Monday, December 29, 2008

Menu Mondays

Last week was a little insane with Christmas and my husband's sudden determination to demolish our dining area and re-do it.
But we're surviving (under a layer of drywall dust).

Hopefully I can get back into my kitchen (get it cleaned) and get to cooking this week.

Saturday: Staying in tonight since it's a "home repair day". Breakfast for dinner: leftover ham, eggs, and skillet potatoes, with homemade bread from my Christmas-present Breadmaker
Sunday: Ordering out for dinner while we watch football (and DH wears his Christmas-present jersey!)
Monday: Steak (My dad hooked us up with free Omaha steaks again -- sweet), steamed broccoli, pasta or leftover scalloped potatoes
Tuesday: King Ranch Casserole
Wednesday: Spaghetti with meat sauce, yeast rolls
Thursday: New Years -- I think we're going out late-evening to see a friend's band, so we'll eat at home: Sausage sandwiches with green peppers and onions
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Need to make either an appetizer or a dessert for a neighborhood get-together. After all those Christmas cookies -- I'm leaning towards appetizer!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monkey Bread...

...pull apart loaf....sticky roll...

Whatever you call it, it's delicious.

This item is one of my family's Christmas traditions -- we always serve it Christmas morning for breakfast after opening gifts.

Even though we celebrated Christmas with my family a week early, we still had our breakfast!

I've discovered our recipe is a bit different than most, because of the inclusion of the cook-and-serve vanilla pudding. But personally, I love the vanilla undertones in the ooey goodness.

Monkey Bread
(Family Recipe)
2 loaves frozen bread, thawed )but don't let them raise)
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 small cook-and-serve vanilla pudding (NOT instant!)
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, if desired
- Grease a bundt pan
- Pull 1 loaf of thawed bread into bite-sized pieces, and place in the bundt pan
- On the stovetop in a small saucepan, mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla pudding, milk, cinnamon, and nuts (if desired
- Once everything is mixed and the consistency is smooth, pour over the bite-sized pieces of bread loaf in the bundt pan
- Pull the other loaf apart into bite sized pieces and place on top of the brown sugar/pudding mixture in the bundt pan
- Let raise on the countertop for 2-3 hours, or until bread reaches the top of the bundt pan
- To make the night before and bake in the a.m.: cover the bundt pan with saran wrap after it rises, and place in the refrigerator. Remove in the a.m., remove the saran, and place in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes
- To make right away: once bread reaches the top of the bundt pan, bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes, then invert it and "dump" it onto a platter.
- Serve immediately.

Oh-My-God-It's-Good Baked Oatmeal

This is delicious! I made it on Sunday, and took a piece of it to work each day for breakfast. My co-workers were nearly crazy by the end of the week from smelling it!

Highly, highly reccommend making this -- it'd be great if you had a small crowd to feed, OR if you just want to eat it all week long like me :-)

I ate it warmed in the microwave, with cold milk down over it. Mmm...

Baked Oatmeal

*This is a doubled recipe version of Swistle's, because I didn't want to deal with 1/2 fruits. It made a 9x9 square baking pan full of baked oatmeal goodness as the doubled recipe.

1 1/2 cups (or slightly more) milk
2 tbsp butter
1 cup regular oats (if you're using steel cut, you'll probably need more milk. no idea how much)
1 apple, peeled and chopped small
1 banana, cut into pieces
10-12 pieces of chunk canned pineapple (chopped up rings or crushed pineapple is fine too)
4 tbsp brown sugar (it was really sweet -- you could probably make this amount smaller)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
dash of salt (DON'T forget this, or it's very bland!)

1-2 tbsp additional brown sugar
1/2 - 1 cup of nuts (walnuts, pecans, whatever), chopped (optional)

- Boil the milk and butter together on the stovetop
- Add the oats, stirring in slowly
- Stir in the chopped fruit, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt
- Cook and stir 1 minute
- Pour into a greased casserole dish (I used a 9x9 baking pan)
- Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes
- Remove from oven, sprinkle more brown sugar and nuts (if desired)
- Bake for another 5 minutes, or until bubbly

Menu Monday -- late

Sorry so late, folks! We celebrated Christmas with my family near Pittsburgh this past weekend, so we've been super busy.

Add to that, DH decided to renovate our dining room -- this week! -- so evenings are packed as well!

Monday: steak, steamed broccoli, pasta
Tuesday: homemade mac and cheese, leftover ham, green beans
Wednesday: spaghetti with meat sauce
Thursday: we've already done christmas, so a relaxing leftovers meal
Friday: unsure -- the dining room project will be in full swing!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Cookies 2008: Cut Out Sugar Cookies

Katie and Ashlee are right -- these ARE the best sugar cookies! They were super-duper easy to work with, roll out, cut, etc, and they're very tasty as well!

I wasn't thrilled with the icing recipe I arbitrarily chose for these if you have a royal icing recipe that's tried-and-true, please pass it my way.

You'll also notice I have no patience for decorating. I like to BAKE. Not DECORATE. This results in my sugar cookies looking like a 4 year old probably iced them :-)

I'm okay with that.

The Most Fabulous Sugar Cookies
(Good Things Catered by way of Ashlee)

1 1/2 cups butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 Tbsp lemon zest
5 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Powdered sugar, for rolling

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
-Cream butter and sugars in a mixer for 5 minutes.
-Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly.
-Add vanilla, almond, and lemon zest.
-Sift in flour, baking powder, and salt a little at a time.
-Do not over mix, this process should take about one minute.
-Chill dough for up to a week in the fridge, or roll out and cut right away.
-Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and bake cookies for 7-8 minutes.
-Wait until cookies are cooled before icing.

Ashlee says this makes 80, and Katie got about 30 on the recipe I saw on her blog. I did small-ish cut-outs and got about 50. It really depends on your thickness and the size of your cookie.

Funfetti Cookies

I made these because I was pressed for time, but needed a dessert to take to a gathering.
I don't normally cheat with the frosting/cake mix, but ironically enough, the people I was feeding are so used to 'store bought' sweetness, they gobbled these right up! They loved them!

And they only took me 45 minutes from start until dishes washed and dried, to make!

Funfetti Cookies

1 (18.9-oz.) pkg. Pillsbury Funfetti Cake Mix
1/3 cup oil
2 eggs
1/2 (15.6-oz.) can Pillsbury Funfetti Vanilla Frosting

- Heat oven to 375°F.
- In large bowl, combine cake mix, oil and eggs; stir with spoon until thoroughly moistened.
- Shape dough into 1-inch balls; place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. With bottom of glass dipped in flour, flatten to 1/4-inch thickness.
- Bake at 375°F. for 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets.
- Spread frosting over warm cookies. Immediately sprinkle each with candy bits from frosting.
- Let frosting set before storing. Store in tightly covered container.

Christmas Cookies 2008: Peanut Butter Blossoms

These are a traditional Christmas cookie -- but my family and friends LOOOOOOVE them :-)

They're very easy to put together, and there's just something incredibly satisfying about squishing that Hershey's Kiss into the hot cookie fresh from the oven!

