Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fresh Orange Guacamole

I love Guacamole. My husband, on the other hand won't go near it, so if I make it, I need to make sure company is coming. If not, I get to eat the whole thing! That was the case this time so I made half a batch of this recipe from the December issue of Southern Living magazine. I ate the whole thing!
I was enamoured as soon as I saw the photo of this Fresh Orange Guacamole, so I had to try it. The avocado is mixed with onion, jalapeno, orange, and orange juice. It can be topped with a few pomegranate seeds for extra color if desired. It is a very pretty presentation. It is different, but I liked the burst of orange flavor with each bite of orange I took. I did miss the lime juice that I normally use though. Lime gives this dip some punch, something that the orange juice didn't. I couldn't taste the orange juice at all, and the jalapeno I used had very little flavor. I am going to make this again, and try using lime juice instead of the orange juice. But, I'd still love to find this guacamole at any food event, and certainly it would be a wonderful addition to a New Years celebration. So give it a try if you are looking for a new way to serve your guacamole.

Fresh Orange Guacamole
adapted slightly from Southern Living - 1/2 recipe
2 ripe avocados
1/2 of a navel orange, peeled and cut into 1/2 in. pieces
1 tablespoon finely diced red onion
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
1/2  jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced- I did not use this
salt and pepper to taste
fresh pomegranate seeds for garnish- optional

Scoop avocado pulp into a bowl and mash with a fork until chunky. Stir in the orange and the rest of the ingredients, except the pomegranate seeds. Cover and chill at least 1 hour. Garnish with pomegranate seed if desired. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

White Bean and Ham Soup

 Christmas is over for another year. It takes so long to get ready for Christmas, and then it's over so quickly. And the meals take hours of  preparation, and then we eat and you have a ton of leftovers. It's a good thing we like leftovers.But we'll do it all agin next year, and enjoy every minute of it.
 We always bake a bone-in ham for our Christmas dinner. No other kind will do, and that gives me a ham bone to use for cooking a pot of bean soup. I make sure to leave some meat on the bone so that the beans will have some meat in them too.
 I chop up some vegetables to add to the pot and let it all cook into a delicious and hearty soup. And of course there must be corn bread. I used Great Northern Beans for this soup, but you could also use navy, or cannellini beans. Sometimes I make Pinto Beans and Ham, which are also delicious. So leftover ham is a good problem to have. I always soak the beans in water overnight, or else I use a quick soak method, where you bring the beans to a boil, then cover and remove from the heat to let them soak for 1 hour. Then pour off the water. Add more water to the pot, then begin to cook. After wards you'll have a pot of delicious comfort food, White Bean and Ham Soup.
White Bean and Ham Soup

2 pounds dried white beans, I used Great Northerns
1 ham bone with meat
1 large onion, diced
1 cup diced carrots
2 stalks of celery, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 dried bay leaves
1 can of low sodium chicken broth, or about 2 cups chicken stock
about 6 cups of water
salt and pepper to taste
fresh minced parsley- optional

1. Sort the beans and then soak the beans. I pour part of the beans on the counter and go through them to remove any dirt or small particles of rock that may have snuck in the bag. Repeat until all the beans have been sorted. Rinse the beans well under water. Place in a soup pot. Add water to cover. I gave the beans a quick soak by bringing the pot to a boil, then turning off the burner, cover and let them soak for 1 hour. Pour off the water. Place the beans back in the soup pot on the burner. Add the ham bone, the chicken broth and the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover.
2. While the beans are cooking, dice the onion, celery and carrots. Add to the pot with the bay leaves. Cook, covered for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans are tender. Beans will smash easily against the side of the pan when they are done.
3 Remove the ham bone from the beans and cool until cool enough to handle. Now, I like the bean soup to be a bit creamy with a thick broth, so I take a big spoon and smash some beans against the side of the pan  and stir them back in. I do this several times until the soup begins to look creamy. I guess you could use an immersion blender, but I haven't tried that.
4. After the ham bone has cooled enough, take the meat off the bone and discard any fat. Put the ham into the soup and season well with salt and pepper. I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in this soup, but it will depend on how salty the ham is as to how much you have to add. Serve this soup with a huge chuck of corn bread and enjoy!

NOTE: Dried beans will take longer to cook in high altitudes. Also if the beans are older, they will also take longer to cook, so plan plenty of time when cooking dried beans.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tortilla Pinwheel Appetizers

 I know, Tortilla Pinwheels have been around for years, but they are still a great appetizer to have in your arsenal. I've been making them for years and these pinwheels are always devoured. Cream cheese with sour cream, cheese, chilies, olives and green onions - whats not to love? They are a wonderful holiday appetizer and best served the day they are made. Here's my recipe.

Tortilla Pinwheel Appetizers
slightly adapted from and old Taste of Home recipe
Note: These should be made several hours before they are served. While they can be made a day ahead, the tortillas get really soft on the second day.

1 8 ounce package cream cheese- softened
1 cup sour cream- I use low fat
1 4 ounce can chopped black olives
1 4 ounce can chopped green chilies
1/2 half a large red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup diced green onions
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
5 large tortillas, (10 inch, burrito size) plain or flavored - I used Missions Jalapeno Cheddar Wraps

In a large bowl, cream the softened cream cheese. I used a mixer for this. Mix in the sour cream, and then the remaining ingredients by hand, except the tortillas. Divide the cream cheese filling evenly among the 5 tortillas and spread over the tortillas. Roll up the tortillas as tightly as possible with out squeezing out the filling. Wrap in plastic wrap and leave in the fridge, until cold, at least a couple of hours.When ready to serve, cut off the ends of the tortilla wraps. The filling won't be in the very ends, so they aren't needed. Slice the Tortilla Pinwheels into slices with a sharp knife,  and arrange on a serving platter. I cut into about 3/4 inch slices. Serve along side your favorite salsa if desired. For several years we have had appetizers for our Christmas Eve together, and Tortilla Pinwheels are usually there. Hope you enjoy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Molasses Sugar Cookies

I'm a bit late starting with my Christmas baking, but had to make these wonderful cookies. You will have the spicy aroma of cinnamon, ginger and cloves, with a touch of molasses wafting through your home if you make these Molasses Sugar Cookies. This was my dear Mother-in-Law's recipe and I loved it when she would bring us some of these tasty, spice laden cookies. These delicious cookies will be an addition to my cookie gifts this year, if my husband and I can stay out of them, that is!
My Mother-in-Law passed away about a month ago, but making her cookies made her seem very near and dear yesterday. I put on some Christmas music, turned on the lights on the tree and got busy with cookie making. If you haven't made Molasses Sugar Cookies yet, give them a try. I think you'll like them. Here's the recipe.

Molasses Sugar Cookies
a family recipe

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves- my MIL used 1/2 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Melt the shortening in a sauce pan over low heat. Remove from heat and let cool some. Add the sugar, molasses and the egg to the melted shortening and beat well.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and the spices. Mix well. Add the shortening mixture to the flour mixture and mix until all incorporated. Chill, covered, in the refrigerator for at least one hour, or overnight.
To bake: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and then roll each ball into granulated sugar. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 8-10 minutes. Cookies will look crackled. Cool on baking racks. I hope you enjoy our Molasses Sugar Cookies!

