Friday, December 31, 2010

Homemade Pizza

In our area, one of the pizza places offers a large one-topping pizza for $5.99 one day a week. As far as we're concerned, that's a great deal. Not only do we get dinner out of it, but lunch for one or two of us the next day, too! But I've been hankerin' for some homemade pizza for a while, and I finally made it for dinner the other night. I used this recipe for the dough, and it was unbelievably simple. I made several different pizzas to suit the different tastes in my family, and all were really good! I actually ended up making pizza again just a couple of nights later when a good friend of mine came to spend the day with us. Never be afraid to get creative with your pizza toppings! Here's what I made:

Hawaiian - sauce, mozzarella, cheddar, ham and pineapple
Potato-Leek-Ham - (I seasoned and sauteed the thinly sliced potatoes and leeks first) plus mozzarella, feta, and Parmesan
Cheese - sauce, mozzarella, cheddar and Parmesan
Spaghetti and Meatball - sauce, mozzarella, cooked angel hair pasta, cooked meatballs, Parmesan
Veggie - sauce, mozzarella, spinach, mushroom, tomato, Parmesan
Barbecue - BBQ sauce, smoked pork, green onions, cheddar

I have also made a close approximation to a Middle Eastern-style pizza called "lahmajun" using ground lamb mixed with Mediterranean seasonings, plain tomato sauce, and cheese. To be truly authentic, I serve it with chopped parsley and lemon wedges for sprinkling the juice over the pizza.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pantry Meal

Well, blogging isn't the only thing I've gotten behind on over this Christmas weekend. There's also laundry and *gasp* grocery shopping! Add in three kids who haven't been feeling well for various reasons and it's completely understandable that the weekly trek to Kroger hasn't happened. The result was that last night I was facing a hungry family and had no idea what to fix for them out of our limited supply. My mind kept going back to chicken chili, which I had planned to make the week before, but I knew I was missing a couple of key ingredients. As I shuffled through my freezer, I was delighted to spy a single chicken breast frozen in a marinade of salsa, lime juice and cilantro. I quickly adjusted my plan to use this instead of the plain shredded chicken. I also grabbed a zip-top bag of frozen green pepper (so glad I saved that!). I ended up sauteeing together onion, green pepper, garlic and the chicken (with the marinade) in a little olive oil. Then I removed that to a bowl and kept it warm. In the same saucepan, I made a simple white sauce with chicken broth from the freezer. I added in some cumin and chili powder, salt and pepper, the chicken and veggies, plus a can of navy beans. Once heated through it was ready to serve! To go alongside, I fried up some corn tortillas that were hanging out in my fridge. I'm always surprised at how good those unplanned meals straight from the pantry can be!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Bites

This is one of those great un-recipes that requires no baking yet results in a very tasty treat. You'll just need equal amounts of:

Mini pretzels
Rolo (caramel-center) candies
Pretzel M & M candies

Simply lay the pretzels out on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Place an unwrapped Rolo candy on top of each pretzel. Place in a warm oven for 3-5 minutes, until the candy has softened a bit. Remove from oven and quickly but gently press an M&M in the middle of each Rolo. Allow the chocolate to firm back up (you can pop the cooled tray in the fridge or freezer if you like). Then remove them to an airtight container to store.

Now, you're probably already way ahead of me here, but naturally you can adapt this recipe easily to your family's favorites. I think peanut butter cups would be great in place of the Rolos, and you can top the candies with anything, too!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Candy

One thing I always loved about the holidays approaching was that Mom would make candy. She made several kinds that I looked forward to every year. Unfortunately, one day while grocery shopping she left her recipe book in the cart at the commissary. So, the originals are lost forever! Through the power of the internet, though, I've located recipes to my three favorites. I haven't tested them, but they certainly look to be "just like Mom used to make"!

Peanut Butter Balls

Divinity - this is from Paula Deen, and she makes it sound so easy!

Coconut Balls - this is a close approximation, though we always used pecans.

The Peanut Butter Balls and the Coconut Balls freeze beautifully!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Spinach Soup

Have I mentioned before how much I love The Pioneer Woman? Here's one more reason to love her:

Spinach Soup.

Amen.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Being on a diet for the last six weeks has forced me to be very creative with eating! I typically don't eat breakfast first thing in the morning; I prefer to have coffee first, then eat at ten or so. But I have to eat pretty early on this diet, which means being creative for breakfast. I've developed a delicious Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal that's really hearty and satisfying. And I mean really hearty! You may even make this for two, especially if you like bacon or sausage or eggs with your oatmeal. I enjoy it all by itself.

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup water
1/2 apple, diced (no need to peel!)
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 tablespoons chopped nuts (almonds or pecans are my favorites)
a splash of vanilla extract (maybe a 1/4 teaspoon)
a dash of cinnamon (to taste)
2 tablespoons honey or brown sugar (to taste)

Combine all but the sweetener in a microwave-safe bowl. Cook at full power for 2-1/2 to 3 minutes. Stir in honey or sugar and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals

Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals
This cookbook is wonderful! I checked it out from the library several years ago after becoming a fan of Sara Moulton's show on Food Network. I read it through, loved it, and then forgot (mostly) about it until recently. I checked it out again back in October and I'm still a big fan. Sara's way of looking at food and its preparation is very much like my own, and I've learned a lot from her. I've made several of her recipes over the last couple of weeks; each one has been a big hit with my family. One of our favorites was Asian Turkey Burgers.  I only made a couple of changes. One was to substitute shredded carrots for the red peppers (I didn't have any!). The other was that I served it with a simple coleslaw. My husband ate his burger topped off with the slaw. The whole family ate every bite and loved it! That's a pretty rare feat in any house with at least one child.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advent Stockings

One Christmas tradition in our house has always been the advent calendar. When I was a child, it was delicious German chocolates in a little cardboard house. My brother and I eagerly awaited our turns to open the tiny perforated doors that held the chocolatey treasures. When I established the tradition in my own home after our first daughter was born, I twisted it a bit ...

We have twenty-four stockings that each hold a special treat! I made these stockings from infant socks and decorated them with ribbon, buttons, beads, pom-pons, and jingle bells. It was really easy and a lot of fun to get to be creative with each one. We've used them for about 8 years now, and the kids look forward to bringing them out every year.
This year the kids are excited to be able to rotate every third day, since they have a new little sister. The big kids get candy cane flavored Hershey kisses and Hershey kisses with caramel centers. The ten-month old gets little plastic-wrapped bundles of Gerber Graduates Puffs. We all get a special treat every day in the form of a few verses from Scripture about the advent of Christ.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Un-recipe - Greek Pasta

A lot of lunches that I make for myself are really not recipes at all, just ingredients I threw together because they sounded good. I pretty much start with pasta and go from there! Case in point, the Greek Pasta I made the other day. I cooked up a couple of ounces of angel hair pasta -- at 2-4 minutes, the timing can't be beat. In a salad bowl, (a low, flat soup bowl) I drizzled about a teaspoon of lemon juice, a bit of salt and fresh-ground pepper, and a half-tablespoon of butter. When the pasta was done, I tossed it in the bowl, mixing well. Then I topped it off with a couple of tablespoons of feta cheese and tossed that together, too. I was too lazy (and it was too cold!) to go out and clip some fresh oregano or parsley, but that would have been great!

Add a simple salad and you've got the makings of a delicious quick lunch. This would also make a good side dish beside baked chicken or fish.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Apples!

I know apples are more of a fall thing, but with our nation's global network of food resources, it's nearly always a great time of year for any produce. My traditional favorite is Granny Smith: it's perfect for cooking and eating out-of-hand. My husband loves Gala apples; my kids, Red Delicious. If you want the precise combination of sweet and tart, look no farther than Honeycrisp! I've recently discovered those, and I can't stop eating them! Most sweet apples tend to be soft, but like the name says, these are crisp and sweet and juicy. Try them, and as Adrian Monk says, "You'll thank me later."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Family Traditions

Since before Thanksgiving, I've posted some of my favorite recipes for holidays and get-togethers with family and friends. Thanksgiving itself has always been fairly traditional in my family, with ham, turkey and dressing, pumpkin and pecan pies, along with plenty of side dishes. Christmas was where we usually changed things up a bit. Ham was a standard for some years, but more often we served something special that we didn't typically have throughout the year. Meals like steak and shrimp, Italian Heritage Casserole, a buffet of appetizers, brunch, and lasagna have all shown up at our Christmas celebrations. We also would vary the time our family would eat: morning, mid-afternoon, late-night, we've done it all!

