Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Navajo Tacos

I've had a plethora of lettuce in my refrigerator the last couple of weeks (thanks Bountiful Baskets) but salads just don't seem to go over very well in my house in the dead of winter. So the only thing that we end up using our lettuce for is Tacos and Sandwiches. Which both get blah after a while. To mix things up, I decided to make Navajo tacos Monday night instead of the traditional at least once weekly taco. With most all the fixings already made up and frozen in my freezer, dinner went together in less than thirty minutes!

Navajo Tacos

12 frozen uncooked rolls
1 lb cooked ground meat mix
2 Tbsp Taco seasoning
1 can black beans (optional)
1 can refried beans, undrained
1/2 head lettuce, shredded
2 roma tomatoes, diced
8 oz. shredded cheese
8 oz. bottled salsa
3 cups oil for frying (I just used vegetable oil)

Fry Bread:

Set out rolls in a warm place 2-3 hours before dinner on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Cover loosely with a
cotton cloth or plastic wrap. 30 minutes prior to eating, heat oil in a large skillet to 350 degrees F. I've found a good way to test the oil temperature is by dropping a small piece of bread dough into the oil when you start heating. When the dough rises to the surface of the oil and is fully browned, it should be about ready to fry your bread. Work each roll into a thin flat circle about 1/8-inch thick. Drop slowly into hot oil. Wait for bread to puff up (about 30 seconds) then use metal tongs to flip over. Bread should be golden brown on each side. Place vertically in a paper towel lined casserole dish to allow oil to drain from bread.

Meanwhile, combine cooked ground beef with undrained black beans and Taco Seasoning. Warm refried beans (add a little more taco seasoning to the refried beans for extra flavor if desired), chop lettuce and tomatoes, shred cheese. Serve Navajo tacos by cutting open the puffy fry bread and filling with toppings of your choice. Or pile everything on top of the bread and eat with a fork.

Taco Seasoning Mix

Raise your hand if you LOVE MSG in your food!! .... What? Nobody? Well, neither do I.. which is why I don't buy pre-packaged seasoning mixes. You're mostly getting fillers in those anyway and it's hard to **shine** as a good cook when you rely on them. I do, however, love things to be easy. Which is why I make as many of my own home-made mixes as possible. Here is the mix I put together for Mexican food. I call it Taco seasoning, true... but I use it for so much more! From Tacos to Macaroni and cheese. Enjoy!

Taco Seasoning

2 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp oregano
3 tsp onion powder
2 tsp galic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container. The flavor will be more potent than store-bought mixes so start with half of what your recipe calls for and increase according to your taste. I usually at least quadruple this recipe.

About 1 1/2 Tbsp Taco seasoning mix = 1 envelope Taco seasoning

Sue's Rolls

For Christmas dinner, I was in charge of bringing the rolls. Naturally, I made an enormous batch of dough and froze some for later enjoyment. For my basic one-hour bread recipe, I usually bake the bread/rolls before freezing because I've found that it just doesn't rise like it should after it's been frozen. The following recipe, however, is a gem! It comes from one of my mother-in-law's neighbors. There's a little more to it, but the taste is rewarding enough for the extra effort. And it freezes well uncooked.

Sue's Rolls
(by Sue Adams)

2 Tbsp yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup cold water
3/4 cup boiling water
2 eggs
2 Tbsp butter
6 cup flour

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tsp sugar in warm water. In a pan, combine boiling water, butter, sugar and salt. Add cold water. Beat eggs into yeast mixture , add water-butter liquid and beat. Add flour to make a soft dough. Cover and let rise until double (about 45 minutes). Roll out on a floured surface and shape into rolls. Let rise and bake for 10-12 minutes at 400 degrees F. OR place on buttered cookie sheet. Cover well and freeze. Remove 4-5 hours before dinner, uncover and thaw and rise. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 400 degrees F.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday Cookie Exchange

As a last minute idea, I decided this year I'd host a Cookie Exchange. I read about the idea on and thought how lovely it would be to have my usual variety of cookies on hand for my family and friends without having to actually bake several different batches of the goodies! Because it was so last minute, I hosted it open-house style and very basic. No activities, no other goodies, not even really any socializing. For the busy holiday prepper it was perfect! We baked our cookies, we met together, we exchanged cookies, we waved goodbye. I had originally thought that if I did this again, I'd make it more of an event rather than just a simple exchanging of cookies... but I gotta say, I loved the simplicity of it all. It may just be the same next year after all!

Here are the stars of the show:

Sugar Cookies with Orange Buttercream Frosting
Orange Buttercream Frosting
(Submitted by Sheryl Rose)
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1/2 an orange

In a small saucepan cook flour, orange zest and milk until it forms a ball, stirring constantly. Cool to room temperature. With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffly. Beat both mixtures together on high speed until fluffy and smooth. Add vanilla and beat until combined. Refrigerate for about 1/2 hour, until it is of spreading consistency.

Bake cookies as directed. Allow to cool completely then frost with Orange Buttercream Frosting. Refrigerate any un-eaten cookies.

Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies **wheat free**
(sub butterscotch chips for raisins to make these dairy free- submitted by Andrea Daley)

3/4 cup Soy butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 cup real Maple syrup
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup oat or spelt flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups rolled oats (not quick oats)
1 12-oz package butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Next, add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition so that they are completely incorporated. Beat in vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and rolled oats. Gradually add the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture. Fold the butterscotch chips into the cookie dough.

Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet, 2 inches spaced to allow for spread. Bake for 9 minutes or until edges are lightly golden brown. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before removing to cooling racks.

Peanut Butter Blossoms
(submitted by Meg McInnes)

36 Hershey Kisses
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
*enough sugar to roll the cookies into

Unwrap chocolates. Beat shortening and peanut butter together until blended. Add sugars, beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in the rest of the ingredients except extra sugar and unwrapped chocolate kisses. Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Roll balls in sugar and place on a slightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F for 9-11 minutes. After removing cookies from oven, immediately place a kiss in the middle of each cookie (It will crack the cookie.) Remove cookie to cooling rack and allow to cool.

Texas Governor's Mansion Cowboy Cookies
(submitted by Tamara Pilcher)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1 T. baking soda
1 T. ground cinnamon
1 t. salt
1 1/2 c. butter, at room temp.
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 c. packed light-brown sugar
3 eggs
1 T. vanilla
3 c. semisweet chocolate chips
3 c. old-fashioned oates
2 c. sweetened flaked coconut
2 c. chopped pecans (8 ounces), optional

Heat oven to 350. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in bowl. In 8 -quart bowl, beat butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Gradually beat in sugars; beat to combine, 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each. Beat in vanilla. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Add chocolate chips,oats, coconut and pecans. Drop dough by 1/4 c. onto ungreased baking sheet, spacing 3 inches apart. Bake in 350 degree oven 17-20 minutes, until edges are lightly browned; rotate sheets halfway through. Makes about 3 dozen large cookies. Could make 90 medium cookies, bake about 10 minutes. Use your own judgment.

Candy Cane Chocolate Chip Cookies
(submitted by Stephanie Schiess)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
12 oz (2 cups) milk chocolate chips
1 package peppermint candy canes, unwrapped and crushed
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine butter and sugars, mix until creamy. Add eggs and mix well. Add soda, salt, vanilla and flour. Mix until well combined. Fold in chocolate chips and candy cane pieces. Drop by teaspoonful onto ungreased cookie sheets spacing at least 1-2 inches apart. Bake 8-10 minutes until edges are golden brown. Allow to cool on cookie sheets about 5 minutes before removing to cooling racks.

Krispie Cookies

(submitted by Julie Edwards)
1 cup butter
1 tsp. Baking powder
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups rice krispies
2 eggs
2 cups oats (regular, not quick)
2 cups flour
1 cup coconut
1 tsp. Baking soda
1 cup chopped pecans
1 to 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Mix flour, soda and baking soda together, then blend into first mixture. Stir in rice krispies, oats, coconut, and pecans. Drop by teaspoon full on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

For the following two cookies, I used my chocolate cookie mix for the cookie itself with the following additions:

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
(submitted by yours truly)
1 recipe chocolate cookie mix, prepared
36 mini Reese's Peanut Butter cups, unwrapped
(For these I found a new thing this year- a package of mini peanut butter cups all unwrapped and ready to eat!... Heaven help us all...)

Prepare cookies as directed on mix except when time to bake, roll dough into 1-inch ball and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Press a peanut butter cup into the center of each unbaked cookie. Bake 6-8 minutes in 350 degree oven until edges dry and crack slightly. These cookies are small, they don't need to bake long.

Chocolate Caramel Cookies

For these cookies, I used the same chocolate cookie mix as I used above but in the center, I added some home-made vanilla caramel. Instead of just pressing the caramel into the center of the cookie, I wrapped the dough around the caramel and then baked as directed above. I think they turned out yummy and a little different, but I have to be honest... my neighbor totally upstaged me by adding chocolate covered caramels into the center of each cookie and then rolling the cookies into sugar. Dah! Why didn't I think of that? They were DELICIOUS! (More delicious than mine..)

These weren't exactly cookies- I'm not sure what to call them except yummy! They had a mixture of nuts, cereal and marshmallows. My kids devoured them! Thanks to Michele K.!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Everybody Loves Mike (stuffed Bacon Rolls)

The reason I LOVE this show? Every married couple can relate... even if they won't admit it. Our "suitcase" changes from time to time, but we usually have one. Most recently our "suitcase" was the turkey fryer. Mike loves to fry a turkey for Thanksgiving... I usually resist as much as possible for two reasons:
1. I like traditional roasted turkey. Fried turkey, while delicious, just isn't the traditional taste I crave.
2. EVERY time we fry a turkey... guess who gets to clean the nasty mess... I'll give you a hint. It's not Mike!

