"It's the company, not the cooking, that makes the meal!" ~Perilee 
(Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Mom's Divine Divinity!

Divinity has been a family tradition for our family for the holidays. It starts on Thanksgiving when we are making our homemade banana cream pies--what else are you going to use the egg whites for? My mom and sister Sherri are the expert candy makers. Jack and I have made divinity a few several times and have had beginners luck with each batch. This year I tried a recipe out of my Kitchen Aid book that came with my mixer! What a FLOP!!! Lesson learned-Why change something that WORKS. So we tried the mixer again with reservations about the turnout. Mom will tell you that you should use a glass bowl and make it on a cloud-free day! I don't have a glass bowl big enough for it, so the mixer was going to have to do. However, I did follow the rule of a cloud-free day. The results were beautiful. We made two batches and on the second added chopped peppermint candy cane, which gave the candy a nice light mint flavor.

2 cups Sugar
1/2 cup Light Karo Syrup
1/2 cup Water
Dash of Salt
1/2 cup Nuts
1 teaspoon Vanilla
2 Egg Whites

Cook sugar, Karo Syrup, water and salt to a hardball stage (246-250 degrees). In a glass bowl (For best results according to Joyce), whip 2 egg whites to peaking stage. When your syrup mixture reaches hardball stage, start to stir into egg whites in a slow constant stream, while using beaters on the highest speed. (Mom and Sherri make quite the team, one beats and one uses a rubber spatula to keep the sides syrup free. Then they stop mixing it when they think it is loosing some of its gloss and then they mix it by hand.)
When the candy starts to loose it's glossy look add 1 teaspoon Vanilla and 1/2 cup chopped nuts when it starts to get thick.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto wax paper. Move quickly! The faster you get it out of the dish and onto the was paper the prettier your pieces will be!

With the Kitchen Aid mixer:
We used the whip attachment, beat the eggs to peaking stage. Cooked the syrup to hardball stage and then added it in the constant stream as instructed in the recipe above. Beat on speed 4-6 for 7-8 minutes. 10 minutes was too long. How I checked if it was ready was to stop the beaters and lift the whip out. If it was thickening up like a nice frosting and did not run quickly off the whip I knew it was ready. Then Move QUICKLY like the recipe said. Now I know why it always takes to people to make this candy. It sets very quickly after you stop whipping it . The sooner you get your pieces out the smoother and shiner they will be.

*I am trying to master this art like mom and Sherri. It is my brother-in-laws favorite candy and it is the only thing he ask me to do for his birthday. It is a fun treat to take to holiday gatherings as well.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Portobello-Broccoli Stir-Fry

Portobello-Broccoli Stir-Fry

Portobello mushrooms are fully mature cremini mushrooms.
Their meaty texture and rich flavor beefs up this vegetarian stir-fry. From eatbetteramerica.com
I bought a package of baby portobello mushrooms at Costco a couple of weeks ago and we gave this recipe a try. We all loved this recipe. The first time I made it a single recipe fed us, but there were no seconds for those who were hungrier than others and no leftovers. We learned have to double the recipe to satisfy the hunger needs in our home. We also leave out the red pepper because the kids won't eat them, but they sure make it pretty besides adding flavor. I also think this sauce would be a good stir-fry sauce in general. We love it as a vegetarian meal, but next time I plan on adding some chicken to help it satisfy the kids for longer.
prep time:25 min
start to finish:25 min
makes:4 servings

1 1/3 cups regular long-grain white rice
2 2/3 cups water
Salt (optional)

1/4cup water
2tablespoons soy sauce
1tablespoon hoisin sauce
2teaspoons cornstarch
1teaspoon honey
1(6-oz.) pkg. portobello mushroom caps
1medium onion, cut into thin wedges
1small red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1garlic clove, minced
3cups fresh broccoli florets (about 6 oz.)
1/4cup water
1.Cook rice in 2 2/3 cups water as directed on package. Cover to keep warm.
2.Meanwhile, in small nonmetal bowl, combine all sauce ingredients; blend well. Set aside.
3.With small metal spoon, scrape underside of mushroom caps to remove dark gills and stems. Cut mushroom caps into 3/4-inch pieces.
4.Spray large nonstick skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add mushrooms, onion, bell pepper and garlic; cook and stir 3 minutes.
5.Add broccoli and 1/4 cup water; cover and cook 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Add sauce; cook and stir 2 to 3 minutes or until bubbly and thickened. Serve over rice.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Snowman Sugar Cookies

Once There was a Snowman---until we ate him up!
2009 Snowmen
We made these cut snowmen last year for Christmas and my kids couldn't wait to do it again this year. What is it about colored sugar and sprinkles that makes kids go wild every time you walk past them in the store? My kids are always begging for sprinkles. This year I have broke down and bought them at Easter and for their birthday. They love it! Decorating cookies with sprinkles and candies is something my boys wish I would do every week. I hold out for Christmas and Valentines hoping to make it more special for them.
Try out my favorite recipe for moist and delicious Sugar Cookies.

