Fruit Chips: Let the Deliciousness Flow Through You!

Good afternoon, all!  Getting a little bit of a late start because I finally got my husband home last night.  I’m thinking weekends may have to be quick and easy posts so that Jamie can get a little attention during the 36 or so hours I’ll get to see him for the next few months.

As you know, I am recovering from a super fatty food run and on the lookout for new snack items to feed my hungry gang and myself, so this week we remembered how much we love fruit chips.

There is almost no fruit that can’t be dried, but we went with mango, apples and bananas.  You can do these in a food dehydrator or an oven and they are an easy, delicious snack.  Because fruit isn’t exactly bursting with flavor this early in the spring, I used lemon juice and cinnamon sugar on my chips.

I’ll break this down into three separate recipes since I’m giving oven directions and temperatures vary, but you can tweak it depending on the fruit you choose or whether or not you use a dehydrator.  I also recommend dipping your fruit in, or brushing it with, lemon juice to enhance the fruit’s natural flavor, but it’s not mandatory.

Apple Chips

Oven: 225°       Prep time: about 10 minutes        Cook time: 45 min-1 hr       Serves: 4 (for about 10 minutes in this house)
Ingredients
  • 4-6 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (a mandolin works great)
  • Lemon juice for brushing
  • Cinnamon sugar, if fruit is not sweet enough
Directions
  1. Arrange apple slices on a baking sheet and brush with lemon juice.
  2. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake in preheated oven until edges are dry and begin to curl, 45 minutes to 1 hour. 20160310_174916 - Copy

Banana Chips

Oven: 200°       Prep time: 10 minutes      Cook time: about 3 hours      Serves: 2-4
Ingredients
  • 2 bananas, peeled
  • Lemon juice
  • Cinnamon sugar

Directions

 

  1. Peel bananas and slice into 1/4 inch slices.  Place on a greased cookie sheet and brush with lemon juice and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
  2. Bake, turning over once, until golden brown and crispy, about 3 hours.

Wickett - Copy

Mango Chips

Oven: 185°, or lowest available oven temp        Prep time: 10 minutes      Cook time: 2-3 hours      Serves:  2-4
Ingredients
  • 2 ripe mangoes
  • Lemon juice
  • Sugar, or cinnamon sugar
DIRECTIONS
  1. Wash and peel mangoes, then cut into thin slices.
  2. Place on a greased cookie sheet, or line a cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat.
  3. Brush mangoes with lemon juice and sprinkle with sugar, if desired.
  4. Bake for 2 to 3 hours, turning them over every 30 minutes or until they’re dry.

 

Baked Tortilla Chips That Actually Taste Good. Seriously.

Over the years I have tried hundreds of variations of healthier snacks and have rarely hit on any winners.  After the dangerous discovery of homemade fried potato chips, I had to find an alternative, lest I need to find a 12 step program instead.  I don’t know if they have those for chip eaters, but I was ready to look.  At the very least, I was headed for much larger pants.  Anyway, since I still have a bunch of salsa, I decided to give it a try.  It’s easy and painless, but you’ll need to make a lot to keep up with the demand.

Baked Tortilla Chips

Oven: 350°                                 Prep time: 5 minutes tops                        Cook Time: 7-10 minutes
Ingredients
  • Flour tortillas, any size
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
Optional
  • Lime Juice, dried cilantro, cumin, chili powder, cheesy popcorn or other seasoning*
Directions

Brush or spray the tortillas with lime juice, if desired and let dry.  Brush or spray with olive oil.

Cut the tortillas with a pizza cutter into wedges.  You may have to cut strips for larger tortillas.

Brush a cookie sheet with olive oil and place the chips in a single layer on the sheet.  Sprinkle with salt, if desired, but do not use cheese seasoning at this time.  It will burn and not be terribly tasty.

Bake at 350° for 7-10 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and toss with any additional seasoning.  Repeat until you have enough to satisfy the masses.

