Saturday, April 26, 2008

Linen Spray...or Monster Repellent

Okay, this recipe doesn't fit into any of my edible categories. I'm just adding it since our kids reallllly like it, and,'s homemade! When I was running low on my regular linen spray I use for ironing, I thought I'd find out how to make my own. Well, there are lots of recipes online just waiting for you to find them. The only real trick is to get just the right scent. I'd advise anyone to start out with a small quantity so you're not stuck for too long with a fragrance that's not up to snuff! This recipe makes less than 2 cups, and the fragrance possibilities are endless.

12 oz. (1-1/2 cups) distilled water
1/4 cup vodka--yep, just the good ole drinkin' kind!
1 tsp. essential oils--you may even want to count individual drops if you're using more than one fragrance
(I used 1/4 tsp. jasmine oil and 3/4 tsp. lemon oil)

Put it all in a clean spray bottle, shake it up each time you use it, and ah...smellllllll!

Jasmine is flowery, so try something else if that's not your thing. Vanilla is ALWAYS good! Just don't use the dark colored oils/extracts--it may stain. In general, lemon or other citrus scents mix well with different fragrances. So go ahead and sniff away at some essential oils in the natural section of your grocery store.

If you're having trouble getting the kids in their beds at night, spray their sheets and watch them leap!

Use it for toddlers as a "monster repellent". You know, have your kids watch you mix it up, spray it in their room, and let them know it'll keep all bad things away at night! Don't laugh--it works! Mosquito repellent works, doesn't it?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Stromboli Romano

This is a take on the Cheesy Pepperoni Roll and also incorporates a recipe from my mother-in-law for Romano Buns. It's a quicker version that has all the flavor and still doesn't require utensils to eat! What's not to love? Melted Swiss cheese and shaved ham. MMMMMMM--mmm!

2 loaves frozen bread dough, or your favorite pizza dough
12 oz. shredded Swiss cheese
dash onion powder
~3 TBSP mustard, any kind you prefer
10 oz. shaved ham (deli meat works fine)
1 egg

Thaw dough according to directions. When ready to handle, place dough on greased cookie sheet (lining with foil or parchment makes clean up easy). Flatten and stretch dough to about the size of the cookie sheet…or as far as possible to each of its sides.

Sprinkle half the cheese on one of the doughs, the other half on the remaining dough, leaving a 2-inch bare border. Shake a scant covering of garlic (or onion) powder and a sparse covering of mustard (right from the bottle) over the cheese layer. Distribute ham slices on top to cover the other toppings.

Fold bottom third of dough over the middle section, then fold the top third of dough over middle and bottom sections. Seal all edges by pinching dough together. Turn dough over on cookie sheet so pinched edges are down; roll end edges under dough slightly.

Using a sharp knife, make diagonal slits in the loaf every 1-1/2 inches or so. Let rest for 10 minutes. Brush top and sides with beaten egg. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes…or until golden brown.

Romano Buns

I remember the first time I ate these sandwiches. It was after my Grandma passed away right before Christmas in 1989 while I was a senior in college. My mother-in-law (then boyfriend's mom) sent a couple dozen of these buns with us for the funeral. They were well received by my family—a yummy warm sandwich that our family didn't have to prepare! She took it a step further by making homemade buns (as she always did) instead of using store-bought buns.

2 lbs. sliced ham (shaved is best)
8 slices swiss cheese (If slices are really thin, use 1-1/2 to 2 slices per bun)
½ cup butter or margarine
¼ cup mustard
¼ cup chopped onion
1 tsp. poppy seeds (I usually don’t use)
8 buns

Melt butter, add remaining ingredients—mustard, onion, and poppy seeds. Spread on both sides of hamburger buns, put ham and cheese slices on buns, individually wrap in foil. Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese melts—15-20 minutes.

Make a mess of them--they freeze well!

Thursday, April 24, 2008


I made this as an appetizer when I was entertaining adults. Our kids, however, ate up the rest of it! So, now I like to have some on hand and use it as a dip for veggies, crackers, flat bread, or corn chips. It's so good and healthy with all its iron, fiber, vitamin C. Sure, you can buy it, but it is so EASY and much more economical to make yourself. You can control the salt and add other flavors as well! I even got our older daughter to start eating her sandwich crusts by dipping them in this hummus!

