Thursday, May 19, 2016

Twin Pickles Snack Packs

Oh you GUYYSSSS!!!  I have missed you all!  I want to take a minute to extend my thanks and gratitude for the prayers, light, love, and well wishes  you have all sent through social media.  My family has endured a lot of loss in the last 2 months, my mom and then my brother.  I am getting back to what they both would want me to do, and that is cooking!  Cooking and sharing, they were two of my biggest fans.  I love you Mom and Jimmy......

Let me introduce you to the cutest little people on earth.  This is Emmi and Logan.  They are my 2.5 year old twin grand babies.

When I returned from my brothers funeral, I decided I needed a day with my littles.  For those who just arrived to the party, I call my grandchildren my littles.   I also call them my "pickles".  Sometimes sour and sometimes sweet! HA!   I had not seen them in a week and it was time to hear some laughter and do some hard core playing!  We decided to make our own snack packs.  Are they any healthier than trail mix, etc you can buy in the store?  No.  In fact, I planned to pop my own popcorn, but just cheated with some store bought cheddar popcorn.  Are they better than gummy snacks? my recent chance meeting with an oral surgeon who decided to keep 4 of my teeth, I was watching some information on the damage they do to kids teeth.  Ick.  Really this was just a fun way to start letting them help in the kitchen, be excited about what they are eating and yes, I think it is far cheaper than anything you buy in the store.

Also, the teacher in me was super excited as well.  They would name each item they took out, we would talk about what color it was and they ate every single thing.  I threw in a few M&M's for fun, and a few chocolate covered raisins as well.  If your children or grandchildren like something more than another, add more of that.  Add tons of everything, or omit what you don't like.  This is not really a recipe, just the portions I used.  The world is your sandwich my friends, make it like you like it!  Also, my grandchildren have no nut/peanut issues, so that is completely of course, based on your kids.

Now, could we have put these in cute bags with a cute tie or something?  Yes....but these are just for home, and freshness.  We used Ziploc bags.  Fill them as much or as little as the little people (or big) will eat or enjoy!

Here is how we did ours!

5 cups Cheddar popcorn (or pop your own!)
4 cups pretzels
3 cups goldfish or cheddar crackers
2 cups dried, diced pineapple
1 1/2 cups mixed nuts
1 cup M&M's
1 cup chocolate covered raisins

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and portion out into resealable baggies!

Spend some special time with the children in your lives.  When you are feeling some of your darkest times, they will lighten your heart like a beacon of hope and love.  They laugh, they love, and they bring about a feeling of renewal.  When kids help in the kitchen, I find they are more willing to eat what they help make.  Perhaps not in every case, but in many.  So spend some time with them, no phones, no tablets, no video games or movies, just give them your undivided attention for a little while!!!  It sure brightened my day.......  I hope you enjoy my "twin pickles"!

Snack well my friends!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Sticky Buns

How did you like that awesome teaser photo?  I posted it on FB and tweeted it, and boy the "where is the recipe" comments flooded in!

This is a bit of a repeat recipe, it is just doing something different.  It is my Not Your Mom's Cinnamon Rolls recipe.  I will rewrite the recipe below, and then get on to the treatment of these lovely babies, that makes them sticky buns!

Make these, freeze them, eat them, photograph them, just, for the love of food, make sure you share the love!  I had been planning on making these awhile ago and for some reason just kept putting them off.  Well, when I did make them, they were a hit, complete with moans, groans and "OMG's"  That my friends is when you know you have hit the jackpot!

Here we go!
1 pkg dry active yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup water at 110-115 degrees
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4-4 1/2 cups flour

In a measuring cup place hot water and 1 tsp sugar.  Put a thermometer in it and if it is to hot, wait for it to cool to 110-115 degrees.  I know some people say they always kill the yeast so better to have it to hot and have to wait for it to cool a bit.  I do it like this and just wait for it to get to the temp I want!

When it gets to the correct temperature add in your packet of yeast, give it a tiny stir and remove thermometer.  Let sit 3-4 minutes.  It should get foamy on the top!

