Monday, December 29, 2008

Roasted Vegetables with Linguini

This is another recipe that I used to make all the time, years ago. I kind of forgot all about it until I was skimming through an online cookbook Id entered a bunch of recipes into. This one used to be my meal to impress. I always made it for company and everyone always loved it.

Speaking of company, I was just reminded of a funny thing that happened one night when I made this recipe. My sister and I were living together in my condo in Mesa and we decided to have our grandparents on our Dad's side over for dinner. So we planned ahead and decided to make them this roasted veggies with pasta. Well the evening comes and Ive got dinner all ready and they never showed up. I tried to keep it hot on the stove for awhile, but everything got really overcooked. Finally when they were 45 minutes late I called them and they were at home and had just ate. They completely forgot about dinner with us. They felt terrible and came right over. They sat down and had another entire dinner with us. I was watching my grandfather when he was talking, and he was pouring salad dressing all over his pasta. I didn't know what to think. Tiffany and I were eyeing him with curiosity. He ate his pasta first and thought it was wonderful. Then started in on the salad and realized there was no dressing on it. We all started laughing as he realized he poured the dressing all over the pasta dish, then ate it all up. It was so funny. I will never forget that. He said the pasta was still really good. hehehe. That was a fun night.

I clipped this out of a little Lipton recipe book that I bought in the aisle of a grocery store one time. I usually add some grilled chicken breast seasoned with poultry rub to this right at the end, to make it a more hearty meal. Also, the original recipe called for the Savory Herb with Garlic soup mix and I can no longer find that in stores. Now they are all some variation of onion flavor. I just use the Onion Mushroom flavor now and it tastes pretty much the same. Sometimes I add a few drops of hot sauce and a pinch of garlic powder to give it a little more spice. Ive also had good luck adding extra cheese and cream, to make it more saucy. I like saucy stuff.

Roasted Veggies with Linguine

2-3 lbs of veggies chopped (I like to use zucchini, squash, bell pepper, onions, mushrooms, asparagus)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 packet of Lipton Recipe Secrets
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4-1/2 cup half and half
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Chop veggies into large pieces and put into a big plastic bag, pour in olive oil and soup mix packet. Shake until the veggies are coated. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 35 minutes, stirring once halfway through. After veggies are baked, pour cream and cheese into casserole and stir to make a creamy sauce. Toss with 1 lb cooked linguine or your favorite cooked pasta.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Spinach Artichoke Dip


This is a really great dip that I started making back when I got my first crock pot when I was in college. This recipe is from a crock pot cook book that I had at the time. It was a great book with a ton of great recipes. I somehow lost that book over the years, but this recipe has survived. The picture really does not do this justice at all.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

16 ounces of cream cheese, room temp
1 large bag of frozen chopped spinach
1 10 ounce can of artichoke hearts
1/4 cup half and half or whipping cream
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup monterey jack cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
seasonings to taste (salt, pepper, garlic powder)

Let the spinach thaw. Squeeze out as much of the water in the spinach as you can. Roughly chop it up even more. Chop the artichoke hearts. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl till well combined. Transfer to a crock pot and heat on low heat until hot and all the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve with melba toast, crackers, corn chips or sliced baguette.

Dixie Pie


When I was in high school, I worked at a restaurant called Tippins and they sold really yummy pies. One of my favorites, was their Dixie Pie, which is just a pecan pie with mini chocolate chips. Its really rich and so yummy. I usually make this every Christmas and Thanksgiving, as my family and Carl's family loves me to bring this for dessert. I usually use more pecans and chocolate chips than the recipe calls for, so use a heaping cup of pecan halves, and a heaping 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.

Dixie Pie

3 beaten eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 heaping cup of pecans (halves)
1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips
1 unbaked pie crust


Combine the first 5 ingredients and mix well, pour into the pie crust and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ham and Cheese Rice Balls

I know this sounds like a funny thing, rice balls...especially ham and cheese rice balls. Well, this turned out so well! Definitely a keeper in my book. I was looking for another way to use up leftover rice and this came to me. I had made some cheesy scallion white rice the other night and had a ton leftover. So I decided to add some goodies to it and form it into balls and bread it and fry it up! Oh my, they were so yummy! I first just ate them plain and they were yummy. When I reheated the leftovers, I dipped them in ranch dressing and it was YUMMY! I think they would go so well with chive basil cream. These are filling and satisfying. My kids both loved them and I cant normally get them to eat rice and ham, so that was nice. They reminded me of the Croquettas you can find in Spain. You could add anything to these. I was thinking chopped spinach would be great with ham and cheese, or you can use any leftover meats and veggies you have in the fridge. Kind of like fried rice, these are so versatile! The rice I started out with already had a lot of Cheddar cheese and scallions in it, so season it accordingly. If you are using plain white rice, it will need more salt and pepper to pep it up, if the rice isn't already seasoned.


Ham and cheese Rice Balls

2 cups leftover cooked rice, refrigerated (my rice already had 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup parm cheese and 1/2 cup chopped scallions added to it)
1/2 cup minced ham (I just used lunch meat)
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp Louisiana hot sauce, or any hot sauce would do
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg beaten
1 tbsp water
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs

In a large bowl, mix the rice with the ham and soy sauce. Season with plenty of salt and pepper and any other spices you like. Form the rice into little balls. In a small bowl, whisk the egg with the hot sauce and water. Pour enough oil into a skillet to be 1/2 inch deep. Heat on medium heat until hot. Season the bread crumbs with some salt and pepper. Dip the rice balls into the egg mixture, then roll into bread crumbs. Fry in oil until golden brown, a couple minutes on each side. Serve hot either plain, or with a favorite dipping sauce...ranch dressing, chive basil cream, marinara.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bacon Roasted Chicken

I just had to try out this recipe. I really do believe that bacon makes everything taste better. I wish it wasnt so bad for us! I cant resist sometimes. I love BLT's and bacon with my eggs, and even bacon roasted chicken! The bacon in this smelled so good when it was roasting in the oven. It was overcast out today and slightly cool, so it was perfect for dinner. I served this with herb roasted potatos and a green salad.

