Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Old Fashioned Potato Salad

 My mother used to make the best Old Fashion Potato Salad I have ever eaten. It was the old fashioned kind made with mayonnaise, sweet pickles and onion, along with a couple of other ingredients. I know that many of you don't care for mayo based Potato Salad, but one of the reasons I started my blog was to hand down my family's recipes to my children and friends. This is the Potato Salad my children want. It is still my favorite as well. My husband has moved on, preferring more of a vinaigrette dressing on his potatoes. But last week-end I made this version. I, like my mother and my Grandmother, do not follow a recipe for this salad. Instead it is made by the way it looks and tastes. But as I made it this time, I tried to write down what I do, so there is at least a guide line for anyone wanting to make this version.
My Mother's Old Fashioned Potato Salad
From Lynda's Recipe Box
I normally make a large bowl of potato salad, but made less this time. This makes about 6 1/2 -7 cups. My mother always added a little pickle juice to the potatoes. It does add extra flavor to the potatoes before everything else is stirred in. Potato Salad is best made several hours ahead of serving time. It always taste the best the second day I think.

 2 1/2 pounds of potatoes, russets or golds
 3/4 cup diced onion- I use sweet yellow or sometimes a red onion
about 3/4 cup diced sweet pickles
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and diced - you can use more or less
about 2 tablespoons sweet pickle juice-one of my Mother's ideas
about 2 teaspoons prepared mustard, or to your taste-I don't like much of a mustard taste
about 1 1/2 cups mayo, or you may use salad dressing(Miracle Whip)
salt and pepper to taste
Sometimes I add diced celery, or celery seed too, but not this time

1. Put whole, unpeeled potatoes into a large pot where you can completely cover the potatoes with water. Bring to a boil on the stove, then reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are just done when a meat fork can pierce the potatoes easily. Try to not overcook. Drain potatoes and let cool until they can be easily handled.
2. While potatoes cook, put eggs in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. When they begin to boil, remove pan from the burner, cover pan with a lid and let set for 15 minutes. Then rinse with cold water and let eggs set in cold water until you are ready to use them in the salad.
3. Peel potatoes, then dice them and add to a large bowl. Drizzle the pickle juice over the diced potatoes and toss gently. Adding a bit of pickle juice adds more flavor to the potatoes, a trick my Mother always did.
4. Season potatoes with salt and pepper. add the onion, pickles, eggs and 1 cup mayo and the mustard to the bowl and mix until combined. Now, if you need that extra 1/2 cup of mayo add it now. You could even need more; it just depends on personal tastes. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Chill for several hours before serving. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day Food Ideas

 I thought I'd give you all some ideas for your Memorial Day dinners, in case you are still in the planning stage. My Corn, Black Bean and Tomato Salsa is a hit whenever it is served. Full of veggies, beans avocado and lime juice it is delicious with your favorite tortilla chips, or it is even good by itself as a salad. Or check out my other dips.
 Macaroni Salad with Peas is a favorite pasta salad at our house, and a popular salad on my blog. I also have plenty of other salads that you may enjoy.
I love this Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. A very moist sheet cake topped with Cream cheese Frosting is a perfect dessert. I have other cakes that you may want to see also.
You'll find plenty of dessert ideas as well as plenty of side dishes. You can also search the Labels at the bottom of the right column to find other food ideas I haven't mentioned. I plan on working on a Recipe Index soon, I just haven't got there yet. Have a great day!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars

 Crisp chocolate chip cookie on the bottom, a creamy cheesecake middle dotted with more chocolate chip cookie- what could be better? These Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars may sound rather involved, but they really come together rather quickly. Mix up the chocolate chip dough first, and while the bottom crust is baking, you can stir up the cream cheese batter. If the cream cheese is at room temperature it creams and blends quickly.  They are rich and addictive and your family or company will be reaching for seconds. It is love at first bite. I sent some home with both my sons when they stopped by. I know when I can't be left alone with something this good! If you need a dessert for this Memorial Day weekend, this may be the one for you.
Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars
Slightly adapted from Taste of Home

Cookie Dough:
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans
2 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch pan.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars. Beat in the egg and vanilla. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in the mini chocolate chips and chopped pecans.
Set aside 1/3 of the dough for the topping. Press the remaining 2/3 dough
into prepared 9x13 inch pan. Bake  for 8 minutes, and remove from the oven.
While crust bakes, beat softened cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add in the vanilla and eggs and mix until creamy and incorporated.
Spoon the cream cheese mixture over the cookie crust and gently spread it to completely cover the bottom. ( Cookie dough will be very soft and maybe not set.) Drop small teaspoons full of reserved cookie dough over the filling. Return to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden. Mine were done in 30 minutes, so check early. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and store in the refrigerator. Cut into small pieces. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Strawberry Almond Coffee Cake

