Happy 100th Birthday

Today is the 100th birthday of the Girl Scouts. As a former Girl Scout and a friend of several former employees, I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by to share another delicious recipe that uses Girl Scout cookies.

It’s funny because when I think about politics, I think back to being a Girl Scout. In 1988, I was a 5th grader at Wisner Elementary School and a fourth year scout. For Girl Scouts, we decided to help clean-up our community after the election by helping remove political signs. But I also remember our school setting up a mock Presidential election. I recall lots of kids having some very distinct opinions about who they thought should be President. I’m pretty sure those kids were just spewing whatever their parents were saying at home. It’s interesting because I don’t really recall my parents discussing politics.

I know it was the first election I started asking my own family about who they were voting for and why. My dad always went to vote after he closed the station. I’m pretty sure he allowed me to tag along with him to the City Auditorium when he went to vote that year. My Grandma Fletcher told me how women gained the right to vote when her mother was just 10 years old. Grandma Kingston made a point of voting in every election because she knew recognized the importance of this powerful right to have her voice heard. And for many year’s, my Grandma Fletcher served an election poll worker (an opportunity I had to do for my country in 2010).

Like political elections, Girl Scouts opens up the world to all sorts of possibilities for girls. Remember that the next time a Daisy, Brownie, Girl Scout, or Cadets ask you to order cookies.

Lemon Crunch Cheesecakes with Caramel Apple Topping (source – some Girl Scout Council website)

8 Lemonades Girl Scout Cookies (5 crushed and 3 broken into small pieces)
4 tsp. melted butter
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 c. finely chopped apple
1/3 c. caramel flavored topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place 6 baking cups in a muffin tin. Combine crushed cookies and butter. Press in bottom of muffin cups. Beat cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla using an electric mixer. Stir in cookie pieces. Spoon batter onto crust. Bake for 20 minutes or until centers are almost set. Cool. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. Just before serving, remove cheesecakes from muffin wrappers. Top each with chopped apple and drizzle with caramel topping. Serve immediately.

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Food and Faith

I’m from Nebraska, home to a lot of practicing Catholics. Although I am not personally one (I grew up Methodist), half my family is Catholic. About a half dozen even went to Catholic schools. This time of year, that means many people I know will be eating fish or non-meat dishes on Friday. Probably every small town in Nebraska has a fish fry on Friday nights during lent. It may be at the Knights of Columbus Hall or your local VFW/American Legion. Chances are if you are in Norfolk, my uncle Jerry will probably be serving you.

As a kid, I remember spending a lot of time with my Grandma Fletcher. I always used to love to ride up to Wayne with my mother when she went to work so I could go hang out with Grandma Fletcher. My Grandmother became Catholic the year I was born (this is also the same year my Grandpa Fletcher gave up smoking). She grew up Methodist and raised her family in the church. Her mother, my Great Grandma Kingston, was a devote Methodist. Until her family took the keys to her car away from her, Grandma Kingston drove to church every Sunday. And even in the Wayne Care Center, Grandma Kingston watched her church live on local television. I’ll never forget as a child when Father Jim was at my Grandma and Grandpa Fletcher’s house. My Great Grandma introduced herself by saying, “Hello, my name is Ella. I am Shirley’s mother. I’m a good Methodist.” Father Jim responded by saying, “I’ve never met a bad one.” Oh loved Father Jim, he made you want to be Catholic.

My Grandma Fletcher was very involved in her church. My grandma did everything from attending daily Mass to hosting Bible study at her house to taking communion to the homebound. One of the coolest things Grandma Fletcher did though was made baptismal bibs with the names of each child baptized and the date as a keepsake for their families.

On Good Friday, Stephanie and I would usually join Grandma Fletcher as we walked the Stations of the Cross. It’s was really cool because all the faith denominations worked together on this event. We walked all over town, visiting several churches along the route. After we completed the cross walk, Grandma would take us to Godfather’s for the lunch buffet.

