Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chuck's Easy Scalloped Potatoes


My children love scalloped potatoes, but I really don't like to buy packaged mixes.  I want to know exactly what is going into my children's food and in my world, little spice packets don't convey that message.

My Father is the one who taught me this easy recipe.  He is the king of the grill at my parent's home and he frequently makes dinner.  I was surprised my father knew how to make scalloped potatoes.  He knows his way around an engine, but how about a potato?

He does have good taste buds and you don't have to be a grease monkey to appreciate these spuds.  I haven't had a child turn their nose up yet.  That means a lot, can you get that guarantee from AAA?

Here's my Father's easy scalloped potatoes.  You may have to tweak the measurements to fit your pan and family size, but the ratios are about the same.  I like to use a 9x9 square pan.


Chuck's Easy Scalloped Potatoes
1 medium potato per person
1 large onion or 3 tablespoons dried onion
1/4 cup sliced butter
4 to 6 slices of American cheese (I have used cheddar, mixed blends, etc.)
pepper
salt
1 1/2 cups milk

  1. Grease your pan and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Peel and thinly slice your potatoes and onions.  I scrubbed some red potatoes and left the skin on. 
  3. Make a layer of potatoes, onions, butter, and season with salt and pepper.  We are generous with the pepper.

  1. Repeat layers until the pan is full.  We usually have about 3 layers.

  1. Cover the potatoes with the cheese slices.  I like to sprinkle the top with paprika for a bit of color. 

  1. Pour the milk over the potatoes.  We aim to fill the milk halfway up the pan.

  1. Loosely cover and bake until the potatoes are tender.  It usually takes 60 or 90 minutes.
  2. Rest a few minutes before serving.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Gingerbread and Cream


This old fashioned treat is a staple at our house.  The children crave gingerbread and sing with excitement when they smell it's aroma wafting from the kitchen.  I can see why people across the generations have baked this molasses wonder.  It's a comfort snack that keeps us coming back. 

I found this old recipe in a cookbook from the early 70's (I love cookbooks- old or new!).   We enjoy eating this cake warm with applesauce or whipped cream.  Today I had whipped cream to use.  I am still fervently working on clearing out room in the deep freeze. 

SO without further ado, here is the recipe:

Gingerbread
1 cup sugar
1 cup shortening
2 eggs
3/4 cup molasses
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour

Combine the first 4 ingredients.  Cream well.

 Dissolve the soda in the cup of warm water.  Sift the dry ingredients or whisk together.  Add water and dry ingredients alternately to the molasses mixture.  Mix well after each addition.

Pour into a greased and floured 9x13 inch pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.  Test for doneness with toothpick.
Serve cool or warm.


What is your favorite comfort snack?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Yankee Doodle Paper Hats


I love paper.  It's versatile and easily adapted to a variety of tasks.  Last year, to get the kids in the spirit of the Fourth of July we crafted ourselves a milliner's dream:  8 Yankee Doodle paper hats.  Okay, they aren't technically a true period piece, but the kid's didn't mind. 

As we whistled the tune, here's what we did:

We fashioned a simple paper hat from old newspaper.  Luckily, I spent a lot of Saturdays with my Grandparents and my Grandmother could fashion the best boats and hats from the Omaha World Herald.   I am including a tutorial link at the bottom, just in case you need it.  We made large hats taping sheets together, but you can make them any size.

After our hats were formed and an impromptu lesson on Benjamin Franklin with a little Revolutionary newspaper history under our belts-  I let the children delve into red, white, and blue paint.  They had a lot of print to cover, but they had fun.  If you use tempera paints, add a drop or two of dish soap to ease cleanup!

When the paint dried, we completed our hats with a feather.  Nobody named theirs "Macaroni", but we had a few Freds, Plumes, Bluey, etc.  Did you know the term "macaroni" was referring to a hairstyle?

The kids sported their hats all day!  It is a simple, cheap craft perfect to celebrate a patriotic holiday.

Bring on the fireworks, picnics, and Revolution specials on the History Channel...

Places you might enjoy:

While you are checking out these links, stop by and register for the Nebraska Product Giveaway I am hosting!  Great prizes, especially the chocolates!

http://www.plaingraces.com/2011/04/nebraska-product-giveaway.html

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    Chicken Runzas

    I am overloaded with chores today-  we had a terrible storm sweep through last night.  We were stuck in Sioux City in the Walmart until we could drive again.  I did get my oldest home from his High Adventure, but I think he brought a little of it home with him. 

