Category Archives: Dinner

Slow Cooked Sticky Chicken Drumsticks

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As Hemingway put it, we are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master. Mastering just one small element in the kitchen is no more than a wave on a boundless ocean. There’s always more to learn.

You’re probably wondering if all I do now is bake cake. Based on my last several posts, it would seem the obvious conclusion.

However, lately, as is usually the case, I’ve been cooking and experimenting with new recipes and ingredients more than ever, driven to broaden my horizons. In the past few weeks, I’ve started to work on the dinner roll/biscuit genre…with less than spectacular results…but a ton of determination. It’s truly an art to achieve a flaky, light, buttery biscuit…but get there I will.

I’ve also tried making corn tortillas with Masa Harina, a Mexican corn flour which I found in our local grocery store while cruising through the baking aisle, but I used too little water and don’t own a tortilla press, so I used a Ziploc and a rolling pin, which resulted in an odd shaped, crumbly…albeit quite tasty…mess.

There have also been a good share of successes, including doughnuts so soft and flavorful that they melt in your mouth…recipe forthcoming. My first cheesecake that I made at Easter that did not crack. A lovely espresso Kahlua fudge torte for a coworker. A double layer milk chocolate cake for my dad’s 80th birthday. ….yes…this is returning to cake again…

And finally, there is this sticky chicken recipe.

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I came up with this as a meatier play on slow cooked chicken wings…the kind so sticky, flavorful, fall-off-the-bone delicious, that you have to throw down your fork, roll up your sleeves, and dig in with your hands, mind focused on the task, and a ton of napkins.

Which is exactly what we did.

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I paired the drumsticks with a batch of spaetzle, the perfect accompaniment to balance out the sticky, sweet, spicy chicken. If you’ve never made spaetzle, give my recipe a try. It’s easy to make, and you don’t need a spaetzle maker…a simple colander will suffice. It’s even quite impressive, given the fact that it’s nothing more than flour, eggs, and milk combined to make tiny pillows of miniature dumplings bathed in a touch of melted butter and a shake of sea salt.

Slow Cooked Sticky Chicken Drumsticks

3 1/2 lb chicken drumsticks, skin removed
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 medium lemon
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ginger
2 Tbsp hot sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce

Place drumsticks in slow cooker.

Zest and juice the lemon. Add lemon zest and juice to a small saucepan. Press garlic cloves into pan using a garlic press. Then, add all remaining ingredients to the pan. Cook over medium heat until boiling, then simmer for a few minutes until sauce thickens. Remove from heat and pour over chicken. Cover slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours. (If you are rushed for time, you can simply combine the sauce ingredients and add immediately to the slow cooker without boiling first.)

After 4 hours, remove chicken from the slow cooker with a tongs. Pour juices from crockpot into a saucepan. Place chicken back in slow cooker and set to low.

Bring juices in saucepan to a rapid boil and continue boiling, whisking frequently, until sauce reduces by half. If necessary, combine 1 oz cornstarch with 1 oz cold water and whisk into sauce. Once thickened, pour over chicken, cover slow cooker, and cook for another 15-30 minutes or until ready to serve.

Coming Soon: More recipes…many of which may still have something to do with cake. Sorry. I’m slightly obsessed.

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Sweet Italian Sausage Stuffed Pork Chops

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Some days just call for comfort food…real, hearty, stick to your ribs comfort food. On those days – days where the snow continues to pile up and we begin to doubt that spring will ever come – stuffed pork chops just seem like the right thing to make.

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This recipe looks fancy, and it is. It’s definitely a “company’s coming” sort of dish, and it does take some prep time. But it’s not all that tricky. Spoken from a girl who was afraid to attempt anything so fancy or tricky until recently.

The truth is: I cook from scratch every single day now. So much so, that it takes a really impressive dish to truly wow my family. Homemade dinners from scratch, whether it’s pizza, or mac and cheese, or calzones have become commonplace rather than intimidating. But this one, albeit initially intimidating, turned out to be fun to make and really delivered the wow. Continue reading

Deep Fried Chicken Nuggets & Onion Rings

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Here’s the conundrum: Is deep fried, “real” food any better for you than baked, processed food? Or does the deep frying negate the benefits of the real ingredients?

