2/29/08

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 c shortening
1/2 c butter, softened
1 c brown sugar
3/4 c white sugar
1 c peanut butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 c flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup quick-cooking oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl cream together shortening, butter, brown and white sugars, and peanut butter until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in the oats until just combined. Drop by tablespoon onto a parchment lined or ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes or until just golden brown. Don't over bake. Let sit on cookie sheet for 3 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool.
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Chicken with Green Olives

One of my favorite snacks is green olives. There is something about the saltiness that I just love and can't enough of. While others may enjoy sweets, sugary snacks or chocolate... I'll take salty olives, dill pickles, pretzels and other salty snacks any day.

When I saw this recipe about a year ago I copied it down into my collection excitedly because really... chicken (yum!) and green olives!? Heavenly.

Provencal Chicken with Green Olives

2 1/2 lbs. chicken pieces
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon dried thyme
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, cut into thin wedges
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 cup chicken broth
8 large green olives, rinsed, drained and pitted
Freshly ground black pepper


Place the chicken in a plastic bag with the flour, salt and 1/2 teaspoon thyme. Shake to coat with flour mixture and set aside. Heat 2-3 tablespoons oil in a large non-stick skillet. Add the chicken pieces a few at a time and cook until evenly browned, about 20 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Add the onions and 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet and cook, stirring until golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and remaining thyme; cook 1 minute. Add the chicken broth and heat to boiling. Return chicken pieces to the skillet, top with the olives. Cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with pepper. Garnish with fresh thyme, if using.
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2/28/08

Homemade Hot Oil Treatments - Coconut Oil for Your Hair

If you have even 4 minutes of 'free' time you can whip up this oil treatment for your hair. Four minutes! Who doesn't have four minutes?

Hot Oil Treatment for Your Hair

6 T coconut oil
2 drops tea-tree oil (also known as ti-tree oil)
3 drops rosemary oil
2 drops essential oil of your choice for scent - lavender works well

Blend together and store in a dark colored glass bottle. To use, place the bottle into a cup or container you've filled with very hot water and let set for 2 minutes to warm the oil. Using about 1 tablespoon, massage into your hair and scalp. Coat the hair, don't saturate it. Cover with a cap, wrap in saran wrap or wrap in a hot towel and have a cup of tea or surf online for about 20 minutes and then shampoo out and rinse.






Related products available at Amazon if you can't find them locally;
GuruNanda Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil - 16 Oz
 Blue 4 oz Plastic Jar Black Lid 6 pk with Mini Jar
Tea Tree - LARGE 4 OUNCE - 100% Pure Essential Oil
Woolzies Lavender 100% Pure Essential Oil - 1 fl Oz
NOW Foods Rosemary Oil, 4 ounce
        





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Beef Patties in Mushroom Wine Sauce

I wasn't sure if I was going to add this recipe to my blog or not. But it's what we had last night for dinner and I quickly snapped a picture 'just in case'. Why wasn't I sure? Two reasons.

  1. I didn't use any recipe and I just threw it all together 'off the cuff'
  2. I didn't know how it would taste! LOL.

In the end my husband raved about it and said, "As long as you remember how you made it. Uh... you do remember right?"

Kind of. Sort of. LOL.

So here we go!


Beef Patties in a Mushroom Wine Sauce

1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
1/3 c diced onion
1 t minced garlic (fresh, not dried)
1/3 c heavy cream
1/2 t dried oregano
1/3 t dried thyme
1 t mustard
about 1/2 c seasoned bread crumbs (enough to hold it all together so it's not too wet)
salt
pepper


1/3 c diced mushrooms
1 c beef broth (1 beef bouillon cube in water)
splash of red wine (I used about 1/4 c merlot)
1 t Worcestershire sauce


Mix the first group of ingredients together using your hands to get the mixture blended well. Make individual patties like you would a crab cake, using a large scoop of mixture just larger than a golf ball. Brown in a skillet in about 1-2 T oil (I used olive oil but it doesn't matter), flip and continue cooking until dark golden brown with a bit of a 'crust' seared and no longer pink. Remove from the pan to a platter.

