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Monday, March 24, 2008

Cranberry Hootycreeks

With this sophisticated, truly addicting cookie--bound to leave you reaching for another--your friends and family will be left in a cranberry craze!

½ cup butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 cup (plus 2 Tbsp) flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup rolled oats
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup white chocolate chips
*½ cup chopped pecans

Cream the butter, egg, vanilla and sugars. In a separate bowl mix the remaining ingredients. Add dry to wet and mix. Bake at 345 for 10 minutes.

*I prefer to run my pecans through a food processor to use a more finely-ground nut. This way they add a great deal to flavor and texture without being too bulky for those who are not nuts over nuts.

: Cranberry Hootycreeks in a Jar--great as a gift, as the colors are a bit more vibrant than the typical cookie mix! Combine flour, soda and salt. Layer bottom list of ingredients in a 1 quart jar in the order listed. Attach a tag with these instructions:

Cranberry Hootycreeks:

Preheat oven to 345. In a medium bowl, beat together ½ cup softened butter, 1 egg and 1 tsp vanilla until fluffy. Add the entire jar of ingredients, and mix together until well blended. Drop by heaping spoonful onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, or until edges start to brown. Enjoy!


Molasses Crinkles

As a kid these cookies were the ones Mom always made when Grandpa came. Now that I am grown, I understand why he loves them so much. Comparable in taste to ginger snaps, 'snapping' is no where to be heard with these soft, chewy cookies. If you don't often find your cookies looking sufficiently 'pretty', you'll be thrilled to pull these from the oven!

1 1/2 cups butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
4 cups flour
4 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger

Cream together the butter, sugar, and eggs. Mix in molasses. In a separate bowl combine remaining ingredients. Add dry to wet a portion at a time, mixing as you go. Spoon and roll the dough into balls, then roll in sugar before baking. *Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes, or until they start to crinkle!

*I am often asked how I get my cookies so soft, and one trick is to turn the oven down 10-15 degrees below the specified temperature and bake a few minutes longer. For this recipe, I bake them at 335 for 10-11 minutes.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tom Kha Gai

(This recipe might not do many of you much good because you either have to go to an oriental market, or order the ingredients online. It's worth it though!) Kellen and I went to eat at a Thai restaurant two weeks ago. Soup is served as a main course at some restaurants like these so I asked Kellen if he wanted to share and get soup and one other dish. He said no, he wasn't in the mood for soup. So I ordered a half order anyway. It was love at first bite and Kellen agreed, begging me to learn how to make it. I researched the recipe online the very next day and found this one on a recipe blog called (other great recipes here also). Kellen and I made a trip to an oriental market to get most of the ingredients. This was a fun experience all in itself. It was like walking into a foreign country but we got all the authentic ingredients. I made it last night and was pleasantly surprised that it turned out very similar to the restaurant's. This soup is so silky, flavorful, and comforting. I know it will be requested again.

Tom Kha Gai


2 19 ounce cans of coconut milk (I prefer Mae Ploy brand, but Cha Khao is also good)
1 quart chicken broth or stock
5 1/4″ thick quarter-sized to half-dollar sized slices of fresh or frozen galangal root
3 stalks lemongrass–bottom 1/3 only, bottom of stalks trimmed, and outer layers stripped away–cut into three equal pieces and bruise with the back of the cleaver
5 kaffir lime leaves, or the zest of two regular limes (I just cut the zest off in big pieces with a peeler to make it easier to fish out when all the flavor is gone from it)
2 tablespoons red curry paste, or to taste (recipe here, or you can use Mae Ploy brand–it is good)
fish sauce to taste*
6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced thinly
1 whole boneless skinless chicken breast, trimmed and cut into thin strips
juice of two limes or to taste*
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, stems removed
3 scallion tops, thinly sliced
red and green Thai bird chiles, sliced thinly as a garnish


Combine coconut milk, chicken broth, galangal, lemongrass, lime leaves, zest or oil, and curry paste in a heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer. Season to taste with fish sauce. Turn down heat and allow to simmer for at least one half hour, forty minutes is better.

