Sunday, December 20, 2009

Lemon Loaf

This was shared by a Mother on "Sobo Mom's" and it has quickly become one of my favorite go-to recipes. Lemon loaf is super easy to make and most likely you will have the ingredients in your home. A great treat to have during the holidays when friends and family stop by--just add a cup of coffee or tea and everyone will be smiling.

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk, I use 2%
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lemon, zested

Glaze

1 lemon, juice of
1/4 cup sugar

Directions

1. In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar.
2. Add eggs one at a time until creamy.
3. Blend in milk.
4. In a separate bowl mix together flour, baking powder, salt & lemon zest
5. Pour into butter/sugar batter and combine.
6. Pour into greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
8. Bake in 350f degree oven for 50-55 minutes, pending on your oven
9. While loaf is baking, combine lemon juice & sugar in saucepan. Heat last 5 minutes of baking time and heat until sugar is dissolved.
10. Remove loaf from oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes.
11. Remove to rack and while still hot and poke toothpick holes all over the top of the loaf, and spoon glaze evenly over loaf
12. Cool.

ENJOY!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

Ingredients
1 stick butter
1 jar Peanut Butter (I use Skippy's Reduced Fat Creamy)
Confectioners Sugar
2 containers of Baker's Dipping Chocolate

Directions
In medium sauce pan, melt the butter
Add the peanut butter (yes, the entire jar!) until the two meld together into liquified peanut butter
Add confectioners sugar until consistency is solid enough to roll a "ball" in the palm of your hands(yes, your hands will get dirty and sticky and creamy...from peanut butter...how bad can it be!?!?)
Set aside these "balls" on a wax paper covered cookie sheet and then refrigerate for at least one night
Melt dipping chocolate according to package's directions
Dip balls into chocolate until covered and return to wax papered cookie sheet
Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight and have a happy chocolate rush for breakfast.

**NOTES**
I do not recommend using chocolate morsels/chips for melting or semi-sweet anything. Milk Chocolate all the way!!

This recipe will yield: 50-80 balls, depending what size "balls" you like (go ahead, insert 8th grade humor here)

When stirring the peanut butter and sugar, be sure to rest the wrist. Child labor is great to use at this point (or if you are alone, a KitchenAid mixer)

You can add liquor--kahlua or chambord-- to the mix (you wont even taste the alcohol). When people ask for the recipe it just makes it sound more grown up :)

This is not an exact measurement recipe. Somewhat vague, but once you get the right consistency, things will go from there. Lots of trial and error: In my years of tweaking this recipe, I have yet to meet a version I didn't like.

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Squares

Ingredients
4 bricks of reduced fat cream cheese, at room temperature
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 tubes of chocolate chip cookie dough (better to have extra than not enough, I always say!)

Directions
Pre-heat oven to 340*
Grease the bottom & sides of a 9x13 pan
Spread the bottom & sides pan with cookie dough so it is approx 1/4" thick
Beat together cream cheese and eggs
Spread the mixture on top of the cookie dough
Slice the 2nd tube of cookie dough into 1/4" circles and layer on top of cream cheese mixture with the edges touching
Cover with foil and bake for 30min
Remove foil and bake for add'l 10min
Let cool and cut into squares

Monday, December 14, 2009

Stained Glass Cutout Cookies

These cookies are so pretty, aren't they? What a genius idea: cutout cookies, with jolly rancher candies melted in the center to look like stained glass!



I followed this recipe from Simply Recipes exactly...there are great directions there. Only note I have is to really fill the centers of the cookies with the candy to over-filling. Pile it up! The first batch I didn't, and some of my stained glass centers had holes :)

In the end, I'm only lukewarm about this recipe. They sure are pretty, but I wasn't in love with the taste (probably because I'm not a big jolly ranchers fan). Also, they were a lot of work, and not lots of fun for the kids as we didn't get to use tons of different cookie cutters, and they weren't decorated after they were baked.

So if you want a cookie to standout on cookie trays, this is a good choice. But if you're making just to have fun with your kids, I'd probably skip this one and go with a traditional cutout recipe where they can choose their cookie cutters and do some decorating.

Peppermint Meltaways

So, I got a KitchenAid stand mixer for my birthday. I know, how lucky am I? In the instruction manual/cookbook that came with it, there is a recipe for no-cook mints that sounded good to me. I made a few changes (notably, adding chocolate. I mean, come on! These were screaming out for chocolate!), so here it is with my changes:




Ingredients:
3 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon mint extract
2 drops food coloring (optional)
Approximately 4 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Place cream cheese, mint, and food coloring of your choice in the mixer bowl. With paddle mixture, beat on speed 2 until smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually add the powdered sugar, beating on speed 2 after each addition until combined. Keep adding sugar until the dough is VERY stiff. I think I added a little too much sugar as after my last addition, the dough didn't come together...it looked kind of like dippin' dots. It still worked okay, but be careful as you get near the end of your 4 cups. It may take a little more than 4 cups...the original recipe called for 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 cups. I used 4 1/4 cups, and it was the last addition of about 1/2 cup that sent my dough over the edge so I'm guessing 4 cups would have been perfect.

Form dough into small balls (I used about a rounded teaspoonful of dough for each mint), flatten slightly, then press with the back of a fork if desired.

Place mints on a cooling rack.

Place chocolate chips in a medium sized microwave safe bowl. Microwave 20 seconds, then stir well. Continue microwaving in 20 second increments, stirring well after each 20 seconds. Remove from the microwave when the majority of the chips are fully melted...keep stirring until the remaining chips melt (if they don't all melt, return to the microwave for 10 seconds, and try again to stir them all in). Using a rubber spatula, transfer the melted chocolate to a plastic sandwich bag. Cut a very small amount off one bottom corner of the bag. Pipe the chocolate out through the hole on to the cookies.

Store the mints tightly covered in the refrigerator.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Coffee Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

I used this recipe on smitten kitchen as a starting point, making just a few changes, mostly to make it nut-safe. These are outlandishly good. They have a strong coffee flavor, but my kids still liked them.



