Friday, September 30, 2011

loafing around

I think you've heard my meatloaf story before.  As a kid I hated meatloaf.  I know hate is a strong word but that's how I felt about it.  It made me gag every time and inspired me to cook.  Seriously.  Meatloaf inspired me to cook for my family.  My mom would tell me that meatloaf was for dinner and suddenly she didn't have to cook that night.  In college I took a meats class and we made Italian meatloaf.  LOVED IT.  This is a Mexican twist and I love it even more!  I really should make it more often.  The roasted red peppers make it pretty incredible.  In fact, don't go trying this dish without them.
So yesterday while cooking, I told my youngest daughter that I loved her.  I told her I love her more than rainbows.  More than the stars in the sky.  Then she asked, "More than food?"  Yes, I love her more than food and you'll be glad to know I didn't hesitate on that one.  She then told me she loves me more than flowers and more than food.  She loves me a lot! 

loafing around (featured in Rachael Ray Magazine.  Tried to find the recipe online but couldn't!)
jar of roasted red peppers (NOT sweet peppers)
couple handfuls of Mexican shredded cheese blend
1- 1/2 pounds very lean ground beef
jar of your favorite salsa
bread crumbs
parsley, about 1/3 cup
salt and pepper
2 eggs

Coat a deep pie plate with cooking spray.  Line it with roasted red peppers.  Sprinkle a handful of cheese on top.  In a bowl, mix ground beef, more cheese, most of a jar of salsa, bread crumbs, chopped parsley, a sprinkling of salt and pepper and 2 eggs.  Press into a pie plate.  Pour the remaining salsa on top and bake for 10 minutes.  Cover the pie plate with more cheese and bake until the cheese is melted, about 35 minutes.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

spiced peach jam

Spiced peach jam might be the second thing I learned to can.  Just as peeling tomatoes for salsa is a bit tedious so is peeling peaches, however it's a must if you want this delicious jam.  It's worth it.  It happens to be my 2nd daughter's absolute favorite jam.  She likes it so much that the year I almost didn't make it she promised she would help so we made it together and that was fun. This jam is perfect for fall.  It's a jam you should have on the table at Thanksgiving beside warm, homemade dinner rolls.  It's good on a toasted English muffin with cream cheese too.

spiced peach jam (my friend Suzette)
4 cups peaches, peeled and mashed
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 box powdered pectin
5 cups sugar

In large saucepan, mix well peaches, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, and pectin.  Bring to a full boil.  Add sugar and bring to full boil again for 1 minute.  Cool 5 minutes and skim.  Fill jars and seal.  Process in a water bath for 10 minutes or steam for 15 minutes.

chicken curry (or beef)

It always surprises me how flavorful this dish is each and every time I sit down to eat it.  I love it and the rest of my family enjoys it too.  I started making it as a beef curry dish as the recipe calls for but decided to try chicken and it turns out I just might prefer chicken although they're both great.  This was the first time I served this dish over mashed potatoes as I usually serve it over rice but again, I think I prefer the mashed potatoes.

chicken curry (my friend Bryn)
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 pound cubed chicken (you can also use ground beef or steak)
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 beef bouillon cube
1 cup watere
2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic salt

Combine flour, salt and pepper.  Roll meat in flour mixture and brown the meat.  Add the rest of the ingredients and serve.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

chocolate chocolate chip cookies

These chocolate chocolate chip cookies are delicious and will definitely satisfy any chocolate craving.

chocolate chocolate chip cookies (, 1,800 ratings!)
1 cup butter, softened (or you can use half butter and half shortening)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; stir into the butter mixture until well blended.  Mix in the chocolate chips.  Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookies sheets (I simply rolled a long thick "snake" with the dough on waxed paper and sliced the snake into rounds and placed on the cookies sheets).
Bake 8-10 minutes in the oven or just until set.  Makes 60.

italian burgers

These burgers are great!  I love the combination of the beef and Italian turkey in the burger.  My husband had his burger for dinner at 9pm and really enjoyed his.  I had a cold one for breakfast and enjoyed it that way too!

italian burgers (my friend Erin found this recipe at Our Best Bites)
1 pound ground sirloin
8 ounces Italian turkey sausage
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
8-12 slices mozzarella cheese
4-6 hamburger buns (I recommend Italian rolls because buns get soggy even if you toast them)
1 cup marinara sauce

Preheat outdoor grill or indoor grill pan. 
Place ground beef in a mixing bowl.  Remove castings from sausage if necessary and add to ground beef.  Add Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and use your hands to gently combine.  
Divide beef mixture into equal portions, making either 6 small to medium burgers or 4 larger ones. 
Place patties on grill.  Cook for 3-4 minutes and then flip and cook an additional 3-4 minutes until cooked through.
In the last minute of cooking add a couple slices of cheese to each burger.  While cheese is melting, lightly butter buns and place face down on grill to taste, or place under the broiler until golden brown.  Spread about a tablespoon of marinara sauce on the bottom half of each bun.  Place 1 patty on bottom half of each roll and top with an additional tablespoon of sauce.  Add more if desired and top with other half of bun.

hawaiian chicken and noodles

When my friend Shelli called and told me what she was having for dinner and asked if our family would like some too what do you think my response was?  You're right.  When she described this dish I knew I had had it before and was so excited to have it again.  She got the recipe from her mother-in-law and it tastes like Hawaiian comfort food.  It's very mild and soothing and my kids gobbled it right up.  The"recipe" isn't an exact recipe but this is how Shelli made this dish.

hawaiian chicken and noodles (my friend Shelli)
1 1/2 packages bean thread noodles
2-4 chicken breasts (you can use tenderloins or a combination)
chunk of ginger, peeled
2 cans chicken broth
3 chicken bouillon cubes
1 1/2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic

Soak bean thread noodles for 1-2 hours.  Cut each end with scissors.
Boil chicken breasts with ginger and some salt.  Shred chicken and reserve broth.
Boil bean thread noodles in broth.
Saute onions and garlic.  Add to bean thread noodles.  Add shredded chicken and 2 cans chicken broth and bouillon cubes.