I got this recipe from Allrecipes. I pretty much followed it but I used olive oil instead of butter, and I only seasoned with salt and pepper as I forgot the dry herbs completely! I also added a stalk of celery and a small quartered onion in with the carrots in the cavity. I have to say, that this is not nearly as flavorful as my other roasted chicken I did recently. While it smelled wonderfully, the flavor wasnt as strong as I was hoping. I think that rubbing an herb butter under the skin just flavors it so much better than the bacon drippings did. Im sorry that I did not get a picture of this one. I dont know how that happened...and I was bummed. I will say that it looked absolutly amazing!

Bacon Roasted Chicken (from Allrecipes.com)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 (4 pound) whole chicken
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 carrots, cut in chunks
  • paprika to taste
  • 8 slices bacon
  • 2 cups beef broth
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  2. Rub butter over the entire chicken. Season with salt, pepper and thyme. Place the carrots inside the cavity, and tie the legs together. Place the chicken breast side up in a roasting pan. Lay bacon strips across the top of the chicken, and secure with toothpicks. Sprinkle with paprika. Pour the beef broth into the roasting pan - do not pour over the bacon.
  3. Roast for 15 minutes in the preheated oven, the reduce the heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Baste with some of the broth. Continue to roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 180 degrees F (82 degrees C) when taken in the thickest part of the thigh. Baste every 15 minutes with the broth.
  4. Remove the bacon and discard toothpicks. Roast the chicken for 15 more minutes to brown the skin. Transfer to a serving platter, and remove the ties. You may eat the bacon, but it is best to discard the carrots.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Holiday Treat Boxes


This year for Christmas, Im giving out these cute little boxes of home made holiday goodies. I found these little boxes at Walmart in a pack of 6 for $9. They each come with 4 compartments, plus matching tissue paper and a to/from sticker. They are made by Martha Stewart and I just love them! In these ones, I did Cinnamon Roasted Almonds, Saltine Toffees, White Chocolate Holiday Bark and Spiced Chili Pecans. These cinnamon roasted almonds taste like the ones you can get at the fair. Sooo yummy and sugary. And the spiced pecans are great too, really savory with a kick.


Cinnamon Roasted Almonds (original recipe from allrecipes.com)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon cold water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 cups whole almonds
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg white, water and vanilla until very foamy and frothy. Pour in the almonds and mix until well coated. In a smaller bowl, mix the sugars, cinnamon and salt together, pour over the almonds and mix until all coated well. Spread onto a baking sheet and bake for 1 hr, stirring every 15 minutes.


Spiced Chili Pecans (from allrecipes.com)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix butter, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper, salt and garlic powder. Mix in the pecans and mix until well coated. Then mix in the chili powder and toss until coated. Spread onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes, watching closely so the spices dont burn.





Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Blueberry Pie


We went up to my Dad's in Prescott for Thanksgiving this year. It was a nice time. I brought blueberry pie! I found these cute little leaf cutters from Williams and Sonoma. They make it so easy to dress up the pie crusts. This recipe is from my trusty Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.


Blueberry Pie (Better Homes and Gardens)

Refrigerated pie crust for double crust pie
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp finely shredded lemon peel
1 Tbsp lemon juice
5 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Roll out dough for double crust pie. Line a 9 inch pie plate with half of the dough.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the 3/4 cup sugar, flour, lemon peel, and lemon juice. Add blueberries. Gently toss until coated. If using frozen blueberries, let mixture stand 15 to 30 minutes or till fruit is partially thawed, but still icy.

Transfer berry mixture into pastry lined pie plate. Trim pastry to edge of pie plate. Cut slits (or use cut outs or cookie cutters) in remaining pastry, place on filling and seal. Crimp edge as desired.

To prevent over browning, cover edge of the pie with foil. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes for fresh fruit, or 50 minutes for frozen. Remove foil. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes more, or until top is golden. Cool on a wire rack. Serves 8-10.

White Chocolate Holiday Bark

Here is another holiday treat that is super quick and easy to throw together. Seriously, it took all of 5 minutes to make from start to finish. I got this recipe from Good Things Catered Her recipe has golden raisins but I didn't have any so I used semi sweet chocolate chips instead. It was so yummy. These are so pretty when they are cut up. A perfect addition to your treat gift giving.

White Chocolate Holiday Bark

16 ounces good white chocolate, chopped
chopped walnuts
dried cranberries
chocolate chips

In a microwave safe dish, add the white chocolate and microwave for 30 seconds. Take out and stir until the dish no longer feels warm. Then microwave and stir in 15 second intervals, until smooth and creamy. Pour onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread out. Top with nuts, cranberries and chocolate chips, pushing everything down into the white chocolate to adhere it. Let cool for 2 hrs at room temp, or 30 minutes in the fridge. Break or cut into the sizes you want.

Saltine Toffees

Wow I cant believe I haven't posted since Nov 19! Ive just been so busy. I have several pics taken, and I just need to write out the blog entry and get them posted! Here is a quick one that is so good! These are called Saltine Toffees. I actually got this recipe off a message board I frequent, called The Nest. This recipe was going around a few months back and I bookmarked it. I have no idea who posted the original recipe, so if its yours, let me know and I will edit my entry!

Saltine Toffees

1 package of saltine crackers
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
chopped nuts of your choice (I used almonds) about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips or pieces

Line a baking sheet with tin foil. Place crackers onto baking sheet. On Medium low heat, melt butter and brown sugar. Dont stir it until its all melted. Then stir to combine and keep stirring until its bubbly and carmelized, about 3 minutes. Spoon the buttery sugar goo all over the crackers, then top with chopped nuts. Bake in 400 degree oven for 5 minutes, then take out and immediatly sprinkle chocolate chips over all the crackers. Let cool, then store in air tight containers.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Honey Lime Tuna Steaks


This is a recipe off the Old Bay Seasoning website. It was pretty good. Definitely liked the flavor, but I over cooked the fish so it was too dried out. I will make it again though, and not overcook the fish.

Honey Lime Tuna

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons McCormick® Basil Leaves
1 pound tuna steaks

Directions

In a small bowl, mix oil, OLD BAY, lime juice, honey and basil. Place tuna steaks in large resealable plastic bag and add marinade. Turn to coat well.

Marinate in fridge 20 minutes (longer for extra flavor).

