Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ranch Oysters they aren't really oysters. Oysters are gross. These are ranch flavored Oyster CRACKERS. (The only kind of oysters one should really eat...if you know what's good for you!)

I found this super simple recipe for ranch oyster snack crackers from    They take 20 minutes tops to make, and that's only if you're a slow poke like me.  I think they'd make a great last minute snack to take to a party!  You can even go crazy and use them on your soup, or in lieu of  croutons in your salad. 

Ranch Oyster Crackers from The Examiner
1 (1 oz) package ranch dressing mix
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 t dried dill weed (or to your taste)
1/2 t garlic powder (or to your taste)
1 box or bag oyster crackers

Preheat oven to 250°. In a large mixing bowl, combine first 5 ingredients and mix well. Stir in oyster crackers mix to coat. Pour crackers onto a large cookie sheet. Bake 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Cool and add to a covered container.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Fiesta Turkey Hotdish

I saw this recipe for Fiesta chicken casserole over at Plain Chicken.
I went all kinds of crazy and used leftover turkey from Thanksgiving instead of Chicken.  What a rebel I am. 

Turkey was the least of the things I did to alter this recipe.  First, I didn't realize that I needed INSTANT rice.  I never have instant rice in the house anymore.  Mainly because slow poke regular rice is cheaper, and I prefer medium grain rice.  I've never seen instant medium grain rice. 

Because I wasn't using instant rice, I upped the milk from 2 T to a whopping 3/4 cup.  I was right on the money with this.  The rice would not have had enough liquid to puff up and cook all the way through without it.  I bet you could even use up to a cup of milk and not have a soupy mess. 

The casserole needed to be cooked longer before the rice was done.  Instead of 30 min, I cooked the dish for 50 min and gave the mess a good stir before topping it with cheese and chips.  My guess was that it was going to take an hour to cook and I was right on the money with that estimate. 

I also switched things up by using cream of mushroom and garlic soup instead of the cream of chicken the recipe calls for.  I wasn't trying to be fancy or nuthin.  It was the only "cream  of" soup that was in the pantry.  Let me tell you, that garlic smell from the soup was amazing.  Filled the whole house with its goodness. 

There were a few other little things I did to make this dish a little different.  Instead of Taco seasoning I used Penzeys Spices' Arizona Dreaming. I was nearly out of Taco seasoning and guessed, correctly, that this would have similar tasting flavors as the taco seasoning.  For the cheese I used a combo of Colby Jack and Extra Sharp cheddar as it was what I had in the fridge.  I also probably used more than the 2 cups suggested.  I didn't measure it.  Finally, I added 1 c of black beans.  I had them leftover from another dish and thought it would be a good way to use them up.

Do you know what?  Blockette didn't even complain once that there were black beans in this dish.  (Insert fist pump here.)

Fiesta Turkey Hotdish adapted from Plain Chicken
3 cup cooked chopped turkey
1 cup medium grain rice (uncooked) (if you use instant rice, reduce first cook time to 30 minutes)
1 can cream of garlic and mushroom soup
1 can mild Rotel diced tomatoes and chiles, undrained
1 Tbsp Arizona Dreaming or Taco Spice
3/4-1 c milk
1 c black beans
2 cups shredded cheddar and colby jack cheese, divided
1/2 cup crushed Nacho flavored tortilla chips (I used generic Doritoes)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine chicken, rice, soup, Rotel, seasoning, milk, beans and 1 1/2 cups of cheese.  Pour into a lightly greased 9x13 pan.  Cover and bake for 50 minutes.  Gently stir to make sure all the liquid has absorbed. It will look a bit soupy before you stir it.Top casserole with crushed chips and remaining cheese, bake uncovered for 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thankful Thurdsday 50 and 51.11

 So around Tuesday I realized that I forgot to publish last Thursday's list so I'm mashing the last two Thankful Thursdays in one big huge mega post!  Exciting!

1. A nice visit with the in-laws.

2. My father-in-law actually liked my lasagna even though it was loaded with veggies and garlic.  (I know it wasn't just lip service because he had seconds.)

3. Keeping my best friend's sewing machine over the weekend. (Blockette got another hole in the butt of her patchy pants on Saturday.)

4. Blockette getting excited for the dusting of snow over the weekend. (Even though it melted the next day.)

5. Blockette only threw up once on the trip up to my mom's.

6. She made it in the bucket this time.

7. There was no puking on the way home.

8. Seeing Blockette get so excited at Christmas

9. Driving Mrblocko's car wasn't as horrible as driving his last car.

10.  I only had to drive his car for a half hour.

11. A nice visit with my mom.

12. Blockette let us sleep in at my mom's.

13. The cats didn't leave us any surprises in the house.

14. I got the last 2 humidifier filters at Target.

15. Blockette likes coin collecting as much as I did as a kid. (She got a coin collecting book from me for Christmas and it was a surprisingly big hit.)

16. Someone, or rather more than one someone has pinned things to Pinterest from my blog.  (I feel like I'm famous!)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cheeseburger Soup

I've had this Cheeseburger Soup from She Who Makes on my to do list since August. I'm not big on soup in August. No matter how tasty it is. I'd much rather have an actual cheeseburger. Now, December, that's a different story. I could eat soup every day. Every. Day.

This soup does taste quite a bit like a cheeseburger.  I bumped up the cheeseburgery flavors by swapping out the salt and pepper for the same grill seasoning we use on our burgers.  Yeah.  I think that sends this soup over the top on goodness.  Wait, adding bacon would send this soup over the top on goodness.  But then it wouldn't be cheeseburger soup, it'd be a bacon cheeseburger soup!

Cheeseburger Soup from She Who Makes
1 pound Ground Turkey or Beef
3/4 cup copped onion
3/4 cup shredded carrot
3/4 cup chopped celery
4 cups diced potatoes (peeled or unpeeled, I use 6 small potatoes, peeled)
1 tsp basil
1 tsp parsley
3 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup flour
8 oz shredded cheese
1 1/2 cup milk
Salt and Pepper (I used McCormick's Grill Seasoning to taste instead)
1/4 cup sour cream, optional

Saute the meat and veggies until tender. Drain off fat. Stir in basil and parsley. Add potatoes and chicken broth, bringing to a boil and then simmering until potatoes are soft. Meanwhile combine melted butter and flour. Stir this into soup after potatoes are cooked. Once soup is thickened, stir in cheese, milk and seasonings until cheese is melted. Keep it on low heat so the milk doesn't curdle. Stir in sour cream, if desired right before serving.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

'11 Happy Dance #39 and #40: Needle Cases

More Christmas presents!  These I made for my mom who was complaining that she didn't like the disorganization of having all her crochet hooks and knitting needles in a plastic bag.

Here is the case I made for her crochet hooks:
The pink in the photo is less mauve-y in real life.  I don't know why the colors turned out so wonky.  I tried taking the picture on different backgrounds and with different light sources with no success.

My best friend's mom made me a crochet hook case, so I used that as a pattern for this one.

I thought I had lined up the pattern with the fabric lines, but apparently not.  We'll just call it modern.  All the "Modern" quilts are askew and off center.  Yeah.  I meant to make it that way.  Cutting edge dontcha know!

Here is the knitting needle case:

It is the mother of all knitting needle cases.  This baby is huge.  As I had no idea of what sizes or quantities of knitting needles my mom had I wanted to make sure there was lots and lots of room.  I figured it was better to have too much storage rather than not enough.

