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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Holiday Entertaining & a Scalloped Potatoes Recipe

Well, this is only a few weeks late! Life just gets in my way and I don't seem to find the time to sit and post. I probably try and overthink what to say or how to say it. Or it could be other things. 

But...here we are a few weeks after Easter and I'm getting around to finally posting one of the new recipes I tried.

I wouldn't typically try a new recipe when having company over, especially at a holiday, but I felt pretty confident that this would an easy one to play with and to fix if something didn't go quite right. 

Our Easter plans took a different turn about 3 weeks before that day. Typically we go to my in-laws, but my father in law decided he was taking my mother in law out for brunch. Alrighty then....lol..I had to really switch gears since it's been a long time since I hosted a holiday in our home (other than Christmas Eve each year). After about a week of waffling back and forth and being out of sorts as what to do (I know, that's pitiful), we invited my dad and sister over along with my oldest daughter's fiance and another friend. It was a great day! We ate, visited around the table, then drove down to the local tulip fields to look around and take some pictures. 


Here was our menu:

BBQ Pork Ribs **See Note below
Scalloped Potatoes
Teriyaki Green Beans
Deviled Eggs
Chocolate Cake
Apple Pie 

I LOVE Scalloped Potatoes, but they always seem bland to me. I'm not one for winging it, and maybe winging it on the actual holiday you are making the meal for isn't the brightest idea, but I threw caution to the wind and went for it. Thankfully it worked. Phew! Everything turned out on time and tasted wonderful. Double Phew! Let's get on with the recipe. You will have to forgive there only being one picture. There was just no time to take any staged photos. Not when you have a house full of hungry people. 



Scalloped Potatoes

Ingredients

5 medium to large potatoes peeled and sliced about 1/8" thick 
1/2 an onion thinly sliced
4 Tbs. butter
4 Tbs. flour
2 c. heavy cream
2 c. milk
2 garlic cloves
1 8oz. pkg. sharp cheddar cheese
1 8oz. pkg. gruyere cheese
to taste: mustard powder, onion powder, salt and pepper

Instructions:

1. In a saucepan, melt butter. Add flour and stir for a minute or so.

2. Add liquid, whisking to combine.

3. Add garlic and seasonings. Allow sauce to thicken, then season to taste.

4. In a 13 x 9 pan that has been buttered, layer potatoes, onion, cheese and a layer of sauce, repeat, ending with cheese and sauce. 

5. Cover with foil and bake in a 350 oven for 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender. I uncovered the last 15 minutes or so. 

**Notes: 

1. I usually make my own BBQ sauce, but sometimes I'm short on time. I found that Tony Roma's Honey BBQ sauce is really good and has decent ingredients.

2. Feel free to adjust the sauce. If it's too thick add a bit more liquid. If you just feel like you don't have enough, make a bit more or just add some more milk to it. It thickens up naturally and you don't want dry potatoes. 

With Joy UNquenchable,

Monday, March 30, 2015

Recipe: Ricotta Pizza

I think I mentioned in a previous post how much I love ricotta. I had about half a container left in the fridge and was trying to think of what to do with it. I had been snacking on it whether on a spoon, on a piece of crostini, even on a piece of toast topped with spinach and an egg (which was amazing too, by the way). Tonight I decided to use it to top a pizza. YUM! So good. I guess you could call it an open faced Calzone. LOL. 

I'm not always the best at experimenting. I'm usually afraid I'm going to ruin something and waste money and food. I'm working on that. 


 So, for a different twist on pizza give this recipe a try. 

Ingredients:

Easy Pizza Dough recipe
ricotta cheese (your preference as to how thick you want it. I used a little less than half a large container on a large pizza)
garlic powder
pepper
Chopped fresh parsley
Pizza sauce
Mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, shredded
Additional toppings: Chopped Kale, mushrooms, tomato, pepper, meat, etc..

Instructions:

Combine ricotta cheese with garlic powder and pepper to taste. Add chopped parsley, however much you desire. 
Top ricotta with sauce (I make my own with tomato sauce, italian seasoning, garlic powder and onion powder), then cheeses and additional toppings!
Bake at 375 20-30 minutes until desired doneness. 

