Monthly Archives: October 2011

Happy Halloween!

I hope you enjoy the holiday with your own ghouls & goblins! What are your plans for the evening?

We’re going to make some delicious Witch Hat Calzones for dinner & take our little Angelina Ballerina out for some early trick-or-treating!

Stay safe, have fun, & try not to eat too much of your kids’ candy after they go to bed. (Oh come on, you know you do it!)


Filed under Holidays

Broomstick Treat Bags.

You’ve probably seen these floating around (pun intended) the blogosphere in the past, but they are so cute & easy I thought I’d share them anyway.

Here’s what you need for each:

  • 2 brown paper lunch sacks
  • 1 pretzel rod or a stick from your backyard
  • treats to fill it with
  • festive ribbon or raffia

Now here’s all you have to do:

  1. Cut a few inches off the tops of your bags. Take 1 bag & cut thin strips down about an inch. Then open the other bag & fold out the bottom so you don’t cut into it. Cut thin strips almost all the way down the length of the bag.
  2. Now here’s the hardest part of the whole process: putting bag #1 inside bag #2. Open both bags, then pull the bag with the long strips around the bag with the short ones. Horrible explanation, I know. You can figure it out & say it better than I can, I’m sure.
  3. Fill the bag with goodies. Then place the pretzel rod in the middle & gather the bags around it. Make sure all of the strips make it into your handful.
  4. Tie the ribbon around it. Really tight. Then pull the pretzel rod out a couple inches so it’s still firmly in there, but the broomstick looks more to scale with the bottom of the broom.
  5. Fluff out the little strips above the ribbon, & you’re done!

In addition to working for Halloween, they’d be great at a Harry Potter party. Just finish them off with a golden Snitch nametag & (this brilliant idea comes from My Husband Who Refuses To Read The Books But Still Knows Everything About The HP Series) a hippogriff feather!

Tidy Mom

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Filed under Crafts, Holidays

Copycat Cafe Rio.

When I was pregnant with The Munchkin, I craved Mexican food ALL THE TIME. We were living in Indiana, where the owners of Mexican restaurants seemed to hail from no further south than North Dakota, so when we headed west to visit family for Christmas, I gorged on as much as I could. One of my favorite places is Cafe Rio. No, not authentic Mexican, but at least they don’t try to pass off Italian tomato sauce as salsa. (I wish I were joking about that.)

Maybe we’ve been living without good Mexican — or at least a Del Taco — for too long now, but the Mexican cravings are much less frequent this time around.

Still, when Mommy needs her Cafe Rio, SHE NEEDS her Cafe Rio.

Now, like I said, it’s been awhile since we’ve eaten there, so I really couldn’t tell you how close this comes to the real thing. But the copycat J-Dawgs sauce has been such a hit among fellow former Provo-dwellers that I thought I’d put this one out there for more people to try. Tweaks from people who’ve had the real thing more recently are appreciated.

I’m lifting this almost exactly from Favorite Family Recipes. Go there to find her black bean recipe too; I didn’t have the energy to make one more component just to satisfy a craving, especially since I always order my salads with no beans anyway.

Sweet Pork Barbacoa:

  • 2 lbs. pork
  • 3 cans regular — not DietCoke (caffeine-free, of course! ;-)). Our local grocery store sells 2-liter bottles of caffeine-free cola for 98 cents! So I just do that.
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar, divided
  • sprinkle of garlic salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 can diced green chilies
  • 3/4 can red enchilada sauce (Old El Paso, medium)
  1. Marinate pork inside a gallon Ziploc bag with about 18 oz. of Coke & 1/4 cup of brown sugar, a few hours or overnight.
  2. Drain marinade. Place pork in the bottom of a slow cooker. Add 6 oz. of Coke & the water. Sprinkle garlic salt over the top. Cook on high 3-4 hours, until it shreds easily.
  3. Remove the pork, drain liquid in the slow cooker, & shred the pork.
  4. In a blender or food processor, blend 6 oz. Coke with the green chilies, enchilada sauce, & remaining brown sugar. Add more brown sugar &/or Coke to suit your taste & ideal consistency.
  5. Add shredded pork & sauce to slow cooker. Cook on low 2 hours.

Cilantro-Lime Rice:

  • 1 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. lime juice
  • 1 can (15 oz.) chicken broth (I used low-sodium & had to add a little salt to get the taste to my liking)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro
  1. In a saucepan combine rice, butter, garlic, 1 tsp. lime juice, broth, & water; bring to a boil.
  2. Cover; simmer on low 15-20 minutes, until rice is tender. Remove from heat.
  3. In a small bowl combine last 3 ingredients. Fold into rice as you fluff the rice.

