Thursday, April 28, 2011

Learn With Me: Make your own "Bread Flour" AND My Favorite Homemade Sandwich Bread

It has taken me several months and a half-dozen breadmaker disasters (read about those mishaps here!) BUT I have finally perfected the perfect sandwich bread.  In fact, I finally learned the important component to making bread - Gluten! 

That's right.  Learn with me!  You can make your own bread flour!  You don't need to buy special store-bought flours to make bread!  Bread flour is simply regular flour plus vital wheat gluten flour in it.  Follow this simple recipe to make your own "bread flour" for baking the best loaves of bread possible. 


Bread Flour
1 Tbsp Vital Wheat Gluten flour - Just one bag of this this stuff lasts you quite a long time!!  Look for it in the flour section of your grocery store or the healthy/organic section!
1 cup of flour - you can use regular, all purpose flour.  But I like to use King Arthur's 100% Natural White Wheat

Combine 1 Tbsp of Gluten flour into 1 cup of regular flour.  If a recipe calls for three cups of flour, then use 3 Tbsp of gluten in the recipe!  That is how you get "bread flour."  The gluten give it more elasticity. 


Yes, I've finally realized that you don't need store bought bread flour or other fancy flours to make decent bread.  You just need regular flour and extra gluten (flour) to make it a flexible, rising loaf.  In fact, I would recommend NOT using bread flour because most of the ones out there are not natural and enriched with components your body does not need.  Instead, choose an unbleached, unenriched flour (like whole wheat ). 

Note: If you have gluten allergies, don't worry!  There are other options for you, such as this delicious looking gluten-free sandwich bread recipe!  For gluten free breads, you need mixes and flours that do not contain wheat and that have the component xanthan gum in it.  I will be trying out a gluten-free bread soon and will share the results here!

In the mean time, I'd like to share with you my new favorite, homemade sandwich bread that I make every week now!  I love it.  The recipe is easy and it always comes out moist and perfect.  It is a whole wheat, healthy and all natural bread that my family loves.  We use it in almost every capacity - grilled cheese sandwiches, French toast and bread crumbs.  This versatile bread is great compared with anything!

Mandy's Favorite Sandwich Bread - Yogurt Whole Wheat Bread

(Makes a 2 lb loaf)

1 cup of warm water
1 and 1/3 cup of plain yogurt (I used fat free)
5 cups of whole wheat, all natural flour (I use the King Arthur 100% White Wheat brand)
6 Tbsp of vital gluten flour
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp of bread machine yeast (or 2 and 1/2 tsp. SAF yeast)

Place all ingredients in a lightly greased bread loaf in the order in which they are listed above.  Set your bread machine to the basic cycle and set to medium crust.  Mine was ready in 3 hours and fifteen minutes.  

Remove from the machine (or oven).  Let it cool for about ten minutes.  Turn it over and dump it from the pan.  Slice it and serve.  (I get about 14 to 16 slices out of my bread loaves).

You can make this bread my hand as well and bake it in the oven for just over an hour.  However, I love my bread machine and don't have time to do this by hand much.  If you try it by hand, let me know! 

Do you have a favorite sandwich bread?  Do you make your own bread or buy them from the store? 

Every now and then I still buy a loaf from the store, if I find a good deal.  But there is nothing quite like the freshness and smells from my kitchen when I bake homemade bread! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Died And Went To Crepes Heaven!

During my vacation in California last week, my very good friend (and local CA girl) Carrie took me to one of the best restaurants I've ever visited - A place that specializes in crepes called La Creperie Cafe in Long Beach. 

Confession: I've never really had crepes before.  Well I have, but I wouldn't call Denny's breakfast plate or Village Inn restaurant a real crepe-like experience.  Nothing like this place La Creperie Cafe who makes authentic, French style entrees and desserts.  This restaurant calls itself a Bohemian bistro and bar specializing in crepes.  It certainly felt like a whole different world as we stepped inside and was tranformed into a foodie paradise. The atmosphere was gorgeous, with clever ornaments, ornate mirrors, elaborate ceiling fixtures and a bar that would make anyone's mouth drop from sheer vastness and beauty. 

