Monthly Archives: October 2012

El Rancho Chicken

Last night was a potluck night at church.  We have them on the last Sunday of every month, but I still almost always get caught by them, trying to think of something at the last minute.  Of course, this is what happened yesterday.  Therefore, at a little before three in the afternoon, I was looking through the index of a cookbook in search of a recipe I could make with what I had on hand.  It was in my copy of Better Homes and Gardens Our Best Recipes cookbook that I discovered this little gem.  It’s basically a version of Mexican chicken, and I would be willing to bet that you have the ingredients sitting in your kitchen right now.  I did not go by recipe exactly.  I had to change a couple of things, so this will be my ever-so-slightly altered version of the recipe in the book.

By the way, this is a simple, relatively quick meal that you could throw together in a pinch.  It also alters well.  Change out the corn or chicken for black beans, the soups for other flavors of cream soups, another flavor of cheese, tortilla chips for some crunch, add peppers for more kick, or whatever you can imagine.  Just have fun with it!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 (10 3/4 oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 (10 3/4 oz.) can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 (15 oz.) can kernel corn, drained
  • 1 (10 oz.) can Ro-Tel (chopped tomatoes and green chile peppers), undrained
  • 1 cup chopped green sweet (bell) pepper
  • 1 cup chopped green onions or yellow onion
  • 1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 12 (6-7 inch) corn tortillas, cut into thin bite-size strips
  • 2 cups cubed, cooked chicken (about 1 lb.)
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine soups, Ro-Tel, corn, bell pepper, onion, chili powder, and black pepper.  * Note:  I did not add salt, but I should have because it was a little bland.  Add salt to taste.*
  2. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the tortilla pieces in the bottom of an ungreased 9×13 baking dish.  Layer half of the chicken on top of the tortillas; spoon half of the soup mixture on top of the chicken.  Sprinkle half of the cheese on top of that.  Sprinkle another 1/3 of the tortilla strips on top of the cheese.  Layer with remaining chicken, soup mixture, and tortilla strips.  *Note:  Save the remaining cheese to use in the last few minutes of baking.*
  3. Cover with foil, bake at 350-degrees for about 45 minutes or until bubbly around the edges and hot in the center.  Uncover; sprinkle remaining cheese on top, and bake uncovered for about 3-4 minutes more to melt cheese.
  4. Let stand 10 minutes and serve.

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Birthday Cupcakes

I just took a gander at the number of views my blog has recieved yesterday, and yesterday was an all-time high with 114!  Wow!  That Baked Italian Chicken recipe is a popular one.  (https://crystalpoe.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/baked-italian-chicken/)  Thank you to all my subscribers and readers!

And now, on to some cupcakes!  I think that a cupcake is a dessert that is universally enjoyed.  Even if you’re someone like me who doesn’t really care for a lot of cake, you generally enjoy a cupcake just to get a bit of cake every now and then.  If you bring cupcakes to an event or try to give them out, they are more readily received because people can take just one.  Moral of the story, a lot of people get a bit of cake, and no one has a big cake sitting around for days drying out and getting wasted.

My youngest sister KayLee recently celebrated her 17th birthday (Happy Birthday, KayLee!), and my mama asked Dawn, another sister, and me to make a couple dozen cupcakes for the family party.  We were to make 12 yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting and 12 strawberry cupcakes with purple frosting.  After some chatting, we decided to make the cakes from scratch and use store-bought frosting.  (Neither of us know a good frosting recipe that we’ve successfully made.)

To make the cake batter, we used a recipe called 1-2-3-4 Cake, which is a basic, white cake recipe.  This particular recipe makes a large cake; it almost overflows a 9×13 cake pan, so we essentially halved the recipe.  Dawn made her half strawberry, and I made my half yellow.  Both flavors tasted good, but the strawberry ones did not rise well.  However, I think I may have an idea as to why.  We used frozen strawberries in the batter.  The original idea was to leave them frozen, and chop them up in the food processor.  However, that was not working out so well, so we thawed them for a few seconds in the microwave, then chopped them up.  This released the juices of the strawberries, and once it was added (with all the extra liquid from the strawberries), the batter was heavier than it would have been, making it unable to rise much.  To remedy this, I suggest using dried strawberries instead of frozen ones, omitting some of the milk, or straining the berries after chopping them.

