Thursday, December 13, 2007

Chocolate Peppermint Ice Cream Cake

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is that Dryers again sells its pink peppermint ice cream. All I need is a gallon of that, a jar of hot fudge sauce, a box of Lactaid and I'm good for the whole month of December.

I saw a yummy looking ice cream cake in December's Cooking Light Magazine, but I didn't want to go to the trouble of making the cake from scratch. So I copied their idea, but made my own non-low-fat ice cream cake. Fabulous! (I had a hard time sharing with my 6 year old - I just didn't think he would appreciate it sufficiently.)

Chocolate Peppermint Ice Cream Cake

1 box of your favorite chocolate cake mix
1 jar hot fudge sauce
3 1/2 cups Dryers Peppermint Ice Cream -softened
4 cups Cool Whip
1/8 tsp peppermint extract
1 candy cane, crushed

Prepare chocolate cake according to directions on box. Use 8-inch round pan. Bake & cool.

When cakes are cool, slice off top to flatten cake a bit. Make sure you cut it fairly level. (Be sure to eat the parts you cut off.) Wrap each cake in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 2 hours.

While cakes are freezing, line an 8-inch cake pan with plastic wrap. Spread softened ice cream into pan, making sure it's fairly level. Cover and freeze until firm (2-4 hours).

In a bowl, combine Cool Whip with peppermint extract. Stir just until combined. Place in fridge.

Time to assemble cake! Remove frozen cakes from freezer, but leave ice cream layer in freezer until it's needed. Microwave hot fudge just until it's spreadable. If it's too hot it will melt ice cream.

Place a dollop of hot fudge on the middle of your cake plate (keeps the cake from sliding as you assemble. Unwrap one cake layer and place (bottom side up) on plate

Cover with a layer of hot fudge - almost to the edge of the cake.

Remove ice cream layer from freezer and unwrap. Place on top of cake and fudge. Drizzle a layer of hot fudge on top of ice cream until it is mostly covered. (more than I did in this picture)

Top with final cake layer, bottom side up. Spread peppermint Cool Whip over top and sides of cake, covering as best you can. Sprinkle top with crushed candy cane.

Freeze until ready to serve. When ready to serve, remove cake from freezer and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes. Run your knife under hot water for 30 seconds to heat it up. Shake off excess water and slice cake - like buttah! As a serving option, you can drizzle each slice with bit more hot fudge - makes a nice presentation.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ham & Cheese Strata

I had some leftover ham that I needed to use up & a loaf of bread that needed to be eaten - so tonight for dinner we are having Ham & Cheese Strata. This is based on a recipe from the Lion House Classics cookbook. It has a breakfast-casserole feel to it, so I usually serve this with fresh fruit.

Ham & Cheese Strata
4-6 servings

8 slices (I used 9) white bread, crusts removed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 to 1 cup diced, cooked ham
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp diced onion
dash pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dry mustard

Spray the bottom of an 8x8 pan with Pam. Arrange 4 slices of bread in the bottom of dish. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup of cheese and all of the diced ham. Cover with another 4 slices of bread (I used the last slice of bread to fill in the cracks and spaces). In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, onion and spices. Pour over bread, making sure to evenly coat all top slices. Cover and let sit for 1 hour (I did 45 minutes and it was fine). Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour, until lightly browned and puffy. Let it stand for a few minutes & serve.

Week 36 Menu

Monday - eat out
Tuesday - Ham & Cheese Strata
Wednesday - Robyn's Roast
Thursday - Christmas party
Friday - Chicken Taco Pie
Saturday - eat out
Sunday - turkey + the works (yes, Thanksgiving all over again!)

Friday, December 7, 2007

Lessons I've learned, part 1

This is what I learned this week - NEVER send a pregnant woman into Costco unsupervised. I know, it sounds like common sense to the rest of you, right? Well all I wanted was a Costco hot dog for lunch one day. (Please don't lecture me on the nitrates and preservatives - it was DELICIOUS, ok?) I walked in, purchased and ate my hot dog. Then I thought maybe there were a few things that we needed, so I grabbed a cart and walked around for a bit.

I walked out an hour later with a cart full of things we clearly DON'T need, but at the time I thought were important. Here's the list: a dozen huge muffins (that are each the size of a small planet), 30 frozen bean burritos, a box of grapefruit cups (why did I think that grapefruit in a cup would be yummy?) and the crown jewel of my cart? A tub of cookie dough, with enough dough to make 80 cookies. And what do you think I did when I got home from the store? Yes, I tore the seal off of that tub and dug in with my spoon.

My husband took my Costco card away from me when he got home that night.

**note: This cookie dough makes dang-good cookies, and you can keep it in the fridge or freezer. Also, Gav really didn't take my Costco card, that was a joke.

The Best Tasting Ugly Soup

I have a soup recipe that I make about once a year, maybe twice. It is uuuuuugly, but it is so delicious. Every time I make it, my husband comes home, looks in the pot, wrinkles his nose and says, "what IS that?" Then he tastes it and says, "wow this is great! Why don't you make it more often?"

It's really unlike anything I've tasted before, soup-wise. It's called "Sweet & Sour Cabbage Soup" and it's fairly simple. If you're brave enough to try making it, I recommend you serve it with a loaf of warm crusty bread.

Sweet & Sour Cabbage Soup

1 Qt chicken broth (or 2 cans)
1 can chicken breast chunks
1/2 head of green cabbage, chopped
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1-2 carrots, diced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup ketchup
1/8 cup brown sugar, packed
a little less than 1/4 cup lemon juice (freshly squeezed is preferable)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat chicken broth in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add tomato paste, ketchup, brown sugar and lemon juice. Stir to combine. Add all remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer gently for 1 hour. Taste and add salt and pepper. (makes 4-5 servings)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Week 35 Menu

Monday - California Vegetarian Chili
Tuesday - Sweet & Sour Soup
Wednesday - pizza
Thursday - BBQ Chicken (oven)
Friday - pancakes & scrambled eggs
Saturday - eat out
Sunday - Ham & twice-baked potatoes

Monday, November 12, 2007

Hang in There!