After spending too much time drooling over the menu options followed by quenching my thirst with their homemade peach tea, I made my decision with confidence.  I ordered the  Al Mare Savory Crepe - which was described as the following: Jumbo shrimp, sun-dried and plum tomatoes, wild mushrooms, shallots and mozzarella cheese in a lobster basil cream sauce.  Oh believe me, it's as good as it sounds.  Just see for yourself in this photo: 

Need I say any more? Yes, that's me!  Look at my happy face!  Check out my Fonzie style pose!  (Hahaha!)   Dang, just looking at this photo makes me want to drool! 

My pal Carrie ordered the Dipollo - which was described as the following: Fresh wild mushrooms, herbs de provence and mozzarella with your choice of chicken, ham or turkey in a sherry cream sauce. She chose the chicken to accompany it.

Here is Carrie (pictured below) showing off her wonderful plate:

I took a bite of her food and she took a bite of mine.  Good friends share, after all.  Both were equally amazing and delicious.  We both ate every single bite of this good sized meal.  I was stuffed.  Literally.  I didn't want to go on.  I told her that I could not eat another spoonful. Yet Carrie persisted, saying we MUST have dessert crepes as well. 

So we ordered and shared the Romeo and Juliet Crepe - which was described as the following: Nutella, fresh strawberries and bananas.  You could add in Bailey's Irish Cream for $1.00.  So of course we did!  When the option to have Bailey's is available, could anyone really say no??   We omitted the bananas in there since we were both only craving the berries~!

Oh my gosh, I wish I would have taken a photo of the dessert.  I was too busy sucking down every last speck of it to bother with photography.   I think it should have been named "Better than sex crepe" or something similar to that because holy schmoly!  It was soooooo yummy! 

If I knew I was going to have a last meal, this is what I would order all over again.  My exact entree and my exact dessert!  Oh yeah, that is how fabulous it was!

And when I wasn't indulging in crepes, I was stuffing myself with Mexican cuisine, traditional Irish Shepherd's Pie and having lots of Starbucks tea and treats, like this:

Oh yeah, being on vacation and eating whatever you want is the life of luxury!  :-) 

Have you ever eaten crepes?  Have you ever tried making them from scratch?  If you could plan out your last meal on earth, what would you choose to be on your plate? 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Early Start Muffins

As I was looking through my ingredients in the pantry and on my counter over the weekend, I realized I had all the things to make my usual Peanut Butter and Banana Oat muffins.  Only I also had a bunch of blueberries as well.  That may make a great combination, I thought to myself.  And what a great way to start the day, especially as I'm returning to the workforce again next week - after a year and a half of being a stay at home mom (yikes!). 

Therefore, I created these muffins on the spot.  I am naming them "Early Start Muffins" since they have a lot of things your body needs to start the day right.  They have bananas (great for potassium), blueberries (wonderful antioxidants) and peanut butter (the good fat and a source of protein).  When I combine that with minimal (all natural) sugar, whole wheat flour and oats, the end result is a mighty breakfast packed into a normal size muffin! 

Here's the recipe that surprised me with how good it is and is sure to be in my hands for breakfast once or twice a week:

Mandy's Early Start Muffins

(Makes 18)

Dry ingredients:

1 and 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour (I use the King Arthur white wheat brand)
1 and 1/4 cups of old fashioned oats (or quick is fine)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup of all natural sugar (I used Truvia)

Wet ingredients:

2 bananas, very ripe and mashed
1 and 1/4 cup of reduced fat (or skim) milk
4 Tbsp of Peanut Butter, all natural creamy
2 egg whites ( 1/3 egg substitute or one regular egg)
1/2 cup of applesauce

Add in last:
1 and 1/4 cup of blueberries

Lightly grease a 12-muffin tin and a 6-muffin tin with cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Mix the dry ingredients in one medium size bowl. Sift and stir.  Set aside.

