Monday, December 19, 2011

Slow Cooked Chicken

I don't love housework, but I do love all the "mod cons" - as our friends across the pond call modern conveniences. There's something supremely satisfying about knowing the dishwasher, washing machine and dryer are all working away in the background while I'm busy with other things. I feel the same way about my slow cooker. Knowing that dinner is ready to go with little to no further effort on my part is comforting in a way. It's one less thing to concern myself with as we finish up other chores and work on school for the day. Other than for a meal, I also like to use my slow cooker for large batches of chicken. I buy it as it's on sale, then when I get a few packages I pull them out of the freezer and cook them all at one time. I wrote about that process in this post. I'll be doing that today! I'm cooking down about $5.00 worth of chicken which will translate to about 4 meals for our family. When I have it all packaged up, the shredded chicken will go in the freezer to await its fate in one of these recipes:

Chicken Parmesan Casserole

Thai Chicken Pasta

Chicken Ranch Casserole

Chicken Parmesan Calzones

Chicken Salad

Chicken Pot Pie

... Or any number of other fabulous options!

A special thanks goes out to our "college people", who blessed me with a new slow cooker last night! It's non-stick and stainless steel and programmable ... and I'm so excited! Thank you so much! We love y'all.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pecan Pancake Cookies

I love Snickerdoodles - they're soft, chewy, cinnamon-y ... perfection!  When I found this recipe for them, I fell in love immediately. For your traditional flavor, I don't think those can be beat! But I wanted to jazz up the basic flavor a bit, and so adapted that one into this recipe for what I call Pecan Pancake Cookies.

Pecan Pancake Cookies

1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup pecans, finely chopped (measure, then chop)

1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars with an electric mixer on high speed. Add the eggs, maple and vanilla; beat until smooth.

In another bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix well. Stir in pecans.

Let the dough rest for 30 to 60 minutes in the refrigerator. (Much longer and the dough will be too stiff to work with.)

Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the sugar with the cinnamon, and preheat the oven to 300°.

Roll the dough by heaping tablespoonfuls into balls and coat in the cinnamon-sugar. Press gently onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Repeat for the remaining cookies.

Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes and no more. The cookies may seem undercooked, but will continue to develop after they are removed from the oven. When the cookies have cooled they should be soft and chewy in the middle. Cool on the pan for a couple of minutes, then remove to a wire rack. Yield: about 3 dozen cookies

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Perfect Gift

Need the perfect Christmas gift for someone? Here are a few great ideas ...
  1. A cute little apron ... and my cookbook! 
  2. A basket with muffin mix (homemade or store-bought), a muffin tin and decorative liners ... and my cookbook!
  3. Homemade drink mixes, coffee mugs, herbal tea ... and my cookbook!
  4. Jarred spaghetti sauce, spaghetti noodles, pretty dish towels, a batch of cookies ... and my cookbook!
Notice a theme? Click the "E-Mail Me!" button over to your right to order your copy today! At only $10 plus $2.95 for shipping, they're a great deal.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Weight Loss

Lately I've been trimming down a bit. I have never been concerned about my weight, and have always been comfortable with my size. After the birth of our third baby, though, I found that even though I wasn't gaining pounds, they were redistributing in odd ways. I had one pair of jeans that fit well, and I wore them ALL THE TIME. But when they finally wore out, I knew I had to do something to get into the clothes I had because I sure couldn't afford to buy new ones!

I'm going to share with you a few simple steps I took that have helped me trim up - not that I've lost significant weight (not that I want to) just that I'm definitely a bit slimmer than I was. Actually, I've only lost 10 pounds in about a year! But my clothes fit much better, thankfully.

1. Sweets: I have never had a sweet tooth, so it hasn't been difficult to cut those down to a minimum. I still eat a few cookies when I bake them, but otherwise, I avoid baked goods.

2. Exercise: I love these diets that suggest an hour of exercise a day! When you're a homeschooling mom that is just absolutely impossible! So, I exercise about 20 minutes. Add in the time it takes to get ready (clothes, water, kids settled) and shower after ... that's long enough.

3. Protein: I happen to like protein best out of the food groups, so that's what I eat the most of. I could take or leave bread, so that hasn't been difficult to cut back on. I eat low-fat cheese, peanut butter, hard-boiled eggs, sliced ham, nuts, chicken, bacon, etc.

4. Apples and Bananas: I have eaten lots of apples lately! Both fruits really feel like a full snack when they're cut into slices. I especially like eating them with crunchy peanut butter or Nutella.

5. Eating Less: I have made a concerted effort to eat less often, and less at each meal. Mostly this is because we haven't had a very large grocery budget and I don't have much to snack on! But I eat breakfast (high protein), lunch, snack (about 2-3 in the afternoon) and dinner. I do my best not to eat after dinner, but if I do, it's light and just enough to take the hunger pangs away so I can sleep. I also drink unsweetened hot tea which helps fill my tummy and feels like a treat.

6. One Meal A Day: I have at least one meal a day that I love. I'm not cutting out pasta - I love it too much! And potatoes are not going anywhere - I couldn't live without them! But I do practice moderation. I have found that a completely spartan diet does not work for me. I love food and there's nothing wrong with enjoying it - in moderation.

I haven't been drinking lots of water, no more than usual, I'm not counting calories, and I know I could lose more weight if I would just ________________. But again, my goal isn't truly weight loss, just a slimmer build and not having to buy new clothes!

So, I hope this encourages you to make small changes if you'd like to see a bit of difference in yourself. Obviously, these steps won't help if you're looking for significant weight loss, but they've helped me reach my goal!

Friday, November 18, 2011


I don't usually have anything at all to cook for Thanksgiving, but this year our schedule has changed up a bit. We'll be spending the day with Handsome's family, celebrating not only Thanksgiving, but my father-in-law's 70th birthday! For that event, I'm bringing:

Easy Yeast Rolls - I use this recipe, but substitute honey in place of the sugar, and I usually use 1/2 whole wheat flour.

Buttery Corn Casserole - I'll be using my modified version of this recipe, and doubling it!

Green Bean Bundles - This is a new recipe but it looked so good I thought I'd take the chance. I'm doubling this one, too!

For our church's celebration of Thanksgiving on Sunday evening, I'll be making Cornbread Dressing. My plan is to bulk up the ingredients, stretching the recipe to make a small pan for our family to have another night with chicken and gravy. Yum!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sunday Night Review 11/13

Sunday night I made two new recipes - and one I'd made only once before. All three were crowd favorites!

Baked Spaghetti Casserole - Our Oldest Girl didn't like the addition of cream cheese, but overall it was very well liked.

Crusty Baguettes - Super simple French bread. So good I made it for Monday night's dinner, too! I found the amount of flour to be way off, and actually added 4-5 cups of flour. Definitely let the dough rise, and use a cake pan or something similar to hold the ice - do NOT put it directly on the oven floor!

Brown Sugar Cookies - The maple glaze pushes these cookies over the top! Simple and addictive.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Some time ago, I posted this recipe for Lemon Orzo Soup. Since then, I found two articles on the soup being referred to by its actual Greek name, Avgolemono, which literally means "egg lemon". Pretty descriptive name, don't you think? Anyway, I've been eating this soup a lot lately because it's so filling and easy to make, not to mention fairly cheap. I've not even had pasta to put in it, and it's still enough to tide me over for lunch. In my original post I mention several add-ins you can use to enhance the soup, and I've discovered a new one: Tabasco sauce! A few glugs of that really push the flavor to a whole new level!

