Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Kid Food: Chicken 'Nuggets'


I'm just saying, I hate the word "nuggets".

Mason and Cammo LOVE chicken nuggets. And, hey, I'm not complaining if I can get them to eat meat willingly. Normally, I have to force Camden to swallow the soggy, chewed up meat that has been stored in his cheeks for 2 weeks. [I know, totally an inappropriate visual for a food blog. I'm just telling it like it is!]

Have you ever read the ingredients of frozen/processed chicken nuggets? Have you ever noticed how they are GREY inside? I don't think any food should ever be grey. Except of course, the
Armadillo cake from one of the best movies ever [which ironically has a presence in my blog, apparently].

These are all breast meat, moist [another word I hate, by the way] flavorful chicken 'nuggets'. I make these in big batches and keep them in my freezer. They are great to have on hand for lunches, nights when you need a quick meal, and they are seriously husband-proof.

Tender Chicken Nuggets
The measurements here are approximate. I make these all the time, and I don't really measure anything out, I just toss it all together!
  • 1 c. seasoned bread crumbs
  • 5 T. grated Parmesan cheese [the real stuff, you know how I feel about the powder in the green can, please!]
  • 2-3 egg whites & water
  • 4 T. melted butter [+/-]
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into cubes
  1. Beat the egg whites and water together in a shallow dish. [You can use the whole egg if you'd like, I prefer egg white only!]
  2. In a large ziploc bag [or in a shallow dish, however you prefer], combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.
  3. Dip chicken pieces in egg whites and then toss in bread crumb mixture. Make sure each piece is coated well.
  4. Place on a baking sheet [I use my cookie sheet], that has been coated with non-stick spray.
  5. Drizzle each piece of chicken with a small amount of the melted butter. You don't need to saturate them, just make sure that each piece gets some! This will help keep the chicken moist, and make the coating not get dry and crumbly in the oven.
  6. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink.

*If you are making these to freeze, store them in an airtight container [ziploc, whatever] after step #3.

These are great with any dipping sauces! It's fun to have a variety out, and let the littles go crazy testing the dips.

Variation:

  • Add a few teaspoons of Shirley J pizza & pasta seasoning in with the bread crumb/parm cheese mixture. When I do this, the dudes call them "pizza chicken." They can be dipped in marinara or ranch.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mary, Mary...

Oh, baby.



We have been lucky to always have tremendous success in our garden. Last year it got neglected and basically forgotten about. To be honest, we didn't really eat nearly any of the vegetables that came from it. I spent all of last summer on bedrest, and then with a newborn. I wasn't cooking, and frankly, the garden was the last thing on my mind.



This year, however, it's a different story. I'm back to my garden fanatic-self. I've been checking every day for progress. The dudes and I are very excited with the things we've got growing, and I am seriously itching to cook with the goods!


My dream is to someday live on some serious acreage and live off the land as much as possible. I'd love to have fruit trees, and grow every fruit and vegetable under the sun. I don't need a big fancy house, just a lot of land where my kids can roam free, and I can grow everything. I also want chickens [for fresh eggs] and bees.


It's okay, you can say it. I'm weird. And crazy.

Two tiny little green peppers...which will stay on until they are red peppers. We only planted two pepper plants this year. I've been known to go a little "pepper plant" crazy in the past, but I tamed it down this year.

My huge cherry tomato plant & heirloom tomato plant. I didn't see fruit on either of these yet, but they are HUGE plants, and I didn't have time to dig through them. I'm very excited for these, the heirlooms especially. This is the first year I've planted them, and I can't wait to use them!

A roma tomato! I love romas!! We usually plant a ton of these, and they are always so succesful for us. I use them in sauces, salsas, fresh...everything. Hopefully this year will be as succesful as the past, and I'll have enough to can. In the past, we've had neighbors coming over with grocery sacks to fill with our roma tomatoes, we had THAT many!

A zucchini! Our zucchini plant is going crazy, we have a ton in, and a ton that are in blossom still! I can't wait for these to be ready!! Grill 'em, cook with 'em, make them into muffins, breads and brownies!
The very first yellow squash [summer squash as we call it]! One of our family favorites. I grew up with a garden full of this, and we all devoured it! I can't wait to eat this!
This is our [the dudes] little experiment. I don't know why I never thought of this before, but I learned about it from The Next Food Network Star. We have already cut back the greens once, and this morning we cut them all off again. The kids LOVE to watch their progress every day. And I love the little glass sitting by my sink.
There is more in the garden, but who wants to be bored with my garden? Carry on with your lives, and I'll go spend time staring at the blossoms...

