Everyday recipes, life and craziness from Jen's house.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Artichoke and Red Pepper Dip

So I finally got my stuff together for my professional development session yesterday, and it went very well!  I even had a few teachers tell me that it was one of the most useful and exciting sessions they've been to!  Wow!  What a compliment!  Who knew Voice and Word Choice (Writing Traits) would be so exciting! To test your writing knowledge, what are the other 4 (+1) Writing Traits?  Check the bottom of the post to see if you know the Writing Traits!

Dr. Laurie Curtis
Lina Brake

Anyways...that brings me to tonight.  I went to the Kansas Reading Association Meeting.  Dr. Laurie Curtis presented on Brain Based Research and how that effects student learning.  I've known Laurie for several years...she was working on her Ph.D when I was working on my Master's at KState.  We had several classes together.  Now that I'm working on my Ph.D, Laurie is teaching at KState and I've taken classes from her.  She's also on my doctoral committee.  A cool thing about Laurie is that she has the same name as one of my dad's friends...and he's a Dr. Curtis, too!  Long story short...well, a little shorter...I was talking to Laurie and my Bunco friend (and former colleague,) Lina tonight after the presentation about this blog.  I pulled my blog up and scrolled through it.  Lina wanted to know if I had posted about my Artichoke and Red Pepper Dip.  I have not posted the recipe to this yummy dip, so I thought I'd share it tonight.

So thanks for reading all about my presentation, Laurie's presentation, and Lina's request!  Enjoy~

Artichoke and Red Pepper Dip

8 ounces cream cheese (I use Philadelphia: Neufchatel 1/3 Less Fat Cream Cheese)
1/2 c. sour cream (I use reduced fat)
2/3 c. mayo (I'm a sucker for real mayo, so no reduced fat here...although you may try it if you'd like!)
1 can artichoke hearts, well drained and chopped
1 jar roasted red peppers, well drained and chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/8 of an onion, finely diced
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese

Soften the cream cheese.  Stir in the sour cream and mayo.  Add the rest of the ingredients.  Pour into an 9x9 inch baking pan that's been sprayed with Pam (or whatever cooking spray you use.) Bake in a 350* oven for 15-20 minutes, or until heated through.

You can also put this in a small crockpot and serve it hot.  If you use a crockpot, make sure you monitor it...if it gets too hot, it will turn into a sloppy, gooey dip that doesn't look as pretty (but it tastes good!)

Serve with veggies, crackers, chips, etc.  You can serve this dip cold, also.

The Writing Traits are:  Ideas, Voice, Word Choice, Organization, Sentence Fluency, Conventions and the +1 is Presentation!

Monday, January 24, 2011


Miscellany Monday @ lowercase letters

Ok...my to do list is a mile long today...and here I am blogging.

1.  I made a new chicken recipe last night.  The blog I got the recipe from said it was the best chicken, evah.  Um, no.  It wasn't TLS (Tastes Like S***), but close.

2.  I have a professional development session that I'm giving this afternoon.  Do I have my handouts done?  My powerpoint?  My activities?  Um, no.  Instead, I've been thinking hard and coming up with a game plan looking for better chicken recipes than the one I tried last night.

3.  It's cold out and I'd like to have BBQ chicken for supper.  However, it's cold out and I don't want to scrape the ice/snow off the grill and try and grill in the cold.  Besides, I won't get home from the super engaging, best evah professional development session in time to grill.

4.  I really need to get busy, but wait!  I just found another cool recipe to try!  :)

Have a great day~

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Easy (and cheap) Wine Punch

So on Friday night, I hosted Bunco for a great group of girls.  Once a month we get together and throw the dice in hopes for winning some money at the end of the night.  More often than not, I go home in the hole.  But that's OK...  I have fun...  Our group has been playing for 3 years now and we have a great time each month.  The hostess provides the drinks, so I made hot chocolate (see other post) and wine punch.  The wine punch is easy to make and everyone likes it...besides it's cheap, too!

Doesn't get much cheaper than Strawberry Hill!
Easy Wine Punch

1 bottle Boone's Farm Wine (OK, I know it's not really wine, but it makes it sound classy)
1 container frozen juice concentrate, thawed
7-Up or Sprite

Mix the "wine" and the juice concentrate together.  Pour into a gallon Ziploc type bag and place in the freezer. 

