Sunday, March 31, 2013

What to do with left-over Ham

Our family Easter dinner was last night and I didn't get any pictures of our ham. Sorry, it was beautiful, delicious and everyone was hungry. So we ate. I baked a ham and I'll just have to bake another soon, when I can take pictures. But we have plenty for some great tasting leftovers, that won't taste like leftovers. Sandwiches are wonderful, but here's some other ideas if you have a good portion of ham hanging out in your fridge.
 Scalloped Potatoes and Ham are awesome. Really, this is a dish that's easy to overindulge in. I have to be very careful because it is so delicious!
 White Beans and Ham Soup. I use great northern dried beans for this hearty dish.
 Asparagus, Ham and Fried Egg Stacks. So yummy and perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
 Red Beans and Rice. If your craving a little southern comfort, then look no further. Spice it up as much as you like.
 I love a good Western Omelet, made with ham or bacon. Perfect for anytime of day.
 Green Beans and New Potatoes. Of course this dish is best with garden beans, but I froze my ham bone to use for the season's first green beans. Don't ever throw out your ham bone! Just wrap it in plastic wrap, then in heavy foil or put it in a freezer bag. Date it and freeze to use in green beans, or soup. It will last several months in the freezer.
And this is a tree, not food. I was outside today and it is so beautiful that I had to take some pictures. It is 70 plus degrees and gorgeous! Our trees are beginning to bloom. Spring just may have arrived, for a few days anyway.
I hope you all have had a fantastic Easter and hopefully you've  found some good ham recipes. Love to my readers!

Friday, March 29, 2013

He did it for us!

Have a blessed Good Friday! Remember the sacrifice that Christ made for us.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Best Cheesy Broccoli and Rice Casserole (No canned Soup!)

 If you would like a really creamy, really cheesy Broccoli and Rice recipe, look no further. This awesome recipe is the best I've ever had, and there is absolutely no canned soup involved. I made it this week and my husband and I both loved it's creaminess, with lots of broccoli goodness and great cheese flavor too. I won't make any other, ever. In my early married years I made the old canned soup version, but it doesn't hold a candle to the real thing. I used to always serve Broccoli and Rice Casserole at Easter dinner, and sometimes for other holidays too. Broccoli is a great spring vegetable, even though it is readily available all year long now. I love it raw, in salads and in casseroles. It is my all time favorite veggie. Anyway, I hope you'll give this recipe a try; it's really delicious and addictive.
Cheesy Broccoli and Rice Casserole
Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe (which she adapted from Cook's Country)

For topping;
2/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
For casserole;
2 pounds broccoli- (about 3-4 heads), florets cut into 1 inch pieces and stems chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 1/4 cups long grain white rice
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/4 cups half and half
3/4 teaspoon salt
about 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (subbed for 1/8 tea. cayenne pepper)
2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Place oven rack in center position and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. In a small bowl combine the panko crumbs, melted butter, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan and garlic. Set aside.
2. Microwave broccoli florets (save stems for later), covered in a large bowl until bright green and tender, 2-3 minutes. Be careful to not overcook. Melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a large pot over medium heat. Cook onion and broccoli stems until softened and tender, about 8-10 minutes. Add rice and cook stirring, about 1 minute. Stir in broth and half and half and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until rice is tender. Be sure to stir rice often. Cook for 20-25 minutes. Off heat, stir in the salt, pepper, cheddar and Parmesan cheeses, and the broccoli florets. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Top with the reserved panko crumb mixture and bake until the sauce is bubbly and the top is golden, about 15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Note: This dish can be prepared ahead of time. Follow recipe instructions. After pouring the mixture into the baking dish, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 8 hours. Store the crumb mixture in a separate container in fridge. Before baking, sprinkle the crumbs on top of casserole. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Skillet Chicken, Broccoli, and Penne

 I just love a good one pot meal. In this case it is a yummy skillet meal with thin slices of chicken, penne pasta, tender-crisp broccoli with an easy and delicious sauce. This meal is easy to put together and perfect for a weeknight dinner. The only problem with this recipe is that the broccoli tends to fall apart a little as you stir the Parmesan into the dish at the finish. So if that bothers you too, you can cook the broccoli separate from this dish. Either way, this is a real tasty meal that I've made several times. Hubby also gives a thumbs up! Here's the recipe.
Skillet Chicken, Broccoli, and Penne
Adapted from The Best chicken Recipes, by Cook's Illustrated
I replaced the wine in this recipe with more chicken broth, and used Penne instead of the Ziti that was called for.

