23 December 2007

I got a new slow cooker for Christmas! It is really great. You can read all about it here. Here is the first recipe I made in it.

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup

1 medium shallot, finely diced
2 (16 oz. cans) black beans
1 (15 oz. can) corn (can use frozen also)
1 (8 oz. can) tomato sauce
12 oz. chicken stock
1 can diced tomatoes with the juice
taco seasoning (can use the packet or this recipe)
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream
green onions
tortilla chips

Add first seven ingredients to the slow cooker. Mix well so the seasonings are evenly distributed. Lay chicken breasts on top, pushing them down just enough to cover them with the liquid. Simmer on low for 5 hours. Remove the chicken breasts and shred with two forks. Return to slow cooker and simmer an additional hour or so, until chicken is completely cooked through.

Serve with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips. Garnish with green onions.

This is another recipe I got from allrecipes.com and altered a bit. It called for onion and I didn’t have one, so I used a shallot. Also, it called for a can of beer instead of the chicken stock, but YUCK! I don’t like beer and was afraid the taste wouldn’t all cook out, so I substituted the stock instead. Besides, I’m pregnant. I can’t have beer!

The recipe came with a taco seasoning, which I posted separately. As you can read there, I thought it was a little heavy on the chili powder. The soup recipe also called for one can of red chili beans instead of the second can of black beans. That combined with the chili powder gave it a definite “chili” feel. I knew that was going to be an issue when I awoke from my afternoon nap and wondered who was making chili. Next time I will scale back the chili powder and use two cans of black beans instead of one black, one red.

I didn’t simmer it on low like the recipe says. I didn’t get it together until about 1:30, so I put it on high. I shredded the chicken at 6:00 and it was literally falling apart. I hate shredding chicken, but it was so easy. The chicken was so tender. The original recipe says to simmer another 2 hours after shredding the chicken, but I didn’t think it needed that much additional time. It was 98% cooked through by then.

I put “2-3 chicken breasts” in the recipe because it really depends on how big your breasts are. (Lol, no I don’t mean the ones in your shirt!) They are usually so thick that they take forever to cook and make huge portion sizes, so when I bring them home I slice them in half (flat-wise) and freeze them individually on a sheet pan. So, how thick your breasts are will determine the cooking time and how many you need to use. I used three of the thin sliced ones: one med, one large, and one kinda small. When I shredded it, I left out half of the big one because I didn’t think it needed any more chicken.

Even with the chili feel to it, we absolutely loved this recipe. It was really flavorful and the chicken was nice and tender. It had great flavor without being very hot. Next time I might add some cayenne pepper or maybe a dash of hot sauce to give it a little something extra, especially since I am reducing the chili powder. If you like things hot, I strongly suggest you add something like that.

I will definitely be making this again! Please try it. It is so easy and so good!

I have to include this pic. It's of Jim's serving. He insisted I take one of his as well. He completely drowned his in cheddar cheese, as you can see!

22 December 2007

Some very nice church members gave us some venison they had processed recently. I had never prepared venison before and wasn’t sure what to do with it. I thought it is probably best done similarly to beef and stroganoff is one of my favorite beef dishes.

I had made beef stroganoff once a few years ago but we didn’t care for it that much. That recipe had red wine in it and the wine taste really came through in the finished dish. We didn’t really like that. So I knew I wanted a recipe that didn’t use wine. I wanted one that had beef broth and sour cream. There were a handful of venison stroganoff recipes on allrecipes.com, but most of them called for cream of mushroom soup instead of beef broth and sour cream. And most of them didn’t even have mushrooms in them. Sorry, that’s not stroganoff to me! So I came up with my own recipe.

Venison Stroganoff

1 ½ lbs. venison steak, cut off the bone and cubed
salt and pepper (go easy on the salt if you aren’t using reduced-sodium broth later)
onion powder
garlic powder
1 ½ cups reduced sodium beef broth
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp. flour
1 cup light sour cream
5 cups wide egg noodles

Season venison with salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. Brown in large skillet. When no longer pink, add ½ cup beef broth and the mushrooms. Cover and simmer on low until mushrooms are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir until well-mixed. Allow to cook for a few minutes. Add 1 cup beef broth and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, boil noodles until al dente and drain. When desired sauce thickness is achieved, remove from heat and add sour cream.

Serve stroganoff over egg noodles.

It was really good! I had some trouble coming up with the right thickness for the sauce. I wasn’t totally sure how thick I wanted it. I kept going back and forth between, “It’s too thin,” and “It’s too thick,” while I was cooking. My roux didn’t thicken up very much, and I think that might have been because the venison was so lean that there was hardly any fat in the pan when I did it. But it ended up turning out really well.

The venison had great flavor. Jim said he thought it tasted just like beef. I could tell that it wasn’t beef, but I thought it worked really well in this recipe. Some reviewers on allrecipes.com suggested marinating the venison before browning to tenderize it, but I’m glad I didn’t worry about doing that because the venison I had didn’t need it.

