Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's the most wonderful time...of the year! (Are you singing along with me?)

Ok, so it's about Christmas, but I really love the kick off of Thanksgiving. I love to cook with my family, have everyone over, wait to see what the inevitable disaster will be, you know, all the good stuff.

The turkey is brining, the bread is cubed and toasted, the mini pumpkin cheesecakes are cooling, the mashed potatoes are made and ready to be heated up. Tomorrow we will finish up all the cleaning and setting up and roast the turkeys, make the gravy...have I mentioned I love this time of year?

Can't seem to find any posts about my dry brine method, I'll have to post that soon. Easiest method ever.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Twice Baked Potatoes for the Freezer

Here I am, alive and well! I've been working on revamping my techniques for cooking ahead. Somethings, like lasagna, are really good when you freeze and then thaw and bake. But for the most part, I prefer to have things fresh-made. That does not quite fit with my current lifestyle. ;) 

So I have been filling my fridge and freezer with foods that are prepped for fresh cooking. It's a great time saver during the week. My veggies are prepped, my meat is butchered and brined, broth is frozen...you get the idea. 

Today I worked on a side dish. What you see below is one of the trays of twice baked potatoes that I made today. (I made 2 1/2 trays.) It was a lot of work, but I made enough for 6-8 meals, depending on how many are here for dinner. 


Leni's Notes:
~As I was making these, my family came along and put sloppy joes on top of them. Big hit! I'll have to remember that for later.
~I flash freeze them on these trays, then move them to ziplocs for long-term storage.
~The filling is very versatile. Make them with whatever flavors you like. But I recommend always using the cream cheese and sour cream, otherwise the potatoes tend to get kind of gritty when they thaw.
 ~I mashed mine down because I wanted mine level, so we can add toppings  You could mound it up if you want to. (If you make them level, you'll have extra mashed potatoes to enjoy!)


Ingredients:
10# Russet baking potatoes
1 8oz. block cream cheese, softened
1 lg container sour cream 
1 stick butter
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp garlic salt
2 C shredded sharp cheddar
2 -4 Tbls dried chives

Instructions:
~Preheat oven to 350 degrees.(If you're eating them that day.)
~Wash the potatoes, and pat dry.
~Prick the skins, and rub skins with oil. 
~Place potatoes on a foil-lined pan. (I fit all of them on two large cookie sheets.)
~Bake until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on size.
~Let cool until you can handle them, then scoop the middles out, leaving a small layer of potato in the skin.
~Put the scooped out middled in a large bowl, and put the potato skins back on the trays.
~To the bowl, add cream cheese, sour cream, butter, pepper and salts.
~Mash or blend until desired consistency. 
~Mix in cheese and chives.
~Use an ice cream scoop to put filling back into the skins, and mash down. 
~Cover with plastic wrap, and freeze.
~When ready to serve, place desired amount of potatoes in baking dish. (Temp is variable, put them in with whatever you are already making.)
~If putting them in the oven frozen, cover with foil. If thawed, you can leave them open. 
~Bake until heated through and slightly browned. 

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Crock Pot Apple Crisp

Ahhh, more apples! I'm not sure what I love most about fall, the cooler weather, the return to school routines, or the fresh produce. Specifically the apples. Growing up, my family didn't really garden or put up a lot of food. Mom was (and is) an awesome cook, we just didn't cook ahead much. Except for applesauce. She and dad and I would peel and core them, and mom would cook them down. I still adore the smell of cooking apples. Takes me right back. 

Then I got married, and I have to tell you, my mother-in-law makes the best apple pie ever. She makes one for my birthday every year, and then for my mom's birthday, too. More happy memories. These days, I like making applesauce the easy way, with the Victorio strainer. Even though it speeds up the process, it's still a family event. Lots of fun. And always, that great smell of cooking apples.

Today's recipe is one that's easy to throw together quickly. I call it Crock Pot Apple Crisp, or Oatmeal for People Who Hate the Texture of Oatmeal. Some of us cannot stand that slimy texture of cooked oatmeal. (I would be the only one in my house who feels that way.)

This serves up nicely as a dessert or a breakfast. 



Leni's Notes:
~This one is all about personal tastes. Make it as sweet as you like. More fluid will give you a more traditional oatmeal texture, less will give you more of an apple crisp.I'm going to list it like I made it this time, but I play with the measurements each time I make it.
~This recipe will usually give us dessert for 4 (with a scoop of ice cream) and breakfast for 3 the next morning (with a little more fluid added, and rewarmed.)
~About the Oats. I hate it when I'm making a recipe and need one kind of oats, but only have the other. For this recipe, you can use either. If you use whole oats, give it the longer cooking time, and some extra fluid. If you use quick oats, it will cook faster and you can cut back on the fluid that's added at the very end.
~The amount of sugar you use will depend on how sweet you like your oatmeal and how sweet your apples are. Even if you always use the same type of apple, the sweetness changes with how ripe they are, so adjust accordingly.


Ingredients
4 Quart Crock Pot
3 large Cortland apples, peeled, cored and sliced thick
Approximately 2 Cups Whole or cut oats  
Approximately 1 C Raw Sugar
Approximately 1 tsp Cinnamon
1 stick of butter
Approximately 1 C water or apple cider

Instructions
~Grease the inside of the crock.
~Place the slices from one apple into the bottom of the crock.
~Cover with about 1/2 C of oats. 
Seriously, I throw this in by the handful, so I don't measure. It should not completely bury the apples.
~Sprinkle on raw sugar, 1/4 C or less. 
This is where your personal taste really comes in. You can always add more at the end.
~Add a light dusting of cinnamon, 1/4 tsp, give or take.
~Slice 1/3 of a stick of butter into pats, and place on top of the layer.
~Repeat this process for two more layers.
~Add water or cider.
Again, this is to personal taste. For a drier product, add about 1/2 C. For a traditional oatmeal, add about 1 C. You can add more at the end if you like it soupier.
~Cover, cook on high for 3-4 hours, or low for 5-6.
~For Crisp: Do not stir. When done cooking, remove lid and let cool for 30 mintues before serving.
~For oatmeal, stir towards the end to break up the apples. Serve immediately.

Blessings from my apple-scented home to yours,
Leni

Thursday, September 19, 2013

First Pie of Fall 2013

It's here, my friends! The first pie of the season. I don't know if pie is as big a deal in your house as it is in mine, but my husband would take pie over almost any other dessert. Except maybe ice cream. Preferably pie with ice cream. 

Today I finally had time to stay home and get some things done. Lots of cleaning and scrubbing...and a little bit of pie making. I realized I needed to make this a priority when my husband kept bring home bags of Paula Red apples. I think we were up to 5 bags, not including the two bags the kids already ate. Hey, I can take a hint. 



I modified the Frozen Apple Pie Filling recipe just a bit to allow for what I had on hand. That recipe continues to receive more hits than any other on my blog, so why mess with a good thing?

