Welcome to my attempt at sharing the regular mistakes I make in the kitchen. I'm constantly telling friends that I am a disaster in the kitchen, but they rarely believe me, so here is my proof. Step-by-step examples of how I ruin a perfectly good dish. Even though I ruin meals on a regular basis I still love to cook. And I am DETERMINED to become a good cook, or you know, at least make food that is edible on a regular basis.

***All stories are true and not exaggerated.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mexican Lasagna

I found this recipe a month or so ago on Mel'skitchencafe.com, I love her blog, I find a ton of recipes there (if you haven't noticed, I'm always linking up to her).  I should just rename my blog "Testing the recipes from Mel."

Anyway, so this looked interesting and I had all the ingredients on hand, so I thought, what the heck?  And made it a few weeks ago.  Oh, my goodness, it was so delicious!  My kids and hubby were a bit skeptical at first, but they loved it as much as I did.  We were all so glad there were tons of leftovers.  I ate it for a week and still was not sick of it.

Here you are, enjoy!

You should be able to click on the recipe and print as an 8 1/2 x 11 page.

The Kitchen Disaster in Action: Whole Wheat Banana Muffins

So I posted not long ago my love of a new recipe for Whole Wheat Banana Nut Muffins.  I seriously love these.  I make them regularly (you know, by regularly I mean since I found the recipe 2 months ago), and the last time I made them they did not turn out.  See, no one believes that I am the disaster I claim I am.  Here is proof:  I've made these muffins at least 5 or 6 times and they turn out great every time.  They turn out exactly the same as the previous time I made them.

Until this week.

They burned while cooking.

They don't taste the same.

I've had them for 3 days and the one pan that turned out isn't gone.  They are just sitting on my counter. 

I'm so pissed and sad.  I was so upset I threw them away without taking a picture.  Then I kicked my self for doing so because now I have no proof.  It's great that I can occasionally make something that tastes yummy, but it would be so nice if I could make it taste the yummy EVERY time.

Seriously, I'm *soooo* glad I dirtied all my muffin pans, made a mess of my kitchen, and wasted all my ripe bananas.

So, take a page from my book and do NOT double the recipe.  I'm blaming that instead of the chef.

I'm a woman, it's my prerogative.

Friday, April 8, 2011

My Kitchen Tips: Storing flour and sugar

I hate having open bags of flour and sugar all throughout my pantry.  It drives me crazy.  Plus when I go to use one of them I end up spilling all over the floor.  Drives. Me. Crazy. I tell you.

I figured out early on that those cute little canisters for my counter drove me even crazier.  They end up being too small to store a usable baking amount of flour or sugar so I ended up filling them all the time.  Or pulling out my bag in attempts to not drive myself more crazy.

My solution?

The small buckets in the painting department of Home Depot or Lowe's.  I think they were about $2.50 each and the flour bucket holds 10 lbs, plus a little extra; and my sugar holds 20 lbs (if I remember correctly).

They have made me immensely happy.  Plus, they fit in my dishwasher so I don't have to hand wash them.  *Love*

Thumbs up: Whole Wheat Banana Nut Muffins

Oh.  My.  Yummy.

I had some extra bananas a few weeks ago and decided to try and find a whole-wheat recipe for banana bread/muffins.  I try to cook healthy for my family, my philosophy is that we eat enough garbage when we eat take-out/fast-food/at restaurants that when I cook I try really hard to make healthy, yet tasty, food for the family.

I have a regular banana bread recipe that I love, but I don't think you can just exchange white flour for whole-wheat.  I'm pretty sure you have to have some other changes or it will turn out hard and dry.  Not my idea of tasty.  So, thanks to allrecipes.com I have a winner!  I found a basic recipe, read all the comments, and with a few tweaks created a masterpiece.

Seriously, I make them at least once a week because I keep eating them nonstop.  I'm considering buying stock in a banana company based on the amount of banana's I now purchase.

