Category: Freezes Beautifully


I’m not really one for food fads. I was tired of the make-every-food-rainbow-colored fad in super short order, the macaron fad got boring pretty quickly, and if I see one more carb dish “made over” with cauliflower (yuck!) I swear I’ll scream. However, I have to say that I am totally on board with the pumpkin trend. Every year I look forward to pumpkin season. Not because I can finally have pumpkin flavored things, because I make those year round. No; I look forward to it because canned pumpkin gets cheaper and I can stock my pantry for the year. And, now that I have my own basement with my own pantry shelves, I plan to go a little stock up crazy. It’s already begun; I have eight 15 ounce cans and three 29 ounce cans of pumpkin on my shelves. And these pancakes are a prefect way to use some of them up!

Start with your basic pancake ingredients, plus pumpkin and spices…

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Basically, all you’re doing is mashing the recipes for pancakes and pumpkin pie together! So combine all of your wet ingredients, including the pumpkin. Oh! I’m hoping that by now you know that you should NEVER crack eggs on the side of a bowl, dish, or pan. Not only can it make a mess, but you’re almost guaranteed to end up with shell in your finished product, and when you bash the shell into the inside of the egg you’re also introducing any bacteria or debris that was on the outside of the egg into the inside- of the egg and then of you! So please; ALWAYS crack your eggs on the counter or another flat surface and pry them apart to empty them.

Ok- you’ve got your wet ingredients well mixed, now combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. The amounts I’m working with here make a large batch- enough to have leftovers to freeze. I got 24 pancakes out of this batch, using 1/3 of a cup of batter for each pancake. You could halve the amounts, but you’d end up with half a can of pumpkin in your fridge and unless you already have an idea of what to make with that, it’s easier (and less wasteful) to just make the full batch. So get your biggest bowl and combine the dry ingredients completely. Make a well in the middle, like so:

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That will make mixing in the wet ingredients easier. You want to make sure everything is incorporated, but not perfectly smooth. If you wanted to add something like nuts or chocolate chips, now is the time to do so. You’ll end up with a big bowl of orange…

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Now drop the batter onto a hot griddle or pan using a 1/3 cup measure. (By the way; that will make nice, big pancakes that are about 3-4 inches across. To make smaller cakes, use a 1/4 cup measure. Or you could make mini pancakes by using a tablespoon measuring spoon.) This is a very thick batter that will result in beautiful, thick, puffy pancakes…

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Cook the pancakes 3-4 minutes on each side, until they are a deep golden brown. Remove them to a platter or baking sheet and repeat until you’re out of batter. Then you can serve them up with whatever strikes your fancy! We’re pretty old fashioned in our house;

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Plenty of butter and maple syrup for us! Well, for 3 of us. The girls prefer theirs the way their grandmom taught them to eat pancakes: lots of butter and a light sprinkling of sugar. Either way, these are some of the best pancakes we’ve ever eaten! And if you make the full batch (and your family doesn’t devour all of them at once), you’ll have some left to freeze for later. These warm up easily in the microwave in just a couple of minutes- perfect for busy week day mornings! Even the coldest, dreariest day brightens up a bit when you get to eat pumpkin pie pancakes for breakfast ๐Ÿ™‚

The Recipe:

4 C Buttermilk

1 15 oz Can Pumpkin Puree (not pie filling)

8 T (one stick) Butter, Melted

4 Eggs

5 C Flour

2/3 C Sugar

2 T Baking Powder

1 t Baking Soda

1 t Salt

4 t Pumpkin Pie Spice (OR a combination of 2 t cinnamon then ginger, nutmeg, and/or cloves to equal 4 t total)

The Method:

*Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat or in the microwave. Set aside to cool a bit while you see to the other wet ingredients.

*Combine the buttermilk, pumpkin, eggs, and butter in a small bowl. Stir until completely mixed.

*In a very large bowl, combine the dry ingredients until mixed completely. Make a well in the middle.

*Pour the wet ingredients into the well in the middle of the dry and mix until well blended but not completely smooth (that would overwork the batter).

*Heat an electric griddle to 325 degrees or a pan or stove top griddle over medium heat.

*Drop the batter by 1/3 cup measures (or 1/4 C for smaller cakes, or 1 T for mini cakes) onto the griddle and cook for about 3 minutes.

