Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Crispy Treats

Happy Easter everyone!  I hope you are enjoying this Easter weekend.  I have been having fun today making cute Easter treats.  Using a Rice Krispie treat recipe as a starting point, I made two super-cute Easter treats for the kids (and me, who am I kidding?  I love those things!)

Here's what I did:


1/2 stick butter
4 cups mini marshmallows
5 cups crispy rice cereal
food coloring
jelly beans

Heat a large pot on medium-low heat.  Add butter and stir until melted.  Add marshmallows and stir until melted.

 Once melted, stir in about 5 drops of food coloring.  I used blue.  It's hard to tell from the pictures, but it came out a nice pastel blue color.  Once the food coloring is thoroughly mixed in, add the cereal and stir well.  This takes a little elbow grease, but it needs to be completely mixed together.

 Spray a jelly roll pan (or large cookie sheet with sides) with cooking spray or grease it with butter.  Press the cereal mixture into the pan.  I wet my hands before I do this and it keeps it from sticking to me.  Make sure the mixture is pressed out flat and even.

Use an egg-shaped cookie cutter to cut out the treats.  The amount you can make depends on the size of your cutter.  Mine made 14.

Remove to a rack or platter using a small spatula to help.

Keep the scraps after you've cut them out because we are going to use them to make another treat.

You can decorate them anyway you want.  If you have icing, use that.  I didn't, so here's what I did:

Put some food coloring into the compartments of a clean egg carton (I washed it out with soap and water).

Using a toothpick, paint the eggs with the coloring.

Fun to do with the kids, but be careful.  It will stain!

Now, for the scraps we saved.  Take a small amount and using your thumb, press it into the shape of a bird's nest.

Put 3 jelly beans into the nest for eggs.

A cute, easy treat that any kid would love and we used the scraps to make it.  I love that!

Three of these nests fit perfectly in a snack-size zip bag.  A great way to package them so you can add them to an Easter basket.

Happy Easter!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Crockpot Chicken Noodle Soup

It has been unusually cold here in South Louisiana for this time of year.  Cold weather always makes me hungry for soup.  I make a delicious and healthy chicken noodle soup, but it takes a bit of babysitting on the stove.  My recent ankle surgery makes it impossible for me to stand and cook.  So, I thought why not try it in the crockpot?  At first I didn't think it would work because I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts and was afraid they would dry out if cooked too long.  But, I tried anyway and guess what?  It worked beautifully!  Here's how I did it:


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 carrots, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 1/2 cup uncooked egg noodles (I don't measure. I just grab a couple handfuls)
2 TBS fresh parsley, chopped

Place onion, celery, and carrots in crockpot.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper then place them on top of the vegetables.

Pour in the broth and water.

Cover and cook on High for 4 hours.  Then, remove chicken to a plate and shred with 2 forks.

Return chicken to the crockpot.  Add in the uncooked egg noodles and fresh parsley.  Cover and continue to cook on high for 30 minutes or until the noodles are done.

This soup was so good!  The chicken wasn't dry at all!  I think I've found my new way to make chicken soup!  Give it a try and see how easy it is.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Strawberry Season!

Around here Spring means strawberries.  South Louisiana grows a lot of strawberries!  The nearby small town of Ponchatoula, LA is considered the Strawberry capital of the world.  Every Spring they hold a Strawberry Festival.  It is the largest free festival in the country.  Carnival rides, bands, and lots of food booths make for a fun-filled weekend!  Growing up, I used to go to strawberry farms where you could take a basket and pick your own.  Talk about fresh!  Obviously, I love strawberries.  When strawberry season rolls around I buy them by the flat, which is 12 pints.  So, I have to figure out what to do with all of them.

Of course I eat them plain.  But, I buy so many that I need to find other ways to use them.  I freeze some whole (after removing the hull), then put them in freezer bags.  I use them in smoothies instead of ice (who wants a watered-down smoothie!).  Or, float them in a glass of pink lemonade (again, better than watering it down with ice, plus it's a pretty garnish).

