Monday, November 26, 2012

ChanceLee Chicken

This recipe has a bit of history. I first posted it back in 2006, when I was apparently taking it to a friend who's family had been sick. Well here I am again, looking for some good comfort food for a sick family, and this recipe came to mind!

Better known as Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken, we affectionately renamed it for a small guest in our home. While everyone else was begging for dessert, little ChanceLee, baby cheeks glowing, begged her mama to get the chicken back out of the fridge so she could have more. Who could resist a request like that? ChanceLee is no longer a little girl, but a beautiful young woman. My, how the time flies!

Leni's Notes:
~This can work in the crock, but is better in the oven. Both directions below. (Honestly, I don't like it in the crock, but maybe you'll love it.)
~Terrific over egg noodles, but also good with rice or quinoa.
~Using Cayenne will give it a Szchewan flavor. If everyone likes a little kick, give it a shot. Very good that way!
~I've overhauled the recipe a bit from the one I've found around the internet. No major changes, just cleaner ingredients (like homemade lemonade instead of lemon-lime soda.)
~I like to use chicken drumsticks, but use what you've got. Thighs, leg quarters, boneless breast...just be sure to adjust your cooking time. Leg quarters are especially tough in the crock pot. They tend to be overcooked by the time you get them thoroughly done.
~You can thicken the juices after cooking with a little cornstarch. It's a nice touch.
~I suggest serving this with something kind of light. Green beans, cauliflower, carrots...something that offsets the sweetness in the chicken.

Chicken legs (enough to feed your family, the sauces stretches.)
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup vinegar
1/4 cup lemonade
2-3 Tbls. minced garlic
2 Tbls. soy sauce (Bragg's Liquid Aminos)
1 tsp. pepper (regular black or cayenne)


Crock Pot
~Place chicken in crockpot.
~Mix all remaining ingredients and pour over chicken.
~Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

~Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

~Place chicken on greased sheet with sides
~Mix all remaining ingredients and pour over chicken.
~Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until fully cooked.
~Halfway through cooking, spoon sauce over the chicken again.

Blessings from my kitchen to yours!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

It's Not About the Food!

I have news for you about Thanksgiving that you might find shocking.

It's not all about the food.

Trust me, I wouldn't lie to you! On one level, it is, of course, all about the food. But really, it's about giving thanks and being grateful for all that we have. Bringing our family and friends together to remind us to be thankful for them, also.

I tell you this because things are bound to go wrong. Sometimes horribly wrong. Irreparably wrong. Please, don't let it ruin your holiday! For example, no matter how many times you have successfully roasted a turkey, there will be that one time that the bugger just won't cook, and you end up carving the meat 3 hours later than planned. Or your potatoes scorch and you've got to throw out the whole pot. Rolls hard as rocks, lumpy gravy, broken dishes, the list goes on and on. You've gotta laugh it off and make the best of it. It will make a great family story down the line. (Wait til you hear about the exploding cupboard!)

When I was a teenager, I used to watch a soap opera where every Thanksgiving (or was it Christmas?) the rich family's meal would be completely ruined and they'd have to order a stack of pizzas. What else are you going to do? Mope and throw a tantrum? Psh. Move on.

So here's hoping that you don't have the Davis curse, and there are no catastrophes on your big day. But if there are, take another page from the Davis play book and laugh it off. And then tell me about it. I'd hate to think I'm all alone out here in my disaster land!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Newest Thanksgiving Catastrophe '12?

It's not even Thanksgiving day yet, but I'm thinking maybe I've already had my catastrophe of the year. Last night, as the kids were working on their recipes for Thursday, I opened up my laptop to find details and heard a horrible cracking sound. And with that, my screen flopped over backward! Yup, the hinges broke.