Transfer fish to grill and discard any leftover marinade. Broil or grill fish over medium heat 5 to 6 minutes per side or until desired doneness. (Tuna is more moist when its center is still rosy-pink after cooking.)


Monday, November 17, 2008

Steak Soup in the crock pot


The first time I had steak soup was when I was living in Kansas City. Steak soup is popular there with all the bbq restaurants everywhere. Its so savory and filling! Perfect for a cold day. Perfect for a warm day too, as it was 80 degrees here! I still crave winter foods, even though we don't have much of a winter. All of the measurements on my recipe are not exact. I eyeball everything. Try to base the ingredients on what you have in your fridge or pantry.

Steak Soup

1 1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh green beans
2-3 potatoes, 1 inch dice
3-4 cups left over steak, finely chopped
3 cans beef broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp pepper
1 tsp dried Thyme
salt to taste
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup margarine

Add all ingredients except 1 can of beef broth, flour and margarine to a crock pot. Cook on low for 6-8 hrs, or as long as you need to. About 1 hr before serving, melt butter in a small sauce pan, add flour. Make a roux and cook for a minute. Add 1/2 can beef broth and whisk until smooth and no lumps. Add the rest of the broth and stir to combine. Heat until boiling again, then pour it into the crock pot and stir. Let it simmer on high another hour, to thicken up. Season with salt to taste. Enjoy.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Antipasti skewers


Here is another easy and quick appetizer to whip up. For these, its just a cherry tomato, a slice of salami cut in half and a chunk of Mozzerella cheese. I served them with a store bought pesto for dipping. They would also be great with an olive on them too!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Good times and finger foods


I have to apologize to my readers and fellow bloggers about my lack of blogging lately. I really did think that as Fall arrived, Id be on a fall baking and blogging spree. Its just not the case. I have been so busy with other things that arent nearly as fun as cooking. I promise that soon I will be back on the bandwagon.

Last week, we had dinner at a good friends house and they introduced us to these yummy gems. I think these are one of the best appetizers Ive ever had. I made them tonight for my family and we ate them up in about 5 minutes. I was wishing Id made more. But in all actuality, Im glad I didnt, as these are fattening and full of everything we dont want to be eating too much of. I got this recipe from my good friend, Beth. She got it from recipezaar.com and the original recipe is here. Beth served it to us with a yummy honey mustard sauce that is so easy to whip up and just perfect with this dish.

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts with Honey Mustard dipping sauce (adapted from recipezaar.com)

For the chestnuts:

3 cans sliced water chestnuts
1 lb bacon
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup packed brown sugar

Mix the soy sauce with the brown sugar and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Marinate the water chestnuts in the soy sauce mixture for at least an hour. Cut the bacon in half crosswise. Take 3 slices of marinated chestnuts and wrap a half slice of bacon around each stack of 3. Secure with a toothpick. Place in a large baking dish that is sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes.

For the dipping sauce:
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup mustard

Whisk the honey with the mustard until well combined. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Baked Potato Soup


I had a bag of potatoes in my pantry and I decided to make some soup. I love baked potato soup with all the fixins...sliced green onions, crisp bacon, cheese and sour cream. This recipe was pretty good. I was really excited about this soup when I made it. When we sat down and ate it, I thought it was missing something. I realized that I had forgot to put in the 1 cup of sour cream! That is huge! I was bummed about that, but easily remedied the problem by adding a nice big dollop of daisy to each of our bowls. Once stirred in, it was nice and creamy, just like I had imagined. I didnt have any sharp chedder, so I used a colby jack blend and I really think that a sharp cheese would have really made the flavors pop. Next time I make this, I will definitely use an extra sharp chedder...no pre-grated cheeses will work as well. I used turkey bacon. I love turkey bacon when its cooked really crisp. I almost cant tell that its not pig!! What I really loved about this soup that is different from other creamy soups Ive made is that it doesnt use any fat at all for the base. No butter or oil. Just whisk the milk into the flour and heat until creamy and thick. I will try to use that method in the future when Im throwing a soup together from scratch or even a sauce. I served this one up with some chewy sourdough with butter. It was so good!

Baked Potato Soup from Cooking Light

4 baking potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds)


2/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 3 ounces)

6 cups 2% reduced-fat milk

1 cup (4 ounces) reduced-fat shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese, divided

1 teaspoon salt (I used over a Tbsp)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (again I used more)

1 cup reduced-fat sour cream (I forgot this. Doh!)

3/4 cup chopped green onions, divided

6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled (I used turkey bacon)

Cracked black pepper (optional)



Preheat oven to 400°.

Pierce potatoes with a fork; bake at 400° for 1 hour or until tender. Cool. Peel potatoes; coarsely mash.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Place flour in a large Dutch oven; gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 8 minutes). Add mashed potatoes, 3/4 cup cheese, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, stirring until cheese melts. Remove from heat.
Stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup onions. Cook over low heat 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated (do not boil). Ladle 1 1/2 cups soup into each of 8 bowls. Sprinkle each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons onions, and about 1 tablespoon bacon. Garnish with cracked pepper, if desired.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds


I love carving pumpkins and toasting the seeds. Here is my simple recipe.

1 1/2 cups pumpkin seeds, cleaned and rinsed
1 Tbsp olive oil
course salt to taste
paprika
pepper

In a small bowl combine the pumpkin seeds and oil, toss to coat. Add lots of salt and a dash of pepper and paprika. Spread onto a foil lined cookie sheet and bake in 300 degree oven for 20 minutes. Watch them carefully so they dont burn. I usually stir them once or twice while cooking.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dump Cake


I had a sweet tooth the other night so I threw together this easy pantry dessert. I got this recipe for Dump Cake from a blog I recently found, Fancy Toast.

Dump Cake

1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple
1 16 oz. can cherry pie filling
1 package yellow white cake mix
1 stick of butter, cut into thin slices (or just melt it if you’re really pressed for time)

Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Dump crushed pineapple and juices into a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.
Dump cherries.
Dump cake mix.
Dump butter slices (or drizzle the melted butter over top of the cake mix).
Bake for 30-50 minutes, until the top of the cake is golden-brown.
Serve as is, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Other variations include:
Omit the pineapple juice, use 2 cans of cherry pie filling, and use chocolate cake mix instead of yellow. Mmmmmm....that sounds delicious!
Or, sprinkle some sweetened, shredded coconut before you add the butter. You can also sprinkle chopped pecans before you add the butter.
Or, use apple pie filling and a mix for spice cake.
The options are endless!

