Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Frosted Pumpkin Bars

This recipe is courtesy of My Life as a Mama. Enjoy!

1 c sugar
2 lg eggs
1 c canned pumpkin
½ c veg. oil
1 c flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¾ c confectioners’ sugar
¼ c cream cheese
2 TBSP butter, softened
½ tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 9 inch square pan. Prepare cake, In bowl, with mixer at med speed, beat sugar and eggs 2 min. Beat in pumpkin and oil. At low speed, add flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt, beat 1 minute.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Cook cake in pan on wire rack.

Prepare frosting: in bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat confectioner’s sugar and remaining ingredients 2 minutes or until fluffy, use to frost cake.

More Fun Fall Dessert!

This recipe is from Palm Tree Fanatic, she didn't specify amounts, so have fun experimenting to see what you like best!

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough
Chocolate Chunk Chips
Butter Flavored Crisco
Seasonal Dark Chocolate M&M's

Spread cookie dough in a bottom greased 9 x 13 dish and bake till done. Then lay large or small marshmallows over the that while hot. Mix chocolate chunk chips and butter flavored crisco together either on stove or in microwave. Drizzle over marshmallow and top with seasonal Dark chocolate m&ms.

How kids can help:
Kids can help layer marshmallows & sprinkle M&M's

Make it Healthier:
Use real butter instead of Crisco to eliminate trans fats.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Lentil, Sausage & Rice Soup

This recipe comes to us from Mrs. Micah.

Yield: 10+ Servings
Prep: 2 hours

1 Sausage
2 c. dried lentils
2 c. rice (brown is healthiest)
11 c. water or chicken broth or both (if you don’t have any broth, bullion will add some flavor)
2 carrots
1 onion
1 1/2 tsp. paprika
salt & pepper to taste

If not using broth, heat water and add bullion cubes. You don’t have to make the exact amount’s worth of chicken broth, but a few cubes will add flavor. Or just pour broth into the pan. Add rice & lentils. Bring to a boil and then simmer. While water is coming to a boil, brown the sausage and add to the pot. Let simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Dice carrots and onion. Add to soup along with paprika. Let simmer another 35-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe costs less than $10 to make and has at least 10 servings. Most of the cost $4 is in the sausage, so you can always add more lentils and throw in some pepper for spice. Or use leftover meat.

Harvest Bread

Prep: 80 minutes, plus baking
Yield: 10-12 servings

2 tbsp. active dry yeast
1-1/4 cups warm water
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup milk
1 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. light molasses
6 tbsp. butter, softened
3 cups whole wheat flour
3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup chopped raisins
1/4 cup grated carrot
1 egg
Dash of salt

Combine the yeast, warm water, and sugar in a large bowl and let sit for 15 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, salt, molasses, and butter. Stir well and add to yeast mixture. Slowly add the whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it on a floured surface, adding more all-purpose flour as necessary to keep the dough from getting too sticky. Knead in the nuts, seeds, apricots, raisins, and grated carrot. Try to distribute the treats evenly through the dough.

When the dough feels smooth after about 10 minutes of kneading, form it into a ball and coat with butter. Place the ball into a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. After about an hour and a half, the dough should double in bulk. Punch down the dough, divide it into two loaves, and place in buttered 8-1/4 inch loaf pans. The loaves should be left to rise again for about 45 minutes. Beat together the egg, water, and salt for the egg wash. Brush the loaves with the glaze, then bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. The loaves should sound hollow when you tap the bottom of the pan.

Indiana Corn Casserole

Prep: 20 minutes, plus baking
Yield: 6-8 servings

1 pound bacon
1/2 cup butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups sour cream
2 pounds fresh corn (or frozen corn, thawed)
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the bacon, then chop it into bite-size pieces and set it aside. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté the onion, celery, and peppers until soft. Stir in the flour, then the sour cream, until well combined. Add the corn and most of the bacon bits and season with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into a 9- by 13-inch baking dish and sprinkle on the remaining bacon bits and the parsley. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until lightly browned.

Make it Healthier:
Cut fat by using half the bacon, butter, and flour. Use reduced fat sour cream and omit salt.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Carving a jack-o-lantern this year? Turn the seeds into a tasty & healthy snack!

Use an ice-cream scoop to remove the seeds from the pumpkin and transfer them to a large bowl. Now for the tough part: Separate the seeds from the pumpkin fiber (this is a messy job that you should do outside). To make the process a little easier, fill the bowl with water and let the pumpkin seeds soak. Have a bowl of clean water nearby and a colander, too.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Toss the rinsed pumpkin seeds into a smaller bowl, drizzle with olive oil (2-4 tbs per pumpkin, depending on size), and sprinkle with salt. Spread the seeds on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until slightly brown.