2008 Creations
These were much more elaborate then 2009. I let my nieces and nephew come over and decorate with us. They all went wild with the candies! Then when it came time to eat them they wouldn't eat the ones with all the treats on it. I questioned why they did this and my niece said, "they have too much stuff on them and its doesn't taste good with the cookies." I had to give her a hard time about this because she was the one that kept loading up each cookie. I kept telling them not to, but what do I know! Then when it came time to eat them she was the one that wanted the plain frosted ones that I wouldn't let them add stuff too. LOL!
Quin making a spider with his dough.
Cameron making a snowman

Fun Holiday Cookies

The boys and I had so much fun making these adorable cookies. A friend of mine did these on her goodie plates last year and I just fell in love with how cute they were. After creating them for our goodie plates this year, I fell in love with how quick they come together, not to mention hours of rolling, cutting, and frosting. You can make them into Ghost at Halloween. I have even had the thought come to try to make cute a snowman, but haven't done it yet. Let your imagination run wild. It was fun to make both brown nose and red nose reindeer-You can display Santa's herd of flying reindeer with Rudolph in the lead on your plates--just so cute, quick, and fun. These cookies are a Hit with our family and friends.

1 (1 lb) package Almond Bark (I used Plymouth Pantry-just what our store had)
1 package Nutter Butter Cookies
Twisted Pretzels (Regular or Large size)
Red and Brown M&M's (Plain or Peanut)
Mini Chocolate Chips

Melt the almond bark as directed on the package in the microwave. Dip the Nutter Butter cookie in melted bark and place on waxed paper. Quickly add the pretzel for antlers, M&M and mini chocolate chips. Allow Bark to harden before moving to goodie plates.

*My friend uses plain M&M's and smaller pretzel twist. I didn't know that when I bought my pretzels so instead of placing the pretzel on the front like she does I put mine on the back. I personally like the peanut M&M's better for eating! I mean for the nose ;-) so I used them and think that they make the nose stand out and are better portioned with the cookie size.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Whole Wheat Banana Mini Muffins

My good friend Angela D. from Las Vegas sent me this great recipe. It is healthy! The kids and hubby loved them. It felt good to see and hear the comments that they enjoy the muffins. That is always motivating for me to know that someone enjoyed the food I made. It was especially nice to hear those comments seeing that I had to play the "Little Red Hen" and hand mill the wheat for the flour. I was trying out our emergency essentials food storage mill (It's all I've got! So use it up or do with out right?!) I think I would make these more often if I didn't have to take the time to mill the whole-wheat flour every time.

Banana Mini Muffins
4 T margarine (or butter), softened
¼ cup applesauce
2 eggs (or 2 T. Dehydrated Eggs +1/4 C. Water)
2 T skim milk
¾ Cup packed light brown sugar
1 Cup mashed banana (2-3 medium bananas)
1 ¾ C Whole Wheat Flour
2 t baking powder
½ t baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
2 tsp all spice (optional)
¼ t salt (optional)
¼ Cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Beat margarine, applesauce, eggs, milk, and brown sugar in large mixer bowl until smooth.
Add banana and blend at low speed; beat at high speed 1 to 2 minutes.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, all spice and salt; mix into batter. Mix in nuts.
Pour batter into mini muffin pan, . Bake at 350ยบ F for 12-14 minutes. ENJOY!

Chicken, Veggie, and, Mushroom Pasta

I found this recipe on Chelle's blog (Titled Mushroom Chicken Pasta) and thought I would give it a try. I had some mushrooms I needed to use up so the timing was perfect. It was good warm and the next day I ate it as a cold pasta salad and enjoyed it that way too. I love that it isn't dripping with sauce or juices. I also loved the nice fresh flavor of the cilantro it isn't overbearing in flavor, just a nice hint of herb. I also think this would be tasty without the meat as a vegetarian dish.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 lb boneless/skinless chicken breast, sliced crosswise
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
6-8 cloves of garlic, crushed (I just use the minced garlic from a jar if I don't have fresh garlic)
1/2 lb mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup green onions, sliced
3/4 cup red or orange sweet peppers
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes (undrained)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (I used 1/4 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups dry bow tie pasta- cook as directed
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Parmesan cheese, grated

1. Fry chicken in oil over medium heat until done. Sprinkle with salt and remove from skillet. Keep warm.
2. Cook garlic in oil until golden. Add mushrooms, green onions and peppers- cook 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, broth, red pepper, cornstarch and salt. Heat to boiling then reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Combine chicken, hot mixture, pasta and cilantro. Sprinkle with fresh Parmesan to your liking and enjoy!
*Use less crushed red pepper to make it mild. Also, I add the peppers when I have them on hand- zucchini and squash are delicious too.

Lion House Dinner Rolls

I gave these rolls a try and they were wonderful, moist, and simply delicious. The family and guest loved them too.

2 cups warm water
2/3 cup nonfat dry milk (instant or non-instant)
2 Tablespoons dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup butter, shortening, or margarine
1 egg
5 to 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour. (This was more like 7 cups for me! What did I do wrong? :-0)

In large bowl of electric mixer, combine water and milk powder; stir until milk dissolves. Add yeast, then sugar, salt, butter, egg, and 2 cups flour. Mix on low speed of mixer until ingredients are wet, then for 2 minutes at medium speed. Add another 2 cups flour; mix on low speed until ingredients are wet, then for 2 minutes at medium speed. Dough will be getting stiff and remaining flour may need to be mixed in by hand. (my Kitchen Aid had no problem with the 7 cups I ended up using). Add 1/2 cup more flour mix again, by hand or mixer. Dough should be soft, not overly sticky, and not stiff. It is not necessary to use the entire amount of flour (unless you are Jill of course! Then you have to use two additional cups to get the dough not overly sticky, but not stiff! Whatever works right?!)

