The Process of Making a Recipe

People are constantly begging for my secret, Where on earth do you find these amazing recipes, Kat! Or, Gee, your cooking is the greatest, Mrs. Clark.
Honestly, no one says that, but in my head that is what it translates to when people compliment my cooking.

So here is that process I have to making a recipe. My methods are not unique, but do typically yield good results. It begins with me finding an ingredient, hearing people talk about or getting exposed to a food via media and it the gears start turning.

I have been thinking about pumpkin soup all summer because I have tons of cans of pumpkin in my cabinet and a co-worker mentioned that he really loves making pumpkin soup. Especially as the weather has gotten colder.

I started searching the Internetz for recipes that sounded good to me and almost immediately, had an unhappy realization. Almost all of the soup recipes I found had quite a bit of broth. Kit prefers a chunky soup, so I knew that a watery soups would mean I would have to eat the whole pot.

After pinning a few recipes I liked I started thinking and ultimately chose quinoa. It is filled with good proteins, has a good texture and soaks up liquids quite well. Quinoa and savory pumpkin sounds amazing to me. I also like the idea that I could adapt a recipe to having vegetable broth and make it for my veggie-saurus brother.

The trickiest thing about soups are that if you want a certain result of liquid you have to start with the right amount of liquid. Or suffer the cycle of doom where you keep adding things until it gives or you give….And end up with double the amount of soup you intended.

Under closer inspection of the recipes I found some similarities and pulled all the ingredients I knew we would love. I pulled ingredients from this Coconut Curry Pumpkin soup recipe I found on all recipes and a crock pot Chicken Quinoa-Pumpkin soup that I found on a personal blog.

That’s basically the process. The next step, of course, is making it on a night that I will not burst into tears if I have to order a pizza and dump it out. However, that isn’t so hard because I usually enjoy trying a new recipe.

crock-pot-chicken-quinoa-pumpkin-soup

Here is the Pumpkin Quinoa soup recipe that I came up with:
Warning: I have not tried this yet, but am looking forward to it mid-week. I will post an update to let you know what changes I made to the recipe below.

Ingredients
1 sweet onion, chopped2 TBSP garlic to taste (I never measure this)
2 TBSP olive oil (never measure)
1 tsp curry powder
salt and pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

2 cups chicken broth
1 can coconut milk (13.5 oz)
1 can pure pumpkin (15 oz)
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz)
1/3 cup uncooked quinoa

Toppings–Sour cream, or grated cheese (parm) and chopped fresh spinach.

Optional–potatoes, carrots, celery, cooked chicken.

Directions
Saute onions, garlic and spices in olive oil until translucent.
Add broth, coconut milk, pumpkin, diced tomatoes and quinoa. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat the low and cook until quinoa pops open and liquid is absorbed.

Because I haven’t used this recipe before I’m not sure if three or two cups of chicken broth is more appropriate. I think for most people that three cups would be fine, but knowing that we like thicker or stew-like soups we should probably go for less. I already have a feel too, that I will want more pumpkin.

I’m really debating if I want more stuff in my soup. I usually have carrots and celery on hand to fill out a soup, if necessary. Chicken would be good, but it shouldn’t be a main player in the soup. I feel like the chicken would try to steal the show, when really, it is more about the creamy pumpkin soup.

After actually trying the recipe, Kit and I will sit down with our bowls or plates and eat for about five minutes before we start the deconstruction. What spices did you use? Are the flavors mellowed together? If you could change one thing to make this better, what would you do? And so on. We don’t place blame on the cook if the food isn’t perfect, but rather, figure out if we should try it again, tweak it, or keep it exactly the same. I love, love, love this part of our relationship. Not only can we cook and hang out in the kitchen together, but we make a game out of the recipes. Perhaps, like a friendly panel of judges on Iron Chef.

What process do you use when you’re trying to find new recipes to add to your regulars?

Do you ever follow the recipe exactly as you found it?