My kids love them.  I love them.  My sister and mother-in-law love them.  Heck, even my husband loves them, and he is the pickiest person to cook for.

Take my advice and make sure you have some extra bananas on hand ripening while you enjoy eating the ones you made.

Whole-wheat Banana Nut Bread (or muffins):

1/3 cup applesauce (or oil, I prefer applesauce, it's healthier)
1/2 cup honey (I'm sure you could use sugar too)
1 t vanilla
2 eggs
2-3 ripe bananas
1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (or you can do 1 c whole wheat flour and 3/4 c flax seed, which I do.  Have you read about the benefits of flax seed?)
1/2 t salt
1/4 t cinnamon
1 t baking soda
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts ( I use closer to 3/4 cups, I LOVE nuts)
1 cup chocolate chips- optional.  I typically do 1 tray of regular and 1 tray of chocolate chip, just for fun.  In that case only use a 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 325*

Beat applesauce and honey together.

Add eggs and mix well.

Add bananas and vanilla, mix well.

Stir in flour, salt and cinnamon, mix well.

Add baking soda to hot water, add to mixture and mix well.  I don't know why it says to do this step, but I actually followed the instructions and love my result, so I don't argue.

Mix in walnuts and chocolate chips if preferred.

This will make 2 pans of mini muffins, plus a row or two; 1 loaf pan; or I don't know how many regular muffins.  I don't like regular muffins as much as mini, I think mini end up moister.  If you want regular you can figure out the cooking time, that's the benefit of having your own blog :)

Mini muffins: cook 12-14 minutes.  If you do one pan at a time my oven makes them perfect in 12 minutes.  If you do 2 pans at once add a minute or two.  Toothpick test them to check for doneness (which I'm sure is not a real word).

Loaf pan:  make sure it's greased and bake for 55-60 minutes and cool on a rack for a half hour before slicing.

Enjoy!  Oh, and when you make them bring me some because I can pretty much guarantee that mine will be all eaten.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Risotto Oatmeal

I make breakfast for my kids pretty much every morning.  I don't believe cereal is a healthy meal choice, and with the exception of Saturdays and Sundays where the kids get cereal before I get up and make breakfast, the kids get something warm and filling in their little tummies before school.  So, that means I am always on the lookout for really easy, quick breakfast ideas.  This is one of our favorites.  It takes a bit more planning on my part because it does need up to 30 minutes to cook in the rice cooker, but it is always a crowd pleaser at my house.  It reminds me a bit of a rice pudding.

I originally found this recipe on Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  My dear sister introduced it to me, I'm pretty sure it's the first thing I ever made from the food blog.  My family LOVES this meal.  My kids get so excited when I tell them that we get "special oatmeal" for breakfast.

I have modified the recipe from the original just a little bit because I am always looking for ways to make food a bit more healthy for us.

Risotto Oatmeal:

1 cup Risotto Rice (Arborio rice)
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 t salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
5 cups water

Add everything to your rice cooker, mix it up and turn it on.  That's it.  Seriously.  This is when I run and shower, or dress the kids for the day.

When it's finished you'll want to stir it really well and serve.  It comes out HOT, so make sure you let it cool down before you feed the baby.

A few things about this recipe that I have learned as I've been making it for 3+ years.

(1)  Rinse the rice really, really well.  If you don't rinse rice it will bubble over and get all over the rice cooker, the counter and sometimes the floors (this is true with all rice).  Trust me, cleaning up sweet sticky rice is NOT fun.  I still put paper towels under the rice cooker just in case.  Or, if you can reach the sink with your cord you can put the rice cooker in the sink like my sister does.  Mine won't reach.

(2)  Usually I'm a huge advocate for organic everything.  Not in the case of rice.  I had to throw out 4 bags in a row of organic Arborio rice because I would find bugs in them.  Yuck.  It really grossed me out.  I think we took a year off of cooking this because I couldn't stomach the thought of throwing more out.  Or you know, eat it.  Also, I have found Fresh & Easy has Arborio rice pretty inexpensive.

