Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Twitter Moms: The Influential Moms Network

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Red Beans & Rice

Growing up in New England I was never exposed to beans and rice. We had rice and we had beans but, in my house, we would never think of mixing them together because they were both side dishes in their own right. Plus, Boston Baked Beans and white rice? Gross. No, the closest I ever came to red beans and rice was in college. Scott and I (and the rest of the general University population) used to frequent a restaurant called the Border Cafe. It's a little Tex-Mex restaurant tucked away in Harvard Square and if you want to eat there on a Saturday night be prepared to wait in a line that stretches down the road. No kidding. Be sure to order a melon margarita. You won't be disappointed.

With every entree at the Border Cafe, your server asks which side dish you'd like as an accompaniment: Red Beans & Rice, Black Beans & Rice or Jambalaya. I never even had to think about it; Always Jambalaya. They may as well take those other two off of the menu. It wasn't until I moved to Texas that I realized that beans and rice is very common in this part of the country. And I had never tried it until just recently when my awesome neighbor Crystal (who is from Louisiana) made a batch and was gracious enough to bring some over for me. It was delicious and I was kicking myself for waiting 29.5 years to eat this dish.

The real reason this dish appeals to me so much right now is because beans are cheap. I'm a stay at home Mom and always looking for ways to cut my grocery bill. In fact, I'm working toward a goal of cutting my weekly grocery bill in half. Dishes like this, and planning meals ahead using sale items and buying bulk items - like rice in a bag rather than a box of instant rice - are really making a difference in what I'm spending at the supermarket. This meal is hearty and satisfying and cost just over $7.00 to make 8 large servings (maybe more...I don't measure). That's less than a dollar per meal. That also means that we all ate this for lunch for 3 days straight.

Is my recipe authentic? Definitely not. If you're looking for an authentic Cajun red beans and rice recipe go here. This recipe is tasty, fairly low in fat, and it worked for my family and our Northern palettes. Even my one year old liked it.

Red Beans & Rice


1 pound red beans - soaked and rinsed
1 pound smoked Turkey Sausage - sliced
3 slices of bacon trimmed and diced
.5 green bell pepper, diced
.5 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can chicken stock
4 cups water
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 bay leaf
2 tsp Cajun Seasoning to taste (I used Tony Cachere's More Spice)
4 cups cooked white rice

In large skillet over medium heat, saute diced bacon for approximately 3 minutes.
Add onions, minced garlic and bell peppers and continue cooking until onions are translucent
Add sliced turkey sausage, onion powder and garlic powder, stir to combine.
Add beans, skillet mixture and remaining ingredients (except rice) to a large dutch oven or stock pot.
Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 4 hours.
Serve over 1/2 c of cooked white rice.


  • Using bacon will add to the cost of the meal. I used it only because I had an open package at home in my refrigerator. The bacon adds a nice smoky flavor to the dish and is really the only fat used in the recipe. If you don't have bacon on hand, saute the vegetables in 2 TBSP of Olive Oil.
  • I use a mixture of chicken stock and water - rather than just water - for extra flavor. Traditionally, this dish is made with a ham hock and Andouille sausage so I wanted to make up for some of the flavor I would be losing by omitting the ham and replacing the Andouille with a milder turkey sausage.
  • I simmered this dish covered for 3 hours before realizing that more of the water should be evaporating. I increased the heat to medium-low and left it uncovered for the last hour until it came to the right consistency.
  • Adjust the spices according to your own tastes. I wanted to make a dish my toddler could eat so this recipe is rather mild. If you like it spicy, add more Cajun seasoning.
  • I used slow cooking white rice as opposed to instant rice. It's cheaper and I prefer the taste. I substituted low sodium chicken stock for the water when cooking the rice.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pineapple Upside Down Cake with Cinnamon Whipped Cream

I know I'm not making any new and exciting culinary breakthroughs with this recipe. It's not gourmet, it's not even made from scratch. What it is, is GOOD. I'm sure there are probably 11,000 recipes out there just like this. That's probably because it's simple and it works. The great thing about this dessert is that you can literally throw it together while dinner is on the stove, or when company comes knocking at the door, and it will be ready to eat in under an hour.

I use a boxed vanilla cake mix for this, but if you have a fantastic, go-to, scratch made vanilla cake recipe, use it! I do not. I should get one of those. All I ask is that you please add some pineapple juice to your cake mix somewhere. One can of Pineapple Rings will yield approximately one cup of pineapple juice, so plan accordingly. Use pineapple juice in place of water when following the directions on your cake mix. It makes all the difference.