I'm sure we both have our reasons for feeling like the other should clean the mess. My reasons? Well, obviously- he's the one who wanted fried turkey, right? His reasons I assume are somewhere along the lines of- he cooked it, I clean it.
Weekends and evenings come and go. We both see it every day. Of course it's hard not to, it's been sitting in our garage for nearly a month! I step over it and around it but I don't clean it... yet. I wait for Mike to yield until he is finally "the one to take care of it."
Of course it's usually me who finally does it, but not silently. The deed is accompanied by grand statements of "look what I did today! See how I'm so amazing?" when what I really mean is "I couldn't take it anymore! You win this year, but game on for next year. mwahaha!"
But really... what finally ended the game this year was this: New Year's Eve! We are planning to have our first ever New Year's Eve family party (nothing big- just our family) and Mike has been stewing over all the junk he wants to eat. He's been bringing up fried foods a LOT.... and hinting that he'd use the oil that's already sitting in the fryer. Why waste it, right? I mean, how often do restaurants actually change the oil. It would probably just add flavor to whatever we cook. Mmmmm... AAAAaa!
So I like to think that he was just bluffing, but that's not a bluff I'm willing to call.
Today I cleaned the turkey fryer. *Sigh* Game on for next year...

For now, enjoy these Bacon Rolls, one of our favorite treats for New Year's Eve parties. And notice... they are NOT fried. :)

Stuffed Bacon Rolls
(from Mike's mom, Annette)

2 c. soft bread crumbs (about 3 slices bread)
1 c. finely chopped baking apple
1 Tbsp. finely chopped onion
1 Tbsp snipped parsley
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 c. milk
1 beaten egg
10-12 slices bacon

1. In a mixing bowl, combine bread crumbs, apple, onion, parsley, salt and pepper. Add milk and beaten egg and mix well.
2. Cut each slice of bacon in half crosswise. Shape crumb mixture into balls, using one rounded tablespoon for each. Wrap each ball with half bacon slice; seure with a toothpick. Place on wire rack set on a 15x10 cookie sheet.
3. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 375 degrees F. or until bacon is brown. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Gingerbread Houses

Gingerbread Houses


3/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup corn syrup
1 1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
7 1/3 c. flour
2 Tbsp ground ginger
1 rounded Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs

In a small saucepan, combine molasses, butter, corn syrup and brown sugar. Heat over medium heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Meanwhile in a large mixing bowl, combine flour, ginger, cinmamon, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg. Crack eggs into cooled molasses mixture and stir until well blended. Pour molasses mixture into flour mixture and mix with dough hooks or your fingers until dry mixture is completely incorporated. Divide dough into fourths and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until dough is cool, about 1-2 hours. Unwrap dough one at a time and roll 1/4-inch thick. Cut out gingerbread shapes and bake at 350 degrees F. For cookies, bake 8-10 minutes. If you're using the dough to make gingerbread houses, bake 10-12 minutes for a harder cookie. Remove from cookie sheets and allow to cool completely before frosting or assembling gingerbread houses.

For the icing there are a couple different options. The following recipe is relatively inexpensive, but is not recommended to be eaten since it has raw eggs in it. Below that is the recipe that I use because there is no way I can avoid my kids eating their houses. This year when we were finished assembling the houses it wasn't even 5 minutes before my 3-year-old was tearing hers apart! This recipe is a little more expensive because of the meringue powder, but still not too bad. You can usually find meringue powder in the wedding cake area of the store.

Gingerbread House Icing(Inedible)

1 lb. powdered sugar
1 tsp. cream of tartar
3 egg whites

Beat all ingredients on high until stiff peaks form. This should take about 7 minutes. Use as glue for assembling house. Icing will harden as it sits, so add a few drops of water as needed. Use assorted candies to decorate house. Houses can be made a month in advance and then decorated at your convenience.

Gingerbread House Icing

3 level Tbsp Meringue Powder (dried egg whites)
1 lb powdered sugar
6 Tbsp water

Beat all ingredients at high speed for 7-10 minutes until icing forms stiff peaks. Makes about 3 cups.

For assembling and decorating, I've found that it is WAY easier to pipe the frosting from a disposable decorator bag as opposed to spreading with a knife. This also helps to keep the frosting from drying out while you are using it. You can make this ahead of time and store it in the decorator bags- just place the filled decorator bags into a gallon-sized zip-top bag. Store up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Here is a very simple gingerbread house pattern that I use for my kids. I usually reduce the size by 75% before printing for the perfect kid-size gingerbread house.

Happy Decorating!


Saturday, November 27, 2010

White Chocolate Macadamia Pie

This Thanksgiving I told Mike that he could choose 2 pies in addition to the classic pumpkin and apple, and I would cook them for him. One of his choices was this pie from the LionHouse Pies cookbook. This pie looked so good that I made four of them and the only thing that I changed was the crust. I used an Oreo Crust for one, and graham cracker crusts for the others.

White Chocolate Macadamia Pie

1 baked 9-inch pie shell

    1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
    1/3 cup granulated sugar
    1/3 cup heavy cream, plus 3/4 cup whipped soft
    6 1/2 ounces white baking chocolate, melted
    1/2 tsp orange zest
    2/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts, roasted
    3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
    1/2 cup heavy cream
    3 cups sweetened whipped cream
    1-2 Tbsp chopped macadamia nuts

For Filling: Beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Scrape bowl with a spatula and mix in 1/3 cup heavy cream. Add melted white chocolate, orange zest, and nuts and stir just until incorporated. Fold in the whipped cream. Spread into baked pie shell and level off with a rubber spatula. Freeze until solid, about 4 hours.

