We got to see our soldier!

Okay, so I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted, but I’ve been busy (and sick), and I just haven’t taken the time to post. Sorry about that! Anyway, I just wanted to share that I got to go visit my hubby a couple weeks ago and it was sooooo nice to spend some time with him and see where he’s living and working, meet his friends, and generally just lock ourselves in the room, lol. I can’t say for sure, but I think his favorite part was that he finally got to eat some of his wife’s cooking! While I was there I made him steak, stroganoff noodles, hm breaded veal patties, hm cheeseburger macaroni and veggies. I even was able to leave him some leftovers, which made him VERY happy. Another cool thing we were able to do was invite another Chaplain who hadn’t had family visit yet to have lunch with us so he got some home cooking, too, one day. That was kind of neat.

Then, while there, I was able to talk one of his superiors into giving him a weekend pass for the weekend of President’s Day, and the Lord blessed us with being able to find a cheap flight to get him home to see his daughter that weekend. The unfortunate part of this all was that Bryan and I ended up sick from the climate changes (from 70 degrees in SC to 20 degrees here), but it was still just so nice to be together.

That weekend I was like supercook, trying to fit in as many homemade meals as possible. I have a few pics of some of it that I thought I would share:

pancakes
These were sooooo much better than the picture shows. As a matter of fact, K said these were the BEST she’s ever eaten! Of course they were from scratch from a recipe I got off of http://www.allrecipes.com

Lasagna
Yummy Jessica-style lasagna (my lasagna has some strange ingredients and does not include ricotta cheese-of which neither Bryan nor I are fans.

Chocolate Chip Brownies
And the incredible Chocolate Chip Nutso Brownies made by Kaylea and I.

I didn’t get a picture of my prize-winning chili, sorry about that! Sunday night at church was our Chili Cook-off, in which I won Judge’s Choice (there were 3 judges and it was unanimous) and Hottest Chili (but one of the judges later told me that there was one chili there that she thought was MUCH hotter than mine). It was nice that my family was there to see me win this, too.

Then after church Bryan got to have roast that I think was my best ever…it was just sooooo good. I also missed getting pictures of the steaks we had that Saturday, but K complimented me on them profusely!

So there’s a little update for y’all, sorry it took so long! I really thought I would blog more while dh was gone, but I guess not. I’ll try to get some pics of us together next time I go visit him at Ft. Jackson!

Published in: on February 25, 2008 at 7:01 pm  Comments (5)  

A Sad Weekend, Finals for Cooking Class…

This weekend was really tough on all of us. It was the weekend in which Bryan left us for his Officer’s Training, and it was also the Final for K’s cooking class. She was soooooo nervous about it, but she did absolutely wonderful. I actually wish we would’ve had time for her to do this last weekend, but we simply didn’t have that kind of time, so it fell to be Bryan’s “last meal” before leaving for South Carolina.

To give you an idea of how upset Kaylea was about her daddy leaving, here’s a pic of her doing her favorite thing-cooking. As y’all know from previous photos of her in the kitchen, she’s always smiling, but this was the smiliest she got all weekend, even while making her apple crisp:
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Don’t ya just feel awful for her? She’s never been away from Daddy for more than a week or two in her whole life…it’s just not fair, but such is the life of an Army Angel (I refuse to call her an Army brat-it’s not accurate!).

Now, on to the delicious dinner! Her final for the cooking class was to plan, shop for, prepare, and serve us dinner that at the very minimum covered the 4 food groups and some of which needed to be stuff she hasn’t made before (to test her recipe following skills). She was graded on time management, appeal (which included the table setting), actual flavor of the meal, meeting the requirements on menu planning, and shopping with a list.
The meal plan was:
Drink: K’s Frozen Chocolate Drink (a recipe she created earlier in the semester-it’s basically a chocolate shake, but SHE had to come up with the ingredients, amounts, etc. all by herself)
Appetizer: Fruit tray with Homemade Fruit Dip
Main: Pork Tenderloin
Sides:Homemade Cheesy Rice and Green Beans
Dessert:Homemade Rocky Road Ice Cream, Homemade Apple Crisp

And here are the pics:
Apple Crisp-
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Fruit Tray and Dip:
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Table Setting:
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Pork Tenderloin:
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Green Beans (bad pic, sorry!):
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Cheesy Rice:
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We helped her a little, but she really did pretty much everything on her own. I purposely had Bryan go shopping with her, too, so I would know she was truly picking things out herself and I wasn’t “helping” read interfering with her thought process. I’m so proud of our girl, she presented a lovely meal that many grown women couldn’t even pull off! She definately got an A!

