Sunday, December 30, 2007

An Amazingly Good Casserole

Every year the local Christian radio station has an appreciation banquet for the ministers in the area. It is always at the Foundry in downtown Knoxville, which is a very nice banquet facility. Ron and I always go with George and Becky and it is a very nice evening out. This year Becky and I were quite disappointed when we were informed that the meal was being served buffet style. (We wanted to be waited on!) All was forgiven when we saw the buffet line. There were several meat choices and vegetables, from which we could take as much as we wanted. Now we hope they do a buffet every year. One of the vegetables was a Baked Tomato and Basil Casserole. I only got a little bit, not being a big fan of cooked tomatoes. But this stuff is amazing! I actually emailed the Foundry for the recipe but only received an ingredient list from the PR director. It was enough to get me started. I know this makes a lot, but you won't mind the leftovers. It's perfect for a pitch in, and very different from anything anyone else will bring.

Baked Tomato Casserole

3 large cans diced tomatoes, well drained
3 tbsp. dried minced onions, or 1/3 cup diced fresh onion
2 tbsp. Italian seasoning mix
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. garlic powder
16 oz. sour cream
16 oz. ricotta cheese
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. Italian seasoning mix
4 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup melted margarine

Grease a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine tomatoes, onion, Italian seasoning mix, sugar, and garlic powder. Spread in bottom of casserole dish. Combine sour cream, ricotta cheese, sugar, and Italian seasoning mix. Drop by spoonfuls onto the tomatoes. Gently spread until tomatoes are mostly covered. Combine bread crumbs and melted margarine and cover cheese mixture. Bake 30 - 35 minutes, until bubbly.

If you don't have seasoned bread crumbs, grind any day old bread in your blender or food processor into fine crumbs. Add some more Italian seasoning mix and blend in butter.

I hope you enjoy this as much as the ladies at the church Christmas party did!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Emergency Apple Dip

At Tennessee Christian Teen Convention my friends Jessica, Mandy, and I are the back stage hostesses. We basically keep the backstage crew and on-stage talent in water, snacks, and coffee all weekend. It's pretty funny because Mandy and I don't make coffee. (This year Jessica has a new job that takes her out of our Green Room. She may have to pre-measure some filter for me if I can't find the pre-measured stuff.) We've been doing this for about 7 years now and we have a few standards that we are not allowed to show up without. One of the most popular is our caramel apple dip. This is how you make it:

Apple Dip

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 bag "Bits O Brickle" (Crushed Heath bar with out the chocolate)

Mash together until well blended. Store in refrigerator. Serve with sliced apples that have . dipped in pineapple juice, orange juice, or Sprite.

It's super easy and comes from a friend who swears she cannot make any dish other than this one. I was catering a party and had planned to serve this when, much to my dismay, I discovered Kroger is no longer carrying the Bits of Brickle, only the crushed Heath bar. You can still make it with the chocolate, but it's sweeter and I just like it better plain. I had purchased the cream cheese and brown sugar, but never made it to another store to find the Bits O Brickle. I looked in the pantry at our "unclaimed items" shelf and found a bag of marshmallows. Knowing I had to do something and thinking of the marshmallow cream cheese fruit dip, I came up with this:

Creamy Caramel Apple Dip

1/2 cup margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 bag marshmallows
1 8 oz. block cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt butter and brown sugar together. When bubbly, lower heat to medium and add marshmallows. Stir until marshmallows are melted. Turn off heat and add cream cheese, stir until melted and creamy. Add vanilla and stir well. Refrigerate until time to serve. It's good slightly warm or cold. Serve with sliced apples.

When you are serving sliced apples keep a bowl of orange juice, pineapple juice, or Sprite near by to dip the apples in. The acid in the juices will keep the apples from turning brown. I hope you like those two options. I heard Target has Bits O Brickle, so stock up if you find some!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Not So Traditional Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone had a great and thankful day. We had lots of fun with my parents, brother, and a friend. We broke from the traditional and decided to have something different. My dad has gout which means he can eat no red meat. This means he eats a lot of turkey and chicken. We thought he might like something not so traditional and went with a pork roast, he can have pork occasionally, but never ham. Mom is pretty sure there is something in the curing spices that sets off the gout. Kroger had pork loins on sale for $1.99 a lb. so we went with that. I looked through all my cookbooks and did not find any recipes I particularly liked or, particularly, had the ingredients for. So, I got brave this morning and did my own thing. It came out pretty good and was super easy so I thought you might like it for special occasions or maybe even Christmas dinner.

Meriam's Pork Roast

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1 boneless pork loin (any size)
1 bulb garlic (you will only use about half, depending on size of roast)

Place pork loin on sheet of aluminum foil. Stab all over with a sharp knife. Peel garlic cloves and halve larger cloves. Insert a garlic clove segment into each hole. (You will use about 15 segments.) In a small bowl combine:

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. Pampered Chef Barbecue Rub and Seasoning
1 tsp thyme
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Mix well and then rub into pork loin. (Just dump it on pork loin and rub it all over.) Wrap tightly in foil. Roast for 30 minutes per pound. Remove from oven and let stand 30 minutes. Check temperature with a meat thermometer to make sure the roast is 160 internally. Slice and serve.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Sorry about not posting as well as I wanted. Go back to the broccoli casserole day though and read the comments. My brother posted his absolutely amazing cheese cake recipes. The dark chocolate cheesecake is absolutely incredible!

