Pumpkin Pie Cake

This recipe is for all of you pumpkin pie lovers out there. This. is. better. For realsies. I got this from my friend Susie and it's the bomb diggity. I think it's something like 8000 calories per bite, but it's worth it.  Not exactly cake... not exactly pie.... just think of it as pumpkin perfection on a plate and go with it.

1 box yellow cake mix (reserve 1 cup for topping)
1/2 cup melted butter
1 egg

20 oz pureed pumpkin (not 29 ounces!)
12 oz can of evaporated milk
1 and 1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 cup cake mix (that has been reserved)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 cup butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9 x 13 pan (I used just a metal cake pan).

Mix together CRUST ingredients and spread into the bottom of pan.

Mix FILLING ingredients together very well and pour over crust.

Mix TOPPING ingredients together until crumbly and sprinkle over the top.

Bake uncovered for 1 hour. Let cool* and serve with whip cream or cool whip!

*It was delicious after it had cooled uncovered for about an hour, but it was even better the next morning after it had been sitting covered with tin foil all night. If serving guests, I would bake it in the morning, allow it to cool for a few hours on the counter uncovered. Then cover it for the rest of the day until ready for dessert.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I fancy myself to be a decent cook, but I am a longstanding baking failure.  These two skills don't necessarily go hand in hand and I have moaned about it quite a bit lately.

Recently I received a very timely, rather lengthy, and somewhat threatening email from my good friend Emily. She's a very accomplished baker, not that you can tell from the size of her skinny jeans, but whatever. My recent complaints troubled her deeply enough that she felt it was time to stage a no-nonsense intervention before my children lost all hope for homebaked goods and my husband started sniffing at the neighbors' kitchen doors.

She admonished me to unleash the Baker Within. She pointed me toward an amazing recipe that is designed specifically for high-altitude baking and sent me a private discourse on the do's and dont's for novice bakers.

The result: a paragon of cookie perfection.
I am a baker. I bake.

I made 54 absolutely perfect chocolate chip cookies.  Not doughy.  Not crispy.  Not salty.  Not tough.  Not flat.  Not tasteless.  Not gross.

"Why are you shaking?" Justin asked when I handed him a plate with the first cookie on it. "Are you crying???"

Let this be a lesson for all the little boys and girls who think they will never overcome their weaknesses. You can do it!

Notes for my future self:
1. Set out the butter, margarine, and eggs at least an hour beforehand
2. Cream the butter and sugar for 5 full minutes
3. Use a knife to level off the flour, salt, and baking powder
4. Bake for 11 minutes

Chicken Cordon Bleu

It's always nice when I can make a meal that satisfies the taste preferences of every palate living in my house. Chicken cordon bleu is just such a dish.

It's fun, it's fancy, but the home run is all in the secret sauce. My standard recipe calls for lots of extra secret sauce for two reasons:

#1. That volume of liquid keeps the chicken from burning on the bottom and sticking to the pan during cooking.

#2. It makes a mean gravy for my mashed potato side dish! Or rice, or whatever.
6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
6 slices Swiss cheese
6-12 slices ham*
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tsp paprika
1/2 cup butter
1 and 1/2 cup unsweetened white grape juice
3 tsp chicken bouillon granules
2 Tbs flour
1 and 1/4 cup half and half

Cut 12 pieces of baking string, each about 12 inches long. Set aside.

Place chicken breasts one at a time inside a freezer bag and pound the heck out of them until they are about 1/2 inch thick.

Fold the cheese into quarters and hide inside folded pieces of ham. This will help keep the cheese inside the chicken when it's cooking. Use the cooking string to fold the chicken up. Tie to secure. Trim extra length.

Mix the flour and paprika in a bowl. Coat all six of your cute little chicken packages liberally with the flour and paprika.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Brown the chicken on all sides. Add juice and bouillon to the pan. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 35-40 minutes. Transfer chicken to a warm platter.

Strain liquid through a regular kitchen strainer/colander to catch any globs of cheese that have escaped. Put the clean drippings back into the pan.

Mix flour with the half and half. Whisk this new concoction into the skillet with the remaining drippings, juice, and bouillon. Simmer, stirring often until sauce is thickened and "floury" taste has disappeared, approximately 5 minutes.

While your sauce is simmering, cut strings off the chicken and get ready to plate your meal.

Serve the sauce on top of the chicken. Use additional sauce for potatoes or rice -- you won't be sorry!

*It all depends on the size of the ham. The little medallions in most lunch meat containers are pretty small, so I use two if that's the route I'm taking.

Spanish Rice or Quinoa

I was tasked with providing a Latin side dish for dinner with friends a few weeks ago. I was having a hankering for Spanish rice, so I tried a new recipe! Risky, but it paid off! I researched about a dozen different recipes and smashed them together with my fingers crossed.

Savory, spicy, sassy success.

I have added a few more spices since that first attempt and am now ready to share the recipe in its perfected-to-my-personal-tastes state!

Now, before I unveil this masterpiece, I must also encourage you to eat the leftovers with breakfast. Yes, breakfast. I made two over-easy runny eggs and served them with half cup of rice. Yum. Yum. I tried it without realizing that this is actually a common dish! My natural culinary brilliance knows no cultural barriers. Cough, cough... I'm kidding.
2 Tbs butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 tsp minced garlic cloves
3 cups uncooked white rice***
2 cans chicken broth (14.5 ounces each)
1 cup water
1 10-ounce can of Rotel tomatoes with diced chiles
1 cup picante sauce (I prefer mild)
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 and 1/2 tsp salt

Melt butter in bottom of pot. Saute onions and garlic until soft. Mix in uncooked rice, stirring often. When rice begins to brown, add broth, water, tomatoes, picante sauce, chili powder, cumin, and salt.

Stir well, cover, and simmer on low until rice is soft, approximately 40 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure the bottom doesn't stick and burn. Remove from heat and leave covered for 5 more minutes.

Makes roughly 12 cups of rice. That is 24 half-cup servings, 90 calories each.

***I now prefer to make this dish with quinoa!  So healthy and so delicious!  Instead of 3 cups of uncooked white rice, I use 2.5 cups of dry (but rinsed!) quinoa!

Asian Honey Chicken Thighs

I. love. this. chicken. This dish was inspired by the popular Spicy Honey Chicken at Our Best Bites. I messed around with the concept until I got just the gentle Asian flavor that I was looking for! Oh, and this isn't spicy. At all. I've had it with fried rice, on salad, and in a sandwich. It is Kinley's Most Favorite Chicken Ever, by a landslide. Enjoy!
2 packages of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, about 4 pounds (16-20 thighs). Yes, do it with thighs. Really.

2 Tbs vegetable oil

4 tsp garlic powder
4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp ground ginger

1 C Honey
2 Tbs Rice Vinegar

Unroll chicken thighs and use scissors to trim fat and other ickies. Drizzle 2 Tbs oil over the chicken and use your hands to make sure it lightly coats every piece.