So my computer is still working, but is now rigged up on my husband's desk so that I can put a book holder behind it to prop the screen up. A little red-neckish, but it will work until we can get it repaired. This is a good thing, as all of my recipes are stored online! Years ago, I set up a gmail account just for recipes. Gmail has so much storage, and a terrific search feature. Makes it so easy to find what I'm looking for and share recipes easily. I also set up a family gmail account that all of my kids have access to. Whenever we try a recipe that we all love, we send it to that account so they will be able to access 'Mom's Recipes' no matter where they live or how badly my memory fails. ;o)

Last night, Seth whipped up the Spinach Artichoke Dip, and Noelle did the Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes. Today's work list includes a pie or two (cherry and blueberry cream) and working up a recipe for a Cauliflower Gratin. Never made it before, so I think I'll do a test run to make sure it's edible before I feed our company. I'd like to think I'll have enough energy to do the stuffing also, but I'm not sure I'll even get through the preliminary list! We'll see how it goes.

I hope all of your Thanksgiving plans are coming along nicely, and whatever you do on Thursday, you take a moment to count the many blessings in your life.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Apple-Honey Oatmeal Muffins

We interrupt the Thanksgiving onslaught to bring you this yummy treat that will keep the masses away from your holiday preparations. This is the most wonderful, healthy muffin recipe! I got the original recipe  from the Rodale Whole Foods Cookbook, page 575. Really terrific cookbook. I found it at the library, at a time when I was trying to convert a bunch of my recipes to use honey and fruit instead of cane sugar. Rodale had already done that! I borrowed the book from the library so many times that my husband finally bought me my own copy. I got the original Rodale's Basic Natural Foods Cookbook. It's the holy grail of natural cooking!

Back to the family loves these with chocolate chips, but you could add fresh or dry fruit also. Play with the recipe. They mix up easily, bake quickly and disappear faster than you can imagine. I made two dozen last night, and this morning had to snag the dozen that were left so I could get a picture.

This recipe has passed a lot of tests. My family loves them. I took them to a church breakfast, they loved them. Most critical, I sent them to a Search and Rescue weekend for a horde of teenagers. Loved them. Thank you, Rodale!

Leni's Notes:
~I use a silicone pan, so no liners, but if you're not using silicone or liners, do grease the pan very well.
~My kids love these with cream cheese.
~Don't over bake. My new oven seems to be running a bit high on the temperature, and it made for a dry batch of muffins. They are normally very moist.
~Yes, I used my own homemade applesauce. It means nothing to the recipe, but I thought it was very homestead-ish of me, and wanted credit. 
~Rodale Cookbook is worth the price, and it doubles as a work out plan. It's HUGE.
~Unless you live alone, double the recipe. ;o)


1 C whole wheat flour
1 C old fashioned oats
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 large egg
1 C unsweetened applesauce
1/2 C milk
1/4 C honey
2 T butter, melted
1/2 C Chocolate Chips

~Preheat oven to 375.
~Generously butter muffin tins. (Silicone was fine w/o greasing)
~Whisk together dry ingredients.
 ~In a small bowl, combine wet ingredients.
~Make a well in dry ingredients, pour in wet.
~Mix with a fork just til moistened.
~Stir in Chocolate Chips.
~Fill 12 muffin cups 2/3 full.
~Bake 20-25 minutes.
~Serve warm with butter or cream cheese.

Blessings from my kitchen to yours,

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday Before Thanksgiving

The turkey is brining!

My friend Briggie reminded me to take my turkey out of the freezer days ago. I was so glad, because I never take it out soon enough! Well, today is brining day and that 27 pound gobbler is still frozen solid! This is where I get creative in ways that Butterball would never approve of. But I digress.

I went ahead and started the process while it's still frozen. I've done it before, it works just fine. We're hoping to roast it on Wednesday and save ourselves some work on Thanksgiving!

I think this is the biggest bird I have ever roasted!

The Great Thanksgiving Catastrophe of '07

As promised, here is one of my Thanksgiving Catastrophe stories. I offer this to you as something to reflect on during the holiday. Should things start to go wrong, you can comfort yourself that at least you're not in my house! Also, it can be a point of reference. How bad was your holiday? "About two step above Leni '07." ;o)

I do hope that your holiday planning is going well, and that you will all have a catastrophe free Thanksgiving!