*I brushed the chips with lime juice and oil, then used my mortar and pestle to grind salt and some dried cilantro from the garden.  I sprinkled the concoction on the chips and then baked them.  Delicious!

20160308_175703

 

Tasty Taco Teacups

Good morning, all!  It’s a gloomy day in my neck of the woods, made gloomier by being up until the wee hours exchanging gifs with my dear friend, Carrie (this newer feature on Facebook Messenger is best discovered during daylight hours).  Mama is tired, but luckily I stumbled upon a very easy winner in the kitchen last night and by golly, I’m making it again tonight.  I’ll be a hero!

Remember Cheeseburger Cups from a little while back?  Well, meet their cousin, born out of the fatigue which comes from raking and scooping 32 yards (or so) of leaves over the last few days.  I figured, “Meh, why not?” and gave it a shot.  I like to save my experimental or laziest and least difficult meals for my single parent weeks (I do not know how working single parents do it!  They deserve super hero status) when Jamie’s gone and was in the mood for Mexican last night.  Call me silly, but I like the man to eat well when he’s home since the cooking can be iffy offshore, or now, on the road.

My kids tore into these, but I would recommend doubling the recipe if you have more than three people at your table.  The only complaint I received was a reprimand from Andrew for not putting out the olives.  They are really good plain, but great dressed up!

Taco Teacups

Serves: 3-4        Prep time: 5-10 minutes         Oven: 400 °
Ingredients
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 package or 1/4 cup taco seasoning
    • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 tube refrigerated biscuits
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar or taco mix cheese
  • cornmeal for dusting
Optional
  • sour cream, lettuce (chopped or shredded), tomato (diced), taco sauce, olives, etc.
Directions

In a skillet, brown the ground beef, drain and prepare according to taco seasoning directions, adding the taco seasoning and water.

Grease a muffin tin and dust inside the cups with cornmeal.  Press biscuits into individual cups of the greased and dusted tin, bringing the dough up the inside of the cups, but not over the lip.*

Spoon the taco meat evenly into all biscuit cups and top with shredded cheese.

Bake at 400 degrees for 14-16 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from muffin tin with a fork and top with lettuce, tomato, taco sauce, sour cream, olives, etc.  Enjoy!

Note:

*Naturally, I got goofy and rolled my biscuits flat on a surface dusted with cornmeal.  It added nice flavor and gave me evenly cooked biscuits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ho-Ho Cake, HAHAHAHA!

Yes, it’s official.  I’ve been sucked into the kitchen far too often lately and I have lost my mind.  Initially, this blog was going to be a recipe here and there kind of deal, but now I’m cooking and making things I haven’t in years.  Today, for example, I have a sick child home from school and have decided on soup and grilled cheese for dinner, but in order to keep the recipe momentum going, I dug up one for something I haven’t made in over 20 years.

Ho-Ho Cake is basically a giant Swiss Cake Roll and was really easy to make and safe to eat when I was in my late teens and early twenties, but now maybe not so wise for my 42-yr-old metabolism.  Did this knowledge stop me?

No way!  I love this cake and even though it was a bit of a challenge and I’m now going to have to eat lettuce for a week, I have to share this one.  The filling tastes just like the real stuff and IT IS SO GOOD!

I’m going to take you on a ride through one woman’s struggle to make a delight of her youth after a 20+ year hiatus.  Be sure to read my account of what actually went down after the real recipe.

Ho-Ho Cake

Servings: a small village                                                 Prep time: Who cares?  It’s a giant Swiss Cake Roll!
Cake Ingredients
  • 1 box Chocolate or Devil’s Food cake mix and for that:
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup oil
Filling Ingredients
  • 3 TBSP flour
  • 1 & 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup Crisco
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
Icing Ingredients
  • 2 small packages unsweetened chocolate chips, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 & 1/2 TBSP hot water

Directions (what you’re supposed to do)