*Flip the pancakes over and cook another 3-4 minutes or until a deep golden brown.

*Remove the finished pancakes to a platter and continue until you run out of batter.

*Serve immediately or cool completely and freeze in an airtight container or zip top bag for up to 2 months.

 

I think most of us know that every region of America has it’s own “signature” dish. Texas has barbecue, New England has clam chowder, California has Mexican in the South and wine country in the north, and the Mid West has fried foods and roasted corn. But how many of you know about the “signature” dishes of the far Northern part of our country? Before I moved to South Dakota I had no clue at all. But I learned quick! South Dakota has chislic: small bites of marinated beef, lamb, or venison, grilled or fried and served with toothpicks and hot sauce to dash on each piece. It was on EVERY menu that didn’t belong to a national chain restaurant and everyone thought theirs was the best, naturally. Minnesota, being heavily Scandinavian, is big on lutefisk (pickled white fish) and other northern European treats. And, of course, Wisconsin has it’s cheese; specifically, fried cheddar cheese curds. ย But there’s also a wider ranging dish that is ubiquitous throughout the eastern Dakotas, northern Minnesota, and northern Wisconsin: Hot Dish. Much like any other regional dish you’ll find, every person who makes it has their own rendition of it, all are a favorite of someone, and everyone thinks theirs is the best. The ingredients have surprising variation; some people use ground meat, some use cubed. Some use mashed potatoes on top, many use tater tots, and some even use white or wild rice in their hot dish and forgo the potatoes all together. But they are all known as hot dish because they all consist of meat in some sort of sauce, possibly with veggies mixed in, with some manner of starch, and without fail the dish is in casserole form. It shows up at every single pot luck function in at least one iteration because it’s expected to; it’s not a pot luck if there isn’t hot dish.

Being short on time and ingredients one afternoon, I set out to make my own version. I got the basics together and just started adding things as the ideas came to me. I do that a lot. We were pleasantly surprised with the results and it’s a regular feature in the cold weather menu rotation. Thankfully, I was able to remember what I put in the pan!

The ingredients are very basic and very inexpensive. If you can find a really good deal on ground beef or turkey, it’s even cheaper to make, so it’s also a really good broke food dish ๐Ÿ™‚

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Yes; that’s canned cream of mushroom soup. This is a super easy dish that is very budget friendly. If you want to make condensed cream of mushroom from scratch, it will work really well in this recipe and the taste will be phenomenal. But for now, canned is fine.

So brown your ground beef, drain it well, and put it back into the pan you used to cook it. Add the white pepper, onion & garlic powders, the soy & Worcestershire sauces, then the soup. Stir everything together and see what you’ve got. It will be super thick, so we want to thin it out a bit. How much varies; add milk or water until the mixture is the consistency of a stew. I usually end up adding about 1/3 cup of milk but sometimes it’s a little more. Once you have the right consistency, heat the mixture to a boil and then transfer it to an 8×8 baking dish. Since I have all stainless steel cookware (which means it’s oven safe) I just spread the mixture evenly in the same pan. Now you can spread the tater tots over the top of the beef mixture. I prefer to use mini tater tots, but use whatever you like or can find.

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Ready for the oven! Put the dish or pan in the oven, uncovered, at 400 degrees until the tater tots are golden brown and crispy on top. Usually that takes about 30 minutes in my oven.

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See how the sauce bubbled up between the tots? That’s how you know it’s cooking properly. If your tots are brown and crispy but the sauce isn’t bubbling, the dish is cooking too fast. Cover it with foil, cook until bubbly, then you can take the foil off and crisp up the tater tots.

