Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Ranch Chicken

And... we're back!  After struggling through the first trimester, (yes, I'm pregnant with baby #2!) I'm finally back to cooking.  Though my sciatic was killing me by the end of dinner AND dessert preparation - it felt so good to be back in the kitchen!  And creating a new recipe to boot.  Love it.  Baby is doing a happy dance too.

Ranch Chicken

1.5 lbs chicken, chopped to bite size (about 1" squares)
2 T olive oil

In bowl or gallon zip-top bag combine:
1 packet ranch seasoning
1 T corn starch
1 T parsley flakes
1 t dill weed
1 t onion powder
1 t salt
1/2 t garlic powder
1/4 t ground pepper

I use a non-stick wok for cooking dishes like these.  I love the wok because you can cook lots of food very rapidly.  I use it for most of my chicken recipes and recommend investing in one.  Pick up a non-stick version, and grab a set of bamboo tools while you're at it.  That angled spatula will be your go-to for the wok.  This is now my second and I've never spent over $30- so even an inexpensive one should last you 5-7 years.  Well worth it to be able to cook chicken in 14 minutes!

Okay - enough about the wok.  Because, you can make this in a traditional pan - just select a big enough pan that you give the pieces plenty of surface room so they can brown up.

Toss chicken in spice mix.

Preheat olive oil on high.  Add chicken and toss to coat, then let sit until browned. This will happen pretty fast due to the corn starch in this recipe, so keep close watch. Stir with a downward thrust into the middle of the pan, shifting the bottom pieces up to the side, and the side pieces down to the bottom.  Allow to brown again, then stir again (same motion).  Once you've reached the browning that you want, just keep stirring.

With the heat on high, you don't want to let it sit very long in one place or it will burn.  If you will not be able to give this pan your attention for 10 solid minutes, you should give your active time to browning and then turn the heat down to medium to continue cooking.  It will just take longer.  I like to check the doneness of my chicken by cutting a piece in half with my spatula.  If it breaks quickly and the juices run clear, it's done.  If I have to really push to get it to cut, or if the juices are still pink/red, it needs more time.

I served this over mashed red potatoes, broccoli, and some fresh pineapple I snagged on sale!  We had enough for dinner and lunch, since the potatoes also helped to fill our tummies.  

==
For dessert we had chocolate cupcakes with vanilla italian meringue buttercream.  I'm a big fan of the easier preparation on the italian version, but I like the slightly denser texture of the swiss meringue buttercream.  (Read: I could make myself sick on frosting shots. This from the girl who will scrape traditional buttercream frosting off a cake to avoid it.  I'm a frosting snob. Sigh).
If you've never made a meringue buttercream, I highly recommend it - assuming you have access to a stand mixer, it is well worth the effort.  HERE is the recipe I used for the italian version.  The swiss is out of my Joy of Cooking cookbook.  I used a chocolate cake mix, and added 1 T cocoa powder and 1 t vanilla.  Because you can't go wrong with extra chocolate and vanilla.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Chocolate Cinnamon Torte


This is my Father in Law's favorite dessert. Ever.  It is what my Mother in Law or I make for his birthday each year.

It's a labor of love to make, but worth every oooh and aaaah when you present it.  And one of those desserts that has you rolling the bite around on your tongue and rolling your eyes back in your head lingering in the taste.

Chocolate Cinnamon Torte
2 c sugar
1-1/2 c salted butter, softened
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1-1/2 t ground cinnamon
2-2/3 c all-purpose flour

3 oz semi-sweet chocolate
4 c heavy or whipping cream
1/2 c cocoa



Up to 3 days ahead:
1.      Tear 14 sheets parchment paper, each about 10” long. On reverse of each sheet, trace pie pan or bottom of 9” cake pan.
2.      Into large bowl or Cuisinart measure sugar, butter, eggs & vanilla.  Combine and whip, do not liquefy. Add cinnamon and 2 cups flour, beat about 3 minutes or until fluffy, occasionally scraping bowl.  With spoon, stir in remaining flour to make a soft dough.
3.      Preheat oven to 375F.
4.      With frosting spatula, spread a scant 1/3 c dough in a very thin layer onto each circle.  I hold the sheet up to light to see if there are any thick/thin spots.  Use ends of parchment to lift on to a cookie sheet.  Bake 7-9 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.
5.      Remove cookie to wire rack using ends of parchment, allow to cool. Cut excess parchment from cookie, about a 1” margin.
6.      Repeat until all dough is baked. Stack cooled cookies carefully on a flat plate; cover with plastic wrap and store in cool, dry place.

