August 31, 2014

A third batch of Watermelon BBQ Sauce....

We were in the car, traveling across the country to visit our oldest daughter and her husband, when I broke the news to my husband.  I was bringing them our last pint of our spicy Watermelon BBQ Sauce.  I could see the surprise and then, the pain in his face.  Our last jar?  Of his current favorite "put on everything in sight" sauce?  Yes.  Had it been anyone else, he would have sneaked the little bag of sauce out of the suitcase and hid it in the trunk of his car, but since it was our daughter he relented.  But, only after I promised I would indeed be making another batch as soon as we returned home.

And I did.  Yesterday I bought a seedless watermelon and sliced up the dark pink fruit to eat in a fruit salad while the lighter pink and white rind was made into another batch of sauce.  As it simmered and thickened on the stove the aroma filled the kitchen.  I had a happy husband.

Use this on grilled beef, pork, burgers, as a sauce for wontons...  my husband uses it on his turkey sandwiches and we love it more than ever on chicken!  Baked, grilled, roasted... dipped as a sauce for nuggets.  You can also use this as a spread on crackers with a 'schmear of cream cheese or on a bagel.  It's that good, on that many things!

Cleaning the watermelon

Scraped and chopped. You can use these rinds for watermelon pickles or discard.

Pureed watermelon and the pink/white part of the rind
Bringing to a boil and then simmer an hour til thick

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Easy and Delicious - Three (3) Ingredient Baked Crispy Chicken

Ready to go into the oven!

Last night's dinner was marinated and ready to go...  grilled steak and vegetables.  And then?  The storms rolled in.  At 5:30 pm I realized I needed a backup plan.  And lately, this is one of our top three back up plans.  An easy but so delicious chicken dish I can whip up in less than 5 minutes and then do a side dish and salad while it bakes.  

You can do the breading 3 different ways.  In the top photo you see each chicken breast laying by itself on a pan.  However, sometimes I simply lay them all next to each other in a pan (bottom photo) and if you love the breading (I do!) you can cover or coat the whole chicken breast by rolling in the crumbs.  I'm usually going for 'very quick' so I typically make them as you see in the top photo.  Spread the seasoned mayo, sprinkle on the crumb topping and get it in the oven as soon as possible.

Crispy Baked Chicken

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Mayonnaise (Hellman's or Kraft)
Panko Crumbs (or bread crumbs if you don't have Panko)
Seasoning (An all purpose chicken seasoning or use salt, pepper, paprika, Italian seasoning blends, a rosemary and thyme mix, or even garlic pepper or lemon pepper.  Use what you like to taste).

Preheat your oven to 350 - 375 degrees.  On a greased baking sheet or foil or parchment lined pan, lay thawed, rinsed and patted dry chicken breasts.  Spread each with a layer of mayonnaise and sprinkle with your favorite seasonings OR you can mix mayonnaise with seasonings of your choice in a small bowl before spreading over the chicken breasts.  Sprinkle liberally with Panko or fine bread crumbs.  Bake for approximately 25-40 minutes depending on the size and thickness of your chicken breasts, until golden brown and done in the center. 

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August 22, 2014

Quick & Easy - Chewy M&M Bars (Blondies)

This is an old recipe.  One that's been made for as long as chocolate chip cookies have been baked.  Because it's basically a cookie in bar form.  I've made these off and on since Junior High School, but never really wrote down a recipe.  I just use whatever cookie recipe I was making at the time and pressed it into a pan.  Now, I need to write it down.

I am going to be traveling to see my oldest daughter and her husband soon, and need to make sure I get this recipe posted before we leave since I use my site as my personal "recipe box" and I hope to make a pan of them for all her company while we are there.  They are so quick and easy to make, but they so good, chewy and perfect that they are a hit with almost everyone.  (Except me. I painstakingly pick out any chocolate chips or M&M's as I don't like chocolate.)  I know.  I'm weird.

I know people are impressed by 'food blogs' that take amazing photos with expensive camera's to try to get readers attentions.  I'll tell you right now, if I remember to snap a picture at all, it's on my cell phone.  This morning when I decided to hurry and type this recipe in, I was thinking to myself, "Boy, I hope I remembered to take a picture at some point when I made these?"  I did.  One. A quick one of the pan as it cooled on the counter.  Whew.