Back in those days, I thought it was so weird they served fish on a pizza. But when you have a lot of people observing lent, I guess that makes sense. I think my aunt Irene’s mother Mary told me once that practicing Catholics used to eat fish ever Friday, not just during lent season. I guess it was something the church changed over the years.

Although I know my Catholic friends have a lot more options that fried fish sticks for their lent feast, I thought I would share a recipe for a more savory salmon fillet. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did when I sampled it earlier this week.

Grilled Salmon with Garlic Mayo by Donna Noel (Taste of Home cookbook)

3 T. plus a teaspoon of olive oil, divided
½ tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
4 salmon fillets
8 garlic cloves, peeled
1 T. lemon juice
¾ c. mayo
2 T. plain yogurt
1 T. Dijon mustard

Spray the grill rack with cooking spray. Combine 3 T. olive oil and rosemary; drizzle over salmon. Place salmon skin side down on grill rack.

Grill covered over a medium heat for 10-12 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Meanwhile, microwave garlic and remaining oil on high for 20-30 seconds or until softened. Transfer to a blender and add remaining ingredients. Cover and process until blended. Serve with salmon.

Notes:

  • I substituted light mayo, honey dijon mustard, vanilla non-fat yogurt, and garlic powder in this dish. I think the sauce turned out fine but probably a little sweeter the original sauce.
  • I also think this sauce would be good with other types of fish – so test it with your favorite.
  • I halved this recipe and only ate 3 oz. of salmon per meal.
  • I made the Betty Crocker Twiced Baked Potatoes to go with this recipe. If you are looking for something a little healthier, I would suggest asparagus.

From Nebraska

I kind of feel like that cheesy “Hello Nebraska” song they used to run in the KOLN/KGIN 10/11 promos. But the truth is that some of my favorite foods come from Nebraska. For example, my Grandpa Fletcher will only eat Wimmers hot dogs (made in West Point). With their natural casing, they really are my favorite dogs too. I usually buy Martha Gooch pasta (made in Lincoln) to make my Great Grandma Reith’s Spaghetti. My mother uses Dorothy Lynch salad dressing (made in Duncan) to make her deviled eggs. Bakers Chocolates (made in Greenwood) make the best mint and caramel meltaway candies. And one of the first bottles of wine I feel in love with was Edelweiss by James Arthur Vineyards (made in Raymond). Many of these things can be purchased at one of my favorite stores in Lincoln’s Haymarket District – From Nebraska.

In a previous post, you may have noticed my aunt Irene posted that she is usually requested to bring Deviled Eggs to family get together. She does make delicious deviled eggs. I’ll be honest though, I’ve always been a little apprehensive about using vinegar to make deviled eggs. My Grandma Fletcher used way too much one Easter. Although my Deviled Eggs aren’t as good as my aunt Irene’s, they are super easy and pretty tasty. Consider giving this recipe a try when you don’t know what to do with all those leftover dyed Easter eggs.

Deviled Eggs by Kathy Bourek

Eggs
Dorothy Lynch Dressing

Hard boil eggs to desired consistency. Peel off shell and cut in half. Spoon out yolk. Mix Dorothy Lynch Dressing with yolks and beat until smooth. (Add enough dressing so it is creamy and taste good – I can’t give you an exact amount.) Spoon the creamy yellow mixture back into egg halves. Refrigerate until you serve.

Notes:

  • For those of you who don’t live in Nebraska, you can pick-up Dorothy Lynch at Hy-Vee grocery stores. They also sell Wimmers hot dogs and Martha Gooch pasta.

Mini-Muffins

Today’s recipe is from People Magazine (5/2/11). Yes, I know that is a celebrity publication. But just like the crossword puzzle and the ten changes picture, People Magazine has a weekly celebrity dish.