Early in the day or day ahead:
1.      Coarsely grate chocolate; set aside.
2.      In large bowl with mixer at medium speed, beat cream and cocoa until soft peaks form.
3.      Carefully peel paper from one cookie.  Place a small dollop of whip in middle bottom of cake plate (this will keep the cake from sliding).  Place cookie on top.
4.      Spread with 1/2 c whipped mixture (measure so you don't run out).  Repeat layering until all cookies are used, ending with whipped mixture on top.
5.     Pile grated chocolate on top of cake; refrigerate until serving time, or at least 3 hours before serving so cookies soften for easier cutting. Makes 16 super rich servings.


Alternate: Make 2-3” cookies and assemble individual size cakes.

Recipe adapted from a tattered copy clipped from BH&G by my Mother in Law 20+ years ago. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Blueberry Picking!

Have you ever been to a pick-your-own blueberry patch?  Neither had we until 2 weekends ago when I ventured out with a friend.  Packed up the kiddos and made the short drive just outside of town, about 35 minutes.

We were greeted by a friendly gal, later introduced as a neighbor who helps out when they're short handed, who gave us instructions:  You'll walk out to these markers.  The farther back you go in the row, the better the picking gets.  When you pick, pull up, not down on the plant.  And, pick only the bluest of blueberries; not green, not crimson, blue with a little white haze on them.  That's how you know they're good.  And if you need to taste a few to make sure you're on the right track -wink-wink- that's allowed.

Well, the 2 year old with us took that tasting part to heart - we are quite sure he ate half his weight in berries while the rest of us picked.  Thankfully they know that's going to happen and had no problem with his berry-stained paws!  All our fellow pickers were really friendly too.

Have you ever tasted a blueberry right off the bush?  It's the most amazing thing. Ever.  We will be doing this every year.  A tradition that starts now.

After we had enough in our buckets, and the kids were beginning to complain about thirst and heat we went up to the little store and enjoyed popsicles and cold drinks and were regaled with a whole host of blueberry items - blueberry honey, preserves, lemonade, muffins (of course).  I picked just over 2 pounds and my friend just under - and we walked away for a total, get this, under $13.  Even the snacks only came up to about $5!  How can you beat that for an inexpensive, delicious, get the kids out in nature, outing!?  She was making a pie.  I made blueberry pancakes the next morning.  And we've been enjoying and sharing our prize pickings.  Such a treat.

Thanks so much for the hospitality of The Berry Patch, we will never look at blueberries the same way again!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Easy Rustic Italian Bread

This recipe comes from Stan's Aunt Melodee and her fiance David.  They came for a visit and this was their contribution to the family dinner - it is crave-worthy, crusty and chewy, and oh-so-unbelievably easy!!  I asked if I could share this recipe and they agreed.  So grateful to them, for all their help (and for this awesome recipe).

First off, you'll need some hardware - a dutch oven, cast iron or stoneware.  Enameled cast iron is their preference, but they borrowed my Pampered Chef "magic pot", aka Deep Dish Covered Baker.  It worked great.  We'll be working with some high temps, so do check use instructions on your pot first.  If you have to reduce temps, increase bake time 5-10 minutes in each step.

Then, you'll need to plan ahead.  There's no kneading, or pounding... but you will have to give the yeast time to do its magic.  Mix up the sponge, or dough, a day ahead (18 hours).  So think of this as a "before you go to bed, and when you get home from school/work the next day", kind of adventure.

Ready?!

Rustic Italian Bread

30 oz (approx. 6 cups) flour, I used whole wheat and increased the water by 2 T)
1/2 t yeast
1-1/2 t salt
3 c water

1 T cornmeal
1 T flour

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Pour in water and stir to mix. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let sit on counter overnight, or 18 hours.

