Monday, December 31, 2012

Chipped Beef Ball Recipe

Growing up my favorite breakfast was creamed chip beef on toast.  My mom made it very thick and served it open faced on toasted white bread, while my best friend's mom made it a bit thinner and placed buttered toast alongside for dipping.  Either way, I enjoyed it.

I tried serving creamed chip beef on toast to my own children a few times when they were preschoolers but none of them were big fans. In fact, I had forgotten all about this salty and rich breakfast treat until I found two recipes for Chipped Beef Ball in my recipe box. I was searching for a savory appetizer to serve alongside the steamed shrimp that we traditionally have on New Year's Eve.  In keeping with the menu that my grandmother started years ago, we will also have a variety of dips, crackers, and potato chips, a sweet cheese ball that my daughter made yesterday, and pigs-in-a-blanket.

Mixing a cheese ball is a snap with my new mixer.
My desire for something  (anything!) made with chipped beef, which I realize now is really known as dried beef, increased when I was unable to locate it in my local and brand new grocery store, HEB.  My husband and I were purchasing our shrimp, enjoying lots of samples, bumping into neighbors, and looking for my chipped beef.  First we unsuccessfully looked near the lunch meats, moved onto the bacon area, and finally instated the help of a man who was stocking kolaches (it's a Texas thing and worthy of it's own blog post).  My husband pulled up a picture of Esskay dried beef on his phone and four HEB employees later we found it near the canned tuna.  I mentioned that in Maryland it was in the refrigerator section and the HEB manager, who was the one who found my challenging item, said he could chill it for me if I would like.  My husband was wary of this non-refrigerated Armour dried beef which was available in a jar or a plastic package, but I was even more determined to have a Chipped Beef Ball for New Year's Eve.

At home, I put my new apple green Kitchen Aid mixer to work and whipped up two Chipped Beef Balls, one to eat and one to share.   I merged both recipes that I found in my recipe box by adding some grated Parmesan cheese and Worcestershire along with horseradish.  Yum!  It is everything I remembered and more. Happy New Year!  Hope you rediscover a childhood food favorite this year.

Chipped Beef Ball Recipe

1 package dried beef (4.5 ounces or so), finely diced
2 packages cream cheese (8 ounces each), softened
1 Tablespoon horseradish, more to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional

  1. Mix softened cream cheese, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, and Parmesan cheese (if using) until well combined.
  2. Add half of diced dried beef, and mix to combine.
  3. Shape mixture into one large ball or two small balls.  Roll in remaining chipped beef.  
  4. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour or overnight.
  5. Serve with crackers.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pumpkin Bars Recipe

The Thanksgiving gifts that I received from my second grade students this year include a gorgeous bouquet of fall flowers, a loaf of homemade banana bread, some lovingly made hand turkeys, and lots of hugs.   Many years ago one of the teacher gifts I received was a plate of Pumpkin Bars.  I remember this because, besides being moist and flavorful, these treats included a handwritten recipe card complete with the date (November 1994).

Today I am enjoying Thanksgiving Eve by reading, catching up with my own children, baking, and reminiscing.  Eighteen years ago, when I first encountered this recipe, I was in my fourth year of teaching, lived in my home state of Maryland, and was happily married with no children.  Now I am returning to teaching after a 14 year maternity leave, live in the sunny state of Texas, and am still happily married with four fabulous kids.  Wow!  Baking these bars has reminded me to be thankful for each moment and has reinforced the power that a good recipe has to evoke fond memories.