  1. Prepare your chocolate cake mix and bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes on a lined or greased 10 X 15 inch cookie sheet.  Cool completely.  Remove carefully to wax paper.
  2. 2. For the filling: Mix the flour and milk in a sauce pan and cook, whisking or stirring constantly, until thick.  Cool completely and add the remaining filling ingredients, beating at high speed for 5 minutes.  Spread on cooled cake and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. For the icing: Beat all ingredients until smooth and spread about 1/3 of the icing on the chilled cake, placing a thin layer on top of the filling.
  4. Carefully, roll the cake into a log, using the wax paper to lift and being careful not to roll the paper into the cake.  Use the remaining icing to frost the outside of your rolled cake.  Chill to set, then slice and enjoy!

 

 

Directions (what I ACTUALLY did)

  1. Yep, got that right and even took my cake trimmer and made it perfectly level.  Don’t do this.  You’ll see why.
  2. Yep, got the filling perfect and everything was tasting and looking pretty good at this point.
  3. For the icing: I realized I had no unsweetened chocolate chips and with a sick child at home, I wasn’t going to the store.  No problem, I had some store bought chocolate frosting I could use.  Why not?  I’ll tell you why not in a second.  I spread a little of the frosting over the filling and we were off to the races.
  4. Now to neatly roll my perfect rectangle into a log.  Ever so carefully, I lovingly rolled that beautiful thing up into a photo-worthy masterpiece!  It was breathtaking!..until it cracked because I just haaaadd to shave it level and the cake was now too thin to hold up.  I contemplated keeping this little secret and showing you only the final product, but I’m letting you in here, people.  This is the real story.

    Ho Ho Cake 7.jpg
    Wait!!!  WTH happened here?

There was still hope at this point, 1 cup chocolate chips mixed with 2 TBSP coconut oil makes a great “Magic Shell” frosting, but a little whipping cream and an extra dab of coconut oil could give me chocolate spackle!

Now, to grab the double boiler and melt the chips and coconut oil (microwave doesn’t work so well for me), but BLAST!  No double boiler in sight (The problem with kids emptying the dishwasher over here is that the dishes only make it to their designated area about 65% of the time).  No problem, I totally MacGyvered it!

I tried spreading my store bough frosting, but it just ripped more of the cake off, so I filled the holes with a cake decorating tip and bag of said frosting.  I put this eyesore in the freezer for about ten minutes, not even able to will myself to photograph its hideous visage.

When my spackle, I mean, chocolate drizzle was ready, I set to work trying to save the disgusting log thing.  I used a rubber spatula and tiny cake decorating knife and managed to smooth things out pretty nicely.  Sure, it’s a little shiny and resembled a chocolate poo from a distance, but it was presentable, in my opinion.  I took some lovely pictures and almost used one as the featured image until I realized that it shows you just how much chocolate filler I used…I present to you:

CHOCOLATE SPACKLE WITH FROSTING AND A DASH OF CAKE! 

Ho Ho Cake 11
I’m getting a sugar rush just looking at this picture.

You know what though?  It’s darn good.  Sure, I can only eat a quarter of a slice without risking diabetes, but that’s healthier, right?  Plus, one slice will last like three days and the rest freezes like a champ!

The moral of the story?  Just follow the main directions and you should be okay.  In fact, unless you’re not the klutz I am, just serve as a sheet cake.  Just kidding, your friends and family will love this.  It’s really not difficult…unless you are me and we’ve all seen how well my cakes work out.

Be sure to click the “follow via email” link on the right so you never miss a post! Thanks, guys!

The Big Sammich

It’s the Monday morning after Daylight Saving and we are a grumpy, exhausted bunch of zombies in this house.  It’s time to pull out the big guns: It’s Big Sammich time.  This is an easy meal which brings much joy into our lives and is a much needed fix for the lost hour causing strife around these parts.

The Big Sammich, named by Andrew as he danced for joy when seeing me make it one day, can be easily tweaked to meet your family’s tastes.  If they aren’t pesto lovers, try spinach, sun-dried tomato pesto or even pizza sauce.

