Category Archives: Starving Artist

Feeding my daughter. She would much rather sit at the table and draw than eat what I fix her. Here are some recipes that she likes, and how I actually got her to try them.

Caramel Apple Upside Down Cornbread Cake

I hate recipes. Did you see my tagline? “…rarely follows a recipe…” This is another one of my Let’s See if This Works recipes. I had two apples that were starting to get a little wrinkly on the outside. Not really crisp enough to serve in my husband’s lunch but not soft enough to toss in the woods for a critter to enjoy. So I thought I’d try a caramel apple upside down cake. But being lazy and not wanting to follow a recipe I looked in the cupboard and had a little box of corn bread mix. Voila!

I mean... come on. SO YUMMY.

I mean… come on. SO YUMMY.

Caramel Apple Upside Down Cornbread Cake

Preheat oven to 350F and find a nice heavy 1 quart casserole dish or do like me and use your Pampered Chef 1 quart stone that you never used before and cross your fingers that it will come out.

Ingredients:

2 large apples, peeled (if you don’t like the peels), cut in half, cored and sliced semi-thinly (in other words, don’t use that apple slicer thingy that gives you 8 perfect pieces. It will not work here.)

4-6 tablespoons of light brown sugar – you’ll use one heaping tablespoon at a time.

2 tablespoons of room temperature butter, to be used to butter your dish and to dollop over the last layer of apples

lemon zest from a whole lemon

lemon juice from half a lemon

one box of Jiffy Cornbread Muffin Mix

1 egg

3/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon of vanilla

2 tablespoons of brown sugar

Directions:

Place the apple slices, lemon zest and lemon in a bowl and toss to coat the apples

Butter the bottom of a 1 quart baking stone or casserole dish

Place 1 heaping tablespoon of brown sugar in bottom, sprinkled over top of the butter

place the apples in a pretty design (this will be the top once you remove it from the pan)

top the apples with a heaping tablespoon of brown sugar.

place another layer of apples and top with another heaping tablespoon of brown sugar. Keep doing this until you run out of apples. I think I got three or four layers of apples.

Top with brown sugar again and about one tablespoon of room temp butter, just pinched with your fingers and dolloped around the top.

Place apples in the oven at 350F for 15 minutes to help soften them a bit. This step isn’t really necessary if you like a firmer apple. I’m feeding the Queen of Picky-land so I have to soften them a bit more than usual.

Prepare the cornbread batter by mixing the egg, milk, vanilla, cornbread mix, 2 tbsp brown sugar in a bowl.

Remove the apples from the oven and top with the cornbread muffin mix. Shake the dish a little to allow the batter to run down through the crevices.

Bake again for 30 minutes or until cake is done. (toothpick comes out clean)

caramel apple upside down cornbread cake RIGHT-SIDE UP! It's still pretty this way, too.

caramel apple upside down cornbread cake RIGHT-SIDE UP! It’s still pretty this way, too.

Allow to rest 5-10 minutes before sliding a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it. Then  flip the cake onto a serving platter. If your cake doesn’t come out cleanly just don’t serve it to your guests on the platter. Excuse yourself to the kitchen to plop big portions of it into bowls and top with whipped cream or powdered sugar or ice cream, etc. etc. No one will ever know it wasn’t perfect. Heck, I think it looks pretty right-side up or upside down! Oh and p.s. You can leave this cake on the counter for a few hours but it’s best to refrigerate leftovers.

Caramel Apple Upside Down Cornbread Cake

Caramel Apple Upside Down Cornbread Cake

Enjoy!

Ramen – My Interpretation

My version of easy home-cooked "Ramen" using store-bought Ramen noodles. Cheap, easy, tasty.

My version of easy home-cooked “Ramen” using store-bought Ramen noodles. Cheap, easy, tasty.

Most evenings I have a plan. But this one evening I did not. I ate leftovers for a very late lunch so by the time dinner rolled around I had no desire to cook nor did I have ANY clue what to make. Usually on nights like this the kids eat cereal and I make something special later after the kids are in bed for daddy and mommy. But this evening Josie asked for Ramen noodles. So I got out two packages. I had an idea!

My version of Ramen was born. Now, I am fully aware this is not a traditional Ramen noodle dish that you would eat in an authentic Asian restaurant. The broth and noodles are homemade in a true Ramen dish. This is simply MY version. Frugal, quick, and tasty.

Ramen – Jessie’s Asian Noodle Experience

MAKES TWO SERVINGS

Check your fridge for yummy goodies to add to the soup. I used sliced leftover baked sweet potato, which I reheated a bit. Very thinly sliced beef barely cooked in a bit of olive oil with a splash of  low-sodium soy sauce. (If you check the butcher case you can find thinly sliced ‘steak sub’ quality steak. That will be perfect for this dish.)

Bean sprouts would be good. Sliced mushrooms would be good. Slivers of carrot would be good. Finely diced jalapeno pepper or pickled banana peppers would be good.

  • Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan that has a lid.
  • Add 2 packs of Ramen, BUT ONLY ONE packet of flavoring.
  • Turn the heat to low and sprinkle in a handful of baby spinach and submerge the spinach so it wilts.
  • Add a tablespoon of fresh lime juice OR rice wine vinegar to the pot and place a lid on it.
  • Meanwhile, get two big bowls ready because this comes together quickly.
  • Poach or pan fry 2 eggs. You want that yolk to spill out into the broth.
  • Place the broth and noodles in the bowls. Top with the sliced sweet potatoes (or whatever veggies you have), the steak, and the egg.
  • Drizzle the whole dish with toasted sesame oil, a few shakes of red pepper flakes, and some prepared teriyaki wok sauce/marinade. (I have a bottle of prepared stuff. The prepared stuff is thicker than straight teriyaki and is often blended with other flavors like sesame or sweet chili or mandarin orange.)

This isn’t really as much of a recipe as it is a suggestion.

The end result is bursting with flavor and makes you think you are eating a fancy restaurant quality meal. Don’t forget to eat it with chopsticks! It’s Umami at it’s finest. That ‘fifth taste’ that is hard to describe. It’s rich, savory, deep, mmm…. so delicious.

ENJOY!

 

 

 

Jessie’s Creamy Chicken Lasagna

A few weeks ago my brother called me from the grocery store to ask me some questions about ingredients in my lasagna recipe. I thought he was referring to my sauteed mushroom and onion lasagna but no… he called it Jessie’s Creamy Chicken Lasagna and said he makes it all the time. I don’t have a very good memory (I know. My husband is very lucky) so I didn’t know what he was referring to. Long story short, I got the recipe from him and he told me to post it here. He said it is a go-to of his when he is looking for that comforting, warm, cheesy, creamy indulgent meal. So here it is. I have no idea when I came up with this. I’m guessing at least 6 or 7 years ago. Maybe longer.

I hope it’s as awesome as my big brother says it is! I can’t wait to try it. Because apparently I can’t remember it from the first time around.

***update***

I made it!! It started to come back to me as I was whisking the milk into the soups and adding the herbs. It was great. It was creamy and decadent. The fruit salad was a great side-dish because it helped cut the richness of the lasagna. Josie even ate a few bites after I explained to her that the lasagna tasted like cheese crackers and chicken nuggets. Thanks big brother for bringing this one back!

creamy chicken lasagna with a little bowl of fresh fruit salad. The fruit salad is great because it cuts the richness of the lasagna.

creamy chicken lasagna with a little bowl of fresh fruit salad. The fruit salad is great because it cuts the richness of the lasagna.

Jessie’s Creamy Chicken Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 1 15 oz. container small curd low fat cottage cheese (cottage cheese melts and blends right in but it’s MUCH cheaper than ricotta. Try it. You’ll thank me for saving you the bucks AND still giving you the smooth, mellow, cheesy, creaminess you need.
  • 3 cups diced cooked chicken – a rotisserie chicken is a great choice for this if you are in a hurry. Just pick it up at the grocery store along with the rest of the ingredients.
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 12 oven-ready lasagna noodles
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • hot pepper chili flakes to taste if you like that touch of heat.

Preheat oven to 350F

Stir the soups, milk, and herbs, s&p and chili flakes in a large bowl.

Spray bottom and sides of 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray.

Assembly instructions:

Coat the bottom of the baking dish with a big spoonful or two of the soup mixture. Place noodles on top of the soup mixture. Top with about 1 cup of soup mixture, half of the cottage cheese, 1 1/2 cups of chicken, 2/3 cup Mozzarella cheese and 1/3 cup cheddar cheese. Repeat layers once. Place another layer of noodles on top and cover with remaining soup mixture, Mozzarella cheese and cheddar cheese.

Cover with foil (spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray to prevent the cheese from ripping off the top of the lasagna when you remove the foil) and bake for 45 minutes. Then remove foil and bake until golden and bubbly.

Enjoy the simplicity of this lasagna! It freezes well and it is great to give to friends or family or neighbors that need a hearty meal.

Lemon Basil Parmesan Risotto with Peas

One of the dishes I was most afraid of making from scratch was always risotto. It seemed like a daunting task of perfect measurements, constant stirring, and cooking for exactly 22 minutes. Now it’s one of my go-to dishes. And I barely follow a recipe anymore. But for you, I’ll tell you exactly what to do.

It’s very versatile. You can add all sorts of flavorings to it and veggies to create a perfect bowl of flavor. I personally like the zesty, tangy lemon, the sweet ‘pop’ of peas and salty Parmesan flavor.

