Monthly Archives: November 2012

Quick, Easy Chocolate Croissants with 2 Ingredients You Probably Already Have On Hand

Yesterday, I was craving chocolate, so I made some chocolate croissants.  Way easier than making cookies or brownies when you have a can of crescent rolls in the house, leftover from Thanksgiving dinner (I gave myself permission to not make butter rolls from scratch this year and I’m glad I did!).  We usually make chocolate crescents just like the Pillsbury can directs you to make their rolls, only we add some chips to the triangles before rolling them up.  This time, I wanted them to look more like the filled croissants at bakeries.  So fast, easy and delicious!  Here’s what you do:

 

Instead of separating the canned dough into 8 triangles, separate into 4 rectangles, pressing the seams together and pressing the dough out to the sides, somewhat, to spread it out more.  Dump on however many chocolate chips you want.  We have also made these with ham & swiss, turkey & cheddar, chicken salad, philly cheesesteak, jams and preserves…the possibilities are endless!

Fold dough over chips and press on left and right side seams to ensure they stay closed.

If you want a glossy, golden look like at the bakery, brush with a little egg wash (beaten egg).
Otherwise, just skip that step.

Bake at time and temperature called for on the can.  So golden and shiny!  To avoid the exposed seam like this, you can always flip your croissants over before egg washing and baking. I was too lazy.

Put some chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring between each one, until the chips are melted.

Drizzle melted chocolate on top.

Enjoy!

Decking The Halls

Now that Thanksgiving is over, we’re Decking our Halls for Christmas.  We did half of our Christmas cards on Saturday (although we won’t be mailing them out for another week or two, it’s nice to get them done and ready), with the help of family we put the tree and outside lights up yesterday and this morning, B and I have really enjoyed decorating the refrigerator!  I’ve never decorated the fridge before, but I found this pin on Pinterest earlier in the year and thought it was a great idea.  Unfortunately, I cannot give credit to the original pinner of the idea because the link behind the pin has been removed.  But whoever you are, we are grateful for the inspiration!

We got out the scissors, tape and construction paper, put on the Christmas carols and went to town.  B did everything except the stick arms; I did those.  The hardest part was actually clearing off the refrigerator!  ;o)

Enjoy the rest of your Monday, everyone!  We’ve definitely set the tone for a festive day here by starting our day off with Frosty the Fridge!

 

If an apology begins with, "I’m sorry if…", it’s NOT an apology.

I’m so tired of hearing this fake apology from individuals and corporations on the news.  “We apologize if we offended anyone…”  The “if” says you don’t believe there is any insult nor wrongdoing on your part so you don’t own it.  The “if” puts ownership on the offended.  What you are really saying is, “It’s too bad that you are so sensitive to take offense at something I did.  I feel sorry for you and sorry for me that our PR department/my manager is making me apologize to you.

Jessica Seinfeld’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

B woke up yesterday morning and decided he wanted to make chocolate chip cookies.  The hubs and I were still asleep, BTW.  He started looking through my cookbooks to find a recipe. The 4th book he went through was Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious.  She had a recipe for chocolate chip cookies in there and B looked over the ingredients list to see if we had everything.  He found all the ingredients in the pantry except for one – chick peas.  That’s right, chick peas.  He had no idea what chick peas were, but he absolutely loved her Sloppy Joes so he was willing to give it a try.

Luckily, at this point, he remembered he is not supposed to use the oven!  He figured he’d mix up the batter and get it all ready for us when we woke up.  How thoughtful of him!  ;o)  But he still didn’t know what chick peas were.  So he woke up the hubs and asked if he could get him some chick peas, please.  Imagine the hubs’ surprise and confusion, being woken up with that question.  It still doesn’t top me being woken up by B at the age of 5 saying, “Mama, my balls are gone.”

After going for a lovely late afternoon walk, we came back to the house and B made the cookies.  The same friend who recommended Jessica Seinfeld’s Sloppy Joes to us also told me her husband loves these chocolate chip cookies with chick peas.  She is 2 for 2 with her recommendations; these cookies are good!  You don’t taste the chick peas at all.  I thought maybe they’d melted during baking, but they didn’t; you cans till see them in the cookies.  But they are just soft like the dough and blend in.  No taste difference at all.  I don’t know what made Mrs. Seinfeld think to add chick peas, but it works!

Using the stand mixer allowed me to stay out of it and ensure B could do it all.  If he used a bowl adn a spoon, I would have to do the stirring. 

Once the chick peas and chocolate chips went in, we had to cover the mixer with a towel to prevent flying chick peas!
Look at that scooping concentration!
YUM!  Can you spot the chick peas?  Only if you know they are there and look for them. Going to try them on my parents this afternoon and not tell them about the chick peas.

