Homemade Granola

This stuff is so darn good!  I'm kicking myself for not making it sooner.  I love that you can can do so much with it.  And well, let's be honest.  I like that I can make it with all my favorite ingredients.  I'll never buy it again, it is so easy to make & keep on hand.  Add it to some yogurt or ice cream.  Or, if you're like my family, just eat it with some milk like cereal. It's quick, easy, & good for you!!  It makes for a great present too.  Make it for holidays, bake sales, or any occasion! 
3 cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
1 cup Sliced Almonds
1 cup Halved or Chopped Pecans
1/2 cup Dried Cranberries
1/2 cup Raisins
1/3 cup Vegetable or Canola Oil
1/3 cup of Honey
1/4 c Light Brown Sugar
1 tsp of Cinnamon
1 tsp of Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Kosher Salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
In a large bowl combine all the ingredients except the dried fruit. 
I used a stand mixer, but you could do it by hand.
Spread the mixture onto a sheet pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, stirring half way through.  It should be a nice golden color.  Don't be alarmed that it is still soft.  It hardens as it cools. 
Let it cool completely on the sheet pan.
When the oats & nuts have cooled, place them in a mixing bowl & add the dried fruit.
Stir to combine well. 
Store in an air tight container.
Fill Mason Jars & tie with ribbon for gifts. 

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic

This is a delightful dish.  It's comfort food that sounds fancy & it's also incredibly easy to make.  Especially if you buy the garlic cloves already peeled.  (And no, that's not cheating.)  Don't be alarmed by the amount of garlic either.  It cooks into soft buttery deliciousness & for the most part, the cloves melt into the sauce.  In fact, if it wasn't called Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic you would guess it had that much in it.  I make it with boneless skinless chicken breasts because that's what we like to eat.  But Ina Garten's recipe (which I adapted mine from) uses whole chicken pieces.  So use what ever you'd like- white or dark meat, bone & skin on or not.  It will all be delicious coated with this dreamy sauce!
4-6 pieces of Chicken
40 Cloves of Garlic (or 3 whole heads)
1 cup of White Wine (you can substitute Chicken Broth)
1- 1 1/2 cups of Chicken Broth
2 tbsp of Flour
1-2 tbsp Heavy Cream
1 tbsp Butter
2 tbsp Olive Oil
fresh Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped
Salt & Pepper

In a dutch oven or large chefs pan, add the butter & olive oil.  Heat to medium high heat.  Season the chicken with salt & pepper.
 Add the chicken to the hot butter/ olive oil & cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes per side.
 If you are starting with whole garlic cloves, remove the peels.  To do this easily, you can drop the separated cloves into a pot of boiling water for 60 seconds, drain & then peel.  Or, you can just buy them already done for you in the produce section of most grocery stores.  This is what forty cloves of garlic looks like.  See it's really not that scary now is it?!?
 When the chicken is browned on both sides, remove it from the pot & set it aside. 
 Add the whole garlic cloves to the pot & lover the heat.  Saute for 5-10 minutes, turning frequently until browned.
 Add in the white wine & turn the heat up to boil.  Scrap the bottom of the pan to deglaze, then add in the chicken broth.  If I don't have a bottle of white wine open, then I just use 2 - 2 1/2 cups of chicken broth.  It's good both ways.
 Add the chicken back to the pot along with all of it's juices that accumulated on the plate.  Cover & simmer over medium heat for 30-45 minutes, until the meat is tender.  Mine was almost falling apart it was so tender!
Remove the chicken to a plate & cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid with 2 tablespoons of flour. 
 Whisk the flour mixture back into the pot.  Add in some fresh, chopped flat leaf parsley, the heavy cream, & adjust seasonings if needed. Cook, lightly bubbling, for 3 minutes or until the sauce starts the thicken.  
 Return the chicken to the pot & coat well with sauce.  This easily makes enough sauce for 6 pieces of chicken.  I only cooked 4 pieces since it was just the 3 of us- but trust me, we don't mind having extra sauce!! 
I always make rice, mashed potatoes, egg noodles or something on the side that we can pour more of the delicious sauce over!!
 Yummy!  The chicken is so tender, you won't even need a knife to cut it! 