Hello all of you faithful Dinner's On Me readers. Sorry about my absence....I promise more posts are coming! Check back soon!

As a treat, and to give you hope that Dinner's On Me isn't's a picture of an old recipe that's a favorite of mine. It's really one of the best cookie recipes I own. I copied this from my friend in about the 4th or 5th grade. Notice my spelling of "sugar" and "flour" and how I dotted my I's.
Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp coconut flavoring
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour (sifted, optional)
2 cups coconut
2 cups oats

In a large bowl, combine shortening, sugars, eggs and coconut flavoring. In a separate bowl, sift salt, soda, flour and baking powder together. Add to wet ingredients. Mix in coconut and oats, stir to combine. Bake on greased cookie sheet (or silpat) at 350 degrees for 11-12 minutes.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Week 34 Menu

Monday - Mac-a-Tacos
Tuesday - Mom's Potato Soup
Wednesday - eat out
Thursday - Vegetable Frittata
Friday - eat out
Saturday - Feta Penne
Sunday - Gingerbread Pancakes

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Basil My Way

Sad, sad day. I'm no longer participating in our neighborhood's produce co-op. So this is now my source of basil. Granted, it's not bad - at least I don't have to use the dried stuff that's been on the grocery store shelf for years. I sure wish I had a spot in my non-existent garden for some home grown basil. Maybe next year. For now, this is my basil. Strangely enough, it's packaged with its roots. If you've never tried fresh basil, make yourself a pizza and sprinkle some on top. Ah, basil!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

It's that time of year when "pumpkin" becomes an ingredient and not just a term of endearment.

This is a great fall recipe that will make your kitchen smell wonderful! Plus it makes two loaves - one for you, and one for sharing! My extra loaf is going to the generous soul who let me borrow her ground ginger (two stores were sold out - can you believe it?). Thanks, Valerie!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/3 cup water
1/2 can (15-oz) canned pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 cups chocolate chips
1 Tbsp flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 loaf pans with pam.

In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, oil and eggs. Beat until smooth. Add water and beat until well blended. Stir in pumpkin, ginger, allspice, and cinnamon.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, and baking powder. Whisk these dry ingredients for 20 seconds or so (to combine, and pseudo-sift). Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and blend just until all ingredients are mixed.

In a small bowl, or ziplock, coat chocolate chips with 1 Tbsp flour (so the choc chips don't sink to the bottom of the loaf). Add to batter and stir once or twice to incorporate chocolate chips.

Divide batter between prepared pans.

Bake in oven for 45-50 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Cool for 20 minutes, then turn out on rack and cool completely.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Zuppa Toscana + breadsticks = Olive Garden love

Tonight for dinner we tried a cloned recipe from the Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana. Mr. Dinner's on Me (our resident expert) proclaimed it so near the real thing, that we no longer have a reason to eat at the Olive Garden.

I served the Zuppa Toscana with some yummy breadsticks that we discovered in San Diego. I was delighted to see that our grocery store here carried them as well!

You can find them in the freezer section, with other garlic breads. They're great after just a few minutes in a toaster oven. You can also use your regular oven, if that's all you got! Now all I need is a clone for that yummy Olive Garden vinaigrette..... anyone have one?

Week 32?

I know, I know....I missed a week. I took a brief vacation from blogging because my week was filled with meetings, birthday parties, and more meetings. Not to didn't miss much, food wise. Just to prove it to you - here is my actual menu from last week:

Monday - turkey leftovers
Tuesday - eat out
Wednesday - turkey leftovers
Thursday - eat out
Friday - eat out
Saturday - eat out
Sunday - Papas con Juevos

I told you I was busy! This week's menu has a bit more variety. Tonight's recipe is a clone of Gavan's favorite soups from the Olive Garden. The link I provided has several "Zuppa Toscana" recipes on it. I'll pick one and try it out and then let you know what we thought.

Sunday's recipe is one that was suggested by a reader. He said his family tried it and loved it. It looks interesting, and we're giving it a shot on Sunday.

Week 33 Menu

Monday - Zuppa Toscana
Tuesday - Pasta (of some kind or another -undecided)
Wednesday - BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
Thursday - eat out
Friday - Pizza Margerita
Saturday - eat out (Halloween party)
Sunday - Mac-a-Tacos

Week 33 Recipes

Pizza Margerita

-your favorite pizza crust
-fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly
-fresh tomatoes, sliced thinly
-fresh basil
-olive oil
-parmesan cheese (optional)

This is about as simple as pizza can get! Drizzle a bit of olive oil on your favorite pizza crust. Top with sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. Bake until done. Serve with parm cheese, if desired.

Zuppa Toscana
Clone of Olive Garden's soup (serves 6-8)

1 lb Italian sausage (ground)**
2 large or 3 medium russet baking potatoes**
1 large onion, diced
4 slices bacon, cooked & diced very small**
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups kale or swiss chard, chopped small
2 cans chicken broth
1 qt water
1 cup heavy whipping cream

In a skillet, cook sausage. Set aside. Peel potatoes and slice in half, then in 1/4 inch slices.

In a large pot, bring chicken broth and water to a boil. Add onion, potatoes and garlic. Cook on medium heat until potatoes are done.

Add sausage and bacon and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Turn to medium low heat, add cream and kale. Cook on low heat for another 10 minutes. Taste, then add needed salt and pepper.

