Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Stolen Moment, stop the presses!!

How good does this Chicken Taco Salad sound right now?

So. Dang. Good.

Might have to rethink tonight's menu and give into this craving....

Monday, March 29, 2010

Alexia House Party Recipes

The folks over at House Party recently invited me to be one of the hosts for an Alexia Simply Extraordinary House Parties, and since I was curious about how these House Parties work, I accepted this one to find out.
I was sent a hostess pack that included coupons for free Alexia frozen food products, and I used them to create recipes for the party. So I invited some fabulous ladies (and their beautiful kiddos) over for an afternoon of snacking and good conversation.

Along with Bellini's and Lemonade to go along with our Alexia menu. To make the most of the Alexia products I picked up a the store I made:

Alexia Onion Rings with Chipotle Ketchup (1 cup Ketchup, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 pepper in adobo sauce, minced - I removed the seeds so it wouldn't be too spicy - all mixed together and allowed to sit overnight)

Alexia Spicy Sweet Potato Fries with Blue Cheese Dip - (3/4 cup mayo, 3/4 cup sour cream, 4 oz crumbled blue cheese, mixed together and allowed to sit overnight)

Pulled Pork Sammies on Alexia Focaccia Rolls - (Pulled Pork recipe follows) - I added some bagged broccoli slaw with just enough mayo mixed in to keep the mixture moist. That is good stuff- it really maintains its texture, I doubt I will use regular cole slaw mix again in the future!

Keri's Southern Sloshed Pulled Pork:

In a crock-pot combine:
1/2 pint Jim Beam
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
and mix well to dissolve sugar

Then add 1 lb pork stew chunks or pork roast of your choice cut into chunks.
Cook on low for 6-8 hours, adding water to keep moist as needed, until pork falls apart when touched.

Remove pork from crock pot with slotted spoon or strainer, discard cooking liquid.
Shred pork and add 1/4 cup of your choice BBQ sauce (I used regular Safeway brand) and 2 Tablespoons to pork, stirring well to make sure it is evenly coated. Serve with rolls and slaw for topping. (I made little sammies and cut them in half so it would be easy for guests to grab them and not get messy.)

All the guests left with recipe cards and coupons for Alexia products. It was a fun afternoon.
I served the end of this Pork to The Hub for dinner last night along with corn and some extra onion rings (I know, I know, so starchy) and he loved it. Actually everyone asked about how I cooked the pork.
Between this and the Salmon glaze the other day, I am starting to think that Jim Beam is one very handy man to have in your kitchen!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Give Away fun for Friday

There is a review of Yoplait's fabulous new Greek Yogurt and a great give-away going on over at Deals In Denver between now and next Friday!
Check it out here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bourbon Glazed Salmon

Last night I made this Salmon with a Bourbon Glaze and some oven roasted herbed potatoes.
Ok, to be fair I omitted the ginger from the recipe because, truth-be-told, I am not much of a fan; and I also made new sauce mixture to use in cooking because I am not much for using marinading liquid as a sauce, no matter how long it has been cooking. But that is just me.
This fish, was yummy. I mean, super yummy. Bravo Jim Beam!
However, on that note, I must confess that I attempted the Julia Child "and some for the pan, and some for me" maneuver and took a tug off the Beam bottle, which was quickly followed by me wheezing "Sm-hooooothhhhhh!" while inhaling deeply to avoid a cough and smacking the counter repeatedly with the flat of my palm.
Guess Keri has grown out of her whiskey shootin' phase. Even the dog looked embarrassed for me.
But try the fish - the fish is good.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Old faithful Crunchy Chicken Caesar Salad

Perfect in its simplicity, a Chicken Caesar Salad is always well-received at our house. (Past posts will confirm that.)
Last night I used some left over flat-bread that I sprinkled with garlic powder, dried parsley, salt, and pepper, and toasted in the oven before cutting into bite sized pieces as croutons. I cut one large chicken breast into chunks and rolled them (no wet step needed) in whole wheat seasoned breadcrumbs.
The chicken went on to a rack in my roasting pan and into a 425 degree oven for 15-20 minutes (it was about 18 for me last night) until it was cooked through and crispy. (you can pop the broiler on for a minute or two if the top needs help crisping up.)
I crumbled up a slice of extra lean turkey bacon and tossed it with 1/2 bag of prewashed salad (I don't actually use bagged salad very often, too expensive, but I found a good sale this week and took advantage of it,) and 4 tablespoons of Ken's Light Caesar dressing (yep, I measure, because it is good to know what you are really eating, but also because I don't like salad that is soggy with too much dressing!)
On top of the dressed lettuce went the croutons and the warm, crunchy chicken.
So simple, but so, so welcome on a sunny spring evening.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Moroccan Inspired Beef Stew

