Friday, September 10, 2010

Darth Pancakes

We are just SLIGHTLY Star Wars obsessed over here. Ella's favorite pretend playmates are Obi Wan and Quigon. When Miles hears the Star Wars themes, he squeals with glee. So what's a mom to do except indulge them a bit.

When my friend posted Darth Vader pancakes on her blog, I about flipped out. Williams Sonoma sells pancake molds... and cookie cutters... and an apron.... I did not get the apron.

Williams Sonoma also sells a $10 "Pancake Pen" to fill the molds, but I found that the $.97 bottle with part of the tip cut off works just fine.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How to Make Homemade Peanut Butter

I have this really great peanut butter in my cupboard -- Chocolate Cherry. YUM! There is a small hometown business near my sister in Michigan called "Naturally Nutty" and they make all kinds of super healthy, flavored peanut butters. Between my sister and my mom, I always have at least one jar in my cupboard. The problem with Chocolate Cherry is that it has big old dried cherries in it. The kids are not fans.

I also have about 8 jars of dry roasted peanuts in my pantry. The grocery store had them on sale for $1.50 and the each had a $1.00 off coupon on them. I could not figure out why they had any left! I stocked up.

The other day when it was impossible to NOT get cherries out of the Chocolate Cherry peanut butter, I tossed some of those dry roasted peanuts in the mini-processor and voila -- homemade peanut butter!

Just keep processing... it will get smooth all on its own.

I'm guess this would work for all types of nuts. I'm thinking of throwing in some flax seeds or something else good for them next time. Just because I can!

This peanut butter is unbelievably delicious. I'm keeping it in the cupboard, but the fridge might be better (because all the natural peanut butters tell you to keep it in the fridge, but I have no idea why. I never do.).

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How to Make 7 Meals from 1 Whole Chicken

After watching the documentary, "Food, Inc" a few months ago (I think) and reading Michael Pollan a few months before that, my husband and I have been making some pretty drastic changes to the way we purchase food and eat. Before our "new" ways, our goal price for meat was no more than $2 per pound. Our new goal is $5 per pound for organic meat of any kind. At that price, we quickly realized that we are going to be eating a lot less meat.

I was curious to see how far I could stretch a whole chicken. So the same week that whole chickens were on sale at the local grocery store for $.79 a pound, I went to Trader Joe's and paid $1.99 per pound for a "Free Range" "All Natural" chicken.  Now, I'm not sold on Trader Joe's chickens because TJs is not very forthcoming about where their store brand products are from. If I'm paying that much for a chicken, I want to know all about it's living conditions and make sure that it is truly free range and vegetarian fed. But at the time, this was my best option. I paid $14 for a 7 pound chicken (which is HUGE for chicken!). My goal was to stretch that chicken in to 7 meals costing just $2 per meal for the meat.

The first thing I did was to cook the chicken. I tossed it in the slow cooker on high for about 4 hours. When it was done, I discarded the skin, peeled off all the meat in to a bowl and threw it in the fridge.

Meals 1 and 2 -- Soup: Once the chicken was just a carcass, I made chicken stock in the slow cooker using the carcass, veggies, and gizzards. I got 8 cups of stock, which will make 2 meals of soup for us. I froze the stock for later. It's still 100 degrees and I'm not in the mood for soup!

Meal 3 and 4 -- Chicken Salad Sandwiches: We ate chicken salad sandwiches for lunch for 2 days. I use chicken, mayo, lemon pepper, and dried cranberries.

Meal 5 & 6 -- Chopped Salad: I based it on this recipe and it was delicious! I added a homemade vinaigrette dressing to each bowl because I knew we'd have leftovers and I didn't want it to be soggy the next day.

Meal 7 (and probably 8): Either Chicken Pot Pie or Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole: We got tired of chicken, but I have enough left (which I froze) to make either of the above recipes. We will most likely have enough for dinner and lunch with either recipe.

While the "all natural" (not organic) chicken definitely gave us sticker shock, I am very happy that we were able to stretch it so far! We also did some research and found that Whole Foods sells Mary's Chickens, which appear to be truly free range and vegetarian fed. Until we can find a local source (which isn't likely) for chickens, we'll probably be purchasing Mary's when the go on sale.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Incredible Corn Bread

I love corn bread, but I have yet to find a recipe that isn't too dry. But I stumbled upon a keeper! This recipe for Rather Rich Corn Bread (or muffins) is, like the name says,  rich but oh so delicious. Instead of 3 cups of cream, I used 1 cup buttermilk and 2 cups plain whole milk yogurt and substituted coconut oil for the butter. YUM! I also added in a handful of colby jack cheese. Some peppers would be good in there, too.

The recipe as written makes a HUGE bowl of batter. I got 16 muffins and a very thick 9 x 9 square pan of corn bread. Definitely halve it unless you are feeding a crowd or want to freeze a few.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Chicken Spinach Enchiladas

A friend of mine posted a delicious looking enchilada recipe on her Facebook page and gave it high reviews. The recipe looked fabulous and pretty healthy, anytime I can get some spinach in a meal is definitely a plus, until I hit one ingredient: 1 can cream of mushroom soup. Really? Why bother with all that good stuff if you are going to ruin it with canned soup.

So, of course, I "fixed" the recipe. No more canned soup. If you want to take it up another healthy notch, replace the sour cream with yogurt and make your own tortillas. My husband thought these needed some more spice (he thought they were "sweet"). We agreed that a salsa verde on top would do the trick.

I'm going to guess that these would freeze pretty well, too. 

Chicken Spinach Enchiladas

3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
Dash of salt (or more to taste)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup chopped onion (optional)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or more to taste)
1 cup sour cream or yogurt
1 cup wilted spinach or 1 box frozen, thawed and drained
3-4 cups cooked chicken, chopped in to largish chunks or strips
8 flour tortillas
1-2 cups colby jack or queso cheese

Melt butter in medium sauce pan. Saute onions until clear. Mix in flour and salt and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk, a little at a time to avoid lumps. You should have a thickish white sauce. Stir in onion powder, garlic powder, nutmeg, cayenne and sour cream. Add more salt, pepper or cayenne as needed.

In a separate bowl, combine chicken, spinach, 3/4 cup of sauce and 1/2-1 cup cheese (or more if you want!). Spread about 1/8-1/4 cup of sauce in bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Fill tortillas, wrap up and place seam side down in baking dish. Pour remaining sauce over filled tortillas. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 45 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Adapted from Mothering magazine's Chicken Spinach Enchilada recipe.

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