Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cashew Chicken

A few days ago, one of my pregnant friends had a hankering for this.  Though I'm far away from her and can't whip it up for her to eat in person, I put this recipe together for her. 

I miss you, lady.

Anyhow, I made it and it was good.  It even got a thumbs up from the biggest food critic in the house, which is saying a lot.  Tom said it's as good as Panda Express, though I was hoping to shoot a little higher. 

Cashew Chicken
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp corn starch
- 1 cup salted roasted cashews
- 1 green bell pepper cut into thin slices
- 1 medium onion, cut into larger pieces, layers separated
- 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cups sugar snap peas
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tsp fresh minced ginger (or 1/2 tsp ground)
- 1/2 cup sherry
- steamed rice to serve

Combine soy sauce and corn starch in a larger shallow bowl until fully dissolved, then soak the chicken in the mixture.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in large, deep skillet on medium high and cook cashews until they brown, stirring constantly.  Remove from pan, reserving oil. 

Add another tbsp oil to pan.  Take chicken pieces from soy sauce mixture, reserving it for later.  Cook chicken until done, then remove from pan, leaving oil in pan.

If needed, add a little bit more oil and cook the vegetables  (and ginger)  until crisp tender.  Mix sherry in with reserved soy sauce blend and add to pan, cooking until thickened. 

Return chicken and cashews to pan, tossing and heating through.   Serve over rice. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

White Chocolate Cranberry Bars

These are almost exactly like the cranberry bliss bar from everyone's favorite addictive coffee shop.  They are basically blondies with white chocolate chips and cranberries, topped with frosting and awesomeness. 

I made them in a 9x13 pan, and next time I will definitely use a bigger pan.  They are so rich that you really just need a little piece. 

I found several versions of this recipe online and combined them into what you see here. 

White Chocolate Cranberry Bars
- 2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 tsp baking powder (high alt, use 1 1/2 at lower elevations)
- 2 tsp vanilla 
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup craisins
- 1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Cream butter and sugars.  Beat in eggs one at a time until light and fluffy.  Add baking powder, vanilla and ginger and combine thoroughly.  Add flour a cup at a time.  Fold in chips and craisins until just combined.

Pour into greased pan and spread so it is even.  If using 9x13 it will take about 28 min.  If using a larger pan, check at about 22 minutes.  You don't want to overcook them, they are done when toothpick comes out clean.

Cool completely before frosting.

- 1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 4 cups powdered sugar

Combine cream cheese, butter and vanilla.  Add sugar a cup at a time until desired consistency is reached.  Frost cooled bars.

- 1 cup chopped craisins
- 1 cup white chocolate chips
- 1 tsp vegetable oil

Sprinkle craisins over frosted bars.  Melt chips in microwave and blend with oil.  Drizzle over bars and let set before cutting. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Shortbread Cookies

I must confess that I don't love shortbread.  Or cookies in general really.  I bake them out of habit, tradition, expectation and love.  This recipe is one that I've made only once before.  It is simple and easy and stores well.

There are, however, two things that I love the very most about this recipe.  One, it is written in my grandmother's handwriting.  Two, it is written on notepaper from my grandfather's drapery store. 

My grandmother passed when Aidan was a baby, and I miss her handwriting so much.  My grandfather has been gone for a very long time now.  I miss having them around, especially this time of the year.  This right here...this is a little piece of them both. 

Make this recipe with your children, share it with your family.  Make those memories and hang on to those little scraps of paper.  Someday you will be glad you did.

Scratch Shortbread Cookies
- 1 1/2 cup flour
- 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

Sift flour and sugar together.  Cut butter in until mixture is crumbly.  Knead dough ten minutes. 

Pat dough into an ungreased cookie sheet, then cut into 2 inch squares.  Bake at 300 for 45 minutes.  Recut when slightly cooled.  Store in tin with waxed paper between layers. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Easiest Cranberry Sugar Cookies Ever

These are super easy because you use a boxed quick bread mix.  If you are in a time pinch and need something home baked, it doesn't get much easier than this.

This recipe would probably work with any flavor of the quick bread box mixes.  Don't worry, I won't tell anyone you took the easy way out.  Shhhh...

Easiest Cranberry Sugar Cookies Ever
- 1 box cranberry quick bread mix (I use Pillsbury)
- 1 1/2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/4 cup sugar

Combine mix and butter, roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on cookie sheet.  Flatten with a glass dipped in sugar.   Bake at 350 for 9-11 minutes. 

Told ya they were easy.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Peanut Butter Balls

Only because I love you all so much I will share this recipe. 

It's one of the things that makes me awesome.  People request these every year.  I always end up needing to double, if not triple this recipe.   It's always amused me how many people ask me for these because they are so easy to make and require so few ingredients. 

What they do require is time and patience.  And a lot of your willingness to get dirty.

Peanut Butter Balls
- 1 lb. (4 sticks) butter, softened
- 2 cups smooth peanut butter
- 6-10 cups powdered sugar (get extra, it's not a perfect science)
- chocolate candy coating (sold in baking aisle, in a tray for melting)

Blend butter and peanut butter fully, then add sugar a cup at a time.  Towards the end, it will be hard to mix and you most likely will have to use your hands.  It isn't a precise science as far as how much sugar you will need to add...when it forms into a dough that is easy to roll, it is done.  Roll dough into 1 inch balls, then coat evenly with melted chocolate.  Place on large cookie sheets covered with wax paper.  Chill until set.  Store in the refrigerator.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Swedish Tea Cookies

This is a recipe that has been passed down for at least three generations in my family.  They are similar to Mexican Wedding Cookies for anyone who has tried those.  Little balls of simple dough rolled in powdered sugar.  They look like tiny snowballs when done.

Swedish Tea Cookies
- 2 sticks butter (1 cup), room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup finely minced nuts
- 1-2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream sugar and butter together, then add salt and vanilla.  Add flour a cup at a time and stir together until it forms a fairly dense crumbly dough.  Fold in nuts. (I use walnuts in this recipe). 

Roll dough into balls using about 1 1/2-2 tbsp dough per ball.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes.  They are done when they start to brown just the slightest bit. Cool slightly, then roll in powdered sugar when still warm.  Place on cooling racks to cool the rest of the way.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Trivia Giveaway Contest!

Okay everyone, here is your chance to win the Christmas Pig!  I just might be throwing some mystery goodies in as well!

Later this week, I will post a picture of Mr. Pig!

Here are the rules....

1. You have to find the answers to the Christmas Trivia questions posted below.
2. Email your answers to by Friday, December 10th at noon MST.
3. Those with the most correct answers will be entered into a drawing and a winner will be chosen at random.  Winner to be announced at 6:00 PM MST on the 10th!
4.  If a new follower emails me and tells me you referred them, you will get a bonus entry!

MANY thanks to Kari at Primitives with Luv for this fantastic prize! You can follow her on Facebook here!

Alright, ready for some questions?

1. What movie contains a prop commonly referred to as the Major Award?

2. What does Aunt Bethany wrap up and bring to Christmas?

3. What's the name of the Grinch's dog?

4. What is the full name of the 8 year old boy left by his family?

5. What is the name of the elf played by Will Ferrell?

6. What does the Ghost of Christmas Present hit Frank Cross over the head with?

7. Why WAS the carpet all wet, Todd?  Hint: Margo asked him this question in a silver track suit.

8. What does Buddy say when he gets hit by a snowball?

9. What is the name of the band that finally gets Mrs. McAllister home?

10. What does Little Orphan Annie's Decoder Ring tell Ralphie to do?

11. What insect is rumored to live in the Grinch's smile?

12. What is the only thing worse than a triple dare?

13. What does Cousin Eddie wear underneath his sweater?  I need the correct name!

14. Who is the little girl that inspires the Grinch to change his ways?

15. What happens if you "put on the suit"?

Congratulations to our  winner, Joanna!!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Matzo Ball Soup

With sunset today comes the end of Hanukkah.  I've been saving this recipe for last since it's the kind of thing you just might need to make any time of the year.  There's a reason this is also known as Jewish penicillin.  Magic powers, I tell you.  Magic powers.

