Sunday, November 23, 2008


For the past four years, the Familia group at my church has prepared lefse as a fundraiser to provide childcare for our children during our morning meetings. It has been a true learning experience. I am Norwegian (about 1/4!) and I do enjoy eating lefse, but I had only made it twice before starting this fundraiser project in 2005.

The experience has been fun, and it's a day of bonding for all the women involved. I look forward to it, but I'm dog-tired at the end of the two-day process.
The Lefse is rolled and grilled on Saturday, but the process starts on Friday and oftentimes on Thursday. On Thursday, I usually try to get my 20 pounds of potatoes boiled and riced (less to do on Friday, and it helps the whole process move faster if we have potatoes ready to go at different steps). Friday morning or afternoon, a group of us continue to peel and boil potatoes. Different 'stations' are set up: ricing, mixing, and balling. The potatoes need to be riced after boiling. Then, they are mixed with butter and powdered sugar. This mixture is refrigerated until cool. When cool, the mixture is riced a second or third time. After ricing, flour is mixed in and 1/3 cup dough balls are formed. The dough balls are placed on a sheet or tray, covered with a flour sack towel and refrigerated until the next morning. This process continues until all potatoes are boiled, riced, mixed, balled, and refrigerated! It can be a long day, but it does provide plenty of opportunity to visit with good friends.

Saturday morning, I and my mom usually arrive at the church kitchen early to set up (8a). Inside the kitchen, we set up 6 to 7 rolling stations, and this year we had 8 griddles. Women take turns rolling or watching the griddles. The women who watch the griddles are responsible for flipping the lefse and taking it out to the cooling area when it's grilled on both sides.

Just outside the kitchen, in the social hall, we have a row of tables set up for cooling the lefse. Lefse are stacked approx. 10 deep on tops of a layer of absorbant towels and covered with flour sack towels or lefse cozies. When coole, they are folded in half and then in thirds. Three lefse rounds are stacked and stored in a quart-sized ziploc freezer bag. Again, this day can be long! I mopped the floor at 3:15p this year!

Over 400 rounds of lefse were grilled . . . the fundraiser was a success! Next year, one of the moms suggested we have lefse tacos. Since I forgot to eat dinner this year, that sounds like a wonderful idea. Hopefully by documenting it here, I will remember!

Here's the recipe we've used for the past four years.

Lefse – Recipe used by Familia

10 lbs red skinned potatoes (yields about 4-5 qts.)
¼ tsp. salt
½ pt. whipping cream
½ c. butter
3 Tbls. Powdered Sugar
¾ c. flour (plus extra for rolling)

Peel & boil potatoes in water with ¼ tsp. salt added. Mash with potato masher (we rice the potatoes with a Kitchen Aid mixer and the grinder attachment – it’s much easier than a potato masher or ricer!) & add whipping cream, butter, & powdered sugar. Mix together by hand. Rice this mixture at least twice. Cover with a towel and refrigerate (a cool garage is better) overnight.

After cooling, rice the potatoes a third time. Measure 3 cups riced potatoes into a bowl and add ¾ c. flour. Mix by hand until thoroughly blended (if you’ve done this for many years, you may be able to tell that more flour is needed at this stage to make the dough firmer). Form into 1/3 cup balls. Roll immediately into 12” rounds on a heavily floured pastry board, or cover with waxed paper and refrigerate until ready to roll. It is better to refrigerate the balls and take out as needed. **We have started to prepare the dough balls the day before, with mixed results. We learned a lesson the first year . . . dough balls can only be in one layer – not stacked in the pans or bowls. We also use flour sack towels to help absorb moisture while in the refrigerator.

