Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Homemade Whole Wheat English Muffins


This was a fun recipe for a leisurely relaxing Saturday afternoon. My son was down for a nap, my husband was "organizing" the garage, and I played in the kitchen the entire time with no interruptions and in perfect peace and quiet. It was delightful! These English Muffins turned out great, so it was the cherry on top of a nice afternoon.

We have eaten these in all different kinds of variations, as homemade Egg and Cheese Muffins, and with jelly or vegetable cream cheese, and each time they toast well and hold up to whatever we're topping them with.

The original recipe had white flour, but I revised it to be mostly whole wheat, and while I do think this probably changed the end result, they were still great English Muffins. I've been able to find lots of cheaper white english muffins at the store, but haven't been able to find reasonable whole wheat english muffins. So this is it!

The only things I would change for the next time I make these would be to make sure I rolled the dough thick enough because I had a few muffins that were a little lean even after rising, and to make sure I used a large enough biscuit cutter - I made mine purposefully smaller that the normal size you buy at the store, but they are so good, I would want them regular size or larger!

If you're looking for a great way to use up this English Muffins, check out English Muffin Egg Strata or Ham and Cheese Toasters.


Whole Wheat English Muffins
recipe adapted from Mommy's Kitchen & Happy Housewife

1 cup hot water
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp honey
2 tsp salt
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
2 tsp instant yeast
3 Tbs. softened butter
Cornmeal

Mix together water, milk, honey and salt. Add 2 cups of flour and the yeast. Mix until you have a loose batter. Cover the mixture and let rise for about 1 hour. Add the butter and the remainder of the flour. Roll out dough on a surface sprinkled with cornmeal to about 1/2 inch thick and cut into circles. Place on a baking sheet with a sheet of waxed paper. Make sure it is greased lightly so they wont stick. Let rise until doubled (about two hours) Cook on a hot (about 350 degrees), well buttered griddle until they are light brown. Turn once while cooking. Cool and eat.

I am sharing this at Eat At Home's Ingredient Spotlight: Whole Wheat Flour.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Make Ahead: Muffin Tin Meatloaves

I needed to make dinner ahead of time and have it ready to be easily reheated. The only thing I had left on the meal plan was meatloaf, but wanted to make it super easy for my husband so I made Muffin Tin Meatloaves.

I made my regular meatloaf recipe, then split it up into a standard muffin tin and baked them for 20 mins at 350 degrees.

The verdict?
I thought this worked great for me early in the day, because it was a short baking time, and it was easy just to pop the mini meatloaves on the plate and reheat in the microwave when I got home later at night. My husband didn't have an opinion either way, but I thought it was nice! :) Plus the ketchup swirls were fun to make!

I am sharing this at Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays, Tasty Tuesdays, and Ultimate Recipe Swap.

This recipe is now included in my Creatively Domestic's Freezer Meals ebook for sale on Amazon. To view this recipe and many others, please visit (and buy if you're interested) from that site.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Eggplant Salad with Chickpeas & Feta

I'm still struggling with my eggplant aversion, so I keep on trying new recipes for eggplant. This recipe has chickpeas and feta along with the eggplant, so that's 2 out of the 3 main ingredients that I love!

This wasn't a star recipe, but it was a great use of eggplant as a side dish. I am also sharing this at Mouthwatering Mondays.

Eggplant Salad with Chickpeas and Feta
adapted from Everyday Food

Roasted Eggplant:
3 medium eggplants (about 1 pound each)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

Eggplant Salad:
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
Roasted Eggplant
1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (I used 1 tsp dried parsley flakes - no mint!)

Roasted Eggplant:
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Cut eggplants into 1-inch cubes; divide between two rimmed baking sheets. Dividing evenly, drizzle with oil, salt, and pepper; toss to coat. Spread in a single layer; roast, turning once, until golden and tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on sheets.

Eggplant Salad:
In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, oil, salt, and ground pepper. Add roasted eggplant, chickpeas, feta cheese, and chopped mint leaves; toss to combine.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Friday, September 25, 2009

Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan

Another week, another new slow cooker recipe, and I was pretty leery after the Orange Chicken of last week. My recipes with a slow cooker seem to either be incredibly fantastic or a fantastic disaster. This one was the rock-star new recipe of the week..it rocked! Super easy to put together, and very yummy.

