Our Adventures In Cooking ~ Summer Pasta Salad

My wife has been making cold Summer Pasta Salads for years with any number of variations on the theme, based on what’s available and/or in season.  The Pasta Salad itself includes: Bow Tie Pasta (al dente), Diced Cooked Ham, Cooked Peas (blanched), Pineapple Tidbits, Diced Red Bell Peppers, and Diced Green Onions.  The dressing includes: Non-fat Plain Yogurt, Brown Mustard, Pickle Juice, Diced Pickles, Diced Hard Boiled Egg, Chopped Fresh Green Chives, Chopped Fresh Parsley, Fresh Ground Black Pepper, Salt, and Garlic Salt to taste.

Keep the pasta salad and dressing in separate containers in the refrigerator, mixing together before serving.  The pasta salad should easily last a few days in the refrigerator before serving if the dressing is kept separately, stretching the salad out over a number of days ~ enjoy! ☼ 🙂

Our Adventures In Cooking ~ No Churn Strawberry Ice Cream

My wife made No Churn Strawberry Ice Cream after reading a recipe for ‘No Churn Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream’ at ‘Jo Cooks dot com’ ~ and gave it a go using the chopped and puréed strawberries we had on hand.  She added a little sugar to sweeten the strawberry purée, and then swirled it into the chopped strawberries and cream mixture before freezing.

We were surprised at how wonderful our no churn strawberry ice cream turned out!  This ice cream was a real treat for us, just look at the photos below ~ enjoy! ☼ 🙂

Our Adventures in Cooking ~ Slow Cooker Ham and Potato Soup

My wife decided to make a recipe for ‘Slow Cooker Ham and Potato Soup’ she found on ‘Dinner Then Dessert’ dot com, and we enjoyed it so much she’s already made it twice! 🙂 Sabrina’s recipe is straightforward and easy enough to follow, and the only changes to our version of this delicious soup was the addition of garlic and a bay leaf, along with extra portions of the listed ingredients.

I’ve added a gallery of our photos below for your viewing pleasure ~ and as always, I made short work of the dishes afterwards.  You can’t go wrong with this wonderful recipe for Slow Cooker Ham and Potato Soup, as hot soup is always welcome on a cold winter day ~ enjoy! ☼ 🙂

Our Adventures in Cooking ~ Broccoli, Carrot & Potato Soup

My wife decided to make a soup she found online called ‘Broccoli and Potato Soup’ at ‘RecipeTin Eats dot com’ ~ and then added a few of her own touches along the way to the recipe.

She initially added extra milk, flour and butter to what the recipe called for, as well as a few more potatoes and 8-10 sliced carrots into the mix.  She also puréed about half of the carrots and diced potatoes after they were cooked, which helped to thicken and flavor the soup base.  Lastly, she salted and peppered the soup to taste, and topped it with real bacon bits, and chopped fresh parsley and green onions for garnish.

This soup was absolutely delicious and comforting on a cold day, and now one of our favorite soup recipes ~ enjoy! ☼ 🙂

Our Adventures in Cooking ~ Apfelpfannekuchen or German Apple Pancakes

One of our favorite lunchtime dishes is called Apfelpfannekuchen or German Apple Pancakes, sprinkled with cinnamon or cinnamon sugar on top.  It’s a simple wholesome meal fried in a pan on the stove top like traditional pancakes, and is sure to keep you asking for more until the extra portions being kept warm in the oven run out! 🙂  All you have to do to find a recipe is type ‘Apfelpfannekuchen recipe’ into the search window and you’ll find lots of recipes ~ simply find one with a picture that looks delicious and enjoy! 🙂

Our Adventures in Cooking ~ Oven Roasted Chicken

This is an update to my recent Thanksgiving turkey post to show you how I used a similar technique this week for oven roasting a chicken. The key is using a raised bed of carrots, celery and onions to elevate the chicken in the roasting pan, and adding a cup of water to the bottom of the pan to begin the collection of drippings for the gravy.

I trim the chicken of all extra skin, fat and the tail while cleaning the bird, and then split it into two halves for simpler roasting.  I then slather the chicken halves with Extra Light Olive Oil, and season it under and over the remaining skin, before arranging the chicken halves on the raised bed of vegetables.  Trimming away the excess skin and fat creates clearer drippings, and the raised bed of vegetables contributes to a flavorful broth for making the gravy.  Just be careful lifting and moving the roasting pan, as our chicken weighed 5 pounds, and you don’t want hot drippings to spill over.

We cooked our chicken halves at 375 degrees F for an hour and fifteen minutes without the oven convection feature, basting once with drippings after 45 minutes in the oven, and then tented the chicken halves on separate plates for 20 minutes under aluminum foil.  The vegetables and drippings were then carefully poured into a colander and collected in a pot underneath it.  Mash the celery a bit in the colander to capture extra moisture and flavor, before discarding the spent vegetables.  The broth should have a minimum amount of fat after earlier trimming away all the extra skin and fat from the bird.

