Chicken & Wild Rice Casserole

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SO. There are 2 kinds of people in the world. Those who plan their meals in advance (menu planning a week or more ahead and their meals are made (or prepped) WAY before the dinner hour) and there are those who can whip together fabulous meals within minutes of thinking them up (at 5pm mind you). I fall into the first category, I want to be able to be like those in the 2nd category BUT if a day turned out differently then planned or if I just plum forget to plan a meal, I wander. Wander down the hall, wander to the cookbook cabinet, help with homework, change my socks, wander back to the kitchen, get sidetracked by wonderful stories of the day from the kids, open the fridge. You, know, doing everything but making dinner. Usually I will figure out a cookie to make sometime soon, or I will just stand and eat peanut butter. No closer to getting dinner on the table. A thought! There is the rock hard chicken in the freezer that would be really good to cook up real quick, uh hum. It stays there. (Another bite of peanut butter with chocolate chips on top this time.) I think of the jarred pasta sauce, noodles and bread under the broiler we like. Could use some meatballs or something with it.. (Now…. I may be getting plenty of protein from the peanut butter I am eating…..but that is only me.) Moving on.  Frozen pizza. Got it. Applesauce. Excellent. Dinner. Nothin’ wrong with a frozen pizza here and there!!!!

This meal fits right into the “make ahead meal makers” out there. Make it the day/night before you need it, make it the morning of ~ or HEY!!! ~ you can EVEN make it JUST before you NEED to bake it, those of you who are good at that!! Awesome.

This meal along with a few others got me out of a dinner rut! Ever have those??

Enjoy this casserole, it is kid friendly because it has really simple delicious flavors. Leftovers re-heat good too!!!

ON a side note. Way back when, when I started this blog, I was looking forward to “chatting” about food with you all!! I STILL want to do that, BUT I seem to be the only one chatting. 😉 SO don’t forget to tell us about things your family likes or things you have tried ~ perhaps off of Pinterest??? Tell us IF we should or shouldn’t try something!! Tried and true recipes are the bestest!!!  I know many of us are not “commenters” ~ but hey! Shoot me an e-mail  ~ favoritefamilyfoods@hotmail.com ~ and tell me about it there!!!  🙂  I really do want to hear from you guys. 🙂 I have been wondering if I should keep this blog going……does anyone read? Try things? There are so very many fabulous blogs out there. I just wonder………

Oh, yah, back to the recipe!!!!  Pretty sure I saw it when I searched for “easy dinner ideas”. Recipe came from Julie’s Eats & Treats ~here is the recipe with a few of my extra notes! Enjoy!!

Chicken & Wild Rice Casserole 

1 lb. chicken, cooked and shredded (I used about 2 heaping cups)
6 oz. box of Uncle Ben’s long grain and wild rice
1/2 c. sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 tsp. minced onion flakes
salt & pepper to taste

Prepare the rice according to package directions. (I like to cook it a few minutes less than the instructions say.) Combine all the ingredients together, pour into a greased 9″ sq. pan. Bake @ 350º for 30 minutes, if it is cold bake it closer to 45 minutes. Serve with a veggie and ENJOY!!!

Recipe adapted from Julie’s Eats & Treats.

Stuffed Mushrooms

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This is the time of year were we get to eat LOTS of appetizers! YUM!!! Appetizer meals are the best!! Just top it off with a sweet treat or 8 and there you go! A lovely meal!  😉   These mushrooms are simple to throw together and really good. I do not like mushrooms, but I did eat one and didn’t EVEN cringe!!!! 😉

What are your favorite appetizers to serve/make/eat? My answer? THEM ALL!!! HA!!!

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Stuffed Mushrooms 

1-2 (8 oz.) container whole mushrooms
1/2 c.- 3/4 c. fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c.- 3/4 c. mayo
3 oz. pkg. bacon bits or cooked and crumbled bacon

Wash the mushrooms and pull the stems out. Disguard stems. Mix together equal parts of mayo and Parmesan, add bacon. Stuff the mushrooms with the mayo mix. Bake @ 350º for 20 minutes, drain and ENJOY!!!