I found the pattern for this case here at Alexandra's Knits.  I looked at lots and lots of tutorials online and this one was my favorite.  Besides the ones you can buy at the fabric store are really tiny and frankly, quite ugly.  (Although Blockette disagreed because they were sort of rainbowy colored, if you squinted, and "how could you call a rainbow ugly?  Huh?  Why do you think rainbows are ugly mom?"  Sigh.)

Monday, December 26, 2011

'11 Happy Dance #38 : Marbelized Ornaments

Blockette and I made these marbleized ornaments as presents for her Grandparents.  We had lots of fun watching them change as they dried.

For example, these two looked quite identical when we dripped the paint inside the ornament, but the end result was very different.  The one on the right was softly muted stripes, while the one left was mostly solid colored with one main swirled area.

The directions say to use clear glass ornaments, but I thought the plastic ones would be much safer.  I think they did take a bit longer to dry, and the paint didn't adhere as well as it would have on glass.  All and all I think they turned out pretty well.

If you'd like to make your own marbleized ornaments check out the tutorials on A Yellow Bicycle and Cut Out and Keep.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!!!

Have a Very Merry Christmas Everyone!!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Santa Bread

I am about to get all fancy on you.  Super fancy for Christmas.

Santa Bread!

Are you impressed yet? Ok, so I realize that Santa looks a bit creepy. What do you expect from someone who asks you to sit on his lap and whisper what you want in his ear so he can sneak into your house in the middle of the night.  Oh and is made of bread dough.  I think you'd look a bit creepy too if you were a giant floating head made of bread dough.

The Santa bread recipe and assembly instructions can be found over at Taste of Home. The directions are waaaay too long for me to copy here.  Plus you really need the pictures on the website to understand how to place the dough bits in the right spot.

If you are one of those people who buys yeast in the jar, not in the packets, it will be helpful for you to know that 2 1/4 tsp equals .25 oz yeast.

Blockette thought Santa Bread was super cool.  She examined him silently with amazement and then said, "I think we should eat his beard first."

So we did.  Santa bread tastes slightly sweet, sort of like a Hawaiian roll.  The texture stayed very soft and springy for 3 days.  The fourth day Santa got a bit crummy.  So I put him out of his mah belly!

Thank you Santa for the yummy delicious goodness that was your head.  See you soon!!!!!

P.S. I made another Santa bread and this is how he turned out:
Doesn't he look like he's winking?  Santa's so cheeky!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Peanut Butter Ritz Fudge

One of the Christmas cookies I would always convince my mom to make at the last minute were Peanut butter Ritz sandwiches. If you haven't ever had this, get yourself some peanut butter, Ritz crackers and some white chocolate. What you do is make little sandwiches with the peanut butter and the crackers, and then dip them into white chocolate.

Salty and sweet can't be beat. (Just so you know, I'm doing that raise the roof thing with my arms when I say that.  You should too.)

Why didn't we ever make them any other time of the year? Oh yeah. Cause my mom was mean. (Hi mom!) That's where I learned it from. Tradition!

Anyhow that awesomely crazy cool lady over at Cookies and Cups found a way to make this treat faster, easier and more betterer. Yeah! I know. You are saying that's impossible. She is a kitchen genius. She made it into Fudge. NGAAAAAAA!!!

Ok. I can year you inside your head. (Did you know?) I can hear you saying, lady, how can fudge be easier than dipping little sandwiches in chocolate? She makes cheater fudge. CHEATER FUDGE. What?

You haven't heard of that either? (Do we live next door to each other under adjacent rocks or something?)

Cheater fudge is when you take a bag of chips, melt it, and stir in a can of frosting. This is fudge even I can make without messing up.

To make the pb ritz white chocolate fudge all you have to do is the above and then stir in peanut butter Ritz Bitz. Yeah!
Look at those layers!  So much goodness, I can't even stand it.

Blockette can't stand it either.
Why yes. She is trying to kiss her cookies. Sometimes it's just better not to ask.

Peanut Butter Ritz White Chocolate Fudge from Cookies and Cups
1 (16 oz) can vanilla frosting
1 (12 oz) bag white chocolate chips
2 cups Peanut Butter Ritz Bits

Grease or spray lightly a 9×9 or 8×8 pan. Melt chips in a double boiler or the microwave. As soon as they are melted, stir in entire can of frosting. Fold in Ritz Bits. Spread into prepared pan and chill for 30 minutes. When firm, cut into squares.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

One Year to Go

Oh those crazy Mayans!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hawaiian Smoothie

I was in the mood for a smoothie. Yeah. I realize it's December. Not exactly smoothie weather. It's not like it's been super cold or anything. I mean according to my Crocuses (Croci?) it's early spring. Sigh.

Anyhow, this is the Hawaiian smoothie from alla Poppy.

I made this version with 12 frozen canned mandarin oranges and 12 frozen pineapple chunks, also from a can. I omitted the coconut and marshmellows because I thought the smoothie was going to be sweet enough without them. I was right.

For me, this is a great way to get some fruit into my diet. I really don't eat enough fruit.  Yeah Mom, I know the canned stuff is loaded with sugar, but it's better than no fruit at all. 

Hawaiian Smoothie from alla Poppy
9-12 cubes of frozen canned pineapple
9-12 segments of frozen canned mandarin orange
about a half cup of yogurt
flaked coconut

Put pineapple and orange in blender, add yogurt, and pour in a good amount of milk.(My blender needed about a cup.) Blend until smooth. Top with flaked coconut and marshmellows if you're feeling super fancy.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pepperoni Roll Ups

These were so good we ate the entire batch before I could snap a picture. These babies have taken the internet by storm.  If you've been under a rock, and have no idea what I'm talking about, head over to Dinner with the Donnels for a great picture of the pepperoni roll ups .

You really don't need a picture to figure out how to make them. These guys are easier than hot dog roll ups to assemble!

1.) Separate crescent roll dough into triangles.
2.) place 4-5 pepperoni slices on the side of the triangle opposite the point.
3.)Cut a stick of string cheese in half and place it on top of the pepperoni.
4.)Roll the dough up around the cheese and pepperoni.
5.)Bake for 12-15 minutes. 
6.)Serve with marinara (I just used sauce from a jar) or ranch dressing.

 Blockette told me she likes this even better than regular pizza!  Woah.  Is that even possible???? 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cake Batter Truffles

Back in September I made Cake batter Ice cream. It was oh so very tasty, but it left me with a LOT of leftover cake batter.

I used some of it up making cake batter pancakes. The pancakes used only 2/3 cup of the cake mix. I still had loads more.There was no way I was going to toss all that cake-y goodness out. I was certain I could find more tasty treats that would use up my pretty pink cake mix.  Then I was browsing the blog Chef in Training and I came across two recipes for cake batter truffles.

One recipe had sweetened condensed milk in it. This seemed very similar to the Snickerdoodle truffles I made last year for Christmas. Those snickerdoodle truffles were amazing, but I wanted to try something a little bit different.  The recipe I chose seemed like it would hold up a little bit better out of the fridge.  The condensed milk versions got almost too soft when they got to room temp.
These are a big hit with Blockette. Pink cake is her favorite.  Plus anything with sprinkles is a winner.  Hmmm, maybe I should put rainbow sprinkles on her mushrooms and black beans!!!