Mash the ripe bananas in a separate large bowl.  Add in all the other wet ingredients EXCEPT the blueberries.  Whisk and stir until all is combined and nearly smooth.  Small chunks of banans or peanut butter is okay but it should mostly be liquified.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture.  Stir well until combined.  Add the 1 and 1/4 cup of blueberries last.  Gently blend them into the mixture so you don't crush them or puncture them. 

Spoon or pour out batter into the greased muffin tins, 3/4 of the way full.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned around edges.  Remove from the oven.  Let them cool. 

This made a total of 18 muffins for me.  I kept 6 out in a plastic container and froze the rest of them.  Muffins are such great breakfast or snack items.  They are quick to eat, not messy (usually) and can be eaten on the go.  By making them at home and carefully selecting good, wholesome ingredients, you're guaranteed a healthy, delicious item! 

To defrost: simply remove from the freezer and microwave each one for about 30 to 45 seconds.  Or leave out overnight in a storage tight container so it can come to room temperature.

Enjoy!  Muffins are a big favorite of mine.  They are one of the first things I really started experimenting with when I became a stay at home mom. I know I'll be eating a lot of these on a weekly basis now that I'm entering the workforce again! 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week (Apr 25 - May 1)?

Hello there!  Did you miss me while I was gone?  Probably not.  You were most likely out enjoying yourselves and eating great foods.  Oh well, that's okay.  I had a great time being away.  A wonderful break indeed!  

But now it's time to get serious!  Now the prep work really begins~!  My life is about to get more hectic and I'll have less free time to cook and meal plan.  So I have to make good use of the hours in a day, in a week.

I've already done some great preparation for lunches in the near future - Yesterday I made 16 black bean burgers which both my daughter and I love!  (Thanks again Allison G for the great recipe~!)  I've pureed around 5 cups of carrots to use in future recipes.  I made 18 "Early Start Muffins" which I will be sharing the recipe for later this week.  They include blueberries, bananas and peanut butter - three things I know I'll need for energy to help me start the day right in my new role outside the home.  I've finally perfected the best healthy, whole-grain and protein-enriched sandwich bread that my family enjoys.  I'll share that recipe in the coming days as well.

Furthermore, I will post a funny photo and details from my recent California vacation.  So stay tuned for that and more!  You have lots to look forward to reading!   And welcome to you newcomers too!  I see I gained a few new followers in my absence.  I'm glad to have you here!  Now, I can't promise I'll be posting every day but I do guarantee that I'll be back when I can, sharing great meals and tips from my kitchen to yours!

In the meantime, here's my meal plan for the week:

Monday, Apr. 25 - Unstuffed Peppers Casserole (made with ground turkey and rice)  - This recipe is from my cookbook.  If you'd like a copy of it, let me know!  This makes a lot so I freeze some for later.

Tuesday, Apr. 26 - Homemade Fish sticks! Serve them with a side of sweet potatoes and salad - I'm nervous about this one but I still want to try it!  If it comes out great, this would be easy to freeze and enjoy for lunches this summer!

Wednesday, Apr. 27 - Pepperoni Pizza Pasta - This recipe is from my cookbook.  It also makes a ton so I freeze more than half for later!

Thursday, Apr. 28 - Leftovers or grilled ham & cheese sandwiches

Friday, Apr. 29 - Chili Fritos (since I used up all of my homemade chili in the freezer, I'll just open up a can of Hormel Turkey Chili with beans from my pantry and layer it with shredded cheese and Fritos chips!)

Saturday, Apr. 30 - Tequilia Lime Shrimp with shishkabobs on the grill, side of corn bread cake

Sunday, May 1 - Chicken and Vegetable Enchiladas, serve with leftover corn bread

I chose these above dishes in mind so that I can freeze leftovers for later.  That's where my head is these days ~ preparing for the future so I can take a break!  

