Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cookies for Tired Teachers

When I was a kid, my mom would make these, package them up with the recipe attached and send them with us to school for our teachers for Christmas.  I even did this for some of my teachers in high school!  I got rave reviews!

2 egg whites, beaten stiff
2/3 cup sugar
pinch salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon mint flavor
4 to 6 drops green food coloring
6 oz. chocolate chips (1 cup)

Heat oven to 350.  Gradually add sugar, salt, cream of tarter, mint, flavoring, and food coloring to the stiffly beaten egg whites.  Stir in chips.  Drop from teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Place sheets into oven and turn oven off immediately.  Leave in oven overnight.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fancy Chicken Salad

A friend (Pat) makes my favorite chicken salad!  I’ve never liked boiled eggs or pickles (or relish) in my chicken salad.  As a matter of fact, until hers, I didn’t like chicken salad at all (and I’m suspecting it was due to the large chunks of boiled eggs or the taste of pickles…ick!)!  This recipe has eggs but they are mashed to miniscule pieces with a fork and there are no pickles or relish (yay!).

When pregnant with my first, I had cravings for this and asked for the recipe.  She sent the photocopied recipe to me with these notes:  “I use REAL chicken that I’ve boiled and squeeze REAL lemon and chop everything fine—celery, onion, pecans.”  These are the reasons I’m sure hers is so yummy—it’s made with love!  She also wrote this:  “Q: Pregnancy cravings???”  Ah, what memories!!

Fancy Chicken Salad
4 cups cooked chicken, chopped (I use all white meat)
2 hard-boiled eggs, mashed with a fork (optional)
1 cup celery, finely chopped
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon celery salt (optional)
¼ teaspoon white pepper
Red pepper to taste (optional)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (I don’t do this when I use sour cream)
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
¾ cup mayonnaise (or a mixture of about ½ cup mayo and ¼ cup sour cream)—you may need a bit more, depending on how “wet” you like the salad

Toss together ingredients.  Refrigerate until serving.

The items marked “optional” are usually things I leave out. 

This is delicious on plain ole bread, fancy rolls or croissants, or crackers. 

I usually boil my chicken or cook all day (or overnight) on low in the crockpot.  I have used baked chicken breasts too (if they are well seasoned, you may not need any seasoning in your salad).

NOTES:  You can add grapes, craisins, or apples.  I sometimes add some prepared ranch or dry ranch for a more seasoned taste.  Be creative!

Simplified:  chicken, pecans, onion, an apple and mayo—this is delicious too!  Not as “fancy” but still yummy!


Homemade toffee is not difficult to make.  You just need a candy thermometer (or a glass of ice water and a working knowledge of how to do the water test) and some time devoted to the toffee.  Interruptions are your biggest problem.  It can scorch very easily. 

This is a recipe I’ve adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.  I have made it for years at Christmastime and once in awhile I’ll make it for a special occasion.

1 cup nuts chopped and toasted (walnuts are my favorite for this)
1 cup salted butter (no substitutes)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup (I often use pancake syrup because I don’t usually have corn syrup on hand)
3 tablespoons water
1 cup milk chocolate chips or pieces
Place a piece of foil on a large cookie sheet

In a 2-quart pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add sugar, syrup and water.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often.  Once it starts boiling, stir almost constantly (or constantly).  Cook to the soft crack stage, which is 290 degrees.   I strongly suggest water testing and taste the piece you tested so you know it’s not too sticky.  It should crunch, not stick.  This takes about 15 minutes and it happens quickly towards the end so watch it carefully after 280 degrees.  Remove from heat and remove thermometer. 

Stir in half of the nuts and pour mixture over the foil and spread somewhat.  Place the chocolate over the hot toffee and let sit for a couple of minutes, until melted.  Using the back of a spoon or a knife, spread chocolate over toffee.  Sprinkle with the rest of the nuts, pressing down lightly.  Allow to cool (I like to refrigerate it after it cools a good bit so it will break into pieces easily). 

