Tip Tuesday: Some Recipes from the Boxes of Baking Mix

Tip Tuesday

Happy April Fool’s Day!  The one day of the year (besides St. Patrick’s Day) that all teachers dread.

Tip:  Check the packaging of items that you purchase for recipes.

I have several recipes for baking mix in my very bloated Chrome bookmarks courtesy of the Pinteresting Blogosphere.  But I have bowed to convention (and convenience) and purchased baking mixes.  Yesterday purchasing some from Kroger would probably be my last batch.  I usually just make the biscuits mentioned on the back, but I noticed with the Kroger box (and my Pioneer canister where I store any that I buy because it has the neat lid), there are several other recipes.  I may have purchased the Kroger brand for the recipes.  Perhaps.

Here are the recipes from the Pioneer canister:

Pancakes and Waffles

1 1/2 cups milk

2 eggs

2 cups baking mix (leaving out the brand name here but you get the idea)

Heat lightly oiled surface to 350 degrees.  Mix ingredients until smooth.  Add 2-4 tablespoons melted butter, if desired.  Cook pancakes 1-2 minutes per side (turn only once); cook waffles 2-3 minutes.  Yield 12-14 5-inch pancakes; 10-12 5-inch waffles.


2 cups baking mix

2/3 cup milk

1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning

1 qt. chicken or beef broth

Quick Beefy Fiesta Bake

1 pound ground beef

1.25 oz package taco seasoning mix (or use homemade)

1 cup baking mix

16 oz. can refried beans (or 2 cups of homemade)

4 oz. can chopped green chilies

1/4 cup water

1 cup thick and chunky salsa (or your own variety of salsa mixed with a bit of pico de gallo)

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Optional garnishes:  guacamole, sour cream, green onions, sliced olives, crumbled corn chips

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare meat to taco package directions (or how you normally prepare meat if using homemade).  Set aside.  Combine next 4 ingredients.  Spread in 2-quart baking dish.  Top with prepared meat, salsa, cheese.  Bake 25 minutes.  Garnish with desired toppings.

Homestyle Chicken Pot Pie

1 2/3 cups frozen mixed veg, thawed

1 cup chicken, cooked and diced

1 can condensed cream of chicken soup, or half of the recipe from Gimme Some Oven

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 cup baking mix

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix vegetables, chicken, soup, sour cream, and onions in a 9-inch deep dish pie plate.  Mix remaining ingredients until blended.  Pour over chicken mixture in pie plate.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Fruit Cobbler

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup baking mix

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup half-and-half

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

2-21 ounce cans fruit pie filling

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix sugar and baking mix.  Cut in butter, mix in cream and vanilla.  Shape into ball and refrigerate 30 minutes.  Pour fruit into 7×11″ pan.  Heat 10 minutes.  Roll chilled dough out on floured surface.  Place over hot fruit.  Bake 25 minutes or until golden.  Brush with melted butter.  Sprinkle with sugar.

Quick Marmalade Curried Chicken

1 cup baking mix

1/2 teaspoon pepper (freshly ground!)

4 boneless chicken breasts

1 cup buttermilk (or 1 tablespoon of vinegar/lemon juice and milk to fill the rest of a cup measure to the top)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3/4 cup orange marmalade

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Mix baking mix and pepper.  Dip chicken in buttermilk, then in dry mixture.  Heat oil in skillet.  Brown chicken.  Mix remaining ingredients.  Pour over chicken.  Cover.  Simmer 20 minutes or until tender.  Uncover.  Simmer 5 more minutes.

And here are the Kroger ones.  I must note (and my sister and mom will concur):  I will never again eat “Bisquick” pizza.  Long story.  I barely lived to tell about it.  Just kidding, Mom!

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

1 1/2 cups baking mix

1/4 cup hot water

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups cooked chicken breast, chopped or stripped (or shredded)

1/2 cup diced red pepper

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1 cup honey barbecue sauce

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1.  Heat oven to 450 degrees.

2.  In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine baking mix, HOT water, and vegetable oil until a soft dough forms.  Beat dough about 20 strokes.  Let dough stand for 8 minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine cooked chicken breast, red pepper, green onions, and barbecue sauce.

4.  Grease cookie sheet or 12-inch pizza pan.  Using hands dipped in baking mix, press dough into a 13-inch circle on cookie sheet, pinching up edges 1/2-inch or press into pizza pan.  Spoon barbecue chicken mixture onto dough and top with cheese.

5.  Place in oven on lowest rack and bake 12-15 minutes.  Refrigerate any leftovers.


2 3/4 cups baking mix

3 tablespoons sugar

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine baking mix and sugar in a medium-sized mixing bowl.  Add egg, milk, and melted butter or margarine.  Stir to form soft dough.  Turn onto surface lightly floured with baking mix.  Knead gently 8-10 times.  Pat or roll out 1/2-inch thick.  Cut with a floured 3-inch cutter.

Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes.

Separate shortcakes and fill with sweetened fruit or berries.  Top with more fruit and whipped topping.  Store any leftovers in tightly covered container.

Sausage and Gravy

1 pound pork sausage (preferably homemade)

1/3 cup baking mix

3 cups milk

1 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. black pepper (or more to taste, freshly ground please!)

In a 10-inch skillet, cook sausage over medium heat until browned.  Drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of drippings.  Place sausage in a bowl and set aside.

Add the reserved drippings to skillet and stir in baking mix until blended.  Gradually stir in milk until smooth.  Stir in salt and pepper.  Return to heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Boil for one minute.  Remove from heat and stir in sausage.  Serve with biscuits.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

Double Cornbread

1 cup baking mix

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup milk

1 1/2 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted

1 cup canned cream-style corn

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Grease 9x9x1 3/4-inch baking pan.

Sift baking mix with cornmeal, salt, and sugar.  Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine eggs, milk, butter, and corn.  Add baking mix mixture, stirring only until baking mix is moistened.

Spoon batter into prepared pan; bake 25-30 minutes, or until cake tester (toothpick) inserted in the center comes out clean and top is golden brown.  Cut into squares and serve hot.  Store any leftovers in a tightly covered container.

Apple-Nut Coffee Cake

1 egg

3/4 cup milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 cups baking mix

1/3 plus 1/4 cup light brown sugar

2 medium apples, pared and chopped

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided

1/4 cup chopped pecans

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a 9x12x2-inch baking pan.

Beat egg; stir in milk, apples, and oil.  Stir in baking mix, 1/3 cup light brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, stirring just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy).

Pour into pan.  Mix 1/4 cup brown sugar, pecans, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.  Sprinkle mixture over top of cake batter and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Store any leftovers in a tightly covered container.

