Sunday, February 27, 2011

Your Recipe, My Kitchen: Wonderful Waffles

I am pretty comfortable with my waffle recipe.  In fact, I have been using it without variation for the last eight years.  I know, that sounds pretty weird for a recipe changing person such as myself, but it's a really great recipe!  Then, the inevitable happened.  I made a deal with my sixteen year old son.   I needed him to give up a night out with friends in favor of being home to let my other sons in the house.  I had a prior obligation and no other option.  My part of the deal?  You got it.  Waffles for breakfast.  At 5:00 in the morning.  Suddenly, I needed a faster recipe.  One that didn't involve beating egg whites and making a lot of other noise that early in the morning.
Orangette, written by Molly Wizenberg had just the waffle I needed.  In fact, her post had two different waffle recipes on it, a yeast one and a quick one.  In my need for speed and quiet, I chose the quick one, but I am going back soon to try out the yeast waffle.  I have never made one of those before and I have heard a lot of good things about them.   Do any of you make yeast waffles?  Are they better, different, just as good as the quick versions?
This is a nice, thick waffle.  I must admit I almost forgot to take any pictures, they were disappearing so quickly.  I needed to double her recipe to feed the five kids.  That would be my only complaint about the recipe.  With the same amount of flour and milk as my normal recipe, this one made only two thirds as much.  It really is a frugal thing to beat the egg whites and add them to the batter.  The increased volume goes much further.  I got six waffles out of the doubled recipe and normally get nine or ten out of my stand-by.  Here is the non-doubled recipe: 

Wonderful Waffles (from Orangette, originally from Food Network) 
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup oil
1 egg, beaten slightly
1/2 tsp vanilla
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Combine the wet ingredients in another bowl (I used a 4 cup Pyrex measure) and whip slightly with a fork to break the egg.  Add to the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.  Make as directed by your waffle iron.  
Now it's your turn!  Please link directly to your recipe, not your homepage.  Please be sure to give credit where it's due.  You can link up any recipe that has been on your "to try" list, not just one from another blog.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Oatmeal Raisin Muffins

 I am partial to oatmeal, especially with raisins.  It can be in any form: hot cereal, cookies, granola or bread.  These muffins are now in that list, too.  They made the perfect breakfast or snack or even dessert.   Full of plump raisins and cinnamon, I cannot say enough good things about them.  Oh!  And they are good for you, too.  This recipe comes from the book Prevent a Second Heart Attack.   The only thing I will do next time I make them is to either reduce the sugar or substitute a different form of sweetener (like maple syrup or honey).
Oatmeal Raisin Muffins (from Prevent A Second Heart Attack)
1/2 cup raisins
4 Tbsp water
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup brown sugar (or less)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup fat free milk
4 egg whites (or 2 eggs)
2 Tbsp flaxseed oil (or other fat)
Prepare 12 muffin cups with paper cups or vegetable spray or whatever it is that you use to grease a pan. Place the raisins and water in a microwavable bowl and heat for 30 seconds and then set aside to plump.  In a medium sized bowl, combine the flours, oatmeal, sugar, powder and cinnamon.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the applesauce, milk, eggs, oil and raisins (with water).  Stir until just mixed.  Spoon batter into muffin cups.  Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes or until done.  Cool in pan 5 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cookbook Review: Prevent a Second Heart Attack: 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease

Prevent a Second Heart Attack: 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease
This week's review is a slight departure from the normal reviews.  Prevent a Second Heart Attack contains recipes at the back of the book, but the first two thirds are filled with information on diet changes that the author felt is lacking in most cardiac patient treatment plans.  February is American Heart Month, so it seemed appropriate to review just such a book this month.

The book is fairly easy to understand, though there are a lot of illustrations of arteries and much technical jargon throughout.  I skimmed some of it, but found the information on the 8 foods that Dr. Brill recommended to be fascinating.  She promotes a form of the Mediterranean type diet, eating olive oil, nuts, whole grains, vegetables,  with little or no animal fat.  There is a two week diet plan included as well as many recipes.  

