10/29/07

A Low Carb Recipe - Rootbeer Float!

I love low carb cooking - although I admit that with three kids to cook for (and no real need for extreme weight loss) we don't follow the exact plan. We do however enjoy many of the recipes and we implemented many of the eating styles (and cut out many foods!) of low carbing.

Here's a yummy rootbeer 'float' recipe for those doing the low carb lifestyle or those who just want a different version of this favorite dessert.


Crushed ice
1/2 c heavy cream
1 can diet roobeer

Partially fill a glass with crushed ice. Add the splash of cream and fill with soda. Serve!
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How to Clean Pampered Chef Stoneware (2007, updates in 2009 and 2015)


About two years ago (2005)  when I wanted to buy new pizza pans I made the decision to buy two Pampered Chef large pizza stones. At first I was hesitant as to how, exactly to season and then later clean them as I knew I wasn't to use soap and water on them, but I forged ahead and? Never regretted it for a moment!

I love my pans and they are used almost daily.

Now, I will admit that about once every 2 months I do use a little tiny bit of soap and hot water to wash it or if I've cooked something that left it heavily greased or dirty or I just feel the need to give it a little scrub; but other than that I use the scraper that came with it and it's scraped clean, followed with a hot water scrub and put back in the oven to dry.

So! After a year or two of heavy use, what does a Pampered Chef stone look like?

Dark brown!

'Well seasoned' pans mean they have acquired a natural non-stick surface so you can cook anything on them and it will not stick, even without any extra oils or sprays. (You never want to use sprays on your stoneware!!!!! It is not the same as using canola, vegetable or olive oil! Only use real oils. The sprays like Pam leave a baked on sticky dark mess that is not going to achieve a non-stick surface!).

appetizers on very dark brown Pampered Chef stones

I don't even remember where I heard it, but I remember a woman saying she accidentally left her Pampered Chef stoneware in her oven when she put it on a self-clean cycle and when it finished they were completely back to looking like new! I was impressed but dubious. The next couple times I cleaned my oven, I didn't have the guts to try it.

What if they cracked? Those pans are expensive! I didn't want to take the chance. However, you can guess what might have happened.

Last Thursday I realized I was going to be home for 2 hours at a time (not an easy feat in this busy household of teens and pre-teens) so I quickly locked the oven door and hit 'clean'. Only about 20 minutes later did I realize I left the racks and pampered chef pans inside. I decided it was now time to try.

About an hour into the cycle the oven was hot enough to start the spilled grease on the bottom on fire to burn off. It was directly under one of my pans and I was scared the heat would crack my pan. I panicked. I turned the oven off. I let it cool down and removed the pans only to find them covered in thick black soot.

Oh... what to do!?

I put them back in.

I turned the oven back on.

I left my husband in charge of staying home while the oven cleaned, and I left the house to run errands.

When I returned hours later I waited for the oven to cool down so I could unlock the door.

What did I find?

Perfect Pampered Chef pans - almost exactly like new!

It worked! The photo above isn't a great one but it's one I snapped quickly and the sun is shining on them. I simply removed the pans from the oven, wiped them down with water and wash cloth to remove any ash from the cleaning process and they are beautiful. Back to their original 'light' color and perfectly clean.

I do have to season them again, but I found the easiest way to do that is to make veggie squares using canned crescent rolls and the fat from the pastry coupled with the high heat seasons the pans quickly and easily. 

UPDATE: It's now November, 2009 and I wanted to take a moment to update my readers to say I still own these same two Pampered Chef Pizza Stones and yes... I still clean them this way. They are 'washed' with hot water in between uses and then, roughly every 4-6 months I will leave them in the oven as I run a self-cleaning cycle.

UPDATE:  It's now October of 2015 and I STILL HAVE AND USE THESE SAME PANS.
Yes. Same pans.  They are now almost 11 years old - used often - and cleaned in the self-cleaning oven about once or twice a year. I never need to 'season' them - even when they come out of the self-clean process and are back to clear gray stone - I can bake on them immediately and nothing sticks as they've been used for so many years.

UPDATE:  2017 and yes... I still have these same two pans.  Still used.  Still cleaned by leaving them in during a cleaning cycle.