Big Sammich 2

Big Sammich

Ingredients
  • 1 loaf French or Italian bread, cut open
  • 3-4 lunch meats, we used pastrami (the crown jewel), turkey, ham and chicken
  • 2-3 TBSP prepared pesto
  • 3 sliced cheeses, we used Swiss, Provolone and sharp cheddar
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan
  • olive oil
  • garlic salt to taste
  • 1 TBSP horseradish sauce (optional)
Directions

Open the loaf and spread the pesto on both faces of the bread, adding the horseradish sauce, if desired.  I used Tony’s Zesty Sandwich Sauce.  Sprinkle garlic salt, if desired, followed by the parmesan on one side, then layer your lunch meats and cheeses.  Alternate between meat and cheese, making sure that the cheese meets bread to help everything stay together.

Close the sandwich and spray or brush the outside with olive oil, then sprinkle garlic salt.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, wrapped in foil at 350 degrees.  Slice and enjoy.

 

 

SO EASY Succulent Poached Salmon with Béarnaise Sauce

I have a confession to make…I’m a little scared of eating fish.  I used to love it, but I had a bad experience and have since gone into every fish eating moment with fear, expecting that overpowering fishy taste or to chomp down on a bone.  Since I know it’s good for us, I force myself to make it but I am always on the lookout for recipes that make fish less fishy.  I love Jamie’s fish fry and there are certain fish I can really enjoy, like grouper and tuna, but the mental block has been the worst.

I finally stumbled onto something that the whole family can enjoy and the sauce is fantastic.  I mean, fan-freaking-tastic, people!  I always double the sauce recipe, as my photos prove, and I am not ashamed.  I’ll do it again.

You probably have most of the short ingredient list on hand, so let’s hop to it!

Poached Salmon with Béarnaise Sauce

Servings: 4, unless you live with Andrew and he eats 3/4 of the entire dish.
Prep time: 5 min.                                                                   Cook time: 8-10 min.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white wine (dry is best)
  • salt and pepper to taste, if desired

Béarnaise Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise or Miracle Whip

    Bearnaise.jpg
    The secret’s in the sauce!
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 TBSP Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp tarragon, fresh minced or dried
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet, bring wine and water to a simmer (add salt, pepper and a dash of Tony’s, if you like), then add the salmon.  Cook without boiling for 8 to 10 minutes or until steaks flake easily with a fork.  Remove from skillet, divide steaks and keep warm.

In a small saucepan, while the salmon simmers (very poetic, don’t you think?) combine all the sauce ingredients well with a whisk.  Cook over medium low heat without boiling, whisking until warmed through.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve over salmon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heavenly Pesto Olive Chicken, Super Easy and Fast

Well, it’s raining again, though thankfully the wind has let up because I was worried about my chickens ending up in Oz.  Being stuck inside means I have lots of time to play in the kitchen and boy, have I!  Last night’s dinner is a favorite around these parts and it is so easy, it will blow you away.  My mushroom hater and pesto skeptic both did a little dance around the kitchen for this one, proving my theory that anything can be hidden under cheese if you play it cool enough and make it taste yummy.

I halved the recipe since it was just the boys and me, but a little does go a long way with this rich, yet not overpowering dish.  I would not cut the recipe in half again, however because there was much sorrow when they realized there would be no leftovers for tonight.  Pretty high praise when Friday nights are usually “Fantastic Family Night” in our house.  This means a favorite dish and a movie or board game, usually followed by popcorn and whatever crazy snack I throw together.

Next time you get home late and crave a little gourmet food on fast food time, this is the ticket!  Let me know what you all think!

Pesto Olive Chicken with Mushrooms

Prep time: 5-10 minutes (most of this time spent fighting plastic wrap)           Cook time: about 17 minutes
Ingredients

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/2 cup prepared pesto

4.5-12 oz canned, sliced mushrooms (2 little cans or 1 big one)

1 small can chopped olives

1 cup shredded provolone cheese (you can substitute with mozzarella, parmesan, etc.)

