Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How to cut a Pineapple

The other day I was at our commissary and I heard some girls talking and their conversation went something like this:

Girl 1: Ugh, I wish I knew how to cut pineapples...I hear fresh pineapple is really good.
Girl 2: Meh, it's whatever it probably tastes just as good as the canned stuff.

Okay, when does the stuff in a can ever taste as good as the fresh stuff???
So I figured I would make a simple post about how to cut a pineapple just to show people it really is simple!


When you are picking out a fresh pineapple I always buy one that is green and then set it out in my house to ripen. I personally think that fruit doesn't ripen well in stores, so I always buy fruit that isn't quite ripe.


For this you will need a cutting board and a chef's knife, as well as a pineapple.


1. Cut the top off on the pineapple (don't cut the bottom off yet or else it will slide all over the place!)
2. Cut the skin off of the side. Try and do about 2 inch strips so that you don't cut off too much of the good parts!
3. Cut the pineapple in half and then cut the bottom off.
4. Once in half, quarter each half.


Pineapples half a "core" it's just a really tough part, you will be able to see it because it is a different shade of yellow. Once you get your knife in, it will naturally fall and cut along the core. (the core is generally very sweet, kind of like chewing on a piece of sugar cane. Pineapple is actually good for your dog, so you can give them the cores to chew on and eat.


Once you have the cores off chop it into bite size pieces, and place them in a container to be refrigerated!

See, it wasn't that difficult! Now go buy a fresh pineapple and not that canned stuff.














Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Italian Hot Ham & Cheese

This is a great change up to the elementary cafeteria classic Hot Ham & Cheese. I usually make this if I need an easy rushed meal, and like always, they reheat the next day well!





Ingredients:
Sliced ham
sliced Provolone
Burger Buns
Italian Seasoning

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Next I put one slice of provolone on the bottom, then two slices of ham, and then another slice of provolone. Shake a little Italian seasoning on top.



Wrap the whole thing in foil and stick it in the oven for 10 minutes.


Once they are done just check one to make sure the cheese is all melted. And then you are ready to serve! To be honest I usually just have chips with this. Like I said this it my easy night meal!


Hope you all like it!








Monday, April 15, 2013

Crab Dip

Growing up there were special occasions in which we would get "Fun Food!" Super Bowls, New Years, dinner parties, my mom would go out and buy certain foods to celebrate. We always got really excited because we only got it a couple of times a year. I remember getting rye bread and dill dip, little smokies, 6 layer taco dip, and crab dip!! Mom would buy the crab dip from the store and also some of the imitation crab for us to dip in cocktail sauce! We always got super excited about food like this.

Moving out to California I can't find the crab dip that our grocery store would make and sell in their deli, so I decided to just make my own! It's so yummy, and a nice snack to have around or an easy party dip! So here is my recipe.



Ingredients:
1 heaping cup of imitation crab chopped
8oz softened cream cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise 
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 TBL finely chopped onion
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder

All you have to do if mix the cream cheese and mayonnaise first until combined. Add in the garlic and onion powder and mix. Last add the onion, celery, and crab. Let it chill over night in the fridge.


And you are done! I like to just use Club Crackers with mine, but Rye Chips would be yummy too. There are so many different crackers that just taste so good with this. And what's great, since it uses imitation crab, this dip doesn't taste very much like seafood, so even my seafood hating husband could eat it!

Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fiesta Soup

I haven't posted in the past couple of days because Jared and I have been out and about getting stuff done, so cooking hasn't happened. But tonight we used some leftover shredded chicken from taco night to make some Fiesta Soup!

If you want the recipe for the chicken that I used just click HERE. The 3 chicken breasts I use in that recipe makes enough for tacos for Jared and I (dinner and a couple lunches), and then a giant pot of Fiesta soup! So it makes lots of shredded chicken, to say the least.....

So I came up with this recipe when I had lots of leftovers I needed to get rid of. It started as the "6 can Tortilla Soup" that you see everywhere, but I didn't want to use canned chicken, I wanted more fresh veggies, and I wanted to make it a bit more "hardy." So it has evolved more and more each time I make it, so now we just call it Fiesta Soup.

So let's get started!

