Real-Food Remake: Celebration Potatoes (Funeral Potatoes)

There’s a recipe that has been used for generations in my family and the families of many that I know. They are called “Funeral Potatoes”. What a morose name.

They are called that presumably because they are a tradition dish made for luncheons served to the family at funerals. They are the ultimate comfort side dish, easy to make in bulk, filling and satisfying. Every family you know who makes this dish has their own twist. Some people add green onions, some people like bread crumbs or corn flakes on top. In our family, we not huge fans of green onions, and we like a simple cheese topping. The dish itself is basically grated potatoes and onions in a scalloped-potato style cream sauce and baked. Traditionally, the recipe calls for cream of chicken soup and sour cream. Simple.

However, some of us can’t (or won’t) have cream soups, which are absolutely horrible for you. When planning my Easter dinner, I really wanted funeral potatoes, which we typically only eat at my in-laws house, and decided I’d do a Real-Food Remake.

The first step in the tradition recipe is to use frozen hash browns. Frozen hash browns don’t turn color, thanks to an additive called disodium dihydorgen pyrophosphate. It is a chemical additive. Because we avoid chemicals, and because potatoes are dirt cheap (a little pun for your Monday Morning), I make hash browns from scratch. The trick to keeping them from turning colors is getting the excess starch off. After shredding them, put them in a colander and rinse with cold water until the water runs clear. If you are grating them by hand, grate them straight into a colander under running cold water. You’ll see in the pictures that my hash browns are white as white can be, no brown or gray to be seen!

To replace the cream of chicken soup, I made my basic cream of chicken substitute sauce. You can use this sauce in absolutely any recipe that calls for a cream soup. I opted for sweet onion instead of the green, ’cause that’s how we roll. Then, I topped it off with cheese. You can use bread crumbs and dot it with butter if you’d like. This recipe is still full of dairy and definitely high on the fat content, but it’s still a step up from a chemical-filled traditional funeral potato recipe. Because of that, I changed the name to “Celebration Potatoes”. It kinda has a nice ring to it.  Forgive the non-professional looking pictures. My family was VERY patient to sit while I took quick pics of our Easter feast, and I left them in a tad too long, your cheese doesn’t have to be this brown. :)

CELEBRATION POTATOES

1 1/2 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp seasoned salt (like season-all…a salt-free, msg free seasoning)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp pepper
4 TBS butter
6 TBS flour
2/3 cup sour cream
5-7 potatoes
1/2 sweet onion
1 cup cheddar or colby-jack cheese, grated

Mix the chicken stock, milk and seasonings in a bowl. In a sauce pan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk quickly. It will be very thick. Cook the flour for one minute. Slowly add in the chicken stock mixture 1/2 cup at a time, whisking well after each addition. Make sure you whisk out the lumps. Cook, stirring frequently, until thick, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, add in the sour cream.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To prepare your potatoes, rinse, peel and grate them. Rinse them under cold water until the water runs clear. Lay them in a 9×13 pan. Grate the 1/2 sweet onion and mix together with the potatoes. Pour the sauce over and mix into the potato mixture. Top with a layer of cheese. Cover with tin foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes, removing the foil during the last 10 minutes of baking.

REAL FOOD ALERT: Check your grated cheese for additives, it’s better to grate your own. Check your sour cream. Always use a “natural” sour cream. Next time you’re at the store, compare the ingredients of the store brand sour cream and Daisy brand, or another natural version. The ingredients should be “Cream” and that’s all. Hash browns: frozen hash browns have chemical additives.

ALLERGY ALERT: to make gluten-free, eliminate the butter/flour step. Instead, put the broth mixture into the saucepan, bring to a boil. Mix 2 TBS cornstarch with 2 TBS cold water and add to boiling liquid. Stir until thick.

 

Whole Wheat Breakfast Pockets

Breakfast.

It’s the bain of my existence.

Or it’s a stable beginning to a day of healthy eating.

Or it’s an indulgent part of a fabulous day the ends in me with chocolate stains on my shirt.