Here's how a holiday goes in Leni Land. To give yourself the proper setting, pretend you're reading a new edition of the "If You Give a Moose a Muffin" series."

Thanksgiving Day (which also happens to be my husband's birthday, just so you have proper sympathy for him.)

Despite the fact that I am not a morning person, I am up at 6:30 to have turkey in roaster at 7am. *Yawn*
I ask Steve later in the morning if he will hang up my shadow box. We've been waiting for a free moment to do so, and our holiday planning is going so well, we actually have leisure time before dinner!

Wanting to do the job right, Steve gathers the children around and explains that he will need certain tools. Not only is he going to do the job, but we're going to get a homeschool lesson out of it!

So, he goes out to the shed to get the level. Of course, the key is nowhere to be found, so he goes to buy a new lock at the pharmacy, intending to break the old one off.  He comes out of the store, van won't start. Extra amusing, as we have not yet made the first payment on said van. Awesome. So, he walks home in very cold rain. I see him coming, and I can tell by the stomping through puddles that he is not a happy camper. He takes his frustration out on the lock since it was going to come off anyways. Ironically will not come off. It's a very sturdy lock! So sturdy that instead of the lock giving way, the hasp starts to break.

He gives up and comes in, calls the dealer, who of course will only honor the warranty if HE does the work. That means towing it 85 miles. Thank God for AAA, because the dealer was not going to pay for the towing...grrr... Steve makes the arrangements, and decides to still try to make something of the day. He'll  figure out why the vacuum is so loud. Takes the whole thing apart, can find nothing wrong with it! But while it's still spread all over the livning room, my mom arrives an hour early which we expected. No big deal that she's here, but the dogs get all excited because there's company, and they start prancing all over the place while Steve is trying to put the cleaner back together.

At this point, my oldest daughter reluctantly tells us that she just found water dripping into the laundry room from the bathroom that is right above it. Seriously?! Hubby quickly figures out that it is coming from the tub, so he goes to investigate. Upon pulling up the tiles by the corner of the tub, we find that the sub-flooring is totally rotted away, and there is apparently a leak inside the wall! Why not? Steve says (are you ready for this?) "I'm surprised the wall isn't rotting also." With that he gently pushes on the wall above the area, which totally gives under the pressure. ARGH! At that point I decided that we should just go back to bed and forget this day completely.

All this by noon, folks! We did, however, go on to have a lovely day. The birthday girls arrived (both grandmas) and the rest of our company. Dinner went off without a hitch, and then we played board games and watched movies til bed time. All in all, a nice day. That weekend we dealt with all the problems, and my kids got a lesson in patching drywall!

This is just so typical for us, it's almost laughable!

Blessings from my kitchen to yours,

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


As a food blogger, it feels somehow criminal that I have not even mentioned Thanksgiving. I mean, I hate to follow the crowd, but still, it's like National Food Day, so I've got to at least chime in, right?

I always host Thanksgiving, as we have a house big enough to fit our family. Well, not really, but we fit better than we'd fit anywhere else, so it works. Family holidays are supposed to be loud and crowded. Did I mention it's also a Birthday Extravaganza? My mother's birthday is the day before Thanksgiving, and my mother-in-law and husband are the day of! So we just mash it all together and have one big celebration.

I am blessed that everyone offers to help and bring stuff for the meal. That takes a lot of pressure off. With my daughter recently married, that adds another kitchen to the mix for prep. They are both great cooks, so whatever they bring will be great.

