Slow-Cooker Pot Roast and an update!

I hope I can remember how to do this blogging thing!  It’s been a crazy past couple of months…In February, we had a house-hunting trip to Virginia, returned to Bahrain in the middle of protests, then a week after I was back home the Navy approved voluntary departure and we decided to take them up on it!  SO, I was shuttled back to Virginia and got settled into our wonderful rental house with an air mattress and 2 suitcases.

My mom came out for a week to help me clean and paint the house.  We worked our little behinds off! Here are a few pictures of the house:

So, in order: the laundry room, our kitchen, the master bedroom, our future office, the den (in the process of being put together), and now our backyard.  We have a few extra bedrooms that haven’t been photographed yet…

Now that some of our household goods have been delivered, I have my kitchen stuff and I can cook again! WHOO HOO! :)

NOW, onto the pot roast:

I took a small bag of baby carrots and layered them along the bottom of the crock-pot, added some potato chunks, a thinly sliced onion and 3 crushed cloves of garlic.  Next, I added a 2 pound bottom round roast and poured an envelope of onion soup mix over it.  Then, I poured a 1/2 cup of chicken broth over it.  The original recipe called for beef broth, but I prefer chicken broth.

I put the crock-pot to cook for 11.5 hours on low before I headed for bed and woke up to a wonderful smelling kitchen! When I woke up, everything was the same color and didn’t look very photogenic but it sure was tasty!!

My trip to Virginia…

We have had quite a bit of excitement while we have been here in Virginia!  We came thinking we were going to find a rental house in Virginia, but halfway through our first day of driving around with our wonderful realtor, we decided to buy a house….it was a surprise on my part! :)

After Keith left to go back home, I planned to stay in Virginia for another week to get papers signed and inspections done on the house we put in an offer for.  That “another week” turned into 2 more weeks….I’m glad that I have been able to stay for an extra week to start the job-hunt, but it does stink being half a world away from the hubby.  I guess that’s just the life of a military wife!

Since I haven’t been cooking lately, I have been taking more pictures so I can post SOMETHING while I’m in Virginia. So, here it goes:

Here’s Keith and I after waiting at the gate for about 5 hours…

Here’s airplane meal #1 (the meat under the veggies
was chicken piccata.  It was good! Keith seemed to
like the dessert too…)

Meal #2 (the chicken was really great, but I didn’t
try the salad dish in the top left.)

Meal #3 (the pasta was pretty good, but
the banana yogurt was not!)

Meal #4 (I really don’t have much to say about
this one….the chips were kinda good. kinda.)

Keith let me have the window seat
on the second leg of the trip.

Our friend, Matt, just happened to be in
the seat in front of Keith!

I think he was tired of me asking to take
his picture!!

Once we got to Virginia, I loved just driving around….

Here’s the road (it’s a sidewalk, actually) that
we had to drive on to get in and out of
our neighborhood a couple of times.

And here’s a highway in Virginia. BIG difference!

Although, it was very cold for these Texans!

The house we’re buying is in a great, very established neighborhood and we are really looking forward to move!

Here’s our front yard….

and here’s the front of the house.

I’m super excited to move into my new kitchen!

And since Keith has gone back home,
I’ve kinda taken over the hotel bed!

 

I know this is a food blog, but I really haven’t done much cooking (Hamburger Helper is on the menu for tonight!) and I feel a little funny taking pictures of my food while I’m sitting alone in a restaurant!  But I’ve really enjoyed being able to eat out at so many restaurants.

Bahrain Update…

So, things have been getting pretty crazy here in Bahrain in the past week.  I don’t know if you’ve been keeping up with the news, but there are quite a few people protesting or “demonstrating” in downtown Manama.

I know it looks pretty bad on the news, but Keith and I are safe.  We have been advised by the US Embassy to stay out of certain areas where there are protestors and that is exactly what we are doing.

The Embassy has not decided to evacuate the Americans, but if they do we are on their contact list.