When cooled completely, break into desired pieces.  Store in an air tight container.  Makes about 1 ½ pounds of candy.  Can be made ahead and frozen.

This is how it looks when it's done, after the cold water test.

Hot toffee with chocolate chips sprinkled on it. 
Put the chips on quickly after you pour the toffee so
the chocolate will stick to the toffee.
The finished product!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Chewy Sugar Cookies (America's Test Kitchen)

I have always wanted to know the secret to chewy sugar cookies.  Thankfully America’s Test Kitchen has created such a recipe!   And you don't have to get your mixer out!

Admittedly, the first time I made these I forgot the vegetable oil.  The cookies were wonderful!  So I decided to leave it out.  However, the second time I made them, I needed a little oil (about 2 tablespoons) to make the dough hold together.  I think in that first baking I also left out some of the flour because I really didn’t need any oil to hold the dough together.  So, you can try leaving out ¼ cup flour or add a little oil.  I’m writing the recipe for 2 tablespoons oil. 

2 ¼ cups flour (best to weigh 11 ¼ oz.)
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Wisk these ingredients together in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl:
1 ½ cup sugar plus 1/3 cup for rolling
2 oz. cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
6 tablespoons melted butter, still warm
Wisk together and add

2 tablespoons oil (original recipe says 1/3 cup)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon milk

Add flour mixture, stir (use some kind of spoon, not a wisk) just until it comes together. 

Use a 2 tablespoon scoop to scoop the dough (I used the medium one from Pampered Chef).  Roll in balls.  Roll in sugar, place on ungreased cookie sheet (or use parchment paper).  Flatten with ¼ cup metal measuring cup (to 2 inch diameter).  Sprinkle more sugar on them (you can use colored sugar sprinkles to make them more festive).  Bake 350 for 11-13 minutes, or until slightly golden on edges.  Leave for 5 minutes, remove from tray to cooling rack.

*For the second batch, I used my small cookie scoop.  I don’t remember how long I baked them but I knew what they looked like when they were done so I just watched them.  Also, they are yummy iced with buttercream frosting but they're really yummy alone!

Pork Tenderloin (bacon wrapped)

This is extremely easy yet elegant.  It’s my favorite way to have pork tenderloin.   The only drawback is the mess it makes with your pan so be prepared for lots of scrubbing.

2 pork tenderloins (they’re usually packaged with two together)
Russian Salad Dressing (Catalina or anything redish in color)
Bacon, about 6 pieces

Wrap bacon around the tenderloins.  Pour dressing over tenderloins and cover the pan.  Let sit in the refrigerator 8 to 24 hours.  Remove pan from refrigerator, uncover, and place in oven at 350 for an hour.    After baking, let rest for 15-20 minutes.  Slice into medallions.  You can serve it with some of the sauce that was created during baking. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sour Cream Cut-Out Cookies

This was our main cut-out cookie recipe in our house when I was a kid.  The recipe came from a lady my parents called “Sis” at a little restaurant called “Dog N Suds” (I think it was a hotdog and soda shop) in Rockford, IL (where I was born). 

These cookies are less sweet than the average sugar cookie, softer too.  The dough is not extremely user-friendly but the cookies are worth the effort!  There’s a tiny hint of nutmeg, which goes great with the butter cream icing we use to decorate the cookies!

One note on ingredients:  Use only full-fat sour cream.  Trust me on this!

2 ¾ cups sifted all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmet
½ cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
½ cup sour cream

Stir together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and nutmeg; set aside.  Cream butter, gradually adding sugar and beating until creamy.  Add egg and sour cream, beat thoroughly.  Add dry ingredients.  Beat until smooth.  Cover and chill at least 2 hours (do not skip this step!).

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Divide into portions and roll one portion, leaving the rest in the refrigerator (yes, really keep it in the fridge when not using!).  Roll to about 1/4 to 1/8 of an inch thickness.  Place two inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.  Baked 6-8 minutes or until edges are lightly brown.  Remove and place on wire racks or waxed paper to cool.

