Monday, March 31, 2008

In with the warm spring air...ah, salads!

Since I know that our warm weather will turn to HOT weather all too soon, I'm changing gears from soups to salads. The following posts are some of our favorites...that the kids request!

Texas Caviar --Jazzed version

This is probably my #1 requested recipe. Well, it's not MY recipe. I filched it off a bunco friend years ago! I've only made minor tweaks. Don't be fooled. This is not your regular "Texas Caviar"--this one is jazzed up and healthier with more fresh veggies and feta. I bring it to parties and pot lucks all the time, and many requests have come from native Texans!

1 can black-eyed peas, drain and rinse
*1 can field peas, drain and rinse (if you don't have these in your area, just use another can of black-eyed peas)
2 small cans sliced black olives, drain and chop a little more
1 yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped (green peppers are fine, but yellow & red just make it so purty...and a bit sweeter!)
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/3-1/2 cup+ Italian dressing —just enough to hold everything together, I use light
Small bunch fresh cilantro, pull off stems and chop (~1/3-1/2 cup when chopped)
1 large ripe, but still firm, Hass avocado (or 2 small), diced
8 oz. feta cheese (don’t use crumbled--the solid looks neater), small diced

Add all ingredients to medium bowl and stir gently to mix well. I add the dressing and avocado last--shortly before it is served. Serve with family-sized bag of Frito (big) Scoops or sturdy tortilla chips (in a pinch).

* Because many people I've given this recipe to have never heard of field peas, I've added this photo to show you what the can I use looks like. Field peas are smaller than black-eyed peas, and they're reddish in color.

Field peas may not be found in all parts of the country. Mom says they're not in Sacramento, my uncle found them in Dubuque, none in St. Paul or Albuquerque, but they're about everywhere in the South. I can't tell you how many cases of these we've brought with us on our leave a stash with friends and family so they can continue making this recipe. Let me know if you can find them in your area.

Napa Salad

(Chinese Cole Slaw)

I snatched up this recipe from a friend after I tried it at her bunco party. Thanks Stephanie!

1 head Chinese Napa cabbage
2 green onions including 2/3 stems, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 pkgs. Ramen noodles, chicken flavored
2 TBSP butter
½ cup slivered almonds
sesame seeds (~1+ TBSP)
**If you’d like to make this a main dish, you can add bite-sized cooked chicken.

Cut bottom from Napa cabbage, separate leaves, wash and pat dry. Cut most of the large white veins from each leaf and slice remainder of leaves into thin strips. Toss cabbage with onions and bell pepper.

Melt butter in large skillet. Break Ramen noodles into small pieces (I start by gently smashing them right in the bag before I open it.) and brown lightly in butter. Add almonds to brown. Add sesame seeds last since they brown quickly. Remove from heat, add one of the noodle seasoning packets to the mixture, and stir to incorporate.

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar, seasoned
Salt & pepper
¼+ cup sugar (add more or less to your taste)
1/2 cup oil
sesame oil, ~1 tsp. (optional—but it really makes the salad taste more authentic!)

Mix vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar and oil in salad plunger or a jar with lid. Plunge/shake well to mix.

Just before serving salad, toss noodles/nuts/seeds mixture with cabbage then add dressing and toss well to coat. Don’t mix too soon before eating as the noodles will get soggy.

GLUTEN FREE: Omit Ramen noodles and, instead, top salad with toasted almonds and sesame seeds.

Mandarin Almond Salad

Toss together:
1 large head (or 2 hearts) Romaine lettuce
One 11-14 oz. can mandarin oranges, drained (I use more since my kids love them)
2 green onions, chopped up to 1/3 of the green part

3 TBSP oil
3 TBSP cider vinegar
2 TBSP white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
pepper to taste
(You will need to taste to see if the oil/vinegar/sugar balance is to your liking. I like mine with sweet and tangy taste (roughly equal amounts of oil and vinegar. Many dressings call for twice as much oil as vinegar.)

Caramel Almonds
¼ cup slivered almonds
2 TBSP white sugar
(I usually double this amount!)

Heat sugar in small frying pan over medium heat until it starts to melt around the edges, then put the almonds on top of sugar. Stir constantly until sugar and nuts turn a caramel brown color. Make sure all sugar granules are dissolved. Remove from heat continuing to stir, and pour them on a greased, foil-lined pan/cookie sheet to cool. (Try to separate the nuts with a fork as you are able so they break apart better when they are cool). When nuts are cool, break them into small pieces.

When ready to serve: Pour dressing over lettuce and top with caramel almonds.