Thanks Stacy for this recipe, found in Prized Recipes to Cook and Savor, Vol. II.

“Fannie Mae” Fudge & some other Christmas Yummies

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Fudge is a Christmas goodie must ~ at least over here. To be honest, fudge is another one of those recipes that I have messed up on a lot.(THO I have stuck with this recipe for years now because it has worked for me EVERY TIME! High fives!!)  One time I tackled fudge, (it was too late in the day to start something like that) and it was wasn’t  hardening up ~ so in the middle of the night, practically (9 pm), I called up my friend who said “anyone can make this fudge.” Ha. Not me. She couldn’t help me, it just wasn’t going to work. Another recipe I tried ended up to be fudgy looking sand. Not good.

This recipe comes from my Aunt Sheryl, which alone should tell you it is great.  Not sure of the original whereabouts (perhaps food.com?) It is  fun recipe to make with kids. Have them count out the marshmallows, dump in the chocolate and stir (my favorite part is to stir and stir and see the fudge just sorta form……). Don’t forget the licking the bowl clean part! (another favorite of fudge making!)

Some things about this fudge~
* First off, I have no clue what Fannie Mae fudge tastes like, so DOES this taste like it exactly? Not sure!  But I would enjoy hearing what you think of it!!
* Aunt Sher says to use 1 stick butter and 1 stick margarine ~ and well I usually do follow that, cause I like to listen, this year I did not have margarine on hand ~ so I used all butter. It was just as good!! Aunt Sheryl, why do you like to use 1 stick margarine and 1 stick butter?? Does it cut better? Taste better? Just curious, both ways taste GREAT!
* Cutting the fudge, can be tricky. Take your time, don’t rush and pull it cause it will not be pretty then. I use my Pampered Chef paring knife and wipe it off a lot, to keep it clean. I like to cut when right in between cold and room temp.
* You do not need to line your pan with foil, but I like do because then you can lift the fudge out of the pan and put on cutting board and cut. Cut away the slanty/rugged edges and make some nice little squares. (Edge scraps are great to eat by the way.) If you choose to put directly in the pan a with no foil, just be sure to grease the pan.

“Fannie Mae” Fudge 
4 c. sugar
1 stick butter
1 stick margarine
1 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
25 large marshmallows
2 oz. square of unsweetened chocolate
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
12 oz. milk chocolate chips
1 c. nuts, totally optional

In a large pan mix the sugar, butter, margarine and milk. Bring to a boil, be sure to stir it quite often. (Don’t forget about it or you will be in burned trouble.) Boil for 2 minutes. Take off heat and add vanilla. Next add the marshmallows and stir till melted. Then add the chocolates (1 kind at a time). Stirring till it is all melted, it will thicken up as you are stirring, this IS my *favorite part!!! (Add the nuts at this point if you so choose.) Pour into a foil lined (grease the foil) 9″ x 13″ pan. Chill to set. Lift fudge out of pan, cut and ENJOY!!!!

Here are a few more Christmas goodies!!

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Oreo Balls! I am sure you have heard of these before and even made them. Funny thing, Aunt Sher also shared this recipe with me! Another fun one for the kids, have them roll the balls (you should perhaps dip, as the Oreo balls will melt if they linger to long in the melted chocolate!) and sprinkle with sprinkles. ((Aren’t sprinkles fun? One of my favorite things for sure!Three cheers for sprinkles!!))

Oreo Balls
14-15 oz. pkg. Oreos
6 oz. softened cream cheese
almond bark
sprinkles

Crush the Oreos finely and mix with the cream cheese. Chill. Roll into balls. Chill. Dip in melted almond bark, I melt in double boiler. Start with 6 cubes maybe, may need more or it may be too much. Never can tell with these things. When balls are still wet, not set, sprinkle with sprinkles!!!! Let set, either on counter or fridge.