Chicken and Dumplings

3 pound cooked chicken or turkey, shredded, or cut into pieces (white and dark meat)

4 cups chicken broth

1 can condensed cream of chicken soup (or half of this recipe)

1 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed

1 small onion, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups baking mix

2/3 cup milk

Heat broth in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the cream of chicken soup and mix thoroughly.  Add chopped onion and mixed vegetables and stir.  Mix in chicken or turkey pieces.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Allow the mixture to come to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine the milk and baking mix until a soft dough forms.  Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto boiling mixture to make approximately ten dumplings.  Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

Cover with lid and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Remove lid and serve hot.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

Hamburger Pot Pie

1 2/3 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed

1/2 ground beef, browned and drained

1 can condensed cream of mushrooms soup (or homemade equivalent)

2 tablespoons onion, chopped

1/8 teaspoon black pepper (or more to taste–freshly ground!)

1 cup baking mix

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (finely shredded)

1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Stir together vegetables, cooked ground beef, condensed soup, onion, and black pepper in an ungreased 9-inch pie plate.  In a small bowl, stir together baking mix, milk, and egg.  Fold in cheddar cheese.  Pour over beef mixture.

Bake about 30 minutes or until golden brown.  In a small bowl, blend melted butter or margarine and garlic powder.  Brush over top of baked pie.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

That’s a whole bunch of recipes to enjoy with baking mix!  What I love about recipes like this is that they are fairly basic, so you can change them up as you wish and make them your own!

The Spring Cleaning New Recipe Challenge: The End of the Line

New Recipe Challenge

I end this week (which coincided with my Spring Break at work) on a bittersweet note.  Muffin and I really got to spend some Mama-Muffin bonding time (and discovered we both enjoy bedtime snuggles while he looks at books or plays games or has me read him a story) and shared some fun Mama-Muffin cooking moments in the kitchen (such as his pride in cracking eggs…and my terror of him doing so!).  And the moment I had to remind him that I had to head back to work on Monday, and he begged me to stay home.  The pain of being a working mom.  The joy of watching him continue to diligently use the potty during waking hours.  Each visit brought with it another measure of sweet success!

And for the challenge:  I learned so much–about cooking, about blogging, hopefully about photography, and myself–in this challenge.  I took risks that I had always been unwilling to take–3 slow cooker dishes in one week!–and lived to tell the tale.  I had several successes and a few near misses that will involve lots of tweaking.  I commented like crazy on blogs with supportive words and received kind words in return.

I really allowed my culinary experimentation to stretch (the Frenchy Toasty bread pudding bar!) and thought up a few other possibles to challenge myself with in the future (the Turtle Cream Puffs).  I definitely see myself doing a summer-themed challenge in the future.

From beginning to end, here are the recipes that were featured in the Challenge (see the Recipe Index page for the links):

Crock Pot Honey Garlic Chicken

Crock Pot Low Country Boil

Paula Deen’s Banana Bread

Le Pop-Corn du Sel et Poive (Salt and Pepper Popcorn)

Cowboy Chicken Casserole

Emeril’s Southwest Seasoning

Barbie Lemonade Spritzer

Cinnamon Sugar Biscotti

Quick and Easy Cheeseburger Pies

Hamburger Topping Salad

Easy Peanut Butter Fudge

Monterey Chicken

Parmesan Garlic Toast

Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup

Homemade Ranch Seasoning

Peas and Peppers

Crock Pot Ranch Pork Chops

Homemade Hamburger Buns

Monterey Chicken Sandwiches

2-Minute Frenchy Toasty Bread Pudding in a Mug

Roasted Fowl

Poached Pears

Soft Pretzel Bites

Chilies Rellenos Bake

That’s 23 new recipes in 9 days!

But, onto the offerings of today.  I made an old favorite, but I tweaked it.  From LivingOnaDime’s book (considered sometimes to be my cooking Bible), Dining on a Dime, I made the flour tortillas today for Tuesday’s tacos (that you will see tomorrow).  I made one-and-a-half times the recipe and I swapped out the shortening for all butter.  I divided the resulting dough into sixteen pieces to make sixteen tortillas.

Flour Tortillas

Adapted from Dining on a Dime

All butter with a thin coating of butter waiting impatiently to be eaten!

4 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon baking powder (I accidentally doubled the amount in the original which resulted in fluffier, softer tortillas)

3/4 cup butter (1 and 1/2 sticks)

1 cup + 2 tablespoons warm water (I used water warmed from the tap)

Place all ingredients except water in the Ninja blender-sized container or the work bowl of a food processor.  Process/blend until the consistency of oatmeal.  I actually took it a bit farther because it’s harder for me to tell with the Ninja.  It was pretty much a softened, slightly moistened, consistency of baking mix.

Dump the mixture into a large mixing bowl and pour water over it.  (Here’s the fun part.  Make sure to remove all jewelry.  I keep forgetting to remove my ring in making recipes like this, and it gets all gloopy.)  Blend with fingers.  Knead on a plastic cutting board for five minutes.  For me this is the most strenuous part because I have ZERO upper body strength.

Shape mixture into a ball.  Return the mixture to the mixing bowl and cover with a tea towel.  Let rest for half an hour.  Take this opportunity to rest as well.

After half an hour, divide the ball into four wedges with a bench scraper, a pizza cutter, or a butter knife.  I used my bench scraper this time.  Roll each wedge into a ball.  Divide each of those balls into four wedges and roll into balls.  Place the balls onto a cookie sheet and cover again with the tea towel.  Rest the balls 45 minutes (and really rest up if you didn’t before).

Volunteer your spouse for this next part.  One person needs to be rolling out the tortillas; the other needs to be cooking them.  The cooking process goes very quickly, and the rolling process sometimes…doesn’t.  Especially in the first few attempts of making these.

To flatten the balls:  Using the same plastic cutting board, use your hand and knuckles to flatten the ball into a fairly flat disk.  Using a rolling pin, flatten the disk out as much as you can (1/16-1/8 inch).  Remember the dough has baking powder; it’s going to puff a bit when it hits the heat.  Turn it 90 degrees after each rolling and flip it over.  I didn’t need to flour my surfaces, but you might have to if your rolling pin isn’t fairly nonstick.

Meanwhile, put a (not non-stick) skillet over medium-high heat and let it get HOT.  After it is hot, you can back it down to medium heat, but the point is to get the pan hot enough to cook one side on its own.  Place the flattened dough in the pan.  It will start to bubble up immediately.  Press the top surface to collapse some of the bubbles and help it cook more evenly.  After no longer than 30 seconds (and for the first few probably less), flip the tortilla.  The goal is to have some patches on the cooked surface that are slightly browned.  If you allow them to get burned, they will not be soft.

Evacuate the tortilla to a plate.  They keep covered for a couple of hours.  You can also refrigerate them for a few days or freeze them for up to two months.

Verdict:  I prefer homemade tortillas and get pouty when I have to buy them (time constraints).  They do require a bit of muscle, but they are worth it.  And the all butter and pumped up baking powder level took them to levels unknown.  And having Josh do the cooking of them while I rolled them out really helped!

(With Carol’s salsa and slathered in butter)  Note:  The crepe recipe that I love to make so much is on the facing page of Dining on a Dime from the flour tortillas.