--Use caramelized pecan pieces instead of the slivered almonds
--Use the Sugar & Spice Glazed Pecans (see the recipe I use under “nuts”)
--Use dried cranberries and cashews instead of mandarin oranges and almonds
--If you don’t have enough nuts, you can throw in a handful of roasted sunflower seeds.
--Add other sweet veggies as you like (pea pods or snap peas, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, carrots, etc.)

Broccoli Cauliflower Salad

This is one of my veggies-our-kids-will-always-eat recipes. I love it too! With sunflower seed, craisins, golden raisins, a sweet vinegar dressing. Mmmm...qnd good for you. Sheeez, it's just too much! Since I love, love, LOVE the big knife my brother got me a few years ago, it's also a great recipe to get out all of that pent-up chopping energy you might have. If not, of course there's an alternative--get a bag of broccoli cole slaw mix!

1 head cauliflower separated into small flowerets, chopped into little pieces
1 bunch broccoli separated into flowerets, chopped into little pieces
1/3 cup chopped red onion
½ cup carrot, shredded or finely chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup craisins
½ to 1 cup sunflower seeds &/or chopped cashews or toasted pecans
1 pkg. cooked bacon pieces
Chicken-flavored Ramen noodles, optional (don't use for a gluten-free recipe)

1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
¼-1/3 cup sugar
Ramen noodle flavor packet, optional (I don't use since it has gluten)
1/2 tsp sesame oil (just because I've been making all my dressings with this lately!)
Salt & pepper to taste

Mix first eight ingredients together; pour dressing over and mix to blend 2 hours in advance. Just before serving, break up Ramen noodles into fine pieces and mix into salad. Serves 10-12.

QUICK & EASY ALTERNATIVE: Omit the cauliflower, broccoli and carrot. Use two bags of broccoli slaw mix (with carrots).

Cole Slaw (no mayo)

This is another recipe from my mother-in-law. My husband and I love this recipe because the dressing is not mayo-based. My husband does not like mayo, and I just prefer the tangy zip of the vinegar dressing! An added bonus…it’s good to go for summer outdoor picnics since it doesn’t go bad like those with mayo.

2 cups chopped or finely sliced cabbage (adding some red cabbage makes it colorful)
½ cup chopped parsley
½ cup sliced onions (whatever kind you like--green, red, or sweet onions)

Mix above ingredients. Can do this day before serving and refrigerate.

2-3 TBSP sugar
2-3 TBSP vinegar
2 TBSP oil
1 tsp. salt
(1/2 - ground mustard, my addition)
(ground pepper to taste, my addition)

Shake to blend and combine with cabbage mixture ½ hour before serving.

Salad in a Pinch--Lettuce or Spinach with Fruit and Nuts

I love salad bars with all those varied and wonderful veggies--all fresh, cleaned, sliced, diced, and ready to eat. In our kitchen, I just can't keep up with all the cleaning, chopping, blah, blah, blah! So, I just keep some regular no-prep supplies on hand and make my own dressings. Here are my must-always-have basics.Our kids love to top off their salads with toasted or candied nuts. I keep a container of them on hand most of the time! Here's the recipe for Sugar and Spice Glazed Pecans that I use. I also LOVE to use the dressing (WITH the sesame oil) from my Napa Salad with most of my everyday salads. I keep a plunger of it in my fridge.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Soup season is over...

Yes, it was 80 degrees and muggy today, so I'm officially putting an end to our soup season...but not until I cooked one last pot! Check out some of our favorite recipes!

Tortilla Soup

Although I'm not a born Southerner (and they're not quick to claim ya either), I've had many native Southerners approve of this recipe I've tweaked--mostly to make easier!

1 TBSP olive oil
1 med. onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 (4 oz.) can chopped green chilis, liquid and all
6 cups gluten-free chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes with liquid (our kids like petite diced)
Salt (optional—I don’t use since the chips are salted)
¾-1 lb. (3 chicken breasts) shredded or diced cooked chicken
1 (~13 oz.) bag tortilla chips (Cool Ranch Doritos are good, but they contain milk products, plain tortilla chips are fine)
1 large ripe (but still firm) Hass avocado--or 2 small avocadoes, diced
1 (8 oz.) pkg. light sour cream (or Tofrutti for lactose/casein free)
¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese (leave out for lactose/casein free)
3-4 TBSP chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil on med-high heat in soup pot, add onion and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and green chilis; cook 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until vegetables are tender. Stir in broth, tomatoes (and salt if using). Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 15 minutes. Add cooked chicken; heat until hot. Place the tortilla chips in gallon-sized zip baggie and smash bag to break up chips into smaller pieces.