Or you can dip in melted chocolate. You can also top with crushed candy canes, not sprinkles. Use your imagination and have fun!!

ENJOY!!!

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Peppermint Chex Mix you say? Yep! You should try it! Melt some almond bark add some crushed candy canes and pour over some Chex cereal (start with a little, you can always add more). Stir well, then pour onto a wax lined cookie sheet and let set till hardened, break up and eat!

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Did you melt too much almond bark?? Did you crush too many candy canes?? Have no fear!! Make Peppermint Bark!  My mom makes this most every year, so it has special memories for me. Melt your almond bark, stir in your crushed candy canes and pour out onto a waxed lined cookie sheet (as thick or thin as you like) and let set to harden and break up. Enjoy! Yum!

What is your favorite goodie to make during the Christmas season?? What is your favorite to EAT!!! :)(My answers ~ To make, Fudge. To eat,  Peanut Butter Balls.) I would enjoy hearing from you all!! 🙂

PLEASE CHECK OUT THE UPDATE ON THE OVERNIGHT PIZZA DOUGH / CHICAGO STYLE PIZZA POST! THANK YOU FOR READING!

Sausage, Kale and White Bean Soup

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Brrrrr. When the weather is chilly, than soup is on the menu!!  This one was liked by everyone, which, to tell you the truth~ surprised me!!! I thought that there would be an issue with the “green stuff” BUT there wasn’t.  Enjoy!

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Sausage, Kale and White Bean Soup 

12 oz. Italian Sausage links (I used the Aldi’s turkey sausage)
1/4 c. water
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 TB. olive oil
2 (15 oz.) cans of Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
2 (14 oz.) chicken broth (or about 4 c. water and 4 chicken bouillon cubes)
*14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. basil
dash of garlic powder
4 c. chopped kale
black pepper to taste

Take the sausage out of the casings and roll into little balls, bite size ones. Place in a large soup pot, add the water, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes (covered). Uncover and cook for 5 more minutes till meatballs are cooked through. Take out and set aside.

Heat the oil in the same pot, add the garlic and onion and cook till tender.  Add the beans, broth, undrained tomatoes, oregano, basil and garlic. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cooked sausage and kale, simmer till kale is tender (this does not take very long, 5 -10 minutes).  Season with pepper, if needed.

* Can use a can of Italian Style diced tomatoes (14 1/2 oz.) in place of the regular diced tomatoes, basil, oregano and garlic.

ENJOY!!

Recipe from Prized Recipes to Cook and Savor~ Vol. II.

Overnight Pizza Dough & Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza

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* An Update! I have now made this pizza a load of times. I realize now the IMPORTANCE of STRETCHING the dough and not ROLLING it out!!! It is a nice sticky dough that stretches well!!! If you stretch and press and all that jazz, you will get bubbles. If you roll it out, it will be tough and chewy. Has anyone tried the dough and pizza? Just curious!!! Thanks!!! By  the way, it also makes a fabulous thin crust pizza! Stretch/press into a jelly roll pan (or a pizza pan or two) ~ top with sauce, topping, cheese, seasoning, Parmesan and bake!*

Thanks Aunt Sheryl for sending a picture of your pizza! Just LOOK at those bubbles!!YUM!!!! Is it Friday yet?!?!?  😉

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I saw this post and this one and hid my yeast so that I would not start making it IMMEDIATELY.  Pizza is my weakness. Pizza night is Friday here, as waiting till Saturday is much to long. This was so so so so good and really no extra work at all, if anything, it was REALLY nice to have the dough ready and waiting for me!!!

I followed the directions found here @ Amy’s Aliments. The only thing I did different was take the dough out of fridge about an hour before I wanted to roll it out.  Oh, I also baked at 425º since my oven bakes hot and last time I put my oven to 500º it rebelled and broke.

We like to dip the crust in extra warmed pizza sauce. If you don’t like crust, pass it to me, I will eat it for you!

Here are some pictures of the process. Something about yeast proofing and dough rising …… one of my favorite food things for sure!!!