Sides and snacks for the week:

Note: I'm not going to be making as many desserts or snacks as I used to but here are three I hope to tackle before I hit the grind once again - one dessert, one dip and one side dish.  They are all from the same blog, a new one I found and am LOVING so far by Skinny Taste

(1) Low Fat Chewy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

(2) Chick Pea and Roasted Pepper Dip

(3) Cauliflower Fritters

I know that once my new job starts, I may need to take more time for my family.  We may be eating more simple salads and sandwiches in the week.  But that's okay.  As long as we're all happy, healthy and have near-full bellies, that's all that matters!  I'll still learn, laugh and cook whenever I can! 

How was your Easter?  What good things have you eaten over the past week?

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Vacation, A New Job, Easter And Preparing For It All!

Although this is a blog about food and my experiences of learning, laughing and cooking in the kitchen, I should let you know about some changes that are on the horizon for me.  I have a few personal things happening that will affect my life and reflect the direction of this site.

First, I'm going on vacation next week!  HOORAY!  It will be the first trip I take without my daughter.  I'm mostly excited but a little nervous too.  I know Vivian will be in good hands with her grandparents who have kindly agreed to watch her and housesit for us while we're on the Pacific Coastline.  I've just had a rather hectic time writing down instructions, preparing lists and thinking of everything that could happen or need to be explained during my absence.  The fridge and freezer is stocked full of ready-made meals that can be pulled out and heated for them.  I've sent my parents three separate word documents already with details on where they can eat out (if they chose to do that), what they can do to entertain a three-year old and how they can manage the diva's schedule.  (They've successfully raised two kids, including myself, I know.  But since they live in another state and only see us every few months, they don't know our usual routine). 

I'll be spending time in San Diego and Orange County, California.  I'll be visiting with an amazing friend who I can't wait to see!  I'll be taking my first ever train ride!  I have a lot to be thrilled about and I am really looking forward to the time away! 

In other BIG NEWS - I'm returning to the outside workforce!   Provided all the initial screenings and paperwork goes smoothly, I'm starting a new job in May!  I don't want to use the phrase, "I'm going back to work," since I've clearly been working my tail off as a stay at home mom for the past year and a half.   It has been a wonderful experience spending time with my daughter and taking a break from the same work routine all the time.  We've gotten closer and we sure appreciate each other better now.  I've had a lot of fun playing tourist in my community too and spending time with friends and fellow moms.   I also wrote a cookbook which you may remember?  :-)  So I can't say that I've been the typical, often boring "stay at home" mom who sat around for over a year.  Quite the contrary actually! 

Yet I feel the time has come for me to enter into a new phase in my life and career.  I have been very selectively job hunting for the past several months - only looking at places where I really thought I'd fit into or applying for jobs that I feel reflect my personality and culture. 

Recently a phone call from a place I admire then turned into a job interview.... Then not long after that, a job offer was made to me that I happily accepted!  A few of the details are still being worked out but all looks good for me to begin in early May.  I am thrilled at the opportunity presented before me and can't wait to see where it leads me next.  I've enrolled my daughter in a preschool/ day care program that looks amazing, somewhere that I believe (and hope) she will be happy until she starts school.  My girl is so smart and loves being around other children so I think it will be a great move for her, after the initial transition of course. 

So there is lots happening in my life right now!  Big changes that are on the way but things I hope (and trust) will be even better for my family!  :-) 

What will all these changes mean for this Learn, Laugh, Cook blog?  Well, probably not a lot will change here, except that I may be posting a little less and visiting your sites a little less once my new employment begins.  I still plan to keep up with my meal plan and post that here. 

I will need to be organized now, more than ever, with returning to work outside the home!  I'll still be making new dishes and desserts but my creativity may be more limited to weekends instead of the middle of the week. 

Only time will tell how things will really play out.  I only know that I'm looking forward to the new opportunity and the new direction that my life will go!  However, I will happily accept any good wishes, thoughts and prayers that you'd like to send my way in the meantime - just good vibes to help us get through the beginning changes and issues that may arise as we switch to a new schedule. 

I'll still be around and I will continue to share funny, educational culinary stories and more, whenever I can!  Thank you for being with me on this journey and for reading this site!  I created it for me but I sure do love sharing my stories with others!