Now in a bowl or stand mixer  (using your dough hook) add in the egg, milk, melted butter, sugar and salt.  Mix until combined.  Now add in the yeast mixture, flour, cinnamon, and vanilla.  I mig ht have slipped and added extra vanilla too!  I always do, you know that! HA!

Now once you get it all combined, by hand or machine, either knead it for 3-4 minutes until smooth, or let it go in the stand mixer the same amount of time, or until smooth. 

Turn the dough out into a buttered, or sprayed with non stick cooking spray, or oiled bowl.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and sit in a warm, draft free place.  Sometimes I turn the oven on to preheat for baking and set the bowl on the stove top.  This could take an hour, or it could take 3 hours.  The warmer the area, the faster it will happen.  It should about double in size!

When it is doubled in size, take it out of the bowl unto a floured surface.  Roll the dough out into a rectangle shape.  It should be about...hmmm.....14-16 by about 10-12.  Never thought about it, just always did it!  What comes next is the filling and here is what you will need for that....

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup VERY soft butter (can melt and use a pastry brush as well)
2 tbsp ground cinnamon

Spread the butter over the dough, make sure to get it covered everywhere!  Sprinkle brown sugar evenly and then the cinnamon.  

Roll up the dough into a log.  Pinch the dough to seal it all the way across, flip so the seam side is down and set aside.

Spray your 9x13 with nonstick cooking spray.  Set aside and combine the following ingredients in a small pot.  

Sticky Topping
1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup syrup (pancake syrup, the cheap stuff)
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Let heat until brown sugar is dissolved, stirring constantly.  Then pour into your prepared 9x13 pan and spread evenly.  

Cut your roll of rolls into 12 rolls.  Place in the pan on top of the sticky topping.  Cover and let raise until they have nearly doubled in size and then bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Let cool for 2 minutes only!  Turn upside down on a large tray or cookie sheet and let sit for a couple of minutes before lifting the pan off the top.  Waaaaa-laaaa!  Perfect sticky buns!


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Lasagna Cordon Bleu

 Happy Spring!  It finally feels like spring!  I shouldn't speak up so fast, it could be snowing tomorrow, but right now....awesome!

This is a recipe my husband has been wanting me to work up for awhile now.  This is the first recipe I have made since losing my mom.  I think she brought me good luck, it was amazing.  He told me what he was thinking, I wrote down a tentative recipe, and nailed it.  I am going to make it again this week, because, well, it was THAT awesome.  Have you ever put food in your mouth that made you close your eyes and just soak it in?  This is that food.  I swear.

This seems like a bit of a hassle but it really isn't, I just wanted to be as thorough as possible for any new cooks wanting to try it.

Did I mention it felt awesome to be back in the kitchen?  Thank you ALL for your private messages, emails, tweets, etc, they made my heart joyful, and thankful.  I am so blessed to call you all my friends.  Enjoy this lasagna, and if you make it, tweet me, post it on Facebook, tag me in your Instagram photos, all of it!

Did I mention to NOT skip the topping?  The crunchy, delicious, almost just want to eat it off the whole thing, crunchy top.  YES!!!!

2 large chicken breasts
1 lb thin sliced deli ham
1/2 box of lasagna noodles
16 ounces grated Swiss cheese
4 tbsp. butter
4 tbsp. flour
4 cups half and half
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup bread crumbs
4 tbsp. melted butter

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray 9x13 pan with nonstick spray or butter it and set aside.  In a medium pot, poach chicken breasts.  If you have leftover chicken or want to roast it, go for it, but I poached mine.  When they are done, remove from water and set aside to cool.  Take your deli meat and give it a slice, into strips.  No science here, I just cut mine all at the same time into smaller pieces, 3 or 4 cuts top to bottom and it was perfect.   When the chicken cools at some point during this process, just shred it. 

Cook your lasagna noodles.  Just follow package directions, you will only need about 9 noodles.  Make them all, and let your husband use the rest for buttered noodles.  (yes, I am a fabulous wife) Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking and to be able to handle them without visiting a burn unit.

