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We are preparing to delve into the world of homeschooling this year. We’ve felt the need to homeschool for years but were never in a position to be able to until now. So we won’t have the hustle and bustle of trying to get out the door in time to meet the bus this year. However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be mornings that we need to get in the car and go somewhere earlier and in more of a rush than I’d like- especially since it’s a 40 minute drive from our little village to get anywhere. On those mornings it’s SO nice to have a breakfast that I can put into containers or baggies so we can eat it in the car. And it’s even nicer to know that this “fast food” is homemade instead of processed and super unhealthy. Try to get that out of the little packages of muffins from the store!

Since I like to make these as easy to eat as possible, I tend to make these into mini muffins. They’re easily popable that way and the crumbs are kept to a minimum. They are just as tasty as regular muffins, so use whatever kind of pan strikes your fancy. And speaking of fancy, these make great baby bundt cakes! You can ice them with a simple glaze and presto- you’ve got a pretty little dessert!

One of the great things about these muffins is that they use everyday items that are probably in your pantry and fridge as we speak…

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The second great thing about these tasty little gems is how simple they are. All you have to do is mix your dry ingredients…

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Then mix your wet ingredients well…

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Then all you have to do is mix them together…

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Ta da! Done! Now you just fill the liners and put the pan in the oven…

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It doesn’t get much easier than that! From start to finish these muffins take about 20 minutes (depending on what size you make them). And if you don’t want chocolate chips in them, no problem; use whatever you like. Peanut butter chips (or half chocolate chips, half peanut butter chips), toffee chips, mint chocolate chips, dried fruit, your imagination is the only limit! Oh- and if you really want to make these a little decadent, whip up some cream cheese frosting and smear a bit on top of the muffins. That will brighten the dreariest day :-) And you can even make a big batch of these and freeze them for later. Then you can just thaw some on the counter overnight and have a quick breakfast in the morning. Or you can put a frozen muffin in your lunch bag and have a tasty treat at midday.

Autumn is fast approaching (thank goodness!!) and with it comes busier schedules. I hope this simple recipe brings a smile to your hustle & bustle the way it does to mine :-)

The Recipe: 

1 1/2 C Flour

1/2 C Sugar

2 t Baking Powder

1/2 t Salt

1 Egg

1/4 C Sour Cream (or yogurt; vanilla yogurt adds a nice, subtle flavor)

1/2 C Milk

1/4 C Oil

1/2 C Chocolate Chips (I use mini chocolate chips- especially if I’m making mini muffins)

 

The Method:

*Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

*Prepare your muffin pan by either greasing and flouring each well or lining them with paper cups.

*In a medium bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center into which you can pour the wet ingredients.

*In a small bowl, whisk together all of the wet ingredients.

*Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and stir until well combined. Don’t worry if there are a few lumps in the batter.

*Scoop the batter into the prepared pan. A small ice cream/cookie scoop works well for mini muffins.

*Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

*Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Or you can freeze in a zip top bag or well wrapped in plastic wrap and then foil for up to 2 months.

 

The last few days here in Northern Wisconsin have been just heavenly; highs in the low to mid 70’s, a cool breeze all day, and chilly nights to cool the house off to be ready for the next day (saving a ton on the AC bill). This is what I envisioned summers to be up here and I love it! It’s a very welcome break from the unusual heat that’s been hanging around and making a nuisance of itself. And it may return, so I’m going to make the most of these cooler days and get some things made to help when it’s too hot to do any real cooking. One of the items on that list is lemon garlic chicken breasts. There are 2 huge advantages to this chicken: 1) you can put it in a zip top bag with the marinade ingredients and put the whole thing in the freezer until you’re ready to use it and 2) it’s super versatile, which is always a plus! These chicken breasts can be served just as they are with some sides, they can be sliced and put over salad veggies, they can be made into a sandwich, or they can even be chopped up and made into a creamy, garlicky chicken salad with just a hint of zing from the lemon zest. They’re fantastic year round, but they definitely hold a special place in my summer line up!

To get started, here’s what you’ll need:

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Yes; that is honey mustard salad dressing- and it can be any brand. When toying with the marinade the first time I made this chicken I found something really lacking in the flavor. I stood at the fridge after dinner that night, searching for something to add and my eyes settled on a bottle of honey mustard and the light bulb went off. I added some the next time I made this dish and it solved the problem perfectly! So the salad dressing is optional; the flavor doesn’t stand out in the finished dish. But there is definitely a lack of *pop* in the dish when the honey mustard is left out.

There are 2 options for the chicken breasts; you can either buy chicken cutlets, which are chicken breasts that come packed in thin slices (horizontally), or you can buy regular boneless, skinless chicken breasts and slice them into cutlets at home. The latter option is SUPER easy and is what I do most of the time. Here’s how you go about such a thing…

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(**Note: The Humble Food Snob is still married! You can’t see it here, but the nail on my ring finger is very bad off. I had a wound on the side of my nail get severely infected over a month ago- I actually had to go to the emergency room in the middle of the night it was so bad. Thankfully I didn’t have my wedding rings on when it started swelling, so they are still intact. Now I’m STILL waiting for the swelling to go down completely so I can start wearing them again!**)

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See? Super easy! Don’t worry about making the two slices exactly even- you won’t be able to. What you’re going for is two cutlets of comparable thickness so they cook evenly. It’s not brain surgery, so don’t fret if things aren’t perfect.

