Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Crispity crunchity chicken!

I have been informed I am the best wife ever.

All I did was mix together some chicken and cheese! But, hey, if that makes me the best wife ever I will take it :)

I found a recipe a little while back for cheesy chicken wontons. I decided to take the idea and run with it.

Even as I was mixing the filling Jon was hovering around the kitchen. These are a definite keeper.

These would be great for a football party :) But beware! They go quick.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Bursting Cheesy Chicken Rolls*
Makes 11
125 calories per

3 oz Neufchatel cheese
2 tbsp minced chives
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp lemon juice
2 small boneless, skinless chicken breast, fully cooked. Finely chopped. Preferably grilled.
1 ½ oz shredded, reduced fat pepper jack cheese
1 ½ oz shredded, reduced fat cheddar cheese
---
11 egg roll wrappers
2 TBS butter, melted(optional, not included in recipe counted calories)

In a small mixing bowl mix together the filling ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to blend flavors.

Place about 2 tablespoons of mixture in the center of the wrapper. Fold wrap around the filling. (I turn mine so looks like a diamond. Place the filling in the center. Fold bottom corner up, then the left corner in, then the right corner in. Roll up and place seam side down on a cookie sheet. This is the same process I use for my egg rolls)

Brush with butter.

Bake at 500 degrees for 12 minutes.

OR

Omit the butter and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, flip rolls over, bake 5-10 additional minutes until golden.

* We named these because they liked to burst out the side a bit when baking. (similar to Hungry Girl's exploding taquitos) but, we just pushed it back in when they cooled a bit.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Family

Aren't we a good lookin' bunch?


Happy 30th Anniversary Mom & Dad.

Christmas Joy

Well, this was the first time in far too many years that we have all been together as a family for Christmas.

Best. Christmas. Ever.

We went for pancakes at Mom and Dad's then took a walk on the beach. Thank you Dad for the pictures. (I got new binoculars and so I was far too excited with my new toy to take pictures.


Looking for sharks teeth :)





The pretty ocean.




A one legged seagull, no really, he only had one leg. Something must have eaten the other one.




The crazy surfers. There were two of them. The water temperature is about 55 F this time of year. The air temperature was only 60.




My sweet boy, he says he will bleed the purple of the Vikings until the day he dies...




Pretend one leggers. These funny little birds will hop away from you on one leg, only putting the other leg down if they absolutely have to. It's cold out!



For Christmas I made a wreath for my mom. I have been waiting to post it's picture so I wouldn't spoil the surprise.


My dad was gifted Wilton baking pans. He is a big fan of their cookware.

My brother and sister-in-law arrived late afternoon from the state of Virginia to join the festivities. It was delightful to have their company.

I made a ton of Christmas cookies this year. I played with various techniques for frosting. Adam and Nadine (my brother and his wife) gave me a decorating set for frosting cakes and cookies. If only I had that when I was frosting my millions of cookies! Definitely will be using the new set in the future though :D



Let's see, what else? Oh! Today is my parents 30th wedding anniversary! YAY! Here's the card I made them (I can only post this now because I know they are on the way to my house so they won't see it until later). The lily is a traditional flower for the 30th anniversary.


Back to the food of it all, after all, that is why some of you are here right?

It's cold, I never really thought it could be cold if it was above zero, but it is. There are rumors it even snowed overnight Christmas Eve around these parts. I didn't see it, I am ok with that.

When it's cold, what do I make? Soup!!!!

I found this soup originally here. Love this blog, and hey, she's from MN. Bonus!

So, that's a very brief overview of the last few days. Go make some soup. And enjoy your afternoon!

Me, I've got to go celebrate my parents wedded bliss with my family :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!


Lasagna Soup
Serves 4-6

1/2 lb. Italian turkey sausage (I used 90/10 mild breakfast turkey sausage)
1/4 cup minced onion
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 can petite diced tomatoes
8oz tomato sauce
3 cups fresh spinach
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup beef broth
2 tsp. basil
2 tsp. oregano
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup cheese tortellini or ravioli
an additional 1/2 cup pasta (I used small shells)
1/8 cup mozzarella cheese, diced into small cubes (we just used shredded mozzarella, sprinkled over each bowl and stirred in as we ate)


Begin by browning the Italian sausage in a large stockpot. Add in the minced garlic and onion and cook until the Italian sausage is done.

Then, add in the tomatoes {undrained}, tomato sauce, and broth. Add in the spices. Bring the soup to a light boil and then reduce to a simmer.

Simmer the soup for 30 minutes or longer.

Then, add in the spinach and pasta. Simmer for about 20 minutes while the pasta cooks slowly.

Remove from the heat and then add in the diced mozzarella cheese.

Serve warm with a crusty bread.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Birthday!

"The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!"

-- Luke 2:11(NIV)




May your celebration of our Lord's birth be blessed.



Merry Christmas my friends and family.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Southern Lefse

I am Norwegian. Very Norwegian. Have you seen my profile picture? Skin the color of snow, blond hair, and blue eyes...there is no denying my genetics.

One thing I really love about my heritage is lefse. It's a delightfully light potato bread that is, in the US anyway, usually a Christmas food.

Lefse is a very tricky flat bread that you really need to learn from someone who has mastered the skill. And when I say skill I mean it. Cooking and baking have their own challenges, but lefse is a class all it's own.

My dad learned from his mom. Watching, listening, and trying. I learned from my dad the exact same way. Spending years in the kitchen under foot because I wanted to know the secrets and nuances of perfect lefse.

Every family has their own ways of doing things as well as their own recipe.

I love my dads lefse. It's everything it should be- light, thin, round, perfectly cooked.

Before we moved, he said he was interested in seeing my take on southern cuisine. Well, this time I took a classic Norwegian food and gave it a southern twist. Not quite what he meant, but it's what I do.

I searched high and low and couldn't find a sweet potato lefse recipe. I found hundreds of basic lefse recipes, countless combinations for filling options, and some interesting(far more complicated than necessary) techniques. But, no sweet potato lefse.

Well, that's not true. I could order some already made from instant sweet potato flakes. I still don't know what those are...

So, I made my own. And kiddies, it turned out amazing!


My lefse cozy :) I see there's a wet spot from washing my hands...


Nummins! Sweet Potato Lefse.



I love these with a little butter and cinnamon sugar, just like regular lefse.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Sweet Potato Lefse*
Makes about 3 dozen pieces

* I do not recommend attempting lefse unless you have learned the art from someone who has mastered it. There are so many factors involved it is not good for a beginning cook. It is difficult to learn because there are so many variables that can affect lefse, but is well worth the time and effort.

Once you master it, please pass the skill on to your children and grandchildren.

This recipe is intended for those who already know how to cook basic lefse. Unfortunately, I can't write down all the information I have in my head regarding lefse preparation. It's something you need to be taught in person.