We'll start the day with the parade and the dog show while we're cooking and setting up the extra table. Some time during the dog show, people will start arriving with food. I'll share this year's menu with you, and confess that I am going to make the turkey the day before. I've been thinking about this for a couple of years, and I'm giving it a shot. Later this week, I'll share some Thanksgiving disaster stories just to make you feel better about how bad your day might be going. ;o)

Thanksgiving 2012

Cheese & Crackers
Hot Artichoke Spinach Dip

Dry Brine Turkey with gravy

Possibly Roasted Chili Lime Corn
Sweet Potatoes
Cauliflower Gratin

Homemade Stuffing
Homemade Rolls
Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes
Cranberry Salad
Broccoli Salad

Cherry Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Apple Pie
Cheesecake Cinnamon Roll concoction

Sparkling Apple Punch
Iced Tea

Monday, November 12, 2012

Revolutionary Mac & Cheese

My search for the perfect macaroni and cheese is legendary. Well, amongst my family, anyways. They joke about how many "perfect mac & cheese recipes" I have found over the years. So now I have started to categorize them so that when I find them later I remember why this one was perfect for that moment. ;o) 

It is my pleasure to introduce you to one of those recipes today. This was a Pinterest find for me, I have the link to the original blog down by the recipe. For me, this one is perfect, because it's not time-consuming. You can arrive home after work, decide you really want mac & cheese, and within half an hour, have home-style comfort on your plate that didn't come with neon cheese powder. Also, it takes real ingredients that you are likely to already have in your fridge and pantry already. (No canned soup or evaporated milk...)

The beauty of it is, it's all one pot. You do not boil the pasta ahead of time. That's what caught my attention the first time around.

The picture below is what it looks like when it's done on the stove. Kinda bland looking, as we used white cheese this time. I decided to dress it up a bit  (details on that below) but it involved a broiler and an unnamed member of my family who has a love-hate relationship with said broiler. The end result was less than picture worthy, but still edible! ;o)

Leni's Notes
~We use whole wheat pasta, works just fine, takes a tad longer to absorb the milk.
~This last time, I used whole wheat rotini pasta. I do not recommend it. I ended up having to add another cup of milk, and it took a LONG time for the spirals to cook properly. I recommend shells or elbows. Bowtie works, but it's got a similar issue as the spirals. That thick middle section doesn't like to cook as well.
~The original recipe uses 2% milk. Whatever floats your boat. I use whole milk most of the time, and add other creamy ingredients.
~I have yet to try it, but I wonder if I could turn this into a frozen dish that could later be popped in the oven. I think it would work. (Thinking ahead to taking meals to other families.)
~Lots of good stir-in ideas. Cooked chicken or turkey for more of a main-dish casserole. I also have made it with half pasta, half broccoli and that worked really well.
~I always double this recipe, as I have 4 adult-sized people living here, and double recipe leaves me lunches for them to take to work. Single recipe leaves nothing left over.

Original recipe was found on this blog. As you can see, I've changed it up a bit, as I tend to do. Do what works for you, and enjoy!

2 cups dried pasta
2 cups milk
1 cup loosely packed shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp pepper
2-3 ounces of cream cheese or flavored Laughing Cow (Sundried Tomato and Spice is lovely.)


~In a pan, add pasta, milk and cream cheese.
~Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes, until pasta is soft, stirring frequently and ensuring milk does not boil.
~Turn heat off, add cheese, salt, pepper and dry mustard.
~Stir until combined.
~Serve as is, or put in greased baking dish, and top with a mixture of bread crumbs and cheese.
~Bake or broil until topping is browned (not burned.)

I don't list a temp, because I usually have something else in the oven, so I put it in with whatever is in there.

Blessings from my kitchen to yours,

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Things I Learn From My Dogs

My dogs have a very specific way of sitting and staring intently at something that they want, waiting for us to notice and give it to them. (Usually staring at the door, willing it to open so they can go out.)

Yesterday I was in Walmart, and passed an old man in the candy isle who was in a wheel chair. He was holding two bags of candy, and staring intently at the top shelf. At first I went past him, thinking that he already had the candy he wanted, but after a couple seconds, I realized that I recognized that stare. "Is there something I can reach for you?"

