Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Spinach Casserole

My mom found this recipe in the Dallas Morning News kids' section when I was in elementary school. I guess it was supposed to help kids like spinach. I didn't have any trouble with that beforehand, but this didn't hurt.

It's one of my favorite dishes. Ever. I've been known to eat some of the leftovers for breakfast.

It was one of the dishes we chose for our "traditional" family Christmas meal when my mom had us pick something, since we always got the turkey-and-fixins meal at a grandmother's (or two). Yum!

• 1 sm onion or 1/2 onion, chopped
• 3 pkgs. frozen spinach, 10 oz. each, thawed
• 8 oz. cream cheese
o or 7 Laughing Cow cheese triangles
• 1/4 C milk
• 1 1/2 C cheddar cheese, grated

1. Steam the chopped onion with a teaspoon of water in a small microwave-safe bowl covered with plastic wrap vented just a little to allow steam to escape for two minutes. (You can skip this step if you don't mind onions a little crunchy in the finished product. It's especially helpful for little kids with texture issues, though.)
2. Mix onion, cream cheese and milk with a mixer or by hand.
3. Squeeze excess water from spinach and spread into baking dish (3 qt. or 9x13).
4. Spread cream cheese mixture over spinach.
5. Top with cheese.
6. Bake at 350* for 20-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Sweet Potato Casserole

This recipe is from a sweet older lady who was in our small group when we first got married. We had a LifeGroup Thanksgiving dinner before everyone headed off to their family celebrations, and she made this. It was delicious. ML absolutely loved it. I now bring it to all holiday meals. I think I would end up a single parent, if I didn't. :-P

• 3 lg sweet potatoes (or yams), cooked & mashed
o or 2 large/3 medium cans, drained
• 1/4 t salt
• 1 t. vanilla
• 1/2-1 t cinnamon
• 2 T margarine
• 1/2 C brown sugar
• 1/2 C nuts, chopped
• 1/4 t nutmeg
• 1 bag marshmallows
o or 1 jar marshmallow cream

1. Add all but marshmallow to sweet potatoes & mix.
2. Spread into 9x13 baking dish.
3. Top with marshmallow.
4. Broil 1-2 mins.

Corn Pudding

One of our traditional holiday dishes. From The Four Ingredient Cookbook, a cookbook my mom gave me right around the time I got married. The ladies who wrote it (them, actually; there are several) are from my hometown, but it became kind of a national phenomenon. You may have seen it on an infomercial. :-) They're wonderful for cooks just starting out. And I need to go back through them soon for some inspiration, too.

Wow. I just looked up the cookbook to link it. It's gotten fancy. Mine is an old spiral-bound copy, and they're either hard-bound or at least bound paperback now. And looks like it's still selling well. Cool.

• 2 cans (16 oz. each) creamed corn
• 1 pkg (6 oz.) corn muffin mix
o or 1/2 C flour, 1/2 C cornmeal, 1 T sugar, 1 1/2 t baking powder, 1/4 t salt, mixed
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1/2 C butter, melted

1. Mix all ingredients and pour into a greased 2 qt. casserole dish.
2. Bake 45 min. at 350*.

Simple, but yummy. A good compliment to a laden table.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Apple Cracked Wheat (CP)

Mamamin6 posted this on a Sonlight thread on crockpot oatmeal. I was delighted, because we can't get non-quick-cooking oats here. (Well, there are the imported little bags of Bob's Red Mill, but one of those would feed my kids maybe one meal. And we'll not even talk about how much it costs.) Quick-cooking oats done in the crockpot are paste (ask me how I know). Yay for cracked wheat.

