Saturday, November 10, 2012

Broccoli Cheddar Soup in a Bread Bowl

In our present lack of Panera, I've been settling for Atlanta Bread Company. As a Georgia native, I want to have allegiances to ABC, but it just doesn't stack up to Panera, particularly in their lack of mac and cheese and the fact that they don't have broccoli cheddar soup every day. I can't handle the anxiety and potential disappointment of going to a restaurant and not knowing if they're going to have what I want. But, if this is my biggest problem, I consider myself very lucky. I have been craving broccoli cheddar soup AND a bread bowl, and I have a long workout planned for tomorrow so I thought I'd give this a whirl. It also helped that I only had to buy one ingredient.

For the bread bowl:

2 1/2 cups warm water
2 tbsp yeast
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp salt
1/3 cup olive oil
6 cups flour

Mix the water, yeast, sugar, and vinegar and let it sit for about 5 minutes, or until it's bubbly. Add the salt and olive oil. Add one cup of flour at a time. I can usually mix 3 cups of flour with a fork before I have to start kneading it by hand. Knead the entire mixture for about 5 minutes, adding a little olive oil at a time if needed. Put the dough into a bowl, cover it with damp towel, and let it sit for half an hour. 

Divide the dough into six balls (more or less depending on how big you want your bread bowls) and put them on a greased baking sheet. Bake them at 375 for about 25 minutes. When they're done, cut a circle out of the top and scoop out it for the bowl. 

For the soup:

2 cups water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 bag 16-oz broccoli florets
2 cups mild cheddar cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups fat free half & half
3 tbsp cornstarch
salt to taste

Bring the water and bouillon cubes to a boil and stir to combine. Heat the broccoli and 3/4 cup of water in the microwave for 6 minutes. Turn the temperature to low heat. Add about 1/4 of the broccoli to the broth and mash it with a potato masher. Add the rest of the broccoli (with the water), the cheese, and the half & half. Stir until the cheese melts. I added the cornstarch to thicken it up a bit since the fat free half & half isn't as thick as regular. Mix in a bit of salt too and let it simmer on low heat for a few minutes.

Ladle it into that hunk of carbs and enjoy!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Crock Pot Chicken Parmesan

Luke is on duty tonight, so I wanted to surprise him with his favorite dinner. Delivering dinner to the Marine barracks felt very reminiscent of Bancroft Hall duty nights. That time really seems like it was so long ago even though it was less than 2 years ago.

I don't normally make this in the crock pot, but I thought I'd give it a try to see how it turned out. Unfortunately, it's one of those annoying recipes that cooks for either 6 hours on low (not a full workday...) or 3 hours on high. But it turned out great, so I think I will make it this way again.

2 cans stewed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
4 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup white wine or white cooking wine
1/2 large zucchini, diced
1 lb fresh mushrooms, diced

2 lbs chicken breast
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 egg, beaten
t tbsp olive oil
sliced mozzarella cheese

Also some spaghetti

For the sauce, blend all ingredients except for the zucchini and mushrooms. I used a blender because I didn't bring my food processor for hotel living life, and it worked fine, but a food processor would probably be better. Stir in the zucchini and mushrooms and set aside.

Coat the bottom of the crock pot with olive oil. In one shallow dish, beat the egg. In another shallow dish, combine the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Coat the chicken in egg first, and then coat it in the bread crumbs. Put the chicken in the crock pot. Top the chicken with sliced mozzarella. Pour the sauce over the chicken and cook it on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours. Serve it on top of spaghetti.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hello, Fiber! Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I spent Sunday-Friday of last week in Lynchburg, Virginia for a week-long "intensive" class, and it definitely lived up to the name. I spent about 14 hours per day either in class or doing work for the class, so needless to say, I am exhausted. I also got a great reminder of how amazing Fall is on the east coast. I got to see some beautiful mountains with awesome colors and so much foliage! I have almost forgotten about foliage here in Fort Sill where trees are sparse, and it's so windy and dry that even if the trees had dead leaves, they would have blown away long ago. I am a true lover of all Fall things, and pumpkin tops the list for sure. When we were living in Quantico, I made about 6 batches of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, so I figured the only way to make these better would be to add pumpkin. Also, I am an old lady who loves meeting my daily fiber intake, and the pumpkin and oatmeal in these definitely contribute to that goal : )

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cup (yikes, I know) butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp vanilla
1 cup pureed pumpkin
2 cups oats
1 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, and brown sugar. Add vanilla and egg to wet ingredients. Whisk pumpkin into wet ingredients. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly. Add the oats 1/2 cup at a time. Lastly, mix in the chocolate chips. Bake these at 350 for 14-15 minutes.