Monday, September 26, 2011

three-pepper salad

This salad was totally spontaneous, which is great because I am NOT spontaneous at all!  I was driving home from Costco today and stopped by a farmer's market for some jalapenos (I'm making salsa on Wednesday).  I saw a bag of these gorgeous red, yellow and orange peppers and had to have them.  I'd completely forgotten that I had set this recipe aside to try sometime.  While going through some papers I happened to find this recipe and began making it right away.  Divine intervention for sure!  This salad is heavenly.  My oldest made the dressing and tossed it together.  I could hardly keep her hands out of this salad and kept saying "Don't eat all the red peppers.  I need to take a picture first!"  Then I sent her to deliver some to a friend so I could have the salad to myself for a few minutes.

three-pepper salad (Everyday Food Magazine, September 2011)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (I used rice vinegar and it was a marvelous choice)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I used 1 tablespoon)
coarse salt and ground pepper
4 medium bell peppers of your choosing
1 celery stalk, halved crosswise and thinly sliced lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (I used 1/4 teaspoon dry)

In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, mustard and oil; season with salt and pepper.  Add bell peppers, celery and thyme; toss to combine.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

apple brownies

I first tried these when my friend Mandy invited me to participate in a frozen meals swap.  I hadn't expected dessert along with the main dish but of course she was always going the extra mile and always full of delicious surprises.  These apple brownies are super good.  They are one of my very favorite things to make in the fall.   Our home smelled divine as I baked these and is starting to look like fall too as I've started collecting pumpkins and gourds.  I think pumpkins and gourds are so beautiful- the colors and shapes are so fun and I love that we can enjoy them through Thanksgiving then put them away only to replace them with Christmas! 

apple brownies (my friend Mandy)
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 large or 4 small apples, peeled and diced
granulated sugar for sprinkling on top after baking

Preheat oven to 350.  Choose your pan size: either a 9x13 or two pie pans or a pie pan and four mini-loaf pans.  Spray with nonstick cooking spray.  Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and apples.  Mix well.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with sugar.

rice krispy treats

Oh so simple and oh so good.  Rice krispy treats are simply amazing.  With only a few ingredients you can make a really grumpy kid smile or a really happy kid turn cartwheels.  When my husband and I were first married I made all kinds of treats aiming to impress.  It wasn't until I made rice krispy treats that I received the greatest of compliments.  I think he had had a lot of dry rice krispy treats growing up due to living in a large family and his mom (who is very dear) trying to make the rice krispy treats go further.  He always marveled how I could get the consistency "just right".  I think it has more to do with not measuring the rice krispies and just going with your gut.  My friend Shelli made these for my kids and hers the other night while our kids hung and and played while she went out.  Let's just say I had very happy kids on my hands..and a very happy husband.  He ate the most!

rice krispy treats
1/4 cup butter
1 package (10 ounces, about 40) regular marshmallows or 4 cups miniature marshmallows
9 cups rice krispies

In large saucepan melt butter over low heat.  Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted.  Remove from heat.  Add rice krispies cereal.  Stir until well coated.
Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into 13x9x92 pan coated with cooking spray.  Cool.  Cut into 2-inch squares.  Best if served the same day.
Note:  1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme can be substituted for marshmallows.

What I have to say-  on half of the treats, Shelli poured chocolate and butterscotch chips onto the treats.  They were a big, big hit!

greek chicken

My friend Erin K. sent this recipe and told me I would like it and you know what?  She was right.  This chicken was a big success last night.  How could chicken marinated in fresh herbs and other amazing things then grilled then topped with cheese and onions not be delicious?!

greek chicken (my friend Erin K. found this at
1 (8 ounce) container fat-free plain yogurt
1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
zest from 1 lemon
juice from 1 lemon
3 teaspoons dried oregano
2-3 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
5 large chicken breasts
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
red onion, optional
kalamata olives, optional

In a large ziploc, mix the yogurt, basil, tomatoes, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper and rosemary.  Place the chicken in a bag and turn to coat.  Marinate 3 (+ hours) (great for Sunday!) in the refrigerator.  Grill until juices are clear, basting with marinade.  Top with feta and garnish with red onion and kalamata olives if desired.

creamy cheese grits with chiles

What could I possibly say to get you to try this recipe?  It's so delicious!  It is definitely my kind of recipe.  I think the Pioneer Woman had a girl like me in mind when she created it.  This is not your typical grits recipe.  It's super creamy and zingy and loaded with all my favorite things- cheese, more cheese, rotel tomatoes, chiles, etc.  It was so good our family about licked the pan clean and I didn't expect my kids to like it.  In fact after I tried a bite I hoped the kids wouldn't like it at all and I'd be able to eat theirs and lick their plates clean.  Hooray for a great side dish!  Thank you Annie, for sharing your menu on your blog.  Do it again!