1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained, liquid reserved (if possible, prepare your own chickpeas)
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup tahini --at the grocery store by the peanut butter
3 TBSP lemon juice (1-2 lemons)
1 TBSP olive oil, water, or liquid from canned/cooked chickpeas
4 dashes hot sauce, optional

Put everything in the food processor and process until it’s smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning, serve chilled or at room temperature.

Variation for Longhorn Hummus:
Add two roasted red peppers (drained from a jar).This will give the hummus the Longhorn (as in UT) burnt orange color...and add a yummy flavor dimension!

If you buy canned foods, you may want to consider Eden Organic products since they don't line their cans with bisphenol-A (BPA).

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pesto Appetizer

I first tasted this recipe at a gourmet food party a friend hosted. Later, after going to the grocery store, I discovered that I could combine a couple of ready-made jarred versions of the pestos and get the same flavor as the much more expensive one at the party. This recipe is always a hit. Our kids love it too!

8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled or diced
1/3 cup basil pesto
1/3 cup sundried tomato pesto
5 roma tomatoes--cut in half, squeeze out seeds and some moisture; dice
Crackers or thinly sliced French bread
(I use either low-sodium Triscuits or sturdy tortilla chips. The pretzel chips are good too! Okay, whatever you have in your pantry that makes you happy and will hold up to scooping this stuff will work just peachy!)

Mix the two types of pestos together. This Classico brand ($2/jar) is the kind I try to use in this recipe. Since it's baked, I don't use my fresh, homemade pesto if I can help it. However, I won't name any names, but our local grocer is getting a bit hoity toity these days and is not carrying it anymore. The grocer's (more expensive!) store brand and a couple of other higher dollar brands ($4-5 dollars/jar) are in its place. My wonderful neighbor found these jars for me again at SuperTarget. God love you, Julia, and God love you, Target! Just one more reason to spend more money at Target, right?

In a pie plate or other medium-sized baking dish, layer cheese first, then pesto mixture, followed by the tomatoes. Broil (500 degrees) on med-high rack for 5-7 minutes or until cheese is somewhat melted. Serve warm with crackers or bread, or for gluten free, eat it with sturdy tortilla chips.

Here's what it looks like after a bunch of neighbors and their kids have at it!

Make it for a Saturday evening neighborhood gathering. Then make sure there's a little left over so you can grab some iced tea and enjoy it on the Sabbath (a day of rest)! You can live on left-over appetizers one day out of the week right? It's really no sacrifice!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

Since Joe absolutely LOVES green chile—ever since he went college in New Mexico—I had to get this recipe from his sister, Ellen, when she said she had the one from her Aunt Jean. Aunt Jean, who is known for this recipe, is an absolute stitch. She loves to entertain and once told us that she had saved up from months of selling her plasma in order to throw the party we were attending! I still need to experiment to make this gluten free--by making substitutions for the soups. Ellen has made some substitutions and adjustments that make the recipe just as tasty without a little of the hassle. Her adjustments are shown in parentheses below. You choose!

4-5 boneless chicken breasts (5)
1 can (10 oz.) cream of chicken soup (2 cans)
1 can (10 oz.) cream of mushroom soup
1 medium onion (omit, and just use a couple of shakes garlic powder)
1+1/4 cup frozen green chile, drained (or use canned 18-20 oz.)
2 TBSP butter (omit)
12 corn tortillas (18)
1 lb. grated cheese (cheddar, Jack or mixture) = 4 cups (6 cups)
¼ cup chicken broth (1/3 cup)

Cook and shred chicken while still warm. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute onion in butter until slightly soft (omit this step since not using onion/butter) and combine with soups, broth, chile (& garlic powder). Cook a little.

Tear 6 (9) tortillas into small pieces and cover the bottom of a 9” x 13” pan. Spread ½ of the chicken over the tortilla pieces, then ½ of the sauce, and ½ of the cheese. Repeat layers.