It fluctuates between those three.

I have to have protein with my breakfast, and so do my kids. If we have an easy cereal morning, within a few hours everyone is grumpy and hungry. The problem is, I’m not always in the mood to make eggs and my kids aren’t always in the mood for whole grain oatmeal. I need an easy pre-prepared breakfast option for crazy days and lazy days.

I took inspiration from frozen hot pockets, and decided to make some myself, but healthier. The crust is a super soft and flavorful honey whole wheat bread, rolled thin, so there’s no heaviness (I know what you’re thinking when you hear “whole wheat”…banish that thought). The greatest thing is how flexible the filling can be. My kids prefer eggs, sausage and cheese. You can just do eggs and cheese, or get creative with stir-fried veggies, quinoa, curried potatoes. One of our favorites is leftover sausage and gravy with scrambled eggs. The best thing? These can be frozen, then nuked in the microwave for a super simple, quick breakfast on the go, but HEALTHY!!! You’ll win the mom of the year award.

WHOLE WHEAT BREAKFAST POCKETS
makes 18 pockets

1 cup warm water
1/4 cup raw honey
1 1/2 TBS yeast
1/2 cup oil
1 egg, whisked at room temperature
3-4 cups whole wheat flour, divided
4 TBS vital wheat gluten
1/3 cup dry milk
1 tsp salt

Take the egg out of the fridge to bring to room temperature, whisk it in a bowl. In a mixer, with dough hook attached, stir together warm water and honey. Add yeast and let sit for 5 minutes, until frothy.  Add oil, egg, 2 cups of wheat flour, gluten, dry milk and salt. Mix on low until well combined. Add 1 additional cup of flour. With mixer on low, add more flour a little as a time, as needed, until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and creates a ball. Your goal here is to add as little flour as possible. Let the mixer knead the dough for 5 minutes. Check on it every once in a while and add small portions of flour as needed if dough  sticks to the sides of the bowl.

When kneading is finished, cover bowl with a towel and place in a warm spot to rise for one hour, or until double in bulk.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dump dough on a lightly floured surface. Divide into 6 equal pieces. Roll out each piece into a rectangle. Roll it as thin as you can without it ripping. Cut each rectangle into 3 pieces. Place 1/3 cup of whatever filling you are using onto one side. Fold it over and pinch the edge shut (this works best if you bring the bottom up and fold it over the top before pinching. Place them on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Let cool before placing in freezer zipper bags and freezing. To reheat, take from freezer and microwave for 35 seconds.

FILLING:

Sausage, Egg & Cheese:
1/2 lb breakfast sausage
12 eggs
cheese of choice

Brown sausage in a skillet. Drain well. Scramble eggs and cook in a skillet until cooked through, but not brown. Mix the sausage in with the eggs. Use as a filling, topping with cheese as desired before pinching shut.

REAL food alert: check your sausage for MSG, BHA and BHT. Check your pre-shredded cheese for various additives, including some that contain popular allergens (best bet: buy it and shred it yourself).

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Sugar Cookies with Sweet Honey Icing

Easter is almost upon us. Maybe this year will be the year that I dig through boxes and find all of the Easter-egg dying kits I’ve bought over years on clearance after Easter.

I always have good intentions.

But, then the holiday is a few days away and I look around my messy house and I think, “Do I REALLY want to gather the kids all in one place allowing them to get creative with DYE? Do I want to take deep breaths through all the arguing: “I wanted the yellow!!!!!!” “But I want a really dark egg, you have to leave it in a long time!” “But I’m making a tye-dyed egg, I need yellow or it will mess up my pattern!” Sigh. Yes. It’s important. Because we’re making memories. Conflict-ridden, hair-pulling, someone-ends-up-grounded-and-something-ends-up-irreparably-damaged memories.

I believe in traditions. But, sometimes, I dislike them. Anything creative I have a hard time with, maybe because want the yellow first. Pumpkin carving is the same way. I want to sit by myself for 2 hours and create a masterpiece, a pumpkin that will have everyone in the neighborhood talking. My kids have the same penchant for creating and perfection that I do. Get three or four of us in the same room creating and things can get complicated.

