Thursday, January 26, 2012

Baked Potato Soup

This is a great soup for warming you up on a cold evening, and also a great way to use up leftover baked potatoes.  When I don't have leftovers I just "bake" my potatoes in the microwave and they work just great.  The thing I love about this soup is that it keeps a soupy consistency even when it's reheated.  It seems like other potato soups get soooooooo thick the longer they sit that you no longer have soup, you have a clumpy glob.  A tasty glob, but a glob none the less :) 

Also, the original recipe called for bacon that you fry and crumble to put on top of the soup as a garnish, using the fat to cook the onions.  We don't eat much bacon around here and I don't like buying a whole package of bacon for a few strips.  When we do eat bacon it's usually when we have family visiting.  At those times I'll save the bacon fat from the pan in a small freezer container and then I can just pull out a tablespoon or two when I need that flavor in the recipe without having to deal with all the extra bacon.  So, long story short, if you like bacon and have it in your house, by all means fry some up and throw that in the soup!  Otherwise, save some next time you have company and you'll be ready to go anytime you need a little bacony goodness. :)

4-1/2 bacon strips, diced (or skip this and use reserved fat, see above)
1-1/2 small onion, chopped
1-2 stalks celery, diced
1-1/2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup and 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 teaspoons dried basil
3/4 teaspoon pepper
4-1/2 cups chicken broth
3 large baked potatoes, peeled and cubed
1-1/2 cups half-and-half
3/4 tsp. hot sauce (I like Tapatio brand.  It doesn't have that sharp vinegar flavor that Tobasco has)

Optional toppings:
crumbled bacon from above, hot pepper sauce, shredded cheddar cheese, minced chives, sour cream.

In a large saucepan, cook bacon until crisp. Drain, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings (or skip this step and use reserved bacon fat). Set bacon aside. Saute onion, celery and garlic in the drippings until tender. Stir in flour, salt, basil and pepper mixing well till flour is golden. Gradually add broth, stirring with a whisk to break up any chunks of flour. Bring to boil, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the potatoes, half-and-half and hot pepper sauce; heat through but do not boil- it will curdle. Garnish with bacon, cheese, sour cream and chives to your liking.

Serves 6               

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pineapple Muffins

We've been snowed/iced in for days now and it's been grey and dreary.  I thought I'd whip up a batch of these summery muffins to brighten our day.

2 cups flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp. pineapple flavoring (find it by the vanilla extract)
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease and flour muffin pans, or line with paper liners.               

In a large bowl, stir together 2 cups flour, white sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in the pinapple, egg, milk, pineapple extract and 1/4 cup melted butter. Mix just until blended.               

In a separate bowl, stir together the cinnamon, brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour, and 1/4 cup melted butter to make the topping.

Spoon batter into muffin cups and sprinkle with the topping mixture, crumbling it up a bit as needed.

Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted in the crown of the muffin comes out clean.               

*I found that the paper liners stuck a bit to my muffins, but once they were cooled completely they came off cleanly. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Maple Butterscotch Blondies

My husband LOVES butterscotch so the kids and I whipped up these blondies just for him! ♥  They are gooey and rich, a perfect fix for your sweet tooth.  My kids don't like nuts so I left those out, but I think they'd be delicious!

1/2 c. melted butter
1 1/4 c. packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. maple syrup
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 c. butterscotch chips
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350.  Cream the butter and brown sugar together in a large bowl.  Add the eggs, beating well till blended.  Then beat in maple syrup.  In another bowl combine the flour and baking powder.  Add to egg mixture and mix well.  Fold in butterscotch chips and walnuts if you are using them. 

Pour into a greased 9" square baking pan (I LOVE Baker's Joy spray!)  Bake for 27-32 minutes or until a toothpic inserted near the center comes out clean.  Let cool completely before cutting.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Challah for your Breadmaker

My sis-in-law gave me a breadmaker for my birthday recently (thanks again, T!) and I have been having soooo much fun trying out different recipes!  If you know me at all you know that I am the definition of a carb junkie.  I eat bread in one form or another EVERY SINGLE DAY.  PERIOD.  You'll never catch me on one of those low-carb diets.  :)  This recipe for Challah, a traditional Jewish holiday and Sabbath bread, is one of my new favorites.  It has a wonderful texture and flavor and makes excellent toast.  If you wanted to make a more traditional braid you could throw the ingredients in your breadmaker on the dough cycle and then form the loaf to your liking and bake in the oven at 350 for about 45 min.  Traditionally Challah is topped with sesame or poppy seeds, signifying the manna that fell from heaven.  I think it would be a nice touch, and easy enough to throw on at the last minute before your breadmaker starts the bake cycle. 

