Monday, September 24, 2018

Just Desserts #Recipes

Fall is coming.

I hate saying good bye to summer. I love the sun, the warmth, and all of the fun that is summer. But as long as I live in West Virginia, a change of seasons is part of the landscape.

And you know what they say...if you can't beat it, find the good parts and enjoy them. 

For me, one of the benefits of cooler weather is that baking gives the furnace a helping hand. 

So, in honor of being able to bake without challenging the air conditioning, let's talk desserts.  

Here's a couple of tips and a recipe.

Tip #1

Put foil under the pie and wrap. Perfect crust, every time.
To keep crust from getting too dark while the rest of the crust cooks, place foil under the pie and wrap it up over the crust once it's browned. I've bought the foil rings that go around the pie and I hate them. They are never the perfect fit. Or if they come in pieces, it's like trying to put together a puzzle on a piping hot ring. With the foil, I simply bring it up over the crust and press it down with a hot mitt.

Tip #2 
Regular oatmeal in a blender.

Ready to use for cookies!
 Here's a great cookie baking tip. My Aunt Judy is a diabetic, but like many in my family, she has a sweet tooth. In order to bake and keep her carbs low, she told me she replaces white flour with ground oatmeal. I was eager to try it, so I threw a couple of cups of oatmeal in my blender and boom, I had oatmeal flour. I replaced it in a chocolate chip cookie recipe cup for cup with the flour and they were delicious. The cookies were a bit thinner and crispier than the flour variety, but for my family, that's a bonus!

Now, for a recipe. This is my mother-in-law's strawberry pie recipe. Hopefully she doesn't mind sharing. It's too easy to not to share and can be modified for whatever fruit is in season (or you have frozen). Just switch the gelatin flavor to compliment the fruit.

Strawberry Pie

1 1/2 C sugar
1/4 C starch
1 1/12 C water
small box of Jello
strawberries (I use a pound, cleaned and diced)

Mix the water, sugar, and corn starch, cook until clear. Add the Jello.

Pour the strawberries into a pre-baked or no-cooked crust, then pour the hot Jello mix over the strawberries and chill. 

Be sure to pre-cook the crust. Or use a ready-made graham cracker crust. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Candy Corn Cookies

Ever have so much to do that you just have to ignore it all and bake something??

Well, the need to bake doesn't strike me very often, but today I needed a cookie! My son was just informed that his Army ship out date was moved up to October! (Last we heard it was January) And since it's Fall, and I love candy corn, I decided to make some candy corn cookies! Why not?

Now, I'm not the greatest in the kitchen. I'm more of a scientist than a cook... I love to experiment. So I don't have a recipe for you, I just followed my twenty-year-old Betty Crocker cookbook recipe for chocolate chip cookies and put in candy corn instead of chocolate chips. But only in half the dough--my son doesn't have a lot of faith in my experimenting and doesn't care for candy corn, so I chopped up some Hershey bars and put those in the other half.

Here's what happened...
The candy corn melted--not like smooth melty chocolate, but like that red sugary candy apple coating --and stuck to the pan... Fail!

But I was able to salvage most of the cookies with only a couple minor casualties. Here are a few good ones--and they tasted pretty good too.

Do you like to experiment in the kitchen? That's how recipes are born!
And what Fall Favorite Foods do you look forward to?

Yay for Fall!

Monday, September 10, 2018

What's for Dinner? #Recipes!

Food blogger, Jo Wake, sent me a pico de gallo baked chicken recipe that she promised would be easy enough even for me. Add the extra benefit of it also being smothered in cheese, and this was a recipe I put on the top of my try-it menu. 

From Jo: 

1 lb boneless and skinless chicken breasts or thighs (I used a whole bag of frozen breasts)
2 tsp taco seasoning (I used the whole packet)
2 cups pico de gallo
1 cup Monterey jack cheese, shredded (I used mozzarella, because it's what I had)

Season the chicken with the seasoning, place in a large baking pan, (I allowed the seasoning to soak in and "marinate") top with pico de gallo (I left it as a garnish to please my picky eaters) , and cheese (I added the cheese after the chicken baked so it stayed gooey) and bake in a preheated 375F/190C oven until the chicken is cooked through, about 20-30 minutes (I did 45-60 minutes...some of my breasts were pretty thick.)