Ingredients:
1 - 15 oz can of Fiesta Corn (or just regular corn if you want)
2 - 14.5 oz cans of chicken broth
1 can of black beans
1 - 10 oz can of diced tomatoes with chilles (I use the Rotel brand)
3 stalks of celery chopped
1/2 of a medium white onion chopped
1 chopped carrot
6 oz of Egg noodles (they usually come in a 12oz bag so just estimate half of that)
2 cups of shredded chicken (again, I use my leftover taco chicken)

Honestly, this is my leftover soup! When I first made it I just wanted to get rid of the leftover veggies in my fridge before they went bad, and it turned out pretty darn well! In fact now that I think about it, I used the noodles because I had those leftover from Beef Stroganoff, and the chicken like I said from taco night. So this is truly leftover soup, that will make plenty of leftovers.

But let's move on to the cooking part. It's simple, add all the cans into a large pot. Then get the noodles boiling in a separate pot. While those are boiling chop the celery, carrot, and onion and add that to the large pot as well. Add in the 2 cups of chicken. Once the noodles are done add those as well. Let it all boil until the veggies are tender. And that's it!! Can you believe it?



It's honestly that simple! This is so easy to change up too. If you are vegetarian you can easily make this with a veggie stock and leave out the meat and it's still a great hardy soup.

Yes this makes a ton for just two people, BUT this helps us with our budget. Jared packs it for his at work and I'll eat the leftovers for lunch also. It reheats extremely well!

Well I hope you all try this and enjoy it! Jared is leaving for training again soon which generally means I don't cook much, so hopefully I'll test out some dessert recipes, and post some reviews of my favorite kitchen products.

Hope everyone has a great week!!











Thursday, April 11, 2013

Favorite Kitchen Tools: The Kitchen Dial

When I come across recipes that make enough for 6-8 people I generally try and cut it in half. Or I always have to hop on Google to figure out how many ounces are in a cup, or weird conversions like that. I started making a list of measurements I convert on a regular basis but that was a hassle.

But I was thankful to learn that, "THERE'S AN APP FOR THAT!"

Of course there is. So smartphone users go download "Kitchen Dial"

It is so simple to use! It has saved my butt a million times. Of course now I'm getting pretty lazy with my basic math, but I'm pretty okay with that.

Just set the top dial to what you need converted and then the bottom to what you want it to be converted to. That's it! I know there are lots of other converters, but I like this one because I don't have to type anything in. It's quick and easy to read.

The basic Kitchen Dial is free, but if you are wanting even more then for .99 cents you can get the Kitchen Dial-Pro. This let's you type in any number you want to be converted, not just there listed numbers, and also has measurements like "pinch" or "rice cup."

I have both on my phone, the basic one for quick easy conversions, but the Pro for if I need something a little bit tougher.

So try out the Kitchen Dial!



Asain Inspired Steak

I love this recipe, mostly because I love steak, but also because it comes out perfectly cooked every time! I first found this recipe on Martha Stuart's website, but because I am who I am, I had to change it a little because sometimes I feel like her recipes call for odd ingredients and somewhat unnecessary steps. Basically I just simplified it!

I love this recipe for days I know we will be busy. I make the marinade really quick in the morning and then all I have to do is throw it in the oven that night for dinner. Easy!

So here is my version of Asian inspired steak!



Ingredients:
1lb Flank Steak (you could probably fit 2lbs of steak in this marinade if you wanted to make more)
2 limes (or 1/4 cup of lime juice)
1/4 cup Rice Vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 TBL olive oil
1 tsp crushed red pepper
2 gloves of garlic



Rice vinegar might seem like a weird ingredient, I was about to ditch a recipe when it called for it, but I have actually ended up using it a lot! I love the taste of it! So go out and pick some up, if it isn't by the vinegar in your grocery store, check in the Asian food section.

As suggested I'm going to TRY and keep track of how long these recipes take me to prep and cook, which is tricky since every step I pause to take a picture. But I will try my best!

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes (plus time to marinade)
Cook Time: 8 minutes

Alright let's get started! First make your marinade. Sometimes I make mine the night before and let it set over night, but most of the time I have forgotten to defrost my meat so I just make the marinade in the morning or afternoon and it is just as fine. So either over night or for about 6 hours.

