Archive | June, 2011

Ham and Bean Soup with Cornbread Muffins

30 Jun

Ok, so tonight I decided to make soup.  I love soup! Ham soup is very easy to make and it doesn’t really need many ingredients.  I start out with a simple mireproix, which is celery, carrots, and onion sauteed in the stock pot.  I also add fresh garlic because garlic makes most things taste better.  I cook the ham bone with the veggies to get it browned on all sides and then I add the beans and water.  I used dried navy beans that I soaked overnight and I added those to the pot.  The soup cooked for about 2 hours and then I served it with cornbread muffins.  I decided to experiment with the cornbread and I used whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose white flour.  I wasn’t sure if the kids would notice the difference and they didn’t! The cornmeal I used is an organic medium grind so it is not smooth and it gives the muffin a different texture.  They really liked them which is awesome!

Here is the soup:

Homemade Ham and Bean Soup

Cornbread Muffins tastes great with unsalted butter and honey…
Homemade Corn Muffin

My oldest two really liked the soup but unfortunately my younger 2 are a bit more picky. The baby ate all the ham and nothing else and my 5 year old only ate the muffin. The soup will be lunch tomorrow and then I will freeze the rest for a quick meal later. It’s weird to eat soup in the summertime in Florida, but it has been rainy and that puts me in the mood for soup!


Libby’s Test Kitchen: My Empanada Experiment

28 Jun

I have been experimenting with Latin dishes. I love Mexican food and I wanted to delve more into other Latin countries and try different types of Spanish cooking. Empanadas taste really good and you can fill the dough with whatever you like. Each country has their own classic fillings and even different ways to make the dough. I started out by Googling ways to make the dough. The ratio of flour to liquid to fat is about the same. I tried butter, I tried oil and I found that I like the butter best. I seasoned the dough and used homemade chicken stock instead of water and it tasted the best this way.

Homemade Empanada Dough

You can really see all the flecks of seasoning in the dough, and it smells really good! I baked these empanadas, although they can be fried but I’m trying to create healthier dishes so I didn’t try to fry them.

I experimented with fillings, I had a different things in the kitchen that I wanted to try to see what tasted good in an empanada. I had a can of organic, no-salt added refried black beans, I had a can of organic chicken chili, I had leftover baked chicken that I made into a taco flavored filling, and I had leftover black beans and rice. I used extra sharp cheddar cheese that I shredded myself and I tried different combinations of these ingredients.
This is an empanada before baking…
Chicken Empanada before baking

Chicken, Refried black beans, and cheese, this was one of my favorite combinations…
Chicken, Refried Black Beans, and Sharp Cheddar Cheese Empanada

My husband had been on a mission trip to Costa Rica and he said that they made empanadas with beans and rice so this one has only beans and rice in it. This needs some sort of sauce with it for more flavor:
Black Beans and Brown Rice Empanada

This one has chicken chili, beans and rice, and cheese:
Chicken Chili, Beans and Brown Rice, and Cheese Empanada

This one has chicken chili and cheese…I think this one was missing a hot dog, lol:
Chicken Chili and Cheese Empanada

I had fun experimenting with these empanadas and fillings. I think ground beef filling is my favorite though. I’m not done experimenting with chicken, although I may prepare the chicken differently next time! Stay tuned for more from “Libby’s Test Kitchen”!

Homemade French Bread Pizza

27 Jun

I’ve been experimenting with homemade rolls.  I’m from the South Jersey/South Philly area, I live in Florida now and I can’t get the kind of rolls that are everywhere up North. After being inspired by a Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives episode, I decided to try again today. I used my basic pizza dough recipe with whole wheat flour, and made 2 loaves of bread with it. It was more like french bread than a hoagie roll, but I wanted to make french bread pizza anyway, so it worked out. After the bread came out of the oven I cut the rolls in half and then split them.
Homemade french bread

While the bread was baking I prepared the toppings:
Pizza toppings
I used fresh garlic, tomato sauce seasoned with basil and olive oil, pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, and green peppers. I also sprinkled the top of the cheese with oregano. There are many possible toppings for french bread pizza, pepperoni is my favorite.

French Bread Pizza, before baking
Once all the toppings are on, it is ready for the oven. Since the bread just came out of the oven, all I needed to do was broil the pizzas to melt the cheese and get the toppings cooked.  That took less than 10 minutes.

Here are the finished pizzas:
French Bread Pizza

French Bread Pizza
The fresh garlic gave the pizza such a wonderful flavor! I loved it! I better make sure to write this recipe down, it is definitely a keeper! The bread was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and it didn’t come out really thick. It was actually on the thinner side, but it worked out perfect for pizza! I can’t wait to do this again!

Grilled Cheese Sandwich on Homemade Whole Wheat Bread

26 Jun

I started out with homemade whole wheat bread.  I used a combination of bread flour and whole wheat flour.  I love to use organic fair trade molasses when I make bread because the bread rises so much better and it gives the bread a nice brown color.
My Homemade Whole Wheat Bread

My kids love american cheese, so I make sure to get the cheese freshly sliced from the deli.  I always buy Boar’s Head cheese because they use better ingredients than most deli brands and it tastes much better than the individual “fake” cheese slices.  Applegate Farms makes a really good organic american cheese as well, if you have that available.  My local grocery store does not carry this in their deli, Whole Foods does but I can only get there once every 2 weeks because it is 30 minutes from my house.  Provolone cheese is one of my favorite cheeses to use in grilled cheese sandwiches, but there are so many different types of cheeses out there that work really well too.