Tips & Tricks
Try seasoning seeds with Mrs. Dash instead of table salt for a lower sodium snack.

How kids can Help:
Kids can help pick seeds from pulp.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Steak With Drunken Mushrooms

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

3 tablespoons butter
Four 8-ounce sirloin steaks, pounded 1/2 inch thick
Salt and pepper
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 cup beer, preferably Bass Ale
1 dash Worcestershire sauce

In a large, heavy skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. Season 2 steaks with salt and pepper and add to the pan, weighting them down with a Dutch oven or another skillet. Cook until browned, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer the steaks to a large platter, cover loosely with foil and repeat with another tablespoon butter and the remaining 2 steaks.

In the same skillet, add the mushrooms, shallots and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are softened and the shallots are translucent, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the beer and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and the Worcestershire sauce. Top each steak with the mushroom mixture.

Tips and Tricks
I bought a large top round steak and then cut into four smaller pieces. Placing the meat in a resealable bag and pounding with a crab mallet is the easiest (and most satisfying) way to flatten the meat. I flattened mine somewhat, but didn't worry about making it 1/2 inch thick. You can add extra cooking time for thicker steaks. In place of shallots, I used scallions, and I used Clipper City Gold in place of Bass Ale. Buy presliced mushrooms to save time. Two minutes per side of meat yields medium rare steak, so add extra time if you prefer your meat cooked more thoroughly. I also skipped the step of weighing the steak down with another skillet.
Make It Healthier
Use unsalted butter or trans-fat free spread.
How Kids Can Help
Pound meat flat. Measure ingredients.
Suggested Sides
steamed asparagus, twice-baked potatoes

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Moms Sound Off: Is It Okay To Hide Veggies In Food?

Last week, I introduced a new item on our sidebar, The Cook's Library, which is a list of cookbooks and magazines that we like.

One of the books I mentioned is the new book by Jessica Seinfeld, 'Deliciously Deceptive,' in which the recipes include pureed vegetables hidden inside dishes such as brownies, mashed potatoes, chicken nuggets, et cetera.

I had no idea at the time I wrote the post how controversial Seinfeld's book, and others that are similar to it, would be. The biggest complaint seems to be that people find the idea of sneaking healthy foods into kids to be dishonest, and many have said that they feel following this practice will do more harm than good, as moms should be encouraging healthy eating.

What is your opinion? Do you think it's dishonest to hide vegetables in other foods? Do you find it easy to get your children to try new foods and eat their veggies? Would you consider your kids picky eaters?

I have decided that I don't need the Deliciously Deceptive book, but not because it's a bad book or because I object to the idea of hiding vegetables. It's just because I'm a good enough cook that I don't need a recipe for macaroni and cheese, and because I'm not inclined to spend the time pureeing vegetables.

The author is clear that her book is not advocating this method as an alternative to offering vegetables in their usual form or teaching kids about healthy eating choices. Rather, she acknowledges that kids can have bizarre eating habits and that as long as you make sure healthy foods are right where they can choose to eat them, what they can't see what hurt them.

Even before this book was published, I put extra veggies in my food. Finely diced carrots in chicken salad, chopped onions in scrambled eggs, shredded zucchini in meatloaf. I serve those "beefed up" foods along with whole grains and fresh vegetables. My son has been picky in the past, so it makes me feel better knowing that even if he chooses not to eat his broccoli, he's still getting some vegetables from the other dishes I made. When he was a baby, he was briefly classified as a failure to thrive baby, due to an undiagnosed food allergy, and my pediatrician told me to "get the food into him, any way you can." I involve him in every aspect of cooking, and that has made a big difference in how well he eats, but he still has days when he doesn't eat well.

I think the difference is in using the 'hiding veggies' method as the primary way to get veggies into your kids and using is as insurance in case the usual method doesn't work. Let's face it, not every mom is comfortable in the kitchen and plenty of parents can use some guidance on how to make something healthier. As for being dishonest, don't we tell our kids that a man from the North Pole comes down the chimney every Christmas with a sack full of gifts? What's the difference?

Let us know what you think? Is hiding vegetables in other foods an offensive idea, or is it one you have used in the past? What are some of your tricks for getting your kids to try vegetables (and like them)?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Turkey Waldorf Salad

Yield: 4-6 servings
Prep: 15 minutes

2 cups sliced celery
2 cups cooked small shell pasta
2 cups diced cooked turkey breast (12 ounces)
2 cups diced unpeeled Fuji apples
1/4 cup sliced scallions (green onions)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Yogurt Dressing
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
3 Tbsp. reduced calorie mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

Combine ingredients for yogurt dressing. In a large bowl combine celery with pasta, turkey, apple, scallions and walnuts. Add Yogurt dressing; toss to coat thoroughly.