As for the articles I read, I think this recipe is a bit heavy on the eggs, but in the comments section there's a recipe for someone's Yia Yia's (Greek: Grandmother) recipe that sounds perfect and gets rave reviews from commenters.

This recipe is actually inspired by the aforementioned Yia Yia's version. Authentically Greek, apparently, though more complicated than my version. I'll definitely be giving this method a try one day!

As I stated in my original post, this soup is perfect for when you're feeling under the weather with a stuffy nose and/or a sore throat. It's my favorite comfort food for cold, blue days!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Green Onions

Did you know you could grow green onions in a glass of water? I didn't either until I read it on the internet recently. And you know that if the internet said it, it must be true! Well, not really - I figured I'd try it out for myself. As it turns out, they grow beautifully!

I change the water every day or so, but other than that, there's no maintenance involved. When I placed the onions in the little glass, they were only root ends with a bit of the white end. This picture was taken about 2 weeks into the experiment. I've yet to taste them, but they look and smell fine. I'll let y'all know how they turn out!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A New Twist on Sandwiches

If you're a mom, you know how tough it is to keep kids happy when it comes to lunch. Maybe you're blessed with little ones who love to make their own PB&Js for lunch every day ... but I'm not! Actually, I don't complain because our Oldest Girl really likes to fix lunch for herself and The Boy. I mostly let them eat what they like (though they only have fairly healthful choices.) The only thing they really get bored with is sandwiches. They love turkey and cheese or ham and cheese, and peanut butter with jelly or honey. After a long stretch of eating those, though, they start to revolt. As a result of seeing that pattern, I try to vary their lunches each week so they don't get tired of the same thing all the time. I fix hot lunches a couple of times a week and the other days they have sandwiches or something they can fix themselves.

One way I keep lunch interesting is to vary the style of sandwiches. They love fillings wrapped and baked in crescent rolls (meat and cheese or PB&J). Tortillas and pita bread are always welcome, too. Whenever we have leftover hotdog buns, hamburger buns, or dinner rolls, they love to have sandwiches made from those. Of course, I change sandwich fillings, too - peanut butter topped with banana or apple slices, raisins, sunflower seeds, honey, jam, or Goldfish is always a big hit. Even though both big kids claim they hate mustard, I often put Dijon on their hot sandwiches like grilled cheese or in meat/cheese crescents. It's a different flavor that they don't identify as mustard, but gives them some variety. They also like Ranch as opposed to plain mayo. When I have fresh herbs handy, it makes Oldest Girl feel like a chef to put those on her turkey sandwich. Shredded carrots, lettuce (or cabbage!), or celery make a nice crunch while adding a few more vitamins and fiber.

What do you do to keep lunch interesting?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Spicy Thai Noodles

I found a delicious recipe for Spicy Thai Noodles via Pinterest a few weeks ago. I have loved this new addition to my lunch repertoire so much that I had to share it with y'all!

The first time I made it, I tweaked it just a bit by adding fresh chopped garlic and ginger in with the oil. Also, I  halved it, added shredded chicken and served it warm. That made enough for me to enjoy for two lunches!

I made the recipe again this week, only I was too lazy to pull up the actual instructions on the laptop. I had a couple of changes I wanted to make, anyway.  I kept my additions of garlic and ginger, and reduced the amount of sweetener. I actually used only a tablespoon of brown sugar (I'm low on honey) and it worked perfectly. I used a combination of soy sauce and a touch of apple cider vinegar (cuts the salty soy!). Also, this time I had cabbage in the fridge, so I shredded some of that to use along with the cilantro, green onion and carrots - no chicken this time. I had that for lunch one day with leftovers in the fridge for another day.

The only catch was that Day One was spicy. I love spice, but I wanted to tone it down a bit for Day Two. I decided to add in a dollop of crunchy peanut butter while heating up the noodles. Perfection.

I should note, too, that I did all the prep work on Day One. I chopped veggies for two servings, and made sauce and noodles for two servings. The veggie toppings went into a ramekin, and the noodles I tossed with the sauce and put into a container, and both went in the fridge. Day Two required only heating the container of noodles (with the dollop of PB) and topping it off with the bowl of veggies. Easy as ... Thai.


I am all about saving some money! On Halloween, a friend posted that he had just carved a pumpkin. Immediately my spidey-senses were tingling! He was planning to come for dinner the next day, so I asked him if I could have his leftover jack o' lantern. He readily agreed, and I was very excited about the prospect of fresh pumpkin! To prepare it, since I use it mainly for baked goods, I carved Jack up into smaller pieces and laid them skin side down onto two baking sheets. Then, I added some water to the pans - just enough to barely cover the bottom. I baked them at 400° until the house smelled really good and the pumpkin was tender. After cooling them for a bit, I used a spoon to scrape the meat out into my food processor. When I needed a touch of water to loosen up the mixture, I used what was left in the baking sheets. To freeze it, I divided the pumpkin into 1/2 cup containers since my favorite recipes call for 1/2 cup or whole cup amounts. All in all, I ended up with over 8 cups of pumpkin! After pricing canned pumpkin at the store, I saved about $12, depending on the brand/sales. My first project was to make a double batch of Jeni's Pumpkin Bread, which I baked into muffins plus one loaf.

It just goes to show that with a little ingenuity and a bit of hard work, you can save a lot of money!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

What's On The Menu?

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I didn't have my usual recipe notebook available this week for making out my menu. After admitting that it wasn't, perhaps, entirely necessary and that life would go on ...

... I harnessed the power of the internet to decide on my family's meals for the week! I don't know if you know about Pinterest, but I love it! When I find recipes I want to try, I "pin" them to my "What's Cookin'?" board (just like a thumbtack on a bulletin board!). The picture is a direct link to the recipe. I also have boards for my geeky stuff, and crafty stuff, and amazing ideas for my house that will never actually be done, etc. Anyway, most of my recipes for this week came from various sources around cyberspace and were pinned to my board to try out "someday".

Pumpkin Pull-Apart Bread - Like monkey bread with maple icing, I am very excited to try this one out!

Potato Gnocchi - I've shared a link to this before, but I won't here because I had to tweak it a lot to get it to work. I'll be posting my version soon.

Broccoli Brown Rice Quiche - I love quiche and this one looks SO good. I never eat the crust on quiche, so I'm very intrigued at the thought of the rice making the crust. I'm really looking forward to this one.

Slow Cooker Lasagna - This one is for my college people Sunday night. The noodles go in uncooked, and it looks like a snap to put together. (You should explore the rest of that site, too! It's a great encouragement to Christian women.)

Butterbeer - Sunday is our Oldest Girl's 11th birthday! We've planned for some number of years to give her the first Harry Potter book on her birthday, and we are beyond excited. As part of the birthday festivities I'll be making this special beverage that is featured in the series. I always though of it as a rich, butterscotch-y version of cream soda, and this recipe seems a perfect match!

I also have a couple of family favorites on the list to make, plus rolls to round out meals, but these are essentially the new recipes I'll be making.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Recipes For Cookbook Signing

Today's the day! Our downtown Fall Block Party is this evening from 5 to 7. I'll be signing copies of my cookbook and I'm making treats to share! I wanted to use recipes that are actually in the cookbook, and are perfect for autumn. I ended up deciding on Jeni's Pumpkin Bread, Snickerdoodles, and Spiced Apple Cider.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sunday Night Review 10/9

On Thursday as I was making out my grocery list for the week, I knew Chicken Pot Pie would make it into the rotation. I've been craving it, and it's a sure winner at our house. When I saw that chicken was on sale, I decided to go ahead and make it for our Sunday night crowd. I made two 9 x 13 pans of it and though we had a small crowd they polished off all of one and half of the other! For veggies in them I used potatoes, corn, carrots, and green beans. I had asked one of the young ladies in the class (a newlywed whose husband is our assistant teacher) to bring dessert. She made Peanut Butter Pie and a Chocolate Mocha Pie, both of which were a big hit! Thanks, Hopie!