Scrape dough off sides of bowl and pour about one Tablespoon oil all around sides of bowl. Turn dough over in bowl so its covered with oil. (This helps prevent dough from drying out.) Cover with plastic and allow to rise in warm place until double in size. Sprinkle cutting board or counter with flour and place dough on floured board. Roll out and cut rolls into desired share and size. Place on greased (or parchment lined) baking pans. Let rise in warm place until rolls are double in size.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until browned. Brush with melted butter while hot. Makes 1 to 1 1/2 dozen rolls.

*I watched the Lion House Roll clip at Deseretbook.com and they demonstrated how to cut and fold these rolls. They used the length and width of your finger when it is held our in the "L" shape. Makes an easy tool when you can simply use your hand.

Easy Beef Pot Pie

This pot pie comes together quickly when using frozen veggies. Using FRESH veggies adds just a few more minutes for the peeling and chopping. My kids and husband love this dish!

Beef Pot Pie
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cups cooked beef, cubed or shredded Salt and Pepper to taste (we have found Sirloin Steak cut works great and stays tender!)
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed (I use frozen and fresh veggies combined to our liking. Fresh celery, green beans, potatoes, carrots, and frozen peas. The quickest I have ever made this is when I have bought a bag of frozen peas, beans, carrots, and beans.*I also add more than the 2 cups to make the pie bigger to serve more people)
1 (.87-ounce) envelope brown gravy mix
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 prepared refrigerated pie pastries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat; add onion and bell pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender about 5 minutes. (When using all fresh I throw them in here for a few minutes and stir-fry them for 5-8 minutes). Add beef and mix vegetables to skillet. Prepare gravy according to package directions; add to skillet. Stir gently to combine.
Fit one pastry into a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan. Spoon beef and vegetables into pastry. Top beef mixture with remaining pastry. Seal edges with a fork or flute it. Cut 3 steam vents in the crust. Bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbly; about 35 minutes.

*Variation: Sprinkle 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese over filling before adding top crust.

To cut the cooking time and make individual pot pies, spoon the hot filling into six 5-ounce ramekins. Top each pie with refrigerator biscuit dough. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or until top is browned.

Lion House Refrigerator Bran Muffins

These muffins are wonderful! I don't know if I could follow the recipe to refrigerate up to 6 weeks! So I bake all of them and then freeze them.

Refrigerator Bran Muffins
2 cups boiling water
4 cups bran cereal (Bran Buds or All Bran)
1 pound of dates, pitted and chopped or 2 cups raisins (less if using Raisin Bran) {I leave this out my kids don't like it}
5 cups flour (part whole wheat flour if desired)
1 teaspoon salt
5 teaspoons baking soda (or 1 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoons speedy method for impatient people like me!)
1 cup salad oil (I use canola)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 quart buttermilk
2 cups Bran flake cereal or Raisin Bran

Pour boiling water over bran cereal and dates. Sift dry ingredients together. Cream oil and sugars, add eggs, hot bran mixture, dry ingredients and buttermilk. Add the 3 ups bran flakes cereal. Mix just enough to combine. Bake in greased and floured muffin tins or line with cupcake papers {cupcake shirts as my boys call them ;-)} at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 6 dozen muffins. Batter may be stored in covered container in refrigerator up to 6 weeks. Bake any amount as desired.

**Note: I baked both regular and mini size. Mini's are great hot but after they cool they take on a little rubbery texture. I would recommend the regular size for this recipe.

Grapefruit Slush

This wonderful little appetizing drink has been a family tradition for both Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings for as long as I can remember. If you like grapefruit you are sure to like this beverage. This recipe is one handed down from my maternal grandmother. I look forward to the holiday season so I can make and drink this. Over the years I have altered the recipe just playing around. I have tried it with Mandarin oranges-which doesn't work all that well for some reason it doesn't set up. If you like the Mandarin orange idea I have gotten it to work and look good by using the white grapefruit and adding it were the maraschino cherries would be--like a garnish piece. I have found my favorite to be pink grapefruit with the cherries and 1 cup less sugar {who needs it anyway?!;-)}

Original Grapefruit Slush-Rula Bartholomew recipe.
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 cans grapefruit with juices
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
Maraschino Cherries (optional)

Beat grapefruit, and then add other ingredients. (Remember to remove any grapefruit seeds). Pour into a large freezer safe container. Drop in Cherries throughout the container and freeze. When ready to serve cut into pieces and serve with sprite or 7-up.

Jill's lighter Version
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
2 cans Pink Grapefruit with juices
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
Maraschino Cherries or Mandarin Oranges (optional)

Heat sugar and water until sugar dissolves. Put all ingredients in a blender and blend well. Pour into a freezer safe container--we have always preferred a shallow dish with a lid (9x 13 size Tupperware because it is easier to cut and serve when frozen solid.)

Serve with 7-up, sprite, or our favorite Fresca-keeps the grapefruit flavor strong!

