Saturday, February 28, 2009

About a Bit of Everything Featured on The Back Burner

You may notice a new badge in the right hand column of the blog. About a Bit of Everything was featured on the companion blog to Key Ingredient.

A big thanks to Sophie over at The Back Burner. On February 25, she featured one of the recipes from this blog. Go check out her writeup on Turkey Stock and Turkey Noodle Soup.

It is so nice to know that others like the recipes I make. Especially since nothing I post is particularly fancy or gourmet, so to speak.

This recipe can be used for chicken stock too, just substitute two chicken carcasses for the turkey carcass. It is a good use for the leftover bones from crockpot rotisserie chicken. I currently have one carcass in the freezer waiting for a twin so I can make another batch.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - A Day Late

I know it isn't Monday and I have been delinquent with posting our week's menu plan. We went out of town this weekend and when I got back I was distracted and forgot to post our weekly menu plan.

This week is a bit of a Semi-Homemade week. I had purchased a box of Sandra Lee's recipe cards a while ago (I love the Border's bargain bin) and decided this week was the time to try out some them out. I marked the three Sandra Lee recipes with an asterisk(*). So far so good. The recipe we made on Monday was quite tasty.

Sunday: Forage in the Fridge (FITF)
Monday: Pan-Seared Rosemary Pork Chops* with salad and carrots
Tuesday: Herbed Breaded Chicken Tenders with corn, pan fried potatoes and salad.
Wednesday: Out for dinner. We have a house showing. (Keeping fingers crossed that one of these will result in an offer.)
Thursday: FITF
Friday: Old No. 7 Tri-Tip* with salad, carrots and fingerling potatoes
Saturday: Lemon-Herb Butter-Basted Chicken* with salad, corn and rice

I promise I will be better about posting on time in the future.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Flowers in the Garden - February Edition

The first day of spring is less than a month away. I can't believe I have almost survived another winter in the Midwest.

This month's flower is the Daylily. So bright and cheerful. Perfect to combat the dreary February days.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What's Better Than Friends Coming to Dinner? Adding Cheese and the Wii to the Mix

A few Saturdays ago, Mr. Gooch and I had a couple of my friends (Ms. Fort, who gave me the recipe for the Chardonnay Dill Sauce and Ms. Baker, who gave me a potato recipe to be featured later this month) over for dinner. We told them to dress comfortably since we would be playing with our new Wii. I mean who doesn't like a little bowling, tennis and deBlob after dinner.

Now to gather our strength for the games later, we needed to start off the evening with appetizers. We decided to keep things easy, with a cheese platter. On the platter were three cheeses. The first was one of the staple cheeses in our house, Boursin cheese. I love the creamy texture of this cheese. And the fact we can get it at Costco is even better.

For the others, we went to a jewel in our area, the Marion Street Cheese Market. When we want to get an exceptional cheese (or two, three or five), we jump in the car and head directly to this shop. This trip, Mr. Gooch picked up two spectacular cheeses. The first (on the left in the photo above) was Pleasant Ridge Reserve, a domestic nutty and complex Gruyere-style cheese made in Wisconsin. This one was picked for me. I love a good Gruyere.

The second (on the right in the photo above) was Montgomery's Cheddar from Neal's Yard Dairy in the United Kingdom. Mr. Gooch picked this one out. He liked the crumbly texture and strong flavors of this cheese.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Vanilla Lime Bites - A New Favorite

These cookies were by far the favorite cookie I brought for Christmas with my In-Laws. Mr. Gooch couldn't keep his mitts off of them even before the party.

These are melt-in-your-mouth tasty. The lime flavor is subtle with a buttery finish.

I found the recipe on Oishii, a great food blog. You should check it out. Since I used the recipe exactly as written, I am linking you right back to the original post.

I can't wait for a reason to make these again.

Lemon Cut Out Cookies

I am still catching up on all my holiday posts. Bad, I know.

But I didn't want to skip highlighting these Lemon Cut Out Cookies. I found the recipe on the blog Cookies on Friday.

I needed to bring several desserts to my Mother-in-Law's house for Christmas dinner. I thought that the lemon flavor in these cookies would be a welcome change from the usual chocolate, mint and candies usually found in desserts around the holidays. Especially since we were all gathering on the 28th of December.