Hmmm…well, clearly, baked real food would be better than either option; but sometimes you’ve just got to go with what feels right and throw caution to the wind…

In our house, we use our deep fryer about once every month or two. When we do, it’s always for a special meal…typically fresh walleye in the summer months or pheasant nuggets in the fall. Recently, on a warm October afternoon, while our boys played their version of one-on-one flag football in the backyard, Matt and I relaxed on the deck, popped open a few cold Spotted Cows, and fried up some “real” chicken nuggets and onion rings. Continue reading

Easy, Fast, Creamy Mac & Cheese from Scratch

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Hunting season is upon us here in Minnesota. The air is crisp; the leaves are falling, and our extra freezer is bare – ready to be filled with a fresh batch of wild game.

Meanwhile, I’ve been on the hunt for a homemade mac and cheese recipe… Continue reading

Cheddar Jalapeno Popper Pasta with Crumbs

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Lesson learned: never chop jalapeños and then rub your eyes. Trust me. Ouch.

I’m growing jalapeños in my garden this summer and have been looking for new recipes to try so that we can use them up.

Tonight I made a recipe I found while searching for jalapeño popper recipes. It combines the zing and flavor of traditional jalapeño poppers with pasta and crunchy breadcrumbs…perfect for a quick and easy meal. Continue reading

Slow Cooked Whole Chicken and Blueberry Buckle

In early August, we spent a weekend at the family cabin to celebrate Grandma’s 65th birthday.

As chief chef, a title I’ve happily bestowed upon myself, I was in charge of the birthday meal and thought it would be nice to roast a chicken for the Saturday night birthday feast. The only problem was that summer Saturdays at the lake are primarily spent boating, tubing, canoeing, and 4-wheeling…activities away from the cabin that make supervising a roasting chicken a bit of a challenge.

Fortunately, I’ve had this recipe bookmarked on my recipes to try list for awhile, and this was the perfect occasion to do so: Best Whole Chicken in a Crock Pot

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For the chicken, I used a 4 lb all natural bird from Trader Joe’s. I switched up the spices to what we had on hand but otherwise followed the recipe as written, and it worked perfectly. While we were enjoying our day on the lake, the chicken was slow-cooking away, and when I transferred it to a serving plate, it did indeed fall right off the bone. We served it with a batch of garlic mashed baby reds and gravy made with the slow cooker juices. Delish!

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For dessert, I made blueberry buckle using this recipe I found online: Allrecipes Blueberry Buckle

The boys definitely preferred this version to the Gerber Blueberry Buckle they used to eat when they were babies.

The Oldest: Circa 2005

The Oldest: Circa 2005

After our feast, we lounged in the gazebo, and while we watched the sun set over the lake, we were greeted by this little visitor. His name is Fred.

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Two new recipes that got thumbs up by the fam to file away for the future, and we had plenty of chicken left over for chicken quesadillas the next day. Success!

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Double Cheddar Smothered Turkey Enchiladas

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I saw a few different versions of this white sauce enchilada recipe being pinned and repinned on Pinterest, so I thought I’d give it a try. It’s been awhile since we’ve tried a new enchilada recipe….our typical go-to version is one we call Creamy Enchilada Bake, and it uses a mix of sour cream and cream of mushroom soup on top with ground beef and refried beans inside.

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I’m not saying this new version is any healthier. Hello…butter…sour cream…shredded cheese. However, this version does eliminate the canned “cream of science experiment” soup, so it’s progress, right?

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If you have some leftover chicken on hand or perhaps some turkey in the freezer from the holidays, either would work just fine in this recipe. I used about two cups, but a little more or a little less won’t hurt anything. You could also add some rice, quinoa, or bulgur to add a bit more bulk to the tortilla contents. I just used what was on hand, and these came together perfectly for a hearty winter Sunday supper.

