Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Adventures in Cooking

Hamburger Helper Taco
I am always trying to find ways to simplify my life in the kitchen. I will freely admit I have never been blessed with mad kitchen skills. I can open a box and follow the directions just fine, beyond that.. well it's hit or miss. I have been working on it though, cooking for me and King Boo is an important skill. Recently, even when I make the box mixes I do try to at least plate them pretty (I've watched enough Chopped to know presentation counts ;)). To get away from the boxes every night, I have been finding recipes and attempting them and more recently modifying them or even making my own up!

Easy Peasy Chicken Parm
The first step towards making up my own was pasta sauce. You cannot get much simpler than tomato sauce! I'm a big fan of semi-homemade so I start with a container of Heinz tomato sauce then I just add spices, veggies, red wine, etc., anything that sounds good and keep tasting until it becomes delicious. This past week I had made some pretzel covered chicken tenders based on a Rachel Ray recipe I found online and was trying to decide what to do with the leftover tenders. They kind of reminded me of a chicken Parmesan so I sprayed them with cooking spray and crisped them in the oven while I made a pot of noodles and sauce and POOF! Easy Peasy Chicken Parm :)

The newest adventure has been crock pot meals! I found a bunch of recipes online and one of the sites suggested putting it all in Ziploc bags and freezing the bags (there are a TON of recipes there too: I made the honey garlic chicken one on Monday. It tasted really good, but was cooked longer than recommended so the chicken fell apart and I could not figure out to plate it nicely so there is no picture. Boo liked the chicken but not the carrots in the honey garlic sauce. I still have orange chicken and a Portobello balsamic chicken (from a diff. site) in my freezer to use. I am in love with the idea of freezing the pre-mixed meals, it makes it a lot easier to have homemade, healthy meals even with my crazy, busy schedule.

My triumph was this past weekend, I really wanted butternut squash soup but all the recipes I found I either did not have all the ingredients or I did not like half the ingredients. Having looked at dozens recipes I finally gave up and said FINE! I will make my own! I had the basics having looked at a bunch of them and 3 cups of frozen pre-cooked butternut squash. So I started tossing things into pots, tasting as I went, letting King Boo taste towards the end and we came up with a delicious, low Weight Watcher points Butternut Squash soup. King Boo even gobbled his portion up!

Apple Butternut Squash Soup
Doesn't that look fantastic!

  • 1 apple, cored, peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch slices
  • 1 tbls EVOO
  • 1 pack Knox homestyle stock, concentrated chicken
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  •  ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp back pepper (or to taste)
  •  3 cups pureed butternut squash
  •  ¼ tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbls light brown sugar (to appease the child)

Cut apple and carrots, sauté in EVOO 3 or 4 minutes. Add cinnamon and toss to coat and sauté another minute. Add water, chicken stock packet, nutmeg, allspice, salt and pepper. Bring to boil and simmer for 8 minutes (let it reduce down about a third). I like a little more chunky to my soups than most, so I strained half of the apples and carrots out and set them aside, if you like smooth soup you can leave them in. Fold in the butternut squash and then purree in blender (I cooled mine and then used my magic bullet for a few seconds). Pour purree back in the pan, blend in held back apples and carrots and add vanilla and light brown sugar. Bring back to boil and serve warm.  I calculated the entire pot to be 3 Weight Watchers point plus! When I made it, I let King Boo taste it and he said it was too tangy. So that’s how the brown sugar came to be added, I liked it without ;) Personally I think it needs some walnuts but King Boo is allergic to nuts.. it was missing that crunchy, earthy element.

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