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Archive for the ‘Good To Eat’ Category

Delighted

One of the things I miss most during winter is fresh fruit.  I get tired of eating oranges and last season’s apples (always seem a little bland and mushy.) Last week though we bought some apples that turned out to be really good – crisp and tart but still sweet enough.  We also had a nice pear and plump, sweet blueberries – what a delight this simple, little fruit salad was for all of us!

Was there anything that delighted you this week?

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I was going to write this really deep, thoughtful post about making it through the dreary days of winter, but two things happened.

1.  It was really, really sunny out today . . . and I just can’t seem to muster the winter blahs.

2.  I am realizing that as this post will be published (I’m writing this on Sunday to publish in Monday morning), I will be on the treadmill sweating.  I haven’t worked out in a long time, and it IS going to be a harsh reality.  But I probably need a little (or a lot) of harsh reality given the fact that I have eaten everything bad for me over the last two weeks!  And, girlfriend, I am not going to lie to you; I loved every calorie-laden bite of it!

So today (and today only, because tomorrow morning I’m going to hate them) I am thankful for

280.  red velvet cake cheesecake (I kid you not, I’m eating a piece right now!)

281.  gooey butter cookies

282.  homemade snickerdoodles

283.  the new way that my mom found to make Rolos into a “turtle”

284.  birthday Jell-o cake with Cool Whip icing

285.  seven layer salad (I know it says salad, but it probably shouldn’t rightfully be called salad considering the amount of dressing and bacon and cheese involved.  There’s lettuce in there, but it’s really just for show.)

286.  homemade cheeseball

287.  with tortilla chips (or anything with tortilla chips, really)

288.  cheese  (Can I write this down three times and count it three times?  I really love cheese!)

289.  white pasta (Oh, so bad . . . and oh, so good!)

290.  my grandma’s sugar cookies

291.  and her icing too (best cookie icing ever)

292.  twice baked potatoes (love that I can make them ahead, love that they have cheese)

293.  longoshi (a homemade bread, passed down for generations of my mom’s family – to die for, maybe literally considering the amount of butter and cheese and white flour involved)

294.  homemade french toast (I didn’t actually eat this – eggs, ew – but I made it as a treat for my children, and it was so much fun to hear them talk about how good it was!)

294.  fruit salad (not actually bad for you – just really, really good!)

296.  cranberry-pomegranate juice + ginger ale = love in a cup (thanks friends for sharing your holiday fun drink!)

297.  homemade crescent rolls  (my mom makes them the best!)

298.  popcorn popped on the stove with real butter and popcorn salt

299.  clementines

So can we just call this a confession of gluttony and move on in thanksgiving for the treadmill?  Which I guess means:

300.  my treadmill

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Winter Breakfasts: Oatmeal

Not sure where I got this recipe more than ten years ago.  I do remember that I was looking for a good-tasting recipe that didn’t use refined sugar as the main sweetener.  We’ve used this basic recipe since, though it rarely looks like this anymore.

The back of the recipe card reads:

Combine liquids and cranberries in a medium sauce pan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Lower heat, cover, and cook until cranberries pop (not for dried).  Add remaining ingredients.  Continue to cook uncovered 5-6 minutes.

This morning it looks more like this.

1/2 cup water
2 cups apple juice
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1/3 cup walnut pieces
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 granny smith apple, chopped (not peeled)
1 cup old-fashioned oats
Place water, juice, and cherries into medium size sauce pan; bring to a boil over medium heat.  Turn heat down just a bit, add the rest of the ingredients, and stir intermittently until done, about 5-6 minutes.  Serve with non-fat French vanilla yogurt.  [For reference sake:  This fed four hungry children and one adult.]

What is your favorite thing to add to oatmeal?

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This school year has afforded us the neatest opportunity:  Every Thursday, after Bible Study, my friend and her four children come to eat lunch at my house.  The ten of us overwhelm the kitchen, make it cozy, and chow down.  (Shortly after, a bunch of the kids pile into the basement while I teach writing while my friend keeps the littles upstairs for some really fun activities . . . but that’s for a different post!)  Anyway, today, as I sat down with my bowl of white chili, my friend commented that it looked so good.

And I said, “It IS!  It’s my husband’s favorite!”  If I had been a better hostess, I would have offered her my bowl, but alas, it was the last in the fridge, and I had already put my germy spoon in it, so that disqualifies me from offering it . . . right?