    When we drove into town, all trees and power lines were down.  We barely made it down our street to the house.  My garden looks awful and we have a large amount of limbs down.  I found the worst damage upstairs in the house though.  The wind blew out the screens in my son's room.  Water, leaves, and twigs soaked his entire room.  I had to remove the rugs, bedding, clothing, and I am airing out the saxopohone.  I was cleaning until 2:00 am and have more to do... 

    SO I haven't gotten much accomplished on the blog.  Here is a link to my friend's blog-  here is her recipe for Chicken Runzas.  I remember her making runzas way back when and I have never made this variety, but it sounds great.  We like ham and cheese runzas thrown in for a larger variety.

    Head over and check out Steadfast Steps.  Here is the link:

    http://www.steadfaststeps.com/2011/06/chicken-broccoli-runzas.html

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    French Fry Casserole


    THIS is the boys' favorite dinner.  All the daycare children scream for it.  I remember delving into this hearty casserole with a big grin as a child.  Granted, it is a little odd when you look at the ingredients.  The taste will definitely outweigh any doubts you may harbor.  It is also a great meal to put in the freezer if you do freezer meal planning.

    I like to bake this baby on hectic days when I am in need of an easy dinner idea.  It beats tater tot casserole hands down.  I have had to tweak it a time or to when I was out of creamed corn or cream of mushroom soup and it still turned out edible. I tend to watch it bake and cook it for a wee bit longer than the recipe says-  we like the fries a little crispy on the bottom. 

    I am not sure which Aunt this recipe hailed from (Julie or Kris)-  I remember them both serving it.  So, I am going to give credit to both of them.  They can fight over the rights at Thanksgiving!
    Drum roll please....

    French Fry Casserole
    • 1 1/2 pounds hamburger
    • 1 medium onion-  diced
    • 1 bag frozen french fries-  we use crinkle cut
    • 1 can cream corn
    • 1 can kernel corn  (I use frozen corn)
    • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

    Brown the hamburger and onion until done.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add the soup and corns to the meat mixture.  Stir and heat through.  Set aside.

    Grease a 9x13 pan. 

    Pour the bag of french fries in the bottom of the pan.  Spread out and gently salt.

    Take the meat and corn mixture-  pour it over the french fry bottom.  Spread the mix evenly across the frozen fries.

    Cover the casserole loosely and bake for about 30 minutes.  Remove the cover and bake for another 15- 20 minutes.  You may want to bake it longer if you want the fries a little crispy. 

    Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

    We like to serve this casserole with salad and warm biscuits.  Writing this post is making me hungry...

    Remember to register for the Nebraska Product Giveaway-  It's simple and here's the link:
    http://www.plaingraces.com/2011/04/nebraska-product-giveaway.html

    What's your family's favorite dish?

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    High Adventure OR High Fashion?

    Remember to enter the Nebraska Product Giveaway!  Register here:  http://www.plaingraces.com/2011/04/nebraska-product-giveaway.html

    


    My oldest son has officially launched on his bicycling trip to the Black Hills in South Dakota.  This is his first High Adventure trip and I have been losing sleep worrying at night.  I am thankful he gets this opportunity, but relieved he won't be whitewater rafting this excursion.  My struggle with cutting the apron strings is an entirely different post. 

    This post will be about the fashion code for Scout uniforms and mountain trekking that I was not aware of.  At least, not the official code...

    I envisioned that as a mother of three boys I would NOT have to deal with clothing drama.  I am learning that perception was uninformed and misguided.  Apparently, boys do care about clothes. 

    I was schooled this weekend as we packed for High Adventure.

    We shopped a whole afternoon away, something we don't typically do.  I scrounged around all weekend to find the right mess kit, camping gear, and compression shorts.  I had a budget, limited stores, and a moody teenage boy to deal with.  All the stress came to a head when we were in the sporting good store at the nearest mall, 50 miles from our home.

    I had finally found Under Armour shorts.  I was ecstatic and so was my son.  Short lived was that.  They had a wide array of colors hanging on the rack.  Blues, whites, reds, maroons, and blacks swayed underneath the fluorescent lighting.  We found one pair of black shorts in his size. 

    I also found a stubborn streak hidden inside my son. 

