Monday, January 25, 2010

Almond Cake

This is one of those recipes that I am very very thankful to have. My dear friend Rebecca gave it to me and I tell ya what...she shouldn't have. :) This is a dense cake with no frosting. It's more like a thick chewy cookie, to be honest. Not only do I have the recipe, but I also have a ton of almond paste sitting in my freezer in individual 1 cup servings! Almond paste (or marzipan) is what makes this recipe so unique. Rebecca brought some back for me from her last trip home to Iowa. They sell the stuff in large 7lb tubs out there. If you can get your hands on some in bulk, that's best. If not, look for it in more specialty markets.

Almond Cake
  • 1 cup real butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 t almond extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup (1/2 lb) Almond paste
  • 2 cups flour
--Beat butter, 2 eggs, extract, sugar, and paste until light and fluffy. About 5 minutes.
--Add flour and mix on a low speed.
--Pour - really, divide and spread, it's thick - batter into 2 very well-greased and floured round cake pans.
--With the whites of the leftover egg, mix with a little water and brush over the top of the cakes. --You may add sugar to the top or sliced almonds if you want.
--Bake 40 minutes at 325. Toothpick test.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bread Pudding

As a challenge, I made bread pudding for Uncle Dave the other night. He had mentioned once over dinner how he loved bread pudding - and so the hunt began for the best recipe I could find. Having never eaten or made bread pudding before, this was tricky. And since I've only tried this one recipe, I'm sure there are other/better ones out there, but Uncle Dave - a bread pudding lover - loved mine just fine. :) I had never had bread pudding before, so I wasn't a good comparison judge, but Scot and I liked it a lot, too. If you've never had it, it's a cross between sweet baked french toast and monkey bread. It's really easy, though, so I know I'll be making it again!

Bread Pudding
  • 10 slices white bread, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups hot milk
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg

--Combine bread cubes, butter, cinnamon and raisins; mix well and place in greased 2 Qt baking dish.
--Beat together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt. Add milk, mix well and pour slowly over bread cubes.
--Let sit for about 30 minutes

--Sprinkle with nutmeg and bake for 30-40 minutes - until knife comes out clean.

We served ours with ice cream...and I highly suggest this!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mediterranean Chicken Stew

I made this last night and it was a great hit. Like most recipes, I will end up tweaking this one just a little bit, but like always, I will reflect those changes in my directions. This recipe came from my Everyday Food cookbook and was very fun to make, and since I had the time while my 18 month old was sleeping, I prepped it way ahead of time which cut down on actually cooking time by a bit. This is served over Polenta and was oh so yummy!

Mediterranean Chicken Stew
  • 4 chicken breasts - cut into 3/4 inch chunks
  • olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves - minced (I just used a heaping tablespoon of the pre-minced stuff and it was fine)
  • 1 can chickpeas - rinsed and drained
  • 4 plum tomatoes - cored and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (2 cups) I was heavy handed with these babies
  • Kalamata olives - chopped The original recipe says 2 T worth (about 5), I doubled it last night and still found it wanting. Next time, I'm using about 20 olives I think. :)
  • 1 t white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley. I used the dried kind and it was, again, just fine.
--Season chicken with salt and pepper and then using olive oil, brown in a large skillet until done. Set chicken aside.
--With some more oil in the skillet, add the garlic and stir until fragrant. If your nose is plugged, this takes about 30-45 seconds. Add in the chickpeas and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil and cook until the liquid has been reduced by half. This takes about 2-3 minutes.
--Add the tomatoes and cook until they start to break down.
--Add the olives, vinegar, and chicken. Heat through. Stir in the parsley.
--Serve over polenta. (I found that I put too much polenta on the plates for the portion of stew I had. The polenta serving should be equal to or just a little less than the stew amount.)

As a note - the polenta is so quick, I started my water to boil when I was waiting for the liquid of the chickpeas to reduce and it was perfect timing! I served this with a salad and it was all very filling. Enjoy.


This is a very very - let me repeat it once more - very easy meal to make. My mom used to serve it to us kids and we hated it, but I love it now! It's essentially porridge. Gross sounding, I know, but it's all about what you put in it. It's just cornmeal and water, and it is the cheapest meal to make. It's also quite possibly the fast dinner to make considering you use the stove. No joke - you go from having nothing to dinner on the table in less than 5 minutes.