**note: Next time I will use 3/4 lb sausage and 4 potatoes. This recipe makes it like Olive Garden, but we prefer more potatoes and less meat. For the bacon I use the pre-cooked bacon they have now in the stores. Then I just take out my 4 slices, microwave for 1 minute and dice. Easy-cheesy.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Country Rye Bread

I found another delicious bread recipe a couple of weeks ago. It's a yummy, rustic bread that went great with our beef stew!

In the photo the bread almost looks two-toned. Sorry -that's my shadow. It's not really that dark of a bread. I did cut the recipe in half, since I only needed one loaf for my little family. Here is the link to the original bread recipe, and I'll list the measurements for a half-recipe below!

1 package dry yeast (1 1/8 tsp)
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 cups rye flour
3 Tbsp molasses
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup bread flour, divided
cooking spray
1-2 tsp cornmeal
1 Tbsp bread flour

Hooray for

I love If you haven't gone there and looked around, you should. One of my favorite things is their ingredient search. Another little tip about allrecipes are their free printable cookbooks. Their most recent ones are a back-to-school cookbook, and a Halloween cookbook.

Here's the link

Andy's Fondue

For those of you always wanting to's my fondue recipe. I made it yesterday and finally bothered to write it down!

Andy's Fondue
(4 servings as main dish, 6-8 as Hors D Oeuvres)

1 1/2 cups white wine**
1/2 tsp minced garlic
3 Tbsp lemon juice (or the juice of one lemon)
1 lb Gruyere cheese, grated**
2 1/2 Tbsp flour
dash of nutmeg
1/8 tsp black pepper

for dipping:
1-2 baguettes, cut into chunks
2 small granny smith apples, cut into chunks
1-2 cups cauliflower florets (bite-size pieces)

Prepare bread, apples and cauliflower for dipping. Set aside. Grate the cheese, and place into a ziplock. Add the flour, close ziplock and shake to coat flour.

Heat fondue pot (electric recommended) to medium-high. Add wine and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Add minced garlic, simmer for 3 minutes. Add lemon juice and reduce heat to medium low. Add grated cheese one handful at a time, stirring constantly. As each handful melts, add another one. Continue to stir and add cheese until it is melted and smooth. Reduce heat to low. Add dash of nutmeg and black pepper, then serve.

**You may substitute the following for the white wine:
1 cup chicken broth + 1/2 cup water
1 cup vegetable broth + 1/2 cup water
1 cup white grape juice + 1/2 cup water

**other notes: Emmentaler cheese can be added to the Gruyere. Just have a total of 1 lb of cheese, grated. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS add the lemon juice. It helps to make a creamy fondue.

My Pre-Thanksgiving Tradition

Every fall, when the weather turns colder I begin the countdown to Thanksgiving. When I look at the calendar and see that my beloved turkey dinner is still TWO FULL MONTHS away, I decide I must have turkey now. So every year (no joke!) we have at least two and sometimes three, Pre-Thanksgiving Turkey Dinners. Our first one for this year is scheduled for this Sunday.

Now these Pre-Thanksgiving Turkey Dinners are the real deal. Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls.... no short cuts here. Thank goodness for those little bone-in turkeys! They are smaller and don't take nearly as long to cook.

Happy Pre-Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Week 31 Menu

Monday - eat out
Tuesday - Fondue (oh, and salads!)
Wednesday - Fresh Pasta Primavera
Thursday - Chicken Taco Pie
Friday - Chicken Noodle Soup & Grilled Cheese
Saturday - Mom's Potato Soup
Sunday - Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner No. 1

Week 31 Recipes

Chicken Taco Pie
from Lion House Classics

1 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp cooking oil
2 Tbsp taco seasoning (or to taste)
1 3/4 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 cans (10.5-oz each) cream of mushroom soup
1 1/2 cups sour cream
3 cups cubed cooked chicken
6-8 tortillas
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

In skillet, cook onion in oil until tender but not brown. Add seasonings, cream of mushroom soup, and sour cream; heat and stir until smooth and warm. Add chicken. Grease a 2- to 3- quart flat casserole and cover bottom with torn up, oiled tortillas. Spread half the chicken mixture on tortillas. Top with additional oiled tortillas, then cover with remaining filling. Sprinkle with shredded cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly. Makes 6-8 servings.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Baked Rigatoni with Roasted Vegetables

I love this dish. It is one of my favorite ways to sneak vegetables to my family. Roasting them makes them sweet, and adding them to pasta with sauce is a great disguise. Any combination of vegetables works great. Besides the ones listed below, I've also used carrots, celery, broccoli, mushrooms, a few unidentified green things from the bottom of the veggie drawer....

ready-to-roast vegetables

Baked Rigatoni with Roasted Vegetables
(4 servings)**

1 small zucchini
1 small summer squash (a.k.a. yellow zucchini)
1 medium onion
1 green or red pepper
4 Roma tomatoes (or small regular tomatoes)
4-5 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp dried Italian herb mix
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 pound (8-oz) rigatoni pasta
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce (use your favorite store-bought)
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Prepare veggies (except garlic) by cutting into 1-inch cubes. Place on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle salt, pepper and Italian herbs and toss to coat all veggies. Roast vegetables until tender (about 15 minutes). Remove from oven, add minced garlic clove and lightly toss veggies. Set aside.

Reduce oven heat to 375 degrees.

Boil pasta in a large pot of salted water for about 8 minutes, until almost done. Don't fully cook pasta because it will finish softening when the dish is baked in the oven later. Drain pasta and return to large pot. Add roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Gently mix until everything is combined. Taste to see if it needs a bit more salt or pepper for your taste.

Pour mixture into a baking dish (this fits in an 8x11 size). Top with the rest of the cheeses. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and pasta is warmed through.