For more cookie recipes for your Christmas baking, click here.
NOTE: I have substituted butter for the shortening before, which does work, although the cookies were flatter. But of course the butter tasted good. :)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Apricot Almond Bars

 I love bar cookies. They normally require less preparation time than single cookies and that's a plus when you are busy. These Apricot Almond Bars were very rich, from the buttery sweet crust, the sweet but tart apricot jam filling, and the topping which contains not only almonds, but meringue and coconut too. My husband and I loved them, so they didn't last long. I have a weakness for chocolate, so these bars were a nice change, and they would be a good recipe for any Christmas cookie exchange. They are a keeper.
I lined the baking pan with foil and then sprayed it with cooking spray. That way you can lift out the whole pan of bars before cutting them. Using a long, sharp knife I cut them neatly into serving sizes that look great on a serving tray when serving to guests. These cookie bars will be a perfect addition to the upcoming Christmas festivities.
I've been wanting to blog these all week but we've had some computer issues, so I guess it's better late than never. I hope you'll give Apricot Almond Bars a try real soon.

Apricot Almond Bars
Adapted from Taste Of Home

3/4 cup butter, softened- I used salted butter
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup apricot preserves or jam- I needed about 1 more tablespoon
3 egg whites
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1 cup sliced almonds, divided
In a large bowl, cream the butter with the powdered sugar. Gradually mix in the flour and blend well. Press mixture into the bottom of a greased 9x13 inch pan. Or, line the pan with foil, grease it well and then press in the crust mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes until golden.
Spread the jam over the crust. In a large bowl beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time until incorporated and stiff peaks form. Fold in the coconut and 1/2 cup of the almonds. Gently spread this mixture over the apricot jam. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of almonds. Bake at 350 degree F. for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Cool completely before cutting.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. We had a lovely day and then went out of town to Branson for several days. Now Christmas preparations are in full swing, but I had to share this appetizer recipe that I made awhile back. If you need a tasty appetizer to feast upon while watching a football game, or something to add to your party repertoire, or even just to feed your kids after school, these Pizza Puffs would be for you.These Pepperoni Pizza Puffs are crisp on the outside, and full of pizza flavor on the inside. Kids and adults both like them, so you might want to make them too. This recipe is quick to stir up, baked in a mini muffin pan, and then dipped in pizza sauce. They go quickly! Here's the recipe.

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs
adapted from Noble Pig
Makes 24 Pizza Puffs

3/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup milk- I use 2 %
1 egg, beaten
4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
4 ounces pepperoni, cut into small cubes- about 1 cup
1/2 teaspoon dried basil or Italian seasoning, or about 2 teaspoons fresh basil
1/2 cup pizza sauce warmed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl add the flour and baking powder.. Stir in the milk and the beaten egg, and then the mozzarella, basil and pepperoni. Let the batter rest for 10 minutes. Spray a 24 count mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Stir the batter and then spoon mixture evenly into each muffin cup. Bake for 25 minutes until golden. Remove Pepperoni Pizza Puffs to a plate and serve with warmed pizza sauce for dipping. Enjoy!
You may add additional fresh basil to the pizza sauce if desired.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Baked Acorn Squash with Bacon

 Baked squash is one of my favorite fall and winter foods. I loved them even as a child as I wasn't a picky eater at all. I watched in anticipation as my mother would prepare acorn squash for baking, and then when they were almost done, she'd add brown sugar, bacon, and butter to the cavity wherer the seeds had been. You don't need a recipe for this dish, just a large sharp knife and a steady hand. I also found a Carnival squash to bake along side the acorn. It's bright and colorful, but still tastes like the acorn squash. You can use brown sugar or maple syrup in these beauties, and use as much, or as little butter that you want. The butter and sugar combo does soak into the squash as it sits, so it's best to serve them fairly soon after they come out of the oven.
If you can, cut of the stem from the squash. Then holding onto the squash, cut through it from the stem to the pointed end. Take a spoon and scape out all the seeds and as much of the stringy fibers that you can.
 Now you have cups to hold that wonderful filling! Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and lay the squash cut side down on the pan. They need to cook upside down so the interior will stay tender. After they are done, turn over and fill with as much brown sugar, or maple syrup, and butter as you want. Add bacon then too, or wait until ready to eat. It's your call when to add the cooked bacon.
BAKED ACORN SQUASH with BACON
You will need 1 squash for every 2 people. Try to buy squash that are similar in size for baking. Baking time will vary, depending on the size of the squash.

1. Cook bacon in a skillet. You will need 1 slice of bacon for each squash half. Crumble when it's cool. Set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2.  Wash the squah; dry. With a large knife, cut the squash in half from the stem end to the pointed end. Using a spoon scoop out all the seeds and the stringy fibers and discard.
3. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Lay squash cut side down on pan and place in the oven.
4. Bake until the squash feels close to done when touched. Depending on the size, it can take from 30-45 mintues to be almost tender. With a spatula, turn the squash halves over. Add butter and brown sugar to each squash. I used about 1 tablespoon brown sugar to each, and added about 2 teasppons butter also. You may use more, and I'm sure I have used more than this before, because I don't measure. I just eyeball it. More is better in this case! You can also use maple syrup instead of brown sugar. Place the squash back into the oven and bake about 15 minutes more until the squash is tender. Remove from oven and add crumbled bacon to each squash.
I have to admit, I eat the squash with a spoon sometimes, ( most of the time ). I scrape all the squash together and mix it with the fillings. With a spoon I can get every last tidbit of deliciousness!
NOTE: You can test for tenderness by poking the flesh of the squash with a fork. If it is soft, it is done. Just don't poke through the shell, or the filling will run out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sausage and Cornbread Dressing


 I love dressing. It is one of my favorite components of Thanksgiving dinner. I like it better than turkey. I'll even take it over mashed potatoes. For me, dressing is on the same level as homemade cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and apple pie.
I've always made an all bread stuffing, but I have memories of eating a super delicious cornbread stuffing years ago at a church dinner. This Cook's Country recipe is wonderful, perfect in almost every way, and reminded me of that long ago dressing. You need to make the corn bread a couple of days ahead, to cut down on food preparations on the big day. I made only half the recipe, because a 9x13 pan is way too much for just my hubby and me. He stills prefers a bread stuffing, but I have been in heaven with this stuff. Even though this recipe contains sausage, the dressing would be equally delicious without the meat. I did double the sage and  I added alittle bit of sugar (gasp!) to the cornbread recipe. I'm one of those people that like some sweetness to the cornbread. Here's the full recipe, for the cornbread, and then the dressing, with my changes added.

Sausage and Cornbread Stuffing
Slightly adapted from America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Country.
Cornbread can be made up to 2 days ahead to have time to stale.

Cornbread Recipe:
2 2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup oil
4 large eggs
2 cups cornmeal
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sugar- my addition

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x13 inch baking pan. In a bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, and oil. In another bowl combine, flour, cornmeal, salt and sugar. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, whisking until smooth.
2. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until golden and toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in pan.
3. If the cornbread is made 2 days in advance, you may not need to oven-dry the cornbread. If using freshly baked cornbread, cut cooled bread into 1 inch cubes and place on 2 baking sheets. Place pans in a250 degree oven for about 50-60 minutes. Cool.