These can be eaten plain or iced with desired frosting.  This butter cream frosting is a great option.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Chocolate Gravy

A special occasion treat!
When I was 13 years old, I accompanied my Grandma Bonner from California to Arkansas to visit some several family members.  One morning my Great Aunt Edna made chocolate gravy for breakfast.  I thought that was about the nastiest sounding stuff I could imagine…until I tried it!  Oh my!  Yummy stuff! 
I never got my Aunt Edna’s “recipe” but I have a feeling it would be “a little this, a little that” and not really a recipe.  So, I set to work and wrote my own.  If you don’t feel like making homemade biscuits, this is very good over canned biscuits too (actually, for years I preferred canned biscuits for this gravy).  As an added bonus, the leftover gravy becomes chocolate pudding (cover the surface with clear wrap and refrigerate).
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1/3 cup flour
3 cups milk
Dash of salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over the margarine and whisk to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly. Slowly whisk the milk into the mixture. Add the salt, sugar, and cocoa. Whisk constantly to prevent scorching (it may be necessary to reduce the heat). Cook mixture until it becomes the right thick consistency you desire.

Notes: My favorite way to eat this is with my homemade biscuits spread with peanut butter. It’s the closest I get to eating a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup for breakfast and it still being considered “breakfast.”

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Tupperware Sugar Cookie and Paint Icing

These were cookies done by the kids at church.
They had a blast and I enjoyed getting to see their “creations!”

When I was a young child, I remember sitting at our eating bar in our kitchen painting Christmas cookies with my brothers. Well, I’m not sure if I really remember the event or have simply been reminded of it through stories told and pictures seen. But, I do remember the wonderful aroma in the kitchen and how the cookies tasted!

Recently I was on the hunt for a painted cookie recipe and I remembered my mom saying the recipe we used that Christmas was from Tupperware. So I did an internet search for Tupperware Sugar Cookies and lucked up on this recipe (check out the blog it came from for some awesome cookie pictures!)

It’s a great alternative to the butter cream frosted cookies I love to do. My little ones can do these easier and there’s less icing to make (and eat!). You can also make the icing more vibrant and bright than when using butter cream. Oh, and it’s cheaper than butter cream too!

The cookies are sturdy and crisp. They are not soft (I use my sour cream cut out recipe for soft cookies).

The cookies freeze well.
Granny's Sugar Cookies
(From a 32-year-old Tupperware recipe I found in my box.) 
1/2 cup butter (I used Imperial margarine)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Cream together butter and sugar. Blend in egg and vanilla. Stir together salt, baking powder and flour. Add to mixture and stir well. Chill dough at least one hour, up to three days.

Roll dough to desired thickness (about 1/8") and cut out shapes. Bake on lightly greased cookie sheet (or cookie sheet with parchment paper—do not be tempted to skip this!) in 375 degree preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Loosen from pan immediately, leave on pan for 2 minutes or until cool, move to cooling rack or wax paper. Cool completely and ice.

Easy Glaze
2 cups confectioners' sugar
4 tablespoons water

Combine ingredients until lumps disappear. Spoon on cookies or dip cookie directly into the glaze. You can also “paint” the cookies using new, washed paint brushes (the cheaper, the better…you want coarse bristles instead of fine, soft brushes). I used baby food jars to make it look more like “real” paint.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Whole Wheat Pizza

I recently tried making a whole wheat pizza crust and was extremely pleased with the result!

This is my Chicken Philly Ranch pizza—ranch for the sauce, peppers, onions, and chicken.

1 ¾ - 2 ½ cups whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour
1 ½ envelope pizza crust yeast
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
2/3 cup very warm water (120 – 130 degrees)
3 tablespoons olive oil

Combine 1 cup flour, yeast, and salt.  Stir in water, honey, and oil.  Mix together until well blended (about 1 minute).

