Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Emma and I did lots of prepping tonight

There is nothing inexpensive or quick about a fondue night -- not if you absolutely have to have some of everything.  Emma and I spent all night prepping sirloin beef roast, chicken breasts, and veggies as well as making dipping sauces for our fondued food.

We used the fat and scraps from the chicken and the beef to make the beef and chicken stock for our bouillon.  Oh, did they taste good!  We placed the scraps of meat and fat in a saucepan with carrots, celery leaves, onion, 8 cups of water and two tsp salt (a separate saucepan for the beef and for the chicken).  Bring each pot to a boil and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.  Once cool, strain each broth to remove solids.  Tomorrow night we'll pour the broths into two fondue pots and add a Tbsp of minced garlic, 1/2 lemon sliced, and one bay leaf.  Once they are boiling, we'll use these to cook the beef (it's marinating in Teriyaki sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds), chicken breast, and veggies (the potatoes and zucchini are my favorites).

We made Green Goddess sauce - so simple, but so good.  Melt 8 oz of cream cheese in 1/2 cup of milk.  Place the milk and cream cheese in a microwaveable dish.  Microwave on high for one minute.  Remove and whisk.  Continue to microwave until the cream cheese is completely melted (check every minute).  Add 1/4 cup of sour cream.  Add 2 Tbsp dried minced onions, 2 Tbsp dried chives, and 1/4 cup of fresh chopped parsley.  Add 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper.  Stir well and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

We made plum sauce too, but I need to wait until tomorrow to try it.  I'll let you know how it turned out.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

We're Having a Fondue New Year's Eve

Our recent trip to The Melting Pot for Katy's birthday has me in the mood for fondue.  Is there any better time than New Year's Eve to break out a feast?  We'll be dipping bread, apples, and veggies in cheese fondue; beef, chicken, shrimp, ravioli, potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, and zucchini in boiling bouillon; and chocolate fondue to finish things up.  I'll post recipes for cheese, bouillon, and dipping sauces once I get them all worked out.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Sending Christmas wishes from our home to yours.  May your holiday be filled with family and fun.

Wishing you a Christmas filled with smiles, joys and blessings.
Eddie, Karan, Luke & Emily Presson

A Family Favorite - Hamburger, Rice & Peas

Growing up my Grandma Kruse would make this casserole when we'd come to visit.  It was my sister's favorite, so we always called it Kim's Favorite Casserole.  Our kids love it too and call it Hamburger, Rice, and Peas.  It's a great one-pot dinner.  Meat, starch, and a veggie all in one dish.

1 1/2 lbs hamburger
1 small onion chopped
3 stalks of celery chopped
1 1/2 cups white rice (uncooked)
4 cups beef broth
1 (12 oz) package of frozen peas (or one 15 oz can)
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup

Brown the hamburger in an 8 quart stock pot with onion and celery. Season with seasoning salt and pepper to taste.  Drain any fat from meat and return to pot.  Add the rice, beef broth and peas.  Bring to a boil and allow to simmer (covered) for 20 minutes or until rice is tender.  Stir in the Cream of Mushroom soup.

Looks like Christian is our poster child for peas!  I think he likes them.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Good Ole Fashioned Hot Chocolate

Hot chocolate is a treat on these cold, snowy winter days.  It's not made from a powdered mix, so it takes a little while to make, but it's worth the wait.

1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 squares semi-sweet chocolate (2 oz)
1 cup milk
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
sugar to taste

Grate the squares of chocolate and combine with the sugar and salt.  In a medium sized sauce pan bring 1/2 cup of water to a boil.  Add the chocolate, sugar and salt to the boiling water and boil for about 3 minutes or until the chocolate is melted, stirring constantly.

Reduce the heat and add the milk.  Add more sugar if needed to sweeten to taste and then heat through.

Remove from stove and stir in the vanilla.

Whip with a hand beater until frothy.  Add a dash of cinnamon to the bottom of the cup before pouring in the hot chocolate.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Great Gift Idea - Borax Crystal Ornaments

Looking for a great gift idea for teachers, neighbors, co-workers, or even your postal carrier?  Try this project.  It's fun to do with your kids, and it makes pretty ornaments that sparkle as your Christmas lights twinkle on your tree.  I found it last year on P. Allen Smith's website.

What you'll need:
Pipe Cleaners (assorted colors - white too)
Borax (I used 20 Mule Team - do not use Boraxo Soap)
Blue food coloring (optional)
Jars large enough to submerge ornaments in Borax solution

Bend your pipe cleaner into your desired shape.  We did swirls as shown here and hearts.  To make it easy, we left about 1" of the cleaner untwisted and formed a hook for hanging.

Mix together your crystal solution at a ratio of 3 Tbsp of Borax to one cup of boiling water.  Stir until the Borax dissolves.  Don't expect all of the powder to dissolve; some may settle to the bottom.  We used every glass we have in the house and poured the solution in.  Then we placed the hook of our ornaments over a pencil/pen and placed the pencil across the top of the glass, submerging the pipe cleaner into the solution.  Let them sit for 6 - 8 hours to allow crystals to form.  Remove them from the solution and allow to dry on waxed paper.

Let me warn you - don't spill the solution.  It will form crystals on your countertop.  And, that's difficult to clean up.  The crystals will wash out of your glasses when you run them through the Hi Temp wash in your dishwasher.

Tip:  If you use white pipe cleaners, you may add a couple of drops of blue food coloring to your solution to tint the crystals.

These take some time to make, but they aren't difficult, and they make very pretty ornaments.  They are inexpensive gifts and everyone loves them!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hot Dr. Pepper???

Anyone who knows me knows that Dr. Pepper is my vice in life.  It is my carbonated coffee first thing in the morning and my constant companion throughout the day.  I've been drinking Dr. Pepper since my high school days.  (Don't ask how many years that is!)

Tonight I had an e-mail from Dr. Pepper with a recipe for Hot Dr. Pepper.  I've never heard of such a thing, but I'm going to try it this weekend.  For all of you other brave souls out there, here is the recipe.

Pour Dr. Pepper into a saucepan.  Heat to simmering temperature or just below boiling.  Your beverage will appear to be boiling due to the carbonation.  Place a thin slice of lemon in bottom of cup and pour steaming hot Dr. Pepper over lemon slice.  A fresh slice of lemon is required to give the proper taste.

Hmmmm.  I'm just not sure about this.  I'll let you know what I think once I've tried it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Katy!

We celebrated Katy's birthday tonight at Ladies Night at the Melting Pot.  MM Good!   Now, Emily wants to celebrate her 17th birthday at the Melting Pot too. The food was really good - we had apples, veggies and bread to dip into a cheese sauce first, followed by a Caesar Salad, and then our entree of shrimp, beef, chicken and spinach and artichoke ravioli cooked in a wonderful boiling bouillon.  Dessert was dark chocolate with Bailey's Irish Cream with strawberries, pound cake, brownies, rice krispie treats, marshmallows, cheese cake, and bananas for dipping.  Ohhhh, so good!  

This motivated me to perfect the bouillon they use and maybe create a new one to use.  We have a couple of fondue pots.  Maybe we'll plan a Fondue New Year's Eve.  That sounds really good.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Just One More Snack Mix

This is my last snack mix recipe this year - I promise!

2 boxes of Blue Diamond Pecan Nut Thins
1 box of Blue Diamond Hazelnut Nut Thins
1 box of Blue Diamond Almond Nut Thins
3 bags (4 oz) Corn Nuts
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Garlic Powder

In a roasting pan break all Nut Thins in half.  Add Corn Nuts.  Combine oil and spices in a saucepan over low heat and stir until well mixed.  Pour over Nut Thins and Corn Nuts and stir.  Place in 250 degree oven and bake for one hour stirring every 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and pour out onto waxed paper to cool.  Store in airtight container.  This is very crunchy and very good!

Monday, December 14, 2009

A New Snack Mix - Buffalo Chex Mix

I had to try this one before blogging about it just to see how it would turn out.  I definitely am not disappointed - changed it up from the original recipe, but the changes are a bonus.   Don't think I'll have any trouble at all finding people to eat this snack mix.  The Ranch seasoning and hot sauce temper each other and make the perfect combination.

