Monday, December 31, 2012

My Crappy Calendar for 2013

You know those big wall calendars?  Well, I don't  hang mine but I use it for everything.  My husbands work schedule, kids' volunteer schedule, appointments, outings, everything.  I usually end up get one earlier in the year when they are  expensive. I hate spending like $16.99 for a stupid calendar.  My kids want me to get the cool ones with Angry Birds or Star Wars or something like that.  Too expensive. I will get the free ones from Betty Crocker or something but I like these because they are stiffer and easier for me to use at my desk. 
Well, this year I got mine later than usual.  I had post it notes all over my desk with information about January.  So it was time to get a calendar.  We went to Menards and the had some calendars for $4.99.  Cheap enough for me. I was sold.

I had the choice of horses, landscapes and outhouses.  My daughter, the horse lover of the family got the horse calendar.  I'm not really into horses.  I think my last calendar was some sort of landscapes.  I don't look at the pictures so I don't really know. Or care. 
Outhouses.  Seriously?  Somebody made a calendar featuring outhouses?  Tee-hee. This was perfect.  Clearly I'm not the only one with a warped sense of humor and would totally not be embarrassed to have outhouse pictures at her desk every month.  I thought it was hilarious.  My family shook their head at me but I was totally getting the outhouses. 

I found some of the pictures hilariously interesting. 
Mays featured outhouse is brick and appears to be cemented into the ground. One of the doors is missing, revealing an extremely grungy looking toilet.  In the background appears to be a desert? At first I though it was water but it looks dry and flat. So glad that if someone is walking along the desert that there is some place to relieve themselves.  If they dare go inside.
Octobers outhouse is nestled in amongst some beautiful wildflowers near a lake. This would of course be the picnic spot I would pick.  Closest to the outhouse of course. 
Decembers outhouse is perched right in the middle of a forest.  I'm picturing wandering or lost travelers trying to find their way and finding relief at the outhouse they find in the middle of the forest.  My kids think that this looks like Shreks outhouse. 
When I first saw this calendar, I thought, "Who would take pictures of outhouses?"  Then I thought, "What's more strange?  Someone taking pictures of outhouses or the person taking pictures OF pictures of outhouses?"  Hmmm...

There was a joke floating around facebook around the holidays.  It showed a picture of Santa and his reindeer parked on top of an outhouse.  Santa was yelling at the reindeer saying, "I told you to go to the SCHMIDT house!!!"  

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sweet & Sour Chicken

I've found my favorite sweet and sour chicken!  I've tried several kinds with different sauces but this one wins.  Yea, it's kinda a pain to bread it, fry it and then bake it but it's totally worth it.
I made a double batch.  This makes a lot. I wanted leftovers. I also made a lot of sauce. I like sauce. I like to add it to my rice and broccoli. So feel free to halve the recipe below if you don't need this much food. 
I used splenda instead of sugar.  This sauce uses a lot of sugar. I like sweet sauces. We have it here in bulk and I've found that it tastes fine in dishes like this. You can use sugar, it's up to you. 
I also added pineapple to the recipe. Normally, I love pineapple in sweet and sour chicken so of course, I thought it could only make this better.  Wrong.  It wasn't bad but for some reason, it didn't add to it. I almost didn't like the sauce with the pineapple. Weird, huh.
I absolutely loved this sweet and sour chicken and I know I'll be making it again. 

Sweet & Sour Chicken
Adapted from Finding Joy in My Kitchen

3 lbs. chicken, cut into bite sized chunks
1 1/2 cups cornstarch
2 eggs + 1 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. olive oil

3 1/2 cups sugar (I used splenda)
1 1/2 cups ketchup
3 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp. minced garlic

2 red peppers
1 can (20 oz) pineapple chunks

If you're making as much as I did here, you'll want to use 2 pans to cook your chicken if you're able to. It will go much faster.  Heat 1 tbsp. per pan. 