Friday, October 7, 2011


Just a quick post to say that Honeycrisp apples are my absolute favorite! I'm so glad they're in season and available again! Handsome prefers Gala, and the kiddos like Red Delicious, and I do like Granny Smith second best ... but Honeycrisps are perfect. They're sweet and crunchy just as their name advertises.

Try one today. You can thank me later.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cookbook Signing!

While walking downtown one day, I stopped into an eclectic little shop called HR Magoo's that sells handmade soaps, lotions, lip balm, art, and lots of other stuff! I chatted with the owners and asked if they'd be interested in hosting a cookbook signing with me. They happily agreed and we set a date, so ...

October 13 will be my first cookbook signing!

It will be in downtown Commerce at HR Magoo's - near Jay's - at 1700 South Broad. It's the pretty red and yellow building! I'll have a table set up with complimentary treats and apple cider, made using recipes from my cookbook. Even if you already have a book, be sure to stop by to say, "Hi!"

Commerce's downtown is having a Fall Block Party, so all the businesses will be open from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Some will have be having sales, complimentary snacks, and a bluegrass band will be playing ... it's sure to be a lot of fun!

I'll be at HR Magoo's from 5 to 7, and I hope to see y'all there! If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me using the "E-Mail Me" button over there to your right, or call HR Magoo's at 770-231-1808

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Butternut Squash Rolls

One easy way to round out a meal is to serve bread. With picky kids I can't always be sure that they'll eat the main course, or even the sides, so it's nice to know that at least they'll have bread and milk! I make all kinds of breads at different times, but I prefer the bread to have some nutritional value if possible. The recipe I'm sharing today makes incredibly delicious yeast rolls, and it's truly not complicated. I used to be scared of yeast rolls, thinking it was too much trouble, but now that I've made them so many times I'm not sure why I was hesitant to get started!

Butternut Squash Rolls

1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup warm milk (110° to 115°) (or buttermilk)
1/4 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
3 tablespoons butter, softened
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup brown sugar or honey
1 cup mashed cooked butternut squash
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided


In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in milk and water. Add the butter, salt, sugar, squash, wheat flour, and 1 cup all-purpose flour; beat until smooth. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down. Form into rolls; place in two greased 9-in. round baking pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Yield: 2 dozen.

Honey Butter - combine equal amounts honey and softened butter. (You can also add a dash of cinnamon!)

(Especially when I made baby food, I would always have cooked squash in the freezer. Nowadays I just buy the frozen cooked, mashed squash or bake an acorn squash to use for this recipe.)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sunday Night Review 10/2

Last night the menu was BBQ Chicken Sandwiches, Twice-Baked Potato Casserole, and Strawberry-Limeade Punch. The chicken was just a mix of light and dark meat mixed with Spicy Honey barbecue sauce and cooked in the slow cooker for several hours.

Twice-Baked Potato Casserole 

5 lb russet potatoes 
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted 
1 cup sour cream
1 green onion, chopped
1-1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350° degrees. Peel potatoes, and cut into chunks. Place in a large saucepan, and add enough cold water to cover by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until tender and easily pierced with a paring knife, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a colander to drain; return to pan.

Mash the potatoes in pan until light and fluffy. Add the cream cheese, butter, and sour cream, and stir until combined and smooth. Add the green onion, 1 cup cheddar cheese, half the bacon, salt, and pepper. Stir until well combined.

Transfer to a buttered 9 x 13 baking dish. Top with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese. Bake until top is slightly golden and potatoes are heated through, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven; garnish with remaining bacon. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Roast Beef Sammies

I don't know what it is, but I love to dip foods. I like raw veggies in salad dressing, potato chips and french fries in ketchup, and I even dip my Chick-Fil-A sandwiches into their Honey-Roasted BBQ sauce instead of spreading it on the inside. It just stands to reason then that I'd love French dip sandwiches. Here's my version:

Roast Beef Sammies

1/2 recipe pizza dough
1/2 pound roast beef (use more if you like! I'm just cheap.)
3 slices provolone
3 slices Muenster
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil3-4 slices of onion
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 sprig rosemary
2 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

In a small sauce pan, saute the onion, pepper, rosemary and garlic in the olive oil until the onion begins to soften. (Sometimes I will saute the roast beef here, too, before I put it on the sandwich. Either way is fine. Remove the beef before adding the vinegar and broth.) Stir in the balsamic vinegar and the broth. Let simmer until you're ready to use it.

Meanwhile, on a lightly floured surface, roll out your dough into a rectangle about 8 inches by 14 inches. (This is a very crucial measurement because it's the size of my largest cutting board.) Anyway, spread the mustard in the middle third of the dough, top with the cheese slices. Top with the roast beef. Fold in the short ends and then fold the long sides over the filling, pressing to seal. Place the sandwich seam-side down on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

Serve the sandwich in slices with the broth on the side for dipping.

(Don't have time to make your own dough? Use a refrigerated, canned dough instead!)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sunday Night Review 9/25

When feeding a crowd it's hard to go wrong with Mexican food. This week I made my Burrito Casserole, doubled, which made 16 burritos. I used ground turkey, which most College People view as healthy and therefore not as tasty as beef, but they loved it anyway, and hey, it's free food! I served rice on the side, and by some weird hiccup of the brain, I didn't make as much as I should have. But no one went hungry!

For dessert, I wrapped Hershey's Kisses in wonton wrappers, brushed them with butter and baked them for 10 minutes at 350°. After placing them on a serving tray, I dusted them with powdered sugar. Yummy, easy, and cheap since the Kisses were on sale ($1.50) and the wontons were leftover from another meal.

On a side note: Before leaving for church, I put the cold, covered casseroles in the oven and set the delayed start function so they'd bake and be ready when we got home. I neglected (another brain hiccup!) to set the "stop time" on the oven. I remembered that towards the end of a long (but engaging and challenging) sermon by a guest preacher. Quickly, I petitioned God to please save our dinner. Well, when we arrived home, the casseroles were still perfect, despite having been in the oven for an hour and fifteen minutes when it should have only been 30! God is good.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ginger-Lemon Pear Freezer Jam

A couple of weeks ago, we went to dinner at the home of some delightful friends. The lady of the house had spent the best part of the day canning pears and she served some of the fruits of her labor with us at the table. One special touch she'd added to her canning recipe was to use ginger and lemon, and the pears were lovely! She send me home with a large bag of pears so I could make some freezer jam. Already, I was feeling inspired to try out the combination of ginger and lemon!

Ginger-Lemon Pear Freezer Jam

6 cups crushed pears (peel, core, and pulse in food processor - do not pureƩ)
4 cups sugar
Juice and peel from one lemon
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated (use a microplane, or chop finely)
1.75 ounce packet low-sugar pectin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place pear, lemon juice and peel, vanilla and ginger in a stock pot. Stir in pectin. Place pan over high heat; bring to a boil. Stir in sugar; cook 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam from surface; discard. Stir 5 minutes to ensure fruit is suspended in jam. Divide jam into jars, seal, and allow to come to room temperature. (Not more than 24 hours.) Store in refrigerator for 3 weeks or in the freezer for 12 - 18 months.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cheddar Snack Crackers

My Little One (and everyone else in the family, honestly) loves Goldfish snack crackers. They're a fairly cheap, easy snack and I don't have a problem with them being not technically "healthy" because Little One's diet is generally free of junk food. I decided recently to try my hand at making the homemade version. The recipe I tried was perfect! I made one minor addition (of paprika) and loved the way they turned out. We call ours Daisies because the only cookie cutter I had that was small enough is flower-shaped.

