Wednesday, November 3, 2010

More Bananas...

Still have lots of bananas left... time to figure out what to do with them!  These muffins were delicious.  My only problem is that I needed a bigger muffin pan...

1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 small to medium ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
Grease a 12 count muffin pan or line it with baking cups (if your muffin pan is shallow, baking cups are a good idea) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  In a separate bowl beat together the bananas, sugar and egg, then add the melted butter.  Stir the flour mixture into the wet mixture and stir just until moistened.  Spoon the batter into the muffin pan.
Mix the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon together for the topping.  Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles cornmeal.  Sprinkle the topping over the muffins.  The butter will caramelize in the oven...YUMMY!
Bake for 18-20 minutes.  The muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Going Bananas

Quite awhile ago, I saw a really fabulous idea online for a snack using bananas.  They seemed healthy and yummy and I knew I would love them.  I have been waiting and waiting for bananas to get really cheap so I could go buy a "bunch" (haha) and try it.  So when Winco put them on sale for 18 cents a pound I knew my time had come!  I headed to Walmart and price matched them...and I ended up with 27 pounds of bananas.  Here's the picture to prove it:

Now it's time to use these bananas up before they all go yucky.  One important thing to know about bananas (and the reason I will probably go get more before the sale ends) is that you can mash them and freeze them and they are GREAT for adding to recipes like banana bread and muffins.  Yes, they turn dark brown...but if you're putting them in something you will never even know.  I will be mashing these in batches of 3 and 6 (based on the recipes I will use them in) and freezing them.  But, before I do that I'm going to enjoy as many as I can right now!
As for the great idea I wanted to try... they turned out great and I highly recommend them.  While they would have been fun to have during the summer, when you're waiting for bananas to go on sale, you take them when you can get them...


While I love bananas dipped in chocolate, these seemed like a more healthy alternative.  There is no real recipe, so just have fun and experiment!

First, you want to use bananas that aren't overripe at all.  The ones I peeled were almost a titch green.  Peel them, cut them in half and stick a craft stick into each half.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the bananas out so they aren't touching each other and place the pan in the freezer for a few hours (until they're completely frozen.)

While the bananas are freezing, decide on some toppings you would like.  I crushed up a bunch of different things including peanuts, graham crackers, white chocolate chips, and toffee bar.  You could use just about anything.  Crush or chop the toppings as fine as you can and put them in pie plates or shallow bowls.  (You may be tempted to not use toppings, but the toppings help hold the pudding in place so they are a good idea.) You will need more toppings than you think--they went fast and so did the pudding!  Some other toppings I thought about using were Oreo cookies, mini Reese's pieces, mini chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, or vanilla wafers.  Some crunched up cereal might be good, too.

Make your pudding according to directions on the package less 1/4 cup of milk (for the pudding directions).  I used devil's food for one batch, chocolate fudge for one batch, and chocolate mint chip for the last batch.  One of my boxes of pudding was not Jell-o brand, and it didn't work out as well (the pudding went lumpy and it wasn't sweet enough) so I would probably stick with Jell-o brand next time. Beat the pudding with a whisk until it starts to set up, then you need to start dipping bananas before it completely thickens up.

Put the banana down in the pudding and spoon pudding until the banana is covered.  Then dip the banana in your topping.  DO NOT ROLL THE BANANA or you will just scrape all the pudding off into your topping.  Dip it, then turn it and dip it again and so on until the banana is covered.  The bananas I dipped in the chocolate mint chip didn't get a topping because I had run out (and there were chunks of mint chips in the pudding anyway). I let that pudding set up a little more before dipping them and they seemed to cover and freeze well.

Place the dipped bananas back on the baking sheet and when the pan is full put it back in the freezer.  When the bananas are completely frozen, cover them in plastic wrap (or plain sandwich baggies would work good too) and they can all be tossed in a freezer bag.
For the record, the white chocolate ones are my favorite, but the graham cracker ones run a close second.  The salt of the peanuts was a little much so I will probably use unsalted nuts next time. These were really yummy and make GOOD after school treats!  I still have bananas AND more pudding so I think I'm going to go make some using Cookies & Creme pudding...YUM!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Halloween Tradition

My kids have been asking me for weeks if I am going to make donuts.  The funny thing about them asking is that I do it EVERY YEAR.  It has become such a tradition that I now even have my kids' friends asking when the donuts will be ready....and this year one of the friends said "wow, your mom makes HOMEMADE donuts?  She must be a SUPERMOM!"  Hehe...
I am definitely not Supermom, but I do love a good challenge and that's how this tradition began... I wondered if I could do it.  Many years the donuts have not been good (I will explain my mistakes later) but I have finally got it down.  They aren't hard, but they are time consuming.  The kids wish I would make them more often, but there are a couple problems with that--first, we don't NEED 6 dozen donuts sitting around the house and second, I don't want to devote an entire day to making anything more often than once a year.  But this is definitely a tradition worth keeping... 