Put rub ingredients into small bowl, mix thoroughly.

Use the rub to cover each chicken thigh. It's called a "rub" for a reason. Don't sprinkle or dip. Get in there and give it a good massage.

Heat up the grill, throw the thighs on there and grill until thoroughly cooked. I'm not gonna tell you how long that is because in our windy back yard things always take a lot longer to cook.

While it's cooking, mix the honey and vinegar in a bowl or glass measuring bowl. Microwave for 40 seconds to make it nice and loose. When the chicken is almost totally cooked, just about ready to plate, brush the tops of the chicken with the honey mixture. Three times. Once across the lot, twice across, three times across. Reserve about 1/3 cup or so of the honey. Remove chicken from the grill and place on a plate. Pour the rest of the honey sauce over the top. Allow meat to rest for 5 minutes and serve warm.


Healthy Fried Brown Rice

I was in the mood for fried rice recently, so I did a little google exploration. I inspected a few dozen different recipes and picked out the common denominators. I have tweaked the general recommendations to my liking and am very pleased with the end result. This is one half of my addiction-of-the-month. The other half is an Asian honey chicken recipe that comes right after this post. Ingredients:
6 cups cooked, cold, leftover brown rice*
2 cups frozen peas and carrots
1/2 cup diced green onions (about 3 stalks)
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 Tbs butter
6 Tbs soy sauce
2 large eggs** (optional)

Melt butter in pan and add sesame oil. When pan is hot, add onions and stir for 30 seconds. Add frozen peas and carrots, and stir in pan until thoroughly warmed through. Add rice and stir until warm through. Add soy sauce and keep stirring until everything is completely warmed through. Yum!

Total Calories (with eggs): 203 per cup

*Leftover rice works a lot better than fresh, warm rice! That was a very common recommendation in my research.

**I confess that sometimes I totally forget to add the eggs, but it turns out delicious anyway, just different. If you choose to use the eggs (yay for protein--and authenticity!), just whisk them a little in a bowl first, then add to the rice and stir until eggs are completely cooked/scrambled before adding soy sauce.

Sour Cream Banana Mini-Muffins

Justin asks for banana bread weekly. I'm not sure why, considering my last attempt (7 years ago) was a total bust. Last week he came home from work carrying a bundle of bananas as a gift for me himself, begging me to transform them into baked goods. I took to the internet in search of a fail-proof recipe and hit the jackpot.

I don't actually own a bread pan, but I do own mini-muffin tins! I modified the recipe to suit my equipment and it was a super-success. These are the best banana muffins I have ever eaten. In fact, it's the best banana "bread" I have ever had (and I just paid $4.99 last week for a loaf from Kneaders). I realize they don't look very special, but they are insanely moist and uniformly delectable, with no "crust" to speak of. It's like 48 inside slices of banana bread with the crusts cut off... when you are only baking something for 15 minutes, there isn't time for the outsides to get extra crispy.
1/3 cup butter
1 and 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 bananas
8 ounces sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
1 and 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 ¼ cups flour

1. Preheat oven to 350 degree. Spray mini-muffin tins with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, cream butter and cups sugar. Mix in eggs, mashed bananas, sour cream, vanilla and cinnamon. Mix in salt, baking soda and flour.

3. Use a slightly overflowing tablespoon measuring spoon to help measure into 48 muffin slots.

4. Bake for 15 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes. Remove from tins and allow to cool for 25-30 minutes before storing. Pack in airtight container to keep moist.

Summer Cole Slaw

I found a version of this recipe on Allrecipes.com. I used some of the reviewer recommendations to make a few changes to suit my palate (and calorie interests). I served it on top of Brushed and Baked BBQ Chicken Rolls and it was perfect! I served it to a crowd and it was a big hit!
1 (16 ounce) bag coleslaw mix
2 Tbs diced onion
2/3 cup Lite Miracle Whip (regular would be fine as well)
1/4 cup white sugar
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds (optional)

Combine the coleslaw mix and onion in a large bowl.
Whisk together the salad dressing, sugar, vinegar, salt, and poppy seeds in a medium bowl; blend or use hand mixer to combine thoroughly. Pour dressing mixture over coleslaw mix and toss to coat. Chill at least 2 hours before serving.

Serve as a side dish or on top of your favorite hot sandwich.

Chicken Diablo

Mmmmm..... chicken that is equally delectable as a main dish or salad fixin's. Home run.
3.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed of all yucky parts
4 Tbs butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp curry powder

Melt butter in 9 x 13 pan. In separate bowl, mix butter, honey, mustard, salt, and curry powder. Pour all sauce into the pan with the butter. Roll chicken around in the pan, coating well. Arrange in single later. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for approximately 55 minutes, or until rich, glazed, and thoroughly cooked, basting every 20 minutes. To baste, I just take it out of the oven for a minute and use a spoon to re-douse the chicken with the juices/sauce. Be sure to use a clean spoon each time.

Pumpkin Pancakes with Apple Syrup

These two recipes are surprisingly easy and dangerously delicious -- they appeared on our breakfast table three times this week, to rave reviews and sloppy kisses from the troops. We first had them over the summer when my friend Missy made them for us. I squeezed her for the recipe.

The pancakes are light, fluffy, cheap, and easy--like a few girls I knew in high school. They have a hint of pumpkin flavor, but are not overly... pumpkinny.

I amazed myself with the apple syrup. It. was. excellent.

Pumpkin Pancakes
Beat 2 eggs, then add:
3/4 cup Pumpkin
2 Tbs Sugar
1/2 tsp each: ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, soda , salt
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup apple sauce (I like cinnamon applesauce)
Mix until smooth using a hand-mixer with beaters.
Now add:
1 1/2 cups Flour (I used all-purpose; Missy uses whole wheat)
1 1/2 cups of milk (skim is ok)

Mix until smooth. Batter is loose. Use a 1/3 cup scoop to measure.
Cook on the griddle and serve! Makes about 15 pancakes, 98 calories each.

Mix in a saucepan:
1 cup sugar
2 Tbs Corn Starch
2 cups Apple cider or juice
2 Tbs Lemon Juice


Bring to boil; Boil two minutes, letting it get wild and frothy, whisking several times while it is boiling; serve over pancakes

Syrup: approximately 21 calories per Tbs

And they are only 75 calories each! I (very) often make a double batch of pancakes and store them in the fridge, serving them all week. They reheat just fine!

Cranberry Chicken

If you like my Apricot Chicken recipe, here is a similar take with a recipe I received from my friend Susie. It's subtly different, a little less sweet, and was equally well-received by those who dine at my table. Like the Apricot Chicken recipe, this is very very fast to make!

4 chicken breasts
1 bottle french dressing (DO NOT use "creamy" french!! Don't even use "light" creamy french!)
1 can cranberry sauce (with or without whole berries -- I used without)
1 envelope lipton onion soup
1 can mandarin oranges
Cooked rice

Combine dressing, cranberry sauce, and soup mix together in a bowl. Fold in can of mandarin oranges (do not drain the oranges). Pour entire mixture over the chicken in a greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake covered on 350 for 60 minutes. Take chicken out and shred. Mix chicken back into sauce. Serve over rice.

