Mason Jars ‘n More! Sharing Some Outdoor Decorating Ideas I’ve Saved on Pinterest

Happy Spring Everyone!! 

tulips - clipart

The last two days have been simply gorgeous – fierce sunshine accompanied by light breezes.  The daffodils broke out from their winter’s nap and are doing their very best to produce flowers in a few weeks…. which won’t be easy since, last summer, the guy who mows my lawn simply mowed over all the naturalized daffodils living under my big oak tree.  Spring flower bulbs need to absorb a good amount of sunshine through their leaves so they’ll have enough energy to push through the ground the next spring.

++ There’ve been years I’ve made fencing with small twigs and twine to protect (from my lawn mowing guy) the daffodils after they’d bloomed.  Those leave may not look like much – but they should remain until the tips begin to brown.  Only then can you be sure the bulbs will bloom in Full Force for the next spring.

duck in the rain++  I’d really love it if you shared some of your summer decorating ideas in the ‘comments’ section below.  (If you don’t see the comments section, click on the title of this post – which will bring you to another page.)

This morning the sun is hidden behind misty grey clouds and rain is soaking the thirsty perennials and bulbs.  So – I am forced to forget about working outside in my gardens.  Instead, I perused some of the great summer decorating ideas I’ve saved on Pinterest.  I thought you might enjoy seeing a few of these ideas, and that they might inspire you as they have done for me!   Enjoy !! 

– – – – – – – – – –

Mason Jars are so versatile… but you already knew that!  You can wrap them in twine and use them as vases – or as utensil holders for buffets or barbeques.  You can have the kids paint flowers on the outside, put a battery-powered ‘candle’ inside and, using florist wire, hang them from the nearest tree.  I’ve also tied raffia or ribbon to the tops of small mason jars and used them as candle holders. 

Mason Jar VASE... with twinePhoto Courtesy of Big Lots

Floating votives - mason jar - courtesy emmalinebride.comhttp://emmalinebride.com/handmade-wedding/mason-jar-centerpieces-floating-candles/

Carnations in Mason Jar - courtesy of catchmyparty. comhttp://catchmyparty.com/photos/553667

Twig Vase - courtesy of Martha Stewarthttp://www.marthastewart.com/270813/twig-vase

outdoor tables from whiskey barrels and glass.

Whiskey Barrel Tables – easy and inexpensive.  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this idea !! 

Eighteen inch Whiskey Barrels, sold at Home Depot, topped with 20′ glass table toppers from Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Viralnova.com is loaded with tons of excellent D.Y. I.outdoor ideas, including these tables.  I suggest you ‘drop by’.

http://www.viralnova.com/diy-backyard-ideas/

I know the idea of placing a pot of flowers on an old chair is nothing new, but I’m finally going to do this  with an old ‘ladies rockerI’ve had for years. A ladies rocker is smaller than most old/antique rockers and there’s no arms on the rocker.

It took me awhile to be able to ‘save’ the photo of the chair on the right – but it was worth the effort.  I love the delicate lines of the back.  And I’ve been inspired to use yet another item from my barn – an old dining room chair.  Which means, if I actually get to it, I may have the ladies rocker in one area of my garden and the old dining room chair on my back porch.  (I’ll post photos of both, I promise.)

++ Follow link for directions to turn an old cane-seated chair into a flower display.    http://tparty.typepad.com/the_tcozy/2008/04/a-chair-of-flow.html   (Uses chicken wire and sphagnum moss.) 

ladies rocker - courtesy of wikiart.comChair with Flowers - courtesy of http://tparty.typepad.com/the_tcozy/2008/04/a-chair-of-flow.html

To get the effect below, I suggest buying a hanging planter & removing the hanger.
And don’t forget, occasionally, to give all your potted plants a good dose of plant food !
courtesy of - media cache - pinterest.com
I hope these ideas have inspired you a bit – especially on a dark and dreary day such as today!

++ Woman in (Ladies) Rocking Chair – courtesy of  www.wikiart.org

Mini Shepherd’s Pies (Also known as Cottage Pies)

Mini Shepherds Pies - and I do mean 'pies'!  www.myyellowfarmhouse.com

Mini Shepherds Pies - - and I do mean 'pies'!  www.myyellowfarmhouse.com

If you have parchment paper, place a strip, long enough so that it hangs out, in each section of the muffin tin.  This will help when you remove the mini pies.

I had planned to share these with my neighbors…. but ended up eating them all – that’s how much I love them!  I based both the ground beef filling and creamy mashed potatoes on my recipe for Shepherds Pie, with a few adjustments.   – –  http://myyellowfarmhouse.com/2013/01/10/shepherds-pie/

Mini Shepherds Pies are easy to make!  The recipe calls for purchased pie crust and – if you’re short on time – a 24 oz. container of ready-to-eat mashed potatoes can be used.  Making these mini pies is fun and easy – and so is eating them.

