What’s for Dinner Wednesday: a couple of new-ish recipes for you

14 Feb

Dinner is cooking!

Happy Wednesday and Happy Valentine’s Day!

As I mentioned recently in one of my posts, the past few weeks have been challenging and therefore, a little bit of a blur for me. If you asked me what was for dinner yesterday, there’s a good chance I can’t remember and if you ask me what’s for dinner tomorrow, I’m pretty sure I don’t know yet. We have shopped, we have a list of meals, but we’ve been a little less planned out than we normally are and I’m trying to keep a lot of balls in the air at the moment. Everyone has hectic weeks and months though, so I’m sure you can all relate.

That said, we’ve had a couple of surprisingly delicious meals in the past couple of weeks and I did want to share them with you. They’re kind of new, but not really. New-ish, I guess. One I have posted about before, and one I never have, but we’ve eaten it before.

First, I will share with you the recipe we’ve had before but not for so long that I have never posted about it on my blog before. It is the one shown here to the left, and to the right and it might make a perfect Valentine’s Day meal for you!

It was so good to have this meal again. I hope we don’t wait another two decades to make it again in the future!

Many years ago when we lived out of state and in apartments, we used to make a pasta dish that we loved. It had a pink tomato cream sauce and pasta, along with chicken or shrimp and sun-dried tomatoes. For some reason we fell out of the habit of making it, for about 20 years. A recent new meal that we tried out sparked a memory of that recipe, and we put it on the list of meal requests for the following weeks’ menu. We didn’t have a specific recipe for it, and my husband put it together as he went, but this recipe from Allrecipes.com is a similar one. Some use vodka in their sauce, making it a true Pink Vodka sauce, but  we did not and we enjoyed it just as much.

Next, I will share with you another rediscovered recipe, but this one was made a little bit more recently, but not by much!

This meal was so delicious and even better the second day as the flavors settled in.

Last week my daughter was asking me how chicken could be made with brown sugar. It was something she had seen (I think on television), but the two ingredients didn’t seem to go together in her mind. I told her that they did in fact, go well together and that I was pretty sure I’d made at least one brown sugar and chicken recipe in the past. I was pretty sure I would find it on my blog, and sure enough….I had two! When I looked them up this week, they both looked so delicious that I decided to scrap any meals that I might’ve pulled from our Two Weeks of Meals choices, and make one of them instead. One of my other daughters was home at the time and I let her choose the one she wanted. She ended up choosing this Brown Sugar and Lemon Chicken recipe that I’d last made in 2012. I had everything for it except a real lemon. Instead I had a bottle of lemon juice that I felt would suffice. It would mean no lemon zest on top, but I felt that we would still enjoy the meal either way. I was right. This chicken was so incredibly most and delicious, it melted in my mouth. I could not believe I hadn’t remembered this recipe sooner, although I was glad that I’d remembered it sooner than the tomato cream pasta recipe above.

I could not wait to eat this for lunch again the next day!

I served this meal with rice and a veggie saute that our oldest daughter loves, just a simple mix of zucchini and squash cooked in the cast iron skillet. It was a hit with everyone except the daughter who originally asked about chicken and brown sugar, who really only likes chicken on a wing or in a nugget, but I’m still glad our conversation sparked this memory for me.

In case you’re wondering, here is the other brown sugar and chicken recipe, it’s also from 2012. It’s one I’m hoping to try again in the near future and it also calls for garlic, which is another favorite of ours.

I hope that these blast-from-the-past meal memories have provided you with some meal memories of your own and that you find an old recipe you’d forgotten all about. If not, feel free to give our recipes a try! I can promise you won’t be disappointed.

Have a wonderful rest of your week!

 

A new look

9 Feb

12524080_10207046906043162_8830707560015516783_nSometimes with my long hair, I reach a point where I suddenly just can’t stand it any longer and I need it cut, like yesterday. Nothing drastic, just a healthy trim.