Time for that cheese sauce!  In a large-ish pot, melt your butter, add flour and stir to let the flour cook for a minute or two.  Slowly whisk in your half and half.  When it begins to boil, add in HALF of your grated cheese.  Stir until melted and thickened.  Now, set that aside so we can assemble this bad boy.

Lay down 3 noodles to cover the bottom, now add 1/3 of your cheese sauce, half of your chicken and half of your ham.  Just cover it evenly.  Now take 1/3 of your remaining shredded Swiss and sprinkle that over it all, then back to the noodles.  Rinse and repeat.  When you put your next layer of noodles on (the last layer)  you should have a bit of your cheese sauce and shredded cheese left.  Now STOP.

In a small bowl melt your 4 tbsp. butter.  When it is melted and slightly cooled, add in bread crumbs and remaining shredded cheese.

To finish the top, pour and spread over the remaining cheese sauce, and then sprinkle buttered breadcrumb/cheese mixture on top.  Trust me on this one.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, then 15 more minutes at 375.  Perfection.  Just, perfect perfection.  If you love Chicken Cordon Bleu, and you love pasta, this might be your most perfect culinary dream!

PS. Excuse these photos.  I used my phone, it is a long story but, back to regular photos next time!


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Kielbasa and Potato Soup

 Good evening!  I am so glad to be sharing this recipe with you.  I haven't gotten in as many soups as I wanted.  As you probably know, soup is my "thing".  This recipe came along sort of by chance and I wanted to share it!

My sister had been out visiting our mom who has been sick.  On the way home, her, and her husband stopped at a small diner type restaurant and she ordered the potato and kielbasa soup.  She was surprise when it arrived that it was almost a tomato broth base, she assume it would have had a creamy base.  She told me she enjoyed it but wished it was creamy.  Well, I swept in like Superwoman and dove into making it how she "thought" it was going to be.  I bet if you asked her, she would tell you I DID save her day.  OK, maybe should would.  Alright, I kind of doubt it but, it was damn good, and I just had to share it!

14-16 oz kielbasa (sliced into coins or half coins)
1 T butter
1 T olive oi
1 lb (4-5 small or medium) red potatoes  (I used red, use what you have, I also did not peel mine)
1 medium carrot, grated
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups beef stock
3 cups water
2 cups half and half
4 T. corn starch
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

In a large soup pot, add in olive oil and butter.  When melted add in kielbasa and saute for 2 or 3 minutes to develop some color.  Add in potatoes and carrot, toss with the kielbasa.

Add in stock, water, salt and pepper, stir well.  Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.

In a separate dish pour in the half and half.  Add in the cornstarch and whisk together.  Set aside, but you will need to whisk it one more time before adding to your soup.

After 15 minutes, add half and half mixture, and stir, let simmer another 5 minutes, covered.  Stir often.  Let the soup stand 5 minutes, and eat up!

I love this soup.  Like, really LOVE this soup and I hope you do too!

Monday, March 21, 2016


Note: This blog was written back in early Feb I believe.  With my mom being sick I am just sending it live tonight.

Hello friends!  Thank you for hanging out until my entrance back into the foodie world.  Life has had some pretty worrisome events taking place, but I think we are on the upswing and I miss the kitchen, I miss my foodie friends and it is great to be back!

Before I left town on on emergency 3 days ago, I had bought all the ingredients to make our own gyro meat.  My husband has been asking for quite some time and I just haven't researched it enough.  Well, I have had plenty of all nighters lately so I did some research.  Everyone has an ingredient they say you can't be without.  I kind of took what I thought was imperative from each of them and just went for it.  My husband is asleep and he has no idea we are having it for dinner.  I hope it is spot on and I won't be retesting it tomorrow, but if you are seeing this, I likely hit a home run!

Ground lamb is not hard to find in any of my grocery stores.  If necessary you can by some boneless lamb chops and have them ground by your butcher.  Just ask if you don't see it prepackaged. 