Bake for 45 minutes until very hot, bubbly and lightly browned.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tapioca Pudding

Kathleen makes a treat for Daddy!

Last week Joe saw a bag of tapioca in our pantry and commented that he loves tapioca pudding. Since I just purchased the tapioca for a stew I made, I didn't think much of it at the time. Then I realized that pudding is naturally gluten free (at least if you make it from scratch) and can be made lactose free as well by using Lactaid milk.

Kathleen, so intrigued with the fact that she could make a dessert that Daddy could enjoy, set out to make it for him.

Here's the recipe:

3 TBSP granulated (instant) tapioca
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg, well beaten
3 cups milk, lactose-free as necessary
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine tapioca, sugar, milk and egg in medium saucepan; let stand 5 minutes. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a full boil. Cook additional 1-2 minutes to thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Cool 15 minutes; stir. Serve warm or chilled. Refrigerate leftover pudding.

Serving tip: Nice with fresh raspberries or other fruit on top! Why not go all out--top it off with whipped cream (non-dairy for lactose free).

Makes 6 servings (1/2 cup each)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Joanne's BBQ

beef, turkey, or pork!

This recipe came from my aunt and Godmother Joanne. Once I got hold of and made this recipe, it became one of our favorites. My aunt Joanne was a very good cook and knew how to feed lots of people…as she often did while she and her husband, Bob, enjoyed many summers out on their house boat on the Mississippi River. On their boat I recall eating good food, sneaking lots of treats from her bottomless candy jar, drinking many "pops" (sodas), steering the boat while Bob visited with everyone, floating on an intertube tied to the back of the boat, and getting buried up to my neck in the sand on Nine-Mile Island! My five crazy cousins took me skiing in the calm tributaries along the river. I loved watching my cousin, Tony, ski since he’d go by people he knew on boats and spray them. I also recall him skiing off the back of Bob’s house boat…just to see if it would pull him. It sure did!

4 lbs. *cooked roast (shoulder roast works well), brisket, or turkey breast; shredded

*OVEN: Cook roast at 350 degrees for about 3 hours with a couple of inches of water in a covered pan. Shred meat with two forks while it’s still hot/warm.
*CROCK POT: Slice onion, place on bottom of crock pot; cut meat into a few pieces, place on top of onion; add 3/4 cup water; cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4-5 hours. Shred meat with two forks while it's still hot/warm, discard onion.

Mix and Simmer for ½ hour:
8 oz. ketchup
8 oz. hickory barbeque sauce
1 cup water (or broth)
½ cup lemon juice
½ cup brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
1-1/2 TBSP dry mustard

Saute until tender:
1 cup celery, chopped
½ cup onion, chopped
¼ cup butter

Add sautéed veggies to sauce and simmer for another ½ hour. Add meat and heat; serve on buns. Serve with cole slaw or Napa Salad.

Freezes well!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Carrot Apple Bran Flax Muffins

In my attempt to avoid food chemicals and preservatives and provide more nutritionally beneficial foods, I've been checking out recipes and ideas on this site. I bought flaxseed meal and bulk oat bran a while ago, and I finally made these muffins yesterday. This morning the kids proclaimed, "We want these for breakfast every day!" They are very good and super moist! This recipe is right on the Bob's Red Mill Flaxseed Meal bag.

1-1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup flaxseed meal (found in the baking section or in bulk food aisle)
3/4 cup oat bran (again, either in baking section or bulk foods)
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1-1/2 cups carrots, shredded
2 apples, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1 cup nuts, chopped (optional)
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease muffin tins or line with paper baking cups; set aside. In large bowl mix together flour, flaxseed meal, oat bran, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in carrots, apples, raisins and nuts (if desired). Combine milk, beaten eggs and vanilla. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir until ingredients are moistened. Do not over mix. Fill muffin cups 3/4 fill. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Yields 16 regular muffins.

Our kids recommend serving these muffins for breakfast with a little yogurt and juice!

