Wednesday, December 17, 2014

~Effortless Entrees~

At this time of year we've all been preparing for the holidays!  Every day is filled with hustle & bustle.  Grocery shopping and shopping for gifts, visiting friends, baking & rechecking travel plans, in addition to working is only a part of a busy week.  Nutritious, tasty dinners that are easy to prepare are welcomed at the end of a busy day.

On this blog I've posted some yummy entrees that are found in the snowflake above.  Many of the recipes are prepared in a Slow Cooker/ Crock Pot.  Click on any entree in the snowflake & the post & recipe is at your fingertips.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Sugar Cookies

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies
(File Photo)

Sour Cream? Yes, I have Fat Free.
Nutmeg?  Yes.
Salt Free Butter?  Yes, definitely need to use Butter!
Flour & Sugar?  Yes.
Colored Sugars?  Yes, yes!
Rolling pin & rolling mat?  Double yes.
Cookie Cutters?  Definitely!

That's part of my check list before I bake Sour Cream Sugar Cookies.  I've used my go to recipe for rolled out Christmas Sugar Cookies for so long - over 30 years.

Imagine biting into a soft rolled out sugar cookie that has a cute whimsical shape.  As you are chewing the cookie a hint of Nutmeg flavoring tastes so good.  The sugar cookie is festive- decorated with colored sugars.  After eating one, another is hard to resist!         

These cookies are time tested with both my family & my friends!  They are made in 2 steps.

On Day 1 the dough is prepared, wrapped & refrigerated to be used on Day 2.
The next day take out the Colored Sugars, Rolling Pin & Rolling Mat.

This is a very easy cookie to make/ bake.  Roll the dough to 1/4".  Then, use your cookie cutters.  After baking/ cooling a taste test is definitely necessary.  Who can resist this cookie?  Usually I bake them 2- 3 weeks before Christmas & place them in the freezer.  They freeze very well & are so yummy!

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies
          printable recipe card (click here)         

Oven:  375°F
Yield:  About 5 dozen, depending on size

4 Cups Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 Cup unsalted Butter, softened
1 and 1/2 Cups Sugar
1 Egg
1/2 Cup Sour Cream (can be Fat Free)
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Colored Sugars for Decorating
Cookie Cutters


Day 1-
  1. In large bowl with electric mixer beat Butter and Sugar until light and fluffy. 
  2. Add Egg, beat.
  3. Add in Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Salt and Nutmeg. 
  4. While beating on Low, slowly add Flour, 1 Cup at a time.
  5. Add in Vanilla and Sour Cream. Beat on Medium until well combined. Dough will be stiff
  6. Remove dough from bowl and place on plastic wrap, wrap dough.  
  7. Place wrapped dough on aluminum foil and wrap well.
  8. Refrigerate overnight.  
Day 2-
  1.  Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Unwrap dough and cut into four parts. 
  3. On well floured surface, roll dough to 1/4" thickness. Use cookie cutters. 
  4. Place cookies on pan/ sheet 1" apart. (Maybe 12 cookies to a sheet.)
  5. Sprinkle with colored sugars. 
  6. Bake 10 - 11 Minutes. Bottom of cookies will be a light golden brown.
  7. Remove with spatula to wire cooling racks. 
  8. When cool store in airtight containers.  
The last time I baked this family fave was the end of March.  My son & soon to be daughter-in-law included them (bells & hearts) in their Welcome Bags for their overnight wedding guests.  4 batches were baked for their very special occasion!  Now, it will always be a tradition with me to use green & purple sprinkles when decorating the bell shaped cookies.  :)

Welcome Bag Cookies
(File Photo)

In the next few days my cookie cutters & rolling pin will be put to work.  I have the Fat Free Sour Cream & Unsalted Butter in my fridge.  It's time to plan on making the dough & baking these soft yummy cookies.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

"Shake Rattle & Roll"

"Shake Rattle & Roll"
The bright yellow plastic canister that the Domino SUGAR was packaged in has been recycled!  We have a new green toy for our grandsons!  Over a 6 month period I've saved many different colored plastic bottle caps- red from apple cider, white from soy milk, blue (1% fat milk & O.J.) & yellow from apple juice.  The washed bottle caps were stored in the cleaned canister.  On Thanksgiving AM the Turkeys Table Runner (directions) was out & ready for business.