Fish out galangal and lemongrass. Add mushrooms and chicken. Simmer until chicken is done. Fish out lime leaves, add lime juice to taste, and garnish with cilantro leaves, scallion tops and sliced chilis.**

The flavor should be a balance of spicy, refreshingly sweet and herbal and sour, with a musky note from the galangal.

*The fish sauce is what makes it salty and cannot be skipped. I would add 1-2 Tbsp to start, then to taste after adding lime (I read that it tastes pretty bad without the lime. It tames the fish sauce). I would also add one lime to start, then to taste.
**In the restaurant it is served with red onions and fresh tomato. Great additions.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Oh, Whoah...Pizza Dough

For some reason, I have lived with the misconception that pizza dough is a difficult, hit-and-miss fiasco. I have been pleasantly surprised to find this recipe, as it has never failed me.

**Makes two 9-10" round pizzas or one half-sheet pan pizza.**

3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
1/4-1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Desired toppings (sauce, cheese, etc.)

1. Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add the yeast, water, and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Leave for 15 minutes to dissolve the yeast.

2. With your hands or a large spoon, stir until the dough just holds together. Transfer to a flat surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Avoid adding too much flour while kneading (I often find that no additional flour is necessary, as at this point it typically seems a bit dry. This is normal).

3. Drizzle olive oil into a large, clean bowl and add the dough ball, being sure to roll it around to coat it on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and leave it to rise in a warm, draft-free place until more than doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.

4. If doing two round pizzas, divide the dough in half and roll slightly larger than your pan in order to have enough to create a crust. If doing pan-style pizza, roll to the dimensions of the pan.

5. Brush dough with oil before spreading sauce and adding other toppings. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.

Freeze & Pleeze! (...toothless division)

Amen to that, Kristin! Freezer cooking has been one of the most fun discoveries for me. Every day, it seems, I think of something new that would work well as a freezer-friendly food. Ironically, I sat down to find your post right after closing the freezer door to a fun, new adventure.

TIP FOR MOMMIES...For those of you who feel the way I do about watching what goes into our bodies (especially our little ones), and who also find reward in saving money wherever possible, I am excited to share this tip. Make your own baby food and then freeze it in small, single-serving amounts. As a mom, I feel such comfort in knowing that I'm feeding my baby food that I inspected, selected, and prepared with him in mind, and that it is packed with nutrition and vitamins--no preservatives or additives whatsoever!

If it sounds like too much work, know that it's SO simple; you could easily take half a day or a long morning and provide weeks of food for your little one. The sacrifice is well worth the benefit. Simply cook the vegetable--or fruit--the way you would if you were to eat it for dinner (omit any butter or seasonings), and then toss it in a blender or food processor. If necessary, add just enough water or breast milk to gain the desired consistency. Make sure to let the food blend long enough to eliminate any clumps that could be choking hazards. Then freeze it in your preferred style. It's that simple! Rule of thumb: If you are contemplating whether to bake or boil something that could go either way, bake it. You will retain more nutrients and avoid water-log.

I did purchase some baby food in order to get some containers to use for freezing, so today I put his pureed vegetables in plastic Gerber containers with snap-on lids (I'm not sure if plastic is ideal). If you want to steer clear of the plastic or want smaller portion sizes, just flash freeze your servings in ice cube trays, then pop them out and store in a freezer bag for quick, easy use. My girlfriend did it this way and then just stuck a cube of vegetables in a portable dish with a lid and tossed it in the diaper bag. Either way works great!

I recognize that baby food companies are doing more and more all the time to ensure that our babies get quality food, but there is no question that they are getting the BEST when it's straight from God's bounty. Dallin has voiced his approval many times with an affirming "mmmmm"....after each bite. Sometimes I even have to steal a taste!