Cheddar Snack Crackers

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 tablespoons butter, cut up
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2-3 tablespoons water

In a food processor, pulse the cheese, butter, flour, salt and paprika until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, pulsing until mixture comes together. You just want it to stick together, not to make an actual smooth "dough". (Like a pie crust if you're familiar with that process.) Anyway, take the mixture out of the processor and place in a large square of plastic wrap. Wrap tightly, pressing together into a disc. Place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. (If you leave it over an hour, you'll want to take it out to warm slightly before working with it.) On an area lightly dusted with flour, roll the dough out thinly, about an 1/8 of an inch. Use a small cookie cutter to make your crackers, transferring them to a greased baking sheet. You can make the sheet pretty full, as long as the shapes don't touch.

Bake at 350° for 12-14 minutes. They'll puff, but you don't want them to brown. Remove from the baking sheet onto a cooling rack lined with a paper towel.

This picture shows some of them flipped over so you can see the lightly browned bottoms.

I can't wait to try little variations on these like combining cheeses, dusting them with seasoning, and substituting whole wheat flour!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Chicken Nuggets

Well, after battling a cold for a week, I'm finally feeling better today! It's nice to be "back". 

I've seen recipes on-line for fake Chick-Fil-A nuggets, and thought I'd try my hand at it. None of the recipes I looked at seemed to have just the right ingredients, though, so I ended up making up my own concoction. Basically, though these don't taste exactly like the real deal, they were very yummy and the entire family loved them and were disappointed when they were gone!

1-1/2 to 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/3 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon pickle juice (for that special CFA touch, or you could use apple cider vinegar instead)
1 egg white
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Oil, for frying

In a medium-sized bowl, stir together all ingredients except chicken and oil.  The mixture will be thick and sludgy, but smooth. Stir in the chicken and let marinate for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When you're ready to start frying, preheat the oil in a large skillet to about 350° to 375°. (An inch to inch and a half of oil should be enough. You're not deep-frying.) Drop the chicken in, one piece at a time, making sure the pan is not overcrowded and the pieces do not touch each other. Fry for 3-4 minutes, then flip to the other side to fry for another 3-4 minutes, until cooked through. I did mine in two batches, so depending on the size of your skillet you'll need to do two or three batches. Drain them on paper towels, and serve with your favorite dipping sauce! Little One eats hers plain, Handsome and I love barbecue sauce, Oldest Girl prefers Ranch ... and the Boy likes a mixture of Ranch and ketchup he calls "Retchup". Nice, huh?

And if you haven't seen Tim Hawkins' touching tribute to our favorite place to "Eat Mor Chikin", you should check it out HERE.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ginger Tea

Nothing says "It's Fall!" like cold and flu season! Though my kids are homeschooled, I get a sore throat at the beginning of the school year every fall just because of all the instructing/reading aloud I'm doing that my voice is not used to. And inevitably we get those winter sniffles.

This year, though, I have a "secret" weapon! People have told me for years to use honey, ginger, garlic, etc. to fight colds and I'm doing it this go-round. Today, I made peppery, sweet, surprisingly scrumptious Ginger Tea to soothe the sore throat that's been creeping up on me.

Ginger Tea

1-1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and shredded
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey

In a small saucepan, bring two cups of water and the ginger to a boil. Simmer the tea for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the lemon juice and honey into a mug. When the tea is ready, strain it into the mug. Enjoy!

(You can certainly adjust the lemon and honey to your taste.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

General Tso's Chicken

Handsome and I love Chinese food. It just so happens we don't have a really good place around here to get it, which makes it a rare treat. When I recently came across a recipe for General Tso's Chicken, I knew I had to make it - it's Handsome's favorite!

While there are a few steps involved, each one is key to making the dish a success. The chicken has to be cubed and coated with marinade/batter and fried, the veggies have to be prepped and steamed, the rice cooked, the sauce whisked ... but it's all totally worth it! This was head and shoulders over any, ANY restaurant I've ever tried. Being General Tso's, it IS spicy, but that can be adjusted. And I only had to buy one special ingredient to make this recipe - the Chinese chile-garlic sauce - which was essential since that's the source of the heat.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sunday Night Review 9/11

I am a huge fan of warm weather! To me, the worst part of summer is how super-cooled people keep any given building. I dread that blast of air conditioning that hits after the warmth of the sun. But I know I'm mostly alone on that point, though Handsome shares my opinion, thankfully!

Despite my preference for summer, I do love fall for various reasons: the leaves changing color, the crisp (not cold!) air, the smell of burning leaves, marching band season, and the fact that fall is so perfect for comfort food like soups and stews. Last night for dinner I made two simple soups - Veggie Beef, and Cheesy Potato. Both were very simple to throw together, and turned out to be quite tasty, too! I made Honey-Wheat Yeast Rolls to go with the soups, and Autumn Cupcakes for dessert.

Cheesy Potato Soup

1 (30 ounce) package shredded hash browns
1 (10-3/4 ounce) can cream of chicken soup
6 cups chicken broth (1-1/2 cartons)
1/2 onion, chopped
8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese 
salt and pepper
8 ounces cream cheese (I used reduced-fat, but fat-free will NOT melt)

In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients except the cream cheese. Cook on low for 6 hours. Add in cream cheese, stirring and continuing to heat until melted, about 30 minutes to an hour.

(See, I told you it was easy!)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bored With Breakfast?

I've done a few posts in the past on how to make baked goods better for you by boosting their nutritional content, but this morning I thought I'd encourage you to change things up if the kids (or you) are bored with the same old thing. It's amazing how a little change can make something taste so different.

Pancakes are such an easy breakfast! I don't make them often because my kids prefer cereal over most everything else, but I like to have them once in a while anyway. I rarely make plain pancakes, but prefer to add different flours and flavor combinations. This morning I used a recipe from Simple & Delicious with cornmeal (it adds such delicious sweetness!) and whole wheat flour and served the pancakes with Honey-Cinnamon Butter instead of syrup. All three kids loved them! The Boy rated them a 100 on a scale of 1 to 10.

(Note: The link for Simple & Delicious is just to their site, not for the recipe, since it's a new one and therefore "subscriber-only")

Monday, September 5, 2011

Cake Solutions- Trifle!

One thing I hate to do in the kitchen is to waste anything! It happens, but I truly do my best to make the most out of everything we have. It's amazing what little bits of food can be re-created into for future meals. One example is cake. Ever had a cake layer fall apart when you tried to remove it from the pan? Turn the mess into a trifle! Want a cake for your small family but don't need the amount that's in a two-layer? Freeze the second layer and make it into a trifle later. I don't make a lot of baked goods to have around the house. One reason is that we flat don't need it! But last week we had The Boy's birthday party. I just needed 4 cupcakes - one for each boy - and instead of trying to adapt a recipe to make a tiny amount like that I simply used a boxed cake mix and baked 'em all! I used what I needed for the party and rather than let the rest sit around for a few days, they went in the freezer. A week later, on Saturday night, they went into the fridge to slowly thaw. Sunday afternoon, I made them into a delicious trifle!