When ready to serve, fill a cup with the "wine" slush (about 3/4 full) and top with 7-Up.  Enjoy~

You can use any kind of flavor combinations.  Boone's Farm comes in lots of flavors, as does juice concentrate.  I usually use 5-Alive, but be creative and enjoy!  This is really good on a hot day...or on a cold day...or a warm day...or... well, you get the picture!  :)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hot Chocolate for Cold Nights

It is cold here in Kansas!  We've had 2 snowstorms 2 weeks in a row, which is unusual for our area.  Plus, we're supposed to get more snow tonight!  I have this theory that when Jeff is deployed, we have a horrible winter with lots of cold and snow....like the winter we had the ice storm and were without power for a WEEK!  And then on the flip side, when he's home, the winter is mild.  However, this year is looking to break that theory....which, don't get me wrong, is OK!  I'm glad he's home to help with the snow, cold and all the added stuff that goes with it!

Last night it was cold...a perfect night for hot chocolate!  It was also my turn to host Bunco.  The hostess supplies the drinks for the night, so I thought hot chocolate (and wine punch) would be an awesome addition to our night...and it was!  Thanks ladies for such a great time!  :)

Jen's Hot Chocolate 

1/4 c. cocoa powder
1/3 c. sugar
2 c. half & half (I use fat free half & half)
2 c. milk (I use skim)
1 c. mini marshmallows
dash of salt
1/4 t. vanilla

Whisk the cocoa powder and sugar together.  Pour the milk and half and half into a saucepan and whisk in the cocoa mixture.  Warm over medium heat, but do not boil.  Stir in the marshmallows, salt and vanilla.  The marshmallows will melt and will add a frothy, creaminess to the drink.  When the hot chocolate begins to steam, it is done!  Serve with mini marshmallows or whipped cream (or both!)  Enjoy~

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Salisbury Steak

For those of you who don't know, I married a small-town Iowa dude almost 16 years ago.  Growing up, Jeff's mom, used a lot of Iowa products to make supper.  Beef, corn, potatoes....  Being from Maine, I didn't have the same influences:  my mum cooked dinner instead of supper and we ate a lot of seafood and chicken.  So it's been an adjustment...a 16 year adjustment...to include beef, corn and potatoes in our menu!
Jeff, his brother Craig, his sister Julie, his brother Steve and parents Leonard and Helen

I few years ago, I found a recipe online for Salisbury Steak.  It sounded pretty easy, and I was sure that Jeff, the Iowa dude, would like it...especially if I made mashed potatoes and corn.  I changed it up a little (no surprise here!)  And I was right...it was good!  This recipe (along with the mashed potatoes and corn) has become something that I make fairly often.   

Salisbury Steak

1 pound ground beef (I use 97%)
1 packet of Lipton's Onion Soup mix
3/4 c. water

1 c. beef broth
1 can cream of mushroom soup

Mix the ground beef, onion soup mix and water together well.  It will be soupy.  {hahhahhaaha  I crack myself up!}  Seriously, the meat will be mushy.  Form into 4 patties.  

Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Place the patties into the hot skillet and cook the patties, turning to brown both sides.  

In a bowl, combine the beef broth and the cream of mushroom soup.  Pour over the patties.  Cover the pan and lower the heat to medium low and simmer for 30-40 minutes.  Turn the patties occasionally.

In 30-40 minutes you have Salisbury Steak and gravy!  Mashed potatoes, corn, a small green salad and a hunk of crusty bread complete the meal!  Yum!  Enjoy~

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

For Denise: Caramel Popcorn

Last month, I took a double batch of Caramel Popcorn to share with my Bunco group.  At the end of the night, there was still a lot of Caramel Popcorn left, so I sent the leftovers home with my friend Denise.  Her children were coming home from college and I knew the popcorn would be gone in a flash!

Denise and her beautiful family

Over the holiday's, I made 3 or 4 double batches of Caramel Popcorn...and it was all gone in a flash.  It's great to snack on, and fairly easy to make.  One thing you do need is a good candy thermometer.  The recipe that I use is out of my tried and true, red plaid cookbook, "Better Homes and Gardens:  New Cookbook."  I've altered the recipe just a bit (some of you are NOT surprised...I alter most recipes!)

This is what my cookbook looks like

The alteration that I made to the recipe was to add more popcorn.  I didn't want each piece of popcorn covered in caramel, so with more popcorn, a lot of the pieces just get a drizzle of the caramel instead of a bath.  If you like more caramel, feel free to decrease the amount of popped corn!  This is a double recipe and makes a lot.  Feel free to half it if you'd like!  You can also add dry roasted peanuts to the popcorn before drizzling on the hot caramel.