One thing my mom did every year, though, was make cookies and candy. Of the candies, Divinity had to be my favorite, unless it was her Chocolate Coconut Balls. Or the Peanut Butter Balls. And she makes the very best Chocolate Chip Cookies, whose recipe I would share with you, but it's a closely guarded family secret!

What are some of your family's holiday (especially Christmas!) traditions?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Nutty Green Beans


It seems kind of silly to post a recipe for something like this because "open can; heat contents" is pretty much how I thought  green beans were cooked until I was an adult. Actually, in the South there's one more step: "heat contents until mushy". But, I never knew I liked green beans until I tried making fresh ones! So I submit to you that if you don't think you like green beans, at least try them slightly crisp with a touch of butter. You may change your mind like I did! This is my standard recipe:

Nutty Green Beans
½ pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cups beef broth
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon butter
handful of pecans or almonds

Bring broth and green beans to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat slightly and boil for five minutes. Drain broth, reserving for another use if desired. Add butter; salt and pepper to taste, and the nuts to your saucepan with the beans. Saute for 4-5 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Obviously, you could use chicken or vegetable broth or even water instead, but I like the rich flavor the beef broth provides. It's the little things!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cheesy Turkey Burgers

These burgers are a family favorite! I love a good beef burger, and this turkey burger is almost as good. I got the recipe several years ago from the always faithful Taste of Home. I serve these on wheat buns with Swiss cheese, lettuce or spinach and ranch dressing or olive oil mayo. Add in a bag of your favorite chips and you've got dinner in under thirty minutes! Got more time? Make these delicious roasted potatoes to serve on the side.

Cheesy Turkey Burgers

4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend or mozzarella
1 small onion, grated
3 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
2 tablespoons minced green onions
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 pounds lean ground turkey

In a bowl, combine the first eight ingredients. Crumble turkey over mixture and mix well. Shape into eight 1/2-inch-thick patties. Cook in batches in large skillet coated with a couple of tablespoons oil. Cook 5-6 minutes on first side, flip and cook for 5-6 more minutes.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chewy Peanut Butter Bars

At our house, it's not unusual to have unexpected company in the evenings. Several young singles from our church gladly accept our open invitation for them to drop in. Because of that, I like to have recipes close at hand that can be whipped up quickly. I've definitely done some maneuvering in my time to make a meal stretch farther! One way I do that is with quick breads, like bisclettes or cornbread. Another way is with simple, yummy desserts like these peanut butter bars. They're mixed together right on the stovetop, so there's only one pot to wash!

Chewy Peanut Butter Bars

½ cup peanut butter
½ cup butter/margarine
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large saucepan, melt butter and peanut butter. Remove from heat; add sugar and flour. Stir in eggs and vanilla. Spread into a greased and floured 9x13 baking pan. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Perfect Pairs -- Cranberry Spritzer

At our homeschool Thanksgiving party this year, one of the moms introduced me to a wonderfully simple little drink. Simply combine equal amounts of Sprite and cranberry juice! Of course, you can adjust the amounts either way if you like it sweeter or tangier. Yum!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mocha Punch

I get requests for this punch all the time! I made it for a ladies' meeting at church several years ago, and people still talk about it. It tastes like a chocolate shake with a mild coffee flavor in the background. Need a stunning punch for a party? This is the recipe you've been looking for!

Mocha Punch

6 cups water
1/2 cup instant chocolate drink mix
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup instant coffee granules
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
1/2 gallon chocolate ice cream


In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Remove from the heat. Add drink mix, sugar and coffee; stir until dissolved. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
    About 30 minutes before serving, pour mixture into a large punch bowl. Add ice cream by scoopfuls; stir until partially melted.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Savory Party Bread

You may as well take this incredible snack and apply it directly to your hips ... but then you'd miss out on how delicious it is! So instead, make it when you have skinny friends over and hope they eat it all.

Savory Party Bread

1 unsliced round loaf (1 pound) sourdough bread
1 pound Monterey Jack cheese, sliced
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 to 3 teaspoons poppy seeds

Cut the bread lengthwise and widthwise without cutting through the bottom crust, making a checkerboard pattern. Insert cheese between cuts. Combine butter, onions and poppy seeds; drizzle over the bread. Wrap in foil; place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350̊ for 15 minutes. Unwrap; bake 10 minutes longer or until the cheese is melted and you can actually feel yourself putting on weight.  Yield: 6-8 servings.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pumpkin Dip

I got this recipe from one of our sweet older ladies at church. She's such a funny lady, too -- as we say here in the South, she's a hoot!

Pumpkin Dip
4 cups confectioners sugar
1 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
1 teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 small can pumpkin

Mix all ingredients well, and serve with gingersnaps.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sweet Potato Souffle

In the interest of Thanksgiving being right around the corner, I'm going to share with you my mother-in-law's recipe for Sweet Potato Souffle. Judging solely on the amount of butter and sugar it contains, you know it has to be good!

Sweet Potato Souffle

3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
½ cup butter or margarine, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients and pour into a 9-inch square baking dish. Top with the following mixture:

½ cup cold margarine/butter, cut up into small cubes
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup self-rising flour
1 cup chopped pecans

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, until topping is bubbly and golden brown.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What's On Your Table?

Sweet potatoes or yams? Many people traditionally refer to sweet potatoes as yams, but have no idea that they are two very different things. The North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission describes the American origins of sweet potatoes on their website:

In 1543 DeSoto’s Spanish explorers found sweet potatoes growing in “Indian gardens” in what became Louisiana. The sweet potatoes were also cultivated in the Carolina area of North America before the European colonization.
In Colonial days sweet potatoes were an item of trade and were shipped from the Carolinas out to northern cities. The potato was an essential food for all the colonies in the days before modern means of preservation.
 Yams originated in Africa and are described on Wikipedia:
The vegetable has a rough skin which is difficult to peel, but which softens after heating. The skins vary in color from dark brown to light pink. The majority of the vegetable is composed of a much softer substance known as the "meat". This substance ranges in color from white or yellow to purple or pink in ripe yams.
Yam tubers can grow up to 8 feet in length and weigh as much as 150 pounds!

Sweet potatoes are similar enough to yams that as African slaves were introduced to them, they referred to the vegetable as the familiar yam. 

Stay tuned tomorrow for my mother-in-law's amazing Sweet Potato Souffle!

Monday, November 15, 2010

A New Snack

A part of the diet I'm on is that you have to eat snacks five times per day, and it's specific about what makes up each snack. I've found it to be kind of fun taking my limitations and creating little "meals" to look forward to every few hours. One of my favorites is very simple and very filling!

1/2 whole wheat bagel
1 wedge Creamy Swiss (Light) Laughing Cow cheese
Smoked deli ham
Banana

I spread the cheese on the bagel and top it with ham for a yummy open-faced sandwich. The banana I eat on the side, of course. This is a really good snack to eat on-the-go, too.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My Name is Jeni and ...

... I have a problem. I love food. And I have always had a fast metabolism. But now that I'm getting older it's slowing down a bit, and my eating hasn't. Having had three babies doesn't help! Nursing supposedly helps you drop the weight faster (and I'm sure it does) but despite nursing all three babies for at least a year each my main side effect is being hungry all the time. Anyway, the result is that I'd really like to lose 10-20 pounds. My number one reason is that I have lots of clothes one size down that I could wear, and I can't afford to buy new clothes! Dieting = cheaper than new clothes.

I am participating in a weight loss program along with a group of ladies in my church. It's called For His Glory, and the goal is to develop a healthier lifestyle all for the glory of God. We commit to praying for the other ladies every day. We're not allowed any sugar or white flour and our five "meals" (snacks) are spread out over the day. We're to exercise at least 4 times per week and drink 3 liters of water per day. This is slightly different from my previous rigorous exercise routine of 4 times per month. Anyway, despite my stomach growling literally all day long, even after I've eaten ... I'm doing pretty well my first week.

