Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

This soup is very hearty and nutritious.

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

3-14oz cans chicken broth
1/2 cup wild rice
1 cup brown rice
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cups fresh mushrooms
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp thyme
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
1 cup half & half

In a saucepan, combine 2 cans of the chicken broth, rice, carrots, celery, onion and seasonings. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until wild rice is tender but still chewy. Add mushrooms and cook for 5 more minutes.
Meanwhile, in another saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and thyme. Add the remaining 1 can of broth and chicken. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir one minute. Add half & half. Combine this mixture with the rice mixture and heat through.

Homemade Whole Wheat Bread

This recipe is very similar to the white bread recipe I posted with my spinach calzones. The difference is the addition of whole wheat flour, pecans, wheat germ, oatmeal, and the optional addition of honey as a replacement for the sugar. You can also make it solely with wheat flour if you want to. And all you South Beachers can use your sugar substitutes. I again used my bread machine to knead the dough and warm it for the first rise. Then I removed it and baked the bread in these individual loaf pans. I particularly like these pans because they are connected. It just makes it easier to get them in and out of the oven. It is also a fun way to prepare your bread for dinner guests because each guest can get their own loaf. This is delicious with honey butter.

Homemade Whole Wheat Bread

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose white flour
1 stick butter
1 cup water
2 tsp salt
6 tbsp sugar or honey
1 egg
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 cup pecans
2 pkg yeast

Combine ingredients in bread machine. Set on dough setting. After first rise, remove from machine and place in greased loaf pans or muffin tins. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.

To make honey butter, beat 1 stick softened butter with 1/2 cup honey.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Uncommon Powder Room

We moved into our house in September of 2003, after approximately eight months of remodeling. We had some work left to do after we moved in, and our last project was the powder room off the kitchen. We wanted it to be unusual and funky, and at the same time, maintain the warmth we had achieved throughout the rest of the house. I wanted brick on two walls to look like exterior walls, and it took me a while to talk Gil into it (maybe since he was the one who would have to put it up), but thank goodness, he changed his mind. He found this cool brick at Lowe's. It looked like it was old, which was what we wanted. Gil put the pavers up like he would have tile, attaching a lathe to the wall, and applying the grout with a mortar bag. This is how it looked:

This is how it looks now:
The bathroom had wallpaper on the walls that we didn't want, and I never peel wallpaper off, I cover it. So, on top of the wallpaper, I applied sheetrock mud with a trowel on the two remaining walls, as well as on the ceiling. I have done this several times, and it is fun, easy, and inexpensive. After the mud dried, I painted the walls a taupe color, then glazed them with a sienna brown. (The glaze consisted of one part paint to three parts glazing liquid). We don't like bright ceiling lights, so Gil found these lights with shades at Lowe's. I found this circa 1940 mirror at an antique store and Gil hung it from an antique glass doorknob.
As you can see in one of the previous pictures, the existing cabinet was stained. It was also very dated and pretty boring. I added a decorative wood scrollwork piece to the middle panel. Then I painted the cabinet black and oversanded it. I used vintage-looking mismatched knobs for the pulls. Gil made the top out of old heart pine he had retrieved from a chicken coop he'd torn down a few years back. I wanted a vessel sink but we didn't want to pay $600+ for it. So he found a laquered spun bamboo bowl at Southeastern Salvage for $19.99 and drilled it to make our sink. Isn't that amazing?
Gil built a shelf over the window and put an outlet on the wall beside it. We placed an antique fan up there that can be turned on with a switch by the door. He also put up crown moulding.
As a finishing touch, I found a rusted switchplate cover, outlet covers, and a towel rack at At Home in Homewood.
This project required alot of work, which we brought on ourselves, of course, but we enjoy the actual process as much as we do the result. There are great advantages to tackling home projects yourself. I hope this will inspire you to try it!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Pear Muffins

The pear is a delicious, healthy fruit. It is high in fiber and potassium, and also contains vitamin C and phytochemicals. I would personally rather eat a muffin for breakfast than cold cereal, slimy oatmeal, or eggs and greasy bacon. And I would rather eat a saltine cracker than a store-bought muffin. Muffins are just too easy to make to ever feel the need to buy them. Then you can totally control what goes into them. But that's just me. These muffins are made up of several nutritious ingredients, but are not necessarily low in calories, so maybe just eat one at a time. I'm all about portion control and moderation. I never deprive myself, I just don't over-indulge.

