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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.


Friday, August 27, 2010


Whenever I think of quesadillas, I remember my friend Christy.  Sitting in her home in San Diego one day, I watched her whip up some quesadillas for her young daughters.  Before that, I (being from a rural area of Virginia) thought that quesadillas were something complicated that restaurants made:  not people in their own home.  But when I saw her do it, I thought, "That's as easy as making a grilled cheese sandwich!"  And it is (that easy) because it is (a grilled cheese sandwich).  It just uses tortillas instead of bread.  :)

To make a quesadilla, I...
1. heat a frying pan and put a nice pat of butter in it
2. as that melts, put a tortilla (flour or corn, take your pick) in the pan
3. add a generous (because you can never have too much queso) amount of cheese (I like Costco's shredded Mexican cheese blend, but any ol' cheese will work)
4. add anything else you want...this is where it gets could use tomatoes, black olives, onions (white, red, green, yellow, whatever), cilantro, corn, black beans, kidney beans, take-your-pick beans, jalapenos (or any other hot pepper, depending on your preference), leftover chicken, leftover hamburger, leftover steak, I even used leftover lamb last evening since we have any abundance of lamb right now from the sheep my husband butchered recently (with the meat, I've found it easiest to make sure it's shredded or bite-size before putting it in the quesadilla)...really, the sky's the limit with this
5. put another tortilla on top
6. add some butter on top of that
7. when the bottom tortilla gets nicely browned, the cheese will probably have started to melt beautifully, and it's time to turn it over (which is the hardest part)...I use a big spatula--and my fingers--but even still, I don't always do it "perfectly"...that's OK--a little mess never ruined a quesadilla  :)
8. brown the other side a little, make sure everything is heated through, slide it onto a plate, use a pizza cutter to slice it, and...
9. dig in!

I like to serve this with salsa and sour cream to dip the quesadilla wedges into.  That, combined with Sun Chips and baby carrots, made a delicious meal for my family that required exactly the amount of prep time I had last night:  not much at all!!  :)

Happy Mexican-food feasting (even if it is Mexican with a touch of Virginia country)!  ;-)

Every region has its own Mexican food, and they're very chauvinistic--they believe their food is the real Mexican food.
~ Russ Parson


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Roasted eggplants with spring onions

We grew eggplants for the very first time this year -- in a five-gallon bucket! The plant itself is beautiful, with its broad, purple-veined leaves, and we've been amazed at how much our little plant, with only five gallons of soil to sustain its roots, can produce.

an eggplant blossom in July

Here's a dish we recently prepared with the bounty of our modest container garden. It's a variation on a recipe from Best-Ever Curry Cookbook by Mridula Baljekar. I've modified the original version to allow for Asian eggplants. I also substituted olive oil for vegetable oil, yellow mustard seeds for black, and some random kind of hot pepper growing in my backyard for the red chili pepper.

Served over brown jasmine rice, it was delicious and nourishing.

Roasted eggplants with spring onions

Serves 4

Brown jasmine rice
2 large eggplants (or 5 of the small, long Asian variety)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
1 large bunch spring onions (bigger is actually better in this case), finely sliced
4 oz. button mushrooms, halved
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 fresh red chili (or equivalent amount of any hot pepper you have on hand)
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. salt
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro, plus a few extra sprigs to garnish

*Note: brown jasmine rice takes a while (40-45 minutes) to cook, so you might want to start the rice ahead of the rest of the dish*

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place eggplants on a baking sheet and brush with 2 Tbsp. of the oil. Prick each one with a fork, then roast until soft (about 15 minutes for the small Asian variety; 30-35 minutes for large conventional eggplants).

2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil and the mustard seeds in a large skillet for about 2 minutes on medium-high heat (the seeds may start to splutter). Add the onions, mushrooms, garlic, and chili pepper, and stir fry for 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

3. While the tomatoes are simmering, cut the eggplants in half and scoop out the soft flesh into a bowl. Mash the flesh with a fork.