The true finale for the Challenge came at suppertime tonight.  I needed to end it on something Tex-Mex and a casserole (because it’s getting to that time of year when there aren’t going to be many casseroles because of the infernal heat).  I also wanted to give some props to a blog that I discovered recently, Love Bakes Good Cakes.  It was the Chilies Rellenos Bake.  The best Chilies Rellenos I’ve ever had was at, oddly enough, the Panchos Buffet.  So, I was hoping that it would live up to that (flavor-wise).  The dish is intended to be vegetarian, but I added a bit of browned ground beef (from the meat factory bee-sheen) flavored with Emeril’s Southwest Seasoning (which works pretty well as a makeshift taco seasoning) to please my carnivores.  It was a fitting end to the challenge.  Muffin liked it (it’s very cheesy) and Josh did, as well.  I figure I can use different meats in it and maybe, hopefully, someday make it as it was intended (as a vegetarian dish).

Chilies Rellenos Bake

Adapted from Love Bakes Good Cakes

1/2-3/4 pound ground beef, browned and crumbled

1 tablespoon Emeril’s Southwest Seasoning

8 eggs, beaten

1 cup sour cream

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

several drops Louisiana hot sauce (or 1-2 drops of Tabasco)

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

2 cans chopped green chilies, undrained

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together eggs and sour cream until homogenized and custardy.  This will take a couple of minutes.  Add salt, pepper, and hot sauce.  Combine ground beef and southwest seasoning in the skillet.  Add cheeses and chilies to the egg mixture.  A few tablespoons at a time (to avoid curdling the eggs), add the hot ground beef mixture.  As the eggs become tempered, you may add more amounts at a time, folding in each addition.

Pour the mixture into a greased 9×13-inch glass/Pyrex pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Here are some more photos from the “Bake”:

Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!

How did your week of cooking go?

And did I mention that both of these recipes were Muffin Approved?

Muffin Approved


The Spring Cleaning New Recipe Challenge: Soft Pretzel Bites (The Slow Roasted Italian)

New Recipe Challenge

I may have mentioned already that I love The Slow Roasted Italian’s website, haven’t I?  Everything pretzel and buffalo, plus lots of sips and eats to warm the tummy.

I had originally intended to make this recipe Friday (when I wasn’t planning a new recipe and didn’t feel like cheating everyone), but the Homemade Hamburger Buns intervened.

Not to change the subject (at all), but I try to make sure that Muffin isn’t with me when I go to Walmart during midday to night because invariably I hear this plaintive cry, “I wanna prentz-ul!”  And, to save the ears of everyone in the tri-state area, I tend to give in WAY TOO OFTEN.

That’s why I was super jazzed when I ran across this recipe by The Slow Roasted Italian herself:  Soft Pretzel Bites.  A recipe that requires no rise time (the only one I’ve found that doesn’t), so if you have your game on (and I didn’t), you can finish the recipe, start to finish, in 30 minutes.  Seriously.  I did not have my game on, so it took closer to an hour, but if I can hold homemade pretzel bites over Muffin’s head (offer Muffin the option of helping me make homemade pretzel bites, I mean), we might leave Walmart without shelling out the big bucks to Auntie Anne’s (yes…an Auntie Anne’s inside Walmart…that’s cruelty to parents).

We all got into the action making these, and, as I said, if we had prepared a bit beforehand, it would have gone much faster.  I followed the recipe on The Slow Roasted Italian verbatim, but next time I would probably brush them with butter instead of egg wash for salting.  The eggy taste was a bit prominent.  We had these for lunch with pepperoni slices (I know; totally healthy, right?) and strawberries.  Josh and Muffin ate theirs with cream cheese (Josh discovered the joy of stuffing his with cream cheese) and I ate mine straight up with yellow mustard.  Here’s a picky of the yummy results.

This is Muffin’s plate.

…and my plate!

Makes ya just kinda want one right now, doesn’t it?

Here’s what I did (The Slow Roasted Italian does mention options for those without stand mixers, but I figure you want to learn from my mistakes):

By the way:  The recipe makes 64 bites.  After about five, I started to get full.  They puff up bigger than the pretzel bites at Auntie Anne’s.  And, if you do butter instead of egg wash (since it would be difficult to half an egg), you could easily half the recipe.

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (I used the yeast from Sam’s.  I have moved it to a zippy bag, so I’m not sure if it’s active dry or not, but it really worked.)

1 1/4 cups warm milk (110-120 degrees Fahrenheit)  I put mine in a Pyrex cup for one minute in the microwave on high.

2 tablespoons honey (remember:  local is best!)

3 1/4 cups flour (plus possibly more on standby if the dough is too sticky)  I only used 3 1/4 cups.

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup baking soda

1 large egg + 2 tablespoons water (or 4-6 tablespoons melted butter)

kosher salt for sprinkling on the pretzels

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a half sheet pan with foil and spray it with nonstick cooking spray.

Pour milk into the bowl of the stand mixer.  Add milk and honey.  Stir.  Allow yeast to much on the honey for 5-10 minutes or until foamy.  This is something good for your almost-four year old to monitor and give you status updates while you set the rest up.

Fill a Dutch oven or small stockpot with water and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  At this point either beat the egg and water together with a fork or melt the butter in the microwave.  Set either aside for now.

Add flour and salt to mixer.  Nudge it to the stir setting and allow the dough hook to work its magic until all of the flour is incorporated.  After that, kick the mixer into speed at 4 and allow the dough hook to do the kneading for you for three minutes.  At this point check to see if the dough is sticky (if it sticks to your fingers) or tacky.  If it is still sticky, add more flour in a tablespoon at a time until it becomes tacky.

Remove the dough from the hook and the bowl and form into a ball.  Use a pizza cutter or a butter knife to divide the dough into four equal wedges.  Roll each wedge into an 18-22-inch “snake” or rope of dough.  Cut this into four equal pieces.  Reshape the ends slightly and divide each of those pieces into four pieces.  You should have, after dividing all of the dough, 64 pieces.

Add the baking soda to the now boiling water.  It will bubble explosively for a few seconds.  Enjoy the drama at this point. Place the dough bites in the water, 8 at a time, for 30 seconds each.  Evacuate with a slotted spoon to the prepared pan to cool.

After you have boiled all of them, arrange them on the foil so that they are not touching (with my trusty half-sheet pan, I just barely had enough room).  Brush egg wash (or butter) onto each one and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Bake 10 minutes until the tops are delightfully browned.  (The Slow Roasted Italian recommends 7-9 minutes, but I wanted a bit more brown on mine.)

Serve with your choice of sauce or mustard or cheese for dipping/spreading.

Muffin Approved

The Recipes for Date Night (Roasted Fowl and Poached Pears): The Spring Cleaning New Recipe Challenge

New Recipe Challenge

I am going to do another date night post, but I figured I would include the recipes that I cooked as part of a separate challenge post.  Both recipes I had my doubts about, but turned out superstar! fabulous (think the Molly Shannon skit and movie–I feel like doing that superstar! move after eating both).