I know I haven't posted much this week, and that's mostly due to starvation. It's hard to think about food when it's the one thing you can't have! I've always dreaded dieting, and it's every bit as bad as I imagined. Here's hoping I'll lose some weight and have something to show for it! I will do better with posting though, looking past my own trials ... :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans' Day

For the soldiers ... Dad, Uncle Jack, Uncle Eugene, Marc (cousin), Joe (brother-in-law), James (friend), Mike (friend)
For the sailors ... Ken (father-in-law), Kelly (cousin), Zach (friend)
For the airmen ... Joe (cousin), Randy (friend), Jerry (friend), Uncle Steve
For the Coast Guard ... Meagan and Gary (friends), Sanna (friend)
For the Marines ... James (friend)

Thank you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gone Fishin'!

One thing my kids like to do is snack! I've had to get pretty creative with tricking them into eating a variety of healthful foods, but it often works. One simple thing was taking my pediatrician's suggestion to wrap a spinach leaf around a baby carrot. The kids already loved carrots, and surprisingly, they quickly began liking spinach, too!

Another simple snack for toddlers all the way to big kids is to let them go fishing. On a plate, place a dollop of peanut butter along with some fish-shaped snack crackers. Then you can get creative with "fishing rods". I've used pretzel sticks, celery sticks, and carrot sticks. They use the sticks dipped in the peanut butter to pick up the fish crackers. To make it even healthier, substitute or supplement the crackers with small cheese cubes or diced fruit.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Snickerdoodles

Nothing beats homemade snickerdoodles, but this recipe is a good stand-in when you're pressed for time. It comes together super easily since it's one of those that uses a boxed cake mix.

Snickerdoodles
 3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 package yellow cake mix
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 375. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Combine cake mix, eggs and oil in a large bowl. Stir until well blended. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in cinnamon-sugar. Place balls 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Flatten balls slightly. Bake at 375 for 8-9 minutes or until set. Cool one minute, then remove to wire racks to cool.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Plan Ahead for the Holidays

This post is a bit of a departure from my usual, but Shutterfly is running a wonderful promotion right now. Their collection of holiday photo and greeting cards are on sale, so it's a great time to take a look at what's available. Many people send out Christmas cards every year and Shutterfly has some that are absolutely beautiful!

I love the modern, yet classic look of this card. It's a major plus to be able to use five different pictures on the card, too, since I have such a hard time narrowing it down to just one or two. 
Brown and blue ... a gorgeous color combination any time of year!
 
This is a terrific think-outside-the-box option:


I saved my favorite for last! You could use these cards to send invitations to your family and friends for Thanksgiving dinner, a fall party or change the text to share your favorite holiday recipe!




Shutterfly is so excited about their 2010 holiday card collection that they're offering 50 free cards to bloggers who share about the promotion on their blogs! If you'd like to take advantage of the offer, too, feel free to register your blog.

Perfect Pairs

I love salmon! One super easy way to prepare it is to place it skin-side down on a baking sheet, coat it in Caesar salad dressing and bake it for 15-20 minutes. It's delish! And the leftovers make wonderful salmon cakes later in the week. And yes, you'll have leftovers because neither your Sweetie nor your munchkins eat it.Of course.

Salmon and Caesar dressing. You must try it someday.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mint Chocolate Softies

I told you a while back that I'd have more recipes for you that involved using boxed cake mixes creatively. I'm finally doing it! I've made this recipe several times with great results. The chips I used for this batch are limited edition, only available during the holidays, so snap 'em up while you can. These cookies soft and rich and taste just like Thin Mints!

Mint Chocolate Softies

1 package triple chocolate fudge cake mix
1/3 cup water (or brewed coffee if you have it)
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup dark chocolate and mint chips

Preheat oven to 350. Combine first four ingredients in a large bowl. Beat with electric mixer on low speed until combined. Increase speed to medium and beat for one minute. (Dough will be very thick.) Stir in chips. Drop dough by heaping teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart on cookie sheets sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until set. Let cookies stand on cookie sheets for one minute. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Obviously, you can use any combination of flavors of cake mix and chips. I got this recipe from a cookbook called Cake Mix Magic in Minutes.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cornbread Dressing

I've not always been a fan of dressing/stuffing. It seems so mysterious as to ingredients and I've traditionally been quite picky. I never knew when a giblet or a neck or a hard-boiled egg would show up.  I like it simple! Anyway, the ladies' ministry at our church used to have a tradition in which the November ladies' meeting would be when we all brought a favorite holiday dish. I've collected lots of good recipes that way, and this is one of them. My friend Ashley's original recipe is slightly different than this and makes a larger amount of dressing. I've adapted it for everyday family dinners so we're not eating leftover dressing for a month!

1 (small) recipe cornbread, crumbled
2 cups soft breadcrumbs (I use whole-wheat)
1 cup diced onions
1 cup diced celery
1 stick butter
sage or poultry seasoning to taste (1 teaspoon or so)
2 cups chicken broth
1 can cream of chicken soup
1-2 teaspoons pepper to taste
2 eggs

In a skillet, saute the onions and celery in butter until tender. Add in the sage/poultry seasoning; cook for 1 more minute. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. You may need additional chicken broth -- the mixture shouldn't be too dry. Pour into a lightly greased 9x13 baking dish. You can refrigerate this for 8 hours or so, or bake right away at 375 for 45-60 minutes.

* I try not to buy canned stuff if I can help it, so I use my white sauce recipe in proportions of 2 in place of the canned soup. It's an extra step that's worth it to me.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Chicken Parmesan Calzones

One afternoon I was stuck about what to fix for dinner. It's tough trying to come up with something everyone will like, as anyone who cooks for their family knows! I ended up just making things up as I went along and was pretty surprised to come up with a meal that was a hit with all the members of my family!

I started with my basic pizza dough crust ...

1 2/3 cups warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons dry milk powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons yeast

All that goes in the bread machine to be rescued an hour and twenty-five minutes later. (This recipe makes 2 crusts.) Of course, you could use your own recipe or store-bought dough.

For the calzone filling, I made a basic white sauce ...

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk (if I'd had chicken broth, I'd have used 1 cup broth, 1 cup milk)

(When I melted the butter, I threw in a chopped clove of garlic, too. Yum!)

To which I added ...
2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
1 cup fresh spinach leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
salt and pepper
about 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Other delicious additions would be chopped onion, zucchini, red pepper, mushrooms, ricotta cheese ... whatever your family likes! I just used what I had.

To put it all together, I divided the dough in half, setting one half aside for the freezer. The rest of it I divided into fourths. I rolled out each section into a circle -- not too thin! Each circle was topped with a touch of olive oil, some mozzarella cheese, and about a fourth of the filling. I folded the dough up over the filling, making a bun, and placed them seam-side down on a lightly greased baking sheet. Into the oven for 15 minutes or so on 375!

I served them with warmed spaghetti sauce for dipping.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mold Shakes

After making my kids' lunch the other day, I called them in from playing outside. I told them that sometimes I had to be creative with leftovers in order to make the most of our groceries, so they had to just eat what they were given without complaining. (They're plenty used to hearing that!) Then I explained that I had found a container in the back of the fridge with mold in it and decided to make it into something special for them.


Both kids were giggling and tasting and trying to decide what it could be. Oldest Girl guessed sherbet. The Boy thought it was green tea. After they both drank every drop and admitted they loved it, I confessed what it really was.

Here's the recipe so you can gross your kids out, too!

Mold Shakes
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
1 cup milk
1 cup ice cubes
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sugar

Combine all that in a blender and give it a whirl!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lemon Orzo Soup

This soup is so very simple that you won't believe how these flavors come together to make such wonderful comfort food! I'm giving you the proportions to make one serving, or two small ones because that's how I make it the most. The recipe is easily doubled, though.

2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (homemade is best!)
pepper to taste

Bring the broth and pepper to a boil. Stir in:
1/4 cup orzo pasta

Cook for 9 minutes. Remove from heat.

While pasta is cooking, whisk together 1 egg and 1 teaspoon lemon juice until foamy. Just after removing broth from the heat, stir a spoonful of broth into the egg mixture to temper it. Pour the mixture into the pot, stirring constantly. Serve immediately. (Note: this results in a creamy-looking soup, not with strings of egg like in egg-drop soup.)

