Wednesday, December 25, 2013

puff pancake

This was the second year we've had puff pancake as part of our Christmas breakfast so it's now a tradition.  Last year we topped it with raspberry syrup and whipped cream but this year it was nutella and whipped cream and it tasted like a cream puff.  Dessert for breakfast, if you ask me.  We also had a loaded breakfast casserole so nobody left the table hungry that's for sure.

puff pancake (from my friend Dee-Anna; this is her Christmas tradition)
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
6 eggs
3 tablespoons honey
4 ounces softened cream cheese
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 400.  Grease deep dish baker with 1 tablespoon of butter and place remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in center of dish.  Place dish in oven and let the butter come to a sizzle.  While deep dish is in the oven place all remaining ingredients in a blender and mix well.  Pour into sizzling deep dish and bake for 20-25 minutes or until PUFFED and golden brown.
Serve with raspberry syrup, blackberry syrup and whipped cream or Nutella and whipped cream (my family's preference).

What I have to say- if you make your whipped cream in a Vita-mix it takes no time at all!  My new favorite way to whip cream.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

white chocolate chip pumpkin bread

My friend Amy gave us this beautiful big loaf of white chocolate chip pumpkin bread and my family enjoyed it for breakfast (it was like dessert for breakfast) and everyone loved it.  My husband thought it was super moist.  We love to make pumpkin bread with chocolate chips but I'd never tried white chocolate.  Beautiful!

white chocolate chip pumpkin bread (my friend Amy N.)
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
3 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
16 ounces canned pumpkin
2/3 cup water
1 cup vegetable oil
11 ounces Nestle white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar in large mixing bowl.  Add eggs, water, oil and pumpkin.  Stir until blended.  Add chips.  Mix well.  Pour into two 9x5-inch loaf pans.  Bake 1 hour.  Cool slightly and take out pans to let cool on wire rack.

What Amy says- she put a little more pumpkin in our loaf so had to cook it a little longer. She put foil over the loaf during the last 15 minutes of baking.

sugar "glue"

Every Christmas season we like to decorate with candy whether it's sugar cone trees, sugar cookies, gingerbread men or houses.  Then we have the tradition of eating the sugary decorations on New Year's Eve...the kids go wild as I watch with a big grin and camera in hand.  My oh my how my kids love candy!  For future reference, I thought I should jot down how to adhere sugar cones to the paper plates (it also works for gingerbread houses).

sugar "glue"
Simply pour any amount of sugar into a pot and cook over medium heat until the sugar melts completely.  Turn the stove off.  Dip the top of the sugar cone into the melted sugar then place on the paper plate.  It dries in minutes.  Once it's on, it's on!

What I have to say-  I used about 3/4 cup sugar to secure about 72 sugar cones this year and had leftover.  I also need to say that when you have used all the sugar glue, rinse it out of your pot right away or it will harden and you'll have to soak your pot overnight to get it out.  I have experience here. : )

maple cinnamon rolls

There's something extra special about these cinnamon rolls and it's the maple.  When Julie handed over a pan of them I could smell the sugary maple which reminded me of a maple bar. We tore into them after dinner and they are incredible.  Now I have two favorite cinnamon roll recipes- this very recipe and cinnamon rolls rolled with chocolate chips and topped with cream cheese icing...and there is that pumpkin cinnamon roll recipe we adore.  What about that blackberry cinnamon roll recipe?  You just cannot go wrong with cinnamon rolls!  Hall of Fame!

maple cinnamon rolls (my friend julie got the recipe from The Pioneer Woman)
1 quart whole milk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
2 packages Active Dry Yeast, 0.25 ounce packets
8 cups (plus 1 cup extra, reserved) all purpose flour
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1 scant teaspoon baking soda
1 heaping tablespoon salt
melted butter, plenty
2 cups sugar
cinnamon, generous sprinkling