So, I’ve figured out some ways to make creative traditions fun. First, I throw all expectations out the window: expectations of behavior and of creative outcome. Second, I put anything of sentimental value AWAY and prep well, to minimize destruction. Third, I decide if my creation is important to me. If it is, I allot myself separate time to create, and make sure I remember that the time is to be spent helping the kids create.

I also like to change up traditions. Easter egg dying has been our most conflict-driven tradition, for some reason. Plus, you can only eat so many deviled eggs. So, this year, we stole a Christmas tradition for Easter. Decorating sugar cookies. Every year before Christmas, my mom gets all of the grandkids and has a cookie decorating party at her house. She uses the same recipe she’s been using since we were kids. The original recipe was called “Peanuts Sugar Cookies” because it came with a set of Peanuts Characters cookie cutters (you know, Charlie Brown, Snoopy…). In my opinion, it is the best sugar cookie recipe. I have never found one I liked better. The flavor is pure, the cookies hold their shape well, and they are crispy without being hard (if you are a soft-sugar-cookie person, this is not the recipe for you).

Now…what to do about the Easter egg hunt…

SUGAR COOKIES

1 1/2 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder

Cream together the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla, mix well. Add in the flour and baking powder. Mix just until flour is incorporated. Over mixing will make tough cookies. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours, up to overnight. If you refrigerate it overnight, allow it to thaw a bit before trying to work with it.

preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the dough 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured surface and cut out as desired. Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, until the edges barely start to brown. Frost and decorate.

SWEET HONEY ICING

2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 TBS milk
1 1/2- 2 TBS raw honey
1/2 tsp vanilla

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and milk until smooth. Slowly drizzle in 1 1/2 TBS of the honey while mixing. Add the vanilla and whisk until smooth and glossy. If it is too thick, add additional honey.

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Real Food Remake: Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (Slow Cooker)

Real Food Remake

I love finding a good slow cooker recipe.

The problem is that many of them, in the name of convenience, include cream soups or packaged mixes that have msg or other preservatives. A friend recently made this recipe, and I was excited that it didn’t include cream soups, but there were two things I didn’t like about the recipe. First, it used a rice-a-roni packaged mix that has autolyzed yeast extract (which is essentially msg), and second, it asks you to create a roux-based cream sauce on the stove top, add it to the soup and let it cook longer. I LOVE roux-based sauces, but it’s just an extra step that I don’t want to do on a busy day where I am using a crock pot recipe.

So, I changed a few things. First, I subbed the mix for real ingredients (seriously, it takes maybe an extra minute to measure out some spices than to open and pour a box). To avoid making the cream sauce, I added coconut milk to the soup. I picked coconut milk because it makes the soup dairy-free (shout-out to my allergic and vegan friends!!), plus it adds a nice flavor to the soup, especially with the turmeric. To thicken it, there is still an added step. At the end, you add a cornstarch mixture and let it cook and additional ten minutes. It’s still a lot less work than the cream sauce. If you’re allergic to corn, you can go the roux route, or simply take the lid off for the last 40 minutes of cooking and knock it up to high. It won’t be as thick, but it’ll be close.

When I served this soup, my picky one (who you met during this post) declared it “super-super awesome!” All of the kids loved it…until aforementioned picky kid said that the wild rice looked like beetles, then one of the others refused to eat it. So, use that knowledge to your benefit or harm, depending on the coolness factor of eating bugs in your family.

(Oh, I realized as I was typing this up that I completely forgot to add the carrots to the soup. We actually loved it without, and my kids hate carrots (I know, right?!), so I added it to the recipe, but it’s totally optional depending on your tastes).