Add the mushrooms to the pan and briefly cook to sear. When they start to get a crisp edge and are cooked, add 1/2 of the beef broth and deglaze the pan, scraping bits for the sauce. Add the rest of the wet ingredients and continue cooking at high heat to reduce the sauce by about a third so it's a deep, rich dark color and flavor. Add the beef patties by laying them on top of the mushrooms to reheat the patties. When they are hot serve the patties and drizzle the mushroom sauce over all.

I served with organic green beans with butter, salt and pepper but it would be good with mashed potatoes to make a full family meal.
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2/27/08

Strawberry Pie




Sometimes I shock myself with a 'what was I thinking?' moment. This might be one of them. Without spending too much time digging through my own blog, I am not sure I posted this recipe, even though I thought I did last summer... ? The blogger search feature never seems to work well for me and even the 'label' search never actually brings up all my recipes under that label, so without further adieu I must give you one of my simple strawberry pie recipes. I've been making this one almost exclusively since August 2003 as we like it better than a traditional double crust baked strawberry pie.


Double Layer Strawberry Pie

3 oz. cream cheese
1/2 c confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 t almond extract
1 c heavy cream
1 - 9 inch pie shell, baked and cooled
1/3 c white sugar
2 T cornstarch
1/3 c water
1/3 c grenadine syrup
1 T lemon juice
2 c fresh strawberries, hulled

In a mixing bowl, cream together the cream cheese and powdered sugar with vanilla and almond flavorings. In a separate bowl whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks, don't overbeat. Fold this into the cream cheese mixture. Spread over the cold pie crust.

In a cold saucepan turn the burner to medium heat. Mix the sugar and cornstarch and stir in water until smooth. Add grenadine and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and cook until thick, which should happen within minutes. Allow to cool then stir the strawberries into the gel and spread over the cream cheese layer.


*I've also stirred the strawberries into the gel and topped the pie and then chilled it. It's fine for 1 day but the gel will melt pink juices onto the white whipped cream if it's stored for too long. This is why you fill the pie just before serving. Simply for presentation.

Also: Many times I've made this when I was out of grenadine. In a pinch I've instead used a bit of amaretto liqueur with some corn syrup to thicken it and added about a tablespoon of dry jello mix and a teaspoon of water. I added this instead of the syrup and it turns out great. I've done this about 10 times and used grenadine the other 10. So improvise with what you have!



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2/26/08

Homemade Hot Cheese Spread or Dip




Homemade Canned Hot Cheese Spread or Dip

2 lbs. Velveeta cheese
1 small onion, chopped very fine
1 small sized can evaporated milk (about 5 oz.)
1 pint Miracle Whip dressing
1 - 8 oz. can seeded, jalapeƱo peppers, chopped fine with no stems

Melt cheese over low heat in a heavy sauce pan. Add onion, milk, Miracle Whip and peppers to melted cheese and mix well. Pour into 6 jelly jars. Cap. Store in the refrigerator for best safety as they are not canned in a water bath.
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Pyrex Mixing Bowls with Covers!

I officially go on record that I love Pyrex! In almost 20 years of marriage and heavy, daily use, I still have 3 bowls that were given to me as a wedding gift! Over the years I've only had 1 piece of Pyrex break on me and that was my own fault. I took a hot apple pie straight from the oven and wanting it to cool quickly, I set it outside my patio door on the deck step.

Oh, did I mention it was the middle of winter? In Northern Minnesota? And my step was covered in ice?

Yes, that uh, may have had something to do with the fact that it shattered on impact with the temperature change. Again... completely my fault.

Check out this Pyrex Smart Essentials 8 Piece Mixing Bowl Set. The bowls are rimmed so the edges are smooth and safe. The style is classic, functional, and durable. Glass is non-porous, so it won't absorb food odors, food flavors or food stains and it's safe in the oven, microwave, refrigerator, freezer, and dishwasher. Best of all? Made in the U.S.A.