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Hearty, tasty goodness that comes together fast! The whole thing is done in about 45 minutes and most of that is baking time. My favorite way to eat this is…

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…with ketchup. This is basically a burger & fries casserole, minus the cheese soup that usually goes into it, so ketchup goes perfectly with it. The rest of the family prefers theirs with BBQ sauce on top; the smoky, sweet flavor it adds is great! Add a salad or some fruit to this and you’ve got a complete meal. Make a double batch and you’ve got an easy offering for the potluck table ๐Ÿ™‚

The Recipe:

1 Lb Ground Beef, Turkey, or Chicken

1 t Onion Powder

1 t Garlic Powder

1/4 t Pepper (I use white for just about everything, but black will work fine too)

1 T Soy Sauce

1 T Worcestershire Sauce

1 Can Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup

1/3 (+/-) Milk or Water

Half of a 28 Oz Bag Frozen Tater Tots, or however many it takes to to completely cover the top of the meat mixture (I use mini Tots, but use what you like or can find)

 

The Method:

*Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

*In a medium skillet or high sided oven safe pan, brown the ground meat then drain it well.

*Put the meat back into the pan and add the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT the milk and the tater tots.

*Mix very well and add milk or water until a stew-like consistency is reached.

*Heat the mixture to boiling then transfer it to an 8×8 baking dish (unless you are using an oven safe pan or skillet- then you can leave it where it is).

*Layer the tater tots over the mixture evenly, making sure there are no large gaps.

*Bake the casserole for about 30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the tater tots are golden brown and crispy.

*Serve with condiments you would eat on a hamburger, or it’s also quite good plain.

 

So after being informed by my BFF that the print feature I added awhile back actually prints the entire blog post instead of only the recipe like I wanted it to, I have (with a little help from a more experienced blogger) figured out how to make only the recipe in each post printable. Yay! So from now on you will be able to print only the best part of each post: the recipe! And when I get time here and there I will go back and add the feature to all of my other posts (which number 72 as of today, so it may take me a little while to get it done). Thank you all for sticking with me thus far! โค

Ok, seriously; I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love this sauce! Remember when I told you that my husband loves my sausage gravy so much he wants to eat it in a bowl like soup? Well that’s me with this sauce. And I can do that because this sauce is actually good for you! I’ll get into how I eat it in a bowl later. But first, I’ll get right into the recipe…

This sauce is so ridiculously simple that you’re going to wonder why you ever bought sauce at the store. It’s incredibly inexpensive to make too! These ingredients hardly cost anything:

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I suppose I should clarify: if you have all of these ingredients on hand, this recipe hardly costs anything. If you don’t have them on hand, you should. I’m perfectly serious. Go out and buy these ingredients if you don’t have them. The herbs will last you awhile and will allow you to make SO many other dishes! And having cans of tomato products on hand will allow you to easily and cheaply make your own sauces and soups without the cost and additives/preservatives the store bought stuff has. Ok, enough about that. Moving on…

So I have picky kids when it comes to onions. The girls like the idea of onions; meaning that they like the flavor that onions add to certain foods, but if they bite into a piece of onion then it’s game over. They won’t eat another bite for fear of getting another piece of onion. Any my son is just now starting to branch out beyond the realm of chicken nuggets and mac & cheese, so if he can see pieces of onions he won’t even allow the dish to appear on his plate. To combat this I got creative. Ok, sneaky. Same thing sometimes. Anyway, I grated the onion when I started playing with this recipe and it worked perfectly! Even I prefer it that way and I LOVE onions! So now I grate the onions on the small holes of the grater every time. When you grate the onions, do it on a plate or over a bowl to catch the juice as well as the pulp.

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Now mince your garlic. You do not need a garlic gadget! Use your chef’s knife and hone your skill with it.

Holding your knife as usual, use your off hand to keep the tip of the knife on the board (putting your fingers on the TOP of the blade to steady it) and your dominant hand to do the actual mincing by lifting up and down while also working the blade back and forth over the pile of garlic. It’s MUCH easier than it sounds. You’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. You’ll end up with a pile of minced garlic…

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Super easy! And it only takes a couple of minutes. Now that those two things are done, all you have left is opening a can and measuring herbs and spices. How much easier can homemade get?! You do have to make a choice, though. You can use olive oil for this sauce and it will turn out amazing. But I use bacon fat to saute the onion and garlic and the slightly smoky flavor it imparts makes the sauce stellar. I recommend using bacon fat, but the choice is yours. So choose one or the other and put it into a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onion first, adding the juice as well. It may sizzle a bit, so be careful. Once the onion is beginning to turn golden, add in the garlic.

