Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Tale of Two Soups (Turkey Chowder/Beef-Barley Soup)

This is a tale of two soups that I made
Both in the crockpot and both blogposts delayed.
I am rhyming this post for no apparent reason
Maybe I've lost it- maybe it's just the season.
On any account I hope you enjoy it
If I ever finish and don't decide to destroy it!
Getting back to the soups- well, one was a chowder...
But they both were a hit, so I couldn't be prouder.
One began as a turkey, the other a roast
I was satisfied with each, so I'll try not to boast.

The week before Thanksgiving I cooked the turkey
I wanted my own leftovers, you see.
So when we were done with what we could eat
To the freezer went the rest of the meat.
Later on when we'd come back
I took the turkey out of it's freezer sack
And popped in the crockpot this recipe dear
One I'd found online after Thanksgiving last year.
It came from a place called Recipezaar
I if I would rate it, I'd give it more than one star!
Probably five, it's really that good
If you have turkey, then try it you should!
It involves mostly veggies and broth, of course
Chicken, unless you make turkey broth straight from the source!
I guess what makes it a chowder is the flour
Which you cook with the onion before simmering for hours.
A special flair that you put in this dish
A half cup of apple juice which makes it delish!
Homestyle goodness and a tangy flavor
This is one chowder that you'll want to savor!

The second soup, as I said, was a roast
But it was bad news- I might even say "toast!"
The meat was fatty and chewy and gross
I thought I might thow it out- and came close.
But I hoped maybe I could redeem it with soup
We'd just see if my meat could jump through that hoop!
It needed some tenderizing- maybe soup would be just the thing
And a church dinner was coming and I needed something to bring.
So later I trimmed all the fatty parts down
And chopped up the good parts- I sure went to town!
I added some veggies (corn, peas, garlic, potato
Celery, carrot and even tomato)
Bay leaf, basil and barley too
Better add broth or this will be stew!
Better Homes & Gardens is the one that I owe
For this delicious recipe that I have to show.
"Beef-Barley Soup" proved to be just right
Savory and warm, comfort food to the last bite!

Both of these soups (excuse me...chowder- oh well)
Create in your home a lovely food smell.
They simmer away in the crockpot all day
Ready when you are to keep hunger at bay.
Both can be served with a side that you choose
But here are a few suggestions for what you should use:
Rolls are always a pleaser- that's true
Or you could always go for something that's new.
Biscuits are also an option that's swell
If you use Bisquick, I swear I won't tell!
Cornbread is good, using Jiffy or no
Bread soup-sides are good, however you go!

Hope you will try one or both of these treats
They make quite a lot so you can freeze the rest of the eats.
I love having frozen soups on hand
They make a great quick dinner if you're in a jam.
I think my rhyming's getting poorer- I'd better stop now
But make sure and read the recipes below!

(printable version)

1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup sliced celery
2 TB butter
2 TB flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
5 cups chicken broth (or 3 cans)
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup sliced zucchini
1/2 cup apple juice (or cider)
3 cups chopped cooked turkey

Cook onion and celery in butter. Stir in flour, salt, pepper and thyme. Slowly add the chicken broth. Combine broth mixture and remaining ingredients in slow cooker. Cover, cook on low 4-6 hrs.

Beef-Barley Soup
(printable version)

12 oz. beef stew meat (or leftover roast!), cut into 1-in. cubes (if not using leftover roast, brown meat in oil before following rest of recipe)
4 14 oz.cans beef broth (or more if needed)
1 cup chopped onion (1 lg)
1/2 cup chopped celery (1 stalk)
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 tsp dried oregano or basil, crushed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables (I used 1/2 cup peas & 1/2 cup corn)
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained (may use the Italian variety)
1 cup 1/2-in. cubes peeled potato
2/3 cup regular barley

Combine all ingredients in 6-qt slow cooker. Cover, cook on low for 8-10 hrs or high for 4-5 hrs.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monthly Menu- December

Wow! I can't believe I haven't written a post since my last monthly menu! That's awful of me. So sorry! I guess I didn't feel like I made anything very interesting last month...but I will try to do better.
It's already December! It's not hard to believe, as I sit here and type, watching more flakes fall onto the already deep piles of snow outside my window. Winter has landed in full force on the Inland Northwest! Last week she showed her full strength when we came back from our Thanksgiving trip to Oregon to water all over our kitchen floor due to a broken pipe during extreme winter temperatures. But even with all that mess to clean up, fans still blaring in the background, trying to dry the carpet (which is buckling up in spots), I have to admit that it's beautiful. I have never lived in a place that gets as much snow as this place does, so I'm not quite acclimated, but even so, I have to succumb to the charm of this white-blanketed rural valley. It is lovely, and it feels like Christmas every day!
In respect to the following list, I was very glad that Travis and I ventured out yesterday, as tired as we were, to get our month's shopping done. The snow has been falling steadily all day, and we seem to be in for another storm tonight. It feels good to have full cupboards and a stocked fridge and freezer!!

Monthly Menu- December

Week 1 (Nov. 30-Dec. 6)

Turkey Pot Pie
Looks like a great use for leftover turkey! This is an easy version of a pot pie, which has a Bisquick biscuit crust and carrots and broccoli tucked inside.
Golden Mushroom Pork and Apples with a Green Salad
In the tradition of "crock-pot Wednesday" I'm trying a new recipe out of my Rival Crock-Pot book. It looks easy and pork chops are always nice and tender in the slow cooker.
Lemon-Herb Chicken with Brown Rice and Roasted Asparagus
Another winner from Allrecipes.com, this skillet chicken is easy and simply flavorful. Asparagus was on sale, so it will make a delicious side!
Whole Wheat Pepperoni Pizza with Fresh Veggies
Turkey Chowder with Corn Muffins
I discovered this leftover turkey soup recipe last year, and it will be the perfect thing to come home to after a friend and I go to Spokane to Christmas/birthday shop for our husbands!

