Monday, March 29, 2010

Home on the Ranch

Remember how I said I am a "dash of this - pinch of that" cook? The problem with this is when I make stuff I really like, I never know exactly what I did to get it to come out that way. Like the ranch style dip I made last night. Yep, freestyle cooking strikes again. I do remember the ingredients I used though! Hopefully if I make note of them while I still remember, it will help the next time I want to make dip or dressing.

"Home on the Ranch" Dip

Sour Cream (I am guessing about one cup)
Regular Mayonnaise - I started with a couple really big spoonfuls, and then added more to get the texture I wanted. Probably ended up with 1/3-1/2 cup mayo.
(possibly whipped salad dressing/sandwich spread would work as well)

Flavor time!
Chives - 1 tsp. -ish I took some in my hand and crumbled it into finer pieces in the dip.
Oregano 1/2 tsp.
Garlic powder 1/2 tsp. (possibly a bit more, what can I say? I like garlic!)
Thyme 1/4-1/2 tsp.
Dill weed 1/8 tsp. Just a tiny dash.
Salt and Pepper to taste. This means I took the S&P shakers and went *shake shake* "Yeah, that looks good."

The dip was very tasty on fresh veggies and on salad. If you decide to be brave and try this at home, and you want to make it more pourable for salad dressing use, I would suggest adding milk or buttermilk 1 Tbsp at a time until it looks like salad dressing.

This stuff tasted terrific to me. My favorite features of this dip:

*I can use different types of sour cream, from the "All Natural" one that is just milk and cream and cultures, to the "low fat/lite" versions.

*It's super-quick to make, took me literally 5 minutes and most of that was opening spice jars and going "Hmmm... nope. Yeah, want some of that. Ooh, definitely this one!"

*I can make sure there's nothing in there that causes problems for my family.
No Hydrogenated oils
No High-Fructose Corn Syrup
No Monosodium Glutamate/MSG a.k.a. instant headache
No artificial flavors or colors

But even with all these "No-nos" there is zero sacrifice on taste. It's YUMMY!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cajun Flavor Chicken & Rice

Last night, I had not planned ahead for dinner, and I had a request from the family for something with rice. I figured, sure why not? I put a pot of rice on to cook, and then got out some chicken and tomatoes...

So here is what we ended up with:

Boneless chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
Heat oil in large skillet, cook chicken over medium heat til browned and tender.

1 cup fresh or frozen chopped bell peppers
1 medium onion, chopped OR 1/2 cup frozen chopped onion
3 cloves minced garlic OR 1 teaspoon garlic powder
Add to chicken and cook til tender and onion is slightly clear.

2-3 teaspoons Cajun style seasoning (more if you like it spicy, less if you don't)!
28 oz. can of diced tomatoes

Stir until mixture is bubbly, reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes to allow flavors to blend together. The amount of cooking time for the chicken ended up working out perfectly with the rice, so it was all ready at the same time.

Since I had never made this before, it was experimental. We had no leftovers, and it was really delicious and filling! This recipe was definitely a keeper.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Carrot Apple Salad

There are probably a million versions of carrot apple salad out there. This one is just my "tinkering" with a classic recipe! The orange juice adds a tangy flavor, and has the added benefit of keeping the apples from turning brown.

2-3 carrots, shredded
2-3 apples, chopped
1/2 cup raisins

1/3-1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used regular mayo, but you could also use miracle whip)
1-2 Tbsp. orange juice
1 Tbsp. honey (optional if using miracle whip, as it is already very sweet)
1/4 tsp cardamom (If you don't have cardamom, you can use cinnamon, allspice, or ginger, but I would suggest just picking one for this dish)

Mix orange juice with mayo one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. It should be smooth, but not completely runny. Stir in spice. Pour over carrots, apples, and raisins in large bowl. Stir to thoroughly coat with dressing.

The final proof will be in serving it this evening, but based on the little taste I had (yeah, I licked the spoon after I mixed it!) I think this will definitely be a keeper!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sisterly Soup

My sister was kind enough to link my blog on hers! Thanks sis!

