Monday, August 10

Changing my blog site

I realized last Thursday that my site name for FoodieCrystal was not really what I wanted my blog to portray. I am not a "Foodie" in the strict sense of the word as it is used today. I do love good food, but not all the recipes I'm going to post will be Foodie type recipes. I also want my site to feel like coming home and having a cup of hot chocolate on a cold day. I want it to be more of a discussion between you and me. So I decided to make my site a little more cozy. Please join me at
I have imported all recipes that have pictures with them to that site as well (and will add the rest when I have pictures of them). I am also making a few changes that you'll have to head over there to discover! Thank you for reading this blog thus far, I hope that you will join me in my cozy kitchen.

Friday, August 7

May Be Foodless Friday: Happy Birthday Val!

Welcome to May Be Foodless Friday. Today's post is Foodless since today is my younger sister's birthday, this post goes out to her.

This is Valerie on her birthday in 2007. Just before we moved to the midwest so my husband could attend grad school.
Valerie loves playing boardgames, getting her nails done,
she loves horses (she calls them cows), she also likes cows,
and she really loves her nephews (my sister has 4 boys).
This is my little sister with my baby when she came to visit (with my parents and brother). I have to tell you the story of my family come to see me and my baby. The first time they tried the freeway was closed in Wyoming (and Colorado) because of a HUGE snowstorm so they were unable to come that time and turned back. The second time they started out on Thursday, that night Valerie had a seizure and was put in the hospital. They kept her there and on Saturday the doctor came in to release her, my mom asked, "Valerie, do you want to go home" thinking that she would perk up to be leaving. She didn't perk up or even smile. They kept her in until later that afternoon when it hit my mom and she asked, "Valerie, Do you want to go see Crystal and the Baby?" She smiled and they soon started on their way to see us.

I love my sister, she is an amazing person! She came to see me even after being in the hospital (ok so it was really to see her nephew, but I'm okay with that!) I also think my mom is a saint! It took them 5 days to get from their house to mine - Thursday to Monday (they have to drive because of all the medical stuff they bring with them - not to mention wheelchairs and airplanes don't always get along.) Yet they came because to my mom family is that important and Valerie would have been mad at her if they hadn't. Hopefully when my husband finishes his degree and gets a full time job, we will be able to move closer to family. Valerie would love that (so would my mom).
Isn't this just so sweet?!?

I won't be seeing her this year for her birthday since she is 1311 miles or 19 hours and 53 minutes (that is time driving, going speed limit - no stops) away and life isn't permitting trips like that currently (which after what she went through to see me does make me feel like a horrible sister). I love you Val and we'll see you as soon as we can!

Happy Birthday Valerie!

Wednesday, August 5

Fettuccine Alfredo

I love really good alfredo sauce... I tolerate average and I gag down anything else. I have been experimenting with the basic Alfredo sauce for a while now. This time I made it I used evaporated milk, mainly because we had some that needed to be used and I wanted to see how it would turn out. So how did it turn out? It tasted sweeter than normal alfredo. It did not work for me. Cheese sauces should not be sweet (at least according to me), unless it is a cream cheese sauce - but that is a different subject all together.
So from my experiments with cream, half & half, and evaporated milk; go with cream. Heavy cream is best, half and half is okay, evaporated milk - just say no! As far as parmesan goes, freshly grated produces an alfredo sauce that is much more superior to store bought grated parmesan. The first time I made it with freshly grated my husband noticed, and he noticed the difference when I used pre-shredded cheese again. I now only make alfredo with freshly shredded parmesan. Yes it makes that much of a difference! There you have it, my two secrets for alfredo - fresh parmesan and cream.