Now that I'm done blabbing, I want to wish you a Happy Easter! 

May you have a great upcoming holiday and coming days!  I'll be back in over a week to post a recap of my vacation and what I'm doing to help make my life easier when I start the new job.  I already have a lot of prepwork and pre-cooking ideas that should save me time and money in the kitchen!  I look forward to sharing those insights with you! 

Eat well and Stay fabulous!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Easter Bird's Nest Treats

You've probably seen or heard of these wonderful treats before!  Perhaps you know them as "haystack cookies" or something similar. 

This recipe might not be new to you but they were new to me when I made them for a recipe swap last Friday!  I never had much reason to bake cute and fun things until I became a mom and joined a group where we exchange recipes each month.  Now I'm always on the lookout for new and creative ways to make cooking more fun! 

I opted to use Chinese noodles (chow mein) and chocolate chips for my version of this recipe.  But there are many other ways you can vary this dessert.  In fact, check out my pal Lara at Recipe Shoebox (whom I admire and adore) - she just posted her verison of these bird's nest delectables yesterday!  She used pretzels and butterscotch chips. 

Have fun with it and make it your own way.  Here's my version if you want to copy it:

Easter Bird's Nest Treats

(Makes about 20 cookies)

1 bag (about 3 cups) of Chinese Chow Mein Noodles, such as La Choy
1 bag (10 to 12 oz) of chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli all natural semi sweet chocolate)
1 cup of creamy, all natural peanut butter
About 60 jelly beans (3 per nest), mini chocolate eggs or candy-coated almonds

Lightly grease two muffin tin containers with cooking spray.  In a medium size microwave-safe bowl, place the chocolate chips and peanut butter.  Heat on high until the chocolate has melted.  Stop at about 45 seconds; stir it.  Then heat for another 15 to 30 seconds, if needed.  Be sure the chocolate and peanut butter are blended together.  Stir in the chow mein noodles until completely coated.  Drop by handfuls or spoonfuls into the greased muffin tins.  The muffin tins will give these Easter "nests" their circular shape.  (Or you can simply drop onto waxed paper and shape the "nests" yourself by hand).

If you'd like the "eggs" to stick to the nest, then place three jelly beans (or almonds or other candy) in the center of each "nest" before placing them in the fridge to harden.  Or you can wait to add the "eggs" on top later.

Place the pan full of "nests" in the fridge.  Chill them for 2 to 4 hours to be sure they have hardened.  Keep them there until ready to serve. 

For even more fun and dramatic effects, you can place a Peep shaped like a bird on top of the "nest" full of eggs.  Let your kids help you with this fun and easy recipe!  They are really adorable. 

I'm thinking that these would be great to make in the falltime as well.  Instead of being "Easter bird's nests," they could easily be turned into pumpkin haystacks.  I could use my mini bread pan and shape them into rectagular haystacks and place candy pumpkins on top.  Won't that be cute!?   I better bookmark that idea and save it for later!  

Does your child or someone you know have peanut allergies?   No Worries!  You can still make these!  Just substitute marshmallows in the place of peanut butter. 

A friend of my daughter's cannot have any nuts. So I made one especially for her using marshmallows.  I also substituted pretzels in the place of chow mein noodes.

Here's what her nut-free Easter nest looked like:   

Are you making any special Easter treats?  Do you have any great foods lined up for the holiday? 

I will be returning from a vacation; therefore, I think we'll be having takeout or eating from the freezer this year for Easter. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Learn With Me: Freezing Avocados AND An Easy Guacamole Dip Recipe!

I've been finding a few good deals on avocados lately.  So once I start seeing those, I get the craving for guacamole dip. 

Oh, who am I kidding?  I crave the green gooky stuff all year long.  :-) That's why I often grab six or seven ripe avocados at a time, mash them and freeze them for a later date. 