Monday, November 19, 2007

One Quick and Easy Appetizer

If you need a quick and easy appetizers to have on hand for when guests arrive or for a party, these are very easy and sure to be a hit. I make them every year for the Green Room at the Tennessee Christian Teen Convention. It's a recipe that has endless possibilities because it has a basic ingredients that are very interchangeable. I'll start with those basics and then give you some possibilities. Then you can take it from there. Make sure you make these a few hours before serving. They are easier to slice if you let them chill for a while. If the tortillas are cold they will crack and tear.

Tortilla Roll-Ups

1 package flour tortillas, room temperature
1 large tub spreadable cream cheese
1/2 Ib. thin sliced sandwich meat
1/2 Ib. thin sliced cheese

Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on a tortilla. Add one layer of meat, starting on one end, leaving the far end bare. Top meat with cheese. Starting at the end with the most meat coverage, roll towards the bare end. Repeat until you run out of an item. Place in a storage container or wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Using a good serrated knife (the kind with teeth) slice into 1 inch slices and return to storage container to serve later or place on lettuce lined platter to serve.

For the tortillas use plain flour or any of the flavored and colored tortillas. Spinach tortillas are pretty and the tomato basil taste great.

For the cream cheese there are tons of options. Try mixing half a package of dry ranch dressing mix with a large tub of soft cream cheese. Or, use any of the flavored cream cheeses. Even pineapple cream cheese is really good with ham and swiss. Ron likes cream cheese and chopped green chilies.

For the meat and cheese use anything you like on your favorite sandwiches. Roast beef and cheddar, turkey and swiss, ham and colby jack, chicken and pepper jack, you name it.

Have fun with this, they are lots of fun and great to do with the kids.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

My Mom Makes the Best Baked Apples!!!

It's true. They really are the best. And they are a must if ham is served. Last Easter we had ham and after we sat down at the table Ron looked around and said, "Where are the apples?" Mom and I were trying to simplify the menu and left them out. That won't happen again. She very graciously shared her recipe with me today. It uses cinnamon red hots in the syrup and Mom said she has not been able to get them to melt completely lately. They must have changed the formula. After they are mostly melted just carefully spoon out the little pink pieces that are not melting. They are a beautiful pink color which look pretty on a holiday table.

Cinnamon Baked Apples

1 cup sugar
1/3 - 1/2 cup water (Mom doesn't measure)

Bring to simmer in a small saucepan. When slightly bubbly add:

3/4 cup cinnamon red hots

Bring to a rolling boil, stirring frequently, and boil until red hots are mostly melted. Remove from heat.

12 golden delicious apples, peeled, halved, and cored

Arrange apples in a 9 x 13 pan core side up. Carefully ladle syrup into center of each apple. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until apples are soft. If using the oven for more than one dish just bake for less time if temperature is higher and more time if temperature is lower. These are good hot or cold so they are great if you need to do them a little earlier or just for leftovers.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Meriam's Ultimate Comfort Food

Okay, so I'm behind already. Sorry about that, but my husband has great connections and last night he got us into the Chris Tomlin concert for free! Okay, it was in Johnson City, but it was sooo worth it. Christ was great and I love his music but I would have gone to hear Louie Giglio alone.

On to the food! This recipe is something my grandmother made a lot, not just on the holidays. I don't remember many times when it was not on the Sunday dinner table. Of course, after she found out it was my favorite she probably planned to have it whenever I was there. She was that kind of grandma. I don't make it very often now but Mom or I do every holiday and when I was pregnant with Aiden I ate a lot of it. It fit into my gestational diabetes diet and I craved it big time. Some people hear about it and make a face, but I think it's fabulous! Plus a good way to get some kids to eat cottage cheese for an extra protein punch. It needs to be chilled so you can make it the day before and it just gets better.

Grandmommy's Cottage Cheese Salad

16 oz. cottage cheese
1 small tub whipped topping, thawed
14.5 oz can fruit cocktail, drained (use the kind with lite syrup)
1 bag multi-colored marshmallows (DO NOT substitute with white marshmallows)

Combine cottage cheese and whipped topping until well combined. Add fruit cocktail and 3/4 bag of marshmallows. Combine well and sprinkle remaining marshmallows on top. Chill for a few hours before serving.

Add a box of Jello for some added sweetness and color. Any flavor works, add it with the cottage cheese and whipped topping.

Sometimes Grandmommy would forget my deep hatred of coconut and mix it in and sprinkle it on top. It's wrong, but if you like coconut, to each his own.

It's not exactly a traditional holiday fair, unless, of course you are a Calhoun, but it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Here Come the Holidays!

Here we are once again with another Turkey Day on the horizon. For some this is a build up of excitement to see people who aren't around on a regular basis. For others it's a feeling of dread of more work, more expense, and more exhaustion. For a few it's a feeling of great sorrow because there will an empty place at the table. Which ever category you fall into, I hope the peace and love of our heavenly Father will fill you to over flowing and you can find many things to be thankful for.
At our house my mom and I say every year we are going to tone it down and not do so much. Every year we eat our words and end up with too much food! Why? Because we have so many favorites we can never decide which ones to leave out. So, for the next week I am going to attempt to do a post a day to share some of the Calhoun-Bull family favorites.

