut milk (I used lite)
2 tablespoons sriracha
1 tablespoon garlic thai chili paste
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce (low sodium)
1/4 cup white onions, chopped
1 teaspoon basil
1/4 bunch cilantro
4 chicken breasts

Combine basil and liquids in bag. Add onions and cilantro, lightly combine. Add chicken breast. Cook on low x8 hours. Serve with rice.

Spicy Taco Chicken – makes 10-12 tacos in 1 bag

**We like these spicy, feel free to use milder salsa/taco sauce and omitting the jalapenos**

1 cup salsa (I used Pace Picante® Hot)
2 tablespoons taco sauce (I used hot)
1/4 cup jalapenos
1 packet taco seasoning
1 cup shredded cheese
1 can pinto beans, ground to smooth
4 chicken breasts
1/2 cup sour cream or plain greek yogurt
Taco shells
Taco toppings (sour cream, taco sauce, lettuce, tomato, etc)

Combine spices, cheese, peppers, salsa, beans until well mixed in bag. Add chicken breasts. Cook on low x8 hours. Add sour cream or yogurt. Shred chicken. Serve with whatever toppings you’d like as tacos. We prefer this with whole grain soft taco shells.

Alfredo Chicken – 1 bag

1 jar Alfredo sauce
1 tablespoon garlic
1 cup green beans or broccoli
1/2 cup chopped white onion
4 chicken breast

Combine first 4 ingredients until mixed well in bag. Add chicken. Serve over whole grain or veggie pasta. Cook on low x8 hours.
Cranberry-Apple Pork Roast – 1 roast

1 can cranberry sauce
1 cup applesauce
1 tablespoon garlic
1/4 cup white onion
1 pork roast, 2 lbs

Mix cranberry sauce with applesauce in bag until smooth. Add garlic and onions, mix. Add pork roast. Cook on low x 8 hours. Serve with mashed potatoes.
Honey Mustard Pork Chops – 1 bag

1/2 cup mustard, Dijon or Yellow
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons agave nectar *or just a touch more honey*
4 boneless pork chops

Combine all but chops in bag. Add chops after well mixed. Cook on low x8 hours.
Cinnamon-Apple Pork Chops – 1 bag
1 cup applesauce
3 tablespoons cinnamon
4 pork chops, boneless
Mix applesauce and cinnamon in bag. Add chops. Cook on low x8 hours.
 Shopping List to Make 2 bags Each of Chicken Dishes, 1 Bag Each of Pork Dishes

2 cans “cream of” soups
2 packets ranch dressing mix
2 cans black beans
2 packets taco seasoning
2 cans pinto beans
1 can cranberry sauce
2 cans coconut milk
1 white onion
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch green onions
2 jars alfredo sauce
1 bag frozen green beans or broccoli
1 jar chopped garlic (or ~12 garlic cloves)
15 freezer bags
1 jar picante salsa
1 jar applesauce
Garlic thai chili paste
12 taco shells
Taco toppings
Soy sauce
Dijon mustard or Yellow mustard
Red wine vinegar
Apple cider vinegar
Agave nectar (optional)
Lime juice
8 pork chops, boneless ~1 inch thick
~40 chicken breasts
1 pork roast, ~2 pounds