• 2 C cracked wheat or bulgur wheat
• 4 C (1 l) apple juice
• 4 C water
• 4-6 T honey
• 2-4 T unsalted butter
• pinch of salt
• 1 t cinnamon
• 1/2 t cardamom
• 1 C chopped apples (2 medium apples)

1. Put the cracked wheat in a dry skillet and toast over medium heat until you can just smell the aroma, about 5 minutes.
2. Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker.
3. Cover and cook on low for 7-9 hours, or overnight, until tender (the cracked wheat will take longer to cook than the bulgur, which is parboiled).
4. Stir the cereal well and scoop into bowls with an oversized spoon.
5. Serve with milk, cream, or soy milk, if desired.

mamanin6 says:
• To make plain cracked wheat, use 1 C wheat to 3 C water. We've also cooked steel cut oats with apple juice in the crock-pot, and that tastes good, too.
• If you like crock-pot cooking, Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook is a great book. Lots of great recipes, and tons of great info about crock pots, how to convert oven recipes to crock pot, etc. It is one of my most used cookbooks! They have a delicious tapioca pudding recipe that you make in the crock pot.

I haven't had more than a bite of this (my goal is to eat raw for breakfast, and I've been pretty good about keeping to it), but the kids like it, MS especially. It's going to for sure be a regular in our repertoire.

Oh, and I skipped the toasting step the second time, and the kids didn't seem to mind, so I don't think I'll bother with it in the future.

Stuffed Mexican Cornbread

My mother used to make Stuffed Mexican Cornbread when I was growing up. Our first year overseas was rather unadventurous culinarily speaking. Lots of scrambled egg sandwiches for the adults and mashed bananas for MS. At some point, though, I managed to recreate this recipe from memory with what was available. It was one of my first cooking successes (and if you doubt that, ask ML about some of the failures).

It is still one of ML's favorite meals and usually what he wants to break his fasts with. I know. But he has an iron stomach.

serves 4-5

• 1 lbs. ground meat
• 1 med. onion, chopped
• 1-2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
• 1 pkg. taco seasoning (approx. 2 t)
o plus water according to directions
• 3 med. tomatoes, chopped
o or one can tomatoes, partially drained & chopped
• 1 can diced Rotel, partially drained
o or 1/2 – 1 C salsa
• 1 can kidney beans
o or 1 can/1 1/2 C refried beans
• 1 can whole kernel corn
o or 1 1/2 C frozen corn, thawed
• 1 C shredded carrots (optional)
• 1 recipe cornbread batter (see recipe below or mix 2 Jiffy mixes according to package directions)
• sour cream, for topping
• extra salsa, for topping

1. Brown meat and onions (and garlic).
2. Drain (if you live somewhere where animals are fatty enough to require this step).
3. Add taco seasoning and water and simmer according to directions.
4. Transfer meat, onions & garlic (if using) to 9x12 baking dish.
5. Add tomatoes, Rotel or salsa, kidney beans, corn and carrots (if using). (If using refried beans, stir other ingredients first, and spread beans in a layer before topping with cornbread batter.)
6. Stir to mix.
7. Top with cornbread batter.
8. Bake at 425* for 20 - 25 mins. or until cornbread is golden brown.
9. Top with sour cream and salsa when serving.

This recipe is very flexible. Add, substitute, leave out as you please or as you have available.

For instance, when we had this last week, I had ground beef and onions already cooked in the freezer, so I stirred the taco seasoning in with the other ingredients. We had fresh tomatoes, jarred salsa, and canned corn, so that's what I use. We really prefer the taste of refried beans to kidney beans, so I made sure we had some UnRefried Beans from the freezer to use. MA and ZL are allergic to carrots, so we don't use those these days, although I like what it adds nutritionally, so I'd use them again someday, if I can. And JW is allergic to garlic, so we're not using any of that these days, either. Oh, and, of course, I used the flax seed egg substitute and whole wheat flour. Even with all of the changes/substitutions, it's still one of our favorite meals.


• 1 1/2 C flour
• 1 1/2 C cornmeal
• 3 T sugar
• 1 1/2 T baking powder
• 3/4 t salt
• 3 eggs
o or 3 T flax seed, ground whisked with 9 T water,
• 1 1/2 C milk or water
• 1/3 C oil

1. Stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, & salt.
2. In separate bowl beat eggs, milk & oil together.
3. Add to flour mixture.
4. Stir just until smooth.