Grill the rounds on a lefse grill. Brown the first side, then turn and brown the second side. Remove from grill and stack 10 deep between absorbent towels (flour sack or lefse cozies). When cool, brush away excess flour. Fold each round in half and then in thirds. Three round will fit nicely in a plastic Ziploc freezer bags.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Poaching Chicken

I first tried poaching chicken about 4 years ago for a BBQ dip recipe that my sister-in-law made. I haven't made the BBQ dip in about that many years, but I've been poaching chicken since then for any recipe that calls for diced or shredded chicken. In my opinion, the microwave cooks the edges too much and the oven leaves the chicken breasts crispy - not the texture I want for dicing or shredding. So, this is the quickest way to prepare chicken for adding to recipes, while preserving the tender juicy texture. Of course, leftover roasted whole chicken meat is the best for flavor, but poaching is a very close second. Leftover turkey from Thanksgiving is a great substitute for any chicken recipe, too.

I usually use chicken breasts for poaching, but any boneless chicken meat can be substituted. At this time of year, turkey is often on sale and chicken thighs go on sale quite often, too. For our family, I purchase frozen chicken breasts in bulk.

This is my approximate method:

1. Thaw the chicken breast completely. Thawing overnight in the frig is best, but if you must, use the microwave to get a jump start on the process.
2. Fill a 5 quart stock pot with water*.
3a. Add 5 or 6 chicken breasts and bring the water to a boil.
3b. Bring the water to a boil and then add 5 or 6 chicken breasts.
4. Skim off the foam as it is created - less mess later on.
5. Boil until the chicken breasts are done (I have to admit, I haven't timed this step, but it's usually 10-15minutes). I do check for doneness by slicing the largest breast at its thickest point. If it's still pink, place it back into the boiling water and continue poaching until no pink remains.
6. Remove chicken from the water & let it cool slightly on your cutting board.
7. As soon as you are able to comfortably hold the meat, start dicing with a knife OR shred with a fork. I shred by pushing the fork into the meat about 1/2 inch from the edge & pulling away. You can always cut the shredded portions into bite-sized pieces.
8. Measure and add to your recipe OR measure into a freezer baggie and label for later use. I usually store 1-2 cups in each baggie.

*If you have a smaller or larger pot, adjust the number of breasts accordingly. This does tend to boil over easily, so a larger pot is better!

NOTE: I'll try to remember to take a few pictures next time I poach chicken.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Chicken Tamale Casserole

This recipe is adapted from a Cooking Light recipe that was printed in November 2008. I altered and substituted for a few of the ingredients and amounts, but it turned out scrumptious. As you can see, I even have pictures to share (thanks to my husband who was finally able to get them downloaded to my computer - Argh! Technology gets the best of me, again.)! The leftovers are just as tasty the next day.

Chicken Tamale Casserole
Yield: 8 servings

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup milk
1 egg
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground red pepper
1 (14¾ oz.) can cream-style corn
1 (6.5 oz.) bag corn muffin mix
1 (4 oz.) can chopped green chiles, drained
1 (10 oz.) can red enchilada sauce
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
½ cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine ¼ cup cheese, milk, egg, cumin, red pepper, cream-style corn, muffin mix, and green chiles in a large bowl. Stir until just moistened. Pour mixture into a 13x9 inch baking pan that has been coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Pierce the surface with a fork and pour the enchilada sauce over the top. Top with shredded chicken and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces and top each with a tablespoon of sour cream before serving.

The preparation time is approximately 55 minutes. I saved time (about 15 minutes) during the evening by poaching and shredding the chicken earlier in the day. Poaching is a great way to keep the chicken moist, and chicken is really easy to shred when poached. It's also a time-saver to poach and dice extra chicken breasts. In fact, I had an extra cup that I diced and froze to use in another dish.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Menu Planning Part 2

The past couple of weeks, I've taken time with each family member to compile a list of their favorite foods - main dishes, meats, sides, fruits, vegetables, desserts, drinks. It was a way to spend a bit of personal time with each child, and I hope that it'll make menu planning a little easier. Thankfully, there were quite a few overlaps on favorites!