(3)  I like honey instead of sugar, but you are welcome to use sugar instead.

(4)  If you don't have cream on hand milk works really well.  I can't tell much of a difference, it's just not as thick.

The original posting said to put raspberries in after it's finished cooking.  I like mine plain, but I always have raspberries for my sister when she comes to visit.  My kids like to top theirs with the colored sugar.  I let them do one or two shakes, just for fun.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

My kitchen tips: How I store my recipes

Okay, so I have had the hardest time over the years trying to come up with the best system for organizing the recipes I collect from the Internet.  I did the whole box thing.  The impossibly high stack thing.  I even *briefly* considered copying them all down on recipe cards and filing them away (but understandably I nixed that idea pretty quick.)  I figured it I didn't have time to cook dinner most of the time, there was no way I was going to be able to come up with enough time to copy down recipes that I already had in print form.

So this is what I did:

For the index cards I already had I got a photo album that fit the 4x6 photos and stuffed them all in that.

And for the 8 1/2 x 11 that I have I separated into 3 binders.  I have one of all main dishes, one for everything else, and one of recipes, separated by tabs into categories, that I have not made yet.  This way I can keep organized and on top of the sheets of paper.  I have found that this works best for me.  Plus then I can put the binder in my trusty recipe stand, easel, holder thingy.

My first post: Danish Pancakes

Okay, so I had the HARDEST time deciding what to post for my very first cooking blog post!  I decided to keep it super basic and traditional.  Danish pancakes are a staple from growing up.  We never had regular pancakes, mom always made these instead.  We love them!  And now my children do as well.

Danish Pancakes:

2 cups of flour
3 cups of milk
2 eggs

Mix together batter.  It will be runny.  You don't want it too floury or it will taste, well, floury.

Heat a skillet on the stove.  I like a cook temp of 6 on my stove.  The temp is really important.  If you cook it at too low of a temp the pancake will taste floury and bland.  If you cook it at too high of one it will burn the edges but not get the middle all the way cooked.  You want a med to a med high temp.  Then they are perfect.

Pour a little bit of oil in the pan and spread it around so the pancakes don't stick.  I wait until the skillet smokes a bit then add the oil.  Let the oil sit for a few seconds so the oily taste will burn off.

This is where I had this morning's "kitchen disaster."  As I attempted to pour the oil, spread it around AND take a picture some oil spilled onto my GAS stove top.  I was terrified that it was going to catch fire.  I don't know what I did so good that deserved a blessing, but thankfully we had NO grease fire in the kitchen this morning.

***Amanda's Tip:  I am constantly using oil in small increments so I finally invested in a small oil bottle with a tip on it to help me out.  Instead of hauling out my HUGE bottle of oil for a tablespoon when I need to brown something, I just use this from my spice cabinet.

Pour in batter and spread around the pan by picking it up and moving it in circles until the batter is evenly spread.

***Yeah, mine were a little runnier today than they usually are....shocking.....I'm terrible at consistency with food.

Cook until the top is no longer runny.  Flip and finish it off (just like with a regular pancake).
***Now, you want to make sure it gets a little brown.  If it doesn't it tastes bland.  The almost crunchy kind of pancake is the yummiest.

Don't worry, no matter what the first one NEVER turns out.  Even for my mom, who makes them perfectly EVERY. SINGE. TIME. the first one doesn't turn out.  Don't know why, I just don't sweat it.  Now, when the 5th one isn't turning out it's an "Amanda" problem.

Put on a plate and top with whatever you prefer, my son likes butter, syrup and the dried blueberries from Costco on his.

Roll them up.

Cut in and enjoy!

***Also, I use EVOO for almost everything. I usually don't have regular vegetable or canola oil in my house. It typically makes the food taste even better, especially brownies. It make the taste a bit more "fuller."