Creamy Overnight Oatmeal

Have you ever tried steel cut oats?

It’s just a less processed version of traditional rolled oats. Nevertheless, it always intimidated me. Plus, it had to be cooked for a half hour on the stove. That doesn’t exactly satisfy my need to fix a quick nutritious breakfast. Nutritious? Yes. Quick? No.

Then I stumbled across a slow cooker recipe for oatmeal from Alton Brown. No idea there was such a thing.

So I tried it – and I love it! My husband does, too.

My boys? Not so much.

No matter, there’s just more for us;)

The recipe couldn’t be easier. Just put the ingredients in a slow cooker before you go to bed and in the morning you’ll wake up to a piping hot bowl of this:

Creamy Overnight Oatmeal

  • 1 C steel cut oats
  • 1 C dried cranberries
  • 4 C water
  • 1/2 C half-and-half (I used whole milk instead)

Put all the ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for eight or nine hours. (I like to add a bit of milk, brown sugar and some chopped pecans – yum)! Makes 4 servings.

Notes:  The original recipe called for the addition of 1 C dried figs. I didn’t add them but I bet that would be delicious as well. The dried cranberries actually plump back up after a night in the slow cooker which makes them very yummy. Store any leftovers in the fridge and reheat in the microwave.

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Published in: on September 14, 2011 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Cheater’s Chocolate Frosting

Remember when my husband took our boys camping so I could have time alone to get ready for school?

To welcome them all home, I made a cake.

After making the cake, though, I was too tired to make the frosting.

Pathetic, I know.

And nothing says “Welcome Home” like a naked cake, right?!

Sarcasm completely intended.

So what’s a girl to do?

I remembered a recipe I had for a quick chocolate frosting. It’s thin, more like a glaze, actually.

It took all of two minutes to make, was delicious and definitely said, “Welcome Home” much better than a plain cake ever could. Remember this the next time you need to dress up a dessert but are short on time;)

Cheater’s Chocolate Frosting

  • 1 C confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 C cocoa
  • 1/4 C water

Whisk together all three ingredients in a medium bowl until smooth. Drizzle glaze over cake and let sit until firm. That’s it. Enjoy!

Published in: on September 7, 2011 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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I love you, Ina (and your lasagna, too)

After two days of eating hot dogs, marshmallows, lunchables, breakfast bars and chocolate pudding (oh my!) on their recent camping trip, I decided to treat my men to a nice home cooked meal.

Enter Ina, aka the Barefoot Contessa.

I’ve tried several recipes from this book and have been happy with all of them. The lasagna on page 100-101 is no exception.

Note that this is not a quick and easy weeknight dinner. Plan to make it on an afternoon when you aren’t rushed. It’s not hard at all, but it does require some prep work as you have to make the sauce from scratch as well as the cheese filling. However, she doesn’t boil the noodles. Instead she, “fills a large bowl with the hottest tap water, adds the noodles and allows them to sit in the water for 20 minutes and drains them.”

I, however, was even lazier. I used no-cook lasagna noodles. Shhhh, don’t tell!

My husband, who was really tired from not sleeping because of the bluegrass festival right next to his tent site (!), managed to look up after taking a couple of bites and say to me, “This is the best lasagna I have ever eaten. You need to make this again.”

To which I think, “it probably tastes so good because you’ve been eating out of a box or package for the last two days.”

But whatever, I’ll take the compliment!

The Barefoot Contessa’s Lasagna with Turkey Sausage

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 C chopped yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 pound sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed (I couldn’t find turkey sausage, so I just used regular sausage)
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree (or juice)
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1/4 C chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
  • 1/2 C chopped fresh basil leaves (I substituted about 1 1/2 tsp of dried basil)
  • kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1/2 lb lasagna noodles
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 3-4 oz creamy goat cheese, crumbled (I substituted 1/2 C of cottage cheese)
  • 1 C grated Parmesan cheese, plus 1/4 C for sprinkling
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 lb fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced (I used the pre-shredded kind)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook for five minutes over medium-low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Add the sausage and cook over medium-low heat, breaking it up, for 8-10 minutes, or until no longer pink. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 T of parsley, the basil, 1 1/2 tsp salt (omit this if you are using flavored (salted) tomato paste) and 1/2 tsp pepper. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat, for 15 to 20 minutes, until thickened.

Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with the hottest tap water. Add the noodles and allow them to sit in the water for 20 minutes. Drain. (I skipped this step and just used the no-cook lasagna noodles instead).

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, goat cheese, 1 C Parmesan, the egg, the remaining 2 T of parsley, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Set aside.

Ladle 1/3 of the sauce into a 9 x 12 x 2-inch baking dish (I sprayed mine with cooking spray) spreading the sauce over the bottom of the dish. Then add the layers as follows: half the pasta, half the mozzarella, half the ricotta and one third of the sauce. Add the rest of the pasta, mozzarella, ricotta and the rest of the sauce. (At this point, I put more mozzarella on top). Sprinkle with 1/4 C of Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling.

To make ahead: refrigerate the assembled, unbaked lasagna. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until bubbly.

My husband actually had a second helping, which he almost never does. (He’s trying to lose his belly!) Even with feeding the four of us, there was plenty of leftovers. I put two pieces in the fridge, which were gone the next day, and the rest I wrapped in freezer paper and put in a labeled freezer bag.

Trust me, you need to label it. You’ll tell yourself that you will remember what is in there, but then promptly forget. Ask me how I know:)

You might like to take a look at some of the other recipes I’ve posted. Enjoy!

Published in: on August 24, 2011 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  

I’m Jammin’, Freezer Style

Sorry, I’m tired today and that was the most clever post title I could think of…

Needless to say, the blueberry freezer jam worked and it’s delicious! It’s also pretty easy with minimal cleanup. The only downside is that it really didn’t make a dent in my accidental collection of glass jars.

I just used the recipe inside the box of fruit pectin (it also comes in low sugar, but my grocery store was completely out).

Here goes. For blueberry jam, you will need:

  • 2 1/2 pints of fresh ripe blueberries, crushed to make three cups
  • 5 1/4 C sugar (crazy, I know!)
  • one box of fruit pectin
  • small canning jars with lids (1 to 2 cups)

Before you begin, make sure all of your jars are clean. I took mine for a spin in the dishwasher! You’ll also have to figure out how many blueberries is in 2 1/2 pints. I’ll save you the math – it’s five cups (2 cups = 1 pint). Now why couldn’t they have just said five cups on the recipe?

Step one: Crush the fruit. You can either use a potato masher or a pastry blender. I used the latter and it worked great. If you use a food processor,  DO NOT puree.

Step two: Measure 3 cups of crushed fruit into a large bowl.

Step three: Measure the exact amount of sugar (5 1/4 cups) into a separate bowl. It’s science people, so it has to be exact;)

Step four: Stir sugar into the fruit, mixing well. Let stand for 10 minutes, giving it the occasional stir.

Step five: Stir one box of pectin and 3/4 C of water in a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Step six: Stir pectin mixture into the fruit mixture. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, about three minutes.

Step seven: Pour into prepared containers, leaving 1/2 inch of room at the top for it to expand in the freezer. Cover with lids.

Step eight: Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours to set. At this point, you can either keep it in the fridge for up to three weeks or store it in the freezer for up to one year.

Let it thaw in the fridge for a couple of days before you enjoy.

Step nine: Take a step back and feel all domestic!!

Now if you wanted to go a step further and decorate them, Emily from Jones Design Company has some beautiful packaging ideas and free printable labels (for raspberry or strawberry jam only) if you scroll down to the end of this post.

You could also download this vintage graphic frame from The Graphics Fairy and handwrite or type your label.

Or, you could be lazy ultra vintage and simple and use a good ol’ fashioned marker:)

For more recipes and tips, visit the Sure-jell website.

