Category: Broke Food


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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā

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.

 

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! ‚̧

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 ūüėČ

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 ūüôā

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 ūüė¶ 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 ūüôā

 

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.

 

 

 

It’s that time of year again; the weather is getting cooler (well… it is here, anyway), school is back in session, and pretty soon it will be time to close the windows up for cold weather. All of that adds up to one thing: outbreaks of cold & flu bugs. While it’s true that people can get colds any time of year, they always spike when the weather gets colder and school is back in session. Lots of kids + enclosed space with little ventilation = Everyone gets sick. ¬†The little germ mongers just can’t help it when it comes to spreading bugs around. So, try as you might, the odds are that you and those you love will get sick. It just so happens that I have something to help with that. And it’s much tastier than Ny-Quil! Ok, it won’t replace the Ny-Quil. But it will help wash the nauseating Ny-Quil taste out of your mouth.

It’s been proven that chicken soup really does help combat the cold & flu bugs. The protein from the chicken helps strengthen the body in it’s fight against the bugs, the liquid from the broth fights dehydration, and the garlic is a natural bug fighting powerhouse. If you look up the homeopathic properties of garlic, you might just be amazed. Garlic is an awesome superfood! (Here is a great starter article on the awesomeness of garlic.) I came up with the recipe for this soup when a dear friend was sick and I wanted to help her feel better and not have to cook her own dinner. I had never made chicken soup before in my life, but I knew the basics. Really, I just started throwing things in the pot and added salt & pepper until it was just right. My friend LOVED it and when my husband tasted it he told me “you’d better remember what you put in this because it’s amazing and there isn’t enough left over!” Thus was born a chicken soup so good that it garnered the compliment “people pay a lot of money in restaurants for soup that isn’t as good as this!” Yeah- it’s that good. Make it, sick or not, you won’t be sorry.

As the name implies, garlic is a main component in this soup. I usually put 8-10 large cloves of garlic in when I make it. You can, of course, cut back on the garlic. The soup will taste good with less. But it won’t taste as good. And it won’t be quite as healthy. Aside from the garlic, there are very few ingredients for this soup. It’s blessedly uncomplicated and unassuming. But it will surprise you with how good something so simple can be! This is what you’ll need:
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I used baby carrots because I already had some on hand. You can certainly use regular sized carrots and just dice them. I suppose if you really wanted to, you could even use frozen diced carrots. If you’re making this when you’re already feeling under the weather, that would be a great shortcut. I also use as little celery as I can. Typically I can’t stand celery. But it’s vital for this soup. I’ve made it without celery once before and it just didn’t taste right. So I use one extra large or 2 smaller ribs.

I’m making a half batch of this soup, so I have only one chicken breast pictured. That would be about half a pound of chicken. You can also use boneless, skinless chicken thighs if you’d prefer. I can’t stand gristle and sinew, so I rarely use them for anything (this recipe is the only one I can think of that I use thighs). There are 2 ways you can cook the chicken for this recipe: dice it small and fry it in the soup pot, or simmer it for a few hours in the broth you’ll use for the soup and shred it. I’ve done both and both work very well. I suppose it depends on if I have the time to simmer it and don’t want to get my hands all chicken-y (yes; even The Humble Food Snob gets lazy in the kitchen sometimes!). But dicing the chicken fine and frying it in a tiny bit of oil in the soup pot adds some very rich flavor (because of the fonde at the bottom of the pan- the browned bits that come up when you add liquid and deglaze the pan).

Start out by dicing your veggies and mincing the copious amount of garlic. Keep the garlic separate but mix all of the other veggies. Then dice your chicken. It needs to be in very small pieces so that it gets evenly distributed in the soup. Add a VERY small amount of oil to your pan. For half a pound of chicken I’ll use a scant 1-2 teaspoons of oil. If the chicken sticks to the pan a bit it’s ok- the bits will come up when you add the broth. What’s more important is that you don’t have an oil slick on the top of your soup. There is nothing in the soup to soak up the oil and incorporate it; you’ll have to skim the top to get rid of the excess if you use too much. So fry your chicken over medium high heat.