To Bake:
Put dutch oven, with lid, in oven and preheat to 450F for 30 minutes.  Just before the 30 minutes are up, put a little flour on the counter and dump the sponge/dough out onto it.  Fold all four sides into the center, use a large spatula or dough scraper if you need to.  Carefully take the dutch oven out of the hot oven, sprinkle cornmeal on the bottom.

Pick up the sponge and plop it down into the hot dutch oven. Yes, plop.  Do a happy dance that you didn't have to knead dough.  Put the lid on and return it to the oven.  After 30 minutes, remove the lid.  Continue baking for an additional 30 minutes at 450F.

The bread should be nice and toasty brown with a total cook time of about an hour.

Let cool for a few minutes then take out and put on a cooling rack. Allow to cool on rack (if you can bear to wait that long before digging in).  Slice and enjoy!  We had ours with a little butter and honey.

-- Sponge Cryostasis --
If, for some reason, you can't get to baking the sponge in the proper time, seal the bowl well with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for up to 12 hours.  Return the sponge to room temperature before baking as directed above.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Blue Tape in the Kitchen

I keep a roll of low-tack painters tape in the kitchen.  It's used for everything from sealing misbehav'n boxes (below, with a little tab-handle) to labeling food I'll share with others.  I have been known to tape a recipe to the cupboard door for easy reading, and it doesn't damage the walls when displaying kid's artwork. 

So... Do you use "blue tape" around the house?  I can't imagine my kitchen without it. 




Sunday, March 17, 2013

Buttermilk

Never have buttermilk on hand when you need it?

This is one of my favorite things. Yes, you could add vinegar to regular milk, but then you would have to have milk on hand. This way, you just add powdered buttermilk to your dry ingredients and water to your wet, as instructed.

Happy, happy day!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Citrus Salad

This is one of my winter favorites. It is especially wonderful for brunch when there aren't a whole lot of other fresh fruit options available in the grocery store. The segments look like glimmering gems!

Grapefruits, segmented (one per 2 people)
Oranges, segmented (one per person)
Blood orange or ruby red grapefruit, 1-2 for color.

Add to taste:
Honey
Vanilla
Dark Rum (optional, but very yummy)

Mix together in a pretty bowl (not leaded crystal) and serve at room temperature. Store refrigerated.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Lemon Curd

I got this idea from the Krusteaz Gingerbread mix box.  It's a delicious compliment to the bread!

Lemon Curd
1 sm. package instant lemon pudding, prepared according to directions.
1/4 cup water

Prepare pudding according to instruction on box, add water. Serve cold to room temp. with gingerbread.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Quinoa, Almond and Orange Salad


Quinoa, Almond and Orange Salad

My favorite quinoa recipe to date.  I love the warmth of the cumin and the cool of the parsley.  
1 cup quinoa
1 cup plus 1 T orange juice, divided (can be from concentrate)
2 large oranges, peeled and cut into membrane-free segments (or a large can of drained mandarin oranges)
1 teaspoon orange zest (if you have it)
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 T olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup parsley (or cilantro), chopped
1. Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve under cold running water (if not pre-rinsed). Drain and combine with 1 cup water and 1 cup orange juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil; immediately reduce heat, cover and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. (I just toss it all into my rice cooker, works like a charm.)
2. Meanwhile, place the almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and very lightly toasted. Set aside. Mix together 1 T orange juice, olive oil, spices and orange segments.
3. Combine the cooked quinoa, oranges and spices, toasted nuts, dressing and parsley/cilantro and serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 4 generous servings

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ranch Seasoning

If you're like me, you like being able to pronounce the ingredients in your food.  Ranch seasoning without the preservatives (or dairy)!  And we like it better than the brand name.

Ranch Flavor Mix
1/2 c dry buttermilk (optional)
1 T parsley flakes
1 t dill weed
1 t onion powder
1 t salt
1/2 t garlic powder
1/4 t ground pepper

This is equivalent to a single packet, or about 3 T of seasoning.

Enjoy!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sweet and Zesty Coleslaw

The sweet of crushed pineapple combined with the zest of horseradish!  After a dinner date at Famous Dave's, my husband made a special request - copy their coleslaw!  My husband, the self-proclaimed coleslaw hater (and horseradish lover), LOVES this recipe.  I hope you do too.