Leni's Notes:
~Original recipe uses Granny Smith, which are very tart, so adjust your sugar measurement for the sweetness of the particular apples you are using. Granny's really are my favorite pie apple, but they are a later fall apple, so I'll have to wait a bit for them.
~I continue my love/hate relationship with pie crust. I need to make peace with it! For this one, I used an oil crust, which always gets rave reviews from hubster. Very flaky crust. Recipe included at the end of the post. 
~If you're doing deep dish pie, add 1/4 to 1/2 extra pie crust. You can always make cinnamon roll-ups with any extra! That was my favorite part of my mom or grandma making pie when I was a kid.
~As you may be able to see from the picture, the pie came out nice and tall. It fell as it cooled. Still wonderful, but if you're looking for an impressive height, I'd suggest sticking to the Granny Smith which hold their shape pretty well. 
~We like deep dish pie, so all of my recipes reflect that. If you're using a regular pie pan, cut way back on the amount of apples you use!
~Don't forget the vanilla ice cream!

Pie Filling Ingredients:
3/4 C raw sugar 
1/4 C flour 
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg 
9 C Paula Red apples, peeled and sliced a bit thick
2 Tbls lemon juice
 2 Tbls butter cut into chunks

Instructions:
~Preheat oven to 350.
~Find a bowl with a tight fitting lid. Bowl needs to be just a bit bigger than all the ingredients, so there's room to shake them up.
~Place sugar, flour and spices in bowl.
~Place apple slices in the bowl, cover tightly and shake to coat. Make sure to turn it upside down a couple of times.
~Remove lid carefully, add butter and lemon juice.
~Recover, continue to shake and turn bowl until everything is evenly distributed.
~Remove lid carefully again, there will be liquid on the lid.
~Place filling in prepared pie crust.
~Place top crust on pie, sealing the edges and cutting a vent hold in the top of the pie.
~Place pie on a cookie sheet or pie pan to catch spills.
~Bake at 350 for about one hour. 
~Check for a slightly browned top crust, and if the vent is big enough, you can check to see that the apples are done.
~Remove from oven, and let cool completely before serving.

Oil Pie Crust Ingredients:
2 1/4 C flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C cooking oil
1/3 C cold milk

Instructions:
~Mix the dry ingredients in bowl.
~Pour the wet ingredients in all at once, mix just until you can form into two balls.
~Divide into two discs, one having 2/3 of the dough, one having 1/3.
~Flatten the larger ball into a disc, and place between two pieces of wax paper.
~Roll out the dough, flipping it over if need be to straighten out the wax paper.
~Peel off top layer, place crust in the pan, and carefully peel off the second layer of wax paper.
~Repeat the process with the smaller ball for the top disk. 

The crust recipe as written was just barely enough for a deep dish pie, and I had to roll it very thin. 
Adjust accordingly.

Blessings from my apple-filled home to yours,
Leni

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Summer Sloth

I baked today, for the first time in ages. I made a Chocolate Zucchini Cake that I found online. I put in a cup of chocolate chips instead of the walnuts. It was incredibly satisfying. This is how it happens in the summer. Busy. Hot. Humid. Tired. I await that first gust of cold fall air to inspire me to cook again. Especially since hubster got me to amazing cookbooks for my birthday. (Which I of course don't know about, since my birthday is still almost 2 weeks away.)

By the way, this cake would make a great dessert for a meal delivery. Really doesn't need frosting, nice snack cake. And it's full of veggies!

Hope you're all having a great summer!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Happy News

Happy news for our household! Today my daughter and son-in-law announced in church that they are expecting their first baby. *insert wildly goofy grin here* I am going to be a grandma!!!

Back to your regularly scheduled lives...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Night Out On The Town

Tonight, Steve took me out to one of my favorite restaurants. Ember Woodfire Grill in Livonia, NY. 
This place is wonderful. Seasonal menus, fresh, clean ingredients. It's a foodie's dream come true. It's housed in the old train depot that was a flower shop when I was in high school. A little nostalgia there. 

Tonight I had a new dish and an 'old' favorite. Nothing is really old on the menu, but when I order the same thing four times in a row, you know it's amazing.


This was the new dish. Crab cakes with Chili Lime Aioli and Remoulade. 
Isn't it beautiful? It was so good. It's topped with finely diced bell peppers, that were also throughout the crab cakes. Wonderful.


And this is my old favorite. Sweet Potato Egg Rolls.
Topped with a sweet ginger glaze and chopped fresh apple. 
I love these things. LOVE them.
I'm talking, if I was offered a final meal, this would be what I asked for.
They are on the Tapas menu, but I order them for dessert. 
SO good.

So if you are ever in Livonia, make a reservation for dinner at this place. It's worth it. Terrific atmosphere, nice music and an incredible variety of food. I don't know who the current chef is, but he or she is on my list of favorites!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Playing in the Kitchen - Raspberry Lime Tea

So I finished making the syrup for the Italian Soda last night, and had all of the pulp left over from the berries and limes. On a whim, I decided to see if I could get a second use out of them. As a rule I don't like anything in my tea. I prefer my tea Irish style. Put the sugar in the cake and the milk in the baby's bottle and leave the tea plain! However, my son enjoys different flavors of tea, so I thought I'd give it a shot. It looked and smelled good, but looks can be deceiving! So I poured it over some ice and discovered something amazing...I actually liked it!


I get so tired of water, but the amount of sugar in juice and soda gets really overwhelming when you're just trying to stay hydrated.

So here's what I did.

~Place all of the pulp into a wide-mouthed 1 quart canning jar.
~Add 1 family sized decaf tea bag (or 4 regular sized tea bags.)
~Fill to the top with almost boiling water.
~Give the pulp a gentle stir so the hot water gets through it all.
~Let steep up to 30 minutes, depending on how strong you like it.
~Remove bags and let cool completely, then strain through a fine mesh strainer.
~Serve over ice.

This tastes plenty sweet to me, but I don't like sweetened tea, so adjust to your taste.

If you decide to give it a try, let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Playing in the Kitchen - Raspberry Lime Italian Soda

After running around in disgustingly hot weather today, I wasn't up for much cooking. I decided today was the day to try a Pinterest find I've been looking forward to.

You can find the recipe at Will Cook For Smiles. There are a ton of gorgeous pictures on the site. In fact, you won't find the recipe until about 1/3 of the way down the page. ;o)

It cooked up quick and easy and tastes wonderful!

My adjustments to the recipe:
~Raw sugar in place of white
~One regular lime instead of two key limes
~Realized too late that I only had 12 oz of raspberries instead of a full pound. I just went forward and made it, and didn't adjust the recipe for my lesser amount of raspberries.

My husband and son really liked it, also. I like things less sweet, so I drank it as is. You might want more syrup if you like a sweeter soda.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Meatballs in Bulk

Despite today's scorching heat, I had to do some cooking. By the time we get home from work, no one cares about cooking. Time to restock the freezer so we have some wholesome meals to enjoy again!

