Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fruit and Veggie Muffins

These muffins are a great way to incorporate more fruits and veggies into a food that's perfect to snack on! Recipe courtesy of $5 dinners (see the button in the sidebar!).

Fruit and Veggie Muffins

1 cup flour*
3 Tbsp. canola oil**
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs***
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup mashed or grated fruit or veggie

Healthy tips!
*use 1/2 cup white flour and 1/2 cup wheat flour
**use half oil and half applesauce
***substitute mashed bananas for eggs if you want to eat the batter raw

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together eggs, oil, sugar, and mashed fruit or veggie. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Pour into muffin cups.
Mini-muffins: bake 8-10 minutes.
Regular muffins: bake 15-20 minutes.
Tops will turn golden brown.

Make a double batch and freeze the extras! Mini-muffins thaw in just a few minutes of sitting out, or in the microwave (10 seconds). Some fruit/veggie ideas to try: mashed banana, grated apple, peeled and grated zucchini, mashed blueberries. Or, double the recipe and try carrot + raisin, squash + apple, banana + strawberry...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Updates and Cake Wrecks

I hope you've gotten a chance to try some of the recipes from the past few weeks! They're all tried and trued but up for tweaking. Please let me know if you change something and love it! I made the Taco Quiche the other day with a few revisions and it was great! I prepared the meat the same way, but added a can of corn, a can of black beans, and mexican rice (if you haven't tried the cheapo rice sides mixes, you're missing out!). It was delicious and much improved.

Second bit of news: the 5 Things Cooking giveaway is still going for one more day! Thanks for those of you who have submitted recipes and keep them coming! Please add your votes to the poll in the sidebar as well. I'm always looking for new things to try so they might as well be things that interest you as well...

Third, I have to pass on one of my favorite blogs, which isn't really a cooking blog, but celebrates the worst of professional cake decorating. If you're looking for a good laugh on a gray day, this is it. Cake Wrecks. Check it out--I promise you won't regret it! Click on the "best of" links in the sidebar to see some of the most popular wrecks.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

BBQ Potato Wedges

This one is a little bit more than 5 things, but it's so perfect with grilled meat!

Barbecued Potato Wedges

2 lbs. small red potatoes, cut into wedges
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. honey

Seasonings (use whatever you have, but I like these)
3 tsp. chili powder (I use about half that--these are spicy!!)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. pepper

Place potato wedges on large cookie sheet sprayed with pam or covered in aluminum foil. Drizzle with butter and honey. Sprinkle with seasonings. Toss to coat. Bake uncovered at 450 for 25-30 minutes, turning once.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Classic White Sauce

Everyone should have a basic white sauce handy at all times. It can be used with chicken broth for gravy, with cheese for alfredo sauce, or for topping any type of meat or pasta.

Classic White Sauce

4 Tbsp. butter
4 Tbsp. flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 cup milk

Over low heat, melt butter. Add flour, salt and pepper. Stir until smooth. Gradually stir in milk. cook on low till thick, stirring constantly.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Homemade Brownies

I'll admit it, I usually use brownie and cake mixes. Let's be honest, though, mixes only save you a few ingredients! So here's an easy recipe for great homemade brownies that don't require a mix.

Homemade Brownies

2 squares butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
dash salt

Beat together everything except the flour and salt. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

For an extra treat, sprinkle chocolate chips on top before baking!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sweet Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is the perfect side dish for any picnic or meal. It's one of my mom's best. Happy birthday, Mom! I love you.

Sweet Pasta Salad

2 12 oz. packages rainbow Rotini
4 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced
2 cups mayo/salad dressing
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar

Boil rotini till barely tender (don't overcook!) Drain. Whisk together mayo, sugar, and rice vinegar. Add veggies to pasta, stir in sauce. Chill.

Best served chilled. Make sure you don't overcook the pasta or the entire salad will get mushy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rice Pudding

This is a classic dessert that's a great way to use leftover rice. This one comes from my mom, which means it's tailored for a quick fix in the microwave!

Rice Pudding

2 cups cooked rice
2 cups milk
2 eggs
1 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
Raisins (optional)

Beat eggs and milk well. Add sugar and cinnamon, beat again. Stir in rice and raisins. Microwave covered on high for 15-20 minutes or until it's the texture you prefer!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Broccoli, Rice, & Chicken

This crockpot recipe received an enthusiastic 2 thumbs up!

Broccoli, Rice, & Chicken

2 lb. boneless chicken, cut in strips
1 1/4 cup uncooked rice
1 can cream of broccoli soup
1 can water
pepper and minced onion to taste

GREASE CROCKPOT WELL. Add rice. Sprinkle with onion and pepper. Top with chicken. Pour soup and 1 can water over chicken and rice. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

This recipe cooks the rice well and is moist without being runny. Would be great with extra veggies--simply add frozen veggies before pouring on the soup.

P.S. Don't forget to submit your recipes and vote in the poll!