maple frosting
1 bag powdered sugar
2 teaspoons maple flavoring
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the dough, heat the milk, oil and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat to just below a boil.  Set aside and cool to warm.  Sprinkle the yeast on top and let sit on the milk for l minute.
Add 8 cups of the flour.  Stir until just combined, then cover with a clean kitchen towel, and set aside in a relatively warm place for 1 hour.  After 1 hour, remove the towel and add the baking powder, baking soda, salt and the remaining cup of flour.  Stir thoroughly to combine.  Use the dough right away or place in a mixing bowl and refrigerate for up to 3 days, punching down the dough if it rises to the top of the bowl. (Note: dough is easier to work with if it's been chilled for at least an hour or so beforehand.)
Preheat the oven to 375F.
To assemble the rolls, remove half the dough from the pan/bowl.  On a floured baking surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 30x10 inches.  The dough should be rolled very thin.
To make the filling pour 3/4 cup to 1 cup of the melted butter over the surface of the dough.  Use your fingers to spread the butter evenly.  Generously sprinkle half the ground cinnamon and 1 cup of the sugar over the butter.  Don't be afraid to drizzle on more butter or sugar!  Gooey is the goal.
Beginning at the end farthest from you, roll the rectangle towards you.  Use both hands and work slowly, being careful to keep the roll tight.  Don't worry if the filling oozes as you work; that just means the rolls are going to be divine.  When you reach the end, pinch the seam together and flip the rolls so that the seam is facing down.  When you're finished you'll end up with one long buttery, cinnamony, sugary, gooey log.
Slip a cutting board underneath the roll and with a sharp knife make 1/2-inch slices.  One "log" will produce 20 to 25 rolls.  Pour a couple of teaspoons of melted butter into disposable cake pans and swirl to coat  Place the sliced rolls in the pans, being careful not to overcrowd. (Each pan will hold 7 to 9 rolls.)
Repeat the rolling/sugar/butter process with the other half of the dough and more pans.  Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Cover all the pans with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise on the countertop for at least 20 minutes before baking.  Remove the towel and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown.  Don't allow the rolls to become overly brown.
While the rolls are baking, make the maple icing:  In a large bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, butter an salt.  Splash in maple flavoring.  Whisk until very smooth.  Taste and add in more maple, sugar, butter or other ingredients as needed until the icing reaches the desired consistency.  The icing should be somewhat thick but still very pourable.
Remove pans from the oven.  Immediately drizzle icing over the top.  Be sure to get it all around the edges and over the top.  As they sit, the rolls will absorb some of the icing's moisture and flavor.  They only get better with time...not that they last for more than a few seconds.  Make them for a friend today!  It'll seal the relationship for life.  I promise.

What I have to say-  Julie is amazing.  She has four kids under the age of 6 and she's go-go-go!  She is always serving others, spending time with extended family while taking care of her own darling family...and she still takes on cinnamon rolls.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

smoky southwest chicken and rice soup

If I could rename this recipe I would call it Country Southwest Chicken Soup.  It was delicious.  I loved how the charm of the country and the zest of the southwest cooking came together in this soup.  A success.

smoky southwest chicken and rice soup (adapted from Consumers Power Ruralite Magazine, Sept 2013)
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can fat free Campbell's cream of chicken soup
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon
1 cup milk
1/2 can fat free evaporated milk
1 cup cooked rice
1 can sliced carrots, drained
3 frozen chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch ground chipotle chile
shredded Mexican cheese blend, for garnish
cilantro, for garnish

Place 3 frozen chicken breasts in a slow cooker.  Cook on high for 3 hours.  Push the chicken to the side and add the onion, celery and carrots.  Cook until veggies are tender.  Turn heat down to low.  In a bowl, mix together the bouillon, milk, evaporated milk, chili powder and cumin.  Cook for a couple more hours.  Take out chicken and shred then put back in the soup.  Add a pinch of ground chipotle chile.  When ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls then sprinkle each serving with a tablespoon of shredded cheese and cilantro.

What I have to say-  LOVED the carrots!  Next time I will double them.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

braised pork, sweet potato and fennel stew

The last time I made a recipe from Real Simple magazine with fennel I was so impressed I thought I'd try another.  The flavor combinations in this stew are astounding.  My husband remarked, "This is the kind of meal I like.  Real food and fresh."  Since I bought sweet potatoes that ended up being white and not orange (whoops) I added some sliced carrots to the stew for color and I was glad I did.  Delicious.  I made some divine bread sticks to go with our meal.

braised pork, sweet potato and fennel stew (slightly adapted from Real Simple December 2013)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1  pound boneless pork shoulder or butt, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (I used 1 3/4 pounds)
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed (I omitted)
1 (14.5 ounce) can sliced carrots
kosher salt and black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
6 fresh thyme sprigs, plus leaves for serving (I used 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
2 sweet potatoes, cut into 2-inch pieces (you're supposed to use the orange variety)
2 small fennel bulbs, quartered plus 2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds, for serving
crusty bread or soft bread sticks, for serving

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Season the pork with fennel seeds and 1/4 teaspoons each salt and pepper.  Cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.
Add the broth and thyme and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, until the pork can be pierced with a fork, 30 to 40 minutes.
Add the sweet potatoes, carrots and fennel bulbs.  Cook, covered, until the pork is tender and the vegetables are soft, 15 to 20 minutes more.  Remove the thyme sprigs.
Serve the stew with sprinkled thyme leaves and fennel fronds and with the bread on the side.