4. Add the eggplant flesh to the pan with the chopped cilantro. Bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes until the sauce thickens. Serve over brown jasmine rice, garnished with cilantro.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Santa Fe Chicken Soup

This simple recipe is one of my favorites...and when I say simple, I mean really simple. After all, you don't even have to drain the canned goods! That is taking simple to a whole new level. :)

Everyone for whom I've made this has pronounced it delicious, and it's certainly a soup that I'm always glad to see pop up in my menu rotation. At the moment, I'm happy to know that there is, in my refrigerator, a bowl of this that was left-over from lunch I made for friends today; I'm looking forward to having it tomorrow!

What You Need
4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 onion, diced
15 1/4 oz. can whole-kernel corn, undrained
24 oz. can pinto beans, undrained
10 oz. can diced tomatoes and green chilies, undrained
14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 lb. Velveeta cheese
1/4 c. milk

What You Do
Put everything in the crockpot. Cover. Turn on. :) Cook on low 3-4 hours, or until cheese is melted. Try not to let soup boil. (I've also made this soup in a pot on the stove, especially when I was running out of time, and that works fine, too. But the crockpot is even more convenient.)

* Depending on the spice tolerance of those for whom I make this, I sometimes omit the diced tomatoes and green chilies, and add plain diced tomatoes instead. I personally like the extra zing that comes from the green chilies (and it's not a very spicy zing, just a little tiny one), but at times, it seems best to omit the spice and let each person add it individually to their own comfort level.

Happy soup-serving!

To feel safe and warm on a cold wet night,
all you really need is soup.
~ Laurie Colwin


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ground Beef Grand Style

Back when our grandmothers and great-grandmothers were young wives and mothers, they cooked for their families every day, restaurants were a rarely-indulged-in luxury, and cooks didn't have to specify that they made something "from scratch," because how else would you make it anyway? Back in those days, women helped their own hamburger; they didn't go to the store to buy something in a box to do it for them. I'm not knocking Hamburger Helper--after all, don't we all rely on shortcuts from time to time? But the next time you think about reaching for that box, instead try this recipe my grandmother passed down to my mother who then passed it down to me.

What You Need
1 can refrigerator biscuits (or make your own; but at this stage of my life, refrigerator biscuits is one of those shortcuts I'm glad to take!)
1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese
1 can (10 and 1/2 oz.) cream of mushroom soup
1/4 c. milk
1/4 c. ketchup (I use a little more)
1/3 c. sliced green olives (I love olives, so I usually use more than this)
1 tsp. salt (I usually omit this because the olives add enough salt)

What You Do
Brown ground beef; drain, if necessary. Add onions, and cook a few minutes. Add all other ingredients (except biscuits), and continue cooking until heated through and mixed well. Meanwhile, bake biscuits; and when done, place them on top of casserole. Makes 5-6 servings.

A nice accompaniment to this dish is Ceci's Cucumber and Tomato Salad; that, along with some fresh cantaloupe, is what I served with this casserole tonight for our supper.

Happy helping! (Your hamburger, that is...)

The best way to serve meals is with a smile.
~ from Country Home Cooking
by Marjorie Rohrer


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Spices + Awesomeness

If you don't have mega kitchen space but love cooking and use cabinet space for...the is something brilliant I just ran across. Mobile Foodie. 

I love how everything is so organized. You don't even need an annoying spice rack to take up've got it all right there in a handy case. (my unintentional rhyme) And you won't run across an old jar of Cloves you didn't even know you had. Who needs nine lifetimes of Cloves anyway?

Bonus: It's organic. And for a good cause.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Caprese pasta salad

Today's recipe was supposed to be French tarragon pickles. My husband and I had a lot of fun brining and canning them, and I was excited about sharing the recipe. The only thing is . . . we just tasted them the other day. And these pickles are so vinegary, they're practically inedible.

Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted, and I think we'll try again some other time (with significantly less vinegar).

In the meantime, I'm not feeling much like cooking during this heat wave. So here's a recipe for a little something I whipped up the other night (with minimal cooking) that also uses the delicious, fresh garden ingredients.

Caprese pasta salad

12 oz. vegetable radiatore (use any pasta your family likes, but a spinach pasta is nice here)
1 large, ripe yellow tomato, chopped
1 large, ripe red tomato, chopped
8-12 oz. fresh mozzarella, chopped or torn
Lots of fresh basil, chopped or torn
Olive oil

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Layer pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil on individual plates. Drizzle with olive oil and serve. Eat and stay cool!


