Friday, December 7, 2012

Applesauce Day again...

We held our annual Applesauce Day at the farm at the end of October and I am just now getting around to updating my notes about it. I don't have any photos because Bob took them, gave them to me on a flash drive and when I didn't get them off for a while he took it back because he needed it. I think he still has the photos on it, so I will have to get it back from him.

Actually, though, it looked like last year.  It was better because we didn't have any injuries and we didn't have any jars break and as far as I know, they all sealed.

Stats:  We  had 16 adults, 7 kids, 1 toddler and 1 baby participate. That is a lot of people in a one bedroom cottage on a rainy day, but we all did well. We canned around 8 bushels of apples which made a ton of applesauce, but I forget exactly how many quarts and pints. We ate a lot too.

Some things we tried that worked great:

  • For filled jars of sauce that had to wait a bit to can [because the canners were full], my friend Jenny suggested putting them in a warm oven so they wouldn't break when we put them in the boiling water bath to process. That was genius!
  • Sometimes I have trouble with the apples sticking to the bottom of the pan when we are cooking them and the apples scorch. This year we put stainless steel trivets on the bottom of the pans, then added about 1 C of water and then put in the apples. No scorching. It worked great. 
  • We used a plastic dish washing basin [what you put in a sink if you want to wash dishes] and put it on a small table next to the food mill to dump the cooked apples in. That way it was easy to scoop the cooked apples into the hopper of the food mill. 
  • I reminded everyone to put the jar lids in the hot water with one lid up and one lid down so they didn't get stuck together. 
We figured out that Jenny and I had our first Applesauce Day in 2001. which made this our 12th year. I wish I had kept track of how many quarts and pints we made over that much time. 

One of my friends brought her mom this year and the two of them made extensive notes. So, in order to help us all remember what we did and how we did it, I am copying them here [with a few additions of my own]. Thanks Karen.

Applesauce Day 2012 Notes
Prior to starting wash all apples
You will get approximately 18-20 quarts per bushel of apples
2012 cost of a bushel of apple seconds $18-20

1.        Blossom and Chop
a.       Cut out blossom end of apples
b.      Cut apples into 8 pieces leaving the cores, skin and stems on
c.       Remove and discard any sections of apple that you wouldn’t want to eat
d.      TIPS
                                                               i.      A vegetable peeler is useful for removing the blossom ends and can be safer than using a knife
                                                             ii.      Make sure knives are sharp…have a knife sharpener handy as blades get dull quickly when processing a lot of apples
                                                            iii.      Use paring knives to cut out the blossom end and larger knives for cutting
2.       Steam and Strain
a.       Put approximately 1.5 inches of water into bottom of a large pot [having a trivet on the bottom is helpful)
b.      Pour cut apples into pot and steam until soft, mixing periodically to keep them from burning
       Tip: When cooked put hot apples in a plasic dish basin so you can scoop them out easily.
c.       Meanwhile gently heat new lids for canning jars in water in a small pot to sterilize. Put the lids in wtih one right side up, one upside down, etc. This keeps them from sticking together. It is not fun if they get boiling water between the lids and it gets your hand when you remove them from the pan.] Remove lids from hot water when needed with a long handled canning magnet.
d.      Scoop soft apples [out of dish basin]  into hopper of a food strainer and crank to separate pulp from seeds, skin and stems
e.      Pour applesauce into canning jars up to the first thread using a canning funnel.
      Tip: Take a clean cloth and clean the top of each jar to remove any applesauce before putting the lid on.
f.        Put lid on and screw rim on securely
g.       TIPS
                                                               i.      Add a metal trivet to the bottom of pot to help keep apples from burning
                                                             ii.      A double-boiler/steamer/juicer pot with siphon is helpful (such as the Mehu-Liisa 10 Liter Stainless Steel Steam Juicer) and multi-functional
                                                            iii.      Another good option for keeping apples steaming without burning would be to use a large stock pot with deep colander insert (such as the Prime Pacific Pasta Cooker and Steamer set with glass lid)
                                                           iv.      Victorio VKP250 Model 250 Food Strainer and Sauce Maker is comparable to the original Villa Ware Food Strainer and Sauce Maker No 200 used during applesauce day
                                                             v.      To keep filled jars warm while waiting to can, place filled jars into a warmed oven
                                                           vi.      Put lids opposite sides together when boiling to keep them from suctioning together
                                                          vii.      A magnetic lid lifter is very helpful for taking out hot lids
                                                        viii.      A canning funnel is helpful when filling canning jars
                                                           ix.      Tupperware Modular Mates Rectangulars Rectangular 2 (18 cups (4.3 L)
4 1/2"H x 7 3/8"W x 11"L (11.5 x 19 x 28 cm) is the right size container for putting under the strainer to catch the finished applesauce pulp

