Saturday, December 20, 2008

Popcorn Balls

3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup margarine
2 teaspoons cold water
2 5/8 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup marshmallows
5 quarts plain popped popcorn

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the corn syrup, margarine, cold water, confectioners' sugar and marshmallows. Heat and stir until the mixture comes to a boil. Carefully combine the hot mixture with the popcorn, coating each kernel.
2. Grease hands with vegetable shortening and quickly shape the coated popcorn into balls before it cools. Wrap with cellophane or plastic wrap and store at room temperature.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Best Darn Chocolate Cake with Ganache Frosting

Back in the early days of our marriage when I wanted to impress my hubby with my mad cooking skilz (which were nonexistent by the way), I made everything from scratch. Then one time we were invited to dinner by another college couple. The hubby raved about her cake and said I HAD to get the recipe! It turned out to be a box mix. The cheap store brand box mix. Alrighty then.

So I used boxed mixes for many years. Then Ann Byrn came out with The Cake Doctor and revolutionized my life. Now I know Donna's whole blog is about life not being from a box. But this is BEYOND a box and so very, very good. And there are just times in life when you want something special but you don't have all afternoon to make it.

Or you want to bake a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas day but you don't want to spend half the day in the kitchen. You'd rather be hangin' with the family. That's when you can use this recipe guilt-free :-)


1 pkg. plain devil's food or dark chocolate fudge cake mix
1 pkg. (3.9 oz.) chocolate instant pudding mix
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350° Lightly mist a 9"x12" pan with vegetable oil spray, then dust with flour. Shake out excess flour. Set aside.

In large bowl combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, sour cream, warm water and oil and blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl and increase speed to medium for another 2-3 minutes. Batter should be thick. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes (until toothpick in center comes out clean). Allow cake to cool completely.
* * * * * * * * * *

I'm a fan of the simple, so some years our cake would get just a dusting of powdered sugar to make it look a little prettier. Other years the chocolate urge would overwhelm me and I would make a little chocolate ganache and pour over the cooled cake. Either way, it makes a great birthday cake for Jesus!


9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
Place the chocolate into a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil, watching very carefully because if it boils for a few seconds, it will boil out of the pot. When the cream has come to a boil, pour over the chopped chocolate, and whisk until smooth. Allow the ganache to cool slightly before pouring over a cake.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Coca-Cola Marshmallow Cake

I've actually been thinking about this cake for weeks so you have no idea how happy it makes me to have the almost-impossible-to-find marshmallows at Walmart!

This is a popular cake in the south but I'm not sure it's well known anywhere else. But it should be! Because Coca-Cola marshmallow cake is a national treasure, people. Which you will learn for yourself if you take the time to make this decadent dessert. This particular recipe is from a favorite little cookbook called Miss Mary's Down-Home Cooking.

2 eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk (or place 1-1/2 teaspoons white vinegar in measuring cup and fill to 1/2 cup mark with milk, stir)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup Coca-Cola, measured without foam
1-1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

1/4 cup butter
1-1/2 tablespoons Coca-Cola
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

First make the cake. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Gradually beat in the sugar. When done the mixture should be thick and pale yellow. Beat in the oil, buttermilk (or sour milk) and vanilla.

In another bowl stir together the flour and baking soda. Beat this into the liquid ingredients alternately with the cola. Stir in the marshmallows.

Turn batter into greased and floured 9"x13" baking pan. Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes until tootghpick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool.

When the cake is completely cool, make the icing: Heat the butter and cola in a saucepan until butter has melted. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and vanilla. Beat well. If too stiff, thin with a few drops of cola. Stir in the nuts. Spread the icing over the cake in the pan. Let icing set at least 10 minutes before cutting the cake.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Homemade Baked Beans

I had never had a home-baked bean until I was in my thirties. Really! Like most of you I grew up on Van Camp pork & beans. This, my interwebby friends, is the recipe I used for that first ever heavenly-baked-in-a-pot-of-brown-sugar-deliciousness. I have made it in a crockpot overnight, but prefer it baked in a dutch oven because the sugar on the edges caramelizes a little. Mmmmm, mmmm good! BUT, gotta say, cooking this in the crockpot eliminates the need to stir every so often and add more liquid so that might be the preferred method for busy moms. Just layin' out the options. However you choose to make it, you will enjoy the end result!

1 lb. small white dried beans
1/2 c. maple syrup (or molasses)
2/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 lb. salt pork, scored and cut into chunks
hot water as needed
Soak beans overnight in water to cover by three times the depth of the beans.
Drain beans and put them in a pot, adding more water to amply cover. Bring the water to a slow boil and simmer, partially covered, until softened but not cooked through, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 275°
Drain beans well and transfer to a casserole dish with lid (dutch oven if you have one).
Add remaining ingredients and stir to mix. Add hot water to cover beans by 1 inch. Partially cover pot. Bake 5-6 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more water as needed to keep beans moist.

These are head and shoulders above any canned bean you can buy. And they're really easy to make. This makes a great side dish to any kind of meat, but especially pork. You can use the leftover beans and add chopped up hot dogs to make a mean beanie-weenie casserole for the kids' lunch, too.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sweet Potato Casserole

As we head into the season of gastronomic gluttony I wanted to begin sharing some of our favorite holiday recipes.