The first I am going to share is my world famous Broccoli Cheese Casserole. Okay, maybe it's not world famous, but it is for my brother. So much so that it has become the great bargaining chip. I have been known to bribe him with it to get what I want and he has been known to with-hold his fabulous cheesecake if I show up at his house without it. The only family member who does not like it is Aiden, he likes his broccoli plain. Maybe he's adopted.

Broccoli Cheese Casserole

1 stick margarine (divided)
1 pound Velveeta cheese
20 oz. frozen chopped broccoli, steamed and drained well
1 stack Ritz crackers, crushed

Chunk Velveeta cheese and 1/2 stick margarine in a microwavable glass bowl. (Don't use plastic, trust me, I learned the hard way.) Microwave on high until melted, stirring every minute. Add broccoli and stir until well coated. Pour into a greased 1 1/2 to 2 quart casserole. In the same bowl used for the cheese mixture, melt remaining butter in microwave and mix in Ritz crackers. Spread evenly on top of broccoli and cheese. Bake in 375 degree oven for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

If you want to make a 9 x 13 pan, just double the recipe. You should do this if my brother is coming over.

Hope you all like it. If you have a recipe you would like to share email it to me at meriam(at sign)followjesus(dot)org. I told Heather I was determined to post a holiday recipe every day until Thanksgiving. Tomorrow is iffy but I'll do my best!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

More about the Mocha Punch

I know, some of your are in shock. Two posts in one week! I wanted to finish something I had started telling you about in the last post. Through one of my favorite blogs I found out about Google Reader. It's for people like you who read blogspot blogs but get tired of checking every week only to be disappointed that the person who writes the blog is too lazy to think up something to post (like me). What you do is you go to and make a list of all the blogspots you like to read (it only works with blogspots). Then the next time you get online, after you check your email you only have to go to Google Reader where you can see instantly whether or not your friend has posted anything that day. Pretty cool and it saves you some time as well.

Well, on to the Mocha Punch. After the open house where I served the punch I put the leftovers in my jug and brought it home just to see if it was any good left over. I thought if nothing else I could throw some in the blender with some ice. Well, Monday morning I took the kids to school then came home to crash on the couch with a cup of punch and a movie to enjoy some peace and quiet after an insanely busy weekend. You know those bottles of Starbucks Frappaccino you can buy from the cooler at the grocery store? This stuff puts that to shame. It's thicker and creamer and I didn't have to do anything to it. I haven't tried it yet, but tomorrow I am going to half the recipe and see how it turns out. I would also like to try it with nonfat frozen yogurt. I'm not brave enough to use Splenda or sugar free Quick, but that is also an option. I'm also going to have to get some decaf instant coffee because my boys loved it. While I'm not very strict on what they eat, they already have more energy in one day than I do in a week.

Let me know if you have any recipe requests. Right now I'm stuck in a "30 ways with rotisserie chicken" rut. My family would love it if you would help me get out of it. (It's great in a quesadilla, by the way.)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Starbucks, shmarbucks, let's save a buck! (or four)

Howdy! For some of you, pick your jaws up off the floor. Yes, I am posting a recipe the day you asked me to. I really didn't want forget, so I'm doing it now. Today some very good friends had the dedication and open house for their new ministry to single moms. You can check out their website here Daniel and Mandy are amazing people who have a real heart and passion to help moms who are parenting alone succeed. If you live in the Knoxville area check out their site and get involved! If you don't, please remember the Watsons and The Restoration House in your prayers.

Mandy helps me every year at TCTC so I was excited to help her with the food for the open house. We made two punches that were delicious and easy! Punch recipes can be daunting because usually you just want something fast and easy but a lot of them require a lot of steps and more work than necessary when you just want to have fun at your party. There also are usually only two or three recipes per cookbook and it can be exhausting to look through a bunch of books.

This first recipe is light and refreshing and so easy you don't even have to think about it:

Apple Cider Punch

2 quarts apple cider
1 pint orange juice (2 cups)
2 liters ginger ale

Mix in a punch bowl (or just a gallon pitcher) with some ice. Garnish with thick slices of a green apple, a red apple, an orange, and a couple of cinnamon sticks.

This next recipe could put Starbucks out of business. Okay, not really, but if you like a frozen drink, it's close. I'm going to play with it and see if I can't figure out how to make it a serving at a time at home. This would be great for a morning bridal or baby shower, just use decaf coffee for the new mommy.

Mocha Punch

1 1/2 quarts water
1/2 cup instant chocolate drink mix
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup instant coffee granules
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
1/2 gallon chocolate ice cream
1 small tub Cool Whip
chocolate curls

Boil water in a medium sauce pan. Remove from heat and add drink mix, sugar, and coffee. Stir until dissolved. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or over night.

To serve: Thirty minutes before serving place coffee mix in punch bowl and add ice creams. Stir frequently until the ice cream melts. Top with dollops of Cool Whip and chocolate curls.

Since I am so horrible at posting, check out It will allow you to make a list of all the blogspot blogs that you read. I love it!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Goin' Mexican!