                                                             x.      Things to have on hand:  a spatula (for the applesauce), long-handled wooden spoon (for stirring the apples in the pot), 2-3 wet washcloths (for wiping spills), magnetic lid lifter, canning ladle, small spoon (for spooning small amounts of applesauce), ladle (for scooping larger amounts of applesauce),  Tupperware rectangular container (for catching applesauce), mid-size bowl (for catching apple waste), large bowl (for stirring finished applesauce and dipping out sauce to put into canning jars), plastic tub or large bowl (for holding cooked apples while waiting to put apples into hopper of strainer), measuring cup (for scooping hot cooked apples into hopper), hot pads (for lifting hot pots)
3.       Canning
a.       Boil filled canning jars in a canner with a rack at a rolling boil for 25 minutes
b.      Set on a towel to cool
c.       Once cool, check to make sure all the lids have sealed
d.      TIPS:
                                                               i.      Remove finished jars from opposite sides of the canning rack or the rack may tip and dump the jars into the pot
                                                             ii.      Have a jar lifter handy
                                                            iii.      Things to have on hand:  canner with rack, hot pads, jar lifter, thick towels (to set hot jars on to insulate jars against drastic differences in temperature), timer

I guess I duplicated some of what Karen documented, but I don't think it hurts to say things more than once.
Also, so I can remember, we ate one batch of cornbread, several loaves of Jenny's bread, potato soup, a
crock-pot full of chili, seasoned oyster crackers, cubes of cheese [probably 1.5# would be the right
amount,]  cupcakes, green salad,  potato chips, water and various other snacks.  We never did make
hot dogs on the campfire because it rained all day, but miraculously we had enough food. I am not sure what
all we had because everyone pitched in but I didn't really eat much. A good time was had by all.

Take care,

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fresh out of Waldorfs..

If you never watched the British comedy Fawlty Towers this doesn't make any sense, but you can Google it if you want to.

 At any rate, I just made a tasty Quinoa Waldorf salad that is tasty and healthy. It is a bit of a twist from the original recipe from Family Fun Magazine.

I used two apples-- a green and a red and it made 7 cups. So 3 Weight Watcher Plus points for 1/2 cup and that includes 1 point for a healthy oil. :) Enjoy!

Cook 1 C quinoa in 2 C of water, set aside

Mix together with a whisk and pour over the quinoa:
2 T honey
1/4 C lemon juice
1/2 tsp coarse salt or 1/4 tsp fine salt
3 T olive oil
2 apples, granny smith and 1 red apple, leave peel on for color
1 C finely chopped celery
1 T raisins [can use more, but it ups the point count]
1/3 C finely chopped fresh parsley [optional]
1 oz toasted chopped or slivered almonds
salt and pepper to taste, or I left this out and sprinkled with cinnamon

Chill. 3 points per 1/2 C.

This tastes very fresh and crisp-love the lemon juice with the apples. Nice for the summer. I figure I can pair it with 1 cup Greek Yogurt and for 6 points have a nice lunch.

 Me May 2, minus 66#.


Sunday, April 15, 2012


This has been a busy week for me--continuing to landscape our cottage. I have all these great ideas that swim around in my head, but it is hard to actually make them happen sometimes and that is generally because they take hard work and time. I am sure you have a lot of great ideas and plans that are the same way.

This week I decided to spruce up the outside of the cottage. It always looked so sad and forlorn on the side where the steps go up to the house. I wish I had taken a before shot, but you know how that is...I was so busy doing I forgot to take a before photo. OK, I found a couple from when Bob was putting in the underground gutters. 

 It was kind of a  no-mans land under those steps and I just couldn't think of how to make that whole area look better.

Then I thought about putting in a tree and after talking to the friendly folks at King's Nursery, I purchased a Japanese Cherry [no fruit, just lovely pink blossoms] and this is what I ended up with.

 Cherry tree to the left with bags and bags of mulch and a rock border to keep the mulch from washing down the hill.