I feel like pizza is so personal and flexible that if you just have the "foundations" you can do anything else you want and it would work. 
With Joy UNquenchable,

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Life without a Microwave

I can't remember exactly when my parents bought our first microwave. Probably sometime in the 1980's. Did you know that it was accidentally discovered in 1945. All I know is that boy was it convenient! I think it was many years before my husband and I had one in our home and our first one was a beast, I believe given to us by someone. It sat on a shelf in our garage because it was just too big for the kitchen...lol. I remember how excited I was when he bought me one to put over our stove. A few years later we sold that house and began building our new home. When it was time to get a microwave I had a few ideas of what I wanted. We headed to the appliance store to purchase our stove, dishwasher and microwave. I loved the one we purchased. It had a setting for melting and softening butter/cream cheese/chocolate. It had several other settings AND my favorite feature that sold me on it was it's rectangular glass tray that moved side to side instead of around in a circle. No more glass dishes banging the side of the microwave (my others never had the "stop turntable" feature). It lasted us 6 years and died about 6 months ago. At first we weren't quite sure what to do! We took it down, my father in law looked at it and we all deemed it wasn't worth fixing. We put it back in place because, after all, it functioned as our stove fan and overhead light and the spot where it was just looked terrible without it there. Thankfully it hasn't turned in to a storage space.

I say all that to say that 6 months later, we're still alive and we really don't think much about it anymore. We may someday get another one, or we may not. I know many people would probably say "WHAT! How in the world today can you NOT have a microwave?" I suppose to many, this would be the end of the world because they rely heavily on the microwave for all those frozen, prepackaged items that fill their freezers. We, however, do not rely on the microwave as our source of meals. It's main use was to thaw something, re-heat food, melt or soften chocolate or cream cheese, butter or coconut oil. It was never really used to "cook anything", except maybe frozen burritos that I had made or maybe the occasional hot pocket or frozen mini-pizza I gave in and bought for one of my kids. Over the years we have gotten away from things that were strictly "microwavable only" (frozen dinners, etc). 

This has taken some adjusting, and it really stinks when I realize an hour or so before dinner that I didn't take something out to thaw. But with some creativity and a little planning ahead, it has been doable. Plus with the jury still out on the safety of microwaves, we're not in a huge hurry to replace it.

So, how have we managed? Well, let me tell you:

*We don't buy foods that require a microwave to cook. 

*We use the stovetop to melt things such as butter, chocolate, coconut oil, etc..

*I make sure I plan ahead when it comes to thawing meats or other foods. If I forget or need something last minute. I turn my oven on 200, turn it off and then after a few minutes I place that item inside the oven to thaw. I'm sure someone would say that's not safe, but I cook it right away after it's thawed and we're still alive. 

*If we forget to soften butter because we wanted to make cookies, we do the same thing with the oven, placing it in a bowl or on a plate to soften.

*We have bought hot pockets and just took longer to cook them in the oven. 

*We use an air popper to make our popcorn so that wasn't an issue. 

*I've begun to rely on my Pampered Chef Round Covered Baker to re-heat foods. It does so fairly quickly while not drying out the food. OR if it's a larger amount, I cover with foil and reheat at a lower heat for longer. Some items re-heat well on the stovetop and we go that route.

*I think through what I'm making on what nights..for example, will hubby be home to eat this when it's done or will it keep on warm or reheat easily. If the answer is no, I may make something different. 


*Soups are an obvious great meal..they re-heat wonderfully!

It is tricky at times, it takes planning. The other thing it causes us to do is slow down a bit. Not be in a huge hurry. Am  I always successful? No. But it showed me we can live without some of the modern conveniences. Just as I've lived the last 2 years without a smart phone....and I'm still alive.

In our day and age we are quick to replace those things that make our lives easy. I get that. I would be really bummed if my kindle or computer when bad or my camera broke. I would do whatever it took to replace them, simply because they are a vital part of my everyday life and not necessarily something I can come up with "alternative" ways of using. Yes, I know I can survive without those things and I would if I had to, BUT to me, they're important. I encourage you to use things such as the microwave as an "extra", but not as something you rely on.  Always ask yourself, is there a way I can manage without it. What can I change that will allow me to live without this item.


I'd love to hear about things that you've gone without and how you have adapted. 


With Joy UNquenchable,

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Recipe: Calzones

I love Calzones. Before I had my oldest, I worked for a heating and air conditioning company. One of the employees was Italian and he gave me a recipe for his wife's calzones. I have since lost the recipe, and only made them a few times. When my youngest and I were in Las Vegas last month we ate at a wonderful Italian restaurant and both had calzones. Mine was spinach and cheese and she had BBQ chicken. They were so good I knew I wanted to make them sometime for the family. 