creamy cheese grits with chiles (Annie found this recipe at The Pioneer Woman Cooks)
1 cup grits (quick or regular)
4 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces Monterey Jack Cheese, grated
4 ounces cream cheese, cut into cubes (I used light)
1/2 can Rotel tomatoes
1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chiles (I used fire roasted)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
black pepper to taste
1 whole egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Boil water and add salt.  Add grits and stir; then reduce heat to low and cover.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.
Stir in Rotel, chiles, grated cheese and cream cheese.  Stir in spices and check for seasonings.
Beat egg.  Drizzle in a couple of tablespoons of hot grits to temper, stirring constantly.  Dump it all back into the pot and stir.
Pour into a buttered baking dish and bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until hot and bubbly and golden on top.
Allow your pan to sit for fifteen minutes before serving.  Grits will firm up slightly as they sit. (We couldn't wait!)

zucchini pancakes

We had a next door neighbor when we lived in St. Louis whom we fondly called "Grandma Cathy".  Oh how we adored Grandma Cathy and oh how she adored my two little girls.  This is a terrific recipe for zucchini pancakes that she shared with us.  Don't go pouring any maple syrup on these little goodies or you'll be sorry!  They have a rich Italian flare to them and would be great for brunch or eaten as a side dish although I could easily eat them as a meal if I were a vegetarian.  But I'm not.  I prefer to eat them with a big 'ol steak.

zucchini pancakes (Grandma Cathy got this recipe from her Taste of Home magazine)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons chopped onion
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons butter
sour cream, optional

In a bowl, combine the flour, Parmesan cheese, oregano, salt and pepper.  Combine the zucchini, egg, onion and mayonnaise; stir into dry ingredients until well blended.
In a large skillet, melt butter.  Drop zuccchini mixture by 1/4 cups into skillet; press lightly to flatten.  Fry until golden brown on each side and cooked through.  Drain on paper towels.  Serve with sour cream.

Friday, September 23, 2011

copycat of ikea's swedish meatballs

This recipe is delicious.  The meatballs are so tender and moist and the sauce is a perfect compliment.  The story (from Food Network Magazine) goes like this:  These meatballs have always been a favorite at Ikea stores ever since an in-store chef developed the recipe in Switzerland in 1985.  Although the store's cookbook which was published in 2000 included a meatball recipe, it was not the recipe served at their restaurants.  The recipe is top secret so Food Network Kitchens made a copycat recipe.
When I visited my parents this summer I noticed that they have dozens of Ikea's Swedish Meatball packets in their pantry.  I had no idea they loved their meatballs so much.

ikea's swedish meatballs (Food Network Magazine, October 2011)
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup minced white onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound lean ground pork
1 large egg plus 1 egg white, beaten
vegetable oil for brushing

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup heavy cream
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)
lingonberry jam, for serving (optional)

Make the meatballs:  Put the breadcrumbs in a large bowl.  Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, allspice, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon white pepper and cook, stirring until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the milk and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer.  Pour the milk mixture over the breadcrumbs and stir to make a thick paste; let cool.  Add the beef, pork egg and egg white to the bowl and mix until combined.
Brush a baking sheet with vegetable oil.  Roll the meat into 1-inch balls and arrange on the prepared baking sheet.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour (I omitted the refrigeration).
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Bake the meatballs until cooked through, about 20 minutes.
Make the gravy: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the flour and cook, whisking until smooth.  Whisk in the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer.  Add the cream and meatballs.  Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the gravy thickens, about 10 minutes.  Season with salt and black pepper.  Transfer to a serving dish.  Sprinkle with the parsley and serve with lingonberry jam if desired.

dill weed dip

This is the delicious dip Shelli served at preschool yesterday.  It was really, really yummy.  After seeing the recipe I knew why- sour cream and mayonnaise.  Okay, the other stuff is good too but it definitely had a strong start.

dill weed dip (my friend Shelli)
1 cup sour cream (Shelli used light)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 tablespoon dill weed
2 teaspoons seasoned salt

Mix together well and chill.  Serve with fresh veggies.


homemade lip gloss

My daughter has awesome Activity Day leaders.  This week they talked about the power of words, specifically kind words then made homemade lip gloss.  My daughter made lemon lime gloss and was so excited about it.  She says it's super easy to make.
On the way home her leader said it must be hard to move and my daughter's eyes filled with tears.  It was good for me to know.  When trying to have a serious conversation with this  particular child one of two things usually happens.  1.  She doesn't participate.  2.  She acts so silly you think you're talking to a martian.  This time she answered yes/no questions in an opera voice.  It turns out yes, she likes our new town.  She likes our new home.  She likes her new friends.  She likes her new school.  She likes her new teacher.  She likes her life.  Yes, she misses her old town, old home, old friends, old school, etc.  I told her she's normal which she must have liked hearing because I usually tell her she's the rest of us. 
Moving is definitely a transition.  Everything is new and different and we're all trying to figure out where our place is in this world and all  of that.

homemade lip gloss (from our friend Kiana)
1 tablespoon vaseline
1/2 teaspoon honey beeswax (comes in a bar so you need to grate it)
essential oil

Melt the vaseline and beeswax on the stove.  Add 3 drops or more of essential oil of your choice.  Put into small round containers.  Makes 2 containers.
Sometimes Kiana likes to melt a few chocolate chips into the lip gloss for a chocolate flavor.  Real chocolate!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

stuffed pasta shells

I wanted a hearty meal tonight and I didn't want to mess around.  We had grilled basil beef, stuffed pasta shells and leftover blue cheese pear salad with ginger pear coffee cake for dessert.  When I told my husband we were having a hearty dinner he responded, "That means it has sauce and cheese."  And meat!!!  This was a nice basic recipe.  If I want my kids to eat it then I'd better omit the spinach next time.

stuffed pasta shells (
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 (15 ounce) container ricotta cheese
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 (12 ounce) package jumbo pasta shells, cooked and drained
1 (28 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce or use homemade!