I am sharing this at The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap, so stop over there for more recipes!


Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan
adapted from A Year of Crockpotting


2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 egg, beaten
sliced mozzarella cheese
Jar of marinara sauce


Spread the 1 T of olive oil into the bottom of your crockpot stoneware insert.

Beat the egg in a bowl. Combine the bread crumbs with the seasonings and Parmesan cheese in another separate shallow bowl or plate. Dip the chicken into the egg, then into the bread crumb mixture, coating both sides with crumb mixture. Place the chicken breast pieces in the bottom of the crock. Layer 2-3 slices of mozzarella cheese on top. Cover with entire jar of marinara sauce.


Close lid and cook on low for 6-7 hours or high for 3-4. If your chicken is still frozen, it will take longer. Mine was 3 thawed chicken breasts and took about 5 hours on low.


Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Orange Chicken in the Crockpot

I'm always looking for crockpot recipes, and I get excited when I find new ones that sound great. We have not ordered Chinese takeout for a long time, and this looked like a great "make your own takeout" meal.

The verdict?
The chicken got a little dried out, but we loved the sauce. It had a very strong orange taste, bordering on too strong, but it balanced out the brown rice and broccoli we paired with it.

Orange Chicken
recipe adapted from A Year of Crockpotting

1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken, cut in 2-inch chunks
1/2 cup flour
olive oil, for browning the chicken
1 tablespoon kosher salt
6 ounces (1/2 can) frozen no-pulp orange juice concentrate, thawed
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons ketchup

Dredge the chicken pieces with the flour, and shake off the excess. Go ahead and throw away any remaining flour, we won't need it. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on the stove and brown the chicken on all sides. There is no need to fully cook it, just sear it enough for the flour to stick and get a nice coating.

Plop the chicken pieces into your slow cooker. In a small mixing bowl, combine the orange juice concentrate, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt, and ketchup. Pour sauce mixture evenly over the chicken, and toss gingerly to coat.

Cover and cook on low for 6 hours, or on high for 3 to 4. Serve over rice.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Oatmeal Almond Crisps


Oh, how I miss cookies on this healthy eating plan. But these Oatmeal Almond Crisps don't make me feel that bad about eating something sweet. The almonds that end up toasted in the cookies are a great flavor!

The edges of the cookies do get a little brown, and they are a little sticky to put on the baking sheets, but the finished product is totally worth it!

I am also sharing this at Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays and Eat at Home's Ingredient Spotlight: Nuts - stop over for some great recipes!

Oatmeal Almond Crisps
Makes 20 servings
from Everyday Food

1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter melted
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups rolled oats not quick cooking
1/2 cup sliced almonds

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. (I used silicone baking mats)

2. In a large bowl, whisk brown sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Mix in oats and almonds

3. Drop mixture by level tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart. Spray the underside of a metal spatula with nonstick cooking spray, and use to flatten cookies into 2 1/2 inch disks

4. Bake until golden, 14 to 16 minutes. Cool completely on baking sheets. (handle with care; cookies are fragile.)

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Natural Fruit & Veggie Wash

I love my Veggie Wash. I would do an infommerical with what it does for broccoli for a lifetime supply of it, and have actually harassed visitors to my house to watch what it does to some vegetables!

But, the Veggie Wash is expensive! When I saw this link for Homemade Organic Fruit and Vegetable Wash, I thought I'd give it a try.

While researching their site, I found out it can be used on counter tops, too. I think this would be a good cleaner to use on the inside of microwaves and frigs, too, because who wants to eat dried, heated 409. Yuck-o!

The verdict?
Cheap, easy, and it works. The tri-fecta!

Natural Fruit & Veggie Wash
(this could be called Organic Wash, if you used an organic lemon/vinegar)

1 tablespoon lemon
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 cup tap water

Combine in a spray bottle. After spraying your veggies, rinse off with water.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Corn Salad

I have been getting lots of corn in my produce basket. And my husband is not a huge fan of corn, so I have been trying to use it up with some new recipes.

