Padawan Pops Tarts

As our family life gets crazier, jiu jitsu keeps us busier, and my growing boys eat more like small horses, I’ve realized just how hard it is to snack healthy.  Add to this the alerts going out on social media daily telling you that everything from chicken to cereal will give you cancer, or simply drop you where you stand, and a mom starts to think more about finding healthier alternatives to daily favorites.  No, I’m not cowering in fear, but you guys know I like to take on projects, so this month I decided to try my hand at a favorite around here- breakfast tarts 😉

I did some research and found a recipe on tablespoon.com which seemed fairly simple.  I just did things a little differently…and will in the future.  I think next time I will make my own crusts so these are a little easier to shape.  I never claimed to be a baker and I think my additions to the recipe will attest to this.

Homemade Pop Tarts

    Ingredients
  • 1 box refrigerated pie crust (2 layers)
  • 1 small jar strawberry preserves (good quality) I used blackberry that we made last year
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons milk (2 – 3 tsp)
    Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Unroll one of the pie crusts and square the edges. Cut into rectangles. Place 1 tsp of jam in the center of a rectangle and top with another piece of crust. Crimp all four edges. Repeat until all of the pie crust is used.
  3. Start to get upset because you can’t make twenty perfect rectangles with the crust you have.  Pull out the rolling pin and try to make more rectangles with the crust you cut away in you futile attempts to make above perfect rectangles.  Laugh at yourself through the tears as you end up with a few rectangles, some trapezoids and some kind of half-moon-looking, sad, little thing.  Keep the swearing to a minimum when you accidentally get a little crimp crazy and poke holes in the crust.
  4. Fix said holes like the baking MacGuyver you are and carry on. 
  5. Bake the pop-tarts for about 7 – 8 minutes or until slightly brown. If you don’t want to add extra sugar with the glaze, you can use an egg wash on the tops with some white sugar.
  6. Perhaps it was the fact that my tarts ran the geometric shape gauntlet, but I found mine needed to cook from 8 to 10 minutes.  Just watch them carefully, you want a nice golden-brown. 
  7. Allow the pop tarts to cool for 5 minutes. Meanwhile prepare glaze by adding milk to the sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached. Pour over pop tarts and sprinkle with decorating sugar. Serve warm.
  8. You need to hear this…FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!  LET THEM COOL FOR MORE THAN FIVE MINUTES!!!!  I cannot stress enough the importance of cooling these taste bud obliterating, hot lava-filled, innocent looking hell-born treats!  Seriously, walk away.  You can glaze them while they are hot, but I’m telling you right now, if you take a bite within the first hour, you will likely lose the power of speech and the ability to taste for a good 24 hours.  
  9. Leftover pop tarts can be stored in an airtight container. To serve warm, heat in the microwave, or flat in a toaster oven. (Placing in an upright toaster oven is not recommended).

These are really delicious and my family loved them!  So much better than the hard, store-bought variety.  Enjoy…and don’t forget to let them cool!

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Creamy Taco Dip…not just for Tuesdays

Prepping for the super bowl in our house usually goes like this:

Me: “What do you guys want for our football, finger food this year?”

The crew: “Creamy taco dip, baked taco dip (another time) and a veggie tray!”

Me: “Seriously, guys, don’t you want something different this year?  Spinach artichoke dip?  The big sandwich?”

The crew: “Nope!”

Without further ado, I give you crazy easy to make…

Creamy taco dip.jpg

Creamy Taco Dip

Ingredients:
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened at room temp
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1, 1 oz packet taco seasoning
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar jack or Colby jack mix
  • 1 cup  lettuce, shredded
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • sliced or diced olives
  • chopped onion (optional)
  • Chips for dipping
Directions:
  1. Blend the cream cheese, sour cream and taco seasoning with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
  2. Spread mixture onto a 9 x 13 cookie sheet, then top with the shredded cheese (IMPORTANT: the shredded cheese will absorb moisture and prevent the vegetables from making a watery mess of the creamy mixture, so definitely sprinkle cheese before veggies).
  3. Sprinkle evenly with the lettuce, tomato, olives, etc.
  4. Chill for 30 minutes, if desired, and serve with chips.

Super easy and delicious!

Alternatives for healthier dip that still tastes great:

  • Use reduced or fat free dairy.
  • Use low sodium taco seasoning or make your own.
  • Serve with homemade, baked tortilla chips.

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On a personal note, I’m sorry for the long hiatus.  I’ve been helping a friend whose home flooded last August rebuild one room at a time and I’ve been down with sinus issues…a lot.  I’m hoping to get back on track, but I thank you for your patience and loyalty!