This has become my favorite way to do meatballs. I do not have the time or energy to pan fry them, and I don't really care for the texture when they are oven baked. So I cook them in the sauce. I normally use regular sized crock pots, but today I was doing a very large batch, so I used my 18 Qt. Nesco Roaster. My dad got that for me years ago, and I love it! Perfect for bulk cooking (and Thanksgiving turkeys!)





Leni's Notes:
~You can cut this recipe down if you don't want to make such a large batch. As written, this recipe makes 8 - 9 dozen meatballs, with a lot of extra sauce for serving with pasta.
~Next time I do this, I might throw a couple links of Italian Sausage in, just for a little bit different flavor.
~24 meat balls will fit nicely into a gallon sized freezer bag, and lay flat for storage. I throw a couple cups of sauce in, also.
~The original recipe for the meatballs came from this cookbook. I used to have a link for the recipe online, but the page seems to be missing.
~Great with pasta, but my family's favorite is meatball subs. ;o)

Ingredients:

Meatball Mixture:
2 C panko
2 C milk
4 eggs
3 C parmesan
1/4 C dry chopped onion
1/2 C dry parsley
2 tsp jarred minced garlic
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
6 1/2 - 7  lbs lean ground beef

Sauce:
3 jars marinara sauce (I use Wegmans Smooth Marinara)
3 (28 oz.) cans tomato puree
2 C water
2 T oregano
2 T raw sugar
1 T basil
1 tsp garlic salt

Instructions:
~Mix meatball ingredients in a large bowl until evenly combined.
~Mix sauce ingredients in a large bowl, place a quarter of the mixture in the bottom of the roaster.
~Use a standard cookie scoop (about 1/4 cup? Maybe a little less?) to make meatballs uniform.
~Gently drop them into the sauce, so they kind of make craters in the sauce. 
~When you have one layer, cover those with another quarter of the sauce mix evenly over the meatballs, enough to cover them completely.
~Start your next layer of meatballs, and continue on until all meat mixture is used.
~Make sure all meatballs are completely covered in sauce. 
~Cover, set to 250 (or low, if you're using a crock pot) and let cook for 5-6 hours.
~When done, gently stir them to loosen any that have stuck to the sides or cooked together.
~Let cool a bit before packaging.

Blessings from my wonderful-smelling kitchen to yours!
Leni

Monday, July 15, 2013

Filling the Freezer

I admit it, I HATE cooking when it gets hot. I don't even want to eat! Alas, my family insists on eating every single day.

This week I'm working on stocking up the freezer with pre-made meals. That way all I have to do is throw it in a crock pot or the oven and be done.

Here's the lineup:
Meatballs
Twice-baked potatoes
Enchilada Casserole

Today I made 8 1/2 dozen meatballs that are cooking away in my roaster pan. I'll post the recipe later tonight. With only three of us at home this summer (and an occasional drop-in from the newly-weds) these should last us a while.

I also have the VBS closing picnic to put together on Friday. It will be fun to serve everyone. I'm not able to help with VBS during the week this year, so at least I'll get to enjoy the closing program and see what they did all week. My contribution for the week was to make pinatas of their bug mascots. Forgot to take pictures. Whoops. My apologies to those who asked for final results. I'll see if my daughter can get pics before they are destroyed. ;o)

Stay safe in the heat, everyone. This stuff is dangerous.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

So How About That No Bullying Policy?

As you know, I love MasterChef. I really enjoyed last night's show, but it left me pondering. If you are unfamiliar, there is one contestant on the show who really plays up her tough girl, loud mouth attitude. Her language is vulgar when she's angry (Yeay, Luca, for telling her to watch her mouth...the voice of reason and class.) Anyways, she's also fond of telling tales of beating girls up in the past, yada, yada, yada...

Last night it came to a head when someone challenged her bad behavior. Now I get that conflict gets ratings, but she told this woman point blank that she was going to beat the tar out of her if she didn't shut up.

Here's what I have been thinking about. The producers should eliminate her, I don't care how good of a cook she is. We have this whole National Anti-Bullying campaign going on. We tell kids every day, in every way, that bullying will not be tolerated, and adults have your back. Really? This woman is nothing short of a bully girl grown up, still bullying. Hoping to be taken seriously as a chef, while she cussing people out for cooking better than she does. Threatening to physically harm people and being a vulgar individual.

Kick her out. Make a statement. Practice what you preach, America!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Summer of Ganache

I think this is quickly becoming the Summer of Ganache.

Such a simple, elegant way to add a beautiful richness to a dessert. And so easy to screw up. ;)

Today I was winging it. Through an odd set of circumstances, I ended up not having all of the ingredients I needed to make what I wanted. I was topping a Banana Cream cake.

~This mixture was much thinner than I expected, if the pan didn't have sides, I could not have poured it on until it set up some. Oops.
~I wasn't crazy with how the white chocolate melted. Some of it really didn't want to melt, and I it looked grainy. But I had a lot of other factors, so I'll reserve judgment. But I might use Ghiradelli next time.
~I was out of vanilla (how did that happen?) and the unsweetened chocolate really needed flavor. I've never used rum in it before, but I thought the flavor would work.

So, here's what I did...it tasted good, but we'll see how it sets up.

In a glass bowl:
4 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped
8 oz. white baking chocolate, chopped

In a sauce pan:
2 oz. Rum
1/4 C raw sugar
1 C heavy cream

~Heat cream over medium heat, stirring regularly to keep from scorching.
~When it begins to boil, remove from heat, and pour over chocolate.
~Stir the mixture continuously, until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.
~Pour over cake or into a container for later use. (Like an after work snack.)

I'll report back how this turned out. *fingers crossed*

Monday, June 24, 2013

Cheesecake with Chocolate-Orange Ganache

A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated my son-in-law's birthday. He and I share a love for cooking/baking and overall good food. Really good. So given his love for cheesecake, I decided to step it up a notch and not only make the best cheesecake ever, but to try out a new recipe for ganache.

As you can see from the picture, my cheesecake got so tall, I didn't have a lot of room for ganache. I didn't use a spring form pan, so I couldn't take it out and let it run down the sides. Therefore, I had a lot of ganache left over, which was a good problem to have!



This is not an every day cheesecake. (Is there such a thing as and every day cheesecake? There should be.) I'm just saying, you might look at this recipe and start to calculate the calories. STOP! Just enjoy the cheesecake. I promise, it's worth every calorie.

The cheesecake is a modification of an old Amish recipe, the ganache is my own version. I do hope you enjoy it!

Leni's Notes:

~I had a chocolate-orange ganache in mind, so I went looking for ways to accomplish this. In the end, I decided on some premium chocolate with orange peel in it. (Linked below.) The orange peel had a wonderfully crispy crunch to it that went perfectly with the creaminess of the cake.

~I bake mine in a silicone pan, which makes it deeper, so if you use a wider pan, reduce the baking time. It will need at least one hour.