Next, add your veggies all at once, except the garlic. Stir everything together and cook until the onions are a bit soft, maybe about 3 minutes.¬†Now you can add the garlic. But it only needs about 30-45 seconds, so be ready to either transfer the mixture to a bowl to make the broth (like I am because I’m using bullion cubes) or pour the broth in directly. You want the raw edge just barely taken off the garlic in the mixture- boiling the soup will cook it the rest of the way and give a distinct flavor to the soup.

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After adding the broth, add a good pinch of salt and a sprinkling of white pepper. I give it a good dose of pepper by the end and that’s part of what makes it so good. It’s almost spicy, but not overpowering. Also good for cold & flu sufferers as it opens the sinuses some. Just be sure to use white pepper and not black. Black pepper is harsher than white and no one wants little specks of what looks like dirt in their soup. Now give it a stir, cover it, bring it to a boil, then back it down to a fast simmer and cook until the carrots are tender. That usually takes about 20 minutes for me, but just keep an eye on it. Every 10 or 15 minutes, fish out a carrot and give it a poke with a fork or knife if you’re unsure whether or not they’re done.

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Doesn’t that just look like a steamy pot of comfort?? And it smells soooo good! The aroma actually brought the girls out of their bedroom to investigate and they were thrilled that we were having this soup. Kids love it!

Once the carrots are done, turn off the heat and give the soup a taste. Add more salt and pepper if you think it’s needed, and serve. A good yeasty, soft roll is excellent with this soup. Or you can go with a thick, crusty bread to dip in the broth and use as a sop for the last dregs of soup at the end of the bowl.

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If you want to, you can certainly add a starch to this soup. I’ve never liked chicken noodle or rice soup. But if that’s your thing, then by all means; add some noodles or rice. You could even add some barley if you have it.

This soup really is like a loving hug in a bowl. And, of course, you don’t have to be sick to enjoy it. It’s perfect for the cold nights that are coming. This is a perfect soup to serve to those you love after a day of enjoying the turning colors or picking apples in the brisk fall air. And this winter you won’t find anything much better than this soup for curling up with and watching the snow fall. So please; make this soup and share it with those you hold dear. It might just make them feel better. And it will certainly make them feel loved.

The Recipe:

1 Lb. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts or Thighs, diced as small as you can get them

1 Medium Onion (about the size of a baseball), diced

3 Large Carrots, diced

1 Extra Large or 2 Smaller Ribs Celery, diced fine

8-10 Large Cloves Garlic, minced

10 C Chicken Broth (homemade is awesome, but any good broth will do)

2-3 t Oil (of your choice)

Salt and White Pepper to taste

The Method:

*Heat the oil in a soup or stock pot over medium high heat. Watch it; that small amount of oil will heat fast and burn quickly.

*Add the chicken and cook until slightly browned. If it sticks a bit and tears, don’t worry; the bits will come up when you deglaze the pot with the broth.

*Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook 3-4 minutes, until the onion is softened a bit.

*Add the garlic and cook 30-45 seconds.

*Remove the mixture to a bowl to constitute broth if using bullion cubes, or add the ready broth to the pot with the meat and veggies.

*Return the mixture to the pot if it had to be removed.

*Season with some salt and white pepper, but don’t overdo it. You’ll adjust this later too.

*Bring to a boil, then back off to a fast simmer.

*Simmer until carrots are cooked through, 20-30 minutes.

*Turn off the heat and check for seasoning. Add more salt and white pepper if needed.

*Serve with a good bread.

I’ve certainly made no secret of my love for Autumn here on this blog and in life in general. However, that love doesn’t carry over to the sports that come with it. Well, one sport in particular: American football. It’s not that I’m against sports entirely; I’m not. Rugby is awesome, soccer is pretty damn cool, and jai alai just rocks. But American professional football… BLECH!! I despise it. The players are GROSSLY over paid and mostly they’re a bunch of thugs in tight pants made into (undeserving) idols. Thankfully I can pretty much ignore football season. I have several die hard football fan friends on Facebook, but I can either just ignore the posts or hide them if they get too numerous. In fact, I did such a good job of ignoring football the last couple of years that I didn’t even know who was playing in the Superbowl until a day or so before the game! HOWEVER, all that being said, I do have to admit that I like cooking for people who watch football. Cooking fun, comforting food for a group of people is always right up my alley and football watchers definitely require that! So while I know (and care) very little about the rules of the game, I certainly know what the game obsessed like to eat and I enjoy supplying the food they’ll eat and providing a fun atmosphere ūüôā