This was a wonderful dinner. I will definitely be making it again, with beef too. Thanks for the venison, Tim and Christy!
I make my own taco seasoning.  There certainly is nothing wrong with the little packet, but I like the idea of being able to customize the flavor of my taco meat.  I love chipotle, so I add that to my seasoning.  I also use smoked paprika, which gives it a wonderful flavor.

Taco Seasoning

1½ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
¼ tsp oregano
½ tsp paprika (I use smoked)
1½ tsp ground cumin
¾ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

pinch of ground chipotle powder

Combine all ingredients.  Add to ground beef along with 2 tbsp flour and ¼ cup water.

Makes 2 tbsp.

I know that it's a pain to get 10 different spices out of the cabinet every time you make tacos.  That's why I make a big batch of this (8x the original recipe) and keep it in a jar in my spice cabinet.  Then I just measure out 2 tbsp for each batch of taco meat.  To spare you from doing the math yourself, here's the recipe for a big batch.

Big Batch of Taco Seasoning


¼  cup chili powder
¼  cup ground cumin
3 tsp pepper
6 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
½  tsp chipotle powder
2 tsp oregano
3 tsp paprika

Combine all ingredients.  Place in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Store in cabinet, away from heat and direct light.
Use 2 tbsp of seasoning for each 1 lb. taco meat.

Makes 8 (2 tbsp) servings.

18 December 2007

After almost two years without a crockpot, I finally got a new one! The one I registered for when we got married was a little cheap deal that basically started disintegrating on me in our third year of marriage. The little plastic feet kept slowly chipping away, the casing that housed the dial started cracking and then oozing some strange blue substance, then finally the whole dial just fell out of the machine! I didn't bother moving it back to St. Louis; it got trashed.

Some very generous members of our congregation gave us a housewarming gift and then a Christmas gift and it was the perfect amount with which to purchase this really nice crockpot (yes, I know "Crockpot" is a trademarked term for the Rival brand, but it's so much easier to say and type than "slow cooker," so that's what I use.)

It is the Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget 6 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker, model 33966. Check it out on

It comes with a temperature probe. If you are cooking meat, you stick the probe in the meat (there is a hole for it in the lid) and tell the crockpot what temperature you want the meat to be when done. When it reaches the desired temperature, the unit will automatically switch to the "warm" setting from whatever you had it on to cook. So no more overcooked, mushy meats!

You can program it to cook on "high" for a certain number of hours then switch to "low." It's completely programmable. Neat! You can also use it just like the traditional crockpots by simply setting it on high, low, or warm.

I've only made one dish in it so far,
Crockpot Chicken Taco Soup, but I love it already. Even though I am home most days, I think I will use it a lot simply because it's so easy and hassle free. And it means spending less time on my feet which is becoming more taxing the bigger this baby gets!

I really like the oval shape of this appliance, too. I was able to lay flat three chicken breasts without them touching each other. That means things will cook more evenly. And on an aesthetic note, it is very sleek looking with the black and stainless steel. So shiny and pretty!
Thank you so much, Virgil and Carol!

10 December 2007

This is a punch I made for our housewarming party yesterday. I was looking for a cranberry-flavored one because cranberry has become a holiday flavor, for some reason. I had some punch in Texas once that had Jell-O in it, and it was really good, so I looked for a similar recipe. I found one on allrecipes.com that was meant to be a green Halloween punch, as it called for lime Jell-O. I decided to use it and add cranberry Jell-O instead of lime. Well, I wasn't able to find cranberry Jell-O the day I went to the store, so I got raspberry instead so it would still be red at least. Then when I was looking for the ginger ale, I found that Canada Dry had a cranberry flavored ginger ale. So it ended up being a cran-raspberry punch.

Holiday Punch

2 (3 oz.) boxes raspberry Jell-O
4 cups hot water
46 oz. pineapple juice
1 can frozen no-pulp orange juice concentrate, thawed
4 ½ cups cold water
2 liters cranberry ginger ale

Dissolve the Jell-O in the hot water. Allow to cool. Meanwhile, pour the pineapple juice through a fine mesh strainer to reduce the amount of pulp. When the Jell-O mixture is cool, add it to all the remaining ingredients, saving the ginger ale for right before the party so it doesn’t lose its fizz.

It was a huge hit at the party. We had a total of 31 guests and I had to make two batches of it. Tip: Only one batch would fit in the punch bowl, but I guessed that one might not be enough, so before the party, I dissolved the Jell-O in water for the second batch so it would be cool if I needed to whip up another batch during the party. This is a really good idea because it takes a while for it to cool.

This ended up being a bit different from the recipe I found online. First I changed the Jell-O flavor, as I mentioned before. Also, it called for additional white sugar, 2 cups, I think. The reviews from others suggested leaving this out and I’m so glad I did. It was perfect the way it was; I can’t imagine it with extra sugar. And the original recipe didn’t call for straining the pineapple juice, but I think it would have been a little sludgy on the bottom without doing that. I was surprised how much pulp I ended up with after doing that.