Sweet and Zesty Coleslaw  
1 bag shredded cabbage for coleslaw
1 c shredded carrots
20oz can crushed pineapple, drained
Sauce:
1 c mayo
1/2 c sugar
3 T prepared horseradish (from a jar, with as few ingredients as possible - horseradish, vinegar, water should be about it)
1 t dijon mustard (I like Trader Joe's)
1 t ground white pepper
1/2 t salt
1/2 t celery seed
1/4 t garlic powder

In a large bowl, combine sauce ingredients and blend well.  Stir in cabbage, carrots and pineapple.  Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, stir before serving.  

Serves 10-12.   

Friday, May 18, 2012

Tricky Water

This is how I trick myself into drinking tap water... Yummy citrusy ice cubes.  So fancy, but so easy!

Start by slicing up the citrus of your choice.  I am picky.  Heirloom naval orange are a-mazing.  And when I can't get my hands on some Meyer lemons, organic lemons are the next best thing - sweeter than just any ol' lemon.  Or you can use a whole cranberry, sliced grapes, edible flowers... the options are as varied as your taste. 

Pop that little bit of flavor into an old fashioned ice cube tray. Fill with tap water and freeze.
When the cubes are frozen, put them in a zip top freezer bag and enjoy at your leisure. I like to put 2-3 in my reusable water bottle. I even have a bag stashed in the work freezer!

They're especially fancy with some orange juice and lemon-lime soda in a punch bowl at a party! 


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mandarin Orange Coffee Cake

I love mandarin oranges!  (They're especially yummy when stowed in the ice chest on a camping trip). So when I had them baked on top of a delicate coffee cake I had to have the recipe.  I snagged this one from a co-worker's wife over a decade ago - and have yet to see anyone else bring a similar dish to the table.  Now you're in the know!


Mandarin Orange Coffee Cake
350F, 40-45 minutes in a 9x9 square pan, greased and floured
(I use the wrapper from the stick of butter and rub it all over the inside of the pan to grease it.)

2 15oz cans mandarin oranges, drained (in light syrup or in juice recommended)
2 c all purpose flour
1 c sugar
1/2 c butter (1 stick, salted)
2-1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt (I like kosher sea salt, reduce to 3/4 t if using regular iodized table salt)
3/4 c milk
1 t vanilla
1 large egg
1 t cinnamon, divided
1/2 t nutmeg

Combine flour and sugar, cut in butter.  Reserve 1/2-3/4 cup of these crumbs for topping.  To remainder of flour mix add baking powder, salt, and 1/2 t cinnamon.  Mix together wet ingredients and combine with dry.  Blend/stir until light and smooth.

Spread in greased and floured pan and top with mandarin oranges in rows, try to think of how you'll be cutting the cake and line them up appropriately.  You might have some leftover oranges (you're welcome).


To the reserved crumbs, add 1/2 t cinnamon and nutmeg and sprinkle on top of oranges.

Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Serve hot or cooled.  Makes 9-12 slices, depending on how you cut.

I love having serving dishes that match up to my baking dishes.  I bought this square one just for my 9" square baking pan.  It always looks so pretty to fill it with matching goodies!  I even store them together in the same cabinet and pull them out at the same time when I bake.




Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Favorite Pilaf

I love pilaf. I happily credit my Grandma Rose for this love affair. She made hers from scratch; this is as close as I have ever tasted from a mix.

Start with Trader Joe's Rice Orzo Pilaf Mix and add a 1/4 c Israeli Couscous.
Increase water to 2-1/3 c. otherwise, prepare as directed.

This makes an excellent side for chicken, steak, salmon... yeah, anything really. Tonight it's fish sticks.  One pot, 25 minutes, tah-dah! Dinner!

Hope you enjoy as much as we do.  And ask your Grandmothers and Aunts and dear ones for their recipes. You'll miss more than hearing their voice when they're gone.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Fun with Dr. Seuss

It is our dear Dr. Thodore Seuss Geisel's birthday and Alex's school celebrated with a week of fun activities!  I joined in the fun... call it a perfect storm of my love of feeding people, and my love of all things Seuss.

We made Green Eggs and (Bacon)... if anyone has a suggestion for the ham, without having to mold chocolate or play with marzipan, please chime in.  I thought about spray food coloring Bugles, but they still weren't quite right.  And these are just TOO cute (and easy)!  Melted white chocolate, green mini M&M's, and small stick pretzels.





