Crash Hot Potatoes

Ive been seeing this recipe all over a message board I frequent on The Nest. Its originally from a great blog, Pioneer Woman Cooks. Finally, after reading so many great reviews, I had to give them a go. I'm so glad I did. This is my newest favorite way to serve a side of potatoes.

These little babies were sooo good. We had them as a side to meat, but they would be wonderful as breakfast potatoes as well. They were so creamy and crunchy. So simple with just salt, pepper and a fresh herb. I topped ours with sour cream. Carl loved these. I did too. They were even great right out of the fridge and reheated well in the microwave. So so yummy. Definitely adding these to our normal rotation.

Crash Hot Potatoes
  • New Potatoes (or other small, round potato)
  • Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Whatever herb you like (I used rosemary and thyme)

Directions (Written by Pioneer Woman, excluding her original commentary)

Begin by bringing a pot of salted water to a boil. Add in as many potatoes as you wish to make, and cook them until they’re fork-tender. Next, generously drizzle olive oil on a sheet pan. When the potatoes are tender, place them on the cookie sheet giving them plenty of room to spread out. Next, grab your potato masher and gently press down on the potato until it slightly mashes. Then rotate the masher 90 degrees and finish flattening it. Of course, you don’t want to absolutely smash it into the pan—you want it almost to resemble a cookie. Repeat until all are flattened. And really, I don’t know why you couldn’t use the bottom of a glass for this step if you don’t have a potato masher. The surface might not be as textured and interesting, but I think it still might work. Next, brush the tops rather generously with olive oil. Next, grab some Kosher salt. You can use regular salt, but I’d really recommend using kosher. It adheres to the potatoes more easily and really flavors them nicely without getting too salty. Remember: potatoes need salt. Don’t skimp! Be ye ever as generous with fresh ground black pepper. Now, you can grab some chives…or thyme…or whatever herbs you have available. Whatever herb you use, just chop it pretty finely and sprinkle over the top. Now throw them onto the top rack of a very hot (450-degree) oven, and cook them for 20-25 minutes. Or until they’re golden and crispy and sizzling.



Thursday, October 16, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies


Id been promising Sam that we'd make some cookies for a few days. Finally I bought some chocolate chips and we were set. We made old fashioned chocolate chip cookies. I used the recipe that Ive always used since I was a kid...the original chocolate chip recipe, first made by Ruth Wakefield at her Toll House Inn, starting in 1930 back in Massachusetts. Its amazing to me that this popular cookie, which Id say is the most all-American cookie, was just invented in the last 100 years. If you'd like to know more about the history of Toll House chocolate chip cookies, you can click here. These are the best and easiest cookies to make from scratch. They really are better when you make them yourself. I think its the love that goes into them that makes them taste so good, along with fresh flour, butter and other ingredients. I know that now days, there are all the refrigerated cookie doughs you can buy, that make cookie making a snap. Sure they make your home smell good when baking and they serve the purpose of providing home baked cookies, but they just aren't quite as good as cookies made fresh from scratch.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour


1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels

1 cup chopped nuts

Directions:
PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto un-greased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mummy Dogs



I thought these were really cute when I saw them on Picky Palate. I searched online and found that people made these with either refrigerated crescent dough, or bread stick dough. Just cut the dough to make long thin strips that are easy to wrap around the hot dogs. I used crescent dough, and they were really yummy. Sam loved these because he could help me cut the dough and wrap it on the hot dogs. Definitely a fun thing for kids.

1 package of Pillsbury crescent rolls
8 hot dogs

Roll out the dough and press the seams to create 4 rectangles. Cut each rectangle into 8 strips. Use 4 strips per hot dog and wrap the dough around in both directions. Make sure there is a spot that can be the "face". Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or a nice golden brown. Use mustard and ketchup to make little eyes on the mummy faces.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Chicken Pot Pie


I went to a Farmer's Market today and picked up tons of locally grown organic veggies and fruits. I had some chicken thawing in the fridge so when I got home I decided to make a chicken pot pie. I adapted my recipe from my mom's America's Test Kitchen cook book. Basically I subbed fresh green beans for the frozen peas. (I also added a handful or 1/2 cup of frozen mixed veggies, to make up for the peas). I didn't have any sherry on hand or heavy cream, so I improvised and increased the chicken broth and used some half and half. The filling was so yummy, but not thick enough. Next time I will increase the flour to 1/3 cup and let it cook and simmer a minute longer before I start whisking in the liquids. I used the recipe for a single crust pie dough, but refrigerated pie crust could be an easy substitute. I didn't have any on hand, so I made one. Its really easy to make a great crust in a snap. This was yummy. Carl is not a fan of comfort food, but I am. He just has to suck it up and eat it sometimes, since I do all the cooking. Tonight, he had seconds...so I know it passed his test.



Chicken Pot Pie

3 Tbsp butter
2 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 ribs celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 small red onion, minced
2 garlic cloves (I used frozen pureed garlic)
1 tsp dried thyme or 2 tsp fresh minced
1/4 cup flour (Id increase it to 1/3 cup)
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup half & half or heavy cream
pepper
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed
1 Tbsp dried parsley, or 2 Tbsp fresh chopped
1 Single Crust Pie Dough (recipe below)

If making the pie crust, make it first and let it chill for at least an hour while you make the pie filling.

For the crust:

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp shortening, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and chilled
4 Tbsp butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces and chilled
4-5 Tbsp ice water

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in shortening with a pastry cutter. Once it is like course crumbs, cut in the butter. Using a wooden spoon, add 1 Tbsp water at a time and mix vigorously until the dough begins to come together...about 4 Tbsp of water or more. When the dough just comes together in a ball, press it together tightly and wrap with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least an hour. When ready to use, let sit out for 15 minutes to soften before rolling out.