Gradually add ½ cup flour until soft dough ball is formed.  Add more flour if needed. 

Knead on a floured surface, adding more flour as needed until smooth & elastic (about 4 minutes).  Honestly, I just knead enough flour into it until it’s not so sticky.  It’s probably more like 2 or 3 minutes.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, turn to coat, cover with plastic wrap, and place in cold oven with light on.  Let rise for 20-30 minutes.

Grease pizza pan (I swear by a stone but a regular pan is okay too).  Sprinkle some cornmeal on pan.  Press dough out to fill pan or roll dough to 12-inch circle (or desired size/thickness).  Top with desired sauce and toppings.  Let sit for 10-20 minutes.  You can skip this sitting time…it will still be great but not as thick and soft (which you might prefer!).

Bake on bottom rack at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until done. 

Here is a link to my pizza tutorial with some other pizza ideas. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Homemade Italian Breadcrumbs

You may want a less processed product, 100% whole wheat, or just need some Italian breadcrumbs in a pinch.  It does take a little advanced notice since your bread has to be dried and hard but it could save you a trip to the store.  This is the concoction I’ve come up with.

3 slices whole wheat slices of bread, dried (see notes at bottom) and finely crushed
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon salt
4 or 5 shakes of garlic powder
1 ½ tablespoons parmesan cheese

Mix together and use as recipe directs.  This is what I use for my Chicken Parmesan.

Notes:  I put my bread in the oven after baking something and turn the oven off.  I leave them until they are dried out (about an hour).  You could also try leaving the bread out overnight (I suggest in the oven).  You want it more than toasted, you want all the moisture out of the bread.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cinnamon Rolls (pizza crust recipe)

photo courtesy of Delores Bailey
The other night I needed a dessert and since I was out of eggs and I only had a little cocoa and powdered sugar, my options were limited.  I decided to give this a try.  Forgive my lack of clear instructions…it was one of those things I just did without measuring much.  I don’t think you could mess these up too much.  I was also lazy and just sprinkled the sugars and cinnamon on instead of combining them first.

Overall I was pleased with how these turned out.  They didn’t take long to throw together and there is only one time needed for rising the dough (after you make the rolls).  So it’s not a time-consuming recipe.  The taste and texture were great!  And this dough is just so easy to work with!

I first made my pizza crust dough recipe:
1 ¾ - 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 envelope Fleischmann’s Pizza Crust Yeast
1 ½ teaspoon sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup very warm water (120 – 130 degrees)
3 tablespoons oil

Combine 1 cup flour, yeast, sugar, and salt.  Stir in water and oil.  Mix together until well blended (about 1 minute).

Gradually add ½ cup flour until soft dough ball is formed.  Add more flour if needed. 

Knead on a floured surface, adding more flour as needed until smooth & elastic (about 4 minutes). Honestly, I just knead enough flour into it until it’s not so sticky.  It’s probably more like 2 or 3 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface.  Roll into a rectangle (as thin as you can easily do—not thin like pie crust but you want it thin enough to be able to roll it up a few times). 

Butter, softened (about 2 tablespoons)
Cinnamon (about 1 teaspoon—I just sprinkled it from the jar)
White sugar (about 3 tablespoons)
Brown sugar (about 3 tablespoons)

Spread butter over the dough.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugars (you can combine the three first).  Carefully roll the dough up from the long edge, as tightly as you can (which won’t be that tight).  Slice the log into pieces (I did about 1 ½ inch pieces and then flattened them because my log was pretty long and narrow…you can do it however you want).  Place into buttered baking pan (I used a Pampered Chef stone round baking pan—I think it’s 10 inches), about 1 inch apart.  A glass baking dish would work, a cake pan, or even an iron skillet.

Cover the pan with clear wrap and place in warm spot until the rolls are doubled and almost touching.  A cold oven with the light on is a perfect place for this!  The top of the refrigerator works well too.

