A favor and a new recipe

So, I’ll admit the obvious – it’s been a while since I posted.  Like, months.  Sorry.  We moved, had summer break, started school, and now it is March 8th already.  I’ll promise to do to better.

Now, onto my favor.  When I am not at home cooking and spending time with my family, I’m a middle school teacher.  I teach 4 Family and Consumer Science classes and 2 reading enrichment classes.  I’ve applied for a grant through Farmer’s Insurance but can only be awarded by getting a certain amount of votes.  Right now, our number of votes isn’t looking very promising.  The money from the grant will be used to purchase reading material for our reading enrichment classes.

This is where I need your favor – go vote for me and my school!  Click on this link : http://www.thankamillionteachers.com/vote-for-a-proposal/

My last name (obviously enough) is Soll and my school is New Providence Middle School.  Our school has very low-income students and a large percent of the students have parents in the military.  Our school needs all the support we can get.  You have to provide your e-mail address, but you will not get any type of spam and junk mail.

After you have voted, please pass this along to everyone you know.  You can vote once everyday until April 1st.  Every single vote matters.

In return for your vote, I’ve provided the recipe to my new favorite dressing.  It can also be used as a great pork chop marinade.

Brown Sugar and Balsamic Dressing

1 t ground sage

1/2 t salt

1/4 t pepper

1 garlic clove

1/2 c water

1/2 c brown sugar

1/4 c balsamic vinegar

2 T soy sauce

Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan over low heat and stir until sugar is fully dissolved.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

I hope you will enjoy this dressing over a nice salad while you vote for my grant!


Creamy Pumpkin Pasta

med103255_1107_penne_pump_vertIt is pumpkin time again.  I have gotten burned out on pumpkin muffins in the past, and I’m not a big fan of pumpkin in my coffee.  However, I still wanted to get on the pumpkin bandwagon.  I searched for some recipes that used pumpkin in ways other than what I have had in the past.

And I found it.  Creamy Pumpkin Pasta.  It is delicious.  As usual, I made a few changes from what the recipe calls for.  Here’s the link with the recipe and then my changes.


I doubled the garlic only b/c I really like garlic.

I used shredded Parmesan instead of grated b/c it gives a better flavor.

I used apple cider vinegar instead of white wine vinegar b/c I already had the cider vinegar.

I also added some shredded chicken to give the dish a little protein.

We ended up with enough left over for another meal.  It was delicious.  Whether you are a pumpkin fan or not, I suggest giving this a try.  You will be pleasantly surprised.

Black Bean and Avocado Brownies



I saw a black bean and avocado brownie recipe on Pinterest the other day and decided to try them out.  They were easy to make and are very moist.  They tasted a little different than normal brownies but are still really good.  My sons would have eaten the entire pan if I had let them.

Here’s the link with the recipe.


I doubled the sugar and used 1/3 of a cup of peanut butter instead of a 1/4.  I pureed the beans and avocado in my food processor first and then added the rest of the ingredients into the food processor and let it run until it was the same consistency as regular brownie batter.

In the end, these made a nice afternoon snack that we all enjoyed.



Green Smoothie Success

imagesAs a teacher, you know you have had a successful day when your students have learned something new, enjoyed learning it, and want to go home and share their new knowledge with their family.

Today was a successful day.

The students in my Family and Consumer Science class made (and enjoyed) green smoothies.  Out of my 78 students, only 8 really complained about the smoothies and didn’t like them.  The rest were pleasantly surprised.  Many of them are planning on going home and making more of them.  Here’s the recipe that my students used.

Banana Berry Green Smoothie

1 cup spinach

1 cup water

1 cup orange juice

1 cup blueberries

1 cup strawberries

2 bananas

We were able to make the smoothies b/c 5 teachers loaned us their blenders.  It will be great if I don’t have to worry about borrowing blenders once I have my next group of kids.  If you’d like to help out the class, then check out my project on donorschoose. org to donate money and help us get some blenders.


Cooking Up Something Good

This year I’m teaching a Family and Consumer Science class at my school.  The kids are loving the class and have already begun to start cooking some of new foods at home.  I mentioned drinking Green Smoothies a week ago, and, needless to say, my students thought they sounded disgusting.

I’ve decided to spend a week going over fruits and vegetables in detail.  I want to have the students make a few different kinds of Green Smoothies to prove to them that they are delicious.  At this point, I do not have any blenders for my classroom, so I am having to borrow blenders from coworkers.

I will get a new set of students in about 6 weeks.  I’d love to have some blenders that are solely for my classroom by that time.  I created a project on http://www.donorschoose.org in order to, hopefully, get enough money donated to purchase these blenders and some hand mixers as well.