To start, cook 2-3 oz fettuccine noodles according to package directions. I try to buy only whole grain or whole wheat noodles. I think they taste better and I feel they are healthier. I have not quite gotten ambitious enough to make my own pasta, I will probably do that someday.
While waiting for the water to boil, get the alfredo ingredients ready. You will need:
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
4 cloves garlic, sliced (or minced)
1-1/2 tsp olive oil or butter
1 Tbsp butter
I try to reduce the amount of dishes, so once the fettuccine is finished cooking, I drain it and keep it in the colander, rinse the pasta starch out of the pan and use the same pan to make the alfredo. It is important to rinse out the starches, or everything will stick to the pan.
Saute the garlic in oil until browned over medium heat. Turn burner off, but keep the pan on the burner.
Add cream and butter. Stir until butter is melted. Add cheese and fettuccine.
Stir to coat the noodles. TIP: If the cheese clumps together, turn the burner onto low and stir until the clumps go away. It usually only takes about 3-4 minutes.
Stir in about 1/8 tsp pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. It tastes better if it is stirred into the alfredo sauce than if it is sprinkled over the pasta.

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Lemon Pepper Chicken

Lemon-pepper is one of my favorite pairings for chicken as well as salmon. I really love the flavor that it gives the meat. It works best when you have fresh lemons and just ground peppercorn, but it still tastes good when using bottled lemon juice and regular black pepper. This time I used bottled lemon juice and fresh ground peppercorn.
The best way to cook chicken besides on open flame, is using a double broiler. Unfortunately I currently do not have access to one. I made it using a George Foreman Grill. This is NOT my preferred method as it usually tends to produce drier meat. However, an alternative method to a double broiler is to place the two racks in the oven at the top (one in the top position and the other just below it) and place a pan of water on the lower rack, then cook the chicken on the top rack, directly on the rack. I have done it, and it works, not as well, but good enough. This time I did not want my kitchen to be that warm, so I went with drier.

Lemon Pepper Chicken

Marinate the chicken in lemon juice (preferably overnight, not just 45 minutes before you are going to make it.)
Before cooking, sprinkle with pepper.
Cook until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest part of chicken reaches 160 degrees. Pictured below with Fettuccine Alfredo.


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Vegetarian Minestrone

I was trying to use up some celery and carrots and I ran across a Vegetable Minestrone recipe here. I only have a 3.5 qt crock pot so I tweaked the recipe a bit (as is normal). I really liked the way it turned out. I made it on Saturday because the weather was suppose to be cooler, but it didn't turn out to be cooler :(. We tried this soup with Parmesan, but the mozzarella really does make this soup (plus your wallet/bank account will like you more).

In your crock pot container, place 1 cup celery, sliced; one cup carrots, sliced; 1 medium onion chopped (about 1 cup); and 4 cloves garlic, minced.
Add 1 can vegetable broth (about 1-3/4 cups).
Then add 2 cups tomato juice (you could also add crushed tomatoes, or watered down tomato sauce, whatever you have on hand.)
Add the spices next: 1 Tbsp dried basil, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, and 1/4 tsp pepper.
Next add 1-14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained. Mix it all together.
Cook on low for 8 hours (give or take depending on your slow-cooker). Add 1 cup rotini pasta and cook for 20 minutes longer.
Top 2 cups soup with 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese. (Please excuse the blurry photo.)

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Stuffed Pork Loin

My husband and I bought an eight pound pork loin on sale about 2 months ago. That's right, 8 lbs (almost weighed as much as my baby when he was born, almost...) I cut it into more manageable portions. This is the last large chunk (I also cut two smaller pieces that I am going to be using this week to make a pork-chop recipe - but with pork loin cuts not pork chops.)

I really wanted to try cooking a stuffed pork loin in the Crock-Pot, why? I couldn't tell you, other than it is summer and the thought of cooking it in the oven sounded WAY too hot! So I tried it, and it didn't turn out too bad (stuffing was a little moist, but that was to be expected.)

Stuffed Pork Loin

To make the stuffing:
Follow directions on the package (I did use a bit more celery and onion than it called for.) DO NOT use as much liquid as it calls for, DO NOT DO IT! I would use at least 1 cup less, I only used 1/2 cup less, what was I thinking?!?
Saute onion and celery
Mix together stuffing (I have not tried home made stuffing yet, maybe I will this fall... we'll see.)
Place pork loin on cutting board, cut off excess fat (I omitted this step because I was in a hurry, and wished I had not. Well unless you like eating cooked fat, then you can leave it on.)

Cut the pork loin open (about 1/2 inch thick).

place stuffing in pork loin and pull the two ends together. Stuff as much stuffing inside as you can (Cram it all in!)