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Potato Salad

Ok, it is potluck season, which means we pull out our best salad recipes to take.  This is about as involved as I get with a recipe.  But it is well worth it.  It is so yummy!  I try to make it in two days, so it doesn't seem so overwhelming.  Enjoy! This was from Mennonite Country Style Recipes by Esther H. Shank.

Step 1:
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
3/4 c. Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
Mix in top container of double boiler or you can do it in a regular size pot.

1 c. Water
1 1/2 Tbsp Vinegar
Add gradually

3 eggs, beaten lightly
Add.  Cook over boiling water, stirring constantly until thickened.  Remove from heat.

2 Tbsp Butter
Add.  Cool throughly

2 c. Miracle Whip
1/2 to 1 tsp prepared Mustard
Blend in.

Store in refrigerator.  Keeps for weeks.  Yields 1 qt.

Step 2:
2 lb or about 6 med potatoes-Cook until tender and dice
3/4 tsp Salt-Sprinkle over warm potatoes so it soaks in.
3 to 6 Hard cooked eggs, diced
2 to 4 Tbsp chopped Onion
Add the eggs and onion
2 c. or more of Basic Cooked Dressing, the above recipe.  Add while potatoes are warm for better penetration of flavor.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cherry Cheesecake Brownies

Recently I've been a little bit appalled (is that the right word? too strong probably. maybe "saddened" is better) at the lack of hospitality we here in modern America have as part of our culture. When was the last time you were invited over to someone's home for dinner? When was the last time you opened your home to someone else? When was the last time you walked into a church service on Sunday morning, not knowing where you were going to be eating lunch, and walked out with an impromptu invitation to someone's home? When was the last time you ran into an old friend; and instead of vaguely saying, "We should get together sometime!" you said, "Can you come over this Friday evening? Around 6:30 or 7:00? Great!"

I understand that people are busy, but we all have to eat, right? I understand that there are various seasons of life; and sometimes at challenging times, the thought of hosting anyone is overwhelming. I've been there. I understand that sometimes, we feel like our homes are so messy that we don't want to open the door to anyone for fear of looking like a failure or being judged. For that, I say, check out FlyLady and, for your own sake, take some baby steps to regain control of your house and your life. I understand that fixing a whole dinner for guests can be time-consuming and expensive and scary, especially if you're new to the realm of hospitality. Here's my solution for that: call up some friends or your Aunt Mary & Uncle Joe or your next-door neighbors, and ask if they can come over around 7:15 for coffee (iced tea, if it's hot) and dessert. (That's it. Just dessert and coffee. No dinner. Make things easy on yourself.) Then make this...
Cherry Cheesecake Brownies are a wonderful way to bless your family or guests with a delicious dessert without a lot of time or effort. Here's how:

What You Need
1 box brownie mix (and ingredients called for by the mix)
2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 can (21 oz.) cherry pie filling

What You Do
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare brownie mix as directed on package. Pour into a 9 x 13 greased baking pan. Bake 15 minutes. Beat vanilla, egg, milk, and cream cheese in bowl until very smooth. Pour over baked brownie layer. Return to oven and bake until topping is set, about 25 minutes. Let cool. Spread with pie filling. Refrigerate for about 2 hours (or more) before serving. Cut into squares. Store any leftovers in refrigerator.

This recipe is from The Fine Art of Hospitality Handbook, edited by Sheila Jones and Betty Dyson.

See? You can do this! Happy hosting! :)


Hospitality seeks to provide a safe place.
Entertainment seeks to provide a

Hospitality strives to
Entertaining strives to

Hospitality puts people before things.
Entertaining elevates things above people.

Hospitality claims that
what's mine is yours.
Entertaining claims that
everything is mine and you should admire it and certainly not touch it.

takes no thought for reward or reciprocation.
expects praise and a return invitation.

Hospitality is about
welcome, inclusion, and acceptance.
Entertaining is about
exclusiveness and pride.

frees us to enjoy one another and grow in the Lord.
enslaves us to personal and cultural expectation.

Hospitality specifically seeks out those in need of food, shelter, company, or a listening ear.
Entertaining seeks out those we think can help us in some way.