For ganache: Prepare thirty minutes to an hour before serving. Plave chocolate chips in a metal mixing bowl and set asied. Bring cream to a simmer over medium heat. Pour simmering cream over chocolate chips and stir until melted. Set aside and allow to cool slightly. Spread warm ganache over top of the frozen pie, smoothing edges with a spatula.

For topping: Plave sweetened whipped cream in a piping bag and pipe edges of pie with whipped cream or pipe rosettes onto each pie. Sprinkle with macadamia nuts. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 1 pie.

Recipes for leftover Turkey

For Thanksgiving we fried a turkey... for the day after Thanksgiving we fried another one. Here are a few recipes that I use my leftover turkey in. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

Turkey Recipes

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Spaghetti Squash

This isn't a recipe so much as it is an idea- and not even a new idea at that! To be completely honest with you, I'm posting this out of sheer excitement that my girls finally ate dinner last night without complaining... AND there was squash involved! SHHHHH! I told them it was spaghetti that we grew in our garden. Mike, my anti-health-food-nut told me it was a dirty trick but it worked. They all ate their food. They put their own sauce and cheese on their "spaghetti" and they even used some "green salt" (green salt is basil, but they like salt so that's the word I use...) And yes, notice that this was served on pink plates... whatever it takes, right?

Low-Carb Spaghetti

1 large spaghetti squash
4 cups spaghetti sauce with meat
1 cup mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. To prepare squash, wash outside of squash and chop the top off as if you were carving a pumpkin. Remove seeds and discard (or save them for roasting) and discard stem. Place cut-side down onto a large square of aluminum foil. Fold foil up the sides of the squash and place up-right in the oven. Bake for about 1 hour or until outside skin looks darkened and wrinkly.
About 10-15 minutes prior to serving time, warm sauce on the stove. When squash is cooked, scoop the meat of the squash away from the skin with a metal spoon. Dish directly onto plates or into a serving bowl.

*For a lasagna-type dish, combine squash and spaghetti sauce with 2 cups small-curd cottage cheese in 2-qt casserole dish. Top with mozzarella cheese and bake at 375 degrees F until cheese is browned and bubbly.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mike's Lunches

My husband has a job where he's often out on jobsites and driving around all day. This means I can't just send him with the ol' leftovers to re-heat in the break room like I used to do. So the alternatives are packing a cold lunch every day, going out every day or a little mix of both. While he does still go out from time to time, we really try to stick with lunches from home as much as possible. It's healthier and cheaper. I guess we'll just go with cheaper though because any time I try to throw in that 'h' word it severely turns him off...


Sandwiches can be a little tricky when you're sending them for lunch almost every day. Deli meat only lasts about a week in the refrigerator, and bread tastes the best if you are buying/making it fresh every day. Well, that would absolutely decimate our grocery budget because that means we'd be buying meat every week and bread every day! Sales wouldn't be very likely... Not to mention that my 15-yr-old would be helping himself to the meat all week long which means I'd have to buy at least twice as much! The fix-all solution to these problems? My freezer, of course! By freezing pre-made sandwiches, you can still buy in bulk when you find a good deal, and you've got a quick and easy lunch at your fingertips every day.

Meat: I can usually find deli meat on a semi-decent sale about once a month- but not always. When I do find a good sale, I buy at least enough for that month. When I can't find it on sale, then I make my own. Thinly sliced roast from Sunday dinner makes a fantastic sandwich as well as grilled chicken, thinly sliced steak, and even pre-cooked bacon. All of these can be cooked ahead of time and assembled into indivual sandwiches- which can be frozen for later enjoyment. Just be sure to leave off any mustard, mayo or any other dressings as well as any vegetables.

Bread: By slicing bread and assembling into sandwiches immediately after purchase or baking, you'll be preserving the fresh taste and texture of your favorite bread. Just make sure you're using freezer quality wrapping before you freeze. Pictured below is several sandwiches I put together on Saturday after picking up my Ciabatta bread I'd ordered with my Bountiful Basket this week. This is some of Mike's favorite bread, so I dedicated four of the five loaves just to his sandwiches. We were able to get 3 huge sandwiches out of each loaf of bread. If I were making the sandwiches for myself it would be at least 5 sandwiches per loaf.
When you are ready to pack a sandwich into your lunch, open the frozen sandwich and spread some mayo, mustard or whatever other condiments you'd like. Also add some tomatoes and lettuce at this point if you'd like, or pack them pre-sliced into your lunchbox and add them to your sandwich when you're ready to eat.

Some other great lunch ideas that don't need to be re-heated:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Stroganoff Bread Braid

My friend recently sent me a recipe for a cheeseburger roll-up and raved about it so much that I wanted to try it for myself... unfortunately I didn't have all the ingredients so I created something similar. It turned out great so now I'll share it with all of you. Enjoy!