Tips and Tricks:
To toast walnuts: Place in a small dry skillet over low heat until golden, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Slowcooker Scalloped Potatoes with Ham

Prep: 15 minutes, plus slowcooking
Yield: 4 Servings

3 lbs potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups chopped cooked ham
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Place potatoes in slow cooker. Mix cheese with ham. Mix with potatoes. Mix together soup and water. Add garlic powder and spices to taste. Pour over potato mixture. Cover, cook on high 4 hours.

This can also be cooked in the oven at 350 degrees for 1 ½ hours.

Tips & Tricks:
Make sure those potatoes are sliced thinner than thin or you will have uncooked potatoes in this dish. Frozen diced hashbrown potatoes can be used in place of fresh.

Baked Potato Soup

Yield: 4 Servings
Prep: 20 minutes

4 large baked potatoes
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup flour
6 cups milk
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
12 slices bacon, fried & crumbled
2 cups shredded cheese, divided
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream

Cut potatoes in half. Scoop out the pulp and put it in a small bowl. Melt butter in a large pot. Add flour. Gradually stir in milk. Continue to stir until smooth, thickened, and bubbly. Stir in potato pulp, salt and pepper, & ¾ of the cheese. Cook until heated. Stir in sour cream. Top with remaining bacon & cheese.

Tips and Tricks:
To prepare for this recipe, prepare 4 extra baked potatoes next time you serve them and refrigerate until you make this soup. This recipe works best with whole or 2% milk.

Suggested Sides:
Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Inside Out Cheeseburgers

Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (2 to 3 ounces)
2 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 hamburger buns, split and toasted
Lettuce, onion slices and condiments, for serving

In a small bowl, using a fork, mash together the blue cheese and cream cheese until smooth. Stir in the parsley. Divide the mixture into 4 disks about 1 1/2 inches across. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

In a large bowl, season the beef with salt and pepper and mix well. Form into 4 equally sized patties about 3/4 inch thick.

Form a deep cavity in the center of each beef patty. Place a cheese disk in each cavity and pull the meat together to completely cover the cheese.

In a large skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the burgers and cook, about 4 minutes on each side for medium. Serve on the buns with the lettuce, onion and condiments.

Tips and Tricks
Blue cheese wasn't on sale this week, so I used cream cheese and shredded monterey jack cheese. In place of parsley, I used Tastefully Simple Spinach and Herb Dip Mix, but you could use whichever spice you like. I also skipped making the cheese mixture into disks and just refrigerated the mixture as is. I used slightly less than a pound of meat to make three burgers, and instead of making a cavity in the beef patty, I placed the cheese mixture in the middle, then folded the patty in half and reshaped it. The burgers also took closer to 20 minutes to cook through, but the prep was a lot less than the 30 minutes the original recipe called for. The burgers can also be made ahead of time and refrigerated until dinner time.
Make It Healthier
Serve on whole wheat rolls, top with leafy green lettuce. Use lean ground beef.
How Kids Can Help
Mix cheese. Older kids can shape patties, but supervise to make sure they wash up well.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

October Poll: Meals In A Jiffy

If you're a mom, or a dad in charge of the cooking, you're probably aware of just how attractive the idea of a quick and healthy meal is. Food Network Icons have made millions using that very idea, and most of the food-centric magazines on the shelves have recipes that can be made quickly.

It's no wonder it's so popular. When you're trying to fit dinner in between work, soccer practice, and meetings, or if you have small children at home that need a lot of attention, faster is almost always better.

Women of my mom's generation spent an average of an hour cooking dinner each night. My generation spends closer to thirty minutes. I have a baby and a preschooler at home, so I'm willing to try just about any recipe that can be made in under thirty minutes that still meets my requirements for a healthy dinner. To meet this goal, I take advantage of convenience grocery products, like instant rice or thin-sliced chicken, and I stock my kitchen with the best tools of the trade. Using my crockpot, we can have a delicious roast beef dinner with little effort on my part, and we eat steamed vegetables every night thanks in part to my microwave.

Share with us! How long do you spend in the kitchen cooking dinner and what are some of your tricks for cutting preparation and cooking time?

Skillet Lasagna

Heres a quick dinner for when you are on the go.

Prep: 35 minutes
Yield: 8-10 servings

24 oz Ricotta Cheese
1/4 C. Water
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 wedge fresh Parmesan Cheese ( you won't use the whole wedge, only about 1/2 cup)
4 C Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
2lbs Cooked Ground Beef
2 (26oz) Jars of Spaghetti Sauce
1 box no cook Lasagna noodles
3 cloves garlic

Brown ground beef in skillet. While beef is heating. Mix together Ricotta cheese, garlic, 1/2 c Parmesan, water, and salt in a bowl. Brain ground beef. Place beef back in skillet and add 1 jar of spaghetti sauce to ground beef. Then add a layer of noodles (you may have to break a few noodles to get them to fit). Spread ricotta cheese mixture over top of noodles. Add another layer of noodles. Add 2nd jar of spaghetti sauce. top with Mozzarella cheese. Place lid on skillet and cook on Med. heat for 20-25 min. on stove top.

