Monday, June 23, 2014

Secret Recipe Club: Whole Wheat Oatmeal Molasses Bread

Happy Reveal Day!! It's another edition of Secret Recipe Club, and for the month of June I had a blast meandering through Renee's blog Kudo's Kitchen.

I enjoyed reading about Renee - a mom to two grown son's, and wife for 30 plus years to a lucky man! She is very artistic and creative, and it was a joy to browse through both her painted art and kitchen art! Her comments about her sons appreciating her kitchen creativity now that they're grown has given me hope - my 15 year old is starting to get more comfortable in the kitchen but I still get plenty of eye rolls and exasperated faces (from him and my husband!!) when something new is (yet again) on the menu.

Just a FEW of the delectable treats that snagged my attention: Orange Honey Crescent Rolls, Bacon, Egg and Cheddar Scones, Cheddar Chive Biscuits,  Applesauce Cinnamon Chip Muffins, Chicken, Bacon, Avocado Calzones, and Chicken Beer Bake with Almonds!

Those are all seriously on my "I need to make these in the near future list"... I think I could have browsed and saved recipes for another couple hours if I'd let myself (I didn't even get all the way through 2014, much less into 2013 or later!!) I opted for something that had an ingredient that I just recently used for the first time in forever - molasses. I have had a container in my pantry for quite awhile (purchased for I don't even remember what, and then forgotten about and not even opened). I used it in this salmon recipe recently, and when I saw Whole Wheat Oatmeal Molasses Bread on Renee's site I said yes please!

Everyone in our house is VERY happy that this is the recipe I picked - it is absolutely fantastic. My husband and son both devoured two pieces fresh from the oven, and wanted more but we behaved ourselves (somewhat) and stopped after the two pieces. I had one first thing the next morning, toasted with some butter... mmm... This is a delicious, chewy, hearty bread with a hard to describe texture. Somewhere between a normal yeast bread and something like a quick bread or beer bread. The smell is dark and fragrant, but the taste is mild and just right. We will definitely use this one again!

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Molasses Bread

2 packages active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
3/4 cup warm milk (110 - 115 degrees)
1 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 1/4 cups boiling water
2 cups quick-cooking oats
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup dark molasses
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon salt
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

  1. In a small bowl, heat the milk and then stir in the yeast and sugar until dissolved. Set aside and allow yeast to proof.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, add the oatmeal and then pour the boiling water over top; stir gently to combine. Allow to rest 10 minutes so the water is absorbed and then stir in the butter, molasses, and the salt.
  3. In a third large bowl (I used the mixer of my Kitchen Aid), add in the all purpose and whole wheat flours, and combine. Next, add in the oatmeal mixture, stir a few times to begin blending and then add in the yeast mixture. Stir well, the dough is very heavy and thick. (I used the dough hook, and allowed it to blend for about 5 minutes to try to blend well and incorporate as much flour as possible). If you're not using a Kitchen Aid, knead thoroughly.
  4. Put the dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rise for approximately an hour in a warm environment. (I poured the dough out onto the counter, got rid of the excess flour in the bowl, poured in some oil and then put the dough back in).
  5. After the dough has risen, punch the dough down and pour dough onto a lightly floured surface (if the dough feels sticky, if not, the extra flour isn't necessary). Cut into 2 portions, shape into 2 loaves. Spray 2 loaf pans with cooking spray, place dough in the pans, cover and allow to rise a second time for 45 - 60 minutes.
  6. During the last 15 minutes of the rise, preheat oven to 350 degrees. When dough has risen, place in the preheated oven and bake 50 - 60 minutes or until golden, and they should sound hollow when tapped.
  7. Cool the loaves in their pans for about 15 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack to finish cooling. (Then try not to eat it all at once!)
My sweet girl is already 9 months old! Where is the time going??!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Creamy Wild Rice Chicken Casserole

I was challenged with creating a recipe using a jar of Classico's fresh sauce (I chose the 4 cheese Alfredo sauce) without using pasta. We love creamy chicken casserole dishes, and I wondered how this would work in place of a can of cream soup. It works beautifully! I really enjoyed the way this dish came out, and loved using the Alfredo sauce in place of a can of cream of mushroom! Delicious flavor and texture - it all worked really well together, and I really enjoyed the leftovers the next day. The cracker topping gets soggy in the refrigerator, so you can reheat in the oven if preferred.

