Sunday, March 24, 2013

Family Size Pot of Hot Cocoa

So it's March 24th, 4 days into spring, and we have several inches of snow on the ground and more coming. Mother Nature missed the memo that its supposed to be spring. It has been snowing off and on since about 10:30 this morning. After the kids got up from their naps they were begging to go outside to play in the snow. We did go out to make a snowman, it was good wet sticky snow perfect for snowman building. After the snowman was built, snow angels made, and a snowball fight I was the first one inside. I started getting hot chocolate ready for everyone. I have stopped buying premade hot chocolate since I can make it myself with just a few ingredients that I always have on hand. I have an old magazine from a 1997 Taste of Home cooking school that we attended at Mt.Vernon Township High School with a simple hot cocoa recipe in it. I can hardly find the front cover due to it being constantly opened to the hot cocoa recipe. I also make a big batch using these same equivalents to make chocolate creamer for my coffee by adding dry milk powder and a little bit of corn starch.

Family Size Hot Cocoa

  • 5 cups Milk
  • 4 Tbsp Sugar (heaping)
  • 2 Tbsp Cocoa (heaping)
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Marshmallows
Add 4 3/4 cups of milk to a sauce pan, start warming on med/high. Whisk together sugar, cocoa, and salt in the remaining milk until well blended, it takes a lot of stirring, and add to the warming milk and whisk until all dissolved. Heat through but not boiling. Serve with marshmallows.

Sunday Dinner

We attend a very small church, my family makes up half the members. We usually go out to dinner as a group of 11 to 15, which I might add is a bit difficult to get seated quick at a restaurant. We also try to swap hosting dinner at our houses. This week we decided to be host. Since we decided at the last minute and didn't want to do any huge special trips to the store I checked my pantry and came up with chicken noodle soup, chili, and Pioneer Woman chocolate sheet cake. My mom and sister will bring crackers and corn bread and we are all set.  So tonight I've gotten my meat cooked for chili, and I have chicken and vegetables going for soup.  Even though these are super simple to do I thought I would go ahead and write down recipes for them, or at least what I'm doing this time, its different every time I make either soup or chili. These recipes make it so easy to feed a crowd. Before we head off to church we will get the chicken soup going and boil the noodles and add it to a slow cooker on warm, put all of the chili ingredients into another slow cooker and by the time we get home it will be heated up. Cake is done, it only bakes for 20 minutes and icing takes about 10 minutes start to finish. Yum! Looking forward to spending time with my family and not have to spend a lot of time getting things put together and clean up will be a snap.


  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, cooked
  • 2 cans Hot Chili beans
  • 2 cans Red beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cans Diced or Crushed Tomatoes
  • Chili powder or Chili seasoning packet
  • 2 cans of water
Place all ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low until heated through.


Chicken Noodle Soup

  • 2 pounds Chicken Thighs with bones
  • Water
  • 2 tsp Poultry Seasoning
  • 1 cup Frozen sliced Carrots
  • hand full of Onion
  • 1 bag whole wheat egg noodles

Place chicken in 4 qt stock pot, cover with water or combination of water and chicken broth/stock. Add remainder of ingredients except noodles. Bring up to boil. Cover and turn on low for 2 hours. Take out chicken, let cool, take meat off bones and add back to pot, discard the skin and bones. Bring back up to bubble and cook noodles according to packaged directions, Serve.


Pioneer Woman Chocolate Sheet Cake

  • 2 cups Flour
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 4 Tablespoons (heaping) Cocoa
  • 2 sticks Butter
  • 1 cup Boiling Water
  • 1/2 cup Buttermilk
  • 2 whole Beaten Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1/2 cup Finely Chopped Pecans
  • 1-3/4 stick Butter
  • 4 Tablespoons (heaping) Cocoa
  • 6 Tablespoons Milk
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1 pound (minus 1/2 Cup) Powdered Sugar
 I use an 18x13 sheet cake pan.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.

In a saucepan, melt butter. Add cocoa. Stir together.
Add boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool.