Tomatillo Ranch:

  • 1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch mix (NOT Buttermilk)
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 cup buttermilk (make your own by pouring 1 Tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar into the bottom of a measuring cup, then filling it up the rest of the way to the 1-cup line, then let it sit for a few minutes to curdle)
  • 2 tomatillos, husk removed, diced
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic
  • juice of 1 lime (2 Tbsp. if you’re using bottled like me)
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded, chopped
  1. Throw everything in the blender & blend it. Done.

Make your salad:

  1. If desired, place a tortilla in the bottom of your dish, sprinkle with cheese, & place in the oven for a few minutes to let it melt.
  2. Layer beans (if using), meat, rice, & lettuce. Top with dressing, guac, a sprinkle of cheese, & maybe some tortilla strips.
  3. Drool.
  4. Savor.

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The Ultimate Comfort Food.

When the weather gets cooler — & trust me, the 60-degree lows we’ve experienced around here the past few days have actually been sweatshirt-worthy — I start craving the comfort food. This is, as the title would suggest, the ultimate comfort food. It’s warm, creamy, savory, & you hardly even have to chew! How’s that for comfort?

My friend Kelli made this for us years ago, when we were first married. It was so delicious I couldn’t believe how easy it was. I’ve lightened it up just a tiny bit since. It heats up great for leftovers; just be sure to cook up enough rice to serve with it later!

Creamy Crock Pot Chicken

  • 4-6 frozen chicken breasts, depending on size
  • 1 pkt. powdered Italian dressing mix
  • 3/4 stick (6 Tbsp.) butter
  • 8 oz. Neufchatel cheese (1/3 less fat cream cheese), softened
  • 1 can reduced-fat cream of chicken soup (Campbell’s or Kroger brand)
  1. Place chicken in bottom of slow cooker.
  2. Sprinkle dressing mix evenly over top. Slice up butter into chunks & distribute evenly on top of that.
  3. Cook on low 5 hours or high 3 hours.
  4. Shred chicken with 2 forks.
  5. Add soup & cream cheese; mix well.
  6. Let sit in warm Crock Pot several minutes to allow cream cheese to melt.
  7. Stir again & serve over rice.

What is your ultimate comfort food?

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Filed under Recipes

Witch (or Wizard) Hat Calzones.

It’s Halloween. The kids are so excited for trick-or-treating they don’t want to eat dinner. So they pick at their food & then wind up getting sick from too much candy on an empty stomach. That was a lot of our Halloweens growing up. Fortunately, I have a solution. Meet our most favorite Halloween meal ever:

These calzones are so fun & tasty — the kids get to decorate their own! — that they’ll finally eat dinner on Halloween!

I first found these at BHG, then made the filling tastier & more substantial for eating as an entree instead of an appetizer. 1 calzone would be good for a little kid, while big kids & adults will probably need 2 to keep their strength up for an entire evening of trick-or-treating. These could also be great as “Sorting Hats” for a Harry Potter party.

  • 3.5-oz. pkg. pepperoni slices*
  • 2 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup parmesan
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) crescent roll dough
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • decorations like olives, capers, bell pepper, parmesan, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, etc.
  • pizza sauce, warmed, for dipping

* You can make these vegetarian by using about 3 oz. of very finely diced quick-cooking veggies like peppers & onions.

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 & grease 2 cookie sheets.
  2. Reserve a few slices of pepperoni to cut into shapes for decorations. A sharp paring knife & a few minutes can yield everything from simple triangles (cut a pepperoni slice like a pizza) to stars (cut 5 triangles out of a slice) & even jack-o-lanterns (uhhh… just use your head). You can do this with bell pepper as well if you’re going the vegetarian route.
  3. Then chop up the remaining slices finely.
  4. In a small bowl combine the pepperoni with the cream cheese, parmesan, & mozzarella. Use the back of the spoon to “smoosh” it together to form one mass that sticks together. This will be your filling.
  5. Carefully unroll a package of crescent roll dough & separate into triangles. Place them on your prepared baking sheets. Place a tablespoonful of dough into the center of each triangle & try to spread it out just a little so it’s not just one big lump, but stay at least a 1/2 inch away from the edges of the triangle, & even further than that from the short edge, if you can. (See the triangle on the right, below.)
  6. Then carefully unroll the other package of crescent roll dough & separate into triangles. Add a little water to your beaten egg & brush the mixture around the edges of each triangle & carefully lay a new triangle on each prepared triangle (see above). Be sure to seal the edges with your fingers.
  7. Brush the bottom (short) edge of each triangle with more of the egg mixture & fold/roll it up to form a brim for your hat. Then tweak the top of each hat to make it more crooked & spooky. (Basically I just kind of bend them into a bit of a squiggle.)
  8. Finally, brush the whole thing with more egg & let your ghouls & goblins decorate their hats however they’d like. Bake for 7-9 minutes or until golden & serve with pizza sauce.