One of the best football watching/fall foods is chili… well, anything really. Chili dogs, chili cheese fries, chili nachos, chili mac, the list goes on. You can put chili on just about anything. But this isn’t chili such as you would eat out of a bowl with some cornbread on the side. Actually, I don’t care for that chili much. I think it’s the cumin- I’ve never really liked cumin as a defining flavor. That’s the version of chili you find in the Western US. What I like is the Eastern US’s version of chili: no beans, no cumin, and it’s usually served over spaghetti (look up “chili 5 way” and you’ll find an interesting meal!). This chili is more of a condiment than a meal in itself. And it’s incredibly easy to make. (You can also make this in the crock pot, but I’m doing the stove top version. I’ll put the crock pot directions below.) We’ll start with what you probably already have on hand…

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See? I bet you don’t even have to run to the store for any of that, do you? I love it when that happens! Oh- and I can hear you now “The Humble Food Snob is BUYING garlic in a jar?!?! Isn’t that contrary to what you’ve been saying all along about knife skills and economy?!” Sigh… Yes; it is. Under normal circumstances, I disdain jarred garlic. But under normal circumstances I have access to great garlic at one store or another. Large heads of garlic with nice big cloves and no green shoots in the center… what a fond memory. And that’s all it is; a memory. Because in my current locale, all that’s available at the 2 grocery stores are tiny heads of garlic about 3/4 the size of an egg with pathetic little cloves that are more work than they’re worth to peel. AND every head I’ve purchased so far has been growing already, which means I have to dissect the tiny cloves to remove the bitter shoots. So until I can grow my own garlic, I will be buying jarred garlic. Thankfully they offer it at a decent price here.

Anyway… You may notice that the amounts in this picture and the amounts in the recipe below don’t jive. I know that. I went from a normal sized freezer plus a stand alone freezer to store things in at my last residence, to just a tiny freezer in a small, 30 year old fridge. That means it’s also got an inch of frost taking up room. Is being in our own home and away from the awful situation we were in worth it? A thousand times YES!! Does it mean I have to change the way I do some things? Yes again. And that’s ok. So instead of the full batch I’m making a half batch. (And incidentally, a recipe I found that helped inspire this makes double what’s below! ūüėģ )

So brown your ground beef. You can also use ground turkey or chicken, but you’ll need to make sure there is about half a cup of fat of one kind or another to soak up the flour to make the roux. It can be olive or vegetable oil, or you could use bacon fat- that would be a great addition! While the meat is browning, dice your onion. Don’t drain your meat. Like I said; you’ll need the fat. Add the onions and cook until they’re soft- about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir. Cook, stirring for about 3 minutes. You want the flour to cook but not burn. It should look almost like there is no flour:

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Now you can add the water and the tomato sauce. I usually add the sauce first and then put the water in the can and swish it around to get the last traces of the sauce out of the can. Why waste it? Along with the water and tomato sauce, add the spices. Give it a good stir, and you’ve got this:

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Put a tight fitting lid on this and bring it to a boil. Give it a stir, lower the heat until it’s at a slow simmer, replace the lid, and go do something else for awhile. You’ll need to come back and stir the pot about twice an hour, but other than that you’ve got 2 hours to kill. I’d suggest watching something with Robin Williams in it. Never forget what it feels like to laugh with your whole body and soul- the world needs more of that. The Birdcage is my particular favorite of his ūüôā

Once 2 hours have ticked by, take the lid off, give the pot another stir, and let the chili simmer for about an hour without the lid, stirring every 15 minutes or so. It may take a little more or less than an hour. Just keep an eye on it. You want to end up with a chili that is very thick.

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I know; it doesn’t LOOK a whole lot different. But it has reduced by about two thirds to half. Go ahead and give it a taste and adjust the salt and/or pepper. Don’t add too much pepper though- now is when you add the red pepper flakes if you want a milder chili. If you’re looking for spicy chili, add the red pepper flakes with the rest of the spices before you simmer the pot.

I was supposed to have a wonderful money shot for this post: A plate with hot dogs smothered in chili with melty cheese on top. But then I went and landed myself in the urgent care. I’ll be ok. But it cost me my blog picture. So sadly, I do not have a great shot of this tasty chili in action. But I do have a tip for freezing the leftovers. Here you go:

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I prefer to have thinner, wrapped packages of food that I can stack several packages high instead of plastic containers that limit my storage and break when I inevitably drop one. So I line plastic food storage containers with plastic wrap and divide the (completely cooled) food into them. Each of these containers will make one meal’s worth of chili dogs.