4 cups Rice Chex cereal
4 cups Wheat Chex cereal
3 (6.6 oz) packages of Cheddar and Pretzel Gold Fish crackers
2 cups peanuts
1 1/2 sticks butter
5 Tbsp hot sauce
2 packets Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix
4 tsp celery seed

Combine cereal, crackers, and peanuts in a roasting pan.  In a saucepan over medium heat, combine butter, hot sauce, dressing mix and celery see.  When melted and combined, pour over cereal mixture and stir well.  Bake at 250 for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Store in an airtight container.

Ready for something sweet? Easy Fudge

1 (12 oz) bag of chocolate chips
1 (14 oz) Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 Tbsp butter (cubed)

Place in glass microwavable bowl.  Microwave on high for 1 minute.  Remove and stir.  Return to microwave and cook on high for 30 seconds at a time and then removing to stir.  Do this until mixture is completely melted.

Once melted, pour mixture into 9 x 13" pan that has been buttered.  Do not spray with a cooking spray.  This will make your fudge oily.  Use butter only.  Allow to sit at room temperature to harden.  Cut into serving size pieces and place in airtight container.

This is so easy . . . and so good!

My daughter Emily has made a few variations of this too.  She has used white chocolate chips, and peanut butter chips.  All are mmm . . . good!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I'm Just Hungry These Days!

Some people are shopaholics and can't stay out of the mall, but no, not me.  I can't seem to stay out of the grocery store.  Emily working at Dierbergs really doesn't help.  I keep having these must try ideas (mostly snacks, unfortunately).  I bought ingredients today to make two more batches of snack mix - that should carry us through the holidays.  I'm planning a variation of Chex Snack Mix (yes, that again) and a variation of the Chili Snack Mix.  My poor family will be snack mixed out this year - maybe I should start to torture the people at work.

I watched the movie "Julie & Julia" last night.  It was an okay movie, but not great.  I really expected to be inspired to learn French cuisine - nope.  I am inspired though to keep working and trying new things to become a better home cook

I have a quick and easy fudge recipe to post so stay tuned.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Quick Chicken Hot Dish - This is comfort food

This is a casserole my mom made for us when we were growing up.  We loved it then, and I make it for my family when I feel like some good homey food.

1 1/2 - 2 cups of chunked chicken breasts (great way to use up leftover chicken) or 1 (13 oz) can of chunk chicken breast
1 1/2 cups celery sliced very thin
1/2 medium onion chopped
3 cups cooked rice
2 cans Cream of Chicken soup
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups Miracle Whip
1/2 cup water
6 hard boiled eggs
3 cups crushed potato chips

Place six eggs in a small saucepan covered with cold water.  Place on high heat and cover pan.  When the water begins to boil, remove from heat and let sit for 13 minutes.  Run under cold water until eggs are cooled.  Peel and slice.  Set aside.

Place 2 cups of white rice into Pampered Chef Rice Cooker with four cups of water.  Place in the microwave and cook on high for 5 minutes.  Cook at 50% power for 15 minutes.  Guaranteed to make perfect rice every time.  You will have your three cups of cooked rice.

Place the chicken breast in a two-quart casserole dish.  Use a fork to cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Add the celery , onion, and rice.  In a separate bowl, combine the soup, lemon juice, Miracle Whip, water, salt and pepper.  Stir well.  Pour the mixture into the casserole dish and combine well.  Top with the egg slices and then the potato chips.

Place in a 450 degree oven and bake for about 1/2 hour or until bubbly.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wow! It's Time To Start Thinking About The Christmas Menu

We, like many others, have a blended family, and it's tough to get everyone together to celebrate the holidays.  We do our best to spend time with everyone, but that often requires several get-togethers.  I don't know about your families, but food usually seems to be the centerpiece of our gatherings.  Opening the presents may be the highlight for the little ones, but it seems the party always winds up in the kitchen for good food and conversation.

Check in frequently over the next couple of weeks for recipe ideas for your Christmas gatherings/parties.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It Looks Like We Have Another Foodie

Christian has decided that he likes carrots.  Looks like another foodie in the making!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Roasted Carrots

Roasted carrots can be made two ways depending on how you like your carrots.  The first recipe is a good old standby, but the other is great if you have picky kids and you want them to eat their veggies.

16 oz baby carrots
1 small onion
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp parsley
1/2 tsp salt

Toss carrots and sliced onion in olive oil.  Place in 9 x 13" pan.  Sprinkle with salt and parsley.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

To make it appealing for the kiddos, skip the onion, and drizzle with 1/4 cup of honey and grate 2 Tbsp of orange peel over the carrots.  Bake as directed above.

Note:  Not only the kiddos like the sweet version, I do too!

The Ultimate Baked Potato

I don't know about you, but this time of year when the weather just feels cold, I like the good ole comfort food.  This recipe is one of those feel good recipes.

6 large baking potatoes
12 slices of bacon (uncooked)
1/2 medium onion sliced into six thin slices
6 pats butter

Wash and scrub the potatoes well.  Slice potatoes lengthwise and salt well.  Place one onion slice and one pat of butter on top of one half of potato.  Top with other half.  Wrap with two slices of bacon.  Place on cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 for one hour.  (Turn over 1/2 way through cooking)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Chocolate Syrup

For those of you who are do-it-yourselfers, give this chocolate syrup recipe a try.  It's surprisingly good.

1 cup of sugar
1 cup of cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups water

Boil 5 - 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and add one teaspoon of vanilla.  Watch carefully as you stir so the mixture does not boil over.

This can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Holiday Wreaths

Need a Christmas cookie that is sure to be a hit?  Try this one.  Not only is it beautiful, it tastes good and it's easy to make.

1/3 cup butter
1 pkg (10 oz - about 40) marshmallows
1 tsp green food coloring
6 cups Corn Flakes cereal

In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat.  Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted.  Remove from heat.  Stir in food coloring.  Add Corn Flakes and stir until well coated.

Using 1/4 cup measuring cup coated with Pam, evenly portion warm cereal mixture.  Using buttered fingers, quickly shape into individual wreaths.  Dot with cinnamon candies.

Makes 16 wreaths.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Different Kind of Snack Mix

We always have the standard Chex Mix around to snack on through the holidays, but this year I decided to try something new too.  I ran across a sketchy recipe in a magazine - it said combine sesame sticks, rice crackers, pistachio nuts, corn nuts, and pumpkin seeds with your favorite spices.  Heat in the oven to bring out the flavor of your spices.

So, here's what I did.  I placed one pound of sesame sticks in a roasting pan.  I found the sesame sticks in the whole foods aisle of the grocery store in the bulk bins.  I added two 4 oz boxes of plain rice crackers(also in the whole foods aisle) broken into pieces and two 4 oz packages of plain corn nuts.  I shelled and added 1/2 lb of pistachio nuts and a 4 oz package of pumpkin seeds.  I combined 1/2 cup of vegetable oil with 2 Tbsp chili powder, 1 tsp onion powder, and 1 tsp garlic powder.  I whisked it well and poured it over the snack mix and stirred to combine.  I placed the roasting pan into a 250 degree oven and baked for 1 hour stirring every 15 minutes.  It is stored in an airtight container.

This is good, and I will make it again.  But, the next time around, I'll leave out the pistachio nuts and the pumpkin seeds.  They have a different texture than the rest of the snack mix and I don't care for them.  I'll add more rice crackers to make up the difference.

Give it a try if you're looking for something new and different.

Friday, November 27, 2009

We Did A Lot of Cooking in the Last Two Days

It's late, but the cooking is done, everybody is way too full, and believe it or not, the dishes are done and put away.  The kitchen is clean!  My new Pampered Chef cookware definitely got a good workout today.

Most of our Thanksgiving dishes were big hits.  The turkey was really good.  I followed the recipe posted previously on the blog with one exception.  I prepped the turkey the night before.  Once it was rinsed, patted dry and stuffed with the aromatics, I prepared an herb butter (one stick of butter softened mixed with 1 tsp Poultry Seasoning and 1 tsp Sage) to smear under the skin and all over the skin.  It went into the cooking bag and then into the refrigerator overnight.  Then, into the oven around 12:30 Thanksgiving Day.  By 4:30 it was out of the oven and smelling delicious.  I let it rest for an hour before carving.  Mmmm Good!

Both sweet potato recipes were big hits.  And . . . the pumpkin pie was amazing.  I'll definitely be saving these recipes for next year.  Here's a tell-all picture of what Christian thinks of Grandma's cooking.  Actually, he was eating rice cereal.  Hope he'll like my cooking more as he gets older.