Yes, you heard me!  I often use defrosted avocados in my guacamole dip.  You can't even tell the difference and I'm being smart and saving money in the long run.  So learn with me.  Learn to spot the deals on avocados and do a small amount of prep work so that you can enjoy them year-round! 

To freeze avocados, you'll need to mash or puree them.  Simply peel the fruit and remove the pit. Puree the flesh.  Then add in half a tablespoon of lemon or lime juice for each avocado.  Place the puree into a plastic container or bag leaving about half an inch of air at the top. Seal the container and place in the freezer. The mixture will stay good for four or five months.After thawing them, use within three days.

Now here's my dip recipe that is great for using previously frozen avocados.  It's easy and quick too! 

Mandy's Easy Guacamole Dip

(Serves 6 to 8)

2 avocados mashed (Or use 1 cup of defrosted, mashed avocado from your freezer)
1-2 medium ripe tomatoes, diced, seeded and drained of their juices (I often strangle them until all the juice is gone!)
2 T. of lime or lemon juice
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1.5 to 2 T. taco seasoning (combo of cumin, chili powder, oregano and red pepper flakes)

If using fresh avocados: Cut avocados in half.  Scoop out the seed and throw it away.  Scoop out the flesh and mash it in a medium size bowl. 

If using avacodos from your freezer: Defrost the avocado and let it come to room temperature.  If necessary, warm it in the microwave for fifteen seconds.  Place in a medium size bowl and stir.

Add the diced, drained and seeded tomatoes to the mashed avocados.  Mix in the garlic, lime (or lemon) juice and taco seasoning.  Serve with crackers or baked chips. 

The guacamole dip should last in the fridge for up to three days if stored properly in an air tight container.  After three days, throw away.  Do not freeze the dip since the tomatoes will not maintain consistency.

Do you enjoy guacamole dip?  Do you have a great recipe that uses avocados?  I have seen several recipes where people have put them into cakes and desserts.  I'm going to try that soon! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

S'mores Cookie Bars

Who wants more of S'mores?  Trust me, you'll want more of these - they are soooo yummy!  Although these don't have graham crackers in them, they sure do taste like a s'mores.  Actually I think that they are even better!

S'mores Cookie Bars
(Makes 24 bars)

1 stick (1/2 cup) of light butter
1 and 1/2 cups of brown sugar
2 eggs (or egg whites)
1/2 tbsp of vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups of organic, unbleached flour (I use the King Arthur 100% White Wheat brand)
3/4 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of salt
1 and 1/2 cups of chocolate chips - any type that you like best or have on hand!

3/4 cup of mini marshmallows

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Generously grease a 13x9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.  In a large size bowl, melt the butter in the microwave.  Then add the brown sugar, eggs and vanilla extract to the butter.  Mix well until all sugar is dissolved. 

In a different medium size bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Pour the flour mixture into the butter-sugar liquid.  Stir until completely combined. Make sure there are no dry spots. 

Fold in your chocolate chips and your mini marshmallows.  Spread the cookie batter across the greased 13x9 inch baking pan.  Don't worry if the batter looks a little thin, like it might not cover the whole pan.  It will rise! 

Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  The edges will be slightly brown and a knife should be inserted cleanly into the mix.  Remove from the oven.  Let cookie cake cool for about fifteen minutes before cutting. 


See if you can just eat one of these.  I double dare you! 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sausage and Potatoes Casserole

Two words - Comfort food.  Okay, one more word - Delicious.   All contained in one casserole dish. 

Nothing else really needs to be said about this recipe.  Well except for maybe that I even managed to sneak in a vegetable too  :-) 

Enjoy it.  My family sure does!

Sausage and Potatoes Casserole

(Serves 6 to 8)

4 cups of cubed potatoes
3 cups of diced turkey sausage, pre-cooked
1 cup of pureed or finely chopped cauliflower
1/2 cup light butter, melted
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Dash of Cajun seasoning

For the sauce:

2 and 1/2 cups of reduced fat or skim milk (fat-free evaporated milk is fine)
2 cups of reduced fat shredded cheese
2/3 cup of organic, unbleached flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 13x9 inch baking pan (or large casserole dish) with cooking spray. Peel and cut potatoes.  Boil them until just soft  but not completely done. Drain water and set aside. 

