Dino Dinner

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Who doesn’t love dinosaurs? This casserole is especially appetizing to children because it’s covered with dinosaurs. If you’ve never tried dinosaur, it tastes a lot like chicken. I totally understand that most people have not hunted dinosaur as it’s hard to find and even harder to field dress and carry home. And who’s got a freezer that big??? Your family and neighbors would be eating dino for years, whether they prefer white or dark meat. So for this recipe, we’re using dino from the grocery store. Your kids will love making this dish. If you like this recipe, check out others in my blog and definitely check out my first cookbook, Caveman Chemistry, Bringing Science Back into Cooking. It’s available on lulu.com.

  • 1 – 10.5oz can chicken with rice soup
  • 1/2 cup uncooked Minute Rice
  • 1 – 12oz package frozen broccoli with cheese sauce
  • 1 – 10.5oz can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese – or more
  • 12 – 16 frozen Dino Buddies chicken nuggets

Preheat the oven to 350. Pour the chicken with rice soup into a 9×9 pan. Add 1/2 soup can of water and spread the soup across the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the Minute Rice over the soup. Layer the frozen broccoli over the rice. Drop spoonfuls of the cream of chicken soup over the broccoli. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the soup and broccoli. Put a single layer of frozen dino nuggets on top of the cheese. Bake the Dino Dinner 45-50 minutes, until the broccoli is cooked and the cheese is melted. Let the casserole cool for 5 minutes before serving.

 

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Does Anyone Love Caramel as Much as Me?

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I love all things caramel. And this snack definitely satisfies. Caramel Crispix even gets bonus points in the summer because you don’t have to heat up the oven and the house making it. Did I say the main ingredient is cereal so you can eat it for breakfast? Ding, ding, ding, extra bonus points! Make a batch today.

Caramel Crispix

  • 9 – cups Crispix cereal
  • 1 – cup brown sugar
  • ½ – cup margarine
  • ½ – teaspoon salt
  • ¼ – cup light corn syrup
  • ½ – teaspoon baking soda

Spray the inside of a large, heavy–duty, brown paper grocery bag with cooking spray.  Pour the cereal into the bag.  Line a large cookie sheet with 2 layers of wax paper.  Spray the top layer of wax paper with cooking spray.

Put the margarine, corn syrup, and brown sugar in a 4–cup glass measuring pitcher and microwave the syrup on high for 3 minutes.  Stir the syrup and microwave it again for 1 minute.  Remove the syrup from the microwave and stir in the salt and soda.  Keep stirring as the syrup foams up and turns light golden brown.  Pour the syrup over the cereal and stir it a little without getting burned.

Loosely, roll the top of the bag closed and microwave the bag of cereal on high for 1 minute.  Put an oven mitt on each hand to remove the bag from the microwave and shake the bag upside down and sideways.  Shake the bag of cereal gently so the bag won’t tear.  Microwave the bag for another minute.  Shake the bag again and dump the cereal onto the cookie sheet to cool.  Even though one batch seems like a single serving, try not to eat all of the cereal before breaking it up in a bowl to share.  Store any leftovers in a Ziploc bag.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

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Family, Friends, Food, Fun. I love Christmas! Families gather around the world to revel in  the joy of the holiday season and family fellowship. Friends party and exchange gifts. Cards and family newsletters are sent to all the wonderful extended families. Lurking in the background of every event is the best food EVER. December is the month of candy making, bread baking, cupcaking, diet forsaking, tastebud waking, leftover taking, and overstuffed stomach aching. December is also the month of peppermint – drinks, candy, ice cream. For years, December was the only time you could find peppermint chocolate chips in the grocery store, which is why peppermint brownies were considered a Christmas treat. These brownies are a huge hit at any gathering.