Here it is from the downhill side. I will add some more ferns and such as I have time and money, but I thought this was a good start. I figure I can add flowers later, but for now, I am pretty happy with my work. I have to say, I hauled most of these rocks, armful by armful from down hill where Bob and I had tossed a bunch during construction. It about wore me out, but I figure it was good exercise and I earned a lot of Weight Watcher's Activity points in the process. A win-win all the way around. 
I added some ferns to the  hosta and  lilly of the valley I planted under the stairs last fall

So, after this was done, and I planted 4 blueberry bushes, 2 raspberry bushes, a false indigo, some lemon thyme and a plum tree, Bob reminded me that we had another pile of rocks down by the cabin. And,  you may not know this about me, but I  LOVE rocks. So, I got my trusty wheel barrow and Bob and I loaded it up and then unloaded at the house. This is my fancy wheelbarrow.

Seriously, it is so much better than a regular wheelbarrow. I just put it in 4 wheel drive, spread the tarp over the cargo area and load it up. Bob and I put about 5-6 loads in there, and then I drove it uphill and then we unloaded. I had enough to finish off the front of the house. [Notice the blossoms of the cherry tree in the upper right corner next to my red wheelbarrow? I am going to love that tree!]
 Here are a couple of before shots of the back of the house. See the river birch in the middle and the Forest Pansy Red Bud [with purple leaves] further down?

The bushes are holly, boxwood and blueberry. And, I put a low growing lilac on the corner.There are raspberries in the tub with comfrey and creeping phlox around it.

 This is the after photo, the side  of the house with the rock border.

Here is the back with the border. You can see why I was glad I had my fancy wheelbarrow, can't you?

Bob had other jobs to do.  He wrestled with the tiller to till up a nice flower bed for me to plant wildflowers.  This is about the only ugly place at the farm, right next to the telephone pole. I planted a Red Twig Dogwood bush that my sister gave me by the guy wire and also some day lillies and a falst indigo that my friend Linda gave me in that area. The rest will be seeded with wildflowers.

He also mowed and had the place looking great!


Take care,

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What does the Bible say about...

If you travel in Christian circles at all, you will see and  hear this comment in various forms a lot. People quote the context and out of context. They spout of what they think is the truth and then add that "God said it in the Bible." And so it goes.

And I guess if we got a bunch of people together we could basically agree on what the Bible says. I mean, even if we used different versions, we could probably mostly agree what it says.

But, what does it mean?

Many, many self proclaimed Bible believing Christians interpret the Bible and then tell everyone that they believe what the Bible says, while earnest Bible believing Christians of a different flavor believe something quite different about the very same passages. If we think we are the only ones that are right, I think we will be surprised when we finally meet Him face to face.

I mean, if the Bible were so easy to understand that if you read it and believed it and followed it, then all the other believers around the world and through history would be in agreement about it. After all, they read and believe the Bible too. But, all you have to do is drive around even a small town and see the variety of Christian churches to see that simply reading and believing the Bible does not mean that you know the truth. If it did,  then why are there Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran, Seventh Day Adventist, Anglican, Christian, Missionary Alliance and a host of other churches? They all believe the Bible, but they interpret it differently.
Take any leader/founder of any denomination and you will see that their interpretation of the Bible is not exactly the same as another leader/founder of a different denomination.Was John Wesley more or less Christian than John Calvin? Even though they all believe the Bible, and can agree what it says, what it means is another story.
And truthfully, I am pretty sure that they all have some of God's absolute truth and they all have some misconceptions or things they see dimly.

It really bothers me when one denomination, church, group or person claims to know exactly what the Bible means and they proclaim that anyone who sees it differently has gone astray or is on the wrong path. What makes them so sure?

I live next door [and actually live between the parking lots of]  a Wesleyan Seminary that offers master's degrees in Divinity, Christian Education, Missions, Counseling and a few other things. My husband graduated from that seminary and what really struck him while he was a student was that they teach their theology [thinking about God] as THE truth and kind of minimize another seminary that offers the same degrees but prepares ministers for service in another denomination.  Probably they minimize our next door seminary. Yet, they both use the same Bible, have learned professors and excellent reputations. Who's right?

God knows. And I bet He can't believe how different our beliefs are when we all believe that the Bible is His truth and we believe the Bible. And, I am convinced that there are truths and errors found in every   church and theology around.God's truth doesn't change. But even sincere people of faith interpret that truth differently and I don't believe that any one person had it exactly right.

