Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Few Good Meals

Last week, I decided I wanted to go all out and make a few delicious, but kind of time-consuming meals for the family. For the first meal, I decided to try out my new bread machine for the first time (thanks, Mom!). I had never used a machine, but after reading the directions, it appeared like it would be pretty simple. I gathered what I needed for this particular recipe for a one pound loaf and went to work early that morning.

  • 1/2 cup + 3 Tbsp water, 80 degrees
  • 1 Tbsp butter or margarine
  • 1 Tbsp dry milk
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
I placed all of the ingredients in the bread machine, as directed, and set it to start. Since my end product would involve making sandwiches from the bread, I decided to go ahead and use the sandwich setting. It was supposed to make a lightly textured loaf with a thinner crust than usual.

I was quite happy with the finished product. After just three hours, I had my very own loaf of freshly baked bread, from scratch! No preservatives or additives. Just yummy bread. Awesome!

Later that day, I sliced the bread to prepare it for my sandwiches. To accompany the soup I was making, I had decided to make grilled mozzarella cheese and bacon sandwiches. Yummmm.

For the soup, I wanted to make roasted butternut squash soup. I had made it in the past, but it had been awhile. Recently, we have started frequenting Atlanta Bread Company, as it is a mere three minutes from our apartment here in Tennessee. Dangerous! They make an incredible roasted butternut squash soup, so I wanted to try to recreate it.

To start the soup, I prepared the squash. First, slice it lengthwise in half.

Next, scoop out the seeds.

Place both pieces, cut side down, in a greased dish (I use olive oil spray). Using a knife, cut slits in the squash to allow steam to escape while it is roasting.

Roast the squash in a 425-degree oven for an hour or so. The squash should start to brown nicely.

Next, allow the squash to cool a bit, then gently peel the skin off of each piece. Place the cooked squash into a food processor to puree it. You can also scoop the squash out of the skin, but peeling the skin off allows you to get more of it removed.

Puree the squash, adding in additional ingredients to thin the consistency. I added 1 cup of chicken broth. Next, pour this into a saucepan on the stove, to gently heat it, while adding additional ingredients. I did not measure out the additional ingredients I used, but relied on consistency and taste to guide me. I started by adding in some skim milk, maybe 1/2 to 1 cup. Next I added in some heavy cream, maybe 1/4 cup. This gave me the consistency that I wanted for the soup. Next, I added some spices to give me the flavor I was desiring. I decided to use some curry powder, ground cinnamon and ground ginger. I didn't use a lot, but as I said, used taste to determine how much I wanted of each. The end result was a soup with a little spice from the curry, but was balanced nicely by the cinnamon and ginger.

The finished meal...

For the sandwiches, I buttered the bread and cooked the sandwiches in a grill pan on the stove. I used slices of mozzarella and bacon, that I first cooked in a frying pan on the stove as well. The sandwiches turned out perfectly. The crisp, buttered bread balanced the creamy, melted cheese and the crispy, salty bacon. Delicious.

The next meal I made was chicken curry. I love this recipe. It originated in the Joy of Cooking.

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Onion, chopped (large)
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • One-13.5 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
  • One-8 oz can crushed pineapple with juice
  • 2 to 3 cups diced chicken, cooked (I use about 1 pound of chicken breast)
  • Salt, to taste
  • White or ground red pepper, to taste
  • Cooked rice
  • Cilantro and/or minced seeded fresh or canned chiles
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 7 minutes. Before I start dicing my onion, I start the rice. I make basmati rice, which requires soaking before you start cooking it.

Add and cook, stirring 1 minute, the flour, curry powder, ginger and cinnamon. Remove the pan from heat and whisk in the coconut milk, chicken broth and crushed pineapple.

At this point, I dice up my chicken breast and start cooking it, over medium-high heat.

Place the saucepan back over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil until the sauce is reduced to about 1.5 cups and is lightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

Here is what the chicken will look like when it is done.

Stir the chicken into the sauce. Cook over the lowest possible heat, stirring now and then, for 5 minutes to blend the flavors. Season to taste with salt and white or ground red pepper. I use ground red pepper.

Serve over cooked rice. If desired, sprinkle with chopped cilantro and/or chiles. I used the cilantro the very first time I made it, but decided it didn't really add anything to the dish, so I don't add it now. Serve with a piece of naan. Yum!

Since I ended up getting sick last week, I wasn't able to cook up any additional yummy meals, but here is one more treat for you. This is another Pinterest find that I had been wanting to try for awhile. It is a recipe for chocolate peanut butter crescent rolls. You can find the pin here. It is super simple!

  • 1 tube crescent rolls (I used Pillsbury)
  • Peanut butter
  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Chopped walnuts (this is actually one I added because I thought it sounded good)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the unrolled crescent rolls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Spread a layer of peanut butter on each triangle. Top each with some of the chocolate chips. Also the walnuts, if you would like to try those too.

Roll from the bottom of the triangle to the point. 

Place in the oven and bake for 10-11 minutes, or until golden brown. 

Serve hot. 

This was a pretty tasty little treat, but I did find that it lacked one thing essential to a dessert...sweetness! By using the semi-sweet chocolate chips, there really wasn't any element to this dessert that was very sweet. So,  when I try making them again, I am going to also sprinkle some brown sugar on the layer of peanut butter too. I think this will help give it the sweetness I desire! Another fun twist to this idea would be to spread nutella on the crescent roll and use peanut butter chips, instead of the chocolate chip. I may try this next time too! Let me know what fun twists you put on this simple dessert. :)

One last fun idea I came up with a couple of weeks ago for Ethan...peanut butter and banana "sushi" rolls! I decided he needed something fun to eat one day for lunch while I ate indulged in my california roll. So, I whipped him up some "sushi" rolls of his own using chunky peanut butter (his favorite) and little slices of banana. While I dipped my rolls in soy sauce, he dipped his in some honey. A perfect combo! So tasty looking that I think I may have to make myself one next time too! ;)

I started by spreading the peanut butter on a piece of whole wheat bread, with the crusts trimmed from the sides.

Then I placed pieces of banana on top and rolled them up!

Here is his lunch, complete with veggie and the honey dip.

And one happy camper! :)

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