Friday, March 29, 2013

easter menu | favorite things friday

 Easter is almost here!  What a wonderful celebration of a miraculous event.

As a fairly new family, we're still figuring out what our Easter traditions will be.  Last year, Pebbles was too young to really enjoy it (let's face it - she slept right through it), so this year I'm excited to plan a big day that she'll be a part of.  The Easter bunny is going to visit us in the night and leave her a chocolate bunny (her first one!), a book, and some art supplies.  We're going to be filling plastic eggs with toddler snacks and having her "search" for them.  And, like most families, we're planning some delicious food.

We're going to kick off the day with Grandma's Buttermilk Waffles by Ambitious Kitchen.  We've never tried this recipe before, but it's one I've had bookmarked for a while.  We are a waffle-loving family, and these look absolutely delicious!

Picture from Ambitious Kitchen.

It wouldn't be Easter in my house without Deviled Eggs.  These are my husband's recipe, and he's always the one to make them from start to finish.  They are simple, straightforward, and some of my favorites.  If you want a basic deviled egg, this is the recipe to try.

Normally, I'd be content to forgo any vegetable in my Easter dinner, but since we're having company, I thought this Blueberry Tossed Salad would make an excellent side dish.  It's our favorite salad and has always gotten rave reviews from guests whenever we've made it.  Hopefully I'll be able to find fresh blueberries - they really make this dish.

For our bread, we're making this beautiful Challah by The Ivory Hut.  I had Challah once and thought it was some of the most delicious bread I had ever had.  With it's beautiful braided presentation, it will make a lovely addition to our Easter feast.

 Picture by The Ivory Hut.

At Easter dinner, you must have Glazed Ham, and this one looks amazing.  Pioneer Woman just posted it as part of her Food Network special, and I can't wait to try it out.  Her secret ingredient was Dr. Pepper!  I'm going to use root beer instead because root beer and ham go together like two peas in a pod.  Since we'll be at church in the morning, I'm going to try initially cooking the ham in a slow cooker and then transferring it to the oven once we get home.  We'll see how it goes!  I can't wait to try it.

Picture by Pioneer Woman.

For dessert, I've settled on a delicious Blueberry Vanilla Pie.  I created this recipe years ago, and Cookie Bandit just loved it.  It seems like the perfect spring dessert and the perfect way to end our Easter dinner.

Last, but not least, we're going to continue an Easter tradition that we started last year - cookie decorating!  I'm whipping up a bunch of Sugar Cookies using my new flower and Easter collection of cookie cutters.  I'm hoping our decorating skills have improved since last year, but I doubt it. :)

Happy Easter from our home to yours!

Friday, March 22, 2013

no-mess cast iron seasoning | favorite things friday

Do your cast irons ever look like this?

Mine do.  After I cook in them a while, they begin to lose that beautiful sheen that they had when I first got them.  Or, I'll commit the cardinal sin of cast iron cleaning and accidentally leave leftover food or water in mine for hours (or...ahem...days) after I'm done cooking.  Guilty as charged.

I used to hate seasoning my cast iron because it was such an ordeal and always made such a huge mess.  And it never looked right - there was always a bunch of oil left in my pan.

Fortunately, I've found a new, no-mess way to season my cast iron, and it comes out perfect every time.

Begin by lining your top oven rack with aluminum foil. 

Then, spread lard or solid animal fat liberally over the inside of your skillet.  I went out and bought a bucket of lard for this purpose alone.  I just put a paper towel over my fingers, dip it into the bucket of lard, get out a large amount, and use the paper towel to spread it over the skillet.  My hands stay clean the whole time.

Then...and this is your cast iron upside down on the foil-lined oven rack.

Close the oven door and turn it on to 200 degrees.  Keep it at 200 degrees for an hour, and then turn the oven off.  Keep your cast iron inside for at least another 2 hours or until it has completely cooled.  You want the lard to return to a solid state, so if you see liquid grease on top of the foil, leave it alone.

When your cast iron has cooled, you'll find that the lard has left a lovely sheen of seasoning without gooping up - it just sinks right into the pores of the cast iron.  You'll also find that the remaining lard has solidified on the foil in your oven - just dispose of the foil for easy clean-up!

Do this as often as you need to in order to keep your cast iron looking like new.

Friday, March 15, 2013

sandwich to go | favorite things friday

I've decided to start something a bit new.  I call it Favorite Things Friday.  Basically, every Friday I'm going to be posting about one of my favorite things.  It might be a recipe...a tip...a cute baby photo...something for the home...whatever!  But I'm looking forward to highlighting a few of my favorite things for you, and I hope to hear more about your favorite things in the process.

Today's favorite thing is a tip.  I love hot sandwiches, especially things like tavern burgers and sloppy joes.  But have you ever tried to take them to go?  Impossible!  It brings a whole new meaning to "sloppy" joes!

Recently, though, I've discovered an excellent way to pack up your messy hot sandwiches and keep them hot...with little to no mess!  

The trick, my friends, is all in the bread.  Rather than getting normal hamburger buns, buy yourself some whole hoagie buns or rolls.  You don't want them pre-sliced.

Cut the bun yourself, but don't slice it in half.  Instead, slice it about 1/4 of the way down from the top.

Then, hollow out the bottom half of the roll.  You can eat the leftover bread or take it to feed the ducks.  Doesn't matter.  The point is that you want to create a hollow bun (kind of like a bread bowl).

Spoon your hot meat mixture into the hollowed out bun and then top with the top slice.  The hollow portion allows the meat a place to settle without spilling out the sides.  Ingenious, I tell you!

