Friday, April 29, 2016

Creamy Chicken Cordon Bleu

Mother's Day is coming up and that special lady in your life needs a little pampering, whether she is a mother or not!  We have been making this chicken cordon bleu recipe since we were first married (over 13 years now!).  But it has always been reserved for special occasions, like Mother's Day or Valentine's Day.  It is a little bit of a process to make the chicken, but we have found a simplistic way to make these so they aren't as labor intensive.  Like I said, these are reserved for special occasions and is worth taking all that time to show your special someone what they mean to you :)  And no matter how hard we try, we still have to use tooth picks, just be aware of them as you are dishing them up!  For our kids, we typically pick them out before we hand it over to them.  It's a labor of love you see.

As for the sauce, I use (gasp!) cream of mushroom soup as the base. If you have an aversion to the stuff, make your own sauce or forgo the sauce completely.  I love dipping mine, but it doesn't make or break this recipe.

Creamy Chicken Cordon Bleu
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, butter-flied and flattened 
8 slices thinly sliced deli ham or turkey 
4 slices cheese (Swiss or cheddar)
4 oz cream cheese, softened 
½ tsp minced onion 
¼ tsp garlic salt 
½ cup melted butter 
½ cup crushed cornflakes 

Mix softened cream cheese, minced onion, and garlic salt in a small bow.. 

Flatten each chicken breast. Make sure the chicken is of even thickness. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over flattened chicken breasts, leaving ½ inch from outside edge. Place 2 pieces of ham or turkey on cream cheese mixture. Add sliced cheese on top. Roll up chicken breasts and secure with toothpick. 

Tip: if it is hard to roll, tuck in the sides and fold the chicken in half (or roll if your chicken is large), then secure with tooth picks. Roll chicken in butter and then in cornflakes. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Add sauce and sprinkle paprika over top, then bake for an additional 10 minutes. 

Creamy topping 
1 (10 ¾ oz) can cream of chicken soup 
1 (10 ¾ oz) can cream of mushroom soup 
1 cup sour cream 
2 tsp lemon juice 
Milk (optional) 

While chicken is cooking, combine soups, sour cream and lemon juice and heat in a saucepan. If the sauce needs to thin a bit, add a little milk at a time to get to the right consistency. When chicken cooks for 45 minutes, pour sauce over chicken breasts and cook chicken an additional 10 minutes. Top with paprika, serve immediately. Watch out for tooth picks!

Note: If you are having a hard time folding your chicken, you can put the meat on the chicken first, then the cream cheese mixture.  

Monday, April 25, 2016

Oven Roasted Parmesan Broccoli and Garlic

The only way we make broccoli around these part is in this salad.  No one, besides me, likes the stuff. But I am working on them.  I keep trying new and different versions of broccoli to see if one day their palate will finally like it!  Though the rest of my family only ate their meager portion, I finished off every last piece.  I have found several recipes similar to this one, but one of the things that makes this one so much better is the toasted panko bread crumbs.  It added a new layer of crunch, texture, and flavor that really sent these typically mundane veggies into a wow me, these are good enough to serve to company, side dish.  Try it, you'll be surprised at how good this really is!
Oven Roasted Parmesan Broccoli and Garlic
1 pound broccoli, rinsed and trimmed
2 TBSP olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp Kosher salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup finely grated parmesan or sharp cheddar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. 

Cut the broccoli florets into bite size pieces. Cut the stalk into 1/8 inch thick, round slices.  Place the broccoli into a mixing bowl and toss with the olive oil, garlic, kosher salt and pepper and set aside. 