Set up a bowl with the egg and water.  Set up another bowl with your cornstarch.  Dip the chicken into the egg, then the cornstarch.  Then drop it into the pan.  I made my daughter bread all the chicken first and then I cooked it.  Better her young fingers get messy than mine. 

As the chicken browns, put it into a 12 x 15 in. baking pan. If you aren't privileged enough to have one of these big pans, you can use 2 - 9 x 13 in. pans.  You're not cooking the chicken entirely, you're just trying to get a nice crust on it.

Combine the sugar (splenda), ketchup, vinegar, soy sauce and minced garlic into a big bowl.  I know this seems like a lot of sauce but you have a lot of chicken to coat plus you know you're going to want more sauce for the rice and veggies, right? 

When chicken is done browning, pour sauce over the chicken.  Stir and stick it into the oven for 1 hour at 350.  Stir like every 15 minutes.  After about 30 minutes, add your peppers and pineapple.  At this point you'll be so overcome by the amazing smell that you will want to taste a piece of chicken.  Go ahead, it's okay, I know it's amazing.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Asparaus Quiche with a Sweet Potato Crust

 I'm not a big asparagus fan.  Saute it in butter and serve it the right way and it's okay but I rarely, if ever, buy it. It's just not my vegetable of choice. So why did I jump when I saw this recipe? 

Well, the sweet potato crust sounded amazing.  The herbs go so well with the sweet potatoes and it really was a perfect quiche crust. 

 Quiche. Now there's a word. I've always thought that sounds really fancy. Something that rich, hoity toity people make or you would only get in a fancy hotel for room service breakfast. Seriously, that is what I've always thought of the word quiche.  Never did I think that I would be making quiche.

 Anyways, back to the asparagus. It's not really asparagus season so I bought frozen. (actually, I have no idea when it's in season, I just couldn't find any fresh at the store.)  I thought about subbing green beans or broccoli but I thought that I could be a big girl and try the asparagus. 

Well, it was delicious.  I loved it. Quiche. Asparagus Quiche. Me?  Can you believe it?

Asparagus Quiche with a Savory Sweet Potato Crust
Adapted from Life As a Plate

For the crust:
1 lb. cooked sweet potatoes
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

For the filling:
1 small onion, chopped
1 9oz. pkg frozen asparagus
1 1/2 tsp fresh garlic
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. butter
10 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup milk

For the crust, mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and then press into the bottom of a greased 8 x 8 in. pan.  Bake at 375 for 20 - 25 minutes until the center is firm. 

For the filling, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the onions, asparagus and garlic.  Cook for 5 - 10 minutes until onions are slightly transparent.  Let cool for 5 - 10 minutes while crust finishes cooking.

Beat eggs and milk until fluffy in a large bow.  Add in the asparagus mixture to the eggs, stir and then pour into pan on top of sweet potato crust.  Bake for about 30 - 35 minutes until cooked through.  Center will be firm and the edges slightly brown.  It might take a bit longer to cook so keep an eye on it.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Fruitcake Journey

The journey is complete!  The fruitcake journey. Remember almost 2 months ago when I started the Fruitcake Starter?  A bunch of fruit, sugar and brandy, sitting on my counter making a delicious tasting fruit starter.

I patiently let it sit on my counter.  I think the highlight of my day was stirring it. It really smelled good!!

The first fruit making the starter gets used for some other purpose.  It's the juice that you need from that first step. 
I tried to take Veronica's advice and make jam with that first fruit.  I needed instant pectin which I had never used.  I didn't read the box or really even think about it.  Instant pectin, how hard could it be? 
I threw the fruit, sugar, cinnamon and instant pectin together like she said and it didn't resemble jam at all.  AT ALL.  Then the few brain cells clicked together and I realized that I needed to cook the pectin first with water.  I realize now what an incredible idiot I was and quickly threw the whole glop away before anyone knew what did. 
Veronica, stop laughing. 