My sister is a People Magazine junkie. I often joke that my sister doesn’t know it is news until she reads it in People. Perhaps part of the reason that is true is because my sister works so many jobs (Music Teacher, Student Council Advisor, Private Voice/Piano Lesson Teacher, Youth Group Leader, Church Accompanist, and Mom) that she never really sits down and watches television. The one thing she does do though is read her People Magazine every week from start to finish. And don’t even try talking to her when she is reading it, she hears nothing.

My sister is great though about sharing her magazines with me when we see each other. After I am finished, I take them to SAFEHOME for the clients to read.

Strawberries and Cream Mini Muffins by Nigella Lawson

1 c. strawberries, slightly under-ripe, diced
1 squeeze of lemon juice (I just used the bottle kind)
1 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/3 c. sour cream (I used the light kind)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 tsp. powder sugar

Put strawberries in a bowl and spritz with lemon juice. Stir gently. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, and baking powder. In a small bowl, beat together oil, sour cream, vanilla, and egg. Pour over dry ingredients and stir. Fold in berries. Divide batter between 24 mini-muffins. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-14 minutes. Cool 5 minutes and transfer to wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Note: I halved this recipe and it made 18 mini-muffins. For a prettier muffin, use paper liners.

Drink Your Calories

I’m not sure where I got this recipe but it is another one of my Weight Watcher’s recipes. I tired this recipe for the first time the other night because I was trying to use up some milk. It’s only 2 Weight Watcher’s points so I figured I wasn’t really adding extra calories to my milk. I’ll be honest, it doesn’t really taste like a delicious Goodrich malt or a Starbuck’s Caramel Frapp but it is OK.

Chocolate Shake

1 c. skim milk
2 tsp. Jello brand Sugar Free Instant Pudding (Must use this brand our your points increase to 3)
1 tsp. vanilla
8-10 ice cubes (the more you use, the thicker it gets)

Blend on high. Makes one serving.

2 Weight Watchers Points

Note:

  • Buy a good blender or use smaller ice cubes. This took me awhile to blend to the right consistency.
  • I used flavored soy milk and I think it turned out fine.
  • You can also add whatever flavor you want of Jello to change this shake.

Quick Substitutes and Baking Tips

  • Don’t want to wait 30-60 minutes for your butter to get softened? You can soften a stick of butter in the microwave. Unwrap and place microwave safe plate. Cook at 30% power for 15-20 seconds. 1
  • When recipes refer to baking pans, they are referring to metal pans. This is because they produce even, golden surface dishes. If you are like me and you prefer to cook with a glassware (because it dish-washer safe), note that glass dishes bake even faster than baking pans. You might need to modify your baking time on recipes to accommodate this change. 1
  • Evaporated skim milk can replace whipping cream in many recipes. If you decided to cook with reduced-fat evaporated milk, you might notice some changes texture and flavor. 1
  • What is the difference between evaporated milk and sweet condensed milk? Sweetened condensed milk is a mixture of whole milk and sugar where 60% of the water has been removed. Evaporated milk is unsweetened condensed milk. 1
  • Don’t have the fresh herbs on hand? You can substitute one Tablespoon of fresh herbs with one teaspoon of dried herbs. Remember to add at the beginning of a recipe though because it takes longer for dried herbs to come alive. 2
  • Have more fresh herbs from your garden than you can possibly use in the summer time. Cut them up and put them in an ice cube tray – approximately one Tablespoon per slot. Add water and freeze. Once frozen, remove from tray and store in a freezer tight container. This will provide you with fresh herbs when you need them during winter months. 3
  • To make ketchup from scratch: combine 1 c. tomato sauce, 1 tsp. cider vinegar, and 1 tsp.  sugar. Test to your taste liking. 2
  • If you are like me and you aren’t a huge mustard fan, you might not have a bottle in your fridge. I loved this suggestion to if you need to make special kinds of mustard. Combine 1 T. of dry mustard from your spice rack, 1 tsp. of water, 1 tsp. of vinegar (your choice of type), and a pinch of salt. Add honey or tarragon to make different kinds of mustard. 2
  • Have a recipe that calls for buttermilk but don’t want to go to the store and spend a fortune on a ½ quart size? Add 1 T. of lemon juice to a cup of milk. 2
  1.  December 2011/January 2012 issue of Taste’s of Home’s Simple and Delicious Magazine  (Get a free issue by clicking on the link)
  2. Rachael Ray Show featuring Sara Moulton on 2/21/12 (Watch the segment)
  3. Taste of Home Cooking School (Cooking Show in Lee’s Summit on 4/3/12 – $15 tickets went on sale 2/28 through The Examiner)