**note: This dish is easily doubled. Double the veggies, use 1 lb of pasta, 3 cups sauce and double the cheeses. Should fit into a 9x13 pan. Baking time will increase by 10 minutes or so.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mindy's Caramel Popcorn

Once upon a time, my sister lived in Oklahoma. I went to visit her once and she made me the yummiest caramel popcorn ever. Here's her recipe:

Mindy's Caramel Popcorn

4 bags plain microwave popcorn *
1 can sweetened condensed milk (small can)
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup butter (or margarine)
1 cup light corn syrup
pinch of salt
wax paper

Pop all of the bags of popcorn and remove kernels (very important!). Separate into two large bowls. Set aside.

Spread out 3 or 4 large sheets of wax paper on your table or counter - this will be where the popcorn cools.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan. Start it on medium heat, until the butter melts. Raise heat slowly and bring to a boil. Continue to stir so that it doesn't burn. Boil for 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly, until it reaches the soft-ball** stage. Pour hot caramel over popcorn in small batches. Stir to coat, and then add more caramel if you'd like. Spread onto wax paper and let cool. Store in large ziplock bags.

*I am never able to find plain microwave popcorn. I buy the "light" popcorn and it works fine. I also only use 3 bags of popcorn, since that's what usually comes in one box. It also makes the caramel-to-popcorn ratio higher.

**The soft-ball stage has nothing to do with sports. To do the soft-ball test, keep a small bowl of cold water next to the stove. Drop about one teaspoon of caramel into the water and use your fingers to make the caramel into a little ball. If it forms into a soft ball, then it's ready. If not, then boil another 2 minutes and test again. You will probably do several of these tests before you hit the soft-ball stage. Just be sure to use clean water for each test.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Uncooked Flour Tortillas

A couple of weeks ago both my sister, and my sister-in-law told me about these great tortillas. What's strange is they both told me about them on the same exact day. Now that I've tried the tortillas myself, I add my own glowing review!

These can be found in the freezer section of Costco. Inside the package are two sealed packages of 22 tortillas each, so we pulled one out to thaw in the fridge, and left the other in the freezer for later.

I cooked the tortillas on my electric griddle so we could do a couple at a time. They only cook for a few minutes on each side, and we kept them all warm in the oven until we were ready to eat. They have terrific flavor, and we love how thin they are. The tortillas were great with our chicken soft tacos, and made a quick and yummy quesadilla for my son.

Another great new (to me) product! Thanks for the tip ladies.

Week 30 !!!

I'm on a roll! This blog is great for me - it makes me create a menu and (mostly) stick to it each week. I'm now going on 30 weeks of menus! It's not that I didn't create menus before I did this blog, but my menus were on paper, taped to my fridge. And I didn't have friends and family aware of what I was eating and asking me questions about it. I'm curious how many of you readers create a weekly menu too. I think I'll create a poll for you all so I can find out!

Now for my menu this week. I apologize that I don't have recipes to post yet for the stew, fajitas and baked penne. These are dishes that I create by throwing stuff together. As I make them this week, I'll write down what I do and then post it. The stew "recipe" is actually one that my mother-in-law makes, and she also just throws it all together. She once told me, in general terms, how she makes her version and then I tried it myself. It's fairly simple, and delicious.

You may have noticed that we are having Lime Chicken Soft Tacos again next Sunday. We had them yesterday for dinner and we LOVED them. (That was my first time trying that particular recipe.) Next week we will try tossing everything in the crock pot while we're at church so then all we have to do is cook up some tortillas and we'll be ready to eat.

Week 30 Menu

Monday - Stew
Tuesday - Homemade Pizza
Wednesday - Chicken Fajitas
Thursday - Baked Rigatoni with Roasted Veggies
Friday - Sesame Ginger Noodles and Egg Rolls
Saturday - eat out
Sunday - Lime Chicken Soft Tacos

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Caramel Filled Chocolate Cookies

There is nothing more fabulous than the sight of a carton of eggs ready to be baked into something yummy!

These Caramel Filled Chocolate Cookies are one of my new favorite cookies. It can be found here, on the website. I'll also post it here with my photos. This is a great recipe for kids to help with. My son helped "hide" the candies inside and then roll the dough into balls and dip into sugar.

Caramel Filled Chocolate Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 Tbsp white sugar
48 chocolate-covered caramel candies (I used Junior Caramels, 1 large box)

  1. Beat butter until creamy. Gradually beat in white sugar and brown sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda, and cocoa. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating well. Stir in 1/2 cup walnuts. Cover and chill at least 2 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Combine remaining 1/2 cup nuts with the 1 Tablespoon sugar. Divide the dough into 4 parts. Work with one part at a time, leaving the remainder in the fridge until needed. Divide each part into 12 pieces. Quickly press each piece of dough around a chocolate covered caramel. Roll into a ball. Dip the tops into the sugar mixture. Place sugar side up, 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets, or a baking sheet with a silpat. (Do not press cookies down - they will flatten as they bake.)
  4. Bake for 8 minutes in the oven. Let cool 3-4 minutes on the baking sheets before removing to wire racks to cool completely.
**note: These cookies are best the same day. For a perfect cookie on the second day, microwave for 5-10 seconds to re-melt the caramel. Delicious!

Product Review: Grahams 'n Apple Dip

Ever since school began several weeks ago, I have become keenly aware of the lack of after-school-snacks in my home. While I'd love to be able to toss an apple or a nectarine to my son, he seems to have a severe aversion to fruit. So for snacks, we have gone through cheese sticks, 'Nilla Wafers, Goldfish Crackers, baggies of Cheerios, and plain ol' slices of bread.