Published in: on August 12, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Company Worthy: Pork Chops with Berry-Bourbon Sauce

This recipe (from Family Circle magazine ages ago) is easy to make, tastes delicious and looks impressive all at the same time. I’ve made it on weeknights for our family and also for our Pastor’s family with great results.

Pork Chops with Berry-Bourbon Sauce

Pork

  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 pork tenderoins (about 2 – 2 1/2 lbs total)

Sauce

  • 2 tsp olive oil, plus more for pan
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 C black raspberry or blackberry jam
  • 1/4 C bourbon
  • 3 T apple cider vinegar
  • 2 T ketchup
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch blended with 1 T water

In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients for the pork and rub it on the both sides of the chops.

Coat the bottom of an oven-safe pan with olive oil. Bake the pork chops uncovered in a 425 degree oven for 16-18 minutes, or until no longer pink. Let the meat rest for a few minutes.

For the sauce, heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium-heat. Add onion and thyme and cook for five minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the jam, bourbon, vinegar, ketchup and garlic salt. Return to heat and simmer for seven minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir cornstarch and water mixture and then stir into the sauce. Cook one or two minutes more until thickened. Serve in a small dish along with the pork chops or on top of the pork.

Note: though I haven’t tried it, I bet this sweet and tangy sauce would also go well with grilled chicken.

Enjoy!

Published in: on July 29, 2011 at 5:53 am  Leave a Comment  
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Mandarin Chicken Salad

Hi there! I was all set to make The Frugal Girl’s Mandarin Chicken Salad recipe for dinner last night when inspiration struck.

I followed the recipe for the dressing exactly – and boy, is it ever yummy – but then I got a bit creative with the substitutions for the actual salad.

The original recipe called for two different types of lettuce, rice noodles, mandarin oranges and roasted sliced almonds. I changed things up a bit and used romaine lettuce, blue cheese, red onion, mandarin oranges and pecans. (Incidentally, everything but the red onion came from Aldi).

For the chicken, hubby put some chicken seasoning on it (also from Aldi) and grilled it.

Then I sliced the chicken diagonally and served it warm over the salad.

The end result was very delicious and very easy.

This is a great summer recipe because you don’t have to turn on the oven on a hot day, plus it comes together rather quickly.

Mandarin Chicken Salad II (A variation of The Frugal Girl’s Mandarin Chicken Salad)

Dressing

  • 1/2 C corn syrup (could also try honey or even maple syrup)
  • 3 T white vinegar
  • 2 T pineapple juice (or the juice from the drained oranges)
  • 4 tsp white sugar
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 1 T rice wine vinegar
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil (I was fresh out so I used olive oil instead)
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp paprika
  • dash garlic powder
  • dash black pepper
  • 1/2 C vegetable oil (or olive oil)
  • 1/2 tsp sesame seeds (optional)

Salad

  • 4 chicken breast fillets
  • 2 bunches romaine lettuce, washed and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 – 3/4 C blue cheese crumbles
  • 1 15 oz can mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1/3 C diced red onion
  • 1/2 C pecans

Measure all dressing ingredients into a clean jar with a screw top lid and shake to combine. Sprinkle each chicken breast with the chicken seasoning. Grill on medium/high heat until done. Let rest for 15 minutes before cutting into slices.

To serve, layer lettuce, oranges, blue cheese, red onion and pecans on four dinner plates. Lay warm sliced chicken over the top of each salad. Drizzle with prepared dressing.

Enjoy!

Published in: on July 27, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Good Old Fashioned Pancakes with Cherry Butter

All three of my boys (!) had been asking me to make them pancakes.

There’s not enough time on weekday mornings and our usual breakfast fare on Sunday is either cold cereal or oatmeal.

We had just bought a new cast iron griddle and wanted to give it a whirl.

So this past Saturday, pancakes it was.

They are really easy to make so why I waited so long to make them, I just don’t know.