What I have to say- if you use a nonstick pot you do not need to use the 2 tablespoons olive oil if you make sure to stir occasionally so the pork doesn't stick to the pan.

Tip from Real Simple- Like most braised dishes, this one tastes even better the day after you make it.  If you have time make it ahead and reheat it over low heat.  The pork will get more tender each time you reheat the stew.

buttermilk herb chicken breasts

I enjoyed this chicken but what I enjoyed best about it was the next day when I put it on a whole wheat bun with shredded lettuce and turned it into a sandwich.  I've also thrown it into a garden salad.  It's a very summery chicken recipe so I will have to remember that when summer rolls around again.

buttermilk herb chicken breasts (Once A Month Meals
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 pounds chicken breasts 

Combine all ingredients into a freezer bag slightly shake to mix and let sit in the refrigerator for at least one hour or up to overnight.  Grill until chicken is done.
Freezing directions: Combine all ingredients into a freezer bag.  Slightly shake to mix and place into freezer until ready to use.  To serve, thaw in refrigerator.  Grill until done.
Note:  A  good substitute for buttermilk is 1 tablespoon lemon juice in 1 cup milk; let sit for about 5 minutes.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

sweet and spicy stir fry

This stir fry was unlike any I've had before.  It came with the awesome peanut butter pork that my friend Shelli delivered for me to try last night.  This stir fry contains pork, cabbage, jalapenos, pineapple, red pepper and cashews.  I'd have never thought to throw in pineapple but it was soooo good with the spicy jalapenos.  Her husband did the cooking last night-  nicely done, Kamanu.

sweet and spicy stir fry (kamanu)
"Saute veggies with peanut butter, oil, soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice, cabbage, pineapple tidbits, onions and peppers."  Serve over rice.

What I have to say- Again, I'm not sure I can trust myself without an exact recipe but it was so good I'll have to try.  Kamanu did say he added his peanut butter pork to this recipe.

peanut butter pork

Last night there was a knock at the door.  It was my friend Shelli.  It was a sight for sore eyes to see a friend after being snowed in for FOUR days (and now FIVE).  She and her husband risked their lives (okay I'm being dramatic) to deliver two dishes that her husband made for dinner that night.  My kiddos and I sampled them and I had to call her immediately to tell her that they are restaurant worthy.  I asked her husband for the recipe and this is what he told me (I asked him to write down exact measurements next time):

peanut butter pork (kamanu)
1 1/2 pounds pork, cubed
sesame oil
salt & pepper
2-3 tablespoons peanut butter
shoyu sauce
1/4 teaspoon sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
pineapple juice from a can of pineapple tidbits
1 tablespoon sugar

Saute pork in a little sesame oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add peanut butter and some shoyu sauce (similar to soy sauce but a little sweeter), sriracha sauce and oyster sauce.  Cook a while.  Add a little more shoyu, pineapple juice and sugar.  Let the juice cook down.  Serve with rice.

What I have to say- I'm not sure I trust myself without an exact recipe but it was so good I might try.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

diego chicken

We enjoyed this HALL OF FAME entree last night.  Grilling in severe temperatures isn't ideal but SO worth it.  My husband and I agreed that it was the green chiles that made it hall of fame.  We'll be making this one again and again for sure.

diego chicken (found it in my SIL Heidi's ward cookbook then adapted it)
3 chicken breasts, fileted
2 teaspoons Pappy's garlic and herb seasoning
1 can whole roasted green chiles (my can contained 4)
your favorite salsa or picante sauce
grated cheese (I used Mexican blend)
1 avocado, thinly sliced
fat free sour cream
shredded lettuce, optional for serving

Place the chicken breasts on a preheated grill and sprinkle with Pappy's.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  When the chicken is done, place on a cookie sheet with sides and assemble in the following order:  chicken, sprinkle of grated cheese (this will secure the green chile), 1 slice green chile, 2 tablespoons picante sauce, sprinkle of cheese.  Put into the oven until the cheese melts.  Take out of the oven and add the avocado and sour cream.  Place on a bed of shredded lettuce and serve!