That being said, here is the recipe. :)

3 lbs sweet potatoes (about 3 very large)
1/4 cup skim milk
4 TBS butter
3 heavy pinches kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper
1 1/2 cups flour plus additional for rolling out


Peel and cube potatoes. Put in a large pot and fill with cold water. Lightly salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes until fork tender. Immediately drain.

Run potatoes through a ricer. This makes perfect potatoes and removes some of the fibrous material.

Warm milk and butter until butter is fully melted. Pour into riced sweet potatoes. Stir in and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate, uncovered at least 4 hours until fully chilled.

Once chilled, add flour 1/2 cup at a time. Mix in until you've incorporated all the flour. You should have a soft dough that will still be slightly sticky.

Heavily flour a large round pastry board. Pull a piece of dough the size of a golf ball. Dip in flour. Using a grooved rolling pin with a floured rolling pin sock, roll the dough out very thin. On my board I know it's thin enough when I can just barely make out the words on my pastry board.

Using a lefse stick, transfer lefse to your dry griddle. Cook 1-2 minutes per side until the bubbles are slightly golden. Do not overcook.

Move to a lefse cozy or between a few clean tea towels.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Copycat

Jon and I love Papa Murphys pizza. Unfortunately, we don't have one within driving distance, in fact, the closest store is in Florida which is 1 1/2 hours away.

When we lived in MN some times I would get a craving for their chicken, bacon delite pizza. Usually, it was in the middle of a blizzard. Go figure. So I learned to make my own version at home. It is very close to the original.

I haven't mastered my own thin pizza crust yet, so in the meantime I use a little help from the store. Feel free to experiment with your favorite crust and see what you like best.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Thin Crust Chicken Bacon Pizza
Serves 6 (But not really because this pizza is so yummy you can't have just one)
272 calories per slice

1 prepared thin pizza crust
1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 TBS light ranch dressing
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 Tyson grilled chicken breasts, diced
20 (or so) fresh spinach leaves
8-10 quartered artichoke heart pieces (packed in water, drained)
4 TBS Oscar Mayer bacon pieces
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

In a small bowl, mix together the ranch, garlic, garlic powder, and Parmesan cheese.

Spread evenly over the entire pizza crust, all the way to the edge.

Sprinkle chicken, spinach, artichokes, and bacon over the sauce. Top with mozzarella cheese.

In a 450 degree preheated oven, bake for about 10 minutes until the crust is crunchy and the cheese is melted.

Let set for 5 minutes before cutting into 6 pieces.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

For my sweetheart

Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies
- Aristotle

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sweet Potato Jumble

Jon and I were strolling through the produce department a few weeks ago when we spotted a deal on sweet potatoes. 14 cents a pound kiddies! Since they have a seemingly endless shelf life if properly stored we bought a bunch of them.

I have been scouring my cookbooks and online recipe forums for a new recipes-

I don't want mashed, overly sweetened, marshmallow drown sweet potatoes. (commonly referred to as sweet potato casserole)

I don't want pie. (though this is tasty)

I don't want overcooked chunks of potato swimming in a sea of butter and brown sugar syrup. (not my thing)

No, I want to explore the savory side of things.

There are some recipes out there, but they are mostly for sweet potato fries or baked sweet potatoes. I wanted something more complex.

Since there weren't many savory or mildly spicy recipes out there (or maybe people just don't want to share their recipes...) I made up some of my own. Basically, I took my butternut squash recipes and revamped them to fit sweet potatoes. Some times you just have to think outside of the box.

I made a sweet potato gratin of sorts for dinner last night that was a perfect side for our naked burgers. Yes, we like our burgers sans buns. Once in a while we have them with their bready counterpart, but mostly we like them straight up.

I don't like to do dishes. Seriously. So I make this entire dish in one pot. I love one pot wonders.

I can't wait to explore more with sweet potatoes :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Sweet Potato Bake
Serves 6
270 calories per serving

1 large sweet potato, peeled (about 1 lb)
2 large red skin potatoes, peeled( about 1 lb)
5 TBS precooked, packaged, real bacon pieces
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
2 TBS smart balance 50/50 butter
2 cups skim milk
1 1/2 oz grated Parmesan cheese
3 oz smoked provolone cheese
1/4-1/3 cup fresh parsley, minced
salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste


Slice all the potatoes into 1/8 inch thick slices. Put the potatoes in a large pot and fill with cold water. Lightly salt. I emphasize lightly. Potatoes seem to suck up a lot of salt for some reason.

Bring potatoes to a simmer. Simmer for 3-5 minutes, until potatoes are tender but not cooked through. Drain and set to the side.

In the now empty pot-add your bacon pieces, onion, and garlic. Saute until bacon is crispy and onion is just starting to caramelize. Remove from pan.

Melt butter and flour together in the pot. Add milk, whisking constantly until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in cheeses and bacon/onion mixture. Once well incorporated, stir in parsley.

In a prepared 9x9 baking dish, layer half the potatoes. Pour half the cheese sauce over the potatoes. Top with the remaining potatoes. Pour the rest of the cheese over all. Wiggle the pan a bit to work the cheese into all the little nooks and crannies.

Cover with foil. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.

Let rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Daddy's Buckeyes

Every family has some sort of tradition when it comes to Christmas. My family is no different. Oh sure we do things a little, well, we call it "Spranger Style" but, it is tradition. Let me explain. In my mom's family the Christmas theme is decided at Thanksgiving. Yes, the theme. The food and/or attire is discussed by the family over dinner, then the planning begins. With 8 kids in my mom's family, there are a lot of unique ideas and interpretations of themes. Factor in that they are all married and well, let's just say we get a lot of entertainment around the holidays.

Here's a photo from a few years ago. Your attire and gift had to reflect the 1980's. You like my sweet leg warmers? ;) They were very sparkly! I am sure I entertained the gas station attendant in down town St. Paul in my cool outfit.





Other themes have included(this is a very limited list):

"Made in Hong Kong" This was right before Hong Kong returned to China's rule. Your gift had to be made in Hong Kong.


"Spring(er) Christmas" This was left open to interpretation for a variety of costumes such as wearing Slinkys, tissue paper flowers, and one larger than life flower complete with plastic ants climbing up the stalk. The plastic ants were very entertaining because my dad and brother collected them all night long. For years after the party, Grandma Spranger would find these ants for months after our visits. My dad took great pleasure in leaving these tiny, black, plastic ants in the oddest places such as in the glass domes of ceiling lights, in stemware in the china hutch, and on top of canning jars in cellar. She collected them all in a little jar and gave them to me a while back. I still have them, I giggle every time I see them. My mom was a giant bumble bee that year. Have you ever tried to find a human sized stinger!? Floral styro foam and black fabric make a great improvised stinger, in case you ever need to put together a bee costume...