In a large pot, place the potatoes with cut up sausage, chopped (or pureed) cauliflower, butter, green onions, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and seasoning.  Create sauce by pouring in all of the milk and 1 cup of the cheese, adding the flour last to thicken.   Cook on medium heat until mixture starts to boil. 

Spoon potato casserole into baking pan.  Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of cheese on top.  Bake for 30 minutes or until potatoes are slightly brown on top.  Serve hot. 

Freeze leftovers in plastic containers for up to four months.  Reheat in microwave or in the oven. 

Tomorrow I'll share an easy, delicious dessert recipe that was a hit in my house!  This week is all about comfort.  Then we'll end it with an Easter fun treat. So come on back and kick your shoes off for some great family recipes. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week (Apr 11 - 17)?

This week's meal plan is going to be easy and packed with comfortable, stand-by favorites.  Half of the meals will be from my freezer - things I've already made and frozen for a future crazy-busy week, which is what this will be for us! 

I apologize but I will not be making anything new.  I just don't have the time this week.  Instead I'll be busy attending a meeting, going on a job interview and packing for a vacation!  So although my foods may seem boring, my week sure won't be!!! 

Here is what I have lined up in the coming days.  (Please note that even though I don't have vegetables or many sides listed in the meal plan, I have something green or good snuck into the chili, burgers and more):

Monday, Apr. 4 - Leftover Man's Italian Meat Pie - family favorite!  

Tuesday, Apr. 5 - Soup and sandwiches - will eat either gumbo or potato soup from my freezer

Wednesday, Apr. 6
- Turkey burgers - recipe is from my cookbook, side of sweet potato patties

Thursday, Apr. 7
- Hot dogs and Chili

Friday, Apr. 8
- Chili Frito Pie - using leftover chili

Saturday, Apr. 9
- Homemade Pizza or Eat Out (with Parents in town)

Sunday, Apr. 10
- Grab a Muffin for breakfast.  Lunch in the Airport.  Dinner at hotel or nearby restaurant.  


(1) I will make one batch of my homemade **Peanut Butter and Banana Oat Muffins this week for us to enjoy and for Vivian to eat while we're away on vacation and she's hanging out at home with the grandparents. 

(2) If I can squeeze in the time, then I'll also make my **Berry Oatmeal Bars too for Vivian to enjoy while we're out on the Pacific coast.

**Both of the above snack recipes are listed in my cookbook.  If you'd like the recipe for them, send me an email and I'll get them to you after my trip!

The good news is that I will be sharing new recipes Monday through Thursday, including a fun Easter treat that your family and kids will love! So be sure and stop back by to see those!

Thursday, April 7, 2011


One of my favorite movies to this date is the cult classic "A Christmas Story" with little Ralphie who wants his Red Ryder BB gun.   He slips up and uses foul language one night in front of his father.  In the film, they say "Oh Fudge," but you know that he really meant the other bad word!

That kind of describes the week that I've had - an "Oh....Fudge!" kind of week.  I was very sick and have had a poor attitude for the past several days.  Therefore, in order to improve my potty mouth and my mood, I'm sharing with you a recent success that I've made - Fudge!

I know what you're thinking.... "But Mandy, fudge is soooo easy!"  Yeah, you'd think so, I realize that.  But I have had a half-dozen failures when it comes to fudge.  I really have.  I've been trying to make it off and on for ten years now, making it as good as Maw Maw used to make.  Finally I came close with this very simple, very quick recipe.  So of course I had to share it with you!  Also, I wanted to end the week on a sweet note after all the vomitting and other issues going on around here.  I'm sure you won't mind!

