Confessions of an Unintentional Domestic Goddess

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A Swing and a Miss, Almost

Yes, a baseball reference. It’s nearly spring, time to break out the boys of summer talk, right? I suppose. I’m still in mourning over the end of college football season (I don’t do pro). I mentioned the torturing feeding of my younglings and how they love to protest. And protest they do. Loudly. And often. Especially when the meal involves vegetables, grilled fish/chicken, and no cheese. So imagine my surprise when they needed cheese to go with their whine tonite when dinner included onions, red & yellow peppers and, wait for it…..NO CHEESE.

I found an insane sale on red & yellow bell peppers last week at the grocery and scored as many as I could, knowing how well they freeze and how expensive they normally are. Here are these gorgeous winks of summer staring at me every time I open the fridge, so of course I had to find a way to use them. In my book, anything with peppers and onions has to be good!

Enter Smoked Turkey Sausage jambalaya. If you are in the mood for healthy Cajun, I got it, righcheer. Hooo boy, this some good eatin righcheer! (ok, I have no idea how to sound Cajun, just go with it!)

Yum yum yum! Torture kids on a plate!

Yum yum yum! Torture kids on a plate!

Smoked Turkey Sausage jambalaya

1 pkg jambalaya rice mix (I used Zatarains)
1 pkg smoked turkey sausage, sliced
1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced

1. prepare Jambalaya according to pkg instructions.
2. While rice is cooking, put sausage in large skillet and cook 5 to 7 minutes, turning occasionally to prevent burning.
3. Add onion & peppers to sausage and cook 5 to 10 minutes, or until peppers are soft.
4. When rice is done (some water in pan & rice is tender), add sausage/peppers/onion to rice mix, stir well and serve.
Eat alone or w/a green salad. It’s got a bit of a kick to it. And although my children didn’t like it much, my husband totally scarfed it up!

Enjoy!

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It’s a New Recipe And…..

Urgh. Well, I guess we can’t win them all. I get lots of emails w/recipes, tips and ideas for entertaining and fun stuff. I bet you do too. Do you ever try any of the recipes in those emails or magazines? I still actually get real, live magazines in the mail! Yes, I know, so 1999 of me. Oh well, I like to see the pictures and fold down the corners. Yes, I use my laptop in the kitchen too, but I get much less upset over spilled broth on a magazine than my computer, I’m sure you can imagine.

Anywhoo, I got a new mag last week and in thumbing through, found several interesting ones that I wanted to torture my kids with try. One in particular sounded fabulous, Slow Cooker Meatball Stew. Hmmm, it’s cold out and my slow cooker is my bff, so, why not? My kids are always asking me why I don’t do spaghetti and meatballs. Well, because I don’t make meatballs, or buy them, that’s pretty much why. I’m not Italian (sigh) and I don’t know how, although I have tried and failed miserably, to make meatballs. Off the rails, anyway, this stew sounded great. I bought the ingredients and put it all together and let it go while I was working.

There’s just nothing like walking in the door after a long day working and getting a whiff of dinner, that will require not much more attention before putting it on the table. Yeah, that’s pretty much where it ended. The result was not quite as spectacular as it looked in print. So not what I was hoping for. The meatballs were nasty & mushy, and the sauce tasted like it came from a can of Chef Boyardee’s reject little brother. Underwhelming to say the least. And guess who let me hear all about it. Yep, the short ones.

Which leads me to the title of this post. I have a standard disclaimer that you may not have heard. Please feel free to use it when necessary.
Ready? Here goes:
“It’s a new recipe, if it sucks, it’s not my fault.”
There you go. I use it often, as I’m prone to trying out new stuff fairly frequently. Good luck! Have a great week! Now, to find the next great recipe. I’ll keep you posted!

