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Category Archives: Cooking

This Consumer Reports

I like gadgets.  I really like kitchen gadgets.  Yesterday I had my Christmas fun money in my purse (I usually hide it from myself) and my daughter and I happened into a kitchen store.  I saw 500 things I wanted but I showed considerable restraint and only bought 2.  I finally bought a microplane.  Mostly because Pioneer Woman said to but also because I am hungry for lemon bars.

I also bought one of these.

This, my friends, is a microwave potato chip maker.  Have you seen these?  I refused to believe it worked but this consumer reports……it works!  They were not quite a potato chip – but I think if I cooked them a little longer they would be.  Here is how it works – you slice a potato on the included slicer and place each slice in a slot on the doo-dad thing.  Put the doo-dad thing in the microwave for 5 minutes and then eat.  Here is what I love about it. 

A – it makes slightly thicker, chewy chips that are perfect for dipping.

B – my kids couldn’t get enough of these and there was no oil or salt in sight

  • this is huge as my son would not eat a potato for any amount of bribery – not even mashed potatoes!

C – it makes exactly one potato at a time so you never have to ask yourself  ‘what do I do with the rest of this potato now?’

4 – it makes exactly one potato at a time so you never have to ask yourself ‘where did that entire bag of chips go?’

The downsides – don’t let the kids make this for themselves.  The blade is super sharp and their fingers are cute.  Also, like I said, this only makes 24 chips at a time so this would not work for a party.

Other than that I love it – mine was $6.99 and I thought that was a good price.  I found some on Amazon for more but you can look around and see what you can find where you live.

Happy chip making!


Anise Candy

My grandma taught me how to make candy when I was 12 years old.  I have made this recipe every year since.  It is very easy and very tasty.  If I sent my mother her Christmas box without a bag of this candy in it I would be in serious trouble.

Here we go!  First rule is no small children underfoot while making this.  Melted sugar burns terribly and you don’t want to trip over a child and hurt them.  Put on a Christmas movie for them and tell them you are cooking spinach – they won’t want to be anywhere near you.

Second rule – have a candy/fry thermometer you trust.  They are cheap things you can get at Wal-Mart or Target if you are a fancy person and prefer red over blue in your cashier’s clothing.  How do you know if you trust your thermometer?  Stick it on the side of a pan of water – not touching the bottom of the pan – and see what the temperature reads when the water boils.  Should be 212 .  If it is only 5 degrees off or so, just adjust accordingly when making candy.  If it is off 20 degrees you have a problem!

Third rule – don’t make this when it is humid.  It will be sticky and we don’t want that.

Now for the ingredients:

2 cups of sugar

1 cup of white syrup/corn syrup

1/2 cup of water

2 teaspoons of Anise flavoring

red food coloring – the cheapy stuff works just fine here

Put your sugar, syrup, and water in a heavy bottom pan.  Clip your thermometer onto the side of the pan with the tip submerged in the goo but not touching the bottom of the pan.  Cook this at medium heat until it reaches 300 degrees.  Notice I did not say to stir it.  Don’t.  It messes with the crystalline structure of the sugar and makes problems.  In theory.  In actuality I have stirred it and not stirred it and gotten the exact same results.

When the sugar mixture reaches 300* turn off the heat and add your flavoring and coloring.  It will snap and pop a little when you do this – don’t have your face over the pan.  Stir it up and then pour it onto a sprayed cookie sheet with a rim or like I do – onto a silicone baking mat on a rimmed cookie sheet.

Now we will separate the professionals from the amateurs.  Scoring.  Stand by the candy and start making lines in the molten lava with a butter knife making a checkerboard pattern on it. Each square should be about the size of a postage stamp.  In the middle of the candy where it is really hot the lines will disappear.  You just have to wait for it to cool some more.  Continue this forever and ever and ever  until it is all cool enough that the lines don’t disappear any more and then let it cool completely before breaking into pieces.

Or if you are lazy like me just let it cool without scoring it and then break it into weird-shaped pieces instead of pretty squares.  It tastes the same either way.

If you don’t like Anise flavor try root beer or cherry or peppermint or basil or cinnamon.  But not basil – that was a joke.

Super Simple Cider

While I was in college I worked at a greenhouse.  It was magical – I would have worked there for free.  Thankfully they not only paid me they also fed me.  In the front of the store where all the gifty – cutesy things were they kept a popcorn machine going all the time.  Free popcorn for all customers!  Also free food for broke college students.  I ate a LOT of popcorn.

Right after Thanksgiving every year they would pump up the Christmas music and put a large coffee pot on the counter.  You know the ones – big silver thing found in church basements around the universe.  Or at least Iowa.  Every morning they would stock the coffee pot with hot apple cider.  I was rarely the first one in the store in the mornings so I never made the cider.  I drank gallons of the stuff and couldn’t figure out how they made it.  One Saturday I came in extra early to discover the secret.  I will share it with you if you promise not to tell anyone……

Candy Red Hots and Apple Juice

That is the entire recipe.  To make an industrial-size pot just mix several bottles of apple juice with one box of Red Hots.

To make this at home drop eight to ten Red Hots in the bottom of your favorite mug, splash in some apple juice and zap in the microwave.  Stir and slurp to your heart’s content.

Does that make grammatical sense?  ‘to your heart’s content’  Should it be UNTIL your heart’s content?  I don’t know – I’m not good at answers, only questions.

I have made this in a large batch in my coffee pot – it made a sticky mess and made coffee taste weird for a while.  It would be better to just heat it in a tea-pot or regular pan on the stove.

Quick Tuna and Noodles

This is a super quick meal that gets a lot of requests around here!


