Monday, May 30, 2011

Macaroni & Cheese

Going with the theme of great cook-out foods, I thought I'd feature another traditional favorite - mac'n'cheese! While our Oldest Girl loves the orange stuff that comes in a blue box, The Boy will only eat homemade macaroni and cheese. I'm perfectly okay with them having this for lunch along with fruit and a glass of ice water. It's definitely one of their favorite meals. (Little One gets steamed veggies like broccoli or peas stirred into hers.)

Macaroni & Cheese
8 ounces pasta (macaroni, shells, rotini, penne)
1/2-3/4 cup milk
12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, cubed
1 egg
1 cup small-curd cottage cheese
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to cooking pot. Stir in milk, cubed cheese, egg, cottage cheese, salt and pepper. Pour into a greased 9-inch baking dish. Top with shredded cheese and cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes longer, until milk is completely absorbed and cheese is just beginning to brown.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Everyone has their own favorite coleslaw recipe. It's just one of those things! I don't care for the stuff myself, but Handsome likes it and I've developed this recipe to suit his taste. I usually cut my own cabbage and shred my own carrots, but the bagged mix works well.

1 bag (14 ounces) coleslaw mix (cabbage and carrots)
1 cup olive oil mayonnaise
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Place coleslaw mix in a large bowl. Combine mayo, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Pour over coleslaw mix and stir well to coat.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sweet & Sassy Baked Beans

Though I'm not one to get excited about baked beans, I do like a pile of them next to my grilled hotdog or bacon cheeseburger. Most of the potluck beans I've had are pretty flavorless - dumped out of the can and heated. This recipe takes ordinary baked beans and adds a tangy-sweet blast of flavor.

Sweet & Sassy Baked Beans

4 cans (16 ounces each) baked beans, drained
1 bottle (12 ounces) chili sauce
1 small onion, chopped
1 pound sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup barbecue sauce

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Pour into a 4-½-qt. bean pot or two ungreased 2-qt. baking dishes. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 45-60 minutes or until heated through.

This makes a large amount of beans, obviously, but I make it for our family with just one can of beans, cutting down the other ingredients in proportion, too.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fried Chicken Fingers

Handsome loves fried chicken! I could make it once a week and he'd never get tired of it. This recipe is basically how his mom always fries it, though I added in the seasoning. It's a very simple recipe, and it makes fabulous chicken. The leftovers are even good cold, straight out of the fridge!

Fried Chicken

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups self-rising flour
2 teaspoons salt-free lemon-pepper seasoning
Canola or vegetable oil for frying

Slice the chicken breasts into thin strips. Marinate in buttermilk for 30 minutes or until you're ready to use it (up to 6 hours). Heat the oil about 2 inches deep in a large skillet until a tiny pinch of flour sizzles when you sprinkle it in. Combine flour and seasoning in a shallow dish. Working a piece at a time, remove chicken from buttermilk and dredge in the flour mixture. Place carefully in hot oil. Fry for 4-5 minutes until golden brown, then flip to second side. Cook for an additional 4-5 minutes. Remove to paper towels to drain. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Special Salsa

There's something about summer that makes me crave spicy foods - I guess I like my food to be as hot as the weather! It just seems to fit. Anyway, when having lunch with my friend Ashley a few years ago, she served a very tasty salsa and she was kind enough to share the recipe. I believe it actually originated with her brother-in-law. Either way, it's yummy! When they're in season, you can certainly use fresh tomatoes in place of the canned.

2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes (drain, save juice)
1 lime, juiced
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons chopped onion
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1-2 jalapeno peppers (depending on how hot you want it)
½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic salt
black pepper
red cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. You can also process to desired “chunkiness”in food processor or blender. Adjust seasonings to taste. Add juice from the tomatoes if you want to thin it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Strawberry Limeade Punch

Need a yummy punch for a summer party? Look no further!

I am addicted to  Sonic's Strawberry Limeade: it's so good! When I saw that Sonic had sought to improve the Strawberry Limeade by offering it in smoothie version I had to try it! It was so delicious I knew I had to make it  into a punch. This makes a big batch! If you don't have a really big  punch bowl, you might want to start with half the ingredients and add  more later.

16 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
12 ounce can frozen limeade concentrate, partially thawed
1-1/2 quarts vanilla ice cream
2-2 liter bottles Sierra Mist

Give the strawberries and limeade concentrate a whir in the blender (you may need to do two batches). If you need some liquid, add a touch of milk. Pour this mixture into your punch bowl; stir in the ice cream until it's partially melted. Add in the Sierra Mist slowly, stirring gently as you go -- it will foam up a LOT. And there it is. Deliciousness.

Also, you can use frozen whole berries - just thaw them slightly before blending.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Potato-Spinach Quiche

I've pretty much never met a quiche I didn't like but Handsome subscribes to the theory that real men don't eat quiche. Since I know plenty of real men that DO eat quiche, I've tried to change his mind with various recipes with no luck. So, I've resigned myself to making it just for my lunch. I'm not complaining though, because it just means more for me! Little One loves it, too and I do share with her - if she catches me eating it!