This recipe really lends itself to changes. You can use any flavor of Jell-O you like. Ditto with the ginger ale. Also, when I made the second batch, I didn’t add the can of orange juice, and no one could tell a difference. I love flexible recipes!

(The photo above is of the punch when I made it again for my daughter's fourth birthday party in February 2012. Weird that she wasn't even born when I first posted this recipe! It didn't have a picture, so I snapped one of it then. That time I used strawberry Jell-O to get more of a lighter pink color because the party was "My Little Pony" themed.)

Update (3.18.13): I made the green version of this punch for St. Patrick's Day.

22 November 2007

I'll be back to post this recipe later! I promise!

30 October 2007

Gnocchi are little dumplings made with potato flour. So even though they are potatoes, it's not like you are eating little chunks of potatoes. They are Italian, and are usually included in pasta categories, although technically they aren't pasta.

I don't make gnocchi myself, but I like to buy it premade and make different sauces to go with it. Last weekend I went on a bus trip to Chicago with my mom and sister and we stopped at a Trader Joe's. Jim and I used to frequent Trader Joe's when we lived in St. Louis, but there aren't any in the Grand Rapids area. Anyway, I picked up some gnocchi there. You should be able to find it in any decent grocery store. It may be in the refrigerated section with the prepackaged filled pastas.

We had it for dinner last night. I decided to prepare it with pesto. Pesto is a flavorful paste made up of basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil (traditionally.) It can be made with a variety of fresh herbs. It is usually served with pasta as an alternative to a red or cream sauce. You can find hundreds of different pesto recipes online and in cookbooks. Here is the one I use:

Basil Pesto

2/3 oz. fresh basil, torn into pieces
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tbsp pine nuts
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a food processor, pulse together the first five ingredients. Stream in the olive oil. Remove from food processor and fold in the Parmesan.

Makes enough for 1 pound of pasta.

I think next time I make this, I might cut back on the oil just a tad.
It makes pretty simple meal. I just boiled the gnocchi for a few minutes and drained them. Then I just tossed them with the pesto until it was evenly distributed. I served it with some chicken breasts that I seasoned very simply with salt and Herb de Provence and browned up in the skillet.

Very simple, delicious meal. If you have yet to try gnocchi or pesto, I encourage you to do so.
This is a dish I made for a 50th wedding anniversary celebration in September. I got the recipe from a community cookbook when we lived in Hamilton, Texas. I ended up changing it a bit. The original recipe was written very casually and didn't include a lot of details. Several details were missing, such as how many squashes (is that the right word?) to use and how to cook it. It included sauteed celery and cream of chicken soup. I decided to skip the celery and use cream of celery soup instead. I thought that having chicken flavors going on wasn't really necessary when there were already a lot of other flavors included, like celery, corn, onion, and squash. And it also included chicken bouillon, so additional chicken wasn't necessary. Skipping the celery also made it a little easier; less to chop! The original recipe also failed to say what kind and size of dish to use.

Here is the original recipe:

3 cups cooked squash, drained and mashed
1 package corn bread mix, baked (yellow)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup onion
1/2 cup celery
1/2 cup green pepper
1 teaspoon sage (optional)
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 can cream of chicken soup
Crumble corn bread in milk. Saute onion, celery, and green pepper in 1 stick of margarine. Add all remaining ingredients. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

(Recipe courtesy Dora Kunkel. Published in A Taste of Hamilton, 2003)

Here's how I made it. This is doubled.

Squash Dressing

2 boxes corn bread mix, prepared (I use Jiffy. This will require 2/3 cup milk and 2 eggs)
5-6 small yellow squash
1 cup diced onions
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp sage
4 tsp chicken bouillon powder (equivalent of 4 cubes)
2 cans cream of celery soup
4 cups milk (I used 2%)
Prepare corn bread mixes in 8 inch square glass baking dish. Let cool. Preheat oven at 350.

Chop the ends off the squash and cut into 1/2" to 1" slices. Boil until soft. Drain and mash, leaving some chunks.

Saute the onions and garlic in butter. Add sage and bouillon powder. Add cream of celery soup and mix well.

After the corn bread has cooled, crumble it and soak it in the milk.

Combine the corn bread mixture, soup mixture, and squash.

Bake in 9 x 13 glass dish for one hour.

Here is the finished result. I couldn't believe how pretty it turned out!

I kept the bouillon in because I didn't know exactly what part it played in the recipe. And I omitted the green pepper simply because I don't like the flavor of it and didn't think it was necessary.

This recipe is hard to write because you kind of have to do three things at once. You have to let the corn bread cool (unless you make it the night before, like I do) and soak it in milk while you chop the squash and cook it and saute the onions and garlic. So don't do it as it is written; get each of those things going so they can all be done and ready to combine at the same time.

A note of warning: This looks absolutely disgusting when you combine it and pour it into the baking dish. I know. But trust me, it will look beautiful when you pull it out of the oven, and it will taste even better!

