Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How to Make Blackberry Tea

I love Iced Tea, so sometimes when we go out to eat I'll order one of the popular fruit flavored teas. So I decided to find a recipe for delicious Blackberry Tea that I could enjoy at home. This recipe from Southern Living did not disappoint at all. While blackberry season is over here in our area, you can use frozen berries for this incredible tasting tea. Make this early in the day you want to serve it.While this Blackberry Tea is easy to make, you have to allow for chilling. The blackberries are topped with sugar and crushed, then tea is poured over the berries and it must set for about an hour. The tea is poured through a wire mesh strainer so there are no seeds or pulp in the finished tea. How does it taste? To me, divine. I couldn't drink just one glass full. I'm thinking this tea will be a special treat over Labor Day, but I'll need more than 1 pitcher full. If you enjoy flavored teas, I think you'll love this one.

Blackberry Tea
Slightly adapted from Southern Living

3 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen berries can be used- I used a 16 ounce bag of frozen berries, which was 3 cups.
1 cup granulated sugar
4 cups boiling water
2 family sized tea bags
2 1/2 cold water
extra blackberries for garnish, if desired

1. In a large container combine the blackberries and the sugar. Using a wooden spoon, smash the sugar and berries together.
2. Add the 4 cups of boiling water to the 2 family sized tea bags. Let tea steep for 3 minutes. Discard the tea bags.
3. Pour the tea over the blackberry mixture and let stand 1 hour. Stir to dissolve sugar, if needed.
4. Pour the tea mixture through a wire mesh stainer into a 2 quart pitcher. (Discard the crushed solids, or save for another use, such as adding to a smoothie.)
Pour the cold water into the tea. Cover and chill until ready to serve. Garnish with extra berries or mint if desired. Enjoy!

Also, check out my Pomegranate Tea and Homemade Lemonade recipes.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Creamiest Chocolate Pudding (lower fat)

When I was a kid, my brother and I loved pudding, especially chocolate. It was the ultimate dessert for us! I still love chocolate in any form and this creamy chocolate pudding does not disappoint. I have made homemade puddings before but the recipes contained eggs and  butter and were so rich and creamy. So I was concerned that this lower fat version would be lacking in appeal to me, but my husband and I both loved it. The original recipe from Cooking Light uses 1% milk and fat free canned milk, but I used only the 2% milk that I always have on hand. So you will need to check out their recipe if you want to lower the fat even more. This Chocolate Pudding has a rich chocolate flavor that comes from both cocoa and bittersweet chocolate, and it has velvety smooth texture. It's a keeper for sure. Hope you'll give it a try.
Creamiest Chocolate Pudding
Adapted from Cooking Light

1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk-I used 2% fat
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao, found in the baking aisle)
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large sauce pan add the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa and salt and stir together with a whisk until well combined. Whisk in the milk over medium high heat. Stir continuously until the pudding starts to boil, then reduce the heat, and continue to cook and stir for 1 minute, until the pudding is thick.
remove the pan from the burner and stir in the chopped chocolate and vanilla. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Pour pudding into 6 (1 cup) dishes. You'll have about 2/3 cup pudding per dish. Place plastic wrap directly onto the surface of pudding. Place in refrigerator and chill for at least 4 hours before eating. Enjoy!

NOTE: Stir the whole time the pudding is on the burner or it may scorch.
Some reviewers suggested heating the milk in the micro-wave first to lower the cooking time of the pudding. That will work; just watch the milk closely so it doesn't bubble over.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Home-style Egg, Canadian Bacon and English Muffin Breakfast Sandwich

I know, this is hardly an original breakfast posting since the Golden Arches has been making similar breakfast sandwiches for years. But I love making them at home and making sure they are a bit healthier too. In my 20's I loved stopping at McDonald's on my way to work in the mornings and ordering this sandwich to start my day. I took my grandson out to breakfast last week, the day before school started, and he wanted to go to McDonald's, so I ordered my old favorite. While it was good, I prefer making them at home now.
Since I am in the process of trying to lose some weight, here's my healthier version if you'd like to try. You probably don't need directions for this, but just in case there is a new cook reading this, here's the method.

 Egg, Canadian Bacon and English Muffin Breakfast Sandwich
Inspired by the Egg McMuffin

I use the low calorie, whole wheat English Muffins. Toast the muffins. Butter lightly with a low-fat butter spread.
In a non stick skillet over medium low heat, add 1 scrambled egg. I push it around into somewhat of a circle as it cooks. Season with salt and pepper. Flip over to finish cooking. Place egg on the large half of the muffin. Warm thinly sliced Canadian bacon in the skillet and place on top the egg. I don't usually use cheese with these anymore, but this time I added about 1/2 ounce of shredded cheddar cheese on top and broiled it just until the cheese melted. Top with other half of muffin. Enjoy!