Here's a recipe I developed using whatever sounded good from my pantry:

Potato-Spinach Quiche
1 tablespoon butter
1 green onion, chopped or 1/4 cup chopped white onion
2 red potatoes, finely diced
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
4 ounces deli ham, chopped
6 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and pepper
5 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup sour cream

In a skillet, saute onion and potato in butter until potatoes begin to get tender (8-10 minutes), seasoning as they cook. Add ham and spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted and ham begins to take on color. Pour mixture into a greased pie plate. Top with cheese. In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, and sour cream. Season lightly. Pour over mixture in pie plate. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 20-25 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

I made this yesterday for my lunch and just had it again for breakfast. Between that and sharing with Little One, there's only one piece left! Yum!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Me. Our Oldest Girl took this picture.

Our family went to a strawberry field recently to pick our own berries. The last time we did that was three years ago, but we've wanted to go back ever since. I made strawberry freezer jam then, and I really wanted to try my hand at it again. I tweaked a recipe I found, reducing the sugar and adding a bit more flavor. I like my strawberries finely mashed, but if you like yours to be chunkier, go for it! Just add about a 1/2 cup of water to the strawberry mixture before you add the pectin. (If your berries are finely mashed the jam will be thinner than the traditional texture you're used to.)

Strawberry Freezer Jam

2 quarts fresh strawberries
4 cups sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 package (1-3/4 ounces) powdered fruit pectin for low-sugar recipes

Wash, stem and mash the berries, measuring out enough mashed berries to make 4 cups; place in a large stewpot. Stir in the sugar, corn syrup, lime juice and lemon juice. Let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in pectin. Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat; skim off foam. Pour into jars or freezer containers, leaving 1/2-in. headspace. Cover and let stand overnight or until set, but not longer than 24 hours. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or freeze for up to 1 year. Yield: 4-1/2 pints.

Our Little One

Monday, May 16, 2011

Chicken Ranch Casserole

This casserole is simple to throw together, particularly if you keep cooked chicken in your freezer like I do.  I use my White Sauce recipe (in a 2-2-2 ratio) in place of the cream soup sometimes, and if the mixture doesn't seem moist enough you can stir in a 1/2 cup of chicken broth or milk to help with that. This is truly one of those recipes that pretty much everyone loves and it's so easy!

Chicken Ranch Casserole
2 cups shredded/cubed cooked chicken
8 ounces uncooked pasta (rotini, shells, penne)
1 (10-3/4 oz) can cream of chicken soup
8 ounces sour cream
1 envelope dry Ranch dressing mix
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and place in large bowl. Mix in chicken, soup, sour cream, dressing mix, and 1 cup cheese. Pour into a greased 9-inch square baking dish. Top with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until bubbly and cheese is melted.

This recipe is easy to double so you can feed more people, or to have an extra casserole in the freezer for another time. If you seasoned your chicken when it was cooked and salted the water for your pasta, you probably won't need to add anything else to this casserole. Otherwise, you might want to salt and pepper while mixing everything together.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

French Fries

I know I haven't posted in a while, and I apologize! I've been hard at work on typing up all of my recipes for the actual cookbook that I told y'all about earlier. My personal deadline for turning that in is June 1, so I'm really focused on getting that finished up. On a good note, that means I've been developing lots more recipes and I'm sharing one with you today! 

French Fries

3 potatoes, scrubbed and peeled if desired
Vegetable oil
Ice water
Seasoning Mix
The first step is slicing your potatoes. I cut them in half lengthwise, then cut those pieces in half again lengthwise. Lay the slices out flat and cut into sticks. Soak the potatoes in ice water for at least 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry. It's important that they are VERY dry. Water + hot oil = Not Good. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet or fryer to 340°. Fry potatoes in batches until they are just beginning to take on color. Remove and drain on paper towels. Increase heat to 375°. Fry the potatoes a second time until golden brown. The first fry allows the potatoes to cook slowly all the way into the inside. The second fry crisps up the outer skin. Drain on paper towels, season immediately with salt or Seasoning Mix.

Gratuitous close-up.
Seasoning Mix
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Combine all in a small bowl and sprinkle over hot fries.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls

3 cups flour, divided
1/4 cup sugar
1 package (1/4 ounce) or 2-1/4 teaspoons yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 cup apple juice
1 egg

Combine 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. In a small saucepan, heat milk, juice and butter to 120-130 degrees. Add to dry mixture just until moistened. Add in egg and 1 more cup flour. Mix until smooth and the dough forms a ball. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, into a rectangle approximately 1/4 inch thick. Top the dough with:

2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup nuts, optional

Roll up, starting with the long side. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 slices. (I cut it half, fourths, eighths, then sixteenths!) Place the rolls into a greased 9 x 13 dish and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise on the counter for 45 minutes, or until doubled. You can also place them in the fridge until you're ready to bake. Just let them rise on the counter before popping them in the oven. Either way, bake them at 350 for 18-22 minutes. While still warm, top with your favorite icing! I adore The Pioneer Woman's Maple Icing, and here's my version:

2 cups powdered sugar 
1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring 
2 tablespoons milk 
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter 
3 tablespoons brewed coffee 

Stir all ingredients together until smooth.