The man's shoulders slumped with relief, as he said, "Well, I'd really like that giant bag of Jolly Ranchers up there. I need them to keep my mouth moist, and that's a much better deal than these small bags." I could relate to that, I've been living on Jolly Ranchers lately. Yes, I know that Jolly Ranchers completely do not fit my food philosophy. Shhhhh.....

I grabbed it for him, and put the other bags back on the shelf. I went back to my cart, and turned to see if he needed anything else, but he was already gone. Makes me wonder just how long he'd been sitting there waiting for help.

So thanks to my doggies for training me well. I'll get you that extra doggie treat later. Just remind me by staring at the treat bin.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Chipotle Chicken Chili

Happy Monday everyone! Before I get started today, I wanted to extend a hearty welcome to all of our new readers. Hope you're enjoying the recipes, and that you'll introduce yourselves at some point. 

These past couple of weeks, I have been working on some soup recipes. I must confess, I am not a big fan of soup. My mom loved making soups, and I was always suspicious of what she was hiding in there. (Probably zucchini and stewed tomatoes.) I also was not a fan of gravy, salad dressing, sauces, condiments...I wanted to see my food. Obviously, I got over that, but my aversion to soup remained. 

You know of course, that I married a man who loves soup! We've been married almost 21 years, and I figure it's about time I make peace with the fact that my man is over the moon when he comes home to a pot of yummy soup and some rolls to go with it. 

I had the best intentions of sharing an original recipe, but my attempt at Minestrone went horribly wrong. They ate it, after we fixed it up a bit, but it's definitely not blog-worthy yet. So for today, I am sharing a Pinterest find that was a huge hit with my family. I tried a bite. It was good! Not enough for me to want a big bowl of it, but definitely a keeper. 

The original link to the recipe can be found here. I made a couple of changes, so the recipe below is the version I made. They used items that were lower sodium and fat-free. I can do lower sodium if I have to, but I do not do fat-free. Seriously, what IS fat free half-and-half?! Cream is milk fat, if it's fat free, it is NOT half-and-half. Blech. Use real ingredients! But I digress.

Leni's Notes:
~I doubled the amount of chicken, thinking my hubby would want more protein. His only complaint was there was too much chicken. Huh.
~I've heard it freezes well. It didn't last long enough for me to find out.
~I used my pressure cooker pot to make this. (Without the pressure feature.) Those pots make terrific stock pots! Nothing scorched.
~I somehow found myself without any frozen or fresh onions! It a fit of desperation, I reconstituted 3/4 C of dry onions (1/4 cup for each onion called for.) Amazingly, it worked.
~This cooked up very quickly. I came home from work at 5, and had dinner on the table by 6 with time to spare. If you pre-cut your chicken and onions ahead of time, it's practically an instant dinner.
~Original recipe says it serves 8. Eight children, maybe. With grown ups in the house, more like 4.
~ If you want to prepare your own cooked white beans for this recipe, you'll need 4 1/2 cups (from 2 1/4 cups dried).


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped (I buy frozen chopped onions.)
4 large garlic cloves, minced (Jarred in water or olive oil, 2 tsp)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 tablespoon chipotle chile powder or chili seasoning
4 teaspoons ground cumin
3 cans (19 ounces each) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups Better than Bouillon chicken broth, or your favorite stock
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (2 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


~In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-low heat.
~Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, 4 to 5 minutes.
~Push the onions to one side of the pan, add the chicken, and sprinkle with the chipotle chile powder, cumin, and salt to taste.
~Cook, stirring, until most of the chicken is opaque on the outside, 5 to 6 minutes.
~Stir in 3 cups of the beans and 2 cups of the broth.
~Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer.
~Partially cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes.
~Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the remaining beans and remaining 1 cup broth.
~Process to a smooth puree.
~Stir the bean puree and half-and-half into the soup.
~Dish up soup, and top with cheese and cilantro. 

Blessings from my kitchen to yours,