Aylmer’s Old-Fashioned Cream of Tomato Soup

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Back when I was first awakening to the world of cooking, food brands of all kinds were competing to capture our attention with FREE leaflets of mouth-watering recipes in the grocery stores. These recipes were some of my first as I ventured into the kitchen as a teen.

I found this recipe for Old-Fashioned Cream of Tomato Soup years ago at an IGA, and have made it numerous times over the years, though not recently.

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Besides its yumminess, my biggest memory with this soup was blending it to perfection before the time of a hand-blender in our house:
Step #1: Pour hot soup into blender; put on lid.
Step #2: Put hand on lid, press “puree”.
Step #3: Stop blender, remove lid, check the state of the soup.
Step #4: Decide it’s too chunky still; replace lid, hold lid, press go.
Step #5: Hot soup flies up and hits lid, scalding hand. Hand releases juuuust enough to release soup in a perfect circle spray pattern, all over the kitchen.

Yup. That’s what they told me to do! Ummmm….. no. But jeepers, what a mess that was to clean up! – imagine hot red soup sprayed in a perfect radius all. over. the kitchen.  Worth it, though – so yummy! And thank God for hand blenders now to avoid the blender shenanigans!

Without further ado, let me share this awesome recipe with you as it was originally published:

Old-Fashioned Cream of Tomato Soup:

You Will Need:
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
2 med. carrots, diced
1 med. onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c. diced celery
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1-28 oz. can Whole Tomatoes
1.5 c. chicken broth
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 c. milk or light cream

To Make It:

MELT butter in large heavy saucepan over medium heat.
SAUTE carrots, onion, garlic and celery about 5 minutes or until tender.
STIR in flour; add tomatoes, breaking apart, chicken broth, sugar and pepper.
BRING to a boil; cover and simmer 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.
PUREE in batches in blender or food processor; return to saucepan.
WHISK in milk and heat through.

Makes 4-6 Servings.

Enjoy!!

ps – this is a wonderful tomato soup recipe to make for using in this cute Valentines Day idea: mugs of soup garnished with heart-shaped grilled cheese sandwiches. Grab Pampered Chef’s Fruit and Cheese Cutters for this project – they’re perfect!

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My Essential Oil Journey…. oily goodness!

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I’m often asked about essential oils and “what do you do with them?” and “do they really work?”…. so I thought I’d share a bit of my oil journey with you, and some of my current faves!

LEGAL CAVEAT: The statements below are my own opinions and experience, and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure in any way, as I am not a medical doctor and cannot diagnose you or prescribe medications for you legally. I am simply happy with my personal use of Essential Oils, and am happy to share my experiences and those of my family with you. Consult your doctor before taking any action with your health and medications.

Let me begin by saying: I am not a pill popper. I have had anaphylaxis to Penicillin and it’s derivatives since I was 16, and most alternatives that I can take are so harsh on my stomach that often “the cure” seems as bad as the illness!  Fast forward to my married years: 8 years of continuous pregnancy, nursing, or pregnancy AND nursing of my 4 lovely, close-together littles means that there wasn’t much opportunity for meds other than the odd Tylenol and chewable Vitamin C’s. LOL I have had to learn to “tough it out” with no meds for many moons now.

My foray into oils began when I was searching for a way to cleanse my liver in early 2013. I was diagnosed with iron anemia at age 18, and have been on iron pills ever since. Now, imagine what 20 years of iron pills does to your liver. Yup. Wasn’t really absorbing much any more and was feeling the zombie-like effects. So, I started a liver cleanse that I bought off the shelf in a health food store. During that time, I happened to notice that a toenail of mine was looking a bit funky… wasn’t sure if it was fungus or damage, or what… so I went to the doctor. He diagnosed fungus, and prescribed meds that “might help”, were $130 for the treatment, and would have a negative effect on my liver. Hola?!! Wowzers! Unfortunately I didn’t realize the cost of them until the prescription was filled…. I went home, disgusted and concerned… and never did use the $$$ pills! Didn’t want to throw off my liver cleanse, anyhow. 😉

This began my search for something that was helpful, NOT harmful, to my body as a support to my immune system. My friend Christa at The Living Room Health Studio introduced me to Young Living Essential Oils, right about the time that I and my four kids were battered with illness after illness: chicken pox (even for me!), shingles for me, cold after flu after cold for our entire family, and numerous bad asthma attacks for my youngest. What a crazy, sick winter 2013 was! Blah!