Honey Chicken Strips

Last week I made some delicious homemade chicken strips. The recipe came from my food-loving friend Emily, who originally pilfered it from Rookie Cookie. I may never eat another dino nugget for as long as I live. (If you know how deep-rooted my love for dino nuggets happens to be, you'll understand just how much I enjoyed these strips!)

Our whole family loved them, even the difficult-to-impress husband. He begrudgingly admitted they were fantastic. Four times. I have made a really yummy Ritz Chicken before and assumed this recipe would turn out to be very similar. It didn't. Since I'm in a declaration kind of mood: I'll never make Ritz Chicken again either.

2 sleeves of Ritz Crackers (I used a generic store brand, not Ritz)
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
4 or 5 chicken breasts
4 eggs
4 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp water

Set the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray and set aside.

Seal the crackers into a gallon-size ziploc bag.  Use a rolling pin or just a can from your cupboard to crush the crackers into crumbs.  (I tried it in the food processor once, but we did not like the taste of the powdery result.)  Combine the crumbs, Parmesan, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a bowl.

In a separate bowl combine eggs, honey and water. Whisk until well combined and set aside. (I almost left out the honey because I wasn't sold on the concept. What a mistake that would have been! The hint of honey taste was divine!)

Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Cut the chicken into strips, about 1/2 to 1" thick.

Set up a dredging station by setting the chicken on the table first, then the egg mixture and then the crumbs. Dip the chicken strips in the egg mixture and then into the crumbs. Put the chicken back in the egg mixture and then back into the crumbs (double dip). Place the chicken on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the chicken.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until crust begins to brown and chicken is cooked all the way through. Serve with ketchup, mustard, fry sauce, barbecue sauce or honey.

I took Emily's advice and recruited a sous chef.

Make-Ahead Semi-Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Mmmmmm.... we're heading into the time of year when it's more respectable to eat pasta for every meal. As with most marinara sauces, this is best served at least one day after it has been simmered. This recipe makes a huge party pot of yummy delicious spaghetti sauce. Any extras can be easily frozen for future use.Ingredients
2 pounds ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
3 celery ribs, chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) Italian stewed tomatoes (I blend the contents briefly in a food processor; my kids and husband hate tomato chunks)
1 jar (26 ounces) of your favorite store-bought spaghetti sauce (we love Ragu Mama's Special Garden Sauce, but any flavorful recipe will work)
1/2 cup ketchup
1 can tomato soup
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
Hot cooked spaghetti

In a large skillet, cook the beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. In empty skillet, cook green pepper, mushrooms, celery and garlic until soft. (You can cook the beef and onions with all of the other items if you have a pan big enough, but I find this separated method more manageable.)

In a slow cooker, combine the tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, soup, ketchup, sugars, salt, oregano, chili powder and mustard. Stir in the beef and veggie mixtures, taking care to mix thoroughly (you don't want beef stuck to the bottom corners where it can burn). Simmer on low for 6-8 hours, stirring thoroughly every few hours during the simmering process. Refrigerate over night. Warm through and serve with spaghetti noodles; top with fresh parmesan.

Brushed and Baked BBQ Chicken Rolls

I was originally inspired by this recipe that I found online (it was delicious, btw). I decided to take it in a different direction and the end result was sensational! I'm only judging by the groans of ecstasy from every quadrant of the dinner table, but they're usually pretty reliable food critics.Ingredients
24 rolls
Baked chicken breasts, shredded
BBQ sauce of your choice (I'm a sucker for KC Masterpiece Hickory Brown Sugar)
Cheddar or provolone cheese, shredded or sliced

Brush Sauce
1/4 c. melted butter
1 Tbs mustard
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce

Optional Toppings
Sliced apples
Cole slaw
Carmelized onions

Mix together shredded chicken with bbq sauce until well coated. Slice rolls in half. Spread of mayo on the inside of each roll. Assemble rolls with bbq chicken and cheese. Place assembled rolls on a cookie sheet. Mix together the melted butter, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce with a whisk. Brush this mixture all over the tops of the rolls (OR just on the inside of the sandwich for a less messy variation) and cover with tin foil. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes until heated through. Peel open sandwiches and add additional toppings as desired.

**I no longer use poppy seeds when making this recipe. They don't add a ton of flavor, but they add an astounding mess, so we've dispensed with them.

One-Ingredient Apple Dip

I learned this "recipe" while I was teaching English in Russia 15 years ago. I was thinking about it recently and decided to make it again so that I could see if it was as delicious as I remembered. It was, and then some! In fact, I was hard-pressed to convince my neighbor's husband that I really and truly only used one ingredient.
1 can of sweetened condensed milk

Take the wrapper off the can. Boil the UNOPENED can in a pot of water for *3 hours. Keep adding water as it evaporates. Keeping a lid on the pot really helps with that problem. Stir the can once in a while. Tip it over, roll it around, whatever.

Remove it from the pot after 3 hours. Set aside until cool. When I made it, I set it aside for about an hour, but the can still felt hot. At that point I dropped it in a bowl of ice water for about 4 minutes and then it was all ready.

Open the can, scoop out the yummy, decadent deliciousness, and serve as a sweet, carmel-like dip! It is so good! We ate it fresh and then we ate it again the next day right out of the fridge. It stores well!

*Some recipes recommend boiling for 4 hours, but based on their descriptions and the photos I found, their dip seemed to be more firm. I prefer it soft and spreadable, so I stuck with the 3-hour recipe that I had made before. It was great!

Pumpkin Apple Streusel Mini Muffins

Let me describe them this way:

"Muffins so good even Crew will eat them."Many of you know that I am not a baker. At all. Nevertheless, after sampling a few dozen of these mini-muffins on a recent visit to my friend Kerrin's house, I rallied my courage and bought ingredients for the proffered recipe. Only 48 cents for baking soda? Who knew? I am pleased (and a little shocked) to report that they turned out just as good as Kerrin's.


Wet Mix:
1 cup pumpkin (or 1 cup pureed canned yams!)
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 apple sauce

Dry Mix:
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Final Add-in
2 cups peeled and chopped apples

Streusel Topping:
2 tsp flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Cut in 4 Tbs cold butter (I grated it with a cheese grater!)

Mix dry mixture and wet mixture separately. Mix together just until wet. Stir in apples. Spoon batter into greased mini-muffin cups, fill 3/4 full. Sprinkle streusel topping over batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Makes approximately 48 mini-muffins (48 calories each).

*I had them fresh right out of the oven. I also had them later that evening after sitting under plastic wrap all day. They were delicious fresh out of the oven. They were even more delicious, more moist later...

