Hubby is gone to visit his brother over this long weekend, and I'm hoping I'll take advantage of the time I find when he's out of the house. Which means trying to draft several posts - roughing some ideas out definitely helps. The Girlie is coming home this weekend, and while I'm sure she'll have some love to spread here at home, it's not us she's coming to see. She's here to welcome a friend who is returning from Marine Boot Camp. She'll be back next weekend, too, to say good-bye to him before he heads out for his next assignment.
I've been cooking like a crazy person, in part because it's cooling down, but as the season's change cooking is comfort. There are more specks of gold in the trees, the light has changed, the temperatures overnight are definitely cool and that means it's time to warm the kitchen with good food. If you're looking for menu ideas, you can check out the I Cooked That board, or the items below that made my menu a couple weeks ago (I'm a week behind in food.) Our schedules aren't nearly as insane as they used to be, but simple cooking is still the name of the game.
Part of the reason for my cooking frenzy, is I'm testing recipes that I can send up to my daughter, whether they are snacks or quick microwave meals. These Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites were one of those tests. She's a runner and when she's in training mode she likes snacks that pack a punch. These little bites were really good. Chocolaty, while having a lot of good stuff in them. Just one actually held hunger at bay for a fair amount of time. They do need to be refrigerated (tough when you're shipping them in high heat), at least when the kitchen is hot. Girlie liked her batch, so they'll make a reappearance.
I made this Brown Sugar and Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin for an In-Law dinner. I always, always, worry about pork, other than pork shoulder, because it's so easy to overcook it. And overcooked pork is bad. I put in a thermometer but still watched it like a hawk. My slow cooker cooks fast, so I was tweeking the high/low/warm a lot during the cook time. In the end it was perfect and it was delicious! The sauce was a-mazing. I used left overs in the following week's menu (which would be this week.)
These Cake Batter Muddy Buddy Squares were another "tester" recipe. I like to snack, as does the Girlie. Plus, I had some Quaker Oat Squares that nobody was eating for breakfast. So, I subbed them in for the typical Chex squares and I loved it! Even the "I won't eat this for breakfast" crowd ate them. The crunch was much better, and so, probably, was the nutrition, even with the cake mix. I have several other Muddy Buddy recipes to try and I will use more of the Quaker Squares for them. Girlie never got a chance to try this batch, they were gone before I had the rest of her care package ready.
There were some hot-kitchen days two weeks ago, so I was looking for fast. These Chicken Enchilada Puffs were one of those recipes. Quick to pull together and minimal time in the oven. These would be great as a side to soup. If I make them as a stand-all entree, I'll double the recipe and put a little more cheese in. Otherwise, they had good flavor and spice.
I'm a big fan of Monte Christo sandwiches. There's something about that sweet, melty, salty thing. So when I read the recipe for these Apple Ham Cheddar Melts, I thought they might fill my craving. And they did. Big time. The sweet of the Apple Butter, the crunch of apple slices and the salty goodness of ham. Yum. I made a loaf of French Bread, sliced thin, and pressed in my George Forman Grill (works great as a sandwich press!) they were a simple, but satisfying meal. These, too, would be great with a side of soup.
I could eat tacos once a week and be a happy person. So many varieties and these Chicken Ranch Tacos are just another version. A really good and easy version. I used a homemade taco seasoning, and bottled ranch (which I have yet to get out of my pantry, but I'm working on it.) I worried a little over the amount of ranch in the chicken, it seemed like it would overpower, so I didn't put extra Ranch on the tacos. I still wouldn't put extra Ranch on the tacos, the sauciness of the chicken was plenty, but the Ranch wasn't overpowering, it had a nice balance with the rest of the seasonings. I had Monterrey Jack on hand, which paired nicely with the chicken. If I made this is the slow cooker (which is mentioned in the comments of the post) I'd use thighs, instead of breasts.
Butterscotch Brownie Bars made a good dessert for In-Law dinner - well, bars of any kind, because the leftovers pack well for lunches. These bars sounded good, and were tasty, but I deleted the pin in the end. My batch came out a little overdone on the edges which, in and of itself, is easy enough to fix. But I thought there were too many chips for my taste - I'd use mini chips, even semi-sweet, in the bottom layer and wouldn't sprinkle more chips on top of the ganache (I actually left them off when I made them.) The layers didn't really "swirl" together very well. I think you need one layer that is thinner than the other to be able to do that. Both layers in this recipe were the same consistency, so I wouldn't mess with trying to swirl - just put the brownie layer in first and then top with the butterscotch layer. Like I said, they were good, but. . .
It doesn't get much faster than chicken cutlets, and a Ritz cracker topping. The sauce in this Butter Cream Chicken took the most time, and that was like 10 minutes. I used heavy cream, because that's what I had. Loved the crunchy butter flavor of the chicken and the sauce was divine - creamy, rich, warm. . .yum.
I've had this Crock Pot Berry Cobbler pinned for a long time and decided to pull it out. I freeze the berries we grow, or when they are in season and affordable; lay them on a parchment lined tray, freeze them individually and then bag them individually, or mixed, and store in the freezer. Doing it that way makes it easy to measure out for whatever recipe. Since I have lots of frozen berries on hand, I mixed up my own (2 cups of whole strawberries, 1 cup blackberries and 1 cup blueberries. The flavor was good. Like an oven cobbler, it was easy to mix up. The berries thickened up on their own, I didn't need to leave the lid off. In the end, I deleted the pin because I didn't really gain anything by cooking it in the slow cooker, other than oven space.
I have never cooked rice, on its own, in an oven. But that's how this Stick of Butter Rice recipe rolls - in the oven. The recipe calls for French Onion Condensed soup, which can be difficult to find here. I found a substitute recipe online, which was basically, finely chopped onion, sauteed until soft in butter. Stir in beef broth, simmer and reduce. I liked it. I liked that it got soft, and I liked the crispy edges. I wasn't quite keen on the onion flavor, which seemed a bit overpowering for me. I'm not sure that a canned French Onion wouldn't have given me the same taste. Next time, I'll go for less onions. I'll saute them separately and just use all beef broth for the liquid.
And the final tester for the week was Get up and Go Granola, which I shipped a portion of to the Girlie. I ended up deleting this pin. The flavor was good, it's more a personal preference kind of thing. I like a little more coating on my oatmeal, something that gets it a little more crunchy. I also find that I am leaning toward granola that can be grabbed by the handful to snack on, something chunkier, but that also makes a good topping for yogurt. This is a good, lightly sweet granola that would be good on yogurt, ice cream (which is how I've been eating it), in parfaits or in fruit wraps.
I've got a long weekend, just me and the kids, a list of things I should do and a lot of things more fun and distracting. We'll see how it goes.