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Here’s me and my lovely pox in March 2013 – first time ever having them – age 37. I refused to let hubby take pix of the worst day when I was particularly oozy – that was Day 3. Not. Fun. Shingles followed. Also not fun. Lavender EO helped heal my skin amazingly well!

First we started with Thieves Essential oil blend. Thieves has an interesting story, and it can be a great help in supporting your immune system. Peppermint oil was not far behind… we slathered that stuff on till we were a bunch of peppermint patties! It really helped with the coughs that the kids seemed to constantly be catching, and after having to hospitalize my youngest kidlet for an out-of-control asthma attack that could not be managed by puffer, we figured out that Peppermint could help his asthma, too. Bonus! – because his puffer soon became ineffective, unfortunately!   Lavender was great in helping to heal my skin after chicken pox. As you can see from the picture above, it was BAD. I had them in my mouth and my hair and all kinds of unmentionable places. Jeepers.

Summer came, and with it came 5 AM sunrise and 11 PM sunset – with four kids who rise and set with the sun and were getting more tired and cranky by the day! I eventually tried out my lavender from my Everyday Essentials kit that I had purchased, and with daily use I was able to buy 2-3 hours of sleep from each of the kids last summer. Needless to say, we don’t go with out it now, even in winter.

Did we love the oils when we started? I have to be honest: no. The kids hated the smell – it was too unfamiliar, and kids are all about habit and familiarity. Heck, even adults are! The oils don’t STINK, they’re just unusual to the uninitiated. Thieves was the easiest to love, because it is based on cinnamon and cloves, and who doesn’t love smelling like a cookie? lol  What I found generally, though, is using EO’s on the kids feet (ie. away from their nose!) got them the same benefit without having it in their faces… and after a few weeks, they actually started to like the scents as their bodies adjusted. Now they actually request them, and we put them on morning and night.

Our own “proof in the pudding”:

– Colds have a 3-day incubation period. Every September, my 4 kids start back to school on Wednesday. Guess what? By Friday night, the entire family is sick, from bringing home a new set of germs from school that they haven’t been exposed to in months. This fall (2013), I had begun to religiously apply Thieves Essential Oil morning and night to the kids’ feet or wrists… and this is the first year that we have not been sick in the first week back to school. Any illnesses the kids have had, they have recovered from very quickly – like 24-48 hours – even colds! I am impressed. 🙂

– I typically get migraines at least once per month sometimes more. Not sure what triggers them, they seem pretty random. Last (sick-o) winter, when I was dowsing the kids in Peppermint oil (lather, rinse, repeat!), I failed to notice that I was not getting migraines anymore. Come spring, no more colds, and – boom! Migraine hits. What the…?? Then when I reached for my Peppermint, I realized that I had not used it in at least a month or more. (Good old faithful… how could I neglect you?) It was having a positive effect on me while I was applying it to the kids, and I wasn’t even appreciating it at the time. I sure do now. No more Advil Liqui-gels for this girl.

– Remember my anemia? Well, I happen to enjoy the flavour of Grapefruit EO in water, and drink that almost every day. It is a natural detox-er. (Remember “The Grapefruit Diet”? They had a point, but unfortunately you had to eat, like, 10 lbs of grapefruit every day! lol). Since drinking a drop or two of Grapefruit, I find that I am not so desperately missing my iron if I happen to skip it. In the past, within 24 hours of missing my iron pills, I am a zombie and cannot function. Must. Have. Iron.  Not so, now. Though I do take iron still… I just feel like I am absorbing it better. Call me crazy… you might just be right. 😉

– Have burnt myself pretty badly, and within 48 hours have had no scar after using Lavender EO. Also, that mindless pick-pick-picking that I occasionally do to those poor zits while I’m busy thinking… you know, the ones that bleed like crazy? Lavender. That is all. Stops the bleed in its tracks, and helps heal it too. Slip and fall on the edge of a railway tie in the driveway and horribly bruise my butt? Yup. Lavender works there, too. We have really found Lavender to be a first-aid kit-helper.