DRESSING:
1 1/2 pounds bulk pork sausage- I used Jimmy Dean
2 onions, finely chopped
4 ribs celery, finely chopped-- the recipe calls for 3 ribs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves minced garlic- recipe calls for 4 cloves
2 teaspoons dried sage- Recipe calls for 1 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme- recipe calls for 1 teaspoon thyme
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth- I needed a little more
1 cup half and half
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of cayenne pepper- recipe calls for 1/8 teaspoon

1. Cook sausage in a skillet over medium high heat, but turn heat down if it begins to burn. Transfer sausage to a paper towel lined plate, reserving 2 tablespoons of grease in the skillet and adding 2 tablespoons of butter also. I did not have hardly any grease, so I added 4 of the tablespoons of butter to the skillet. Add the onion and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add sage, thyme and garlic to the pan and saute about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth, and remove the pan from the heat. Cool about 5 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half and half, salt and cayenne. Slowly stir in the warm broth mixture. Fold  in the cubed cornbread and the cooked sausage. Let the mixture sit, tossing occasionally, until all the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
3. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan. Pour the dressing mixture into the pan and drizzle with the leftover melted butter. I forgot to do that and didn't really miss it, but more butter is great in stuffing. The dressing still came out golden and delicious. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden and crisp. Serve and enjoy.

Are you a fan of cornbread dressing, or do you prefer a bread dressing?


Monday, November 14, 2011

Easy Cranberry and Apple Cake from Ina Garten

 This is an awesome tasting cake. One reason I wanted to try this cake was because it is small. Since my husband and I are now empty nesters, I don't want lots of dessert sitting around. Another reason for this cake is because I love cranberries and apples together. The cranberries and apple are mixed with brown sugar, cinnamon, orange juice and zest, and placed in baking dish. Then batter is spread over the berry mixture and it bakes and is ready to eat as soon as it comes out of the oven, if you wish! And boy does it smell good while baking! It is better served warm, so there's no torture waiting for it to cool down. Add whipped cream or ice cream if you wish. I like it best without adornment, so I can taste the lovely tart fruit that is infused with cinnamon and orange. I'm addicted. The only changes I made were minor; I used low fat sour cream because that's what I had. I only used the zest from 1 orange, instead of 2. This Cranberry and Apple Cake would be delicious anytime, even for Thanksgiving dinner. I even had it for breakfast this morning (hehe). I hope you'll give it a try.
Easy Cranberry and Apple Cake
adapted slightly from Ina Garten
NOTE: There is no baking powder or soda in this recipe.
12 ounces fresh cranberries
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 cup light brown sugar
zest of 1 orange- Ina says 2 oranges zested
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided ( 1/8 teas. for topping)
2 large eggs- Ina uses extra large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for topping
1 stick unsalted butter - 1/4 pound
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sour cream - I used lowfat because that's what I had
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Combine cranberries, diced apple, brown sugar, orange juice and zest, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a bowl. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs on medium high speed for 2 minutes. Add the 1 cup sugar, melted butter, vanilla and sour cream and beat until just combined. Slowly add the flour and salt at low speed.
Pour the fruit mixture into a 10 inch pie plate. Pour or spoon the batter over the fruit, covering completely. Sprinkle top with mixture of 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake for 55-60 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Try not to eat the whole thing!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Easy Slow Cooker Stew

Stew is one of my favorite meals to have during the cold months of the year. Cooking it in the slow cooker makes it super easy. Last week when my Mother-in-law passed away, we had extra people to feed, so I dug out my crock pot and got to work. Peeling the potatoes and carrots were the most time consuming. Plus, I cut up a chuck roast, instead of buying stew meat. By using a roast, I feel I'm using a better quality of beef for the stew. When making stew, there doesn't need to be a recipe. Just use the vegetables you like and  you can also use up any leftover veggies you may have in the fridge.
Here's what I did this time.

Slow Cooker Stew
1 beef chuck roast, cut into cubes- I had a 2 1/4 pound roast
potatoes, peeled and cubed
carrots, peeled and sliced- I used almost 1 pound this time
1 onion, diced
2 ribs of celery, sliced
2 cups frozen corn
2 cups frozen peas
1 can diced tomatoes
green beans and any other vegetables you want to use
1 can low sodium beef broth
1 or 2 bay leaves
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
parsley
salt and pepper to taste
water

Cut the beef roast into cubes. Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat. Add a tablespoon of oil to the pan, and then add half of the beef cubes. Add salt and pepper to the meat. Brown meat in the hot oil turning when browned on one side. While the beef browns, peel and cut up the potatoes and carrots and add them to the crock pot. Then, remove the beef and add to the crock pot. Add another tablespoon of oil to the dutch oven and add the rest of the beef. When it is brown on the side, stir and add the chopped onion and garlic, if using. Turn the heat down if necessary to keep the pan from burning.
Add the beef broth to the browning meat and stir up all the brown bits that are in the pan. There will be a ton of flavor in those brown bits from the meat. Don't skip browning the meat for the stew as browning gives it so much flavor. Add all the meat and broth to the slow cooker, the tomatoes, then the rest of the vegetables you are going to use. Fill the cooker with water to cover the stew. Add the bay leaves and salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours, or on high for 4-5 hours, or until the meat is tender.
Sometimes I thicken the stew a bit by adding 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to about 1/4 cup water. Mix well and add to the stew, stirring carefully. Cover the stew and cook another 30 minutes. When done, you have a delicious hot stew to warm you up. Enjoy!
This coming week I'll be posting some Thanksgiving recipes, so be sure to stop back by!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

I'm back! My daughter is happily married and life has slowed down a bit now, so I am ready to to blog again.
Boy do I love this time of year! We have had the most beautiful fall; The trees are just now turning their brillant colors, the air is crisp and there are pumpkins decorating almost every porch. I love just about anything made with pumpkin, so I deciced to make pumpkin cookies for the first time. Why I haven't made them before now, I don't know. I usually make bars, bread or pie and stop there. But I've added these delicious cookies to my recipe box now. these Pumpkin Cookies are cake-like, soft and moist, and topped with addictive cream cheese frosting. I made these and took a platter full to a meeting I went to and they were devoured quickly. It's hard to eat just one of cookies. I dare you to make these and eat just one! Here's the recipe.

Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Tasty Kitchen

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt


Mix butter, sugar together until smooth. Then add the agg; mixwell and add the 1 cup pumpkin.
In another bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Mix the dry ingredients with the pumpkin mixture in 2 parts. Mix well. Dough is going to be very soft. I used a tablespoon to measure the dough for cookies. You can refridgerate the dough to make it a bit easier to handle, if desired. Scoop dough evenly onto baking sheets and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake 9-10minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and cool completly before frosting with the Cream Cheese Frosting.

CREAM Cheese FROSTING
 !/2 cup softened butter
1- 8 ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
3 1/2 cups powdered sugat
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese together with a mixer. Add the vanilla and then the powdered sugar, a little at a time. Mix until smooth and creamy. If the frosting is too stiff add a little milk or cream to loosen a bit.

NOTE: I only used about half of the frosting on these cookies. But since the cookies are not very sweet, you may want to use more than I did.
These are awesome cookies!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Will Be Back!

I have been gone from my blog far too long my friends. I didn't intend to take such a long break, but with the long hot summer that we had, I really didn't do any exciting cooking at all. Just quick, boring stuff came from my kitchen in that awful heat. However, the most important reason why I've been missing is that my daughter is getting married this Friday and we are so busy with all the last minute stuff that accompanies a wedding! My 2 sons have both married, but having a daughter get hitched is a whole lot different. So many more details.
I just wanted to let you all know that I'll be back real soon, as soon as I rest up from this wedding. I'm stressed; after all my Baby is getting married!
Thank you to all of you who have continued to stop by and even left comments. My husband and I will be empty nesters after Friday, so we'll see how the cooking changes. Can't wait to try some new fall dishes!  Love ya!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blueberry Scones with Orange Glaze

With blueberry season here I thought I'd share this delicious scone recipe from the archives. The first time I made these scones, I didn't care at all for the runny sauce with the recipe, so I've reduced the amounts and made a simple glaze that is much better. These Blueberry Scones are wonderful; crisp and golden on the outside and soft and tender inside with fresh blueberries in every bite. They have become a favorite on mine, so I hope you'll give them a try.