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Let the veggies cook for another 2 minutes, making sure the garlic doesn’t begin to burn. Give it a stir every 20-30 seconds to prevent burning. The picture above is as dark as you want it to be; much darker and the garlic will turn bitter and ruin the sauce. Go ahead and add the tomato sauce and mix well. Add the brown sugar (sadly not pictured above), basil, oregano, thyme,ย white pepper, the smaller amount of salt, and the bay leaf into the pot.

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SO much flavor going into this sauce! Give this a good stir to distribute the herbs, cover the pot, and bring the sauce to a boil. Back the heat down to a slow simmer and set a timer for 30 minutes. If you think of it, you can come back and give the sauce a stir. But even if you don’t stir it at all in that 30 minutes, the sauce will be fine. This is one of those wonderful times that you can set a timer and just let the sauce do it’s own thing while you go do yours.

Once half an hour has gone by, take the lid off and give the sauce a good stir. While it should definitely be a sauce, and as such should be pourable, it should still be a bit thick. It should not be runny or watery. If it is watery, let the sauce continue to simmer uncovered until it looks like this:

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If your sauce was too watery after its covered simmer, it most likely means that the can of tomato sauce you started with was of lesser quality; they added too much water in the process of turning the tomatoes into sauce. That way they can use less tomato and make more money. In short; you got ripped off if you bought the super cheap “bargain” brand. Some bargain or store brands are great and work just fine. But then there are those that really do rip you off. Unfortunately sometimes it’s a matter of living and learning and figuring out which ones do and which don’t. So I usually go for the mid priced tomato products. Not the super fancy “premium” brand that costs a ridiculous amount, but not the super cheap “bargain basement” stuff either. Once again- moving on…

Assuming your sauce is the proper consistency, go ahead and give it a taste. Add more salt if you think the sauce needs it (I almost always do) and the red chili flakes if you want to use them. Remember that if you do use red chili flakes, let the sauce sit for a couple of minutes after you add them for them to take effect then give it another taste and readjust the seasoning if needed. If you want a spicy, arribiata type of sauce, go ahead and add the red chili flakes at the beginning with the herbs. But be warned: it will be SPICY! We like a little kick but still want to be able to feel our lips when we’re done eating, so I add just a little and only at the end.

Just like that, you’re done! And oh; the things you can do with this sauce! You can can this sauce in jars or freeze it in bags or containers. Or it will keep for about a week in the fridge. This amount makes one batch of lasagna or spaghetti with meat sauce for me. If I want to make pasta with no meat, I use what I need and save the rest (trust me; you’ll find a use for it). It’s perfect as a pizza sauce, but you can also make pizza fondue. Really; it’s one of my family’s favorite fun meals! Heat the whole batch of sauce in a fondue pot over low heat (if using an electric pot) or a couple of tea light candles if you’re using an old school fondue pot. Cut up your favorite pizza toppings and lay them out. If you want veggies that aren’t crunchy, saute them lightly before you set them out. I use cooked and sliced Italian sausage, ham, pepperoni slices (they’re easier to eat if they’re cut in half), and pineapple for a super easy spread of toppings. Cut some mozzarella into cubes (the block stuff will do but it won’t be nearly as good as the softer, “fresh” mozzarella you get packed in a little water) and some hot french bread into slices. Spear a cube of cheese and then your favorite toppings with your fondue fork and dip it all in the sauce. Slide the contents of your fork onto a slice of french bread and enjoy! I usually get 2 dips out of one slice of bread, so that helps fill up the hungry tummies gathered around the fondue pot ๐Ÿ™‚

OH! I said up above that I would tell you how I eat this out of a bowl… it’s so simple and SO good…

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I make crustless pizza in a bowl. Stay with me on this! Put about half an inch of sauce in the bottom of a microwave or oven safe bowl then put some shredded or cubed mozzarella cheese in the sauce. Cover the bowl and heat it until the edges of the sauce are bubbly. Then add a few pizza toppings evenly over the surface. You don’t want to add a ton or the sauce won’t heat through well- just like real pizza. Cover the bowl again and heat until everything is good and hot. In all honesty, this is one of my favorite meals if I’m making something just for myself. But ONLY if I’m using this sauce. It’s just that good.