We will be on a house-hunting adventure for the next couple of weeks in Virginia, so we will be stateside if things get any worse!

Just wanted to let everybody know that we appreciate the prayers headed our way and I’ll try to keep yall updated!

Orange Juice Pork Chops and Roasted Red Potatoes

While living in a Muslim culture, it’s hard to find pork products off base, so I try to “splurge” and cook pork chops once a month.  Since today is Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d try something a little different.  I emailed my mom to get her special orange juice pork chop recipe.  I remember her standing at the stove and the kitchen filling with the smell of orange juice.  I also cooked my dad’s red potatoes as a veggie.

Here’s what I did with the pork chops:
I  dredged the thawed pork chops in a mixture of flour, salt, and pepper while about 4 tablespoons of oil was preheating in the skillet.

Once the oil was preheated, I cooked the pork chops until the internal temperature was 165*F which is hot enough to kill the bacteria. While the pork chops were cooking, I mixed 1 1/2 cups of orange juice and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar together in a bowl.

After the chops were fully cooked, I lowered the heat and added the orange juice mixture to the skillet and covered it with a lid.  Let the juice simmer in the skillet until it is thickened.

Keith waiting patiently for his dinner to be ready.

Here’s what I did with the potatoes:
I washed 3 medium red potatoes and cut them into small pieces.  I layered them in a single layer in a casserole dish and sprinkled the potatoes with salt and pepper.  I dotted them with about 6 tablespoons of butter.

Next, I popped the dish in a 350*F (175*) oven and let them cook til they were tender on the inside and crispy on the outside edges.

Fluffernutter Cookies

For the past week or so, I’ve been meaning to make some cookies but just haven’t had the initiative to start baking.  I sucked it up and bought a roll of peanut butter cookie dough to kick-start my baking mood today.  I used a camera Keith bought me yesterday for the pictures!

I ended up making some cookies with marshmallow fluff inspired by the fluffernutter sandwich I had for lunch.

Here’s what I did:
I took the prepared cookie dough and rolled it into little balls and placed them a couple of inches apart on a cookie sheet.   I used a heaping tablespoon to get a nice sized cookie.

Once they were all placed on the sheet, I made an indentation in the middle of the cookie.  Some recipes call for you to make the indentation with your fingertip, but I made mine with a knuckle so I wouldn’t get TOO much dough under my nails!

Then I popped the cookie sheet in a 350*F (175*C) oven for about 15 minutes.  Right after you take the cookies out of the oven, re-make the indentation in the warm cookies. The dough was very hot, so I made the dents with the back of a teaspoon.

Then, I filled the little dents with Fluff.  I added it while the dough was still warm and I think that helped me out a little by softening it and making it drop from the spoon a little easier.

I didn’t want to fill ALL of the cookies with Fluff, so I filled a few with Nutella and I really can’t decide which one I like better!

Enchilada Nachos

A few weeks ago, I “took inventory” of my pantry and noticed that I had a can of enchilada sauce. Now, I’m not quite sure why I bought the can because I haven’t been able to find corn tortillas to make any enchiladas in about 18 months!

So I started looking online for meals to use the enchilada sauce.  The only recipes I found were how to MAKE enchilada sauce….and I certainly didn’t need any of those!

I ended up making nachos with the sauce drizzled on top of them last night for dinner.  It was a bit of an experiment, but Keith didn’t know that and he liked em!

We ate em right off the baking sheet!

Here’s what I did:
I layered tortilla chips on a baking sheet (I used the little scooper chips), then sprinkled grated cheese over them.  I used a cheddar and Monterey jack block of cheese I shredded myself because the Mexican blend bag of cheese is $7 at the exchange and I refuse to pay that much for cheese!!

ANYWAY, after I sprinkled the  cheese, I cut up some leftover chicken breasts into itty-bitty pieces and sprinkled them over the cheesy chips.  After that, I drizzled the enchilada sauce over it all.  The can I had was the Hot kind, and that’s usually way too hot for me, but I think it was the perfect heat level for the nachos.