Week 2 (Dec. 7-13)

Beef Rib Roast with Potatoes and Carrots
Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice with Asparagus
Another Rival Crock-Pot recipe. Looks like a comfort food. Mmm.
Lime and Pepper Tilapia with Roasted Potatoes
Must be the simplest way to prepare tilapia. But it's so tasty too!
I think I may be doing something for hubby's birthday...
Beef and Cabbage Soup with Rolls
Since these soups always make a lot, the leftovers will be great to share at our Christmas Cantata Sunday night!

Week 3 (Dec. 14-20)

Chicken Tacos with Fresh Fruit
Slow Cooker Tamale Pie with a Green Salad
Allrecipes.com. :) We'll see if this is better than the slow-cooker lasagna! I think I might try making it with ground turkey instead of beef...
No-Meat Spaghetti with Green Beans
Whole Wheat Pepperoni and Olive Pizza
I think we might be having our "2nd Annual" open house Christmas party this day, so if that's the case, we'll just eat leftovers.

Week 4 (Dec. 21-27)

Shepherd's Pie with Mixed Veggies
I'm not sure yet which day we are leaving to go to Trav's parent's for Christmas, but in case we don't leave till Wednesday, I've got a backup! :) The following week after we get home, I have canned soups and frozen tacquitos on hand, as well as frozen leftover soup.

Odds and ends: Today I made some cookies for the church board meeting tonight. Later on this week, I will be taking dinner to a lady in our church. This weekend is our monthly church potluck, which I will likely bring soup to...and maybe rolls. Next weekend we have a Christmas Cantata which all the ladies bring food for, and then the weekend after that, I will be hosting a Christmas party which will likely feature my cheese ball, my pumpkin gingerbread, and some new festive cookies I want to try! :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Monthly Menu- November

Now, I realize it is already November 10, and I've been putting off or forgetting to get my monthly menu up, but better late than never- so here it is! Some of these are already in the past, of course... If you need to understand this menu thing, revert back to the monthly menu for October. :)

Monthly Menu- November

Week 1 (Nov. 1-7)

Chicken Stir Fry with White Rice
Travis helped me get this one cooked up in a jiffy after we went for a work out!
Crock-Pot Lasagna with a Green Salad
I am trying to come up with crock-pot dinners for Wednesday evenings, since we now have Awana and by the time we get home at 8, I don't feel like throwing something together. This lasagna wasn't the easiest, and it wasn't the tastiest either. Indicator: the leftovers are still sitting in the fridge. I might give another go someday, but I'd definitely make some changes of my own.
Maple Chicken with Rice and Acorn Squash
Easy and delicious! I just put a little butter and some sugar-free maple syrup on the chicken and baked it! It paired wonderfully with the spiced acorn squash.
Crock Pot Beef Roast with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans
I simply used an onion soup mix and a few splashed of Worcestershire sauce and it was delicious! Yummy to come home to after a busy day!
Delicious salmon at a friend's house...no cooking for me! :)

Week 2 (Nov. 8-14)

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese with Steamed Broccoli
This recipe was actually posted on a fertility website because of it's great health benefits! It uses whole wheat pasta shells and combines the unique flavors of pumpkin and Gouda cheese! It is delicious, though not completely fat free! :)
Crock Pot BBQ Shredded Chicken Sandwiches with Corn on the Cob
Easy. Yummy. Throw chicken and BBQ sauce in pot. Shred. Put on bun. Eat. :D
Tilapia Tacos with Roasted Potatoes
Easy and yummy fish tacos!
Turkey Hot Dogs with Raw Veggies
I go to a Zumba class Friday nights, so this is nice, quick meal that is also healthy!
Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup with Rolls

Week 3 (Nov. 15-21)

Turkey with Sweet Potatoes
Even though we are going to my parent's house for Thanksgiving, I had to buy a turkey, because I really want the leftovers!!
Slow Cooker Chicken Teriyaki with Rice and Corn
Another new crock pot recipe for my busy Wednesday night!
Skillet BBQ Pork Chops with Acorn Squash
Homemade Wheat Crust Pizza with Chicken, Spinach and Olives
Or Pepperoni. Depends on how energetic I am. :)
Leftover Roast Beef Soup
With barley and vegetables!

Week 4 (Nov. 22-30)

Tuesday night we will be leaving for Oregon and gone until Saturday, so the rest of the month is pretty well taken care of! :) When we get home we'll probably have Shepherd's Pie or some soup from the freezer!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Welcome to My Pizzeria! (Whole Wheat Pizza Crust)

I love pizza! I don't know very many people who don't love pizza, come to think of it... :) My family used to have pizza and movie nights every Sunday when I was growing up (and I think they still do!) and for many years my sisters and I made our own homemade pizza crust. I have tried many recipes for crust, all of which were good. But a few months ago, I think I stumbled on my favorite crust yet. I was on a diet (still should be, haha!) and looking for a low calorie, thin crust I could use with some healthy toppings. I can't remember where I found it, actually, so I'm not sure who to give the credit to! But the last two times I've made it, I have gone the healthier route and used whole wheat flour, which I think improved it even more- not only is it good for you, but the whole wheat gives it a great flavor! If you haven't tried a homemade crust, and you like your crust a bit on the thin side, you've got to give this recipe a try. It's easy and tastes fabulous with any toppings! We have tried ham & pineapple (for all you Hawaiian fans!), pepperoni with or without olives, and I've even used leftover sloppy Joe or taco meat for a topping- yum! It depends on what I have between the cupboard and the freezer! But I think our favorite is the ever-being-modified chicken pizza. But I need to start at the beginning!
First things first- as all good recipes start: preheat the oven! This is the only recipe I have ever made where you heat the oven to 500. Yeah. That's hot. :) While the oven is warming up to this insane temperature, I mix the yeast and sugar with warm water and let it sit while I mix the flours and salt together and cook the chicken. After about 8 minutes, I pour the yeast mixture over the flour and stir with my favorite wooden spoon. Then I form the dough into a ball and knead it for about 2 minutes, then press it into a semi-round shape. Then comes the fun part! You can do it however it seems to work for you, but I like to hold the dough in my hand and keep turning it around and around while I gently pull the edges out. I usually do this until it starts to tear a little, then I put it on the greased pizza sheet and begin pressing it out toward the edges of the pan (if you make it pretty thin, it will fit one 15" pizza sheet, but you can go smaller if you like it a bit thicker- experiment!). If any holes appear, just pinch them shut with your fingers!
Next, spread your sauce of choice on top. I like Ragu Homemade style (since we are going homemade here...). Chicken pizza is also delicious with white garlic sauce, but I haven't tried that at home yet. Spread as generously as you like (I go pretty thin- I don't like really saucy pizza), but don't forget to leave the edges sauce-free for the crust! Cheese goes on top of this, of course, and again you can choose your preference! I usually go with all mozzarella for the chicken pizza, and a blend of mozzarella and cheddar for pepperoni, Hawaiian and other varieties. I have also used a blend of mozzarella and feta for the chicken pizza, which is also very yummy. However, feta isn't something I usually have on hand!
The last step in the pizza-building process is the toppings! I think my chicken pizza turns out just a bit different every time, depending on what I have around to add to it!
Tonight's version included: one diced chicken breast, pan-fried in olive oil and sprinkled with Pizza seasoning (a mixture of oregano, basil, marjoram & garlic) and garlic powder, two fresh diced Roma tomatoes, a can of sliced olives, and generous amounts of fresh spinach. A note on the spinach: add this last and don't be afraid to cover pretty much the whole pizza with it. It shrinks lots during cooking, so if you don't put on very much, you'll regret it. If you cover the whole thing, it shrinks up to be just the right amount. This is what our pizza consisted of tonight, but don't be afraid to experiment with your own favorite flavors!
Once all the toppings are situated, pop that pizza in the oven! The blazing 500 degrees cook it in only about 10-12 minutes (or maybe less, depending on your oven!).
One of the best things about making pizza at home is getting your creative juices flowing and creating your own masterpiece! Experiment with flavors. Cheeses, meats, veggies. The possibilities are endless! This is the stuff traditions are made of.