This recipe creates an autumnal dessert that is basic and scrumptious.  The bars are moister than pumpkin cake, but firmer than pumpkin pie.  I baked them in my recently purchased Pampered Chef stoneware large bar pan and finished them off with a dusting of powdered sugar.  Some members of my family believe our Pumpkin Bars would be better with a thick layer of creamed cheese frosting, but I like the  simplicity of the powdered sugar.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for all of the students I have had the privilege of teaching, the joy I get from baking, and for relaxing times with my family.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Bars Recipe

4 eggs
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
2 cups of flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie spice (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray a 15 1/2 x 10 inch bar pan* with PAM for baking spray. 
  3. In a large bowl, mix together eggs, oil, sugar, and pumpkin. Beat well.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices).
  5. Gently mix dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture until fully combined.
  6. Spread mixture into prepared pan.
  7. Bake for 30-40 minutes.
  8. Cool completely, dust with powdered sugar, and cut into bars.
*You may also use a half sheet pan which is also known as a cookie sheet with sides.  The larger the pan the thinner the bars and the less time the recipe will need to bake.  A jelly roll pan would be too small.  A Pampered Chef stoneware large bar pans works perfectly.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Crock Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe

Last weekend I had about as much fun as one girl can have in a 48 hour period.  I flew from Texas to Maryland with my high school sweetheart/husband and then did all those fabulous reunion weekend events:  football game, hanging out with old friends at the local pub, touring our high school and realizing just how like the Breakfast Club we really were, and attempting to dance to 80's tunes with people who have not changed a bit in 25 years!  Good times!

Aside from finding out who from the North Caroline High School Class of 1987 has grandchildren and who recently changed careers, I also discovered who made my Peach Cobbler for their husband, who has attempted my Skillet Apple Pie, and who loves Kim's Famous New Year's Eve Pineapple Cheese Ball (apparently everyone but Kim's husband).   People read my blog and cook my recipes.  Wow!

Per special request, I am sharing a Tex Mex recipe for Chicken Tortilla soup that my family and I love.  It is a crock pot recipe, but it only needs to cook for about 2-4 hours so I like to make it on a Sunday and have it for a late lunch/early dinner.  It is especially appealing in my house due to all of the garnishes that I serve along with it.  I fill my kitchen bar with crunchy tortilla strips, avocado chunks, shredded cheese, sour cream, pico de galo, salsa, and warm soft tortillas.  You could also offer cooked corn or warmed up black beans to add to the soup.  The soup is delicious straight from the crock pot, but can be livened up with lots of Tex Mex accouterments.

I found this Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe on Pinterest although my husband and my daughter are convinced that I have made a very similar dish in the past but lost the recipe.  Oops!  The original recipe sharer is from the blog Lindsey's Lusciousness and she says that this dish tastes like Chili's Chicken Enchilada Soup.  I think that it tastes like luscious leftovers.  I place portions of the soup along with some garnishes in containers for weekday lunches.

Although I have a lot to learn when it comes to Tex Mex cooking, I don't want to deprived my North Eastern friends of some good South West cooking.  This dish is one that I think they will all enjoy especially on a unexpected snow day or during a Raven's Football Game.  They can let me know how they like it at our 30 year reunion.  NCHS Class of '87 I'll see you in 2017!

Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe
     adapted closely from Lindsey's Luscious

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
1 quart chicken stock
1 Tablespoon chicken soup base, or 2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more to taste
1 - 8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 - 19 ounce can enchilada sauce (or 2 - 10 ounce cans)
6 small corn tortillas, minced
16 ounces of Velveeta, cubed (buy the big log and use the rest for queso dip)
1 cup colby jack cheese or taco cheese mix, shredded
4 cups chicken (use Tyson frozen roasted and diced chicken which has been thawed, diced or shredded rotisere chicken, or chilled fajita chicken strips)

Garnishes:  cooked corn, black beans, pico de gallo, salsa, sour cream, crunchy tortilla strips, diced avacado, shredded cheddar cheese, warm soft tortillas
  1. Saute the onions in olive oil over medium heat until they are translucent.  Add the mined garlic and cook another minute or until garlic is fragrant.  
  2. Place the cooked onions and garlic into the crock pot.
  3. Add the chicken stock, soup base or bouillon, spices, tomato sauce, enchilada sauce, diced tortillas, cubed Velveeta, and shredded cheese.  Stir.  Cover and cook for 4 hours on low or 2 hours on high.  Whisk until smooth or use an immersion blender to obtain desired consistency.
  4. Add chicken pieces.  Cook for another 30 minutes to one hour on low.  Turn up heat to high if cheese isn't fully melted.
  5. Check seasonings and garnish as desired.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Watermelon and Feta Salad Recipe