Hola! Sorry it's been forever and a day, but we've been crazy busy! We went on vacation a couple of weeks ago and just got back. It was our first trip in our "new to us" motor home. It's 1990 30 ft. Southwind that we got for a great deal from some friends. It was a great trip! We went to Oklahoma to see the family and then to see friends in a very small town called Tishmingo. We also went to the Dallas/Fort Worth area and Hot Springs, AK. In the past when we went to Oklahoma we were always stressed out about where we would stay and then we would spend the entire trip moving in and out of different relatives and friends homes while we tried to see everyone. It was wonderful to put all of our clothes in drawers and cubbies in the motor home and then just drive our house everywhere we wanted to go. It was fun and I didn't have to keep searching to make sure we got everything. While we were in Dallas we went to the famous farmer's market (the one in the Hidden Valley Ranch commercial). While there we bought all the ingredients for guacamole and made it off the top of our heads. It turned out really good so I thought I'd share it. We also came home just in time for our youth groups' mission trip presentation. They used a recipe I had used before for chicken enchiladas which is very easy and versatile. Hope you like them all!

Farmer's Market Guacomole

2 whole avocados, scooped out of peel and seed removed
1 whole lemon or lime
2 cloves garlic
1 tomato diced small
1/2 cup diced onions
1 fresh jalepeno pepper, diced small (remove seeds for a milder flavor)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Place avocados in a medium bowl. Squeeze juice out of the lemon or lime onto the avocado. Mash with fork or potato masher. Mince garlic into the bowl and add remaining ingredients. Mix well and allow to sit for about an hour in the refrigerator. If you are not serving this for a few hours cover with plastic wrap, letting the plastic wrap rest directly on top of the guacomole. This will keep it from turning an unsightly shade of brown. If it does turn brown, it's not bad, just ugly. (Well, if it's 4 days old, it's probably bad.)

Chicken Enchiladas

3 cups chopped chicken (another use for the rotisserie chicken!)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
1 small can chopped green chilis
4 cups Mexican blend shredded cheese, divided
12 fajita size flour tortillas
1 can green enchilada sauce (in the Mexican section of the grocery store)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine chicken, soup, sour cream, green chilis, and two cups of cheese. Mix well. Roll about 1/3 cup mixture into each of the tortillas, placing in a well greased 9 x 13 pan. Pour green enchilada sauce over the top until well coated. (Save any extra to serve on the side.) Top with cheese and then bake for 30 - 40 minutes, or until bubbly.

Serve with shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sour cream, and salsa or extra green enchilada sauce.

If you don't want to roll them all up you can also cover the bottom of your casserole with half of the tortillas. Add filling and then top with remaining tortillas, sauce and cheese. Presto, you have enchilada casserole!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Cobbler, A Crisp, or A Betty?

My friend Heather asked for a recipe for cobbler. I'm not a big cobbler fan, probably for the same reasons she said in her comment, the recipes she's tried were just kind of blah. Anne Byrne, the Cake Mix Doctor gives these definitions: A cobbler is fruit and sugar topped with a pastry crust. A crisp is fruit and sugar covered with sweet, buttery crumbs and often nuts. A crumble is similar except the topping is denser and might contain oats. A buckle is a sweet batter baked up around a fruit topping. A betty is similar to a cobbler, but made with buttered bread cubes instead of a pastry. Now that we have our terms straight, I can tell you I prefer crumbles and crisps. I have two basic recipes I like to use and I will give you both of them because they are both fairly easy. Well, one is really easy and the other gets easier the more you make it. Heather, I hope this is what you were looking for.

The first one is the easies one because it uses a cake mix:

Fruit Crisp

2 - 16 oz bags of unsweetened frozen fruit or
6 cups fresh fruit
1 package plain yellow cake mix, white cake mix, or French vanilla cake mix
1 cup cold butter or margarine (2 sticks)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place fruit in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking pan. Cover fruit with half of dry cake mix. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces and scatter half of these on top of the cake mix. Top with remaining cake mix and remaining butter. Bake 60 - 65 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Serve with ice cream.

The next recipe is another wonderful one from my mother-in-law. I must give you a warning that you could end up with every teenage boy in a mile radius salivating at your door. At least that's what happens whenever I make it for a youth event or church supper. We have always called it Brown Betty, however from the definition above, it is more technically a crisp. I never measure this one so I will do my best to explain it in an easy way.

Brown Betty

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

4 - 6 cups fresh or frozen fruit
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 /2 tsp nutmeg

Place in a 9 x 13 pan and combine well. In a medium bowl combine with a pastry blender:

2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups white or brown sugar
1 cup margarine or butter

Spread over fruit. Bake 30 - 40 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.

Hope you like those!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What a Summer!

I hope most have you have had a more relaxing summer than we have. Since school ended all or a few in our family has been to Gundy, Virginia, two weeks of camp, Kansas City, Oklahoma, Mexico,
King's Island, Cedar Point, Indiana, Washington, DC, and New York City. Okay, I only actually did four of those trips and Ron did the rest. He finally will be home for good on Friday. And now you know why we homeschool. The kids are ready to see their daddy!

We also went through three cases of the worst stomach flu ever and my 93-year-old grandmother went home to be with Jesus. We'll miss her a lot but she was ready to go. It's sad how we wait until a funeral to have family reunions. All six of us cousins had not been together in 20 years. Isn't that pathetic? Mamaw would have loved us all being together with the kids running wild and dogs all over the place.

I'm don't have any recipes today because around here we've been eating a lot of hot dogs, frozen pizza, and fish sticks. If you look down in the comments though, Chris McDaneld gave a recipe for taco soup and anything Chris makes is incredible! Also, my friend, Jill, and I are in search of either a recipe or where I can buy the shrimp sauce they serve in Japanese restaurants. If any of you know how to make it or where to buy it, please post it on the comments.

If any of you would like to request a recipe let me know and I'll post it!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Throw a Pasta Party!