    He refused to wear any color beside black.  Really?  He would be wearing regular clothing over them and I didn't see the problem.  We finally compromised with white shorts, but he was saved by a good deal on a knock-off brand at Wal-mart.  I immediately returned the dreaded white ones and saved my pocket book $40.  Crisis diverted. 

    I was relieved we had the basics packed and ready for the Black Hills. A new uniform shirt, compression shorts, rain poncho, and bike gloves were rolled and stuffed into his backpack. That was before I received the e-mail stating that the boys needed to have a red neckerchief (scarf) to wear with their Class A uniforms when they retired the flags at Mount Rushmore.

    What?

    I forgot to get the scarf!  Luckily, I am addicted to Project Runway and channeled my inner fashion designer.  I remembered a bolt of red polyester my husband's 96 year old grandmother gave me. 

    That was about the time we lost electricity due to a wicked storm front moving across our part of the country.  Now I was down to 7 hours before he left and no way to purchase a neckerchief.

    In the dark.

    I cut and snipped. 

    I only stubbed my toe twice.

    I managed to fashion a suitable alternative for the flag ceremony.  Tim Gunn would have been proud.

    Well, you can imagine the horror on my son's face when I showed him the creation.

    Luckily, the Scoutmaster had purchased a few extra scarves.  A true Scout is always prepared.  My oldest won't have to sport the homemade bandanna sewn by candlelight fashioned from the ancient polyester relic.

    Whew.
    Have you had a similar encounter with a son or daughter?  How did you handle it?

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Oh My Corn!


    Here is a wonderful picture for Wordless Wednesday. 

    This is to prove that you never know what I will find and bring home from an excursion to town in the state of Nebraska.  I found these adorable little containers at a friend's rummage sale.  Her mother, who has the same penchant for auctions that I do, snagged them at a forgotten sale.  Now, they sit in my buffet and will make an interesting summer centerpiece. 

    I wish I knew exactly what their purpose is.  I do know that one is a butter dish and sugar/salt bowl, but I can't fathom what the other three are.  One might be a big serving container or cookie jar.  The smaller ears are throwing me a curve.  Any ideas?

    At least, the cat doesn't seem to mind them...

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    Axl Rose and Davy Jones... Yes. I am going there!

    Do you ever ponder the quote "what's old is new again"?

    I see it all the time with my sons.  I see it in fashion, toys, games, and music.  I see this in movies and books on a regular basis.  Really-  how many times can you remake the same story?

    To prove my point, I stumbled across this Youtube video the other day and laughed really hard.  I haven't laughed that hard in ages and after birthing three children you can imagine my fears.  My hubby wasn't amused, but I shared it with him anyway.  Forced is a better term.

    Here's an ode to Davy Jones and the implication that Axl Rose stole all his moves.  I am guessing Axl's momma either listened to a lot of Monkee music or he watched the series from his playpen.  Can we say Davy may have influenced one of the biggest bands in the late 80's and 90's?

    Hindsight is always clearer, and I now understand my need to own every Guns'N Roses CD in the eighth grade.  Not too mention the fact that one of my favorite songs from that year is also a remake of a Beatles song...

    According to many wise people apparently laughter is the best medicine.  Open wide and take your daily dose... 




    What do you think?  What makes you laugh?

    I'm Laughing...

    Still laughing...

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Jamming with Strawberries


    Today we received a wonderful blessing from our neighbors up the road.  They are two sisters who had a plethora of strawberries to share.  We walked down and picked buckets upon buckets of the sweet red morsels.  The kids and I sat down to munch and hull the berries. 


    I ended up whipping up some of my hubby's favorite jam-  strawberry!  I put up 11 pints and have one resting in the fridge.  I also plan on slicing and freezing some for this winter and tomorrow-  we will feast on strawberry pie.  Mmmmmmm

    So, this post isn't grand or miraculous, but I wish you could smell the sweet scent of warm jam bubbling on the stove. 

    It's the little things in life that bubble over and make my day!

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Don't Jerk my Beef!


    My oldest son is back from Scout camp, but now we are preparing him to leave on his High Adventure bike trip in the Black Hills.  He's been asking to make his beef jerky since I picked him up late Friday night.  So after a loooonnnggg afternoon of shopping for Under Armor compression shorts and biking gloves, I stopped by the grocery store and let him pick up some roasts. 

    He choose all his spices and sauces-  I pray that I have taught him well. 