Ingredients:
1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee granules (I used decaf since that's what was in the house)
1 tablespoon boiling water
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 ounces chocolate chips (eyeball it based on the size of your bag...I have an 8 oz bag so used about half of it)

Directions:
Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water and set aside to cool.

Put about 1/4 of your chocolate chips on a cutting board and with a large knife, cut the chips into smaller pieces. You'll end up with some piece that are practically shaved, and some rather large pieces. Transfer to another container and continue with the rest of the chips until you have chopped them all. If you're not worried about nut allergies*, you could just use mini chips and skip this, though I really liked how the different sized pieces of chocolate tasted in the cookies.

Beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth and well-blended. Beat in the vanilla and coffee. Reduce the blender speed and mix in the flour until just incorporated. With a rubber spatula, fold in the chopped chocolate chips.

The dough will be very sticky. Transfer it to a gallon sized ziplock bag. Flatten the dough slightly with your hands pushing on the outside of the bag, then use a rolling pin to roll the dough out until it fills pretty much all the bag. You'll need to leave the bag unzipped while you do this, and you'll have to stop occasionally to unstick the plastic from the dough to remove trapped air or straighten out the bag so you don't get creases. It works pretty great, though, and the dough should be about 1/4" thick when you're done. Seal the bag and place it on a flat surface in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Cut the plastic bag along the seams to expose the dough. Using a pizza cutter, cut the cookies into squares (whatever size you'd like...mine were about 1 1/2" square, or at least that's what I was aiming for). Place cookies on baking sheet. They don't really expand when cooking, so you only need to leave about 1" between cookies. Prick each cookie twice with a fork, pushing all the way through the cookie until you touch the tray. (Try to avoid any larger pieces of chocolate when you do this...I had trouble a few times with the tines of the fork getting stuck in a big glob of chocolate!)

Bake for 18-20 minutes until very lightly browned. Cool for a few minutes on the tray, then transfer to a cooling rack.

__________

*Note about nut allergies: it's hard to find chocolate in the supermarket that is nut-safe. I've had the most luck finding standard sized chocolate chips that are nut-safe. Trader Joe's are my favorite, though as always with allergies, check the bag to make sure they're safe as manufacturing processes can change.

Molasses Sugar Cookies

Mmmm, these cookies are pretty easy to make, and are my husband's new favorite cookie. They have a wonderful smell and a yummy taste, too.




I followed this recipe from allrecipes exactly, so I'll just include a link. Only note is that this made A LOT of cookies for me...over 60 cookies! I don't know if I made mine too small, though they seemed a good size. Just a warning if you're not sure about this recipe, you may want to half it. Luckily we liked these, or else I'd have a ton of cookies to throw out!

Brown Sugar Brown Butter Shorties

The other day, I tried a bunch of new cookie recipes, and these were among my favorites. They have a deep, almost nutty flavor which is pretty impressive given that they don't contain any nuts.

Due to imperfect rolling of the dough into a log, my cookies had somewhat flat bottoms instead of being round. As a result, one of my sons called these "tombstone cookies", a name that may stick in our house as it rolls off the tongue a little easier than "brown sugar-brown butter shorties". Or perhaps next time I'll just be more careful to make a round cylinder so my cookies don't resemble tombstones!




I found this recipe on smitten kitchen here, and made only very minor changes. Her recipe is originally from Gourmet magazine, so here's a link if you want to hark back to the original unchanged version.

3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Sugar in the Raw for rolling (optional)

Place the butter in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the butter is a light brown and smells nutty. Pour into a container and place in the fridge until firm, possibly overnight. Remove from the fridge and allow to return to room temperature so the butter is soft but not melted. This is important...I believe this is why some commenters on the recipe on smitten kitchen reported bad results. After one hour in the fridge (what the linked recipe called for), my butter was still liquid-y. If the butter you use is liquid-y, the cookies probably won't turn out right! I browned the butter first thing in the morning, put it in the fridge, then once it was solid, took the container out of the fridge to soften while I made a different batch of cookies. It was perfect after that.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the flour and salt, mixing well. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer or electric beater, cream together the butter and brown sugar until well-combined, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix until incorporated. Add the flour/salt mixture and mix on low speed until the flour is just incorporated. Don't overmix! The dough will be pretty firm.

Form the dough into a cylinder, any diameter you want...these are sliced cookies so the diameter will determine the size of your cookies. Try to make it round, unless you want your kids to excitedly exclaim, "These cookies look like tombstones!" Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove dough from the fridge and roll in sugar in the raw. Slice cookies with a sharp, NON-serrated knife to approximately 1/4" thick. If you use a serrated knife, the cookies will have lines in them from the serration. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, until the cookies are slightly browned. Allow to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

I thought these were outstanding and well worth the bother of browning the butter. This recipe only makes about 2 and a half dozen cookies, which went FAST in our house. I would recommend making a double batch of these.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Gingerbread cookies

This is the last of the cookie recipes shared by Dana. These all sound so good I think we should try to get her to be a regular contributor here!

Ingredients:

3c. flour
2t. ground ginger
1t. ground cinnamon
1t. baking soda
1/4t. ground nutmeg
3/4c. (l & l/2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4c. firmly packed brown sugar
1/2c. molasses
1 egg

Directions:

Mix first five ingredients together. Beat butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with electric mixer on medium until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed. Press dough into a thick,flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least four hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350. Roll Dough 1/4in. thick. Cut into shapes with 5in. cookie cutter. Place 1 inch
apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes.

Cinnamon Star Cookies

Another recipe Dana has shared with us. Yum, these all look delicious!

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup softened unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

Directions:

Beat all ingredients on low until combined. On medium, beat until well blended. Form dough into a ball, wrap wih plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours. (I usually make the dough the day before and refrigerate overnight. I don't wrap it in plastic. I just leave the dough in the mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using half the dough at a time, roll the dough 1/4 of an inch thick, on a floured board, with floured rolling pin. Cut dough into shapes. Place cookies 1 inch apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. Frost with icing and decorate after the cookies are cooled.

Icing
2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons milk

Mix until it's at the consistency that you want. You may need to add a little bit more sugar or milk until it's the right consistency. Frost as desired.

