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Kids In The Kitchen: No Bake Granola Bars

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My kids and I love Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, but it has recently come to my attention that these are probably one of the most unhealthy granola bars on the grocery shelf…no wonder they taste so good.  So, I decided to try to make my own granola bars at home and found a great no bake recipe to try.  The kids were able to make them with almost no help from me, and they taste unbelievable.  No more store-bought granola bars for me and my family!

Here’s the step-by-step recipe with cute pics of my kiddos in the kitchen.  Enjoy!

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No Bake Granola Bars

Ingredients:

2 cups quick cooking oats

1 cup crispy rice cereal

1/4 cup shredded coconut

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup honey

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Choice of mix-ins

Directions:

1.  In a large bowl, mix together the oats…

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the rice cereal…

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and the coconut.  Set aside.

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2.  In a small sauce over medium high heat, melt the butter.

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Add the honey…

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brown sugar…

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and salt.

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Stir together and allow to come to a boil.  When the boil has reached the edges of the pan, begin timing for 2 minutes and 15 seconds.

3.  Remove from heat and add the vanilla.

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4.  Pour this mixture over the oat mix and stir everything together until oats are completely coated.

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Allow to cool.

5.  Add your choice of mix-ins.  We did cranberry white chocolate chip.  Add 1/2 cup of each ingredient you choose.  So for ours, we added 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips…

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and 1/2 cup of Craisins.

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You could add nuts, pretzels, chocolate chips, dried fruit, or candy…anything you think you might like in a granola bar.  Don’t you just love the freedom!?!

6.  Press the mix into a 9×13 pan…

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and stick in the fridge for 20 minutes.

7.  When cool, turn out onto a cutting board.  (I had to tap the bottom of my pan gently with a knife to release the granola.)  Cut the granola in 16 bars…

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and enjoy!

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I also did my own batch with salted peanuts, peanut butter chips, and chocolate chips.  It turned out very yummy!

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Hope you have as much fun making your granola bars as my kids and I did.

A Mardi Gras Feast

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Wow!  Blog posts have been few and far between, but here are a couple of fun recipes for your Mardi Gras celebrations…don’t forget that it’s tomorrow, March 4th!

Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday.  And what could be richer than Shrimp Etouffee?!  Etouffee literally means “smothered”.  You start this dish with a roux which will create a nice, thick, yummy sauce.  I always serve mine over rice.  Perfection!  And for dessert, nothing speaks New Orleans like a nice fluffy Beignet drowned in powdered sugar.  Oh, my!  Talk about decadent!  Hope you enjoy!

Shrimp Etouffee

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Ingredients:

6 Tbsp. butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 green pepper, chopped

3 medium stalks celery, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. Cajun seasoning

1 tsp. Parsley

Cayenne Pepper, to taste (depends on how hot you want it)

2-3 dashes Tabasco Sauce

One 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice

Salt, to taste

1 pound small shrimp, cooked, peeled, and deveined

Directions:

1.  Melt butter in large skillet over med-low heat.  Whisk in flour to make a paste.  Continue cooking, whisking frequently, until mix turns caramel color, 10-15 minutes.

2.  Add onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic and cook about 5 minutes or until vegetables are slightly softened.

3.  Add pepper, Cajun seasoning, Parsley, Tabasco, and Cayenne.

4.  Add 1 cup water and stir to blend.  Pour in the tomatoes and their juice, and season with salt to taste.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to med-low for 10-15 minutes.  Add in shrimp to heat the last 5 minutes.

5.  Serve over rice and enjoy!

 

French Quarter Beignets

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Ingredients:

1/4 cup sugar

1 envelope active dry yeast

3/4 tsp. salt

1 large egg, beaten

1/2 cup evaporated milk

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/8 cup vegetable oil, plus extra for deep frying

Powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions:

1.  In a large bowl, mix sugar and yeast with 3/4 cup lukewarm water.  Let sit for 10 minutes until mix is foamy.

2.  Whisk in salt, egg, and milk.  Add 1 1/2 cup flour and whisk until smooth.  Add the veg. oil and whisk.  Add the rest of the flour (2 cups) 1/2 cup at a time and stir with a spoon.

3.  Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.

4.  Rub a small amount of veg. oil on dough ball and return to bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and put in fridge for at least 2 hours.

5.  Roll dough on a floured surface to form about a 15 by 20 inch rectangle.  Using a pizza cutter, cut dough into enough small rectangles to make 30 beignets.