Bake at 400 until done (about 15 minutes, but watch it closely after 10).  Depending on the pan, it might take more like 20-30 minutes.  The center should be set.

2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
Milk (enough to make a drizzling consistency)

Whisk together.  Glaze the warm cinnamon rolls.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Owl Craft Project

We made these easy and cute owls the other day.  They were made with the things we had on hand...toilet paper tubes (I even cut a paper towel tube down to size when we ran out!), construction paper, muffin cups (we used two per owl), tape, and glue.  Even my 2 1/2 year old could do most of it herself!  I admit they would have been a bit cuter with some brighter muffin cups.  This is where we got the idea from:

To make the "vase and sticks," I took a half-pint jar, some sticks, some crumpled paper (stuffed inside the jar to keep the sticks standing up), and a piece of construction paper taped to the outside.

We shared the arrangement with Grannie & Mimi's office.  The girls kept a few owls to play with.  They've been begging to make more!  Looks like we'll be buying some more muffin cups and continuing to collect some tubes so we can make another arrangement!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cinnamon Honey Butter

I used to make this with ¼ cup powdered sugar.  I honestly prefer the honey version. 

1 stick salted butter, softened
1 tablespoon honey
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Stir together until smooth.  Serve at room temperature.

Pumpkin Muffins

This is my adaptation of a recipe that came in my Tea Time Magazine.  These muffins are SO yummy!  They are very moist and full of flavor.  I haven't had luck with making homemade muffins and them being cake-like or moist after they've cooled.  These are!  They're great hot or room temperature! 

I have two versions in case you have 1 cup of pumpkin or a whole can to use.  I suggest you make more so you can share or freeze some.   You may also want to decrease the amount of honey…these are more like cake!

Get creative…add walnuts, raisins, dried cranberries, crystallized ginger (as suggested in Tea Time Magazine), etc.

2 ¼ cups white whole wheat flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ginger
¼-½ teaspoon cloves
¾ teaspoon salt
1-15 oz. can pumpkin
¾ cup honey
3 eggs
1 cup whole buttermilk (or 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice plus enough whole milk to make 1 cup; let set for 10 minutes)
6 tablespoons oil

Spray muffin pan or use muffin paper liners.  Stir together dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, combine pumpkin, honey, eggs, buttermilk, and oil.  Whisk until combined.  Pour into dry ingredients and stir until combined.  Fill muffin cups two-thirds full.  Bake at 400 for 18-20 minutes or until done. 

1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
¼teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup canned pumpkin
½  cup honey
2 eggs
2/3 cup whole buttermilk (or 2 teaspoons vinegar or lemon juice plus enough whole milk to make 2/3 cup; let set for 10 minutes)
¼ cup oil

Friday, September 7, 2012

Easy Chicken Fajitas

This recipe came out of desperation when I was pregnant and craved the Mexican restaurant fajitas that we get at our favorite local place.  It’s quick and easy!  The best part is, you can cater it to your preferences and tastes.  Cook the veggies as long (or not-so-long in my case!) as you like!  Have fun!  It’s healthy and delicious!  You can even do quesadillas with the mixture if you prefer that over fajitas.

1-2 onions, cut in half and sliced
1-2 bell peppers (any color)
1 pound of chicken breasts (I use tenders)
chili powder
olive oil

You can either use two skillets and cook the veggies and chicken simultaneously or you can cook them in the same skillet at different times.  I usually cook my veggies first, put them on a serving platter, then cook the chicken. 

Basically you cook the veggies and chicken in a little oil and sprinkle with salt and chili powder.  I usually cook the chicken strips and then slice in smaller pieces; you can slice the raw meat first if you prefer (it’s easier and quicker for me to slice the cooked meat than to cut raw meat). 