I will explain the rationale behind each tomorrow in my date night post, but here is the lusciousness (as it seems date night is in two parts):

Roasted Fowl

Adapted from Wired.com’s Geek Mom

6 chicken legs (but this recipe would rock the clock of any chicken parts–yes!  it’s that good)

olive oil

fresh rosemary leaves/needles, minced

basil, dried

oregano, dried

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

(I am not listing amounts for the seasonings because I put a random–nearly equal–amount of each in a bowl and sprinkled and rubbed my heart out)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Give the chicken legs a shower in the sink and path them dry with paper towels.  You want them as dry as possible at this point.  Think kale leaf dry.  On second thought, forget the kale chip disaster all together.

Rub the chicken legs with a light coating of olive oil and sprinkle with the seasoning mixture (I did roughly a teaspoon of each).  You want them to be really seasoned.

Line your half-sheet pan with foil.  Spray it with non-stick cooking spray.  For an aromatic touch of whimsy, I placed a spring of rosemary in the center of the pan.  Place the drumsticks in the pan.  Bake for 45-55 minutes (or longer), turning halfway through so that more sides become golden brown and delicious.  The chicken is done logistically when the juices run clear.  Remember that dark meat is cheaper and more forgiving heat-wise than chicken breasts that tend to dry out fairly quickly.

Serve warm or cold.

Verdict:  This chicken was loved by all.  I would love to try it with thighs (my favorite selection of chicken) next time.  Date night spoiler:  this tasted VASTLY BETTER than the chicken I had that time at Medieval Times (although Josh insists we need to take Muffin).


Red Wine Poached Pears

Adapted from:  About.com

5 peeled, cored, and sliced pears (I used Anjou), fairly ripe (but not necessarily to the point of eating out of hand)

1 1/2 cups red wine (I used an Australian Shiraz that I purchased on clearance at Albertson’s for $2.99–a $10 wine!  Yay!)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

zest of one lemon (small)

2 tablespoons lemon juice (I used two small Sunkist lemons)

2 teaspoons vanilla (although I wonder what a vanilla bean would have done to this)

2 teaspoons cinnamon, ground

Combine all ingredients, except pears, and bring to a boil.  Once the wine mixture is boiling, turn heat down to a simmer and add the pears (two pears at a time).  Simmer until they turn a shade of red that makes you happy (10-12 minutes before turning them and cooking for an additional 8010 minutes).  Remove pears and let them cool.  Boil the wine sauce until the liquid is reduced by half.  Avoid the overwhelming dictate by your taste buds to down the entire contents of the wine sauce.  Take a taste (to make sure it’s yummy).  Take another taste.  Ignore the voices telling you to down it all.  Pour sauce over pears and serve over ice cream.  Make sure that you spoon extra sauce on the ice cream and pears because that’s the best part.

Verdict:  I want to bathe in the sauce.  Seriously.  Or make sorbet from it.  Its siren’s song is calling me now.  Josh liked it over ice cream, but he felt that the taste of the poaching liquid was too strong by itself.  Whereas I could guzzle the sauce all down.  It might be good as a soda.  Or as a topping for the Frenchy Toasty Bread Pudding in a Mug.  Or by itself.  Really it’s worthy of anything.  I think it could do wonderful things to ham, in fact.  Did I mention that I ❤ the sauce?  It makes me happy.

So, date night spawned two great, repeatable dishes (even in different contexts).  I consider that a success!

The Spring Cleaning New Recipe Challenge: Breakfast

New Recipe Challenge

I have a confession to make.  Make that two confessions.

Confession #1:  There may not be any more of the Homemade Hamburger Buns left in the house.  Oopsie!  But don’t be sad; they met their just desserts.  (Haha!  Just desserts!)

Confession #2:  I think I just put the best thing ever in my mouth for breakfast.

Are you ready for it?

I don’t think you are.

If your sure…

Okay.  Here goes!

Mounds 2-Minute Frenchy Toasty Bread Pudding in a Cup!

The hamburger buns really did get their just desserts!  Josh, who pooh-poohed this recipe last night when I was gushing on the blog, now has his add-ons he wants to try (after being all “I just want maple syrup and cinnamon and powdered sugar on it.”) and even grudgingly agreed to a sprinkling of chocolate chips before it went into the microwave..

I love this method because you can literally dress it up or down as much as you wish.  If you leave out the vanilla and sub in black pepper for the cinnamon, the savory options are endless!

And just to gush again:  this recipe is done in the microwave.  Meaning your kitchen does not get heated in the summer.  Just sayin’.  Sometimes air conditioners can’t keep up with Louisiana summers (especially if the oven is on).

Here’s what I did for 2 1/2 servings (the half was Muffin’s).  I changed it up a bit from Pretty Prudent/Prudent Baby.

2-Minute Frenchy Toast Bread Pudding in a Cup

Adapted from Pretty Prudent/Prudent Baby

Around 5-6 cups torn bread of your choice (I used the remaining Homemade Hamburger Buns)

3 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup plus one tablespoon dairy (milk, half-n-half, cream, coffee creamer)–We used 2% because that’s what we have.

cinnamon to taste

1/4-1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or the caviar of one-half of a vanilla bean (if you are feeling particularly decadent)

Any extra sauces, syrups, mix-ins, add-ins, or toppings

powder sugar to dust the tops with

Melted butter to grease your cup (I forgot this for Muffin’s and Josh’s and did for mine.  The beeping microwave reminded me that there was butter in there for the second day in a row.  They didn’t stick at all, but I imagine that mine tasted the best because it was buttery.)

In a bowl, tear the bread.  (I want to try croissants next time with dark chocolate chips and chunks to mimic my favorite breakfast bread item at Central Market, chocolate filled croissants)  I tore mine into fairly small chunks.  Mix the eggs, dairy, cinnamon, and vanilla (I will update when I try a savory one) in a separate container.  Pour the liquid ingredients over the bread.  I mixed it with my hands to best judge how the bread absorbed the liquid.

If you are adding nuts, dried fruit, or chocolate (any add-ins that need to be added to the whole batch before cooking), mix these in by hand as well.

Transfer the mixture to the cup(s) of your choice. I layered mine a bit putting a couple of tablespoons of bread, pressing them down a bit, drizzling maple syrup, sprinkling with sweetened shredded coconut, and sprinkling with chocolate chips before layering on another half a cup and drizzling with maple syrup.  I filled the cup the rest of the way with bread, tamped it down, and drizzled on more syrup.  I layered Muffin’s with maple syrup.  I layered Josh’s with maple syrup and sprinkled on a few chocolate chips before microwaving.  For Muffin’s half cup, I microwaved the mixture for a minute (and the egg was done).  Josh’s, loosely packed in the container, took one-and-a-half minutes.  My packed cup took two minutes.  For service, I dusted powdered sugar on the tops of each, sprinkled Muffin’s with chocolate chips, and sprinkled mine with chocolate chips and coconut.

