Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Who actually says "Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner"? [hides in the corner with hand raised]

In our house, Chicken Parmesan is a Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner.  When we do meal planning, Andy will often say, "Oh Chicken Parm, that's easy."  To which I say give him a baffled look and ask what part of that is easy. Don't get me wrong, it's worth the work.  But when you have to first pound out the chicken, then dip it flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs, fry it, then heat up the sauce, then bake it all, still boil some noodles, it makes for a giant mess and far too many steps (and dirty dishes) in the kitchen.
I saw a couple minute video on Facebook for Chicken Parmesan Bake - sure looked interesting.  Basically cook the chicken in bite size pieces, then stir in some sauce, top with cheese, bread crumbs and more cheese - bake and done.  Serve over some noodles and just like that - Chicken Parm.  there is nothing quite like fried chicken, but this dish is a bit healthier - less oil - and is done in 45 minutes, including baking time.  I think you could even make it the night ahead and pop it in the oven.  Maybe even freeze it... ohhh... another freezer meal.  I do like a good freezer meal. :)

Chicken Parmesan Bake

16 oz already cooked rotisserie chicken
16 oz marinara sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella
½ cup shredded parmesan
1 cup panko or other type of breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp olive oil
optional fresh herbs, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Spray an 8×8 baking pan with non-stick spray.
3. Add the chicken and marinara to the baking pan and mix well together.
4. Sprinkle the cheese over top of the chicken and sauce.
5. In a small bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, olive oil, and herbs until well mixed. Spread them evenly in the pan on top of the cheese.
6. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Of Pee and Basement Raining

Do you have a to do list?  One that is a general working list of things you need to do, but flexible so if you can't get it all done, that's no biggie.  I had a list like that a few Saturdays ago.  On it, to make Apple Cider Cinnamon Rolls for my sister-in-law's birthday brunch.  Also on it, a lot of other things.  Well, enter in Child #1 and the possibility she was sick.  I say possibility because it seemed like maybe she was?  Maybe she wasn't, UTI's aren't always something easy to figure out.  So, called the doc Saturday morning, they needed to see her.  Off we go to the doctor.  Did we bring a sample of pee.  Well no, had someone told us that on the phone - we would have.  Alas, we did not.  So we sit in tears in the public restroom at the doctors office a while, then go to Grandma's house for snacks and a drink - phew... success, drop it back off and then back home, hours after we had hope to be home.  Meanwhile Andy was having his own crazy morning - bringing the boy for a blood test and a haircut... probably just as tough to get blood out of a 7 month old as it is to get pee out of a 3 year old... just sayin'.  We met up at home - grabbed some Mc-A-Donalds for lunch, then tried to regroup.  We had a picnic and a birthday party to get to.  I quickly read online that the first rise of dough could happen in the fridge, so as fast as I could I threw the dough together and tossed it in the fridge.  As we packed up for the picnic, I grabbed a bottle of bubbles, as I was outside filling it up, I heard running water through the bathroom window.  Never have I run so fast.  You see, 3 year olds have an amazing ability to use an entire roll of toilet paper in just one day.  Our 1950's toilet does not take kindly to this.  Running to plunge, running to get towels from the basement and put a bucket under the water pouring from the basement ceiling, back up to soak up as much as I can with the towels.  Andy walked into the house from outside in the middle of this nightmare.  So he ran as well.  At this point it was comical.  How many more things could happen today that weren't on that dang to do list?
We made sure things weren't dripping anymore and we went to the picnic, had a lovely time, then to the birthday party.  Another nice time.  Back home, kids in bed, now, to see how my dough was rising.  Of course - just to make the day complete - it hadn't.  It was a sticky sloppy mess in the fridge.  Seemed fitting.  What to do?  What to do?  We could scratch it and just get something at the grocery store.  I could make something else.  I could just roll these silly things out and hope.  That's what I did.  I added a little flour and rolled out the rolls.  Sautéed some apples with brown sugar and butter, added them to the filling and tossed the rolls in the pan.  They were a pathetic looking mess.  By this point I was not willing to just stick them back in the fridge and hope the rising process would happen, instead, I tossed them in the oven to rise over night.  I do this with Rhodes Cinnamon Rolls, why not my own?  Into the oven they went with a prayer and a hope.
The next morning I heard Bronwyn wake up just before 7 and I sat straight up - the cinnamon rolls.  Raced down the stairs and found the most beautifully risen rolls.  They were perfect.  Baked them and added the icing - so pretty.  They tasted even better.  While I wouldn't advise our insane day as the best method of cinnamon roll making, I would say this is a very interesting idea as far as baking with yeast for me.  Making the dough, refrigerating it immediately, rolling it out before bed and letting the rise happen overnight.  I may just have to try it again to see if it was just a fluke or the real deal.
Now Bronwyn did not have a UTI and now we have plans to gut the bathroom this winter, so some good happened that day, but by far the best thing - were those cinnamon rolls.
You can tell how unconfident I was about this recipe… I only took photos with my phone for the laugh factor.