These are really good. I hope you like them!
Pear Muffins
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup Kretschmer Honey Crunch Wheat Germ
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1-1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/4 cups nonfat buttermilk
2 eggs
1 stick butter, melted
2 ripe, medium-sized pears. chopped
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350. Combine dry ingredients. then add remaining ingredients and stir until blended. Line a muffin tin with paper liners or grease with cooking spray. Spoon muffin batter into cups. Bake for about 20 minutes.

Beef & Cheese in Won Ton Wraps

Sometimes I feel adventurous and want to create something different out of whatever I have in the kitchen. I did that tonight with ground round, three kinds of cheese, and won ton wraps. This would be a great appetizer if it were done in a mini muffin tin, but I served it as a main course, using a regular muffin tin.

Beef & Cheese in Won Ton Wraps

1 pkg won ton wraps
1 lb ground round, browned and drained
1 8oz pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled into very small pieces
1 tsp Worchestershire Sauce
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Place won ton wraps in muffin tin with the corners facing up, forming small cups. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven. In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Spoon into the won ton cups. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

(Note: The baked cups and filling can be prepared a couple of days in advance and stored in the refrigerator).

The won ton wraps can be found chilled with the produce section or in the refrigerator section of most grocery stores. Place them in the muffin tin like this:
This is how they turned out:

They were delicious. Next time I will try adding either jalapeno or bell pepper. You could also add onion, if you are so inclined.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Valentine Surprises

My daughter, Amby, and her husband, Nathan, live a LONG way away, so I like to send them packages in the mail. I love Valentines Day and they are both my valentines, so they got some crazy surprises.

Nathan is interested in horticulture and is very talented with growing herbs, flowers, etc, so his gifts were related to that. I went to Pike's Nursery on Hwy 280 and bought various kinds of seeds, a funky clay pot, soap and lotion designed for the gardener, and Jiffy Strips peat pots to start his seeds in.

I got Amby a knitting book with some projects that I thought looked fun, a heart charm for her charm bracelet, $20 Spanx hose, (which are supposed to be wonderful but I'm not impressed with them because I got runs in two different pair-that would be $40 for about 3 wearings), and a vintage brooch to wear and to display with her heirloom collection. Hopefully her heirlooms will live on the wall, not the floor. I had a tiny "A" engraved onto her charm. I also got her a dark chocolate bar, which she likes because it tastes good, and is good for her as well. I'm not sure if it is the correct percentage of cocoa, but hopefully she will still eat it.

I also included some tea, veggie chips, and pine nuts. Amby and Nathan are very earthy.

I wrapped them in Valentine paper and also used clear bags lined with heart tissue paper. I attached tags to each one and added stickers to the tags:

I also like to decorate the box I ship everything in:

I had to wait until they received the package before I could post this because Amby reads my blog and I didn't want to spoil the surprise.
It is really fun to get packages in the mail, but I think it is just as much fun to send them.
I hope you all have a very Happy Valentines Day!!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Candlelight Dinner for Valentines' Day

Baby Spinach Salad with Honey Bacon Dressing
Mushroom Artichoke Soup
Best-Ever Brownies

I wanted to do a candlelight dinner for Valentines Day and Gil and I both have a busy week ahead of us, so I decided to prepare it tonight. We have a huge coffee table in our den that is normally parallel to our fireplace. I turned it perpendicular to the fireplace and placed large pillows on the floor on each side of the table. Then I set the table with pretty placemats and candlelight. I played one of our favorite jazz CD's and Gil built a nice fire. It was very cozy and fun. We decided to eat like that more often.

I wanted to make a dinner that was light enough to leave room for dessert. The following three posts are the recipes of what I prepared. I hope you enjoy them!

Spinach Salad with Honey Bacon Dressing

Spinach Salad with Honey Bacon Dressing

Baby spinach leaves
Tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes)
4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
1 boiled egg

Arrange spinach leaves on plate. Top with remaining ingredients.


2 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup vinegar
1/3 cup oil

Combine ingredients. Pour over salad and serve immediately.

Mushroom Artichoke Soup

This is a rich soup that is good to serve before an entree, but is also hearty enough to be the main course. I make many different kinds of soup, but I think this one is my husband's favorite.
Mushroom Artichoke Soup

1 small onion, chopped
3/4 stick butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 cans artichoke hearts, chopped with bottoms discarded
1 carton chicken broth
1 cup 1/2 & 1/2
salt & pepper to taste

Saute onion in butter until tender. Add flour and blend. Then add chicken broth and heat to boiling until thickened. Add mushrooms and artichokes and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add 1/2 & 1/2 and heat through.