In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into sheet cake pan and bake at 350-degrees for 20 minutes.

While cake is baking, make the icing. Chop pecans finely. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off heat. Add the milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Stir together. Add the pecans, stir together, and pour over warm cake.

To serve, cut into squares.

*note I did not add nuts to our cake this time*

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Our Favorite Pork Loin

Just so you know its hard for me to get a pork loin done since there is such a fine line between done and over done. I do enlist the help of the husband most of the time when it comes to pork since his hobby before woodworking was bbq contests. He is kind of particular when it comes to pork loin, pulled pork and ribs. I get the meat marinating and leave it to him to get it cooked just right.

Balsamic Pork Loin

Dissolve steak or grill seasoning in balsamic vinegar, then stir in olive oil. Place pork into a resealable plastic bag and pour in marinade, seal bag.  Marinate 2 hours to overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place pork into a glass baking dish along with marinade. Bake in preheated oven until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees, about 1 hour. You can use sliced pork loin as well just cook it in half the time. Let the roast rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.


Steamed Zucchini
  • Diced Zucchini
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Grill Seasoning
  • Olive Oil

Mix all and steam in the microwave for 4 minutes, or until zucchini is tender.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Breakfast(s) in a Mug

I do apologize for not posting anything for the past several days. I've been busy being mom and wife, and I also had a run in with the stomach bug. With the kitchen already most of the way cleaned up, and my husband out in his workshop doing his woodworking hobby, I saw the perfect opportunity to make a post or two. My kitchen hasn't had very many things happening in it except the basic ravioli, hamburgers, pancakes and other easy dinners. Speaking of EASY here are a few of our favorite hot breakfast mug recipes. You will see that there are lots of dashes of this and splashes of that, its hard to put an actual measurement when you're just making 1 or 2 servings.


Scrambled Eggs in a Mug
1 serving
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Cheddar cheese (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
Coat a microwave-safe coffee mug with cooking spray. Add eggs, milk and season with salt and pepper; beat until blended. (I asked for a mini whisk for Christmas last year just for this purpose) You can either add cheese now or add it right when you serve it.

Microwave 45 seconds, move all the cooked parts to the center. Microwave 30 to 45 seconds more, or until eggs are almost set.

Time to eat!


French Toast in a Mug
2 servings
  • 3 slices of Bread (whatever you have on hand, french bread, hamburger buns, use what you've got)
  • 1 Egg
  • 3 Tbsp Milk
  • Dash of Cinnamon
  • Couple drops of Vanilla
  • tiny bit of Salt
  • Drizzle of syrup
Lightly spray or butter 2 coffee mugs. Tear up the bread and divide it between the two cups. In a small measuring cup with a pour spout add Egg, Milk, Vanilla, Cinnamon and Salt and blend, tiny whisk works great here too. Pour half into each mug. Microwave 1 at a time for 2 minutes. Drizzle with syrup and Enjoy!


Baked Oatmeal in a Mug
1 serving
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • Splash of Milk
  • Dash of Salt
  • Dash of Cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup Quick Oats
  • handful of blueberries or other fruit (optional)
Beat egg, brown sugar, milk, salt, cinnamon. Add oats and fruit (you can leave out the fruit if you choose to). Stir until all combined. Microwave for 2 minutes, check after 1 min 40 seconds. Serve plain or pour some milk on it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Slow Cooker Whole Chicken and Broth

My very least favorite part of cooking is dealing with meat. I'm not sure it will ever be easy for me to pull the gizzards out of a chicken, or if I will ever be able to pat out hamburgers or not cringe when breading fish. I still use wooden spoons and gloves to get a meat loaf put together. Go ahead and laugh, my husband laughs at me for that too. You would think that after 9 years of marriage and experimenting in the kitchen I'd already be over my meat issues, granted I am better, well a little better than I was 9 years ago. I used to bypass the meat section at all costs, and just go for frozen chicken breasts and send my husband to Sharps (local grocery store) just to get ground beef. Now, I do pass through the meat section, grab what I need and get out..that's an improvement, right. Alright I'm sure you will read more about my issues with meat in later posts now back to that chicken. Note that every time I do a chicken in the slow cooker its different than the time before so feel free to tweak it to what you have on hand.