Cake Batter Truffles from Chef in Training
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup white sugar
1 ½ cups flour
1 cup yellow cake mix (I used pink strawberry)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
3-4 Tablespoons milk
2 Tablespoons sprinkles (I forgot to add this)

Truffle Coating:
16 ounces (8 squares) almond bark (or white candy melts)
4 Tablespoons yellow cake mix (I left this out as I wanted the coating to be white, not pink)

Beat together butter and sugar using an electric mixer until combined. Blend in vanilla. Add cake mix, flour, salt, and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Add 3 Tablespoons of milk or more if needed to make a dough consistency. Mix in sprinkles by hand. Roll dough into one inch balls and place on a parchment or wax paper lined cookie sheet. Chill balls in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm up.

While dough balls are chilling, melt almond bark in the microwave in 30 second intervals until melted. Stir between intervals. Once melted, quickly stir in cake mix until incorporated completely. Using a fork, dip truffles into almond bark and shake of excess bark by tapping the bottom of the fork on the side of your bowl. Place truffle back on the cookie sheet and top with sprinkles. Repeat with remaining balls until finished. Chill cake batter truffles in the refrigerator until serving. Makes around 24-30 truffles.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Can you tell she's proud to have lost that front tooth?  She says she looks like a real First Grader now.

Friday, December 16, 2011

'11 Happy Dance #37: Snowmen stick ornaments

Blockette and M had a short day last week.  I've been trying to find little crafty things for us to make on the days that M is here for more than 2 hours. This time we made these Popsicle stick snowmen.  I saw this idea over at A Day of Wonders.

I love how they are all so different! 
Blockette's has a pink dress on and M's has on a dark green sweater.  I guess that means mine is naked!  Poor cold naked snowman.

One really cool thing about doing craft projects with Blockette and M is that once we've completed the projects they are still in craft mode.  They keep on making funky creations with the craft supplies, which is awesome.  That way they are not bickering or fighting over what to do, well, mostly anyhow!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thankful Thursday 49.11

1. Making it through another hour long Christmas Pageant with squirrely 3 and 4 year olds...on risers.

2. Blockette seeing a kid who rides her bus at church.

3. Getting 95% of the Christmas shopping done and wrapped!
Doesn't this picture creep you out!?

4. I didn't break my best friend's sewing machine.

5. Only almost cutting my finger off this morning.

6. Chats with grown ups waiting for choir.

7. Not missing the bus this morning.

8. Finishing sewing projects.

9. Getting all that stupid cleaning done.

10. Cheapo craft projects at Michaels.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Baked Gingerbread Donuts

Oh man. Gingerbread flavored cake donuts? Ngaaaaaaaaa. The moment I saw this recipe over at Pinch of Yum I knew they were going to be super duper yumtastic.

Was I right?  Of course I was.
Who doesn't want a legitimate reason to eat gingerbread for breakfast!  They were so tasty, but very sweet.  Consider yourself warned.

In order to save time in the morning, the night before I combined all the dry ingredients and all the wet ingredients. This way all I had to do was combine the two and pipe the batter into the donut pan.  By the the time the batter was in the pan, the oven was preheated.

Speaking of putting the batter in the pan, I used this trick my friend Julie told me about.  I took a large zip bag and put it inside my large glass measuring cup.  I folded the edges over the rim so it would stay in place.  Then I poured the batter into the bag.  This way, I didn't spill any batter on the zipper closure (or even on the counter) while I was putting the mix into the bag.  Yeah baby! (You rock Julie!)

While the donuts were cooking I made the glaze.  I could eat this glaze by the spoonful.  Ok.  So I did.  It was sinfully scrumptious.  I highly recommend it.  Unless you are diabetic.  Then don't as it is very very very sweet.  No one goes into a diabetic coma on my watch.

I also advise that you wait more than 30 seconds to take the donuts out of the pan.  Give them 5 min to cool in the pan and then another 5 min to cool on a rack.  If you try to take them out too soon they will fight you.  No one wants to fight a donut.  Trust me on this one.

Also, if you dip them into the glaze when they are too warm, they soak up bunches of the glaze.  If the glaze is so yummy, then why is this a bad thing?  Well, it is delicious, but the glaze won't set up nice.  The texture of the donut becomes a bit spongy.  It's a tasty sponge, but the classically hardened glaze is better.  Just have a moderate amount of patience and you will be rewarded. I'll let you have a teaspoon of mine.  It's all I can spare.

Baked Gingerbread Mini Donuts from Pinch of Yum
1 cup flour (I used white whole wheat)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
pinch of allspice
pinch of cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar, divided
1 egg
1/4 cup applesauce (remember fruit = healthy!)
2 tablespoons maple syrup (I used the fake stuff)
3 tablespoons milk, divided
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all dry ingredients, using 1/4 cup brown sugar and setting the rest aside.
Whisk in moist ingredients, using 1 tablespoon milk and 2 tablespoons melted butter.
Pour batter into a gallon-sized plastic bag and cut the corner off. Pipe the batter into a greased mini-donut pan, filling each donut space about 1/2 full (for me, this was about 22 mini donuts). Bake for about 7-8 minutes. Remove from oven and take each donut out of the pan.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter with 1/4 cup brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and boil for about 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon milk and bring back to a boil. Add powdered sugar, using the last tablespoon of milk to help thin out the frosting if needed. Keep over low heat (otherwise it will start to crystallize) and dunk each mini donut into the frosting. Frosting should set almost immediately.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

BBQ Turkey Penne Skillet

I found this recipe for BBQ Chicken and Penne on Real Mom Kitchen.  As I have an over abundance of leftover turkey from Thanksgiving, I used shredded Turkey instead of Chicken.
This meal could not have been easier to whip up.  And it was super speedy as the meat was already cooked.  It only took about 20 minutes.  AWESOME.

Wanna know what's even more awesome?  My family LOVED this.  Yeah!  Even Blockette raved about this dish.   She actually liked the little bit of spicy from the Rotel.  What is up with that?!  Whatever this change is I'll take it.  She even happily ate the leftovers (and there were a LOT of leftovers).  Not a single complaint.  I felt like I was in The Twilight Zone!

Of course Mrblocko had to add hot sauce to his.  If I was making this dish just for him I would have used the HOT version of Rotel. 

I'll definitely make this recipe again!

Barbecue Penne Skillet from Real Mom Kitchen
1 package (16 ounces) penne pasta
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups leftover shredded bbq chicken or Turkey
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes with mild green chilies, undrained (like Rotel)
1/2 cup diced roasted red pepper
1/2 cup beef broth (I used beef bouillon)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3 chopped green onions (I didn't have any so I omitted this)

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute onion in butter and oil until tender. Add garlic; saute 1 minute. Stir in the meat, tomatoes, roasted red pepper, broth, cumin, pepper and salt; heat through. Drain pasta. Add pasta and cheese to pork mixture. Sprinkle with green onions. Serves 6-8

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pumpkin Lust Cake

Why is this dessert called "Lust cake?"  I'm not certain, but it must have something to do with the fact that once you finish one slice, you lust after more. 

I came across the pumpkin lust cake recipe over at Sweet Treats and More. Apparently, the original recipe calls for chocolate or vanilla pudding. This particular version has you using the seasonal Pumpkin Spice flavor of Jello Instant Pudding.

One word of caution, the Pumpkin spice pudding is only available seasonally. The seasonal pudding flavors (Turtle, Gingerbread, Pumpkin Spice, Dulce de leche and Peppermint) are not always located in the regular pudding aisle. At my store, they were in a special area in a center aisle along with other seasonal baking items.  If you can't find them at your store keep looking, or better yet, ask!