Butterscotch Lace Cookies

Here's another recipe shared with us by Dana:

Ingredients:

1 c butter, melted
1 1/2 c packed brown sugar
2 1/4 c rolled oats
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp molasses, if desired
3 tbsp flour
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla



Directions:
Add sugar to butter; pour over rolled oats. Let stand at room temperature overnight so oats absorb butter.

Heat oven to 375. Mix remaining ingredients into oats. Drop level TEASPOONfuls of dough 2 inches apart on heavily greased baking sheet. Bake only 12 cookies on a sheet. Bake 5 to 7 minutes, or until brown around edges. Allow to remain on sheet a few minutes until firm, then immediately remove with spatula to cooling rack.
Makes 6 dozen cookies.

Double Ginger Crackles

Dana, another mom of twins, has shared a couple of cookie recipes with us! All look delicious! Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cup flour
2 3/4 t ground ginger
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
6 oz (3/4 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/3 c granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/4 c molasses
3 T finely chopped crystallized ginger (I chopped dried ginger
slices i found in the bulk foods department at Wegmans.) (Note from WhatACard: For those of us not lucky enough to live near a Wegmans, I've found crystallized ginger at Trader Joe's, in the chocolate and nut section)

Position racks in the upper and lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking liners.

In a medium bowl whisk flour, ground ginger, baking soda, and salt. In a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment (or a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer) beat the butter and 1 cup sugar on medium-high speed until well blended. Add the egg, molasses and crystallized ginger; beat well. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed until well-blended.

Pour the remaining sugar into a small bowl. Using a 1 T cookie scoop , a small ice cream scoop, or two tablespoons, shape the dough into 1 inch balls. Roll each in sugar to coat and set the balls 1 to
2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake, rotating the sheets halfway through (I was able to do this; I don't know how important it is - you could try just baking them on the one rack you have and see what happens). Bake until the cookies are puffed and the bottoms slightly browned, 12-14 minutes. (I think I left mine in too long and they were hard.) If you touch a cookie, it should feel dry on the outside, but soft inside. The surface cracks will look a bit wet (mine never developed surface cracks for some
reason.) Let the cookies sit on the baking sheet 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Butterscotch Sugar Cookies

These are my all-time favorite cut-out cookies. The butterscotch chips add such a delicious flavor! The only HUGE downside is that I haven't been able to find nut-safe butterscotch chips, so I haven't been able to make this in years. But so long as you're not dealing with nut allergies, I'd give this one a go as it's such an improvement over plain sugar cookies! I got this recipe from my mom; I think it was originally from Land O Lakes butter.

Ingredients:

1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup butter, softened
3 cups flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions:

Add all ingredients besides the chips to a large mixing bowl.

Place chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 20 second intervals, stirring well after each 20 seconds. Remove as soon as they are about half melted...they'll finish melting as you stir them (if they don't, but back in for 10 more seconds and try again). Pour into the bowl with the rest of the ingredients (use a rubber spatula to get it all out).

Beat on low speed for about 2 minutes until well-combined.

Divide dough in half, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until firm (1 or 2 hours)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 1/8" thick. Cut with cookie cutters. Place about 1" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake approximately 6-7 minutes (really will vary depending on how thin you rolled the dough...usually takes me a bit longer) until the cookies are lightly browned on the edges.

As with any rolled cookie dough, the dough gets tougher the more times you re-roll it, so try to make the most of each roll, placing cookie cutters close together. Of course, if you're making this with kids, you're probably out of luck on that front :)

Once the cookies have cooled, you can decorate them however you'd like.

For the frosting, I just use a basic buttercream icing:

Ingredients:

Half a stick of butter, softened (room temp, NOT melted!!)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk

Directions:

Mix it all up with a mixer until smooth. If it's too thick, add a little more milk. If it's too thin, add a little more sugar. I usually end up going back and forth between the two a few times before I get it perfect.

Divide it into different bowls and use food coloring to tint it whatever colors you'd like.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Meal ideas for 1 year olds

Way back in 2006, when my twins were one year old, I polled the mother of twins group for meal ideas for one year olds. I was in a rut, and I got lots of suggestions so I compiled them all together. Here they are! I didn't try all these with my kids so I can't vouch for all of them, but it's certainly a big list to get you thinking.


Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments, or if you're an author here, write your own post on the topic. It's so easy to run out of ideas or get stuck with the same few meals, especially with kids who are just learning to eat table food.


Hope this gives all you parents of younger kids some good ideas. And looking this over, there are a lot of ideas to try with my 4 year olds! Maybe I'll get them to try something new :)


Veggies:

Beets. I know, crazy! We just buy the canned, sliced kind. I rinse them with hot water which not only heats them up a bit, but gets rid of the MESSY red juice.

Veggies sautéed in salsa. Go figure - the kids ate some cauliflower.

Black beans & rice. I make it on the mushy side and dice up onions, garlic & red bell peppers.

Plain black beans, you can always run them through the blender and puree them and add a little bit of quinoa, which I do to much of their food.

Sweet Peas

Spinach pancakes and broccoli pancakes sold at whole foods and in most stores - Dr. Pragers I think they are called

Avocado

Fresh asparagus and green beans

Steamed carrots, zucchini, etc.

Baked or boiled squash/or sweet potato

Millet and cauliflower mash- good way to get whole grains and veggies in

Mashed potatoes

Cucumber

Well cooked beans- doesn’t have to be just black beans

Coconut cucumber soup

Nori- melts in mouth

Pieces of veggie burger

Spreading pureed broccoli on cheese sandwiches under the cheese

Broccoli (chopped or trees) and cauliflower

Cooked squash cubes

Sweet potato fries from Trader Joe's

Cooked carrot/potato/other root veggie chunks

Cannellini beans, green beans (canned cut or fresh cooked), garbanzos, black-eyed peas

Zucchini pancakes

Fruits:

Cut up watermelon, cantaloupe, or honeydew melon

Small pieces of melon or bananas

Kiwi

Steamed apple or pear

Grapes - peeled and quartered or halved

Apple sticks, whole apples, peels removed

Frozen berry mix (from Trader Joes)

Cherry tomatoes sliced tomatoes

Grains:

Whole grain slices of bread or pita

High quality dry cereals

Cooked whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, kasha (toasted buckwheat, not “kashi” the brand), etc.