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Put these in the freezer, come back in a couple of hours, lift the sides of the plastic to remove, wrap the food, and you’re good to go! I usually do 2 layers of plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil, like so:

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Make sure you mark the package with the contents and the date it was made. That way you don’t have to unwrap your packages and try to guess what’s in them.

So there you go: a jumping off point for lots of hearty recipes to get you through the fall and winter; from watching sports on TV to tail gating to coming in off the slopes or the sled hills.

As promised, Here is what you need to do to make this chili in a crock pot (slow cooker):

– Brown the meat, saute the onions and garlic, and add/cook the flour as described above.

– Transfer the mixture to the crock of the slow cooker and add the rest of the ingredients.

– Remember to not add the red pepper flakes until after cooking unless you want SPICY chili.

– Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 3-4 hours.

-Here’s the caveat to making this chili in the slow cooker: you need to let it cook with the lid off for about the last hour, just like the stove top version. And you need to stir it a few times. When it’s the consistency you want you can take it out. This is a deal breaker for some, because they want whatever is in the slow cooker to be ready when they get home from work or wherever. If that’s the case, I’d advise making it on a day off and reheating what you have set aside. You can’t tell it’s been reheated, so it’s not a problem.

The Recipe:

2 Lbs. Ground Beef

2 Onions, diced fine

4-6 Cloves Garlic, minced

1/2 C + 1 T All Purpose Flour

29 Oz. Can Tomato Sauce

8 Oz. Water

2 t Salt

2 t Seasoned Salt

2 t Pepper (Black or White, doesn’t matter)

1/4 C Chili Powder (don’t let the amount scare you- it’s not really spicy at all)

1/3 C Sugar

1 t (or to taste) Red Pepper Flakes (this is what will make it spicy)

The Method:

*In a large soup or stock pot, brown the ground beef. Do not drain!

*Add the onions and saute 3-4 minutes, until the onions are fragrant and soft.

*Add the garlic and saute 2-3 minutes.

*Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine, cooking 3-4 minutes. Don’t let the roux burn!

*Add the tomato sauce and the water, swishing the water in the sauce can to get the remnants out.

*Stir in the spices (adding the red pepper flakes now only if you want spicy chili).

*Cover the pot and bring the chili to a boil.

*Stir, lower the heat to a slow simmer, replace the cover and cook 2 – 2 1/2 hours, stirring a couple of times per hour.

*Uncover the pot and continue to slowly simmer for about an hour, until the chili is very thick.

*Taste for seasoning. Add more salt and/or pepper if needed.

*If you haven’t added them before now, stir the red pepper flakes in.

Let me¬†be¬†perfectly clear: this is not SOS (Sh*t On a Shingle for those not in the know). I’ve had some try to call it that and I set them straight immediately. They have not made that particular mistake again. SOS is what you get out of desperation when all you have to work with is ground beef, flour, and milk and you have to eat something. I don’t make SOS. And I don’t make anything out of desperation. Ever. So… moving on. When people try to make sausage gravy at home it usually turns out like most restaurant “sausage gravy” offerings: either soupy or gluey and/or bland. That’s why I thought I didn’t like sausage gravy; too many¬†brushes¬†with it in the restaurant world. Why put something akin to school paste on your breakfast?! So when my husband, Ron, told me that he liked sausage gravy- the one time he had it when the person who made it knew how to make it well- I set out to make really good sausage gravy. Something that even I would like to eat on my breakfast. This is not even close to what you will get in your average restaurant. This is sausage gravy as it should be:¬†creamy, a little spicy, and oh so comforting over… well, just about anything. Everyone loves it over biscuits or toast. I like it over potatoes. The girls like it over scrambled eggs. And Ron will eat it out of a bowl with a spoon like it’s soup if I let him. Seriously. He’s done it before. It’s that good.

