Thursday, June 30, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Keno Part 2 (Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Since I am going to be out of town next week, I made an extra new recipe this week. I had eaten and enjoyed this dessert years ago so when I saw it in one of my cookbooks, I knew I would be making it soon. The second Keno party date was set and I had the dessert responsibility. The party and food was such a success, I added the main coarse pasta recipe too (it was awesome)!

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

* 3 cups finely crushed pretzels
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 3/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
* 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 8-ounce container frozen whipped dessert topping, thawed
* 2 10-ounce packages frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed
* 2 3-ounce packages strawberry-flavor gelatin
* 2 cups boiling water

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For crust, in a medium bowl combine crushed pretzels and the 1/2 cup sugar. Add melted butter; stir well to combine. Press pretzel mixture into an ungreased 9x13-inch baking pan or baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool in pan or dish on a wire rack.

2) In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and the 1 cup sugar; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until well mixed. Slowly heat in the dessert topping. Spread over cooled crust.

3) In another large bowl combine strawberries and gelatin. Stir in the boiling water. Stir about 2 minutes or until gelatin is dissolved. Carefully pour gelatin mixture over the cream cheese layer. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours or until set.

Makes 24 servings. Recipe found in Better Homes and Garden 9 x 13 The Pan That Can cookbook.

From my experience: I had to modify the butter amount, because my supply was low. The recipe calls for 1 and 1/2 sticks of butter melted, but I only had 1 stick and a little leftover butter spread in the tub. Once it was all melted and mixed with the pretzel crumbs and sugar, there seemed more than enough butter. I say realistically you only need one stick. If you mix the crust ingredients in a bowl well, there will be plenty of butter to go around. While the crust was baking, I started the water to boil. Next I mixed the cream cheese and sugar. As the crust was cooling, I continued to work on the strawberry gelatin mix. I probably didn't let the cream cheese cool enough. After all layers were added, I noticed a few small chunks of the middle cream cheese mix start to float to the top. I just spooned it out to keep it neat, but more surfaced as it all cooled in the fridge. It still tasted great! The pretzel bottom adds an unexpected goodness with its salty yet sweet flavor and crunchy textrure. Try this new twist on on a jello recipe!

Baked Ziti and Summer Vegetables

4 ounces uncooked ziti
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow squash
1 cup chopped zucchini
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cups chopped tomato
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup (2 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan. Add squash, zucchini, and onion; saute 5 minutes. Add tomato and garlic; saute 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in pasta, 1/2 cup mozzarella, herbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper.

4. Combine ricotta, remaining salt, and eggs. Stir in pasta mixture. Spoon into an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until bubbly and browned.
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1 1/2 cups).

The Game Plan
While pasta cooks:
* Saute veggies.
While pasta bakes:
* Prepare salad for a side dish.

Recipe found in the July 2011 edition of Cooking Light magazine.

Recipe of the Week: Tequila-Lime Shrimp

I added this recipe since we were about to go on vacation, where I wouldn't be doing much cooking and certainly no experimentation. It was tried and tested by my mother-in-law, but we were asked to come to dinner and therefore saw the final steps and tasted this new recipe.

Tequila-Lime Shrimp
(for 1 lb. shrimp)

2 Tbsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. tequila
1/4 cup olive oil
fresh garlic
fresh cilantro
black pepper
fresh jalapeno
garnish with lime wedges

1. Mix marinade, and put it in a bag with shrimp. Let marinade for 1-4 hours.

2. Discard marinade, then put shrimp on skewers.

3. Grill shrimp skewers 5-7 minutes on medium heat.

From my experience: She of course had added salt, and I think used only 1 jalapeno. It seemed to be a fairly easy recipe to follow. The most difficult part for here was peeling and deveining the shrimp. The result was very good, but we agreed it needed more tang in the taste. I think maybe less oil, since there seemed to be plenty of liquid in the marinade. Another suggestion, would be to add lime zest and more of the juice. I think I will try this recipe again, if the right occasion were to arise. Hopefully, Sloane will try it next time. She is not a shrimp fan as you can see.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mexican Martini

I am adding a bonus recipe, since it was such a hit the week we were in Colorado. It is similar to the Trudy's restaurant version. A while ago, my good friend came to Austin, ate at Trudy's and fell in love with their Mexican Martinis. Afterward, her husband looked up their recipe online to recreate the drink. They joined us in Colorado last year, and brought all of the fixings for this favorite drink; we certainly enjoyed them too! They weren't able to come with us this summer, however their martini recipe was a success again!