Blueberry Scones with Orange Glaze
adapted from Tyler Florence

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted cold butter, cut into cubes
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup fresh blueberries

Orange Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tablespoon very soft butter
enough orange juice to make glaze

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Stir together the dry  ingredients in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut in the cold butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like coarse crumbs. Carefully stir in the blueberries, and then the heavy cream. Be careful to not mash the blueberries.
Press the dough into an 8 inch circle; cut dough into 8-10 slices, like you would a pie. Carefully place slices on a baking sheet. Brush tops with some heavy cream. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let the scones cool a bit before applying the glaze.
For glaze: Mix the powdered sugar, butter and about 1 tablespoon of orange juice until smooth. Add more orange juice if needed, to get the consistency you like. Drizzle glaze over the scones after they have cooled a bit. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

 I have been gone from my blog too long and have missed reading your blogs so much. I'm trying to catch up, but I've been so busy. Our church has been a temporary home for some firefighters and other volunteers that came to help after the Joplin tornado 2 weeks ago. I can't believe it's already been two weeks! Anyway, some of my friends and I have been cooking breakfast and dinner for these hardworking men and women that have so unselfishly come to give a helping hand to those in need. Joplin and the surrounding area has been flooded with these wonderful people. Last Sunday, my husband and I went through part of Joplin, and believe me, the destruction is much worse looking in person. Such an overwhelming task is before the city. It looks as though a huge bomb was dropped and wiped out 1/3 of the city. The tornado was upgraded to and EF5 tornado, the strongest there is. The high school and 2 other schools were completely demolished and other schools were damaged. St Johns Hospital was destroyed. Thankfully there is another hospital in town. One hundred and thirty eight people have lost their lives so far. When you see what's left of the city, you can't help think that it's miracle that more weren't killed. I guess the 2nd siren got peoples attention. So much was lost.
On a positive note, our friends are improving. Sharon, the grandmother, is out of the hospital but fighting infection. The granddaughter is also home. The grandson is still very critical, but has opened his eyes and spoken a couple of words. They still have a far to go.
I made this delicious Banana Cake with Cream Cheese frosting for dinner one evening when the firefighters were here. There was none left. This awesome cake is supposed to be a layer cake, and I've made it that way before, but was in a hurry this time. But it's wonderful either way. The cake is not as heavy as banana bread, but it still has the yummy banana flavor and moist texture. And cream cheese frosting is the crowning glory! I've made this cake several times and it has become one of our favorite cakes. I hope you'll give it a try.
BANANA CAKE with CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
adapted slightly from Evil Shenanigans

1 cup mashed bananas
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla

1. Grease pans. This cake will make a layer cake using 2- 9 inch round pans, or a 9x13 inch sheet cake.
2. In a bowl mash the bananas. It takes about 2 large ones. Stir in the buttermilk.
3. In another bowl mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together.
4. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Stir in the eggs and vanilla and beat well.
5. Alternately add the dry ingredients into the butter mixture with the dry ingredients, mixing well after each addition. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven. If using a dark colored pan, reduce the heat to 325 degrees. Bake for about 35 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back when lightly touched. Cool round cake pans for 10 minutes, then turn out on cooling racks to cool completely. Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
1- 8 ounce package of cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 1/2 cup to 4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

With a mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together.  Mix in the vanilla and then add the powdered sugar a bit at a time. Beat until smooth and creamy. If frosting is too stiff to spread add teaspoon or more of milk or cream. This is enough frosting for a 2 layer cake. It will be too much frosting for a 9x13 inch cake, so I freeze whats left. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sauteed Pork Chops with Caramalized Onions and Balsamic Vinegar

Thank you for the comments and prayers for our tornado ravaged area this week. Clean up in Joplin is going to take such a long time but we are amazed at all of the volunteers that have come from all over to help out. There's been so many tragic stories that we heard, but also some with happy endings. I will share some of them soon. One thing is for sure, people have really pulled together to get things done.

And now, something delicious to eat! Pork chops are a wonderful meat to have on a weeknight, and if you add caramelized onions that have been drenched in Balsamic vinegar, you've got a delicious entree fit for any occasion. I made these tasty chops last week and thoroughly enjoyed every bite. My husband however decided that he's not overly fond of balsamic vinegar, but he ate them anyway. I will make these again and just keep the onions for myself! The chops were tender and moist since I used bone-in chops and the addition of the onions and balsamic was was different and delicious. I hope you'll give these a try!

Sauteed Pork Chops with Caramelized Onions and Balsamic Vinegar
adapted from Fine Cooking

2 bone-in pork chops about 1 inch thick
1/2 of a very large onion- I used a Vidalia onion
2-3 tablespoons oil
about 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large skillet over medium to medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. Dry pork chops with paper towels and score the fat in about 3 different places (see note). Then season both sides with salt and pepper.
Thinly slice the onion and add to the heated skillet. If the onions brown too fast or begin to burn, turn down the heat. It should take about 15-20 minutes for them to caramelize. Remove the onions to a bowl.
Add 1 more tablespoon of oil to the same skillet and add the pork chops. Cook until brown and flip over. I used a paring knife and cut close to the bone to check doneness. If tit looks red, the meat is not done. These took about 4 minutes per side. Remove chops to a plat and tent with foil. Add the onions back to the skillet and pour the balsamic vinegar over them. Stir until incorporated with the onions and vinegar is slightly reduced.
Plate the pork chops and top with the balsamic onions. These are wonderful served with mashed potatoes, rice, or some Oven Roasted Potatoes with Herbs. Enjoy!

NOTE: When bone-in chops cook, the fat around the edge will draw up and the chops will not lay flat during cooking. To remedy this, I always cut through the fat in about 3 places with a paring knife. Just cut though barely, and the chops will lay perfectly flat whether you are pan searing or grilling and the meat will brown evenly.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tornado!

If you have watched the news in the last 24 hours here in the states, you may have seen the tornado headlines about the area in which I live. Sunday evening a F4 tornado slammed into Joplin, Missouri and leveled a 6 mile long path of destruction in this town of 50,00 people. Fortunately, my family lives about 15 miles away in a small town, so we were not in the path. But we did spend some time in the basement when the sirens went off.



This video shows only one part of Joplin and if you look you can see a 7 story hospital which looks like it has been bombed. This was shortly after the tornado went through. There have been scores of volunteers come to help since this video was taken. So far there are 116 declared dead across this city. We have had storms all day that have been hampering rescue efforts and are expecting severe storms tomorrow.
I'm asking for your prayers for this city. All of our family is safe and accounted for, but a family in our church was in Joplin when the tornado hit. They were at Home Depot and the twister caught them in their vehicle and threw them around. Their 14 year old grandson was sucked out of the vehicle and thrown on the pavement. His skull was cracked and he's in critical condition. Their granddaughter, who is about 8 or 9, is in surgery tonight, with Doctors trying to attach her ribs back to her backbone. She also had a metal rod go through her shoulder. They need a miracle.
About 2,000 buildings have been destroyed, both homes and many businesses also.
So my friends, it will be a day or so before I post a recipe as my mind just is not on cooking. And last week I was babysitting my granddaughter while her mother was on a business trip, so not too much exciting cooking took place then either, but I'll post soon with something yummy.
Just please remember this area in your thoughts and prayers. At least 1/4 of the city is gone and much more is damaged, so many people are homeless and looking for loved ones. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Lemon Pound Cake

 When I was a little girl, I loved sucking on lemon halves. While I don't do that anymore, when I cut one open it makes my mouth begin to water. So it's no surprise that I enjoy a great piece of lemon cake. This Lemon Pound Cake from Cook's Illustrated does not disappoint on any level. A traditional pound cake, it's heavy and dense with a fine crumb and full of butter and eggs. The lemon flavor is not overpowering, but you get a jolt of lemon from the syrup that is brushed on after baking, and the lemony glaze. We devoured it quickly. I think this would be a wonderful sweet to include to help celebrate Mother's Day, for a luncheon or an afternoon tea. I did not change the recipe, other than I didn't have the required amount of lemon zest the recipe asked for, so I added a bit more juice. At first glance I thought there were alot of details, but I discovered it was because you also make a syrup, and a glaze. Both were super easy and I advise that you don't skip those steps. Brushing this syrup over the warm cake not only imparts extra flavor, but helps to add moisture too. Hope you enjoy!

