Friday, August 31, 2012

Chocolate Chip Caramel Bars

I got this recipe from Marcia, I think.  I don't know where she found it.  I made this for the first time last week when we were getting ready for our bake sale.  This is a keeper recipe for my familty; though I probably shouldn't make them very often.  Bryce said the only problem with these bars is that "They are so good."  I recommend cutting them small.  I cut big ones since I was selling them for 25 cents at the yard sale.  Bryn loved them but said, "They made my teeth hurt."  (Yes, she is weird in more ways than one.)

1 box of yellow cake mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup mini milk chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup Skor toffee chips (I used the Heath Toffee Bits)

32 caramels
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 stick of butter

Mix together the cake mix, vegetable oil and eggs. Then mix in different chips.  In a greased 13x9" pan, press half of the mixture.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.  While that is in the oven, melt in a sauce pan the caramels, sweetened condensed milk and butter.  When the crust is done baking for the first 10 minutes, pour sauce over the crust.  Then sprinkle over the top, in chunks, the rest of the cake/cookie mixture.  Bake for another 22-25 minutes. Let cool before serving.

Cheesecake Cookie Bars

Bryn and Paige love these bars.  Paige made them a couple days ago.  The recipe comes from a cookbook Paige got for Christmas one year called "All New Cookie Dough Fun."  They taste best after being refrigerated.  I also have to cook them longer than 35 minutes.  I've made these with home made cookie dough, too.  I just calculate the ounces and use my scale to measure what I need.

2 packages (18 oz each) refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
2 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease 13x9" pan.  Let both packages of cookie dough stand at room temperature about 15 minutes.  Reserve 3/4 of one package of dough (13 1/2 ounces).  Press remaining 1 1/2 packages of dough (22 1/2 ounces) evenly onto the bottom of prepared pan.  Combine softened cream cheese, sugar, and eggs in a large bowl; beat with electric mixer at high speed until well blended and smooth.  Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over cookie dough in pan.  Break reserved 3/4 package of cookie dough into small pieces; sprinkle evenly over cream cheese mixture.  Bake 35 minutes or until center is almost set.  Cool completely in pan on wire rack.  Cut into bars to serve.  Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.  Makes about 24 bars.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken

I found this recipe on my friend, Heidi's, blog.  We tried it the other day and I thought it was pretty tasty.  She said we could serve it with chips, on rice, or tortillas.  So, since I had all three, I put all three on the table.  Paige liked it with chips.  I made myself a little burrito type of thing by using a flour tortilla, with rice and the chicken as the filling.  Oh, I also didn't have pinto beans so I used my home-canned great northern whites.  I also used 4 chicken breast halves.  (I'm not sure if Heidi meant whole chicken breasts or chicken breast halves, but mine turned out just fine with what I used.)

1-15 oz can Pinto Beans
1- 4 oz can chopped green chilies
1 pkg. of taco seasoning
2-3 chicken breasts (depending on size)
1 pkg. cream cheese

Add beans and chilies with juice, chicken and seasoning in slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. An hour before it is done shred the chicken and add the cream cheese. Serve with hot tortilla chips, rice or on tortillas.

Bart's Mom's Salsa

Mom and Dad brought me some tomatoes and onions to make salsa. I looked all over for the recipe and couldn't find it. So I tried Teresa's salsa. Paige didn't like it very much and pleaded with me to please make my normal salsa. So I waited a couple days for Mom and Dad to get home from Utah so I could get the recipe. Now that I have it, I thought I'd post it here as another place to store the recipe. My family really likes this recipe for canned salsa.

6 quarts peeled and diced tomatoes
4 cups diced bell peppers
4 cups diced onions
5 to 6 diced jalapeno peppers (seeds removed from half of them)
2 teaspoon dry minced garlic
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon dry parsley flakes
1 Tablespoon dry oregano
6 Tablespoons plain salt
3 Tablespoons sugar
6 Tablespoons vinegar
2 cans (12 ounces each) tomato paste

I used my food processor to dice the peppers and onions. This time I also used it to dice the tomatoes. It turned it more soupy rather than chunky salsa, but my kids like fewer tomato chunks anyway. I kept the seeds in two of the jalapeno peppers and removed them from 3 of them. Combine all the ingredients in a big pot. (Mom's roasting pan is awesome for this.) Cook the mixture down until it is the thickness you want your salsa to be. Place salsa in clean, prepared pint jars. Wipe the rims and place lids and rings on the jars. Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. Makes about 13 pints. (This time I made 15 pints with a little bowl left over plus all the salsa Paige kept stealing from the pot while it was cooking.)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Chicken and Rice

This is one of our favorite comfort foods.  It reminds me of mom's home cookin'!

