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    Fried rice is so fantastic because it's a delicious way to use up a bunch of leftovers. It tastes too good to be this convenient. It's a pretty complete meal, all by itself, and you can make it all in one pan. It can also be a great side dish to go along with broccoli beef, chicken chow mein, and some spring rolls, if you want a feast!

Ingredients:
2 T oil (peanut, vegetable, olive... anything except motor oil)
3 c cooked rice (it's better if you use rice cooked the day before)
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into bite size pieces (raw or cooked)
4 green onions, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced
8 oz peas and carrots (fresh, frozen, or canned- whatever you've got)
2 eggs
1 t ginger powder
1 T sesame oil
3 T soy sauce

Directions:
    In a wok or large pan, heat oil over medium heat. If you're using raw chicken, add that first, and cook it thoroughly. Then, add the green onions and garlic, and let them cook for a minute or so, throw the rice in, and mix it all up. Add the ginger powder and let it cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. When it's nice and fried, push everything to one side of the pan, and scramble and cook both eggs on the other side.
     When the eggs are cooked, stir everything to combine, and add the peas and carrots, sesame oil, and soy sauce. If you're using previously cooked chicken, add that, too. Mix everything together, and let it cook for about 2 more minutes and serve.
    Now taste it


 
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    Chicken Pot Pie is one of those great comfort foods that you never really out grow. I had never even thought about making it at home, but I found a recipe on a box of pre-made pie crusts one time, and thought, eh, why not? I first made this one night when my mom and grandfather came over for dinner. Everyone was blown away, and we finished the whole thing. My Grandpa Tony said he liked it better than Marie Callender's. I couldn't believe how good it was, especially since it was so easy to make. The next week, my mom was still raving about it, so I made it again, and this time my husband had some, too. He loved it, and he had always said he didn't even like pot pies!  In the amount of time it takes to bake a frozen pot pie, you can make your own with twice the flavor, for about half the cost. Why not?

Ingredients:
1 whole pie crust, top and bottom (uncooked)- I use pre-made ones from the grocery store because I'm a fraud
2 cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 c milk
2 c frozen peas and carrots
1/2 t garlic salt
1/2 t pepper

Directions:

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

    Place bottom pie crust in a pie pan. In a large bowl, stir all the other ingredients together, and pour them into the pie crust. Cover with the other pie crust, and cut an X (or another letter, or pretty design if you're feeling creative) to vent the steam, and pinch down the edges. Bake for about an hour, until the pie is a golden brown. 
    Let it cool for 10-20 minutes, and serve.

 
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    This is one of my newer recipes that I tried out a couple of months ago. Everybody really liked it, but it was missing something. Recently, I added the sesame oil, and that did it. Now we eat it every week. It's so inexpensive, very easy to make, and it's much less greasy than I find in most restaurants. This has become one of my favorite dinners. I like to serve it with spring rolls.






Ingredients:
1 package chow mein noodles
5 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 c teriyaki sauce (I like Soy Vey)
1/2 sweet onion, sliced
1 T minced garlic (I bought it in a jar at Costco. This changed my life.)
2 c cabbage or broccoli coleslaw mix (with no sauce)
1 c shredded carrots
1 T sesame oil
3 T soy sauce

Directions:

    Cook the noodles according to the directions on the package. All I can ever find are the really skinny ones, and they only need to boil for about three minutes.

    In a large pan over medium high heat, cook the chicken, onion, and garlic in the teriyaki sauce. When the chicken is cooked through, add the sesame oil, cabbage or broccoli coleslaw mix and carrots, and stir fry for another minute or two. Stir in the soy sauce and noodles, and serve.
 

 
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    One of my greatest friends used to make these spring rolls when we shared an apartment, and I couldn't get enough of them. She gave me the recipe, and now my kids and husband can't get enough of them, either.  I like to make the spring rolls early in the day, so that I have a great appetizer or side dish that I don't have to worry about at dinner time. I like to serve them cold, but you can fry them in peanut oil if you like the crunchy skin. 