Pyrex Storage 10-Piece Set, Clear with Blue Lids


 
Pyrex 6-Piece Glass Food Storage Set with Lids
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2/22/08

Rice Krispy Bars

When I was first married I only owned 1 recipe book, which was a school fund raising book from my husbands alma mater that was given to us as a wedding gift. We were young and very poor and could not afford any more cookbooks and of course, in 1988 the internet wasn't available.

One day I wanted to make Rice Krispy Bars and do you know that I had no idea how to make them!? I knew the ingredients but I had no idea of the amounts. I had a box of cereal there and they did not even have the recipe on the box!

For the next few years I simply never made them and I admit, it wasn't a big deal at the time and I certainly didn't miss them. I never really thought about it.

Then there came a day when I wanted to make them again and sure enough, I couldn't track down a recipe. LOL. How sad is that!? Luckily for me Kelloggs put the recipe back on their box and I was able to clip it out and save it. It's such a simple recipe (and easy to find NOW) but a few years ago it sure wasn't.

So for those of you who also can't find it... here it is only after the list of ingredients, this is my version of how I make them and I found it works best and makes nice soft bars.


Rice Krispy Bars

3 T butter
10 oz. package of regular sized marshmallows (about 40 if you count them) or 4 cups of mini sized
6 c Rice Krispies

In a very large plastic bowl sprayed with Pam or similar, place the marshmallows and butter. Microwave this until the marshmallows are melted which means they puff up and are are about 3 times their normal size. They will be puffed up over the top of the bowl, very tall, reaching for the top of the microwave. This is about 2 minutes depending on your microwave. If you cook them longer they will get tough and make your bars rock hard! Remove them from the microwave and quickly pour in the cereal. Stir with a rubber spatula/scraper that you have sprayed with Pam or other cooking spray.

As soon as the mixture is blended together transfer the cereal mixture to a prepared pan of your personal choice in size that you have sprayed with Pam. A typical pan size will be 9X13" for bars about 1 inch tall but a smaller pan yields nice thick bars up to 2-3 inches tall or a larger sized pan will give you thinner, more crisp bars under an inch. To flatten them quickly and easily cover the cereal with a piece of saran wrap and use your hand to press the mixture down into the pan, as uniformly flat as you can.

They will be set up (although still gooey and warm) within minutes. Letting them set 30 minutes or refrigerating them will make them easier to cut into uniform sized bars. I like to individually wrap them in saran wrap so the kids can grab and go and they also stay soft and chewy this way.
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2/21/08

What is Glycerine? Why do I need it for frosting?


I've been baking and decorating cookies for well, almost forever, LOL, and once I started to use royal icing I would sometimes see references to something called Glycerine that always stated I could add a few drops... optional.

This was before the internet was available and since I didn't know what it was, had no way of knowing where to buy it, and didn't know what it was for, I simply chose to ignore it. Which, in the end is perfectly fine. But a few years ago I was finally able to quickly and easily look it up online and it became easier to purchase as well - no longer a special trip to the drug store pharmacy... it is now being sold in any cake/cookie decorating aisle or even at the craft stores.

For the long drawn out explanation of what glycerine is I've included a clickable link on the word above which not only explains the chemical compound and comes complete with the chemical diagrams, but also makes you say "hmmmm" when you read that this product is not only used in edible foods, but can be a suppository, used in mouth washes, makeup, hand creams and well, a host of other things. A little scary so I choose not to dwell on that.

Instead - let me simply say that if you like to decorate with royal icing (the icing that is made from egg white, confectioner's sugar, water and extract) and your recipe calls for optional use of glycerine, it will aid in the frosting staying a little more supple, having a little gloss to it's normally matte finish and perhaps the best thing - it won't crust over as quickly when you are using it. (You have to keep royal icing covered at all times when using because it dries so quickly). Glycerine is much like clear corn syrup in texture and even taste. It's cheap to buy, adds a quality to your frosting, and can be found anywhere from Walmart to Michaels, etc. so in the end, picking some up and adding 1/2 t or so to your royal icing is a pretty good idea.