We made homemade mashed potatoes, gravy and mixed vegetables for our meal, and saved enough chicken afterwards for a total of six meals each for the two of us.  Poultry is a very economical meal when made at home, and one that can be enjoyed in many different ways.  You can reheat the leftovers for the next day, serve chicken and gravy over rice or spaghetti noodles, and of course make wonderful chicken sandwiches ~ enjoy! 🙂

Our Adventures in Cooking ~ Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner & Turkey Noodle Soup

I’ve always been the Turkey Meister in our family, and Thanksgiving and New Year’s are favorite times of mine to get to work in the kitchen preparing and cooking a turkey! 🙂 My wife’s the Turkey Noodle Soup expert, and together we stretch the holiday meal to last as long as possible.  I’ve decided to explain the entire process of how we prepare the turkey and make homemade stock for lots of turkey noodle soup afterwards! 🙂

My focus on preparing an oven roasted turkey is simplicity, as opposed to photographic perfection, in order to enjoy a moist, succulent turkey dinner, and to prepare stock for the soup.  I follow the cooking directions on the turkey packaging, and trim all the extra skin and fat away from the turkey in order to have a clear broth after cooking with minimum fat.  We oven roast chicken the same way, minimizing the grease and making clean-up as easy as possible.

The rinsed turkey neck and giblets are brought to a boil in a pot with seasonings (salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, Season All and a bay leaf), and then quickly returned to low heat/simmer for an hour to prevent boil over on the stove top.  The broth is used for making turkey gravy, and the turkey neck and giblets are saved for making the soup stock.  The turkey’s tail and wing tips are removed separately and saved overnight in the refrigerator for making stock the next day.

I place poultry (turkey and chicken) on a bed of celery, carrots, quartered onions and two garlic cloves for oven roasting, and for the turkey we use a double layer of vegetables and a half cup of water to start the broth collection in the bottom of the roasting pan.  For oven roasting a chicken, we use a single layer of vegetables as a base under the bird and a little water just to cover the bottom of the roasting pan.  The vegetables release a clear, flavorful broth during cooking, and after removing the poultry’s extra skin and fat, there’s little fat remaining in the broth.

I wash and dry the cleaned turkey, loosening the skin all around the breast and rub the bird with Extra Light Olive Oil on and under the skin, before seasoning both the meat and skin afterwards.  The olive oil moistens the meat and skin, and holds the seasonings in place. This year we used the convection cooking feature of the oven, which shortened the cooking time by at least a half hour, and avoided having to tent the bird in the final stages of cooking.

I baste the turkey every 45 minutes while cooking, using melted butter and drippings to drizzle over and under the breast skin, as well as over the wings, drumsticks and thighs of the bird.  We use a baking sheet to support the turkey roasting pan, as it’s heavy (ours was a 14.5 pound turkey), and the drippings are very hot, so use extreme caution when removing the turkey pan from the oven and placing it back in.  Also, make sure your turkey roasting pan doesn’t have a hole in the bottom, or the drippings will leak out and create quite a hot and dangerous mess.

Once the turkey is finished cooking (based on the pop-out thermometer and digital meat thermometer reading), remove it from the bed of vegetables and broth, and tent it with aluminum foil for 20 minutes until dinner.  Strain the vegetables through a colander (the spent celery can be mashed in the colander to add extra flavor to the broth), and carefully pour the hot broth from the turkey roasting pan into a large pot, setting aside a portion of the broth to slightly moisten the turkey pieces after the meal for refrigerating.

I peel and cube the potatoes early on in the process and let them soak in a large pot of cool water, until bringing them to a boil on the stove top.  My wife manages the turkey gravy, which isn’t hard to make from scratch, but first read a number of online recipes ahead of time, to be ready to make it as the rest of the meal is coming together.  She also warms the cranberry sauce (a mixture of canned whole cranberries, a little fresh orange juice, and some grated orange zest), and microwaves a pouch of vegetables ~ while I boil, drain and mash the potatoes to the right consistency with warm milk, melted butter, salt, and a little nutmeg, and carve the turkey.  With any luck, the meal all comes together within a five minute window time frame of final preparations ~ and then it’s time to serve it up! 🙂

After the meal, and during the cleanup process, I remove all the edible meat from the turkey carcass, and save all the bones in a bowl with the turkey neck, giblets, tail and wing tips to refrigerate overnight.  I chop the salvaged meat into smaller portions, and moisten it as needed with a little turkey broth set aside earlier.  Seal the pieces of turkey meat in airtight containers and/or freeze in portions for turkey sandwiches later.  A good portion of the turkey meat will be set aside in the refrigerator to add to the turkey noodle soup when the time comes.

