"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!