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Lisa's Kitchen Blog

Thank you for visiting my blog! I'm glad you're here. I am a part-time Living the Country Life and Successful Farming web editor, and a full-time stay-at-home mom to my three young sons, Jake, Luke, and Will. My husband, the boys, and I live on 40 acres in south-central Iowa. We have a handful of cattle, an old farmhouse, a dog, a turtle, a goldfish, and a garden. It's a great life! I really enjoy cooking for my family and friends, and am thrilled to get to share some of my favorite recipes and meals with you.

Come visit my blog anytime you’re looking for ideas on what to fix for your family. The coffee’s always on!

~ Lisa Foust Prater

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February 8, 2011

‘Little House’ heart cakes

One of my favorite rituals I have with my three sons is reading to them before bed. They all share a room, which makes it easy. I tuck them into bed, turn off the lights, then sit on the bottom bunk and read to them by flashlight. Lately we’ve been taking turns between Harry Potter and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books.

There’s a special place in my heart for Little House. I loved the television show as a kid, and growing up on the plains of South Dakota, with country schools and homesteads ripe for exploring, I honestly thought I was Laura. I still can’t walk down a hill without wanting to take off running and flapping my arms.

So when my middle son, Luke, came home with Little House in the Big Woods, which he checked out from the school library, I was very excited. We read a chapter a night, and all of us became completely enthralled with the Ingalls family. Next, we read, Little House on the Prairie. We loved hearing about their adventures, and also getting a glimpse of pioneer life with the descriptions of Pa planting crops and Ma cooking and taking care of the house. Not only have the books been a wonderful history lesson, but seeing a family with so little as far as toys and money goes — but with so much in the love department — has been a wonderful life lesson for my kids.

Imagine my delight when sweet Luke came home from school the other day with a book he checked out just for me: The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories, by Barbara M. Walker. The book has a fascinating introduction that talks about self-sufficiency and food preservation, which made me feel really blessed to have things like a refrigerator and a grocery store that’s only 20 minutes away.

The first recipe we made from the book had to be heart cakes. We could just feel Laura and Mary’s excitement when we read this passage from Little House on the Prairie … and we happened to be reading the Christmas chapter on Christmas Eve:

Those stockings weren’t empty yet. Mary and Laura pulled out two small packages. They unwrapped them, and each found a little heart-shaped cake. Over their delicate brown tops was sprinkled white sugar. The sparkling grains lay like tiny drifts of snow.

The cakes were too pretty to eat. Mary and Laura just looked at them. But at last Laura turned hers over, and she nibbled a tiny nibble from underneath, where it wouldn’t show. And the inside of that little cake was white!

It had been made of pure white flour, and sweetened with white sugar.

The cakes were also wrapped in blue tissue paper, so of course we had to do the same with ours! In reading the books, we learned how the family used dark sugar for every day, but would keep a little packet of white sugar tucked away for when company came to visit. The fact that it was used as part of a gift for the children must have made them feel so special! Here is the recipe, which makes six cakes:

‘Little House’ heart cakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour, plus extra for dusting
1/3 cup sugar plus extra for dusting
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1/2 cup lard, chilled, plus extra for pan (we used butter)
1/3 cup cultured buttermilk.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and nutmeg. With cold, dry fingers, rub the cold lard (or butter) into the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center, add buttermilk, and work with your hands into a dough that can be rolled out.

Dust a counter or table with flour. Shape the dough into a ball and roll it out into an 8-inch circle. With a table knife dipped in flour, cut the circle in half, then the halves into thirds, to make six equal-sized slices. Shape each wedge into a heart. (Since there are five in our family, I took the sixth wedge, cut it into three smaller pieces, and made three mini hearts for the boys to take in their lunches the next day.)

Grease a baking sheet and place the hearts on it so they don’t touch. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the cakes are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and top immediately with sugar.

We loved the cakes. They were like a cross between shortbread and a scone, and the pinch of nutmeg gave them a great flavor. It was so much fun making these cakes with Luke and sharing them with our own little family. Enjoy!

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January 20, 2011

Snickerdoodles

.A while back, I mentioned finding my Aunt Dollie’s handwritten recipe cards. I went through them again the other day and was thrilled to come across my Grandma Helen’s snickerdoodle reicpe. I was instantly flooded with memories.

Grandma knew that my dad and I are, as my mom would say, “dough hounds.” We love all kinds of raw dough. Noodle dough, pie crust dough, cake batter, and of course cookie dough. But the best dough of all, hands down, is snickerdoodle dough. It’s sweet and creamy, and the dough balls are rolled in cinnamon in sugar. Perfect. So whenever she was getting ready to make snickerdoodles, she’d call us and we’d come over and eat some dough while the cookies baked. That’s definitely a grandma thing to do. (I should say, for the record, that eating dough or anything else with raw eggs probably isn’t a good idea. That said, it’s worth the risk in my mind.)