If I’m putting sausage into something (gravy, pancakes, breakfast bakes, etc) I use spicy breakfast sausage. I’ve found if I use regular sausage the flavor just falls flat. So you can use regular if you want to but it won’t have the punchy flavor that will wow you. Other than that all you need is a few incredibly basic ingredients (one of the wonderful things about this recipe) and a whisk. That’s all there is to it. It’s so simple it’s ridiculous! Here’s what you’ll need:

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Start by browning your sausage. I’ve found that, since people are so absurdly afraid of fats these days, the sausage I buy at the store is getting leaner and leaner. This being the case, I always add some olive oil to the pan along with the sausage. Technically you could use whatever oil strikes your fancy. But I always¬†use olive oil for this. I’ve tried it with other oils and the flavor just wasn’t right. So use what you like or what you have. Anyway, brown your sausage. And when I say “brown” I mean¬†brown.¬†You want some really nice caramelization so that your gravy has the depth of flavor that most restaurant sausage gravy lacks.

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I’ll let you in on a little secret very quickly… Most restaurants don’t brown the sausage they use in their gravy in the pan they make the gravy in. A lot don’t even cook the sausage at the same time as they make their gravy. The restaurants I made sausage gravy at had me cook up a bunch of sausage patties, chop them, and add them into snow-white reconstituted gravy powder. More restaurants than you know do something like that. And if they use sausage crumbles it’s from a huge batch they were frying up for other things as well- killing several birds with one stone. Which is why most sausage gravy in restaurants is so bland; they contain only small amounts of sausage, and none of the really flavorful bits.

So now that you’ve got a pan full of browned sausage, sprinkle the flour over the whole lot…

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Some people insist that you need to remove the sausage and drain it, put the drippings back in the pan, add the flour, and make the roux. I think that’s a waste of time. With this particular dish you don’t need all of those extra steps. I’ve found that adding the flour in with the sausage actually makes mixing the roux easier. When I make the roux without the meat it’s a chore to keep it from clumping when I add the milk. But when I make it with the meat included the roux is more evenly distributed to begin with and incorporating the milk is a breeze!

Speaking of milk, once the roux has cooked for one minute, pour in the milk while whisking fairly vigorously. Don’t whisk so fast you make a mess, but do keep things moving. If you don’t the roux will, in fact, clump up on you and you’ll have extra work on your hands whisking until it’s smoothed out again. You end up with…

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Sausage milk soup. But that’s ok! Bring this to a full boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer, all the while stirring ALL around the pan to make sure you don’t have roux clumping up in the outer edges of the pan or sticking too much in the middle. You can keep using the whisk if you want to, but I switch to a spoon as soon as the milk is incorporated because a spoon can get into the outer edges of the pan much better.

Let the gravy simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 5-10 minutes. How long depends on how thick you like your gravy. We like ours on the thick side, so I go the full 10 minutes. Add some pepper and a little salt while it’s simmering. You end up with…

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Thick, rich country sausage gravy with so much flavor you may never order it in a restaurant again- it would only be disappointing. Now, if your gravy gets too thick for your liking you can simply add more milk- a little at a time- until it’s the desired consistency. Just be sure to taste it again and readjust the seasoning.

This is how my husband likes his (second best to in a bowl with a spoon, of course):

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Very classic, indeed. I put it over toast this time because, being without an oven, I couldn’t make biscuits. So biscuits are best but toast works surprisingly well too!

I, on the other hand, prefer something a little different. Do you go to restaurants for breakfast and order the “skillet” meals? You know; potatoes of some kind on the bottom, then eggs- with or without breakfast meat of some kind- then topped with cheese or gravy, with toast on the side. You can make that at home! Cheaper and tastier!

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See?! Looks almost the same as in a restaurant. It’s on a plate instead of in a cheap fake skillet, and the toast isn’t quite as pretty, but that doesn’t matter because the taste is phenomenal! This is my FAVORITE way to eat sausage gravy. Now that you have a fantastic recipe for it in your repertoire it’s time for you to decide your favorite way to eat it too!

Note: This sausage gravy reheats wonderfully! Put desired amount of cold gravy into a microwave safe bowl or a sauce pan. Add a small amount of milk- just enough to be able to stir it somewhat easily, then heat at 45 second intervals in the microwave- stirring after each- until it’s hot or put over medium¬†heat until hot throughout if you’re using the stove top.¬†

The Recipe:

1 Lb. Sausage (I always use spicy, but use what you like)

3 T Oil (I always use olive oil but, once again, use what you like)

4 T Flour

4 C Milk

Salt & Pepper to Taste

The Method:

*Cook the sausage in the oil until it’s nicely browned.