Ingredients:
rice wonton/ spring roll wrappers
1 T vegetable oil
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T grated ginger
1 block of tofu, cubed (I use extra firm, because I like the texture)
1 c shredded carrots
1 c bean sprouts
1/2 c shredded cabbage, or coleslaw mix without dressing
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 T sesame oil
4 T soy sauce
2 T rice vinegar
Peanut oil for frying (optional)

Directions:

    Heat vegetable oil over medium high heat in a large wok or pan. Add green onions, garlic, ginger and tofu, and saute for a couple of minutes. Add sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, carrots, bean sprouts and cabbage, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots and sprouts are tender. Stir in the cilantro, and then remove from heat. 

    To wrap spring rolls, soak one wrapper in warm water for about 20 seconds to soften it a little. Then lay it flat on the counter, and spoon the filling into the wrapper. Fold the sides in, and roll it up. Continue until you run out of filling or wrappers. 

    You can either refrigerate them, and serve as-is, or you can fry them in peanut oil just before you serve them. Either way, they're delicious. I like to dip spring rolls in Soy Vey teriyaki sauce, and serve with broccoli beef or chicken chow mein.











    Image courtesy of John Kasawa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 
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    Chili is one of those great things that you can make on the stove when you're hungry, or in a crock pot way ahead of time, if you know you're going to be busy. It's inexpensive, easy, and delicious. There are so many variations, that everybody makes it a little bit differently. This is how I make basic chili.






Ingredients:
1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground turkey or beef
2 cans kidney beans
2 cans black beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
3 T chili seasoning
1/2 c chicken stock (optional)

Chili Seasoning:
2 t chili powder (more if you're trying to clear out your sinuses)
1 t red pepper (more if you're spicy. My kids eat it this way.)
1 T onion powder
1 T garlic powder
2 t sugar
2 t cumin
2 t parsley
2 t season salt
1 t basil
1/2 t pepper

Directions:
    Saute onions in olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat, until they are translucent. Add garlic and meat, and cook until all the meat has browned. Add chili seasoning, and mix well. Then, add beans, tomatoes, and tomato sauce. If you want to drain the beans before adding them to remove some of the sodium, or if you're using cooked dry beans, add the chicken stock. If you use the liquid from the beans, do not add chicken stock. Turn heat down to low and cover.
    
    Let the chili simmer for half an hour. The longer you let the flavors mingle, the better it will be. 
    
    This chili is a little bit spicy for the kids, so I top it with shredded cheddar cheese and avocado, and mix in sour cream to tone it down. 

    Serve with corn bread. Always.

 
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    Hummus is one of my family's favorite foods. Everyone congregates in the kitchen when I make it, stealing a little bit whenever they can. I don't know why, because this recipe makes plenty, and it doesn't take long. My daughter will eat it on anything, but prefers to just lick it straight from her fingers. It's a super healthy snack, mild enough for even the most sensitive palate, but it has a nice bold, satisfying flavor.   
    I like to make pita chips to go with it, because home made pita chips are infinitely better than any brand I have ever tasted from the store. Once you make your own, you'll never buy them again. 
    I have made the pita from scratch, which is also delicious, but that's a long process that has to start well before you're hungry, so I usually just make the pita chips from store-bought whole wheat pita bread.

For the Hummus:
Ingredients:
1 lemon, juice only
1 can chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) rinsed and drained
1/4 c tahini (you can also substitute peanut butter, for a nutty flavor)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t olive oil
1/2 t ground cumin
dash cayenne pepper
1/2 t salt
1/4 c water

Directions:
     Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, and serve with pita chips, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, bell peppers, crackers, bread, or anything else you have on hand. It's also great as a spread on a sandwich!

    Hummus can be kept at room temperature for up to four hours, but if you prefer it cold, chill it in a refrigerator before serving. 

For the Pita Chips:
Ingredients:
1 package pita bread 
1/4 c olive oil
garlic salt
pepper
dried basil
dried oregano

Directions:
    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

    Cut pita bread into slices, like a pizza, and peel apart the pieces. Lay them out on a baking tray with the inside part of the bread facing up. Brush the olive oil on the pita bread, and sprinkle with garlic salt, pepper, basil, and oregano.

    Bake for about 7 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, so they cook more evenly. They go from not done at all, to burnt within a few seconds, so you have to watch them closely after about 5 minutes. When the pita chips are  nice and toasty golden brown, take the pan out of the oven, and place it on top of a wire rack to cool.  


    This is my version of a recipe I found in Disney's Family Fun Magazine in May of 2011.