That's the basic recipe and method. One great thing about this soup is that it's a terrific starting point for a heartier "makes-you-feel-all-better" soup for when you're sick.

Chicken broth: especially if this is homemade, it has major healing powers -- just ask your mom!
Pasta: carbohydrates to give you energy
Egg: protein to fill you up and build energy
Lemon juice: a little jolt of vitamin C

Now to have fun with it, you can add a variety of different stuff either at the beginning, when you add in the pasta, or to finish. Here's a starting point:

diced mushrooms
green onion
grated veggies like carrot or zucchini
parsley
cilantro
ginger
spinach
Parmesan cheese
shredded, cooked chicken

Monday, November 1, 2010

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

I didn't know bread was so important until I married my Sweetie. He grew up eating it at every meal. I learned quickly that if I didn't make bread to go with dinner he'd grab a slice of loaf bread. White loaf bread! The stuff that isn't worth eating unless it's slathered with butter and cheese, transforming it into a delicious grilled cheese sandwich! I remember thinking that the man had lost his mind. To make things worse, he didn't like cornbread. (Don't worry, I've since converted him.) Anyway, I had to find more and more bread recipes to satisfy his carbohydrate cravings and in the process I learned to like it more, too. Not that the following recipe is really bread. It's actually more like cake! Yum ...

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
3 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, oil, applesauce, sugar and vanilla. Stir in zucchini. Combine dry ingredients; add to zucchini mixture and mix well. Pour into 2 greased 8x4x2 loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 1 hour. Yield: 2 loaves

*This freezes really well, too!

Here's the recipe made into muffins! Bake these for about 15-18 minutes. The recipe will make 2 dozen muffins.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pumpkin Waffles

My Sweetie loves waffles. His favorite are Belgian-style, but these Pumpkin Waffles are pretty high on the list, too. I always make a few changes when I make waffles or pancakes from a basic recipe. I use whole-wheat flour in place of most or all of the all-purpose, I reduce the sugar if necessary, I add in chopped pecans (we're obsessed!), I use buttermilk if I have it, and I sometimes add in fruit flavors like shredded apple, mashed banana, or orange zest. Many recipes would adapt well to hiding veggies, too, by adding in a half to a whole cup of pureed carrots, pumpkin, or other squash, or shredded zucchini or carrots.

Waffles are so easy, too. Just mix up the batter, heat the waffle iron, and every three minutes you have two more beautiful waffles! Or one more, depending on your style of waffle iron. You get the point.

Another thing I love about waffles and pancakes is that they freeze beautifully. Layer them with waxed paper and place in a freezer bag -- then you can pull out just what you need to reheat. I usually do that in the oven at 350 for 10-12 minutes, flipping them over halfway through.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Chicken Salad

Chicken salad is one of those dishes that's really a non-recipe. Everyone has a method for chicken salad in their repertoire, and everyone always thinks their own is the best! I've made it lots of ways, but have really hit on this "recipe" that my Sweetie and I love.

1 lemon-pepper rotisserie chicken, deboned and shredded/chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1/2 Granny Smith apple, finely chopped
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt-free lemon-pepper seasoning
1/2 cup olive oil mayonnaise

Combine all ingredients and serve immediately or chill in the fridge until ready to use.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Going Overboard

It seems that every day we're hearing about some new "super-food" that's the latest cure for everything. With the typical American diet leading to alarmingly high rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity and more, it's tempting to jump on every bandwagon that comes along. Why not dig in deeper to find out the facts and myths concerning each of these claims before trying the latest fad diet or "super-food"? Recently, I was doing just that when I found an interesting website that invites us to change our point of view on food altogether. It's not a new concept to me, but one I've heard a lot about over the years. This website just pulls together the information in an organized way. I'm not saying I necessarily agree with everything the author says; I simply found it to be interesting and thought-provoking. Certainly worthy of more research and pondering.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mmm ... Cornbread ...

I have never been able to get a handle on cornbread. I know what I like; I know what I make ... and the two are not compatible! Until now.

If you have not experienced The Pioneer Woman, you really must. She's great. And she has the best cornbread recipe ever.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Herbed Fish Fillets

Several years ago, I learned to love Publix. I was shopping there one day when I encountered the lady at the front cooking. And I learned to love fish. She was cooking flounder using approximately this recipe. I use whatever white fish I can find on sale. I love it, and Little One loves it, but nobody else does. That's okay, though, because the recipe is easily halved, meaning I can make it for the two of us and we're happy. And I like that the herbs are interchangeable -- you could use parsley, rosemary, oregano, cilantro, tarragon, green onions, dill, thyme, whatever! You can even change out the lime juice for lemon or orange.

3 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 cup olive oil mayonnaise
Salt and pepper
4 fillets white fish such as tilapia or flounder

Stir together first 4 ingredients in a small bowl. Lightly salt and pepper fillets. Coat the fillets on one side with half of the mayonnaise mixture. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil into a nonstick skillet and heat to medium-medium high. Place the fillets, coated side down in the skillet and spread the remaining mayo over the fillets. Let the fish cook for 4-5 minutes without disturbing, then flip to the other side. Cook for 2-3 minutes longer until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Buttery Corn Casserole

We love this cheesy corn casserole! It's almost like macaroni and cheese with corn instead of pasta. 

2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 can (5 ounces) evaporated milk
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted, divided
2 cans (15-1/4 ounces each) whole kernel corn, drained
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup crushed butter-flavored crackers (about 24 crackers), divided

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, milk, 2 tablespoons butter, corn, cheese and 1/2 cup cracker crumbs. Spoon into a greased 11-in. x 7-in. baking dish. Toss the remaining crumbs and butter; sprinkle over corn mixture. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until edges are bubbly.

I have just used a 1/2 cup of regular milk before instead of the canned, and it works out just fine.

I got this recipe from the always wonderful Taste of Home.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hot Cocoa

My family loves having hot cocoa together on movie night. (It was The Glenn Miller Story last night!) Here's our favorite recipe:

1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup baking cocoa
dash of salt
1/3 cup brewed coffee
4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Whisk all ingredients together in a medium saucepan and slowly heat through. Serve in mugs over mini marshmallows.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Granola-To-Go Bars

In my latest Taste of Home magazine I found this great recipe for granola bars from Sally Haen. I've tried others in the past and just haven't hit on one that turns out just right. These were perfect! I'll share with you the modifications I made to the recipe.

3 cups quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup chopped pecans
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sunflower kernels
3/4 cup flaked coconut
3/4 cup chopped dried apples
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine oats and pecans on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a large bowl, combine the egg, butter, honey and vanilla. Stir in the sunflower kernels, coconut, apples, brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir in oat mixture. Press into baking sheet coated with more cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 13-18 minutes until set and edges are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Store in an airtight container.

Now, here's a trick I learned: Baking it for 18 minutes will result in a pretty consistent texture conducive to granola bars. I bake it for the 13-15 minute window. That way I can cut the firmer outside edges off to make about a dozen bars. The middle is soft enough to put in a resealable plastic bag for "snacking granola". We eat it straight or sprinkle it over yogurt.

Of course, staying within the amounts listed you could use any combination of flavors, really. Other dried fruits and nuts or flaxseed would be fine.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Making Every Penny Count -- Leftovers

I know you've seen it here before, but leftovers are your friend! I saw an article on-line yesterday that said the average American family throws away $600 worth of food every year. I don't know how they came to that figure, but I bet it's fairly accurate. And it's very true that one way of "saving" money is not to waste what you've bought with it. Here are a few ways I do it:

1. I buy only what I'll use or can store. For example, I'll stock on meat when it's on sale because I can freeze it. Other things aren't worth stocking up on because we won't use them before they go bad, like potatoes or other fresh veggies that don't freeze well. I take careful stock of what I have in my freezer/fridge/pantry before shopping so I don't overbuy.

2. I save my leftovers. Just last night I made spaghetti using hamburger patties I'd stored raw in the freezer. Leftover meatloaf can be repurposed in the same way. Most meats can be diced and frozen for later use in soups, sauces or casseroles. Leftover corn and mashed potatoes make wonderful fritters or "cakes", as well as corn chowder. Most leftover casseroles freeze well, and you can portion those out for your Sweetie's lunch, or your own.Vegetables can be saved for soups and casseroles, as well as omelets or quiches.

