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, August 29, 2012

Crock Pot Lasagna

Oh My Land . . . this was delish.  And such an easy prep and go recipe, perfect for fall nights.    If you already have a lasagna recipe, just use your own.  Layer into a crock pot that has been generously sprayed with cooking spray.  Then cook on low for 4-5 hours.  Don't try to rush it and boost it up to high.  I suggest no-bake lasagna noodles . . . just break them to fit.  Also, add lots and lots of sauce . . . .

In case you don't have a recipe, here's mine, from the land of pinch-of-that and dab-of-this .   . .

Prep sauce the night before, or make a double batch a few days before.  I use my super simple Bolognese.

In a bowl, make a cheese layer mixture.  I use:  a medium sized container of cottage cheese, a small container of ricotta, parmesan to cover the top and a handful of mozzarella.  Add an egg to this, plus 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper.  If you like green flecks, add in about 2 generous teaspoons of Italian herbs, in whatever combination you like.

Then, layer in the crockpot.  ** Of special note .  . my crock pot runs super-hot, so I put a layer of ziti in the bottom, so that if it burned, it wouldn't be the lasagna, just the layer of ziti.  Add generous sauce to prevent burning to the bottom  . . . .

Serve with tossed salad & french bread.  Delish.  And so, so easy.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mimi's Carrot Raisin Muffins

Big loves these muffins so I went hunting for a knock-off recipe.  Found this one here.   And the second  one here . . . . I'm putting them both in my Big Orange Binder. 

Carrot Raisin Bread
Yield: one 9" square, or four 3"x6" mini-loaves

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
3 eggs
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup canned crushed pineapple, with juice, drained
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup finely shredded carrots

1. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt into a mixing bowl. (or just dump them in and mix, I don't care)

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar and eggs.

3. Stir the liquid mixture into the flour; mix well.

4. Add the walnuts, pineapple, raisins and carrots; stir again.

5. Grease and flour a 9" square pan or four mini-loaf pans. Fill the pans 2/3 full with batter.

6. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 40 minutes. (Mini-loaves take about 30 minutes).

Mimi’s Cafe Carrot Raisin Nut Bread
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar)
3 eggs
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup diced canned pineapple, drained (I just diced up some canned tidbits)
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup finely shredded carrots
Sift first five ingredients into a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar and eggs. Stir the liquid mixture into the flour; mix well. Add the next four ingredients; stir again. Grease and flour a 9-inch square pan or four mini-loaf pans (I did the 9 inch sq pan). Fill the pans 2/3 full with batter. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes. Mini-loaves take about 20 minutes.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Rosemary Honey Chicken - Freezer to Crock Pot

Taken from pinterest, which led to a blog, which now gives me an error on the page.  I cut this into a word document long ago, so I'm sorry to not give credit where credit is due.  I'm almost certain this recipe is originally a Rachel Ray, but then morphed into a freezer to crock pot by someone far more organized & creative than me. 
Prep ahead and put in the bag - 
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces, 1/3 c balsamic vinegar, 1/3 c honey, 1/3 c olive oil, 3 T chopped fresh rosemary, 1 tsp salt. 
The night before cooking -- take it out and allow it to defrost completely.
On cooking morning, add 1 cup of water and the contents of the bag to the crockpot. Then cook on high for 3-4 hours. Ten minutes before serving, add cornstarch to thicken the sauce.
Serve over couscous or rice.  I served this over a mixture of 1/2 quinoa and 1/2 rice, because that's what I had on hand.  I served it with a green salad  . .  

Lime Salsa Chicken -- Freezer to Crock Pot

Originally taken from pinterest, which led me to a blog, which references this:

So, prep ahead and put this stuff in the bag:

Juice from one lime, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, one package of taco seasoning (I used my own), 2 jalapeno peppers really finely chopped, 3 pounds of boneless chicken, 1 chopped red pepper and 1/2 onion, chopped.



