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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!

 

Cherry Scones

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Happy (belated) New Year to all you lovely bloggers out there.  I hope you had wonderful Christmas and New Year’s celebrations with your loved ones. I thoroughly enjoyed our holidays this year…and, yes, I’ll be posting some Christmas pictures soon!  Our family was treated to an extended vacation due to the recent snow storms, and I have enjoyed every minute relaxing and playing with my sweet little kiddos and hubby.  Now, the snow has been replaced by lots of rain, but I’m not complaining…our state could really use the rain today!

So, today is a dark and rainy morning, and I decided to make some warm scones for breakfast.  I love scones for breakfast, my husband swears it’s his very favorite breakfast food, and even my kids devour them.  These scones are really not hard to make, and you can even replace the cherries with other dried fruit or nuts if cherries aren’t your thing.  I hope you and your family enjoy these warm, delicious, flaky scones as much as my family and I do.

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Cherry Scones

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

5 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small slices

1/4 to 1/2 cup dried cherries (or other dried fruit, or nuts, or both!)

1 egg

3/4 cup heavy cream

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350F.

2.  Stir the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large mixing bowl.

3. Cut the butter into the flour mix until it looks like crumbs.  I use two knives to cut in, but if you have a dough blender or pastry cutter, use it!

4.  Add your dried fruit, or nuts, or both, and stir into the mix.

5.  Mix the egg and heavy cream together in a separate bowl, then add to flour mix.  Stir just until combined.

6.  Pour mix onto a cutting board and work the mix into a large round.  Don’t knead the dough!  Use a rolling pin to gently roll the round out to about 10 inches and about 1 inch thick.  I use my hands around the edges to make sure the round keeps its shape and the edges don’t go flaking off.  If you do lose some pieces, just stick them back on there, and keep rolling.

7.  Slice the round into 8 wedges.  Transfer wedges to a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.

8.  Bake the scones for about 22 minutes or until they barely start to brown.  You want these guys light and flaky.  Don’t over-bake!

9.  Scoop a hot scone onto a plate and devour…forks are useful, but not mandatory.  And for Pete’s sake, have a cup of hot tea with that scone!

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Kids In The Kitchen: Gingerbread Houses

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Gingerbread is a big thing in our house at Christmas.  We usually make gingerbread men and women, or gingerbread trains, or gingerbread trees and snowflakes to decorate.  When we have made “gingerbread houses” in the past, we’ve always just used graham crackers.  This is the way I made my houses when I was a kid.  It’s easy, and no baking and waiting are required.  The kids can just start decorating…which is the best part anyway!  This year, we decided to make our gingerbread houses from scratch.  It took a lot more time, but the gingerbread tasted wonderful and the houses looked great!  I hope you enjoy making these gingerbread houses with your family as much as I enjoyed making them with mine!

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Gingerbread Houses:  (This recipe makes one house)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup shortening

3/4 cup molasses

1/3 cup cold water

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground allspice

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 Recipe of Gingerbread Frosting (recipe to follow)

Assorted candy, nuts, cookies, etc. to decorate with

Directions:

Heat oven to 350F.  Grease bottoms and sides of a jelly roll pan with shortening.

In a large bowl, mix the brown sugar…

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the shortening…

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and the molasses.

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Stir in cold water.

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Add the flour and the baking soda…

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and the ginger, salt, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon.

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Mix everything together…go ahead, get your hands in there…until a nice dough ball forms.

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Press the dough into the greased jelly roll pan.  My kids got really enthusiastic on this step!

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Bake for about 15 minutes or until no indentations remain when center is touched.  Cool 5 minutes.

Now comes the fun part!  Cut shapes:  two rectangles, two trapezoids, two squares, and two triangles.  Place these shapes on top of your gingerbread, and cut around them.

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When you are finished cutting, remove the shapes to a cooling rack.

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While your gingerbread is cooling, make your gingerbread frosting…

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Gingerbread Frosting

Ingredients:

2 cups powdered sugar

1/3 cup shortening

2 Tbsp. light corn syrup

5-6 tsp. milk

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl until smooth and spreadable.  This stuff is thick and works just like glue for your house.

Now, back to the gingerbread houses…

Assemble your houses using your gingerbread shapes and your gingerbread frosting.

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Let the houses stand for about 30 minutes, or until the frosting is completely set.

 

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Then, you can decorate your house with candy, nuts, cookies, crackers…whatever your little heart desires!

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Last, but not least, stand back and admire your artistic abilities.  I love my creative little kid’s gingerbread houses!

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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!

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