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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Girl Time!

Yesterday was a relaxing day.  I didn’t have anything on the agenda to “have” to do.

I enjoyed spending time with all of my girls again!  I took the opportunity to bake banana muffins with my oldest.  She never took the time to learn to cook when she lived at home, so I am trying to teach her when I get the chance now that she lives on her own.  She learned about sifting dry ingredients, beating eggs until fluffy, and mashing bananas. I gave her some great tips on using a sifter and which sifter to buy (if she ever does).  Not only did I get to spend the time with her and teach her a recipe that I have been using most of my life, but as a result of my bananas not being moist enough, I was able to show her a “quick fix”.  It worked out amazingly well, and she was impressed.  We added an extra egg to the batter!  I also showed her how to add a crunchy topping to add a little pizzazz to the banana muffins…just some chopped pecans topped with cinnamon – sugar to the center of the muffin tops before going in the oven.

We made 24 mini muffins and 6 regular muffins.  We managed to polish most of them off before she left!

We also cleaned out a closet and she got to take some dishes and artwork with her that she remembered from her own childhood.

Then we got to play in makeup and look at nail polish.  Having four daughters means lots of makeup and nail polish time!  If I had to guess, I would say that is one of the things she misses about being home.

It was a great day spent at home with my girls, doing things I love to do, with the people I love the most.  I know how blessed I am to have these opportunities.

May you all be blessed to have wonderful family time in this year, and the coming year!

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Posted by on December 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Time Well Spent

It seems nearly impossible that I did not cook one single thing yesterday.  Not even a bowl of oatmeal.

I spent the afternoon with all 4 of my daughters, getting hair done (3 of us) and shopping for clothes.  It was so great to be with all of them, with no schedules to follow – just the 5 of us.

That time was some of the best time we have spent together in quite awhile.  It wasn’t a gathering or holiday, it was just time spent together.  I loved it!

I picked up dinner to bring home to the hubs, so it was a win-win!  He didn’t have to go sit while we got our hair done or go shopping, and he got ribs for dinner!  I am not a fan of ribs, so I do not make them.  He was delighted for the ribs and said they were very good.

 I am fortunate enough to be able to enjoy some more time off this week (the rest of 2011) and to be able to spend more time with my oldest before she goes back to work and school in Wichita.  I doubt I will be doing much cooking or baking over these next couple of days, but I do have some fun ideas planned for New Year’s Eve celebration here at home.  We don’t usually go out, but like to ring in the New Year with the girls…

 I look forward to sharing recipes and stories of that with you!

“Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.”  ~Benjamin Franklin

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Warm December Day

Today was the first day back to work after the holiday.  I had quite a bit of time off with the family, and it was hard to get back to into the daily routine.  I actually cut out just a bit early, because I knew that with the girls being out of school on winter break for another week, the hubs might need a break.  I was right.  The save for the day was really the weather, not my coming home.  I do not remember another Kansas December in my lifetime that hit over 60 degrees!

I stopped at the local grocery store on my way home and picked up some healthier chicken drumsticks.  I like the brands that don’t use salt water to plump them up.  My youngest really likes “fat chicken on the bone”, as she calls it.  I prefer white meat, but for the ease of preparation I decided to use only legs.  After the first day back to work in almost a week, I wanted ease!

I have been making oven-fried chicken for decades.  I adapted this recipe from the book In the Kitchen with Rosie: Ophrah’s Favorite Recipes. She was Oprah Winfrey’s cook in the ‘90’s and put out a cookbook of healthy (healthier) foods.  The first time I made this recipe I made it exactly.  I really didn’t like the combination of spices that were used, so I changed it up a bit.  Over time, I quit using the chicken legs and stuck to the breasts, using my own spice preferences.  Well, tonight I went back to the legs, and no breasts.  I also decided to substitute panko for the traditional bread crumbs.  Payoff!  Tonight’s was the best on record.  Everyone enjoyed it.  I will give you my version of the recipe, and you can feel free to make your own adjustments and substitutions.

