How many times do I hear myself say, "where is that big orange binder?" or "has anyone seen that big orange binder?" The big orange binder has been accumulating recipes, kinspiration & original recipe cards tucked into plastic sleeves for my entire-almost-forty year existence. "The Big Orange Binder" is an organization attempt. It's a recipe with a story neatly packaged in a place where I'll always be able to find the ever-elusive . . . Big Orange Binder.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chili's Southwest Eggrolls via SparkPeople

Just the word "eggroll" makes is sound good, don't you think?
This is a knock-off healthy version of Chili's Southwest Eggrolls . . .


1 lb chicken
2 tbsp EVOO
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 green onions, minced
2/3 cup frozen corn
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup frozen spinach
4 oz. green chilis or jalapeno peppers
1 tsp parsley
2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
10 (7 inch) flour tortilla


Cook the chicken with a little oil, salt and pepper.  Shred.  Preheat 1 tbsp of EVOO in a medium sized skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the red pepper and onion to the pan & sautee for a couple minutes, until tender.  Add the chicken, corn, black beans, spinach, peppers, parsley, cumin, chili powder, salt & cayenne pepper to the pan.  Cook another four minutes.  Stir so spinach is incorporated into the mixture well.  Remove from heat.  Add cheese.  Stir until cheese is melted.  Spoon two tbsp of mixture into the center of the tortilla.  Fold in the ends and roll the tortilla over the mixture.  Put the eggrolls on a stone to bake.  These can also be frozen and baked at a later time.

Bake at 375 for approximately 15 minutes or until brown & outside is crisp.  Cut in half & serve with salsa, sour cream and/or guacamole.

Makes 20 servings.

Nutritional Info:

Fat:  4.4 grams
Carbs:  17.6 grams
Calories:  132.0
Protein:  6.0 grams

Monday, June 4, 2012

Taco Seasoning

Thanks, Mom of 3J's . . . for the homemade-my-kids-like-it-better AND no-MSG recipe . . . .

¼  tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
½ tsp oregano
¼ tsp salt

French Dips a la Crock Pot

Homestead is on a recipe kick.  I am too, kind-of.  Cooler weather always makes it so.  Add to that the pure necessity of navigating busy school nights and planning a menu and laying out a successful shopping trip are part of my personal recipe for success.    Anyway, make this:

French Dips a la Crock Pot 

A hunk of meat . . . whatever you like.  It can just about be any cut.  A cheap-ass one will do, since you're gonna all but make it melt away by crock potting it all stinkin' day.  I just did this with a $6 top roast.  I like them small because I hate (yes HATE) leftovers.

So, into the crock pot goes:  The hunk of meat, a beer (make it dark . . . Guinness, Newcastle or something equally revolting), a couple cups of water and a packet of onion soup mix.   Cook it on low for 6-8 hours.

Pick up a loaf of french bread.  I trench out the middle, slice or pull the meat apart & top it with provolone. Throw the whole loaf in the oven and broil it just long enough to soften the bread and brown the cheese. Cut it into hunks & serve it up.   Use the cooking sauce as au jus.

For a dinner with, ack, beef . . . it's pretty good :)

Witch Hat Cookies


Step One.

Step Two and a half.  You have to unwrap the kisses first :) 

The finished product. 

The table of delights . . . with some creative frosting fun.

Happy Kid #1.

Happy kid #2.

Happy Kid #3, with thoughtful look, while licking frosting handlebar mustache. 

Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana

Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana 

Hmm.  Well, I pulled the actual recipe out and I've apparently made some changes for my family's palate & volume.  We like this leftover, so here you go.  This version serves 6-8 easily.

* 1 lb ground Italian sausage (*spicy if your family can handle it)
* 1 tsp crushed red pepper (*add or subtract for your taste)
* 1 large diced white onion (* about 1/2 for my family)
* 4 tbsp crumbled bacon pieces (* we like more, I use about 6 slices)
* 2 tsp garlic puree, or minced garlic
* 10 cups of water PLUS 5 cubes of chicken bouillon (or it's equivalent in liquid stock or organic stock)
* 1 cup of heavy cream
* 1 pound of thinly sliced Russet potatoes, or about 3 large taters, skin on
* 1/4 of a bunch of kale

In a large stock pot, sauté the Italian sausage & red pepper.  Drain excess fat & set aside while you prepare the rest.

In the same pan, sauté bacon, onions & garlic for 10-15 minutes or until the onions are soft & clear.

Mix together the chicken bouillon & water.  Add it to the onions, bacon & garlic.  Cook until boiling.

Add potatoes & cook until soft.  About half an hour.

Add the heavy cream & cook until thoroughly heated. 

Stir in sausage.

Add kale just before serving.  Delicious!!  Salad & breadsticks are the perfect company!!

Pumpkin Bread

This is an old favorite, first given to me by Dottie, my college boyfriend's mother.  She made it for him and he would bring it to the dorms.   It's lovely.  Don't freak out about the ingredients.  It makes a TON of bread . . . (so it seems like it's terrible but you get a very high yield!!)