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Double Cheddar Smothered Turkey Enchiladas

For the Sauce
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup sour cream

For the Enchiladas
2 cups finely diced turkey (or chicken)
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp Frank’s hot sauce
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used chipolte cheddar inside the tortillas and 1 cup extra sharp white cheddar on top)
5-6 whole wheat tortillas

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in the flour. Slowly stream in the chicken broth, whisking continually. When thickening and bubbling, remove from heat and stir in sour cream. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the turkey, chili powder, hot sauce, and one cup of cheese. Divide mixture equally among the tortillas and roll up.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking oil. Layer tortillas in baking dish. Use a spatula to spread the sauce over the rolled tortillas. Sprinkle the second cup of cheese over the top. Bake for 20 minutes. Then, move dish to a higher shelf in the oven, turn on the broiler, and broil for 2 minutes or until browned, watched carefully so that the top does not burn. Remove from oven. Let sit for 5 minutes, and serve. Fresh diced tomatoes and avocado slices make a tasty addition to these.

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Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf with Chipotle Cheddar

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. We had our first big snowfall of the season this weekend. Over a foot of snow fell in the course of 24 hours.

I have to admit, I was probably even more excited than my kids to go play in the snow.

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We bundled up in our snowpants, jackets, hats, mittens, and boots and headed out for some winter fun. The snow was light and fluffy…perfect for sledding and making snow angels…but not quite ideal for snowmen.

So, what do we make for dinner on a snowy, weekend evening? Comfort food, of course. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

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I came up with this concoction based on what we had on hand. Most meatloaf recipes call for crushed crackers or breadcrumbs to bind everything together. I thought…why not try rolled oats??? And, instead of just ground beef, since we like a little kick, I used a combination of ground beef and hot Italian sausage.

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I also replaced the typical cheddar cheese with chipotle cheddar. And, for the piece de résistance, I layered a few strips of bacon on top.

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Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf with Chipotle Cheddar

1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb hot Italian sausage
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 egg
1 cup shredded chipotle cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp Frank’s hot sauce
1 small onion, diced
1/4 cup green pepper, diced
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
Dash of salt and pepper
A few strips of bacon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients except the bacon in a large bowl. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap. Dump mixture into loaf pan and press down with a fork. Invert loaf into a 9 x 13 baking pan. Discard plastic wrap. Cut bacon slices in half and layer over meatloaf. Bake for 60 minutes or until temperature reads 170 degrees. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before slicing.

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Serve with garlic mashed potatoes and salad. The salad in this picture is super simple: spinach, apples, almonds with lemon olive oil dressing (equal parts fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil whisked with a dash or sea salt and pepper).

Mozzarella Smothered Chicken with Mushroom Gravy


SO…I’m thinking I should have named this blog “How I Bribe My Kids To Get Them To Eat Well”…catchy, isn’t it? Before I get to the recipe, let me just start by saying we were mighty impressed by the deal that was brokered between the Youngest and the Oldest tonight at dinner, with the end result of dessert earned by all.

But, let me back up. You see, today was a busy day. It started with BACON. Yes, crispy bacon frying up in the pan. This morning. I know what you’re thinking: wait…it’s not even the weekend? Who has time to make bacon on a WEDNESDAY… on a workday??? Well, that, my friends, would be this crazy food blogger…yours truly…who got up an extra 15 minutes early to make some bacon for the Oldest as a special treat. Bacon is by far the Oldest’s favorite breakfast food. Not that he’d only eat it at breakfast. He would eat it noon or night, in the dark and in the light, with a fox, in a box…you get the point. And, it’s the only meat he will happily eat.