Grow little garden, grow!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fresh Lemonade



Silly, basic, and everyone probably already does this and has their own recipe. But, hey, just in case you don't, you've GOT to try fresh lemonade. I could drink this by the gallon. In fact, I'm fairly sure that this lemonade is the reason cups like this were invented:

I've been known to mock them [and the people who use them] in the past. But now, I could find myself adding one of those giganto mugs into my daily routine...just to support my lemonade habit.

The littles and I made this yesterday. They had a blast squeezing the lemon juice and mixing it all together. I'll give the dudes credit, they got every last drop of lemon juice out of each lemon. For some, like Cammo, most of the lemons got eaten, and never made it to the squeezing stage. [The kid has eaten lemons since he was a baby. I try to limit this obscure love, because I don't want his teeth shriveling into nothingness. He'll eat them, rind and all!]

As an added bonus, your hands smell amazingly awesome after making this lemonade!

There are a million and one lemonade "recipes" out there. All are very similar, so you can easily adjust this to your taste.

Summer Lemonade
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 c. sugar [+/-]
  • 1 c. lemon juice [depending on the lemon, about 4-6 lemons]
  • 3 1/2- 4 c. cold water
  1. Make a simple syrup, using the water and the sugar. [Heat the sugar and water together in a saucepan until the sugar has melted.]
  2. Juice lemons [by hand, machine, whatever---my little hand juicer was like $3] to get 1 cup of fresh lemon juice, being careful to avoid the seeds.
  3. Add the cooled simple syrup and lemon juice to a pitcher. Mix together. Add 3 1/2 - 4 cups of cold water to taste. [Depending on how strong you like your lemonade.]
  4. Refrigerate until cold.

*Any sugar substitute can be used here, if you are avoiding the calories. It works and tastes great as well.

I love the plain lemonade, but I can't resist throwing in some fresh fruit. In the picture above, I macerated some fresh raspberries in the bottom of my glass, and then I poured the lemonade over the top. It was an amazingly awesome fresh raspberry lemonade.

To make a "pink" lemonade, clean and hull fresh strawberries. Pulse them in a blender until they are liquified. Strain them [if you want, if you don't, skip it] and mix into the lemonade mixture. SO good.

My dudes decided they want to make some lemonade for the 4th of July, and do different flavors. We decided we are going to add blueberries to some, and strawberries/raspberries to the others. [Wow, we are so totally creative. Nobody ever thought of red, white & blue themed food for the 4th, especially in Utah...]


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Homemade buns & Turkey Apple Sliders



Mini-burgers are kind of a phenom right now. Everyone is doing it---all of the chain restraunts have them on their menu. Trust me, I don't do anything because everyone else is doing it. Just ask my high school self. Seriously, everyone else was into make-up and clothes. Not me. I had enough Grateful Dead t-shirts to last me a full week. That was all I needed.

Thankfully the wardrobe has since upgraded, but my ability to dig my heels in and not do something because "everyone else is" has never changed.

BUT, I can see past the popularity of the mini-burger, and focus on why I love it. This is the perfect kid sized burger! Not only that, it makes me feel like I'm stretching my budget! I can get 8 burgers from 1 pound of meat instead of 4. Granted, you might need to eat 2 burgers instead of 1, but that's okay. They are dainty, and won't make you feel piggish. I swear.

Plus, they are so totally cute. I'm on with anything that is cute. [I know, a hard sell, since you are picturing me in Grateful Dead t-shirts. I swear, it's all better now. It was a phase. I'm on board with cute now, I swear.]

Also, with the totally cute & dainty burger, I made my own buns. I loathe buying store bought hamburger/hot dog buns. Why? a) They aren't tasty. They serve the purpose of holding the meat [or what have you] inside, and offer no flavor. b) I can't keep up with them. I buy them for a dinner menu, and keep them in the fridge. By the time I need to use them, they are all hard and soggy and gross. If I don't put them in the fridge, they get moldy. If I freeze them they shrink into hockey pucks.

