"Food is our common ground, a universal experience." - James Beard

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Guest Post!

I'm excited to have my first guest post by Brett H. of the Blog Content Guild!  I decided to post this today since many of us are looking for good deals on Black Friday.  Read below for great grocery shopping tips!

Underrated Versatile Grocery List Items
Does it seem like the items from the grocery store don’t last long enough? Or that you’re always in and out of the grocery store, making several trips a week? If this is the case, then you may want to reconsider the items on your grocery list. It’s all right to have an impulse buy once in a while, but making several trips a week can be costly.

Many of us know about the advantages of buying in bulk or getting 2-for-1 deals, as well as couponing. However there are other ways that you can save money on your groceries while saving yourself that extra trip to the grocery store. Here are some items that you can both buy and store for months and use for a variety of things, minimizing your grocery store jaunts.

• Condensed cream soup - Whether you prefer the trusty mushroom or want to change up your soup with chicken, broccoli, or potato, the choice is yours when you want to take a shortcut from making a creamy base from scratch. By adding chopped, cooked meat and one package of frozen mixed vegetables in a slow cooker for about 2 hours, you can have one easy entree. Soups also make great leftovers allowing you to enjoy this treat for days to come -- no extra trips to the grocery store needed.

• Dry milk - As far as drinking this type of product by itself, dry milk can be an acquired taste, however, this ingredient is excellent for mixing in dishes that call for regular milk. If you want to minimize your time in the kitchen, make a one-quart bottle of liquid and use for cooking and baking. If you bake sporadically, you can just add dry milk to dry ingredients when recipes call for regular milk (3 tablespoons of dry milk for every cup of liquid milk). Additionally, dry milk can be added to the bathtub, an at-home spa treatment that will leave your skin soft and moisturized. Forget those expensive bath products!

• Food storage bags - These bags are excellent for marinating meat overnight providing more coverage without the bulkiness of a large bowl. They can also take the place of a dredging station. For coating meat and vegetables, add your dry ingredients to a quart-size (or larger) bag. Shake to ensure even mixing and, after food is added, secure and shake for a few seconds. Once all of your food is coated, dispose of immediately. Make your own instant rice by pouring in one cup of regular rice and mix in a ¾ cup of warm water. Refrigerate and heat bag contents for 1-2 minutes and add a teaspoon of water if necessary. These bags can also be used to freeze food for a short period of time.

• Ginger root - Besides adding a spicy kick to international dishes, ginger root is helpful to those with gastrointestinal problems. Chop a ¼ inch piece and steep in 1.5 cups of hot water for at least 15 minutes. Add honey or raw sugar and drink as hot as possible. In a matter of minutes, indigestion or stomach pain will be relieved.

• Plain yogurt - Not only is it better for than sour cream if you’re trying to watch your weight, but yogurt but can be used to make fruit and cereal parfaits that can be enjoyed any time of day.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Creamy Shrimp and Mushroom Pasta

I got home earlier than usual from work yesterday, so I actually had time to try a new recipe during the week!  I looked around on pinterest to find something new.  It led me to this great food site - foodgawker.com.  It was so hard to narrow down the choices!  I decided on this pasta dish because of the quick cook time.  It's pretty simple since you can use frozen shrimp and dried herbs.  I'm not usually a fan of creamy pasta sauces, but this one was great because it's not too thick.  We added some Parmesan to thicken up the sauce - it had a wonderful flavor!
Picture from Chaos in the Kitchen
Creamy Shrimp and Mushroom Pasta
recipe from Chaos in the Kitchen
serves 4, prep 5 min, cook time 30 min
•4-8 oz fettuccine or linguine
•10 tbsp butter, divided (I used 8)
•8 oz fresh, sliced mushrooms
•2 garlic cloves, minced
•3 oz cream cheese, cut into small pieces
•2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
•1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
•2/3 cup boiling water (from your noodle pot)
•1 lb cooked shrimp (I used frozen - but only about 1/2 lb)

1.Boil and salt a large pot of water and cook your pasta. I usually only use about half of an 8 oz box, preferring fewer noodles.