Christmas Peppermint Brownies

Brownie:

  • ½ – cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 – teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 – cup sugar
  • 1¾ – cups Hershey’s chocolate–flavored syrup
  • 4 – eggs
  • 1 – cup flour
  • ½ – teaspoon salt

Filling:

  • ½ – cup butter or margarine, softened
  • ½ – teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 – cups powdered sugar
  • 4 – drops green food coloring
  • 1 – tablespoon water

Frosting:

  • 9 – tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 – 10 ounce bag mint chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 13x9x2 pan. In a large mixing bowl with the mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, salt, vanilla, and chocolate syrup. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour. As soon as the flour is moist, turn the mixer on medium and beat the batter for 3 minutes. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the brownies for 30–40 minutes, until done. The brownies may look wet in the middle so use a toothpick to make sure they’re done. Allow the brownies to cool to room temperature. It’s ok if the brownies pull away from the sides of the pan as they cool.

In a large mixing bowl with a mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and powdered sugar. Beat in the water, peppermint, and food coloring until the filling is creamy and turns a soft green. Spread the filling evenly over the brownies, just to the edges. Refrigerate the brownies at least 2 hours, until the filling is set.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and mint chocolate chips, stirring occasionally. Do not boil the chocolate. When the butter and chips are melted, remove the pan from the heat and cool the chocolate for at least 30–60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spread the frosting over the green filling and refrigerate the brownies until the frosting is set. Store the brownies in the refrigerator.

Who Doesn’t Want Free Money!

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Glad I got your attention. This is a public service announcement. 16 years after my mom passed away, I found a lockbox key in some of her things. If you know me, you know I’m not one to assume the box was closed and time to throw the key away. Besides, everyone loves a good mystery, right? I started researching the key. The original bank was absorbed by Wells Fargo and I have no idea which branch to contact. However, enough years have passed that the box would have been emptied due to unpaid rent and the contents sent to the State. Mom only lived in 2 states in the last 30 years, so that narrows the search. So far I haven’t found anything from a lockbox, but I found money for my sister, brother, cousin, nephew, and stepsister. You, too, could have money waiting for you to claim it. And claiming is free. Don’t go to one of those websites from a private company, they will charge you for helping you claim your own money.

Here’s what you do. Each state has a website for ‘Unclaimed Property’. Find your state’s website and enter your last name in the Last Name box and click SEARCH.  Peruse the entire list because it’s not always in alphabetical order and sometimes your name or address can be misspelled. Look for yourself, family members, and any business names you’ve used and claim everything that’s yours. You will have to produce specific documents if you are claiming property of a deceased relative. Even if it’s not much money, think of it this way: the less stuff the State has to keep track of, the less accountants the State needs, the less taxes you have to pay.

You may be thinking there’s nothing for you so why bother. Everyone thinks that and yet there are probably billions of dollars being held in this country. How does this happen? It’s money that a company tried to send you or your family and the company couldn’t reach you. Maybe because of misspelling your name and address or you moved or your family member passed away. There are a number of reasons a company can’t get money to its rightful owner, so you have to help them out and look for your family. The money can be royalties, utility deposits, insurance payouts, vendor refunds, legal settlements, forgotten bank accounts and lockboxes, final paychecks, or even child support. What if the lockbox contained your Grandma’s wedding picture? You’d want that back. So take a few minutes and do some searching. Get what’s coming to you.

Gorge the Gourd!

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Isn’t it a little backwards that we gorge on pumpkin before Halloween? Shouldn’t we be gutting all of our carved pumpkins on November 1st and baking those wonderful pumpkin pies? Well maybe that’s the logical way, but honestly we just can’t wait any longer. The cool Fall air kindles that pumpkin craving. Just look around. We have pumpkin pie, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin shakes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cake, pumpkin pancakes… pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin.

I have some terrific pumpkin recipes in my cookbook. If you love pumpkin, you will love every one of those recipes. Today, I’m sharing a simple snack for that pumpkin fix. I know you will enjoy it.