Ok, back to the fruitcake. After you get your starter liquid, it's time to soak the fruit that you will be using for the fruitcake.   Stirring this daily is harder because not only does it smell really, really good, but it tasted awesome! I couldn't help dipping in early every once in awhile to taste the fruity goodness!  I'm not really a patient person.
It was an exciting day when I finally could drain it and make the fruitcake!  Notice how I did remember to keep the liquid as I drained it?  That is the stuff to start your next fruitcake.  Start it, share it, keep it, freeze it, whatever. 

Veronica has 2 recipes for this fruitcake on her blog.  She has the cream cheese scratch version and the cake batter easy version.  She recommended halving each recipe and making both.  So I did. 
We got mixed opinions as to which was better.  The kids and my brother liked the cake batter cake better. It was sweeter than the scratch version and quite tasty.  My friends and I preferred the scratch version.  Veronica described it like it was more the kind of cake that you would like to eat with coffee in the morning.  That really is the best way to describe it.  They were both good but I enjoyed the scratch version better.  I ate way too much of it by the way. 

Last year I made a gluten free fruitcake that was delicious.  This years fruitcake is not gluten free but I do intend on trying to make a gluten free version next.  Fruitcake is NOT just for the holidays. How awesome would it be to have a fruitcake at your next summer picnic!   So I suggest you get the brandy out of the cupboard and get the starter going. 

Friendship Fruit Cake
Recipe from Veronica's Cornucopia
This fruit cake takes a month to make, so plan ahead! The starter must be used or frozen within three days of receiving. Keep it frozen until you’re ready to use it.

Day 1
In a large glass bowl, combine:

  • 1 pint friendship fruit starter
  • 1 (16 oz) can sliced peaches with juice, each slice cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 ½ cups granulated sugar
Stir every day for ten days. When not stirring mixture, keep it covered with a splatter guard, paper towel, foil, or a loose lid. Let sit at room temperature. Do not refrigerate it or cover it airtight. A pan of water underneath the jar or bowl will keep the ants out, but I had no problem with bugs since I made mine in the winter.

Day 10

  • 1 (16 oz) can chunk pineapple with juice, each chunk cut in half
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
Stir every day for ten days.

Day 20

  • 2 (10 oz) jars maraschino cherries, drained, and each cherry cut in half
  • 2 ½ cups granulated sugar
Stir every day for the final ten days.

Day 30
Drain fruit and reserve it and the liquid. Pour the liquid into three glass pint jars. Save one for yourself for your next fruit cake, and give two to friends, along with a copy of this recipe. Cake must be started within 3 days after receiving the starter or you should freeze the starter to use at a later date. Do not use plastic or metal containers to store liquid.

**If you're like me and don't have glass jars laying around, use small applesauce jars.  They worked perfectly.  Not the big ones that you usually get but they have this smaller size which is too small if you eat a lot of applesauce but perfect if you just want to jar.  :-)

~To make the cake~
Easy version
2 (18.25 oz) yellow or butter recipe golden cake mixes
2 (3.5 oz) boxes instant vanilla pudding mix
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
8 eggs
2 cups raisins (golden or regular, or a combination)
2 cups chopped nuts
2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
Reserved fruit

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour two 12-cup Bundt pans or four large loaf pans. In a very large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mix, oil and eggs. Stir in the raisins, nuts and coconut, and the reserved fruit from the starter. Stir until all ingredients are well combined. The batter will be stiff. Spread batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 60-75 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Sit on wire racks and wait ten minutes before turning them out onto the racks to cool completely. I spray my cakes thoroughly with water while cooling to help make them more moist—the water absorbs and does not change the flavor. Store in an airtight container or wrap in plastic wrap. Serve at room temperature.