Apple Cider Cinnamon Rolls


For the Dough:
1 package active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
3/4 cup apple cider (heated to about 110-120°F, about 30-45 seconds in the microwave)
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3 - 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

For the Filling:
5 tablespoons butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 heaping cup (about 1 medium) peeled, cored, and diced apple (your favorite kind) sautéed with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, optional

For the Frosting
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 tablespoons apple cider

Make the Dough:
1.Place apple cider in a microwave safe measuring cup. Heat for about seconds in the microwave, until it’s about 110-120°F. (The time you heat it will need to be adjusted depending on your microwave. You can use a candy or a meat thermometer to test the temperature. Also, think very hot bathwater.) Add yeast and stir. Let it sit for a few minutes.
2.Place sugar, butter, salt, and egg in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until the butter is distributed throughout the liquids, although it may be chunky. Pour in the cider/yeast mixture and stir for a few seconds.
3.Add 3 cups of flour and stir with the paddle attachment just until the mixture starts to stick to the paddle. Then replace the paddle with the dough hook. Continue mixing on low speed until the dough forms a ball in the center of the bowl. If dough is still very sticky, you can add an additional 1/4 cup of flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
4.Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and place the dough ball in it. Spray the top of the dough ball with cooking spray (lightly) and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let sit for 1-3 hours until it doubles in size. Note on rising: if your house is warm, it should rise no problem. If it’s cold in your house, it may take longer for the dough to rise.

Prepare your Rolls:
1.Stir together butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour until it forms a paste.
2.Once the dough is risen, roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle, about 10” by 14”. Spread the filling as evenly as possible over the rectangle, making sure to reach to the sides so the outer rolls have enough filling. Sprinkle with the chopped apple and nuts (if using).
3.Roll the dough up tightly from the long end. Decide how many rolls you want. You can make 8 big rolls, 9 medium, or 12 small. (8 rolls: 8x12” pan, 9 rolls: 9” pan or 9 1/2” round pie plate, 12 rolls: 9x13” pan.) Place the rolls into a pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
4.Cover the rolls with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
5.When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and let them warm up to room temperature while the oven is preheating. Remove the plastic wrap and bake for 23-28 minutes, or until they are golden brown.

Make the frosting:
1.Whisk the melted butter and softened cream cheese until mostly smooth. If your cream cheese is too stiff, you can use a hand mixer. Whisk/beat in powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons apple cider. Add more cider as you want for consistency. Pour over warm rolls and serve.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Ipema Family Canning Exchange 2015

It was once again time for our family canning exchange.  I might change it to jar exchange - because we had such a variety of different items in jars this time.  hot cocoa mix, dried basil, bacon jam, pickles, pickled beats, hot stuff (yep that's what it's called), bread mix, potato soup mix, peach butter, berry rhubarb jam, and some nutjob brought mint extract.  (I'm the nut job - more on that mint extract later....)
It's a fun fall night to get together, talk and laugh.  The stories are always my favorite part.  We even commented on it that the stories are great.  We sample each item one at a time, let the maker tell their story and tell us their adventure in canning. 
I always invite all the ladies in our family to join in the fun, but I think some are intimidated by the idea of canning, but honestly - if I can bring mint scented vodka to the party - I think anything is a go.
Thanks ladies for making the night wonderful and full of great fellowship.  Let's do it again next year!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Running and no one is chasing me...