There was the "J" Christmas. All the food had to begin with a "j". Some of the many dishes included- jicama, julienned potatoes, cherries jubilee(I believe we called it jubilee cherries to make it fit the theme), juicy fruit, I made what we call "j" potatoes.I took a cookie cutter, shaped it into a j shape and use it to cut out potatoes and bake them. Interestingly enough, no one brought jello. I guess it was too obvious...The main meat was jamón, Spanish for ham.


There was "Make your own gift"- this one is pretty self explanatory...


My favorite year by far was dress as your gift. The goal was to dress as the hint to your gift. My uncle Pete dressed as the Swedish Chef from the Muppets. I believe his gift was cookies and kitchen gadgets... My mom was dressed as Jeanie from I Dream of Jeanie. Her gift was a set of cocoa and mugs from Cocoa Beach (where Jeanies bottle was). My aunt Susan dressed as a woman in the wind, her dress was starched and pulled back, her hair was pulled back around chicken wire so it appeared she was being blown by a very stiff wind. Her gift was wind chimes. I brought cheese as an appetizer so I dressed like a wedge of swiss cheese. Markers, flexible wire, and poster board make a really great costume.


We had a Christmas where we gave back. Each person donated time or funds to a worthy cause. We did a presentation to the family on what we did. It was interesting to see what each family chose. Some donated money for school supplies for underprivileged children, some sponsored families so they could eat, and others volunteered time at the food shelf.


Another tradition? White Elephant Bingo. Yep, our family is large enough we can play competitive bingo. The prizes are all re-gifts: things from around your house only. Love it :)


Moving on to Zimmerli Christmas-


Christmas on the Zim side is more traditional. We eat a big meal, wash the dishes, and gather around the living room. Then someone reads the story of Christ's birth from the Bible out loud. Then we open gifts one a time. It's all very intimate and warm. I get all sorts of snuggly happy feelings when I think about it. There is much laughter and love at these gatherings.

Two very different ways to celebrate Christ's birth. But they blend beautifully. I wouldn't want it any other way.


When I was a kid, we left cookies and milk out for Santa. We also left celery or carrots for his reindeer.

Each year we'd drive around town looking at Christmas lights as a family on Christmas Eve.

Before we left Mom or Dad would forget something in the house-Mom had to go potty, Dad forgot to turn the lights off in the office, Mom left her purse on the table. Then we'd go for our drive.

When we got home the treats were gone and the gifts "magically" appeared under the tree. We didn't figure out how this elaborate plan worked until we were a little older. We could open one gift Christmas Eve. The rest had to wait until Christmas day after breakfast, and after Dad read from the Bible about Jesus's birth. A very important tradition and reminder of why we have Christmas in the first place.


Jon and I have combined our family traditions into something like this: The tree gets decorated together as a family(my family) while watching A Christmas Story (Jon and Becca tradition). Each year we get one new ornament (my family, and Jon's family in more recent years). Stockings get mixed nuts (my family) and a small gift with special wrapping that is used only for stocking stuffers (Jon's family). We open one gift on Christmas Eve. (Both our families do this) We eat breakfast and read the Christmas story(my family) before we open gifts alternating between him and I opening gifts.

This year will be different for us because in the past we've gone to Jon's grandma's on Christmas Eve. Then Christmas Day we go to my Grandparents, then his Mom's place. Since we moved to Georgia, this year we are going to be spending Christmas with my brother/sister-in-law and my parents. We are happy to be celebrating my Mom and Dad's 30th wedding anniversary together this year as a family.

One of the treats my dad used to make every year was peanut butter buckeyes. There are loads of recipes out there for buckeye cookies, but I like my dad's the best.


Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Daddy's Buckeyes
Makes a bunch

2 sticks butter or margarine
1 lb powdered sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
12 oz semi sweet chocolate chips (REAL chocolate chips, no chocolate flavored chips)
1/2-3/4 sheet paraffin wax (the small sheets that come in a box, I think it's 4 oz)

Cream together the butter, peanut butter, sugar and vanilla. Chill until firm.

Form into walnut size balls. Refrigerate until firm.

In a double boiler, melt together the chips and paraffin. Using a toothpick, poke the peanut butter ball. Dip the the ball in the chocolate leaving the top slightly exposed so the candy ball looks like a buckeye nut. (See photo above)

Chill on wax paper, removing the toothpick. Store in the refrigerator or freezer.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Freezer Soup

Jon and I went to the Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation with my parents last night to check out the Christmas decor, watch the cannon's get fired, and step back into history with the 26th Georgia Infantry and other Civil War reenactors portraying the Glynn Guards and Brunswick Rifles militia.

It was an experience.

Something we noticed-"facts" seem to be based on where you are. One example Jon and I both noticed was our guide, the "plantation owner," told us that the northern soldiers were "ungentlemanly" and would burn down the plantations even if it was only women and children home "just to be mean." We both giggled under our breath because in the north, they say the exact same thing about the southerners...

I can never look at a bayonet the same way again. Interesting/gross factoid: the winning side of any given battle was responsible for burying the dead left on the battlefield. This wasn't always a high priority so it could be a few days before it was gotten around to. What would happen at that point was the men would heat their bayonets over a fire and form a big hook. They'd use these hooks to pull the remains to a mass grave then they'd throw the hooks into the grave. Burial had to be done this way to avoid transmitting diseases and illnesses.

We learned about cannon firing procedures. They shot off four cannons as our guide explained what was being done. My dad called my brother to let him hear the cannon fire(My brother was a history major and Civil War reenactor.) One of the cannons was used in the movie Gods and Generals, a movie that my brother was an extra in :) The thing that caught my attention was cannons generally fire 2 rounds per five minutes. So what was my first thought? I have 2 1/2 minutes to run as far away as I possibly can. Clearly I was not cut out for battle...

The plantation itself was a rice plantation started in the early 1800's. The house was passed down through the generations. When the last living relative passed away in 1973 the house was willed to the state of Georgia. The condition was the house and plantation was to remain unchanged. The state came in and catalogued every item, but moved nothing. Drawers contain letters, pictures, clothing, and trinkets just as they were. Nothing was brought in and nothing was removed. It's a very unique place to visit.

The live oaks on the property are incredible. Some of the trees are estimated to be over 800 years old.

Before our visit to the plantation we had dinner at our house. I made a quick vegetable beef soup. I called it freezer soup because I used frozen corn, frozen beans, frozen diced onion, and frozen(thawed) ground beef.

It was a nice way to warm up before heading out into the dark, chilly night.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Freezer Soup
Serves 8-10

1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen corn
5 medium carrots, peeled and diced
3 large red skinned potatoes, diced
1 1/2 cups frozen snapped green beans
1 bay leaf
4-5 cups beef stock
3 cups v8 juice
1 tsp dry Italian seasoning
1-2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Brown ground beef, onion, and garlic together. Drain any grease.