On cooking morning, put the contents of the bag into the crock pot with a medium sized jar of salsa (24 ounce).  Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8.  Serve in tortilla with rice OR atop a Mexican style salad.

** Notes.  We decreased the chicken (again, this seems to be a theme), I used only one jalapeno, for fear of my little kids; tender palates.  Also, the 3-4 hour method is what we prefer, for better texture and overall appearance.  

Freezer to Crock Pot Sante Fe Chicken

I wish I would have written the source down on this one.  I pasted it into a word document long ago and it's been sitting in my recipe collection . . . .

This is a freezer to crock pot creation, so prep and freeze, then thaw (the night before) & toss in the crock pot in the morning.

Prep bag . . .  2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast, 1 chopped red pepper, 1/2 onion (chopped), 1/2 tsp cumin, 2 T cilantro.



On cooking morning, put the contents of the bag plus one can of black beans, 1 can of corn & 1 medium sized jar of salsa into the crock pot.  Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.  Serve over rice.

** Notes:  this is the original recipe.  I first did this recipe with 2 pounds of chicken and it was enough to feed an army.  I would have considered it a double-batch, for my family of SIX, but it you cut the chicken by 1/2, it's lots and lots of veggies.  My family likes that, but yours may not -- so I'd keep the original recipe and plan for leftovers.  A lot of leftovers.   Also, I've done this recipe for 3-4 hours on high and 6-8 hours on low and my family much prefers the 3-4 hours on high version.  The 6-8 on low comes out super, super squishy and soft with just about no texture and it looks disgusting.


This is the easiest red meat sauce ever.  I've tried about 40 different home-made, part home-made and jar recipes and can't find one that pleases the family like this.  Middle doesn't like chunks of meat.  MOTH likes big chunks of meat.  MOTH won't eat anything with a visible tomato in it.  Little likes it thick.

So . . . . here's my double batch of meat sauce . . .

One pound of mild italian sausage
One pound of lean ground beef

Brown it in a big skillet

Once brown, add two cans (yes cans) of Hunt's traditional sauce and 1/2 can of water.

Simmer.  Throw in a bay leaf to make you feel like you're a better cook.

Serve over hot noodles, or refrigerate for leftovers and lunch boxes throughout the week.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Breakfast Casserole a la Pot de Crock

From a pinner, who re-pinned and then re-pinned and then it was re-pinned so many stinkin' times, I can hardly trace the real recipe.  Then once I find it, there's errors on the page and I can't reference it, so here's my best extrapolation . . . .

First, let me say . . . it sounded like you could just toss all of this into the crock pot at night, sleep while it cooked and wake up to a fresh and shiny perfect world.  Not so much . . . there's some prep involved, but it's still darn good  . . .

6-8 strips of bacon
an onion, optional, peeled & chopped
a clove of garlic, peeled & minced, that's optional too
1 cup of whole milk (but I subbed what we had . . which is skim)
1 red or green pepper, cored, diced
1 bag of frozen hash browns
1 1/2 shredded cheese
12 eggs
dill, salt & pepper

Bacon:  Cook it, drain it, chop it and set it aside.
Garlic & Onion & Peppers:  Sautee and set aside.

Spray the bottom of the crock pot, or line it.
Add 1/2 of the frozen hash browns (about a pound if you're using a 2 lb bag)
Then layer (like a lasagna) bacon, onion/garlic/pepper mixture & cheese.  Repeat with the rest of the hash browns, more bacon, more onion/garlic/pepper and another healthy handful of shredded cheese.

In a separate bowl, whisk up the eggs, milk, salt, pepper & whatever other spices you like.  Pour this over the layers in the crock.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Cheesy Potato Bake or Skillet

A take-off from this recipe.

I altered it, in classic "I'm cooking" sense . . . .

Here's what I did . . . .

I washed, peeled & thinly sliced about 3 pounds of potatoes.  Then, in the biggest skillet I have, I quick boiled them until they were fork tender.  Then I strained them and set them aside.

In the same skillet, I browned 1 pound of smoked chicken sausage. (Though it's very true that you could use ANY meat for this . . . . ham would be delish!)