Anyhow, I think it’s time for the recipe.  You can find the original 1-2-3-4 Cake recipe here:  https://crystalpoe.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/yellow-cake-with-strawberry-topping/.  For the yellow cupcakes, I just followed this recipe.  I did add a bit of yellow food coloring to actually make it yellow, but otherwise, just follow it as written.

For the strawberry cupcakes we used strawberry flavoring in place of the vanilla, and we also added about a cup of chopped strawberries. (Remember, use dried strawberries!)  If you want the cake to be pink, also add some red food coloring.

Either grease and flour your muffin tins or line with cupcake liners.  Fill tins 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full with batter.  Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 15-20 minutes.  Allow to cool and frost!

P.S.  To make purple frosting, we used vanilla flavored frosting and added red and blue food coloring to make it as purple.  If you want it darker, use more blue.  We did use the gel colors to help the frosting not become runny.

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White Breakfast Gravy

I love biscuits and gravy!  Yes, I know cholesterol, calories, carbohydrates, and all those other bad things lurk in such a dish, but by-golly, you just can’t hardly beat good ol’ Southern biscuits and gravy.  Delicious!  As I have admitted before, however, gravy (from scratch) has not been something I’ve been able to accomplish thus far.  However, this morning I was hungry, had some left over biscuits from Sunday morning, and really wanted gravy to go with them.  I have a box of Argo cornstarch and have noticed it has a recipe for gravy on the back.  I’ve been wary of it, though, because I didn’t know how cornstarch gravy would taste compared to flour gravy.  But desperate times call for desperate measures.  I decided to try to alter it for flour gravy.  And wouldn’t you know it, it actually worked!  Yes!

Now, if you want to try the cornstarch gravy recipe, I’m sure you can go to the Argo website (www.argostarch.com) and find it.  I am going to be posting what I made this morning.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. fat drippings (from sausage and/or bacon) or shortening
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup milk (combine water and milk into one measuring cup before putting into pan)
  • pinch (1/4 – 1/2 tsp.) sugar (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan, melt drippings or shortening.
  2. Add flour, salt, and pepper.  Stir constantly to keep from burning but allow mixture to brown.
  3. Slowly pour milk and water mixture into pan with flour mixture, stirring constantly.
  4. If you’ve been using a spoon, change to a whisk; it will be much easier.
  5. Add sugar.
  6. Bring mixture in pan to a boil.  Once it starts boiling, whisk constantly.
  7. Allow gravy to thicken.  Remove from heat immediately once it reaches the right thickness.*

*Note:  If the gravy is too thick, add a bit of water.  If it is too thin, add a bit of flour.

If you need a biscuit recipe, you find a good one here:  https://crystalpoe.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/biscuits/.  😉

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Hot Croissant-wiches

Here is a recipe for those times when time is of the essesence.  Trust me when I say you can’t get any easier.  They would make a quick lunch, especially for kids or a quick supper for those busy nights.  I got the idea from a commercial for croissant rolls and decided to try it.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 can of croissant rolls
  • 4 slices of American cheese
  • 8 slices of lunchmeat (I used 4 ham and 4 turkey.)

Directions:

  1. Unroll croissant dough and pull apart.
  2. On the bottom (wide-end) of the triangle, place one piece of lunchmeat, folded in half.
  3. Break cheese in half.  (I made triangles, but it’s up to you.)  Place a cheese half on top of the lunchmeat.
  4. Roll up the dough to make a croissant.
  5. Repeat for remaining seven rolls.
  6. Place on ungreased baking sheet.
  7. Cook according to croissant package directions.
  8. Serve!

*Note:  We didn’t do this, but you could serve this with ranch dip or honey mustard or your favorite dipping sauce.  A side of carrots or peas would be good for a vegetable, too.

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My Dear And Loving Husband

My Honey in May on our vacation to Biloxi, MS.