LEMON POUND CAKE
from Cook's Country-very slightly adapted

CAKE:
2 sticks of unsalted butter (16 tablespoons)- softened, but still somewhat cool
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice- recipe called for 1 1/2 T.
1 tablespoon lemon zest- recipe called for 1 1/2  T.
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature- beaten

SYRUP:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

GLAZE:
1/2 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. To make cake: Adjust the oven rack to middle position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan with butter and dust with flour. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a small bowl.

2. Toss lemon zest and sugar together in a large bowl. Add butter and beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth and light, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of bowl. Add in the eggs, in 3 additions, and beat well. Mixture will look curdled. With motor on low, add 1/3 of the flour mixture followed by the sour cream and lemon juice. Add another 1/3 of flour and mix well. Finish with the rest of the flour and mix, scraping the sides well. Mix until batter is smooth.

3. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to release air bubbles. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Bake 55 to 70 minutes. Mine baked about 70.

4. For the Syrup: While the cake bakes, stir the 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup lemon juice together in a saucepan. Cook for 2 minutes, remove from heat and set aside.

5. Cool the cake on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then turn it out on the rack. Brush the top and sides of the warm cake with the syrup and cool cake completely before glazing, about 2 hours. Use all the syrup.

6. For the glaze: Whisk the sifted confectioners sugar and the 1 tablespoon of lemon juice together until smooth. Spread glaze over cake and let set 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

NOTES: Like most cakes, this cake is more moist on the second day. According to CI, this cake will keep for 5 days, if wrapped tightly. It also freezes well. To freeze, apply the syrup, let cool, and wrap unglazed in two layers of plastic wrap. and freeze in a zip-lock bag for up to 1 month. I have not tried that. When ready to serve, defrost the wrapped cake at room temperature. Remove wrap and spread with the glaze.

TO MAKE 2 CAKES: double all the ingredients EXCEPT the eggs; use 9 eggs instead of 10.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Farfalle with Turkey Italian Sausage and Provolone

 Well, I'm back from our short, but very enjoyable anniversary trip. We enjoyed a few delightful, but very rainy days in Branson, Missouri. Branson is only about 1 1/2 hours from here so we've had many of the same storms. We've had so much rain and it's rather cool outside, but that's another story.
One of the best things about going on a trip is eating out. I loved not cooking and not having to clean up a messy kitchen. Don't get me wrong, I do love to cook, but a break every so often is something I look forward to. And now that we are back home, I'm having trouble getting back in the groove of making meals. Sigh. I didn't even have to cook for Easter. Eric, son number 1, and his wife Steff, had us over for a delicious ham dinner, so no kitchen duty that day either!
Last night I wanted something easy to make, so I used mostly what was on hand. I had gone grocery shopping and picked up some Turkey Italian Sausage and the other ingredients were items I had in my pantry.  Nothing fancy, but it was delicious and full of flavor. I browned the links of sausage in a skillet and then sliced it when cool, but you could break up the meat if you like. I used a jar of marinara, and some pasta that needed to be used, and a few spoon fulls of ricotta cheese that needed to be used. Yup, this is a pantry meal, but it turned out very tasty! Here's what I did.
FARFALLE with TURKEY ITALIAN SAUSAGE and PROVOLONE
from Lynda's Recipe Box

8 ounces farfalle, or other pasta
save about 1/2 cup water from the cooked pasta
1- 24 ounce jar of marinara sauce, or about 2 1/2 cups of homemade sauce
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
pinch of red pepper flakes
12 ounces of Italian Turkey Sausage links - or other Italian sausage or ground beef
Provolone cheese slices- or mozzarella cheese
grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. Save back about 1/2 cup of the water. In skillet over medium  heat, add 1 tablespoon oil and brown the sausage, covered for about 10 minutes, or until done. Reduce heat if necessary. Remove sausages to a plate to cool. Slice sausage into 1/2 inch pieces. Mix the ricotta cheese and the marinara sauce together in a bowl. Stir in the pasta, red pepper flakes and the sliced sausage. The ricotta cheese will make the sauce thicker, so use some of the pasta cooking water to thin the sauce if needed. Pour into a casserole dish and top with slices of provolone or mozzarella cheese. Cover dish tightly with foil and bake in a preheated oven for 20-30 minutes until bubbly and cheese is melted. Serves 4-6 people. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Strawberry Yogurt Muffins

If you like strawberries and you like muffins with a healthy twist, you should like these Strawberry Yogurt Muffins.  I am re-posting these delicious muffins because they would be a great addition to your Easter or Mother's Day brunch, or breakfast any other day. Just because they are lower in fat doesn't mean there is any less flavor. I use more strawberries than called for in the original recipe which makes them extra yummy.
I hope you'll give these a try.
I will be gone for a few days as my husband and I are taking a short trip. We are celebrating our 33rd wedding anniversary! Actually it was a couple of weeks ago and we are just now getting around to it. So, I hope you all have a wonderful Easter and I'll be back in a few days catching up with all your fantastic recipes. Now here's my recipe!

STRAWBERRY YOGURT MUFFINS
adapted from this recipe

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour- original recipe uses 1 cup
1/2 cup whole wheat flour- original recipe uses 1 cup
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cups chopped strawberries- I use about 1 1/2 c.
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup melted butter

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl mix the flours, sugar and baking soda. Add in the chopped strawberries and stir just to coat. In another bowl, mix the eggs and yogurt, then add the melted butter and vanilla and mix. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir in. Don't over mix; batter will be thick. Distribute batter among 12  greased muffin cups. Sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. Hope you enjoy these delicious treats!

NOTE: If you are using cup cake liners, you may want to lightly spray them with cooking spray (PAM), as the muffins will stick to the papers at first. Or, just spray the muffin tin and don't use liners.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Watergate Salad

I'm sure just about everybody has this recipe for Watergate Salad somewhere in their possession. It's been around since about 1975 when Kraft developed it and named it Pistachio Pineapple Delight. My Mother made this often for Easter dinner and also around the Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays. It is still a popular salad where I live. It shows up in about every church pot luck and many salad bars here. It is sweet; more of a dessert salad really, but it is easy to throw together and lasts several days in the refrigerator. I love the different textures in this salad; the creaminess with the crunch of the pecans and the tang of pineapple. This is another oldie but goodie recipe! Hope you enjoy..