Peanut Butter Balls, Sugar Cookies, and Video Games, Oh My!

During the holidays we try to make it a point to spend even more time together as a family than usual, and I try to learn to relax a little and realize that everything doesn’t have to be picture perfect…this is a struggle for me, but it’s for the good of the family and I do what I can…You’ll see what I mean a little later.

We have another Christmas party with the National Guard this weekend (different unit) so we had some holiday baking to do and instead of trying to make it all absolutely perfect (which is what I really wanted to do), I decided it would be much better to spend some quality time with my favorite hubby and stepdaughter and let go of the “perfection” goal I so earnestly seek when bringing food to events like this…

So we started with peanut butter balls. Truthfully, I usually hate making these, but I love eating them so alas, we made them.
Dad pouring the Rice Crispies into a measuring cup.
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K measuring peanut butter-don’t mind the mess, lol
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Jess taking out a little holiday stress on the peanutty mixture…and in the process, breaking her FAVORITE spatula. Services to be held Monday at 2pm at Spatulas Were Us Funeral Home…please no monetary donations, flowers and tears will suffice.
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Dad and K rolling peanut butter balls.
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Dad dipping his first pb ball…not bad…hey, maybe this isn’t so bad when I get to share the “joy” of making these with family.
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I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure K is only in it for the chocolate dipping toothpicks, what do you think?
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And lest you think we spend every waking hour in the kitchen and nowhere else, I thought I’d throw in a pic of my two favorite people playing video games. K’s Grandpa got her this new video game for her birthday and she just LOVES it. It’s a fun one for all three of us to play together, so Jess and Dad are happy with it, too!
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Remember how I told you at the beginning of the post that I have to remind myself that it’s about the fun and togetherness and NOT about turning out perfect goodies? Yeah, well, here’s how this was demonstrated to me this weekend. We made sugar cookies, right? We made the dough, let it chill, made the icing, bought the holiday colored sprinkles and then what happens you ask? Ummm…can’t find the Christmas cookie cutters, ANYWHERE. Trust me I spent a good 10 minutes looking for them as did everyone else. I can, however, find the biscuit cutters (round) and the Noah’s Ark-themed cookie cutters and one lone heart-shaped cookie cutter. Oh, and a cross one, too. So, I’m thinking let’s do round ones like an ornament, right? The Munchkin had a different plan-she thought it best to use the animal ones b/c “it’ll be more fun”. Fighting every instinct I have to go for the prettiest option, I smiled and said “Sure, let’s do that.” And thus, here are our “Christmas cookies” which look more like a Barnum and Bailey’s Assortment than anything remotely Christmassy, but we really did have a blast making them as a family and in the end I was so thankful that I didn’t push for my way, because doing it together was so much more important! Some days God just kind of slaps us upside the head with the obvious and today was one of those days for me…sometimes simpler is better and family is the most important thing in this world! So go bake some lopsided cookies with your family, and enjoy every moment of it!
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Published in: on December 16, 2007 at 12:10 am  Comments (4)  

A whirlwind of activity!

We have been so busy lately! I have been trying to take and upload pics, but they are kinda few and far between since we’ve had so much to do this month. So to catch you up a little, here’s a post with a little bit of everything in it.

As the last part of K’s protein unit in her cooking class, she made deviled eggs (okay, so we all helped, it was kind of fun!):
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And then, even though I had already made a very cool cake for K’s birthday party, I couldn’t have her without some candles to blow out on her birthday, so I made her a giant cookie that said Happy Birthday for the actual day. I made it in my cast iron pan, and lemme tell you, that was sooooooo easy, and much appreciated by the birthday girl…she’s always wanting one of those giant cookies for her birthday (she’s not a big cake eater-she’ll eat mine, but that’s about it), so it was a very fun suprise for her. We also bought a couple extra birthday gifts to give her on the actual day, because both parties she had were before the actual birthday and it just seems wrong for a kid not to have birthday gifts to open on the big day, you know? Anyway, here’s the cookie:
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The day after her birthday was Christmas Decorating Day at our house, so I made some of my famous Double-Chocolate Hot Cocoa with extra marshmallows for all to enjoy, here’s a pic of our mugs all together:
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And one of Bryan and K doing some work with the lights:
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And one of the tree…this was our first year having a “blue” Christmas, so after finishing the tree, we realized we didn’t have a silver topper and that the tree was still missing something so we ended up purchasing a new silver tree star and some sparkly silver and blue ribbon (it was fun picking it out together-we were already planning the next themed tree we want to do). Anyway, all that to say, this isn’t the complete tree, but this was taken before we got the star and the ribbon on the tree. I’ll try to post a completed tree picture later.
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And the tree skirt-isn’t it the prettiest?
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And our couch, newly adorned with the beautiful fleece blanket a friend of mine made and gave to me through a Christmas Gift Exchange at the church…we are just so blessed!
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K, I have more photos to share, but I’ll save that for a later post. Hope y’all are enjoying the holiday season as much as we are!