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground lamb
3 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. garlic powder
3 tsp. onion powder
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  You want this mixture to become almost like a dough.  If you don't have a food processor, use a hand or stand mixer and mix for 2-3 minutes.  If you have your hands, use those!  Now, excuse my honesty, but, the look of this mixture isn't going to be appetizing.  I have never been accused of not being truthful, so I am just laying it out there.  Be prepared.

Dump out on to a sprayed or lined baking pan. With wet hands form into a loaf shape.  Don't look at it, just do it.  HA!  If you want to use a loaf pan, go for it, otherwise let's get our "free form" on!

Place into the oven for 45-55 minutes.  Remove baking dish.  Carefully flip the loaf of gyro meat out, so that the bottom is now the top.  Place back into the oven for 10-15 minutes.  Our goal is to brown up all sides, just like it would be on a spit.

Remove and let cool 5 minutes.  My husband used this "retro" electric knife.  Retro is my way of saying my husband found it at a thrift store for 99 cents and it appears it has never even been used!  My husband is slightly obsessed with the electric knife at the moment.  Slice as thin or thick, but more thin, as you like.  Place on your warmed pita bread, top with any toppings you normally like.  We enjoy lettuce and tomato.

While I don't groove on tzatziki sauce, I do make an alternate sauce that I love!

1 cup sour cream
4-5 inches of a peeled and seeded cucumber
1/2 tsp dill seed (feel free to pulverize it in a spice grinder)

Mix together and chill until ready to use!


Sunday, March 20, 2016

...the daughter of Mama Chefwannabe

Good Sunday evening friends.  I know that about now, I would be asking you all what was for Sunday supper, who you shared it with and all that kind of nosey stuff.  The truth is, I haven't had the desire to cook a single Sunday supper in over a month.  I can barely just fix something for my husband to eat on a weekday, I just am not feeling myself, and hope you all understand.

I feel like I need to tell you all about Marlene Smith.  What a smart, funny, diva, demanding, kind hearted, beautiful, wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, sister, daughter, friend, and neighbor she was.  I hate using the word "was".  It makes it seems like she is history and forgotten.  She was a fighter, with a will to live unlike anything I have seen.  She struggled, life held many struggles for her, and it held even more joy, she wouldn't want to talk about the struggles, she would just want to remember what she learned from them and how to not repeat them.  I miss her so much.  Let me start at the beginning...........

My mom was born in 1933.  She lived to the royal age of 82 (83 in July).  She grew to be the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.  She had many careers, she as a model (woo-woooooo), she was a teacher, she was a waitress, she was a secretary, but most importantly she was the mom of 10 children.  As the youngest of the 10, she always referred to me as her "baby".  I hated it.  I hated it so much, I would give my left arm to hear her say it just one more time!

My mom struggled.  Her and my dad who came just 9 months short of their 60th anniversary, were not wealthy in money.  Wealthy in love, and family, but monetarily, very, unwealthy.  My mom struggled with some emotional issues, arthritis, and a few other chronic issues.  My mom was not a perfect mom, I don't know anyone who is.  My mom was the best mom she could be, and she grew to be an even better mom with age.  Hers AND ours.  My mom and I didn't always get along great in my teen years, I don't know many teen girls who don't butt heads from time to time.  I even went a handful of years without speaking to my mom.  What a WASTE.  I can never get that time back and the truth be told.........I don't even remember what it was about!  Likely some bad choice I made that I didn't want to own up to.  Man, I have made plenty of those.  I realized pretty early in my 30's, that my mom was a wealth of wisdom and knowledge and love.  I decided instead of avoiding her at all cost, I should be spending every chance I could, spending time with her to learn everything I could from her.  I had so much to learn!  And before I knew it, I realized she was no longer just my mom she was becoming my best friend.  We spent a lot of time together and talked about many things.  We talked about the past, we dreamed about the future, and we watched LOTS of "Little House On The Prairie".