Available from Amazon as well;

Wilton Glycerin, 2 Ounces
"Value Pack" VEGETABLE GLYCERIN/GLYCERINE  FOOD GRADE USP "&" 1 PROPYLENE GLYCOL FOOD GRADE USP
 Wilton Glycerine-2 Ounces
               












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Haven't You Made Chicken Ranch Pizza YET?


There are a few recipes that we make often, and since I make homemade pizza every Saturday night one of the versions I make about once a month is a Chicken Ranch Pizza. I've already blogged about it in the past, but the label search on this site doesn't always work as well as I want it to, and perhaps more importantly, remember; I always improvise and change recipes and I hope you do too!

So here is a picture of the latest version, which included fresh mushrooms this time because my oldest daughter (who despises mushrooms) was away that evening and we happened to have them in the refrigerator.

I'm even going to make this easier on you by telling you not to bother making your own crust (although I do have that yummy pizza crust recipe completely with 'how to' photos posted here on my site) - but heck - this pizza is so good, just buy a prebaked Boboli Crust if you want. Just make it.

Remember; all amounts are approximate and I expect you to add/delete according to YOUR tastes! Have fun with it!~

Chicken Ranch Pizza

1 prebaked Boboli Crust
1 c Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing (homemade is best... hint hint)
2 T pizza sauce (improvise spaghetti sauce if you have to)
1 t fresh minced garlic or 1 minced garlic clove
1/2 c fresh sliced mushrooms
1 1/2 c cooked, diced chicken (leftovers work great)
1/4 c cooked and crumbled bacon or real bacon pieces like Hormel sells
1 small red onion sliced into rings
got a little smoked gouda cheese? Grate some on top!
1 small tomato, diced (yes, you can use diced, canned tomatoes if that's all you have)
Mozzarella or provolone on hand? Use some.


Spread the ranch dressing over the crust. Top and spread with the pizza sauce. Sprinkle the fresh garlic over all and then top with the chicken, mushrooms, bacon, tomatoes, onion rings and cheese. Go easy on the cheese as it isn't as important in this recipe as it would be on say, a pepperoni pizza. I love about 1/4 c grated smoked gouda on this pizza!

Bake at 400-ish for about 8 minutes until the top is golden brown.
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2/20/08

The Lemon Slice in Your Drink Is Harboring Bacteria

While this isn't earth shattering news, nor is it cause for alarm, it's interesting enough that I thought it warranted being mentioned on my food blog.

Have you ever thought about what might be hitching a ride on that lemon slice you just squeezed into your Diet Coke and then tossed into your drink? You might want to think again.

While probably not too harmful to a healthy adult, someone who is pregnant or has an impaired immune system might want to forgo the lemon slice next time!


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2/19/08

Quick and Easy Cake Balls (no baking!)


Food has 'fads' just as fashion does, and a peek into any church or work pot luck will show you what some of them are. About a year ago a little thing called "cake balls" started to gain popularity. It's basically just smashing up a baked 9X13 inch cake with a tub of frosting and then dipping the balls in melted frosting.

I admit I don't eat the balls others make because I keep picturing them smashing the cake and frosting between their fingers with dirty hands. I know... gross and not likely, but I can't help it! LOL. You have to work the mixture like playdoh and I just don't know what their hands were doing when they were smashing my food. LOL.

Yesterday I made this version, purely on a whim and by accident simply because I wanted to use up some leftover cake mix and graham cracker crumbs I had reserved from Cheesecake Bars I made. In the end, my family loved these even more than the bars and a new 'family favorite' was born. Unfortunately I was making it up as I went along and didn't write it down, but I'll try to remember what I did! LOL.




Quick and Easier Cake Balls
(based on memory as I didn't write it down when I was making it up!)

