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My son is a Boy Scout and the Cooking Merit Badge is now a requirement needed in order to earn the coveted Eagle Rank. Each scout, among other things, must by himself, cook a meal for at least 3 other member of his Troop, as well as, plan out two (breakfast and lunch) other healthy, balanced meals which could (or would) be served during a typical camp day while staying within current Nutritional Guidelines
After he created his breakfast and lunch plans and packed his theoretical snacks for a hike, he found he had a lot of food options left over to still be able to create a fun and flavorful, yet teen friendly, dinner for his friends.
Working within the nutritional guidelines, this is what he decided to prepare, a Taco Skillet. It was perfect in flavors and ease of preparation both at home and also out on the trail or primitive camp site. He cooked this for our family dinner during the testing process and we enjoyed it very much. I think he enjoyed it even more because he had created it himself. We used flour tortillas for our family dinner instead of tortilla chips but tortilla chips would also work well here. Enjoy!
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, diced fine
1 bag boil in bag rice, like Uncle Ben's or Success
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheese, cheddar, Colby Jack or taco blend
1/2 cup sour cream
salsa or taco sauce
Tortilla chips or taco shells
In a medium, sauce pot bring enough water to a boil to cover the bag of boil in rice. Cook per the package instructions.
In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the beans, garlic powder, cumin, chili powder and cook until heated through.
Once rice is finished cooking, drain and add into the beef mixture stirring until well combined.
Top with lettuce, tomato, cheese and sour cream. Serve with tortilla chips or taco shells and salsa or taco sauce.
Yield: 4-6 servings.
New englanders by and large feel we have the corner on the market on how to make a delicious, steaming bowl of fresh, hot "chow-dah." This includes not only clam chowder but "lob-stah" and crab bisques and even chicken corn chowder, too.
Chicken corn chowder has long been one of my favorite soups so working from my mothers recipe for clam chowder, it wasn't a far stretch for me to create what I feel is the perfect chicken corn chowder to satisfy my cravings.
The good thing about chowder is you can add, change or remove ingredients to really make it your own. Today, I was looking to have a great chowder taste without all the calories so I made my base from creamed cauliflower. Once I added the half and half, it took on the chowder aesthetics that we all know and love and was also quite pleasing to my palette. Because I lightened it up in calories by using cauliflower as my base, I didn't feel guilty about having a large bowl! Enjoy!
2 lbs cauliflower, fresh or frozen, broken into florets
6 cups water
1 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken, cubed into bite sized pieces or leftover or rotisserie chicken
2 tbsp butter (optional)
1 cup fat free half and half
3 rib celery diced, leaves and all
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste, optional
1 cup frozen corn
1 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
In a large saucepot over medium heat bring 6 cups of water and cauliflower to a boil. Boil until the cauliflower is good and tender as it will puree better; about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a skillet add olive oil, onion, chicken (if raw) and salt and pepper and saute for about 5 to 7 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked.
Once the cauliflower is cooked, pour it into a blender and puree. You may need to do half at a time depending on the size of your blender. Add the puree back into the stockpot. Add milk, butter, onion and chicken saute, carrots, celery, potatoes, corn and seasonings and let simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are fork tender.
Check seasonings and re-season to taste, if necessary. If the base is too thick, thin it out with a little more water or chicken stock. If it's too thin, you can thicken it with a roux, Wondra or even some instant potato flakes, if desired.
Transfer to serving bowls. Garnish each bowl with fresh parsley.
Serves: 4 to 6
I made another one of the pork roasts that I bought on sale a couple of weeks ago at the big Box Warehouse store. This was a simple recipe but the flavors were amazing, I paired the meat up with some roasted sweet potatoes and some dry-fried corn. I made this dish on a weeknight and it took about an hour which included the prep and cooking times.
2 pound boneless pork loin roast
4 slices thick cut bacon
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sprinkle all sides of the roast with salt and pepper, wrap bacon around roast. In a small bowl mix the maple syrup cayenne pepper then brush over the pork. Bake at 400 until meat reaches an internal temperature of 160° F remove from oven and let rest 5-10 min before slicing.
There is nothing in my house that says comfort food like meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I got the idea for this dish from my son. He was getting ready to go out with his friends so he did not have a lot of time to eat his dinner. He asked if I could just make him a quick sandwich so he could take dinner to go. I had an “ah-ha” moment and thought that I would just take what I had made for dinner and turn it into a sandwich. I simply made some mashed potatoes, a little thicker than normal, added a slice of meatloaf on a lightly toasted bun and wah-la; a complete meal on a bun. My guys loved this and I’m sure I will be making this again soon.
