Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Homemade Ranch-- this is so easy!

For years, I've used the Hidden Valley Ranch packets, never knowing I could make my own (better tasting!) ranch from scratch for super easy.

  • 1 c. mayo
  • 1/4 c. sour cream
  • 1/4 c. buttermilk
  • 14-20 fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried dill (fresh is even tastier)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • salt & pepper to taste
Refrigerate and eat! YUM!

Friday, October 02, 2009

In search of the perfect brownies.

One friend recommended THESE brownies as the best; here's what she says:

This 1980's recipe from The Chocolatier is the best. Moist and fudgy. Yum Yum. Super yum. To die for. Boxed mixes just do not compare.

The Chocolatier Brownies
2 sticks real butter
2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp real vanilla extract
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup flour

Cream butter and sugar several minutes at high speed of electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla. Mix in flour and cocoa. Bake in greased 9" x 13" metal pan at 350 degrees for 30 minutes exactly. (**if using glass pan or dark coated pan, bake at 325 degrees) Remove from oven. Let cool completely before cutting for clean cut marks.

This recipe even converts well to whole wheat flour and Sucanat. We've been doing all that healthy stuff for quite a few years now, and my brownies still get rave reviews.

So I think I need to try them. Soon.

Another friend says hers are famous. Here's her recipe:
Lori's Famous Brownies
1 1/2 sticks of butter
3/4 cup of the darkest cocoa you can find - none of that pale Hershey's stuff
2 cups sugar
1 t vanilla
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cup flour
1 t salt
1 t baking powder
Mix ins (choc chips, nuts, toffee, andes mints, etc)
Put butter and cocoa in metal mixing bowl over low heat. Stir constantly until well blended and butter is melted. Remove from heat (carefully dip finger in mixture and taste - mmmm, a dark & bitter chocolate lover's delight!) and stir in sugar until well blended (dip finger again - for those of you who like sugar with their chocolate). Add vanilla and eggs, stirring well. (Taste again to make sure nothing has spoiled.) Add flour, salt, and baking soda. Mix well (taste it one more time to make sure it's worth baking) and add whatever mix-ins you like best. Spread in greased 9x13 pan and bake for 30 min at 350*. I don't have a test for doneness, but they should be cracked or crackly on top and the edges starting to pull away from the pan.

These should come out a bit crunchy on the very edges, but fudgy and dark and rich in the center. They aren't a tall, thick brownie - too dense for that!

For a "blondie" (not chocolaty, but still a decadent dessert), these Bakerella Blondies were recommended.

Another friend recommended making any old average brownie mix, pouring half of it into a dish, covering it with a layer of toffee Symphony chocolate bars, and then pouring the rest of the brownie mix into the pan and baking as directed. That sounds tasty.

Do you have a brownie recipe you swear by? If you share, please tell us whether yours come out fudgy or cakey, as that seems to be a classic difference in what people expect from their brownies. I definitely like brownies to be moist, but I don't want it to be so dense that it really tastes and feels like fudge. If I want fudge, I'll make fudge, know what I mean? :)

I guess I'll have to put on my scientist hat and figure out which one of these is the best. Experimentation is the only way to know for sure! :) If you do any experimentation, please share your thoughts and results here!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dill Potato Salad

Oh yummy. This is my favorite summer dish, thanks to my friend Kelly. YUM, yum, yum!

Dill Potato Salad
  • 5 pounds smallish new-potato style potatoes
  • 4-8 ounces cream cheese (this is optional, if you don't want it, add a bit more mayo and sour cream to make up for it)
  • 3/4 cup mayo
  • 1/2 cup of sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 5-6 green onions, chopped (both whites & greens chopped finely)
  • roughly 1/2 cup of fresh chopped dill (I just chop up one bunch-- but not stems)
  • 1/4- 1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley
  • Garlic, garlic salt, & salt to taste

1. Get potatoes that have only a very thin edible skin(cause the skin stays on for these). Clean em. Cut them into roughly 1 inch chunks (it can be slightly less or more... this is not an exact science). Cover them with water & boil for 15-20 minutes, until a fork can go through the potato, but NOT until they are fall-apart soft. Then remove from heat, drain in a pasta strainer, and let cool.

2. Return to pot or a large serving bowl. Dump in all other ingredients and stir. Be sure to add enough salt... the taste of this potato salad has to have enough salt to really be appreciated.