I accomplished something last month I never even considered I might do... I ran a 5K Race.  Now mind you I was not running to win anything, it was actually a fund raiser for a food bank in Illinois (one our church works with).
This crazy running started back in July but it goes back further than that.  When I got pregnant with my son I realized I didn't actually lose the weight from my daughter - two years prior.  Getting off the floor pregnant or not was not pretty.  Fast forward to March - 6 weeks after my son was  born, pounds were coming off - yay!  Off they came, then they stopped.  I realized I was going to have to do something about it.  A year before our office had done a weight loss challenge and had started using MyFitnessPal and oddly enough it was still on my phone.  So, tracked my food for a week, lost weight.  It was amazing.
In May we had a step competition between Andy, My sister-in-law Allison, and our friend Dawn.  Who could take the most amount of steps in the month.  The day before it ended Al and I called a tie - we were both tired and said enough was enough.  More than 10K steps a day, that got the weight moving off too.
Well July came.  My brain was cooking up an idea of doing a couch to 5K program.  Andy said he'd do it too.  We'd end it with running a 5K.  We even went out together and bought running shoes!  That first Monday morning at 5AM on our $15 Goodwill treadmill was about as close to hell as I think running should come.  What did I do Wednesday?  Got up and did it all over again.  Some how in the last 3 months I worked up to running for 30 minutes.  I've had a few setback, killed a few bugs in the dark morning basement, gotten quite the startle by a very small mouse, but almost 28 pounds since I started in March, I can run for 3 miles and not die.
What's next?  I'm thinking I'll try to keep running - especially since Allison and I have another 5K in November.  I have a goal for March - but we'll see if that happens... I'm not saying what it is, that way if I don't make it - no one will know...
Oh and Andy?  He never did do the training program.  Those nice new shoes?  He ran in them for the first time on Saturday at the 5K.  Yes folks, me 9 weeks of training, Andy tosses shoes on and runs 3 miles.  He probably could have run it twice.  Oh well, I was thankful to have someone by my side supporting me as he always does.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Nectarine - The Naked Peach

Some days don't you just feel lazy about some things?  I feel that way about skinning peaches.  Sure, taking the skin off would be a better plan, but sometimes?  You just don't feel like going through all the work.  On the flip side, for the same recipe I made the dough from scratch, even using my secret weapon - the cheese grater on the butter to ensure a flaky crust.  But skin those peaches?  Nah, I bought nectarines instead!  You see, you can ignore the skin on those.
This tart is amazingly simple.  You cut fruit, let it sit in some sugar and vanilla, make some crust, let it rest, roll it, plop it, bake it, eat it.  I think this tart warmed with a scoop of ice cream on top would be the perfect desert.  We were boring people and ate it room temperature with no ice cream.  Hindsight - right?  Too bad there was none left to try it the next day...

Rustic Strawberry Nectarine Tart

2 ripe nectarines, pitted, sliced (not frozen)
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries (not frozen)
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (careful not to
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, grated on a cheese grater
1/4 cup ice water, plus more as needed
1 egg, beaten for egg wash
additional sugar for sprinkling

1.Make the filling: Mix the nectarines and strawberries together in a medium bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla, tossing well to coat the fruit. Set aside and allow the mixture to soak as you prepare the crust.
2.Make the crust: In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl. Using a pastry cutter (or your hands), cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse, pea-sized crumbs. Add 1/4 cup of ice water, stirring with a fork until the flour is moistened. Add up to 2 more Tablespoons of ice water if the dough seems dry. Gently knead the dough a few times in the bowl until it all comes together. Shape the dough into a ball and flatten it into a thick disk, as pictured above. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour.
3.Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.
4.On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 12-inch circle. Trim the rim of the circle to make a clean cut if desired. Transfer dough to the prepared baking sheet.
5.Spoon the fruit (not the juices) into the center of the dough, leaving a 2-3 inch border all around, as pictured above. Gently fold the edges of the dough over the fruit, overlapping the dough as necessary. Press gently to seal the edges. Pour most of the reserved juices over the fruit, leaving about 1-2 Tablespoons behind. Too much juice and the dough will become soggy.
6.Brush the crust with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the crust is golden brown, Remove from the oven and allow to slightly cool before serving.
7.If you wish to drizzle with vanilla glaze, use the glaze recipe from here. Serve warm or at room temperature.
8.Tart tastes best on the same day it is baked. Cover tart with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
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