I love cookies filled with chocolate and nuts, but I have to say snickerdoodles are my all-time favorite cookie. They’re simple and delicious, with a crunch on the outside and a softness inside. When I came across Grandma’s recipe, I gathered all the ingredients together (thankfully I had cream of tartar in the spice rack!) and made them right away. The stand mixer made them incredibly easy … Grandma would’ve loved having a mixer like that!

Once the dough was made, of course I took a bite of it. I was instantly 10 years old, standing in my grandma’s kitchen. The flavor was exactly the same, and it just made me miss her so much. She passed away a few years ago. But then I let my boys have a taste, and I was happy to tell them they were eating G.G.’s cookies. (We called her G.G. for “great-grandma” once she had great-grandchildren.) Here’s a picture of Grandma and me when I was little. 

We enjoyed the baked snickerdoodles as much as the dough. This was the first time I’d made them for the kids, and they loved them. The best part, though, was that I took some of them to my dad, and he was really excited to have his mom’s cookies again.

.Here’s how to make Grandma’s snickerdoodles:

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1 cup shortening, butter or margarine (I used margarine)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon.

Beat the shortening/butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and eggs together. In a separate bowl, sift to combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix well. Chill the dough for an hour or so.

In a small dish, combine the 2 Tbsp. sugar and cinnamon. Roll the chilled dough into walnut-sized balls. Roll them in the sugar-cinnamon mix and place them on a cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 10-15 minutes, until the cookies are slightly browned but still soft. Enjoy!

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January 14, 2011

Pomegranate scones

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Up until this week, I had gone my entire life without ever eating a pomegranate. Sure, I’ve tried pomegranate juice, and pomegranate-flavored yogurt. Heck, one of my favorite lines of bath products smells like pomegranates. For some reason, when I walked by them in the produce aisle this time, I just really wanted one. Later, my mom told me that her folks brought them home regularly for the kids to eat. I wonder why I never had one until now?

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I did a little research on different methods of getting through the thick skin to the juicy pouches inside. I learned that those pouches are called arils. They contain a small seed, but you can just eat it with the fruit. So I took a sharp knife and cut the end off of the pomegranate, then sliced down the sides. It was like a treasure chest in there! I cut away membrane after membrane to reveal pocket after pocket of juicy arils. I used a spoon to scoop them out into a bowl. Before I knew it, I had a mound of what looked like sparkling rubies. I couldn’t hold the kids back any longer. We all dove in and tasted a pomegranate together for the very first time. It was amazing!

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We ate and ate, and I still had almost a cup of arils left, so I decided to use them in a recipe. Coincidentally, I’ve been wanting to make scones. Why not try pomegranate scones? Here’s the recipe:

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1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup sugar

2 tsp. orange zest (or you could use lemon, or even grapefruit)

2 tsp. vanilla

1 large egg

2 cups white whole wheat flour

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3 Tbsp. chilled butter

1 cup pomegranate arils

1 egg white, beaten

Sugar

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Whisk the first five ingredients together in a medium bowl. Then, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the chilled butter with a fork (I used a Foley fork, also called a granny fork), until well incorporated. Add the pomegranate arils and stir gently to combine.

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Add milk mixture to the large bowl, and stir gently, just until moist. The dough will be sticky, and that’s OK. On a floured surface, knead the dough carefully a few times with floured hands. Form it into an 8″ circle, about 3/4″ thick. Place the dough onto a greased cookie sheet, and cut part-way through to form 8 or 10 pizza-style slices. Don’t cut all the way through. Brush the beaten egg white over the top and sprinkle with sugar

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Bake at 375 degrees F. for 20 minutes or until golden.

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I loved these scones, and the kids liked them pretty well too. My favorite part about them was that even after being mixed into the dough and baked, the pomegranate arils retained their juiciness. When biting into the scone, the little pouches just exploded and released their juice. This was the perfect complement to the dense scones. Another major bonus is the cost savings. You can’t get a scone at the coffee shop for less then a few dollars, and since the pomegranates were on special, I doubt I spent more than $3 on the entire batch of scones.

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My husband said he didn’t like the “thud” of them. I just don’t think he’s a scone guy. Scones are a heavy biscuit, not the fluffy baking powder biscuits or cake-like doughnuts he likes. I didn’t mind that he didn’t love the scones, however … that just meant leftovers for my morning coffee the next day! I’ll definitely be buying pomegranates again, and I’ll be making these scones again as well!

