Monday, February 27, 2012

Crock-pot Fiesta Chicken

Every now and then a recipe comes along that you just know you're going to love.
Once you smell it cooking, you're even more convinced.
And once you taste it, you're sold forever.

This is one of those recipes for me.
I love the short ingredient list.
I love the simplicity and quickness of throwing it all together and letting it cook on its own all day.
I love that it's healthy.
Best of all, I love that all of my family ate it for two dinners with no complaints.

And how could they not?
It's so delicious!
We just ate it a few days ago and I'm already looking forward to making it again.

Recipe: from The Girl Who Ate Everything

1-1/2 to 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, frozen or fresh
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups frozen corn (or use a 15 oz. can of corn, drained)
1 (16 oz) jar of your favorite salsa (I used Great Value Mild)
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, reduced fat is fine
Cooked rice, for serving

Place chicken breasts in the crock-pot.
Add beans, corn, and salsa.
Cook on low for 4-5 hours, until the chicken is cooked.  Times may vary depending on how hot your crock-pot gets.
Once the chicken will shred easily, remove it and shred completely.  Return to crock-pot.
Cut up cream cheese and place over the top of the chicken.  Let it sit for about half an hour.  It may look strange, don't worry!  Stir in the cream cheese until it is well combined.
Serve over cooked rice or in tortillas.

Linked to Trick or Treat Tuesday

Friday, February 24, 2012

Overnight Berry Coffee Cake

I try to make memories for my kids.

I know several of them are very young and likely won't recall a smidgen of what goes on in their lives from right now, but you just never know.  Maybe something we do or that happens will stick in their little minds and stay with them forever.

Hopefully it's not a vision of mommy losing her temper.
Or the great vomit-fest a few weeks ago.

Or the fight they had with whomever over whatever.

Knowing that many of the memories I have from childhood involve food (Mom's fresh baked wheat bread, the smell of eggs and bacon wafting from my grandparents' kitchen at 6:00 a.m. when we were spending the night, racing my siblings to get the most homemade ice-cream off the dasher before it melted....etc.etc), I like to create traditions of special foods around holidays and birthdays and such.

I'm hoping that at least some of these foods will trigger fond memories for my children when they're grown, and maybe even become part of their own traditions someday.

And what can I say?  Holidays provide an excuse for me to try out new recipes.

This delicious breakfast/brunch cake was my idea for Valentine's Day.  Partly because Grant adores raspberries, partly because I could make it the night before and just bake it that morning.  Seeing as he leaves for work at 6:30 a.m. and we wanted to enjoy breakfast together as a family, I wanted the morning to be as simple as possible.

We all liked this cake very much.  It's not overly sweet, and with all those nutritious ingredients, you almost feel like you're on the health wagon, and enjoying every bite of it.  Ha.

Recipe: (adapted from Allrecipes)

2 heaping cups white whole wheat flour (or all purpose)
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1 c. sucanat (or white sugar)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
2/3 c. coconut oil, melted
4 egg whites (or 2 whole eggs)
1-1/4 c. sour cream (or buttermilk)
1 cup berries (fresh or frozen - if frozen, do not thaw before using. I used frozen raspberries)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 t. ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, combine the first eight ingredients.  In a separate bowl, combine coconut oil, egg whites, and sour cream.  Add to dry ingredients and mix until well blended.  Fold in berries.  Pour into a greased 13 x 9" pan.  Combine topping ingredients; sprinkle over batter.  Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.  Uncover and bake at 350°F. for 45-50 minutes or until cake tests done.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pizza Rolls

We love pizza.  
Okay, who doesn't love pizza?  

There's someone around this house (cough-Grant) who is particularly fond of  Barbecue Chicken Bacon Pizza, so that's what I usually make.  A couple of times a month at least. 

Not that I'm complaining...I love it too.....but it is nice to have different flavors once in awhile.
I recently had the chance to make some appetizers for a get-together and 
decided to make these Pizza Rolls.  

Homemade dough stuffed with pepperoni or bacon, two kinds of cheese, and some spices,
rolled up into an easy-to-grab-and-dip-into-pizza-sauce form.  

To be honest, I was worried that the cheese would leak out and make a huge mess,but thankfully, that wasn't the case at all.

We thought they were great!  
Since I actually made a double batch of this and we had tons of leftovers, we were delighted to munch away on them for lunch for a couple of days as well, although the kids actually preferred them plain, no sauce.  

Recipe: adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything
 (makes 2 pizzas, which is 22-24 rolls)

*Pizza Dough
  • 1 T. instant yeast
  • 1 cups very warm water (110°-115°)
  • 1 T. sugar or honey
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 3 cups flour (I use at least half white whole wheat)

1 t. garlic salt
2 t. Italian seasoning (or just basil if you prefer)
1/2 cup sliced turkey pepperoni
1/2 cup cooked turkey bacon, chopped
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (or pepperjack)
1/2 cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

For pizza dough:
Combine yeast, water, and sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Allow to sit a few minutes until it gets foamy.
Add salt, oil, and gradually stir in flour until dough forms into a ball.  Knead by hand or with a dough hook in your mixer for 5-6 minutes.  Remove from bowl, grease the bowl, return the dough to the bowl and cover with a damp towel or greased wax paper.  Allow to rise in a fairly warm place for 20-30 minutes. 