Serve veggies and meat on flour tortillas.  Add yogurt, sour cream, ranch, whatever you want!  Add cheese and salsa if you like.  Be creative.  Cook some tomatoes with the veggies…or any other veggies!
This is great fixed ahead of time and heated up when needed.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Whole Wheat Tortillas

I decided to try this whole wheat flour tortilla recipe and was very pleased with the results! You can use oil in place of the butter. You can also use less oil or butter or even remove it altogether and just use water. I found that it’s easy to overcook them and make them crunchy. Honestly, when they’re crunchy, they resemble chips—an added bonus! Also, it takes practice to make them round…as you can see in my picture I did not succeed. They still taste yummy!

2 cups whole wheat flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder (optional—I did not use)
¼ cup cold butter (or oil)
½ cup warm water

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in butter until well blended. Pour in water until it’s a nice soft dough (add more flour or water if needed). Knead on a lightly floured surface a few times. Divide into 8 even pieces. Cover and let rest 20 minutes.

Warm a skillet or griddle over medium heat. Roll each piece of dough thinly on a lightly floured surface. Place in skillet or on griddle. Cook until brown spots appear (2- 4 minutes each side). Serve or keep in refrigerator or freezer.

About 150 calories each

Friday, August 17, 2012

Whole Wheat Cheese Crackers

I found this recipe on this website

I decided to give it a try using whole wheat flour. I was very pleasantly surprised!  I don't think I got the baking time exactly right but the smaller crackers certainly did better than the bigger ones. I burned one big cracker tray; undercooked another; and the small ones came out perfectly. Honestly, they tasted great underbaked or baked perfectly. The biggest thing is my kids love them! I only made a half batch since I only had half a block of cheese but it still made several crackers.  I am invisioning bad things to go with cream cheese spread on top! 

Use your creativity and add various spices (garlic, Italian herbs, rosemary, chili powder, cayenne, etc.)
It calls for a food processor and I'm assuming you'd need to use one for this since the cheese would need to be ground up small to get incorporated into the flour/butter mixture. 
I used two different sized small circle cookie cutters (one is the small cookie cutter from my set of three and the other is the hole cutter in my donut/biscuit cutter). Here's the recipe (full batch) the way I did it.

1 cup whole wheat flour
4 tablespoons cold butter (1/2 of a stick), sliced
8 oz cheddar cheese (I didn't have any so I used colby/jack--will do some medium cheddar; some sharp next time!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Pulse the flour, butter, cheese, salt, and pepper together using a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Pulse in 3 to 4 tablespoons of water, one tablespoon at a time, and only enough so that the dough forms a ball and rides the blade.

Remove, wrap in plastic, and chill for 20 minutes or up to 24 hours.

Roll the dough out to 1/8-inch thickness. (If you roll it thicker, it will still work, but the crackers won't be quite as crunchy. This dough rolled out so easily; you'll wish that you always worked with cheddar!)

Cut out as many crackers as possible.

Place them 1 inch apart on ungreased baking pans (the website said use parchment paper--there was no need, the crackers slid right off the bare pan easily).

Bake at 350 F until golden and crisp - 15 to 20 minutes (watch them closely after the 8 or 10 minute mark).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Foot Prints Keepsake (Flip Flops)

I love this book!

It's about making quilts but I made hand print flower pictures for Mother's Day on poster board instead of fabric.  Here is the one fabric project I've done so far:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Buttercream Icing

Why use canned frosting when homemade is sooooooooo easy and yummy?!

Two sticks of margarine or butter (you can use half butter, half shortening for a whiter icing)
2 pounds of powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
Milk (enough to make it the right consistency)

Beat margarine or butter until fluffy.  Add 2 cups powdered sugar and mix.  Add vanilla and mix well.  Add more sugar and some milk, alternating the two and mixing together until all the sugar has been used and the frosting is the right consistency.

Cut Out Cookies

This is an old Wilton recipe. It's easy to make, the dough is friendly to handle, there's no refrigeration required, and they are yummy iced or not! You can just put sugar sprinkles on them before baking or you can decorate them with icing. Very good recipe! 

