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!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

And The Winner Is ...

So, the contest is over! First of all, let me say, in my very best Valley Girl impression ...

Grody to the max!

I had a wonderful time reading all the crazy concoctions/weird foods y'all enjoy. I got some good laughs out of this, for sure. Now, on to the giveaways! I wrote the name of everyone who entered on slips of paper...

Then I hired a subcontractor to do the highly scientific, impartial drawing ...

And the winner of the apron is ...

Dana Ward!

Dana, I will get your contact information to Leah so you can plan your new apron!

Now for the cookbook ...

And the winner of the brand new Barefoot in the Kitchen cookbook is ...

Cindy Sakovich!

Cindy, if you will email me your contact information, I'll send your new book out to you as soon as I can!

Last Day to Enter!

Today is the last day to enter this giveaway for your chance to win a custom apron or one of my new cookbooks! I'm closing it off at 6:00 p.m.

In other news, I found my birthday cake for next year! This Chocolate Hazelnut Cake looks amazing! I've told y'all before that I am just not good at baking, and my birthday cake from 2 years ago is proof. I found a recipe for German Chocolate Cake that seemed easy and perfect. Unfortunately, it overflowed the pan (yes, I used the size listed in the recipe!) and got all over my oven! That was just over halfway through the cooking time, so I had to throw the whole thing out. The next day I went out and bought a boxed cake mix and canned coconut-pecan frosting. I managed to bake that one just fine!

Anyone else want to share a cooking disaster?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Tradition?

I'm thinking that on Mondays I'll do a post about what I served our college/singles crew the night before. I've mentioned before some of the restrictions I work around, like making sure it's something somewhat universally liked, fairly cheap, and easy to do either quickly or ahead of time. Last night I served hotdogs, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, chips, and strawberry shortcake. I think that marks the first time I've served them hotdogs, but they were on sale and I couldn't resist!

So, for the hotdogs, I boiled them to heat them through, then crisped them up on my grill pan before serving. Still not as good as grilling them out, but since we don't have a grill ...

I used my standard Coleslaw recipe. I used a head of cabbage and a handful of baby carrots and made it up in the afternoon.

I love Slow-Cooked Mac 'n' Cheese for occasions like this, when oven-baked just isn't practical.

This was my first experience making Strawberry Shortcake, and it turned out really well. I doubled the cake recipe and baked it a little too long, so it was a touch dry. Next time I'll be more careful! I also used fresh whipped cream. I've given the basic method in my Cinnamon Cream Fruit Dip. Just use powdered sugar instead of brown, and omit the cinnamon.

Don't forget to enter your comment on my Giveaway! post for a chance to win a custom apron or one of my new cookbooks!

Saturday, June 25, 2011


To celebrate the fact that my cookbooks shipped yesterday ... I'm having a giveaway! I'm very excited about the cookbook - It's published through a service that produces church or school cookbooks. Titled "Barefoot In The Kitchen", it's a softcover, coil-bound book that contains 134 recipes. To order one, you can email me by clicking the "Email Me" envelope button on the right-hand side of the blog. The books are $10, plus $2.95 for shipping if necessary, cash or check. You can order anytime! In a few days, after I receive the books, I'll share a link with you where it will be available to order on-line, too.

Now, on to the free stuff!

The first item will be a handmade apron from my best friend of more than (gulp!) 20 years! She's an accomplished seamstress with a terrific sense of style. Here are some pictures of an apron she made as a gift for me, though you’ll get to choose your own fabric from the options in the final picture.
Close-up of the pocket detail
Fabric choices for the apron

I will also draw a second name and that person will win a copy of my cookbook!

All you have to do to enter the drawing is comment at the end of this post with your answer to this question: 

What is the strangest food you love?

Can you not get enough of it or is it a once-in-a-while special treat? Is it a weird combination of two ordinary foods? Are you the only person you know who loves it? I will go ahead and confess that one of mine is ... Corned beef hash. Yes, the stuff in a can, with little diced potatoes. I only buy it once in a blue moon because I'm the only one in the family who eats it! I love it mixed with rice and cheddar cheese. Please don't hate me now.

I’ll choose a winner through the highly scientific process of writing all the names down and drawing two from a hat. You may only enter once, and the giveaway ends Tuesday, June 28 at 6:00 p.m.! Winners will be announced by Wednesday morning.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Braised Venison

Recently I had a small amount of venison tenderloin that I needed to stretch to feed the family. I decided to try a little something new, and it certainly paid off! I was genuinely surprised that the venison was so tender and flavorful, since the preparation was pretty simple.

I started out by cutting the venison into bite-size cubes, seasoning them with salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder. Then I heated olive oil in a skillet, adding in the venison. After browning it on all sides, I poured in a little chicken broth, covered it and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

I'm thinking this would adapt quite well for beef, pork or chicken, too.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New Recipes

Well, out of the "Coming Soon ..." recipes I posted the other day, I've made two. I'm pleased to report that they were both delicious! I made the gnocchi one night for dinner, serving it with my homemade marinara instead of mushroom sauce, because in my book mushrooms = grody. Everyone loved it, which is a pretty rare feat in my household. The other recipe I tried was the one for Pretzel Rolls - and I did make Pretzel-Crusted Chicken to go with it. The rolls were really great, just like soft pretzels!