I love the combination of fresh tomatoes and real mayo, and the lime juice really thins out the mayo and gives it some tang.

I adapted the recipe from this recipe from allrecipes.com, and it worked out great for a side as our dinner. And my husband ate the salad and was pleasantly surprised! I will be making this again!

Corn Salad

3 ears corn, boiled, then kernels cut off the cob
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 green pepper
1 cucumber, diced
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 small lime, juiced
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, mix the corn, tomatoes, green pepper, cucumber, and onion. Fold in the lime juice and mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper. Cover, and chill at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Produce Basket Day!

I get so excited to pick up my Produce Club Basket on Thursdays. I get all my veggies from Hydro Taste, and this basket was so full, I couldn't carry it by the handle!

You can see cauliflower, leeks, zucchini, pineapple, asparagus, lettuce and bananas all peeking out, but underneath there were:
  • Red potatoes
  • Green beans
  • Red & Yellow tomatoes
  • Pomegrante
  • Pear
  • Apples
  • Yellow Squash
  • Beets
  • Corn
  • Celery
  • Florida Avocado
As you can see, the variety each week is great! Not all of it is locally grown, but the majority of it is from my state, and it's a ton of veggies for $18 a week!

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Friday, September 11, 2009

Freezing Mashed Banana

Whenever I have a browning slightly scary banana, I mash it up, and put it into a plastic container. As the days and weeks go by, forgotten bananas get mashed up and added to this container.

Once the container is at it's 1 cup max and is completely full, I have enough for banana bread or muffins!

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thin Cracker-Crust Pizza Crust

We love to order thin crust when we have our pizza delivered. Our pizza place actually charges you 50 cents more for thin crust, which I feel like is an oxymoron, but I don't debate it with them.

So I went on the hunt for a Thin Crust recipe, and found a great tuturial at Pizzamaking.com. While I know that most success in the kitchen is due to technique, and not exclusively ingredients, this recipe seemed to have all the "tricks" down, and it was very educational to learn all the advantages commercial pizza makers have...I mean really, a machine that rolls your dough thinner and thinner for you? Totally unfair!

The verdict?
The overnight rising time was a bit of a change, but once it was in the bowl, it was nice to have it waiting for me right before dinner. I made this TWICE in one week. The second time, I achieved a thinner crust because I rolled the dough thinner and didn't get afraid of the extra I was cutting off...I just re-rolled them into breadsticks!

This was great and I think I'll keep using the recipe, although I might make a few ahead of time and freeze them, just to cut down the steps even further!

Thin Cracker-Crust Pizza Crust
adapted from www.pizzamaking.com

1 pound (or about 3 1/2 cups) high gluten flour (I ended up using approx 2 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

For the pizza:
Pizza sauce/tomato sauce of your choice
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Toppings of your choice

In a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the water, oil, yeast, salt, and sugar. Mix thoroughly until yeast has fully dissolved. Add flour and mix on low speed until all the flour and water have mixed and a stiff dough ball forms, about 3 to 4 minutes. Don't overmix; this type of dough should not be kneaded.
Place the dough ball in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in the frig for 24 hours.

When you are ready to make the pizza, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
Turn the dough out onto a large surface and dust with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out very thin (form a 24 inch or larger circle).

Place the dough in the pan and prick the dough with a fork to create holes all over the dough. Use the rolling pin to trim off the excess dough drooping over the sides of the pan.
Precook the crust for 4 minutes, and after removing from the oven, pop any large air pockets that might have formed. (I had parchment paper under the dough originally, but it got pretty burned in the oven...so I removed it after it had pre-baked. I didn't use parchment the second time I made this and the dough did not stick)

Add the sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, and toppings of your choice. Continue baking on the lowest oven rack until crust is browned and crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove pizza from the oven and (if possible) slide pizza out of the cooking pan onto a large wire cooling rack or cutting board. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before cutting.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Big Birthday Cookie

My husband requested a big birthday cookie instead of cake for his birthday celebration this year...but I've never made one before!

I made a half recipe of my favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, and I probably could have only made 1/4 recipe. You could use your favorite dough recipe, or buy a tube of dough from the grocery store.