Ingredients and Method
  • 1 box refrigerated pie crusts
  • 24 oz. refrigerated mashed potatoes  –  OR  –  homemade mashed potatoes
  • Homemade Mashed Potatoes
  • 5 cups cubed Yukon Gold potatoes   ++ Peeled and cut into 2″ chunks
  •  3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 – 3 Tbs. butter
  • 1/3+ cup milk or Half and Half     ++  I used Half and Half
  • Ground Beef & Vegetable Filling
  • 1 Tbs. butter or olive oil
  • 1/2 medium-sized onion, chopped  ++ About 1/3 cup
  • 1/2 lb. ground (minced) beef  ++ I used 80%
  • 3/4 cup frozen corn     ++ No need to thaw
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas    ++ No need to thaw
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste    ++ Freeze tomato paste in 1 Tbs. portions in a ziploc bag. 
  • 1 beef or chicken bouillon cube
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 tsp. pepper
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste

Place 5 cups chopped, peeled Yukon Gold potatoes in a medium-sized saucepan.  Add enough cold water to cover.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Lower heat and cover saucepan. Allow potatoes to simmer for 25 – 30 minutes or until potatoes can easily be pierced with a sharp knife.  ++  It’s better to cook the potatoes longer than end up with lumpy potatoes!!  I know – Been There – Done That!

Mini Shepherds Pies - My Yellow Farmhouse.com

While potatoes are cooking, begin beef/veggie filling.  Place 1 Tbs. butter In a large non-stick skillet.  Add 1/3 cup chopped onion. Cook onions, stirring often, over medium heat until they soften.  Add 1/2 pound chopped (minced) beef.  Continue to cook until beef loses its pink color.  ++ Break up any large chunks of beef.   ++  Remove any extra grease, although I leave about 2 Tbs. – for the flavor.

Add 3/4 cup still-frozen corn and 3/4 cup still-frozen peas, 1/3 cup water, 1 Tbs. tomato paste, 3/4 tsp. salt, 1/3 tsp. pepper and either a chicken or beef bouillon cube.

Mini Shepherds (Cottage) Pies - myyellowfarmhouse.com (2)

Continue cooking, stirring often, for an additional 4 to 5 minutes… until most of the liquid has been absorbed.  Set aside.

Mini Shepherds (Cottage) Pies - myyellowfarmhouse.com (3)

Now it’s time for the mini-pie crusts.  This is fun!  ++  Remove the pie crusts from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before so the crusts will be soft enough to work with.

Unroll pie crusts. Roll each crust into a 12″ circle, which only takes a second ’cause the crusts are almost that big already.  Using a 4″ circle (I used the 4″ top of a plastic food container – or you could use a piece of cardboard) cut out 12 circles.

Mini Shepherds Pies - My Yellow Farmhouse.comMini Shepherds Pies - My Yellow Farmhouse.com (2)

+

Place one pie crust circle in each of the sections of a 12-cup muffin tin.  Gently press pie crust to fit.

Bake at 400F for 8 minutes.  ++ Lower oven temperature to 350F once you’ve removed muffin tin from oven.

Finishing the mashed potatoes

Mini Shepherds  Pies - - and I do mean 'pies'!

Drain cooked potatoes. Mash down with a potato masher.  Add 2 – 3 Tbs. butter, 3/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper and approximately 1/3 cup milk – or ‘Half ‘n Half‘ – or Single Cream – and beat with a mixer until the potatoes are creamy but still stiff enough to hold their shape on top of the beef filling.

Putting it all together

Mini Shepherds Pies - My Yellow Farmhouse.com (3)

Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, put a portion of the meat/vegetable filling in each section.  Top with 1/4 cup mashed potatoes.  ++ If you have extra mashed potatoes, add a bit more to each mini-pie.

Sprinkle with a bit of paprika to give the Mini Shepherds Pies a bit of color.  You know, part of finding a particular food delicious is often due to it’s color, so adding a bit of paprika not only makes things taste better but also gives them better eye-appeal.  You can also sprinkle on a bit of cheese!

Mini Shepherds Pies - - and I do mean 'pies'!  myyellowfarmhouse.comMini Shepherds Pies - - and I do mean 'pies'!  myyellowfarmhouse.com

+

Bake the Mini-Shepherds Pies at  350F  for 25 – 30 minutes.  Potatoes and crust will be slightly browned.     

++ Let stand 10 minutes before serving, which helps the pie crust to not fall apart when you remove the mini-pies.  Enjoy !!

Mini Shepherds Pies - and I do mean 'pies'!  www.myyellowfarmhouse.com

++  Recipe adapted from myfridgefood.com/recipes/entree-beef/mini-meat-pies

Toffee Ice Cream Pie with Homemade Cookie Crust and Caramel Sauce

Toffee Ice Cream Pie with Homemade Cookie Crust and Caramel Sauce - myyellowfarmhouse.com
I just learned something….Toffee is basically sugar and butter. Caramel is sugar and cream or milk, with butter occasionally in the mix.  How about that?!
This was fun to make. But – if you’re short of time, you could buy a vanilla cookie crust and some caramel sauce.