CREAMY CHICKEN AND WILD RICE SOUP (Slow Cooker)

4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 cup onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-14 oz cans unsweetened coconut milk
4 oz package wild rice (about 2/3 cup)
1/2 c uncooked brown rice (not instant brown rice)
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 cup diced carrots (optional)

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
salt to taste

In the slow cooker, mix together everything except the cornstarch and cold water. Be sure to shake the coconut milk cans well before opening, and whisk together well. Cook on low for 4 hours. Combine cornstarch and cold water, add to the soup. Keep the lid off and cook and additional 10 minutes on high, stirring occasionally. Add salt if needed.

REAL food alert. Check your chicken stock for preservatives and msg.

ALLERGY alert: see above notes if you are allergic to corn. If you are allergic to coconut, use 2 cans of evaporated milk.

VEGGIE alert: easily make this vegetarian by omitting the chicken. You can add any veggies you would like, like celery, carrots, root veggies. You could also add kale in the last 10 minutes for a green boost.

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Technique Tuesdays: Double Boiler. Recipe: Creamy Lemon Curd

Technique Tuesday:

Double Boiler

Lemon Curd is a great companion to Irish Soda Farls that we make each St. Patrick’s Day. Curd is essential a fruit custard made with egg yolks. This recipe calls for a double boiler. I don’t know about you, I don’t know anyone who owns an actual double boiler. It isn’t even necessary as long as you have a sauce pot and metal bowl that fit together nicely. You’ll notice in the picture below the recipe my very dirty stove. You will also notice how the “double boiler” should look. You do not want the bottom of the bowl to touch the water. Essentially, the point of a double boiler is to heat something using indirect heat, to avoid it scorching or curdling. It’s used to melt chocolate and make custards, among other things. The custard is heated by the steam created by the boiling water underneath.

This lemon curd recipe results in a creamy curd, not the gelatinous kind many use for a lemon meringue pie. It’s perfect for a topping for breads or as a spread.

CREAMY LEMON CURD

5 eggs yolks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 TBS lemon zest
4 TBS butter, cut into pats and chilled

Fill a small pot with about an inch of water, place on the stove over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, in a metal bowl that fits on top of your pot, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk well, until light and creamy. For smooth curd, pour the juice through a fine mesh strainer to remove any pulp. Whisk in the lemon juice and zest. When the water comes to a boil, quickly reduce heat to low, to keep to a simmer. Place bowl on pot and whisk continually until thick. This takes about 10 minutes, but will vary. You know it’s ready when it thickly coats the back of a spoon or reached 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and add in the butter, one pat at a time, stirring each until it melts before adding the next pat. Pour into a container or bowl and press plastic wrap against the surface of the curd. Refrigerate until cool.

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Easy Chewy Granola Bars

My dad passed away a couple of years ago. He was a sporatic, but obsessive, cook. He spent the better part of a year one year perfecting chocolate chip cookies. He experimented with various recipes, tweaking the measurements, substituting butter, margarine and shortening in various ways. In the end he even specified the exact sized scoop you should use to scoop the cookie dough onto the sheet, before pressing each one with your thumb and refrigerating it over night. Some of my best memories of him are him in the kitchen, making the perfect fluffy omelet, or out grilling his specially basted chicken. I think most of my cooking skills come from my mom, but my analytic side definitely comes from my dad.

This last Christmas, a dear family friend gave me a fun finger scraper, shown in the pictures of this recipe. She chose it, knowing I loved to cook, and because the company who makes them is called “Fred” (my dad’s name is Fred), and each scraper has “Fred” on the handle. She said that way I would always think of my dad while cooking. It’s one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received. It also started me on a love affair with quirky “Fred” products. I’ll list some of my favorites after the recipe.

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to make chewy granola bars at home, without all of the preservatives, refined sugar and hydrogenated oils you find in the ones in the grocery store. I think I channeled my dad when I made these three different ways in one day, attempting to get them perfect.

The thing I love about homemade granola bars is that you can customize them to be as healthy as you like, also geared toward your kids’ likes and avoiding allergens. This recipe uses peanut butter. If you have allergies to peanuts in your house, substitute the gooey part with 1 cup sugar + 1 cup honey + 1 TBS butter (if they have coconut allergies as well), and cook the same.