Fall Dip

  • 1 – 3.5 ounce box butterscotch pudding mix
  • ⅛ – teaspoon allspice
  • 1 – 5.1 ounce box instant vanilla pudding mix
  • ⅛ – teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ – teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 – 15 ounce can 100% pure pumpkin
  • ¼ – teaspoon ginger
  • 1 – 16 ounce tub Cool Whip, thawed

In a large mixing bowl, combine the pudding mixes with the cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg. Blend in the pumpkin with a mixer on low speed. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat in the Cool Whip until the dip starts to thicken. Put the dip in a nice bowl and refrigerate at least 3 hours. Serve the dip with animal crackers or graham crackers.

My Personal Life Hacks

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I remember the first time someone suggested using Google and now it’s a household name. In fact, it’s a verb just like Xerox, when many of it’s original peers have faded from the scene. Still, I have very little patience sorting through my Google searches. So you’ll understand when I say, I searched for a National Heloise Day, but didn’t find one on any of the National Name Day sites I searched. In honor of Hints from Heloise, I am posting a few of my personal life hacks today.

I see so many shares of ‘life hacks’, ‘cooking hacks’, ‘cleaning hacks’, etc. on social media, I wanted to share a few of my own. I also want to Hail Heloise as the original ‘hacker’ for her decades of sharing and adding a positive note to each edition of the news.

Caring for your Drapes: Dry cleaning is expensive, especially for an entire house full of drapes. So here’s a way to cut back on dry cleaning. Once a year, take down your drapes and run them through the dryer on air (no heat) for an hour. Then, just put them back up. The dryer sucks out all the dust, bugs, and spider webs that can damage the fabric. Maybe have your drapes dry cleaned every 5 years. Your drapes will last a lifetime. Don’t forget to empty the dryer filter.

Disposing of Grease: When I was young, we used empty milk cartons to dispose of garbage that couldn’t go into the garbage disposal. What do I do now that milk no longer comes in wax cartons? I save my big peanut butter jars after I eat all the peanut butter. Let the grease cool a little so it won’t melt the plastic jar and pour the grease into the jar. Screw on the lid. Now grease cannot leak through the trash bag and all over the floor, garage, etc. Peanut butter jars are also great for shrimp tails, bones, and fat – anything that smells bad as it sits in the garbage bag.

Oiling your Leather: Leather dry-rots. Oiling leather nourishes it and helps it last longer. If the leather is dirty, clean it first. Make soapy water with original Dawn dishwashing liquid; try not to use soap with a lot of additives (extra smells). Wash the leather with the soapy water and rinse off the soap. Water dries leather, so don’t do this unless you’re going to oil the leather as soon as it dries. The thinner the oil, the easier it is for the leather to soak in the oil. Hydrophane Leather Dressing is a wonderful oil for leather. Pour some in a bowl and use a clean paintbrush to coat the leather. Try not to paint the stitching as oil rots the stitching. However, it’s cheaper to have your leather restitched than replaced. Let the leather soak in all the oil before using your couch, shoes, saddle, etc. Do not use solid leather soaps. The ingredient that allows the soap to dry into a cake will also dry out your leather. (The same is true with lip therapies. Solid lip therapies feel good going on chapped lips, but they also help dry your lips even more.)

Tasty and Beautiful Don’t Always Take a Lot of Time

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Isn’t this pork tenderloin beautiful? And it tastes, Oh Soooo Good! But then, pork tenderloin tastes good roasted with just salt and pepper. Today I preheated the oven to 325. Then I placed the tenderloin with salt and pepper in a roaster with a can of whole berry cranberry sauce and a splash of diet Coke. That’s it! Push in the meat thermometer and cook to 170. About halfway through, I stirred the cranberry sauce and spooned it over the roast. Pair this with a salad and you have a whole meal, easy on the calories and your time. It may take a little over an hour to cook, depending on the size of your roast, but during that time you can get stuff done around the house, watch TV, or work on your taxes like me. Enjoy.