So now that you have the hard part done, I’ll give an explanation of why I have lemon zest in that picture up there instead of the juice. Did you know that the acid in lemon juice actually cooks meat instead of marinating it? It’s true. If you look up the recipe for ceviche (a popular Latin American dish of raw shrimp or fish with herbs and spices) you’ll see that the dish isn’t cooked in any way except by the citrus juice it’s steeped in. That citrus juice does the same thing to any other meat you put it on. With chicken that results in tougher meat that needs more tenderizer (basically salt) in the marinade. The easy fix for that is to use the zest instead of the juice of whatever citrus fruit you’re wanting to use. And aside from not cooking the meat, I prefer the zest to the juice because of how much more flavor you get from the oil in the zest. But certainly don’t throw the juice away! Zest your fruit then juice it and pour that juice into an ice tray. I put one tablespoon of juice into each compartment of an ice tray and when I need “1 tablespoon of juice” here or “2 tablespoons of juice” there I have them ready and waiting in the freezer. Very handy!

Next you’re ready to put all of this together. Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together and make your decision: cook the chicken today or freeze it for another time? If you want to cook the chicken today, pour the marinade over the breast slices in a pan or large bowl, cover with plastic, and put it in the fridge for up to about 8 hours.

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If you want to put the chicken in the freezer for another day, put everything in a zip top bag, squeeze out as much air as you can, seal it, and into the freezer it goes! One bonus of freezing meat in marinade is that as it thaws the meat draws in more of the marinade and is more flavorful overall.

Let 6 hours or so pass…..

Now that your chicken has marinated properly, it’s time to cook it! We don’t have a grill just yet :-( I’m bummed about that, but the fact that the other things we’ve had to spend our money on are for a house that we own makes up for it :-) So if you have a grill or a fire pit (you can read more about easily cooking over an open fire here) by all means, use it!! But if, like me, you have to pan fry your chicken that’s ok; it still turns out wonderful!

Put your pan over medium heat and add just enough oil to cover the bottom. Since the marinade already has a good amount of oil in it, you’re just taking out a little insurance that the chicken won’t stick to the pan. If you’re using a non-stick pan you can forgo the extra oil all together. Once the oil shimmers, remove your chicken from the marinade and put it in to cook for 4-5 minutes. Carefully flip the chicken over and cook 3-4 minutes on the other side. You want to make sure that the chicken is cooked through and also that it has a nice bit of browning on it.

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Once the chicken is done cooking, remove it to a platter and cover it with foil to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving to let the juices redistribute. If you couldn’t fit all of the chicken into the pan the first time around, go ahead and finish cooking the rest. Just make sure all of the meat has a chance to rest before serving.

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Hopefully the weather in your neck of the woods is fair and pleasant and you’re enjoying your summer (or winter, depending on which half of the globe you’re on!). And I hope that you enjoy this chicken as much as we do- and in as many ways :-)

The Recipe:

2 Lbs. Chicken Breast Cutlets OR Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts sliced into cutlets

Zest of 3 Lemons

6-8 Cloves Garlic, Minced

2 t Italian Seasoning

1 t Kosher Salt

1/2 C Olive Oil

1/4 C Honey Mustard Dressing (optional, but recommended)

The Method:

*If needed, slice the chicken breasts into cutlets by running your knife horizontally through the chicken breasts lengthwise.

*In a bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and whisk well.

*Put the chicken in a bowl or baking dish large enough to hold everything. Alternatively, you could put the chicken and marinade in a zip top bag and seal it.

*If making this dish for a later date, squeeze as much air as possible out of the zip top bag, seal, label, and put in the freezer for up to 2 months.

*If you plan to serve the chicken the same day, simply put it in the refrigerator to marinate for up to 8 hours. I usually do about 6 hours and it turns out perfect. The full 8 hours gives a stronger flavor. Take care in going past that though; the flavor gets overpowering.

*When ready to cook the chicken, grilling is preferable however not always accessible. To pan fry, heat a large frying pan over medium heat, covering the bottom with oil.

*Once the oil shimmers, add a few pieces of the chicken to the pan. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan.

*Cook on the first side for 4-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken cutlets.

*Carefully turn the chicken over and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

*Remove the chicken to a foil covered platter and let rest while the next batch cooks.

*Make sure all of the cutlets get at least a few minutes to rest before serving.