But what makes it funny that I didn't take pictures is that I've made these three (3) times in two weeks!! My husband loves these bars and even though I asked him if he would like me to make something else he's specifically asked (twice) if I would make another pan of these.

Here is where you can play with your food....    the M &M's.    Use chocolate chips, sugar free chocolate chips, M & M's, Reese's Pieces, Sixlets, toffee chips, caramel chips, Heath bar crunchies, white chocolate chips... whatever you want.  Personally I think the best flavored bars are M&M's, chocolate chips or a mixture of both.

I also have cut down on the sugar content by using half sugar and half natural sweeteners.  When I used all sugar substitutes the texture changed, but with half and half I still got a chewy, delicious bar with only half the sugar.  I used Just Like Sugar (brown), and a mixture of brown sugar with granular Just Like Sugar Table Top Sweetener.

Whew!  Ok, after that LONG explanation about how you can use part sugar substitutes, here is the EASY and quick recipe.

M & M Bars

1/2 c butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 t vanilla
1 t salt
2 t baking powder
2 c flour
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips and M&M's or mixture of whatever you want

Beat the butter, eggs and vanilla.  Add the salt, baking powder and flour.  Stir in the chocolate chips or M&M's.  Press into a greased 9X13" pan and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes until the edges are golden brown but not dark.  If you over bake them they will be crunchy instead of nice and chewy.  Let cool completely before cutting.

I loved these bars with half the sugar making them with Ideal brand brown sugar sweetener but they stopped making it (I'm not happy about that!)  But Just Like Sugar makes a nice brown sugar substitute so I keep that on hand now.

Just Like Sugar Table Top Sweetener

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August 13, 2014

Homemade Watermelon BBQ or WonTon Sauce

When I bought a large watermelon, I thought it would be finished off right away but the melon was larger than our appetites.  This week I cleaned the last half of it, putting cleaned and cut cubes into jars in the refrigerator but still had a nice portion of viable fruit as well as the rinds left.  Although many make watermelon rind pickles, I'm not very lucky with pickles so I opted for something else.  A sauce. 

If you have sliced the dark pink watermelon to serve, don't throw out the rinds before cutting down about 1/2" into them and use the white and light pink portion for this sauce. Don't use the green portion though!  That part is bitter. 

This sauce is much like a spicy plum sauce you could serve with your Chinese Cream Cheese Won Tons.   It's also similar to the ingredients in a watermelon chutney except pureed and cooked down to thicken.  I put a healthy bit of spice to it and used it on grilled chicken but you could also use it for bbq ribs;  beef or pork.  So many things you can use this on.  

If you don't like things too spicy, cut back on the crushed red pepper.  If you don't have crushed red pepper flakes, substitute with a bit of minced jalapeno or if you don't like spice, try some canned green chilies.   

I opted to my a syrup from scratch because I wanted to make it with a sugar substitute for less sugar and I don't buy corn syrup.  But if you regularly have dark corn syrup on hand, you can use that instead of the sugar/water/cream of tartar syrup.  Lots of ways to play with this and make it your own!

Sweet and Spicy Watermelon Sauce

Watermelon flesh and pink/white rind but don't use any of the bright white or bitter green
1 1/4 c brown sugar (or white sugar and 1 heaping T molasses)
3-4 T water
1/4 t cream of tartar
dash of salt
1/4 c ketchup (reduced sugar is fine too)
1/4 c white vinegar
3/4 t crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 t liquid smoke flavor (hickory or mesquite)
1/8 t ground black pepper

Chop watermelon and pink/white rind into chunks.  About 3 cups full of chunks.  Place in a food processor and pulse briefly to puree.  You want about a cup full more or less and you want it to stay thick.

To a saucepan on the stove place the brown sugar (or white sugar with molasses added) into a pan.  Add the cream of tartar, dash of salt and about 3-4 T water.  I used a mixture of white and brown sugar but found I was out of molasses. No worries, you are just making a general syrup.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 3 or 4 minutes until it's thickened. Add the watermelon puree, ketchup, vinegar, red pepper flakes, flavoring and pepper.  If you want to use less crushed red pepper flakes you can, or substitute similar measurements of minced jalapeno, canned green chilies, or for a completely sweet sauce, leave out the spice.  Bring to a boil again, reduce to s simmer and let simmer for 1-2 hours until it reduces down, becomes dark and thickens.  The longer you simmer, the thicker and darker it becomes.