Monday, March 23, 2009

A little contest

Ok, fellow 5 Things Cooks. It's time for a little contest. Think for just a second of that recipe. The never-fail dish you always fall back on when you need to cook unexpectedly for a large group, or it's too late to run to the store and you need to make something. The recipe you know off the top of your head that tastes good and is super quick to throw together. I know you all have at least one!

I have an extra copy (used) of Mary Ellen's Best of Helpful Hints book that I'd love to giveaway in exchange for your recipe ideas. All you need to do is email your recipes to <5thingscooking@gmail.com>. Send as many as you want! Each recipe counts as one entry, so the more you send, the better your chances of winning this amazing book.

Want more chances to win? Get one extra entry for following my blog (post a comment letting me know).

Hopefully you've had a chance to try some of the recipes you've found here! I know it's been good for me to find new recipes and try new things in order to post them here, so hopefully it's been useful for you as well.

What recipes have you tried? What have you liked best? What would you like more of? Vote on the poll in the sidebar and let me know! (post a comment letting me know you voted and you'll get ANOTHER entry!)

Giveaway ends March 31, 2009 at 12 pm MDT. Winner will be picked by random.org from all the comments and recipes received. Make sure you leave me a way to contact you!

Easiest Ever Bean Dip

This bean dip is super quick to make and tastes great every time! Perfect for dipping chips or making nachos.

Bean Dip

1 pkg cream cheese
1 can chili with beans

Place cream cheese in a microwavable container and heat until soft. Stir in chili. Microwave until warm.

Not the best looking, but oh so tasty!

P.S. this recipe is honoring my best friend's birthday--Linds, ever wonder how many pounds of this we ate back in high school?!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cream Cheese Frosting

This frosting is super simple and quick to make--great with spice or carrot cake!

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 pkg cream cheese
powdered sugar
milk/evaporated milk

Beat cream cheese (helps if it's slightly warmed). Add milk and powdered sugar until it reaches the desired consistency--it should be spreadable but not liquid.

The actual amounts of milk and sugar depend on your taste (some people like things sweeter) and the temperature and humidity. This one requires lots of tasting to know when it's right!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Swedish Delight Casserole

This is a family favorite recipe for a beef, noodle, and veggie casserole. It's quick to make and bake and hearty. Hope you like it!

Swedish Delight

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 green pepper (chopped)
1/2 onion (chopped)
2 can crushed tomatoes
1/2 lb. corn
1 lb. pasta (wide is better--I usually use elbow macaroni)
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 cup cheese, grated

Brown beef with pepper and onion. Mix everything together in a casserole dish. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake 15 minutes at 375 or until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbly.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Chicken Divan Casserole

I think it's time for a break from dessert. This is a traditional chicken broccoli and cheese casserole.

Chicken Divan

4 chicken breasts
1 onion (green or white)
1 pkg. frozen broccoli
1 can cream of celery soup
1 cup mayo or salad dressing
1 cup grated cheese
2 Tbs. lemon juice

1. Boil chicken with onion. For a faster fix, cut and saute. Place cooked chicken in a casserole dish.
2. Cook broccoli according to package directions. Microwaving preserves more vitamins and nutrients than cooking on the stove top! Put over chicken.
3. Mix soup, mayo, cheese, and lemon juice. Pour over chicken and broccoli.
4. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

This casserole can be microwaved for an even faster meal!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Orange Creme Cake

Ready for a variation on sponge cake? Try an orange twist!

Orange Creme Cake

1 round 10" angel food cake (buy one or use this easy 5 things recipe)
2 6 oz. containers of orange creme yogurt
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
2 tsp. powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. frozen orange juice concentrate

1. Cut cake in half horizontally; separate layers.
2. Spread yogurt between layers and re-stack.
3. Beat cream and sugar to stiff peaks. Add OJ concentrate until just blended. Use as frosting or serve by the side.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Blue Ribbon Sponge Cake

This is a no fail recipe--works every time and super easy!

Blue Ribbon Sponge Cake

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 heaping tsp. baking powder
1 cup hot water

Beat eggs, add sugar, and beat well. Mix flour with baking powder (don't skip this step!) and add to egg mixture. Pour in hot water all at once and beat until smooth. Pour into bundt pan sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes until cake springs back when touched lightly. Cool 15 minutes and tip out of pan.

Serve with strawberries and whip cream!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dessert Fondue!

Variations on a theme, perhaps? This chocolate marshmallow fondue is irresistible!

Chocolate Fondue

16 oz. chocolate (chocolate candy bars or regular chocolate chips work great)
30 large marshmallows
1/3 cup milk
1/2 pint whipping cream

Grease crockpot with 1 tablespoon butter. Cook marshmallows, chocolate, and milk on high for ~10 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring occasionally. Gradually add cream. Cover and cook on low 2-6 hours.