This dessert tasted like a silky, slightly cheesecake-y version of pumpkin pie. I think I might just like this dessert better than your basic pumpkin pie. That could just be the Cool Whip talking. There's lots of Cool Whip in a Lust Cake.

Another win for this dessert is that the crust didn't get soggy on day two like a pie crust does. I love pie crust, but frankly, it's kind of gross when it gets mushy. The Lust Cake's crust is more like a Russian Tea Cake/Mexican Wedding Cake Cookie. That's probably why I liked it so much. Russian Tea Cakes are like crack for people.

The down side to the Pumpkin Spice Lust Cake is that there is no actual pumpkin in the dish.  You can't even pretend that you are being healthy eating a vegetable for dessert.  The Lust Cake is all garbage.  Yummy scrumdiddlyumptious garbage.

I thought this cake would be difficult to slice and get out of the pan.  The crust didn't stick at all, even though I neglected to spray the pan.  The pudding and Cool Whip held their own too.  
The layers got a bit smeared when I cut into the bars, but you can clearly see all the different strati. 

I also feared the cake would collapse once out of the pan.  Nope.  The remaining cake did not fall when slices were removed from the pan. Everything stayed exactly where it should be without proper support. 

Hey, maybe this cake is the secret to keeping a trim body.  I mean, everything staying where it should be without support?  Isn't that what we're all striving for as we lose our fight against gravity?  Move over Spanx, here comes Pumpkin Lust Cake!

Anyhow, Mrblocko convinced me to make a half batch of this cake. I am both happy and sad that he did so. Happy because we do not need a 9x13 pan of this dessert hanging around the house for just the three of us, and sad because I wanted to eat the entire 9x13 pan myself.

Pumpkin Lust Cake - Half Recipe from Sweet Treats and More
1/2 stick butter(1/4 c), melted
1/2 c flour
1/2 c chopped pecans
1 tbs sugar
4 oz cream cheese (1/2 a package), soft
1/2 c sifted powdered sugar
one 8 oz container cool whip
one 3.4 oz package Jello Instant Pumpkin Spice Pudding
1 1/2 c cold milk
Nutmeg for sprinkling

Crust: Combine butter, flour, chopped pecans and sugar and press into 8x8" baking dish. Bake at 375 for 10-15 min. Let cool completely.

Cream Cheese Layer: Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, and 3/4c cool whip until smooth. Spread over cooled crust.

Pumpkin Layer: Mix pudding mix with cold milk, whisking for several min. Set in fridge 5-10 min to thicken. Spread over cream cheese layer. Top with remaining cool whip. Sprinkle with nutmeg.

Cut into squares and serve. Keep refrigerated.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

'11 Happy Dance #35 and #36: Art Projects with Blockette

I saw this weaving art project on Pink and Green Mama.  Blockette and I made these over Thanksgiving Break. I made a turkey and Blockette made a Christmas Tree.  I traced my picture to get the same type of image.  Blockette drew her two pictures free hand.  I think she did an awesome job getting both pictures to be really similar.

The second art project was also from Pink and Green Mama.  This time it was a watercolor resist project.  The black lines are "drawn" on with a mixture of black acrylic paint and glue.  I don't think I had the right combination of the two, as it was a bit too runny.  Next time I'll have a higher ratio of glue to paint.

Blockette did the mermaid aquarium and I did the space scene.  I like Blockette's picture better!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

'11 Happy Dance #34: Another Patch for Jeans

This time the patchy jeans are for me, not Blockette!  Since The GAP decided to discontinue the cut and style of jeans that seems to be the only jeans on the planet that actually fit me, I had to find a way to mend the hole that erupted in the knee of my jeans.

I had purchased this little fish patch years and years ago and it was the perfect size. 

I also had the exact right amount of green ribbon to put around the ankles of the pants as well.

Blockette was jealous I didn't save these things for her next pair of patchy pants. She said the jeans were super cool. At least I'll be fashionable amongst the first grade set.

Friday, December 9, 2011

My New Favorite Way to Cook Turkey

I found this awesome set of directions on how to cook a turkey on Simple Bites.  We are going to cook all our turkeys this way from now on.  Our turkey was nearly 18 lbs and it took less than 3 hours to cook!

Here are the directions in a nutshell (For a lengthier description, including the how and why, please visit Simple Bites.)

Step 1: If your using a frozen turkey, make sure it is completely thawed. I let mine sit in the fridge to defrost for 5 days.

Step 2: The Day before cooking, Remove the packaging and any junk inside the bird.

Step 3: Rinse Turkey under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

Step 4: Put the Turkey in your roaster pan on a rack, and salt liberally.

Step 5: Place the turkey back in the fridge uncovered.

Step 6: Two hours before cooking: Remove the bird from the fridge and let it sit on the counter.

Step 7: Rub a stick of softened butter all over the turkey.

Step 8: Roast the turkey for 20 min at 400F. (Note the bird is not trussed or stuffed.)

Step 9: Turn the heat down to 350F.

Approximate cooking times are:
5 lbs – 1 – 1/2 hrs
8 lbs – 1- 3/4 hrs
10 lbs – 2 hrs
12 lbs – 2 – 1/2 hrs
15 1bs – 2 – 3/4 hours
17 lbs – 3 hours
20 lbs – 3 – 1/2 hours

Step 10: Rotate the bird after an hour and tent with foil if the skin is getting too dark.

Step 11: Let the Turkey rest, tented with foil, for 30-60 minutes before carving.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thankful Thursday 48.11

1. Discovering I had two each 40% and 50%  off coupons that expired the same day I was going to Joann Fabric.  (SCORE.)

2. Blockette did not have a timeout at Joann Fabrics. (She only got counted to one.  First time ever.)

3. Teaching Blockette how to cross stitch.

4. Not running out of white thread before I went to the fabric store.

5. My best friend lending me her sewing machine when mine stopped working.

6. Not putting up with feeling like garbage.

7. Getting all my shopping done.

8. Knocking out lots of craft projects.

9. Having a grown up conversation waiting for Blockette and M get done with choir.

10. Remembering Wednesday was a 5 hour school day for Blockette and M.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Beer Crust Pizza

I think we all had high hopes for this beer crust pizza from Plain Chicken.  I'm not exactly sure what happened, but the top part of the dough, under the sauce, didn't cook completely.  Maybe this was because we don't have a pizza stone?  That's the only thing I did differently.  I cooked the pizza on a cookie sheet instead.   

The crust was very thin so I just don't understand why it didn't cook up the way it was supposed to, even without the use of a pizza stone. 
We all ate the pizza because even "bad" pizza is good. It just didn't wow me like cooking with beer usually does.

My advice to someone who wants to try this this recipe, but isn't a fortunate enough to own a pizza stone, is to cook the dough for 15 min without any toppings. Once the crust is mostly cooked, then put your cheese, sauce, etc on and broil the whole thing until the cheese is sufficiently melted.

Beer Crust Pizza from Plain Chicken
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp cubed cold butter
1 cup beer

Place pizza stone in oven and preheat to 475°.  Pulse the flour and salt together in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse in the cold butter until it's well distributed. Add the beer and pulse until smooth*. Roll out dough onto a piece of parchment paper.   Prick dough with fork and add sauce, cheese and toppings.  Transfer pizza to hot pizza stone.  Bake at 475° for  12-15 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.
*I found the food processor with the dough blade to be unnecessary.  It was easier for me to just combine all the ingredients by hand.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

One Pot Mac n Cheese

AAAAACK! And I was doing so good at remembering to take pictures of stuff. I can't believe I forgot to take a picture of the one pot mac n cheese from White on Rice Couple.  Instead, please enjoy this picture of Calvin and Hobbs.

