Chicken Piccata

MP6375One of my favorite dishes is Chicken Piccata…fresh garlic, wine, a little lemon juice and delicious chicken make this dish delectable and worth the process.  (And yes, there is a process…all good food has a process to get to the end.)

You must start with good chicken, which normally isn’t found in the grocery store.  I like to buy from folks I know at the farmers market, but if I run out and have to buy from the store I always choose Smart Chicken.  There are a lot of chicken choices out there, but let me tell you: ALL CHICKEN IS NOT CREATED EQUAL.  However, you will probably hear me say this about a multiple of products besides chicken.  I’m pretty particular about the food I eat and that I serve to my family.

If you have homemade stock on hand, use it for this dish instead of the canned stuff.  Deeper, richer flavor that will really add to the sauce.  And, if you wonder how to keep you own stock on hand, it’s fairly simple.  I can go out to my deep freeze and pull out homemade beef, pork or chicken stock anytime.

Whenever I cook a roast or chicken, I save that delicious stock from the meal and  place it in tupperware containers and freeze it until I need it.

I use stock in lots of cooking: making soups, boil it with rice, sauté vegetables and lots of other cooking techniques that call for plain water.  Try it yourself next time…now on to the piccata!

This recipe comes from Eating Well and there is no way you could make it any better! PHOTO from

Chicken Piccata with Pasta and Mushrooms
Adapted from EatingWell.com6 ounces whole-wheat angel hair pasta
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, divided
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 chicken cutlets (3/4-1 pound total), trimmed…from your local farmers market or health food store
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 10-ounce package mushrooms, sliced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
2 teaspoons butter

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until just tender, 4 to 6 minutes or according to package directions. Drain and rinse.

Meanwhile, whisk 5 teaspoons flour and broth in a small bowl until smooth. Place the remaining flour in a shallow dish. Season chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper and dredge both sides in the flour. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned and no longer pink in the middle, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate; keep warm.

Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they release their juices and begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add garlic and wine to the pan and cook until reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the reserved broth-flour mixture, lemon juice and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in parsley, capers, butter and the reserved mushrooms. Measure out 1/2 cup of the mushroom sauce. Toss the pasta in the pan with the remaining sauce. Serve the pasta topped with the chicken and the reserved sauce.

Easy Potato Soup

Potato SoupIt’s been cold, windy and rainy in the Ozarks and nothing tastes better on a cold night then one of the heartiest meals on the planet…potato soup!

My mother always made potato soup when I was a child because it was an easy meal to prepare and it warmed you up on a cold day after working on the farm.

Plus, this recipe can totally be adjusted to whatever you have on hand in the kitchen. No cream, just use milk. No cooked ham, use some bacon or hamhock.  Don’t be afraid to improvise if you are missing an ingredient, after all recipes are just a path, not set in stone.

Homemade Potato Soup
3 to 4 medium red potatoes
2 cups water
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 white onion
4 T. butter
3 T. all-purpose flour
1 cup cooked ham
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
½ tsp. ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp. garlic powder, I usually add a little more
1 tsp. Italian seasonings

Start a large saucepan of water on the stove to bring to a rapid boil. While water is coming to a boil peel and cut potatoes into small chunks, about 1 inch cubes. When water is boiling add potatoes and cook until tender. Tender when you can easily pierce with a fork. Drain, but keep 1 cup of cooking liquid from the potatoes to add to your soup mixture.

While the potatoes are cooking get your onion chopped up finely.

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion to saucepan; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and tender, but not browned. Next add flour to pan and season with all seasonings. Cook for 3 minutes.

Add to saucepan potatoes, 1 cup cooking liquid, milk, cream and sugar to onions in pan, stirring well. Then add the cheese and ham. Simmer soup for about 25-35 minutes. Stir soup frequently.

*Depending on how thick or how thin you like your soup, you may want to add more/less liquid. Serve with some French bread on a cold winter night.

Cooking with Your Kids: Why and Ideas on How

Caston recently made Banana Bread completely himself. He measured, sifted, poured and stir every ingredient. The floor was a mess, but he was quite proud of his accomplishment.

I remember as I child watching my mother in the kitchen…the way she moved with such grace and how she liked to sing or hum her favorite Neil Diamond tune as she prepared dinner.  And then there was Grandma Hart who made magic happen from a cast iron skillet, some lard and flour…lots of recipes started this way in her kitchen.