Add all remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer over low.

Simmer, covered, for at least 30 minutes to cook veggies and blend the flavors.

Remove bay leaf before serving.

Note: this soup only gets better the longer it sits.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The mystery that is my husband

We've discussed this many times, Jon-boy claims he doesn't do hot dishes.

And yet, he continues to ask me to save and make recipes that are hot dishes! He definitely keeps me guessing.

Tonight we had a jumble of ingredients that I somehow managed to make into a meal. Jon took the first bite and said to me, "Save this recipe, I don't know what you did, but save it. It's so good!" Well, good thing I have a good memory! ;)

So, here's to the mystery boy.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!


Quick Chicken & Pasta Skillet
Serves 4
277 calories per serving

9 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast- diced
3 cups dry rigatoni pasta
1/4-1/3 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 TBS olive oil
1 very large tomato, diced
1 cup tomato sauce
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp dry Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Simmer pasta until al dente. Drain.

In a large skillet, saute onion and garlic in olive oil. Add diced chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until chicken is almost done, 7-10 minutes.

Add dry Italian seasoning, diced tomato, and chicken broth. Simmer, uncovered 10 minutes.

Add tomato sauce. Toss in drained pasta.

Stir in fresh parsley.

Top with shredded cheese. Cover the skillet to melt the cheese. Leave covered for about 5 minutes before serving to allow the pasta to finish cooking through in the sauce. Serve hot.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Cupcake Love

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in America. My parents drove up to join us for a lovely meal together.




My mom and Jon waited so patiently while my dad and I took pictures of the yummy food :)

There are many different traditional meals throughout the country. I am from the Midwest. So, my menu reflected tradition for where I grew up. We had turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing, jellied cranberries, cranberry relish, raw veggies, pull apart biscuits, pie, and cupcakes. My dad made the 'taters and delicious pie. Mom made up the veggie tray. Jon helped me prep the turkey. Great food and even better company.

After we cleaned up, we went for a drive around St. Simons Island. We stopped by the ocean to say hello.



When we got home we sampled my cupcakes. They are from the cookbook "What's New, Cupcake" by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson



Aren't they cute?! They were yummy too! Jon said the frosting is his new favorite(that's huge from a man who doesn't really like frosting)

One final thought before I post the recipe: I am thankful for the countless blessings God has given us this past year, but I am even more thankful for what He will do in our lives over the next year. Remember to always be thankful for what you have and what will come.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

"Cherry Pie" Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes


1 box Duncan Hines snack size confetti cupcake mix (Makes 12)
1 can vanilla frosting
2-3 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
4 drops yellow food coloring
1 cup red m&m's or other small red candies

Prepare the cupcake batter according to the package directions. Pour batter into metallic paper cupcake liners. Bake according to package. Cool completely, in the pan(s) on a wire rack.

Tint the vanilla frosting with the yellow food coloring and the cocoa powder to make a light brown for the pie crust.

Spread some of the frosting on top of a cupcake, leaving 1/4 inch of the cupcake edge exposed. For the cherry filling, arrange the m&m's close together on top of the cupcake. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes and candy.

Piping may be done one of two ways-

Option 1. Spoon the remaining light brown frosting into a ziplock bag, press out the excess air and seal. Snip a small (1/8-inch) corner from the bag. For the lattice crust, pipe 4 or 5 lines across the top of a cupcake, about 1/2 inch apart. Pipe 4 or 5 more lines, on the diagonal. Pipe a beaded edge around the top of the cupcake. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes and frosting.

Option 2. Use a piping bag with a small tip (I used a small basket weave tip.)Pipe the lattice following the same directions as above. Change piping tips to a basic round tip to do a small bead around the edge for the crust.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Relish the moment

It's no secret that Thanksgiving is next week.

This year, we won't be with my grandparents since they are still back in Minnesota. But, it's not Thanksgiving without my grandma's cranberry relish.

My grandma was kind enough to send me the recipe so I could make it this year. :)

My lovely Grandparents and me at their home this summer. Thank you Kathleen Bade for taking the picture!



I will also share a hungry girl recipe for cranberry relish that is reduced sugar.

I always enjoy seeing what different families serve for Thanksgiving. This year this is what is on our menu:

Turkey
Mashed Potatoes
Gravy
Dressing- it's not going in the birds kiddies, it is therefore dressing, not stuffing.
Cranberry relish
Cranberry jelly (this is for Jon's benefit, I can't stand the slurping noise as they come out of the can, shaped like the can. Eww)
Flaky layers biscuits
Fresh veggies
Cupcake "pies"
And last but not least- Dad is making a pumpkin cream pie!

Here, take a peek at the cupcake design:

http://www.oprah.com/food/Bake-Sale-Pie-Cupcakes

So, whats on your menu?

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Gram's Cranberry Relish
From the 1947 Jackson Methodist Cookbook
Original recipe by Mrs. J. Wm. Rossiter
(Her husband was the pastor who married my grandparents in 1946.)


4 c. "picked over" cranberries
3 c. apples
1 orange partially peeled (I leave about 1/3 on)
2 cups sugar

Put fruit through food chopper or grinder. Add sugar. Let stand overnight.

Good as is, or make the following additions:

Prepare 1 (4oz) raspberry jello, using only 1 1/3 c. hot water.

Add the relish, plus 1 c. chopped celery and 3/4 c. broken walnuts.


Hungry Girl Cranberry Relish
Serves 12
63 calories per serving

One 12-oz. bag whole cranberries
One 11-oz. can mandarin orange segments in their own juice
1 cup peeled and finely chopped apples
1 envelope (1/4 oz.) dry unflavored gelatin
2/3 cup Splenda No Calorie Sweetener (granulated)
1/4 cup Almond Accents in Original Oven Roasted
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/8 tsp. cinnamon

In a medium pot, combine cranberries, Splenda, and sugar with 1 3/4 cups water. Set stove to medium heat, cover pot, and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for 10 minutes, uncovering to stir occasionally. Meanwhile, in a small dish, combine gelatin with 1/4 cup cold water, stir well and set aside.

Turn off heat and stir in gelatin mixture, stirring until dissolved and thoroughly combined. Stir in cinnamon and apples and mix well. Transfer mixture to a bowl, and refrigerate for at least 5 hours (overnight is best).

Once chilled and set, remove mixture from the fridge and give it a good stir. Drain juice from the can of orange segments. Roughly chop orange segments and drain any excess liquid from them. Slightly crush almonds so that they break into smaller pieces. Add chopped orange segments and almond pieces to the cranberry sauce, and mix thoroughly. Serve with lean turkey, pork, or chicken, or anything else you like cranberries with!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Leftover Magic

I, like many cooks, am on a budget. I plan my meals out weekly, I cut coupons, and I stretch meals with veggies and inexpensive grains.

