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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Easy Chicken and Rice Foil Packets

I was looking for an easy meal to make pretty quickly this past Sunday. I basically wanted a one pot type meal with minimal effort or clean up. I hate doing a lot of dishes after a meal. These foil packets are an easy week night meal for the family or can be quickly thrown on the grill on the weekend. Super easy clean up is also a plus!

1 can (10 1/2 oz) cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
3 teaspoons Greek seasoning
Salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste
2 cups uncooked instant white rice
½ cup shredded carrot
½ cup fresh sweet peas
½ cup chopped onion
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 slices cooked bacon, coarsely chopped
1 ⅓ cups Colby Jack cheese
2 green onions, sliced (optional)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut 4 (18x12-inch) sheets of heavy-duty foil. Spray with oil.

Measure 1/2 cup of the condensed soup, and set aside. In 4- cup glass measuring cup, mix remaining condensed soup, the chicken stock and 1 teaspoon of the seasoning; beat with whisk to blend. Add instant rice; stir and let stand about 8-10 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Stir in carrots, onions and peas. Add salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste.

Pound chicken breasts to an even thickness. Season chicken with remaining 2 teaspoons seasoning; place on center of each sheet of foil. Dividing evenly, spoon rice and vegetable mixture around each chicken breast. Divide any remaining soaking liquid over tops of breasts. Spread 2 tablespoons reserved soup over each breast; evenly top with bacon and cheese.

Bring up 2 sides of foil so edges meet. Seal edges, making tight 1/2-inch fold; fold again, allowing space for heat circulation and expansion. Fold other sides to seal.

Place packets on a baking sheet.  Cook 30 minutes. Cut a slice in each packet to vent the steam. Carefully fold back foil, and garnish with green onions. For the grill: Heat gas or charcoal grill. Follow directions above for assembling the packets. Place packets on grill over medium heat. Cover grill; cook 10 minutes. Rotate packs 1/2 turn; cook 9 to 10 minutes longer or until juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut (at least 165°F).

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Mama's Coconut Cake

Mama's Coconut Cake has finally come back to reality. If anyone remembers this legendary cake, let me know. She never publicly released the recipe. Years ago, I asked around. People said they had the recipe, but theirs never measured up to the taste of hers. I remembered a secret step she added to hers, and I think I got it right, finally!!! 

This cake was Mama's pride and joy. She never gave anyone the "entire" recipe. She would give them the recipe but left one step out. They would fuss at her and tell her that it didn't taste the same! She would make one for them, (for free) but she kept the recipe for herself. She said that she figured it out and anyone else could too!

A while back, I had a man that received this cake for a high school graduation dessert contact me. He described the taste and texture. He told me that he had been in search of this cake for 36 years. I laughed, and told him it was Mama's recipe. He asked if I could try to duplicate it. That is when the journey began. At first, he didn't think I got it right. After a couple of busy days and forgetting about it, he tried another wedge. He was shocked at the transformation the cake had made. The cake layers had soaked up some of the filling leaving incredibly moist layers, creamy sweet filling, and a buttery cream cheese icing that melded into the perfect cake of his past. After 36 years, his cake nirvana moment! Just trying to make Mama proud!

For the cake layers:
1-1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
3-1/4 cups cake flour (sifted)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
1 (13-1/2 ounce) can coconut milk
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons stirred, sweetened cream of coconut (such as Coco Lopez)
5 egg whites
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons pure coconut extract
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously coat 3 (8-inch) round cake pans with shortening and flour the pan, discarding the excess.

Place shredded coconut in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped coconut, flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the coconut milk, cream of coconut, egg whites, vanilla, and coconut extracts until completely blended.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the sugar and butter on high speed until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and beat in the three whole eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the coconut milk mixture, to the creamed butter, starting and ending with the flour.

Divide batter equally into the three prepared pans. Bake the layers until they are light golden and set, and come out clean when pricked with a toothpick, approximately 35 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes. Cut around the edges with a pairing knife and remove the cakes to wire racks. Cool completely before moving forward with the recipe.

For the coconut filling:
1-1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
1-1/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt

Place shredded coconut in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped. Set aside.

In a medium to large saucepan, bring butter, cream, and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter is melted and sugar completely dissolved.

Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch, water, vanilla bean paste, and a pinch of salt together in a small bowl, then stir the mixture into the saucepan with the cream mixture. Bring cream back to a boil, stirring constantly. Once the mixture returns to a boil, cook for an additional minute or so, until just thickened.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the chopped coconut. Continue stirring for another minute or so to release some of the heat. Transfer the filling to a mixing bowl and cool at room temperature for an hour. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill, stirring occasionally, until cool, 3-4 hours (or overnight).

When ready to assemble the cake, beat the chilled filling with a handheld mixer on high speed until thick, light, and fluffy, approximately 1-2 minutes.

For the coconut frosting:
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese
2 teaspoons pure coconut extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 (16 ounce) box confectioners' sugar

3 cups sweetened shredded coconut plus more as needed, for garnish

Place butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until light and creamy. Turn mixer on low and add coconut extract and vanilla, followed by the confectioners' sugar. Continue beating until smooth, about 3 minutes.