These cookies were a big hit and I recommend them to anyone looking for a citrus-y cookie.

One note, the dough is a bit dry so can be a bit difficult to roll out. Just be patient and use a well floured rolling pin.

Since I followed the recipe word for word and did not make any changes or substitutions, please click here to view the recipe.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Favorite Travel Photos

OK, this one is stretching it a bit to meet the "favorite travel photo" standard but I figured since I had to travel to see the puppies, it counted as a travel photo. My rules.

Plus, they are just too cute for words. Look at their dappled noses and their sweet expressions. I wanted to take them all home with me. But that just would not have worked out for us. So every time I want a puppy, I just pull up this picture to get my fix.

Menu Plan Monday - A Tasty Week Planned

Another week, another menu plan.

This week we are eating out of the pantry. We only had to get some fresh fruits, veggies and milk at the grocery. OK to be totally truthful, we got some cereal on sale too since it was cheap and we had a coupon. Nothing like General Mills cereal for a little over $1 a box to put a smile on your face. I just love those darn Lucky Charms, they are my weakness.

I do have to give thanks that we bought the freezer for the basement. This is where being able to purchase things like in bulk when they go on sale. All the meat this week is coming out of the freezer.

Again this week we are eating from several meals from the Weight Watchers cookbooks. The meals last week were a pretty good so we are trying to duplicate that success.

Sunday: A chicken roulade stuffed with smoked applewood cheddar and bacon (no recipe, just winging this one)
Monday: Forage in the Fridge (FITF) since Mr. Gooch has tryouts so will be at the gym this evening)
Tuesday: Macaroni and cheese with spicy chicken sausage
Wednesday: Spiced Roast Pork - 4 points a serving
Thursday: WW Hunter Style Chicken - 4 points a serving.
Friday: Out of Town
Saturday: Out of Town

Breakfasts: English muffins, homemade granola, yogurt, fruit
Lunches: Salads, leftovers, Lean Cuisines, fruit
Dinner sides: Vegetables and salad, with the occasional whole wheat pasta or red skin potatoes.

Make sure to visit to see what others have planned on their menus this week.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Southern "Oven Fried" Chicken - A Tasty (and Crispy) Weight Watchers Dinner

Now that Mr. Gooch and I are back to watching what we eat, I have been combing my Weight Watchers cookbooks for dinners that meet my picky eating habits.

I found the perfect dish. It is chicken, it is crunchy and it is so tasty. And the best part is that it is easy.

It is definitely crispy and it satisfies that need for a "crunch" that you sometimes miss when on a diet. I added the Smoky Paprika to add a little extra zing since the recipe seemed to be a bit lacking in that department. Next time I make this, I may add some additional spices. Just to mix things up.

And the best part is that I was able to use some of leftovers to make a large 8 point lunch salad the next day. Low fat ranch dressing (2 T), Parmesan cheese (2 teaspoons), a whole mess of romaine lettuce, some sliced peppers and one serving of the leftover chicken. No photos of this salad since I ate it before I thought to take a picture.

Southern "Oven Fried" Chicken
(Adapted from the recipe in WW New Complete Cookbook)
5 points per serving/recipe serves 4
1/2 cup fat free buttermilk or 1/2 cup skim milk mixed with 1 tsp vinegar
2-3 drops hot sauce
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3/4 cup cornflakes crushed
5 TBS flour
salt and pepper
2 lbs chicken parts, skinned (I used boneless chicken breasts cut into strips)
4 tsp canola oil

Spray a baking sheet with Pam or some other cooking spray (will ensure the chicken does not stick)
Mix buttermilk and hot sauce in a bowl large enough to place chicken in.
Mix the dry ingredients in a flat bowl.
Dip chicken in buttermilk and hot sauce mixture.
Dredge chicken in cornflakes, flour, spice, salt and pepper mixture.
Place coated chicken pieces on the baking sheet with space in between the pieces.
Drizzle coated chicken pieces with oil.
Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes.
Turn chicken and bake 15-20 min more (or until chicken is cooked through).

Happy Valentine's Day to All!!

Happy Valentine's Day!!!!
Here are some flowers and chocolates for you.