Thai Chicken Pasta

This recipe came from the Top Family Recipe Collections of two of my friends. Knowing what talented cooks they both are, I took a leap of faith, despite my reservations on the whole concept. Peanut butter? With my pasta? That seemed rather sacrilegious to this little Italian. Especially when I don't really love peanut butter all that much in the first place.

Consider me converted. Thank you, Wendy and Allison!

Kinley's response: "Wow... Wow.... WOW. This is good. SO good. If you ever go on The Next Food Network Star, you need to make this for sure to win the whole thing!"
I made the recipe exactly as written and it was perfect just the way it was. I wasn't familiar enough with some of the ingredients to mess around anyway. I have never used sesame oil, ginger, rice vinegar, or chili-garlic sauce before.

12 ounces linguine (NOT 16 ounces!)
2-3 breasts of cooked and chopped or shredded chicken. (I used 2 somewhat large ones)

1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1 cup finely shredded carrots
3 tablespoons minced garlic (yes, you read that right -- 3 tbs. Surprisingly, it's not too much)
1/2 tablespoon ground ginger or 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1/2 cup honey
Just a tiny bit less than 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 or 1 and 1/2 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce*

Cilantro and additional green onions to garnish (I did not do this)

Cook pasta in a large pot of water according to package directions, breaking pasta into thirds before boiling. Drain and return to pot. Set aside.

Heat 1 TBS sesame oil in heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add green onions, carrots, garlic and ginger. Saute until vegetables soften, about 4 minutes.

Combine honey, peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar and chili-garlic sauce in a bowl and and mix well. Add to vegetables. Add Chicken. Simmer sauce 2 minutes. Pour sauce over pasta and toss well.

*Chili-garlic sauce looks like this (but now I have started getting sweet chili sauce instead!  No kick, I use a full tsp!):

I have never been successful finding it at Walmart, but you can usually find it in the Asian section of your regular grocery store. I found it at Smith's. The recipe calls for only half a tablespoon, but it packs quite a punch, so don't get crazy with it. It was the perfect amount of spice. (Lately I have been doing 1 tsp, liking it a little more mild).

(If you live close by and want to make the recipe, just come take some of my chili-garlic sauce. I'm never going to use the whole bottle at this rate: 1/2 tbs at a time. It's really good, but I don't think I'll make it 32 times before the bottle goes bad. I'm just sayin')

Cafe Rio Tomatillo Dressing

I made this dressing for our weekend getaway. Mmmmm.....

I made it with low-fat buttermilk and it was still delicious. The original recipe came from my friend Bethany. It's been a while since I've had Cafe Rio, but it tasted just like I remembered it, for whatever that's worth.
1 pkg. Ranch dressing mix
2-3 tomatillos (remove papery skin), rough chop
1 cup mayo
1 cup buttermilk
½ bunch cilantro
2 cloves garlic
juice from 1 lime
½ - 1 jalapeno pepper depending on the size (remove seeds for less fire... I removed the seeds; 1/2 of a jalapeno pepper without the seeds was plenty for our uber-gringo weak-sauce palates)

Dump everything in a blender and blend until smooth. Refrigerate in air-tight container.

Cranberry Spinach Salad

I found this recipe on my friend Allie's recipe blog. It's delicious, fast, and simple.
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup almonds, blanched and slivered
1 pound spinach, rinsed and torn into bite-size pieces
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup feta cheese
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons minced onion
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Cook and stir almonds in butter until lightly toasted. Remove from heat, and let cool.

In a large bowl, combine the spinach with the toasted almonds, cranberries, and feta cheese.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, onion, paprika, white wine vinegar, cider vinegar, and vegetable oil. Toss with spinach just before serving.

This makes a lot and does not keep well overnight--it gets wilty and gross. This tasty salad is a definite crowd-pleaser, but if you aren't feeding an army, make less. A lot less. Or don't put dressing on the part you want to save for later.

Shredded Beef Enchiladas

I made these enchiladas on Saturday and they were delectable. Justin told me 9 times throughout the night how delicious dinner had been, more delicious than Los Hermanos or Cafe Rio (I don't know about that, but high praise, indeed!)

Kinley and Tanner clamored for seconds (and thirds for Kinley), which almost never happens. Kinley actually ate as much as Justin did, oink oink, claiming that these enchiladas are officially her new favorite food. I ran a sample of the meat over to our neighbor to see if it was really as delicious as I thought and she was in wide-eyed agreement.

If you try nothing else, make the beef for the best taco salad meat of your life.

I modified a recipe that I found on Allrecipes.com. It may look complicated at first glance; it's not.

2-3 pounds beef roast (my roast was 2.5 pounds)
1 can beef broth (2 cups)
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 medium onion, chopped or diced
2 tbs butter
2 (4-oz) cans chopped green chile peppers
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups sour cream (I used fat-free, 16-oz container)
3 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
2 (10-oz) cans of red enchilada sauce**
16 flour tortillas***

Garnish items, optional:
Shredded lettuce
Sour Cream
Spanish rice

Place roast in crock pot. Add beef broth, water, vinegar, chili powder and cumin. Cook on high for 6 hours. Reach into crock pot and pull roast apart into 2-3 large chunks with a fork. Submerge roast pieces into juices for remaining cook time. Cook for another 2-3 hours.

Shred tender roast with a fork on a plate or cutting board. The meat should be extremely tender and whole roast can be shredded in about 1 minute. In smaller portions, use a knife or a pizza cutter to cut the long lengths of roast into tinier bite-size pieces, about .5 - 1 inch long. Put the meat into a bowl and add all of the remaining flavorful juices from the crock pot. Mix well.

In a large skillet, melt butter and saute the onion until just soft, not browned. Mix in flour and green chilies. Stir constantly for 2 minutes to cook the flour taste out. Stir in sour cream and 2 cups of Monterey Jack cheese. Warm through until the cheese is all melted and mixed.

Spread 1/4 cup (4 tbs) of sour cream mixture down the center of the tortilla. Top with about the same amount of beef. Roll up and place seam side down in one or two 9x13 inch greased/sprayed baking dish. Repeat for each tortilla. Continue until you are out of the filling. (makes approx 16 tortillas, or one and a half pans of enchiladas). You will have some meat leftover. Pour enchilada sauce over the top of the enchiladas (one can over each pan). Sprinkle with remaining Monterey Jack cheese (1/2 cup for each pan).

Bake uncovered at 375 for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling. Serve warm, garnish as desired. Oh, and I had leftovers for breakfast this morning. It was even better on Day 2, warms up just fine.


**I just used a can of red sauce from the store, but the more ambitious cook can make their own with this recipe or this recipe.

*** the original recipe calls for 20 corn tortillas, cooked in oil.

Orange Barbecue Chicken Strips

This recipe is also good with strips of chicken. And a little easier too.