Poll Round-Up: Eating As A Family

Our September/October Poll was about eating meals as a family. Thirty-four of you voted, with 44% voting for 'every night' and 47% voting for 4-5 times per week.

These days, it seems everyone is busy, so setting aside time to spend together as a family can be difficult. Since everyone needs to eat, mealtime is a great way to make sure you're getting that quality time with your spouse and kids before everyone rushes off to activities and jobs.

Contributor Jen says, "We eat dinner together every night. Since [my husband's] schedule is such that he can't always be with us because of travel, the kids and I still do. We also eat lunches and breakfasts together. When [my husband] leaves to get on a plane at dinner time, I fix a big lunch as our "dinner" for the day, so we still get to enjoy a nice meal together before he leaves."

Reader Lisa says, "I love the family dinner. The kids and I eat together most nights. If my hubby can be home, we all eat together, but he has a long commute and we never know when he will show. I just had one enter high school, though, and you never know with sports what will change. The goal is to eat together as much as possible."

Debbie says, "We will have Daddy on speakerphone if he can't be with us. Sometimes we will have a quick snack dinner with finger foods to eat quickly and more relaxed. Otherwise we always have family night on Friday and work very hard at making sure we don't book anything that night."

Erin says, "Even when [my son] refuses to eat his dinner, we still make him sit at the table with us while we eat. Its the one thing I insist on doing as a family as much as we possibly can."

Thanks for the ideas ladies! Be sure to vote in our new poll and check back next month for the results.

Cran-Apple Crisp

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Yield: 15 servings

8 cups sliced peeled Granny Smith or other tart apples (about 5 large)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cloves
5 tablespoons cold butter
1/3 cup quick-cooking oats

In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients; toss to coat. Transfer to a 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray.

For topping, in a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, whole wheat flour, milk powder, cinnamon and cloves. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in oats. Sprinkle over apples.

Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown.

Tips and Tricks
I omit the walnuts from this recipe. This makes a huge portion, so unless you're cooking for a crowd, consider cutting the recipe down.
Make It Healthier
Use unsalted butter or trans-fat free spread.
How Kids Can Help
Older kids can peel apples. Younger kids can measure ingredients.

Nutrition Facts
One serving equals 202 calories, 7 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 11 mg cholesterol, 51 mg sodium, 35 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 2 g protein
Diabetic Exchanges
1-1/2 fat, 1 starch, 1 fruit

Apple Thyme Chicken

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

6 tablespoons apple juice
6 tablespoons lemon juice
4-1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
4-1/2 teaspoons canola oil
1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (4 ounces each)
2 medium apples, peeled and quartered
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 cup apple juice

In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients; mix well. Pour half of the marinade into a large resealable plastic bag; add chicken. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate remaining marinade.

Coat grill rack with nonstick cooking spray before starting the grill. Drain and discard marinade from chicken. Dip apples in reserved marinade; set aside.

Combine the honey with the remaining marinade. Grill chicken, covered, over medium heat for 4-6 minutes on each side or until juices run clear, basting frequently with the honey marinade.

Grill apples, uncovered, for 3-5 minutes, basting and turning frequently or until lightly browned.

In a large saucepan, combine the cornstarch, thyme and apple juice until blended. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.

Slice the grilled apples; stir into sauce. Serve with chicken.

Tips and Tricks
This recipe is great on the grill, but works well using a grill pan inside. Buy pretrimmed chicken to save time.
Make It Healthier
Use 100% juice applejuice.
How Kids Can Help
Measure ingredients for marinade. Older kids can use a apple corer to slice apples.

Nutrition Facts
One serving (1 chicken breast half with 1/4 cup sauce) equals 266 calories, 3 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 66 mg cholesterol, 76 mg sodium, 22 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 26 g protein
Diabetic Exchanges
3 lean meat, 1-1/2 fruit

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Authentic Cannelloni

This recipe is from Little Women Treasures It's on our menu for tomorrow night. Enjoy!

Yield: 8 Servings
Prep: 45 minutes

16-ounce package manicotti shells

16 ounces cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken
2 large eggs
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
14-ounce jar spaghetti sauce
16-ounce jar Alfredo sauce
1/4 cups finely chopped fresh parsley, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 13x9-inch baking dish. Cook pasta shells using package directions; drain. Combine cottage cheese, 1 cup Parmesan, chicken, eggs, garlic, salt, and black pepper in a large bowl and mix well. Fill pasta shells with the cottage cheese mixture.
Arrange pasta shells in a single layer in prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with half the remaining Parmesan. Pour Alfredo sauce crosswise over half of each pasta shell. Pour spaghetti sauce over the remaining half. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes. Garnish with parsley if desired.