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, each cut in half or thirds
2 cans cream of chicken soup
6 T. finely chopped onion
2 T. parsley
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. thyme (or a teaspoon or so of fresh thyme from the garden, if you have it!)
1 tsp. celery flakes
3 cups water
2 cups minute or instant rice, uncooked

Roll chicken pieces in flour and brown in oil in a large skillet.  In a large saucepan, mix together the soup, onion, parsley, salt, thyme, celery flakes, and water.  Bring to a boil.  In a 9x13 pan, sprinkle minute rice on bottom, pour sauce over the rice, and mix.  Place chicken pieces on top of the rice and sprinkle with paprika.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until chicken is cooked through and tender.

Note:  I actually like to use 2 or 3 pre-grilled chicken breasts, chopped in bite-size pieces and cook this recipe on the stove-top.  Once the sauce comes to boil, stir in rice and chopped chicken.  Turn down heat to low, and cover pot with lid.  It only takes about 10-15 minutes to cook this on the stove-top because the chicken is cooked before you start, so all you're doing is cooking the rice and heating everything through.  This is a great camping dinner to make in a Dutch oven on a Cache cooker.  We always serve this with green beans (home canned, of course!) and a fruit side dish.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


The delicious cookie recipe that my sister-in-law shared with us.

1 1/4 cup sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
2 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar

Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.

Beat shortening and sugar in large mixing bowl. Add softened butter and beat just enough to mix. (over beating will soften the butter too much and makes the cookies flat) Beat in eggs, one at a time.

Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and slowly add into the sugar mixture until combined.

Roll dough into balls. then roll in the cinnamon and sugar mixture to coat. Place on cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes ( until the edges are set and just beginning to brown but the centers are still soft and puffy)

Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool. 

Chicken Pasta Fruit Salad

This is my sister-in-law Janel's recipe that she brought to Alena's baby blessing picnic.  Delicious and so refreshingly yummy!

12 oz. bowtie noodles
12 oz. spiral noodles
4 cups grilled chicken, cubed
1 1/2 cups celery, chopped
6 green onions, chopped
1 large can pineapple tidbits, drained
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
2 cups grapes
12-16 oz. cashews, broken
1 bag craisins

1 cup mayonnaise (no substitutes)
16 oz. Kraft coleslaw dressing (no substitutes)

The salad is more flavorful if you mix everything together (except the nuts and craisins) the night before.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ranch Dressing Mix

I keep my own Ranch Dressing Mix on hand.  I like mine better than store-bought because my recipe includes just a hint of dill.

Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix
15 saltine crackers
1 cups dry parsley flakes, minced
½ cup instant minced onion
2 T. dry dill weed
¼ cup onion salt
¼ cup garlic salt
¼ cup onion powder
¼ cup garlic powder

Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until completely powdered.  Keep in sealed container.

To use:  For DRESSING - combine 1 T. dry mix, 1 cup mayonnaise (no substitutes), and 1 cup buttermilk. For DIP - combine 1 T. dry mix with 16 oz. sour cream.

And, according to Taste of Home, you can add additional ingredients to make other types of dressings, although I have never personally tried these versions:
  • 2 T. chili sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
  • 1/2 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and pureed
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed

Best Brownies & Frosting

I subscribed to a meal-planning service for a short time.  This was one of the recipes our family enjoyed from the service.  And it seems that everyone else at Alena's baby blessing enjoyed them, too.  That is, if anyone besides Bryant and Kaysen got any (they ate 13 between the two of them!).

Best Brownies from Deals to Meals
4 cubes butter
1 cup baking cocoa
4 cups granulated sugar
8 eggs
3 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1 T. vanilla
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts, optional

In a large pot, melt butter.  Remove from heat and add cocoa.  Then beat in sugar and eggs, one at a time.  Mix in the rest of the ingredients and stir just until combined.  Pour into a greased and floured (I used a lightly sprayed parchment paper) large cookie sheet (10x15).  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cut into 48 bars.

WW PointsPlus:  6 (very worth it!)

Variations:  sprinkle baked brownies with powdered sugar, top with homemade chocolate frosting, or layer with mint or peanut butter frosting and then chocolate ganache.