Funeral Potatoes

I have been making funeral potatoes for a long time, tweak-tweak-tweaking my recipe along the way. I finally have them perfect. Well, perfect for me anyway. We call them "creamy potatoes" around here because my kids find the name "funeral potatoes" a little disturbing and distracting.Ingredients:
1 26-ounce bag of frozen shredded hashbrowns (about 9 cups)
1 can (10 ¾ oz.) cream of chicken soup
1 cup milk
3/4 cup sour cream
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
3 tablespoons butter, melted (and divided) -- I always use unsalted butter
1/4 cup diced onion

Melt 1 TBS butter in small saucepan and saute onions until soft and onions start to carmelize.

Mix soup, milk, sour cream, 2 Tbs melted butter, cheese, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add sauteed onions. Slowly stir in hashbrowns and mix well. Pour mixture into lightly greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake covered on 350 for 25 minutes. Take cover off and continue baking uncovered for an additional 20 minutes.

Tangy Apricot Pork

My friend Jennie gave me a delicious recipe for shredded pork. We've made it several times now and it's a new favorite for the entire family. Kinley and Tanner love it by itself as a main dish; Justin eats it on sandwiches and I enjoy it on salads. It's different/unique and yummy and even better the second day!
2-pound pork sirloin tip roast (the 4-packs at Costco are perfect!)
1 cup apricot preserves
3 tbs yellow mustard
3 tbs worchestershire sauce
2 and 1/4 cups water (divided)

Put roast into crock pot with 2 cups of water. Cook on high for 4 hours. Take roast out, shred with fork and dump out crock pot, removing any ickies from the bottom. Put the shredded pork back into the crock pot. Mix preserves, mustard, worchestershire sauce, and 1/4 cup water in a bowl. Add to crock pot and mix until pork is well coated. Continue to cook on high for 1-2 more hours. Serve warm.

Rosemary Chicken Pasta

Sigh... This is a dish that haunts me in my dreams at night until I make it. I love it. I mean I really really love it. I originally got the recipe from my friend Heather W. and it's one of their family favorites too. My kids go bananas (in a happy way) when they find out Rosemary Chicken Pasta is on the menu. It doesn't look like much, but the flavors are unique and addicting. It's crazy good.
2 breasts of boneless, skinless chicken
1/2 cup flour
4 tsp olive oil (divided)
4 tsp butter (divided)
1/3 cup diced onions
2 tsp minced garlic
3 cup unsweetened white grape juice
4 tsp chicken boullion
1 tsp ground or regular rosemary leaves
1/2 tsp salt
dash pepper
12 ounces angel hair pasta (not 16 oz!!)
fresh chives (optional; I have never used them)

Cut thawed chicken breasts into bite-size pieces and put into bowl. Pour flour into bowl and stir until chicken is well coated with flour. In a wide, deep skillet, combine 3 tsp olive oil and 3 tsp butter and heat over med-high until bubbly hot. Add chicken and cook, turning until lightly browned and cooked through (approximately 5-10 minutes). Remove chicken and set aside.

To skillet, add 1 tsp butter and 1 tsp oil. Add onions and garlic cloves, saute until softened (about 2-4 minutes)

Add water, white grape juice, bouillon, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Simmer covered approximately 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet and simmer covered approximately 8-10 minutes. Sauce will thicken slightly and chicken will be heated through.

Before chicken is added to the pot, get started on the pasta. Cook angel hair pasta and drain as suggested on package, but do not rinse (tip I learned from America's Test Kitchen). I like to break the pasta into 2-4 inch pieces before boiling.

When pasta is ready, slowly add pasta to the skillet with the sauce and chicken. Optional: cover and simmer for 1-2 minutes, serve warm. (I say "optional" because I sometimes forget to keep simmering it and it's ok. Last night I just dumped the sauce and noodles together into a serving bowl.) It will look very soupy, high-liquid when you first add the pasta to the sauce if you have done the previous steps right -- covered-- but after it sits for a few minutes, most of the liquid will absorb into the noodles. Don't be alarmed! Trust me, you want it this way! It all works out in just a few minutes!

Serve with fresh chives (optional, and I keep forgetting, so we never use them)

Montreal Roast

Nobody loves roast beef like my Justin and I don't mind bragging that I make a great one. When we have it on hand, he'll eat it on sandwiches. It also goes great with potaters, of course! My friend Bethany helped me take my old roast to the next level with the recommendation of Montreal Steak Seasoning to wake up the flavors for "a party in your mouth"!
2.5 - 3 pound Roast
3 cups water
Montreal Steak Seasoning

Place roast in crock pot with water. Season the top liberally with Montreal steak seasoning. Cook on high for 8-10 hours. Shred with fork on a cutting board or platter and serve.

Tip: It's extremely, delightfully moist, but it will dry out fast if you don't serve or store immediately. The moisture will evaporate from that super-hot meat if you aren't careful. If you plan on using it for next-day sandwiches, put it in a ziploc back immediately after shredding to keep it moist. Once it cools with the moisture, it will remain moist.

Update from Miss Bethany herself!
"Mmmmm. This is our VERY favorite roast. We add garlic powder, parsley and seasoned salt to it as well. TIP- my hubby hates meat warmed in the microwave 'cause it gets rubbery. For moist leftovers, heat it in the oven (covered) for about 10-15 min. Tastes good as new, especially if you save any juices from the crock pot with it! We also like to mix leftovers with bbq sauce mixed with mustard and a little vinegar for a bbq sandwich on yummy kaiser rolls- kinda like a pulled pork sandwich, only beef. My mouth is watering."

Honey Mustard Grilled Chicken

This was another Allrecipes.com success story! This is supposed to be a grilled chicken, but it's barely March. And we're out of propane anyway. Sooo.... it was fantastic broiled in the oven!! Can't wait to try grilling it outdoors this summer!Ingredients
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2/3 cup dijon mustard
1/2 cup honey
4 tbs mayo (fat-free is ok!)
2 tsp steak sauce

Soak wooden skewers in water for at least 5 minutes.

Cut chicken into chunks and set aside.

Mix mustard, honey, mayo, and steak sauce in bowl. Separate in half.

Pour half of the mixture onto the chicken and stir well, until chicken is nicely coated in sauce. Thread the chicken on skewers. Place skewers on greased cookie sheet. Broil on one side for approximately 20 minutes. Turn over, baste with remaining sauce and broil for additional 10 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked.

It's great for a main dish, sandwich innards, or to use in a salad. Great reviews over here!

Sesame Chicken

My friend Emily recommended The Rookie Cookie website for yummy recipes. A quick perusal of Rookie's listings landed me in the arms of her Sesame Chicken. Mmmm... no more Panda Express for us.

Sesame Chicken

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed of any fat and cut into bite-size pieces
2 Tbsp flour
salt and ground pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 stalk green onion, chopped**
2 cups white or brown rice, cooked according to package directions

In a bowl, combine soy sauce and sugar and stir well to combine. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine chicken pieces and flour. Season with salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Once hot, add chicken. Cook, stirring often, until cooked through, about 5-10 minutes, depending on how large or small your pieces are.