We love beef stew at The Tree House. It is always a winner at our table. Still, it is nice to change things up sometimes and keep everybody from getting board with the same old stew. (Although my "same old stew" is pretty dang good, If I do say so myself.)
By changing the spices and veggies in a basic stew recipe, a whole new dish takes shape in no time.

For this stew I cubed and cut the excess fat off of 1 lb of cross-cut beef shank. (VERY inexpensive cut, but needs a bit more time when cubing to remove the fat from within the meat and make things leaner.)

I browned the beef cubes in a large dutch oven, then removed the meat to a plate before deglazing the pot with a small can of V-8 juice, taking up all the delicious brown bits off the bottom of the pan. I added 1 cup of water to the pot as well, and seasoned with : 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon coriander, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon of curry paste, and red pepper flakes for some kick (add a pinch and first, and adjust to your family's own taste.)

Into the pot went 1 cup each cubed butternut squash and carrots chopped the same size and the broth and veggies boiled until the squash and carrots were tender (less than 10 minutes for me.)
While the mixture was at a boil I added a slurry made from one heaping tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with and equal amount of cold water - add this slowly, you may not need it all to thicken the mixture to the desired consistency.
Finally the beef was added back to the pot, along with some fresh shredded spinach (get those veggies in there where ever you can, right?) and the beef heated through.
I served the stew in a well of Quinoa prepared according to package instructions, with flatbread along side.
The stew was warm with spice and rich and complex for being so quick cooking. Well-received by The Hub, who went back for seconds too!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

It's Menu Plan Monday over at Spirit of Power! Stop by and see what I have planned for this week, and then check back here for recipes as the week progresses!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I finally got the new liner for the trusty Patio Caddie, just in time for Spring, so now I can resume dealing with all problems with my usual 3 step process:


Monday, March 8, 2010

Lazy-way Chicken and Broccoli stuffed pasta

So what do you get when you take cooked Lasagna noodles and spread them with a mixture of:
1 large grilled b/s chicken breast, shredded

1 cup broccoli stems (cooked) chopped fine

1/2 block of cream cheese

3 BIG fresh basil leaves

(blended together in the food processor)

and then roll the noodles up around the filling:

And then bake covered in a simple cheddar cheese sauce at 350 for 45 minutes, covered?

You get stuffed shell perfection, without the hassle of actually stuffing the shells! (and if you are me, you get The Hub to eat the part of the broccoli he usually won't touch!)

BTW - I was running around Sunday afternoon and evening, and The Hub actually got this out of the fridge at the appointed time, then turned on the oven and baked these all by himself - I arrived home to a piping hot dinner just coming out of the oven! Sah-weet!

Lighter Side Tostadas

We eat A LOT of Mexican/Tex-Mex food at our house. The Hub grew up in Texas, and I spent years working in a Mexican restaurant in my younger days - it is a sure-fire go-to family of flavors that I know will always be a hit.
Then again, sometimes the same old tacos or fajitas over and over can get a bit dull, even to the biggest fans.
Not to mention the damage that you can do to your waistline piling on all of those toppings with reckless abandon!
These tostadas are a good solution to both problems.

I started by lightly spraying 3 corn tortillas with Canola Spray, and baking them until crispy on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven (this takes almost no time at all.)

Then I piled on my "filling" made by mixing together 1 cooked b/s chicken breast shredded, 1 palmful of chili powder, 1 cup fresh spinach chopped fine, and 1 tablespoon of cream cheese. (I tested for taste and added Salt and Pepper as needed.)

To The Hub's (pictured at the bottom of the post,) I also added a sprinkling of shredded 2% cheddar cheese. Everything went back into the oven to heat the filling and melt the cheese.

I served mine with a salad, (picture at the top of the post) and a couple teaspoons of avocado puree. Mmmmm, crunchy and spicy and yummy!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

It's Menu Plan Monday!