Hershey's Peanut Butter Blossoms
48 Herhsey's Kisses Brand Milk Chocolates
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Granulated sugar

- Heat oven to 375°F.
- Remove wrappers from chocolates.
- Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well.
- Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.
- Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.
- Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
- Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges.
- Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

*This recipe says it makes 4 dozen -- but I got more like 3 dozen.

"Lighter" General Tsao's

DH loves General Tsao's (I'm positive I'm spelling that wrong...) so I thought we'd try this recipe at home.
But -- like every time I try Asian-anything at home -- it just isn't as good as getting it at a restaurant. DH liked this, but I could've passed on it.

I'm not a big fan of ginger, and it's a prevalent flavor in the dish, so that may be why.

"Lighter" General Tsao's Chicken
(Martha Stewart)

1 ¼ cups long-grain rice
¼ cup cornstarch
1 pound snow peas, trimmed and halved crosswise (I used steamed broccoli instead for DH)
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated and peeled
3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 large egg whites
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower (I used regular vegetable oil)

- Cook rice according to package instructions.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and ½ cup cold water until smooth. Add snow peas, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and red-pepper flakes; toss to combine, and set aside.
- In another bowl, whisk together egg whites, remaining 3 tablespoons cornstarch, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Add chicken, and toss to coat.
- In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Lift half the chicken from egg white mixture (shaking off excess), and add to skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining oil and chicken, and set aside (reserve skillet).
- Add snow-pea mixture to skillet. Cover; cook until snow peas are tender and sauce has thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet (with any juices); toss to coat.
- Serve with rice.

Completed Italian Cookies


Menu Mondays

I've got lots of updates to make -- and no time to make them! Hopefully soon!

Saturday: Baked off peanut butter blossoms, funfetti cookies, and cut-out sugar cookies, went to friends for dinner
Sunday: Baked oatmeal (oh my GOD is this stuff good), iced cut-out sugar cookies, Subway rescued dinner
Monday: steak, broccoli, pasta for dinner
Tuesday: stuffed shells, rolls, salad (?)
Wednesday: dinner out with DH for his work christmas party
Thursday: leftovers
Friday: on the road to spend the weekend with my family for early Christmas.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Menu Mondays

Cookie baking for Christmas started this weekend -- however you won't get to see some of them as finished product until next week (I don't like to ice or glaze my cookies in advance -- they keep longer if you don't).

That's okay -- it'll give you an excuse to make yummy cookies in the new year :-)

Saturday: Italian lemon cookies, russian tea cakes, and spritz cookies
Sunday: Cinnamon-Roasted Almonds for DH to take to work, Meatballs for meatball subs
Monday: Movie night with the ILs -- they're bringing pizza
Tuesday: Steak and steamed broccoli
Wednesday: "Lighter" General Tsao's Chicken with Broccoli (or green beans if it's ok w/ DH) and rice
Thursday: leftovers
Friday: Spaghetti with leftover meatballs

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Meatball Subs

I'm always trying new meatball recipes -- I just can't quite find one I really like.

This is this week's version. It's tasty, but it's still not quite what I'm looking for.

Meatballs always end up tasting like meatloaf to me...which leads me to believe they need more spice in them. Anybody have one to reccommend for my next trial run?

Italian Meatballs
(Brown Eyed Baker)

1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
1 teaspoon dried Italian parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs, divided
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Combine 1/4 cup breadcrumbs with milk and let soak for 10 minutes
- Combine with all remaining ingredients and shape into balls
- Bake for 30 minutes, then add to sauce. If you want to cook them the whole way in the oven, cook for 40-45 minutes, depending on size.

Christmas Cookies: Spritz Cookies

I'd never made -- never HEARD of spritz cookies until I got married.

I received a cookie press at my bridal shower, and quickly discovered the only "cookies" I could make with it were apparently something called spritz cookies.

Well, we got married in November of 2007 -- and just now, this weekend, the cookie press made it's debut. Surprisingly, it worked really well! I had the dough stick a couple of times, but all-in-all it worked out.

The cookies have a nice buttery/almond-y flavor to them. I like them and they're easy to make!

Spritz Cookies
(Lovestoeat, by way of Wilton)

9 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F
- Thoroughly cream the butter and sugar
- Add the egg, milk, vanilla and almond extracts and beat well
- Stir together flour and baking powder; gradually add to creamed mixture, mixing to make a smooth dough
- Do not chill your dough!
- Place the dough in a cookie press and press cookies onto an ungreased cookie sheet (I added sprinkles to mine at this point before I baked them)
- Bake for 5-7 minutes, remove cookies from sheet, cool on rack

Christmas Cookies: Italian Cookies

I saw these and they were so cute, I had to have them. I admit it -- I was swayed by good pictures!

But luckily, these little devils are delicious.

You'll get non-glazed pictures for now -- I always wait to glaze my cookies until closer to their serving date, so they stay fresh and delicious longer.

Italian Cookies
(Noble Pig by way of Bunny's Warm Oven)

Approximately 100 cookies (this is according to the Noble Pig page -- I only got 60 or so? I guess mine are bigger!)

For the cookies:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons lemon extract (okay to use anise or vanilla too!)

Directions for cookies:
- Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.
- In the microwave melt butter and shortening (make sure the shortening is fresh or it will taste bad) together in a bowl.
- Beat the melted butter and shortening together until it is completely incorporated, about 2 minutes.
- Add granulated sugar and mix well.
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, about 1 minute each.
- Mix in lemon extract.
- Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture slowly, until fully incorporated. Don't overmix.
- If the cookie dough is too sticky to roll in the palm of your hand, add a bit of flour. However, the dough should remain very soft, so don't add too much.
- Roll the cookie dough in small balls (they puff up quite nicely) and place them on ungreased cookie sheets.
- Bake at 375 degrees F for 8-10 minutes (mine took 8 minutes). The bottoms of the cookies should be lightly browned but the tops of should remain light in color.
- Remove cookies from the cookie sheet immediately and move to a wire rack. Cool completely before glazing.

For the glaze:
3-4 Tablespoons milk
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon lemon extract (okay to use anise or vanilla)

Directions for the glaze:
- Slowly mix milk with powdered sugar and lemon extract.
- The glaze needs to be thick to adhere to the cookie.
- Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze.
- Sprinkle each cookie with nonpareils and leave them to completely dry.

Christmas Cookies: Russian Tea Cakes

Do you know the difference between Russian Tea Cakes and Mexican Wedding Cookies?

Most people think the names are interchangeable, but actually, Russian Tea Cakes generally contain walnuts, while Mexican Wedding Cookies generally contain almonds.

See? Now you've learned something. :-)

Russian Tea Cakes

24 cookies

1 cup butter
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar for decoration

- Cream butter and sugar together
- Slowly add the flour until combined
- Stir walnuts in by hand until mixed
- Refrigerate the dough until chilled ( I don't reccommend leaving this dough in the fridge long -- maybe 1/2 hour. If you leave it in, it gets hard and is impossible to work with)
- Roll the dough into 1" balls and bake for 15 minutes in a preheated 350 degree F oven
- Once baked, roll while still hot in confectioners' sugar until coated
- Let cool, then roll in more confectioners' sugar before serving/storing.

Christmas Cookies 2008

Since my mom and I are 250 miles apart, and we can't bake together, we're both baking select types of cookies, and we'll exchange some of each when we celebrate Christmas.

