Friday, December 30, 2011

7-Layer Dip

New Year's Eve is tomorrow night, which means it's not time to diet yet.  You've got a couple more days of excuses to eat junk food.  And I'm here to help you with another delicious but not healthy recipe!  We grew up eating this dip.  You can buy it pre-made, but it's pretty pricey and the containers are usually quite small.

7-Layer Dip
3 1/2 cups refried beans (or 1 30 oz can)
2 avocados, mashed with just a tad of lime juice mixed in
3 Tbsp mayonnaise
3 Tbsp sour cream
1 1/2 Tbsp taco seasoning
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
3/4 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
3-4 green onions, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
Chopped olives
Tortilla chips

In the bottom of a 9x13 pan, spread the beans, followed by the avocado.  In a separate bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, and taco seasoning; spread on top of avocados.  Combine the two types of cheese; sprinkle over sour cream mixture.  Layer remaining ingredients; refrigerate until ready to use.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Yummy green goodness!

I enlisted the help of my 3-year-old to mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, and taco seasoning.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Peppermint Brownies

Yeah, Christmas is over and we should be posting a bunch of healthy undo-the-Christmas-feast recipes.  But we (Sumiko and family) still have one more Christmas to celebrate.  Both my and Kimiko’s family celebrated with our parents.  Today, we are celebrating with Robbie’s family.  We’re basically doing Christmas over again:  big breakfast, presents, big dinner, multiple desserts.  But this one will be easier as we’ll eat the leftovers from Sunday’s dinner (see them menu here).

There will be a few differences from the meal we ate with my family.  Breakfast casserole instead of our traditional cinnamon rolls, sautéed fresh green beans in place of green bean casserole, and mashed potatoes in lieu of couscous.  As for the desserts, we will still have pecan pie and ice cream, but will also have the choice of peppermint brownies!

If your family is like mine, you always end up with a bunch of candy canes after Christmas.  About Valentine’s Day, I get tired of seeing them in the pantry and throw them away.  This year I decided to put them to good use.  So far I’ve made a batch of peppermint brownies and want to try to make a peppermint hot chocolate mix with the rest.

The easiest way to break the candy canes is to
put them in a zip-top bag and hit them with
something.  You will get little holes in the bag
and some candy cane dust on the counter.

I basically used Kimiko’s dark chocolate brownie recipe and made a few alterations.  The biggest change is that I used all regular cocoa.  I do have dark cocoa in my pantry, thanks to my wonderful sister, but I’d rather save it for pure chocolate brownies.  I also changed the sugar/brown sugar ratio, making the final product a little chewier.

Peppermint Brownies
1½ c. flour
1 c. cocoa powder, sifted to remove lumps
1 tsp. salt
1 c. butter, melted
1½ c. sugar
1½ c. brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. peppermint extract
1 c. chocolate chips
5 candy canes, crushed (more or less to preference), divided

Preheat oven to 350°.  Butter 9”x13” pan; set aside.  Alternatively, line pan with foil and spray or rub with oil.  In small bowl, mix flour, cocoa powder, and salt.

In large bowl, combine melted butter, sugar, and brown sugar.  Add 2 eggs; mix thoroughly.  Add remaining two eggs; mix thoroughly.  Stir in peppermint extract.  Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in 3 additions.

Mix in chocolate chips and a little more than half of the crushed candy canes.

Looks good enough to eat as is!

Pour batter into prepared pan.  Sprinkle remaining candy cane pieces over top.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted middle comes out clean (keep in mind a toothpick inserted in a chocolate chip will not come out clean).  Cool completely.

Perfect with Safeway Select peppermint ice cream!!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas from Near to Nothing

Merry Christmas to all our faithful readers!  We hope you are enjoying a blessed day with your family.  We are all spending Christmas together so it's a bit crazy but wonderful!

Since this is a food blog, we thought we'd give you a glimpse into our Christmas feast:

  • BBQ'd turkey (Dad)
  • Gravy (Dad)
  • Loaded Thanksgiving stuffing (Sumiko)
  • Green bean casserole (Kimiko)
  • Herb-seasoned couscous (Sumiko)
  • Veggie, fruit, and relish tray (Mom)
  • Pecan pie (Sumiko)
  • Ice cream sundaes (Mom)

We decided to keep it simple and realistic.  The kids are more likely to eat dipping veggies than any fancy veggies we try to pass off on them.  And we're forgoing the mashed potatoes this year in favor of couscous.