3. Small family? Make the recipe for a 9x13 dish but divide it into two 8 or 9 inch square dishes. Line one of the dishes with foil, then freeze it for later. Once it's frozen, you can remove it from the dish and wrap it well with foil, label it and save it for another day -- for your family or a family in need.

4. Fresh vegetables need not languish in your drawer until you throw them away! Many of them freeze just fine, especially if you cook them first. Check your drawer often and if you won't use it that week for a meal, go ahead and prep it for the freezer.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cheddar Broccoli Salad

This salad takes raw broccoli to a whole new level! When I make it for get-togethers, people fall into one of three categories -- 1) They ask for the recipe 2) They say, "Oh, I love this salad but I make mine with ______" (fill in the blank with raisins, sunflower kernels, pecans, dried cranberries, etc,) or 3) "Broccoli? Gross!"  Well, you can't win 'em all!

6 cups fresh broccoli florets
1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1-1/2 cups mayonnaise ( I use Olive Oil Mayo)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
12 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled


In a large bowl, combine the broccoli, cheese and onion. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sugar, pepper and vinegar. Pour over broccoli mixture; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Just before serving, stir in the bacon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mexican Cornbread

1 pound ground beef

2 eggs
1 can (14 ounces) creamed corn
1 cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 medium onion, chopped
4 jalapenos, seeded and diced

Cook and drain beef. In a bowl, beat eggs, corn, milk and oil. Combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt; add to egg mixture and mix well. Pour half of the batter into a greased 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Top with beef, onion, and jalapenos. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, top with remaining batter. Bake at 350 for 55-60 minutes.

Want it cooler? Use only 2-3 jalapenos.
Want it hotter? Leave the seeds in -- that's where the peppers' heat is concentrated.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bisclettes

My Sweetie and I used to teach a Sunday School class for college and career young adults. On Sunday nights after church they would come over to our house and I would cook dinner for everyone. The number fluctuated between 8 and 15 additional mouths to feed, so I had to be pretty creative! Not only watching the cost of the food, but trying to make something that would appeal to most everyone. These little biscuits quickly became a staple! One of the college guys christened them "Bisquilettes", and I simplified the spelling a bit but kept the name. They were requested often.

1 cup butter
1 cup sour cream
2 cups self-rising flour

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in flour and sour cream. Spoon by teaspoonfuls into mini muffin cups. Bake at 375 for 15 - 20 minutes or until golden.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Corn Chowder

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 small potatoes, peeled and diced
1 can creamed corn
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

In a small saucepan, cook the potatoes in the chicken broth until tender, 10-15 minutes. Reserve broth and potatoes.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the butter and saute the garlic and onion 2-3 minutes. Whisk in flour. Cook for 2-3 minutes longer, whisking continually. Pour the reserved broth over the flour mixture and whisk until smooth. Add the potatoes, corn and milk; heat through. Season to taste.

It's no secret that I love to use toppings in my soups, stews, and pasta dishes. This corn chowder is no exception. Some great additions would be:
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Chopped green onions
Diced ham or bacon
Sour cream
Croutons
Parsley/any fresh herbs
Diced green chilies

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

I know, I do a lot of chicken recipes. But chicken is relatively inexpensive and a little goes a long way. My family loves chicken pot pie. I've spent quite a bit of time trying to find a recipe that I like, since there are so many options out there. We've definitely settled on this one as our family favorite.


Filling:
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons fresh herbs (I prefer thyme and parsley) or 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 green onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

In a medium saucepan, saute onion and garlic in butter for 2-3 minutes. Whisk in flour. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Whisk in chicken broth and milk. Bring to a boil, continuing to whisk until the sauce is thickened. Stir in herbs, cheese if using, and salt and pepper.

2 1/2 cups cooked, diced chicken
* 3 cups vegetables, your choice (my favorite combination is simple -- potatoes, peas, and carrots)


Topping:
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups self-rising flour

Stir together all three ingredients.

In a 9x13 pan, layer chicken and vegetables. Pour sauce over top. Spread topping over all. Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes, until crust is golden.

*Fresh vegetables can be added raw, just use a small dice. Potatoes should be cooked first. You can also use frozen, no need to thaw if you like a litte crunch. In a pinch you can use canned, but the results won't be as good.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Oriental Edamame Salad

"Edamame" (etta - MA - may) is Japanese for "branched bean" or "beans on branches": literally, "twig bean". Basically, they're young soybeans. Incredibly rich in protein and fiber as well as vitamins A, B, and C, they're also very adaptable. They are sold in the pod or shelled. You can find them shelled in the freezer section of the grocery store. My 8 month old likes them simply steamed and laid out on the tray of her highchair for easy snacking. I prefer them in this amazing salad.

In a large salad bowl, toss together:
1 cup (shelled) edamame, cooked according to package directions
1 6 oz. package fresh baby spinach
1 cup baby carrots, quartered, then cut in half
1 green onion, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup sunflower kernels

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, shake together:
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
pepper

Toss the dressing with the salad; serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Confession: I cut the recipe in half and made it for myself for lunch! Perfect.

You could also add cooked shredded or diced chicken to this, but it's certainly hearty enough on its own! I hope you'll give edamame a try soon.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spiced Apple Cider

 I learned something new last year that I thought I'd share with y'all. Apple juice, apple cider, and spiced apple cider are all different things! Apple cider is what is produced when the apples are mashed and pressed into a liquid. Juice is produced when cider is filtered. Often sugar is also added. Spiced apple cider is just what it sounds like -- cider that has had spices added to it. It can be served hot or cold. "Hard" cider is the one you want to stay away from, as it's alcoholic!

1 gallon natural unsweetened apple juice (or cider)
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine all; heat through and serve. I like to use the slowcooker for mine. It's ready after about 3 hours on low.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Easy-Peasy Pumpkin Muffins

This is the simplest muffin recipe that tastes anything but simple! My friend Chrissy makes these for her family and I love them. It doesn't get much easier than three ingredients.

1 box spice cake mix
1 small can pumpkin
1 cup chocolate chips

Mix all three ingredients -- batter will be stiff. Fill miniature muffin cups three-quarters full. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, or until tops feel firm to the touch. (The color won't change much.)

I love that the ingredients for this recipe can be kept on hand for unexpected company or a quick treat for the family.

Also, I recently borrowed a great cookbook from my granny that highlights delicious recipes that use cake mixes as the main ingredient. Stay tuned for more about those!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Apple Pull-Apart Bread

This is a fantastic breakfast bread! It's filled with apple-y goodness, which makes my sweetie happy. Everyone always loves it, so it's well worth a little extra trouble to make.  

Dough:
3/4 cup warm milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons warm water
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3-1/3 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast

Combine all ingredients in bread machine according to manufacturer’s directions. Choose “dough” setting.

Filling:
1 medium tart apple, peeled and chopped
½ cup finely chopped pecans
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar

In a small bowl, combine ingredients.

Icing:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 - 4-1/2 teaspoons water (or orange juice or apple juice)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

You will also need:
6 tablespoons butter, melted

Divide dough into halves. Cut each half into 16 pieces. Using your fingers, form each piece into a circle. Place 1 teaspoon apple mixture in center of circle; pinch edges together and seal. In a greased 10-inch tube pan, place 16 balls seam side down; pour ½ of butter over, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup apple mixture. Layer with remaining balls; sprinkle evenly with remaining butter and apple mixture. (You can also put the bread in the refrigerator overnight at this point. It will rise very slowly through the night. Just cover the pan with plastic wrap lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Set it out on the counter for 30 - 45 minutes before baking as usual.) Cover and let rise for 30 to 45 minutes. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes; remove from pan to a serving plate. Combine icing ingredients; drizzle over bread.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Making Every Penny Count -- Analyzing Recipes

Here are a few tips for making the most of your favorite recipes as well as new ones you'd like to try. Note: some of these suggestions definitely mean more work for you. If you're serious about cutting the family grocery budget, though, sacrifices must be made!

1. Does the recipe have elements that can be homemade instead of purchased? Some examples are breads, sauces, and seasoning mixes. If you have a bread machine you can make the bread you need for a small percentage of the cost of bakery breads. Sauces are better tasting and healthier when made from scratch, not to mention cheaper! Seasoning mixes tend to be mostly salt combined with common spices/herbs you already have in your spice cabinet. Try making your own, tailoring it to your family's taste.