It is Menu Plan Monday over at Spirit of Power! Stop by and see what we are having for dinner this week, and be sure and come back for recipes and reviews here at ED&BK!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Oven Roasted Chicken and Veggies

Sometimes simple is just best. Last night for dinner I cut broccoli florets, carrots, and a small potato in large bite-sized pieces, tossed with a light spray of Canola cooking spray, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and roasted them uncovered in a 350 degree oven until tender. In a separate dish along side of the veggies, I cut a HUGE b/s chicken breast into chunks, gave them the same cooking spray and salt and pepper treatment, and baked covered until just cooked through. Then I added half a can of cream of chicken soup to the chicken pan, covered again, and cooked 5 more minutes. I tossed the veggies with the chicken and soup and plated it up.
Juicy chicken, tender veggies, light sauce - simple and delicious.

Teachin' Ya Tuesdays - Shopping Smart

There is a reason I am always banging into things at the Supermarket. I am always looking down, because that is where most of the products I buy are displayed. Looking down (and up high too) is a great way to avoid being taken in by the design tricks employed by grocery stores to get you to spend more.
As this article from Yahoo points out, lots of planning goes into product placement in stores - all with the goal of keeping you in the store longer and getting you to part with more of your hard-earned cash.
So (besides my downward gaze towards value/store brand product shelves) what other weapons do I use to Shop smart?
The #1 most powerful tool you can arm yourself with, in my humble (and cheapo) opinion, is the Price Book.
For the items you use most, the things you buy again and again, knowing how much the item costs when it isn't on sale is the easiest way for you to tell if you should get excited when a store say that it is on sale. It is also the fastest way for you to see which store is offering you the best prices on a regular basis.
Yes - this takes a bit of time. But I always have time to save money, don't you?
Grab a notebook - I find full-sized works better than small, but that is just me. I like to make a page for each product and then write the date, store, product size, and if the product was on sale or priced normally.
For meat I have a page for each store and have the NON sale prices of typical cuts listed. That way I know if it is worth getting excited about the sale price of a pork picnic roast at Safeway, or if it is really cheaper everyday at Walmart.
If you can't update the book at the store, do it based on your receipts at least, so that weeks from now you can look back and see that Sunflower's lettuce prices are WAY better than that Albertson's produce you are about to toss in your cart. A price book helps you recognize savings when you see it - and (as GI Joe told me when I was growing up) "knowing is half the battle."

Monday, March 1, 2010

Steak with Asparagus "Pesto"

This is a genius idea - I stand behind that (less-than-modest) statement. That being said, my execution left plenty to be desired. (Making Keri a sad cook.)

The plan was this - use some lean, inexpensive, thin cuts of round steak to make yummy rolls, filling them with a sort of riff on pesto using the tender portion of Asparagus stems just below the "tree" tip which The Hub actually likes to eat. (I like to use this cut to wrap around filling, as in this recipe, which was fabulous!)

So I put the cooked stems into my trusty food processor:

And I processed them until smooth - then I added 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese and pulsed to mix.
I spread this mix on to the steak, which had marinated overnight in a balsamic vinegar and garlic mixture.
Then I rolled them up and baked them on a broiler pan at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.
All of this was fine - but upon biting into my creation, I knew immediately what needed to be done to solve the problem I was tasting. It was bland. Well, the filling was bland, the meat was actually a little too sweet from the balsamic reduction I paired with it at the last minute.

So, what should I have done? #1 - I didn't salt the filling, because I thought the cheese would be enough. WRONG!!! Needed some salt to kick the flavor of the Asparagus up a bit. #2 - I omitted nuts in the "pesto" ripoff. Bad call. Traditional pesto has toasted pine nuts, but this would have benefited from some almonds in the mix to add a little complexity to the flavor. #3 - Balsamic was too strong a flavor for the marinade, and FOR SURE for the sauce. It was sweet when I was wanting something savory. No Bueno.

I served it all with my usual baked potato casserole, and I got to use my pretty new dishes (thanks to The Hub for buying them for me - I love them!) so it wasn't a total loss, but I was disappointed that I didn't execute my awesome idea in a better way.

This filling will rise again, I promise. In a much tastier version, natch.
And I will return to the kitchen tonight, licking my wounds a bit, but still happy to be there. :)