This is actually my second attempt at making this pie! If you read my last post, I quoted Roseanne Roseannadana, “It’s always something. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.” And the ‘one thing’ happened to be that I fell and badly banged my head and sprained my wrist.  And the ‘other thing’ is that I ‘totaled’ the first version of this pie.  As I was placing my finished pie into the freezer, I scraped off about half the toffee candy and homemade caramel sauce on the ice maker. I attempted to repair the damage …. but the Toffee Ice Cream Pie with Homemade Cookie Crust and Caramel Sauce just didn’t look right.  So, today, I made another pie.       And this version is perfect! 

Ingredients
  • CRUST INGREDIENTS
  • 1 1/2 cups ground ‘Nilla Wafers – – or any other soft vanilla cookie
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • CARAMEL SAUCE INGREDIENTS
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar      ++ NOT packed !!
  • 1/4 cup dark Karo syrup
  • 1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • PLUS….
  • 1 pie pan      ++  NOT a deep dish pie pan
  • a quart of toffee crunch ice cream – slightly softened  
  • 2 English toffee bars, such as Heath, Score or Daim, broken into small pieces
Method

CRUST – Combine 1 1/2 cups ‘Nilla Wafer crumbs, 2 Tbs. sugar and 1/3 cup melted butter in a medium bowl. Press crust mixture firmly on the bottom and sides of an 8′ or 9′ pie pan.  ++  I used a measuring cup today to press down the crust – and it came out much nicer than my first attempt!

1 -Toffee Ice Cream Pie with 'Nilla Wafer Crust - myyellowfarmhouse.com6 -Toffee Ice Cream Pie with 'Nilla Wafer Crust and Homemade Caramel Sauce

+

CARAMEL SAUCE In a medium saucepan melt 1/4 cup butter over medium-high heat until it melts.  Add 1 cup light brown sugar  (NOT packed !!) and 1/4 cup dark Karo syrup.  Bring to a boil, stirring the whole time. Lower heat to medium and continue to boil – stirring – for about 4 minutes.

2 - Toffee Ice Cream Pie with 'Nilla Wafer Crust - myyellowfarmhouse.com

Reduce heat to low.  Stir in 1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream and 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Cook, stirring, for another minute.

Your finished product should look something like this.    ++ It’s best to leave the sauce in the saucepan, I just did this for ‘photographic purposes’ !

3 -Toffee Ice Cream Pie with 'Nilla Wafer Crust - myyellowfarmhouse.com

Place crust in freezer for 20 minutes.    Remove pie crust from freezer.     Drizzle about 2/3s of the caramel sauce over the pie crust.   ++  If your cookie crust isn’t too cold, you’ll be able to spread the caramel sauce.  Otherwise, just drizzle the caramel sauce onto the crust.

Toffee Ice Cream Pie - myyellowfarmhouse.com

Spread enough softened ice cream to fill the crust.

7- Toffee Ice Cream Pie with 'Nilla Wafer Crust and Homemade Caramel Sauce

Sprinkle broken up pieces of toffee candy on top of the ice cream. Drizzle the remaining caramel sauce over the candy bits.

++ The caramel sauce came out a bit too thin on my 1st try…. and it was a bit thick on my 2nd try – but it didn’t matter !!  When it was too thin, I put it in the fridge for a bit, and when it was too thick, I just added a bit of the heavy cream and gently rewarmed it.

Return pie to freezer for about 6 hours – or overnight.  ++  Pie will be easier to cut if you allow it to sit out for a few minutes after removing it from the freezer.   ENJOY !!

8 -Toffee Ice Cream Pie - myyellowfarmhouse.com (3)2nd - Toffee Ice Cream Pie with Homemade Cookie Crust and Caramel Sauce - myyellowfarmhouse.com

++  Recipe adapted from http://www.kitchendaily.com/recipe/nilla-ice-cream-pie

Balsamic, Honey, Soy Sauce & Garlic Marinated Chicken Thighs

Balsamic, Honey, Soy Sauce and Garlic Chicken - myyellowfarmhouse.com
Balsamic, Honey, Soy Sauce and Garlic Marinated Chicken can be served at room temperature – –  perfect for a picnic or buffet !

You know, I’d never really cooked with balsamic vinegar until today – so this recipe is my very first time preparing anything with balsamic vinegar… and I’m seriously wondering What Took Me So Long?  (My son M. prepares a delicious pasta dish featuring a balsamic vinegar reduction and fresh asparagus.  I’m gonna have to ask him to do a Guest Post for me so I can share his excellent recipe.)

