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Friday, December 16, 2011

Baked Potato Soup

Baked Potato Soup


4 medium to large baking potatoes
3 cups reserved potato water

2 Tbsp. Wildtree beef or chicken bouillon

1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup flour
2 cups milk
dash of celery seed
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
8 oz. light sour cream
1 serving prepared Wildtree Kids Cheez Blend (1/4 cup blend with 1/4 cup milk)
Garnish: sour cream, shredded cheese, bacon, green onions

How to Make It:

  1. Wash and chop unpeeled potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Boil in a large pot until tender. Drain, reserving 3 cups of the water.

  2. Mix 2 Tbsp. bouillon with the reserved potato water.

  3. In a deep saucepan melt butter and then add chopped onions and celery. Cook until tender. Add flour, salt, pepper, and celery seed and stir to combine. Add milk; stirring well.

  4. Pour sauce into the large pot. Add the potatoes and bouillon. Add more milk, if necessary, to desired thickness (will thicken upon cooking). Add sour cream and the prepared Kids Cheese Blend. Stir well.

  5. Simmer for 2 hours, making sure everything is tender. Serve. Garnish with sour cream, cheese, bacon, and/or green onions.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Banana Oatmeal Cookies

On this fine snowy day we made some rather YUM cookies! We haven't been all that good at our banana consumption lately and I needed something other than banana bread to make with those almost black bananas. The aroma from these cookies now fills the house...and I want it to stay. I'll keep this recipe in my *favorites* stack...the cookies weren't dry and had a great texture. And most of all the kids love them!

What you need:

3/4 cup shortening (I use butter flavor)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together shortening and brown sugar. Beat in egg and mashed banana, then stir in vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cloves; stir into the banana mixture. Mix in rolled oats and walnuts. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets. Leave room for spreading.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on cookie sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

*Lisa changes: I added more banana, cut the sugar, and omitted the chopped walnuts.
I might add golden raisins next time.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Classic Chili

Well, I have to admit something. I have been slacking in the posting department because...well....I can't seem to remember to take a photo before we eat all of whatever it is I've made. (The photo I used is courtesy of Better Home & Gardens, where the recipe came from in the first place.)

I make this chili every few weeks and every time it seems to vanish before I blink! So it must be good, right? It is! I wanted a "normal" chili recipe that didn't call for ingredients like cinnamon or beer, and this one is primo! The recipe below is doubled (except for the beans). Trust me. Just go ahead and double it.

Classic Chili

2 lbs. ground beef (for the best flavor I use 1 lb. 93/7 and 1 lb. 80/20)
1 large or 2 small green peppers, chopped (1 cup)
1 cup chopped yellow onion
8 cloves of garlic, minced
2 15-oz. cans tomato sauce
2 14.5-oz. cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 15-0z. can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
4-6 tsp. Leslie's Chili Mix or chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried basil, crushed
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Optional toppings: corn chips, shredded cheese, onion, sour cream

1) In a large pot cook the beef, onion, green pepper, and garlic until meat is done. Drain.
2) Add all other ingredients and simmer at least 1 1/2 hours for best flavor. Serve with cornbread, if desired, and any toppings.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Homemade yogurt and granola

Here's a healthy, 100% homemade snack or breakfast dish you can make for your family: Greek yogurt with granola. Add fresh fruit (or leave it out). Drizzle on some honey (or don't). Make your yogurt nice and thick (or leave it a bit thinner). Make the granola as nutty as you desire (or keep those nasty nuts outta there).

Do you get the idea? This is completely customizable; you can make yogurt and granola just the way you like it.

I have only made yogurt once, but it turned out perfect the first time, so I wanted to share the recipe with you!

Yogurt {crockpot}

8 cups whole milk
1 cup (or less) dry milk powder
1/2 cup plain yogurt (this is your "starter")

Pour milk into a 5-qt crockpot and cook on low for 2 hours and 45 minutes. (If using a 2- or 3-qt crockpot, cook for 2 hours and 30 minutes. Turn off crockpot and unplug it for 3 hours (this allows the milk to cool down enough to make sure the starter won't be killed by too much heat.)

Take 1-2 cups of the warm milk and stir in the dry milk powder and yogurt starter until completely combined. Then whisk this mixture back into the crockpot of warm milk. Replace the lid and wrap 2 thick bathtowels around the crockpot. Let it sit for 8-12 hours (this is the culturing process).

If you want thick, Greek yogurt, pour your yogurt into a cheesecloth-lined fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Place a bowl on top of the yogurt to apply pressure to the yogurt as it strains. Place in the refrigerator while it strains. Strain as much or as little as you like! (I strained mine for about 2-3 hours and it turned out about the same consistency as the Greek yogurt I buy at Trader Joe's.

For the best consistency, refrigerate overnight before eating.


3 cups old-fashioned/rolled oats
1 cup walnuts, chopped coarse
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup safflower oil (or other vegetable oil)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried Montmorency cherries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine oats, nuts, coconut, and sesame seeds. In a small saucepan, combine oil, maple syrup and honey and heat until warm. Pour over dry ingredients and mix well.