Homemade Whole Wheat Thin Pizza Crust
(printable version)
(if you don't want whole wheat, just use all white flour)
makes 1 pizza

1 .25 oz. package of active dry yeast
1/4 tsp sugar
3/4 cup warm water
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup white flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Italian herbs

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. In small bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Allow to rest for 8 min. Mix flours, salt and herbs in another bowl. Pour yeast mixture over flour and mix with sturdy spoon. On lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 2 min. Allow dough to rest covered with a cloth about 5 min. Press into a 12" circle. You may also lift off of counter and rotate in hands, pulling dough gently into a circular shape. Place on lightly greased pizza sheet, stretch and press dough to edges. Spread with sauce and add desired toppings. Bake 8-12 min. or until edges are golden brown. Enjoy!

Tilapia, Get Your Groove On! (Fish Tacos)

Looking for a way to spice up your mild, white tilapia fillet? Read on!
I have never in my life eaten a fish taco. Why? I don't really know, except that most places one finds tacos, one would not be too sure about the quality of the fish. I usually only trust seafood places to have good fish. And fish that is not good is...well, not good. However, I have always been curious about fish tacos, so when trying to come up with something different to do with tilapia (I bought a big bag of frozen fillets at WinCo), the idea dropped in my mind to try making my own! This being said, I still have no clue what a normal or truly Mexican fish taco tastes like- but...I do like my own! :) I found a recipe on the site of a woman who lived in Colombia for a time, and makes many Colombian or Central/South American flavored dishes. I figured I could probably trust her! :)
The recipe is very simple, with only a few common spices and flavors, so it isn't overly bold or spicy. I sprinkled the thawed fillets with cumin, salt & pepper and chili powder, then drizzled them with lime juice and olive oil, while a little more oil was heating in a skillet. Then, while the fish browned lightly on both sides (about 4 min per side), I made avocado salsa.

The recipe called for diced avocados, chopped onion, lime juice, cilantro and olive oil, but I kind of made my own variation. I didn't have any cilantro, so I skipped that, and to make it more like salsa, I added a couple of diced Roma tomatoes to the mix. It turned out sort of like guacamole, except less mushy and a little zestier (lime juice instead of lemon?).
I was surprised how easy this meal was! Once the fish was done, I used a fork to break it up into flaky chunks, warmed up tortillas in the microwave (you can also do this in a hot, non-stick, ungreased skillet) and tore up some green leaf lettuce. We then piled the fish, salsa and lettuce into our tortillas and enjoyed them with some roasted potatoes and fresh mango chunks. It was a light, delicious dinner! Travis really enjoyed it, and he isn't really even a fish fan! :) The fish was sweet and mild, with just the faintest zing, and the salsa was delicious! It's a keeper!

Tilapia Fish Tacos
(printable version)
serves about 4

1 lb. tilapia fish
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
juice of 2 limes, divided
salt and pepper
2 TB chopped fresh cilantro
2 TB diced onion
1 avocado, diced
1 TB olive oil
1-2 Roma tomatoes, diced (optional)
Shredded Lettuce

Place fish on plate and sprinkle with cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and juice of 1 lime.
Preheat skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fish and cook until golden on the outside (about 4 min. per side). Remove from skillet and transfer to a plate. Shred lightly.
Combine cilantro, onion, avocado and tomatoes (if desired) and set aside.
Heat tortillas.
To assemble tacos, place an equal amount of fish in each tortilla, along with a big spoonful of the avocado mixture and top with shredded lettuce.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Monthly Menu- October

I've decided to begin posting a monthly menu (copying my sister-in-law's "weekly menu" series), in case anything looks interesting to you that I don't get around to blogging about! As I have mentioned before, we do our shopping once a month in Spokane at WinCo, which is an hour south of us, since we live in a rural area (Safeway is 17 mi. away!). Although my menu often changes throughout the month, depending on what comes up, I always plan out one for the whole month before we do our monthly shopping trip. We will be heading down today, so I spent a lot time yesterday brainstorming and checking the cupboards. Side veggies often depend on what is on sale or what is in season and I don't usually know for sure until I get there, so I may make some changes to this after we get home! :)
A few notes on the menu: I don't usually plan anything on Sunday or Monday nights because those are my cooking "days off" (since Travis is a pastor, Sundays are very wearing days for both of us and Monday is our official day off) when we eat pretty light and either make canned soup, smoothies, eggs, sandwiches, throw taquitos in the oven, go out to eat or something else that requires minimal energy. Twice a month Travis and I have Date Nights on Mondays (ex. this month it is Oct. 4 and Oct. 18). He picks the days ahead of time so I can plan what to wear! ;) Then he either surprises me or we mutually decide where to go. Wednesday and Thursday nights are soon to be church activity nights (Awana and Home Group, respectively), so I tried to plan for something rather quick and uninvolved since we will be eating early. Saturdays I have just designated as "Soup Saturdays!" It is beginning to get chilly around here and Travis and I both love a good bowl of homemade soup!