Lemon Basil Parmesan Risotto with Peas

finished bowl of risotto

finished bowl of risotto

Ingredients:

2 small sweet onions or 1 large Vidalia onion

5 T unsalted butter, divided (3 and 2)

1 T extra virgin olive oil

1 1/4 C Arborio rice

1/2 tsp salt (depending on how salty your stock is. Mine is home made so it’s not as salty as store-bought)

1/2 C Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc (optional)

5-6 Cups chicken stock

2 T fresh basil chiffonade

juice from 1/2 lemon

zest of whole lemon

1 C frozen peas

1/2 C Parmesan cheese

dash of heavy cream (optional)

Directions:

Start out by placing all the chicken stock in a sauce pan over medium heat. Place butter and oil in a separate larger heavy sauce pan over low heat to melt. Add finely chopped onion and allow onion to soften for about 10 minutes. (I place the onion in the food processor to chop it up as finely as possible. It ends up being about the same size as the grains of rice. Which is nice when you are trying to get your picky kid to eat it.) Add rice to onion and stir to coat. Allow to toast in butter/oil for about 5 minutes. Add the 1/2 tsp salt and stir. (note: if your stock is super salty, don’t add too much salt at this time. Keep in mind the Parmesan is salty, too.) Add wine and pat rice down into liquid. The liquid should be at a slow simmer. If you cook the rice too hot it will cook too fast and the starch won’t be released. If you cook the rice too low the rice will get mushy. A nice slow simmer is good…. a couple bubbles, not too much.

Once the wine is absorbed you can start adding the hot stock at about a cup at a time. Add one cup stock, stir, and allow to simmer. Add another cup stock, stir, and allow to simmer.

risotto, stock, measuring cup for scooping stock and a glass of wine for me to drink. Yum.

risotto, stock, measuring cup for scooping stock and a glass of wine for me to drink. Yum.

Once you add about half the stock, add the lemon zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon.

risotto2

Continue adding the stock and stirring the rice. Taste to see what the texture is like. It should have a little bit of a bite in the center of the rice but the general ‘feel’ should be creamy. I tend to cook the rice for about 30 minutes. Once it has a creamy texture, add the basil and peas and Parmesan and stir. At the end, stir in 2 Tablespoons of butter and even a dash of heavy cream if you have it. Voila! Easy.

Aside: you can drink wine while you are cooking this dish. That’s really why it’s my favorite meal to make.

 

 

 

 

Baked Mac N Cheese with Ham

After the holidays, be it Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Fourth of July, New Year’s Day, I always try to stock up on the foods that were overstocked in the grocery stores. Many times you will spend three dollars a pound for a turkey but after the holidays you might see them for $ .89 a pound! So keep your eye on the ham after Easter and Christmas, the pork after New Year’s, and the beef and chicken after Fourth of July. Also, check the produce after the 4th too. Often those watermelons and cobs of corn are on the ‘not the best but still a good buy’ rack. AND the corn on the cob is usually husked for you when it’s on the day old rack! Woo hoo!

Anyway, my father-in-law came to our house for Thanksgiving. I made a turkey. But he brought a ham that he got for free through his local grocery store and I put it in the freezer. I recently got it out and thawed that bad boy and threw it in a roasting pan with a splash of pinot grigio, honey drizzled over the ham and some dijon mustard brushed on it. (Tightly sealed with foil and baked 15 mins per pound). We ate it hot that night for dinner. We ate it cold for quesadillas the next day. We ate it for breakfast piled high with an over easy egg on an English Muffin. The best part is, I pulled a bunch of the slices off for Josie’s lunches. I make her a real life “lunchamajig”. You know. Those prepackaged plastic trays with crackers and cheese and a cookie and that meat that’s perfectly round but not really identifiable. What is this? Ham? Turkey? One is the same color as the other and it almost looks like sliced hot dogs. Gross. Yeah, momma’s making Josie her own “lunchamajig”. That’s what I’m calling it.

I had a ton of ham left so I picked it all off the bone and chopped up one cup of the salty sweet goodness for the following recipe and put the rest in the freezer for many many more meals to come. Thanks father-in-law for the free ham! Maybe I’ll bring a casserole the next time we visit which includes some of your generous Thanksgiving donation!

Baked mac and cheese with ham

finished mac n cheese w ham

This recipe calls for 1 lb cooked pasta – your choice. I used mini shells. Cook until just under al dente. It will bake for awhile too so don’t over cook it at this time. A pointer: add some chicken bullion to your water before adding the pasta. Or just a tablespoon of salt. It adds so much to the flavor of the pasta if you flavor the water.

drain the pasta and put back in the pot (or in a big bowl) and add:

1 Cup sharp cheddar cheese and 1 Cup of the diced ham and toss to distribute the ham and cheese evenly.

Place the mixture into a greased 9×13 casserole dish.

Top with 1/3 Cup of dried Italian Style breadcrumbs and 1/2 Cup of sharp cheddar cheese

Top that with a couple pats of butter. Slivers of butter distributed over the breadcrumbs helps to brown the topping.

mac and cheese w ham before baking

Top with slivers of butter and drizzle with milk.

Now, pour one cup of milk (I used 2%) gently over the top of the pasta and breadcrumbs. It also helps to make the top moist and helps it crisp up in the oven.

Bake uncovered at 350F about 45 – 60 minutes until top is golden. Allow to rest for ten minutes before serving.

The creamy soft noodles and the salty ham is so yummy together. And if you chop the ham up in small enough pieces you often get a crunchy piece from the top that is a lot like BACON! Yum.

Enjoy!