1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup shortening
2 Tablespoons yeast
1 Tablespoon nutmeg
1 Tablespoon salt
2 cups mashed potatoes (you can use instant and I don't think it makes a difference)
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups milk
15-16 cups flour
1 1/2 quarts oil for frying

Cream sugar and shortening.  Add yeast, nutmeg and salt.  Put the milk in the microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes on high.  Add the mashed potatoes and mix well (especially if they are hot) before adding the eggs one at a time.  Add a cup of flour and the vanilla before adding the hot milk (you don't want to cook the eggs).  Add the milk slowly, stirring as you go.  
Add about 5 cups of flour and mix well, then add one cup of flour at a time until you get a good dough--it should be almost sticky in consistency (and will resemble a stiff cookie dough, not a smooth bread dough)  The flour measurement is a rough amount--if you are using a mixer you will need more than if you are mixing by hand.  Cover the dough tightly and let it rise for one hour, then punch it down.
At this point, you can choose to roll them out and cut them or put the dough in the fridge and wait a day.  I have found that the dough is easier to work with when it sits overnight.  Get it out of the fridge about an hour before you want to roll them out.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thickness and cut your donuts out.  If you don't have a donut cutter, use some other circle cutters or lids.  Place them on a buttered baking sheet to rise again. Notice mine do NOT look perfect by any means--it just doesn't matter.  Let them rise for about another hour or until double in size but don't let them go too long!
Heat oil in a fryer, electric skillet or dutch oven to 350-375 degrees.  Use a candy thermometer to watch the temperature.  When the oil is hot enough it's time to fry them.  Only fry about three at a time (if you fill the fryer the temp will drop and the donuts will end up grease soaked--yuck!)  These fry REALLY FAST so don't walk away from them--only about 30 seconds per side.  When they're done, drain them on a paper towel then move them to a wire rack.
I like to glaze them all before I frost them.  Why have just one layer of sugar when you can have two?  Mix 2 pounds of powdered sugar, 1 Tablespoon vanilla, and enough milk to make the glaze a good runny consistency and dip the donuts in, then put them back on the wire rack to drain.  (I put a baking sheet under them so I can scrape up the glaze and dip more donuts--otherwise you will waste a lot of it)
Don't forget the holes... You can roll these babies in glaze and pop them right in your mouth while frosting the rest and eat a good dozen in under 15 minutes.   

Then it's time to frost and decorate them!  

2 lbs. powdered sugar
1 cube butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3-4 tablespoons milk
I like to make the frosting a little bit runny so it goes on smooth and runs down into the hole and coats the sides.  I divided the frosting into three different bowls and colored it orange, green and purple.
Don't forget to make some chocolate ones...

1-2 lbs. powdered sugar
8 oz. baking chocolate
1/3 cup evaporated milk
2 Tablespoons butter
1 tsp. vanilla
Melt the chocolate and butter, then add half the sugar and vanilla, stirring and adding sugar until the consistency is right.

  1. Make the dough the night before and leave it overnight in the fridge.  Trying to do it all in one day is overwhelming.
  2. Don't overdo it on the flour.  Because you're thinking "dough" you envision firm, smooth and non-sticky.  Actually, the dough should be almost sticky and messy looking.  Don't go overboard on the flour when you roll them out either, but add enough that you aren't fighting with it.  Sprinkle a little flour on the top to make it easier to roll.  It should roll easily and not attach to the rolling pin.
  3. Butter the baking sheets (or use cooking spray)!  I have tried parchment paper, wax paper, and foil and the dough sticks to everything and makes your donuts weird shapes when you take them off to fry them.
  4. A dutch oven is really the best fryer for maintaining heat.  I never had to wait for the oil to heat back up like I've had to do with a fryer and a skillet.
  5. Keep a washcloth handy dedicated to grease wipe-ups.  I hate all the oil that drips as I move the donuts in and out of the oil.  Maybe it's just me, but I'm a little anal that way.
  6. Change out the paper towels you're draining your donuts on every couple of batches or the donuts don't drain properly (and probably soak up some of that oil too)
  7. Wait until all the donuts are fried before trying to glaze.  It's too stressful to try and do it all at once because the donuts cook too fast.
  8. NO matter how big of a hurry you're in, DON'T cook more than a few at a time--it actually isn't faster because the donuts cook slower and get soggy with oil.  It will ruin them.
This may sound hard, or like it's too much work, but it's SO WORTH IT!  And just a can cut the recipe in half, but you'll be sorry if you do.  Everyone will love them and soon people will show up (including friends of your kids, waiting out on the sidewalk for an invitation to come in and eat them) and they will be gone before you know it.  I say, if you're going to all the work, GO BIG!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

'Tis the season for pumpkin

Last year I heard that a pumpkin shortage was coming in the I stocked up and I'm really glad I did because the price of pumpkin this year is double what I paid last year.  Sure, there's pumpkin out there, I'm just not sure I'd be willing to pay almost $3 a can for it!  Now I'm really glad I have it because I've been craving pumpkin goodies and after my cookie disaster of a couple weeks ago I am feeling the need to redeem myself in the cookie making department.
I don't care so much for the store bought pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (although my family loves them) but the homemade kind are heavenly.  They are especially good slathered with cream cheese frosting (hey, you're eating cookies...who's counting calories?)  This recipe is really a good one and it makes about 7 dozen cookies.  I suppose you could cut the recipe in half, but then you'd blink and the cookies would be gone. I prefer these cookies cold so the chocolate chips are crunchy.

3 cups canned pumpkin (this is just shy of a 29 oz. can so you need to measure)
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon milk
2 Tablespoons vanilla
4 cups semisweet chocolate chips (that's 2 full bags--and yes, it's a lot but you're going to have to trust me that if you cut it in half you'll be sorry)

Combine pumpkin, sugar, butter and eggs and mix well (for some reason, the butter sometimes goes chunky in this mixture but it all works out in the end so just mix it the best you can and move on)  In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Dissolve the baking soda in the milk and add to the wet mixture, along with the vanilla.  Add the flour mixture and mix well.  Add the chocolate chips (you can also add a cup of chopped nuts if you want, but I'm not a fan).
Using a paper towel, rub a baking sheet with butter to grease it. (I tried cooking spray but it doesn't work as well and gives the cookies a flavor)  Drop batter onto the greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12-16 minutes or until FIRM (poke them with your finger to check for doneness-if they're jiggly they aren't done.  Mine took 16 minutes exactly)  Let them cool on the pan for about 10 minutes before removing. Re-grease your cookie sheet between batches to ensure that the cookies don't stick.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Cookie Boo Boo

I never professed to be a professional baker, but I do tend to do okay most of the time.  Unfortunately today was one of those "doh!" moments when I was making mistake after mistake.  I think someone was telling me I wasn't supposed to be making or eating cookies.