Well, yesterday at 1:00 in the afternoon, I suddenly reached that moment in time with The Whole Bag of Chips, and I felt it needed a new look, some updates. Nothing drastic, just a nice, healthy update, like a nice healthy hair trim. The blog has been in existence for seven years and has had the same look the entire time, until now.

So, today, instead of a Fun Friday post, this is just a new look for The Whole Bag of Chips. New font style, new background color, a new concise look for the Archives section, the WordPress-sponsored ads are gone, and on the Facebook page, a new profile photo.

Have a lovely weekend, and be sure to visit The Whole Bag of Chips again soon!

The unexpected healing power of the kitchen

7 Feb

Baked oatmeal is one of our family’s favorite meals for breakfast, or any time of the day.

Happy Wednesday, everyone! It’s the middle of another week, and February is flying by.

We have had a busy few weeks here, and I’ve been unable to post as frequently as I’d like to. However, today’s post was one I just had to make the time for.

Three weeks ago today, our youngest daughter hit her head getting into the car, after slipping on some slush in a parking lot. Although all of us have bumped our heads getting into the car at one time or another, this bump turned out to be different. She hit it just the right way and ended up with a concussion.

It’s our first concussion from any of our kids and neither of us have ever had one. However, with all of the new emphasis on the proper treatment of brain injuries and brain damage, we knew of many kids her age who have had them. What we did not know, however, was just how long a recovery it could be. Each injury is different. Some recover in a matter of days, others in a matter of weeks, still others take many months and there is no way to know which kind you have until you’ve fully recovered.

When it first happened, a friend of mine whose daughter has had several sports injury concussions warned me, “She’s going to be SO bored.” She was SO right. There is not much they can do. No screen time, no reading, very little writing, no bright lights, no loud noises. Sometimes even normal-level noises seem too loud.

Initially she didn’t want to do a ton. For the first five days or so she was spending her waking hours in total darkness, sometimes listening to a book, sometimes sleeping. About a week in however, as she started to feel slightly better, she was awake more. She’d already listened to about 20 hours of audio books and was downloading eight more. She could listen to a TV show in the background, but not watch it. She was bored out of her mind. We each tried to find things to entertain her. Her sisters would do her nails, her hair, her makeup. They’d listen to a movie with her. We’d take her for rides. She’d clean her own room. Then we’d find her cleaning a sister’s room. She was bored, bored, bored.

“When I am sitting here doing nothing, I am stressed,” she said to me more than once. “When everyone is doing something, and I can’t do anything, it makes me crazy.”

I get that.

However, as time went on, the one thing she could do, and truly enjoyed, was cooking. One week in, she was asking to make something in the kitchen–anything at all, she didn’t care what. She could measure, mix and stir, and watch something bake, and then she could share it with everyone as they came home at the end of the day. All I had to do was read out the ingredients to her as she went along.

Here, finally was something she could do. She had a new apron and a new purple cooking set, courtesy of a Christmas gift from her oldest sister, and she was going to put it all to good use. Although our kitchen renovation project from the summer is still awaiting the next round of its finishing touches, it’s fully functional, even though it’s not fully beautiful.

She made baked oatmeal for our weekend breakfast one week, and homemade stove-top oatmeal for an after school snack another week. She made green pancakes for breakfast and then purple ones another time for dinner. She made cupcakes from scratch with homemade frosting and she made a carrot bread with glaze. She chattered on and on about fractions as she measured: double 1/8 and  it’s 1/4 and half it to get 1/16 and on and on and on.

As she cooks, she’s in her happy place and her stress about all she’s missing out on momentarily disappears. The lights are low, and the things she can’t do turn into something she can do and enjoys doing. Never have I been more thankful that we’ve raised our kids to know their way around the kitchen. Not only is it a life skill, but for the past few weeks it’s truly been a life saver. It’s had a healing power that I had never thought about.