Buckeye Frosting (Peanut Butter)
Gooseberry Patch
4 cups powdered sugar
½ cup butter
1 cup peanut butter
¼ cup milk

Add powdered sugar, butter, and peanut butter to mixing bowl.  Mix with beaters until fairly well incorporated.  Slowly add milk, as needed, until frosting is desired consistency.  Spread frosting carefully on cooled brownies.  Top with Chocolate Ganache.

Grasshopper Frosting (Mint)
Betty Crocker
4 cups powdered sugar
½ cup butter
1 tsp. peppermint extract
¼ cup milk
Green or red food coloring

Add powdered sugar and butter to mixing bowl.  Mix with beaters until fairly well incorporated.  Slowly add milk, as needed, until frosting is desired consistency.  Tint with desired color.  Spread frosting carefully on cooled brownies.  Top with Chocolate Ganache.

Chocolate Ganache
Gooseberry Patch
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup butter

Melt chocolate chips and butter together in microwave-safe bowl (mine took about 90 seconds).  Stir until combined and all chips are melted.  Spread carefully over frosted brownies.

Mandarin Orange Chicken Salad

Another recipe I brought to Alena's baby blessing.  Again, everyone seemed to enjoy it!  I doubled the recipe for the party, but ended up having lots of leftovers.  Unfortunately, on the way home, the lid came off and ice water got into the bowl and I had to throw all the leftovers away.  I was SO bummed out!

5-6 chicken breasts (boiled) and cut up in bite size pieces
1 cup finely chopped celery (use your food processor)
2 cans mandarin oranges (drained)
3-4 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 cup mayonnaise (give or take to get right consistency)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together.  If you use your hands, you can easily shred the chicken and mandarin oranges into fine pieces.  Garnish with additional sliced almonds, mandarin oranges, and fresh parsley.  Serve on croissants or freshly baked rolls.

Fruit Dip (Marshmallow Creme Version)

I brought this to Alena's baby blessing, and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

1 package cream cheese (8 oz.)
1 jar marshmallow creme (7 oz.)
1/2 small tub Cool Whip
Dash of vanilla

Mix together.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Serve with your choice of fruit.

Note:  You can also add lemon or orange juice (1-2 T.) to give the dip a light citrus flavor.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

English Muffins (King Arthur Flour's Rolled Version)

Mom's down for the weekend, and when I mentioned I was going to the store to purchase English muffins, she convinced me to stay home and make them from scratch.  I'm glad I did!  These muffins tasted so fresh and delicious.  I'm not sure I can ever buy them again!  I love that this recipe requires no special equipment (rings) to cook them!

English Muffins
1 3/4 cups milk, warm (we used a heaping 1/3 cup powdered milk + 1 3/4 cup warm water)
3 T. butter, melted
1 1/4 tsp. salt
2 T. granulated sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 - 4 1/4 cups flour (bread flour is great if you have it; if not, all-purpose worked fine for us)
2 tsp. yeast

Mix 2 cups flour with powdered milk (if using), sugar, and yeast.  Add warm water or milk, egg, and butter, and whisk well.  Add 2 additional cups of flour with salt.  Mix until flour is incorporated.  Add additional flour as needed to make a VERY SOFT dough.  Knead in mixer for 3-4 minutes.  Cover mixing bowl with sprayed plastic wrap, and let dough rise for approximately 30 minutes.

Sprinkle cornmeal thickly on a board or flat surface.  Gently remove dough from mixer bowl, trying not to break bubbles that have formed.  Gently pat out to 1/2-3/4", and use a 3" cutter to cut into circles (we used a cup, but a clean tuna-fish or water chestnut can would work well).  Let rise for another 10-15 minutes, until dough has begun to "puff" again.  Bake on a 300 degree preheated griddle, sprinkled with cornmeal, 7 minutes per side.  Adjust heat if needed if it's browning too fast or not fast enough.

When the muffins are brown on both sides, transfer them to a wire rack to cool.  If eating them hot, use a fork to pry apart (otherwise, you'll ruin all the air holes on the inside of the muffin; you must have air holes to hold all the butter and jam you'll be spreading on the muffin!).

This made 23 English muffins for us, although the original recipe said it would make only 16.  I think our circles were only 2 1/2" rather than 3", and we patted the dough to 1/2".

WW PointsPlus:  2 points (if you make 23 or 24); 4 points if you make only 16