Sunday, December 21, 2008

Decorated Christmas Sugar Cookies

Maybe it's because I only decorate sugar cookies once a year, but I seem to have amnesia for what a pain in the rear it is for me. Not being artistically talented, I find decorating sugar cookies to be challenging. Leaning toward OCD, I'm never happy with the results and it takes me quite a bit of time to do the decorating. Take a look at the picture to the left. There are 19 cookies in that photo. It took me SIX HOURS to decorate those 19 cookies. I have three dozen more, undecorated, in ziplock bags. I am not going to decorate them. Hell, I probably won't even frost them at all. In my opinion, they are just as good with a cup of coffee when not decorated. In fact, maybe they are even BETTER since I don't care about messing up the decoration by eating them. Each year, I swear I won't do decorated sugar cookies again. Then, each year, my "cookie-amnesia" kicks in and I get to rolling and cutting that sugar cookie dough. Maybe next year, I'll re-read this blog entry and it'll all come back to me before I preheat that oven.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Operation Baking Gals - Round 5 Has Shipped!

Well, here are a couple of the packages being sent out for Round 5. Each round, I include something in addition to the homemade cookies. This round, it was beef jerky and sunflower seeds. The cookie varieties for this round included requests by the soldiers for: No-Bake Cookies, Oatmeal Raisin, Peanut Butter, and Rice Krispies Treats.

I packaged the cookies in the personal chef meal packaging that I use for my clients. Once packaged in the lidded, plastic containers, I vacuum sealed the containers with my FoodSaver.

My soldier from Round 3 is safely back in the States from Afghanistan. Nick said the guys would get excited whenever they'd see a bunch of boxes being delivered. He also gave me some feedback on the cookies/packaging that worked the best and worst. Nick noted that cookies packaged in plastic containers (gladware, rubbermaid), those that were vacuum packaged, and those containing apple peels or bread, arrived the best and freshest. He said the worst were those packaged in recycled food containers (Pringles cans).

I want to thank the bakers on both of my teams for the time, effort, and resources you have donated to boost the morale of these soldiers. I know how busy everyone is around the holidays. You are appreciated more than you know. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

One Pot Winter Meals

This is my son’s second year playing a winter sport. Since the games and practices take place mainly on weekdays, we need meals that are quick and easy to avoid the fast food and carryout trap. One pot meals can really fill the bill. Just add a loaf of crusty bread or a salad and you’re all set. One pot meals are also perfect for winter and for busy schedules because they keep warm well on the stove until the end of practice and they reheat beautifully the next day.

Stuffed Cabbage Casserole
1lb. lean ground beef

1/2 cup instant brown rice
1 can tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
4 cups cabbage or cole slaw mix
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brown the ground beef. Drain. In a large bowl, mix everything else into the meat. Pour into an ungreased casserole dish, cover and bake for 60 minutes.

Chicken & Noodles
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup onions, chopped
10 cups hot water

2 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder (or soup base)
1 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 to 1-1/2 pound cooked, boneless skinless chicken breast, torn into large pieces
1 (16oz) bag frozen egg noodles

Mix carrots, celery, onions, water, bouillon, melted butter, pepper and chicken pieces in large stock pot.
Bring to a boil, turn to low heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add noodles and simmer on medium-low heat for an additional 10 minutes.
Serves 6-8

Savory Pressure Cooker Pot Roast
3 pound chuck roast
1 tablespoon Season-All seasoning salt
1 tablespoon olive oil (I use Wildtree grapeseed oil)
1 cup baby carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup sliced onions
1-3/4 cup water
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
5 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons beef bullion powder or beef base
2 bay leaves

Coat roast with Season-All. Brown roast in oil, on all sides (I use the pressure cooker base). Add carrots, celery, and onions when meat is nearly browned, add water and Worcestershire sauce.
Place potato halves on top of roast and add pepper, beef bullion powder, and bay leaves.

Lock lid in place and bring to pressure over medium-high heat. Cook at high pressure for 1 hour.

Release pressure naturally – do not use quick release. Test for tenderness. If not done to your liking, return to pressure for 10 minutes, quick release and test again.
When finished, serve with crusty bread for a hearty meal.

One Dish Chicken Fajita Dinner
2 (1-1/4oz) packages of fajita seasoning mix (I use Penzy’s, to taste)
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips or chunks
2 red bell pepper, cut into strips or chunks
2 yellow bell peppers, cut into strips or chunks
4 cups cooked rice (brown or white)
Vegetable oil, for sautéing (I use Wildtree grapeseed oil)
Shredded cheddar cheese

Sautee chicken strips or chunks, until almost cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and cover to keep warm.
Sautee peppers for 3-4 minutes.
Add chicken back to pan with peppers.
Add fajita seasoning and 1/2 cup water to pan with chicken and peppers.
Cook until chicken is done.
Serve mixture over rice and top with grated cheese.
Serves 4-6