We're celebrating the weekend before Christmas this year -- I'm completely tired of fighting the traffic to make the drive for the actual holiday.

Anyway, here's this year's line-up -- I'll try to get them all posted soon!

- chocolate chip cookies
- pizelles (orange and vanilla i think -- i hate anise!)
- soft sugar cookies
- peanut butter cookies

- russian tea cakes
- italian cookies (i made mine lemon. again. hate anise.)
- spritz cookies
- peanut butter blossoms
- cut-out sugar cookies

Monday, December 1, 2008

Menu Mondays

Another whirlwind week...I really love seeing my family for the holidays, but hate having to rush home and try to get everything done before work starts again. *sigh*

Monday: steak, broccoli
Tuesday: leftover turkey, stuffing, etc
Wednesday: rigatoni with meat sauce
Thursday: turkey and wild rice soup
Friday: leftovers?

Monday, November 24, 2008

FAIL: Elfin Shortbread Cookies I discovered these cookies via Tastespotting, and the woman who posted them had such a rockin' picture of them, I HAD to make them. And I decided to make them this weekend as a "trial" for whether or not I'd make them for Christmas.

Thank goodness I did. If I'd have had this much trouble with them while baking a dozen other kinds of cookies, I'd have had a meltdown.

Mine did not come out nearly as cute as Elle's. She does warn in her post that if you work the dough too long, it'll turn pink from the sprinkles. I was aware of this.

But if I HADN'T worked the dough that long, it would've remained in crumb form, rather than ball form as requested. It fought me on being a 'ball' right down to the end, to be honest.

I don't know -- was it the temperature of my butter? I used cold butter, like I always do for shortbread.

The only thing I can come up with is -- I don't have a food processor. Maybe it really does help this recipe come together??
Regardless...I don't think I want to fuss with this one again for Christmas.
Elfin Shortbread Cookies
1 1/4 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 TB red and green sprinkles
- If using a food processor:
- Pulse the flour and sugar until blended.
- Add in the butter until it all resembles fine crumbs
- Add the sprinkles and pulse just until the dough starts to come together. (Don't overdo it, or the dough will turn pink from the red sprinkles like mine)
- Remove to a lightly floured surface and knead a few times until the dough forms a ball.
- Pat the dough out into an 8x5 inch rectangle on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Cut the dough into 1/2 inch squares, and separate them on the baking sheet. (A bench scraper works really well for cutting them.)
- If you're not using a food processor:
- Mix the flour and sugar in a medium bowl.
- Cut in the butter until you get fine crumbs, stir in the sprinkles and knead until smooth.
- Continue with cutting and baking the cookies
- Bake at 325 degrees F for 12-14 minutes, and then transfer the cookies on the parchment to a cooling rack.
- Store in a tightly covered container at room temp for up to three days or in the freezer for up to three months.
-This is supposed to make about 160 little cookies, but neither Elle nor I got that many!

And sorry for all of the really bad pictures lately -- our new kitchen has terrible picture lighting! I guess I'm going to have to make a lightbox after all.

Menu Mondays

Well folks -- it's time! It's Thanksgiving week!
Since we just moved into our house 3 weeks ago, I'm not hosting. (Secretly, I am thrilled about this. I love cooking -- just not when there's pressure to perform!)

We'll be headed back to my hometown to have Thanksgiving with my family. Which makes this week short...

Sunday: Shortbread Cookie Bites (as a trial for whether I want to make them for Christmas), Tacos with Rice/Black Beans for dinner
Monday: Steak and steamed broccoli
Tuesday: Taco leftovers
Wednesday: On the road -- headed for Butler, Pa
Thursday: Thanksgiving with Mom and Grandma -- 3 generations sharing a kitchen (SAVE ME!)
Friday: Still in Butler visiting family

I do have a project for the (few) readers I have, though...

I'm trying to decide which types of Christmas cookies I'll make this year. I'll have to make them all the weekend prior to Christmas, though, because I can't take any time off from work that week to do so.

So... what's your favorite Christmas cookie? (And if it's one that keeps well for 1 week+, even better!!)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Zuppa Toscana

I'm not a terribly huge Olive Garden fan, but I DO love their Zuppa Toscana soup.

DH had mentioned he was hungry for "soup, salad, and breadsticks" so instead of trying to wrestle our way into the constantly-full-takes-no-reservations Olive Garden in our town, I just made it at home!

This soup was very tasty. I liked it better than the restaurant version since I could control the fat and salt involved.

I pre-cooked the sausage on Sunday, and tossed it in a container in the fridge. Then all I had left to do was the basic 'soup' aspect on Tuesday, and while it simmered I chopped up our salad and tossed breadsticks in the oven (since it was a weeknight, Pillsbury saved the day on the breadsticks). Worked out to be a great weeknight meal.

The original recipe only served 3 people. I'm not even going to post that recipe here, because when I make soup, I make way more than that (regardless of the soup). I doubled the recipe, we ate it 2 nights for dinner, with some left over for lunches (or freezing, if that's your preference).

For the original "serves 3" recipe, click the Recipezaar link below.

Zuppa Toscana

1 lb. spicy sausage -- we used turkey sausage (original recipe calls for sausage in cups. who measures sausage in CUPS!?)
4 medium potatoes, cut in half length-wise and cut into 1/4" slices
1 large (2 small) onion, diced
12 slices bacon (we omitted. i don't need sausage AND bacon in my soup)
3 teaspoons minced garlic -- we used jarred preminced (don't worry if this smells mega-strong when it's cooking. the garlic flavor will mellow out)
4 cups kale leaves, cut in half then sliced (I chose about 12 kale leaves at the store, and ended up tossing them all in)
4 tablespoons chicken base(bullion)+2 quarts water (I used 8 cups of chicken broth instead)
2/3 cup heavy cream

- If sausage is in links, remove from casings. Cook sausage until done and set aside.
- Cook bacon and onion over medium heat, and when bacon is crisp, take it out of the pan and leave the onion in. Add the garlic to the onion and cook1 minute (Since I omitted the bacon, and my sausage was already cooked and in the fridge, I just put a little olive oil in the bottom of my stock pot, and sauteed the onion in the olive oil until soft and transparent. Then I added the garlic and proceeded on)
- Add the chicken base, water, and potatoes; simmer 15 minutes
- Crumble bacon and add crumbled bacon, kale, and cream
- Simmer 4 minutes, then serve.

This was DH's first time with kale, and he's decided he likes it. Anybody have good recipes that use it??

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cinnamon Roasted Almonds

Check out my crazy 1962 countertop. Nice amoebas, eh?

Okay, important stuff first. You must make these. Don't like almonds? Use pecans. peanuts, cashews. WHATEVER. Just make it.

You know when you go to the fair, or sporting events, and they have the roasted nuts covered in cinnamon sugar? Well, this is the homemade version. And they.are.awesome!

I daresay they'd even be a cute food-related gift for the upcoming holidays! Put them in a nicely decorated jar, and you're ready to go!

I will warn you I had trouble finding a big bag of plain almonds. People tell me the warehouse clubs have them, but I had trouble with my grocery store and Walmart. Just a warning!

And I think 4 cups of almonds is just shy of 1.5 lbs. If that helps.