Photo: © Lizmoore15 | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

 
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    Let me just start off by saying that this recipe is DEFINITELY NOT for kids. It's about 95% booze, and 100% delicious. But, when the kids have gone to bed, and everything is done, it's nice to unwind with a little glass of paradise. It also makes a great drink to serve at parties. This recipe makes a whole pitcher of pineapple martinis, so there's enough paradise for everyone.

Ingredients:
1 pineapple
4 c Sky vodka
2 c Malibu rum
2 c Stoli Vanil vodka
1/4 c sugar.


Directions:
    First, remove the skin from the pineapple, and cut it into wedges, 1/2 inch thick. Place the pineapple wedges in a large pitcher. I like to use a sun tea pitcher, because it's got a little spout on the bottom.
    
    Next, pour the sugar and alcohol over the pineapple, and let it sit for at least two days. The longer it sits, the smoother the flavor. 

    To serve, pour about 4 oz into a shaker of ice, and shake until nice and cold. Serve in a martini glass, and garnish with a wedge of pineapple, either fresh, or from the martini pitcher. Remember, the pineapples in the martini pitcher have been sitting in booze for days, so they're pretty much entirely alcohol. 

    Pineapple martinis are also great when mixed with orange juice, if you're looking for a reminder of your last tropical vacation.

    This is my take on a recipe I originally found here, for Roy's Hawaiian Martinis.

 
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    Everybody needs a go-to salsa recipe, and this is mine. I got it from a very good friend a while ago, and tweaked it to make it my own. I always make it when we have company, and everyone always loves it. It's a good thing the recipe makes a lot, because everybody always wants some to take home.





Ingredients:
1 large can of Rotel, drained
1 small can of tomatoes, drained
1 onion, peeled and quartered (since the Rotel is kind of spicy, I use sweet onion to balance it out, but white onion is also great)
1 bunch of cilantro
2 cloves minced garlic
1 lime, juice only
1 t cumin
1/2 t salt
1/4 t sugar

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a food processor. If you put the cilantro in first, it blends together better. Then, pulse everything in the food processor until it reaches your desired consistency. Pour into a bowl, and refrigerate for a few hours, until everything is nice and cold. It tastes best after the flavors have had time to mingle, but I don't blame you if you can't wait that long.

 
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    This is a quick and super easy Mexican inspired casserole. The kids love it, and I love that they eat their dinner. It's tasty, and, if you put avocados on top, you can pretend it's healthy.





Ingredients:
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (I like sweet onions for this)
1 lb ground beef or turkey
1 packet taco seasoning
1 can Rotel, drained (if you don't want it to be spicy at all, use mild Rotel)
4 oz cream cheese
3 oz sour cream
12 oz shell noodles (or macaroni), cooked

Directions:
    In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat until it shimmers. Throw in the onion, and cook it until it's translucent. Add the beef or turkey, and cook until meat is completely browned. Sprinkle in the taco seasoning, add Rotel, and mix it up well. Keep it on medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until almost all of the liquid has cooked out, and then turn the heat down. Mix in the cream cheese and sour cream, and then stir in the noodles. 
    If it's too spicy, you can add more sour cream to tone it down. One of my friends likes to add a can of black beans and a can of corn (both drained) for a Southwestern flavor. 
    Serve hot, and top with avocado slices and cilantro. If it's not too much cheese (is there such a thing?), you could also sprinkle a little cotija cheese on top to make it look pretty.

    This is my take on a recipe I originally found here.

 
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    I mean it sincerely when I say that this is the world's best banana bread. Not that I've tried them all, but I don't need to. The brown sugar brings out the flavor of the bananas, instead of over sweetening like white sugar. The rich and creamy flavor is complimented by the addition of chopped walnuts, which make this banana bread filling enough to be a complete breakfast.


Ingredients:
2 c flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 c butter, softened
3/4 c brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3 large, very ripe bananas
1  1/2 c chopped walnuts

Directions:

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix together the butter and brown sugar. Mash up the bananas, and add them, the eggs, and the walnuts to the butter and brown sugar, mix well. 

    Pour the banana mixture into the large bowl of dry ingredients, and mix together until smooth.

    Grease a 9x5 loaf pan, and bake for 60-65 minutes. Remove from the oven, and let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before turning out to a wire rack to cool completely. 

    This is my take on a recipe I originally found here.