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Delicious Holiday Appetizers

I’ve been working, for the first time in 9 years. Well, that’s not true. I’ve been working the last 9 years, but it was not for pay, other than kisses and crayon-drawn pictures. But now I’ve got a job working for someone outside of my home, and for a real live paycheck! I’ve been in sales for our local HoneyBaked Ham store. I go out three days a week doing marketing, increasing knowledge of our services and products to businesses in our community. It’s been fun and interesting. One of the things I wanted to do was to increase exposure and thinking of the products beyond just Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. One of our local tv stations does a segment on Fridays with local chefs demoing one of their recipes. Yes, that’s me, I managed to get my boss on a few weeks ago. But it required me coming up with some recipes that would be specific to our products. I have to apologize for the lack of photos, I’ll work on getting some. I came up with one recipe and another of the employees came up with another that’s kind of based on one of the seasonal sandwiches offered.

HoneyBaked Ham Holiday Appetizers

1 lb HoneyBaked ham cut into bite sized pieces
1 baguette, sliced and toasted
1 small wheel of brie, sliced
1 jar HoneyBaked Ham Cranberry Walnut Chutney

1 lg HoneyBaked oven roasted turkey breast cut into bite sized pieces
1 baguette, sliced and toasted
bleu cheese
1 jar HoneyBaked ham Cranberry Walnut Chutney

HAM APPETIZER
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. On a cookie sheet, arrange the baguette slices in a single layer. Next place a slice of ham and top it with a slice of brie.
3. Pop cookie sheet into 350F oven for 5 minutes or until brie begins to melt.
4. Remove from cookie sheet and put on serving platter. Top with 1tsp of Cranberry Walnut Chutney. Serve warm.

TURKEY APPETIZER
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. On a cookie sheet, arrange the baguette slices in a single layer. Place a slice of turkey on baguette and top with 1/2 to 1 tsp bleu cheese. (be careful b/c the bleu cheese is a very strong taste).
3. Pop cookie sheet into 350F oven for 5 min.
4. Remove from cookie sheet and place on serving platter, top with 1 tsp Cranberry Walnut Chutney.

These are a great way to use up left over turkey/ham from the holiday, and the look beautiful on the platter, very elegant and delicious.

Any of the HoneyBaked Ham products can be ordered from the online catalog.

Enjoy!

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Snow on the Mountain Cookies

This is by special request and not my recipe. I bought a book called the Cookie Bible a few years ago (it’s still available on Amazon, if you’re interested). I think I gained a few pounds just looking at the pictures, so I haven’t picked it up in a while. That and the fact I’ve been working like a mad woman and barely had time to do laundry, let alone fulfill my baking needs. Although, kids on break, I’m on break, looking through this again, I think I’m going to pack on a few lbs! Oh, one other thing, the frosting thing, I was pretty unsuccessful with the whole chip melting thing. What I finally ended up looked more like an avalanche than snow.

Snow on the Mountain Cookies

1-1/4 butter flavor Crisco sticks or 1-1/4C butter flavor Crisco
1 C sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
4 C all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 C (12oz pkg) chocolate chips
1 C chopped walnuts

GLAZE
1-2/3C (10oz pkg) vanilla milk chips
2 to 5 tbsp whipping cream or 1-3 tbsp milk

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Combine shortening & sugar in large bowl. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
2. Combine flour and salt. Add gradually to creamed mixture at low speed utnil well blended. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts with spoon. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Shapt top of ball to cone shape. Place 1 inc apart on ungreased baking sheet.
3. Bake at 325F for 10-12 minutes or utnil light golden brown around the bottom. DO NOT OVERBAKe Cool on cookie sheet 2 min before removing to cooling rack to cool completely. (foil on the counter will work if you don’t have a rack)
4. For glaze (prepare while cookies are baking) Soften vanilla chips in microwave on 50% for 1 minute. Stir. repeat until smooth. Add enough whipping cream to make medium glaze. Heat and stir until smooth. Spon or drizzle 1 tsp over top of each warm cookie.

Remember, this is what I did for the glaze and was unsuccessful. If you have a different method, I say go for it. It’s basically just a dollop of white frosting on top of a cookie, in theory you could just use white cake frosting and save yourself the trouble.