Toast with hummus

Multi-grain waffles

Pancakes, toast (cut into quarters)


Croissant toasted

Crusty bread bagels/mini-bagels (frozen for teething)

Cheerios, Rice Crispies

Rice cakes, small graham crackers

Bread pudding

Biscotti

Quesadillas (bean and cheese, salmon and hot pepper cheese, veggie)

Pizza with ricotta, mozzarella, tomato sauce; cut

Eggos (with cottage cheese, cream cheese, cinnamon and sugar, or jam)

Polenta

Tortilla rollups (mix together cream cheese, mild salsa, and shredded cheddar. Spread thinly on a tortilla, roll up, and refrigerate for at least one hour. Then cut into coins

Pasta:

Puree black beans with red bell peppers, onions, garlic, etc. and add it to macaroni

Trader Joe's whole wheat couscous - takes 5 minutes to make and goes with everything

Small pasta. Like tiny O's and boiled it with red sauce and melted cheese and peas

Penne with trader joes (or any brand) spinach and artichoke dip on it

Spaghetti (or ziti or whatever pasta you want) is also a good, filling way to give them lunch or dinner---add some sauce if they'll eat it, if not, try it plain or with a little butter

Macaroni and cheese---what would kids be without that staple?

Fusilli long noodles cut up

Farfalle macaroni

Tortellini ravioli

Sticky rice

Meats/Eggs/Protein:

Scrambled eggs with cheese and grated carrots. Same goes for omelets.

Hamburgers/cheese burgers that have been grilled with BBQ sauce

Turkey meatballs from trader joes (cooked in the oven, not microwaved and cut into small pieces)

Toast with plain hummus or cream cheese

Bits of turkey or ham cold cuts

Cold cut and cheese pinwheels (layer a piece of cold cut and a slice of cheese, roll up, and cut into coins)

Raw or boiled tempeh

Baked tofu pieces

Stir fried tofu (cube tofu, stir fry with a small amount of olive oil and soy sauce and a sprinkle of powdered ginger and garlic powder)

Silken tofu used like yogurt with fruit pieces

Sweet potato and ground chicken balls

Spinach and turkey meatballs (Mix together 1.25 lbs ground turkey and half a package of thawed, drained chopped spinach, along with whatever else you normally add to meatballs, such as an egg, bread crumbs and seasoning. Form into meatballs and pan fry)

Any kind of fish, baked with herbs (I was surprised by how much they like fish - nice consistency)

Progresso chicken noodle soup (the one with the veggies and chunks of chicken) and drain the soup part from it---rinse it out in a strainer to get out the added salt----and put it on a plate and let them hand feed themselves that.

Chicken nuggets, cut up or whole (try frozen for teething)

Scrambled egg (or egg yolk)

Hardboiled egg (or egg yolk)

Frittata

Rotisserie chicken, cut across the grain

Salmon, cooked, flaked, or chunked

Egg in a Hole

Chicken melt sandwich (mix a can of chicken and some grated mozzarella, make a sandwich and grill. The cheese melts and holds it all together)

Dairy:

Piece of cheese toasted on bread

Yogurt smoothie with added nutrition - flax seed ground up, brewers yeast, egg yolk, carrots, etc.

Grilled cheese sandwich

Yogurt

Any cheese -shredded, cubes, or cut into sticks

Soft cheese spread on bread chunks

Cream cheese and jelly sandwich

Snacks:

Veggie booty

Nutri-grain bars

Whole wheat goldfish crackers

Snap pea crisps

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fig & Olive Tapenade

My friend shared this with me when I asked her for a crowd pleaser recipe for an appetizer party I was attending. Its YUMMY and a huge hit. I thought it would be a great addition with the holidays approaching! And, I am sure some kids will enjoy it, who doesn't like cream cheese and crackers.

1 cup chopped dried figs
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup chopped kalamata olives
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic minced
1tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
8 oz block of cream cheese

Add figs and water in a saucepan over med heat. Bring to a boil and cook until the liquid has reduced. Remove from heat and stir in oil, vinegar, spices, olives and garlic and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours.
To serve spoon over cream cheese, top with walnuts and serve with wheat crackers.

ENJOY!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Oreo Truffles Again!

I made dhalpin's recipe for Oreo Truffles



Oh my, soooo good!

The boys had fun helping, mostly by sprinkling with Halloween sprinkles. I didn't freeze the insides before coating with chocolate...that was a mistake, as it was hard to get them dipped in the chocolate evenly. But they still turned out so delicious, that who cares if they didn't look perfect!

___________________

So has anyone else tried any of the recipes people have posted here? Leave a comment and let us know what you thought!

I also tried dhalpin's recipe for Slow Cooker Breakfast Risotto with Apples. It was a HUGE hit with me and my husband, but my picky, picky, picky preschoolers wouldn't try it :( Oh well, more for us!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Mini Frittatas

My kids love eggs, so when I saw a recipe for mini frittatas in the Nov 09 issue of Parents magazine, I knew I had to try it! As an added bonus, these are easily customizable to meet your kids' picky tastes. Just add (or omit) whichever veggies you'd like.




Ingredients:

4 eggs (extra large sized...if using smaller eggs, I'd probably go with 5 eggs)
3 Tablespoons milk
1/2 cup shredded cheese (any variety you like...I used cheddar)
1/2 to 1 cup finely diced veggies (I used portobello mushrooms, garlic and leeks)
Salt, pepper, and any herbs you'd like for seasoning
Butter/oil for sauteeing and greasing

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of all 12 cups in a regular size muffin pan.

Prepare the veggies (either saute or steam...veggies should already be cooked when you add them to the eggs).

Beat together the eggs, milk, and any seasonings. Mix in the shredded cheese.

Spoon the egg mixture into the prepared muffin tin, about 1 to 2 tablespoons per cup.

Add veggies to each cup. Here's where you can get inventive...two can have leftover chopped broccoli from last night's dinner. Two can be plain. Two can have diced peppers and onion. Whatever people like and you have on hand/left over.