Cinnamon Roasted Almonds
(Kara's Kitchen Creations)

1 egg white
1 tsp water
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups whole almonds
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

- Beat the egg white, water, and vanilla in a large glass bowl until frothy.
- Stir in the almonds to coat
- Mix the brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt and cinnamon together and sprinkle over the almonds, stirring until well coated.
- Pour onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper
- Bake at 250 degrees F for 60-90 minutes, stirring occasionally

- You want the almonds to be toasted, but don't let them burn!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Gundy's Breakfast Casserole

I was in the mood for something "different" for our weekend breakfast this week, and when I came across this recipe at Pennies on a Platter I thought it fit the bill! (Plus, it made a lot, so I hoped I could take leftovers for breakfast during the workweek!)

This casserole was good, but it wasn't as good as I'd anticipated. I used frozen hash browns (the recipe didn't show a preference) and they stayed a little mushy under all that egg. I also think it needs some kick...this is definately a base recipe, and probably some peppers or hot sauce would be awesome with it.

It was tasty -- I just think the eggs, sausage, and hash browns would've been tastier as three separate entrees.

Gundy's Breakfast Casserole

16 ounces hashbrowns or tater tots (I used frozen shredded hashbrowns)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup cream of xxx soup (I used chicken)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used a mix of cheddar and a mexican blend)
1 diced onion
1 lb. breakfast sausage (I used turkey sausage links, and chopped them up finely. I also put them in uncooked...I keep thinking it'd be a better consistency if they'd have been cooked)
10 eggs
3/4 cup milk

- Spray casserole dish (I used a 9x13) with cooking spray and place hashbrowns/tater tots in the bottom of the dish.
- Mix together sour cream, cream of xxx soup, cheese, onions, and sausage
- In a seperate bowl, beat eggs and mix in milk
- Combine egg mixture with the sour cream mixture and pour over the hashbrowns/tater tots
- Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes (or until done).

First Wedding Anniversary

Today is our first anniversary. It's hard to believe we've been married a year...and bought a house within that year, as well!

Menu Mondays

Hopefully a pretty normal week before the holiday craziness begins!

Sunday: Gundy's Breakfast Casserole and Cinnamon sugar almonds
Monday: Out to dinner for our anniversary
Tuesday: Steak, broccoli, pasta
Wednesday: Soup, salad, and breadsticks night (Zuppa Toscana soup, fresh salad, garlic breadsticks -- who needs the Olive Garden?!)
Thursday: Spaghetti
Friday: Leftovers

Sunday, November 16, 2008

More "Green" Cleaning

I have a few more "green" or natural, cleaning recipes to share with you -- but these are the ones I haven't had a chance to try yet.

If you try any of them, let me know how it works!

Window Cleaner
16 oz. spray bottle
Club Soda

- My notes say this is very good for interior windows and mirrors. Depending on what has been used in the past, you may experience streaking the first time or two of use. Once the old film from previous products is gone, the glass will sparkle.

Dust to Dust (Furniture Polish)
Olive oil (light)
Lemon Essential Oil
16 oz. squirt bottle

- Put 2 teaspoons olive oil in the bottle, add 20 drops essential oil, and 1/4 cup vinegar. Fill the rest of the bottle with purified water. Shake well. Good for weekly dusting or mopping. Shake before each use.

Leather Polish
Olive oil
8 oz. Squirt bottle

- 2 parts olive oil and 1 part vinegar. Shake well. Cleans and conditions leather couches, car seats, purses, jackets, and books. Shake well, squirt, then rub. Buff dry with a soft cloth.

Brass and Copper Cleaner
Large plastic or glass bowl and spoon

- Mix 2/3 cup vinegar and 2/3 cup flour. Stir until smooth. Add 1/2 cup salt and stir until mixed.
- Spoon the mixture onto copper pots. You want a nice sticky/smooth layer to stay on the metal. Leave on at least 2 hours or even overnight.
- This goop will turn green when it is working
- Rinse off and wipe clean. Finish with a tab of olive oil to prevent further tarnishing.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Liquid Castille Soap
Baking Soda
Tea Tree Oil
22 oz. Squirt bottle

- Mix 1/2 cup liquid Castille soap and 2 cups baking soda together. Work out any lumps with a fork.
- Dilute with 1/4 cup water and add 2 tablespoons vinegar to make foam. Add 1/2 teaspoon tea tree oil, mix, and pour into a 22 oz squirt bottle. Shake well before using.
- Squirt the cleaner inside the toilet on and under the rom and on the seat. Use a high quality toilet brush inside and a sponge for the rims and seats. Rinse with a scented vinegar if you like.

Tub and Tile Cleaner
Baking Soda
Liquid Castille soap
22 oz. squeeze container

- Mix 1 2/3 cup baking soda with 1/2 cup liquid Castille soap in a bowl. Dilute with 1/2 cup water. Add 2 tablespoons vinegar last. Stir until the limps are gone. If you can pour into the container easily then you have the right consistency. Shake well before using.

Room Deodorizer
Mix in a clean spray bottle:
4 tablespoons baking soda
1 quart warm water

- Spray into the air, or onto carpets.

Citrus Surface Cleaner
1/2 cup Borax
1/2 cup Baking Soda
2 teaspoons sweet orange essential oil

- Blending Procedure: using a small food processor, process the baking soda and borax until smooth. Add the essential oil and process further until smooth and free of lumps.
- Store in a glass or heavy plastic airtight container
- To use, dampen dirty area, put on gloves to protect your skin and nails. Scoop Citrus Surface Cleaner using your chosen cleaning utensil (rag, paper towel, etc) and clean the area until sparkling. Use more mixture for stubborn stains, less for minor stains.

Antiseptic Soap Spray
Liquid Castille soap
Purified water
Tea Tree Oil
16 oz trigger spray bottle

- Fill the bottle almost full of water and then 3 tablespoons liquid castille soap. Add 20-30 drops of tea tree ol. Shake to mix.
- Squirt on laundry, doorknobs, bathtub, toilet seats, etc.

Floor Cleaner
White distilled vinegar
Essential oil
16 oz. squirt bottle

- Equal amounrs vinegar and water, 15-20 drops essential oil (reccommend pure peppermint)
- Squirt onto the floor and mop or clean with a rag. Also can be used to cut soap scum in tubs and sinks.

Laundry Detergant Powder
In a large bucket with a lid , mix the following:

Equal amounts of washing soda (NOT baking soda. Washing soda is sold in the laundry aisle), and borax (reccommended ratio: 3 boxes of washing soda to 2 boxes of borax, to make it equal)
2 cups baking soda
4 bars grated Fells Naptha soap
drops of essential oil (reccommended: cedar wood, lavendar, eucalyptus, pine, spruce, and tea tree all mixed)

- Mix well with a large spoon, or close lid and shake
- Reccomended amount for use: about 1/8 cup per load.

Laundry Detergant Liquid
1 cake of soap (must be vegetable-oil based)
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax
8-10 liters water

- Heat water to dissolve ingredients. Allow to cool before use. Glycerin can be added. Use vinegar in the rinse water.

Fabric Softener
2 cups vinegar
2 cups baking soda
4 cups warm water plus essential oil

-- No amount is given with this recipe per load!