Hot damn; I’m bloggin’ again! I can’t tell you how many times in the last 6 months I’ve said to myself “I really want to blog… but I’ve got nothing.” You may ask “Why nothing?” To which I answer “because of the kitchen from hell with which I was making do.” See; when we moved to South Dakota I was in Colorado with the kids and my husband was in the Dakotas/Minnesota area working and it was almost impossible, as the new guy, to get time off to go look at places to live. So we went down to the wire and found the mobile home that would be ours with only a couple of days left before he came back to Colorado to get us. The mobile home was AWFUL but it was what we could get. Unfortunately, the worst part was the kitchen. My stove couldn’t boil a pot of water reliably (I’m not joking), the oven turned out to be incredibly finicky, and I had almost zero counter space. I literally had about a 3 inch width of counter space to work with most of the time, otherwise known as “the counter in front of the sink”. I’m perfectly serious; that’s all I had to work with. The tiny amount of counter to the right of the sink was constantly full of drying dishes and counter top stuff that could go NOWHERE else, the stove had hot spots over the pilot lights for the burners; if you weren’t careful, just setting something on the stove would melt it and I burned myself  a few times by forgetting those hot spots were there. All this to say that as the days wore on and I tried to cook and bake I was met with failure after failure. I’ve cooked in inadequate kitchens before. I started this blog cooking in one, in fact. But the kitchen in that mobile home was totally and completely unusable for anything beyond frozen pizza and what could come out of the microwave. I went back to buying nearly everything premade. Our budget suffered because that stuff is way more expensive than homemade and our waistlines suffered because it’s also far less healthy than what I make from scratch. I haven’t blogged because there was not a single thing coming out of that kitchen that was blog worthy. It was awful. It was depressing. AND IT’S OVER!!!

If you’ll notice, I have been using the past tense in my explanation. We’ve moved! Yes; again. But not only that… We’ve bought a house! It’s in beautiful Northern Wisconsin and in desperate need of interior updating (meaning it’s a very sound house, but the previous owners seem to have not updated the inside since the late 70’s/early 80’s), but it’s ours and at a crazy low price! That means we can afford to make the aesthetic upgrades it needs.

Kitchen

Yeah. Definitely needs some upgrading. But it’s actually MINE! I’m not borrowing it from family or renting it from a landlord. And, get this, the kitchen has crazy amounts of storage space! It may not look like much, but there’s plenty of counter space and very nearly my whole kitchen has been unpacked into it and I have cabinets and drawers left empty! Seriously!! I have never had enough space in my kitchen so this is amazing!!

But, the kitchen not withstanding, I still have a lot of work to do unpacking the rest of our stuff. This being the case, I’m trying to make sure I cook easy meals with as little clean up as possible so I can do what I need to do in the rest of the house. I’ll have plenty of time for kicking around the kitchen after our stuff is unpacked. So this week I’m re-sharing my recipe for Crock Pot Caesar Chicken. It’s quite possibly THE easiest recipe I have in my entire repertoire. It truly is almost as easy as ordering takeout, it tastes fabulous, and there is a very small amount of cleanup. It’s also versatile: serve it as a sandwich, a wrap, on a salad, or even just on Triscuits or crackers!

I’m hoping to start blogging regularly once again. But if I can’t make it every week for awhile, please forgive me. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sticking with me thus far! <3

Crockpot (Slow Cooker) Caesar Chicken

Crockpot Caesar Chicken

 

 

My goodness gracious; it’s cold! That’s true for just about everywhere in America right now, but it goes double for the Northern Plains where I’m at. Everywhere I go there’s talk of wishing for summer and lamenting how crazy cold it is. I can understand why they feel that way; not everyone dislikes summer like I do. For those of you who share the summer loving sentiment I have a wonderful recipe that will be like sunshine you can pull out of your oven! And for those of you that share my winter loving tendencies, these Lemonies will be a wonderful treat to indulge in while cuddled up in a blanket watching the season go by out your window :-)

These bars are so easy and incredibly basic. In fact, it’s very likely that the only thing you will need to buy is the lemon. Here’s what you’ll need:

IMG_20141219_124748279_HDRWhile your oven is preheating, the first thing you’ll want to do is brush a 13×9 pan liberally with butter. You don’t have to flour the pan if you don’t want to, but you do definitely need to butter it. Once done, put the 2 sticks of butter in a small sauce pan over very low heat. Now zest your lemon. You can easily do that with a regular box grater. The little rasp-like side that is useless for almost everything on your box grater? That’s for zesting citrus! If you don’t have a box grater with a rasp side, use the smallest holes you can on a regular grater (most have 2 sizes these days). If you only have the one “regular” size option on your grater, you can use that and mince the zest with a knife like you would garlic. Whichever you use, make sure you only grate the yellow part and not the bitter white pith beneath. Set the zest aside and cut the lemon in half around the equator (the middle, not end to end) and squeeze the juice out of it over a strainer set over a bowl to catch the seeds. Set the juice aside. Keep an eye on your butter while you’re doing this so that it doesn’t burn. Once it’s melted, take it off the heat and continue with your lemon.

It’s time to start combining everything. First your dry…

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Then your wet ingredients + half of the lemon zest (but not the butter yet), making sure to measure out only enough lemon juice to satisfy the recipe- some of the rest will be for the glaze or frosting you’ll need. I’ll get to that later.

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Once you have that done, pour the butter into the flour mixture and mix it in. The batter will be very stiff and you don’t have to get it completely mixed.

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Once you’re at this stage add the rest of the ingredients (giving them a whisking with a fork first!) and mix thoroughly. Make sure it’s completely mixed and smooth, but don’t try to whip the ingredients like a cake. These are the lemon equivalent of dense, chewy brownies so the batter is going to be very heavy.

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These now go in the oven until the bottom and edges are beginning to brown and the center is set. You should be able to insert a toothpick in the center and have it come out clean when they are done.