There's no real recipe involved here. You just break leftover cake/cupcakes (undecorated) into a trifle bowl, layer with prepared pudding, add more cake, more pudding, and top the whole thing off with whipped cream. My cupcakes were chocolate and I used white chocolate and chocolate fudge puddings (since I was making this for a crowd I used 2 packages of pudding), and also crumbled a Butterfinger candy bar into the layers, too.

Trifle is so easy to throw together since you can keep everything you need on hand. It's versatile since it's hard to go wrong combining cake and pudding. Fruits make a interesting addition, too. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Apple-Cinnamon Rolls

Since Handsome was going to be home Friday, I decided Thursday night to set up some cinnamon rolls for baking as a breakfast treat. Since Handsome loves all things apple, I decided to try an experiment with said cinnamon rolls. I made my standard recipe, but also sprinkled diced apples on the dough after the cinnamon, sugars, and pecans. I then proceeded as usual.

My friends, they were divine!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sunday Night Review 8/28

This past week I asked a friend who often comes on Sunday nights to bring dessert to our gathering. She is a lot of fun and is known for her cooking skills, especially sweets! She brings breakfast for the youth Sunday School class she teaches, and they love it. For us, she made a strawberry swirl cream cheese pound cake. It was fabulous! One of our guys especially kept going back and back ... and back! Our two big kids had the two leftover pieces for breakfast the next morning. For dinner I made Chicken Ranch Casserole, one with veggies and one without. Both 9 x 13 dishes were scraped clean by the end of the night! I also served Bisclettes, and when the second batch was ready to come out of the oven I had a crowd waiting for them.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Contest Follow-up

Yes, I was supposed to announce the "guess the ingredients" contest on Friday, but life happened. I had a birthday party for 7-year old boy, a toddler battling a six day case of hives, grocery shopping, lost car keys, a sleepover, and other everyday stuff that all conspired against me.

In short, no one guessed all 13 ingredients correctly! Here's the list: onion, garlic, zucchini, carrots, salt, pepper, olive oil, oregano, rosemary, red peppers (pureed),  green pepper, celery, crushed red pepper flakes.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fun Contest

So I was making spaghetti sauce this afternoon, and I thought, "Man, there are a lot of ingredients in there!" Which led me to wonder if anyone could guess what was in the pot ... which led me to a contest!

The first person to guess correctly the BAKER'S DOZEN ingredients in the pot, wins a copy of the Barefoot In The Kitchen Cookbook! You must list all THIRTEEN ingredients, with nothing missing or added.

Here's a picture of the pot:

And a close-up: (You can also click on the picture to enlarge it.)

I leave you with one hint: There are NO tomatoes in the sauce yet!

The contest will end in 24 hours (deadline: 4 pm Friday!) - but only ONE guess per person. Have fun!

Apple-Carrot Muffins

Apple-Carrot Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup old-fashioned oats
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice
2 eggs
2/3 cup melted butter
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups finely shredded carrots
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and shredded.

In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients until well blended. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients, including carrots and apple. Add the wet to the dry, stirring just until everything comes together. (If you overstir, your muffins will be tough.) Fill greased or lined muffins cups 3/4 full. Bake at 375 for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool slightly before removing to a wire rack. Yield: 2 dozen muffins

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sunday Night Review 8/21

Every once in a while, I love to make breakfast for supper. It's my favorite meal, mainly because it doesn't generally include any vegetables! It tends to be my go-to meal when the cupboards are otherwise bare. Of course, I much prefer to plan ahead and actually make a really good breakfast menu! That's what I did for this past Sunday night. I never know ahead of time how many "college people" are going to show up from week to week, and breakfast usually stretches pretty easily. We had the most people I think we've ever had this time, with 20! Add our kids into the mix, and you know we had a packed house.

Here's the menu:

Hashbrown Casserole
*Brown Sugar Bacon (one of the college guys has dubbed it THE Bacon and that name has stuck!)
*Scrambled Eggs
Cinnamon Rolls (2 pans, 32 rolls. Half with pecans, half without.)
**Apple-Carrot Muffins (These were just leftover from a Saturday baking session.)

I figure everyone has a recipe for Hashbrown Casserole, but I'll share mine with you here, anyway! It's really simple, and one of my favorite dishes.

Hashbrown Casserole
1 package frozen Southern-style hashbrowns
1 can (10-3/4 oz.) cream of chicken soup
8 ounces sour cream
8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Salt and pepper to taste

Stir all ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes, until bubbly and cheese is completely melted.

* These recipes are in my cookbook, but I haven't shared them on the blog yet.
** I'll share this recipe soon, in another post.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Delicious Lunch - Tomato Soup

I had a very tasty, surprisingly filling lunch yesterday! I had taken a chance at Kroger the other day and bought a carton of tomato soup from the organic section, and it seriously paid off. I spent about $3 on the carton of Imagine Garden Tomato Soup, compared to about $1 on the standard Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup. Keep in mind, though, that I'll get 3-4 servings from the carton, and the can would only be 1 serving. Continuing the comparison:

80 calories
300mg sodium
16g carbs
2g sugar
2g fiber
2g protein
15% vitamin A
30% vitamin C
2% calcium
4% iron

90 calories
480g sodium
20g carbs
12g sugar
1g fiber
2g protein
8% vitamin A
10% vitamin C
0% calcium
4% iron

To boost the flavor and  nutrition, I added 1/2 cup roasted red pepper puree, fresh-ground black pepper and a sprinkling of feta cheese. For the puree, I roasted two peppers in my oven until they were blackened. Immediately after removing from the oven, I covered them tightly with foil and let them steam. Then I removed the skin (it slips off pretty easily!), seeds and stems. The meat of the pepper went straight into the blender along with the juice from the steaming packet and a couple of tablespoons of water. I pureed it, pouring some into the pot with my tomato soup, some into the carton with the rest of the soup, and the remainder went into freezer containers for another time!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sunday Night Review 8/14

This Sunday night was special since it marked The Boy's seventh birthday. I wanted to make something he really likes, but that everyone else could enjoy, too. Almost immediately, I knew: Mexican food is always a sure bet with our crowd! Build-your-own tacos are a great option for a crowd, because everyone can serve themselves just what they like. Vegetarian, lactose-intolerant, low-carb ... there's something for everyone!

The menu is simple, with little actual cooking involved. I sauteed a couple of pounds of ground venison with onion and garlic, and seasoned it with cumin, red pepper flakes, chili powder, salt and pepper. Then I stirred in some salsa, a bit of beef broth, and a can of vegetarian refried beans. I also cooked up a pot of rice, using beef broth instead of water. Everything else just needed to be heated or chopped or diced! To top the flour tortillas, I provided lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, black beans, corn, and sour cream.

For dessert, I made a chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting. It was VERY good! And what's birthday cake without ice cream? One of our guys works at Mayfield Dairy and he had given us a coupon for a free "half-gallon" (1.75 quarts these days!) of ice cream. We went with Cookies and Cream.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Venison Pot Roast

I know, it's been a while since I really updated, and I'm sorry! I've had a very busy week, in which The Boy turned 7, Handsome turned, um, another year older, and lots of other stuff happened. At any rate, I'm finally getting around to posting my recipe for venison roast!

Handsome's birthday is just two days apart from our good friend EC's birthday, so we had EC over to celebrate with us. I wanted to make something special and my sweet friend The Crazy Goat Lady had given us a venison roast which I thought would be perfect for the occasion. Except that I couldn't find a good recipe anywhere! I knew venison roasts could be gamey or tough if not cooked properly and I needed pointers. I eventually found inspiration in a couple of places and came up with this delicious recipe. The roast was really perfect. Tender, juicy, flavorful, not gamey at all! I served it with mashed potatoes, gravy, fried squash, carrots, green beans, and Bisclettes. And may I say that it is a such a joy to feed someone who (besides Handsome and me) actually enjoys eating what I cook!