Here’s a link to the recipe I used. It comes from a friend of mine who is pretty much a wizard in the kitchen. I’m not even exaggerating. I look over the menu plans she posts on her blog and seriously wonder how I could wrangle a dinner invite!

After I started making the recipe though, I realized I wouldn’t have enough maple syrup to pour over the pancakes.

And what are pancakes without real maple syrup anyway?! 

What to do, what to do…

I ended up finely chopping some fresh cherries we had picked up at a local market and mixing them into a stick of butter. (I’ve seen this done with savory herbs, like rosemary or thyme before, but not with fruit, so I wasn’t exactly sure how it was going to turn out).

But I was desperate so I thought I would give it a try.

Know what?

None of us even missed the syrup!

The light and fluffy golden brown pancakes with melted cherry butter were delicious. I just ate dinner and my mouth is watering from thinking about them!

So the moral of the story is to get creative with what you have – and keep an extra bottle of maple syrup in the cupboard.

For emergencies, of course.

Enjoy!

Published in: on July 14, 2011 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Yummy Meatball Sliders

I’ve been in sort of a dinner rut lately. It seemed that we were eating spaghetti, taco soup, hamburgers and pizza for the last three weeks (not really, but it seemed like it).

So where does one go for food inspiration?

How about The Pioneer Woman.

Yep, this woman can really cook. And take beautiful pictures. And homeschool her children. And run a mega-successful blog. And write a book. And….

(deep breath)

back to dinner.

I poked around on her site and came away very inspired, indeed!

This is what I served for dinner:

obviously not my photo

They were so delicious. ALL of my boys ate them – even the 9 and under crew.

This is a keeper recipe and has been added to our dinner rotation. I don’t think our family will be tired of them anytime soon.

Plus, I had enough meatballs and sauce leftover that we can still eat spaghetti this week for dinner (heehee).

So…if you too are in a dinner rut, you might want to try the mini meatball sandwiches from The Pioneer Woman!

Published in: on July 1, 2011 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Paula Deen’s Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

Oh, is this recipe ever good!

Mac and cheese is the ultimate in comfort food. It’s pretty much my go-to recipe when I take a meal to a new mom.

Since it is (ahem) not low-fat in the least, I usually try to serve it with a crisp veggie salad and plenty of fresh fruit. I feel like it somehow cancels out all the yummy, creamy, cheesy goodness – OK, a girl can dream, can’t she!

Here is the link to the printable version: Creamy Macaroni and Cheese.

I’ve made it both with and without the can of cheddar cheese soup. Either way it’s delicious. The soup just makes it have a bit more of a silky texture to it.

Enjoy!

Published in: on June 21, 2011 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Easy Caribbean Layered Dip

This is my go-to appetizer recipe.

I brought it to a cookout on Friday night and then made a fresh batch for a gathering on Saturday. On both nights, virtually none was left.

It’s quick and easy to make, is relatively low-fat and it even looks pretty on the plate.

The next time you are asked to bring a dish to pass, tell the hostess you’ll bring an appetizer;)

Easy Caribbean Layered Dip

  • 1 (8 oz) block of Neufchâtel cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 C sour cream
  • 1 T taco seasoning mix (from a 1.25 oz envelope)
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and well-rinsed
  • 1/2 C chopped red bell peppers
  • 1/2 C chopped mango (I substituted a can of drained mandarin oranges)
  • 2 T chopped fresh cilantro (I like cilantro, so I used more like 1/3 cup!)
  • 1-2 tsp finely chopped jalapeno chiles (optional)
  • tortilla chips

In a small bowl, mix cream cheese, sour cream and taco seasoning until smooth. Spread mixture on a round serving plate. Top with black beans, bell pepper, mango or oranges, cilantro and jalapeno chilies (if using). Serve with tortilla chips. Makes 24 servings. Serving size = 2 T dip and 3 chips

Enjoy!

I linked this up to Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

Published in: on June 14, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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