Here's the dough...

Here's the balls of dough waiting to be baked...
To look at them, you might not guess there is anything wrong, but you're just going to have to trust me that this is NOT the way they are supposed to be.  First of all, these are NOT chocolate chip cookies, even though it looks that way.  Secondly, that dough is supposed to be dark in, chocolate.  So what did I do wrong, you ask?
Well... it all started innocently with me wanting to make some of my FAVORITE COOKIES EVER...cookies that I haven't made in a long time.  The recipe calls for a whole cup of cocoa, which I didn't have...but I did have baker's chocolate.  So I substituted it.  It was a great idea until I added the melted chocolate to the nice, cold, dough and it all set up before getting mixed in properly.  Hence the look of chocolate chips... But by then the dough was made so I figured I might as well continue and see how they turned out. By the way, after all was said and done I realized I left out the HOT water completely...which might have made all the difference... *sigh*
The cookies seemed to bake okay, but they weren't fluffy like they were supposed to be.  Then, when I tried to remove them from the pan they were all sticking.  That's when I looked back at my measurements and realized I had only put in half as much shortening and baking soda as I was supposed to.  Oops.  So for the next batch I sprayed the pan.  Not a good that batch spread all over the baking sheet and turned into thin, crispy biscuits.  Ugh.  But the fun was still not over...
Next came the filling....and SURPRISE!  I didn't have enough butter OR shortening to make a full batch, so I had to cut it in half.  I guess this was just as well, since the cookies had become thin little disks anyway.
So, when all was said and done, they are still good.  They look weird, but they taste okay.  They should be poofy little cakes filled with delicious creamy goodness. (Technically, they are supposed to look and taste a little like a Suzy Q (only a TON better) and instead they look a little more like bakery rejects.)  I'm putting the actual correct recipe on here... and you're just going to have to trust me that they're delicious because normally they are.  I'm including the picture of my finished cookies...just ignore it and know if they look like this then you, too, have screwed them up! Someday when I make them again I will come back and add a better picture.

2 cups sugar
1 cup shortening
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup cocoa
1 cup HOT water
2 eggs
1 cup milk
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking soda

Cream sugar and shortening.  Add eggs, milk and vanilla and mix well.  Stir together flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda.  Add to mixture.  Mix in hot water.  Drop by heaping teaspoonful onto an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

1/2 cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup shortening
6 cups powdered sugar
6-7 Tablespoons milk

Cream butter and shortening, then add vanilla and sugar and beat vigorously.  Add milk one tablespoon at a time until frosting has a creamy consistency.  Frost cookies generously and sandwich them.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bring on the Soup!

So now that we have dessert, I guess I should post the soup!  There is nothing better than hot soup on a rainy day...

4 cups chicken broth (or reserved liquid from cooking the chicken)
2 cups water
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
1 package Uncle Ben's long grain and wild rice with seasoning packet
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup flour
1/2 cup chicken broth (or butter--depending how fattening you want your soup to be)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups milk

(If your chicken is not already cooked, you can cook it now and use the cooking liquid as your broth.  Place it in a large pan and cover with water.  Add sliced onion, green bell pepper, a couple stalks of celery and 2 bullion cubes.  Cover and simmer for approximately 20-30 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.  Remove chicken and strain the liquid, reserving for the soup.  If you don't want to do this, just use canned broth--they taste about the same)
In a large pot over medium heat, combine the 4 cups of broth and 2 cups of water.  Bring just to boiling, then stir in the rice but keep the seasoning packet for later.  If you're using the quick cooking rice, add the chicken now and cover and remove from heat.  If you're using the original rice, continue to cook according to package directions (25 minutes boiling) and add chicken five minutes before the time is up.  
In a separate sauce pan, heat 1/4 cup chicken broth and stir in contents of seasoning packet, salt and pepper.  Cook until mixture is bubbly.  Reduce heat and add flour to form a roux.  Whisk in cream and milk slowly, keeping the mixture smooth as you go.  Cook until thickened, approximately 5 minutes, but don't boil.  Stir the cream mixture into the broth and rice.  Cook another 10-15 minutes, stirring often, allowing the liquids to blend together.  If the soup seems too thick, add water to thin to desired thickness.

NOTE:  When I made this I didn't have enough whipping cream so I had to improvise.  I used 1/2 pint of whipping cream and added an 8 oz. block of fat free cream cheese. I used skim milk and increased the amount to 3 cups.  The flavor was fabulous, but the soup was really thick so I added another 1 1/2 cups water.  The original recipe is still better, but if you need to improvise, the soup is still doable!

Fall Food

One of the best things about living where the seasons change is getting to change what kind of food you cook.  I love fall the best, because by the time summer is over I am really ready for warm soups and stews... homemade breads and rolls... and just about anything that comes out of the oven.  I've been craving yesterday seemed like the perfect day to start!  And of course, soup is no good without some kind of bread or roll to go with it.


