Thursday, January 28, 2010


My computer officially died a few weeks ago.  I've been living in the Dark Ages where people get their news from television, their mail from the post office, and their recipes from books.

So glad to be back!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Toddler Food Genius

I meant to post about this months and months ago, but never got around to it. 

I was talking to my sister-in-law a week or so ago about things she could easily feed her little boy.  I told her about this idea, and then remembered to post it here.

I can't remember where this idea originated.  I did it with Camden, and now with Zoe. 

This is something that you can have on hand, for a quick, healthy well balanced meal for toddlers.  Not to mention, it's fast!  No need for processed food, filled with junk they don't need!!

No recipe, just a method.  Mix up a batch of from scratch pancake mix [or you can use a mix, if you prefer].  To the mix, add anything you have on hand.  Leftovers work great for this!  Cooked veggies, little pieces of meat [chicken, ham, etc], shredded cheese, anything!!  Make sure that everything is cut small enough for your baby/toddler before you mix it in. 

Cook them up on a hot griddle, just like regular pancakes.  Store them in the freezer, and then warm in the toaster/microwave one at a time when you need them. 

You can also make a "sweet" version by adding applesauce to the batter, and adding chunks of fruit [canned or fresh], and serving it with yogurt.

Fondue Take 2

Love this recipe!  It's very basic, but that is the genius behind it.  You can alter it by using different kinds of cheese.  I used all cheddar this time.  I did that because I didn't want to waste a lot of money on expensive cheese, only to have the fondue not be good!  Now that I know it's good, I'll try it with different cheeses.  [It was great with cheddar!]

What to serve with fondue??  The possiblities are limitless.  A lot of people like to serve it with raw veggies, some people like to blanch their veggies, and some people like to cook them.  Do whatever makes you happy!  I served mine with homemade french bread [only this time I made wheat bread], garlic broccoli [which was my favorite], rotisserie style chicken, and roasted new potatoes.  That's really all that I had on hand [the next day was payday and grocery shopping day].

You can dip anything in fondue: bell peppers, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, brussel sprouts, apples, mushrooms [cooked, grilled or raw], pita bread, pears, carrots, cauliflower, beef tenderloin, sausage, shrimp, ham, grapes, gnocchi...anything! 

Also, if you don't have a fondue pot---no worries!!  Serve it in a crock pot to keep the cheese at the right temperature, and serve with forks, skewers, chopsticks---whatever you've got!

Basic Cheese Fondue
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 c. chicken broth*
  • 1 T. worcestershire sauce [or like me, just shake some into the pot]
  • 2 tsp. dried mustard [if you don't have dried, the squeeze mustard will work]
  • 1 clove garlic**
  • 3 -4 T. flour
  • 5 c. shredded cheese***
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine liquids, worcestershire sauce, mustard and minced garlic, and 2 T. flour. Heat until almost boiling.  Watch it closely, because milk can scortch quickly.  Don't forget to whisk
  2. Meanwhile, toss grated cheese with remaining flour to coat. 
  3. Gradually stir in cheese, continuing to stir utnil cheese is melted. 
  4. Pour into fondue pot and serve.
*You can also use 1 c. white wine or 1 c. of beer. 
**If you don't like or want minced garlic in your fondue, there are a few options.  1] Instead of mincing the garlic, smash it so it breaks and pops open.  Put this in the pot, and continue like normal.  The flavor of the garlic will infuse the dish, without actually have chunks of garlic in the fondue.  Removed the garlic once the fondue is cooked.  Alternately 2] Peel a clove of garlic and rub it [raw] on the inside of the pan before cooking, and on the inside of the fonude pot before pouring the fondue inside.
***Feel free to mix up the cheeses combine more than one flavor, use whatever you like! 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fun-dinner success!

Remember a while back when I decided that fondue was the best dinner ever for kids?

Well...we finally revisited it, this time equipped with different [read: better] fondue recipe!  The result was a HUGE success!!  [Recipe to come!]

I think next week we'll try dessert fondue for the littles "reward" at the end of the week. 

It looks like something good did come out of the 70's! 

Friday, January 15, 2010

Oatmeal Blender Pancakes

The dudes love to help make these!  Especially watching the oatmeal go from "oats" to "flour".  These are quick, healthy, and kid friendly.  They also have a great taste.  I sometimes add a little applesauce and a little more "flour" to give them a different flavor. 