We ate this with sausage patties (not homemade and again I found the processed patties that I had previously gobbled down lustily to be salty, gristly, and tasteless) and strawberries (WalMart had 2 pounds of strawberries for under $4).

Want a bite?

Too bad!  You’re going to have to go make your own.

I also want to try my sister’s recipe for bread pudding, scaled down (and minus the raisins) but with the lovely sauce.

This just in:  We have pears growing on the trees!  Both trees!  Just last week one of our trees had beautiful blooms like this:

And now the blooms are going away with little burgeoning pear-letts behind them!  Yay!  Hopefully we will have more than three pears this year (that Muffin eats all of).

A Few More Breakfast Buffet Bar Ideas All Wrapped Up into One (A Possible Spring Cleaning New Recipe Challenge)


New Recipe Challenge

French Toast in a Cup Bar (this could also work as an Oatmeal Bar or Baked Oatmeal Bar); Josh noted that there should be savory components (fried egg, etc).  I told him that if I added the savory components, I would be typing until I’m 80–the meats and cheeses alone would keep me busy.

After perusing Pretty Prudent a few days ago, I found something that I hope is life changing: “French Toast in a Mug in 2 Minutes.”

As I was reading through the recipe, I saw several ways that the French toast could become a hybridized French toast bread pudding in a mug. And then I heard someone mention adding other chunky ingredients (dried fruit, chocolate, nuts)…and my brain kicked into high gear…and I thought “French Toast in a Cup Bar” with each person adding their own ingredients, their own creation. My brain is moving in so many directions that I can appreciate the “use up bits and pieces” idea.

I should note that I am planning this for tomorrow. I should also note that I’m the only one who is very excited about it. But I’m sure it will end up being “Muffin Approved.” After breakfast, I will post the results and verdict.

However…I am not planning all of the toppings listed below. Just a chosen few (but you will have to see exactly which ones tomorrow). I’m sure it will resemble the ice cream bars we’ve had.  Some of the selections listed below are sauces to drizzle on after cooking; some are mix-ins and add-ins; and some you have to mix in after cooking.

Maple Syrup (naturally)

powder sugar dust

cocoa powder/hot chocolate powder

coffee powder

vanilla extract

caramel syrup

chocolate syrup

rum sauce (drool)

jams/preserves/blackberry syrup/raspberry syrup

cream cheese chunks (for a “stuffed” French toast cup)

crushed oreo or graham cracker crumbs

pecans, toasted





Praline topping




pretzels to go with caramel (sauce or bits)

bananas (maybe bruleed bananas if I want to be really fancy)


dried apricots



dried cherries

dried blueberries

dried banana chips

dried pineapple (maybe a pina colada French toast cup)

orange zest/lemon zest if it’s blueberry

toasted almond slivers

honey roasted peanuts

whipped cream

liqueur-laced whipped cream

orange marmalade

bacon crumbles


(slightly crushed) breakfast cereal


chopped toasted hazelnuts

sprinkles 😉

ice cream

milk chocolate chips with cayenne pepper

white chocolate chips

peanut butter chips

cinnamon chips

dark chocolate chips

semisweet chocolate chips

peanut butter

apples/applesauce/apple chips

pears/dried pears


chopped up candy bars (I think Twix has promise)

cinnamon roll topping glaze (maybe Pioneer Woman’s recipe)

peaches/peach preserves


mandarin oranges

candied cherries


“chocolate stuffed croissant” French toast: torn up croissant with dark chocolate

bananas Foster French toast

whisky sauce

“rum” sauce for bread pudding 

bourbon sauce

chocolate bread pudding (need to figure out the conversion to mug sized)

toffee bits

vanilla bean caviar or paste

dried fruit soaked in alcohol/liqueur (Frangelico soaked raisins)


butterscotch chips

exemplar to cut down to mug size

butterscotch sauce

candied ginger

marshmallows/marshmallow creme

What do you think would be a great topping/add-in in a French toast or oatmeal bar?


The Spring Cleaning New Recipe Challenge Day 7: One Whole Week and Possibly the Best Recipe Tried So Far

New Recipe Challenge

My son is a carnivore.  He’s also a fruititarian.  He can eat a pound of strawberries in one sitting and move onto several other varieties of fruit.  In.  One.  Sitting.  He also likes his carbs.

No.  You don’t get it.  He LOVES carbs.  Gluten free, we are not.  I’m fairly sure that gluten threads make up some of his tendons (and mine).

Today’s recipe offering was a last-minute find.  I made Homemade Hamburger Buns from Life in the Lofthouse (Life as a Lofthouse) that I discovered while cruising blogs for recipes.  I found enough for several dozen recipe challenges.  I started EARLY this morning (like right as Josh was leaving), putting ingredients in the Kitchen Aid.  If anything, this recipe proves that three things are indispensable in the kitchen:  a Kitchen Aid stand mixer (which has gotten a hefty workout this week–and will continue to through the weekend), half sheet pans with lips (thank you, Pioneer Woman for steering all of us to the necessity of these), and parchment paper.  I ❤ parchment paper.  Sometimes I want to wrap up in it and sleep in it…um…did I just admit that?  Seriously.  My love of parchment paper knows no bounds.  It saves my tush when making truffles in the fall/winter.

I would like to say that you could also spray the pan with Pam and be okay (and that you can use a cookie sheet).  You could also mix up the dough by hand and place it in a ziptop bag and allow you or your young’uns to take their frustrations out on the bag-o-dough.  For seven minutes.

When Muffin saw the buns are perfectly risen and brushed with butter (and so delightfully puffy), he started to snatch one off of the pan, and which point, I screamed in my wicked witch voice, “Don’t!!!  You’ll deflate the buns!!!”  Seriously.  It was causing full panic.  I had visions of hockey pucks instead of puffs of yeasty goodness (that’s happened a few times when I’ve made rolls…it’s very sad–deflation from being pressed by a human hand–usually mine, by accident).

So, Muffin waited impatiently for the 18 minutes to bake (the oven wasn’t entirely up to temp when I made it, so I went for the full 18 minutes), then for me to brush them with butter, then for them to cool to the point that slicing one open wouldn’t burn my fingers.  He ate half of one while it was still warm!

Then, while I was munching on the second half, he came back and asked for more.  So, after eating less than half of my half, I had to relinquish my bun to Muffin.  Which he devoured.  Seriously.  Like birds of prey devouring carrion.  It wasn’t a pretty sight.  Then, he wanted another “tasty bread,” as he called it.  To say this recipe was Muffin Approved is kind of an understatement.  (I must add that it is perhaps my favorite recipe that we’ve tried so far, and Josh, who came home for lunch, liked it, too.