Creamy Wild Rice Chicken Casserole

12 oz chicken, diced into bite sized pieces
1 cup wild rice blend
6 large mushrooms, sliced (I used a can of mushrooms, drained)
1 15-oz jar Classico 4 Cheese Alfredo Sauce
2 TBS olive oil
½ sleeve saltine crackers, crushed
3 TBS butter, melted, divided
Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare the rice according to package directions.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large non-stick skillet, melt 2 TBS of butter and sauté mushrooms over medium to medium-high heat. Remove mushrooms from pan, return skillet to heat and add 2 TBS of olive oil. When heated, add chicken and cook until browned. Season chicken with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.
  4. Spray a 2-qt baking dish with cooking spray. Combine cooked rice, cooked chicken, sautéed mushrooms, and ¾ of the jar of Alfredo sauce in the prepared baking dish. Mix well, and then spread remaining sauce over the top. Sprinkle crushed crackers evenly over casserole and drizzle 1 TBS melted butter over top.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes in preheated oven, until heated through and topping is golden.
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Friday, June 20, 2014

Ranch Corn on the Cob

I've been seeing a commercial with the original recipe (linked below) and it sounded so GOOD!! The last time I was at the grocery store I had to pick up a few ears of corn and give this a try and we all really enjoyed it. The ranch added a nice tanginess and flavor to the cooked corn, but honestly the best and most surprising thing to me was how DELICIOUS baked corn in the husk is! It was so tender, and the flavor was just better to me than it is when I boil it (which is how we typically make our corn). This is a wonderful way to cook corn, and I know I will definitely be using this method again!

Ranch Corn on the Cob slightly adapted from Hidden Valley

4 TBS butter
1/2 pkt (1 ounce) Hidden Valley® Original Ranch® Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix
4 ears fresh corn on the cob in husks


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place corn (leave in husks) on an oven rack, bake for 20 minutes.
  3. Melt the butter, stir in the ranch dressing seasoning mix.
  4. Remove husks and silk from the cooked corn, and slather ears with butter mixture.
My super sweet happy girl!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sweet Potato Casserole

This was a great "find" on AllRecipes - we were having steaks and needed a potato side dish, and had quite a few sweet potatoes to use (we had baked them earlier in the week, just to have on hand, but didn't have anything planned for them). I did a quick search for sweet potato casseroles and this recipe had great reviews. My son in particular is very happy I found and made this one - he absolutely LOVED it. It is VERY sweet - very dessert like, but if you like sweet potatoes, you should definitely give this one a try. It went well with steaks, salad, and some cheesy garlic bread for a very tasty and filling meal.

Sweet Potato Casserole slightly adapted from Mary48 on AllRecipes

2 1/2 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 TBS milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 TBS butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans (I used walnuts)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a small baking dish.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the mashed sweet potatoes, 1/4 cup melted butter, milk, sugar, vanilla, and egg. Spread the mixture in the prepared baking dish.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and flour, cut in the 2 1/2 TBS butter with a fork until mixture is crumbly, then stir in the chopped pecans (or walnuts). Sprinkle the nut mixture over the top of the sweet potatoes.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Eat the Pantry Challenge ~ Week 4

Week 4 of our pantry challenge started with some grocery items needing to be purchased. I picked up salsa, lettuce, and flour at the regular grocery store and then we went to Sam's Club and bought chicken, tortillas, Italian Seasoning, Taco Seasoning, canned mushrooms, oatmeal, cheddar cheese, eggs, milk, and mixed frozen fruit (for smoothies and for Lindsey's purees). We could have skipped the tortillas and mushrooms, but we felt we needed pretty much everything else pretty immediately. We use all of those items on at least a weekly basis. I thought we did really well at the store though - we bought only replacement items for things that had been used up, nothing new, nothing "snacky", nothing we consider to be extra.

Now that I've found a homemade recipe that we all really like and that works for everything from sandwiches to dinner rolls, I've been making bread once on the weekends and we're using that throughout the week for any bread needs. I can probably go at least another 2 weeks without needing anything new. Although, we're out of Caesar dressing and almost out of lettuce again (we eat salad a lot!!) and I'm sure both of those items are going to be requested within the next few days.


This week's meals included:


Pancakes (pancake Sunday!)

Tuna and Noodles

Hamburger Helper (with canned mushrooms, canned peas, and diced onion)

Chicken cordon bleu, mashed potatoes, and salad

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Homemade Baby Food ~ Plum and Pineapple Purees

Two more super easy and tasty purees for your little one!!

For the plums, I pitted and diced them, after washing them off and scrubbing the skins gently. Those I pureed fresh / raw (add a little water or juice to thin if needed).

For the pineapple I diced and then steamed for about 10 minutes, and then pureed, adding a little of the cooking water to thin.

With the pineapple, I used about half of it and froze it as just a pineapple puree; the rest I froze still in chunks and added them to other mixtures to create a couple different fruit blends (it goes well with just about anything - apple, mango, banana, watermelon, peach, etc.)

Lindsey didn't particularly like either of these on their own, but they blended well with other mixtures. Pineapple Peach, Plum Peach, Pineapple Plum, etc. Be creative!