1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 1/2 Tablespoons yeast
1/4 cup butter
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup evaporated milk
4 cups flour
1 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon

Put yeast in the warm water and sit it aside.  Meanwhile, mix the 1/4 cup butter, 3 Tbsp. sugar, egg and salt.  Heat the milk in the microwave until it's just barely warm (about 30 seconds) and add to the butter mixture and mix well.  Add one cup of flour and mix thoroughly, then add the yeast and water mixture.  Add the flour one cup at a time until mixed well.  The dough doesn't really need to be kneaded, but mix it until the flour is thoroughly incorporated and the dough is soft and smooth.  Spray a large bowl with cooking spray.  Put the dough in the bowl, turning it once so the top is coated with cooking spray too.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size.
Once the dough is doubled, roll it out on a floured surface into a rectangle to about 1/2 inch thickness. It doesn't have to be perfect.
Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, slice the dough into strips about 1/4 inch wide.
Using three strips at a time, braid the strips of dough.  The dough will stretch as you work with it, so when I'm done braiding I usually cut them in half so each braid was about 5 inches long.  
Place the braids on a greased baking sheet about 1/2-1 inch apart.
Pour or brush the melted butter over all the braids--be very liberal with the butter!  Mix the brown sugar, sugar, and cinnamon and sprinkle on top.  Allow to rise for about an hour.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  The twists should be good and brown (not lightly golden brown) or they won't be cooked in the middle.  You may want to check the middles before deciding that they're finished.  Pour on the glaze while the twists are still hot.

1 lb. powdered sugar
1 teaspoon real vanilla (add another 1/2 tsp. in you're using imitation)
1/4 cup milk
2 Tablespoons melted butter
pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients together.  The glaze should be thick but you should still be able to pour it.

Monday, September 27, 2010


I have been negligent in my blogging lately but I am going to try and change all that.  Since right now my diet is restricted and I am about to have gallbladder surgery, naturally all I can think about is FOOD...and of course that means all the food I can't eat right now.  This Italian dish is one of my favorites, and I meant to post this one awhile ago.  The best thing about this one is that I have never had it spill over in my oven like a regular lasagna. I wish I could cook it for dinner tonight, but, alas, with the cheese and sour cream I will wait.  Hopefully somewhere, someone will enjoy this and think of me while they're eating it.

1 lb. dry ziti or penne pasta (I prefer penne, and I always use whole wheat)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 lb. extra lean ground beef or ground turkey
2 jars spaghetti sauce (26 oz. each)
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
6 oz. provolone cheese slices
1 1/2 cup sour cream
12 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 Tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated

In a large skillet, brown meat and onion over medium heat.  Add spaghetti sauce and tomato sauce and simmer about 15 minutes.Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente, approximately 8 minutes; drain.  Grease a 9X13 baking dish.  Layer as follows: 1/2 the pasta, Provolone cheese slices, sour cream, 1/2 the sauce mixture, remaining pasta, mozzarella cheese and remaining sauce.  Top with grated parmesan cheese.  Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until sauce is bubbly.  Because the sauce is hot, it doesn't take too long.
This dish requires lots of yummy, buttery garlic bread to dip in the sauce.  I make garlic butter with 1-2 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, a couple dashes of italian seasoning, and a cube of butter.  Spread it on thick (if it doesn't drip down all over your hand while you're eating it, you need more butter)... and we wonder why I have gallbladder problems :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Teresa's Most Awesome Jam of All Time

I love, love, love homemade jam!  Nothing you can buy can even come close to what you can make with fresh berries and other yummy ingredients (like sugar).  Having said that, I can now also say that my friend Teresa introduced me to the absolute best, most wonderful homemade jam of all time and I love it above all others.  I could just open a jar and eat it with a spoon--it really is THAT good.  So when I make it, I usually have to make at least three batches because my family loves it too and we go through it like crazy.  It's also really if you're a fan of homemade jam, this is a must!

8 cups peaches, pureed (about 10 good sized peaches)
8 cups sugar
1 10-oz package frozen raspberries
2 large packages raspberry Jell-o

Mix together (in a VERY large pan) pureed peaches, sugar and raspberries.  Bring to a boil and boil for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add Jell-O and continue to cook and stir until it dissolves completely (just a couple of minutes).  Pour into hot jelly jars (I usually run them through the dishwasher with the heat dry on, then pull them out and fill them).  Heat lids and rings in a pan on the stove (not quite boiling but hot) and then transfer to jars.  Seal in a water bath for 10 minutes.

NOTE:  Even though the recipe says to use a water bath, I don't.  The jam is boiling and jars are hot, so I screw the lids on finger tight and turn them upside down on a towel until they cool.  I have never had one not seal.  The food safety people and extension service people would probably frown and shake their finger at me, but oh well.  If you're worried go ahead and process them--not a big deal.

Now go ahead and load a whole gallon of it onto some yummy homemade rolls and you've got yourself a little piece of heaven!


Friday, May 7, 2010

A Merry Belated Cinco de Mayo...

I happen to LOVE Mexican food....and I'm not talking about the nasty Americanized version.  We always have Mexican food for Cinco De Mayo...and this year I went all out and it took most of the day...sheesh!  But it was tasty.
My sister-in-law, Cindy, makes the most awesome salsa...(Her mother-in-law is a bonafide Mexican woman that has taught her how to make bonafide Mexican is one of the clear cut advantages of going to visit her...someday I hope to talk her into teaching me how to make tamales.)  Ever since she gave me her salsa recipe, I have become a salsa snob...and it's the only kind I like.  The recipe sounds a lot harder or complicated than it really is...I can usually whip up a batch in about 15 minutes once the veggies are roasted. The salsa is HOT...just the way I like it.  If it isn't taking the skin off the roof of your mouth, it's not hot enough (not really, but you get the picture)
As for tortillas...there is nothing like a good freshly made tortilla.  The ones you buy and cook at Costco are great, but I decided awhile ago that I needed to learn how to make them for myself because tortillas are something we just can't live without.  I don't make them often, but when I do I usually make extra because they freeze well.
So here's my Cinco De Mayo fare...I also made  shredded beef and rice and we had burritos with chips and salsa for dinner!  Delicious!

*A note about this salsa recipe:  I have only made this salsa fresh and we eat it all up...I don't bottle it.  Canning salsa is a scary proposition because if you end up with a bad ph/acid level with tomatoes you can get bolulism. It is recommended that only a tried and true salsa-for-canning recipe should be used when canning.  Besides that, this salsa is so good it will disappear before your eyes. 