Ingredients for Meat Loaf
2 pounds ground beef or ask your butcher for a meatloaf mixture
½ medium onion diced
½ bell pepper, any variety, diced
1 egg, slightly beaten
½ cup Saltine Crackers crushed
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 cup tomato sauce or ketchup
Preheat oven to 350° F
Mix all ingredients together, form into a loaf, place in a foil lined baking pan. Bake for 1 hour or until temperature reaches 155° F – 160° F internal. Remove from oven, let stand 5 minutes before serving
Ingredients for Mashed potatoes
5 medium sized Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup half-n-half or milk, heat until warm
¼ cup sour cream
Salt & pepper
Place potatoes in a medium sized stock pot, cover potatoes completely with water, bring to boil, salt water, cook until fork tender, completely drain but return to pot. Slowly add half of the cream/milk, mash with potato masher, add salt and pepper to taste, sour cream, add additional cream/milk until you get a stiff consistency. *Note, you can add garlic powder, chives or cheese at this point
Take a bakery style hamburger bun or Kaiser roll, cut in half, lightly toast, add a slice of your favorite cheese, cover bottom of bun with about ½ to 1 inch of mashed potatoes, slice meatloaf into 1 inch thick slice and place on potatoes. *Enjoy with your favorite topping like ketchup, barbeque sauce or salsa.
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Authentic Louisiana Gumbo starts with a roux. Roux can be timely to prepare and difficult to perfect since it can burn easily but, in my opinion, is really worth the time and trouble.
I found this recipe at Southern Living.com
and adapted it to fit my needs. I made a semi-slimmed down version for myself omitting the roux which is made with flour and oil and while the gumbo was still very good on it's own without the roux, it was absolutely phenomenal after I added the roux. The roux really does add a depth of flavor and richness to this dish that is just plain delicious.
The original recipe included filé powder which can be difficult to find and may be a regional spice, though I am sure you could order it if it were not available in your local grocery store. Filé powder, i read, is made of ground sassafras and some people stated that they did not care for the sassafras flavor. Since I was unable to locate this powder, I omitted the filé seasoning altogether. This version of Gumbo was every bit as delicious as the Seafood Gumbo I enjoyed with my family in the French quarter on one of our many trips to New Orleans. Even my 4 year old daughter enjoyed a bowl.
As for my trip to New Orleans, I can remember this particular day with my family and it is a fond memory. Cousins, Aunts, Uncles, Parents and Grandparents all occupying one large table inside the restaurant. Everyone together, happy and enjoying one another, our seafood gumbo and our trip to New Orleans. Enjoy!
For the stock:
8 cups water
1 lb chicken thighs, deboned and skinless
2 bay leaves
2 parsley sprigs
2 garlic cloves, peeled
For the Gumbo:
1 pound andouille or smoked sausage, diced1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, without tails
2 medium onions, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
3 large celery rib, chopped
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 chicken bouillon cubes or 2 Tbsp Chicken bouillon granules
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, or more, to taste
For the Roux:
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 green onions (scallions), sliced into rings
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon filé powder
Hot cooked rice
Bring the water, chicken, 2 parsley sprigs, bay leaves, and garlic to a boil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Once it comes to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium or medium-low, and simmer for 1 hour.
Remove chicken, and reserve the broth. Chop the chicken into bite-sized chunks and set aside. Now, strain the broth through a wire-mesh strainer back into the large pot or Dutch oven, discarding any solids collected in the strainer. Next, into the stock pot add the sausage, onions, bell pepper celery, minced garlic and chicken bouillon; then simmer for one hour.
Meanwhile, begin making the roux by heating the oil in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat while gradually whisking in the flour. Cook the flour mixture slowly stirring constantly to avoid burning. The flour will transform from a light tan at the beginning or the process and slowly transition into a beautiful dark amber in color. This can take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes. Cooking the roux over a high heat will result in a burned roux and it will burn quite easily, and quickly, if left unattended.
Once the roux is completed, add it by the tablespoon or two at a time into the gumbo stock until you reach the desired consistency. Remember that the gumbo will thicken as it cools. If the gumbo becomes too thick, add more water to thin it out.
Now, add your salt, ground black pepper, and red pepper to taste and simmer the gumbo for another hour on low; stirring occasionally. Re-check your spices and readjust, if necessary.