Oven-Fried Chicken

  • 6 chicken legs or chicken pieces
  • 3 ½ cups ice water
  • Nonstick spray
  • 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1 cup panko, or breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • Black pepper
  • Salt to taste

Wash the chicken pieces and submerge them in ice water.  (This is the key to success).  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Coat a baking sheet with nonstick spray.  Put the yogurt in a medium bowl.  Mix the breadcrumbs, flour and spices together in a large bowl.  Remove 2 pieces of chicken from the ice water and coat thoroughly in the yogurt.  Remove from the yogurt, shaking the excess gently from the chicken.  Roll the chicken pieces in the flour, breadcrumb mixture.  Place on the prepared baking sheet.  Continue until all pieces are coated and on the sheet.  Spray the chicken pieces lightly with cooking spray.  Bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 1 hour, turning the pieces every 15 minutes to ensure even browning.  You may need to re-spray the top with the nonstick spray after turning the chicken.

I usually serve this with baked potatoes, corn and a nice salad.  Tonight I omitted the salad, but added some lima beans to the plate for color.

Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Happy Holidays!

I sit here, winding up the Christmas Holiday, and winding down from the Christmas festivities. 

This morning I was up early with my youngest, trying to keep her occupied while everyone else slept.  I knew that the two oldest girls wouldn’t be here until about 7:30.  I managed to keep the youngest occupied with Christmas songs and a trip to my mother’s for a couple of cups of coffee.  Then we spent a little bit of time watching some TV.  I knew she was at her limit (I’m not 7 and I was reaching mine) of patience so I tiptoed down to wake up the hubs.  He got up and went to wake our 9 year old.  She bounced out of bed and came right down to see what was waiting under the tree!  The “big girls” came in just minutes later. 

After the fun of opening, I enlisted the help of  our oldest  in the kitchen.  I wanted to make a batch of peanut butter fudge that I had tried a week or so ago.  It was so good I got the recipe from the person who made it.  She and I whipped out the fudge and I asked her if she wanted to help me make some Snickerdoodle muffins, or some cinnamon popcorn.  She opted for the popcorn.  I had tried some last week and got the recipe from the mother of the 4th grader who brought it to the school party.  My first attempt was only moderately successful.  I really wanted to try it again.  I made it on the stovetop instead of the microwave and was much more successful!  I’m sure it was my helper that made the difference! 

I packaged up my home made goodies, and readied myself for the long, arduous journey to my parents’ house three blocks away.  The cinnamon popcorn didn’t receive the warmest welcome.  Several of my nephews let me know that caramel corn is “way better”.  Well, I’m not sure who ate the cinnamon popcorn, but more than half of it disappeared!  Curious.  

Of course, having grown up in a house full of cooking and baking, it was of no surprise to me that my parents’ kitchen table was loaded down with goodies ranging from pickle roll ups to cheese balls to carrot cookies.  When one of my older brothers arrived he brought with him some fudge that he and his daughter, had made and some peanut brittle. 

 With all of the sweets and goodies to munch on I’m sure we don’t all need the traditional Christmas day dinner, but we manage to eat it anyway.  My family’s traditional Christmas dinner is homemade pizza.  We have been having pizza for Christmas since probably 1982 or ’83.  My father used to make the pizza, but the past few years one of my older brothers has taken over.  I’m not sure what dough recipe he used this year, but it was quite good!  

Stuffed from the pizza and other edibles, we made the long journey back home.  The girls were all quite ready to be in their own home playing with their new toys…and I was ready for a little quiet time.  Not that I expected to get it, I was just ready for it! 

My treat plates are picked through as I look across the table.  I am sure I can find a little tidbit or morsel to snack on before I turn in.  As the 2011 Holiday Season is coming to an end may I wish you the happiest of holidays!

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Celebration Preparation

The past couple of days have been a flurry of activity!  I made the dough for Peppernuts, a little German “cookie” that is flavored with anise and cloves.  It is a recipe that my mother with her parents when she was a little girl, and she has made them every year.  This year she didn’t have time to make them, so I decided that I would do it as a surprise for her.  They are very time consuming to make; you roll the dough into thin snakes and then slice them into very small rounds.  I had the help of my two youngest and husband, so we made pretty quick work of about 1/3 of the batch.  The rest will be finished this week!

