Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Free Cake for a Year!


Gourmet Mom on the Go is hosting a giveaway on her blog sponsored by Naturally Nora All-Natural baking mixes! Everyone uses shortcuts sometimes, and it's always nice to find a shortcut that isn't full of unpronounceable ingredients. Naturally Nora all-natural baking mixes (five flavors of cakes and four frostings) have all natural ingredients: no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives and no hydrogenated oils or trans fats. They don't contain any dairy or soy, either, and they are even kosher. You can even compare the ingredients of Nora's mixes and name brand mixes for yourself.

Mandy at Gourmet Mom pounced on this great idea, and now Nora is offering a year's worth of free cakes—that's twelve cake mixes and twelve frosting mixes! Here are the rules to enter:

For one entry: Go to Nora's site and leave a comment on Gourmet Mom's post with your favorite flavor—tell her you heard about it on my blog!
For two extra entries: blog about this giveaway, then leave a comment on Gourmet Mom's post to let her know, and remember where you heard about it!
For FIVE extra entries: purchase any of Nora's products, then (again) leave a comment on Gourmet Mom's post, and don't forget to mention me!
The giveaway ends April 6th, so enter today!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Decaf, Sharing, and True Love

So I was given one of those giant Hershey's Kisses.

I was thinking about chopping it to make chocolate chunk cookies, but let's be honest...it wasn't going to happen. Therefore, like all giant Hershey's Kisses, it sat on the kitchen counter.

Until I was on the phone while my husband was fixing some after-dinner decaffeinated coffee. For some reason, he doesn't really grasp the concept of sipping decaf by itself. No, he seems to need something—anything—sweet to accompany his decaf. (This does not seem to affect him when he drinks the regular stuff.) Anyway, I noticed he was replacing the foil wrap around my chocolate. MY CHOCOLATE! I wasn't eating it, and I really had no plans for it, but it was mine, nonetheless! The other shoe had yet to drop, though. After I got off the phone, I summoned up my snarkiest tone and said, "Of course, you can have some of my chocolate. You know I don't mind sharing with you, sweetie."

He breezily replied, "You didn't even notice that I had eaten some last night!" The other shoe. This was not his first pilfering of the chocolate. He then realized the great peril in which he found himself, and the apologies began. I actually didn't mind, especially since he shared. He didn't just share the chocolate, though. He shared that classic combination of chocolate...and peanut butter! (Crunchy peanut butter, even. My favorite.)

He loves me.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Family That Bakes Together...

We recently visited with some of my family to celebrate the birthday of my beautiful niece, newly in double digits. Her mom made one of the BEST birthday cakes I've ever tasted! She told my budding foodie of a niece to pick out a recipe for any cake out of her cookbook collection, and she definitely picked a winner for her mom to prepare!

The cake was yummy—a lemon-flavored cake mix that she doctored. The REAL star was the filling she put between the layers. It was very tangy and lemony, thanks to the very generous amount of lemon zest it contained. The frosting was a nice light sweetened whipped cream frosting, and she topped it with...you guessed it, more lemon zest! It was as pretty to look at as it was tasty.

It reminded me of another homemade birthday cake. Years ago, when I was even younger than my niece is now, I received a much-anticipated present. My very own Easy-Bake oven! My grandmother (Mom's mom) visited, and she made up recipes for cake and frosting mixes. She also pulled out the food coloring and various extracts and taught me how to use them (just a tiny bit at a time). We made a three-layer birthday cake, each layer a different color and flavor; the frosting on each layer was also a different color and flavor. I had a little tiered cake stand that I used, instead of making a layer cake. I really thought I was little miss super gourmet!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cream Cheese and Broccoli Chicken

First of all, you'll notice that I am not posting any pictures of this recipe. You see, the broccoli was not so much bright green florets as muddy green mush. It all started with late night internet surfing for too many recipes, followed by grocery shopping after late-afternoon dental work...

I'm getting ahead of myself.

Okay, I admit that I spend FAR TOO MUCH TIME looking at food websites like Tastespotting and various food blogs. And yes, there are a GAZILLION food blogs. It all starts innocently enough, when you find out a friend has a food-themed blog and you browse through their posts. Of course, I'm one of those thorough types—I have to methodically check out new stores, aisle by aisle, shelf by shelf. My husband is normally the meticulous one, but even he doesn't understand this. So how does this affect how I look at blogs? I devour them. I read the profiles, I look at their archives, and I look at the blogs that they link to. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So, I stumbled across A Year of Crockpotting's Cream Cheese Chicken post and Southern Plate's Chicken Divan post during a weekend bleary-eyed late-night blog-visiting spree. I wanted to find a new recipe—something creamy and comforting that I could cook in the crockpot, something to use the boneless skinless chicken breasts I found on sale. I bought several pounds of chicken, and I wanted to fix something other than the usual suspects. Anyway, after stumbling out of the dentist's chair the next day, my husband and I went to the grocery store. As I walked the aisles, my mouth was so numb I couldn't keep from biting my cheeks and tongue; however, I had just enough feeling returning that I could TELL I was biting them. My jaw muscles were throbbing, I was tired from the aforementioned late nights, and the list only existed in my head (mistake!). The recipes above swirled together in my memory, so I grabbed a mixture of ingredients from them, as well as a few other items to round out the week's menu.

When I got home and pulled out the crockpot recipe, I quickly realized my mistake. It did not call for broccoli, but I did want to include it since I already had it. It also did not call for the ranch salad dressing mix that I mistakenly thought I had in my pantry. It called for Italian salad dressing mix. What I actually had was a packet of onion soup mix. I added some Italian seasonings to try to bring it back toward the intended flavor, along with some lime juice just to brighten it up a little. I don't like mushrooms, especially the odd black cubes that lurk in cans of cream soup; instead, I used cream of chicken. Oh, and I didn't have any chicken stock left, so I had to reconstitute some bouillon. So what I made was kinda like the original recipe. Just completely different.

The flavor was really good, but the color and texture obviously suffered from the broccoli fiasco. Next time I make it, I will add it near the end. I'll definitely use homemade chicken stock. I may also try the Italian salad dressing mix, or the homemade version of the seasonings. Who knows, I might even make homemade cream of chicken soup! So here's the recipe as I made it. (To refer back to the crockpot recipe for the seasoning changes, click here.) I realized I wanted something crunchy on top, so I checked to see what I had in the pantry. I ended up topping the individual portions with a strange multicultural mix—a sprinkle each of French-fried onions, chow mein noodles, and sliced almonds.

Cream Cheese and Broccoli Chicken

1–2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 pkg onion soup mix
1/8 tsp parsley
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1–2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup hot chicken stock or reconstituted bouillon
app 2 Tbsp lime juice
app 8–10 oz frozen broccoli
8 oz neufchatel or cream cheese

  • Add chicken, soup, soup or dressing mix, seasonings, and garlic to crockpot. Pour hot stock over mixture.
  • Cook on low for 6 hours, or until chicken is cooked through and tender. Remove chicken and chop or shred.
  • Add lime juice, broccoli, and cream cheese. Stir to combine and replace lid.
  • Turn crockpot up to high for another 30 minutes, or until broccoli is tender and the cream cheese is melted.
  • Serve over rice or pasta (I used medium grain brown rice, and I also replaced 1/4 cup of the water with the sauce—before the cream cheese was added—to add a bit of flavor.)