I made one of the recipes, the Oatmeal Raisin Muffins.  They were quite delicious.  I noticed she included a good hummus recipe as well as a sauteed spinach/nut/raisin recipe that is similar to one I make all the time.  She includes many fish/seafood recipes as well as meatless main dishes, too.  Her diet is very heavy on whole grains and vegetables.

One of the 8 special foods Dr. Brill wants heart patients eating is walnuts.  Here is what she has to say: 
Heart Health in a Nutshell: What Walnuts Can Do for You 
By Janet Bond Brill Ph.D. R.D., LDN
Author of Prevent a Second Heart Attack: 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease

Walnuts are an ancient plant food that has sustained humans since the dawn of civilization. They are key to heart health because they are a top source of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). ALA is the omega-3 fatty acid derived from plants which our bodies need in addition to the other omega-3 that comes from salmon and other fish. Studies show that people who eat an ALA-rich diet are less likely to suffer a fatal heart attack. 

Walnuts (along with flaxseeds) are one of the eight key food groups - - along with olive oil, leafy greens, figs, and other fruits, lentils and other legumes, salmon and other seafood, oatmeal and other whole grains, and red wine - - that are part of my plan to reverse heart disease, or build good heart health to hopefully avoid heart troubles. Dark chocolate is a bonus food in this plan.

Walnuts stand apart from all other types of nuts for two reasons:
  • they provide the highest amount of the "vegetarian" omega-3 fatty acid, ALA, and
  • they are packed with the most plaque-fighting antioxidants relative to all other nuts
While the thin brown skin that surrounds the walnut meat - - the pellicle - - may taste a bit bitter, this is naturally rich in antioxidant polyphenols, which combat plaque buildup, so try to eat that portion when you eat your walnuts.  Walnuts are also naturally rich in vitamin E, the potent healthy antioxidant, concentrated mostly in the nut kernel.

Consuming just a handful of walnuts daily can help:
  • Make your dysfunctional endothelium (the damaged inner arterial layer that instigates and promotes heart disease progression) more functional by reducing inflammation and promoting more relaxed and dilated blood vessels.
  • Lower your cholesterol (both walnuts and flaxseeds will work together to make a dent in your "bad" LDL cholesterol level). 
  • Make your blood less likely to clot.
  • Lower your blood level of inflammation.  Eating walnuts is probably the easiest and tastiest way to incorporate ALA into your day because they can be enjoyed multiple ways: as a handy and portable snack or as an embellishment to any meal.
Here are a few of the ideas I offer in Prevent a Second Heart Attack:
  • Keep a bag of shelled walnuts on your kitchen counter and grab some nuts as a quick and healthy snack.
  • Go Greek: enjoy a fat-free Greek yogurt topped with a little honey, some crushed walnuts and savor a nutritious choice that makes a sensational and satisfying sweet dessert.
  • Sprinkle walnuts on your green salads. (Dr. Janet's Spinach Salad with Apples, Toasted Walnuts, and Dried Cranberries and Dr. Janet's Arugla Salad with Figs and Walnuts can be found on page 284 and 285)
  • Try candied walnuts - - bake walnuts sprinkled with a little brown sugar for a sweet treat.
  • Toss walnuts and dried fruit together in a small plastic bag and you have a super-antioxidant-rich and convenient snack for when you are out and about or even as a late-afternoon pick-me-up.
  • Use walnuts in cooking to add taste and nutrition to your favorite dishes.
So, go nuts (walnuts, that is) every day, and get heart healthy.
© 2011 Janet Bond Brill, Ph. D. R.D., LDN, author of Prevent a Second Heart Attack: 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease

(Note: All opinions are mine.  I did receive a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese Soup

 A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed the NFL Gameday Cookbook by Ray "Dr. BBQ" Lampe.  One of the recipes that particularly caught my eye was the Macaroni and Cheese Soup.  However, because of the harried nature of my life, it took me this long to get around to actually making it.  It was so good that it will be a regular feature in my soup rotation.  I figure, it costs about $5 to make and it serves at least 8.  I don't know if you could freeze it, so plan on feeding a big family or halve the recipe.
 This soup is everything a homemade macaroni and cheese should be.  It starts with a roux and it contains bacon and sharp cheddar cheese, though if you are a one that uses a combination of cheeses, that would work, too.