For breakfast this morning I spread one of the leftover rolls with Laughing Cow cheese and topped that with sliced ham. It's fantastic!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pudding Cake

As y'all probably know by now, Handsome and I teach a Sunday School class for college and singles. When we started teaching a couple of years ago we decided that Sunday night after church would be a great time to get together and hang out with them. Since I love to cook, I make dinner for them - usually something simple that everyone will probably like. Last night we had spaghetti, and I made a chocolate cake for dessert that everyone loved! I'm not much for baking cakes - I have some sort of mental block - but this one was easy.

Pudding Cake

1 box cake mix (+ ingredients called for on box)
1 box instant pudding (+ 2 cups milk for prep)
1 (8 ounce) container of "frozen whipped topping", thawed (Why don't recipes usually just say Cool Whip? 'Cause you know that's what you'll use anyway.)

Prepare cake mix according to package directions in a 9 x 13 pan. Cool on a wire rack. When the cake is cool, poke holes all over it, using the handle of a wooden spoon or a citrus peeler if that's all you have handy like me. Whisk the pudding and milk until smooth and thickened then immediately pour over cake. Spread the top with your "whipped topping", cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until completely chilled.

I feel as though I need to add a disclaimer onto every recipe I post saying, "Please adjust this according to your family's taste" because I always say that! But this is yet another recipe where you really cannot go wrong with any flavors you choose. I used Devil's Food for the cake and Chocolate Fudge for the pudding on the cake I served last night but the choices are endless. You could do white cake with lemon pudding, yellow cake with pistachio pudding, chocolate cake with butterscotch pudding ...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sunday Pot Roast

I suppose if I had to name the quintessential Sunday dinner, it would have to be pot roast. My mom makes pretty much the best I've ever eaten, and it's amazingly simple. I know a lot of people cook their vegetables in with their roast, and that's certainly one way to do it. I prefer to cook just the roast, with the veggies on the side. With this recipe, you can throw your carrots (the standard side!) in the slow cooker, but it's best to wait until about 2 hours before your roast is done. Unless you like your veggies mushy - this is the South, after all!

Sunday Pot Roast

3 pound chuck roast
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 can (10-3/4 oz) cream of mushroom soup
fresh-ground black pepper

Spray inside of slow cooker with cooking spray. Place roast in crock; sprinkle with soup mix and pepper. Pour mushroom soup on top. Cook on low heat for 8 hours. I usually turn the roast over about halfway through the cooking time.

If there are any leftovers, I always use them to make Beef Pot Pie. They go so much further that way, and it's delicious!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Coming Soon ...

This morning I thought I'd share with y'all some recipes I have bookmarked for future use. Often while browsing the internet I find a recipe that sounds really good, so I'll save the link for later. Some work out, some don't, but here are a few that I haven't tried yet:

Nutella Banana Ice Cream - I've heard of making banana ice cream before, and I love the addition of Nutella! Can't wait to try this simple, no-ice-cream-maker-required treat!

Pretzel Rolls - I'm not a fan of pretzels, but these rolls sound really tasty, like soft pretzels: soft and chewy. This recipe is also on a fantastic website, Tasty Kitchen. I'm planning on making my Pretzel-Crusted Chicken soon, and these would be great on the side!

Fresh Gnocchi - I love gnocchi and it's one of the two ways my Oldest Girl will eat potato. (The other way being potato candy!) I have made ricotta based gnocchi before, and I'm eager to try out the potato version.

Aloha Cake - Since I'm trying to incorporate more fruit into my diet, I thought I'd try out this cake! It totally counts, right?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Veggie Stirfry

I don't eat many vegetables - far fewer than I should - but I do appreciate good produce and I enjoy cooking them. This simple saute is one of my favorite ways to round out a meal that I'm fixing for someone else. Obviously, many other veggies would work well in this, too, just keep in mind that carrots will take longer, broccoli not as long, etc. Also, though I like the tang of lemon-pepper seasoning you could substitute your favorite spice blend or combination of chopped fresh herbs.

Veggie Stirfry

1 yellow squash, cubed
1 zucchini, cubed
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt-free lemon pepper seasoning

In a skillet over medium heat, saute squash, zucchini and onion in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with garlic and seasoning, and cook for 3-5 minutes longer, until veggies are crisp-tender.

Make plenty of this and use the leftovers to add flavor and vitamins to an omelet, quiche, pasta dish, or quesadilla.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fried Grits

I have many food-related memories of my dad - Rocky Road and Butter Pecan ice cream. The year he bought me mint chocolate chip Hubba Bubba bubble gum for my birthday. Banana Popsicles. The story of how he told Mom he could eat fried chicken every night for dinner and be a happy man, and Mom did it. For, like, a week.