Bake approximately 12 minutes, until eggs are set and lightly browned.

Stuffed Shells Florentine

Here's another recipe from mom of twins Alyson. Thanks, Alyson!

This recipe takes some time to assemble, but it makes a lot. It reheats well and freezes (uncooked) well. If you freeze it (or freeze half) in an oven-proof dish, you can bake it straight from the freezer.

Ingredients:
1 box jumbo pasta shells
3 T. olive oil
1 c. chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb. ground chicken
salt and pepper
10 oz pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
15 oz. container ricotta cheese
3/4 c. grated parmigiano reggiano
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 T. chopped parsley
1 jar marinara (Rao's and Gia Russo are both delicious)
1 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella

Directions:
1) Cook the pasta shells in salted water until quite firm, probably about 5 minutes (they will continue to cook when you bake the dish).
2) Meanwhile, saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium-high heat until beginning to brown. Add the chicken, salt and pepper and cook through. Let cool.
3) Combine the cooled chicken mixture, spinach, ricotta, parmigiano reggiano, eggs and parsley.
4) Pour some sauce in the bottom of the dish to coat. Fill the shells with the chicken-cheese mixture and place in the baking dish. Drizzle sauce over shells and sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese.
5) If baking right away, bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes until cooked through and slightly browned. If baking from the freezer, bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, covered, and 20 minutes, uncovered.

Roasted Chicken and Sweet Potatoes

This recipe was emailed to be by mom of twins Alyson. Enjoy!

I'm a big fan of roasting using a remote thermometer such as this one: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/sku5710116/?pkey=x|4|1||4|thermometer||0&cm_src=SCH). This recipe requires minimal assembling and, once it's in the oven, you can ignore it until the thermometer beeps. I've tried it with boneless chicken breasts. It's quicker, but not as tasty.

* Ingredients:
* 4 bone-in chicken breast halves (you can also use chicken thighs, legs, etc. weighing about 3-4 lbs.)
* 1 yellow onion, cut into wedges
* 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
* 3 tablespoons maple syrup (The real stuff, please! Honey probably would work well, too.)
* 6 sprigs fresh thyme


Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2) Put the chicken, onion and sweet potatoes in a 9x13 baking dish, add the olive oil, salt and pepper and toss. Drizzle with maple syrup and thyme.
3) Roast until the internal temperature of the chicken is 170 degrees. (If you only have an instant-read thermometer, check after 45 minutes.) I usually remove the chicken pieces and let them rest while continuing to cook the vegetables. If there is a lot of liquid in the pan, you may want to drain some off before continuing to cook the vegetables (helps browning).

Friday, October 23, 2009

Slow Cooker Chicken Curry and Veggies

We love curry and love this slow-cooker recipe. Tastes great for leftovers too.

Ingredients:
4-6 chicken breasts
1 can chick peas, rinsed and drained
1 13.5 oz of coconut milk ( full fat)
1 tablespoon tomato paste ( you can use sundried tomato if you prefer)
2 tablespoons Curry Powder
1 teaspoon Coriander
1 teaspoon Cumin
1 tablespoon of tobasco or hot sauce
1 teaspoon or tablespoon grated ginger ( use as much or little as you like)
2 sweet potatos,peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium eggplant, cut up into 1 inch pieces ( i keep skin on)
1 green or red pepper, seeded and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 onion chopped, yellow, vidalia or red
3 cloves of garlic, minced
salt & pepper
Brown Rice

Directions:

1. Add coconut milk, tomato paste, tobasco, curry, coriander, cumin, and ginger to bottom of slow cooker. Mix well.

2. Salt and pepper chicken and add to cooker and coat with sauce.

3. Pour chick peas, sweet potatos, pepper, eggplant, onion and garlic on top of chicken.

4. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 7-8 hours.

I serve over brown rice.

Enjoy!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cauli-Mac & Cheese

Ingredients:
2 1/2 C Uncooked Spiral Pasta (we use Hodgson Mill's Whole Wheat Spirals w/Milled Flax Seed)
4 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 C shredded cheddar cheese
4 Tbsp butter
3 c milk, warmed
1/4 tsp ground pepper
3/4 head cauliflower, cut into small bites and steamed slightly

Directions
Cook pasta and drain. Set aside.
Cut cauliflower into small bite-sized pieces and steam in a very small amount of water. Set aside.
Melt butter in a saucepan. Add flour, salt and pepper to create roux.
Gradually add warmed milk and stir until thickened.
Add cheese and stir to melt.
Combine sauce with pasta and cauliflower and put in a casserole dish.
Bake 350 for 30 minutes.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Stuffed Red Peppers















These stuffed peppers are so yummy without the use of gluten, wheat, eggs or soy.

STUFFING:

1 pound of ground beef
1 pound of ground veal
1 cup of gluten free bread crumbs *
1 tablespoon of Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute
1 teaspoon of parsley
1/2 cup of ground reggiano parmigiano cheese
1/2 cup of cooked parboiled brown rice
salt and pepper to meet your desired taste


* I used Gillian's Foods Bread Crumbs (wheat, gluten and dairy free) www.gilliansfoods.com



Wash, cut in half and towel dry 4 or 5 red peppers. Stuff and top with your favorite red sauce. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Serve with a salad.

Enjoy!!!

Honey Glazed Chicken

About 6 yrs ago, my BFF shared this recipe with me. It is outstanding...and the aroma...WOW! And my kids LOVE IT! (just ignore the amt of butter....or as hubby says "Everything is better with butter....)