3 cups of sugar
1 cup of oil


4 eggs (one at a time) 

Mix well, then add: 

2/3 cup water
2 tsp soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
16 oz can of pumpkin
3 1/2 cups of flour 

Bake at 350 for about 60 minutes (for large loaves).  Small loaves bake for about 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Also makes fabulous muffins. 

Top these guys with raw oats, or a packet of instant maple or brown sugar oatmeal.   Make dessert by adding cream cheese frosting.  Add nuts or raisins to the batter.  I've also done the method where you inject whipped cinnamon cream cheese into the center of these muffins.  It's lovely. 

Udon Veggie Noodle Soup

This is the most delicious soup . . . . a warm and welcome, full-tummy memory from my childhood.  I made it for my kids last night explaining it like "great big ramen" with yummy broth.  It was delicious!!

Store fresh udon noodles in the refrigerator or in the freezer. If you don't have fresh udon noodles, you can substitute with dry pasta or dried noodles of your choice. The vegetables are up to you - keep the vegetables thinly sliced so that they cook quickly. Sliced zucchini, small broccoli florets, cabbage and even frozen corn/peas are great. I've used shimeji mushrooms from Hokto Kinoko, but you can use fresh shitake or just regular white button mushrooms.
If you are using a different kind of miso other than shiro miso (white miso) lessen the amount by a couple teaspoons. Shiro miso is the least salty and intense of all miso.


One 12-ounce package fresh udon noodles (or substitute with dry pasta/noodles)4 cups chicken or vegetable stock1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots1/2 cup snow peas, sliced on the diagonal1/2 cup fresh mushrooms2 tablespoons white miso (shiro miso)1/2 cup green onions


1. Cook the udon noodles according to the package directions, drain and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and add the carrots and cook until the carrots are crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the snow peas and cook until slightly tender but still bright green, about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms, cook for 30 seconds and remove from the heat.
3. Spoon the miso in a medium bowl and add a ladleful of hot broth. Whisk until the miso is completely dissolved, then pour the entire miso mixture into the pot with the soup. Do not boil the soup with the miso, as the miso will become gritty. Stir in the noodles and the green onions.

Chicken Asparagus Carbonara

We tried this recipe this week and it was a TOTAL hit in the house.

* Me:  I loved it . . . not too rich, I would double the asparagus and cut the chicken in half.
* Middle:  Liked it cold as a school lunch.
* Big:  Ate two servings after practice.
* Little:  Slurped up a ton of noodles and asked for more bacon.  Made a pile of asparagus on the side of his plate for me.
* MOTH: Said the asparagus was a touch overcooked for his liking, but he still ate it and I don't think it was to keep me from crying.
* Mimi:  Ate noodles and bacon and requested that next time I save some just plain noodles before the "goo" goes in.

From Cooking Light:  Chicken Asparagus Carbonara


  • 8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
  • 2 cups (1-inch) slices asparagus (about 3/4 pound)
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup evaporated fat-free milk
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion $
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth
  • 2 cups chopped skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast meat
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • bacon slices, cooked and crumbled $


  1. Cook pasta in boiling water 10 minutes or until al dente; add asparagus during final 2 minutes of cooking. Drain pasta mixture in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/3 cup cooking liquid. Combine reserved cooking liquid, egg substitute, and milk, stirring with a whisk.
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and onion to pan; sauté 2 minutes. Add vermouth; cook 1 minute. Add pasta mixture; stir to combine. Remove from heat; stir in milk mixture, chicken, and cheese. Place pan over medium heat, and cook 4 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in parsley, salt, pepper, and bacon. Serve immediately.
Raw egg yolks and whipping cream traditionally add the creaminess and fat to pasta carbonara. This lighter version with asparagus and chicken achieves the same texture with egg substitute and nonfat evaporated milk. Prevent the eggs from scrambling by being careful not to heat the egg mixture too rapidly. Eat this dish immediately to enjoy its velvety creaminess; if it stands, the sauce can become too thick.

Cinnamon Wreath

This is a Pinterest re-pin and I had to click a few links to find his real recipe . . . so I've put it all together here.  This is from a kitchen forum, "John" is the poster and he references Taste of Home, Dec/Jan 2010.

Photos are John's:

We are serious cinnamon roll fans, so this one had me lickin' the screen . . .

Cinnamon Wreath Bread

2 Packages ( ¼ oz each ) Active dry yeast
1 ½ cups warm water (110-115 degrees)
6 TBS butter
1/3 cup nonfat dry milk
¼ cup sugar
1 egg
¾ tsp salt
4 1/2-5 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 TBS butter melted
½ cup chopped almonds
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 TBS water
¼ tsp almond extract

In a large bowl dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add the butter, milk powder, sugar, egg, salt, and 3 cups of flour. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Stir in enough flour to form a soft dough. ( The dough will be sticky )

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Punch dough down. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 18 in x 12 in rectangle. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with the cinnamon and chipped almonds to within ½ inch of the edges. Roll up jelly-roll style starting with the long side and pinch the seam to seal.