~Save any leftovers of ganache for a quick chocolate pick-me-up or stir into hot milk for cocoa. ;o)

Ingredients:
Crust
12 graham crackers
1/2 C butter, melted

Cheesecake
5 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, room temp
1 3/4 C sugar
3 T flour
1/2 t. vanilla
7 eggs, unbeaten, room temp
1/2 C heavy whipping cream, room temp

Chocolate-Orange Ganache
8 oz. semisweet baking chocolate, chopped
2 (3.2 oz) Chocolove Orange Peel in Dark Chocolate, chopped
1 C heavy whipping cream

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 250. (Not a typo, 250)

~Pulse graham crackers in a food processor until completely reduced to crumbs.
~Drizzle melted butter in, continue to pulse.
~Press mixture into silicone cake pan (on top of a cookie sheet, so you can move it around.)
~Place in fridge until ready to fill.
~In mixer, combine cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla.
You want this to be well combined and smooth, but do not overbeat!!
~Beat in eggs, one at a time.
~Stir in cream.
~Bake in 250 oven for 2 hours, then turn off heat and leave pan in oven for one hour.
~Cool at room temperature.
~Place chopped chocolate in a bowl.
~Heat cream until just about boiling, stirring so it does not scorch.
~Remove from heat, pour over chocolate, and stir until chocolate is completely melted.
~Allow to cool a bit before pouring over cheesecake.
~Pour slowly and allow for puddling of the ganache.
You might not use it all, so don't flood your dish!
~Chill cake before serving.

Blessings from my busy home to yours,
Leni

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

MasterChef Night

"The only thing worse than a cook that can't boil is a narcissist in full denial." ~Joe Bastianich

I love MasterChef. lol. It's the first cooking competition I ever watched, and I was hooked.

Cooking competitions are my version of sports. I cheer for the underdog, I yell at the judges, I have a big chart to mark off the losers as they are eliminated. How geeky is that?

I have to admit, it kind of cracks me up to watch the judges get so worked up their heads are about to explode. However, it also makes me realize I would never make it in a big kitchen like that. I'd smack someone the first time they screamed at me. And then I'd leave. Cooking is a tonic to me. It relaxes me, challenges my creativity and I love watching people chow down and enjoy a good meal. I'll stick to home cooking, thankyouverymuch!

OK, off to watch the end of the show and see who is going home tonight. I promise not to give anything away...spoilers! (Said in my best River Song voice.)

Hoping you have grand kitchen adventures, with no one yelling at you...

Leni


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Catching My Breath

Did you see that big cloud of dust? That was me, skidding across the finish line! Finally, the craziness of the last few months has wrapped up and I can catch my breath. I've been trying out some new recipes as I've had time, so I have some ideas to post for you, though my photographer is off working for the next two months, so you'll have to suffer with my cell phone pics. ;o)

Today I whipped up a crock pot lasagna that the men ate all up before I could get a picture of it. lol. Added some spicy sausage in and let the noodles cook in the meat sauce. So nice to come home to a hot meal. Really trying to save the budget by avoiding having to order out because dinner never got made!

Anyways, I'll be getting some recipes and photos up soon. Hope you're all enjoying the ending of the school year and getting ready for a terrific summer!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Sharing the Work Load

As I've mentioned, incredibly busy these days. Yesterday we had a culinary victory. We pulled off a team effort for dinner!

To be fair, we always cook together, but usually while I'm supervising. But last night, I came home to a great dinner after working late. I was impressed! My husband is a good cook in his own right, but yesterday he was trying to learn some of my techniques, which I was helping him with via text and email.

I got up early and stewed a chicken in the pressure cooker.
While I was gone to work, hubby turned that cooked chicken into shredded chicken and gravy (with carrots!) He had never made a roux before, and did a great job.
Noelle made homemade whole wheat biscuits for the first time...they were perfect.
Seth got home in time to be the clean up crew and put the kitchen back together.

That's the kind of help I could get used to!

In a couple of weeks my schedule will slow considerably, and I plan to get back to blogging. Looking forward to it!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Glory Be, A Day At Home!

Today I had a very rare day at home. I mean completely at home. The kind of day where you only get dressed in case someone comes to the door.

I had a good kitchen day.

Crock pot:
2 pork tenderloins with baked potatoes
8 qts of bean dip (started from dry beans)

Oven/Stovetop:
Double Blueberry Rhubarb Crisp
4 pans of taco casserole for the freezer

I intended to make granola, also, but I ran out of steam!

I'm trying to grab pictures here and there to post later, but it's one of those seasons in life where I'm too busy living to take time to write about it. I'm ok with that. ;o)

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Greetings!

I haven't been cooking much lately, due to my schedule. Makes it hard to have anything to post about! We are winding down our school year which means papers, year end tests, college visits, plus a bunch of other special events going on (I'll fill in as things come along!)

All that so say, I'm still around,and will be posting recipes again soon!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cherry Rhubarb Crisp

This weekend I made my husband happy and made some dessert. Time for baking has been scarce lately, so it was fun to have a free afternoon to play around in the kitchen and make a new recipe. Rhubarb is always a hit around here, and I was thrilled to find one more bag in the back of the freezer from our trip to the Public Market. 





Leni's Notes:
~Feel free to use other fruits, but adjust your sugar accordingly. This recipe has a lot because of the rhubarb.
~Wonderful with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.
~We like a lot of 'crisp' in ours. If you don't, cut the crisp ingredients in half, and put it all on top.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 C raw sugar
7 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 (14 oz) cans tart cherries, juice reserved
5 C chopped rhubarb
2 C quick cut oats
2 C brown sugar
1 C flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 C butter

Instructions:
~Preheat oven to 375.
~In dutch oven, mix sugar and corn starch.
~Pour in cherry juice and whisk thoroughly. 
~Heat over medium-high heat, whisking continuously until mixture comes to a gentle boil.
~Remove from heat, stir in fruit, set aside.
~In a medium bowl, stir together oats, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon.
~Cut butter in with a pastry blender or two butter knives until mixture is crumbly.
~Grease 13x9 pan,and place half of fruit mixture in pan.
~Evenly sprinkle half of the oat mixture over the top.
~Repeat layers.
~Bake, uncovered, for one hour.
~Let cool for a couple of minutes, and serve with your favorite ice cream.

Blessings from my toasty kitchen to yours,
Leni

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Mocha Latte Syrup

One day of warm weather, and I'm already thinking of cold drinks!  Iced Mochas, Cherry Berry Chillers, Frozen Lemonade...mmmmm.... I have a goal to not blow all my free money on fast food icy drinks this summer, so I dug out an old recipe we whipped up years ago when we wanted to have a treat without all the nasties in it. Back in those days, getting ahold of food dye or artificial flavors would mean days of chaos in our home, so I wasn't taking any chances! These days, I'm glad I can make it decaf as caffeine makes my heart go pitter pat in a most unnerving way. ;o)

Since I had the handy dandy squeeze bottle left over from the wedding coffee bar, I whipped up a double batch and filled it up. You can see how much is missing since I made it a week ago. I did NOT use all that myself! I still have teens in the house, you know.