Transfer chicken pieces onto a plate and put the pan back on the heat. Stir the soy sauce mixture again (some of the sugar will have settled in the bottom) and pour the soy sauce mixture into the pan. With a wooden spoon, scrape the cooked bits on the bottom of the pan while the soy sauce mixture simmer. Let simmer for 2 minutes, until slightly thickened. Add the chicken back into the pan. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and toss well, coating all the chicken pieces in the soy mixture.

Serve over rice and garnish with green onions**.

Yields 6 servings.

**Do try not to leave out the green onions. The tiny bit of Asian flavor that they add is really nice and really helps bring it all together.

Spinach Pasta Salad

I originally got this yummy recipe from my sister, Heather. I love it and make it all the time. I have been working on it for a few years, tweaking to maximize taste and texture while minimizing caloric content. I'm there!*

1/2 lb. rotini pasta, cooked al dente, drain, rinse in cold water
1.5 C cooked chopped chicken
4 cups fresh spinach, shredded/torn
1/2 C black olives, chopped in 1/4’s
2 oz. Feta cheese, crumbled
1.5 cups diced tomtatoes (grape tomatoes, YUM!)
1/2 C monterrey jack cheese, shredded

1 Tbs Dijon mustard
4 Tbs olive oil**
5 Tbs vinegar
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 Tbs honey
1 clove garlic, minced

Blend dressing ingredients. Pour over mixed salad. Refrigerate 20-30 minutes before serving. Salt to taste at table.

*This makes 12 delicious 1-cup servings, 178 calories each. Not bad for all that pasta and cheese!

**If the dressing is too tart, add another Tbs of olive oil.

Baked Ziti

For Valentine's Day, I made a delicious baked ziti for the family. It was extremely easy and just as delicious! I see why it had such high ratings on allrecipes.com.
1 pound dry ziti or mastaccioli pasta
2 cups onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 pound lean ground beef
2 (24 ounce) jars PLUS 1 cup of spaghetti sauce**
6 ounces provolone cheese, sliced
16 ounces sour cream (fat-free is OK)
6 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add ziti pasta, and cook until al dente; drain.

In a large skillet, brown onion, garlic and ground beef over medium heat. Add spaghetti sauce; warm through.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a (deep!) 9x13 inch baking dish.  Make sure it's plenty deep; this is a large meal!

Layer as follows:
1/2 of the ziti
Sour Cream (I like to mix the first half of the ziti WITH the sour cream.  Easier and faster)
Provolone cheese
1/2 sauce mixture
remaining ziti
mozzarella cheese
remaining sauce mixture
Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheeses are melted and ziti is bubbly and warmed all the way through. 

Allow to rest on counter for 3 to 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!!

**Be sure to buy a nice, flavorful sauce or it will be bland! We choose Ragu Mama's Special Garden Sauce.

No-Cream Creamy Potato Soup

I make this super-delicious soup all winter long. I have tweaked this and tweaked this to (what I consider) perfection. It's very flavorful. NO butter and NO cream!! (And no "floury" taste!) This recipe makes 9 generous 2-cup servings, only 242 calories each! 242 calories for 2 cups of creamy soup?? Can't beat that! Don't let the nutrition fool you: it's powerfully delicious and gets gushing reviews whenever I serve it.
6 cups peeled and cubed potatoes*
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups diced carrots or matchstick carrots
2 Tbs "Better than bouillion"
4 cups water
1 tbs dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt**
2 pinch ground black pepper
2 Tbs all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
2 cups chopped/diced ham -- One 9 oz package of deli lunchmeat brown sugar ham works perfectly

DIRECTIONS In a large pot, add potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, chicken bouillon, water, parsley flakes, salt, and pepper and simmer covered until vegetables become tender (approx 45-60 minutes.) Stir occasionally.

When veggies are tender, in a separate bowl (or food processor) mix flour and milk. Once it is well blended, add to soup mixture and cook until soup becomes thick (approx 5-7 minutes).

Take a potato masher and gently smash around the pot, just enough to squash some of the potato chunks, but not all. It makes the soup creamier!
Stir in cheese, cooked ham and simmer until cheese is melted (approx 1-3 minutes). Serve! Yummy!

*Try not to make any changes until you have tried it this way first! Adding more potatoes, water, or milk totally changes the end result. When you are boiling the veggies, it may look like there is not enough water. Trust in the process!!

**Add more salt if needed, but remember that with leftovers, the salt will have had a chance to leak out of the ham, so be careful you don't overdo it!

Cottage Cheese Pancakes With Orange Butter Sauce

I fell in love with this dish from my friend Hilary C. at a breakfast recipe exchange several years ago. It is delicious and hearty. I get easily overwhelmed by traditional pancakes and usually start looking for the bacon and eggs after a few bites to counteract my sugar-headache; I can eat a dozen of these without feeling sugared out. The high-protein content of these pancakes combines very well with the sweetness of the orange sauce, or any syrup really. The pancakes have a beautiful texture and they do not taste "eggy".

6 eggs
2 cups of cottage cheese
1 cup flour (you can add up to half a cup more if you think you need to)

Mix together in a blender until smooth. You might have to stir a few times with the power off to make sure it is blending thoroughly. *Update: I sometimes blend the eggs and cottage cheese in a blender -- without the flour. Then pour the mixture into a bowl. Add flour and use a handmixer to beat until smooth. Use a 1/4 cup scoop to make 15 pancakes. Drop onto the griddle and spread it out a little with a spoon. Makes 15 pancakes at 98 calories each.

Pour on griddle and cook on medium heat. These take a litte longer than normal pancakes. Cook till golden brown. Makes approximately 16 4-inch pancake medallions. They reheat just fine in the microwave! A nice make-ahead breakfast.

Orange Sauce*
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice (Simply Orange is kinda pricey, but it really does have the orangey-est result. I use any kind of oj and it tastes delicious!)

Melt butter and sugar in saucepan, being careful not to let it burn. Add orange juice and set mixture aside to cool for 5+ minutes. Add eggs. Bring to little bubbly boil and boil for one minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat, pour sauce through a strainer to catch any eggs you accidentally scrambled. I would add grated orange peel here (if you are going to use it, but I don't like it), since it will get strained out if you do it earlier. Then warm the sauce again for another minute or so. Serve over cottage cheese pancakes.

*Sauce can be frozen and scooped out of freezer bag in desired serving increments if you make this in large enough quantities that you want to save it for a later date. Just reheat on stove or in microwave.

Olive Garden Salad

My friend Allison has salad dressing running through her veins. I know I can always count on her for a yummy salad recipe. She gave me this awesome recipe that was originally from sisterscafe.blogspot.com. It turned out just like the Olive Garden! Yummy!
(Using fat-free mayo and light corn syrup, this dressing is only 34 calories for 2 tbs of dressing!)
Olive Garden Salad Dressing:
½ c. mayonnaise
1/3 c. white vinegar
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 Tb. corn syrup
2 Tb. Parmesan cheese
2 Tb. Romano cheese
¼ tsp garlic salt – or one clove garlic, minced
½ tsp Italian seasoning
½ tsp parsley flakes
1 Tb. lemon juice
1 tsp white sugar

1 large head romaine lettuce
slices red onion
black olives
2-4 banana peppers
2 small tomatoes, quartered (I actually used grape tomatoes, cut in half)
½ c. croutons
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

For homemade croutons:
4 slices sandwich bread
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tb. butter
salt and pepper
dried parsley flakes

Mix all dressing ingredients in a blender until well mixed. If this is a little too tart for your own personal tastes, add a little extra sugar, but don't overdo it!