So, there you go. I don’t have any pictures, but they really were delicious. Enjoy!

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Ham and Beans For Dummies

I know, I’m probably going to be hit for the title, but really, this recipe is so easy, I wanted you to know it when you clicked on it. You see, if you’re new to my blog, I’m easy. Yes, I said it. I am. I freely admit it. when it comes to recipes anyway. Not easy that way, you naughty friend! When I’m choosing a recipe, ease of preparation is key. If the ingredient list is as long as my arm, I’ll read it, but when it’s got 24 steps to completion, I’m gone. A couple of years ago, we had ham at Thanksgiving and when the food was gone, and leftovers packed away, I was looking at this great big gorgeous ham bone and really not wanting to just throw it out, it seemed so wrong to waste such potential. So I scoured the web trying to get an idea how to use this hunk of meaty goodness. The result is a mashup of several good ideas I found. If you can boil water, you can so make this! In fact, I’ve got a beautiful ham bone from Thanksgiving I’ll be cooking up tomorrow, just in time for a nasty cold front coming through. Get ready my friends!

Ham & Bean Soup
1 big fat ham bone w/meat on
1 lb navy beans, rinsed and soaked overnight
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced or cut into chunks
2 celery stalks chopped
2 medium onions chopped
5 whole garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
handful of peppercorns
2 tsp dried thyme

1. In a large pot, put ham bone & water to cover it completly. Put onions, garlic, peppercorns, & bay leaves. Boil at least two hours covered, stirring occasionally.
2. Remove ham bone. Debone ham; cut up meat, put back in pot.
3. Drain beans, add to ham stock.
4. Add carrots, celery and thyme.
5. Simmer two hours, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low, simmer another 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally, or until beans are soft.
This is delicious with crusty bread or biscuits.
Enjoy!

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Super EASY Hearty Chicken Noodle Soup

Long time no hear, I know. I”m a slacker. But I”m here to share a really delicious and easy recipe. Really what I wanted to title it was ‘The chicken soup recipe for those who don’t cook’ or maybe the ‘if you can boil chicken, you can make this’ but I just thought it’d be a little too long. Crazy I know.

I’ve always loved a nice hot bowl of chicken noodle soup when it’s chilly out. I mean, really, who doesn’t? But I really want to avoid all the salt in the condensed soups, besides, isn’t fresh always better? So, here we are. This really is easy, so if you want a tough, complicated recipe, you’ll just have to go elsewhere! Are you ready? Ok, here we go.

Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

2 containers of chicken broth (32oz each)

2 to 3 boneless/skinless chicken breasts

3 carrots-peeled and sliced

3 celery stalks-sliced

1 med to small onion diced

1-2tbsp butter

1 tsp each dried basil & thyme

1-1/2 c rotini cooked al dente OR 12oz pkg frozen egg noodles

salt to taste

Instructions

1. in a large pot, chicken breasts w/at least 1-2″ water to cover them. boil until chicken is completely cooked.

2. in a separate large pot, melt butter, add onion/carrots/celery and cook until veggies are crisp/tender

3. pour in chicken broth, salt & spices. bring to a rolling boil & reduce heat to a nice simmer, or you can leave it on a nice gentle rolling boil for a while, it won’t hurt anything, just keep an eye on it.

4. Remove chicken from pot DON’T THROW OUT THE WATER and either cut into chunks or shred using two forks-this one is your preference, I like it both ways. (My family has decided they prefer the frozen egg noodles to the rotini. I cook the noodles in the chicken broth/water, then put in the pot with the soup mixture)

5. Add the chicken, as well as the water used to cook the chicken to the bigger pot w/the broth.

***NOTE: If you have the time, you can let it simmer for a few hours, it will condense and strengthen the flavors, as well as making the chicken really tender. Or you can add the noodles directly after adding the chicken, let it cook another 10 minutes or so and serve.

6. When noodles are done, add them to the big pot w/the chicken broth etc. Let it cook another 10 minutes or so and serve. It goes really well with crusty bread or biscuits for a nice hearty chilly evening dinner.