I'm posting this because I'm about to use it as a base for another recipe, but while I'm posting it at all, I might as well tell you how I eat it when I'm not making something 'fancy' to go on top. You can saute veggies to go on top, or just do what I do. Treat it like pasta, because really, that's all it is. So I smother mine with cheese and our favorite pasta sauce. Serve it with a big ole salad and there you have it. Dinner. Here is the recipe for 2 people (it keeps, but it's not always the greatest the second day - and since it's so easy to whip up, there's no use having old polenta when you can have hot, steamy, creamy new polenta, right?)

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2/3 cold water
  • 2/3 t salt
  • 2 3/4 cups boiling water
--Mix the cornmeal, salt, and cold water.
--Once your water is boiling, dump the cornmeal mix in, lower the heat, and stir like crazy until the lumps are out and the consistency is nice and thick.

that's it.  you're done and ready for toppings!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Clean Eating

One of my Christmas gifts this year from a dear friend was a subscription to this magazine, Clean Eating. I have just finished perusing the pages that are filled with yummy looking soups, stews, main dishes, sides, and desserts...I'm ready to start meal planning! You can also get some of the recipes and ideas from this magazine on their website. Just thought I'd share. Have a great weekend and happy cooking!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chicken Pesto Pasta

This is a recipe from a gal at church and I love it. It's easy, it's so tasty it could have come from a restaurant, and it's even pretty enough to serve to guests! Just throw a salad together and some bread, I recommend this particular bread, and you're good to go! You can use any type of pasta your heart desires, for me, pesto and linguine just go together so that's what I use. I sprinkled some freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top of mine and it was amazing!

Chicken Pesto Pasta
  • 1 lb (16 oz) pasta
  • 4 chicken breasts - cooked and cubed
  • 1 packet dry normal Pesto Sauce (I use the Knorr packets)
  • 1 packet dry creamy Pesto Sauce
  • --You'll need a little milk and oil and water to go with these packets, just FYI...

--Cook pasta according to directions.
--Mix the sauce packets together according to directions
--Mix the chicken, the sauce, and the pasta together and...voila!


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sunday (BBQ) Chicken

This is probably one of my favorite ways to have chicken right after church. There's nothing like walking in the door, everyone hungry, and smelling dinner ready to be eaten. I always serve this with green beans and either cornbread or creamy corn casserole. It's moist and delicious - and easy as all get out!

Sunday Chicken

  • 6 chicken breasts - you can do a whole chicken if you want to, but chicken breasts are less messy
  • 8-12 oz of your favorite BBQ sauce
--Place chicken in the crock pot and pour the BBQ sauce over everything.
--Cook on high for 4 hours

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Deluxe Hot Cocoa Mix

My punch bowl full of cocoa mix

My husband is a Hot Cocoa addict. Ok, so maybe not quite to the addict stage yet, but when I buy hot cocoa mix in the little container, it's gone in a matter of days. Last year, to help save cost and still let him sip him yummy drink, I made my own hot cocoa mix. This year, I did the same. This is also a great little gift to give friends and family during the holidays. It makes 16 cups (8 pint jars is all you need for your gifts, and some ribbon!) and fits into a gallon sized pitcher/container. And it lasts a LOT longer than just a few days. It costs about 10 - 15 dollars to make, depending on if you get certain things name brand or on sale, but it's so worth it!!

Deluxe Hot Cocoa Mix
  • 2.5 cups cocoa powder - I use Hersey, some others will be sweeter, richer, or stronger in different aspects. Hersey is what Walmart carries so it's what I use.
  • 1 (2 lb) bag of powdered sugar
  • 2.5 cups creamer - I like really chocolaty hot cocoa, so I use chocolate flavored creamer and just a little 'almond creme'. If you like just subtle hints of chocolate, I suggest using a Hazelnut or Vanilla flavored creamer. I used just normal, non-flavored creamer last year and it wasn't nearly as good as this years!
  • 9 cups dry milk - measure it out into a separate bowl and then in 2 batches run it through a food processor or blender. This eliminates the 'mud' at the bottom of your cup because it is not the same 'fineness' as the other ingredients.

--Mix it all together in a LARGE punch bowl or even...dare I say it...a trash bag. Clean, of course. If you mix it, the easiest way is with a whisk.
--Mix 1/3 cup of mix with 1 cup hot water and enjoy.

Other variations include, but are not limited to, marshmallows, cinnamon (about 1 T), other spices, and really, whatever you want. :) Have fun!