After dinner, the Christmas decorations came out.  We put up a lovely Frasier Fur Christmas tree last night.  It is a really pretty tree with a great shape and it smells terrific.  The transformation from Thanksgiving to Christmas has been completed.  The wreaths are up, the snow globes are out, and the ornaments are hung.  Eddie put even more lights outside.  Our front yard is bright as daylight when the lights are on.  It looks good.  It will be fun to see it in the snow.  

We'll be headed to Grandma and Grandpa's house for the weekend for Thanksgiving with my family.  It's always fun to be together.  We'll have a big dinner again tomorrow evening.   It certainly isn't hard to count our blessings this year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

This is my favorite week of the year

Call me crazy, but I like the week of Thanksgiving.  I am on vacation!

Today I spent most of my day playing with my favorite little guy, Christian.  He's five months old now and just so sweet.  He's reaching for things and people now - even his crazy Grandma.  He giggles and squeals when Grandpa tickles him and makes funny faces .  What a happy little guy - he's just such a delight!   Poor Mommy and Daddy have to keep an eye on Grandpa though, because he's always talking about feeding Christian jelly biscuits and cookies.  For right now, I think we'll stick to formula and rice cereal.

Tomorrow I'll finish my grocery shopping.  The only things left to buy are the strawberries and blue berries for the fruit salad.  Oh, and more sweet potatoes.  My youngest son, Luke, just informed me that the only way he'll eat sweet potatoes is mashed or whipped.  The only way my oldest son, Paul will eat sweet potatoes is chunked and baked.  Hmmmm!   Guess I'll be making both.  After all, Thanksgiving is all about the food and I want to have everyone's favorite.

Wednesday Emily and I will start cooking.  I can't wait.  All of my new Pampered Chef cookware will get a workout.  We'll do the Pumpkin Pie, Chutney, and Oreo Turkeys.  We'll prep the turkey too, so it's ready to pop in the oven on Thursday.  We'll plan dinner for 6:00 p.m. and then decorate the Christmas tree after.  Eddie already has twinkling lights up in the kitchen and dining room.  We hope family and friends will join us for the evening.

We have so much to be thankful for this year.  Eddie and I have great kids.  Oh, we have the normal parents of teenagers complaints, but we're pretty lucky - no serious trouble.  The whole family is employed  - even the teenagers.  Paul and Katy both have good jobs and Grandpa watches Christian.    Life is good for us.  

Monday, November 23, 2009

Stuffing - My Favorite!

What is Thanksgiving dinner without stuffing?  It's a Thanksgiving staple.  I like my stuffing with lots of flavor!

2 cups turkey broth
1 cup dried cranberries
6 Tbsp butter
1 cup onion chopped
1 cup chopped celery
2 Granny Smith apples (cored and finely chopped)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
8 cups toasted cubed bread of your choice (I like to use Pepperidge Farm Country Style)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 13 x 9 x 2" baking dish.
In a small bowl, combine turkey broth and cranberries; let soak for 30 minutes.

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onion and celery.  Cook for 5 minutes stirring frequently or until tender.  Add apples and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and place in a large bowl.

In the large bowl with vegetables, stir in turkey broth mixture, salt, pepper, and cinnamon.  Add toasted bread, stirring gently to combine.  Spoon mixture into prepared dish and bake for 30 - 50 minutes or until center is set.

This is a tasty recipe - not dry and plain like most.  Give it a try.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cranberry-Ginger Chutney

Chutney is sweet and savory.  Use it as a glaze for roasts or a spread for sandwiches.  For special occasions, serve chutney with cheese and crackers as an appetizer.

Traditional cranberry sauce gets a healthy dose of ginger and dried fruit in this lightly sweetened chutney.  This is great with the tur
key and helps to lighten the heaviness of the rest of your Thanksgiving menu.  

1 bag (12 oz) cranberries
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup dried apricots (chopped)
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 small onion (finely chopped with the Pampered Chef Food Chopper)
1 clementine or small orange (peeled, seeds discarded, and finely chopped)
1/2 tsp salt

In a 3 quart saucepan, combine cranberries, brown sugar, apricots, raisins, vinegar, ginger, onion, clementine and 1/2 tsp salt.  Heat to boiling on high.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes or until mixture thickens, stirring occasionally.

Spoon chutney into serving bowl; cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 1 week.

This usually gets mixed reviews - not everyone likes it, but some just love it!  It's great with your turkey on Thanksgiving day, or it makes a great addition to a turkey sandwich - try it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Very Vanilla Fruit Salad

This is a great salad to help lighten up that heavy Thanksgiving menu.  It's fresh and fruity.  The following recipe will make 10 (1/2 cup) servings.

2 cups strawberries, sliced (use the Pampered Chef egg slicer - it makes the job much faster and the slices are even)
1 cup blueberries
1 cup fresh or canned pineapple chunks
2 kiwis (peeled and sliced)
1 cup mandarine oranges
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract

Mix fruit, confectioners' sugar and vanilla in large bowl.
Refrigerate 1 hour or until ready to serve.

This is perfect served in the Pampered Chef prep bowls.  They are just the right size.

Pampered Chef Items Have Shipped

For those of you who placed Pampered Chef orders at the Come Cook With Me party, I should receive your order tomorrow.  I'll be sure to get your items to you over the weekend, so you'll have them in plenty of time for your Thanksgiving preparation.

Thanks again for your orders.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thanksgiving Soup Course - Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

This simple, smooth-as-silk butternut squash puree is a true mouthful of fall.  During the dead of winter, its bright golden hue and deep, sweet flavor are most welcome.

Before you start - if you can't find creme fraiche, substitute heavy cream, which will contribute a similar flavor although not quite the same texture.  The correct amount of salt really brings out the sweetness of the squash in this recipe.  Don't be scared; add a little at a time and you'll be amazed at how it rounds out the flavor.

Tip:  This can be made up to a day ahead and kept in the refrigerator.  Warm the soup gently on the stove, covered.

2 medium butternut squash (about 6 lbs)
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
6 Tbsp pure maple syrup, Grade B for strongest flavor
3 tsp coarse kosher salt, plus more to taste
4 Tbsp creme fraiche
4 - 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 Tbsp maple syrup whisked into 1/4 cup creme fraiche for garnish, as desired

Preheat oven to 350.  Using a large, sharp knife, cut the squash lengthwise down the middle.  Scoop out the seeds.  Place the squash halves, flesh side up, in a 9 x 13" baking dish.  Put a Tbsp of butter and a Tbsp of maple syrup in each cavity.  Sprinkle each half with 1/4 tsp of the salt.  Cover the pan with foil.  Bake for about 1 1/2 hours or until the squash is very soft.  Cool just until the squash can be handled.

Carefully pour any liquid from the squash cavities into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade or a blender and then scoop all the pulp into the food processor.  Add the remaining Tbsp of butter and remaining Tbsp of maple syrup, remaining tsp of salt and creme fraiche.  Puree until completely smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the food processor as necessary.  

Transfer the puree to a medium saucepan, whisk in about 2 cups of the stock to start, and heat through over medium heat.  Thin with the additional stock and adjust seasoning to taste.  Swirl 1 Tbsp of maple creme fraiche into each bowl of soup.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Oreo Turkeys - Guaranteed to Be A Hit

These are so cute and so easy to make.  Your small guests will love them, and maybe even your grown up ones.

Oreo cookies
Hershey's Kisses
Candy corn
Red hot candies
Chocolate frosting

Lay an Oreo cookie flat.  Use chocolate frosting to glue a Hershey's kiss to the top front portion of the cookie.  Use the frosting to glue a red hot to the top front of the Hershey's Kiss (to look like the gobbler).  Then, use the chocolate frosting to glue four candy corns to the back of the cookie (the wide yellow part of the candy corn should be at the back).

Last year, I delegated the assembly of these to Emma.  She had a blast putting them together.  Honestly, they were almost too cute to eat.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Pecan Crunch

Here is another must have for Thanksgiving.  Paul's favorite - the sweet potatoes!

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar (divided)
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp orange juice
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (divided)
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger (divided)
1/2 tsp salt
3 lbs sweet potatoes (peeled and cut into 1" chunks)
1 cup dried cranberries
6 Tbsp butter (cut up and divided)
1/2 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 400.  Mix 1/4 cup of the brown sugar, maple syrup, orange juice, vanilla, 1/2 tsp each of the cinnamon and ginger, and salt in large bowl.  Add sweet potatoes; toss to coat well.  Spoon into 13 x 9" baking dish.  Sprinkle evenly with cranberries.  Dot with 2 Tbsp of the butter.  Cover with foil.  Bake 30 mins.