Spread the panko into a 13x9 inch metal cake pan. Place into the oven for 2-5 minutes or until lightly toasted. Remove the panko from the oven and add to the bowl with the broccoli mixture. Toss to combine.  Return the mixture to the cake pan, place in oven and roast just until broccoli is tender, 8-10 minutes.  Remove from oven, toss in cheese and serve immediately

Recipe from here 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Oatmeal Scottchie cookies

I don't know what it is about these cookies, but man, I cannot stay out of them.  They are addicting little suckers.  I am not typically over tempted by cookies, unless they are frozen chocolate chip cookies or homemade Oreos, well and for that matter, I'll include my soft batch gingerbread men, then I might reconsider that statement. But back to these sweet little morsels of goodness. They are just an easy recipe, very similar to the recipe that is on the back of the package, with only slight variation, but for whatever reason, the ingredients just go together perfectly to form an amazingly addictive cookie.  Next time you need a cookie fix, give these a try! You won't regret it!
Oatmeal Scotchies Cookies
Printable Recipe
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla (or grated orange peel of one orange)
3 cups quick or old fashioned oats
1 2/3 cups (11 ounce package) Butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in small bowl.  Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla in large mixer bowl.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in oats and morsels.  Drop by rounded tablespoon onto un-greased baking. 

Bake for 7-8 minutes for chewy cookies or 9-10 minutes for crispy cookies.  Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, remove to wire racks to cool completely.  Makes 4 dozen cookies. 

Recipe from a cookie exchange several years back from a girl named Aimee  

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Pinwheel Pizza Bites

We make pizza almost every weekend.  It became a tradition years and years ago.  I always make more than enough so we have leftovers for an easy Saturday or Sunday lunch.  My kids are purests when it comes to their toppings; they like pepperoni and cheese.  I like to try all kinds, the bbq being one of my absolute favorites! So, to change things up a bit so as to not get too boring for me and not too crazy for my kids :) I change the style.  I do calzones, in muffin tins and in these pinwheel shapes and of course stromboli, which we make every other weekend, switching it up from this pizza.  It's funny, the dough, sauce, and toppings are exactly the same, but yet, my kids go nuts for these. Whodathunkit?!
They are a little messy to make and aren't the prettiest, but oh, do they taste good!
Pinwheel pizzas
Toppings,( pepperoni, cheese, chicken)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Get a large jelly roll or cookie sheet out and place a silpat mat on it. I love using my silpat.  I typically bake most things on it, but if you don’t have one, spray your pan with cooking spray, or use a pizza stone. 

Roll out pizza dough into the shape of a rectangle. Just like you would for cinnamon rolls.  Using your silpat mat is a great guide. Spread sauce and toppings onto dough.  Start by folding in the two shorter edges and then begin rolling the long ways to make a log.  Using a knife, cut about 1 inche apart.  Lay with filing side up on prepared pan. 

Bake for 15 minutes.  Serve warm with extra pizza sauce.

Breadsticks and Pizza Dough
1 1/2 c. warm (105-115 degrees) water
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
3-4 1/2 c. flour
In a large bowl (the bowl of your mixer, if you have one), combine water, sugar, and yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes or until yeast is bubbly.  

Add salt and stir. Add 1 1/2 c. flour and mix well. Gradually add more flour (usually between 3-4 cups, depending on your elevation and your humidity) until dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl and it barely sticks to your finger.

 Spray a glass or metal bowl with cooking spray and place dough in the bowl. Cover and allow to rise for 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove dough from bowl and roll into a circle (if using a pizza stone) or a rectangle (if using a cookie sheet).  Poke a fork all over the dough. Place pizza sauce over dough, add cheese, then add whatever toppings you like.  Here I cut fresh mozzarella cheese into squares/rectangles and place over topping along with a little freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Cook for 20 minutes, or until the bottom is browned and cheese is bubbly.  

Homemade Pizza Sauce
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 Tbs Oregano + any fresh from the garden
1 Tbsp Garlic powder (a little less than)
1 heaping Tbsp Italian seasoning
a few shakes of Crushed red pepper (this is not does not make it spicy or hot)

Combine all ingredients in food processor or blender and blend until desired consistency. On the seasonings, I just sprinkle them in to taste. You can also substitute for whatever you don't have: basil leaves for oregano, garlic salt for garlic powder, etc. This recipe is open to interpretation. Use what you like and it will be delicious. This makes enough for two pizza stone size pizzas and a little extra.