We pray you enjoy this Christmas day as we celebrate the Savior's birth!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hot Chicken (or Turkey) Salad

Some of you may be having turkey for dinner on Christmas, and some of you may have more leftover turkey than you know what to do with on Monday.  After Thanksgiving, we had a lot of leftover turkey, so I decided to try something a little different.  There's a hot chicken salad that we grew up eating and it was one of our favorites (though our mom rarely ever made it).  It calls for a lot of chicken, which makes it a somewhat expensive meal, but I wondered if I'd be able to make it with leftover turkey in order to greatly reduce the price.  So I used my family as guinea pigs and, thankfully for them, it was excellent!  If you find a great sale on whole chickens, you could cook them in the slow cooker, then use the meat to make this for a delicious meal!  It does contain Provolone cheese, croissants, and a lot of meat so it's not the most inexpensive meal, but it feeds a lot of people and is oh-so-yummy!  It can be made cheaper by buying items on sale or clearance (meat, cream of chicken, Provolone, and potato chips).

Hot Chicken (or Turkey) Salad
8 cups chicken or turkey, cooked and cubed
2 cups thinly-sliced celery
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp salt
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 can cream of chicken soup
12 oz. provolone cheese, grated
1 cup crushed potato chips
Parmesan Cheese
Croissants, sliced in half lengthwise (to make sandwiches)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix first 7 ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Put mixture into a 9 x 13 casserole dish, spreading evenly.  Cover with provolone cheese.  A note on the cheese - I found Sargento sliced provolone on sale and had a coupon for it, making it rather inexpensive for Provolone.  The slices can easily be substituted for grated cheese - just lay the slices in a layer to cover the chicken mixture.  Next, add a layer of crushed potato chips, and finish the casserole with a sprinkling of Parmesan.  You don't have to buy fancy Parmesan cheese for this.  The cheap stuff works just fine!

Bake, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is bubbly and browned.  Serve on the croissants (I usually get my croissants at Sam's Club, as they're usually cheaper than regular grocery stores).

Mmmm...the crunchy top is the best part!

Yum, yum, yum!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Breakfast Casserole

This year, Christmas falls on a Sunday.  This means getting to church may require altering some of your usual Christmas traditions.  But it doesn’t mean you have to toss cold cereal in front of your family.  This delicious breakfast casserole can be assembled the day before and baked in the morning while everyone gets dressed!  This hot and hearty breakfast is just the thing to fuel you and your family through the morning.

It calls for bread slices.  I sometimes use French bread and sometimes white bread.  I have yet to experiment with whole grain bread.

Breakfast Casserole
6-8 slices bread
1/2 lb. cooked bacon, ham, or sausage, chopped
1 c. shredded cheese (cheddar or cheddar/jack mix)
1 dozen eggs
1 c. sour cream
1 c. milk
2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350°.  Place bread in single layer on bottom of 9”x13” pan.  Sprinkle with bacon, ham, or sausage and cheese; set aside.

In large bowl, combine eggs, sour cream, milk, and salt; whisk together.  Pour egg mixture over bread, meat, and cheese.

The sour cream should be mixed in more thoroughly---it was
one of those days when the kids were really needy.

Bake 30 minutes.  If assembling the day before, increase baking time to about 45 minutes, or until hot all the way through.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Muddy Buddies

I can't believe Christmas is in less than a week!  Wasn't last Christmas just a week ago?!  Anyway, despite how it feels, the reality of it is that Christmas really is on Sunday.  And Christmas is the perfect time to eat lots of sweets, right?  ;)

This recipe goes way back in my life, but I've recently noticed you can now buy this pre-made, which I think is strange, since it's pretty easy and much cheaper to make on your own.  I'm talking about Muddy Buddies (also known as Puppy Chow in some parts of the country).  A simple, yet oh-so-delicious treat!