1 c dry white cake mix
1 c fine graham cracker crumbs
1 T sugar
1 t lemon juice
1/8 t dried lemon peel
6 oz. cream cheese
vanilla almond bark

Mix in a Kitchen Aid (or electric) mixer with a paddle until well combined and similar to playdough. Make into 1 inch balls and freeze 30 minutes. Melt 3-4 squares vanilla almond bark in the microwave (I use 4 minutes at 50% power... follow your own microwave directions). Stir smooth and dip each cake ball into the almond bark. Place on foil, saran wrap, waxed paper or parchment. Refrigerate 10 minutes to 'set' or let harden overnight at room temp. You can decorate the tops with a colored drizzle by adding a couple drops of food color to the left over almond bark. Green for St. Patricks Day, Red for Valentines, Red and Green for Christmas, etc. or use colored sugars to sprinkle if you like!


*Note*

Because my family inhaled these I'll make more today. If I find that I tweak the recipe any or that the amounts change I'll update this recipe with the changes.
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2/18/08

Dicing Celery Quick and Easy!

This almost seems like a silly entry to me, but as I was dicing celery I realized that my Mother never taught me to dice celery, and really, I don't believe she ever, in her life did! She chopped it, by slicing each stalk for a vegetable soup perhaps, but sometimes you want a smaller 'dice' and you would like them to be rather uniform, say... in a crab stuffing recipe.

So as crazy and silly as I feel typing this post out, I think perhaps it will help a new cook who just never thought about it.

After cutting off the bottom and the top leafy part of your celery, wash each stalk well, getting any dirt or grime out of the grooves. Instead of simply slicing the stalk, lay it down on a cutting board and slice each stalk into two or three long stalks. Keeping them held together with your index and thumb, now cut crosswise, about every 1/4 inch, slicing through all three pieces of the stalk of celery.

You know have very small, uniform, diced celery pieces in the amount of time it would have taken you to simply slice them into large bites. This is also great when you have kids that don't like 'big chunks' of celery, and it makes them saute' and cook so much more quickly!
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2/17/08

Coconut Sour Cream Cake (make ahead)

Recipes that use a store bought cake mix are so quick and easy to whip up when you want a dessert but don't really feel like baking. This is one I've seen in numerous cookbooks - namely school and church fund raisers. Probably because so many mothers need quick and easy desserts!

This is best if prepared at least 48 hours ahead - so it's perfect to make if you have a free moment but won't need it for a couple days.

Coconut Sour Cream Layer Cake

1 package butter flavored cake mix
2 c sugar
2 cups (16 oz.) sour cream
12 oz. package fresh or frozen coconut
12 oz. container frozen whipped topping, thawed (Cool Whip)

Prepare cake mix according to directions, making 2 - 8 inch layers; cool completely. Split both layers so you have 4 total. Combine sugar, sour cream and coconut (blend well),
chill.

Stir 1 cup sour cream mixture between the cake layers as you layer them. Combine the remaining 1 cup sour cream mixture with whipped topping, blend well. Spread on top and sides of cake. Seal in a container or wrap tightly and refrigerate at least 48 hours. I personally haven't froze it but I think I will next time so I can have a dessert on hand whenever I need it.
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Squash Stew with Pork (can make in crock pot)

My parents came to visit this weekend and with them brought 3 quarts of homemade dill pickles, a couple pounds of Mennonite cheddar cheese and 2 pints of frozen squash puree from their Fall garden. My mother is under the impression there is only one way to eat squash and that's by adding a ton of brown sugar and topping with marshmallows and baking it.

The mere thought of which makes me throw up. Literally.

So I told her I wouldn't be adding brown sugar or marshmallows to mine, but I thanked her just the same. She argued with me that that is what 'everybody' does with squash and there isn't anything else to do with it. One of the most delicious ways to serve the bright orange squash is in cream soups! But suffice to say that there a hundred other ways to prepare it. Here is another one of them. (Not what I'll be doing with my squash puree... I'm making soup out of that, but here is another idea just the same.)

