Sunday, July 8, 2012

If you're reading this...

I just wanted to let the world of cyberspace know that I'm working on adding to my blog (for real) finally. I have been busy with school, but have a break right now until the end of the month, then I'm hoping I can be in the habit of posting and continue to do so while student teaching. I love to share what I do, and hope I can get a mini-following! That'd be awesome.

Cream of Chicken Soup SUBSTITUTE

In case you didn't know, canned cream of whatever soup is full of nasty things. Yes, that is me being judgmental. Also, in case you didn't know, SO MANY recipes call for this soup! Many of the meals I ate growing up involved such an ingredient (my parents are from Minnesota) and I have an affinity for such creamy meals. I'll post about some of the creamy meals later, but for now I want you to have the recipe for the substitute I use now instead of buying canned! Here are some of the reasons I make my own:
  • I know exactly what is going into the mix.
  • The mix is fat-free! AND gluten free if you make sure your bouillon is GF (which doesn't matter for me, but does for some of my friends)
  • I recycle, and have you ever tried rinsing a can of cream of whatever soup? Gross.
  • Cans are expensive. And heavy. And take up room. This mix fits in a container that I can reuse and takes up considerably less room.
I adapted this recipe from One Orange Giraffe, after finding the link on Pinterest. I use my adaptation of the recipe a lot! I only make cream of chicken because it's what I use the most. If I wanted I could add celery or mushrooms or whatever once it's cooking. This is very versatile.


1 c non-fat dried milk
3/4 c cornstarch
1/4 c bouillon (if you have cubes you have to smash them up...I have powdered Knorr bouillon)
4 T freeze dried minced onions (those are the dried minced onions that you find in the spice aisle)
2 t Italian seasoning
1 t pepper
For the equivalent of one can of condensed cream soup, mix 1/3 cup dry mix with 1 1/4 cup water. Cook until thick then add to whatever recipe you're making.

As you see, I make a container that is more than one recipe worth. The container I use holds about 3x the recipe, but I usually double it so I have room to shake it up. Also, you can see that I wrote the recipe and the ratio for cooking it on the sides of the container! I keep this in the cupboard.

Pizza, Pizza, Pizza

Friday is pizza night in our house. I'm kind of picky about my pizza, and haven't been satisfied with the pizza options near our house, PLUS I cannot justify spending the amount of money charged for crappy pizza when I can make DELICIOUS pizza myself.

Since I make our own pizza, we have different toppings all the time, depending on what we feel like. Sometimes we have buffalo chicken (using ranch as the sauce) or regular pepperoni/cheese for the kids. Sometimes we make pesto chicken pizzas. Once I made bulgogi pizza with leftover Korean! The possibilities are seriously endless and I'm not bragging when I say I've never made a bad pizza. Imagination and experimentation are perfect for this family-pleasing meal! I adapted my pizza dough recipe from Annie's Eats, a really great blog.

It's really important when you're making your own pizza that you have a pizza stone, parchment paper, and cornmeal, in my opinion. The parchment paper makes transferring the pizza much easier and helps with clean up. A pizza peel is a good investment as well if you plan on making pizza a lot, like we do! A pizza peel is that wooden paddle-looking tool that helps you get the pizza in and out of the oven.

Lastly, sometimes I add things to my dough like Italian seasoning or garlic powder. It's not necessary and I don't do it all the time, but it tastes good, and makes for really good cheesy breadsticks!

Basic Pizza Dough
Yield: enough dough for 2 medium pizzas or 4 calzones

½ cup warm water
2¼ tsp. instant yeast
4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting (lately I've switched to whole wheat flour)
1½ tsp. sea salt
1¼ cup water, at room temperature
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup.  Sprinkle the yeast over the top and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour and salt, mixing briefly to blend.

If the yeast has bloomed in the warm water (the mixture will be cloudy and smell like beer or bread, and not have individual grains of yeast visible anymore) measure the room temperature water into the measuring cup with the yeast-water mixture.  With the mixer on low speed, pour in the yeast-water mixture and the olive oil (I use two hands: olive oil in one, yeast-water in the other).  Mix until a cohesive dough is formed (only about 30 seconds or so).

Switch to the dough hook.  Knead on low speed until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a large, oiled bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let rise until doubled in size, 1½-2 hours.

Preheat the oven and pizza stone to 500˚ F for at least 30 minutes!! I start the oven about 10 minutes before I plan on punching down the dough for the next step.

Press down the dough to deflate it.  Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface.  Divide the dough into two equal pieces.  Form each piece of dough into a smooth, round ball. Cover with a damp cloth or damp paper towel.  Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no longer than 30 minutes.

To bake, transfer the dough to your shaping surface (large cutting board or pizza peel) covered in parchment paper and lightly sprinkled with cornmeal.  I shape my dough with lightly oiled hands.

Top as desired.  Bake until the crust is golden brown, and cheese is bubbling, 8-12 minutes.

Quinoa Jambalaya

This quinoa jambalaya was somewhat of a throw-together I made a couple of months ago (I'm REALLY behind, I know!!) but the boys LOVED it. It made so much we ate it as leftovers for a couple of days (this was back in the glorious days of being able to send my husband with leftovers because he was working in one spot) and I even froze an individual container as well. Using quinoa in place of rice makes it a protein-packed Cajun-ish pot of delicious. That's right.


2 c quinoa
4 c chicken broth (I use "Better Than Bouillon" or Knorrs if I don't have leftover homemade on hand)
1 t minced garlic (or more if you'd like)
1 1/2 t cumin


1 length of sausage, sliced (we had kielbasa on hand, but Andouille would be delicious too...or linguica)
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs or 2 breasts, chopped
1 sm/med onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
28ish oz canned diced tomatoes (a big can is 28 oz, two small equal 29 oz. Use what you have!)
2 T olive oil
2-3 t minced garlic
2 T Cajun spice
salt to taste if your Cajun isn't salty (mine is not salty--it's from my favorite website:

Now, you'll want to make the quinoa in a separate pot. Quinoa cooks similarly to rice, where you bring your liquid to a boil, add the quinoa, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook it for about 20 minutes. Then if you have liquid leftover you drain it out. This made enough quinoa that I actually kept a little aside for another meal, so I guess you could get away with making 1 1/2 c of quinoa if you didn't want leftovers, but now it's up to you to rearrange proportions.

While the quinoa is cooking, in a heavy-bottom pot or dutch oven on medium, heat oil, then add the onions, pepper, and celery. When they're turning translucent, add the garlic (if you add it early it cooks out a lot of the flavor...I read that somewhere so it must be true). Then add the chicken and saute until the chicken is cooked through (no pink!). Once the chicken is cooked, add the sausage and let that heat through...since it's precooked it doesn't take long. Then add your tomatoes and Cajun spice. At this point, your pot should look like the picture above, near the ingredients.

Let the meat/veggie mix simmer until your quinoa is done cooking. If your quinoa is already done, give your mix a few minutes anyway to blend the flavors some. Taste it! See if you need salt like I did.

When you're satisfied with your pot of sausage, chicken, and veggies, add in the quinoa and stir to combine. Now eat it! If you want to be fancy, you could put some fresh parsley on each serving. I'm not fancy, however. You may want to pepper it, or taste to see if you want hot sauce. We add hot sauce to almost's a wonder we can taste our food still!