To assemble the cake: Place one cake layer on a large plate or cake stand and coat with half of the coconut filling. Add the second cake layer and cover with the remaining coconut filling. Add the third cake layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with a crumb coat of coconut frosting, followed by thicker layer. Thoroughly cover the frosted top and sides of the cake with shredded coconut, pressing gently to adhere it to the cake. For the cake to be the moist delicious cake of the past, let it rest overnight in the refrigerator. It gets better with time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Strawberry Syrup

I had a request for strawberry syrup,
so I went to my friend Jay at Willard Farms

They smelled delicious, and the hubby could not resist eating a few off the top on the ride back home. Once home, the prepping begins. It takes quite a while to clean and chop two gallons of strawberries!

The syrup recipe is a simple one and can be used to make any flavor syrup you would like to try. I've made Blueberry and Blackberry already. Now strawberry, and I think I'll make cherry next. They are great to have on hand for pancakes, crepes, ice cream, yogurt and much more!

Basic Syrup

1 cup fruit
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup water

Clean and chop fruit. Combine fruit water and sugar. Bring to a boil, then simmer until thickened.* (about 20-30 minutes) Cool and pour in jars. Store in the refrigerator or process in a water-bath for 10 minutes for pints and 15 minutes for quarts.
*The request I had for syrup was to leave the fruit in the syrup, but you can strain it out if you like.

I also made some strawberry ice cream using
Strawberry Ice Cream with Strawberry Syrup

Shared on Meal Plan Monday 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Blackberry Syrup

A little over a month ago I had a customer send me a message... " I ate some stuff at a place and you poured it out and it was like blueberry syrup and it had whole blueberries in it you could put it over pancakes it was like a syrup that you poured over pancakes and it was floating in blueberries you know how to make that?" Sure! I can do that! So he ordered 6 QUARTS of Blueberry Syrup! LOL

Apparently, that inspired him because he also wants 3 quarts of Blackberry Syrup and 3 quarts of Strawberry Syrup.

Blackberry Syrup with whole berries!

3 cups fresh blackberries
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup water

Add blackberries, sugar, lemon juice and water to a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and boil until the temperature reaches 225 degrees. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before use. Transfer to a quart jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

*You can process the quarts in a waterbath for 15 minutes and store in your pantry.

Blueberry Syrup

Blueberry Syrup

A little over a month ago I had a customer send me a message... " I ate some stuff at a place and you poured it out and it was like blueberry syrup and it had whole blueberries in it you could put it over pancakes it was like a syrup that you poured over pancakes and it was floating in blueberries you know how to make that?" Sure! I can do that! So he ordered 6 QUARTS of Blueberry Syrup! LOL
Usually it takes double the berries to make the amount of syrup you want, but since he wants whole berries in the syrup that helps with the volume. However, if you don't want the whole berries in your syrup, remember you will need twice the fruit for the yeild you want.

 This is 6 pounds of blueberries, water and sugar.

 Boil until the temperature reaches 225 degrees.

Yeilds 6 quarts of Blueberry Syrup
including whole berries.

Blueberry Syrup

  • 1 1/2 pounds blueberries
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
In a pot, combine the blueberries with 1 cup of the water. Crush the berries with a potato masher and bring to a simmer. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Strain the juice into a heatproof measuring cup, pressing hard on the solids. Discard the solids or use for jam. Add the sugar and the remaining 3 cups of water and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil the syrup over moderate heat until it registers 225 on a candy thermometer, about 20 minutes. Add the blueberry juice and lemon juice and boil over high heat for 1 minute. Let the syrup cool. Pour the syrup into just-cleaned bottles. Seal and refrigerate for up to 6 months. *

*You can process the quarts in a waterbath for 15 minutes and store in your pantry.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Re-purposed Onions! LOL

Have you ever pulled out your onion drawer, bag or basket and found they all have sprouted green tops? Sure! What do you do? If the onion isn't rotten in spots, I go ahead and use/cook it. What if it's a little too far gone for that? I peel the dead pieces away until I get to the last green stalk. Sometimes one onion will yield several sprouts. I did this today. The pieces of onion that I peeled away are going to be caramelized and added to gravy and topped on hamburgers and hot dogs. Nothing goes to waste here!

I harvested 7 onion plants from 3 onions.

I used empty water bottles cut in half for the taller shoots
and one about 2 inches deep for the smaller shoots.
Sit the shoots in water.

In a few days, the shoots will have roots!
This one should have been planted a few days ago,
but we got sidetracked. It will be planted today!

These are the peelings I got from the "rotten" onions.

I cut them up and sauted them for burgers.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Quick Pickled Radishes

This month the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge was Quick Pickles. Quick pickles are also known as refrigerator pickles. They are simply vegetables that are pickled in a vinegar, water, and salt (sometimes sugar) solution and stored in the refrigerator.Quick pickling is also a brilliant solution for preserving a variety of vegetables from the market or your own garden. Quick pickling doesn't require canning or a bushel of vegetables. Best of all, you can adapt this simple formula for any fresh vegetables; try a mixture of vinegars and spices for a truly custom pickle pleasure.

I like to use up leftovers for this method, this passed weekend I made some cucumber and radish appetizers for our Annual Easter Party and had a bag of radishes left over. I decided to quick pickle them since I'm the only one here that eats them.

Quick Pickled Radishes

1 cup white or apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water (optional... I like stronger vinegar flavor)

1 tablespoon sugar (also optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 small bag radishes, thinly sliced

Whisk first 4 ingredients in a small bowl until sugar and salt dissolve. Place red onion in a jar; pour vinegar mixture over. Cover and chill. Store in the refrigerator.