WATERGATE SALAD

9 ounce carton whipped topping- Cool Whip
3 3/4 oz. package instant pistachio pudding
15 ounce can crushed pineapple in its own juices
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Fold dry pudding mix into whipped topping. Add canned pineapple and juice, marshmallows and chopped nuts. Mix gently and refrigerate. Serves 6-10

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fastest Cinnamon Buns ( No Yeast)

When I saw this recipe, I knew I wanted to try it. Not because it promised tasty Cinnamon Buns quickly, but because the recipe uses cottage cheese! I was intrigued. This dough is similar to a buttermilk biscuit recipe; in fact the cheese is the only difference. Several reviewers had substituted ricotta cheese for the cottage cheese, so I chose to use that since I had it in my fridge. These rolls are somewhat lighter than a biscuit dough, but don't be deceived-they won't replace a traditional yeast roll. What they do is give you a delicious quick roll when the craving hits. These were mixed and baked in about 45 minutes, making them perfect to serve at brunch time, maybe for Easter or Mother's Day. If you want a delicious yeast roll, try these wonderful AmishCinnamon Rolls with Caramel Frosting . They are my favorite. But if you want something quick, these buns will do nicely. Here's the recipe.

FASTEST CINNAMON BUNS
adapted from Fine Cooking

For the Dough:
3/4 cup cottage cheese (4 percent milk fat- I used full fat ricotta)
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups (9 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour; more for rolling
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

For the Filling:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Recipe also used 1/4 t. cloves-1/2 t. allspice and 1 cup chopped pecans, which I did not use.

Glaze:
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
2-3 T. milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 ounce cream cheese, softened - my addition

1. To make the dough, combine the cottage cheese, or ricotta,, buttermilk, sugar, melted butter, and vanilla in a large bowl (The recipe uses a food processor, but I don't have a large one. A hand mixer worked just fine). Mix until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda and mix until the dough comes together. It will be crumbly at first, but then come together as a soft and moist dough.
2. Scrape the dough out onto a floured surface and knead just until smooth, 5 or 6 times. Roll out dough into a 12x15 inch rectangle. ( Dough is easy to work with).

3. To make filling, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon, other spices and nuts if using. Brush the 2 tablespoons melted butter over the rolled out dough. Sprinkle the cinnamon mixture over the dough and pat gently into the surface.
4. Roll the dough up jelly-roll style. Pinch the seam to seal.
5. Cut into 12 even sized rolls with a sharp knife. Set the rolls, cut side up into a greased 9 inch round cake pan or spring form pan.
6. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 to 28 minutes. Remove pan from oven and set on wire rack to cool.

7. To make glaze, mix the confectioners sugar, milk, vanilla and cream cheese in a bowl with mixer. If it's not as thin as you like, thin it down with more milk.. Drizzle glaze over the rolls. Let stand a few minutes and then serve. Best eaten the day they are prepared. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lemon Potatoes

I've got to say that these Lemon Potatoes are awesome! This Cook's Country Recipe is one I'll be making often as my husband and I both enjoyed the wonderful lemon and garlic flavor that permeated the potatoes. The recipe calls for baby red potatoes because they crisp up better than Yukon Gold's, but I had 5 pounds of small Yukon Gold's in my pantry, so I didn't want to buy more spuds. The yellow potatoes do get softer after cooking, but the flavor is still tremendous. Red potatoes have lots of starch, so Cook's recommends rinsing them under water after they have been cut, to rinse off a bunch of that starch. I served these delicious potatoes along side a simple roasted chicken and a fresh green salad. It was a fantastic meal! I've made them twice now, and did use red potatoes the second time. Yes, they do getter crispier, than yellow spuds, but both taste delicious. I hope you'll try these amazing potatoes.

LEMON POTATOES
adapted from Cook's Country

2 pounds baby red potatoes, scrubbed and halved (or quartered if they are a bit larger), I used baby Yukon Golds
2 garlic cloves, smashed- I used very large cloves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 minced garlic cloves- I did not use these
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley- I didn't measure, just chopped some

1.Rinse the cut potatoes in a colander under running water. Drain potatoes well.

2. In a large nonstick skillet, add the chicken broth, smashed garlic, lemon juice and about 1/2 teaspoon salt and the potatoes. and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cover and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, under just tender. Remove the lid and increase the heat to medium. cook potatoes until all the liquid evaporates., about 5 minutes.

3. Add the 2 T. olive oil to pan. Discard the smashed garlic. Turn potatoes to cut side down, to cook until deep golden brown. Turn carefully if need to brown all sides. Cooking time is maybe 6 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley, lemon zest and the minced garlic ; ( didn't use minced garlic).
Season with salt and pepper and serve. These potatoes are so addictive! I made a half recipe for just my husband and I, and we ate them all - and we were not ashamed. Enjoy!

NOTE: Don't use more potatoes than your skillet can comfortably handle. Since the potatoes need to crisp, they must be able to lay cut side flat.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Honey Mustard Chicken Breasts

 I was going through a box yesterday and found this recipe, written on a piece of paper and I have no idea where I got it, but since I needed a fast dinner idea, I decided to try it. I love honey and mustard together, so it couldn't be too bad. I made changes, of course and ended up with a delicious weeknight meal that was made even better by topping it with fresh chives from my garden. My chives actually survived our harsh winter and now it is humongous! The chives gave this dish such a fresh, delicious crunch. Green onions would do the same thing. The sauce contains sauteed onion, but I have left it out of the recipe as it is not needed. But don't leave out the fresh chives or scallions. I cut back on the flour too as it thickened the sauce too much I thought. Also, the chicken breasts were lightly floured, but they would still be good browned without it. So, if you need another quick, simple meal idea, give this Honey Mustard Chicken a try.
HONEY MUSTARD CHICKEN BREASTS
adapted from an unknown source

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
1-2 tablespoons oil or butter
2 teaspoon flour
1 -15 ounce can low sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons honey
salt and pepper to taste
thinly sliced fresh chives or green onions

In a skillet heat the oil or butter over medium heat. I used 1 T. olive oil and 1 T. butter. Lay each chicken breast between plastic wrap and pound with mallet to an even thickness, about 3/4 inch.  Season chicken with salt and pepper and then flour lightly in the 1/2 cup flour. Shake off excess flour. Brown chicken in skillet, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a plate. Add the 2 teaspoon flour to skillet; stir and cook for about 1 minute. Add chicken broth to the skillet; increase the heat to a boil. Whisk the flour and broth as it cooks, scraping up all those yummy brown pieces in the pan. I cooked it for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the Dijon mustard and honey and simmer until slightly thickened. If the chicken still needs to finish cooking, lay the pieces back in the pan and cover. Cook for a couple of minutes, or until done. Season sauce with salt and pepper if needed. Serve with rice to soak up all the tasty sauce. Garnish with chives or green onions. Enjoy!

