Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Little Girl's Skirt from a Dress of Mine

I have had a dress in my closet now for over 11 years.  I had not worn it, but I didn't want to get rid of it.  Though it is not a style I would wear now (and likely could not fit into), I really liked the colors.  So, I continued to hold on to it. Then, I had a great idea--I'll make it into a skirt for my daughter.

I used much of the same techniques outlined in this simple skirt tutorial.  Here's what I did:
The Dress!
First, I measured Maddie's waistline and how long we wanted the skirt to be.  I added an inch and a half to the length for the elastic casing.
I placed the dress on my cutting mat and spent some time getting the bottom edge lined up.  Then I cut it off.  (That was a little scary for me for some reason!)
The dress had two layers, so I pinned the layers to each other around the top of the skirt, being careful to match up the seams.
I did a straight stitch with a 1/4 inch seam allowance around the top of the skirt.
Then I did an overlock stitch around the raw edges.  I have a Brother Innovis-80--use G foot, stitch 5. Adjust stitch width to 5 and stitch length to 1.6.  I love that this foot guides the edge of the fabric so well!  A zig-zag stitch or serged edge would work great, too.
Here's what I ended up with.
Now to make the casing. I totally recommend using a template. Find it here about mid-way through the article.  This part was a little difficult--the material was not "ironable."  I ended up using the template to place the fabric in position as well as I could and then pinned in place.  I folded the material over 1 1/2 inches because I was going to sew 1/4 inch from the edge and use 1 inch elastic.  I left a 2 inch opening to place my elastic in place.
At this point I tried it on Maddie.  (A good thing, too, because I had to take it up a little.)

Done!  A quick and inexpensive skirt. 
Best of all, Maddie really liked it.  She is searching for her pink leggings so that she can wear it today!  Hope you can use this project to make something new from something old!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Aunt Hilda's Party Dessert

My friend Tanna invited the kids and me over for supper tonight since our husbands were out of town.  (Plus another friend and her four kids.)  When I asked what I could bring, she suggested a dessert.  Hooray!  This is my chance to make something that I normally wouldn't make.  I started to rack my brain, thinking of all the decadent desserts on my Pinterest board.  Then, I had an idea.  I would make Aunt Hilda's Party Dessert!  My grandma, having received the recipe from Grandpa's sister, Hilda (thus the name!) used to make this when I was little.  I remember absolutely loving it.  I thought, "that should go over well with a bunch of kids."  It had been years since I had eaten it--making it today was a fun trip down memory lane.  This is also a landmark occasion for me, because this dessert does not contain any chocolate.  (Although my friends and I did agree that it would taste delicious with some chocolate syrup on top!)

The taste is hard to describe, sort of butterscotchy/caramel-flavored with a little bit of crunch.  You will just have to try it for yourself to see.  Here's the recipe:

Aunt Hilda's Party Dessert

2 eggs
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup ground nuts
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
16 ounces Cool Whip

Beat eggs; add sugar and beat well.  Add remaining ingredients and mix until blended.  Spread on two greased baking sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Cool completely.  Break up into small pieces and mix with Cool Whip.  Spread in 9 by 13 pan; cover and freeze. 

Your dough will look really strange, and it is sticky to work with.  I ended up using cashews today because that was the only nut we had in the house.  The taste of the cashews went really well with this dessert.  I'm thinking that Grandma used to used walnuts, but I think pecans would be an excellent choice as well.
When spreading into the pan, use a spatula coated with cooking spray.  Try to get as even of a layer as possible.  I baked the pans for 10 minutes then rotated top rack to bottom rack in the oven and vice versa to help get even baking.  A warning:  you will have some clean-up on these pans afterward.  Plan to let them soak for a while in the sink.
You will almost feel like you are burning the dough.  This is what you are going for.  I actually returned the baking stone to the oven to get it a little more crispy.  Don't try to mess with it until it is well-cooled.  Then you need a strong spatula and a little bit of muscle to get it off of the sheet.  Don't worry--you didn't do anything wrong!
Break up the pieces in a large bowl.
Add Cool Whip.
Spread in pan and freeze for at least three hours before serving.
Enjoy the results!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix

Yes, I know, I make a lot of mixes.  I think they are so fun!  I had seen lots of mixes in a quart jar, but I did not have access to any.  So I thought, "Why not put them in a bag?"  I found a mix online and made several of these up for Christmas gifts.  Of course, I had to pass the recipe along.