Meanwhile, mix flour, remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar and remaining 1 tsp each cinnamon and ginger in medium bowl.  Cut in remaining 4 Tbsp butter with a fork until coarse crumbs form.  Stir in pecans.  Remove sweet potatoes from oven and stir gently. Sprinkle evenly with pecan topping.

Bake uncovered for 25 - 30 minutes longer or until sweet potatoes are tender and topping is lightly browned.

Somebody Found Time For A Nap

Brody was the smart one of the bunch.  After all the hard work was done, he found time for a nap.  I know by the time we were finished I was all tired out.  Both of our small guests were absolutely perfect.  They were happy and smiling and just the perfect distraction from our sticky stuff.  They are welcome back anytime.

Somebody Had To Supervise

We had two little ones at the party.  They kept us all busy and entertained.  It's so much fun to have babies in the house.  No offense ladies, I think Christian and Brody were my favorite guests.  Both of them were absolutely perfect.  I didn't hear either one of them complain about making those sticky ornaments!

Look Who Did Lots of the Cooking

Someone had to slave away at the stove.  There were lots of Pampered Chef pots and tools to use.  Those make any recipe easy to make.

We kind of poked fun of the people sitting at the table who had to put the ornaments together.  The kitchen was filled with lots of color, flavor, and scents.  I really don't think anyone went home hungry.  Next month we'll be making comfort food.

Come Cook With Me Was Fun

Thanks to those of you who were able to make it to Come Cook With Me on Sunday.  It was certainly entertaining.  We made the Marshmallow Treat Ornaments, and let me tell you, they were a challenge.  They are pretty, but lots of WORK!  Enjoy the photos I've attached.  Everybody pitched in.

We made the Cherry Apple Crisp and Pretzel Rolo Thingies (The Perfect Bite) too.  Lots of sweets.  The most important lesson of the day . . . don't attempt to form one of the ornaments without lots and lots of butter on your gloves.  That stuff is sticky!!!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Green Bean Casserole - I Love the Original, But I've Souped This Up Too

Green Bean Casserole is a must have at our Thanksgiving table.  I think I've tried every variation you can think of, but I always come back to the original with only a small twist.  

The recipe calls for 8 cups of cooked green beans.  I use two pounds of fresh green beans and I cook them in 2 cups of turkey stock for about 5 minutes.  It gives them a unique and really tasty flavor.

2 cans (10 3/4 oz) Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup
1 cup of milk
2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
8 cups of cooked green beans
1 can (6 oz) French's French Fried Onions

Stir soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, beans and 1 1/3 cups French fried onions.
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until hot.  Stir.
Top with remaining onions.  Bake for 5 minutes more.

One more twist -- I add 2 Tbsp dried minced onion flakes and four slices of cooked crumbled bacon to the soup mixture.


Gravy - A Healthier Version

This gravy will start with turkey stock.  This will make good use of the neck and giblets from your turkey.

2 Tbsp olive oil
Turkey neck and giblets
2 medium carrots (chopped)
2 large celery ribs (chopped)
1 medium onion (quartered)
8 cups of water
1/2 tsp Rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a stock pot over moderate heat until hot, but not smoking.  Add neck and giblets; cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Add vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add water, Rosemary, salt and pepper.  Simmer, uncovered until liquid is reduced to about 5 cups; about 20 minutes.

Pour stock through a strainer into a bowl.  Discard the solids.

Hint:  Save all celery tops, carrot tops and peelings, and any other veggie pieces as you prep.  Throw them all into the stock pot to add flavor.  (Only fresh - nothing old)  I like to add any tomatoes or other veggies I need to use up as well.  Increase the amount of water for 4 quarts.  You'll wind up with enough stock for your stuffing, green bean casserole, and gravy.  Plus you'll have enough for anything else you may need to use it in.

Once your turkey is out of the oven and you're ready to make your gravy, whisk 1/2 cup of flour into one cup of the stock and set aside.  Scoop 1 cup of drippings from your turkey roaster and add to the stock in your your gravy pan. Bring the stock and drippings to a slow boil.  Stir flour mixture slowly into boiling stock.  Stir constantly until gravy thickens.  Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thanksgiving - Two Weeks From Today - It's Turkey Time

This will be the week that all groceries go on sale and are cheaper than they will be the rest of the year.  If you have the funds available, stock up now.  All baking goods will be reduced for the next few weeks.  Turkeys will probably be on sale everywhere for far less than $1.00/lb. So far, I've seen one ad for $.57/lb.  I suspect that will be the lowest price to be found this year.

For those of you who have never roasted a turkey, don't let anybody fool you.  It's really very easy.  Now, following is the recipe I've selected for our 2009 Thanksgiving Turkey.

Orange-Scented Roast Turkey

1 turkey (the size of your choice)  I usually buy frozen and make sure it has the temperature probe
5 cloves of garlic (minced)
2 medium oranges (unpeeled and cut into chunks)
1 large red onion (cut into chunks)
1/4 cup fresh sage (loosely packed)
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 1/2 tsp salt (divided)
1 tsp coursely ground black pepper (divided)

Preheat oven to 325.  Remove giblets and neck from inside turkey; set aside.  Rinse turkey with cold running water; pat dry with paper towels.  Place turkey, breast side up on rack in large roasting pan.

In large bowl, toss together garlic, oranges, onion, sage, poultry seasoning, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper.

Put as much of the mixture as possible in the body cavity  of the turkey.  Sprinkle turkey with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper.

Okay - I plan to change this just a little bit.  I will soften a whole stick of butter and then smear that all over the skin of the turkey and under the skin of the turkey.  I like to season the skin and under the skin.  (mainly because I like to eat the skin before the turkey is served).  I also like to place my turkey in a Reynolds Turkey Size Baking Bag.   It helps keep the turkey moist without basting.  Into the oven it goes until the temperature probe pops.  Depending on the size of your turkey, that's usually around 3 1/2 hours.  Try it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Perfect Pumpkin Pie - Yes, This Will Be Dessert

This is a variation from my normal pumpkin pie recipe.  This uses sweetened condensed milk instead of evaporated milk.  It should be yummy.  Pumpkin Pie is always my favorite Thanksgiving goody.

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin (about 2 cups)
1 (14 oz) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 (9") unbaked pie crust

Heat oven to 425.  Whisk pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, spices and salt in medium bowl until smooth.  Pour into crust.

Bake 15 minutes.  Reduce oven temp to 350; bake an additional 35 - 40 minutes or until knife inserted 1" from crust comes out clean.  Cool.

Optional Streusel Topping
Combine 1/2 cup packed brown sugar and 1/2 cup flour in medium bowl.  Cut in 1/4 cup cold butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  After pie has baked for 30 minutes at 350, sprinkle evenly over top.  Bake an additional 10 minutes.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Party Mashed Potatoes

I plan to serve my family and friends a variation of these mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving.  This recipe is sized to serve 20 people, so reduce or expand your recipe as needed.

7 1/2 cups water
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) butter
2 tsp garlic salt
2 tsp onion salt
2 (8 oz) pkgs of cream cheese (cubed and softened)
1 (12 oz) can Evaporated Milk
16 oz sour cream
1 (15.3 oz) pkg Instant Mashed Potatoes (9 cups)
Cooked bacon (chopped)
Chopped fresh parsley or chives

Heat oven to 350.  Spray a 13 x 9" baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Heat water, butter, garlic salt and onion salt to boiling in a 6-quart Dutch oven or saucepan.  Remove from heat.  Add cream cheese, evaporated milk and sour cream, stirring until cream cheese is dissolved.

Stir in potato flakes, mixing until all ingredients are well combined.  Spread mashed potato mixture into prepared pan.

Sprinkle with paprika and bake 1 hour or until bubbling around edges and golden brown.  Top with chopped bacon and parsley or chives, if desired.

My variation:  Replace the water and instant mashed potatoes with the following.  Peel and chop about 15 average size potatoes.  Boil in salted water until tender.  Mash.  Add the ingredients as listed through the sour cream.  Mix well and place in prepared pan.  Sprinkle with Paprika and bake 1 hour.  I will definitely top with bacon and chives.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thanksgiving Day - Only 17 Days Left

There is still time to place your Pampered Chef order so you'll have the serving dishes and kitchen tools you'll need to prepare your Thanksgiving dinner.  Orders placed by Tuesday, November 17th will arrive in plenty of time help make your meal perfect.