Happy belated National Watermelon Day!  Yesterday, August 3rd, was the day designated to celebrate this thirst quenching fruit.  Not only sweet and juicy, watermelon is also high in vitamin C and low in calories.  It can be enjoyed by the slice or added to any number of recipes.  My children like to cube it, freeze it, and put it in their smoothies or gather a group of friends and go at it with melon ballers.

Watermelon is a star player in my favorite summer salad.  This recipe for Watermelon and Feta Salad is inspired by one that I found in Dr. Oz's book You On A Diet.  It is light and refreshing and is perfect for a first dinner course or a summer lunch.  Although I have included the directions for a balsamic vinaigrette, you could also use a bottled dressing such as Newman's Own.

When making Watermelon and Feta Salad for a meal, I package extra portions in my Glad to Go Lunch Containers.  These brilliantly designed bowls include a small cup that snaps into the lid to keep the dressing separate from the rest of the ingredients.  I place any leftover watermelon cubes in small bowls for handy snack options.

So whether it is straight from the rind or as part of your favorite recipe, I hope you enjoy some watermelon today.  Happy Belated National Watermelon Day!

Watermelon and Feta Salad Recipe

For Dressing:
1 Tablespoon Extra-Virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 small shallot, finely minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
(or use 2 Tablespoons of bottled Balsamic Vinaigrette)

For Salad:
3 cups packed greens such as arugula, mixed field greens or baby spinach
1 cup cubed seedless watermelon
1/3 cup crumbled low-fat feta cheese

  1. Wash greens and dry thoroughly.
  2. Combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and shallot in a jar with a tight fitting lid.  Add salt and pepper.  Place lid on container and shake until fully combined.
  3. Arrange greens on two serving plates.
  4. Place watermelon and feta on top of greens.
  5. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Crab Cakes Recipe

Maryland Crab Cakes

When I traveled to the Easter Shore of Maryland in November, my main culinary desire was oysters.  Visiting my childhood stomping grounds in the early summer, however, causes me to want crabs, Maryland Blue Crabs which happen to be the state crustacean.  Last month, fresh off of our flight from Texas, my family and I stopped at Holly's Restaurant in Grasonville, Maryland.  I had a rich cup of crab bisque followed by a meaty crab cake sandwich.  A few days into our Maryland vacation the boys of my family woke up at four in the morning in order to catch crabs for a good old fashioned crab feast complete with corn on the cob, crackers and cheese, pickles, and lots of Old Bay seasoning.

The boys of my family got up at 4am to catch us some fat crabs!
Throughout my holiday I also enjoyed a bread bowl filled with succulent crab dip at The Market Street Public House in Denton, Maryland and a petite portion (I was still slightly full from lunch at Nicolas Pizza and was saving room for dessert at Candy Kitchen) of flavorful crab imperial at Jake's Seafood House in Rehoboth Beach Delaware .  All of these dishes were scrumptious, but my crab cravings were not quenched until my mom made me a crab cake sandwich.

Crab Dip from the pub in Denton, Maryland
On the last day of our two week vacation to the Delmarva Peninsula, my mother surprised my family by purchasing a pound of crab meat and concocting her simple and savory crab cake recipe.  When making any dish from local crab, my mother starts by picking out all of the shell from the meat.  This step involves placing a few tablespoons of crab between your fingers and feeling around for any bits of shell which need to be removed.  Although a bit time consuming, 'picking' the crab is an essential step to creating any luscious crab dish.

