laborofwonder

Where Whine Meets Wine

Simple and Impressive


For a fantastic dinner, first you start with…

One very delicious margarita.

Next you get the main course going…

Yes, it did taste as good as it looks!

1 whole chicken (3 1/2 to 4 lb)

2 tbs butter, melted

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tsp brown sugar

2 tbs soy sauce

1 tbs worcestershire sauce

2 tbs orange muscat wine (you can use 2 tbs frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed)

1. Heat oven to 375. Brush whole chicken with butter; sprinkle with salt, garlic powder, pepper, and half of the ginger (1/2 tsp). Place chicken in shallow roasting pan. 2. Roast chicken uncovered for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the other half of the ginger (1/2 tsp), brown sugar, soy sauce, worchestershire sauce, and the orange wine. (Don’t forget a sip for yourself, you know, just taste testing.) 3. Remove chicken from oven. Brush mixture over chicken. 4. Return to oven; roast uncovered 20 minutes. Brush remaining mixture over chicken and squash; cover loosely with foil, and roast 30 minutes longer. (Until thermometer reads 180 and legs move easily when lifted or twisted.)

While the main course is going, you get some sides together:

Really yummy ears of corn.

And…

Watermelon, Cantaloupe, and Strawberries. Served with an incredibly delicious cream cheese fruit dip.

And it was fantastic! We’d had so many grey days that I need a meal to make me feel like it was summer- and this did the trick! And I loved it so much that I’ve decided not to wait until Thursday to share it!

1 Comment »

Cream Cheese Delight


Hubbyman was home early today, and since I stayed up late and got caught up on household things…today I could do what I want. Relatively. We played games, we cuddled, we read books. And then they requested “girl cheese” (grilled cheese) and toast with cinnamon.  It’s been months since I’ve made bread and so I decided today was the day for it! I used a recipe I found on Our Best Bites last August. (I blogged about it, but it went largely unnoticed.) They’re still rising, but I can tell you they’re going to be equally as fabulous this time!

I turned the rolls into bread…and it was fabulous!

Last time I made the frosting pink for Miss E since lots of times she gets left when it comes to deserts. This time I couldn’t bear to let the “filling” go to waste (since I’d forgotten to halve it, due to not making a full batch), but I still wanted it to be kind of glazed (versus frosted) so I added a good amount of milk, and then a little powdered sugar. Which also helped it to be not quite so rich since it already had the rich filling.) Perfect. Delicious. Even better than the first time around!

If you want to try them, go here for the full recipe! Or go to my link for my version of them (their recipe makes them rolls- I turned them into bread and used the extra dough to make a few of the cream cheese delights. Just enough to enjoy without them going bad as lots of desserts do in our home.) Oh, and the recipes are easy and other than the time for letting them rise, they take hardly any time!

I know, I normally (ie. when I remember) do recipes on Thursdays, but I decided these were too yummy to wait! That and my *&$#% keyboard has yet to be replaced.)

6 Comments »

Simply Comforting


I’ve seen a lot of other blogs recently featuring their favorite comfort foods. I even did a chicken noodle soup one. While this one isn’t so terribly different. It’s good enough that you’re going to want to try it. And for a limited time only, I will offer you two recipes for the price of one.

Bacon Chicken and Dumplings and how to make your own, homemade version of bisquick.

One of my favorite cooking companions. My sweet little Sous Chef!

Bacon Chicken and Dumplings (adapted from Allrecipes.com)

3 slices of bacon

3 large potatoes, peeled and diced

1 onion, diced

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts diced*

3 cups chicken broth

1 tsp poultry seasoning

salt and pepper (to taste)

1 can whole kernel corn (drained and rinsed)

2 cups half-and-half**

1 1/2 cups biscuit mix

1 cup milk

*I used 4 because I wanted it extra chicken-y, and of course the eternal problem where hubbyman doesn’t like soup.