    I am sharing his recipe and I am looking for a good "jerk" recipe.  I want to try a Jamaican jerk beef recipe.  We'll see how that goes, but for now, we have Connor's strips of meat filling the house with a wonderful aroma.  It smells amazing and I can't wait to nibble a piece!

    I figured this would be a great post for Father's Day.  My son is also making up a batch for his Dad to give as a gift.  My husband will definitely enjoy the treat!

    Here is what we did:

    1. We choose a 2 pound boneless beef roast that  had a small amount of fat.  You will want to trim your roast of all fat and "tough" parts.
    2. We froze the roast for about 3 hours, or until it was firm.  Semi-freezing the meat makes it easier to slice into thin pieces. 
    3. I thinly sliced the beef across the grain.  I cut at an angle and made uniform slices.  Some pieces are shorter than the others, but those are good to nibble on!
    4. My son whipped up a simple marinade and we added the sliced meat.  We covered and refrigerated overnight.
    5. We used the dehydrator at the highest setting for several hours.  You could probably do this in a low oven.
    6. When it was done, I used towels to absorb the extra grease from the jerky strips. 
    7. Then we dug in-  I hope we have enough left for his camping expedition!  The boys can't keep their fingers away from it...

      Here is his recipe
      • 13 Tablespoons Soy Sauce 
      • 13 Tablespoons Teriyaki Sauce
      • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
      • 1 large Tablespoon Black Pepper
      • 2 large Tablespoons Minced Garlic
      • 1 teaspoon Minced Onion
      • 1 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoned Salt

        I just want to remind everyone that a 13 year old boy made this recipe-  but it tastes really good!

        Friday, June 17, 2011

        Chocolate Chip Cookie Dip


        I am still attempting to use up cream cheese I snagged at a great price over Easter.  I had one last block of cheese laughing and taunting at me from the fridge.  I wanted an easy snack that didn't require turning on the oven.  Hopefully, the heat will dry up some of this flooding along the Missouri River and not stir up another storm.

        Here's a recipe that could easily be adapted for a cheese ball, but I am going to attempt to make trifles using this as the filling.  I have also toyed with the idea of freezing it into small balls and using it in ice cream-  do you think it might pass for "cookie dough"?

        I serve this treat with graham crackers and the kids lick all the dip before they eat the crackers.  It must have won their approval.   I get 8 tongues up from the table!

        Chocolate Chip Cookie Dip
        1 8 oz. package cream cheese
        1/2 cup butter
        1/4 tsp. vanilla
        2 T. brown sugar
        3/4 cup powdered sugar
        3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
        3/4 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)

        Mix softened cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until creamy.  Slowly add sugars until blended.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Refrigerate immediately and serve with vanilla wafers and graham crackers.

        Saturday Stalk Blog Hop



        One thing I love about the blog world, is the ability to gain access and ideas from wonderful people across the US and occasionally from around the world.  This weekend I am taking part in a blog hop.

        You are more than welcome to follow the list and discover some really great parenting concepts, ideas, crafts, money saving tips, and much more!  The great thing about blogs is that you never know what you might come across...

        Here is the link:
        http://www.justmarriedwithcoupons.com/2011/06/saturday-stalk.html

        Check it out!

        Thursday, June 16, 2011

        Black Bottom Cupcakes


        We've had a cool spell so I have been baking and whipping up meals for the freezer.  My oldest boy is off at Scout camp and I thought I would surprise him with some goodies.  No one is complaining. 

        They love helping in the kitchen and taste testing.

        These little cupcakes are a favorite among my boys.  I found the recipe in an old cookbook that my neighbor gave me.  I like the fact that I can make a lot in one batch.  I don't frost these chocolate guys, because the filling nestled inside is sweet.  I had a few blocks of cream cheese that needed to be used before they expired and I thought I would indulge the children's sweet tooth.

        Black Bottom Cupcakes
        3 c. flour
        2 c. sugar
        1/2 c. cocoa
        2 tsp. soda
        1 tsp. salt
        2 c. water
        2/3 c. oil
        2 T. vinegar
        2 tsp. vanilla

        Filling:
        1 8 oz. cream cheese
        1 egg
        1/3 c. sugar
        1/8 tsp. salt
        6 oz. chocolate chips

        Mix the filling ingredients in a small bowl.  I soften the cream cheese before I combine them.


        Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, and salt.  Add the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. 

