Thursday, December 7, 2017

Winter Chutney

I always think of Indian food when I think of chutney, especially mango chutney on salmon. When we took the kids to Disney's Animal Kingdom two years ago, my chutney world exploded.

We ate a meal at the Tusker House and my favorite items were all chutneys – so many different combinations of fruits and spices! I had forgotten about a note I wrote to myself so I could try recreating a mixed fruit compote at home until last week, when I switched purses.

I made a batch last night and it was so good! The husband had seconds and my oldest boy downed a healthy serving.

I served this with pork chops. It would go well with many holidays meals — ham, turkey, chicken, even sweet potatoes.

This recipe makes a lot, so you can serve it at large festive gatherings, use it with those turkey leftovers in the freezer or package in pretty canning jars and give as homemade gifts.

Mangia! Mangia!

Winter Chutney
Inspired by recipes from Disney and Spice Islands

1 bag fresh cranberries
3 medium apples, peeled, cord and diced
2/3 cup onion, finely chopped
2/3 cup golden raisins
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
1 heaping teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
1/3 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup pecans, chopped
2/3 cup dark corn syrup
1/3 cup cider vinegar

Combine all ingredients up to and including nutmeg in a large saucepan.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring often.

Remove cover and add pecans, corn syrup and vinegar. Continue to cook for another 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes or so. The chutney will thicken as it cools. Enjoy!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Slow Cooker Beef & Barley Stew

Life's been super busy folks, as I'm sure you can relate.

Luckily, the Thanksgiving break freed up some time in the kitchen. This easy beef stew recipe comes from a meal prep class I took at a local grocery store. All of my boys loved it, so I made it again this week (with a few little tweaks) while we still had relatives in town.

A double batch will fit in a 6 quart slow cooker, so that you can feed a crowd or stock your freezer.

And like many stews, this one tastes even better the second day.

Mangia! Mangia!

Slow Cooker Beef & Barley Stew
Inspired by a recipe from Hyvee

1 pound beef stew met, cut into bite-size chunks
1 1/4 cups carrots, diced
1 1/4 cup onion, chopped
3/4 cup celery, diced
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons beef bouillon paste
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
5 cups water

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of your slow cooker. Cook for 8 to 10 hours on low. Serve with dinner rolls or crusty bread. Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Slow Cooker Chicken and Rice with Spinach and Feta

This is comfort food for me. I've made this recipe many, many times. It's a great dinner for dreary days because it warms you up while delivering bright flavors of lemon and briny feta.

Leftovers make for an easy lunch.

The recipe is from America's Test Kitchen's Slow Cooker Revolution Vol. 2: The Easy-Prep Edition. If you don't have that cookbook and you love your slow cooker, check it out.

Mangia! Mangia!

Slow Cooker Chicken and Rice with Spinach and Feta

1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cups Minute Ready to Serve White Rice
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed
Salt and pepper
1 5 ounce container baby spinach (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups feta cheese crumbles
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup pine nuts, optional

Put onion, oil, garlic and oregano in a small bowl and microwave about 5 minutes, stirring halfway through. Transfer to bowl of slow cooker. Stir in rice. Season chicken with salt and pepper and nestle into rice mixture.

Cover and cook 3 to 4 hours on low or until chicken is tender.

Transfer chicken to cutting board and shred into bite-sized pieces. Stir chicken, spinach and half-and-half into rice mixture remaining in slow cooker. Add feta and combine. Let sit until spinach is wilted.

Add lemon zest and lemon juice, salt and pepper and stir.

Serve topped with additional feta and a sprinkle of pine nuts.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Halloween Puppy Chow

OK, so I kind of get a kick out of making Halloween treats. Here's another one. I only discovered puppy chow snack mixes in adulthood and wow, are they yummy.

This recipe uses Nutella, but you can easily swap it out for chocolate to avoid nuts. Make adjustments for the mix-ins as needed based on your family's preferences. The original recipe called for a lot of peanut butter candies, but my kids don't like those, so I went with M&Ms.