In the coming weeks she should be continuing to feel better and better, and I hope that when she looks back on this period of time, she’ll not only remember the rough patch she’s been through, but also think back on some of the bright spots mixed throughout the weeks, such as the time she spent in the kitchen creating, mixing, measuring and relaxing.

In her happy place during what has proven to be a very challenging time.

 

A new Cave Tools product review: Stainless Steel Wood Smoker Box

28 Jan

My husband ranked these ribs as being some of the best he’s ever had in his entire life.

We recently had the opportunity to try out another product from one of my favorite companies, Cave Tools. This time, my husband was very excited to review the new tool because it was something he’d been wanting to try for a long time. The Large Capacity Stainless Steel Smoker Box allows you to smoke meat and fish on the grill and it was a cooking method we’d never tried but had always wanted to.

Smoking is an interesting method of cooking, and it takes some time, so you need to make sure you can devote the time you need in order for everything to cook properly. Because we live in an area of the country that gets cold and snowy, and it’s wintertime, we also had to make sure we were going to use our grill on a day when there wasn’t a blizzard and it was above freezing. Finally, this past weekend was the perfect day. We chose Saturday as our day to smoke a rack of ribs.

This box was a great size and fit well between our grill grates.

The Stainless Steel Smoker Box is very typical of Cave Tools’ superior product quality. Their products are always solidly made and durable. Cave Tools notes that this particular product has several features that make it stand out from the rest: Its stainless steel is 25% thicker so that it prevents warping. It has a hinged lid and large wood chip capacity for thicker smoke. There are no bottom holes, so the wood chips smolder and don’t catch fire, and its thinner profile fits perfectly between the grill grates and flavorizer bars, if you choose to use them.

As our Saturday dawned bright and sunny, Don spent the early afternoon hours preparing the rack of ribs. He created a dry rub consisting of a cup of brown sugar, a quarter cup of kosher salt, a teaspoon of garlic powder and half a teaspoon of pepper (approximate measures). He rubbed it all in and refrigerated it for four hours. When he took it out at 4:00, he rinsed it off, patted it dry and then placed it on the grill.

Following the directions that were contained in the box, he filled our smoker box with 100% natural hickory wood chips and set it on the grill over the heat, and waited for it to start smoking. He then placed the rack of ribs on the opposite side. It took approximately 15 minutes for the box to start smoking. He never flipped the ribs over, but rather rotated them every so often to make sure they were cooking evenly.

After two hours, barbecue sauce was added to the meat for the final 20 minutes.

 

 

 

As the cook time neared the end, barbecue sauce was added to the meat for the final 20 minutes of cook time.

Throughout the evening, we could smell the smoker cooking the meat outside, and the aroma was heavenly. We could not wait to try the ribs. The anticipation was exciting and we were very much looking forward to our dinner.

As we dug into dinner, we were thrilled with our results. The ribs were incredibly good. My husband ranked them as being among the top five best rib meals he’s had in his lifetime, and that’s saying a lot, as we’ve had a lot of ribs in our time!

The meat came right off the bone and the flavor was just delicious. We savored every bite and we each had seconds. When we finished eating, I was so glad that there were still more ribs left on the tray for leftovers later this week, as I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to them just yet.

If you’re looking to try out smoking on your grill, I highly recommend the Cave Tools Stainless Steel Smoker Box. If you choose to buy it from Cave Tools directly, you can use the code SMOKERBOX15 to get 15% off your purchase and order here. Should you choose to go through Amazon.com, instead, you can use this link.

Like all the Cave Tools products, this product has a lifetime warranty, should you have any issues with it. I know we can’t wait to use ours again!

The meat came right off the bones of the ribs, just as it should.

*Although I was compensated for this review with a free product, all thoughts and opinions are my own.*

Fun Friday: Gluten Free Cherry Cobbler

26 Jan

20180120_194842Each year in January, I try to make my parents a cherry dessert, reminiscent of the cherry pie my dad always says stole his heart when he first tasted it, made from scratch by my mom for one of their very first dates. Hers was much more decadent than my cherry desserts ever are, with a criss-cross woven pie crust to boot. However, it’s the thought that counts.