I hope your Valentine's Day weekend is as nice as mine is turning out to be.

Mr. Gooch and I started celebrating yesterday evening. So far there have been flowers, chocolates, an amazing dinner, a hilarious book, a pair of earrings, sweet cards, a Wii game and tonight, I hope to try a new recipe for a tasty dessert. (Will keep you posted).

Friday, February 13, 2009

Mr. Gooch Cooks (Spice-Rubbed Bacon)

Last Saturday was Mr. Gooch's birthday. In honor of his big day, and the fabulous weather (60+ degrees in Chicagoland in February), we grilled steaks. They were marinated in another Mr. Gooch concoction, his Southwest Marinade. However, to give them an extra special something, he also made Spice-Rubbed Bacon.

Inspired by a burger ordered at Chili's last fall which combined beef with bacon, Mr. Gooch knew that the flavors would be a nice compliment to the steaks.

He tried to cook the bacon on the grill, however, with the sugar, it turned out to be too difficult (since the fat and sugar both burn) so the bacon was cooked in the oven.

Spice-Rubbed Bacon
(Source: Inspired by a hamburger from Chili's)
4 pieces Thick Cut Bacon (we used Jimmy Dean
1 teaspoon Chili Powder (Penzeys Chili 3000 would also be fabulous)
2 teaspoons Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Northwoods Fire Spice mix (from Penzeys)

Separate pieces of bacon on either a cookie sheet or piece of aluminum foil

Mix together the Chili Powder and Brown Sugar, making sure the completely combine. (The brown sugar has tendency to form into small balls and not mix completely with the chili powder).

Divide and spread mixture first onto one side (rubbing the spice into the piece of bacon), then the other.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. You do not need to flip the bacon.

Once cooked, we cut the long bacon pieces in half and placed on top of the steak. The sweet heat of the bacon melded nicely with the spiciness of the Southwest Marinade used on the steaks.

Mr. Gooch Cooks (Southwestern Marinade)

Mr. Gooch loves to grill. In the winter, he even shovels a path to our grill from the back sidewalk. To me, it shows dedication when you need a hat, gloves and winter coat to cook dinner. But then again, I also love the grilled meat so if he wants to brave the elements, who am I to stop him.

Part of his love of grilling, is creating marinades for the various meats to be cooked on the grill. One of his favorites is this recipe for Southwest Marinade. This mixture lends a spicy heat to steaks and I think would be nice on chicken too. (I will have to report back on that one.) The best part is this marinade works best if you let the meat soak up the flavors overnight so make it up the night before and the steaks will be ready to go when you get home from work.

The source for this recipe is the depths of his brain and a too full cupboard of spices, vinegars and oils.

Southwest Marinade
(Source: the depths of Mr. Gooch's brain)
1/2 c olive oil
1 t worchestershire sauce
1 t chipotle Tabasco sauce
2 T BBQ & Roasting Vinegar (red wine vinegar can be substituted)
1 t Grill Mates Montreal Streak seasoning
1 t taco seasoning
1 t Kirkland Sweet Mesquite seasoning
1/4 t liquid smoke
1/2 t crushed red pepper
1/2 t garlic powder
1/4 c water

In a small bowl, mix together all ingredients.
Place meat in an appropriate sized Ziploc bag.
Pour mixture over meat.
Seal bag and place in refrigerator.
Turn meat occasionally.
Marinate at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Spicy Chai Biscotti

Spicy Chai Biscotti was the final recipe I made during my night of Biscotti Madness. I loved their spicy, gingery taste.

Again, I found the recipe on Joelen's Culinary Adventures. If you haven't checked out her site, please do. She (and her site) are amazing.

To find the spice, look in the spice aisle. I want to save you the time I spent too much time looking in the tea and coffee aisle. Whoops.

Spicy Chai Biscotti
(Source: Joelen's Culinary Adventures)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup Chai spice powder

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl lightly beat the eggs and extracts together. Set aside.
In a bowl of your stand mixer (or with a hand mixer) combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and Chai spice powder.
Beat until blended (about 30 seconds).
Gradually add the egg mixture and beat until a dough forms. With floured hands divide dough in half.
On a lightly floured surface roll dough into a log about 10 inches long and 3 inches wide.
Transfer log to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until firm to the touch. The logs will spread during baking.
Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.
Transfer log to a cutting board and using a serrated knife, cut log into slices 1/2 inch thick on the diagonal.
Arrange evenly on baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, turn slices over, and bake another 10 minutes or until firm to the touch.
Remove from oven and let cool.