Lunch was the leftover halved Monterey Chicken breasts made into a sandwich with the “tasty buns.”  These buns were this chicken’s correct destination of serving.  I liked the chicken when we had it; don’t get me wrong.  But if I had eaten on one of these buns first and then eaten it as a chicken breast by itself, I wouldn’t have liked it, if that makes any sense.  Of course, it photo bombs very humbly (in fact, it doesn’t prefer the limelight), but it’s beautiful on the inside.  And tastes absolutely fantastic amazing.  If I had purchased store brand buns, this sandwich would have been a disappointment.  Trust me on this:  if you make the Monterey Chicken into a sandwich, you need to make these buns.  Don’t let this sandwich be a disappointment, please.

I’m going to include my process below, but for the truly beautiful photographs of the buns, please visit the original recipe posting.

Homemade Hamburger Buns

Source:  Life in the Lofthouse

(I really like that you can dump it all in the mixer and just let it go, like the Artisan Bread).

1 egg (The original calls for it to be beaten, but I just cracked it in)

3 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose)

1/4 cup granulated (white) sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon yeast (I used some from the Sam’s package–You save a lot of money if you buy yeast in bulk from Sam’s, if you do much baking at all)

1 cup warm tap water (about 110 degrees Fahrenheit…when it feels like warmer than your body temperature bathwater, but it doesn’t scald your hand)

2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter (10 seconds in the microwave if you didn’t have it set out) + 3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Use your Kitchen Aid with your dough hook (or your upper body muscles) to combine the egg, flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and water.   Be reminded that you forgot the butter when the microwave keeps beeping (yes, this happened at 7:30 this morning while I was starting to watch the mixer knead the dough).  Dump the butter in while muttering expletives (“bumpers”).  I used the stir setting until it all came together and then kneaded on setting “4.”  If you are going to take the muscle power route, once all is incorporated, place your dough in a zip top bag and start beating it (kneading it) for the next 7 minutes.  You may need to take the dough out of the bag and fold it over a few times in the process.  The purpose is to have the surface soft, smooth, and elastic.

Butter or grease a large bowl (ceramic, if you have one), roll the dough around in the bowl, coating the surface, and let it rest (ball-like) in the bowl.  Cover the bowl with a tea towel.  If it is a cool day, turn on your oven for 1 minute to make the oven a good “rising” spot.  If it is warm in your kitchen, simply let the dough hang out.  Regardless, you need to let the dough rise until doubled in size.  In my warmed oven, it took one hour.  The original recipe posting said 1 1/2 hours.

Line your pan with parchment paper or spray it with Pam or grease with shortening.  Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces (the original poster recommends using a kitchen scale to weigh out 3.25 ounces of dough each, but my scale was MIA).  I used my best judgment and my rolly pizza cutter (the Zyliss-style one that Alton Brown used on Good Eats) to divide them in a “rustic” manner.  Make a smooth ball out of each piece by forming a loose gluten cloak (a la Artisan Bread) and smoothing the bottom.  Arrange each ball on the prepared pan with even (and hopefully generous) spacing between.  Flatten the balls gently with your hand so that they become hockey-puck shaped (at this point a bit of deflation is okay).

Warm them with the tea towel blanket and stash them again in the warmed oven.  Let them rise until they are puffy buns (around 40 minutes).  Mine were touching at this point, but the original pictures on Holly Lofthouse’s blog weren’t.

When the timer beeps, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Brush the rolls with half of the melted butter.  Panic when they deflate a little.  More expletives.  Bake 18 minutes, checking to make sure that the tops don’t get too brown.  I like mine more on the light mahogany end, rather than golden.  Remove from the oven (inhale the yeasty goodness with a touch of sweet…contemplate a way to bottle the scent) and lavishly slather with the remaining butter…each little bun.  Make sure you show some butter love to the nooks and crannies.

The original recipe says to cool completely before serving.  That might work of you were carbphobic and gave birth to a carbphobic child.  Simply:  try not to burn your fingers too bad as you split this and eat part of your half while your ungrateful child gobbles his half and then demands the rest of yours.

Contemplate hoarding the rest or eating all of the buns immediately.

Serve with burgers or sandwich fixins.

I added to my cholesterol count today further at lunchtime when I slathered butter on the insides, placed the buns insides-down in a hot skillet, and griddle cooked them until slightly charred.  I spread the bottoms with mayo, topped with the warmed Monterey Chicken leftovers (added pickle slices to Josh’s and Muffin’s–I had my slices on the side), and topped with the other half of the bun.  Serve with “yellow” chips (original flavored potato chips).

It should be noted that Muffin ate his bun in its entirety at lunch and then begged for more tasty buns (and ate another half) immediately after lunch.

All of the ingredients (minus the butter…grrr) in the mixer bowl.

The sandwiches…being coy.

Did I mention that this recipe was Muffin Approved?

Muffin Approved

The Spring Cleaning New Recipe Challenge: “The Best Crock Pot Pork Chops Ever,” Rice, and Peas with Red Pepper

New Recipe Challenge

Weeks ago, my mom told me about a recipe that was extremely successful in my sister’s family.  It was a slow cooker recipe for pork chops that used ranch seasoning and condensed creamy soup.  EVERYONE in my sister’s family loved it (a major feat).  My sister thought I should try it.

My mom tried it a bit later, and she was positive about the results.

When my sister visited my mom last week, my brother-in-law raved about the recipe.

I had already had it on the meal plan tentatively.  I mean, this recipe has almost a cult following in the Pinteresting Blogosphere, much like kale chips.  Yes, I should have been afraid.

So, with a bit of trepidation (being that it was a slow cooker recipe and Josh is not that found of slow cooker recipes), I added it to the challenge for this week, the only pork dish.  One of three slow cooker offerings.

I guess I should preface this paragraph with:  I have a pork loin I recently purchased in the garage freezer, waiting to meet the “meat factory bee-sheen,” as Muffin calls the meat grinder attachment on the Kitchen Aid.  I would have been willing (sort of…well…under extreme duress) to sacrifice part of the roast for tonight’s challenge offering.  Maybe.

But I KNEW there were pork chops (cut from a pork loin from before we had the meat grinder) somewhere in the kitchen fridge.  So, I had Josh search for them.  This might be a good time to mention that my freezers are not exactly organized.  And, at times, if you open the freezer half of the kitchen refrigerator, you might want to step back out of the way because you never know what might fly out, frozen solid, to conk you on the head or fracture a bone in your foot.  Now is one of those times.  Josh managed to dig a set of pork chops (three, to be exact) out of the bowels of the kitchen freezer.  Of course, this involved removing most of the freezer’s contents and putting them back in place.

I’m pretty sure there are others in there somewhere…but we didn’t find them.

The pork chops might have been a bit…oldish.  Which may have determined the final result.  Possibly.