What I have to say- we served grilled chicken with melted cheese to our kiddos whom we knew may not enjoy all the good stuff!

nutella mousse

We had crepes with Nutella for breakfast on Sunday so I had Nutella on my mind.  Knowing I wanted to make some chocolate mousse I googled Nutella Mousse and found exactly what I wanted.  Only two ingredients.  It's as delicious as you think!

nutella mousse (the wicked noodle)
1 1/2 cups nutella
3 cups whipping cream

Place nutella in a very large mixing bowl and pour the whipping cream on top.  Use a hand mixer to whip until you get peaks.  Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

What I have to say- I found when I whipped mine, the ingredients weren't cold enough to get peaks so I re-whipped it after it had chilled and right before I was ready to serve it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

chicken breast with tomatoes

This chicken recipe tasted just like chicken parmesan but the best chicken parmesan I've ever tasted.  My husband even remarked how fresh it tasted.  Restaurant quality for sure.  I think it had something to do with the quality of the fire roasted tomatoes and the homemade italian breadcrumbs I made then used.  Absolutely delicious.

chicken breast with tomatoes (adapted from my SIL Heidi's ward cookbook)
3 large chicken breasts, fileted
homemade italian breadcrumbs
1 (15 ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
parmesan cheese for sprinkling

Heat a skillet with a little bit of olive oil.  Dip chicken breasts into homemade italian breadcrumbs and brown on both sides.  Puree tomatoes with tomato sauce then pour over the chicken.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Let simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.  Serve with pasta.

homemade italian breadcrumbs

I wanted to make "chicken with tomatoes" tonight but didn't have Italian breadcrumbs on hand.  I wanted to try this recipe so desperately that I decided not to wait but to make my own breadcrumbs.  I think it was the homemade breadcrumbs that turned tonight's dinner into a super huge success.  The recipe tasted like chicken parmesan but the best I've ever had.

homemade italian breadcrumbs (
enough bread to make 2 cups breadcrumbs (I used about 3 slices whole wheat bread)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil

Put bread into a blender and process until you achieve breadcrumbs.  Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until combined.  Bake at 300 degrees on a cookie tray with a lip for 5 to 10 minutes.  Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

healthy eating chart

A couple weeks ago my friend Cherie mentioned that her extended family is doing a fitness challenge (competition).  They track the healthy food they eat, water they drink, exercise and probably even more.  I thought it was a GREAT idea.  Then last week when we visited my SIL Heidi and had a couple of meals with her and her family I noticed a vast assortment of fresh fruits and veggies at every meal which was inspiring.  Instead of creating my own chart, I found one and printed enough copies for my family so we can get started.
If you'd like to print out a healthy eating chart you can find it HERE.

What I have to say- I wish there were a column for my kids to mark the junk food they eat.  They may be surprised how many treats they are sneaking- like I don't know!  Maybe one day the wrappers will make their way into the trash can.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

tuna oriental salad

It may not come as a surprise but I like peas.  I really like them and I always have.  When my husband saw my list of things to make this week he said in reference to this recipe, "You're going to make that [and eat that] when I'm not home, right?"  Yes.  Of course.  Why would I ever make him eat canned tuna (one of the four things he doesn't like to eat)?  I am going to eat the entire batch of this recipe for lunch every day this week because I love it.

tuna oriental salad (found in my SIL Heidi's ward cookbook then adapted)
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 cup fat free sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cans white albacore tuna, drained
1 package peas, cooked then cooled
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 cup sliced green onions
1 cup sliced water chestnuts
1/2 cup slivered almonds, optional

Mix mayo, sour cream, lemon juice, curry, soy sauce and garlic powder.  Mix with the tuna, peas, celery, onion, and chestnuts.  Let refrigerate overnight.  When ready to serve, add nuts.  Serve over a bed of lettuce.

cocktail cranberry meatballs

My kids LOVE these.  Enough said.

cocktail cranberry meatballs
2 packages frozen meatballs
2 jars chili sauce
1 (15 ounce) can jellied cranberry sauce
1 (15 ounce) can cranberry sauce with berries

In a slow cooker on high heat, stir the chili sauce with the jars of cranberry sauce.  Let cook until sauce is not lumpy except for the cranberries.  Add the meatballs and cook until meatballs are nice and hot. 