White Chili

2 or 3 chicken breasts (This chicken works well, or you can cook it as directed below.)
3 cans great northern beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 chopped medium onion
4 minced garlic cloves
1 can chopped green chilis
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon dry oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I usually use less or omit.)
2 cans chicken broth (or the equivalent of homemade)
3 cups Monterey jack cheese, divided
8 oz. low fat sour cream for garnish
tortilla chips
Cook chicken in a heavy pan with cold water, simmer 15 minutes.  Drain and cool, cut into cubes.  Heat oil in the same pot on medium high, add onions and cook until onions are soft.  Stir in garlic, chilies, cumin, oregano, and cayenne pepper.  Saute for a couple minutes until the garlic is a bit soft.  Add beans with broth and bring to a full boil.  Reduce heat, add chicken and 1 cup of cheese, simmer for 45 minutes or until all cheese is melted.  (Here I should insert that I never, ever let it simmer for 45 whole minutes.  As soon as it’s all warm, we usually dive in!)
Serve with the remaining cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips.

I hope your weekend is warm and wonderful!

(Hey, friend, tell your kids I used alliteration in my title and thought of them!)

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My new favorite meal (yes, again, a new favorite).  You’ll have to pardon the fact that there are no measurements; it was a salad – I made it up as I went along!

cooked chicken (mine was leftover from this recipe)
corn (mine was frozen, but fresh, cut off the cob would be awesome!)

Warm chicken and corn in small pan with lid on (so the chicken doesn’t dry out).

3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
juice from 1/2 of a lime
1/2 jalapeno, diced very finely
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
drizzle of honey
freshly ground black pepper
pinch cumin
pinch salt
a few sprigs of cilantro, finely chopped

To make dressing*, mix all of these ingredients in jar that can be tightly sealed and shaken.

lettuce, torn
tomato, cut into bite-sized pieces
shredded co-jack cheese
avocado, cut into small pieces
carrots (I could have done without, but the husband cut some up and threw them in – who am I to complain about dinner help!)
sour cream

Place all of these ingredients** into your bowl.  Add the warm chicken and corn.  Shake dressing well and pour a bit over your salad.  Mix well . . . or don’t.  Enjoy!

*The dressing recipe morphed from this recipe.  I liked our not-put-in-the-blender version, but perhaps someday I’ll try the blender option . . . who am I kidding?  I hate dirty dishes.  I won’t ever try it.  You can though!

**Handsome added a spoonful of fresh salsa to his salad.  Next time I intend to cut up some red onion and bell pepper to add to the mix.  Some beans, maybe too?

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My New Cooking Trick

Thanks to my friend, Ellen, I now use no-fat or low-fat yogurt instead of cream in several recipes . . . and it works GREAT!

When I want to use this substitution in something sweet, like scones, I use vanilla yogurt.  (I tried a couple scone recipes.  The “cream scone” recipe that mostly just involved cream – or in this case yogurt – and flour was not nearly as good as the more traditional recipe that called for a bit of butter and an egg.)

When I want to make the substitution in something savory, like quesadilla pie, I use plain yogurt.

Use the same amount of yogurt as the recipe calls for cream.

I won’t be trying it in anything like fettuccine alfredo any time soon; baked goods and casseroles are probably the limit of this substitution . . . but I was thrilled to make scones for the first time in years!

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I just read a great post by Mary Ostyn of Owlhaven.  It was all about getting kids to like lots of different foods . . . and about how that can backfire!  I was cheering along with the entire post . . . and weeping for her loss (and the familiarity of it all) at the end.

I started to comment there, then I decided I would just do a mini-post on my take on things.  We do almost everything that the Owlhavens do, and we too have four children who eat a huge variety of foods.  It has been a wonderful blessing to us as parents that our children are able to tactfully try new things when we are a guest in someone’s home or when we are on vacation or when we are trying out a new restaraunt.

First go there and read her ideas, then come back here.  Here are a couple things that we have done to help our children enjoy food:

We do not ask our children to eat a certain number of bites of any given food, but we do ask our kids to try everything . . . every time we serve it.  We have a wide variety of likes, so kids keep seeing foods over and over and over and eventually just decide to like them.

We also have a garden.  Two of our children didn’t like tomatoes for years.  When we started growing them, those kids were hooked.  I remember that joyful summer; we couldn’t keep our kitchen stocked with tomatoes, a great problem to have!  At first those children would only eat “Daddy-tomatoes,” but now they’ll eat just about any tomato that I would eat.

We allow the kids to pick out one thing during a meal with a lot of “weird” foods or a variety of vegetables.  For instance one kid might pick the lima beans out of the pot pie – oh, that might be me; and another might pick out the red peppers.