Filling:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large dutch oven, melt and butter over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion and 1/4 tsp salt and cook until softened, about 7 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until just fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in the flour. Slowly stir in 1/2 cup chicken broth, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, deglazing the pan. Stir in the rest of the broth, the half & half. Simmer until the mixture is thickened, about 10-15 minutes.

Stir in the green beans and parsley. Cook for another minute. Pour the mixture into a pie dish or a small casserole dish.

Roll out the pie dough into a 10 inch circle and place on top of the filling. Trim the edges. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is hot and bubbly..about 20-25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Tuna Noodle Casserole


I was in the mood for something easy tonight. We don't eat a lot of casseroles around here since they just dont usually have that healthy of ingredients. I grew up on them and happen to like many different "cream of crap" casseroles. I feel like the soups are pretty much interchangeable in most casserole recipes. I usually use Cream of Chicken, Mushroom or Celery. What I love about casseroles is you can make it in the morning and stick it in the oven at dinner time. Perfect for during the week.

This turned out yummy. I used a cup of leftover chopped broccoli from last night. I also subbed 1 cup shredded chicken, since it was the last of the roasted chicken from a few days ago. I was worried about mixing chicken and tuna, but really it was quite nice. It toned down the tuna taste some, which is good for me.

Tuna Noodle Casserole (my usual recipe, minus the changes)

2 cans tuna
1 can cream of celery soup
1/2-3/4 cup milk (play with the consistency till you find what you like)
1 cup frozen mixed veggies, thawed
1 cup chopped left over veggies
2 cups cooked pasta
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
lots of salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup bread crumbs mixed with 1 tbsp melted butter

Mix the tuna, soup, milk, veggies, pasta and cheese. If the sauce is too thick, add more milk until its pretty saucy. The pasta will absorb a lot of the liquid when it cooks. Season with plenty of salt and pepper. Pour into a greased casserole dish and top with breadcrumbs. Bake 400 degrees for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Serve with a fresh green salad for a nice midweek meal.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Chicken and Veggie Soup


Today I decided to make chicken soup, even though its 100 degrees outside. I have lots of fresh veggies from the farmer's market, and chicken leftover from the whole roasted chicken I made yesterday. That just screams great soup to me. I LOVE soup and its one of the most healthy things we can eat.

Usually when I make soups, they are a bit of experimentation. I pretty much throw in whatever I have instead of following a recipe. Same with the spices. If I don't have fresh herbs, then I mostly use salt and pepper to season soups, I don't like lots of dried spices.

Chicken and Veggie Soup

make the broth:

1 chicken carcass
a few sprigs of fresh herbs (I used Thyme and Rosemary), don't bother chopping
several bay leaves

Put the carcass into a large stock pot and fill with water. Add the herbs and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour. Remove the carcass and herbs, strain if you like. ( I usually don't strain it). I also pour off several cups, usually 4 or more into a bowl to cool and bag up and freeze for later uses. Then what is left, is more than enough for a lot of soup.

make the soup:

1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery ribs, sliced
1 potato diced
2 small zucchini sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 ounces egg noodles

In a small skillet, heat oil and saute onions until softened. Add the garlic and cook about 15 more seconds, then add it to the broth that is remaining in the stock pot.

To the remaining chicken broth in the pot, add carrots, celery. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cover. Let it cook for awhile, as little as 30 minutes, but longer if you like. Then add the chicken and continue to simmer. 30 minutes before serving, add potatoes and zucchini. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 15 minutes before serving, add egg noodles. Serve hot when the pasta is al dente.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Whole Roasted Chicken

Yesterday, my mom gave me a 5 lb whole chicken. Ive never roasted a whole chicken before. I decided that today would be our roasted chicken day. I set out to find a yummy recipe and after looking at several places, America's Test Kitchen Cookbook, Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, and Allrecipes.com..I figured out how I was gonna roast this bird up.

I decided to make an herb butter and pack that between the skin and the breasts, and I rubbed it all over the outside and inside too. Then I rubbed lots of salt and pepper on it. I stuffed it with fruits and veggies then roasted it up. It turned out sooo good. Way better than I ever expected. It was so flavorful, we didnt even need salt and pepper to season it up on the table. Very moist and juicy. I cant believe how easy this was, and Im so excited about making chicken salad sandwiches, chicken soup, and lots of fresh chicken and veggie stock to freeze for later use, out of this one chicken.

This was just so easy and wonderful. I cant wait to roast chickens up with all different stuffings and seasonings. My dog Dude loved it, just by the smell. He didnt get much, but he was sure staring at it...intensely. I gave him and Scotty a few pieces of skin after dinner. I love the pic how Dude is just staring at the chicken. I didnt even notice him there at first. LOL

Here is my wonderful recipe that turned out so good:

1 5 lb whole chicken
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup chopped fresh Thyme
salt and pepper
veggies and fruit for stuffing (this adds a lot of flavor to the chicken and stock. I used 1 carrot, 1 celery, 1 apple halved, 2 long sprigs of fresh rosemary)
1-2 cups water or chicken broth (I used water)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Mix butter and thyme in a bowl until well blended.

Cut up veggies for the stuffing. Quarter a carrot stick and a celery rib. Halve and apple, add a couple sprigs of fresh herbs. I used rosemary. Stuff it all into the cavity. You can use any fruits and veggies you like, just fill it up.

Near the cavity, put your fingers between the skin over the breast and meat and seperate the skin from the bird, but being careful not to tear the skin. Make 2 large pockets over the breasts. Using a spoon or your hands, stuff the herb butter into the pocket between the skin and meat. Pat the skin down, rubbing the butter all over. Then rub herb butter over entire chicken. Season chicken with plenty of salt and pepper, inside and out.

Roast breast side up in a roasting pan, with a v shaped rack to hold the bird. Make sure the rack is greased with cooking spray. Roast the chicken for 2-3 hrs, basting every 30 minutes with drippings.

Its done when it registers 185 degrees on a meat thermometer stuck into the biggest part of the thigh.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Beef and Fresh Veggies over Polenta

I know this isn't the most beautiful picture of food, but it really was good! Its loaded with fresh green beans and zucchini. The veggie filled meat sauce tops a yummy creamy Parmesan polenta. I have tried polenta with my family several ways and they did not like it, but this time around...everyone ate it. Carl even said it was OK. I love polenta, so I'm happy to have found a way to get it into the rotation. I got this from this month's Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine.