Crock Pot Ham ain’t no Hill of Beans Soup

It’s that time, for many of you at least- the time to start making comfort, cool weather food- soups, chili, gumbo, etc.  Here in Louisiana, it’s still hotter than Hades and just as humid, but I decided to defy logic and go for a hearty meal last week when the temperature dipped down to a frigid 85 degrees (sadly, it only lasted for a couple of hours).  Also, now that school is in full swing again and the boys and I are taking some martial arts classes (I’m sore in places I didn’t know existed), I have rediscovered my slow cooker.  It has been a huge relief to come home to a meal already prepared on those later school nights.   This was a ridiculously easy, successful experiment and was a great way to clear a sliced ham out of my freezer.

Crock Pot Ham and Bean Soup

Prep time: 15 minutes                              Serves: 4 (with leftovers for the next night)-8

Ingredients
  • About a pound of cubed ham, or hocks
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 TBSP garlic powder
  • 1 lb great northern beans, rinsed and picked through*
  • 7-8 cups chicken broth
  • salt, pepper and Tony’s to taste
  • Optional- a dash of thyme
Directions
  1. Add all ingredients to the crock pot, stir and cook on low for 6-7 hours or high for about 4 hours.
  2. Discard bay leaves and serve.

I mean, really, it doesn’t get much easier than this.  It was a huge hit!

ham-and-bean

Notes:

For a fun twist, you can layer canned, uncooked biscuits on top a few hours into cooking for easy dumplings.

I added a little extra broth for more liquid comfort.

*If you live with all males, as I do, be sure to implement the “take it outside rule” not long after serving.  You’ve been warned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buffalo Chicken Dip, the Easiest Recipe in my Arsenal

Good morning, world!  I am happy to announce that I awoke feeling vaguely human today!  I may have have overdone it a bit and am starting to regress a little, but I am taking a break and clinging to the hope that tomorrow will find me totally human again.

Luckily, I was given this easy, and I do mean easy, recipe by my amazing mother-in-law a couple of years ago and it has quickly become a favorite.  My youngest was sick with me for a few days, but managed to avoid the sinus infection, so we have done a lot of Ramen over the last week and a half.  I finally dragged myself out of bed and showed the boys this simple, yet delicious gem.

I like to serve it with olive oil and garlic sprinkled french bread or naan and celery, but I suppose that tortilla chips would work nicely as well.  I used 2 cans of cooked chicken (I know, a crime) because I didn’t have it in me to cook my own, and it was still fantastic.  Doesn’t get much easier than that!  The vultures descended so quickly that I was unable to get a picture of the finished, baked dish, so I hope these shots will suffice.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Ingredients
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, or 2 cans cooked chicken, drained
  • 1/2-3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2-3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup Franks Red Hot Sauce or Cajun Chef hot sauce
  • 1/3 cup blue cheese dressing
  • 8 oz cream cheese
Directions
  1. Mix all ingredients together and bake, covered, at 350° for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
  2. Serve with chunks of a good bread and enjoy.

Blackberry Pepper Jelly; Happy, Happy, Happy Belly

Nope, I haven’t been abducted by aliens.  I have been down with the mother of all colds which has now moved into my sinuses.  I always say, go big or go home, but I didn’t necessarily mean in all areas…

Anyway, the contractors are starting today and I have a few minutes of free time, so I wanted to share the magical recipe I stumbled upon last night.  This weekend, thanks to my incredibly generous neighbor, Ms. Darlene, the boys and I picked about 4 gallons of blackberries.  Now I love a good blackberry jelly, but 16 jars should tide me over for quite a while, so I was left with deciding what to do with the remaining berries.  I love a good sorbet, but as sick as I’ve been, that seemed like a lot of work (it’s not), so I decided to use the jalapenos I just harvested and jazz things up a little.  My boys have already killed two jars of this stuff because it is so yummy!

If you are new to canning, it can all seem a little daunting, but it really is easy and very addictive.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

The first thing you’ll want to do is soak your berries in salted water.  This will coax any critters out and you can rinse everything away before cooking.  Rinse in a large colander and pick out any shmutz you don’t want in your food; grass, leaves, dried berries, etc.

I am not a huge fan of seeds in my spreads, so I always make juice first, milling out the seeds.  There was just enough pepper to give you a hint of the flavor, but I may use another 1 or 2 next time.  Here we go…

Blackberry Juice

Ingredients
  • 4 cups blackberries
  • 3-4 cups water, to almost cover the berries
Directions
  1. Mash the berries in a pot with the water and cook for about 20 minutes over medium high heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. Remove from heat and cool, then strain through a food mill, sieve or cheese cloth to remove seeds.

