Monday, December 30, 2013

Crockpot General Tso's Chicken

I love General Tso's Chicken!  I ate more of this dish in college than any other meal.  Main Moon made great, cheap, fast Chinese food.  One order could feed me for three days...once I got that refrigerator.  Now with three kids our food outings and take-out usually revolve around pizza.  When I found this recipe on Favorite Family Recipes, I had to try it!  Despite the large number of ingredients, it was super easy.  My husband was astonished that such a meal could come out of my crock pot.

  • 2 pounds chicken breast, 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 t pepper
  • 2 T oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 t ginger
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch (optional)
  • 4 green onions
  1. Combine flour, salt, and pepper in a bag.  Add chicken.  Shake to coat.
  2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat; cook 2 minutes per side.
  3. In the crock, mix sugar, soy sauce, pineapple juice, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and cayenne.  Whisk.  
  4. Add chicken.  Cook on low for 3-4 hours.  
  5. Serve over rice or quinoa.  Garnish with green onions.
Note: the cornstarch acts as a thickening agent if you feel your sauce is too thin.  

Difficulty: Easy
Time:15 minutes prep, 3-4 hours baking time
Source: Favorite Family Recipes

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mac and Cheese with Squash

I am not really the type to "sneak" veggies into things because I am fortunate enough to have kids who are at least willing to tolerate them (if not enjoy them) when they are perfectly visible.  However, when faced with the opportunity to make a family favorite healthier by adding pureed acorn squash, I decided to go for it.  Little did I know that not only would it be healthier, it would taste awesome, too.  My family gobbled up this delicious mac and cheese!

  • 1 acorn squash (I used one a little larger than a softball and have used some slightly smaller, as well)
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups (dry) penne pasta
  • 2 1/2 cups milk, divided
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 Tbsp dried rosemary
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese (or a mixture of cheese to suit your tastes)
  • 1/2 cup panko 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Using a sharp, sturdy knife, halve the acorn squash.  Remove seeds and place on a baking sheet, skin side down.  Sprinkle with salt and roast for about 50 minutes, until fork tender. (Time saving tip: I bake multiple squashes at once and save the others for other dishes or freeze to use in this dish at a later date.)
  3. While water is boiling for the pasta, scrape the cooked squash from the skin and place in a food processor or high speed blender with 1/2 cup of milk.  Blend until pureed.
  4. While pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the flour and nutmeg, whisk for 2-3 minutes.  Add remaining milk, whisk until smooth.
  5. Increase heat and bring the flour/milk mixture to a boil, whisking the entire time.  Once thickened, turn the heat to low and whisk in the squash and rosemary and salt and pepper as desired.
  6. Add the cooked macaroni to the mixture and combine thoroughly.
  7. Pour half of the noodle and sauce mixture into a greased 2 quart baking dish.  Sprinkle 1 cup of cheese on top.  Add the remaining noodle mixture and then the other cup of cheese.  Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until melted and bubbling.  Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Difficulty: medium (but oh so worth it)
Time: 50 minutes to bake the squash (can be done ahead), 20 minutes hands-on, and 25-30 minutes baking time
Source: adapted from multiple sources, including

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Breakfast Pizza

We are early risers in my family and love starting the day with a big meal-especially if we have a day of outdoor adventures planned. While I often throw bags of dry cereal to my kids through the minivan, I try to prep one or two breakfast meals a week.

This breakfast pizza was a hit with everyone.  The crescent roll crust makes a big difference; the flaky, buttery bottom was perfect with the savory toppings.  It would be easily adapted to use fresh produce like mushrooms, onions, and peppers as toppings.  I prepped mine the night before and baked it when I got up.  It was a great addition to a co-worker's baby shower; for easy serving, I cut with pizza cutter and stacked in a Pyrex dish layered with wax paper.  No need for forks and knives for this (I remembered to make it, cut in, and put it in the car on the last Friday of the year...utensils would be way too much for me to handle).


  • 2 tubes refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 1 lb. ground pork sausage, browned and drained
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup frozen shredded hash browns, thawed
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk

  1. Unroll dough onto a 15 x 10 cookie sheet.  Press seams together (I used a rolling pin)
  2. Evenly sprinkle sausage, hashbrowns, and cheese over dough.
  3. In a bowl, beat together milk and eggs.
  4. Pour egg mixture over top over toppings on crust.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 to 35 minutes, until crust is browned and center of pizza is done.

Difficulty: Easy
Time: 15 minute prep; 30 minute baking
Source: a coworker 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Abby's Magical Pumpkin Cookies

My son is obsessed with a board book called YUMMY COOKIES: Baking with Kids.  Any guess which children's character decorates the cover?  Andrew pages through until he finds his favorite Sesame Street cast members-Cookie Monster and Big Bird are the ones that get the loudest yells. Now, that he's figured out I can make the pictures in it...I've been busy.

We picked this recipe because I had an open can of packed pumpkin from some experimenting in the kitchen trying to make my own pumpkin pudding.  It's a keeper!  My kids loved helping measure the dry ingredients.  They also helped add the oats and cranberries; each taking turns stirring.  These cookies got high praise from my kids and husband.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 t baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 stick butter (1/2 cup), softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/2 cup solid-pack pumpkin
  • 2 cup old fashioned oats, uncooked
  • 1 cup Craisins

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Sift the flour, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and baking soda into medium bowl. 
  3. Beat brown sugar and butter in mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy (5 minutes)
  4. Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Add pumpkin; beat at low speed until well blended.  Add dry mixture; mix until just blended.  Add oats; mix well.
  5. Stir in cranberries.  Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto cookie sheets.  
  6. Bake for 12 minutes.  Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute; transfer to rack to cool completely. 

Difficulty: Easy
Time: 20 minutes prep; 12 minutes baking time
Source:YUMMY COOKIES: Baking with Kids, copyright 2008

Sunday, December 1, 2013

10 Great Recipes for the Holidays


Turkey Day Casserole 
Easy Turkey Stromboli
White Pizza Dip
Baked Artichoke Appetizer
Mashed Potato Casserole
Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Apples
Pumpkin Dump Cake
Stir Crazy Cake
m&m Cookies
Old Fashioned Orange Cookies