May we all be a bit more understanding of each other; love and encourage each other, and know that as believers we are part of the one true church and much of the differences between us don't change the way we are to live and the fact that Christ died for all of us. And that is Good News.

Take care,

Monday, April 9, 2012

Inverse Parenting...Time again for my annual post

Me reading to two of my granddaughters
This is something I have posted before, but because I have had several people tell me it was helpful to them, I thought I would post it again here. 

Something has been bothering me for a long time and it is what I call "Inverse Parenting." You see it all the time, but I don't know that it really has a name. I thought about this when my kids were little but felt like I needed to try it for a long time to see if my theory was correct. I am not sure this is scientific at all, but my kids are 22-34[four sons, one daughter] and it has proved true with us.

Good parenting should look like this...Hold your babies close and as they become aware of more, make sure to impose limits and teach right from wrong. Make sure they will mind know when you say they need to do something they do it, they don't say "no" and get away with it. You will have to be diligent as "folly is bound up in the heart of a child." But you must be in control, and they must learn to be under your authority. They will likely be under some authority all their lives, so they may as well learn when they are young. I don't mean for you to be rigid and mean, but to be consistent and firm when it comes to discipline. Your motivation should always be for the greater good of the child, and to lead out of love, but many times this requires you to tirelessly work with them to stay within the rules, treat others with respect and so on.

As the children grow you can begin to let go; so by the time they are in their early teens they have more privileges, they can make more decisions and have more freedom. This should increase with age until the child is an adult. At that time, they become accountable to God. This is important--with age comes more responsibilities and more freedom.

But, what I see is INVERSE PARENTING. This looks like the whole world revolving around the child. The parent asks the child's opinion on many things, lets the child say things that a child ought not say, like "I hate you," or "You can't make me," or "I won't eat this," and so forth. Many children do this, but they should not get away with it. But, in inverse parenting the parent looks the other way, or tries to talk the child through it, or thinks it is cute.

As time passes, the child usually becomes more demanding, less respectful of all authority and the parent finds that when the child becomes a young teen they are harder and harder to manage. At this time the parent tries to pull in the reigns, be more strict, set firmer limitations at the very time when they should be letting go. I have seen this over and over again with so many families that I know. And rarely does it work.

These children usually go through a very rebellious teen time, and many times do come out OK in the end, but they sure upset the family in the process. It is so much more enjoyable for the whole family and society in general when the child is obedient in young years. Good parenting is much more likely to produce likable teens and responsible adults than inverse parenting.

I know it is not easy to be consistent with young children. I know it can drain you to correct them and train them-but the rewards are great and I think you owe it to your children.

Take care,

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Science trumps Math in weight loss...

Kari by our woodstove.
As most of you know, I have been following Weight Watchers and doing the online program for about 9 months. So far I am down 62# with about 13 more to go to reach what WW says I should weigh. I think 3 more pounds should do it, but I am going to go down the extra 10 and see how that works for me.

At any rate, anyone who has ever tried to lose weight usually runs into a road block where they are doing all the right stuff, but they don't lose any more. You almost have to go into starvation mode to lose weight and even then if you breathe warm cookie fumes, you gain. 


I have read in various places that your body slows down its metabolism if it thinks food sources are scarce, so that you don't starve to death too fast. It is the body's natural mechanism to keep you alive as long as possible. But, if you are overweight, you are not starving to death, just trying to burn fat. 

And then you read some dieting strategies or talk to a doctor and they pretty much always speak mathematically. Just use more calories than you consume and you will lose weight. It is math, calories in have to be less than calories used up. Mathematically simple.

The problem? It doesn't work. 

 Talk to anyone who has lost a lot of weight, or dieted for a few months and they will tell you that it doesn't work. If they tell their doctor that, they are usually told that they need to measure what they eat, track every mouthful and also the doctor secretly believes they are cheating.

But, what if they're not? What if our body is doing what it was designed to do...keep us alive during times of starvation?

And that's where science saves the day for dieters. This idea is not unique to me, but it makes sense and in a practical sense it has worked for me. I read up on something called the Wendie Plan [link below] and suddenly it all made sense.

 The body is not a calculator, calories in have to be less less than calories expended, it is more like a wood burning stove--which I know a lot about. If you put in lots of fuel and light it and give it enough air, it burns fast and furious till the fuel burns down then it kind of glows. If you put in more fuel it burns like crazy again.