OH me oh my, this potato salad is the only kind I've ever liked- and I don't just like it; I love it! Hopefully you will too.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Unique & Tasty Pasta Sauce

Pioneer Woman's Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce really is delish.

I've made it twice so far, and I have one alteration to suggest:
*** After sauteing the onions and garlic in the olive oil, throw them in the blender along with the pureed roasted red peppers.
Get it all nice and itty bitty. THEN put it back in the saucepan, add the cream, and pour over pasta. YUM. We roast the red peppers on a metal grate right over our gas burners and follow the rest of her instructions, and it works smashingly. This is delicious enough to just enjoy as a main dish, or you can add in chicken along with it; either way.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Pizza Chicken Pasta

The other day I tried a delicious recipe from my favorite cookbook-- the Family Cookbook by America's Test Kitchen. It goes a little somethin' like this:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Make up about 1 cup (or a little more if you like) of pizza/marinara style sauce. Mine is usually composed of this:
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2-1 tsp basil
  • 1/2-1 tsp sugar
  • add garlic salt, onion salt, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.
Spread that on the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish.

Take 3/4 - 1 cup of parmesan cheese and put it in a bowl. Season chicken breasts (we did chicken breast cutlets cut pretty thin and it was tasty!) with salt & pepper, then roll until coated in the parmesan cheese. Place chicken on top of sauce and put in the oven for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, layer pepperoni on top of the chicken and sauce, and cover it all up with a generous layer of mozzerella cheese. Bake another 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted and everything looks all scrumptious.

Promptly serve over pasta. Mmm, mmm, MMMM!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Quick Meal Ideas

These are the things I make when time is of the essence and I just need to get some food in front of my family, quick!

* Rice w/ cream of chicken sauce. Easy. Put the rice on to cook, and then make the sauce in the last 5 minutes of the rice's cook time.
* Chicken Fajitas. Slice up onions, red bell peppers, and put the chicken to cook in the frying pan. Add in some cheese, tortillas, ranch dressing, tomatoes, and it makes an easy meal.
* Breakfast Burritos. Scrambled eggs, and then everything listed above. Notice a pattern? :)
* Dutch Puff. Put the ingredients in the blender, pour it in the pan, and let it bake. Add syrup.
* Maple Granola. This one takes about 30 minutes... but it's filling and tasty!
* Pasta w/ homemade white sauce. Similar to the rice & sauce above-- put the pasta to boil, and then make the sauce in the last couple minutes. Hot, tasty, and easy.
* Fun Lunch!
* Pancakes w/ syrup- easy and delicious!

What are your favorite quick meal ideas?

Friday, January 16, 2009

"Embarrassingly Easy Recipes" from some friends...

... feel free to try these. I'm just copying and pasting them here so I can revisit them later. All of the instructions, etc, are my friends' words (not mine). The prompt for all these recipes was someone asking for "embarrassingly easy recipes that get rave reviews", and I just pulled out the ones that sound good for the things that our family likes. Enjoy!

And let me know if you try any of these, how they work for you and your family!

Peanut Butter Cookies ~from Michelle
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg

Just mix it together and drop by the spoonful on a cookie sheet. I stick them in at 350 for about 14 minutes.

Italian Chicken Bake ~from Nancy
Cut up several medium potatoes into wedges (I use one per person)
Sprinkle with salt & pepper
Slice one onion and layer over potatoes
Slice one green pepper and layer over onions. (I sometimes use one red, one green for color.)
Pour one large can crushed tomatoes over this.
Top with chicken thighs (one per person or more)
Brush olive oil over chicken thighs, salt & pepper skin.
Slice into 1" pieces one pound italian sausage and wedge between chicken.
Bake at 375 until chicken is crispy...about an hour and 10 minutes.

I serve this with bread and salad, and can make it for four or forty!! It's really very flavorful!

Salsa Chicken ~ From Monica
Brown cut up chicken breasts in a little bit of oil in a skillet. Add a LARGE jar (28 oz) of salsa. Simmer for about 10 min. Serve over pasta. YUM!

Pasta with broccoli and chicken ~From Tanya
Bake three chicken breasts with a little garlic salt
Boil 3 cups of rotini
Steam 2 cups of broccoli
Saute a cup of mushrooms in butter.

Cube chicken and toss together with mushroom, broccoli and pasta. Drizzle a little butter on top and season with garlic salt. Quick and very good.

GARLIC CHICKEN- My picky 10 year old's favorite! ~From bearcreek
Need: Whole chicken, cut up. Ovenproof skillet with lid.

