Monday, July 27, 2009

Hot Weather Dinner Ideas

With all this hot weather we are having I thought I would give you all some ideas on what to serve for dinner when you just can't bring yourself to turn on that stove.

One of the things I tend to do is get a lot of use out of my counter top appliances that rarely see the light of day. We have a GT XPRESS 101 and when we first got it we used it all the time but now it just takes up space in the cupboard. So on really hot days like this week we pull it out, dust it off and away we go.

We also get out our George Foreman Grill. We use it to grill veggies and meats. We also use it to make panini sandwiches.

But my three mainstays are my crock pot, microwave, and my toaster oven. Without those three items in my kitchen I don't know what I would do!!

So with all that in mind here are some menu ideas and a few recipes to help you all through this hot spell. (Also using counter top appliance's saves money too. Did you know it only costs 3 cents an hour to use a crock pot!!)

Lets start with what I like to call "no heat and eat" meals

  • Salad Bar- Get all of your favorite salad items together and have a salad making party!!

  • Sandwich Bar- Similar concept to the Salad Bar, just switch up the bed of lettuce for bread.

  • Leftover night- Clean out you fridge onto your table and provide forks!! Great for game night.

Next I would like to share some things I like to do with my GT Express 101. Since it can cook on the top and bottom it really does cook things fast but the only problem I have with it is it can be a bit too hot so I tend to stay away from things that require a longer cooking time. But we really like to cook pita pizzas in there. You cut a pita in half, fill it with whatever you love on a pizza, stick it in the wells and let it cook for about 7 mins and serve with a salad. It's a hit every time.

Our George Foreman grill is really handy for heating up hot dogs, making grilled cheese sandwiches, cooking up hamburgers and even butterfly cut chicken. we never do full chicken breasts because the burn on the outside and are not cooked on the inside. A a rule we don't put things in there more then 1/2 inch thick to insure even cooking. I think it cooks a bit hot as well.

Now with the Crock pot, you can do just about anything. I have made everything from cakes to stews to casseroles. You can do side dishes or even desserts. On Sunday I made enchiladas in my crock pot. I just layered up the corn tortillas, meat ,cheese and sauce like I was making a lasagna and cooked it on high for 3 hours and it was perfect. You can make lasagna as well. just layer it up, make sure you use a tad bit more sauce the you normally would and cook it on high for 4 hours and you're golden.

On to the toaster oven. What is there to say about the toaster oven. We love it and use it almost every day. Just tonight for family night we made cookies even thought is was 90+ outside and did not heat up the house. We make french fries, cheese sticks, garlic bread, cookies, mini cakes, broiled meats, leftover pancakes and waffles, and heating up leftover pizza (this one is my favorite, I have never liked putting leftover pizza in the microwave and heating the whole oven for 1 slice of pizza is not a great idea), you name it. If you don't have one I would suggest going and getting one. Trust me they are worth it!

And last but not least the Microwave. I have done some pretty amazing things in my microwave. I guess it helps that I have really good microwave cookware given to me by my mom from Tupperware!! One kind is called a stack cooker.

I don't think Tupperware makes them anymore which is a shame because it is really cool. I have seen them on e-bay, and at thrift stores. I bought one for my sister at Value village for about 10 bucks. It originally was I think 60!

You can load up the different layers with different parts of dinner and cook them all at once. For example, our favorite dish is the stack cooker is meatloaf, potatoes and peach cobbler.

So 1st you take the largest cooker and layer sliced Yukon gold potatoes (DON'T use russet, they will not be done in time!!!) about 2 inches up, takes about 3 potatoes and mix up a packet of brown gravy mix and pour it on top (don't precook the gravy) then put on top the next size smaller cooker. Then on top of that put the strainer cooker (looks the same as all the others but had slots on the bottom. Take your favorite meatloaf recipe and shape it into a ring and put into the cooker. The cooker underneath catches all the grease from the meatloaf. So not only is it fast but really healthy. Next put on the smallest cooker add 1 can sliced peaches and a batch of jiffy mix white cake mix. Pop on the top and microwave for 20 mins. Make a salad and you have an AMAZING dinner while you were busy doing something else.

I hope I have at least started you imagination. Happy cooking!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mac and Cheese

I have had a request for my recipe for Mac and cheese. It is really simple but our family loves it!

1 pound cooked macaroni noodles
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese shredded
1 cup jack cheese shredded
1 cup pepper jack cheese shredded
1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 to 1 cups milk
pepper to taste

in a large dutch oven melt butter on med high temp. let Butter brown slightly (that gives it a slightly nutty taste) whisk in flour and continue to whisk until there are no lumps. let cook for about a minute or two to cook out the floury taste. Whisk in milk about 1/2 cup at a time. As the flour absorbs the milk it will start to thicken quickly so keep the milk in hands reach. continue to add the milk slowly, whisking well each time until it is a smooth consistency, can coat the back of a spoon. Turn off the heat and with a wooden spoon stir in the cheese, one cup at a time. continue to stir until all cheese is melted and mixture is smooth again. Add macaroni and stir to coat. Pour mixture into a well greased 13x9 pan. You can top with bread crumbs, crushed potato chips, crushed corn flakes or more cheese. Bake at 375 for 30 to 45 mins or until crusty on top.

Well there it is I hope you like it.

Sub. for cake flour

I just learned a new trick I thought I would share with you. I hope you can use it.

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1To make two cups of cake-and-pastry flour (cake flour), combine 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour with 1/4 cup cornstarch; proceed with your recipe.
2The easiest way to do this substitution is to put 2 tbsp of cornstarch in the bottom of a 1-cup measuring cup, then fill the cup as usual with all-purpose flour and level top. Repeat process to get your two cups.
3If you only need 1/2 cup of cake flour, put 1 tbsp cornstarch in bottom of 1/2 cup measuring cup, then fill and level as above.

I am going to attempt this tomorrow when I try to make a sponge type strawberry shortcake. Wish me luck!!


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