Cream Cheese Version
5 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup vegetable oil
8 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups golden raisins
2 cups chopped nuts
2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
Reserved fruit

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour two 12-cup Bundt pans or 4 large loaf pans; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a separate large bowl, cream together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar. Beat in the oil. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract until incorporated. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients; the batter will be thick. When barely any streaks remain, mix in the raisins, nuts and coconut, and the reserved fruit from the starter stirring well. Scrape batter into the prepared pans, smoothing the tops. Place the cakes in the oven and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

**I cut each of these recipes in half and made one bundt pan of each.  Be careful when you halve the recipe, it's easier if you write it out first.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ham, Bean & Vegetable Soup in the Slow Cooker

It's ham season! You know, it's the time of the year where every grocery store has super duper cheap hams.  Well, we stock up and end up eating a LOT of ham.  That isn't unusual as my family eats a lot of ham.  All year long.  It's pretty much a staple in our refrigerator.  So you can see why ham season excites me so much.
We all know about my love for beans so I was excited when I found this 15 bean soup mix.  I didn't even think to snap a picture while the beans were still inside. I did not use the ham flavor packet though, for some reason, it seemed kinda creepy.  Plus, I had plenty of ham flavor with my ham broth. 

I started out throwing 2 small ham hocks into the crockpot before bed. I let it soak all night and woke up to a delicious pot of ham broth and some super tender ham that fell right off the bone. 
The next morning I chopped it all up and saved the ham broth.  I put in about 2 quarts of the ham broths back in the crockpot and started the soup. 

I posted a ham and bean soup before that was mainly just ham and beans. Nothing wrong with that, it was good.  Very good actually.  This time, I wanted more veggies.  I wanted it to be thick and hearty.  So I added a bunch of veggies and it turned out fantastic.  Some of the small beans disappeared into the broth and the sweet potato basically disappeared as well. I loved this though because it made the broth super thick and it tasted amazing! 

There still were plenty of chunks and it was amazingly filling.  One bowl fills you right up.  I have many hams left in the freezer so there will be many soups to be made this winter.  I plan to make this one again and again.  I don't think I would change a thing.
What will you be doing with your leftover ham bones?   

Ham, Bean & Vegetable Soup in the Slow Cooker

Ham Hock (I had 2 small ones actually)

3 cups leftover ham
2 quarts of ham broth (I used a bit less than 2 quarts)
2 onions, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large potatoes, cubed
1 sweet potato, cubed
1 bag of dried beans - I used 15 bean mix
2 - 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes, with juice
Salt and lots of pepper, to taste

Enjoy your ham dinner.  While cleaning up after, take your leftover ham hock and throw it into your large slow cooker and fill with water.  Leave it in there overnight on low.  The next morning, strain the solids from the liquid.  KEEP THE HAM BROTH.  DO NOT DISCARD.  Pull any good meat off the ham bones and just toss the fat and the bones. 

Rinse your beans in a strainer and throw into the now empty crockpot. Add just shy of 2 quarts of ham broth. You can add more later if you want (or if there is room).  Turn crockpot on high and let beans cook a bit. 

Chop up all your onions, carrots, celery and garlic.  I cooked my veggies briefly on the stove but I don't think I needed to do that, I think they would have cooked just fine if I had just thrown them into the crockpot.  Add about 3 cups of leftover ham to the crockpot as well.

Wait a few hours before adding the potatoes or they just might turn to mush. Here is what I did. I had my beans and first veggies in the crockpot at about 10 am.  I left it on high until 1 and then added my potatoes.  I then turned it to low and cooked it until about 5 pm.  Everything was soft, mushy and delicious!!! 

**Keep your ham broth so you can use it in future meals. You can put some in rice. I made some baked beans and used some ham broth. You can also use it in replacement for chicken broth in casseroles for a different flavor. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Browned Butter Mashed Potatoes

Ok, this isn't going to be a post where you're going to look at the pictures and say, "Oh, that looks awesome, I gotta have it!"  Nope, the pictures are not going to speak for this recipe. 

Granted, there are about 100 ways I could have improved this picture. First, I could have NOT chose a white bowl.  Duh. I could have drizzled some hot browned butter over the top.  Or I could have shown it with the rest of my meal, it would have looked better with my meatloaf and green beans.  Nope. I didn't do any of those. 

In the end, I just plopped them into a bowl, snapped the camera and proceeded to eat these wonderful, tasty potatoes in record time. 