Matzo Ball Soup
For the broth:
- whole chicken
- celery
- onion
- carrots
- thyme
- salt
- pepper

Add 5 quarts of water to a stock pot. Add 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, two legs, and two thighs. I leave the skin on the legs and thighs. Add two stalks of celery, one onion cut into quarters, 1 tbsp thyme leaves, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper. Bring to a boil and then turn to medium to cook for at least 45 minutes or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Remove chicken from the broth and cut into bite sized pieces. Strain all of the veggies out of the broth and discard the veggies.

Cut up 4 stalks of celery, one onion, and three carrots into bite sized pieces and cook in the strained broth until just soft. Refrigerate broth until you are ready to serve.

You can also put soup noodles in the broth, but I stick to matzo balls only.

Matzo Balls (I almost always double this recipe!)
- 1/2 cup matzo meal
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp chicken stock (water will do, but if you have your stock you should use it)
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- very small amounts (pinches) of salt, pepper, celery salt, or garlic powder to taste if you wish.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Put in refrigerator for about 30 minutes before cooking. Bring a large stock pot with about 5 quarts of water to a boil. Roll the matzo ball dough into small-ish balls. About 1 inch. Place in the boiling water. Cover and let boil on medium high heat for about 25 minutes. Strain the matzo balls and then you can serve them in soup. They're also delicious the next day cold from the fridge with a little salt and pepper! YUM!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I must admit the only way I've ever cooked brisket is as corned beef.  I've eaten brisket cooked other ways, yes, but not tried it myself.  This is yet another recipe from Robyn, the one she traditionally makes for Hanukkah.  As an extra bonus, it's a slow cooker recipe!

- 1 flat, trimmed beef brisket about 4-5 pounds (make sure it is a plain cut of brisket, not the pre-brined corned beef brisket)
- 2 cups ketchup
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 4 stalks celery, sliced into chunks
- 4 russet potatoes peeled and sliced into large pieces
- 1 medium can diced tomatoes
- 1 bottle of amber beer
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup dijon mustard
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste

Place all sauce ingredients (everything except brisket, celery, carrots and potatoes) into a large saucepan over medium heat until incorporated and fully combined. Place potatoes in the bottom of the crock pot. Put brisket on top of the potatoes. Pour the sauce over the brisket. Cover and cook for 4-5 hours on high or 8 hours on low.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Here is another pancake style recipe, this is a sweet ricotta based one.

- 1 lb. ricotta cheese
- 1 cup sugar
- 5 eggs
- 2 tbsp oil (peanut oil is recommended)

Blend ricotta and sugar with eggs in a food processor.

Heat oil in a large nonstick frying pan and then turn heat to low.

Pour by heaping tablespoons into pan and cook on low heat until the bottom of the pancake sets up firmly. Flip pancakes until set through.

Turn up heat to medium to allow the cassola to lightly brown before removing from pan to serving platter.

Serve warm or cold with Orange Poached in Honey Rose Syrup.

(This recipe is traditionally made in one large pancake, but can be made into smaller pancakes for ease of serving and flipping)

Honey and Rose Syrup with Poached Oranges
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 cups honey
- 1 tablespoon rose water (totally worth seeking out!)
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 oranges supremed (segmented with all skin and pith removed)

Place a one quart saucepan over medium to low heat. Dump in sugar and 1/2 cup water, stir slowly to dissolve. Allow simple sugar to come to a boil and then immediately turn temperature to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add oranges and rose water and allow to come back to simmer and cook for one minute more. Stir in honey, remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature before serving

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mediterranean Chicken

Here is a great main dish!  One my friend, Robyn, often makes for Hanukkah.

Mediterranean Chicken
- Whole chicken, in pieces, with the skin on
- 4-5 Lemons
- 2 large Shallots
- 1-2 heads Garlic
- Olive oil
- Salt
- Pepper
- Kalamata olives -pitted 1 large jar

Place chicken in a roasting dish. Drizzle olive oil over chicken skin. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the chicken. Salt and pepper the chicken. Add the whole cloves of 1-2 heads of garlic, peeled. Slice 3 lemons and add the slices on top of the chicken. Thinly slice the shallots and place them on top. Roughly chop olives and put them on top. Bake at 375 for 45-50 minutes or until skin is crisp and juices run clear. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Spice Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Icing

I went to bunco last night and was assigned the responsibility of baking a birthday cake.  I wanted to try something a little different than the normal cakes, so I came up with this one.  The icing was an accident....I ran out of powdered sugar and improvised.  I think you will enjoy my mistake.  :)

Spice Cake
- 2 sticks butter, room temperature
- 2 cups sugar
- 6 eggs
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 4 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp cinammon

Cream sugar and butter together, then add eggs one at a time and beat into mixture.  Add buttermilk and beat for one minute.  Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then add a little at a time to butter mixture.  Blend until smooth and light. 

Pour batter into 2 greased 9 inch round cake pans and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, checking for doneness at 30.  Let cool completely before icing the cake.

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Icing
- 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 tbsp butter, room temperature
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2-3 cups powdered sugar

Add brown sugar and stir completely.  Add powdered sugar a cup at a time and mix until icing reaches desired consistency.  It will set after frosting, but you need it thick enough that it won't run off the sides of the cake.  This should make enough to frost between the layers and the entire cake, but if you choose you may fill it with something else.  I used a pumpkin spice mousse as my filling. 

Thank you to all my bunco ladies....I needed you guys last night.  xoxo

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Apple Raisin Latke Dipping Sauce

Here is a recipe for a latke dipping sauce.  Yum!

Apple Raisin Sauce
- 16 oz. applesauce (store bought or homemade, I use unsweetened)
- 4 oz. raisins soaked in red wine for 10 minutes
- 1 tsp. orange flower water (worth finding! It makes the recipe!)
- 1 cup brown sugar

Place all ingredients in saucepan and cook gently until the brown sugar is melted and mixture is slightly reduced. Serve with Sweet Potato Latkes. Delicious either warm or at room temperature.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sugar Cookies

I must confess that I detest cut out cookies.  I love sugar cookies, don't get me wrong.  But the rolling and rolling of dough...I don't love it.  One of these days I will do something other than make round cookies with this dough, since it is perfect for it.  LOL

Sugar Cookies
- 3 sticks butter, room temperature
- 2 cups white sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 5 cups of flour, plus flour for rolling

Cream together the sugar and butter, then add eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla.  In a separate bowl, combine salt, baking powder and flour, then add to butter mixture a cup at a time.  Dough will form into a large ball.  Cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours to chill.  (Ideally overnight)

Roll out dough onto floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick and cut with cookie cutters.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet at least an inch from one another.  Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 5 minutes.  Check for doneness, may need to bake a few more minutes. 

If you choose to ice the cookies, it is best to make a thin glaze out of powdered sugar and milk and whatever color food coloring you desire.  It will harden as it sets, just make it barely thick enough that it doesn't run off the cookies. 

Happy baking!