 Here is our Mocha Latte all dressed up with whipped cream. 

Leni's Notes:
~Super easy. Just don't let it boil over.
~Might be interesting with some different extracts. Coconut? Hazelnut for a Nutella flavor?

Ingredients:
3/4 C Raw Sugar
1/3 C cocoa powder
1/4 C instant decaf coffee crystals
1/2 C water
1 T vanilla
Whipped Cream, optional

Instructions:
~Combine sugar, cocoa and coffee in a pan.
~Whisk together until completely mixed.
~Add water, whisk until combined.
~Bring to a boil, lower temp and let simmer for 1-2 minutes. 
Be careful not to let it boil over, it can happen very quickly.
~Remove from heat, add vanilla and stir.
~When cool, pour into a container.
~Does not require refrigeration unless it's not going to get used up in a month or so.
~To serve, mix 2 Tablespoons of syrup into a glass of milk, adjust to suit your tastes.
~If you want to dress it up, pipe some whipped cream on top. (But it's kind of overkill. ;o)

Blessings from my eager-for-summer kitchen to yours,
Leni

Monday, April 08, 2013

Parmesan Cream Casserole

Lately, my life seems to be nothing but racing from one obligation to the next. The dinner table is a good measure of how busy I am, as cooking tends to take a back seat when I get over-scheduled. Recently I was looking for something quick I could make after work when I was determined NOT to put another frozen pizza or tray of chicken strips in the oven.

I decided to pull out an old favorite. We used to use this sauce back in the day when my kids just could not tolerate tomatoes. We used it on everything. Pizza, pasta, veggies, you name it! It is really quick and easy to make, and chances are you have all the ingredients in your kitchen on any given day.

The picture doesn't do it justice. You'd need smell-o-vision for that. It's so intoxicating! All that creamy, cheesy goodness...yum.



Leni's Notes:
~Use whatever type of milk and cream cheese you like. You can go low fat or full fat without changing the consistency.
~I used peas this time, but usually use spinach. Use your favorite veggie, but make sure to time it's addition to the boiling water so that it has enough time to cook thoroughly.
~The sauce is really good for a white pizza. My adults kids still talk about how much they loved that pizza.
~Spirals and bow ties are great for this.
~This is a throw-in dish. Whatever sounds good, go for it.

Ingredients:
1 lb favorite whole wheat pasta
1/2 lb frozen peas
1 1/2 C milk
1 C shredded Parmesan cheese
2 - 4 cloves of minced garlic
2 Tablespoon dry oregano
8 oz. cream cheese
4 Tablespoons butter
2 C chunked up leftover chicken or turkey

Instructions:
~Boil pasta in a dutch oven.
~When pasta is almost done, throw in the peas.
~When pasta and peas are done, drain them in a colander and set aside while you make the sauce.
~Place milk, cheese, garlic, oregano, cream cheese and butter in the dutch oven.
~Turn to medium heat and stir until the cream cheese is completely melted and the mixture starts to thicken.
~Remove from heat and stir in pasta/peas and chunked meat.

Blessings from my hectic kitchen to yours,
Leni


Monday, April 01, 2013

Peanut Butter "Tandy" Cake

I have had this recipe for Tandy Cake floating around my cookbook shelves for many, many years. I had no idea where it came from, but assumed that it came from my girlfriend who's last name is Tandy. Makes sense, right? So I let her know that I had made some changes to it, and asked if it would be ok to share it on my blog. Her response? "That's not my recipe, I'm allergic to peanut butter!" What?!

So she quickly did some investigating and we discovered that the recipe is a knock of recipe for a store bought snack cake. Who knew? Seems that everybody and their brother has their own version of a Tandy Cake recipe. Hmph.






Well maybe they do, but do they have a model as adorable as mine? The little missie pictured above is enjoying a piece of my Tandy Cake. She prefers to first bathe in her cake, and then when it's well seasoned, eat it up. My husband took this picture. He kind of adores this little lady and the glint that's always in her eye. I think they are kindred spirits. Apparently during this process, someone tried to wash some of the chocolate off of her face. One observer said that she got kind of an insulted look on her face, and carefully filled in the clean spots with chocolate (by rubbing the cake on her face) until she was in 'full makeup' again. I think she should model all my food from now on!

This recipe is really fast to whip up, and makes a huge batch. Wonderful for a houseful of company or a back yard full of kids. I made it for a dessert fellowship at church.



Leni's Notes:
~Traditional Tandy Cake knock offs have a layer of peanut butter and then melted chocolate is poured on top, making a hard chocolate layer. We really didn't like it that way. This version gives it more of a soft almost peanut butter fudge layer on top.
~I also made a version with dulce la leche and hot fudge. ;o)
~I am now dying to make a version with coffee in the cake batter and/or maybe a salted caramel topping. I see myself headed back to the kitchen very soon.
~Travels well, doesn't get stale quickly, so I also making it as a snack of the week type item. 

Ingredients:
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup milk
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp melted butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups creamy peanut butter
2 bags (4 cups) chocolate chips

~Combine everything except peanut butter and chocolate and mix well.
~Pour into a greased jelly roll pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
~Take out of oven and put dollops of peanut butter all over the surface.
~Let the peanut butter warm for a couple of minutes, then spread evenly over surface.
~Immediately sprinkle top of cake with the chocolate chips.
~Let sit until the chips are all melting (you'll notice a subtle change in color.)
~If time has elapsed for some reason and the cake has cooled too much to melt the chips, pop it back into the hot oven for a minute or so.
~Spread the melted chips over the peanut butter, and let the two ingredients swirl together.
~Let cool at room temperature.
~Cut into squares and serve with a glass of milk. ;o)

Blessings from my peanut butter-covered kitchen to yours,
Leni

Friday, March 29, 2013

Winding Down the Homeschool Years

Selling curriculum. So. Many. Books. This is what happens when you put off selling your used homeschool curriculum. For years.

Alas, my youngest child is nearing the end of her homeschool years. Next year she'll be pretty much at the community college full time to finish up her senior year. Can't believe I'm nearing the end of this journey. It is the hardest, scariest, most frustrating and rewarding thing I've ever done. At times I thought I was nuts for taking it on. But at the end of the day I am glad I committed these years to my kids. I am glad that my husband and I got to help them work through the struggles and celebrate the victories.

I think I'll start planing my retirement party. So what if it's over a year away? ;o)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Tiramisu, Take Two!

Back in December, I posted about my first attempt at a Tiramisu Inspired Dessert.  It was a hit with my husband and the rest of our friends and family, but I knew even then that I would make some changes when I made it again.

This version uses different ingredient options, and was a bit more expensive to make, but I think it was worth it. I also overcame my Baptist Girl Problems. ;o) I don't think anyone is getting drunk on two tablespoons of rum in a 17x10 pan of tiramisu.