The next day, I took the meat and veggie mixture and minced it all up with a food chopper, into a pulp pretty much. Then I froze it into 1/2 cup servings in freezer bags. Its so easy to grab a bag and thaw it in warm water. Its thawed by the time you have pasta or rice cooked and makes for an easy, healthy, veggie packed meal for kids.

Beefy Polenta and Veggie Pie (adapted from Rachael Ray)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

One small zucchini, thinly sliced

1 onion, chopped

1 1/4 pounds ground beef

Salt and pepper
One 14.5-ounce can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes

1 cup instant polenta

1/2 cup half and half

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling

One 10-ounce package frozen green beans, thawed and drained

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and zucchini and cook, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the beef, season with salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, lower the heat and simmer.

2. In a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups water and 3/4 teaspoon salt to a boil. Whisk in the polenta until thickened, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the half and half, Parmesan and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until smooth; pour into a large casserole dish.
3. Stir the green beans into the beef mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring, until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture over the polenta and top with more Parmesan.



Bacon and Egg Mini Muffins


These are a great breakfast that can be made ahead and then frozen in individual baggies for rushed mornings. I love these muffins because they aren't so eggy, and more like the texture of muffins, instead of an omlette. Charlie hates eggs, but he will eat these cause they have more of a bread texture. I adapted this recipe from a recipe in a little Bisquick handout I grabbed from the grocery store years ago. The original recipe is called Shrimp Tarts, but I used bacon instead of shrimp, and cheddar cheese instead of Parmesan. I also added another egg and bit more Bisquick and I'm glad I did because it was the perfect amount for 24 mini muffins. Next time I make these, and it will be soon, I will add another egg or 2 and probably make them in regular sized muffin tins.

Bacon and Egg Mini Muffins

2/3 cup original Bisquick Mix
1/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 eggs
2/3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2-2/3 cup cooked chopped bacon
4 medium green onions, thinly sliced

Heat oven to 400 degrees and spray 24 small muffin cups.

Whisk together Bisquick, half and half, yogurt, Worcestershire sauce and eggs in a small bowl until blended.

Divide the bacon, green onions and cheese in the bottom of each muffin cup. Spoon a Tbsp of the egg mixture into each muffin cup.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden. Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then remove from pan and either eat right away, or cool completely and put into bags and refrigerate for several days, or freeze for 3 months.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Spicy Pumpkin Muffins


These are so yummy. Sam and Charlie are eating them as I type this out. Sam helped me make these babies and now my house smells delicious! I really like these muffins because they have whole wheat flour, and all the spices. I love the ginger and cloves in this! Gives it a little zing!

adapted from a recipe by Joe at Culinary in the Country

Spiced Pumpkin Muffins

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup low fat sour cream (I subbed plain yogurt)
1/4 cup milk (I used Soy)
1 & 1/2 to 2/3 cup mashed pumpkin
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours and the next 6 ingredients (through cloves) and set aside.

In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugars. Add the yogurt, milk, pumpkin, egg, and vanilla. Mix well.

Add the dry flour mixture into the wet and stir just until combined. The batter will be thick.

Lightly coat a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray. Spoon muffin batter into each cup and place in the oven for 25-35 minutes until a wooden toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.

(I also sprinkled on a crumb mix I made of brown sugar, white sugar, flour and butter.)

12 Big muffins

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

E for Excellence Award!


What a nice suprise yesterday when I found out Id received an E for Excellence blog award. Thank you Shawna! If you havent checked out her blog yet, she has a lot of delicious stuff at Daily Deliciousness! Her blog was just started this year (like mine) so go check it out.

Now to nominate a few blogs that have caught my attention recently:

Milk & Honey: Great recipes and stories to go with them.
Sunshine in my Soul: not a cooking blog, but a really inspirational mom of 4 kids just writing about their lives and lots of GREAT photography and decorating ideas.
The Expatriate's Kitchen: A great blog about all things food related! Some great recipes, some great stories, information and articles.
Mrs Sac's Purple Kitchen: well she has some adorable cats. Lots and lots of great recipes and photos of those recipes. Lots of fresh produce, which I like a lot.

Now it is your turn:

Please find at least 10 more blogs, of any kind that you love to read. Write a post about the blogs you picked, linking back to me and to them. Once you’ve posted, return here to let me know your post done and be sure to let them know too!!! (If you don't come up with 10, that's fine too!)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ringing in the Fall: Autumn Cheesecake


This was the recipe of the day on Allrecipes.com a couple days ago and I kept checking back to it all day looking at the picture. I could almost smell it from the computer screen!

I have been itching to get into some fall cooking, even though its not really fall weather here yet. Its hard when I go to the grocery store and see pumpkins and all the other fall stuff. I caved on this one though and I am so glad I did. We took a trip to Walmart yesterday so I could pick up a spring form pan. I ended up with a set of 3 for $11.00! I think that's a steal! But I'm not sure what kind of quality these pans are, but they are Wilton and the cake did turn out FAB! This made my house smell like spicy and sweet fall. We all loved it! Carl is not a huge cheesecake fan, but he went back for seconds on this one. So did I. Charlie wanted seconds, he was standing at the counter screaming and trying to climb up the side of the cabinet to get more. We decided that I have to make this for Thanksgiving this year. This was definitely a 10!

The only modifications I made was that I sliced up my apples really thin and I tossed them in the sugar and cinnamon, then microwaved them for 2 minutes, to soften them a bit. I was worried that the cheesecake would cook up but the apples would be too firm. This worked great and the apples were the perfect soft consistency for this cheesecake.

Autumn Cheesecake (from allrecipes.com)
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups apples - peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a large bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and melted butter; press into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar. Mix at medium speed until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in vanilla; pour filling into the baked crust.

In a small bowl, stir together 1/3 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Toss the cinnamon-sugar with the apples to coat. Spoon apple mixture over cream cheese layer and sprinkle with 1/4 cup chopped pecans.

Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 70 minutes. With a knife, loosen cake from rim of pan. Let cool, then remove the rim of pan. Chill cake before serving.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Caprese Salad


This is one of my favorite salads. I love to sprinkle a little balsamic vinaigrette over the top right before digging in.