10-14 Roma tomatoes (as big as you can find)
4-5 jalapenos (as big as you can find)
3 tomatillos
1/2 medium sized onion
1/2 bunch cilantro
juice of 1/2-1 lemon
3-5 garlic cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin

1.  Preheat oven broiler on high.  Wash tomatoes, jalapenos, and tomatillos and  place them on a broiler pan (I usually wrap the pan on the bottom with foil for easy clean up but no foil on the top or the veggies will stick)  Roast the veggies under the broiler until their skins turn black all over, turning them as often as you need to cook them completely.  The tomato skins will pop and rip (and not go completely black). It's especially important to make sure the peppers are black all over so the skins will come off easily.
2.  As soon as the veggies get done, remove them from the pan and place them in a bowl, tomatoes on the bottom.  Wrap the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and leave them to sweat and cool. (I usually leave them for hours--they are easier to handle when they are completely cool)  The plastic wrap will bubble up on top as the veggies sweat, then will suck down in as they cool.

3.  Now everything is going to go in the blender.  Start with the onion--chop it a little and grind it up.  Next, pull the tomatoes out of the bowl and slip their skins off.  Because they have been sweating, they should come right off.  Cut off the hard round core at the top and toss them in the blender.
4.  Next come the jalapenos.  Since you can get chemical burns from handling hot peppers, I recommend wearing disposable rubber gloves.  Put the pepper on the cutting board and pull the stem off (twist if you need to, but it should come right off).  Slip a knife just under the skin at the end you just opened, sharp end up, and slice down the skin of the pepper. (The skin should almost be like tissue paper.)  Once the skin is cut, it should peel right off.  Slice the pepper lengthwise and open it up.  Run the knife sideways down the middle, scraping out ALL THE SEEDS.  Keep the seeds in a pile just in case you need them later.  You may not want to add all the jalapenos yet, just in case the salsa gets too spicy.  Start with 3 and when you are done and tasting it, you can choose to add more.  The seeds will also heat it up if you need them. (I have gone overboard before and my salsa has turned into liquid remember you can't remove any of the heat once it's in there!)
5.  Cut the small stem part off the tomatillos and throw the whole thing in the blender.  (These don't have skin so don't try to peel them)  Blend all the veggies.
6.  Add the cilantro, salt, minced garlic, cumin, and squeeze one half of the lemon into the blender.  Blend again.  Now it's time to taste it.  You may want to add more garlic, more lemon juice, or more cumin (which makes it spicier) depending on your taste.  If you have reserved any jalapenos, you might want to add more. (Depending on where I buy my jalapenos, some are hotter than others--for some reason whenever I get them from Smith's they are way hotter than any others.  I don't know why) A couple of times I have added a small can of tomato sauce to try and tame the heat...but I don't like to do that unless it's absolutely necessary.
7.  Enjoy!  Beware of dragon breath.  I think it's the onions.  Or the garlic.  Who cares.

Note:  I make both whole wheat and white flour tortillas.  The recipe works well both ways, but is written for wheat.  If you want plain white, just substitute all white flour.
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole wheat flour (I use hard white wheat)
1 cup shortening or oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1.  In a large bowl or a stand mixer, combine both types of flour and salt.  Mix in the shortening or oil until the mixture has the texture of cornmeal.  Make a well in the center and add the boiling water all at once.  Mix until the water is all mixed in and knead until the dough is smooth and soft.
2.  Roll the dough into balls (they don't need to be perfectly round).  How big you make the dough balls will determine how big your finished tortillas will be.  I wanted large burrito sized tortillas, so I made mine a little smaller than a baseball.  A dough ball the size of a golf ball will make a small, soft taco sized tortilla.  I ended up with 8 tortillas from one batch of dough.
3.  Place the dough balls on a tray or cookie sheet.  Cover with a couple of damp paper towels (this is necessary because of our dry climate in Utah) and then cover with a towel.  The balls will not rise--they are just resting.  Allow them to stand for at least one hour, or up to 8 hours.
4.  Roll out tortillas on a lightly floured surface.  The dough is soft and quite oily, so it rolls REALLY easily.  Rub the tortilla LIGHTLY with a little flour and then you can stack them as they are rolled and won't stick together.
5.  Heat a griddle or large frying pan over high heat.  Fry tortillas one at a time.  Place it on the griddle for about 10 seconds, and as soon as you see a few small bubbles start to form, flip it over.  Cook an additional 30 seconds or so.  Be careful not to overcook them or they will get hard.  Cover the finished tortillas with lightly damp paper towels and wrap with foil to keep them warm and soft.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The BEST brownies EVER!

Unfortunately, I cannot claim this recipe as my own, but it just doesn't matter because I love it all the same. This one comes from the Worldwide Ward Cookbook which I happen to love.  If you don't have it, you really should look into it.  My mom is the one that sort of "discovered" this brownie recipe in there and it is now my favorite.  These are also Colby's favorite dessert of all time, so imagine his disappointment when he came home and saw them and I told him they were leaving to go to a Relief Society meeting (but I took pity on him and left a few rows).  I don't make them very often because the amount of butter in them is truly horrifying...which is also the reason they are so good.  As Paula Deen says "when you think you have enough butter, add some more..."  By the way, these brownies take awhile to make because each layer has to cool or set up before moving on, so plan ahead!

