Posted on May 19, 2014
Summer is coming to Ohio. We think. Today we’re wearing jackets, but we’ve had a few warm days as teasers and the forecast looks promising.
These quesadillas are great for summer for 2 reasons: 1. They’re quick (summers seem busier, less time cooking) 2. They don’t use the oven.
These quesadillas are great year-round for 2 reasons too: 1. They’re easy. 2. They’re so good.
Sometimes when we have Grilled Chicken Breast Salad, I purposely have Shannon grill a couple more pieces of chicken than we’ll need. When I’m cleaning up after the meal, I chunk up the leftover chicken and put it in the freezer for such a time as this: Chipotle Chicken Quesadilla night.
This is not a recipe from anywhere, it’s just a thrown together dish.
This is a good walk-into-the-kitchen-30-minutes-before-mealtime-thinking-“what-can-I-make-QUICKLY” option.
So, get out your frying pan and start heating it up, I set mine to 300 degrees, which would probably be medium-low on a stovetop. Get out the sour cream, frozen chicken chunks, tortillas, can of black beans, and shredded cheese. Put the chicken in the microwave for 1 min to thaw. Put a bit of olive oil in the frying pan, add the chicken, and sprinkle with chipotle seasoning. Fry and stir a couple times.
While that’s frying, get the other stuff ready… Butter 1 side of each tortilla, drain the beans, open the sour cream and cheese.
Take the chicken out of the pan. Put 2 tortillas in the pan, butter side down. Smear with sour cream. Add chicken, beans, and cheese.
Put the other tortilla, butter side up, on top.
I didn’t time how long to fry it before flipping, I just waited til the bottom tortilla was nicely browned and the cheese started melting a bit. Flip quickly, but gently, if that makes sense. If you flip quickly and wildly, you may have beans and chicken chunks hitting the ceiling.
After the second side is fried, put on a plate and cut into fourths with a pizza cutter. Top with sour cream and salsa.
For sides, I serve extra tortilla chips & salsa and applesauce.
I make four quesadillas total (only 2 fit in the pan at a time) and I tried something different for the second batch… Instead of layering, mix the sour cream, chicken, beans, and cheese together. Put 2 tortillas in the pan, divide the mixture between them, spread it out, and put the other tortilla on top. Either way works great and tastes the same.
Now, for a bit of a concise recipe that doesn’t have pictures mixed in, in case you want to copy and paste it somewhere. These measurements will be very estimated because I never measure them and the chicken amount varies with how much leftover there is at the moment.
Chipotle Chicken Quesadillas …add or subtract to your liking
2 cups of chicken, chunked
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. chipotle seasoning
3/4 cup sour cream, plus extra for garnish
1 can black beans, drained
2 cups shredded cheese
8 tortillas, each buttered on one side
If chicken chunks are frozen, thaw in microwave for 1 min. Heat electric frying pan to 300 degrees or medium-low for stovetop. Sprinkle seasoning over chicken and fry in olive oil for several minutes, stirring now and then. Take chicken out and put 2 tortillas in, buttered side down. Put 1/4 of the sour cream, chicken, beans, and cheese on each tortilla OR mix those 4 ingredients together and spread 1/4 of the mixture on each tortilla. Fry for several minutes, flip gently, and fry the other side. Put on a plate, cut into fourths with pizza cutter, and garnish with sour cream and salsa. Round out the meal with tortilla chips, extra salsa, and applesauce. And dinner is served!
Summer, we love you and welcome you! Please come and stay for awhile!
Filed Under Chicken and Turkey, Easy meals | Leave a Comment
Posted on May 15, 2014
You know how actions speak louder than words? These very cupcakes pictured here are a case in point of that. I made these one morning and what do you know, some utility guys came to replace the telephone pole out in our front lawn that afternoon. After they were here for awhile, I put a bunch of cupcakes on a glass platter, locked the dog in the garage, and took the cupcakes and a little table out, offered them as I was setting them on the table, and said I’ll just leave them out here, eat as many as you want.
There were 3 guys on the crew.
They ate almost all of them.
Or maybe they took some for the road.
Anyway, that has got to be one of my favorite things. Making a lot of something and seeing it get inhaled.
They also did rave about them when they brought the platter and table to the door before they left. So, there were words, too. But the actions spoke louder.
Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cupcakes …from the Derstine cookbook
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cocoa
2 cups water
1 cup oil
2 Tbsp. vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla
Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Add water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Mix together until smooth. Here’s a tip for if you’re in a hurry… use a cake mix instead of mixing the cupcake batter from scratch. Fill cupcake papers 1/2 full. I made a note that says I used my biggest scoop for the cake part (which would be the Pampered Chef large scoop) and a heaping regular spoon for the filling. Put 1 rounded teaspoonful of filling on top of each one. Bake at 350 for 22 minutes. The recipe says 20-25 min, but 22 min was perfect for my oven. Makes 34 cupcakes.
1 8oz pkg cream cheese
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup chocolate chips
Beat cream cheese, egg, sugar, and salt until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips.
You don’t need to drop the filling in all neat and stuff. Let them have some character. Imperfect perfection.
And then as they cool, they kind of go down a bit in the middle.
And last, but not least, I have a little note by my recipe that says “165 calories each if makes 34.” I’m pretty sure I must’ve figured that out for a friend. Because why would I be eating cupcakes if I was on a diet?!
Filed Under Cakes | 6 Comments
Posted on April 14, 2014
Have you ever had the salad at Olive Garden? What they lack in breadstick perfection, they make up for in salad (my opinion). We love this salad and it often accompanies our meals when we have Lasagna, Spaghetti & Meatballs, or Parmesan Chicken.
There are 7 ingredients: Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, black olives, pepperoncini, shredded mozzarella cheese, croutons, and dressing. Parmesan cheese is optional. This salad tastes exactly like one you’d get at Olive Garden.
I think in any salad, the secret is the dressing. For this salad, I’ve tried dressing recipes that were named “Olive Garden Dressing”, but none of them tasted quite right. Sure, they were good, but not AS good. So, here’s my secret: I go into our local Olive Garden and buy a bottle of dressing. 😉 It’s $5.49 with tax (and I never know whether or not to tip when it’s just a quick no packaging carry-out item, so sometimes a do and sometimes I don’t). It may be slightly more expensive than other dressings, but you can make 3 salads with one bottle. And it tastes perfect every time AND you don’t have to make dressing every time you make the salad. I heard it’s available at Sam’s Club now. I wonder if it’s the real thing. Does anyone know? I just might have to get some there and do a taste test.
Olive Garden Salad …ingredient list came from studying my salad one time at the restaurant, quantities are my personal preference
1 bunch Romaine Lettuce
2 Roma Tomatoes, seeded and each cut into 8 chunks
1/2 cup sliced Black olives, or a 2.25 oz can, drained
15 mild Pepperoncini
1 heaping cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1 heaping cup Croutons
3/4 cup Olive Garden Dressing
I always drain the olives, pepperoncini, and tomatoes on paper towel for awhile before putting them in the salad.
Wash lettuce. Dry and rip into large bowl. (A lettuce spinner has been on my wish list for about 5 years, but every time I have some extra spending money to blow on kitchen stuff, I decide drying lettuce leaves with paper towel will be fine after all, and end up getting more “toys” for cake decorating instead.) Edited Dec 2014: I am now the proud owner of a Pampered Chef Salad Spinner! I. love. it!!!
Put all ingredients into a large bowl and toss.
Dump into serving bowl and serve.
For how many this serves:
If using as a side salad, I make a half batch for our family of 5 (and the girls eat about as much as an adult would, even the 3-yr-old).
If using as a main dish with grilled chicken on top, I make a whole batch (as a main dish, the girls don’t eat quite as much as an adult would).
In both cases, there’s usually a serving or two left over.
For company, I make one batch for every 10-12 people.
We had this for lunch yesterday and there was a serving of leftovers. Because this salad keeps better than some dressing-mixed-in salads, I put the leftovers in the fridge. I ate it for supper (5 hours later) and the lettuce was still crisp and crunchy. I think it might keep better because it’s a low sugar dressing and doesn’t make the lettuce soft.
Speaking of lunch yesterday, here is a variation for serving this salad. It’s commonly thought of as a side salad, but once in awhile, we like to switch things up from our regular chicken breast salad and use Olive Garden salad for the salad part instead. (By the way, our regular chicken breast salad is featured here almost 3 years ago, but we still do it exactly the same, and still make it often, especially in the summer.) Anyway, we switched it up yesterday and used Olive Garden salad… simply fill a plate with the salad and put a sliced perfectly-seasoned-and-grilled-by-Shannon chicken breast on top.