Friday, November 27, 2009

2009 Thanksgiving Turkey Brine

Every year that the holidays start approaching we think of all the family and friends we are thankful to have in our lives. While we lived on the East Coast during Jacks graduate school we developed some wonderful friends whom became our family while we were away from home. We have fond memories of 4am train rides to NYC to see the Macey's Day Parade where we froze nearly to death. A yearly Thanksgiving Feast with the Strobel family, who turned us on to Turkey Brining! Brining your turkey makes the bird incredibly moist. We have tried various recipes over the years and enjoyed them all. I think it is because they make the bird so MOIST and give it incredible flavor.

So this year I hadn't payed much attention to what I was going to do with the bird. HELLO that's the main course of Thanksgiving what was I thinking! So Wednesday night I did a quick Internet search for Brine that I might possibly have all the ingredients on hand. In years past it has required fresh herbs, lemons, and more items that I typically don't keep in the pantry/fridge. So this year we tried one from allrecipes.com that the contributor said her uncle that loves to smoke meats had given her. Jack loves smoked meats so I thought I would give it a try. The original recipe said to soak the turkey in the brine for 1-2 days. I had barely 12 hours, but gave it a shot anyway. We were pleased with the results. So I share the recipe I used and them method I used after reading a few recipes in a pinch.

Brine Ingredients:
2 gallons water
1 1/2 cups canning/pickling salt
3 Tablespoons minced garlic (I used jarred, but wish it were FRESH)
1 Tablespoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup packed brown sugar

In a 5 gallon bucket or container large enough to hold your turkey, mix together the water, salt, garlic, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar. (I personally lined my 5 gallon bucket with a food safe bag-aka clean garbage bag. This helps with clean up and you can also twist the bag up tight so that the brine is completely surrounding the turkey.) Store in a refrigerator, and soak turkey for at least 12 hours (most recipes I read said at least 1 day some up to 2 days). I personally don't have that much room in my fridge for it. A blessing of living in Northern Wyoming was that I could leave my bucket outside because it has been below 40 degrees. If you don't have room or the option having it be cold outside. Put it in a cooler with ice packs on it to keep the bird refrigerated at least at 40 degrees.

After brining is complete. Remove the bird from the brine and rinse well with cold water. Pat dry. Cook bird according to package directions. Our was in a 325 degree oven for 3-4 hours for a 16.5 lb bird. Remove the lid the last 30 minutes for browning and frequent temperature checking.

Butter-Pecan Sweet Potatoes

We love these sweet potatoes and eat them year round. I like to make them for our Thanksgiving feast as a healthier verison of sweet potatoes. They never disappear at Thanksgiving because there are to many other choices to fill up on, but at a regular meal there are rarely any left.

Butter-Pecan Sweet Potatoes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Peel and dice 1-2lbs sweet potatoes into small cubes
(the size of my cubes depends on much time I have for them to cook usually 1/2"x 1/2" works well for quick baking).
Toss diced potatoes with Olive Oil
Season with Coarse Salt (I use Kosher Salt)
Transfer to a large baking cookie sheet/jelly-roll pan.
Cook until potatoes are tender, tossing occasionally (25-30 minutes).
When tender sprinkle with
1-2 Tablespoons butter
2 packed Tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup pecans pieces
Two shakes cayenne pepper (1/16 tsp.) If you want more heat add up to 1/8 teaspoon.
Bake until sugar is caramelized and hard about 10 minutes. Gently toss and serve immediately.

Sweet Potato Crunch

I never enjoyed sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving time. Everyone in my family loves my mom's sweet potatoes layered with butter, brown sugar, and marshmallows, but for some reason I have never acquired a taste for them to this day. It is nothing against my mom's cooking because she is a fabulous cook and I am always calling her with cooking questions. It wasn't until I had these yam/sweet potatoes at my sister-in-laws Echo's that I learned to like yams. So the honest truth is this dish is more like a pie--maybe that's why it won me over. It is a very southern style dish. If you like sweet potatoes this dish will have you asking for seconds. If you don't like traditional sweet potatoes with roasted marshmallows this one might win you over like it did me.

2 Large Cans Yams/Sweet Potato, drained and mashed. (I use Bruce's Brand)
3 eggs (I only use 1 Egg if making half a recipe)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup margarine, melted
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix sweet potatoes, eggs, sugar, milk, margarine, and vanilla. Put in a 9 x 13 (or 2 1/2 quart.) baking dish.
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup flour
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup margarine, melted

Mix brown sugar, flour, pecans, and margarine together. Put over the sweet potatoes in baking dish. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour.

Yields: 8-10 servings
May be prepared early in the day or the day before.

Banana Cream Pie-A Family Tradition!

If there is one dessert for me and my family of origin that says "Thanksgiving" and "Family Favorite" It would be mom's homemade BANANA CREAM PIE!! Mom would always feed a crowd. We'd have one of almost every flavor of pie and we had to have 6-9 Banana Cream Pies. The other pies were always leftovers! You were lucky if you got a piece of Banana Cream Pie with all the family and extended family that was at our home on Thanksgiving Day. So holding with tradition I have continued to make this wonderful pie for my little family and guest were ever we have Thanksgiving. It is still the Belle of the Ball so to speak! If you love creamed pies this one is in my opinion just "HEAVENLY!!!"