Macaroni and Cheese Soup (taken mostly from NFL Gameday Cookbook)
10 strips bacon (I used the precooked crumbles - about a handfull (2/3 cup)
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic
3 Tbsp olive oil (only if you aren't cooking the bacon)
1/4 cup flour
1 14 ounce can chicken broth
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper (I used white)
1 1/2 cups macaroni, cooked (that's 1 1/2 cups uncooked noodles that are then cooked)
3 cups milk (I used 1%)
1 pound grated sharp cheddar cheese (4 cups)(I used 1/2 mozzarella because that's what I had)
Cook bacon in a Dutch oven.  Remove bacon when crisp to a plate to drain.  Saute the onion in the bacon grease (if there is more than 3 Tbsp grease, drain some off first) over medium heat.  When the onion begins to get soft, add the garlic and continue to cook until the onion turns slightly golden in color.  Stir in the flour and continue to cook, stirring constantly.  Slowly add the chicken broth, stirring to keep smooth.  Add the dry mustard, chili powder and pepper.  Continue to stir while mixture reaches a simmer.  Add the milk and macaroni and return to a simmer, stirring often.  Add the cheese and bacon.  Stir until cheese melts.  (Note: leftovers will thicken slightly in the fridge, but are great reheated in the microwave).

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saturday Stories: The Family That Plays Together....

My grandmother, Mamie, had a very close, loving family.  She was the oldest of five children.  They had so much fun together as children.   Their parents fostered activities that all could enjoy.  Music, sports and creativity brought them together.  Remember the miniature golf course that Gram built?

For some reason, Bunk and all five of his children played the baritone.  Perhaps, they owned one horn and because they were poor, that was the only option.  Regardless of the reason, the kids learned to play and in turn, had some of their own children learn to play it, too.  My mom and her sister played the baritone through high school, though my mom tried to start out with the trombone.  She was too small to fully extend it, and used to give the slide a big push and then kick it back with her feet.  Eventually, Mom gave up her rebellious ways and learned to play the baritone, too.

Bunk volunteered to drive the girls' basketball team to their games.  Mamie and her sisters were on the team.  I don't know much about their skills or the fun they had.  This was something we learned about Mamie in the last year of her life.  She had fond memories of those games and the time spent with her dad.  The fact that we almost lost this tiny piece of family history is part of the reason I write these family stories.   So much of our past can teach and help us in our present lives.  Examples of family fun, bravery, frugality, and love from long gone generations offer solutions to problems that seem to appear in everyone's lives, no matter when or where they live.  How can we use the wisdom of their experience if we don't know the stories?

Thanks for indulging me in my pursuit of my family lore.  I know these are usually a big divergence from recipes, but the Saturday posts are some of the best reasons to write this blog.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Caramel Bars

I am going to warn you right now.  These bars should be cut really, really small.  You can always go back for seconds, but they are really, really rich.
 The first thing that my sons ask when they come in the house after school is "What's for dinner?" followed almost in the same breath with, "What's for dessert?"  They are pretty good about accepting any dessert.  If I say we are having the rest of the cake I served the night before, that's okay.  If I say, "Nothing" then the mutiny begins.  They start suggesting things.  "Don't we have any store bought cookies?"  "Is there any ice cream?"  "Didn't you freeze some cookies last week?"  "I need, I need, I need, gimme, gimme, gimme!"
 There was no such scene when I whipped these lovelies out of the fridge.  Instead, my fourteen year old said in his deepening voice, "Oh Ho Ho!"  My eleven year old said, "Sweet!  I get the biggest piece."  The rest of the gang settled in to finish their dinner so dessert could be served sooner.
 These are incredibly simple to make.  I adapted the recipe from  Taste of Home's Cake Mix Creations.  Although I really like to make things all the way from scratch most of the time, there are days when a mix sure helps things along.

