Archive | July, 2011

My Adventure with Nachos

23 Jul

Okay…this is my newest test kitchen adventure! I have been wanting to try to make salsa, guacamole, and queso from scratch, which is what I did yesterday…

I started with the salsa…it is very simple to make and I have tried before but until yesterday I had been unsuccessful in getting it right.

Homemade Salsa

The funny thing is that when I smelled the finished salsa, it actually smelled like salsa! Go figure…my 8-year old was looking at me like I had lost my mind because I was laughing and giddy from the smell of success! The best part is the fresh cilantro, so tasty!

My next task was to make the guacamole. After all the things that I have prepared from scratch, I had never bought an avocado before! I don’t know why but I think I felt intimidated by that vegetable, or is it a fruit? See…I don’t even know what it is!

Homemade Guacamole

I have watched TV chefs cut up and prepare avocados over and over and I knew exactly what to do. My memory, only when it comes to food, is like a sponge…I soak up techniques and ingredients and retain them in the section of my brain dedicated to food. On a daily basis I misplace my phone, keys, wallet, shoes, pens…my short term memory doesn’t work very well.

Cheese for Queso Dip

My next test kitchen dish was to make queso dip. I love hot cheese to dip things in. I love to eat queso dip from Tijuana Flats but it is very far from my house and I don’t go there very often. Store bought queso is out for me because of my allergy to soybean oil and soy lecithin. I’ve tried to make cheese dip many times and just never quite got it right, and this time was no exception, lol. This is by far the best I’ve made yet but I think next time I will omit the cream cheese and use American cheese instead.

Homemade Queso Dip

I used Monteray Pepper Jack cheese, which is very tasty! Cream cheese and sharp cheddar cheese I threw into the mix because I forgot to buy American cheese. The ingredient that brought it all together was the fresh cilantro! I didn’t make it spicy because my kids don’t like spicy but I did use green and red bell peppers, onions, and garlic for the veggies. I must have read 20 different recipes for queso dip, some start with a roux, some use a slurry, and some didn’t use either. I decided not to use either as well and the consistency was more exactly like queso dip than any other dip I had done. I used roux and slurries before and this time the result was much better! Very interesting! I just didn’t care for the sweetness of the cream cheese though, but it is still tasty!

Homemade taco meat

I have been making my taco meat from scratch for some time now. I used to eat those boxed taco dinners from Taco Bell and Old El Paso ALL the time! When I had to cut MSG out of my diet and all things soy I found that making tacos from scratch was really easy and tastes so much better than that processed crap. I’m so anal about eating nachos though, each bite has to have a little of each component. It takes a little more time to prepare this way than just to dump everything on top like restaurants do.


I told myself I was doing it this way for the picture, but in truth, this is the way I prepare my nachos even when no one is looking! It makes for a very pretty plate though! I am very excited about eating leftovers for lunch today!


Slow Cooked Beans, Brown Rice, and Sausage with Savory Cornbread

20 Jul

I am getting so much better with beans and rice.  I have been testing and adjusting my recipe over and over and this time I really nailed it!  I think the best flavor component to this recipe is the organic Applegate Farms Keilbasa sausage that I used.  It really added some wonderful flavors into the rice and beans that makes this recipe a keeper!  I no longer buy canned beans…I only use dried beans now and that gives me more control over salt content and flavor.  I soaked 1 cup of Great Northern beans overnight, although the quick soak method works just as well.  I drained the beans and added them back to the pot with one carrot, one celery stick, and one onion keeping the pieces very large for easy removal and making sure they are washed well.  I cooked the beans for 1 hour or until fork tender.  While the beans cooked, I chopped up one onion and cooked that in some unsalted butter.  Once the onions cooked down, I added the chopped sausage and cooked that well.  I added 1 cup of brown rice, sauteed for 5 minutes.  Once the beans have cooked, I drain them a remove the veggies and add the beans to the pot of rice.  I made chicken broth the day before with the neck bone and gizards from a whole chicken, that I roasted for dinner.  I added 3.5 cups of broth to the pot, brought it to a boil and simmered for 40-45 minutes or until done.  Now I have been  hit or miss with the brown rice and sometimes the rice is not quite done and I  let it sit off of the heat for 30 minutes to meld the flavors, but this time it cooked beautifully and was soft with the beans.  I add my own seasoning to the rice which is a homemade version of adobo seasoning.  I also experimented with my cornbread recipe again and I added savory seasoning to the cornbread and it went perfectly with the beans and rice!