Coat w/olive oil.
Salt and pepper.
Brown both sides.
Meanwhile, peel 10 cloves garlic, 10 shallots.
Cut shallots in half.
Get some rosemary, thyme, and maybe some Italian parlsey from garden (or fridge) wash it.

Tuck herbs, shallots, and garlic in and around chicken.
Pour 1/2 cup of olive oil over chicken.
Put in oven at 350 with lid on for 1 and 1/2 hours.
Done. Total time in front of stove: 10 minutes.
So many possibilities to go with this delicious garlic sauce, use your imaginations. Great on bread!!!

Easy Chicken Divan ~From Jennifer
cooked chicken breast
cut up broccoli
1 can Campbell's healthy request Cream of Chicken soup
1 can Campbell's healthy request Cream of Mushroom soup
Parmesan cheese

Layer chicken breast and broccoli in a lightly greased 9x13 pan (chicken then broccoli works best, IMO). Mix the soup and 1/4-1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese and spread over the broccoli. If you like more sauce you can add another can of soup. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top covering the soup pretty well (it makes a pretty golden-brown topping). Bake at 350 for about 1/3-3/4 hour or until it's bubbly. Serve with steamed rice. mmmmm

Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball ~From Julie

In a large mixing bowl, beat 1 pkg. cream cheese (softened), 1/2 C. butter, softened, and 1/4 tsp. vanilla. Gradually add 3/4 C. confectioners sugar and 2 T. brown sugar. Stir in 3/4 C. mini chocolate chips. Cover and chill for 1 hour (or I do it overnight). Shape in ball and you can then roll in 3/4 C. finely chopped pecans. Serve with chocolate or regular graham crackers.

Chicken Without a Name ~From Tonya
I always get compliments on this chicken and it's super easy

Put your chicken pieces on your baking pan or cookie sheet. Top each piece with a spoonful of brown sugar and kind of spread it around with the spoon (make sure you don't stick it back into the brown sugar package!) or your fingers. Sprinkle with garlic powder and salt and pepper. Bake like you normally would chicken pieces and that's it.

Presto Pralines
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup margarine [Note: I usually use all butter, but you do need to use at least 1 stick real butter]
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
12 whole graham crackers [fits perfectly in a 15x10 pan; if your pan is a bit smaller, use what will fit]

Spray jelly roll-type pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with the graham crackers (if they break in half, don't worry -- you may have to break some of them to fit anyway)

In a heavy 2-quart or larger sauce pan, combine butter and brown sugar; cover over low heat, uncovered, until butter is melted. Raise heat to medium and bring mixture to boil. Once it has reached a boil, cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly, then reduce heat to low and cook for 1 more minute more, stirring constantly, until butter and brown sugar are well combined.

Remove from heat, stir in pecans, then spoon mixture over graham crackers. (Don't worry if crackers are not completely covered; the mixture will spread during baking).

Bake uncovered for 8 minutes. While still warm, cut or break them into halves (or smaller). Let cool completely; store in airtight tin. 24+ cookies.

(No doubt about it, this is an artery clogger, but you'll hear moans when people start eating these. And the recipe looks more complicated written down -- it's very easy and fast)

Taco Goulash ~from CrochetMama
Brown 1 lb. lean ground beef with onion (fresh, frozen, or dehydrated - amount is your preference). Then add: 15 oz. can rinsed black beans, 14-1/2 oz can diced tomatoes (with liquid), 1-2 Cups frozen corn, 1/4 Cup (or 1 pkg.) taco seasoning, and 3/4 Cup water. Heat through . . . then serve on chips, salad, tortillas (your choice!) - and top with grated cheddar cheese.

chocolate chip muffins made w/pumpkin: ~from Liesl
1 cake mix, any flavor (chocolate is the BEST; spice is great too)
1 can pumpkin (16oz)
1 cup chocolate chips

mix it all together, and bake at 350* according to which type pan - we have made muffins, a 13x9, and layers too.

Hot Dill Dip ~rodalena
Heat oven to 350.

Take one block of cream cheese and place on 2 triangles of refrigerator cresent rolls. Sprinkle the top of the cream cheese with dill weed. Cover the top of the cream cheese block with 2 more triangles of dough. Pinch the sides and top and bottom together to seal the cream cheese inside the rolls. Spread one egg yolk over the top, and bake for 20 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown. Serve hot with your favorite crackers or dipping veggies.

