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Roasted Brussels Sprouts

It has taken me 50 years before I tried Brussels sprouts, and I must admit that I adore and love them! Lesson learned: It shouldn't take a person so long to try new things! The best season to find Brussels sprouts is in the fall and winter. Choose smaller heads that have pronounced green color and tight, firm heads. The fewer the wilted, loose leaves the better.

1 pound Brussels sprouts 
4 cloves garlic, sliced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut off the ends of the Brussels sprouts and remove any wilted or yellow leaves. Cut them in half and place them in a bowl along with the garlic. Pour olive oil over them and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Carefully mix until sprouts are nicely oiled. Place in a heated cast iron skillet and cook over medium heat, with cut sides down. Cook until they begin to brown, 2-3 minutes. Place in oven and continue to cook for 8-10 minutes, tossing a few times so sprouts brown on all sides. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately. Serves 4.
Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Ranch Dressing Mix

Here's a recipe to store in your cupboard for when you need salad dressing. May use it in dips or other recipes.

12 saltine crackers
1 cup dry parsley
1/2 cup dried minced onion
1/2 cup dried chives
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon dill
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a food processor. Whirl together until crumbs are very small. Store in airtight container. Will keep for up to a year.

To make ranch dressing:
In mixer blend together: 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 cup buttermilk, 1 tablespoon dressing mix.
Pour into a pint jar. Cover and allow to chill for 4 hours. Pour over your favorite salad.
Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Chinese Menu Ideas

We love Chinese food and have been known to go all out and make a huge Chinese feast in our home for family and friends. Here are some ideas for you to do the same! 

Egg Drop Soup

Egg Rolls and Crab Rangoon

Fried Rice

Beef Teriyaki with Vegetables or Pineapple Chicken

Chinese Barbecued Pork or Pork Stir-Fry with Peanuts

Sesame Chicken, Lemon Chicken or Orange Chicken

Pork Lo Mein or Chicken Lo Mein

I don't yet have a Chinese Fortune Cookie Recipe, but here is a yummy Cherry Almond Cake recipe that works to top off the meal!

See more Asian menu ideas HERE.

Chicago-Style Stuffed Pizza

Here's my take on a wonderful pizza we ate at a family-owned pizzeria in Gunnison, CO called Mario's. The trick here is lots of layers, and lots of cheese!

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups 00 flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/3 cup lukewarm water
melted butter and olive oil 

28 oz plum tomatoes, hand crushed
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

8 oz. provolone, sliced
6 oz. Canadian bacon, sliced
1 pound mild Italian sausage, remove from casings and brown
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped mushrooms
4 oz. pepperoni, sliced
1 lb mozzarella cheese, sliced
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons olive oil, to drizzle on top

To make the crust, mix together dough ingredients and knead for 6-7 minutes, to make a smooth crust. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Let rise until double, about 1 hour. 

While the dough is rising, place the sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 30-40 minutes, until it has reduced to a nice thickened sauce, stirring occasionally. Brown the sausage in a large skillet. Add green pepper, onion, and mushrooms and saute until tender.

Prepare your pans (I used my large 14"cast iron skillet, and my 9" springform pan. They both worked well and I could not tell much difference between the two bottom crusts.) In a small bowl, melt 3 tablespoons butter and then stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Grease both dishes with a thin layer of this butter mixture. Set butter aside as you will grease the crusts as you layer the pizza.

Divide the dough into thirds. Stretch the first two pieces of dough to make as large of circles as you can to fit each pan. Lay each into a pan and stretch it toward the edges. Continue stretching the dough to cover the bottom and sides of the pan. If necessary, allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes, to finish stretching up the sides of each pan. 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat the dough with a thin layer of butter mixture. Begin layering the toppings, by adding the provolone cheese slices. Then the Canadian Bacon followed by the sausage and vegetables, and then the pepperoni. Top the meat with a layer of mozzarella cheese. 

Divide the third piece of dough in half and roll each into an 1/8" thin circle. Place each over the cheese layer in each pan. Press the dough into the sides of the bottom crust. Coat this layer of dough with a thin layer of butter mixture. Poke a few holes in this top crust to allow steam to escape while baking. 

Add the final layer of cheese (fresh mozzarella) on top of this crust and top with the sauce. Place pizza on bottom rack of oven, and bake for 30-45 minutes.

Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Remove from pans using metal spatulas and place on serving platter. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan. Cut each pizza into 8 slices. Makes two pizzas. Serves 8-10. 
Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

My Adventures with Sourdough

In June 2013, I started my adventures in sourdough. After nearly six years of baking some sort of sourdough bread each week, I can still say that we dearly love it. Here's how my adventure began: 

There is much to learn on the Internet about this old-time tradition of baking, and I did a lot of studying before I began my first batch. When it came time to make my starter, however, I went with a recipe I found on King Arthur Flours, with a couple of changes in the directions. You can also opt to buy your starter from them, but I decided to make mine from scratch.

The starter recipe is very simple:
2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour

Pour the water into a 4 quart glass or ceramic container or bowl. Add honey and yeast. Stir in flour gradually. Cover the bowl with a clean dishcloth and place it in a warm spot. It is said that a dishcloth vs plastic wrap allows the starter to capture any wild yeast that is in the air, giving it a better flavor. The mixture will begin to bubble and brew almost immediately.

Allow it to set on your counter for 2-3 days, stirring once a day. When the bubbles have subsided and a yeasty sour aroma has developed, it is time to "feed" your starter.