Vanilla Cream Pie
(Enough for one unfilled baked-crust pie crust)

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
(I like to put these in the saucepan and blend them together before adding the milk)
3 cups milk (I always use 1% whatever you normally drink works here)
3 egg YOKES, slightly beaten
2 Tablespoons margarine or butter
2 teaspoons vanilla

Prepare and bake pastry for unfilled one-crust pie using 9-inch pie pan. In medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir in milk. Blending until smooth. Cook over medium heat until mixture boils and thickens, stirring constantly. Boil for 2 minutes; remove from heat. Blend a small amount of hot mixture into egg yolks. (This part can be tricky if you pour it in to hot it cooks the yokes and you get little lumps of scrambled egg type pieces in your pie. I have found the best method after much trial and error is to put my yokes in a bowl that I can add the hot pudding to one Tablespoon at a time. I cool each Tablespoon just slightly before whisking them in the beaten eggs. I continue you this for about 4-5 Tablespoonful then I had one straight from the pan and when I feel like the yokes are warmed up to my satisfaction I pour them slowly into the main batch). Return the hot egg mixture to the mail pot, blending well. Cook until mixture comes to a boil. Boil 1 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in margarine /butter and vanilla. Cool pudding. (We always pour ours out into a new bowl (Because we need the pan to keep cooking several more batches! ;-)) and cover with waxed paper so it doesn't develop a skin. Pour into cooled , baked crust! (Never put a hot filling in a cold crust. Hot in Hot and cold in cold--to keep your crust beautiful and not soggy.) Refrigerate for 3 hours or until set. If desired, serve with whipped cream. (We also cover it with wax paper after putting in pie crust to keep the skin from developing. Maybe mom did this to keep little taste testing fingers out! until time to serve.)


BANANA CREAM PIE: Cool filling in saucepan to lukewarm. Pour into Pie Crust. When ready to serve, slice banana on top of pie and top with whipped cream. (Bananas can be added in on top of the crust before pouring the filling in, but we have found that they don't keep as well-turning brown and mushy. Our preference is to add them to individual slices when ready to serve.)

Butterscotch Cream Pie: Substitute firmly packed brown sugar for sugar.

Chocolate Cream Pie: Increase sugar to 1 cup and add 1 oz (2 squares) unsweetened chocolate to filling mixture before cooking.

Coconut Cream Pie: Stir 1 cup coconut into cooked filling with margarine and vanilla.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Garden Vegetable Soup

We love soup and this recipe called for fresh tomatoes and Basil which I just happened to have because I transplanted my basil plant and brought it in side (so far it is still a live) and my green tomatoes that finally turned red in their box were screaming, "we are on our way out lady!". . I am pretty confident that using dried alone would produce the same flavor because I had to add some to get it to taste right. (I don't think my fresh basil leaves were big enough.) My kids enjoyed this recipe and it hit the spot for me the day of and then the next as leftovers.

Garden Vegetable Soup (Found this recipe on Parents.com)

1 Leek, white part only
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 of medium Zucchini (I doubled the recipe so that I could use a whole Zucchini)
6 green beans (I left them out!)
1 medium carrot (I always double or triple the carrots in my soups because they are the boys favorites)
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil, divided
1 1/2 Tablespoons water
4 cups no-salt added Chicken Stock (I used my Chicken Base added to water)
3 ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded (I used medium size)
15 fresh basil leaves, washed and dried (mine were small and it didn't seem to taste right so I added 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon dried basil. If you don't have fresh I would use 1-2 teaspoons dried basil to taste.)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced

Cut all the veggies into 1/4-inch pieces. In a large pot, mix half the olive oil with the water. Add veggies; saute on medium-low until the water evaporates. Don't let the veggies brown. Add stock, bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, at a gentle boil for 30 minutes. Meanwhile puree tomatoes, basil, garlic, and remaining oil. Stir puree into soup. Don't let it return to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.

We enjoyed this soup with crackers or toast.

Popcorn Brittle

We are always willing to try new caramel corn, so when I saw this popcorn brittle I just had to give it a try. It taste just like peanut brittle. I used small baking M&M's because I had them on hand. They didn't hold up so well. I definitely think that the bigger ones wouldn't melt as quickly and would add a bigger splash when it comes to the fun colorful dimension they are to add to the treat. We ate it and enjoyed it anyway! This recipe reminds me of Harry and David's Gourmet Moose popcorn with the chocolate drizzles.

1 bag (3.3 oz) Gourmet Butter Microwave popcorn (I used a 98% fat-free version)
1 cup M&M's plain candies
1 1/2 cups firmly packed Brown Sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
1 cup Lightly Salted Peanuts
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda

Prepare popcorn according to package directions. REMOVE all UNPOPPED KERNELS. Spread pooped corn evenly in 15 x 10-inch nonstick shallow baking pan. Sprinkle evenly with M&M's; set aside.
Place sugar, butter, corn syrup and vanilla in medium heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium-high and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly with wooden spoon. Add peanuts. Cook an additional 2 minutes or to the hard-crack stage (300-310 degrees), stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add baking soda and mix well.
Immediately pour caramel mixture evenly over popped corn and candy until coated. DO NOT STIR! (We learned the hard way!) Let stand 30 minutes or until caramel has cooled and hardened.

When Cool Break into pieces, share some with friends & neighbors then simply enjoy!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Crock Pot Caramel Apples

Every year I remember my mom making three things around Halloween or on Halloween night-Homemade chili, breadsticks, and caramel apples. She always makes hers from scratch and so did I until I tried this simple crock pot method. Nothing tops homemade caramel, but this recipe wins my heart because it was so kid friendly and the boys could work with the caramel and learn to dip them because the caramel was the perfect temperature.

