Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tater Tot Hotdish

Tater Tot Hotdish is a huge family favorite of ours. In Minnesota, we call it "hotdish", not casserole. There are many variations floating around out there, so I will give you two that I've used. Pretty soon it will be too warm here for baking, so I guess it's time to use up that bag of tots in the freezer!

Version #1:
2 lbs. lean ground beef
2 cans French-cut green beans, drained
2 cans Campbells's Nacho Cheese soup
tater tots

Press the uncooked ground beef into the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Mix
the green beans with the soup, and spread over the top of the hamburger. Arrange
the tots across the top in a single layer, cover with foil then bake at 350
degrees for one hour(remove foil for last 15 minutes to brown the top).

Version #2:
2 lbs lean ground beef or ground turkey
1 medium onion, diced
24-oz bag frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
Cheese - one 12-oz bag of shredded cheddar (or slices of Velveeta)
tater tots

Brown the meat with the diced onion, drain. Spread in the bottom of a 9x13
baking dish. Combine the veggies with the soups, and spread over the top of the
meat. Sprinkle the cheese over the top, then arrange tater tots on top of that.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour (again, covered with foil for the first 45

These are both great recipes to prepare ahead of time. Whoever gets home from school or work first can put it in the oven. When it is done I usually throw into the oven a pan of the store-bought crescent rolls (from a tube), when those are done the hotdish is cool enough to eat.

The best part about this hotdish is that it is customizable. If you want to make it spicy, add chili powder or tabasco sauce to the hamburger, and substitute leftover or canned chili for the soup. If you do it that way, corn is a good vegetable to mix in. Instead of serving with crescent rolls, cornbread is a good option.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rhubarb Bars

Yes, it's officially rhubarb season at our house. My plants are almost big enough to start using, and so I decided it was time to bake bars to use up the frozen stuff before the fresh stuff is ready to pick.

A little OCD of mine is clipping recipes out of our local paper. Darlene Dixon is a local writer who publishes a column called "Kitchen Delights." Her recipes are always very good, so when I saw a whole column dedicated to rhubarb I made sure to clip that one for my own recipe box. The bars I made last night are from that article, out of the Wright County Drummer, dated May 11, 2008:

Rhubarb Bars

3 c. rhubarb, diced
1-1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. butter, room temp (not melted)
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 c. quick rolled oats
1-1/2 c. flour
1/2 c chopped walnuts (optional)
Mix water with cornstarch in medium saucepan or microwave bowl. Add rhubarb and sugar. Cook until thickened, add vanilla.
Set aside to cool. For crust, mix butter and sugars, add baking soda, oats, flour and walnuts. Reserve one cup for topping (I reserved about 1-1/4 c. for the top), press the remaining mixture into a 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Take out of oven, spoon on rhubarb filling. Top with the reserved crumbly mixture, then return to oven for 15-20 minutes.
I assure you, these bars taste even better than they look. I could have eaten the entire batch, but I've tried to teach my boys to share and that would not have been a very good example to follow!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Peanut Butter & Honey Dip

Here's a quick and simple dip that's great with apple slices, banana chunks - or even on a bagel. This is an easy one to bring to a potluck or picnic.

Peanut Butter & Honey Dip

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup milk
1 cup (or 1, 8-oz. carton) sour cream
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tablespoons honey (more or less - to taste)

Apple, pear or peach slices, banana chunks, etc - even graham crackers or bagels, whatever you want to dip

Mix all ingredients (except for fruit) in a medium-sized bowl. Use as a dip for fruit or whatever you like. Store refrigerated.

Per Tablespoon:
60 calories
2g protein
3g carbohydrate
5g fat
4mg cholesterol
32mg sodium

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Stripe-It-Rich Cake

My boys and I went to my grand-niece's 4th birthday on Sunday afternoon. It was a beautiful, warm day. It's amazing how fast the little ones grow! When we talked on the phone a couple of weeks before, I asked Jordan what she wanted for her birthday. Of course, she wanted anything Hannah Montana or Tinker Belle. She did ask for a yo-yo, but believe it or not, I couldn't find one at Wal-Mart!

I did find her a Tinker Belle pop-up teacup house, though. I think she liked it. It looked like an extension of her birthday cake... which was really, really good. I love cakes with whipped cream frosting. Much better than the overy-sugared greasy stuff you usually get from a grocery store bakery! This cake came from Cub - I will admit, I was impressed.

I don't think Jordan cared one way or another about the cake. She had so much fun that day, she was ready for a nap by the time her candles were ready to be blown out!

While I'll admit it was a great cake, I must say that my favorite for birthdays is still the good old-fashioned Jello Pudding Stripe-It-Rich Cake.