In general, they just suck.

So. I make my own. Seriously, SO easy.


Hamburger/Hotdog Buns

  • 1 c. water (warm about 110 degrees)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 c. white flour
  • 1 1/2 c. wheat flour [or you can use all white flour with no problems]
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. shortening
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 3 T. yeast
  • 1/2 tsp - 3/4 tsp. Shirley J dough enhancer [Use 3/4 if you use whole wheat flour, and 1/2 if you use all white flour]
  1. Place all ingredients in bread maker. Set to "dough" setting.
  2. When dough is finished, shape into a 12" long rope. Cut in half, and in half again, continuing until you have 8 pieces [for normal sized hamburger buns, I did small buns, so I did 16 pieces], or 12 pieces for hotdog buns.
  3. Shape into circles for hamburger buns, or into hotdog buns. Place on a sprayed cookie sheet and cover. Let rise in a warm place [I set it on top of my preheated oven] for 15 minutes, until doubled.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes. When done, remove from pan and cool on a rack.
  5. Store in ziploc bags.

*If you don't have dough enhancer, these buns will still work out great. The enhancer just makes the dough more smooth!

Turkey Apple Sliders
I found this recipe [mine is altered to my tastes] on the 'net a while back. Unfortunately I didn't save where I got it from! I wish I could take full credit for this recipe. I LOVE this idea, and wish I had created it all by myself. I just changed it! Regardless, it's SO good.

  • 1 lb. ground turkey [breast is best]
  • 1 granny smith apple, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/3 c. panko bread crumbs
  • 1 T. worcestershire sauce
  • garlic powder
  • salt & pepper
  • Swiss cheese slices
  1. Mix all ingredients together [except swiss cheese], until just combined, don't overmix. Divide mixture in half, and then in half again, until you have 8 equal portions.
  2. Form into small patties, putting a small dent in the center of each patty. [Like a thumbprint.]
  3. Spray our grill with non-stick spray [turkey, because it doesn't have much fat, tends to stick], and grill each patty until done. Because they are small, it shouldn't take long. When the burgers are done, turn off the heat and top each one with a small slice [or 2] of swiss cheese. Close the lid to the grill and let the cheese melt.
  4. During cooking, throw your homemade buns on the top rack of the grill, and toast the buns. If you are like me, you will more than likely burn at least 2 of the buns...so have extras on hand!
  5. Serve with desired toppings: ketchup, mayo [or ham butter, as my 4 year-old calls it], mustard, pickles, tomatoes, onions...

You don't really taste the apples in this 'burger'. It does give it a hint of sweetness and tang, but it really just helps the burger to stay moist. The swiss cheese balances it all out, so don't forget the swiss!!

Even if you once wore a closet full of Grateful Dead t-shirts, you can still make cute, non-trendy burgers.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

London Broil & Creamy Mushroom Risotto


Risotto is a bit time consuming, but not hard! If you can stir, you can make risotto.

I love risotto. Any form, any add-ins, any way, any how. My husband loves London Broil. It's one of his absolute favorite cuts of meats. This is a dish that makes us both very happy.

The London Broil recipe for the marinade comes from the Better Homes & Gardens Cook Book
[the red & white checked one that everyone on the planet got for a wedding gift]. I changed it just a tiny bit.

We make London Broil many ways, and this is one of my husbands favorites. [Who am I kidding? "We!" That's like when men say, "We're pregnant!" I'm fairly sure someone is taking credit for something they aren't doing at all! ]

London Broil
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 2 T. lemon juice [about 1/2 of a lemon]
  • 1/4 tsp. salt [I don't measure the salt or pepper, just throw it in]
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  1. Score the meat by making shallow diagnoal cuts at 1-inch intervals in a diamond pattern. Do this on each side. Be careful not to cut through the meat, just 'score' through about 1/4" through.
  2. Mix ingredients together and pour over meat. Let marinate [in fridge] for 4-24 hours. [I do this in a food storage bag.]
  3. Heat grill to med-hi heat and cook meat on grill until desired doneness.

The original directions call for the meat to be broiled in the oven. You can do that, but my husband digs the grill flavor.

