Okay, I Could Totally Do This Myself

Desserts - Jennifer - May 1, 2013

My youngest son just turned seven. In first grade, it’s still a big deal to bring in treats on your birthday. So I offered to make all the usual kid-faves: chocolate chip cookies, Rice Krispy treats, brownies, etc. (On principle, I refuse to make cupcakes anymore. It’s too disheartening to see all those kids lick off the frosting and throw out the cake.) He turned down everything I suggested because he had other ideas.

Someone in his brother’s class had recently brought in a specialty from our local bakery: donuts on a stick. These treats were apparently the talk of the lunch room that day, and Lou wanted to be the first first grader to bring them in. So I called the bakery and ordered a couple dozen decorated in boy colors.

I have to admit, they’re cute and kind of novel. And although I think $1 apiece is a little pricey for their small size, I guess it’s a small price to pay for avoiding the hassle of making the donuts myself (I don’t do well with hot oil), and they made him awfully happy.

Of course, the presents didn’t hurt, either.

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A Savory Something to Soak Up All That Green Beer

Beef, Recipes - Jennifer - March 16, 2013

My grandmother came to the US from Ireland when she was a young woman.  She never really talked to me about what it was like to grow up over there, but I do know that she never wanted to go back, and I always assumed that her life had been very hard.  I also assumed that the Irish found little enjoyment in food because Grandma’s Sunday dinners were torture to a kid (forgive me for saying so, Dad!).  Everything was always either boiled or baked to death.  I recall many dried out, shriveled up roasts in my childhood, and being admonished to eat every scrap on my plate.  And I don’t like corned beef.  Or cabbage.  So my lifelong association with Irish cooking?  Bleh.

Last year around this time, I was at a gathering of friends, and I couldn’t stop eating this most amazing dip.  It wasn’t until the end of the evening that I found out what was in it:  corned beef!  So this is what I will be making in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, and if the kids don’t want it, I won’t make them eat it.  I’d hate to sour them on an entire culture’s cooking with one dish.  As for me, I’m slowly coming around.


3/4 c. mayonnaise
3/4 c. sour cream
2 (2.5 ounce) packages thinly sliced deli corned beef, chopped
1/4 c. chopped onion
1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1 tsp prepared horseradish (optional)

Combine mayonaise and sour cream; add in the corned beef, onion, parsley, seasoned salt and horseradish, if you like.  Serve on mini-rye breads or bagle pieces.

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Thanksgiving Leftovers = Quick Comfort Food

Dinner, Recipes - Jennifer - November 27, 2012

The most-used cookbook in my house?  Bisquick Impossibly Easy Pies.  Have you ever done these?  Talk about simple!  You throw all of your ingredients into a pie plate, pour the Bisquick mixture over everything, and bake.  When you pull the concoction out of the oven, the Bisquick “crust” has formed under and over the ingredients, creating a pie.  My kids will eat almost anything I make this way, especially if I give it a funny name to disguise what’s really in there.  In our regular rotation is Cheeseburger Pie and “Piggy Pie” (so-called because it’s made with ham, but they think I call it that because they can’t get enough of it).

So here’s my plan for all those Thanksgiving leftovers hanging out in the fridge:

2 c. leftover turkey, cut up small
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 c. leftover bread stuffing
1/4 c. thinly sliced green onions
1/2 c. cooked green peas
1/2 c. Original Bisquick mix
1 c. milk
2 eggs
Leftover turkey gravy

Heat oven to 400.  Spray 9″ pie plate with cooking spray.  Spread turkey in pie plate, and sprinkle with seasoned salt.  Break stuffing into small pieces, and layer over turkey.  Top with onions and peas (in our case, I’m substituting corn for peas, because that’s what we have leftover).  Combine Bisquick mix, milk and eggs until well blended, and pour over mixture in pie plate.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let stand 5 minutes, and serve with gravy if desired.

There are tons more Bisquick recipes on the website.  Have fun!


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Have Your Pumpkin Pie & Drink It, Too!