6.  Pour oil into an electric skillet, or a regular skillet, and heat to 350F.  The oil should be about 3 inches deep.

7.  Drop the rectangles into the hot oil being careful not to overcrowd…they need room to grow…literally.  Brown on both sides, about 1 minute per side.  Lift out with tongs and drain on paper towel lined plate.  Immediately sift the powdered sugar (as much or as little as you want…personally, I like a lot!) on top of the beignets.

8.  Serve immediately.  They are best when they are still nice and warm.  Each bite will make you think you’ve died and gone to heaven!

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HAPPY MARDI GRAS!

 

Yellow (Summer) Squash Casserole

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Yes, I realize that summer squash is easier to find and of better quality in the summer, but this recipe is a family favorite for the holidays.  I acquired this recipe several years ago from a very sweet lady who I admired very much.  It was a favorite in her family, too.  When I first made this for my husband’s family, they were a bit skeptical, most of them are not squash lovers, but they were willing to try it, and now they ask me to make it for almost every holiday dinner!  It is so super good!  And who doesn’t love a casserole?  I hope you will enjoy this as much as my family and I do!

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Yellow (Summer) Squash Casserole

Ingredients:

6 cups very thinly sliced squash

1 small onion, very thinly sliced

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 cup sour cream

1 cup grated carrots

1 stick salted butter, melted

1 box chicken flavored Stove Top Stuffing Mix

Directions:

1.  Cook the squash and onion in salted boiling water for 5 minutes and drain.

2.  In a large bowl, mix the soup, sour cream, and grated carrots together.  Add the squash and onion to the mix.

3.  Mix the butter with the stuffing in a separate bowl.  I usually add a couple of tablespoons of water to make the stuffing a little more moist, but if you want yours crispier, leave it as is…the choice is yours!

4.  Pour the squash mix into a 9×13 casserole dish.  Top with the stuffing mix.  Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes.

5.  Enjoy!  Make sure to share it with your friends and family…they will thank you for it!

Chocolate Pretzel Fudge

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I recently made this fudge for Thanksgiving, and it was wonderful!  I love to bake and make desserts, but I have never made fudge before.  This recipe was so easy that a kid could do it…seriously, I think I’m going to let my kids in on the fun next time.  All you have to do is melt a few ingredients, toss in some pretzels, chill and cut, and you have some really yummy fudge.  If you like chocolate covered pretzels, which I really do, you will love this fudge!  It would be perfect to make for the holidays.  Who doesn’t want something easy to make and totally delicious to serve up at Christmas dinner?  Hope you enjoy this fudge as much as I did!

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Chocolate Pretzel Fudge

Ingredients:

12 oz. bag milk chocolate chips (I’m a Nestle Toll House girl)

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 can sweetened condensed milk

2 Tablespoons milk

1 cup broken pretzel pieces

extra pretzels for top

Directions:

Melt all the ingredients, except the pretzels in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir frequently.  Remove from heat when chocolate is melted and smooth.  Stir in the pretzel pieces.  Pour into a foil lines 8×8 baking pan (you’ll thank me for this when you are cutting the fudge later).  Press whole pretzels on top of the fudge and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.  Lick the pan while you wait for the fudge to harden (you’ll also thank me for this when you’re making yum, yum noises).  Remove from foil and cut into squares.  Serve at your party and be a hero.

It’s as simple as that…hope you enjoy!

And if you’re feeling really frisky, you could dip some pretzels in white chocolate to serve with the fudge.  Double the fun!

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Butternut Squash Soup with Cinnamon Sugar Croutons

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Well, I’ve had an extended vacation from my blog…much, much longer than planned.  I’ve really missed writing, but it seems that life gets busier each year.  I can’t promise steady blog posts, but I will try not to take 6 months off again…haha!

I promised my facebook friends that I would post this recipe, so that’s just what I’ll do.  This soup is so wonderfully perfect for this time of year.  It’s so creamy, and savory, and sweet, and just super yummy!  I hope you’ll like it as much as I do.  Here goes…

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Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with Cinnamon Sugar Croutons

The Soup…

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into about 1 inch cubes

1 large onion, diced

1 Tbsp. butter

Big pinch of sugar

2 large garlic cloves, sliced

1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

3 cups chicken broth

1- 1 1/2 cups milk

Directions:

Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat.  Add squash and onion.  Saute, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to brown, 7-8 minutes.  Add butter, sugar, and garlic.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are a rich caramel color, about 10 minutes longer.

Add spices and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add broth and bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Now, use an immersion blender, if you have one, and puree your soup.  If you don’t have one, and most people don’t, transfer to a blender and puree in batches until very smooth.