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The Recipe:

29 Oz Can Tomato Sauce (plain, no flavoring added)

1 T Bacon fat or Olive Oil

1/4 Large Onion, Grated Fine

8-10 Cloves Garlic, Minced

3-4 t Brown Sugar (start with the smaller amount and add more if needed after the sauce is simmered)

1 1/2 t Dried Basil

Scant 1 t Dried Oregano

1/4 t Ground Dried Thyme (or about 1/2 t dried thyme, unground)

1 Bay Leaf

1/2-3/4 t Kosher Salt (start with the smaller amount and add more if needed after the sauce is simmered)

1/4 t White or Black Ground Pepper (or to taste)

1/8-1/2 t Red Pepper Flakes (or to taste)

The Method:

*Grate the onion (on the smaller holes) onto a plate or into a bowl to save the juice as well.

*Mince the garlic.

*Add the bacon fat or oil into a large sauce pan over medium heat.

*Once the pan is ready, saute the grated onion (with its juice) until it begins to turn golden brown.

*Add the garlic to the pot and saute for about 2 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning.

*Pour the tomato sauce into the pot and stir to incorporate the veggies.

*Add the brown sugar, basil, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Stir well.

*Cover the pot and bring the sauce to a boil. Back the heat down to a slow simmer and leave the sauce to cook for 30 minutes. You could give the pot a stir a couple of times if you think about it.

*Once 30 minutes is up stir and check for proper consistency. If the sauce is too watery let it simmer uncovered until the right thickness is reached.

*Add the red chili flakes if you’re using them, more brown sugar, salt, and/or pepper to taste.

*Use as desired immediately, can, freeze, or store in the refrigerator for about a week.

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

The Recipe:ย 

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:ย 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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

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. ย 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.ย 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ )

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

Now, this is not just any old cookie recipe. No; this recipe is my last bastion of recipe secretiveness. In celebration of more than a month of our new life as well as the start of a promising new school year, I have decided to give you all the last recipe that I’ve been keeping locked up. Before now, the only person I’ve given this recipe to was my BFF- and I made her swear that she would NEVER give the recipe to anyone. I even went so far as to ask her to immediately delete the email that contained it. So, my dear BFF, you are hereby set free from your sworn secrecy. If you would like to share the recipe, be my guest. If you don’t, I understand ๐Ÿ˜‰ So let’s get down to it and make some Oatmeal Cookies!!

I have never been a huge fan of oatmeal cookies. I like them ok but they’ve never been my favorite. My husband, on the other hand, really likes them and asked me to make him some awesome oatmeal cookies. So I started researching recipes and came up with this one. It’s not a cakey cookie but it is a soft cookie so just that starts it off right. I don’t like crunchy cookies unless they’re Oreos or the like (which I can still take or leave) and Ron made it clear he doesn’t like crunchy oatmeal cookies. So these will be soft and chewy. These are also incredibly mediocre if you try to eat them straight out of the oven. You almost can’t taste the spices in them at all when they’re fresh. But let them sit overnight or freeze and then thaw them and they areย phenomenal!! Spicy (not the hot kind!), sweet, and chewy- everything an old fashioned oatmeal cookie should be!

These cookies are incredibly basic. All you need is this:

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(Can I just say right now that I DESPISE doing the ingredient picture!! It seems I always forget something! This time it’s the brown sugar. Completely forgot it while I was fussing with everything, trying to make it look right and readable. HATE ingredients pictures!! Rant over.)

Make sure your butter is soft, measure out your ingredients, and you’re ready for SCP. That would be Standard Cookie Procedure. If you were to take a look at the cards in my recipe box, you would see a lot of recipes with no directions at all. I’ve been cooking and baking long enough that I know how to make most of my recipes just by looking at the title and the ingredients. And, honestly, most recipes fall under one of a few categories: Standard Quick Bread Procedure, Standard Yeast Bread Procedure, Standard Soup/Stew Procedure, Standard Casserole Procedure… you get the point. On most of my cookie recipes you’ll find, if anything, SCP. By that I know that I am to cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition, then add the vanilla and any other liquid ingredient, beat some more, and then start adding the combined dry ingredients, scraping down the bowl at least once. After that it’s scoop and bake. If the dough needs to chill I’ll usually note that because, for me, that is outside SCP. So simply follow SCP and you’re good to go!!