I made one large pan (about 15 cookies) and had enough dough left over to probably make about 30 more cookies. I should also mention this tastes great as cookie dough...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Pumpkin Monkey Bread

For a couple of weeks, I have been really jealous of my friends who were posting on Facebook and tweeting about wearing boots and scarves and sipping pumpkin spice lattes because Fall continued to escape us here in Fort Sill. Last week, the temperatures were still in the 80s. That is not Fall. Then suddenly, it was 50 degrees for no explainable reason, and though I know it's going to be back in the 80s next week, I am embracing these 5 days of 40-50 degree weather and diving in head first to a new pumpkin recipe.

I made this pumpkin monkey bread for Sunday school this week. It's amazing how some lessons and sermons seem like they're so specifically meant for me. We've been in 1 Peter for a few weeks now, and today were talking about how husbands and wives should relate to one another. If I'm being completely honest, Fort Sill has not been great for me. We are fine, but I've just really felt like I was in a funk since we got here. I am frustrated with the licensing process (5-6 weeks for application review?? try 9 weeks and still going...) and feeling like I'm just not contributing a lot. This week at Sunday school, I was really struck with some ways I could be focusing my attention rather than desperately trying to get where I think I should be in my career. We talked about the ways that husbands and wives can pray for each other in order to encourage growth, and I'll definitely be spending some extra time in prayer to do this.

So this is what I made. It was pretty time consuming. I made it last night because I didn't want to get up at 5 am to make this before heading to church.

For the dough:
3 1/4 cup flour, plus some extra for kneading
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup warm milk
1/4 cup warm water
1 can pumpkin
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

For the coating:
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 tsp cinnamon
3/4 stick butter, melted

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and sugar. In a medium bowl, whisk the melted butter, milk, water, pumpkin, and yeast. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the pumpkin mixture into it, combining it with a wooden spoon.

After it's well combined, knead it on a floured surface for about 8 minutes. Spray a clean bowl with non-stick spray, put the dough in, and cover it to rise for an hour.

After the dough has risen for an hour, tear it into bite-size pieces. Melt the butter for the coating in a small bowl, and in another small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. When I tore the dough into pieces, it was still really sticky, so floured hands are helpful. Roll the dough in the butter and then roll it in the cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Place it in a baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Typically, I'd make this in a bundt pan, but since I didn't bring one of those to Oklahoma, I made it in a cake pan. Tastes the same.  I had some extra cinnamon/sugar, so I sprinkled it on top. You can never  have too much cinnamon and sugar. After all the pieces have been coated and placed in the pan, cover it and let it rise for another hour. About 30 minutes into this hour, turn the oven on to 350 degrees, and let the pan sit on top of the oven to finish rising another half hour. This will help with the tenderness of the dough.

After it has risen for an hour, bake it at 350 for about 30 minutes. Let it sit for about 30 minutes before turning it onto a serving dish. So delicious!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Luke's Birthday Cake Meltdown

Today is my wonderful husband's 24th birthday! I wanted to make him some special birthday treats, but our lack of kitchen supplies left me grasping for straws. I knew I couldn't beat the chocolate chip peanut  butter pancakes and chocolate chip peanut butter cookie cake from last year, but I thought I had a great idea to make him an ice cream cake, being as it is still in the 80s here at Fort Sill. I've made this a few times before with no problems, but I should have realized I made it before in normal kitchens with functioning appliances, i.e. freezers that actually freeze. So I made the delicious fudgy filling and got the ice cream sandwiches out only to find that despite being in our freezer for over 24 hours, they were melted. Not completely liquid melted, but way too soft to spread or stack or anything that was necessary. I had a little meltdown that ending in shouts about me hating living in a hotel and hating Fort Sill. Not my proudest moment. Even on his birthday, my husband loved me so well by salvaging the ice cream sandwiches and taping our freezer shut so they could be fit for use later today. Such a good man. So, I was finally able to make him a birthday cake, and it turned out as best as could be expected.

Here's the recipe, though I had to make a few changes due to hotel living circumstances.

1 cup hot fudge ice cream topping, warmed
1 cup sugar free cool whip
 1 package chocolate pudding
2 "rows" of Oreos, crushed (about 1 cup crushed)
12 ice cream sandwiches (we only had 8)
2 cups sugar free cool whip

In a bowl, combine hot fudge, 1 cup cool whip, and pudding. Whisk it until all of the pudding is incorporated. Add the crushed Oreos. Depending on the thickness of the hot fudge topping, you might need to add a little milk to make it easier to spread.

this stuff is great to eat straight from the bowl too...