As with many things, the higher the price –  the better the product.  And so it is with balsamic vinegar.   I suggest buying a good quality vinegar, even if you have to pay more.  It will be worth it !  Here’s a link to Andrew Wheeler’s blog Serious Eats which provides some valuable information regarding balsamic vinegar.    http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/05/everything-you-need-to-know-guide-to-balsamic-vinegar.html

I used skinless chicken thighs today because, to me, the meat much more flavorful than chicken breast.  And don’t be put off by thinking you’ll be eating dark meat – chicken thigh is, pretty much, white meat.  It’s just not breast meat.

If you prefer chicken breast, I’m sure you could use boneless chicken breast.  However, you may not have to cook the breasts for the full 30 minutes required to thoroughly cook the chicken thighs.  ++  I suggest placing a meat thermometer in one of the biggest boneless chicken breasts just to be sure!

Oven at 400F        Cook chicken approximately 30 minutes, turning chicken pieces one time.

Ingredients
  • 3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tbs. finely chopped fresh parsley   ++  I chop it and then freeze it in a ziploc bag.
  • 2 – 3 Tbs. minced garlic     ++   I use 3 Tbs. – but I LOVE garlic!
  • 4 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 4 Tbs. olive oil
  • a bit of freshly ground pepper
  • 6 bone-in chicken thighs – with skin removed   ++  Boneless chicken breast can be used
  • some toasted sesame seeds – perhaps 2 tsp. & some minced fresh parsley, to sprinkle over finished dish

Place 3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar, 3 Tbs. finely chopped fresh parsley, 2 – 3 Tbs. minced garlic, 4 Tbs. soy sauce, 4 Tbs. olive oil and a bit of freshly ground pepper into a gallon-sized ziploc bag.

Zip bag and shake bag to mix ingredients.  Add the chicken thighs/boneless chicken breasts.  Turn bag over several times – or whatever else you can think of doing – to make sure each piece of chicken is covered with the marinade.

++  If possible, lie the bag down so all the pieces are sitting in the marinade.

 Balsamic, Honey, Soy Sauce and Garlic Chiicken - myyellowfarmhouse.com

Allow chicken to marinate for at least four hours – overnight is even better.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Line a baking sheet (cookie sheet with sides) with aluminum foil. .  Place chicken pieces evenly on baking sheet and pour over ALL the marinade.  ++  You do NOT have to turn chicken during cooking, but I prefer turning it once so both sides get cooked in the marinade.

Balsamic, Honey, Soy Sauce and Garlic Chicken  myyellowfarmhouse.com

Once the chicken is thoroughly cooked, place it on a warmed platter.  Pour the marinade into a small saucepan and simmer until marinade is reduced.  ++  It’s up to you how much you want to reduce it.  In fact, you can chose to not reduce it at all.

Pour marinade over chicken pieces.  Sprinkle with some toasted sesame seeds and minced fresh parsley.  Enjoy !!

++ Recipe inspired by ‘Beyond Kimchee’ – – – http://www.beyondkimchee.com/soy-balsamic-chicken-thighs-asparagus/ 

Balsamic, Honey, Soy Sauce and Garlic Chicken

To quote Roseanne Roseanadana, “It’s always something. If it isn’t one thing – it’s another!”

Roseanne Rosannadana

I could’ve titled this post ‘The Pie that Didn’t Make It’….  or “The Terrible, No-Good, Very Bad Pie Day”… but you get the idea.

I had planned to ‘kill two birds with one stone’ when I chose to make a Toffee Ice Cream Pie for a party I was attending, but, as often happens, my day did NOT go as planned.  And the final result of my Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Pie Day necessitated a visit to the ER the next morning.l

Like many of you, I’m constantly saving recipes on Pinterest, so I decided to find a super yummy dessert recipe.  And I did, namely Toffee Ice Cream Pie, which features a ‘Nilla Wafer’ crust, ice cream (I used Butter Pecan simply because I love it), crushed toffee candy bars and a delicious homemade caramel sauce.

The cookie crumb and butter crust came together easily. Then I prepared the caramel sauce while the cookie crumb pie crust cooled for a bit in the freezer.

Once the sauce has cooled a bit, a good amount of that fabulous caramel sauce is poured over the crust, then slightly-softened ice cream is added.

Toffee Ice Cream Pie - myyellowfarmhouse.comToffee Ice Cream Pie - myyellowfarmhouse.com (2)

+

My overly-softened ice cream began to melt as I was taking a few photos, so I hurriedly sprinkled on the crushed toffee candy and put the pie into the freezer for a few minutes before I drizzled on the rest of the caramel sauce.

Toffee Ice Cream Pie - myyellowfarmhouse.com (3)

Here comes the bad/sad part – I wiped out the top of the pie as I put it in the freezer. Half of all that  buttery caramel, toffee candy, ice creamy goodness was left dripping from the bottom of my ice cube maker, where it immediately began to freeze.

I tried repairing the damage and photographing the pie while at the party but, although absolutely delicious, it looked like a disaster.