Cinnamon Whipped Cream recipe to follow.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

2 oz butter
.5 c brown sugar
1 can pineapple rings (juice reserved)
1 batch of your favorite vanilla cake mix prepared with pineapple juice in place of water
Optional: shredded coconut, maraschino cherries, pecans

Melt 2 oz of butter in a 9"x13" cake pan. I like to just throw it in the oven while it's preheating.
Sprinkle brown sugar over butter and stir until incorporated.
Arrange pineapple rings on the bottom of the pan over sugar mixture.
If you're using any optional ingredients like nuts or cherries, now would be a good time for them to join the pineapples.
Pour cake batter evenly into the pan.
Bake according to your cake's directions.

Let cake cool for 15 minutes and then turn it upside down onto a platter. I like to store this covered tightly in plastic wrap because it helps the cake retain it's moisture.

Cinnamon Whipped Cream

.5 c whipping cream
.25 c confectioner's sugar
.5 tsp cinnamon

Combine cinnamon and confectioner's sugar in a small bowl.
Pour whipping cream into prepared mixing bowl and begin beating on low with a hand mixer.
Slowly add in cinnamon-sugar mixture.
Increase speed to high and beat until cream is desired consistency. This usually takes me about 3 minutes.

This works best if you're working with cold cream and cold tools. I usually put the beaters and mixing bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes before making this. It's also ideal if you use whipping cream straight from the fridge. Don't let it sit out for very long before making this topping.
You can make this in advance and store it in the refrigerator covered. If it gets soupy or watery, just beat it with the hand mixer and it will come right back to life.

Or, just use Cool Whip. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I found this recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies on allrecipes.com a few years ago. It's not my recipe, obviously, because someone else created it. But it is the cookie recipe that I make for my family. That's what this blog is all about; not just recording my original recipes, but those that are staples in our home.

I follow this recipe exactly as it's written and it never fails. The vanilla pudding is a great flavor addition. These cookies don't spread out a lot during baking so I usually give them a little pat before I put them in the oven. This way they bake up like discs rather than biscuits. The only change I do make is that I cut the recipe in half because the original recipe posted on allrecipes.com makes a lot of cookies. I've scaled it down here so that I never have to divide 4.5 cups of flour in half ever again.

Award Winning Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cups butter, softened
  • 3/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 (3.4 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour and baking soda, set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. Beat in the instant pudding mix until blended. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Blend in the flour mixture. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips and nuts. Drop cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Edges should be golden brown.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Beef Stew

I made beef stew for dinner the other night and I meant to take a picture of it and I forgot and now it's gone. Leftovers and all. There will be no visual aids in today's post. Just picture a big bowl of hot, chunky, beefy stew. Beef Stew screams fall to me. With the cool weather that we've been having I thought this was the perfect dinner this week.

I like stews because they're one of those all-in-one rounded meals: protein, veg & starch all in one neat little package. My husband, on the other hand, does not like beef stew for exactly that reason. It's not that he doesn't like my beef stew; I have a theory is that he can't eat dinner out of a bowl. Dinner just isn't as satisfying from a bowl. If it's in a bowl it's a snack to him. When I make beef stew I always get the feeling he's looking at it like, "Where's the rest of it?". So, this time I kicked it up a notch and served this with fresh French rolls. I used to serve his beef stew on a plate. No joke!

I also love stews because they're so unfussy. I don't have to stand over it while it cooks. Once I put it together I can forget about it. I like that I don't have to spend time dicing the vegetables just so, or making sure the pieces of meat are all the same size. I like my stew rustic but maybe that's just me being lazy. Onto the recipe.

Beef Stew

1 lb Stew Beef
Kosher Salt
Cracked pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
.5 c flour
3 TBSP Extra Virgin olive Oil
1 small onion chopped into large chunks
6 gloves garlic, minced
5 carrots cleaned and chopped into large chunks
4 celery stalks roughly chopped
4 medium red potatoes cubed
.5 c red wine
1 can beef broth
2 bay leaves

.5 TBSP Cornstarch
2 TBSP cold water

Heat Olive Oil in dutch oven or large skillet over medium-high heat. I like to use the dutch oven because it reduces splatter. I always have my little one hanging out in the kitchen while I'm cooking.

Place carrots, celery, potatoes and bay leaves in large Crock Pot.

Season beef liberally with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Toss beef with flour to coat.

Add beef to hot pan. Brown on one side, turn beef to start browning the other side, add onions and garlic. Cook until beef is browned, stirring frequently.

Add beef mixture to crock pot. Deglaze pan with .5 cup of red wine. I used Pinot Noir because that's what I had handy. I also didn't measure the wine so I may have used closer to 1 cup.

Once all of the brown bits have been scraped off the pan, add the reduced wine to the Crock Pot along with your can of beef broth.

Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours.

To thicken the stew, make a slurry with the cornstarch and cold water in a small dish. Slowly add the mixture to the stew while stirring. You may not need all of it. This will thicken even more as the stew cools. It doesn't take much.

Serve with crusty french bread. Enjoy!