Also, into the skillet with the browned meat, add and mix well . . . .

4 tablespoons of butter
4 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of milk
a pinch of salt & a dash of pepper
1/2 pound of cubed Velveeta

Mix this all together until the cheesy is bubbly, melted and smooth, then add the boiled potatoes back in.  Combine well and serve hot.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Our Favorite Spritz Cookies

A holiday favorite in our house.  Middle loves to bake these and can spend an afternoon in the kitchen with a cookie press and a variety of sprinkles.  No, honey, there can never be too many sprinkles!!

1 cup of butter flavored crisco 
1/2 cup sugar 
1 egg     
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 1/4 cups flour


1 cup soft butter, 3 egg yolks, ¼ cup chopped almonds, 2/3 cup sugar, 1 tsp almond extract; 2 ½ cups flour – oven to 400; bake 7-10
3 cups flour, 1 ¼ cups sugar, add 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder to flour mixture. 

Prep directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 375. Beat butter on medium speed, add ingredients (flour last).  Mix until dough is soft. 
2.  Fill cookie press with dough.  Press dough onto cookie tray 1 in. apart.  Decorate cookies. 
3.  Bake 10-12 min.  or until firm but not brown.  Cool 2 min.  on pan.  Move to cooling rack.  Repeat with remaining dough. 

Yield: 6-7 dozen cookies. 
Nutrients per serving ( 2 cookies): Calories 120, Fat 7 g, Sodium 70 mg, Dietary Fiber 0 g
Cook’s tip: For best results, weigh flour using Kitchen Scale.  ½ teaspoon almond extract can be substituted for vanilla. 

Parmesan Green Beans

I have a note that this came from

Serves 4.

Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 lb. fresh green beans, washed & ends removed
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add green beans, and cook until tender, 5-8 minutes. Drain and return to pot.  Add butter, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Serve sprinkled with remaining Parmesan. 

Sesame Green Beans

¾ lb fresh green beans
½ cup water
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame seeds

Steam beans or cook until crisp-tender.  Drain.  Add butter, soy sauce & sesame seeds.  Toss to coat.  Serve.   

Campbell's Green Bean Casserole

Would the holidays be the same without this?  I think we might live . . . . last year we went without it and we are here to tell the story.  Still, it should be preserved in The Big Orange Binder for all time and eternity.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Bake time: 30 minutes

2 cans (10 3/4 oz each) Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup (regular, fat free or low sodium)
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoons ground black pepper
9 cups cooked green beans
1 can (6 oz) french fried onion strings

1.  Stir soup, milk, soy, pepper, beans & 1 1/2 cups onions in a 3 quart casserole.
2.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until hot & bubbly.
3.  Top with remaining onions & bake for an additional 5 minutes.

Yield: 12 servings

Acorn Squash

Preheat oven to 400. 
Cut squash in half. 
Remove seeds & strings.
Place upside down in shallow pan with ¼ inch of water.
Bake 35 minutes.
Turn squash over.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper & butter.
Place under broiler for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.  

Hot Chicken Dip

From my mother-in-law . . . the ingredients in this sound just terrible, but it's the most delicious hot dip in the whole world . . .

2 ½ chicken breasts, cooked
3 hard boiled eggs
½ can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 cup mayo
½ cup sour cream
8 oz can water chestnuts, drained
1 tsp salt
4 oz can mushrooms
2 tbsp onion, minced
2 tbsp lemon juice
½ cup almond slivers
¼ tsp pepper
1 cup grated cheddar
1 – 3 ½ oz can onion

Throw all of this together in a baking dish; bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Add cheese to top and onion sprinkles – bake until cheese is bubbly and hot.  Serve with crackers, fresh French bread or anything else for dipping.  Delicious. 

Crumb Cake a la Rad Momma H

Laughing right now.  Big did this recipe on a flash drive and I'm transferring them over to whipchoptoss.