Return to pot and add enough milk to thin soup to desired consistency.  Heat through.  Ladle into bowls and top with croutons.  Enjoy!

The Croutons…

Ingredients:

1 small loaf sour dough bread

1 stick of butter (more or less)

Sugar

Cinnamon

Directions:

Cut loaf of bread into cubes.  These can be as big or as small as you like your croutons.  Place in a large bowl.

Melt butter and pour over bread cubes.  Stir to coat evenly.

Now comes the fun part.  Add as little, OR AS MUCH, sugar and cinnamon to your buttery bread as you want!  Stir to make sure each croutons is covered.  Yummy!

Place bread cubes on a large cookie sheet in a single layer.  Bake at 400F for about 15 minutes.

Put a good handful of these delicious Cinnamon Sugar Croutons on top of your Butternut Squash Soup and dig in!

Beans And Greens…A Country Staple

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I hope all of you enjoyed your Memorial Day weekend as much as I did.  It’s wonderful to spend time with family while honoring and remembering the ones who have served our country and died for our right to be free.  We live in such a great nation with so many freedoms we take for granted on a daily basis.  I am proud to be an American and so proud of all those who serve and have served our country, including many of my own family members.

Although the recipe I am going to post has nothing to do with Memorial Day, I needed to take a moment to show thanks for those who have served and the freedoms we enjoy because of them.

Now, on to the delicious country dinner of beans and greens, which I’m quite certain any service man or woman would love!  This dinner is one of my favorites, right up at the top with meatloaf.  There is nothing like good ole country, stick to your ribs, beans and greens.  And no dinner of beans and greens would be complete without corn muffins to sop up the soup at the end of your meal.  I always dice up some onion to put in my beans, and for some reason, I always serve slices of cheddar cheese with beans.  And, for goodness sake, make sure you throw some of the ham hock in your dish of beans.  The whole combination of beans, greens, corn muffins, ham hock, onions, and cheese just seems to be perfect.  Hope you enjoy!

Beans and Greens…A Country Staple

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Pinto Beans

Ingredients:

1 pound dry pinto beans

1 ham hock

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1.  Place dry beans in a pot and cover with 6 to 8 cups of water.  (Make sure to check your beans for little rocks before you start cooking.)  Bring beans to a boil for 2 minutes and then remove from heat.  Allow them to soak for 1 hour.

2.  Now, you can either drain the water from the beans and rinse them, or not.  I know that every recipe I’ve ever read tells you to drain and rinse.  This soak and rinse method is supposed to make the beans cause less “uncomfortableness” after you eat them.  (You all know what I’m talking about!) I’ve never noticed any difference in soaked and rinsed beans and soaked and non-rinsed beans.  So, I just soak my beans to cut down on cook time, but do not rinse.  I think it takes away a lot of the flavor of the beans to rinse them, but the choice is up to you.

3.  Add the ham hock and salt and pepper to the pot.  Cook the beans low and slow, stirring often, for about 4 hours.  Always make sure the beans are covered with water, at least 2 inches above the beans.  Cooking the beans slowly, and on low heat, makes for a richer soup and keeps the beans from busting.

Collard Greens

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These greens came straight from our box garden.  There’s nothing like eating fresh greens and knowing what goes in them and where they came from.  Since I garden organically, I know that absolutely no pesticides touched my greens.  And they are so very yummy!

Ingredients:

1 bunch of fresh (or frozen) collard greens

2 cups water

4 Tbsp. butter

1 ham hock (from pinto beans)

1 Tbsp. sugar

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1.  Separate the stems from the leaves and throw the stems away.  Wash leaves in cold water.

2.  In a large skillet, combine water, butter, ham hock (just steal the one in your beans), sugar, and salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil and add the collard greens.  Simmer over medium heat for about 1 hour, or until tender.

Corn Muffins

Ingredients:

Shortening

1 large egg

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 cups Buttermilk Self-Rising Corn Meal Mix

Directions:

1.  Heat oven to 450F.  Place 1 small spoonful of shortening (I use Crisco) in the bottom of 12 muffin cups.

2.  Stir eggs, milk, oil, and corn meal in a bowl until smooth.  Batter should be creamy and pourable, so if it’s too thick, just add a little more milk.

3.  Put the muffin pan in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until shortening is hot.  Fill cups about 2/3 full with the batter (I use an ice cream scoop to fill my muffin pans, makes less mess), and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

In The Garden

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I promised a garden post yesterday, but got a little sidetracked trying to rescue a little birdie. (More on this in a later post.)