Aren't they a photogenic duo?  Certainly much better looking than any picture of macaroni and cheese that I could have taken.

In particular, this mac n' cheese was a lot lighter than any other mac and cheese recipe I've made thus far. In fact, it was so pale, one might even dare to call it white. I think this was due to the fact that the noodles are boiled in milk. That's right. Boiled in milk.

Boiling the noodles in milk is what makes this a "one pot" dish. While this dish certainly saved me a lot of time in clean up, I spent more than that time babysitting the noodles over the stove so the milk didn't burn or evaporate too quickly. Regular old boil the noodles in one pot and make the sauce in another from scratch mac and cheese is loads faster.

This macaroni and cheese was with out a doubt the creamiest mac I've ever made. We found it quite lacking in the taste department though. This could have been because I used half Colby jack and half extra sharp cheddar cheese. I think this dish needs a really strong cheese to make it worth your time. However, I know my audience and Blockette wouldn't eat more than three bites of a very sharp tasting cheese dish. It's hard enough to get her to eat mac that doesn't come out of the blue box.

Creamy One Pot Mac n'Cheese from White on Rice Couple
2 cups large elbow Macaroni, uncooked (about 1/2 lb)
2 cups low fat Milk (about 16 oz)
if needed, additional 1/4 cup milk or water for final cooking
1 tablespoon Butter
1/2 teaspoon Mustard powder
1 teaspoon Salt, plus additional for final season later
generous dash of Nutmeg
1 cup Grated Cheese, any one or combination of ( jack, cheddar, swiss, mozzarella, gouda, parmesan*, asiago*, pecorino*) *Hard cheeses are best combined with a secondary, softer, better melting cheese.
additional toppings: bacon bits, bread crumbs, chopped parsley, diced tomatoes (optional)
black pepper to taste (optional)

Place raw elbow macaroni in colander and quickly rinse under water. Let drain. In med pan (about 3.5 qt), add milk, raw elbow macaroni, salt, butter, mustard powder and nutmeg. On medium heat, slowly bring milk/macaroni mix to a simmer, stirring macaroni frequently as it comes up to a simmer. This will separate macaroni and keep them from sticking together. DO NOT LEAVE THE STOVE! The milk mix will come to a boil very quickly and leaving it unattended will leave a big mess on your stove stop. Once to a simmer, immediately turn heat to LOW. Macaroni will slowly cook in milk. Having the heat too high will evaporate the milk too quickly! Continue to stir frequently so macaroni will cook and absorb milk evenly. If you don’t stir   frequently, you will get a big clump of macaroni in the end! Stir, stir stir! Cook  15-20 min or til milk has been fully absorbed. If macaroni not cooked fully, add a little more milk or water ( in small amounts) til macaroni is fully cooked. This will take about another 5 min. When milk evaporated, stir in grated cheese. Turn off heat. Place lid on top of pan and cover for 5 min. This will allow macaroni to plump up and absorb excess milk. Before serving, stir one final time to mix everything together. Serve immediately. Feeds about 3-4 people.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chubby Hubby Bars

I swear I took a picture of these Chubby Hubby Bars from Food is My Friend. My camera must have thought it looked so tasty that it ate the picture.

Originally, I made them for a Sunday dinner gathering at my best friend's house. We wound up not going as Blockette had a very Flu like reaction to her Flu shot the night before.
These bars were quite similar to chocolate chip pretzel bars I made this summer. The major difference being these didn't have a pretzel crust, the pretzels were mixed in the bar. I liked this version better. The bars themselves held up better, and the pretzels retained more of their crunch.  Although, this may be due to the fact that when I made the chocolate chip pretzel bars it was rather humid.

Blockette did not like these bars at all. She loved the version I made this summer. I think her taste buds were still messed up from her reaction to her flu shot. Case in point, we had given her Cinnamon M and M's around the same time and she thought they were disgusting.  Then she tried one again a few days later and thought they were fantastic.  Of course, by that time I had sent all the rest of the bars to work with Mrblocko (and eaten more than my fair share), so they were all gone.  I'd be willing to bet if I made these again she'd think they were peachy keen.

CHUBBY HUBBY BARS from Food is My Friend
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips, divided
2 cups coarsely chopped pretzels, divided
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
1/4 cup peanut butter or butterscotch chips

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Line a 9x13 baking dish with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray. In a bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, and salt. Using a mixer, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy; add eggs and vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients just until incorporated. Fold in 1 1/4 cup chocolate chips, 1 1/2 cups pretzels, and peanuts (if using). Spread batter in baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup pretzels, 1/4 cup chocolate chips, and peanut butter (or butterscotch) chips. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in baking dish for 10 minutes, then remove bars by lifting the foil and place on a wire rack to finish cooling. Cut into bars.

One final note: This batter is really really thick.  I don't know if I could have properly combined all the add ins without a stand mixer. I almost snapped my spatula scraping the dough out of the bowl!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Butterflake Frozen Rolls

My original plan for Thanksgiving was to make butterflake frozen rolls from Jamie Cooks it Up.  Actually, I was supposed to bring rolls and sweet potatoes.  The sweet potatoes were a no brainer.  I've made them so many times I can almost do it in my sleep now!

We were planning on all going to my husband's brother's house who lives about an hour/hour and a half a way, depending on traffic and how heavy Mrblocko's feet are.  I thought the Butterflake rolls would be a good way for us to have fresh rolls.  The rolls rise in a muffin tin for 3-5 hours.  This way the rolls would be a little more confined during transport than just on a cookie sheet.

Having learned from past mistakes, I thought it would be best to test out the recipe before the big day.  So, I made the rolls and put them in the freezer.  I took them out three hours later and set them out to rise.  Let me tell you, when it says the rolls need to be in the freezer overnight, this is not an exaggeration.  Three hours will most definitely not cut it. 

The tops of the rolls were all flat and bubbly.  They should have been smooth with a fanned out, domed top.  Sure they tasted great, but, man, were they ever ugly.  This was certainly a lesson in following the directions.

Oh silly me.  See, I didn't think the ugly rolls were a result of my lack of patience.  I thought it was because I had screwed the recipe up.  I had only baked six of the 30 or so uncooked rolls I had frozen.  Not wanting to waste food, I planned on making the rest of the rolls just for us at a later date.  Like I said, they tasted fine, they just weren't something I'd serve to people outside of the immediate family.  Mrblocko and Blockette don't care if a roll is ugly, just as long as it is yummy tasting!

So I whined lamented to my husband that my rolls were a disaster, and he said, "Oh, did I forget to tell you?  My brother already has bread."  Yes!  You most certainly did!  But what a relief!  Especially since at that point I was 95% certain I wasn't going to go.  (Recovering from pleurisy and being in a house full of people who smoke, even if they do it outside, is not conducive to breathing.)

Flash forward to a few days later when we had our own little belated version of Thanksgiving at home.  I thought we should have some rolls.  So I pulled the frozen dough pucks out of the freezer and set them in the muffin tin to rise.  Lo and behold three hours later, they were looking much better than their improperly prepared cousins.  Fifteen minutes in the oven and out came this:
I did the giggly giddy happy dance of joy around our kitchen.  They looked so cute!  I was so proud of my little rolls.

Mrblocko and Blockette liked that they had little pull apart sections.  They thought it was awesome that they had more surface area to slather butter on, but not me.  I ate those little butterflakes nekkid so I could enjoy every bit of their wonderful roll-y goodness.