Hospitality is an act of obedience and stewardship.
Entertaining is essentially a self-serving occupation.

~ from Finding Your Purpose as a Mom
by Donna Otto


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sesame Chicken Stir-Fry

I got this from the $5 dinner website.  This website has had some wonderful recipes for very little money, that is if you are a couponer.  Which I am learning the art of and doing better at grocery shopping.  We thought this was VERY GOOD!  I think as a family we all agreed that it would taste better with rice.  Which is something we always have on hand.  The rice noodles were a nice change.  You never know how you will like something unless you try it the way it is and then make it to your tastes. 

2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1 package Thai Kitchen Sesame Rice Noodles
1 package frozen stir-fry vegetable
*Package included sesame oil, rice noodles and seasoning. If I were to make this without the package, I would have use 1 Tbsp sesame or peanut oil, 2 Tbsp sesames, 2 Tbsp chopped peanuts, 2 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder and salt and pepper to taste, in place of the seasonings that came with the package. 
1. Follow the directions on the box to cook the rice noodles in a large skillet or wok, set aside once cooked.
2. In the same large skillet or wok, stirfry the frozen vegetables, the cooked chicken and the seasonings in some oil.  Add in the cooked rice noodles and stirfry for 3-4 more minutes.
3. Serve Sesame Chicken Stir-fry.

I have a hard time finding the Thai Kitchen Sesame Rice Noodles in my grocery store.  So I just get the regular kind.  I did use the recipe that she had suggested for my noodles and turned out great.  I did add a little more Sesame Oil b/c I did not have any peanuts or sesames.  It seasoned the chicken very nicely.  We then added a little more Low Sodium soy sauce.  Over all this is a dish that I will be making again.  This is a print out and goes in the recipe box.  Can you tell we enjoy Chinese food?  We have to, seeing as we have a cute little daughter from China.  :-)


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chipotle chicken salad tacos

Rick Bayless is a genius. At least, that's what we think in our house. He has made great strides in introducing the U.S. to really authentic Mexican food, and he's also been a prominent advocate of the locavore movement in Chicago and throughout the country.

But as much as he teaches traditional techniques and dishes, he puts fresh, contemporary twists on these same dishes.

Like chipotle chicken salad tacos.

Have you ever had tacos filled with cabbage? I hadn't, before I tried this recipe. And I certainly wouldn't have thought of combining cabbage and carrots with a smoky chipotle balsamic vinaigrette.

But . . . wow! It's amazing. Taste it for yourself with some local carrots and cabbage.

Chipotle chicken salad tacos

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, finely chopped
salt to taste
1/2 small head Napa cabbage, thinly sliced (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1 small candy onion (or red onion)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped cooked chicken (I cooked mine in the crockpot last week and froze the chopped meat)
1 large ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into cubes
1/3 cup coarsely grated pecorino romano cheese (or queso añejo or Parmesan)
12 to 16 warm, fresh corn tortillas (we made our own with Maseca!)

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, and chipotles. Season generously with salt. Add the cabbage, carrot, chicken, onion, and cilantro and toss. Let stand for 15 minutes. (It's best eaten the same day, but you can refrigerate it for a few hours before dinner if that works better with your schedule.)

When you're ready to serve, put the avocado, cheese, and salad on the table with tortillas and let everyone assemble their own chicken salad tacos.

From Mexico One Plate at a Time by Rick Bayless, page 114


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cucumber & Tomato Salad

My family had the opportunity to travel around the world when I was younger.  When we were in Switzerland visiting some friends, an older couple, she made this dish for us.  At that point I was going into 4th grade and didn't care much for the onions, but ate everything else.  Now that I am older, I am enjoying and eating the onions in this dish.  :-)  My mom always told me that when we get older we like more foods than we do when we are younger.  It is true!  Yet I can't bring myself to like sauerkraut, lima beans, or sweet potatoes.  Maybe when I am 60!  It is one that taste better the longer everything is together.  So make it ahead if you are having it for dinner or taking it to a potluck!  And for those of you that are growing gardens, like we are, you will have all these things on hand. 