**I used whole milk (because that’s what I had).

***You could add in more vegetables. If I’d of thought about it, I would’ve at least added some of the carrots sitting in my fridge.

1. Place bacon in large, deep skillet. Cook over med-high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble, and set aside; reserve bacon drippings in skillet. (I didn’t have any bacon thawed, but I thought it sounded so good. I did have some bacon drippings, so I did use that. But I will be using the bacon next time.)

2. Add potatoes, onion, and chicken to bacon drippings and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in chicken broth; season with poultry seasoning (here’s what my poultry seasoning has in it: marjoram, parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary, onion powder, and savory), salt, and pepper. Stir in corn, and simmer everything together for about 15 minutes.  *

3. Pour in milk (or half-and-half) and bring to a boil; add crumbled bacon. In a med. bowl, combine biscuit mix with milk and mix well (dough should be thick). Drop tablespoon sizes of dough into boiling mixture; reduce head and simmer for 10 minutes (uncovered) and then another 10 (covered). Avoid stirring while it’s simmers, or the dumplings could break apart.

*It was during this time (the 15 min simmer) that I whipped up the homemade version of bisquick, so by the time the simmer was done, so was the mix.

(image credit: AllRecipes.com) I couldn't find my camera so I didn't get any pictures. But it looked and tasted wonderful!

Homemade Bisquick Mix

 6 cups all-purpose flour, sifted *

3 tbs baking powder

1 tbs salt

1/2 cup cold butter

*I used Tom Sawyer all-purpose gluten free flour (it’s my favorite) but I’m hoping to come up with my own blend

1. In a med. bowl, measure and sift flour, baking powder, and salt. Use a wire whisk to make sure it’s blended thoroughly.

2. With a pastry cutter (or something similar – I actually used a cheese grater to “grate” the butter), cut in butter until it’s fully incorporated.

3. Store in the fridge, in an airtight container, for up to 4 months.

You can use this in place of bisquick. We’ve made pancakes, snickerdoodles (My Aunt said she actully preferred my gluten free version!), and biscuits out of the mix. It’s fantastic. And, in my opinion, even better than the box. Also- it’s way cheaper. So there you have it folks!

5 Comments »

Simply Delicious


Now if you’re anything like my husband, you may be a little bit afraid of things (foods) you haven’t tried. Especially if you’re a visual person. I completely understand how the way something looks can totally throw you off, but how many times have you judged a person, a store, or a book by the way they looked only to find yourself completely surprised? This is especially applicable to vegetables.

Anyways, so I have been stocking up on veggies (the ones that are hard -or non existent- to come by during the winter) and cubing, pureeing, and freezing them! Last week I got a bunch of different squashes, along with some brussel sprouts (they are so good for you!). Now I love squash and hubby merely accepts them as good for him, but I finally found a meal chock full of veggies that my family loved and ate!!! I should really word it to say that I finally found a meal chock full of veggies that HUBBYMAN will not just eat because it’s good for him, but because he likes the way it tastes! (my kids already love vegetables, their favorites being spinach and broccoli.)

Now for the meal! It wasn’t totally meatless this time (I was trying to warm my hubby up to the idea of brussel sprouts, which he adamantly claim to dislike), but it had little meat, and we’ve since had it without. I took one spaghetti squash and about a l-2 lbs of brussel sprouts and made a delicious dinner!!

That’s right.. the way I convinced my family they loved brussel sprouts after all, is by using bacon! Want to convince your family (and maybe yourself too) to eat brussel sprouts? Try it this way!

What you’ll need:

Brussel Sprouts

3 strips of bacon

Olive Oil

Salt

Pepper

Preheat your oven to 350. Cut the brussel sprouts in half and throw in a pan (the recipes all call to throw them in a bowl for this step, but really it’s not necessary and just adds extra dishes). Drizzle with olive oil (over all of it!!), sprinkle on the salt (more than you think is necessary, like it’s popcorn of french fries!) and some pepper. I added some Lowry’s seasoning salt, because I know that’s a flavor my hubby likes. Stir in up, toss it, coat it! Make sure they’re all well-coated in the olive oil. Then make sure the halves are all faced down. I only used 3 pieces of bacon because eventually I’d like this to be eaten without! But you can use more or less (it’s good even without!). Anyhow, I just cut the bacon into  small pieces and layered in randomly through the sprouts.