Spicy Orange Air Freshener
5 drops orange essential oil
2 drops cinnamon essential oil
4 oz. distilled water

- Put distilled water in a spray bottle, add essential oils and shake well. Spray as needed in rooms or at your work desk to refresh the air.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

I've said before how much I love Picky Palate. But I don't care, I'm saying it again -- I love Picky Palate!

She always takes nice photographs, and her meals are fantastic for weeknights.

This week I made her chicken cordon bleu casserole. DH says it's tasty, and to put it "on the rotation" -- we have a winner, ladies and gents!

I used all mozzerella and cheddar tonight, because it's what I had on hand...but I reeeeeeeeally think the shredded Swiss would make it taste more like actual Chicken Cordon Bleu.

And, as always...casseroles don't photograph well. Just trust me, it's tasty and it's quick (with a little prep work).

Cheesy Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

6-8 servings

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1/2 lb. diced ham
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken breast
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
14 oz. can chicken broth
3 cups cooked rice
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup mozzarella or swiss cheese (I think I would recc: 1/2 cup mozz, 1/2 cup shredded swiss)

- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
- Heat oil in a large, rimmed skillet over medium heat
- Add onion and bell pepper; saute until softened, about 5 minutes
- Stir in garlic, ham, and chicken, cook for an additional 5 minutes
- Melt butter then stir in flour, salt, and pepper until combined (I melted the butter in the microwave and just added it to the pan)
- Slowly stir in chicken broth until well combined
- Stir in cooked rice, then transfer to a 9x13 baking dish.
- Top with cheddar and mozz/swiss cheeses
- Bake 20-25 minutes. Cover the dish with foil for the last 10 minutes for oozing cheese

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Another Blake Win!

Okay, so, I know I'm SUPER late on this.
I won letter trays from Sillycone Inc via BlakeMakes -- gosh -- a month ago?! But my trays arrived right smack dab in the middle of the moving process.

Today, I've unearthed them from a pile of unpacked kitchen items.

They're so cool!!!

According to Sillycone: "...colorful, educational, flexible and nonstick.Make Ice, Sidewalk Chalk, Jello, Butter, Soap, Shortbread Cookies, Chocolate, Muffins, oven safe to 550 degrees F and (-50F)..." as well!

I haven't had a chance to make anything with them yet, but soon!

I received the letters, but they also make numbers and symbol trays. Too cool!

Thanks again Blake and Sillycone!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cleaning Recipes

Our new home came with a septic system. I grew up on a septic system, but my parents never followed any of the "rules" (no bleach, no chemicals, etc) -- and our system was fine.

Nonetheless, DH begged me to not take the same approach, and to scale back on what I used to clean. So I have.

I figured I'd share a few of these "non chemical" cleaners with you here. They're pretty common and pretty simple...I don't know where they originated, but I got them from a co-worker (thanks Kim!)

I've found that most of the ingredients are available in my local grocery store. Things like tea tree oil, castille soap and lavender essential oil are also on my grocery store's organic section, but if your store doesn't have an organic section, call around to natural foods shops and see if you can find them. Or order them on the internet :-)

The rest of the items can be purchased in large quantities at a Club Store (Sam's club, Cosco, etc), or you can do like I do -- and just stock up at the dollar store :-)

All Purpose Cleaner
Combine in a clean spray bottle:
2 teaspoons Borax (found in the laundry detergent isle)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 quart water

Heavy Duty All-Purpose Cleaner
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon Borax
Hot Water
1/4 cup Castille Soap
Essential Oils (optional)

- Mix 2 tbsp vinegar with 1 tsp Borax. Fill with very hot water. Shake until borax is dissolved. Add 1/4 cup Castille Soap last. To scent, add 10-15 drops essential oil.
- How to use: Spray and wipe refrigerator, walls, shower, toilets, etc. To remove or prevent mold or mildew, use 1 tablespoon Borax in your mixture.

Window and Glass Cleaner
Combine in a clean spray bottle:
1 part vinegar
1 part water

Strong Glass Cleaner
Mix in a clean spray bottle:
1 cup rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol
1 cup water
1 tablespoon clear, non-sudsing ammonia

Oven Cleaner
3 parts baking soda
1 part water
nylon scrubber
elbow grease

- Combine baking soda and water and use like a paste with the nylon scrubber. For really stuck on stuff, instead of 3 parts baking soda, mix half baking soda and half salt (this will increase the abrasiveness). Keep baking soda off the heating element.

Floor Cleaner
1/2 cup baking soda
1 gallon warm water
(For extra disinfecting power, add 1/2 cup Borax)

- Mix all together to dissolve the baking soda (and Borax). Apply with a rag or mop. When finished, rinse the rag/mop and go over the floor with warm, clean water so there's no residue left.

Fruit Cleaner
Mix in sink, scrub and rinse veggies/fruits well with:
3 parts baking soda
2 parts water

Drain Cleaner
Move over Drain-O!
1 cup baking soda
1 cup salt
1 quart boiling water

- Blend together and pour down drain, followed by boiling water. Let set for several hours or overnight, then run hot water down the drain.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner
- For scouring power, sprinkle baking soda in the toilet and scrub with your brush
- For stained toilets, try:
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup vinegar
Beware, it bubbles and fizzes a bit.

Furniture Polish
Mix together:
1 part olive oil
1 part lemon juice

- Apply lightly with a soft cloth. Don't make much more than you need; it doesn't store well.

Hardwood Floor Polish/Shine
1 part vinegar
1 part olive oil or vegetable oil

- Apply to the floor, and then rub it in well.

Lavendar and Tea Tree Spray Cleaner
1 teaspoon Borax
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 cups hot water
1/4 teaspoon lavendar essential oil
3 drops tea tree essential oil

- Mic all ingredients together and stir until dry ingredients are dissolved. Pour into a spray bottle for long-term storage and use. Spray as needed on any surface except glass. Scrub and rinse with a clean, damp cloth.

Rosemary Deodorizer and Disinfectant
6 drops Rosemary essential oil
6 drops Grapefruit essential oil
4 drops Lemon essential oil
2 ounces purified water

- Combine oils and water in a 2-oz. glass spritzer bottle. Shake well before each use. Spray liberally into the air. This spray will combat oders and kill infectious organisms. During cold and flu season, add 2 drops of eucalyptus. This blend works well in a diffuser also without the water.

Apple Pie Bars

Of all kinds of pie, apple is my favorite -- by far. But really, the part I love about pie is the crust --not the fruit.

And to top it all off, I really don't like making pie crust. I can do it, I just HATE IT.

So these bars seemed like the perfect solution! Apple pie, in bar form, with more "crust" -- awesome!

They really are delicious. You could omit the nuts if you wanted, but they add a nice crunch to the strusel topping, so I recommend you use them.

Apple Pie Bars

*Julie says it makes 12 bars...I cut mine smaller and got about 18

For the filling:
6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

For the crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 large egg

For the strusel:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, chilled and cubed
1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts, as I used)

- Cook the apples: In a large skillet or stockpot over medium heat, combine apples with the brown sugar, lemon juice, maple syrup, cinnamon and cardamom. Cover the pan for 5 minutes to allow the juices to release, and then uncover and cook, stirring occasionally until the apples have turned a golden brown and there is almost no liquid left in the pan (Julie says 15-20 minutes -- but my apples were super-juicy and took a little longer). Set aside apples to cool.