I wouldn't say this version is better or worse, just different. Still have changes I'd make for next time. Dipping the lady fingers is too much moisture, even for how fast I dip them. I'm thinking maybe brush the coffee mixture on, or spritz it on with a spray bottle. I don't know, that's an experiment for another time.

The pan got gobbled, and my hubby was pleased. That was kind of the point, so we call it a success. There's some cooking involved with this version, but don't let that scare you off.


Leni's Notes:
~I like to make this as a two-step process. Getting the individual ingredients ready and then cooled, then come back and assemble later.
~If you don't want to use the rum, try adding some extract. Rum, vanilla, maybe hazelnut?
~I think this would freeze really well for a later date. Nice for a dinner party or holiday.

Ingredients:
2-4 Tablespoons of rum
2 Tablespoons of raw sugar
4 servings of Decaf Espresso or strongly brewed coffee, cooled (you'll have a bunch left over)
6 egg yolks
3/4 C raw sugar
2/3 C milk
2 (8oz) packages marscapone cheese, room temperature
2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
1/4 Cup powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 packages of Lady Fingers. (you may have up to half a package of leftovers)
Cocoa Powder

Instructions:
~Place rum and 2 Tablespoons of raw sugar in the bottom of the coffee pot.
~Brew coffee into the pot as you normally would.
~Pour coffee into a shallow dish (for dipping later) and let it sit out, uncovered to cool.
~Place egg yolks and 3/4 C raw sugar in a pot, whisk until completely blended.
~Whisk in milk, bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat, stirring so that it doesn't scorch.
~When mixture boils, turn down to medium-low, and boil for one minute.
~Remove from heat, place plastic wrap directly on surface of custard and let cool.
~Set marscapone out to warm up.
~Place whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla into a bowl.
~Beat with electric mixer until stiff peaks form. (Do not overbeat or you will have sweet butter! )

Take a break and go do something else for a while. Like take your daughter to college and run a couple of errands.

~Use the electric mixer to beat together the custard and the marscapone cheese.

~Quickly dip each lady finger in the coffee mixture and lay in pan until the bottom is covered in a single layer of fingers. Dip these VERY quickly, as they saturate instantly. If you're not fast, not only will your product be soggy, but they'll fall apart before you get them to the pan.
~Layer half of the custard mixture over the lady fingers.
~Layer half of the whipped cream over the custard.
~Repeat layers of fingers, custard and cream.
~Dust the top with cocoa powder by placing some in a mesh strainer and tapping the side with a spoon.
~Cover with saran wrap, and refrigerate for at least two hours to let the flavors blend and the tiramisu set up.
~This will cut into squares beautifully.
~Serve with coffee.

Blessings from my experimental kitchen to yours,
Leni

Monday, March 18, 2013

Herbed Dipping Oil

A couple of years ago, we had our first trip to Carrabba's for dinner, and my husband was hooked on the dipping oil and herbs. If that was all that was served, he'd probably be a happy man. So we immediately started looking for a knock-off recipe. We even got the exact recipe (or so they said) from the waiter and the restaurant. None of them were exactly right, so we tweaked it to our tastes. 

If you're looking for a way to stretch a meal, or keep the masses at bay while dinner finishes, or just have something that encourages everyone to sit around the table and talk, I recommend a loaf of fresh bread and and nice bowl of dipping oil. Give everyone a plate or bowl and enjoy.




Leni's Notes:
~Spring for good olive oil, and get the extra virgin. Anything that's heavier will allow the oil to over-power the herbs.
~Be creative with the bread. Make your own or go to the local market and grab a variety of breads to try.
~Adjust the spices to your family's taste. If there's something you particularly love or hate, adjust accordingly.
~I find kids love this too, so don't think you're saving it all for the adults! Caution kids not to scoop up the herbs on their bread. They'll be in for a nasty surprise, and possibly and upset stomach later.
~If we are a small gathering, we leave a bowl in the middle of the table, as pictured. For a larger group, you can ladle onto individual plates, or leave the herbs and oil unmixed and put a scattering of herbs on a plate and drizzle with oil. Keep the oil on the table, you'll run out and the herbs go a long way.


Ingredients:
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon powdered garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 - 1 cup extra virgin olive oil (add more as needed)
1-2 loaves of fresh bread

Instructions:
~Crush all dry ingredients with a mortar and pestle. (Rub herbs between your hands if you don't have a mortar and pestle.)
~Place into a bowl, and add minced garlic and olive oil.
~While dipping or serving, make sure that you continue to stir up the herbs.
~When oil runs low, add more and stir.

Blessings from my happy to kitchen to yours,
Leni

Monday, March 11, 2013

Freezer Cooking - Lasagna

My youngest daughter is on Spring Break, so I don't have to drive her to the college this week! I decided to take this opportunity to restock my freezer meals as we are completely out.

There is just nothing like being able to pull a healthy, home-cooked meal from your freezer, pop it in the oven and walk away. I'd like to think this would let me relax for a couple of minutes, but really, it frees me up to go work on something else. I'll take what I can get, though. My schedule is maxed out right now, so any break I can get is worth it.

In case I haven't mentioned it before, I have become a huge fan of disposable steamer trays. These half trays are just the right size for when the whole family is visiting, or when it's our smaller group (with a couple of lunch servings left over.) The foil lids let them stack beautifully in the freezer. When dinner's over, throw them out. ;o) I get mine in bulk at Sam's Club.


Leni's Notes:
~Adjust the recipe to include your family's favorite ingredients.
~Cooking has to be flexible with this one, as there are a lot of determining factors. Was it completely thawed before baking? Partially frozen? Did you have other things in the oven? When did you uncover it? Always check with a thermometer or by poking a metal butter knife in the middle and feeling the temp on the end of the knife. (Very scientific, don't you know!)
~Always put a cookie sheet under these pans. Not only will this save your oven should there be any boil-over, but these pans can be very flexible, and you do not want hot cheese and sauce spilling down your legs. Safety first!
~I know you can buy no-boil lasagna noodles. I personally don't like the result. It leaves all that starch in the finished product and everything tastes gummy. Not a fan.
~When I cook the lasagna noodles, I only partially cook them. (about 3/4 of the amount of time instructed.) When they come out of the water, I rinse them and then layer them between sheets of aluminum foil until I'm ready to use them. This works really well!
~I'm using some convenience items here, but I have found that if you do small things like buy block cheese and shred it yourself, you can make lasagna pretty economically. Everything costs time or money, so it depends on what you have available to spend!
~I am not a fan of chunks in my sauce, so I tend to buy smooth marinara. Feel free to buy your favorite sauce, or to throw in some crushed tomatoes with your marinara.