This is a basic pizza pan, and then I lined it with parchment paper to be sure it wouldn't stick. To spread it evenly, I used my favorite spatula of all time, my offset spatula. I use it all the time, for everything and it makes me feel like a kitchen goddess.

Here is the dough all spread out, ready to be baked.

Then it baked at 350 degrees (my recipe normally calls for 375 degrees) for around 15 minutes - although I kept a close eye on it towards the end and checked it twice with a toothpick.

The next day, I did a quasi-decoration with white frosting. Oh, my cake decorating skills are so basic...and I honestly don't have the patience to do anything complicated. But it ALL got eaten, and the birthday boy was happy!

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

This is prefect rendition of a fall recipe, and it makes your house smell awesome while the vegetables are roasting. The roasted garlic is one of the star flavors of this recipe. This soup is also easy to make ahead, and then heat in a saucepan right before you want to serve it.

I am also sharing this at Mouthwatering Mondays, stop over there to check out the yummy recipes!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Makes 8 servings (2 quarts)

3 pounds unpeeled butternut squash halved and seeded
2 large unpeeled onions
1 small garlic bulb
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons dried thyme
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Cut squash into eight large pieces. Place cut side up in a 15 in x 10 inch x 1 inch baking pan. Cut 1/4 inch off top of onions and garlic bulbs (the end that comes to a closed point). Place cut side up in a baking pan.

Brush with oil; sprinkle with thyme. Cover tightly and bake at 350ยบ for 1 1/2-2 hours or until vegetables are very tender.

Uncover and let stand until lukewarm. Remove peel from squash and onions; remove soft garlic from skins.

Combine vegetables, broth and cream. Puree in small batches in a blender or food processor until smooth; transfer to a large saucepan. Add parsley, salt and pepper; heat through (do not boil). Garnish with thyme if desired.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Monday, September 7, 2009

Christmas Food Gifts: start thinking!


So I have started thinking about Christmas and the food gifts I'd like to give this year. And no, I don't make fruitcake!

I like having the gifts on hand starting right after Thanksgiving, since there are a lot of Christmas events and parties that start pretty early in December, and you never know which acquaintance will surprise you with a gift.

I like to tell myself that homemade food gifts are appreciated:
  • because not a lot of people cook from scratch anymore
  • it's a gift that is consumed and doesn't stick around to clutter up someone else's house
  • its adds to their Christmas celebration alongside their own food creations
But I still struggle with the cost vs effort vs my own feelings of "how can my jam even COMPARE to the expensive/noisy/large toy you just gave my son?" Also my extended family always had Christmas celebrations that were focused on the huge spread of Christmas "goodies" brought, and everyone made their own Chex Mix, why would you give them a gift that they can make themselves.....alas, see my inner demons?

Homemade Food Gifts that I have given in the past:


or jam of any kind!


Frozen Cinnamon Roll "pucks" with instructions for how to prepare
or baked pans of Cinnamon Rolls

Chex Mix - classic but always well received

Fantasy Fudge - surprisingly easy and totally gets that chocolate fix

Buckeyes (ugh - lots of work! but hopefully worth it!)

I'm hoping by thinking about it now, I will be able to start making the gifts right around Thanksgiving. I will probably create 1-2 gifts similar to list above, but I haven't nailed it down yet.

What are some Christmas food gifts that you've given or received?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Birthday Lunch Menu

Today is my husband's birthday and we are celebrating by having a big lunch with my in-laws over. I am serving:
I know he thinks this is a little overboard, but he's totally worth it!

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette

We have been avoiding processed foods, so when we got sick of eating our salads with just oil and vinegar, we needed a good salad dressing that could give us some variety. I think this salad dressing tastes very similar to Panera's Classic Cafe Salad, which I love.

It's very easy to keep this salad dressing in a screw-top container and give it a little shakey-shake when you pull it out of the frig - it's just as easy as one of those "regular" salad dressings from the store! The longer it's kept in the frig, the more likely the olive oil might harden, so if it does, just leave it on the counter to bring it to room temp. (Or cheat and throw it in the microwave for a few seconds, shaking after each 'zapping')

Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette
recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons brown sugar optional (If using a good quality balsamic vinegar you should not need the sugar, but if using a lesser quality you might want the sugar to round out the dressing.)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic (or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil

Put all the dry ingreidents into a screw-top jar,

Add the vinegar and olive oil. Shake to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

If not using dressing right away, cover and refrigerate, shaking again before use. I use an old Taco Bell salsa glass container...that's recycling at it's best!