Nice and bubbly and ready to go after 12 hours. ↓

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You know your yeast is active when you see bubbles after 5 minutes! 🙂 ↓

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Dough really DOES rise in the fridge. High fives for coolness. ↓

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Finished product! ↓ (I sorta folded the top dough over some of the filling as I rolled (See note above! DO NOT ROLL!) it out too big and had extra dough hanging over the sides…..mess ups are part of life. Amy’s picture will make your mouth water.)

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Don’t forget to let your pizza sit for 10 minutes or it will ooze all over the place, enjoy!!!!!

THANKS Amy for our new favorite recipe(s)!!! Dough recipe here and pizza recipe found here!!!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

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Because it is fall, because it is chilly, because the boys need a snack for after school, because a friend is coming over, because I am hungry. Those are ALL good reasons to make muffins, right??? OK, good.  I am sure you too can find a reason to make muffins today!!

~ Recipe halves well or just freeze the leftover muffins for later snackin’.
~ I used half coconut oil and half applesauce, for the oil in the recipe. A hint about coconut oil ~ this time of year the stuff is hard and needs to be melted to add to recipes. BUT if you add melted coconut oil to cold milk/eggs/applesauce or whatever you are making, it  will just harden right back up and coat your bowl in coconut yumminess, that will defeat the purpose of oil in your baked goods as it just stays in your bowl…..SO a simple solution….dadadaaaa ~ MELT the coconut oil and the applesauce together, not to boiling or anything, just till coconut oil is melted (then let set a few minutes, so it is not too hot to add to recipe). Then slowly add to bowl, while mixing. That should help!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins (yield 24 muffins)

4 eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
15 oz. can of pumpkin
1 1/2 c. oil (I used 3/4 c. applesauce + 3/4 c. coconut oil)
1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. chocolate chips

Beat the eggs, sugar, pumpkin,  oil (or applesauce/ coconut oil mixture) and vanilla till smooth. Combine the dry ingredients and mix into the pumpkin mixture, till all combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips. Scoop into paper lined muffins tins (24). Bake @ 350º for 18-22 minutes till tests done with a toothpick.

Enjoy!!

Recipe adapted from Prized Recipes to Cook and Savor, Vol. II.

Caramel Sauce

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Seriously. S.e.r.i.o.u.s.l.y. I really don’t want to tell you that you HAVE to make this caramel sauce, because you DON’T have to. But maybe you should. Caramel sauce has been something  I have tried and tried and tried to make. I have kinda succeeded, sorta failed, totally flopped and mostly failed my way through making caramel for a few years now. Seriously, I had given up. BUT what made me try just one. more. time (……well, two more times, more on that in a minute…….) was that fact that Aldi did not have a jar of caramel sauce. They had about 10 bijillion hot fudge sauces in the same place were there was SUPPOSED to be hot fudge AND caramel. No caramel. So I was “forced” to buy some heavy whipping cream and try again, cause I  someone “needed” caramel.  Thanks Aldi.

So here I am. Me, tho one who thinks if the weather man says it will be 70º I dress for 70º……colder or hotter, I will not change. I wanna believe he is right. The one who thinks if you tell me to boil the sugar for 5-7 minutes that it will take 5-7 minutes and it will be done. Period. The one who is blistfully ignorant to the fact that things may not always go as planned.  I guess I am gullible? Is that the right word? I try and tell my self not to be, but self just does not listen.  Anyway. Precisely 15 minutes before we were to get the kids to bed, I started. making. caramel. The girl said that in “15 minutes” you will have caramel sauce. I thought it to be true. Well……..

