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The bake queen

 
I told one of my girlfriends when all our troubles started that I was going to cook away my misery. That's been the goal and, I have to say, it has helped. I have enjoyed keeping busy and I've enjoyed the fruits of my labor (good food!). I like talking on the phone to my sister while I chop and saute. I love giving the kids new foods to try and testing out new recipes. I talk to God while I work on my recipes; I like this focus of energy as I pray. I don't understand why I had a molar pregnancy (read my blog "Molar pregnancy"). I really expected to hear that we needed to wait for a cycle and then start trying. Instead we are looking at 6 months... and that is if we don't have any complications.

So what recipes have been keeping me busy?

Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond's Chicken Pot Pie
I'm going to include a link to the recipe online at On My Menu: Pioneer Woman's Chicken Pot Pie, however, I recommend buying her cookbook, Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl. I love her cookbook, especially her recipe for a pot of beans. Nothing makes me happier than making a big pot of beans. Back to the chicken pot pie, I actually do a lot of the shopping for this recipe at Trader Joe's. I buy their Frozen Pie Crust. I'm a little picky about my pie crusts. I don't think I'm a very good cook; I do think I'm good at making pie crust. With three kids and the worst kitchen we've ever had in our history as a military family, I don't have the time or patience to make a pie crust, simple as it is. I love that the Trader Joe's pie crust uses butter and not shortening. Not only is shortening loaded with hydrogenated oils, but pie crust tastes oh, so much better with butter. My other favorite Trader Joe's short cut is their Mirepoix-- 1/2 an onion, 3 carrots, and 3 celery stalks, already cut. I replace the onion, carrot, and celery in the recipe with Trader Joe's already diced Mirepoix. Simple and delicious! This recipe tastes world's better using fresh vegetables, instead of frozen. I have made it with frozen in a bind, but Mirepoix makes fresh possible when I'm in a rush. Finally, I use a store bought rotisserie chicken; Harris Teeter even has a Smart Chicken rotisserie chicken. Oh so simple. Could a homemade chicken pot pie be any easier or delicious? My family loves this recipe.

Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond's Comfort Meatballs
I'm telling you, if you are feeling down and in need of some comfort food, pull out Ree Drummond's cookbook. It is full of feel good family food. Her Comfort Meatballs will disappear as fast as you set them on the dinner table. I use Simply Heinz, ketchup supposedly made with all-natural ingredients and no high fructose corn syrup. Even with small children in the house, you should use a dash of Tabasco. I use a small dash and that little kick is delicious. Our four-year old renamed these "Sugar Meatballs," a name that has stuck at our house. He calls them this because you roll them in flour before browning them in a pan, very similar to rolling cookie balls in sugar before baking.

Clodagh McKenna's Smoked Salmon Pate
My newest love is Clodagh McKenna (sorry, Ree). I highly recommend her cookbook as well, Homemade. I just bought another of her cookbooks, Kitchen Diaries: Delicious Recipes Throughout the Year; it ships tomorrow and I can't wait to crack it open when it arrives! This recipe says it takes 5 minutes to make and, let me tell you, it takes 5 minutes to make. You literally throw smoked salmon, creme fraiche, cream cheese, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in the food processor. Could it be easier or tastier? 2 out of our 3 boys loved this. Surprisingly, the toddler who eats nothing wolfed this down and the toddler who eats everything turned his nose up at it without trying it (all three times I offered it to him). Our four-year old loved it and asked for it over and over again. Reason #1 why this was such a hit with me: tasty "mom lunch." I tend to eat a very low-key lunch, regardless of what I serve the boys, such as cheese on sourdough with a cut up vegetable or leftovers. Make tastier leftovers and have this in your fridge for lunch during the weekday, spread on a crusty bread. I also served this with the vegetable soup to make it "fancier." Nom, nom, nom.

Southern Living Big Book of Slow-Cooking Tortellini Vegetable Soup
 
Ingredients:
Cooking spray
2 (8 oz) packages refrigerated prechopped celery, onion, and bell pepper mix
1/2 tsp pepper
1 medium zucchini, coarsely chopped
1 (32 oz) container chicken broth
1 (16 oz) package frozen baby corn, green bean, pea, and carrot mix
1 (15 1/2 oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14 1/2 oz) can diced tomatoes with basil, oregano, and garlic, undrained
1 (9 oz) package refrigerated cheese tortellini
Garnish: shredded Parmesan cheese
 
Instructions:
1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add celery mixture, and saute 5 min or until tender. Transfer mixture to a 5 qt slow cooker. Stir in pepper and next 5 ingredients. Cover and cook on LOW 7 hours.
2. Increase heat to HIGH; add tortellini. Cover and cook 18 minutes or until pasta is tender. Garnish, if desired.
 
This recipe has become a family favorite. It is delicious. And I love this book of slow-cooker recipes, available on Amazon or at Costco (where I bought it). Say good-bye to slow cooker recipes that call for a can of cream of whatever and a bag of frozen vegetables. Those recipes all taste the same! Instead, crack open this book and enjoy a world of slow-cooking rarely seen by mini-van drivers like myself. I have actually never made this particular recipe in a slow cooker, instead I make it in my Dutch oven. I replace the prechopped celery, onion, and bell pepper mix with freshly chopped vegetables. I always have these veggies on hand and it is easy to coarsely chop them. I do use the bag of frozen baby corn, green bean, pea, and carrot mix, another item I always have in my freezer. Before adding the tortellini, I cook the soup on medium heat for an hour or more or on high heat for about 30 minutes, depending on my time constraints. I bring to a boil and cook for just under 20 minutes after adding the tortellini. I always garnish with Parmesan. This soup is delicious hot the day you make it and delicious cold for leftovers. I sent it to school with our four-year old for his preschool lunch and he loved it.

Real Simple's Sour Cream Whipped Cream

 
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon confectioner's sugar
Beat until peaks form in a mixer

Do you know how delicious sour cream whipped cream is? I do. This morning we topped our waffles with it. The sour cream whipped cream and the berries had a perfect marriage with the maple syrup and crunchy waffle, all of which went well with my cup of black coffee. :) I got this recipe from a Real Simple magazine awhile ago, though I can't find the edition; I just jotted it down in my recipe book.

Clodagh McKenna's Risotto with Wild Mushrooms
My absolute favorite recipe and my husband's favorite thing I make, this risotto recipe (also found in her cookbook, Homemade). Our favorite is smoked chicken with Parmesan and tarragon. Our boys l-o-v-e-d butternut squash and sage (I wish I had added chicken that night). This recipe is so soothing to make and the reward is so delicious. It takes patience to "keep stirring," as one of my girlfriends advised me when making risotto, and patience to allow the rice to absorb the vegetable stock as you slowly add it. There is no rushing risotto. Funny how cooking can mirror real life so clearly.

My big plans today involve The Petit Appetit Cookbook-- her granola bars. Later this week I'm going to make her "Happy Hummus." I really enjoy her cookbook, not just for the kids, but for simple lunch items or side dishes. I also enjoy her blog, Petit Appetit Blog.

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