If it’s not soupy enough for  you, you can always add more broth. I’ve done it and it makes a really big batch, but in my world, that’s not a bad thing!

This is just so darned simple, and delicious, I seem to find myself making it about once a week. At first my kids were really excited. Now, well, not so much. It used to be ‘Oh yay! chicken noodle soup!’ Now its ‘oh great. soup again.’ But they eat it, b/c it’s good and it’s what they get for dinner. They know I”m not a short order cook, you get what you get.

Enjoy!

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Aw Shucks

So my mom calls me up and says ‘Do you eat fresh corn on the cob?’
‘Um well, will chocolate cure all the ills of the world? YEAH I do! Why?’

‘I’ve just found a trick that you will love.’

And she proceeds to tell me about it, so here we are, sharing more cool kitchen tips.

Wanna eat that fresh corn, but hate shucking it? Me too. And pulling off all the little silky strings.

Check this out. You will be amazed and astounded.

1. Take your ear of fresh corn and cut off the stalk end until you see kernels.

2. Place entire ear of corn in the microwave for 3-1/2 to 4 minutes, depending on the power of your microwave.

3. Put on oven mitt and grab the corn by the silk end, move it over a plate/bowl/container and give a good shake. The ear of corn falls straight out, no silk, no peeling!

4. DERP. I totally left out the main part, COOKING it! The microwaving part almost parboils, or partially cooks the corn. So the actual cooktime will be reduced, but you can cook it whatever your preferred method is.

Me being me, I had to give it a go myself. I love getting all these cool tips from different people. The first one I did, I was impatient and took it out at 3-1/2 minutes and it was ready, the only problem was that I hadn’t cut off quite enough of the end, so I had to trim a bit more. Brilliant! It totally worked. The next time, rather than doing a single ear, I put two in, I’m impatient, remember? I put in two ears and set the timer for 6 minutes, and took them out at 5-1/2. Voila! It worked perfectly!

Next time, I”ll definitely do this. If you give it a go, let me know how it works for you.

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Easy Peel Tomatoes

Even though I absolutely loathe this heat, the one thing that I love about summer is the fresh tomatoes. If you’ve eaten home-grown tomatoes, you know what I’m talking about. They just taste better than the ones you can buy at the grocery. Why? I have no clue, all I know is they do.

I planted a garden last year, and again this year. This time I got it in the ground earlier so I would actually get something out of it. With the heat we had last year, I fought all summer just to keep my tomato plants alive. When they finally did put out, in the fall, the skins were like leather, so I peeled them. Oddly enough, the skins on my tomatoes this year were really tough as well. Peeling them can be a real pain, but my mother-in-law taught me a neat trick.

Take the tomato in one hand and with the other, use the flat of a paring knife and run it in horizontal stripes down the tomato from top to bottom applying just a light amount of pressure. When you do this, you will see a difference in color from before the after. What it’s doing is essentially the same thing as the other technique, just without a pot of boiling water: separating the skin from the flesh of the tomato. Core the tomato and skin will come off in hunks, chunks and strips. Awesome!

But I recently had several tomatoes I wanted to peel to make spaghetti sauce with. I didn’t care to stand around using Marie’s method so I did some research. The best way to do it with a bunch of tomatoes is with a pot of boiling water, a big bowl of ice water, a cutting board, a slotted spoon and a paring knife.

Core the tomatoes and lightly score and X on the bottom. Gently drop them into the pot of boiling water and remove them after 15 to 20 seconds and immediately dunk them in the bowl of ice water. If you’re using them for sauce or salsa, it won’t matter if they’re in the water a bit longer. But if  you’re planning on slicing them, be sure and remove them quickly, they’ll get mushy. Blech! I had high hopes for this technique and it didn’t disappoint. The skins basically slid right off! Yay! It’s the best way to go if youv’e got an abundance of tomatoes you want to prepare for freezing or salsa or sauces. Give it a go and let me know how it works for you.