I could go on and on, but this has been a long post. More specific oil info next time!  Feel free to ask questions in the comments below and I will do my best to get back to you. I am full of stories of oily goodness from our family, and would love to share my experiences with you!

I am a wholesale member of Young Living Essential oils, and became one strictly because I was using so much of them and having so much health success that it made sense for me to do this for my family. I am able to distribute them to you through my website. If you would like to try oils, order through my website, or msg me here in the comments and we can chat more about it!

AGAIN: The statements above are my own opinions and experience, and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure in any way, as I am not a medical doctor and cannot diagnose you or prescribe medications for you legally. I am simply happy with my personal use of Essential Oils, and am happy to share my experiences and those of my family with you. Consult your doctor before taking any action with your health and medications.

BBQ Bacon-Stuffed Meatloaf… or, Let them Eat Comfort Food! (It’s the least we can do….)

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‘k. It’s like minus-bazillion out. No word of a lie!!… well, maybe a stretch. But -51 Celcius with windchill makes for one cold kitchen. Time to heat it up with some comfort food!! 🙂

Today’s recipe is brought to you by the letter ‘B’ and the number ‘5’….. ‘B’ for BBQ and Bacon, and 5 as in 5-stars!! 🙂

This recipe is featured in Pampered Chef’s recipe book entitled “The Pampered Chef Dinner in Your Deep Covered Baker” which you can find chock-full of deliciousness. Om-nom-nom.

Let’s see it, shall we? Drumroll……..

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They had me at Bacon. You? 😉

Some great Pampered Chef tools for this recipe include:

– our Deep Covered Baker

– our Garlic Press (best e-ver!)

– our Mix ‘n’ Chop for scramble-frying your ground beef

– our Microplane Adjustable Course Grater

If you don’t have these tools, you won’t be lost… don’t worry. (But if you ever do try them, trust me, you’ll be hooked on the ease they bring to your kitchen.) 😉

Without further ado, let’s get cookin’ !!!

BBQ Bacon Stuffed Meatloaf

What you need:

8 ounces fresh mushrooms (canned can work, too)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
6 slices cooked bacon, crumbled, divided
3 slices white sandwich bread, crust removed
1/2 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp Smokey BBQ Rub, divided (or your favorite Rub… but try ours, you’ll love it!)
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 tsp or each salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds 85% lean ground beef
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 cup ketchup

What to do:

Thinly slice the mushrooms. Heat oil in a 12 in. skillet over medium high heat 1-3 minutes or until simmering. Add the mushrooms; cook and stir 3-4 minutes or until mushrooms begin to brown. Remove your skillet from the heat. Set aside 1 tbsp of the crumble bacon. Add remaining bacon to mushrooms and mix well.

Meanwhile, cut the bread into cubes. In a mixing bowl, combine bread, milk, parsley, egg yolk, 2 tbsp of the rub, pressed garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Add your raw beef to the bread mixture; mix. Place two thirds of the meat mixture in Deep Covered Baker. Form into an 8.5″ by 4.5″ loaf.

Gently press down on the center of the loaf to create a well. Sprinkle a 1/2 cup of the cheese in the well. Top with the bacon mixture and an additional 1/2 cup of the cheese. Place remaining meat mixture over filling; press to seal.

Microwave, covered, on high for 14-17 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 145 F in the center.  Meanwhile, combine ketchup and remaining rub; stir. Carefully remove the baker from the microwave, using oven mitts. Brush Ketchup mixture over meatloaf. Microwave, covered, on high 3-5 minutes or until internal temperature is 160 F in the center. Sprinkle remaining cheese and reserved bacon over top of meatloaf; let stand, covered, 10 minutes before slicing.

Paula’s TIP: want to make it Gluten-Free (GF)?