 I love a good coffee cake, especially when it's not too sweet first thing in the morning. This Strawberry Coffee Cake is dense, yet tender because of the addition of sour cream, and bursting with strawberries. There is a light glaze on this breakfast cake, but it isn't sugary sweet. I love that this cake is small, which is perfect for my husband and I now that we are empty nesters. The original recipe was made with raspberries, but I had strawberries I needed to use. I'll definitely be making this again. If you enjoy coffee cake, this one is delicious and quick to prepare. Hope you'll give it a try.
Strawberry Almond Coffee Cake
Adapted from Noble Pig

Cake Ingredients:
1 cup strawberries, diced
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup powdered sugar
about 1 1/2 teaspoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8 inch round cake pan.
1. In a small bowl, toss the strawberries and thee brown sugar together. Set aside.
2. Combine the flour, baking powder, soda and salt together.
3. In bowl, add the egg, sour cream, melted butter and vanilla together.
Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients and mix well. Batter will be very dense and thick.
4. Spread half the batter over the bottom of the prepared cake pan. The easiest way is to drop small spoon fulls around and then smooth it out over the bottom of the pan. You'll think there isn't enough batter, but it really will come together just fine.
5. Spoon the strawberries and sugar over the batter. Again, spoon small amounts of remaining batter over the strawberries and bottom layer. Carefully spread the batter out as best as possible, with a swirling motion. I used a large spoon to spread batter, but an off-set spatula will work too. Sprinkle with almonds.
6. Bake for about 25 minutes until done when a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean, and cake is lightly golden.
7. Cool cake in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of pan before inverting cake onto serving platter. Mix together glaze and drizzle over the cake. Enjoy!
Can't wait to try this with blueberries, and also raspberries.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mashed Potato Casserole with Bacon, Cheese and Chives

 Mashed potatoes stuffed with cheese, sour cream, bacon and chives is comfort food indeed. I took this casserole to my oldest son's house for our Mother's day dinner last evening. My son grilled chicken so this Mashed Potato Casserole went well with our dinner on the deck. The evening got cool, so a hot side dish was very welcome. I don't normally use a recipe when I make this dish, so I wrote it down this time as I put it together.
This casserole is perfect for a family gathering or a pot luck dinner. In fact, it tends to find the way to a lot of our church dinners, where there is not a bite left. I'm sure many of you make a similar dish. Hope you enjoy it!

Mashed Potato Casserole with Bacon, Cheese and Chives
From Lynda's Recipe Box
I used gold potatoes this time, but red skinned or russet potatoes work well too.

4 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut up to be boiled
about 3/4 cup milk
1/2- 3/4 cups sour cream
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups, (8 ounces), freshly shredded cheese, separated - I used Colby this time , but Cheddar, Parmesan, Mozzarella or Gouda is delicious with the bacon also.
2-4 tablespoons freshly snipped chives-I used 2, but really could have used more.
5-6 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook the potatoes in a large saucepan, in salted, boiling water until they are tender. Drain well, and return the potatoes to the pan.
2. Mash well with potato masher, or a hand mixer, and add the butter and mash into the potatoes. Add 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup sour cream and beat until incorporated. Stir in 1 cup of cheese and chives. Now, add more milk or sour cream if it is needed. Potatoes should be very creamy. Taste potatoes and season with salt and pepper.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spoon potatoes into a buttered 9x13 inch glass baking pan and smooth evenly in the pan. Cover with foil and bake in oven for 15-20 minutes until they are hot.
4. Remove dish from oven and remove foil. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup cheeses over the potatoes and return them to the oven. Bake for about 10 minutes, just until the cheese is melted and casserole is hot.
5. Remove casserole from oven. Sprinkle with all the crumbled bacon and 2 teaspoons of fresh snipped chives. Enjoy!