1 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour

Mint Frosting:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 lb. powdered sugar
1-3 Tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon mint extract
green food coloring

Chocolate Topping:
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter
Mix butter, cocoa, and sugar; add eggs one at a time.  Stir in flour.  Spread into a greased 9X13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Let cool completely.
Mint Frosting:
Mix butter and powdered sugar.  Add only enough milk to make a smooth consistency (each time I have used the full 3 Tablespoons).  Add mint extract and enough food coloring for a light green color.  Frosting will be VERY thick.  Spread over brownies and refrigerate until firm.
Chocolate Topping:
Melt chocolate chips and butter in microwave for 2-3 minutes.  Stir well to combine.  Pour over frosted brownies, covering frosting completely.  Refrigerate until topping is set and hardened.  Let brownies sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting.  Cut with a sharp knife.

Time for grillin'

In honor of all my fabulous chicken (that I am still smiling about) and because I am trying to wish Spring into existence, I decided it was time for a yummy summer food.  I found this recipe online last year and I've made a few changes and it has turned into one of my favorites.  Now I probably need to go buy some metal skewers so I can quit catching these wooden ones on fire every time we make this.

1 can pineapple slices
1 can pineapple chunks
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup LIGHT soy sauce (or reduced sodium)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
about two pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
12-18 skewers

Drain both cans of pineapple, reserving the juice.  Add enough water to make 2 cups of liquid (you should only need about 1/4 cup water).  In a saucepan, combine the pineapple juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger and garlic.  Heat over medium heat and remove just before it comes to a boil.
Soak wooden skewers in water while you cut up your chicken (this helps them to not light on fire when you're grilling). Thread chicken and pineapple chunks onto skewers being careful not to cram them on too close to each other or they won't cook thoroughly.  Place all the finished skewers in a 9x13 pan and pour the marinade over the chicken.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (although longer is better).
Lightly oil the grill grate.  Place skewers on the preheated grill, reserving the marinade.  Grill chicken for approximately 5 minutes per side.  They cook quickly, so watch them closely.  If they aren't quite done, it doesn't matter because you are going to cook them more on the stove in the next step.
Pour the leftover marinade into a large, shallow skillet.  Whisk in 1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch and bring it just to a boil.  Turn it down to low and add the chicken skewers to the boiling marinade along with the pineapple rings.  Use a turkey baster or large spoon to make sure all the chicken and pineapple get covered with sauce.  Cover and cook on low for 10-15 minutes.  Not all of the chicken will be sitting down in the sauce, so you can choose to move them around halfway through if you like.  

Friday, April 30, 2010

Chicken Crazy

Okay.  So I wasn't going to go shopping this month for anything other than perishables...but then Harmon's put their chicken on sale.  For anyone not familiar with Harmon's boneless, skinless, recipe-ready's AWESOME.  There is not one ounce of fat or other yuckiness on there at all.  And it just so happens that I have been waiting 8 long months for them to put it on sale (at their cheapest price, which is $1.99/lb.).  I meant to take a picture of all of it when I got home, because it really was an impressive giant pile of chicken (the girl at the checkout said "are you having a barbecue or something?) but I got all happy and excited with my  new chicken and got it all wrapped and put away before I remembered.  Oh well.
So...I bought a total of 60 pounds of chicken.  Even thinking that my freezer has 60 pounds of the most awesome chicken ever in it makes me smile.  I'm wierd that way.

I individually wrapped 40 pounds worth of the breasts and put them in bags for freezing.  The other 20 pounds I sprinkled with Grillmates Monterey Chicken seasoning and put in the crockpot with onions, celery, green peppers and enough water to barely cover it all (about 2 cups per crock pot).  They cooked all day.  When they were done, I shredded some (enough for 6 bags of 2 cups each) for enchiladas and other yummy shredded chicken recipes.  The rest I covered and refrigerated overnight and then diced.  I got nine bags of diced chicken ready for freezing.  And it was so TENDER.
Then I strained the liquid that the chicken cooked in and poured it in bottles for the freezer.  Considering I only added 4 cups of water total, I got a LOT of chicken it's pretty concentrated.
The really funny thing about this, is that even with all that chicken I am still wondering if I bought enough.  Hopefully I did, because it will probably be another LONG 8 months before it goes on sale again.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Fish Dish

I haven't made halibut for a LONG time because, frankly, it's really expensive and my kids balk every time I cook fish (except Dylan, who loves it).  But since I was able to get some for an EXCELLENT price, I broke out one of my oldest recipes.  I saw someone make this on T.V. a long, long time ago (way before the days of the Food Network) and it was the first recipe I wrote down after seeing it on T.V. and actually tried.  Needless to say, I loved it.  It disappeared before I got any pictures, so I'll have to add them next time!  Trust looks, smells, and tastes delicious! Plus, it's very easy to make.

4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup diced onions
3 Tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4-6 serving sized pieces of halibut
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 sleeve Ritz crackers
1 cube butter, melted

Over medium heat, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter.  Add onions and saute until translucent.  Add the flour and whisk for one minute, then continue to whisk while adding the milk slowly.  Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thick.  Reduce heat and add parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and cook until cheese is melted.
Wash and pat dry fish pieces and place in a casserole dish.  Pour sauce over fish. Crush Ritz crackers and mix with melted butter.  Sprinkle over fish; cover and bake at 400F for 20 minutes (see note below) or until fish flakes and sauce is bubbling.
NOTE:  The amount of time needed to cook the fish depends on the thickness of the pieces.  Check it at 20 minutes, but this last time I made it, my fish was more than an inch thick and it required another 20 minutes to finish.  If the fish is too thick, you could butterfly it to help it cook faster.

Monday, April 12, 2010


One of my favorite restaurants is Outback Steakhouse... quite specifically...I like the Alice Springs Chicken.  So imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a recipe for this chicken!  I was so excited.  It might be my absolute favorite chicken of all time... and it's much cheaper (plus I get to leave off those pesky mushrooms) to make it at home.