Then, for One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish - snack cups with Sweedish Fish on top.  Super easy and lots of fun.  Alex got to help stir the gelatin and put the fish on top.  I used Glad Press and Seal over each cup and transported them in 12-muffin tins with a small cookie sheet between each layer, in an insulated grocery sack.  Ice pack on top, zip-top baggie full of spoons... worked like a charm.

For 24 Red Fish Cups:
24 10oz clear plastic cups
1 8oz package Sweedish Fish
6 3oz package Berry Blue gelatin dessert, prepared as directed.
1/2 c measuring cup (for dispensing into cups)




Did you know that Dr. Theodore Seuss Geisel was married to Helen Palmer (A Fish Out of Water)?  And that they worked together with P.D. Eastman on the book Go Dog, Go!  Amazing to think of that think-tank of children's authors!

Now, go read a book!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chocolate Mousse

Is there anything better than chocolate cake with a thick, creamy layer of chocolate mousse?  I think not.  Costco does a smashing job of it, but they have limited designs.  My Alex wanted a rocket for his 6th birthday.  Not just a rocket decoration, a cake the shape of a rocket.  And I would not disappoint.  I considered buying one, completely devoid of decoration, shaping it and trying to put it back together.  Yeah.  You can see the possibility for disaster there too, 'eh?

So I'll make one all myself!  Thankfully, I have some cake decorating skills (thanks Mom).  I can do this.

After some scrounging on the web, I merged a couple recipes and came up with this.  So. Amazing.  I could have licked the bowl right then and there.  Unabashedly.  Really.  Stan laughed at me, almost giving myself a stomach ache snacking on it one spoon at a time the whole while I put the cake together.  Did I say A-mazing?!  Easy too!

Chocolate Mousse
1 c heavy whipping cream or RichWhip, thawed (in the freezer section)
1 c milk (I used Lactaid 2%)
1 5.9oz package instant chocolate pudding
1 t vanilla

Combine all, whip until peaks form (but stop before it goes into butter stage).

Tah Dah!  Spread between your cake layers, liberally.  Stick your face in the bowl and consume directly... mmm...

I think you could even use the all powerful ice cream scoop and portion it out to a bunch of little desert cups. Little sprig of mint on top and you'll look like a pro.  I can't stress enough the beauty of a simple scoop. Of anything.

I used dark chocolate cake and dark chocolate frosting and let Alex decorate with an assortment of candies.  I think it looks great and it was SUPER yummy.  So much so that all the adults had a piece and all we had was a little sliver leftover.  Sad, but in a good way.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sneaky Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Muffins

What's that you ask? Oh, just a grated zucchini... Yup. Zucchini.
I use Aldi's Baker's Choice mix for Chocolate Chocolate-Chip muffins ($1.99), prepared according to directions, adding a shredded medium zucchini (3 for $1.79).
Alex enjoys them in mini-muffin form best. No matter the size, they're always really yummy and really moist, thanks to the zucchini.
.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Perfect Star

You can make a perfect star with only one cut.  Really!  Check out this link (bonus history lesson provided free-of-charge)!

I'm going to use it to make some lovely ornaments out of recycled (Trader Joe's) brown paper bags and Aleene's glue using the burnt brown paper bag method and some rubber stamps.  I've done it before and it works like a charm.  So easy and pretty quick too if you spread out the steps.  For best results make sure you're working with a candle (the soot helps the project like a lighter can't), and in a WELL ventilated area.

from: the vintage pearl

Monday, November 28, 2011

Chai Spice Cookies

I found this recipe in a hand-me-down issue of Better Homes and Gardens.  How could you possibly go wrong with chai spice tea and molasses?!  

I followed the recipe exactly the first time (stars) but just can't rationalize cut-out cookies in my schedule.  Pretty? Sure! Tastes just the same? Yup. 

So instead of rolling the dough, I made them like my Great-Grandma's refrigerator cookies and voila - my absolute favorite go-to cookie. 