Combine cheeses and spinach; stuff into shells.  Arrange in a greased 13x9x2-inch baking dish.  Pour spaghetti sauce over the shells.  Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated through. 

What I have to say- next time I'll add a little garlic powder and oregano to the cheese mixture.

ginger pear coffee cake

I was so excited to make this recipe.  Last Christmas my visiting teacher Diane in Hershey brought me a gorgeous sweet bread similar to this that her husband makes each year.  If there's one thing that tickles me pink it's when friends bring me pretty things to eat or share with my family.   A good old fashioned recipe sent my way works just as well too and a friend sent one to me today.  This coffee cake is excellent and everyone in the family ate it happily (I think it was the chocolate chips that won them over, I knew they would).

ginger pear coffee cake (
1 package active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup warm buttermilk
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1 egg

1 1/2 cups diced peeled fresh pears
1/2 cup raisins (I used chocolate chips)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel (I used orange peel to compliment the chocolate)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 teaspoons milk

In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.  Add buttermilk, sugar, butter, salt and 1 1/2 cups flour.  Beat in just until moistened.  Add egg; beat for 2 minutes.  Stir in remaining flour or more to form a soft dough.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.  Place in a bowl coated with nonstick cooking spray, turning once to coat top.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
For filling, combine the first seven filling ingredients.  Punch dough down.  Turn onto lightly floured surface.  Roll into a 16-inch by 9-inch rectangle.  Spread butter over dough.  Sprinkle pear mixture to within 1/2-inch of edges.  Sprinkle with sugar.  Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with long side; pinch seams to seal.  Place seam side down on a baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray.  Pinch ends together to form a ring.
With scissors, cut from outside edge to two-thirds of the way toward center of ring at 1-inch intervals.  Separate strips slightly; twist to allow filling to show.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 50 minutes (I omitted this step and it was fine!).  Brush dough with egg.  Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool on wire rack.
For glaze, combine sugar, vanilla nad enough milk to achieve drizzling consistency.  Drizzle over ring.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

blue cheese pear salad

I wanted a salad to go with our meal tonight but I didn't want just any green salad so we were going to go without.  Then my friend Shelli called me and asked me if I would like to have a big bowl of pears from her neighbor's pear tree.  Would I ever!  That was the beginning of a great salad to go with tonight's dinner.  I love the pairing of the pears and blue cheese.  It's a delicious combination.  I first had a pear and blue cheese salad my first year teaching kindergarten and I couldn't believe how delicious it was- it was served with a blue cheese vinaigrette.  That was the first time I realized how terrific fruit is with cheese and nuts in salads.  I think my taste had finally matured!

blue cheese pear salad (
8 cups mixed salad greens
1 cup unpeeled fresh pear slices
1 cup fresh raspberries (wish I would've had some on hand!)
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
pepper to taste

In a large salad bowl, combine the greens, pears, raspberries, blue cheese and nuts.  In a jar with a tight fitting lid, combine the remaining ingredients; shake well.  Pour over salad and toss to coat.  Serve immediately.

store bought masala simmer sauce

I thought I'd go ahead and start posting a few of my favorite things that are store bought and  delicious.  This is one of them.  Trader Joe's (of course) Masala Simmer Sauce.  The first time we enjoyed it I prepared it with chicken but tonight we're simmering chicken, shrimp and scallops and I might even throw in some fingerling potatoes I found while browsing through the store.  It's so easy- you just put bite-size pieces of raw meat into a pan, pour the sauce over the top with 1 cup of water.  You  simmer everything for 10-15 minutes or until everything is cooked through and presto- you have dinner on the table.  There are no artificial colors or flavoring or preservatives.

trader joe's masala simmer sauce (from Trader Joe's, of course)

Ingredients: tomato puree, tomatoes, light cream, onions, ginger, garlic, canola oil, lemon juice concentrate, sea salt, coriander, cumin, fenugreek leaves, turmeric, paprika, red pepper, cinnamon and cloves.  That's it, folks.  YUM! (Oh, and if I'm remembering correctly a jar costs a mere $2.29.)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

pineapple lemonade slushy

Here's the "recipe" for the pineapple lemonade slushy my friend Shelli brought over when I was sick last week.  This totally hit the spot and my kids think she is an awesome cook. 

pineapple lemonade slushy (my friend Shelli)
fresh pineapple
Crystal light lemonade

That's all I have folks.  You put some of the above in a Vita-mix blender and lo and behold- a slushy!  I'll try to get some more exact measurements out of her.

