Thursday, December 29, 2011

Creamy Black Bean Soup

This one of my absolute favorite soups that I make often. It is cheap, easy, and healthy! What more could you ask for?!?!?! Avocado, Mexican creme, sour cream, cheese, and tortilla chip crumbles nicely accessorize any bowl of this soup!

Accessorized with Avocado, Mexican Creme, & Cilantro

Creamy Black Bean Soup

1 medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cups chicken OR beef broth
3 15 oz. cans of black beans, rinsed & drained*
1 14.5 oz can Rotel, undrained
1 can diced green chilies, undrained
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, reserve 1 Tbsp.
1/4 cup Mexican Creme

Toppings: avocado, cheese, cilantro, sour cream, lime wedges, tortilla chips, etc.

1. Saute onion and garlic in hot oil in a large pot over medium-high heat for 4-6 minutes or until tender.

2. Stir in broth, beans, Rotel, green chilies, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, and cilantro (reserve 1 Tbsp.). Cover and bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, stir in reserved cilantro, and cool for 5 minutes.

3. Process soup with hand blender or in batches in a blender or food processor for 30 seconds or until smooth. Return to pot and stir in Mexican Creme until well blended. Serve with your desired accessories!

*I often substitute 1 lb. of dried black beans. Soak beans and drain. Follow the same steps, but simmer for two hours or until beans or tender. You will need to salt the beans, but DO NOT ADD THE SALT until AFTER the beans are cooked. Adding salt prior to cooking beans creates a tough skin. Using dried beans takes longer, but is cheaper. If you are going to be around the house, this is the way to go! We also have simmered them in the pressure cooker for 30 minutes.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Peaches-and-Cream French Toast Casserole

I recently stumbled upon this recipe in one of my magazine and my love for peaches (when you have Fredericksburg zip code it's completely natural) made me instantly yank the entire page from the binding. A few weeks later, I knew it would be the perfect tailgate breakfast for the Missouri game and as a make-the-night-before recipe that you pop into the oven the next morning, it would be a great bake-and-take breakfast. Every bite of this recipe is filled with the taste of summer and fond memories of a french toast breakfast.

Peaches-And-Cream French Toast Casserole

1 8 oz Loaf of French Bread, cubed
8 Large Eggs
2 Cups Milk
1/4 Cup Sugar + 1 tsp
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 15 oz Cans Sliced Peaches in Juice, Drained
1/2 Cup packed Brown Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream

Butter a 9"x13" baking dish and arrange bread cubes. Whisk eggs with milk, 1/4 sugar, and vanilla until well blended and pour over bread. Arrange peaches on top and sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, and 1 tsp sugar. Cover and refrigerate overnight or 8 hours.

Remove from fridge 30 minutes prior to baking and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour cream into a small pan and bring to a boil over high heat; cook until reduced by half (10 - 12 minutes). Drizzle over the top of casserole and bake, uncovered 45 - 55 minutes until lightly brown on top. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

This went over extremely well at the tailgate and made me long for summer to be here even sooner so I can use Fredericksburg peaches instead of canned. I'm so giddy my knees tingle at the prospect! Too bad this recipe and a decent tan were the only thing I got from the Missouri game.

Two Perfect Fall Cookies

I believe with my whole heart, that cookies are a year around food. However, there are those certain cookies that just taste a bit more delicious around specific holidays. Below are two recipes for perfect fall cookies - Spicy Oatmeal Raisin and Pumpkin, Oatmeal, & White Chocolate Chip - that are extremely simple and one is almost healthy! They both use a spice cake mix (I told you they were simple!) yet, taste like you spent an entire morning in your apron. I generally use the Duncan Hines Spice Cake Mix as it is the only one I find on the store shelves, however, any dry spice cake mix or recipe will work!

Now to share these two amazing fall cookie recipes:

Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I first started making these cookies when I was in 5th grade. For some reason, we had a box of Spice Cake Mix in our pantry and this recipe was on the side of the box. These were the first cookies I ever made by myself and since then they have become a reliable cookie for any kind of gathering. I remember making these for my family Thanksgiving that year and now, every time I make these cookies, I am taken back my proud accomplishment of my first baked good and a new found love for cooking.

Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1 box Spice Cake Mix
1/2 Cup Oil
2 eggs
1 Cup Oatmeal
1/2 Cupe Raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients and drop by rounded tablespoon onto a parchment paper lined pan. Bake at 375 for 7-9 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on pan for 3 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Pumpkin, Oatmeal, & White Chocolate Chip Cookies

These were kind of an accidental experiment . . . an accidentally almost healthy! The pumpkin replaces the oil and what part of eggs and oatmeal are unhealthy? Now the white chocolate makes up the "almost" part of the healthy . . . but could a cookie be a cookie without at least one sinful addition?

Pumpkin, Oatmeal, & White Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 Box Spice Cake Mix
1 15 oz Can of Pumpkin
2 eggs
1 Cup Oatmeal
1 Cup White Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine eggs and pumpkin, mix well. Add cake mix and oatmeal and stir until all ingredients are well blended. Stir in white chocolate chips and use a tablespoon to drop onto a parchment paper lined pan. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and move to a cooling rack.

Note: This is a very moist cookie and is best kept fresh in the refrigerator

Hope these cookies will bring Thanksgiving into your kitchen a few weeks early and delight your taste buds! Happy Fall!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chicken Pie

Since the name of this blog is "Two Cooks, One Kitchen", I guess it's time to post something from the kitchen.

I recently received a new cookbook in the mail from Pampered Chef (if you need to place a PC order let me know!). Pampered Chef paired up with stars of TLC, to put their favorite recipes into an exclusive Pampered Chef cookbook.

 I am in love with almost every recipe in the book and decided to start with Chicken Pie and of course add my touch. This recipe if from Lori Allen from Say Yes to the Dress, Atlanta.

Chicken Pie


  • 3 lg chicken breasts, bone in
  • 1 can of cream of celery soup
  • 1 1/2 cup self rising flour
  • 1 1/2  cup buttermilk
  • butter
  • one bag frozen vegetables (this is my addition, I used H-E-B frozen soup vegetables)
  • olive oil

Cover the 3 chicken breasts with water, cover and simmer for 2 hours

Remove chicken, cool, and debone. Discard chicken bones. Reserve chicken broth

Dice chicken

Using a small amount of olive oil, sauté the frozen vegetables until tender

Add 1 1/2 cups of broth, the soup, and chicken to the pan. Bring to a boil.

Place in a rectangular dish and COOL completely.
Combine buttermilk and flour, drop on top of mixture
Place a pat of butter on top of each biscuit

Bake at 450 degrees for 45 minutes or until golden brown

This is basically a very easy chicken pot pie recipe. I boiled, deboned, and diced the chicken and made the veggie, soup, chicken mixture the night before and put it in the dish. It made very a very easy week night meal to come home and combine the buttermilk and flour and bake.


    Another Metal Chicken Has Stolen My Heart

    Recently I was perusing the closing pictures of 2nd term on the Camp Honey Creek website, when I came upon this gold nugget. . .

    At first at I laughed seeing Melvin on his perch, but then it made me a little sad because my need for a metal chicken in my life was still not fulfilled. Then two days later on Sunday,  I was walking into the College Station H-E-B (by myself because Daniel did not want to go with me) and what did appear before my wondrous eyes . . . .


    Well knowing Daniel had given a quick "NO" to the last time I asked to buy a similar one, my hopes were instantly dashed. After getting everything on (and not on my list), I walked past the big metal chicken again and my heart longed for a metal chicken even more. As I was driving though the parking lot, I saw a small metal chicken and then it occurred to me . . . Daniel only said "NO" to a BIG metal chicken and he wasn't there for me to ask about a small metal chicken since he REFUSED to go to the store with me . . . .

    I quickly parked my car and ran to pick up my small metal chicken and carried him straight to the check out. After purchasing my chicken, the cashier asked if I needed help out to my car and I told her, "No, it's ok. I am an expert with metal chickens." As I walked out the door, a woman stopped to tell me that my chicken was "hilarious" which led to a discussion about blogs and big metal chickens. I then proudly loaded my new chicken into my car and as I drove home I began to have a tiny feeling of worry that my new small metal chicken would not be allowed to perch on the front porch and would be shipped off to my classroom at school. So I developed a plan of action . . .

    I parked close enough to my neighbors car so that when I opened my door, it obscured the view from the house window and I brought in MOST of the groceries. Daniel asked if I needed help and I told him to just take the ones I had and start putting them away since there were only two bags left. I quickly retreated to the car and grabbed the bags and my new small metal chicken. I perched him on the front porch and quickly shut the door behind me. So far all was good.