23 October 2007

I used to make chili in the crockpot, but mine bit the dust over a year ago and I haven't replaced it. So I had to come up with one that was just as easy and was made on the stovetop. I found one on allrecipes.com and changed it up to fit my tastes.

Simple Stovetop Chili

1 pound ground beef
½ small onion or ¼ large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 15 oz. can kidney beans
1 tbsp chili powder
pinch red pepper flakes or 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper

salt and pepper

In a large saucepan, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft, but not browned. Brown the ground beef either in a separate skillet or in the microwave. Drain. Add to onion and garlic. Add the tomatoes (with their juice), tomato sauce, and kidney beans. Season with chili powder, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for at least 15 minutes. The longer you let it simmer, the better the flavors meld together. If you simmer for an extended amount of time, you might need to add some water with the other ingredients so it doesn’t dry out as it reduces.

Makes four servings.

It is really good served with some shredded cheddar cheese and light sour cream. This recipe is nice because it can be ready in about half an hour (if you let it simmer only 15 minutes.) And it tastes just fine this way. But the longer you let it simmer, the better it gets.

The reason I saute the onion and garlic before adding the hamburger is because I like to make sure they are soft. I like the flavors they add to the finished product, but I don't want to have big chunks of them when done. And this way Jim doesn't even notice them! You may still see some small pieces of garlic, because it is white and not clear. But as long as it is soft, you won't even taste it. The other reason I don't brown the hamburger in the pot is that it hard to drain and I usually buy the cheaper stuff that has to be drained before anything else is added.

And the spice is really easy to alter to fit your tastes. The recipe I found online only called for a pinch of chili powder. You couldn't taste it at all! So I upped that quite a lot and added a bit of extra heat with the red pepper flakes or cayenne.

10 October 2007

The Quigmans
10 October 2007

06 October 2007

Hi everyone! Sorry I've been MIA for a few months. The first trimester was really rough on me and cooking was the last thing on my mind. It took me a while to get back in the swing of things, but I am much better now and am actually in the mood to cook again! Yay!

While I was sick, my sister, Hilary, came up with an awesome recipe for hummus for a summer family gathering. I thought since I didn't have anything to contribute, I would post her recipe.

Hilary’s Heavenly Hummus

1 16 oz can of garbanzo beans, drained
1 clove of garlic
5 grape tomatoes
1 small tuft of fresh parsley
1 tbsp olive oil

I put the garlic and beans in the chopper and it was too thick so I added the olive oil. If you want it to be fat-free, just keep some of the liquid from the beans. Once it was pasty, I added the grape tomatoes and parsley and just chopped a little longer. Since I added these late, the final product had neat red and green flecks.

I bought whole wheat fat-free pita bread, cut it into triangles and toasted them under the broiler. I really like it, but I have to stop eating it or I'll have to make another batch in the morning. If I were making it just for me, I would have added another clove of garlic.

Thanks so much, Hil, for sharing!

I will probably be more active in the coming months. I hope you all didn't give up on me completely!

11 July 2007

I created this salmon spread recipe last year when we were in St. Louis. I love salmon, and it's high in Omega-3. I use the kind in the packet, Chicken of the Sea. I always get complements on it. One time I took it to work for lunch and one of my co-workers ate almost all of it.

Salmon Spread

7 oz. canned or packet salmon
1/4 tsp dill (I use dried)
2 tbsp combined minced shallot and minced garlic
1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
2 tbsp low-fat Miracle Whip

Directions are pretty simple. Mix together.

I use my mini food processor to mince the garlic and shallot together. I usually do a whole bunch at one time and keep the rest in the fridge to use later. Mincing shallots makes my eyes sting, so I like to get it over with all at once! The ratio I use is two parts shallot to one part garlic, but you can adjust it to your tastes. You can also use onion instead of shallot, but I think the shallot flavor really defines this spread.

I usually eat it on crackers (whole grain is best) but you could also make a sandwich out of it with whole grain bread.

Nutrition Info:
Serving size: 1/2 cup (1/3 of batch)
Calories: 130
Fat: 6
Sodium: 480
Protein: 12

I know, it's not the healthiest thing. You could reduce the fat even further by using non-fat sour cream and non-fat Miracle Whip, but I haven't tried this yet. I wish there was a way to reduce the sodium, but most of it comes from the salmon itself. I hope food manufacturers get on the "reduced sodium" bandwagon like they did years ago with low-fat. This serving size might actually be a bit large if you are making a sandwich with it, depending on the size of your bread. I usually divide it into three equal servings after I make it and store the individual servings in separate, small containers so that I don't end up eating the whole batch at once. Then I can grab and go the next time.

Sometimes I add a boiled egg to it. Boosts the protein even more. This is good for me now, since I am in early pregnancy:)

I hope you enjoy. Tell me what you think of it. Maybe I'll post a pic later.

29 June 2007

I wanted to try a recipe that used a shallow baking sheet with a cooling rack on top so the food gets crispy on all sides. (It was Chicken Parmesan; stay tuned for post on that.) I didn't have anything like that, so I hit the stores. The first store I looked at was Wal-Mart (I was there for something else.) They had one cooling rack, but when I read the care instructions, it said, "Do not use in oven." Well, that wasn't going to help me. I thought, I could get by putting it the oven except for the fact that this recipe is baked at 475. That's pretty hot. Wasn't going to chance it.

Then at Meijer I found the Wilton Perfect Results Bakeware Collection. It looks like pretty nice stuff. They have what they call a "cooling grid." It's non-stick and is made to go into the oven. It is dishwasher safe, however, hand washing is recommended. Since it's non-stick, hand washing is not a problem. The rack I got is the Wilton Perfect Results 16 x 10" Cooling Grid.

To go with it, I picked up the Wilton Perfect Results 15 1/4 x 10 1/4 x 3/4" Medium Cookie Pan. The rack and the pan don't fit perfectly, but well enough. I line the pan with foil before putting the rack on top, so that the pan doesn't even need cleaning afterwards.
I am very happy with my new purchases. I'm sure I will use them all the time now.

27 June 2007

The Quigmans
27 June 2007

18 June 2007

The stresses of the last few months have really packed the pounds on me. I am definitely one of those people who eat when they are stressed, with no regard to nutrition or portion size. Comfort foods got me through the last three months, and it shows!

Well, here's where it ends! As of today, I am making better food choices and am looking forward to creating some healthful meals again. It's long overdue. I won't be blogging about my weight loss journey, but I will be posting healthier recipes and I promise to include nutrition values.

I know "healthy" can be somewhat ambiguous, but my main concerns are calories, fat, and sodium. Those are the numbers I keep in check when I am assessing a meal. A good recipe has a balance of lean protein, carbs (preferably including fiber), and vegetables.

I invite you all to share any recipes in this category that you enjoy. I would love to try them. You can email them to me (aseleener [at] yahoo.com) and I will post them (giving you credit, of course). You are welcome to include pics if you have them. If you don't have the nutrition values, that's ok. I can figure them up pretty easily.

So, please, please share and I will get to work on my own recipes.

12 June 2007

I'm back in the kitchen! We have relocated to Michigan and things are finally starting to settle down enough for me to think about cooking again. Seems like it has been so long.

I read an article in the local paper about putting shrimp inside a biscuit and baking it. I'm not really a shrimp lover, and never make it at home, so I began to think of what else I could put in there. Naturally, my first thought was salmon. I really like the kind that comes in a pouch, Chicken of the Sea.

The article listed only canned shrimp, cream cheese, and salt as ingredients in the filling. I thought that sounded awfully bland. I kept the cream cheese, but I got a flavored kind, garlic and herb. (Actually it was the kind that was swirled, half regular and half flavored.) Then I used my standard salmon salad seasonings: dill, minced garlic, and onion (I usually use shallots, but couldn't find them at this grocery store in my new town.)

When I mixed it all together, it seemed slightly dry and not creamy like I had imagined it. I added a touch of light sour cream and that seemed to loosen it up a bit.

I then pried open some Grands biscuits and put in a spoonful of filling. After they were done, realized I probably could have put in a little more filling than I did, but a spoonful is an okay amount.

The article I read also mentioned brushing the tops with egg white before you bake them. I wasn't sure about this. Was it really necessary? I mean, the biscuits always brown up really nice on their own, don't they? I decided to experiment with it; I brushed two of them with egg white and left the other two alone. The result? They were all equally golden brown. The ones with egg white were just a bit more crispy on top than the naked ones. Not unpleasantly crispy, just crispy. Personally, I don't think it's worth wasting the time, dirty dishes, and the egg on it.

The finished product was pretty good. Like I said, they could have used more filling to even out the salmon to bread ratio. I only made four of these, but even if I had made eight, there would have been lots of filling left. Keep that in mind if you decide to try these. There is probably enough filling for at least 16 biscuits. But you can't exactly open only a half pouch of salmon, so if you are only doing 4 or 8 biscuits, save the rest of the filling for something else.

Here are some pics of the process.

Salmon Pockets

1 7 oz pouch pink salmon
1/2 tsp dill
minced garlic and shallot or onion (I never measure this)
1/4 cup garlic and herb cream cheese
2 tbsp light sour cream
16 refrigerated flaky biscuits (like Grands)

Preheat oven to 375˚. Mix together the first five ingredients until well-blended. Split each biscuit in half using its natural layers. Try to make sure the top and bottom are of equal thickness. Place a spoonful (or a spoonful and a half) of filling in each biscuit and press the edges together tightly to seal.
Bake for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown.

Breakfast Pockets

Since I had biscuits left, I decided to make a breakfast version for Jimmy to reheat in the morning. I made scrambled eggs with cheese (I always use American in scrambled eggs), making sure not to overcook them. Then I placed a spoonful of eggs in a slice of deli ham and wrapped it up in a neat little bundle. I then placed the bundle in the biscuit and sealed the edges. I baked them just like the salmon ones. If these are made ahead of time, they don’t need to be as brown on top when you take them out of the oven. If you use a toaster oven, they will probably get a little more brown during reheating. But if you plan on reheating in a microwave, then brown them all the way in the oven.
Didn't take the time to record nutrition info on these. Sorry. Maybe later.

12 April 2007

Last Friday, when Hilary was visiting, we had some friends over for dinner and drinks. My friends said they wanted Mexican, so I spent some time deciding what to make. Usually when we have Mexican at home, it consists simply of taco fixings. But this time I wanted to do something a little more creative.

One of my favorite things about living in Texas was the Mexican restaurants that abounded. There were two authentic Mexican places in our little town. One of them made sour cream chicken enchiladas that Jim and I just loved. (There was also a really good place in the Fort Worth Stockyards that had them too.) I thought it would be fun to create a version at home.

I did a little online searching to see how people usually make them. I was surprised at how many recipes contained condensed soup of some kind, either cream of chicken or cream of mushroom. That didn't sound anything like what I was thinking of.

Hilary and I went grocery shopping without a recipe for guidance. I knew that I wanted the filling to be creamy and cheesy, with chicken. We decided that since the inside would have a rich white sauce, we would use a traditional enchilada sauce on the outside. We chose Monterey Jack cheese for the filling. We used a bit of cream cheese along with the sour cream to thicken the filling so it didn't all run out of the open-ended enchiladas while they were baking.

The result was pretty good. Our friends enjoyed it. (Yay!) This is a pic of them before they went into the oven. (I forgot to take one post-bake.)

It was so fun creating a recipe with my sister. They wouldn't have turned out so good without her. She decided that we should name our new creation. She came up with the great name, Enchiladas Hermanas, "The Sisters' Enchiladas."

Enchiladas Hermanas

2 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup light sour cream
1 8 oz bag shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 large chicken breasts, cooked and cut into chunks
12 8 inch tortillas
1 10 oz can mild enchilada sauce

Preheat oven to 375˚. Combine cream cheese, sour cream, and 2 cups of cheese in a saucepan. Heat on low heat until cheese is melted. Add chicken to cheese sauce.

Spread a small amount of enchilada sauce on bottom of a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. Fill each tortilla with chicken filling and fold over. Place enchiladas folded side down in baking dish. Pour remaining enchilada sauce over tortillas.

Cover dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, top with remaining cheese, and bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

We didn't cover the dish with foil, and they turned out a little crispy on the edges that weren't covered with the enchilada sauce. Also, we were planning on grilling the chicken, but it was too cold, so I browned them in the skillet (with some chicken fajita seasoning) and baked them through in the oven.

Thanks so much, Hil! I can't wait to create things in the kitchen with you again!

Nutrition Info

Serving size: 2 enchiladas
Calories: 580
Fat: 23 grams
Sodium: 1060 mg
Protein: 33 grams

Will try using part skim cheese and light cream cheese next time to reduce the fat and calories.

09 April 2007

Momos Ouzaria Taverna
Location: University City, Missouri
Time: Saturday, 07 April 2007 6:00 pm
Company: Jim and Hilary
Atmosphere: %%%%
Menu: %%%%
Food: %%%%%
Price: %% (but worth every penny)
Service: %%%%%
Logistics: %%% (street parking)
Overall: %%%% Highly Recommended

I absolutely love Momos. It is Greek cuisine at its best. Momos serves its food tapas style, which I love because you can try so many different things. We each ordered two tapas dishes and were totally stuffed when we left. Here is what we ordered:

Crispy Eggplant Fries: with tomato-sherry skordalia. Yummy! A refreshing twist on onion petals. The breading was very tasty and didn’t overpower the eggplant. The skordalia was a mild dip that complemented the eggplant well.

Spinach Artichoke Dip: served with crispy pita chips. This dip is very good. You get way more dip than chips, so load them up! I’m not that crazy about the chips; they are thick triangles that can be somewhat chewy. It would be better with different pita chips, but still one of my favorite dishes.

Grilled Beef Tenderloin: with spinach, feta, and a sun-dried tomato butter. I ended up eating more of this than anything. I ordered it because I love to order beef in restaurants because I rarely make it at home. The beef was pretty good. It was done medium, the way I like it. It was pretty small, but that was ok because my favorite part of the dish was the spinach. It was cooked, but not limp and stringy like a lot of cooked spinach is. It was infused with slices of soft mild garlic and the tomato butter. It was so good that long after the beef was gone, I ate the spinach with every bite of something else I ate. I would order this dish just for the spinach.

Crispy Chickpea and Feta Cakes: with tzatziki sauce. I didn’t like these too much. They were somewhat crispy on the outside, but pretty mushy on the inside. I think they are made with red pepper because they were slightly orange in color and I thought I could taste it. The tzatziki sauce was good; I ate it with some potatoes.

Falafil: served on pita bread with humus, cucumber, onions, mixed greens and tomatoes, topped with tzatziki sauce. I didn’t eat a lot of this, but it was good. The humus appeared to be fried, because it sat in a big lump on top of the pita. It wasn’t like a paste like humus usually is. But it was definitely made of chickpeas. Hilary cut it into wedges, pizza-style, and served it to Jim and me. Also came with Kalamata olives. Yum.

Grilled Lamb Kabob: spiced with moroccan herbs, served with lemon oregano roasted potatoes. This was an actual entrée, not a meze. The lamb was slightly sweet, I think because it had a red wine sauce. Very tender. The potatoes were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. This was also served with roasted red pepper, all of which Hilary was happy to eat.

The staff was very friendly and attentive. Our only annoyance was a very loud man two tables down from us who spoke with an annoying (fake?) accent. The owners of Momos have really fixed it up. Jim and I were there two years ago and it looks very different. The other great thing about Momos is that it’s very close to us. About five minutes driving time.
Lucky for us, we may get to go again tomorrow when our friend Tom comes into town:)
Here is an explanation of my restaurant ratings. Keep in mind that these ratings are for the visit reviewed only. They do not indicate my opinion of that restaurant in general.

%%%%% Great atmosphere; not too loud
%%%% Nice atmosphere
%%% Atmosphere was ok
%% Atmosphere could have been better
% Bad atmosphere

%%%%% Great; different cuisines; lots of items to choose from
%%%% Good variety of items
%%% Menu selections were ok
%% Not very good menu variety
% Very few items to choose from

%%%%% Best food I’ve ever eaten
%%%% Pretty good food
%%% Food was ok
%% Food wasn’t great
% Food was bad

%%%%% Friendly, attentive, fast service
%%%% Pretty fast or friendly service
%%% Service was ok
%% Staff wasn’t too friendly or efficient
% Service was horrible

Price (includes tax and tip):
%%%%% Under $5 a person
%%%% $6-$10 a person
%%% $11-$15 a person
%% $16-$20 a person
% Over $20 a person

%%%%% Easy to find, easy to park
%%%% Somewhat easy to find and park
%%% Location and parking ok
%% Location and parking somewhat difficult
% Inaccessible location and difficult parking

St. Louis Bread Company (Panera)
Location: Des Peres, Missouri
Time: Easter Sunday, 08 April 2007 1:00 pm
Company: Jim and Hilary

My Rating
Ambience: %%%%
Menu: %%%
Food: %%
Service: %%
Price: %%%%
Logistics: %%%
Overall: %%%

Jim got the Bacon Turkey Bravo and enjoyed it very much. I ordered the “Pick Two” combo with a cup of Broccoli Cheese Soup and half of a Turkey Artichoke Panini. I love their broccoli cheese soup. It’s not too thick, and has nice, definable chunks of broccoli and slivers of carrot. The broccoli and carrot have a great bite to them, not mushy.

I wasn’t able to eat the panini, however. I took one bite and tasted red peppers. Oh the horror! I was confused because I read on the menu board what the sandwich consisted of and it said nothing about peppers. It reads, “Smoked turkey, spinach artichoke spread, Asiago-Parmesan cheese, tomatoes & caramelized onions, grilled hot on our Basil Pesto Focaccia.” When I investigated (by peering under the top layer of bread on my sandwich) it appeared that the peppers were part of the spinach artichoke spread. According to the Panera website, it contains jalapeño peppers and sweet bell peppers. I did some looking online and found very few recipes for spinach artichoke dip or spread that contained peppers of any kind. Very disappointing.

My dislike of peppers is so strong that I had to abandon my half a sandwich and ordered a simple Ham and Swiss to share with my sister. The reason she was willing to eat the other half is because she ordered soup that she didn’t like. She got the Chicken Noodle Soup, which she had had before, but for some reason wasn’t as good yesterday. She said the noodles were really soggy and they looked that way to me also. So between my half sandwich and her soup, we had probably $6 in uneaten food.

Oh well. It was still an enjoyable experience. I now know not to order spinach artichoke spread at the Bread Company. I rated the service as I did because the guy who was handing off the food just plopped it down on the counter without saying a word to me or even looking at me. He was deep in conversation with someone behind the counter at the time.

Location: Brentwood, Missouri
Time: Easter Sunday, 08 April 2007 7:15 pm
Company: Jim and Hilary

Ambience: %%%%
Food: %%%%
Service: %%%%
Price: %%
Menu: %%%%
Parking: %%%
Overall: %%%½

We chose Houlihan’s because we wanted a menu with lots of variety. We didn’t want to limit ourselves to one cuisine (because we couldn’t decide what we wanted.) The Houlihan’s we visited had opened only recently; it moved from the Galleria to a new location on Hanley Road. They were playing a baseball game on several tvs (Red Sox at Rangers.) I also noticed that they have these little devices at the booths where you can choose songs to play or something. Hilary said she read something about it in the menu, but I don’t know the details. We weren’t sitting at a booth.

We were seated right away. All three of us started off with the Loaded Baked Potato Soup. It is delicious. Hilary and Jim got theirs without the green onion, but I didn’t mind it. It has nice big chunks of red potato, real bacon bits, and cheddar cheese in a wonderfully creamy sauce. It is served with packets of jumbo oyster crackers. One of my favorite restaurant soups.