Put it in the oven for about 20 minutes. Stir/shake every five minutes after until they’re nice and crispy, browning but burnt! Mine took about 30-35 minutes total They’ll be a little crunchy, but trust me, this is a good thing!

I actually did this part before the sprouts… I took one large spaghetti squash and cooked it until soft. (you can do this a variety of ways from crock pot, to oven, to microwave. I used the oven- it takes about an hour, but all you have to do before hand it wash it, cut it open, scoop out the seeds and stick it in. So you can have it cooking well ahead of time.) While the brusell sprouts were a’cookin’ I threw some olive oil in a skillet, threw in some peas (my kids -and I- love peas), some chopped spinach, a little bit of chopped garlic cloves, and just a little onion and sauteed. Next I added the spaghetti squash.

All you have to do is take a fork to the squash and it comes out all stringy and spaghetti noodley like (hence the name). I only used one half- the other half I scooped out and froze for a quick, easy, gluten free spaghetti night!!) I sauteed, then threw in my homemade spaghetti sauce! Hubbyman likes spaghetti to have a good amount of sauce so I used a whole jar! I added a small amount of pepper, seasoning salt, and basil. Stirred it all up, and voila! It was delicious! And best of all, you could really throw in whatever veggie you like best!

I also made a super yummy fruit salad! Yum! This was a delicious, healthy meal that my whole family loved!! And those brussel sprouts? Hubby and kids ate them like candy! MissE declared them, Really nummy!

2 Comments »

Bring In Da Noise, Kick Out Da Funk


So if you read my post yesterday, you know that I’ve kind of been in a cooking funk. I don’t know if it’s the end of summer blues or just how much company we’ve had over the summer that’s left me a little burn out… as my sister-in-law says, You are the food lady. And what that means is that when you come to my house, you will be fed. I’m like your grandma (or at least my grandma)… food is one of my “love languages.” So if you come to my house, I will cook for you. If you request something, I will make it. (And I really love it when I get special requests!) At a “cousins’ dinner” I hosted last year, one of my cousins said, Who knew you’d be able to cook like this? While we all shared a laugh over it and really, I probably never would have guessed growing up that I would have cared at all about new recipes or that I’d always, always, always, have to make each and every recipe my own. I like to tell my hubbyman that he really lucked out when we got married, because at the time neither of us knew if I could really cook. (Although to a single, Navy man, anything that didn’t come from a box or a can was probably an improvement.)

So blah, blah, blah…I usually enjoy cooking, and I still have been cooking, just kind of thoughtless, easy, throw something together because I have to feed my family, kind of cooking. And while I didn’t make the eggplant chicken alfredo that I’d been planning to make, mainly because hubbyman wasn’t coming home until 7ish and I let the kids choose what they wanted for dinner. Which was phone noodles (what they call elbow noodles) and “the red sauce we like.” And can I just say what a relief it is to be able to give Miss E things with tomatoes in it again?! Whew! That poor girl! Her list of can’t haves is finally dwindling down to just a few! We’re still in the reintroduction phase, so we’re taking it slow and minimal, but so far so good!

Ok, back to me… so I found that website yesterday (from the post you read yesterday, right?) and I made them! Well, I made my version! (*grin*)

I turned the rolls into bread…and it was fabulous!

I made the frosting pink for Miss E since lots of times she gets left when it comes to deserts.

They were both phenominal! I was so impressed! Plus, I had everything I needed on hand… I guess I did a couple substitutes, but I didn’t have to run to the store for anything and they turned out great! If you want to try them, go here for the full recipe!

Notes on how mine were different: I made one batch of dough and filled one bread pan and then had enough dough left for 6 of the cream cheese rolls.