  • replace the bread crumbs with either ~1/3 cup of GF oats, ground fine in our Manual Food Processor, OR ~1/3 cup shredded zucchini, squeezed and patted dry.
  • replace our Smoky BBQ Rub with your favorite GF rub (Pampered Chef rubs may not contain gluten, but they are not made in a GF facility… so no guarantees).

Bon appetit! Let me know what you think of this recipe. Winner-winner-[meatloaf]-dinner?? 😉

Developing a Healthy Relationship with Goals

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I have always hated setting goals.

No, really. I always thought, “I’ll just work as hard as I can, and wherever I get, that’ll be good.” ‘Cuz hard work gets you places, right?

It does. But never as far as you would get if you had a destination in mind. Kind of like treading water as hard as you can, versus actually swimming for shore. There are times when treading water is wisest, but not often.

My lack of goal-setting always had to do with fear. What if I don’t make it? I would feel like such a failure/never live it down/feel stupid/whatever. So rather than admit I had a goal, I would just work hard… and sometimes make the goal, sometimes not.

Case in point of how silly my relationship with success had gotten: Pampered Chef Canada had set up sales achievement goals for their consultants in January 2012 to be reached by June 30th: $10k, $12k, and $15k in sales.I was a new consultant, and I figured there would be NO WAY for me to ever to do that, so I’d just work hard and do what I could… true to the form of fear. By May 2012, I was within $2000 of the $10k goal, and started to sit up and take notice…. but still wouldn’t commit. Then, in the last 5 days of June, I was $175 away from $10k, with no time left to book parties. I suddenly realized how silly it would be to NOT reach this goal, and how much I truly wanted to, and I got desperate. I cornered a bunch of [kind, understanding, wonderful] moms on the bench at my kids’ baseball practice, told them about my [very new] goal, and asked if they or someone they knew needed any Pampered Chef. Between all those ladies, we managed to scrape enough orders together for me to reach my goal with $125 to spare. 

Still didn’t learn my lesson, though.

Then in July 2012, it was Product Free-For-All month – you could earn your new Fall product FREE based on your sales. I thought, oh, I don’t have time. I’ll be going on vacation late in the month… there’s no time for parties. Excuses, not reasons. So I pulled back from reaching for what I wanted, and submitted what I thought should be “reasonable for that season”. I didn’t make the sales result  I was secretly hoping for… but did ok. I ended up ordering the rest of my fall product at a discount.

All this secret hoping changed in August 2012, during my first Pampered Chef National Conference. I remember sitting in that room of 400+ women and men – a room charged with energy, delight and determination – listening to people talk about setting goals and then plowing fearlessly through personal troubles and doubts to achieve their professional goals.  And I thought, why not me? WHY not?  INDEED!  Everyone else around me believed in me – they told me so… why couldn’t I?

Imagine what I could have achieved in the June results if I had actually set a goal and worked towards it sooner than 5 days before the deadline!  And that July sales goal? – I was only $400 away from the level I wanted – that’s a small catalog show. How foolish was that, that I had to spend all that money to buy something that I was to afraid to earn for free?

Fear. That rotten, stinkin’ fear.

That was that. No more silliness.

I went home, set some goals, and went to work. I didn’t achieve all that I set out to do… still had some run-ins with my fear, but it sure was empowering to reach for what I wanted.

And in 2013, I had a LOT of personal troubles to work through as I reached for my professional goals. Extreme illness. Self-doubt. Even death in the family. But as I persevered, I was able to make it, with much love, support and help from those around me.

So here’s what I learned:

There is a big difference between an excuse and a reason. An excuse is trying to justify something that should have or should not have been done. A reason just is. We will either make the time for something, or we will make an excuse… and it all depends on what priority we place on a thing. How important is your goal to you?

The disappointment feels worse than the fear. Yes, the fear feels bad. Horrible, in fact. Maybe even debilitating! But, it’s true!  Ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen if you do reach your goal, and if you don’t reach your goal. You’ll likely find that not reaching it will be worse than if you do.  Like that saying says, “Aim for the moon. If you don’t make it, you’ll still land among the stars.”