2. Can you exchange an expensive ingredient for something cheaper? Can you leave it out altogether? One example is pancetta/proscuitto. Many Italian recipes call for these meats, but bacon/ham are much cheaper. Another alternative is going meat-free on recipes now and then. Meats tend to be expensive, so take a look at the casserole or soup or pasta dish you're making and decide if you can "beef-up" the vegetables and leave out the meat!

3. On the subject of vegetables, be sure to assess your family's favorites to find out if they're cheaper frozen, canned or fresh. In general vegetables are best for you fresh, followed by frozen, then canned. In terms of expense, it's worth it in my opinion to buy fresh even though it may cost more, depending on the vegetable. Frozen veggies are often on sale where I shop. Of course, buy what your family will eat, too! If they love green beans from the can but won't eat them fresh, by all means buy them canned -- in the reduced-sodium variety if you can find it.

I'll have more tips for you another day, but in the meantime I hope these help you to save money when you can!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Chunky Chili

It's official. The thermometer has dipped below 60. I'm ready for summer again! But in the meantime I need some really good soups and stews to help me make it through the winter. Here's my recipe for Chunky Chili.

1-1/2 pounds stew beef
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced (include leaves)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2-3 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 can (14 ounce) beef broth
1 can kidney beans (or black beans or pinto beans – use your favorite!)

In a large saucepan, saute onion, celery, garlic, jalapeno and red pepper flakes in oil over medium heat. After cooking for 3-4 minutes, add stew beef and continue to cook until meat is browned all over. Add in chili powder, salt, cumin, and pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Pour in tomatoes and kidney beans. Add beef broth to reach desired consistency – from ½ cup up to the whole can. Reduce heat to low and simmer for at least an hour, stirring occasionally. The beef will tenderize as the chili cooks slowly.

***
This chili freezes really well.

I’d consider this chili a medium heat, but ...

To reduce the heat in this recipe, substitute chopped green pepper for the jalapeno and/or omit the red pepper flakes. To really get the chili flavor, you have to keep the chili powder to at least 2 teaspoons.

To crank up the heat, add a couple of glugs of Tabasco sauce with the tomatoes, increase the red pepper flakes and chili powder, even add another chopped jalapeno! You can also leave the seeds in the pepper, since that's where the heat is concentrated.

How do you eat YOUR chili? Here are some great toppings:

Sour cream
Saltines
Fritos corn chips
Tortilla chips
Shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
Diced green onions
Chopped cilantro or parsley

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Perfect Pairs

I love the classic snack of peanut butter and celery. I don't usually do the typical stuffing of peanut butter in the celery boat. I like to cut the celery rib lengthwise into sticks a few inches long, then dip them into crunchy peanut butter. It's a great snack because even though the peanut butter does contain quite a bit of fat, the protein helps make you feel full. And you can always use natural, low-sugar, or low-fat peanut butter. The best part is that celery is a negative calorie food. It doesn't get any better than that!

Happy Snacking!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cream Cheese Banana Pudding

I cobbled this recipe together after I realized I hadn't bought all the ingredients I needed to make my usual banana pudding. That was one of the best mistakes ever! My sweetie has declared this the best banana pudding he's ever eaten.

8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, cream the cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.

1-3.3 oz. box cheesecake instant pudding mix
1-3.3 oz. box banana cream instant pudding mix
3 cups cold low-fat milk

In another large bowl, whisk the pudding mix and milk until smooth and thickened, about 2 minutes. Add the pudding to the cream cheese mixture and blend well. Fold in half of an:

8 oz container of whipped topping, thawed

In a decorative dish (2 quart), place one-third of the pudding mixture. Top with one layer each:

vanilla wafers
sliced ripe banana

Drizzle with:

caramel ice cream topping

Repeat layers, ending with the final third of pudding. Place a ring of vanilla wafers around outside edge of dish, and fill in the middle with the remaining whipped topping.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Perfect Bacon

Here's the secret to perfect, neat, easy-to-clean-up-after bacon:

Bake it in the oven.

Yep. That's the secret! The first step is to line a baking sheet (with sides) with aluminum foil.

Next, lay your bacon out side-by-side on the pan. You may not be able to fit all 16 slices on there. I just put the rest in the fridge for another day.

Place the pan in the (cold) oven. Set your temperature to 400. Allow the bacon to bake for about 15 minutes. From this point you'll need to watch it carefully. If you like limp bacon, 15 minutes is probably good. Otherwise, check it every 2 minutes until it reaches the crispy level you like best. Keep in mind that it will crisp up slightly after you take it out of the oven, so I usually err on the limp side to allow for that.

Remove the bacon from the pan to paper towels to drain. Blot off the excess grease with another paper towel. Voila! Perfect bacon.

I know -- that's kind of redundant, isn't it?

Now all you have to do is wait for the grease in the pan to cool, then carefully and loosely fold up the foil and throw the whole mess in the trash. It's a beautiful thing.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Sweet Italian Pork Tenderloin

I tend to make my own marinades a lot. The ingredients are always readily available and I can just throw in what I have using flavors I know my family appreciates. As long as you have the basic building blocks of acid, oil and seasonings, you're good to go. And most marinades are interchangeable with nearly any kind of meat you like. The recipe here works best with pork tenderloin in my opinion, but would probably work just as well with steak or chicken if you prefer.

Marinades are perfect for preparing meat ahead of time. When you grocery shop and find that a particular meat is on a sale too good to pass up, go right ahead and get some if you can. When you get home, whip up a marinade -- even something as simple as your favorite salad dressing -- and freeze the meat right in the marinade using a freezer bag . The next time you need a meal with very little prep time, you've got the main dish ready to go. Most meats thaw very quickly in a cool water bath, or at 30% power in the microwave.

1 pork tenderloin
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon crushed rosemary
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Whisk together all ingredients except tenderloin. Place tenderloin in a shallow baking dish. Top with marinade. Marinate for at least two hours. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Making Every Penny Count -- Slowcooker Chicken

My grocery store rotates what meats are on sale each week. As I'm shopping for what's on my grocery list, I always keep my eye out for the sales. Chicken is one thing that is expensive at full price, but goes on great sales. That's when I snap it up! Occasionally I put the packages in the freezer for later; more often I fire up my Crockpot.

I layer aromatic veggies, seasonings and the chicken together in the slow cooker and several hours later I have chicken fully cooked, ready to be shredded and placed in the freezer.

3-4 pounds chicken (I prefer bone-in, skin-on and a mix of dark and white meats)
1 onion, peeled and quartered
handful of baby carrots
a few celery ribs with leaves, cut into 3 inch sections
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 cups of water/chicken broth
(seasoning of your choice, optional)

All this just goes in the slow cooker for  6-8 hours. Boneless, skinless breasts will cook faster and will require the use of low-sodium chicken broth instead of water. Depending on what I'll be using the chicken for, I sometimes add lemon-pepper seasoning or herbs, but mostly I just use S&P since the chicken is going in the freezer to use at a later date.

Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, de-bone it and shred it (or dice it) placing it in quart-sized freezer bags. Don't forget to label the bags with the contents and date! Allow the chicken to cool fully before placing the bags flat in the freezer. Keeping them flat makes for easier storage and faster thawing when it's time to use them.

Finally, you'll want to strain your broth and reserve that, too. Make sure it's cool, then pour it into labelled freezer bags and freeze it flat. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cinnamon Cream Fruit Dip

It's a proven fact that if you give kids something to dip their fruit into, they'll eat more fruit. At least it works for my kids, anyway! Here's the recipe for one of our very favorite fruit dips:

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

This works best when you start with a chilled (ten minutes in the freezer) mixing bowl and whisk (or whisk attachment).

In a stainless steel mixing bowl, whisk the whipping cream until it begins to thicken. Add in the extract, sugar and cinnamon. Continue whisking until the cream reaches a "dippable" consistency and soft peaks begin to form. (Lift your whisk up out of the cream. If peaks stand up, you're set!) Serve cold with fruit for dipping. We love it with apples, but the flavor would work with nearly any fruit your family likes. I use my stand mixer and it takes just a couple of minutes. If you whisk it by hand it will take a little longer, and it will feel like forever!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Apple Thyme Chicken

I'm never sure about the combination of sweet and savory, fruits and meat, but it seems to be very popular. I needed something different to do with chicken breasts the other night, and since I had an apple leftover from another recipe, I thought I'd give it a shot! My family really liked the combination, so I figured it was worth sharing. And now that it finally feels like fall outside, this would be a great new autumn recipe to try.