EASY CHEWY GRANOLA BARS

3/4 cup natural peanut butter (no sugar, just roasted peanuts and salt)
2/3 cup raw honey (read here about raw vs. processed honey and dangers of store-bought honey)
1 TBS coconut oil (if you don’t have coconut oil, substitute butter)
2 cups oats (use gf oats for gluten-free granola bars)
1 cup crisped rice cereal (I have no notes for this, but didn’t want them to feel left out)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (ditto)

In a large bowl, combine the oats and cereal. In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the peanut butter, honey and coconut oil. Stir continuously. When the mixture barely starts to bubble, continue stirring for 2 minutes, then immediately pour over the oat mixture. Stir until well combined. Let sit for a few minutes, until it’s still warm, but won’t burn you to touch it. Add in the chocolate chips and lightly stir. They will melt a bit, so don’t over mix. Pour the mixture into an 8×8 square pan. Place a large square of wax paper over it and press down as hard as you can, compacting the entire mixture into the pan. Let cool in the fridge for 15 minutes. Cut into 8 bars.

You may want to double or triple this recipe, although it’s easiest to make in smaller batches. You can also personalize it, by adding ground flax, coconut, dried cherries, raisins, etc. have fun!!

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Some of my favorite “Fred” products:

Pastasaurus: Adorable pasta server with the head of a dinosaur. My kids love it.

“Equal Measure” Measuring cup: a glass measuring cup that measures up to 2 1/2 cups, includes standard and metric measurements. The kicker is that it also includes measurements like “volume of half of the human brain” and “one hundred and fifty thousand poppy seeds”. Practical, yet humorous…and it appeals to the science geek in me.

Unzipped-Bag Shaped Glass Bowl: the company has all sorts of funky-shaped stuff, and this is one of my favorites..it’s a glass bowl, but shaped like an unzipped ziploc bag full of something, sitting up. Perfect for a candy bowl, or fish bowl, or just a conversation starter. Clever.

Cake Candelabra: For the diva, or just for an extra special birthday, this candelabra sit a top a birthday cake to hold your candles. I’m thinking I need one for my 40th birthday…which won’t be for another 20-30 years…

Lasagna Soup

I know that in my Zuppa Toscana Soup post, I said that I don’t go to Italian restaurants. That does not mean I don’t like Italian food. I mean, what’s not to like? A perfectly seasoned sauce over tender meat, topped with ooey gooey cheese?

Lasagna is one of my favorite foods in the world. I happened upon this recipe for Lasagna Soup and was blown away. It’s a tomato broth soup with big pieces of Italian sausage, plenty of onions and spices, some fresh basil to lighten it all up, poured hot over a ball of ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Life Altering. Seriously. I served this with my homemade French Bread, and it was almost an out-of-body experience. I should mention that I don’t consider canned tomatoes “real” food, only because many cans are lined with BPA, which are of special concern for tomatoes, because the acidity in tomatoes makes them leach more BPA into the food. I tried to find an alternative, and didn’t. Using self-canned tomatoes from glass jars, or roasting some tomatoes in the oven (like in my Roasted Red Salsa) would both be acceptable substitutes for the canned tomatoes here.

LASAGNA SOUP

8 oz fusilli pasta, or lasagna noodles broken into bite sized pieces.
2 tsp olive oil
1 pound mild Italian sausage (or hot, if you like some kick)
3 cups chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 TBS tomato paste
1 28 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into strips.
8 oz. ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
more shredded mozzarella cheese for the top

In a large pot, boil your noodles to “al dente” (not super floppy) according to package directions. Drain and set aside. In your soup pot, drizzle the olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until pieces are starting to brown. Add the onions and contnue to cook, stirring frequently, until the sausage is fully cooked and the onions are translucent. Add the garlic, Italian seasoning and tomato paste. Cook for a minute or two, until the tomato paste darkens. Add in the tomatoes with their juice and the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. When the soup is done simmering, add the noodles and basil into the soup. To serve, place a dollop of cheese mixture into each bowl and pour the soup over it. You can sprinkle more mozzarella on top, if you desire.