December 24th is my father’s birthday.  This year he turned 73.  I wanted the family to get together to celebrate his birthday this year.  Many years we don’t have an actual celebration, since it falls on Christmas Eve and many of my family members have other plans.  I checked with everyone ahead of time, since it fell on a Saturday, to see if there were any plans mid- to late morning.  All of my siblings were free, so I arranged to have a surprise brunch.  I did clear it with my mother first.  She and I had decided that we would do something fairly easy with very little clean up (on her end) since she would be having everyone back {today} for Christmas dinner!  We came up with the idea to do breakfast burritos and muffins.  I am a huge muffin freak, and bake muffins regularly.  She asked for chocolate chocolate chip, and apple muffins.  It was her idea to do the breakfast burritos.  One of my co-workers makes them regularly for her family, and puts the filling in the crock pot.  It really makes assembly easy, and it’s a great way to keep the filling warm.  So, I spent early Saturday morning cooking the hash browns, sausage and eggs and baking two dozen muffins.  My father was very surprised and everyone who ate the burritos really liked them!

Easy Breakfast Burritos

  • 2 rolls of sausage ( I used 1 spicy, 1 regular)
  • 6-12 eggs
  • 1 package hash browns
  • Tortillas
  • Shredded cheese, optional
  • Jalapenos, optional
  • Salsa, optional
  • Avocado, optional

Brown sausage in a skillet and drain well.  Cook hash browns in a separate skillet.  I used my griddle.  Add uncooked eggs to the sausage and cook until firm, stirring occasionally.  When the eggs are cooked, transfer to a crock pot.  Fold in the cooked hash brown.  Turn crock pot to low or warm.

To serve add filling to a warmed tortilla.  Add any of the optional ingredients to your personal taste.  Wrap and enjoy!

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

At a store without a list…

Have you ever gone to the grocery store without a list? I don’t recommend it.  It’s kind of like being up a creek without the proverbial paddle.  I had an errand to run yesterday afternoon, and it was relatively close to a grocery store that I don’t shop at much, but enjoy shopping at.  The store is a little bit out of the way for me on a regular day, so since I was going to be just a few blocks away I took the opportunity.  Earlier in the day I had been looking up recipes, trying to decide what to cook over the next few days, leading up to and including Christmas. 

Since I hadn’t really planned on shopping at that time, I didn’t have a list.  I picked up what I thought I needed to make one of the recipes, a couple of ingredients for a Christmas snack food idea, and some milk and cereal.  When I got home I discovered that I had picked up a few of the ingredients for three recipes.  Instead of panicking, I improvised.  No, I did not combine the ingredients into one recipe.  I made pasta.

My husband and I have been talking about making homemade pasta off and on for about 6 months.  Over the weekend I went so far as to borrow my dad’s pasta machine.  The kind of pasta machine that clamps onto the counter and you crank.  So, I found a couple of recipes online.  Having watched my grandmother make egg-noodles when I was a child I had a pretty basic understanding of what to do.  Make a well, put the eggs in the well, combine with a fork.  There was a little bit more to it than that, but not much.

I made the dough, put a pot of water on the stove and pulled out a few things from the fridge that I thought would be a good filling for ravioli.  I had some ricotta (isn’t that a staple), some parmigiano reggiano, and some fresh spinach.  I mixed together the cheeses in a bowl and steamed a little bit of the spinach in the microwave.  I cut off about a quarter of the dough and started putting it through the pasta machine.  I don’t think I made any audible sounds, but inside I was “wheeing” like a child!  Fun!  I used a glass to cut the pasta into circles, and set them aside on a baking sheet. 