NOTE: This casserole can be prepared a day ahead if desired. Just cover the pan of mashed potatoes with foil and keep in the fridge. Baking time will take longer because the casserole is cold, maybe 30-40 minutes. Then top with toppings.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Treats for Mother's Day

 Mother's Day is here again! Where does the time go?  I thought I'd share a quick post to give you some ideas for Mother's day treats.  Many families celebrate with brunch, which I think is so nice. We have never done that ,as we are always scurrying around getting ready for church on Sunday mornings. But I always try to have some homemade muffins or a quick bread to eat on the way out. Here are just a few of my favorites, like the Strawberry Yogurt Muffins in the picture above.
 I love these delicious Chocolate Chip Scones from an older post of mine. Mom always deserves chocolate, even for a morning treat! They are soft and buttery on the inside and crisp on the outside, and so good with a cup of coffee.
And I love quick breads. This Very Moist Banana Bread is my late Mother-in-Laws recipe and it is so moist and full of banana flavor. It really is addictive.
I have so many recipes that would be perfect for mother's Day. Click my breakfast/brunch ideas to find more delicious options for your special mom.
My Mother's Day will be celebrated tonight with our kids and their spouses and our grand kids. My oldest son is grilling and there will be plenty of side dishes. If you need ideas, click for side dishes.
If you don't live near your mother, be sure to give her a call. Let her know how special she is. Happy mother's Day to all you mothers and grandmothers who stop by. I love that you take time to stop by and visit me!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cajun Chicken Pasta - On the Lighter Side

 This may be a lighter version of the normally cream laden Cajun Chicken Pasta, but you wouldn't know it once you get a taste. This dish is just as packed with flavor and just as satisfying as the more fattening version. The cream sauce is actually made by combining low fat cream cheese, low fat milk and flour, and mixing into broth to make this dish so creamy and delicious. There are tons of veggies and I used a whole grain pasta, so this was healthy as well as packed with flavor from the Cajun spices. We loved it, so I'm already planning to make it again in a couple of days.
 This dish comes together very quickly after you get all the vegetables prepped and the sauce started. So it is crucial to have everything ready to go before you begin cooking. I made a few adjustments to the recipe, but nothing major. I made my own Cajun spice mixture, so that I can better control the salt. I used a little more olive oil, and 2% milk instead of skim, plus a couple of other slight changes. Be sure to check out the original recipe at Skinny Taste. There are many great looking recipes there. Now here's the recipe for this fantastic dish. I hope you will give this a try.
Cajun Chicken Pasta (On the Lighter Side)
Adapted from Skinny Taste

8 ounces uncooked linguine-I used Barilla's whole grain spaghetti instead
1 pound chicken breasts, cut into strips
1-2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning- I used almost 3 by the time it was done
about 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/2 of a red onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
2 tomatoes, diced- I used Roma tomatoes
1 cup, fat free, low sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup skim milk- I used 2% because that's what we use
1 tablespoon flour
3 tablespoons light cream cheese
salt and pepper to taste
2 scallions/green onions, sliced

1. Prepare all the vegetables, mushrooms and chicken.  Add the milk, flour, and cream cheese to a blender and  pulse until well combined and smooth. Set aside. Season the sliced chicken well with Cajun seasoning, and salt if needed. I used 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning on the chicken. Use more or less, according to your preferences.
2. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.
3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. (I used a stainless skillet, so I had to use 1 tablespoon oil.) Add sliced chicken to skillet and saute for 5-6 minutes until done. You may need to do this in 2 batches. When done, place chicken on a plate and set aside.
4. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet and reduce heat to medium. Add peppers, onions, mushrooms, garlic and a pinch of salt to skillet and saute 3-4 minutes. Add diced tomatoes and just heat through. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the chicken broth. when it simmers, stir in the cream cheese slurry, stirring until thickened about 2 minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust seasonings, if needed. I added a bit more Cajun spice at this point plus more salt.
5. Stir in the cooked pasta and heat through. Top with the sliced green onions and fresh ground pepper.  Boy is this good; Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Strawberry Quick Bread

 This Strawberry Quick bread is full of moist, strawberry flavor. It is a perfect accompaniment with your morning coffee, and equally good with afternoon tea. Strawberries are my favorite berry, but I usually find ways to use them fresh. But this quick bread is excellent in flavor and texture. I normally add pecans to this bread, but left them out this time and it's still delicious. If you are a strawberry addict like me, and enjoy a good slice of bread, you need to try this Strawberry Quick Bread. I think you will really enjoy it. This bread would be great to make for Mother's Day also.