And now I come to the part of my day where I did a serious, no-holds-barred face-plant into my hosts’ front door – which resulted in me sleeping in pain that night and going to the emergency room the next morning.  As I trotted up the front steps, my boot failed to clear the top, I stumbled forward a few feet, hit the front door with my face and fell backwards like a turtle. I ended up with an instant bump on my head, which is still there. Of course, both my hands were injured in my futile attempt to save myself. Luckily nothing was broken but my right hand is now in a removable splint and looks like a small, fat balloon.   ++ I should never be put in anything removable ‘cause I end up doing a lot of removing.

I’m going to make another ‘Toffee Ice Cream Pie’ within a day or two. And I will post both the recipe and a photo of the finished ice cream pie. Of course, those things will require removing my splint.     ; o )

Slightly-Spicy Three Bean, Tomato and Kale Soup

Slighty-Spicy Three Bean, Tomato and Kale Soup - myyellowfarmhouse.com
This soup has the richness of a minestrone and the benefit of being Good forYou!
For some extra ‘zing’ – right before serving – sprinkle soup with a bit of Italian Three-Cheese Blend  (Parmesan, Asiago & Romano).

Every time I develop a new recipe, I’m always hoping the end result equals the flavors I’d envisioned.  And I must say I’m very pleased with this Slightly-Spicy Three Bean, Tomato and Kale Soup.  It’s super easy to prepare and makes quite a bit, which is always a plus. Simmering this soup for an hour allows the peppery flavor of the kale to stand out, and the broth becomes slightly creamy due to starches in the kidney, black and garbanzo beans. ++  I decided not to add any meat to this soup, but, of course, you could add some chopped chicken or beef if you choose.  But this soup is so hearty, I think you really won’t miss the meat at all !

INGREDIENTS
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped red pepper
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped red onion
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups kale, roughly chopped      ++ Cut out the thick stems running down the center of the leaf.
  • 1 can (15.5 oz.) kidney beans – drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) black beans – drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15.5. oz.) garbanzo beans – drained and rinsed
  • 1 (48 oz.) container chicken broth – PLUS – another 2 cups   ++ The extra 2 cups can be replaced by 2 cups water and 2 bouillon cubes. ++  If using ‘Knorr’ chicken bouillon cubes, you’ll only need 1.
  • 1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes with Italian herbs   ++  I like ‘Contadina’
  • 3/4 tsp. salt – or to taste
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. Italian seasonings  ++ Or a mixture of oregano, basil, thyme, sage & rosemary
  • ++  Italian Three-Cheese Blend – OR – any type of Italian grated cheese to sprinkle on top
METHOD

In a large Dutch Oven (or large cooking pot such as you would use to boil pasta) cook 3/4 cup roughly chopped red pepper and 3/4 cup roughly chopped red onion in 2 Tbs. olive oil over medium heat for 3 – 4 minutes… or until veggies begin to look translucent.  ++ There’s no need to worry about under-cooking or over-cooking the red pepper or onion, they’ll finish cooking in the broth. Add 2 large cloves garlic, minced – continue cooking for about another minute.

Slightly-Spicy Three Bean and Kale Soup  - myyellowfarmhouse.com

Add 1 can (15.5 oz.) kidney beans – drained and rinsed, 1 can (15.5 oz) black beans – drained and rinsed and 1 can (15.5. oz.) garbanzo beans – drained and rinsed

Slightly-Spicy Three Bean, Tomato and Kale Soup - myyellowfarmhouse.com Removing ribs from kale - photo courtesy food52.com

Now add 3 cups roughly chopped kale, stems removed. Pour in one container (48 oz.) of purchased chicken broth plus 2 cups.  ++ As mentioned above, the extra 2 cups can be 2 cups of water and a chicken bouillon cube.  (Or, if you have it, 8 cups homemade chicken broth).  

Add the contents of 1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes with Italian herbs – and you’re almost there!!

Add spices;  3/4 tsp. salt (or to taste), 1/8 tsp. black pepper, 1/4 tsp. chili powder, 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper and 1/2 tsp. Italian seasonings. Bring soup to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.    ++ No need to cover pot.

Slightyly Spicy Three Bean, Tomato and Kale Soup - myyellowfarmhouse.com

Waiting for soup to come to a simmer….

After about an hour…. that is, if you’ve been able to wait for the full hour ….. you’ll have a big pot of yummy soup to share with your neighbors.  Which is what I love to do.    PS  I also shared some of my Honey Walnut Bread, which I just L.O.V.E.  – recipe for that coming soon.   ENJOY !!

1 - Slightly-Spicey Three Bean, Tomato and Kale Soup - myyellowfarmhouse.com

++ Photo credit for ‘prepping kale’ goes to http://food52.com/blog/8211-how-to-prep-kale. I highly recommend food52.com – it’s full of terrific ideas and advice !!