Caramel Bars
1 yellow cake mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 package milk chocolate chips
32 caramels
1 can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
1 stick butter
In a heavy saucepan, combine the butter, sweetened condensed milk and caramels over medium low heat.  Stir until the caramels are melted and the mixture is smooth.  Remove from heat and let cool.  In a mixing bowl, beat the cake mix with the eggs and oil.  Add the chocolate chips (you can use any other flavor you want or combination or nuts, too).  Press three fourths of the mixture into a greased 9X13 pan.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes.  Spread with caramel sauce.  Top with spoonfuls of remaining cake mixture.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool 15 minutes, cut and then refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.  Keep leftovers in the fridge.  

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Giant Cinnamon Roll

 This roll is on a huge pizza pan (you know, the size an extra large pizza used to be in the 1980s?).  I started out to make a big ring, but as the recipe went on, I realized that I would have a ring the size of a hula hoop.  That didn't seem feasible.
 So I started to coil the dough.  And coiled and coiled and coiled.   This finished baby ended up about 15 inches across.  It made a lovely dessert (although some of my sons were hoping I'd save it for breakfast).  I am thinking that a honey based filling and glaze would be kind of a giant honey bun.
 Giant Cinnamon Roll (adapted from a King Cake recipe in Cooking Up a Storm)
1/3 cup warm water
1 Tbsp instant yeast
1/3 cup milk
1 stick butter
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 cups flour
2 eggs
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp milk
Combine warm water, sugar, salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl until the yeast bubbles.  Meanwhile in a microwave safe bowl, nuke the milk and butter until the butter is soft.  Add the nutmeg and eggs to the milk mixture and beat a little with a fork to break up the yolks.  Add egg mixture to the yeast mixture.  Add 1 cup of flour and mix with a dough hook.  Add the remaining flour to form a soft dough.  Knead by hand or mixer for another 5 minutes.  Cover and let rise until double (about 1 hour).  On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 9X30 inch rectangle.  Spread with melted butter, then sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon.  Roll up the long side to form a Long, tight roll.  Cut the roll in half lengthwise so cinnamon filling is face up.  Start coiling on a large pan until all 60 inches of coil is wrapped into a large circle.  Cover and let rise another 30 minutes.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven 25-30 minutes.  In a small bowl, stir powdered sugar, vanilla and milk together into a smooth frosting.  Drizzle all over the baked roll.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cookbook Review: Good Stuff

The Good Stuff Cookbook: Burgers, fries, shakes, wedges, and more

What do you get when you cross fast food with the farmer's market? You get the recipes in Spike Mendelsohn's cookbook, Good Stuff. Based on the food he serves in his eatery of the same name, he takes good old hamburgers and french fries to an entirely new level. Some of you may recognize he name as one of the contestants on the Top Chef television program. He opened his Washington DC restaurant in 2008.

At first glance, his menu looks like the normal fare. You can get a burger and fries with a milkshake for dessert at his place. Upon closer examination, however, you will notice that these recipes are not what you might have expected. You won't see a Tamarind-glazed pork buterger with red cabbage slaw and grilled pineapple at your local greasy spoon. Nor will you find zucchini fritters or a wedge salad with fennel, orange and pomegranate.

I had a ball reading through these delightful recipes. My family is big on homemade milkshakes, so I loved the chapter on shakes. The idea of a Milky Way malt, Creamsicle shake or Mint oreo shake sounded like items we would definitely love. I am not too sure how the Avocado variation would fly, though.

Ever wanted to make your own gourmet mayonnaise? Well, there is an entire chapter devoted to them. Balsamic, Old Bay, Mango, Curry, you name it and Spike Mendelsohn has a spread like it.

If you have wanted to stop eating out, but don't want to give up some of your favorite restaurant fare, this is the book for you. The author takes you through a step by step process to make french fries, onion petals and over twenty kinds of burgers. You won't miss your neighborhood eatery with this book in hand. You may even find that making it at home tastes better.