On aluminum foil, place 6 ice cream sandwiches side by side. Top with fudge mixture. Place 6 more ice cream sandwiches on top, and cover this with fudge too.

Spread 2 cups cool whip over the whole thing.

Loosely fold foil around the cake so that it's not touching the cake. Put it in the freezer for about 4 hours. You'll need a heavy knife to cut it after it freezers thoroughly.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Garlic Bread Meatballs

We had a potluck with our Sunday school class tonight. It was great to get to know some of the people in our class better. All of them have a lot more military life experience, so it was good to hear about that too. Of the 5 couples represented, 2 of the men were deployed, so that was also eye-opening. I know deployment is coming, but for some reason, that made it more real. It was also a great reminder to take advantage of this time we have and enjoy each other.

I took some crock pot tortellini and wanted to try out an easy appetizer recipe I saw in a magazine a while ago. I couldn't remember it exactly, but it turned out great, it was super easy, and it was a big hit. It was also safe for a potluck since it was really simple.

2 cans of Pillsbury reduced fat flaky layers biscuits
30-40 frozen, fully cooked meatballs, thawed (or you could be amazing and make them yourself)
Italian seasoning
Garlic powder
Parmesan cheese
Mozzarella cheese

Pull apart the biscuits along the layers into halves or thirds. Some of the biscuits were too hard to pull into thirds, so halves worked fine. Sprinkle a little mozzarella on the biscuit and then wrap a meatball in the biscuit. Place it seam down into a baking dish. Sprinkle all of the balls with the amount of garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and parmesan that you want. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. Take them out and sprinkle a little more shredded mozzarella on top and put them back in the oven for a minute or so.

the flaky layers

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Crock Pot Tortellini

Over the 96 this past weekend, Luke and I went to Frisco, TX to see a Rough Riders game. This was absolutely the nicest AA stadium I have ever seen. It looked like a horse track reproduced with a MLB stadium. We spent the next day exploring Dallas and saw the grassy knoll. Mostly it was miserably hot, but we had a good time anyway. On the drive home, I was certain I had picked up some illness and immediately assumed it was West Nile Virus considering Dallas is the breeding ground. Turns out I got a nasty spider bite, and now I'm just praying I don't end up with a rotten hole in my arm. So, with being sick over the end of the weekend, a crock pot recipe was ideal. No work, forget about it, pass out on the couch to Dance Moms. This smelled really good cooking all day, too.

2 cans tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes with garlic, drained
1 can crushed tomatoes with juices
1/2 lb mushrooms, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 lb ground beef or Italian sausage, browned
16 oz tortellini
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Mix everything except for the tortellini and mozzarella in the crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours. Mix in tortellini and mozzarella and let it cook until the tortellini is tender - around 15 minutes. Yum, easy, literally no work, and this was so delicious. And if the 16 oz of tortellini wasn't a clue, it makes a ton. Leftovers are my dream come true while living in a hotel...

Easy Coffee Cake

One of the hardest parts of moving frequently is having to find a new church home. In Annapolis, we loved our time at Bay Area Community Church and met some really encouraging people. After trying a few on for size in Stafford, we found a great home in Mount Ararat Baptist. It's always intimidating for me to "church shop" because I feel bad if we don't like one, but I also don't want to settle somewhere that isn't going to encourage us spiritually. When we got to Oklahoma, didn't have to shop around long before we found a church that felt like home. They even have Sunday School, which seems to be a lost art. The teacher is a West Point grad, so I anticipate some friendly hostility come December. This past Sunday was my day to bring a snack for Sunday school, so I made this really easy coffee cake. It was easy enough to make in the morning before we left, and we didn't get to bring much home, so I think it was hit.

For the cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
3/4 cup milk, or as needed
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the streusel:
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter

In a large bowl, mix 2 cup flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Crack the egg into a measuring cup and add milk until the mixture is 1 cup. Add the vanilla to the egg/milk. Pour it into the crumb mixture and stir it until is moistened. Spread this into a greased brownie or 8x8 pan (the 9x13 is too big - I tried. more dishes, dang it!). The batter is thick and sticky, so I'll spray my spatula next time I make this.

In a smaller bowl, mix the dry ingredients for the streusel. Cut in the butter until you have coarse crumbs again. Sprinkle this on top of the cake, and bake it for 25 minutes at 350.