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin
1 medium onion, minced
1/4 salt
6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
8 ounces penne pasta
8 ounces, about 3 cups, broccoli florets
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12 inch skillet(non-stick, if you have one. Mine is stainless steel and it worked ok). Add the sliced chicken and break it up. Don't stir-let the chicken brown for about 1 minute, then stir and break it up. Cook and stir for another 2 minutes until chicken is done. Transfer chicken to a bowl; cover to keep warm.
2. Add 1 more tablespoon oil to the skillet and the onion and about 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook over medium heat until onion is softened, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and pepper flakes and cook about 30 seconds until fragrant. Stir in the broth, water and pasta. Increase the heat to high and cook, uncovered, for 12 minutes, stirring often so pasta doesn't stick to pan. Add the broccoli and simmer for 4-5 minutes, until tender crisp and the liquid has thickened some.
3. Return the chicken to the skillet and heat until it is warmed through. Off heat, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the 1 cup of Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Great with crusty bread and a salad. Enjoy!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Oatmeal Scotchies with Pecans

 Like a delicious oatmeal cookie? Well these Oatmeal Scotchies with Pecans are so good, fantastic really, and also so rich. My husband loves anything butterscotch, so I made these just for him as they are one of his favorite cookies. I had intended to make Peanut Butter Cookies, but hubby had these goodies on his mind instead. This recipe makes too much for us, so anymore I just freeze half of the cookie dough for a later use. But they are also a great gift for any cookie lovers you may know! Here is the recipe.
Oatmeal Scotchies with Pecans
Adapted from Nestle - I increased the cinnamon and added pecans to the recipe. The cookie dough freezes well, if you don't want to bake the whole recipe.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups of quick cooking oats (or may use old fashioned oats)
11 ounce package of Nestle Butterscotch Morsels
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a small bowl combine the flour, soda, salt and cinnamon.
In a large bowl cream the softened butter with the sugars. Stir in the eggs and vanilla until well combined.
Gradually  beat in the flour mixture. Stir in the oatmeal, butterscotch morsels, and the pecans.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
Bake for about 7-9 minutes for chewy cookies. Cool cookies on baking sheets for about 2 minutes; then remove to cooling racks. Enjoy! Makes about 4 dozen.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Italian Wedding Soup (from Ina Garten)

I love this soup! It's hearty with the zesty meatballs and all the healthy veggies, and it's so comforting on cool nights. We had another cold snap earlier this week, so I made this delicious soup. I've made it before, but just now have tweaked it to our liking.
The recipe calls for ground chicken for the meatballs, but our stores rarely have it, so I use ground turkey most of the time. Ground beef also makes some tasty meatballs. This recipe makes a bunch of soup, plenty for company. But if you are going to make it for just 2 or 3, I advise you to cook the pasta separately, and add it to the bowls individually when you are ready to serve the soup. The pasta really soaks up the broth if cooked in it and then not eaten right away. This soup is delicious on it's own, but also good with a salad and some crusty bread. The meatballs have tons of flavor and the veggie filled broth is super good. Hope you'll give it a try!
Italian Wedding Soup
Adapted from Ina Garten

For meatballs:
3/4 pound ground turkey (or ground chicken or beef)
1/2 pound turkey sausage, casings removed ( or again, chicken, beef,)
2/3 cup fresh, white breadcrumbs
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons milk
1 large egg, beaten
salt and pepper- I only use about 1/8 teaspoon salt because the cheese is salty. But I'm also a low salt cook, so use your judgement.

For the Soup:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup minced yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup diced carrots
3/4 cup diced celery
10 cups homemade chicken stock, (or use canned, low sodium chicken broth or stock)
1 cup small pasta-I used Ditalini
2 teaspoons dried oregano
about 6-8 ounces kale, washed and chopped-about 4 cups or more (may sub spinach if preferred)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl combine the ground turkey, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, cheese, milk egg, salt and pepper and mix with a fork. With a spoon drop about 1 inch meatballs onto a parchment or foil lined baking sheet. You'll have around 40 meatballs. Bake for about 30 minutes.

While meatballs are cooking, heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a heavy soup pot. Add the chopped onions, garlic, carrots and celery. Saute until softened, about 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock or broth and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook about 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the kale, meatballs and the oregano or other herbs of choice, and simmer about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into soup bowls and top with Parmesan cheese. Yum! Enjoy with bread and/or salad!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sauteed Kale with Roasted Butternut Squash, and Mushrooms