What I have to say:  Over a year later I made it with 1 can pineapple chunks, 2 cups Crystal light lemonade and 2 cups ice.  Not as slushy but the kids enjoyed it!

adobo chicken

Last weekend I got a stomach bug and couldn't get off the couch except for when I took the photo of this delicious chicken that my friend Shelli brought over for my kids.  It was so nice.  She brought adobo chicken, salad, two kinds of rice and a pineapple lemonade slushy.  I could only try a bite of it and even that was risky but it was delicious.  My kids raved and raved about it so much so that I was so disappointed that I missed out.  Fortunately they saved me a piece that I ate the next day over a wild rice medley.

adobo chicken (from Shelii's sister who served a mission in the Philippines)
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups water
1 cup Shoyu (Shelli uses Aloha Shoyu)
1-2 whole bay leaves
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1/4 to 1/2 cup vinegar (1/4 apple cider or 1/2 rice vinegar)
12 pieces of chicken or pork thighs or breasts (Shelli used tenderloins)

Saute onions and garlic until soft.  Mix the rest of the ingredient and cook for 1+ hours (in the Philippines they often cook it all day until the chicken is dark brown).  Serve over rice.

tomato-beef stew

I have my daughter to thank for tonight's meal.  We were threading spiced steak kebabs the other night and my daughter saw this recipe and said we definitely needed to make it.  I had seen the recipe but didn't think much of it (the photo looked bland) so I didn't plan to make it.  Am I glad she persisted to tell me that I should make it using our leftovers as the recipe suggests.  This stew is so rich and flavorful!  It certainly tastes like Fall which is appropriate because I turned our heater on last night in the middle of the night for the first time this season.  This stew is Hall of Fame!  My favorite stew yet!!
Should I admit that I ate dinner alone tonight?  My husband is tied up at work and my kids were playing happily so I sat down and ate alone.  I love when I do smart things.

tomato-beef stew (adapted from Everyday Food Magazine, September 2011)
4 reserved spiced steak kebabs
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1 large tomato, diced
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 bay leaves
2 cups beef broth
salt and pepper

Remove beef and vegetables from kebabs.  Halve beef pieces and mushrooms and add beef and vegetables to a large heavy pot, along with carrots, garlic and flour.  Add tomato, bay leaves and broth; season with salt and pepper.  Bring mixture to a boil over high; cover, reduce heat to low and simmer rapidly until meat is tender, about 40 minutes.  Discard bay leaves.  Season to taste.

Friday, September 16, 2011

hot n spicy buffalo chicken salad

It's Pizza Friday.  I made the kids a pepperoni pizza but I needed this.  My kids actually love this salad as much as I do but it's Friday so I had to make the pizza.  Not sure how long this Pizza Friday thing will last.

hot n spicy buffalo chicken salad (
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup Ranch-style salad dressing (use the full fat; the light tastes funny)
3 large skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1" cubes
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons butter (I only use 1/2 tablespoon)
1/4 cup Frank's Red Hot
1 tablespoon salad seasoning mix (such as McCormick Salad Supreme Seasoning)
2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped

In a small bowl, combine crumbled blue cheese and Ranch dressing; set aside.  Season cubed chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over high heat and pour in the vegetable oil.  Just before the oil starts to smoke, add the chicken.  Cook to brown evenly.  Reduce heat to low and add butter, hot sauce and salad seasoning mix.  Simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Toss together the lettuce and dressing mixture in large bowl.  Top salad with chicken and serve.

spiced steak kebabs

This dish was declared Hall of Fame!  My husband declared it Hall of Fame "as is".  I declared it Hall of Fame after I added lots of garlic chile sauce because I thought it needed some FIRE.  It was a terrific dish and it was especially good over brown basmati rice cooked with green peas.

spiced steak kebabs (Everyday Food Magazine, September 2011)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
coarse salt and black pepper
2 pounds sirloin steak, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1" pieces
1 medium red onion, cut into 1" pieces
10 large button mushrooms, trimmed
lime wedges for serving

Heat a grill to medium-high.  Clean and lightly oil hot grill.  In a small bowl, combine oil, cumin and coriander; season with salt and pepper.
Alternately, thread steak, pepper, onion and mushrooms onto ten 8-inch skewers.  Brush with oil mixture and grill until steak is done and vegetables are lightly charred, 6 to 8 minutes, turning occasionally.
*The reason this recipe calls for so much steak is so you can use the leftovers for stew which I will be making tomorrow.  I'll let you know how it turns out!  Also an Everyday Food Magazine recipe.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

baked beef chimichangas

I figured these chimichangas would be good but they exceeded my expectations.  They were absolutely delicious, especially with my favorite green salsa.  I'll have to make sure I double my french dip recipe again the next time so I can make these again.  They're so easy to make with leftovers and the meat is so flavorful; it really makes these tasty!  The chimichangas freeze exceptionally well so you can thaw them the morning you'll need them and throw them in the oven for dinner.  Exactly what I need now that school has started and our afternoons are crazy!

baked beef chimichangas (yours truly)
batch of french dip
1 (4 ounce) can green chiles 
1 green onion, sliced
couple handfuls of shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 -1 cup red salsa (I used Pace Picante)
extra salsa and sour cream for serving

I stored the leftover meat from our French dip in a gallon size zip lock bag so I added the green chiles, cheese, green onion and salsa to the bag and squished the bag to combine all the ingredients.  I took a tortilla and placed about a half cup of filling on the end of the tortilla and rolled it up and placed it on a greased cookie sheet.  I continued with the rest of the tortillas then baked them at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

cheese-stuffed portobellos

My husband did not hesitate to declare these Hall of Fame!  I was almost too intent on describing how magnificent they were to hear him (he dove into the main dish first).  I can't say enough about these.  They are grand.  Gourmet.  Do I dare call them equisite?

cheese-stuffed portobellos (Food Network Magazine, June 2011)
cooking spray
4 6-inch portobello mushroom caps
4 cups spinach, chopped
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 shallot finely chopped (I used 1 tablespoon white onion)
1 large tomato, diced
3 tablespoons grated pecorino romano cheese, plus some shaved for topping
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup ricotta cheese