So today, I am finally blogging about my garden.  I love time spent in my garden…  working in the soil with my hands, pulling weeds while I sing to my plants, and finally, eating all the yummy fruits, herbs, and veggies that grow.  My husband and kiddos also love working in the garden with me and enjoying the rewards for their labor.  I think there is something very therapeutic about working in the garden, whether you grow flowers or edibles, or both.  Everyone should have a garden!

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I have landscaped around my entire house with trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, and annuals.  I love walking out every day and seeing the beautiful growth and vibrant colors.  Since I also spend time bird watching, all these trees, shrubs, and flowers have provided a welcome haven for the little birdies and attract more of them for me to enjoy.

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For my edible garden, I decided to build garden boxes.  Much of the soil around our house is fill dirt or red clay, and even though I was able to amend the soil for my landscaping, I didn’t want to fight with it every year for my garden.  With my garden boxes, I’m able to till the dirt every spring with a hand rake without having to break my back.  It sure makes gardening more enjoyable!

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I have four garden boxes, and this provides more than enough food for my family to enjoy in the spring, summer, and fall, plus canned food for the winter.This is my greens box.  I grew collard greens, kale, romaine, and spinach this spring.  I just put down summer crisp lettuce seeds.  Must have greens all season!  I love my greens!

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I have chives, garlic, onion, and leeks in this box.  These are my cooking staples.  I cook with garlic and onion almost every day.  And chives have so many uses…even the blooms are edible, and pretty, too.

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I just put my tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers in the ground.  We’ve had a very cool spring, so I didn’t want to risk putting them in early and being hit with frost.  I have 6 different types of tomato plants including Better Boy, Roma, and Cherry tomatoes.  I plant red and green pepper, and slicing and pickling cucumber.  I always make sure to can plenty of crushed tomato to use in the winter, and lots and lots of pickles.  I love pickles!

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Although this garden box looks empty, there is a lot of work going on beneath the soil.  This box will be full of corn and beans soon.  I have 3 different varieties of corn, bush beans, and pole beans.  With boxes, you can plant the corn closer together, which helps with pollination, producing a better crop.  So even though I won’t have a large crop, those ears will be full and yummy.

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I also added a few garden pots this year for my herbs.  I have an Italian herb pot with Rosemary, Oregano, Italian Parsley, and Sweet Basil.  All the makings for any Italian dish.  I also have a pot for my Mexican meals.  I put Cilantro, Jalapeno Pepper, and a small container Tomato in this pot.  I see some yummy salsa in my future!

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I am also experimenting with carrots and squash in pots.  I found this idea on Pinterest, and decided to give it a try.  So far, they look good…we’ll see how it turns out.

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All these wonderful herbs and veggies will make for some very yummy food and some very yummy recipes for me to post on my blog!  Here is a sneak peek of my next blog post.  It’s gonna be a southern dinner you won’t want to miss.  This meal has cooked collard greens, and they are delicious.  Here is a picture of the greens just added to the skillet, wilting around a big chunk of ham hock.  Oh, they’re good!

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Buttermilk Biscuits With Pan Gravy

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I’m not much on big, heavy breakfasts, but I love breakfast for dinner!  We like to call it “brinner” in our house.  Last night, we really wanted some “brinner”, so I made some super yummy buttermilk biscuits and smothered them in pan gravy and served them up with a side of bacon.  Oh, my, that’s some country goodness right there!  And it’s such a cheap and easy meal. It’s friendly on the budget and the time, which most of us are in short supply of.  I hope you enjoy this “brinner”, or breakfast, as much as I did!

Buttermilk Biscuits and Pan Gravy

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Ingredients:

1 package bacon

2 cups self-rising flour

dash of salt

dash of sugar

3 Tbsp. shortening

1 1/4 cup buttermilk

2 Tbsp. butter, melted

6 Tbsp. bacon drippings

6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups milk (or more)

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400F.  Place bacon slices on a sheet pan, and bake in oven for 10-12 minutes, or until done.  Place slices on a paper towel lined plate and set aside.  Reserve 6 Tbsp. of bacon drippings for later.

2.  Preheat oven to 475F.  In a medium bowl, mix together self-rising flour, dash of salt, and a dash of sugar.  Cut in 3 Tbsp. shortening until mixed with the flour.  (I use two knives to cut in my shortening, but they actually make a handy, dandy tool for this, so if you have one, use it.)  Add the buttermilk and 1 Tbsp. of the melted butter.  Mix lightly until all ingredients are just mixed together.  Do not overmix.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead two or three times.  Pat the dough out to about 1/2 inch thickness.  Cut dough using a biscuit cutter.  Do not twist the cutter, this seals the edges and won’t allow your biscuits to rise properly.  You should get about 12 biscuits.  Place them in two round cake pans and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.  Brush with the remaining Tbsp. of butter when they come from the oven.