Earlier in the week, I wrote about the dinner recipe we tried out when they visited for dinner before leaving for the winter, and I promised to share the dessert recipe we tried out for them as well.

I have made cobblers before, a peach cobbler and a blueberry cobbler, but I was looking for an easy cherry cobbler recipe. I was “cheating” and using canned pie filling rather than fresh cherries, as many recipes call for, but I really just needed the recipe for the cobbler topping.

One of my go-to cookbooks on my shelf here at home is the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. I have had it forever, and it always has what I need in it. Sure enough, I found a quick and easy Cherry Cobbler recipe inside. I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1:1 Baking Flour instead of All-Purpose Flour in order to make it safe for everyone to eat, and I offered whipped cream, French Vanilla ice cream and Chocolate ice cream for toppings.

20180120_165459The dessert was a hit, and I was pleased with how easily it came together. Since there were seven of us, I doubled the original ingredients list and used two large cans (21 oz.) of cherries.

Here is the Better Homes and Gardens recipe:

Fruit Cobbler

Desired Filling
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional, I included it)
3 tablespoons margarine or butter
1 beaten egg
3 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare filling, keep hot. (I put my two cans of cherries into the Pyrex dish and put it in the oven for a little while so that the cherries were hot when I took it out.)

For topping, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and if desired, cinnamon. Cut in margarine till mixture resembles course crumbs. Combine egg and milk. Add to flour mixture, stirring to just moisten.

Transfer filling to 8x8x2 inch baking dish (mine was already in my baking dish). Drop topping into six mounds atop hot filling.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or till a toothpick inserted into topping comes out clean. Serve warm with ice cream if desired. Serves six.

New week, new recipes

22 Jan

We broke the “never try a new recipe for company” rule, and we were so glad we did!

Welcome to a new week! It’s a new week of work, school, weather and here on The Whole Bag of Chips, I have several new recipes for you!

This weekend we hosted company for dinner, my parents, and we were struggling with the question of what to make. It would be the last time we would be seeing them until spring, and therefore, we wanted to make it extra-special.

As we went down our list of the usual meals, nothing seemed to spark my taste buds. It seemed we’d had it all recently or that the meals we were thinking of were ones we typically made for them whenever they came.

Normally there is an unofficial rule that says you shouldn’t try out a new recipe when you’re having company, but I decided that since my parents were always up for trying something new, I’d do an internet search for a new dish to make for them. I Googled “Sunday Dinners” even though it was going to be a Saturday night, to see what kinds of dinner recipes would come up. Sure enough, my wish was granted and I found this dish from Cafe Delites for Creamy Garlic Parmesan Mushroom Chicken and Bacon, which seemed to be a perfect dish to try. It had all things we liked, it was already gluten free, it was inexpensive to make, and it had the option to use light cream, heavy cream or milk, which would make it lower in fat, which we also like. It seemed like something everyone would enjoy and we decided to give it a try and serve it over pasta with a salad and bread on the side.

We chose to use a bag of frozen chicken tenderloins for this dish, rather than the chicken thighs, and we doubled the recipe.

The new chicken dish received rave reviews from everyone, even the kids. They especially loved the sauce, and having the pasta on the side made for a perfect combination. Everyone had seconds, and by the end we had just a couple of servings left to be used as leftovers later this week. I already had a couple of the kids asking when we would be having the leftovers this week.

I would definitely recommend breaking that old rule about new recipes and company again in the future, if our guests are game for trying something new, and I’m glad we took the risk this time around.

Additionally, we tried a new dessert recipe for cherry cobbler, turned gluten free, and I will post that recipe later on this week.

In the meantime, be sure to check out the new recipe from our weekend dinner and see what you think. A big thanks to Cafe Delites, for saving the day because it’s definitely a keeper at our house!