I forgot to take pictures of this one, so I only have the last remaining piece that we brought home.  It disappeared within 5 minutes of being home.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Parmesan Crusted Chicken Fingers

During TBS, Luke's schedule was not quite conducive to normal marriage. He had late nights and early mornings, getting home around 9 pm and leaving around 4 am sometimes. I did not envy his schedule, especially during FEXes when he was sleeping in the woods and not bathing for a week at a time. I do love my husband very much for showering before he came home from the FEXes. To help the FEXes pass, we often got together at different wives' houses each night and the creative wives (not me) had themes. One of the best and strangest was the bacon and parmesan party (shout out to Andrea!). Everyone brought dishes that contained either bacon, parmesan, or both. One of the strangest yet most delicious things was the bacon chocolate chip cookies. Don't knock it til you try it. For this particular party, I made these parmesan crusted chicken fingers. Being as my tastebuds have not matured since childhood, chicken fingers are still my second favorite food of all time, second only to mac and cheese. I thought these were a step in the right direction for maturing my taste by disguising chicken fingers with the words "parmesan crusted." Dipped in some marinara, they were really delicious! There were no leftovers for Luke when he got back from the field, so I am going to make these for dinner tomorrow.

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 lb chicken tenders
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup marinara, heated

Preheat the oven to 450. Spray cooking spray on your baking sheet to prep. Put the flour in a shallow dish, and lightly beat the eggs in another shallow dish. In a third and final shallow dish, mix the Parmesan and breadcrumbs. In a bowl, toss the chicken tenders with the Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and salt. Coat each tender in flour, shaking off the excess, and then dip it in the eggs, again shaking off the excess. Roll the tender in the breadcrumbs and then place it on the baking sheet. When done with all the tenders, spray the tops of the chicken with cooking spray as well. Bake the tenders for 10 minutes, and then turn them over to cook 10 more minutes. Serve them with marinara, and maybe some bacon chocolate chip cookies? 

One Month at Fort Sill

Today marks one month of living at Fort Sill, so I thought it'd be a good time to reflect on some general impressions. My overall impression is that I am thankful that these are TEMINS orders and we have another duty station within sight. Downsides of living in a hotel: mini fridge, and I miss my kitchen. Some perks of living in a hotel: free breakfast every day and free dinner on Wednesday, and someone else makes the bed and vacuums! One quarter of this is our home for the duration of artillery school (4 months and 3 days left!).

I think the sky in Oklahoma looks extra blue.
Fort Sill is in a pretty remote location, 45 miles from Wichita Falls and about an hour and half from Oklahoma City. Lawton attractions include some national parks, casinos, and Walmart (that's right, no Target). We haven't made it to the national parks/wildlife reserve yet, mainly because up until this week, it has been 105-115 degrees every day. Hopefully we'll make it out there soon since it's starting to cool off!

So, here's what we have done. Literally everyone we know who has been to Fort Sill for any amount of time told us we had to go to Meers. It's a restaurant in the middle of nowhere (a pretty nowhere) that's been around since 1901. The area used to be mining country, and the restaurant has been named "best burger in Oklahoma." They raise their own cattle, and the beef is really lean. It was definitely a great  burger, and it's so big that they cut it into quarters for you. Luke had a giant bowl of cobbler, and he said it was really good too.

This is some of the scenery on the way to Meers (with no filter!). It was a pretty drive.
Before Luke started artillery school and we had weekdays off, we went to the Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area, which is on post but about 12 miles from where we live. This place is slightly (extremely) larger than Quantico. At LETRA, they have boat rentals, a water park, cabins for rent, camping areas, etc. We rented a canoe and spent the afternoon on the lake, and I even helped row for about 70% of the time. It was a really relaxing afternoon!

About a week after arty school started, we went to a Welcome to Fort Sill reception. At said reception, we had about $3 worth of meatballs, cheese, and pineapple and then learned the following day that we had to pay $30 for this lavish spread of appetizers. This military tradition will never cease to annoy me. Despite this, the reception was a great excuse to buy a new dress because I conveniently forgot to pack one, and all of my formal dresses are sitting in storage in Hawaii. I am so jealous of them!! 

Before we got here, we heard that Brad Paisley would be doing a free concert on post, so we had something to look forward to! The concert was last night, so I consider it a great close to our first month at Fort Sill. He opened with Camouflage, which was obviously perfect for a concert on an Army post. Despite sitting on the ground waiting for the concert to start for 3.5 hours, it was a lot of fun, and he put on a really good show! 