We also tell the kids that it’s okay not to like certain things.  There are things that I don’t like; as a matter of fact, I probably have more food issues than my kids.  (Deep-seeded issues – don’t ask!)  So while I’ll eat spinach and all manner of veggies, I can’t eat a hot dog (or most any kind of sausage) to save my life.  So as long as the kids are reasonable about their choices, I’m okay with them not liking a few things.

We let the kids see us try (and take time to get used to) new things.  Like I said, I have food issues; it takes me a while to warm up to stuff.  When I first tried Ethiopian food, I was horribly disappointed that I didn’t love it.  I kept going back and trying new things.  Now there are quite a few things that I like, and there’s even a dish on the menu that is new to me that I can’t wait to try next time.  Kids are the same way, and I think it helps them to develop their tastes to know that adults don’t always love everything either.

And finally, as my friend Ellen says, “You don’t have to like it, you just have to eat it.”  Our kids know that there are occasions that they just have to eat what is in front of them.  It is rare, but it might just happen that when you are served a burger by your friend’s mom that she might just have put ketchup on it.  It is not the end of the world.  You are not allergic to ketchup, and it’s not worth making a big deal out of it.  We will wipe it off and move on, and by the end of it all you might just like ketchup.  While I know that that sound horribly mean, there are times when it is good for kids to be able to take a deep breath and just eat the food already.

Cheers!

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Rewards

As part of our homeschool our kids each have a sticker chart.  Whenever I catch them doing something good, they get to put a sticker on the chart.  The “something good” varies from child to child and ranges from things like “got a perfect score on a test” to “worked really hard to complete a task” or ” was kind to sibling who wasn’t kind.”

Recently all of the kids filled their sticker chart within a week’s time.  I gave them each a smencil, and then each got to choose from a list for the rest of his reward.

Little Man chose to get a new toy.

Gus chose to pick a movie from the library – we’ll watch it and have some sort of yummy snack and lots of snuggling!

Bubba chose to bake dessert with me.  Then I let her choose her dessert.  She chose this:

This white chocolate cheesecake with a cookie crust and semi-sweet chocolate ganache is from a book entitled Death by Chocolate.  I requested then got this book as a Christmas gift back when I was in college.  I have made several of the recipes out of it, and every single one of them has been super-terrific-yummy.  For a while this book inspired yearly cooking-marathons for my sister and me.  A few years ago, my family (mom, dad, sister, and brother-in-law included) was able to enjoy dessert at The Trellis, the restaurant from whence the book cometh; we each ordered a dessert, and we ordered a slice of Death by Chocolate to share.  It was so much fun!  A couple of the recipes are on our list of family favorites; this is one of them, so I wasn’t surprised when Bubba chose to make it.

Friday night, she made the crust.

Saturday, after watching a cousin’s high school baseball game, she made and baked the filling.

Sunday morning, she ran downstairs to check on the cake in the fridge.  Then she made the ganache.

She literally did every single step on her own, except holding the mixer (all we have is a hand mixer) and pouring the hot (and a little too heavy for her to handle easily) pan of boiling cream into the dark chocolate for the ganache.  She even did the dishes!

Tonight we ate cheesecake for dessert dinner; it was heavenly!

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Sweet (Yet Spicy) Victory

Oh, it has been a terrific weekend!  I’m actually hoping to do a couple posts this week about the weekend – it was that good!  (Here’s a hint: there was not a single thing on the calendar all weekend long.  Well, there was one thing that got canceled, but we’ll do it another time.)  The gloriousness of the weekend was definitely solidified today, though, when I struck gold in the recipe category.

Historically, I’m not adventurous at all when it comes to food.  My idea of eating at a Chinese place is ordering chicken fried rice, light on the oil.  Seriously.  Anyway, somehow I managed to try the Sweet-Fire Chicken at a certain Panda place in a mall.  The crazy thing is that I loved it.  I mean I loved it enough that I craved it.  It was like a deep, dark hole opened up in my sole, and I suddenly had great need for pseudo-Chinese food.

Then one day it occurred to me that maybe I could make it (or something like it) at home and save myself a lot of money and a lot of calories and a lot of craving (’cause as the homeschooling mother of four children I am often chained to the school table in the basement.  I jest.  Sort of.)

I looked here and here (which I found through this great little article by Owlhaven) and here.  Then I gathered a bunch of ingredients, gathered my husband (who is the perfect sous chef), and worked (or is it wok-ed?) away in the kitchen.  I was so happy with the results that I’m sharing them with you – ’cause I love you, and ’cause sometimes I blog just so I don’t forget.