She's affectionately named it "Rad Momma H's Famous Sunday Morning Homemade Crumb Cake"

2 ½ cups  Bisquick Mix
1 cup milk
½ cup sugar
Big splash of vanilla (about 2 tbsp)
1/3 cup water

Blueberry Muffins

4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups frozen blueberries (not thawed!!)

Topping:  2 tbsp sugar & ½ tsp ground nutmeg

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder & salt.  In a mixing bowl, cream butter & sugar.  Add eggs, milk, vanilla.  Mix well.  Stir in the dry ingredients just until moistened.  Fold in frozen blueberries.  Fill greased or paper lined muffin cups two-thirds full.  Combine sugar & nutmeg topping & sprinkle over.  Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until muffins test done.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes.  Makes about 2 dozen muffins.

Variation.  Makes a wonderful coffee cake or crumble.  For topping, mix 2 tbsp brown sugar w/ 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp flour.  Blend with the back of a fork until butter mixes and it looks like crumbly balls.  Put the whole thing in a baking dish, cover with topping & bake.   

Basic Use-What-You-Have Muffins

This is that balderdash recipe that I pull out of my hat on dreary mornings when the kids are slumping around the kitchen with their hair in a matted mess and sleep stuck in the corners of their eyes.  Nothing wakes a brood of kiddos up like fresh muffins, and these can be made with ANYTHING and have a million substitution options.

In a large bowl:

2 cups of all purpose flour (or wheat, or 1/2 wheat and 1/2 white)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg (maybe add some cinnamon, too?)

Whisk together in another bowl:

2 large eggs
1 cup of milk or cream (or half and half or buttermilk)
2/3 cup of sugar (white or granulated or organic or brown)
4-8 tbsp of warm melted butter, unsalted, or vegetable oil, or coconut oil
1 generous teaspoon, okay 2 teaspoons of vanilla

Notes & substitutions:
If you are eating hot & fresh, use 4 tbsp butter.  If you plan to store and/or travel with these, use 8 tbsp. Any dairy liquid will work . . . . skim to low fat milk all they way up to heavy whipping cream.  Sub 1 cup of whole wheat flour for increased fiber.

For yogurt, buttermilk or sour cream . . sub one of those 3 for the milk/cream and add 1/2 tsp baking soda.

For blueberry . . . add 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries to the basic mixture.  Decrease sugar to 1/3 cup.  So that the blueberries don't sink, toss them lightly in flour prior to adding.

Raspberry . . . . add 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries to the basic mixture.  Add 1/4 tsp of almond extract to the wet ingredients.

Lemon poppy seed or Perfect Poppy Seed . . . add 1 tsp grated lemon zest and 1 1/2 tsp poppy seeds to basic mixture.

Six Weeks' Bran Muffins . . . .

I'll count this as one of the good things that's come from my mother-in-law.  In my hubby's house as a child, he says this was something of a holiday tradition . . . . he and his sister had to eat bran muffins, oatmeal or grapefruit BEFORE they were allowed to dig into Santa gifts.    Anyhoo, this is a favorite recipe for all around muffins . . . .

In a large mixing bowl: 

1 cup of Nabisco 100% bran cereal (I can seldom find this anymore, so I use Bran Buds)
1/2 cup, 1 stick of butter or margarine (I use butter)
1 cup of boiling water

Pour water over the cereal & butter.  Mix completely.  Allow to cool.

When cool, add:

1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups of buttermilk
2 eggs, slightly beaten

Mix well, then add:

2 3/4 cups flour (I use 1/2 wheat and 1/2 white)
1 tsp salt
2 3/4 tsp baking soda

Mix well, then add:

2 cups of Kellogg's All Bran Cereal

For fresh muffins, put these in foil cups and bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.  This batter stores for up to SIX weeks (hence, the name) in a glass, airtight container in the refrigerator.  The muffins are actually markedly better the second week, so make this the week of Christmas for delicious hot muffins on Christmas morning.