Filed Under Salads, Side dishes | 5 Comments
Posted on April 11, 2014
Tiffany turned 8 last week. Usually, the girls pick what they want for a cake, but this year Tiffany said, “I don’t want to pick my cake this year, I want you to surprise me. My only thing is I’d like something that has to do with princess-y”.
So, the morning of her birthday, Tiffany left for school and I got busy baking.
This is what was waiting for her when she got home.
Yes, I did put her American Girl doll Rebecca inside a cake. Yes, I know, it was a little crazy.
In all of Pinterest-searching for princess cakes, I never saw an American Girl doll in one… Barbie seems to be pretty much monopolizing the whole doll-in-cake thing. If you’re wondering how Rebecca’s cloth body fared, it was totally unharmed. Before putting her in the cake, I wrapped her in plastic wrap up to her chin and down her arms a bit. I did have to wash her hair afterwards, though, because it was against the back of her dress and the fondant tiara was sitting on it.
Tiffany loved the cake extra much because it wasn’t some random new doll… it was a doll she’d had for over a year and already knew and loved. Ok, that sounds weird talking like that about a doll, but if you were once a little girl with a favorite doll, you might understand how that can feel accurate. 😉 I don’t know how many times Tiffany said, “I just feel like I have to pick her up and hug her!” and then sometimes adding the obvious “but I know it would get fondant and cake all over me”.
So, for the details, here is how I did it (not to be confused with the professional way to do it, ha). You’ll notice some winging it and some improvising and some lack of planning ahead and some details that didn’t get very good. But so what, my 8-year-old was speechless ….and yours would be too if you’d up n wing a cake like this for her.
First is baking the cakes…
The cake part is white cake baked in 4 pans… a 10″, 9″, 8″, and 6″ pan. I needed a hole in the middle to put the doll down thro’, so I thought why not save on cake instead of cutting out the middles, so I put a coffee cup in the center of each pan and dumped the batter in around it. Can you say “wing it”? Worked great, though! The handles were kind of a pain to work around, but my drinking glasses aren’t big enough for how big I wanted the hole.
Next step was to layer the cakes, put Rebecca in, and cover the skirt with frosting. I did no skirt carving to make an even slant, except for the very top layer so it wouldn’t be quite as big of a jutting out. And yes, the top layer did sort of break in the trimming process, in case you notice it looks a bit pieced together. For the other layers, instead of trimming, I just put more frosting where needed to fill in the gaps. As you’ll see in the picture below, I put a cardboard between layers 2 and 3, and there are skewers going down thro layers 1 & 2 under the cardboard, just in case the cake and frosting would want to settle down into each other from the weight.
Now the fun part… fondant. For the first time ever, I MADE fondant. I got the recipe from Around My Family Table. It was more stretchy than store-bought (which can be good or bad, depending what you’re doing), otherwise it was pretty much the same. And it tastes a lot better, so I’m kind of thinking homemade from here on out. Not sure if it would work as well for figurines though, will have to experiment. For this cake, I made a double recipe of fondant and used almost all of it.
I did not have the dress visualized before making it, so it kind of just happened as it went… deciding it needed some white to break up all the pink and just kinda messing with and adding things here and there. I need to get better at folds in fabric, like at the top of the skirt. The flowers around the neck were to hide the plastic wrap sticking up, so the other flowers on the dress were to tie in with that. Btw, I have a flower cutter set that makes those so easy, my 3-yr-old can even make them. She was making some along with me here and we kept stealing cutters and presses from each other. I think she ate all the flowers she made, though.
After this picture, I put some water in a spray bottle that sprays a very fine mist and misted the dress to give it the look of shiny fabric. Plus, it was an easy way to get rid of the extra powdered sugar on the dress (which is on there from rolling it out because you need powdered sugar to keep it from sticking to the counter and rolling pin).
Tip: If you want to get rid of the powdered sugar without getting the shine, carefully wipe it off with a barely damp paper towel or cloth.