Coffee Flavored Chocolate Chip Biscotti

Another biscotti recipe I made during my night of biscotti madness was this recipe, found on Joelen's Culinary Adventures. I thought that the coffee flavoring would be a nice compliment to my usually skinny vanilla latte.

While Joelen's version calls for espresso coffee, I didn't have any on hand so I made a strong cup of instant coffee instead (I used about 3 to 4 times the amount of dried coffee to make it). It worked out quite well and the biscotti has a nice coffee flavor.
Coffee Flavored Chocolate Chip Biscotti
(Source: Joelen's Culinary Adventures)
3 C All Purpose Flour
1 C Granulated Sugar
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Ground Cloves
1/2 C plus 1 Tbsp strong Instant Coffee, cooled
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp Milk
1 Large Egg Yolk
1 tsp Vanilla
3/4 C Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Blend dry ingredients well. In small bowl whisk together espresso, milk, egg yolk, vanilla; add to dry flour mixture.

Combine until dough is formed (a very dry, thick dough.) Stir in nuts and chocolate chips if desired.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead several times and halve it. Roll dough into two (2) logs approximately 12 inches x 2 inches diameter Transfer to non-stick baking sheet and arrange 3 inches apart to allow for spreading. Flatten logs a bit with palms.

Bake 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Score (diagonally) and cool 10 minutes. I find that a serrated bread knife works well to cut the slices. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. Cut logs diagonally into 3/4 inches slices. Bake 5 minutes more on each side. Cool completely. Store in airtight container.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Creamy Parmesean Orzo - Ah, the cheesy goodness!!

This has become one of our favorite side dishes (don't judge the dish by the bad photo above). Before making this dish for the first time, I had never experienced the delicious joys of orzo. I mean, the dish has pasta, chicken stock and cheese. How could one not absolutely love it.

The best part is that you can substitute vegetable stock for those who are vegetarian or those who keep kosher. I can also say with some certainty that we will be trying other variations like adding crumbled bacon or steamed veggies, different types of grated cheese, the possibilities are endless.

Creamy Parmesan Orzo
(Source: Cooks like a Champion)
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup orzo
1 1/4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
Add orzo and cook three minutes, stirring constantly.
Stir in broth and water; bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
Remove from heat.
Stir in cheese, parsley, salt and pepper.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cranberry Biscotti

I love biscotti. Love it. I think it has to do with my love of the latte. It is so yummy to dip a biscotti into that afternoon latte. There is nothing better. To that end, I made several types of biscotti one evening.

This version, chocolate cranberry was inspired by this recipe I found on Stephanie Cooks.

They are in a word, amazing. I love the sweetness of the cookie, the slight bitterness of the semi-sweet chips and the tartness of the dried cranberries.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cranberry Biscotti
2/3 cup (4 ounces) semisweet or dark chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 ounces) butter
2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 to 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries (I think I may have added a bit more than this)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter and chocolate together and set aside.

Beat the eggs and sugar until lightened.

Add vanilla and chocolate mixture.

Mix in the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt just until combined. You should have a soft, but not sticky, dough. Add the extra 1/4 cup of flour if dough is too sticky.

Add cranberries and chips at this point as well.

Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, form each half into a log that is 3-1/2 inches by 9 inches. Place logs on a large baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes or until tops are set.

Remove the cookies from the oven. While the biscotti are cooling, reduce the oven to 275 degrees. Let logs cool as long as you can (the cooler they are, the easier to cut), and then slice into 1/2-inch thick slices. I have found that using a serrated bread knife works perfectly to cut the logs into the smaller slices.

Arrange the slices on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, carefully turn slices over, and bake for another 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Store in an airtight container or freeze.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - Trying to Watch our "Points"

This past week was again hit and miss. While we made several of the dishes planned, they were prepared out of order. We skipped some because of more leftovers than planned. Then we added a meal on Saturday since Mr. Gooch decided he wanted to make steaks on the grill for his birthday. With our having 60 degrees in February temps, I can't blame him.