**Note - if YOU are not comfortable cleaning your stones this way, please don't do so.

This is just how I do it - and have cleaned them this way at least twice a year for over a decade and will continue to do so as long as I own them.  But I'm telling anyone else to do it this way.  Just sharing what works for me and I'm glad that years and years (and years) ago I got this tip from someone else.












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10/23/07

The Neighborhood Sure Will Miss Her...

Wynn Speece died yesterday at a hospital in Yankton, South Dakota. She was 90.

Wynn, who was from Marshalltown,Iowa was known for more than six decades as "The Neighborhood Lady" on WNAX in Yankton, which covered five states. She shared recipes, household tips and personal anecdotes with listeners.

Wynn started at WNAX in 1939 -- shortly after graduating from Drake University with a degree in theater.


________________________

I suspect a lot of people age 60 and under might not know her name. I may only be in my 30's but I do! As a matter fact I often dreamed of having a career like hers many times over the years.

When my Grandma was young she lived in the Midwest and listened to the radio show. I have an old school composition notebook that she would painstakingly copy down recipes every week from the radio show. It might have even been required by her Home Ec class in school - since it seems as if the school notebook may have been turned in each week. I'm not sure. Some of the shows are dated, with the radio call letters included and sometimes little doodles... I suspect things Grandma jotted down as she sat and listened to the stories and anecdotes before the recipes were given. Unfortunately for me she wrote a lot of them in pencil and they have smudged and faded through the years and through use, but many are still readable and I love to flip through the old recipes from 1939 and the 1940's.


My Grandmother was getting rid of a lot of her cookbooks and passed them down to me. Included in those cookbooks were a few of the Neighborhood Lady's booklets that were from the 40's and 50's. I read them from cover to cover more than a few times. The booklets were full of recipes from her readers but she also shared much about her own life and the lives of her kids and we were able to watch them 'grow up' through photos in the booklets.

I had packed away the booklets and the composition notebook last year along with about 3/4 of my cookbooks as my current home does not have a good space or place for them. I haven't though about the Neighborhood Lady booklets in awhile... I think it's about time I pull them back out again and give them another read. I'm sure I'm going to find some great classic recipes to share.

Rest in Peace Wynn.... you brought a lot of great food and happiness to those around you!

*The information in italics is from a news article - not my words but I need to point out that she was called the Neighbor Lady... not the Neighborhood Lady. Apparently the author was simply writing their piece and didn't have a clue who she was.
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10/22/07

Chewy Lemon Crisp Cookies


It's no secret I absolutely loved the quick and simple Lemon Cookies I posted about recently (photo above). So I was happily surprised when I 'stumbled' upon a similar recipe but this one called for rice cereal in the recipe. Hmmmm. Interesting. This one calls for butter instead of oil and the addition of 1 cup of rice cereal, otherwise it's like my original lemon cookie recipe. I'm thinking I should pick up a box of Rice Krispies and give a it a go. If you try it first drop me an email and let me know!

Chewy Lemon Crisp Cookies


1 box Lemon cake mix
1 C. crisp rice cereal
1/2 C. butter or margarine, melted
1 large egg

Mix all ingredients. Drop on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 350º oven for 9 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire racks.
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10/21/07

Caramel Pecan Bars with a Cake Mix

After a very, very long day I sat down at the computer and started to surf for some 'bar' ideas. This one caught my eye - for whatever reason it sounded delicious to me! I think it's because I'm a big fan of the coconut pecan frosting! It also calls for a French Vanilla cake mix, which is interesting to me. Why? Because I've tried the French Vanilla Cake mix as a 'cake' previously and didn't care for it. I've never bought one since. But this bar recipe might just be worth buying it again.



French Caramel Pecan Bars


3/4 c butter, melted
1 pkg French vanilla cake mix
1 egg
2 1/2 c quick cooking rolled oats
1 can caramel pecan of coconut pecan frosting
1 12oz pkg (2 c) chocolate chips
1/2 c chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350º. Spray 15x10x1" baking pan with non stick cooking spray. Place melted butter in large bowl. Reserve 3 tbs of the cake mix and set aside. Add remaining cake mix to butter; blend well. Add egg; mix well. Stir in oats. Press 2/3 of cake mix mixture in bottom of sprayed pan.

Place frosting in medium microwave safe bowl; microwave on HIGH for 1 minute. Add reserved 3 tbsp cake mix; stir until lumps disappear.