 

My Chicken Noodle Soup Dump Recipe For Kathy

  • Dice up half an onion, 2 carrots, a couple of garlic cloves, and grate at least 1 tsp of fresh ginger. If I have shallots on hand, I’ll dice up one of those, too.
  •  Salt and pepper 1/2 of a chicken breast and cook it in a pan with the fat of your choice.  Set aside on a cutting board.
  • Add a little more fat to pan you cooked chicken breast in and then add your onion, carrot, garlic ginger and shallot.  Saute until onions are translucent.  If I have leftover cooked veggies from dinners in the fridge, I add them now and then saute for another minute or two.
  • If you have any spices or herbs you’d like to add for extra flavor, this is the time to do it!  Drop them in with your sauteed veggies and stir to coat and heat them up, releasing their flavors.  I find I get more flavor out of herbs and spices when I add them before liquids then I get when adding them at the end.  Salt and pepper, however, should be added at the end.
  • Add 3 – 4 cups of Kitchen Basics Unsalted Chicken Cooking Stock and bring up to a boil.
  • Once stock and veggies are boiling, add a handful or 2, at the most, of your choice of pasta, turn the flame down so that stock just simmers and cook until the pasta is al dente.  I pick a small pasta, like ditalini, alphabets, mini shells, mini farfalle, orecchiette, or elbows if that’s the smallest I have.  You can even break up spaghetti into small pieces.  Add a pasta too big or too much pasta and it will absorb all or most of your stock.
  • While pasta cooks, dice up your chicken breast.
  • When pasta is al dente, turn off the heat, add in your diced chicken breast to warm it back up and taste your broth.  Do you want to add salt and or pepper?  I add both, to my taste.
Depending on how much I serve myself, I get 3 – 4 bowls from this.  If I have a chicken or turkey carcass around, I’ll make a pot of stock from that, make a big pot of soup without the pasta, and freeze in quart-size, zip-top bags.  Take out when you are ready to eat, thaw, bring up to boil, toss in your pasta and then simmer until al dente.  Or freeze in gallon-size bags and use when you want to take a family a meal.

A Mock Election for Our Homeschool Group and the Hard Lesson B Learned from It

A pretty amazing and smart 6 year old girl in our homeschool group was so interested in the 2012 presidential election, she and her family decided to open a private voting precinct on their front porch so the children could vote!  Isn’t that just fabulous?!  The mock election was yesterday and the family even provided an “absentee ballot” option, via Survey Monkey, for those who were unable to vote in person.  Brilliant!
 
The hubs and I talk about national and world issues regularly and B absorbs it all.  He has formed some pretty strong opinions regarding our country and it’s presidents.  He has very strongly believed that his candidate of choice for the 2012 election is the one and only choice for America.  We’ve actually had to reign him in tell him he cannot exclaim in horror at the sight of bumper stickers and yard signs supporting the other candidate and it is not his duty to try to “enlighten” strangers to the “error” of their choice.  LOL!
However, when I told B that he was going to participate in a mock election, he actually changed from being one candidate’s fan, to a researcher.  He wanted to hear more details of both candidates, their qualifications, their records, their experiences and their promises.  And he came up with one very astute observation: he perceived one candidate to be best for our family and the other candidate best for our country.  Read that sentence again.  My 10 year old figured that out all on his own and was faced with the moral dilemma and burden of which candidate to choose.
I could see that weight on his deflated shoulders as his excitement over this election leaked right out of him.  Oh, how hard it is for a parent to watch your idealistic child smack head-on into reality!  We sat down and talked about it.  I pointed out how intelligent and compassionate he is to not only come to this realization but also heed it!  He is so far ahead of many adults!  It’s a tough choice, one we all need to take seriously and weigh and I am so proud of him.
When we went to the polling station yesterday, he actually stood in his voting booth for a long time, wrestling with his decision.  Finally, some more voters arrived and I told him he had to make a choice and move on.  So he did.  After putting his ballot in the box he said he felt nothing but relief.  I’m so proud of my little man and the lesson he learned.  And so grateful to an amazing and smart 6 year old homeschooled girl who made it all possible.

Chicken and Butternut Squash Lasagna

When I posted about making Sloppy Joes for the first time last month, I mentioned my Chicken Lasagna and said I would post the recipe later that week.  I never did, so I am posting it now.  But I have another reason for posting it.  A friend of mine commented on my blog’s Facebook page that she is not adventurous in the kitchen at all.  She follows recipes to a “T” and does not experiment or try to create with what she has on hand.  She doesn’t think she would be good at it and worries her family won’t like what she makes.  Well, I want to address her and others out there with some “baby steps” to being more adventurous in the kitchen, and the lasagna I made last month is a great example.  So here we go!

