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Trying to make a good quality home made trail mix or granola bar is really not very hard. This one is my favorite recipes and is a jazzed up riff on Alton Brown's Granola Bars. I'm sure you will love it.

Ingredients
Trail Mix
(Substitute for any of the following ingredients generously.)
  • 2 1/2 Cups Mixed Nuts
  • 1/2 Cup Raisins
  • 1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries
  • 1/2 Cup Chocolate Chips
  • 1/4 Cup Dried Blueberries
  • 1/4 Sliced Almonds
  • 1/8 Cup Dried Apricots
  • 1/8 Cup Dried Mangos
  • 1/8 Cup Roasted Peanuts
  • 1/8 Cup Dried Cherries
  • 1/16 Cup Chia Seeds

Syrup
  • 1 Cup Honey
  • 1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt

  • 3 Cups Rolled Oats
  • Butter For Pan

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Combine the trail mix ingredients or just buy a good quality trail mix and use a little more than 5 cups.
  3. Add the oats to the trail mix. (Alton has you toast the oats, 
  4. In a sauce pan on the stove heat the syrup ingredients to boiling and then simmer about a minute making sure the brown sugar is completely dissolved.
  5. Butter a 9x13 pan completely. Get all the corners.
  6. Add the syrup mixture to the trail mix and mix thoroughly. The chocolate chips will melt.
  7. Press the mixture into the pan so it is evenly flat.
  8. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
  9. Cool completely and cut into individual bars.
  10. Wrap the bars in plastic. They will last about a week and are great for snacks and meal replacement.


Suggestions
We use these bars for breakfast, lunch and snacks. I like to package them up in plastic wrap individually so they can be grab and go for the family. Way better than those purchased bars!

© Russell W Peterson | DayParentDad.com | 10.22.14
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This past week my daughter (Stiletto #2) took her PSAT at school. This is the pre-test to the SAT and the qualifier for National Merit Scholarships from the College Board. One of the things that I like about the school that they attend is that they don't over prepare them for particular tests. Many schools do that and in the end it amounts to a test score beauty pageant instead of a real evaluation of knowledge and problem solving. Even moderating for this culture, there is still enormous pressure for kids to do well on the test. So knowing there would be a little anxiety, I figured a really good breakfast would be the first thing in order for the day. Since Stiletto #2 is a Carbo Queen and loves soft white bread, I decided a new recipe just for her was in order. Well, it was a hit and easily her favorite bread of all that I have made. Even the Trophy Wife loved it more than all the others! Guess who got the high score for the day. Yes, it was a beauty pageant.

Ingredients
  • 4 Cups AP Flour
  • 1 1/4 Teaspoons Quick Rise Yeast
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
  • 1/4 Cup Sour Cream
  • 3/4 Cup + 1 Tablespoon 1% Milk
  • 1 Tablespoon Rice Wine Vinegar or White Vinegar
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Flour For Boule Forming

Preparation
  1. Combine the dry ingredients.
  2. Combine the wet ingredients and warm to about 85 degrees. I do this slowly in the microwave using the reheat setting. It takes about a minute and a half. Make sure you stir it well.
  3. Combine all the ingredients. It should just start to look glossy, but not wet.
  4. Spray oil the inside of the bowl moving the dough to each side and the spray the top.
  5. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a towel. Place in oven with only oven light on and let raise at least 6 hours.
  6. Turn out onto oiled counter top and fold over twice.
  7. Cover with plastic wrap and let raise another hour.
  8. Preheat oven and Dutch oven or heavy pot with lid to 450 degrees.
  9. Remove pot from oven and remove lid.
  10. Using a couple tablespoons of flour quickly form the dough by pulling under a few times into a Boule or round shape.
  11. Place shaped dough into Dutch oven, cover, and place into oven.
  12. Bake for 30 minutes covered and then 10 minutes uncovered.
  13. Remove dough from pot and cool on a wire rack.

Suggestions
This recipe is great for both sandwiches and toasting.

Nutrition
1 slice (depending on how big and without butter) is approximately 150 calories.

© Russell W Peterson | DayParentDad.com | 10.16.14
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I love fall except for the part where it turns into winter. In the meantime, I am going to enjoy this wonderful and light creamy porcini mushroom soup because it taste nothing like winter.
Ingredients
  • 3 Oz Dried Porcini Mushrooms (Re-hydrated)
  • 1 Chopped Onion
  • 1 Chopped Carrot
  • 3-4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 1/2 Cups Mushroom Liquid Reserved
  • 17 Oz Chicken Stock
  • 3 Teaspoons Chicken Better Than Bouillon
  • 1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
  • 1 Can Light Coconut Milk
  • 1/4 Cup Cream
  • 1 Large Tablespoon Dried Parsley
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Tumeric
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • Pepper To Taste
Preparation
  1. Re-hydrate the mushrooms, drain and reserve the liquid in a bowl. The sediment should fall to the bottom of the bowl.
  2. Lightly pat dry the mushrooms with a towel.
  3. Chop the onion and carrot into fairly small pieces.
  4. Add the olive oil, mushrooms, onion and carrot into a large pot. Cook on medium high until onions and carrots begin to soften.
  5. Add the stock, 2 1/2 cups of the reserve liquid (skimming off the top so the sediment stays out of the soup), the Better Than Bouillon and the tomato paste.
  6. Bring to a boil and cook about 15 minutes. 
  7. Reduce heat and add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a light boil and simmer another 5 minutes.
  8. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender until smooth. Return to heat on low for a few minutes.
  9. Cool slightly and serve with sour cream.