Slow Cooker Whole Chicken

  • 1 whole Chicken, thawed (be sure to pull out the bag of 'goodies' from the neck, it will ruin the whole chicken if its left in, yeah I learned that the hard way)
  • Raw Carrots (whatever you have on hand, I ususally add about 10 baby carrots)
  • Poultry Seasoning or Season Salt or Grill Seasoning
  • Minced Garlic (optional, or about 2 tbsp)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Water
  • And if your adventurous you can add butter under the skin (I've only managed to do that once, and it wasn't a pleasant experience, wooden spoons and gloves did not make it any easier)

Place chicken in slow cooker, toss in carrots, garlic, sprinkle with seasoning, salt and pepper. Add enough water to cover half the chicken, turn on low and cook all day. Shred the meat for a couple meals that week. Save the bones for free broth!


Place the bones back into the slow cooker with the carrots and other juices from the chicken, add 6 to 8 more cups of water. Turn the slow cooker on low and cook all night, in the morning let it cool a little and strain out the chunks and bones. Pour it into jars or plastic containers, put lids on and let cool on the counter for a little bit, place in the fridge. If you have a grease separater use it, if not just scrape off the gelled fat from the tops after its cooled in the fridge. I fill my containers with 1 or 2 cups to make it easier to use in recipes. Then freeze them until your ready to use them.


Making FREE Broth is so rewarding! Try it and you will see what I mean!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Alfredo Sauce

My favorite homemade sauce to make has to be Alfredo sauce. I had found a quick recipe for homemade Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo with Veggies in with the Sunday coupons back from 2011. It wasn't homemade enough for me so I had to tweak it and 'google' a recipe for Alfredo sauce. Most of the recipes I found had cream but I didn't have cream, I hardly ever have cream on hand. I hit it lucky when I found a recipe that used cream cheese instead. So easy and I always have stuff on hand to make a quadruple batch, one batch isn't quite enough for a full pot of fettuccine, but one and a third is perfect. So my quadruple batch is really enough for 3 meals. It's so easy to make a huge batch and freeze the rest for later, might as well since your making a mess anyways.

Alfredo Sauce (quadruple batch)

  • 4 tbsp Butter
  • 8 tbsp minced Garlic
  • 4 tbsp Flour
  • 4 cups Milk (or if you don't want to use up 4 whole cups of milk, use part chicken broth)
  • 1 cup Cream Cheese (1 full block)
  • 1 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Saute butter and garlic for 30 seconds. Whisk in flour until it bubbles and soaks up butter. Whisk in milk (and broth).  I like to use half chicken broth and half milk. Cook continually until slightly thick, about 2 minutes. Stir in cream cheese and Parmesan until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Divide into thirds, use one for dinner tonight and freeze the other.


If you want to try the recipe out for just one dinner, here are the amounts for a single batch.

Alfredo Sauce

  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 2 tbsp minced Garlic
  • 1 tbsp Flour
  • 1 cup Milk (or half milk and half broth)
  • 1/4 cup Cream Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper

 Saute butter and garlic for 30 seconds. Whisk in flour until it bubbles and soaks up butter. Whisk in milk (and broth).  I like to use half chicken broth and half milk. Cook continually until slightly thick, about 2 minutes. Stir in cream cheese and Parmesan until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Divide into thirds, use one for dinner tonight and freeze the other.


Now on to my tweak of the found recipe for Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo with Veggies.

Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo with Veggies

  • 1 box Fettuccine
  • 1 bag frozen Veggies- about 3 cups (I use a combination of broccoli florets and carrots with about a cup of mixed vegetables of corn, carrots, peas and green beans)
  • 1 batch Alfredo Sauce (which is 1 1/3 of the quadruple batch
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken

Start by boiling water in a big pot for pasta and cook as directed by the package.While pasta is cooking, in a  separate pan heat up Alfredo sauce and chicken.  Midway through cooking the pasta (stop your timer) toss in the frozen vegges into the boiling pasta water, bring back up to boil and restart your pasta timer. Check pasta and vegetables for tenderness. Drain pasta and veggies, reserving 1 cup pasta water. Add Alfredo chicken mixture to the pasta and 1 cup reserved pasta water and toss until coated.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pie time!

Pie crust used to be my baking nemesis. I tried many different recipes over the past 9 years of being married. Baking is supposed to be in my blood but some how I just couldn't get pie crust perfected. I ended up with thin crispy over baked crust, to thick flaky chewy crust and everything in between. Granted I still have not mastered rolling it out in a circle or crimping the edges. After years of trying recipe after recipe and even after using my grandmas recipe, I finally called grandma in 2009 (5 years after I started wanting to learn how to cook and bake). I'm so glad to have gotten her exact recipe and instructions.
Alright get your food processor ready! This recipe makes 2 double crusts (2 bottom crusts and 2 top crusts).

Grandma's Pie Crust

4 cups Flour
1 tsp Salt
1 2/3 cups Shortening
1 Egg
1 tbsp Sugar
1 tbsp Vinegar
1/2 cup Ice Water

Pulse together flour, salt and shortening until fine crumbs form. Beat egg, sugar, vinegar then add to the flour mixture. Pulse a few times and gradually stream in cold water (do not add the ice) until dough starts to clump.When you pinch a little bit of the dough together and it sticks together then its ready, if its still crumbly add a little bit more water a tablespoon at a time. *too much water will make the crust tough*

Dump the mixture onto a clean worksurface (or plastic wrap), press the crumbs into a mound, and divide into 4ths. Press each section into a mound and wrap in plastic wrap and flatten down into a disc. Place in the refrigerator for an hour or until ready to roll out.

Let the dough sit out for about 10 minutes before you start to roll it out. Roll it out 1/8 inch thick to fit pie plate. Trim the edge of the crust leaving 1/2 inch over hang. You can crimp it between your fingers or if your crimp challenged like me you can just roll the edge under without the crimp.

Prick the sides and bottom with a fork to prevent it from bubbling up or shrinking then bake it at 425 for 10-12 minutes, then fill it with your favorite pudding and serve.


Another quick crust I found in my pie crust quest..that I did not write down where I found the recipe at.
Use the same method as Grandmas's crust.

Butter Crust

1 1/4 cup Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 cup butter, diced and chilled (freeze for at least an hour)
1/4 cup ice Water

2 1/2 cup Flour
1 tsp Salt
1 cup butter, diced and chilled (freeze for at least an hour)
1/2 cup ice Water


Now that you've made your homemade crust please do not fill it with anything instant or not homemade so here is my absolute best recipe for chocolate pudding! Perfect For Pie! This recipe came from a former co-workers mom.

Chocolate Pudding

3/4 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Cornstarch
2 1/2 cups Milk
4 Egg Yolks (save the whites for Meringue)
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
2 tbsp Butter
1/2 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup Milk Chocolate Chips

Combine sugar and cornstarch. Gradually stir in milk. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly. (hang in there, all that stirring and standing will be worth it) Reduce heat. Cook and stir 2 minutes (set a timer!) Beat egg yolks with fork. gradually stir about 1 cup filling into the yolks. Return to the pan, bring to gentle boil. Cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Add chocolate chips and butter (you can add up to 2 cups of chocolate and it will turn out richer). Stir until smooth. Spoon into pie crust. Cover with plastic wrap and cool. Top with whipped topping or meringue.


Meringue recipe from Alton Brown: Good Eats on food network is fantastic for use on top of this chocolate pie.


4 egg whites
1 pinch cream of tartar
2 tablespoons sugar

Place egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form and then gradually add sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form, approximately 1 to 2 minutes.