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Adapted from: A Farm Girls Dabbles

REAL food alert: Read above about canned tomatoes. Check your Chicken stock for MSG. Check your sausage for MSG and Preservatives .
ALLERGY alert: to make dairy-free, eliminate the cheese. For gluten-free, use rice pasta.
VEGGIE alert:  to make vegetarian, eliminate the sausage, use veggie broth and add zucchini, summer squash or eggplant. Also eliminate the cheese to make it vegan.
HEALTH alert: to make it healthier, use turkey sausage and wheat pasta.
For a freezer meal, or to make ahead, add everything except the cheese mixture and noodles. Freeze in gallon-sized freezer bags. To serve, defrost, add in cooked noodles and make the cheese mixture.
To convert this to a slow cooker meal, cook sausage and onions, place them in the slow cooker. Add the remaining soup ingredients (minus the cheese). Increase the chicken stock to 8 cups. Add in uncooked noodles. Cook on low 4 hours.

Asian Orange Chicken

I’m not much of a fast-food type gal. But, every once in a while I’ll strategically plan my errands around lunchtime in the area of a local Panda Express. I justify that it’s healthier than a hamburger, but it’s probably not. At least I’m getting veggies, right?

I have one son who is allergic to soy, so I don’t make chinese-style food all that often at home, but the rest of us love it, especially this recipe I happened upon thanks to allrecipes. It is one of our favorites. I pull some of the chicken aside before toss it in the sauce for my non-soy kiddo. Another great thing about this recipe is that you can make the sauce ahead of time and freeze it. This tastes the best with fresh squeezed juice from real oranges and lemons (one orange and 2-3 lemons).

ASIAN ORANGE CHICKEN 

Sauce:
1 1/2 cups water
2 TBS fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
2 TBS soy sauce
1 TBS grated orange zest
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp fresh ginger root, minced
1/2 tsp minced garlic
2 TBS green onion, snipped
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
4 TBS cornstarch
2 TBS cold water

Chicken:
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 TBS seasoned salt
2 eggs
oil for frying

Make sauce by combining everything except the cornstarch and 2 TBS water in a saucepan. Combine well and bring to a boil over medium heat. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and 2 TBS cold water well. Pour the cornstarch/water mixture into the saucepan. Stir until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat.

Prepare the chicken by placing two bowls side by side. Crack the eggs into one bowl and whisk well. In the second bowl, combine flour and seasoned salt. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large pot to 350-375 degrees. I usually throw a little piece of chicken in to see if it immediately starts bubbling around the food, that’s how you know it’s ready. Oil at a correct temp leaves less oil on the food, so it’s fried, but not greasy. If you put your food in too early, it will soak up oil before getting fried, leading to greasy food and higher calories. When your oil is ready, dip chicken in the eggs, then coat in flour and place in the oil. Do not over crowd the pan. At this point, I typically turn my heat down to medium. Your heat will changed based on how much you put in the oil and your stove. Watch how quickly they are browning and change your heat level as needed. Brown on each side. Check the first couple you pull out to make sure they are cooked through. Remove them to paper towels until all the chicken is finished browning. Toss in the sauce and serve with rice.

REAL food alert: Check the ingredients of your seasoned salt for MSG. Look for soy sauce that lists “soybeans”, not “hydrolyzed soy protein“.
ALLERGEN alert: make this gluten-free by using gluten-free flour and gluten-free soy sauce.
HEALTH alert: make this healthier by oven cooking your chicken.

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Homemade Hamburger Buns

When I was a little girl, my mom made almost every thing from scratch. I think this was part necessity, and part attempting to show that she could “do it all” as a mom: homemade goodness while working in the home teaching piano lessons and babysitting. She was wonder woman. I remember one thing that she made from scratch was hamburger buns. To this day, I think a phenomenal bun take hamburgers to the next level. Hand-shaped Angus hamburgers from the grill, dripping with mayo and ketchup is still one of my favorite indulgences. Make these buns for your next grill-out and wow the guests…or your family.