Slow cooked white beans, brown rice, organic sausage and savory cornbread

I was so pleased with the way this came out! There should be scratch and sniff computer screens for this dish! Leftovers are even better because the flavors get a chance to sit and develop even more overnight.

Libby’s Test Kitchen: Homemade Goldfish Crackers

11 Jul

So I got the idea to make these from another blog, Miss Anthropist’s Kitchen. I’m always trying to find ways to recreate store bought snacks from scratch, so I was looking forward to trying it.
This recipe is like pastry with cheese. I used my blender to process the ingredients because I don’t have a food processor, well actually I do have one but the blades were lost when we moved. 😦 The blender worked ok chopping the dry ingredients and I used my mixer to blend in the butter. The dough was simple to put together. Since I don’t have a tiny fish size cutter, I used a coupling piece from my decorating tips to cut out small circles.
Homemade Goldfish Crackers

My daughters helped place the little circles on the baking sheets. The recipe made almost 300 little crackers. I baked them in the oven and voila! Little cheddar crackers!
Homemade Goldfish Crackers
Right out of the oven they kinda tasted like little biscuits but as they cooled they became crunchy. They certainly taste like little cheddar crackers, but not really like the goldfish brand crackers. That is ok. These are perfect for snacking and without all the salt that are in boxed snacks. I used unsalted butter and I did not add any extra salt to them because the cheese has more than enough sodium for these crackers. My 4 kids finished about 100 crackers at snack time! It is hard to keep any homemade food in this house! I’m so glad that my kids love the taste of simple foods made from scratch. This could easily be made once a week to add variety to their snacktime. I will certainly make this again, maybe next time I’ll try different cheese. There are so many possibilities!

Libby’s Test Kitchen: Granola Bars

5 Jul

Okay, so my son has been asking for homemade granola bars since last week and I decided to try to make them today. I got some ideas about what ingredients to use and I fashioned a recipe and tried it out. The first batch, I used brown sugar, molasses, and raisins and for some reason, probably too much molasses, it came out too soft to cut into bars. So I put it back in the oven for 5 more minutes, but only the outer edges hardened, the middle is just too soft. 😦
Granola Bar with raisins and molasses

On the bright side, my two sons and my hubby all thought that it tasted really good and they didn’t care that it wasn’t in bars. I am putting it in the refrigerator overnight to see what it will be like in the morning. It should harden overnight and then it won’t be so messy to eat, hopefully.

The second batch I made because my oldest, Kiersten, was having a fit about the raisins in the first batch. So…I made these granola bars with no raisins and I decided to use honey instead of molasses. These actually look like granola bars, you know the Nature Valley honey and oat bars?
Honey Granola Bars

Unfortunately, these are way too sweet. So it will be back to the drawing board to figure out the best quantities of sweet to make these even better. The crazy thing is, my boys didn’t like these because they actually preferred the taste of the molasses over the honey. Go figure!

Test kitchen baking is definitely a risk but at least both batches are edible, the worst is when you have to chuck the whole recipe because it doesn’t work out and thankfully that doesn’t happen to often.  For the next time that I make these, I will definitely add some nuts to it and maybe cashew butter…mmm…there are so many possibilities!  I was imaging drizzling melted dark chocolate over them or adding chocolate chips.  Chocolate makes everything better!  So say we all?