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

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


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.

 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
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.