Sweet Potato and Scallion Latkes

I made some of the traditional potato latkes last night and they were fantastic!  In keeping with the spirit of Chanukah, here is another latke recipe.  If you've never tried these before, you simply must.  They are amazing!

Sweet Potato and Scallion Latkes

- 2 pounds sweet potatoes - peeled, grated and squeezed through cheesecloth or a strainer.
- 1 bunch scallions - trimmed, sliced to 1/8 inch both greens and whites
- 2 large eggs
- 4 tablespoons matzo meal (you could also use flour)
- Pinch of allspice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Oil for frying

Mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Heat oil over medium high heat and drop tablespoons of batter into hot oil. Flatten with a spatula. Fry on both sides until gold around the edges. Remove and drain on paper briefly before serving.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Zucchini Basil Latkes with Spicy Garlic Sour Cream Sauce

Another latke recipe from Robyn!  These are less traditional, but super yummy and colorful for Hanukkah!

Zucchini Basil Latkes
-2 pounds zucchini squash thinly julienned
- 4 TBSP matzo meal
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 to 1 bunch of basil in chiffonade
- salt and pepper to taste
- oil for frying

Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Slice squash on mandolin or grate using a processor.

Place processed squash in a mixing bowl large enough to hold all ingredients. Add remaining ingredients except oil.  With hands or wooden spoon, mix well.

Heat oil to medium high heat and drop mixture by tablespoons into hot oil. Flatten with spatula and cook until light brown. Serve hot with spicy garlic sour cream sauce.

Spicy Garlic Sour Cream Sauce
- 8 oz. sour cream
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1-2 garlic cloves
- cayenne to taste

Place sour cream in a mixing bowl. Place the kosher salt and garlic clove(s) on a cutting board. Using the back of a spoon or tines of a fork crush garlic into salt to form a paste.  Add to sour cream. Add black pepper and cayenne to taste. Mix well and transfer to a serving bowl.

Both of these were a huge hit last year. They're delicious and the garlic sour cream is out of this world. It does give you major garlic breath, though, so make sure your significant other has some, too!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Miss Robyn's Chanukah Latkes

When Robyn told me she made these, I told her that she was giving me the recipe.  Period.  I've actually made latkes before, using a recipe not very different than this one, back when I shared the holidays with a Jewish Aunt. 

These things are little disks of salty goodness.  They take a bit of work, but are worth it in the end. 

This recipe makes a ton of latkes.  Literally.  You can half it or quarter it, depending on how many you want to end up with.  They can be stored in the fridge and eaten later's not like you have to eat them all fresh (though they are the best that way).

Chanukah Latkes
- 10 pounds of potatoes, peeled and shredded
- 18 eggs
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1-2 shredded onions
- salt and pepper to taste

Shred the potatoes and squeeze out all the water, then drain over cheesecloth.  You want the shreds to be as dry as possible to make these.  Combine with the eggs, flour, and onions, then add desired amount of salt and pepper.  (If you've never made these before, you can salt and pepper them after cooking as well)

Scoop about a tablespoon and a half of the mixture into large shallow frying pan, smashing down the center to make them uniformly thick.  They are a little fragile, she uses two forks to turn them.  Cook until browned and crisp, then remove to drain on paper towels.

They are traditionally served with a variety of toppings, including applesauce and sour cream. 

Thanks for sharing your recipe, Robyn!  Happy Chanukah!!!!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Miss Emily's Potato Leek Soup

This is one of the things that someone I know mentioned making for dinner and I asked begged for the recipe.  I've loved this soup whenever I have had it, and now I can make it at home whenever I want to.  Yum. 

I think it's funny that she sent me this recipe when I know that this isn't the one she uses.  You see, she has somehow managed to walk away from bacon, and there is bacon in the recipe.  (She sauteed the leeks in vegetable oil)  She's a vegetarian.  I could be a vegetarian too, but only if there was a bacon opt-out clause. 

Miss Emily's Potato Leek Soup
- 8 potatoes peeled and cubed
- 3-4 leeks, cut lengthwise then chopped
- 8 cups of broth (I used chicken, she used vegetable)
- bacon (she skipped this part, though I'm not sure how)
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tbsp flour (she didn't include this, I added it because I live with people who like their soup to be thicker)

Boil potatoes in broth in large stockpot and cook until tender.  At the same time, cook bacon in skillet and drain saving 3 tbsp grease and set aside.  Saute leeks in bacon grease.

Whisk flour into cream.  When potatoes are tender add bacon, leeks and cream. Blend until smooth.

Miss Donna's Secret Family Zucchini Casserole Recipe

One of my friends asked for help finding a recipe.  Seems her grandmother made this amazing casserole and no one could find the recipe.  I came up with something close, but then a family member found this!  Yay for recipes that get passed down from generation to generation!

Miss Donna's Secret Family Zucchini Casserole

- enough summer squash to fill a produce bag, same amount of zucchini
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- salt
- 4 eggs
- one piece of bread
- 3/4 lb shredded cheddar cheese

Boil all the squash and onions together with salt until soft, then drain and cool.  Squeeze all of the water out of squash with the bottom of a glass.

In a separate bowl beat 4 eggs, then add one pulled apart piece of bread to the eggs.  Fold together squash mixture with the egg mixture and 3/4 lb of shredded cheddar.

Place in a lasagna/casserole dish and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for approx. 45 mins.

Check with knife, when the knife pulls out dry it's done.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Turkey Enchiladas

Sorry.....I totally forgot to post some recipes of what to do with all that leftover turkey.  It would work great in this tortilla soup recipe.  Or you can make enchiladas.

To cut down time spent in the kitchen, use canned enchilada sauce.  I know by this point in the Thanksgiving weekend, I am happy to stay out of the kitchen as much as possible. 

Turkey Enchiladas
- 1 pound cooked turkey, shredded
- 1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1-2 cups shredded monterey jack
- 1 large can enchilada sauce
- corn tortillas
- black olives for top, if desired
- sour cream, if desired

Heat turkey in about half the sauce on stove until warm.  Put the rest of the sauce in a shallow bowl.  In a small skillet, warm the tortillas.   Dip tortillas in bowl of sauce, spoon turkey into middle and top with cheese.  Roll up and place fold-side down in 13x9 baking dish.  Repeat until all turkey is used.  Top rolled tortillas with remaining enchilada sauce, cheese and a handful of olives.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.   Serve with a scoop of sour cream on top. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Miss Elisa's World Famous Cake Pops

I have this friend who may be one of the only people I know crazier than I am.  That's saying a lot. 

Elisa.  The woman seriously needs a cape.

She makes cake pops.  And yes, they are exactly what they sound like.  Cake in the form of a lollipop.  Or, in other words, heaven on a stick.  Her first ones were in the shape of tiny Hello Kitty heads and they were perfect.  I totally don't believe that they were her first ones, by the way. 

I just knew she'd be making some this week for Thanksgiving, and I was right.  These ones are shaped like turkeys.  TURKEYS!  Love them. 

If I can find the motivation and a huge block of time, I am so attempting to make these....

Turkey Cake Pops
- 1 box cake mix (I used chocolate flavor and cook as directed on box for 13 X 9 cake)
- 1 can frosting (16 oz.)
- Wax paper
- Light cocoa colored chocolate candy melts(1 lb. pkg.)
- Lollipop sticks
- Candy corn
- Caramel candy
- Mini rainbow candy coated chips
- Pretzel sticks
- Edible ink pens

Bake cake according to box.  After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl. I use a food processor as I like that consistency best plus it's less messy on your hands.

Mix thoroughly with 1 can frosting. (I use the back of a large spoon. But, be warned, it will get messy. Also, you may not need the entire can of frosting, so start out by using almost the entire can and add more if you need to.)