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You have 2 choices now: cover these in a delightful lemon glaze or spread on a wonderfully smooth lemon cream cheese frosting. I’ll include the recipe for both below. But you have to cover these with something; they won’t be very good and they will dry out terribly if you don’t. Despite being similar in texture, these are very different from brownies- you can’t just leave them plain.

Alas; I don’t have a money shot for these! They got taken on vacation with us and I never did get a picture. I do apologize for that! You’ll just have to give these amazing bars a try for yourself to see the finished product ;-)

 

The Recipe:

1 1/2 C All Purpose Flour

1 1/2 C Sugar (White, granulated)

1/2 t Salt

1 C (2 sticks) Butter, melted and cooled slightly

3 Eggs

1 t Vanilla

2 T Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed- NOT from a bottle

1 t Lemon Zest

 

The Method:

*Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

*Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 13×9 inch pan. Flouring the pan as well is optional.

*In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Once completely melted, remove from the heat and let sit.

*Zest the lemon as fine as possible and set aside.

*Cut the lemon in half short-ways (around the equator) and squeeze well to get as much juice as possible. Set the juice aside.

*In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well.

*In a small bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients; including 1 teaspoon (or roughly half) of the lemon zest.

*Mix the melted butter into the dry ingredients until mostly combined.

*Add the wet ingredients and mix until smooth.

*Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 30-40 minutes or until set.

*Remove from the oven and cool completely before glazing or frosting.

 

The Lemon Glaze- The Recipe:

1 C Powdered (Icing or Confectioner’s) Sugar

2 T Milk

1 T Lemon Juice

1 t Lemon Zest (or whatever is leftover from the bars)

The Method:

*In a bowl, add the wet ingredients to the powdered sugar and stir until completely smooth.

*Spread over completely cooled bars.

 

The Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- The Recipe:

8 oz Cream Cheese, softened to room temp (any fat content you please)
1/2 C Butter, softened to room temp
1/2 Lb (1 C) Powdered Sugar (or more to suit your taste and texture preferences. More sugar=stiffer frosting)
1 T Lemon Juice (you should have some lemon juice leftover from the bars)
1 t Lemon Zest (or whatever is leftover from the bars)
The Method:
*In a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy & lightened.
*Add lemon juice & zest and mix well.
*Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix very well.
*Spread over the top of the completely cooled bars.

As you know, I much prefer to use real food (“whole”, “natural”, etc) ingredients when I cook and bake. I try to stay away from processed foods as much as I can, but sometimes the classics are based on foods that are not really good for you. Take pecan pie, for example. One of the main ingredients is corn syrup. Granted; it’s not as bad as high fructose corn syrup (which is ultra processed- WAY more than regular corn syrup), but it’s still definitely not a health food. In fact, my mom can’t eat anything with corn syrup in it without getting a bad headache. So for Thanksgiving last year I set out in search of a recipe for pecan pie that doesn’t use corn syrup. I found several that use honey instead. Score! Honey is most definitely a health food, and you can use it in place of corn syrup in many recipes (but there will need to be other adjustments to the recipe too, so don’t just start swapping honey for corn syrup willy nilly). So I played around with combining some of the recipes and this is the result. My mom LOVES it and no one who’s tried it so far dislikes it.

Pecan pie is actually a very simple pie. All you need is some basic ingredients:

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If you’re using salted butter like I am here, you won’t need extra salt. If you use unsalted butter (which is what most recipes call for) you’ll need to add a little salt to the filling.

You’ll notice, I’m sure, that I don’t have a pie crust pictured. You’ll need one, but the method you use to procure one I’ll leave to you. I used a refrigerated just-roll-it-out-in-the-pan crust from the store. By all means; if you want to make your own, please do! I didn’t because I don’t have anyplace to roll out a pie crust. The great thing about making your own pie crust is that you can make the pie any size you want. You can do a full pie or you can use a muffin tin or individual tart pans to make tiny pies. Either way, it’s up to you.

First you’ll need to melt your butter. Put the butter in a medium sized saucepan over very low heat. Once the butter is just melted, take the pan off the heat and let it sit for a little while; long enough for the butter to cool slightly.

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In the meantime, line your pie pan with the crust and then put the pecans in the bottom. How much you need will depend on the size of your pie pan. The pan I used is a 9 inch, regular depth pan. I used about a cup of chopped pecans, maybe a tiny bit over that:

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Most recipes call for whole pecans to be laid out nicely in the bottom of the crust. I don’t do that. One reason is that whole pecans are crazy expensive. Stupidly expensive. Another reason is the trouble I have cutting a pie that uses whole pecans. The pecans tend to just squish down and make a mess out of the filling. So I use chopped pecans and they work just fine.

Next, add the brown sugar, honey, vinegar, vanilla, and salt (if you need it) to the butter. Whisk all of that together very well. It will take a little mixing to get everything incorporated into the butter- that’s a lot of butter.