Garlic salt, pepper, Tony’s etc. to taste

Directions

Place the chicken breasts between 2 pieces of plastic wrap, leaving plenty of room around Pesto Olive 3.jpgthe edges for the chicken to “spread,” and flatten with a meat mallet until 1/3 – 1/2 inch thick.

Place the chicken in the bottom of a 13 X 9 baking dish and cover with the pesto, spreading evenly.  Sprinkle with garlic salt, pepper and Tony’s, if desired, to taste.  Top with mushrooms and then olives.

Bake, uncovered at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with cheese and then return to oven for an additional 2 minutes, until cheese is melted and chicken juices run clear.

Serve, sit back and bask in the glory.

 

 

Last Minute Pizza Crust

It’s been a long day and you are exhausted.  Ordering a pizza would be the easiest thing to do, but you almost feel guilty doing that.  Okay, I would because I’m weird about eating out.  I think most people who love to cook aren’t huge fans of letting a restaurant cook for them.  Plus, I spent 14 years in a field that overlaps with pest control, but that’s a disgusting story for another day.  Anyway, it’s getting close to dinner time, you want pizza, you have the ingredients, but if only you had a quick and easy crust…

I wanted to post this before the pizza recipe, but I was so excited about that one that I couldn’t wait.  So, by popular request, I bring you crust!

I know a lot of people don’t like to do their own pizza crust because they can take forever, but this one is fairly simple and really tasty.  The great thing is that you can also use whole wheat flour and the kids won’t know the difference.

Prep time is about 20 minutes, so it doesn’t get much easier than that.

Last Minute Pizza Crust

Ingredients

1 (.25  oz) package active dry yeast, or 2 1/4 tsp

1 tsp white sugar

1 cup warm water

2 1/2 cups flour

2 TBSP olive oil

1 tsp salt

cornmeal for dusting

Directions

In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in water (not hot).  Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

CBR Pizza.jpg
Yeast, sugar and water after 10 minutes

Stir in the flour, salt and oil, mixing until smooth.  Rest 5 minutes.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface, rolling and patting into a workable ball.

Roll or press onto a lightly greased baking sheet dusted with cornmeal.

Brush with olive oil and garlic salt, then bake at 450 degrees for about 5 minutes, or until slightly golden brown.  This will ensure your crust cooks through.

Remove from oven, spread with sauce, cheese and toppings.  Bake 15-20 minutes at 450 degrees until golden brown or as desired.

This crust can easily be stretched to make 2 thin crust pizzas, just be sure to adjust baking time to prevent burning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Chicken, Bacon, Ranch Pizza. Not Delivery.

Though I have every intention of making this blog about more than just food, it seems I am on a cooking roll right now, so I’m going with it.  I admit though, it kind of bums me out to think that, while I dressed like this for ComicCon last year:

 

If I keep up this cooking and eating pace, I’m probably going to have to go with one of these next year:

 

 

 

 

C’est la vie.  At least I’m keeping up my cardio and strength training (snicker, snicker).

So yesterday was the kind of day where I played in the kitchen all day.  I made some popcorn balls, tortilla chips and more fruit snacks and thought it was a pretty fine day…until I realized it was 5 pm and I hadn’t pulled anything out for dinner.  We usually eat at 6 and so I sprang into action!  Ok, not really, but I did decided to make pizza, a favorite around these parts.

I’m not a huge fan of pepperoni.  It’s not that I don’t like it, but it can be so greasy and my post-menopausal digestive system seems to handle it very poorly.  I have had to try several different alternatives and this chicken, bacon and ranch is a favorite.  In fact, when we sat down to eat last night, the conversation with my newly picky eater went like this:

“How do you like your pizza, Andrew?”

“Great!  Thanks for getting Domino’s, Mom!  This is their best chicken ranch I’ve ever had!”

“It’s not delivery, I made it.”

“No way!  I just can’t believe that.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“No, I mean, if you’re telling the truth, this is your best pizza ever!”

