Thursday, October 25, 2007

Homemade Granola

Someone requested a recipe for Granola too far back for me to recall any specifics (like when or who) and it was this undescribed day that this undescribed person led me to find myself a good granola recipe.

I had never made Granola before, but that will certainly change now. This is a winning recipe in my book. I purposely did not use any peanut butter or peanuts as they seem to be hard on the Panda's belly, but if you so desire you could throw those in too. You may also want to add craisins to the mix, I didn't have any on hand so I didn't.

Without further ado :

5 c. rolled oats
1 c. chopped walnuts
1 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. sesame seeds
1/2 c. flax
1 c. wheat germ
2 c. shredded coconut
2 T. ground cinnamon
1 c. salted sunflower seeds

Mix first 8 dried ingredients in a large bowl.

1 c. oil, canola or olive
1 1/2 c. honey

Cook and stir together in a small saucepan over medium heat the oil and honey. Pour over dry mixture and mix thoroughly. Spread out in an even layer on two cookie sheets.

Bake for 20 minutes in a preheated oven at 325, until oats and nuts are toasted. Immediately after it comes out of the oven, stir in...

1 1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips
(I HAD to do it! You don't.)

Let stand until cooled and stir again to break up large clumps. Store in an airtight container at room temperature and enjoy.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Spaghetti Squash Primavera

Would you believe I have never had Spaghetti Squash before? Neither had Matt. And obviously not the children. Our whole family had been deprived of spaghetti squash our entire lives. 'Tis true, 'tis true.

So here I was, again, ready to introduce the family to something new and exciting. This time in the form of squash.

I knew the transition would be too great for Matt, the meat and potatoes farmboy that he is, if it didn't include some sort of meat so I found some kielbasa we had on hand. I imagine ground beef would be equally as tasty.

This particular version is a good mix of Pasta Primavera and stir fry. Hard to explain the taste, but I guess that is natural when the ingredients are so schizophrenic. Rather than try to explain~just see for yourself, would ya?

You'll need:

2 spaghetti squash. Cut in half lengthwise, seeds discarded.
A carrot. Shredded.
An onion. Chopped.
1/2 c. each~ red and green peppers. Diced.
1 clove garlic. Minced.
1 can Italian Style Stewed Tomatoes. Opened.
1 package Kielbasa. Sliced.
2 t. olive oil
1/2 c. frozen corn. Thawed.
1/2 t. each: salt, Oregano.
1/8 t. Thyme. Crushed.
1/2 c. Parmesan Cheese. Shredded.

Place cut side of each squash up in microwave (two at a time)-cover with wax paper and microwave for 9 minutes.

Meanwhile~ Saute meat and all veggies except shredded carrot in a large skillet with oil. Add spices and shredded carrot. When mixture is heated through, add 1/4. Parmesan cheese. Cook five minutes more, until cheese is melted.

Back to the squash: once all the squash halves have been cooked...use a fork to scrape and pull up the strands of squash, making a whole for your skillet mixture. (We all liked eating them in the shell, but you could scrape all the strands of squash and put them in a different dish if you preferred.)

Spoon skillet mixture into shells (or overtop dish of squash) and then sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.

And with that, tonight~you get to have an especially fun dinner!

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Fruited Pork with Apple Cider Glaze

I am not a big pork person, but it just happens to be Matt's favorite meat so I force myself to make it for him. (weirdo.)

Oftentimes I end up adding fruit of some sort to mask the flavor~this particular time I added several.

I used four bone-in pork chops~but any sort of pork would work well. Any quantity too...just add a bit more fruit to compensate.

Brown pork in a skillet, along with a T. of olive oil and a sliced onion. Add 2 apples (peeled, cored, and sliced) to the mixture and saute until not-quite tender.

Salt and pepper to taste...sprinkle a bit of nutmeg and a smidgen of cayenne pepper.

Add about 1/2 c. Apple Cider to skillet and a splash of lemon juice. Cover, reduce heat and let simmer for about 7/8 minutes or until pork is cooked through.

Add 2 T. maple syrup and a small handful of raisins.

In a small dish, mix 1 heaping T. of cornstarch with a touch of water. Stir until 'dissolved' and put into skillet.

Raise heat and bring to boil-and then LET boil until sauce has thickened well.

Sorry about the vague amounts...I made this two weeks ago and am working off of memory. A smidge here. A splash there. Go for it~you'll be fine.

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Candied Acorn Squash

A tasty accompaniment to any autumn meal, this candied acorn squash gives you the traditional acorn squash taste in a delightfully sweet and spiced glaze.

1 medium acorn squash
3 T. brown sugar
1 T. butter
1 t. lemon juice or water
1/8 t. cinnamon

Cut squash into four rings-discarding seeds. Place rings in a single layer in a greased, shallow baking dish.