I have often written about how my husband is a bit of a picky eater, and I have mentioned him a few other times as well.  However, I want to take some time to really just brag on this wonderful man that God has brought into my life.  His name, if you don’t know, is Nicholas.  He’s a couple of years younger than me, works full-time as a manufacturing engineer, is a wiz at math, for the most part, lets me do my thing without interruption or complaint, and he loves me and our unborn son dearly.

This past Sunday, I started to come down with a cold, and for the past several days, I have swung between feeling yucky and feeling fine, being drop-dead tired and having spurts of energy.  I have a hard time sleeping, due to my ever-growing belly and bathroom runs, and when I do wake up in the mornings, breathing is fun, thanks to the cold.  Well, this morning, Nicholas got up at about 5:30 to get ready for work.  (Did I mention that he almost always wakes up before the alarm so that it doesn’t wake me up, too?)  I did wake up (only because I’m not sleeping as deeply as normal thanks to discomfort) when he did, but I stayed in bed until six.  I groggily got out of bed, grabbed my pillow, and shuffled to the living room where Nicholas was eating cereal and playing video games.  Well, first he pauses his game, then scoots over on the couch to let me sit down, too.  I curl up on the cushion beside him while he continues to play his game.  Sitting up on the couch helped my congestion some, and I soon started to fall asleep.  I decided to go back to bed.  Nicholas paused his game again, and walked me to bed.  Then he covered me up, tucked me in, kissed me, and rubbed my back before leaving the room.

That was just this morning before he left for work.  Almost every evening, he helps me get ready for supper by setting the table, sometimes doing some cooking, and afterwards he helps with the dishes.  He is patient with me when I’m upset and moody.  He helps me when I don’t feel well.  He holds me when I’m tired or sad.  He doesn’t get angry when I don’t get everything done around the house as fast as I should.  He explains things when I don’t understand them – or at least tries; I can be quite a dunce sometimes.  He even lets me hold the remote control for the TV because my hearing is tempermental.

I love my husband, and I thank God for him.  It is a wonderful thing to have such an amazing husband!

I love you, my honey!

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The title of this post is from Anne Bradstreet’s poem “To My Dear And Loving Husband.”  It’s one of my favorites, so I will copy it here.  (Copied and pasted from http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/webtexts/Bradstreet/bradhyp.htm.  There should not be a space between the 3rd and 4th lines, but I can’t seem to fix it.)

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,

Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee, give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay,
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let’s so persevere.
That when we live no more, we may live ever.

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Baby Bed Fun Part 2

Several weeks ago, I posted about the start of “The Great Baby Bed Project.”  (See the first post here:  https://crystalpoe.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/baby-bed-fun/.)  I had just taken the bed apart, removed the hardware, and begun to sand off the varnish.  At the time, we had planned on staining and varnishing the bed once the sanding got finished.  However, by the time I finished sanding the bed, I didn’t feel having to sand it again between each coat of varnish.  Once was enough.  This led us to the decision to prime and paint instead.

All four bed pieces after being completely sanded.

We decided about half-way through the sanding portion of the project to paint instead of varnish, so I quit sanding as hard because the stain didn’t have to be removed.  That is why the ends of the bed are darker than the front and back.  There were also some old stickers on the inside ends of the bed that had to be removed (in this case by sanding), and as you can see, I didn’t quite get all of one of the stickers off.  It didn’t make much difference in the end, however.

After sanding, the next step was to get some paint and primer.  I had no idea what kind of paint was needed, so my mother-in-law suggested just going to the paint store (Sherwin-Williams, in this case) and just talking to them about what I was doing and get their advice, which is exactly what I did.  They were very helpful, and all I had to do was pick a color and buy the paint.  They suggested priming the bed, then painting it.

Priming the bed

I chose to prime the bed outside since the weather had (FINALLY) gotten cooler.  I put out a drop cloth and got to priming.  I’m not sure how many coats of primer are normally suggested, but I only did one.  (I think the bed looks fine finished.)  Anyhow, I did one side of each piece, and the next day I did the flip side of two pieces since the drop cloth was giving me fits the second time around.  On a third day, I did the flip side of the final two pieces.  Doing the priming outside allowed the pieces to dry faster and kept me from breathing in all the lovely smells that make up primer.  However, I did the painting inside thanks to the weather getting wetter and Nic mowing the yard the day I started.  The smells weren’t that bad.