Hints
  • This has a light mushroom flavor. If you want more depth, I would suggest doubling the amount of mushrooms or using a couple of different varieties. I think just about any dried mushroom would do.

  • Can also be made with vegetable stock.
 
 
The Trophy Wife thinks I have a magic way with soups. For some reason I can taste a pot of cooking goodness and know just what to add or adjust to make it extra special. I wish I had that ability in other areas. But never you mind. 

I love this particular soup because it tastes hardy like a chili, but is lighter in texture - more like a broth soup. There's the magic: light and filling all at the same time. I think you'll love it!

Ingredients
  • 1 Pound Ground Beef
  • 1/2 Large Vidalia Onion Diced
  • 1 15 Ounce Can Tomato Sauce
  • 1 6 Ounce Can Tomato Paste
  • 4 Cups Chicken Stock
  • 1 Tablespoon Flour
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Cumin
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Chili Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Tumeric

Preparation
  1. Brown ground beef in cast iron pan with diced onions.
  2. Add flour half way through browning.
  3. Pour beef and onion mixture into crock pot.
  4. Deglaze pan with 1 cup of the chicken stock and pour that into the crock pot.
  5. Add all other ingredients to crock pot.
  6. Cook on low for 4 hours.

Hints
No need to add salt, there is enough in the tomato sauce, tomato paste and the chicken stock.

Serving
Makes about 4-6 servings depending on who you are feeding.

Nutrition
Regular serving is about 198 calories.
Larger serving is about 297 calories.

© Russell W Peterson | DayParentDad.com | 9.16.14
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The dogs seemed quite interested in the leftover onion.
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I almost always have chicken and an array of vegetables in the house. This can lead to many dishes, but one of my go to basics is chicken stew. It is the base for my chicken and dumplings, chicken and drop biscuits, chicken with mashed potatoes, and chicken pot pie. You can adapt the spices and flavors in a variety of ways, but this is the basic method. My kids love having this on a cold evening after school. I hope you enjoy it.

Ingredients
  • 2 T Butter
  • 1 T Olive Oil
  • 1 Yellow Onion Finely Chopped
  • 4 Medium Carrots Sliced Thin (I use a mandolin on 2 or 3 setting.)
  • 2 Cups Cooked Chicken In Pieces
  • 1 Cup Frozen Peas
  • 1 Cup Frozen Corn
  • 1 Can Green Beans

Sauce Ingredients
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • 8 Tablespoons Flour
  • 1 32 Ounce Box Chicken Stock
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Dried Rosemary
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Cracked Black Pepper
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Onion Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Tumeric
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Parsley
  • Salt As Needed

 Preparation
  1. Heat the butter and oil in a heavy pot over medium low heat.
  2. Add the onion and carrot. Cook until onion softens.
  3. Add the chicken, peas, corn, and beans. Cover. (Be creative here, you can add other vegetables.)
  4. In a large sauce pan, heat the sauce butter, add the flour and stir with a whisk until the mixture starts to turn light brown.
  5. Add the stock and whisk. Bring to a boil and then reduce to medrium.
  6. Add the herbs and spices and stir thoroughly.
  7. Pour the sauce into the vegetable and chicken pot. Stir and cover.
  8. Cook over medium to medium low 30 minutes to 1 hour. The longer you cook low and slow the more flavor will develop. You may need to add a bit of water if you cook longer due to evaporation.
  9. At this point you can either pour into a pie crust for pot pie, drop in biscuits and bake in the oven covered, pour over mashed potatoes or bread or be imaginative.

Nutrition
Less than 200 calories per cup.

Hints
  1. Substitute olive oil to make this dairy free.
  2. In addition to the olive oil if you eliminate the chicken and substitute vegetable stock this makes a great vegetable stew.
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There are so many ways to cook eggs, especially scrambled eggs. One of my kids' favorites are my silky eggs. The combination of cream, butter and low temperature create a yummy silky texture: smooth, warm and wonderful.   The recipe can be increased significantly for brunch or a larger group.