famous vegetable soup for the soul

I enjoyed watching the preparation of all the gorgeous vegetables that went into this soup (sorry ladies, I had a camera in my hand) and couldn't wait to try it.  Indeed I focused on the 10 cups of veggies in the soup and not the butter or cream. : )  Delicious!  I thought a nice bowl of soup was an excellent addition to the Thanksgiving feast.

famous vegetable soup for the soul (Megan)
2 sticks butter
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced green beans
1 cup broccoli, cut
1 cup leeks,sliced
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup diced red pepper
2 cups diced potatoes
3 cloves garlic
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions in butter.  Add all veggies and reduce heat to low for 25 minutes or until all veggies are soft.  Add chicken stock and boil on medium for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool for 20 minutes.  Blend all of the above then return to pot and add cream.  Enjoy!

heidi's pineappled sweet potatoes

We got to spend a day and a half at Heidi's house while we were in Southern Cal and I spent a long time in her yard, a tropical paradise.  The meals we had were full of fresh fruits and veggies so I wasn't surprised to see the sweet potatoes she brought to the Thanksgiving table.  To be honest this wasn't a recipe I'd have attempted to make by looking at the black-and-white recipe in the cookbook but this recipe is fabulous and shakes up the standard sweet potato recipe.  Sweet potatoes California style!

heidi's pineappled sweet potatoes (Lion House Cookbook)
6 medium sweet potatoes or yams, cooked and peeled
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup orange juice
1 can (13 1/4 ounces) pineapple chunks, well drained or use pineapple tidbits
2 tablespoons butter

Cook sweet potatoes in boiling salted water until tender.  Cut into thick slices; arrange in shallow baking dish.  Stir and blend well the sugars, salt, cornstarch in a heavy saucepan.  In a small saucepan, bring fruit juices to a boil; gradually add to sugar mixture.  Cook and stir until thickened.  Add pineapple and butter.  Pour over potatoes.  Serve immediately, or place in a 350-degree oven just until bubbly hot.  Makes 8 servings.

megan's turkey dressing

Megan made this absolutely delicious dressing recipe for Thanksgiving dinner, which she graciously hosted.   She cooked one batch in the oven and one in the slow cooker which I had never thought of doing before (instead of inside the bird).  What a great idea!

megan's turkey dressing 
16 cups day old bread (2 loaves with crusts cut off)
1/2 cup chopped onions
4 cups chopped celery
1/2 pound fresh sausage
1/2 pound butter
3 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup turkey broth

Cook onions, sausage and celery in butter for 10 minutes until sausage is cooked.  Combine and mix thoroughly.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1/2 hour to 1 hour.  Stir while cooking.  Makes 12 cups.

buttermilk ranch dressing

Anne made this homemade version of buttermilk ranch dressing and it was perfect.  She said she'd tried other recipes but was never pleased with them but was content with this one.  It went splendidly with the Honey Baked ham she brought to the Thanksgiving table (which she stood in line for over an hour was worth it).

buttermilk ranch dressing (Our Best Bites)
1 cup mayo (no substitutes)
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon parsley
1/8 teaspoon dill
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/4 teaspoons dried chives
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard

Whisk mayo and buttermilk until the texture is lump free.  Whisk in remaining ingredients.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

Monday, December 2, 2013

thanksgiving dinner

For the first time in the history of our married life, my husband, kiddos and I spent Thanksgiving out-of-state with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins...and lots of them!  It was very nice just as a Thanksgiving dinner should be.  I love the napkins that dressed the table.  If I ever host Thanksgiving dinner at my house I'll need reminders everywhere to keep calm- on napkins, t-shirts, posters, etc.  Megan was the perfect hostess and so calm.  So let's carry on with some great recipes...
cranberry meatballs, pumpkin fluff dip with apples, grapes & cinnamon graham cracker sticks (I made the apple bird), famous vegetable soup for the soul, pineappled sweet potatoes, heidi's sweet potatoes, megan's turkey dressing and anne's buttermilk ranch dressing.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

slow cooker garlic lime chicken

Attention busy people: You need to know about this recipe.  It's SOOO good.  We came home late last night from a week-long Southern CA vacation and I knew I couldn't get to the store until tomorrow.  I threw 7 ingredients that we had on hand into the slow cooker this morning (including frozen chicken breasts!) and when we came home from church we were wowed.  After trying the chicken my son asked for more "fancy chicken".  Fancy?!  We can have fancy chicken every busy night!
Thank you, Heidi for letting me raid your cookbook for some recipes while we were at your home!

slow cooker garlic lime chicken (my sister-in-law Heidi's cookbook)
4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used frozen)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

Place chicken in slow cooker.  Combine remaining ingredients and pour over chicken.  Cover.  Cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low 6-8 hours.  Serve with rice and fresh fruits and vegetables.