Venison Pot Roast

1 venison roast, bone-in
4 slices bacon, cut into thirds
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 cup beef broth
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, halved

Rinse the roast in cold water and place in a slow cooker, and top with remaining ingredients. Cook on low for 8-9 hours. I turned it over halfway through the time, just to make sure that it stayed in the cooking liquid. At that time, I also added in baby carrots so I'd have one side dish that didn't need tending!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sunday Night Review - 8/7

Wow, has it been a crazy, busy week! And we haven't even started school yet!

Anyway, Sunday night I kept it simple. We had burgers (I seasoned the meat with lemon-pepper seasoning and a bit of soy sauce) along with chips. I served my Summer Cake for dessert. I'd share the recipe with you, but Jeff wants me to have a "secret recipe", just like any Southern woman worth her salt, I guess!

I do have a couple of new recipes that I CAN share with you, and those will be coming up soon. I hope y'all are having a great week!

Friday, August 5, 2011

My Littlest Chef

The other day when I was cooking, Little One (18 months) wanted nothing more than to sit on my hip! Since I really needed both arms, I decided to pull up our little stool and let her go to town with a bowl and whatever she could find.
As I chopped things, she ended up with the scraps - herbs, zucchini, potato, green onions. It was too sweet the way she would stir them together, pretend to put them in, "taste" everything ... and look up at me to make sure I was watching! She had so much fun that she cried when I had to get her down.

I'm typically impatient in the kitchen, and don't always enjoy having my kids in there "helping" because I'm just anxious to get dinner on the table. I've been making an effort, though, to involve the kids more. Oldest Girl (10) and The Boy (7) have taken on the responsibility (and fun!) of choosing one meal a week each to plan and make. They help me with everything from the grocery list to the clean up! I've had fun with them being a part of the whole process, and they love it, too.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Baked Chicken

Yesterday, I baked a chicken for dinner using a cool baking contraption my mom bought for me.

It works just like the "Soda Can Chicken" concept, only you can use whatever liquid you like in the middle. My favorite thing is fruit juice - orange or apple, or a blend of different citrus juices.

The chicken sits in it, like a special little chair.
I marinated the chicken this time (I don't always), in a blend of onion, garlic, rosemary, thyme, sage, salt, pepper, and apple juice. Then you just bake the little guy (gal) for about an hour at 375°, testing with a meat thermometer to make sure it's done.

The lovely part about this is that you can use the meat for your meal, then make broth with the bones! I have a pot working right now (it smells SO good!) full of my chicken bones, carrots, onion, and S&P. After simmering it for a couple of hours, I'll strain everything out, then let the broth sit in the fridge overnight. In the morning I'll skim off the fat and store the broth in the freezer.

Bonus: I only paid about $3.50 for this chicken and it will provide two meals, plus the broth for another one or two meals.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Smooth Strawberry Soup

If you like strawberries, you will LOVE this soup. It is sweet, cool, creamy, pink, and divine! It's a wonderful special treat for our family. The blend of flavors is perfect.

Smooth Strawberry Soup

1 quart strawberries, halved 
2 cups apple juice (natural, unsweetened)
1 cup (8 ounces) reduced-fat sour cream 
1/4 cup packed brown sugar 
1/2 cup honey 
2 tablespoons lemon juice 
1-1/2 cups half-and-half cream 
3 tablespoons orange juice

In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients. Place half of the mixture in a blender; cover and process until pureed. Transfer to a large bowl. Repeat with the remaining strawberry mixture. (At this point you can strain the mixture to remove the strawberry seeds, but it's not necessary.) Stir in cream and orange juice. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bookworm Birthday Party

When our Oldest Girl turned 2, I had a book-themed birthday party for her. She loved (loves) books! I found an old notebook of mine today while cleaning out/organizing a bookshelf and found the notes I had written on that party. Here are the ideas I used for the menu:

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish ... Goldfish! (Dr. Seuss) - a bowl of Goldfish snack crackers.

Click Clack Moo Juice (Cronin/Lewin) - Mocha Punch

Today I Feel Silly Cupcakes (Jamie Lee Curtis) - I used a basic cupcake recipe and frosting. I provided a variety of candy so guests could decorate their own cupcake.

Where The Wild Things Are Monster Mix (Sendak) - homemade caramel corn with peanuts

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs (Barrett) - my standard meatball recipe - a small jar of grape jelly and a jar of chili sauce mixed with meatballs and heated in a slow cooker.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad ... Vegetables (Viorst/Cruz) - Um, a tray of veggies, of course!

Bread and Butter Battle Book (Dr. Seuss) - homemade rolls with homemade cinnamon-honey butter

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (Numeroff) - cookies! I don't remember what recipe I used, and my only note on this says, "dipped sandwich cookies".

At each of the dishes, I placed the corresponding children's book. As conversation starters, I printed out the first lines from different children's books so that people could guess the book. The party invitations were apple shapes cut from red construction paper - "It's a birthday party for a bookworm!" I made a brown worm tab that you could pull from the apple. The worm wore glasses and had a message written down his body - "We can't wait to see you!"

This is also a great idea for a back-to-school party, or just a celebration of great children's literature!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sunday Night Review: 7/31

Our church had a big end-of-summer cookout/picnic party last night, which means I didn't cook dinner. I did make some cookies to share, though! Since Handsome and I are involved in two Sunday School classes - one of other old people like us (ha!) and the one we teach with the college/singles, I made two batches of cookies. I took some of both to each class's cookout. The first batch I made was my Mint Chocolate Softies. Then I changed up the recipe a little and made Strawberry Softies. I just used strawberry cake mix instead of the chocolate, and mini chocolate chips instead of the mint chips. I needed the mini chips for another recipe so that's what I bought, but I really wanted to try white chocolate chips in the strawberry cookies. At any rate, the general consensus was that the Strawberry Softies were even better than the Mint Chocolate!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Seasoned Potato Wedges

Dinner tonight is a sure crowd-pleaser! Everyone in the family will eat Joe's Sloppy Joes - what a blessing! Tonight they're made with ground turkey and a bit of barbecue sauce. On the side, I'm serving Seasoned Potato Wedges, which our Oldest Girl will certainly not be eating. Well, other than the one little one she has to eat in order to score dessert! But trust me when I say that unless you hate potatoes, you'll adore these scrumptious wedges.

Seasoned Potato Wedges

1/3 cup all-purpose flour 
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
1 teaspoon paprika 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 large baking potatoes (about 2-3/4 pounds) 
1 cup milk 
1/4 cup butter, divided

In a resealable sandwich bag, combine the flour, Parmesan cheese, paprika, salt and pepper. Cut each potato into eight wedges; dip in milk. Place in the bag, a few at a time, and shake to coat. Place on a greased, foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons butter. Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 20 minutes. Turn wedges; drizzle with remaining butter. Bake 15-20 minutes longer or until potatoes are tender and golden brown.

We dip them in ketchup and sometimes the kids use ranch.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Homemade Ice Cream

Though I am not a big fan of ice cream, my family loves the stuff. Since we don't have an ice cream maker, I have experimented over the years with sherbets, sorbets, and other recipes that don't require a maker. Today I found the perfect solution: a method for making ice cream without a machine! You can use any recipe you like using this method. Sure, it's a little time-consuming, but if you love ice cream and don't want to invest in an actual ice cream maker, this is perfect!