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January 9, 2011

Creamy chicken nachos

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It’s a football playoff weekend, and our beloved Chiefs are playing tomorrow, so we decided to spend our weekend tailgating! We were foolish enough to actually go to a playoff game 15 years ago, and my feet are still numb from sitting in the stands at Arrowhead Stadium in below-zero temperatures for 4 hours. This year, we’ll be watching from our cozy house, with yummy treats like these nachos. (We also had chili cheese fries today, and tomorrow we’ll be having pulled pork sandwiches and spicy chicken wings. Yum!)

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There’s really no recipe for nachos, but here’s how I make mine. Cover a jellyroll pan with foil, and spray with non-stick spray. Put down a layer of tortilla chips, then add 1 cup cubed cooked chicken, 1/2 can drained black beans, 4 ounces cubed cream cheese, and a cup of shredded cheese (I like Colby Jack). 

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Pop the pan under the broiler for a few minutes until everything is melty and creamy. Then add another layer of everything, starting with the chips and ending with the cheese. Under the broiler again for a few minutes.

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Of course, you can add tomatoes, peppers, or anything else you like to these nachos. I love these creamy nachos, and the flavor combination of the chicken, cream cheese and black beans. Enjoy the nachos, and Go, Chiefs!!

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January 8, 2011

Peanut butter-chocolate swirl brownies

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Today, we wanted brownies. It’s that kind of day. Rather than making plain old chocolate brownies, though, I decided to mix things up a little and make these peanut butter-chocolate swirl brownies. Peanut butter and chocolate are so good together, which makes these brownies hard to walk away from. My oldest son, Jake, couldn’t even wait until I was done taking pictures to sample one.

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2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

2 Tbsp. milk

2 eggs

3/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cup peanut butter

1/3 cup peanut butter baking chips

1/3 cup baking cocoa

1/2 cup chocolate chips

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Beat sugars, butter, eggs, and milk until fluffy. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well. 

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Divide batter in half. Beat peanut butter into one half, then stir in peanut butter chips. Stir cocoa and chocolate chips into the other half.

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Spoon the batter into a greased cake pan, forming a checkerboard pattern, alternating the chocolate and peanut butter batters. Run a knife through the batter to swirl the two batters.

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Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely before cutting. If you cut them too soon, the peanut butter and chocolate sections will separate. Enjoy!

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January 8, 2011

Stuffed French toast

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I saw a commercial for a “breakfast all the time” restaurant promoting their stuffed French toast, and it looked really good. The chances of me getting my family around on the weekend and going clear to the city to go to a restaurant for breakfast are slim to none. Instead, I decided to try and recreate this tasty dish at home!

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I’m happy to say it was a huge success. Everyone loved it, and my 9-year-old said, “This is awful … awfully good!” This breakfast looks and tastes fancy, but it’s really easy. It would be perfect to make when company stays over.

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1 loaf French bread

8 oz. cream cheese, softened (I used reduced fat)

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup chopped nuts

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

4 eggs

1 cup whipping cream

1 cup fruit preserves

1/2 cup orange juice

Butter

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Slice the French bread into 2-inch slices with a slit in the middle of each. I found the easiest way was to make the slit and then slice the 2-inch piece from the rest of the loaf. Then you can hold onto the loaf rather than having to make a slit in a single slice.

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Beat the cream cheese and vanilla until fluffy; stir in chopped nuts. Spread this mixture inside the slit of each piece of bread. You could also add raisins to this mixture, or chocolate chips, or anything you like!

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In a small saucepan, heat the preserves (I used strawberry, but you can use any flavor) and orange juice, stirring and cooking until thickened and bubbly.

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Beat eggs and whisk in the whipping cream and nutmeg.

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Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a non-stick skillet. Dip the stuffed bread slices into the egg mixture, completely coating them on both sides. Cook in the skillet until browned on one side, then flip them over and repeat.

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Serve with the fruit sauce or maple syrup, and top with additional chopped nuts if desired. Get ready for rave reviews from your family!

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January 6, 2011

Moroccan pork chops with apricot couscous

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Our neighbor raises hogs, and a while back he had one processed and we split it with him. I love having a freezer full of pork. The bacon, fresh side, and sausage are great for Sunday morning breakfasts, and the roasts and pork chops make quick, easy dinners. If I can’t get to town for groceries, we always have meat on hand.

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Serving plain pork chops gets old after a while, though. It’s amazing what a few spices and a different side dish can do for a chop! I’ve been making this recipe for years, and the whole family loves it. And your kitchen will smell amazing while these Moroccan-spiced chops are cooking. The best thing about this recipe is that the leftovers are delicious cold. I like to just cut up the leftover chops and mix the meat in with the leftover couscous, making a cold lunch salad. Delicious!

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1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. paprika

2 tsp. olive oil

4 pork chops or slices of pork loin

10 oz. box uncooked couscous

2 cups fat-free chicken broth

8-1/2 oz. can apricot halves or 8 fresh apricot halves, chopped

1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

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In a resealable plastic bag, combine cinnamon, cumin, paprika, and coriander. Add pork to bag, seal and shake until well-coated; allow to marinate 20 minutes. 