(What I use for cornmeal is actually labeled “Turkish Semolina.” We have wheat semolina here, too, and the Turkish not labeled as corn, but it tastes like it in cornbread, so you might find some variation of that elsewhere.)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hot Chocolate Mix

I originally found this recipe in one of The Tightwad Gazette books. Again, it's a common enough recipe that I don't think it's copyrighted. It's ye old standard homemade hot chocolate mix recipe. It's yummy, though. :-)

• 10 2/3 C dry milk
• 6 oz. creamer
• 1 lb. Nestle Quick
• 1/3 C powdered sugar
• 1/2 bag mini marshmallows (optional)
• 1 C crushed peppermints (optional)

1. Mix with whisk.
2. Store in airtight container.

To prepare, add 1/2 C mix to 1 C hot water.

I use one bag of full cream powdered milk (which is actually 10 C) and leave out the creamer, since this recipe was written for the non-fat dry milk in the States. And now I don't even bother with the powdered sugar, since the Nestle mix is sweet enough, so, yes, to make hot chocolate mix, I just dump a bag of milk and a box of chocolate milk powder into a container and shake. But, hey, it's a hit at my house all winter, both with the family and with guests. Oh, and I do usually put in the optional marshmallows. If I have them.

You can add instant coffee for a mocha mix, but I’ve never done the calculations for the whole recipe (just for gift containers I used).

Applesauce Muffins

There was a monster post-your-favorite-muffin-recipe thread on Sonlight a while back from which I gleaned several recipes. It's wonderful to just go to the recipes folder on my computer and look up muffins and have lots of options to choose from. I've even recently begun to make use of the ability to color code file names, so I mark all recipes I've made and we liked as green, all that I want to try in purple, and all that I've made and we were so-so about in yellow (if we absolutely don't like them, I just delete, so need to mark in red). It's so nice to be able to remember at a glance what we liked and what I've been wanting to try.

At some point, I had applesauce and a desire to make muffins at the same time, so I tried these. We loved them! They have kind of a gingerbread taste to them (thanks to the spices) and are just so yummy (I know that I say that about lots of things I post here, but if it weren't, I wouldn't post it, so...).

This time, I tried modifying the sweetener to be 1/2 honey (rule of thumb: use 1/2 the amount of honey for the sugar you're replacing). I didn't want to do all honey, because I was afraid it would change the texture too much, but I might try that next time, anyway. I also used the flax seed egg replacement. Oh, and I think I've said this before, but I only use wheat flour, so any time it calls for flour in my recipes, know that you can use wheat. What I have is often a white wheat, but sometimes it's stoneground organic whole wheat, so pretty much any of the above should work.

I served these for the guest ML had last night (mini ones), saved some out for the kids to have for breakfast this morning, and froze the rest. I'm actually stocked with muffins in the freezer for kids' breakfasts again. Yay!

from Magistra

• 1 C butter, softened
• 2 C sugar
o or 1 C sugar + 1/2 C honey
• 2 eggs
o or 2 T flax seed, ground + 6 T water
• 2 C unsweetened applesauce

• 3 t cinnamon
• 2 t allspice
• 1 t cloves
• 1 t ginger
• 1 t salt

• 4 C flour
• 2 t baking soda

1. Cream butter and sugar.
2. Add eggs one at a time.
3. Mix in applesauce and spices.
4. Stir in dry ingredients.
5. Bake at 350° for about 20 minutes.
6. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes.
7. Yellow scoop (#20) makes 30 muffins.

This made 15 large muffins and 24 mini muffins for me, but I was pretty generous with the batter in the large muffins.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Taco Macaroni Skillet OR Homemade Hamburger Helper

I have had Hamburger Helper (or probably the generic store brand) maybe 3-4 times in my life, when we were early married, and ML encouraged me to make some. For him, however, it is reminiscent of many, many, many meals throughout his college years, and it is comfort food.