‘A Little Help from My Friends’ Ham, Chicken and Potato Bake

Ham, Chicken and Potato Bake - www.myyellowfarmhouse.com

++ If you wish, this casserole can be prepared using just chicken or ham.  It could also be prepared with a few cans of drained tuna !!

Ham, Chicken and Potato Bake’ comes together quickly thanks to the use of frozen hash brown potatoes. (I like Potatoes O’Brien hash browns because they already include red pepper and onion.)  Thaw the potatoes in your microwave, allow to drain – and they’re ready to go.  No cooking and no peeling!

After scattering the potatoes on the bottom of a 9′ x 13′ casserole dish, chunks of cooked chicken and ham are added, along with sweet red pepper, mushrooms and a touch of garlic.  A quickly-prepared sauce is poured over all, followed by a sprinkling of three-cheese mix (Parmesan, Romano and Asiago) and some sliced almonds.  Bake the casserole at 350F for about for 50 – 60 minutes and get ready for some Good Eaten’ !!

INGREDIENTS         Bake in 350F oven for 50 – 60 minutes

  • 1 pkg (28 oz) frozen Potatoes O’Brien – thawed  — OR —  1 pkg. (32 oz.) frozen cubed hash browns – thawed
  • 2 cups cooked chicken cut into bite-sized pieces  ++ If you don’t happen to have cooked chicken, in a small covered skillet simmer 1 boneless chicken breast in 1/4 water or broth until fully cooked. Cut into bite-sized pieces.
  • 2 cups ham, cut into bite-sized pieces = (10 oz) ham steak      ++  Most hams are now water-injected…. If the ham seems ‘drippy’ place between paper towels and squeeze out some of the moisture.
  • 1 small pkg. (10 oz.) cremini  (or button) mushrooms, sliced       ++ If there are any specs of dirt on the mushrooms, wipe with a paper towel.  Do NOT wash under running water.  Mushrooms are like little sponges!
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 chopped sweet red pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 can condensed cream of chicken or mushroom soup, undiluted
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube, crumbled
  • 3/4 to 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh parsley     ++  Fresh parsley can be chopped, then frozen in a small storage bag.  Simply break off what you need !!
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • a bit of parsley – to sprinkle on top
  • paprika – to sprinkle on top for color

METHOD

Spread thawed Potatoes O’Brien evenly on the bottom of a 9′ x 13′ casserole.

Ham, Chicken and Potato Bake - www.myyellowfarmhouse.com (2)

Add cooked chicken and ham pieces.

Ham, Chicken and Potato Bake - myyellowfarmhouse.com

Place 1 Tbs. butter in a large skillet and cook sliced mushrooms, stirring, until mushrooms wilt.  Remove mushrooms and set aside while you cook the 1/4 chopped onion and 1/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper.  Cook onion and pepper until softened.  Add 1 clove minced garlic.  Continue to cook a minute more, until garlic softens.

Spread cooked mushrooms, onion, red pepper and garlic over ham and chicken.

Sauce – –  In a medium-sized bowl mix 1 cup sour cream, 1 can condensed cream of chicken (or mushroom soup), 1 chicken bouillon cube, crumbled, 3/4 to 1 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. chopped fresh parsley and  1 1/2 cups chicken broth until well blended.  Pour over ingredients already in casserole.

Sprinkle with 2/3 cup three-cheese-blend   ++ Or any mixture of Parmesan and other cheeses.  Add 1/2 cup sliced almonds and a bit more chopped fresh parsley.  Sprinkle with some paprika.

Ham, Chicken and Potato Bake - - myyellowfarmhouse.com

Bake at 350F for 50 – 60 minutes – until sauce bubbles around edges of casserole.  Allow casserole to sit for 5 – 10 minutes and serve.  Enjoy!!

 Ham, Chicken and Potato Bake - www.myyellowfarmhouse.com

‘A Little Help from My Friends’ Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes with Whipped Chocolate Frosting

Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes with Chocolate Whipped Topping - www.myyellowfarmhouse.com
I prepared these cupcakes with a bit of ‘Chambord’ liqueur – YUMMY !!

Little G. - The Happy Chocolate Cupcake Eater

Sweet Little ‘G’… who happens to be a big fan of Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes.  (Notice she ate the whole cupcake…. but left the blueberries!)

– – – – – –

 I like to use the title ‘A Little Help from My Friends’ when a recipe utilizes prepared mixes etc.  With ‘A Little Help from My Friends’ you can whip up something delicious in very little time – yet the result tastes as if you’d ‘slaved away’ !!

My recipe for Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes with Whipped Chocolate Frosting includes a chocolate cake mix prepared with raspberry jam. (And the addition of Chambord liqueur if you prefer a more ‘adult tasting’ cupcake.  Actually, I made a special trip to purchase some Chambord so these cupcakes would be extra special !)