Favorite Rolls: Not only did I turn it into bread, but I didn’t have potato flakes, so I googled and found I could substitute potato flour or starch (1/2 cup flakes = 3 cups flour). I also didn’t have buttermilk, so I made my own (1 tbs lemon juice, add milk until it equals a cup. Let sit for 5 minutes. Viola!). Also since it was bread, it needed about 30 minutes. This was SO good and really very simple!

Cream Cheese Rolls: Oh this filling is so good! I made the whole batch and put the rest in the fridge- I’m thinking stuffed french toast this weekend! Or pancakes! Oh yum! So good! Anyways, you do want to make sure to push the top layer (of dough) down onto the filling, or yours will turn out like mine- with a little bubble in the middle that’s not completely filled with filling. Still good, just not quite right. And the topping, I didn’t have almond, so I just used vanilla. And I, of course, made it pink. Because my little girl hardly ever gets to partake in “deserts” and it was a way of making them special for her! She was so pleased!

GF and craving cinnamon rolls? If you’re not making the rolls/bread too, and only the cream cheese rolls, then I’d highly recommend throwing some cinnamon into the roll’s dough and if it were me, I’d throw in some almond or vanilla too. I know there’s not a lot of sugar in the dough, but I don’t think it needs more, the filling is so sweet, that it’s good without more. Definitely making these again! Yum!

3 Comments »

Impressively Simple Thursday


So…I’ve done an “Impressively Simple” post before, and love to make and create meals that look and/or sound difficult, but are really easy. So, I’ve decided (and hoping to stick to!) doing an “Impressively Simple” recipe every Thursday. We’ll see how it works out. But seriously, who doesn’t want to have a repertoire of recipes that they can throw together for the surprise guests or unplanned get together that is sure to impress!?

This week is Chicken Cordon Bleu. I saw a recipe in a magazine and thought, that looks so good, but it sounds like a lot of work… which to me sounded just like a challenge! So I made it about 4 times, 4 different ways. Trying to find the best, the easiest, and the impressivest! (Yes, I am aware that’s not an actual word, but let’s just go with it ok, just this once!)

My first attempt was traditional. My second attempt was spicy. My 3rd attempt was easy. And my 4th attempt was impressive. They were all delicious.

Ok so… here’s the best that I came up with:

Usually it’s one whole chicken breast (plus everything inside) for each person, which is a whole lot of chicken…. so I butterflied it (as best I could), cut it into three strips, and made it so that it had the look of an appitizer, but the taste (and stomach filling powers) of a huge meal.

So…here’s what I feel is the easiest, easily impressive way to make chicken cordon bleu:

4 chicken breasts, cut in half length wise (so it’s like you butterflied it- kitchen scissors will do the trick) and hammer flat and even- I used a rolling pin to do this). Cut into 2 or 3 long (1 1/2  inch width) strips (depending on size of the breast)

Place one slice of cheese (I used the spicy cheddar I’d used previously, I used swiss, and I also used just plain cheddar, because it’s what I had… all of them were good. I vote you pick out your favorite cheese and use that -I’m always going to vote for using what you already have!)

Lay a slice of ham (I also used prosciutto -because I love it- and that was really wonderful!) over the cheese and roll tightly.

You could secure it with a toothpick, but I found that it wasn’t necessary if you rolled them tightly.

*This part is optional* dip rolled chicken in egg. It just helps the next step to stick the chicken.

I dipped them in 1 1/2-2 cups of almond flour that I seasoned with seasoning salt and pepper. (If you are not a GF household, you can also use breadcrumbs, as it traditionally calls for)

Place in greased pan (with the seam on the bottom)  and top each with some shredded cheese (I used a shredded asiago/parm blend)

bake @ 350 degrees for 35 minutes. And viola mini chicken cordon bleu! In healthier portion sizes! Use as appetizers or as the entree! I made it a combination of both! Once as the main entree (in whole chicken breast form… so stuffing, which is why I thought about making the portions smaller…) and then when I made the smaller rolls, I served 2 rolls over broccoli and rice. Very good!

