Last weekend, Mr. Star Wars had his fall camping trip for Boy Scouts. TheRoomDad happened to have his annual guy golf trip planned for the same date (coincidence? perhaps not). I agreed to take Mr. Star Wars to the campout in TheRoomDad’s stead. Little did I know that the temperatures would drop to 37 degrees, and while that is not extreme cold for many parts of the country, it is arctic for us. We live in South Carolina y’all. I barely own mittens.
Mr. Star Wars and I negotiated a deal. We would spend the day at the campout and leave after dinner. Or more specifically, we would leave after dessert. Why dessert? The lure of the Dump Cake. What is Dump Cake? A fruit and boxed cake concoction that is the highlight of every campout (according to Mr. Star Wars). Basically, it is a poor man’s fruit crumble. By the time the sun went down, Mr. Star Wars eagerly accepted my offer to stop at the grocery store to purchase ingredients and make a Dump Cake just for us at home.
We opted for cherry and pineapple, but Mr. Star Wars did briefly consider a blueberry and peach combination. You can choose almost any fruit combination. I am including the recipe we used, but you can substitute any can of fruit pie filling and any can of chopped fruit of the same amounts.
21-oz. can cherry pie filling
15-oz. can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 box white cake mix (or yellow cake mix)
3/4 c. butter (12 T.)
vanilla ice cream to top (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Dump the cherry pie filling and crushed pineapple in a 9 x 13 in. baking dish and gently stir fruit together.
Sprinkle the cake mix evenly on top of the fruit and make sure it covers the fruit completely.
Sprinkle slices of butter on top of the cake mix.
Bake for 1 hour or until the top is golden and bubbly.
Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
For those of you anticipating the arrival of many family members for Thanksgiving, you might want this recipe in your back pocket as a back up dessert plan. I am pretty sure it is fail proof. Have a great holiday!
TheRoomDad was reminiscing about the days when I used to prepare delicious meals most evenings. That was before we had children, and I was trying to impress him. Fast forward to today. I only get excited about preparing food for parties and school snacks. If it is bite sized food, snack food, or party dips, I am all about it. Otherwise, I don’t want to be bothered.
One recipe that I have not used in awhile is something from my childhood– a recipe for homemade chicken nuggets. They may seem like kid food at first glance, but they actually have a slightly more sophisticated taste than your average chicken nugget, and I used to make them for TheRoomDad. It is a recipe adults and kids enjoy. I was gracious enough to dust off the family cookbook and make the chicken nuggets last night. I was going to say how much healthier they are than a box of nuggets from the freezer section of the grocery store, but then I remembered that the chicken is dredged in melted butter before being coated in seasoned bread crumbs. Enjoy!
It is dreary here today. We are on the fringe of all of the icy weather, so we have had solid rain with some icing. It means that bridges are closed, and school was cancelled. What do you do on a day like this? Cook soup. Since I was in my pajamas when I had this brainstorm, I sent TheRoomDad to the grocery store for Taco Soup ingredients. Not only is the soup delicious on a cold day, it is also the perfect soup for eating dinner in front of the TV and watching winter Olympics.
2 lbs boneless and skinless chicken breast
4 to 6 garlic cloves, chopped fine
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
32-oz. chicken broth (sometimes I use an additional 16-oz. can)
1 4-oz. can mild chopped green chiles
1 16-oz. can yellow corn (I like shoepeg corn)
1 16-oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 16-oz. can light rd kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 16-oz. cans diced tomatoes (drain 1 can and leave juices in 1 can)
1 package original taco seasoning mix
1 package dry ranch dressing mix
grated Mexican cheese blend
Trim any fat off the chicken breasts and cut in half. Put halved chicken breasts in a large soup pot with chopped onions, garlic, and 32-oz. chicken broth.
Simmer until meat shreds (about an hour or so). I take the pot off the heat and with two forks, pull the chicken apart in the soup pot. If it is not pulling apart easily, cook longer.
Add all other soup ingredients through the ranch dressing mix.
Cook another hour or two on low heat. If you would like to thin the soup at all, add some more chicken broth.
Serve with grated cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips.
This is a great crock pot recipe. Put the chicken, onions, garlic, and broth in the crock pot on low in the morning. At the end of the day (about 3:00) shred the chicken. Add the other ingredients and cook a few more hours on low.
Growing up, I always had a pretty traditional Thanksgiving meal that included a cornbread stuffing with chopped hard boiled eggs. I am not sure what region or style that sort of stuffing (dressing?) is, but it was never my favorite part of our Thanksgiving meal (sorry TheRoomMomMom). My parents are from a small town in Kansas, and I know it is the recipe TheRoomMomGrandmom always made. After spending Thanksgiving with TheRoomDad’s family, I found a new stuffing that I love. Thankfully, TheRoomDadMom shared her recipe with me many years ago. It is now my favorite part of the meal.