Friday, August 17, 2012

My Favorite Zucchini Bread

 It's that time of year when an over-abundance of some garden vegetables will start showing up on doorsteps, or maybe your desk at work. It even shows up at our church once in awhile. I had zucchini given to me by my daughter-in-law K, and it was given to her at her workplace. So I turned it into my favorite Zucchini Bread.
 This recipe comes from an old church cookbook that I've had since before I was married (34 years ago). Some of our favorite dishes came from that book, and this Zucchini Bread recipe is one of them. It is moist and delicious, full of cinnamon and the pecans I add. My house smells like cinnamon roasted pecans while it bakes. Yum! If you've been given an abundance of zucchini, give this bread a try. I don't think you'll be sorry.
My Favorite Zucchini Bread
Adapted from an old church cookbook

2 cups grated, raw zucchini- do not drain
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pans.
In a large bowl, combine the eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar. Mix well and add the grated zucchini.
In another bowl add the flour, cinnamon,baking powder, soda, and salt and mix well.
Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Stir in the nuts just until blended. Divide batter evenly between the 2 prepared loaf pans. Bake for 50-60 minutes until done. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the bread to loosen it from pan. Turn bread loaves out of pans and cool on racks. Wrap tightly in foil or plastic wrap. Enjoy!
Click here for more quick bread recipes.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Chicken Cacciatore

 This dish is delicious with tender chicken thighs in a healthy marinara style sauce full of sweet peppers and mushrooms. Yumminess on a plate! I've been wanting to make this dish since I first saw it on Pam's blog, but had kept putting it off with our extremely hot weather. But we've been blessed with much cooler weather this past week. Today it was only about 82 degrees, so I was craving some comfort food. After a long hot summer, I'm finding myself getting anxious for cool weather and the foods that go with it. Pam's Chicken Cacciatore is a fantastic dish and really hit the spot. She found this winning recipe at Cooking Light.
 Chicken thighs are browned in oil in an oven-proof skillet or dutch oven. Then onions, peppers and garlic are cooked and the sauce added. Pam's recipe calls for jarred marinara sauce, but I didn't have any, but I so wanted to make this, so I subbed a large can of crushed tomatoes. It worked very well. I added the tomatoes and herbs and popped it in the oven to cook. After it came out, I topped it with basil and some grated cheese. Outstanding meal! This be going on my rotation as it not only tastes delicious, but it is easy to put together, even for a week-night meal. Hope you give it a try!
Chicken Cacciatore
Adapted from Pam at For the Love of Cooking

about 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil- I may have used little more
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, any fat trimmed off (Pam's recipe uses 4 thighs)
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups of baby bell peppers, sliced - I used red, orange and yellow peppers
1 small sweet yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil, or 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
8 ounces mushrooms, quartered or sliced-I used Baby Bellas
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can (28 ounces) of good quality crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Heat about 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a large oven-proof skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat. Season each side of chicken with salt and pepper and add to the skillet. Brown for about 4 minutes and turn over; brown for another 2-3 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate.
3. Add more oil to the skillet; add the onions and mushrooms. Cook for a couple of minutes until mushrooms give off most of liquid. Add the peppers to the skillet; cook 1 minute, then add the garlic. Cook until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the canned, crushed tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in the dried oregano and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken back to the skillet. Bring to a simmer and then place pan into the oven. Bake for 30-35minutes until chicken is done. Larger thighs could take a few minutes more.
4. Remove skillet from oven; top with fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese. Serve with pasta if desired. Or just sop up the sauces with crusty bread. Thanks Pam for a delicious dinner-Enjoy!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Meat

We've been craving Mexican style food lately, but I wanted to get away from the beef taco meat I use so much and try shredded chicken. Since the weather is still so hot, I decided to cook this Chicken Taco Meat in the slow-cooker, and it turned out really good with just the right amount of spice and heat. This meat can be used in tacos, either soft or hard shell, burritos and was even good in some chicken nachos that I put together quickly.
My crock-pot is large, probably too large for this recipe, but that's what I used. The meat was done in 3 1/2 hours on low, but it will depend on your crock pot as to how quickly the meat cooks. I would definitely try this the first time while you were home for the day, so you'll have an exact idea of how long the chicken needs to cook in your cooker.

I was very happy with the flavor of this meat and will do it the same next time. In fact I thought the meat turned out very well as I don't always like chicken done in a slow cooker. But this was really tasty and easy too. Only thing I didn't have was some avocado as the store was out, except for a couple of very soft ones.
Hope everyone is having a great week. We have finally had some rain and the temps tomorrow may stay around 89 degrees! We are ecstatic to say the least after weeks of drought and triple digit heat. The weeds in our yard are growing again, but I think most of the grass is dead. Sigh........Well, make some tacos, or use this meat in other favorite Mexican style dishes. Here's my recipe.
Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Meat
From Lynda's Recipe Box
Rotel Tomatoes are 10 ounce cans of diced tomatoes and chili peppers that come in several levels of heat. I use Rotel Original, which is spicy but not super hot.