Hello, Friends! I hope you are all having a great summer. Ours is crazy as usual. Right now Ron is in Mexico with the youth group and I'm at home with three kids, 2 of which got the stomach bug that's going around. Why can't they get sick when he's at home!?!

The good thing is, I'm at home to write in my blog and give you some more ideas. I often get calls from people who need ideas for dinner parties. One of the most popular meals I've done is a pasta bar. While you have to think ahead and time it well, it's very easy, especially for someone not very fond of cooking. It could also easily be made into a pitch in by asking your guests to each bring a specific item. (Make sure you tell them what to bring or else you could end up with 12 pots of linguine and no sauce.) Sorry this is kind of long, but If you are planning a big dinner, this is a fun one.

Start with a salad, of course. I usually do a basic Ceasar salad, but I got a recipe at Sam's the other day that would be fabulous. It's so good, try it with out soon! It would even be good with a little grilled chicken or some fancy white albacore tuna.

Artichoke Salad

1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
1 small box grape tomatoes (or one medium tomato, chopped)
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts (4 hearts, quartered)
1 small red onion, sliced into rings
black pepper
1/2 tub feta cheese
1 cup red wine vinegar

Combine red wine vinegar with lettuce, tomatoes, artichokes, and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well.

Immediately before serving, top with feta cheese crumbles.

I was amazed at how good this salad is and with no oil, it's also very light so if anyone at your party is watching their weight, they will like this. (Ceasar salad can be very high in fat.)

For the rest of the party here is my basic plan:

3 choices of pasta: Spaghetti, linguine, and cheese ravioli (I buy this in the freezer section)

2 choices of sauce: Marinara (no meat) and Alfredo (I use store bought sauces. Alfredo is just to complicated and Bertolli makes a great sauce. I also just doctor up the marinara with a little more garlic and a tablespoon of sugar.)

3 meats: Meatballs, grilled chicken strips, and some sauted shrimp. (I use store bought meatballs and frozen grilled mesquite chicken from Sam's. To make the shrimp melt 1/2 stick of real butter in a skillet. Add one clove minced garlic stir fry for thirty seconds. Add 1 pound peeled shrimp and stir fry until pink all the way through.)

1 vegetable: I stir fry broccoli, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, and red onions in olive oil and garlic. It's also good to add some butter at the end for extra flavor.

Now it might seem over whelming to look at this list and think about how on earth you are going to get this all on the table without anything getting cold. Get a friend to help or if you have a large kitchen, make the food prep part of the party. Borrow a crock pot or two and set your oven on it's lowest setting. Start with the Marinara sauce, meatballs, and chicken. Get them hot first and then put them in the crock pots set on low.

Boil the spaghetti and linguine first. After you drain them mix in a little olive oil to keep them from sticking. While they are boiling stir fry your vegetables. You could then put the veggies and pastas in serving dishes, cover with foil, and place in the oven to keep warm. (Turn your oven on to it's lowest setting.) The ravioli will only take about 10 minutes and is a little more fragile, so do it last. You can cook the shrimp and warm the Alfredo sauce at the same time. (Shrimp gets rubbery if it sits too long.) Stir the Alfredo sauce frequently or it will stick.

Set up your buffet with the salads first, then the pastas, followed by the meats and veggies, then the sauces. Your guests can fill their plates with their choice of pasta, their favorite meat and sauce. Most try a little of everything. Don't forget to have some Parmesan cheese on hand.

I'll do another post later for some dessert ideas. I hope you like these ideas! Ask away if you have any questions.

Happy cooking!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Carb Watchers: Beware!!!

I was talking to one of my faithful readers the other day and she said she had just boiled a rotisserie chicken as I had suggested, but she wasn't sure what she could do with it. We had been on several retreats together where I had made my mother-in-law's Chicken and Noodles, which are always a big hit.

If you are on the Atkin's diet or are thinking about the South Beach Diet, or were once on either diet, don't read the recipe! I think you will get every carb you've lost or will lose by just reading it. Oh, but it is one pot on comfort food that will make you feel all warm and snuggly all the way down to your toes. My mother-in-law is a fabulous cook and this is one of the family's favorites. She usually boils boneless chicken breasts, but you can also do it with the remains of a rotisserie chicken. This will be one of the few times this has ever been written down because a) she just showed me how to do it a few times and b) it's not very complicated. The only part I have a hard time with is getting the gravy to the exact right thickness. At the end I'll give you some tips for that. Instead of making the noodles from scratch, which is a long, messy process, you can buy them in the frozen section at the grocery store near the frozen bread dough. The brand I use is called Rhemes, I think, and it's in a clear bag with green print.

Chicken and Old-Fashioned Noodles

(serves 6)
1 rotisserie chicken carcass

Place the chicken in a dutch oven and cover with water. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer about 1 hour. (If you are doubling this, just use a bigger pot and do two chickens at once.)

Remove chicken from the broth and let it cool. Into the broth add:

2 bags frozen noodles

Let simmer for about 15 minutes or until noodles are soft.

Combine 1 cup cool water with:

2 bags of dry chicken gravy mix (Pioneer or Old Mill are the best choices because they make more. If you can't find them, use 4 bags of the store brand.)

Stir into the broth mix and let cook until thick, stirring frequently. While waiting for the broth to thicken, clean the chicken meat off the bones then add it to the noodles. Add salt and pepper as desired, but taste it first because some gravy mixes can be very salty.