To serve, cut and pit the avocado, dice. Divide the crushed chips in half. Add a handful of smashed chips in each serving bowl; ladle in soup. Top with a dollop of sour cream, avocado and cheese; garnish with more tortilla chips and cilantro. Yummo!!

Replace chicken with:
1 can (drained/rinsed) black beans & 1 cup chopped zucchini,
1 can black beans & 1 can northern beans, drained & rinsed

LACTOSE FREE: Don't top with shredded cheese or sour cream (use Tofrutti)...OR live it up and take a lactose supplement if they work for you!

TIPS: To prevent diced avocados from going brown when using as a topping, drizzle lime juice over them and gently mix.

If you have any diced avocado toppings left over, put them in the left-over soup so they don't go brown.

This soup is really good with left-over grilled, fajita, or oven-roasted chicken.

Wild Rice Soup--Byerly's

As northerners refer to wild rice as "Minnesota Caviar," here's a hearty soup that reminds me of home. We stock up on wild rice whenever we return home since it's not widely used (and is more expensive!) throughout the rest of the country. I haven't tasted a better recipe, and I've tried plenty!

6 TBSP butter
1 TBSP minced onion
½ cup flour
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups cooked wild rice
1/3 cup minced ham
½ cup finely grated carrots
3 TBSP chopped slivered almonds
½ tsp. salt (optional)
1 cup half and half (I often use a can of evaporated milk)
2 TBSP dry sherry (optional, but's so good)
minced parsley or chives for garnish

Melt butter in saucepan; sauté onion until tender. Blend in flour; gradually add broth. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil; boil 1 minute. Stir in rice, ham, carrots, almonds, and salt; simmer about 5 minutes. Blend in half and half and sherry; heat to serving temperature. Garnish with minced parsley or chives.

Amount: 6 cups

This soup freezes well! You may want to undercook the rice if you're planning on having leftovers. Otherwise, the rice tends to curl up and look a bit like something you experimented with in high school science lab!

This recipe is from Byerly’s, a Minnesota Fine Grocer

White Chicken Chili

This recipe is right on the can of Bush's Great Northern Beans! Why do I post it then? So you can take a looksee before you go out and buy a can...and because I've tweaked it ever so slightly! It really is very tasty, and our kids love it! It's embarrassingly easy since you basically just dump, heat, and eat. A fine friend for busy moms!

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 TBSP olive oil
1 (4 oz.) can chopped green chilies, do not drain
2 TBSP all-purpose flour
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 (15.8 oz.) cans northern beans, drained & rinsed
1 (14-1/2 oz.) can chicken broth
1-1/2 cups finely chopped cooked chicken
Shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, optional, especially for my LactIntol husb!
Sour cream, optional
Salsa, optional
Cilantro, optional

In large skillet, cook onion in oil for 4 minutes or until transparent. Add chilies, flour and cumin; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add beans and chicken both; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened. Add chicken; cook until hot. Garnish with cheese, sour cream and salsa, if desired.

LACTOSE FREE: Do not top with sour cream or shredded cheese...OR live it up and take a lactase supplement if they work for you!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Resurrection Cookies

This is a great activity/recipe to use with your kids at Eastertime--maybe the day before Easter since Easter Day is usually so full of other excitement and celebration. It surely will help your kids focus on the true meaning of the holiday--not just on their egg hunt and candy!

1 cup whole pecans
1 tsp. vinegar
3 egg whites
Pinch salt
1 cup sugar
Zipper baggie
Wooden spoon

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

1. Place pecans in zipper baggie and let children beat them with the wooden spoon to break into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested, he was beaten by the Roman soldiers. Read John 19:1-3.

2. Let each child smell the vinegar. Put 1 teaspoon vinegar into mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross, he was given vinegar to drink. Read John 19:28-30.

3. Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave his life to give us life. Read John 10:10-11.

4. Sprinkle a little salt into each child's hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus' followers, and the bitterness of our own sins. Read Luke 23:27. (So far the ingredients are not very appetizing.)

5. Add 1 cup of sugar. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know Him and belong to Him. Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16.

6. Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the color white represents purity in God's eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3.

7. Fold in broken nuts. Drop by teaspoons onto a wax paper covered cookie sheet. Explain that each mount represents the rocky tomb where Jesus' body was lain. Read Matthew 27:57-60.

8. Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF (DO NOT BAKE COOKIES).

9. Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. Explain that Jesus' tomb was sealed. Read Matthew 27:65-66.