Marinade:
In a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag, combine:
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 garlic clove, smashed, peeled
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Marinate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Dredge:
In a shallow dish, combine:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon onion soup mix
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Remove chicken from marinade and dredge in the flour mixture.

Saute:
Saute chicken in 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, while covered.  Remove cover, flip chicken and saute for 5 more minutes. Remove chicken to a dish, cover with foil and keep warm.

Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste
Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced
dash of cinnamon

In your skillet, melt the butter, then add in the broth, whisking to pick up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add in the apple slices and cinnamon. Simmer for a few minutes until the apples begin to soften. Add in the chicken, turning to coat in the sauce, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes until chicken is cooked through completely and apples are tender.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Making Every Penny Count

How many times have you stood in your kitchen staring into space, hoping a dinner menu will just appear out of nowhere? That you'll open the fridge and your dinner will be sitting on the top shelf just waiting to be popped into the oven. Well, that's probably never going to happen! But with a little planning ahead of time, it could come pretty close. I get asked a lot how to save money on meals, and how to pull it all together. This series of posts will be about how to do just that.

The key to making inexpensive, quick meals is two-part. First, you need to keep a stock of staples handy in your fridge, pantry, and freezer.  Two, you need to know how to use them! You can click on each of those words to see lists of what I keep stocked, but you'll need to adapt the list to your family's needs/tastes and your cooking style. Staples are generally inexpensive items that are the building blocks you use to make a healthy, tasty meal for your family. If your fridge, pantry and freezer are well-stocked you'll always know what you have and you won't be tempted to say, "Oh, I don't know what to have. We'll just go out to dinner tonight." Planning out several meals you'd like to make each week will save you time and money. If you know what you're going to make that week when you head to the grocery store, you're less likely to be tempted to make impulse purchases that you won't use anyway! That saves you money. I've shown you how I make my grocery list, and that's the process I go through each week. I write down main dishes, the side dishes to go with them, treats ... everything I'm planning to serve over the next several days. I don't buy anything I don't need, and I come home having everything I do need. (Usually!) That saves me time since I don't have to make anymore trips to the store later.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

White Sauce

I use a basic white sauce recipe as a basis for many other recipes. It's a great alternative to buying cream soups, with a lot less sodium and fillers and a lot more flavor. Depending on what you're using it for, you can add different cheeses, herbs and spices. It's very adaptable and extremely easy to adjust the amount you make. all you have to is use a ratio1-1-1 or 2-2-2, etc. Because it uses pantry and fridge staples, I can whip some up in no time at all.

I'll walk you through making a typical lunch for me. I eat this probably once a week because it's so easy and adaptable.

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
(dash of cream) -- if I don't have cream, I use half broth and half milk.
salt and pepper to taste

In a small skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, continuing to whisk, until the flour/butter mixture is golden. Whisk in broth/milk. Let cook for 2-3 minutes until thickened. Salt and pepper to taste.

That's the basic recipe! At this point, I usually add in about a teaspoon or so of fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary and a 1/4 cup or so of Parmesan or Havarti, or whatever cheese I have available.  While I'm cooking the sauce I have water boiling for angel hair pasta, which takes only 2-4 minutes to cook. Once the pasta is done, I drain it and toss it with the sauce. From start to finish, I can have lunch in less than 15 minutes!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Jeni's Pumpkin Bread

I've heard rumors that fall is on its way. I'll believe it when I see it! But a girl can dream, right? So I'll at least think about fall while sharing this recipe for my pumpkin bread. The recipe makes two loaves which means you can have one now and save the other one in the freezer for when it actually feels like autumn!
You can also make this bread into muffins! Just bake at 350° for 16-18 minutes.
 Jeni's Pumpkin Bread

1/2 cup butter
2 large eggs
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 cup chopped pecans

Remove the butter and the eggs from the refrigerator to allow them to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350̊F and coat two 9" loaf pans with nonstick spray.

Place the butter in a mixing bowl and beat at high speed with an electric mixer for 30 seconds. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the mixture is pale yellow and very fluffy. This takes a few minutes and you'll notice a definite difference in volume!

On low speed, add the eggs one at a time. Add the pumpkin puree and orange peel; mix again.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together.

Fold in half of the flour mixture. Stir in the buttermilk and vanilla. Fold in the rest of the flour mixture and pecans. Be careful not to overmix.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans.

Bake until the loaves are golden brown and set in the center, about 40 to 45 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a paring knife into the center of each loaf; if the blade comes out dry, the bread is done. YIELD: 2 loaves

***
This is wonderful with Orange Pecan Butter – soften ½ cup butter, stir in 1 tablespoon grated orange peel, and ½ cup finely chopped pecans.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Tribute to White Beans

We love The Andy Griffith Show! And my sweetie certainly subscribes to Andy's theory here regarding dinner ... If he likes it, he eats it. If not, he doesn't! But he's learned to tell me, too, so if I can fix it I will. If not, I can always fix him a sandwich!

Aunt Bee Taylor: Did you like the white beans you had for supper?
Andy Taylor: Uh huh.
Aunt Bee: Well, you didn't say anything.
Andy: Well, I ate four bowls. If that ain't a tribute to white beans, I don't know what is.
Aunt Bee: Well...
Andy: Eating speaks louder than words.
Aunt Bee: You know, your education was worth every penny of it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fondue Night!

I love fondue! It's so versatile. You can serve whatever you want to use as dippers and everyone can have something they like. You don't have to have a fondue pot to serve it, either, just keep it in a saucepan and reheat as necessary. Ours generally gets eaten so quickly that there's no need to heat it up!
Cheddar Cheese Fondue for dinner! Here, I served it with cubed chicken (seasoned and sauteed), baby carrots, roasted potatoes, and little rolls stuffed with spinach and cheese. It was all good, though I confess that the potatoes nearly caused strife when there were only a few left. Fortunately, no one was stabbed with a fondue fork, but it was a close call. :) I'm always amazed, too, at how many veggies the kids will eat when they can dip them in cheese sauce.


Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
3 potatoes, scrubbed and diced
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

This is a very simple, to-your-taste recipe. Just toss the potatoes with the olive oil and seasonings. I don't actually measure anything for this, so the amounts are all approximate. Bake on a foil-lined baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Take out and stir around, flipping over the potatoes. Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are golden brown.

Dessert -- Double Chocolate Fondue. Wow. This is incredibly rich, but -- wow. Here's a link to the deliciousness. I served it here with marshmallows, apples, bananas (not pictured), and rolls stuffed with peanut butter and strawberry jam.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

This recipe is perfect for hiding veggies in your kiddos' spaghetti sauce. My kids eat this like it's going out of style, and who doesn't need more vegetables in their diet? 

1 green pepper
1 red pepper
3 Roma tomatoes

Broil these on a foil-lined baking sheet until the skin is blackened. Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil. After 10-15 minutes, peel and seed and place in food processor. Blend until smooth.

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 celery ribs with leaves, chopped
3 carrots, scrubbed and chopped (no need to peel)
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 zucchini, chopped (no need to peel)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
salt and pepper

While the peppers and tomatoes are broiling, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a stew pot over medium heat. Saute vegetables with seasoning for 10-15 minutes, until onion & celery are translucent and carrots are getting tender.

2-28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes (plain or with basil -- I use one of each)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups beef broth (you may need more)
1/2 cup packed fresh herbs (I use a combination of parsley, rosemary, and oregano -- off the stem, but no need to chop)

Add tomatoes, paste, broth, herbs, and pepper puree to the pot. Simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Puree sauce in batches in the food processor. (I pour the sauce from the food processor to a large mixing bowl.) Salt and pepper again to taste. Add more broth if you like your sauce a bit thinner. Store in quart size freezer bags (about three cups per bag, you don't want to fill them too full). You'll end up with about 5 bags, so about a gallon of sauce. Lay the bags flat on baking sheets and freeze until firm. Remove them from the sheets and store in the freezer until you're ready for spaghetti!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Perfect Pairs

It's an easily overlooked classic, and you may not have had it since you were about 11 years old, but I find it a perfect solution for when I get a sweet tooth ...