Mexican Martini

Mix in a shaker with ice:
* 1.5 ounces Tequila
* 1.5 ounces Triple Sec
* 2 ounces Sweet & Sour mix
* 1 ounce orange juice
* 1 ounce lime juice

Shake and stain into a glass with green olives.
* If you want it extra dirty, then only put 1/2 ounce lime juice and 1/2 ounce of green olive juice instead of the 1 ounce of lime juice.

My friend Stacy and I are toasting are martinis just before midnight to celebrate the last of my twenties! I turned 30 0n June 19th (but I still feel 25).

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Traditional Beef & Bean Chili and Pasta Fagioli

We were in Colorado last week, and the weather was much different than the Texas heat; it actually snowed one day! While there I noticed a magazine laying around our house with "great winter recipes". It was a calling for some cooking experimentation. I ended up making a chili and soup recipe from the magazine.

Traditional Beef & Bean Chili
makes 10 servings

2 pounds ground round
1 large onion, diced
1 sweet red pepper, cored and diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
6 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 can (28 ounces) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cans (15 ounces each) dark kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Sour cream and chopped scallions, for serving (optional)

1) Coat a large heavy bottomed pot with nonstick cooking spray. Add ground beef and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add onion, pepper, and garlic and cook 4 minutes. Stir in chili powder, oregano, cumin, and cayenne. Cook 1 minute.

2) Stir in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar, tomato paste, and salt. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and stir in beans. Heat through, then serve garnished with sour cream and scallions, if desired.

From my experience: I altered this recipe so I could finish it in the slow-cooker. I did as directed in step 1, then threw it all in the Crockpot. To stretch the recipe, I used a little extra meat and another can of the tomatoes with their juice but also added the whole small can of tomato paste to keep it thick. I also added alot more chili powder, cumin, and oregano. To make it a little healthier, I used half ground turkey and half lean ground beef. I couldn't get a picture and we ended up not having enough for our large crowd it was so good; I should have added another can of beans and/or more meat. Enjoy!

Pasta Fagioli
makes 8 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
2 cans (14.5ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken broth
8 ounces (about 2 cups) small pasta shells
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 bunch fresh kale, tough stems discarded, cut into 1-inch pieces and washed
2 cans small white beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Grated Parmesan, for serving

1) Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute.

2) Stir in tomatoes, broth and 3 cups water.
Bring to a simmer over high heat. Add pasta, and Italian seasoning. Cook, stirring, 5 minutes.

3) Stir in kale; cook 5 minutes more. Reduce heat to medium and stir in beans, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Heat through.

4) Ladle into bowls; garnish with Parmesan.

From my experience: I made this in the slow-cooker as well and just threw it all in the pot. I used another can of the tomatoes and the whole can of tomato paste again since the effect was so good on the chili recipe. To simplify things and stretch the soup, I used the 32-ounce carton of chicken broth. I added more noodles to accommodate for the extra liquid. This recipe was so simple, because everything cooked in the Crockpot, even the noodles. It also healthy and yummy too! Enjoy!

Recipes found in the February 2011 edition of Family Circle magazine.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Triple-Berry Smoothie

This week I didn't cook much, since my husband was gone some of the week. This was the perfect opportunity to try out a smoothie from this pamplet found in one of my Food Network magazines; it contained 50 smoothie varieties. I tried the Triple-Berry smoothie, but added some others that sounded delicious!

Triple-Berry Smoothie

Blend 1 1/2 cups mixed blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries with 1 cup each milk and ice, and sugar to taste.

From my experience: You could definitely use the frozen mixed berry bag of fruit found at any grocery story, but I had all of these fruits at home. I added some blueberries to my mix, since I only had a few blackberries and raspberries on hand. Then I added about two teaspoons of sugar. It was yummy!