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As you can see, there’s still a tiny bit of butter around the edges that hasn’t been incorporated yet. It’s ok; it will get mixed in once I add the eggs…

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There we go! All mixed together and ready to go over the pecans. Gently pour this mixture over the pecans, scraping the pan with a spatula to get all the goodness into the pie pan. Once you do, you’ll notice something:

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Yep. Bubbles. Little bubbles coming to the surface as the gaps between the pecan pieces are filled. But they’re nothing to worry about. You can try to jiggle the pan a bit to get rid of them, but you don’t need to. The pecans will float to the surface as the pie bakes and the bubbles will dissipate then.

Time to go in the oven! Place this on a foil lined cookie sheet so that if the pie overflows the pan will catch it (which I’ve never had happen, but better safe than scrubbing charred sugar off the bottom of your oven) and bake for 45-60 minutes, until the center is set. It shouldn’t jiggle when you shake the pan gently.

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Ok, so my pie isn’t perfect. The crust on the right side there wasn’t pressed to the side of the pan correctly, so it shrank down a bit. Not a huge deal. The huge deal is that this pie almost burned. I should have taken it out of the oven about 3 minutes before I did. I missed the timer when it sounded. I’m lucky I walked through the kitchen when I did. So keep an eye on the timer and make sure you choose a loud one! Anyway, I managed to save my pie and not have to make another.

One of the problems I’ve noticed with pies that substitute another ingredient for corn syrup is that the filling is runnier than it should be.

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As you can see, that isn’t a problem with this recipe! The center looks a little runny, but really that’s just where I pushed the filling in with a knife to cut the pie (which would have been much worse had I used whole pecans). This recipe really is the best I’ve found for pecan pie- period. The flavor is amazing and not sickeningly sweet like the corn syrup recipes out there. The texture is heavenly! And it’s made using one of nature’s super foods- how much better could it get?!

 

The Recipe:

1/2 C (1 Stick) Butter

1 C Brown Sugar

1/2 C Honey

1 T Apple Cider Vinegar

2 t Vanilla

1/4 t Salt (ONLY IF USING UNSALTED BUTTER!)

3 Eggs, lightly beaten

1- 1 1/2 C Pecan Pieces

9 inch unbaked Pie Crust

 

The Method:

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

*Prepare pie pan or plate with the unbaked crust.

*Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat.

*Once melted, remove from heat and add the next 5 ingredients.

*Whisk well, incorporating the butter into the other ingredients.

*Add the eggs and whisk very well.

*Pour the pecans into the pie crust so that they cover the entire bottom.

*Gently pour the filling over the pecans, scraping the saucepan to get all of the filling you can.

*Bake the pie for 45-60 minutes; until the pie is set in the center.

*Let cool completely before slicing, but chilling is not necessary. If having something that has eggs in it left on the counter and not in the fridge bothers you, you can go ahead & refrigerate it. But I left this pie out for 4 days before finishing the last piece and I didn’t even have a hint of tummy trouble. There’s so much sugar and fat in the filling that spoilage isn’t an issue for quite some time.

I’ve had some requests for a “print recipe” feature, so I looked around and found one of those! You can now find a new button on each post. It’s labeled “print and PDF” and it can be found at the very bottom of each post along with the sharing buttons. You’re welcome and thanks for your continued support! <3

I haven’t been blogging much lately. Too much life getting in the way. Too many things that just haven’t gone right. Too many things that have just been… complicated. I wish sometimes that things could just be easy. Easy to get done. Easy to go through. Easy to figure out. But that’s not how life is, in general. And when things get difficult and complicated even The Humble Food Snob tries to find things that are as UNcomplicated as possible. Sometimes that even means throwing together a dish that is made up of simple, premade products that maybe aren’t the greatest for you, but provide a measure of comfort that at least partly makes up for some of the dubious ingredients. Sometimes you just need that. One example is my taco bake. Another is this casserole. I found it on a now-defunct blog and played with the recipe until it came out just right. My daughters were reluctant to try it, since it’s not exactly beautiful food, but once they did they loved it! They even like to take it to school for lunch. And now that winter has come to South Dakota I’m looking for hot foods to send with them for lunch. They have recess before lunch (which I think makes more sense than sending kids out to run around on a full stomach) so they need something to warm them up for lunch. This casserole is just the ticket! And it’s easy enough to just throw together; even when life is being frustratingly difficult.

For the chicken filling I like to use roasted chicken. You COULD use store bought rotisserie chicken, but the price you pay for those is just disturbing. In my area they are up to $8-$10 now for a bird that is barely big enough to feed 2 people. Instead, I recommend using rotisserie roasted chicken you made yourself. I shared the recipe last week and it’s perfect for this recipe. So gather your ingredients…

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The yellow stuff in the cup is canned nacho cheese sauce. I haven’t found a recipe I like for homemade yet, so I use canned. You can also use the salsa con queso that’s found in the chip aisle. All you need is about a quarter cup. You can leave it out, but I like the flavor and moisture it adds to the filling.

So chop the chicken, mix in the cheese sauce if you’re using it, and add half a cup of the shredded cheese.