I've been busy planning my menu.  I always like to find new variations of the the classics.  Let's face it, what's Thanksgiving without the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, salad, rolls, and pumpkin pie?  Those are all must-haves at our table.  But there are ways to bring something new to the classics.

Check back each day and I'll share a part of this year's menu.  We'll start with mashed potatoes tomorrow.

Plan to come and cook with me on Sunday, November 15th at 2:00 p.m.  We'll be making holiday recipes.  Call me or send me an e-mail to let me know if you will attend.  (636) 343-9325 or

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Perfect Bite - Pretzel Rolo Thingies

This is a fantastic recipe with no name.  This truly is the "perfect bite".  It is the perfect blend of sweet and salty.  I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't rave about this cookie/snack.

Preheat your oven to 350.  Place parchment paper on your cookie sheet.  I usually do two cookie sheets at a time.  That will use one bag of twisted or square pretzels and two bags of Rolos.  Place the pretzels evenly on the cookie sheets and place one Rolo on each pretzel.  Bake in the preheated oven for 4 minutes.  Remove promptly and let sit until cool.  Keep tightly sealed in an airtight container.

So simple - but so good!  Hardest part of this recipe is peeling all of those darn Rolos.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Baked Potato Soup - Mmm Mmm Good!

This is one of those awesome comfort foods.  It's perfect when the weather is cold and nobody really wants to go outside.

4 large potatoes
2 carrots (peeled and sliced)
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup flour
3/4 tsp salt
3 cups milk
3 cups of water used to boil veggies
1/2 tsp pepper
4 green onions (sliced)
1 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
12 slices bacon (crumbled)
8 oz sour cream

Dice potatoes.  Peel and slice carrots.  Place all veggies into 4 quarts of boiling water.  When soft (after about 10 minutes) drain and reserve 3 cups of water to use in soup.  Set veggies aside.

Melt butter in heavy pan over low heat.  Add flour, stirring until smooth.  Allow to cook until mixture smells almost nutty.  (This is called roux)  Gradually stir in your reserved veggie water.  Add very slowly and stir constantly to avoid lumps.  Add milk and continue to stir and cook until mixture is thick and bubbly.  Add veggies, salt, pepper, green onion, bacon and cheese.  Cook until thoroughly heated.  Stir in sour cream just before serving.

So good!  Serve with biscuits or corn bread.  My favorite is Cheese Garlic Biscuits.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Marshmallow Treat Ornaments - We'll try them on the 15th!

These are just too pretty!  I can't wait to try them.  

6 tbsp butter
2½ cups miniature or 18 large marshmallows
2–3 tsp red or green food coloring
5 cups crisp rice cereal
16  pieces thin black or red licorice rope
16 gummy ring candies
3 tbsp decorating nonpareils or colored sugar

1. Melt butter in Executive 4-qt. Casserole over low heat (do not use stainless cookware). Add marshmallows and stir with Mix ‘N Scraper® until completely melted. Remove from heat; add food coloring and stir until well blended.  Add cereal to marshmallow mixture and stir until well coated.

2. Using Large Scoop, scoop cereal mixture into 16 rounded portions onto Parchment Paper. Fold one piece of licorice rope in half. Wearing plastic gloves, form an indentation into cereal for licorice. Insert licorice ends into indentation.  Lightly pack scoop into a ball around licorice, leaving a 1½-in. loop at the top. Thread one gummy ring over licorice loop to fit on top of ball at base of loop. Repeat with remaining licorice, cereal mixture and gummy rings.

3. Place nonpareils into Coating Tray. Roll each ornament in nonpareils to form a narrow stripe around the middle. Store in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to serve.

Yield: 16 ornaments

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November "Come Cook With Me"

I am planning a November "Come Cook With Me" on Sunday, November 15th at 2:00 p.m.  We'll be baking cookies and trying out holiday recipes.  Maybe you'll take home some ideas to use for your own Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners.  I hope so.

Please come hungry, and bring a friend.  There will be lots to eat.  Send me an e-mail to let me know you'll be coming.

Grocery Shopping Lists and Menu Planning

I ran across a website that includes a grocery shopping list and a menu planning page that are pretty good.  I think you'll find it helpful.  There are several different formats available.  You'll find one that will work for you.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Gooey Butter Cake - Quick, Easy & Delicious

When you need a quick and easy, but absolutely delicious dessert that everyone will love - try this one.  It is always a hit!

1 yellow cake mix
1 egg
1 stick of butter - melted

Mix ingredients together.  Stir well and press into 9 x 13" pan.

2 eggs
8 oz cream cheese - softened
10 oz powdered sugar

Beat eggs and cream cheese with mixer.  When smooth and creamy, add powdered sugar.  Beat until all lumps are dissolved.

Pour over cake.  Bake at 325 for about 45 minutes or until slightly golden brown.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar when it comes out of the oven.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Karan's Super Bowl Chili - Not too spicy, but spicy enough

This is the chili that was served at Christian's Baptism Picnic - Enjoy it!

3 lbs ground beef
2 tsp seasoned salt
2 cans Campbell's French Onion soup
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp black pepper
4 tsp cocoa powder
2 cans Bush's beans in chili sauce (medium)
1 - 12 oz can tomato paste
1 - 16 oz can Contadina Garlic & Onion Tomato Sauce
1 can of Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
2 - 12 oz cans of Coke

Brown your ground beef with the seasoned salt.  Drain any grease from you browned meat.  Add the French Onion soup and spices.  Cook until it boils.  Add beans, tomato paste, sauce and tomatoes.  Reheat until soup boils.  Add the Coke and cook until thick and bubbly.

This is good chili.  It is pretty mild - yet leave a little bit of a burn.  Enjoy!!!

Christian was baptized today - See pictures from our picnic afterwards

It was a gorgeous day!  We couldn't have asked for better.  It was fun to spend time with family and friends.  Thanks so much for coming everyone!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Do you love the Chicken & Gnocchi Soup at Olive Garden?

I just love the Chicken & Gnocchi Soup at Olive Garden.  I found a 3.3 lb box of Gnocchi during a recent trip to Sam's Club (yes, I actually went to Sam's because Paul has a membership).  That made me think it was time I found a way to make that soup.  I googled "Olive Garden Chicken & Gnocchi Soup" and found at least 30 recipes - some looked good, others did not.  I borrowed ideas from about 8 of them and came up with a recipe that I think came pretty darn close to Olive Garden's version.

2 chicken breasts
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Pampered Chef Italian Seasoning
1 stick butter
6 cups chicken broth
1 quart Half & Half
2 stalks of celery (sliced in small thin pieces)
2 carrots (grated)
1 small zucchini (grated)
1 medium onion (diced)
1 garlic clove (minced)
3/4 cup flour (divided)
1 cup fresh spinach (chopped)
1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste
16 oz potato gnocchi

Pour olive oil into a bowl and add Italian seasoning.  Stir and then add the chicken breasts.  Coat the chicken with the oil and seasoning and allow to sit for 30 minutes.

Place the chicken on a hot, greased grill pan over medium heat.  Season with salt and pepper and allow to cook undisturbed for five minutes.  Turn, season the other side and cook for an additional five minutes.  Turn the chicken again, turn the burner off and let the chicken sit for about three minutes.  Remove from heat.

Melt butter in a stock pot.  Saute the onion, celery, carrot, zucchini, and garlic over medium heat until the onion is translucent.  If you like your veggies crunchy, cook a little less.

Add the 1/2 cup flour and stir well.  Allow to cook until the flour has an almost nutty smell (about 1 1/2 mins).

Slowly add chicken stock while stirring constantly.  The flour mixture should help to thicken the chicken stock.  Stir remaining 1/4 cup flour into 1 cup of the Half & Half.  Pour into soup, and add the remaining Half & Half and then heat to boiling.

Add the thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.  I recommend undersalting.  This seems to become more salty as it cooks.

Slice the chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Add the chicken and gnocchi to the soup and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the spinach just before serving.  Allow to cook for 1 - 2 minutes until the spinach is wilted.

This really is sooooo good!  It is certainly worth the time it takes to slice, dice and grate all of the veggies.