Our bodies seem to be like this. So, if you want to lose more weight after being stalled [or on a plateau as dieters like to say] eat more food one day. I am not saying to eat a bag of M&Ms, but eat more food. Add some bread, extra protein, maybe a couple of cookies and some good fat. Get that fire roaring. Your body will increase its metabolism to burn the fuel [because now it realizes you aren't starving]. 

THEN, and this is the secret, the next day or two, eat the minimum you usually eat and your fast metabolism will burn those calories faster, then burn fat before it realizes you are in starvation mode again [not really starvation, but eating lesser calories].
I am totally convinced that with dieting science trumps math.

 Calories in and calories out don't really make sense a lot of the time. But the science of metabolism does make sense. I think it must be the science of metabolism that works in conjunction with the mathematics of calories. 

 Just reducing calories doesn't work for a long time because your metabolism slows down to compensate, but eating a ton just to keep metabolism up doesn't make sense either because I think we can all attest to the fact that we gain weight.

I think the conclusion that Wendie makes that we need to have a couple of higher calorie days scattered throughout the week [but keep those within our weekly point/calorie limit] keeps our body guessing so that it burns the food more effectively and keeps us losing. It is hard to eat more on some days though, because our natural tendency is to eat less to lose more, but it pays off over and over again. 

Science trumps math.

You can read more about the Wendie Plan (using the old Weight Watchers point system) here. Basically Wendie did a lot of research and realized what I outlined above. She recommends following the Weight Watcher Plan on not eating more than what WW allows for the week, but loading some days with higher points and other days with the minimum points.

  I wonder why doctors haven't figured this out? 

Take care,

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I am a Homeschool Carny...

Did you ever go to fair or a carnival when you were a kid? Do you remember the guys who would holler out to you as you went by, “Three shots for a dollar!” “Try your luck!” “See the bearded lady”…Carnies.

And I am one.

Back, and back again I remember when the carnival came to town.  Mud encrusted vans and trucks pulled up into a deserted farm field that the day before had been home to bunny and bird. There was slamming and banging, men and woman jumping out of the vehicles and scurrying to replicate some grand theme park.

Catalogs ready to go.
With pneumatic tools and lots of muscle, Ferris Wheels, Tilt-A-Whirls and my personal favorite-- The Scrambler-- would rise from the trucks and dust, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. The bright plumage of the rides made the brown field look old and tired.
My Carnival, ready and waiting.
 Then, when the last rivet was in place, families and young lovers would stream into the area with bright happy faces and change in their pockets. The Carnies would beckon from their booths to come spend your money with them.

They always seemed a bit over-anxious and scary to me. I kept to the middle of the aisle, lest one should force me to spend my quarter trying to shoot too-big balls into small hoops. The glitter from the outside seemed a bit scary when I was on the inside.

Books and Banners--kind of like a ring toss!
When the lights went out on that final night, and all that could be found were the cast off cheap stuffed toys and the sticky cotton candy cones, and when all good children were home in their beds—then the Carnies began the rather depressing job of taking down the magic. And, before dawn, the carnival was gone and all that remained was a dust-bowl field with large gaping cracks in the earth, devoid of grass, fun or anything shiny. 

In our sparkly convention clothes-notice no sequins!
Several years ago a circus came to a field about a mile from here. It was much the same, but less glitzy. An actual elephant helped to raise the “Big Top” and it was glorious to see. It was during the week, on a school day, so the only people out watching were the myriad of homeschoolers in our area. Even as an adult, the glory and wonder of it are etched in my memory.

Tigers and lions lounged in giant, open sided semis that were fitted with strong iron bars as one triumphant elephant used her enormous gray head to straighten a tent pole. The men, sweaty and strong, pounded in huge tent stakes. It was the stuff of story books and Disney movies, and we were there. I didn’t see the circus that year because I gave my ticket to one of my older sons, but the memory of that old field becoming a circus lingered in my thoughts long after the elephant was lead to her semi and traveled to the next town, and the one after that.

Ready to go to the next town.

I sell homeschool curriculum at state conventions; this is my 14th season. Last year while I was packing up to go home after The Midwest Convention in Cincinnati, which hosted  5000 families, something occurred to me that I had never thought of before,

"I am a Carny.” 

Our Circus Wagon.