Place seam down on a greased baking sheet and pinch the ends together to form a ring. With kitchen scissors, cut from the outside edge to 2/3’s of the way towards the center of the ring at 1 inch intervals. Separate the strips slightly and twist to allow the filling to show. Cover and let rise again until doubled. (About 45 minutes to an hour)

Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown, Combine the confectioners sugar, water, and extract and drizzle over the warm bread.

Flying Saucers

Cuisenart Griddler.

Yes, I REALLY love my Cuisenart Griddler.  I was hunting for something like this and actually purchased a knock-off at Target, when my deal-seeking-diva-girlfriend texted me to say, 
"this looks like a better deal."  


This model normally sells at Williams Sonoma for $185.  
Williams Sonoma currently has it on sale for $99. 
She found it at Costco for $69.99. 


I took the Target floor model back and bought this guy. 

Since we bought him, he's been SO popular that he actually lives on the counter.  
Insert ** GASP **  here because I'm a complete counter nazi.  

We've made all kinds of lovely hot sandwiches and paninis.  The plates are reversible and pop right out for easy cleaning.  It also lays flat, so it replaced the old dinosaur griddle that we make pancakes on.  We got that for a wedding gift, so it should be about shot.  It kicked our standard mexican night up by about six notches with a home-grown version of Taco Bell's Crunch wrap supreme . . . 

In photos for Homestead's  benefit . . . 

Too bad I don't have a picture of the finished version.  It was into someone's mouth too fast.  It had perfect grill marks, melty cheese and was just plain delish.  De-lish!!

Anna's Rustic No-Knead Artisan Bread

I pinned this.  From Suzie the Foodie.

I'm a huge fan of homemade bread.  I love to make it, bake it and I think it's absolutely worth the wait.  I pinned this one because it looked pretty.  I don't mind kneading, but it was a bonus.  Here's my pinterest experiment . . . .

By the way, the original recipe, hence the name, Anna . . . is here .  .

A recipe so easy even your four-year old can do it.  With her fish-face on.

In a garhugic bowl,
     * 3 cups of flour
     * 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
     * 1 1/2 tsp salt
     * 1 1/2 cups of water

Have kitchen helper mix well . . .

Add water.  Boy, howdy, it's dry in this land, so I added about 1/8 cup more water.  Incidentally, the original recipe didn't mention water temperature, but everything I've ever known about bread, yeast and the like calls for hot.  I went with the tried and true mommy method and set the faucet solidly between "damn that's too hot" and "lukewarm".

Mix, mix, mix.  Scrape the sides, make sure all the ingredients are incorporated.  A ball forms.

I transferred to a different bowl here.  I'm anal like that.  It's probably not necessary.  In all honesty, the red bowl is the popcorn bowl and I knew the kids would want it after school.  Cover and let rise in a warm spot for 12 hours, or up to 24 hours.

Here's the post-rising picture: Oops.  Not there.  Well, carry on.  But suffice it to say that it was very stringy (so don't be alarmed), smelled delightful, and had the most radical bubbles.  Sweet, kitchen chemistry in action.

Also missing are some pictures of the process.  After all, who can flour the board and such with an iPhone in their hand.  Not me, sports fans, not me.

So, reference the original blog, where she did a bang-up job of step-by-step instructions . . and I'll skip to the final steps.

After rising, this thing is a sticky mess, so flour a board (and your hands) and lightly pat it down.  Shoot to make a circle about the size of a small pizza.  Then, fold up the corners into a ball, and flip it so it's smooth side up . . . .

Cover & let this guy rise for another 2 hours.  Oh, did I forget to mention that this is kind-of time intensive?  It's the perfect bread for a Sunday night dinner.  Just start on Saturday morning.

On to the baking.  And a confession.  I totally stink at reading directions ahead.  Every time I get to this point, I hear my mother's voice telling me to read the whole recipe before I start.  Whoops.

So, Suzie bakes this in a Paula Deen Casserole Dish.  Anna bakes this in a covered cast iron dutch oven.  (Insert immature giggle at the words "dutch" plus "oven".)   Um, long pause.  I don't have either of those gizmos.

I used a Pampered Chef Deep Covered Baker.   The recipe calls for you to insert the cold dish into a 500 degree oven, pre-warm it and plunk the dough ball into the warm dish.  I wasn't sure my PC Baker could handle 500 degrees.  It can't.  Thank heavens my consultant is a texter and could confirm that 450 is pushin' it.  So, 450 it was.  I pre-heated, plunked, baked for about 35 minutes, covered,  Then, lowered the temp to 350 and let it go for another 15 minutes.

The final product was round and warm and perfectly delish.

I served this warm with spaghetti.  It was not fun to cut.  I think it could be much better cooled & sliced for sandwiches.  Another genius notion . . . if split, it would make the most adorable little bread-bowls.  I think I'll try that again next week.  And finally, that two hour second rising is REALLY important.  I had to cut it short to stay on time for dinner & bed . . . and it was a mistake . . . it was still delicious but the rising would have lifted it and made it lighter.

Overall .  . . . super success.  On the up-side, very easy and the finished product is fabulous.  On the down-side, it takes forever, but (up-side again), all that time allows you to really think about it.  Thinking about your food choices is important, says this cute little Nutrionist I know.