3-4 ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2 in. thick slices
enough fresh basil to cover the tops of each tomato
sliced fresh mozzarella cheese, as many slices as tomatoes
olive oil
salt and fresh ground pepper

Set the tomatoes on a plate, top with a basil leave, then a slice of cheese. When they are all finished, arrange them how you prefer, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes before serving to get the tomatoes cold.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Crispy Polenta with Cinnamon and Syrup


I love polenta. I just discovered it recently and I was so bummed that Carl didnt like it at all. I tried it several ways and he wasnt keen on any of it! Bummer! It looks like I have to add Polenta to the growing list of things that I only make when he is gone, or when I am up late at night alone, craving a midnight snack.

I love polenta sliced up and fried in olive oil until its crispy on the outside, but creamy on the inside. Then sprinkled with some cinnamon a pat of butter and some maple syrup....YUMMY!

Crispy Polenta with Cinnamon and Syrup

Sliced cold polenta about 1/2 inch thick
1 Tbsp olive oil
a dash of cinnamon
1 Tbsp Maple Syrup

Heat olive oil on medium high heat in a cast iron skillet until hot and almost smoking. Fry polenta slices for several minutes on both sides until golden and crispy. Drizzle syrup onto a plate, top with crispy polenta slices. Sprinkle cinnamon over the top and dab with a pat of butter. Enjoy.

Crispy Chicken Parmesan

I used to work at The Olive Garden and one of my favorite dishes they served was Chicken Parmesan. I loved how crispy it was, but the chicken inside that crispy crust was dry and bland.

This Chicken Parmesan that I made turned out way better than The Olive Garden. The key to a good Chicken Parmesan or other similar dishes like Eggplant Parmesan, or Schnitzel, is a CRISPY crust. Not a soggy greasy crust that falls off before you take the first bite. I think the secret to a crispy crust lies in the temp of the oil when you fry it, and also the way you bread it. I like to dip mine in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs. And the oil needs to be almost smoking hot before you put the chicken into the pan. And don't overcrowd the pan. Just a few pieces at a time, or the oil temp goes down and they don't fry and crisp up properly. Keep the finished ones in a warm oven while the rest are frying.

My mother in law came over, unexpectedly tonight and had dinner with us. She said this was Sooo good. I was thinking I kinda slacked since I used a jarred marinara sauce, but I do have to admit, the sauce was yummy and the chicken came out perfectly...it was good!!

Chicken Parmesan

1 lb chicken breast cutlets
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
3 cups bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 eggs
2 tbsp water
enough oil to fill a pan up 1/4 inch
1 jar prepared marinara sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Pound out the chicken breasts so that they are 1/2 inch thick. Salt and pepper both sides.

In a shallow dish, mix flour, salt, pepper, and paprika. In another shallow dish, mix bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, oregano, salt and pepper. In another shallow dish whisk the eggs with the water.

Heat oil in a pan until hot and almost smoking. Dip the chicken cutlets into the flour, then the egg mixture, then into the bread crumbs...pressing to make the crumbs stick to the chicken. Fry for several minutes on each side. When golden brown and crisp, remove from pan onto a paper towel lined baking dish. Keep hot in a 200 degree oven until all chicken in fried. Increase oven temp to 435. When chicken is cooked, put into a greased baking dish and spoon marinara sauce over the cutlets. Top with cheese. Put back into oven and bake 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted and browned. Serve with spaghetti and marinara sauce on the side.



Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mahi Mahi with Almond and fresh Thyme crust


What a great dinner this turned out to be. I didnt follow a recipe, just made it up as I went. I loved the almond and thyme in this. Gave it such a great flavor! We like our fish seasoned simply with a little salt and pepper and maybe some lemon or fresh herbs. This was so simple and fresh. For the bread crumbs, I used a slice of Hawaiian Delight bread, by Alpine Valley Bread Co...some of my favorite bread ever. It is white bread with little shreds of coconut and dried pineapple. Perfect for Mahi Mahi. I served this with grilled veggie skewers and Jasmine Rice with Tom Yum sauce, from Trader Joes, and a lemon wedge. It all came together nicely and was a great combo!

Mahi Mahi steaks with Almond and fresh Thyme crust.

2 Mahi Mahi steaks
salt, pepper and olive oil

Almond topping:
1/4 cup finely chopped almonds
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 Tbsp chopped fresh Thyme
1 Tbsp chopped lemon zest
dash of salt and pepper
1-2 tsp butter cut into small pieces

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Put both Mahi Mahi steaks onto baking sheet and season both sides lightly with salt and pepper. Brush the tops with olive oil, or spray with cooking spray.

To make the topping for the crust, take a slice of fresh white bread and toast it, then process it in the food processor to make crumbs. Use 1/4 cup of the crumbs and mix with almonds, cheese, thyme, lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste. Press 1/2 of the topping onto the tops of each Mahi Mahi steak. Top the crust with little pats of butter. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork and the crust is golden brown. Serve immediately.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Peach Crisp

A couple days ago, my neighbor gave me a bunch of peaches that she had shipped in from Utah. I was so excited to have something to inspire me to try a new recipe. Ive been so busy lately, I just havent had time to try out new stuff that is blog worthy. We've been eating the usual standby's, and as good as they are, I get antsy to try new recipes when its been awhile. I found this recipe for Peach Crisp in my mom's America's Test Kitchen cookbook. I like the ingredients of a crisp more than a cobbler. Im not for such a huge floury crust. So I added some granola to the topping to crunch it up even more. This was so sweet and yummy. I thought it would be hard to core and peel the peaches, but it was a cinch. This definitely would mark my first "Fall" recipe. My house smelled beautiful today...all spicy and fruity, like Fall should smell! I am so happy the weather is cooling down and my kitchen wont be so hot...I cant wait to cook more fall stuff!

From The America's Test Kitchen Cookbook

Peach Crisp

Topping:
6 Tbsp Flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
(I added 1/2 cup granola to this)

Filling:
3 lbs peaches (7-9)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (or to taste based on sweetness of peaches)
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon zest (I omitted)
2 tsp corn starch

1. For the topping: Mix the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and granola together. Add the butter and toss to coat. Pinch the butter chunks and dry mixture between your fingertips until the mixture looks like crumbly wet sand. Add the nuts and toss to incorporate, Refrigerate the topping for at least 15 minutes before baking.