Place it in the slow cooker. No need to add any liquid. Cook on low for about 7-8 hours or until done. Using a slow cooker larger than 3.5 quart might be a good thing... or using a smaller pork loin.

Pull out of slow cooker. The meat falls apart so it isn't as pretty as when it is made in the oven, but my apartment was a lot cooler!

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Monday, August 3

Meals this past week 7/27-8/2

This past week we had:

Monday: Stuffed Pork Loin
Tuesday: Stuffed Pork Loin
Wednesday: Stuffed Pork Loin (Would have had Fettuccine this night, but I didn't go grocery shopping until after dinner)
Thursday: Grilled Ham & Cheese Sandwiches*, Strawberry & Blackberry Smoothie
Friday: Lemon Pepper Chicken and Fettuccine Alfredo
Saturday: Vegetable Minestrone
Sunday: Grilled Ham & Cheese Sandwiches*, salad, Strawberry & Blackberry Smoothie

I'll only have two recipes to post on Wednesday, but I have pictures of both of them and I'll be adding pictures to the smoothie recipe as well.

So I'm now able to post pictures of recipes on our blog... before I do so, I want to post pictures of my kitchen so you see what I have to work with.
As you can see I have hardly any counter space... so do not be surprised when I have a cutting board on the stove, etc as it is my largest workspace. (Note: I was going to wait until my kitchen was completely spotless and everything was put away, and then I decided to stop kidding myself, that will NEVER happen, there is just no room and I still have a whole box that is not going to be unpacked. It is not a small box - our son's carseat came in that box. The next place I live WILL have a larger kitchen! Would it be possible to have a smaller kitchen? I sure hope not!)

*No recipe for this one, as it was just a simple grilled ham and cheese sandwich... However, I must say that in order to make a good one, do the following:
Slice of bread
Cheese slices (cover bread)
Slices of Deli Ham
Cheese slices (cover ham)
Slice of bread
Another trick is cooking them on medium-low so the cheese gets all melted and gooey before the bread turns black. I really like these, they are a great comfort food.

Friday, July 31

May Be Foodless Friday: Baked Potatoes

Welcome to May Be Foodless Friday. Today we'll be discussing Baked Potatoes, which are easy, but time consuming - after all you have to let them cook in the oven for about an hour because we all know that microwaved potatoes are not that great, or do we? Time to rethink the microwaved potato.

For Christmas 2 years ago, my mother-in-law gave us a baked potato bag for the microwave. This wonderful home-made potato bag has made baked potatoes one of our 'quick' meals.

So how to get one of these wonderful potato bags? You can buy one (search for baked potato bag or sack), or make it yourself (or ask someone you know who loves to sew to make one for you). I have made a few and find that they are quite easy once you get going. When we get into a larger place and I get my sewing desk and machine back I will post pictures of how to make them. Until then if you have questions please feel free to contact me, there are also many places to find instructions online, each varies - just search for baked potato bag or baked potato sack.

How to make a Baked Potato Bag
Note: I am a beginner with a sewing machine so these won't be the most technical directions. I purposefully do not give dimensions as you can make them as large or small as you want to. I would hesitate to make it to too large (more than four potatoes at a time) though because I'm not sure how the potatoes would cook.

What you need

Sewing Machine
100% cotton Thread
100% Cotton fabric

*A couple of notes on batting, it would be best to get 100% cotton batting, however it is not necessary.
Also when buying the batting, if you buy low or medium loft you will need twice the amount. You will need to stitch the batting together to make it thicker.

You will need one piece of cotton fabric that is twice as tall as the piece of batting. Place the batting on the wrong side of the cotton fabric, line up the edges on three sides. Fold down the top of the fabric to cover the batting (you should only see the design on the fabric now.) Sew the three edges . Fold in half so the sewn edges are together. Sew the two edges that have been sewn together and surge(I just use the zig-zag stitch). Turn bag so stitching is on the inside and you have a potato bag.
View of inside the bags. FYI I made green one and my mother-in-law made the red one.
I've seen some where they actually quilt the whole thing, which may not be a bad idea to keep the batting in place, because after quite a few uses it starts to slip down in the bag. Another way to counter this would be to use two pieces of fabric and stitch the batting to all the edges.