Roll mixture into quarter size balls and place on wax paper covered cookie sheet. (Should make 45-50)

Place the cake balls in the refrigerator to firm up a bit.

Melt chocolate in the microwave per directions on package.

Take the cake balls out of the refrigerator.

Dip the tip of your lollipop stick in a little of the melted candy coating and insert into the cake balls. (Insert about halfway.)

Place them in the refrigerator to firm up some more (or if you're pressed for time, place in freezer for a little while to firm up.) I use the refrigerator as it is less likely to crack the candy melt.

Start working on the turkey heads by cutting the caramel candy in halves.

Mold the caramel halves into round-oval shapes or whatever shape you desire for the turkey head.

Press an orange color candy coated chip for the turkey's beak and set the heads aside.

For the turkey legs, break the pretzel sticks in thirds and set aside the ends only.

Start placing 4 candy corns for each turkey cake pops on the wax paper to form the turkey feathers.

Once cake balls are firm, carefully insert them into the candy coating by holding the lollipop stick and rotating until covered.

Once covered remove and softly tap and rotate until the excess chocolate falls off. Don’t tap too hard or the cake ball will fall off, too.

Place the candy coated cake ball on the "feathers" and fix the "feathers" as necessary (but don't take too long or the candy melt will firm up).

Take one of the caramel heads and place on the cake pop and then insert the pretzel turkey legs on.

Leave the turkey cake pops on the wax paper to dry.

Once dry, draw eyes and wattle with an edible ink pen and allow ink to dry!

Note: You may also use mini heart sprinkles as the wattle if you desire.

I *think* and could be wrong, that she uses a piece of styrofoam covered with wax paper to stand them in when done. 

Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, Elisa.  I know how much these are a labor of love!  Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

You wouldn't think that making mashed potatoes is hard, right?  I mean, you cook them and mash them, right?  Not so simple.  If you under cook them, they won't mash.  If you overcook them, they will get too starchy and sticky.  If you add too much liquid, they will be runny.  Too little and they will be dry. 

Then there is the matter of taste.  I have nothing against mashed potatoes tasting like mashed potatoes, but I just prefer a little more flavor.   

I'm even picky about what kind of potatoes I use.  Don't ask....I'm just that way.

Here's my recipe, it's one that never ever gets pushed around on a plate.  They eat it up.  This will make enough for about 12-15 people.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

- 5 pounds yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into uniform chunks
- 3 tbsp sea salt
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 cup cream
- 1 1/2 - 2 cups milk
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 cup parmesan cheese
- fresh parsley

Add potatoes and salt to large pot of water and boil until potatoes are tender enough to fall apart when poked with a fork.  How long that takes depends on a lot of things like how much water is in pot, and what altitude you are at..  Drain and return to pot.  In small saucepan, saute garlic in olive oil for a few minutes, then add cream, milk and butter.  Heat, but do not boil. 

Mash potatoes thoroughly.  Add garlic mixture and cheese, combining fully.  Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

Pecan Pie

This is a super easy recipe to make, and it's delicious.  Make sure you plan ahead for this, even making it the day before so it has ample time to cool and set fully before serving.

Pecan Pie
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 tbsp melted butter
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups pecans
- 1 deep dish pie crust, prepared

Preheat oven to 325.  Mix all ingredients except pecans together well, then fold in nuts.  Pour carefully into prepared pie crust, arranging pecans if you have that kind of crazy.  Bake for one hour then check pie using thermometer.  Center should be 200 degrees.  If less, bake another 10 minutes.  It should spring back when touched lightly.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cheesy Squash Casserole

This is a great side dish for any meal, and could definitely work for Thanksgiving as well.  You can use any type of squash with it, if you choose to include butternut, make sure you peel and seed it first, then cut into 1 inch cubes.  For zucchini or crookneck squash, no need to peel.  Halve and slice into thin slices.

Cheesy Squash Casserole
- 4 cups squash, prepared as above depending on which you plan to use
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp salt
- dash of pepper
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup condensed milk
- 1 cup cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 cup soft bread crumbs, divided

Preheat oven to 350.  Saute onion, garlic and squash in butter until crisp tender.   Remove from heat, then mix in salt, pepper, sour cream, condensed milk, 1/2 bread crumbs and 1/2 cheddar cheese.  Transfer to a greased casserole dish.  Top with remaining bread crumbs and cheese.  Bake about 30 minutes until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbly. 

Pumpkin Spiced Latte

If you are anything like me, you can drink coffee all day.  It's not merely a morning beverage.  If only my favorite coffee place would start a dollar menu, I could go there all the time and satisfy my cravings for delicious warm happiness. 

I wait impatiently for this drink to come out every Fall, it's one of my favorites.  It's probably a good thing they don't have it year round, then it wouldn't be as awesome.

I decided to try to make it at home.  I don't have an espresso machine, I don't have a milk steamer, I don't have lots of the fun stuff they have there.  But, you know what?  It came out pretty damn good.  Give it a whirl, the recipe makes enough to share (but only if you are feeling nice).

Pumpkin Spice Latte
- 1 cup double brewed strong coffee (use half the amount of water)
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- whipped cream plus spice for topping

Brew coffee.  In saucepan, combine milk, pumpkin, vanilla, sugar and spice.  Whisk together and heat through.  Do not bring to boiling as milk will scald, heat it until it is steaming.

Use a ratio of about 1 part coffee to 2 parts milk/pumpkin mixture.  Top with whipped cream and sprinkle with spice.  You may want to add more sugar, I don't like mine too sweet. 

Happy Morning to You!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Creamed Corn

Next to my stuffing, this is by far the most requested of the holiday recipes.  I can't take the credit for this one entirely's evolved a bit over the years.  The creamed corn craze was initially started by Carri and Paul, and I am all about giving credit where credit is due.  It must have been, what, like 18 years ago that you guys brought this recipe to Thanksgiving???  Someone correct me if I am wrong. 

Ever since then, there has been no going back.  It's this corn or nothing. 

When you see the ingredient list, you will quickly realize why it is so good.  I mean, there is a stick of butter in it!!!!  How could something not be good with that much butter, honestly?  Another thing you will notice about the ingredients in this recipe is that this is clearly not the kind of thing that people (ones that enjoy their health, anyhow) should eat more often than a few times a year.  Your arteries may cringe, but your stomach will thank you.

Again, I am typing this from memory.  I've refined the recipe a lot over the years and it mostly boils down to taste testing.  That, and giving it time to thicken. 

Creamed Corn
- 6 cups frozen white corn, thawed completely
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 1 cup whole cream
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp white ground pepper
- 2 tsp sea salt

Combine corn, butter, cream, sugar, pepper and salt in large saucepan.  In separate bowl, whisk flour into milk, then add to pot.  Bring just to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes.  It will thicken, you just have to be patient.  Stir frequently.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cranberry Sauce

Only because I love you all so much, I will share this super easy recipe. 

Now, don't get me wrong.  I do love the canned jellied cranberry sauce.  I prefer it in it's natural can shaped form, not sliced or defaced in any other attempt to make it appear fancy.  In fact, it took me a while to perfect the removal so that I could keep it in unblemished can form. 

I am quirky.  What other possible explanation is there?

But seriously, I love cranberries.  As much as I do adore them in gelatinous form, I like them other ways too.  For years I bought the canned whole cranberry sauce and no one ate it but me.  Then last year, for whatever reason, I decided to make it from scratch.  And you know what?  People ate it.  Like, actual other human beings, ate it.