Bake, covered in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile~ combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan and cook (stirring frequently) until bubbly. Spoon glaze over squash and bake another 10 minutes uncovered, or until tender making sure to baste often.

Makes four large servings, could easily feed eight if halved. It is after all, a side dish.

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Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Are you getting sick of Autumn treats yet?

Me, either.

Here is a treat I enjoy making each year-and I have already done so twice in the last month. Each batch makes two loaves of bread. So, you can make one for now and freeze one for later...or you can make muffins with the other half, OR you can make two 'gift loaves' to give away and keep one standard size loaves for yourself. So versatile! ;-)

You will need:

3 cups all purpose flour
2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
4 eggs
2 c. sugar
2 c. cooked or canned pumpkin
1 1/4 c. veggie oil
1 1/2 c. chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. In a seperate bowl, mix all wet ingredients-making sure the eggs are beaten nicely.
Stir into dry ingredient and mix just until moistened.

Fold in the mixture your chocolate chips.

Pour into two greased 8x4x2 inch pans, paper lined muffin tins, greased gift loaves or any combination thereof.

Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes (for large loaf) or until a toothpick near the center comes out clean. Keep in mind that the smaller variations require less cooking times...

Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.


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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rye Dip and the Tale of Young Love

I love Rye Dip. I love the taste of it, mmmmm-it is one of my FAVORITE, rare, party treats. But I also love the memories it conjurs up. If you thought it was impossible for a food to make its way into a crevice of your heart, I beg to differ. If you would like, you can come along as I take a short little jaunt down memory lane....if you are impatient and have absolutely NO desire to hear about the sappy, juicy, pre-marriage details of my teenage soul, just skip down past the photo, where the recipe lies. Alone. No strings (or stories) attached.

I was seventeen, living with my parents still. And I knew nothing about cooking. Not one lick. I had never been taught and I was never forcibly chained to the kitchen to cook the families dinner growing up either. But, I had just met this super cute guy who had appeared out of NOWHERE in church and had fallen madly head over heels infatuated with him. But I didn't know how to cook! And I have always heard-the way to a man's heart is through his belly...

Well, if that were true, I wouldn't 'catch' anyone for quite a L-O-N-G time, given my present circumstances. Nope. And who knows how long I would have before a 'catch' like that Matt Newman would get hooked by the line of some other devious, selfish broad. I had to work fast!

It wasn't long before my opportunity came. Mom and Dad hosted a party-probably just with family, I imagine. Nothing party-ish sticks out in my head, only that one of the things that were served was rye dip. Out of a little storebought plastic deli package. Oh me, oh my. I was done for. I probably gained 10 pounds alone that night. (Back then-10 pounds would have put me at about average, so I didn't mind all that much. THEMS WAS THE DAYS!!! hehehe)

I was SO in love with that dip that I confiscated the plastic deli wrap sticker-(the one with the ingredients printed on them) and hauled my patooti up to my third floor-attic room halfway through the party. It was a room that my sister had lived in for a while. Then both my older brothers had their turn, and finally, being the youngest-I got the chance to use it. It was the largest room in the house-spanning half the length of the whole house, but with that, came sacrifices. It was also the COLDEST (and I mean FRIGID!) in winter, and SWELTERING in summer. (In fact, come to think of it, I don't EVER remember actually being COMFORTABLE when living up there....)

With each child succession, the room was given a face-lift. Always by the new tenant. When it was my turn, I painted the hunter green walls WHITE. That says alot about me. I like things BRIGHT. Always have. Being the attic, the walls were in a bizarre shape and the ceiling had such a HIGH point that my six-foot tall frame could only stand tall in the center of the room. But it was my little space. My bed, my papazon chair, my desk and my dresser. My own little abode.

So-I flew up the ridiculously steep stairwell and plopped my ten-pounds heavier derriere into the chair at my desk, looking for index cards. I couldn't find any. But I did find an empty three ring binder and some college ruled paper. (Oh my! College RULED!) Then, I settled in to try and interpret the ingredients list. I didn't know half of the words listed. But a few occasional words stuck out at me. Onion. Salt. Dill. I wrote the stuff I knew down and chalked the rest up to 'additives and unnecessary."

At the top of the first sheet of paper in my notebook I wrote: Rebecca's Recipes. I remember quite vividly, however, what my MIND was writing down as my pen only skimmed over the high points. It went something like this: "The Soon-to-be Rebecca Newmans Recipes for when she snags her man, marries him, and gets to be the Lady of the House. When all my dreams come true." Sigh. AWWWWW. Giggle Giggle.

Later on, I tested and experimented with ingredients and proportions until I finally got it right. And it was a winning recipe, prized because I had created it a twisted sort of way. But the recipe itself wasn't then and isn't now the pivotal point in the story. Oh no-the pivotal point in the story was before the recipe had even been formulated.