Spiced Pear Bread {Recipe Revealed!!}

pearcakefullA humungous THANKS to Scottyboy & KatyGirl for asking Kaylee from Life Chasers to share her Nutmeg Spiced Pear Cake recipe. This blog was a couple of years old but it was exactly what I needed!!
Recently, I did some reorganization in my cabinets. I pulled all the oldest canned goods out to our wire shelving and put the newer items in the cabinets below. When I pulled out all the older cans I noticed I had six cans of sliced pears in juice. Uh, why? Why did I buy six cans? I like pears, but why do I have quite so many? I refuse to throw out good food and I knew I wanted to make them into a dessert, specifically a sweet bread for Kit and me.
After many, many Google, Pinterest and AllRecipes searches I stumbled on the above linked recipe and added my own tweaks. Below is my version of the recipe and I will make comments below the recipe why I chose to make those changes.
Spiced Pear Bread
Ingredients
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon  baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup pear juice reserved from drained cans
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cans (30 ounces) pear halves, reserve juice for  and mashed
1 cup chopped almonds
Directions
In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients.
In another bowl, whisk the sugar, oil, eggs, cider, and vanilla.
Add to the dry ingredients and stir well.
Stir in pears and pecans.
Pour into a greased and floured 10-in fluted bunt pan.
Bake at 350F for 65-70 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.
Cool before removing from pan to a wire rack.20131013_125742My changes from the original linked recipe:
  • Doubled the amount of nutmeg and cinnamon
  • Reduced the amount of salt
  • Used juice from canned pears instead of apple cider
  • Still had some juice wasted–perhaps make the sauce linked in the recipe with the pear juice
  • Increased amount of pears to 30 oz from 29 oz. Simply because I have 15 oz cans instead of the family size cans.
  • I topped my pear bread with nuts instead of mixing them in, but I like the idea of nuts throughout the bread
  • I got to use my new silicone bunt pan…so strange, but it worked!
  • I had a small bunt pan, so I actually made a bunt and a small loaf

This was an awesome recipe
and you can bet your bunts I will be making it again!

~Kat~

Luau Island Party

A couple of weeks back I went on a mini-vacation, just to get away from it all. I decided that I was going to the beach….In Illinois.
My SiL, Beth and brother planned an epic Luau party. Here are pictures, links, descriptions and recipes to what we did for our Par-tay.

Kat dance pose

Essential Party Supplies

  • Accessories
  • Food
  • Music

Accessories

Believe it or not, it is very difficult to find Luau related party garb in September. However, true party planners never come up empty. After visiting several stores we got serious and ended up at a party supplies store. We hunted all over before finally getting desperate and asking gentleman sporting an officials vest—He was labeled as a Halloween Expert.

He also turned out to be a store expert and pointed us directly to the quarter aisle of luau supplies. We didn’t need much. We left the store with three sparkly leis in our favorite colors. We also grabbed a pack of shiny umbrellas to embellish our drinks. I brought some large colorful smoothie straws from home. They were purchased at salvage for $1.25.

Some things we didn’t find in the store is pictured above. Because money can’t buy a Hawaiian style skirt such as this! If you’re looking at cost or supplies needed: Staples and stapler, grocery sacks, and a binder clip for quick clasp of skirt. We’ll get to how you make it later.

Essentially, we purchased all of our accessories for under $10.

Food

island drink blenderI would call the drinks daiquiris, but truly, they were so much more than that. We added: very ripe bananas, frozen strawberries, mango, fresh pineapple, and tropical punch flavored white rum. Blend well and serve immediately with awesome umbrellas.island drinks

asparagus       Asparagus. Yes, I did just have this in my fridge and it needed to be cooked up. I love asparagus. If you cook it, I will eat it. This were laid out on a cookie sheet with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roasted in the oven until delightfully crispy.

waikiki chicken prebake

The very best and the highlight of supper was our Waikiki Beach Chicken and Tom’s Waikiki Beach Tofu (he’s vegetarian). Want to know the original recipe that Beth based the above on? Here is the original Waikiki Beach Chicken recipe.
We loved it! Here are some of our recommendations: We backed off the sugar in the sauce to 3/4 cup instead of a whole cup. You could back down to a half cup. We liked ours on the salty side, no worries, a dash of soy sauce and overnight the flavors mellowed so it was even better! We used boneless skinless chicken waikiki beach chicken platebreasts and it did seem to take forever in the oven—This could have been because we were starving and are like small children waiting for Santa.

I don’t have much advice about the tofu version. Tom said it was delish though. If you have questions, please hit me up and I will consult the veggie-guru that is my brother.

Music

Why is music so important? Don’t ask such stupid questions. This will set the mood and help aid in the silliness that is a faux-Hawaiian. The more important question might be, Kat, what did you listen to? That is something I will answer. We used Spotify to keep our music rolling throughout the evening. No, they aren’t paying me money to use their name and yes, I wish someone was paying me for this drivel.

lilo and stitch ST spotify blogThe obvious first choice here, the soundtrack from Lilo & Stitch the Disney flick. Now, I don’t care if you like the movie or not. The music is sweet.
Beth and I wanted to get in the mood before the party got started. Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride and a little Elvis. How can you go wrong?

luau mix spotify pic for blogTom was smartsies. He found this premade Hit Nation playlist on Spotify and it had nice nice tunes on it. Both playlists are, as you may have noticed, finite. We needed more music so we added some tracks from these selected artists: Beach Boys, I accidentally added and discovered Spike Jones and His City Slickers, and more songs from that dude that sings Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole, I didn’t know either).
I am pretty sure I have discovered that next silly artist that my brother will get into. Spike Jones and His City Slickers have lots of weird and funny songs. Go ahead and listen to Water Lou (drip, drip, drip). I am sure that it is on….ah, there you are.