If you are using fresh lime make sure you use some sort of juicer so you get ALL the juice out, if you don't have a juicer, then just cut them into small wedges so it will be easier to squeeze all the juice out.

Juice both limes into a bowl, with the vinegar, soy sauce, oil, and crushed red pepper. Next crush the two cloves of garlic, you can either use a garlic press or the side of your knife like so:


 Just please don't cut yourself. Add the crushed garlic to the marinade and mix it all together.

Once it is all mix (as best as you can, the oil will always try and separate) pour it in a Ziploc bag. Next, I cut my flank steak in half before I put it in the marinade, you don't have to. But before you place it in the marinade use your knife to pierce the steak several times on the top and flip it over and do the same on the bottom. This will really help the marinade soak in! Once you are done put the steak into the bag with the marinade and then refrigerate.


Let it marinade either over night or for about 6 hours.

Once you are ready to cook turn your oven to broil on high. Remove the steaks from the marinade and place them on a baking sheet with the crushed garlic on top.

Broil them for 8 minutes, and do not flip them. This will get them to Medium, they will be a little pink in the middle, but I promise it won't be mooing. I LOVE rare steak and Jared likes his steak medium well, and the way this is cooked is just perfect for both of us!

I love to top mine off with a big handful of cilantro, but I didn't have any on hand this time.

Tips: Learn your oven! Back home my mom had an electric oven, so to broil something you moved the rack up about 6in away from the coil. But then I moved out here where I have a gas oven and the broiler is separate underneath my oven, so all I do is pull open the door and set my baking pan in.

Good luck, I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!














Magic Chicken

This was named by Jared. One night I cooked this big meal and he came in and said he was sorry but he wasn't feeling well so he might not eat. I was a little frustrated but whatever I would just make him reheat it the next day. So he sat down at the table with my while I ate, and he decided to try a piece. He ended up eating TONS, and he says it "cured" him. So that's how he came up with the name Magic Chicken. Probably his favorite meal I make. What's even better is that this was a total fluke, I messed up a recipe big time and so I just scratched it and came up with this!

Note: This is not a very healthy meal.....probably why it tastes so good...

Ingredients:
2-3 Chicken Breasts
1 packet of dry Italian dressing
1 stick of butter
sliced Provolone cheese


Yes, one whole stick of butter, like I said not very healthy.... Anyways, you could always use just half the pack of Italian dressing and a half stick of butter if you want to cut back on the butter. I personally love butter, so I don't. 

Let's get started!

First trim the chicken. I cut the fat off of it and then I cut it into smaller pieces just so that they aren't so thick and they will cook faster. I'm posting a picture so you can kind of see where I cut.

Just trim it so that they breasts aren't so thick, trust me it will cut down your cooking time, and it helps avoid pink chicken which is a big "no no."

Next melt the butter and mix it with the dry dressing in a large mixing bowl. Place your chicken in with the dressing, and try and cover the chicken with it as best as you can.

Since the chicken is cold you might notice the dressing to harden on it, that is okay! Next place a large pan on medium heat and once it is hot, place the chicken in the pan.

Use a spoon to get any of the extra dressing out of the bowl and smear it on the chicken.

Flip the chicken over once they are nice and golden brown! I should have timed how long mine took but I got distracted and forgot, sorry! Anyways, just the underside and once that is golden brown, cut into the thickest part of the chicken to check for pink. If it's all white then you have the all clear to add on your cheese!

Turn your heat on low then add cheese to the top and then cover with a lid so that the steam melts the cheese. Once it is all melted you are ready to serve!

Usually I make green beans (that you can find HERE) or something healthy with this, but I just made stuffing this time around. Again, unhealthy but so delicious!!

I hope this Chicken ends up being magic for you too! Enjoy!












Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Fettuccine Alfredo

Possibly my favorite food ever! And it's so easy to make! This is probably my "go-to" meal for night when I don't feel like cooking something. So let's get started!

I'm going to post the recipe that will make 1lb of pasta, it is VERY simple to half. 1lb of pasta will serve about 6-8 people, so when you half it, it will serve 3-4. I always half the recipe for Jared and I.