Variation: This adds time, but it was really good, so I’m going to throw this out there, just in case you want to go above and beyond: Before placing the cheese and ham on your chicken, drizzle each chicken slice with some hollandaise sauce. (here’s the recipe for that I used) I had all the ingredients to just make it (And I wanted to start out my chicken cordon bleu process by starting with the fanciest version I could and work my way from there), but they sell packets for easy hollandaise sauce at your local grocer and that will work too. Just before baking drizzle remaining sauce over the rolled chicken. I would highly recommend trying it with the sauce. So yummy. I’m not sure if that’s traditional or not, but I read a lovely blog where he tried it, and figured I’d give it a go- well worth it!

Leave a comment »

Impressively simple


So this is quickly becoming a favorite, at least for me… or I see it becoming a favorite is probably a better term because I have only actually made this twice, but it is so yummy!

It’s pretty much the same chicken recipe that I used here With a few new twists. I found that this chicken is both delicious and easy. And since we also have guests this week it’s a good meal to make if you want to impress with your culinary skills and stick to a time limit and a budget! I think this would also be good served over rice (or quinoa), but I wasn’t sure when I made it, so I skipped that part. Next time, I think I’ll add rice. This time I used a ton of chicken (I figured it would be a crazy week so I cooked up between 6-8 (I can’t remember which now!) chicken breasts that I’d cut into strips. After cooking through I took out about 1/3 of the chicken to save for future meals. If I were only cooking the amount for this dish I would have cooked the “mix ins” along with it. The “mix ins” were one yellow onion, about 2+ cups of fresh spinach, about 2/3 cup of fresh chopped mango, about 1 cup of Trader Joe’s tomato-less salsa (a corn and chili salsa- so, so yummy!) with a few drizzles of olive oil. I did this in a pan along side the chicken.

.

Once I removed the chicken to save for the rest of the week, I added in the “mix ins,” cooking over a low heat while stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes. I also realized at this point that I’d forgotten to cook the chicken in lime, so I squeezed some extra lime juice in the mix. Voila! 20 minutes and dinner was done! And delicious!

See, wouldn’t this look terrific on top of rice?

So good, so easy, sooo… go make it!

Leave a comment »

I’d like samoa please!


Let’s face it, don’t we all love girl scout cookies?! I bought ten boxes this year (yes, ten!). 4 Samoa (hubby fav), 4 thin mint (proptly placed in the freezer- my fav), and two other boxes of…I don’t even remember! Well, because Miss E can’t have any (the wheat factor) it seemed unfair for her to not have a chance to share in this slice of Americana. So I searched out recipes, compared, contrasted, and of course- made it my own! This doesn’t really fall into the “quick and easy” or “healthy” categories, but after sending out recipe after recipe to all my friends who’ve been asking for it (and therefore making me feel much less guilty about having made and eaten so many of these cookie!)…I’ve had a change of heart. So enjoy it, eat it up, and hopefully share them! (they also LOOKED really good, so if you want a recipe that is sure to impress- this is it! Hopefully I can find the adapter for my camera so I can post a picture of these delicious beauties!)

Samoas via the phone

This is my favorite (gluten free) version of the recipe:

  • 1 cup butter, soft
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup almond meal/flour
  • 1 1/4 cup gluten free all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • up to 2 tbsp milk

*to make “regular” cookies: use 2 cups all-purpose flour in place of the almond meal and GF all-purpose flour (or keep the almond meal and just substitute regular flour for gf). And use 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract.

sidenote: I used the almond meal because I love the taste and because the current brand of GF all-purpose flour we are currently testing out has a “vegetabley” taste (it’s main ingredient is garbanzo beans). Adding the almond and cutting down the all-purpose kept that taste from lingering after baking (as did the extra 1/2 tsp of vanilla)! Plus the added protein and healthy benefits of having the almond in! (makes me feel a tiny bit better about eating these cookies!)