First, here is the original recipe for that Cheeseburger Roll Up (thanks Jason!)

Prep time 25 mins Cook time 20-25 minutes


1 lbs ground beef
4 slices of bacon
1/2 cup chopped onion
8 oz Velveeta Cheese
1 package of refrigerated pizza crust
1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook ground beef, bacon, and onion in a large skillet until beef is evenly browned, drain. Add Velveeta to skillet and stir until completely melted. Unroll pizza dough onto a greased cooking sheet. Press into a large rectangle. Top with meat mixture. Roll up dough, starting with one of the long sides and roll straight across. Tuck outside edges under and sprinkle with cheddar cheese.
Bake 20-25 mins untiltil crust is golden brown .

Now, here is what I did instead:

Stroganoff Bread Braid

1 recipe pizza crust, unbaked
1 lb hamburger
8 oz cream cheese
4-8 oz cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped onion (1 small onion)
8 oz mushrooms (you can sub. 2 small cans)
2 cups cooked green beans (you can substitute 1 15oz can)
1/2 cup sliced red peppers

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll pizza crust into a large rectangle on top of a lightly greased baking sheet. Cut dough into strips 1/3 of the way into rectangle on each side. Don't cut all the way across! Layer center section of dough with sliced cheddar cheese. Leave one strip of dough on each end uncovered. (Notice my dough extends past the edges of the pan- don't worry it will still fit once dough is "braided".)

2. Saute hamburger, onion, mushrooms and peppers until hamburger is well browned and vegetables are soft. Drain meat. Add cream cheese and green beans. Stir until cream cheese is completely melted.

3. Pile hamburger mixture onto center of the pizza crust on top of the cheese. Fold strips of bread across the top of the meat mixture until meat is totally covered. Fold end edges of bread in, making sure mixture is totally enclosed.

4. Bake in preheated oven 25 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Serve in slices while still hot.

**You can double this recipe and make one to eat & one to freeze. To freeze, cook according to directions above, allow to cool and then completely wrap in heavy duty aluminum foil. Label and freeze up to 3 months. To serve: Re-heat frozen and still wrapped Braid in 375 degree F oven for 1 hour. Unwrap, and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until crust crisps and is golden brown.

40 Minute Pizza Crust

40 Minute Pizza Crust

2 Tbsp melted butter
2 Tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp hot tap water
2 1/4 tsp Saf-Instant yeast
2 2/3 cup bread flour

Combine butter, sugar, hot water and yeast. Add 1 1/3 cup flour and salt. Stir until combined. Gradually add remaining flour 1/3 cup at a time until dough is no longer sticky. You may not end up using all of the flour. Turn dough out onto a clean surface and knead for 5 minutes. Roll dough into desired shape for pizza crust. Sprinkle corn meal onto pizza pan and then form dough into pan, curling up the edges for a nice crust. Cover with a dish towel and let rise about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake 12-15 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

*I like to at least quadruple this recipe and make several crusts at a time so I have them ready when I want a quick and easy dinner.
**To freeze: Allow baked crust to cool, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Label and freeze. When ready to make pizza, you can assemble pizza directly onto unwrapped and still frozen crust. Broil or bake until cheese is golden brown.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Chicken and Squash Stew

This is a fantastic Fall stew, especially during harvest time. The only thing that didn't come from my garden in this recipe was the chicken (with the exception of some of the spices)! Even my picky eaters gobbled this up. I've found that it helps them eat their food when they can help me pick it first from the garden.
Also, the hands-on time for this recipe is minimal. It took me less than 10 minutes to throw everything into the slow cooker and walk away.

Chicken And Squash Stew

3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 lbs winter squash, peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces
3 large potatoes (I used red potatoes), peeled and cubed
4 medium tomatoes, cut into quarters
3 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground celery
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cumin
2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh basil

Combine the chicken, potatoes, squash, carrots, tomatoes, onion, broth and seasonings in a 5-qt slow cooker. Cover; cook on Low for 6-8 hours or on High for 3-4 hours. Before serving, use a fork to lightly shred chicken. Serve each bowl with a few leaves of fresh basil. 

**If you don't have winter squash, yams or sweet potatoes are fantastic in this! I've used pumpkin, Acorn, butternut, yams and sweet potatoes and it's always turned out great.

Green Juice

This post is dedicated to my Uncle Clay. Thanks for all the many glasses of "Red Juice" when I came to visit as a kid. I still think, hands down, it's the best juice ever... but this green juice is a close second, if only because it helps me choke down some vegetables! Oh, and my kids. Shhh! Don't tell them there's spinach in this! I convinced my girls that this juice was green because I used green pears, apples and grapes...

Green Juice

1/2 small pineapple
1 pomegranate
2 cups green grapes*
1 green pear
2 green apples
1 bunch fresh spinach (about 10 ounces)
1 banana*

In your Vita-mix, add produce in the order listed above. Turn machine on Variable Speed 2, gradually increasing speed to pull produce into the blades. You may need to push down with your blender stick. When all produce is incorporated, turn machine to High and run for 1-2 minutes until everything is pulverized and smooth. Drink and enjoy!