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Once you have that mixture put together, set it aside and mix the cream of mushroom soup, milk, onion powder, salt, and pepper in a small sauce pan and heat to a boil. Turn the heat to low and mix in one cup of the cheese (you should have about half a cup leftover now). Leave the pan on the lowest heat you can manage on your stove and get your crescent rolls ready. Open the can and unroll the crescents. Put a roll on your work surface and flatten very gently to give yourself a little more to work with. Take about a tablespoon of filling and put it on the wide part of the roll:

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Don’t put too much filling on; if you do, not only will you not have enough to fill all of the crescents, but the rolls will open during cooking and all you’ll have is a mess. Now take the bottom corners and fold them in, like so:

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Fold the bottom up to the top and you will have a very neat little parcel of tastiness:

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Spray a 13×9 baking dish with oil or cooking spray and spread a scant half cup of your sauce into the bottom. As you make your parcels, line them up in the pan so they look like this:

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Next, pour the remaining sauce all over the parcels and then sprinkle the remaining cheese over the whole thing.

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Cover this with foil that you’ve sprayed with oil or cooking spray (it’s the easiest way to make sure that what you’re baking doesn’t stick to the foil) and put in your preheated oven. Bake for about half an hour, then remove the foil and return the pan to the oven. Bake another 10-15 minutes or until the rolls are cooked and the sauce is bubbly.

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That looks SO good! I wish I was eating it right now, but even the leftovers are long gone. The girls took them for their school lunch. It’s the perfect meal for when you need good food that’s easy to make! Add a salad or crunchy baby carrots- or even some canned mandarin oranges and you’ve got a simple meal that’s very tasty and satisfying. And, best of all, it’s just plain EASY!

The Recipe:

2 C Chicken, cooked and shredded or finely chopped

1 C Cheese, shredded (most bags of pre-shredded cheese are about 2 cups- just check the package)

1/4 C Nacho Cheese Sauce or Salsa Con Queso

1 Can Cream of Mushroom Soup

1 C Milk

1 t Onion Powder

1/2 t White Pepper

1/4-1/2 t Salt (if you’re using seasoned chicken, use the lesser amount)

2 Tubes Refrigerated Crescent Rolls

The Method:

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

*Grease a 13×9 baking dish.

*In a small sauce pan, combine the soup, milk, onion powder, salt, and pepper.

*Bring to a boil over medium heat, then turn the heat to as low as you can get it.

*Add in one cup of the cheese and stir to melt.

*Spread a scant half cup of sauce on the bottom of the baking dish.

*Leave the rest of the sauce on very low heat.

*Combine the chicken, cheese sauce, and 1/2 cup of the cheese.

*Open and separate the crescent rolls. You can put out as many as you have room for on your clean work surface.

*Press the rolls gently to flatten slightly. Don’t mash them.

*Place about 1 tablespoon on the bottom of the wide part of the crescent.

*Fold the two bottom corners up and over the filling.

*Roll the crescent up, from bottom to top, as shown above.

*Continue with the rest of the rolls and filling, lining the parcels up in the pan as you go.

*Once done, cover the parcels with the rest of the sauce, top with the remaining cheese, and cover the dish with aluminum foil that you’ve sprayed with cooking spray (so the cheese doesn’t stick to it).

*Bake for about half an hour, remove the foil, and return to the oven for 10-15 minutes; until the rolls are cooked through and the sauce is bubbly.

*Remove from the oven and let sit 5-10 minutes to cool to a temperature that won’t sear your mouth ;-)

I’ve never been one to keep my opinions on the costs of store bought foods to myself. I fully believe that with a few basic ingredients, the know-how, and a little time, you can make those things at home- usually with better results. There are few departments in the store that illustrate that better than the average supermarket deli, specifically  the meats (and veggies) that come pre-stuffed, pre-marinated, and/or pre-cooked. One of the easiest things to replicate at home is the rotisserie chickens that you can buy in the deli- and that is one of the items with the biggest markup. Here in my little corner of the world a whole deli rotisserie chicken sells for $8-$10, depending upon whether or not it’s on sale. That is absolutely ridiculous!! It’s robbery! Grocery stores must think I’ve completely taken leave of my senses to charge that much. I can make the same thing at home for $4-$6, depending on what kind of sale is going on for whole chickens. And I know that it’s freshly cooked and hasn’t been sitting under a heat lamp for who knows how many hours. AND I can use my oven or my slow cooker. So I can have “rotisserie” chicken year round, without heating up my house too much in the summer! (I’ll put the instructions for that at the end.)

This really isn’t a recipe, it’s more of a method. This is all you need:

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FOUR ingredients. That’s it! Now, you can play around with the flavorings as much as you like. You could use lemon pepper, garlic and herb, ranch, just about anything you can dream up. So play around with it a bit!

First, mix the steak seasoning and the paprika together. You’ll end up with a pretty fair amount.

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That’s a full 1/4 cup of seasoning. It’s more than it looks like, really. Next, take 1 tablespoon of the seasoning and mix it with the butter. A fork works nicely for the job.

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You just made compound butter- well done! A little extra for you: you can roll this into a log using parchment or plastic wrap, freeze or refrigerate it (wrapped well), and cut off pats to put on top of cooked steak. It’s FABULOUS!! Ok, back to the task at hand… Now you need to work on the chicken a bit. This butter needs to go under the skin of the breasts. To do that, you need to create a pocket for it to go into. And to do that, you need to carefully put your index finger under the skin and separate the membrane from the meat- like so:

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Very gently work your finger all the way down the breast. The skin may tear a little, but that happens. Just try to keep that to a minimum. Do this on both sides of the breast.