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt at a low speed, followed by the vanilla and milk, adding in the milk slowly to make sure it’s not too sticky (you may not need all the milk- *I did need it*). The dough should come together into a soft, not-too-sticky ball. Add in a bit of extra flour if your dough is very sticky.

Roll the dough (in 2 or batches) out between pieces of saran wrap to about 1/4-inch thickness (or slightly less) and use a cookie cutter to make rounds (or the top of a glass). Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and use a knife, or the end of a wide straw, to cut a smaller center hole. Repeat. While I did a few circles with holes, most were flower and monkey shaped… because of course, I had helpers! And, to be honest, it was the end of the day, I was tired and cranky and got very quickly frustrated with the “stickiness”… And hubbyman finished rolling them out and cutting them with the kids. (Just another sign: he is a good man.) You can of course make them however you want in whatever shape you want. If you’re really wanting them to look like the girl scout version, then go with the water glass/circle cookie cutter route.

Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until bottoms are lightly browned and cookies are set. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. (let cool about 2 minutes and then transfer- sooner they crumble and if you wait too long they’re more difficult to move as well)

*If you’re making Samoa Bars: just leave out the baking powder. Press it out evenly into a parchment-lined 9x13in dish and make sure to press it out almost as thin as you would the cookies to match the girl scout consistency. Mine were a little thicker and while still incredible, made them a little different than the GS version and I think if the cookie had been thinner it would have tasted more similar. Bake 350 for about 12-15 minutes. (I believe mine took 15 minutes but I’d check at 12 and see where yours are at.)

Topping

  • 3 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar *
  • 1 cup butter *
  • 1/3 cup karo syrup *
  • 8 oz. dark or semisweet chocolate (I used semisweet chocolate chips and that worked perfectly)

*If you’re not up to making the caramel, you can always substitute in12-oz good-quality chewy caramels, 3 Tbsp. milk, and 1/4 tsp. salt. (Unwrap, place in microwave-safe bowl with milk and salt. Cook on high for about 3 minutes, stopping to stir several times- about every 45 sec.)

Preheat oven to 300. Spread coconut evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet (preferably one with sides) and toast 25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden. Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Bring brown sugar, butter, and karo syrup to a boil over medium heat. Stirring frequently! Boil for 2 minutes. When smooth, fold in toasted coconut with a spatula. Using the spatula or a small offset spatula, spread topping on cooled cookies, using about 2-3 tsp per cookie. Reheat caramel briefly (stovetop or microwave) if it gets too firm to work with.

Sidenote: As mentioned previously I made both cookies and bars. So I used 4 cups of shredded coconut instead of three. It really makes a lot of caramel and I found that it was the perfect amount. Covered every cookie and every bar. So if you’re only making one batch of cookies (I figured it was way too much work for just one batch!) you can cut down your caramel if you’re making it from scratch. (the amounts I gave for the pre-made caramels is for one batch)

While topping sets up, melt chocolate in a small bowl. Heat on high in the microwave in 45 second intervals, stirring thoroughly to prevent scorching. (about 3 times) The original recipe (that I can no longer find anywhere!) said to dip the base of each cookie into the chocolate, but I found that was kind of tedious and a couple of times half the cookie part came off with the chocolate. I found it worked better to just put a quick swipe on with my spatula and place on a clean piece of parchment paper. Transfer all remaining chocolate (or melt a bit of additional chocolate, if necessary) into a piping bag (or make do like I did and use a ziplock bag with the corner snipped off) and drizzle finished cookies with chocolate.

Let chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container. The base does take a while to cool and set completely.

*The recipe says it makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies but I found it was more like about 2 dozen.

end sidenote: If all the rolling out and cookie-cutter-ing sounds too time consuming and not fun, I vote for the bars! They don’t taste any different than the cookies and were so much easier! If I make them again, I’ll be doing the bars from now on!

3 Comments »