And then there’s me.  I’m a complete mess in the kitchen- nothing graceful or magical.  However, I do sing a mean karaoke along with whatever my Pandora station is blaring.

I tend to be very messy in the kitchen, although over the years I’ve become much more organized about my messiness.

When our son become old enough to really understand cooking and help me in the kitchen we had HUGE messes.  I knew that I wanted him to enjoy cooking and food as much as I did, however, I didn’t know how to accomplish this…as anyone that has cooked with children knows,  it take way more time than cooking itself.

But, over the past 2 years Caston and I have learned so much…and we are both better for it.  I have more patience and he has learned many valuable skills.  If you haven’t ventured into the kitchen with your kids, now’s the perfect opportunity to add this to your 2013 “To Do” List.  Here’s Why…

1. Reading
Your children will learn new words and the meanings behind the words with hands on experience.  

2. Self Esteem
When your child helps prepare the food your family enjoys, the look of pride across their face is priceless.

3. Good Communication
One on one time is essential!  Make a date with your little one and cook together daily.  Talk about school, their day, what they did- side by side in your kitchen together.  That’s the time when bonding is achieved!

4. Sensory Experiences
What better way for your child to truly become connected to their food?  Sensory experiences such as seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting will help your child to appreciate each food.

5. Food Education
Where does your food come from? Teach your children how vegetables, meats, eggs, dairy and grains make it to their tables.  What are the health benefits and how are the items produced?  This way your child becomes part of the food process and engaged.  A child that is engaged in their food, is more apt to try new foods.

6. Motor Development
Give your child the opportunity to practice their fine motor skills like chopping, kneading, whisking, stirring, beating and even tenderizing.

7. Introduce Math
Another opportunity to work on hands-on, real life experiences incorporating mathematic skills.  We routinely count the number of eggs we place in the bowl or the number of times mommy stirs the mixture.

All in all, cooking with your children will not only be fun and exciting for your wee ones, but very rewarding for yourself as well.  Just be ready with a big mop and broom!

Country Style Chicken and Noodles

Chicken & Noodles is my family’s favorite comfort food. Made with local chicken and carrots make it even tastier. Perfect for all those turkey leftovers from the holidays.

I very seldom write down many of my recipes while cooking.  Which leads me to trouble when posting my cooking pieces, as I try in recall each step.

What’s I’ve found as a homecook is that the best recipes are those that are thrown together with a little love and passion.  It’s funny, you throw a little of this and that in a pot and BAM – you’ve created something magical.

Typically, most recipes start with what I call the holy trilogy: Onions, Celery and Carrots….and normally a little minced garlic in there too.  Sauté in butter or olive oil and the smell is out of this world, even my toddler makes his way into the kitchen to say, “Momma, what are you making…it’s smells goooooood!”  He and I, along with baby Cora (who is typically in her Bumbo seat or high chair) are my cooking buddies.  Caston has become quite the helper in the kitchen over the past couple months.

It was at Thanksgiving this year that he told me he wanted to help with the turkey.  We bought a locally raised turkey (20 pounder to be exact) that was fresh and pretty darn intimidating- it was HUGE. I knew it was going to be chore of cooking this baby and it was.  As I learned that I did not have a pan large enough to hold it and my loving husband drove into town to get with one.  (Love him!)

We cooked the turkey all night at a very low temperature and the next morning the smell that radiated through the house was something special!  And, the turkey…amazing and moist.

This recipe calls for chicken, but I use turkey leftovers when I have them (both white and dark meat).  Plus all that extra stock from your turkey make the most amazing stock.  You will see that this recipe calls for turmeric powered.  You can find this spice in most grocery stores.  This is the secret ingredient my grandmother always used for her Chicken and Dumplings, so I use it also for this recipe.  The spice gives the dish a beautiful mustard color and an added depth of flavor.  In addition, make sure you use all those wonderful celery leaves in this dish.  A lot of folks cut off the leaves and that’s the most flavorful part!  Don’t waste it, use it in all dishes that call for celery.

Serve this up alongside some crusty sourdough bread and it will warm you right up this winter.

Lane’s Chicken & Noodles

  • 1 whole cut-up local Fryer Chicken, about 3.5 pounds ( I also use leftover turkey for this dish after the holidays)
  • 3 whole Carrots, Diced
  • 3 stalks Celery, Diced (including the celery tops)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, Minced
  • 1/2 small Onion, Diced
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Turmeric powder
  • 1/2 stick of Butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon White Pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon Parsley Flakes
  • 16 ounce of Egg Noodles
  • 2 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour
  • 1 cup of cream or half and half

Preparation Instructions

Place chicken in a large pot, cover in 5 quarts water and bring to a boil.  Simmer pot of chicken for 25 minutes.