For this first week, http://www.donorschoose.org will match any donations that are made.  You can click on the link below to find out more information.


My students and I would greatly appreciate any donations!


Homemade Tortilla Shells

Photo courtesy of www.allrecipes.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.allrecipes.com

When buying  pre-made food, I try to find food that contains 5 or fewer ingredients and has ingredients that I can pronounce.  I’ve searched different grocery stores and haven’t been able to find tortillas that meet my requirements.  So, I began searching online for some simple homemade tortillas.

Here are two recipe for tortillas that I recommend.  Both are good, but I’ll be honest, the white flour ones are better.   Sometimes white flour just taste better.

This recipe uses white flour.


This recipe uses wheat flour.


I use butter instead of lard or olive oil like the recipes call for.  If possible, get a tortilla press.  I have to use my rolling-pin, but I hope to get a tortilla press at some point.

I’ve given up on trying to make them into a perfect circle and all the same size.  Homemade tortillas taste the same no matter how “perfect” they look.  I guess that is one thing about homemade tortillas – they may not look “perfect” like the store-bought brands, but at least they taste better.

You can also make these in large batches and freeze them.

Making tortillas can be a little time consuming, but trust me – they are much better than what you get at the store.  Much better!

Fat Free Zucchini Muffins

courgettesI’m a big fan of zucchini muffins.  They are great for breakfast or an afternoon snack.  Plus, they are easy to make.  Over the summer, I’ve made zucchini muffins more times than I can count and each time they were a little different.  My husband teases me and says that I never make something the same way twice.  I must agree.  I usually cook with what I already have in my kitchen.  It’s a great way to decrease cost and it helps prevent food from going bad.

My most recent zucchini muffins are very different than the rest.  All of the recipes that I have used call for oil and eggs to keep the muffins moist.  However, oil and eggs add a significant amount of fat.  I wanted to add some protein and try to decrease the fat content in my muffins.  I decided to use Greek yogurt instead of oil and eggs and the final product taste great.  Here’s my final recipe (which I think I will stick with for now on) and the links to a few other good ones.

Fat Free Zucchini Muffins

1 cup Fat Free Greek Yogurt

1 cup honey

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

3 cups white whole-wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups shredded zucchini

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the yogurt, honey, and vanilla until fully combined.  Add the dry ingredients and stir until the dry ingredients have absorbed all the liquid.  Last of all, add the zucchini and mix well.

Pour the batter into lightly greased muffins tins and bake for 15-20 minutes.  You should end up with around 18 muffins.

The final result isn’t as sweet as other muffins, so keep that in mind if you have a sweet tooth.  Here are the other recipes that I have used and recommend.



Vegan Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burgers That Aren’t Just for Vegans

Last night I wvegucatedatched the documentary Vegucated.  While I’m not planning on becoming a Vegan, it does make some good points and is very eye-opening.  I’ve never been real clear on the dietary guidelines for Vegans,  but now I feel that I have a better  understanding of what they eat and why.  Having watched the video, I decided to try out a Vegan recipe.

I’ve had some frozen black beans and mashed sweet potatoes sitting in my freezer for a few months.  I recently came across a recipe for Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burgers but didn’t have the time to make them.  We decided to cook some meat on the grill, so I figured I would go ahead and make these Vegan burgers as well.

I didn’t have all of the ingredients for the original recipe, so I made some adjustments and ended up with a really good black bean burger.  And, as far as I’m aware, they are Vegan approved.

Here’s my new recipe:

4 cups black beans – if using dried beans, soak overnight and rinse thoroughly

2 cups mashed sweet potato

1 cup bread crumbs + extra to help with final consistency

1 Tablespoon kosher salt100_2959

2 teaspoons cumin

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 Tablespoons minced garlic

2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

3 Tablespoons honey

Juice from 1/2 a lime

Put all the beans in a food processor.  Chop the beans for a few minutes being careful not to make a paste out of the beans.  Remove 1/2 of the chopped beans and add all the other ingredients until well blended and the mixture resembles a paste.  Next, mix the paste with the remaining beans.  At this point, you may need to add more breadcrumbs; it depends on how thin your paste is.  You want it to be the same consistency as hamburger meat.

Shape into 12 patties and rub both sides with olive oil.  Wrap individual patties in aluminum foil and cook on hot grill turning over the foil packet after 5 minutes.  Using the foil will help prevent the patties from falling apart.  After 10 minutes, open the foil and continue cooking patties for another 5 minutes with foil open and grill covered.