2. For the filling: Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix the peaches, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and corn starch together and place in a 9 inch pie plate. Distribute the chilled topping evenly over the fruit.

3. Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is deep golden brown, about 40 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Creamy Ziti with Peas and Ham


My mom came over the other day and left one of her cookbooks here for me to look at. The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. Its a compilation of 1200 recipes that have been tested with different and sometimes mediocre kitchen equipment, and even wrong ingredients, to come up with tried and true recipes that work the first time.

I was flipping through it with Sam and every single page, he would point to pictures and ask, "whats that?" And I would lovingly answer his questions. Well, you can imagine that after a few chapters of that, it was time to be done with looking through cook books. I did make it through the pasta section and I came across this recipe that I had almost everything on hand, so I tried it for dinner tonight.

This recipe took less than the 25 minutes it says it takes. It was easy and actually pretty light compared to other creamy pasta dishes Ive made. Carl even went back for 2nds, and he normally hated creamy pasta dishes. The pic just doesnt do this justice. It looked and tasted great!

Creamy Ziti with Peas and Ham
(adapted from America's Test Kitchen)

1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp butter, cut into 8 pieces
4 ounces thick sliced ham, diced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb small pasta (I used mini ziti, the recipe called for mini shells)
2 cups frozen peas
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (half of one lemon squeezed)

1. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil for the pasta.

2. Combine the ricotta, Parmesan, butter, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, in a serving bowl large enough to hold the pasta.

3. Cook the ham in the oil in a 12 inch skillet until the ham is cooked through and browned. Drain onto a plate lined with paper towels, reserving the oil.

4. Cook the onions in the oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Remove from heat and add to the ricotta mixture, stir to mix well.

5. When the water is boiling, stir in 1 tbsp salt and the pasta. Cook stirring often, until the pasta is almost tender, but still a little firm to the bite. Add the peas during the final 30 seconds of the pasta cooking.

6. Reserve 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain the shells and peas. Whisk the lemon juice and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water into the ricotta mixture until smooth. Add the shells and peas and toss to coat. Add the reserved ham, and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Save the remaining 1/4 cup pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce before serving.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Yummy Grilled Veggie Skewers


This is a really easy, healthy way to eat veggies with grilled meats. In a little while, our neighbors are coming over to swim and grill and I'm making the Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon that I recently posted about. I want to tell you how I make these wonderful veggie skewers. Its so easy and so yummy! A delicious way of getting more fresh veggies into our diets.

1/2 cup olive oil
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 cloves of garlic
veggies chopped into 1 inch pieces such as onions, bell peppers, whole cherry tomatoes, zucchini, whole mushrooms.
bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes

Just wash the rosemary and set aside, you don't need to chop it up or anything. Smash the garlic cloves and peel off the outside layer and discard. Don't chop the cloves, just leave them smashed. Heat the olive oil on low heat and add the rosemary sprigs and garlic cloves. When it gets hot enough for the herbs to start sizzling, remove from heat and stir a bit to cool it down then just let it sit and cool for several hrs, letting all that fragrant rosemary and garlic infuse into the oil

When you're ready to make your veggie skewers, assemble the skewers with all the veggies, then brush them with the rosemary garlic infused oil on all sides. Season with plenty of salt and fresh ground pepper. They are ready to go on the grill. You can also cover them and let them sit and marinate for up to 2 hrs before grilling.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ortega Taco Casserole


Another recipe I spotted in a blog I read, Milk & Honey. Anyways, this is a pretty classic taco casserole. It came off the back of the Ortega Taco Shell box. Its been awhile since I tried a recipe off the box like this. It was actually very good. We ended up having company when I served this and I was happy when everyone kept telling me it was really good. I added green bell peppers to the onions when I was browning the meat and instead of green chilies, I added sliced black olives. Then I served it with fresh tomatoes and green onions and sour cream. We had a nice big green salad with this too. It was good and there were no leftovers. A nice change from regular tacos.

Ortega Taco Casserole (original recipe)
1 pound ground beef
1 cup (1 small) chopped onion (I also added 1 cup diced bell pepper)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup water
1 cup Taco Sauce
1 4 oz can sliced black olives
1 package Taco Seasoning Mix
1 package (12) Ortega® Taco Shells or (12) Ortega® White Corn Taco Shells, broken, divided
2 cups Mild Cheddar Cheese, divided
Chopped tomatoes (optional)
Sliced green onions (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 375º F.

  1. Cook beef, onion (and bellpeppers) and garlic in a large saucepan until beef is browned.

  2. Stir in water, taco sauce, chilies, 1/4 cup olives and seasoning mix.

  3. Let this simmer over low heat for 3 to 4 minutes.

  4. Lay out half of the broken shells on the bottom of a greased 12 x 8-inch baking dish.

  5. Cover with half of the meat sauce. Sprinkle with 1 cup cheese, then repeat with remaining taco shells, meat sauce and cheese to create layers of the different ingredients.

  6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted.

  7. Top the casserole with tomatoes and green onions and sour cream.

5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake


Someone posted this recipe on the Nest and I just had to try it out. First I researched it a bit and found that it was posted in tons of discussion boards and lots of bloggers had tried it out already, but all the reviews I read were pretty mixed. So, I spent the 5 minutes it took to whip this baby up. Was it worth the 5 minutes? I have to say no it was not. It was very dense, not light like cake usually is. And it was pretty wet and rubbery, like a sponge that my fork had a hard time cutting. It was very bland and had almost no chocolate flavor at all. It was probably one of the most disgusting cakes Ive ever taken a bite of. And that is all I had, 1 bite and the rest of it went straight into the trash. So I would not recommend trying this one at home. LOL



5 MINUTE CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE


4 tablespoons cake flour(that's plain flour, not self-rising)


4 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 egg

3 tablespoons milk

3 tablespoons oil

3 tablespoons chocolate chips(optional)

a small splash of vanilla essence
1 coffee mug


Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla essence, and mix again. Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed! Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.