Spread evenly onto a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle dried fruit over the surface. (If you want larger clumps, press granola tightly down against baking sheet; this will help it dry into larger pieces.)

Keep granola in an airtight container for up to seven days. I usually make a double batch, divide the resulting amount into four ziploc bags, and freeze three of the bags. It freezes wonderfully!


Friday, September 24, 2010

Baked Oatmeal

Now that autumn is finally here (YAY!) it's time to start breaking out the baked oatmeal on a regular basis. I love it because it's quick, healthy, and delicious. Let the kids pick what they want to put in it, experimenting with various fruits and/or nuts. I have also included a recipe for apple-cinnamon topping, which is delightful.


3 cups old-fashioned oats
4 1/2 cups boiling water
2 eggs
1/2 cup light brown sugar or 1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup oil (for a healthier version I fill the measuring cup most of the way with mashed banana first. You can also use applesauce of pumpkin puree.)
1/2 cup chopped nuts, raisins, or other fruit

How to Make It:

1) Mix oatmeal and boiling water in a large bowl. Let stand 15 minutes.
2) Add all other ingredients. Mix well.
3) Spread in greased 9x13 pan.
4) Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
5) Serve warm with either fruit, nuts, milk, sugar, or apple-cinnamon topping.

Apple-Cinnamon Topping

1 1/2 cups water
1/2 - 3/4 cups sugar (depending on sweetness desired)
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 cups apples, peeled and cubed
2 Tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water

1) Heat water, sugar, and cinnamon together in a small pot.
2) Add sliced apples.
3) Cook slowly for 5 minutes or until apples are tender.
4) Thicken with cornstarch and water mixture. Cook until thickened.
5) Serve warm over baked oatmeal.


Thursday, September 23, 2010


Every good cook has a go-to dessert up their sleeve:  something quick to make, something that doesn't require much thought or preparation to whip up, something that always turns out well.  This cookie bar is mine.

Here's what you need and what you do:

2 c. flour
1 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. butter
Mix together until crumbly.  Pat firmly into a 9 x 13 glass dish.

1 & 1/4 c. pecan halves
Place evenly over crust.

3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. butter or margarine
Heat in saucepan, and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Pour evenly over pecan crust, and bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.

1 c. chocolate chips
Sprinkle over hot bars immediately after removing from oven.

Let set 2 minutes to soften, then swirl as they melt, leaving some whole.  Do not spread smooth.  Cool and cut into bars.
~ from Mennonite Country-Style Recipes by Esther Shank

Happy sweet-tooth satisfying!

To a child, a balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.
~ from Country Home Cooking
by Marjorie Rohrer


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chicken and Leek Stroganoff

Cooking food from scratch — that's what I like to do. Although I haven't been good at keeping things fresh lately...but small steps will help me get back into my cooking groove.

I recently found my groove when I picked up this cookbook. After flipping through it I immediately felt inspired and ready to get back into the game. Jamie Oliver is our real-life Ratatouille's Gusteau "Anyone can cook!" His recipes are easy and fresh = healthy. I don't think I'll be rifling through cookbooks for awhile dreaming of the perfect dinner...this cookbook will do.

My first recipe was for Chicken and Leek Stroganoff and we loved it...I've made it twice actually (it's so easy to prepare).


What You'll Need

sea salt

1/4 cup long grain or basmati rice (I used basmati)
1 large leek

a big handful of crimini or oyster mushrooms (I used pre-sliced white mushrooms)

2 chicken breasts
olive oil

a pat of butter

a glass of white wine

freshly ground black pepper

a bunch of fresh parsley

1 3/4 cups heavy cream

1 lemon (I tried both lime and lemon and found that lime added a better flavor)

What To Do

  1. Pour boiling water from the kettle into a 2 quart saucepan, place on a high heat and add a pinch of sea salt. Add your rice, bring back to a boil, then turn the heat down slightly. Cook for the length of time given in the instructions on the package.
  2. Cut both ends off the leek, quarter lengthwise, slice across thinly, then wash well under running water. Slice the mushrooms. Slice the chicken breasts into little finger-size pieces.
  3. Put a large frying pan on a high heat and add a good lug of olive oil and a pat of butter. Add the leek to the pan with the white wine, a small glass of water, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Let it bubble away for 5 minutes, covered loosely with a piece of aluminum foil. Meanwhile, finely chop the parsley, stalks and all. Remove the foil and add the chicken strips, most of the parsley, the cream, and the mushrooms. Stir, bring back to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. 
  4. Drain your rice. Just before serving, cut your lemon in half and squeeze the juice of one half into the stroganoff. Season to taste.
  5. Spoon some rice onto each plate and top with the stroganoff. Scatter with the rest of the chopped parsley. Serve with the other lemon half, cut into wedges.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

The joys of a well-stocked freezer

A few weeks ago, I was feeling the crunch. The 4-6 p.m. crunch, in which my toddler is at her neediest, the dog is begging to be walked and fed, the phone is ringing, and my husband is getting home and trying to accomplish some basic home improvement tasks. And of course, there's dinner -- something that we take very seriously around here. We don't eat out, and -- with the exception of the Indian entrées from Trader Joe's -- we don't do processed food.