These can also be cooked in the oven using the same cooking methods.

If you are wanting to keep these Vegan approved, then I suggest using some large leaf lettuce.  Otherwise, they taste great on a hamburger bun with plenty of non-vegan fixings ( i.e. cheese, mayo, bacon, etc.)

There are a lot of food documentaries available on Netflix or Amazon.  In  my opinion, Food, Inc. is the best.  I suggest  watching some and finding out for yourself which one you like the best.  And, why not enjoy a delicious Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burger while you are at it.

Batch cooking, round 2

A few weeks before Spring Break we finished off our last frozen meal.  I was already planning on spending time during our Spring Break cooking and freezing more meals.  During those few weeks before our break, I realized  how convenient frozen meals were.  Supper took more time and effort to fix, and I missed the convenience of my frozen meals.

So, I started planning out what I would cook.  We enjoyed all of the meals I made last time, but I wanted to make some new dishes this time.  I also didn’t make any soup this time; I assumed since it would be spring soon, we would start to  have some warmer weather.  Although, it did snow the first 2 days of our Spring Break.


Along with the 2 Shepard’s pie,



I also made 3 Chicken and Pasta Casseroles,



2 Taco Casseroles,



and 2 Chicken and Potato Casseroles.


The following day I cooked a 15 pound turkey in the oven, separated it into 1 pound bags, and vacuumed sealed them.  I also fixed 4 green bean kits and 5 meat loaves.

I have a feeling we will be well stocked until the summer.  I’ve come up with a few tips to help when planning on cooking a big batch of meals.

1. Potatoes that need to bake or boil get priority.

2.  Cook as much meat ahead of time as possible.

3.  Have a plan for the order in which you will fix the meals.

4. Keep in mind the pots that you will use and try to use as few as possible.

5.  Make sure the kids are not at home.

6.  Be very certain that you have all the ingredients you need.

7.  Find recipes that use very basic ingredients that are easy to fix.

8.  Find recipes that use similar ingredients. * Notice that 2 of my meals used potatoes which are very inexpensive.

I only spent $175 on all of the food, and I expect to get a total 50 servings.   Which, in the end, means that each serving will cost around $3.

Keep in mind that all the meat and fresh produce are organic and nothing I used was highly processed or pre-made.  I made all of the chicken broth (which was used in almost all of the recipes) from the chicken scraps, bought the cheese in blocks and shredded them, and used dried beans that I soaked the night before.

It took me about 8 hours to put everything together.  I was very tired at the end of the day but was proud of what I had accomplished.  If you haven’t tried cooking in bulk yet, I highly recommend you do it.  Start out small if you need but at least give it a try – and be sure to let me know how it goes.

Chicken and Potato Casserole

100_2887I love potatoes.  Fried, hashed, baked, stuffed, mashed, twice baked, you name it…  I love them. Most casseroles don’t use potatoes as a main ingredient.  Usually it is either rice or a pasta.  So, I was really excited when I found one online that used potatoes.  This dish can be made ahead of time and then frozen if desired.  I changed the recipe a little and added chicken in order to increase the protein in the dish.  Here’s my updated version as well as the original recipe.

Chicken and Potato Casserole

2 pounds red skinned potatoes

Olive oil

Kosher Salt

5 slices of bacon

3 cups shredded cooked chicken

1 cup whole milk

1/4 cup melted butter

1 cup sour cream

2  1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese – keep the 1/2 cup set aside for the topping

3 green onions sliced

2 tsp dried parsley

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp of pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Scrub potatoes, puncture each with a knife to vent, toss with olive oil and salt and place on a pan. Bake at 400 degrees F for 45 minutes or until tender.

Cook the bacon till crisp and then break into small pieces.

Once potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice them in half lengthwise, then slice them in half again. Place into a large bowl. Add 2 cups of the Cheddar cheese, 3 cups chicken, and half of the bacon. Set aside a big pinch of the green onion for garnish and add the rest to the potatoes.

Mix together the milk, sour cream and melted butter. Add parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Pour mixture over the potatoes and gently toss. Use a potato masher to break down the chunks to desired texture.

Pour mixture into greased baking dish, cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes or until heated through. Remove, top with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded Cheddar cheese, return to the oven, uncovered, until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Garnish top with remaining bacon and green onion.

* If freezing the casserole, go ahead and add the remaining cheese and bacon before freezing.  You can easily pull it off once the dish thaws and then add it back for the last 5 minutes.

This link will take you to the original recipe.  http://www.deepsouthdish.com/2012/08/cheesy-loaded-twice-baked-potato.html