In the store the other day, this box of Grahams 'n Apple Dip caught my eye. I must admit it did not look appealing to me, but I spotted an easy after-school-snack that at least tasted like fruit! We tried it out yesterday afternoon and they were a hit!

The grahams come as little sticks that you snap apart and dip into what looks a little like applesauce. The sauce turns out to be much sweeter than applesauce (of course) and reminds me of apple pie filling, without the pieces of actual fruit.

I think, for the future, this will be what I call a "special purchase" snack (meaning: "on sale"). It is really good, although not the healthiest option as far as snacks go. It also does something important: satisfies my hunger for apple pie, without me having to make an actual apple pie.

The Best Churro in the World

We have discovered the best churros in the world. We used to believe the best churros could only be purchased at Disneyland. While those remain a close second, we feel that the churros sold at the Costco food court are superior. First of all, they are bigger. Secondly they are cheaper. They also are always fresh, and have a hint of vanilla, as well as the usual cinnamon and sugar topping. Each churro is just a buck, so you really have no excuse not to try one next time you are shopping for your giant packages of toilet paper and frozen burritos.

Pesto Chicken Florentine

Pesto Chicken Florentine was on the menu for dinner last night. I found myself at the grocery store yesterday and I grabbed one of those dry packets of Alfredo mix, which is required in the Pesto Chicken Florentine recipe. I glanced at the back of the packet and saw all of those artificial sweeteners and preservatives and couldn't bring myself to put it in the cart. Instead I grabbed some heavy cream and went on my merry way. Here is the Pesto Chicken Florentine recipe with my changes.

Pesto Chicken Florentine

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in strips
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
3-4 cups fresh spinach leaves
2 cups heavy cream (or 1 cup cream + 1 cup milk)
2 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tbsp pesto
2 cups (measured dry) penne pasta
3-4 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
  • In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken slices, sprinkle with Italian seasoning and add garlic. Cook for 10 minutes or so until chicken is almost done. Add fresh spinach leaves. (It might look like a lot, but it wilts down to almost nothing!) Saute everything for 3-4 minutes, then turn heat to low.
(do the next 2 steps at the same time)
  • In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta for 8-10 minutes, or until it is done to your liking. Drain pasta.
  • Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium-high heat, heat about 1 tsp olive oil, and saute 1 minced garlic clove. Add 2 cups of cream and/or milk and quickly whisk in 2 1/2 tsp of cornstarch. Reduce heat to medium and whisk until sauce thickens, 4-5 minutes. Stir in pesto.
  • Add pasta to skillet and toss to combine everything. Pour sauce mixture over pasta and chicken a bit at a time. **If you like a drier pasta, don't use all of the sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, then taste to see if it needs salt or pepper. (I don't salt it until now because the Italian seasonings, pesto and the Parmesan add a lot of salt, and you can't tell until it's finished how much additional salt it needs)
**I used all but 1/2 cup of the sauce. When I put the leftovers in the fridge, I poured the extra sauce on top, so the pasta wasn't dry the second day. Very tasty leftovers!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pesto My Way

I had a friend ask me today what I do when I need pesto, make it fresh or buy it? Buy it baby. Fresh is fantastic, but it's also a bit of work. I think if I were going to make a pasta dish where the pesto needs to shine, then I'd make it fresh. For most other recipes, however, a jarred pesto is just fine.

My favorite brand is Classico. I love that I can keep it stockpiled in my basement with a variety of other pasta sauce options. I can open the jar, scoop out a spoonful or two, put the lid back on and save the rest for another dish in a few days.

Here's a list some recipes that use pesto:
Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad
Five-Layer Vegetable Strata with Pesto
Pesto Chicken Florentine

Here is a link to the Classico website with recipes (some using pesto, some using their other products):

Week 29 Menu

Monday - Pesto Chicken Florentine
Tuesday - Feta Penne
Wednesday - BBQ Chicken (crockpot)
Thursday - Sweet & Sour Meatballs
Friday - Lime Chicken Soft Tacos
Saturday - eat out
Sunday - Chicken Caesar Salads (with Kristi's Caesar Dressing)

Week 29 Recipes

Kristi's Caesar Dressing

1 Tbsp Mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
3 Tbsp olive oil
Parmesan cheese (to taste)
salt and pepper (to taste)

In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard (don't even think about using that yellow stuff!). Slowly whisk in the olive oil (this will make it a creamy consistency). Add salt, pepper and Parmesan to taste.

Extra dressing will keep in the fridge for several days.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Recipe for Drug-Free Kids: Family Dinner

Here's a link to a great article detailing the benefits of eating dinner as a family each night. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sesame Ginger Noodles

Tonight's dinner needed a side dish so I quickly made some Sesame Ginger Noodles. They were a HUGE hit with my son, so I decided to type up the recipe.

Sesame Ginger Noodles
(serves 4 as side dish, double recipe for main dish)

1/2 package Chow Mein noodles
1 Tbsp oil
1/4 cup sliced carrots
1/4 cup sliced celery
1 green onion diced
2 Tbsp soy sauce, plus more to taste
3-6 Tbsp Litehouse Sesame Ginger Dressing & Sauce, plus more to taste
2 Tbsp sesame seeds (optional)

  • Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Boil noodles until softened, 5 minutes or so. Drain and return to pan.
  • Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Toss in carrots and celery and stir fry until crisp-tender. Reduce heat to medium. Add green onion, drained noodles, soy sauce and Sesame Ginger dressing. Toss to coat.
  • Taste noodles for seasoning preferences. Add more Sesame Ginger dressing for sweetness, more soy sauce for saltiness. Top with sesame seeds and serve.
Options: Other fresh vegetables may also be used; this was just what I had on hand. (try mushrooms, yellow onion, peas, green or red bell peppers, even toss in chicken chunks!) You can also use mixed frozen veggies for a quick variation. They have stir-fry varieties in the freezer section.