Yummy additions:  cinnamon & oat topping, raisins and/or nuts.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Coconut Curry Chicken

I'm building stock of prep-ahead freezer to crock pot meals that I can prep on shopping day and then reap the rewards of my uber-organization on crazy sports days.  Here's ONE of the many that I've given a whirl.  As with ALL chicken recipes, it wasn't an all around hit with my family, but it's damn near impossible to please every mouth and tummy at the table. 
Source:  modified from this Chicken Curry recipe at Martha Stewart and further lifted and modified from Kojo Designs
Prep day -- Put this stuff in the bag:  The original recipe calls for 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs . . . that would feed my family of six for two weeks.  We are into small portions and a large side salad, so I use TWO trimmed chicken breast sections.  It also calls for 2 lbs. of chopped butternut squash (I use a cup) , 2 medium onions (I used 1/2 a red onion), chopped, 8 minced garlic cloves (which I omit altogether since garlic comes back to visit me at 2 am), 1 oz fresh ginger, 2 tablespoons of curry powder, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 t ground cumin, a good pinch of coarse salt.
On cooking day:   Add the contents of the bag and a can of coconut milk to a slow cooker and cook on low all day. 25 minutes before serving, add another can of coconut milk and a bag of frozen peas (I used California blend instead of just peas since my kids all like broccoli).
Serve . . .  Garnish with chopped cashews (I didn't)  and cilantro (except if you’re us and you hate cilantro- then just garnish with cashews).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Applesauce Muffins

Really?  How did I not have this in The Big Orange Binder until now?  I went hunting for the recipe and could NOT find it.  Acck.  Panic nearly set in.

This recipe is from my days as a nanny.  I'd get up early with Alex and Nikki and they'd sit on the counter in their million-dollar kitchen and stir the ingredients for fresh applesauce muffins.  Now, my own kids make these muffins and love them.  They seldom last more than a morning.  

In a large bowl, mix: 

1 egg
2 tbsp of oil (my favorite is coconut oil) 
1 1/2 cups of applesauce
3/4 tsp soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
2 cups of flour 

** I also add about 1/3 cup of sugar, only IF the applesauce is natural or unsweetened.  My kids also like these with a generous handful of mini-chocolate chips mixed in.  You can also add all kinds of wintery varieties like raisins, nuts or just a spoonful or two of pureed pumpkin.  

Bake in foil muffin cups for about 20-25 minutes at 350 or until the top springs back to the touch.  Enjoy. 

One Hour Rolls

Originally found here.  Done as a pinterest experiment, which was a raging success.  I think this recipe will become a frequently used cabinet pin-up .  . . 

1 Hour Rolls
recipe from my sister-in-law Maggie

In a kitchenaid mixer bowl, mix the following and let stand for 15 minutes:
1 c. warm water
1/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. oil
2 Tbsp. yeast

1 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten

Gradually add 3 1/3 c. flour. Dough will be kind of sticky.  Let stand for 10 minutes.

Spray hands with non-stick cooking spray and form dough into balls. Place balls so they don't touch on a cookie sheet. Let rise for 20 minutes. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. 

Makes a cookie sheet full of rolls.

Sometimes I mix these rolls up before church and stick them in the fridge to rise.  When we get home three hours later I bake them.  

Monday, August 6, 2012

Freezer to Crock Pot Teriyaki Chicken


Medium-Large Bag of Carrots
Red Onion - Cut into Large Chunks
2 large cans of Pineapple, Undrained
4 Garlic Cloves
4 Chicken Breasts
1 Cup Teriyaki Sauce

Prep, chop, skin .  . . split between two bags, adding enough to feed your crew.  Mix the ingredients in the bag then seal the bag and lay it flat.  Freeze.  Add these directions to the bag (along w/ the date and what it is):

Add an add'l 1/4 cup sauce to crock pot.  Cook low for 6-7 hours.  Serve over hot rice.

Take this out of the freezer the night before you want to make it, so it's completely thawed.  Then, in the morning, just dump the whole thing into the crock pot, set it to cook and walk away.