Foods from The Unabashed Kitchen Wench


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Let's get caught up.....

I know it has been more than 6 months since I posted last and I apologize for that.  Shortly after my last blog, my husband's uncle passed away to liver cancer.  It was very hard for our close-knit family, and I wasn't feeling very creative for quite some time.

Then, the holidays came rushing in.  I'm not exactly sure if I was in a time warp or what, but suddenly Thanksgiving and Christmas had come and gone.  Before I knew it, New Year's Day was staring me in the face, and I took a long look at what my resolutions were going to be. 

Two things were a certainty:  I needed to get back to writing and excess weight needed to come off.  Those were my goals for 2014, but being the obsessive person that I am, I knew that I had to choose one to focus on.  One had to be my main priority, but both are very important.  On one of the many late nights that I was still awake, with the rest of the house slumbering, I knew that 2014 had to be the year that I finished my book and did my very best to get it published.

Okay, all of you health nuts out there, don't start giving me any grief.  As soon as this blasted snow that seems never-ending in my neck of the woods goes away, I will be out running again, which will help me shed the many pounds that have crept back on.  I just knew in my heart that my number one priority was writing.

Once that decision was made, I felt my creative juices start flowing again.  Not like a little trickle either, but a full-on flood.  I set goals for myself, where I wanted to be by certain times of the year, and haven't made them all, but it keeps me moving forward.

I am very happy to say that by the beginning week of March, I finished the first draft, of the first book, in my series of 6, called The Dessert Club.  Now I am busily working on re-writes and editing, but I feel a huge sense of accomplishment.  I WROTE A BOOK!  As you may have guessed from the series name, The Dessert Club, it revolves around food.  Surprise, surprise!

Actually, it follows the lives of 5 friends, who meet once a month for a fabulous dessert.  Each friend takes a turn making the dessert and hosting the other friends at her home.  While there, they dish about family, work, love and everything in between over much laughter and good wine.  As a little bonus, the recipe for the dessert will be at the end of the book.

At this moment in time, I am getting prepped for what I hope will be a life-changing moment.  I don't want to elaborate just yet.  I'm not sure if I have mentioned it or not, but I'm a bit superstitious.  I'm afraid if I say too much, I'll jinx myself.  I know with the logical part of my brain that it's a ridiculous notion, but in the less logical regions, I can't stop feeling that way.  Let's just say, if good things happen, I will be sure to explain all.

So, where does that leave this blog?  It is a question I have struggled with since the beginning of the year and the start of my resolutions.  As I work to get published, I can't devote a lot of time to writing recipes and taking pictures while I am cooking.  Yes, I am still cooking the same way, but now it's flying through the steps, trying to get the meal on the table, my family fed, and a little quality time spent with them before I settle in for a couple of hours on the book.  I've hesitated in shutting the site down.  Something has held me back, for whatever reason.  So, I'm going to go with my gut and keep blogging when I get the time, but the content is going to change.  I will post a recipe if it really strikes me as something worth sharing, but I'm going to use this as my journal on the way to making my book a reality.

I hope you all understand, and thank you for your support.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Baby Potatoes & Green Beans with Lemon Thyme Sauce

Well, here we go again - 2 weeks have gone by since I lasted posted a recipe.  Things have been very busy, and stressful, around my home.  The kids have had volleyball and football practices, as well as games, almost every day of the week.  Plus, we are dealing with a family health crisis:  Chris' uncle has been battling liver cancer for a year now, and recently has had spots pop up on his spine and in his brain.  A week and a half ago, he was hospitalized with pneumonia that quickly turned into Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).  Last Monday and Tuesday were scary days for our whole family when it seemed he wasn't going to pull through.  Thanks to the prayers and positive thoughts of a huge circle of family and friends, he is slowly improving.  He's not out of the woods, but things are definitely looking up. 

So, with all of this going on and the fact that I am trying to finish my book, I don't know if I can commit to posting recipes twice a week.  I am going to do my best to get a recipe up once a week, but I don't want to have a set day.  It will be very spontaneous so just keep checking back.

As for tonight's recipe, I was going for something colorful.  Yes, I wanted it to taste good, but I really wanted something that was going to look pretty on the plate.  That's a great reason, isn't it?  Yeah, I thought so, too.

Here's your Cast of Characters.

(2) 28 Oz. bags of baby potatoes, any variety (I love Honey Gold with Purple Passion)
10 - 12 Sprigs of fresh thyme, divided
2 Cups chicken broth, divided
(1) 12 Oz. bag fresh green beans
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
2 Tsps. minced garlic
6 Tbsps. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. Lawry's seasoning salt
1/2 Tsp. black pepper

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, add 1 1/2 cups water, 1/2 cup chicken broth, 1 sprig thyme and both bags of potatoes.  Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 10 minutes on medium high. 