- Prepare the crust: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 9x13 pan with aluminum foil and butter the foil. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the brown sugar until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and mix to blend. Then, on low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients until just combined. With lightly floured hands, press the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the crust is golden-brown.

While the crust is baking, prepare the streusel.

- For the streusel: Combine the flour, sugars, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on medium-low speed until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in pecans (or walnuts).

- When the crust is done, immediately spread the cooked apples evenly over the hot crust. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the apples, lightly pressing to adhere. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake the bars for 25-30 minutes, or until the topping is lightly browned and crisp.

- Let the pan rest to cool and chill for several hours before cutting. Lift the bars out of the pan with the foil and cut on a flat surface.

- Julie says to dust the bars with confectioner's sugar and serve -- I omitted the confectioners sugar

Some Notes:
- Julie reccommends granny smith apples here, but you can use your favorite baking apple
- To get nice clean lines on your bars when you cut them, you must let them cool for a few hours. Fresh out of the oven, they're too soft to stand up to a knife
- I'm sure you could omit the cardamom if you don't have it (it's pretty expensive..) but if you have it, throw it in. It adds a nice undercurrent of flavor to the apples.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Menu Monday

Finally getting to try some new things this week...the stovetop and oven that came with the house we just bought are relatively new (2004) but they're very different from anything I've used before -- so the past two weeks I've been trying to figure out how to optimize it!

I think I've nailed down the cooktop (it's a glass flattop, but what makes it weird to me is the heat doesn't stay on consistently -- it turns on and off to maintain temperature. Drove me mad the first two weeks!!!) but the oven and I haven't quite been seeing eye-to-eye...

So this week, I'm using the oven a bit. Trying to learn about it!

Saturday: I cleaned all day -- perhaps I'll post some of my "natural cleaning" recipes, for those who don't know them yet.
Sunday: Apple Pie Bars
Monday: Nada -- out with co-workers for a "bridal shower dinner" -- DH on his own.
Tuesday: Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole
Wednesday: Steak, broccoli
Thursday: Spaghetti with meat sauce
Friday: Leftovers

Friday, November 7, 2008

Buffalo Chicken Dip

If you're a hot wings fan, then you'll adore this dip.

It's been passed around -- fondly discussed as "crack dip" -- with my friends for many years. However, I don't like hot sauce, so I never made it.

DH andI had a "reunion" to go to last weekend (basically, it was DH's 10-year high school reunion, but he and a bunch of his buddies didn't want to go to the REAL event -- so they held their own!) and I knew it would go over well with the boys.

Plus -- we had just moved in the week my crockpot was about the only thing unpacked I could cook in!

You could also heat this dip up on the stovetop, or even toss it in the oven until it's bubbly, but if you leave it in the crockpot, it stays warm and ready to serve all day long.

Oh, and P.S. -- I've discovered it isn't nearly as spicy when it's cold...and I really like it cold!

Buffalo Chicken Dip
(Kelly's Recipe)

2-8oz. cream cheese, room temperature
2-10oz. cans of chicken, shredded
1 cup ranch dressing (You can also use bleu cheese dressing if you prefer. It does change the flavor of the dip)
3/4 cup hot sauce (I used Frank's)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

- Toss all of the above into a crockpot; keep on low for your party, stirring occasionally.
- Serve with tortilla chips (or some people serve with celery as well)

Admittedly, it doesn't exactly photograph well...

Monday, November 3, 2008

It's back..Menu Monday

Well, we're "in" our new house! I say "in" because about 30% of everything we own is still in boxes -- just trying to figure out how to organize the place!

Next week is a pretty simple menu, because of the continued unpacking, and a few, err, "new homeowner" issues we've come across (I don't suppose anybody's an electrician?!).

Saturday: Buffalo chicken dip for a party
Sunday: Alas, probably nothing -- lots of cleaning to do. I *may* post some of my cleaning recipes...we're on a septic system now, so no more store-bought chemical cleaners for me.
Monday: Steak, steamed broccoli, baked potatoes
Tuesday: Turkey burgers, *insert veggie here?*, mac and cheese or fries
Wednesday: Parmesean pork chops, *insert veggie here*
Thursday: Spaghetti with meat sauce, fresh salad
Friday: Leftovers

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Just checking in...

...and letting you know I'm still alive.

We've officially closed on our first house, and have installed all new three-prong outlets, completely primed and painted the entryway, living room, and hallway, and are 80% done removing gawd-awful wallpaper from the master bedroom.

Tomorrow, I finish all of the trim in the painted living areas, and hopefully DH finishes the wallpaper -- then onto spackle, prime, and paint again. We're feeling the pressure now, though, because we move next Saturday, and we've got to work all week. Eek!

Here's a little something to keep ya interested. There are tons of "100" lists floating around the blog-o-sphere...and I thought this one was cute.

My American Food 100 -- bold means I've eaten it!

1. New York pizza
2. Hoppin’ John
3. New Mexico green chile
4. Homemade buttermilk biscuits
5. Tasso
6. Whole Maine lobster
7. Calabash-style shrimp and hushpuppies
8. Kansas City barbecue ribs
9. Hot glazed Krispy Kreme
10. San Diego fish tacos
11. Cheese curds
12. Key lime pie
13. Philly cheese steak
14. Memphis pork barbecue sandwich
15. Lowcountry boil
16. Huckleberry pie
17. New England clam chowder
18. Boiled peanuts
19. Buffalo burger
20. Eggs Benedict
21. Pastrami on rye
22. Corned beef and cabbage
23. Pancakes with maple syrup
24. Everything bagel with cream cheese and tomato
25. Thin Mints
26. Frito pie
27. Potato knish with mustard
28. Silver Queen corn on the cob
29. Soft pretzel from a street cart
30. Fresh-picked blueberries
31. Sourwood honey
32. State fair funnel cake
33. Chesapeake crab cakes
34. Candied yams
35. Oyster dressing
36. Snow cone or snowball
37. Wild Alaskan salmon
38. Sautéed morels
39. Persimmon pudding
40. General Tso’s Chicken
41. Frozen custard
42. Italian sausage with peppers and onions on a hoagie bun
43. Chili dog
44. Buffalo wings with blue cheese
45. Spam musubi
46. Saltwater taffy
47. Fluffernutter sandwich on Wonder Bread
48. Black and white cookie
49. Frybread
50. BLT with thick-cut applewood bacon
51. Baked beans
52. Pumpkin pie
53. Collards with vinegar and Tabasco
54. Tex-Mex fajitas with skirt steak and sautéed peppers
55. Fried green tomatoes
56. Succotash
57. Shrimp and grits
58. Hot water cornbread
59. Barbecue chicken pizza with red onions
60. Chicken fried steak
61. Carnitas burrito
62. Apple butter
63. Geoduck
64. Soft-serve ice cream cone dipped in chocolate shell
65. Pecan pie
66. Catfish supper at a church or fire station
67. Oysters Rockefeller
68. Homemade cranberry sauce
69. Pimiento cheese
70. MoonPie washed down with R.C. Cola
71. Pickled watermelon rind
72. Cracker Jacks at the ball game
73. Smithfield ham
74. Meatloaf and mashed potato blue plate special at diner
75. Chicken and waffles
76. Po’Boy
77. Green bean casserole with French’s fried onions
78. Stuffed sopaipillas
79. Turducken
80. Shad roe on toast
81. Sweet potato casserole with or without marshmallows
82. Cioppino
83. New York cheesecake
84. Pan-fried river trout
85. Jambalaya
86. North Carolina pig pickin’
87. California rolls
88. Burgoo
89. Penuche fudge
90. Fried peanut butter and banana sandwich (the Elvis)
91. Scrapple or livermush
92. Elk medallions in red wine reduction
93. Muscadine grapes
94. Cheeseburger at backyard barbecue
95. Open-face turkey sandwich
96. Chicago deep dish pizza
97. Cobb salad
98. Peach pie a la mode
99. Macaroni and cheese with Tillamook sharp cheddar
100. Root beer

