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!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

My husband has an unusual affection for chicken pot pies.  He practically lived on the frozen ones in college.   Even with his great love of them, I had never made one from scratch...until yesterday. 

I made him a happy man.

Chicken Pot Pie
- 2 pie crusts
- 2 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cups vegetables, diced (I used carrots, corn and green beans)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1 14 oz can chicken broth
- salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425.  Cut chicken into small pieces and cook with onion in large skillet using vegetable oil.  Add butter, milk, flour and broth, cooking until thickened.  Stir in vegetables.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Put one crust in bottom of pie pan.  Pour in chicken mixture and top with other crust.  Cut vent holes.  Cover edges with foil.  Bake 20 minutes, then remove foil and bake 20 more minutes. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Miss Mandy's Tortilla Soup

I've known Mandy for years now, her daughter and mine classmates, friends and teammates.  Her son and my other little girl the same.  A few years back she became a real estate agent, on top of being a nurse, and sends out all the required mailings a good real estate agent should.  Every month on the back of her card is a recipe, one which she deems worthy to be there.  Two requirements: it must be good and it must be easy. 

You guys would love Mandy. 

Here is her recipe for Tortilla Soup.  Both Tom and I were very impressed, especially since it was so simple.  The kids took a bit to warm up to it since it is a little on the spicy side.  Once they did, though, they loved it too.  I am including her original recipe as well as the things I did a little different because I didn't have what she called for. 

Tortilla Soup
- 2 lbs ground chicken (I used a pound of ground turkey)
- 1 chopped onion (I have to confess that I totally forgot to add this)
- 6 cloves chopped garlic
- 2 cans chicken broth
- 1 large can hominy (I used a cup of frozen corn)
- 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 large can tomato sauce (forgot this one at the store...used a can of tomato paste and a cup and a half of tomato juice)
- 3 cans Rotel Tomatoes
- 3 1/2 tbsp chili powder
- 2 tbsp oregano
- salt and pepper to taste

Brown meat in large stockpot, then add all other ingredients.  Simmer for an hour.  Garnish with crushed tortilla chips.  We also put sour cream on top.

It makes a good amount....I know what I'm having for lunch today. :)

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