Chicken Pot Pie

I have had so many compliments on this dish. I created it in PA while nannying for two girls, one of which was very picky and thin because she didn't eat much. She scarfed this down every time. Kellen requests it often also. It's also a great one to freeze. I freeze just the filling in a bag. On serving day, I thaw it, and pour it into the crust and bake about 10-15 minutes longer because it isn't hot to start with. Or you can pour it into a kettle to warm up first, then bake as directed. Feel free to accommodate this to your family's taste, adding whatever veggies you like. And don't get too caught up on measuring. I just throw in what looks right. Enjoy!

6 1/2 cups chicken broth
6 (6 oz.) boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
1 stick butter
2 1/2 cups onion, diced
2 1/4 cups carrot, diced
1 3/4 cups celery, diced
OPT - mushrooms, corn, peas, potatoes, broccoli, parsley, garlic, thyme
1 cup flour
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper (1/2 tsp black pepper)
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 store bought pie shells, I like Pillsbury in a box that you unroll, or homemade!
egg wash

Bring the broth to a simmer. Add chicken and cook through. In another pan, melt the butter. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Saute til crisp tender. Add other veggies now if using. Add flour and gently mix. Cook over low heat for 6-8 minutes. Increase heat and add the chicken broth, 1 cup at a time until desired thickness (about half the broth), whisking continually so to not get clumps. Add the bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Add the chicken and warmed whipping cream. Flavor to taste with salt, pepper and chicken bouillon. Stir well. Place in pie shell. Top with another pie crust and seal edges and poke holes to vent. Bake on a cookie sheet (to protect boiling over), at 350 for 45 min, until brown. Let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

I am making this in the next couple days so will fine tune the recipe then.

To Freeze: Just freeze filling. Thaw completely and reheat in saucepan. Pour into pie crust and bake as directed above.

Freezer Cooking

Freezer cooking makes cooking so much more enjoyable and rewarding for me. I would encourage you to start. If you make a recipe that is "freezer worthy", just make double, or triple or more. It takes virtually no more time and you have two or three fresh, homemade meals ready to go. Taylor and I get together for a cooking marathon day and make 20 or more meals at a time for our families. Check out a book from the library or read online because there are some tricks to keep in mind to make it successful. This is so nice because you can have supper ready in minutes on a busy day, or to serve to unexpected company, or to take to a friend in need. I have loved having meals on hand to take to two cousins just recently who have had babies. Sunday night, my brother was over and got a phone call from a friend saying they were coming through Utah from South Dakota and wanted to stop in to visit. My brother, being a bachelor, doesn't have a place to accommodate guests so I said they could come here. I pulled some chili from the freezer and served 6 hungry guys homemade chili and cornbread with two hours notice, and not being able to go to the store (it was Sunday). This is a rewarding feeling for me. Look into freezer cooking and reap the rewards yourself. (Cheesy salesman pitch I know, but I'm serious. I know Taylor is addicted too and gets a natural high from it too.)

Canned Fruit Juices

So I usually, regretfully, drain and dump the juice from canned fruits. But since I am now a nursing, breast milk pumping mom who freezes breast milk in ice cube trays for smaller portions, I thought, "Why not do that with the fruit juice?" It works great! Pour it in an ice cube tray. Once it freezes, pop them out and store in the freezer in a bag. You don't have to waste the juice, or keep it in the fridge and try to think of something to put it in right away. You can freeze it and have it ready to throw in shakes (my favorite!) or whatever else you want it for. Just make sure you don't get it mixed up with the breast milk!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Avocado Egg Rolls

This is a copycat recipe I found on the web, and it is EXCELLENT!!! It is from The Cheesecake Factory and these really do taste just as good right at home.

34 min | 30 min prep | SERVES 2 -4 , 3 eggrolls*

dipping sauce

3-4 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon tamarind pulp**
1/2 cup honey
1 pinch powdered saffron, opt.
1/2 cup cashews or peanuts
2/3 cup fresh cilantro
2 garlic cloves
2 green onions
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup olive oil