1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 pkg chicken legs (although thighs or breasts can be used)
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted (you will have to melt 4 tbs butter twice)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 Tbl. Soy Sauce
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder

1. In a bowl, mix flour, salt and cayenne pepper.

2. Add chicken pieces and shake around until coated.

3. Pour 4 tbs. butter into a 13x9 inch baking pan, place chicken in pan, turning once to coat. (Line with aluminum foil for easier clean-up)

4. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes

5. Meanwhile, mix brown sugar, honey, lemon juice, soy sauce, and curry powder and remaining butter. Pour over chicken.

6. Bake 45 minutes more or until chicken is tender, basting several times with dripping from pan.

**I serve this with couscous, great side dish.

Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas

1 small Onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked, shredded chicken breast (pre-packaged, leftover rotisserie, poached)
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 jar (16 ounces) Salsa
1 8-oz pkg reduced non-fat cream cheese
8 taco size tortillas (7 or 8 inch)

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Saute chopped onion in frying pan for 4-5 minutes, or until tender. Let cool.
3. Place shredded chicken, 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, 3/4 cup salsa, and cream cheese in bowl. Add onions. Mix well.
4. Spoon 1/3 cup of mixture down the center of each tortilla and roll up.
5. Place in 13x9 baking dish.
6. Drizzle with remaining 1 1/4 cups salsa and sprinkle remaining cheddar cheese.
7. Cover and bake for 15 minutes.

Penne with Vodka & Tomato Cream Sauce

I got this recipe YEARS ago from a vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley in California. Each time I make it, hubby says "It's restaurant quality." Quick, easy, and very yummy.

1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. Olive Oil
1 small onion (or 1/2 medium)--chopped
1 140z can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Vodka
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 lb. penne pasta (cooked and drained)
Fresh grated parmasean cheese

Heat pan, combine butter and Olive Oil. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add can of tomatoes and simmer for 3 minutes. Add cream, Vodka, and pepper flakes. Simmer for additional 3-4 minutes for flavors to blend. Add pasta and toss. Top with Parm. cheese.

Slow Cooker Breakfast Risotto with apples

If you are looking for a warm breakfast for kids & adults, give this recipe a try. My kids love oatmeal with applesauce and cinnamon and loved this breakfast risotto too. You can make a big batch and have it for the week and just microwave a portion in a bowl. I add applesauce on top to make it a perfect breakfast.

SLOW COOKER BREAKFAST RISOTTO WITH APPLES

Ingredients:

3 apples, peeled and chopped ( use any kind of apples you like)

1/4 cup melted, unsalted butter

1- 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon ( pending on how much you like)

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 cups arborio rice

3 cups water

1 cup apple juice ( I used mots for tots, 40% less sugar)

Optional: 3-4 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce for each serving, my kids like applesauce on top of their oatmeal.

Directions:

Melt butter in the microwave and place in slow cooker. Add rice to the butter and stir to coat. Add cut up apples, spices, brown sugar and stir in water and juice

Cook on high for 3-4 hours, check after 3 hours to see if all water/juice has absorbed and if rice is cooked.

Enjoy!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Oreo Truffles

Sometimes adults need to indulge and this will satisfy your sweet tooth. Its pretty easy to make, but dipping the chocolate takes some patience.

Ingredients:
1 package of Oreos
1 12 oz. package of full fat Philadelphia cream cheese (do not used whipped or light)
2 packages of chocolate chips ( white, dark, mile or semi-sweet). I used white chocolate, YUM.
Optional decorations: sprinkles, chopped peanuts, cookie crumbs

Directions:
Place package of oreos in a food processor and mix to a crumble. Transfer to a mixing bowl and fold in cream cheese to make one big brown ball of dough. It should be folded with a solid color with little to no cream cheese showing.

Break off small pieces and roll into balls, should make 3+ dozen pending on size of balls, think 2 bite size.

Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze for 30 minutes or until hardened.

Melt chips in double boiler. If you don't have one, fill a saucepan with a few inches of water and place a ceramic bowl on top. Pour chips in bowl and steam from saucepan will melt chocolate.

Dip truffles in chocolate and then any desired decorations
(i skipped the decoration part and just dipped in white chocolate).

Note: chocolate hardens quickly so you need to dip a few balls at a time and melt a few handfuls of chocolate at a time. Lift truffle from chocolate using 2 forks or your hands, this is the tricky part.

Return to freezer for 15 minutes. I let them thaw for an hour before serving.

Enjoy!

Peppermint Bark

Ingredients
1 bottle Peppermint extract
12 oz bag of white, milk, semi-sweet or chocolate chips
10 coarsely crushed candy canes
1 oz square of baking chocolate (white, milk, semi-sweet, or dark), different than above chocolate

Directions
Line cookie sheet with wax paper
In microwavable bowl, mix extract and chips
Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring each time, until melted smooth
Spread chocolate evenly over wax paper
Dust with candy cane pieces
Melt 1oz square of baking chocolate in microwave and drizzle over chocolate/candy canes
Refrigerate over night
Break into pieces and serve!

Penne with Broccoli

Here's an awesome pasta and veggie dish that, with bacon, becomes outstanding. Sorry all you vegetarian readers, this one isn't for you! Well, I guess you could just omit the bacon, but seriously, that's what makes it so yummy. That and all the garlic. And the tomatoes. And the broccoli, come to think of it! Mmmm, it's all good!

Here's my version of this recipe for Penne with Garlicky Broccoli(ni):

Ingredients:

8 oz penne pasta (1/2 of a 1 pound box)
5 slices of bacon
2 broccoli crowns (or one bunch of broccolini), cut into small florets
6 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 pint of grape tomatoes, cut in half
Parmesan cheese to taste

Directions:

1) Cook penne according to directions on the box. Drain.

2) Meanwhile, fry the bacon until crispy. Move to a paper towel to drain.

3) Add the garlic to the bacon grease* and saute for 3 minutes over medium low heat. Add the broccoli(ni) and cook for another 4 or 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the pasta and grape tomatoes. Stir or toss to coat and mix.

4) Remove from heat. Sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese, and top with crumbled bacon.

*Okay, fine, I couldn't do it. The recipe called for using the bacon grease. I'm sure that's delicious. I drained most of the bacon grease and used some olive oil.

This recipe originally called for broccolini. I've made it with both broccoli and broccolini, and quite honestly, prefer the broccoli. Of course, I'm in love with broccoli. I should probably marry it. So, my opinion is to use broccoli, but feel free to try it with broccolini.

Chocolate Covered Pretzels


Here's a recipe we've made many times for chocolate covered pretzels. I use the term "recipe" loosely. I've found with three year old twins, recipes that need precise measurements are a set up for failure!