During menu planning, I also like to keep in mind different ethnic foods. Our family enjoys Mexican, Italian, and Chinese foods. When we lived in town, we could order take out at the nearest Chinese restaurant and we'd get at least two, if not three, meals out of the order. Now that we live out in the country, that is not an option at the last minute. While I do have a few dishes that can be prepared at home in the crock pot or stove top that don't require much prep time, I'd like to expand the list with meals that can be frozen.

This week, I tried a new dish called Gingered Beef and Green Bean Stir-Fry. It was quick (prep. time was 30-45 minutes) and everyone liked it. It's definitely a recipe I'll add to our rotation. Here's the recipe:

Gingered Beef and Green Bean Stir-Fry
Yield: 6 servings (1/2 cup rice & 1¼ cup Gingered Beef Stir-Fry)

3 Tbl. Soy sauce (I use Tamari)
4 tsp. cornstarch
1 Tbl. hoisin sauce
2 tsp. chili garlic sauce
14 oz. chicken broth
2 tsp. dark sesame oil, divided
½ cup chopped green onion
1 tsp. ground ginger (or substitute 2 Tbl. minced, peeled fresh ginger)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound sirloin steak, cut into ¼ inch strips
5 cups green beans (cut approx. 2 inches long)*
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
¼ cup green onion tops (2 inch slices)
3 cups hot cooked white rice**

Combine the first five ingredients, stirring well. Set aside. Over medium-high heat, heat one teaspoon sesame oil in a large non-stick skillet or wok. Add ½ cup chopped green onion, ginger and garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add beef and sauté 5 minutes or until browned. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add remaining teaspoon sesame oil to the skillet or wok; heat over medium-high heat. Add beans and red bell pepper to pan. Cover and cook approximately 4 minutes. Uncover and cook an additional 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the green onion tops and sauté for one minute. Return the beef mixture to the skillet. Stir in the broth and bring to a boil. Cook one minute or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and serve over rice.

*I used frozen beans, broken into 2 inch lengths.

** I prefer basmati rice. It's a wonderful tasting rice. I also use a rice cooker, which cuts my rice cooking time to about 15 minutes. You'll want to start the rice earlier if you don't own a rice cooker.

Preparation Time: Approximately 30-45 minutes

Friday, November 7, 2008

Home Alone & Cooking for One!

I'm home alone! I haven't been home alone in my new home, yet, and I hadn't been home alone in my previous home for quite some time. I can't order out and there aren't any leftovers, so a fried egg sandwich sounds wonderful for dinner. A little bit of mustard to add some kick to the sandwich and a cup of Chai tea to keep warm on this snowy blowing day. I think I'll get started on some reading with my pile of StAR magazines, too.

What else am I going to do with my weekend? Well, there are all the adult things that need to be done - updating the checkbooks, washing the laminate floors (the thought of them staying clean for a couple days is very appealing), cleaning my desk and laundry. I'll probably do a few of those, but I'm also going to read a book, organize a closet (I really like to organize), hang a picture, possibly sew some curtains, and maybe hang a picture.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Nacho Potato Soup

At our All Saints Party this past Friday, I volunteered to bring potato soup. Never one to shy away from trying something new, I chose to bring a recipe I hadn't made before - Nacho Potato Soup. Those who tried the soup said it was delicious; that's the response I had hoped to receive. I made a triple batch, but only brought 2/3 to the party. The last 1/3, I double bagged and have frozen for later. Here's the recipe . . .

Nacho Potato Soup
Serves 6-8

1 package Au Gratin potatoes
1 - 11 oz. can corn, drained
1 - 14 oz. can chili recipe tomatoes
2 cups cubed Velveeta cheese
2 cups water
2 cups 2% milk
Tortilla chips, crushed

Combine Au Gratin potatoes, corn, tomatoes and water in a medium sized saucepan. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add milk and Velveeta; cook and stir until Velveeta is melted. Serve with crushed tortilla chips as a topping.