egg rolls

1 large avocado, peeled, pitted, & diced
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped***
1 tablespoon minced red onion or shallot
1/2 teaspoon fresh cilantro, chopped
1 pinch salt
3 egg roll wraps
1 egg, beaten (I use warm water. Works great. Not worth wasting and egg.)
  1. Stir together vinegars, tamarind, honey, and saffron in a microwave safe bowl, and microwave for 1 minute.
  2. Stir until tamarind is dissolved.
  3. In a blender, Puree tamarind mixture, cashews, 2/3 cup cilantro, garlic, onions, sugar, pepper, and cumin.
  4. Pour mixture into a bowl and stir in oil.
  5. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  6. Gently stir together avocado, tomatoes, onion, 1/2 teaspoon cilantro, and salt.
  7. Distribute filling evenly onto center of each egg roll wrapper.
  8. Position a wrapper so that a corner is pointing toward you; fold the bottom corner up, 1/4 of the way over the filling.
  9. Brush remaining corners and edges of the wrapper with egg, roll up from side to side, fold top corner over all and press to seal.
  10. Repeat with remaining wrappers.
  11. Continue by deep-frying the egg rolls in 375 degree oil for 3-4 minutes, until golden brown.
  12. Drain on brown paper bags.
  13. Slice egg rolls diagonally across middle and serve with prepared dipping sauce!
  14. ENJOY!
* If doubling (or more) the egg rolls, do not double the sauce. This recipe makes enough to triple (or more) the egg rolls. So you could even make a half batch of the sauce and have enough.*

** Tamarind pulp or paste is hard to find. I made this the first time without it and it tasted great. Then I found some and made it again with and didn't notice that much of a difference. So don't let that stop you from making these. The sauce really makes these though.**

*** You can buy sun-dried tomatoes at the dollar store. Yep, for $1! And if you make these when avocados are on sale for $1, it's a delicious, fancy, and cheap treat. ***

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Smoked Salmon Roll-ups

This was one of my favorite appetizers my family liked me to make on special occasions. They look like a bigger version of sushi rolls only wrapped in a tortilla. I got this recipe out of a traditional Food and Wine festival I attended back in California. The creator of this recipe won $200 as a prized tested recipe. I like sushi and I like wraps so this is a great combination!

2 cups short grain or sticky rice, cooled.
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 10 inch spinach flavored flour tortillas
2 3oz pkgs. thinly sliced smoked salmon
1 Medium avocado halved, seeded, peeled and sliced
1/2 Medium cucumber,halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into thin sticks

Combine rice and seseme seeds. Combine vinegar, sugar and 1 tsp. salt and stir to dissolve. Pour vinegar mixture over rice mixture. Stir together mayonnaise and cayenne; spread 1 tbsp. mayonnaise mix. over 1 tortilla.
Spread 1/2 cup rice mix. on half the tortilla; top with 1/4 each of the salmon, avocado, and cucumber. Carefully roll tortilla tightly, starting at the filled side. Wrap in plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Chill at least 1hour before serving. To serve, trim ends. Cut remaining roll crosswise into 1 inch thick slives. If you need to, secure with toothpicks to hold them together. This makes about 25 rolls.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Cuisinart Pasta Noodles

For those of you who also have a Cuisinart Food Processor, try making your own flavorful pasta. Your family will brag about mom's talent. They are not only delicious but easy with the help of your Cuisinart. Give 'em a try, you'll be glad you did. But don't limit yourself to the basic recipe, try adding other seasoning (but not vegetables) to come up with an interesting flare.

Basic Pasta
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp salt, if desired (or/and other seasonings to change up the flavor)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon water
3 large eggs