Believe me, it won't have time to cool down.

Easy Homemade (thus no additives or preservatives) Chicken Fingers: ~sourceofjoy

Mix: 1 1/4 cup flour, 2 cups corn flake crumbs(they can be bought this way), 2 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. paprika and 3/4 tsp. coarse pepper.

In another bowl mix 2 eggs (beaten), and 1/4 cup buttermilk.

Cut up ~ 3 lb. chicken breasts into strips. Add chicken to egg mixture and stir till moistened. Add chicken to dry mixture, a few at a time, coat and place onto parchment paper lined cookie sheet(this way clean up is a cinch, chicken doesn't stick to parchment paper and cookie sheet doesn't get baked on hard to clean grime on it). Melt some butter and dot over the chicken strips. Bake at 425F for about 12-15 min. Serves ~8.

Cola Roast, from Fix It and Forget It Cookbook...it just doesn't get any better, or easier, than this! ~shared by Rachel

Ingredients: Roast beef (I've used many different ones but my favorites are the sirloin tip roasts.
1 pkg Lipton onion soup mix
1 can Coke (not diet)

Put roast in crock pot. Put soup mix over roast. Pour Coke over all of it. Cook until done! It is SOOOO good, and so tender. I get asked about this every time I serve it to guests.

Baked Creamy Chicken ~From Jill
Put chicken, breasts, cut up pieces or bonelesss in a casserole dish. Top with 2 -3 cans of Golden Mushroom Soup, cover and bake for about an hour till chicken is done. Serve over rice or with mashed potatoes. The gravy is awesome. You may want to add a bit of water if it seems to thick. I usually uncover the last 15 minutes or so.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole ~From Kristy
3-4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 bag nacho cheese Doritos (store brand works, too)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup enchilada sauce
shredded cheese

Mix chicken with crushed chips and add remaining ingredients. Add more broth or enchilada sauce for more moisture. Place into a 9x13 pan and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, or until heated through.

Easy Crockpot Chicken ~From Reese
Place thawed boneless chicken in CP, pour over one can of chicken broth, sprinkle with one envelope dry Italian dressing mix (I use Good Seasons). Cook on low all day (10 hours or so). You can cook some noodles in the broth and it's very tasty.

French Bread recipe if you have a Bosch kitchen machine. ~From Toni
5 cups of flour
1 tbls. Yeast
1 tbls. Olive oil
2 ½ cups of warm water (might need a bit more depending on the humidity in your house)
1 tbls. Salt
Throw it all in the Bosch and mix until the dough cleans the sides. Mix for 2 minutes on low and then put in greased bowl. Let rise for at least 2 hours but all day is great too. Shape into whatever shape loaves you want, cover and let rise until they are the size you want and then bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes. I have discovered that if I throw in a few ice cubes in the bottom of the oven when I put the loaves in, it makes the crust even better!
If you want pretty loaves, after you remove the loaves from the oven, brush with a mixture of water and egg white for shiny loaves.

Easy Stuffed Manacotti ~From Bean
1 lb. ground meat
1 onion (fresh or frozen)
1 pkg. manacotti shells
1 lg. jar spaghetti sauce
12 mozzarella cheese sticks (string cheese)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Cook the manacotti shells according to the directions. Brown the ground meat with the onion and drain. Mix in the sauce. Cover the bottom of a 9x12 baker with some of the meat sauce mixture. Stuff each manacotti shell with one cheese stick and arrange them in the pan. Cover with the rest of the meat sauce. Bake at 350 until bubbly and sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top ten minutes before done.

This is so yummy and I never, never make lasagna anymore!

Sante Fe Chicken ~From Kathy
Place 4-6 boneless chicken breast in crockpot. cover with 1-2 cans of black beans, some frozen corn and salsa. Cook on low all day or high 4 hours. 30 minutes before serving, shred chicken, it will be tender and shred easily. Then cube 8 oz of cream cheese and put into crock pot. Stir and let cook for another 30 minutes.

Serve over rice or on tortillas.

Dip for Apple Slices ~From HSisfun
8oz cream cheese
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. chopped peanuts

Beat together 1st 3 ingredients & stir in other 2 ingredients. Sit down w/a big bowl of sliced apples and devour only as much as your tummy can manage. :-)

Chicken rice (as my dc call it) ~From Jennie
1 cup whole grain rice
2 cups water
(or if you use more rice, you can do 1 /2 to 3 of water...0
1 Tbsp olive oil or butter
1Tbsp dried Parsley
S/P to taste
1 whole chicken

Put all in a big pot with the chicken on top. Bring to a boil, cover and turn down to simmer for an hour. that's it. Add a veggie and it's a meal. The chicken does not brown, but it falls off the bone.