Remove chicken from pot and place on a large plate and let cool for about 15 minutes.  Debone your chicken and shred the meat.  Return bones to broth and simmer on low, covered, for 45 minutes.

While chicken is boiling, melt butter in a large pan and add carrots, celery, onions and garlic and sauté for 10 minutes on medium.  Add herbs and spices.

When chicken is ready, remove bones from broth.  I always strain my stock to make sure all small bones are removed.  Add your pan of vegetables and spices to the broth.

Increase heat to a boil and add egg noodles and chicken. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the bite preferred on the noodles.

Add cream to the pot.  In a small cup mix flour and a little water and stir until the mixture is smooth.  Pour into the soup and stir.  (This will help your soup to thicken.)  Simmer for about another 6 minutes and test the soup for taste, you may want to add seasonings per taste.

Christmas Breakfast Casserole

Every year I make a casserole for Christmas Eve morning.  It’s a casserole that my mother passed on to me and I’ve adapted it to my own preferences.  Like most casseroles it ‘s simple, but makes a BIG impression on the table because of the beautiful contrasting colors of the eggs and spinach.

My favorite part of this casserole is about every single ingredient comes locally as well.  Local bread, spinach, eggs, milk, cheese and sausage – all from folks I know!  Makes good eating even better in my books.

Just as my mother did, I always make this casserole the day before and then bake it the next morning to let the seasonings set and merry.

Hope you enjoy this casserole with your family on Christmas morning, mine is already in the fridge and we will enjoy it on Christmas Eve morning.

Leeks Sautéing
Leeks give this casserole a delicious taste that sets it apart from others!

Ozarks Breakfast Casserole
2 pieces of local any bread
2 tsp. olive oil
6 oz. local spinach leaves or kale, washed and dried
9 eggs, beaten
2 small leeks, chopped
3/4 cup local milk
1 tsp. ground mustard powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp. hot sauce
1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese, drained or farm cheese curds
3 oz. soft local goat cheese, crumbled or substitute for Feta cheese
1 lb. local pork sausage, cooked and strained

Measure 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese, put in a fine strainer to drain. Clean leeks and cut into fourths lengthwise and slice into thin pieces. Heat oil over medium and add leeks, sautéing for 4 minutes. Add spinach and sauté an additional 3 minutes. While cooking vegetables, add eggs in small bowl and beat, while adding seasonings and milk.

Cook and brown pork sausage, set aside.

In the bottom of an 8″ x 8″ casserole dish that has been greased, sprinkle torn bread then spread spinach/leek mixture in the bottom of the dish. Layer on cottage cheese, goat cheese and sausage on top. Pour egg mixture over, then use a fork to gently stir so the veggies and cheese are evenly distributed in the eggs. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until eggs are set and lightly browned.

The casserole will puff up slightly as it bakes, but will settle down when it cools for a few minutes. Cut into pieces and serve hot with a spoonful of sour cream.

Dress Up A Cake Mix & Party Planning Tips

Caston's 1st bday
Caston on his 1st birthday with his cousins.

I grew up in a family where birthdays were a BIG celebration!  Homemade cake, ice cream, amazing food and a mother who would even wake us up at the crack of dawn beating on a pot with a spoon, singing “Happy Birthday.”

As my brothers and I got older she would simply sing the song to us in the morning and now as adults she still calls us up and sings and will even leave us a birthday message on our cell phones.  I love that woman!

It’s funny how we become our mothers.  I can attest that I am proud to be even a sliver like my beautiful and amazing mother.  Just as she made us feel super-special on our birthdays, I try to do do the same for my little ones.

Caston’s 1st birthday was a huge day, not only for my little guy, but for me because I had waited forever to throw a birthday party for my own little one.

We celebrated in high-flyin’ style with an airplane party, as airplanes were his favorite toys.  His PaPa had made him three amazing model airplanes (that still hang in his room) and PaPa had many other airplanes that he had made through the years that made perfect decorations.  I made an airplane ticket invitation that turned out very cute and we made all homemade decorations and turned the house into an airport, equipped with a runway, balloon clouds, baggage claim area (for presents), cockpit (food area), captain chair (for the birthday boy) and a tree-tier airplane cake.  I made airplane sugar cookies for our guests to take on their rides home, which were quite tasty.  It was a success and the day flew bye…

Caston's 2nd bday
Caston’s 2nd Birthday Party with his BUZZ Toy Story cake.