2.While your pasta is cooking, cook your shrimp if necessary and reserve. If your shrimp are pre-cooked and frozen, quickly thaw them under running water.

3.In a large skillet melt 2 tbsp of butter over medium heat and saute mushrooms until soft and brown. Season with salt and pepper.

4.Reserve cooked mushrooms and melt remaining butter in the skillet. Add minced garlic, cream cheese, and herbs. At this point, I generally feel like something has gone terribly wrong. The cream cheese doesn’t really melt and starts to look almost curdled, don’t worry about it! It will all smooth out and be wonderful when we add the water. I promise.

5.Simmer cream cheese mixture until well blended. Get a scoop of boiling pasta water from your noodle pot and mix it in, stirring quickly to smooth out the sauce.

6.Keep sauce hot and add shrimp and mushrooms, mix well and simmer (stirring often) until everything is hot and thickened, about 10 minutes-you wont ruin this sauce by accidentally boiling it so don’t worry.

7.Toss sauce with cooked noodles and serve.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Baked Rigatoni with Italian Sausage and Fennel

As I've mentioned several times this year, we have had a freezer full of venison that we've been trying to make our way through.  While I spent some time grading papers last weekend, Kent made this wonderful dish using venison sausage (found on allrecipes.com).  It made such a large meal that we were able to have it for dinner several nights.  This is a hearty meal and perfect for cool weather.  The fennel gives the dish a different taste than many other pasta dishes - it's sure to please!

Baked Rigatoni with Italian Sausage and Fennel
1 pound hot Italian sausage links
1 (16 ounce) package rigatoni pasta
1 (24 ounce) jar marinara sauce
1 bulb fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese

1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until almost tender, about 10 minutes.
2.Fry the sausages in a large skillet over medium heat, turning frequently until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove from the skillet, cool slightly and slice into rounds. Add the garlic, fennel and onion to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes, then add the roasted red peppers, basil, sliced sausage and pasta sauce. Heat through over low heat until warmed.
3.Combine the pasta with the sauce and vegetables in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Spread the mozzarella, Parmesan and Asiago cheeses over the top. Garnish with a few fennel leaves left from the bulb. Cover with aluminum foil.
4.Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, then remove the aluminum foil. Set the oven to broil, and cook for another 5 minutes or until cheese is browned.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Warm Crab Dip - from Gretchen

My friend, Gretchen, made this dish recently to bring to a cookout.  It was such a big hit - everyone kept going back for more (especially me!).  It makes a great appetizer for any meal and would be a wonderful dish for a late Fall football party.

Warm Crab Dip
2 (8oz) packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup mayo
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp lemon juice
1 chopped green onion
1 lb flaked crab meat

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish with nonstick spray.  In a bowl, mix cream cheese, mayo, mustard, lemon juice, and 3/4 cup of the cheddar cheese until smooth (I usually add more cheddar.)  Stir in the green onion and crab meat. Pour into the casserole dish and top with the remaining cheddar.... (again, I add more).  Bake in oven for 30 minutes.  Serve with crackers.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Food Sites

I hope everyone's noticed some of my favorite food sites that I've posted on the bottom right sidebar of my blog.  I wanted to take a few minutes to showcase some of the ones that I haven't mentioned before.  One of my sweet neighbors from Montgomery (whom I used to babysit!) has a blog called, Baking the World into a Sweeter Place.  She is an AMAZING baker and caters for parties (did I mention that she's still in high school??).  She posts about the parties that she bakes for and about some of the delicious recipes that she makes.  I think the next one I'm going to try will be the chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes - yum!

One of my new favorite food blogs is written by a sweet lady named Mary.  We've emailed several times as I asked her some questions about the set-up of her blog.  Her blog, One Perfect Bite, contains recipes from all around the world.  She publishes a new post every day, and most of her posts are on the healthier side.  I keep trying to decide which recipe I'm going to try first since they all look so wonderful!

I hope you enjoy these two wonderful food sites!  Feel free to share any of your favorite recipes and food blogs.
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