Painting the bed.

When I prepped the room for painting the bed pieces, I did open both windows, turned on the ceiling fan, and set up a stand fan to blow air into the room.  I pinned up the drop cloth to the wall with push pins, and set to work.  The pieces did need two coats of paint.  I was only able to do two pieces at a time, and, of course, only one side of the pieces at a time.  It was several days painting to finish the project, but I did get it done.

Once all the pieces were painted and dried, I had to replace all the hardware.  In order to know what went where, before I removed it, I took a lot of pictures of all the parts, so when I put it back on, I pulled up the pictures on my computer and set to work.  I did have to replace a couple of screws and buy a couple of bolts to attach the bottom back to the sides, but I was able to do it with measuring and taking the old screws to the hardware store and finding matching replacements.  I probably spent about $1 on replacement hardware.  Seriously.

After getting the hardware back on, I had to put the pieces together.  Trust me when I say that that is a job better fit for two people, but one stubborn, determined person can do it, too.  😉  Then, put the whole thing in the right spot in the room, and voila!  You have a baby bed!

Sanded, primed, painted, put together, and put in place!

Today, my step-mom and I went to Hobby Lobby and bought some fabric to make curtains for the windows, a bed skirt, and a bumper pad.  She will be taking care of the curtains and bumper pad, and I will do the bed skirt.  I will be using old sheets to make the skirt, so I will be able to make it without sewing, just using some iron-on seam binding.  I’m looking forward to it.

  • Replacement hardware:  $1
  • Paint and primer:  $35
  • Brushes, drop cloth, and sand paper:  $15
  • Fabric for bed skirt and bumper pad:  $12
  • Approximate total cost of baby bed (out of our pocket):  $63

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Baked Ravioli

I have to say, Pinterest is a great website.  It has so many ideas for so many different things, and as you can imagine, this recipe is courtesy of Pinterest pin.  The original recipe can be found at http://tastykitchen.com/recipes/main-courses/baked-ravioli-2/.  This is a really simple dish that can be on the table in about an hour from start to finish.  It also doesn’t require a lot of special ingredients; in fact, you probably have most of them on hand.  Just serve it up with a salad, green beans, carrots, or whatever vegetable you like with Italian-inspired dishes.  And, just so you know, this recipe is Nic-approved, so I’m sure you’re kids will like it, too.

Oh, and the recipe that I have below is how I made this dish.  I substituted a couple of the ingredients for what I had on hand, but it’s still very similar to the original recipe.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp. cooking oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can Italian-style stewed tomatoes
  • 1 (14.5 oz. ) can petit diced tomatoes
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 (1.9 lb) bag frozen ravioli
  • Parmasean cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat.
  2. Add minced garlic, salt, and pepper.  Saute for about 1 minute.
  3. Add Italian seasoning and tomatoes.
  4. Bring sauce to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.
  5. If you can, break up tomato chunks with a spoon.  Otherwise, using a slotted spoon, scoop out the tomato chunks and blend until mostly purréd (till chunks are gone).  There will be a few small chunks left, but don’t leave any big ones.  (I used a blender, but you can use a food processor or whatever.)
  6. Return purré to sauce.  Simmer for about 15 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, cook ravioli in a large pot of boiling water until they float to the top.  (The pasta does not have to be completely cooked because it will continue to cook in the oven.)  You can follow the package directions for al dente pasta.
  8. Drain water from pasta.
  9. Toss pasta and sauce together.
  10. Pour into a 9×13 pan.
  11. Top with parmesan cheese, then mozzarella cheese.
  12. Bake for about 20 minutes, until pasta is golden.  (I covered mine with foil so it wouldn’t splatter all over the oven, so it didn’t turn “golden.”  You can do whichever you prefer.)

Notes:

  • If you want to add a vegetable to the whole casserole, go for it.  My husband would never eat it that way, but I’ve seen some really good looking recipes where spinach, zucchini , yellow squash, butternut squash, even possibly pumpkin could be added to the casserole as a bottom layer or mixed in with the pasta and sauce.  Just try what you want; I’m sure it would work well.

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