Serve on top of mashed potatoes. (I know, weird, but it really is better this way.)

I often add my gravy mix and then realize I didn't buy enough gravy mix. If this happens place two tablespoons of corn starch or flour in a mug. Add two tablespoons cool water to the mug and blend with a small whisk or fork until most of the lumps are gone. Add a ladle of hot broth to the mug and blend it in before adding all of it to the big pot. Stir well and let it cook for a minute. If it's still not thick enough, do it all again.

I have also made this recipe with beef and it is just as good. I just use canned beef broth, left over roast beef, and beef gravy. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

I know, it's been forever!

Hello, friends! I know. I'm the worst blogger ever. This blog has been waste of cyber space. I really did not mean to neglect it, I've just been busy. In fact, I'm writing this from my sister-in-law's house in Harrisonville, Kansas. We came for the North American Christian Convention in Kansas City where Ron did his thing at the teen convention running the show, while I was the back stage hostess with my friend, Michelle. It was a lot of fun. They put us in a suite that was bigger than our house and we ordered room service three times. I'm sooo spoiled!

I don't have any recipes right here with me, but one thing I've learned on this trip as the hostess is if you have chocolate to share everyone will be your friend. If it were possible through this blog to give you chocolate, I would bring you Scharffen Berger chocolate. Ron and I went to the Scharffenberger factory in Berkley, California. I had never heard about it at the time, but it was in my AAA guide book and when you have "factory tour" and "dark chocolate" in the same line you have me hook, line, and sinker. Scharffen Berger Chocolate specializes in dark chocolate and is one of the best in the world. In Knoxville you can buy it at the Fresh Market. It's expensive but even Ron thinks it's worth it. You can't eat a whole bar, it's too rich, so if you need to justify it, remind yourself one bar will last three or four days. Here's there website if you want to learn more. Try it out, you'll love it!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Here's you a good one!

I know, I know. It's been forever since I've posted. Some of you may have even given up on me. Well, hopefully there are one or two faithful friends out there. Tonight I made this cake for our Wednesday night meal. I take something almost every week so I don't know why I keep putting off deciding what to take until that day. I just happened to have a yellow cake mix though so I decided to make this one. I've made it a few times before and am always surprised at how easy it is. It's another one from the Cake Mix Doctor cookbook and I think you will like it. Keep the ingredients on hand and you always have something ready and fast to take to a friend who had a bad day, a breakfast party, or a special breakfast treat on a special day.

Honey Bun Cake

1 package yellow cake mix
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs

1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon

2 cups powdered sugar (You can sift this if you want to but I don't and it turns out fine.)
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick spray.
Place cake mix, sour cream, oil, and eggs in a large bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until blended. Scrape bowl down and beat on medium for 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pan.
(For this next part I didn't measure anything and it worked out fine.) Drizzle batter with honey. Sprinkle on the brown sugar (about two handfuls) and cinnamon. (You could add some chopped nuts here if you really wanted to.) Using a table knife, swirl these ingredients in slightly, but do not blend.
Bake for 38 to 40 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool while you prepare the glaze.
Combine the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla in a small bowl until well blended. Spread glaze over hot cake, using the back of a spoon to make sure the cake is competely covered. Allow 20 more minutes of cooling time before serving.

Now doesn't that sound easy and yummy! We had a small crowd tonight so there were some leftovers. I'm excited about my breakfast tomorrow!

I will try to do another post soon. I have some faithful standbys I like to use that I think you will like. Thanks for hanging with me!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

One Chicken, So Many Possibilities

My family loves the Sam's rotisserie chicken. Emily gets disappointed when they are not giving out the samples of it on our weekly trips. (Yes, we go weekly. We are addicted. Many times we leave with nothing but our two 32 oz. soft drinks, refilled at least twice.) I have become dependent on them. I used to buy the whole raw chickens which I would bake several at a time and then freeze the meat. I've stopped doing that because for five bucks, it's not worth turning the oven on. Here is my method:

Buy two or three chickens. Take them home and let them sit on the counter to cool while we eat one with roasted potatoes or mac and cheese and some green beans or broccoli. The five of us usually only eat about half of a chicken. After supper I clean the meat off the bones and divide it into two cup portions in ziploc freezer bags. These go in the freezer for casseroles, soups, salads, and anything else I can want it for. I throw the carcasses in a stock pot and cover with water. Bring this to boil and let simmer for one hour. When it's done I pull out the bones out and then we have this wonderful stock! There is even more meat on the bones that falls right off. I put this stock in those disposable Ziploc containers. The ones with the screw-on lids are the best. Now I can use it to cook rice, risotto, or just make soup on a cold day.

I've used this chicken for fried rice and fajitas and it made the process go so much faster! From one chicken I usually get about 8 cups of chicken. We'll be on a mission trip for the next week and a half so the blog will be quiet for a while. Never fear! I will be back. Please pray for us. I will be teaching a home-ec class to some high schoolers. Teaching is NOT my spiritual gift so I am a little nervous.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Satisfy that craving!

A friend of mine just told me she's pregnant (yeah!) and craving banana bread. I thought I'd post a quicky recipe just for her.

Super Simple Banana Cake

1 box French Vanilla cake mix plus ingredients (i.e. eggs, oil, etc.)
2 or 3 very ripe bananas

Mix cake according to package directions and throw in bananas. Bake according to directions on the box. Frost with the cinnamon butter cream icing or your favorite store bought version. You could also mix 2 cups powdered sugar with 2-3 tablespoons of milk to make a glaze. Now wasn't that easy? Some of you have had this cake and thought I actually did something spectacular!