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Pennsylvania Dutch" Chicken Pot Pie

A few weeks ago there was a discussion on the What's Cooking board on TheNest about pot pie in soup form.

Most had never heard of it, and those that had were centered around a very small area of Central Pennsylvania -- also known as where I currently live.

I'm not from this area, so I think this "pot pie" with no crust is a bit odd, but my husband loves it. Prefers it to my "crazy" pot pie that actually looks like a pie!

So I decided to try my hand at it. I'd never made it, and it turned out really well. The ONLY thing that would've made it more delicious is if I'd have had a whole day off to slow roast a chicken to use in it. Mmmm..slow roasted chicken.

Oh! And before we get to the recipe...a note about the noodles involved.

Part of what differentiates this type of pot pie from any chicken noodle soup recipe are the noodles. They're a thick egg noodle, cut into squares.

I made these, but I did see that in the grocery store here, San Giorgio sells Pot Pie Noodles -- they're hidden on the top shelf near the egg noodle section. Check your store and see if they have them -- I'm curious if they sell them anywhere but here!

Onto the recipe -- and pardon the bad pictures. It's getting dark earlier, and I'm also in the process of prepping a house for move-in, so dinner has been very late!

Pot Pie Squares (The Noodles)

3 cups flour
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (like Crisco)
1/2 to 3/4 cup water

- Mix the flour, egg, and shortening together
- Knead the dough mixture, while alternately adding small amounts of water until the dough holds together well
- Divide the dough into two or three pieces
- Roll each piece out to about 1/8" thick on a floured surface
- Cut the rolled out dough into squares - about 2" to 2 1/2" wide
- Allow the freshly made pot pie noodles to dry for about 30 minutes or more before cooking

The Soup
*3-4 cups of shredded chicken, turkey, beef, or even ham leftovers can be used instead of a whole stewing chicken for this. When using leftovers, use broth instead of the 2 quarts of water. With leftover chicken or turkey, use 4 cans of chicken broth.

1-3 lb stewing chicken
2 quarts water
5 medium potatoes - peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
2 cups chopped celery
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup finely diced carrots
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

- Cook the chicken in water until tender
- Remove the chicken from the broth and separate the meat from the bones and skin
- Cut or shred the cooked chicken into bite size pieces
- Meanwhile, add the vegetables and seasonings to the simmering broth
- Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, then add the pot pie squares to the broth mixture, a few at a time, stirring frequently so they don't stick together
- After all have been added, cook gently for about 6 to 8 minutes or until the noodles are tender
- Add the cut up chicken and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally for 10 to 15 minutes longer
- Cover, and let stand for a few minutes before serving.

**The article this recipe was taken from suggests serving it on dinner plates, or in shallow bowls. Sides are recommended as a salad such as coleslaw, pepper cabbage, or lettuce with bacon dressing --- if you REALLY want to do it "Pennsylvania Dutch" Style!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Menu Mondays

This week is boring and leftover-esque -- we'll be painting/priming/prepping our new home every evening!

Monday: Steak for dinner -- maybe some kind of dessert for a friend's b-day
Tuesday: Sloppy Joe sandwiches and french fries
Wednesday: French Dip sandwiches and a salad
Thursday: Sloppy Joe leftovers
Friday: French Dip leftovers

...Lots of beef this week! Oh well.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sunshine S'mores Cupcakes

First, I have no idea why these are "Sunshine" S'mores Cupcakes. For me, they're just S'mores Cupcakes.

I made these because I had 1/2 jar of Marshmallow Creme left from making S'mores Bars. These were pretty good, but not nearly as good as the Bars!

They did provide some cute photos, though...

S'mores Cupcakes

1 (18.25 oz) French Vanilla cake mix
2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs
1 1/2 cups water
3 egg whites
24 milk chocolate candt kisses
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 (7 oz) jar marshmallow creme

- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line 24 muffin cups with paper liners
- In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, 2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs, water, and egg whites
- Beat for 2 minutes at high speed of an electric mixer
- Divide the batter evenly among paper-lined cups, filling about 2/3 full
- Place a chocolate kiss in each cupcake, pressing in lightly
- Spoon 1 teaspoon graham cracker crumbs onto each cupcake
- Bake at 250 degrees F for 18 to 25 minutes (Mine took exactly 18)
- Remove from oven and top each cupcake with 1 teaspoon marshmallow creme -- dip spoon into hot water to prevent sticking
- Return to oven for about 1 minute to melt slightly

- For the hot water/spoon trick, I had to dip my spoon in hot water before EVERY spoonful of creme or I got a sticky mess
- I also moistened my fingertips, and that allowed me to scoop the creme out of the spoon and try to arrange it on the cupcakes with minimal stickiness
- These are WAY BETTER warm, so if you have leftovers, just pop them in the microwave for 10 seconds to heat everything up again.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Meatball Subs

Everybody's got their own way of making these, but since I tried a new meatball recipe I figured I'd post it.

This meatball recipe was good, but I've had others that are better -- I guess I need to start asking family/friends for their meatball recipes!

My family meatball recipe is super-simple, and I was looking for something with more spice and flavor. These were quite tasty -- just not quite what I was looking for.

(I served them with 2 jarred sauces b/c I was lazy -- 1 marinara and 1 garden style -- and shredded provolone/mozzerella mix)

Italian Meatballs
(Joy of Cooking, by way of Elizabeth's Edible Experience)

1 pound ground beef
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons tomato paste (I omitted b/c I didn't have any)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano


- Mix all of the above together
- Form into 2" balls with your hands
- Dredge meatballs in 1/2 cup flour (I omitted this step)
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoon olive oil
- Brown meatballs in batches, then place on cookie sheets and place in a 375 degree F oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking
- Add to sauce

Altered version: For my meatball subs today, I followed the above directions, but then added my meatballs and sauce to my crockpot and placed them on low for a little while (so the tomato flavor would get into the meatballs). Then I moved them to low and left them available for football all afternoon.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Crockpot French Dip Sandwiches

I saw this recipe from a nestie a few weeks ago -- if it was you, let me know! I didn't write your name down!

It was so easy, I didn't even write the recipe down -- my kind of meal. Especially during the week!