His 2nd birthday “buzzed” in with a Toy Story Party, highlighting Buzz and Woody, Caston’s favorite movie characters.  We took his Toy Story toys and books and used as decorations, plus I purchased a few items.  I made what I like to call my most time consuming birthday cake, a Buzz cake, which probably took me about 3.5 hours to decorate because of all the colors I had to dye for the icing and then decorate.  WARNING: You might think that a pan sheet cake is easy, but I find them to be the most time consuming of all.

The menu included food that followed the Pizza Planet theme from the movie, including Green Alien Punch, Alien Marshmallow Pops, Slinky Dogs, Space Ranger treats, and Rex-o-Chips.  We scattered green army guys around on the tables and played Pin Caston on the Rocket Ship (the rocket from the Toy Story movie).  For the guests I made gift bags with a few Toy Story themed toys and games, crayons and a rocket ship homemade cookie.

Caston's 3rd bday
Caston’s 3rd Pirate Party…Arrgh Matey!

And here we are to his 3rd birthday.  When I asked him what he wanted for his birthday, he asked me for a Pirate Party, as he is currently all about Jack Sparrow and Pirates of the Caribbean.  Which, I really can’t blame him…pirates are pretty cool in my book too.

I found pirate eye patches, swords, and hats online, along with a pirate ship cut out and large pirate to hang.  I grabbed some pirate plates, cups and a banner that said “Arrrgh Matey” at a local party store and was set.

Using Photoshop I made pirate map invitation (I always make my own invites, super cheap and so creative).  For food we served Pirate Dogs (Circle B Ranch Jersey Style Hot Dogs), Ocean Water Punch, Shiver Me Timbers Fruit Kabobs, Cheesy Medallions (Springhill Dairy Cheese Curds), Chips A’hoy (potato chips), and Land Ho Cupcakes.  We had pirate tattoos and Matey Loot (which were the guest gift bags).

Caston loved his party and he scored big on his 3rd birthday with his very own pirate ship from Jack and The Neverland Pirates and Pirate Island set-up.  Can’t wait for Cora’s 1st birthday party this coming summer…already thinking about what to do.

What I’ve learned about children party planning:

1.) Keep it simple!  Simple food, simple decorations and simple games.

2.) Have age appropriate games and activities planned for young ones.  Coloring, Pin the Nose games or even a scavenger hunt.

3.) Make your own cake or cupcakes.  You can take a simple box cake mix and dress it up (I’ve provided those tips below) and folks will never know.  I took the Wilton Cake Decorating Classes 2 years ago and learned so much!  Classes are cheap and fun, plus if you stay-at-home with your kids and are looking at making some extra money, cake decorating is the way to go.  I still do a little on the side myself.

4.) 2 hours is the maximum number of hours for any youngling party.  After that you better be ready for meltdown city and overstimulated kids.  And, we know what happens then…

5.) Go online for decorations or make them yourself.  I make lots of my own decorations, they are cheap and easy.  Plus, there are lots of online printables that put that special touch on your party theme.  Hello Pinterest!

6.) Skip paying the money to have little ones parties at a birthday location.  Parties in your home are much more relaxing for your children and you.

How to Dress-Up A Box Cake Mix
Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Cake Mixes- truly the best cake mix I’ve eaten. My favorite has become the Golden Butter mix. But, I don’t just follow the mix recipe – I add to it. Lots of folks do this…they take a mix and add some things to make it taste homemade, don’t be ashamed, be happy it’s so easy!

Here is how I turn a boxed mix into something delectable!

Add to a boxed mix some of the following:
– 1 cup sour cream
– 1 box instant pudding
– ½ cup chocolate chips
– Butter instead of oil
– Milk instead of water
– Add vanilla flavoring
– Add extra butter flavoring
– Add other extract flavorings (lemon, mint, orange, almond).  Add some spirits to the spice up the flavoring. Rum is always good, but my favorite is Irish cream or amaretto. You will substitute for half of the water called for in the mix. Of coarse you might not do this for a kid’s party….
– Do the same with coffee (strong). Great with chocolate cakes!
– Grate in some citrus peel
CakeBy adding some of the above ingredients you can make a boxed cake mix moist and tasty! You will follow the boxed mix instructions, but replace the water and oil with butter and milk and add extra vanilla flavoring (usually about 1 T.).
Or, you can follow the mix recipe and add instant pudding before you add the liquid ingredients. Next, add the liquid ingredients and mix well. When your mix is mixed well and not powdery add sour cream and beat.
Simple enough, don’t you think?
Here’s a cake I did for my friend’s daughter, Addison, last year.  I took a teddy bear cake pan and made it a penguin.  Only took me two cake tips to decorate it.
Happy party planning and baking for your little wee ones!