3.  While the biscuits are baking, heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add the drippings, and stir in 6 Tbsp. of all-purpose flour.  Cook until lightly browned, stirring constantly.  Slowly stir in 1 1/2 cups of milk.  You may need to add more depending on how thick you like your gravy.  I always end up adding a little more.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and continue cooking over low heat until the gravy is smooth and thick, stirring constantly.

4.  Put a couple of those golden brown buttermilk biscuits on a plate or in a bowl, drown them in that smooth, thick, rich gravy, stick a few slices of bacon on the side, and dig in!

The Juicy Lucy Burger

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Here is another one of my favorite burger recipes.  I love this one almost as much as the Butter Burger.  The pickle and onion on this big guy with all that gooey cheese oozing from the center is unbelievably delicious!  I serve mine up with hand cut fries (leave the skin on, it makes them crunchier), and ,of course, a Coke or Root Beer float in a nice frosty mug.  Hope you enjoy!

The Juicy Lucy Burger

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Ingredients:

1 lb ground chuck

4 slices American cheese

1 Tbsp. butter

1 small onion, diced

salt and pepper

Dill pickle slices

4 burger buns

Directions:

1.  Divide the meat into 8 balls, then form into thin patties.  Fold 4 cheese slices into small squares and put in the center of 4 patties.  Top with the other 4 patties and crimp the edges together to seal in the cheese.  Set aside.

2.  Warm the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and cook until browned.  Add 1/2 cup of water to the onions and cook until water is gone.  (Makes a nice, soft onion for your burger!)  Transfer onion to a bowl.  Do not wipe your skillet clean, all that flavor from cooking the onions just adds to the yumminess of the burgers!

3.  Add the patties to the skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook until done, about 6 minutes per side.  Don’t worry if some of the cheese comes out, it just makes a yummy, cheesy crust on the burger.

4.  Put pickle slices on each bottom bun, top with cooked onions and a patty, then put on the top bun.  Slice each burger in half so you can appreciate the cheesiness.  Watch out for that cheese, though, it’s super hot!

Oh, my, would you look at that yummy, cheesy, deliciousness!  Enjoy!

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Lime Chicken Fajitas

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I love good Tex-Mex food, and this dish does not disappoint.  The chicken is so tender, and you can really taste the kick of lime…and the garlic, which I also really love.  I made some Mexican Rice and “smooshed up” (refried) Black Beans to go with it, threw it all on a plate together, and added some shredded Monterey Jack Cheese, Sour Cream, Salsa, and a lime wedge.  Throw a couple of warm tortilla shells on the plate, and you’ve got all the fixings for a really yummy fajita.  Hope you enjoy this as much as my family did!

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Lime Chicken Fajitas

Ingredients:

3 limes

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 jalapeno, sliced

3 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1/2 cup water

dash of salt

handful of fresh cilantro (or a dash of dried if you can’t get your hands on the fresh stuff)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Directions:

1.  Slice 2 of the limes in half and squeeze the juice into a blender.  Add the garlic, jalapeno, veg. oil, water, salt, and cilantro, and blend until mix is smooth.

2.  Put the chicken breasts in a gallon size plastic bag and pour on the marinade.  Close the bag and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes…the longer the better!

3.  Grill (or saute if it’s pouring the rain and you can’t use your grill!) the chicken over medium high heat.  Cook until chicken is done, about 5 minutes per side.

4.  Slice the chicken and serve with Mexican Rice (recipe to follow), black beans, salsa, sour cream, shredded Monty Jack Cheese, and a lime wedge (this is where that third lime comes in handy).  Roll up warm tortillas and throw those on the plate.  Put your fajita together any way you like…preferably with lots of everything!

My kiddos loved being able to build their own fajita.

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Here’s the recipe for Mexican Rice

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup white rice (uncooked)

1- 10 oz. can Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles

Dash of Salt

Dash of dried Cilantro (or handful of fresh)

Dash of Cumin

Dash of Cayenne

1 1/2 cups Chicken Broth

Directions:

1.  Heat oil in a pan over medium high heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent.  Turn heat on low and add the rice.  Cook, stirring constantly, about 2-3 minutes.

2.  Add the Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles, salt, cilantro, cumin, cayenne, and broth.  Stir to combine the ingredients, and bring to a boil.

3.  Cook on low, covered, for 15-20 minutes, or until rice is done.  This stuff is good…it’s extra good on the fajita!

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