10. Go to bed! Explain to them that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus' followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed and they had to leave. Read John 16:20 & 22.

On Resurrection morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies, like the tomb, are hollow! On the first Resurrection morning, Jesus' followers were amazed and surprised to find the tomb open and empty. Read Matthew 28:1-9. HE HAS RISEN! HE HAS RISEN INDEED!

Resurrection Rolls

Here's a new twist on the Resurrection Cookie idea for Easter, both are recipes you can do with your kids/grand kids in order for them to understand the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This fun recipe uses Crescent rolls and a disappearing marshmallow!

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees

Crescent rolls
Melted butter
Large marshmallows

Give each child a triangle of crescent rolls. The crescent roll represents the cloth that Jesus was wrapped in.

Read Matthew 27:57-61

1. Give each child a marshmallow. This represents Jesus.
2. Have him/her dip the marshmallow in melted butter. This represents the oils of embalming.
3. Now dip the buttered marshmallow in the cinnamon and sugar which represents the spices used to anoint the body.
4. Then wrap up the coated marshmallow tightly in the crescent roll (not like a typical crescent roll up, but bring the sides up and seal the marshmallow inside.) This represents the wrapping of Jesus' body after death.
5. Place in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. (The oven represents the tomb - we will imagine that 10-12 min. = Jesus' 3 days!)
6. Let the rolls cool slightly. The children can open their rolls (cloth) and discover that Jesus is no longer there, HE IS RISEN!!!! (The marshmallow melts and the crescent roll is puffed up, but empty.)

Now read Matthew 28:5-8

Explain: At the tomb, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary saw an angel, who told them not to be afraid. No one had taken Jesus' body, but He Had risen from the dead! The angel told the women to go and tell the disciples what they had seen, that Jesus had risen from the dead. They were so excited, they ran all the way home to tell the disciples the good news! He is risen from the dead! Alleluia!

After that Jesus appeared in person to Peter, then to the 12 disciples and after that, to more than 500 people. Jesus' appearance to eyewitnesses, those who saw Him with their own eyes, would give support and prove that Jesus rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-6).

By rising from the dead, Jesus proved once and for all that He was the Messiah, the Savior of the World, the Chosen One, and the Lamb of God. By dying on the cross and rising from the dead, Jesus did what no other had ever done before. As both God and man, He overcame sin, death, and hell. And now because of what Jesus has done, these things no longer have any power over those who believe in Jesus and allow His Spirit to lead and direct them. Rather than being slaves to sin and death, Christians ( those who love and believe in Jesus) are free to obey God and do good ( Romans 6:17-18). The Bible says in John 8:36, "If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed."

However, we will only obey God if we listen to the Holy Spirit our helper. He enables believers in Jesus to do the right thing. It is important that we read the Bible (God's Word) because one of the ways the Holy Spirit helps us obey God is by reminding us of what He says to us in His Word. God's Spirit will never go against his Word. In fact, when we read God's Word, we are listening to the Holy Spirit. Of course, you won't always do the right thing; the Bible says this (1 John 1:5-10). But that is why we need to continue to confess our sins knowing that God forgives us, based on what Jesus did on the cross. This is also a reason we need to spend time with other believers in Christ so they can encourage us in our faith.

May you have a blessed and meaningful Easter!

Very Helpful Information

I received this information in an email from one of my aunts. I figured unless I post it here, it would get lost among all my other emails. So, here are the good ideas!

Peel a banana from the bottom and you won't have to
pick the little 'stringy things' off of it. That's how the primates do it.

Take your bananas apart when you get home from the store.
If you leave them connected at the stem, they ripen faster.

Store your opened chunks of cheese in aluminum foil.
It will stay fresh much longer and not mold!

Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating.
Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking. Add a teaspoon of water when frying ground beef. It will help pull the grease away from the meat while cooking.

To really make scrambled eggs or omelets rich add a couple of
spoonfuls of sour cream, cream cheese, or heavy cream in and then beat them up.

For a cool brownie treat, make brownies as directed. Melt Andes mints
in double broiler and pour over warm brownies. Let set for a wonderful minty frosting.

Add garlic immediately to a recipe if you want a light taste
of garlic and at the end of the recipe if your want a stronger taste of garlic.

Leftover snickers bars from Halloween make a delicious dessert. Simply
chop them up with the food chopper. Peel, core and slice a few apples. Place them
in a baking dish and sprinkle the chopped candy bars over the apples. Bake at 350
for 15 minutes!!! Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream. Yummm!