Ingredients:

Pretzels (any kind you want, just make sure they're big enough for your kids to hold part of it and dip the other part)
Chocolate chips (let's say 2/3 cup)
Sprinkles (I don't know, I just kept dumping more into their bowls as they ran out)

Directions:

Cover a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Set aside. Fill a small bowl for each child with pretzels, and another small bowl for each child with sprinkles. Set aside. Don't even think about making them share bowls, because that's just setting yourself up for fights :)

Put the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave 20 seconds at a time, stirring well after each 20 seconds, until they are melted. The chocolate will be hot, but if you take it out JUST as the chocolate has melted, it shouldn't burn your kids. At least it didn't burn mine, but as always, test it yourself before giving it to your kids.

Set the bowl of melted chocolate where each child can easily reach it. Give them their bowls of pretzels and sprinkles. Show them how to dip half of each pretzel in chocolate, then dip it in sprinkles. Set them on the waxed paper to cool and harden. Or eat them right away. Whichever.

___________

This recipe worked really well for us, and as you may imagine, was a big hit with the kids. Of course. Pretzels, chocolate, and sprinkles. Those are things I've never had trouble getting my picky boys to eat. On the messiness scale (from 1 to 10, with 10 being a complete disaster), I'd give it an 8. Chocolate got all over them (especially their faces), and sprinkles ended up all over the place. It was a pretty quick clean up, though, as the chocolate wiped off things easily and the sprinkles could just be vacuumed up.

It was a very quick recipe: quick set up, quick to make, quick to eat.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Shepherds Pie

My husband is from Ireland and he made sure the twins ate this early-on so they would always like it and so far its still a hit at dinner time. He always makes it for friends when we deliver dinners and they are always happy when they take off the tinfoil to see his Shepherd's Pie.

Ingredients:
1.25 lb ground beef (93%)
3 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 small container of button mushrooms, pre-sliced is easiest
1 cup frozen peas
1 small onion, chopped
6 medium potatoes (idahos)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 package of Knorr shepherds pie mix ( dry packet)
salt &pepper
2 tablespoons butter, cut up in little pieces
3-4 tablespoons ketchup

Directions:

1. Peel, cut potatoes in half and boil in water until tender, about 30-40 minutes. Drain, mash and set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan on med-high heat, pour olive oil and cook onions, carrots, mushroom & celery for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent.

3. Salt and pepper ground beef and then add to the veggies until browned.

4. Add the knorr mix ( follow directions on packet) and bring to boil and then simmer for 15 minutes.

5. Turn on oven to 350

6. Add 3-4 tablespoons of ketchup and frozen peas and stir to combine.

7. Transfer meat mixture into an proof dish, cover with mashed potatoes and add 2 tablespoons off butter, cut up. Salt and pepper.

8. Bake in oven at 350 for 20 minutes.

Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Soup

My grandmother made this soup for years and it has been the kick-off to Thanksgiving dinner in our family ever since I was a little girl. Kids love it too.

Ingredients:
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup onions, chopped
2 slices good white bread ( cubed, crusts removed)
2 small tart apples ( granny smith preferred), peeled and coarsely chopped
1 lb butternut squash ( halved lengthwise & seeded)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 egg yolks

Directions:
In a Dutch Oven or large soup pan bring combine chicken broth, onions, bread, apples, squash, salt, marjoram, rosemary & pepper and bring to a boil over moderate heat and then simmer for 45 minutes. Remove squash, scoop out flesh and return to pot, discarding skin.

In small bowl beat 1/4 cup heavy cream and two egg yolks. Stir a little soup into the mixture and then add all to the soup. Heat but do not boil.

If reheating, heat up slowly, do not bring to a boil.

Enjoy!

Asian Flank Steak

This marinade makes the steak tender enough that kids can also enjoy this meal. Serve with potatoes or rice, and/or grilled veggies.

Ingredients:
1.5 lb Flank Steak
1/2 cup dry sherry
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon asian sesame oil

Directions:
1.Combine all ingredients in a large plastic bag or bowl with lid and refridgerate for 3-4 hours.

2. Grill to your liking.

3. Boil left-over marinade for 3-5 minutes and serve over steak.

Enjoy!

Chicken with Pineapple

This has been a staple in our household prior to the twins, but they also love this meal as much as we do. Super easy & delicious. We serve it with rice and broccoli.

Ingredients:
4 chicken breasts ( not thin sliced)
1 small can crushed pineapple
1 small can pineapple chunks
1 cup brown sugar ( light or dark)
1/4 cup lemon juice ( usually eqauls 1 lemon)
2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce
salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Turn oven to 375
2. Salt and pepper chicken and place chicken in over proof pan.
3. Combine crushed & cubed pineapple, brown sugar, lemon juice, mustard & soy sauce.
4. Pour mixture over chicken breasts.
5. Cook 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked.

Caramel Bars

My friend introduced me to these scrumptious caramel bars and we can't get enough of them.
A real crowd-pleaser. YUM.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, melted
1 ¼ cup flour
1 ¼ cup oatmeal
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda

32 caramels ( kraft works best)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 12 ounce bag of chocolate chips ( semi-sweet)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine butter, flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, and baking soda. Mix well. Grease the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan. Press ¾ mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

3. In saucepan, combine caramels, butter, and cream. Stir until melted. Pour caramel mixture over crust. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and top with remaining oat mixture. Bake 15 minutes.

4. When cool- store in freezer or fridge to harden enough to cut. Best stored in refrigerator.

Enjoy!

Crock Pot Sweet N Sour Turkey Meatballs

These are easy meatballs that your kids will love. I serve with brown rice and some kind of steamed or roasted veggie.

2 lbs ground turkey breast
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 egg white
Salt and ground black pepper
2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup chili sauce
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons dried thyme

Directions:
Combine turkey, poultry seasoning, egg white and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper. Mix well and shape into meatballs, should get 2 to 2.5 dozen pending on size.

Place meatballs in bottom of slow cooker.

Whisk together tomato sauce, broth, chili sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, and thyme.

