It has been entirely too long since I have blogged about food! It is high time I post some new stuff here for you to drool over. 🙂
This past weekend my husband and I went to stay at the family cabin for a few days, without the kids. It was a relaxing trip for us both – he did fix-it-up projects around the cabin and I helped with projects and cooked up a storm of yummy food that we normally wouldn’t be able to have with the kids around.
My normal every-day cooking is good enough – my kids eat it without complaint (for the most part), my husband enjoys it and compliments it and me (as every good husband should), and it doesn’t (usually) take too much time and concentration from me (which is a high priority around here with my 3 little ones). But the way I love to cook takes more time and effort than I can give it during my regular days, and often includes ingredients that my kids aren’t excited to try. In a quick dish, I don’t mind using stuff the kids aren’t thrilled about, but when I spend a long time on a meal, the last thing I want to hear is “I don’t LIKE this” or “this tastes FUNNY” or any number of other comments about why I didn’t make spaghetti or pizza. So this cabin trip was the perfect time for me to make a few dishes that I have wanted to try for a while but haven’t been able to find a good time or reason.
The first night we had leftover chili that I brought from home, and it’s a good thing I brought it because it was almost midnight before we were finally able to eat. But from then on, food was a whole different story.
For breakfast Saturday morning, we had Lil’ Citrus Muffins – a Pampered Chef recipe (and you can’t go wrong using one of their recipes). Instead of making mini muffins, I made these regular sized. We’ve had them at home before (as mini muffins) and they were great (the kids loved them too) but I didn’t have a mini muffin pan at the cabin so I modified the recipe a bit. Basically the only changes I had to make were less butter/sugar for the topping, and to cook them longer (obviously) since they were bigger. I also used light sour cream instead of the regular stuff. Instead of making 24 mini muffins it made 8 regular sized muffins. I baked them at 425 for 8 minutes then at 375 for another 20 minutes or so. I used a silicone muffin pan sprayed with cooking spray and they came right out after sitting for about 3 minutes in the pan to cool slightly.
For lunch on Saturday, it was Monte Cristo Sandwiches. We’ve had these at home before too, but the kids are unfortunately not fans. Kimball specifically requested we eat these up at the cabin, and I was happy to make them. They’re easy and really, really good. I used mozzarella cheese and strawberry jam instead of the provolone and raspberry called for in the recipe. I’ve also found that, imho, 3 eggs is too many for making 4 sandwiches, and consequently to make 2 sandwiches, I only used 1 egg. That was perfect. I didn’t have dry mustard so I just put some regular mustard in the egg mixture. I’m sure I also didn’t use anywhere near as much meat as it calls for. It says to use “hearty bread” and I always use French or Italian bread for these – makes for some really great sandwiches!
So for dinner on Saturday, we had Florentine Stuffed Chicken Breasts. This is another Pampered Chef recipe, from their “Stoneware Inspirations” cookbook. I’ve been wanting to try this one for a long time, but given the reasons I’ve already explained, this was the first time since I got the cookbook years ago that I’ve felt like it was worth the time.
They were absolutely wonderful, and I’d recommend them to anyone who likes chicken! The cheeses are the secret in these stuffed beauties, and add the perfect flavor to the filling as well as the crust.
Kimball was kind enough to cook the veggies for me (but not really over the fire….)
I don’t have the small bar pan so I used the mini oval baker (which I just tried to find a link for and it’s not there – maybe they’ve stopped selling this product!) and they fit perfectly, though because they were touching each other and the sides of the pan, the crust didn’t brown on the sides. Still fabulous though, and very pretty to look at.
Sunday morning was omelets. Fillings included sausage, cheddar cheese, onions, red peppers, and mushrooms. I’ve recently learned to make omelets properly and have since been very pleased with them. Turns out they’re not as hard as I thought, and the secret is in the pan. I get cooking emails from The Prepared Pantry and somewhere in there, I received instructions for making the perfect omelet. I looked on their site to try and find the instructions, but I can’t for the life of me figure out where I found them the first time, so I’m just copying them here from my file. FYI – when I make an omelette, I usually use 2 eggs and cook it in my eight-inch pan – perfect size.
How to Make the Perfect Omelet
1. Choose the right size of pan. A three-egg omelet requires an eight-inch pan. The pan should be nonstick.
2. Whisk the eggs together in a bowl.
3. Put a pat of butter in your nonstick pan. Place it on medium-high heat. On our stovetop, a high BTU gas burner, that’s 6 out of ten. Heat the butter to just short of brown and swirl it around the pan.
4. Pour the eggs into the hot pan. Salt and pepper the eggs.
5. Scramble the eggs with a soft silicone spatula scraping the bottom and sides of the pan. The eggs will cook quickly and curds will form.
6. When the eggs approach the consistency of cottage cheese with mostly solids but some liquid egg, stop stirring. Use the spatula as a paddle to pat the eggs down into an even layer. Let the eggs continue cooking until the liquids are set and the top of the omelet is cooked.
7. Place the fillings in a row across the omelet just off to one side. For most fillings, you will want them pre-cooked.
8. The omelet should slip around in the pan without a hint of sticking. Move the pan to a plate, tip the pan on angle over the plate, and gently shake the omelet onto the plate filling side first.
9. When the omelet is about half onto the plate, twist the pan with your wrist folding the remaining omelet over that on the plate. The omelet should be folded over with the bottom edge protruding about one-half inch.
Your omelet should be golden brown and puffy with the interior set and any cheese melted. A three egg omelet should cook in five minutes or less. For larger omelets, use larger pans.
Sunday for lunch we had Hot Cheesy Spinach Dip. This is a recipe I have on a card that I got from I unfortunately can’t remember where. I suspect it was one of those packages of recipe cards that come in the mail from time to time. It does say “Party Favorites” in the corner of each card, so maybe that will give you a clue if you want to go find them. This was a great recipe and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I did use fresh spinach and wilted it before adding to the recipe (place in microwave safe bowl and cook on high for 3 or 4 minutes or until wilted). I left out the water chestnuts as I’m not a fan of those. Also, I never buy half-and-half and so instead I used 50% whipping cream and 50% milk as a substitute. I’m sure it’s not exact but it works. I halved the recipe, and also sliced up about 3/4 of a (store purchased – gasp) baguette and toasted the slices by placing them on a cookie sheet and baking for 5 minutes at 350. I’m pretty sure this is supposed to be an appetizer (the recipe serves 8, and I halved it so we had 4 servings) but we ate it as a meal. I loved it!
Sunday dinner was sandwiches in the car on the way home. But as a treat, I had brought some of the Whole-Wheat Brownies that I made a few weeks ago and froze as an experiment to see if they would still taste good after having been frozen. The answer? YES. VERY YES. In fact, I’d say they tasted better after being frozen than they did before freezing, even after letting them sit for 24 hours after baking as the recipe suggests. I love these brownies, and wish I could eat them all when I make them. I do deviate from the recipe a touch: slightly less butter (probably about 3/4 cup instead of 1 cup), 3 eggs instead of 4, hot chocolate powder instead of espresso powder (I’m not a coffee drinker), and regular cocoa + 3/8 tsp baking soda instead of Dutch process cocoa.
So there you have it – my meals for the few days we were at the cabin. I’m impressed I was able to cook these things bringing only a few of my specialty tools up to the cabin (lemon zester, garlic press, oval baker, non-stick 8″ frying pan, and meat tenderizer). Turns out the kitchen there is nearly as full as mine here at home! Ok – maybe not really, but it was full enough for my purposes. 🙂