So we moved the Southwestern Salmon from last week to this. We have been trying very hard to embrace eating healthy and so are trying to incorporate more recipes from Weight Watchers and Cooking Light.

Sunday: Leftovers from the birthday dinner (otherwise known as Forage in the Fridge or FITF)
Monday: Weight Watchers Southwestern Salmon (Fresh salmon marinated in a zesty mix of cilantro, lime juice, cumin, and hot pepper sauce, then baked on top of fresh yellow and red bell peppers) - 6 points a serving
Tuesday: Roasted Chicken with Saffron and Honey (I think this will be about 6 points per serving).
Wednesday: FITF
Thursday: Balsamic Rosemary Grilled Pork Chops - 6 points a serving
Friday: Out for dinner at Marion Street Cheese Market's Cafe to celebrate Valentine's Day. Check out the tasty menu. I can't wait to try the Ginger Carrot Bisque.
Saturday: FITF

Served at each meal will be a salad and veggie. We are trying to cut down on the carbs/starches so we will only have rice, potatoes or pasta a couple times a week from now on.

Breakfast will be either high fiber cereal, homemade granola with LF yogurt or LF cottage cheese with peaches. I may try to make some high fiber fruit muffins as well.

For lunch, DH has his usual items he brings with him to work. I will be having leftovers, an apple (or other fruit) with carrots (or other veggie) with LF chicken salad or another low-cal/high fiber recipe yet to be found.

Make sure to visit to see what others have planned for this week.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Favorite Travel Photos

The Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Family Favorite from Mom - Au Gratin Potatoes

Another family favorite, this time from my mom.

Not a dietetic choice due to the cheese and heavy cream but a total crowd pleaser. I can tell you that if you want leftovers, you will need to make a double batch since these potatoes gets gobbled up by everyone.

I have made this myself several times and it is a hit every time.

Some variation are to replace some of the heavy cream with cream of chicken or mushroom soup or some sour cream. Or add some roasted garlic to the heavy cream. Or add some finely diced onions or bacon. You can change the basic recipe up in so many ways to meet the tastes of you, your family or your guests.

Au Gratin Potatoes
2 lb. package frozen hash brown potatoes (I prefer the grated versus the cubed)
10 oz. mild yellow cheddar cheese, shredded or grated
3 cups heavy cream
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Place 1/2 potatoes in 8x12 inch (2 quart) shallow baking dish
Layer 1/2 cheese over potatoes
Layer 1/2 potatoes on top of cheese
Layer 1/2 cheese over potatoes
Add salt and pepper to taste
Pour heavy cream over entire dish
Bake covered for 45 minutes
Uncover and bake for another 45 minutes
It is easily reheated in the microwave.

Monday, February 2, 2009

This Blog in the Spotlight

Last Friday, Janny of Jannypie's craft empire (an amazing site, make sure to check out her entire site), highlighted my post on the stamped tile magnets I made as Christmas presents this past year on her site.

Click here to check out that post.

I am always excited to know that people are reading and enjoying what I do on my blog.

Additionally, if you are interested, I have a number of magnet sets on my Etsy site. Look for more sets to go up this week.

Menu Plan Monday

Last week was a bit hit or miss in the following the plan department. We ended up having people over for lunch on Friday, dinner on Saturday and another friend came to town on Friday night so we changed things out a bit.

But this week, we are going to be on track. (or at least that is the plan as of noon on Monday).

This week's menu includes a couple of Weight Watchers recipes. We are trying to slim down after the holidays and to get ready for the warm weather. Look for blog posts on our reactions to these recipes sometime next week.

Sunday: Leftovers
Monday: Lasagna (which wasn't eaten last week)
Tuesday: Leftovers
Wednesday: Weight Watchers Southern Oven "Fried" Chicken - 5 points a serving
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Weight Watchers Southwestern Salmon (Fresh salmon marinated in a zesty mix of cilantro, lime juice, cumin, and hot pepper sauce, then baked on top of fresh yellow and red bell peppers) - 6 points a serving
Saturday: Leftovers (or out for Mr. Gooch's birthday - depending on how the day goes)


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