Beverages, Recipes - Jennifer - November 18, 2011

My son turned 11 earlier this month, and we had the family over for a little pizza party.  We had made pumpkin cookies earlier in the week and still had a half can of pumpkin puree in the fridge, so we tried out this little libation:


1 can pumpkin puree (15 oz.)
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 gallon apple cider
2 liters cold ginger ale

Whisk together pumpkin & spices, adding the cider and continuing to whisk until ingredients are smooth and sugar is completely dissolved.  Chill until ready to serve.  When ready, transfer to punch bowl and stir in ginger ale.  Serve over ice.

The above recipe is the kids’ version.  When serving adults, we added in an extra-special, grown-up ingredient:  a healthy splash of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum!  Oh man, was it good!

We’ve already decided that next time we will further customize our Pumpkin Pie Punch by hunting down some cinnamon ice cream for floats.

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“Glory Days” and Chocolate

Sweets, Tasty Travels - Jennifer - November 12, 2011

Many moons ago, I went to college in a small town outside of Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Back in September, I had the pleasure of road-tripping up to DePere with my college roommates and spending a weekend on and around the St. Norbert College campus where we all met.  I hadn’t been up there in 18 years, and was amazed how drastically things have changed.  Entire new buildings, amazing renovations, quadrupled tuition!  But it still felt great to visit our old dorms and apartments, to wander the academic buildings and see the names of professors from “our day” still teaching there, and to giggle with old friends like the teenagers we still feel we are.

And did I mention the food?  We met one old roommate for dinner in Milwaukee on our way up, and continued to eat our way through Green Bay and DePere for the next two days:  seafood, pizza, big breakfasts, brats & beer on campus.  It was not a weekend for the diet-conscious, for sure!  On our way out of town, we even managed to stop at Seroogy’s for some of the best chocolate around.

Now, I’m from Chicago, where Fannie May reigns supreme and it wouldn’t be a holiday if someone didn’t arrive with a box of Mint Meltaways or a Colonial Assortment.  But up in Northern Wisconsin, Seroogy’s has been the place for chocolates since 1899.  Who are we to overlook those credentials?  And just look what I found:

Aren’t they beautiful?  Truffles in milk or dark chocolate, and each of those is flavored:  lemon, orange, raspberry, etc.  I just keep thinking how great they would be on tables at a wedding or as a giveaway at an art exhibit, being that each one is a mini-work of art in itself.

In addition to chocolate, Seroogy’s also offers an assortment of novelty candies, including lots of Packer-themed sweets, and their own coffees.  They also carry the ubiquitous (at least in Green Bay) cheese-head hats and some other toys, like these cute little wind-up guys my roommate bought to bring home to her son in California.

Hopefully, it won’t take us another 18 years to get back up there.  But at least I know I can order from Seroogy’s online.  Enjoy!





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Halloween Candy: Choose Carefully, or You Could Send the Wrong Message!

Sweets - Jennifer - October 27, 2011

I’ll be heading out to Sam’s Club in a few minutes to lay in our supply of Halloween candy.  We get a LOT of trick or treaters, so I have to be adequately prepared.  We live near the busy intersection of two main routes through our town, and our corner seems to be a drop off point for van-loads of kids (and some are none too young!) from other communities who invade ours for the goodies.  We are not an upscale village, by any means, but I think we just have lots of people who rush home from work to be there and actually answer the door, and the opportunists have discovered us!

I generally buy heavier on the chocolate end because those are the leftovers we prefer to have around (as if there are any leftovers!), but I also add in some chewy confections because my kids like those.  And now, your choice of candy as a barometer of what kind of person you are (tee-hee!):

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Here Comes Fall; Time for Football Food!

Dinner, Recipes - Jennifer - October 26, 2011

Football season is in full swing, and although we don’t do it terribly often, we do love to have people over to watch.  Do you ever have one of those days where you’ve invited a few people, and then circumstances present you with a few more, and they bring a couple of extra kids, until your house is literally overflowing with people?  Summer gatherings where that happens are easy; you can just throw a few more burgers or dogs on the grill, and everyone’s happy.  But when you’re cooking for an uncertain number of people in the house, I’ve found that it’s best to go with too much and freeze the leftovers.  That’s where my super duper easy sloppy joes come in.  This is the same recipe the school moms used to make for us when I was in grammar school, and we only had hot lunch once per month!