You can even freeze the sauce for up to 1 month or keep in the refrigerator for up to a week or so.

Idea by me

Monday, April 18, 2016

Perfectly seasoned Grilled Chicken

My husband likes to cook the heck out of his meat.  He gets all worried about things like salmonella. Its a good thing too because me and the kids are constantly eating cookie batter, so at least someone is concerned about the risks :) BUT even though he loves his cripsy chicken, this rub, makes the chicken come out tender on the inside, every time!

It is one of our favorite ways to cook chicken.  And can be used in a variety of ways; get creative.  Pasta dishes, Chicken tacos, fajitas, wraps, salads, enchiladas, chicken salad sandwiches, really this takes the place of rotisserie chicken. So anywhere you would use cooked, diced or shredded chicken, this is your bag baby! Or serve it straight up with a little dipping sauce, which is typically how we eat it.

It is incredibly versatile in its baking method as well, it can be baked, cooked in a skillet or grilled and each way produces tender juicy chicken on the inside with a slightly crunchy outside.
Perfectly Juicy Chicken Rub
2-4 boneless chicken breasta with o
3 TBSP salt
3 TBSP pepper
3 TBSP garlic powder
3 TBSP onion powder
3 TBSP paprika
2-3 T. olive oil
Mix salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika in a small container. Place ¼ cup of seasoning mixture into a small bowl to use.  Store the rest in an air tight container for the next time.

Coat chicken breast in the seasoning, rubbing in to coat.  Grill for 5-6 minutes on each side until cooked through (internal temp of 160-165 degrees).

In the oven:
Coat the chicken breasts in the seasoning, rubbing in to coat. Pour olive oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven, and heat to med-high. When nice and hot, add chicken to the pan (in batches if necessary). Cook 2-3 min per side. If any chicken has been removed, add it back to the Dutch oven. Place uncovered Dutch oven in a 350 degree F oven for 25 minutes or until juices run clear. Let sit on a plate 5-10 minutes before cutting, shredding, or eating.

On the stove:

Flatten chicken to even thickness. Coat the chicken in the seasoning, rubbing in to coat.  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add oil when it gets hot and swirl to coat the pan. Cook chicken for 1 minute without moving (you are not browning or searing them) only on one side. Flip the chicken breasts over.  Turn the heat to low, cover with a tight lid and cook for 10 minutes.  Do not open the lid. After the 10 minutes, turn off heat and let chicken sit in pan for 10 minutes without uncovering. Check internal temperature after 10 minutes. It should be 165 degrees. Slice and use. 

Recipe from here
and baking instructions from here

Friday, April 15, 2016

Brazilian Limeade {from scratch}

The weather around our parts aren't very consistent.  One day there is snow, the next I'm getting a sunburn from being outside for an hour, and then back to rainy and cold. Uhh, and I thought the sun was here to stay!

Since the weather isn't giving me the spring time feel I crave, I knew exactly what I need to make that would hit the spot. I had some extra limes left over after making guacamole, and put them to good use.
My sister Renae married a guy who served a two year mission in Brazil.  Luckily, one day while we were at their house, they whipped up these beauties reminiscent of his mission days. And I am so glad they did!. They are fresh, light, and tasty.  They don't taste like your typical limeade you make from a can or even the varieties from scratch (that really uses part of a can as well).  They key is to pulse the entire lime...yes, you heard me correctly!  The peel gives these a really great flavor.  Just pulse, don't blend though, so you can strain the large chunks out before drinking.

We added Raspberries to our because we have a plethera of frozen ones still, but you can leave it as it is, or add mangos, strawberries, or any combination of fruit to make it how you like.  If you want to make less than 5 glasses, I added a halved version.  It isn't exactly half of the ingredients.
Brazilian Limeade
2-3 limes, depending on how limey you like it
1 cup sugar
6 TBSP sweetened condensed milk
5 cups sugar
Raspberries, strawberries, mango (optional)

Wash limes, cut off ends and slice into quarters.  Put sugar, limes, water, ice in blender.  Pulse, do not blend.  Strain into a pitcher and throw away chunks.  Put back in blender and add fruit.  Slice a lime and float on top.  Serve in glass glasses.  You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your blender. 

