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!