DH and I really enjoyed these sandwiches and we'll definately add them to our rotation. Especially since they're crockpot-based -- which means dinner is basically ready when I get home. Woohoo!

Again, though, we ate them and I totally forgot to take pictures. Next time!

French Dip Sandwiches

2 lb. beef roast
1 packet dry onion soup mix
1 can Progresso French Onion Soup
2 beef bullion cubes

Sliced provolone cheese

- Place the beef roast, onion soup mix, can of soup, and beef bullion in a crockpot
- Cook on low for at least 6 hours
- Slice (or shred) the meat, reserving the juices in the bottom of the crockpot

- Toast the rolls, add meat and provolone, and slip under the broiler for a few seconds to melt the cheese
- Serve with juices for dipping.

Menu Monday

Sunday: Homemade meatballs (for meatball sub sandwiches) and S'mores Cupcakes -- both for football
Monday: Steak, steamed broccoli, pasta
Tuesday: "Pennsylvania Dutch" Style Pot Pie - Hint: There's no crust here! It's the soup version!
Wednesday: Spaghetti and meat sauce
Thursday: Leftover Pot Pie
Friday: Anything we can grab -- we close on our house in the afternoon!!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Homemade Oreos

This is the recipe I referenced yesterday (See Fran? You didn't have to wait long!) -- these are REALLY REALLY delicious (I daresay they may be better than store-bought oreos), but unfortunately we ate them all before I could get a picture.

I'll add pictures next time I make them (by then -- in my new kitchen! Woohoo!).

Homemade Oreos
(Retro Desserts, by Wayne Brachman -- by way of The Biscuit Pusher)

Makes 25-30 sandwich cookies

For the chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

For the filling:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

To make the cookies:
- Set two racks in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees F
- Prepare 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper
- In a food process or the bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
- While pulsing, or, on low speed, add the butter and then the egg (do it slowly)
- Continue processing or mixing until the dough comes together in a mass (this took me awhile, so be patient)
- Take rounded teaspoons of batter (it won't be like cake batter -- more like cookie dough), and place on your baking sheet approximately 2" apart
- With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough (this step is important because these cookies don't rise or change shape much during baking. basically, whatever shape/thickness they are going into the oven, is what your end cookie will be)
- Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking
- Set baking sheets on racks to cool

To make the cream:
- Place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl and at low spead, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla
- Turn the mixer on high and beat 2-3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy

To assemble the cookies:
- In a pastry bag with 1/2 inch round tip (or if you're me -- a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off) pipe teaspoon-sized blobs of cream into the center of one cookie
- Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream
- Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie.
- Continue this process until all of the cookies have been sandwiched with cream

- Dunk generously in a large glass of milk

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Blogging Interruption

Hello all,

You know that point in life where your brain is so full of items to remember and do, that something starts slipping?

Well, that's where I'm at.

In the last week I've made homemade oreos, and DELICIOUS french dip beef sandwiches.

...and successfully scarfed down all evidence of both without ever remembering I needed pictures for the blog *sigh*

So I'll be posting the recipes soon -- but pictures will have to wait until I serve them up again!

Of course...if you were about to close on a house that looks like this:

You might have a lot on your mind, too!
Yes, that's PINK. EVERYWHERE. And yes, the Master Bedroom wallpaper IS original yellow and green paisley!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Menu Mondays

Got in late last night, and after a fast trip to the grocery store, here's what we've got:

Monday: Dave's parents bringing dinner and cake for his birthday
Tuesday: French Dip Beef Sandwiches and ???
Wednesday: Spaghetti
Thursday: Marinated chicken over fresh green salad; homemade ranch dressing
Friday: French dip leftovers

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sweet Corn and Honey Muffins

Last "catch up" post from last week -- and this one will be posting while I'm on my way back to my hometown for the weekend!

No fancy stories, no funny quirks, just a darn good corn muffin recipe. Thank you, Food Blogga, for this deliciousness.

Sweet Corn and Honey Muffins
Makes 12 regular-sized muffins
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup medium coarse stone-ground cornmeal
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup buttermilk (I used a combo of regular milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup fresh corn kernels (I omitted -- fresh corn is becoming out of season here)
- Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees Farenheit
- Spray a 12-mold regular size muffin pan with cooking spray
- In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
- In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, butter, buttermilk, eggs and honey
- Add to the flour mixture and stir quickly until well combined
- Fold in corn kernels
- Spoon the batter evenly into the 12 muffin tins
- Bake for 18-20 minutes or until tops are golden and a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean
- Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 5 minutes before removing muffins from the tin and placing on the rack to cool (or just eat them after the 5 minutes -- like we did!!)

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Everybody's got a chili recipe. And they range in type and texture and heat.

I respect that.

Chili is like homemade macaroni and cheese -- everyone has a recipe, and everyone thinks theirs is the best.

I prefer my chili meaty (either quality ground beef or ground turkey), and I prefer mono-bean....I don't like chili that adds a variety of beans to it. I also don't believe other vegetables, fruits, or other miscellaneous items belong in chili. Nor do I like chili that is a "See how spicey of a food I can eat" contest. For me, it's meat, beans (dark red kidney, preferably), tomato sauce and spices. Nothing else.

But this post isn't about MY chili recipe, so much, as it is in the variety of ways we eat chili.

1. My first way -- the way I grew up eating chili -- was just chili-in-a-bowl, served with saltine crackers, and a little cheese sprinkled on top. I ate it this way for 18 years.

2. Sometime in college I experienced cornbread for the first time, and was smitten. I started serving my bowls of chili with cornbread muffins rather than saltines.
3. College also provided me with the delicious, yet fattening....chili on chips. Mmmmmmmmm...

4. Then I met my husband, and his family ate chili served over rice (white or brown -- your choice), with cheese and sour cream on top.

5. Once I moved in with my husband (then boyfriend and soon-to-be fiance), we started experimenting with putting the rice/chili/cheese/sour cream mixture into tortillas and rolling them up like burritos. DELICIOUS.

6. More recently, my husband and I got a little bored with our "Chili-ritos" and this last time we served it Loosely-Cincinatti-Style --- chili served over pasta, with cheese and sour cream. I say this is loosely cincinatti style because I don't mash my chili into a fine pulp like Cincinatti-ians do.

Do you eat chili another unique way? Please share! I'm always looking for new ways to serve chili!

And just in case you were curious anyway -- my plain, simple, and absolutely adored, chili recipe:


1 lb ground beef or turkey (get the good lean stuff, kids. It keeps your chili from being greasy)
2 8-oz. cans of tomato sauce
1 15-oz. (I think?) can of dark red kidney beans, undrained/unrinsed
1 packet McCormick's Original Chili Seasoning (I know. You're disappointed and feel betrayed, because I buy a packaged spice mix. But ya know what? It's so darn convienent, I don't much care. When I'm out of it, I've also been known to just add 3/4 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cumin,salt, and pepper, and it's been just as good)

(This is so easy you might cry)
- Brown meat. Drain any excess fat (especially if you didn't listen to me and you bought cheap meat)
- Mix the meat, spices, tomato sauce, and the can of kidney beans (juice and all) in your pan, and simmer your chili for a minimum of 20 minutes (it'll sit there on simmer nearly as long as you need it to).
-Serve however you please!