What I have to say- a family favorite!

Monday, November 18, 2013

nicole's french bread

I met a few friends for breakfast one morning (our husbands work together) and Nicole brought us each a loaf of this amazing French bread.  It was so soft and delicious.  Would you believe that three out of the four of us lived in the same town across the country not many years ago?  It's the smallest world ever!

nicole's french bread (my friend Nicole W.)
2 1/2 cups very warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons oil
6 cups flour
2 tablespoons yeast

Pour all ingredients except half of the flour (3 cups) into the bowl of a standing mixer.  Beat vigorously 2 to 3 minutes using the wisk attachment.  Stir in remaining flour except 1/4 cup.  Let rest in warm place for 10 minutes.  Gently fold down dough using a spoon.  Repeat until you have folded down the dough 5 times.  After the final 10 minutes roll out onto lightly floured surface, using the remaining 1/4 cup flour.  Lightly handle into long roll.  Cut dough into four pieces.  Roll each piece into a small rectangle.  Roll each rectangle jelly roll style tapering the ends.  Brush tops with olive oil and sea salt.  Make 3 to 4 snips on the tops with kitchen shears.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

What Nicole has to say- you can bake them in French bread pans instead of on parchment paper like she did.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

spinach chicken noodle soup

Remember that delicious chicken we had for dinner last night that my kids didn't eat?  I used our leftovers to make this soup that they are all now enjoying.  Actually, as my youngest daughter was enjoying hers, her older sister leaned over to her and whispered rather loudly, "You know you're eating spinach don't you?"  Fortunately, that didn't spoil her meal.  Delicious soup and so easy when you have leftovers on hand!  Making this soup is speedy because the chicken, spinach and onions are already prepared with such great flavor that make a meal without much effort.

spinach chicken noodle soup (pass the green peas, please)
leftover chicken with spinach from last night, cut into cubes (2 cups)
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup diced celery
8 cups chicken broth
3 cups dry whole wheat egg noodles

Take out a crock pot at 8:30am.  Place chicken, carrots and celery inside.  Pour broth on top.  Cook on high for 2 hours.  Add noodles and cook 1 more hour.  Serve for lunch.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

roasted spinach chicken

I knew this wouldn't be my kids' favorite but sometimes I don't cook for them (it's not as mean as it sounds).  When one of my kids asked what was for dinner our eleven-year old guest overheard and exclaimed, "I love spinach!".  She's a keeper, that eleven-year old.  The chicken was moist and the spinach was incredibly flavorful; even my husband appeared surprised.  Why is spinach so scary to some?  It's food!  And as this recipe demonstrates, it can taste delicious.  I really was amazed by this dish.

roasted spinach chicken (adapted from Tales of an Overtime Cook)
1 large onion, minced
1 pound frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
3 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 1/2 lemon (I used 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons salt plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon black pepper plus extra for sprinkling
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (used extra large)

Preheat oven to 375.  Finely dice the onion.  Mix together with the spinach, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper.  Set aside.
Clean the chicken and pat dry.  Spread half of the onion and spinach mixture in a prepared 9x13 baking dish.  Place the chicken breasts on top of the spinach mixture then spread the rest of the mixture over the chicken breasts.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Cover the pan with foil and bake for 1 hour at 375.  After an hour, remove the foil and raise the temperature of the oven to 425.  Bake for an additional 30 minutes.  Serve with rice.

What I have to say- delicious!  If you mix a little of the spinach with the rice on your plate you're in for a real treat.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

grilled mustard marinated chicken

Dinner was good I'm going to declare this chicken Hall of Fame!  The chicken doesn't scream "mustard" but everyone in this family likes mustard.  This chicken is super moist and savory and was complimented perfectly by roasted veggies and herb mashed potatoes. 
Note to self:  worthy of dinner guests.