Need some help with your slicing, dicing or grating?  Ask me for a Pampered Chef catalog.  The Pampered Chef Mandoline and 5" Utility Knife made quick work of this for me.  Oops, I almost forgot I used the Garlic Press too.

The whole family loved this!  Even the teenagers . . .

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Christmas Gift Ideas

There are lots of practical Pampered Chef gift ideas.  I would love to send you a flyer with all kinds of gift packages that will please any "chef".  Please send me an e-mail if you'd like to see it and I will e-mail it to you.    I tried to find a way to attach it to this post, but it just wouldn't work.  These are pretty, affordable, and unique ideas.

I'm still looking for followers of this blog.  Be one of the first five to follow and I'll send you a Pampered Chef Bar Board and Paring Knife.  Be sure to send your contact information to me at

Monday, October 26, 2009

Christian is 4 Months Old

Go to to see the video of Christian at 4 months.  He's quite the little chatter box.  His daddy got in trouble every day in Kindergarten and First Grade for talking in school.  From what I hear, his mommy liked to talk too.  I'm afraid this sweet little guy may just follow in Mom and Dad's footsteps.

He's so handsome though.  He'll probably charm his way into his teacher's heart.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Seasoned Oyster Crackers - A tasty fall snack

1 lb oyster crackers
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp dill weed
1 tsp garlic salt
1 pkg Italian salad dressing mix

Pour crackers in 9" x 13" pan.  Mix remaining ingredients together over low heat.  Pour over crackers and stir well.  Bake at 250 for 1 hour.  Stir every 15 minutes.  Store in an airtight container.

I like to double this recipe because it's gone in a hurry.

Burgers & Veggies - In the broiler or on the grill

Tear off one 12" x 18" sheet of aluminum foil for each desired serving.  In the center of each sheet, place the following ingredients in single portion servings:

1/3 lb hamburger patty, sliced onions, sliced or baby carrots, sliced potatoes, salt and pepper, 1/4 cup Cream of Mushroom soup, 1/4 cup water

Seal tightly in the aluminum foil and place on hot grill or under broiler for one hour.  Turn over after 1/2 hour so burger and veggies will cook evenly.  Remove from heat and serve.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Luke is 18!

How hard is that to believe?  Our little 4 1/2 lb preemie baby boy is officially an adult.  It hardly seems possible. He was such a cute little guy.  He's still cute, just not so little.

Just after dinner we let the dogs outside for a little bit.  They were barking like crazy and we just couldn't figure out why.  There were a couple of young ladies decorating our truck with balloons and painting "Happy Birthday Luke" on the windows.  I'm sure he is gonna love that!

We are very proud of Luke.  He does well in school and he's an awesome volleyball player.  I'm getting anxious for volleyball to start again.  He is usually pretty responsible, and, on occasion, he's nice to his sister.  What more can we ask for?  Luke also likes to spend time with his older brother working out.  He recently started a new job, and that keeps him very busy.  He got his first paycheck yesterday, so he's feeling pretty wealthy.

Happy Birthday Luke!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Apple Dumplings - Fabulous dessert, but lots of work

I went to Sam's to do some shopping with my son Paul and daughter Emily.  We spent an hour and a half wondering through the store looking at food and Christmas decorations (Yikes!  Christmas will be here before we know it.).  I can tell it's fall - I'm hungry.

Karan's money saving tip for today - Don't shop when you're hungry.  But you already knew that.

Before I knew it, we had a cart full of stuff!  It was worth it though because we enjoyed each other's company and had a relaxing evening.  On the way home, we stopped to see Luke working at Taco Bell.  His manager actually sent him out to the dining room to make sure we had everything we wanted.  I think Luke was a little embarrassed, but happy to see us.

Paul told me he wants Katy to fix him some Apple Dumplings, so I promised I'd post the recipe here.  These are wonderful, but take quite a while to make.  They are worth the trouble, I promise.

4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
Apples - sliced
Cinnamon sugar

Add milk to make a soft dough.  You do not want it sticky.
Roll out to 1/4" thick and cut into squares (about 4" x 4")
Fill each square with sliced apples and cinnamon sugar
Bring corners together and pinch dough to close tightly - do not leave any unclosed edges
Drop into boiling water and boil for 20 minutes

Serve hot topped with melted butter and cinnamon sugar.  YUMMY!

These freeze well to serve anytime.  Simply boil them and then let them cool.  Place in a Ziplock freezer bag and freeze.  Defrost when you're ready to serve them.  Warm in the microwave and then top with the butter and cinnamon sugar.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Quick & Easy Dinner Idea - Spaghetti Casserole

This recipe came from the grandmother of a close friend of mine.  She told me it was her "go-to" recipe when the grandkids were coming.  Grandmas always have the good stuff.

1 lb spaghetti
1/2 lb Velveeta
1 1/2 lb hamburger
2 tsp seasoning salt
1 medium onion (chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
16 oz mozzarella cheese
1 large jar or 2 small jars of prepared spaghetti sauce (your choice - I like Prego Roasted Garlic & Herb)

Boil the spaghetti to al dente and drain.  Brown the hamburger with seasoning salt, onion, and garlic.  Drain.  Cut the Velveeta into cubes.  In a 9 x 13" baking dish, layer boiled spaghetti, 1/3 each of the Prego sauce, Velveeta, hamburger, and mozzarella cheese.  Repeat layering two more times.  Bake for 20 minutes at 350.

This is a dish my kids LOVED growing up.  It's gooey and cheesy - and who doesn't like spaghetti?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Finally had to move the plants inside - It's cold outside!

Luke and Eddie had some heavy lifting to do this weekend.  Old Man Cold Weather arrived a little early this year, so what's left of my plants had to move back indoors.  Several years ago we had so many plants there was little room to live in our house all winter.  We've pared that down significantly.  Winter indoors is more tolerable, but our outdoor living areas are not nearly as lush.  It's probably a fair trade off, but I have to admit.  I miss all the green.  

I checked all plants carefully, sprayed them with insecticidal soap, and cleaned each pot.  Some years ago we accidentally moved a hidden tree frog in with the plants.  We spent two weeks trying to figure out where the strange unidentifiable noise was coming from.  We really thought there was a bird chirping in the living room once the lights were turned off and everything was quiet.  Once the lights were on and we were in the living room all was quiet.  Imagine our surprise when one day we saw a cream colored frog on the side of a pot.  Mystery solved.  

Message to all -- check your plants and pots well before moving them inside after a summer outside.  You never know what could be hiding in them.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Overnight Sticky Buns - Perfect for a Special Breakfast

Need an idea for a special breakfast?  Have overnight company and really want to wow them?  Try these Overnight Sticky Buns and you're guaranteed to get rave reviews from your family and guests.

1 pkg (16 oz - 12 rolls) frozen dinner rolls, thawed according to package directions
1/4 cup butter (melted)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1/4 cup butter (melted)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp Pampered Chef Korintje Cinnamon

Let thawed dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours or until doubled in size.  In small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup melted butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup.  Spread into a 9 x 13" pan.  Sprinkle with pecans; set aside.  Place remaining 1/4 cup melted butter in shallow dish.  In small bowl, combine granulated sugar and Korintje Cinnamon.  Stretch each ball of dough into a 10" rope.  Dip in butter; coat with cinnamon-sugar.  Roll dough into spiral and arrange in pan.  Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake at 350 for 18 - 20 minutes.  Let stand for 5 minutes before inverting onto serving platter.

Now for a couple of Karan's Kitchen Tips:

1.  I like to double this recipe and use my Pampered Chef Rectangular Baker  for baking.
2.  I use more butter and cinnamon sugar in the latter part of the recipe.
3.  Don't try to invert your pan - the gooey stuff runs all over the place.  The first time I made these I literally had sticky stuff all over my countertops and down the front of my lower cabinets.  My very compassionate and always supportive hubby grabbed the video camera instead of trying to help me stop the gooey sticky mess from running all over.  It's funny now, but it certainly was not funny then!
4.  Simply lift the sticky buns out of your baking dish with a spatula and place them on your serving plate.  Then pour the rest of the wonderful sticky gooey stuff over the top of your sticky buns.
5.  This is really good served with bacon or sausage and scrambled eggs.  Don't forget a large glass of orange juice.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Christian - Such a Joy

Pumpkin Cake - Oh, this is GOOD!

Maybe I'm just hungry today, but I have been thinking about Pumpkin Cake all day.  It's very moist and is a flavorful dessert.  I haven't met anyone yet who doesn't like this.