Ingredients

  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter
  • A Bit Of Salt And Pepper

Preparation

  1. Heat butter in a non stick pan on medium low.
  2. Whisk the eggs and cream together vigorously and pour into the pan with the melted butter.
  3. Cook on medium low stirring frequently until just set. They will cook slightly after you remove them from the heat.

Nutrition
About 190 calories.


 
 
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My friend Ann from Sumptuous Spoonfuls is coming to town this weekend. So in her honor a new recipe for some delightful rolls. (Psst....actually, this is just the dough from the flatbread recipe made into rolls. But don't tell her that I recycled a recipe into something new for her. It will be our little secret.)

Ingredients
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp quick yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup plus 2 T lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 T olive oil
  • spray oil

Preparation
  1. Mix the dry ingredients with a whisk or fork in a large bowl.
  2. Add the water and olive oil and mix until incorporated. It should be lumpy and wet, but not glossy. Adjust water as needed.
  3. Spray oil the top of the dough and bowl sides, flip the dough and then spray again.
  4. Cover dough with plastic wrap and towel. 
  5. Place in warm area to rise about 5-6 hours. I put on my stove top and turn the oven on to 150 degress F and the vent keeps the top warm. It needs to be about 70-74 degrees F.
  6. Pour dough out onto greased counter top and fold over twice. Cover with wrap and let rise another hour.
  7. Uncover and divide dough evenly into six to twelve pieces. (Depends on size of rolls you want.)
  8. On a floured counter top, shape the dough pieces into quick balls. Set aside and rest for a few minutes.
  9. Heat a Dutch oven or other large covered heavy pan with a cover in a 450 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes depending on size of rolls.
  10. Cook uncovered 5-8 minutes depending on size of rolls until golden.
  11. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Tips
Dough can be refrigerated for up to a week. Just remove from refrigerator and place on an oiled counter covered until room temperature - about an hour. Then bake as usual.

Add your favorite Italian herbs into this dough for a wonderful herbed bread.

For small rolls, you could cook them in a roasting pan with a lid or heavy cookie sheeet on top.
 
 
Many flat breads don't have yeast, but I like this one because of the wonderful flavor. It is easy to whip together in the morning and ready to bake that evening. Also, you can refrigerate the dough for a week and have flatbreads whenever you like. 

The added bonus is that this dough makes great rolls too! So if you get tired of flatbread, just make a roll or two for your favorite sandwich or eat warm with butter. Yum!

Ingredients
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp quick yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup plus 2 T lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 T olive oil
  • spray oil
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Preparation
  1. Mix the dry ingredients with a whisk or fork in a large bowl.
  2. Add the water and olive oil and mix until incorporated. It should be lumpy and wet, but not glossy. Adjust water as needed.
  3. Spray oil the top of the dough and bowl sides, flip the dough and then spray again.
  4. Cover dough with plastic wrap and towel. 
  5. Place in warm area to rise about 5-6 hours. I put on my stove top and turn the oven on to 150 degress F and the vent keeps the top warm. It needs to be about 70-74 degrees F.
  6. Pour dough out onto greased counter top and fold over twice. Cover with wrap and let rise another hour.
  7. Uncover and divide dough evenly into six pieces.
  8. On a floured counter top, shape the dough pieces into quick balls. Set aside and rest for a few minutes.
  9. You can roll out the dough very thin after about 10 minutes or you can refrigerate the extra balls wrapped in plastic for about a week.
  10. Brush top of dough with a little olive oil and salt and bake at 450 degrees F on a preheated pizza stone or heavy cookie sheet for 3 minutes.
  11. Remove from oven, top with toppings, and return to bake for an additional 15 minutes or so depending on wetness of toppings.

Topping Ideas
  • Mozzarella, caramelized onions, and pancetta.
  • Tomato sauce, Mozzarella, pepperoni and green pepper.
  • Mozzarella, tomato sauce, pineapple and green pepper.
  • Mozzarella, blue cheese, and pancetta.
  • Ground beef, tomato sauce, and cheddar cheese.
  • Mozzarella, nicoise olives, castelvetrano olives, and red onion.
  • Mozzarella, bacon, parmesan, and tomato.
  • Tomato, mozzarella, and basil.

Rolls
You can cook the six pieces individually or together as large or small rolls as well.
  1. Bring the dough to room temperature and let proof a little on an oiled counter under plastic wrap for about an hour.
  2. Heat a Dutch oven or other large covered heavy pan with a cover in a 450 degree F oven for at least a half an hour.
  3. Shape dough quickly into rounds and placed into Dutch oven. Cook covered for 15-20 minutes depending on size of your rolls.
  4. Cook uncovered 5-8 minutes depending on size of rolls until golden.
  5. Remove to wire rack to cool.


Nutrition
Depends on toppings and portion size.

Tips
I usually cook 1-3 of the flatbreads and then store the rest wrapped in plastic wrap in a recloseable plastic bag. Bring dough back up to nearly room temperature before cooking.
 