grilled mustard marinated chicken (adapted from Tales of an Overtime Cook)
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons mustard
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Combine all ingredients except for chicken in a bowl, stir to combine.
Pour over chicken and let sit for at least an hour (I let it marinade for 3 hours which I recommend).
Heat the grill and grill until done.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

cranberry jelly

I love being an Activity Day leader and getting to do fun activities with the 8 to 12-year old girls at church.  We're going to make jelly at our next activity so I experimented with cranberry jelly since Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  My kids were my samplers and they gave it a two thumbs up.  We went through a whole lot of toast yesterday afternoon!

cranberry jelly (Kraft recipes
4 cups (1 quart) cranberry juice cocktail
1 box pectin
1/2 teaspoon butter
4 1/2 cups sugar

Prepare jars and keep warm until ready to use.
Measure juice into a 6- or 8-quart saucepot.  Stir in pectin.  Add butter to reduce foaming.  Bring mixture to a full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly.  Stir in sugar.  Return to a full rolling boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Skim off any foam with metal spoon.
Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8" of tops.  Wipe jar rims and threads.  Cover with two-piece lids.  Screw bands tightly.  Process 5 minutes.  Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely.  After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger.  If lids spring back, lids are not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

fancy nancy punch- raspberry lemonade

Let me introduce you to our new favorite party drink- raspberry lemonade.  It's a breeze to make and everyone enjoyed it.  Perfect for a fancy nancy party or the most casual of occasions.

raspberry lemonade (
2 (12 ounce) cans frozen raspberry lemonade concentrate
6 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
24 ounces lemon-lime flavored carbonated beverage
2 cups ice
2 cups fresh raspberries
mint leaves, for garnish (optional) 

In a large punchbowl, combine raspberry lemonade concentrate, water and lime juice.  Stir in lemon-lime soda and ice.  Garnish each glass with a fresh raspberry and a mint leaf (or put the raspberries directly into the drink dispenser like I did).

party idea: fancy nancy

It was time for a Fancy Nancy party!  Five very fancy young ladies attended the party.  We enjoyed hors d'ouvres (raspberry lemonade, cucumber sandwiches, cheese & crackers, embellished celery sticks, fruit kabobs and poppy seed muffins), read Fancy Nancy stories, took a trip to the King's Crown for parfaits and played the game "Packing for Paris".  The girls left with party bags and the decorations- roses and balloons which made for a cost effective and quick clean-up!  You've got to try the raspberry lemonade, my new favorite party drink.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

chicken skillet with mexican green rice

Score!  A dinner that all four kids will gladly eat.  I wasn't sure about a "skillet meal" because my husband isn't keen on casseroles and I thought this might resemble a casserole but I'm sure glad I decided not to have a clean-out-the-fridge-night and instead try this dish.  It is super flavorful and delicious.  We even topped it with some sour cream- tasty, tasty.  I should have made more!

chicken skillet with mexican green rice (adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 (4 ounce) can green chiles
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
20 ounes green enchilada sauce (my favorite is Las Palmas, I get the 28 oz can, freeze the rest)
1 cup brown instant rice
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped fresh spinach leaves 

Season chicken with salt and pepper.  In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until it is rippling and hot.  Brown the chicken on each side for 1-2 minutes until it is golden but not cooked all the way through.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.
In the hot skillet, add the onion, chiles and cook until the vegetables are softened.  Stir in the garlic and cumin and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the enchilada sauce and rice, stirring to combine.  Add the cilantro and spinach and stir to combine.  Add the chicken.  Cover the skillet and set the heat to low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the rice is tender.  Be sure to stir every 5 minutes to ensure the rice doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.  Serve!

What I have to say- if you want to use white rice, the original recipe says to use 1 1/2 cups and also 1 1/2 cups water.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

betsy's fool proof whole wheat bread

If you can't tell, this loaf of bread was HALL OF FAME and beautiful.  Betsy was so kind to deliver a loaf to us when we had just finished eating some delicious soup.  I had thought to myself how a nice slice of whole wheat bread would've made the meal perfect...and it became perfect!  I enjoyed mine plain because it didn't need anything but my kids topped it off with strawberry jam so this bread became their dessert.

betsy's fool proof whole wheat bread (my friend Betsy B.)
13 to 14 cups hard white whole wheat flour (about 10 cups wheat kernels)
5 1/2 cups hot water (like a hot shower but not hot enough to scald)
2 tablespoons yeast
2 tablespoons salt
2/3 cup honey
2/3 cup oil (Betsy used extra light olive oil)
3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten

Dump in hot water and 7 cups of whole wheat flour and gluten.  Turn on mixer (Kitvhen Aid or Bosch, not hand mixer) for maybe 20 seconds, until mixed.  Turn off mixer.
Add yeast, turn on.  Keep on while you add salt and oil.  Turn off to add honey because it makes a mess otherwise.
Now you have all the ingredients in the mixer, except the rest of the flour.  Let mix for a while, about 5-6 minutes.
Turn off for 10 minutes.  In this step, the wheat is soaking up the liquids, which really helps.
Turn on again and add the rest of the flour.  You want the dough to be elastic, but not super stiff.  Kind of sticky (slightly), about to stretch but not really sticky or really stiff.  Add enough flour to get that consistency and mix for a few more minutes.  Turn mixer off.
Let rise for 1 hour either in the mixer bowl or until you can move it to another bowl.
Pour some olive oil on a clean counter top and hands.  Punch down the dough and divide into loaves- usually 3-4 loaves (see below for guidelines about how much dough to use in different sized pans.
Karate chop each section (to get out bubbles) and form into loaves.  Put in greased bread pans.
Cover with light cloth and let rise for as long as it takes- about 1 more hour.  You want it to be as tall as you want your bread to be.  Make sure your pans are not too close together.  If the loaves rise together and touch each other over the edges of the pan, when you pull them apart to put them in the oven, they will sink.  You need to use a light cloth as in light weight because sometimes if you put on a cloth that's on the heavier side, it sinks into the dough and sticks a little.  It will deflate the bread a little when you pull it off.
When the bread is where you want it, preheat oven to 350.  When oven is ready, carefully place each loaf in the oven.
Bake for 25-35 minutes.  You want it golden brown on top and if you tap it, it sounds hollow.  If you bake it too long it will be too dry.
Use a spatula around edges of pan to separate bread from pan.  Tip out and cool on cooling rack right as it comes out of the oven so the bread does not get soggy (can butter top while hot, if desired).
There are no preservatives in the bread (except a little salt, of course) so unless you plan to eat it within a couple of days, store in fridge.
*The amount of flour you need will vary depending on type of wheat, age of wheat, etc.  Mostly, you'll just add flour until your dough is the right texture.

What Betsy has to say-

Tips and trouble shooting:
Amount of dough per loaf:
This is what I have found works best for my bread loaves:
1) 10.5” x 3.25” bread pan = 2 lbs 6 oz of dough
2) 8.25” x 4.25” bread pan = 2 lbs 3 oz of dough
3) 8.75” x 3.25” bread pan = 1 lb 13/14 oz of dough
4) 5” x 2.5” mini bread pan = 9 – 12 oz of dough
Some possible combinations: 3 - #1s and 1 - #4; 4 - #2; 2 - #1, 1 - #3 and 2 - #4; 9-10 - #4s.
Freezing Bread
After bread has cooled completely I always put one loaf right in the freezer.  I usually just put it in a bread bag (you can buy bread bags from a upscale cooking store) and stick it in the freezer because we use it in the later part of the week.  If you are planning on storing the bread in the freezer for longer then a few days you should also put it in a Ziploc freezer bag.
Remedy for Flat Bread
If your dough rises and flat tops over the edges of the pan (the bread has big ears and a flat head), your dough is probably too runny. Next time add more flour. If bread tastes a little dry, you may have added too much flour.
Rising Dough
A way to test whether the bread has risen long enough is to push lightly on the corner of the dough in the bread pan. If the dough shoots right back out, it’s not ready yet. If you push it and it stays sunken in, then it’s risen too long. If you push the dough in and it comes out a little bit, but leaves a small indentation, then it’s ready to bake.

Kitchen Aid Mixer

With a Kitchen Aid mixer, you may need to mix the dough a little bit longer and use a higher speed than recommended in the Kitchen Aid book. It says not to go over speed 2; however, if you use speed 4 or 5, the bread comes out much nicer.

Cost Benefit

Wheat:            $0.30   Honey:            $0.26
Yeast:              $0.03   Wheat Gluten:$0.08
Canola Oil:     $0.07   Salt:                 $0.03

Total cost per loaf: ~ $0.77

Nutritional Value

Wheat:            1780 cal. and 8 g. fat   Honey: 172 cal.
Yeast:  18 cal.                          Oil:      332 cal. And 40 g. fat

Total per loaf: 2302 calories and 48 g. fat – Bread weighs about 1 lb 10 oz when cooked
Total per 1oz slice: ~ 90 calories and 1.8 g. Fat.