Simple Grape Salad

Grapes in a Bowl
Grapes Salad is a perfect compliment to your Christmas Dinner menu.

When it comes to food- I want simplicity. Sometimes we get bogged down by fancy recipes with extravagant spices and ingredients, that we loose the true taste of the food.

That’s why I enjoy this recipe so much. It’s my mother’s recipe for a simple grape salad which is found on our Christmas table every year.  The key to  this recipe is ensuring the grapes are ripe and sweet, and I only use Missouri Northern Pecans because these local pecans are small and super sweet and are perfect for this recipe.

Switch it up this holiday and try serving this salad for your Christmas dinner, it’s sure to be a hit!

Simple Grape Salad
By My Mother

2 ½ lbs. grapes
1 (8oz.) cream cheese, room temp.
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup powdered sugar
1 cup sour cream
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup chopped pecans
Mix cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Fold in sour cream and add to grapes. Mix brown sugar and nuts together and sprinkle over grapes.

Hands of Time Artwork Project

Paint your hands and let each print dry thoroughly before adding the next print.

I love Facebook, I love blogging, but I LOVE Pinterest!  What else could be better for all those “Things I want to do” lists floating around?  If you are like me, you have lots of little lists between family, kids, work and a few of your own (which since you are mom, probably will never happen because you are tending to everyone else.)  But, they are worth it, aren’t they…

I found some hand artwork while scrolling through Pinterest that has been on my list for the kids this winter and we gave this one a shot tonight.  Turned out pretty well for our first family artwork project, now as a family of 4…wow, still feels strange saying we are a family of 4 now.  It’s projects like this that I know I’ll cherish even more the older the kids get, therefore it’s important to me to document each step we take together.

Another little project from today included a beautiful tree painting.  I drew a tree truck for Caston today on construction paper and let him choose the colors of the leaves he wanted to paint/  I showed him some different painting techniques and he really enjoyed it, especially at the end when he got his hands all covered in paint.  The painting turned out really cute. It’s my next picture to get framed.

If you are looking for some winter fun with your children I highly suggest some art projects that you can frame around your house.  What better kind of wall art could you possibly want?

Roasted Leg of Lamb…Perfect for Christmas Dinner

Roasted Leg of Lamb
Roasted Leg of Lamb

To some, Christmas dinner means ham, to others it’s the traditional turkey.  For my family’s Christmas dinner,  it’s normally pork loin or lamb and sometimes brisket, although the occasion pheasant makes an appearance from time to time.

I’ve had some friends ask me about lamb and as promised here is my Christmas Leg of Lamb recipe.  Pair it with an Augusta Norton and you will be set.

Here’s some good pointers on how to cut a Bone-In Leg of Lamb.

And, if you are looking for local lamb, might I suggest purchasing from my friends Greg and Nancy Rasmussen of Sunny Lane Farm.  They sell at the Farmers Market of the Ozarks and I’ve purchased leg of lamb from them multiple times- it’s delicious!

Lane’s Roasted Leg of Lamb
2 lemons, juiced
2 T. garlic powder
1T. onion powder
4 springs of fresh Rosemary
5 springs of Thyme
¼ c olive oil

Mix all together in bowl. Coat a 5-7 lb. leg of lamb with the mixture and place lamb in bag and place in refrigerator overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place roasting tray in a roasting pan and place lamb on tray.

Roast for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and cook for another 1 to 1 and half hrs. longer to medium rare. A digit thermometer will read 145 degrees. Remove lamb and let the meat rest for at least 15 minutes.

Place roasting pan on stove and turn heat to medium. Add to the pan:
1 c. chicken stock
1 c. dry red wine
1 tsp. Herb De Provence
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp. sea salt

Deglaze the pan to release the pan drippings from the leg of lamb by cooking mixture and scraping with a wooden spoon. Cook the mixture down, while continuing to scrape drippings on the bottom of pan. Strain mixture and drizzle sliced lamb with sauce.