Squash Stew with Pork
(crock pot)

1 1/2 lbs. banana, hubbard or even acorn squash cut into 1 inch cubes
1 medium onion, sliced
1 c dry red wine
1 T worcestershire sauce
2 T brown sugar
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1/8 nutmeg, grated
1/4 c water
3 T Wondra flour for thickening
1 1/2 lb. boneless pork, cubed

Mix all together in a slow cooker or crock pot. Cook on low 8 hours or until the pork is tender. Do not stir but only once or twice half way through cooking because you don't want to break up the squash too much. Serve immediately.
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2/15/08

Valentine Truffles


1 - 12 oz bag semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
2 T butter
1/4 c whipping cream (heavy cream)
2 T liqueur
1 T shortening


In a heavy saucepan melt 1 cup of the chocolate chips over low heat, stirring constantly. Stir in butter and whipping cream and liqueur if you are using it. When smooth, refrigerate 15 minutes until thick enough to hold its shape.

Drop by teaspoon fulls onto parchment or foil lined baking sheet. Form into round balls. Freeze 30 minutes.

In saucepan melt the remaining 1 cup chocolate chips and shortening. When smooth, dip truffles, one at a time into the melted chocolate. Place on the foil covered sheets and immediately sprinkle with crushed nuts, powdered sugar, cocoa or other sprinkles if desired. Refrigerate 10 minutes to set. Drizzle with melted vanilla almond bark or white chips. Store at room temp or refrigerate.


*NOTE*

I would only use Ghirardelli brand chocolate chips for this recipe as your truffles are only going to be as good as the chocolate you use. Cheaper quality chips will result in cheaper quality truffles. The truffles we made using Ghirardelli brand turned out as smooth and wonderful as the Beligian chocolates we bought on vacation last year! Delicious!
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2/12/08

Santa Fe Marinated Grilled Shrimp


I mentioned this marinade in the Ranch Chicken Pizza post below because I used it to flavor the chicken that went on the pizza. I also mentioned that I use the same marinade for tofu that I use in Fried Rice. It's probably my number one favorite marinade and I use it on shrimp too! Even though we just had it this week, I love it so much I can't wait to have it again and bought the shrimp yesterday just so I can do so!

I might also add that our temperatures have been jumping up and down, from wind chills of -35 below zero to about 14 degree's above. This shrimp is so good that I don't care if it's below zero... we are still going to grill out.



Marinade:

1 cup water
2 T soy sauce
1 1/2 T sugar (or Splenda for lower carb diets)
1 T salt
1 T rice vinegar (or white is fine if it's what you have)
1 t powdered chipotle pepper (could use cayenne, if it's all you have)
1 t hickory smoke flavoring
1 t paprika
1 t garlic powder
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t round black pepper

Clean and peel as much shrimp as you need. This recipe could marinate up to about 3 or 4 lbs. if you needed it to. Place the raw shrimp in a ziplock baggy and add the marinade. You don't want the marinade to 'cook' the shrimp so only marinate it for about an hour or two before threading on metal or soaked wooden skewers and grill approximately 6 minutes on one side, flip and grill 3-4 minutes on the other (depending on the size of your shrimp!) until they are just turning pink and white. Do not over cook or they will be chewy.

*Note* I like to marinate them while IN the shell because I can do it farther ahead of time and not be rushed in the last hour before dinner. (I'm too busy!) I simply add the rinsed un-peeled shrimp to the zip lock baggy (even if it's still frozen... doesn't matter) and place in the refrigerator. I've left it marinade overnight this way and once the shrimp was rinsed with cool water and peeled they were perfect!
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Ranch Chicken Pizza with Marinated Chicken

I mentioned yesterday I would post about the pizza I made on Friday - except I already have posted the recipe for Ranch Chicken Pizza previously so I am just going to link to it again. However this time I used leftover chicken that was marinated and added some smoked gouda... mmm. Heavenly.

The marinade is one I use on many things. Love it on chicken but I also use it in my Fried Rice with Tofu recipe.