Your friends and family will be surprised the delicious chocolate frosting is simply whipped topping mixed with cocoa powder and vanilla.

chambord black raspberry liqueur - liquor.comI did some reading about Chambord – here’s a bit of what I found; According to legend, Chambord was inspired by King Louis XIV’s ‘beverage of choice’. Chambord is created from raspberries, blackberries, Madagascar vanilla, Moroccan citrus peel, honey, cognac and herbs and spices.  (What’s not to like!?) Today is Valentine’s Day and I’m going to share some of my Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes with Whipped Chocolate Frosting with friends as a special Valentine’s treat.   Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you.

INGREDIENTS  FOR CUPCAKES         Yield = 18 large cupcakes     For 24 cupcakes, fill  sections with less cake mix 
  • one Dark Chocolate cake mix… prepared according to directions
  • 1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • +++  If adding Chambord  – substitute 1/2 cup Chambord for 1/2 cup of the water.

Prepare Dark Chocolate cake mix according to directions – but remove 2 Tbs. water from the amount of water called for in the recipe.  Add 1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam. Mix cupcake batter on low to blend ingredients – then beat 2 minutes until batter is smooth. Line cupcake tins with cupcake liners OR lightly grease each section.  Fill each section 3/4s full.   Bake cupcakes according to package directions.  

++ I find it really helps to use a small measuring cup to scoop out the batter and fill the sections.

++  The cupcakes liners I used are called ‘Parchment Lotus Cups’.  They’re sold by ‘PaperChef’.

Remove cupcakes from baking pan and allow to cool on a rack for 20 – 25 minutes – or until cupcakes no longer feel warm.    ++  To test if cupcakes are done, insert a sharp knife or toothpick into the center. If knife or toothpick comes out clean – the cupcakes are ready.

INGREDIENTS FOR WHIPPED CHOCOLATE FROSTING
  • 2 (8 oz.) containers of ‘Cool Whip’ whipped topping
  • 6 Tbs. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Place 2 (8 oz.) containers of ‘Cool Whip’ whipped topping into a medium-sized bowl, along with 5 – 6 Tbs. cocoa powder and 1 tsp. vanilla extract in a medium-sized bowl. Mix with a large spoon until well-combined.     ++  A bit of confectionery/powdered/ icing sugar can be added if you wish.  Spread whipped frosting on cupcakes and that’s it.    Talk about ‘Quick, Easy and Good’    Enjoy!

Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes with Whipped Chocolate Frosting - www.myyellowfarmhouse.com

Has Anyone Heard Anything from ‘ChgoJohn’ of ‘The Bartolini Kitchens’?

ChgoJohn

This is a highly unusual post…  John (ChgoJohn) of ‘The Bartolini Kitchens’ hasn’t posted anything since December 24th.  I’ve sent him a few emails, yet I haven’t heard from him.  And he unfailingly returns my emails within a day or two.  And – if he plans to ‘close the kitchens’ because he’s traveling – he always let us, his readers, know.   Which makes me wonder if John’ beloved Zia might be ill…

I know so many people, including myself, have come to love John and consider him a friend.  He always has the best ‘tales to tell’ and posts (as many of you know) the most fantastic recipes which have been handed down to him by his mother and his Zia – John’s mother’s sister.

For those of you who aren’t followers of John’s blog – here’s a wonderful post from November 29th, 2014.  The post shows both John’s sense of humor and his warmth – and his love for Zia… because November 29th was Zia’s birthday.

http://fromthebartolinikitchens.com/category/3-non-recipe-posts/personal/

Please post a comment if you’ve heard from John – thanks!

“Khobz’ – Moroccan Bread ++ Quick & Easy ++ Dough only needs to rise once!

Khobz - Moroccan Bread - www.myyellowfarmhouse.com

Khobz - Moroccan Bread - myyellowfarmhouse.com (2)

The beautifully hand-painted blue and white dish used in this post was purchased by me in Casablanca.  It’s one of my favorites!

I truly enjoy making different kinds of bread!  It amazes me how something so comforting and delicious comes out of playing around with some flour, salt and sugar etc.  It also amazes me how many different types of bread there are in the world. Naan - courtesy of agk.wikia.comOne of my favorite memories took place in India on New Year’s Eve years ago, where we saw men (fearless men!) slapping Naan onto the sides of a tandoor oven with their bare hands. Tandori Oven for Cooking Naan - courtesy of Visual Photos.com

And, on a visit to Cairo, we saw women sitting on the ground cooking bread on large, flat stones.  That bread was, like Naan, a flat-bread but with a whole different – and wonderful – taste.

Egyptian Flat Bread - courtesy of Egyptian Food Recipes.com

++  Curious about ‘Breads of the World’ – here’s a great site!    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_breads

Interestingly enough, bread in Malta is called ‘Hobz’ (Ħobż Malti).  Ħobż Malti is dense, heavy bread which makes wonderful sandwiches.  Malta was ruled by Arabs for quite a long time, and the Maltese language contains many words derived from (or exactly the same as) Arabic.  So, it’s not too surprising that the Arabic word for bread is ‘Khobz’ and the Maltese word is ‘Ħobż“! 