Now, for the recipe in real life, the Elizabeth Seckman variety of life where cutting corners and spending as little time in the kitchen is always the goal.

First things first. I needed a pico de gallo recipe. I didn't have any in the house and driving to the grocery store was more work than plucking tomatoes out of the garden. During my quest for a recipe, I found this interesting little tidbit...

Did you know pico de gallo translates to rooster beak? Some say it's for the color. Others because it's not a sauce so much as a garnish that can be eaten with your fingers, primarily the forefinger and the thumb, which resembles a rooster's beak.  


The garnish was easy. 

The online recipe 5 roma tomatoes, 1/2 cup onion, 1 jalepeno (seeded and chopped), 1/2 cup cilantro, salt to taste, cumin or sometimes lime juice

I didn't have roma tomatoes, so I used regular tomatoes from the garden, diced small. And chopped red onion. I also didn't have any jalepenos. I worried the garnish would be bland without the jalepeno, so to flavor it up, I added a quarter cup of the baked chicken juice and a bit of garlic salt.

Now, for the chicken. 

This was super easy. Just like Jo promised. (I apologize for the bad pictures!)

I laid out the chicken breast in the pan and covered it with the taco seasoning.

Once the seasoning soaked in a bit. I covered and baked, like the recipe said.

I let the seasoning get gooey and soaked in before baking.

To go along with the chicken. I made a package of seasoned rice. Also, super easy. Just mix with water, stick in the rice steamer, and dinner is almost finished!

The finished product... 

Once the chicken was done. I sprinkled it with cheese, popped it back into the oven for a few minutes, then served after garnishing with the pico de gallo.

The picture doesn't do it justice...this was a quick, tasty meal. It got the highest thumb's up from my guys- a request for seconds!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Settling the Great #Baby Debates!

Yes, I'm talking about BABIES this week.

Though I'm far from baby stages with three big teenage boys, (Dear Stork: Please don't deliver any surprises. I don't want to be a granny before my time!) I've been among some friends and family who have precious new little ones. I'm also currently waiting to cover a teacher friend's paternity leave. AND in my next Pop Travel book (CONDUCTION) there are two babies on board!

So I thought I'd share some baby advice and settle a few of the Great Baby Debates...
  • To Paci or Not To Paci?
  • Let them Cry? or Comfort them back to sleep?
  • Crib or Parents' bed?
These topics are big decisions for new parents. After surviving three babies, reading loads of baby books, and having many discussions with relatives and friends, I can sum up the answer in one simple sentence:

It's your choice!

You should raise your child as you see fit. You have to deal with what will work for you and your family. Take all advice with gratitude and a grain of salt--savor it and try what sounds good. Like the advice I'm about to give--When deciding, you have to live with the consequences sooner or later. Crying comes with babies, so it's all how much you and the little ones can take.
  • If you want to use a pacifier, go ahead. I did. They're awesome! But get rid of it as soon as possible--the longer you wait, the harder it is. And some say it affects their teeth? Only if you use it too often for too long. Only one of my kids needed braces and it wasn't from the pacifier since he used it the least.
  • If you let them cry, have a system, like: increments of time to let them cry before going in to reassure them you're there, longer and longer until they're asleep. This is one of the hardest things I've ever done. But after only a few nights, it helps everyone sleep better in the long run. Be strong! If you give in and rock them to sleep, it will take longer to ween them from it. They have to sleep on their own at some point, it's up to you how and when.
  • Cribs are scary for baby and parents. But only at first. The separation gives you both some peace. Again, it is up to you when and how you feel comfortable having baby sleep in their own crib. But if you wait too long, as they get older, they know more and it will be harder to make the transition. This is true for the transition to big kid beds too.
You will know when it's time to do or undo things, you'll sense it. Instinct is real and intuition isn't a joke. Moms have been around forever and raised billions of kids. It's not easy, in fact it's torture at times. We all make mistakes, but we fix them too. In the end, it's all worth it.

Best Advice: Get Off the Phones! They grow up so fast, enjoy every moment!

Got any little ones in your vicinity? What's your baby advice?

Happy "Labor" Day! (ha ha)

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