I like to buy mushrooms that are already sliced:
Incorporate the flour into the onion and butter until blended:

This is the finished product:

Best Ever Brownies

This is my version of a fabulous Julia Child recipe from Baking with Julia. Everything I have baked from this cookbook has been really wonderful.

Best-Ever Brownies

1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate morsels
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 large eggs
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Sift the flour and salt together and set aside.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a saucepan or in the microwave, being careful not to scorch the chocolate. Add 1 cup of the sugar and stir, and then add the vanilla.

Put the remaining 1 cup sugar and the eggs into a bowl and whisk by hand to combine. Little by little, pour half the eggs into the chocolate mixture, stirring gently so the eggs don't set from the heat. With a hand mixer, beat the remaining egg mixture for about 2 minutes until pale and almost doubled in volume. Fold the whipped egg mixture into the chocolate, then gently fold in the dry ingredients until blended.

Pour into a greased 9 inch or 8 x 11 inch baking dish and bake at 350 for 25-28 minutes. Try to just about underbake them. They are better if they are still gooey in the middle.

(Note: I know this recipe has complicated blending issues, but these brownies have a unique texture because of it. You could try just throwing it all together and they would probably still be really good.)

Melt the chocolate with the butter:
Whisk the eggs into 1 cup of the sugar:

I used a heart muffin pan since it was Valentines Day. The baking time will be less if you do this.

I topped it with ice cream and then decorated with chocolate sauce that I heated in the microwave:

Having said ALL THAT, if you are short on time, you could do this with a brownie mix.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Amazing Sweet and Sour Sauce

I have had this recipe for about 25 years. It came from a cookbook that was compiled by the great cooks from the church where I grew up. These women, which included my mom and grandmother, helped influence and inspire me to want to be a good cook. This sweet and sour sauce is as easy as it is tasty.

Sweet and Sour Sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp ketchup
1 cup liquid from pineapple (with water added to equal 1 cup)
1-8 oz. can crushed pineapple

Combine brown sugar and cornstarch. Drain pineapple and measure liquid. Add water if necessary to equal 1 cup of liquid. Add to brown sugar mixture, along with vinegar and catchup. Bring to a boil and stir constantly over low heat until thickened. Add pineapple, heat through, and serve warm.

It will look like this before you heat it:

As you boil the liquid, it will thicken and begin to appear glossy. Add the pineapple.

This is wonderful with chicken fingers. If you are serving this as an appetizer for more than 4 people, double or triple the recipe.

Friday, February 09, 2007

A New Addition

This is Michael. No, he doesn't belong to Amby, but to my friend Anna. She is a nurse and works with me at UAB. Isn't he amazing? Anna has her hands full because she already has 4 small children at home. She is a very calm, take-it-all-in-stride mom, and it sounds like they are all adjusting well to this tiny new person.This is Yvonne, one of our secretaries, Anna, and Leona, one of our nurses.
This is Nurse Marsha, me, Nurse Case Manager Melanie, and Anna:
Anna is a great nurse and I am counting down the days for her to come back from maternity leave. I miss her and her sense of humor. Somewhat twisted, like mine. I am very happy for her and I wanted to share these pictures of her sweet new baby.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Cabbage Soup

Cabbage is very low in calories and is high in vitamins A, B-12, C, folate, calcium, magnesium, and iron. I use V8 Juice for the base of this soup, which is low in calories and provides a host of vitamins and minerals. It is also really quick to put together. The cabbage will hold more of its nutritional value if it is not cooked for too long.

Cabbage Soup

1 lb ground round
1 small cabbage, finely chopped
1 48-oz bottle V8 Juice
1 can chicken broth
1 can tomato puree
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp ground tyme
3 bay leaves
salt & pepper to taste

Brown ground round in a pan and drain onto paper towels. In a large saucepan or stock pot, combine remaining ingredients and add the ground round. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a full simmer for about 10 minutes, or just until cabbage is tender.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

I love sweet potatoes. I think it's wonderful that something that delicious can be so remarkably good for you. Today I am posting sweet potato fries that I bake in the oven.

Sweet Potato Fries

3-4 medium sweet potatoes
1/2 cup butter, melted
cinnamon and sugar (opt)

Peel and chop sweet potatoes into small pieces. Place in a single layer in a greased baking dish. Pour butter over them and sprinkle with salt. (You can add cinnamon and sugar, if desired, but I usually don't because I think they blend better with a meal without it). Bake at 450 for about 30 minutes. You may need to stir them about halfway through baking.
Peel and chop the sweet potatoes:
This is how they look after baking for 30 minutes. If you want them to be more crisp, bake a little longer.