NOTE: Since it's tedious to shred the carrots and apples by hand, I'd recommend using your food processor for this! Also, if you think you'll have left over muffins for more than a day, you may want to freeze them. Sixteen muffins and four kids = four muffins per day for four days! I think next time I'll double the recipe.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Sweet Treats

Now that I found our hard drive with all my recipes, I can post some more! My first thought was to add our favorite treats, so here are some of my well-used recipes.

Double Chocolate Brownies

...or maybe better know as "Not-to-be-Forgotten Brownies"

Unlike your favorite piece of clothing, good recipes can't be worn out. Good thing--otherwise this one would have been in shreds by now! My sister-in-law passed this one along to me, and I can't tell you how many times I've made these brownies. Just a heads up--I have always doubled this recipe and baked it in a 9 x 13 as it's noted at the bottom.

Melt over medium heat in saucepan until barely starting to boil. Then remove from heat:
1/3 cup butter
¾ cup sugar
2 TBSP water

Add to butter mixture. Mix until smooth:
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

Beat into chocolate mixture:
2 eggs
(Pour some of the mixture into the eggs first them pour the eggs into the rest of the chocolate…so the eggs don’t start to cook from the heat.)

Add to chocolate mixture and let cool:
¾ cup flour
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt

Okay, just to let you know that you SHOULDN'T skip this cooling part. I've done that in a hurry and ended up with a gloppy mess of brownies. You want to be able to tell that there are defined chips in there!

Add to cooled chocolate mixture:
1 cup Ghiradelli Double Chocolate chips or the Ghiradelli bittersweet chips (60% cocoa)
½ cup chopped nuts, if desired

Grease an 8” or 9” square pan. Pour in batter and bake at 350 degrees for ~ 30 min.
Double recipe and bake in 9” x 13” pan for 35-40 minutes

You don't want to overbake! If the edges are pulling away from the sides of the pan, but the middle still looks a bit gooey, take them out!

NOTE to DARK CHOCOLATE LOVERS: I've tried to make this recipe even more chocolatey by using bittersweet chocolate throughout the entire recipe. Don't do this as it just turns out too dry. If you really feel the need to do this, you'll have to figure out how much more butter you'll need to compensate for the lack of moisture.

Monster Cookies (flourless)

My friend's mom used to make these and put them in the deep freeze in their garage. For some reason, I really liked their garage! Maybe I should have called them Disappearing Cookies! I'm telling you, they are a big hit with kids! Better yet, there's no flour in them--just oats!

6 small eggs
1 lb. brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. corn syrup
½ lb. butter
1-1/2 lb. peanut butter
4 tsp. baking soda
9 cups oatmeal (3 minute kind is good, instant is okay as well)
½ lb. M & Ms
½ lb. chocolate chips

Mix in order given. Drop by tablespoons or ice cream scoop on baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Mocha Truffle Cookies

Another good recipe snatched up from one of my sisters-in-law. Thanks, Ellen! I first tasted these decadent cookies when she made them for Joe's grad school graduation party in May of 2001. You just can't go wrong with chocolate and coffee!

½ cup butter or margarine
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 TBSP instant coffee crystals (I use decaf)
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
2 slightly beaten eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks (I use bittersweet)

Melt butter or margarine and the ½ cup chocolate chips in a large saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat. Stir in coffee crystals; cool 5 minutes. Stir in granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla.

Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium missing bowl. Stir into coffee mixture. Stir in the 1 cup chocolate pieces.

Roll rounded teaspoon of dough in your hands and place 2 inches apart onto a lightly greased cookie sheet, flatten dough slightly. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Let cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer to wire racks and cool completely.

Makes 48

Homemade Cookie Ice Cream--No Ice Cream Maker Needed!

I wanted to make ice cream with our kids, but we don't have an ice cream maker--and I knew I wouldn't use one enough (note: I have a lactose-intolerant husband!) to justify buying one. I found this recipe, made it with the kids, and it turned out really well. Just a word of caution, this recipe is from Paula Dean from Food Network so you just KNOW it can't be considered healthy. But then again, why would you be looking at this recipe if you had good health in mind?!