Published in: on December 15, 2007 at 11:04 pm  Comments (1)  

Nothin’ like Homemade Peanut Butter and Jelly!

This weekend is a busy one at our house. This is because last weekend was K’s birthday party and we had houseguests all weekend, too, so we skipped the homeschooling classes in favor of doubling up on them this weekend. Which was a great idea at the time, until we got to this weekend and we’re STILL really busy b/c we didn’t have K on Saturday like we normally do (birthday party with her mom), plus I had a ladies luncheon to go to today, plus we had double lessons in both classes, plus tomorrow is K’s real birthday, so we’ve got presents to give, Birthday desserts to eat, and a myriad of other things we need to do. Oh, and did I mention we don’t have K until the afternoon tomorrow? That makes it serious crunch time on getting things done, but despite all that, we’re catching up! As a matter of fact, she has all of her worksheets done for my class, has both typing lessons done and has 2/3 of her actual cooking part of the cooking class done. The only things she has left to do for the cooking class is make deviled eggs tomorrow (protein) and fill out a Nutrition worksheet where she keeps track of what she’s eaten today and for the next two days…not bad, considering.

In the midst of all the chaos, we’ve done pretty well on combining lessons, if only by accident even! What in the world am I talking about, you ask? Well, it all started with the combining of the two weeks worth of lessons…K is in the middle of her Protein Chapter, but the second week of Proteins I had combined with the lessons on Microwave Cooking…

So for her microwave cooking, I let Kaylea make microwave Grape Jelly since I had a jar leftover from my jam making this week. I figured it doesn’t get much easier than microwave jelly and I was certainly right. We worked together on it and I even “canned” it for her-not that it lasted long enough to be worth it, we made it yesterday and opened it today, lol. It was a wonderful lesson on microwave cooking because she learned an important lesson about steam burns (no, she’s not actually hurt, don’t worry!). She learned how important it is to open plastic wrap AWAY from your fingers to avoid burning herself. It’s the kind of lesson you don’t soon forget and yet she was not seriously hurt at all, which makes it even better!

So anyway, she made the BEST grape jam I’ve ever tasted…seriously…I’m a little jealous, hehe. We are all in love with it and I’m wishing we had made more than one jar!

Then comes tonight’s lesson…remember we’re still doing Proteins, so I had it on the lesson plan to make peanut butter, a protein-laden treat that is simple enough for a 5 year old to make. It’s been a long time since I’ve made peanut butter and my old blender took its sweet time making it, but it turned out great (once we added the sugar-we’re not much for the natural kinds of peanut butter, eww!).

By now you may be learning just how perfectly these two lessons came together on the same weekend. Our girl, who hates peanut butter and jelly sandwiches has already put in her request for a pb&j sandwich for breakfast. I’ve already had a pb&j sandwich tonight and hubby even stole some of mine! It was quickly decided that the only thing that would make a homemade peanut butter and homemade jelly sandwich better is if it were put on homemade bread, lol…if it weren’t so late and I weren’t so tired, I’d make bread tonight just to try it…it’s going to be heavenly! Here are the recipes:
Homemade Peanut Butter
1 cup roasted, unsalted, shelled peanuts
1-1/2 to 3 tablespoons peanut or safflower oil (we used 2 1/2 Tablespoons Peanut oil per batch)
1/2 teaspoon salt (we could’ve done without the salt, honestly)
Sugar to taste, optional (we used 1 Tablespoon per batch)

Blend in food processor or blender adding just enough oil to make it smooth. You can use salted peanuts and omit the salt, or omit the salt entirely with unsalted peanuts.
Add sugar to taste, if desired.
If you want chunky peanut butter, add chopped peanuts after you have made the smooth version.
Store peanut butter in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use within two weeks.
Yield: about 1-1/2 cups