How Kids Can Help:
Kids can help mix together ingredients, and help measure & dump spices.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Wendy's Chili

Do you love Wendy's Chili? Here's a knockoff recipe that tastes surprisingly identical. Now all I need is the recipe for fries to dip in it...

Prep: 3 hours
Yield: 12+ servings

2 lbs ground beef
1 (29 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (29 ounce) can kidney beans (with liquid)

1 (29 ounce) can pinto beans (with liquid)

1 cup diced onions (approx 1 medium onion)

1/2 cup diced green chili peppers (approx 2 chilies)

1/4 cup diced celery (approx 1 stalk)

3 medium tomatoes chopped
2-3 teaspoons cumin powder
3 tablespoons chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups water

Brown ground beef and drain off fat.

Combine all ingredients in a large pot.

Bring to a simmer and cook, 2-3 hours, stirring frequently (although not constantly).

Tips & Tricks:
Can be made in a crock pot to skip the stirring. You can use dried beans if you soak them overnight & boil in water for 30 minutes prior to making, then cook in the crock pot on low heat all day.

Crockpot Applesauce

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 8 hours
Yield: at least ten servings

8 to 10 medium sized apples
1/2 cup water
cinnamon to taste

Peel, core and chop the apples. Place in a slowcooker and add the water.

Cover and cook 6-8 hours or until apples are tender, stirring occasionally.

Add cinnamon to taste (about 1-2 Tbsp), stir and cook an additional 30 minutes.

Cool Completely before transferring to storage containers. Freeze or keep refrigerated.

Tips and Tricks
Sweet apples work best for this recipe, but any variety will do. If you are using tart apples, you may want to add cinnamon sugar instead of plain cinnamon to cut the tartness a little. Chop the apples as finely or as coarsely as you prefer. My family likes it chunky. The apple pieces will turn brown while cooking, and don't be surprised if the apples smell like they are burning for the first hour or two. As the fruit releases natural sugar, this is normal. This applesauce also freezes well.
How Kids Can Help
Older kids can use a peeler to peel the fruit. Add water to crockpot. Push buttons on crockpot. Sprinkle cinnamon and stir.

Spotlight On Produce: Apples

If there is one sure sign that fall is here, it's the scent of baking apples. When I was a kid, my family used to camp in the mountains and stop for homegrown apples on the way home. The smell of crockpot applesauce is one of the strongest scent memories of my childhood, and now that I'm grown, I make my own applesauce every fall.

Apples are a white-fleshed fruit with red, yellow or green skin and a crisp texture. Apples range in taste from sweet to tart, depending on the variety. The apple is a member of the rose family.

Apples are an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, as well as antioxidants and Vitamin C. Apples contain fructose, a natural simple sugar, that helps stabilize blood sugar.

Apples are in season in the northern hemisphere from late summer to early winter, but are available year round due to importing fresh fruit or cold storage. Try adding diced apples to fruit salads or dipping raw apple slices in caramel sauce for a sweet treat. Add apples to breads and muffins, or pair apples with cheese for a European-style dessert. Bake an All-American apple pie, or use applesauce to replace most of the oil in baked goods for a healthy alternative.

When selecting apples, look for rich, vibrant color and firm flesh. Pass on apples that are soft, those that have broken skin or those with bruises. Whether you choose sweet or tart apples is up to your personal preference, but tart apples, such as Granny Smith, retain their texture the best when cooked.

What are some of your favorite ways to cook with apples?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pumpkin French Toast

Prep: 10 minutes
Yield: 8 servings

  • 3/4 cup of milk
  • 1/3 cup of canned or freshly cooked pumpkin
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp pf brown sugar
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • 16 slices of stale bread or croissants
  • 5 tbsp of butter
Mix together all ingredients except bread & butter. Soak pieces of stale bread in the wet mixture, & fry in butter until both sides are browned.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Apple Pockets

Another recipe from Parents, I made these with the kids tonight-they turned out scrumptious!

Prep: 20 minutes, plus baking
Yield: 10 pies

2 Golden Delicious Apples
2 Tbs Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
Flour for dusting rolling surface
1 pkg refrigerated biscuits

Heat oven to 350. Peel apples & grate into a medium bowl. In a small bowl, combine sugar & cinnamon. Stir half of cinnamon sugar into grated apples. Roll each biscuit to about a 5" circle. Spoon apple mixture onto circles. Fold circles over and pinch edges to make half-moons. Place on a baking sheet. Brush pies with water and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar. Bake 20 minutes.

Tips & Tricks:
I had crescent roll dough instead of biscuit dough and it worked well. I used granny smith apples, and used squares to make triangle pies instead of circles for half-moons.