Good crab meat is an essential part of any great crab recipe.
Once the crab has been picked free of stray bits of shell, my mother places it in a bowl and sprinkles it with a few tablespoons of bread crumbs or crushed cracker crumbs.  Restaurant crab cakes often have a higher crab to filler ratio due to cost, but the less bread binder the better.  Next she adds mayonnaise, Old Bay, and a beaten egg.    If she's in the mood, she might add some dry mustard, salt and pepper, or a shake or two of hot sauces, but when it comes to crab recipes, simple is best.  The star of the show should always be the crab.

In the midst of preparing bacon and toast with homemade strawberry jam for my four children, hanging all of our laundry out on the clothes line, giving my teenage daughter driving lessons, and making gallons of sweet tea; my mother managed to lovingly form the crab cakes into patties.
Super Meemaw!
When the crab cake mixture has been lightly combined, my mother shapes the meat into patties and chills them in the refrigerator for a few hours.  This allows the flavors to intensify and helps the cakes to stay together during the cooking process.  Although some cooks prefer to broil or deep fry their crab cakes, my mother sautes them in butter.  A bun with some tarter sauce and an ear of sweet corn on the side is nice, but not necessary because a Maryland Crab Cake is perfection all by itself.

The Eastern Shore of Maryland on a plate.
The highlights of my trip were definitively catching up with family and connecting with old friends, but right below that was eating Maryland Blue Crab.  In my heart, I know that my desire for crab and other regional delicacies is not just about the food, but it is also about the memories that connect to these Chesapeake Bay ingredients.  I love the beef barbecue, fresh avocados for guacamole, creamy jalapeno dip, and queso of Texas, but I am already anticipating my next visit to the the Eastern Shore of Maryland in September.  In addition to attending the NCHS 25th reunion with my high school sweetheart/husband, I plan on devouring many of my dad's garden fresh tomatoes.  I hope that this summer you have an opportunity to enjoy some of your favorite local cuisine from the past and the present.  Happy Summer! 

Crab Cake Recipe

16 ounces crab meat (preferably lump)
2 Tablespoons bread crumbs (or crushed cracker crumbs)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
optional:  salt, pepper, dry mustard, Tabasco
2 Tablespoons butter, to use in the pan when frying

  1. Carefully pick all shells from crab meat.
  2. Place picked crab meat in a large bowl and sprinkle with bread crumbs.
  3. Combine lightly beaten egg with mayonnaise and seasonings and pour over crab meat and bread crumbs.  Gently stir to combine.
  4. Shape crab mixture into four large or six medium patties.
  5. Over medium heat, melt butter in a large saute pan.
  6. Gently saute crab cakes until they are golden brown on the bottom.  Carefully flip the patties and continue to cook until the other side has browned and the crab cakes are heated through.
  7. Serve on a bun with tarter sauce and a side of corn on the cob.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes Recipe

Today my daughter and her friend got in the summer mood.  With 90 degree temperatures down here in Texas and only two days of school left, they are definitely ready for "va ca" (translation:  vacation).  They channeled all of their summer energy into creating a summer cupcake flavor for their business, Girlie Girl Cupcakes.

First, they baked a batch of Pink Lemonade Cupcakes using classic pastel colored liners.  We found the Pillsbury box mix in the seasonal aisle at Target tucked among the brightly colored plates, citronella candles, and other adorable summer sundries.    Resisting the urge to buy way more items than we needed, we walked away with just the cupcake mix and a little inspiration.

While the cupcakes were cooling, the Girlie Girls concocted a batch of Pink Lemonade Butter Cream Frosting.  They started with their basic homemade butter cream, but instead of milk they added a few tablespoons of frozen pink lemonade concentrate that they had allowed to thaw.  Although the pink lemonade concentrate did tint the icing a very light pink, they added a few drops of pink food coloring to deepen the color just a bit.