 I've started cooking with Kale this month. I like it sauteed with onions and mushrooms, and this last time I added some oven-roasted butternut squash to it. Yum!
I started a diet the first of February, and have lost 12 pounds! Yippee! My diet is called The Plan, by Lyn Genet, and it really is a change in eating  and considered an anti-inflammation diet. I won't get into the particulars too much, but will say that this is NOT a low fat diet. I still get to have lots of olive oil and butter. And I can eat dark chocolate too. My blood work ,(cholesterol), was perfect last week when I went to the Dr. He was amazed. My blood pressure meds also had to be adjusted. I'm very happy to say the least!
But let me get back to the kale. I was introduced to sauteed kale on The Plan, and found I really liked it with mushrooms and onion.
 So the next time I roasted some butternut squash, I added half of it to the kale. Very yummy! My store has only one type of kale, this curly leafed stuff. It needs to be washed very well as it sometimes feels a little gritty. I also prefer to cut out the thick stems and toss them out. This bunch of kale produced about 5 cups of chopped kale.
 I sliced some mushrooms and onions and sauteed them in olive oil for a couple of minutes, then added the the chopped kale. Then I sauteed the kale for another minute or two. You could add garlic too if desired.
 It's really good just this way, sprinkled with a little salt and pepper. The kale cooks down quite a bit, just like spinach does. I usually get 2 servings from a bunch of kale, but this bunch was a bit smaller.
 But adding in the oven-roasted butternut made this dish so delicious. You could use roasted sweet potatoes too, I'm sure. They certainly are easier to peel than butternut squash, but I'll definitely make this dish again with the butternut. I hope you'll give this a try!
Sauteed Kale, with Roasted Butternut Squash, and Mushrooms

butternut squash- peeled and cut into about 1 inch cubes-you will only need about 1/2 of the squash
1 bunch kale
1/2 of an onion, sliced thin
4 ounces sliced mushrooms-I've used Baby Bella and shiitakes
about 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced -optional
salt and pepper to taste

!. Cut the butternut squash in half and peel with a knife or a good vegetable peeler. Cut squash into about 1 inch cubes. Place on baking sheet, toss with some olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, or other seasonings of your choosing. Bake at 425 degrees F. for about 30 minutes, or until tender. Cool. You will use about 1/2 of the squash in the kale. I save the leftover squash for another meal.
2.Wash the kale; drain well and chop. Cut out the thick stems if desired. Slice mushrooms and onion. Mince garlic, if using.
3 In a large skillet heat the oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and onion. Stir, about 2 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and the chopped kale. Stir for 1 to 2 minutes, until the kale is softened to your liking. The kale will wilt, similar to spinach. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add in the butternut squash. Hope you enjoy!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Banana Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This is a moist, delicious Banana Layer Cake that is perfect for any occasion. It is somewhat less dense than my banana bread recipe, but it's very moist and yummy with the decadent Cream Cheese Frosting. I made this wonderful cake for my husbands birthday back in January. I didn't get many pictures of the finished cake, but that seems to happen every time I prepare a meal for our family gatherings. Too busy for photos, and then the food is gone. Sigh~
I've posted this recipe before, but made a sheet cake instead of a layer cake. It is one of our favorite cakes now and is a perfect way to use those ripe bananas and turn them into a fabulous dessert.
I feel the need to apologize for not being around for almost 2 months. I've had some health issues, ( I'll share at a later time), and some life issues that we all sometimes go through, and I lost focus on my blog. But I'm cooking again and ready to share. So I hope you'll give this Banana Layer Cake a try for your next celebration. It's so very, very good. Like, lick your plate good!
Banana Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Evil Shananigans

1 cup mashed bananas - about 2 large bananas
1 cup buttermilk, or can use soured milk (add 1 tablespoon vinegar to a cup and fill up with milk; let sit a minute)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened- 1/2 cup
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, (or if you are using dark pans, then 325). Grease 2 9 inch round layer cake pans.
2. In a bowl, mash the bananas well using a fork. Stir in the buttermilk.
3. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in separate bowl.
4. Cream Butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Stir in the eggs and vanilla.
5. Alternately add the dry and wet ingredients into the butter mixture, beating well after each addition. Pour the batter evenly into the 2 prepared cake pans.
6. Bake in preheated oven for about 35 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly touched in the center. Or you may test with a toothpick. Cool cake in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto cooling racks and let cool completely. At this point, you can frost the cake, or wrap each layer well in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight. Then assemble and frost the next day.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick (1/2 cup) softened butter
31/2-4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese together with a mixer.
mix in the vanilla. Add the powdered sugar in about 3 additions, mixing well after each addition. If the frosting seems too stiff, you may add a tablespoon of cream or milk and mix until creamy.

To frost the cake: 
Place one cake layer on cake platter. Add about 3/4 to 1 cup of frosting on the cake and spread evenly to the edge. Top with the remaining cake layer and press cake gently down. Add remaining frosting to top and smooth down and around the sides. I usually swirl the top of the frosting with a knife. I like to refrigerate the cake for 30-60 minutes to set the frosting well.
Slice, serve and enjoy!