It was back then, in my little desk crevice, of my freezing cold-bright white, attic room, that I made the decision to try and learn how to cook. But not just cook well, but to depend on MYSELF and NOT the store to create yummies. And it was right then and there, that I started my 'Marriage Prepwork' in a notebook of recipes. That notebook of recipes STILL resides in my cupboard to this day. And this rye bread pokes its head out from time to time, too.

Did I snag the guy? Now THAT is a story for another day.... ;-) But I DEFINATELY conquered the snack!

To make this amazingly wonderful not-storebought dip, you need:

2 containers (2.25 oz. each) dried beef
About 2 cups each: mayo and sour cream
1 1/2 t. dill
3 T. minced onion

Then, mix the sour cream and mayo. Add the spices. Cut the meat into smallish pieces, or you can rip if you are a rebel. And it's that easy. HOWEVER: I would advise the reading of the following *TIPS* to really make it a success.

Tip #1-MUY IMPORTANTE!- You MUST, absolutely MUST rinse and pat dry the dried beef. That stuff is CRAZY salty-even when every single slice is rinsed with water. When it is NOT rinsed with water, it makes the dip absolutely, sourly, DISGUSTINGLY gross. Just hold the meat under water and pull back each slice.

Tip #2~ You can make as much or as little of this dip as you like. The key is-keep the amount of sour cream and mayo the same. If you do that, the flavors will meld well. Just adjust the spices to more or less.

Tip#3~ If you use dried minced onion-let the dip sit for about 25 minutes so that the onion will resaturate again. Otherwise, it will be crunchy. And not in a good way. If you use fresh onion that is okay but it would still taste better in time-giving all the flavors a chance to meld.

Tip#4~ Serve with Rye and Pumpernickel bread. It is SO good.
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Chocolate Chip Cheeseball

This is a very fun twist on the traditional cheeseball. If that makes me a redneck that I enjoy cheeseballs~so be it! ;-) I am a PROUD cheeseball consumer. Especially when it involves chocolate.

It is so sweet and different and fun. And fattening, but that is besides the point.

I doubled this recipe for a baby shower and wound up bringing more than half home, so unless you are hosting a LARGE party (like 25 big burly woodsman that eat an entire dozen eggs each morning for breakfast) don't bother doubling. If said Woodsman bash is on your holiday agenda, do so. It will work out nicely for you.

1 pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. butter
1/4 t. vanilla
2 T. brown sugar
3/4 c. confectioners sugar
3/4 c. mini chocolate chips

3/4 c. finely crushed pecans or mini chocolate chips~to coat.
Chocolate Graham Cracker sticks

Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips and beat with electric mixer until smooth. With large and strong wooden spoon, mix in miniature chips.

Grease a bowl and then your hands.

Grab the mixture and toss about in your hands, forming a ball. It is a sticky mess, but it gets there.
Toss it in the bowl and then in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

Once it has hardened a bit, you can bring it back out and roll it in pecans or more chips. Line a tupperware bowl with plastic wrap and plop in. Cover and chill until party. It transports easily. Once you get to the party (or guests are arriving, flip bowl upside down, peel off the plastic wrap gently and invert on a platter.

Spread chocolate covered graham crackers all around.

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Pumpkin Dip with Gingersnap Dippers

People who do not like gingersnaps have raved over this.

People who don't like pumpkin have too.

So-if you don't like either of these flavors, perhaps you shouldn't make it. Or maybe, you might be surprised. You decide.

But it is a great party dip-especially during this time of year.

Oh-and it's easy as pie.



1 pkg. cream cheese, softened
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 c. canned pumpkin
1/2 c. sour cream
1 t. each: cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice
1/2 t. ginger

Cream confectioners' sugar and softened cream cheese until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and refridgerate until needed. Serve with gingersnaps.

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Bread Machine Pizza Dough

This dough is large enough to make two large round (or sheet) pizzas. Just be sure to catch it before it has risen right out of the bread machine! ;-)

1 1/3 c. warm water
6T. butter, softened
1 egg
1 t. salt
1/4 c. sugar
3 c. bread flour
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 1/4 t. yeast

Put these ingredients in the bread machine under the dough setting and in the order listed.

Once it is done, split into two, roll it into desired shape. (I can NEVER roll pizza dough. So, I usually just stretch it by hand-like the real pizza guys do...well. Not quite. My version is the awkward one.)

To bake-grease and sprinkle cornmeal on pans. here is the KEY: Turn your oven on 450 for about 10 minutes BEFORE you are ready to pop the pizzas in. IN fact, turn it on when you get the dough out of the bread machine.

Having the oven already HOT will allow the crust to get crispy. It has taken me literally YEARS to figure this out!

Should I be admitting that?!?

Top your pizza however you like then pop in the oven until the crust is golden and the cheese is turning that way too. Yum.
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