When I picked this recipe, it was just because it was in my recipes folder, and it looked good. When I served it, though, I noticed its similarity to Hamburger Helper, commented on it, and discovered that ML was already reveling in the fact. I think we'll be repeating this recipe. :-)

Actually, it may very well join Sloppy Verna's as an option for a meal to make on the day that I'm browning large amounts of ground beef to freeze (although at almost $20 for four pounds this last time at the store, that won't be happening again any time soon; =-o I'm more motivated to pray for MA to be healed of her soy allergy, so we can go back to TVP :-/).

All that is to say: it was yummy!

(Makes 4 servings)

• 12 ounces extra-lean ground beef (2 C cooked)
• 2 cups water
• 1 can diced tomatoes in juice, undrained
• 1 can Diced Green Chiles
o or 1/4-1/2 C salsa
• 1 package Taco Seasoning Mix
o or 2 t taco seasoning
• 1 1/2 cups dried elbow macaroni
• 2/3 cup Evaporated Milk
o 1/2 C powdered milk + water to make 2/3 C
• 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

• Additional shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

1. Cook beef in large nonstick skillet, stirring frequently, until brown; drain.
2. Stir in water, tomatoes with juice, chiles, and seasoning mix.
3. Cook until mixture comes to a boil.
4. Add pasta; return to a boil.
5. Reduce heat to low; cover.
6. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 14 to 16 minutes or until pasta is tender.
7. Stir in evaporated milk.
8. Remove from heat; stir in 1/4 cup cheese.
9. Sprinkle additional cheese over top.
10. Cover; let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Buttercream Icing

And our traditional icing. It was the first really tasty icing recipe we’ve found that is actually smooth enough to use with decorating tips.

Buttercream Frosting

• 2/3 cup butter softened (no substitutes)
• 1/3 cup shortening
• 1-2 tsp vanilla
• 2-3 TBSP milk
• 4-4 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar

1. Mix butter, shortening, vanilla 1-2 TBSP milk with blender on med.
2. Gradually add p. sugar and rest of milk until desired consistency.
3. Start
4. with blender on low and move to med once mixed.

Can add coloring to make desired color for decorating.

I just use 1 C of butter, instead of 2/3 butter and 1/3 shortening. It's easier, but as I think about it, it's also healthier, too.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

• 1 cup butter softened (no substitutes)
• 1 cup cocoa
• 6 cups sifted powdered sugar
• 4 tsp vanilla
• 4-5 TBSP milk divided

1. Mix butter, vanilla and 2-3 TBSP milk with blender on med.
2. Gradually add cocoa and p. sugar and rest of milk until desired consistency.
3. Start with blender on low and move to med once mixed.

Rumbaugh Cake

This is our traditional cake that the kids have for their birthday parties. They get to pick the cake mix flavor that is used as the base (although we have forever vetoed mango after MS's 5th birthday, I think; yuck!). It is super rich, moist and delicious. I don't even want to know how many calories it has in it.

Named after the ex-pat friend I got the recipe from.

• 1 box cake mix (flavor of your choice)
• 1 box instant pudding (flavor of your choice-4serving size)
o or 4 T canned custard powder
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 cup sour cream
o or 3/4 C leban or lebaneh
• 3/4 cup oil
• 3/4 C water
o or 3/4 C hot water + 4-6 T instant coffee granules (with a chocolate cake mix for a mocha cake)
• 4 eggs
• 1 cup choc chips
o or small choc block chopped into small pieces (big ones will sink to the bottom)

1. Preheat oven 350 degrees.
2. Mix powder cake mix, pudding mix (or custard powder), and sugar in a bowl.
3. Add sour cream (or yogurt), oil and water. Mix on low speed until moistened.
4. Add eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition.
5. Fold in chocolate chips.
6. Pour into greased bunt pan, 9x13, or two rounds.