I roll into town in my large pick-up truck and we back into the loading dock of the convention hall. We haul hundreds of pounds of catalogs, books, racks, flooring and more to a forlorn looking 10x30 foot space and begin the hard, sweaty work of making it into a curriculum showcase.

The Big Top after the show is over.
Foam floors are fitted together, shiny tablecloths cover tired tables, book racks unfold and open their arms to hot-off-the-press books. We raise banners with nothing but our strength and crawl under tables to hook up the electricity so that the computer and DVD player will spring to life.

We put on our sparkly carnival clothes, comb our hair, pinch our cheeks so we look healthy, put on our smiles and wait for the doors of the convention hall to open. Our adrenalin is pumping as the doors open and we can’t wait to be an encouragement to homeschool parents.

 I think moms can understand best what it feels like when those convention doors open. It is a lot like labor--when the contractions come over you, and you can feel them coming, and all you can do is meet them head on, stay focused and wait for them to do their work.

Conventions are like that.

The doors open and the people rush in in waves, all wanting to see what we have in our booth—all wanting to talk to us. We meet them head on, stay focused and we go to work, helping them as well as we can. We stand at the front of the booth and beckon them to come in…”See our curriculum. It is the best. We can help you teach your children.  Throw a ball—make a basket—read our books!"

Yep, I am a Carny, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When the lights go down, and the crowds go home, all the education and fun and glitz go back in the tubs. The shiny tablecloths go back in the box, the tables fold up, and we unplug our gadgets, put on our jeans and tee-shirts and are off.

It is kind of sad to look at the littered floors and ugly black extension cords lying around like orphaned puppies—but that is the life of a Carny. Move to the next town, jump out of the truck and do it all over again.

I am a Homeschool Carny—who would have thought?

Take care,

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Great Supper tonight...

Tonight I tried two new recipes and they were both great and low in fat/Weight Watcher points.
I forgot to take photos so you will have to use your imagination.  The first one is

Skinny Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes adapted from the Sparkpeople website:
This is enough for 4 people, 3 points per serving.

  • I garlic bulb. Separate the cloves [leave them in their skins]  and put in an oven safe dish, drizzle with a tsp of olive oil and place the dish uncovered in  a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes till the garlic is golden brown and soft. Remove from oven and let cool.
  • Take 20 oz of raw yellow potatoes, cut into 1/2s or 1/4s and boil on the stove till done.I didn't peel these, but if you used baking potatoes with thick skin you would have to. When done, drain potatoes.
  • Heat 1 cup of veggie or chicken stock to boiling.
  • Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves to release each clove of garlic. Mash the garlic with a fork and throw away the skins.
  • Mash the potatoes with a potato masher, add the garlic and enough broth to make them the consistency you like. Add salt and pepper and if needed some garlic powder. 
I made these up a bit early then just nuked them when we were ready to eat. Each serving is 3 Weight Watcher Points plus and it is quite a big serving.

I made a new chicken recipe too, and it was easy and good. It was from Taste of Home's Healthy Cooking magazine. Using a 6 oz chicken breast, each serving is 7 points [11 gr fat, 2 g carbohydrate, trace fiber and 38 g protein. 

Enchilada Chicken [4 servings]

4 boneless skinless chicken halves-6 oz each
2 tsp salt free southwest seasoning blend. I used Penzey's Arizona seasoning and 1 cube of chipolte seasoning-like a bullion cube
1 T olive oil [If you upped this to 4, you could count it as your healthy oil]
1/4 C Enchilada sauce [I used green, but perhaps red would be better]
1/2 C shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 T minced fresh cilantro [I used a sprinkle of dry since I didn't have fresh]

Sprinkle chicken with seasoning blend. In an ovenproof skillet, brown chicken in oil. Top with Enchilada sauce, cheese and cilantro. I used a cast iron frying pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-40 minutes [depending on thickness of the meat] until a thermometer reads 165 degrees.

I added some steamed broccoli and cauliflower [frozen] and it was a really tasty dinner for only 10 points.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dark Chocolate Chewy Cookies...

I love chocolate. I mean, most of you probably knew it, but just in case I haven't said it lately, I really love chocolate. I follow a really great food blog called Baked Perfection and everything I have ever tried is really good.

So, I tried  her double chocolate cookies and found that she adds a box of dry instant pudding mix to her cookies. I am telling you what, they really make the cookies soft and long lasting. A really excellent addition.