***Now that our younger grandson has passed the age/ stage of giving toys & books the taste test while admiring/ using, the bottle caps could make an appearance.   With supervision this is a great toy.

I had saved the plastic bottle caps to use as "counting objects".  Once a teacher, always a teacher!  Little did I know that Shake, Rattle & Roll is a much more fun use.  The filled covered canister makes a great drum, too!

Shaking, then opening the container & spilling the bottle caps is a FuN game.  Then, collecting all of the caps while giggling adds to the enjoyment!

Our new green toy is packed away to be used again!  Maybe they will be "counting objects" in the future, but not for a long time!  Who needs to count them???

I definitely need to change the table runner!


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Turkey a la King

Turkey a la King
served over Toasted Oatmeal Bread
(File Photo)
The aroma of Turkey roasting on Thanksgiving Day is just the best!  With cranberry sauce chilling in the fridge & the garlic mashed potatoes & other side dishes on the move, dinner is on its way.  My fam has never had a problem having leftover slices/ pieces of the delicious moisty Turkey.  Opening the fridge door & grazing seems to be a custom of the weekend.  At least opening the door to see if anything has changed position on a shelf, certainly is a habit.  :)

Hot Turkey Sandwiches on Friday is set in stone, here.  On Saturday there usually are a few pieces remaining.  That's when I see Turkey a la King in our future.  Mixed vegetables along with chunks of Turkey combined in a creamy white sauce.  This is served over toasted Oatmeal Bread.  Oh yes, along with Cranberry Sauce.  Yum, yum, yum!

When preparing dinner why take the extra step of making or using commercial pie crusts for Turkey Pot Pies???  Toasted bread serves the role so well!  Prep Turkey a la King.  When it's ready, toast the bread.  Easy & no fuss all while tasting absolutely delicious!  Try it, you'll like it!

Turkey a la King
 Serves 2 - 3 Adults

1/4 Cup Margarine/ Butter (I use unsalted.)
1/3 Cup Flour
1 Cup Chicken/Turkey Broth
      (I use College Inn Light & Fat Free Chicken Broth.)
1 Cup Milk
1 Cup Turkey chunks (cooked), cut up, more if desired
2 Cups cooked Carrots & Peas (or Mixed Vegetables)
Sliced Bread, Toasted

  1. Melt Margarine/ Butter in skillet.
  2. Remove skillet from Medium heat and slowly stir in Flour.  
  3. Return to heat and slowly add in Chicken Broth & Milk while slowly stirring constantly.
  4. Continue stirring over heat until sauce is thick and bubbly. 
  5. Add cooked Turkey chunks.
  6. Add in cooked vegetables.
  7. Stir and heat mixture for 1 - 2 Minutes.
  8. Serve over toasted Bread.
If I have enough Turkey I make a double batch & freeze the extra portions.  It's an easy dinner to defrost/ reheat on a cold winter night.

***Chicken can be substituted for Turkey at other times during the year.

***A half portion is also so yummy when served over a baked potato!

Currently, it looks like winter outside!  The snowflakes are falling heavily on the day before Thanksgiving!  It'll be a different sight looking out my kitchen window as I bake the Thanksgiving pies!  Today I have 2 sous chefs!  :)  


Wishing you, your family & friends a wonderful holiday!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

~Butternut Squash Bread~

Butternut Squash Bread cooling!
Last Friday was the designated day for me.  Our weather has been quite brisk lately with the exception of Monday's rain.  On our garage floor were 5 Butternut Squash remaining in the carton.  They needed to be prepped for our freezer.  It's always best to take care of that before our cold temps make an appearance.  So... more bags of yummy locally grown Butternut Squash that is mashed/ ready to microwave is now in our freezer.  This week's been cold, brrrr!

2 Cups of the mashed Squash were refrigerated.  I had plans- Butternut Squash Breads!  It's a tradition with me to use Butternut Squash rather than Pumpkin for breads & pies.  It's a baking custom in my family.  Now, as long as my bowls & measuring utensils were to be used for baking, I baked 2 breads.  One is always cooled/ wrapped/ placed in the freezer for Thanksgiving weekend.