Crock Pot Caramel Apples


2 packages (14oz each) caramels

1/4 cup water

8 medium apples, such as McIntosh, Gala, or Fuji

sticks for apples

In slow cooker, combine caramels and water. Cover and cook on high for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until caramels are melted, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, line a baking pan with wax paper; butter the paper.

Wash and dry the apples. Insert a stick into stem end of each apple. Reduce crockpot heat to LOW.

Note: If the caramel does happen to scorch, put it through a mesh strainer and discard any dark particles. Put the sauce into a saucepan or back into the cleaned slow cooker and keep warm while you dip the apples.

Dip apple into hot caramel; turn to coat entire surface. Holding apple above pot, scrape off excess accumulation of caramel from bottom apple.
Place coated apples on prepared wax paper in pan. As you near the bottom of the pot, use a spoon to spoon hot caramel over apples. Put the pan of coated apples in the refrigerator to set thoroughly. Use caution if children are helping; the crockpot will probably be quite hot to the touch and the caramel could scald.

Makes 8 caramel apples-med to large in size. (I got almost 20 *small apples) *If I can get this size of apples again I will always use them. They were the perfect size for eating without getting the caramel all over your face. I also didn't feel bad about allowing my kids to eat the entire apple.

I will have to post my mom's caramel apple recipe later.

Ramen Salad

This quick and simple salad is fun to toss together
for a quick lunch or a last minute get together.

1 lb Cole Slaw (I just buy the 1 lb bag for simplicity)

2 pkg. Ramen (oriental or shrimp flavor)
1/4 cup Margarine
1/3 cup Slivered Almonds

1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/2 cup Red Cider Vinegar
1/4 cup Sugar
Seasoning packets from the Ramen noodles

Optional: I always add more carrots (julienned or sliced) and chopped chicken when I want to make it more of a meal and not a side salad.

Break noodles; saute with almonds in margarine until lightly browned. (As a note if you crush your noodles to much then you will have smaller pieces that with brown or burn before the larger pieces are browned--you will have to play with it to get a method down that you like.)
Combine oil, vinegar, sugar and Ramen seasonings in a small bowl and set aside.
Mix all ingredients when ready to serve.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Boston Cream Pie/Cake

I have made this delicious cake with both chocolate and yellow cake. Both are delicious and have gotten rave reviews by those eating it! I will say that the yellow cake really does make it taste like a Boston Cream Pie. The pudding layers make the cake so incredibly moist. It is a cake that looks like it takes a lot of time, but it really is quick and easy.

1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) JELL-O Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding (I use two small boxes)
1 cup cold milk (1 cup of milk per box used)
1-1/2 cups thawed COOL WHIP Whipped Topping (because I use two pks of pudding I use the entire container of cool whip)
1 round yellow cake layer (8 or 9 inch)
1 square BAKER'S Unsweetened Chocolate
1 Tbsp. butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. cold milk
(I add 1 teaspoon vanilla)
Make Cake according to box directions. Cool Completely!
BEAT pudding mix and 1 cup milk with whisk 2 min. Stir in COOL WHIP. Let stand 5 min. Meanwhile, cut cake horizontally into 2 layers with serrated knife.
STACK cake layers on serving plate, spreading pudding mixture between layers.
Melt bakers chocolate and butter in microwave for 30-1 minute on high until melted (care not to burn it). Add the milk, then add 3/4-1 cup powdered sugar depending on how thick of a consistency you desire.
This is where I add 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

~Recipe taken from Kraft Foods Food and Family Magazine. It can also be found on their website.

Energy Bark

This is such a great and healthy snack! If you are picky about the snacks you give your family, you are going to love this one!! It has carbs and protein to keep you and your kids going. Its a sweet and nutty flavored snack that everyone at our house loves. I usually double or triple the batch every time I make it. (I got this recipe from Parents Magazine in November 2006, p. 2006)

1 cup Old-Fashioned Oats
1 cup sliced Almonds
1/2 cup Coconut Flakes
1/4 cup Wheat Germ
2 Tablespoons Whole Wheat flour (I have used white here too)
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
3 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Honey

Heats oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, mix together oats, almonds, coconut, wheat germ, flour, and cinnamon. In a small saucepan, combine brown sugar, butter, and honey; bring to a boil and cook 30 seconds. Pour over oat mixture and stir to combine. Spread on foil-lined baking sheet and bake 20 minutes. Let cool completely on baking sheet, then break into pieces.
Makes 12 servings
Nutrition per serving: 153 Calories, 4g protein, 9 g fat; 17 carbs; 32mg calcium, 2 g fiber.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Zucchini Soup

I got this recipe over the summer from Sisters Cafe, who gives credit to a Julie Badger Jensen for this recipe. It is now one of our all time favorite soups. My boys gobble it down and ask for seconds and thirds. The recipe listed here is doesn't make much so I highly recommend doubling it if you are hoping to feed more then 4 or 5 people. I would say it serves 4 a cup of soup, so if you are wanting it as the main dish take that in to consideration. It is quick and has a wonderful flavor!