To feed: Remove 1 cup of starter, also called "unfed starter". You may use this to make sourdough pancakes, biscuits, or pretzels. Or you may discard the cup of starter or "share" it with a friend, but it is essential that you get rid of one cup. If you don't you'll end up with enough sourdough starter to feed an army! Add to the remaining starter 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup warm water. Stir to combine and cover. Feed your starter every 12 hours for the first week to get the best "sour" taste from your mixture.

After the first week, you may then refrigerate the starter in a glass or ceramic container. I chose to purchase a crock from King Arthur Flour to store mine, found HERE. Stir once a week and feed whenever you use the starter. I also named my starter "Bertha". She is a living thing, after all. 

Christina Miller's Chicken and Dumplings

Christina Miller has always lived in the past. Her passion for history began with her grandmother’s stories of 1920s rural southern Indiana. When Christina began to write fiction, she believed God was calling her to write what she knew: history. 

Bethany College of Missions graduate, pastor’s wife, and worship leader, she lives on the family farm with her husband of thirty years and Sugar, their talking dog. Learn more about Christina HERE.

Christina's Latest Book Release: Return to Sweetwater Cove 
The Erie Canal Brides Collection

The Reverend Josiah Wells is eager to come home to serve at Sweetwater Cove Church until he finds that the head deacon’s quirky wife has concealed Josiah’s identity from the congregation. When the community realizes the new minister was once the troubled young orphan who nearly destroyed their little village, a surge of controversy whips up trouble in the once-peaceful canal town. And pretty widow Betsy Bennett is the one most intent on dousing Josiah’s dream of repaying his long-ago debt to Sweetwater Cove. His biggest regret is the harm he’d caused Betsy’s late husband, Gilbert, when they were only twelve. So Josiah vows to make it up to Betsy—the girl who’d stolen his heart all those years ago—and to Little Gilly, her eight-year-old son. Although Josiah is confident that God has washed away his sins and granted him a new life, his past has left him believing he’s unworthy of love.

Betsy wants nothing more than to make the town worthy of the Marquis de Lafayette’s upcoming visit during his epic tour of the nearly finished Erie Canal. After all, the Marquis was commander over Sweetwater Cove’s soldiers at snowy Valley Forge and was her late husband’s hero. Perhaps, if she could give the Marquis a reception he’d never forget, she could finally free herself from her guilt over Gil’s death. But she doesn’t anticipate opposition from slick local businessman Maynard Swift. Josiah seems determined to stand by her side … and maybe even prove that God’s plan for her includes more than just a misty dream of love. Purchase the book HERE.

Christina's Chicken and Dumplings

1 whole chicken

1 diced onion, optional
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups water
½ cup butter
4 cups white flour
1 tablespoon salt

Boil the chicken, onion, and poultry seasoning for at least an hour and a half. If you like your meat and onion “falling apart,” boil up to three hours. Remove meat to a platter and cover with an old towel to keep the meat moist. Reserve the broth.

In a medium saucepan, heat the water and butter. In a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. When water/butter has boiled, pour it into the flour and stir very quickly to make dough. When dough has cooled enough for handling, dust a wooden board with flour and use a floured rolling pin to roll ¼ of the dough thin. Cut dumplings with a sharp knife or a pizza cutter. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bone the chicken and add to the broth. Season the broth with salt and pepper. If you want a soupier dish to serve in a bowl, use all the broth. If you want to put the chicken and dumplings on your plate, or place them atop mashed potatoes, just use about ¾ of the broth. Bring it to a boil. Drop dumplings one by one into the broth as you get them rolled out. To make them ahead, lay them in single layers on cookie sheets, with waxed paper between each layer, and freeze. No need to thaw them before dropping. 

Baked Brie with Sun Dried Tomatoes

Here's a delicious appetizer to make and serve in a cast-iron skillet. 

10 oz. Brie
1/4 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon whole mustard
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried chopped chives
black ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove rind from brie, then cut into cubes and place in a small cast iron skillet. In a medium bowl, combine sun dried tomatoes, garlic, mustard, thyme, chives, and pepper. Pour over brie. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until brie is melted and bubbly. Serve warm with crusty bread or crackers. Serves 4.
Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Cheeseburger Soup

Here's an easy recipe to serve on a cold winter night.

1 1/2 pounds ground hamburger
2 large potatoes, peeled and shredded
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cubes chicken bouillon
4 cups water
2 cups milk
8 oz processed cheese like Velveeta, cubed
2 teaspoons parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

In large kettle, brown hamburger. Add shredded potatoes, carrots, and chopped onion. Add water and bouillon cubes and cook until tender, about 12-15 minutes. Add milk and cheese, stirring occasionally until melted. Add parsley, salt, and pepper. Simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes. Serves 6-8.
Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Twelve Days of Christmas Tea Party

A few years ago, my daughters and I hosted a Twelve Days of Christmas Tea Party at my grandma's house. Here are some ideas for you to host your own party. Happy 9th Day of Christmas!

Our youngest daughter took care of the decorations,

while I handled the menu. 

We found these gorgeous Victorian Graphic 45 Twelve Days of Christmas scrap booking pads online that we based our decorations on. 

You can find the pads HERE, or they can also be found on Ebay. 

Below are some of the special foods that I made, including the Pimento Cheese Tea Sandwiches and Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches pictured above.

For games, we had a scavenger hunt, played Christmas Bingo, and sang the Twelve Days of Christmas, with solos for each day. It was lots of fun. See more Tea Party ideas HERE.