3 egg yolks*
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate sandwich cookies, coarsely crushed (Oreos are great)
2 cups heavy cream, whipped

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and stir in the condensed milk and vanilla. Fold in the crushed cookies and whipped cream. Cover and freeze for 6 hours or until firm. If you want to be able to slice it to serve, pour mixture into a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan lined with foil, cover and freeze.

Take caution in consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs due to the slight risk of Salmonella or other food-borne illness. To reduce this risk, it is recommended you use only fresh, properly-refrigerated, clean, grade A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Pasta...mangia, MANGIA!

Pasta is easy to serve to kids and adults alike. Most people seem to enjoy it in all its many forms. Even a gluten-free diet can be full of pasta, thanks (many, MANY thanks!) to a variety of g-f products these days. Here are a some of our pasta recipes that we rely on frequently.

Sausage & Peppers with Penne

This is one of Joe's favorite meals...and we are so happy to have found good gluten-free pasta that holds up to this hearty dish.

12 oz. penne pasta, cooked according to directions
1 lb. mild or sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings & broken into small chunks
2 TBSP olive oil
1 large sweet onion, halved and sliced
2 large bell peppers (any color you have or prefer), halved and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup white wine or chicken broth
salt & pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated

In large pan with lid, brown sausage on med-high heat; then drain drippings and remove meat from pan. To the pan heat the olive oil; then add the onion, peppers and garlic and saute for 3-5 minutes until veggies are slightly tender but not overdone.

Add cooked noodles and sausage to the pan with vegetables. On medium heat, add tomatoes and wine (or chicken broth), salt and pepper to taste. With lid on, heat for a few minutes and serve with Parmesan cheese.

Cheese & Spinach Manicotti

...with Cream Sauce

This idea comes from my mother-in-law. I remember eating her manicotti dish that was every bit homemade. She even made the noodles! I liked her noodles (which were made like crepes) because they weren't difficult to pin down and cut with my fork--unlike some of those slippery little buggers that come in a box--and the filling didn't ooze out the sides. So here's a recipe I've adapted. I make it with a cream sauce since our kids prefer it at the moment over tomato sauce, but you can use a jar or two of spaghetti sauce or your own favorite sauce just as well! Please DO try making crepes. It really is easier than you think (besides the first one or two) and there are endless filling options!

2 eggs, beaten
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
15 oz. cottage (or Ricotta) cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp of dried basil
dash pepper
1-1/2 cups chopped fresh spinach (measured before cooking), wilt by cooking briefly in lightly oiled pan. If using frozen chopped spinach, squeeze out moisture and use only 3/4 cup.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a fork. Set aside.

3 large eggs
1 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt
2 TBSP melted butter, + 2 TBSP melted butter for frying

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high for one minute to build gluten (this is only for noodles, not regular crepes), or mix with a mixer. Allow batter to rest for one hour before cooking (crepes may tear easily if this step is skipped).

On medium heat, fry in a lightly buttered (use a brush) 8-inch non-stick skillet, using a 1/4 cup measure to pour batter. Turn pan so crepe covers entire bottom of pan. Using a spatula, your fingers, or the pan-flip method; turn crepe when it is a light golden color on the bottom. When the other side is done, slide it out onto a plate. Repeat with remaining batter. The first 1-2 crepes usually don't work well!

Crepes can be stored in fridge or freezer with waxed paper between each crepe and an airtight cover.

4 TBSP butter
3 TBSP flour
1 cup chicken broth
1-1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
salt & pepper
dash of nutmeg
2-3 TBSP white wine, to taste

In a heavy medium-sized saucepan, melt butter, whisk in flour. Cook for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in chicken broth, then slowly add milk, cream and wine. Add dash of nutmeg; salt and pepper to taste. Heat until thickened but still a pouring consistency. Take off heat.