I made too much and ended up keeping a huge bowl of it as leftovers.  Poor Aidan was bringing it up from the basement fridge and tripped, spilling cranberry sauce all over the carpet.  Nothing says day after Thanksgiving like steam cleaning your carpets, right?

Anyhow, here is the recipe.  This amount is probably sufficient for 8-10 people unless they really love cranberries.  Just be careful with the leftovers.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Cranberry Sauce
- 12 ounce package of fresh cranberries, rinsed
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients in a medium sized saucepan.  Bring to a boil and cook until berries pop.  Takes about 10-12 minutes or so.  Remove from heat.  It will thicken as it cools.  Be sure to make this fairly early on in the day so it is cool enough to set and eat.  Put it in the fridge before the meal if you prefer it chilled.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Prosciutto & Onion Wraps

This is an appetizer that looks really fancy, but it is simple and easy.

Prosciutto & Onion Wraps
- 12 slices prosciutto 
- 6 green onions
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened

Lay meat flat and spread with cream cheese.  Slice the green onions in half vertically (leaving them full length, just halved), then trim white from base and snip ends.  Place one green onion on the prosciutto and roll up.  Leave a bit of the onion showing on each end. 

Arrange on a tray, fold down.  Alternatively, you can slice them into rounds and serve with crackers.

Pomegranate Martinis

I am attempting to elevate multitasking to an art form today.  I have too many things to do, and yet found myself promising not one but two recipes.  Oh well.

Here goes.  Lucky for you, these are both super easy and will take you about as much time to make as it will take me to type it out. 

Up first, the drink.  Because, well, I'm recovered from last weekend and if ever there was a day that makes me want a martini just after noon, it is today.

These are festive and yummy.  I have a special affection for martinis.  If you don't have a shaker, please go get one, for the love of all things alcoholic.   This recipe is designed for a shaker and makes anywhere between 2-3 drinks, depending on the generosity of your pour.  Enjoy!

Pomegranate Martinis
- 3 ounces pomegranate juice
- 4 ounces vodka
- 1 ounce lemon juice
- 2 ounces club soda
- 1 ounce simple syrup
- lime wedges
- sugar for rim, in a shallow dish

Fill martini glass with ice to chill.  Pour juices, vodka, soda and syrup into shaker filled with ice and shake until combined.  Dump ice from glasses.  Run lime wedge around rim and place glass upside down in sugar to coat.  Pour drink into glasses.  Garnish with lime.

Simple syrup: one part water, one part sugar, brought to a boil and cooled.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Turkey Gravy

If you've never attempted making gravy before, go get yourself some cans or packets of it just in case you end up with a gravy disaster on your hands.  Chances are you will use it all up in the days after the holidays eating the leftovers anyway.   (BTW, the McCormick packets make the best quick gravy)

Bad gravy with a fabulous dinner = EPIC FAIL.  Don't let it happen to you.

This is one of those recipes that was constructed over years taking a little from here, a little from there. 

Turkey Gravy
- 4 cups chicken stock (or turkey if you can find it)
- 1 cup pan drippings from turkey, strained of fat  (If you have a fancy schmancy fat separator, this is what it was invented's on my list of things to get.  If you don't, put about 2 cups of drippings in a bowl and spoon off fat as it rises to the top....ick.)
- 1 can cream of chicken soup, undiluted
- 1 cup milk
- 1/3 cup flour
- garlic salt
- pepper

Combine stock, drippings and soup, bringing just to a boil. Reduce heat.  In a small bowl, whisk flour into milk.  Add to gravy, stirring constantly.  Let cook for a few minutes.  Season with garlic salt and pepper to taste.   Once milk is added, do not let it boil.   It will thicken as it cools, give it a chance to before you try to add more flour to it.  Trust me, it will.  

Monday, November 15, 2010


I make this for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Every time I make it, we wonder aloud why I don't make it more often. But I don't. No idea why, honestly.

I really don't mean to boast, but I happen to make the best stuffing in the known world. It's really nothing fancy. There isn't anything even remotely gourmet about it. It's not a recipe that has ever been featured in a cookbook or magazine. It's one that has been passed down for generations and still uses all the same ingredients today as it probably did a century ago.

I don't particularly like stuffing. Well, I should rephrase that. I don't much like other stuffing. I adore mine though. Have never found anything else that anyone else has ever made that is anywhere near as good. It's that good.

If you are stressed about having a house full of people for the holidays and need another dish, try this one. The best part about it is that you make it ahead. I make mine the night before I serve it, and reheat it before dinner. It's even better after it sits for a couple days.

I apologize if the recipe isn't perfect. Trouble is that I've made it for so many years that I don't use a recipe at all. Quite frankly, I could make it in my sleep. And it took a bit for me to think about what goes into it. I have a team of designated taste testers, and we rely on our senses to tell us when it's done. It's not a science. There is room to fudge it. And really, if you feel compelled to modify it, go right ahead. I won't be offended.

The Best Stuffing in the Universe
  • 2 loaves of cheap store brand white bread, a few days old
  • 6-8 stalks of celery, diced
  • 2 containers of fresh button mushrooms, rinsed and chopped
  • 2-3 onions, diced
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter
  • sea salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • sage
  • poultry seasoning
Place bread on large cookie sheets and dry out in oven until edges are crisp. It takes about an hour with the oven between 225-250 to do this. Rotate and flip to get all the edges crisp. Combine mushrooms, celery and onions in butter in a large saucepan, uncovered. Simmer on low for about an hour, until all vegetables are quite soft.

Tear dried bread into pieces, about 1-2 inches. You want some bigger and some smaller. Put into a very large bowl. I only start out using about a loaf and a half, saving the rest for later if I need more bread. Add butter and vegetables, mixing thoroughly. Add 2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 tsp sage and 1 tsp poultry seasoning. Combine, and taste.

Chances are that you will want to add more salt than anything else. If it is too wet, add more dried bread. If it is too dry (and it will soak up the butter as it refrigerates), add either melted butter or chicken stock by the tablespoon until it has the consistency you desire.

Cover finished stuffing and refrigerate overnight. Place desired amount in a covered shallow baking dish and heat in the oven at 350 for about an hour prior to serving.  I don't stuff my turkey, but you can...just be sure to cook it longer until the meat is done completely and the stuffing heated adequately.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Roast Turkey

Thanksgiving is coming....are you ready?

Up today is the Turkey.  The centerpiece of the meal.   Here's how I make it.

I use a stand alone electric roaster, like this one.

If you use one of these, you free up the oven to make everything else.   I heart my roaster.

Here's the step by step...

1) Buy a Butterball Turkey.  Don't be cheap.  Period.

2) Defrost turkey (if frozen) starting at least 3 days before you intend to cook it.  Put in a roasting pan in the refrigerator to defrost.  Trust me when I say you don't want any incidental defrosted turkey goo all over your fridge.

3) Clean turkey.  Or if you are terribly persuasive, get someone else to do it.  This part is just nasty.  Be sure you remove the neck and giblets.  Yes, I really know people who have forgotten to do that.  I let my kids dissect the heart....because I am just that way.  Rinse out the inside of the turkey really good and dry it off with paper towels.  Wash Bleach your hands, arms and entire kitchen.

4) If you insist on stuffing the bird, go to it.  Do not over stuff it, and be sure to tie the legs together with the little string they give you.  I do not stuff my turkey.  Well, because eww.  You have to cook a stuffed bird longer, and risk it drying out more.

5) Roast turkey

My recipe for the turkey has changed a little over the years, and though I make no claim to being a famous chef, I can make an awesome turkey.

Again, there are steps.  Worth following.