Next, take half of the butter and create a somewhat rectangular patty. Something like this:

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That butter needs to go under the skin, of course. Gently push the butter into the pocket you created and then massage the outside of the skin to get the butter all the way down the breast. You should end up with the chicken looking like this:

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Repeat on the other side and you’re ready for the next step, which is seasoning the rest of the bird. Take about half of the remaining seasoning and sprinkle it all over the inside of the body cavity. That works best if you hold the chicken vertically (sorry I don’t have a picture of that- not enough hands). The rest of the seasoning goes all over the outside of the chicken.

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I didn’t exactly get it evenly on the outside. Whoops. I’m not perfect. We knew that. Moving on! Put this beautiful bird in the oven and roast it for an hour and a half OR until the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh reads 165-170. Once you reach that temperature, take the chicken out of the oven, tent the pan with foil, and let the whole thing sit for about 20 minutes to rest.

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Isn’t that pretty! Do you see how the skin split on top? That is why you want to be as gentle as possible when creating the pockets under the skin. I created a tear (you can see it above) and the skin tightening made the tear much bigger. This chicken is fine- but any bigger a tear would have had bad results for the meat.

Now take the chicken out of the pan and put it on a platter or large cutting board and either carve it to serve as a meal or let it cool enough to handle and debone it. I made this specifically to use for other meals; I wasn’t planning on serving this to anyone as dinner. I just took all of the meat off the bone. Here’s what I ended up with:

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I kept the legs whole because my daughters love them. The rest will just go into the freezer, divided into portions to use in other meals (casseroles, soups, pot pies, etc.). I should note that I’m not great at stripping the meat off of carcasses. I cannot stand to eat gristle or a lot of fat. So yes; there was meat left on the bones that I didn’t bother with because I just can’t stomach it. Other people will probably get more meat than I did. Either way, this is still WAY cheaper than buying a rotisserie chicken from the store. And the flavor is worlds better than store bought! Not to mention the amazing aroma the roasting chicken sends through your home :)

The Recipe:

1 Whole Chicken, 3-4 Lbs.

3 T Montreal Steak Seasoning

1 T Paprika

1 Stick Butter, softened

The Method:

*Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

*Mix seasonings together.

*Stir 1 T seasoning mixture into the butter. A fork works well for this.

*Create pockets under the skin of the chicken breasts, gently working your index finger under the skin on each side.

*Divide the compound butter mixture in half. Form a flattened rectangular shape out of each half and slip one rectangle in each pocket you created.

*Carefully massage the outside of the breast skin to spread the butter all the way down each side of the breast.

*Turn the chicken so the cavity hole is facing up (the chicken will be vertical)  and sprinkle half of the remaining seasoning all over the inside of the chicken.

*Lay the chicken down in the roasting dish again, breast side up. Rub the rest of the seasoning all over the outside of the chicken.

*Roast the chicken until a thermometer stuck in the thickest part of the thigh reads 165-170. It usually takes an hour & a half to an hour & 45 minutes for my oven, but those times vary; the thermometer method is safer than just timing it.

*Once that temperature has been reached, remove the chicken from the oven, tent the pan with foil, and let the whole thing rest 15-20 minutes.

*If serving as a meal, carve and serve.

*If using for other dishes, remove the chicken to a platter or large cutting board. Let cool until easily handled, and debone. Divide the chicken into proper portions (according to the dishes you plan to use it in), store in freezer appropriate containers (I use plastic and then foil), mark said containers with the date and contents, and freeze. Use as desired.

*When using in other dishes, keep in mind that this chicken will add flavor to the dish. You will need to adjust the salt and pepper of the final dish accordingly! 

*For the Slow Cooker:

*Prepare as above.

*Spray or otherwise lubricate the crock of a large slow cooker (mine is 6.5 quarts and the chicken fits perfectly with no extra room on the sides. A smaller crock would be too small).

*Fold an aluminum, disposable pie tin into thirds and place on the bottom of the slow cooker. This is to keep the chicken off of the bottom of the crock. Alternatively, you could make large balls of aluminum foil to put under the chicken. If you have a roasting rack that fits in your crock, that’s fine too. The point is: keep the chicken off of the bottom of the crock for this method!

*Place the chicken on the tin (or whatever you used to hold it up), put the lid on the crock, and set the slow cooker to high. 

*Cook the chicken 4-5 hours, until the temperature reads as stated above. Remember: when you take the lid off of a crock pot you add about 30 minutes to the cooking time. So do this judiciously. 

*Once cooked, continue as stated for the oven method. 

I’m originally from Indiana, where it’s crazy humid. I grew up in the mountains of Northern Colorado, where the winters are long, crazy cold & windy. So I figured I knew what I was getting into when we moved to South Dakota. Turns out I didn’t quite have it all figured out. The combination of cold, wind, and humidity are just plain bone chilling! People warned us- and it’s not that we didn’t listen, because we did. But you never REALLY know until you experience it. We are just getting into the start of the colder weather- it’s not truly cold yet. But while the temperature claims to be in the 40’s the windchill makes it feel at least 15 degrees colder. And as for the wind… well it blows what they get in Colorado and Wyoming pretty much out of the water. We’re kind of in the apex of the wind curve, if you will- so it’s strongest blowing across our little corner of the world. That being the case, it’s a good thing I have a cache of stick-to-your-ribs, warm-you-right-down-to-your-soul winter favorites that I can make to keep my family’s stomachs cozy and full! This soup is part of that cache.