Muddy Buddies
9 cups Chex cereal (wait until it's on sale)
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 stick butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Place Chex in a large mixing bowl; set aside.  In a separate bowl, combine chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter.  Microwave 1 minute; stir.  Place back into microwave and heat until the mixture is smooth.  Add vanilla and pour over cereal.  Carefully mix until the cereal is coated in the chocolate mixture.  Place into a gallon size zip-top bag; add powdered sugar and shake until well coated.  The original recipe calls for the mix to be placed in a two-gallon zip top bag with the powdered sugar.  I only have 1 gallon, so I used that.  It worked, but I think next time I'll try just putting half of the cereal mixture in with 3/4 cup of powdered sugar a time.  Spread out on wax paper until the chocolate cools and hardens.

The pieces in the bottom right corner didn't get covered very well, which is why I think I'll split up the batch next time.

Your kids will enjoy licking the spoon when you're done!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Doris's Sweet Potato Casserole

Remember my Near-to-Nothing grandmother’s cousin Doris?  She’s the one who makes the cranberry-orange relish I shared before Thanksgiving.  Well, she also makes a very popular sweet potato casserole that would make be the perfect accompaniment to your Christmas meal.

Now, I’m not much of a sweet potato person.  The only way I really like them is as tempura (hopefully to be posted after New Year’s).  But Robbie loves this casserole.  And it’s so easy to make!  You can even assemble it ahead of time and bake it when you are ready.

To address the sweet potato/yam confusion, I’m going to direct you to my baby food post where I discussed it earlier this year.  And henceforth I will continue to call this dish “sweet potato casserole” regardless of the fact that I used “red garnet yams.”

Before baking

Canned sweet potatoes or yams (not candied) will do, though I always start with fresh ones.  The recipe calls for 3 cups of mashed sweet potatoes which is about 1¾ pounds.  Considering skin waste and water loss during cooking, you will want to start with about 2 pounds of fresh sweet potatoes or yams.  If you have a little more than 3 cups, just throw it all in—a little extra won’t affect it.

Baked Sweet Potatoes or Yams
Pierce each potato or yam with fork multiple times; place on foil-lined baking sheet.  Bake at 400° for 45-60 minutes or until soft.  Let cool until able to handle; peel off skin.  Place flesh in large bowl; mash with potato masher.  Can be frozen.

Doris’s Sweet Potato Casserole
Sweet potatoes
3 c. mashed sweet potatoes
1 c. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
½ c. evaporated milk
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. butter, melted

1 c. brown sugar
½ c. flour
¼ c. butter
1 c. chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 400°.  In large bowl, combine all sweet potato ingredients; stir until well-combined.  Spread into 9”x13” pan; set aside.

In medium bowl, combine brown sugar and flour for topping.  Cut in butter until crumbly; stir in nuts.

Spoon topping over sweet potatoes.  Bake 30-40 minutes, until top is golden brown.

It really does look a lot better than this.  The sun had gone
down and I was shooting under my awesome
fluorescent lights.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Waffles (and a fun Christmas breakfast!)

We love waffles at our house, so when I saw this fun Christmas idea with waffles on Pinterest, I just had to try it!  Then I realized I've never blogged my waffle recipe, so here I am killing two birds with one stone.

2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 cup flour
1 heaping Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder

Preheat waffle iron according to manufacturer's instructions and grease if needed.

Separate eggs, placing whites in a small mixing bowl and yolks in a large mixing bowl.  Beat whites until soft peaks form.  In the bowl with the yolks, add the milk and oil; mix well.  Add flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder and mix just until incorporated and most lumps are out.  Fold in egg whites to incorporate.  Pour batter according to manufacturer's instructions and cook.  If you'd like to freeze waffles, allow them to cool completely, then place in a zip-top bag and freeze.  To reheat, either place in the microwave or toaster until warm.

To make the Christmas trees:

For the trunk: Either make a normal waffle and cut into rectangles or use a piece of bacon.

For the tree: Add green food coloring to the batter; cook waffles.  If they come out too brown, turn the heat down on your waffle iron.  Because my waffle iron makes waffles that are so thick, in order to cook the middle of the waffle, the outsides ended up with some brown on them, but my daughter didn't even seem to notice!

When waffles are done, separate into triangles.  If yours are thin enough, you can just overlap them like this one here.  Mine are too thick, so I cut little triangles out of the bottom of each one and just fit them together like a puzzle.

Star: I cut a slice of an apple, then used a star cookie cutter to get the star.

Ornaments: I used M&M's because I had them on hand (they were left-over from my daughter's Halloween stash), but you could also use fresh berries (which, unfortunately, aren't cheap right now).

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