I also have a few memories of my daddy's cooking. Mom was the one who baked the bread and fried the chicken on a regular basis, but now and then Dad would whip out his specialties. For some reason, his double-decker-crunchy-peanut-butter-on-whole-wheat-sandwich was SO good. And he was the "grill sergeant", laying out on a lounge chair wearing cutoffs with a hat pulled down over his eyes, a spatula hanging loosely at his side, ready to pry the perfect burgers off of our little Weber. But one of my favorite memories is Fried Grits. Yes, you may be skeptical at this point, but you must trust me. Fried Grits are divine.

They have to be started the day/night before. Essentially, you just put leftover grits in a plastic container in the fridge until  the next day. It's best to make sure they are firmly in the corners and grooves of your container.  They will turn into a beautiful grit-brick.

Grits, sharp knife, butter.
Slice the grit-brick thinly (I usually cut it in half, then slice) while you are heating a skillet with a couple tablespoons of butter thrown in. Lay the slices in the hot skillet, being very careful.

 When they have begun to brown (4-5 minutes), carefully flip them over to the other side. Grits will pop out at you! Dad kept a mesh screen thingy over the grits to minimize that occurrence. I slide the skillet off the burner to flip them and that helps a lot.

This is just after I flipped them onto the second side. Aren't they pretty?

... because I know you wanted a close-up.
 Cook them for another 2-3 minutes on the second side, then slide them onto a plate. Lather, rinse, repeat. Well, slice, butter, repeat, anyway.
All done!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Recipe Contest

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably know that I love the Taste of Home "family" of magazines. They publish Taste of Home and Simple & Delicious, among others. I've been a subscriber to one or more of the magazines for a good 12 years. Well, a couple of years ago, their website had a couple of contests available for entry and I decided to go for it. I got an e-mail a few months later from an associate editor saying that I had won third place in one of the contests!
"Congratulations! You came in 3rd in our  "Easy, Healthy Suppers " Contest! My name is J--- M------ and I'm an editor here at Taste of Home's Healthy Cooking, and I want to congratulate you on taking third place! Your recipe was Thai Chicken Pasta. Your winnings include a check for $200, and we'd like to feature you and your recipe in the December 2009 issue of Healthy Cooking. (You'll receive a free copy of this issue, too.)"
Yay! He asked me to send a picture (Jeff told me immediately which one that would be) and some background information about the recipe. 

My check, the cover letter for my complimentary copy of the magazine, and the actual magazine!
Here's the link to the recipe on Taste of Home's website: Thai Chicken Pasta

Monday, June 6, 2011

Slow Cooker Nachos

My friend Chrissy posted this recipe on her Facebook page recently, crediting it to our friend Tammy, who credited it to our friend Bonnie, and I have no idea where Bonnie got it! But, when a recipe gets passed around like that so much it HAS to be good! I thought it sounded perfect for the college and singles crew that Handsome and I host on Sunday nights. I'm giving you the recipe as I received it, but I used a whole package of chicken (about 1.7 pounds), 2 cans of beans, and a larger jar of salsa to feed our crowd. My version fed about ten people, so I guess this recipe will feed 4-6.

Slow Cooker Nachos

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 can corn
1 can black beans
1 (16 oz) jar salsa
1 (8 oz) block cream cheese
Tortilla chips
Shredded cheddar, sour cream, cilantro, chopped tomatoes, black olives, sliced jalapenos, etc.

Place the chicken, corn, beans and salsa in a slow cooker and cook on low for 4-6 hours. Shred chicken and add in cream cheese. Allow time to melt, stirring to combine. Serve over tortilla chips and top with your favorite nacho additions.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Cookbook Update

Just a quick note this morning to tell you that I turned in my cookbook yesterday! I think it'll take about 6 weeks before I'll have copies in my hand to sell. In the meantime I'll be sitting in my sometimes air-conditioned house thinking of ways to prepare meals without using heat.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


My kids are pretty picky eaters. I think I've told y'all before about how at any given dinner there must be at least one dissenter who doesn't like what we're having. I think they arrange these things ahead of time, because the things they like/don't like change on a weekly basis. Sigh. Anyway, I try to make lunches something that they will definitely like, and something that has a good deal of nutritional value.

On of their favorite combinations is peanut butter, banana, cinnamon and honey.

Here I've served that combo on a potato hamburger bun.

I added grapes on the side, and as a special treat, strawberry yogurt with a crushed Oreo.
Overall, this is a pretty sweet meal, with the honey, PB, grapes, and yogurt treat, but my kids really don't eat store-bought treats like cookies, Pop-Tarts, snack cakes, candy, etc. often at all. (I only had the Oreos because I needed them for the crust on my cheesecake birthday cake.) I know every mom struggles with getting her kids to choose healthful options at the table, and I'm blessed that our Oldest Girl considers this a special treat:

Cottage cheese drizzled with a touch of caramel sauce and topped with strawberries.
What do your kids like to eat? How do you get them to eat fruits/vegetables?