Wrap the hot sandwich in foil and keep in a warm oven until it's time to go.  These are perfect to take to ball games, outings to the park, or just about anywhere.  Sloppy joes aren't so sloppy anymore!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

sausage lentil stew

It decided to rain over the weekend, so I felt like eating something warm and hearty.  This soup was the perfect creation for a cloudy day.  It took only 10 minutes to put together, is chock full of healthy ingredients, and filled us up more than I imagined it would.  It is also a slow cooker recipe, which meant that I didn't have to stay in the kitchen all morning tending to it.

The recipe was so simple that I didn't even take step-by-step photos.  So, I hope you enjoy the finished product.  Think of it on your next rainy day!

Sausage Lentil Soup
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 14 oz. package turkey Kielbasa, sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 baking potato, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 bunch kale (about 1/2 pound), washed, stemmed, and cut into pieces
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • 1 t. parsley
  • 1/2 t. pepper
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg

Sort and wash lentils.  Combine lentils with remaining ingredients in a large slow cooker.  Cover and cook on high setting one hour; reduce heat to low setting and cook 3 hours.  Stir before serving.  Serves 6.

Monday, March 11, 2013

a coffee cake story

Let me tell you a story about coffee cake.

A week ago today, I turned in what I hope is the final draft of my dissertation.  For those that don't know, I've been working on this sucker for about 5 years.  My goal has been to get my Ph.D. in America history so that I could teach at the university level (or at least college-prep high school).  The topic of my dissertation is political newspapers in early America.  It's pretty fascinating (trust me).  I talk about the role that newspaper editors played in the formation of America's first political parties.  It took me years of research, but I finally have 246 pages of history submitted to my dissertation committee.  Let's hope they pass it without any more major revisions!

Oh what does that have to do with coffee cake?

Well, one of the more prominent and memorable historical characters in my dissertation is a guy named Hezekiah Niles.  Few people today have heard of him, but he was really quite famous in his day.  He edited the most popular national news magazine of his time - the Weekly Register.  It was probably about as well known as the Wall Street Journal or New York Times is today.  Niles was so...shall we say, beloved...that he even had a few towns named after him!

So I'm flipping through my Gooseberry Patch cookbooks the other day, and I come across a recipe in Farmhouse Kitchen - it was called Niles Coffee Cake!  I thought, "no way!"  But sure enough, it's a recipe that originated at a church in Niles, Michigan - a town named for Hezekiah Niles! 

I knew that this recipe was the one that I was going to bake to celebrate the completion of my dissertation.  It's an awful lot like monkey bread, so you know you are going to love it.  Join me in raising a glass of coffee - and a fork of coffee cake - to Hezekiah Niles!

So like I said - it's a lot like monkey bread.  The night before you make it, leave out a loaf of frozen bread dough for about an hour to let it start thawing.  Meanwhile, spray a bundt pan with cooking spray, and sprinkle some chopped nuts in the bottom.

Cut the dough into 16 chunks and arrange in pan.

Sprinkle with one 3.5 oz. box of cook-and-serve butterscotch pudding.

In a saucepan, melt together a stick of butter and a half cup of brown sugar.  Pour over the top of the bread.

Cover the pan and let it sit on the counter overnight.  In the morning, it should be nice and this!

Bake at 325 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until light golden.  To serve, turn out onto a decorative plate.

Niles Coffee Cake
from Gooseberry Patch Farmhouse Kitchen
  • 1 loaf frozen bread dough
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1/2 cup cook & serve butterscotch pudding mix (3.5 oz. box)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

The night before, let frozen bread dough stand at room temperature for one hour.  Cut dough into 16 pieces and roll into balls.  Spray Bundt pan with cooking spray; sprinkle nuts into bottom of pa.  Arrange dough balls in pan; sprinkle with pudding mix and set aside.  In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter and brown sugar together.  Pour hot mixture over dough balls.  Cover pan; let rise overnight at room temperature.  In the morning, bake at 325 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until rolls are light golden.  Turn out onto a decorative plate; serve warm.  Serves 6 to 8.

Friday, March 8, 2013

garlic lime chicken


I'm always looking for new ways to eat chicken, and this recipe is one of my favorites! My mother-in-law gave me the original recipe that I have since modified for convenience (the other required a few more ingredients and more dishes to wash). I like it so much that I just quadruple the spice mix and put it in a salt shaker to use on anything and everything. Hope you enjoy!

First, place chicken breasts in a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.  Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and about 4 tablespoons of lime juice.

Mix together 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, and 1/2 teaspoon thyme.  Rub or sprinkle the spice mix liberally on the chicken breasts.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until chicken is done.  Serve with some brown rice, steamed veggies, or a salad on the side for a delicious and healthy meal!

Garlic Lime Chicken

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1-2 T. olive oil
  • 4 T. lime juice

Spice mix:

  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. pepper
  • 1/4 t. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 t. paprika
  • 1 t. garlic powder
  • 1/2 t. onion powder
  • 1/2 t. thyme

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken in baking dish covered in cooking spray; drizzle olive oil and lime juice over chicken. Sprinkle spices liberally over chicken breasts.  Bake for 20 minutes or until chicken is done. Serves 4

Nutrition: 147 cal, 8g. fat, 1g. saturated fat, 0g. trans fat, 41 mg. cholesterol, 631mg. sodium, 2g. carbs, 0g. fiber, 1g. sugars, 17g. protein, 3% vitamin A, 4% vitamin C, 2% calcium, 5% iron.

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