Creamy Mushroom Risotto

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves smashed garlic [don't mince them, just smash them, you'll remove it later]
  • 1 1/2 onions, diced [pretty big onions]
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley, or 1-2 T. fresh parsley [not super accurate, just eyeball it]
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 1/2 c. mushrooms [dried mushrooms are awesome here*]
  • 1 1/4 c. prepared Shirley J cream sauce
  • 1 c. arborio rice [don't try to sub something else!]
  • 5 c. water
  • 3 tsp. Shirley J chicken bouillon
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 1/2 - 1 c. Parmesan cheese [I used a Parm, Asagio & Romano mix]
  1. Saute the onion and garlic in oil over medium heat, until onion is tender. Don't burn the garlic! Remove the garlic.
  2. Add parsley, salt & pepper. Cook until combined.
  3. Add mushrooms. Cook on low heat until mushrooms are soft and cooked through, but not soggy.
  4. In a small saucepan, over med-low heat, combine water & bouillon. Cook until warm. Keep on the heat, and continue to keep warm during cooking. This will help the risotto cook faster.
  5. Pour cream sauce into skillet. Add rice. Heat until simmering. Stir in broth 1 cup at a time, until absorbed. Stirring occasionally.
  6. Once the broth is absorbed, add another cup. Continue until broth is gone, and rice is cooked through.
  7. When rice is finished, stir in 1 tsp. butter and cheese.
  8. Serve hot.

*If you use dried mushrooms [Costco has some great ones!], rehydrate them, and save the water. Use this water to help equal 5 cups mixed with the bouillon.
**Mushrooms can be omitted if you don't like them. But you really, really should like them.

[Also pictured is basic garlic broccoli]

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Kid Food: Corn Dog Muffins

I know. I know! Before you think anything, let me explain myself!

Mason, my oldest, never tried a hotdog until he was 3. We were at a BBQ and he tried it, and he hated it. He spit it out, and wouldn't eat anything. I was thrilled. I am not a hot dog person at all.

Unfortunately, Masons disdain for hotdogs didn't last forever. Now he likes them, which is nothing to how much Camden LOVES them. Really, he LOVES them. Thankfully I do the best I can, by subbing turkey dogs instead of mystery meat dogs. Jennie-O turkey dogs are the faves. In fact, I have several packages in my freezer (hey, they were on sale for .99 cents), and I pull them out frequently.

Enter: Corn dog. It is hard to find a turkey corndog. Aside from that, it's even harder to find one that isn't full of preservatives and junk that I really don't want my kids to be eating. [I swear, I'm not trying to be holier than thou, we aren't perfect, I swear. But, I try when I can.]


So, this is my homemade, kid friendly, freezer friendly "corn dog". These are adaptable, customizeable, and my kids love them!

I made a batch [makes 24 muffins] the other day and put them in the freezer. They are great to have on hand for lunches, quick dinners, or nights that my husband "cooks" [aka: reheats].



Corn Dog Muffins


  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 c. cornmeal
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs [beaten lightly]
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 2 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. onion, chopped finely
  • 5 turkey dogs, cut into small chunks
  • shredded cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin pans. [This recipe makes 24 muffins.]
  2. Mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar and baking powder. In another bowl mix together the eggs, oil and milk. Combine the ingredients and mix well.
  3. Place a small amount of the cornbread mixture into the bottom of each muffin tin. [Just enough to cover the bottom, barely!]
  4. Add the hotdogs, onions and shredded cheese to the rest of the batter. Mix to combine.
  5. Fill the muffin cups with the batter until about 2/3 full.
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.

ALTERNATE DIRECTIONS:

  1. Follow directions 1 & 2 above. Adding onions and cheese to the batter. Fill each muffin tin about half way full. Place one or two large hotdog chunks into the batter of each tin. Cover with more batter.
  2. Bake for about 20 minutes.

I think I *might* prefer the 2nd directions, just because I can control the amount of "hot dog" per muffin. The ones pictured, however, use the first method. Also, I think next time I might add more turkey dogs. It makes a lot of batter, and the tiny little turkey dogs just get lost. If you use 'real' hot dogs instead of turkey dogs, they are probably thicker and bigger, so you may not need as many.

These are great to make ahead and freeze. Serve with mustard, ketchup & relish if desired.