I like how versatile this gift is.  You can take any recipe, put together the dry ingredients, and include instructions.  For more on how I make my labels, see here.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas

I found a recipe off of Pinterest for Chicken and Spinach Enchiladas with homemade enchilada sauce.  While I would love to have spinach in my enchiladas, I knew that it would be a struggle to get my kids (and probably my husband!) to eat them.  Still, chicken enchiladas sounded so good. . . And, the thought of making my own enchilada sauce made me feel accomplished in the kitchen!

So, I started to think of what else I could put in with the chicken.  I love Chipotle's burritos with black beans in them, so I decided to add black beans instead of the spinach.

I cooked five four-ounce chicken breasts with some olive oil brushed on the top in my George Foreman Grill while I started making the enchilada sauce.  Find the recipe for the sauce here.

Drain and rinse a fifteen-ounce can of black beans.  Place in a large bowl and mash up a bit with a potato masher.

After chicken is cooked, shred it.  I am so glad for this tip I found on the internet--shred chicken in your kitchenaid mixer!

Add chicken to black bean mixture along with about a cup of enchilada sauce and 3/4 cup of shredded cheese.
Place mixture in tortillas and roll up.  Place seam-side down in greased 9 by 13 inch pan.
Pour enchilada sauce over the top and sprinkle with shredded cheese--about 3/4 cup again.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, and this is what you get.
I really liked the flavor of the enchilada sauce.  There are a few things I would have done differently.  I was in a rush to get supper on the table, so instead of cooling the sauce and putting it in the blender as directed, I tried using my immersion blender directly in the pan I made the sauce in.  Big mistake!  I ended up with a mess on the stove!  Next time I will give myself time to put the mixture in the blender.  Also, I tried thickening the sauce with about a teaspoon of cornstarch in a small amount of cold water.  The sauce didn't get very thick.  I used it anyway because I was in too much of a hurry to try to thicken it more.  I think I will start out with a tablespoon of cornstarch next time.  Also, I might be tempted to open a can of enchilada sauce in a time crunch!

My family liked it, so I will definitely be making it again.

Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas

Homemade enchilada sauce, link above or 1 large can red enchilada sauce
20 ounces chicken, cooked and shredded
15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese, divided

Make sauce.  Mash beans slightly; mix with chicken, 3/4 cup cheese, and 1 cup enchilada sauce.  Fill tortillas.  Roll up and place seam side down in greased 9 by 13 inch pan.  Pour remaining enchilada sauce over the top and sprinkle with 3/4 cup cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees 20 minutes.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spiral Soup Mix

Okay, I know!  I just can't get enough of making mixes as gifts.  Through several mixes into a  basket, and you have a great Christmas gift.  I have found that making a mix takes less time than making a baked good for gifts, also.  Plus, the recipient can use it at his or her convenience.  See here for the recipe.  I used the first version, and I recommended adding a pound of cooked hamburger.  I like some meat in my soups!  Also, the recipe called for 1/2 cup of dried minced onion.  According to my package of minced onion, that is the equivalent of 2 cups of fresh.  For me, that seemed a little much.  I put a little less than 1/4 cup of the dried minced onion.  Keep this recipe in mind the next time you need a little something as a gift!

Here is the text on my label:

Spiral Soup

Directions:  In large pan, bring 8 cups water and 2 cups diced or crushed tomatoes to boil.  Add one pound cooked hamburger or other meat if desired.  Add Spiral Soup mix.  Simmer 15 minutes or until pasta is tender.   
For more details on how I make my labels, see here.
Saturday, March 10, 2012

Double Peanut Butter Brownies

This is another peanut butter/chocolate recipe that I received from my friend Kristin.  She and I share a love for chocolate!  I really wish I had taken a picture of a brownie once it was cut.  Unfortunately, I was too busy eating it to get my camera!  With a peanut butter crust and brownie on top, it makes a pretty presentation as well as being delicious.

I think the recipe was originally from the back of a Betty Crocker Supreme Peanut Butter Brownie mix.  I have not been able to find this particular mix, so I just adapted a plain fudge brownie mix to the recipe.

Double Peanut Butter Brownies

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 package Betty Crocker Supreme Peanut Butter Brownie mix
or 1 box 9 by 13 sized brownie mix plus 1 1/2 cups peanut butter chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon shortening

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease bottom of 9 by 13 inch pan.  Stir together peanut butter, sugar, and egg; press into pan.