Pineapple Puree

1 pineapple, outer skin peeled (make sure all "eyes" are removed), and cored


  1. Dice peeled and cored pineapple into chunks. Place a steamer insert into a large pot of water with about 1" of water in the bottom. Bring water to a boil. Add pineapple (just enough to fill the steamer basket), cover with a lid, and steam for approximately 10 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Add to blender, add enough cooking liquid to thin as necessary and blend until desired consistency is reached.
Plum Puree

5 - 6 ripe plums, gently scrubbed

  1. Cut in half, remove pits. Dice into small chunks and add to blender.
  2. Puree, adding water or juice as needed and blend until desired consistency is reached.

Snuggle time with daddy before bed.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Creamy Shrimp and Mushroom Pasta

I am always on the hunt for new easy meals I can add to my "go to for weeknight dinner" rotation, and this definitely gets added to that list. This was a rich, tasty, filing, and easy weeknight dinner. We served this with some cheesy garlic bread and a side salad and it was a wonderful meal!! My husband and son commented multiple times on how much they liked this one. I loved how quick and easy it was, and that it used ingredients I had in the fridge, pantry, and freezer! I'm sure this would be even better with some fresh mushrooms instead of canned.

Creamy Shrimp and Mushroom Pasta adapted from Chaos in the Kitchen

8-oz fettuccine
1 stick butter (8 TBS)
4 oz cream cheese (cut into small chunks)
1 can mushrooms, drained
1 TBS dried basil
1 TBS dried parsley
2 tsp minced garlic
1 cup shrimp, peeled and deveined (thawed under cold running water if frozen)
Parmesan cheese (optional)


  1. Fill a large pot with water, salt lightly and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions.
  2. Melt butter in a large non-stick skillet, add shrimp and cook a few minutes. Add in cream cheese, basil, parsley, and minced garlic. Stir gently until cream cheese is incorporated. If needed, add water from the cooking pasta to thin.
  3. Add mushrooms, allow to simmer a few minutes until heated through.
  4. Drain pasta and stir into the shrimp and sauce; toss to combine. Top with a little shredded Parmesan cheese if desired.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

As part of our pantry / fridge / freezer purge I have thrown a few things together to try out new combos / flavors and try to use up some ingredients. I had some cooked penne and edamame in the fridge along with some thawed chicken and decided to throw these ingredients together into a summer pasta salad and was really happy with how it all came together. Easy to tweak with more / less of ingredients, different cheese, different dressing, etc. Make it your own! I like it better the second day after the flavors had a chance to meld together and mellow. Yumm!

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

4 cups cooked penne pasta, cooled (about half a 16-oz box)
1/2 cup cooked edamame
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup ranch dressing
2 - 3 TBS bacon, chopped into small pieces
6-oz chicken, cooked and diced into bite sized pieces (season lightly with salt and pepper when cooking)

  1. Combine ingredients in a large bowl (or Tupperware), mix gently until evenly combined.
  2. Refrigerate and allow flavors to meld, if desired, or serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Eat the Pantry Challenge ~ Week 3

We started off this week with a small purchase at the grocery store - soy sauce, baking soda and bananas. We still did have some fruit (apples and oranges) so I probably should have skipped the bananas - but I eat one pretty much every day for breakfast so I bent the rules, a little!

See week 1 here, and week 2 here.

This week the pantry, fridge and freezer started out like this:

It's crazy how much cooking we've been doing, and yet how small of a dent I feel like we've been making! I thought for sure I would see a noticeable dent in SOMETHING by now - and though my grocery list continues to grow with things we've used up, it still feels like the pantry and freezer are still really full! I think this proves to me that we are using up the staples that we always use, and what continues to remain are all the "extras" that we just don't typically go through often or quickly. Things we bought for one reason or another, and then forgot about, and haven't made a point to use subsequently. I'm going to make a point to take the frozen lunches to work since those have been pretty much ignored for awhile. A lot of the smaller things in the freezer and pantry have been eaten; like the egg rolls and miscellaneous packages of chips / crackers, etc.

We discovered the joys of homemade bread again - I haven't made any in a long time and we were needing some buns and didn't have any so I made a batch. It was WONDERFUL and works for sandwiches, hamburgers, and dinner rolls. Love having a multi-purpose item like that in my arsenal! I am thinking it might become a staple around the house; it is so much better than store bought, I imagine a lot more cost effective, and I don't have to have 3 different packages of bread products since it covers so many!


Recipes we enjoyed this week (and we were still finishing up leftovers from last week):

Jill's Pork Tenderloin

Fluffy Homemade Hamburger Buns (great for burgers, sloppy joes, shredded BBQ, sandwiches, dinner rolls, garlic cheesy bread... and on, and on!)

Creamy Shrimp and Mushroom Pasta with salad

Easy Honey Mustard Mozzarella Chicken with Macaroni and Cheese

Cheddar and Bacon Chicken Sausages (baked in leftover honey mustard sauce from the chicken) with pasta salad (Caesar Suddenly Salad from the pantry) and frozen mixed veggies

Steak with sweet potato casserole, fried okra, salad, and cheesy garlic bread

Oat-rageous chocolate chip cookies