Slow Cooker Orange Chicken - Recipe Review

Tonight's dinner was Slow Cooker Orange Chicken. It was simple to make, and it didn't take long to cook (3 hours on high). It shouldn't be called Orange Chicken though, because the barbecue sauce in the recipe cancelled out the orange flavor. I even added only half of the bbq sauce I was supposed to! I was pleased with the sticky-ness of the sauce however.

Next time I make this recipe (and there will be a next time) I will use hoisin sauce in place of the barbecue sauce. If anyone tries this out before I do, send me an email or post a comment and let us all know what you thought! Feeling brave, Christa? Maybe you can be our tester-chef on this one.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Shirley the Divine

I have a new best friend. Her name is Shirley and she owns a bakery here in Provo, Utah. Ok, well actually we haven't met yet, but if we ever do I KNOW we'll be best friends! (Because I'll pay her a lot of money to be my friend and bake for me every day.)

Here's the true story about Shirley and her bakery. Last Saturday I was at an event and had a very delicious cinnamon roll and I was instantly hooked. It had the perfect ratio of cinnamon, bread, and frosting. I demanded (in my nicest voice possible) where this cinnamon roll may be purchased and was told about Shirley's Bakery on Freedom Blvd. Within an hour my little family and I were in the car and on our way.

The bakery is unassuming, modest in size, lacking any superfluous decoration, and packed to the gills with customers! We looked over the large selection of dinner rolls and chose a dozen white rolls and two eclairs. The wait was minimal (considering the number of customers) and the prices were reasonable. I must also add that a very charming feature of the bakery is the trail of flour-footprints that leads from the back out to the front display case. I can just picture the baker proudly carrying out the goodies herself.

Now for my review of the food: The rolls are little clouds of melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Really, these rolls are as close to cotton candy as they can get and yet still be considered a bread product. The eclairs are the best we've ever had. I usually don't enjoy eclairs at ALL. Today I went in and bought six more. It's the cream inside that gets me. I have no idea how they make it so creamy, yet light, but it works.

Next time you're driving by, stop at Shirley's and pick yourself up something yummy. My apologies to those of you who don't live close enough to become best friends with Shirley too.

Shirley's Homemades Bakery: 684 N. Freedom Blvd Provo, UT 84601

Ugly but Tasty

Don't avert your eyes, it's just ginger. You might have noticed it in the produce section of your grocery store and wondered who in the world would buy (and use!) something so abhorrently ugly. Well ladies, the answer is me. I'm a big fan of ginger. Occasionally you can get away with using the powdered form, but there is just nothing like fresh ginger. Last week's Indonesian Ginger Chicken used fresh grated ginger. This week's Slow Cooker Orange Chicken calls for it too.

Next time you have a recipe that calls for ginger, give it a shot! It's inexpensive, easy to store, easy to peel and easy to dice or grate. The little bit you see on the right in the photo above made exactly 1/4 cup after it was grated. So one clump of ginger can be used for several recipes. The ginger root itself doesn't have an odor until you cut into it and then after you handle it the wonderful aroma doesn't stick to your hands like onion and garlic. Grab some ginger next time you shop, and try out one of these recipes. I double-dog-dare you.

Week 28 Menu

Monday - Indonesian Ginger Chicken w/ rice
Tuesday - Fresh Pasta Primavera
Wednesday - Mom's Potato Soup
Thursday -Slow Cooker Orange Chicken
Friday - Training Table
Saturday - yo-yo dinner
Sunday - Pancakes & Scrambled Eggs

Week 28 Recipes

Slow Cooker Orange Chicken
from Kraft Foods Food & Family Magazine, Fall 2007

8 small boneless, skinless chicken thighs (1 lb)
3 Tbsp flour
1/3 cup orange marmalade
1/3 cup Kraft original bbq sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp grated fresh gingerroot

Toss chicken with flour in slow cooker. Stir in all remaining ingredients, cover with lid. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 3-4 hours.

Makes 4 servings

Nilla Apple Crisp
from Kraft Foods Food & Family Magazine, Winter 2007

8 cups thinly sliced peeled Granny Smith apples (about 4 lg)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, divided
2 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
1/3 cup oats (old fashioned, or quick)
1/4 cup cold margarine
25 Nilla wafers, crushed (about 1 cup crumbs)
1 1/2 cups Cool Whip (or vanilla ice cream)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss apples with 1/4 cup of the brown sugar and 1 tsp of the cinnamon. Spoon into 8 or 9 inch square dish.

Combine oats, the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon in medium bowl. Cut in margarine with pastry blender, or two knives, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add wafer crumbs; mix well. Spread crumb mixture evenly over apples.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until apples are tender. Serve warm or cooled. Top with whipped topping (or vanilla ice cream).

Makes 12 servings

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Chocolate Dipped Frozen Bananas

I created a box of chocolate dipped frozen bananas for my brother-in-law's birthday tonight. They're in honor of his favorite (cancelled) tv show, Arrested Development. I don't really have a recipe for these, just a bunch of pretty pictures and some brief instructions. Here goes:

First, you want to begin with bananas that are still a bit green, and some popsicle sticks. Peel the bananas, cut them in half and insert popsicle sticks. Lay them on a tray lined with parchment paper (or a Silpat) and freeze them for an hour or so.

Next you need chocolate chips (or chocolate shavings), and some chopped nuts. For John's gift I used a variety of chocolates and nuts. Melt the chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave. (A 1/2 bag of choc chips covers about 3 or 4 banana halves.) Then chop the nuts and place on a plate, large enough to roll the banana on.