1 spice cake mix
1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 - 24 oz can of pumpkin pie mix (not canned pumpkin)

Mix all ingredients together.  Beat well.  Pour into 9 x 13" pan and bake at 350 for 40 minutes.

To frost, stir 1/2 cup of brown sugar into an 8 oz tub of Cool Whip and spread over cooled cake.

How easy is that?  Store this covered tightly in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Elsie's Cappuccino Mix

Another wonderful "warm you up" drink is Elsie's Cappuccino Mix.  Our last trip to Canada, Elsie Twietmeyer made this for us.  I just had to get her recipe.

1 cup instant coffee creamer
1 cup Nestle Quick chocolate drink mix
2/3 cup instant coffee crystals
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Combine ingredients,and mix well.  Store in an airtight container and keep in the freezer.

Hot Chocolate Mix

The weather is a little less than perfect this week.  It's just damp and cold.  Time to make the Hot Chocolate Mix.  This is kind of a tradition in our house.  The kids still look forward to it.  The recipe follows.  I usually triple this and it will last through the fall and winter, and there is enough to share with family and friends.

1 - 8 quart box of powdered milk
1 - 22 oz jar of creamer
1 - 2 lb box of Nestle Quick
2 cups of powdered sugar
(I like to add about 1/4 cup of instant coffee crystals for some extra flavor.)

Mix together.  Stir well and store in an airtight container.

Stir three heaping teaspoons of mix with hot water in a coffee mug.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Beethoven & Belle Get Their Halloween Costumes

We have two pretty spoiled "babies" in our house - Beethoven and Belle - two Chihuahuas who are both about a year old.  To say they are part of the family is an understatement.  They may be spoiled, but we love them and they bring lots of laughter and joy to our home.  

Tonight I took Emma to buy a Halloween costume for her upcoming Halloween night at the high school.  While there I saw costumes for dogs and just simply couldn't resist.

Beethoven is a bumble bee and Belle is a fairy.  Neither one is very happy!  I couldn't get any kisses for at least two hours after we put the costumes away.  Who knew they would hold a grudge???

Here they are on a normal day.  Just two happy puppies enjoying a sunny fall day.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It's Getting Cool Outside - Karan's Clam Chowder

I tried something entirely new tonight.  I’ve been going through an “I want to try something different” phase.  During my Thursday night shopping escapade, I though I might like to try Clam Chowder.  I had never tried it in my life.  I bought two 6 oz cans of clams, on 8 oz bottle of clam juice, and one quart of half and half.  I assumed those three ingredients would have me well on my way to Clam Chowder.  Hmmmm.

I googled Clam Chowder and found hundreds of recipes online.  None by itself sounded very good to me, so I took an idea or two from several recipes and created a new recipe of my own.  We had it for dinner tonight, and it was good.  I was really pleasantly surprised. 

½ lb of bacon (fried)
2 Tbsp butter
½ tsp each oregano, thyme, basil, and rosemary
¼ tsp each marjoram, dill weed, and sage
1 tsp parsley
1 large onion (coarsely chopped)
½ lb baby carrots (sliced thin)
4 stalks celery (sliced thin)
3 medium potatoes (diced)
Sea salt and cracked pepper to taste
¼ cup flour
1 – 14 oz can of chicken stock
1 – 8 oz bottle of clam juice
1 quart of Half & Half
2 – 6 oz cans of diced clams

Fry the bacon in a deep 12” skillet.  Remove bacon and drain on paper towel.
Wash and cut vegetables while bacon fries. 
Add butter to bacon grease, and then add all spices
Add all veggies and cook for 15 – 20 minutes (stirring frequently)
Add sea salt and fresh ground cracked pepper to taste
Stir in the flour and cook while stirring for three minutes
Pour in chicken stock slowly while stirring (mixture will the thick)
Pour in clam juice and drain the juice from the canned clams into the pan too
Bring to a slow boil and allow veggies to cook until tender (about 10 mins)
Slowly stir in the Half & Half
Crumble the bacon and add to the pan
Pour in the diced clams
Heat until boiling

Serve with browned dinner rolls. 

This was good – I don’t have a Clam Chowder reference point – but it does have the key ingredients.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Spicy Pineapple Rum Cheese Block

This is guaranteed to be a hit at your next family get together or party.  It is elegant, yet very simple.

Place one 8 oz block of cream cheese on a serving plate (the Pampered Chef Cracker Tray works well)
Pour 1/2 jar of Pampered Chef Spicy Pineapple Rum Sauce of the top of the cream cheese
Surround with Triscuits or a cracker of your choice

Your guests will dip their Triscuit into your cream cheese and sauce to serve themselves.



This is a twist on regular Guacamole.  It's a great game day or party recipe to serve with Tostitos.

3 avocados (make sure they aren't too soft or rock hard - they should give a little to your touch)
1 package of Tostitos Guacamole seasoning (It's in the chip aisle at Dierbergs)
1 - 16 oz container of Wild for Mild Salsa (It's in the produce dept at Dierbergs)

Use the Pampered Chef Avocado Peeler to peel and dice the avocados.  Place them in a bowl and mash them with a fork.  Strain the liquid from the salsa and let sit for a few minutes.  Stir the seasoning packet into the mashed avacados and mix well.  Pour in the salsa and stir.  Chill for one hour to let the flavors combine.  Serve with Tostitos.

Yum!  People always rave about this.

A Night of Shopping Has Me Worn Out

After a full day at work, followed by an evening of grocery shopping, I'm pretty tired.  It was 9:00 by the time Emma and I got back from the two "Save $10 Stores", got all of the groceries put away, and fixed dinner.  That left me thinking tonight about some of the kitchen shortcuts I use.  Have you ever checked out the seasoning packets in the Produce and Spice sections of the grocery store?

There are times when I feel really organized and I get my meals planned for a week.  I wish that were the rule and not the exception, but it happens sometimes.  When it does, I usually plan a slow cooker meal that I can "plop" in the crock pot in the morning and have ready to eat when I get home from work.  McCormick makes two of my favorite flavoring packets to use in the crock pot.  They are the "BBQ Pulled Pork" and the "Beef Stew".  Look for them on your next shopping trip.  You'll find them in the spice aisle.  Oh . . . they are soooo good!  The whole family will love them and there isn't much else to do to get dinner on the table.

Check back tomorrow night for a couple of game day recipes to serve to your friends and family during the football game.  Football food is a highlight in our family!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Quick Money Saving Tip

For those of us living in the St. Louis area, we have a great way to save money on our weekly grocery bill just by shopping on Thursdays most weeks.  For the last several months, Food For Less and Shop and Save (two local grocery chains) have been offering $10 off your grocery purchase of $50 or more almost every Thursday.  Shop and Save doesn't even require a coupon.  They simply deduct $10 from your total.  Food For Less usually requires the coupon from the ad.

Each week I shop in both stores and take advantage of their weekly specials.  I use the manufacturers coupons that I have for products I need to purchase, and get the $10 savings in each store.  We typically budget $100/week for groceries so this really works well for us.  Both stores double coupons up to 40 cents.  With a little bit of homework lots of money can be saved.

Don't forget to check the ads of the other stores.  I take advantage of their weekly specials on other days of the week as time allows.

The Cheesy Potatoes to go with the Garlic Chicken

These are a family favorite - great comfort food when the weather starts to get a little chilly.

The trick to these potatoes is to start with frozen southern style hash brown potatoes.  I've tried starting with fresh potatoes or using shredded hash browns, but they just don't turn out as well.  Those tend to get kind of mushy.

1 - 32 oz  bag of hash browns
4 oz melted butter
1 can Campbell's Cream of Chicken with Herbs soup
12 oz sour cream
Salt & Pepper to taste
8 oz of Mild Cheddar or Colby Cheese

Place all ingredients in the rectangular baker.  Stir well.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Bake at 350 for one hour.   Mmmm Good!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesday's Recipe - Garlic Chicken

The weather was just plain dreary today.  The wind has picked up and the temperature is falling.  That's why I decided to fix a comfort supper for my family.  We all love garlic chicken.

