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Happy Birthday Don and Alexandra!

23 Mar

So what’s the best birthday gift *you* ever gave someone?

ORIGINALLY POSTED MARCH 23, 2012

Today is a very special day.

Today is Alexandra’s birthday.

Today is also Don’s birthday.

That makes me the best wife ever because seven years ago for Don’s birthday at 1:22 am I gave him our third daughter.

I know, I know, best gift ever, right?! It’s hard to top that one though, so I don’t really try. I’m back to t-shirts, pajama pants and stuff like that for his birthday gifts.

Alexandra’s First Birthday 2006

Since sharing his birthday with his daughter, Don has been blessed with getting to have a Snoopy party, a My Little Pony party, a Dora party, a Purple party and this year…Hello Kitty. Technically they’re not his parties obviously, but you see what I mean.

Birthday crowns all around on Alex’s second birthday.

Thankfully, my parents have this neat tradition that they started with us where we celebrate the adult birthday parties at their house each year and we “kids” get to choose our meal and our cake. I choose….well I won’t tell you what I choose until it’s my birthday this summer. But Don chooses a totally opposite type of meal and cake than I would choose, so I guess it’s good that we each get a chance to choose our own, to choose what we like. Don chooses meatball sandwiches (made with my mom’s homemade meatballs and gravy) with lemon cake for dessert. It’s probably the only time all year we have it and he really enjoys it.

Therefore, today I thought I’d share with you the recipe for Don’s birthday cake of choice each year, the lemon cake. It’s really yummy, I particularly love the corners.

***********************************************************************************

LEMON CAKE

A cake *just* for Daddy!

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup oil

1/2 cup water

2 beaten eggs

Duncan Hines Lemon Cake Mix

1 can lemon pie filling (divided)

DIRECTIONS

In bowl by hand, mix together oil, water, eggs, cake mix.

Add 1/4 can of lemon pie filling into the mix.

Put into greased 9×13 dish.

On top, distribute the rest of the pie filling.

Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees.

When cool, glaze with:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar mixed with 1 Tablespoon lemon juice. Add a little hot water if necessary.

THE BIRTHDAY TWINS CELEBRATING THEIR SPECIAL DAY IN 2016

 

 

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 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!

Two weeks of meals before the holiday rush

4 Dec

It’s hard to believe, but it’s the first week of December already. There are exactly three weeks until Christmas. Although I’ve been behind in posting some weekly menus, I thought that now might be a good time to provide some meal inspiration as a way to get us through the next three weeks. I also know that in the next two weeks or so, my posts will be filled with Christmas cookie recipes, and although we’d like to just eat those for dinner, most nights we can’t.

This was one we hadn’t had in a while and we devoured it. Not a morsel left.

Below are some meal options to get you through the next few weeks, with links included for every single one, not necessarily even in the order we’ve had them on our menu but more of a list of our past weeks’ “best of” meals that will let you peruse and choose what works for you in any given week.

TWO WEEKS OF MEALS

  1. Taco Bake
  2. Chicken, Broccoli, Cauliflower Casserole
  3. Kielbasa and Cabbage
  4. Parmesan Chicken Cutlets
  5. Instant Pot Chicken Marsala
  6. Beef and Broccoli
  7. Turkey Meatloaf Burgers
  8. Sweet and sour meatballs

    One of my favorite fall meals ever: Cranberry Chicken

  9. Shepherd’s Pie
  10. Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese
  11. Chicken with White Wine and Mushrooms
  12. Cranberry Chicken
  13. Steak Lettuce Tacos
  14. Pork Tenderloin (instead of brisket) with applesauce and potato pancakes

Pumpkin Palooza…My grand finale: Here’s to friends and pumpkin pie cupcakes

22 Nov

I’m thankful for being able to stay connected to friends from “way back when” who are both near and far.

ORIGINALLY POSTED NOVEMBER 16, 2012

I went to a high school outside of my hometown, with kids from all over my state and a neighboring state. Therefore, I met people there I would not normally have had a chance to meet, had I attended my local high school. Upon graduation we all went our separate ways, but we always tried to keep in touch.

At first we kept in touch by letters and the occasional phone call, but today with technology the way it is, we keep in touch by email and things like Facebook as well.

We’ve attended and/or been in each others weddings, we’ve visited each other when new babies were born, and gotten together when one or another of us were in town, visiting from wherever we had now settled, and even bumped into each other at the occasional swim lesson or scouting events. Each year though, at Thanksgiving, we try to get together to share a meal, whether it’s breakfast or dinner, just to catch up before another year goes by.

The photo here is last year’s picture after our Friday after Thanksgiving breakfast. We have another one scheduled for this year. Pictured here are high school friends Lia, Jenn, Nicole and I. We missed Bethany that year but she’ll be there this year!

A delicious treat!

My friend Nicole is in the fushia sweater, and today’s recipe was posted on Facebook by her, a couple of weeks back. I printed it right away but I only just got the chance to make it this week. She wrote that she’d made these pumpkin cupcakes by Baker Chick for all of the teachers at her school where she is the school librarian. I bet they loved them! I know I did! They got thumbs up from almost everyone here at our house, and I thought they were even better the second day; just like a slice of pumpkin pie in a cupcake wrapper!

The recipe states that these cupcakes puff up when cooked and then shrink back down, which is exactly what they did. Baker Chick also says that the fact that they shrink down is great because it gives you the perfect place to squirt some whipped cream, and she was right about that as well.

This was an easy recipe and didn’t take too long. I found my cook time to be slightly longer than the 20 minutes stated, but I just kept checking them every 2-3 minutes til they were done.

I hope you get a chance to try these out this week! Thanks to Nicole for sharing, I’ll see you soon! Thanks to Baker Chick for a great recipe!

Two bowls, simple ingredients.

PUMPKIN CUPCAKES
INGREDIENTS

2/3 cup all purpose flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 15-oz can pumpkin puree

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup half and half

 

Cupcakes puff up when they’re first cooked….

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper or silicone liners. *If using paper liners, lightly coat them with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice.

In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and half and half until well combined.

Add in dry ingredients and whisk until no streaks of flour remain and batter is smooth.

Distribute batter evenly in the muffin tin. (they should be about 3/4 of the way full.)

Bake for 20 minutes. Cool cupcakes in pan. (They will sink as they are cooling.)

Chill cupcakes before serving. Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

…..and shrink down when cooled.

Makes 12