Saturday, July 24, 2010

Recipe: Creamy Mustard Chicken - Slow Cooker

Sometimes it seems like I get in a mood for certain tastes. Right now mustard and apricot seem to be appearing again and again in my recipes.  If you have read my blog before you know I love the slow cooker.  Lately I have been working more than "part-time" so I've needed simple, quick recipes.  This recipe I tried for the first time last week when we were supposed to have friends over for dinner. I didn't have time to cook after work so I knew I needed to put something in the slow cooker. I tried this and everyone loved it!  Sorry for the picture. I know it isn't that great but hopefully it helps you see the nice creamy sauce.

Creamy Mustard Chicken - Slow Cooker
Serves 4-6

4-6 chicken boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
2 tablespoons mustard
1-2 cup of shredded cheese

Directions: Mix together the soup and mustard.  Place about 1/2 cup of sauce in the bottom of slow cooker. Add chicken breast and season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Add remaining sauce and set to cook on slow for 2-4 hours depending on amount of chicken and how hot your slow cooker runs.  If you need to leave all day I recommend starting with a cold slow cooker and using frozen chicken.  Just before service add about 1 cup of shredded cheese to sauce, mix and allow to melt.  Great over rice or with my new favorite sour cream pasta (another "taste" I seem to be wanting a lot of lately!).  I'll make sure to post that recipe soon.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Recipe: Apricot Mustard Glazed Pork Tenderloin

This is one of my favorite glazes for pork and ham. I like it best on pork tenderloin.  It also works with ham.  This recipe is enough glaze for a 1 to 2 pound tenderloin.  You will need to adjust amount should you want to use on a larger ham.  If you want a thinner sauce add 1 tablespoon of apple juice or stock.

Apricot Mustard Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Serves 4

2 tablespoons apricot jam or preserves
1 tablespoon mustard (I prefer a stone ground or sweet/hot mustard - not basic yellow)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Pork Tenderloin - 1 to 2 lbs.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine ingredients and microwave for 10-15 seconds.  Stir and brush 1/2 glaze on seasoned (salt & pepper) meat.  Cook tenderloin for 15-20 minutes.  Increase temperature to 425, remove tenderloin and brush tenderloin with reserved glaze.  Return to oven and finish cooking for 10-15 minutes depending on size of tenderloin. Make sure to check pork with thermometer to determine if fully cooked.  Rest at least 5 minutes before serving to allow juices to redistribute. 

This tastes wonderful with the fruit studded couscous.  The flavors are a perfect combination.  Served with a nice salad it is a great meal for company that takes less than hour to prepare.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Things I Love: Whipped Cream

Whipped cream has a special status among my sisters and I.  Most people think of whipped cream as a topping or sweet garnishment.  We take whipped cream a lot more seriously.  The heavenly white stuff could be considered a food group.  We sisters generally try to eat our whipped cream with something just to appease those around us.  We think of the whipped cream goodness as the main item and a little topping to it.  I honestly think we could each eat an entire bowl alone!  The other night I wanted whipped cream, which thankfully I had in my fridge, and had to figure out some sort of a delivery method.  I pulled this quick dessert together and it was yummy.  I had some store bought chocolate chip muffins on hand. I microwaved for about 10 seconds.  Split in half and then topped with lots of whipped cream and a few strawberries.

I will be honest. I actually added more whipped cream after I took the photo! And to be clear. This is real heavy whipping cream. Nothing out of a can or a tub!

And to keep the tradition alive I gave my youngest son the whipped cream beater. He was quite happy!

Thanks again to The Diaper Diaries for hosting Things I Love Thursday.

Fruit Studded Couscous

I almost can't call this a recipe it's so easy.  I love couscous and one of my favorite things to add to couscous is dried fruit and nuts. This goes incredibly well with pork.

Fruit Studded Couscous
Serves 6-8

2 boxes of couscous (I used whole wheat)
1 tablespoon chopped dried apricots
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped dried cranberries
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped golden raisins
2 tablespoons chopped almonds (pecans, pine nuts or walnuts would all work)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon orange juice (not necessary but adds a note of brightness)

Directions: Boil water according to package instructions.  Just as water is boiling add the chopped dried fruit.  Add couscous and allow to sit for 5 minutes.  Fluff with fork and add olive oil and chopped nuts.  If desired add OJ, stir fruit and nuts are mixed well.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Recipe: BBQ Pulled Pork

I love barbecue, especially Memphis and Carolina style with a little sweet, a little sour and little kick.  I love just about any meat barbecued and I love all the sides. I think my version of heaven includes pulled pork sandwiches, mac n' cheese, fried okra and green beans (just to name a few).  This is one of my favorite recipes for BBQ pulled pork, it's easy to make and works great for birthday parties and potlucks because it can be made ahead of time.

BBQ Pulled Pork
Serves 6 - 8

5-6 lbs Pork Roast
(Picnic, Shoulder or Butt all work)
2 bottles 16 oz BBQ sauce 
2 tablespoons apricot jam
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons apple juice
3 tablespoons brown sugar
10 dashes of hot sauce (I use Franks)

In a large slow cooker pour ¼ bottle of BBQ sauce on bottom and then add pork roast. Season pork roast with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper. Mix ¼ bottle of BBQ sauce with 1 tablespoon apricot jam, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1 ½ tablespoons of brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of apple juice. Turn on low and cook for 6-8 hours. I generally put in before I got to bed at night.