*Sprinkle the flour over the sausage in the pan and stir to combine.

*Cook, stirring, for one minute to cook the flour.

*Whisk in the milk, making sure to get the whisk into the outer edges of the pan to get all of the roux incorporated.

*Bring to a boil, whisking or stirring constantly.

*Season with some pepper and a little salt.

*Reduce the heat and simmer the gravy 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure there are no clumps sticking to the bottom of the pan.

*When the gravy has reached the desired thickness, taste it and adjust the seasoning accordingly.

*Remove the gravy from the heat. If you need to reheat the gravy you can put it back over the heat, but if you let it sit over low heat to keep warm it will continue thickening.

*Serve over whatever your heart desires ūüôā

It’s been hot again lately. Really hot. Because the air conditioner is no longer functioning. And it’s been in the high 90’s outside again, therefore it’s been in the mid-80’s to low 90’s inside. Sigh. Summer sucks. So I’ve been trying to keep meals on the cool side of the spectrum. But I also know perfectly well that “cold” meals all the time gets tiresome quickly. So there are times when I have to use the stove. One of the things I’ve taken to making in this situation is pressed sandwiches. They’re technically hot sandwiches, but making them doesn’t heat the house up too much. You don’t have to have a panini or sandwich press to do them either. I was recently given one by a dear friend but up until then I made do just fine without one. They are fun- and useful for several things besides pressed sandwiches- but in this post I will be showing you how to make a go of it without the actual press.

All you need is a skillet and a pot big enough to cover the sandwich you’re making, but small enough to fit inside the skillet. Assemble your sandwich(es) and heat the skillet on medium-low. While the skillet is over the fire, fill your pot with water. Not enough to slosh over the side, but enough to give it some heft. You see where I’m going with this, don’t you?

Indeed; you’re going to use the pot to press the sandwich while it cooks on each side. So brush, spray, or otherwise add lubricant to the skillet. Add the sandwich, then put the pot of water on top of the sandwich and press down- thusly:

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Depending on the bread or roll you’ve used you may need to stand there and hold the pot of water on the sandwich. Even if you don’t have to hold the pot in place, don’t go anywhere. With the added weight the sandwich will cook faster than a non-pressed sandwich so you really have to keep an eye on it. Once it’s browned on one side, brush (or spray) butter or oil on the uncooked side and flip the sandwich over. Put the pot of water back on top and check the sandwich after 30 seconds to minute, depending on how dense the bread or roll is; this side will cook faster. Once the second side is browned, move the sandwich to a plate to cool for a minute and then enjoy! If you need to do more than one sandwich you have a couple of options; one being to just cook them and not worry about keeping them hot. If you’re only doing 2 or 3 you don’t have to worry about keeping the cooked ones warm because it won’t take that long to make the rest so long as you have them assembled & ready to go before you start cooking the first one. And if you have a skillet & pot big enough you can do at least 2 at a time. Problem solved. But if you’re doing more than a few, or you really feel like you HAVE to keep ALL of your sandwiches piping hot, then your only real option is to go ahead & turn the oven on to “warm” or the lowest setting it has and keep the pressed sandwiches on a pan or tray to keep warm. That will heat the house up more (soon that won’t matter, but as it’s still hot here that’s what I’m trying to avoid) but your sandwiches will stay hot.

Here is what I made for breakfast this morning…

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Sausage, egg and cheese- yummy! I was fiddling with taking pictures so I let it cook a little too long on the first side (the bottom), but it still turned out well. It only needed about 30 seconds on each side- so it’s a fast option too! In the time it takes for the panini grill to heat up you can already have your sandwich done when you do it this way! This is a great way to make a fast, portable dinner for those (hopefully rare) nights that you have to be running at dinnertime instead of sitting as a family and enjoying a meal. Just make up some pressed sandwiches, wrap them in paper towels or parchment, grab a drink, and you’re out the door.

So we’re down to a week & a half of summer. 10 days. It’s finally coming to an end. As I write this, it’s dark, rainy, and cool, and I’m in heaven! It’s supposed to stay like this for the rest of this week and then heat up again going into next week. After this wonderful little break in the weather I think I might just make it through the next bout of hot weather before the first hard frost. I do hope it comes soon though!