How Kids Can Help:
Kids can fill pies, fold over & pinch edges. Older kids can help roll out dough.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thai Chicken-Broccoli Wraps

This delicious recipe is from the latest issue of Parents Magazine

Yield: 6 sandwiches
Prep: 20 minutes

12 oz boneless chicken breast strips
1/4 tsp garlic salt
2 cups broccoli-slaw mix
1/4 tsp ground ginger
Peanut sauce (recipe below)
3 10-inch whole wheat tortillas, warmed

Sprinkle chicken strips with garlic salt. Coat a large, nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Cook and stir seasoned chicken in hot skillet over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes or until cooked through. Remove chicken from skillet and keep warm. Coat pan again with cooking spray, add broccoli slaw and ginger to skillet. Cook stirring constantly until vegetables are crisp-tender.

Peanut Sauce:
3 tbs peanut butter
2 tbs hot water
1 tbs reduced sodium soy sauce
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp ginger.

Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth.

Spread tortillas with peanut sauce. Top with chicken strips and broccoli slaw mix. Roll up each tortilla, and cut in half. Serve immediately.

Tips and Tricks:
I use fresh garlic, in place of garlic salt & stir fry with the chicken.

How Kids Can Help:
Kids can help assemble tortillas.

Nutrition Facts:
223 Calories, 19 g protein, 7 grams fat, 21g carbs, 71 mg calcium, 4g fiber.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Cook's Library

I am one of those cooks that prefer to have a recipe to work from. I rarely follow a recipe down to the letter, but I'm not into just throwing stuff into a pan and hoping it comes out okay.

Over the weekend, one of my husband's aunts gave me a pile of old issues of Everyday With Rachael Ray. Each issue is packed full of cool gear, cooking tips and tons of yummy recipes (each with a photo). I've already tried a couple of new recipes and have many more than I plan to make. This is one publication that has clearly and easily won me over as a great reference for cooking.

I'm also a big fan of Light and Tasty magazine. Each issue has over a hundred recipes and is catalogued not only by type of dish, but by health requirements, such as low sodium or low fat. All the recipes have nutritional information and many have diabetic exchanges as well. This is real food for real people, and I can feel good knowing I'm providing a delicious yet nutritious meal for my family.

Recently, in a parenting magazine, I read a review for a book by Jessica Seinfeld, wife of Jerry, on sneaking healthy foods into your kids. I encourage my picky son to make healthy choices and try new foods, but I'm also guilty of sneaking carrots into meatloaf and squash into pancakes, as an insurance policy against the bizarre eating habits of little people. So when I was in a bookstore, I checked out the cookbook and liked what I saw. It's going on my Christmas list.

Be sure to check out the new item in our sidebar, The Cook's Library. Everyone gets stumped sometimes, and it's always nice to have a recommendation behind a book or magazine. Here are our picks! Be sure to let us know if you have any that you rely on, so we can check it out.

Happy reading!

Chicken Breasts With Pan Gravy

This recipe is from the current issue of Everyday With Rachael Ray.

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 12 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

Four 7- to 8-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter

Lightly season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper, then coat with the flour, shaking off any excess.

In a large skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to serving plates to rest.

Add the shallots to the skillet and cook until just translucent, about 1 minute. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until reduced and syrupy, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in the chicken broth and boil until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter and any juices from the resting chicken. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper and spoon over the chicken.

Tips and Tricks
If you don't have shallots, use 2 green onions and 1 clove of garlic. You could also use finely chopped yellow onion. I used Vidal blanc wine, which is a semi-sweet wine, and it tasted great. If you don't drink wine or don't have any on hand, substitute additional chicken broth. You could also use sherry, but stay away from cooking sherry, it's mostly vinegar and it doesn't taste good. Use thin sliced chicken to cut your cooking time. Place the flour in a resealable plastic bag to easily coat the chicken.
Make It Healthier
Omit salt. Use low-sodium broth. Use salt-free butter or trans-fat free spread.
How Kids Can Help
Shake bag to coat chicken. Press garlic. Measure ingredients.

Monday, October 8, 2007

No Baste-Turkey Dinner and a Week of Delicious Leftovers

Here's a delicious way to plan meals and save money! Whole turkeys are typically extremely inexpensive (especially this time of year!), and with easy leftover meals, you can enjoy an entire week of delicious turkey-based dishes! Turkey is delicious, healthy, and is high in Triptophan so it is a natural antidepressant.

Prep: 20 minutes, plus roasting
Yield: varies by size of your turkey. For my family of 4, a 12 lb turkey will feed us for a week.