Coat the bottom of a 9 x 13" pan with about a cup of the sauce. Add a line of 2 heaping tablespoons of filling down the middle of a crepe, fold ends in and roll up. Place in the baking dish. Continue until pan is full or crepes are all used (I usually have enough to fill another small baking dish). Pour rest of sauce over the stuffed crepes and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley if you have it.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Fun Frosty Drinks

How do you misplace a hard drive? Well, I haven't been able to find one of ours (with my recipe collection) for a couple of days now. So, I haven't posted anything new since then partly because of the hard drive conundrum and partly because we've had a few little guests at our home.

Since it got quite warm today, it reminded me of the tasty frosty drinks we like to make. The next couple of posts are my favorites.

GADGET NOTE: I've never had a blender that crushes ice well enough without leaving those undesired chunks of ice throughout my drink that's supposed to be smooth. Since we don't have an ice crusher on our fridge, I always grind my ice cubes through our ice crusher first. Here's a link for one that is similar to ours. When our kids were teething or had sore throats, they liked to suck on crushed ice. Now, they love to crank it out themselves. I love using manual machines (is that an oxymoron?) when I can! I bought my latest one in Target's seasonal section a couple of years ago...about this time of year.

Orange Julius

Here's our kids' most requested "special" drink. We make it for Daddy on Father's Day (with lactose-free milk), and the kids often request it as part of their birthday breakfast. TRIVIA: Did you know that the Orange Julius corporation is owned by Dairy Queen...and based in Minneapolis, Minnesota? I always thought it was interesting since there's really not a very long seasonal opportunity for such frosty treats. The only time Dairy Queen was open when I was growing up in a small town in Minnesota was from Memorial Day to Labor Day! Okay, here's the recipe. Please also see my gadget tip on crushing ice.

12 oz. frozen orange juice concentrate
1-1/4 cup milk, lactose-free as needed
1-1/4 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
12-15 ice cubes, I crush first with a hand-crank ice crusher

Combine all ingredients except ice cubes in blender.
Blend for about 1-2 minutes, adding ice slowly.

Makes 6 servings

Caramelized Espresso Frappe

I don't like to fork over a ton of money for something I can make inexpensively myself. This frappe recipe uses low-fat milk and is exceptional because of the caramelized sugar syrup's toasty flavor. I've served this as a fun drink when a friend comes for a play date, and I've served it to friends who don't like desserts. Of course, I get to share some as well, so I try to look for more excuses to make it--especially when it gets hot down here in the South! Here is the recipe with my two thumbs up! Oh yes, I usually double the coffee cubes and the caramelized sugar mixture. More for later!

1/2 cup boiling water
1 tsp instant espresso (or 2 tsp instant coffee)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water, divided
1 cup milk, skim is fine
1/4 cup hot cocoa mix, something I always keep on hand!
1 cup crushed ice, check out this hand-crank ice crusher

Combine boiling water and espresso; stir until coffee dissolves. Pour into an ice cube tray; freeze 4 hours or until firm. (I double this!)

Stir sugar and 2 TBSP water in a small heavy saucepan until sugar dissolves. Over med-high heat, cook 8-10 minutes (with only an occasional stir) or until mixture is a deep golden brown. Remove from heat; carefully stir in 2 TBSP hot water with a whisk. WARNING: Mixture will bubble vigorously. Let cool. (Again, I double this!)

Combine caramelized sugar, milk, and cocoa mix in a bliender; process until well-blended. With blender on, add coffee ice cubes, 1 at a time; process until smooth. Add crushed ice; process until smooth. Serve immediately. Yield: 2-1/2 cups (serving size: 1/2 cup).

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Italian Chicken Salad in Lettuce Cups (12 servings)

This recipe is from Everyday Italian and we LOVE it! It's a great dish for warm weather summery parties! I've served it a couple of times when I've hosted bunco, and I've also brought it to friends after they've had a baby or surgery (not the full recipe!). Our kiddies have just started to enjoy eating it all. Before they appreciated all the flavors, I just took one of the chicken breasts and sliced it up for them to eat. Ooh, I'm getting hungry for it right now!

Here's the original recipe. Thank you, Giada! Since I've made VERY minor changes (fewer capers, more honey, etc.) to the recipe, I added the modifications in the recipe below. It's the only way I'll remember how to make it again next time!