Uncover, stir potatoes around and add green beans to the top.

Cover and continue cooking for another 10 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender.  With a slotted spoon, remove potatoes and green beans to a large serving bowl. 

Cover to keep warm.  Meanwhile, add remaining ingredients to the skillet, pulling thyme leaves off the sprigs.  Turn to high heat, boiling for 5 - 10 minutes, until the sauce has reduced by half and thickened slightly.

Pour over potatoes and green beans, stirring gently.

Serve immediately while piping hot.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sweet and Hot Pineapple Jalapeno Slaw

Well, the last 4 weeks have been crazy.  What with oral surgery, school starting, volleyball and football practice for the kids and my computer crashing, sharing recipes has been spotty, at best.  Now, the games have started so there is even more running, which leads me to my next sentence.  Sometimes it's easier when you don't have to reinvent the wheel.

What do I mean by that?  By now, you guys know that I prefer to make most things from scratch.  It's how I grew up and how I learned to cook, so now it's ingrained in me.  However, there are some shortcuts I am perfectly happy taking.  This recipe highlights one of those.  I could easily make a slaw dressing myself but if I am lucky enough to find a store-bought dressing that I like, why not take the easy way now and then?

Here's your Cast of Characters.

1 Package shredded red cabbage
1 Package broccoli slaw
1 Bunch cilantro, chopped
2 - 3 jalapenos, chopped*
1 - 15 Oz. jar pineapple slaw dressing**
1/2 Tsp. McCormick Perfect Pinch Southwest Sweet & Smoky blend
1/4 Tsp. cayenne pepper ***

In a large bowl, add both packages of slaw, cilantro and jalapenos *(depending on how much heat you want, leave in some or all of the seeds and membranes).

Pour dressing over top and add seasonings.

**(If you can't find pineapple slaw dressing, buy a jar of your favorite brand and add a small can of crushed pineapple with juice.)

Mix well until thoroughly combined.  ***(Again, if you want it a little spicier, add more cayenne pepper gradually.)

Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving either, by itself, or topping your favorite barbecue sandwich.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Technical Difficulties

Please excuse my absence from the blog - my daughter installed something on my computer, which has caused it to crash.  I am posting via my smartphone, but I can't do a whole recipe that way.  I am doing a full system restore and hope to be back in full force on Tuesday.  The recipe will be Butternut Squash and Mushroom Cream Sauce.

Thanks for your patience and understanding!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Carrot Cake

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  I don't really care for cake.  I'll have a piece every now and then, but I could really live without it.  Well, except for carrot cake.  To be more specific, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.  I adore it!  I'm fairly certain that I could eat the whole cake, if it were acceptable.  I'm not even kidding a little bit.  The whole cake - mine!

Here's another thing you may or may not know about me.  I don't like to use box mixes to make cakes.  It all boils down to my dad.  When I was growing up, that man could tell a box cake with the first bite.  He would still eat it, but he didn't like it, so I just got used to making cakes from scratch.  I never minded and now I'm just so used to doing it that way, it's habit.  That being said, I've never made a carrot cake before.  It just seemed like a lot of work, and I've mentioned before how much I love baking (and by that, you know I mean loathe baking).  I don't know if I would have made the cake, either, if I didn't have an abundance of carrots from my garden.

After searching the web, I found a good base recipe that I heavily tweaked.  The result was a very flavorful and moist carrot cake that I just can't get enough of.

Here's your Cast of Characters.

1 1/2 Cups sugar
1/2 Cup honey
3/4 Cup vegetable oil
3 Large eggs
1 1/2 Tsps. baking soda
1 Tbsp. good quality cinnamon (like Saigon Cinnamon)
1/2 Tsp. nutmeg
1 Tsp. dried orange peel
1/4 Tsp., each, ginger and allspice
1 Tsp. salt (not pictured)
2 Tsps. vanilla extract
3 Cups freshly grated carrots
1 Cup pineapple juice, unsweetened
2 1/2 cups flour
1 Cup pecan pieces, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9 x 13 pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Here's where it gets really tricky.  Dump all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl.

Mix well, until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 - 50 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean.  It's fine for a few crumbs to stick to the toothpick - it will be moist as it cools.

Top with your favorite cream cheese frosting, whether it is homemade or store-bought.

Whew!  That was tough, wasn't it?  I'm confident you can handle all the steps, though!


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Creamy Tomato Sauce with Italian Sausage, Shallots and Garlic

I'm sorry, folks, I have been MIA for a week.  I had to have oral surgery, and it knocked me for a loop.  A week later, and I am still not up to par.  Here's my advice, if you can avoid having this done, please do.  I don't want you to be miserable like this.  I like you too much.