If you have bananas rotting on your counter but don't have time to bake anything with them smash them up and put in a zip top freezer bag and freeze. When you do have time, or that craving hits, you can just pull them out, run warm water over the bag for a few minutes and add them to your bread or cake recipe. (It works best if after you've smooshed the banana you squeeze all the air out of the bag and freeze it squished as flat as possible. Thaws faster that way.) Happy baking!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Here's one for a busy week!

I've got a two-fer for you today! With three picky kids, a tight budget, and sky-rocketing grocery prices it's hard to stay on a budget. It helps if I can find a cut of meat on sale and make more than one meal out of it. The problem is, such a method gets a bit redundant. Last week I got brave and tried something new. In the process I was able to make everyone happy and get two meals (three if you count my leftover lunch). Kroger had pork tenderloin for $2.99 a pound. They average at about a pound and a half so I bought one for $4.95. If I can feed my family a nice meal for less than $10 it's a good thing. I bought a teriyaki marinade but any flavor will do. Add some mixed vegetables, rice, pasta, or a sweet or baked potato and you've got dinner! Just bake your tenderloin at 425 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes. ***IMPORTANT!!!*** Please, line your pan with foil!!! I made this a week ago and I still can't get my pan clean! The pork was wonderful but the juices from the marinade burned. If you have a large family or teenage boys and you want leftovers, make two tenderloins. You can do them in the same pan just make sure they are about two inches apart. Here is what I made with my leftovers:

Pork Fried Rice

*I did not give measurements because it kind of depends on how much leftover pork you have and how big your family is.

garlic clove, minced
rice (any kind you like)
leftover pork tenderloin, chopped
frozen mixed vegetables
teriyaki sauce

Prepare rice. When it's done, in a large skillet heat oil and stir in garlic. Add rice and stir until rice is partly browned. Add chopped pork and vegetables and stir until hot, adding teriyaki sauce to taste. Push all the rice to one side in the hot skillet. In a small bowl scramble egg with a splash of teriyaki sauce. Pour into skillet. (Do not pour it into the rice or it will become sticky.) Stir and cook the egg until it is done then mix it into the rice. Serve with extra teriyaki sauce.

Hope you all like it!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Black Bean and Corn Chili

Hello, Friends! Sorry it's been so long since I've posted. It's been a busy week. AbbyAnn just asked for my chili recipe. It is a recipe that I got from Campbell's soup and then has kind of evolved into what it is now. Yes, I do have a fondness for black beans and corn. In fact, I really don't like any other kind of beans and would not touch a plate of black beans and rice with a ten foot pole if you paid me, but if they are mixed in with some hamburger and corn, they are fabulous.

I've entered this recipe into two different cook-offs and have not been able to do better than second place, but the kids in our youth group love it and request it a lot, so I will just go with their vote. Hope you all like it, too!

Black Bean and Corn Chili

1 lb. hamburger
1 cup chopped onions
1 clove minced garlic
2 cans tomato soup
1 can corn or 2 cups frozen corn
1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 - 3 tablespoons chili powder (more if you like it real hot)
1/4 cup sugar

Brown hamburger, onions, and garlic. Drain, then mix in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer 20-30 minutes. Serve with sour cream, cheddar cheese, and corn chips on the side.

This is also a great recipe for the crock pot and it freezes well.

I'm going to start putting the quick tips in a new color so you can find them fast. JBranson asked if I could do a seperate file or page, but I haven't figured out how to do that yet. We talked about it and came up with this idea. Hopefully it will make it easier for you to skim through some stuff.

Today's quick tip is something I came up with that probably isn't that new, but maybe you've never thought about. We are a homeschooling family and Emily and Cameron go to a co-op three days a week. They get out of school at 12:30 those days and we are always looking for a very fast lunch when we get home. This is a challenge because they do not like sandwiches much and especially not three days a week. Something Emily and I came up with is what we call Pizzadillas. To make a Pizzadilla spread a thin layer of butter on a flour tortilla. Place butter side down on a hot skillet. Carefully spread a thin layer of spaghetti or pizza sauce on tortilla and then top with mozzarella and any of your favorite pizza toppings. With a spatula carefully fold tortilla in half and watch carefully so it does not burn. Turn it over after about 2 minutes. When the cheese is melted you have a yummy lunch or snack in about 5 minutes!

I'll try to do better and post again soon!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

My love/hate relationship and Snickerdoodle cake

I love to bake. I love the way the whole house smells good when there is a cake or cookies in the oven. I hate to clean. I hate how when I do bake there is always a huge mess to clean up. Especially in my very small kitchen that is always cluttered. (Did I mention I hate to clean?)

Anyway, all this is to tell you about one of my favorite cookbooks. A lot of people think I am an amazing cook, when really almost everything I do is all about how can I do this fast and with not much of a mess. Oh, yeah, and cheap! My favorite cookbook series is by Anne Byrn. She wrote The Cake Mix Doctor, The Chocolate Cake Mix Doctor, The Dinner Doctor, and The Cake Mix Doctor Cupcakes. Her recipes are incredible! She takes a simple, ho-hum cake mix and makes it incredible and not nearly as messy as a cake from scratch. Her books are also just fun to read, full of stories and great tips. They are also usually really easy to convert. For instance, if the recipe in the book is to make a layer cake, just look for a basically similar 9 x 13 cake and follow those baking instructions. Here is one that was a big hit at my husbands staff meeting. I was going to take it back to the church the next day but Emily threw herself prostrate before it yelling, "No! Don't take my cake!" Hope you like it.

