Monday, October 27, 2014

Fall Harvest

Squash and pumpkins,
Sweet potatoes, plums.
Tomatoes, apples,
Cabbage and pears (some).
That's just the start
Of what you will find
In the market
At Fall harvest time.

I hope everyone is enjoying the fresh fall foods! This is my favorite time of year with so many wonderful things to make. Like baked acorn squash, apple cake, pumpkin pie... All of these are common seasonal foods in Michigan, and I realize a number of my readers do not live in Michigan or even a similar climate, so the growing seasons and available foods will be different, yet somehow, pumpkins and apples are familiar fall favorites even to places that can't grow these things. I guess that is the power and allure of the Fall Harvest. ;)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Baked Chicken Chimichangas

Here is another recipe that I got off Pinterest, and it is totally a keeper! Naturally, I ran into a few kinks and had to add my own flare, which is why I am writing about it here. The recipe I followed called for half a packet of taco mix, or something odd like that, so instead of buying a baggy of taco mix, I made my own. It's super easy and very delicious! Making your own taco mix is totally the way to go since you can hone the flavor to your own taste.

How to Make Your Own Taco Seasoning:

  • Gather the following spices: chili powder, ground cumin, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, and sea salt. If you want to make it hot, add crushed red pepper flakes, but they aren't necessary.
  • I put roughly half a teaspoon of each into a little glass dish and stirred them together. You can't do a very good taste-test, but you can smell it to judge if it's the right amount of spice. I think I ended up with 1/8 of a cup of spices if I had to judge visually.
  • Et voila.
Now, to make the baked chicken chimichangas:

  • 1 8oz package of cream cheese
  • 1 8oz package of shredded pepperjack cheese
  • the taco seasoning you just blended
  • 1 lb shredded cooked chicken
  • 8 flour tortillas
  1. Cream together the cream cheese, shredded pepperjack, and taco seasoning, then blend in shredded chicken.
  2. Divide this mixture amongst the eight tortillas. I think I actually ended up with 9 tortillas, there was so much stuff.
  3. Tuck in the sides of the tortillas and roll them up.
  4. Lay them with the seam side down on a baking dish. 
  5. Bake for 15 minutes at 350F.
  6. Flip the chimichangas over and bake for an additional 15 minutes at 350F.
Garnish with sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt if you are out, which is what I have had to do a few times), more shredded cheese, salsa, sliced green onions, or whatever you wish. 

Not only was this dish really tasty, it was really easy. The hardest part was getting the cream cheese to blend. I ended up softening it in the microwave to make it more malleable. As you can see in the picture above, I added a vegetable side dish to round out the meal. Would I make this again? Absolutely. In fact, I could probably make a huge batch in advance and freeze them for meals later in the week. I am a fan of this idea, but have rarely ever actually put it into practice. If I had a more set schedule, or one that didn't involve working most evenings, it might be easier to implement. 

Eh bien, c'est la vie. Onto the next cooking challenge.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Chicken Meal in One

Here is another recipe that I found on Pinterest, and I am totally geeked about it! I don't know if it would work with meat other than chicken (I am not well-versed in meat that is not chicken), but it would definitely work with other vegetables and possibly other kinds of potato, though the only other kind of potato I can think of is the sweet potato. Along that line, squash might work nicely for this. But I digress.

Here is what you do:

  1. Wash and cube a few potatoes. I used little Yukon golds. Place these potatoes along one side of a large baking dish. They should take up about 1/3 of the dish.
  2. In the middle of the dish, next to the potatoes, place two chicken breasts. 
  3. In the remaining third of the dish, put a bag of frozen green beans. I used French cut because that is all that Meijer had in stock. The original recipe calls for fresh green beans. Either works. I am not sure canned would be so great for this, though.
  4. The original recipe says to sprinkle everything with cubes of butter. What I did instead was drizzle olive oil. 
  5. Over the whole thing sprinkle a packet of Italian salad dressing seasonings. You should also use a Ranch salad dressing seasoning packet. Or garlic salt and parsley. Or salt and pepper. Really, you can use anything to season the dish. I just happened to follow the recipe that said to use the Italian packet.
  6. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 1 hour. Cover with foil if you like. I forgot this part and it turned out fine, and my oven even runs hot.

This was ridiculously easy to make! Usually I only prepare a protein and a vegetable for dinner, and in just over an hour (prep time is almost nil), I had not one, but two sides. No, it's nothing terribly fancy, but it's quick, easy, and good for you. And as I said at the beginning, I am pretty sure I can trade out the green beans and maybe even the potatoes. I'd like to try it, anyway. Maybe some sweet potatoes with brown sugar and butter sprinkled over-top. Mm... Sounds like a good combo for Fall.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Fake Pumpkin Ice Cream

Has anyone else seen the healthy homemade pumpkin ice cream floating around Facebook and Pinterest? When I saw it, I was intrigued because I love pumpkin. (Actual pumpkin, not just the spice.) I've been calling it Fake Pumpkin Ice Cream, which is perhaps misleading because it has real pumpkin - the ice cream is fake. Turns out it's really pretty tasty and super easy to make with only four ingredients:
  • 4 medium bananas sliced and frozen overnight
  • 1 cup of pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup of real maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin spice
Puree all of the above together in a good blender. I say good blender because every time I try to puree frozen things (like when I attempted to make corn pudding), nothing really blends. (I didn't have a problem making smoothies, though that involved adding a liquid.) Once everything has been blended into submission, pour it into a freezer safe container and freeze it over night. Voila! Frozen pumpkin flavored thingie.

The pictures that I've seen floating around the internet make it look just as creamy as ice cream, and that was not the case with mine. It was actually quite icy, but this did not take away from the flavor. As it melted, it got less icy and creamier, so maybe it was a blender fail or maybe it was the Tupperware container that was only kind of freezer safe. It doesn't really matter to me. I quite enjoy the flavor (which Greg likened to summer squash; I tasted more banana and maple), and intend to make it again.

I was actually thinking about what other things I could use in this recipe in place of pumpkin. Sweet potato immediately sprang to mind, which I sometimes eat sweetened with brown sugar. In keeping with the fall theme, applesauce or cooked down fresh apples and cinnamon might also work. We may yet go apple picking this year, and if I give this one a try, I will be sure to post about it here (even if it turns out to be a total disaster).