    We had two friends over for dinner that night and neither commented on our new addition (well Claire almost did . . . ). Since I leave before Daniel does in the morning, I knew I had a good 24 hours before anything was said. Now it is Wednesday and no mention has been made of my new small metal chicken that I have named Charley. Good news Charley, I think you are safe! As the holidays start to roll around you now get to look forward to Charley being included in my holiday porch decorations! My void for a metal chicken in my life has been filled and hopefully the next time I ask Daniel to go the store with me he will . . . . because I now have my eye on a big metal flamingo.

    Friday, July 29, 2011

    Fish Stick Friday

    A meal so glorious, it needs no further introduction.

    I know you are thinking WOAH! This is supposed to be a blog about delicious food cooked in my kitchen and big metal chickens and you are talking about fish sticks? Yes I am.

    For the last 25 years as a camper, counselor, and staff member, I could always count on Fridays as being Fish Stick Friday at Camp Arrowhead/Honey Creek (excluding when Merry 1/2 Christmas and Happy 1/2 Valentines fell on a Friday, then it was your standard holiday meal of turkey, dressing, green beans, yams, strawberry shortcake and the adored and glorified chocolate milk). This Friday meal ALWAYS consists of crispy fish sticks, creamy macaroni and cheese, bright green peas, and gooey brownies with icing. Today there was a little carrot action in the peas, which I really didn't care for. The important part is that there were green peas. It's a timeless meal that my camp roommate/mom's best friend/second mom enjoyed when she was a camper in the '60s. BEST. CAMP. LUNCH. EVER

    Wednesday, July 27, 2011

    Melvin, The Big Metal Chicken

    Melvin has been well accepted at camp. This was his first spot in camp.

    Now he has been moved to a perch in the garden area below the dining hall so that he can keep a watchful eye over the camp. He is very happy in his new location. 

    Today, I saw three more metal chicken. How many have you seen? 

    Melvin was a great reminder about perspective today. I tried to make a "quick" trip to town during rest period . . . I should of known. As I was leaving Sonic, another car and I were bother reversing at the same time. I stopped and she did not. Of course I was in Jeannie's car.

    A few scratches and a minor dent. I was a little upset but then thought "remember the big metal chicken," and the bright side of it all is that at least it wasn't my fault! 

    Sunday, July 24, 2011

    Perspective and Big Metal Chickens

    So I have finally given in to the blogging world. I know it's not cute or attractive right now, but if you know me than you know that it is only a matter of time before its appearance is colorful and appealing.

    So since this is my first post, what better way to kickoff off a blog than big metal chickens. It's a little long, but worth every minute of your time. I was inspired by a post on this blog: that my friend Dawn had posted on her Facebook. I all of the sudden began noticing these big metal chickens EVERYWHERE I went. I asked Daniel if I could have one one afternoon on a trip to H-E-B and I was quickly given a short "no" that left no room for argument.

    Currently, I am "Pretend Jeannie" at Camp Honey Creek for Girls and as I drove through Ingram and spotted yet another one of these magical creatures on my way to dinner last night, the big metal chicken story played through my head. It then struck me. . . . the perfect Sunday Church topic. What better way to teach perspective than the use of a big metal chicken. After dinner, I was struck with an issue - where do you buy a big metal chicken at 8 o'clock on a Saturday night in Kerrville, TX. Why H-E-B of course! I had remembered seeing them at the College Station H-E-B and sure enough it was my lucky night. I spotted 4 of them perched near the produce entrance as soon as I turned into the parking lot. I hurriedly approached an employee inquiring how one goes about purchasing one these metal chickens. After a few hmmms and ehhhhs, it was agreed upon that the best way was to peel off the price tag and a bagger would assist with my new purchase. After paying for my purchase, the bagger and I made our way to the the parking lot where he proceeded to load my new metal chicken into the cart. When we got to the car my big metal chicken must have been hesitant about where he was headed because my chicken was stuck in the cart. Once free, my chicken and the bagger had a short struggle as he was loaded into the back of "Real Jeannie's" car. And as the bagger rolled my cart away and told me to have a nice evening I responded with, "How can it not be a nice evening? I am now the proud owner of a big metal chicken!" At last, I finally had my big metal chicken.