Chill one salad bowl in freezer for at least 30 minutes. Put lettuce in bowl. Place on top of lettuce red onions, black olives, banana peppers, tomatoes, and croutons. Add some freshly grated Parmesan cheese if you like, and add plenty of Olive Garden Salad Dressing on top.

For the homemade croutons:
Cut off crusts of sandwich bread, and cut bread into cubes. Melt butter in small saucepan and add minced garlic. Toss sandwich cubes in the butter and spread out in a pan. Sprinkle salt and pepper and parsley flakes to taste. Bake for 15 minutes at 350°, turning half way through baking.

I did not make the croutons, but I think I will try it next time!! And I will use an electric knife to cut them!

Summer Kabobs

We love grillin'! I found several versions of this recipe online. I merged them into what I thought I'd like best. It was awesome and we're doing it again super soon! If you smell somone grillin' it's probably us!!

3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
4 small skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1-2 red, orange, or yellow peppers, cut into 1-2 inch pieces.
1 fresh pineapple cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 onion, cut into 1-2 inch pieces

Mix first five ingredients. Pour half of mixture over onions, peppers, and pineapple. Stir very well. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, stir well again. Drain/strain marinade back into original container. Pour almost all of remaining marinade (remember to keep some out for basting later!!!) into a bowl with the chicken. (If you don't do this, the pineapple will soak up too much of the marinade). Stir well, refrigerate at least 30 minutes*. Start soaking skewers in water.

When ready to grill, thread veggies and pineapple on separate skewers from meat. Cook chicken kabobs 10 minutes on one side; turn, baste with additional sauce and cook for additional 10-15 minutes, turning and basting occasionally until chicken is thoroughly cooked.

Grill vegetables 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally until peppers look soft. Onions may get crispy edges, but they don't seem to soften on the grill much, so they aren't a great indicator.

*I recommend marinading for 30-60 minutes. Do not marinate all day because the soy sauce will begin to break down the chicken if left too long and it will not be tender; it will be mushy and strange.

Low-Fat Pasta Primavera

This dish is a low-fat primavera that I originally found in a Pillsbury magazine. While it's a little more time-intensive than I generally prefer, it's yummy and worth it. Plus, I'm getting faster at streamlining the process. Our whole family loves it and it doesn't taste all that healthy!Ingredients:
16 oz sliced fresh mushrooms
2 cups broccoli florets
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced tomatoes*
1 cup diced, cooked chicken
2 cups halved fresh snow pea pods (optional, and did not use)
12 oz uncooked fettucini
2 cups fat-free (skim) milk
3 tbs cornstarch
1 tbs chopped fresh basil or 1 tsp dried basil leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 cup light ricotta cheese
1/4 cup shredded fresh parmesan cheese (not in the green can!!)
3/4 cup chicken broth
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1. Cook and drain fettucini as directed on package. Lightly spray with Pam and toss to keep from sticking together. Cook and chop/shred chicken.

2. Meanwhile, in a 2-quart saucepan, heat milk, cornstarch, basil, salt, and pepper to boiling over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with wire whisk. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 2-5 minutes, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens. Remove pan from heat.

3. In a blender or food processor, place 1/2 cup of the sauce, the ricotta cheese and the parmesan cheese. Cover; blend on medium-lo speed until smooth. Return mixture to remaining sauce in saucepan; stir well.

4. In a nonstick pot, heat broth to boiling over medium-hgh heat. Add garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms, broccoli and onions; cover and cook 4 minutes. Add tomatoes (and pea pods, if used); cook 1 minute longer. Add sauce and cooked fettucine; heat until hot. Transfer to serving platter if desired, and sprinkle with additional fresh parmesan cheese.

*I'm the only one in the family that really likes tomatoes, so I added them fresh to my own plate after serving, instead of cooking them in. I prefer them cooked in for a few minutes, but this works fine. I also prefer cherry or grape tomatoes, but any tomato will do!

Homestyle Turkey, The Michigander Way

This turkey was pretty much amazing. Very flavorful and extremely tender throughout. I'm not very experienced with making delicious turkeys, so I would call this a no-fail recipe. I found it originally at Allrecipes. I served it for Thanksgiving dinner and all the eaters were completely ga-ga!

1 (12 pound) whole turkey
6 tablespoons butter, divided
4 cups warm water
3 tablespoons chicken bouillon
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons dried minced onion (I used fresh)
2 tablespoons seasoning salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Rinse and wash turkey. Discard the giblets, or add to pan if they are anyone's favorites.

Place turkey in a Dutch oven or roasting pan. Separate the skin over the breast to make little pockets. You do not need to cut the skin. Just pull it up a little and shove your hand under it -- gross, but if I can do it, you can do it. Put 3 tablespoons of the butter on both sides between the skin and breast meat. This makes for very juicy breast meat.

In a medium bowl, combine the water with the bouillon. Sprinkle in the parsley and minced onion. Pour over the top of the turkey. Sprinkle seasoning salt over the turkey.

Cover with foil, and bake in the preheated oven 3 1/2 to 4 hours, until the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 180 degrees F (80 degrees C). For the last 45 minutes or so, remove the foil so the turkey will brown nicely.

Use drippings for fantastic, preseasoned gravy if desired.

**I made this with a 22.5 pound turkey. I doubled everything except the season salt. Do not double the season salt. I cooked the turkey for about 8 hours. I basted it twice. It was super moist and delicious. If you do this big turkey with the extra ingredients, be sure to have a turkey baster handy to slurp out the drippings before they spill out of the pan along the way. It gets really juicy in there!

Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe

I love stuffing. I mean I LOVE STUFFING.

2 loaves bread
4 cups diced celery
2 cups diced onion
½ cup butter
2 cups chicken broth (one can)
1 and 1/2 cups evaporated milk (one 12 oz can)
3 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons rubbed sage
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 ½ cups dried cranberries (craisins, on 12 oz bag)
3 cups peeled, chopped apples

Break bread into small pieces and allow to dry out, preferably for two days. If you have an electric knife, use it!

Simmer onions and celery in saucepan with butter and broth until tender. Remove from heat, add evaporated milk, salt, and dried cranberries. Allow to cool at least 20 minutes; when they have cooled, beat eggs and add them to mixture. Add apples to mixture.

When bread is dry, add sage and poultry seasoning, toss to mix well in a large bowl. Slowly add wet mixture to bread and mix gently until well moistened.