Browned butter, people!  That's all I really need to say, right?

Browned Butter Mashed Potatoes
Adapted from Taste and Tell
3/4 cup butter
4 lbs. yellow Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 tablespoon salt, divided
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup milk
freshly ground black pepper
Place the butter in a heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter begins to turn golden brown, about 6-8 minutes. Remove immediately from the heat and pour butter into a bowl.
Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Add 2 teaspoons of the salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the potatoes are tender, drain and return to the pot.
Mash the potatoes with a potato masher until you reach your desired consistency. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the browned butter, and add the remaining to the potatoes, along with the buttermilk, milk and remaining salt. Season with pepper, and more salt if needed.
Transfer potatoes to a serving dish and drizzle with the reserved brown butter.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Peppermint Candy Cane Ice Cream

It's cold outside, I know.  But ice cream still rocks!  So I say embrace the cold and make some candy cane ice cream! Oh - and add some chocolate chips; they make the ice cream even prettier. 
     We've made this ice cream 3 times this year. It is the most requested ice cream from my kids. No matter what time of year it is. Although, I'm not sure what they love most - eating the ice cream or smashing the candy canes!

Peppermint Candy Cane Ice Cream Recipe

3/4 cup sugar
2 cups half and half
8 oz. heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. peppermint extract
12 - 15 mini candy canes, crushed (a baggie and a hammer on the driveway works well)
Chocolate Chips (optional)

Combine everything together and stir well to dissolve the sugar.  Pour into ice cream maker and churn as directed.  We ate half of it right out of the ice cream maker but it's much firmer if you freeze for several hours before serving.

We tried it a second time by adding the candy canes during the last 5 minutes to see if it wouldn't turn pink. Well, it turned pink anyways. Still good.  :-)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Almond Fudge Cookies

Veronica sent me some of these cookies and I couldn't wait to make them. They are absolutely my favorite cookie.  Ever.  Not only are they gluten free but they taste so incredibly good!

They are super fudgy and chocolaty.  You know those days when you're craving chocolate, crying at Folgers commercials and just crabby beyond belief?  These cookies will help.  Chocolate always helps.  

I've been making a lot of cookies lately.  I've been involved in a couple of cookie swaps and have just had a blast making cookies for people.  I made these and sent a bunch to people and they all love them.  Whether you're gluten free or not, they are fantastic!

We put powdered sugar on some of them.  My kids wanted sprinkles. They want sprinkles on everything.  We'll put sprinkles on the next batch. :-)

Almond Fudge Cookies
Recipe from Veronica's Cornucopia

 1 cup raw, unsalted almonds
½ lb. semisweet chocolate
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs
½ cup sugar, plus more for rolling
¼ tsp. salt
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Lay almonds on a microwave-safe plate and toast in microwave in 30-second intervals on high, stirring in between, 3-5 times until nuts are fragrant. Cool to room temperature. In a food processor, grind nuts until very fine, almost like flour. Measure out 1 cup and set aside; discard or save extra, if any, for another use.
Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler; remove from heat and set aside. Beat the eggs with an electric mixer on highest speed, gradually adding the sugar and salt. Continue beating until ribbons form; about 10 minutes. Fold in the chocolate-butter mixture. Gently add the ground almonds. Cover and refrigerate overnight or 8 hours.
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a cookie scoop to form the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in granulated sugar, place on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart and immediately place in the oven. Bake until the center of the cookies are no longer wet, 10-14 minutes. Allow to cool five minutes on sheet before removing to rack. Dust cooled cookies with powdered sugar or more granulated sugar if desired.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Stuffed Potatoes

 My family asks for stuffed potatoes a lot.  We make them so much, the kids can basically make their own. I like it when they can do that.  Less work for me to do.  My eldest sons favorite is ham, cheese and broccoli.  We always have those ingredients and for us, that is the basic potato.  I'll add onion and garlic to mine of course but not the eldest son, he sticks to the basic. 