SMOTHERED CHICKEN (A.K.A. Alice Springs Chicken)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
garlic powder and seasoning salt
canola oil (just a tablespoon or so)
12-16 slices bacon, cooked
1 bottle your favorite BBQ sauce
2 cups sliced mushrooms (if you want them)
approx. 2 cups shredded cheese (a combination of Monterey Jack and Cheddar is best)
a batch of Honey Mustard Sauce (see recipe below)

Pound chicken to 1/4 inch thick pieces or butterfly them.  Cut them into smaller pieces if desired.  Make the honey mustard sauce and divide in half.  Add the chicken to one half and allow to marinate in the fridge for approximately 2 hours.  Save remaining sauce for dipping.  
Heat a tablespoon or two in a frying pan on the stove to medium high heat and sear chicken breasts for approximately 3-4 minutes on each side.  Season LIGHTLY with garlic powder and seasoning salt.  Transfer to a cookie sheet or a 9x13 pan  Add a tablespoon of butter to the pan and saute mushrooms.  Brush each chicken breast with bbq sauce,  then stack with bacon.  Add a scoop of mushrooms, then approximately 1/2 cup of cheese.  Cover pan with foil and bake in a 375F oven for 10 minutes.  Dust with paprika and serve with honey mustard sauce.

1 cup real mayonnaise
3/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup honey
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon ginger powder

Mix well and refridgerate.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Eat From the Pantry Month

A couple of months ago I noticed that a lot of people whose blogs are dedicated to food storage and coupon shopping were having an "Eat from the Pantry Month", and apparently they do this for one month every year.  I didn't participate then, but have decided that this is the month for me!  There are a couple of reasons to do this...
  1. I really have a LOT of food in my food storage...probably way more than my year's worth that I was shooting for.  In some cases, more than I need and things are starting to get shoved to the back and forgotten about.
  2. We are trying to finish the basement and the more food I put down there the more crowded it's getting and the more stuff we have to shift around when we work.
  3. I would like to take a month off of grocery shopping and concentrate on other things (like finishing the basement, for example...)
  4. I'd like to try my hand at living off what I have bought already so that I can see what areas I might be lacking in.  Six months ago I didn't have any seasonings or spices in my storage.  If I had to eat for a year with no salt...well...that would just be horrible.
So...I am declaring April to be out "Eat From the Pantry" month!  I made a menu for the month, and from there I made a "shopping list" and went shopping in the basement for everything I need to make all the meals for the month.  Now my pantry is full and all I am going to shop for this month is perishables...milk, produce and bread items.  I actually may hit the case lot sale only to buy some cans of powdered milk (they have my favorite brand on sale at Macey's this month) just because I don't have hardly any of that in my storage.
Surprisingly, I really DID have almost everything I needed for the month except some produce. And I learned a few things about what I don't have stored that I need to get...(like soy sauce).
Another GREAT thing about doing this is that it is going to free up my grocery money for the month for other things.  Considering we're almost ready for carpet, I think I know where that money will go...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Duh Moment

I made a cake the other day for a Relief Society dinner and had one of those DUH moments.  The cake is my absolute favorite and I found a great recipe for chocolate frosting to go on it.  It's SUPER yummy but a little hard to make and there are a few important things to know if you're going to make it.
  1. If you boil the butter/cocoa/milk mixture too long or too hard the frosting will be hard and yucky.
  2. If you fail to keep the cake properly covered after you frost it the frosting will get hard and crack when you cut it.
  3. The frosting sets up REALLY fast (that's a good thing because it keeps it from running off the cake altogether) so you can't use sprinkles or anything like that.  Just frost it and leave it alone.
My DUH moment came when I thought I could toss some sprinkles on there.  After all, it was supposed to look like a birthday cake.  I got the sprinkles all ready to go so as soon as I poured on the frosting I could hurry and toss on some sprinkles.  But it didn't work.  Even Superman couldn't have been fast enough to get those sprinkles on the cake.  As I tossed them, they all bounced off the frosting and flew all over the kitchen...okay...not all of them...about 20 of them stuck to the cake.  DUH!  Oh well, it was delicious anyway.  Here's the recipe... It's kind of hard and I'm still working at perfecting it, but when you get it right it's the best chocolate frosting recipe I've found.

1 cube butter
4 Tbsp. cocoa
1/3 cup evaporated milk
4 cups powdered sugar

Melt butter over LOW heat.  Whisk in cocoa and milk.  Bring mixture JUST to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat at the first sign of bubbles.  Beat in sugar until thick and smooth.  Pour warm frosting over warm cake for best results. (And it tastes the best when the cake is still warm too...yum!)
NOTE:  I haven't tried this recipe with margarine so I don't know how it might turn out. 

Here is the cake recipe

I Love Grocery that so wrong?

So, after being away from the computer for the weekend, I am late posting my grocery deals from last week but I decided if I want to keep up I better get it on here before I go shopping again...There were awesome deals to be had and I couldn't miss off I went to Walmart to price match.  Here's what I got and what I paid:
  • 34 Yoplait Yogurts (.21)
  • 4 Ronzoni Smart Taste Pasta (FREE)
  • 1 Uncle Ben's Rice (1.08)
  • 2 Apple Jacks (.75)
  • 2 Frosted Flakes (.75)
  • 6 loaves Grandma Sycamore bread (1.18)
  • 4 Ore Ida hash browns (FREE)
  • 2 Ore Ida french fries (.48)
  • 2 lb. mini carrots (2.00)
  • 5 Yoplait Smoothies (.50)
  • 7 boxes of Pop Tarts (.98)
  • 2 2-lb. blocks Tillamook cheese (3.98)
  • 2 Honeycombs (1.50)
  • 2 bottles of applesauce (1.46)
  • 4 Raisin Bran Crunch (1.24)
  • fuji apples (.79/lb)
  • 10 lb. bag of potatoes (.99)
  • bananas (.38/lb)
I got some other odds and ends that I needed that weren't really deals, but necessary.  As I left the store with a cart COMPLETELY loaded to the top with stuff I was reminded of the days of shopping at Walmart before coupons...when that whole cartload would easily top $200...and the saddest part is that I wasn't done shopping (I would also hit Harmons and Costco) and by the end of the month there would be absolutely NOTHING left over. I absolutely HATED grocery shopping in those days.   And I cringe when I think about how much money I wasted for all those years. Now I love grocery shopping and getting these good deals is very addicting.  And not only am I getting great deals, I have really put together a nice food storage for us.  This trip cost me $62.64 and I saved $104.73 over regular prices.  FUN!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A St. Patrick's Day Treat