NOTE: The original recipe contained 2 tablespoon each of mustard and honey, but it needed more. You will need to taste the sauce to get it right just for you.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Slow Cooker Ham with Brown Sugar and Pineapple

I've been experimenting again. Sometimes I think I have such a great idea and I won't quit thinking about it until I just follow through with it. Sometimes it turns out well, sometimes not. This method turned out very good! We loved the ham cooked this way.
I decided to try cooking a ham in my crock pot, thinking it would make an occasional Sunday dinner a bit easier. I don't want to be sitting in church and wondering if the ham in my oven is burning, so thus the crock pot reasoning. If I cook Easter dinner this year, I want it to be easy. I want a great meal, and I want my day of rest too! Ha Ha!
Technically, the crock pot did work. I knew that other people use it for ham, but I hadn't tried it. Also, I love an orange glaze on ham, but decided to try pineapple this time. I had the idea of using crushed pineapple, so I poured a can of it over the ham, added some brown sugar, (I wanted to add some maple syrup but was out), and let it cook away. Son number 1 stopped by to pick up my little granddaughter, and couldn't resist carving himself a hunk of ham. He declared that it had great flavor. Really great flavor.
My husband and daughter said it was good also. Me? I have to admit that the combination of the brown sugar and pineapple was delicious. It cut through the saltiness of the ham quite nicely. Here's the experiment; I thought I'd try cooking down the juices and the crushed pineapple to use as a chunky sauce. It was very rich, way too rich, and it was hard to skim all the fat off of the chunky pineapple broth. I won't try that again. The next time, I'll just cook the ham in the pineapple and brown sugar, and leave it at that. The ham was very flavorful and it was so easy. I will not thicken the sauce next time. So, using the slowcooker did work for me, I just need to tweak my method some. Here's what I did this time. I'll update this post when I am completly satisfied with the outcome. UPDATE: 3-23-12- we still love the ham cooked this way. Don't mess with making a sauce, but you can spoon the pineapple over the sliced ham if desired, but it really doesn't need it.

Slow Cooker Ham with Brown Sugar, Pineapple Sauce
 1 6-9 pound ham- I used a fully cooked Pork Shoulder Picnick Ham half
 1 20 ounce can crushed pineapple in unsweetened juice, or 2 cups of pineapple juice
 1/2 cup packed, light brown sugar

Place the ham in slowcooker cut side down. Pour the can of crushed pineapple over it along with the brown surgar. Cook covered for about3-4 hours on high, or 5-6 hours on low.  Since I used a fully cooked ham it mostly just needed to be heated, but I like it cooked a bit longer for tenderness. Just don't overcook or it will be dry. Here's how I made the too rich sauce;  pour it into a sauce pan and let set untill the fat separates and rises to the top. Carefully skim all the fat off the pineapple mixture and discard. Bring the mixture to boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until it is reduced and somewhat thickened. Serve along side the ham. So, the results of my experiement? I will use my slow cooker for ham again. But don't thicken the sauce. So, cook your ham in the slowcooker with brown sugar and pineapple. It will be delicious. But don't make my sauce!
Have you tried using the slow cooker for ham and were you happy with the results? I could use some ideas!

NOTE: If you don't use a fully cooked ham, cooking time will be longer. Also, make sure the ham you buy will fit into your slowcooker.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Salisbury Steak with Mushroom Gravy

Salisbury Steak conjures up images of the TV Dinners that my Mother fed me occasionally, and some school lunches that I ate in grade school. I actually really liked it then, but making your own is much tastier and really easy to do. This dish consists of ground beef with bread crumbs and seasonings added in. I've made my version of this dish for years, but wondered how it got it's name. It was interesting reading several different googled sites. According to Wikipedia and other sources, Salisbury Steak received it's name from an American physician, Dr. James Henry Salisbury, during the Civil War. Dr. Salisbury thought people, especially soldiers, would benefit from eating ground meat 3 times a day for different health problems. Well, I make Salisbury Steak because, it tastes good, and because it makes a very affordable and easy meal. And because my husband loves it! Here's my recipe. SALISBURY STEAK with MUSHROOM GRAVY
from Lynda's Recipe Box
1/2 of a medium onion, diced
2 teaspoons oil
1 pound ground beef chuck-80/20 blend
1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
1/3 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce, or can use steak sauce
about 1/2 teaspoon salt about
1/4 teaspoon pepper
FOR GRAVY: 1/2 of a medium onion, diced
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1- 15 ounces can of beef broth
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
a couple drops of Kitchen Bouquet, if desired.
In a skillet, saute the onion in the oil until softened. In a large bowl, break up the ground chuck. Add the remaining ingredients and the cooked onion . Stir beef mixture with a fork until combined and then form into patties about 1 inch thick or so. I made 4 patties. Heat the same skillet over medium heat. Add a couple teaspoons of oil if needed, and brown the patties on both sides. (Carefully turn the patties over-they can fall apart easily, and watch closely as the patties can burn because of the bread crumbs and other ingredients).
To make gravy: Make the gravy while the beef patties cook. In a sauce pan, melt the butter and add the sliced mushrooms and diced onion. Saute until all the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates and the onions are soft. Stir in the flour and cook about 30 seconds. Stir in about half of the beef broth until the gravy is smooth, then add the remaining broth and cook a couple of minutes. Stir in Kitchen Bouquet, if using. Season with salt and pepper. When the beef patties are browned on both sides, pour the gravy over the patties, and cook, covered, for about 5 minutes, until the patties are done. If gravy needs to thicken more, cook a bit longer, or if you need to thin the gravy, add a bit of water. I served this Salisbury Steak with egg noodles this time, but we like it with mashed potatoes the best. Let me know if you give this dish a try. Enjoy!
NOTE: Kitchen Bouquet is a browning and seasoning sauce found in the grocers on the condiment isle. In my store it's next to the steak sauces.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cheesecake Bars - an oldie but Goodie

I love cheesecake, but don't always want to take the time to make one. That's where these delicious bars come in. They have all the flavor of cheesecake, but are quick and easy to make. We love the light lemon flavor, but if lemon is not your thing, just leave it out and double the vanilla. This retro recipe was given to me by a highschool friend way back during our senior year. I'm talking 1971 baby! I've taken the liberty of doubling the amount of filling that was in the original recipe because, in this instance, more is better. I don't want to be cheated on my cheesecake fix, do you? Give these groovy bars a try today! CHEESECAKE BARS
Ingredients for crust:

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup soft butter

1 cup flour

Cream the brown sugar and butter together. Then blend in the flour until crumbly. Separate 1 cup for topping. Place the rest in a 8x8 inch ungreased baking pan and press down to make crust. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven to cool.


Ingredients for filling:

2 - 8 ounce bars of cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

4 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs, milk, lemon juice and vanilla and beat well. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the crust and spread out evenly. Sprinkle the reserved flour mixture (topping), over the cream cheese filling. Bake at 350 degress for about 25 minutes. Cool and refrigerate. Cut into bars and enjoy!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Amish Cinnamon Rolls with Caramel Frosting ( using left-over mashed potatoes!)

What comes to your mind when you think of cinnamon rolls? Is the sweet frosting your favorite, or maybe the filling? My favorite is the cinnamon infused bread. I Love cinnamon rolls still warm from the oven, with soft ribbons of dough infused with plenty of sweet, cinnamony filling, and topped with a luscious glaze. That describes these rolls perfectly! And that's why I don't make them very often, because I find them irresistible, even addictive. I've had this recipe bookmarked for months and they kept calling to me and I finally gave in to the craving. These Amish Cinnamon Rolls are pure bliss; you need to make them soon! These rolls contain leftover mashed potatoes, which gives the rolls a tender, pillowy, texture. My potatoes were mashed with milk, butter, and salt and pepper and they worked perfectly in this recipe. After the dough is mixed all together, I took it out of the bowl and kneaded it a few times just until it came together into a ball. Then the dough is placed in a large bowl, covered with a clean kitchen towel and left to rise until doubled. It more than doubled and was so poofy.

Punch the dough down to deflate the air out of it, and roll into a large rectangle.