Ladle gumbo into bowls and serve atop hot cooked rice. Garnish with green onions, parsley,
filé powder and hot sauce, if desired.
I have had the pleasure of going to New Orleans several times. My very first time to New Orleans, was with a friend who had family who lived there. With native locals as our weekend escorts, we were really able to get up and personal with everything Mardi Gras had to offer; the music, excitement, parades and, of course, the food! It was a fabulous time. One I am surely never going to forget.
One of the the first things we got to try when we arrived was two types of traditional King Cake; plain and cream filled. Both variations were absolutely delicious. In New Orleans, you can pick up a King cake just about anywhere in town but as with most things, the locals all have a favorite bakery where they go to pick up their cakes.
This traditional Mardi Gras dessert is topped with a glaze and then heavily covered with gold, purple, and yellow sugar sprinkles. The colors adorning the cake are also symbolic in the tradition Mardis Gras. Purple stands for justice, green for faith, and gold for power. Oftentimes, a small toy, usually a small baby, is hidden (or baked) inside the ring of the cake. While some people believe that finding the toy brings good luck, my friend told me it's a tradition of who will either host the next Mardi Gras gathering or be responsible for bringing the King cake to the next gathering or social function.
This recipe is one I found on Southern Living.com
and is enough to make two cakes. Enjoy!
1 (16-ounce) container sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (100°F to 110°F)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 to 6 1/2 cups bread flour OR all purpose flour * see notes
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 4 tablespoons milk
Cook first 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until butter melts. Set aside, and cool mixture to 100° to 110°.
Stir together yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a 1-cup glass measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes.
Beat sour cream mixture, yeast mixture, eggs, and 2 cups flour at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until smooth. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add enough remaining flour (4 to 4 1/2 cups) until a soft dough forms.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top.
Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until dough is doubled in bulk.
Punch down dough, and divide in half. Roll each portion into a 22- x 12-inch rectangle. Spread 1/3 cup softened butter evenly on each rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border. Stir together 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle evenly over butter on each rectangle.
Roll up each dough rectangle, jelly-roll fashion, starting at 1 long side. Place one dough roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bring ends of roll together to form an oval ring, moistening and pinching edges together to seal. Repeat with second dough roll.
Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 20 to 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
Bake at 375° for 14 to 16 minutes or until golden. Slightly cool cakes in pans on wire racks (about 10 minutes).
For the Creamy Glaze:
Stir together first 4 ingredients. Stir in 2 tablespoons milk, adding additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until spreading consistency.
Drizzle Creamy Glaze evenly over warm cakes; sprinkle with colored sugars, alternating colors and forming bands. Let cool completely.
This recipe uses bread flour, which makes for a light, airy cake. You still get tasty results with all-purpose flour--the cake will just be more dense.
As many of you know, I do a lot of my shopping in the big warehouse stores so it is rare that any of the items are on sale. As a person who likes to browse as I shop, I noticed a sale on pork loins. I really couldn’t beat the price and there are so many things you can do with them. Last night I decided to use the flavors of the tropics that we enjoyed the last time we cruised to the Bahamas. Enjoy.
3-4 pound pork loin roast cut length wise in half
½ small bunch cilantro chopped
¼ bell pepper, any variety
4 white button mushrooms, chopped
2 oz fresh baby spinach, chopped
½ red onion, diced
3 green onions, chopped
1 small Apple, such as Gala or Roma, cored and diced
4 tablespoons Orange Marmalade
1 tablespoon lime juice, any variety
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons Soy Sauce
Preheat oven to 400°F
In a small bowl mix the Marmalade and Soy Sauce, set aside
In a medium bowl mix the cilantro, bell pepper, mushrooms, spinach, both types of onions, apples, garlic and Key Lime Juice. Mix well, stir in half of the Marmalade mixture (reserve the remaining for glaze)
Season pork loin with salt/pepper
Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil, you will need enough foil to fold over loin.
Place bottom of the loin on foil, top with cilantro mixture, place second piece of loin on top, fold foil over loin tightly. Bake for 45 minutes, unfold foil, top with remaining Marmalade mixture, bake additional 15 to 20 minutes or until Marmalade caramelizes and meat reaches an internal temperature of 160° F.
Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving
While eating dinner at a local seafood restaurant, one of the side choices was pearl couscous. I was not familiar with the larger couscous so I went on a hunt for this item. Unfortunately I had not been able to find any pearl couscous to try it at home. Luckily, my sister was able to find some recently and she purchased a bag for me. Much to my dismay, I found out later that it was a 5-lb bag! I was a little nervous about having 5-lbs of couscous and what I would do with it if my family did not like it.