I cook my grilled cheese sandwiches in a pan with unsalted butter.  I just put a little in the pan for each side of the sandwich to make sure it gets nice a brown.
Grilled Cheese Sandwich in the pan

The homemade bread cooks differently than store-bought bread, it has more nooks and crannies and it tastes so good!
Grilled Cheese Sandwich on Homemade Whole Wheat Bread

The cheese gets melty and I like to eat it with tomato soup, in the winter or ketchup, in the summer.

Homemade Oreo Cookies

25 Jun

I love oreo cookies!  I have always loved cookie sandwiches.  When I was a little girl, my friend Melissa and I would remove the filling from the cookies, eat the cookie and roll the filling into a ball and eat it very, very slowly.  We would savor every bite of the sweet filling.  We didn’t always eat oreo cookies, we did this with every brand of cookie that our parents bought.  Ever since I found out that I was allergic to soybeans, I have been on a quest to re-create some of my favorite processed foods with homemade recipes.

First I started with this homemade chocolate cookie, it is like a chocolate graham cracker and I bet it would make an awesome chocolate graham cracker pie crust too!  I intend on trying that one of these days!
Chocolate Graham Cracker Cookie

I sprinkled a little organic sugar on top of the dough before I baked them. These taste great by themselves and adding frosting to them just bumps this recipe up to fantastic!
I used this fair trade organic cocoa powder:
Organic Fair Trade Cocoa Powder
Now for the frosting, traditional oreo cookie filling is made with oil. I would like to try to make a filling with coconut oil the next time I make this recipe but all I had on hand was butter. So I made my classic vanilla buttercream frosting for the filling and ooohhh…they tasted so good!

Chocolate Graham Cracker Cookie Sandwich

My children went nuts over these cookies! These cookies tasted even better the next day! The first time I made these cookies, I used someone else’s recipe but they came out more like whoopie pies, soft but really good. This time I created my own recipe and they came out crisp and crunchy like an oreo cookie. These cookies certainly don’t taste exactly like oreo cookies, but I used organic fair trade ingredients. I’ll take these any day over the processed variety! I know exactly what is in them since I made them myself. The only drawback, if you want to call it that, is they don’t have a shelf life because I don’t use preservatives like store-bought cookies. They have to be eaten within 2-3 days, oh darn! In my house they didn’t last 2 days! In order to make the cookie dough last longer, I didn’t make them all on the same day. The dough keeps in the fridge for a few days so I baked a small batch every day until I ran out. This way, I don’t have to worry about them going stale, which I wouldn’t have to worry about that anyway, but it does save me from having to eat them all! I have so much fun with new recipes and this one is going in the cookbook, too!

Homemade Barbecue Pulled Pork

24 Jun

I love to experiment with food. I had never made this before so I Googled how to make pulled pork. I went to Whole Foods and picked out 2 pounds of pasture raised pork butt (I know it sounds so funny). Once I arrived home, I made my own spice rub and coated the roast and let it marinate in the refrigerator. I slow roasted the pork for a few hours and then let it cool. It is a very simple process.  I shredded the meat once it was cool enough to handle.

Homemade Pulled Pork

I used my own recipe for barbecue sauce, which is loosely based from my mom’s recipe. This barbecue sauce is very easy to make, with just a few tweaks to make it with fair trade, organic ingredients and seasonings to suit my own tastes. I also made homemade whole wheat bread and homemade coleslaw. I invited my parents over for dinner and we enjoyed testing out this recipe together. It was a hit! I can’t wait to make this again. I paired it with sweet potato fries that I baked in the oven with olive oil and some seasonings. The bread was very tender and soft. This recipe is definitely going in my cookbook!

Pulled pork barbeque sandwich

Homemade Belgian Waffles

13 Jun

Homemade Waffles and Maple Syrup

My daughter has been asking for waffles for a few days now, so this morning I promised to make them. Making waffles from scratch takes commitment and time because you can only make 2 at a time in the waffle maker. I started making the batter around 8am and we were finished eating around 10am. The good thing is that there are waffles left over for tomorrow so that will mean a quick and easy breakfast! I made these waffles last month when I was hired as a personal chef to cook breakfast for a MOPS group, end of season brunch. That was the first time that I got paid to cook for a group of people and it was a lot of fun! I made homemade pancakes, egg white omelets, scrambled eggs, biscuits, pork sausage and soy sausage(gross), and bacon. I’m allergic to soy so making soy sausage was really yucky to me…and they weren’t organic either. I didn’t buy the ingredients for the event, I only made the waffle batter and pancake batter with organic ingredients. The rest was purchased by the lady that organized the event. I was just there to cook what they wanted. I really didn’t think that I was going to have as much fun as I did, it was awesome! The ladies were all so nice and I love cooking for people and that made the morning really lovely! I hope I get to do more events like that! I would love to do catering and personal chef jobs in the future!
On to my next cooking adventure!