(I received no compensation for this review and all opinions are mine)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday Stories: A Real Valentine

One summer, in the 1930s, my grandfather, Bumpa, worked pushing an ice cream cart. Being the enterprising young man that he was, he knew just where he would find the most customers, too. He left the city limits and walked out into the country to the local swimming hole. Many of the young people that lived in the neighboring towns gathered there to escape the summer heat and humidity. Bumpa made good sales when he made the trek out there.

On one particular day, however, he found more than good business. As he was serving the people lined up for treats, he looked up and saw a pretty girl. In his words, he was “smitten” right then and there. After a few inquiries, he learned the girl's name and was introduced to her. He discovered that she lived in a village on the other side of the swimming hole, about ten miles away from his home.

That did not deter him, however. He managed to get introduced to her and then without a car, he walked to her house to court her. What were ten miles in the eyes of love? He made the trip many times and became a welcome guest in Mamie's home.

When his visits lasted too long, her parents let Bumpa sleep on the couch in the front room. The downside to that was Mamie's dog. That dog just didn't like Bumpa. Once, in the middle of the night, Bumpa woke up having to go to the bathroom (which may or may not have been outside). When he attempted to swing his legs off the couch to stand up, there was the dog, hackles raised and teeth bared. Bumpa quickly lay back down and stayed there in agony the rest of the night. When the first family member woke in the morning, calling off the dog, Bumpa made a beeline to the bathroom. He had to have been serious about Mamie to endure that kind of discomfort!

Eventually they married and had four children. They comforted each other through the death of three of those children. Bumpa helped Mamie run an in home restaurant and with her catering business. Mamie put up with Bumpa's train obsessions and other wacky ideas. They loved, laughed, fought and cried. They were married for 68 years before Bumpa died. Mamie followed him the next year. Bumpa stayed “smitten” all of those years, though Alzheimer's robbed him of their precious last years together.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cinnamon Chip Cookies

Monet, from Anecdotes and Apple Cores, inspired these cookies.  She made some that were similar a few weeks ago that looked so delicious, I had to give them a shot.  I didn't use her recipe, but the idea is hers.  If you haven't visited her before, go...right now.  She is one of those people who make the blog world a little brighter just by being here.
 For these cookies, I used the "supposed" Neiman Marcus recipe. You know, the one with the ground up oatmeal that someone either stole or bought for $250?  Anyway, I thought chocolate chips, cinnamon chips, what's the difference in the long run?
 These are crunchy cookies.  In fact, one of my most vocal sons has been complaining that all of the cookies have been crunchy lately.  When he was given a box of frozen oatmeal cookie dough the other day, he told me to watch how he baked them...and learn.  Sheesh!  Someone doesn't want any more desserts for a while!

 No one else complained.  In fact, the cookies didn't last very long at all.  
Cinnamon Chip Cookies
1 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups ground oatmeal (pulverize in a blender or food processor)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 package cinnamon chips
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
Cream the butter and two cups of sugars.  Add the eggs and vanilla.  Combine the dry ingredients and add.  Stir in the cinnamon chips.  In a shallow bowl, combine the 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon.  Form the cookies (I use a small ice cream scoop) and roll in the cinnamon/sugar combination.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes at 375 degrees.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ranch Burger Stuffed Peppers

 These stuffed peppers are like little meatloaves in a pepper. My favorites are the red ones and not just because they are red.  They are so much more subtle than green peppers.  Once they are cooked, they are sweet, juicy and delicious.
The beef filling has 1/3 cup of Hidden Valley Ranch buttermilk salad dressing and 1/3 cup of bread crumbs per pound of meat.  It's an easy ratio to remember.  The dressing makes the meat so tender.  The meat almost melts in your mouth.
 They go together in a few minutes and then bake for 2 hours, giving you time to get the rest of your meal together.  I served these with the first strawberries and asparagus of the season.  Spring cannot get here soon enough!
Ranch Burger Stuffed Peppers (makes 6-8)
3 pounds ground beef
1 cup Hidden Valley Ranch Buttermilk Salad Dressing
1 cup fine bread crumbs
1 tsp onion powder
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
6-8 large bell peppers
Prepare the peppers by cutting off the tops and taking out the seeds/core.  In a large bowl, mix the remaining ingredients until thoroughly blended.  Fill the peppers with the meat mixture.  Replace the tops.  Place in a baking dish and cover tightly with foil.  Bake for 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees.  Remove foil and continue baking for another 30 minutes.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ranch House Bacon and Egg Cups

Things are a little out of schedule this week because I am in the middle of a little project for Foodbuzz.  Today is this week's bread post.  There will not be a cookbook review.