I learned so much about cooking from her.  We would laugh about how she could make 1 lb of ground beef and 2lbs of macaroni and her canned tomatoes feed all 12 of us.  How we would be on a treasure hunt for an actual piece of ground beef!  How she would add water to soup to make it go further!  Any meat she had leftover was going to undoubtedly become a ground up sandwich spread.  I curse those damn meat grinder inventors!  She made homemade spaghetti sauce like a dream.  It took her an entire day to cook.  I never knew you could even buy it in a store until I was 20 years old!  Cinnamon rolls, kolaches, meatloaf, and fried chicken were her claims to fame.  Nobody can TOUCH the woman's friend chicken, NOBODY.  I got to eat the ends of the rolls of cinnamon rolls that weren't perfect, and we used to eat raw ground beef and hot dogs, oh the things we did.
She always had a pitcher of ice tea in the fridge for friends dropping by.  She was a woman with manners and expectations of others manners, like a queen.  She always knew what fork to use,  the perfect lipstick color, and precisely what jewelry complimented an outfit.  I loved all of those things about her.

In mid January, my mom suffered a small stroke at home.  We drove to their house 4 hours away and after much resistance got her to agree to go to the hospital.  I had no idea the journey was not going to end in her return home, but her return HOME.  She suffered a few more strokes of ranging degrees of intensity.  She endured a brain surgery, set backs, successes that led nowhere and she still fought on.  She suffered physical pain, inability to eat, or speak, and looking back, she never waivered.  She continued to fight, until at last, it was time for her to close her eyes and open them back up in heaven.  I was not ready, none of us were ready, how can you EVER be ready?  The day she left she took a piece of all of us with her.  I don't know what life will be like in the future.  I don't know how I will feel tomorrow.  I know how she would want us to live our lives, but sometimes, grieving just has to happen.  I don't know when I will be done, or if I will ever be really done.  I know the day I get to see her beautiful face again, can't come fast enough.  I want the world to know she was here, and because she was here, the world is a better place.

I know there is no sense to these mad ramblings of a girl missing her mom, but, I just wanted to put a few things down.  She was awesome.  She was funny.  She was bitchy sometimes.  She was strong, opinionated, and full of love.  She expected the best, and always was striving for it.  She expected no less from her children.

I hope I made her proud.  I hope she was as proud to be my mom as I was to be her daughter, and I hope she knows, that with or without her on this earth, she will always be my best friend.

March 2, 2016 changed my life forever.  How it is changed is yet to be determined.  I pray everyday I can turn this sad, dark, lonely, lost feeling into joy, happy memories and determination.  Right now, it just feels lonely. 

I miss you my beautiful pirate hooker!  Thank you for being my mom AND my friend.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Taco Chicken Fingers

 Happy winter evening!  I want to discuss something with you......  happy accidents.  Yes, yes, they do happen from time to time.  Ironically 1 week after I made this recipe for the second time, I was in an UNhappy car accident with my daughter in law.  Four hours in the ER was not my idea of a good time.  I digress....

I was over at my son and daughter in laws house watching my littles when this accident happened.  The happy one, that is.  I was told there was chicken in the fridge that needed used, I found some chips and decided to make chicken fingers.  They were fabulous.  I used minimal ingredients, and they were awesome dipped in some queso.  My littles are all about dipping!  The next time I made this, I tossed in a packet of taco seasoning, just to see how it would taste.  Holy taco chicken batman.  Delish!  If you don't groove on the store bought packets feel free to use your own homemade.

This is so kid friendly, get them in the kitchen with you!  It is fun, good, and if you make it into nugget shaped pieces you could use it for an appetizer or just make nuggets for eating!

2 cups corn chips, crushed into crumbs (should have 2 cups after crushed)
1 packet taco seasoning
3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into strips or use tenderloins
1 stick of butter, melted (1/2 cup)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  In one bowl combine corn chip crumbs and taco seasoning, in the other melt 1 stick of butter.

Line baking sheet with foil.  Dip the chicken strips in the butter, and then coat in the crumbs.  Make sure to press crumbs into the chicken well!  Place on your baking sheet until all of the chicken is coated!

Bake for 20-25 minutes until chicken is completely done, and the outside is crispy!  Make sure not to over cook!

I served these with salsa for dipping.  OMGOSH, delicious!