You simply bake a cake according to the directions on the box (yes, this is an easy recipe - prepackaged means time-savings, in most cases);
before the cake has cooled, poke holes all over the top of it with either a clean wooden dowel, the handle of a wooden spoon, or a pencil that's been wrapped in plastic wrap.

Pour 4 cups cold milk into a large bowl. Add two, 4-serving-size each packages of Jello pudding and mix for two minutes with a wire whisk. Pour the pudding over the cake before it has a chance to set up. Cover, then refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

We've mixed and matched all types of flavors. I think my favorite was a yellow cake mix with pistachio pudding on top, although anything chocolate is always popular at our house :)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Terry's Caramels

The boys & I went to a couple antique shops over the weekend. One shop had some wonderful homemade caramels for sale, but they don't even compare with this recipe. If you want to see some pics from our antique browsing - check out Dad's Tackle Box - there will be pictures there later on today. My mother in law got this recipe from one of her former patients (she used to be a home health nurse), hence the name "Terry's Caramels".

Terry’s Caramels

2 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 cup butter
1 cups white (Karo) syrup
1 c. whipping cream (not whipped)
1 tsp. vanilla

Heat butter in big, deep pan (I use my heavy cast aluminum Dutch oven) just until melted. Add the rest of the ingredients and heat to 248 degrees (measured by a candy thermometer), stirring frequently - do not leave unattended. When the temp is 248, stir in the vanilla.

Pour into a parchment-lined (or buttered) 9x13 pan. Once cooled, cut into 1” or 1”x2” pieces, and wrap in squares of waxed paper.

(**NOTE** Be careful not to allow this to boil over – if you have not made
candy before you may want to keep a constant eye on this one; the first couple
of times I made this without my mother-in-law, I stirred it constantly; if this
does boil over, it will make a huge sticky mess. Be careful not to touch
the hot caramel; it will leave a really painful burn!)

We usually make a double batch at Christmas time to share, sometimes even a triple or quadruple batch because everyone loves these! They're good any time of year, though.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pancakes From Scratch

I'm tired. Most nights I am. My day starts around 5:30; all three boys and myself need to be out the door for school and work by 6:50am. My van usually doesn't roll back in the driveway until around 5:00pm, by then my youngest has been home for a couple hours and I've just picked up the two older kids from track. Cooking, of course, is the last thing I want to do. Tonight was no different from any other night when I'm bored with the quick pop-in-the-oven pre-packaged stuff, like tater tots and pre-formed, frozen burgers; or even worse, pizza - AGAIN! But my youngest insists that pizza five nights a week is good for you, right? All of the food groups are there...just not in the right proportions, unfortunately.

At least there's one thing I can make from scratch that's quick: pancakes. Not the most nutritious meal, but it's something to put in your stomach. I may be more ambitious tomorrow! At least I took step-by-step photos this time :)

Now I'm thinking I need to take some egg photos for another post - there's a family at our church who has an over-abundance of eggs this year, so they've been giving them away. The brown ones from the farm are so pretty; you never know what color variations you'll get in each carton.

Pancakes (Serves 4-5 people)

2 Eggs, beat in a large bowl until frothy.

Add the following ingredients:

2 cups flour
2 cups milk
3 Tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
3 Tablespoons sugar.

Mix well with a whisk or hand mixer.

Heat an electric frypan or griddle to 350 degrees, or heat frypan over stove on medium-high heat (If you do not have a non-stick pan, you will have to add just a little oil or cooking spray before heating). The pan is hot enough when a drop of water dropped on the pan bounces and evaporates quickly.

Pour or ladle pancake batter onto pan, about 1/2 cup per pancake, all depending on how big you want them. When bubbles form and then pop on top, and they start to turn just a little golden on the edges they are ready to flip.

If you are curious whether they are done or not, just lift up an edge - if it's golden, it's done. There are a few variations, all depending on what you have on hand. Sometimes I add a teaspoon of cinnamon, a teaspoon of vanilla or some finely chopped apple (about 1/2 cup) - which is good with cinnamon; blueberries are good too. Strawberries turn into a sticky mess, as they tend to stick a bit, but they're good too. Experiment! It's hard to screw up pancakes! I will have to give you my mother-in-law's recipe for buttermilk pancakes. Those are heaven! Maybe next time!