Since I decided to make the Homemade Ranch Seasoning from Gimme Some Oven without the buttermilk powder (as I didn’t have any and it’s one of the more expensive ingredients on the spice/baking aisle), I decided to add to the tablespoon of seasoning that I was going to include in the dish one-half cup of milk mixed with half a tablespoon of white vinegar to make buttermilk.  I let it sit out for fifteen minutes or so this morning, whisking every few minutes (to make it thick and not lumpy or clumpy–lumpy or clumpy buttermilk is not good eats), before adding the liquid to the ranch seasoning.  Then, I whisked like a maniac.  I slowly incorporated the buttermilk’ed ranch seasoning into the condensed cream of chicken soup.  It looked yummy.  I might try making it as a cream of ranch chicken soup next time, diluting it with milk and eating it as soup.

Following the rules for enchiladas, I spread a bit of the sauce on the bottom of the slow cooker to provide a saucy bed for the pork chops.  Only two of the three fit on the bottom layer, so I slathered some sauce on those two before topping them with the final chop and dumping the rest of the sauce over the mixture.

I cooked it on low for 4 hours (which was plenty).  I served the contents over rice with the chops on the side and with a healthy serving of peas and peppers.

Verdict:  Josh mentioned freezer burn after tasting these.  The sauce on the chops and the rice was good, though.  The recipe is Muffin Approved.

But here’s what I did with amounts in one easy highlight and print selection thing (because I haven’t quite figured out yet how to set up a printable recipe thing on Word Press)

Crock Pot Ranch Pork Chops

adapted from Raining Hot Coupons

3 pork chops, cut from a boneless pork loin, thawed

the equivalent of 2 cans of cream of chicken soup (one recipe of the condensed soup from Gimme Some Oven)

one packet of ranch seasoning or 1 tablespoon Homemade Ranch Seasoning from Gimme Some Oven

one-half cup buttermilk (or half a cup of milk whisked with half a tablespoon of vinegar or some other acid)

additional freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Whisk together the ranch seasoning and buttermilk.  Whisk the ranch buttermilk into the cream of chicken soup until smooth.  Ladle and spread about 2 tablespoons of the ranch-y soup mixture on the bottom of your slow cooker.  Layer pork chops and sauce, dumping the remaining sauce over the contents after the last pork chop is placed.  Crack on some black pepper.  Cook on low for four hours.  Serve pork chops with rice on the side covered with the sauce.

Yes, I had to add some color because the tan and white was killing me.  So, I made up a recipe on the fly.

Peas and Peppers

12 ounces frozen green peas (petite, if possible)

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

3 cups water

freshly cracked black pepper

one bouillon cube (chicken)

Microwave the contents on high for three minutes.  Stir.  Microwave three more minutes or until hot.  Stir.  Drain in a colander and serve.

It should be noted that this is the recipe that made Muffin like red bell peppers.  He said they taste like strawberries.  🙂


Note:  Rice and pasta have often eluded me (at least perfectly cooked specimens of both).  I still struggle with pasta, but my husband has finally taught me an almost foolproof formula.  Gone are the days where I have hard uncooked grains, mushy grains, and perfectly cooked grains all in the same pot.

2 cups water

1 cup rice (long grain, white, Louisiana-grown, preferably)

1/2 tablespoon butter or margarine (preferably unsalted)

1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Bring the water to a boil over high heat with salt and butter.  Once boiling, stir in rice and cover, reducing the heat to low.  Allow the water to be absorbed until there is no visible evidence of water in the pot (around 20-25 minutes).  Fluff with a fork and serve while hot.

Muffin Approved

How was your dinner this evening?

Day 5 of the Spring Cleaning New Recipe Challenge: Monterey Chicken and Others

New Recipe Challenge

Today was a pretty low-key day.  I spent time researching preschool home school options (My sister offered up excellent suggestions via Facebook text and when I talked to her on the phone today).  I spent time with Muffin, watching him play with trains and just be an almost-four-year-old boy.  Lots of snuggles and cuddles, as well (although no nap to speak of, except napus interruptus right around lunchtime).

I also (very quickly) prepped two components/ingredients for tomorrow’s meal (the Crock Pot Ranch Pork Chops):  I made the Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup from Gimme Some Oven and the Homemade Ranch Seasoning also from Gimme Some Oven.  I left the buttermilk powder out of the Homemade Ranch Seasoning, so I will probably add a bit of “buttermilked” milk to the Crock Pot tomorrow.  Here are the pickies:

The cream of chicken.

The cream of chicken soup tasted spot on, and I love that it didn’t taste so chemically as the canned version has tasted lately.  Plus, I got to add in some of the Crock Pot Rotisserie Chicken to it.  Bonus!  And one recipe makes two cans worth, and I needed to cans for the recipe tomorrow.  Did I mention that it was easy peasy?  Seriously.  Came.  Together.  Perfectly.

The ranch seasoning minus the buttermilk powder but with a bit of paprika thrown in for color.

It’s seriously a disease.  I can’t help but change a recipe up.  I’ve decided something must be wrong with me.  I would recommend using the link for the cream of chicken (because I actually followed that recipe verbatim, for once), but the ranch seasoning…well…I followed the cream of chicken recipe verbatim.  Here’s what I did:

Homemade Ranch Seasoning Mix

Heavily adapted from Gimme Some Oven (Link above)

2 tablespoons dried parsley

1 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons dried onion flakes

1 teaspoon ground black pepper (freshly ground!)

1 teaspoon dried chives, slightly crushed

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon paprika (I used Spanish)

Layer ingredients in an empty jar (I used an empty jelly jar that had previously held another recipe of ranch seasoning).  Cover and shake shake shake.

Gimme Some Oven suggests using 1 tablespoon mix with 1/3 cup mayo and 1/3 cup milk and whisking to combine.  I plan on adding in 1 tablespoon plus a bit of “buttermilked” milk tomorrow when I make the Crock Pot Ranch Pork Chops.

But now, for the main event.  And if you notice the discrepancies between the Ranch seasonings, this is so much worse.

In my defense, I kept the ingredients the same.  I changed some of the amounts and definitely changed the process.  I would also make a few tweaks before next time.  I will say that this was another LFam Approved recipe.

Let me just write it as I did it.

Monterey Chicken

Heavily Adapted from Six Sisters’ Stuff

2 huge boneless, skinless chicken breasts, excess skin and tendons removed, halved to make four moderate sized breast pieces

salt and pepper

barbecue sauce (The original recipe calls for one cup, but I probably put more on each piece)

8 pieces of bacon, cooked using the method described below, and broken in half

3/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, hand shredded (or more until it makes things cheesy)

3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, hand shredded (I didn’t and I regretted it)

fresh diced tomatoes

diced green onions

A few notes and disclaimers:  Like the Pioneer Woman, I am becoming less inclined to use pre-shredded cheese, especially if it’s something that I wish to melt.  She’s right about most things, including that.  Pre-shredded simply does not melt as well.  I grated the Monterey Jack but not the cheddar, and I could tell the difference in meltability.  And yes, I know that isn’t a word.  But it should be.  That is not to say that grating cheese is my favorite kitchen chore.  It isn’t.  At all.  But it does produce better results.  Also, I tended to go with more is better in terms of barbecue sauce, cheese, tomato, and onions.  And while I know this is supposed to be a copycat of a Chili’s recipe (that I never consumed), I would probably want to add sauteed mushrooms somehow in one of the layers–maybe on top of the bacon.  Also, I used Kraft Honey barbecue sauce.  I wish I had used Garland Jack’s or Sweet Baby Ray’s.  Kraft products, in general, seem to be more processed than most, and rather than tasting barbecue sauce in the final product, I tasted Kraft chemicals.  (Can I please go back to the days when I thrived on processed foods?  Please?????)