10 cups coarsely shredded cooked chicken (about 3 good-sized rotissiere chickens)
2 cups roasted red and yellow bell peppers, drained, patted dry, and coarsely chopped
1-1/4 cup paper-thin slices red onion
¾ cup chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
¾ cup slivered almonds, toasted
¼-1/3 cup capers, drained
1-1/2 cup (about) Red Wine Vinaigrette, recipe follows
salt and freshly ground black pepper
24 butter lettuce leaves (from about 3 large heads) or bib lettuce—whatever is more economical, I’ve started just serving over torn Romaine lettuce.
1 (4 oz.) pkg. shaved Parmesan cheese (you can get this next to the regular grated)

Toss the chicken, bell peppers, onion, parsley, almonds, and capers in a large bowl with enough vinaigrette to moisten. Season the chicken salad with salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange 1 large lettuce cup and 1 small lettuce cup on each plate, overlapping slightly. Spoon the chicken salad into the lettuce cups. Drizzle more vinaigrette over the salads. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve.

Do-ahead tip: The chicken salad can be prepared 4 hours ahead and refrigerated. Just before serving, spoon the salad into the lettuce cups.

Red Wine Vinaigrette:
½ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup lemon juice
1 TBSP honey
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup olive oil

Combine the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually add the oil and blend until emulsified. (I just make this dressing using my dressing plunger instead of a processor. You can also just shake it in a large jar with a lid). Shake well again before adding to salad.

NOTES: I use three rotisserie chickens from Costco (they are 3 lbs. instead of 2 lbs. like the grocery store chickens…and they’re a lot less expensive).

Spinach Cheese or Chicken Chili Quiche

Once again, this recipe is from my mother-in-law (I think via Byerly’s grocer in the Twin Cities). It sure is a winner. I’ve used this recipe so many times to serve at baby showers or as part of a meal I bring to friends after they’ve had a new baby. I have also served up a few of these at one of my bunco parties by making 2 spinach and 1 chicken chili (see variations below). It's easy for week night entertaining since preparation is so quick. This is one of my most requested recipes…either by people requesting the recipe itself or by my children wanting it for dinner! Our kids have enjoyed this quiche since they started eating solid foods!

1 – 10 oz. package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed (I use only ~8 oz. per kids' request)
5 eggs, beaten (2 regular eggs with egg beaters for the rest works well)
1 – 8 oz. carton small curd cottage cheese (1-cup)—nonfat is fine.
2 cups grated combination cheddar & Monterey jack cheese
1/8 cup dried onion or ¼ cup fresh chopped
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 – 9 “ deep dish pie shell, unbaked (optional--see gluten free below)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Squeeze spinach in small palmfuls to remove all liquid. In large bowl, combine eggs, cottage cheese, spinach, 2 cups grated cheese, onion, salt and pepper. Beat to blend with electric mixed (I just use a fork) and pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake 50-60 minutes. Let sit 5-10 minutes before cutting.

GLUTEN FREE: Make a crustless quiche by melting 1-1/2 TBSP butter in a pie plate (spread around to coat), pour mixture into dish, and bake as directed! We always prepare it this way now that Joe is gluten intolerant, and we sure don't miss the crust! (It's the one in the above picture.)

Ham: leave out a few ounces of the spinach and add ~1 cup diced ham
Chicken Chili variation (another one of our favorites!): omit spinach; substitute small can drained chopped green chilis (4 oz.) and ~ 1 cup cooked, chopped chicken

TIP: A good option for busy families is…
Make two recipes at the same time, and freeze one unbaked batch in a gallon ziplock freezer bag. When you want to bake and eat it, just take the bag out of the freezer the night before to thaw. Before baking, just squeeze and squish the bag around to mix the ingredients well, then unzip and dump it into an unbaked pie shell.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


How can you have soups and salads without bread? Well, I give my husband g-f bread or crackers now that he's been gluten-intolerant for a few years, but our kids love bread of all kinds. I had used our bread machine frequently to make mostly foccacia and pizza dough...but after about 10 years of marriage the machine broke down. Since we're avoiding gluten when we can, I figured I could live without replacing it. We haven't kept out ALL the gluten though...and the following recipes have been rated "winners" by our kids.