Pour mixture over meatballs.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high 4 hours.

Enjoy!

Creamy Chicken and Pasta Soup

Who doesn't crave chicken soup when you're sick? Below is a basic chicken soup version doctored up with rotisserie chicken and evaporated milk to make it creamy and oh so yummy.

Ingredients:
1 onion, chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups peeled, diced potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
few pinched of pepper or as desired
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 cups small shaped pasta ( i prefer ditalini)
1 cup fat-free evaporated milk

Directions:
In a Dutch oven or large soup pan, saute olive oil, onions, carrots, celery and garlic for 5-10 minutes or until tender. Stir in flour, thyme, poulty seasoning and saute for 1 minute until combined. Gradually add chicken broth, potatoes, salt & pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Stir in chicken and pasta and simmer for 10 minutes until pasta is cooked. Add in evaporated milk and heat through, but do not boil.

Enjoy!

Mojo Garlic Orange Shrimp

Ingredients
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp grated orange peel
1/3 c orange juice

Directions
Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat
Add garlic, cook & stir 30 seconds
Immediately add shrimp; cook and stir 3 minutes or until shrimp starts to turn opaque
Add oregano, cumin, red pepper flakes, orange peel and orange juice
Cook & stir 2 minutes or until shrimp are cooked through

*Serve over mixed greens, rice, pasta or polenta

Homemade Butter

Have you ever wanted to make butter? Well, here's your chance. It's surprisingly easy and while not exactly quick, is far quicker than I originally feared. Without further ado, here's the recipe:

Ingredients:

Heavy Cream
Salt (optional)
Minced Garlic (optional)
Fresh Rosemary (optional)
Fresh Parsley (optional)
Fresh Chives (optional)
Or, whatever mix ins you'd like...or no mix ins at all.

Directions:

Find a small wide-mouthed container with a tight fitting top. We used an old Avent bottle with a non-nipple top. I've heard the glass stage 3 baby food jars would be a good size as well if you still have some sitting around.

Fill the container about half full of heavy cream.

Shake. Then shake some more. Then keep shaking. It takes a while. We just kept passing the bottle around and giving it a shake. Nothing happens for a little while. Then, it starts to turn into whipped cream. Then, after it's been whipped cream for a while and you keep shaking, it suddenly "breaks". The butter solidifies and the excess liquid (buttermilk) all comes out. It takes about 10 minutes or so total.

Pour off the buttermilk, and now you have butter! You can eat it straight, or mix in whatever you'd like. We tend to do lots of herbs from the garden, but you could also mix in some cinnamon and sugar and use it to make cinnamon toast, or just a little salt to make it slightly salted. I put the minced herbs in a little bowl, and then let the kids sprinkle them into the butter and stir it all up.

As you stir in the mix-ins, more excess liquid will come out...just pour it out.

Eat the butter! You can store it for a day or two in the fridge. We never make enough that this is really an issue, though.


Chicken Broccoli Casserole

Ingredients
3 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 c chicken broth
1/4 c flour
3/4 c milk
1 pkg wide egg noodles, cooked & drained
5 c cooked chicken (approx 1 lb)
10 oz frozen chopped broccoli, thawed & drained
2 c shredded cheese

Directions
Pre-heat oven to 400* and spray 9x13 dish with Pam
In medium sauce pan, melt butter
Mix in flour
Gradually stir in broth, combine well
Add milk & cook for approx. 5 minutes (sauce will thicken a bit)
Mix chicken & broccoli with noodles and 1 cup of cheese; pour into 9x13 dish
Pour sauce over chicken/broccoli/noodle mix
Sprinkle remaining cheese over top and bake for 20 minutes

Additional Information
To save even more time, I use 2 pkgs of Perdue "short cuts" pre-cooked chicken, diced

Fresh Spinach and Artichoke au Gratin

I wanted to make Spinach and Artichoke Au Gratin, but I wasn't sure how it would come out using fresh, uncooked spinach...most recipes call for the frozen stuff. I almost steamed the spinach or blanched it, but ultimately, laziness ruled the day and I just used raw spinach. Worked out fine! Again, there's a recipe I used as a jumping off point (here), but made some significant changes.

Not the most low-cal recipe, but both of my twins will eat vast quantities of this...the only way they'll eat spinach!


Ingredients:

1/3 pound spinach, coarsely chopped
2/3 of a 14 oz. can of artichoke hearts (non-marinated, drained), coarsely chopped
6 oz. cream cheese
2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Soften cream cheese and butter in the microwave for about 20 seconds until it can be stirred together.

Mix in artichoke hearts, spinach, and parmesan cheese. Transfer to a baking dish (or just make the whole recipe right in the baking dish from the get-go...that's what I did!)

Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Serve with chips, bread, and/or veggies for dipping.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Chicken Lettuce Wraps:


I very, very loosely followed this recipe. I made quite a few changes and while I was extremely happy with the results, the wraps weren't exactly similar to the P.F. Chang lettuce wraps. So if that's what you're looking for, you might want to go to the original recipe. Having said that, here's my version:

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground chicken
4 oz. water chestnuts, minced
6 oz. baby bella mushrooms, minced
1/2 medium onion, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
Splash rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons ketchup
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
1 Tablespoon spicy brown bean sauce**
Lettuce leaves (we used about 2/3 a head of Bibb lettuce)

Directions:

In a large skillet, brown the ground chicken. When it is about 3/4 of the way done, add the water chestnuts, mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Continue cooking, stirring often, until chicken is browned.

Meanwhile, mix all remaining ingredients (except lettuce) in a small bowl. Stir well.

When the chicken is done, add the sauce you mixed in the small bowl. Stir well to coat all the chicken and let cook for about 2 or 3 minutes until slightly thickened.

Place a spoonful of filling onto a lettuce leaf, then roll the lettuce up.

**The original recipe linked above called for red chile paste, but the only brand I could find had peanuts in it, which is a no-go due to food allergies here. So I got House of Tsang brand spicy brown bean sauce. The final recipe was not quite spicy enough. I'd say either use the red chile paste if you don't have to worry about allergies, or add some red pepper flakes in addition to the brown bean sauce.