Oatmeal Blender Pancakes
  • 1 1/2 c. oats
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T. oil
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  1. Blend oats in blender until of flour consistency.  Add milk, egg, oil, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Blend together until well mixed.
  2. Cook on griddle as you would regular pancakes.
These pancakes won't be as tough [read: rubbery] as pancakes made from mixes.  They crumble a little---that comes from using the oatmeal. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Who has time to cook?

...when you have this waiting for you on your nightstand?

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
[One of my faves, almost always on my nightstand, or in my purse.]

The Awakening by Kate Chopin
[Another fave.  This is a well-worn, well loved, copy.  I wrote a lot of papers on this in college.]

Open House by Elizabeth Berg
[Haven't read this yet.]

Light on Snow by Anita Shreve
[Read this once a year ago, but I liked it.  So it's back on the list.]

Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall
[Just finished this.  Gave me the creeps.  FLDS people and LDS people are definitely nowhere near the same.  Just want to clarify that!]

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
[Was just talking to my sister-in-law about this book.  Another classic that is always in or on my nightstand.]

The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
[Shockingly haven't read this yet!  I've been in line for it at the library, but my mother-in-law had a copy, so I snaked hers.  I will probably start this next.  Or 2nd to next.]

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
[My mother-in-law let me borrow this one.  She said it's loosely based on Mrs. George W.  Aside from that, she said it's a good book.  Ha.]

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
[Can't wait to read this.]

The Pact by Jodi Picoult
[Lovin' Jodi Picoult.  Recently read Handle With Care, and of course My Sisters Keepers.  Hopefully this will be good as well.]

[journal/notebook on bottom]

I think I love to read even more than I love to cook. 
It's a wonder I didn't get beat up more.

...What's on your nightstand?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

Behold, soup.

I'm fairly certain the littles might implode if I make soup again.  Zoe is fine, she digs it.  Mason & Camden are pretty much "over it", as they say.  They do, however, love the homeade bread that goes along with it!

I served this soup with homeade french bread.  Which is already GONE, by the way.  [Granted, I took a loaf and some soup to my sister-in-law.]  But, one whole loaf is gone.

Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup
  • 4-5 cups chicken broth
  • 2-3 cups water
  • 2 cooked, boneless chicken breasts, shredded or cut up [I boil them, then chop them]
  • 1 pkg. quick cooking wild rice w/ seasoning packet [I used Uncle Bens.  It was about 6 oz.]
  • 1/2-3/4 c. diced carrots
  • 1/2-3/4 c. diced celery
  • 1 diced onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/2 c. flour*
  • 6 T. butter*
  • 2 c. milk*
  1. In a large stock pot, over med-hi heat, saute onion, garlic, carrots, and celery with a little bit of olive oil.  Season veggies with salt & pepper [go easy on the can add more later if you need it].  Cook until onion is tender.
  2. Add chicken broth, water and chicken.  Bring to a boil, then stir in rice [NOT the seasoning packet].  Cover and remove from the heat.
  3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.  Stir in contents of the seasoning packet, cook until mixture is bubbly.  Reduce heat to low and slowly stir in flour, to form a roux.  Stir and cook for a minute or two to cook off the raw flour taste.  Whisk in milk, a little at a time, until fully incorporated and smooth.  Cook until thickened about 5 minutes. *
  4. Stir milk mixture into broth and rice.  Cook over medium heat until heated through, about 15 minutes.
**Alternately you can skip the flour, butter and milk, and substitue Shirley J cream sauce base.  This will save on fat/calories and not alter the flavor.  Just add the seasoning packet to the sauce as you cook it to thicken.  [Use 2 c. prepared sauce.]

This soup does not freeze well, obviously.  The rice will absorb everything, and you'll end up with the worlds largest grains of rice. 

To reheat this soup, you'll need to add more liquid, chicken broth works great.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

[Texas] Sheet Cake

Now I'm wondering why Texas gets all the credit?  I don't know if everyone calls it "Texas" sheet cake, or what makes that different from just "sheet cake".  I have just always called it that, so that's what it's called.  [How about that for rationalization?]

If I had to pick, I'd think that this is one of Chris' favorite desserts.  If I ever have to make a dessert for something, he always says "What about Texas sheet cake?"  

It's the cinnamon, I tell ya.