Then, when eating his third slice, “Did you not put jalapenos in it just for me?”

“There are jalapenos.  I just cut them up very small.”

“Wow.  I just can’t believe it.”

So either I’m usually not up to par in the kitchen with this guy, or I have finally mastered hiding things in food.  Whatever the case, if Andrew can sing this pizza’s praises, your picky guys will like it too.  I do this differently than most because of this new found picky phase, allowing me to hide the good stuff in the sauce under the cheese.

I’ll post the crust separately.

Chicken, Bacon and Ranch Pizza

Ingredients

1 pizza crust, refrigerated tube or homemade

1-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small cubes

2-3 slices of bacon, cut into “bacon bits” size

3-4 TBSP onion, minced

1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced

1-2 TBSP garlic, minced

1 cup ranch dressing

1-2 cups mozzarella

Salt, pepper and Tony’s to taste.

Directions

In a 12-14 inch skillet on medium high, fried the chopped bacon until crispy.  Remove from pan and drain, then set aside.

In the same skillet, using the bacon grease, roast the garlic until golden brown on medium high, stirring to prevent burning and sticking, about 3-5 minutes.

Add the onion and jalapeno and saute until the onion is clear, about 3-5 minutes, then add the chicken.  Cook until the chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear, stirring often, about 5-7  minutes.  I will use my utensil to make the chicken pieces smaller while cooking.  Drain any liquid.

CBR Pizza 2.jpg

Add the ranch, salt, pepper, Tony’s and garlic salt, if desired, to taste.  Return the bacon, remove from heat and stir to combine all ingredients well.

Bake your pizza crust, spread on a pan greased and dusted with cornmeal, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with a little garlic salt, for about 5 minutes in a 450 degree oven, until slightly golden (I abhor raw dough in my pizza) and then remove to counter.

Spread the chicken ranch mixture evenly over the crust and then top with cheese.  You can garnish with green onion, chives, cilantro, or whatever.

Return to oven and bake 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust edge is golden.

CBR Pizza 4.jpg

Slice and enjoy!

**********************************

For an easier alternative, you can use store bought real bacon bits and saute your veggies and cook the chicken in olive oil, but where’s the fun in that?

This recipe, my crust and all, can easily be stretched into 2 thin crust pizzas.

If you really want applause, sprinkle a little Tony’s over the top of the entire pizza.

 

 

 

 

Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger Cups

So yesterday was Sunday and the day Jamie left for orientation.  I was feeling a little lazy which, I’m sure had nothing to do with the crawfish boil and accompanying beverages from the day before, and I really didn’t feel terribly inspired in the kitchen.  I’m sure that everyone has seen some variation of this recipe on social media, but this is one we’ve been using for a long time.  I think it came from Simple and Delicious magazine, authored by Jeri Millhouse and my kids go crazy over these.  I admit to being a big fan myself.

I’m also thinking I better work on some building and homesteading posts or I’m going to weigh 700 pounds by year’s end.  Anyway, it’s a really easy and tasty recipe.  Enjoy!

Cheeseburger Cups

Yield: 5 servings for people possessing self control, 2 or 3 servings for the rest of us
Ingredients

1 lb ground beef

1/2 cup ketchup

2 TBSP brown sugar

1 TBSP prepared mustard

1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tube refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (not the giant ones)

American cheese, 10 cubes

Directions

Brown your ground beef in a skillet and then drain grease.  Stir in the ketchup, brown sugar, mustard and Worcestershire sauce, combining well.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Grease a muffin tin and press each biscuit into the bottom and up the sides of each cup.  Spoon the beef mixture into the cups and top with a cheese cube.

Bake at 400 degrees for 14-16 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from muffin cups with a fork and cool slightly before serving (a lack of self control when contacting the delicious flavor will result in a loss of taste buds if you do not allow the lava hot centers to cool a bit.  True story).

CC.jpg
Photo credit: My youngest

Top with extra ketchup if desired and enjoy!