The girls iced the cupcakes using a piping bag and a large star tip to create their signature swirl.  Next they placed a yellow slice of lemon gummy candy on the top of each cupcake.  The sweets were looking adorable, but with the addition of a yellow straw the cuteness was pushed to new levels.

In addition to screaming summer, these Pink Lemonade Cupcakes are also moist and flavorful.  The frosting has a citrus tang that balances the sweetness.  Phoebe and her friend decided that these sweets are 'cray cray good' (translation:  crazy good).  I agree!  Happy Summer!

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes Recipe

1 box Pillsbury Pink Lemonade Premium Cake Mix
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened to room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
2-3 Tablespoons pink lemonade frozen concentrate, thawed
pink food coloring (optional)
  1. Make cupcakes according to directions on box.  Cool completely.
  2. With an electric mixer, beat butter until fluffy.  Add salt.  Slowly add powdered sugar.  Mix well.  Add thawed pink lemonade concentrate one tablespoon at a time, beating well after each, until frosting is fluffy and a spreadable consistency.  If desired, add a few drops of pink food coloring and mix until frosting is uniformly pink.
  3. Frost cupcakes with an offset spatula or using a piping bag fitted with a large star tip.  
  4. Garnish with a lemon gummy candy and a plastic straw.
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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Asparagus Recipe

For me, Spring has officially sprung when I see bright green bundles of asparagus stalks perched upright at the farmer's market or in my local grocery store.  I get a thrill not just because this is my favorite vegetable, but because the mere sight of these emerald soldiers brings back a flood of images from my early childhood.    I have vague and distant memories of picking strawberries straight from the patch with my grandmother and aunts in Kent County Maryland.  After we purchased our overflowing baskets of fresh berries, we would stop by a nearby farm (or maybe it was the same one) and buy asparagus which my Mommom referred to as 'spagrus'.  Then we would take it home, clean it, cook it, and serve it alongside a home cooked meal.

It is a wonder that I grew to love asparagus as a young child considering the cooking method of my grandmother and mother.  They would boil it, and boil it, and then boil it some more until it became pale and mushy, but still flavorful.  As a newlywed, I purchased a kitchen contraption that enabled the asparagus to stand upright in a pot with just a few inches of water.  This gadget allowed the asparagus to be quickly steamed, maintaining its bright color and precious nutrients.  The drawback to my asparagus steamer, however, was that it took up precious kitchen cabinet space all year, while only being used a handful of times.

Although I don't use the same asparagus recipe as my family, I do use their tried-and-true storing and washing methods.  When I get my asparagus home I place it in a tall pitcher with a few inches of water in the bottom and keep it in my refrigerator until it is time to prepare it.  I try to cook it as soon as possible after its purchase.  To prepare it for cooking, I fill up my kitchen sink with cool fresh tap water.  Then I grasp the asparagus stalks in my hands and gently break off the bottom inch or so of each spear.  According to my mother the stalks will break naturally allowing the tough end piece to be separated from the tender upper shoot.  Next, I float them in the water, swirling them gently with my hand.  Once the water has become still, I leave them undisturbed allowing any dirt or grit to float to the bottom while the vegetables float to the top.  Lastly, I carefully remove the asparagus from the water and place it on a clean kitchen towel to dry.   

Currently my preferred method of cooking is roasting.  I place my clean and dry asparagus stalks on a baking sheet, toss them with olive oil, and season them with freshly cracked pepper and kosher salt.  Sometimes I vary the seasonings by adding lemon pepper or other dried herbs such as thyme, oregano, or basil.  I then roast the seasoned asparagus in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 12 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the stalks.  Roasting results in crisp and tasty asparagus that my youngest sons call trees and eat straight from the pan like potato chips.  The asparagus can be served as is or sprinkled with lemon zest or freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

I am grateful that Spring has sprung and that my favorite vegetable is in season.  I  am also thankful that something as simple as a stalk of asparagus has the power to conjure up precious memories of long ago.  I fondly remember Springs when I got to spend time with my grandmother and acquire knowledge that would still be with me almost forty years later.   Happy Spring!