Drizzle half of the frosting mixture over cake mix mixture in pan; spread evenly. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and pecans. Drizzle with remaining frosting mixture. Crumble remain cake mix mixture over frosting mixture.

Bake at 350º for 25 to 30 minutes until top is golden brown and edges are bubbly. Cool 1 1/2 hours or until completely cooled. Cut into bars.

Makes 48 bars.
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10/19/07

Reviews You Can Use


While be-bopping around the internet last month I came across an offer to try the new Garden Harvest crackers/chips. Apparently they were coming out with 4 new kinds but they didn't give you a choice of free samples, you get what you get.

We got two small samples in the mail and I cringed when I saw they sent us the apple cinnamon chips. I had a feeling it wouldn't go over with my crew and I was right.

The package says 'chips' but they are really a cross between a chip and a cracker. To me both deserve to be spicy or salty... but not fruity. I was right.

Not one person in my family could stand to eat them and I ended up throwing the package away. If you are a huge fan of apples and cinnamon I'd say give it a shot... but if you are like us and believe our crackers can be anything from nacho flavored to tomato and even black pepper and olive oil flavored, then pass this one by.
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10/15/07

Imitation Butterfinger Candy Bars


With just three ingredients you can make a pretty good imitation Butterfinger. The texture won't be the same, but the taste is similar!

1 package 16 oz. candy corn
16 oz. peanut butter
Chocolate coating or chips

Melt the candy corn and add peanut. Stir smooth. I microwaved them together and it took about 2 minutes. The mixture sets up quickly so don't overcook! Immediately press into a lightly sprayed pan. Larger pans like a 9X13 will give you a very 'thin' candy, while a 9X9 square pan gives you a thicker filling. Your choice.

The mixture will be similar to a thick peanut butter fudge filling. Easy to press down. Cut into squares and let set up or refrigerate to expedite. Melt the chocolate candy coating. Dip each piece into the chocolate and lay on wax paper to harden.
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Simple Hash Brown Potato Casserole

Over the past 15 years I've made quite a few versions of hash brown casseroles. When you live in the snowy North where winters last 7 months a nice hot side dish like potato casseroles goes perfectly with many meals. When I came across this recipe it was almost too simple. I almost passed it by and dismissed it. Luckily I know better than to do that because sometimes you are pleasantly surprised by new 'simple' recipes and a family favorite is born.

There are a lot of tweaks you can make to this recipe with seasonings but first try it this way. After you find out how easy and tasty it is you can start adding different seasonings or bacon bits, chives, etc. as your family likes. But first... give it a try!


Hash Brown Potato Casserole

1 30 oz bag shredded hash browns
1 pint (2 cups) whipping cream
1 t salt & pepper to taste

Pour potatoes in buttered 9X13 pan. Pour cream over. Sprinkle on salt and pepper. Bake uncovered at 350 for about 1 hour or until potaotes are slightly brown on top.
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10/13/07

Cookies and Cream Fluff

This week I bought 'dippin' dots' for my kids at the grocery store. You know, those little round frozen balls of ice cream that up until about a year ago were only available at amusement parks and fairs? Now my local grocery store sells them and I bought various flavors, including one that quickly became their favorite; Cookies and Cream.

This reminded me of a very popular, easy dessert that hardly needs a 'recipe' to make, but I realize that some new cooks or people that don't trust themselves to just 'whip something up' may want or need an actual recipe for.

This one is for you! So easy! So good. It's great for a young child to make so perhaps you could use this for tonights dessert and let your little ones help you in the kitchen? It might become a family favorite and the children can start making it by themselves and feel a since of accomplishment to make something that even the adults love and want more of!


Cookies 'n Cream Fluff


2 c cold milk
1 (3.4 oz) instant (sugar free*) vanilla pudding mix
1 (8 oz) carton frozen whipped topping, thawed
15 Oreo's or other chocolate cream-filled sandwich cookies, broken into chunks


Reserve about 1/4 cup of the crushed Oreo's. In a bowl, whisk milk & pudding mix until slightly thickened (about a minute or two). Fold in whipped topping & cookies. Spoon into a glass trifle bowl or individual glass dishes and top with reserved crumbs.