Ingredients:
1lb Fettucine noodles
1 pint of heavy whipping cream
1 stick of butter
1 cup of grated Parmesan (the Kraft Parmesan works great, you don't need anything fancy)
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp of garlic powder
Salt and Pepper

See everything is a one! So like I said it's super simple to half!! When I first started making this I used fresh garlic and minced onion, but I really didn't like the texture in my sauce... So I use the garlic and onion powder now, because it gives the sauce the flavor without chunks of onion and garlic. If you don't mind that texture then just used fresh garlic and onion.

Get your pasta boiling before you start your sauce, fettuccine takes longer to boil than a past like spaghetti so keep that in mind.

First, pour the cream into a pot on medium heat. Cut your butter into small chunks, and once you start seeing little bubbles in the cream add the butter. If you start seeing more than just little bubbles around the edge turn your heat down. Whisk the cream every so often until the butter is melted. 

If you don't own a whisk, go buy one! A spoon or fork won't blend everything together well enough.

Next add in the Parmesan. Add it slowly! This is important, if you add it all at once if won't blend in properly and you will get chunks. You could even just add it by the spoonful just to be safe. Add a little and whisk, add a little and whisk, until it is all combined.

Once the Parmesan is combined, add in your garlic and onion powder and whisk that. A couple shakes of salt and pepper to taste.

Strain your pasta when you are done and mix it with the sauce!

Want chicken with your fettuccine?? That's simple too!

Ingredients:
Chicken tenderlions
Kraft Zesty Italian dressing

Just coat the chicken with the dressing and throw it on the grill, or in a pan. We don't have a grill so we bought a Calphalon non-stick grill pan. It is great!!! We use it all the time! Try to only flip the chicken once, the more you flip it the drier it will get.



And that's it! Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo! In the picture the sauce looks a little thin, but I promise its just the picture, this is the creamiest most delicious sauce ever!

I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do!






Monday, April 8, 2013

Crockpot Shredded Chicken Tacos

This is one of mine and Jared's personal favorites! It's easy, cheap, and there are plenty of leftovers so I can use it for other stuff too! I love recipes that last so that we can use it for lunches, or other recipes. So I hope you all like this as much as we do!

Ingredients:
3 Chicken Breasts
16oz. of Salsa (I use Pace)
1/2 packet of taco seasoning (I use Old El Paso)

Directions:
Pour the salsa and taco seasoning into a crockpot and mix. Place chicken breasts in and spoon the mixture on top until they are covered.

Cook on High for 4-6 hours or Low for 6-8.
It might not look very pretty but just wait! Now take two forks and shred it. It should just fall apart super easy!
And there you have it! Shredded chicken for tacos!

Three chicken breasts will feed about 4-6 people depending on how much they eat. If you have 2 very hungry marines in the house, then this will only feed 3.... Usually when it's just Jared and I, we use the leftovers for Tortilla Soup, I'll post that recipe some other time!

Hope you enjoy!









Easy Guacamole

I love guacamole, it's a great snack and easy to make a bigger batch for a party. Out here in California the avocados are SO much cheaper, so I'm always buying them for everything.

So here's a quick and easy recipe for great Guacamole!



Ingredients:
Avocados (However many you want)
Onion
Tomato **Optional
Salt



Directions:

Start by taking the pit out of the avocado, I just hit it pretty hard with my knife, then twist and it comes out. Then slice the avocado up and down, and side to side. This makes it easy to scoop out, and helps when it comes time to mash it. Scoop out the avocado into a bowl and mash it with a fork. If you are making a big batch for a party using more than just a couple avocados, it is easier to just throw it into a food processor instead of mashing it by hand.


Next dice up some onion and tomato, if you don't like either of those you don't have to add them. I usually add onion to mine, and if it's for a party then I add tomato. Shake some salt in and mix it up!



See, I told you it was easy! The next post I'll show you some delicious shredded chicken tacos to use your guacamole with!









Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fresh Green Beans

On weekends we mostly eat leftovers from the week or easy meals, since it's our time to relax. So I don't have a meal to share, but I thought I would share an easy side that I make for lot's of my meals.