Help comes to those who reach for their goals. People are inspired by fearlessness and ambition. Not the ambition that is self-serving and proud and distasteful, but the positive, goal-setting kind, where you have something in mind, and you’re giving all you’ve got to go for it. I was still a ways away from some of the professional goals I had set, but because I was making such a strong effort, team members around me saw and wanted to help. I could not have made my goals without them. They. ROCK. And have helped ME to rock as a result. 😉 It forged stronger bonds with my team AND helped me reach my goal. Awesome, huh? 😉

Dwelling in fear keeps you linked to your past. The past may seem safe, but is that really where you want to live?  If you’re even thinking about goals, chances are, the answer to that is NO.  Announce your goals to the world, to keep you accountable, and to burn the bridge to the past where it is safe to live. You won’t regret it. This excerpt from Secrets of The Richest Man Who Ever Lived by Mike Murdock was fantastically helpful to me as I forged a path for myself into the land of goal-setting and success, and it was shared by a friend on Facebook. It said:

“Your DREAM should be so big, that it unleashes conversations around you.

This is very important; your dream must be big enough to consume you, or it will NOT move you; it must consume your time, your mind, and your conversation.

Telling many others about your dream destroys the option to fail.

You see, if you whisper to yourself, “I’d better not tell anyone about my dream, so I won’t look stupid in their eyes if I fail”, you have just created a BRIDGE BACK TO YESTERDAY. Stop building bridges to your past; it divides your attention and dilutes your energy and enthusiasm.”

Worried or afraid about setting goals? Don’t be. It’s the best, most constructive thing you can do for yourself.

Talk to me! What do you find holds you back from setting goals? What do you find helps you? Tell me in the comments… let’s chat! 🙂

2013 – the year that Faith and Struggle built….

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This blog has been a work in progress for months. And months. Not that I didn’t want to get it together… but this year was a year full of struggles and challenges – some good, some not so much. Health struggles. New, lofty goals to reach for. Death in the family. Self-doubt and overwhelm. Hope.

I must start by telling you what I told my hubby, Mr. PChef, on New Year’s Eve 2012. I really had a sense that 2013 was going to be a time of challenge and personal growth. As if, so far, we’d just been “cruising” and enjoying life with no real difficulties, nothing to complain about.  Looking back on the year, I’d say that ‘challenge’ and ‘growth’ pretty much defined the year! Not that these are negative… they are just tough things that we go through that make us stronger, more faith-full people.

We are not defined by our moments… but we are definitely shaped by them. There were times this year where it definitely would’ve been easier to give in to overwhelm, or give up in frustration or hopelessness. There were circumstances that could make for some unsavoury bitterness or jealousy. Why them and not me? Why me and not THEM? Why any of us? Indeed….

God was a faithful Pilot this year – taking over the helm when I was sure I could not go on. Too many courses, too many commitments;  not enough time, not enough energy;  too many good ideas, not enough of me to go around.

Some great lessons I’ve learned this year, in both my personal and professional life:

Let whatever you do today be enough. Stop stressing about stuff and wondering, ‘surely there’s more I could be doing to advance my ___________ [insert concern here: business, family, spiritual life, whatever]. How many times have I told my hubby or children “You can only do what you can do.” – same applies for me. And for you. 😉

You are enough. God has been prepping you for this moment all your life. Whatever you lack will be developed in the moment or in the progress of time. He has promised us ALL His grace, and ALL sufficiency in ALL things. Our sufficiency is of HIM. “If you don’t got it, you don’t need it right now.” 😉

– No excuses. It doesn’t matter that your [dad, dog, fish, hope…] died. You need to keep picking yourself up and putting one foot in front of the other. Who else will do it for you if you don’t? God is bigger than your problems, and bigger than you… He’s a gentle Shepherd, and He’s got this. Stand up, buck up, and git ‘er dun – with His help.

You DO have time. You just didn’t make it a priority for your time. See line above about no excuses. I’ve caught myself so many times this year about to say, “I didn’t have time to…” and corrected myself with “I didn’t TAKE time to….”. Refuse to blame – that’s the name of the game.