3 small Cucumbers
3 small Tomatoes
1 small Onion
1 tsp Salt
Dash of Pepper
1/2 tsp Garlic Salt
3 or 4 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
3 or 4 Tbsp White Vinegar
2 Tbsp Sugar
Some Parsley
Mix all these ingredients together.  And add seasonings to your taste.

Note: You don't want to use Olive Oil for this recipe.  It doesn't have the flavor that it does with vegetable Oil.  I tried it a while back and the flavor just wasn't there.  Also, White Vinegar is better than the apple cider vinegar, again because of taste.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Chicken Korma

I am a creature of habit, and one of the areas in which this is visible is my ordering habits in restaurants. When I find something I like, I stick with it. After all, wouldn't it be a shame to launch out and try something new and not like it, when I could have ordered what I know I like and been perfectly content? :)

Because of my habit of ordering what I know I like, Chicken Korma is what I ALWAYS get when we go to a certain Indian restaurant in our town; but we don't go there very often so I decided to look for a Chicken Korma recipe to make at home. I found one on Food Network, and I'll definitely be making this again! That ol' creature-of-habit thing is cropping up again. :)

What You Need
4 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. julienned ginger
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 pound chicken, cooked
1 c. water
1 & 1/2 tsp. garam masala, or to taste
1/4 pint heavy cream
2 tsp. finely chopped coriander

What You Do
Heat oil in large deep frying pan, adding chopped onions, and fry for 4-5 minutes on a medium heat until the onions are slightly brown. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a further 1-2 minutes. Add the salt, turmeric, and ground cumin.

Turn up the heat and further cook for another minute, then add the chicken. It is very crucial that spices are mixed within the pan at this point and stirred to ensure that the chicken cooks with texture and flavor. Add water after stirring the chicken into the spices. Turn down the heat slightly and stir in the garam masala and cream. Cook for a further 5 minutes. Serve sprinkled with green coriander.

* I didn't follow the recipe exactly. For one thing, I used ground ginger, because that's what I had on hand. For another thing, I didn't cook the chicken first, but just cubed the raw chicken and cooked it in the spices. Obviously it took a little longer that way, but otherwise, it worked out fine. I also omitted the coriander because I didn't have any. I served this over my favorite rice: jasmine rice.

Without rice, even the cleverest housewife cannot cook.
~ Chinese proverb


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Soft Pretzels

I picked my oldest up from school and decided to take her out for a treat at our local Farmer's Market.  We enjoyed a soft pretzel and lemonade.  She asked about how they made the pretzels and told her that we would make them at home.  Both of my older girls got involved and tried to make pretzels, well the one just wanted to eat the dough.  Here is the homemade pretzel that we made!  I got this recipe from an old youth group leader. 

1 1/4 c. Warm Water
1 Tbsp Yeast
1/4 c. Brown Sugar
1 1/2 c. Bread Flour
1 1/2 c. Regular Flour
Dissolve the yeast in the water.  Stir in the remaining ingredients.  Let rise for 20 minutes.  Shape & dip into soda water (recipe below).  Sprinkle with pretzel salt.  Bake till slightly brown.  Dip or brush on melted butter and serve.  Bake at 400 for 10 minutes.

Soda Water:
1/2 c. Water
2 Tbsp Baking Soda

FYI: Spray the cookie sheet with Pam to avoid the pretzels from sticking.

Alterations:  I did not have any bread flour so I used all regular flour and they turned out great.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Springtime Salad

I made this salad for a picnic yesterday and thought it was delicious! I see lots of possibilities for variations on this salad -- Greek olives, cucumbers, and on and on! Yum!

What you need:
2 1/4 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt
10 oz. box couscous
3 tbsp. lemon juice
6 tbsp. olive oil
2 c. spinach, torn
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
3 tbsp. fresh dill, finely chopped (smells so good!)
(I also added sunflower seeds and feta!)

What to do:
Pour water into a saucepan, add salt, and bring to a boil. Add couscous and immediately remove pan from heat. Cover saucepan and let stand five minutes. Uncover, and toss couscous with a fork. Place in a serving bowl; set aside. Blend lemon juice and oil together, toss with couscous and let mixture cool completely. Toss couscous with spinach, green onion, and dill; refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Recipe from Gooseberry Patch cookbook, "The Cozy Home Cookbook."