I also slice some, put them in a bowl and add sugar.  The sugar helps to break them down and forms a sweet syrup.  This make a fantastic topping for ice cream or cake (think strawberry shortcake).  You can put this in freezer bags, as well, and thaw it as you need it.

Speaking of strawberry shortcake, you can buy those sponge cake shells at the grocery store, but I like to bake a sponge cake in a loaf pan.  I slice it and add the strawberries and syrup and whipped cream.  This sponge cake is dense with a crisp, sugary crust.  Yum!  Here is the recipe:


2 TBS sugar (to dust the pan with)
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a loaf pan well with shortening.  Sprinkle the 2 TBS sugar all over pan to coat the bottom and sides.  Shake out any excess.  Beat eggs until pale and fluffy.  With mixer on a low speed, slowly add the sugar (a spoonful at a time).  Add the vanilla.  Gently fold in the flour and baking powder.  Pour into prepared loaf pan.

 Bake 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes until the top looks golden and crunchy and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  Slice with a serrated knife when cold.

Strawberry Syrup:
1 pint strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup sugar

Put sliced strawberries in a bowl.  Add sugar and stir.  Let sit until the strawberries have broken down and formed a syrup.  Pour the strawberries and syrup over a slice of cake.  Top with whipped cream.

If you like cheesecake, you'll love this next recipe.  It is a no-bake dessert that is always a hit.


12 whole graham crackers, finely crushed
6 TBS butter, melted
1 cup plus 2 TBS sugar, divided
4 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup strawberry preserves
2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped
1 (8oz) tub cool whip, thawed

Mix graham crumbs, butter and 1/4 cup sugar.  Press into bottom of 9x13 pan.  Refrigerate.  Beat cream cheese and 3/4 cup sugar in a large bowl.  Add preserves.  Place fresh strawberries and remaining sugar in a small bowl and mash them.  Stir into cream cheese mixture.  Stir in cool whip.  Spoon over crust.  Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or until firm.

So, there are some of my favorite things to do with strawberries.  If you get the chance to buy a flat, go for it!  You'll always find a way to eat them!


Monday, March 18, 2013

Chicken & Vegetables

I just had ankle surgery (again) and am in a cast for a while.  I am not allowed to put any weight on my ankle, so it's difficult for me to stand.  That makes it difficult for me to cook.  I can't stand over a stove and babysit what I'm cooking.  So, I have to make dishes that are either really quick or slow cooked in the oven or crockpot.  Today I'm blogging about one of the slow cooked variety.  And it's so versatile, you can make it in the oven or the crockpot.  When it's cool out, I make it in the oven.  When it's hot and I don't want to heat up the kitchen (which is quite frequent in South Louisiana) I use the crockpot.  Last night was one of those rare occasions when I made it in the oven.  But I'll give you directions for both ways.  It is very easy to make and so delicious!  Here it is:


2 lbs bone-in chicken thighs (or drumsticks, or just cut up a whole chicken-whatever you have)
season salt
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 carrots, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
4 red potatoes (any potato will do) cut into medium-sized chunks, leave skin on
2 sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks (if you cut them too small they will turn to mush)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 pkg chicken gravy mix (such as McCormick)

To make in the oven:  Place all prepared vegetables in a large baking dish.  Season with season salt and stir well.  Season chicken with season salt.  Place chicken on top of vegetables in baking dish.

Next, mix together the diced tomatoes and the chicken gravy mix.

Pour the mixture over the chicken, covering it completely.

Cover the baking dish tightly with foil.  Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour or until the chicken is cooked through.

The juice from the chicken mixes with the tomato and gravy mix to create a delicious sauce.  The vegetables absorb all of the flavor from the chicken.  They are tender and yummy!

I serve this with rice to absorb all the juices.  Very good!  Always a hit with the family.  In fact, it is one of my husband's favorite dishes.

To make it in the crockpot:  You follow the same directions, only putting all the ingredients into the crockpot instead of a baking dish.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4-5 hours.  I find it works best on low.

So, I hope you get a chance to make this dish and your family likes it as much as mine.