Jack Stack Beans

Fiorella Jack Stack is a Kansas City original. When people come to town to visit, I usually take them to Jack Stack. KC is known for a BBQ and I think Jack Stack does it best. Last summer, I took my friend Jen to their location on the Plaza for lunch. I think her exact quote was “If I knew I was dying, I would pick this as my last meal.” Although their meats are amazing, one of the reasons I love Jack Stack is because of their terrific side dishes.

In an earlier post, I posted the recipe for Fiorella Jack Stack’s Cheesy Corn. My friend Joe asked where the recipe was for their tasty baked beans. I searched the internet and sure enough, the Food Network had the recipe posted. I printed it off and decided to try it. I think it turned out pretty close the original. I didn’t have brisket though so I used some roast from another recipe I created for the meat. If you have to chose between the two sides, I would still pick Cheesy Corn first.

Jack Stack Barbecue Beans

1 – 32 oz. can of pork and beans (I bought the plain store brand so I didn’t mess up the taste)
1 c. chopped brisket
1 c. BBQ sauce (recommended Jack Stack Original)
4 heaping tablespoons of brown sugar
1 T. chili powder
1 t. liquid smoke
1/2 c. ketchup
1/2 c. water

Combine all ingredients in a 4 quart saucepan. Over a medium heat, bring beans to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook beans for 20 minutes or until a thick, soupy consistency is reached. Serve.

Notes:

  • They also noted you can cook this on the grill.
  • The recipe says it serves 4-6. I think it makes a lot more than that.

Flavor

As a child, my mother would sometimes cook roast in the Crockpot and other times in the oven. I always preferred the Crockpot while my sister preferred the oven. Part of the reason I liked the Crockpot better is because the meat was always softer.

This past December, my friends Jan and Scott invited me over for dinner. My friend Jan is a great cook and we always talk about what we have recently made. She pulled out all the stops: pot roast, homemade mashed potatoes, gravy, warm bread, carrots, appetizers, and salad. I made Cherry Crisp for dessert. Oh, it was soooooo good! I loved her roast because it was way juicy than anything I have ever prepared. If their is one lesson I’ve learned, ask someone how they made something you really enjoyed. Scott told me than Jan had used beef broth and they saved the leftovers to make beef stew. What a great idea – no waste.

I recently bought a roast when it was on sale. While digging through my recipe binders, I ran across this recipe to add a little flavor to my pot roast. It won 3rd Place in the January/February 2004 Quick Cooking magazine (now called Simple & Delicious). Although it was good the first time I eat it, I actually think the leftovers were even better.

Italian Beef Sandwiches by Jan Kent

1 beef tip sirloin roast (4 1/2 pounds)
1 can (14.5 oz.) beef broth
1 can (12 oz.) beer or beef broth
1 c. water
1/4 c. cider vinegar
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 envelope Italian salad dressing mix
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
10 Italian sandwich rolls (6 inches), split

Place roast in a 5 qt. slow cooker. Combine all ingredients except bread. Pour over roast. Cook 7-8 hours or until meat is tender.

Remove roast and shred meat with two forks. Return to slow cooker and heat another 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, spoon shredded meat onto sandwich rolls. Serve juice as a dipping sauce.