Here are the ingredients:

- Turkey (mine are usually in the 16 pound range)
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
- Fresh cracked pepper
- Garlic
- 1 stick of butter
- 4 cups chicken or turkey stock

1) Place turkey breast side up on rack in roaster.  If the legs touch the sides of the roaster, tie or pin in so they are not. It should be on a rack raised up from the bottom for two reasons.  One, it cooks a lot better.  Two, it is easier to get it out when it's done.

2) Rub all exposed areas with olive oil.  Rub generously with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.

3) Place at least 2 tbsp freshly pressed garlic in the cavity of the turkey.

4) Melt butter in a saucepan, then mix with chicken stock and add to the bottom of the roaster.

5) Turn roaster up to highest setting and put lid on.  DO NOT OPEN for 30-45 minutes.  The turn down to 350 and roast for specified time depending on the weight of the bird.  Baste only once every half hour or so.  The more frequently you open the lid, the more moisture will escape.  I do not use the pop up button thermometers, in my experience they don't work well enough to be reliable.  We have gone through a lot of thermometers, and the best we have used is one that has a probe connected to a cord that houses the temperature sensor. 

Be sure to check temperature in the thickest part of the thigh and breast, being sure that you aren't hitting a bone with the thermometer.

This isn't a perfect guide, but most turkeys between 12-18 pounds take approximately 3-4 hours.  Altitude affects cooking time, it takes longer up here to be done. 

6) Once the turkey approaches 165 degrees, turn it back up again to brown the skin for 10-15 minutes.  If the  legs start to get too brown, cover loosely with foil. 

7) Remove turkey from roaster and let sit for at least 10 minutes before carving.  This helps seal the juices in and keep it moist. 

8) Use juices in the bottom of the pan to make gravy....that recipe will come later.   I know the anticipation is just killing you. 

Now, go get your turkey and convince someone to clean it for you.  :)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Peanut Butter Cookies

I make these, but I don't love them.  In fact, I can't even tell you the last time I ate one.  Yet, I make them for the benefit of others. 

There are some tricks to making these, and for whatever reason you really need to watch it with these particular cookies.  Make sure your oven is fully preheated.  Make sure the cookie sheets are cooled before you put the dough on it.  Bake only one tray at a time, and check cookies a minute or two before the specified time to make sure they don't get overdone.

Peanut Butter Cookies
- 1 cup butter
- 1 1/2 cups peanut butter (can use chunky if you prefer, I usually use smooth)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3 cups flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 375.  Cream butter, peanut butter and sugars in bowl.  Add vanilla and eggs.  Combine flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in separate bowl, then add to peanut butter mixture.  Roll into 1 inch balls and flatten in criss cross pattern with a fork.  Bake for about 10 minutes, checking early.  Be sure not to overcook them.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Miss Mandy's Pumpkin Muffins

I've shared here before about my friend Mandy.  Here is yet another of her tried and true recipes.  I think this just might be the easiest thing I've ever made. 

If you are looking for a quick and easy breakfast or after school snack that smells and tastes like all the goodness of Fall, try these. 

Miss Mandy's Pumpkin Muffins

- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 1 can pumpkin puree
- 3 tsp pumpkin pie spice  (she used 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg and 1 tsp cloves)

Preheat oven to 350 and grease 12 piece muffin pan.  Combine ingredients in bowl, then spoon batter into pan.  Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fried Chicken Strips

While this isn't the kind of thing that you should eat all that often, it's good.  Really good. 

We actually own a deep of those kitchen purchases that my husband was in charge of.  If you don't, a large, deep pot will work well too, just make sure you use only as much oil as you will need and cover when cooking.

Though this could easily work with any chicken pieces, we opted to make it with boneless, skinless breasts.  Increase cooking time if pieces of chicken have bones.

Fried Chicken Strips
- chicken, desired pieces, cut into manageable sections
- vegetable oil for frying
- 2 tbsp garlic salt
- 2 tsp ground pepper, divided
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup hot sauce (we use Frank's Red Hot)
- 2 cups flour

Combine garlic salt and 1 tsp ground pepper in one shallow bowl.  Beat eggs, water and hot sauce in a second shallow bowl.  Combine flour and remaining tsp of ground pepper in a third bowl.

Coat chicken with garlic salt and pepper mixture, then dredge in eggs, then coat in flour mixture.

Fry for 8-10 minutes if boneless, 12-15 if bones in.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Beef & Vegetable Casserole

This is a recipe I got from my mother in law and tweaked.  It was pretty easy to make and is filled with vegetables and meat.  Lots of meat. 

If you have someone who likes meat....try this one out.

Beef & Vegetable Casserole
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 small zucchini, chopped
- 1 medium carrot, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 package sliced mushrooms
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/4 cup red wine or cooking sherry
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 can beef broth
- pinch of pepper
- 2 tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tbsp water
- can of refrigerated bread stick dough

Cook meat in large skillet, remove and drain.  Set aside.  Saute vegetables in oil until soft.  Add garlic salt, pepper, tomato paste, sherry, Worcestershire sauce, broth and beef to pan.  Bring to a boil and cook for about five minutes.  Add cornstarch mixture and heat  through until thickened, stirring constantly. 

Pour beef and vegetable mixture into 9x9 baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.  Top with bread stick dough cut into strips.  Bake at 400 for 12-14 minutes or until dough is browned. 

Adapted from a recipe from Cooking Light.

Two Minute Bruschetta

I hosted bunco this month and found myself staring at the pantry with not a clue what to make.  I settled on fried tortellini (ravioli works better, since it is bigger and flatter) and bruschetta dipping sauce.  Having never made bruschetta before, I guessed.  I guessed pretty well.  This is the lazy way to make it.  I am sure you could spent lots of time chopping tomatoes, but I just used a can. 

Ideally, you'd have a crusty baguette to toast and serve with this.

- one can petite diced tomatoes, drained
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp minced basil
- salt and pepper to taste
- fresh parmesan, romano or mozzarella cheese

Combine all ingredients in a non-metallic bowl, tasting to determine how much salt and pepper to add.  Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to let the ingredients blend together. 

Slice and toast the bread, top with bruschetta and fresh shredded parmesan, romano or mozzarella cheese.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Teriyaki Chicken Rice Bowls

The by-product of not making a meal plan for this week is that I have to come up with dinners using whatever is in the house.  Plus, I was talking to a friend about Japanese food yesterday and about how much I love it.  And how I could totally live the rest of my life eating only Japanese food.    In my fantasy world, I have a teppan grill in my house.  Really.

This is what I made last night.

Teriyaki Chicken Rice Bowls

- Steamed rice (If you don't have a rice cooker, you must get one.  Go.  I'll wait.)
- 1-2 crowns of broccoli, steamed (If you don't have a microwave steamer, you must get one.  Go.  Again, I will wait.)
- Shredded carrots, about 1/2 cup
- 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, diced
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- ground pepper
- 2 tbsp sesame oil (can substitute vegetable oil)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup prepared teriyaki sauce (though this is on my list of things to make from scratch....stay posted.  If buying a prepared one, my personal favorite is Mr. Yoshida's Original Gourmet Sauce.)

Cook rice.  Steam broccoli.  The rest only takes like 3 minutes. 

Soak chicken in rice vinegar a few minutes.  Heat oil on high in large skillet (Or ideally, a of the things you must get.  Go. I can wait.)  Cook chicken, tossing frequently in pan.  Season with freshly ground pepper, cook until done.  Add shredded carrots and cup of water, toss and cook on high until crisp tender.  Add teriyaki and toss to coat.  Remove from heat.  (Teriyaki has a high sugar content and will scald, so you have to do this fairly quickly.)