*I tend to buy sugar free but you can use regular full sugar too.
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10/10/07

The World's Easiest Chocolate Cookies

In keeping with the 'simple' theme this week I tried my hand at some chocolate cookies last night. They are awesome! They taste and are similar in texture to brownies so it's almost like having a mini brownie. They are chewy and soft and oh-so-delicious. I used store bought frosting with sprinkles on the top because it just makes them so... cute. Really though, they are perfect even without any frosting.

When I first started to mix this I wasn't sure how many eggs I would use, but I decided to go with just 1. The mix was a little dry so I debated about adding either 1 more egg or some water to hold it together. In the end I settled for the water. Perfect!



Easy Chocolate Cookies

1 dry chocolate fudge cake mix
1 egg
1/3 c canola oil
2 T water


In a bowl mix all ingredients with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together and is blended. Roll into 1 inch balls and bake on parchment or ungreased cookie sheets at 375 for 8 minutes. More for a more crisp cookie, less for a doughy center. I like 8 minutes for a chewy center and holds it's shape, but doesn't get crisp or hard.

Frost if you like... they are just as good plain.

I store ours in a glass container with a plastic lid, with wax paper between the layers and they keep perfectly.
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10/7/07

Quick, Easy and Delicious Lemon Cookies


Thinking back to the Mom I was 5 years ago verses the Mom I am today I can only smile. It was certainly easier to keep the house clean, keep everyone on schedule, get everyone to wherever they needed to be, cook, bake, clean and keep up with laundry... when the kids were younger.

I had all three kids in under 5 years. (Just 2 days short of being able to say 'four' years!). But I can honestly say we are far more busy and it's harder to keep up now that the kids are 16, 15 and 11. Still - I see how quickly time is passing us by and the kids will be off to college soon and this is the one shot that I have to raise them the way I believe they should be raised... and cookies are part of that lifestyle.

:)

Every child should know the comfort of freshly baked cookies. Even if the Mother or Father work full time, have 7 kids and a hectic schedule. If you have 20 minutes, make these cookies. SO SIMPLE even your 7 year old can make them.

Lemon Cookies

1 package dry lemon cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 c canola oil

Mix with a wooden spoon until blended. Scoop or spoon into balls and flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar. Bake on parchment or ungreased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 6-7 minutes. Let cool 1 minute and remove from pans to cool.

In the meantime prepare a simple glaze;

1 c powdered confection sugar
2 T lemon juice
colored sugar spinkles

Mix the powdered sugar with the lemon juice and drizzle or spoon it on the warm or cool cookies. While the icing is still wet sprinkle with yellow sugar crystals.
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10/5/07

Fried Chicken Hints


One of my top 10 foods would probably include fried chicken. I love KFC but we rarely eat 'out' (which includes both restaurants and fast food) so I typically only get KFC once a year - on the road on our way to Myrtle Beach for our annual vacation to the coast! When I was pregnant with our oldest child I craved KFC throughout my entire pregnancy. Unfortunately we were young and dirt poor and living in Southern California... land of high rent and credit cards. We could barely afford to buy groceries, much less wasting money on fast food so needless to say I went the entire 9 months without being able to give in to my KFC craving.

I do make fried chicken here at home about once or twice a year. I start to think about chicken with a side of mashed potatoes, gravy and big fluffy biscuits. Yum! What a great cold weather comfort meal. There are a few hints to fried chicken and I thought I would just brain storm a couple for you.

  • *Soak the chicken pieces in a salt water mix or in buttermilk for at least an hour or two before using. I let them soak all day or overnight.
  • *Use self-rising flour for a thicker crust.
  • *I like a simple mixture of flour, salt and peper with a touch of paprika for color and sometimes a teaspoon or two of a chicken seasoning mix like Montreal or similar.
  • *Dip your pieces in a beaten egg, then dredge in the flour mixture. Set on foil or waxed paper and let set for at least 10 minutes. It's even better if you can refrigerate or freeze them for 10 minutes to help the breading set.
  • *Make sure your oil is hot when you add the chicken. If your oil is too cold the breading will soak up the oil and become a greasy mess that falls off your chicken. 350 degree's is good.
  • *Do not let your oil become too hot! Your chicken should be able to cook in the oil for at least 20-25 minutes for each side without becoming too brown or burnt. If your chicken burns within 5 minutes your oil is too hot. You want a nice golden brown color.
  • *If your chicken looks 'done' within 5-10 minutes per side it means your oil was too hot and the inside of your chicken is still raw.
  • *If you find you have dark colored breading and raw insides, pop your chicken into the microwave and finish cooking that way. When you remove it, let it set for about 5 minutes to finish cooking. Reheat your oil and BRIEFLY re-fry your chicken just to get it crisp again.
  • *Drain on paper towels and serve.
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10/3/07