Dip the frozen bananas in the chocolate. You might have to use a spoon to fully coat each banana. Then quickly (before the frozen banana hardens the chocolate) roll the banana in the nuts, then place it back on the parchment lined baking sheet. Once all bananas have been dipped/rolled, place them back into the freezer until you're ready to enjoy them!

This one is dark chocolate with pecans.

White chocolate with almonds.

The whole box! Milk chocolate with walnuts was the other combination I used.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Crock Pot Taco Chicken

Every time I walk in my friend Amanda's home, it smells divine. Either there is some tasty dish simmering away in her crock pot, or she has just baked something mouthwateringly fragrant. This past week it was her Taco Chicken recipe that was in the crock pot, and she graciously volunteered the recipe for me to share with you!

Suzie, I know that you have a similar recipe for Taco Chicken, but I believe yours is done on the stove top, is that right? If you don't mind, I'd love to post it here too so that people could have options on how to prepare their Taco Chicken!

Amanda's Taco Chicken (crock pot)
from Amanda Otis

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 packet of Pace Taco Seasonings
1/2 cup water

Place chicken in crock pot. Combine taco seasonings with water, and pour over chicken. Cook on high for 3-4 hours. Shred chicken & enjoy! This is great in taco salads, soft tacos, and quesadillas.

Week 27 Menu

Monday - hamburgers & hot dogs
Tuesday - Indonesian Ginger Chicken, rice & roasted carrots
Wednesday - chicken taco salads (w/ Amanda's crock pot Taco Chicken)
Thursday - Five-Layer Vegetable Strata with Pesto
Friday -Meatloaf (in my skillet!) & twice-baked potatoes
Saturday - dinner group with friends
Sunday - Lettuce Wraps

Week 27 Recipes

Indonesian Ginger Chicken
adapted from the Barefoot Contessa

1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup soy sauce
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup peeled and grated fresh ginger root
4 chicken breasts (I use boneless, skinless)

Cook the honey, soy sauce, garlic and ginger root in a small saucepan over low heat until the honey is melted. Arrange the chicken in a shallow baking pan and pour on the sauce. Cover the pan with foil and marinate overnight in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the baking pan in the oven and bake until juices run clear (turning chicken over halfway through cooking time - or if it starts to brown too much).

note: I'm not sure of the cooking time right now. The recipe says to cook for 1 hour, but she uses larger pieces of chicken, with the bones in - so that makes a difference.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cheesy Baked Tortellini

Tonight's dinner was Cheesy Baked Tortellini and it was oh so good! It was easier than I anticipated, and included pretty much just opening a bunch of packages, combining them, and baking in the oven for 30 minutes.

I made a 1/2 recipe for my little family and it was just the right size. Check out the recipe (HERE) and try it out for yourself. Don't even think of omitting the fresh thyme or parsley - it would be too bland without it. Keep in mind, it's not the most gourmet meal, but it's quick, easy and my 5 year old loved it! I bet the leftovers would be super too, once the pasta absorbed more of the sauce.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Giveaway Winner Announced!

Congratulations to Suzie, winner of her own little elastic-bound notepad! And to the rest of you: no worries. I have another giveaway planned in a couple of weeks. Happy cooking!

Failure x2

Failure. It's inevitable. With as many new recipes as I try each week, there are bound to be a few that just don't work out. And with as many photos that I take each week, there are bound to be problems there too. Such is the case for today's post.

Two weeks ago I tried a new recipe called Zucchini & Ravioli in Walnut Sauce and it was awful. The photo was appealing and the list of ingredients sounded promising, but the meal was terrible. Ah well, that happens. Thank goodness for PB&J!

Today I took some great photos of our dinner and also of a bar cookie we tested tonight. When I was ready to post them on my blog, we had some technical difficulties, and were unable to retrieve any of the photos off of my camera. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Good thing life goes on, right? We cook, we eat, we do dishes. Failures or no failures, we're able to find sustenance and then get on with the important things in life.

notes on this week's menu & recipes
You might notice that Ratatouille au four shows up again this week. I was supposed to make it for dinner tonight, but decided to take a nap instead of starting dinner. I do have my priorities, you know.

I'm looking forward to the Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole next Sunday. First of all, who doesn't like breakfast foods for dinner? Secondly, this recipe appeals to me because I can make it in the morning, still get my afternoon nap in, and have a great dinner that evening.

Happy Cooking everyone!

Week 26 Menu

Monday - Creamy Fennel and Potato Soup (+ cornbread leftovers)
Tuesday - Ratatouille au four (oven ratatouille)
Wednesday - Baked Potatoes (with all the good stuff!)
Thursday - Cheesy Baked Tortellini
Friday - eat out
Saturday - Grilled Pizzas
Sunday - Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole

Week 26 Recipes

Creamy Fennel and Potato Soup
4 servings
(I halved the recipe since my little family cannot eat 8 servings of soup!)

1 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups coarsely chopped cored fresh fennel bulbs (from about 2 lg)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 ounces potatoes, peeled, diced
2 cups (or more) canned low-salt chicken broth
1 tsp (or more) fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, finely crushed
1/4 tsp dried tarragon

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add fennel bulbs, onions, and potatoes; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute until slightly softened, about 8 minutes. Add chicken broth and lemon juice; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly.

Meanwhile, bring cream fennel seeds, and tarragon to boil in heavy small saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 20 minutes so that flavors blend.

Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return soup to same pot. Stir in cream mixture. Simmer until flavors blend, thinning with more broth if desired, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and more lemon juice, if desired.

(This can be made 1 day ahead: Prepare soup, cool slightly. Chill until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm over medium heat, stirring occasionally.)