After making this recipe, my mind is at ease and, in fact, I want to find out where she found it so I can get more. The recipe I made is very simple but with great depth of flavors. The toasted pine nuts lend a rich nutty flavor to the dish which compliments the earthiness of the mushrooms. Overall it a was light yet filling and would make not only a great side dish but also a perfect meatless meal option.
4 white button mushrooms, diced
¼ of a bell pepper (any variety)
¼ of a red onion, diced
4 tablespoons pine nuts
3 green onions, chopped
1 cup pearl couscous
2 cups vegetable broth (hot)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher/pepper to taste
Heat a large saucepan over medium high heat, add the oil, saute the mushrooms, onions and peppers until tender, add the pine nuts, cook until they start to turn a golden color (watch as these will go from a light color to burnt in just a few seconds), add couscous and broth and any salt/pepper to taste. Cover, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stir occasionally. Fluff with fork before serving.
As many of you may already know, I am married with two sons ages 24 and 13 so there’s a lot of testosterone flying around my house. All of the “boys,” as I call them, are also very big into sports. So, for game days, I create a small buffet of tasty treats throughout the day and the food tends to be very heavy in the proteins and starches.
Since they will just be snacking during the day, I usually try and make a hearty breakfast that plays into their game day cravings. This breakfast bake is full of all their favorite breakfast foods. This breakfast is a hearty dish with wonderful layers. Enjoy.
2 cans of store bought Crescent Rolls
½ pound bacon cut into 1 inch pieces
½ pound breakfast sausage crumbles
1 small onion diced
½ small-medium bell pepper diced
½ cup shredded cheese, any blend
½ cup milk or half-n-half
1 large russet potato diced
Salt & pepper
1 tablespoon butter
Preheat oven to 375
Heat a large skillet over medium high, drizzle pan with oil, when hot add potatoes, brown on all sides, sprinkle with salt & pepper. Remove from pan and set aside
Add bacon and sausage, cook until bacon is crispy and sausage is cooked all the way through, remove and drain on paper towels, drain grease from pan and wipe with paper towels (Reserve about 2 Tablespoons of meat for topping)
In a square casserole dish, place a square piece of parchment paper, open 1st can of rolls, unroll and place half into bottom of pan (they should form a square), spread potato mixture and a little cheese over the rolls, top with other half of crescent rolls, on the next layer add the bacon and sausage, open second can of rolls and put half on top of meat (again it should form a square).
Lower heat to medium low, melt butter, add onions and peppers, cook until onions are tender. Remove and spread over next layer of crescent rolls. In a bowl scramble the eggs with milk, salt & pepper to taste, pour into skillet, gently scrape bottom of pan to prevent sticking. When you see the eggs starting to cook and forming, remove from pan and pour over the onion/pepper mixture (the eggs should still be running but resemble cooked scrambled eggs), sprinkle with cheese and lay the final layer of crescent rolls on top of the egg mixture.
Top with any bacon/sausage crumbles.
Bake for 11 to 13 minutes or until crescents are golden
Last night, we were really in the mood for Chinese food. I looked in my refrigerator and found the ingredients that I could very easily make into an Asian inspired meal.
There are many variations to this recipe that you could try, I happened to have Orange Marmalade in my refrigerator so that is what I used. You could substitute any variety of marmalade or even a plum preserve if you would prefer. The bell peppers I used in this recipe were of the green variety which are normally the “first” harvested, the yellow, orange and red are sweeter and are a more mature pepper than the green. It is a matter of personal preference and you can use any variety of pepper for this recipe or a combination of all types if you like.
I paired our chicken with a coconut cilantro rice which I will share at a later date, as well as some peas with coconut and pineapple.
4 bone-in chicken thighs
½ cup orange marmalade
½ cup orange juice
1 garlic clove finely minced
1 yellow onion diced
1 bell pepper, any variety diced
Kosher salt, ground black pepper
1 green onion sliced
2 tablespoons oil
Season chicken with salt and pepper
Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add oil and chicken skin side down. Brown chicken on all sides until golden and skin is crispy, remove from pan and set aside. Add onion and bell pepper to pan and cook until tender, add garlic, and return chicken to pan, add orange juice and ½ of marmalade, stir well. Cook until the juice reduces and thickens (it will darken to a deep golden color), brush remaining marmalade over chicken, cook until chicken juices run clear. Garnish with green onions.