This is actually a main dish, but I call it a treat because I don't cook it very often. (I actually don't cook it often for a couple of reasons... 1.  We all LOVE it so I have to make a lot and that requires a TON of chicken.  2.  I can't stand cutting up raw chicken.  3. Once something is fried in oil, your house smells like oil for days. 4. Things fried in oil just aren't that good for you...although that really never stops me.)
This is great for St. Patrick's Day, because if you serve them in little black cauldrons, they look like little pots of gold.  I first tasted these when I was little and my aunt used to make them... I have ALWAYS loved them!  They are actually very simple but super delicious...and the leftovers heat up well in the oven (I think...unfortunately I don't ever have any leftovers.)  
As proof of how delicious these are...when I went to take the "finished" picture, everyone had already swiped them and all I had left was a measly pile.  I think I heard oinking coming from the table as everyone hogged them down. I usually double this recipe (except the oil).

3 whole boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" pieces
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons sesame seeds
1 cup flour
1 quart oil for frying

Cut chicken into bite sized pieces and place them in a shallow container.  Let the chicken sit, and then drain off any liquid if necessary.
Mix eggs, water, salt, sesame seeds and flour (the sesame seeds makes them crispy--don't leave them out!).  Pour this mixture over the chicken and mix well. Heat oil in an electric skillet to 375F (or medium high).  
Make sure it's hot enough before adding chicken.  Carefully add chicken one layer at a time-- not too much chicken at once or they will all cook together.  Fry, turning often, for approximately 5 minutes or until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauce (we like honey, bbq sauce, honey mustard, or hot mustard...yummy!)

Saturday AWESOME week!

Believe it or not, even though I am addicted to coupons and grocery shopping, I have not been shopping for the last couple of weeks...and it turns out that is a good thing because I spent a lot this week.  My freezer is actually looking a little bare these days...not to mention a couple of spots on the shelf in the food storage when Smith's had a great sale, I decided it was time to make a list...(I actually hit Harmons too, but only for a few things.)  Here's what I got and what I paid:

  • 3 Bumblebee tuna pouches (-6 cents--gotta love a money maker!)
  • 14 pkgs. of pasta (.49)
  • 6 dozen eggs (.63)
  • 5 bottles Sunny D (.54)
  • 2 loaves of bread (1.25)
  • 15 lbs. of chicken breasts (1.99/lb.)
  • 5 boxes Pasta Roni (.55)
  • 5 boxes Rice a Roni (.55)
  • 6 lbs. butter (1.66)
  • 64 bottles of Powerade (.25)
  • 2 boxes of Pop Tarts (1.49)
  • 6 boxes of cereal (1.66)
  • 2 boxes of Mini Wheats (.99)
  • 2 cans of Pam (1.99)
  • 5 Mott's Apple juice (.99)
  • 4 bottles of Classico pasta sauce (.99 plus 1.50 off meat)
  • 2 bottles of Ken's Salad Dressing (.49)
  • 1 bottle of A-1 (1.99 plus $1 off meat)
  • 4 packs of Sargento cheese slices (1.69)
  • 10 3-packs of Irish Spring (.75)
  • 1 bottle of Herbal Essence shampoo (FREE)
  • 1 Softsoap body wash (1.00)
  • 2 bottles of Softsoap refill (2.00)
  • 4 DiGiorno Pizzas (2.97)
  • 2 bags of Fritos (1.16)
  • 1 Fritos dip (-1.33...another great money maker!)
  • 6 packages of Chips Ahoy cookies (1.29)
  • 5 boxes of Ritz Munchables (.79)
  • 10 lbs. chuck roast (1.99/lb. but I got $4 off the meat with coupons)
  • 2 gallons of milk (1.00)

Not everything I bought is in the picture...partly because it wouldn't all fit on my table and because I hustled some of it into the fridge or freezer.  All together I spent $166.78 and saved $233.26 with coupons and the special Smith's promo over regular Walmart prices.  Now I am hoping for another week off next week!  It would be great if all I spent on groceries for the entire month was $167...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Improvised Cookies

I was looking to make some brownies or cookies the other day and found myself curiously lacking in some key ingredients (with all my food storage how is that POSSIBLE?!)  It seemed like every recipe I pulled out I was missing I decided to just improvise and make some cookies.  They turned out really good and luckily I was jotting down notes as I went along so I would know what I did in case I wanted to make them again.  

2 1/2 cubes buter (not margarine)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. vanilla (no, that is not a typo)
2 cups flour
2 cups oat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 lrg. package Cookies N Cream Instant pudding mix
12-oz. package semi sweet chocolate chunks
1/2  12-oz package milk chocolate chips, finely chopped
(If you don't have oat flour, you can grind oatmeal in a blender until it is a fine powder.)
Cream butter and sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.  Add pudding mix, flour, oat flour, salt, baking powder and soda.  Stir in chocolate chunks and chopped milk chocolate (the more finely chopped the better).  Roll into balls and bake for 12 minutes at 375F.  Makes about 5 dozen cookies. 

Now, hurry and eat them all while they're still warm.  You'll be glad you did.