Preheat the broiler.  Mist a foil-lined broiler pan with cooking spray.  Put the mushrooms gill-side down on the pan; broil 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss the spinach, breadcrumbs, mozzarella, chopped shallot, tomato, 2 tablespoons each pecorino and olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl.
Remove the mushrooms from the broiler and turn them gill-side up on the pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Mound the spinach filling on the mushrooms and top with the ricotta.  Sprinkle with the remaining pecorino and broil until the filling is heated through and the ricotta is lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
Divide the mushrooms among plates and drizzle with olive oil.

parmesan-crusted chicken with sweet-n-hot mustard dip

YUM!  You've probably noticed I enjoy breaded or crusted chicken with dipping sauces.  I love to dip.  As I started making this chicken I had second thoughts (I think it was the oats) but glad I hung in there because I was surprised by how good this recipe is.  The chicken and the sauce.  It was super-good.  I have a couple more chicken breasts in the fridge so I might make more for lunch today because I have some leftover sauce and I cannot let that sauce go to waste!

parmesan-crusted chicken with sweet-n-hot mustard dip (Cookbook: Quick Fix Meals by Robin Miller)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, preferably grated fresh
1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
2 teaspoons salt-free garlic and herb seasoning (I used Pappy's Garlic Herb but since it has salt used 1 teaspoon)
cooking spray

sweet-n-hot mustard dip
1/4 cup dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon hot mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

In a shallow dish, combine the flour and 1/2 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper.  Add the chicken to the mixture and turn to coat evenly and completely.
Whisk together the eggs and water in a separate shallow dish.
In a third shallow dish or plastic bag, combine the Parmesan, oats, garlic seasoning, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
Dip the flour-coated chicken into the eggs, then transfer to the Parmesan mixture.  Turn until well coated.
This is where I had to make up the rest of the directions because I didn't photocopy them- oops!  I put the chicken onto a broiler pan sprayed with cooking spray and baked them at 425 degrees until done.

Monday, September 12, 2011

jewish apple cake

My friend Nikki sent this recipe to me and I've been waiting for apple season to make this cake.  Now that apple season is here, I picked up some apples this morning intending to make this cake this week.  I couldn't wait.  I had to make it this afternoon.  Just as I had suspected, I didn't grease the bundt pan well enough and my cake stuck to the pan but no worries, the kiddos are attacking the pan with forks allowing me time to post this recipe before we start on homework (aw, do we have to?)  This cake is delicious.  It's moist and full of apples yet there's a crusty, chewy outside (at least on mine!) that's really yummy.  I'll make sure to grease my pan better next time so it's a little more attractive.

jewish apple cake (my friend Nikki got it from a family friend who is German)
3 cups flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 cup oil
1/3 cup orange juice concentrate
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 apples peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup sugar plus cinnamon mixed with it

Mix wet ingredinets.
In separate bowl combine dry.  Combine the two.
layer 1/3 dough in greased bundt pan.  Place 1/2 apples over the top and sprinkle with half the cinnamon and sugar mixture.  Spread half of the remaining dough over the apples then pour the rest of the apples over the dough.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.  Spread the rest of the dough into the pan and bake at 350 for 1/2- 2 hours.  (It took mine about an hour and a half.)

balsamic chicken

This great recipe comes from my friend Erin.

balsamic chicken (my friend Erin K.)
4 chicken breasts (I filleted mine)
3/4 pound sliced mushrooms (I didn't have any)
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon butter

Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Season flour with salt and pepper and dredge chicken in mixture.  Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat and saute the chicken until brown on one side.  Add the garlic.  Turn chicken and add mushrooms.  Cook for 3 minutes more then add vinegar, broth, bay leaf and thyme.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove chicken; keep warm.  Continue simmering the sauce uncovered for 7 minutes.  Swirl in butter; discard bay leaf.  Pour sauce over chicken and serve.

baked chicken chimichangas

I've made these chimichangas for years and we never grow tired of them.  They freeze well so you can pull them out of the freezer and bake them for a quick meal.

baked chicken chimichangas (my friend Jamie G.)
1/3 cup salsa
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1 can green chiles
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
2 green onions, chopped
6 flour tortillas, warmed
2 tablespoons melted butter (I omitted)

Combine all ingredients except tortillas and butter.  Place 1/2 cup mixture in center of each tortilla.  Fold sides over, then fold ends.  Place, seam down, on a 9x13 inch baking dish.  Brush each tortilla with butter.  Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, until golden.  Garnish with additional cheese and green onion.  Serve with green salsa (my favorite is Mrs. Renfro's!) and sour cream.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

spiced potatoes and onions

As I sit at my computer going about my business as usual and checking email, my sister-in-law informed me that Hershey, PA is under water.  Under water!  I am in too much shock to know what to do; the photos are sickening.  There are people I love and care about in Hershey and I wonder how they are doing.  Are they okay?  Their homes?  Their places of employment?  I have a lot to think about and a lot of prayers on my mind.
Regarding this dish, I made it to go with our Chicken Tikka Masala, the best recipe on this blog and in my life.  This is a very mild dish which accompanies Chicken Tikka, an abundantly flavorful dish quite well.  It was a hit with my family.

spiced potatoes and onions (Everyday Food Magazine, September 2011) 
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, diced medium
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced into 1/4-inch rings
coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
6 sprigs cilantro