Friday, June 25, 2010

Honey Chicken Salad

In my opinion this is the perfect chicken salad recipe. I prefer sweet chicken salad with nuts, as opposed to the kind with onion or dill. I can't tell you how many times I have made this for a gathering and every time someone requests the recipe. The recipe is exactly how Southern Living made it. Why mess with perfection?

Honey Chicken Salad


4 cups chopped cooked chicken
3 celery ribs, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/3 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Garnish: chopped toasted pecans

How to Make It:
1) Combine first 4 ingredients.
2) Whisk together mayonnaise and next 3 ingredients. Add to chicken mixture, stirring gently until combined. Garnish, if desired.

Yield: 6 servings


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Creamy pea salad

I am not the only foodie in the family. In fact, my husband is as obsessed with cooking and eating as I am. It's something that unites us. To counteract this somewhat fattening bonding time, we're trying to work out together, too. Wish us luck.

On Father's Day, we returned home from a brief camping trip to a fridge that was fairly well-stocked with fresh veggies. While I popped some of my frozen potato rolls in our cast-iron skillet to rise, he brainstormed a fresh salad idea to accompany the clams (from the freezer!) and rolls we were having for dinner that night.

The result was creamy, fresh, and beautiful.

Creamy pea salad (serves 2-3)

3/4 cup sour cream
1 to 2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 tablespoon honey
ground pepper to taste
dill (to taste)
2 scallions (the white part, plus as much of the green part as you'd like)
1 cup cooked and chilled peas (the smaller and sweeter, the better!)
2 large lettuce leaves, plus more torn-up pieces to put on the side

To make the dressing:
Start with the sour cream. Add about a tablespoon of the olive oil, and whisk until combined. Taste the mixture. It should have a less tangy taste than the plain sour cream, and just a hint of the flavor of the olive oil. Whisk in a little more oil if the sour cream is still very tangy and you can't quite taste the olive oil. Add the salt and the honey. Taste again. If it's too sweet for your liking, add a little more sour cream. If it's too tangy, add a little more honey. Finally, add the dill and a little freshly ground pepper.

Mix the dressing with the peas and scallions, and spoon over the lettuce.

VARIATION: for a dinner salad, add cooked, cooled potatoes and salad radishes to the ingredients above.

Note: My husband wrote up this recipe for me, and as you read it, you'll probably notice the style of his cooking: it is all about taste! His favorite cookbook authors at the moment are Rick Bayless and Francis Mallmann, who also advocate tasting as you go to make sure everything is seasoned properly. So naturally, this is how my husband writes his own recipes. Happy tasting!


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rhubarb Pie

Again this was taken from the Simply in Season cookbook.  This is homegrown rhubarb from our garden.  We got the start from his Grandpa & Grandma who are no longer living.  It is neat to have a plant in my garden that has come from his grandparents.  It is a neat reminder of them.  That being said, my husband begs and begs me to make Rhubarb pie for him.  So I broke down and made it for him, but this time tried a new recipe.

2 Eggs
Separate yolks from the egg whites.  Beat egg whites into stiff peaks.  Beat egg yolks separately.

1 c. Sugar
3 Tbsp Flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
Mix with egg yolks.

3 c. Rhubarb (chopped)
Add to egg mixture.  Fold in the beaten egg whites.

9 inch pastry shell (unbaked)
Pour mixture into shell and bake in preheated oven at 425F for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350F and continue baking for 30 minutes or until set.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Peanut Butter Pie

I'm a strict recipe-follower. Have I confessed that before? Knowing this about me, you should be pretty proud to know that I made some changes to this peanut butter pie recipe! This was our Father's Day dessert, and it got rave reviews from my hubby and his mom.

Here's the recipe as it was printed. I'll note my changes at the end. (I've always wanted to say that!)

What you need:
1 pkg. (8 oz.) fat-free cream cheese
3/4 cup reduced fat peanut butter
1 can (14 oz.) fat-free sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 carton (12 oz.) frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
2 reduced fat graham cracker crusts (8 in.)
1/4 cup chocolate syrup
1/4 cup finely chopped unsalted peanuts

What you do:
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and peanut butter until smooth. Beat in milk and vanilla until blended. Fold in whipped topping. Pour into crusts. Cover and freeze for 8 hours or overnight.