These rolls just might prevent me from having to buy rolls in a can ever again.  Or maybe not.  Even though you do all the prep work well in advance, you still have to remember to take the rolls out of the freezer at least 3 hours in advance.  I definitely cannot rule out forgetting to do that, especially on a busy night when we are all rushing around.  If I'm consistent at anything, it's being forgetful. 

Butterflake Frozen Roll Dough from Jamie Bakes it Up
2/3 C warm water
1 T yeast (I use active dry)
1/2 t sugar
4 1/2-5 C flour
2 t salt
1/4 C sugar
2 eggs
1/2 C softened butter, divided
1 C milk

Pour warm water into bottom of stand mixer and pour yeast over top. Add the 1/2 t sugar and stir mix around a bit, allowing yeast and sugar to dissolve. Let sit for 5 min, or til it starts to bubble. Add 2c  flour, salt, sugar, eggs, and 4 T e softened butter. Let dough mix 1 min. Heat milk in the microwave for 1 minand pour it into mixer. Turn mixer on and add the rest of flour one cup at a time. You will know that you have enough flour when dough pulls itself away from sides of mixer. Once you have enough flour, let dough mix on medium for 5 min.

Spray a large portion of your counter with cooking spray and set dough onto it. Shape dough into an oval. Let it rest for 5 minu. This part is won't be able to roll the dough out well if it hasn't had a chance to sit. Roll dough into a large rectangle. Spread the remaining butter over top. (I used my hands)

With a pizza cutter, cut the dough into quarters. Cut each quarter into thirds. Stack strips 4 deep. Cut stacks into chunks about 2" wide.

Place a piece of parchment paper onto a large jelly roll pan, and spray it with cooking spray. Set each little roll onto parchment. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Spray the top of the wrap with cooking spray, thn carefully turn it over so that the side you sprayed is touching dough and wrap the pan securely. Put the pan in your freezer overnight. (OVERNIGHT!  I mean it!) Once the roll dough is frozen  remove from pan and place in a freezer safe Zip bag, and store it back in freezer.

When are ready to use dough, place as many rolls as you need in muffin tins that have been sprayed with cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Spray top of wrap with cooking spray and  carefully turn it over so the side with the spray is touching the dough.

Let dough rise for 3-5 hrs, til dough risen about 1" above rim of pan. The dough will rise faster if kept in a warm place. Take plastic wrap off and bake at 350F for 15 minutes til golden brown.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Apple Cider Ice Cream

Do you want to know why I made this Apple Cider Ice Cream from a Sweet Simple Life? Um, because I bought a turkey.  Huh?  Well around Thanksgiving, turkeys were around 40 cents a pound.  That's cheaper than a roaster chicken.  So I bought one to stick in my freezer.

Now, those of you that have a ice cream attachment for your stand mixer know that the freezer bowl takes up a goodly amount of freezer space.  (It takes up about the same space as an 11 pound turkey.) I figured if I had to take the ice cream maker bowl out of the freezer, I'd better put that freeze-y goodness to good use.

I chose this recipe for apple cider ice cream, not only because it sounded tasty, but because I had all the ingredients on hand.

The taste of the ice cream was very surprising to me.  Mainly because I think for some reason I was expecting it to taste like apple pie.  I don't know why.  It's not like it's called apple pie ice cream.  It's Apple CIDER Ice Cream.  Duh.  Once I got in my head what the ice cream was supposed to taste like, I really enjoyed it.

So far I have tried it plain, with granola, and with cinnamon.  So far I like the cinnamon topped version the best.  Some other suggestions for toppings I've thought of are: warm honey, crushed gingersnaps, warm cinnamon apples, caramel sauce, pralines, or crumbled pie crusts with cinnamon.
Finally, this is a very soft and smooth ice cream. Even after several days in the freezer it is still very easy to scoop. This is unlike most of the other ice creams I've made where they are hard as a brick after 2 days.   Also, milk based ice cream tends to be a bit grittier than the cream based versions.  This ice cream was a lot smoother and creamier than the other ice creams I've made with skim milk.  What a pleasant surprise!

Apple Cider Ice Cream adapted from a Sweet Simple Life
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 packet of instant apple cider (I used Alpine Spiced Apple Cider)
2 cups dairy (I used skim milk)

In a small bowl combine all ingredients and pour into ice cream maker following your manufacturers instructions.  Or if you don't have a ice cream maker: Combine the condensed milk, vanilla and cider mix.  In a separate, larger bowl beat the whipping cream (gotta use the cream cause milk won't hold the volume properly for this version,)  until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold in half of the condensed milk mix into the whipped cream.  Then stir in the other half until combined.  Pour into a shallow container and freeze overnight.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Who's Living Rent Free in Your Head?

Thankful Thursday 47.11

Well, a day late and a dollar short with the Thankful Thursdays this week. I just plumb forgot!

1. The kitchen sink completely backed up after we made our big Thanksgiving dinner, not before.

2. A nice long weekend with my family.

3. Not getting mobbed at the stores on Black Friday. (I went at noon after the mad rush.)

4. Blockette pretends she's a General at recess.

5. Mrblocko didn't need an x-ray or MRI for his wonky knee(fingers crossed).

6. We could wait to call the plumber until Monday. (I'm particularly grateful we didn't have to pay time and a half as the repairs took 3 hours!!!!)

7. Mrblocko didn't have to miss Daddy Daughter breakfast at Blockette's school.

8. I took 3 naps Wed and two on Thurs. (Boy did I ever need them.)

9. My rice was not rotten this time.

10. I'm going to get so many meals from the leftover turkey!

November Reads

Not a very big list of reads this month.  I've been more into watching weird shows like Grimm, Once Upon a Time, Fringe and American Horror Story. (Which, by the way, a bazillion times weirder than Twin Peaks.)

1. Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim.  Man, the girl who played Nellie Oleson had a messed up life.  I always hated that character growing up, but now I have a new appreciation for her.  She's my new hero.

2. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan. Book 2 in the Heroes of Olympus Series.  This book is the latest episode in the saga that is the life of the demi-god Percy Jackson.  I'm enjoying the Roman mythology more than I did the Greek that was in the first series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Maybe because I'm less familiar with Roman mythology.

3. The Silver Bowl by Diane Stanley.  This was an enjoyable quick read aimed at a middle school aged audience.  The main character, Molly the scullery maid,  has visions which lead her on the path to discovering and breaking the curses laid upon the Royal family.  The end was left open for a sequel, which I hope gets written.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Broccoli Quinoa and Honey Nut Chicken

I happen to like a good many of the Broccoli Cheese and Rice casseroles out there. Personally, I don't know what's not to like. You've got the cheesey, salty, carby goodness, with some healthy broccoli thrown in there for good measure. My husband on the other hand, thinks broccoli cheese casserole is disgusting. Oh, sure he'll politely take a portion when it's served at potlucks, and eat it so as to not hurt anyone's feelings.  But secretly, he HATES it.

So when I told him I was making this Broccoli Quinoa Hotdish from Eating Well...Living Thin, he gave me the stink eye.  I was not expecting him to like it at all.  I had never had quinoa, so I didn't even know if I was going to like it either.  In the effort of being a good parent, and not limiting our daughter's palate by our own likes and dislikes, we even worked out a secret code to let the other one know if we thought the dish was total rubbish. 
Surprises of all surprises, the dish was fantastic.  Even Mrblocko LIKED it.  Not just tolerated it, he cleaned his plate and said I could make it again, any time I wanted.  Whoohoo!  Blockette liked it too, although she said she liked the broccoli part better than the quinoa.   She likes the veggie part better than the grain part? Yeah, I'll take that as a victory.