Set a steamer basket in a pot with 2 inches simmering water (I used a steam basket in my rice cooker).  Add potatoes, cover and steam until tender when pierced with a knife, 12 minutes.  Transfer potatoes to a paper-towel-lined plate.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high.  Add onion and season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring frequently, until browned, 12 to 15 minutes.  Add cumin, red-pepper flakes and potatoes and cook, stirring frequently, until potatoes are lightly golden, 5 minutes.  Transfer to a serving platter and top with cilantro.  Serves 4.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

dilly chicken sandwiches

I've had this recipe in my collection for a long time and was happy to find that the original recipe is online because I had forgotten the source.  This is a great sandwich.

dilly chicken sandwiches (Taste of Home)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
6 tablespoons butter, divided (I used about 2 tablespoons total)
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 teaspoon dill weed, divided
8 slices French bread (1/2 inch thick) or crusty rolls
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons lemon juice
4 lettuce leaves
8 slices tomato
sliced red onion

Flatten chicken to 1/4" thickness; set aside.  In a large skillet, saute garlic and dill in 3 tablespoons butter for 1 minute; add chicken and cook over medium heat until a meat thermometer reads 170 degrees.  Remove and keep warm.
Spread both sides of bread with remaining butter and grill bread on both sides until golden brown in a large skillet (I omitted and used crusty rolls).
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, lemon juice and remaining dill; spread on one side of grilled bread (I spread it on both sides for extra deliciousness).  Place lettuce, chicken, tomato and onion on four slices of bread; top with remaining bread.  Yield: 4 servings

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

lima beans with bacon and onion

When my foodie daughter (my 6-year old) saw me holding this recipe so I could add it to this blog she said, "Yum!".  This girl enjoys her meals and I love that about her.  She's always willing to try something new even if it is a lima bean.  My husband even commented about how nice they were.  If you're tired of the usual, go ahead and give them a try.  They won't kill you!  In fact, each serving of lima beans contains 6 grams of protein and 5 grams fiber!  What won't kill you will only make you stronger.  That's what I told myself yesterday as I pushed my jogger stroller up a big hill.  We enjoyed these beans with French Dip, a fabulous recipe.

lima beans with bacon and onion (Everyday Food, September 2011)
3 slices bacon
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 package frozen baby lima beans (the recipe called for two but I think one is better)
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar (I used rice vinegar)

In a large skillet, cook 3 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, over medium until crisp and fat is rendered, about 5 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.  To skillet, add onion and cook until  translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add lima beans, thawed and season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until lima beans are tender, about 10 minutes.  Stir in bacon and vinegar.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Serves 4.

tuna casserole

Every once in a while I need tuna casserole.  Not any tuna casserole, my tuna casserole.  I plan to always make it when I know my husband will not be home for dinner but I always anticipate that when he comes home he will ask, "What's that smell?".  I get a kick out it every time because he knows what it is yet he always has to say it in a dramatic voice (hoping I'll never make it again?).  My kids also love this recipe which is why it's sad that I don't make it more often.

tuna casserole (my recipe)
4 cups cooked spiral pasta
2 cans white albacore tuna (Costco sells the best albacore tuna)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup light mayo or sour cream
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 cup green peas, optional

In a medium bowl, combine tuna, cream of mushroom soup, mayo or sour cream, green onions, 1 1/2 cups Cheddar cheese and peas.  Add cooked pasta.  Pour into a prepared pan then sprinkle with 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar.  Bake at 350 until nice and hot, about 30 minutes.

What I have to say- my husband would disagree if I put this into the seafood category so I guess I'll just go with "casseroles" this time.  He'd probably be right.

freezer jam

It took me a while to get into canning but once I did I took it on full force but the one thing I never understood was freezer jam- who has the space?  But now that I've tried it and have discovered how much easier it is to make freezer jam than to process jam I understand!

freezer jam (Everyday Food Magazine, September 2011)

1.  Thoroughly wash, rinse nad dry seven 8-ounce plastic freezer or glass jars with tight-fitting lids.  You can also use zip-top freezer bags.
2.  In a medium pot, combine 5 cups crushed plums, peaches, nectarines or berries (about 3 pounds of fruit, 2 1/2 pounds of berries) and 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (2 lemons).  Bring to a boil over medium-high.
3.  In a bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar and 1.75 ounces powdere, no-sugar-needed pectin; add to fruit, stirring until sugar mixture dissolves and fruit returns to a full rolling boil.  Boil 1 minute, then remove from heat.
4.  Transfer to jars or bags leaving 1/2-inch space on top.  Seal and let sit at room temperature until jam is set, 2 to 3 hours.  To store, freeze up to 6 months.  Use open containers within 3 weeks.

Monday, September 5, 2011

grilled sirloin with citrus salsa

Honestly I don't know where to begin so I'll just say Hall of Fame!  This dish is "restaurant good".  It's so good you won't want the meal to end.  The flavor of the marinade makes the meat incredibly juicy and tender and the citrus salsa is so sweet, tangy and fresh.  My taste buds danced the first time I tried it when my friend Annie had our family over for dinner.  They did it again this time and I'm sure they'll do it again the next time.  Hurry and try this dish.
I made this for my friend Karen who is in town from California.  We met in college on a weekend trip to Maui and became roommates.  I convinced her to move from her home town in North Carolina to California after we both graduated from college.  She moved away for law school but went back and is still there.  Of course now she's playing with the idea of moving to Portland.  How great would that be?!  My kids have fallen in love with her and I can't think of anything more fantastic than having Auntie Karen so close!  Dinner was so good the night had this that we had to pull it out and have more before bedtime.  We did the same last night after we had shrimp and grits followed by chocolate and fruit crepes my husband made and Hershey's ultimate chocolate brownies.  I love cooking for Karen because she's so enthusiastic about my cooking!  She might like to eat as much as I do.