To make the Rolls:
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Divide dough in half.  Roll each half into a rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick and 12 inches long.  Just think about the size of a piece of notebook paper.
Sprinkle each half with equal amounts of garlic salt, Italian seasoning, cheeses, and pepperoni or bacon (or both!).  Starting at a short end (oops, I think I started at a long side....and they turned out just fine, so I guess it doesn't matter!) roll up dough tightly to form a log.  Slice into 1-inch pieces.  Place rolls on lightly greased baking sheets (or use Silpat liners - works great!).  Bake for 10 minutes or until browned on top.  Serve with warm marinara sauce for dipping.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sausage Lentil Soup

I learned something new before making this recipe.
Did you know that lentils should be soaked before cooking?
I didn't.
Thanks to SnoWhite from Finding Joy in my Kitchen, now I do. She said,
"Lentils need to be soaked before use – so, bring pour the lentils into a large bowl and cover them with boiling water.  Allow the lentils to soak for at least 15 minutes.  Then drain. 
Why soak the lentils?  Lentils have properties that inhibit the enzyme, trypsin, a key digestive enzyme that works to break down protein in the small intestine.  Soaking (for up to 24 hours) decreases the action of the trypsin inhibitor – which is what we desire! "
So that's not too hard.  And at least you don't have to plan ahead too much.

Anyways, this soup incorporates the lentils with Italian sausage (I made my own turkey sausage) and lots of healthy veggies, so it's a protein, fiber, iron, and vitamin-packed meal.  Not to mention inexpensive to make and it makes a big batch.

Oh, and it happened to be a HUGE hit with my family.  I got compliments on it from all of the kids (a rare occurrence)  and Grant said it's one of his new favorites.

Recipe: Adapted from My Baking Addiction and Finding Joy in My Kitchen

1 pound green lentils
*1-1/2  lb ground Italian turkey sausage (Recipe follows)
1 large onion, diced
4-5 stalks celery, chopped
3 large carrots, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1 T. minced garlic (2 large cloves)
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Additional water to cover
2 (14 1/2 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
grated Parmesan
fresh parsley (for garnish, optional)

1. In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain.

2. In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and add in the Italian sausage. Brown the sausage until it is cooked through.

3. Add in the onions, celery, carrots, zucchini, garlic, herbs and spices, cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often.

4. Add the chicken stock, canned tomatoes, and drained lentils, cover, and bring to a boil.

5. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the lentils are cooked through and tender, stirring occasionally. Add water as needed to adjust the consistency of the soup.

6. Check the seasonings – add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve sprinkled with grated Parmesan and fresh parsley.

I couldn't find Italian turkey sausage when I was grocery shopping, so I bought ground turkey and resolved to make my own.  It's actually cheaper that way, too.  I found a couple of recipes that sounded good and combined elements from both to create my own.  

*Homemade Italian Turkey Sausage (adapted from Cooking with Michele and Allrecipes)
1-1/2 lbs ground turkey
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. ground sage
1/2 t. pepper
1 t. salt
1/2 t. ground thyme
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. fennel seeds, crushed

Mix all ingredients together well.  Chill for several hours to allow the flavors to "marry".

Friday, February 10, 2012

Melting Snowman Cookies

Marissa and Annika were both the designated "snack bringers" for their Wednesday night church classes this week.
I had spotted these cookies recently and couldn't wait for a chance to make them.....they're just so CUTE!

The girls were very willing helpers in decorating these snow guys and gals - and their friends at church were super thrilled with them as well.
If we're not going to get real snow this year, we might as well eat some melting snowmen cookies, right?

Annika has been asking me if we can make these cookies every time they have to take snack, she loved them so much.  

Some of the snowmen weren't so happy with their fate - and some just took it all in stride with a big smile on their faces.  Some had bows - the one at the bottom right corner ended up with three of them, thanks to Marissa!  One had a headband that ended up looking like green hair.

This disgruntled snowman sported earmuffs with his nicely coordinated bow tie.  

  • You can make your cookie dough from scratch, or you can even use the sugar cookie mix or pre-made dough from the store if you so desire.  
  • The amount of Royal Icing was a bit much- I ended up with quite a bit leftover, but I'd rather have too much than too little.  We decorated 30 cookies. 

Recipe: (adapted from Truly Custom Cakery - she has a great tutorial on how to make these!)