Small batch is not exactly halved
2 limes
½ cup sugar
3 Tbs sweetened condensed milk

3 cups water

Wash limes, cut off ends and slice into quarters.  Put sugar, limes, water, ice in blender.  Pulse, do not blend.  Strain into a pitcher and throw away chunks.  Put back in blender and add fruit.  Slice a lime and float on top.  Serve in glass glasses.  You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your blender.

Recipe from my sister Renae and her husband Jeff

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

My new Kitchen Table and chairs!

Thanks to my handy dandy husband, He made me this beautiful farm house table.  I have always wanted a large dining table, we just never had the space or wanted to spend the money.  Now that we live in our new (almost 2 years!) house, I needed something bigger to fit our family, company, and the space better.

In comes my husband who likes to try his hand at (almost) anything woodworking. This turned out even better than I imagined and I am so in love with it!  He made a bench to go on one side and I ended up finding peerty upholsterd chairs for the two ends, but the three main chairs have been camping chairs for months before I bought these. Let's just say, it's been a long process.

I couldn't make up my mind about what I wanted.  I have bought and "tried out" several chairs before coming back to the very first chairs I found....ha ha, seems kind of ironic if you ask me.  My poor husband has driven hours and hours to furniture store after furniture store looking for the "right" chairs with me.  We have bought and taken back several, and from several hours away! Yikes, but in the end found chairs from a local store and at a better price than the others.  I am glad I tried out so many chairs because I finally found the look I was going for and am in love, love love with how it looks and feels.  Here is the beauty and a few pictures of the making process.  Its a good thing he loves me so much, or he might not have gotten past all the sanding :)
 The grey, tufted upholstered chairs are from World Market (a favorite store of mine!) and so are the curtains :)
This is the sturdiest and heaviest table I have ever seen.  The top is made from thick wooden 2x8's, the legs are made from 4x4 we got at a forestry product place in town.  To say it is solid, is an understatement!
 Don't you just love the color!  Just thinking about how long it took me to finally pick the color and how many I tried, I can't believe my husband didn't kill me!  We used half provincial and half honey stain. Then sealed it with Polyurethane.
I absolutely love the contrast in colors and textures throughout the table top.  It makes it so personalized and homey, not to add, child-proof!
And don't you love the handscrapping on top?  It hides all the dings and dents my children can inflict on the poor thing.  I mean really, who digs a fork into a table???
Because we got these from a forestry place and used real natural wood, the hubs had to sand the wood for days and days.  They aren't exactly made perfectly either (which I just love because that adds to it's character) but it did make for a slightly harder and longer time getting the wood to match up to get an even surface to eat on.  He did a lot of sanding, used a lot of wood filler and clamps were his best friend once he put the wood pieces together. I think that took him the longest, even more time than prepping and sanding them down! Oh and nails, nails everywhere.  I stopped counting how many he used.  Like I said, this thing is solid!
Though I joke that my husband wanted to kill me, I think he was almost as excited as I was in making it and with how it turned out.  He did the brunt work and all the mathematician skills, while I gave him a design I liked and picked the stain color.  It was a duo job and it was really fun plotting and planning it all out with him.  And I think he really liked the cost!  Between the table and bench he built, we spent just over $100 dollars!  Now that is something to love!
See this was before chairs and before the bookshelf was built as well...
This is the first day we brought it in.  It was so heavy, we had to bring the bottom in, then the top (which about killed me) and secured it inside the kitchen. We would have needed at least 4 large men to carry that in all put together.  The good thing is, is that it isn't moving anywhere!
 This bench we used temporarily while he built me one to match the table.
I loved that we made the table to the exact dimensions of the room.  It just fits so much better this way! The only thing we would have changed is that bar that goes across the bottom between the two legs.  He put it on the outside of the legs, but our end chairs stick out a little because we can't scoot them in farther.  We would have put the brace bar on the inside of the legs if we had to do it all over again, but really, I'm not that worried!  I love it too much to care all that much!
 I had to throw this picture in..I took this picture of these chairs in Oct. at the local store (Cache Valley Outlet and Home Store) but didn't buy them (because i like to know all my options before I buy and they only give you store credit when you return). I ended up finding, buying, taking back several other chairs from several other stores all over Utah, then in February, ended up buying and keeping these same chairs.  Funny how things eventually find a way of working out!
So there you have it.  I know I had taken more picture of the building of the table, but can't seem to find them at the moment.  Ah, well, if I find them later, I'll add them to this post.  Happy Wednesday all!