I canned mine in sterilized jars with lids and used a water bath process for 30 minutes.  But then we ended up using it that night anyway because it was SO good I couldn't wait!  We used it on grilled chicken (basted, grilled, basted more, grilled more and finally, final basted and served extra with dinner).   We are saving the rest to use with Cream Cheese Won Tons like a spicy, sweet plum sauce.

Making a simple syrup

Cleaning the watermelon

Scraped and chopped. You can use these rinds for watermelon pickles or discard.

Pureed watermelon and the pink/white part of the rind
Bringing to a boil

/Simmer until it's as thick as you need or want it to be

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August 11, 2014

Homemade Salsa from fresh tomatoes (Quick and easy - in the blender)

Homemade Salsa
about 1 quart

2 lbs or so of tomatoes. Chopped, it should be about half a blender full
1/2 onion, cut into chunks
1 - 2 t fresh, minced garlic
1/2 - 2 small jalapeno peppers (I often use jarred, sliced jalapeno's since we have them on hand all the time)
1 - 2 t honey (I use sugar free as well and it works great)
1/2 - 3/4 t salt
1/2 t cumin
1 T lime juice (approximate - how limey do you like it?  I use the juice of 1 lime)
Cilantro or Parsley -  about a tablespoon or two dried or a small handful fresh

Place everything in a blender or food processor and process by pulsing just until blended.  Longer for smooth and shorter for more coarse texture.  Taste... adjust accordingly with pepper, salt, lime, etc.  Serve with tortilla chips.  I store in a quart jar in the refrigerator.

Mixing everything in a blender

A double batch of salsa - stirring both batches together


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Blackberry Patch Sugar Free Honey Flavored Syrup, 12 oz
Nature's Hollow Honey Substitute 10 OZ
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August 04, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dessert Sandwiches (Mini cookies with a marshmallow sandwich filling)

If you follow me on Twitter (AmericHousewife) you know I baked cookies yesterday;  One pan in the kitchen oven and one pan in the sun oven.  I was reading a news article when the timer went off on my kitchen oven to alert me my family's favorite homemade, chewy, chocolate chip cookies were done.  I thought to myself;  "I'll just quickly finish reading this news story and then get the cookies out...."   and 2 news stories later I remembered them!  Our family loves really, really soft chocolate chip cookies.  The cookies in the oven weren't burnt, but they were darker than our family likes.  We just don't care for cookies with a crunch (well, my husband does when he wants to dip them in milk...).  So I placed them on the counter to cool and went to get my cookies from the sun oven.  Coming back into the house with my soft and perfectly baked sun oven cookies (sun ovens don't burn things so you don't have to be as conscientious about timers) I looked at the flat, dark golden brown cookies and knew immediately that I would make sandwich cookies out of them.

If you've ever had a Little Debbie Oatmeal Cookie or the chocolate chip version, then you know what I'm talking about.  Two cookies sandwiched together with a marshmallow frosting filling.  I've been making this kind of cookie for about 15 years now but I don't make it often, as sometimes I'm just too lazy (hey, I'm honest) and second, our favorite filling as marshmallow fluff in it, - which I don't always buy.  (This stuff - Either Kraft or any brand Marshmallow Fluff)

When you make oatmeal or chocolate chip sandwich cookies, you want to be sure you bake your cookies a little longer than you normally would, as the filling makes them 'soft' and if they are too soft and supple to begin with, they will fall apart.

You have two options for the cookies;  you can either use a round cookie cutter to cut them perfectly round, or use the cookies as they are - which is a nice round cookie anyway.  Size is up to you as well.  Larger, smaller, it doesn't matter.  Just use 2 cookies from your favorite recipe (I will put one here just in case you don't have one) and then sandwich them together with a bit of filling.  That's all there is to it!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 c butter
1 c packed brown sugar
3 T white sugar
1 large eggs
1 t vanilla
2 c flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 c chocolate chips
Half of a 7 oz. jar Marshmallow Fluff (creme)
1/4 c white, regular shortening
1/6 c powdered sugar
1/2 t vanilla
dash of salt

In a bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugars until well blended. Beat in eggs and vanilla until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. In another bowl, mix flour, baking soda, powder, and salt. Stir or beat into butter mixture until well incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop dough, 2 inches apart, onto baking sheets, greased or on parchment paper. Bake in a 375° oven until cookies are lightly browned, about 10-12 minutes.  Bake them about 1-2 minutes longer if you think they may still be too soft.  Remember, the filling is going to make them very moist and soft after a couple hours.  A crisp cookie is good to start with!