Family Favorite Dinner: Sausage Spaghetti

7 Jun

I love spaghetti! I like to use Italian sausage to change things up a bit from the usual ground beef or meatballs. I make the sauce from plain tomato sauce because I like to use my own seasonings with the meat. I’ve been making my own sauce since high school and it’s one of my favorite and easy meals to whip up! I change up the pasta all the time, sometimes I like penne, or rigatoni or ziti…sometimes I even use rotini pasta which goes great with meaty sauce. We’ve made the switch to whole wheat pasta and my kids don’t notice the difference, especially because the sauce is so good…it doesn’t matter what you pair it with.
Tomato sauce with sausage
I’ve done this sauce with all types of sausage…chicken sausage works just as well as pork sausage, I always make sure to buy Italian flavored sausage. This time I used pork sausage, one key thing when buying sausage is to avoid nitrates. Organic sausage is the best way to go, even though there are one or two conventional brands that don’t use nitrates. When making sauce from scratch the most important thing to do is let it cook so the herbs and meat really incorporate and meld together. I simmer mine for at least 30 minutes and then I cook the pasta, but if I have more time I let it cook for an hour. Letting the sauce sit after it is cooked is good too…the longer the flavors hang out the better the sauce. Be careful not to burn it though, if you cook it too long it can start to dry out and stick to the bottom of the pan. With this particular day, I cooked the whole wheat pasta, aldente, and then drained it and put it in pot with the sauce and cooked it for 2 more minutes and it really came out nicely! This really married the sauce with the spaghetti and instead of the sauce just sitting on top of dry spaghetti…so yummy!
Sausage spaghetti with whole wheat pasta
Smell-o-vision would be really nice for those of you reading this! I used fresh garlic, a bay leaf, oregano, and basil…plus olive oil, Romano Parmesan cheese and no added salt!

2 Homemade Birthday Cakes

6 Jun

We celebrated my son Alex’s 7th birthday yesterday.  We didn’t have a big party, just the grandparents and some friends.

This is the cake once it came out of the oven. This is my first time making this recipe, I created it myself, modifying my cupcake recipe. I usually make chocolate cake but my son is not a fan of chocolate so I wanted to make something just for him.
Vanilla cake layers

This is the finished cake. My decorating tips were crushed by the garbage disposal a few weeks ago and I haven’t replaced them yet, so this is very basic but the taste was phenomenal! The cake was so moist and soft, yet it had a nice crust which was so good! Of course I used organic confectioners sugar, so the flavor of the icing was so unique to commercial icing. The only issue with organic is the texture of the sugar is more coarse so it needed to be sifted. The last cup of sugar I added to the icing, I forgot to sift so it wasn’t a smooth as it should have been.

Vanilla Birthday Cake

I didn’t stop at just one cake though…I went all out and also made a fan favorite, Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
This cookie recipe is my own. I created it, like my other recipes, because of my soy allergy and the desire to have everything organic. I actually use whole wheat flour in my cookie dough because I’ve found that the cookies had more substance that way. You can’t even tell that it is whole wheat and once the icing is put on…it is so good!!
Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
We had a great time yesterday! I do sell my baked goods to friends when they ask which gives me practice for when I open my bakery! I love doing “test kitchen” projects…I can’t wait til my next created baked good! It is satisfying when a recipe comes out well, I am gaining confidence each time and that allows creativity to flow easier.

National Donut Day

3 Jun

In honor of National Donut Day, I wanted to make homemade donuts for the first time.  Since I discovered that I have an allergy to soy, I haven’t had a donut.  It’s been about 1 1/2 years since I enjoyed any sweet, fried dough.
Basic Yeast Donuts
I started out with a basic yeast dough recipe.  This is the dough right before I wrapped and set it aside to rise.
Heart-shaped donuts
I used 2 heart shaped cookie cutters to cut the donut shape and donut hole. Since this was my first time, I had some difficulty moving the dough to the cookie sheet and keeping it looking like a heart.
Cane Sugar Donuts
The first topping I used was organic cane sugar. I drained the donuts on paper towels and then dredged them in the sugar.
Vanilla Glazed Donuts
These are my favorite ones…Vanilla Glazed. I used organic powdered sugar and vanilla to make this glaze. They don’t look perfect but they tasted pretty good, especially for my very first time doing this!
Powdered Donuts
I had some trouble with the powdered donuts because I covered them while they were still hot and the sugar started to clump and melt. I should have waited until they had cooled down but they still tasted good. I’m going to need more practice to get donuts to look pretty if I intend on selling them when I open my bakery.
Vanilla Glazed Donut Holes
These are glazed donut holes. I didn’t get any pictures of the sugared donut holes because the kids ate them too fast! These are so much fun to eat!

So this wasn’t too bad for my first homemade donuts. The flavor of the dough needs some work but that is why I love to experiment in my “test” kitchen. I love working on new recipes and putting my own spin to classics.  I’ll be working on some different types of toppings and filling for my next batch of donuts.  Happy National Donut Day!