Monday, April 4, 2016

How to Cook and Eat an Artichoke

These are reminiscent of my childhood.  My parents used to make them for us on special occasions and maybe even other times as well since I recall eating these often. My favorite way to eat them was with lemon butter. But you know what the weird part is, I haven't made these for my kids, ever!

When I saw artichokes go on sale, I casually asked my boys who were shopping with me if they would want to try it. A little persuasion might have taken place, offering that these are special treats grandpa used to get for us as kids.

The verdict: they really liked them!  I was surprised actually.  All my kids are going through a "I don't want to try new things, and I am definitely not going to like it" phase, so when they kept asking for more, i was thrilled!  Did you know that artichokes are extremely healthy for you?! Now that we've tried artichokes and my kids like them, I am going to start getting these more often because with all their health benefits, you can't go wrong!

Okay, so a few things first.  They are technically a type of thistle, which means, they are pokey and they hurt! You can combat this by cutting off the tip of each leaf before you cook it.  It only took me about 3 minutes to cut them off, so that shouldn't stop you.  The second thing we need to discuss is the amount of time they need to boil.  It took mine about 35-40 minutes.  If you have more than one in a pot at a time, it could take you closer to an hour.  But, if you plan ahead, this shouldn't be a big problem either.
Now, you see in that picture above the meaty tip of the leaf...that's what you eat.  You kind of scrape your teeth along the the end of the leaf to pull it off.  Sounds weird, I know, but trust me, it isn't THAT weird.  I don't love artichokes without some type of lemon butter to dip it in, which I know takes away some of its health benefits, but I figure it is better than not eating it at all.

So now that we have those tips out of the way, this is how you cook it

How to cook an artichoke.
Printable Recipe
1. cut the pokey tips off (very technical here :))
2. place the artichoke(s) in a heavy bottomed sauce pan and fill until water almost covers the tops of the artichoke. The artichoke happens to float, so judge the amount of water by pushing the artichoke down as you are filling up the pan.
3. Bring to a roiling boil and let boil, uncovered for 35-40 minutes (or longer if you are cooking more than one) Another way to tell they are done is that the bottom leaves come off easily.
4. When artichokes are almost finished, make lemon butter mixture.
5. Remove artichoke(s) from water
6. Eat, by gently pulling off a leaf, dip it in the lemon butter and eat the meaty part.  Discard the rest of the leaves.

Lemon Butter
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 a lemon, juiced and seeds removed

Mix the melted butter with lemon (add more lemon to taste...I like mine slightly more lemony, but this gives you a good base to start with for those non-lemony lovers)

Really, these are pretty simple to make and kind of fun to eat.  So now that you know how to make and eat an artichoke, what are you are waiting for?!

Tips and Lemon Butter Recipe from my sister Camille

Friday, April 1, 2016

Strawberry Feta Salad with easy Balsamic Dressing {homemade}

 Isn't she peerty? I love when fresh strawberries come into season.  They usually signify the beginning of warmer days to me. This year, strawberries were plentiful and flavorful before Easter, so they got added to our Easter feast. Easter itself was a beautiful day, with only a slight chill by evening. But then I think something got confused in the weather because it snowed and snowed the next day.  Didn't the weather know that once strawberries come into season, there are only supposed to be warm days ahead?!