Chai Spice Cookies
Prep: 25 minutes
Chill: 3 hours-3 weeks (or freeze)
Makes: 48 2" cookies
Bake: 10 minutes
Oven: 350° F

2 spiced chai-flavor tea bags, like Stash's Chai Green... mmm
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
(or 1/4 t clove, 1/4 t allspice, 1/2 t ginger, 1 t cinnamon)

1-1/2 cups salted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
2 T molasses

1 recipe Powdered Sugar Icing (below)

In large bowl, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice and contents of tea bags, set aside.  The flour mix alone is intoxicating!

In Cuisinart (or large mixing bowl) combine remaining ingredients and beat until light and a little bit fluffy.  Add to flour (I usually end up mixing with my hands until I can create a ball of dough to work with.) Divide dough in half.   

Here's where I divert from the recipe. Roll each half of the dough into a long cylinder, about 2" diameter and wrap it up in parchment, then plastic wrap, and stow it in the fridge 3 hours, or a couple weeks.
When ready to bake, unroll the parchment and cut off enough to line your cookie sheet.  Then cut 1/4" slices of the dough and make round cookies.  Bake 10 minutes, remove to a rack to cool.  Drizzle in crazy pattern with icing.  They're beautiful (super yummy) and everyone marvels that I can have cookies ready at the drop of a hat!  

Powdered Sugar Icing: In medium bowl combine 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 4 teaspoons milk. Stir in additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until piping consistency.

to store: Layer cookies between waxed paper in covered airtight container. Store at room temperature up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months.


Updated: 12/12/10 (after making 7 consecutive batches in a Christmas baking marathon)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Confetti Mac & Cheese

Did you know you can make macaroni and cheese from scratch!?  I grew up on the stuff from a blue box... but after seeing Alton Brown make it - I had to try it out.  I've since modified and modified the recipe.  You'd be amazed at how healthy you can make it and it's SO MUCH YUMMIER! I add chopped cooked chicken most of the time and make this a one-bowl dinner. Yum!

Confetti Mac and Cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni or pipette, cooked according to package directions
1 pound frozen mixed veggies (you know, the cubes of carrots, peas and greenie beenies)
Cook pasta according to package directions.  When you have 1-2 minutes of cook time remaining on the pasta, add the frozen veggies.  Drain and set aside.

Optional: 2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped

Cheese Sauce:
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon dijon mustard (I like Trader Joe's)
3 cups low fat milk
1 large or 2 small bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/3 c pureed carrots (this gives it that pretty orange color our children have come to expect)
1/4 c pureed cauliflower (shhh... no one will ever know unless you tell them)
16 oz (4 cups) regular or reduced fat cheese, shredded (sharp cheddar or any mix of cheese you have on-hand)
3 T parmesan cheese
salt and white pepper to taste (black pepper will do, I just like the white because you don't see flecks of black in the pretty orange)

In a large saucepan (or the now empty large pot you cooked the pasta in...) melt butter over medium low heat.  Once it stops bubbling, add the flour, dijon and paprika - whisk together to make a smooth paste, cook until this gets just a little darker, or thicker, or starts bubbling in the thin spots, about 3 minutes.  Slowly whisk in the milk, making sure all the paste dissolves.  Add the bay leaf.  Increase heat to medium and simmer (get some little bubbles going, but don't boil, about 5-10 minutes).

Add shredded cheese, stirring until all melted.  Add purees, salt and pepper to taste.
Toss in pasta with veggies, and chicken if you want it. Stir well.

Serve hot. Leftovers are awesome.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

After

We ended up taking the sink back.  I know.  Phooey.  After the second one was damaged out of the box, we decided the claims it wouldn't scratch weren't worth the paper they were written on!  But, with the new faucet, I hardly notice that the sink is as shallow as it is.  Add to that a fully functional (read: not leaking) disposal and even a built-in soap dispenser... and I'm so excited about my re-vamped sink.

And, by deciding against the new sink, we have remaining in the budget funds for a new front storm door.  I'm excited about that too.  (oh, and those tomatoes came off our plants - we're finally getting yellow tomatoes. And, just like last year, I'm having to baby the plants through our first frosts hoping to glean enough fruit to make it worth buying the gallon pot in the first place - but they're SOOOO yummy!).

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I'm Getting a New Sink!

I'm getting a new sink! It started with the disposal going out, then the faucet started leaking... Stan went for those parts then called from the store to ask what sink I want!