1 cups chopped onions
1 Tablespoon butter (original recipe calls for 2 T)
3 cups sliced Zucchini
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup half-and-half (I have always used milk and it taste great to us!)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (optional)
1/2 cup sour cream (optional)
4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, the crumbled (I don't usually do this. Real Bacon Bits have come in handy when I have wanted to add this touch)

In a large saucepan cook onions in melted butter until tender. Add sliced zucchini and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender (about 15 minutes). Add salt and pepper. Cool Slightly. Pour mixture into blender and puree it. Stir in half-and-half (or milk). Return to saucepan and reheat, but do not boil. Garnish with cheese, sour cream, and bacon bits.

*We only add a dollop of sour cream if any to individual soup--we don't want to ruin a low-fat and healthy dish by adding unnecessary fats.

Peanut Butter Granola

I got this recipe from Diana E. at a Relief Society function. I was so excited to try it because we love granola at our house. Its great and fun to have a new flavor. We liked it plain as snack or as a quick cereal with milk on it. It is great on top of ice cream sundaes. For me it has to be paired with the right fruit and yogurt. It still doesn't top our Almond-Coconut granola, but we will make it over and over I am sure! Thank you Diana for another great recipe

Mix and Heat in 4 cup glass mixing bowl fir 4 minutes on High in the microwave.

1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1/3 cup margarine or butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl:

12 cups Rolled Oats
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
(you can also add nuts or coconut if you would like)

Pour wet ingredients over dry and mix quickly until it is evenly coated. Put onto 2 greased cookie sheets. Put both in oven one on upper rack and one on lower. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes. Switch cookie sheet to alternate rack and bake additional 10 minutes. Then turn off the oven and let the granola dry for several hours in the oven. Store in air tight container and enjoy.

Pizza Cobbler

This is a recipe I got from my sister-in-law. She makes this frequently for her kids when she and her husband are going out on a date. I took pictures of it, but it is a picture of melted cheese and isn't much to look at. This is a pretty quick little toss together meal if you have the ingredients on hand (which I usually don't so I have to plan for it). If you enjoy pizza this is a quick option with out a lot of fuss.

Pizza Cobbler
Grease a 8 x 8 (I would suggest using a 9 x 13 so that it will cook faster)
Pour a 1/4 cup sauce to cover the bottom of your pan.

1 pkg refrigerated Pillsbury Grand Rolls
Cut the biscuits into quarters, roll each quarter into a ball and place in the pan of sauce.

Top with remaining Pizza sauces and sprinkle with Mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Cover with foil if cheese starts to brown before the biscuits are done in the center.

*I found cooking them in an 8 x 8 they are really tight and it took almost 40 minutes to cook it through. I think if you use an 9 x 13 it would cook the biscuits quicker 20-30 minutes. We also added olives and mushrooms before topping with remaining sauce and cheese and it turned out great.

S'More Cookie Bars

These little bars are rich and tasty. The are a great alternative to the MAGIC Bars (chocolate chips, nuts, and coconut drizzled with sweetened condensed milk).

3/4 cup margarine
3 Cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup mini marshmallows
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In 13 x 9-inch baking pan, combine the margarine with crumbs; press to form even layer in the bottom. Evenly sprinkle the chocolate chips, then butterscotch chips, then mini marshmallows. Pour condensed milk evenly over mixture. Bake 25 minutes or until bubbly. On wire rack, let cool in pan completely. To serve, cut into squares. For easier cutting, refrigerate 1 hour.
Makes 2 dozen bars (24 bars out of a 9 x 13 seems small, but their are rich so it works great!)

Banana-Cinnamon Bunt Cake

Hugh sneaking a taste!

My kids loved this recipe. I personally will use homemade frosting next time, and I will probably leave the cinnamon out of the frosting because there is so much in the cake; if I even frost it at all. This cake was surprisingly rich. (We got this recipe from Betty Crocker's recipe newsletter).

1 Box Super Moist Yellow Cake Mix
1/2 cup water
1 cup mashed very ripe banana's (2 medium)
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 eggs
1/2 chopped walnuts (we always use pecans)

Cinnamon Glaze
1/2 cup Betty Crocker Rich and Creamy cream cheese ready-to-spread frosting
2 to 3 Tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used 1/8 tsp. but will leave it out next time)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12- cup bundt cake pan.
Beat cake mix, water, bananas, butter, cinnamon, and eggs in large bowl with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in nuts. Pour into pan.
Bake 43 to 53 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn pan upside down onto wire rack or heatproof serving plate; remove pan. Cool completely, about 2 hours. Stir all glaze ingredients in small bowl until thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle over cake.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Jill's Minestrone Soup

I made this soup back in June and I am now just getting around to posting it. I know soup in June sounds awful, but it was good and I was trying to find ways to use up my homemade stewed tomatoes and some of our garden fresh green beans and zucchini. Now it is soup weather, so it just might make the menu again soon. This soup is adapted from a recipe I found on familyfun.com

Minestrone Soup
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, sliced
3 onions, sliced
3-5 carrots, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced, diced, or cubed (personal preference)
1/2 lb green beans, 1-inch pieces
1/2 head cabbage, shredded (cheat and buy it already done!)
1 (16 oz) can tomatoes, or 1 cup tomato sauce, or 1 quart HOMEMADE Stewed Tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
1 can white beans of choice (or 2 cups cooked)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup elbow macaroni
Grated Parmesan Cheese

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the garlic, onions, carrots, zucchini, green beans, and cabbage. Do it one by one as you chop them. Stir to coat the vegetables with oil and cook 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes or sauce, chicken broth, and water to the pot, breaking up the tomatoes as you do so. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer partially covered for at least 30 minutes. Add the white beans and simmer 10 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper (to taste).