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cup mashed strawberries- I used 1 1/3 cups
1/2 cup vegetable oil

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
2. In a bowl, whisk together the nuts, flour, sugar, soda, salt and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, eggs, mashed strawberries and oil. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients, just until combined and flour is incorporated.
3. Pour batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 55-60 minutes, until a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the bread in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove it from the pan to a rack to cool.
For best flavor, moistness and easiest slicing, wrap the bread and let it sit overnight before cutting. Quick breads are best when they are allowed to rest overnight. It somehow gives them time for the best flavor and moistness to develop. Then enjoy a slice or 2 of this fantastic bread!

NOTE: King Arthur Flour also gives directions to make this into Rhubarb Bread.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Chicken Fajita Nachos with Easy White Cheese Dip

 I love the Fajitas at our local Mexican restaurant, and the Nachos too. Our favorite restaurant makes what they call "Fajita Nachos" with your choice of steak or chicken, and instead of using shredded cheese, they smother the nachos in their Queso Blanco Dip. My goodness, talk about deliciousness on a plate! So, I've tried to recreate this fantastic dish at home the last couple of weeks for my husband and I, just in time to celebrate Cinco de Mayo too!
 I took pictures both times trying to get a good one. Seems that the cheese looked better in my first photos, so that is why you'll see two different shaped plates.
 I don't normally order the white cheese dip at the restaurant, because I really prefer their salsa with the chips, but, when that Queso Blanco is covering nachos, I say yes please. Their simple white cheese dip really adds to these nachos and some of the other dishes on their menu. I haven't perfected the Queso Blanco yet, but it turned out pretty good this time. I kept it very simple. Make the cheese dip first, before you start the nachos, so the flavors have time to come together. It is quick to make since it is done in the microwave.
 I have to admit that I wasn't good at measuring; I tend to cook by looks and taste, so hope this doesn't keep you from trying this dish. We definitely enjoyed these nachos, twice so far, and I'll make them again. We tend to crave this type of food quite often.

Chicken Fajita Nachos with Easy White Cheese Dip
From Lynda's Recipe Box- made for 2

Nachos ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cloves garlic, minced
about 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
salt and pepper
about 1/4 teaspoon cumin
about 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 half of a large yellow onion, sliced thin
1 green bell pepper, sliced thin -or a mix of colored peppers- I used red and green this time
white cheese dip
diced tomato for topping
diced avocado for topping, or any other topping you desire
good quality tortilla chips

1. Make the cheese dip first; set aside.
2. Cut each chicken breast in half lenght-wise, and then slice each piece into thin slices against the grain. Place chicken in a bowl with the lime juice, salt and pepper, cumin, chili powder and the minced garlic and toss to coat evenly.
3. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. (I used my cast iron skillet.) Add 2 tablespoons of oil and add the sliced chicken to the pan. Let cook for about a minute then begin to stir and turn the chicken pieces as they brown, breaking them apart. When no pink remains and chicken is done, remove the meat to a bowl or plate. You may have to do this in 2 batches, if using more than 2 chicken breasts.
4. Add more oil to the skillet and add the onion and pepper. Stir it around as it cooks for 2-4 minutes, just until it begins to slightly soften. Remove veggies from pan.
5. Plate the nachos. Lay the tortilla chips on a plate, then add the onions and peppers, then the chicken. Smother the nachos with cheese dip, then add the diced tomatoes and avocado and other toppings that you desire. Enjoy!

Easy White Cheese Dip -Queso Blanco

1/2 pound white American cheese*, shredded, or diced small
3 small, yellow pickled chili peppers*, or 1 small pickled jalapeno pepper, minced
1/2 cup milk, more or less, depending on how well the cheese melts

Place cheese and milk in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute. Remoe bowl and stir well with a fork, or if it is really soupy a whisk. Stir until the cheese and milk is very well incorporated. It will depend on the cheese brand as to how well it melts and whether you will need more milk. If the dip isn't melted enough, microwave another 30 seconds and continue this until the cheese is melted. Add more milk as needed to get the consistency you want. Stir in the minced pickled peppers.
*Notes: White American Cheese is found at your local deli. I bought the Prima Della brand from Walmart and it melted well with less milk than another brand I bought earlier. Land of Lakes is supposed to be a good brand of cheese for dip making.
* Pickled yellow chili peppers, or pickled jalapenos are found on the pickle isle at your grocers. Trappy's  or Mezzetta are 2 brands I can buy here. They work really well in this dip.
NOTE: I found that many Mexican restaurants use white American cheese for the Queso Blanco that they serve.