1 turkey, thawed
Pam cooking spray
1 brown paper grocery sack

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove neck & giblets from turkey. Rinse with cold water inside & out. Pat dry with a paper towel. Place turkey in brown paper bag & staple closed. Place in roasting dish in oven. On a lower rack place a cookie sheet to catch drippings. Roast until meat thermometer reads 190 degrees, about 4 hours for a 12 lb turkey. About one hour before turkey is done, remove bag & discard bag, spray turkey with Pam. Return to the oven.

Carve turkey, and clean all visible meat from bones. Reserve any tiny pieces in a bowl for casseroles. Reserve carcass for soup. Reserve drippings for gravy.

Tips & Tricks:
Almost any chicken recipe can use turkey in its place.

Sunday: Turkey dinner with Mashed Potatoes & Gravy (make extra mashed potatoes & gravy, reserve leftovers for Tuesday & Wednesday.)

Monday: Turkey Noodle Soup

Tuesday: Leftover Turkey & Potatoes from Sunday

Wednesday: Turkey Dinner Casserole

Thursday: Turkey Divan

Friday: Enchiladas (use the tiny bits of turkey you reserved from Sunday to save time-no chopping needed.)

Saturday: Leftovers from the week. Or, for more recipes, try here.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Pumpkin Maple Pie with Fresh Pumpkin

You wanted more pumpkin and we heard you! This delicious take on a traditional pumpkin pie comes to us from Real Life. She has a great Mom Blog with lots of frugal tips and a Christian perspective. Check her out!

1 unbaked single pie crust
1/2 cu sugar
1/3 maple syrup
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 lg eggs
1 cu evaporated milk
1 (15oz) can pumpkin or 2 cups cooked, mashed pumpkin**

Place pie crust in a 9-inch pie plate, coated with cooking spray. Beat sugar and next 5 ingredients at medium speed until well-blended. Add milk and pumpkin. Beat well. Pour into prepared crust. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350. (Do not remove pie from oven) Bake an additional 50 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack.

Tips & Tricks: Want a home-made pie crust look without all that work?
I love Pillsbury refrigerated roll out pie crust. You can use your own decorative pie dish and decorate it any way you want. The easiest way to decorate the crust edge is to fold the extra under, and press a fork around the rim.

**How to cook with fresh pumpkin:
This is super easy, and, in my opinion, always tastes better than canned pumpkin. You can use it in any recipe that calls for canned pumpkin.

* Cut a medium sized pie pumpkin in half sideways (not up-and-down)
* Place the halves open-side down on a baking sheet
* Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until the "meat is easily scraped out and mashed
* Scrape the pumpkin out with a spoon into a bowl, then mash with a potato masher. If you need a super fine texture, such as for soup, blend in a food processor.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Ghost Meringue Cookies

Prep: 15 minutes
Bake: 45 minutes plus standing
Yield: 2 1/2 dozen

2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
Orange food coloring, optional
1-1/2 teaspoons miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Place egg whites in a small mixing bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Add extracts and vinegar; beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, on high until stiff glossy peaks form and sugar is dissolved, about 6 minutes. Beat in food coloring if desired.

Cut a small hole in the corner of a pastry or plastic bag; insert a #10 round pastry tip. Fill bag with egg white mixture. Pipe 1-1/2-in.-diameter ghosts onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Add two chips on each for eyes.Bake at 250° for 40-45 minutes or until set and dry. Turn oven off; leave cookies in oven for 1 hour. Carefully remove from parchment paper. Store in an airtight container.

Tips and Tricks
These cookies look like large hershey kisses, with an orange tint and chocolate chip eyes. In place of the pastry bag, I used my Pampered Chef cake decorator with a smaller tip. The cylinder is solid, so my three year old was able to handle it. I also left out the almond extract.
Make It Healthier
At 15 calories apiece and zero cholesterol, these are guilt free treats!
How Kids Can Help
Measure ingredients. Older kids can use the mixer. Pipe ghosts onto parchment paper.

Strawberry Ghosts

Prep/Total Time: 25 minutes
Yield: 2 1/2 dozen

30 fresh strawberries
8 squares (1 ounce each) white baking chocolate
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Wash strawberries and gently pat with paper towels until completely dry. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt white chocolate at 50% power; stir until smooth. Stir in extract.Dip strawberries in chocolate mixture; place on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet, allowing excess chocolate to form the ghosts' tails.

Immediately press chocolate chips into coating for eyes. Freeze for 5 minutes.In a microwave-safe bowl, melt remaining chocolate chips; stir until smooth. Dip a toothpick into melted chocolate and draw a mouth on each face.

Tips and Tricks
After the ghosts are finished, keep them refrigerated. Drawing the mouth was harder then it sounds, so we just made chocolate dots where the mouth would be. The original recipe called for 1 teaspoon of shortening, but I omitted it. I also substituted vanilla extract for the almond extract.
Make It Healthier
Don't use the shortening.
How Kids Can Help
Press buttons on microwave. Dip strawberries.