Last night was the night! YUM! Turned out great. I think I could've made them smaller and brought the filling further towards the end...it's so tricky sometimes to know how far out to go and how much to fill. You don't want the toppings to break the crust when you fold it over, but you don't want massive amounts of bread either. Well, maybe you do! Haha!

I made two versions. Mine had ricotta cheese, seasoned ground beef, mushrooms, spinach, marinara sauce, an mozzarella cheese. Hubby's and my youngest had BBQ chicken, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese and in hubby's, spinach and mushroom. I served extra sauce on the side. 


I believe that a "true" calzone should contain ricotta cheese. While some people don't like the texture of ricotta, I think it adds a creaminess to the calzone that just makes it that much more wonderful. The remaining ingredients can be to your liking. Pepperoni would be good as well or sausage. YUM! I considered serving a salad along with it, but we get full quickly so I passed that up. The fam could grab some if they wanted it. 

Ingredients

Recipe for Yummy Pizza Crust (I doubled this and it made 4 large calzones)..SEE NOTE BELOW ON CRUST

Ricotta cheese
Garlic powder
Parsley
Pepper
mozzarella cheese
Other filling ingredient options: Fresh Spinach, mushrooms, BBQ chicken, pepperoni, sausage, ground beef, onion, olives, marinara sauce, Alfredo sauce, etc.


**CRUST NOTE: My recipe does not have this rising. Another recipe (exact same ingredients), had it rising for 40 minutes. I did this for the calzones. I'm not sure what the difference would be if it didn't rise...I found the dough was easier to work with after it had risen.

Instructions:

1.  Once crust is ready, divide in to 4 pieces (or the number you need). Pat or roll out into a circle, again, the size you desire. 
2. Spread ricotta cheese on half of round. Top with remaining ingredients. 

3. Fold over the other half of the dough. Fold and pinch edges to seal. (I couldn't get mine to look pretty like other pictures. 

4. Place on cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. 

5. Remove from oven and serve immediately. Serve sauces on the side for dipping or place over the top of calzone. 

 *SAUCE NOTE: I placed sauce inside our calzones...the BBQ sauce was mixed with the chicken, and I drizzled a little marinara inside of mine..however, you don't want too much inside if you choose this option because your calzone could become soggy.


With Joy UNquenchable,

Friday, March 20, 2015

Recipe: Biscuit Topped Pot Pie


 One of our favorite meals is homemade chicken pot pie. It's creamy, delicious and fairly easy to make. I love when an already simple meal can be made even easier. 

Here is the recipe for my Chicken Potpie. A few days ago I made a whole chicken in the crockpot. We ate some of it and I saved the leftovers for another meal. Personal chicken pot pies were what I had in mind, AND instead of making a pie crust, I decided to top it with a biscuit. The result was a success and I will definitely make this version again. The nice thing about this is you can make the filling ahead of time and when you get home all you need to do is make your biscuits, top and put in the oven. This can be ready to eat in about 30 minutes start to finish. Using leftover chicken, or whatever meat you have helps to make it a quick meal. 
One thing I would do differently is to double the filling recipe depending on how many you make, or at least the liquid part of it (butter, flour, broth, whipping cream) because it does absorb. One recipe made three large mugs, but both hubby and my youngest said it needed more filling, I thought it was fine. 
Biscuit Topped Pot Pie

Ingredients

Pot pie Filling

For Biscuits:
     2 c. flour
     4 tsp. Baking powder
     1/2 tsp. salt
     1 egg
     1/2 c. butter
     2/3 c. milk
     shredded parmesan cheese
Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add butter and combine till it resembles fine crumbs. Combine milk and egg and add to mixture, stirring just until combined. On a floured surface, knead dough about 20 times. Roll out to 3/4" thick and cut to fit your mugs, ramekin or whatever you choose to use. Sprinkle with cheese. Place on a large baking sheet.
Bake at 425 till biscuits are slightly browned and cooked through. Mine took about 15-20 minutes. They were larger and I think being in the mugs caused them to take a bit longer than if they were just on the pan. 
Allow to cool and make sure no one grabs the mug handle...wink, wink.

You could make the biscuits separate and just top the mugs, ramekins at the end but I like baking the biscuit in with it. 


With Joy UNquenchable,

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