HOMEMADE HAMBURGER BUNS

3 TBS warm milk
1 cup warm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
2½ TBS sugar
1½ tsp salt
1  egg, beaten
2-3 cups flour
3 TBS vital wheat gluten
2 TBS butter, softened

For egg wash:

1 egg
1 TBS water

In your stand mixer, combine milk, water, yeast, and sugar. Let sit 5 minutes, until foamy. Mix in the beaten egg.  Add 2 cups of flour, the salt and the gluten, and mix with your dough hook until incorporated.  Add additional flour as needed in 1/2 cup increments until dough sticks together. Be careful to add as little flour as possible, just enough to hold the dough together. Mix in the butter. Let mixer knead the dough on low for 8 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. The dough should be very soft. Remove bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rise in a warm place until double, typically about an hour, but it will vary.

Dump the dough on a counter, sprinkled with flour. Divide the dough into eight pieces.  Line your baking sheet with parchment paper (yes, I know I didn’t…and I regretted it). Roll each piece of dough into a ball and place on the baking sheet, 2 inches apart.  Place in a warm area and allow to rise until double, about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place a pan half-full of water on the lowest rack of the oven. Combine the egg and water. Very carefully, brush the tops of the buns lightly with the egg wash.  Bake the rolls on the center oven rack for 12-15 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.  Cool on a cooling rack.

For the ultimate burger, Brush with melted butter and lightly toast on the grill or under a broiler.

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Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s Pie is the ultimate comfort food. Yeah, I know, you’re thinking “No, it’s not. Macaroni and Cheese is”. Well, we could arm wrestle over it, but for me, meat and potatoes will beat pasta every single day. Plus, add some green veggies to it, and it turns into health food. Can’t beat that. This is a very versatile recipe, and is perfect for using up leftovers. I personally use leftover roast from my Garlic Pork Roast, or Pot Roast. If you don’t have leftovers, it’s till very tasty using ground beef or ground turkey. Heck, you can use leftover turkey from thanksgiving, and your kids will love you! I also use leftover vegetables, my kids prefer corn and green beans. If you don’t have leftovers, cook up some frozen or fresh veggies. You can use canned, if you must.

SHEPHERD’S PIE

1 lb. ground beef or turkey, or leftover shredded roast.
2 cups assorted cooked vegetables: green beans, carrots or corn.
4 TBS butter
4 TBS flour
2 cups beef broth, or broth from cooking the roast.
4-5 cups mashed potatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook ground meat, if using, until brown. Spread meat (either the ground meat, or leftover roast) into a 9×13 pan. Spread vegetables on top of the meat. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add the flour and cook while whisking until light brown (you are making a Roux). Add broth, 1/2 cup at a time, whisking vigorously after each addition, removing all lumps before adding more broth (click on roux link for additional help). When all of the broth is added, whisk continually until thick. Pour over the meat and veggies. Spread mashed potatoes on top. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, until hot and bubbly.

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REAL food alert: Many canned and boxed stocks and broths have preservatives or MSG. Double check the ingredients list to make sure there are no ingredients you aren’t comfortable with. Better yet, Make your own broth, or use the liquid from cooking the roast.

ALLERGY alert: This can be made gluten-free by subbing gluten-free flour. If the gravy does not sufficiently thicken, use 1 TBS cornstarch+ 3 TBS cold water, and add it while the gravy is boiling. Stir until thick.  Be sure you double check your stock/broth to make sure it’s gluten-free. This can be made dairy-free by subbing 100% vegetable margarine or oil for the butter.

VEGGIE alert: You could make this vegetarian by using veggie broth, and subbing the meat for cooked beans. Make it vegan by also subbing the butter for oil or 100% vegetable margarine.

For a freezer meal, assemble everything except mashed potatoes. cover snugly with heavy foil. Freeze. To serve, defrost and top with mashed potatoes.