Carmel Popcorn

16-18 cups popped popcorn

1-1/2 c. packed brown sugar
2/3 c. butter
6 T. light corn syrup

1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. vanilla

Remove all unpopped kernels from popped corn (or else you'll break a tooth!)  Place popcorn in 2 greased 9x14 inch pans.

In a heavy 3 quart sauce pan,   (You can use a smaller pan, but I like a bigger one because I'm afraid the hot caramel is going to slop out on me in a smaller pan...so use what you'd like!)  melt the butter and combine the corn syrup and brown sugar.  Cook and stir over medium heat until the mixture starts to boil.  clip a candy thermometer on the side of the saucepan.  Cook and stir until 255*, hard-ball stage.  The cookbook says that it takes 4 minutes, but it ALWAYS takes me longer.

After the caramel reaches 255*, remove the saucepan from the heat.  Stir in baking soda and vanilla.  This will foam and bubble a bit.  Stir until well combined.  Pour half of the caramel into each of the pans with the popcorn.  I pour the caramel slowly for 2 reasons:  1 I don't want to burn myself...it's HOT! and 2, I've found it's easier to drizzle the caramel on the popcorn...more popcorn gets covered!  Stir the popcorn to coat. 

Bake in a 300* oven for 5 minutes.  Stir and bake 5 minutes longer.  Remove and let cool.  You can break the popcorn into small chunks or leave it in larger chunks...whatever and however you like it!

This is what my mum's cookbook looks like


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year!

Ok, Ok, I know...  it's been a LONG time since I've last blogged.  I could offer you lots of excuses, my faithful readers.  But if you're my faithful readers, you know what's been going on in my wild and crazy life.  (For those of you who aren't my faithful readers, I'll give you a recap of my wild and crazy life.  Military wife.  Mama.  Full time grad student.  'Nuff said.)  After thinking about all of the excuses about being too busy to blog, I've come to the realization that I really haven't been too busy.  Sure I'm busy, but after all, I have a thriving farm on Facebook!  And if I can harvest crops, well...  I can blog.  So here I am, blogging...in the midst of studying for my preliminary exams.

So what's been cooking at Jen's house?  Before Christmas, it was lots of goodies (peanut butter balls, bourbon balls, poor man's turtles, apple cinnamon chex mix, and batches and batches of carmel popcorn.)  If you'd like any of the recipes of these goodies, let me know and I'll post them!

Now that the new year has started, I'm trying to cook more healthy (that means no more peanut butter balls for breakfast...well, until December 2011!)  Here's what I'm making for super tonight:  Orange Glazed Chicken, broccoli, salad, and some sort of potato.

Orange Glazed Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 T. of  dry Lipton Onion Soup mix
1 T. dijon mustard
1/4 c. Italian salad dressing (I like Ken's Lite Northern Italian)
1/2 c. Marmalade (apricot preserves work well if you don't care for marmalade.  And you don't have to use Dundee brand, any brand will do!)

Mix the soup mix, mustard, salad dressing and marmalade together.  It will be a little chunky...you can put it in a small saucepan on low heat and it will be easier to mix, but it's not necessary.  Place the chicken in a 9x9 inch baking dish that's been sprayed with cooking spray.  Pour half of the marmalade mixture over the chicken and place in a 350* preheated oven.  Bake for 20-25 minutes and pour the rest of the marmalade mixture over the chicken.  Bake 5-10 minutes longer, until chicken is done and juices run clear.

This is also good with porkchops!


When I wrote the post this afternoon, I had decided on having broccoli and potato.  However, reality was a bit different.  I did make a potato dish (pan fried leftover potato for Jeff,) brown rice pilaf, (for me and JP) corn (for Jeff again) and salad.  It was yummy! 

I only had 1/4 c. of marmalade, so I combined marmalade and apricot preserves to make 1/2 c.  It was a great combination! 

If you're getting tired of rice or potato, the Near East brown rice pilaf is a good variation.  It's "a blend of whole grain brown rice with toasted orzo pasta."  I omit the oil/butter it calls for on the directions.  Without the oil/butter for 1 cup (which is a lot!) it's 1 g. of fat, 3 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein and 600 mg of sodium.  I usually don't like prepackaged spice mixes that come in rices, but this one is pretty good.