Roasted Garlic ~From Jael
Take a whole, unpeeled head of garlic and slice off the top (the pointy end) to reveal most of the individual cloves. Wrap the head in aluminum foil, leaving the top open and drizzle a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over the exposed cloves. Close up the foil so that it is well sealed, and roast at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. (I use the toaster oven when I do just 1 or 2.) You will know when it is done by the smell, and when it is squishy and soft. A sprinkle of salt will enhance the flavor. Just serve this with an excellent french bread, you can squeeze each clove and spread it with a knife. It is easy, delicious, and so good for you!

  1. Make pasta according to directions, any shape. Mix with 1 small can chopped tomatoes and 1 jar spaghetti sauce. Stir in generous amount of cottage cheese or ricotta cheese. My kids love this! Additions: cooked hamburger or chicken or Italian sausage, sauteed veggies (onions, peppers, zucchini are great with this). I think this is what we are having for supper tonight, actually.
  2. Another quick pasta dish -- cook chicken breasts in boiling water until just done and tender, remove meat and use chicken broth to cook pasta. Cut up chicken into bite-sized pieces while pasta cooks. Drain pasta, add pasta and chicken back to pot, stir in a can of chopped tomatoes and a jar of spaghetti sauce and if desired, cooked veggies of whatever kind. I call it chicken cacciatore but it's not authentic; still, my family loves this.
  3. If you have leftover spaghetti, sauced or plain, make a spaghetti omelet (or you can cook up some just for this). Heat oil or margarine in a large nonstick pan. Saute spaghetti until heated through and add scrambled eggs (I usually do 2 per person, we have a family of five). You can add herbs and spices to this or leave plain. After omelet is dry on bottom, carefully cut into wedges with plastic spatula (so you don't scratch pan) and flip each wedge (this takes practice to get this so it's not totally messy). I usually top with cheese, cover pan with foil, and let melt. Often I will top the whole thing with some jarred spaghetti sauce and then put mozzarella on top and heat on lower heat until melted and bubbly.

~From Cherie
A Good Roast
1 Can Beef Consomme
1 Can Beef Broth
1 Can French Onion Soup

Put in Crockpot on low and cook for 6-8 hours until roast is good and tender. Remove roast from juices and shred. Place on French bread and use broth as a dipping sauce. YUMMM!!

Beef Tips and Rice ~From Anne
Beef tips (or stew meat or leftover roast is good also)
1 can french onion soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup

Put all in crock pot on low for 6-8 hours. Serve over rice.

And that's all, folks. Good list, methinks. :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A (fairly new) Family Favorite: Stuffed Chicken Breasts

As Kelly Kapoor would say, these are "a-MAZ-ing!" This is one of our favorite meals... it seems very gourmet and combines some different-than-normal (for us at least) flavors, and gives us some variety while still using fairly basic and easy-to-find ingredients.

1. Pound out and flatten chicken breasts.
2. Combine the following: 4 oz. goat cheese (or other flavorful soft white cheese), 4 oz. cream cheese, chopped garlic cloves (as many as you like-- it calls for one but I usually do 2 or 3 fat cloves), 1-2 Tbsp Rosemary or Thyme (depending on how much you like those flavors), and salt and pepper (about 1/4 tsp. each).
3. Roll into log rolls and roll the chicken breasts around the rolls, and place in greased dish, seam down.
4. In same bowl as remaining filling, add and mix in the following: 3/4 c. mayo, 2-3 Tbsp honey mustard or dijon mustard, and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice. Spoon this mixture over the chicken breasts.
5. If desired, top with breadcrumbs. (My recipe calls for this, but we rarely do it. It's good either way).

Bake @ 425 for 30 minutes.

It's delicious over rice.

I also like putting baked potatoes in, setting the timer for one hour, and getting started making these. About the time the timer is at 30-35 minutes, I have the whole dish ready to go in (that's with little ones interrupting), and can add it in on a rack above of the already-hot baked potatoes, and it all bakes up beautifully.

The sauce is extra delicious as another flavor with baked potatoes or rice. This tastes like a really fancy meal, but is very easy to do. We have it about once a month now. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!