A few weeks ago when I was shopping for my week of preplanned meals, I spotted a deal on boneless beef ribs. They were a great price so I opted to purchase them. (I typically don't stray from my list to my husbands dismay. If it's not on the list, it doesn't go in the cart)

Since I had all my meals planned, I stuck them in my freezer to await a new week. I made ribs the same way I usually do- rubbed, cooked low and slow in the oven, then sauced. I made the entire 1 1/2 lb package knowing we'd have leftovers.

I chopped up the 4 leftover ribs and put them in the fridge. (Quirky side note- I mark my leftovers with a tag that reads "No Touchy" if I intend to use them for other meals. This way when we are making lunches, neither Jon nor I will inadvertently use up the ingredients)

So what magic did I perform? BBQ Biscuit Cups. I served them with fresh green beans and leftover chilled couscous salad.

I have made this recipe before with ground beef. I will include ingredient amounts for both preparations.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

BBQ Biscuit Cups
Serves 8
240 calories

4 fully cooked boneless ribs, chopped *
8 Pilsbury Grands Biscuits
4 TBS BBQ sauce of your choice (I use Sweet Baby Rays)
1/2 cup (2 oz) shredded cheese of your choice (I used reduced fat cheddar)

* You may use 6 oz lean ground beef. If you do, I recommend adding in some diced onion and garlic. Also, I would add a dash of liquid smoke and Worcestershire sauce.

Preheat oven to 350.

If using leftover ribs: warm them up slightly and chop roughly. Add BBQ sauce. Set aside.

If using ground beef: brown with recommended ingredients. Add BBQ sauce. Set aside.

Spray 8 cups in a muffin tin lightly with cooking spray. Gently press out biscuits into a disk. Press into the muffin tins. Fill each cup with some of the beef.

Bake for 10 minutes. Top each biscuit with cheese. Return to oven and bake 3-5 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 2-5 minutes before serving.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Adventures Abound

With so many adventures to be had here, most days Jon and I just don't even know where to begin.

We went pecan picking with my parents the other day.






Jon and I shelled 15 pounds of pecans. Super tasty! I made pecan turtles with some of my pecans. The rest were either frozen or bagged up for other people.

After we got pecans, we went shopping for Operation Christmas Child. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this project I suggest checking out the website: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC/


The short version is this- people donate a shoe box full of items- toys, school supplies, hygiene items, etc for a boy or girl. These shoe boxes are given to underprivileged children all over the world. It is a very important ministry in sharing God's love. I was very happy that my parents invited us to help with this project.




Jon and I have been taking many walks around our house and local beaches. We are enjoying exploring the area. On this particular day we saw loads of geese. Jon decided he wanted to be "The Thinker." I love the fountain in the background same picture of him.


We went to St. Simon's Island today just as high tide was ending. We saw lots of birds: pelicans, gulls, sand pipers, and more that we don't know the names of yet.

As the tide went out, a small island the birds were on turned into a peninsula. I of course turned into a little kid and ran into the flock of birds making them scatter. It was a lot of fun for me.

There were many sea creatures to look at after that- horse shoe crabs, several varieties of jelly fish, and a sea cucumber to name a few. Jon and I really enjoyed it.

We love the variety of each visit. No two days are ever quite the same. On our way home I snapped a picture of the surrounding marshes. The sun was starting to set so color is spectacular.






There is a beautiful bridge we occasionally take to get to Jekyll Island. I didn't take these two pictures, but I really wanted to share it with you. The bridge is called the Sidney Lanier Bridge.






So, that is a review of the last few days. The adventure that is our life. God has truly blessed us.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Carmel Turtles
Makes approximately 40 turtles


1 bag carmels
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups slightly chopped, toasted pecans (You want bigger pieces, but I don't like to use whole halves)
1 bag milk chocolate chips
1/8 bar paraffin wax (optional)

Melt carmels in a medium sized sauce pan. Stir in vanilla. Add pecans. Stir to coat.

Drop pecans onto wax paper that has been sprayed with cooking spray. (About 1 TBS per mound)

Cool completely.

Melt chocolate and wax together in a double boiler or in the microwave. Dip each turtle, evenly coating the entire candy. Tap off any excess chocolate. Return to wax paper.

Cool completely. May be frozen.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pure Joy

I have a dear friend who often reposts items that are of great importance to her. Today, I will do the same.


“Decision is a risk rooted in the courage of being free.”
-Paul Tillich


We took a huge risk.

We moved across the country to a new city in a new state.

God blessed us from the beginning.

We trust Him.

We are courageous.

We are free.

We are blessed.


Most of all-
We are happy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Let's get creative!

So, the pantry is pretty slim pickin's until tomorrow (grocery shopping day). And what do we do when things are slim? Get creative!

I haven't built up my pantry just yet, but what I had was perfect.

I had heart healthy Bisquick. Campbell's Selects Healthy Request Chicken noodle soup. Healthy request cream of chicken soup. And a freezer full of veggies. Anyone know where I am going with this?

Chicken and dumpling soup! I adore this classic dish, but rarely take the time to make my own stock, shred the chicken from the bone, mix up my dumpling batter and blah blah blah. It's a lot of work!

Tonight, I made the most amazing chicken and dumplings in about 25 minutes. It tasted like I slaved all day over a hot stove.

I am sure you could make this in a slow cooker, but it's super quick and easy on the stove top.

I took this picture for my mom, who loves my curly hair. I am sharing it with you because well, it's November and my grass is still green. :)



Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Chicken and Dumpling Soup
Serves 3
245 calories per

1 can Campbell's Selects Healthy Request Chicken Noodle soup
1 can Healthy Request cream of chicken soup, undiluted
2/3 cup mixed frozen veggies
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup Bisquick Heart Healthy mix
1/4 cup skim milk

Mix soups, veggies, and water together in a pot with a lid. Bring to a simmer.

In a small bowl mix Bisquick and milk. Drop by teaspoonfuls into the simmering soup.

Reduce heat to a low simmer. Simmer uncovered for 5-6 minutes. Cover and simmer 10 minutes longer.

Allow to cool slightly before serving.

* You can always add fresh herbs to your dumpling batter for extra flavor, but I didn't have any on hand. Enjoy!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Apple Cobbler

Be forewarned, I have about a million thoughts roaming around my brain right now. So this particular blog entry is going to be a little all over the place. If you want to skip my ramblings here's the short version: Mom came to visit. Brought me apples. I made apple crisp. Jon brought it to work to win friends. Done. ;)

For those of you who enjoy peeking in on my thoughts please continue:

My mom came for a visit the other day. Best. Day. Ever. I love spending time with my mom. She is one cool lady.