*Freeze these before juicing so your juice will stay nice and cold without having to add ice. I buy bananas and grapes when they're on sale and keep plenty available in my freezer.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Best Of Everything Pumpkin Pie

For Mike's birthday every year, I make him something special. One of his very favorite foods (Pickled Pork Chops) that I don't even like to smell, let alone eat. And in turn, for my birthday each year he buys me a cheesecake (he doesn't like cheesecake... I know, weird, right?). It's just one of those simple little gestures that makes our marriage stronger each year. Also, my Pavlonian response gets stronger each year... about two weeks before my birthday I start CRAVING cheesecake. I even ate some in my dreams the other night... so this year I jumped the gun a little and made my own. (Don't worry, I'll still want one in a week too!) To top it off, I decided to make a pumpkin cheesecake. He also doesn't like anything pumpkin... I know you are all wondering how I could be married to such a person, but I've learned over the years that not liking cheesecake and pumpkin doesn't necessarily make you a bad person... in fact, it works great for me because then I don't have to share! mwahaha!
This isn't really a traditional cheesecake, nor is it a traditional pumpkin pie. It's just a little bit of both for a perfectly tasty dessert. (and breakfast, if I'm being honest, since that's what I've had the last two days in a row... what? Don't judge, I have to eat it all by myself!)

Best of Everything Pumpkin Pie

For the "pie":
3/4 cup pumpkin puree (I used fresh pumpkin, you can also use canned)
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of cloves
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
For the cream cheese layer:
1 8-oz bar of softened cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 egg whites
2 Tbsp corn starch
For the caramel layer:
1/4- 1/2 cup soft caramel topping (click here for recipe)
1/2 cup pecan or walnut pieces (optional)
For the crust: (or to save time, use a pre-made chocolate graham cracker crust)
3/4 cup chocolate chip cookie crumbs or graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup ground walnuts (optional)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp melted butter

1. For the crust, I used chocolate chip cookies that I bought at a school bake sale (they were overcooked and barely edible- but, hey I'm supporting my local school, right?). To make fine crumbs, I used the dry blender for my Vita-mix and pulsed until they were the consistency I liked. I also added the walnuts in with the crumbs to grind them up. To that, combine brown sugar and melted butter and press into a regular-sized pie plate.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, egg yolks, 1 1/2 cups sugar and spices. In a seperate bowl, whip together cream cheese, sour cream, vanilla, brown sugar, egg whites and corn starch.

3. Carefully spread a layer of cream cheese mixture across the top of the crust. If there's any extra cream cheese mixture, stir it into the pumpkin mixture. Spoon caramel over the top of the cream cheese. Sprinkle with pecans or walnuts if desired. Finally, pour pumpkin mixture over the top of caramel to fill the remainder of the pie.

4. Bake at 350 F for 50-55 minutes. Do not overbake, center may be soft but it will firm up when chilled. Let pie cool on a wire rack, then refrigerate. Top with ice cream, whipped cream or caramel (or all!- it is best of everything, right?). Serve and enjoy!

**I have no amazing "finished pie" picture... my 2-year old found my pies (I doubled the above recipe and made one large pie and several mini pies) and dug right in while they were still cooling. I was even going to give some away but thought it might be tacky to give somebody a pie that's been spooned into. Oh well, guess I eat them all myself...

Aunt Bea's Portugese Pickled Pork Chops

Every year for Mike's birthday, I make him a special treat- it's a Portugese family tradition that he's had in his family for generations. And by treat, I mean something so amazing that I won't even eat them... That way there's more for him. Really. That's why I don't eat them... it has nothing to do with the fact that it's pickled meat... But really, I think this is a total MAN food. There's only a very few women that I've met that have liked these, but I don't think I've ever met a guy who didn't.

Aunt Bea's Portugese Pickled Pork Chops

1 galloon apple cider vinegar
2 rounded tbsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
1 can pickling spices
1 Tbsp minced garlic (I use one whole garlic bulb)
1 big onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 cup water
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
5-8 lb pork chops

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. This will fit into two gallon-sized ziploc bags (just be sure to put the bags into a bowl to save your refrigerator from any leaks). Cover and marinate for 2 days, stirring from the bottom 2-3 times a day. Grill over high heat (450 - 500 F) for about 10 minutes, flipping once.

These are good straight off the grill, and (as Mike puts it) even better cold- so make sure you cook up enough to last a few days.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Breaded Zucchini Bites

I actually used gray squash for this because that's what I had on hand; really this works for any Summer squash.
Breaded Zucchini Bites

2 zucchinis, washed and sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup milk
1/4 - 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 egg
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
Spray olive oil (I like the spritzer-type bottle)

Spray one large cookie sheet with olive oil. Take out 4 small bowls. To the first bowl, add milk. Combine flour with seasonings in the second bowl. Crack and whip an egg into the third and the last bowl will hold your bread crumbs. Dip each zucchini slice into the milk, then coat thoroughly with flour mixture. Carefully dip into the bowl with egg until flour is covered, then coat with bread crumbs and place onto greased cookie sheet. Repeat until all zucchini is breaded. If you'd like to, spray the tops of the zucchini pieces with the olive oil for a little extra crunch. Bake at 425 F for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. These are great dipped in marinara sauce, ranch or bleu cheese dressing.