Other Smoothies...
Blend 2 bananas, 1/2 cup each vanilla yogurt and milk, 2 teaspoons honey, a pinch of cinnamon and 1 cup of ice. (for Strawberry-Banana substitute one banana for 1 cup of strawberries)

Blend 1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries, 1 chopped pear, 1 1/2 cups each maple or plain yogurt and ice and sugar to taste. (This one interested me since I never seem to eat all of the pears I buy plus I typically have frozen blueberries in my freezer.)

Blend 2 cups chopped cantelope, the juice of 1/2 lime, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 cup water and 1 cup ice.

Blend 1 banana, 1 cup chocolate ice cream, 1/2 cup milk, a pinch of salt, and 1/2 cup ice.


Blend 3/4 cup frozen orange or orange-tangerine concentrate with 1/2 cup cold water and 1 cup each vanilla ice cream and ice.

Creamy Pineapple
Blend 2 cups chopped pineapple, 1/2 cup cottage cheese, 1/4 cup milk, 2 teaspoons honey, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, a pinch each of nutmeg and salt, and 2 cups ice.

Blend 1 cup strawberries, 2 peeled kiwis, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 2 cups ice.

Peanut Butter-Apple
Blend 1 chopped peeled apple, 3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter, 2 tablespoons flax seeds, 1 1/2 cups each soy milk and ice, and honey to taste. (For the body builders out there.)

Spa Cucumber
Peel, seed, and chop 2 medium cucumbers. Blend with the juice of 1 lime, 1/2 cup water, 1 cup ice and 3 to 4 tablespoons sugar or honey.

Freeze 3 cups cubed seeded watermelon until hard. Blend with 1 cup cubed fresh seeded watermelon, the juice of 1 lime, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 cup water. (I have some frozen watermelon in freezer now because it was so much we just couldn't finish it. I knew I could find a good use for it later!)

Found in the April 2011 edition of the Food Network Magazine.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Memorial Day On The Lake

We spent Memorial Day with our friends Kristin and David on Lake Travis. We boated out to a cove and swam for a while. This was the first time for Sloane to ride in a boat, and she really liked that part of our day. On the other hand, she wasn't so keen on swimming, but we tried to capture her better moments on camera. She wanted to be held in the water or back in the boat. Jake and I spent the day trading off and putting her in and out of the water. Overall we had a super fun day on the water!

Love these sunglasses! They wrap around her head for
security. We are trying to get her used to them, but so
far she won't keep them on for long.

She looks like she was going to jump, but we had to pull her in.

Taking a drink break!

Thank you Kristin and Dave for taking us out on the water!

Friday, June 3, 2011

15 Months

Sloane went for her 15 month appointment recently (when I started this post, now she is 16 months) . She weighed 20 lbs. 8 oz. which put her in the 15 percentile, but she is 31.5 inches tall and in the 80th percentile. We knew she had hit a growth spurt, because now she can retrieve objects that were once out of her reach like our key dish. She loves to get our cell phones or keys from that table and run away with them. Her head circumference was in the 45th percentile at 46 cm. She still only has 6 teeth, 4 on top and two on bottom. She still sleeps about 11-12 hours each night with one 2 hour nap a day which could be either the morning or afternoon depending on our schedule for that day. She loves to eat fruit and anything sweet, however she's not so interested in most vegetables. Dinnertime is usually very frustrating, but her doctor assured me Sloane is not considered a picky eater. The doctor said she didn't see any coming in either.

Sloane has really progressed in her speech. She mimicks words and has starting to speak 2-syllable words, "dog" went to "doggy". She loves books too, and will bring one to you, sit in your lap expecting you to immediately start reading to her despite whatever other engagement you are involved. She especially likes to do so when Jake is playing video games! Sloane has become a daddy's girl lately, so she tends to go toward him alot. She also loves to watch Sesame Street, it is the only show that sustains her interest and attention. She says Cookie and Elmo, but pronounces it "Melmo". She is stiving for more independence now wanting to go down stairs and try eating with utensils, and has become more mischievous too. As I mentioned earlier, Sloane will get something she knows she isn't supposed to, like our keys or the TV remote, then run away with it. She has even figured out that corners make good places to hide! She goes back to the doctor at 18 months.