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Filed under Holidays, Recipes

Pumpkin-Chocolate-Chip Squares.

The Munchkin speaks very well for being 2 & a few months. She’s doing full sentences, & pronounces most words correctly, with the exception of the toddler W for Ls & most Rs. However, there’s one word in particular that she doesn’t say right, that I am just fine with her mispronouncing for the next month or two: pumpkin.

She pronounces it “pumpmick.” & it is so darn cute!

Saturday morning, My Husband The Occasional Perfectionist was trying to help her say it correctly. To his credit, he did get her to go from “wewk” to “milk,” but I’ll admit I wasn’t overly heartbroken when it didn’t quite take. A few minutes later she was saying the blessing on breakfast & trying to say “we thank thee that we get to go to the pumpkin patch today.” At first she said her usual “pumpmick,” but then paused, remembering that it wasn’t right. She then corrected herself: “mumpick.” Another pause; that didn’t sound right either. Finally she gave up & finished the prayer in a hurry: “name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

Thankfully, it’s still “pumpmick.” & she got her very own Munchkin-sized pumpmick at the pumpmick patch.

Now for some pumpmick — I mean, pumpkin — squares.

These are to die for. Period. I make these countless times every fall — it helps that the recipe uses exactly half a small can of pumpkin, so you just have to use up the rest, right? I mean, just look at all those moist, delicious crumbs! Martha really does it right.

  • 2 cups — spooned & leveled — all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice*
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 pkg. (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9×13 pan with foil, making sure that the foil goes up the sides.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl; set it aside.
  3. Cream butter & sugar together until it’s smooth. Then beat in the egg & vanilla; scrape sides of bowl. Beat in pumpkin puree, making sure there’s no unincorporated butter mixture at the bottom.
  4. Mix in dry ingredients on low just until combined. Then fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Spread the mixture evenly in the bottom of the pan.
  6. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with just a few of those moist delicious crumbs I mentioned.
  7. Cool completely in the pan. (Yeah, right. You smell it & resist.) Use the foil edges to lift the bars from the pan, then peel off the foil & cut with a serrated knife. Enjoy!
Tidy Mom

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Mummy Dogs.

Unbelievably enough, it’s fall! Though Florida seems to be hanging on desperately to July… What I wouldn’t give for some fall colors right now. & maybe even the chance to wear a sweater.

Even more unbelievably, I’m cooking again! Which means I can start posting again! & maybe even reading other people’s food-related posts again too!

That’s how I realized that what I’m posting is not original. At all. Mel’s Kitchen Cafe posted her version just this morning. But I’m posting it anyway because a) mine is just different enough — it came from BHG — & b) Halloween is one of my absolute favorite holidays, for the sole reason that it gives me license to make fun food that looks like monsters, jack-o-lanterns, witches, &…


(Most photos will be works in progress until we “fall back” next month because by dinnertime at 7pm there is ZERO daylight.)

  • 12 hot dogs (we use bun-length; if you’re making an appetizer for a party or something, you can miniaturize the recipe with cocktail wieners & thinner breadstick strips)
  • 1 pkg. refrigerated breadtick dough
  • 24 capers for eyes (if you don’t like or don’t feel like buying capers just for this, simply dot on mustard or something like Mel did)
  • condiments of choice
  1. Preheat your oven to 375. Unwrap the breadsticks & use a pizza cutter to slice each in half lengthwise. Stretch them out to 12 inches.
  2. Pat your hot dogs dry, then take 2 breadstick strips (say that 10 times fast) & let your kid help you wrap them around the hot dogs. I like to use my thumb to kind of anchor a strip to the top, then let The Munchkin wrap it. Then I flip it upside-down & do the same with the other strip.
  3. Position your dogs on a lightly greased cookie sheet, then firmly press the capers into the breadstick dough for eyes.
  4. Bake about 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
  5. Serve to your little ghouls & goblins before they head out trick-or-treating! (I see many 8-year-old boys creating delightfully gory scenes with their ketchup.)

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