My friend, Julia, who is always sharing great recipes, provided me with the following Chicken Lasagna recipe:

Lasagna noodles
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
8 oz sour cream
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 packet of Good Seasons dry Italian dressing mix
Shredded cheddar cheese

Cook lasagna noodles.  Mix chicken, sour cream, creamed soup and dry dressing mix.  In a 13″x9″ pan, put a small amount of sauce on bottom followed by a layer of noodles, a layer of sauce and a layer of shredded cheddar cheese.  Repeat until you have 3 layers.  Bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes.

It’s very good and is a great dish to give someone for new baby in the house, recovering from injury, etc.  But 4 years ago, I was inspired by Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious to reduce or eliminate the creamed soup, and I was successful.  I substitute pureed vegetables for 1 or both cans of creamed soup. I’ve used yellow squash, carrots and pumpkin but the most popular, and the one I used most often, is butternut squash.  I tried it with the canned stuff once, out of curiosity, and it was awful!  Roasting and pureeing whatever vegetable you decide to use yourself is best.  Here’s what I do.

I wash the outside of a butternut squash, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds.  Place the 2 halves, flesh side down, in my glass 13″x9″ pan and add 1/4″-1/2″ of water to pan.  Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes (time depends on how small or how big your squash is).  Remove from oven, place on a cool surface, face up, and let rest until cool enough for you to scoop out the flesh.  Puree flesh with a little water in a blender, food processor or with an immersion  blender until smooth.  Adventurous alert: I also had a large sweet potato in the house that needed to be used up, so I roasted it in the oven with the squash, the same way – washed, cut in half, face down, cooled, pureed.  I had never used sweet potatoes in my lasagna and decided to give it a try.  Substitutions are a baby step in adventurous cooking.  Before running to the store to get ingredients in a recipe, see if you can substitute with something else on hand!  Butternut squash and sweet potatoes are both orange, they both are usually served roasted or baked and both can be pureed.

While the squash and potato were roasting, I pulled out the rest of the ingredients.  Only, I didn’t have the rest of the ingredients.  I only had enough lasagna noodles for 2 layers, not 3, I had no sour cream and only 1/3 of a Good Seasoning Italian dressing packet in the house.  What to do?  Run to the store for the rest of the ingredients?  No!  Get adventurous!  What can we substitute?  Adventurous alert:  I started searching for sour cream substitutes and all I had on hand in the creamy, dairy realm was mayo.  Do I want to add 8 oz of mayo to my lasagna?  Let’s keep looking.  I already had more than enough pureed vegetables to replace the 2 cans of cream of chicken soup and the sour cream was probably added to the original recipe either to contribute creaminess or to use more brand name products.  I looked around and had a can of cream of chicken soup, so I used half of it (5 oz) to replace the 8 oz of sour cream.  A whole packet of Good Seasoning dressing mix is too strong for my taste, so the 1/3 packet I had was just fine.  But I have also replaced it with a squirt or two of Italian dressing if I didn’t have any packets!  Now, what to do for an extra layer of lasagna noodles that I didn’t have?  Replace the middle layer with spaghetti!

 

Step by step instructions of my Chicken and Butternut Squash Lasagna:  I placed half a can of cream of chicken soup in a bowl and froze the rest for the next time.

 

I filled the empty cream of chicken soup can twice  – once with pureed butternut squash and once with pureed sweet potato.  The remaining pureed veggies were frozen for other uses.

To the cream of chicken soup and pureed veggies, I added my 1/3 packet of Good Seasonings Italian dressing packet and a squirt of Wegmans Low-Fat Parmesan Italian Dressing. Mix to combine.

Add chopped, cooked chicken.

Spread a little of our mixture on the bottom of a 13″x9″ pan to avoid the noodles sticking to the bottom.

Place a layer of noodles…

 …cover with 1/3 of our sauce mixture…

 

…then shredded cheddar cheese.

 

Since I did not have enough lasagna noodles for all 3 layers, I used spaghetti for the middle layer.

After adding sauce and cheese, you don’t even know what kind of noodle was used!

 

 

 Add a third layer of lasagna noodles, the rest of our creamed mixture and shredded cheddar cheese.  Bake at 375 for 35 – 45 minutes and voila!

 

 

 

I promise you will not be sorry you took the extra time to cook and puree your own vegetables and make this fabulous lasagna.  It is so guest worthy!  You can even make it, freeze it and pull it out later to thaw and bake.  Please give it a try and let me know what you think.

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