2 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts  (I like to cut each breast in half)
Place chicken breasts in a greased 9 x 9" baking dish
Sprinkle the breasts lightly with seasoned salt and pepper (I like Lawry's)
Peel six large cloves of garlic using the Pampered Chef Garlic Peeler
Use the Pampered Chef Garlic Slicer the slice the garlic over the chicken
Slice six stalks of celery into bite-sized pieces and place over the chicken
Lightly salt the celery
Cover baking dish with foil and bake at 350 for 45 minutes

This is an awesome flavorful chicken dish.  We love it served with Cheesy Potatoes (check back tomorrow for that recipe) and a tossed Italian salad.  Using the Pampered Chef Garlic Peeler and Slicer makes this dish lots more appealing because my hands no longer smell like garlic for a week after making it.  You really need to check these out!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday Recipe - Apple Crisp

This is a recipe that I learned at one of the first Pampered Chef parties I attended in the early 1980s.

Peel and slice 10 apples using the apple peeler/corer
Place them into the rectangular baker
Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and a little bit of nutmeg
Sprinkle with brown sugar
Spread one dry yellow cake mix evenly over the top
Melt one stick of butter and drizzle evenly over the top of the cake mix
Bake at 350 for about 50 minutes or until top is golden brown

This is awesome!  And, it's a great way to use up some of those fall apples.

I Saved Myself A Bundle

I have been looking for a new dining room set forever, and haven't been able to find one that I like that will fit in the space we have (oh, and one we can afford).  Finally, after looking in store after store, I decided to buy a quart of black epoxy paint and paint my Windsor chairs and the legs of my oblong table.  We always keep a table cloth on the table, so I didn't see a reason to paint the top.  What a transformation!  It looks fantastic!

Eddie and I spent Sunday afternoon painting while listening to the Rams game.  Ugh!  What a bad day to be a Rams fan!  I got black paint all over my Rams T-shirt, hair, hands and face.  I had streaks across my face and looked like I had cat whiskers.  Ordinarily, I"d say, "no big deal", but I found out when I tried to wash it off, IT DIDN'T WASH OFF!  Thank God, I didn't have to work on Monday.  I scrubbed and scrubbed my skin until it was red and irritated.  I even tried nail polish remover.  No luck.  I wasn't about to try mineral spirits or gasoline (both were suggested).  Fortunately, after my shower this morning, most of the black paint is gone.

I took a vacation day today with plans to get my yard and house ready for winter.  All I really got done was playing with Christian, my grandson.  I can't resist his handsome smile and his chatter.  I love it when he talks to me.  He didn't even make fun of my cat whiskers (most of which were gone by the end of the day).

I can't wait to have you see the transformation of the dining room!  What a difference a quart of paint can make.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Isn't he just the cutest little guy?

Time For Dessert - Oreo Cookie Bars

This is such a simple and quick recipe.  And the best part . . . everybody loves it!

1 package of Oreo Cookies and 1/3 cup of butter (melted)
Crush the cookies and mix with the butter.  Press into a 9 x 13" pan.

Melt 1 cup of chocolate chips with 1 can of sweetened condensed milk.  Pour over the crumbs.

Sprinkle one cup of chocolate chips over the top.  Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

It's rich, but it's "delish"!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thursday's Recipe - Garlic Bites

This is a very simple recipe that pairs well with a pot of chili or potato soup, or with your pasta and salad dinner.  Give it a try.  It will definitely fall into your "comfort food" category.  It comes from The Pampered Chef collection.

Preheat oven to 350°.  Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a 12" ovenproof skillet.

Mince two cloves of garlic into the pan and sprinkle with 2 tsp of Pampered Chef Italian Seasoning Mix.

Cut 2 packages (10.2 oz) grand-size refrigerated biscuits into quarters.  Arrange biscuit pieces in pan and sprinkle with additional Italian seasoning.  I like to sprinkle a little bit of garlic salt on top too.

Bake for 18 - 22 minutes or until lightly brown.

Soooo good!

An Early Christmas Gift

Today was a very trying day at work.  But coming home and unpacking my new Pampered Chef cookware quickly helped me leave the frustrations of the day behind.  Thanks to an early Christmas gift from my mom and dad, I am the proud owner of twelve pieces of titanium reinforced hard-anodized aluminum cookware with an interior and exterior DuPont Autograph2 nonstick coating.  They are a breeze to clean up - nothing sticks to them.  They have silicone handles,so they are ovenproof to 400°.  I just love them!

I can't wait to use all of the pieces.  Take a look at the cookware on my website and you'll see why I'm so excited.  My cooking life is perfect!!!  I almost can't wait for Thanksgiving.  I say "almost" - I'm not ready for cold weather yet.

Thanks Mom & Dad - this is the best gift ever.

Do you like to save money?

I can't tell you how much money I save by using coupons.  It takes some discipline and a system, but anybody can do it.  

First, you have to find the coupons.  I suggest signing up on websites of brands you buy and stores you shop.  You'll receive coupons by e-mail and announcements of specials in the days to come.    Buy a Sunday paper and you'll find lots of coupons almost every week.  Get yourself a file box with about 25 dividers.  Label your dividers by category - Dairy, Meat, Prepared Foods, Veggies, Fruit, Salad, etc. . .  Every Sunday night I cut out the current week's coupons while watching Iron Chef on Food Network (of course).  Then, I sort through the entire box and throw away the expired coupons before I file the new coupons.

Second, study the store ads (department and grocery stores).  Get the most for your money by using coupons to buy items when they are on sale.  I like to get multiple copies of the same coupon and then stock up on items when they are on sale.  To tell you the truth, if you really pay attention and use the "Register Rewards" at the grocery stores and at Walgreens, you may never pay for things like toothpaste, toothbrushes, and soap again.  You'll be surprised at how quickly your savings will add up.

Third, watch for rebates.  I take the time to buy the required items, save the required proof of purchase seals,  and then mail in the items required.  I usually use coupons to purchase the items when they are on sale, and then send in the rebate requirements.  Often, I wind up making money on rebates.

Be smart - do your homework - SAVE MONEY!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sign up for Dierbergs Newsletter

Every week Dierbergs has a special coupon in their weekly newsletter.  This week they have Dierbergs sugar for $0.99.  Limit one 4 lb bag.  The newsletter is packed full of information each week and a summary of the weekly specials.  Follow this link and subscribe

Tuesday's Recipe - Pumpkin Bread

I like to double this recipe and prepare two loaves at once.  It's a great fall recipe and it sure doesn't last long in our house.

1 2/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup butter (softened)
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree (for a double batch, use one regular 15 oz can of pumpkin)
1/3 cup cooking sherry (or water, if you prefer)

Cream butter with sugar until fluffy.  Add vanilla, eggs and pumpkin.  Beat well.  Add flour and other dry ingredients.  Add sherry.  Blend until combined.  Pour into greased loaf pan.

Streusel Topping
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp butter
3 1/2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp ginger

Mix all streusel ingredients together.  Stir until crumbly.  Sprinkle evenly over batter.  Bake at 350 for 50 minutes.


Tuesday Night TV

I just love Tuesday night TV!  Hell's Kitchen with Chef Gordon Ramsey is one show I don't miss.  It is on Fox at 7:00 p.m.  I love the Chef's attitude - I always did like the bad boys.  He's not bad to look at either.  I wish I had the nerve to try out to compete on that show.  But . . . the first time Chef would yell at me, I'd be in a puddle of tears and he'd send me home.

Chopped is on Food Network later in the night.  There, four chefs compete for $10,000 by using several mystery ingredients to create first an appetizer, then an entree, and finally dessert.  The mystery ingredients change for each round, and of course they are always a totally weird combination.  I've learned a lot about food I've never even heard of watching that show.

I get all kinds of ideas for new food to try watching these shows.  I have to admit though, not all of my experiments are a hit with the family.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Welcome to Karan's Kitchen

I can't wait to get started.  This will be a site where you can come to find recipes, party ideas, organizational tips, and money saving ideas.  The plan is to update it daily and make it a useful resource.  Looking for an idea for dinner, check here first.  This should become a collection point for ideas not just from myself, but from all followers of the blog.  Don't be shy, share your ideas.

Please add this site to your bookmarks to make it easy to find.

Today's Tip - Making good hard boiled eggs

Hard boiled eggs can be tricky.  Follow these directions for perfect eggs every time.

Start with fresh eggs.  Place the desired number of eggs in a deep pan.  Cover with cold water and add a teaspoon of salt.  Place on burner set to high heat and cover.  When water starts to boil, turn off heat and set a timer for 13 minutes.  After the 13 minutes have passed, immediately run the pan under cold water until the eggs have cooled.  Peel and serve.