I can't wait to try this out!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sunday Night Review

By request, I made calzones for this Sunday night. It's one of those things I serve that everyone loves, more or less because they can customize it to their own taste. My general routine for feeding my college people calzones is to make a double batch of pizza dough the day before. Sunday morning at church I try to find everyone I can who usually comes on Sunday evening to give them a list of calzone fillings. They mark what they want, making sure their name is on the paper. Then, on Sunday afternoon, I make up as many as I can ahead of time. To keep track of who belongs to which ball of dough on the baking sheet, I use cake decorations. A single orange star for the Tennessee fan, brown jimmies for the UGA soil expert, a blue star and a white star for the guy with the sweet blue and white Mustang, purple because it's her favorite color, etc. The fillings this week were green pepper, chicken, onion, pepperoni, ham, spinach, cheddar cheese, mushrooms, and mozzarella cheese.

For dessert I made Tiramisu and they practically licked the bowl clean!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Stretching Leftovers

For dinner Thursday night, I made pork tenderloin in a simple marinade of garlic, rosemary, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. It's one of my absolute favorite marinades for pork! After feeding my family, plus a friend who had come over to babysit the little ones (praise the Lord!), I had about a four-inch section of tenderloin leftover. Not much, but I rarely throw anything away! I'm glad I kept it because today I needed a simple dinner to come together quickly for Handsome and me. I ended up doing two different things.

#1: I NEVER fix sandwiches for Handsome for dinner. He eats sandwiches every single day for lunch: I know the last thing he wants to see on his dinner plate is a square of bread staring at him. But ... he had Dairy Queen and ice cream for lunch, so I bent my rule a bit. His dinner was indeed a sandwich: sliced pork tenderloin, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, fresh spinach, and Swiss cheese. He loved it!

#2: I didn't want a sandwich. I made pasta with my portion of the pork tenderloin. I mixed angel hair pasta, spinach, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cubed tenderloin, freshly ground black pepper and feta cheese. I loved it!

I love taking bits of leftovers and remaking them into something delicious.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Polenta Parmigiana

I mentioned a few posts ago that I had plans for a polenta dish ... well, I finally got around to making it! It was fun, adventurous and in my opinion yummy! Handsome liked it despite the fact that it's not really his cup of tea. Naturally, the children did NOT like it, though I really hoped they would. It was a nice meal-in-one, since there are so many veggies in the marinara sauce. Salad and bread round it out nicely.

Basically, I just combined a few of my favorite elements into one dish. I made Braised Venison (cooked with onion, garlic, rosemary and balsamic vinegar), Marinara Sauce, and White Sauce (with Parmesan) and served them over a dish of creamy polenta.

If you're not familiar with it, polenta is a dish similar to grits, as it's made with cornmeal. It's creamier, though, because the corn is more finely ground. Here's the recipe I used to make this dish the other night:

Creamy Polenta

1 cup yellow cornmeal
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

Bring the chicken stock and milk to a boil in a large saucepan. Very slowly whisk in cornmeal, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Reduce heat and continue whisking until liquid is absorbed and polenta is thickened. Add Parmesan, with salt and pepper to taste.

I used this simple version because the other elements in my meal had so much flavor. If you were serving the polenta as a side dish you'd probably want to punch up the flavor by adding in fresh herbs, cheese, or pesto.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Thank You!

I wanted to post a quick message to all of you who've bought cookbooks:

Thank you so much!

I've had so many people buy a cookbook only to contact me later with requests for more as gifts for family and friends. It means a great deal to know that not only are y'all enjoying the books, you want to share them with others. It's also amazing to see how many times God has orchestrated events that have allowed me to share my books with people I never imagined. One example happened just today: I parked in our downtown in a spot I never intended to be, but it led to an encounter with a friend and the sale of at least 6 more books!

So, again, thank you! And keep the orders coming!

My biggest fans! Yes, they're both reading the cookbook. :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Party Snacks

Friday night we had a get together with our college folks - a photo scavenger hunt. This was the third one we've done, and everyone seems to love it. We put crazy stuff on the list like a rotary-dial telephone, a walrus and a Disney VHS tape, along with fun bonus pictures such as "I can't believe we all fit in there!" Anyway, this year we made the finish line a surprise and they had to follow hidden clues to get there. When they arrived, we had snacks set out for them to munch on while we waited for each team to make it to the finish line.

We had eaten dinner earlier that evening, so I really just wanted to have popcorn and sweets. I made Mint Chocolate Softies and Key Lime Bites, Watermelon Sorbet, and provided a few seasoning mixes (Italian Parmesan, Cinnamon Sugar, and Spicy) for people to sprinkle on their popcorn. For punch, I mixed Fresca and orange juice and stirred in scoops of orange sherbet.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sunday Night Review

Last night I made one of my family's favorites for dinner. It's really easy to throw together, and is pretty cheap, too. The recipe makes a full 9 x 13 dish and I fed 10 with it - even have a bit leftover for lunch today! I also made my standard focaccia recipe. All in all, a hearty cheap meal that everyone likes!

Chicken Parmesan Casserole

1-26 ounce jar pasta sauce (I use my homemade stuff)
1-16 ounce box pasta (rotini, penne, shell, etc.)
3 cups cubed/shredded cooked chicken
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to pot. Stir in pasta sauce, chicken and mozzarella. Pour mixture into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. In a small bowl, stir together bread crumbs, Parmesan and butter. Sprinkle over casserole. Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes, until heated through and topping begins to brown.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Women Walking Worthy - July Meeting

I mentioned the other day that I signed up to provide food for the July meeting of WWW. Well, I had 5 young women from the college ministry to help me and we had a lot of fun! Monday, Katie came over and helped me prepare some things ahead of time. Tuesday, Kim came early and helped me at home, then went with me to the church. Hope, Pam, and Tiffany met us there and helped with all the last-minute things. Naturally, I forgot to take my camera for pictures, but here was our menu:

Sliders - With cheese, lettuce, tomato, bacon, ketchup and mustard to go on them! I thought the onion was a bit strong, so I'd go lighter on that next time.

Corndogs - We used this recipe, but I found the batter too thin. I made the classic mistake of adding all of the liquid called for instead of holding some back just in case! You can always add liquid to batter, but you can't take it out. (And, no, I didn't have flour there to thicken it.) Otherwise, fabulous recipe!

Bacon Potato Salad - I modified the recipe slightly by using 2 green onions instead of a cup of white onion, apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar, and Dijon mustard in place of the yellow.

Fruit Flower Garden - Watermelon, kiwi, pineapple, blackberries, grapes, strawberries. We fashioned some of the fruits into flower/butterfly shapes, and placed them in a pretty platter lined with green leaf lettuce and parsley.

Lemon Cream Dip - This couldn't be easier! Marshmallow creme, cream cheese, a touch of lemon extract and a drop of yellow food coloring.

Funnel Cakes - The recipe was perfect! I made "mini" versions so everyone could have some.

Beach Scene Cupcakes - We topped the cakes with a flat layer of icing, dipped them in graham cracker crumbs and completed the beach with fruit leather "beach towels" and cocktail umbrellas.