If you don't have real bacon to cook and crumble, then please use a 'real' bacon product like Hormels. If you only have imitation bacon bits, then go ahead and use them, but promise me you'll try making it again in the future with real ingredients, ok? LOL.
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2/11/08

Pizza Baking Stone and Peel (Paddle) to Lift it

Readers of my blog know that in our household, every Saturday night is homemade pizza night. Although our "Family Night" evolved to "Movie Night" and then later, "Pizza Night", it's been happening in some shape or form every weekend since 1998 when the kids were all under the age of 7 and one of them, just a toddler!

Now I'm known in their circle of friends for my pizza and we regularly have at least 2 extra kids make sure they are here around 6:00 on Saturday just because they know I'll be making pizza. The kinds of pizza may change, but typically we'll have one pepperoni and at least one of 'something else'. This weekend it was Ranch Chicken Pizza and Two Cheese Pizza and I'm happy to say we've won over another stomach. My Ranch Chicken Pizza was deemed "the best yet!" by one of the visiting teens who had never even heard of it, much less had it.

I am going to update with photos and the recipe of Saturdays pizza, but first I thought I would point out that I do bake on pizza stones. I have blogged in the past about my reluctance to cross over to baking stones. While everyone I knew had a Pampered Chef stone, I held off. I finally relented, gave it a try and.... immediately ordered a second! LOL. I now bake pizza (and bread, mozzarella sticks, biscuits, jalapeno poppers... etc.) on nothing else but my stoneware.

The only thing I do wish I had was a wooden paddle to lift the pizza off the stone so I don't have to bring the stone out of the oven each time as I notice I am scratching the top of my glasstop stove a bit by doing so, even though I try to be very careful. This morning I found this Pizza Stone and Peel Set on Amazon and decided to put it on the blog to pass the word around. Using the peel (paddle) you can not only lift to check the crust of your pizza while it's baking, but you can lift off the pizza and place it on a serving tray or counter top without having to remove your baking stone each time. Love it.


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2/10/08

Cream of Tomato Soup

Something we enjoy regularly here in our household for dinner is a homemade cream soup. Coupled with a loaf of fresh baked bread it's satisfying and hot and delicious as well as being wonderfully healthy because it doesn't have all the preservatives and additives that commercially prepared foods do.

When it comes to Cream of Tomato Soup I don't have just 'one' favorite recipe. I typically just glance at a couple of them and then in my typical fashion I 'wing it' and make something similar to but not exactly like, any of the 3 or 4 recipes I may have glanced at to brainstorm how I wanted to make it that night. Sometimes I'm in the mood for a heavy cream based soup. Other times I make a lighter version with milk. Sometimes I add basil, other times I just want pure buttery tomato goodness and no spice.

Here is a version that is delicious if you like a light version with basil.

Cream of Tomato Soup

3 T butter
1/3 c onion, chopped
1 /4 c celery, chopped
1 t dried basil
2 T flour
Approximately 30 oz. tomato puree (2 - 15 oz. cans)
2 1/2 c chicken stock or vegetable stock (I use 2 1/2 c water and 2 bouillon cubes)
1 1/2 c milk or half and half
salt and fresh ground pepper

Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium. Add onion and celery. Cook until translucent and limp but not brown. Add the basil and flour, stir and then add the tomato puree and stock or broth. Lower the heat and simmer 20 minutes. Puree in batches in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return soup to the stove and add the milk. Season with salt and a bit of pepper.


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2/8/08

Homemade Onion Soup Mix and Lipton Style Potatoes


One of my all time favorite foods in the world is chips and onion dip. For that reason I can't keep onion soup mixes in the house. If there is sour cream nearby I will mix them together and scoop it up with or without chips! L.O.V.E. it. While I don't keep the soup mixes in the house, there are things I love to make with it. What I discovered works best for me is to mix up a copycat version of the soup mix when I need it for a potato or dip recipe. Because I don't keep it on hand I'm able to resist temptation of living on dip for an entire week (which I would do!) but I can mix it up from scratch if I want or need to.