I wanted to make a breakfast sandwich the could be made, crust and all, in a muffin tin; sort of a breakfast-on-the-go. I decided to base my recipe on the idea of a kolache; a rich, sweet dough with a savory filling. It didn't really turn out like a kolache, though, hence the name.  I have two versions for you, one using frozen bread dough and one using the aforementioned rich dough.  That way, if you don't want to bother with the homemade bread, you can still enjoy this amazing breakfast.

Ranch House Bacon and Egg Muffins(makes 12 cups)
1 package frozen rolls
6 eggs
2 Tbsp milk
8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
1 package Hidden Valley Ranch Spicy Ranch Salad Dressing Mix
6 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with vegetable spray. Break six rolls in half and place a piece in the bottom of each cup. Flatten it to fit on the bottom of the muffin cup like a crust.  In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and dressing mix. Divide the bacon evenly between each cup. Pour the egg mixture into each cup. Top with cheese. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes or until egg is set. Serve warm.

For Homemade Ranch Rolls:
7 ½-8 cups flour
1 Tbsp Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
1 Tbsp yeast
2 tsp salt
2 cups milk
¼ cup sugar
1 stick butter
½ cup warm water
2 eggs, slightly beaten
In a microwavable bowl, heat the milk and butter until the butter melts. Add the sugar and salt to the
milk mixture and let it cool slightly. In a large mixing bowl, combine the water and yeast. When the yeast is proofed, add the milk mixture and the eggs. Add the flour and dressing mix to the bowl and mix with a dough hook attachment until a smooth, soft dough is formed. Cover and let rise one hour on the counter or you can put this in the refrigerator for a slow rise if you plan to use it more than an hour later. This can be made into regular dinner rolls, bake in greased pans at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown. If you are using the dough in the above recipe, break off golf ball sized pieces and put them in the bottom of the muffin tins. Bake any remaining dough into dinner rolls.

The Ranch rolls didn't last long enough for a photo shoot.  They are amazing.   In fact the entire recipe, with the eggs and bacon was so delicious, it's going into the regular rotation of breakfasts.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ranch Chicken Strips

When I tell my family that I am making Ranch Chicken Strips for dinner, I get a chorus of, “Yes!” from all of them. This is by far, our favorite chicken dish. My kids, who normally really hate to eat leftovers, will eat this chicken for a late night snack and then again for breakfast if there are still a few strips left by then.  It is so easy and it only has four ingredients.

It took a lot of trial and error to achieve this recipe.  Always using Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix as the main flavor, I started out using bread crumbs as the coating, then I went to Italian seasoned breadcrumbs. Crushed nacho cheese flavored tortilla chips were next, followed by cheese crackers. Finally, and by this I mean the best of all the variations, I used crushed Keebler Club crackers. It cannot be any other cracker. I also played around with the dipping medium. After trying a beaten egg and then melted butter, I settled on olive oil. The better quality the olive oil, the better the flavor.

Ranch Chicken Strips (serves 6-8)
4 boneless chicken breast halves, cut into strips
1 16 ounce package buttery crackers, crushed
2 Tbsp Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
1/2-1 cup olive oil
Place the cracker crumbs and Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix in a resealable gallon sized bag. Dip the chicken strips into the oil and then drop them into the bag (about 8 at a time). Shake and then put them on a baking sheet. Repeat until all the chicken is coated. It may take more than one baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. (If the chicken strips are really small, you will need to adjust the time down.  Mine were more "tender" sized than "strip").