Reheat Pizza
Heat up leftover pizza in a nonstick skillet on top of the stove, set heat to med-low
and heat till warm. This keeps the crust crispy. No soggy micro pizza. I saw this on
the cooking channel and it really works.

Easy Deviled Eggs
Put cooked egg yolks in a zip lock bag. Seal, mash till they are all broken up. Add remainder of ingredients, reseal, keep mashing it up mixing thoroughly, cut the tip of the baggy, squeeze mixture into egg. Just throw bag away when done easy clean up.

Expanding Frosting
When you buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer
for a few minutes. You can double it in size. You get to frost more cake/cupcakes
with the same amount. You also eat less sugar and calories per serving.

Reheating refrigerated bread
To warm biscuits, pancakes, or muffins that were refrigerated, place them in
a microwave with a cup of water. The increased moisture will keep the food
moist and help it reheat faster..

Newspaper weeds away
Start putting in your plants, work the nutrients in your soil. Wet newspapers,
put layers around the plants overlapping as you go cover with mulch and for-
get about weeds. Weeds will get through some gardening plastic they will not
get through wet newspapers.

Broken Glass
Use a wet cotton ball or Q-tip to pick up the small shards of glass you can't see easily.

No More Mosquitoes
Place a dryer sheet in your pocket.
It will keep the mosquitoes away.

Squirrel Away!
To keep squirrels from eating your plants, sprinkle your plants with cayenne pepper.
The cayenne pepper doesn't hurt the plant and the squirrels won't come near it.

Flexible vacuum
To get something out of a heat register or under the fridge add an empty paper towel
roll or empty gift wrap roll to your vacuum. It can be bent or flattened to get in nar-
row openings.

Reducing Static Cling
Pin a small safety pin to the seam of your slip and you will not have a clingy skirt
or dress. Same thing works with slacks that cling when wearing panty hose.
Place pin in seam of slacks and .. ta da! ... static is gone.

Measuring Cups
Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill with hot water.
Dump out the hot water, but don't dry cup. Next, add your ingredient, such
as peanut butter, and watch how easily it comes right out.

Foggy Windshield?
Hate foggy windshields? Buy a chalkboard eraser and keep it in the glove box of
your car . When the window s fog, rub with the eraser! Works better than a cloth!

Reopening envelope
If you seal an envelope and then realize you forgot to include something inside,
just place your sealed envelope in the freezer for an hour or two. Viola! It unseals

Use your hair conditioner to shave your legs. It's cheaper than shaving cream and
leaves your legs really smooth. It's also a great way to use up the conditioner you
bought but didn't like when you tried it in your hair.

Goodbye Fruit Flies
To get rid of pesky fruit flies, take a small glass, fill it 1/2' with Apple Cider Vinegar
and 2 drops of dish washing liquid; mix well. You will find those flies drawn to the
cup and gone forever!

Get Rid of Ants
Put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants. They eat it, take it 'home,' can't
digest it so it kills them. It may take a week or so, especially if it rains, but it works
and you don't have the worry about pets or small children being harmed!


The heating unit went out on my dryer! The gentleman that fixes things around the
house for us told us that he wanted to show us something and he went over to the
dryer and pulled out the lint filter. It was clean. (I always clean the lint from the filter after every load clothes.) He told us that he wanted to show us something; he took the filter over to the sink and ran hot water over it. The lint filter is made of a mesh material ... I'm sure you know what your dryer's lint filter looks like. Well ....the hot water just sat on top of the mesh! It didn't go through it at all! He told us that dryer sheets cause a film over that mesh that's what burns out the heating unit.

You can't SEE the film, but it's there. It's what is in the dryer sheets to make your
clothes soft and static free ... that nice fragrance too. You know how they can feel
waxy when you take them out of the box .... well this stuff builds up on your clothes
and on your lint screen. This is also what causes dryer units to potentially burn your house down with it! He said the best way to keep your dryer working for a very long time (and to keep your electric bill lower) is to take that filter out and wash it with hot soapy water and an old toothbrush (or other brush) at least every six months.

He said that makes the life of the dryer at least twice as long! How about that!?!
Learn something new everyday! I certainly didn't know dryer sheets would do that.
So, I thought I'd share!

Note: I went to my dryer and tested my screen by running water on it. The water ran
through a little bit but mostly collected all the water in the mesh screen. I washed itwith warm soapy water and a nylon brush and I had it done in 30 seconds. Then when
I rinsed it...the water ran right thru the screen! There wasn't any puddling at all! That repairman knew what he was talking about!