Pile high in the largest pan you’ve got (make sure you've sprayed it with Pam or whatever), cover with foil and bake for APPROXIMATELY 90 minutes on 350. Stir well half way through cooking. Remove the cover for the final 30 minutes to brown the top. Serve warm.

**I made a double batch and piled it high in a greased turkey roasting pan.

Asian Cole Slaw

Last night we had a YW Leaders Asian Dinner/"Planning" meeting. LOL, it's so fun to have such good friends to serve with; it really makes for enjoyable times. There was amazing Japanese food for the main course, yummy yummy homemade egg rolls, shamelessly decadent caramel brownies, and this asian salad that I made. I found several recipes on the internet and combined them into what I thought might be best and I don't mind bragging that it was excellent. What a relief, since I really didn't know what I was doing!

Asian Cole Slaw
1 16 oz bag cole slaw
15 oz can mandarin oranges, drained
Approx 1/4 cup butter
4 oz slivered almonds
1 package crushed ramen noodles
1/2 cup diced green onions
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbs soy sauce

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cole slaw with diced onions, put in fridge to keep cool. Melt butter and mix in crushed ramen noodles and nuts. Spread on cookie sheet, bake on 350 until browned, turning often to avoid burning. Set aside to cool at least 15 minutes.

In a blender (three cheers for the Magic Bullet!) mix sugar, oil, vinegar, and soy sauce. Refrigerate until ready to mix and serve.

When browned and cooled, add nuts/ramen mixture to cole slaw and stir well. Add drained mandarin oranges, then pour dressing over entire mixture. Stir well and serve immediately.

Philly and Everything

Philly Beef and Everything

1 and 1/2 pounds shredded beef, cooked in a crock pot in advance. I used thin steaks, but a roast will do.
1 green pepper
Entire large package of fresh mushrooms (what is that, 8 oz? 16 oz?)
1 cup diced onion
3 tbs butter
1/2 block of cream cheese (I used fat-free)
1 cup mozzarella cheese.
2 tbs worchestershire sauce
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Use the butter to saute green pepper, onion, mushrooms, and garlic together. Add worchestershire sauce, beef, salt, and pepper. Slowly stir in cream cheese, then mozzarella cheese. Serve immediately on toasted deli rolls.

Notes: This made a SURPRISINGLY large amount of food. We had plenty of leftovers for today. I think one of the keys to success is not having too much beef in the mixture. I prefer it heavy on the toppings, lighter on the beef (strange, since I'm generally a rabid carnivore). But it seemed more flavorful that way. It turned out to be a good thing that I didn't have as much beef as I had hoped to work with :)

Super Salmon or Fantastic Fish

I love this salmon recipe. This is one of my picky first grader's favorite dishes.

The quote from hubby: "Are you sure this is healthy? This tastes way too good to be healthy."

One large salmon filet (Costco's are delicious)
"I can't believe it's not butter" spray (or real butter, as you like)
Lemon pepper

Cover a cookie sheet (or something similar to it) in tin foil. Lay salmon flat on top. Spray with "I can't believe it's not butter" all over the top, season liberally with the lemon pepper. Broil uncovered on low for 25-35 minutes in the oven until delightfully crispy on top, but flaky, moist, and tender inside.

The Most Amazing Chili

My friend Jamie gave a recipe for the most amazing chili. We have made it several times and we never get sick of it. It really is fan. tas. tic. This is one of my husband's very very very favorite recipes. I'll just say that regardless of how the ingredients below may sound, this is definitely chili. This is not taco soup!

1 can chicken broth
2 lbs ground beef (you can substitute 1 of the pounds with pork)
3 cooked, shredded chicken breasts
3 cans "ranch style" beans
2 C sweet corn (frozen)
2 26 oz jars of salsa (I always use one jar of Sam's Choice (Walmart brand) "black bean and corn", and 1 jar of their "garlic and lime".**
1 cup brown sugar

**They recently reduced the size of their salsa jars.  I now use their new 24 ounce jars and then just throw in half a cup of whatever other salsa I have on hand.

Brown beef and cook chicken. Mix all other ingredients in the crock pot. Add meat, mix well, and simmer in crock pot on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours, stirring occasionally.

*Be sure to add wet ingredients first, meat last, otherwise the meat may get stuck to the sides of the pot and burn.

**This recipe needs larger than a 5 quart crock pot to prevent spillage over the sides during cooking.

Sundried Tomato Pasta

My friend Johanna gave this recipe to me and we make it all the time. So good, so good! This is a regular staple at our house and perfect for taking in a meal to a neighbor.
6 cups cooked farfalle (bow tie or mini-bow tie) pasta***
2 Tbs butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (10.75 o unce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon dried parsley
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2-3 cooked skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut or shredded into bite-size pieces
Approx 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, drained
4 tablespoons grated Romano or parmesan cheese (not from the green can!)

In a large pot with boiling salted water cook farfalle pasta until al dente. Drain. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saucepan. Add garlic cloves and cook until garlic browns. Add the cream of chicken soup, stir in the dried parsley, salt, and ground fresh pepper. Blend milk and tomatoes gently in food processor or blender and add to pot. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes. Mix in grated Romano cheese. Toss cooked and drained pasta with chicken and sauce. Serve warm. Add additional salt at table as needed.

**Cheapest (and largest) jars of sundried tomatoes can be found at Costco. Otherwise, smaller jars (enough to make this recipe 3 times) can be found in the canned and jarred tomato section in your regular grocery store, $3.99 at Wal-mart.

*Picture does not show tomatoes blended with milk. That is a recent change.

***I usually just make a whole box and measure it out after it's cooked, saving the rest in the fridge for a different dish. If you use too much pasta, it will taste bland and dry. Be sure you really only use 6 cups of COOKED pasta.

Chicken Enchiladas

I got this from an online bloggy friend, Marci. This is my most favoritest-est enchilada recipe. We are always looking for good enchilada/burrito recipes, so if you have one, please share!

Chicken Enchiladas
Originally from Better Homes and Garden Cookbook, 1989 Edition.

6 flour tortillas, soft taco size
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 8-ounce carton sour cream
2 cups chicken broth
1 4-ounce can diced green chili peppers, drained
1 cup shredded cheese
3 cups chopped chicken (or turkey)

Olives, optional garnish
Tomatoes, optional garnish
Green onions, optional garnish

For sauce, in a saucepan cook onion, garlic, coriander, and pepper in butter til onion is tender. Stir flour into sour cream; add to onion mixture. Stir in broth and diced chili peppers all at once. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat, stir in 1/2 cup cheese.

For filling, stir 1 cup of sauce into chicken. Place about 1/2 cup filling on each tortilla, spread around and roll up. Arrange rolls seam side down in a lightly greased 9X13 baking dish. Top with remaining sauce. Bake, covered, in a 350 degree oven about 35 minutes or until heated through.

Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, about five minutes more until cheese melts. Can sprinkle with olives, tomatoes and green onions. Let stand 10 minutes