Next time I make these, I will throw in some sugar snap peas too.  Love those. 

Layer rice, then broccoli, then chicken in bowl.  Drizzle with teriyaki sauce.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Nothing says home cooking like a meatloaf.  I've been sent many recipes for these over the years, but I always seem to end up making it the same way I always have.  Which isn't much different than the way my mom used to make it.  And probably was the same way she learned. 

I make this ahead and let it sit in the fridge for a while before I bake it.  Served with mashed potatoes, beef gravy and green beans.  And for the rest of my family, ketchup.  I don't get the whole meatloaf/ketchup thing, but I digress. 

- 2 pounds lean ground beef
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup ketchup, plus more for top
- 1 egg
- 1 small onion finely minced
- 1-2 tsp garlic salt
- bacon slices if desired for top

Combine all in a large bowl.  Yes, you have to mix it with your hands, nothing else will combine it well enough.  That, my friends, is why they invented soap. 

Now, if you are down at sea level, you can put it in a loaf pan and bake, but up here close to the sun, I have to use a larger baking dish so it isn't as thick....otherwise it would take forever.  My mom used to slather the top with ketchup and lay bacon slices on the ketchup.  Can't go wrong there....bacon makes everything better.

Bake at 350 for about an hour.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Single Guy Queso

My brother in law came over to sit on my couch and watch football last weekend. He got roped into making ink out of blueberries with the kids though, so he paid his dues.  And he brought a snack.  Chips and queso, single guy style.

Now, if I was to make queso, it would have far more ingredients than this and it sure wouldn't have a brick of processed cheese product in it....but I must say that it was actually good.  Like, really good. 

So if you have a single guy around (or for that matter, any guy....I think they all like this stuff), try this one next time he shows up to hold your couch down.  I'm sure they will all love it.

Single Guy Queso
- 1/2 brick of Velveeta, cut into smaller pieces
- 1 can Rotel tomatoes

Microwave the cheese until it starts to melt, stirring occasionally.  Add entire can of tomatoes and microwave until completely heated through. 

Sit on couch.  Eat with chips.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Miss Robyn's Buffalo Chicken Layer Dip

My friend Robyn gave me this recipe earlier this week and it sounded good.  I love anything hot and spicy anyway....and you eat this with Wheat Thins. 

Wheat Thins.  Also known as the cracker version of crack.  I've yet to know a person who can eat just one wheat thin.  You can't.  I dare you to try.

This is easy, and it's good.  Even the kids loved it.

Buffalo Chicken Layer Dip
- 1 8oz container of cream cheese (I use the low fat Neufchatel cheese)
- 1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded (you can use canned, but I don't love the funky taste it has)
- 1/4-1/2 cup buffalo wing sauce, depending on how hot you like it(I use Frank's because it's awesome)
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- wheat thins

Preheat oven to 350.  Spread cream cheese on bottom of 8x8 baking dish.  Layer with chicken, then drizzle wing sauce evenly over top.  Cover with cheddar cheese.  Bake for about 30 minutes until cheese is melted.

Serve with wheat thins or other durable crackers.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Crockpot Pot Roast

I will be the first to admit that it took me decades to love pot roast.  I absolutely hated it as a kid.  No idea why, really, because I love it now.  I was strange....that is my explanation.

I received a huge compliment from a friend and reader today.  She said I was helping her become a better cook.  Love this.  Makes all the effort worthwhile to know that I am helping. 

Here's what we are having for dinner tonight.  It's simple and easy, full of good things.  Low in fat and high in veggies, plus you make it in a crock pot.  And who doesn't love that?

Crockpot Pot Roast
- roast (any cut) of beef, trimmed of all visible fat, about 2 1/2-3 pounds
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 3 stalks of celery, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can beef broth
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup sherry wine
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1/2 - 1 tsp ground pepper
- 1 tsp salt (if desired)
- 1/3 cup flour

Brown roast in large pot with the vegetable oil, making sure all edges are seared.  Chop vegetables and layer in bottom of large crock pot, then cover with meat.  In a bowl, combine the broth, Worcestershire sauce, sherry, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper.  Whisk in flour until lumps disappear.  Pour mixture over meat.  Set crock pot to 8-10 hours on low. 

We'll be eating it with some fresh bakery wheat bread tonight.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Birthday Lasagna

Tom is a bit like Garfield.  He has a weakness for lasagna.  I joke that he should be Italian with his love of the food. 

For as long as I've known him, and that is a long time, he's always asked for some kind of Italian food for his birthday dinner.  Last year it was chicken parmigiana.  This year, lasagna.  With one request....that I don't try to sneak anything healthy into it like I usually do.  You see, for years I have been adding more and more spinach to the recipe.  I even run it through the food processor first so it's in tiny bits that can't be picked out.  He swears it tastes better with just the meat and cheese. 

Being as it's his birthday and all, I obliged.  I made a huge salad to go with it though...have to get that green stuff in him somehow.

Birthday Lasagna
- 1 lb. Italian ground sausage (I use the mild)
- 1 can petite diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 egg
- 1 15 oz. container of ricotta (I use part skim)
- 1 16 oz. container of cottage cheese (I use low fat)
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
- 1 tsp minced basil
- 1 tbsp minced parsley
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- 1 box regular lasagna noodles (not the no-bake)
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- 1 jar roasted garlic marinara sauce (I use Bertoli)
- handful shaved fresh Parmesan cheese

Cook lasagna noodles in large pot of salted water just until al dente.  In a skillet, brown the sausage, draining fat, then adding the drained can of tomatoes and mixing thoroughly.  Set aside.  In a bowl, combine egg, ricotta, cottage cheese and shredded Parmesan.  Add basil, parsley and garlic salt.  When I am sneaking in spinach, I add it to the cheese mixture, just be sure to squeeze out excess water.

Preheat oven to 350.  Using a 13x9 baking dish, spread out a cup of the marinara on the bottom.  Arrange a layer of noodles, then half the cheese mixture.  Add another layer of noodles, then the meat and tomatoes mixture.  Add another layer of noodles, the last layer of cheese mixture and a final layer of noodles.  Spread the remaining marinara sauce on the top of the noodles, making sure that all the pasta is covered with sauce.

Sprinkle mozzarella and shaved Parmesan evenly on the top.  Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, until heated through completely and bubbly on all the edges. 

I've been refining this recipe since before we got married, and it's come a long way.  Hopefully all the other Garfields out there enjoy it. 

Happy Birthday Tom.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pressed Leaves

This is another simple craft for this time of year, a way to stretch out the beautiful fall colors and make them last a little longer.  It takes a little bit of planning and a few days of patience, but the rewards last for the whole season.

What you need:
- Leaves
- Heavy books
- Wax paper
- Towels
- Iron
- Construction paper
- Glue

Gather leaves from different types of trees, ideally in varying shades of color.  You want to pick them from the tree so they are still pliable and not dried out.  Stick them between pages in heavy books, making sure that the edges are flat.  Let them sit a few days until they are flattened and dried. 

Lay a towel flat on your working surface, then a layer of wax paper.  Arrange leaves in pattern or design, and layer with another piece of wax paper, making sure to leave a margin around the edges of just wax paper.  Layer another towel over top.

Press entire surface of paper (covered with towel) with hot, dry iron (no steam).  It will take a few minutes to seal the entire sheet.  It helps to leave spaces between the leaves to seal the paper and retain the design. 

Remove and cool, then trim edges to desired shape.  This time, I had the kids help make frames for them out of construction paper. 