Strawberry Lemonade Punch - Just like my Strawberry Limeade Punch, with lemonade concentrate instead of lime.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sunday Night

I needed a simple supper this week for my college people. I picked up a deli tray from Kroger with mesquite turkey, buffalo chicken, and smoked ham, plus three kinds of cheese. Unbaked dinner rolls from the bakery made perfect fresh sandwich buns. Lettuce, tomato, and all the usual condiments completed the main course. I picked up a couple of bags of chips, too. One of the college girls came over Sunday afternoon to help me get everything ready. We baked the rolls, sliced tomatoes, prepped lettuce, baked my "secret recipe" chocolate chip cookies (it's in the cookbook!), and made chocolate-covered pretzel rods. All those require is melting chocolate, dipping the sticks in (or in or case, drizzling the sticks with the chocolate) and then sprinkling with various colored sprinkles, jimmies, sugar, etc. We had a little melted white chocolate leftover, and we decided not to let a good thing go to waste: I drizzled it over the cooled cookies. Yum! I was glad we had plenty of food because we had a larger crowd than usual (besides my family, we had 12). What a blessing!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Food Overload

*** Don't forget to get your copy of the Barefoot in the Kitchen cookbook! Email me using the envelope button over to the right and send one on its way to you! ***

I have several food projects/recipes that I'll be tackling over the next few days:

Last night I made a new blueberry muffin recipe using some fresh blueberries that a friend gave me from her mother-in-law-'s blueberry bushes. They were amazing! I'll definitely be making them again.

I'm especially excited about tomorrow morning's Coffee and Cream Doughnuts! I actually don't like sweets first thing in the morning, but these sound so good ... I think I'll make some bacon to round out the meal nicely.

Of course, we have our usual Sunday night crowd, though I've opted for simple sub sandwiches, chips, and chocolate-drizzled pretzel rods.  Mainly because ...

... On Tuesday night is our monthly ladies' meeting, and I'm in charge of the food! I have a great group of girls helping me (college people) and it promises to be lots of fun. We're using a beach theme and I can't wait to see how everything comes together!

I'll also be making a batch of spaghetti (marinara) sauce this week at some point. I have a cool idea swirling around in my noggin involving it and polenta, and I'll let you know how that turns out.

Anyway, that's a summary of a few food-related things going on in my life. What are YOU cooking this week?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pizza Burgers

 I made the brave (crazy?) decision last week to allow my two oldest kids to each choose a menu that they would help prepare this week. The experiment actually turned out really well! The Boy is the one who chose our pizza menu for Sunday night, and today I'll be sharing about the menu our Oldest Girl chose. She combined two of our family's favorite foods and decided on Pizza Burgers. As a side, she wanted to make Creamy Parmesan Pasta. The burgers were a definite hit, and though we decided the pasta could have used more sauce, we really liked it, too.

Pizza Burgers

1 pound ground beef (85/15 for burgers)
1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
4 hamburger buns

In a small skillet, saute the green pepper, onion and garlic in a drizzle of olive oil until veggies just begin to soften. In a large bowl, combine veggies, beef, salt, pepper, Parmesan and 2 tablespoons marinara. Divide into four patties and grill/fry on stovetop until they reach desired doneness. Just before they're done, top with marinara and mozzarella, cover until cheese is melted. Serve on buns.

I used string cheese, cut in slices, since I was out of shredded mozzarella.

If I'd had pepperoni, I would have chopped some up and added that to the beef mixture. You could also sub Italian sausage for all or part of the beef.

I'll share the Creamy Parmesan Pasta recipe tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Frozen Hawaiian Pie

I was a picky child. Bless my Mama's heart, I was a very picky child. Though I don't have it now, I did have a sweet tooth then. I loved most any dessert Mom made, including this pie. I would have sworn I hated pineapple since I had no idea it was a major ingredient in this yummy concoction! By the time I found out I liked it too much to give it up on principle. It was a sad day in our home when, while grocery shopping, my mom left her recipe book in the cart - never to be seen again. Years later, I found a similar recipe and tweaked it to match Mom's and life was good once more. Here it is!

Frozen Hawaiian Pie

14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
16 ounce container frozen whipped topping, thawed
20 ounce can crushed pineapple
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups shredded coconut
2 9-inch graham cracker pie crusts

In a bowl, combine milk and whipped topping. Gently fold in pineapple, nuts, lemon juice and coconut. Pour into crusts. Freeze until firm (at least 4 hours). Remove from freezer 20 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"Monday" Recap

I know, it's Tuesday. But yesterday with a bit crazy because of Independence Day, so here we are today instead. Sunday night, I made pizza for our usual crowd. Of course, I used P-Dub's pizza crust and then made four different combinations of toppings. Basically, I used whatever I had in the fridge and got creative!

BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger - marinara/BBQ mixed, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, bacon, beef, and onion

Supreme - marinara sauce, mozzarella, onion, green pepper, mushrooms, pepperoni, beef

Cheese - marinara sauce, Havarti, cheddar, mozzarella, Italian seasoning

Spicy - marinara/salsa mixed, onion, green pepper, crushed red pepper, pepperoni, habanero-flavored cheese, mozzarella

The BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger was so good I ended up making another one, too! The Spicy wasn't as hot as it could have been. It would have been better with more peppers, for sure, but I was working with what I had.

Dessert was a simple ice cream pie. I crushed Oreos in the food processor, then mixed them with melted butter and pressed the mixture into a pie plate. (15 cookies, 1/4 cup butter) I spread softened ice cream into the crust and topped it with chocolate syrup. Simple! I made two different ones, using coffee ice cream and cookies and cream. Both were delicious!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Turkey Ranch Quesadillas

My kids are picky in weird ways - they will eat spinach but not rice, cottage cheese but not potatoes, pineapple but not beef ... In short, the stuff that other kids live off of, they won't touch! Some of those choices are good, and some are not. I guess I just do what every mom does and hope for the best! The recipe I'm sharing today is a guaranteed hit with my kids. It combines many of their favorite ingredients so they're sure to gobble it up!

Turkey Ranch Quesadillas

4 thin slices smoked deli turkey
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons Ranch dressing
1/2 cup fresh spinach leaves
Half and apple, your favorite, cored and thinly sliced
4 flour tortillas, fajita size

Spread Ranch dressing on two tortillas, sprinkle with half the cheese. Cover with spinach leaves, layer with turkey, apple slices, and remaining cheese. Top with remaining tortillas. Heat a medium skillet over medium hat. Add quesadilla, cook for 3-4 minutes per side, until heated through. Cut each quesadilla into quarters and serve warm.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

They're He-ere!

You can have your very own copy for just $10! If you need it mailed, be sure to include your address and $2.95 for shipping. All you have to do is email me, using the handy-dandy "Email Me" envelope over on the right-hand side of the blog. You can also order through, but it's just going to give you my email address and contact information, too.

Summer's Bounty

Ah, summer ... the time of year when all manner of veggies and fruits are in season! Of course, in today's world our diet can be more varied than ever before, with nearly every type of produce imaginable being available year-round. But, there's nothing like being able to get fresh, local fruits and vegetables in the summer.  The problem I find is that we can't eat it all fast enough! Often I find myself scrambling to use up that lone zucchini or the handful of grapes or the solitary kiwi before it's too late. There are lots of ways to make your produce last, though, so be proactive and plan ahead not only what recipes you'll use the produce in, but what you'll do with the leftovers.

Canning - I'm not a "canner" myself (too lazy!), but I know lots of people who are, and it's a great way to preserve summer's bounty.

Freezer Jam - A delicious, simple way to use berries and other fruits. My favorite is Strawberry Freezer Jam.

Creative Salads - "Lettuce, tomato, cucumbers and Ranch" doesn't have to be where your salad ideas end! Think outside the box with different combinations of veggies, fruits and dressings.

Smoothies - A great way to use up not only fruits, but vegetables, too!

Freezing -  The link I've provided leads to a really comprehensive site on freezing all kinds of produce! It's a good site, overall, too, and is the same one I recommended for canning.

I hope these suggestions help you make the most of the beautiful, delicious abundance of summer!