Recipe modifications:

  • I cut this recipe in half. I only used a low sodium beef broth and substituted garlic powder for a clove.
  • I think the sandwich might also taste good with a little melted swiss cheese.

Life Lessons

For two years, I served my country as a member of AmeriCorps (the domestic Peace Corps). I worked for the Comprehensive School Health Initiative (CSHI) & Nebraska Reads mentoring and tutoring children in Lincoln Public Schools. Primarily, I worked with Kindergartens through 3rd graders. Most of the children I started working with as 1st graders didn’t even know the sounds letters made. I spent 30 minutes a day working with them one-on-one to help them learn sounds and sight words. Once they learned their sounds, they would be accepted into Reading Recovery. This program gave children one-on-one time with a certified teacher to get them reading at grade level.  This program is so important because if a child gets behind in first grade reading, it’s even harder as the years go by to catch up.

Another part of our AmeriCorps program was to operate an after-school and summer program for at-risk kids. Our after-school wasn’t too hard but summer was one of the greatest challenges of my life. Imagine about 25 college aged adults (most with no teaching or childbearing experience) operating a summer camp. It was chaos! I came home the first week wondering how I was going to make it through the summer. I told myself, I needed to change my attitude and figure out a way to make it work. And sure enough, we did. I signed up for another year and it went 10 times more smoothly.

During our summer program, we pretended we were taking a world trip with our kids. Each week was a different continent. Since many of our kids really hadn’t even explored the city of Lincoln outside where they could walk or take a quick bus ride to, we worked hard to educate them about the world. One way we figured out how to do this was to host a party related to the continent we had studied every Friday. Most parties consisted of art projects, games, and foods of the region. It was a great way to open up the children’s worlds…but it also opened my world. I learned so much preparing lesson plans but also interacting with the children. It also opened my eyes to how difficult it is to be a teacher.

I don’t remember exactly when we made this recipe but I think it was the week we did Europe. I am pretty sure Laura Lee was the one who came up with the recipe. It’s super easy, so ask your kids to help.

Chocolate Croissants by Laura Lee Cornelison

1 package of refrigerator crescent rolls
16 Hershey’s Kisses (I like Milk Chocolate the best.)

Unwrap the Kisses. Unroll crescent roll into eight triangles. Put two Kisses back-to-back at the top of a triangle. Roll up like you would a normal crescent roll. Place on a baking sheet in a 375 degree oven for 11 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving so you don’t burn your tongue.

Note: If you don’t eat them all in the same sitting, just reheat in the microwave for a few seconds to warm the chocolate.   

Fresh Berries

I love fresh fruit. I probably always have. As a kid, I ate a lot of apples and oranges. But today, fresh strawberries are my favorite.

I am usually a little apprehensive about by strawberries this time of year. At Valentine’s Day, I spotted some in the market that looked good. I remind myself of the time Grandma Fletcher and I bought fresh strawberries from a roadside vender in Yuma, AZ this time of year. I took a chance and bought them. The berries were the perfect amount of sweet.

Although I enjoy strawberries plain, I also like to cook with them. Today’s recipe I believe comes from an old Taste of Home magazine. I can’t remember if it was Simple and Delicious or Cooking for Two. I hope you love this recipe as much as my sister and I do.

Strawberry Cheese Rolls

1 pkg. Crescent Rolls
4 oz. Cream Cheese
2 T. Sugar
1/2 cup Fresh Strawberries, cut

Unroll four rectangles. Mix cream cheese and sugar. Spread on rolls. Top with berries. Bake at 375 degrees for 11 to 13 minutes.

Notes:

  • I like to keep my berries fresh in a Tupperware FridgeSmart containers. They are totally worth the investment because they keep your fruits and veggie from getting hard and moldy.
  • I usually store the leftovers of this recipe in the fridge and warm up in the microwave before serving.
  • You can also substitute fresh blueberries in the recipe.