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.


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


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


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.