After I had loaded everything on the chips, I stuck the tray into a preheated 350*F (175*C) oven to melt the cheese and heat everything up.

The nachos tasted a lot like enchiladas, but with just a little extra crispiness.  And it only took about 40 minutes to prepare and devour it all! I think they would make a great appetizer, but they were a great dinner too!

Black Bean Brownies

A while back, a friend (Hi, Blake) loaned me a healthy cookbook and I finally made a recipe out of it.

Here’s what I did (I doubled the recipe):
I mixed together  3 cups of drained black beans (it was about 2 cans), 1 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder, and 3 eggs in a bowl til the consistency is smooth (the recipe called for 2 tablespoons of espresso powder, but I skipped that because I don’t have any!).  I ran into a bit of a conundrum with this part because the original recipe calls your you to process it in a food processor. The movers packed mine up, so I put the beans in a bowl and smushed them with the back of a spoon.  My consistency was pretty smooth, but probably not as smooth as Rocco would have gotten it!

Keith and I taste-tested!

Next, add in 4 tablespoons of low-cal, sugar-free chocolate syrup, 4 tablespoons of reduced-fat sour cream, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, 1 cup of Splenda (or whatever sugar substitute you prefer), and 2 teaspoons of vanilla.  Mix this all together til it’s smooth again.  The recipe calls for you to process it again, but my whisk worked just fine.

Now, pour the batter into a greased baking pan.  The original recipe calls for an 8×8 pan, but since I doubled it I put it in a 9×13 pan.

Pop it in the oven for about 35-40 minutes, or until it passes the toothpick test.  After the pan cools, you can cut it into 24 pieces and it comes out to about 53 calories per brownie.  I sprinkled a few chocolate chips on top and I only made 20 brownies, so my calorie count wasn’t quite that low!

Cinnamon Rolls

I haven’t been cooking much lately, since I’m trying to empty out my freezer, but I decided to make cinnamon rolls for dinner tonight.

Here’s what I did:
I took 3 cups of Bisquick, 3/4 cup of milk, and 1 egg and mixed them together.  After they were all mixed together well, it didn’t really look like a good batter, but I turned it out on a Bisquick-dusted counter and kneaded it about 10 times to get it all stretchy.

Before you start kneading it, I would highly suggest to coat your hand in butter.  Remember my doughnut post and the problems I had with the batter sticking to me? Trust me when I suggest something to prevent getting dough ALL over! :)  Make sure dust the countertop with plenty of Bisquick too.

Next, roll the dough out to about a 9×13 square. I don’t currently have a rolling pin, so I covered a can of spaghetti sauce with foil and used that to help me out.

After you get it rolled out, coat the dough with about 2 tablespoons of melted or softened butter (I used melted because it’s more fun!).  Then, sprinkle about 1/4 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of cinnamon on it.  I didn’t really measure out my cinnamon because Keith loves cinnamon on everything, but I think a good amount would be about 2 tablespoons.  You can use as much butter, sugar, or cinnamon you want to–I think next time I’ll use more of each because I think cinnamon rolls should be indulgent! I might add raisins or chocolate chips too…..just imagine the possiblities! Yum!

When you have all your spices sprinkled over the dough, take the longer edge furthest from you and start rolling it towards you.  I found that I had to use a spatula to “peel” the dough off of the countertop because the Bisquick that I spread on the counter was absorbed.  Don’t rush this step because this will be each layer of each individual roll.

After you have rolled it into a log, cut each piece into about 1 inch slices and place either on a cookie sheet or in a baking dish.  I crowded my dish and I wouldn’t recommend it because then the dough poofs up instead of out and it makes for a really thick cinnamon roll, but if you like yours really tall and skinny go ahead and crowd the dish! :)  Remember, recipes are just guidelines…you can always customize when you’re cooking.