Here are some things Miss Sloane can do:
*says 3-6 words
*points to body parts: eyes, nose, ears, mouth, toes, hair
*understand some simple commands: get your book, get your drink
*recognizes herself in mirrors
*indicates what she wants by pulling, pointing, and grunting

Recipe of the Week: Keno Night! (Chuy's Creamy Jalapeno Dip & Mexican Cheese Puffs)

I missed my recipe experiment for last week, but made up for it when I hosted a Keno party at my house for my Mops group. Keno is a very similar to Bingo except the cards contain pictures of playing cards instead of numbers. Everyone brought gifts to be won as prizes, so we played several rounds. Before playing, we had a simple taco salad buffet for dinner with taco meat, lettuce, black beans, chopped tomatoes and bell peppers, sour cream, grated cheese, Chuy's Creamy Jalapeno Dip, two kinds of salsa, Mexican Cheese puffs, homemade Sangria, and tea. For dessert, there was a fruit sampler with fruit punch dip, and puff pastries cut in half to provide the option for fruit sandwiches. We all had a fun time!

Chuy's Creamy Jalapeno Dip

1-Pkg. Hidden Valley ranch dressing mix
1-Cup milk
1-Cup mayonnaise
1-Jalapeno (more if you want it spicier)
1 or 2-Serrano peppers
Handful of cilantro

Mix all ingredients in food processor. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. Serve cold with tortilla chips or vegetables.

Recipe found in 2009 ACF Women's Retreat Collection of Favorite Recipes.

From my experience:
I have always wanted to try this recipe, so my Keno menu created the perfect opportunity. Chuy's is an Austin Mexican food restaurant with amazing Creamy Jalapeno Ranch. It's so good it's not just reserved for salad, people typically eat it with chips. For this occasion, we doubled the recipe making it in a blender. My friend Kim, shown in the picture who graciously helped me host, used 2 jalapenos and 3 serrano peppers, and it was pretty spicy. To cut it we added more cilantro and another 1/2 cup of mayo, making the total of mayonnaise in our recipe 2 1/2 cups. We also used light mayonnaise, which consequently gave the dressing a sweet flavor. To fix that we added two heaping tablespoons of sour cream. Afterward, it was perfect! You can be the judge if it tasted like Chuy's version. I will definitely make this recipe again.

Mexican Cheese Puffs

1 Cup Bisquick
3 Tbs. chopped green chiles
1 Cup shredded cheese
3 Tbs. softened butter
1 Egg

Mix baking mix, butter, chiles, and egg well. Stir in cheese. Drop by spoonfuls 1 inch apart on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes in 400 degree oven.

Recipe found in Recipes From the Heart, favorites collected through the generations Fellowship Baptist Church.

From my experience: This recipe was super simple. It reminded me of the recipe for sausage balls, which I'm sure you could fuse the two together to make an even yummier dish. I used the whole can (the largest sized-can sold) of green chiles; since I doubled the recipe, I used the larger-sized can. I doubled it just in case, and used whole-wheat baking mix because I had a friend coming that doesn't eat white flour. It tasted fine, but needed some salt. I sprinkled garlic salt into the mix after tasting the first batch from the oven. This recipe was a success. Enjoy!

Bonus recipe: Party Bowl Sangria

1 (1.5 liter) Red Sangria wine cube
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 lb. strawberries, sliced
1 orange, sliced into thin rounds
1 lime, sliced into thin rounds
1 lemon, sliced into thin rounds
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into bite-size pieces
1 cinnamon stick
1.5 liters club soda

1. In large punch bowl, combine all ingredients, except club soda.

2. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours to blend flavors.

3. When ready to serve, stir in club soda.

Recipe from Super Target.

From my experience: Above is my friend, Kelly posed sipping the sangria! I have made this recipe a few times, and each time it has turned out differently based on the wine I have used. This time I tried using a simple table red wine, cheap Yellow Tail cabernet sauviagnion, instead of Sangria wine. I doubled this recipe using two bottles, but only put one serving of the club soda into my mix. This time I tried, a 1.25 liter bottle of Crystal Geyser Natural Lime Flavor Sparkling Mineral Water, and the effect was awesome. It had no sugar, but cut the strong wine flavor in the sangria, so I will definitely use it again. Below is a picture of the gang getting ready to play.