Milk and Chocolate Drink Mix!

Mmm ... chocolate milk is relatively easy on the calories and makes me feel like I've had a treat. I love NesQuik for its chocolately, malty goodness.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Carrot Zucchini Fritters

I don't eat nearly the veggies I should. In the tradition of the South, however, I've found that if you batter and fry something it makes it delicious! Herewith, my recipe for Carrot Zucchini Fritters.

1 green onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 egg
1 medium zucchini, shredded and squeezed dry (no need to peel!)
1/2 cup shredded potato (or refrigerated hash browns)
1 large carrot, shredded (or 5-6 baby carrots)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Oil for frying

Stir together veggies, butter and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Add to veggies and stir just until combined. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 inch oil over medium to medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, drop in 1 heaping tablespoon of batter at a time, flattening it slightly into a little patty as you go. Fry for 4-5 minutes until golden, then flip and cook another 3-4 minutes. (You don't want them to cook too quickly or the potatoes won't be done. You also don't want to make them too big or the centers won't cook.) Drain on paper towels.

You can dip these in your favorite salad dressing, don't dip them at all, or stir together my handy-dandy dipping sauce:

1/2 cup sour cream
juice and grated peel of 1/2 a lemon
2-3 tablespoons of your favorite herbs (oregano, parsley and green onion are a good combination)
dash of salt, dash of pepper

Saturday, September 18, 2010

All-Star Muffin Mix

I love to make muffins for my family! They're quick and easy and very versatile. They also freeze well, so I can make a big batch and keep them handy. I recently found a wonderful recipe for muffin mix that makes them even more convenient. The recipe makes enough mix for 4 batches of muffins. The fun part is coming up with different combinations of stuff to mix into the muffins!


4 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
In a large bowl, combine the first eight ingredients. Store in airtight containers in a cool dry place or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Additional ingredients:
1 egg
1 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup butter, melted

(Each batch of 12 muffins requires 2-3/4 cups of the muffin mix, plus the additional ingredients.)
To Prepare:
Place 2-3/4 cups muffin mix in a large bowl. (Fold in your choice of different ingredients here.) Whisk the egg, milk and butter; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. (Do not over stir!) Fill paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 400° for 16-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack. Serve warm.

Here are some great options for different flavors of muffins:
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1 cup mashed canned peaches
1 cup blueberries
1 cup miniature chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts
3/4 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup shredded apple
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
1/2 cup dried cranberries
zest of one lemon or orange
replace half of the milk with orange juice
1/2 cup shredded zucchini

Use one or two of these options, trying different combinations to suit your family's tastes. Some of our favorites are apple and nuts, zucchini and orange, and chocolate chips and coffee.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Empty Fridge

One reason I'm good at repurposing leftovers and making the most of what I have on-hand is that I can't afford to buy whatever I want and then be wasteful with it. My budget each week for groceries and household items (cleaning supplies, paper products, toiletries) is pretty skinny compared to what I'm sure a lot of people spend, yet it's more than some have to work with. I make all our cleaning supplies (laundry detergent, all-purpose cleaner, dishwasher detergent, fabric softener, bathroom cleaner, etc.) and I use the cheapest quality brands I can for everything. I won't sacrifice quality for price if I don't have to! I trim from other areas in order to shop at a quality grocery store that I know will provide good, lasting, beautiful produce -- combined with great customer service. I use coupons, though I'm definitely not an expert.

But the purpose of this post is to show you what you can do with a little. I have the perfect example for you. This picture of my fridge is typical of what I have to work with by Thursday. (Grocery Day is Friday.)
Top shelf: applesauce, grits, corn on the cob
Drawers: deli meat, cheddar cheese, Laughing Cow cheese, 1 egg, 1 cheese stick, 2 sticks butter
Middle shelf: Mmm ... nothing!
Bottom shelf: whole wheat flour, 1% milk, BBQ sauce
Drawers: apples, lemon, spinach, green onions, 2 carrots

It's not too bad, though, because I do have more stuff in the door:
Pretty much all condiments, more butter, chicken broth, peaches.

It may look hopeless ... and it's certainly not inspiring, but right now it's just not in our budget to be able to bat my eyelashes at Sweetie and ask him to take us out to dinner. He would if he could, but he can't, so we won't! It just so happens that this sort of thing gets my creative cooking juices flowing!

Dinner last night was corn chowder with rolls. I'll post the recipe another time, but here's how it came together with my meager supplies ...


Cream: leftover from a cake on Monday
Cheddar: staple
Butter: staple
Garlic: staple
Corn: leftover
Broth: staple/leftover
Potatoes: staple
Green Onions: leftover
Carrots: leftover/staple
Prosciutto: freezer (bought on sale for $3.99/lb!)
Rolls: leftover (dough from the freezer)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Navigation

I wanted to take a few moments to show y'all a few things about the blog that you may not know.

On the left-hand side, you'll find a search option that will allow you to look for things specifically on this site. Below that is the blog archive. It goes back to the beginning of the posts, listed in chronological order. Below that is a handy list of labels. I have tagged each post with labels that can help you search for specific categories. Let's say you need a quick meal one night. Just click on the "30-minute meal" label and the blog will list out for you each post that is tagged with that label. Do you like a certain category of posts I'm doing like "Perfect Pairs"? Click on that label and you'll see every Perfect Pair post I've done.

In the middle are the posts. If you've found a post you really like, you can click on the title of the post and you will be on a page with just that post. You can bookmark it in your browser or e-mail someone the link, or post it on Facebook. The link will be specific to that post. At the bottom of each entry is the option to comment on posts with questions or to tell me if you did or didn't like the post, changes you made in a recipe when you tried it, anything you want! The labels are located below this.

In the right-hand column at the top is a neat vocabulary game that you can play. It donates rice to needy countries through the United Nations World Food Program. Below that is a list of links to other sites that I enjoy for their food-related topics. Under those you'll find a poll that changes frequently. I'd love to see your opinions there, so be sure to vote!

Perfect Pairs

Need a delicious, refreshing beverage? Look no further than:

Fresca and Orange Juice

I do about half and half ... and it's SO good!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Freezer Staples

A few days ago, I introduced you to some of the pantry staples that I consider essential. Here's a list of some freezer staples:

1.  Freezer Meals -- I usually have at least one casserole on hand in the freezer. They're great for "skinny weeks" when the grocery budget is thin, or for giving to someone in need.

2.  Bagged Vegetables -- I use these for Little One's homemade baby food, plus they're great for portioning out however much I need for a recipe or for rounding out a meal.

3.  Spaghetti Sauce -- I make my own, portion it and freeze it in bags!

4.  "Shake Popsicles" -- The kids love homemade smoothies. I make more than they need in one sitting and freeze the leftovers in popsicle molds. Instant healthy treat!

5.  Rolls -- Most recipes make batches of two dozen. I bake one dozen and flash freeze the other half for storage in the freezer. I can take out and bake as many as I want at once.

6.  Raw Meat -- Chicken, ground beef, some kind of pork are in my freezer most of the time. I buy when it's on sale and use it as I need it.

7.  Cooked Meat -- Using my slow cooker, I cook a big batch of chicken, then shred or chop it and portion it into meal sizes to store in the freezer. It thaws in a flash in the microwave or right in the pot for soup or sauce. Ground beef also freezes well.

8.  Chicken Broth -- I strain the broth from cooking the chicken in the Crock*Pot and store it in the freezer if I won't use it in the next few days.

9.  Pecans -- My sweetie and I love pecans in baked goods! The kids are ambivalent about them. Depending on how kind I feel that day, I may make both kinds. :)

10. Baby Food -- Right now, I keep homemade baby food at all times in the freezer. Each night I take out four containers to use the next day.

11. Fruit -- For use in smoothies and other recipes, mostly berries.

12. Breakfast Items -- My sweetie loves waffles and pancakes, and I freeze the leftovers for another meal. They reheat perfectly in the oven.  I also occasionally make breakfast burritos to keep in the freezer. They thaw quickly with great results in the microwave.