Besides the pain from the surgery, I have been limited to soft, lukewarm to cold foods, also.  That's torture on a whole new level for me.  But finally tonight, I cooked my first meal..  It had to be fairly soft because my mouth is still sore, but I wanted real food.  REAL FOOD, I TELL YOU!  I wanted pasta.  Since it's summer, I wanted a sauce made from some fresh veggies, too.  This is my offering to you:  Creamy Tomato Sauce with Italian Sausage, Shallots and Garlic.  Maybe it's because I was dying for real food, but this was so refreshingly delicious!  My family scarfed it up, leaving no leftovers whatsoever.

Here's your Cast of Characters.

1 Package of Mild Italian Sausage Links (5-6 in a package)
4 Large cloves of garlic
4 Large shallots
8 Roma tomatoes, deseeded
3 Long sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 1/4 Cups chicken broth
3/4 Cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tsp. Lawry's
1/2 Tsp., each, black pepper, Mrs. Dash Onion & Herb blend, McCormick Perfect Pinch Garlic & Herb blend and McCormick Perfect Pinch Tuscan blend

Partially freeze Italian sausage - it makes them easier to cut.  Remove casings, if desired.  Cut sausage in half, lengthwise, then into 1 inch pieces.  In a large skillet, drizzle a little olive oil, heat to medium and add sausage.

Brown the sausage, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse garlic and shallots a few times until rough chopped.

Add tomatoes and rosemary.

Pulse a few more times until coarsely chopped.  Be careful, as you don't want it to become a puree.

Once sausage has browned, add tomato mixture.

Stir well to combine.  Cover, turn to medium-high heat and cook for 3 minutes.

Add broth, cream and seasonings.  Stir well, again.

Cover and cook for 10 minutes.  It should be reduced a little and starting to thicken.

Uncover, turn to medium heat and continue cooking another 4 - 5 minutes until thickened slightly.

Serve over linguine or fettuccine.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Philly Chicken Sandwiches

Over the weekend we got a little hint that fall is not far off.  High temps were only in the mid-seventies, with lows dropping to somewhere in the forties.  My husband and I agree that this is perfect weather.  In fact, we would be happy if it stayed this way year round, however, we live in North Dakota, so that is NEVER going to happen.  Which means that we have to make the most of it while we can.  One way to enjoy the cool down is with a bonfire complete with hotdogs, roasted marshmallows and s'mores.

Okay, I have to be honest, I grilled hamburgers, too, because I'm not fond of hotdogs, and that's how I came to tonight's recipe.  We had leftover hotdog buns and I had to find a use for them.  My kids suggested bread dumplings but I wasn't up for the mess it takes to make those.  Initially, I had thought of Philly Cheesesteaks but didn't have the time to cook a beef roast mid-week.  Yes, I know I could use a crockpot but I just don't plan that far in advance.  So, last minute, I decided to vary a little and go with something that would cook quickly and shred easily:  chicken!

Here's your Cast of Characters.

Hot dog or hoagie buns
2 - 3 Large, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Small package dry Italian dressing mix, divided
Sprinkling of black pepper
1 1/2 Cups Tuscany chicken broth (or regular chicken broth seasoned with thyme, rosemary and basil)
1 Large or 3 small onions
3/4 Cup deli sliced mild banana pepper rings and 1/4 cup marinade, divided
1 Yellow sweet bell pepper, cut into strips
Drizzle of olive oil (not pictured)
1/2 Cup real mayo (not Miracle Whip or salad dressing)
Sliced provolone cheese

Place chicken breasts in a large, non-stick skillet and sprinkle with half of the Italian dressing and a dash of pepper.

Add chicken broth, 1 small onion chopped (or 1/3 large onion), 1/4 cup banana pepper rings and 1/4 cup marinade from peppers.

Cover, turn to medium heat and cook for 20 minutes, turning halfway through.  Meanwhile, in a separate non-stick skillet, cut remaining onions into thin wedges and sauté  on medium heat with yellow and banana peppers drizzled with about a tablespoon of olive oil.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and open buns onto it.  With your fingers, flatten the centers of the top and bottom buns to make a slight well for the toppings.

Next, in a small bowl combine mayo and remaining Italian dressing mix.

Stir well and set aside.

Once, onions and peppers have softened up and started to brown, turn to low heat.

When chicken is done, place buns in the oven to toast while you shred the chicken breasts.  Place chicken back in the skillet along with the broth to keep warm.

Pull buns from the oven and spread with seasoned mayo.

Place a heaping helping of chicken on the mayo side.

Top the other  side with peppers and onions, then a slice of provolone.

Place back in the oven, now turned to a low broil, until cheese starts to melt, about 2 - 3 minutes.

Fold those fat sandwiches over and serve immediately.