So I decided to go against some of my beliefs about how fresh, healthy food is supposed to be prepared the day you eat it . . . and I checked this book out of the library.

And my life changed.

(For the better.)

Now, you might be thinking, "But it's just going to be casseroles, right? I can't feed my family casseroles every day." I understand; I could never do that, either. This book offers a surprisingly varied menu of recipes, only some of which are actually casseroles. Waiting for me in my freezer right now are: four different chicken entrees, an enchilada bake, feta-spinach rolls, honey-spice pork kabobs, and vegetable chili.

I'm not pulling out a freezer meal every day. But it's so nice to have all these entrées ready to go -- just in case I can't pull off dinner, or I get sick, or in case a neighbor has an emergency appendectomy and I want to take dinner to her family. Or in case I just want to relax and play with my little girl and keep the kitchen clean.

It does take time to prepare these meals; they use the same fresh ingredients that I usually cook with, just in larger quantities. But I find that afternoon naptimes are usually long enough to put 3-6 meals in the freezer, depending on how involved they are. Plus, for me at least, it is easier to free up a Saturday and cook all day than it is to cook every night, six days a week.

Recently, my friend and I gathered at my house on a Saturday morning for a cooking marathon. Our husbands watched the kids and within seven hours we had cooked and packaged 37 meals and cleaned up after ourselves. This may seem like a lot of time spent cooking. But on average, this means that we prepared 5.2 meals per hour, which is more efficient than I could ever dream to be otherwise.

Prior to our cooking marathon, my friend went on a bit of a shopping spree at a warehouse club. Again, this took time and effort -- but again, the savings were worth it. Including the ziplocs and foil pans and extra pantry ingredients that we continue to use weeks later, we spent an average of $7 for each dish (feeding 4-8 people*). Not bad.

The dinnertime rush doesn't have to be so stressful, I've learned. This book (and the general concept behind it) has really helped me to eliminate this rush and I hope you find similar ways to cut the stress at this time of day.

*A note about serving sizes: Fix, Freeze, Feast assumes that you are feeding teenage farmhands who must each consume upwards of 3/4 of a pound of meat at each meal. No, not really -- but we felt that the meat portions were overly generous for our families. So, instead of dividing our meals into three entrées, we often divided them into four or six to better serve our families' needs. If you have a large family, or are feeding ravenous teenagers, the portion sizes in this book are for you.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Black Bean and Corn Salad

Back in February, my first recipe for The Foodie Spot was one for Corn Salad.  Here is another take on corn salad, and I must admit that I personally like this one even better.  :)

What You Need
1 can (19 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (11 oz.) corn, drained
1 c. chopped tomatoes
1/2 c. chopped red onion
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
1/2 c. ranch dressing

What You Do
Combine all ingredients.  Chill.  

That's it!  An easy, delicious side dish that pairs well with so many main dishes.

Happy pairing!

Beans are highly nutritious and satisfying, they can also be delicious if and when properly prepared, and they possess over all vegetables the great advantage of being just as good, if not better, when kept waiting, an advantage in the case of people whose disposition or occupation makes it difficult for them to be punctual at mealtime.
~ Andre Simon (1877-1970),
in The Concise Encyclopedia of Gastronomy


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Butternut and bacon soup

Last week, my mother-in-law sent me home with a gorgeous box of vegetables from her garden. There were peppers and eggplants, those staples of late summer from which my husband made the most wonderful ratatouille. And below those purple and green gems lay the hardier, firmer fruits of autumn: squash.

Acorn and butternut, we have been waiting for you all summer.

Last night, I officially welcomed fall into our home with a dinner of butternut and bacon soup (and grilled cheese on the side). You can, too! As long as the winter squash purée is already prepared, you can whip up this soup in less than 30 minutes.

Butternut and bacon soup

8 ounces bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large onion, minced
4 cups butternut squash purée (canned is fine here, but you may need to add more stock)
3 cups chicken broth (or more, as needed)
8-10 ounces chopped frozen kale (use lots of fresh kale if you have it; I only had frozen kale)
1 sprig rosemary, leaves removed and torn or chopped roughly

In a saucepan or dutch oven (it doesn't need to be huge, but something with a heavy bottom is preferable), fry the bacon until crispy. This usually takes 5 minutes.

While the bacon is frying, mince the onion. Remove the crispy bacon bits and set them aside on a paper towel-lined plate. Drain all but a tablespoon of the bacon fat and add the onions to the pot. Sauté until softened, 4-5 minutes. [Note: if you're using fresh kale, you'll want to add it here and make sure it's wilted before you continue.]

Add butternut purée and chicken stock. If soup is too thick, add additional stock until you reach the desired consistency. Bring to a boil, then add frozen kale. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and serve this steamy soup topped with bacon bits.


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