Risengrynsgrøt, Norwegian Rice Pudding

I am half Norwegian, and a little Swede too - among a few other nationalities. While a lot of the foods we ate at my grandma's just seemed like normal food, the older I got I realized that a lot of people had no idea what I was talking about when describing what we had for a meal (unless they were Scandinavian too). This was especially common during the holidays, when we were more apt to bake Norsk or Svensk (Norwegian or Swedish) cookies. Not all of these recipes are for the holidays, though. Here's a good one for anytime:

Norsk Risengrynsgrøt, Norwegian Rice Pudding with Raisins

1 cup white rice
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
milk &/or cream (see below)

Bring water to a boil and add rice, and salt according to directions.
Bring up to a boil again for a few minutes and turn heat down to simmer. Add raisins if you want, and cover with lid.
When rice is soft and all the water is absorbed add milk and stir until you have a creamy consistency (lots of stirring!). It will take a while for the rice to fully expand and all the milk to absorb into the rice.
For an extra creamy pudding, add 1 cup heavy cream before serving.
Rice will keep expand as it cools. So be sure you add enough milk while it is still simmering and keep stirring to prevent it from burning.When the risengrynsgroten is done, ladle it onto regular dinner plates; sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. My mom used to put a dollop of butter on top, but that part's optional.
I like mine with vanilla ice cream :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Poppy Seed Salad Dressing

Poppy Seed Dressing

¾ cup sugar
1 cup oil
1/3 cup vinegar
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp prepared mustard
1 tsp grated onion
Mix & refrigerate.
We had this dressing on cole slaw on Mother's Day. It was awesome! I personally like the creamy cole slaw better, but I usually end up with the stuff that has the clear dressing. That's super easy to make as well, which explains that one. This dressing is not as "heavy", I suppose you could say, as the creamy dressing, but not as tart as the clear stuff. This recipe wasn't originally intended for cabbage, but it worked out great. I think it would be good on a pasta salad, but haven't tried that yet - so if you do, let me know how that turns out.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mandarin Delight

I wish I had a picture of this one to share as well. On Mother's Day while visiting my mother-in-law, I told her of my recent foray into blogging world; she thought it was a great idea, and said, "OH! You have to put this recipe on your blog!"

She rummaged through a kitchen drawer and pulled this recipe out, along with a few others:

Mandarin Delight

1 pkg. white cake mix
1 11-oz. can mandarin oranges, including juice
4 eggs
¼ cup oil

Mix ingredients and bake at 325 – 350 for 35-40 minutes in a 9x13 greased and floured pan.

1 8-oz. container Cool Whip
1 small pkg. instant vanilla pudding
1 lg. can crushed pineapple, drained
Beat with mixer and spread on cooled cake.

This was dessert after a turkey dinner, and boy was I ever glad I saved room! It was so good I may just have to make it during the week so I can get a photo for my blog. It's very light and citrusy - perfect for spring.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Keep Your Heart Healthy - Eat More Beans...or Maybe at Least Some Mexican Caviar?

I think we should be eating healthier at our house. Due to some stress on the homefront, I will have to make a point of serving some more heart-healthy meals. It's been far too convenient to toss a pizza or frozen chimichangas in the oven...and of course the latter will need to be smothered in melted cheese and served with a side of sour cream! Not exactly good for you, but it's quick and everyone likes them. My hubby survived the motorcycle accident, I would hate for him to have a heart attack due to the stress of dealing with the insurance company. So it is up to me to make sure he eats healthy!

Here's a great recipe that makes it easy to eat beans - even if you hate them!

Mexican Caviar

In a bowl, combine the following:

(rinse & drain the first three items)
1 can black-eyed peas
1 can black beans
2 cups shoepeg corn
1 can jalapeno peppers
1 jar pimento
a bunch of green onion (white & some green)

Bring the following to a boil, then pour over bean mixture:

¾ cup red wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
¼ cup oil
1 Tbsp water

Serve with tortilla chips just as you would salsa. This is a great one to bring to a get-together or a potluck.

Thanks to my friend Patty, she made this for our church choir’s Christmas party & everyone loved it!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

If You're Wondering Where I Am...

If you are wondering where I am this week, check out my other blog,

My husband had a motorcycle accident on Sunday - so this week will probably be a busy one for me!

Have a great week,


Friday, May 1, 2009

Chamomile Tea

Yet more photos... here's some chamomile for a nice relaxing cup of tea to unwind with after a long week! Well, I was thinking somewhere along the lines of a nice scotch, but this is healthier :)

This is just your basic run-of-the-mill German Chamomile, purchased from the local grocer's bulk organic department. Simply toss a tablespoon or two into a cheesecloth or cotton pouch with boiling water & sweeten with sugar or honey. Smells great, even if you aren't a tea drinker!

I'm going to scatter a bunch of chamomile seeds in the sunny spot near the edge of our yard...if it works out, I will have tea, if not, maybe a few flowers would be nice.
Have a lovely weekend!