Chex Mix

There is something about Christmas time that reminds me of Chex Mix.  I don't know why.  It must be repressed memories from commercials or movies because it is not something that my family made growing up.  But I still think of it when I think of Christmas.  I had visions of my family snacking on warm, tangy, salty Chex Mix while snuggled up under a blanket watching Rudolph or Frosty or the Grinch or (more accurately) all of them.  So with Christmas nearing, I bought ingredients in preparation for it.  It's all been sitting in the pantry just waiting.  I thought maybe I would make it on Christmas Eve but when we woke up to snow yesterday morning, it hit me.  This will be the perfect day to make Chex Mix!  It never snows in this part of North Carolina in December.  I mean never!  It hardly ever snows here- period!  So to see this 9 days before Christmas was exciting to say the least!  My daughter is 4 years old & so captivated by the magic of Santa & Christmas.  It is intoxicating to watch & I am loving every second of it.  Having snow on the ground made it all that much more festive for us.  We spent the day making ornaments, listening to Christmas music, baking Chex Mix, & watching Christmas movies.  It was truly a heart warming, wonderful day.  And from now on when we make Chex Mix for Christmas, we will remember it fondly. 
1 1/2 cups Corn Chex Cereal
1 1/2 cups Wheat Chex Cereal
1 cup Gold Fish Crackers
1/2 cup Cashew Halves (roasted & salted, out of a can)
1/2 cup Pecan Halves (raw)
6 tbsp Butter
2 cloves of Garlic, minced
4 dashes Worcheshire Sauce
3-4 dashes Hot Sauce
3/4 tsp Lawry's Seasoning Salt
1/4 tsp Onion Powder

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. 
In a small, microwave save bowl add the butter, garlic, Worcheshire & Hot Sauces, & seasonings.  Microwave in 10-15 second intervals until the butter is melted.  Stir well to incorporate.   
 In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients.  And feel free to customize here.  Like the Gold Fish, those were special for my daughter.  But you could add in pretzels, bagel chips, mixed nut, what ever you'd like!
 I like to line my baking pans with aluminum foil for easy clean up.  Look at that face!  My helper was really concentrating!! 
 Pour the melted, seasoned butter over the cereal mixture & gently stir to coat.
 Spread onto a baking sheet. 
 Get very excited because this stuff is GOOD!!
 Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hr & 15 minutes, stirring ever 15 minutes.
 Enjoy the wonderful smell that takes over your house!
 Warm, straight from the oven- there's nothing like it! 
 Serve immediately.  Store left overs in an air tight container. 
This Chex Mix was based off of the Pioneer Woman's recipe.   

And here's a preview of the family ornaments that we're making this year.  Letters spelling our last name, with their first coat of paint...I'll post a follow up picture of them when they are finished.  :)

Simple Marinara Sauce

This is a go to recipe for me when I need to get dinner on the table fast but have nothing planned.  It is so quick & easy and I always have the ingredients on hand.  Even better, it makes a lot so I can freeze half of it for another meal.  I made store bought ravioli's with it this time but this marina is so versatile. You can add a touch of cream at the end to change it up & serve over spaghetti or angel hair pasta.  Add it to some baked chicken breasts topped with cheese for Chicken Parmesan, or serve it as dip with mozzarella sticks...the possibilities are endless!
2- 32 oz cans of Whole Tomatoes
1 Large Yellow Onion, chopped
2-3 Cloves of Garlic, minced
2 tsp dried Italian Seasoning
fresh, Flat Leaf Parsley
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

In a large sauce pan or chef's pan, drizzle a little olive oil & saute the onion over medium heat.  When the onion starts to soften add the garlic & cook 1-2 more minutes.
 Add in both cans of tomatoes with all of their juices.   
 You could use crushed or diced tomatoes too.  But I read that they use a better quality of tomatoes to can them whole so I try to use those.  These were Italian Style (which means they had some basil it them) Peeled Plum Tomatoes. 
 Using your spoon, crush up the tomatoes.  Then add in the herbs, salt & pepper.
 Simmer for 20 minutes, or as long as you can. 
 The sauce will thicken as it cooks.
 How easy is that?!? (Channeling my inner Ina Garten.)
 I served with cheese filled raviolis.  YUM!
This makes about 4 quarts of sauce.