Make the filling while the cookies are baking by mixing all in a bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy.  If it's a little dry, add just a teaspoon of warm water to it.  You want it to be stiff and not runny though.

When the cookies are done, remove them from the oven, let them set 2-3 minutes and then remove to cool completely.  If you are cutting them to be perfect circles, use a cookie cutter and cut them out while still warm (!).  If you want until they are completely cool they may crack or crumble if they are very crisp.  When completely cool, spread a bit of filling on the bottom of a cookie and sandwich it together with a second cookie.  Let set at least an hour or two so the filling can soften the cookie.  They will be perfect after about 6 hours if you can wait that long.   *if you 'cut out' your cookies you will have scraps.  I save mine in a Ziploc in the freezer to crumble and use as a cheesecake base.

Products related to this recipe:
Marshmallow Fluff
Good Cook Set Of 3 Non-Stick Cookie Sheet
Wilton Comfort Grip Round Cookie Cutter
Ateco 11 Piece Plain Round Cutter Set


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August 03, 2014

Would you like to win a FREE KEURIG with 6 Months of CURA K-CUPS?

Today's morning coffee was by Cura Coffee.  This was a new-to-me coffee that offers direct sales, shipped to my home in bean, ground or k-cup form.  I chose the k-cups because although I own 5 different coffee makers, I use my Keurig most of all.  I love a rich, strong, dark brew and although the k-cups come in a medium roast, I found it to be a nice morning breakfast coffee that was rich and smooth. Not a hint of bitterness nor of any burnt taste, it was a medium coffee that didn't have any overwhelming or underwhelming flavors; the blend seemed to be just perfect for a nice, even cup of coffee that almost anyone could enjoy.

But this company has a secret.  Not only do they offer a smooth, delicious coffee, they are on a mission.  A mission to help improve the quality of life for people in Nicaragua in need of dental care.

Americans are busy, often self-centered, sometimes abrupt and usually exhausted.  Our economy is a mess, our lives are hectic, we are just trying to keep one foot in front of the other and trudge on day to day.  But in the heart of Americans is generosity.  And when there is an emergency, a need, a story, a plea, Americans give and give graciously.  Why?  Because it feels good to give.  It feels good to help.  And when it's EASY to give and to help...  we do it even more.

That's what Cura Coffee strives to do.  Raise money for a worthy cause by not only making it EASY to give, but by giving you a product that you buy, enjoy and use anyway; but now, without any work on your part, you are helping to make a little corner of the world a better place.

Cura Coffee offers giving that goes "beyond the cup".  When you purchase one of their products, you are helping poor farmers and families in Nicaragua to not only make a better living, but to have dental care.  Something we in the United States tend to take for granted as being readily available.

"Cura Coffee connects coffee lovers with farmers and families 
who harvest the finest organic coffee beans. 
With every cup of Cura, you join our effort to expand 
sustainable dental care to remote communities around the world. 
We are direct-trade coffee with direct impact, 
brought directly to you."

Nearly 70% of Nicaraguans live on less than $2 per day and have limited or no access to dental care. Poor dental hygiene can contribute to a number of negative health conditions, most of which are completely preventable with proper care.

Farmers in rural areas bear an unequal share of this burden. Nicaragua exports coffee beans from coffee cooperatives, such as Tierra Nueva located in the town of Boaco. Cura Coffee Co. buys premium coffee directly from the Tierra Nueva Cooperative at Fair-Trade prices, which in turn supports their economy and sustains dental care in this remote community.  Since 2008, they've seen nearly 4,500 patient and performed more than 7,700 procedures through Foundation for Worldwide Health.  

You can follow them on Facebook: Cura Coffee or on Twitter:  Cura Coffee.

Would you like to receive a FREE KEURIG with 6 Months of CURA K-CUPS?   Click here and how see you can make a difference while winning free organic coffee!

I was contacted by Cura Coffee and offered a chance to try a sample of their coffee for free in the hopes they can spread the word about their mission, vision and company.  I chose to do this review of their company and is my own opinion. I was not paid to do so. Print Friendly and PDF