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or boneless chicken thighs (I used breasts this time)
1 can Rotel tomatoes
2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 large cloves garlic, sliced or minced
juice of 1 lime, optional

Lay thawed chicken in the slow cooker. Mix together the Rotel tomatoes with all the spices and the garlic. Pour over the chicken. Cover crock pot and cook on low for 3 1/2 hours, or more until the chicken can easily be shredded. Chicken thighs may take a bit longer to cook. When done, remove chicken to a platter and shred the meat using 2 forks. Squeeze the lime juice over the meat if desired, or just pass lime wedges along with the other garnishes. You may want to use some of the juices in the pot with the chicken to keep it moist. I always strain the juice and add the remaining tomato mixture back in with the chicken. Enjoy!  If making tacos, garnish with your favorite toppings. I love to use Cilantro, shredded cheese, lettuce, green onions, sour cream and avocado. What is your favorite way to garnish a taco?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Blueberry Crumb Bars

 I have been enjoying blueberries so much this summer, and these bars are one of the recipes I adore. These Blueberry Crumb Bars have a delicious, crisp crust, a yummy blueberry filling with just a hint of lemon from some lemon zest, and the topping is full of toasted almonds. They are addictive to me and taste delicious anytime of day. I love them with my morning coffee, or for an afternoon pick-me-up. I first shared this recipe the first year I had my blog, so I wanted to share again because it is so good, plus I have adjusted it a little. Hope you give these delicious bars a try.
Blueberry Crumb Bars
Adapted from Epicurious

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks), chilled, unsalted butter
1/2 cup sliced almonds-used in the top crust

3 1/2 - 4 cups of fresh or frozen (unthawed) blueberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

For Crust:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Mix together the flour, salt, oats, sugar, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add the 1 cup of cold butter and mix with a pastry blender or your fingers. The mixture should resemble small crumbs about the size of peas.
Transfer 2 cups of the crust mixture to a small bowl. Mix in the almonds and reserve this for the topping.
Press remaining crumb mixture evenly onto the bottom of prepared pan. Bake crust 15 -20 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool 10 minutes.

For Filling:
In a bowl, mix sugar, flour and lemon zest together. Add the blueberries and toss well. Spread blueberry mixture evenly over the crust in pan, then sprinkle the reserved topping evenly over the filling.
Bake bars until filling bubbles thickly at edges and topping is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. When cool cut into bars and enjoy as is or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream

NOTE: These bars are best served the day they are made, because of the nice crisp crust and topping. They soften the next day, but they are certainly still delicious.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

How To Make Fresh Harvard Beets

 Harvard Beets are a little tangy, a little sweet and a whole lot of yummy. My Mother-in-law used to make these occasionally, and I fell in love with their tangy, sweet goodness. She didn't have a recipe, she just had made them for so many years that throwing them together seemed to be second nature. At one time she told me how to make them, but I have lost her instructions, so I searched the Internet for a recipe. Last week at the farmers market, I found only one bunch of beets left to buy, so I had pity on them and brought them home. Our temps have been in the triple digits for several weeks now, so this bunch of beets were looking a bit stressed.
 Even though the beet greens didn't look very fresh, the beets were delicious. You can make Harvard Beets with canned beets, but using fresh beets is so very easy and fresh tasting. The recipe I used called for oven roasting the beets, but I hated to turn the oven on for just a pound of beets, so I boiled them on the stove-top for about 40 minutes instead. This was a perfect blend of sweet and sour. My husband doesn't care for beets, so they were all mine! Hope you give this old favorite a try.
Fresh Harvard Beets
Adapted from here

1- 1 1/2 pounds fresh beets
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon butter

Cut off all but 1/2 inch of the beet tops; wash beets and place in a pan and just cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover. Simmer beets until they are just tender but not mushy. This could take 30-40 minutes, or even longer, depending on the size of the beets. Remove the beets from pan and cool until cool enough to handle. The beets will peel easily now, even by using your fingers, but a paring knife is fine too. Cut off the root end and the remaining tops. Now you my slice the beets, or cut the beets into cubes. I went with the slices.
In a sauce pan mix the sugar, and cornstarch. Add the water and vinegar and mix until the cornstarch in dissolved. Bring to a boil. Add the sliced beets and cook until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the butter. Let the Harvard Beets cool to room temperature. Devour. Hope you enjoy!
Note: They are best served at room temperature.