The lack of progress pictures is partially because I forgot, partially because my hands were always powdered-sugary, and partially because you can pretty much see everything in the done picture. For the sleeve puff, I put a chunk of fondant on each shoulder, then gathered fondant and shaped it for a sleeve. There is no cake on the top half of her… that is fondant directly on top of the plastic wrap that she’s wrapped in. The necklace is simply piped dots of frosting.
Just a few tidbits:
— Her arms got in that position when I was wrapping her in plastic. When I was done, I was about to put them down, but instead let them up in the air like that because it looked more festive or something rather than hands boringly at her sides.
— The tiara was a bit of an afterthought. She was done and I thought “oh dear, a princess needs a tiara! I should’ve made one 2 days ago so it could be dry and hard now!” I had to go with a chunky one because a delicate one couldn’t have stood up because there was no time for the fondant to harden. So I made a ‘snake’, looped it a few times, pinched the middle loop into a point, sprinkled it with granulated sugar, and put it on her head.
— The candles… we were ready to light candles and sing Happy Birthday to You, but I hadn’t put any on! We couldn’t think of a good place to poke them in (I mean, really, who wants their dress on fire?!). Just then a light bulb moment hit and I ended up piping 8 little piles of frosting on the cake board, and stuck the candles in. Worked great! You can kind of see it on the very last picture of this post.
I’ll just add a couple pictures yet of a cut view so you can see how Rebecca was in there.
Rescuing the princess from the tower, er, oops, I mean, cake…
Happy birthday, Tiffany. Only 8 years ago, you looked like this:
How did you get to this already?!:
Filed Under Birthday cakes, Cakes | 8 Comments
Posted on April 8, 2014
There was a time when the term “school morning” was a negative thought in my mind, mostly it was rushing sleepy kids through their morning routine. What changed was simple. I started getting them up 45 minutes earlier. Now, we have all the time in the world and it’s so relaxing and peaceful. And here’s another thing I love about that. Instead of deleting those 45 minutes out of their night, we tacked it on the other end. I love that hour or two at night when I still have kids, but am basically off duty.
Back to those extra 45 morning minutes… I don’t use the extra time to feed them a full course breakfast. We do quick breakfasts. I’m going to make a list of what a common school morning breakfast would be around here, from most frequent to seldom.
— Toasted bagel with cinnamon sugar
— Toast, either with cinnamon sugar, honey, or jam on it
— Cold cereal with milk
— Banana with peanut butter
— Cuties oranges
— Baked oatmeal
— Regular oatmeal with brown sugar & cinnamon
— Cinnamon rolls
— Pancakes thawed from the freezer
— Pop tarts
— Toaster strudels
— Cookies with milk
Now that I think of it, eggs & toast would be a quick breakfast too, but that’s pretty much just a weekend thing for some reason for us. I mostly don’t make their breakfasts, they usually get it themselves. I made it this morning though… Baked Oatmeal. They love baked oatmeal. I posted baked oatmeal back in 2008 and someone said in the comments that she microwaves it for a quicker breakfast. I tried it and it doesn’t have the crunch, but tastes just as good. And it cuts 30 – 40 minutes down to 7 or 8 minutes. And that’s why it made the “quick breakfasts” list.
I just switched to using the recipe below instead of the one from 2008 because I like this one better. They’re very close, the only differences are that this one has cinnamon and a different salt quantity.
Baked Oatmeal …recipe from the Simply Wonderful cookbook
3 cups quick oats
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients. Spoon into a greased 9″ square baking pan. Bake at 350 for 40 – 45 minutes. Or microwave 7 – 8 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes. Serve warm with milk. Yield: 6 – 8 servings. You can also add fruit to it… apples are my favorite.
What do you serve for breakfasts? Do you have quick ideas that I missed up there?
And if you usually cook full course breakfasts, I’m impressed! I remember one time in my teen years, I stayed with my friends Sheila and Heidi overnight. Her mom cooked a big breakfast and then they had cold cereal as dessert… they didn’t call it dessert, she just served it like you would dessert (cleared some main dishes and plates away and put cereal and bowls on the table). I still vividly remember how floored I was when the cold cereal appeared. I was so stuffed after that meal! My friend said that was a normal breakfast, but breakfast was the biggest meal of the day at their house. They were farmers.
Filed Under Breakfasts | 2 Comments