So I got a couple of quick snapshots (after we had already dug in, sorry folks) of her culinary creations and I thought I’d share it with our friends and family:
This is the peanut butter:
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This is the Grape Jelly:

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Microwave Grape Jelly Recipe:
1 1/2 c (360mL) grape juice

2 ts (10mL) lemon juice

1 tb (15mL) powdered pectin

1 3/4 c (420mL) sugar

Combine grape juice, lemon juice and pectin in a three-quart microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or waxed paper and bring to a boil in the microwave oven on high setting (about 5 minutes). Remove from oven and add sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves, then return to oven. Bring mixture to a boil on high setting (about 4 minutes). Remove from the oven and stir. Return the uncovered mixture to the oven and cook until jelly sheets from a spoon (about 1 minute). Skim foam: pour into sterilized jars. Adjust caps. Yield: about 2 half-pints (480 mL). From: The Ball Blue Book Shared By: Pat Stockett The jelly will only be as good as the juice you use is.

(And for those of you wondering what kind of juice we used-we used Juicy Juice grape juice.)

Published in: on December 2, 2007 at 12:01 am  Comments (3)  

This Weekend’s Cooking Lesson

I know I’ve been fairly sporadic in my postings as of late, and I apologize to all those family and friends who miss the more regular postings, but we’re just super-busy lately! I think y’all mostly missed the Dairy section that we did, but we’re now on to the Protein group, and while I don’t have tons of pics, I thought I’d tell you what we did. I originally had shrimp on the menu for the seafood part of our protein lesson, but then I thought about it and hubby and I decided we should try K out on some different seafood than she was familiar with, so I had K prepare Salmon fillets and baked Tilapia. I also made her some crab cakes (can you believe there are children in the world who are almost 12 years old and have never tasted crab meat? It’s insane, I tell ya!). She loved the crab cakes, thought the Tilapia had too much lemon, and liked the salmon (apparently she’s never had any salmon that didn’t come out of a can-poor kid!).
We had some butterbeans with it and called it a meal. A highly protein-laden meal, but a meal none-the-less.
After dinner, I made my very first Angel Food Cake, and made a chocolate marshmallow frosting for it. This is the best picture I could get of it…it was so moist and spongey…I think I did alright!
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Every week we also either do some work on the chalkboard-fridge or look up recipes that fit that week’s theme (like grains or dairy or whatever), and we usually have some food safety “quizzes” as well. This week after her food safety worksheet, she wanted to go test her Dad on it, and I was able to use her “teaching” him to be sure that she had absorbed the information. I love when you can use sneaky ways to make sure they’ve learned something…it’s too neat to watch them teach someone else what you have just taught them!
Anyway, I don’t have any other pics except for what the chalkboard looked like this week. I listed out several different “complete” menus, and she erased all the foods that belonged in a certain food group as I called them out. For example, I would say “DAIRY”, and she would erase all the milk, cheese, etc. in each menu. When we were done with this, we ended up with only the proteins left, which allowed us to move into our new Protein section of the class pretty smoothly. Here’s what the fridge looked like this weekend:
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Published in: on November 20, 2007 at 11:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Doughnuts, mmm!

Okay, so I’ve been really busy this past week and I’ve been holding off on making this post. A couple weeks ago we took a small detour on our cooking class at Daddy’s request. Bryan asked us if we would mind making some doughnuts for the soldiers at his base. We like to make stuff for them occasionally, just to show we care, and had been planning on making some doughnuts via Alton Brown’s recipe for a while. Only one problem…I don’t have a stand mixer with a dough hook…but never fear hubby came up with an ingenious plan that worked well, even if it was a bit unorthodox. This post will be split into two parts, the making of the dough for the doughnuts, and the frying/glazing/finished product post.

We’ll start with the flour, we measured it by weight, using my little digital scale. Good math lesson, let me tell you, lol:

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Next, we let our yeast and liquids mix:
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Now for the unconventional method…like I said, no stand mixer, no dough hook, so we thought and we thought, and finally hubby came up with the idea that if we used the drill with a clean bit that was shaped similarly, it might work…so you guessed it, we used a drill. (I should note that we cleaned the drill thoroughly before attaching the clean bit, so that dust didn’t fall off into our doughnuts!)