We tape them to the windows so we can enjoy the beautiful fall leaves long after they've left the trees. 

Happy Fall!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Harvest Hand Print Tree

Handprint Tree

I made this with the kids last year and absolutely love it.  I made ones for each set of grandparents too, so that they will always have a seasonal decoration with reminders of how big (or more correctly, little) the kids were that year. 

It is really simple and inexpensive to make....well worth the effort.  When I put it up this year, it made me smile.

- One piece of burlap, about 18 inches by 2 feet
- Ribbon or yarn, about 2 yards
- Acrylic paint in shades of brown, gold, orange and red
- Paint brush (wider, about an inch at least)
- Narrow wood dowel
- Sharpie
- Paper plates
- Newspaper

First create the pocket on top for the dowel.  Fold over the top of the burlap about two inches and thread the ribbon or yarn through, stitching about every inch or so.  Be sure that the dowel fits. Make sure to place the stitches far enough away from the edge that it won't pull through.  Leave edges untrimmed. 

Place layers of newspaper beneath burlap to protect the surface you are working on.

Paint the trunk with wide strokes, making it wider at the base. 

If you have more than one child, assign each one a color.  Put paint into paper plates in thin layer and have them rub their hand around to coat thoroughly.  Starting with oldest (biggest hands) first, start placing hand prints on the tree, trying to space evenly but leaving room for the other children.  If you have only one of two kids, mix up the colors (still assigning them though).   Layer the hand prints, fill in the spaces. 

If you have a baby or toddler, it may be easier to use their feet since they tend to squish the paint between their fingers and try to eat it rather than being cooperative.

After all the hand prints (or footprints) are places, let it dry overnight. 

Add the year and names of the kids with the permanent marker, then thread the dowel through and tie off the ribbons. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Creepy Halloween Game

If you are looking for a fun game for a Halloween party, try the Creepy Touch and Feel game.

I did this a few years ago for my son's Cub Scout pack, and it was a hit.  It was gross, but boys love gross.  It took some planning, but they loved it.

1. Find larger boxes and containers, big enough that they can stick their hands in one side to feel the items, but small enough that they couldn't peek.  You may need to use some plastic or glass containers, since some of the items may leak. Ewww!

2. I painted the boxes to make sure there was no way to peek, and to cover up the labels from whatever came in the box initially.

3.  Prepare the game sheets.  Decide how many containers you are going to have and what the players have to guess...whether you want them to try to figure out what it is supposed to be in there, or what it really is.

4. I started collecting the things to put in the boxes, but didn't prepare them until the day of the game.  The grosser and the stinkier, the better!

Here are the items I used:

- Brains: steamed head of cauliflower, coated in vegetable oil  (this one STINKS!)

- Eyeballs: peeled large grapes

- Fingernails: sunflower seed shells

- Guts: overcooked thick noodles, like linguine, coated in vegetable oil

- Bones:  large unsalted pretzel sticks

- Skin: unrolled fruit leather, tacked down to the bottom of the container

- Hearts: canned whole tomatoes (this one really gets them!)

- Ears: cut zucchini into ear-like shapes

- Hair: green tops of carrot, dried

- Fingers: medium unpeeled carrots, the knobbier, the better

- Goo: always good to have a bowl of jello just for texture nastiness.  To make it extra gross, put stuff in it, like gummy worms.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

School Art Solutions

So I have this friend who is learning that having kids in school = tons of artwork coming home.

What to do with all the art???

You know you can't just throw those masterpieces away....and if you do, your precious little one better not find out!!!

When my oldest was in a preschool program that meant two to three things he couldn't part with a week, it piled up quickly. Rather than keep them all, and eventually become buried under glued macaroni and hand turkeys, I came up with this:
I made collages out of pieces of his art and framed them in float frames.  I made one for him to keep and one for each set of grandparents.   Aidan's still hangs in his room today.

Over the years, we have used school art to make cards.  The very best art pieces get framed and wrapped for gifts for family members.   I am still a little sad that Aidan picked his favorite piece from last year to be a birthday present for his uncle. 

Huge projects, 3-d things or art projects that are too fragile to reasonably keep are the hardest.  I take pictures of the art, then we throw it out. 

I've learned that it is impossible to keep everything, and I go through the piles of paper every so often and weed out the things we don't need to hang on to. 

I am planning to get a large art portfolio for each of the kids to keep the big things safe.  Otherwise, each of them has a storage tote in the basement to keep their treasures in from school.  If the box gets full, something has to go in order for something else to fit. 

It helps if you involve the kids in making decisions about what stays and what goes.  If for instance they bring home a big pile of art, before even going through it, tell them they can only keep a few and to pick their most favorite. 

Trust me, you don't want to get caught throwing something away. 

As Aidan once told me (about a million times in a row after discovering something in the garbage), Mom, this is not trash!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bacon Lover's Potato Chowder

Mmmmm....bacon.  If there was ever any inclination on my part towards becoming a vegetarian, I would fail miserably at the first whiff of bacon that passed my olfactory senses.  Bacon is awesome. 

This is a recipe I made at some point last year, but tweaked this time around for a friend.  She wanted something with more substance.  More oomph.  Oomph, this has.  And bacon.  I'd suppose that you could make this with ham instead of bacon, sauteing the onions and celery in vegetable oil instead.  I'd suppose as well you could omit the meat entirely.  But there is no good reason for that, now is there?

This made enough for 4 adults and 4 kids for dinner, plus leftovers for lunch the next day. 

Bacon Lover's Potato Chowder
- 4 large (baker sized) potatoes, peeled and cubed with some pieces larger
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 lb bacon, cut into small pieces
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 1 cup corn
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 cans cream of chicken soup
- 2 cups light sour cream
- 3 cups skim milk
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- for garnish: parsley, minced green onion, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, reserved bacon pieces

In large stockpot, cook potatoes and corn in chicken broth until soft.  Fry bacon in a skillet while the potatoes are simmering, then remove from pan and drain, leaving drippings in pan.  Saute onions and celery in bacon drippings until onions are transparent, then add all to stockpot.  Mix in condensed soup (undiluted), sour cream and milk and all but 1/2 cup of the bacon.  Stir and heat on low.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Heat soup on low for an hour, making sure it doesn't ever boil. 

Garnish with parsley, and top with baked potato fixings. 

Friday, October 8, 2010


Head on over to my Facebook page and enter to win!

This is what is up for grabs....a beautiful card by Posh Paper Sweets!

All the details are on Facebook!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Posh Paper Sweets

Ah, Facebook.  What did we do before it existed?

I've reconnected with so many people from my past, including a few from way back in the day.  One of them recommended her friend's site to me a while back, and I was lucky enough to win a giveaway.

A couple days later, a package arrived.  Four of the most magnificent handmade cards I've ever seen.  Leslie has a gift, I tell you.

It's so obvious that she puts a tremendous amount of time and love into her art.  And when I say art, I mean it.  These are gorgeous. 

She makes cards primarily, but recently branched out into other personalized items.  Her nursery letters are to die for. 

So, if you are ever in the market for amazing handcrafted goodies, check out her site.  You will not be disappointed.  :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mummy Dogs

This is probably one of the easiest ways to humor my children, celebrate the upcoming holiday and sneak food into the belly of my youngest....all at the same time. 

Forgive me for dorking up the picture, but I just couldn't help it. 

Mummy Dogs

- 1 roll of ready to bake croissant dough
- 1 package of hot dogs

Cut dough into strips and wrap randomly around hot dogs.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 12-14 minutes. 

Dip in lots of ketchup, make moaning noises while biting their heads off.  Happy Halloween!

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