Let me warn you that I haven’t had the panda version for a long time, so this probably isn’t all that close . . . but it was yummy and sweet and spicy.  Good ‘enough for me!

This is the pan, just before I added the sauce and chicken.  All of this cooking in the pan smelled GREAT!

Sauce:
2 teaspoons cooking oil
3 large cloves garlic (or was it 4?)
1 cup pineapple juice (I used juice from a can of pineapple slices.)
1 teaspoon chili sauce (Sriracha)*
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
1 heaping Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon (or a little more) honey
1 1/2 teaspoons lite soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons water
1 tablespoon corn starch
Chicken:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 egg
1 Tablespoon milk
1/2 cup flour
salt & pepper
cooking oil
All the rest:
1 large red bell pepper, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 small yellow onion, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 small pineapple, cut into bite-sized pieces
To prepare the sauce: Heat 2 teaspoons oil in small sauce pan over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook until garlic begins to soften.  Carefully add pineapple juice, chili sauce, vinegar, sugar, honey, soy sauce, and salt; stir well while heating.  In a small bowl combine water and cornstarch.  When sauce in pan is simmering, add cornstarch mixture while stirring briskly.  Stir until sauce thickens.  Reduce heat to low or turn off and cover while you cook chicken.
To prepare chicken: Beat egg and milk together in a medium bowl.  In another bowl, mix flour, salt, and pepper.  In small batches, toss chicken pieces in the egg.  Then lift chicken pieces out of egg and put into bowl of flour.  Toss chicken until lightly coated in flour.  When you are done with the extra egg and flour, discard both.
Pour enough oil into your pan  to cover the bottom of pan, and heat oil. (We used a large non-stick wok-like pan; because it was non-stick, we used just enough oil to cover the bottom.  You might have to use more, if your pan is not non-stick.)  When oil is hot, add chicken in batches.  Only cook as much chicken as will loosely fit into the bottom of the pan, so it will get crispy.  When chicken is done, set it aside.
When all chicken is done, put everything together: Into hot pan (ours had enough oil to keep things from sticking, but you might need to add a bit more oil), place red bell pepper and onion and stir fry until it just starts to soften, just a few minutes.  Add pineapple; stir fry until pineapple is warm all the way through.  Add chicken and sauce into wok and stir everything together.
Serve immediately with rice.
Served: 6 (2 adults and 4 hungry kids)
*I only added 1 teaspoon of the sriracha to the sauce, because I have a couple non-adventurous, don’t like hot food types at my table.  We put the bottle of chili sauce on the table for the rest of us who wanted a little more heat.  That worked well; but if I was making it for just the heat-loving ones of us, I would have added at least another teaspoon.

the final product, up close

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Fun Recipe – Rainbow Gelatin

I’ve posted this recipe before, but it has been a long time…and I have a picture to share of it this time! (And a friend asked for it.)

Rainbow Jell-O
1 3 oz. box each of 6 Jell-O flavors
5 3 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
Place 9×13 clear pyrex dish in fridge to chill well.
Dissolve 1 box Jell-O in 3/4 c. boiling water in small mixing bowl. Stir well. Put 2 large ice cubes in a 3/4 cup measuring cup then fill with cold water. Add cold mixture to dissolved Jell-O and stir well. Set aside 1/2 cup of this Jell-O mixture.
Pour remainder in chilled dish and let set in fridge until solid. (You may have to fold a paper towel and put it under one end of the dish to make it level.)
Put reserved 1/2 cup Jell-O and 3 oz. package cream cheese in blender and liquefy. Pour carefully through slotted spoon over set Jell-O. Tilt Jell-O pan carefully to cover. Refrigerate until firm.
Repeat for each color of Jell-O.
Do not use cream cheese on final layer.

The original recipe calls for blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, orange, lemon, lime.  It looks like my sweet sister (who gave me her picture to use, because I always forget to take a picture of mine) berry blue and grape instead of raspberry and blackberry.  I have used this recipe to make all sorts of holiday desserts – pinks and reds for Valentine’s Day, greens and yellows for St. Patrick’s Day, reds and blues for the Fourth of July; I’ve even done school colors!

It’s a fun recipe to make, though it does take a whole day.  Most of the day you can be doing other things, but you need to be available to add a layer every 3o or 40 minutes for a few hours.  I also try to put this on the bottom shelf of my fridge, because it’s coldest there.  And my final tip:  this can be made a day in advance; if you have a 9×13 with a lid that will seal it tight, it can probably be made two days in advance.

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