For a 1.5 pound loaf you will need:

3/4 c. warm water
1/3 c. butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. sugar
3 c. flour
1 3/4 tsp. yeast
poppy seeds or sesame seeds, optional
Layer them in in that order except seeds and bake on the sweet bread cycle.  I chose a medium crust color for mine.  If you want to add the seeds to the top, sprinkle them on when your bread is doing it's final rise, before the baking cycle begins.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sweet n' Tangy Cocktail Weenies

I made this recipe a few weeks ago for my monthly book club get together.  They were a big hit!  The recipe comes from Cooking on Clover Lane which is the sister-blog to my all time favorite blog, Clover Lane .  She and I think very much alike about life and motherhood.  She has a wonderful way with words and expresses her thoughts so beautifully.  I really hope you check out her site!

Back to the recipe- I followed everything exactly per her directions, but it seemed really saucy for my liking, so I think next time I'll cut the sauce ingredients in half and keep the weenie amount the same.  Or maybe she just uses a bigger package of Lil' Smokies than I did.  Photo and recipe comes courtesy of the link above.

I had a few leftovers, so I stuck them in some leftover hamburger buns and fed them to the kids for lunch the next day.  They loved it! Sort of a hotdog-sloppy joe fusion. :)

1 bottle chili sauce
1 jar red currant jelly
4 TBS brown sugar
1 package Lil Smokies Sausages
Mix first three ingredients on stove over low heat.  Add sausages.  Heat through till hot.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Authentic Thai Cashew Chicken Stirfry

In the summer of 2004 I was fortunate enough to spend a month traveling through Thailand with my future husband.  We both love Thai food and love to cook, so while we were in Chiang Mai we took a cooking class at the Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School.  Everything on the farm is grown organically and much of the food used in the classes is grown on the farm.  What wasn't produced at the farm we picked up at a local market on the way.  When we arrived at the farm we were given a tour of the farm where they explained a lot of their sustainable farming practices, and then we moved to an outdoor ktichen where we created a thai feast including Tom Yum soup, spring rolls, red curry and this cashew chicken.  It's on our typical dinner rotation, and we make it a couple of times a month.  Sometimes we use pork or tofu if it's what we have on hand. 

Shopping at the local market. Produce doesn't get fresher than this!

Our outdoor kitchen

The kitchen garden

1 lb. of sliced chicken
1 c. roasted cashews, unsalted if you can find them
1 c. sliced carrots
1 c. sliced onions
6-8 sliced roasted and dried chilis, chopped*    
1 c. chopped spring onions
1 c. sliced mushrooms

8 tbsp. of vegetable oil (you can use less if you're using a non-stick pan)
a pinch of salt
4 tsp. of fishsauce
2 tsp. of sugar
4 tbsp. of oyster sauce
8 tbsp. of water

*These are the red ones you find in the Mexican spice section. Split them with a knife to remove the seeds.  Soaking them for 20 min. in hot water will make them easier to work with. 

Heat the oil in the wok until it is very hot. Fry the chicken until golden brown. Add carrots, onions, mushrooms and water. Stir fry until almost cooked. Add oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar, salt and spring onions. Stir fry again until mixed well. When done, turn off the heat and add cashew nuts and roasted chilis. Serve over rice.  Serves 4.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

This is another great recipe I turn to time and time again.  Aside from the chicken it's made up of stuff I always have on hand in my pantry, it's super fast to throw in the slow cooker on a busy morning and is healthy and hearty at the same time.  Perfect for this time of year when we're trying to get back into our skinny jeans after two months of holiday festing, but still want satisfying comfort food.  I hope you like it as much as we do!

1 pound shredded, cooked chicken (a store-bought rotissere chicken is great!)
1 15 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed
1 10 oz. can enchilada sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
1 4 oz. can chopped green chile peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups water
1 14.5 oz can chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 10 oz. package frozen corn
broken up tortilla chips.
*optional toppings: avocado slices, chopped cilantro, sour cream, hot sauce, whatever you like!

Simply throw everything but the chips in your slow cooker and turn her on.  Cook on low 6-8 hrs. or high 3-4 hours.  When you're ready to eat, ladle soup into bowls, top with tortilla chips and any other toppings you want.  Ole!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Honey Mustard Chicken Wraps

These yummy chicken wraps come from my pal Katie who was inspired to make them after learning the ones at McDonald's are only 6 WW points!  Woot! She bakes a few chicken breasts ahead of time, seasoning them with garlic powder and seasoned salt so she'll have chicken on hand whenever she wants to make these for a quick, yummy lunch.  She uses broccoli slaw instead of lettuce for two reasons.  First, it lasts a lot longer in your fridge.  Second, you get more bang for your nutritional buck eating broccoli than lettuce. For you low-carbers out there, you could always ditch the tortilla entirely and make a salad out of it!  Thanks for the recipe, Katie!

Would you look at all that yummy goodness!?!