*You can also add honey to your cornbread mix, if you prefer a sweeter breading!
**You can also use green onions, and add anything else that you'd like, jalapenos, omit the cheese, add more cheese....

Monday, June 15, 2009

Chicken Tikka Masala


I love Indian food. Unfortunately it isn't the most kid-friendly fair (in my opinion). It can be spicy, smelly and a bit weird. BUT, I love it. So I want them to love it.


So in honor of my favorite little Indian place [a place I started frequenting in High School with two of my friends], I decided to make a 'faux' Chicken Tikka Masala. Faux because this is a quick, short-cut version. It's also lower fat, which is always good news. I found a recipe similar to this online, played with it a bid, changed a few things, and this is my version.

Delicious served with warm naan bread, or you could substitute some yummy homemade pita bread. In fact, if you want to make just the chicken in this dish, you could serve it inside the pita with a little greek yogurt. Or hummus. Mmm. [Clearly, I have no problem mixing cuisines!]

Chicken Tikka Masala
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (you can use greek if you'd like)
  • juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 T. fresh grated ginger
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used 3 big ones)
  1. Mix everything together in small bowl. Cut chicken into small pieces, and coat with yogurt sauce. Pour everything into a ziploc bag and marinate in the fridge for 2+ hours.
  2. Thread the chicken onto skewers. Spray your grill with non-stick spray (don't forget this step like I did the first time...otherwise your chicken may become one with the grill), and cook chicken, until juices run clear. Don't over cook chicken, or it will become dry.

Sauce:

  • 1 T. butter
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tsp. cumin
  • 4 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. salt (more or less to taste)
  • 2 (8 oz. cans) tomato sauce
  • 2 c. (prepared) Shirley J cream sauce base
  • fresh chopped cilantro (optional)
  1. Melt butter and olive oil in a deep, large skillet. Add garlic and saute until soft. Be careful not too cook it too high or too long, or the garlic will burn and taste bitter. Add tomato sauce, seasoning and cream sauce. Combine together and simmer on low heat until thick and cooked together. (About 15 minutes.)
  2. Add the cooked chicken (removed from the skewers) and simmer until heated through.
  3. Serve over rice. Jasmine rice is best, but if you are out of jasmine like I was (oops!), any rice will do. (I cooked mine using the Shirley J chicken boullion. It would be great to add frozen peas to the rice...but my husband is anti-pea, and I pick my battles!) Garnish with fresh cilantro. (Again...I omitted this, because my husband thinks that cilantro tastes like soap. ? Yeah, I don't know either...)

****The spices in the yogurt marinade and the sauce can be subbed out for Garam Masala (found in the spice aisle of any grocery store). I like that, but I also like to "make my own", because I can control the flavors I like, the heat, etc.

This version is fairly mild and tame. It doesn't have any jalapenos, and I took the cayenne pepper down a few notches so it is kid friendly. A totally kid friendly, non-scary, Indian dish. I can't guarantee what your breath will smell like after you eat it, but don't let that stop you!







Sunday, June 14, 2009

Nothing new!

I'm just home from a quick family weekend in Bear Lake. A weekend with [most] of my brothers & sisters, nieces & nephews and my parents. I'm happy to report that not much cooking was done! Unfortunately, that means no exciting recipes to share, but on the flip side, many raspberry shakes were consumed. Or, in Camden's (one of the little dudes) case, many raspberry shakes spilled all over his clothing, the carseat buckle, the seat, inbetween every tiny creavice in the car, the window and the floor.

The most gourmet thing we had this weekend was Rice Krispy (I hate mispelled on purpose words, by the way, like "Kids Kabin", or "Kims Kreamy Korn Kakes"...or "Rice Krispies") treats made with Fruity Pebbles. Which, for the record, went quickly!

Once I spend a little alone time with my own bed (oh, baby!), and catch up on the mile of laundry awaiting me, I'll be back to the cookin' action.