Mandy's "Oh Fudge" With a Hint of Nut Recipe:

(Makes 16 - 20 pieces)

1 bag (10 to 12 oz size) of chocolate chips
1 can (14 oz) of sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp of creamy peanut butter (optional)
1 tsp of almond extract (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Place your bag of chocolate chips and the entire can of sweetened condensed milk into a medium size, microwaveable safe bowl.  Heat on high until the chips are melted, about 1 to 1.5 minutes.  Stir until all is blended.  Add in the tsp of vanilla extract. 

If you decide you want to have that hint of nut flavor, then add in the peanut butter and almond extract.  Stir until incorporated.

Pour contents into a lightly greased 8x8 inch square pan.  Place in the fridge immediately.  Let it chill for at least four hours before slicing and serving.  I cut mine into 16 squares (or hunka hunka burning love chocolates, I like to call them!)

Fudge should be kept in the refrigerator until ready to eat.   In my house, we ate it right away.  My daughter wasn't going to waste any time when she heard me use the word "chocolate."  :-)

This stuff freezes very well too!  In fact, I ate two pieces straight from the freezer recently!  I pretended that an Oompa Loompa handed it to me.  Then we danced around the kitchen with our silly songs!  :-)

Regular posting and recipes will return next week, I promise you!  I'll be back on Sunday to share my meal plan as well.  I didn't stick to this week's plan at all with my stomach virus; hopefully next week I will be on track again!  

Thanks for all your well wishes and sweet comments while I was ill!  I'll be by to visit your delectable blogs soon now that I can actually look at food again!  :)  

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Unexpected Diet

Would you like to lose five pounds
                                                                  Just in one day?
By spending the day in bed or the bathroom 
With your guts spewing in every which way?

No? That doesn't appeal to you?
I cannot imagine why!
Your head and stomach hurt so bad
                                                             You think you just might die.

That is the unexpected diet I've been on
A nasty invasion called a stomach bug.
So until I can hold down real foods again
Could you send me a virtual hug?

I wish this silly poem
                                                     Was just a few rambles from my mouth
                                                               But I've been really sick
A sad sight - this girl in the deep south. 

                                                       Hopefully in about two more days
                                                          I'll be back to my usual routine
Because dry toast and crackers are getting old
I want pizza, cake and ice cream!

I hope to be back to posting recipes again by Thursday.  But right now, I am still recovering from my stomach virus.  I still cannot stand the sight or smell of most foods, even just typing up ingredients in a recipe. 

So enjoy your foods and eat extra for me until I am well again!  I hope to be back on here again soon.  

Sunday, April 3, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week (Apr 4 - 10, 2011)?

Things have been so hectic around my house lately.  We have not been sitting still or spending much time in the kitchen these days. 

This coming week will be the same as well....  I've got a meeting planned, family visitors coming to town and a recipe swap taking place too.  Therefore, I'm keeping things simple on myself this week~! 

Here is what I have lined up in the coming days:

Monday, Apr. 4 - Leftover Pot Roast with rice and veggies

Tuesday, Apr. 5 - Shrimp and Grits - This is a family favorite of ours!

Wednesday, Apr. 6 - Roast Beef Sandwiches OR Eat out with guests in town

Thursday, Apr. 7 - Jen C.'s Tilapia Fish recipe (will share this recipe soon!)  - my friend sent me her fool-proof fish recipe and I can't wait to try it~!

Friday, Apr. 8 - Recipe Swap Club Meetup and Black Bean Burgers - I'm hoping to gain some new, easy recipes from the swap we're having!

Saturday, Apr. 9 - Light and Healthy Spinach Lasagna - I will freeze half of this for later!

Sunday, Apr. 10 - Barbecue sausage and chicken (this is will be a reoccuring thing for us this spring and summer!) 

Here are the snacks, sides and desserts I hope to make this week:

(1) Honey and orange cornmeal cake - This looks yummy!

(2) Lowfat Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies - I can't wait to try this lighter version of this classic!

(3) Lemon Herb Salad dressing - recipe coming soon!

(4) Briony's Peanut butter and Jelly oatmeal muffins - my friend made these recently and they look really good!

Enjoy your week!  I have a few simple and tasty recipes that I will be posting here in the coming days!