Luckily, a local grocery store had strawberries for $1 a pound the week before Easter!!  So I did what any sane person would do and grabbed two flats, which is 16 pounds of strawberries. I knew some type of strawberry salad would be perfect for our Easter dinner.  As for the rest of the salad, I just used what I all ready had; romaine lettuce, feta, walnuts, and of course, strawberries!  

The rest of our Easter Dinner was pretty laid back as well.  I invited my sister and her family over and we did an easy crock-pot roast with carrots and potatoes, a big family fruit salad; it isn't an Easter dinner without some jello salad variation :0, fresh strawberry pie, and my sister brought these garlic Parmesan rolls and the most adorable Easter cake that I wish I took a picture of!
It took me 4 different Balsamic Dressing recipes before I found one I liked. And luckily my neighbors had more balsamic vinegar because I ran out after the third batch.  By the 4th try, I stopped following a recipe and created my own variation, and that is what I am giving you today.  I wasn't sure at first how it would be because I added a little of this and a little of that, but after a little refrigeration, it was surprisingly perfect!

I tried using pure olive oil in the first 3 batches, but those turned out more like pudding than dressing. In the end I used extra virgin olive oil. Some say it has a more potent flavor in dressings like these, but I preferred it.  I also added honey, green onions, garlic, salt, pepper and of course, balsamic vinegar.  Mix in a blender to avoid separation and store in a container with a sealed lid, such as a canning jar in the fridge.

Strawberry and Feta Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Romaine lettuce
Feta cheese
Strawberries, washed and sliced
Walnuts, chopped
1 recipe balsamic vinaigrette

Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
½ tsp Kosher salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 clove garlic

Mix all in a blender to avoid separation.  Adjust taste as needed. Refrigerate before serving.  

A quick tip: If you need it chilled quickly, place in freezer for 15 minutes, then refrigerate until ready to eat.  Store leftovers in fridge in a container with a lid.   

Recipe and dressing created by me

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Chunky Guacamole

I like 'em chunky, I like 'em plumpy...A little Madagascar anyone? It only seemed fitting for my chunky guacamole obsession.

We have this local Mexican restaurant, Cafe Sabor, with the yummiest guacamole.  After my friend introduced me to it, I took my husband back a few days later, just to try the guac.  Then I started to crave it.
Guacamole is good to me, but not something I would typically crave, but then I figured out WHY I liked it so much.  It is SO FRESH. Most times when I have guacamole, it is more or less smooth, but this was made with chunks of avacado, red onion, tomatoes, and cilantro with a splash of lime and kosher salt, tenderly mixed, instead of smashed together.  I realized that is where my heart lies when it comes to guacamole.

I set out to recreate the same fresh quality guacamole that I had at the restaurant.  My avocados were a little more ripe in this picture than I typically like, but still chunky enough.  I love to taste every ingredient that goes into guacamole with every bite.  It is like a party for the mouth!

This is super simple to throw together and pairs great with enchiladas, quesadillas, taquitosfajitas, (any mexican dish really!) and perfect for game day. A very refreshing treat, especially when it feels like winter won't go away!

When you are picking avocados, pick ones that are still firm.  If they need to ripen a bit more, set them in a brown paper bag.  As it ripens, the skin will darken.  You can also thrown in an apple or banana in the brown paper bag, which will speed up the ripening process even more.  And then enjoy this chunky, fresh guacamole!

Fresh Guacamole
4-5 ripe (but not mushy) avocados
1-2 roma tomatoes, diced
½ cup cilantro, chopped
1 to 1 ½ limes, freshly squeezed juice
½ tsp Kosher salt, add more to taste

Carefully mix ingredients together adding more of an ingredient, depending on taste; I like more lime in mine.  Serve with chips or vegetables.  

Note: An easy way to cut a bunch of cilantro is to roll it, then slice it.  Do this a few times and there you go, easy peasy, chopped cilantro in no time.  
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