Above you'll see our pizza potato.  This time we made a vegetarian version, just because we didn't have any pepperoni or meat. We just scooped out the potato and added black beans, pizza sauce, onion and red pepper.  Then we shoved it back into the potato skin and topped it with more pizza sauce, some garlic powder and cheese.  This is ooey gooey GOOD!

Sometimes I will make a leftover stuffed potato.  That is - whatever-is-in-the-refrigerator-that-would-be-good-on-a-potato. Sometimes the ingredients can get interesting.  Above you'll see my most recent leftover stuffed potato.  This one has some leftover pork carnitas, a bacon ranch dipping sauce from Little Ceasars pizza place and the few squirts left in the BBQ sauce bottle.  It turned out really, really good. I just scooped out the potato and mixed in the rest until it looked good. 

 Baby always has his own potato. His way. (incidentally, Baby is 10 so he really isn't a baby).  He likes his potato with the potato scooped out and JUST ham and cheese layered in his potato skin.  He doesn't want the potato back in the skin, JUST the ham and cheese.  Whatever, as long as he eats it, I'm good. 

See, you can make a stuffed potato any way you want.  Check out my recipe for a Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Potato. 

Stuffed Potatoes

Wash potatoes.  Microwave or stick in the oven until soft.  Slice potatoes in half, the long way and wait until they are cool enough to handle. Or if you're impatient like me, just grab with a paper towel and scoop the inside potato flesh into a bowl.  Don't take too much out or they will fall apart on you.

Throw the potato skins into the oven at like 375 to crisp up just a bit. Just 6 - 8 minutes is fine.

Add whatever to the inside of the potato mixture. I usually add a bit of butter, salt and pepper right away and then whatever flavors you'd like.

Broccoli Ham & Cheese Potato

Cut broccoli and ham into small chunks and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add to potato mixture. Add some cheese and mix. Scoop into potato shell and top with more cheese.  Stick into the oven for about 5 - 7 minutes until melted. (feel free to add onion, garlic or whatever seasonings you'd like)

Pizza Potato

Saute onion and pepper for a few minutes to soften.  Put some pizza sauce, pepperoni (or beans for vegetarian) and onions and peppers into the potato and mix.  Scoop back into the potato shell, top with more pizza sauce and cheese.  Stick into the oven for about 5 - 7 minutes until hot and melted.  You can add mushrooms, sausage, ham or whatever you like on a pizza into the mix as well.  

Shredded BBQ Pork Potato

Heat leftover shredded pork, chicken or beef and mix with a bit of BBQ sauce.  Mix in with the potato and stir.  Scoop into the potato shell.  Stick into the oven for about 5 - 7 minutes until hot.  I also like to add a bit of ranch dressing to the BBQ sauce. It's your potato. Do whatever tastes good! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Slow Cooker Refried Beans

I've made refried beans before in the crockpot but this was the first time I've actually followed a recipe.  Yes, sometimes I will conform to society and actually follow a plan and not just throw random ingredients into a crockpot just to see what will come out. 

I existed on bean and cheese burritos the week that I made these.  The recipe called for 3 cups of dried pinto beans. Well, my bag had about 5 cups in it.  So I threw in the whole bag.  So much for following that recipe, huh.  I'm such an anarchist.

I still managed to follow the recipe, I just added as needed to account for the 5 cups rather than 3.  It worked, the earth is still spinning and the universe is fine.  Relax. 

So anyways, I have this really, really big crockpot. You know, like the biggest one in existence, I don't remember the size. It's big.  Well, when these puppies were done cooking, I had a WHOLE crockpot of beans. Yup, filled that crock right up.  That's a whole lot of beans.  You know what I mean? 

Mashing the beans was fun. :-)  See my pretty pink mixing bowls. They go so well with my green kitchen. 

I thought about freezing some. I thought about giving some away.  But in the end - I just ate them.  Yup, stuck them in the refrigerator and basically at beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next week.  You might be laughing right now, maybe even a bit horrified; but believe me, it was okay. I didn't mind.  At all. I love beans.  I mean, I really LOVE BEANS. 