1 soft taco sized flour tortilla
1-2 oz. baked or grilled chicken, warmed or cold, your choice
a few TBS. shredded cheddar cheese
a handful of broccoli slaw
1/2-1 TBS. honey mustard dressing

Warm your tortilla in a frying pan over low heat.  Add the cheese and chicken.  When the cheese is melted, throw the broccoli slaw on top and drizzle with honey mustard dressing.  Fold up and eat! 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bahamian Peas n' Rice

I mentioned in a previous post that my family and I were spending Christmas in the Bahamas. We had an AMAZING time and it was so hard to come back to the gloomy Northwest, so I really wanted to try and bring a bit of the Bahamas to our house.  While we were in Nassau we ate at the well-known Twin Brother's restaurant. Every dish is served with Bahamian Peas n' Rice; a mixture of pigeon peas, vegetables, salt pork and rice cooked together. I wanted to recreate this dish at home, so with the help of the Bahamian Government's tourism website I made my own version, with a few variations. It didn't taste quite the same, but it was really good anyway! I think it could make a great light supper on it's own with a salad, or as a side dish to some BBQ.

The original recipe called for pigeon peas, salt pork and bacon.  I couldn't find pigeon peas, and I didn't really want fatty chunks of salt pork hanging out in my food (ew.) so I subbed canned black eyed peas w/ bacon and added some liquid smoke to make up for the lack of smoked meat flavor.  Then I sauteed my onions and peppers in olive oil rather than bacon drippings.  I'm sure the missing pork fat was why my recipe didn't taste quite the same as Twin Brothers', but it's a heck of a lot healthier without all that saturated fat, and it tasted really good anyway.  For my lightened version you'll need:

1 can black eyed peas w/ bacon, drained- DON'T RINSE!
1 chopped onion
1 chopped bell pepper
1-2 tsp. liquid smoke, play around with it.  I like mine smokey.
1 Tbs. oil
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1/2 tsp salt
a few grinds of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 c. water
1 c. rice

Saute your onions and peppers in oil in a large saute pan.  Then add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT rice, mixing well.  Bring to a boil, then add rice, cover and reduce heat to low so that it barely simmers.  Let the rice cook 20 mins or so.  Don't peek!  It's done when the liquid is all absorbed.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Award Winning Chocolate Chip Cookies

My mom gave me this recipe quite a few years ago and it has become my favorite go-to cookie recipe when the kids and I need a sweet fix.  The secret ingredient is pudding mix.  It keeps the cookies soft and chewy.  The original recipe called for vanilla pudding and regular chocolate chips, but I decided to mix it up at use chocolate pudding mix and white chocolate chips because it's what I had on hand and they were so good I might make them this way all the time! 

The kids love to help me bake, and are great about taking turns running the mixer.  Big Sister has an aversion to clothing and hair brushing these days, which is why she looks like she's being raised by wolves!  I really do bathe them! :)

We decided to send a dozen of these to their gramma for her birthday. She'll be so excited!

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour and baking soda, set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. Beat in the instant pudding mix until blended. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Blend in the flour mixture. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips and nuts. Drop cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.               

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Edges should be just barely golden.               

Other pudding/chip combos to try:

Butterscotch chips & pudding
Vanilla pudding w/ semi-sweet chocolate chips
Pistachio pudding w/ pistachios
Chocolate pudding w/ mint or peanut butter chips.

Feel free to play around with the flavor combinations.  I'd love to hear what other combos you come up with!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

BBQ Beef Biscuit Cups

I found this recipe quite a while ago on and it's become a family favorite.  I typically try to not cook with a lot of processed foods, but these are super easy, really tasty and a huge hit with the kids!  They come together really quickly and are made with stuff you most likely have on hand.  Sometimes we have it for lunch with apple slices or for a quick dinner with a side salad.  Sometimes when I make it I have some leftover filling, so I usually buy an extra tube of biscuits just in case.   You could also use any leftovers as sloppy joe filling, or throw it on some tortilla chips (bbq nachos?) I think they'd also freeze/reheat well but I haven't actually tried it.  We never have any left! :)

1 pound ground beef chuck
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 c. bbq sauce
1 (10 ounce) package refrigerated biscuit dough
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease 8 muffin cups. In a large frying pan, brown the meat, onions and garlic powder till browned.  Drain off the grease. Stir in the bbq sauce and simmer for another 3 mins.  Roll out each biscuit on a floured surface till they are about 6 inches across. Put the biscuit in the muffin tin and fold up sides to create a cup shape. Fill each biscuit almost to the top with the meat mixture; top with cheddar cheese. Bake in preheated oven until biscuits are baked, cheese is melted and tops are golden brown, about 15 mins.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Dawn's Divine Caramel Corn

A good friend, fellow teacher and yoga student of mine makes this absolutely delectable caramel corn.  It is soft and chewy, and you just can't stop eating it.  I hope you give it a try!

3 bags of microwave popcorn, popped
2/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. light corn syrup
2 sticks of butter, cubed
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Put popcorn in a large bowl, taking care to remove all unpopped kernels. Spread out a large sheet of waxed paper or aluminum foil. Melt sugar, brown sugar and corn syrup together in a saucepan over med-high heat until just boiling. Add butter and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once it is boiling, continue to stir and boil for 3 mins. The butter will begin to incorporate as it boils. After 3 min. remove from heat and add vanilla and baking powder. Mixture will foam up.  Don't worry, this is normal. Pour caramel over popcorn, stirring to coat. Spread caramel corn onto waxed paper or foil to cool. Serves 8
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