Until then, think of the chocolate dipped raspberries that my husband bought yesterday. I'm not even a chocolate fan, and they were so amazingly good that I'm contemplating the 2 1/2-3 hour drive back to the Lake...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Creamed Peas & Potatoes

This recipe makes me want to do the following things: Lip sync and make up dances to the Beach Boys, sit on a barstool that has my name written on the bottom [in green marker], roller skate in my parents [then] unfinished basement while singing "We Built This City" [...on rock & roll], wear a neon green plastic belt with my shorts over-alls [with one buckle undone, of course], put a fitted [Holly Hobby] sheet around my head and pretend to be Baby Jesus [not as sacrelidge as it sounds, I swear], crimp my hair, and play with my Gem & The Rockers barbie.

Clearly, this is a dish from my childhood. I'll just start off by saying, I do not like cooked peas. I love fresh peas, even frozen peas (on my salad), and I don't even mind them IN things, but I very rarely hunker down with a plate full of cooked peas. In fact, I don't think I've ever done that.

So. Before you judge, PLEASE try this dish. I'm begging you. Just for proof: I made this the other night, [a night where my husband wasn't home for dinner, because he has pea issues] and my boys gobbled this up. And then....they asked for more! If that isn't a testimony of this dish, I don't know what is.

I can't remember how my mom served this dish. Was it a side dish? Was it a main dish? I don't know. In my mind it was a main dish, because I remember loving it so much. But, she most likely served it with other things that I've blocked from my memory. I, however, served this as a main dish the other night. Mostly because, a) I can. And b) I was in a hurry!

My Mamas Creamed Peas & Potatoes (Shirley J style)
  1. Cut and wash potatoes (leave skins on). Cook potatoes in water seasoned with boullion until almost done. Just before finished, add frozen peas and cook until peas are done. (Frozen peas cook VERY quickly!) Drain.
  2. Prepare Shirley J cream sauce base (1 c. base to 3 c. water). Once it is thickened, combine with potatoes and peas.
  3. Salt & pepper to taste.
  4. Serve.

**For the record, I made a few weeks ago, and I can't remember if I did 2 cups or 3 cups of the cream sauce base! Eek.

Seriously, this will taste like it took a lot longer to make. I think the flavor of this will surprise you, and you'll be shocked that it didn't have more ingredients.

So. Put on your zipper jeans and t-shirt clip and enjoy some seriously good home cookin'.



Monday, June 8, 2009

Warm Pita Bread

There is nothing in the world like fresh warm pita bread and homemade hummus. If you haven't ever tried to make your own pita bread, you are SERIOUSLY missing out. It seems daunting, but it is SO easy. The taste is phenomenal, and the texture is legions above store bought tough, rubbery pita. Plus, how awesome does it sound when someone calls you on the phone and asks you what you are doing. "Oh, just finishing up making some homemade fresh pita bread. And polishing my silver. And sewing a quilt for the homeless shelter. And helping my 10-month old study her Latin." It's the beginning of all of those things, trust me.

Pita bread is a great base for the usual pita pockets [to use for 'sandwiches'], gyros, falafels, wrapping kabob'ed meats, or you can use it to slice up and make into pita chips, use as individual pizza base...there are so many uses!

This is a very simple pita recipe, adapted for use in your bread maker [only if you have a 'dough' setting]. You can make it the traditional method as well, but I find making the dough in my bread maker is such a great short cut! [In fact, the only thing I use my bread maker for is for making dough!]

I served this with my Easy Hummus, with no 'add-ins', because it is Camden's [my 2nd little dude] favorite way to eat it. In fact, he ate warm pitas and hummus for lunch today!
The recipe itself is very similar to a pizza dough recipe. The difference comes in how it is handled and baked. See, not so scary!

Warm Pita Bread
  • 1 1/8 c. warm water
  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 c. wheat flour [Or you can use 3 c. all-purpose flour, I just like to sneak in wheat wherever I can!]
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. yeast
  1. Add the ingredients to the breadmaker pan in the following order: water, flour, oil, sugar, yeast & salt.
  2. Set your breadmaker to the dough cycle.
  3. Roll the dough out into a 12" long "rope". Cut in half and in half again. Continue until you have 8 equal pieces.
  4. Roll out each piece into a 6" circle. Being careful not to overwork the dough. [Overworking will cause your bread not to "puff", thus eliminating the pocket in the pita bread.] Use flour on your board or your rolling pin as needed.
  5. Place on cookie sheet (you can also cook on a stone, if you prefer), and cover with a towel. Let rise for 30 minutes.
  6. Cook at 500 degrees until golden brown and puffy. This should take anywhere from 5-8 minutes, depending on your oven. [It takes about 8 in mine, but watch it carefully!]
  7. Immediately remove them from the pan, and wrap them in a wet towel until they are mostly cooled, transfer them to a plastic storage bag.