Mangia! Mangia!

Halloween Puppy Chow
Inspired by this recipe from the Kitchn.

5 cups corn Chex cereal
3/4 cup Nutella
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups salted popcorn
2 1/2 cups mini pretzels
1 cup M&Ms

Set aside a large baking sheet. Place Chex cereal in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a large ziplock bag, apace powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside.

Put Nutella in a small microwave safe bowl and heat about 30 seconds, until melty. Drizzle over cereal on bowl. Gently stir of coat cereal in Nutella.

Place cereal in ziplock bag and shake until evenly coated. Spread coated cereal on cookie sheet to cool.

Meanwhile, place popcorn, pretzels, M&Ms and any other add-ins into late bowl. Add cereal once cool and mix to combine.

Eat immediately or store in air tight container.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Halloween Snacks

My youngest, Sam, loves to be in the kitchen, so we recently took a snack prep class at a local grocery store. (Thanks, Hyvee and dietitian Katrina!) It was great to spend some time together and he enjoyed being crafty with food.

He's become more of a picky eater. I was hoping if he made some new treats on his own, and they looked silly or goofy, he would actually eat them. Sam only devoured one snack.

Can you guess which one?

Mangia! Mangia!

Owl Snack

  • Large or medium round crackers (like Ritz)
  • Small round crackers 
  • Plain cream cheese
  • Sliced almonds
  • Whole almonds
  • Raisins or dried cranberries

Spread cream cheese on a large round cracker. Add two small round crackers at top for eyes. Use a dab of cream cheese on each to attach the raisins for pupils.

Press on an almond beak and almond-slice feathers.

Tombstone Pudding Cups

  • Cool whip
  • Chocolate yogurt
  • Crushed chocolate sandwich cookies
  • Milano cookies
  • Candy corn pumpkins and candy corn
  • Chocolate icing

In a clear plastic cup, gently mix cool whip and yogurt. Top with crushed chocolate cookies. Stand a Milano cookie up along edge to be a tombstone. Use a toothpick dipped into icing to write R.I.P. or another saying on the gravestone.

Place candy corn pumpkins and other candies to decorate.

Celery Mummies

  • Veggie cream cheese
  • Celery sticks
  • Ham slices, cut into thin strips
  • Dried cranberries, cut into pieces

Spread or pipe cream cheese into celery piece. Place or wrap ham pieces in a criss-cross pattern over celery, so that it looks like bandages. Add two dried cranberry eyes between bandages.

Apple Bites

  • Large apple slice or two smaller apple slices
  • Your favorite jam, nut butter or sunflower butter 
  • Slivered almonds or pumpkin seeds

Slice large apple slice down middle, while keeping intact. Or, place two apple slices together to resemble a mouth. Spread on jam or nut butter for the tongue. Add slivered almonds for teeth.

P.S. The pudding cup was Sam's favorite.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Stew

Fall is slowly arriving and school and other activities are kicking into high gear. Enter the slow cooker. I love the ease of prepping a meal in the morning — or even the night before — pushing a button and having a meal ready by dinner time.

We love chili and Mexican food at our house, so this recipe for Chicken Enchilada Stew seemed like a good fit.

I made a double batch to stock my freezer and we had plenty of leftovers for a second meal, too.

Mangia! Mangia!

Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Stew
Inspired by this recipe from The Kitchn

For the stew base:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon (or more to taste) of canned, chopped jalapeño peppers
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 heaping tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon sugar
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
2 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Additional ingredients:
1 15 ounce can of corn, drained
1 15 ounce of black beans, drained
3 pounds boneless chicken thighs and/or breasts
Splash heavy cream, to taste (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

You'll need a 6 quart slow cooker for this recipe.

Heat oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or deep skillet. Add onion and jalapeño and cook until softened, about 6 minutes.

Add garlic, chili powder, cumin and sugar. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce and chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then transfer to the bowl of your slow cooker.