Oh, what a joy it would be to have a¬†¬†planned¬†hiatus. That would mean that I have things all together and events would unfold according to my plans. Alas, that is not the story of my life currently. But I’m working on it. So I have been absent from the blogging scene- not by choice, really. I truly do enjoy blogging- even though I have very few readers and maybe I’m not the best at it yet- so it’s nice to be back (even if it’s temporary).

It’s summer, which means it’s hot. It also means that I try to avoid using the oven, just like everyone else. However there are only so many ways to¬†prepare¬†salad and we get tired of all of them pretty quickly around the Humble Food Snob’s house. When I’m making my dinner menus in the summer I try for a good balance of cook- and no-cook meals. If I stand over a hot stove frying corn chips (SO much better than store bought!) or french fries to go with dinner one night I’ll make a salad or maybe chilled fruit soup the next. I also try to use my crockpot & my griddle as much as possible because they don’t heat the kitchen up as much as the stove top does. As I’ve mentioned before, I usually make breakfast for dinner once each week year-round so I’m always on the lookout for new breakfast recipes. I’ve come across recipes for sausage pancakes many times in the last 6 months but I got the idea years ago. So, really, I’m not copying anyone- they’re copying me ;.) This isn’t so much a recipe as an idea or method but it’s a good one that yields amazing results!

Use your favorite pancake batter recipe- like I said this is more about sharing an idea than an actual recipe. If you don’t have one I’ve included the recipe I usually use. Yes- it uses Bisquick. I know perfectly well how to make pancake batter from scratch and I’ve done it many times. But I especially like the way the batter comes out when I use Bisquick so that’s what I use. And I can get it from Sam’s in big boxes MUCH cheaper than I can buy the smaller boxes in the regular grocery store so I use it happily for some things. I also use spicy breakfast sausage for these. Regular will work but the spicy sausage gives a unique flavor and is a very pleasant contrast to the sweet syrup. The pancake itself will mellow out the heat so it’s not overpowering. You can use turkey or chicken sausage if you are opposed to¬†pork¬†products. We love pork in our house so I use the real thing. This is also a good way to stretch a pound of breakfast sausage. To feed all 7 of us sausage patties at a meal takes 2 rolls (pounds) but these pancakes take only one pound and all of us can enjoy sausage with our pancakes. And pancakes are one of the ultimate cheap foods so it’s a winner for the food budget!

It really is just this easy…

Just drop 1/4 C of your batter onto the griddle or pan and then sprinkle about 1 Tablespoon of the browned, crumbled sausage over the top. Wait for the edges of the pancake to firm up, flip, cook on the other side until done and serve. Ridiculously easy for something that tastes so good. ¬†This is what you end up with…

A plate full of goodness for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. There really is syrup on these, believe it or not. I make my own pancake syrup because the “maple” syrup in the store is insanely expensive (when you look at the cost of making your own, anyway). I’ll include that recipe too. But the home made stuff is slightly thinner than the store-bought kind but- we think around here- that the taste is better.

Mmmmmm…. makes me want some just looking at the picture. And, since I made a big batch, I can have some! A pound of sausage, using 1/4 C of batter for each pancake will yield 20-22 pancakes; plenty for the freezer :.)

The Recipe:

My Pancake Batter

4 C Bisquick

2 ¬Ĺ¬†to 3 C Water

2 Eggs, beaten

1 T (yes, TABLESPOON) Vanilla

*Mix water into the Bisquick to desired consistency. I like my pancake batter a little on the runny side so I use closer to 3 cups.

*Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until there are no lumps left.

*Let the batter rest for at least 5 minutes.

*This much batter will make a batch of 20-22 sausage pancakes plus about 10 plain pancakes. It sounds like a lot but they freeze so beautifully and taste so much better than the frozen ones from the store you will be happy you made the full batch.

Pancake Syrup

¬ĺ C Brown Sugar

¬ĺ C White Sugar

1 C Water

1 C Corn Syrup

¬Ĺ t Maple Flavor

¬ľ t Vanilla

Gently boil sugars, water, and corn syrup to dissolve the sugars, about 3 minutes.

*Off heat, add the flavors.

*Cool completely then pour into chosen container. I use an old, larger size store-bought maple syrup bottle. This quantity very nearly fills the bottle.