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Food Network Chefs Challenge: Aaron's Potatoes Au Gratin

I am participating in the Food Network Chefs Cooking Challenge, where the challenge is cooking its way through all the Food Network Chefs.
This week is Aaron McCargo, Jr., who is the host of "Big Daddy's House", although I have to admit I don't know much about him or ever watched his show. I totally missed the season that he won The Next Food Network Star, and I've watched about 2 minutes max of his show on Food Network. So I didn't have any idea of what recipe of his I wanted to try.

I scrolled through his Top 100 recipes, his Potatoes Au Gratin caught my eye because it could easily flow into my meal plan, didn't have any unusual ingredients, and I had everything on hand to make it.

The verdict?
I baked for 50 minutes, and the potatoes were a little hard still. So I threw the potatoes into the microwave for 10 minutes, then back into the oven for 10 minutes with the foil off to crisp up the topping. This was the same issue that I've had the other times I've tried to make homemade au gratin/scalloped potatoes...cooking time. I have decided I'm going to have to give them a good 2 hour window, so I'm not waiting impatiently for the potatoes to cool.

But when we started eating the potatoes....oh yummy. They were so much better than an box you can buy anywhere. They tasted like real potatoes, and were the highlight of our whole dinner. This recipe made a ton of potatoes, so I have been enjoying eating them for lunch so far this week.

Potatoes Au Gratin
Adapted from Aaron McCargo Jr's recipe on Food Network

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups milk
1/2 cup grated yellow Cheddar

1/4 cup grated American cheese

1/4 cup grated white cheddar

1 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder

1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 pounds russet potatoes, washed and scrubbed, peeled and sliced thin
(I did some slices by hand, but then used my food processor to slice them up)

Topping:
1 stick butter, melted
2 cups bread crumbs
2 teaspoons smoky paprika
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large sauce pot over medium-high heat, melt butter. Whisk in the flour until combined. Add milk a little at a time, whisking to remove lumps; continue to cook for 6 minutes, or until it is thickened. Lower heat and add the cheese, bouillon, nutmeg and black pepper. Whisk until well combined and sauce thickens, approximately 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
For the topping, combine melted butter, bread crumbs and smoky paprika in a bowl. Stir well.
Spray a casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray, and layer 1/3 of potatoes in the bottom of the dish. Pour 1/3 of cheese sauce over potatoes, then repeat with another 1/3 of potatoes and sauce, ending with the cheese sauce on top and sprinkle with topping.
Wrap with foil and bake in oven for 60 minutes. Remove foil and cook for 10-15 minutes uncovered. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.


Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Quick Eggplant Parmesan

OK, I goofed. I totally forgot to peel the eggplant before making this modified version of Eggplant Parmesan. I didn't realize it until we sat down to eat. Don't ya' hate that when it happens? I was so heartbroken since it tasted so yummy, that I decided to post the recipe with photos anyway.

I love the taste of Eggplant Parmesan, but I don't like the layered form that it usually takes. It seems like overkill, and so...squishy. Must be a texture thing on my end. I received an eggplant in my Produce Basket, so I decided to do a "quick" version.

The verdict?
Well, despite still having the peel on, these Eggplant Parmesan rounds were a big hit at house. My 2-year old even ate a few bites of eggplant - hooray!

I am also sharing this recipe at Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays - please stop over there to see more yummy recipes!

Quick Eggplant Parmesan

1 eggplant peeled and thinly sliced (**Don't forget!**)
1 egg beaten
2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2 cups spaghetti sauce, warmed (I used homemade tomato sauce)
8 oz mozzarella cheese shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Dip eggplant slices in egg, then in bread crumbs.

Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes on each side.

In a greased 9x13 inch baking dish, put a layer of eggplant slices. Put a dollop of spaghetti sauce on each eggplant round, then sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.


Crank on the broiler, and broil until the sauce is warmed and the cheese is lightly browned.



Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking