I haven’t written…

in so long!   Things have changed drastically in my living situation and I haven’t been cooking much at all.   I feel so uncreative.   I will write more as soon as I am a bit more settled and have something to write about 🙂  I may have to change this from a cooking blog to something else!

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Baked Onion Rings

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I’ve had a craving for onion rings for weeks now but I haven’t wanted to make them because I hate the mess frying creates.  I have a recipe for oven fried chicken that’s really good so I thought I could do something similar for onion rings.

I dipped the rings in milk and then in some flour I had seasoned with a little salt and pepper.  I whisked a couple of  eggs to dip the floured onion rings in and then coated them with bread crumbs.  I preheated the oven to 450° and coated my baking sheets with olive oil.  After coating the onion rings, I put them on the oiled baking sheet but before putting them in the oven, I flipped each one over so they’d have oil on both sides.  I baked them for 10 minutes and then flipped each one over and baked them for 5 minutes longer.  That’s all they took to cook!  (My onions are small so these weren’t very big onion rings – bigger rings would take longer.) The onions were perfectly tender and the outside was crunchy.  Not like fried, but good enough to satisfy an onion ring craving. 

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I made a copycat Bloomin’ Onion Dipping Sauce to go with them – but I think I will look for another recipe in the future.  The one I used wasn’t spicy enough.  It was sweet, not like the real recipe which has a little heat.

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So now you know you can make pretty decent onion rings without frying.  Give them a shot if you have an onion ring craving.

I’m going to have to experiment with ‘oven frying’ other fried foods!  I’ll keep you posted 😉

Chocolate Cake for my Ferret!

Yesterday was my pet ferret’s birthday.  He (Rascal) was born 10/10/10.  Being that he is my little angel and I love him more than I could express in words, there’s just no way I could let his birthday go by without a special treat for him.  (I do enjoy spoiling my pets so if that makes me crazy, I will happily wear the title!)

I decided on chocolate cake because he is a chocolate fiend!  He loves all sweets but chocolate is his favorite.  I didn’t make chocolate frosting because, as much as he loves chocolate, I didn’t want him to overload and get sick from it.

I made whipped meringue topping for his cake and I made it a pinkish purple color.  (He steals a lot of pink and purple items so I think he must prefer those colors.)

Of course I also put sprinkles on it because it’s a birthday cake after all! 

Here’s his cake before he got a piece: 

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I also sliced the cakes in half for extra layers (and frosting!)

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And here’s my little guy eating his cake:

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His brother helped…

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His other brother (the dog) helped too but I didn’t catch his pic 🙂

They all 3 ate off that one piece but don’t worry, they were all monitored and each only had a very small amount.

Happy Birthday baby Rascal!

Streusel-topped Apple Pie

Truth be told, I make a pretty good apple pie.  I’ve made a few now so I’ve had opportunities to tweak it to my liking.  Just recently I also figured out one of the secrets to a flaky crust (don’t overwork the dough – if it seems like it’s not blended enough, don’t worry – it is!). 
This is a picture of one of my apple pies.

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Since I was confident in my standard apple pie, I felt like I should step it up.  I decided a streusel top would be a nice change.

I’ve never made a streusel top on anything before but I know basically what goes in them… Flour, sugar, butter, spices according to what you’re making.

While my pie was baking it smelled so good, I was excited to try it!  You could smell the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, apples, butter, oh yum!

The thought never crossed my mind that you could make a streusel top too sweet!  Well mine was…  to the point it took over and you couldn’t even tell there were apples in the pie!  I mean, it’s not completely terrible – it IS edible, but I didn’t want the streusel topping to be the star of the show – I just wanted it to enhance my pie. 

I will try a streusel topping again – but the next time I will probably look up a recipe… For anyone out there who may be wondering, the correct ratio is NOT 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup butter!  (I don’t know why I thought those amounts seemed right!)  Also, I put the topping on before I baked the pie because I felt like the flour in it should be cooked – but I’m not sure if that’s a real streusel.  Streusel coffee cakes seem to have a crumbly topping but mine was crunchy.  I will need to research. 

This is a picture of my Streusel-topped Apple Pie (or perhaps it’s not a Streusel-topped Apple Pie!).

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Have no fear if you make a pie with a topping that’s too sweet – children do not mind at all!

Make-ahead Mexican Lasagna

This is an easy dish to prepare, it tastes amazing AND can be made ahead of time (it actually tastes better!).  I’ve been making this for a couple of years now – it’s become a family favorite! 

I created it out of necessity.  We used to have Burrito Night which consisted of everyone making their own burritos (which required many bowls for all the toppings).  Then after the burritos were made, we would have my youngest attempting to eat his burrito without it completely falling apart.  Haha.  Never happened.  Mess!!!  It would wind up that I would spend an hour cleaning up after dinner to put everything away, rinse all the bowls, etc. and attempting to remove burrito fixin’s from clothes!  There had to be an easier way!

I decided to see if I could put everything together in one dish and still have the same great taste.  It took a time or two before I got it just right – but here it is (this ‘lasagna’ contains everything we had in our burritos but the beauty of it is, you can change it however you like!  My family prefers very mild but go crazy, you can make this as hot & spicy as you can stand!)

I start by sauteing a cup of chopped onions in vegetable oil. 

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When they’re just about tender, I add about a teaspoon of minced garlic and the ground meat (I use ground pork). 

When the meat is cooked, I add taco seasoning and water (whatever amount the taco seasoning packet says). 

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You could easily make your own taco seasoning if you prefer (just make sure you add about 2/3 cup of water so the meat can stew in it for 5 minutes).

Now the fun part… Assembly!

First things first… I always use Crisco to grease my casserole dishes.  I think the cooking sprays are fine for frying but every time I use them in the oven, any part of my pan that doesn’t have food on it becomes a sticky mess that is impossible to remove without steel wool.  So… Crisco your pan for ease of clean up later. 🙂

OK here we go!  Open your can of refried beans! 

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Now, using a wide knife or spatula (I use my icing spreader), spread a layer of the refried beans on a 10″ flour tortilla.  Spread it fairly thin but cover as much as you can.

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Place the tortilla in the casserole dish (bean side up!) (mine is a 2 1/2 quart square-ish casserole dish and the 10″ tortillas fit just about perfectly).

Next layer some of the ground meat mixture on top of the beans (make it fairly thin – you need to spread the meat on 4 layers). 

Spoon some salsa on top of the meat – just a couple spoons here and there.  Sprinkle cheese on top of that.  One layer is complete!

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Repeat 3 more times starting with covering another tortilla with refried beans. (The next tortilla goes right on top of the cheese.)

After you finish the layers, you can refrigerate if you want to.

At this point I prepare my lettuce.  I use a regular head of iceberg lettuce and shred it myself because I never have luck with those bags of lettuce lasting!  I put this in the refrigerator to chill until I’m ready for it.

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When you’re ready to cook it, preheat the oven to 350°.  Put the ‘lasagna’ in the oven, covered.  Bake for about 30 minutes (10 minutes less if you’re cooking it right away) then remove the lid and bake another 10 minutes (mixture should be bubbly around edges when ready).

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.

Now take your sour cream and layer it on top of your ‘lasagna’ – about 2 cups spread out. 

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Put your shredded lettuce on top of the sour cream.  (I overdid the lettuce a bit!)

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All ready!  Dig in!

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Here are the abbreviated directions (without comments and pictures!):

Make-ahead Mexican Lasagna

Ingredients:

1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 lb ground pork
1 packet taco seasoning
Water per instructions on taco seasoning
1 can refried beans
4 flour tortillas
2 cups shredded cheese
8-10 tablespoons of salsa
2 cups sour cream
Approx. 2 cups shredded lettuce.

Directions:

Saute onions, add garlic, add ground pork.  When meat is cooked thoroughly, add taco seasoning and water (water amount according to taco seasoning instructions).  Let simmer for 5 minutes.

Spread refried beans on flour tortilla.  Place in greased 2 1/2 quart casserole dish.  Layer about a cup of the meat mixture on top of the beans.  Spoon a couple tablespoons of salsa on top of the meat.  Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of shredded cheese on top of the meat and salsa.  Repeat 3 more times.

Bake in preheated 350° oven for 30 minutes (covered).  Remove cover.  Bake an additional 10 minutes, until edges are bubbly.  Remove from oven & let cool for 5 minutes.

After it has cooled, spread a layer of sour cream (2 cups) on top of the casserole, then 2 cups of shredded lettuce on top of the sour cream.

I hope your family enjoys this as much as mine.  If you try this recipe or if you make something similar, let me know.  (I’m always looking for delicious make-ahead meals.)

Leftover Pie Crust Treats (Or… Pie Crust Bonbons!)

Leftover pie crust makes me happy!  So many possibilities… Should I create something savory or sweet? 

Today sweet won! 

I was thinking all yesterday and last night about what I could make with my leftover pie crust from the chicken pot pie the other day.  I couldn’t think of anything that spoke to me…

And then all of a sudden this morning an idea came to me!

I decided to make little ‘sandwiches’ (like cookie sandwiches) out of the pie crust dough.  I would fill them with frosting.  Yeah!

When I made them, I hadn’t yet figured out my whole plan – that’s why there are sprinkles on them. I don’t know why they don’t look round in the picture… I used the top of my nutmeg bottle so they would all be the same size and shape.  I wanted them to be small, like about an inch wide.

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I baked them for just 10 minutes @ 400°, which was about perfect.

Then I made a chocolate buttercream frosting to go in the middle.  They looked like little hamburgers!  I wish I’d taken a picture 😦

So they looked really cute and everything but they just didn’t seem finished yet… Then I thought it would be amazing if I dipped them in chocolate!  I didn’t have any chocolate but I did have white ‘chocolate’ chips.  In they went!

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They’re like little bonbons!  They taste amazing too!  Look at the inside…

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They’re sweet but not over the top sweet – and light and flaky!  Can you say YUM?!?

Crazy Macaroni & Cheese Dinner

I’ve had these ‘Pasta Sides’ for a while now (I didn’t buy them – I think my husband did) and I decided I should probably use them before they go bad.

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I wanted to make a ‘one-dish’ meal though, because I’m not going to be home at dinner time so I needed to make something that would be simple for the older ‘kid’ (he’s 22, Lol) to cook (or heat).

I browned up some ground pork with onions, garlic, seasoned salt & parsley and prepared the ‘Pasta Sides’ per the instructions (I made 3 packets of them, but I probably could have just made 2). 

I tasted the pork mixture after it was cooked and wasn’t impressed.  It didn’t have much flavor.  I was scouring my cupboards, and then my refrigerator for something to add a little flavor and I came across the leftover chicken pot pie from yesterday.

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I thought that might be just what the pork mixture needs…!  So I chopped it all up…

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and added it to my pork mixture.  And wow, it tasted really good!  (I know that’s weird!) (I was surprised too!)

Then I tasted the ‘Pasta Sides’… I decided I don’t really like the flavor of the ‘cheese’ in them so I added about a cup of shredded cheddar.  That made a huge difference! 

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Then I combined the pork mixture and the ‘Pasta Sides’ into one very strange macaroni and cheese dish!  It actually does taste good!

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Now I can tell the 22-yr old to put it in a preheated 350° oven for 30-45 minutes (or until heated through).

Do you ever make strange combinations and are surprised when it works?  Please post in comments if you do… I’m willing to give some new ideas a try!