Texas Sheet Cake
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 c. butter
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/4 c. good quality cocoa
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk*
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 6 T. milk
  • 1/4 c. good quality cocoa
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
  1. Sift sugar, flour, salt and cocoa together.  In saucepan, blend butter with water over low heat, until butter melts.  Pour hot liquid over flour mixture and beat.  Add soda to *buttermilk [I rarely have buttermilk on hand, so I mix a splash of lemon juice or vinegar with the milk, and let it sit until it curdles a bit]; beat in eggs.  Add cinnamon.  Add to cocoa mixture, combine. 
  2. Pour into a well greased jelly roll pan [I use my cookie sheet that has an edge].
  3. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. 
  4. For icing, sift cocoa and sugar [this is important so your icing dries smooth without little lumps of sugar].  Melt butter with the milk in a saucepan, then pour over cocoa mixture, beating until smooth. 
  5. When cake comes out of oven, pour frosting over it immediately.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Cider-Roasted Chicken

Admittedly not the best picture.  You try taking a picture of a whole roasted chicken without feeling like you are violating the thing.  [As if you haven't already by roasting it!]

I had originally intended to test and post this recipe in the fall.  You can see how that worked out for me.  It's been on the menu since Septemeber, and I finally got around to making it yesterday!  [It's been on every menu since September.  If I don't make something that's on the menu, it gets shifted to the next week.]  Frankly, I got sick of seeing this on the menu and decided to do something about it!

Really, the reason why I didn't make it, is because it requires a brine.  I can't ever seem to get myself together enough to remember to defrost the chicken in time, and then make and cool the brine.  THEN, let the chicken sit in said brine overnight.  Clearly that takes organization and planning that I lack. 

It comes down to this:  It's worth it.  This is good.  Chris came home last night, and walked in the door and said, "That smells SO good."  Then he proceeded to attack it, while it rested on the counter.  [Sadly, I didn't even cook it for a meal.  I had planned on making it for dinner on Saturday night, but we ended up not being home.  It was already in the brine, so it HAD to be cooked.  I made it on Sunday, even though we went to the in-laws for dinner.] 

Cider-Roasted Chicken
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 quarts apple cider
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 T. black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 roasting chicken [about 6 lbs]
  • 3 c. apple cider
  • 1 large onion, peeled and halved
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  1. Combine the first 5 ingredients in a large stockpot; bring to a boil, stirring until salt dissolves.  Once salt is dissolved and it has boiled, turn it off.  You don't want to reduce it.  Remove from heat; cool COMPLETELY.  [Otherwise you'll boil your chicken!]
  2. Remove and discard giblets and neck from chicken.  [Or be smart, like me, and buy them already done.]  Rinse chicken with cold water; pat dry.  Trim excess fat.
  3. Pour brine into a 2-gallon ziploc bag.  Add chicken; seal.  Refrigerate at least 8 hours, or overnight.  [Don't go longer than 14 or so hours, or it will be wicked salty.]  Turn the bag occasionally.  [I put my bag into a big stockpot, so the chicken remained submerged, I didn't have to turn the bag.]
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  5. Bring 3 cups cider [or apple juice, if you realize you are out of cider] to boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cook until cider has thickened and reduced to about 1/4 cup.  [Should take between 20-30 minutes.]  Don't do like I did, and forget about it, until your son comes screaming upstairs [where you are doing laundry] that there is black smoke.  Oops.  I let it boil over, once it was reduced, and nearly started a house fire.  [Don't tell my husband.]  Remove from heat, set aside.
  6. Remove chicken from bag; discard brine.  Pat chicken dry with paper towels.  Don't rinse!  Place the onion halves and garlic into the cavity.  Tuck wings and tie legs.  Place chicken on rack of roasting pan.  Bake for 1 hour and 15-30 minutes [mine took 1 hour and 15 minutes], or until thermometer is 175 degrees. 
  7. Remove from oven.  Carefully remove and discard skin [might be slightly charred, that's okay]!  I used two forks and easily took it off.  Baste chicken with half of the reduced cider mixture; return to 400 degree oven and bake for about 10 more minutes. 
  8. Remove chicken from oven; baste with remaining cider reducation.  Transfer chicken to a platter.
  9. Place a ziploc bag inside a 2-cup glass measuring cup.  Pour drippings from pan into bag; let stand 10 minutes.  [Fat will rise to the top.]  Seal bag.  Carefully snip 1 bottom corner of bag.  Drain drippings into  a small bow, stopping before fat layer reaches opening; discard juice.  [Ingenius no?! Not my idea, but I'll take credit!]
  10. Serve "au jus" with chicken.