Can also be made in a fondue pot. My favorite treats to dip are graham cracker (reverse s'mores!), strawberries, bananas, and mangoes.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cheese Fondue

Ready for a week of great recipes? I'll be posting a ton this week to get everyone inspired...pick out your favorite recipes and get ready to win!

We'll start with a party favorite: fondue.

Cheese Fondue

1 lb. grated cheese (typically swiss or cheddar, but the pre-grated mixes can be great too!)
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
2 cups white grape juice

Toss the cheese, flour, and salt together. Heat grape juice to a gentle boil and gradually add cheese mixture. Remove immediately from heat. Serve with breads, broccoli, ham, apples, grapes, celery...

A fondue pot works great to keep the cheese warm but prevent it from burning. Or, pour the hot mixture into a greased crockpot for insulation! This can be a great party food where you provide the fondue and ask your guests to bring dipping food.

Add a spicy twist: my family has a rule that if you drop something into a fondue pot someone has to kiss you before you can pull it out!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Creamy Mustard Sauce

This sauce is great for meats (especially pork chops or grilled chicken) and also works as a twist on gravy for potatoes!

Creamy Mustard Sauce

1Tbsp. butter or margarine
1 can cream of mushroom soup (use the reduced salt/fat free to make it healthier!)
1/2 cup milk
1 Tbsp. Dijon-style mustard

1 1/2 tsp. lemon pepper seasoning

Sprinkle the meat with lemon pepper seasoning if you're using it. Heat butter in a skillet and brown meat for ~10 min. Add soup, milk, and mustard and bring to a boil. Cover and cook on low heat for 10 minutes or until meat is cooked.

Best served with steamed veggies and egg noodles or with a side of mashed potatoes.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sweet and Sour Sauce

This recipe is great for chicken or stir-fry veggies. You can pour it over chicken in the crockpot (cook on low 7 hours or high 3.5 hours) or coat breaded chicken for a quick but classy meal.

Sweet and Sour Sauce

1/4 c. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 c. cider vinegar
1/4 c. water
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 c. pineapple juice (open a can of pineapple chunks to serve with your chicken or veggies and just pour the juice in)

My favorite combination of veggies includes green and red peppers, thinly sliced onion, and pineapple chunks. Serve over rice and top with low mein noodles for extra crisp!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Keeping Food Fresh!

I have a wonderful book called "Mary Ellen's Helpful Hints" that covers topics from stain removal (getting anything out of just about any material!) to food preparation and everything in between.

She includes some great tips for keeping food fresh!

Toss freshly peeled bananas in lemon juice and they won't darken. If they've already darkened, peel and beat slightly. Put into a plastic container and freeze until you have enough bananas and time to bake bread, cake, muffins, etc.

If your bread dries out or gets stale before you use it, or you want to stock up while it's on sale but won't use it all right away, put a rib of celery into the bag--it will keep it fresh and appropriately moist!

Cottage cheese will keep twice as long if you store it upside down in the fridge.

Press a piece of waxed paper against the surface of your ice cream after it's been opened to prevent freezer burn or film.

Lettuce and celery keep longer if stored in paper bags in the fridge instead of the cellophane ones.

Lining the vegetable drawer of the fridge with paper towels will keep all of your fruits and vegetables fresher longer!

Before opening a can of soup, shake well and open it at the bottom end instead of the top. The soup will slide out nicely.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Peach Crisp

This is a perfect pick-me-up dessert that works great with any type of fruit!

Peach Crisp

1 quart fruit, sliced
1 box cake mix (spice or yellow work best)
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine

Pour fruit--with juice--into 9" by 11" baking pan or casserole dish. Pour cake mix (just the dry portion!) on top. Slice butter into small chunks on top of the cake mix to help it brown. Bake at 375 for ~10-15 minutes until the top is nicely browned.

Best served warm with ice cream, but also great cold. Can even be microwaved! Again, this works with any kind of fruit: peaches, pears, plums, cherries, etc.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Taco Quiche

This one comes from a great website geared toward kid-friendly food. Check out Recipes for Moms for more tips and tricks!

Taco Quiche

1 lb. ground beef or turkey
1/4 c. chopped onion
1/4 c. chopped green pepper
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 c. shredded cheese
1/2 c. biscuit mix (i.e. Bisquick)
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. milk

Brown meat with onion, pepper, and taco seasoning. Spread into greased 9" pie plate. Sprinkle with cheese. In a bowl, combine biscuit mix with egg and milk; mix well. Pour over cheese and meat. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

**To make this one healthier and cheaper, use half of the meat and add beans (refried or black) after browning. Less cheese provides the same flavor with less fat! Serve with a side salad and use fat-free plain yogurt instead of sour cream for an extra boost.

***Remember, you can save yourself prep time by dicing a whole onion and storing what you don't use in an air tight freezer bag for next time! Using frozen vegetables lets you saute without adding oil. Also works great for bell peppers--cut a whole pepper into strips and dice before using.