I had just started on the second quarter of the dough when my husband and youngest daughter came in from the family room to see what I was doing.  They quickly decided to help.  It looked like fun.  They took over the cranking of the pasta, and I started filling my ravioli.  Within minutes our 9 year old, daughter number three,  was in the kitchen wanting to crank pasta.  Absolutely.  So, she was cranking pasta and hubby was helping.  The youngest moved down to help me fill and seal.  She really just wanted to crimp them with a fork I think.  She suddenly realized that my 16 year old, daughter number 2, was not having any of this fun. She ran upstairs to her bedroom and brought her down.  So then daughter number 2 was cranking with daughter number 3, the hubs was cutting out pasta, the youngest and I were stuffing and crimping.  What a great little assembly line!

I was definitely worried about putting the pasta in the boiling water.  I doubted my sealing a bit.  I put the ravioli in the water and set the timer for 4 minutes.  I watched to see if any cheese oozed out.  No oozing cheese – so I had already considered this a success.  I put the steaming hot ravioli on a plate and grabbed a fork.  Everyone took a bite.  I waited…it was good!  I had filled these with the cheese only mixture. 

When the next pot of ravioli was done daughters 3 and 4 got plates of steaming hot ravioli and went to the table.  They ate pretty quickly and (oddly) disappeared from the kitchen.  Daughter 2 soon followed – eating and disappearing.  So, it was just the two of us left in the kitchen filling and sealing our ravioli.  I added the steamed spinach, since there was no fear of one of the girls ending up with it.  We decided to bake about a dozen of them after they had come out of the pot.  That will take practice.  We sat down at the table, alone, and had our wonderful homemade ravioli and some crusty bread, and a glass of wine.

I really enjoyed the process.  It was so easy and everyone had a good time making it.  I asked the youngest later if she had fun making the ravioli.  She said she did, but she had fun eating it, too.

We are trying to decide what we will fill our pasta with the next time.  We’re leaning toward lobster.  Oh, and Nutella.

Yes, there will be a next time!

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Seasonal mish-mosh

Yesterday was a real mish-mosh of stuff.  Seasonal stuff, mostly.

I finished my Christmas cards and got them mailed off.  Yay! 

I watched sleet turn into snow.  Big beautiful wet flakes of snow.  Then I watched my two youngest play in the very, very wet snow.  The wet snow was very packable and the snowballs were great for throwing at the front door (where their father was standing).  When they came in – cold and wet, they had cocoa, of course!

I helped my sixteen year old finish up a batch of cake balls that she had been asked to take to one of the 6 or so Christmas parties that she has been invited to this year.  Oh well, it gives me a great opportunity to spend time with her in the kitchen.  She is definitely the one (so far) who is most likely to found baking!

I know, everyone by now has heard of, eaten or made cake balls.  I have been making cake balls for several years.  I first had them at an event I attended called “Death by Chocolate”.  I love chocolate, but the standout for me was cake balls.  I came home and looked at easily a dozen recipes on the web and decided this was the one for me!  Our most recent batch were made with “confetti” cake and icing.  Another thing I did differently this time was adding a stick, making them cake ball pops.  It really worked nicely. 

Cake Balls

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cake Balls

Ingredients

1 package any flavor cake mix

1 container prepared frosting (in a flavor that goes well with chosen cake flavor)

candy coating or almond bark

shortening 

Directions

Prepare the cake mix according to package directions using any of the recommended pan sizes. Let cake cool for about 30 minutes, then crumble into a large bowl, and stir in enough frosting to be moist, but not gooey.  Blend well.  Refrigerate mixture for a few hours.

Use a melon baller or small scoop to form balls about golf ball size of the cake mixture (I use my hands for this).  Place balls on baking sheet and freeze until set.

Melt coating or bark in a glass bowl in the microwave, adding up to a Tablespoon of shortening for every 4 squares of bark.  This makes it much smoother.

Dip the balls in coating.  Place on waxed paper to set.  Make sure the balls are covered completely.

I hope you are enjoying your ownHolidayactivities, and that the weather isn’t causing you any problems.  If you are stuck inside, definitely make some cake balls.  It will get your mind off of the weather!

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2011 in Uncategorized