Butternut Squash works so well in this recipe.  However, if you do not have this yummy mashed vegetable readily available, use Pumpkin
  • I use Olive Oil for sauteing & baking 
  • Egg Whites rather than a Whole Egg is used.
The recipe below is for 1 Bread.  It's definitely a family fave here!  Light & moisty!

Butternut Squash Bread

Oven:  350°F      Time:  55 Minutes  


1 and 1/2 Cups Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon Ground Cloves (optional, but delicious)
1  Cup Sugar

4 Egg Whites (= total of 2 Whole Eggs)
3/4 Cup Olive Oil for sauteing & baking
Cup Butternut Squash (cooked, mashed & cooled - defrosted if frozen)

  1. Spray 1 large bread pan with PAM. 
  2.  Preheat oven to 350°F.
  3.  Combine all dry ingredients in large bowl.
  4.  In smaller bowl, beat Egg Whites until frothy.
  5.  Mix in Olive Oil.
  6.  Add mashed Butternut Squash to Egg Whites/Olive Oil & stir.
  7.  Pour liquid mixture into dry ingredients and stir until combined.
  8.  Pour batter into bread pan.
  9.  Bake at 350°F for 55 Minutes or until toothpick or cake tester comes out clean when inserted in   middle of loaf.
  10.  Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 Minutes.
  11.  Then remove from pan & continue cooling.
  12.  Later, place on plate & cut into slices.
We always enjoy Butternut Squash Bread during Thanksgiving weekend.  It's also a holiday treat that can be baked/ cooled/ wrapped in foil & placed in the freezer.  When needed, defrost.      


Friday, November 14, 2014

Buttermilk Belgian Waffles

Buttermilk Belgian Waffles
(cooling before wrapping & freezing)
Do you have 1 and 3/4 Cups of Buttermilk in your fridge?  Do you have 1 Cup + 3/4 Cup Milk?  That small amount of Buttermilk is the beginning of a delicious breakfast!

About a month ago after opening the door to one of my kitchen cabinets, suddenly I "spied" my Belgian Waffle Maker!  It's only been "untouched" for about 6 years!  Other than taking it down when cleaning the cabinet shelves.  Remembering that I had Buttermilk in my fridge, the next step- King Arthur Flour's website.  There it was- a recipe for Buttermilk Belgian Waffles!  The photo looked so yummy & I had the Buttermilk!
  • I use King Arthur Unbleached Flour whenever I make pancakes.
  • My less cholesterol habit:  Substitute Olive Oil for sauteing & baking for Butter.
  • Another less cholesterol habit:  Rather than 2 whole Eggs, I'd use 1 whole Egg + 2 Egg Whites.
    I was on my way to make a very yummy breakfast.  By using the Olive Oil, no butter/ margarine was needed at our table either- only a topping.  What delicious waffles!  The second time I prepared these waffles for breakfast, defrosted strawberries were a great topping!
    No, we did not devour the entire batch!  The extra waffles were cooled & wrapped in plastic wrap/ placed in Freezer bags for even quicker breakfasts other mornings.  My method of reheating:  my microwave.

    The holidays are in our future!  If you are looking for a quick, easy & absolutely yummy breakfast to serve your overnight guests Buttermilk Belgian Waffles are great!  Take out your waffle maker!  If you don't have one, that small appliance would be a great gift to receive!  My waffle maker is at least 15 years old.  Make & try these.  They are so good!

    Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside!
    Buttermilk Belgian Waffles
                 makes 8 Waffles
                 adapted from King Arthur website

    1 + 3/4 Cup King Arthur Unbleached Flour
    4 teaspoons Sugar
    2 teaspoons Baking Powder
    1 teaspoon Baking Soda
    1/2 teaspoon Salt

    1 Whole Egg + 2 Egg Whites
    1 + 3/4 Cups Buttermilk or 1 Cup Buttermilk + 3/4 Cup Milk
    1/2 Cup Olive Oil for sauteing & baking 
    2 teaspoons Vanilla