Once you have all your cinnamon rolls situated how you want them, pop em into a 400*F (205*C) oven for about 20 minutes.  I had to cook mine a little longer because they didn’t pass the toothpick test after that amount of time.

Once they’re done, spread icing on them before they cool.  I used some leftover canned frosting, but I think any kind of sweet frosting would work just fine.  I think I might try some cream cheese frosting next time.

Turkey Baked Ziti

I’ve been trying to empty my freezer, but I had about 5 pounds of turkey to use up, so I “googled” casseroles that used ground turkey.  Robin Miller from the Food Network has a great recipe that uses sweet turkey sausage, so I based my dish off of that recipe but I tweaked it to fit the things that I had in my kitchen already.

Here’s what I did:
I got Keith to brown a pound of turkey while I boiled a box of ziti pasta noodles.  After the turkey was browned, I added 2 cans of stewed tomatoes. I used the “plain” flavor of stewed tomatoes, but I think that the other flavors would be good too.  I also added a big spoon full of spaghetti sauce for extra flavor, then let it simmer for about 5 minutes or so.

The meat sauce simmering

While I was letting the meat sauce simmer, I mixed together a 15 oz container of fat-free ricotta cheese and a small package of mozzarella  cheese.  The package said it was 200 grams, but the recipe from the Food Network called for 4 cups, so it’s really up to you how much you choose to use.  I also added 1 tablespoon of garlic powder as well.

The ricotta cheese mixture is mixed.

After everything was prepared (the pasta drained, the meat sauce, and the cheese mixture), I put a little sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 pan.  The original recipe called for a 4 quart casserole dish, but I was able to fit everything in a 9×13 dish and a 6 inch round dish.  I poured in just enough sauce to barely coat the bottom of the pan so that the noodles wouldn’t stick and burn.

The yummy noodles (and my hand).

Next, I layered half of the noodles. Then, I added half of the cheese mixture.  After that, I layered more sauce, noodles, and cheese. Last, I layered the rest of the meat sauce to cover the whole kit and kaboodle.  Robin’s recipe called for mozzarella and parmesan cheese to be sprinkled on top, but I forgot to set aside any mozzarella cheese, so I ended up with just parmesan cheese on top.

Keith sprinkling the parmesan cheese.

I baked the dish for about 30 minutes at 350*F (175*C) while it was covered with foil.  Then I uncovered it and baked for 15 more minutes.

After letting it “set” for about 10 minutes after baking time, we dug in!

Banana Bread with Cranberries and Walnuts

A few days after the movers came, I had a 2 bananas left over from making banana pudding, so I decided to make banana bread, but I wanted to have “add-ins” too.  I looked up on the internet different banana bread recipes and tweaked several in order to make my own!

Here’s what I did:
Cream together 1/4 cup of room temperature butter and 1 cup of sugar.  This is easiest with a hand mixer, but if you don’t have one (I don’t have one currently…the movers took it.) you can soften the butter in the microwave a little, then add it to the sugar and just kind of “fold in” the sugar until it looks close to what it would look like with a mixer.

Once it’s creamed, add in 2 eggs, 1 cup of mashed bananas, 1/4 cup of milk, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

After it’s all mixed, pour in 2 cups of flour and 2 teaspoons of baking powder. Then, stir in about 1 1/2 cups of cranberries (I used a bag of cherry-flavored craisins) and a 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts (I don’t know how much I put in mine-I just dumped the rest of my bag in without chopping!)

Pour the dough into a greased 9×5 loaf pan and bake at 350*F (175*C) for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or til it passes the toothpick test.

Let the loaf cool IN the pan for about 15 minutes after you pull it from the oven, then let it cool the rest of the way on a cookie rack.  I don’t have a cookie rack right now, so I just put mine on a sheet of parchment paper on the cold counter.

We’ve been snacking on it for a few days now, but we finally cut it into slices for breakfast bread and Keith and I both realized that it looks a little like fruitcake!  It tastes MUCH better though. ;)