Tom also added some more awesome ambiance to our party by muting and playing this youtube video that shows 43 minutes of Hawaii landscapes and such. It was beautiful. If you need something to play in the background of your life, I highly suggest this.

Let me know, via comments, if you are interested in a step by step instructional blog on how to make a Hawaiian style “grass” skirt. Just to recap, we used grocery sacks (Kroger has brown!) that were fanned out or staggered then stapled together. If you are making one for a child or small adult you may want to add a second layer around to add more fluff. Cut slits almost to the stapled area (leave about two inches). Use a binder clip to pin it around the waist quickly. Do not try to go to the bathroom in these guys—you will want the quick removal aspect. T making skirt

Tom is cutting the slits in his grass skirt.

Beth dance pose

 

K&T drinks poseK&B drinks pose

Now, go and enjoy your own luau party!!    We did some hula dancing tutorials on youtube, but ultimately were too full and just laid around the rest of the night. It was great fun!!

Pear Pie–Needs Some Adjustments

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Can you see the hidden shapes on top of the crust? I attempted to cut the vent holes with the same shape, but they stretched and lost their awesome.

I used the fantastic apple pie recipe I found online and it is almost perfect. But instead of apples I used pears from our farm. I forgot that I decreased the temperature of the oven the first time I used this recipe. So…my crust was well done and my fruit was still a little hard.

We’ll see what my coworkers think.of it today. I’m nervous and not entirely thrilled that I made such a silly irrevocable mistake.
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Update
My coworkers made it disappear easily during my eight hour work shift. Everyone agreed the crust and flavor was great.

They made some legit recommendations about a future fix. First, being if I have particularly hard fruits, I could cook them down in a sauce pan with the sugar to help soften them up.
Second, they also agreed that 375°F was high for pie and I should lower the temp.
I also hope to cut up my pear chunks into more even sizes. I think the larger pieces were the undercooked ones.

Kat’s Kentucky Paella {Recipe Revealed!!}

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Edit: Recipe loosley inspired by this one.
Paella=pah-EH-yah.
The double L is pronounced like the Y in ‘yet’.
Paella is a Spanish dish with the main players being rice, saffron and different types of meats. Typically a mix of seafoods, chorizo, or chicken.
To me, it is a Spanish version of jambalaya. Don’t tell either ethnic group I said that, it was not meant to be a slight on anyone’s cooking.

I wanted to make something special for our 2nd wedding anniversary. For my version of paella, I cut some corners that helped me save time in cooking, but definitely did not show in the final product.

I used pre-spiced box rice mixes rather than plain white rice. And I used paprika in place of saffron. Initially, I wanted get fancy and use real saffron, but there were no grocery store options under $18. Maybe next time, Mom mentioned she had some saffron in the back of her spice cabinet somewhere.

Kat’s Kentucky Paella

• Two 12 oz. boxes of jambalaya rice mix (Tony’s or Zatatan’s)
• Water and oil/butter as called for on box

• 2 large chicken breasts
• 8 oz Smoked sausage, kielbasa or chorizo. (I used half a link of smoked sausage)
• Salt, paprika, and poultry seasoning to taste

•Olive oil for pan
• 1 Sweet onion, chopped
• 4 large garlic cloves, minced
• Paprika, salt and pepper to taste
• One 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

• 12 oz fully cooked/cleaned small salad shrimp
• Olive oil
• Paprika
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Step One
-Follow directions on jambalaya rice boxes.
-At the end of the cook time, do not worry about complete tenderness or all water being cooked away.
-Allow rice to rest.

Step Two
-Sprinkle chicken breasts with poultry seasoning, salt and paprika.
-Grill chicken and smoked sausage. Note: You could also bake or pan fry these meats, whatever you prefer. Basically, get it cooked up!
-Once fully cooked, chop up meat into preferred (bite sized) pieces and mix into cooked rice pot.

Step Three
-Toss spices, minced garlic and chopped onions into a large wok or skillet with olive oil and cook until transluscent.
-Add undrained can of diced tomatoes and cook for about five minutes.
-Dump skillet contents into pot with cooked rice and combine well.

Step Four
-Dump shrimp into skillet.
-Cook for about five minutes.
-Mix shrimp into rice pot reserving 1/3 or 1/4 of the shrimp for a topping.

Step Five
-Dump rice, veggies and meat into casserole dish.
-Top with reserved shrimp
-Cover and bake at 400°F for 30 minutes.

Happy Cooking!
~Kat
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