And here are some other random pictures I've taken since we've been here of nothing in particular. 

Powers Hall! Again, super blue sky

After a storm

Overall, Fort Sill is not great. Lawton is pretty boring, and I could understand alcoholism in this area. However, it's not all bad. There are some great gyms on post, the library is providing me with literary entertainment, and living on post close to everything is nice. We've really loved going to rodeos, and there's a frozen yogurt place here. Most importantly, my husband is home for dinner almost every night, so I am happy. We're going to keep looking for fun things to do here, even if it means playing Settlers of Catan in our hotel apartment.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Crock Pot Chicken and Biscuits

This is a little bit more healthy take on my Cheesecake Factory favorite. Luke must not have been too disappointed with the lack of fat in this recipe because he gave me the go-ahead to make it again. I am a big fan of all crock pot recipes right now because our hotel kitchen does not really have the space to support using several pots/pans/skillets, etc.

8 small red potatoes, diced
1 bag baby carrots (or 4 large chopped carrots)
3 celery stalks, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp sage
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp quick cooking tapioca
1 lb chicken breasts, cut into thick strips
1 cup chicken broth
1 bag frozen peas, prepared according to package.
2 oz Neufchatel cream cheese, cut into small pieces
1 can reduced fat biscuits (or made from Bisquick, or frozen - whatever you prefer)
gravy, optional

Combine the potatoes, carrots, celery, mushrooms, thyme, sage, salt, pepper, and tapioca in the crock pot. Lay chicken breasts/strips on top, and cover it to cook on low for 7 hours or high for 3.5 hours. After the 7 or 3.5 hours, remove chicken from the crock pot and shred it or cut it into smaller pieced. Put the chicken back in, and mix in the peas and cream cheese, stirring to mix all the contents. Recover and let it cook on low for 10-30 more minutes while the biscuits cook. Serve the chicken and veggies over biscuits, and top it with gravy if you want. I liked it just fine without the gravy, though.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Top 10 Reasons I Love the Rodeo

Since moving to Lawton, OK, we have been on the lookout for fun things to do. With tons of toll booths (that only take cash or exact change... really??) between us and all the big cities, we've tried to find things to do more locally, which has proved to be a challenge. After almost a month, our findings include movies on post ($3.50!!) and rodeos. My mom told me that several people she told about my visits to local rodeos were quite shocked that I would go to such a place, but the trust is that I am in fact capable of trading in my heels for cowboy boots from time to time. In the spirit of trying to love the place we've been planted, I have compiled a list of the reasons, in no particular order, why I truly love going to the rodeo, aside from the obvious tight jeans and boots.

  1. Teased hair is in style. All of my college friends know this is a big plus for me. 
  2. The announcer prays for the safety of the troops and for world peace before the events begin. This is a big plus in my book.
  3. The bigger the rhinestone cross on your boots/jeans/belt, the better. 
  4. Families go to the rodeo together, and I'm all about family-togetherness.
  5. There are many food-on-sticks options: BBQ chicken, fried chicken, and yes, even chocolate covered cheesecake.
  6. There is constant mention of Jesus, and we didn't even have to wait for Sunday!
  7. Beer is $2. No explanation needed.
  8. People actually sing the national anthem! Children even stand silently! Kudos to all these parents for their childrearing tactics. 
  9. There is politically incorrect humor, and people don't offended even if they don't agree with it. What a concept! 
  10. Finally, you can view and appreciate the artistic and individualistic creativity of many people in the form of tramp stamps. 
We have thoroughly enjoyed the 2 rodeos we have been to so far, and I'm sure we'll go to more. Now that we have new boots, we're good to go. And here is a photo montage of the events of last night's rodeo.

Panera Mac & Cheese

I've seen several "Panera mac & cheese copycat" recipes and being as I love Panera m&c, I was intrigued. But a .003 second Google search showed me that, lo and behold, Panera actually put the recipe for the mac and cheese on their website! No copycat recipe needed! Here's the link to their post:

I tried this last night, and it was great! It was evident to me, however, that while the recipe offers a choice between using 2% reduced fat milk or cream, Panera actually uses cream in their recipe. Mine was good, but it was not as creamy and delicious as Panera's. Also, I could just never bring myself to mix 2 1/2 cups of cream with cheese. I guess I'll save that waistline sin for times when I actually drive 90 miles to Oklahoma City and go to Panera. We had it with some leftover pulled pork, BBQ chicken, and sausage, and some roasted okra.

The strange lighting in our kitchen make it look more yellow than it actually was.