Stay tuned for the "after" photos!!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Salt Water Taffy

These taffy's from Trader Joe's are amazing! The swirly ones are red licorice flavor.  I think I'm chewing on the best red vine ever - but there's NO red dye!!!

Heavenly.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Orange Jicama Salad

My Mother-in-Law created this recipe after enjoying something like it at a restaurant.  It's crunchy, light and rather unexpected.

Orange Jicama Salad
3 cups jicama, cut into thin sticks
1 can mandarin oranges, drained (reserve 1/4 c juice)
1/2 c snipped parsley
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c juice reserved from mandarin oranges
1/4 c vinegar (I like rice vinegar best)
1/4 c oil (or a little less if using olive oil)
1/2 t salt




Combine jicama, oranges and parsley.  Mix together remaining ingredients.  Toss to coat.  Serve chilled.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pineapple Chicken with Black Beans and Rice

Here's a new favorite!  Quick and easy - especially when hubby will cook the chicken on the grill, and you make the rice in an electric steamer.

Pineapple Chicken with Black Beans and Rice

2-4 lbs BSCB (boneless, skinless chicken breast)

1 16 oz bottle BBQ sauce
1 22 oz can crushed pineapple, gently drained
1 16 oz can black beans (good additional source of protein)
1/2 t madras curry
2 t cinnamon (I may have been a little more generous with the cinnamon, but 2 t is close enough)
2 t dry ground mustard, or 1 T dijon mustard (like Trader Joe's)

3 c rice, cooked according to directions

Cook chicken and steam rice according to directions.  I used my favorite Calrose with a dash of wild rice blend.

While chicken and rice are cooking, combine all other ingredients in a medium pot. Simmer over low-medium heat for about 10 minutes. Let the flavors mingle. This has a fairly high sugar content, so you'll want to stir often enough you don't scorch the bottom.

Serve by making a bed of rice, with chicken on top, and pour a generous scoop of sauce over both.  We enjoyed a green salad on the side to round the whole thing out.  Yay for protein!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tomorrow!

Trader Joe's opens in Kansas City!!!  TOMORROW!  I'm so excited.  I will meet a couple friends (also die-hard TJ's fans) there and track down my already bulging list.  Here are some of the staples I'm looking forward to having:

Chocolate Chips
Dijon Mustard
Jarred Garlic (pureed)
Jarred Ginger (that isn't all stringy)
Sourdough Bread (Stan's favorite)
Shaving Cream (like Alba's, only less expensive)
Pink Sauce (no, not spaghetti, this is a creamy roasted red pepper spread)
Tortilla chips with Lime
Pepitas and other nuts
and did I mention Chocolate Chips!? mmm...

And I know there is a long list of other things I have forgotten.  Salad dressings and candies and vitamins.

I can hardly wait!

Meat Fork

This is one of my favorite tools. It's a simple meat serving fork by Oneida that I picked up at Target. It's great for serving meat, but it's even better for smashing bananas or scrambling eggs.

When I make Banana Split Muffins, I use this fork to scramble the eggs and smash the bananas in the same bowl with the oatmeal. In this case, I had 4 bananas to mash for banana bread, so I smashed them on a cutting board.
















I'm sure you could use a potato masher - but I don't own one. I use an electric mixer to mash potatoes (in the same pot I cook them in). But, that's another post...

Sharpie Magic

This is so much fun!  Saw a tutorial on CraftGossip and had to give it a try.  So simple and very stunning.  


I started, then got called away, and found that the ink carries differently over already dried spots.  I could play with this method for a long time trying to master it, but the fun is - you don't have to!  I do, however, recommend doing this in a well ventilated area.

It washed up really great too.  I did heat-set it, with an iron and in the dryer for 30 minutes on high heat.  Then washed it in cold.  Next I'm curious to see if I can use laundry soap or crayons to create a batik-type relief for a pattern.  Could be very cool.  Stay tuned!

Summer Night

On the way home from Stan's 1st softball game.  It was beautiful outside!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Frog Eye Salad

I can't believe I hadn't shared this one yet!!  Frog Eye Salad is a favorite cool and creamy dessert.  It's also non-dairy (as long as you consider cool whip non-dairy).  And it has a fun name.  It takes some time, but you can break the steps out to prepare some of it in advance.