Monthly Menu- October

Week 1 (Oct. 3-9)

Jewel's Pineapple Chicken with Rice and Roasted Asparagus
My sister just sent me this recipe for pineapple smothered baked chicken and I can't wait to try it!
Tilapia Fish Tacos with Avocado Salsa and Fresh Fruit
I have never tried fish tacos, but I'm excited for a new way to cook tilapia. This recipe actually come from a website of a lady who cooks Colombian food, so it should be good! :) Tilapia is one fish that hubby doesn't mind eating, so I sneak it in here and there as part of a healthy diet!
Chicken Stir-Fry with Rice and Chow Mein Noodles
Yep, I'm cheating. I have stir-fry veggies in the freezer and stir fry packaged seasoning in the cupboard. One of these days I'll get around to making it from fresh vegetables!
Pizza with Homemade Whole Wheat Crust and Fresh Raw Veggies
I have a delicious thin crust recipe and it works well with whole wheat. I think we'll have garlic chicken, spinach and tomato pizza.
Bean & Barley Vegetable Soup with Whole Wheat Honey Buttermilk Biscuits
I haven't tried this soup yet, but I wanted to try a vegetarian soup with barley, so I'll let you know how it goes. My friends from out of town will be here, so they can help with the slicing and dicing. The biscuits are amazing!

Week 2 (Oct. 10-16)

Spice Rubbed Pork Chops with Acorn Squash
I have made this several times and they are so quick and easy and soooo delicious! The combination of brown sugar, dry mustard and coriander give the meat a smoky flavor.
Beef Spaghetti and Green Salad
Classic. Need I say more?
Slow-Cooker Lime Chicken and Rice with Corn on the Cob
New recipe from allrecipes.com. Rice and chicken cook together in the pot. Sounds easy!
Venison Chops and Roasted Potatoes
I still have these venison chops in my freezer, but I haven't decided how to cook them yet. I've made fajitas with them, but the best way was when I put them in the crock-pot with some cream of mushroom soup and served it over rice. They were rich, tender and delicious!
Chicken Tortilla Soup with Tortilla Strips (of course) and all the trimmings
From the freezer. Always a favorite and always delicious!

Week 3 (Oct. 17-23)

Chicken with Garlic-Balsamic Reduction with Brown Rice and Brussel Sprouts
This is a delicious dish. Full of robust flavor and not too time consuming either. The brussel sprout recipe is one I want to try from Ruth Reichl's book "Garlic and Sapphires."
Breakfast Burritos with all the trimmings
Don't you love breakfast for dinner sometimes? This is a hearty one, warm tortillas stuffed with eggs, sausage, fried potatoes, cheese and sour cream. Yum!
Baked Potatoes with Chili and toppings
Pan-fried Tilapia with Pepper and Lime served with Potatoes
A simple, quick and lightly delicious way to serve tilapia.
Ham and Navy Bean Soup with Corn Muffins
From the freezer.

Week 4 (Oct. 24-30)

Ginger Pork Chops with Acorn Squash
A new recipe from a cookbook called "Fix It and Enjoy It" (healthy, quick and simple recipes).
Grilled Teriyaki Chicken with Rice and Roasted Onions
A new recipe from allrecipes.com. In lieu of a barbecue, I will be using my George Foreman counter top grill.
Homemade Pizza with Fresh Fruit and Veggies
Pepperoni and olives on top!
Turkey Dogs with Chips and Fruit
Chicken Noodle Soup and Grilled Cheese (or leftover Bean and Barley, if there is any!)
Yes, out of a can. Campbell's is a classic, you know! :)

We have potluck this Sunday, and I plan on bringing Cheesy Potatoes.

I've signed up to bring a meal on Tuesday to a dear lady in our church who is in the later stages of cancer, so I've decided to bake her a chicken breast with some roasted potatoes.

We have a board meeting later in the month (which I always make goodies for) and I will likely be making either Chocolate Cinnamon Cookies or my famous Snickerdoodles.

I am going to revamp my breakfast plan this month and try bran muffins and yogurt instead of cereal, so I'm going to make my own Bran Muffins (with real wheat bran!) and freeze them. I found a recipe for "Deep Dark Old Bran Muffins" on allrecipes.com that looks just like the ones I used to make for my mom!

Well, there it is! Happy cooking!

Heaven-Sent Ham Soup and Breathtaking Biscuits

It is fall here in the Inland Northwest, and that means it is time for football, falling leaves, chilly nights, harvest moons, late roses...and soup. Doesn't a fall day just make you want to get out your favorite, comfortable soup recipes? Well, it has that effect on me- in fact, I've just decided to have one soup night a week (at
least through the winter!). Soup Saturdays! :) Most soups can be made in the crock-pot, which makes them tantalizingly easy, and most freeze well, which adds to the appeal! Well, I speak of old, familiar recipes, but the one I tried last week was a new one concocted from familiar flavors. It is a traditional ham and navy bean soup, but depending on the flavor your meat holds, you could get a completely different taste each time! So I will recount for you my ham's history...