Ground Chuck
BBQ Sauce (I prefer Open Pit Original, but it’s all up to you)

Brown your hamburger meat with as much onion as you like (make it SUPER easy on yourself and use dehydrated minced onion, my favorite pantry staple ’cause you never find yourself without onion!).  Drain meat, and add BBQ sauce and ketchup to taste.  Simmer on low for 10 minutes or so to let the flavors sink in.  Serve on hamburger buns (or in our house, hot dog buns for the little ones, which make it less likely that their meat will fall out).

THAT’S IT!  And it’s even better as leftovers!  And try picking up the stray meat with a potato chip!  Not so healthy, but divine!

When we’re expecting a crowd, I do about 4-5 pounds of meat and put it in the crockpot to stay warm for return customers.  And if the crowd isn’t as large as expected, I freeze the rest for a later meal.  Can’t beat that!


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Wordless Wednesday . . . Squirrel Edition

Fruit, Wordless Wednesday - Jennifer - October 12, 2011

What happens when we get our pumpkins too early.

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Summer’s Last Gasp Chicken Salad

Dinner, Fruit, Potluck, Recipes, Salad - Jennifer - September 12, 2011

I had this great chicken pasta salad at one of our weekly potlucks this summer, and never got around to making it myself.  But since the temps around here climbed back into the upper 80s again today, I really didn’t feel like heating up the kitchen with dinner, and this worked out nicely.


2 boneless chicken breasts poached in chicken broth (maybe in cooler temps – we grilled ours tonight)
1 pound bow tie pasta
1 medium ripe cantaloupe or honey dew (honey dew is not my favorite, but we’ve had one sitting on the counter for a week that was purchased in error, so I guess it was serendipity)
1 8oz pkg swiss cheese
1 bottle poppy seed dressing
fresh mint

Cook chicken breast, chill and then shred with two forks.  Cook pasta according to directions – place in ice water bath to stop cooking.  Cube swiss cheese into small, bite-sized chunks.  Cut melon into cubes or use a melon baller.  Mix pasta, chicken, cheese, mint and some dressing – chill for 12-24 hours.  Before serving, add melon and additional dressing to coat.

I didn’t take a photo tonight before the gang gobbled the salad down, but here it is from the first time I had it, and I believe that’s cantaloupe in there.  Next time I make it, I’ll opt for cantaloupe as well, but that’s just my personal preference.  The true surprise in this dish is the mint.  When it was first described to me, I was skeptical.  But just like I always tell the kids not to pass judgment on food without trying it, I’m glad that I did, and the blend of flavors has won me over.

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Summer Garden in Review: What the Heck Happened to My Tomatoes?

Vegetables - Jennifer - September 5, 2011

We only just put in our first vegetable garden last summer because my oldest was participating in a cabbage growing contest through school.  Before then, I had always opted for taking advantage of the bounty of my dad’s summer gardens, without actually putting in any of the labor and care myself.  But when Charlie’s cabbage was verging on busting out of the paper cup it had been occupying, we decided to turn over some of our own earth.

Tom dug up a small 4×6 foot plot, and sunk a thin fence about six inches below the surface to keep out the rabbits, which are legion in our backyard.  We put the cabbage right in the middle, and planted some cukes, green peppers and tomatoes.  Sadly, the cabbage didn’t make it, our cucumber yield was minimal, and we were choking on green peppers and Romas.  So this year, we added more cucumber plants, a different variety of tomatoes, and decided to experiment with some oddities:  celery, peanuts, and stevia.  Here’s the outcome:

As you can see, the cucumbers are prolific this time around.  And that’s fine with us, because they’re the one vegetable that 3/4 of my children will eat.  We can easily put away two per day just by snacking.  I wish I’d paid more careful attention to the varieties we put in because these yellowish ones have a light citrus taste to them, and they’re really good.

We haven’t harvested the celery or peanuts yet, and we’re drying some stevia while we figure out what to do with it.  But the tomatoes?  They’re my favorite, and this year something has gone terribly wrong with them.  As soon as they start to turn red, they develop some kind of blight on the bottom.  We can still eat them as long as we get to them before the blight spreads too far.  But what the heck?


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