Make brownie mix as directed.  If using plain mix, stir in peanut butter chips.  Spread over crust.  Bake 30 - 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted 2 inches from side comes out clean; cool.
PLace chocolate chips and shortening in small microwavable bowl.  Microwave uncovered at 50% power about two minutes or until it can be mixed smooth.  Drizzle over brownies.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes.  Instead of the chocolate chips and shortening, you can use Hershey's syrup instead.
Hope you enjoy the results as much as I do.  Click here and here for more delicious chocolate/peanut butter concoctions!

Easy Fruit Salad

My grandma taught me how to cook.  I used to get so frustrated with her because she didn't measure very often.  I would ask how much of something to put in, and she would say, "Oh, a little bit."  What did that mean?  I also learned that if we actually were measuring something, it must be pretty important!  There was a running joke in our family about a chocolate pie she once made.  Apparently, it was the best pie my family ever tasted.  Unfortunately, because she had made some substitutions and used inexact measurements, she was never able to recreate it!  It's in honor of Grandma Ruth that I am posting this recipe.  It's something I just threw together.  You can adjust it to your needs and tastes.  This recipe is similar to a recipe my husband's Aunt Sarah served us on a recent trip to her house.

Easy Fruit Salad (Serves 2 adults and 4 little kids)

1 apple, chopped (I had a large honeycrisp apple)
2 medium bananas, sliced
1 handful dried cranberries
1/2 handful sunflower seeds (feel free to substitute other seeds or nuts)


1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar

Place fruit and seeds in a bowl and stir to mix.  In a small bowl, mix dressing ingredients.  Taste and add more sugar/vinegar as needed.  Stir into fruit mixture and serve.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Baked Provolone Chicken

This is one of my kids' favorite chicken recipes.  Adapted from a recipe from Taste of Home's Quick Cooking, it has become one of my "go-to" meals.  It tastes delicious and comes together quickly with a few simple ingredients.  I typically serve rice or quinoa alongside--we spoon the sauce over the top!

Baked Provolone Chicken

6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 10 3/4 ounce can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup chicken broth
6 slices provolone cheese
1/2 - 3/4 cup italian seasoned bread crumbs

Place chicken breasts in greased 9 by 13 inch pan.  Mix broth and soup; pour over the top.  Place cheese slices over the top of chicken and sprinkle bread crumbs on top of that.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.  I usually insert a meat thermometer and cook the chicken to an internal temp of 165 degrees.  Hope you enjoy this wonderful recipe!

Tip:  To cut calories, you can use three slices of provolone cheese.  Just halve them and put one-half slice on each piece of chicken.

Homemade Pizza

There's nothing like homemade pizza!  You can add exactly what ingredients you want--fewer complaints in my family, for sure!  I make my dough in the bread machine.  Thought you might enjoy the recipe:

Herbed Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (2 lb. recipe from Better Homes and Garden Best Bread Machine Recipes)

1 1/3 cups water
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 2/3 cups bread blour (I just use all purpose)
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon each dried basil, oregano, and marjoram
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast or bread machine yeast

Place ingredients in bread machine pan in order recommended by manufacturer.  Select "dough" menu option.  Check after five minutes of kneading; add 1 teaspoon flour or water if needed.  When cycle is complete, remove dough and punch down.  Cover and let rest 10 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Divide dough between two greased pizza pans.  I use a 12.5 inch diameter metal pan and a 14.5 inch diameter pizza stone.

Roll out the dough, building up edges slightly to hold toppings. 
Prick dough with fork.
Let's face it, I am a gadget girl.  I love my kitchen tools!  For rolling out the dough, I recommend this clever little contraption by Pampered Chef.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.  I use this time to assemble my toppings.
Spread with pizza sauce.  You can grab a jar from the pantry or make your own.  Click here to get my favorite pizza sauce recipe. 
Add toppings and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  I like to use maple sausage.   I was out of Canadian bacon, or I would have put some of that on, too.  My family is not really into veggies on pizza, so I skip all of those!
Finally, sprinkle with Mozzarella cheese.  While I would prefer to use two cups per pizza, I try to get by with two to three cups total to cut back a little on our calories.  It also browns up a little nicer!  At this point, I'm told you can wrap your pizzas up and put them in the freezer.  To bake, thaw in fridge overnight and follow baking instructions listed below.  Then you have a pizza in the freezer ready to go!  I have never tried it, but the thought intrigues me.
Return pizzas to the oven.   I put whichever pizza I had on the top rack for the first baking session onto the bottom rack this time and vice versa.  Bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until edge of crust is golden brown and topping is bubbly.  Let stand a few minutes before cutting.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Oatmeal Bread

This is one of my favorite breads to make.  I got the recipe from my good friend Bill.  He was one of my classmates in dental school.  My husband, Matt, and I spent many an evening over at Bill and Jenn's apartment eating supper and playing board games late into the night.  At one of these get togethers, they served this bread.  I think I ate at least three pieces and later requested the recipe.  I was delighted to discover that you make the dough in the bread machine. 