Ingredients:
2 packages whole wheat lasagna noodles, cooked, layered on foil
3 lbs browned ground beef (give or take) cooked with onions, salt and pepper
6 Italian sausages, cooked, cooled and chopped (optional)
1 (3 lb) container ricotta cheese
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
3 eggs
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon each: oregano, basil, parsley
2 ( 24 oz) jars of your favorite marinara
1 (24 oz) jar of water
1 (20 oz) can of tomato puree
2 cloves of garlic
Extra mozzarella for topping


Instructions:
~Combine beef and sausage in one bowl.
~Combine ricotta, mozzarella, eggs, parmesan, oregano, basil and parsley in another bowl.
~Combine marinara, water, tomato puree and garlic in a third bowl.
~Prepare three 13x9 pans with cooking spray or a little olive oil and a pastry brush.
~Start with a thin layer of sauce.
~Follow with layers of: noodles (3 will fit perfectly,) cheese, sauce, noodles, meat, sauce.
~Repeat until all ingredients have been used up.
~Top with extra mozzarella.
~Top each pan with it's lid, seal tightly.
~Label with item name and cooking instructions (including thawing times.)
~Stack neatly in the freezer. (Don't let them tip at all until they are solid frozen or you will have a MESS!)

~When ready to cook, my suggestion is to thaw completely first, then bake at 375 for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
~I usually bake for one hour with the lid on, then take it off, check for doneness and decide if it needs more actual cooking time, or just a little time to brown the top a smidge.
~Remove from oven when done, and let it cool for 15-20 min. This gives the fluids time to settle a bit before serving.

Blessings from my busy kitchen to yours,
Leni



Friday, March 08, 2013

Implementing the Kitchen Plan



Since last Fall, I have been working on a plan to overhaul my kitchen, with as little money as possible. This involved a lot of labor-intensive steps. Marrying off my daughter, hauling out her room, moving all of hubby's stuff into his new music room, selling the treadmill, the list goes on and on. My end game is to have a dishwasher in place before my kids all move out. I've got at least a year or so to work on that.

The first step was to turn my buffet (which had been in the kitchen) into an entertainment center. I wanted the living room to have a more polished, put together look. 

Buffet in it's new home.  

The drawers neatly house all of the DVDs, and our oldest dog thinks we put it there just so that he could sleep underneath it. Our front door is just to the right of the buffet, and this opened up the walk way nicely.

My new shelving, where the buffet used to be. Used the money from selling the treadmill to buy the shelves.

I am also putting in new food rotation shelves for my canned goods. If you are looking for a great product for that, contact Janelle Bird at Shelf Reliance. She is a personal friend and was very helpful when I was trying to figure out exactly what I needed. Will be posting pictures of that set up in the future.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Crock Pot Best Beef Stew

Be honest. Nothing beats a good beef stew. Especially when it's cooking all day while you're at work, and you come home to that wonderful aroma. It just speaks comfort. Add in some fresh-baked rolls or dumplings and you've got a combo that can't be beat.

The first time I made the stew for a crowd, it was for a VBS closing dinner. Everyone thought I was nuts, making hot beef stew for 150 people in the heat of August. But when you're doing a old-style cowboy themed program, how can you not serve up chuck wagon stew? There were skeptics who said kids wouldn't eat something so grown up. I'm here to tell you, those who came late for dinner were left out, because adults and kids alike chowed down that stew like they hadn't eaten in a week. You just can't beat good home cooking!

Here's the great thing about stew. You make it early, and then you leave it alone. You have to let it cook long and low to get the meat tender and the flavors blended. So when you have a big group to feed, or you just don't want to be fussing in the kitchen while you have company, this is a terrific choice. Start it in the morning and leave it alone until you're ready to serve.

This stew has morphed over the years as I've changed my methods trying to find the easiest way to get the best taste. I *think* have found my final version. Gone are the days of browning the meat and deglazing the pan, which defeated the purpose of the crock pot, which was to make everything easy! Also, no taking time to thicken the gravy at the end, everything is done up front.

Leni's Notes
~This recipe translates well when multiplied for a large roaster pan. However, potatoes do not freeze well, so only make enough to eat up in a couple of days.
~This recipe can be adjusted for budget. If you have less money to work with, cut way back on the meat and load it up with more veggies. Just be careful with carrots (too many makes it sweet) and celery (too many, and all you'll taste is celery.)
~Feel free to buy a roast and cut it up, or even to use browned ground beef if that's what you've got. Because of my work schedule, I don't have time to mess with cutting up meat, so I spring for well-trimmed stew beef.
~A loaf of Italian bread or fresh rolls is a terrific accompaniment for this. Dumplings are even better, but not for a crowd. Save those for the intimate family dinners.
~If you're really in a hurry, and don't have time to make a roux in the morning, just put the ingredients in with the broth, and make the roux later. I like to do it ahead of time, because when I get home, I'm too tired to care. ;o)
~This recipe fits well in an 8 quart crock pot, with enough room to not boil over. Beef stew is the only thing I make that consistently boils over! What a mess. Leave an inch of space in the top of the crock to avoid this.


Ingredients
1 1/2 sticks of salted butter
1 1/2 cups white flour
2 quarts beef broth (Pacific Organic)
1/4 cup dry chopped onions
1 T dry basil
1 T dry oregano
2 tsp garlic powder
2-4 tsp sea salt, according to preference
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
1-2 lbs well trimmed stew beef
4-6 white potatoes, cleaned and cubed
4 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped

Instructions
~In dutch oven, melt butter, then whisk in flour, allowing it to cook a little as you mix.
~Slowly add in broth, whisking until all is smooth. (Immersion blender is great for this step.)
~Allow to cook and thicken a bit, stirring to keep from scorching.
~When roux has reached desired thickness, pour into the crock pot.
~Place all remaining ingredients in crock pot and stir.
~Cook on low for 5-6 hours.
~Stir well before serving.
~Enjoy with fresh bread and butter.

Blessings from my cozy home to yours,
Leni

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

MIA

My apologies for my lack of post for this week. I have been battling a nasty stomach bug, and food is the last thing on my mind. With any luck, I'll be back at it by next week.

Blessings from my quiet kitchen to your (hopefully) healthy and hopping kitchen!
Leni

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cream Cheese Coconut Tarts

Ah, a special treat from our past, which I made for hubby for Valentine's Day.  Individual serving tarts with a flaky cream cheese crust, and a sweet, chewy filling. Steve is partial to the coconut filling, but they can also be made with chopped nuts or raisins, or a combination. They make a beautiful presentation, and are fairly easy to make. 

My apologies for the blurry picture, I had to snap a picture quick with my phone before my family ate them all!



Leni's Notes:
~I have no idea where this recipe originated, but we've been making it for years, and they are somewhat fool-proof. OK, nothing is fool-proof, but even when these get messed up a little bit, they still work out. Very forgiving recipe.
~The original recipe calls for corn syrup. I have a moral objection to corn syrup. I used a simple syrup, made by boiling equal amounts of raw sugar and water until everything was dissolved and then cooled. I have also used agave syrup and brown rice syrup in the past, and have thought about trying maple syrup or honey. 
~I used a silicone pan, and did not need to grease the pans. Just make sure you let them cool completely before you try to remove them from the pan.