Frog Eye Salad
Prep. Time: approx. 2 hours
Serves: 16 (1/2 cup servings)

1 lb package Acini Di Pepe pasta - this is where the dish gets its name, when cooked these little pastas resemble little frog eyes.  "Mmmmm.... frog eyes."  Makes my son laugh every time.
2 eggs
1/2 c sugar
2 T flour
1/2 t salt
1 (22 oz) can crushed pineapple, drain reserving juice
1 (22oz can pineapple tidbits, drain reserving juice
1 (16 oz) can peaches, drained and chopped
1 (16 oz) can pears, drained and chopped
1 (15 oz) can mandarin oranges, drained
2 c mini marshmallows (optional)
16 oz whipped topping, thawed

Prepare pasta as directed, drain.

In heavy saucepan, beat eggs until foamy, whisk in flour, sugar, salt and reserved pineapple juice.  Cook on low heat until thickened - but do not boil.  A little simmer is ok, but if you over heat the eggs they will get grainy.

In a large bowl, combine pasta with pineapple sauce.  Chill 1 hour, or until cool. While pasta is cooling, chop up fruits.

Combine pasta with cool whip, mallows and fruits.  Serve chilled.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Gram's Lemon Apricot Cake

This is a good old fashioned cake.  I say that because it isn't "froofy" like popular cakes - it's humble looking and tastes spectacular.  My Gram Yoder made it while visiting us when I was just a child, it made such an impression on my taste buds that I called her as an adult to request the recipe.  Boy was I surprised to find it all started with a cake mix!  As Gram would say "Awesome!"

Gram's Lemon Apricot Cake
1 lemon cake mix
4 eggs
3/4 c oil (I used part vegetable and part olive)
1/2 c apricot nectar (Kern's or Jumex, you can freeze the other half for your next cake or drink it while baking)

Frosting:
1-1/2 c powdered sugar
3 T lemon juice
lemon zest (optional)

Mix cake mix, eggs, oil and juice on low for 30 seconds.  Beat on high for 2 minutes.  Pour into greased and floured 9 x 13 pan and bake at 300F for 35-45 minutes (or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean).  While still warm, prick top of cake all over with a fork and drizzle with frosting.  Yummy!

Calico Corn Salad

This veggie side is easy to make ahead of time.  Allow the corn to thaw in transit to a BBQ and the salad will stay nice and cold, even in the heat of summer.

Calico Corn Salad
16oz (1 bag) frozen sweet corn
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 large sweet red pepper, diced
4oz can mild chopped green chilies (I get the fire roasted ones)

Whisk in large bowl:
1/4 c vegetable oil (I use olive)
2 T lime juice
2 T apple cider vinegar (or what you have on-hand)
1 t chili powder
1 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/2 t granulated garlic

Mix dressing in large bowl, add green chilies.  Dice zucchini and red pepper.  Combine chopped vegetables and frozen corn with dressing mix and stir gently. Allow corn to thaw and serve. Can be made ahead, keep chilled.  Serves 6-8.

When I double this recipe, I increase the corn to 3 bags, simply doubling the remaining ingredients.  I have also increased leftovers with additional corn on the 2nd or 3rd day.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Herbed Carrots

My Mother-In-Law found this recipe for my Brother-In-Law's wedding years ago... it's been a family favorite ever since.  It makes a great summer side for potlucks and picnics.

Herbed Carrots
3 cups (1 lb) baby carrots
4 T rice vinegar (or 3 T white vinegar)
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 t dried oregano
1 t salt
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/4 t granulated garlic

Steam carrots to tender-crisp.  I steam them in the microwave and like them a little more toward the soft side, but not mushy.  

Rinse with cold water, drain.  While carrots are still warm, drizzle on remaining ingredients and toss well.  Cover and chill, stirring occasionally.  Serve cold.
.

Monday, May 9, 2011

What's that?

24 muffins!?! Wow!!

I so rarely get a full 24 muffins out of a batch (even with an ice cream scoop, I'm a little extra-generous) so, I always feel like doin' a happy dance when I do!
Next... re-boot the laundry and prep snacks for t-ball practice tomorrow night. Then go to bed. I need my rest (and so do you)!