    1. In a large bowl combine Flour, Sugar, Baking Powder, Baking Soda & Salt.
    2. In a smaller bowl beat 1 Egg + 2 Egg Whites.
    3. Add Buttermilk, Olive Oil & Vanilla.
    4. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring until almost smooth.
    5. Spray Belgian Waffle Maker with PAM before preheating, only when making 1st waffle in batch.
    6. When Waffle Maker is hot, use 2/3 Cup batter to make waffle.
    7. Close lid. Cook for 2- 3 minutes - until steaming stops.
    8. (With my Belgian Waffle Maker cooking time is 2 Minutes, 30 Seconds.)
    9. Carefully remove & continue.
    ***One AM I had only 1 Cup Buttermilk, so I also used 3/4 Cup Milk & the waffles were also oh, so good!

    Using the Olive Oil, no butter/ margarine is needed.  Maple syrup or Strawberries are our fave toppings!  What will yours be?


    Thursday, November 6, 2014

    Freezing Butternut Squash

    Preparing for the freezer!
    It's definitely like clockwork!  In October my DH & I purchase a bushel of Butternut Squash from Meadowbrook Farm in East Longmeadow.  One of our local grocery stores does purchase their supply there, also, but we go "farm to table" ourselves.  The carton is stored in our garage.  It's all part of the plan!    All summer we've dined on locally grown vegetables.  It is definitely a change in the taste when we buy them the remainder of the year at our grocery stores!

    A Bushel of Butternut Squash
    Butternut Squash is one of my fave vegetables!  You remember my story:  Growing up my family had 2 large vegetable gardens.  We canned & froze the year's supply of our veggies.  The gorgeous Butternuts were one of our last harvests.  Preparing these vegetables & freezing them to enjoy the remainder of the year was definitely a tradition for me.  As newlyweds my DH & I had a great garden when we rented our apartment here in Western Mass.  Our kind landlord plowed a small section of his beautiful lawn, so I could have my garden.   My DH learned about growing veggies & got hooked on the fresh food.  Our corn smelled so good that the local cows visited one day-  much to our surprise.  My DH had grown up in Queens, NY, so it was shocking to see the cows in our garden eating!  Definitely not a common sight in one of the boroughs!    

    This past Sunday the Patriots were playing the Broncos & my pots of peeled/ prepared Butternuts were on the stove simmering.  It was time to start tackling that bushel in the garage!  Our weather has gotten colder & the squash needs to be prepared for the freezer.  Even during an exciting football game the tradition lives on!  A good sous chef is an added plus, here!
    Freezing Butternut Squash

    Utensils I use:  Dutch Oven or Pot, Cutting Board, Knife, Spoon, Colander, Ziploc Freezer Bags, Marker for Labeling 

    Butternut Squash  
    1.  Rinse/ clean the Butternut Squash under cold running water.
    2.  Dry.
    3.  Using a cutting board & a sharp knife, cut off & toss the stem and rounded top.
    4.  The long top portion is cut into slices. The slices are circles.
    5.  Cut the peel off & discard.
    6.  Cut each peeled circle into 2" chunks and place in large Dutch Oven/ pot. 
    7.  The lower portion containing seeds remains.  Remove the seeds with a spoon.
    8.  I save as much of the orange vegetable as possible that surrounds the seeds.  Cut off the peel.
    9. Cut into pieces & place in Dutch Oven/ pot.
    10.  Add cold water to container (so it reaches about 2" up in the pot).
    11.  Turn the heat to High.
    12. After a Boil is reached, lower the heat and simmer about 12 - 15 minutes, until pieces can be pierced with a fork.
    13.  During the cooking minutes, carefully stir the Squash pieces often in the pot, so they soften equally.
    14. Drain the squash using a colander.
    15. Return the chunks to the large pot and mash.
         16.  Cool until comfortable to pack in Ziploc Freezer Bags.
         17.  Pack about 2 Cups of mashed Squash in Ziploc Freezer Bags.
         18.  After labeling, store in freezer.

    Do you freeze Butternut Squash?  It's a very tasty veggie at dinner during the colder months. 

    The Butternut Squash is defrosted in the microwave easily.  First, remove Butternut Squash from bag & place in a covered microwave safe baking dish- leaving an air vent.  No sugar nor butter/ margarine needed, here!  I also use it very often when cooking rather than using pumpkin.  :)