        Line the muffin tin with cupcake liners.  Fill the cups 1/3 - 1/2 full. 

        Add a dollop of cream cheese filling, approximately 1 teaspoon. 

        Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  I am able to get between 24 and 36 cupcakes.

        Wednesday, June 15, 2011

        Wordless Wednesday- Strawberry Pizzelles



        This wordless post can stand alone.  We made pizzelle bowls for snack, added frozen yogurt, and fresh strawberries...   We were all wordless for a bit...

        Tuesday, June 14, 2011

        Operation: Deep Freeze- Homespun Beer Butt Style Chicken


        I have started OPERATION: DEEP FREEZE at 0700 hours this morning.  A drastic realization collided into my thoughts as I gazed at my calendar. 

        I have 10 large chickens ordered and they should be here near the end of June.  That's a lot of chicken! 

        I couldn't pass up local farm raised chickens, so I ordered enough to last a few months.  I didn't consider the logical fact that my deep freeze is crammed full.  So today we embark on the task of cleaning out the deep freeze-  I passed on the camouflage make-up, but I rolled up my sleeves and dug to the bottom of our deep freeze.   If I make one item from the freezer a day, I should make enough room to keep my hens on ice.

        My maneuver unearthed a forgotten chicken. 

        Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

        On the menu today is roasted chicken.  I might whip up some potatoes, harvest some lettuce from the garden, and thaw the last bag of frozen sweet corn.  That's not a shabby dinner and I am making a bit of headway on our goal.

        I plan on roasting my chicken, "beer butt style".  This chick will be virgin, because I don't have beer in the house and I am not going to hit the bar or gas station at 7:15 in the morning.  I have used beer in the past, but lately I am sticking with my reliable homespun method.

        I improvise by using an old glass mason jar. 

        Here's what I do:

        First, I brine my chicken in a salt water bath for several hours.  I love brining poultry-  it enhances the flavor and moisture.   While my girl is soaking, I lower the shelves in my oven.  I need enough space for the chicken to stand in the oven.

        I fill the jar half-way with water, broth, or apple juice.  It depends on the day and what is handy.  I add onion slices, apple slices, crushed garlic, sage, basil, and other herbs I have in the garden.  I place the jar in a cake pan.

        I violate the hen and gently stretch the large cavity.  I slide the chicken on top of the jar and make sure she is able to stand upright on the jar. 

        Next, I slightly loosen the skin away from the meat.  I push sage, basil, onions, and garlic inside the skin so it sits directly on the meat. 

        I generously rub salt, pepper, and paprika on the outside skin.

        Voila!  Our girl is ready for a few hours in a 375 degree oven.  I suppose I should have cleaned my oven for her visit, but I am not the hostess with the mostess...


        I usually let the chicken roast for 1 1/2 hours or more and then I pull her carefully off the jar.  I let her rest for a few minutes before I attempt this.  It may take a little work, but  she should slide off eventually. 


        Do you have any tips for roasting chicken?

        Monday, June 13, 2011

        Meatless Monday- Spaghetti Bake


        A lot of you know that I am a huge fan of meatless meals.  They are typically economical and offer a different protein source from the boring hamburger or ground turkey staple.  This week I am indulging my love for pasta with a simple dinner.  My mother found this recipe a few years ago when she attended a librarian convention and she was nice enough to share.

        I decided to use my Kraft Italian Five Cheese with a touch of Philadelphia Cream Cheese for the topping.  I didn't notice a lot of difference from plain shredded cheese, but it did melt nice on the top.  I am guessing that the cream cheese already in the recipe may have been to blame.  I have a plan to try the same type of cheese soon on pizza.


        Spaghetti Bake

        14 oz. cooked spaghetti, drained
        2 Tablespoon butter
        2 eggs beaten
        8 oz. sliced cream cheese
        Spaghetti sauce, 1 large jar
        2 cups grated mozzarella cheese


        Toss cooked spaghetti with butter and eggs.  Pour into a greased 9x13 pan. 
        Slice the cream cheese and arrange it over the spaghetti. 

        Pour the jar of sauce as the next layer. 

        Top with 2 cups of grated mozzarella. 

        Bake covered at 350 for about 20 minutes, remove cover and let bake an additional 10-15 minutes. 

        I like to serve this with a fresh lettuce salad coated with a simple vinaigrette, warm crusty garlic bread, and grilled zucchini. 

        Save your jar and try your hand at propagating roses!