I have a few theories as to why Mrblocko liked this casseroles, and not the others.  First, I only used the shrubby part of the broccoli.  No stems.  Cause cooked stems are like chewing on a stick.  Bleck.  I also used fresh,  not frozen broccoli.  I'm sure that it would taste just fine with the frozen stuff, but then the broccoli would be mushy.  I only par boiled the broccoli before I cooked the casserole, so the veggies were crisp and had a bit of bite to them.  It was a nice mix of textures with the crunch of the broccoli, mushiness of the quinoa and the ooey gooeyness of the cheese.

I also made Rachael Ray's Honey Nut Chicken for dinner that night.  I used to make this all the time before Blockette was born.  Ahem.  Well, actually, I would have Mrblocko would make it.  I couldn't cook to save my life before Blockette came along.   I don't know what I was scared about back then, because this is a really easy chicken recipe. 
I cannot for the life of me remember the last time I had this chicken.  I think it's one of the side effects of having a blog and constantly trying out new recipes, you forget about the really good favorite stand by recipes.  Blockette certainly didn't remember ever eating this chicken before, and she has a memory like a steel trap.

I'm fairly certain that the last time I made it I did not have the nice food processor that I do now.  In the past, the nutty breading was always really chunky.  My nice Cuisinart just pulverized the nuts.  I missed having the larger peanut chunks.  I'm going to have to remember that this machine actually chops things and pulse the nuts for a shorter time.

Broccoli Quinoa Casserole from Eating well...Living thin
One 10 oz can condensed Cream of Broccoli soup (or mushroom) (I used cream of chicken)
1/3 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/4 cups reduced fat shredded cheese (cheddar, colby-jack, etc)
1/2 teaspoon Splenda/sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Dash freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups cooked broccoli (I just par boiled mine until they were bright green)
1 1/2 cups COOKED quinoa (see note)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

To cook quinoa:
3/4 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt

Rinse quinoa in a fine sieve until water runs clear. In a small saucepan combine the quinoa, water, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 18-20 minutes, or until fluffy and the white ring/tail is visible. Fluff with a fork.

Preheat oven to 350F and coat a shallow (8×8 in or 5-6 cups) casserole dish with vegetable cooking spray. (I forgot that part but it didn't stick or burn.  YAY!)In a large bowl combine the soup, mayonnaise, milk, shredded cheese, Splenda, pepper, and nutmeg until well mixed. Stir in the quinoa and broccoli.Spoon mixture into prepared casserole. Sprinkle on a couple tablespoons of Parmesan and bake for 35-40 minutes

Honey Nut Chicken from Rachael Ray
2/3 c honey roasted peanuts (Smoked or honey roasted almonds are great too)
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1 tablespoon grill seasoning 
2 eggs
A splash of milk
2 teaspoons hot sauce, several drops
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 (6 to 8-ounce) pieces of chicken breast, pounded to an even thickness

Preheat oven to 350 F. Put nuts, bread crumbs and grill seasoning in food processor and pulse grind to combine the nuts into bread crumbs. Pour nutty-breading onto a plate.

Beat eggs and half-and-half or milk with hot sauce in a shallow dish.

Pour flour out on a plastic board or plate.

Dust both sides of the chicken with flour. Dip the chicken into the egg mixture and then coat with the nutty-breading.

Preheat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan with a thin layer. Brown chicken pieces 2 min on each side in hot oil til evenly light golden in color. Transfer to a baking sheet (I have a skillet with an oven safe handle so I just stuck the whole thing in the oven in the pan.) Cook in oven until juices run clear and breasts are cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Okayu - Japanese rice porridge

A few weeks ago I was feeling under the weather.  Nothing sounded good to eat, not even toast or soup.  I was sitting at the computer, screwing around in hopes that I could just pass on the whole lunch thing. Then I came across this recipe for Okayu over at FOODjimoto.  I knew instantly that I HAD to get my butt in the kitchen and make it for lunch.

Back when I was in college, many many moons ago, I took a quarter off of school to visit some friends in Japan.  It was a horribly failed trip as I caught a virus on the plane and had to return home after only having stayed for a week.  My "friend's" (I use the term "friend" loosely here, as apparently me getting sick really put a cramp in her style)  mom made me some Okayu in hopes that it would make me feel better.  It was one of the few things I could actually eat.

I had no idea how to make it or even what it was called.  The mom just plunked the bowl of gruel in front of me and politely encouraged me to eat it.  I didn't realize what it was until I saw the picture of it on the FOODjimoto blog.

This dish was exactly what I needed back then, and last week when I was under the weather.  I was feeling better the day after I made this, so I added my Okayu leftovers to some veggie soup.  It made for a really thick yummy soup!

If you're feeling under the weather, but not quite up for the usual chicken noodle soup pick me up, here's what you need to make Japanese rice porridge!
1/2c short or medium grain rice
4 c water

Rinse the rice in a colander.  Put the water and rice into a pot and let it come to a boil.  Simmer covered on the lowest setting for 30 min.  Keep the lid slightly ajar so the pot doesn't boil over.  (I forgot this part and made a mess of my stove. Don't be me!)  Stir occasionally so the rice doesn't burn. Add salt or whatever strikes your fancy.  ie pickled plum, eggs, leftover meat, veggies, dashi, etc.  I didn't have any of those things, so I added 2 cubes of chicken bullion to the water as the rice cooked. It was a bit on the salty side for me, so I think next time, I'll try just one bullion cube.

Monday, November 28, 2011

How come no one told me Sawmill Gravy was so easy to make?!

I finally broke down and made sawmill gravy from scratch.  It wasn't any harder than making it from a packet, or heating up a jar of the stuff on the stove.  I always add sausage to the pre-made stuff, so there's no extra work there.  And with the packet of powdered gravy stuff, you have to add milk and cook it over the stove so no extra work there either.  It takes the exact same time, tastes better and is loads cheaper!

I used Mr. Alton Brown's standard Sawmill Gravy recipe. Which is basically as follows:
1 pound bulk breakfast sausage
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk (I used skim)
Salt and pepper

Cook up the sausage in skillet. Remove the sausage to drain, leaving all but 2 T of fat in your pan.  (My sausage only yielded 1 T of fat so I added 1 T butter.)  Whisk flour into the fat and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. (I only cooked it for about 2 min, just enough time so the nutty flavor in the flour could develop.) Slowly whisk in the milk in a slow stream to eliminate lumps. Turn the heat up to med high, and stir occasionally until the gravy thickens and comes to a simmer.  (Be sure to scrape up any brown bits that might be stuck to the bottom of the pan, that's where the flavor is.) Check seasoning, add crumbled sausage and serve over toast or biscuits.  Now, how easy is that?!

I think the look on Blockette's face says it all...pure heaven. 

Now all I need to learn is how to make biscuits that aren't popped out of a can!  Then, if I ever meet Alton Brown on the street, I won't have to hang my head in shame.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lion House Rolls

These Lion House Rolls from Mel's Kitchen Cafe were amazing.  I was over the moon when they turned out looking and tasting like bread.  It's too bad that I didn't see the link on how to roll them and place them on the sheet until well after I made them.  Oh well.  There will be a next time.  I'll try to remember to post an updated photo when I cut, roll and place them on the cookie sheet properly.