Add the corn and beans to the slow cooker and stir to combine. Nestle chicken into the stew. Cook on low for 6 to 7 hours, or high for 4 hours.

Remove the chicken and shred with two forks. Return chicken to the crock pot and stir to combine. Mix in a splash of heavy cream.

Serve with shredded cheese, sliced green onions and tortilla chips. Refrigerate leftovers.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fresh Apple Pie

I grew up close to an orchard and apple pie is one of the first things I learned how to bake. For years I would make the crust from scratch, using a big bowl and two knives to incorporate the butter into flour.

Discovering the pastry cutter in my early 20s was a major breakthrough. After I got married, a friend told me about using a food processor to slice the apples. Game changer! I once packed that kitchen gadget and drove it from Cincinnati to my parents house in New York just to make Thanksgiving pie baking easier.

This year I've been experimenting with prepping dough in the food processor, too. I recommend it for saving time and less mess. I also discovered (thanks to Ina Garten) that adding shortening to the dough recipe makes the dough  easier to work with.

After a recent visit to our local apple orchard here in Illinois, my boys were craving apple pie and my husband needed a treat for an office party. So I put the food processor to work. I had two pies in the oven in a little more than an hour.

Another secret to perfect pie: use a variety of apples. You need at least 2-3 Granny Smith, then use your favorites. Fuji, Honeycrisp, Macintosh and Jonagold hold up well, as does Sweet Tango, which I just discovered.

If you're a novice, don't be afraid of making pie. It's a great way to get the whole family in the kitchen.

If you end up with extra apple filling and enough dough scraps, let your kids make small hand pies or cook the apples in a saucepan for some apple sauce.

Mangia! Mangia!

Fresh Apple Pie

For the crust:
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chilled vegetable shortening
1/2 cup ice water
Egg wash (1 egg whisked together with 1 tablespoon water)
1-2 teaspoons coarse sugar

For the filling:
4-5 pounds of mixed apples, peeled, cored, quartered and thinly sliced by hand or with food processor
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks

*One note: I tend to just eyeball the apples and spices, tasting as I go. I also pile the apples high in the pie plate. So feel free to make your own adjustments.

To make the crust, set up your food processor with the steel blade. Add flour, salt and sugar to the processor bowl and pulse to combine. Add butter and shortening and pulse until the butter is the size of small pebbles, about 12 times.

With the food processor running, pour in the cold water until the dough comes together. Turn out onto a floured counter and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the filling.

To make the filling, thinly slice apples by hand or set up your food processor with the larger slicing disk. Place each apple quarter into feeder shoot and let the food processor do the work. Place apples into a large bowl.

Add sugar, flour, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Mix to combine so that all the apples are coated in the spices. Add more spices if you think it needs it, or if you used more apples. Set aside.

Grab dough from fridge. Lightly flour (1-2 tablespoons) a counter. Cut dough ball in half. Gently roll out one half of dough into a roughly 10-inch circle. Carefully fold in half and place into pie plate. Unfold and press dough into pie plate. Let extra dough hang over the edge, then trim it so that 1/2 inch or less hangs over.

Brush the edge of the bottom crust with egg wash. This will help the top crust stick to it.

Fill pie crust with apple filling. Arrange apples in a mound slightly higher in the center. Dot with butter chunks.

Roll out the rest of the dough to make the top crust. Place dough on top of filling. Trim off excess dough. Press together edges of dough. Crimp with fingers or a fork.

Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Cut a few 1-inch slits in top crust to allow steam to escape during baking.

Place a sheet pan lined with parchment on a lower rack in the oven, to catch any drippings from the pie.

Place pie on a middle or upper middle rack in the oven. Bake for about an hour, until the crust is brown and the juices of the pie are bubbling. If crust is browning too fast, cover loosely with foil.

When done, remove and let cool before serving. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream. Refrigerate leftovers.

My kids devoured half the pie before I could take a pretty photo!