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Your Recipe, My Kitchen: Greek Style Potato Stew

Here is another recipe that has been gathering dust, so to speak, in my bookmark file.  Published March 2010 at Hallee the Homemaker's blog, this recipe sounded like something my family would love.  Not only that, it sounded super simple, too; perfect for a busy week night meal.
The original recipe was meatless.  I heartied is up a bit by adding some leftover cooked chicken and a can of chicken broth.  I substituted black olives for the kalamatas because I am the only one in the family who likes the stronger flavored olives.  Other than that, I followed the recipe pretty closely.  It was super.
Greek Style Potato Stew (adapted from Hallee the Homemaker)
2-3 pounds of potatoes (more or less), peeled and cubed
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
4 green onions, chopped
1 can whole black olives
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 can chicken broth
2 cups diced cooked chicken
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and add the potatoes, garlic and green onions.  When the garlic is soft and fragrant, add the remaining ingredients.  Cover and cook until potatoes are tender.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking (burning).  

Now it's your turn.  Please remember to link directly to a recipe, not your entire blog and link back to this post ( you can grab a button for this party over on the right sidebar).  

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Saturday Stories: A Little About the Engineer Son

This last week my third son, the Engineer, turned twelve.  It is hard to believe that my little boys aren't so little anymore.  Standing at 5'4", he is on his way to being the tallest of all of my sons.  I thought I would devote this week's Saturday Stories to him.

The reason I call him the Engineer stems from his love of building.  From the time he was old enough to place one block on top of another, he has been putting things together.  With four sons to compare, the fact that he could put together a 25 piece jigsaw puzzle when he was two seemed a little extraordinary.   He likes to watch online videos on origami.  All he has to do is see them once and he remembers how to make all sorts of things like tanks, boxes or animals.  When I cannot find him on weekend afternoons, he will be in his room making forts, castles or spaceships out of legos, Lincoln logs or K'nex like this one.
As you can see, the Engineer has always had the most beautiful smile.  He is the only of my five children who won't need braces or any kind of orthodontic work.  When he was five, there was an older lady at church who used to come up to him each Sunday and rub his cheeks and say, "As smooth as butter."  It got so that he would see that gal coming and take off the other way.  He hated it!  He has never been one for physical affection.  When all of my other kids will throw their arms around me and give me a hug, the Engineer will shyly tap me on the the shoulder and mumble, "love you, Mom."  
When he was a baby, the Engineer's feet turned in a bit. I asked three different orthopedic surgeons if he needed some kind of corrective measurements to be taken.  Two of them told me that all of the best athletes are somewhat pigeon toed.  He used to trip over his own feet all of the time when he was a little boy.  He has always loved sports, though.  Because my second son was seriously injured playing tackle football when he was twelve, I am making the boys wait until high school to play again.  The Engineer just cannot wait.  In the meantime, he roller blades, plays neighborhood football, bike rides and plays basketball.  
The Engineer had trouble learning to speak.  He went to a speech related preschool for two years and then went to "speech" for 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade.  He is painfully quiet still.  When I talked to him about it once, he told me that kids teased him so much when he was younger that it was just easier not to speak much.  When he does start to talk, though, he is hilarious.  He has a very quick wit and often keeps the grown ups in stitches.    He is a perfect example of the saying, "Still waters run deep."  There is so much going on in his mind, but it takes a lot of effort to get him to open up.
This is a photo of the Engineer and the Comedian.  They are 10 weeks apart in age and they are first cousins by birth.  I didn't tell them about that extra relationship until they were about ten.  I didn't want to confuse them.  They both thought it was pretty cool to be brothers and cousins.  This last summer, they finally started making friends and doing things without each other.  It was mostly the Engineer who made the break.  It was so freeing for him to finally stand on his own.  I think that all of the behavioral problems of the Comedian's have been a burden to the Engineer.  We had to put the Comedian back a grade this year and when I told the other children about our decision, the first thing the Engineer said was, "Do I have to go back, too, to take care of him?"  It just about broke my heart to think of how much of a burden he had put on himself to take care of his younger brother.  He is such a good boy. 

Happy Birthday, Engineer.  
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