Sugar Cookies (I used this recipe)
Large Marshmallows
*Royal Icing (recipe follows)
Icing Colors (Food Color or Wilton Gel Colors of your choice.)
Silver Dragees, Mini Chocolate Chips, or other little candy pieces to use for buttons and accessories (optional)
Wax Paper

*Wilton Royal Icing Recipe
3 T. meringue powder
1 lb. sifted powdered sugar ( about 4 cups)
6 T. water

Make your sugar cookies first.  Whatever recipe or mix you use, when the dough is chilled and ready to bake, shape into balls and press flat, about 1/4" thick.  They should not be identical or symmetrical - it's melted puddles of snow you're forming!

Bake and cool the cookies completely.  Then make the Royal Icing.

IF using a counter top mixer, beat all ingredients at low speed for 7 to 10 minutes until icing forms peaks. If you are using a hand held mixer, it will take more like 10-12 minutes.

AFTER you get stiff peaks, transfer a few Tablespoons of icing to a bowl and tint orange.  I used a tad of red and yellow. Scoop into a sandwich bag and seal it shut.  Snip off one tiny corner for piping. Because it was so thick, it stood out straight when I piped the noses and really looked like little carrots.  Fun!

Do the same procedure for any other colors you want to tint.

Thin the remaining white icing by adding water while stirring, a teaspoon at a time.

To test for the right consistency: Using a knife, scoop a little of your runny icing and hold above the bowl. As it drips, count to 10. By the count of 10, the icing that dripped down should meld into the icing in the bowl so there is no indication of where your drips landed.

Put your icing in a container covered with a wet paper towel and a lid when you're not using it. If you don't, the icing will dry out quickly. 

When frosting a cookie, don't be afraid to let it puddle around the base of the cookie a little.  Once it dries, it will stay there and look even more like melting snow!  Take a marshmallow and squish it a little.  Pipe on the facial features and place on the cookie.  Pipe on arms, buttons, and other additional details as desired.
We liked little bow ties....handsome fellow. 

Scarves were very nice too.  Note: all of my colored icing except the noses was sparkly decorating gels, not tinted royal icing.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cinnabon Popcorn

So the Super Bowl was last night.
The Giants won. 
We only knew that because we felt obligated to check the score after
Downton Abbey was over, just so we wouldn't appear to be completely ignorant to anyone who
might mention the game.
(Do you guys watch Downton Abbey?  After my sister introduced it to us via Netflix on her visit
here over the holidays, we have been seriously addicted. Seriously.)
Yeah, to say we're not football fans is probably the understatement of the year.
But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy tasty snacks with friends! 

This has to be one of my favorite snacks ever. 
I am a huge fan of the regular Caramel Popcorn that I've made several times, and this recipe
is very similar, but with the additions of cinnamon, pecans, and a white chocolate drizzle. 
It was wildly popular with the friends who shared it with us as well, with requests for the recipe.
So here ya go.....enjoy every delectable bite!

Recipe: adapted from the Girl Who Ate Everything

16 cups popped popcorn (I used air popped, about 1/2 cup kernels)
1 cup pecan halves, roughly chopped (optional)
1-1/3 cups brown sugar, tightly packed
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup karo syrup (or honey could work)
10 T. butter (1 stick plus 2 T)
1-1/4 tsp. vanilla
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3 squares almond bark

Preheat oven to 250° F.

Line two jelly roll pans with foil and set aside.

Place popcorn and chopped pecans in a large bowl and set aside.  Use the largest bowl you have!!
Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a large microwave safe bowl. Mix well.  Chop butter into chunks and place on top of the sugar mixture. Pour corn syrup over the top of everything.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds then stir to combine.  Return to microwave and heat for 2 minutes.  Remove and stir and then microwave for 2 minutes more.  *If you microwave it too much, your popcorn will turn out really hard.*

Remove from microwave and add in vanilla and baking soda.  Stir to combine.  Mixture will foam and rise.  Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and pecans and stir very well so everything is well coated.  *Stir more than you think you need to!*

Spread popcorn mixture onto prepared pans.  Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and stir.  Melt almond bark according to package directions.  Drizzle over popcorn.  I found it easiest to put in a sandwich bag, snip off a tiny corner, and drizzle it that way. 
When the almond bark is hardened and popcorn is cool, break into chunks and enjoy!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Family Update - January Edition

Annika (4) sporting her Sunday morning accessories.  Which I did not allow to stay on her for church, by the way. 

Ellia (2) and Miranda (3 months)

Aren't they cute in their matching shirts?  I got those 4 years ago for Marissa and Annika.  I had no idea I'd ever have two more daughters to wear the same shirts. 

Corban (8) in his last Upwards basketball game for the season.  He's the one shooting. His team was undefeated, thanks in part to their excellent assistant coach, my dear husband!  :)
Corban's improvement over last year is tremendous - he really loves basketball now.

Marissa (6) has started ballet classes and absolutely loves dancing.  She doesn't mind the cute leotard and slippers, either.  We wish she could take lessons from my sister Anna - but something about travelling 1,300 miles for classes makes that a bit impossible.
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