Cheesy Baked Tortellini
Giada De Laurentiis

Olive Oil
2 cups marinara sauce (I love Prego)
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 lb purchased cheese tortellini
2 oz thinly sliced smoked mozzarella
1/4 cup parmesan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil an 8x8 inch baking dish.

Whisk the sauce, mascarpone cheese, parsley and thyme in a large bowl to blend. Cook the tortellini in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain. Add the tortellini to the sauce and toss to coat. Transfer the tortellini mixture to the prepared baking dish. Top the mixture with the smoked mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover and bake until the sauce bubbles and the cheeses on top melt, about 30 minutes.

Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole

Cooking Light magazine, May 2007
(makes 6, 1-cup servings)

8 oz ciabatta bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
cooking spray
1 lb turkey breakfast sausage
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 large eggs
1 (8-oz) carton egg substitute
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400. Arrange bread cubes in a sinle layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 for 8 minutes, or until toasted.

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray and brown sausage, stirring to crumble. Combine sausage, bread, and onions in large bowl. Combine milk, cheese, eggs, and egg substitute in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add milk mixture to bread mixture, tossing to coat bread. Spoon into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350. Uncover casserole. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until set and lightly browned. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

BLrTwsbamyd - The Perfect Storm of Sandwiches

Today for lunch I had a BLrTwsbamyd, also known as a bacon-lettuce-roasted tomato-with-sourdough-bread-and-mom's-yummy-dip sandwich. It began simply enough, with just a desire for a good BLT. I purchased the needed ingredients: bacon, lettuce and tomatoes. The next day, I decided to oven-dry the tomatoes for a little twist (I'm such a dare devil!). The following day my mom came to visit and made the yummiest sourdough bread dip you can imagine. Today at lunch I decided it was time to create my much-anticipated sandwich.

I toasted the sourdough bread, slathered it with dip, added three oven-dried tomatoes, a leaf of crisp lettuce, topped with warm crispy bacon and another slice of toasted sourdough bread. I paused just long enough to photograph it, and then I inhaled it. It's very likely that this sandwich will never again occur. Bacon and sourdough bread are specialty items around my house and never last long. The bread dip my mom made, while very delicious, is not something that I'll always have on hand, and unless I need them for a recipe, I'm not sure I'll be oven-drying my tomatoes regularly. Ah, but it was a good sandwich. (insert wistful sigh here)

Oven-Dried Tomatoes
(great on pasta, or for just eating as a snack)

Slice tomatoes in half and place seeds-up on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 1 hour. Reduce heat to 200 degrees and bake tomatoes for 2 hours. Turn off oven and leave tomatoes in for 1 more hour. Remove from oven, cool and place in a bag to store.

( Yugoslavian cheese spread)

*great on sourdough bread, or as a dip for veggies*

1 8-oz box of cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup feta cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon Italian Herb Seasoning

In small bowl of electric mixer, beat all ingredients until light and fluffy. Spoon into a small serving dish. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 20-30 minutes before serving. Makes about 2 cups.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Giveaway! Happy 100th Post!

With the posting of this week's menu, I have now officially hit the century mark. By way of celebration, I'm giving away one of my favorite (albeit small) things:

I found this adorable, yet functional notepad a couple of weeks ago and it has become a permanent part of my purse-stuffings. I write my grocery list in it, my books-to-check-out list, important phone numbers, and things needing to be done that I think of while waiting at red lights.

I love the little green elastic band that wraps around and keeps my important scribbles cozy. It prevents pennies, lip glosses & melted M&Ms from making a mess of my notes.

Now, I'm not going to give you MY actual notebook. No one is that lucky. Instead, I went back and purchased a new, clean one, ready to be mailed off to one of you lovely readers. To be entered in the drawing, just submit a comment to this post or another post during this week. (Your comment can even be, "ooh, ooh, pick me!") I'll put your names in a hat - or better yet, my favorite mixing bowl - and draw one out. I'll announce the winner on Sunday, August 26th.

Good luck, and keep cooking!

Week 25 Menu

Monday - Chicken Salad Croissants & corn on the cob
Tuesday - Simple Beef Stroganoff & Skillet Cornbread
Wednesday - Fajita Chicken Quesadillas
Thursday - Pork Chops w/ apples & onion
Friday - Crockpot BBQ Chicken
Saturday - Tacos
Sunday - Ratatouille au four (oven ratatouille)

Week 25 Recipes

Corn Bread Baked in a Skillet
from The Way We Cook

2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 10-inch ovenproof skillet (cast iron, or other). Beat eggs, sugar and oil in a large bowl with a whisk until thoroughly blended. Add the buttermilk and whisk to combine.

Stir in the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt with a wooden spoon. Pour into skillet. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Set the skillet on a rack to cool. Cut bread into wedges and serve.

**note: This is one of the best corn breads I've had in a long time. We couldn't eat the whole thing the first night, so I left it in the pan and covered it with foil. While I cooked dinner the next night, I heated up the leftover cornbread in a 200 degree oven (still in the skillet covered with foil). Still delicious!

Pork Chops with Apples and Onions
from The Way We Cook

4 thick center-cut pork loin chops
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 medium apples, peeled, halved & thinly sliced
1 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle chops with salt and pepper. In a large skillet with an ovenproof handle, heat the oil. When it is hot, add the butter. Brown the pork chops over high heat on both sides - about 2 minutes per side. Remove from pan.

Add the onion and apple slices to skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring often for 10 minutes or until the onion softens. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.

Pour the stock into the pan. Stir until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens slightly. Add the salt, pepper, and half of the thyme.

Return the pork chops to the pan and spoon some of the onion mixture over them. Place the skillet in the oven and roast the pork for 10 minutes or until the chops are cooked through.

Taste the sauce for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if you like. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 Tbsp thyme before serving.