1 bag wide egg noodles – cooked and drained

1/2 bag frozen peas

2 cans of tuna

2 jars of alfredo sauce

Stir this all up and heat it a little – it doesn’t get any easier!

Menu Plan Monday

This weekend my daughter was talking about eating at the ballpark after/during baseball games.  I explained to her that since she ate $5 worth at the game last week we would be eating at home most of the time.  To this the hubby cries ‘just regular food please!  I am not a hamster!  Stop testing things on me!’  He was very dramatic. 

When I buy groceries I buy for specific recipes that I plan to make,  I write the list on a notecard that I stick to the fridge.  I then plan our menus from that.  I tried planning menus 1 month at a time.  Doesn’t work in this house.  We are too spontaneous.  Back to the point.  Thinking of my poor husband, I looked at the notecard on the fridge to plan out this week’s menu and discovered only new recipes.  So I scrambled through the list to come up with things that were tried and true to make out of the things we have.  When in doubt, cook recipes his mother gave you!

Monday:  Mother-in-Law’s   Ham and Noodles (yum)

Tuesday: Tacos – gonna try making homemade refried beans – any tips?

Wednesday:  Fish and pasta salad

Thursday:  Eat at the ballpark (we have a game at 5:30 and one at 7:00 – I’m not cooking at 8:30!)

Friday:  Spaghetti

Saturday:  Dried Beef Gravy on Toast

Sunday:  on advice from a friend – Fend For Yourself!

My friend has six young children.  She homeschools.  She is sweet.  She asks to help ME!  She told me she needs one day of rest.  No laundry, no cooking.  She tells the kids to find something to eat themselves.  If it in any way contributes to her sweetness, I’ll try it.  I’ll just try to have good leftovers available!

Ham & Noodles

3 cups cubed ham

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

2 cans cream of chicken soup

1 1/2 cups milk

1 recipe homemade noodles

Crushed potato chips for topping

Makes one 9 x 13 casserole or two square casseroles.  Freezes beautifully, just put the chips on right before baking

Bake at 350* for 30 minutes.

Duck Butts and other topics

He doesn’t look like me.  He doesn’t act like me.  He has his father’s foul language.  He loves anything with tires and especially if it has a trailer.  There is only one way to tell he is mine.

He has a duck butt.  That is the technical term for hair that grows to a point in the back.  Do you have one?  Also, how many people have a second toe that is shorter than their first?  Am I deformed?  Aside from the obvious, of course.

In other news, a new recipe for muffins has been created.  In honor of my husband’s birthday today he wanted to take muffins to work for his birthday treat.  He wanted blueberry – a no brainer, and apple cinnamon.  So here we go!

Peel 2 medium apples and cut off the roundy parts.  Now pretend you are Yan…

and chop it all up, chop it all up.  Look longingly at the apple and wish there was too much so you could eat some.

Throw some butter into a pan and start it melting.  Add apples and cook a little bit.  Add sugars and look at it for a while.  Worry about it burning before it is done and add 1/2 cup of water.  Now cook it until water is almost gone and apples are beginning to soften.  But not mushy!  We don’t want mushy!

Go to the cupboard and pull out your grandmother’s favorite mixing bowl.  Smile because you get to use it every day.  Start to tear up because you only get to use it because she isn’t using it anymore.  Leave the apples to cool in the mixing bowl while you go check the calendar and see why you are so Ramotional.  Anyone else love the Real Housewives?

Now add one package of millionaire muffin mix that you had stashed in the freezer.  You didn’t have any?  Go here to print out the recipe and make some.  You will thank yourself later.  Also throw in 1/2 tsp cinnamon.  or more.

Check the post-it you have inside your cupboard door and add those ingredients as well.

Now use a large cookie scoop and put muffin mix into 12 muffin cups.  I would rather you use a stoneware muffin pan without liners but do whatcha gotta do baby.  I used liners this time because they were going to work with my husband and who knows what surface they will be set on before being consumed!  And it was pretty.

Just for fun sprinkle on a little bit of oats and some brown sugar.  I like muffins to have a little crust on top.  Now bake at 400* for 18 minutes if you are somehow using my oven and my pan.  If you are using your own oven and pan, check them and take them out when done. 

Apple Cinnamon Millionaire Muffins

1 pkg millionaire muffin mix

1 egg

1 c milk

1/3 c oil

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 apples

1/4 c sugar

1/4 c brown sugar

1/2 c water

3 T butter

Melt butter in saucepan and add finely chopped apples.  Cook 1 minute then add sugars and water.  Cook slowly until apples begin to soften.  Mix all ingredients together and divide into 12 muffin cups.  Sprinkle a little more brown sugar on top and a little bit of oats to make them pretty.  Bake at 400* for 18 minutes.

Menu Plan Monday

Gearing up for summer around here.  My tastes are changing as the temperature climbs so I am trying to clear out the ‘winter’ food that is stashed in the cupboards and freezer.

Monday – Leftover roast beef, shredded and BBQ’d with corn bread and salad

Tuesday – Creamy Pork and Gravy in the crock pot

Wednesday – French Bread Pizza

Thursday – Hubby’s Birthday – Lasagna and Parmesan Breadsticks

Friday – Sandwich roll

Creamy Pork and Gravy – in the Crock Pot

2 lb pork, cut into cubes

1 Tbsp Italian seasoning

1/4 c water

1 can cream of mushroom soup

8 oz cream cheese

1 qt green beans (added at last minute just to heat through)

Sandwich Roll

1 recipe pizza dough rolled out into a rectangle

sandwich meats, cheeses, and Miracle Whip ( or mayonaise if you are weird)

Roll  up into a log and pinch shut.

Bake at 450 degrees 10 minutes?  I never time it, just watch it.