Roasted Asparagus Recipe

1 pound asparagus spears, rinsed, dried, and trimmed
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Kosher Salt, to taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste

optional seasonings:  1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, oregano, and basil; or 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
optional garnish:  sprinkle with freshly grated lemon zest or Parmesan cheese after cooking

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss the prepared asparagus on a baking sheet with olive oil and spices.  Shake sheet gently until the stalks are in a single layer.
  3. Bake uncovered for 12 to 15 minutes or until it is crisp-tender (a knife can be easily inserted into  the thickest stalk and the tops will be crispy). Roasting time will vary depending on the thickness of the asparagus spears.
  4. Garnish as desired and serve hot.
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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Chocolate Mint Brownies Recipe

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Today my husband is preparing his traditional Irish-American feast for our family.  He put the corned beef in the crock pot this morning and later will glaze it with a honey orange glaze before he serves it with boiled potatoes and cabbage and Irish Soda Bread.  Desert is always left up to me on St. Paddy's Day and I usually go the green route rather than the Irish route.  In the past, I've made Shamrock Sugar Cookies, Chocolate Pistachio Cake, and last year my daughter baked a chocolate layer cake with Mint Icing.

This year I prepared a recipe that my mom is famous for, Cream De Mint Brownies or Chocolate Mint Brownies.  When we lived in Maryland and were planning to visit Meemaw, my kids would always request a pan of her delicious brownies.  They also asked for some on their birthdays, Christmas, Easter, and any other time they could think of to get some of their favorite treats.  Because these brownies were my mom's specialty, I never had to make them. . . until we moved to Texas.

The problem with making a recipe that someone else is know for is that it never tastes quite as good as people remember.  Also, the recipe that I inherited was sketchy at best.  The first time I attempted Chocolate Mint Brownies my daughter said, "Thanks for trying Mom." My son added, "They were almost as good as Meemaws."  After harassing my mother for details of the recipe that I was sure she had left out and incorporating all of her tips, I have almost perfected this green dessert.

Now I know my Cream De Mint Brownies will never be as good as my mothers, but making them always brings back fond memories of celebrations on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  They also add a nice pop of green to any St. Patrick's Day table.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Mint Brownies Recipe

brownie layer ingredients:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup flour, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 (16 ounce) can Hershey syrup (often with the ice cream toppings)

mint icing layer ingredients:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 Tablespoons creme de menthe syrup (sold in liquor stores, my mother has had the same bottle for years:)

chocolate layer ingredients:
1 small package (6 ounces) chocolate chips
6 Tablespoons butter

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
  2. For the brownie layer, cream 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup softened butter until combined.  Mix in the beaten eggs.  Add the flour, vanilla, and Hershey's syrup and mix until fully combined.
  3. Pour chocolate batter into prepared pan.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Let cool
  4. For the mint icing layer, mix powdered sugar, butter, and creme de menthe syrup until fully combined.
  5. Spread over cooled brownie layer and refrigerate until chilled.
  6. For the chocolate layer, microwave chocolate chips and butter for 1 minute.  Stir.  Microwave an additional minute as needed until all chips are melted.
  7. Spread melted chocolate layer over mint icing layer.
  8. Chill again for at least 15 minutes or overnight.
  9. Cut into squares and serve.
I'm sure you could substitute mint extract and green food coloring,
but my mom bought a bottle of Creme De Mint and kept it in her cupboard for years.
I followed tradition by cautiously entering a TX-sized liquor store,
approaching the register, and requesting my green liquor.
Let the brownie layer cool before adding the mint icing.
I learned that the hard way the first time I was rushing to get a pan of these done.
An off-set spatula helps with the spreading of the mint icing layer.
Next spread on the melted chocolate chips and butter.
Allow this to cool in the refrigerator until this layer hardens.
Serve to family and friends on St. Patrick's day or any other celebration
throughout the year.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Crock Pot Oatmeal Recipe