But now to what I did.  I actually pre-baked the bacon a few hours in advance because I wanted to give it time to cool, drain, and stiffen up.  Limp bacon is not wanted here.  If it bends when you go to break it, you have not cooked it long enough.  And I baked mine.  Alton Brown swears by it as well as several other people in the Pinteresting Blogosphere.  And it produces flat, evenly cooked, bacon.  I’m a bit picky that way.  However, it takes 25 minutes to produce perfectly cooked thick-sliced bacon.  And I had to do it in two batches.  So keep that in mind if you are using this method.  On a lipped cookie sheet (size doesn’t matter) place a small baker’s rack (one that will fit inside the cookie sheet).  Arrange slices of raw bacon over the rack, taking care to ensure that they are not touching.  Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (remember to preheat) for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, take the bacon out and turn each slice.  Bake another 10 minutes.  Evacuate to a plate to drain and cool.  Once drained and cooled, break the bacon in half.

Reserve the bacon drippings for searing the chicken breasts (go ahead and pour them into the skillet you plan to use).

Gently pound the chicken breasts to a uniform thickness with a mallet or (if you cover the breasts with plastic or wax paper) your rolling pin.  Don’t mutilate the chicken, however.  This is not a project to take your road rage out on; just sayin’.  Season both sides of the breasts generously with salt and pepper and seal in a zippy bag for the seasonings to do some work.

When ready to continue the cooking process, heat the bacon over medium-high heat until hot.  Arrange chicken breasts in the pan (I fit three out of the four pieces).  Cover and sear for 3 minutes.  If you don’t cover, expect bacon fat splatters.  Trust me, they are not as much fun as confetti being thrown at your face and arms.  And they hurt a lot worse, too.  After three minutes, use your trusty spring loaded tongs to turn over the chicken.  The chicken may be stuck at this point.  Finesse it off of the pan with the tongs (Translation:  Scrape as hard as you have to to get the chicken off the pan so that it doesn’t burn).  Cover and wait three more minutes.  Realize as you notice the spatters on the lid how lucky and smart you were to cover the pan (because you would be wearing those spatters–it may have taken me the first half of the cooking process to realize I needed a lid).  Evacuate the chicken to a glass 9×13-inch pan sprayed with cooking spray.  Repeat with remaining chicken breast(s).

Pour (Glug) barbecue sauce over chicken.  The point here is flavor and coverage.  You want the maximum of both.  The barbecue sauce provides a grout for the bacon tiles to come.  Arrange the bacon artistically (you may have to break one of the halves into smaller pieces) over the chicken breasts, 4 bacon strip halves per breasts (a total of two complete bacon strips).  Cover with Monterey Jack and then with cheddar.  Here’s where I made a huge deviation from the original:  sprinkle liberally with the tomato and green onions.  Cover with foil.  Place in a 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.  Uncover.  Turn your oven broiler to HI, and broil until the cheese bubbles on the surface (browning would be great here as well!).  Serve with Parmesan Garlic Toast and a salad.

And, since, I can’t leave you hanging in suspense, here is the “recipe” for Parmesan Garlic Toasts:

Parmesan Garlic Toasts

Source:  Me!

2 hot dog buns, split along the split and separated into four halves total

2 teaspoons margarine spread (or butter), softened

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes, crushed finely with the fingers

2 tablespoons grana padano (or another Parmesan-style cheese), grated with a Microplane grater/zester

Spread the “white innards” of the hot dog buns with the margarine spread or butter.  Sprinkle with garlic powder, pepper, and parsley flakes.  Grate the cheese directly over the buns until the surface resembles snow drifts (low, small snow drifts, but still…snow drifts).  Broil until the cheese is melted delightfully and the surface is browned.  Eat.  Repeat.

As the untoasted toasts entered the oven.

Garlicky, Parmesan toasty perfection!

There were leftovers.  I could only eat about half a breast.  Other sources for the Monterey Chicken mention that it is served as a sandwich, so I cut the remaining breast pieces in half and plan to make sandwiches with them tomorrow.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

How did your dinner plans go today?

‘Zert: Easy Peanut Butter Fudge in 10 Minutes (Slow Roasted Italian Recipe)

New Recipe Challenge

I think I’ve waxed poetic about my love for The Slow Roasted Italian’s site before.  Even though my dinner dish I’ve planned for this week doesn’t exactly fit in with the challenge, since we’ve made the 2-ingredient pizza dough pizza before, I wanted to include a new recipe from their site.

This one did not disappoint.  I’ve considered making peanut butter fudge in the past, preferably Alton Brown’s recipe, but it took this challenge to get me off of my duff and into the kitchen to make some.  And I seem to be in a peanut butter phase right now.  Me.  The child who hated peanut butter growing up.

I made this while making the Cinnamon Sugar Biscotti earlier.  It has to set up in the fridge for four hours, so it was nearly dinner time before Muffin and I could enjoy the fruits of our labor (Muffin licked the beaters after the fudge went into the fridge).  Here are the pics of the process (sort of).

Here’s how I did it (pretty much following the directions found in their Parade article verbatim):

Easy Peanut Butter Fudge

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (I used closer to 1/2)

2 cups packed brown sugar

1/2 cup whole milk (I used 2%)

1 1/2 cups peanut butter

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups powdered sugar (I pretty much packed mine)

Line an 8×8 baking sheet with foil (I couldn’t find my 8×8, so I used a 9×9).  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.  Add brown sugar, milk, and salt.  (I ended up putting them all in the same pot and melting them all together…oops!)  Stir until mixture starts to bubble.  Allow mixture to boil for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla (and enjoy the bubbling show) and peanut butter.  Once the peanut butter is melted and combined, add powdered sugar and beat with an electric mixer (I used my hand mixer) until smooth.

Pour into the prepared 8×8 baking dish.  Cover with foil and refrigerate for 4 hours.  Cut into squares (this is very rich, so my squares were 1 cm x 1 cm…you feel less guilty for eating multiples that way).  I kept mine refrigerated.  Serve and enjoy!

Muffin calls dessert ‘Zert, so we had this for ‘Zert after the Quick and Easy Cheeseburger Pies and Hamburger Topping Salad.  This is after he ate 3 after nap time.  He ate two for ‘Zert.  And, as you can see in the picture below, Josh liked them as well.

These were definitely Muffin Approved!

Muffin Approved

What are you making for ‘Zert this week?