Beef Stroganoff

Some days I need to get dinner on the table fast.  But some days, particularly when it's cold or rainy outside, I like to take all day to slowly cook dinner.  There is something almost therapeutic about it. The house smells wonderful, feeding your senses with anticipation of what's to come.  And well, let's be honest, the taste is a great payoff.  The depth of flavor that you can achieve using only a few simple ingredients is truly remarkable.  This Beef Stroganoff is one of those heavenly meals.  I think it's my favorite of my slow cook meals.  Tender chucks of beef smothered in a creamy gravy like sauce served over egg noodles-  YUM!  I'm already looking forward to making it again.  We don't add mushrooms to because we're not fans of the fungi (hahaha).  But you certainly add them if you are!  I cook it in the oven but you can easily adapt it for a slow cooker or crock pot.  Or if you are like my friend Patty, you can be all Iron Chef like & use a pressure cooker to make this in a quarter (or less) of the time.  :)
1.5 lbs of Beef Roast (Eye Round, Top Round, Bottom Round), cut into 1/2" cubes
1 large onion, cut in half then sliced
5-6 Large Button Mushrooms, quartered (optional)
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
2-4 cups Beef Broth
8-10 oz Sour Cream
1/4- 1/2 cup Flour
2 tbsp Butter
2 tbsp Olive Oil
4 shakes of Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Paprika
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees (if cooking in the oven).  I usually buy the beef already cut up from the grocery store.  I've bought it labeled as Stew Meat & Extra Trim Lean Stew Meat, but I really think you could use just about any inexpensive type of beef roast for this cut into 1/2"-1" pieces. 
 Add the cut up beef to a large zip lock type bag.  Season the meat with garlic powder, salt & pepper.  Then add in 1/4- 1/2 cup of flour.  Seal the bag & shake to coat the beef pieces. 
 In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat the butter & olive oil over medium high heat. 
 When the butter is melted, add the floured beef in 1 layer.  Cook, searing the beef on all sides.  Be careful not to over crowd the pan.  You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your pan. 
Remove the beef from the pan & reserve.
 Lower the heat to medium & add the sliced onion.  Cook for a couple of minutes then add the minced garlic & mushrooms (if using).
 When the onion is tender, return the beef to the pan (and all the juices from it).  (Transfer to a crockpot, if using.)  Then add in 2 cups of the beef broth.  Stir to combine, using the spoon to scrape up all the bits from the bottom of the pan.  Cover the pot & place in the oven. 
 Cook at 300 degrees, checking about every 1 1/2 hours or so.  Each time you check it, make sure you scrape the bottom & edges of the pot & stir to incorporate it.  (In a crock pot, I cook it on low for about 4 hours then on high for about 2 hrs.)
 The sauce will reduce into a thick gravy while cooking.  If it gets too thick, add more broth a little at a time, slowly while stirring to incorporate.  After about 3.5- 4 hours of cooking I added in about 2 more cups of broth.  Then covered & continue to cook.
   Cook it until the meat is so tender that it starts to fall apart.  I usually cook it for a total of 6 hours.
 When the meat is tender, remove the pan from the oven & place on a burner over low- medium heat.  (Low, if using a crockpot.)
 Add in the sour cream, the worcestershire sauce & the chopped parsley.  I didn't really measure how much sour cream or worcestershire sauce, I just added to taste.  Stir to incorporate & adjust your seasonings, if needed.
 Serve over top of egg noodles & garnish with a little fresh parsley. 
 Oh my goodness this is sooooooo good!!
This recipe is 6-8 servings.