Here is the recipe:

Oatmeal bread

1 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water
3 tablespoons dry milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons honey
3 1/2 cup bread flour
3/4 cup oatmeal
1 1/2 teaspoon yeast

Place ingredients into bread machine pan in order recommended by manufacture.  Select "dough" setting.  Check dough in 5 minutes.  Add 1 teaspoon water or 1 teaspoon flour if needed.
Place dough on greased baking stone.  Using your hands, shape into a circular loaf, about 8 - 8 1/2 inches in diameter.
Using a serrated knife, cut three slits about 1/2 inch deep into top of loaf.

Place in cold oven and set temperature to 350 degrees.  Bake for 40 minutes or until browned.  Bread should sound hollow when tapped.

And now you have fresh, homemade bread to enjoy!
Saturday, March 3, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

Every time I make these cookies, I think of my dear friend Kristin, from whom I got the recipe.  We were classmates in dental school and spent many hours together sipping coffee and studying at Barnes and Noble.  We have many things in common, including a love for all things chocolate!

She brought these moist and delicious cookies to a get together one time.  Of course, I had to have the recipe.  The recipe calls for instant pudding in the mix.  I first tasted this recipe containing vanilla instant pudding and chocolate chips.  You can use any variety of pudding/chip combinations, and, believe me, I have.  So far, chocolate pudding plus peanut butter chips has been the favorite for our family.

The following is her recipe, with a few updates from me. . .

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 3.4 ounce package chocolate instant pudding
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 12 ounce package peanut butter chips

Mix flour with baking soda.  Combine butter, the sugars, pudding mix and vanilla in a large mixer bowl.  Beat until smooth and creamy.  Beat in eggs.  Gradually add flour mixture; then stir in chips.  Batter will be stiff.

At this point, you can drop rounded teaspoonsful two inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets and bake at 375 degrees for 8 - 10 minutes.  Let rest on baking sheet a couple of minutes before removing to wire racks to cool.

However, if you want a larger cookie, refrigerate the dough first.  I usually make the dough in the morning and then bake the cookies around suppertime.
I like to use a three-teaspoon size cookie scoop to make the cookies.
I put about 11 on a baking sheet.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes or until done.  The top should appear somewhat dry.  I always check them at 12 minutes but usually end up putting the cookies back in the oven for several minutes longer.  I have found that my oven tends to be on the cool side, though, so keep an eye on your cookies until you know the approximate baking time that you need!
You will end up with some deliciousness like this.  Have fun with all the possibilities for this recipe!

Pudding/chip flavor suggestions:

vanilla/chocolate chips
vanilla/peanut butter chips
vanilla/white chocolate chips
chocolate/chocolate chips
chocolate/peanut butter chips
chocolate/vanilla chips
chocolate/butterscotch chips

You can also add 1 cup of chopped nuts with the chips if it suits your fancy.

You get the idea!  Enjoy!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Exquisite Pizza Sauce

Okay, home-made pizza is on the menu tonight.  So I had to throw together some of this delicious pizza sauce to top it with.  I had not made pizza sauce until a couple of years ago--I usually just reach for a jar.  However, my sister-in-law Joni had put this recipe into our church cook book.  I figure if it's good enough for the church cook book, it's worth giving it a try.  Turned out to be the right move for me!  I love this sauce; it's sweet with a bit of spice to it.  In a word:  exquisite!  Here's the recipe:

1 6 ounce can tomato paste
3/4 cup warm water (hint--just fill the tomato paste can with water)
3 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon mince garlic
2 Tablespoons honey
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt to taste

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients; mix together, breaking up any clumps of cheese.  Sauce should sit for 30 minutes to blend flavors; spread over pizza dough and prepare pizza as desired.

Note:  This makes enough sauce for two pizzas.  I have made a double recipe with a 12 ounce can of tomato paste.  I froze half and used it for another time. 

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