Sorry the picture isn't the best--I had a hard time finding one.  The magic wand in the picture was made using two stars with a cookie dowel sandwiched between.  Bake them and ice as desired.  Cute idea for a tea or birthday party!

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened (I use Imperial margarine)
1 cups granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and extract. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder; add to butter mixture 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Do not chill dough.

On floured surface, roll some dough about 1/4 to 1/8 in. thick. Dip cookie cutter in flour if necessary. Bake cookies on ungreased cookie sheet 6-7 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.

I use buttercream to ice them.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Brown Rice Crispy Treats (no sugar)

I found this recipe somewhere online and decided to give them a try since someone gave me a box of the needed cereal.  So, here's my recipe.  They're easy, yummy, and pretty healthy!

1 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups brown crisp rice cereal (

Melt the peanut butter and honey together (it will be pretty thick but smooth).  Add the vanilla and stir well.  Pour over the cereal, stir to coat completely.  Pour into a 7x11 buttered pan.  Smooth the top.  Refrigerate until cold.  It will be firm but the pieces will fall apart somewhat (more than the sugary kind).  Cut into 24 pieces, 105 calories each.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fudgsicles (no sugar)

Found this recipe online ( and tried it, a bit skeptical.  I was pretty impressed!  They had great texture and were yummy (very banana-ey).  Easy (if you have a blender), quick, AND the kids like them!  The recipe fit great into my 6 cup Tupperware popsicle mold.  Great all-natural cold treat!  I will also add that it was pretty inexpensive to make.  I had everything but the milk on hand and it only cost me $1.48 and there's enough for about two more batches.

2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup canned full fat coconut milk
2 small, very ripe bananas
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
small pinch of salt
2 tablepsoons honey (I added this…you can go without if you prefer)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour into popsicle molds.  Freeze.  Makes 5-6 pops.

78 calories each (6 servings)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Barbecue Sauce (sugar free)

Since I’m trying to live sugar free right now and I love BBQ sauce, I just HAD to find an alternative (since bottle sauces list high fructose corn syrup first!).  This is what I came up with.  I’m sure I’ll be tweaking it as time goes by.  For the entire batch, I figured about 150 calories but do your own figuring since the Worcestershire and soy sauce could have different caloric values.

1 cup water (you can add more water if a thinner consistency is necessary, up to a cup)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 banana pepper (mine was hotter than most), seeded and minced
1 small can tomato sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce (check label for sugar)
Chili powder (5 or so shakes)
Cumin (a little sprinkle)
2 teaspoons honey, optional

Mix all in a saucepan.  Bring to boil; reduce to medium low and cook until desired consistency. 
I baked my pork in this so I didn’t cook it on the stove long and it was very thin like soup.  After cooking the meat, it got pretty thick so 1 ½ cups water would probably be more accurate.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Onion Rings Two Ways

One of my favorite homemade junk foods are onion rings!  Hubby likes them too.  The only problem is my favorite way is different from his favorite way.  While we’ll both eat each other’s, we prefer our own.  So I try to flip flop the two ways.  Here’s our two different onion ring recipes. 

Floured Onion Rings
Oil for frying
2 eggs
½ cup milk
Flour seasoned to taste (or you can buy seasoned flour)
2 medium onions (I usually use yellow but white are good too—Vidalia are my favorite!), sliced to desired thickness and separated (or you can cut in wedges and separate)

Whisk the eggs and milk together.  Place separated onions into mixture and toss to coat.  I like to place the flour into a gallon baggie and then put some onions in, twist the top of the bag, shake to coat, then remove the onions to a clean plate  or straight into the hot oil and repeat.  Fry over medium heat until done.

Battered Onion Rings
Oil for frying
5 tablespoons seasoned flour
1 egg
2 tablespoons water
1 ½ to 2 medium onions (I usually use yellow but white are good too—Vidalia are my favorite!), sliced to desired thickness and separated (or you can cut in wedges and separate)  This recipe is really easier with the wedges.