I normally don't cook a roast or a ham unless we are having company, because it is such a large meal for just two people. So, when we found out our friends from Oregon would be spending some time with us, I knew it was the perfect excuse to use the ham in my freezer! The day company arrives, I usually try to have a crock-pot dinner, since it allows me to be more free to visit with my guests instead of slaving away in the kitchen, making them feel like they need to help me. So, having decided on the ham (and it was a rather small ham), I began the internet search for a really great crock-pot whole ham recipe. This was a challenge, because, a
s usual, there were a lot of them. I came across many recipes for hams cooked in cola, which interested and frightened me at the same time. It sounded adventurous (My mom later informed me it is a southern trait to cook everything imaginable in cola), but what if it didn't turn out well? And all I had was
Wild Cherry Pepsi and Diet Coke on hand...and several recipes warned against diet. I finally found comments stating that cherry cola gave a good flavor and decided on a recipe that had a brown sugar, mustard and cola glaze. So I bravely followed the recipe, which made a thick paste to smooth over the ham, then put the ham in the crock pot and poured the rest of the cola in the bottom. There it sat, simmering happily all day, and it smelled wonderfully promising! I snitched a piece once the ham was cooked through and it was marvelous! I will standby the
fact that I think this is the best ham I have ever had. I will make it again. And again. For family. For parishioners. Even foreign dignitaries, if they should drop by. ;)

Anyway, that is the background on my ham. The original recipe said to reserve the extra liquid and use it in a soup, so I did. The soup recipe I used was simply a ham and white bean soup, which called for cannellini or Great Northern beans, but I just used navy, which are also, ironically enough, white. :) I soaked them overnight, then, in the morning I rinsed them and threw them into the crock-pot with the ham bone and the chopped up leftover ham, some beautiful onions (fresh from my father-in-law's farm!), carrots, celery, garlic, the leftover liquid plus water, pepper, salt and then I stopped. Hmmm. The recipe called for "Herbs de Provence." Not sure what blend that was, I went to my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, flipping to the section which described different herbs and spices. Sure enough, they mentioned the mysterious "Herbs de Provence" and claimed it was equal parts basil, fennel, lavender, marjoram, rosemary, sage, savory and thyme. Leaving out the ones that I did not posses (lavender and sage), I made my own by scooping 1/4 tsp of each into a container, sealing it, and shaking thoroughly to mix. I doubled the recipe (but only added one extra cup of liquid) so I could have some extra and it made enough for one dinner, one lunch, and enough to freeze for another dinner!

When all this was in the crock-pot, I put it on low and left it to simmer for the rest of the day. Later I scoured the internet again for a biscuit recipe using whole wheat flour (part of my effort to cook healthier!). The one I found (whole wheat buttermilk biscuits) turned out absolutely delicious, hands down the best biscuit I have ever tasted, if I do say so myself.

The soup was so yummy and fallish, with wonderful sweet and subtle herb flavors and the biscuits, as I stated before but must say again, were out of this world! I think I had three (tsk tsk). :)

White Bean and Ham Soup
(printable version)
from Today's Creative Crock-Pot
serves 4

1/2 lb cannellini or Great Northern Beans (or navy!) soaked overnight
1 ham shank or meaty ham bone
1 med. carrot, diced
1 med. yellow onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 qt. water (or liquid plus water)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. Herbs de Provence

Place everything in slow cooker, stir gently. Cover, cook on low 8-10 hrs or high 4-6 hrs.

Whole Wheat Buttermilk biscuits can be found here, except I added 2 tbsp of honey to the mix! :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"Orange" You Glad You Gave it a Try? Then Again, Maybe Not

Today as I was again scouring the internet for something new and useful (this time a crock pot recipe for applesauce), I came across and interesting blog by a woman who had challenged herself to make something in the crock-pot everyday for a whole year. Wow! I cook in mine often, so I had to check out her extensive list of meals. Many things called out to me, and I will likely be back to try other things, but the one that grabbed me this morning was "orange chicken." The recipe looked painless, and I had everything on hand. She said it was delicious. I believe hers was delicious. Mine was another story...
Travis and I had to make a trip into Spokane this afternoon for some church business, so I felt sure it was the perfect day to abandon my well organized monthly menu for this tantalizing crock-pot recipe. I could put it on before lunch and by the time we got home, dinner would be ready and waiting. And so I did. I cut chicken into chunks, dredged it in flour and lightly browned it in the skillet. Then I dumped it in the slow cooker and poured the simple sauce of orange juice concentrate, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and ketchup over the top, making sure every piece was coated. It looked yummy. I don't know about you, but I love Chinese food! And when a nice restaurant can't be had (or even when it can!), I love the fast food chain Panda Express. They make the most delicious Orange Chicken and I hoped that this just might taste like that...if I were lucky. It certainly looked promising!
When we got home from Spokane, it was a little later than I'd planned, and the minute we walked in the door, I knew something was wrong. I've never smelled burnt orange juice before, but in an instant I knew that's what I was smelling. Sure enough, the edges of the sauce in the pot were black and as I stirred the chicken I saw that it, too, was a little overdone. I immediately shut off the crock-pot, hoping to salvage it somewhat while I put on the rice. It didn't help much.
Maybe reading "Garlic and Sapphires" (a book about a New York restaurant critic) has heightened my awareness of flavors, but I'm not so sure overcooking was the only problem with the chicken. The sauce seemed overpowering, until Travis and I decided we really couldn't taste the chicken anymore. It was dry in parts, but really it seemed all I could taste was strong, bitter, orange juice! This may be partially my own fault, as the crock-pot lady warned on her blog that you should use no-pulp or low-pulp orange juice since pulp has a tendency to become bitter when cooked. Live and learn, I suppose.

It really tasted nothing like Panda's chicken, to my extreme disappointment. Reflecting on it now, their chicken seems less "orangey" and has more of a honey sweetness. I think orange juice concentrate is just too strong.
Well, we ate it, but I don't think I'll try it again. I'd still like to find a good orange chicken recipe, but it doesn't have to be in the crock-pot. I don't think oriental foods seems to lend themselves to slow cooking. It just isn't natural! I tried chow mein once and that just turned out mushy. Oh, well. Haha, guess not everything can be done the easy way!
If you'd like to try the recipe yourself (and without overcooking it!), you can find it here, along with what looks like a lot of other great recipes from the crock-pot lady!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Taking the Bite Out of Fall (Apple Pie Bars)

Okay, so it IS September. Already. I have this thing about fall...I love it! But I hate it! Especially where I live now, in the cold, northeast corner of Washington, I am so loathe to let go of the gorgeous, warm summer days. Eventually fall wins me over with its stunning colors and crisp, tantalizing air that makes you just want to cuddle up in your Snuggie with a good book and cup of tea. But for now I stubbornly refuse to give in, for when I do, I know winter will be close on its heels. After all, it isn't officially fall until the 22nd. However, what I baked yesterday chipped away a bit of my resolve. There are so many foods that we associate with fall. Pumpkins, squash, corn, and of course, apples.