Jim ordered the Stuffed Chicken Breast. It was stuffed with a garlic-herb cream cheese, breaded, and served with mashed potatoes and broccoli. He loved it.

Hilary got an appetizer as her entrée, the Blackened Chicken and Caramelized Onion Quesadilla. She said it was spicy, and she loved it. I tried a small bite; it had too much pepperjack cheese for my tastes. It was served with salsa, sour cream, and guacamole. I also tried a bit of the guacamole; it was just ok. Not enough big chunks of avocado for me.

When looking at the menu, I was pretty sure I wanted steak. I thought the Prime Top Sirloin sounded good, but couldn’t decide if I should get the 5 oz. or the 9 oz. The 9 was $3 more. I went with the 5. When I got it, I wished I had gotten the 9. It just looked really small. It came with a mountain of red mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. The sirloin was really good. I order my steak medium; I have trouble chewing steak done more than that. It was really tender and very flavorful. The mashed potatoes were good, but I would have preferred to have eaten less of them and gotten the bigger sirloin.

I wasn’t so crazy about the asparagus. I have limited experience with fresh asparagus (my mom only ever got the canned kind, which I liked.) The first bite I took seemed incredibly salty. I don’t know if it was marinated in soy, or what, but it seemed a bit overpowering. After a couple of more bites, I decided I just didn’t like it. I don’t know if it was just this asparagus, or not, but I just didn’t like the flavor of the asparagus itself. I would like to get some fresh asparagus and make it myself sometime.

Overall, a great experience at Houlihan’s.

29 March 2007

I needed something to take to a party. It was a "30 Days till Call Day" party held at the seminary for the students expecting their first call in April. I thought about spicing up some kind of party nuts. I found a recipe for "Hot and Spicy Pecans." I don't especially like eating pecans, so I thought I would make it with almonds instead. I went to the store to get the ingredients and discovered that almonds were too expensive. I was going to double the recipe, and therefore needed 4 cups of nuts. It would have been almost $15 to get that many almonds. So I ended up getting mixed nuts ("with less than 50% peanuts!") I didn't have ground red pepper, so I substituted a few drops of hot sauce. After I coated the nuts in the butter/spice mixture, I thought they needed a little something. They weren't that spicy. So I liberally sprinkled on some of Penzey's Old World Seasoning. This seasoning is really great. I love it on grilled pork chops. Putting it on the nuts helped a lot. This is how they turned out.

As you can see, some of them got a little "done." I did have the problem of the spices burning on the bottom of the pan. They had to be stirred every 8 minutes. So I set my timer for 8 minutes and stirred them. But then I forgot to keep track of how many times I had stirred and I think they were in for 8 minutes too long. Anyway, when they first came out of the oven, they tasted a little chewy, but they crisped up after cooling.

The people at the party liked them. (Yay!) Some changes I would make next time include using less butter, omitting the Worcestershire sauce (I just don't see what that did for it), using less chili powder, and using a lot of Old World Seasoning. Here is my amended recipe:

Spicy Mixed Nuts


4 cups mixed nuts

2 tbsp melted butter

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp chili powder

2 tbsp Old World Seasoning (?)


Bake at 275 for 30 minutes, stirring every 8 minutes (and keeping track of how long they've been in!) Please note: I have not tried this recipe as I have written it. I would prob start with less OWS and taste it before adding more. And it may be that with the OWS, you would need less salt and garlic powder, since it contains these things. So, I would start with just the OWS and then add things to taste.

If I try this again, I will add a comment about how it turned out. Please comment if you try it or have made a similar recipe.

The other day I was trying to recall a meal I made for a dinner party over a year ago. I know that it had some kind of Greek element, that I made a Greek salad to go along with it, and that everyone loved it. But what was the main dish? No matter how hard I tried to remember, it wouldn't come back to me.

That's when I thought, "Hey, I should keep some sort of cooking journal of what I have made and how it turned out." I have notebooks scattered around with recipes jotted down and ingredients crossed out and stuff written in the margins about how I would do it differently next time. Why not go electronic?

Viola, Edesia's Notebook was born. Here I will post what I have been cooking. Messes, successes, interesting food finds, and recipes for my homemade concotions (that I never seem to remember later.) It's to help me in my cooking journey.

I consider myself to be a beginner cook. I really got into cooking about a year and a half ago. I don't cook anything too fancy, just simple dishes with few ingredients. I like to cook things that are fast and easy, but lend themselves to creativity.

"So, what's with the name?" you ask. Edesia is the Roman Goddess of the Feast who presides over banquets. She ensured that the feast went well and the food was excellent. Her name comes from the Latin verb edes, "to eat" or "to consume." Feasting was considered a magical and important act by the Romans deserving of its own goddess. {This information was taken from the Obscure Goddess Online Dictionary.}

I hope you find something interesting here. Please feel free to comment; I'd love to hear what you have been cooking as well.

Happy cooking!