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Make sure the butter and sugar are completely creamed together. Then add your eggs…

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Let the mixer run for about 30 seconds after each egg to make sure they are well incorporated. And scrape the bowl down like I did above. Add your dry ingredients, flour mixture first and then the oatmeal…

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Your dough should still be very moist. It shouldn’t be crumbly at all. Make sure you use large eggs or else you won’t have enough liquid and protein from them for the cookies to turn out properly soft.

Ron and Zachariah like raisins, Liliana and I can take them or leave them, and Gloriana flat hates them. She likes oatmeal cookies, but always asks for them plain so I have to split the batch. This time Gloriana had a wonderful idea: dried apples. It was a stroke of genius! She’s good at that. My other two kids have good suggestions for meals and things when I ask them what they want. But Gloriana is really great at ideas for recipes. I’ve gotten a few recipe ideas from her over the years and she loves to help ๐Ÿ™‚ As I’m splitting the batch anyway, it’s no big deal. So I bought some of the chewy dried apples and used kitchen shears to chop them into roughly raisins sized pieces. Once you’ve got the dry ingredients mixed in and have your basic dough, split the dough into two bowls. Mix the raisins into one and the apples into the other. Hmmm… or you could put both into the one batch of dough. That sounds good. Might have to try that! Anyway, add the fruits and mix well.

Now all that’s left is to scoop these onto cookie sheets and bake them in your (hopefully already preheated) oven. I use regular sized spoons like you’d eat ice cream with. Someday soon I’ll get cool little cookie scoops, but for now it’s spoons. I suppose it comes out to about 1 & 1/2 – 2 tablespoons of dough for each cookie. Space them about 2 inches apart and put one sheet at a time into the oven. You could do two sheets and swap the bottom sheet for the top halfway through, but I prefer to just do one at a time.

Bake the cookies for anywhere from 8-12 minutes. I usually set the timer for the least amount of time for the first batch and adjust accordingly. Some people do a test cookie. I don’t, but I can certainly see why some do. If you want to, please go ahead ๐Ÿ™‚ When the first batch is about 3 minutes from being done, start scooping the next batch onto a cookie sheet. That way, when the batch in the oven is done you’ll have another sheet ready to go in and you’ll save time.

When the cookies are done, let them sit on the cookie sheet for about a minute and then take a spatula and transfer them to a cooling rack.

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The end of Summer is in sight and soon the school buses will reappear. My kids are super excited about school starting. They’ve always loved school, but this year is special because they get to go to a new school in a different state. But if your kids are lamenting the end of summer, this is a wonderful way to help them ease back into the school year. It will be a little taste of home and how much they are loved ๐Ÿ™‚

The Recipe:

1 C Butter, softened (Room Temperature)

1 C Brown Sugar, packed

1/2 C Granulated Sugar

2 Eggs (Large)

1 t Vanilla

1 1/2 C All Purpose Flour

1 t Baking Soda

1/2 t Salt

1 t Cinnamon

1/4 t Nutmeg

3 C Oats

1 C Raisins or other dried fruit, in raisin sized pieces (optional)

The Method:

*Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

*Follow SCP ๐Ÿ˜‰

In other words…

*Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices and set aside.

*In the bowl of a stand mixer of in a large bowl with a hand mixer beat butter until smooth.

*Add sugars to butter and cream at medium speed until lightened and as smooth as you can get it.(See picture above)

*Add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, beating after each.

*Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

*On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Make sure the flour is completely mixed in.

*Still on low, mix in the oats. Make sure they are completely incorporated.

*If using, add in the dried fruit.

*Scoop onto cookie sheets, spacing each scoop about 2 inches apart.

*Bake each tray for 8-12 minutes, until the cookies are cooked through but only just and beginning to turn golden around the edges.

*Once removed from the oven, let the cookies sit on the tray for one minute. Then carefully remove to a cooling rack with a spatula (the thinner the spatula the better).

*To ensure the cookies stay nice and soft, I put them into the zip top bags or containers while they are still slightly warm and close the bag or put the cover on the container.

*Store in an airtight container. Will keep for about 3-4 days before they start getting crumbly.