Blackberry Pepper Jelly

Ingredients
  • 1 (1.75 oz) package powdered pectin
  • 1/2 cup + 3 & 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 4 cups blackberry juice
  • 3 small jalapeno peppers, minced
  • 1/2 tsp butter, if desired, to minimize foam
  • 6 half pint canning jars, lids and rings
Directions
  1. Boil enough water in a large canning pot to cover jars with one inch of water and submerge jars, lids and rings to sterilize.
  2. In a large sauce pan, whisk the pectin and 1/2 cup sugar with the blackberry juice until well combined then add the butter and jalapeno and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop when stirred) for 1 minute.
  3. Add the remaining sugar and return to a rolling boil for an additional minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat, continuing to stir while removing jars, lids and rings from the canning pot.  Scoop away any foam (foam adds air to your jelly which can promote bacteria growth).
  4. Ladle jelly into jars leaving 1/4 inch head space and top with lids and rings.
  5. Boil five minutes in a hot water bath to seal.
  6. Serve over cream cheese on crackers or enjoy by itself.  So good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Pain Lo Mein

Well, it’s about to get really crazy around these parts.  A miracle has happened and I finally found a contractor to do the three big jobs we need done!  I can’t even explain the joy after almost a year of searching (with brief breaks when Jamie says he’ll just do it himself).  I promise to post at least once a week during the chaos!

Anyhoo, last night I was feeling lazy and in the mood for Oriental food without the work.  This is a really easy recipe, though it may not seem so with the long ingredient list, and my kids love it.  It’s also a great way for me to sneak mushrooms into a dish unnoticed.  I make a big batch because they love it so much and once in a blue moon, we get leftovers.  If you are cooking for light eaters, halve this recipe.

Chicken Lo Mein with Portobello Mushrooms

Ingredients
  • 1 package linguine
  • 2 TBSP cornstarch
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 TBSP rice vinegar
  • 2 TBSP honey
  • 1/8 cup soy sauce (you may want to add more to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
  • 3 TBSP sesame oil
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced or grated
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cups baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 3-4 cups baby spinach, chopped, if desired
Directions
  1. Boil water and cook linguine.  Drain very well and set aside.
  2. In a bowl combine cornstarch, broth, vinegar, honey, soy sauce, salt and ginger and whisk until smooth.  Set aside.
  3. In a wok, or large skillet, stir fry chicken pieces in 1 TBSP sesame oil for 4-6 minutes, or until no longer pink.  Remove from heat and keep warm.
  4. Stir fry the carrots and onion in the remaining sesame oil for 2 minutes, then add the mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add the spinach and cook for 1-2 minutes, until veggies are crisp tender and spinach is wilted.
  5. Slowly, stir in the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil, stirring for 1-2 minutes until thickened.
  6. Add chicken and linguine to pan, stirring to coat everything and heat through.

Chicken Lo Mein

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coconut Shrimp (Bengali Curry in a hurry)

I have a secret to share.  This may heap much criticism on my head, but I can’t lie.  I loathe shredded coconut.  I mean, I cannot stand it.  I can cut up a whole coconut and eat myself into a coma off of the chunks of yummy goodness, but shred that stuff and my gag reflex kicks in.  I wish I was kidding and this may not be the best way to sell this recipe, but…where was I going with this?

Oh, yeah, so this recipe calls for shredded coconut, but thankfully my mother had a solution for me and this became a fondly remembered staple of my childhood.  If you’ve never made curry because it seems (and very well can be) difficult, this is the recipe for you.  I put off making it sometimes because I forget how incredibly easy it is to throw this delicacy together.  There are very few adjustments needed here, so rest assured, it’s tough to screw up and so delicious!

Coconut Shrimp

Ingredients
  • 1/2 – 1 lb raw, peeled, deveined shrimp
  • 1 can coconut paste or milk
  • 1 cup unsweetened (pahtooie!) coconut flakes, or 1 cup sweetened and rinsed coconut flakes (sweetened, rinse tend to puree better)
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 TBSP ground coriander
  • 1/2 + 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp + 1 pinch salt
  • 1 & 1/2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2-3 TBSP oil
  • cooked rice
Directions
  1. In a blender, puree the coconut flakes and coconut milk or paste until smooth.  I mean really smooth.  No chunks of flakes to be had.
  2. Saute onion and coriander in 1-2 TBSP olive oil in a large pot for about 5 minutes on medium high heat.  Remove from heat, wait 1 minute, then add 1/2 tsp tumeric, cayenne pepper and a bit of water to prevent burning and cook an additional 1 minute on medium heat.  Add 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp garlic powder. and cook 1 minute.
  3. In a skillet cook shrimp with a pinch of salt and 1/2 tsp tumeric in 1-2 TBSP oil for 5 minutes or until pink.
  4. Add chopped jalapeno, shrimp and coconut mix to the onion mix, stirring well and cook on medium for 10 minutes.
  5. Serve over rice.