We went for a walk in my new neighborhood. We found a duck pond with four mismatched duck species, a lovely subdivision with plenty of curious folks keeping up the neighborhood watch, and of course we found good conversation.

Before she came over, my mom stopped by a farm stand in her town. She brought me apples and tomatoes. Fresh picked. In November. Yea, I feel right living here.

Tomarrow's forecast is for 79 and sunny skies. I couldn't be more thrilled.

The cat is enjoying the back patio area, though he loathes the harness he is required to wear to go exploring. We let him out once without it and he tried to explore the neighbors yard...

Jon and I have turned into little kids as we experience life here- going to new places, smelling new odors (high tide and low tide have definite smells), and trusting each other and God. We see life with fresh eyes and renewed energy. It's definitely a good place to be.

BUT, getting back to those apples. I read up on them to see the best use. They were Arkansas Black Apples. They are very waxy and crisp. Most websites recommended them for eating only after storage for a few months(they are REALLY hard when you first pick them). The alternative was to use them to bake desserts. Hmm yes, I can do that.... :)

I created an apple crisp from what I had on hand. It turned out yummy. Jon brought some to work today and apparently his coworkers were drooling at the sight of it. (Mission "Make Jon Popular" is underway apparently LOL)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Apple Crisp
Serves 8
145 calories per

3 medium apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
1/3 cup white sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp vanilla

Topping:
1/3 cup flour
1 packet cinnamon flavored weight control oatmeal- dry
1/3 cup unpacked brown sugar
3 TBS Best Life margarine or I can't believe it's not butter


Preheat oven to 350.

In a 9x9 baking dish toss together apples, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla.

In a small bowl combine all ingredients for the topping. Combine until crumbly.

Scatter over apples.

Bake for 45 minutes, until apples are tender. Let cool 15 minutes before cutting into 8 slices.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

By Jon's Request

The other night I made a new recipe called Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta Toss. It came from a cookbook entitled "A busy cook's cookbook." Most of the recipes are 20 minutes or less.

Jon called me after he got off work to inform me he was "starving!" I grabbed the ingredients for the pasta toss, and dinner was on the table 15 minutes later- just in time for my hungry hubby to arrive home. He devoured it! He said I must share this one. And so I shall :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta Toss
Serves 3-5

1/2 lb lean ground beef
1/4 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper
5 oz spiral pasta or other pasta shape (I prefer 3 minute quick cooking)
2.5 oz bag, precooked bacon pieces
1/2-1 (10 oz) can healthy request tomato soup, undiluted*
1/2 cup reduced fat, shredded cheddar cheese

Brown beef, onion, and garlic together in a skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Drain any fat on paper towels. Crisp bacon up in the same skillet.

While the beef is browning, bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to directions. Drain well.

Mix pasta, beef, bacon, and soup together. Top with cheese. Serve hot.

*You can use the soup one of two ways- You can use 1/2 can of soup and add water to dilute to your preferred thickness. OR you can use the entire can for a thicker, richer sauce.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Potatoes!

I can't believe I haven't shared this recipe with you yet! Jon absolutely adores these potatoes. It's just a simple, basic gratin, but it looks so elegant when it's done.

I honestly thought there was NO way this recipe was going to work when I made it. There was so much milk and I didn't see how the potatoes were going to soak it all up. Don't be afraid, it really does work. Somehow, those taters soak every last bit up. :)

I can't remember for the life of me where I got this recipe, but it is super easy and delicious.

I use my mandoline to cut my potatoes to an even thickness. If you don't have one, get one. They come in a variety of sizes now. You can even get hand held mandolines that fit into a kitchen drawer. Once you try it, you'll never go back to slicing veggies with a knife.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Jon's Favorite Potato Gratin
Serves 4
140 calories per serving


1/2 TBS salted butter
garlic powder
1 c. skim milk
1 clove garlic, minced
2 TBS finely chopped onion or shallot
garlic salt and pepper to taste
dash of nutmeg
1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes sliced thinly ( 1/8")

1/4 c. ( 1 oz) shredded Gruyere cheese OR Swiss cheese
1/8 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375.

Rub a small baking dish with the butter and sprinkle with the garlic powder.

Combine milk, onion,garlic, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and potatoes in a large nonstick skillet; Bring to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are almost tender (About 7-8 minutes).

Pour mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle with cheeses.

Bake 40-45 minutes or until bubbly and top is golden.

Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fall Fun

I don't really have a good lead into this so... just read and enjoy:

My mom came over today and we did an art project for her church's fall festival. One of the activities for the kiddies is Trunk Or Treating. Each participating family decorates the trunk of their vehicle for the trick or treaters at the festival tomorrow.

Well, mom can't just smack some balloons and garland on her trunk and call it good. (I wouldn't let her if she tried) If she was going to do this thing, she was going to do it right, especially since she asked for my help ;)

She decided, after doing a web search (did ya catch that? Halloween, web... Alright, it was funny to me) to have The Doors of Mystery (Sounds cool right?!)

So, with my dad's help, we went in search of supplies. We found foam board, little wooden signs, a black gauzy background with spider webs, and three different textured "sleeves". Then, after a small side trip to Pier One Imports we wandered back to my house to work on putting it all together.

Here's what we did:
We cut three holes into the foam board, attached our sleeves (a lambs wool sleeve, a scrubby washcloth sleeve, and an oven mitt) then we covered the entire board with the black gauze.

Small doors go over each of the holes marked 1,2, or 3.

Then, the whole thing gets set up in the trunk of the car. Behind the board, there are two boxes for candy. If you choose the hole with the oven mitt you loose (play the "sorry, not a winner" music of your choice in your head at this point) But, not really- if you choose the dead end sleeve, you can pick a prize from the prize bucket. (Did you really think we'd make children cry at a church festival?!)

The wooden signs say: Doors of Mystery and Choose Wisely! They are hung above the sleeves along with some mummy wraps for some atmosphere. Fun huh?! It was a HUGE hit with all the kiddos at the event.

Are you ready to see it?!



It was a fantastic afternoon, but all that work and creativity makes a girl hungry. My mom thought ahead on that though. She and my dad grabbed a rotisserie chicken and the couscous salad she made last night. It was fantastic!

The couscous recipe was originally from Sweet Tomatoes, my favorite buffet restaurant. Seriously, if you every get the chance to eat at a Sweet Tomatoes or Souplantation, GO! (In CA they are called Souplantations for some reason...) She changed it just a little to fit with what she had in her cupboards. Let me tell you, it was stellar! Dad said it's good heated up too.