Mmmm...there's nothing quite like the smell of fresh, baking apples on sunshiny fall day.
The other day, a friend gave me 3 boxes full of tart baking apples from the tree in her yard. The two big boxes were a donation to our community food bank, which meets in the basement of our church, but the other box was for me! I always cringe a bit when I get baking apples because I know what that means. Lots of peeling and slicing in store for me! You know, I can't remember the last time I made an apple pie. If I've ever made one... I usually even cheat and leave the peel on when I make apple crisp, if you can believe that! But you know what convinced me? The smell.

For three days, the boxes of apples sat in my back room, just off the kitchen. Every time the door opened, the heavenly aroma of ripe baking apples wafted into the house. I absolutely love the smell of apples. In fact, my favorite Yankee Candle scent is Macintosh. After three days, that wonderful smell convinced me that whatever was involved in making some great baked treat out of these apples would be worth it. Fortunately, my nose was right!
For some reason, I thought that making apple pie bars would be easier than just making a pie. Well, I was wrong about that. I think it was more work. But they are temptingly convenient (which could be an pro or a con depending on whether you're on a diet or not!) and so very pretty! One of the hard things turned out to be finding a recipe! Allrecipes has about 100 (okay maybe not quite that many...but it seemed like it!) and so does everyone else...almost every one called for crushed cornflakes. I don't keep those on hand, and oddly enough, last time I looked for them in both of our convenience stores, all I could find were Frosted Flakes! One recipe, however, used quick oats instead, so I decided to substitute. I'm not sure what role they play, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it's to soak up the liquid from the apples. If so, it worked!

I began by peeling the apples. The recipe called for 12-14, but mine are pretty small, so I did about 16. I put on some music, and it was actually very relaxing sitting down, peeling long, shiny curls into my bright silver bowl.

I accidentally tried to peel my thumb at one point so I do have a small battle scar to remember the apples by. The slicing was the part I found the most tedious, but it must be done so there's not much to be done about it!

The dough resembles pie dough in some respects, except it involves eggs, which you separate. The yolks go into the dough and the whites get brushed on top. So one layer of dough is rolled very thin and put on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. I would advise you to use one smaller than 12x17 (which I did, of course). I tried to roll the dough on the pan, thinking that way I wouldn't have to try to lift it, but then my rolling pin didn't fit...anyway, I used a drinking glass instead. It wouldn't quite roll out to the edges, so I just evened it off and left it where it would roll to without breaking. I sprinkled the oats over that, then layered apple slices on top of that. I then sprinkled the apples very generously with a sugar-cinnamon mixture and followed that with the other half of the dough (this was tricky too, as I did have to transfer this layer from the counter). It didn't quite cover, so I had to keep pulling gently and re-piecing until it was close enough.

It wasn't pretty, but it did look like it would be tasty! I then whisked the egg whites until they were foamy and brushed them on top. After I slipped the pan in the oven I surveyed the aftermath.

Baking episodes always seem to have a way of leaving my kitchen looking like a disaster area and it didn't help that earlier this morning I had been making hamburger soup for the church potluck. In fact, my wonderful hubby is, even now, in the kitchen doing dishes (at least, I think he is...somewhere under that pile...).
The smell this apple treat created in my house was so good it was almost like eating it. Almost. When it was golden on top I removed it from the oven and let it sit while I prepared the glaze. A tangy-sweet mixture of lemon juice and powdered sugar, I got it to the right consistency, then drizzled it over the back of a spoon onto the bars.

I had barely enough patience to let them cool a few minutes before venturing to snitch a forkful. I closed my eyes and felt a little of my resistance to the coming season crumble.
Travis and I could hardly keep our fingers out of them all evening although the plan was to take them for potluck at church today.

Thankfully, the recipe makes a very large batch- you'll need one! We did manage to control ourselves and there were many thankful people at church today as one by one, the bars began to disappear. Amazingly, there are 3 left, but I doubt those will last the night...

Find the recipe here: Apple Pie Bars (as mentioned before though, I did substitute 1 cup quick oats for the crushed cornflakes and it seemed to work great!).

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Chicken Breasts with Balsamic-Garlic Reduction

Ooh! Don't I sound classy! Heehee. I used to have no idea what a "reduction" was when I saw it on fancy restaurant menus. But now I understand...duh! It's just reducing the liquid by excess cooking time to make the flavors bolder and richer. :)
Well, I always love to add new chicken recipes to my rotation, and this one is here to stay! I have made it twice now and both times Hubby has exclaimed over the excellent aroma and flavor. And my motto is: "When Hubby exclaims, I retain!" Haha, not really, but you get the general idea. The recipe gets officially printed and filed. :) Anyway, this particular recipe was again located on my fav cooking site, allrecipes, and is very easy, though it has lovely elegant flavors! I tweaked it a bit to my liking, but I'll include the link to the original recipe in case you want to try it their way! :) I'm not a fan of mushrooms, so I left those out.
First order of business- to thaw my frozen chicken breasts. We shop in Spokane (about an hr away) once a month, so I always go with having frozen chicken breasts on hand, which I thaw in the microwave. This takes about 11 min, so I have to remember to add that to the cooking time! While the chicken is thawing, I peel garlic cloves and heat up the olive oil in the skillet. If anyone knows of a really easy way to peel garlic, please let me know! Anyway, once the chicken is thawed, I season it lightly with salt and pepper, then sauté it until it is nicely browned on one side, but not fully cooked.
Next, I add the whole garlic cloves (which besides adding flavor add a wonderful aroma to the kitchen!). Then I turn the chicken and continue to cook it for a few minutes, until it is mostly done, stirring the garlic around so it gets soft and sweet.
Once the chicken looks like it is pretty thoroughly cooked (but not overcooked!), I add the sauce ingredients- balsamic vinegar, chicken broth, thyme and a bay leaf. The only experience I had with balsamic vinegar before this was at nice restaurants where you can dip your bread in it. Yum! I was afraid it might be too strong a flavor, but it is delicious! Once the sauce ingredients are mixed together, I cover the skillet and simmer it on low heat for about 10 minutes, turning the chicken a couple of times to be sure it gets coated with the sauce. I then remove the chicken to a covered plate to keep it warm and start the sauce reducing! :) Simply simmer an additional 7 minutes or so at a little higher heat. Then swirl a bit of butter into the sauce, pour over the chicken, and serve!
I like to serve this with rice to soak up the sauce, but pasta would probably also be a good alternative. Bon appetit!