Stir together the flour, egg, and water.  Place a handful of onion pieces into the batter and toss to coat.  Keep adding the onions a little at a time and tossing them.  You may not have enough batter to do 2 full onions.  Place into the oil over medium heat and fry until done.

Children's Books I Really Like 1

I decided to compile a list of some of my favorite children’s books.  Keep in mind my kids are 6 months, 2 ½, 4 ½ years old.  This is not a complete list by any means, just a start.  I hope to add to it later.

All of the Seuss and Barenstein Bears books!  I may work on narrowing it down.

Bear Snores On
Bear’s New Friend
Bear Stays Up For Christmas
Bear Wants More
Bear Feels Sick
by Karma Wilson
Illustrated by Jane Chapman
These are so delightful!  The pictures are beautiful and each page is a rhyme.  It’s catchy and easy to read.  My girls love them!  This list includes the ones we have.  There are more in the series but we haven’t bought the rest yet.

by Pamela J. Baker
Illustrated by Patricia Bellan Gillen
This is the best sign language book I’ve seen for young children.  It’s got lots of signs in a dictionary format (but only a few signs per letter—it is not a comprehensive dictionary).  My girls love for me to read it like a book and do all the signs.  Some signs we have to change for our region but you would have to with any book.  The illustrations are adorable.

by Linda Acredolo & Susan Goodwyn
Photographs by Penny Gentieu
This is a cute little book to help familiarize your baby with sign language.  There are more in the series but this is the only one I have.  Some are true signs, some are simply motions (which I change to the true signs and my kids don’t seem to mind).  What I like is that there’s a baby on each page spread doing the sign so my babies have been able to relate to the book.  There are also pictures that represent each word (one word per page spread).  So when they learn the signs, they can flip through the book, see the pictures of the word, and sign it!  It’s very fun and exciting to see!

by Mary Warren
Illustrated by Betty Wind
Arch Books
This is a book from my childhood.  I always loved the Arch Books Bible stories!  It’s a great way for kids to learn Bible stories.  My kids love it and they enjoy talking about it after reading it!

by V. Gilbert Beers
Illustrated by Carole Boerke
I like this for my 2 year old who may not be able to sit still for a long Bible story.  Each Bible story is about 4 pages long and there’s a graphic and a sentence or phrase on each page.  Quick, Biblical, and interesting for the little ones!

by Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrated by Clement Hurd
My kids love this book! 

by Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrated by Clement Hurd
This book shows a mother’s never ending, tireless love.  So many spiritual applications—Jesus became a person to reach us…much like the mother bunny is willing to become whatever she needs to so that she can reach her little bunny.  Very good read!

This has been such a favorite over the years that our first copy had to be replaced!  It’s a fun hands-on board book when they’re really little and becomes a great learning letters tool later on!

Mick Manning and Brita Granström
A very interesting book!  My oldest went through a phase where she would ask why we have certain body parts (eyebrows and belly buttons were the hardest ones to explain).  This book is a very simple book about parts of the body and their functions.  What I like is for each part, the authors give information about a few animals as it relates to that part of the body.  I think there were two animals we had never heard of before!  So of course we had to research and learn a little more about those animals.  Neat book!

I Love You This Much
By Lynn Hodges and Sue Buchanan
Illustrated by John Bendall Brunello
A really sweet book about a Mother’s love.

First Steps in Prayer
First Steps To God
First Steps In the Bible
Stephen Elkins
Illustrated by Ellie Colton
The books we have are a set of little board books.  The link is for the individual books and include a CD.  These have just a few pages.  They are a sweet introduction to Christianity for the little ones.

The Llama Llama books
Llama Llama Red Pajama
Llama Llama Misses Mama
By Anna Dewdney
These are the only two we have but that’s going to change!  My kids love these cute rhyming books!

By Jessica Meserve
Small was stuck in Big’s shadow until…well, you’ll have to read the book!  Gorgeous illustrations!  Great meaning!