Another thing I have seen is having a lip to close the potatoes in the bag. I don't think it is necessary, as our potatoes cook just fine without it, but it does look nicer.

To use:
Wash & Dry Potato, DO NOT PRICK (you can wrap the potato in a paper towel if desired),
Place in Bag, Microwave using your microwave’s potato setting (if you don’t have one, start with 4 minutes). You want to squeeze the potato while still in the sack, if it is soft then it is done. Some potatoes may need additional time. If more time is needed continue using 1 minute increments until done.
Tip: to get your potatoes nice and fluffy, take your potato when it is still nice and hot. Bang* it on a clean surface (counter, cutting board, etc) a couple of times, it will split open after the second or third time. Place on a plate, open split more and fluff with a fork.

Caution: You may need to use a hot-pad to hold the hot potato while banging it.

*Seriously Bang it on the counter! Take out your frustrations on the potato, it works great! Doesn't that potato look nice and fluffy?

Additional Uses: Day old rolls, Acorn Squash, Carrots, String Beans

Wrap the following in a paper towel
Sweet Corn; Remove Husk
Sweet Potatoes

100% Cotton – Machine Washable – Cold
****** Microwaves ovens may vary do not leave bags unattended when using – you should not leave the potatoes in the bag as they will steam and get it wet. Not recommended for use in microwaves without a working turntable.

Wednesday, July 29

Layered Beef and Bean Dip

So I was about to make nachos for dinner one night, but decided to do a layered dip instead. It worked well (I suggest if you want to use it more than once to layer the beans, hamburger and cheese separately so you can heat it up later (because cold hamburger - ew!)

Layered Beef and Bean Dip

1 can (15 oz) pinto beans
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp oil (I used olive oil, but it would be more flavorful if you used bacon drippings, or if you had a layer of fat from drippings after cooking a ham/chicken, etc)

0.5 lb Hamburger
1/2 cup onion
Taco seasoning

2 Cups Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup salsa
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sliced olives
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup green onion, sliced
Tortilla chips/strips

In saucepan, place beans, garlic powder and oil. Mash the beans with a potato masher or fork. Cook on medium-low until heated through, stirring occasionally.
While beans are cooking, cook hamburger and onion until hamburger is browned. Add taco seasoning to hamburger.

In a 8-in square glass pan (or other dish - it could be fun to do individual dishes as well) arrange in the following layer:
1 cup cheese*
Sour Cream
1 cup cheese*
Green onion

Serve with tortilla chips or strips. Enjoy

*I separate the cheese because I really like the gooey cheese (the hot hamburger melts it). I also like the not melted cheese so this gives me the best of both worlds. You can put all of it on the hamburger to melt it, or all on top of the sour cream.

Fried Rice

This recipe is adapted from about 3 other recipes. I take what I like from them and add it together. One recipe called for green beans (green beans in Fried Rice?), another called for peas (I only like fresh peas straight from the garden, so that was a no go), mushrooms (hubby says no to), and bamboo shoots (I never have those), and another said to beat the eggs and soy sauce together (huh?). I actually tried the eggs and soy sauce thing, not so great. I never felt like the eggs got cooked enough (I am really don't deal well with eating raw eggs - yeah, no homemade eggnog for me!) I usually try to just use one pan for this so I cook the eggs before I saute the other ingredients. The ham I usually have left over from cooking a half-ham, which I usually buy when it goes on sale for $0.99 per pound. Tip: When buying ham, buy the butt portion not the shank (butt portion usually has smaller bones and more meat).

Fried Rice

3 cups Rice
2 Carrots, cubed or shredded (these should be as thick as matchstick carrots or they will turn mushy)
3 Eggs, scrambled and crumbled, unseasoned
1/2 cup Green Onions, sliced
1 clove Garlic, minced
2 cups Ham, cubed
1 tsp Sesame Oil (if you do not have this you can omit)
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce (I use reduced sodium)

Using the Sesame and Olive oils, saute the carrots, green onions, ham and garlic in large frying pan or wok until carrots are crisp tender. Stir in rice and eggs. Add soy sauce. Serve while hot.