When we lived in Malta I wrote a small book about the country’s long and varied history.  And let me tell you, Malta’s history, including rule by the Knights of St. John (better known today as The Knights of Malta) is fascinating!

Maltese Hobz -  courtesy of 'honeyandmustard.wordpress.com

One of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten is called Hobz Biz-zejt.  There are times when The Whole Equals More Than the Sum of It’s Parts and this is sure one of those times!!   Hobz Biz-zejt can be recreated with another type of crusty bread, but it just won’t be quite the same…   Here’s a link if you’d like to make these sandwiches at home.  (I just started following this blog!)  https://honeyandmustard.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/maltese-traditional-hobz-biz-zejt/

I know you’re going to enjoy Khobz.  It’s easy to make.  The recipe makes two loaves.  And – best of all – Khobz only needs one rising.

– – – –

INGREDIENTS      Oven at 435F      Bake for 20 minutes     ++ Switch position of baking sheets after first 10 minutes

  • 4 cups flour
  • 2  tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbs. yeast
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water   ++  Water should feel warmer than your skin.  Try pouring a bit on your wrist to check.  If the water’s too cold – or too hot – the yeast won’t work properly and the bread won’t rise. 
  • olive oil  – – to spread on baking sheets – and – to drizzle on bread both before and after baking

METHOD

Prepare 2 baking sheets by pouring 1/2 tsp. olive oil in the center of each baking sheet.  Spread oil, using fingers, to make a 5″ – 6″ circle .     ++ You can skip the olive oil and use cornmeal…. but, to me, cornmeal doesn’t seem very authentic. Place 4 cups flour, 2  tsp. salt and 2 tsp. sugar in a large bowl.  Stir to combine. Make a well in the center.   Place 1 Tbs. yeast in the center.  Gently pour 2 Tbs. olive oil and 1 1/4 cups warm water into the well and mix together to dissolve yeast.  Then mix entire contents of bowl until flour mixture has been incorporated.      ++  It may seem, at first, like you’ll never be able to get all the flour incorporated – just work at it a bit and it’ll all come together!    Khobz - Moroccan White Bread - - www.myyellowfarmhouse.com Khobz - Moroccan White Bread - www.myyellowfarmhouse.com

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead dough for 10 minutes, adding a bit more flour if necessary.  After kneading for 10 minutes dough should be soft and pliable. ++  Here’s an excellent link to learn how to knead bread –   http://bread.wonderhowto.com/how-to/knead-bread-dough-by-hand-355638/ After dough is kneaded, form dough into a ball.

              Divide dough into halves.         Shape each portion into a smooth, circular mound.

khobz - Moroccan Bread - myyellowfarmhouse.com (4)

Khobz - Moroccan Bread - - www.myyellowfarmhouse.com

Place dough onto prepared baking sheets.  Cover with towels.

  Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Khobz - Moroccan Bread - www.myyellowfarmhouse.com (2)

Khobz - Moroccan Bread - myyellowfarmhouse.com

After 10 minutes, flatten dough using the palm your hand to form two 7″ circles.

Khobz - Moroccan Bread - www.myyellowfarmhouse.com (3)

Once again, cover dough with towels. Allow dough to rise for an hour – or until dough springs back when pressed lightly with a finger.

Khobz - Moroccan Bread - myyellowfarmhouse.com

After dough has risen, poke here and there with a fork.  Drizzle on a bit of olive oil and spread with your fingers (which is what I do) or use a spoon.

Khobz - Moroccan Bread - www.myyellowfarmhouse.com (4)

++ Raise bottom oven rack up one level     Bake bread at 435F for 20 minutes – – rotating baking sheets halfway through cooking time (at the 10 minute mark). Loaves should be browned and sound hollow when tapped.    ++  Don’t be afraid to take bread out a minute or two early  – oven temperatures can vary widely. Remove loaves from baking sheets and allow to cool on wire racks.  At this point I like to drizzle on more olive oil and spread it over the crust – because I think it makes most-any bread look better.   Enjoy !!

Khobz - Moroccan White Bread -- www.myyellowfarmhouse.com (3)

Moroccan Chicken and Rice Pilaf 2- - myyellowfarmhouse.com+ Here’s the link for ‘Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Sweet Potatoes’.    http://myyellowfarmhouse.com/2015/02/03/moroccan-chicken-tangine-with-sweet-potatoes/

Moroccan Chicken and Couscous - My Yellow Farmhouse.com + To complete your Moroccan meal, here’s the link for ‘Couscous with Raisins and Pine Nuts’ as well as another recipe for Moroccan Chicken.

  http://myyellowfarmhouse.com/2014/03/10/moroccan-chicken-couscous-with-raisins-and-slivered-almonds/