Fresh Green Beans!! They are so yummy. These taste so much better than frozen, and they are so easy!



Warning: Tonight we didn't measure anything, and Jared forgot to weigh the green beans so we are just going to estimate everything!

Ingredients:

Fresh Green Beans -of course- We grab about 3-4 big handfuls
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 large clove of garlic minced
1/2 TBL Butter
About 1 TBL of real bacon bits (I like the real Hormel bacon bits, the jar looks small but they have lasted a long time for us!)
Salt and Pepper



Instructions:

First thing you need to do is snap the tops and bottoms off of your green beans and then snap them in half. If you like longer green beans then don't both snapping them in half. This is a good time to get your husband or kids to chip in to make the process go a little quicker. Jared did a good job!


While you are snapping the green beans get a pot of water boiling. The amount of green beans we use fit in a 2qt pot perfectly! Once you are done snapping give them a good rinse.






Add the green beans to the boiling water and let them boil for about 5 minutes, this will keep them a little crunchy still so the softer you like them the longer you should boil them. While they are boiling chop your onion and garlic. Melt the butter in a sauce pan and add the onion and garlic and let those cook and soften. Once the green beans are done boiling drain them and RINSE THEM AGAIN! You will see after boiling them even more dirt will come off so you want to give them one more good rinse. Add them to the sauce pan with the onion and garlic. Add the bacon bit, and a couple shakes of salt and pepper. And you are all done!!




Tips and Tricks:
 You can just freeze them ahead of time! Buy lots of green beans ahead of time and wash and snap them. Boil them and then rinse them with COLD water. Separate them into the serving size you want and pack them in freezer bags and freeze. Then when you need them you can skip straight to putting them into the sauce pan. This is great on a Saturday when we aren't doing much I make a few bags full for the next few weeks. Don't my weekends just sound like a blast??

Hope this is helpful!
Happy cooking!


Friday, April 5, 2013

Chicken and Dumplings

There is nothing like a good bowl of homemade Chicken and Dumplings!!! As a kid it was probably one of my favorite meals my mom would make for us! I always thought a meal like this took hours to make, but I was quite surprised at how little of time it took. So don't look at this recipe and turn it down right away because you have to roll out some dumplings, I promise it's simple!



Ingredients:
2-3 cups shredded chicken, depending on how much chicken you like. (I used leftovers from my rotisserie chicken found HERE)
2.5qts of Chicken broth (or 3 of the 26 oz boxes of Swansen chicken broth)
Salt and Pepper
Italian seaoning

   Dumpling Ingredients:
    1 1/4 cups Flour
    1/4 cup Crisco
    1/2 tsp. Salt
    1/4 cup Milk
    1 Egg

Directions:

To start off pour your broth into a large pot and let it start to boil, place your chicken in also. While that is heating up start work on your dumplings.

For the dumplings for combine the flour, Crisco, and salt. Once those are mixed add in the milk and egg. Knead the dough. If your dough is super sticky and won't let go of your hand, add a little extra flour.

Roll the dough out very thin. Next use a pizza cutter to cut it into strips.



Once they are cut, make sure your chicken and broth have come to a rolling boil and add the dumplings. Make sure they are separated while you are adding them or else you will end up with giant dough balls. Let them boil for about 7 minutes.



To check if the dumplings are cooked, take one out and taste it (make sure you don't burn your tongue like I did!). If it still tastes doughy in the middle let them keep boiling. Add salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. I didn't measure how much, just a few shakes of each.


And now you are ready to serve!!

Tips and Tricks:
I think the next time I make this I might try adding some veggies in with it. It is delicious on it's own, but a few extra vitamins never killed anyone!

When I was little my mom would get out the Christmas cookie cutters and give us a section of dough that we were allowed to cut whatever shapes we wanted. Of course that meant everyone had to dig through there bowls and return each shape to their proper owner before we could start eating. But it was a fun way that my mom let us help out with dinner!

Once Jared tried it his response was, "Wow, this is better than the MRE 'chicken and dumplings!'" So apparently I can make better food than the Meals Ready to Eat, that the Marine Corps supplies. I will call that a success!

Have fun cooking!!