 
Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines? This is the dilemma I faced standing in the baking aisle at the grocery store. My mom made store box cakes all the time. They are pretty much full proof for the novice cook. I've baked both. Neither is particularly spectacular, but there is an advantage to having a quick box cake handy in the cupboard. Although, honestly they taste sugary, a little airy, and a bit chemically. Also, the texture is so light it almost seems like there is nothing there.

I really want a rich cake with some substance to it. So after a few trial and errors I've come up with this recipe that seems to be pretty full proof and consistent. I hope you enjoy. (If you are looking for a comparison of store bought versus home made there is a good summary at the Ktchn called: Make Or Bake? Cake Mixes vs. Homemade.)

Pre Preparation
350 Degrees F
Butter and flour two 8 inch round baking pans.

Ingredients
  • 2 cups and 1 tablepoon all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar (I prefer dark.)
  • 1 1/2 cup 1% milk
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • butter to grease pans
  • flour to dust pans

Preparation
  1. Sift first 5 ingredients onto a piece of parchment paper or a large bowel with a pouring lip. 
  2. Cream the remaining ingredients in a bowl.
  3. With the beaters on low add the sifted ingredients to the wet mixture that has been creamed. Incorporate fully.
  4. Turn the beaters onto medium and beat for 3 minutes.
  5. Pour and divide the batter equally into the two round pans.
  6. Bake at 350 degress F on middle rack for about 30-37 minutes. The middle of the cake should spring back when touched and a toothpick test should be clean.
  7. Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes on wire rack.
  8. Loosen the cake from around the edge of the pans. I use a small plastic spatula that I got with my small food processor.
  9. Invert each cake onto a plate and then revert onto a wire rack to continue cooling.
  10. Cool fully before layering and frosting. Shave off the tops with a fine serrated knife if necessary
  11. I like to use my chocolate butter cream frosting for this cake, but I'm sure other frosting would work just as well.

Nutrition
It's cake. Really, you have to ask? Well, o.k. Typically chocolate cake is about 150 calories per ounce of serving which includes the frosting. A slice could easily be 500-600 calories. So watch it!

Tips
Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting Recipe Link.

I prefer to use my stand mixer for this recipe, but you can use a hand mixer just as easily.

One nice thing about this cake is that the top doesn't rise too rounded, so that if you layer it you rarely have to cut off any of the top of the cake.

There are a couple of tricks to frosting a layered cake. First, put a bit of frosting down on your plate to help stabilize the first layer of cake. Secondly, you should do a light round of frosting around the cake first. This is usually called the crumb frosting. Then do the next layer of frosting after it has set up a bit.

If you are in a hurry, you can just dump all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix for 3 minutes.
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Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting

Ingredients
  • 1 cup plus 1/2 stick butter (2 1/2 sticks total)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 4 tablespoons half and half

Preparation
  1. Cream the butter in your mixer on medium for 2 minutes. 
  2. While the butter is creaming, sift the dry ingredients onto parchment paper or into a bowl with a spout.
  3. With the mixer on the lowest speed add the sifted ingredients until fully incorporated.
  4. Add the vanilla and half and half. Increase the mixer speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes.
  5. Adjust consistency by adding either a bit more sugar for stiffness or half and half for dilution.

Tips
You should have a bit of frosting left over.
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Being from the south (if you can call southern Illinois south), my mother loved southern food. One of her favorites was cornbread. She just followed the instructions on the round cornmeal box and baked it in a cast iron skillet. It was always served hot with butter and honey. Yum! 

I loved the way my mom's cornbread tasted. Since I have very few of her successful recipes, I wanted to pass the cornbread tradition on to my kids. However, when I made it for my young children they complained about the "grainy" texture of that method. (One of the things I've learned as a parent is that texture is nearly everything!) 

So, in order to develop something a bit "smoother" but still full of flavor and taste, I came up with these great corn bread muffins sweetened with a bit of honey. Many people would classify them as northern and not southern because they are sweeter than savory, but I don't care what you call them because they are delicious, easy to make and the kids gobble them up. Just spread on the butter because the honey is already built right in! I think my mother would be proud.
Oven
400 Degress F

Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup corn meal
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup one percent milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 stick melted butter
  • 1/4 cup honey

Preparation
  1. Stir the dry ingredients together until well mixed.
  2. Whisk wet ingredients together in a separate bowl.  
  3. Combined the wet and dry ingredients until just mixed. 
  4. Spoon batter into 12 papered muffin cups. 
  5. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Nutrition

12 Servings
170 calories per serving
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Tips
I have successfully reduced salt to about 3/4 tsp. You could try less if you are on a lower salt diet and use unsalted butter as well.

This is a great first recipe for kids to try. It easy to mix together and relatively fast to prepare and cook.