I found the original on a recipe site and it was called something like “chicken, bacon, corn, and potato chowder”. It was ok- but not really what my family called stellar. And it certainly wasn’t chowder. It was barely thicker than a regular broth soup, despite having thickener in the recipe. So I fiddled around with it a bit and came up with a good soup that my family likes. I still use some flour to make it thicker than a regular soup, but it’s still definitely soup. If you wanted to make it a chowder, you certainly could- just use more fat and flour to make the roux thicker.

Here’s what you’ll need:

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As the name implies, I am using bacon. HOWEVER you could easily substitute ham or even smoked sausage or kielbasa- any of those would give the soup great flavor. And they are a bit cheaper than bacon (about $5 a pound in my neck of the woods!), which helps when making this as Broke Food. If you make one of those substitutions you’ll need to use butter or olive oil to saute the onion.

As for the potatoes, yes; those are frozen potato cubes, better known as Southern Style Hash Browns. They work a treat in soups and stews, actually. Most of the time I use actual whole potatoes from the produce section. But sometimes I just really need things to be easy and quick. So if you have frozen potatoes, now is the time to use them!

For the chicken, I simmered one chicken breast (about half a pound- I’m making a half batch because it’s just the kids & I) in the broth I would be using for the soup for about 2 hours so it would shred super easily… and then realized I didn’t have cream for the finish… and THEN realized I didn’t have an inch of space for a container of broth in the fridge. Yes; I had to throw it away :-( So if you have your poop in a group better than I did, simmer your chicken breast in the broth you will use for the soup (adding water at the end to make up for any evaporation). Or you could use leftover chicken- that works super well too.

Moving on! Cook your bacon over medium low heat to render as much fat out of it as you can. Drain the bacon with a slotted spoon and set it aside. Reserve about 1/3 cup or 5 tablespoons (which will probably be all of it, but you never know). If you have extra, put it in the fridge for future use. (If you use ham or sausage of some kind, now would be the time to fry it as well. Sometimes those things can be greasy and you want the fat rendered out before you put it in the soup.) Saute your diced onion in the bacon fat on medium until soft, 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the onion and stir.

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Cook the roux for about a minute to get rid of the raw flour taste, and then whisk in the broth. Add all of the ingredients except the cream, salt, and white pepper. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and let go for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally- it’s going to want to stick because of the roux. At this point all you’re doing is cooking the potatoes and corn through. Once those 2 are done, shut the stove off and stir in the cream. Give the soup a taste and add salt & white pepper to your liking. Remember to use white and not black pepper- no one likes little black floaties in their light colored soup!

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This is a wonderful soup to warm to you right down to your toes after a long, cold, and- here- windy day! Add some hot biscuits with butter (and maybe some honey) and you’re set. I’m looking forward to sharing some more of my winter proof meals with you :-)

 

The Recipe:

1/2 Lb. Bacon, diced

1/2 Onion, diced

1/3 C Flour

8 C Chicken Broth

1 Lb Chicken, cooked and shredded (can be halved and still have plenty of chicken)

2 C Potatoes, diced

2 C Corn

1/2 C Heavy Whipping Cream

Salt and White Pepper to taste

 

The Method:

*In a soup pot, cook the bacon over medium low heat to render as much fat as possible.

*Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Measure out 1/3 C of fat and put the rest in the fridge for another use.

*In the same unwashed soup pot, saute the onions in the 1/3 C bacon fat on medium heat until they are soft- about 3-5 minutes.

*Sprinkle the flour over the onions and bacon fat and stir for about 2 minutes.

*Whisk in the chicken broth until smooth.

*Add all ingredients except cream, salt, and pepper.

*Cover and bring to a boil, then back down to a simmer.

*Simmer 10-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. Stir fairly often- the roux will make the soup want to stick to the bottom.

*When the potatoes are done, add the cream and taste. Add salt and white pepper to taste.

 

 

 

I have a recipe up my sleeve that I wanted to share this week, but due to technical difficulties I couldn’t get it posted. I hope to have it up next week. In the meantime, I had something exciting happen last week: I was contacted by Endless Simmer to be featured in their Top 10 Gingersnap Recipes list! I consider myself (rightly) a small time food blogger. I’m not one of the big girls or boys who have hundreds or thousands of followers and their own cookbooks in the works. I can’t say it wouldn’t be fun sometimes to be that. But that’s not my goal. I like what I do and I like my blog. I think about the stress and the time taken away from my family to be a big blogger like that and I say, most assuredly, “I’ll pass, thanks.” So I was amazed that someone actually wanted to feature my post along with so many other wonderful posts from fantastic bloggers. Of course I jumped at the opportunity! So here you go; my first guest appearance :-)

Top 10 gingersnap Recipe Countdown:

http://www.endlesssimmer.com/2014/10/08/gingersnaps-gone-wild-top-ten-gingersnap-recipes/

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