The next day or two later, place the refrigerated turkey giblet broth, turkey drippings, turkey neck, giblets, tail and wing tips, salvaged bones, and fresh vegetables ~ celery, carrots, onions, leeks, parsley, a garlic clove, seasonings, and two bay leaves and a few peppercorns in a metal egg for later removal ~ into a large stock pot, and bring to a boil.  Once a boil is reached, reduce the heat and simmer for a good eight hours or so until cooked down, and then discard the turkey bones and pieces, and spent vegetables.

You now have a nice, rich soup stock for making your turkey noodle soup, but first it must be cooled and refrigerated overnight.  We divided the stock over a couple of pots placed on cooling elements to help cool down the hot stock, but if it’s cold outside, you can cover the pot and sit it on the back porch to cool quickly.  Don’t let the stock sit out at room temperature any longer than necessary before refrigerating.  Once cooled, you can freeze the stock for making soup later, or refrigerate overnight to make soup the next day.  If your stock has a layer of congealed turkey fat on the surface once cooled, simply spoon off the fat layer and discard in the garbage ~ never down the sink drain.

For making soup, first chop the vegetables (celery, carrots, onions and leeks) and saute right in the pot you’ll use to make the soup. Once sauteed, add in the stock you’ve refrigerated, small pieces of turkey, season to taste, and heat to serving temperature on the stove top.  We cook our wide egg noodles separately fresh for each meal in the microwave to then add into the soup, and garnish with chopped parsley when serving.  You can also add a bag of frozen mixed vegetables and purchased chicken stock as desired to lengthen the soup over more meals.

That’s the entire process we use for preparing our holiday turkey dinner, as well as stock, turkey noodle soup, and turkey sandwiches for many more meals to follow.  Here’s a photo gallery of our efforts this past Thanksgiving in reverse order, from turkey noodle soup to preparing the turkey ~ enjoy! ☼ 🙂

Our Adventures in Cooking ~ Slow Cooker Chicken Sandwiches

The other day we decided to make Slow Cooker Chicken Sandwiches, as our earlier Slow Cooker Turkey Sandwiches had turned out so well! 🙂 We placed a double layer of carrots in the bottom of a six quart slow cooker (to keep the chicken breasts out of the broth), and placed on top of the carrots four large chicken breasts that had been trimmed of fat, slathered in Extra Light Olive Oil, and seasoned with salt, pepper, Season All and Montreal Chicken seasonings ~ and cooked the chicken breasts on low heat for six hours.

I recommend checking your chicken after five hours, as cooking times and chicken weights vary.  Ours could have finished perhaps 20 minutes earlier, but still turned out perfectly.  Once you remove the chicken breasts, de-bone the meat as quickly as possible and place it into a large bowl, while ladling broth from the slow cooker over the pulled chicken meat to keep it from drying out.  The broth is remarkably clear as long as you removed excess fat and skin while preparing the chicken breasts, but leave the non-fatty skin on for additional moisture and flavoring while cooking.

Our chicken breasts yielded eight portions for the two of us, and has made some wonderful chicken sandwiches to date on homemade buttermilk bread ~ mine with a slice of Baby Swiss, just for the taste of it.  We enjoy Light Ranch Dressing instead of mayonnaise, Spicy Brown Mustard, Dill Stackers, a Dill Pickle Spear, and Pringles Original reduced fat chips with our sandwiches ~ enjoy!  ☼ 🙂

Our Adventures in Cooking ~ Grilled Egg & Provolone Cheese Sandwich

One of my favorite sandwiches at home when I was growing up, was a fried egg sandwich topped with mayonnaise and lettuce, so the other day I decided to upgrade my grilled provolone cheese sandwich with a fried egg.  We were making our sandwiches on homemade buttermilk bread, so it was an easy step to fry an egg alongside the sandwich and remind myself of why I loved a fried egg sandwich so much growing up.

You’ll want to break the yolk of the egg when frying, as it allows for a flattened egg when flipped over and makes for a better sandwich.  My sandwich tasted wonderful, and although I didn’t add mayonnaise or a leaf of lettuce, I’ll add both in the future ~ along with a slice of ham to make it into a true breakfast sandwich ~ enjoy! ☼ 🙂

Our Adventures in Cooking ~ Grilled Provolone Cheese Sandwiches & Tomato Bisque

For lunch today, I made Grilled Provolone Cheese Sandwiches on our homemade Whole Wheat, Brown Sugar & Oats Bread made this morning.  We then served our sandwiches with Campbell’s Organic Sun-Ripened Tomato & Basil Bisque, which I very much enjoyed ~ sold in box form in your grocery store.  My wife topped the bisque with whipped unsweetened heavy cream and chopped parsley, harvested from our herb garden this morning.

Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup have been longtime favorites of ours, and both hit the spot for me at lunchtime!  Here’s today’s photo gallery of the process I use to grill cheese sandwiches ~ enjoy! ☼ 🙂