Cheesy Potato Casserole

You all know I'm Mormon, right? These are an LDS staple and to be honest, one of the best comfort foods that I've ever had. I guess that's why they're also known as "Funeral Potatoes". These potatoes are amazing. I have to be careful when I cook these to make just enough for dinner... otherwise I end up eating the leftovers all by myself!

Cheesy Potato Casserole

5 large potatoes (should be about 10 cups chopped)
3 Tbsp butter
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives (or use green onions)
3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese

Bread crumb topping (optional):

3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
2 Tbsp butter, melted
3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese

Wash and peel potatoes (if you like the peels leave them on like I do!). Dice potatoes into about 1/2 inch cubes. In large fry pan, saute the potatoes in butter until slightly browned and softened. Add potatoes to a 13x9 in baking dish. Mix together soup, sour cream, milk, cheese and chives. Pour evenly over potatoes without mixing. In a seperate bowl, mix together bread crumbs, butter and parmesan cheese. (I usually omit the butter at this point, there's enough oil from the cheese in my opinion to still get a nice crispy topping.) Sprinkle over the top of the soup mixture. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 F.

**If you're in a hurry, substitute one large package of frozen hashbrowns. If this is the case, grab a bag of Potatoes O'Brian for extra flavor (Potatoes with onions and peppers mixed in).

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Truth and Halloween Sugar Cookies

It has come to my attention that some people think that I'm some kind of super-mom when it comes to cooking. I have to be honest with you: I'm not. I love to cook and yes, I do it often. But I'm also a mother of four, room mom for my kindergartner's class and Volunteer site coordinator for a produce Co-op. Add that to church callings, family drama, laundry, dishes, potty training, dance practice, and a huge garden... well, let's just say I don't always get a "proper" dinner to the table. In fact, to lower the bar even further... I may as well admit to you that yes, I have on rare occasions fed my children cookies, goldfish and a vitamin supplement for dinner. And my family can verify that on days like that, well... you just don't question it. Actually it's best to avoid confrontation at all. Eat your cookies and GO TO BED!

That said, hopefully I can redeem myself just a tiny bit by sharing a delicious cookie recipe with you. And no, we didn't have this for dinner last night! Remember I made some chocolate fudge frosting for Mike's cake that I didn't end up using? Well, I thought it would be criminal to let it go to waste so I dyed it black and made Halloween cookies. YUM. I also made some pink frosting for Breast Cancer Awareness month. I won't tell you what shape those cookies were.... (haha just kidding, they were just circles- can you tell I'm in a "mood" today? maybe we'll be having cookies for dinner tonight...)

No-Fuss Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter (can substitute shortening or do 50/50)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp almond (or vanilla) extract
1/2 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, soda, almond and salt. Mix thoroughly. Add flour one cup at a time, stirring to combine.

2. Drop by tablespoon into a bowl of granulated sugar, roll until covered then place onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

3. Bake 8-9 minutes for soft cookies. They may look slightly uncooked, but trust me, they will firm up as they cool. If you cook them longer, they will end up being crunchy. Which is fine... if you like that sort of thing.

**If you are planning on frosting your cookies (which, lets all be honest, is the only reason to even eat a sugar cookie...) then skip step 2. Allow to cool completely then frost with your favorite icing or frosting.

***If you want to cut shapes, cover dough tightly and refrigerate for a couple hours before rolling it out. But, since I'm in a mood I'll tell you right now that's the main reason I don't normally make sugar cookies. It's just one more step to fuss with and in my opinion, not necessary. Too bad the kiddos don't agree, right?

The spider is two cookies together with black frosting. I mashed together three mini marshmallows for each of the eyes and dotted them with black frosting.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mike's Ice-Cream Cake

For Mike's birthday, he likes to have ice-cream cake. But not just any ice-cream cake... He likes Gold Medal Ribbon ice-cream cake from Baskin Robbins. Only problem with that? We're looking at FORTY dollars for one silly cake! Really? For a cake?! So this year, to save some money, I decided to make it myself...with the condition that if it didn't turn out just as good as Baskin Robbins we'd go buy one for him anyway. Needless to say, I was under a lot of pressure!

First- the ice cream. Gold Medal Ribbon is a delicious blend of chocolate and vanilla ice-cream swirled with a band of gooey caramel and it's an exclusive Baskin Robbins flavor. But buying a gallon of ice-cream from Baskin Robbins was out of the question. So I decided to make my own version of the good stuff. I bought a gallon of chocolate ice-cream and a gallon of vanilla then made my own caramel.

Second - Assembling the "cake". First off, Mike was very specific in his request that his "cake" not have any actual cake in it. He's not a big cake person and that's probably why the Baskin Robbins cake is so appealing. They don't add cake! (At least not to the kind we've bought in years past.) So after making the caramel and while it was still warm, I took out the ice cream buckets that I'd purchased. I also took out a couple other buckets to assemble the cake into. One large for a big cake, and a smaller one for a smaller cake. Into each bucket I layered vanilla ice-cream, caramel, chocolate ice-cream, caramel and so on until both buckets were filled. I then put the lid onto each and put them into the freezer to freeze solid.

