Sunday, October 29, 2006

Ham Hocks and Beans

I decided to try making a dinner with ham hocks, because we love ham and I loved the price of hocks. I soaked pinto, garbanzo, and black-eyed peas overnight, then put them in the crock pot with the hocks, a bay leaf, and some oregano. After it had been cooking for awhile, I took out the hocks and tried to get some meat off them, but didn't have much luck with that. We also had beer bread and steamed green beans.

The verdict
I wish the soup had a more bold flavor, but it was great cold-day soup, especially with the bread. I think if I do this again, I'll do just the black-eyed peas and leave out the other beans. Overall, I give this meal 3 stars for taste and health.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Stuffing-Crusted Creamy Chicken Casserole

Tonight I tried a new recipe, Stuffing-Crusted Creamy Chicken Casserole. The recipe calls for using frozen vegetables, but I had some fresh broccoli I needed to use, so I used that with some green beans from the freezer and some baby carrots chopped small so Mike couldn't pick them out. The casserole also has corn and ranch dressing, layered with chunked chicken and stuffing mix. Since it has so many vegetables in it, I decided to have a fruit salad made of pears, apples, and mixed fruit from the freezer with Cool Whip on top.

The verdict
The casserole was good, but I think it needed a little bolder taste. Maybe some fresh garlic or more ranch dressing will spice things up next time. The chicken was moist, and the stuffing was good. I give this meal 3 stars for taste and 4 stars for health.
Best Breakfast Ever!

After church on Sunday, Mike and I decided to make an ultimate breakfast. I found a recipe recipe for pancakes that had a variation featuring yogurt, so we made those and some Maple Sausage. Mike made me an omelet, and I also made some fruit salad of apples, bananas, and some mixed fruit from the freezer with Cool Whip on top.

The verdict
For someone who doesn't like eggs, Mike sure can make a mean omelet. Mine always turn into scrambled eggs! The pancakes are sooo good; I think Mike doesn't like them as much as I do, so we'll probably rotate this recipe with my plain pancake mix. They are so good I don't use butter or syrup or anything on them. The sausage was also excellent, I love a good pan sausage! Breakfast foods are some of my favorites, but I usually only have time for some cereal and yogurt, so I loved this meal!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Granola Bars!

I was finally able to locate the recipe for Granola Bars online. Usually I would type it up for you guys and put it on my recipes page, but this recipe gives measurements to make different quantities of bars, so it's a little complicated. The granola bars themselves are easy to make, however. Give them a try!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tonight we had our friend Hugh over for dinner, so I made a recipe I've been looking for an excuse to try, Gruyere Cheese Bisque. I won't tell you how bad it is, but if you really want to know, you can look at the recipe. When I browned the chicken for the soup, I deglazed the pan with white wine and then added all that goodness to the soup base. I also made a loaf of French bread, and some broccoli on the side.

The verdict
Every time Hugh comes over, I try a new recipe, and every time, it turns out great. He should come over more often! This soup was wonderful! Gruyere cheese is my new love, I kept sneaking bits of it as I was putting it in the saucepan to melt. Since it's a fairly hard cheese, it took longer than I expected to melt, but it was worth the wait. The light bread made paired wonderfully with the heavy soup. The trick to making a crusty loaf of bread is to put a pan of water in the bottom rack of the oven - the steam gives it that yummy texture. I give this meal 5 stars for taste and 1 star for health. I think we all need a meal like this once in awhile - bad for you, but soooo good! Plus today is my half birthday, so that's reason to celebrate...right?!?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Grilled Chicken with Boiled Red Potatoes

I decided to give my Trinidad-Garlic Marinade another try, so we used whole chicken breasts and grilled them. I also decided to try my hand at boiling red potatoes, Cajun style, with Old Bay Seasoning. The chicken took longer than expected, so with the extra time I made us mixed drinks of orange juice, sprite, pomengrante juice, and Captain Morgan's Parrot Bay Passion Fruit Rum. We also had steamed pole beans.

The verdict
We still couldn't taste the marinade. The chicken was still a little frozen by the time we needed to start dinner, though, so I guess next time I'll give it longer. We enjoyed the potatoes, however, and I plan on fixing them this way again. The drink rounded out our tropical-themed meal nicely, and I give this meal 3 and a half stars for taste and 4 stars for health.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Bake Sale/Grandaddy's Installment

I volunteered to make goodies for the Alachua County Bake Sale, and I decided to send Grandaddy some things at the same time. First up, pumpkin cookies! My mom tried this recipe a few weeks ago, and I thought it would be perfect for a fall bake sale.

The recipe makes a HUGE batch, and half of them had pecans and raisins, and the other half had white chocolate chips and craisins. After I mixed it all together, I realized that I couldn't taste test my cookies, because I don't like white chocolate or pecans! It's probably just as well, though! I wrapped them up in red plastic wrap with the recipe printed on the back of the tag, unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of that :) The raisins came from a supermarket in town that makes them locally, and they're delicious, so I'm sure these will be a hit.

Although I know the cookies will sell well, I doubt the next thing I made will last very long either! I made at stab at making chocolate covered pretzel rods, and I think they turned out pretty well. If anything, they sure turned out pretty! Mike seemed to enjoy the one that broke very much, plus he gets to eat the almost full bag of pretzels I had left over! He said they looked like something you'd buy at a candy shop, and I think they turned out pretty well, too.

