Sunday, November 8, 2009

In the Pantry

For me, the secret of cooking is flavor. I have a cupboard specifically for spices and seasonings that seems to grow a little more every time I go to the grocery store. I've learned that you can make anything new and interesting by just adding a sprinkle of something different. Same with making a dish your own... a little of this or that gives whatever you've made that something special that makes it unique to you. And on those nights when you need something fast, adding a twist is always a bonus, because you never want your kids to be bored with dinner, and you don't want to keep tossing the same things in front of them anyway. The trick is the flavor. I'm not saying every combo is a good one, but even a frozen french fry can be jazzed up. And kids love it- at least mine do. Believe me, I live with the pickiest eaters you could ever meet, and I've managed to convert them into pretty good tasters in the last couple of years. It's a lot of little things- letting them help, making it an adventure, and introducing new ways to make "yucky" stuff seem appealing. A lot of the time it's taking a chance and crossing your fingers that it turns out ok- and I've had some that really haven't!

But, it all comes back to flavor. Don't be blah! Season it up, add some zip, and that little touch of you. It makes all the difference. I thought I would give you a sneak peek into what I have happening in my kitchen cupboards, just for fun. Believe me, if you want the serious cooking- recipe blogs, this ain't one of 'em. But, I'm quirky... gotta count for something!

My Must Haves:

onion powder
garlic powder
chili powder
Italian seasoning
Tony Chachere original Creole seasoning
Emeril's Essence- original
bouillon cubes- chicken and beef
taco seasoning
bbq seasoning- I like the KC Masterpiece, but have Grillmates on hand as well
Old Bay
Parmesan-Romano blend cheese- yes, from a shaker. I swear by the kind I get from Aldi- look for the red shaker. Seriously, there's some yumminess in there.

For the baking side of the cabinet, I have the usual suspects:

pumpkin pie spice
cinnamon sugar
Hershey's cocoa
Jello pudding mix
baking soda
baking powder
sugar-white, dark and light brown, confectioners
morsels (or chips, depending whatcha call 'em)- chocolate (milk, dark, white), mint chocolate (go with Andes here), M & Ms, butterscotch, peanut butter
peanut butter
canned pumpkin
sweetened condensed milk
evaporated milk
butter flavored cooking spray

I also keep little things like sprinkles, cupcake liners, toothpicks, etc., in the baking cabinet. If I didn't, I would NEVER find anything when I needed it. I also keep store bought cake and brownie mixes on hand for quick fix cakes, brownies or even cookies. I highly recommend the Ghiradelli brownies- in particular, anything that says "double" or "triple" chocolate or fudge. Heehee

I'm always on the hunt for new flavors, so if there's anything on your must have lists, feel free to pass it on! Next up, an actual recipe- if you like stuffed peppers, and looove a little heat, you're in luck!

Happy cooking!

Monday, September 28, 2009

What's Cookin'?

Don't fret- this blog hasn't disappeared. If you read my other blog, then you'll know that things have been hectic this past few months, and my brain has been scattered to the four winds! But, that doesn't mean I haven't been cooking! I've got a lot of old favorites and some new must haves for you, coming soon! So, keep taking a peek through the kitchen door- the coffee is brewing, and it's time to sit a spell.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Comfort Foods- Tuna Noodle Casserole

I love comfort food. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes smothered in gravy. Macaroni and cheese (from that blue box.. awful I know!), something comforting and familiar after a really bad day. Or just something to give you that cozy feeling on a cold or rainy afternoon. One of my all time favorites has always been tuna noodle casserole. Since I like to make everything my own, I've tinkered with a basic, bare bones recipe and made it into something we really look forward to.

Tuna Noodle Casserole:

Preheat oven to 325 F

I bag of wide egg noodles
1 large cream of chicken soup**
2 cream of celery soup**
2 small or one large can chunk tuna in water, drained and flaked
Peas, and / or carrots (This is optional. I make it with and without veggies, sometimes with just carrots, or peas- but fresh or frozen work best if you add veggies)

Spice It Up:
onion salt

Boil egg noodles in butter, salt and Lawry's. Drain, toss back in the pot. Add 1-2 tsp butter, tuna, soups, and seasonings (just a dash of each will do you.) Mix together until noodles are coated, pour into a casserole dish- I usually grab a 9x13. Cover with foil and cook in a 350 F oven for 35-45 mins.

Voila! It's warm, it's delicious and it's not hard to make. Kids generally love it, and if yours aren't too picky, replace one can of the cream of celery with a can of cheddar cheese soup. **

This is a favorite in our house- maybe it will become a favorite in yours!

Kitchen Confession:
** I only use Campbell's soups. They have a much richer texture and flavor. No skimping on the soups- it makes all the difference in the world!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Breakfast Bread

I love baking. I really do. I like the smell of it, the excitement the kids get from grabbing beaters and bowl to "clean up" after....I just really, really love to bake. And I especially love any recipe where I can cut some sugar and sneak in a little healthy sweetness. This bread lets me do that, and it tastes so, so good! This would also be great with a little less cinnamon and some blueberries.

Breakfast Bread:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, grease your loaf pan! **I used one pan, but you could easily use two**

1 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
1 cup sugar
2 tbs softened butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1-2 tsp cinnamon sugar, to taste (which means a taste of this yummy batter!)

Combine first five ingredients well, then add flour,baking soda, cinnamon and cinnamon sugar. Pour into greased loaf p[an and bake 40-50 mins. Do not over bake or this will become a very dry bread- watch closely after 40 mins. I learned this the hard way, first time around! LOL

Great warmed with butter or just plain.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Welcome to My Kitchen

I am still under construction, but I wanted to take a second and welcome all of you to my kitchen! I can't promise you any five course, five star gourmet dishes, but I CAN promise you lots of fun, friends and food! And probably some messes, too! Some things to remember, here in the kitchen:

I cook without measuring. When I bake, I follow directions to the letter. But in cooking, anything goes. I do everything to taste, spice wise. I like to experiment, and really enjoy finding out what works for this picky bunch- what I can tweak from other recipes, and what I can sneak in when they aren't looking!

So, bear with me as I'm getting this blog off the ground. It's a journey, and I'm thrilled to have you all joining me at my table. Hope you're hungry!