I know I am posting this stuffing recipe too late for you to enjoy at this Thanksgiving, but I couldn’t get pictures for you before today. Be sure to file it for Christmas dinner and have a great Thanksgiving with your family, friends, and other loved ones!
1 1/2 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped celery, leaves included
1/2 c. butter
1/2 lb. ground pork sausage meat (I like Jimmy Dean)
1/2 c. coarsely chopped mushrooms
8 c. unseasoned bread crumbs (from 1-2 loaves of pre-sliced Italian or other crusty bread)
1 T. kosher salt
1/2 t. ground pepper
1 t. rubbed dried sage
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. dried rosemary
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 c. chicken stock (plus more– at least 1 c.)
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 c. chopped dried apricots
A day or two before you need the stuffing, cut sliced Italian bread into 1/4 in. chunks and spread in one layer on a jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned and toasted. It usually takes about 15 minutes or so. Move the bread around the pan several times during baking. Let cool and store in an airtight container or a Ziploc bag.
In a skillet, saute onion and celery in butter until tender. Set aside in a large mixing bowl.
In the same skillet, cook sausage and mushrooms. Pour off any fat and add celery and onion mixture back into the sausage and mushrooms.
Put bread crumbs in the large mixing bowl you used to hold the celery and onions. Pour sausage mixture on top and add all of the seasonings.
Moisten bread crumb mix with 1/2 c. white wine and 1/2 c. chicken stock. Mix thoroughly.
Add a little chicken stock to the beaten egg to thin. Add the egg and apricots to the sausage bread crumb mix. Stir well.
Add more chicken stock if the mix seems dry. All of the crouton pieces should be moistened, but there should not be liquid in the bottom of the bowl. Do not over saturate.
Pour mix into a greased casserole dish. Bake uncovered at 325 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes. When the top is browned, remove from the oven.
If you can find pre-made unseasoned bread cubes, you can use those instead of making your own bread cubes/croutons.
White wine can be eliminated and replaced with chicken stock.
You can use fresh herbs or a combination of fresh and dried. Increase the amount if using fresh to taste.
I pour a little chicken stock on the top after the mix is in the casserole dish before baking.
I usually use 1/2 c. white wine plus one 15-oz can of chicken stock total by the time I finish prepping it all.
I eat carbs and lots of them. Some of my favorite carb alternatives are mashed potatoes, french fries, and chocolate chip cookies. The top of my carb list, however, has to be macaroni and cheese.
I have been perfecting my macaroni and cheese dish since 1993. I started out with the basic recipe my mom always used. She cooked the macaroni noodles, drained them, added butter, milk, and chunks of cheddar cheese in with the noodles and heated on the stovetop. Before baking in a casserole dish in the oven, she added some crumbled Saltine crackers and a few pats of butter to the top. I loved her macaroni and cheese. Little did I know how much better it could be.
Here is the recipe that kicked off the macaroni and cheese improvement plan. I am posting the original recipe but am also including some RoomMom modifications at the end. I will eat this dish for dinner, leftover for breakfast, or packed in a school lunch to be eaten at room temperature.
6 T. butter
1 lb. corkscrew pasta (cavatappi)
5 1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
2 t. salt
3 c. grated white cheddar cheese
3 c. grated orange cheddar cheese
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with Pam.
Fill a large saucepan with salted water, bring to a boil, then cook pasta according to directions on the box. Follow the time for al dente.
Transfer pasta to a colander, drain well, and set aside.
In the empty saucepan, melt 6 T. butter over medium heat. When butter bubbles, stir in flour. Cook, whisking, for about one minute.
Continue to whisk and add milk a little at a time. After adding all of the milk, whisk constantly for about 7 minutes or so until the sauce thickens and bubbles around the edges. Remove from heat.
Stir in salt, pepper, 2 1/4 cups of each of the cheeses.
Add cooked pasta to the sauce and stir until the sauce covers the pasta.
Add the pasta and sauce mixture to the casserole dish, sprinkle with remaining grated cheese, and bake until golden brown on top (about 25 minutes).
I use any non-spaghetti like pasta I have on hand. I make this dish with elbow macaroni, penne, bow tie noodles, shell noodles, or any other smaller sized noodle.
I like to mix up the cheese. I use about the amount called for in the recipe, but I usually use a combination of whatever is in my refrigerator. I always have cheddar as the main cheese. I like Cracker Barrel extra sharp orange and Cracker Barrel Vermont white. I usually reduce the cheddar amount a little and supplement with freshly grated Parmesan, some freshly grated Swiss, and I recently started adding several slices of American. Other than the American, I think the cheese needs to be grated at home. The pre-grated cheese does not have as much flavor or melt as well (in my opinion).
I eyeball the butter, flour, and milk amounts. If you are following this recipe for the first time, cook as instructed. Adjust to your taste the next time you make it (and I firmly believe you will be making this recipe a second time).