Sweet Potato Fries For Fall

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

2 sweet potatoes, peeled
butter flavored cooking spray

Slice the sweet potatoes into 1/4 inch or thinner slices. Use pumpkin and leaf cookie cutters to cut shapes from the slices. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and coat with cooking spray.

Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes or until tender.

Tips and Tricks
I used the Pampered Chef Creative Cutters set (see sidebar) to make these fall themed fries, but you could use any cutters you have. Make them for every holiday! I also diced up the remaining potato, coated and baked it, and it made perfect finger food for my baby. Coat with olive oil if you don't have cooking spray, but be sure to check them often, because olive oil has a low smoking point.
How Kids Can Help
Cut shapes from slices. Stir to coat.

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

Prep: 10 minutes
Bake: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
4-1/2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place potatoes in a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with seasonings; toss to coat.

Bake at 425° for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown, stirring once.

Tips and Tricks
Place all ingredients into a resealable plastic bag and shake to coat to cut prep time.
Make It Healthier
Omit salt.
How Kids Can Help
Coat potatoes. Measure ingredients. Scrub potatoes.

Nutrition Facts
3/4 cup equals 147 calories, 5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 300 mg sodium, 24 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 2 g protein
Diabetic Exchanges: 1-1/2 starch, 1 fat

Halloween Spider Cupcakes

Prep: 1 hour
Yield: 24 Cupcakes

1 cake mix prepared according to package directions to make 24 cupcakes
1 container chocolate icing
1 bag skittles
1 bag twizzlers pull-aparts
1 bag candy corn

Bake cupcakes, cool, & frost. Create spiders by arranging 8 twizzler strings, 2 skittles, & 2 candy corns to resemble leggs, eyes, and fangs.

How kids can help:
Kids can help assemble spiders

Halloween Mummies

Prep: 20 minutes
Yield: 8 sandwiches

8 hot dogs
1 package of crescent roll dough (8 rolls)

Preheat oven according to roll dough directions. Cut dough into thin slices using a knife or an egg noodle cutter. Wrap each hot dog in strips to resemble a mummy. Bake according to directions for rolls. Create eyes & mouth using mustard & ketchup by putting each into a ziploc bag, cutting off the corner and using it as a miniature pastry tube.

How Kids Can Help:
Kids can help wrap mummies

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Rustic Potato-Leek Soup

This recipe was submitted by Jen of Mythbuster Beauty. She has a great site dedicated to great skincare & beauty products, she reviews several products & companies each week! Great site, be sure to check her out!

4 pounds leeks (rinsed and and chopped into 1 inch pieces. Use only white and 3 inches of light green portion)
4 tb. butter, unsalted
1 tb. Wondra Flour, or Flour
5 cups chicken stock, or canned broth
1 bay leaf
2 lbs. red potatoes chopped

Heat the butter and I usually add some chopped bacon into a large stockpot (I love my Le Creuset pan for this), until melted and foaming. Stir in leeks and increase heat and cover for 15-20 minutes, but do not brown the leeks.

Sprinkle flour over the leeks and coat evenly until it dissolves.

Increase the heat and pour in the stock, whisking continually. Add the bay leaf, potatoes and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste.

There are 2 variations of this soup that I haven't tried, one adds Kielbasa, and the other White Beans to this soup.

*This recipe is from a cookbook called "The Best Recipe Soups and Stews" by Cooks Illustrated.

Pumpkin Pudding

I know you are all still craving pumpkin, so here you go! I'm trying this one out this week, as my parents are in town. This recipe is from Lei at My Many Colored Days. She has posted a great list of fun Fall things to do, so check her out.

Prep: 15 minutes, plus 60 minutes baking
Yield: 12 servings

2/3 c white sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/4 t ground cloves
1/4 t pumpkin pie spice
1/2 package spice cake mix
1/4 cup margarine, melted
1/2 c chopped walnuts
1 29 oz can pumpkin

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 9x13 baking dish. Blend together sugar, eggs, evaporated milk,pumpkin, cinnamon, salt, clove and pie spice. Pour into baking dish. Spread dry cake mix over pumpkin mixture. Sprinkle with cinnamon, margarine, chopped nuts. Bake for 60 min. or until knife comes out clean. Serve with whipped cream if desired.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Mexican Seasoning Mix

Yield: approximately 15 tablespoons
(3 tablespoons is equivalent to one seasoning packet)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I like to use white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour)
2 T chili powder
1/4 cup onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
4 tsp salt
4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp oregano

Put all of the ingredients in a blender. Cover and blend until powdery for 5 seconds or less (don't over blend). Use the "pulse" feature if your blender has one. Add more cayenne powder if you prefer it hotter.

Store in an airtight container for up to six months.

Tips & Tricks:
The mixture works well even if you skip the blender/pulse step.