Cheesy Pepperoni Stromboli

I usually make two of these at a time so we can enjoy more throughout the week..if there’s any left!

1 loaf frozen bread dough (usually come in pack of 3)
Italian seasoning; or dried basil, oregano and thyme
4-6 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
1-2 oz. pepperoni slices, optional
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese, separated
1 egg

Thaw dough according to directions. When ready to handle, place dough on greased foil-lined cookie sheet. Flatten and stretch dough to about the size of the cookie sheet…or as far as possible to each of its sides. Sprinkle dough with a scant covering of herbs, pepperoni, mozzarella cheese and 1/8 cup Parmesan cheese, leaving a 2-inch border of bare dough. Fold bottom third of dough over the middle section, then fold the top third of dough over middle and bottom sections. Seal all edges by pinching dough together. Turn dough over on cookie sheet so pinched edges are down; roll end edges under dough slightly. Using a sharp knife, make diagonal slits in the loaf every 1-1/2 inches or so. Let rest for 10 minutes. Brush top and sides with beaten egg. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes…or until golden brown.

Variation: Add…
1/3 lb. ground Italian sausage, browned

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

We love this one. In fact, we make it more than just around the holidays! Whenever we'd go to Costco, our kids would hover around the Great Harvest table and scoop up a couple cubes of the spice bread. Well, I truly can't tell much difference between theirs and this recipe. Since the recipe makes two loaves, we usually eat one fresh then slice and wrap the other in plastic and foil and freeze it. Having a spare loaf in the freezer when you get a hankerin' for it is certainly a gift.

3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 – 16-oz. can solid pack pumpkin
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 cup craisins (optional)
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans. Beat sugar and oil in large bowl to blend. Mix in eggs and pumpkin. Sift flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and baking powder into another large bowl. Stir into pumpkin mixture in 2 additions. Mix in craisins (or walnuts), if desired.

Divide batter equally between prepared pans. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Using sharp knife, slide around edge of loaves. Turn loaves out onto racks and cool completely.

Makes 2 loaves.

I originally found this recipe on, but I have been unable to find it there recently.

Light Corn Bread

This recipe is from my mother-in-law. I like it because (unlike a real Texan) I prefer my cornbread sweet and moist—and this is it! Tip: While you are making one loaf, use another bowl to mix dry ingredients for another loaf. Put this mix in a plastic zip bag and all you need to do to make your next loaf is add the buttermilk…that you usually have left over in the container from making your first loaf!

1-1/2 cups white or yellow cornmeal
1 cup flour
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 cups buttermilk

In medium bowl, combine all dry ingredients; mix well. Stir in buttermilk quickly, until moistened. Spoon into greased 8-1/2 x 4-1/2” loaf pan. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven until golden and toothpick in center of loaf comes out clean (45-55 min.). Cool in pan 10 minutes, remove loaf to wire rack to cool completely. Serve warm or at room temp.

Check bread at about 40 minutes. If loaf is brown at this point, cover it loosely with foil for the remainder of baking time. This bread is very moist. Leftovers can be put in the toaster to heat. Good with soup and chili.

Corn (bread) Casserole

I got this recipe from a friend, Kelly, at our church. Kelly is the mother of 7 children (edit: make that eight!). She and her husband, Robert, are the King and Queen of Cooking Big. They make many of the soups served at our Lenten Soup Suppers. During one such dinner is where they brought this casserole. Our kids couldn’t stop eating it…so I had to get the recipe!

1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 (~14.75 oz) can cream-style corn
1-8 oz. sour cream (light version okay)
1 egg
1 stick butter, melted

Put all ingredients in a lightly greased 9 x 9” baking pan. Bake @ 350 degrees for ~50 minutes. Double recipe and bake in a 9 x 13” pan—adjust time, etc. Serve with a serving spoon if hot. If serving cool, it can be cut with a knife. (It’s best warm!)