The next morning or when the roast easily pulls off the bone if you did not cook overnight pull out the roast out of slow cooker. Reserve ½ cup of slow cooker juice (strain to remove fat). Allow roast to cool slightly while wiping down the slow cooker. Shred the pork into fine pieces. If you used a roast with a bone, make sure to remove and careful check for pieces of fat and bone. I shred with my fingers.

Mix the rest of the BBQ sauce, ½ cup of strained slower cooker juices, 1 tablespoon of apricot jam, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 tablespoons apple juice, 5-10 dashes of hot sauce and pour over shredded pork in slow cooker. Turn slow cooker on low and allow to come to temperature. Check for taste and add extra salt, pepper, hot sauce, vinegar and/or brown sugar to taste. I like to cook for an additionally few hours on the lowest setting to get all the flavors to melt together but that is not necessary.

Can be served with rolls as sandwiches or alone as the main dish. Also a great option for potlucks. It also freezes very well. I like to make as large a roast as my crock pot will fit and then freeze the leftovers.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A night out... on a budget

No matter how much you love to cook it is always nice to have a night off. Of course when you are on a budget a night off can sometimes be difficult. One of the tricks I use to make a night out affordable is You can purchase gift certificates in various denominations ($10, $25, $50 etc.) at a discounted price. Normally a $25 gift certificate sells for $10. Sign up for an account and you will receive regular email promotions. Gift Certificates are often on sale for up to 80% off. That means you can get a $25 gift certificate for two bucks!

Now the gift certificates often have very particular restrictions. For example one of our favorite restaurants requires a minimum $35 purchase to use their $25 gift certificate. Another restaurant we have used only allows you to use the gift certificate during the week for lunch. Most specify that 18% gratuity (for the full value of the check) will be added automatically. Even with these restrictions you are still saving a significant amount of money, especially if you choose a casual dinning restaurant.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Have a SAFE 4th of July Weekend

Like the rest of American you are probably getting ready to enjoy some BBQ, a picnic, fireworks and maybe swimming this 4th of July weekend.  I love the 4th. I'm originally from the Washington DC area so love celebrating the birth of our nation.  I miss watching the fireworks on the National Mall with the monuments as the backdrop.  Unfortunately though the 4th also makes me nervous.  Why?  Because fireworks, alcohol, children and water often equal a dangerous combination.

After spending the better part of my career (10 years now) with non-profit organizations that focus on health, child safety, emergency preparedness and response I have become very passionate about family safety.  I have seen the impact of not paying attention, not being prepared and not knowing what to do when an emergency happens.  So many think that accidents or emergencies won't happen to them but in reality you are most likely to respond to an emergency in a home that involves your own family and friends. 

So this 4th of July, have some BBQ, light a sparkler, take a swim but don't forget some basic safety tips

Burn Prevention
*Only buy Safe and Sane fireworks

*Be aware of what's around you when lighting fireworks or a campfire. Clear brush, trees and other ignition sources. 

*If you are camping make sure to children don't play near campfires.  A easy tip is to build a large circle with large rocks around the campfire to keep children a safe distance from the fire. Teach children to not enter the "danger zone".

*Make sure children are supervised at all time

*Make sure children aren't allowed near heat sources including stoves and BBQ grills

*Scald Burns:  Of course we worry about children getting burned due to fire but scald burns are also very common in children and often involved cooking or food. Shriners Children's Hospital offers more information regarding Scald Burn injury.  Nearly 300 children a day go to the emergency room for scald burn injuries.  A good kitchen tip - Keep children out of the kitchen.  Children want to explore and they will pull on deep fryer and slow cooker cords and reach for handles on the stove.

*Hosting a pool party at your house? Hire a lifeguard. As the hostess you will need to attend to many things and will quickly get distracted from watching the pool.

*Remember the ABC's of Drowning Prevention. Active adult supervision, barriers and class (swimming & CPR) are essential.

*Alcohol and swimming just aren't a good mix.  Especially when you add in heat and dehydration.  If you have kids set the example and be safe.

*More Swimming Safety Tips from the American Red Cross.

*If you own a home pool the American Red Cross and the National Swimming Pool Foundation offer a great online course regarding pool safety and maintenance.


Wishing you and your family a very happy and safe 4th of July holiday weekend!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Recipe: Lemon Bars

I was excited today to receive a lemon fresh from a local tree, but I only got one so wasn't sure what to make at first. A family favorite is lemon bars so I decided to make a quick batch.  Plus it's a great summertime dessert.  Lemon bars bring back happy childhood memories. One of my sister doesn't like chocolate.  Can you believe that? To me chocolate is a basic food group but not for my oldest sister and I remember her loving lemon bars. 

This is adapted from an older kids recipe booklet published by Gold Medal Flour that I received from a friend. This is not the recipe my family used when I was little but I like this recipe because I was able to adapt it to have less sugar (than the original) and it still tastes good.

Lemon Bars
Serves: 8-10

1 cup of flour
10 tablespoons softened butter
1/3 cup of powdered sugar
3 teaspoons of lemon zest
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together flour, softened butter and powdered sugar. Press into the bottom of an ungreased 8x8 baking dish and gently press up the sides slightly as well.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Mix together (with handheld or stand mixer) filling ingredients until light and frothy. A little tip I mixed some of the sugar with the zest before combining with the rest of the ingredients.  Poor over the hot crust and return to oven for 18-20 minutes until the top is evenly golden and can be gently touched. Let cool for 5-10 minutes and then dust with powdered sugar.