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Archive for the ‘Good To Eat’ Category

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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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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(Imagine beautiful picture of perfectly browned oatmeal here.  My kids ate mine before I got a picture!)

1/2 stick butter (4 Tbsp.), melted

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 1/4 cup milk

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups quick oats

Preheat oven to 450 F.  Combine all ingredients in large bowl. (I usually just mix it all in the pan that I’m going to bake it in – just be sure to get the eggs beaten well!)  Pour into a 9×9 square dish.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Watch carefully; it burns easily.  (When it is done, the edges will be light brown and the center will be moist but not “wet.”)

*I often add a splash more milk and a handful of dried cherries.  You could also add other dried fruit or a dash of cinnamon and a diced apple.

I love this dish!  It is easy to make, and it is all crunchy on top and on the sides – not mushy like real oatmeal!

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Warm & Yummy

Pasta e Fagioli

1 pound ground beef

Brown ground beef.

1 cup diced onion

1 large carrot, chopped finely

3 stalks celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

Add vegetables to beef and saute for 10 minutes or until vegetables just start to soften.

Then add:

2 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes

1 15 oz. can kidney beans (w/ liquid)

1 15 oz. can great northern beans (w/ liquid)

1 15 oz. can tomato sauce

1 12 oz. can V-8 juice

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. basil

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. thyme

Cook for 1 hour over low heat.

Add:

1/2 pound ditali (or any small) pasta, cooked and drained.

Stir in pasta.  Serve.

jen’s notes:

This recipe makes a lot of soup.  Once I forgot to tell my sister that, and she made it (for herself and her husband); they ate it for a week, maybe longer!  But a lot of soup is just perfect, if you have teenage boys, a big family, or guests coming for dinner!  On the contrary, this soup is easy to double for a really large crowd, or you can make it just a bit bigger by adding some extra veggies and an extra can of tomatoes.

Usually I do a couple things to make the soup a bit more healthy:  use the super lean beef, use whole wheat pasta, & use low sodium (or no salt added) canned tomato products.  There’s lots of ingredients in this, but it is super easy to throw together and really filling!

My friend Ellen says this soup was even better the second day.  If you want to cook it ahead, I would recommend cooking the soup and pasta separately (just like the recipe says), storing them separately, then combining shortly before serving.  I have also frozen the soup (sans pasta), thawed it, added the pasta just before serving.  It was certainly good, though I like the texture a little better when it hasn’t been frozen.

Finally, this hearty Italian chili is great served with a bit of Parmesan cheeseon top and a green salad and some yummy bread on the side!

Hope you enjoy one of our family favorites!

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When it rains it pours.  If you read the post about the weekend, you’ll notice that my aunt left us with some zucchini.  What I didn’t mention is that she left us with five zucchini, four of them about as large as a small country!  Really, two of them are just large enough to be perfect for zucchini bread…and zucchini brownies and zucchini cake, and two of them are a cool stripey variety that are really pretty to look at and great to eat.

Tonight, we ate a pasta stir fry with lots of different veggies – yum!

Tomorrow night we’ll have some sauteed zucchini with Parmesan cheese on top – again, yum!

Here is a recipe that I hope to make with some of the green goodness, and I’m on a hunt for a good zucchini brownie recipe too!

Zucchini Bread (the not-so-bad-for-you version)
-found last summer on a jar of Wild Harvest Organic Applesauce

3/4 granulated sugar
1/3 cup applesauce
1/3 cup liquid egg whites
2 Tablespoons extra light olive oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup grated zucchini
Grease 9x3x5 loaf pan and preheat oven to 325.
In a large mixing bowl combine sugar, applesauce, egg, oil, and vanilla.  Mix with electric mixer until well combined.  Add flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Mix until well combined, scraping sides of bowl.  Add zucchini and continue mixing until well combined.  Pour into prepared pan.  Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes or until knife inserted in center of loaf comes out clean.  Remove from pan and cool completely on cooling rack.

Notes:

  • I have doubled this recipe successfully.
  • This bread freezes well.  Once it is cool, I cut it into very thick pieces, then I cut the pieces in half.  If I suspect that I will be serving it to someone other than my brood (someone for whom I might want the pieces to stay in tact), I place waxed paper between each piece, wrap the entire loaf in plastic wrap or waxed paper, then insert loaf into a gallon size freezer bag.
  • I have used whole eggs and vegetable oil instead of egg whites and olive oil – turns out just fine!

If I don’t have time to make the actual bread or need to conserve freezer space, I grate the zucchini, then freeze it in 1 cup portions.  Then when I want to make bread, I just remove the zucchini from the freezer, allow it to thaw in the fridge (or hurry the process in the microwave), and bake the bread.

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Reasons Number 462 that I love, love, love summer:

Pico de Gallo.

Made with tomatoes fresh from the garden.

With chips.

For dinner.

(sheepishly:  We had a big lunch!)

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