On the other hand, the Youngest hates bacon. Knowing this, I made something else that…I assumed…both would happily devour. Parfaits. Yogurt, Cheerios, and sliced berries. The Oldest chowed down his breakfast in less than 60 seconds. No lie. The Youngest gave me a look of disgust, announced that he no longer liked parfaits, gave his parfait to his brother (which the Oldest happily gobbled down, too) and proceeded to grab a cereal bar from the cupboard. Well, one out of two isn’t bad, right? Oh yeah, and the Youngest was also upset because bacon usually means pancakes (well, sure, on the weekend it does) and pancakes are the Youngest’s favorite breakfast food. This is when I threw up my hands and admitted defeat…at least for the morning.

Which brings me back to dinner. Fast forward through a hectic work day, topped off by an even more hectic rush to make it to swimming lessons, followed by a mad dash to get something on the table thereafter.

So, I made this:

Mozzarella Smothered Chicken with Mushroom Gravy

4 thick boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 package mushrooms, sliced
8 thin slices mozzarella cheese
2 Tbsp butter
½ cup milk
1 Tbsp cornstarch
Salt and pepper, to taste

Slice chicken breasts in half width-wise to make 8 thin breasts. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Brown over medium-high heat. Once breasts are cooked through and browned, transfer to baking dish. Top breasts with sliced mozzarella. Turn on oven to broil setting. Then, prepare gravy by melting butter over medium heat in same pan that chicken was cooked in. Use a fork to scrape the brown bits from the pan to incorporate with the butter. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 2 minutes. Mix the milk with the cornstarch and add to pan. Mix and cook for another few minutes until sauce thickens and bubbles. Pour sauce over the top of the mozzarella covered chicken and broil for just a few minutes until cheese and sauce begin to bubble. Serve with garlic mashed potatoes.

Ok, so now that you’ve got the recipe, back to the deal that was brokered over dinner. The boys plates consisted of a few bites of chicken, a mashed potato volcano, a handful of sugar snap peas, and a mountain of sliced strawberries. The strawberries were the first victims to leave the scene. Next went the potatoes. Then, the two voracious eaters just stopped and stared. The Oldest loves veggies but DETESTS chicken. The Youngest likes chicken but is not a huge fan of peas. Before either of us parents knew it, the Youngest…bless his clever little heart…had negotiated a peas for chicken swap. In a blur of motion, food was shared, and two plates were empty. Amen.

I guess I should mention that the chicken was delicious. This is one of my favorite ways to prepare it, smoothered in the creamy moz and gravy mix. Comfort food to the max. We paired it with a delicious 2002 Beaujolais. Just another ordinary day in our extraordinary life.

Voodoo Sirloin Kabobs

Ready to turn up the heat on September? These spicy, flavorful skewers are guaranteed to make you believe that it takes some form of black magic to infuse so much taste into these tender cubes of beef.

I picked up a 3 pound package of sirloin steaks this week at Target and wanted to try something a little different than the typical “salt – pepper – grill” routine. So, I did a little browsing online and came across this recipe from AllRecipes.com. I modified the recipe by replacing the cayenne pepper with Frank’s Hot Sauce and also just substituted garlic olive oil for the beef boillion and water.

I’m not sure about the voodoo thing, but they are certainly spicy, delicious, and a great new addition to the standard rotation. We paired them with grilled snow peas and some organic brown rice. And, I know what you’re thinking…what about the kids? Nope. Not a chance. The Oldest had a spinach, snow pea, and strawberry salad with a side of brown rice. The Youngest had a few nibbles of hot dog, few nibbles of rice, and a giant mound of strawberries. Shhhh….don’t tell them what they’re missing…

Voodoo Sirloin Kabobs

Adapted from All Recipes

1 1/2 lb sirloin steak, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
3 tsp Frank’s hot sauce
2 Tbsp garlic olive oil
3 cloves garlic, pressed

Whisk together salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic, and hot sauce to make the marinade. In a large, glass bowl, toss sirloin cubes with marinade until well coated. Refrigerate for a few hours…at least 2 or 3. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Add sirloin cubes, onion slices, and tomatoes to skewers in an alternating pattern. Grill for 10 – 15 minutes, or until desired doneness, turning once halfway through.