That's what I am going to share today- Couscous Salad. Here's the original recipe from the Sweet Tomatoes website: http://blog.souplantation.com/september-recipe/

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

8 oz dry couscous
1 3/4 cup water
3/4 TBS vegetable or chicken bouillon base


3 TBS lemon juice
1 tsp kosher salt
1 scant tsp black pepper
1/4 cup olive or canola oil


1/2 cup garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1/2 cup diced or crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup diced celery (1/4 inch dice)
1/3 cup chopped, toasted pecans
1/4 cup snipped chives

Boil water and bouillon base together. Remove from heat. Immediately add couscous. Stir and cover. Allow to sit 5-10 minutes. Remove the lid. Fluff with a fork and cool.

Whisk together lemon juice, salt, pepper, and oil.

In a medium/large bowl mix couscous with all remaining ingredients. Drizzle with dressing. Toss to coat. Serve well chilled.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hello Old Friend

We visited the ocean today with my parents.

Mom and I searched for seashells.


Dad and Jon played in the waves

I gathered a bunch of small crab shells. Jon named it the crab graveyard.


After Dad grilled chicken for lunch, we spotted this little gal across the parking lot.

Isn't she cute?! She is a gopher tortoise. She's on the endangered species list in FL so we put her down to wander back to her burrow.

We had a lovely day visiting and playing. Tomorrow will be a busy day as we get settled into our house. And yes, my foodie friends, we will get back to the cooking of it all :) In fact, today I made pot roast. Threw it in the crock and went to the beach. It was yummy.

Last night my mom made some fantastic pan seared chicken. It will be added to my keepers book. And so, I am sharing it with you. (I know, YAY! A recipe, FINALLY!)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Mom's Crispy Chicken
Serves 6-8


1 1/2 lbs chicken breast- boneless, skinless
flour
egg beaters
Italian seasoned Panko bread crumbs
olive oil

Cut chicken breasts in half width wise.

Set up your coating station: 1 dish with flour, 1 dish with some egg beaters, and 1 dish with panko crumbs. Place a cookie sheet with a wire rack at the end of your line up.

Coat the chicken halves in flour. Shake off any excess.

Dip the coated chicken in egg. Shake off any excess.

Finally, coat in panko crumbs. Lay each piece out on a wire rack. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. This step is critical to keep the coating on the chicken.

Put 2 TBS of olive oil in a large skillet. Heat over medium high heat.

Add chicken pieces, do not over crowd the pan. Cook for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes . Flip chicken (add more oil if needed) and cook 4-6 more minutes until cooked through(about 12-15 minutes total cook time).

Repeat steps as needed, cooking chicken in batches until all the chicken is done.

A tip for knowing if your chicken is done- touch the tips of your thumb and ring finger(the one closest to your pinky) together. Using your free hand, feel the pad at the base of the thumb that is touching your ring finger. This is the texture the chicken should be when it's done. If it's still mushy, it's not done. If you are unsure- USE A THERMOMETER. ;) Unlike steak, chicken shouldn't be pink!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

We have arrived

After 3 days, 1624 miles, and countless potty breaks, we made it to GA!



If we can get the cat out from under the bed we will be good to go ;)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Road Trippin'

Well, we are just a few short days away from the big day.

We had our moving sale on Thursday and Friday. It was supposed to be today as well. But you know what? We ran out of things to sell! The Lord blessed us with many customers willing to purchase our treasures. We ended up with only a few odds and ends leftover which we will be donating to our local historical society for their annual garage sale.

We have wonderful friends and family who helped us out with our sale. Since we live in an apartment it was nearly impossible to have a garage sale at our home. Our friend Josh offered us his yard and garage right on the main drag in town. Jon's brother helped us acquire tables. Our friend Mike came by to help us take down tables last night. And, countless friends and family came by to purchase things. We couldn't have done it without every ones help.

In preparation of our trip, I made a batch of beef jerky. Unfortunately, Jon got into the bag. He ended up bringing it to the garage sale and sharing it with our helpers. By the end of the day the entire bag was gone. I wasn't mad though, I considered it a compliment. Besides, it was after all Jon's birthday. If he wanted to eat all my jerky then so be it, we'll call it his birthday gift ;)

So, I made my way back to the market to buy another sirloin roast. Jon decided we should make a double batch, so we bought two roasts. I found my meat slicer as we were cleaning out closets. I absolutely Love that slicer. It makes slicing the jerky quick and easy.

Jon has been told to stay out of this batch, we will see if I have any jerky for my road trip across country in a few days...

I will share my basic marinade recipe for jerky. But be warned, just like every good cook, I have my secrets that I just can't share. One of the secrets I won't share are the brand names of the ingredients I use. I admit I am a total snob when it comes to jerky. If even one of my ingredients is missing in the brand I prefer, jerky won't be made until the "right" brand is available.

Play with the recipe until you find a marinade that you like best. Once you get it right, people will be begging you for your recipe!

I have several variations of my marinade recipe for the different meats I dry- chicken, turkey, steak,bison, and venison. Again, don't be afraid to experiment. You will be rewarded for your bravery.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Basic Jerky Marinade
Enough for about 3 lbs of meat

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup vinegar
3 TBS liquid smoke
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 TBS brown sugar
fresh garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 TBS ketchup
1 1/4 tsp salt
hot sauce

Combine all ingredients together in a zip top bag.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Parting is such sweet sorrow

I had my final day at the adult foster care home where I've worked for the last 4 years. Saying goodbye to everyone was much harder than I ever imagined it would be. I've learned so much about myself and about what I can do. Lessons I may never learned otherwise.

There were ups and downs, as it is with life. I am thankful for who I've become because of everything I experienced.

I met a lot of interesting people over the years. I forged friendships that will go with me no matter where I move. For those treasured few, I am left without words to express my gratitude for their part in my life.

My dear friends Kate and Joshy decided we needed to celebrate our friendship over dinner last night. It was more than I could have ever asked for. Good friends, laughter, and food. It was perfect.

Kate posted a quick blog about our dinner that you can check out here:

http://kathleenjbade.blogspot.com/2010/10/rockin-fondue-pot.html

The only words I have for these two gems are- Thank you. I love you both.

Although I didn't make dinner, I did make a snack when I got home. It was a little project I started the day before- pepperoni chop bread.

My brother, Adam, has a friend from high school named Wyatt. Wyatt's mom used to make a snack bread that Adam really enjoyed. He brought the recipe home and my dad baked up the pepperoni chop bread. We ate it around the table playing board games one night. It was a hit.

When I moved out the recipe disappeared somewhere into the depths of my cookbooks. I found one similar the other day I wanted to try out. Guess what!? It was the recipe I remembered.

Jon gave it a thumbs up. He really liked that he could just pull a piece off and go back to what he was doing. Pizza flavor without the mess. Yum.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Pepperoni Chop Bread
Makes 1 free form loaf

1 loaf frozen white bread dough
1/2 cup pizza sauce
1 tsp. oregano
4 oz. thin-sliced pepperoni
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Thaw dough at room temperature on a cutting board lightly sprayed with vegetable oil spray for 2 hours, or until thawed. Pat into a 10-inch circle on cutting board. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or in an air-conditioned house for 2 hours, or until doubled in bulk.