Third - Frosting the "cake". Baskin Robbins frosts their cake with a chocolate fudge frosting. Mike says it's more hot fudge than frosting, though. I actually thought of a few different frosting ideas to get this just right. My first idea was a frosting/Cool-Whip mixture to make frosting the cake super quick and easy. I don't know if you've ever actually frosted ice-cream, but I have. And in my experience, Cool-Whip frosting is by far the easiest to work with. Mike voted that down quick (quickly enough that I didn't even waste my ingredients to try it!) Next (and this one I actually did make) I tried a chocolate fudge frosting. It turned out SO good! But while it was "fudgey" tasting it just wasn't fudge. Ultimately... I just made fudge! And while, I must admit, the cake didn't look exactly gorgeous after it had been "frosted" it was definitely the right choice.

To frost the cake, I removed the bucket from the freezer, ran water along the outside and slid the ice cream out onto a platter. I then poured the still-warm fudge over the top, letting it drizzle down the sides of the cake. Then back to the freezer to let it freeze solid again.

The finished cake - Turned out delicious. And I have the official 'OK' to serve the big cake for his Birthday get-together on Saturday instead of an authentic Baskin Robbins cake. Wahoo! Oh and the total spent? For both the big & the little cake it cost me about $8 to put together. Yup. That's a savings of... $32!

Delicious No-Fail Fudge

Do exactly as I tell you and this recipe turns out perfectly every time! And just so you know, for years I've tried to perfect my fudge recipe and it was always delicious. Every time I'd take my fudge to any kind of gathering, I'd get bombarded with recipe requests... but every year my mom would send us fudge for Christmas... and every year hers was even better than mine! So, needless to say, this is HER recipe. I promise you, you'll love it! It is smooth and creamy and the taste is out of sight!

Mom's Fudge (AKA the best fudge ever!)

3 cups sugar
1 can evaporated milk (12 oz.)
1/4 cup butter
2 (12 oz) packages semi-sweet chocolate chips
 or 4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

4 cups mini marshmallows
2 tsp vanilla

Optional Mix-ins

1 cup mini marshmallows
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Measure out chocolate chips and mini-marshmallows into a large mixing bowl. Make sure it's not a cheap plastic bowl as you'll be pouring boiling hot sugar into it! Also get your electric beaters plugged in and ready and your vanilla ready to pour. Grease a 9x13 in. pan or several tins.
2. Stir together sugar, milk and butter on medium heat until it reaches a full-rolling boil. Boil exactly 5 minutes and remove from heat. Pour into bowl with chocolate and marshmallows.

3. Use an electric mixer to immediately mix sugar/milk mixture with the chocolate and marshmallows. Mix until both chocolate and marshmallows have completely melted and chocolate is smooth.
4. Add vanilla and mix until it is completely incorporated. Stir in optional mix-ins. My mom always adds more marshmallows and some walnuts, which in my opinion, is the best way to go. Also try adding: marshmallows and chunks of graham cracker; peanut butter chips; chopped almonds; or candy cane pieces.

5. Pour into prepared pan/tins. Allow to cool completely. Cut into squares and wrap individually in clear plastic wrap or place into an airtight container. Also, this freezes great so make some now to give away for Christmas goodies!

Easy Multi-use Caramel

I use this caramel recipe to pour over ice cream, mix with popcorn, stir into brownies, and even shape into Christmas goodies. This week I made it to mix into Mike's ice-cream cake. (It turned out delicious, by the way!)


1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup Karo syrup
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla

Combine butter, sugar and syrup in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Add sweetened condensed milk and return to a rolling boil. Continue to boil and stir for the following times depending upon the purpose for the caramel:

For ice-cream topping- Cook and stir for about 5 minutes. The caramel will have just a small pull from the edge of the pan. You can cook it longer, but the caramel will end up hardening once you pour it over your cold ice cream. Remove from heat and add vanilla. This caramel is also great baked into cookies, cakes and brownies. (like the "good" brownies)
 This is what the caramel looks like after it's been removed from heat. See how it just slightly pulls away from the sides as the spoon passes through it?
For Caramel corn- Cook and about 7 minutes. The caramel should be pulling away from the edges of the pan as you stir. Unlike the ice-cream topping, it will be noticeable even after the spoon has passed. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour over 6-7 quarts of popped corn. (This makes a yummy-sticky-gooey popcorn. If you like your caramel popcorn hard, cook the caramel longer like the 10-15 minutes recommended below.)

For caramel candy - Cook and stir to softball stage. This will take10-15 minutes. The caramel will not only pull from the sides of the pan, but will "ball up" as you stir. The longer you cook it, the harder your candy. My family likes soft, chewy caramel so I usually cook mine closer to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. To shape into candies, allow caramel to cool slightly then pour into molds. You may also pour into a 9x13 in. ungreased pan and cut into squares when caramel has completely cooled. Wrap individually in plastic wrap.