Insert metal blade and add flour, salt, oil, and water to work bowl. Crack eggs into a cup measure. Turn on machine and pour eggs through feed tube all at once. Process for 15 seconds after eggs go in. Pasta mixture will almost form ball. Stop machine and scape work bowl. Process for another 30 seconds. By this time, dough should just about gather into mass that barely moves around work bowl. If dough has not completely formed ball at this point, do not be concerned. Carefully remove all dough from work bowl, scraping metal blade and work bowl clean, and place dough on large sheet of waxed paper or similar product. Compress dough into one lump with your hands. Dough should feel slightly moist but firm and not at all sticky. Next step is to knead dough with the metal blade. Again, insert metal blade, and turn on machine. Tear off walnut size pieces of dough and drop them through feed tube one at a time. After all dough is added, process for another 60 seconds. Dough should form a ball and move about freely around the bowl. Once ball is formed, process an additional 60 seconds. Remove ball of pasta from bowl, place in a plastic bag with a couple tablespoons flour to coat the ball and keep from sticking to plastic. Flatten slightly and let rest for 30 minutes.
Rolling and cutting pasta:
Cut flattened ball in half. Slightly flour a large surface and roll dough to 1/16 inch thick with rolling pin, into rectangular shape. Flour pasta ever so lightly, either roll up as for cinnamon rolls and then cut into slices of noodles with knife or leave open and cut into noodles with pizza cutter. Repeat with other half.
Cooking pasta:
Fresh pasta cooks in practically no time at all. Bring 6 quarts of water and 1 tsp salt to a boil over high heat. Drop in pasta and give a little stir. Allow water to come back to a boil and start testing pasta for doneness in about 1 minute. Test pasta frequently, and drain when "al dente". Serve at once with your favorite sauce or plain butter. Now wasn't that easy?

I'll Have The "Birthday Special" Cake

Birthday's are a special time of year and what better reason to enjoy a cake that is too rich to enjoy on a regular basis. Loy's children order this for their birthday cake every year. My boys had a chance to taste it so have requested it too.
Warning - a favorite beverage is necessary to offset it's sweetness. Mmmmmm!

1 pkg. boxed chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup chopped peanuts, divided (could use chocolate chips or heath chips for the no-nut lovers)
1 pkg. (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 (16 oz) carton cool whip - thawed and divided
Chocolate fudge sauce (for ice cream), optional

In mixing bowl, combine dry cake mix, butter, milk, and eggs. Add 3/4 cup chopped peanuts. Spread into greased 9X13 baking pan. Bake at 350* for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool. In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, peanut butter, powdered sugar, condensed milk, and vanilla until smooth. Fold in 3 cups whipped cream topping. Spread over the cooled cake mix crust, top with remaining whipped cream topping and remaining chopped peanuts (or chocolate chips or heath chips). Drizzle with additional chocolate fudge sauce if desired. Sing, blow out candles, unzip your jeans, and ENJOY!

Rhonda's White Hot Chocolate

Ever crave a Hot Chocolate that isn't really chocolate? Well allow this "White" Hot Chocolate to slip past your lips for a change in flavor and a change in mood on a gloomy day! Oh, its not for dieters.

3 cups half and half
2/3 cup vanilla baking chips
1 stick cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
ground cinnamon, optional

1. In sauce pan, combine 1/4 cup half and half , chips, cinnamon stick, and nutmeg.
2. Stir over low heat until chips are melted. Throw away cinnamon stick.
3. Add remaining half and half and stir until heating through.
4. Add vanilla and almond extract.
5. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon if desired.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Classic Italian Chicken Soup

As you can tell by most of my recipes, I love soup! Here is another one I made just this week. It is very satisfying but not too heavy like a cream soup. I judge how much I like something by if I would make it again, and this one I would!

This recipe serves: 8
6 chicken breasts with the bone, about 3 pounds total
12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups canned crushed Italian tomatoes
1 large onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
3 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
8 ounces orzo or other small, shaped pasta
4 cups chopped fresh spinach, escarole or kale
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper

1. Remove and discard the skin from the chicken breasts and place the breasts in a large soup pot. Add the chicken broth, bring it to a boil and reduce the heat so that the broth just simmers. Simmer until the chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken and transfer to a plate to cool.

2. Skim the fat from the broth and bring it back to a boil. Add the tomatoes, onion, carrots, celery and red pepper. Simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the orzo or other pasta and cook for 5 to 8 more minutes, until the pasta is al dente.

4. Meanwhile, discard the bones from the chicken and chop the meat into small pieces.

5. Add the chicken, spinach, parsley and oregano to the soup pot and simmer for another minute or two. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in warm soup bowls with a thick slice of Italian bread.