    As I rushed back to camp, I was struck with another thought . . . what if someone was already doing church tomorrow? It really was my lucky night, because no one was. So I, along with two campers, was going to get to talk about perspective and big metal chickens. The original story is long and not PG friendly, so after a little bit of editing and some original thoughts of our own, we had the perfect Sunday Church message:

    Kristin: Good morning, this was a blog entry posted by a friend of a friend.
    Kathryn: This morning I had a fight with Victor about towels. It was basically me telling Victor I needed to buy new bath towels, and Victor arguing that I “just bought new towels“. I pointed out that the last towels I’d bought were hot pink beach towels, and he was all “EXACTLY” and I hit my head against the wall for an hour.
    Kristin: Then my friend Laura came to pick me up to go shopping at the outlet mall, and as Victor gave me a kiss goodbye he whispered, “You are not allowed to buy anymore towels“.   And that was exactly what was going through my head an hour later, when Laura and I stopped our shopping carts and stared up in a confused, silent awe at a display of enormous metal chickens.
    * Take the blanket off of the chicken. Turn signs around*
    Alexa (Laura):  I think you need one of those.

    Kathryn (me):  You’re joking, but they’re kind of awesome.
    Alexa (Laura): I’m not joking. We need to buy you one.
    Kathryn (me):  The 5-foot one was $300 and is marked down to $100.  That’s like, $200 worth of chicken for free.
    Alexa (Laura):  You’d be crazy not to buy that.  I mean, look at it. IT’S FULL OF WHIMSY.
    Kathryn (me):  Victor’d be mad.
    Alexa (Laura):  Yup.
    Kathryn (me):  But on the plus side?  It’s not towels.
    Alexa (Laura):  Exactly and we will name him Beyoncé.
    Kathryn (me):   Beyoncé. Yes.  And when our friends are sad we can leave him at their front door to cheer them up.
    Alexa (Laura):  Exactly. It’ll be like, “You thought *yesterday* was bad?  Well, now you have an enormous metal chicken to deal with.  Perspective.  Now you have it.”

    * Turn signs around*

    Kathryn: Then we flagged down a salesman, and asked “What can you tell us about these chickens?”, as if we were in a fine art gallery.  He didn’t know anything about them, but he said that they’d only sold one and it was to a really weird lady, and then Laura and I said “SOLD.  All this chicken belongs to us now.”

    Alexa: So he loaded Beyonce into our cart, but Beyoncé was surprisingly unstable, and the giant 5 foot metal chicken crashed over onto the floor. Laura and I were shouting “CHICKEN DOWN!  CLEAN-UP IN AISLE 3″ but he didn’t laugh.  The manager came to see what was causing all the commotion, and that’s when he found the sales guy unhappily fighting with our enthusiastically pointy chicken, which was almost as tall as he was.  The salesman was having a hard time, and he told everyone to stand back “because this chicken will cut you“, and at first I thought he meant it as a threat, like “That chicken has a knife”, but turns out he just meant the chickens’ ends were sharp and rusty.  It was awesome, and Laura and I agreed that even if we got tetanus, this chicken had already paid for himself
    Kristin: We got to my house and quietly snuck the chicken up to my front door, rang the doorbell, and hid around the corner. Victor opened the door and looked at the chicken in stunned silence for about 3 seconds.  Then he sighed, closed the door and walked away.