Pork Tenderloin with Dijon Cream Sauce

Mike finished one of his 8-week semesters for his graduate program, and to celebrate, I made his new favorite meal: Pork Tenderloin with Dijon Cream Sauce. I didn't have any heavy cream, so I just used milk, and I used dried onion in place of the white parts of green ones, since I don't garnish the dish with the top part like the recipe calls for. On the side we had roasted russet potatoes (from Iowa, just the way my grandfather likes it!) and lima beans.

The verdict
The pork was a little less done this time, on that line where it's almost underdone but still okay. The sauce turned out fine, I didn't notice anything different. This recipe is so good! My honey deserves nothing less for a job well done! I give this meal 5 stars for taste and 4 stars for health.
Baked Perch

Wednesday night we had perch that I picked up fresh from Publix. It was at a good price, and I had never had perch before, so I thought we'd give it a try. I've been meaning to try my Trinidad Garlic Marinade Mix from Penzey's spices, and this was the perfect excuse. I've never marinated fish before, so I was making it up as I went along, but I drizzled the fish with olive oil, then sprinkled it with the marinade before putting it in the fridge for 20 minutes. It was then that I discovered that we were completely out of vegetables, except for a tiny bit of frozen green beans. Gah! So I decided to cook those and split an apple between us, with cinnamon sprinkled on top. To go with that we had brown rice.

The verdict
The guy at Publix told me that perch is a "fishy" fish, and boy was he right! It was so strong that Sophie had to help me finish it, which she didn't mind at all! I didn't like it as well as salmon or tuna because it didn't have a very firm texture. I was afraid to marinate the fish for too long, but I think it could have gone for a little longer. Well, it was fish, and fish is good for you, so I'm happy. Anywho, I give this meal 2 and a half stars for taste and 4 and a half stars for health.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Homemade Pizza with Salad

Saturday night, I made a homemade pizza using my favorite pizza crust. I topped the whole thing with garlic, and half with pepperoni. For the other half, I browned a link of some pepper-sage sausage we got at the Chef's Table in Clermont. We also had a salad with green leaf lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, and carrots.

The verdict
When Mike saw the pizza, he said, "That looks like something you'd get at a pizza parlor." It did indeed taste very good. Pizza is one of the best things on the planet! If you haven't tried my recipe for pizza crust, you really should. I give this meal 4 and a half stars for taste and 2 and a half stars for health.
Taco Soup with Cornbread

I was in a soup kind of mood again tonight, so I decided to make an old favorite: Taco Soup. I used ground chicken as the meat and kidney and chili beans, along with various taco seasonings. We also had cornbread that Mike made and some broccoli that he steamed. He had it all ready for me when I got home this evening, how sweet!

The verdict
This recipe is always good! It's quickly become an old favorite. I got this recipe from a lady at our church a few years ago. She had us over for dinner and I immediately demanded - er, requested the recipe! I give this recipe 4 stars for taste and health!
Granola Bars!!

I wanted to show you guys a picture of the granola bars I made so you could see how yummy they are. To this recipe I added raisins, craisins, chopped dried apricots and apples, and chocolate chips. this batch is for Mike, and I also made one for me minus the chocolate chips. Yum! I love these because they're cheaper than the store-bought and don't have all the preservatives, trans fats, etc. I'm having trouble locating the recipe at the moment, but I'll post a link to it as soon as I find it.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Mexican Pork and Beans

Yeah, so... we had this meal on Wednesday, and I'm just now getting around to posting it. Sorry about that. I wanted to share this meal with you though, because it was purty darn tasty. We had pork chops the night before, and they came in a four-pack, so I cubed the other two chops and used them the next day for this Mexican Pork and Beans recipe. It features the typical Mexican spices, along with stewed tomatoes and black beans, and is served over rice. We also had steamed broccoli on the side.

The verdict
Like I said before, this was finger-lickin' good! Or, since this is a Mexican dish, eso es muy bien! This is two pork dishes that I like! The meat was very tender from being in the crock pot for so long. It almost had too much heat for me, but it was still a good amount. I give this meal 4 stars for taste and 3 stars for health.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Grilled Pork Chops

I've never been a big fan of pork chops, but I always suspected that it was because I'd never had them done in a way that I liked. So when I came across an article entitled, "How to Make the Perfect Pork Chop," I jumped all over it. Tonight I decided to give it a try. It seems that the key is to rinse the chops, then sprinkle them with your seasoning. I used Penzey's Florida Seasoning on both sides, them Mike grilled them. We also had roasted red potatoes with Penzey's Kosher salt and garlic powder and steamed green beans. To drink, I made a smoothie with frozen peaches, orange and lime juice, and strawberry yogurt with a little grenadine for color.

The verdict
Hold your breath...I really enjoyed the pork chops! They were moist and tender, and the seasoning brought out the flavor. I couldn't believe the difference the high-quality kosher salt made with the potatoes! I always thought salt was just salt, but I used half of what I usually do and tasted it more. Overall, I give this meal 4 and a half stars for taste and 4 stars for health.

As a side note, I used another one of my Penzey's purchases, Natural Process Cocoa Powder, to make hot chocolate. Hot chocolate is another one of those things I've never been a huge fan of, but this was awesome!! I guess it's just another example of what a difference quality makes. If you ever decide to buy from Penzey's, beware: that company is so addictive! I also put a piece of candied ginger in the bottom of each glass, which was a nice treat at the end. I took a picture to show you, but it looked like a glass full of brown liquid. Not that impressive.