Chicken Breasts with Balsamic Vinegar and Garlic Reduction
(printable version)
(my tweaking- original recipe can be found here)
Serves 4

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp butter

1)Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in skillet over med-hi heat and sauté chicken until nicely browned on one side (about 3 minutes).
2) Add the garlic. Turn the chicken. Continue frying about 3 minutes, then add vinegar, broth, bay leaf and thyme. Cover tightly and simmer over med-low heat for 10 min., turning occasionally.
3) Transfer chicken to a warm serving platter and cover. Set aside. Continue simmer sauce, uncovered, over med-hi heat for about 7 min. Swirl in the butter and discard bay leaf. Pour sauce over chicken and serve.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Old Faves, New Craves (Oriental Chicken Salad/Focaccia Bread)

You know how there are some foods that are simply family traditions? Maybe your great-great-great-grandma brought it over from "the old country" quite a few generations ago. Maybe it entered your family more recently. Take my mom's famous Oriental chicken salad. Not so very old, the recipe was given to my mom by her sister, but it has taken its hold on our family. It has attended two of our families' weddings, many potlucks and family get-togethers, and my older brother has even been know to say that it would be his food of choice were he to ever be stranded on a deserted island and had to eat one food for the rest of his life (assuming he had a choice). The uncovering of the salad bowl is usually accompanied by several "ooh"s and lip-licking is sure to follow. Why is it so desirable? Maybe it's because of the pretty blend of colors or the satisfyingly crisp crunch of the cabbage. Maybe it's the lightness of it on a hot summer evening. Or maybe it's the memories we have of the house filled with smells of toasting almonds on a Saturday night. Or the ones I have of sitting at the kitchen counter chopping piles after piles of cabbage while listening to Adventures in Odyssey on the radio or chatting with my dad or a young sibling beside me who is "learning how it's done." Sometimes it seems with family favorites the flavors and aromas are so intertwined with the memories that it is difficult to separate the two.
I had decided today to make my mom's sought-after-salad, since it is a hot summer day and something like a cool, crunchy salad seemed just the thing. My first thought for a side dish was to get out some of my freezer roll dough to make bread sticks, but I only had enough dough for three, which isn't quite enough for my hubby and I! So I thought, well, I'll just have to make my own! And while searching for a bread stick recipe, I stumbled upon a recipe for focaccia bread, which looked absolutely delicious, but not too difficult. So, in-between my usual Friday/Saturday duties of getting the bulletin and the PowerPoint done for church, I mixed, kneaded and let my focaccia bread rise. It is very aromatic, sprinkled through with rosemary!
Later on, as the last of the rising was happening on my stove top, I cooked up a large chicken breast, and began chopping away at a head of cabbage, memories flooding over me. Into the oven went the focaccia bread, along with the sesame seeds and slivered almonds to toast. Needless to say, I cut the recipe in half. This really feeds a crowd, so even halved, my husband and I have leftovers!
When everything was sliced, diced and toasted to perfection and the bread was giving a wonderful scent to my kitchen, it all went together into a pretty salad bowl. When mixing up the dressing, I had to make one substitution...mom always made the dressing with rice vinegar, and since I had none on hand I replaced it with cider vinegar. This resulted in it not tasting just like mom used to make, but pretty close! :)
I tossed the dressing with the salad just as the bread was cooling. Taking a bite of each, I decided that the old held up its reputation with honor and the new made a delightful addition!

Mom's Oriental Chicken Salad
(printable version)
serves about 12

2-3 cups cooked chicken (diced)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
3/4 cup slivered almonds
2 pkgs ramen noodles
1 lg head green cabbage, thinly sliced
1 bunch green onions, sliced

1 cup oil
6 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
flavor packet from ramen noodles (chicken flavor)
salt and pepper to taste

Toast sesame seeds, slivered almonds, and ramen (broken apart) on cookie sheet in 350 oven for 10-15 min. Let cool. Combine all ingredients (except dressing) and mix well. Pour dressing over all and toss to coat.

Betty Crocker's Focaccia Bread
(printable version)
makes 2 loaves

2 1/2 to 3 cups flour
1 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 pkg yeast
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup very warm water

2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Mix 1 cup flour, rosemary, sugar, salt and yeast. Add oil and water. Beat with mixer 3 min. Stir in remaining flour. Knead 5 to 8 minutes. Grease lg bowl, place dough in bowl and turn to coat. Cover loosely and let rise 30 min. Grease two round pizza pans. Deflate dough with fist and divide in half. Shape into 10 in rounds on pans. Cover loosely and let rise 30 min. Make depressions in dough with fingertips 2 in. apart. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with cheese. Bake in 400 oven 15-20 min.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Comfort, Mexican Style (White Enchiladas)