To make them into pita chips, once baked, cut them into triangles. Either coat them with a little olive oil or spray them with baking spray. Cook them in a hot oven until they are nice and crispy.


Friday, June 5, 2009

BBQ Chicken, basic garlic broccoli & sweet potato fries

I'm drooling just a little bit when I remember this meal. It was fresh, delicious, easy and healthy!

Plus, my kids ate sweet potatoes and didn't even know it. I'll admit that even I am not a fan of sweet potatoes. It makes me have dreams of marshmallow topped thanksgiving disasters. Thankfully, the sweet potato (yam, actually) redeemed itself for me in this tasty form!

Plus, look at all of the colors, love it!

Grilled BBQ Chicken
  1. Nothing fancy going on here. I followed the instructions (I know!) on the back of the label. I believe it was 1 cup of seasoning to 3 T. vinegar (don't quote me on that). Mix together and pour over the chicken, in a large ziploc bag. Making sure the chicken is fully covered. Refrigerate and marinate for several hours.
  2. Grill.
  3. Done.

I absolutely LOVE this BBQ sauce. It has SUCH an amazing flavor. Sweet, smoky, a hint of spice, but not enough so the littles won't eat it. It's perfection. Seriously, I'm picky about BBQ sauce, and over the years I've only made a few that I've loved---and most of those were from scratch.

Basic Garlic Broccoli

  • Broccoli cut into florets
  • water
  • 2-3 cloves crushed garlic
  • olive oil
  1. Place a small amount of water into a pan. Just enough to cover the bottom of the pan, maybe a little bit more. Bring to a simmer and add broccoli. Cover and cook only until the color changes on the broccoli. It will still be fairly crisp, but if you over cook it, it will be soggy!
  2. Drain broccoli and set aside.
  3. In a skillet heat together olive oil and crushed garlic (I used one HUGE clove, probably equal to 2 or 3 cloves). Add cooked broccoli and saute until done. Salt and pepper while cooking.

I know this is a basic recipe, but it is SO good. In fact, my husband, who is so-so about broccoli ate it and said, "This is the best broccoli I've ever eaten." Then he ate 3 HUGE helpings of it. That speaks volumes! It's basic but it is SO good.

Sweet Potato Fries (Yams)

  • 4 sweet potatoes (but not real sweet potatoes, yams, the orange ones)
  • 3 T. (about) canola oil
  • salt & pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Peel and cut sweet potatoes into french fries. In a large ziploc bag, add sweet potatoes, oil, salt and pepper. Mix around so that they are all evenly coated.
  3. Pour onto a sheet pan. (Depending on the size of your sweet potatoes, you might need 2 pans.) Spread fries into a single layer.
  4. Cook for 30 minutes until brown on one side. Turn fries over and cook for another 30 minutes. You want them crispy on the outside and tender inside. If your fries are really thin, they may not take as long to cook.

**Do not over oil your fries. It is better to start with less and add a tiny bit more if you need it. If you add too much, your fries will become very soggy and won't crisp.

This is a basic recipe. You can make them spicy using cayenne pepper, garlic...I've even seen versions using taco seasoning.

The littles loved the sweet potato fries served with "fry sauce". BBQ sauce mixed with mayo (or, in our house, known as 'ham butter' or 'ba-nay-nay-zzzz')!

This is all such a basic, family friendly meal and very inexpensive to make!

Things I used today:
Shirley J Slow Cooker/Dutch oven BBQ seasoning
chicken
broccoli
garlic
sweet potatoes

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Chicken Faux-prese [Caprese] w/ Tomato Basil Cream Sauce


I don't want to hear that you don't like feta cheese. Close your eyes, use it in this dish, and you won't even KNOW it's feta! The way it is used here, combined with cooking it, really mellows it out, and adds that "ah-ha!" factor to this dish. I dare you to try it.

So...you may have had Chicken Caprese at Olive Garden...or any other pseudo-Italiano restaurant. Here is a quick, "faux", healthy version!