Spread the cinnamon and sugar mixture evenly over the dough, except for the edges.
Starting at the end nearest you, roil up the dough tightly and pinch the seem together at the end. Work it to keep the roll as even as possible while rolling.
Cut the roll into even slices with a sharp knife. Carefully lift them and arrange in baking pans. I used four round 9 inch pans, and I wanted to share these treats with my sons and their families.
Cover the pans with a kitchen towel and let them rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. Then bake in the oven. Try to be patient.
I frosted these rolls while they were still warm, but not right out of the oven. Let them cool off just a bit.
I ate one immediately; I'm weak when it comes to warm cinnamon rolls-very, very weak! These were fantastic and made my husband so happy. I hope you'll give them a try when the craving hits you.

In this recipe, I changed the margarine to butter, made more filling and gave more directions for making these delicious rolls. There just wasn't enough directions for someone who might want to make cinnamon rolls for the first time. This may look like a long recipe, but it's easy and comes together quickly. Amish Cinnamon Rolls with Caramel Frosting
adapted from a recipe at Tasty Kitchen

Ingredients:

For the rolls:

2 teaspoons plus 2/3 cup of sugar-divided

1 cup warm water

2 packages yeast, 0.25 (1/4) ounce packets

4 whole eggs, beaten

2/3 cup melted salt-free butter

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup homemade mashed potatoes-room temperature

about 6 cups bread flour- you may not use all of it

For the filling:

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon 6 tablespoons softened butter

For the Caramel Frosting:

1 stick butter

1 cup light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup milk - I used around 2 more tablespoons to thin down the frosting some

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

1. For the rolls, mix the 2 teaspoons of sugar, warm water and yeast together in a bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. It will get bubbly.

2. In a large bowl, combine the beaten eggs, the remaining 2/3 cup sugar, melted butter and the mashed potatoes and combine well.

3. Stir the yeast mixture into the egg mixture. Now add 2 cups of bread flour and combine well.

4. Add more flour, 1 cup at a time, combining well after each addition. When you add the fifth cup, dough will be less sticky so add only as much flour as needed to form dough into a ball. I used about 5 1/2 cups flour, but used the rest while kneading the dough and rolling it out.

5. Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough just until it all comes together in a smooth ball. Add extra flour if needed to keep the dough from sticking to your work area. Place dough in a large bowl and let rise until doubled. Directions say 2 hours, but mine was ready in 1 hour 30 minutes.

6. When dough has risen, punch it down in the bowl, deflating the air. Knead a few times on a lightly floured surface. Now you can roll out all the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness, but I cut the dough in half and worked with half of it at a time. In my small kitchen, that was easier for me. Try to roll the dough into a rectangular shape. I rolled each half of my dough into approximately a 20 in. by 16 inch rectangle.

7. In a small bow, mix together the filling ingredients-the brown sugar, cinnamon and melted butter.

8. Spread the softened butter gently over the rolled out dough; sprinkle the filling ingredients over the rolled out dough and lightly press into the dough.

9. Starting at the edge closest to you, begin rolling up the dough. Continue until it's all rolled and then try pinching the edge to seal it. Cut this roll into sections. I made 28 rolls; that fit 7 rolls into each of my four, 9 inch round pans. So, I cut the long roll in half, then each half in half again, and kept going until I had 28 fairly even sections of rolls. Place each roll in a greased pan (I used 4 round pans). Cover with clean towels and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pans of rolls in the oven and bake until golden, 20-25 minutes.

10. While the rolls are baking make the frosting. Melt the butter in a sauce pan over low heat. Stir in the brown sugar and salt. Cook for about 2 minutes; mixture will be grainy. Add the milk and cook for about 30 seconds until no longer grainy.. Remove pan from heat and add the vanilla. Stir in the powdered sugar and let cool. (If the powdered sugar is lumpy, you may need to sift it, or use an electric mixer to beat it until smooth).

11. Remove the rolls from the oven. Let cool slightly.

12. Frost the rolls. If the frosting is too thick, add a bit of milk to thin it to the desired consistency.

Enjoy the fruit of your labor!

NOTE: These rolls could be baked in a large baking sheet also. I also think that 3 round pans could be used; it would just make larger rolls.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tijuana Torte (a Mexican-style casserole)

While flipping through an old recipe book of mine, called "Some of the Best Recipes Ever Assembled into One Cookbook", I came across this Mexican-style casserole that I used to make often. While it wasn't a favorite of our kids, my husband has always loved it. Truthfully, it isn't my favorite Mexican casserole, but I do enjoy it as it has a layer of sour cream that really sets the Tex-Mex flavors off. I always put the canned tomatoes in the blender to pulse, because my family doesn't like chunky tomatoes in their food. Picky, I know, but I do what needs to be done to get people to eat! This easy casserole is layered like a lasagna and is mild in flavor. It calls for stewed tomatoes, which are somewhat sweet, but I sub diced tomatoes most of the time. Use whichever you prefer. I hope you enjoy this flavorful casserole.
TIJUANA TORTE
Ingredients:
1 pound ground chuck or ground round beef
1 medium onion, diced
1- 15 ounce can can diced tomatoes, or stewed tomatoes (I pulse them in the blender)
1 - 8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 -4 ounce can diced green chilies
1 package taco seasoning
flour or corn tortillas- I used 18 fajita sized flour tortillas,(6 for each layer), but any size will work
about 1 cup of sour cream
1 pound freshly grated cheddar cheese
1. Brown ground beef and onion in a skillet; drain off any fat from the meat. Add the rest of the ingredients to the meat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Place 1/4-1/2 cup of mixture in the bottom of a 9x13 inch non reactive baking pan. Place a layer of tortillas over that.
3. Place about 1/3 of the meat mixture over the tortillas. Sprinkle with shredded cheese.
4. Add another layer of tortillas, and then a layer of meat sauce. Cover with more cheese; then dollop with all of the sour cream and gently spread out.
5. Lastly, cover with the rest of the tortillas, the meat sauce and the rest of the cheese.
6. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.
Remove from oven and let cool about 10-15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
NOTE: I usually make this casserole in 3 layers, but it would work well in 2 layers, if preferred.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cowboy Cookies

I don't know if you've had Cowboy Cookies, but they are chock full of goodies! Made with butter, flour and oats, they also contain nuts, chocolate chips and coconut for a real delicious treat. Some people make them a smaller size, like the picture above, where I measured the dough with a tablespoon. But very often I've seen them as a large cookie, where a 1/4 cup is used to measure the dough.

Either way, they are wonderful treat and I've convinced myself that they are suitable for eating with my morning coffee! After all, they have lots of oats and nuts, which are healthy, right? Watch them closely as they bake as overbaking can cause them to be dry. They should be just turning golden around the edges and the center should be losing that shiny look. They will continue to set after coming out of the oven. Then you can eat them all; or not! Here's my recipe.

COWBOY COOKIES
from an old church cookbook
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 (6 ounce package of chocolate chips)
1/2 cup coconut
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup chopped nuts- I used pecans
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the sugars with the butter. Add eggs and beat until fluffy. Stir in the vanilla. Combine flour, salt, baking powder and soda in a bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. When combined, add the oatmeal, chocolate chips and coconut and stir with a large spoon until all is combined. Dough will be crumbly. If making large cooies, measure the dough in a 1/4 measuring cup. Place on a baking sheet, 6 cookies to a large baking sheet. Flatten dough with the palm of your hand, or use the bottom of a glass. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 11-15 minutes, until slightly golden around the edges and set in the middle. Remove cookies from oven; let set on cookie sheet for 1 minute and then remove to cooling rack.
If you prefer smaller cookies, use a tablespoon to measure the dough. Place cookie dough on cookie sheet, flatten slightly and bake for 8-10 minutes. Follow rest of directions above. Enjoy!