Here's the before shot.  Yeah. I was really in a hurry to get those rolls into the oven.  Finished was better than perfect.  I'd rather have a weird sized roll vs no roll at all with my soup!

Here's what they looked like after 15 min in the oven.  They probably should have been darker, but it was dinner time and Blockette and I were famished. 
I froze 12 of the cooked rolls, as I knew they weren't going to get eaten before they got stale.  I put them in the fridge to defrost and nuked them for a few seconds to heat them up.   They were great for breakfast when I was on antibiotics and was trying to stay clear of dairy.

Here is the recipe as written on Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  (I highly suggest heading over to her site as she has wonderfully helpful pictures.):

Lion House Rolls
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 egg
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup nonfat dry milk
5-6 cups flour

In a large bowl, combine the yeast and water. Let stand 5 minutes. Add sugar, butter, salt, dry milk, 2 cups flour and egg. Beat together until very smooth. Add remaining flour gradually (1/2 cup at a time) until a soft but not sticky dough is formed. Knead dough for at least 5 minutes if using an electric mixer and for at least 10 minutes if mixing the dough by hand. When the dough is smooth, supple and elastic, place it in a lightly greased large bowl covered with greased plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled.

Separate the dough into two portions. Roll each section out to an 11X14-inch rectangle. Brush the top with melted butter. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the dough into two pieces, the long way (see photos below). Then slice the dough into five or six strips across so you end up with 10 to 12 small rectangles. Roll each small rectangle up like a snail and place on a silpat-lined or lightly greased baking sheet with the roll resting on it’s open edge. Repeat with the second portion of dough.
Cover the rolls with lightly greased plastic wrap and let them rise until doubled. Bake at 375 degrees for 12-14 minutes until they are nicely browned.

Here is the YouTube video on how to roll out Good thing it's a video cause I've no idea how you explain that flippy thing the lady on there does.  I can't wait to give it a try!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pumpkin Granola

Get a load of that massive granola-y goodness.


This isn't just any granola. It's pumpkin granola from Baked Bree. The weird thing is that it's not too much different than my go to recipe for granola.  The main difference is this one doesn't have any filler Rice Krispies, but does have pumpkin.  Hmmm...since this granola has applesauce and pumpkin in it, does it qualify as eating a fruit and a veggie?  Well if the government considers pizza a vegetable, then the answer must be a resounding YES!

I made a few minor additions to this recipe.  First I added about 1/2 c coarsely chopped walnuts, and quite a bit more than 1/2 c of sliced almonds.  I just dumped the almonds into the cooked and cooled mixture until I thought it looked almond-y enough. I also added 1/2 c steel cut oats, 1/4 c wheat germ and 1/4 c ground flax seed.  I add all that to my regular granola for extra fiber so I did the same here.  With all those add ins the granola didn't clump up as much as it probably should.  I don't particularly care for the huge chunks in my granola either, so it worked well for me.

When this first came out of the oven, I snuck a tiny bit to test taste.  At the time, I didn't think it was anything special.  However, once the granola cooled, the spices and slight pumpkin flavor emerged.  YUM!  It was difficult to stop eating. It tasted that good.

This really is the perfect granola for the fall and winter.  There is something about it that tastes really hardy.  More so than my go to recipe.  I'll keep making my usual granola in the spring and summer.  I think the extra spices would be too heavy for the warmer months. 

Pumpkin Granola from Baked Bree
5 cups rolled oats
1/2 c rough chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 c steel cut oats (optional)
1/4 c wheat germ (optional)
1/4 c ground flax seed (optional)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (you can buy this or make your own. See below.)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar (use splenda brown sugar to reduce the sugar)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (Make sure it's puree, not pumpkin pie filling)
1/4 cup maple syrup (I used the fake stuff, go ahead and use sugar free if you want)
1/4 cup applesauce (Again, sugar free is ok, I used Cinnamon applesauce as I am a cinnamon fiend)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sliced almonds (or more if you are like me)

In a large bowl, combine oats, walnuts, flax, wheat germ, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and brown sugar. In another bowl, combine the pumpkin, maple syrup, applesauce, and vanilla. Pour the pumpkin mix into oat mix. Toss til coated. Spread onto baking sheet lined with foil or parchment. Bake in a preheated 325F for 20 min. Take granola out and stir it around. Bake another 20 minutes or until granola gets crisp. (I usually have to cook mine for about an hour to get it as crisp as I like it.) Take granola out and mix in the cranberries and almonds. Store in an airtight container.

Pumpkin Pie Spice from Baking Bites
1/4 cup ground cinnamon
2 tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cardamom

Mix everything together and store in an airtight container.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Bread Bowls

These Soft bread bowls from Jamie Cooks it Up were a last minute addition to dinner.  I wasn't really thrilled with the idea of eating boring old leftover soup.  Fresh bread can jazz up any meal, and I was all about giving this ordinary soup some oomph.

I searched my "to make" list for breads.  Most of them had long rise times.  I didn't decide to make bread until about 4:00 after I got Blockette and M off the bus.  No way I was going to push dinner off until 7pm or later.  That never works well, especially on a school night.

The bread bowls only take about an hour to make.  They rise in a low oven, and then you crank the heat up and they continue to rise as the oven preheats.  It worked perfectly.
Look how yummy those little bread bowls are!  Tan and shiny, just like they've been sunning themselves on the beach.  I got a little giddy when I took them out of the oven.  I did that little hopping up and down happy dance because they actually turned out.  I'm always surprised when I make bread and it looks and tastes like something you might buy at a bakery.
And here's our little vessel filled to the brim with soup. Oh, it's far from boring and ordinary now! I gobbled up my portion with gusto.

Blockette thought they were awesome too. She got to eat her bowl, something that she thought was hilarious. Eating your bowl, I mean that is pretty cool whether you're 6 or 36.

One word of warning:  let the bread bowls cool before you attempt to hollow them out.  I was impatient and did it right away.  The center of the bread is quite soft and almost gummy right out of the oven.  It can be done, but it is much easier to scoop out the center when the bowls have cooled.

Soft Bread Bowls from Jamie cooks it up
2 T sugar
1 1/2 t salt
4 C flour
1/2 C warm water
1 C milk
2 T butter
1 T yeast
1 egg, beaten

1. Place 2 C flour into bottom of stand mixer. Add sugar and salt. Stir it around a bit to combine.
2. Pour milk and water into one measuring cup. Heat it in the microwave for 1 min, til bubbly and hot.
3. Carefully put the butter into the hot liquid and let it melt just a bit.
4. Pour buttery milk into \mixer. Turn \mixer on to low and let it mix for just 30 sec or so.
5. Add yeast and remaining 2 c flour.
6. Mix dough for 5 min.
7. Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray and set dough out on to it.
8. Using a sharp knife cut the dough into 6 equal parts.
9. Let dough rest 5 min, then shape each piece into a ball. Whisk egg up in a small bowl and spread egg over tops of each dough ball.
10. Place pan in a 170F oven and let dough rise until doubled in size. This should take 15-25 min.
11. Turn oven up to 350F (leave pan in oven while temp increases) Bake little bowls for 15 min (depending on how long your oven takes to heat up) or until golden brown.
12. Let bowls cool 10 min, then slice top of each bowl, scoop out middle, and pour some soup right on in!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful Thanksgiving Thursday 46.11

This year I'm especially thankful that my life is so full of all those things that money can never buy.  I am so blessed to have a weird, wonderful, drive me crazy, goofy, loving family that encompasses more than just those loonies I'm genetically related to.  I loves all y'all!