She also posted a recipe for Tomato Soup that looks delicious:

The Best Tomato Soup You've Never Had.

It looks like a great meal for a cold winter day, and I will definitely have to try it sometime!

Thursday, January 7, 2010


The biscuit, such an icon of American cooking, and particularly Southern cuisine! For a long time truly good biscuits eluded me. They would be hard, or flat, or crumbly instead of flaky. What's a girl to do when her biscuits aren't quite right? Well, in my case, I asked someone in my husband's family who is legendary for her baked goods: Grandma Nellie.

She told me she uses White Lily brand self-rising flour, and adds a couple tablespoons of powdered sugar for sweetness. She also drizzles melted butter on top of each biscuit as they come out of the oven. No wonder my husband raves about her biscuits!

I tried the self-rising flour, and it did improve my biscuits significantly. However there came a time when I didn't want to buy a separate bag of flour just for biscuits. I don't use self-rising flour or cook things that require it very often.

Here is how I make biscuits:

2 cups all purpose flour (I use unbleached, personal preference)
1 TB Baking powder
2 TB powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt

Mix together in a large bowl.

Cut in 1/2 cup real butter (one stick) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. If you have a Kitchen Aid mixer, you can just stir up the dry ingredients with the regular beater, then slice the butter into the bowl and turn it on. It will be coarse crumbs in a minute or less.

Add 2/3 cup cold milk or buttermilk all at once. I like to sour the milk if I don't have buttermilk by putting about 1/2 tsp. lemon juice at the bottom of the measuring cup, then pouring the milk in. Sour milk reacts with the leavening agents in the baking powder to make the biscuits fluffier.

Stir dough JUST til moistened. This is important, do not overbeat!

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface, knead by very gently pressing and folding dough 8-10 times. You just want to smooth the dough out just a bit, but not make it tough. Not kneading it at all will tend to produce crumbly biscuits, over-kneading will make them hard.

Gently pat or roll to 1/2" thickness. Cut with a floured biscuit cutter. Place biscuits 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until they are golden brown. Drizzle tops with melted butter if desired. Serve hot.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Chicken and Leek Pie

This recipe came from a cookbook my family checked out of the library when we were studying Ireland in our home school. I have long ago forgotten the name of the cookbook, but this incredible recipe stayed with me.

It's very rich, and involves a lot of effort, but it gets rave reviews every time. Because the sauce is not thickened at all, it is very runny. If you prefer pot pie with a thicker gravy in the filling, you can take the broth and make basic sauce with it before adding it to the pie. It tastes great either way!

The ingredients for this are readily available in most grocery stores.
If you've never had leeks, they look like green onions but they are larger and very mild in flavor, most grocery stores do sell them in the produce department.

Chicken and Leek Pie

2 lbs. leeks
1 onion
3-lb broiling chicken
1 lb ham
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp nutmeg
1 c heavy cream
1 short crust pastry (recipe below)

Wash the leeks thoroughly. Trim off the dark green tops. Slice the pale green and white sections. Slice the onion. Place the chicken, ham, leeks, onion, and spices in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, turn down heat, cover and simmer for about 1.5 hours or until chicken is tender. Turn off the heat and let stand covered, for one hour.

Take out the chicken and ham and carve into pieces. Discard bones and any ham rind. Drain broth and set aside. Layer meat and leeks in pie pan or casserole dish, add cream then broth from the pot not less than 1/2 inch from the rim of the pan.

Wet the rim, cover with short crust, crimp edges, trim extra, make slits in center for escaping steam. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350 and bake 10-15 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Short Crust Pastry
2 c flour
1 c real butter (no substitutions!)
1/2 c ice water or less

Work the butter well into the flour, to a crumb consistency. Add the water, a little at a time, working it in with a wooden spoon. Add the barest minimum to make a stiff dough. Knead the dough by hand until you can form a ball with it. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour. Roll out dough between two pieces of wax paper or parchment paper until slightly larger than your dish. Makes one generous crust.