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Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook pork, turning once, until light pink and cooked through, about 8 minutes.

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Meanwhile, prepare couscous according to package directions using broth instead of water. Fold apricots and cilantro into cooked couscous and stir. Serve chops on top of couscous.

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January 5, 2011

Cannoli fruit crisp

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Cannoli is a fantastic dessert, and so is fruit crisp. This tasty dish combines the two, and it’s sure to be a hit at your house! The beautiful thing about it is that you can use any kind of fruit for the base. Running short on time? Pie filling out of a can works great. Have a bunch of peaches you need to use? Slice them up, toss with a little sugar and cinnamon, and go from there. Today I used a can of cherry pie filling and a can of whole cranberry sauce, mixed together. A little sweet, and a little tart!

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8 oz. ricotta cheese (fat-free is fine if you can find it)

3 Tbsp. sugar

Fruit of your choice

3/4 cup oats

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 cup margarine or butter

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Beat ricotta cheese with sugar until fluffy. In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon. Cut in margarine or butter until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. 

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In a greased deep pie pan or 13x9x2-inch baking dish (I used my trusty Pyrex baking dish), spread fruit or pie filling  to form the bottom layer. Next, drop the ricotta mixture by the spoonful over the top, and spread around. Then sprinkle the crumb mixture over the top. Bake in a 350-degree F. oven for 35 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm.

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I enjoyed my cannoli fruit crisp out of one of the ice cream dishes from my grandparents’ cafe from the 1950s. I’m sure they would approve!

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January 4, 2011

Slow-cooker orange pop chicken

orangechicken

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If you can turn on a slow-cooker, you can make this dish and it will turn out perfectly! Orange chicken is a favorite of mine, but the chicken is usually battered, fried, and soaked in sauce. It’s delicious, no doubt, but it’s also loaded with fat and sugar. You can make this tasty version at home, and not only save on calories, but also save money. You can’t beat that!

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This recipe originally called for chicken breasts, but last night I made it with thighs. Although they aren’t quite as lean as chicken breasts, they’re more flavorful, and about one-third of the price.

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4  4-oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, or 16 oz. chicken thighs

12 oz. can diet orange soda

1/4 cup soy sauce (use the low-sodium version if possible)

1 cup brown rice (buy instant brown rice and shave 45 minutes off the prep time)

Fresh or frozen stir-fry vegetables (2 bags frozen)

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Place chicken in slow cooker. Combine soy sauce and orange soda in medium bowl. Pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours. 

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Transfer the liquid from the slow cooker into a medium-sized sauce pan reserving 1/2 cup, and add water to make 2 cups liquid if needed. Bring to a boil. Add brown rice, cover, and cook according to the rice package directions. 

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Meanwhile, stir-fry vegetables. I use non-stick cooking spray instead of oil to save on fat. Once the vegetables are cooked, add the reserved 1/2 cup of liquid from the slow cooker and toss to coat. Allow to boil down a bit if needed.

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Plate it up, top with crunchy noodles if desired, and break out the chopsticks! I’m happy to report that between this and my baked egg rolls, my three sons actually ate all of their vegetables without me nagging them. Hooray!

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January 4, 2011

Baked egg rolls

eggrolls

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I love egg rolls, but I don’t love all of the added fat and calories that come with deep-frying them. When you make them yourself, though, you control what’s in them, and you control the fat and calories. You can bake egg rolls, and they’re delicious. I promise you won’t miss the grease!

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eggrollsteps2 cups carrots, grated or chopped

1 14-oz. can bean sprouts, drained

1/2 cup water chestnuts, chopped

1/4 cup green or red pepper, chopped (or use celery if you don’t like peppers)

1/4 cup green onions, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups cooked chicken, shrimp or pork, finely chopped

4 teaspoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon oil

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 pinch cayenne pepper

16 egg roll wrappers

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Coat a large skillet with nonstick cooking spray; add the first six ingredients. Cook and stir over medium heat until veggies are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add meat; heat through. This is a great way to use leftover meat. Chop up that chicken breast or pork chop, and toss it in the pan!

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In a small bowl, combine corn starch, water, soy sauce, oil, brown sugar, and cayenne until smooth; stir into meat mixture. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes; remove from the heat.

Spoon 1/4 cup of meat mixture onto an egg roll wrapper; fold (see photos). Place seam-side down on a baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. 

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Spray tops of egg rolls with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 425 degrees F. for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned.

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That’s it! It’s really pretty simple to make your own egg rolls at home, and the best thing is that the leftovers are even better the next day, cold, right out of the refrigerator, with a little soy sauce. Enjoy!

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