Bon appetit!

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Allium Sativum, How I love Thee….

Y’all already know of my passionate affair with Allium Sativum, that’s the scientific name for garlic. It’s a wonderful thing that I’ve brought my husband along to enjoy. Well, I kinda have to, you know, how gross is it when your date/friend/spouse/partner has just consumed what smells like an entire head of garlic and starts talking/laughing/singing to you? Blech. Sick. My thought is if I have company in what I’m eating, we’re both pungent and no one cares! Make sense? Well, it does to me! Almost like drinking alone, it’s just not the same. Hmm, I don’t know that I can say that either, I don’t mind having a glass of wine by myself. Preferably in a hot bath with a good book.

Back to my garlic. I really should try to grow my own, since I eat it like an apple. Ha ha! Just kidding, I seriously do NOT eat garlic like an apple. Have you ever sampled a raw fresh garlic clove? It’s spicy, like raw onion spicy.

It’s been a while since I shared about garlic, and since I’ve got some new friends, how about a little refresher? Garlic is fantastic in many ways, besides chasing off those pesky vampires! It’s really good for your heart and circulatory system, your immune system, and even though they say it doesn’t act as a mosquito repellent, I totally think it does b/c when I eat a lot of it, they don’t come near me!

How about I just break it down into bullet points?

  • Fresh will always be best over jarred. When it’s processed, it starts to lose it’s potency and flavor.
  • Besides, storing/peeling/using fresh garlic couldn’t be easier, really. Start off by choosing a head (that’s the whole thing) that’s white in color and the cloves (the little pieces that you break off to use) are nice and held tightly together (remember “White and tight”). The ‘head’ of garlic breaks into ‘cloves’. I remember reading about someone who was a newlywed and trying a new recipe, ’20 garlic clove spaghetti’ and mistakenly thought the whole head was a single clove! She put 20 WHOLE HEADS of garlic in her pasta sauce! And being a sweet husband, he ate it and didn’t complain, although she didn’t make it again!
  • Store garlic in a dark cool space, I keep my in my pantry. Do not put it in the fridge, it will lose it’s flavor, besides, it’s not necessary to store there.
  • To peel a clove of garlic, break off the clove from the head.  Place the clove on a cutting board/hard surface and lay knife flat over the clove with the blade pointing away from you, use the heel of your hand and hit the flat part of the knife blade to kind of crush the clove. Then  you can easily peel the clove and do what you wish with it.
  • another method to peel multiple cloves, I saw on YouTube, break the head apart into individual cloves, and with two bowls of the same size, place the garlic in one bowl and put the other bowl on top going the opposite direction (top to top), hold it together and shake back and forth vigorously. I’ve tried it and been sort of successful.
  • If you really want to release more of the garlicky goodness, use a garlic press. They are fantastic little gadgets and you don’t even have to peel the garlic before squeezing it where you want it! I got mine from The Pampered Chef ages ago. It’s super easy to use. I love it when I really want a strong taste, by squeezing it, you release more of the oils, hence flavor. If you want the flavor of garlic, but not an overpowering level, you can mince it on your cutting board.
  • If you’re afraid of garlic, or don’t really care for the stronger taste, try it roasted. Roasting the head of garlic will make it soft, a tiny bit sweet, and spreadable. One of our favorite restaurants serves roasted head of garlic with crusty fresh-baked bread. MMMM who needs an entrée when I have that?

Are you hungry yet? I’m thinking garlic chicken stir fry or some fresh bruschetta. Or maybe some roasted garlic smeared on crusty bread. And a side of mouthwash!

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A Father’s Day Cake DISASTER

Happy belated Father’s Day to all you dads out there. I didn’t post yesterday, I was a little busy. First it was family time, followed closely by some of my favorite kinda time – kitchen. Not the cleaning part, but the cooking & baking part. If you’re new to my world, I really love to cook! My hubby calls me Betty. As in Crocker. Although there are some days  I feel more like Betty Rubble from the Flintstones.