Introducing ‘Forget the Flour’….a new blog from a new favorite blogger

10 Jan

I have a new favorite blog, and I definitely have a new favorite blogger.

If you live life gluten free for any reason, you need to check out “Forget the Flour,” my daughter’s new blog. You can go and visit by clicking here. It might just become your new favorite blog too.

Here’s the back story to how this blog was born:

Early in the fall of 2015, it was determined that our youngest daughter could no longer have gluten in her diet. She had just begun the fifth grade and we had spent the summer on an epic, five-week cross country camping vacation, trying to figure out what was continuously making her so sick, and had been throughout most of the spring before.

If you’re a longtime reader of The Whole Bag of Chips, you have since seen my recipes evolve over time to now include notations with the ingredients as to how we have gone about making our recipes gluten free, if they were not already.

It has not been an easy few years. I have a shellfish allergy, and I’d like to say that I can relate to her struggles, but I truly can’t. I’m much older, first off, so I can weather some of the “trauma” of missing out on favorite foods at favorite events better than a tween. Additionally, shellfish is not contained in my every meal, or at every party, sleepover or at every restaurant I go to.

To say that being gluten free, being young AND gluten free is challenging would be an understatement.

Our third Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve all just passed, and it’s always important to make sure we have food for her to eat everywhere we go, and as we sometimes find out, even if we think something is going to be gluten free where we are headed, she finds out the hard way it may not have been, or that cross-contamination may have taken place.

However, for every challenge, there are a lot of successes. Thankfully, we are a family of cooks and we love to try out new recipes. Our kids have all been cooking since they were old enough to roll cookies or to stand on a stool at the kitchen counter and pick beans. We have a love for cookbooks, food magazines, food videos online, food show on television and anything related to cooking and eating. Therefore, we’ve discovered some great new recipes, and we’ve cheered (literally) when we’ve been able to make an old favorite into a new gluten free favorite so as not to give them up.

We’re lucky too, that we live in an internet age where we can find help online, we can Google anything and get a helpful answer about ingredients and substitutions. We are also lucky that in past years the amount of information and availability of ingredients has exploded from what it once was. We even have an allergy-free bakery in our city and we spend a great deal of time there.

Additionally, we have wonderful friends and family. I can’t be more thankful to those who have turned their own recipes into gluten free for her, or to those friends who have chosen to keep things on hand for when she’s there, or to cook entire gluten free meals just because she’s there (and I’m getting a little teary just thinking about it.) I have sent bags of gluten free food with her, only to see them come back with her after an event or visit, and to hear her happily describing all she was able to eat, along with everyone else.

All of that said, one might think a kid could get depressed having to deal with all of this on top of regular life, and she definitely has her moments of frustration and of sadness at times, and we feel terrible about it when she does. However, rather than wallowing in the latest disappointment or challenge, as some might, our daughter asked just the other night if she could create a blog for sharing what she’s learned in the past three years and going forward. It took me just a second to think about it and say yes, and it took her even less time to share with me the one she’d already created, but not published, complete with her first post draft all typed up. She just needed a name that wasn’t already taken, since there are many gluten free blogs out there already. Somehow, and I’m not sure how, she came up with Forget the Flour, and I love it. It wasn’t taken, and so, her blog was born.

She posted her first two posts one night earlier this week and the blog hits just exploded. Although it’s still young, the blog has already received almost 1000 hits in just a couple of days’ time. I told her I have some blog-hit envy already.

I think that as a younger blogger, her perspective is slightly different than those who are blogging about living an adult life gluten free, and I hope it will be a valuable perspective to others as she shares her favorite products, recipes and restaurants, as well as some of her not-so-great experiences in the hopes of preventing them from happening to others.

So if you haven’t yet, go on over and visit Forget the Flour and check out the first couple of posts. Sign up to follow it too, so that you don’t miss a moment of gluten free goodness.

I was thrilled to see this beautiful new blog pop up on my computer screen earlier this week. However, I can promise that not all of the almost 1000 hits were from me.