After 15 years of working part time or not at all, I recently headed back to the workplace, full time.  For five days a week, eight hours a day (at least) I am a third grade teacher and I love it!  I did experience a few days of grieving my mommy days.  I am so grateful for my years of cutting grapes in half and wiping high chairs and I will miss all the "times". . . nap times, story times, snack times, movies times, outside times. . . . but I am ready to fully embrace the next chapter of my abundant life.  I am so grateful to have a job in my neighborhood doing something about which I am passionate.  My family is thrilled with the possibility of Mommy's paycheck and are all helping out tremendously.

For the remainder of the school year I will be cooking from scratch significantly less, but I have found a dish that I love to prepare on the weekends in order to treat myself during my early morning weekday breakfasts.   It is for Crock Pot Oatmeal and is scrumptious!  I usually prepare this oatmeal in my slow cooker on Saturday night and then on Sunday morning our house smells heavenly and we have a hot breakfast.  My kids still prefer their oatmeal to hatch tiny dinosaur eggs.  I haven't encouraged them too much because I like to package up the leftovers of my crock pot oatmeal into one cup servings and microwave this hearty warm breakfast throughout the week.

I adapted this recipe from one I found on  the blog "Mommy's Kitchen".  I was skeptical about the method, but I gave it a try because I love the taste and health benefits of steel cut oats but never want to wait the hour or so that it takes to cook them.  This technique is brilliant:  place a heat proof bowl inside your crock pot, fill it with all of the oatmeal ingredients, pour water around the bowl inside the crock pot, and then cover, cook on low, and wait until morning.  The result is a creamy and flavorful oatmeal that is the perfect consistency every time.  Once cooked the possibilities for oatmeal toppings are endless.  My personal preference is craisins, walnuts or almonds, and an extra sprinkling of cinnamon.

When I accepted my full time job, I began seeking balance in my life.  This recipe is one way for me to do that.  As a working mom, I knew my crock pot was going to be my new BFF for dinner, but with this recipe it is just as handy for breakfast.  Crock Pot Oatmeal is a treat for myself that I am glad to give.

Crock Pot Oatmeal Recipe

          inspired by Mommy's Kitchen
          makes 4 hearty portions or 6 modest portions    

1 cup steel cut oats
4 cups water
1/2 cup milk (I use 1% but you could use whole or half-and-half)
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup sugar (I use sugar in the raw, but you could use regular or brown sugar)
1 Tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 heat proof bowl that will hold 4 cups of liquid and fit inside your slow cooker with the crock pot lid on

  1. Place the heatproof bowl in the crock pot.
  2. In the heatproof bowl, mix the steel cut oats, water, milk, sugar, vanilla, butter, and cinnamon.
  3. Add the chopped apple and mix gently.
  4. Carefully pour water around the edges of the crock pot until the water level is just below the contents of the inner bowl.  
  5. Place the lid on your crock pot.  Turn it on low and go to bed.
  6. The next morning gently remove the inner bowl onto a kitchen towel.  Gently stir.  
  7. Scoop up a serving and add toppings.
Oatmeal toppings:  craisins, raisins, other dried fruit; almonds, walnuts, other nuts; peanut butter; dark chocolate chips; honey; etc.  

Place all of the oatmeal ingredients in the inner bowl
and then gently pour water around the edge.
Cover the crock pot and go to bed.
Prepare to be impressed in the morning.
Ta Da, wake up to luscious oatmeal and a wonderful aroma.
The apples will have puffed and floated to the top.
Give your creamy oatmeal a stir before serving.
Add your favorite toppings and serve yourself in your prettiest bowl.

Lucky Links:
Delicious Dishes, Wow Me Wednesday, Create and Share, Sugar and Spice, Drab to Fab, Pity Party,   Tickled Pink, Anything Goes, Weekend Wrap Up,