Chicken Breasts in Lemon Cream Sauce



*edited to add a photo and comments*

Chicken seems to be a staple in most homes (ok, those that aren't vegetarian). It's so quick and easy and can be made in so many ways. Still... don't you find that you are looking at a chicken breast at 5:00 pm and thinking; "What in the heck am I going to do with it this time?" LOL. Here is a quick and simple sauce to go with it. Lemon and chicken is a winner... cream sauces and chick are winners. You can't go wrong!

Chicken Breasts in Lemon Cream Sauce


6 T. butter divided
12 oz. mushrooms, sliced
4 boneless chicken breasts
salt & pepper
flour
1 c. chicken broth
1 c. heavy cream
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1/2 t. white pepper

Saute mushrooms in 3 T. butter until tender; set aside. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper; dredge in flour. Melt remaining butter in skillet, add chicken and saute 5 mins. on each side until golden brown. Remove from skillet and keep warm.

Add broth to skillet scraping up brown bits. Bring to boil; reduce heat simmer until reduced to 3/4 cup. Stir in cream and lemon juice. Cook over med. heat until slightly thickened. Stir in mushrooms, white pepper and salt to taste. Add chicken and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the sauce is thickened.


*edited to add*

I made these tonight and I wanted to add a couple tweaks I made to the recipe. I used a mixture of seasoned bread crumbs and flour. I loved it. It smelled so good! I couldn't wait to eat. We also like our sauces nice and thick so I added a couple tablespoons of flour to 1/3 c water and then whisked it in to make the sauce thicker. It was perfect. Served with broccoli because I knew the sauce would taste excellent together on the plate... and it was!
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10/2/07

Homemade Chocolate Pie

The other night my daughter wanted a chocolate pie for dessert. I told her she should make it herself using a simple pudding mix, but we found we didn't have any chocolate pudding mixes. Not a big deal to make it from scratch but it's not something she wanted to do. Her smile and her "please Mom?" of course made me grin. Yes... she got her chocolate pie. I like to freeze this one - as my family likes it partially frozen when served. You be the judge for your own family!

Chocolate Pie

* 3 T unsweetened cocoa
* 1/3 cup flour
* 3/4 cup sugar
* 3 egg yolks
* 1 cup water, divided
* 2/3 cup milk
* 2 T butter or margarine
* 1 t vanilla
* baked pie crust


Mix cocoa and flour in saucepan over low heat and whisk in about half of the 1 cup of water, just enough to make a smooth paste. Blend in the sugar and the beaten egg yolks and add remaining water and milk.
Continue cooking over low or medium low until it starts to thicken. Stir and whisk constantly and be sure to get the bottom and edges. When thick remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter. Pour into a prepared crust. Chill. Serve with whipped cream!

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10/1/07

Shrimp Portofino

Anything that has shrimp, artichokes, garlic and lemon is going to rate high in my book. When I found this recipe online I had never tried this dish before. Oh, I've had similar - as it's a cross between shrimp scampi and shrimp alfredo... but it's neither.

Although it says to serve with rice or pasta I really love my shrimp... with shrimp. LOL. Seriously though, looking over this recipe I would be more likely to use the ingredients as a marinade and then skewer the shrimp on bamboo sticks with quartered artichokes and whole mushrooms and then grill them briefly over a hot flame.

I can just taste how delicious that would be! So, whether you want to serve this the traditional way, over pasta or rice, or make it into a kabob... I'm happy to add this one to my collection and hope you are too!


Shrimp Portofino


16 medium mushrooms
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1/2 cup butter, melted
12-16 large shrimp, cleaned
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2-3 cloves fresh garlic, crushed, peeled, minced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts
4 slices lemon
2 tablespoons parsley


Saute mushrooms and garlic in butter until almost tender. Add shrimp and saute until shrimp is cooked, about 3 minutes. Do not overcook the shrimp or it will be dried up and chewy. Add the rest of the ingredients except lemon and parsley and heat through. Serve over pasta or rice. Garnish with lemon slices and parsley.
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