Snickerdoodle Cake

1 French Vanilla cake mix
1 cup milk
1 stick butter or margarine, melted
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans generously with cooking spray.

Place cake mix, milk, melted butter, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for one minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat two minutes more. The batter should look well combined. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, smoothing it out with a rubber spatula.

Bake the cakes until they are golden brown and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 27 - 29 minutes. Remove pans from the oven and cool for ten minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edge of each layer and invert each cake onto a wire rack and then turn right side up to cool completely, 30 minutes more.
Prepare Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting and frost cooled cake. Place cake in refrigerator 20 minutes until frosting sets.

Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

1 stick butter or margarine, at room temperature
3 3/4 confectioners sugar
3-4 tbsp. milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

In large mixing bowl mix butter on low speed until fluffy, about 30 seconds. Stop the machine and add the confectioners sugar, 3 tbsp. milk, and vanilla. Blend with mixer at low speed until sugar is incorporated, 1 minute. Add the cinnamon and increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute more. Blend in up to 1 tbsp. milk if the frosting seems to stiff.

*In a pinch frosting: Add 1 tsp. cinnamon to a can of buttercream frosting.

Here are some quick conversions if you don't want to make it a layer cake:

9 x 13: 35 - 38 minutes
Bundt: 40 - 45 minutes
Cupcakes: 28 - 30 minutes


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Apple Cinnamon French Toast

Here's a recipe that has been a hit every time I've made it. It's from a Pampered Chef cookbook. On the terms of recipes and copyright laws, recipes can not be copyrighted. That's why Colonel Sanders has a secret recipe, because if it gets out, we wouldn't need to pick up a bucket. If you take a published recipe, change one ingredient or the amount, and it's yours. I didn't change any of the measurements here, but I did "un-Pamper Cheferize" it. I love Pampered Chef and most of their products, but they do tend to saturate their instructions with their products which leaves the inexperienced cook feeling threatened unless they own all the products listed. So if you want to make this recipe, any 9 x 13 pan will do (rather than a stoneware pan), and so on.

This is also a great recipe to make with your kids. My Cameron loved helping put the apples on top! This is also a great brunch recipe or one for Christmas morning because you make it the night before.

Apple Cinnamon French Toast

1 loaf bread (about 12 slices)
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
8 tbsp. sugar, divided
1 tsp. vanilla
1/8 salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 apples (Granny Smith is best, but any will do)
Sprite or orange juice, anything with citric acid to dip the apples in
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
your favorite pancake syrup

Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray. Cut bread slices in half and line pan two slices deep keeping them very close together. In a mixing bowl beat eggs with a whisk and add milk, three tablespoons of sugar, vanilla, and salt. Pour over bread. Combine the 5 remaining tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Peel and core apples and make thin slices. (You can use the PC Apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer for this, but I'm usually too lazy to get it out and then clean it.) Dip apples in Sprite or orange juice and then layer on top of bread. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour or over night.* Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut butter into small pieces and arrange over apples. Bake, uncovered, 35 - 45 minutes or until apples are tender and eggs are set. (You can do this by making a small cut in the center and if the bread appears dry, it's done.) Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Serve with syrup on the side.

*If you use a glass baking dish let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes before preheating oven. Placing a very cold glass dish in a hot oven will break the dish and ruin your brunch!

Hope you love this one as much as I do.

Here's a quicky you can always rely on in a pinch. Keep a bag of meatballs in your freezer and spaghetti sauce in your pantry for last minute company. Just throw the meatballs and sauce in your crock pot on high for 3 hours, or low for 6-8 hours, stirring every once in a while if you can. Just serve in hot dog buns with mozzarella cheese. Add some chips and veggie sticks and they will be impressed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Oh, look! I'm blogging!

Okay, this is a little wierd, but I just thought this might be fun. Everytime I cook anything and take it somewhere, someone asks me for the recipe but I never get it to them. So, I thought I'd try this. Now whenever some one asks I can just post it here. It might be fun. Here's my first one you might like:

Black Bean and Corn Casserole

1 pound hamburger
1/2 cup frozen chopped onions
1 can black beans, drained
10 oz. frozen corn
2 packages taco seasoning mix
3/4 cup salsa
3 cups crushed tortilla chips
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

on the side:
shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, sour cream, extra chips, salsa

Preheat oven 375 degrees. Brown hamburger and onion in large skillet. Drain grease. Add black beans and corn and stir until warm. Add salsa, taco seasoning, a cup and a half of water, and salsa. Simmer 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place crushed chips in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. When the hamburger mixture has cooked down (has less liquid) pour into baking dish and top with cheese. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until cheese has melted and the casserole is bubbly around the edges. Serve with lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, salsa, and extra chips.

Hope you like that one. It's a quicky, but it's yummy and an easy one to throw together. Something that might make it a dish you can always have ready to throw together is to keep a zip-lock bag in the freezer with the hamburger already browned with the onions in it. (2 3/4 cup of browned hamburger is a pound.)

Stay tuned for more! If there is a recipe you have asked me for in the past, let me know and I'll post it!