So, today I made a batch of these wonderful and tried one just to be sure. Yep, they are awesome! You may be saying to yourself, "Isn't she trying to lose weight? Is she cheating on her diet?"

Yes and no.  I am losing weight but I am not cheating. With Weight Watchers you can eat anything as long as you track it and it stays within your point allowance. I have allowed myself to eat two today. One thing I do in order to restrict my eating and yet indulge my absolute love for cookies, is I dip all the dough out into cookie balls and then quick freeze them on a cookie sheet, bag them and then just bake 1-2 cookies when I plan for them. It is a win-win. I mean, if I am going to use 3 points for a cookie, I want it warm and delicious.

Here they are, frozen into balls. You can see I have already bagged a bunch of them. It only takes about 20-30 minutes for them to freeze. When you want a cookie bake the amount you want at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes or so.

So, here is the recipe. Adapted from Baked Perfection.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Beat together in a mixing bowl till creamy:

            2 sticks butter [1 cup]
            2/3 C granulated sugar
            2/3C brown sugar
            1 tsp vanilla extract
            2 eggs, one at a time beating after each one

Mix together in another bowl and then add slowly to butter mixture:

            2  C flour
            2/3 C baking cocoa [dry]
                        1 tsp baking soda
                        ½  tsp salt
                        1 package chocolate instant Jello Pudding, the dry mix, not prepared, 4 serving size

            Stir only to combine all ingredients. Do not beat. Add:

                        2 Cups [12 oz] chocolate chips or 1 2/3 Cups M&Ms
                        1 Cup chopped walnuts or pecans [optional]

Stir till chocolate chips are combined. Do not beat or over mix.

Drop cookie dough onto greased or parchment lined cookie sheets. For large [rounded Tablespoon size] cookies for 11-13 minutes till cookies are puffed and centers are set. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

And for regular chocolate chip cookies that stay soft and chewy:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Beat together in a mixing bowl till creamy:

            2 sticks butter [1 cup]
            ¾ C granulated sugar
            ¾ C brown sugar
            1 tsp vanilla extract
            2 eggs, one at a time beating after each one

Mix together in another bowl and then add slowly to butter mixture:

            2 ½ C flour
                        1 tsp baking soda
                        1 tsp salt
                        1 package vanilla instant Jello Pudding, the dry mix, not prepared, 4 serving size

            Stir only to combine all ingredients. Do not beat. Add:

                        2 Cups [12 oz] chocolate chips
                        1 Cup chopped walnuts or pecans [optional]

Stir till chocolate chips are combined. Do not beat or over mix.

Drop cookie dough onto greased or parchment lined cookie sheets. For large [rounded Tablespoon size] cookies for 11-13 minutes till cookies are puffed and centers are set. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

And for another taste treat I made on Sunday--brownies on the bottom and chocolate chip cookie dough on top, baked till soft and delicious. Also adapted from Baked Perfection.  Also, a bonus recipe of Turtle Brownies.


(1) Make a batch of the chewy chocolate chip cookies above—you won’t use all the dough.

(2) Make a batch of Brownies for Kids or a box mix [for a 9x13 pan].

9x13 pan

1 1/2C flour                 2 sticks butter
2 C sugar                     4 eggs
3/4C dry cocoa            2t vanilla                    

Combine all ingredients.  Beat with mixer for 2 minutes.

Put the brownie batter in a well greased 9x13 or larger pan, I like 10x14 Pyrex and spread evenly. You can either mold the cookied dough into flat sections and place over brownie batter or just drop tablespoons of it onto the brownie batter. Push the dough down so it is even with the brownie batter. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cookie portion is brown and the brownies are set.

These are delicious and very rich.


Make a batch of Brownies for Kids [above].  Spoon 2/3 of the batter in the bottom of a greased  9x13 baking pan.
Sprinkle 1 cup of chocolate chips [mini or regular size] over batter.
Bake 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and set aside.

Meanwhile in a large saucepan, heat over low heat until melted:

            1- 14oz package of caramels, unwrapped
            1-14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

Pour caramel mixture over baked brownie layer. [Optional: sprinkle with pecan pieces.]

 Drop remaining brownie batter over caramel by teaspoonfuls. Spread batter with an offset spatula till even.

Bake 35-40 minutes longer or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with moist crumbs. Do not over-bake. Cook on a wire rack. You may want to sprinkle with Powdered sugar before serving.

Take care,