    * Turns signs around *
    Alexa (Laura):  What?  That’s it?  That’s the only reaction we get?
    Kathryn (me):  That’s it. He’s a hard man to rattle.
    * Turn signs around*
    Kathryn: Victor was surprisingly mad that I’d “wasted money” on an enormous chicken, because apparently a 5 foot chicken ringing the doorbell isn’t funny.  Then I said, “Well, at least it’s not towels” and that was the wrong thing to say because Victor yelled that he wanted it gone and stormed off, but I couldn’t move it by myself, so instead I said okay and went to watch tv.  
    Kristin: When the UPS guy came I hid. He was all “Dude.  Nice chicken” and Victor yelled, “IT IS NOT A NICE CHICKEN”. Victor seemed more upset than usual, so I finally dragged the chicken into the backyard and wedged it into a clump of trees to scare the snakes away.  When I came inside, Victor angrily pulled me into his office to see that I’d put Beyoncé directly in front of his only window.  And I was all “Exactly. YOU’RE WELCOME.”  
     Alexa: I told him that he could move Beyoncé if he wanted to, but he totally hasn’t.  Probably because of all of the giant rocks I piled on Beyonce’s feet to discourage burglars from taking him.  Or possibly because Beyoncé is growing on him.  Still, I can’t help but think that we wouldn’t even be having this argument if Beyoncé was towels.  Honestly, this whole chicken is really a lesson in perspective.
    Kristin: So now you are probably thinking two things. First, where can I buy one of these awesome metal chickens and second, what does a big metal chicken have to do with church service at Camp Honey Creek.
     Alexa: Well I am glad you asked. This big metal chicken is all about perspective. Perspective is how we see things. Is the glass half full or half empty?
    Kathryn: Sometimes we tend to see only the bad and think that nothing is going our way and everything is just plain wrong instead of looking for the bright side of the situation.  So today, we want to talk about perspective at Camp Honey Creek.
    Alexa: If you think you are having a bad day because you tripped and fell on the waterfront and now you can’t do half of your activities and you have to wear an ugly, comfortable shoe for the rest of camp, remember the big metal chicken. Instead think of how lucky you are to have a beautiful waterfront to fall on, and that you have wonderful people to take care of you, lend you crutches, and give you rides in the golf cart.
    All: Perspective. Now you have it.
    Kathryn: If you have 9 o’clock swimming and it’s SUPER cold, remember the big metal chicken. Just think how lucky you are to have such a beautiful waterfront to swim in when the heat becomes too much to bare.
    All: Perspective. Now you have it.
    Kristin: If you are discouraged in Riflery because you are shooting for Riflette and need 35’s, but have shot 6 33’s in a row, remember the big metal chicken. Look at those 33’s as only 2 points away from your goal and shooting a 33 is a lot better than shooting a 23 or 13 or even a 3. Be grateful that your riflery counselor is there to offer you encouraging words every shot of the way and is not going to give up on you.
    All: Perspective. Now you have it.
    Kathryn: If you have tons of summer reading homework, remember the big metal chicken. Think about how lucky you are to have 2 hours of rest hour to yourself every day to work through it all.
    All: Perspective. Now you have it.
    Alexa: You might think you are having a bad day because your cabin didn’t get honor cabin and you KNOW that is because SOMEONE forgot to take out the trash, remember the big metal chicken. Instead remember how lucky you are to live with 13 sisters and best friends.
    All: Perspective. Now you have it.
    Kristin: Staff and Counselors, if you are frustrated because that camper can’t remember the order of “pull and breathe, kick and glide”, keeps swinging and missing the tennis ball, paints someone else’s project, can’t remember their horses name on the 10th day of class, never has their letter home written by 4:00, is the slowest eater, or always forgets to do their chore, remember the big metal chicken. Look at that camper as an opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life and teach them life long skills, helping them become the best they can be.
    All: Perspective. Now you have it.
    Kathryn: When you think you are having a bad day at Camp Honey Creek, remember the big metal chicken. How can it be a bad day when you are at a place where it is totally acceptable to have shower parties, where every night is a giant sleep over with your best friends, and where you have the opportunity to swim, dance, sing, and just be yourself.
    Kristin: Where ice cream is better when you sing for it, where you can always be a rock star, and where life is able to slow down for 30 days.
    Alexa: Where your clothes don’t always have to match, where you can try new things with endless support, and where you are loved unconditionally.
    All: Perspective. Now you have it.
    Kathryn: When you leave Camp Honey Creek, these big metal chickens will seem to be everywhere and you will suddenly feel the urge that you NEED and MUST own one of these fine, colorful specimens.
    Alexa: Every time you see one of these fantastic creatures, think fondly of your days at Honey Creek and of everything you have learned. Remember your friends and smile at all your memories together.  
    Kristin: And when life is not going your way, school is hard, you have a fight with your friends, or your parents just “totally don’t understand”, remember this big metal chicken and look for the good in the situation, because . . . .
    All: Perspective. Now you have it!
     It went perfectly and the big metal chicken is now named Melvin. After church, I had several parents inquire about where they could purchase their own big metal chicken and to let me know it was a good message. Melvin is going to be a part of Camp Honey Creek now. I finally was able to buy a metal chicken and Melvin will serve as a daily reminder to all who come into contact with him to look for the good in their day.