This has not been a great year. My husband got laid off from his crappy job with a long commute (30 miles. Through a winding canyon. Full of looky-loo tourists. Took him an hour each way) thanks to Obamacare. I was worried- I can’t even tell you how desperately we needed that income, but within a week of getting the news that his contract wouldn’t be renewed he was in the beginning stages of starting a new job. A better job. A really good job, actually. So we rejoiced that God hadn’t let us find a new home where Ron’s crappy job was; meaning we would have been stuck there and he would have had the same long commute each day, just in the opposite direction each way. And we started looking for a new home here in Loveland. I was so happy that we would be able to move into our own place and start living our life as a family in better times again. I was elated that we would be able to give our kids some really good Christmas gifts and that we would be able to give them the one thing they truly wanted: our own home again. Notice a theme? Our own home. We have been in this situation too long. And every time we start to get back on our feet they get knocked out from under us again. This time was no different. Once again, thanks to Obamacare, Ron got laid off. Only this time we were blindsided. He went to work, normal as could be, on a Monday and on that Tuesday morning he walked in and they told him that Monday was his last day and they were awfully sorry. We are now in the process of looking for a new job for Ron as well as considering attempting to get him trained for something so he can bring in a good income instead of struggling just to pay basic bills. That being the case, our gift fund is at exactly $0. Holiday cheer has been thin on the ground this year.

So as we are without an income and my hope is trickling down the drain, Christmas is all but canceled. “All but” because we have kids. We can’t just cancel Christmas. We are attempting to hold on to the REAL reason for Christmas and make the holiday about Jesus, not gifts. It’s hard but we’re working at it and the kids are still happy…

Anyone else out there struggling to be merry this Christmas? This is such a hard time of year for so many people- for so many reasons. I know full well we aren’t the only ones. Sometimes we all need a little holiday boost- whatever the holiday. And sometimes that boost needs to involve liquor. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying “turn to booze!” I was married to an alcoholic at one time- I know better than that. But sometimes we all need the warm fuzziness of a hot mug of sweet, spicy, tinglyness-inducing holiday cheer. This SO fits the bill! Nothing outlandish, nothing too fancy, just holiday cheer you can hold in your hands.

All you need is this…

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Surprising? It was for me when I finally looked up the recipe for hot buttered rum. I always thought it would be more complicated than that. I was very happy to learn I was wrong! You don’t HAVE to add the spices; in the original version from American Colonial times they were only added by the well to do because spices were still pretty pricey. But the spices definitely add a nice touch so I always add them.

All you have to do is mix the ingredients all together and you’ve got hot buttered rum batter. Seriously- it’s that simple. You can use a hand or stand mixer or you can just mix it well by hand. You end up with “batter”…

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To make a mug of hot buttered rum just mix 1 tablespoon of the batter with 8 ounces of boiling water (or apple cider- it’s awesome with hot apple cider!) and 3/4 – 1 1/2 ounces of spiced rum. I use the lesser amount but use what you like. ย Stir it all together well to melt the butter and dissolve the sugar and you’re done.

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Drink this slowly while you’re watching the snow pile up outside or while you watch one of the myriad Christmas movies that are all around us this time of year. Hopefully before you get to the dregs at the bottom of the mug you’ll have been lifted out of any kind of funk you’ve been in and back on the road to Christmas cheerfulness. Let this beautiful little mug of sweetness & spice remind you of all the things that are truly important at Christmas. And share with those around you- you never know when someone else could use a mug of cheer as well.

The Recipe:

1 Stick Butter, very soft

1 C Brown Sugar

1 t Cinnamon

1/2 t Ginger (or Cloves, or 1/2 t each)

1/8 – 1/4 t nutmeg (to taste)

The Method:

*Combine all ingredients well.

*Transfer to an airtight container.

*Store in the fridge or on the counter. I keep mine on the counter because I keep my butter on the counter. I hate cold butter. If keeping butter on the counter creeps you out, store this in the fridge.

To Make a Hot Buttered Rum:

*In a mug, combine 1 T batter, 8 ounces boiling water (or boiling apple cider), and 3/4 ounce to 1 1/2 ounces of dark, spiced rum. I use the lesser amount because I want to enjoy a cocktail, not get punched in the jaw with liquor.

*Stir well to dissolve the sugar and melt the butter.