I heated up the sugar. 15 minutes later I was still stirring this dark brown nearly burned sugar…..thinking “those hard chunks of sugar are sure to melt away any second now.” A few minutes later my son comes to me and says it smells like burned marshmallows in the house. To which I simply said “it is the caramel I am making.” The face he gave me said it all. He had his doubts. I thought, “butter will heal this.” Cause butter is butter and it is good. Well, the butter melted. The sugar did not. It was so so hard. No caramel in sight. My pan was ruined. The pan was about to go in the garbage. But then I thought better. I filled it with water and boiled it and boiled it till the hard chunks of sugar melted off. My husband, noting that crazy boiling pot on the stove, asked if it was going to boil over. I mumbled “No, maybe, thanks, just making caramel”……..under my breath. I didn’t look at his face. We got the kids to bed and back at it I went. Cause I had to…….you know?

Round 2. I opted to add a bit of water to the sugar. I was giddy. I was pumped. Pretty sure I jumped up and down and twiddled my fingers together a time or two. BECAUSE. Before my very eyes, caramel was happening!!!! That sugar/water mixture got to a lovely caramel color, I took it off the heat and added the butter. (PS. I was able to save the butter from the above said calamity. As soon as I saw the sugar NOT melting but instead turning into a ball of rock hard, teeth ruining candy, I poured the butter off. To precious to throw away and it was fine. Just fine. Just melted.) Stirred that butter around and added the heavy cream. Well, the caramel went crazy on me at that point. BOILING like mad ~ mind you, it was OFF the heat and on the counter. Oh no, I have ruined it again. I stirred and stirred and…..there it was. Caramel. It looked good. Did it taste good? I wonder.  The vanilla and salt went in next. I did not taste yet, surprising myself with my wise choice as to not burn my tongue clear off. Oh……the suspence…….

It cooled a bit. I tasted it. It was caramel. Legit caramel. I put it in my jar and left it there on the counter. To look at a bit. Husband came into kitchen. I happily said,  “Look!!!!! Caramel.” Well, he had been the recipient of my crunchy caramel or my rock hard caramel a few to many times and the house still smelled of burnt marshmallows. So I am sure he had his doubts. He said “good” or something simple like that. Then he noticed my lovely burning fall candle, commented on the flavor (Cinnamon Vanilla). I said “thanks, that was from you.” He said “that was nice of me.” (If you know him you can appreciate this whole conversation. He is a very to the point kinda guy.)

I thought about the caramel. I actually dreamed about. Food nerds have dreams about food sometimes.  First thing in the morning I opened it up. I looked good. But was it hard? Too hard?? The spoon went right in. It was just the right caramel consistency. It worked. It was yummy.

We had the caramel a day or so later on ice cream.  I think the kids expected it to turn to candy when it hit the ice cream. It HAS happened. But noppers. It did not. Success.

Some tips about this caramel making ~

~ Have the heavy whipping cream be room temp, don’t forget this.
~ Have the butter be melted, don’t forget this.
~ Don’t leave the sugar/water mixture, just hang out by it, stirring. Laundry can wait.
~ That is all I can think of.  Just learn from my mistakes. If you burn the sugar, no worries, just add water to the nearly ruined saucepan and boil it off.

Are you thinking ~ didn’t she already share a caramel recipe?” Well, yes, thanks for asking. I did.  Right here. I have made that one a good number of times, it works half the time.  Not sure why. So this is now my new favorite one. 🙂

PLEASE let me know if you try this or any thoughts you may have concerning caramel or any food. 

PS. It’s fall! High fives alllll around! WAHOO!!!!

Caramel Sauce 
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
1 stick of BUTTER, melted
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream, room temp
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix together the sugar and water, bring to a boil.  Boil and stir till a caramel color. (Watch as it will go from caramel color to burned useless sugar in a few seconds flat! This is not a thing to time, as all stove tops cook differently, just watch carefully and use your best judgement. I have burned a batch or two. Sadly. Just stick by it, you will be fine.)
Take off heat, put the butter in the sugar mixture and stir till combined. Then add the heavy whipping cream, it will bubble up on you just be brave and keep stirring till all combined. Add the salt and vanilla. Do not eat right away or you will burn you tongue so very bad. When warm, serve over ice cream. Or store in fridge and heat in microwave till warm. Also very good by itself on a spoon.
ENJOY!!!