Ingredients:

Dough:
8 ounces cream cheese
2 cups flour
1 cup cold butter

Filling:
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup simple syrup
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
2 cups chopped nuts, raisins, or shredded coconut

Instructions:

~Place flour and cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl and blend. 
~Cut in cold butter until crumbly and continue mixing until mixture forms a dough, using hands if necessary.
~Portion dough into 24 small balls.
~Lightly grease muffin tins and place one ball of dough in each cup.
~Press dough up onto cup sides, making a little "bowl" or "cup" shape.
~Put all filling ingredients into a separate bowl and mix until well-blended.
~Spoon filling evenly into the individual cups.
~Bake tins at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until filling is slightly solidified (it will set a little more once out of the oven, but should still be slightly liquid once done).
~Let cool completely before removing from pan.

Enjoy!

Blessings from my Valentine kitchen to yours,
Leni

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Gang's All Here Sweet & Savory Pork Tenderloin


As you may have deduced, I enjoy cooking for friends and family. ;o) I'm always playing with recipes, tweaking and experimenting. While I love doing that, I also like to keep a nice supply of go-to meals. The type the everyone loves, and for the most part never go wrong when I make them. Today's recipe might look familiar, as it was inspired by ChanceLee Chicken.

I was looking for something I could make for a large group without losing quality in the cooking. I decided to make it with pork tenderloin. That turned out to be a terrific choice! I love the way my house smells when I make this stuff. 

I made some changes to the recipe, nothing too major. I like making this dish for company because the sweetness makes it a huge hit with the kids, and the spicy makes it have a nice taste for the grown ups, also. The kiddos at dinner (aged 7 and under) were pleased and asking for seconds, so that makes me a happy camper. Pretty sure my 16 year old faked illness to come home early from an overnight so she could have some too. ;o)




Leni's Notes
~This recipe is intended to feed a large group (we got 14 servings,) so scale down accordingly. 
~Also pictured above, stir fried french green beans and egg noodles with butter and parsley. Also good with cous cous and carrots.
~Every time you warm it up, the sauce gets a little thicker and the sweet gets a little more intense, so you might want to add some water to thin it and maybe some more salt or soy sauce if you have leftovers.
~Generally when I list soy sauce, I mean Bragg's Liquid Aminos. This time we used Coconut Aminos. The taste was good, but it had half the sodium, so the finished product needed salt. (Coconut Aminos are crazy expensive, but if you have an allergy to soy, a nice alternative.)
~Replace the pepper with cayenne for an extra spice kick.

Ingredients
4 pork tenderloins
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup ginger ale
2 Tbls. lemon juice
6 Tbls. minced garlic
4 Tbls. soy sauce
2 tsp. white pepper 
1/4-1/2 cup corn starch

Instructions
~Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
~Sear tenderloins in a cast iron pan with olive oil.
~Place tenderloins in a greased 13 x 9 pan.
~ Mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and pour over tenderloin.
~Place in oven, uncovered, for 45-60 minutes, until a meat thermometer says they are done.
~Remove from pan, slice into tenderloin coins, and place in a dish or on a platter, and pour sauce over the top.
~Serve with your favorite side dishes.

Blessings from my kitchen to yours,
Leni

Monday, February 04, 2013

Peppermint Ice Cream Cake

Ice Cream cake? In February? In Upstate NY? No, I haven't lost my mind, it was a special request from my daughter.




Yes indeed, this weekend we celebrated my baby girl's sixteenth birthday! 




Isn't she beautiful? More importantly, she's got a beautiful spirit.  My baby is growing up. *sniff, sniff*  To mark the special occasion, I made her a cake I first made over 20 years ago for her big sister's first birthday. Come to think of it, that might have been the last time I made it!

We had planned a day of shopping with the Thrift Store Teen Queen, but the snowy weather kept us from leaving town.  So instead, we stayed home and ate ice cream cake, of course. ;o)

Leni's Notes:
~While my family loved the way I made the peppermint layer, I think if I make it again, I will cut down on the amount of peppermint patties. Only because it makes it kind of chewy when it's frozen. I seemed to be the only one who noticed.
~This will fit into 2 13x9 pans or one larger pan.

Ingredients:
2 containers chocolate sandwich cookies (Oreo type)
1 half gallon chocolate or vanilla ice cream
1 regular sized bag of York Peppermint Patties
1/2 - 1 Cup cream
2 T coconut oil (You could use shortening if you need to)
4 C whipped cream

Instructions:
~Crush cookies in a plastic bag, and place into the bottom of the pan, reserving a cup of crumbs.
~Slice or scoop ice cream and put on top of the cookies.
~Let the ice cream melt over the cookies while you make the chocolate sauce. (Not completely to liquid, just til it's soft enough to push down over the crust.)
~In a double boiler, place the candies and oil, and turn on the burner to medium. (I break the candies up a bit.)
~As they start to melt, add in the cream, and stir occasionally.
~When the sauce is smooth, dump the hot water out of the double boiler and set the sauce aside to cool a bit.
~While the ice cream is melting, press it down over the cookies.
~Drizzle peppermint sauce over the ice cream, reserving about half a cup.
~Cover with whipped cream.
~Lightly drizzle with remaining sauce, then sprinkle cookie crumbs over the top.
~Cover with plastic wrap, and place on an even surface in the freezer.

~When ready to serve, remove from the freezer half an hour before cutting.

Blessings from my kitchen to yours,
Leni

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sloppy Joes for the Freezer

Currently Mondays are turning out to be the worst possible day for me to post recipes. Or to cook. To be fair, I don't really have a good day to cook, unless I get to it on the weekends. So I've gone back to my old practice for stocking the freezer. Once a week, I pick one meal to make in bulk and I put 3 of them in the freezer. Right now, my deep freeze has a nice stock of lasagna, enchilada casserole, chicken in gravy and sloppy joes.

Thankfully, my family is willing and able to help out. This goes really well, right up until I get distracted while writing down a recipe. My husband got a huge kick out of today's recipe calling for a good measure of black powder. You know, to give it some kick! lol. It would be fair to say my brain is a bit muddled. 

Today's recipe is a crock pot recipe that freezes well. Two of my favorite things. Not a lot of notes on this one, it's simple, yummy, and makes the masses happy. 




Leni's Notes:
~This recipe serves 3 meals for my family, with leftovers for lunches.
~Tater tots are the traditional side dish in our household. 
~Freeze the leftovers quickly, or your family will eat more than you intended and it won't stretch as far!
~This is also a great meal for kid's parties.


Ingredients
6 lbs ground beef, browned and drained
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 T. paprika
1 1/2 T chili powder
3/4 C brown sugar or raw sugar
6 tsp cumin
6 tsp salt
6 tsp corn starch
3 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 1/2 tsp pepper (not black powder!)
29 oz can plain tomato sauce

Instructions
~Dump everything in a large crock pot (I used my 8 quart.)
~Cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 3-4 hours.
~Serve over split rolls, with slices of cheddar or colby jack cheese.
~Freeze extras in gallon ziplocs.