Like yesterday. I’m not new to baking. It’s one of the things I love to do. I have to be careful in the cooler months b/c the things I love to bake are not exactly healthy. I do have some healthier recipes, but you know, they’re just not as much fun as a big batch of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies!

So yesterday is Father’s Day. I really wanted to go all out for my husband and totally spoil him. We made his favorite breakfast – orange cinnamon rolls & bacon. My daughter made her ‘famous’ cheesy eggs for him all by herself. When I asked about dinner, he asked for garlic chicken stir fry. Ok, I can do that. We all love it. Dessert, well, that’s my department. I’d seen a recipe that looked really decadent and deadly – dark chocolate Guinness cake. Wow! My husband is a beer lover and he really enjoys the dark beers. So I thought I’d make it a twofer-the beer can be part of his FAther’s day gift and make a delicious dessert at the same time. And that is when the kitchen gods laughed at me and my folly. The nerve to attempt something like this was apparently too much. Although I do have to say I’ve done much more complicated things than a layer cake. I mean come on! My 8yo daughter could do a layer cake!

I followed the recipe to a T. Did everything I needed to do. Except that the recipe recommended using cocoa powder in the cake pans. I normally use sugar, it doesn’t leave icky tasting blobs on the cakes and they turn out just fine. Hm, well, ok, I’ll give the cocoa powder a go, I mean, it’s a chocolate cake, why the heck not? I’m already living on the edge here, let’s go for it!

Did I just say living on the edge? Yeah, well, I went over the edge. Cakes bake up, smell wonderful. I’m getting really excited. And then it happened. I tried to turn out the first cake on the rack. Notice I said ‘tried’? First cake broke and I was so bummed. Rather than forcing the second, I put it in the fridge, determined to make sure it was totally cooled before attempting to turn it out. When it was good and cool, I pulled it out and let it come to room temp before trying (I wanted it to be pliable, not brittle ya know?). And….BAMMO! Broke again! GRRRRR. I wasn’t frustrated this time around, I was PISSED. So mad. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s just maddening. Fine. Fine. Then my son, oh my son. I love that boy. He’s growing into a fine young man. He came into the kitchen and saw my disaster, the source for my anger and asked me
‘Which one broke worse?’
‘What? What do you mean? They’re both terrible!’ I said with a real growl in my voice.
‘Which one broke worse? Which one is worse?’
‘LOOK AT THEM! THEY ARE BOTH TERRIBLE!’ (yes I know it’s all caps, that’s b/c I was yelling I was so mad.)
‘Which flavor is worse?’
Oh, ok, i get it now. When I told him I was making dark chocolate Guinness cake, he thought one cake was the chocolate and the other was the Guinness.
‘No son, they are the same. The same batter was in each pan.’
‘Oh, ok.’

Then hubby pipes up, ‘Son, one of these days you’ll learn when you just need to shut up.’

Boo. So mad at this stupid cake and I yelled at my boy.

Damn this cake. I will make it work. I will. I will. I will!

I made the frosting and cobbled it together. It was ugly. I called it my ‘Thunder cake’, since our Thunder are playing kinda messy these days, it was dark and messy, just like they’ve been! I put it in the fridge w/the thought that the frosting might act kind of like glue and hold it all together.

O.M.G. I sliced it up and, all I can say is, I almost became an instant diabetic! So rich and so strong! It’s very decadent and rich and if you plan on making it, make it when you’ve got a crowd, because one slice is all you’re going to be able to handle. I had one slice last night and I don’t want any more! Fortunately, I’ve got some great neighbors that I consider friends and I shared with two families and still had some left for whoever is brave enough to have more! I haven’t heard from them yet, I”m interested to hear what they think about it.

The next time you have a kitchen disaster, relax, have a glass of wine, and know you’re not alone. And try to make it work. I will say I’ve had some disasters that were beyond repair (one cake looked like someone had taken a big dump in the pan) and that happens too. Try not to stress too much, or growl at your kids.

Enjoy your week!

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