7. A bunt takes approx. 50 minutes to bake.
8. 9X13 usually 45.
9. And two rounds 35.
10. Or until golden brown and set in the middle.

Possible variations:
*chocolate cake/choc pudding/choc chips
*choc cake/choc pudding/choc chips or mint flavored choc chips and add peppermint flavor
*french vanilla cake/white choc pudding/white choc chips
*french van cake/ choc pudding/assorted frozen berries in cake and on top or fresh (usually do strawberries here in Jordan but can do pie filling too)--also punch holes in top and pour sweetened condensed milk over before adding berries--yummy
*butter cake/choc pudding/ choc or peanut butter chips and do peanut butter frosting

You can come up with all kinds of variations. I have noticed white choc chips don't melt as well and tend to stick to the bottom of the pan so better to use it for cakes you want to serve directly out of the pan and it is fine--NOT good for bunt cake style or ones you want to invert and decorate!


Nanny's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake

This is not my own Nanny's cake. I got this recipe from Kmama on the Sonlight boards in a healthier desserts thread. I told her I had my own Nanny (my father's mother), and when we compared notes, we discovered lots of similarities between the two: older (as in 95ish), still living alone, very independent, etc. So, I like to think of this as a tribute to my Nanny, even though it's not her recipe.

from kmama

• 1 3/4 cups boiling water
• 1 cup oatmeal

• 2 large eggs
• 1 cup sucanat (or regular sugar)
• 1/2 cup honey
• 1/2 cup butter
• 1 teaspoon vanilla

• 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour – pastry
• 2 tablespoons cocoa
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 12 ounces chocolate chips
• 3/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Grease and flour a 9x13 baking pan
3. Mix boiling water and oatmeal, let cool 10 minutes.
4. Cream honey, sucanat, butter, eggs and vanilla.
5. Beat in oatmeal mixture
6. Add dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa).
7. Add 1/2 of chocolate chips.
8. Pour into prepared pan (greased and floured), sprinkle with remaining choc. chips and nuts.
9. Bake for 40 minutes at 350.

"My version of my favorite cake recipe from my grandma...modified to use healthier ingredients"

Traditionally, our kids' birthday cakes are a variation on a boxed cake mix that they get to pick the flavor of. It's delicious (I'm posting that recipe next), but not the most nutritious. I decided that Z wasn't old enough to know the difference yet, so I made his birthday cake (for his party yesterday) a slightly more nutritious version.

And, rather than using double the egg yolks as I do normally for baked goods, since ZL & MS are allergic to egg whites, I used the ground flax seed equivalent (1 heaping tablespoon of flax seed, ground + 3 tablespoons water, whisked together). It works perfectly, and I like the fact that it makes the recipe even healthier.

And it's even a nod to my own Nanny, because I learned from my dad that she was the one who tipped him off as to the health benefits of flax seeds. :-)

Chocolatier Brownies

After GfG's remark on my last brownie recipe post (which did not offend me at all, just got me thinking), I decided to think a little outside the box, and venture into new territory: I tried a new brownie recipe for the first time in 12 years! I even tried it out on company. But they are close friends, so I knew they would forgive me and still be my friends, even if they didn't turn out well. Turn out well they did, though, so I thought I'd share.

I can't tell if they're supposed to be Chocolatier Brownies, as in some one who makes chocolate, or Chocolaty-er Brownies, as in brownies that taste even more chocolaty than others. I think the former sounds fancier and more exotic, so that's what I'm going with. :-P

from MomGardens

beat well:
2 C sugar
1 C Butter (no margarine)

add and mix well:
3 eggs
1 t vanilla

mix in:
1 t salt
1 C flour
3/4 C cocoa

Bake in greased 9 x 13 pan for 30 minutes at 350. Cool in pan before cutting.

The verdict: yummy! Rich, moist, kind of the perfect mix of cakey and gooey. The only thing I would change, which I noted above, was to add salt. The recipe I'm used to has salt, and I like the effect.