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water. When you are ready to serve the soup, put a spoonful of the macaroni in each bowl and spoon the soup over it. Sprinkle with grated cheese.

*Freeze the remaining soup with macaroni separately!

Praline-Apple Bread (Southern Living)

**Picture coming soon (Have the picture; need to find the disk!)

As promised I'm sharing the recipe I tried for Apple Bread. I personally didn't give this a 5 star, but many of the friends I shared it will loved it and asked me for the recipe. I thought it would be sweeter, more like a Banana Bread or Zucchini Bread. One friend suggested it might be that the apples I used might not have been as ripe or juicy as another variety. (I can't tell you what variety it was because they were off my sister-in-laws tree and they don't know what kind there are-came with the house;-) ) Give it a shot and if you have suggestions and thoughts on how to improve this bread, please share! Maybe I should have tried the Granny's!

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, divided (I cut cost here and only used 3/4- 1 cup)
1 (8 oz) container sour cream
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups finely chopped, peel Granny Smith apples (about 3/4 lb)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Bake 1/2 cup pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 6 to 8 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring after 4 minutes.

Beat sour cream and next 3 ingredients at low speed with an electric mixer 2 minutes or until blended. Stir together flour and next 3 ingredients. Add to sour cream mixture beating just until blended. Stir in apples and 1/2 cup toasted pecans. Spoon batter into greased and floured 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup chopped pecans; lightly press pecans into batter.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour to 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted comes out clean, shielding with aluminum foil after 50 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack.

Bring butter and brown sugar to a boil in a 1 quart heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stirring constantly; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat, and spoon over top of bread; let cool completely (about 1 hour).

Note: To freeze bread, cool completely; wrap in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil. Freeze up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature.

Southern Living Magazine September 2009 P. 120

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tex-Mex Beef Wraps

This crock-pot keeper came to me via e-mail one of my recipe newsletters. I printed it off and added it to the "to try" pile during the summer, but now that I have a chance to blog it I can't give the source-sorry about that! We enjoy the simplicity of using our crock-pot in many ways-easy meals and easy clean up are the top to reasons. As of late we have tried many different Mexican flavored meats in the crock-pot so I will try to spread them out in the postings. If you are looking for a quick toss it in the pot this one is for you. Takes 10 minutes tops.

Tex-Mex Beef Wraps
1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 boneless beef chuck pot roast (2 1/2 to 3 lbs), cut into 4 pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup salsa, divided (I used my homemade salsa and added nearly 2 cups)
12 (6 or 7-inch) Tortilla corn or flour, warmed
1 cup shredded cheddar of Monterey Jack Cheese
1 cup chopped tomato
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 ripe avocado, diced

Blend chili powder, cumin, salt and red pepper. Rub meat all over with spice mixture. Place onion and garlic in bottom of 4 1/2 quart crock-pot; top with meat. Spoon 1/2 cup (1 cup homemade) salsa over meat. Cover and cook on low 8 to 9 hours or on High 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours.

Remove meat from crock-pot; place on plate and use to forks to shred meat. Skim off and discard fat from cooking liquid; return meat to juices and mix well. Adjust seasonings. Place meat on warm tortillas; top with cheese, tomato, cilantro, and avocado. Roll up and enjoy!

We served with remaining salsa, sour cream, and a Mexican Lime Rice which I hope to post soon.

Quick and Easy Shrimp Tempura

Jack has been craving fried shrimp lately, so when I asked him, "What do you want for dinner tonight?" He replied, "I really want fried shrimp!" I grabbed the shrimp out of the freezer and did a quick search on Food Network. Our Disney Family Cookbook had a recipe for Vegetable Tempura that we loved, so I knew I could use it if I needed to (I just don't enjoy the fried splattered kitchen that comes with preparing fried foods without a deep fryer). When comparing the recipes they were quite different in the ratios of flour, cornstarch, and baking powder. So I guess I will have to post the vegetable tempura recipe at a later time. I was pleased with how quickly this tempura came together and Jack was pleased with the meal, so it was a win/win situation.

Shrimp Tempura
Soak the Shrimp in a Brine for 20 minutes
The recipe I printed called for 1/2 cup rice wine (which I didn't have on hand and probably don't have readily available to me at the local grocery store) and 1/4 teaspoon salt. For 1/2 pound fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined.

1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 lb frozen, peeled and deveined Shrimp thawed.
Brine under refrigeration

For the Tempura Batter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup ice water
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

In a medium bowl, mix together all the batter ingredients. Dip shrimp into the flour mixture until coated with flour mixture (2-3 at a time works). Carefully place a few shrimp at a time in the hot oil (375 F Degrees) and deep fry until golden brown on all sides, about 1 1/2 minutes total. (I usually watch for the shrimp to start turning pink and then flip them to cook the other side. I more or less pan fry mine, because I don't want to waste so much oil just to fry food. If you have a deep fryer, let it do its thing! ;-)) Remove the shrimp when cooked to a plate lined with paper towels.

You can serve it with extra soy sauce, duck sauce, or any other favorite oriental sauces.