“There is no dream too big, and no dreamer too small.” Love this line from the movie Turbo. I felt so small and incapable so many times this year… but had friends and family who backed me, and saw potential where I didn’t. They encouraged me to go on. I had some pretty lofty goals this year, and was able to achieve them. “I get by with a little help from my friends.” 😉

You have not arrived. The destination is still ahead – the best is yet to be. Don’t settle for making it part-way to your goal. Don’t let off the gas. That alone caused me to fall behind so many times this year in accomplishing what I wanted to – internally, in my subconscious, I relaxed and settled for less, content with a bit of success.  But, it ain’t over ’til it’s over, baby! 😉

I’m sure there’s many more lessons I learned…. but if I’ve forgotten them, I’m sure I’ll learn them again this year. God’s good that way… He knows when we need reminding. God has been faithful… and I’ve been blessed beyond measure, through thick and thin.

Wishing you God’s richest blessing for this coming year! xo

Taco Buns

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So,once upon a time, back in the less busy time of my life a few months ago, I became a menu planner. We sat together, myself and my four kids, and devised our tempting culinary delights for the week. I love spontaneity, but spontaneity under a time crunch is just stressful!… so my brain is happier on a menu plan. Why I have gotten away from this habit, just when I need it most, is beyond me. Do you abandon reason in your crazy moments like I do sometimes? 😉

Sometimes, though, when it comes to the execution of a thing, we (I) run out of time to actually make what was on the list, or I don’t have (or don’t want) an ingredient for the prescribed dish-of-the-day. Like the Crustless Quiche that takes 40 minutes to bake… yeah. That one became fried eggs in 10 minutes on my Double Burner Griddle the other night. LOTS and LOTS of eggs! 😉

These Taco Buns were one of those changey-uppey things.

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My family loves the old classic Taco Ring from The Pampered Chef. However, I am getting to a point in my culinary journey that, although it can be quick and great, my gut is not loving Pilsbury so much anymore…. and the alternative – to make my own homemade croissant dough, like this one – was more than I could manage in the 60, 59, 58, 57 minutes I had until dinner time. Gah!!! Time pressure!!!!

So, enter the idea of a Taco Bun. I found a quick sweet dough recipe on allrecipes.com (this one – it’s great!) and mixed up my taco filling, then made it into basically a savoury bun prepared cinnamon bun-style.  I tried to capture the steps so that I could share it with you. They were a hit with the family, and no one complained about the lack of Pilsbury dough. 😉

So let’s get to it, shall we?

Mix up your favorite sweet dough (or try this recipe: Rapid Bake Sweet Dough).

While the dough is rising or resting, prep your meat filling.  You will need:

1.5 lbs. of ground beef

1 Tbsp. of chili powder, or my favorite, Chili Lime Rub

1 cup shredded medium or old cheddar

Scramble fry the beef, draining excess grease from the pan.[Use your Mix ‘n’ Chop if you have one – it ROCKS!!] Add 2 Tbsp. of water, then add the chili powder or rub and mix well. Stir in your cheese and mix until it gets all melt-y and happy. (Technical terms, of course!)

Now the bun-fun begins! 🙂

Roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface. I LOVE my Baker’s Roller for this job. I split my dough into two parts to make this a little simpler. And yes, this is whole wheat dough. Go a little light on the measuring if you decide to swap the white for whole wheat. I usually leave out about 1 Tbsp of flour per cup when I convert from white to whole wheat flour.

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Spread your meat mixture over your dough. Try not to have it too wet… don’t want soggy buns! 😉  Also, leave a 1″ meat-less gap around the edge – your filling will spread!

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(See my 11″ Covered Skillet there? Ain’t she purty?  I love her. White Ceramic cleans up like a breeze.)

ANYWAYS! 🙂

Roll the dough away from you, then pinch it closed.

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Once you’ve rolled and pinched, use a serrated knife to cut 1″ tall buns from the taco log you’ve got there.

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Lay your buns cut-side down on your favorite pan… my favorite is my stoneware…. the Large Bar Pan, to be exact!

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Pop them in a 375ºF oven for about 20 minutes.  You will have about 2 dozen buns out of this…. fed our family of 6 just fine, with a nice side salad.

YUM!

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Give these a try and tell me what you think!  I’m thinking these might do well for camping and/or freezing, too! – the alternative to the pizza bun!