Remove from the freezer 10 minutes before serving. Drizzle with syrup and sprinkle with peanuts. Store leftovers in the freezer.

My changes:
I used 1/3 fat reduced cream cheese. The fat free stuff just isn't the same. That's all.
I couldn't find fat free condensed milk, so I used the regular, full fat stuff.
I used Oreo crusts instead of graham cracker. I mean really...chocolate and peanut butter is THE best combination!
I sprinkled chopped Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, not peanuts, on top.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Chicken and Spinach with Parmesan Asiago Cream Sauce

This recipe is partly Giada, partly Olive Garden, and partly my creation. In other words, it's delicious and there are so many different creations you could make with it, which is a great asset for any dish. Since I haven't written it down the 3 or 4 times I've made this, I am hoping this is a close rendition. Thankfully, it's not a science. Here are some of the many options in addition to, or instead of, spinach and red bell pepper: artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli, diced tomatoes, zucchini, squash, and carrots. Also try shrimp or pancetta in place of chicken.

Chicken and Spinach with Parmesan Asiago Cream Sauce

2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
3-4 Tbsp. Wildtree grapeseed oil (either natural, butter flavored, or roasted garlic)
1 lb. bowtie pasta
16 oz. fresh spinach
1 1/2 cups half-n-half or heavy cream (to cut the fat, use half milk)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic (or to your liking)
1 cup shredded Asiago cheese
1/4-1/2 cup fresh, shredded Parmesan cheese
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup white wine (optional)

How to Make It:
1) Make pasta according to package. Drain and set aside.
2) Heat 3 Tbsp. grapeseed oil in a large skillet and brown chicken until no longer pink. Remove from skillet and keep warm.
3) Heat remaining tablespoon of grapeseed oil in skillet and add garlic and spinach; cook until mostly wilted. Add cream/milk and season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until spinach is completely wilted.
4) Add cheeses and chicken. Heat until hot and cheese has melted. Add pasta and mix well.


Thursday, June 17, 2010


Several weeks ago, my dad turned 70. If you don't know our family and if you haven't read about our living situation, I'll just briefly mention that we're blessed to live in my parents' old home (the house in which I grew up), and my parents live right down the hill from our house. Consequently, they come for dinner almost every evening. My dad's birthday was no exception; and as I thought about what to make for such a special occasion, I settled on meatloaf.

Meatloaf isn't grand, I know; but it is good and hearty and filling and can be moist and delicious and it is a favorite of my dad's (although he likes everything...except avocado...but he'll even eat that uncomplainingly if it's served to him), but I rarely remember to make it! On the night of his birthday, I used a recipe for Pot Roast Meat Loaf from Country Home Cooking by Marjorie Rohrer; but I made two changes to it so that I could combine my three favorite meatloaf features. Here is the original recipe:

What You Need
1 lb. ground beef
2/3 c. canned milk
1/3 c. cracker crumbs
1/4 c. ketchup
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 potatoes
3 onions
3 carrots

What You Do
Mix first seven ingredients together in a bowl. Shape into a loaf. Place in center of a 9 x 13 pan. Wash potatoes, onions, and carrots; and chop into chunks. Place veggies around meat in pan. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper and parsley. Cover tightly with foil. Bake 1 hour at 375 degrees. Uncover and bake 20 more minutes to brown meat.

I used this recipe because it included one of my favorite parts of a good meatloaf: the veggies around the edges that absorb the grease :) and all the yummy flavor. But there were two more things I wanted to do with it. One was to include a layer of cheese in the middle of the meatloaf; that's how I remember my mother making it--almost like a cheeseburger meatloaf--so as I put the meat mixture into the baking pan, I simply put half down, added some cheese on top, then placed the rest of the meat mixture on top of that. The third aspect of a delicious meatloaf, in my opinion, is a ketchup-based topping, so I mixed 1 cup ketchup, 2 tsp. mustard, and 2 tbsp. brown sugar, then spread that over the top of the meat. And then, finally, it was ready to bake, with all three of my favorites included. :)

Happy loafing!

I feel a recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with a variation.
~ Madam Benoit


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