Monday, July 29, 2013

Crockpot Taco Soup

Today I thought I'd make dinner easy on myself. So, naturally I pulled out my trust kitchen crockpot. It's still hot outside but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy a good bowl of soup. One of my favorites is Taco Soup, so when I found an easy recipe years ago for it in my "Fix-It and Forget-It" cookbook, I knew it was a must try. I did ad my own touches to it though, but as a base for a recipe to start with, it's wonderful!

Crockpot Taco Soup

1-lb ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
3 (14-oz) cans pinto beans (I use black beans as that is my favorite)
14-oz can tomatoes w/ chilies (I used my homemade mexican style version)
14-1/2 oz can petite diced tomatoes
15-oz can tomato paste
1 pkg dry ranch dressing mix
15-1/4 oz can whole kernel corn, drained
2 c water

Brown beef & onion in a medium size skillet. Cook until meat is no longer pink & onions are translucent. Drain grease. Combine meat & onion with remaining ingredients in a 4-6qt crockpot. Cover and cook on LOW for about 4 hours or until ingredients are heated through. Serve with tortilla chips if desired.

Click HERE for printable recipe


Saturday, July 27, 2013

It's just peachy!

The other day my Dad & I stopped by the farmers market bought a small bucket of fresh Georgia peaches. We were able to take a sample taste while there & boy howdy were they not only delicious, they were so juicy that it ran down your hand with each bite! Although I like a good peach cobbler, I thought I'd set aside a few to make a quick sweet bread for tonight's dessert.

Taking a basic quick bread recipe & adding a little tweeking, I came up with the following yummy recipe.

                                          Fresh Peach Bread with Vanilla Glaze
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 c. diced fresh peaches
1-3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter or margarine
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tblsp. milk

Preheat oven to 325*. Grease & flour 2 bread loaf pans (I prefer to use Bakers Secret spray.)

In a small bowl, sift together flour, soda, powder salt & cinnamon. Set aside.

In a larger bowl cream together sugar & butter.

Add in eggs & vanilla; mix well to incorporate.

Slowly add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to wet mixture. Mix to combine, then add remaining dry ingredients. Mix just until all dry ingredients are well moistened.

With a wooden spoon, stir in diced peaches just until evenly distributed.

Divide batter evenly between your prepared loaf pans. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Allow bread to cool in pans for about 10 minutes before turning out onto cooling rack.

Drizzle with vanilla glaze.

To make the glaze:

Combine powdered sugar, vanilla & milk in small bowl. Stir until well blended.

Yield: 2 loaves

Click HERE for printable recipe


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pepper Jack Chicken Bake

Back in May I was introduced to a new product to the Pace brand line of salsas and dips, Jalapeno & Pepper Jack dip. The product has a wonderfully creamy texture and is bursting with flavor. Although it boasts jalapeno in the title, I find that it is not a super hot/spicy dip, so those with spice sensitive palates should still be able to enjoy it. This is such a versatile product that I have now added to my 'must have' pantry staple list.

Here is a quick, easy recipe that helps showcase the dip. Using very few ingredients, this can go from oven to table in no time at all. 

Pepper Jack Chicken Bake 

1 cooked rotisserie chicken, diced
Enchilada sauce (your favorite store brand will be fine or make your own)
1 jar Pace brand Jalapeno & Pepper Jack sauce
1 large (family size) can black beans, rinsed & drained
Corn tortillas
Grated cheese
Preheat oven to 350* In the bottom of a casserole dish, spread a light layer of enchilada sauce to coat bottom of baking dish. Layer 3 corn tortillas and top with another light layer of enchilada sauce.
Add a layer of the diced chicken atop the tortillas. (Depending on how many layers you prefer, you will determine the amount of chicken used. I am doing 2 layers therefore used half of the meat at this point.)
Next, add in a layer of  half the drained & rinsed black beans.
Spoon a light layer, about 1/3 of the jalapeno & pepper jack dip. Spread evenly over chicken and beans.
Sprinkle with grated cheese & a little more enchilada sauce. Repeat layers one more time.
After the second layer has been completed, top with tortillas once again. Spread remaining jalapeno & pepper jack dip over tortillas.
Spread a light layer of enchilada sauce over the jalapeno & pepper jack layer.
Top with grated cheese. Bake uncovered for 20-30 minutes until completely heated throughout & cheese has melted.

Click HERE for printable recipe


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Homemade Vanilla Extract

When baking sweets one universal ingredient seems to be vanilla extract. It's ever so frustrating when you think you have all the ingredients a recipe calls for but in mid preparation, you realize you are either out or extremely low on your extract. Well, I decided I was going to start now to get prepared for my holiday baking. Yes, I realize Halloween, Thanksgiving and CHRISTmas are a ways off, but they will come sooner than we know it.
After a trip to the market to pick up a few goodies, I decided tonight was as good a night as any to start my Homemade Vanilla Extract concoction. It takes very few ingredients & almost no time at all...well, man power time that is. 

Here's what you'll need:
1 cup Vodka
2-3 Whole Vanilla Beans
Container with lid
Remove vanilla beans from their container and slightly slit each one open. You don't want the bean to loose it's valuable inner 'meat', you merely want to give the bean an opening for the vodka to seep into the pod and work it's magic. Place the beans into your container.
Next, you will want to pour your vodka into the jar making sure that your vanilla beans are fully submerged. You may need to bend the beans slightly to make sure they are completely covered with the vodka. 
Once the beans have been covered completely, close the lid to the jar or container and let sit for 6-8 weeks. Keep an eye on the beans to make sure they continually stay submerged. As long as the lid is in place you shouldn't loose any liquid. If not, you may need to replenish the vodka to keep the beans covered in the liquid.
Keep in mind that the longer you allow the vanilla beans to soak in the vodka the stronger the extract will be in flavor. Also, if you add in more beans the flavor will intensify as well. Your rule of thumb is 2-3 vanilla beans per 1 cup of vodka. 

Since I just started my extract tonight, I can not show you my finished product. However, I will post picture updates as time progresses so you can follow the progression of the extract.  

UPDATE 7-14-13 
**It's been less than 24 hours since starting my extract but already you can see a change in the color of the vodka. 
UPDATE 7-16-13
** 3 days later and you can really see the vodka changing color from the vanilla bean. 
UPDATE 7-23-13
**Look at the beautiful color it has now changed to. It still has a way to go before it's ready but it's certainly on it's way to extract gold.
Click HERE for printable recipe