For breakfast I mixed the beans with salsa and fried up a bean patty on the stove.  Then fried an egg and plopped it right on the beans.  Drizzled it with a bit of Franks buffalo sauce, add a dollop of sour cream and voila, an awesome hearty breakfast. 

For lunch?  You guess it.  Bean and cheese burritos.  Sometimes I'd add avocado or tomatoes but for the most part, just beans, cheese and corn tortillas. 

For dinner, I'd put refried beans on a salad for a taco salad. Yes, I did that.  No meat necesary.  Beans rock people.  Or I'd make a mini 7 layer taco dip and eat it with my GF crackers or tortilla chips. 

This went on for a week people.  No joke.  Granted my family ate many of the beans too but I'm quite sure that I managed to eat more than anyone.  And no, I did NOT get sick of them!  I actually was a little sad to see them go.  I think I need to go buy another bag of beans. :-)

Do you have any more ideas for beans? 

Slow Cooker Refried Beans
Adapted from Veronica's Cornucopia

3 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed
1 medium onion, diced
2 tbsp. garlic, minced
1 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. ground cumin, divided
9 cups of water
Salsa (optional)

Put all the ingredients in a slow cooker, using only 1 tsp. of the cumin.  Cook on high for about 8 hours.  After they are done, drain all the liquid out into a bowl.  Set the liquid aside, don't throw it away.

Mash beans and add reserved liquid, a bit at a time, to desired consistency.  They will thicken over time so add more liquid than you think you need, making them almost a little runny.  Stir in the remaining teaspoon of cumin and serve. 

I like to add some salsa to my beans to spice them up a bit.  It's completely up to you though.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Menu Plan Monday ~ December 10 - December 16, 2012

I'm finally planning to make soup!  I've been meaning to for months now but for some reason, I just don't.  Well, I have a ham hock for my bean and ham soup. I always make that different so I have no recipe for it. My husband came home from Costco and had a sample of chicken tortilla soup so he's been begging for that.  My chicken tortilla soup is way better than the one at Costco.  I love using my crockpot on Sundays.  I love coming home from meeting to food cooking in the slow cooker. I just haven't decided what it will be yet! 
I've tried chicken lettuce wraps before and I am trying a new recipe.  I know already that I won't follow this recipe exactly but it's close to what I want. 


Monday - Chicken Lettuce Wraps 

Tuesday - Yam Pancakes, ham, fruit

Wednesday - Spaghetti w/ meat sauce, green beans, Bean & Ham soup (no pasta for me!)

Thursday - Cajun Chicken Salad wraps

Friday - Leftovers

Saturday - Chicken Tortilla Soup

Sunday - Something in the crockpot

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don't make round cookies. I don't have one of those handy dandy cookie scoops. Though, just last night, I almost bought one at a Pampered Chef party.  But then I thought, why spend $22 on a cookie scoop when a regular spoon and you're fingers work just fine. Am I right? 
Yes, nice perfectly shaped round cookies are pretty.  Look at these cookies.  You'd think I went out of my way to make them as oblong and unround as possible.  I didn't try, I just have that natural ability.  :-)
Well, the cookies taste good.  Really, really, really good.  I guarantee my mouth was not affected by the fact that they weren't perfectly round.  My stomach accepted them just as lovingly as a prettier cookie. 
If there is anyone from Pampered Chef out there who cares enough about round cookies and would like to send me a small cookie scoop, send me an email and I'd be happy to compare perfectly pretty round chocolate chip cookies vs. these oblong, misshapen misfits.  Meanwhile, I'll still use my handy dandy teaspoon and make cookies my way.  :-)
Do you use a cookie scoop or just plop dough on a tray??

Chocolate Chip Cookies

 2 eggs
2/3 cup butter flavored Crisco
2/3 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

 1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
3 ½ cups flour

 16 oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

 Mix the first set of ingredients in one bowl.

 Then mix the second set of ingredients into the mixture and add chocolate chips.

Spoon onto greased or parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 13 minutes.