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The mixed dough before rising:
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After a long rest, it was time to get into the “dirty work” of rolling out dough and cutting the doughnuts:
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And then we ran into a second issue. I don’t own a doughnut cutter. Biscuit cutters I have, doughnut cutters, not so much. So I got seriously creative, and cut a ping pong ball in half and used that to cut the “hole” in each doughnut. Since we floured it before each use, it worked really well.
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And the doughnuts being cut:
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We learned that cutting the holes on the spatula worked quite nicely:
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Our doughnuts resting:
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And the doughnut holes:
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Bear with me, folks!

I know I haven’t made any updates for the last week or so, but that’s because I’m lost without my camera! It broke the other day and I had to call HP and get a replacement. It should be here in the next week or so, but until then, here’s a little update on us:

For the last two weeks, we’ve been studying Fruits in our cooking class, which has been interesting-to say the least. Last week, we made frozen banana pops (really yummy!) and tried some fruits that aren’t as familiar to us. We tried kiwi (one of my favorites, but so expensive that I hardly buy it!), mango, starfruit (a new one on both of us, and SOOOOOO good!), and something else, but I can’t quite remember what.  What was even cooler was that we had some leftover chocolate dip from the bananas and we tried each fruit dipped in the chocolate. Definately our favorite was the starfruit in the chocolate dip. It was honestly a heavenly flavor combo!

We didn’t like the fresh mango of course, so we cooked it with some brown sugar and cinnamon and butter on the stove and then it was delightful!

This week we made fruit dip with grapes and bananas (trying to be frugal this week so we limited our dipping fruits) and we learned about food allergies and some funky names for different foods that are considered major allergens like egg, milk, corn, and wheat. It was amazing what we found some of these in. An example: Did you know that Russel Stover’s Chocolates have an egg derivative in them? Weird. I tried to explain to K why it’s important to know about food allergens because as she grows up and starts cooking for other people more, she needs to know how to avoid sickening an allergic guest. It seems silly, but you never know when you’ll marry someone with a severe allergy or have kids with an allergy that is life threatening, and it’s important to know how to fix food for those with allergies, I think.

Next was the fruit dip. I really, really don’t like fruit dip, but I thought it was a good thing for her to learn (they’re handy for potlucks, baby and bridal showers) how to make. Bryan and I were both pleasantly suprised with this recipe, it was actually pretty good! It’s a simple one and I wish I could’ve gotten a pic for y’all b/c K colored it purple and it actually looked really pretty! Here’s the recipe:

2 Tbl. Brown Sugar

1 C. Vanilla yogurt

Food coloring as desired.

Mix and serve.

Last week we also did an interview with cooks (she chose me to interview) and she learned how I handled certain food cleanliness issues in my kitchen, which was pretty neat, and next week we start on Dairy, which will be even more fun!

Published in: on October 20, 2007 at 10:09 pm  Comments (2)  

Yummy Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Okay, so I missed a lot of photos while we were working on the potato soup, sorry ’bout that. Hey, I TOLD you it was veggies this week, didn’t I? You didn’t think I would let her by with just zucchini muffins for a vegetable representative did you? Well, I didn’t, but then again, who says veggies can’t be yummy? I chose this particular recipe for Kaylea because it was something totally different than what she’s ever tasted and I was pretty confident she’d like the end result, not to mention she needs some serious knife skills work and I know potatoes are tough to learn to cut properly. Since this recipe called for uniform pieces of potato, I thought it would work her skills a little better than twice-baked potatoes or any other potato recipe I could think of, except for fries, which she’s made me with me before…I try to make the recipes something new and different to challenge her skills rather than things she’s already made a thousand times with me. Anyway, all that to say, I did catch a couple final pics of our bowls of cheesy potato soup, all dressed up and I thought I’d show you:

My bowl (Hey, don’t judge, I used to have dress this type of soup several times a day during those infamous waitressing days…):

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And K’s bowl…she skipped the onions, but I don’t mind, b/c SHE had to chop them, lol.
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OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE LOADED BAKED

POTATO SOUP (Copycat Recipe)

5 or 6 large potatoes

1 can evaporated milk (12 ounce can)

1 lb. Velveeta Cheese, cubed

salt to taste

pepper to taste

garlic to taste

Garnish

Sour cream

Bacon bits

Shredded cheese

Green onion tops

Wash, peel, cut potatoes in small pieces.

 In medium size pot, barely cover

with water, boil until cooked,

 but still firm.

 Add milk and cheese.

 Cook on low,

 stirring constantly until cheese melts.

 Do not boil. Ladle into serving

bowls and add toppings of:

 sour cream, bacon bits,

shredded cheese,

 and green onion tops.

Published in: on October 7, 2007 at 8:41 pm  Comments (17)  
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