Chicken Faux-Prese w/ Tomato Basil Cream sauce
  • 1 c. bread crumbs
  • 1/3 c. (+ depending on taste) crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 T. fresh basil, or 1 tsp dried basil, or 1 tsp. Shirley J pizza & pasta seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp. salt [if you use the pizza & pasta seasoning, which you should, be easy with the salt!]
  • pepper
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice [bottled okay, but fresh is better!]
  • 4 boneless, skinless breast halves [I used tenders]
  1. Combine bread crumbs, feta cheese, pizza & pasta seasoning, salt & pepper in a shallow bowl. I use a pie dish, because it's shallow and wide.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil & the lemon juice. Dip the chicken in the olive oil, and then dredge in the bread crumb mixture, pressing to coat.
  3. Place on a sheet pan (I use my cookie sheet). Lightly drizzle a little bit of olive oil (if you have any olive oil/lemon juice mixture left over, use that!) over the top of each piece of chicken. Don't saturate it, but a little bit will help the chicken brown and keep it from drying out.
  4. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, until chicken is done. Serve with pasta & tomato basil cream sauce.

Tomato Basil Cream Sauce

  • Your favorite jarred spaghetti sauce, homemade spaghetti sauce, canned tomatoes, or fresh tomatoes
  • 1 T. chopped fresh basil [Can use 1 tsp. dried basil or omit and use only Shirley J]
  • 1 tsp. Shirley J pizza & pasta seasoning
  • 1/4-1/2 c. Shirley J cream sauce
  1. In a saucepan, mix together spaghetti sauce (or tomatoes...if using fresh, pulse them in a food pro until wet), basil and pizza & pasta seasoning. Heat and stir until combined.
  2. Slowly stir in cream sauce. You can add more or less, depending on your taste, and how "creamy" of a sauce you want.

Serve over pasta (I used wheat spaghetti, I think), with chicken.

Things I used today:
Shirley J pizza & pasta seasoning
feta cheese
Shirley J cream sauce

Be sure to check out the Shirley J site & add their blog to your faves as well!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Blackberry/Raspberry frosting.

I made these beauties for Memorial Day. My thinking was that blackberry and raspberry is kind of blue and red, no? Well...Purple and pink is close enough! Who cares when they taste good.

I made these for the kids, for dessert. I guess I didn't think things through. My kids loved them, but my nieces and nephews didn't. They would have been happier with boxed cake mix and from-the-carton frosting with sprinkles!! Lesson learned!!

I made these variations: homemade white cupcakes with blackberry cream cheese frosting, and homemade chocolate cupcakes with raspberry cream cheese frosting.

Seriously, this frosting was good. Goooood. I think next time I'll do it on big sugar cookies and make fruit pizza-ish things.

Pick your fruit frosting

  • 2 (8 oz pkgs) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 2 c. + powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • fruit of your choice
  1. Cream together cream cheese and butter. Add vanilla and powdered sugar. If you like a "sweeter" frosting, add more sugar, if you like the "cheesey" tasting frosting, add less.
  2. Add a handful of washed, dried fruit. Mix together to break down the fruit into the frosting.

**I made my frosting ahead which I SO shouldn't have done. It turned out runny, because the sugar and juices from the fruit broke down. I tried to save it, and make it thicker, but it was beyond that. It still tasted fine, but wasn't as thick as I'd like. Be aware of that, and you might need to adjust your powdered sugar accordingly.

I won't post the white cake recipe, I wasn't in love with it. It was a lot of work, a lot of steps for an "okay" result.

I used a chocolate cupcake recipe from Martha Stewart. Very rich, but everyone seemed to like it. [I'm no judge, because I'm not a chocolate fan. There, I said it.]

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 3/4 c. cocoa
  • 3/4 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. butter, softened
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare cupcake pan for 12 cupcakes.
  2. Sift together cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla. On low add flour in 2 batches, alternating with sour cream. Beginning and ending with flour.
  4. Fill cupcakes 3/4 full and bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes and then turn onto a wire rack.

I love fruit. I will incorporate it into anything, especially in the summer! This would also be a good dip...Hmmm.

Things I used today:
fresh fruit (raspberries & blackberries)
cream cheese