I don't know about you, but I don't really like very many red sauces. I love spaghetti, but often I'm attracted to Alfredo or anything that has the word "creamy" in it at Olive Garden. And I would infinitely prefer browned butter with mizithra cheese to marinara at The Old Spaghetti Factory. I love tomatoes, I really do! But I just have a weakness for pasta with white sauce (unfortunately, I think they are usually more fattening...).
But it's not just Italian creamy foods that draw me! I love soups and chowders containing milk or cream as well. So it follows that when I make enchiladas, I go the creamy route. Now they may not be authentically Mexican, but they ARE yummy! I can't even remember where I got the recipe to start with, but I remember the white creaminess drew me. And I have tweaked it so much over the years, I'm not even sure what it looked like to begin with! But I think I have finally hit on a recipe that is not only easy, but delicious and infinitely modifiable!
Again I am standing in a kitchen that reminds me of Mother Hubbard's, so my challenge was to come up with one last dinner using what we've got left in the freezer/cupboards before we go shopping later tonight. About 10 o'clock last night it came to me in the form of my creamy, comforting enchiladas. Miracle of miracles, we have all the ingredients! So here's what I did!
This recipe starts with what many delicious recipes begin with: the lovely aroma of onions sauteing in a little bit of butter. Then add diced chicken (thigh or breast portions will do) and cook it until it is just done. While the chicken is cooking, add the spices! Really you can tweak this anyway you like to satisfy your particular taste buds, but mine require a bit each of taco seasoning, chili powder and cumin. A shake of pepper is also a good addition.
Meanwhile, mix together softened cream cheese, cream of chicken soup, mozzarella cheese (a Mexican blend also works very well!) and sour cream till fairly smooth. To get some of the cream cheese lumps out, it helps to stick the whole mixture in the microwave for 30-45 seconds. Mix cooked chicken/onion mixture with sauce. Drop chicken mixture down the middle of soft tortillas (I use the soft taco size- I think about 8 in.)...about 4-5 TB or whatever looks good to you! :) Roll up (leaving ends open) and place side by side in a greased pan. If you use the soft taco size tortillas, an 11x7 pan works well. If you use larger tortillas, a 9x9 or 9x13 would probably work better. Top with remaining sauce mixture, making sure to cover completely with a thin layer. This ensures that the enchiladas don't dry out in the oven. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake! Yummy smells will begin to emanate from your oven in no time.
I like to serve this comfort dinner with rice and beans or a nice green salad. If you're like me, the first bite to your lips will make you smile. :)

Jenn's Creamy "White" Enchiladas
(printable version)
a KitchenJoy Original Recipe

1 can cream of chicken soup
3/4-1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups diced chicken
2 cups mozzarella cheese (or Mexican blend)- reserve 1/2 c. for top
approx. 4 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp taco seasoning
1/4 cup diced onions
5-8 soft flour tortillas

Bake in a 350 oven for approx 30 min.
Makes about 6 enchiladas, which feeds about 3, depending on how hungry you are! :)
Sometimes I double this and freeze one batch. They freeze really well before baking, and it makes a nice easy dinner to just defrost the night before and stick in the oven! Be sure to add at least an extra half hour of cooking time for cold or frozen enchiladas.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pita-Licious! (Homemade Pita Bread)

I always enjoy trying new things, but although my taste buds are often adventurous, I usually stay within certain perimeters in my cooking. I love making Mexican and Italian cuisine and of course am very fond of many dishes of American origin. But this month I decided to branch out just a bit, and added a Spicy Peanut Chicken and Chicken Chow Mein to my list of meals. Both required buying a few ingredients I don't normally stock my cupboard with! The Chow Mein is still on the menu for next week, but last night I tried the Spicy Peanut Chicken, which my cookbook recommended serving over couscous with a side of pita bread.
I had come across the Peanut Chicken recipe in my Betty Crocker cookbook in the Slow Cooker section, so while it was adventurous in flavor, it was also safe and easy!
In the morning I lightly browned a few chicken thighs in olive oil while I combined the rest of the ingredients in the slow cooker. The combination of flavors was so foreign! Honey with canned tomatoes and onions? Cumin and cinnamon? And peanut butter to top it off! I tailored the recipe just a bit by substituting one of the cans of "diced tomatoes with green chilies" with a can of regular diced tomatoes, since neither Travis or I are very fond of green chilies. So, it probably didn't turn out as spicy as intended, but that's fine by me. When everything was safely tucked away into the cooker, I went about the rest of my day until late afternoon.
Part of my decision to make my own pita bread was my friend Kate. My best girl friend from Oregon, she came up to visit me last weekend and on our last afternoon together, Travis and I took her to a little sandwich bistro in Spokane. I decided then and there to try gyros for the first time, which, to those of you who haven't tried one yet, it is like a Greek taco on a pita with hummus. I was very pleased! And it got me thinking...I knew that Spicy Peanut Chicken and Couscous were on the menu for the following night...I wondered how difficult it would be to make one's own pita bread. And, since the dinner was of the easy slow cooker variety, and the couscous was the 5 min boxed stuff, I had plenty of time to experiment!
My first step of course, was to go to my cookbooks. Nothing! Recipes including pita bread, yes, but no recipe for pita bread. So, trusty allrecipes.com came in handy. After checking out several, I decided to go with the Traditional Pita Bread (which you can find here: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Traditional-Pita-Bread/Detail.aspx). It certainly looked easy enough, though slightly labor intensive. The dough was extremely simple, requiring only 4 common ingredients and almost no preparation. However, if your hands and fingers ever "knead" a workout, pita bread is your ticket! The dough is to be kneaded for about 8 minutes, then each individual pita dough ball is kneaded for a separate minute, which gives you a total of about 14 minutes of folding, pushing, and stretching the slightly sticky but elastic dough!
Then you can let the yeast take over, while you rest your weary little fingers. The dough rises for 45 min-1 hr, then into the very hot oven they go! I don't think I have ever baked anything at 500 degrees before, and my oversensitive smoke alarm was not too pleased with this development! I think I've come to the conclusion that it is more of heat sensor than a smoke alarm. Every time that oven door was opened, the cranky thing went off, till I was about to pull my hair out! You see, when my husband is home, he is tall enough I can just summon him to come and hit the "hush" button (which I like to call the "shut up" button). But when he is away, as he was yesterday afternoon, I keep having to drag out my step stool to shut the thing off. Sometimes, when it truly in an evil mood, it goes off by itself, just as I get my stool set up. Or just as my finger reaches for the button. I tell you, this adds a lot of drama to my cooking experience. Still, I always feel guilty for hating the contraption for its oversensitivity. I know if there was ever a real fire, he'd let us know in a jiffy! But it's almost like the little boy who cried "Wolf!"
Anyway, smoke alarm tension aside, the little pitas baked to perfection, puffing up just like they were supposed to.
And all the comments of the people online were right- there's nothing quite like a pita, hot and fresh out of the oven! And they paired perfectly with the chicken and couscous, whose flavors, though definitely new and somewhat foreign, were delicious!!

Who would have though peanut butter and tomatoes paired so well?
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