grilled sirloin with citrus salsa (my friend Annie)
1 1/2 pounds lean boneless top sirloin
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar (I used 1 tablespoon)
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/8 teaspoon hot sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup green onions, chopped

citrus salsa
2 oranges, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind
1/2 lemon, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 lime, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon seeded, minced jalapeno pepper
2 tablespoons cilantro
1 tablespoon sugar

Chill salsa for at least 2 hours.  Marinade steak in marinade for at least 2 hours, preferably longer.  Grill steak.  Serve with salsa.

zesty green beans

I first had these green beans in St. Louis when my friend Melissa made them.  They are outstanding and I believe I wasn't the first to demand the recipe.  They are delicious.  You won't have a problem eating 2 pounds of green beans without any help.  Seriously.

zesty green beans (my friend Melissa R.)
2 pounds fresh green beans
1 package Good Seasons Italian Salad Dressing Mix
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons Asiago cheese

Par boil green beans.  Coat with olive oil then Good Seasons Mix.  Place in a 9x13 pan.  Sprinkle with cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Friday, September 2, 2011

plum blueberry upside-down cake

I don't know why I didn't think my kids would care much for this cake but the whole family really enjoyed it and I thought this cake was pretty as a picture.  I was happy to get to use my poppy seeds for this recipe because I bought a jar that cost me a pretty penny a couple of weeks ago so I want to use them!  This is perfect for a brunch or you might want to add a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top and serve as a dessert.  If you haven't tried Costco's plums, they are mighty delicious.  I highly recommend using them for this dish.

plum blueberry upside-down cake (Everyday Food Magazine, September 2011)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1 cup packed light brown sugar, divided
1 large firm but ripe black plum (I used 2)
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine slat
1/2 cup buttermilk (I put a little vinegar in regular milk)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375.  Lightly butter an 8-inch round cake pan (2 inches deep); line bottom with parchment paper.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter and pour into pan; swirl to coat paper.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup brown sugar evenly over butter.  Arrange plum evenly in pan then add blueberries, filling in any gaps (make sure the fruit is packed snugly in pan).
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat 8 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar on high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in egg, egg white and orange zest until combined.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  With  mixer on low, beat flour mixture into butter mixture until combined.  Beat in buttermilk and vanilla until smooth.
Transfer batter to pan.  Tap firmly on counter several times to remove air bubbles; smooth top.
Bake until cake is deep golden brown, juices are bubbling around edge, and a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 45 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.  Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack, 1 hour.  Run a knife around edge of pan and invert cake onto a serving plate.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Store, covered, at room temperature up to 2 days.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

candy crayons

Yesterday morning I saw some cool edible crayons at Our Best Bites and knew I wanted to make them for my girls' teachers for the first day of school.  I got really excited about them because it was linked to a recipe from my friend Mandy who has a really fun blog called Gourmet Mom on the Go.  Anyway,  last night my friend Angeli brought some over when she dropped off her little girl at our ice cream party.  Aren't they a kick?  You can print out labels or make your own like Angeli and her kids did.

candy crayons (Our Best Bites or Gourmet Mom on the Go)
pretzel rods
candy melts (or white chocolate bar/chocolate chips with a little food coloring added)
paper labels (printed on colored paper of your choice)

Break or cut pretzel rods in half.
Melt candy melts or chocolate chips in microwave on medium heat for 1 minute.  Stir and continue cooking at 15 second intervals until melted.  Stir well.  Add a few drops food coloring if desired.
Dip ends of pretzels in melted candy.
Place on wax paper to dry.
When dry, wrap with crayon label and secure with tape.
Line up in inexpensive pencil boxes.

caramel sauce

I made this caramel sauce for my girls' ice cream party last night.  This sauce is sooo good.  I made it before the party so it sat for an hour before we used it on our sundaes so it wasn't as smooth and saucy as it was after I first made it but the girls ate it and said it was great anyway.  So...I suggest you make this sauce right before serving.  It really was delicious.  Go and have yourself a little ice cream party.

caramel sauce (
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted buyter
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, stirring, until thickened to desired consistency.

hot fudge sauce

Suzette first shared this hot fudge recipe with me for an ice cream party I threw for my second daughter's 2nd birthday party.  Do you remember that, Annie?  We stood by the stove taking turns stirring this sauce.  It just so happens that yesterday morning I got to chat with my friend Suzette.  It was fun to catch up.  Suzette was the Hershey ward's crazy craft lady.  Every ward has one except for the ward I am in now which I think is really sad (the ward isn't sad but to not have a crazy craft lady is).  I'm hoping to discover her but usually crazy craft ladies aren't very quiet and you don't have to be in a ward very long before you know exactly who she is.  They're excitable and fun and well, crazy!
I made this sauce yesterday for my girls who threw an ice cream/pizza social before school starts next week.  They ate and played games and ran around the cul-de-sac playing truth or dare.  It was a fun group of kids and I found myself wanting to be a tween again (the oldest girls were 12).  I really wanted to get right in there with them and dance the Macarena or the Chicken Dance on the corner of our street in front of passing cars.

Hot Fudge Sauce (my friend Suzette)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 pinch salt
1/3 cup flour
2 cups milk
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla 

In a saucepan mix dry ingredients, add milk.  Begin cooking over medium heat and add butter.  Cook slowly until thick.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  May be served hot or cold (thickens as it cools) and stored for up to a week in the refrigerator.