Or dough may be thawed and risen overnight in the refrigerator, in a bowl lightly coated with vegetable oil spray. Pat dough into a 10-inch circle on a cutting board and continue with recipe.

Spread pizza sauce over dough. Sprinkle with oregano. Top with pepperoni, then mozzarella cheese.

Draw dough up around filling. With a large, sharp knife, slice bundle about five or six times across, then five or six times in the other direction. With knife, gently mix by lifting dough and pizza mixture from bottom and piling on top. The dough pieces should be about 2 inches square.

With a spatula, gently mound mixture on a lightly greased baking sheet, re-shaping into a circle and making sure most of the filling touches the dough.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until puffy and brown. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before removing from baking sheet. Serve warm or cold. To reheat, bake at 350 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes, or until heated through.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Move over McDonalds!

When I was a kid and we'd go on long trips out of town, we would swing through a drive through on the way out. It was a treat just a few times a year, as fast food is meant to be.

When we'd go for breakfast on those out of town trips I always looked forward an egg mcmuffin sandwich.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of nutritional value in these little guys. I needed a solution. Enter Becca's kitchen. :)

Quick and easy, my version is low fat, high fiber, and just as delicious as the inspiration. Jon and I love these for a quick breakfast on the go.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Breakfast Egg Sammy
Serves 1
219 calories


1 Thomas Better Start English muffin (8 grams fiber per muffin)
1/3 cup Egg Beaters original
3 slices Land O Frost turkey breast lunch meat
1/8 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
5 sprays Parkay butter spray
salt and pepper or Jane's crazy mixed up salt

Spray a small skillet with cooking spray.

Mix butter spray, egg beaters, and seasoning together.

Pour into a preheated skillet over medium heat. Gently scramble the egg pulling it into itself to make a shape similar to the english muffin. Flip to finish cooking.

OR pour the egg beaters into a round, sprayed cookie cutter. Flip halfway through.

Split and toast english muffin.

Sprinkle half the english muffin with cheese. Top with egg.

Warm meat through in the skillet. Place on the egg. Top with top half of english muffin.


Bacon, egg, cheese sammy
Serves 1
254 calories

1 Thomas Better start English muffin
1/3 cup Egg Beaters original
2 slices turkey bacon, pan fried and cut half
1 (2%) American cheese single
5 sprays Parkay butter spray
salt and pepper or Jane's crazy mixed up salt

Spray a small skillet with cooking spray.

Mix butter spray, egg beaters, and seasoning together.

Pour into a preheated skillet over medium heat. Gently scramble the egg pulling it into itself to make a shape similar to the english muffin. Flip to finish cooking.

OR pour the egg beaters into a round, sprayed cookie cutter. Flip halfway through.

Split and toast english muffin.

Sprinkle half the english muffin with cheese. Top with egg. Place crispy bacon on the egg. Top with top half of english muffin.

Quick Quiche

So, as you all know from my last post I am using what is in the cupboards for meals.

Well, today was rough day for me. I am working on passing another kidney stone, boo. While the pain was in a temporary lull I decided to make dinner. A feat I am told was rather comical to watch... (Yes, Jon was my supervision so I didn't do anything silly.)

I stood in front of the fridge and got this genius idea to make a veggie quiche. We had egg beaters, a pie crust, leftover broccoli, and diced onion. I added a few extra things and threw it in the oven. Jon gave me the thumbs up to keep this one. Maybe it was because I was really hungry, but I thought it was fantastic ;)

Just a side note to all my friends watching your cholesterol- this dish only has 34mg of cholesterol per serving. Egg beaters are an amazing substitute that allows for enjoyment of breakfast dishes such as quiche. The texture and flavor match that of a "real egg." I do suggest sticking with the name brand on this though. I didn't particularly care for the generic brands of other egg substitutes I've tried.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Quick Quiche
Serves 6-8
147 calories for 8 servings
197 calories for 6 servings

1 frozen pie crust, thawed
1 cup egg beaters, original flavor
1 whole fresh egg
3 TBS low fat buttermilk
3/4 cup steamed, chopped broccoli
3 oz Farmland 95% fat free diced ham
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350.

Spray a skillet with cooking spray or 5-7 sprays of Parkay spray butter. Saute onion and ham. Remove from heat. Stir in broccoli. Evenly distribute in the unbaked pie crust.

Sprinkle pie filling with half the cheese.

Beat together egg beaters, 1 egg, buttermilk, salt and pepper. Pour over filling.

Top with remaining cheese.

Bake for 40 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before slicing.

*Helpful Hint: I usually cover the pie crust fluted edges with some aluminum foil for 30 minutes. Then remove the foil for the remaining 10 minutes. This prevents the crust from getting to dark.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Saddle up partner

Here we go kiddies.

It's time for a new adventure.

In 2 1/2 very short weeks Jon and I will say good-bye to the place we've called home for the last several years. We will be leaving behind/selling most of our "stuff" and taking only the things that we truly treasure. We will be driving the long road from Minnesota to southern Georgia with the help of my parents. We feel blessed to have such wonderful travel companions willing to drive 1600 miles!

We are thrilled that God has given us this opportunity. Please pray for us for safe travels and as we get settled into our new surroundings.

I was recently asked if I would continue my blog once we moved. The answer is a resounding yes. I love to cook, no matter where we live.

Since we are moving soon, not a ton of new recipes are coming out of my kitchen at the moment. Mostly, we are using up the food we've got stocked in the freezer and the cupboards.

So, now that you know where we are going, it's time for a pop quiz. What do you think of when you hear Georgia? Peaches and pecans.

I don't have any peaches, besides, they aren't in season. But I do have pecans. My mom sent them to me when they were in season. I store them in the freezer so I can use them as long as possible. (If you store them at room temp the oils can go rancid before you eat them all up, and that's just sad!)

I use them to make pecan crusted chicken and pork.

I use them in pasta dishes.

And, I love to use them to make cheese balls for holiday parties. My niece loves to help make this recipe because she gets to squish the cheese with her fingers.

I am sure I will have plenty more pecan recipes coming your way in the future. Until then, this will have to tide you over. ;)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Mom's Pecan Crusted Cheese Ball
Plan ahead, this is best made the day before

2 (8 oz) pkgs cream cheese
1 (1 oz) packet Hidden Valley ranch DRY salad dressing mix (NOT buttermilk mix, it's too salty)
2-1/2 cups finely shredded cheddar cheese
1 to 1-1/2 cups chopped pecans

With clean hands, combine the cream cheese and dry dressing mix together thoroughly.

Add cheddar cheese and mix well.

Shape into one large ball or into a log.

Roll in chopped pecans. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serve with crackers, pretzels, or fresh veggies.