Homemade Onion Soup Mix


1/4 c dried minced onion
5-6 beef bouillon cubes, crushed
1/2 t onion powder
Dash of sugar

Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl or baggy. Use in any recipe that calls for 1 envelope onion soup mix.





I had a reader email to ask me for the recipe for the potatoes in the baked chicken recipe photo I posted this week. I assured her it was coming... and here it is!


5 russet potatoes, scrubbed well
1/3 c canola and/or olive oil
1 package onion soup mix (generic or brand name or homemade)
pepper


Line a 9X13" pan with foil for easy clean up later. Pour 1/3 c oil into the pan. Chop and dice the potatoes. My family likes them somewhat crisp so I dice them. If you like larger bites of potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces. Pour all into the pan of oil and toss and mix well until the potatoes are covered. Sprinkle the onion soup mix over all, being careful to get all potatoes with at least some of the seasoning. Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 30 minutes or 375-400 for about an hour. (I bake these along side of whatever is already baking in the oven at any temperature). Bake until the potatoes are tender. Broil for 3 minutes to make them even crispier.

*NOTE*

If you are using this recipe to make the recipe for use in a dip, I've found it best to only use 4 bouillon cubes and then mix the dry onion soup mix with 2 cups of sour cream. YUM!
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2/7/08

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies with Vanilla Chips

Yesterday was a 'snow day' here in the heartland. It used to mean baking cookies with six 'extra' hands helping in the kitchen. These days, as teenagers, they still want the warm cookies but they are content to let me bake by myself while they hang out with friends playing video games and watching movies. Here are the cookies I made, and now you can too!


Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies with Vanilla Chips


1 1/4 c butter
2 c sugar
2 eggs
2 t vanilla
2 c flour
3/4 c cocoa
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 c semi sweet chocolate chips or chocolate chunks
1 c vanilla chips

Cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla. Blend the cocoa, flour, soda and salt. Add to the creamed mixture. Stir in the chips last. Drop by tablespoons onto a parchment lined or greased cookie sheet. Bake approximately 8 minutes at 350 degree's until the edges are firm but the center is 'just' set. Let sit on the cookie sheets for 3 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.





Fresh from the oven
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2/6/08

Breaded Oven Baked Chicken

Let me admit right off the bat that this photo was not actually intended to go on the blog. The kids and I were done eating and I had to make up a plate for my husband to eat when he got home from work last night so I made up his plate and then at the last second decided to take a picture as I could encompass three different recipes with it. It's not 'pretty' but it's real. And in the end, that is what this website is about... real food that real Americans eat.

To make this oven baked chicken I did not use a recipe, but I'm going to pull it out of my head and tell you how I made it so you can too. All amounts are approximate because I didn't measure anything at all and it's one of the recipes that is just thrown together.



Crispy Breaded Oven Baked Chicken

1 c Rice Krispies cereal, crushed
1/3 c flour
2 c dried bread crumbs, crushed or processed in the food processor (or Panko)
salt and pepper
1/2 t Accent
1 T seasoning, your choice (I used McCormicks Monterey Chicken Seasoning)
1 T dry Italian Seasoning mix

boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 c oil - I mix canola and olive oils

Mix together. Rinse the boneless, skinless chicken breasts with water and immerse in a ziplock baggy with the dry breading mix. Press the mixture firmly into the chicken and when it's covered, lift out carefully to keep a nice thick layer of breading on the top.

Pour the oil into the baking pan and place the chicken carefully into the pan, try not to lose any of the breading. When you have breaded as many breasts as you want, spray the tops of the chicken breasts liberally with a cooking spray similar to PAM. This light coating will make the top breading crisp and not soggy. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or just until the center of the thickest part of the chicken is done and not pink. The chicken breasts should be incredibly juicy and moist. If you over cook they will be dried out.

spray the tops liberally with PAM or similar


This is the one I used but you can use anything!


*Depending on the number of breasts you make you should have quite a bit of breading left over. That's the beauty of ziplocks. Lock it up and put it in your freezer to use next time! It's always on hand for a quick dinner and works on both chicken and pork.
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