When we were houseparents for mentally and emotionally impaired teens, one of our favorite meals was a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. And we didn't always wait until Thanksgiving for it! A houseparent at another group home gave me this recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole that quickly became THE must have side dish for turkey. Never being a big fan of the melted-marshmallows-on-top-casserole, I much prefer the crunchy yummyness of this pecan topping. It's really more of a dessert but we can pretend we're getting our vegies, now can't we? *wink, wink*

Oh, and this is the recipe my son has been taking to holiday dinners since he was in college and we left him to spend a year in Uganda. Being the shy, socially backward kind of guy he is, he promptly invited himself to a friend's house for Thanksgiving. And then filched my recipe to make and take himself. I sorta forgot to make a notation on the original recipe though, to minimize the butter (recipe was WAY excessive) and he had a little puddle of greasy goodness on top. So I will list the amount of butter I really use for your cooking and dining pleasure.

And it will bring pleasure, of that I can assure you!

* 2 eggs
* 1/2 cup granulated sugar
* 1/3 cup butter, melted
* 1/2 cup milk
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 3 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes

* 1 cup brown sugar
* 1/3 cup flour
* 3 tablespoons butter, softened
* 1 cup chopped pecans

Beat eggs, granulated sugar, and 1/3 cup butter. Add milk and vanilla. Combine with the mashed sweet potatoes; spoon into a greased 9"x13" casserole. Combine brown sugar, flour, 3 tablespoons softened butter, and pecans, mixing until crumbly; sprinkle over sweet potatoes. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Serves 6.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Baking Powder Biscuits

Since a couple of you asked for a biscuit recipe to go along with the sausage gravy, I'm obligin' by giving you the one I've used for many years. Now I've been making biscuits since I was knee-high to a grasshopper but this is the best recipe I've ever come across. It's from a cookbook my sister gave me that is my favorite. It's the one cookbook that went to Uganda with me and it was the only one I packed in the suitcase to come here (all the other cookbooks took the slow boat to China Argentina).

The Home-Cooking Sampler: Family Favorites From A to Z is out of print but you can pick up a used copy. I checked first and Oh.My.Word! the cheapest used copy was $97.63. Good grief! Then I found the site I've linked to where it's only $15.24. I guess all those folks selling their copy on amazon know the true value of The Sampler :-)

Because, people, Every.Single.Recipe.I've.Ever.Tried.Has.Been.Fantastic! Many of the recipes I've shared on my blog have been from this cookbook. It's falling apart and the pages are stained with vanilla or spaghetti sauce or gunked up flour (the biscuit page).

This is a tried-and-true recipe and it's really not hard to make, requires few ingredients, and...well, you just can't compare homemade biscuits to those in the little round tins in the cooler section of the grocery store. Or even the bags from the freezer section. That's like comparing apples to oranges.

But I'm gonna let you in on a few "secrets" that no recipe will be able to teach you. First of all, you really, really need a pastry blender. Don't know what that is? It's a handy-dandy kitchen tool that allows you to easily incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients so you end up with a light, fluffy creation. I have used a large fork in the absence of a pastry blender, but it doesn't do the job as well. You can pick one up for $5-10 at any store that carries basic kitchen utensils.

But even more importantly, biscuits require a "light hand" and by that I mean you want to work the dough as little as possible. Once I add the wet to the dry ingredients, I mix just until the dry is incorporated. AND THEN I STOP. Over-beating is a common mistake and one I don't want you to make.

1-3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cornstarch (or just use 2 cups of White Lily flour if you're fortunate to live in the South and have access)
4 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons butter
3/4 cup milk, approximately
melted butter for brushing on the tops

Preheat oven to 425°. Lightly grease heavy baking sheet (I actually don't do this).
In a bowl sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter until well incorporated.
Gradually add milk, mixing very lightly. Now at this point I get a clean linen towel ready on the counter, dust liberally with flour and spoon the gooey biscuit mixture onto it. I flour my hands and gently, GENTLY PEOPLE, form the dough into a circle about 8" across.
You can use whatever you like to cut out the biscuits. I had a small wine glass picked up at a garage sale because it was the perfect size for cutting biscuits. I dipped it in flour between each "cut". This last time I didn't cut them into circles at all. I just dipped a sharp knife in flour and cut the circle into 8 pie shaped wedges and baked 'em. Looked more like scones, but who cares?
Brush with melted butter. Place pan on middle rack of the oven and reduce immediately to 400°. Bake until very lightly browned, about 15-18 minutes.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sausage Gravy

Being from the south, gravy is considered one of the major food groups. We like to put gravy over just about everything. Oh y'all from other parts of the country may call it sauce or some such, but it's just gravy in one of its many forms. You can have white gravy, brown gravy, red eye gravy, pepper gravy, and my all-time-favorite, sausage gravy. Which is really just white gravy with sausage, but keep that under your hats, 'kay?

When I signed on to be a missionary, it was with the understandin' I wouldn't have to give up my gravy. And because a dear friend gave me her amazing recipe for homemade breakfast sausage, I can have some of the best biscuits and sausage gravy anywhere in the world. And you can, too, 'cause I'm gonna share it with you.

Now I realize y'all have access to some mighty fine sausage right at the local Winn Dixie. I'm not exactly a sausage snob but I do like Jimmy Dean for that right amount of fat and seasoning which is absolutely essential to a good gravy base.


1-1/2 lb. ground pork (or you can mix it up with 1 lb. ground pork, 1/2 lb. ground beef/veal/venison)
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried sweet marjoram
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt (I use coarse salt)
Simply add seasonings to meat and mix together well, forming patties to fry.
NOTE: If you use really lean meat, you will have to add oil to the skillet or it will stick. Having the butcher grind a little fat into the ground meat is a good idea in terms of both flavor and the need for fat to make gravy.

1 lb. breakfast sausage (homemade or store bought)
butter as needed
2-3 tablespoons flour
2-3 cups milk
salt and pepper to season
As you can tell, this is not an exact science. I fry up the sausage until it's done, then move it to a platter while I make the gravy and then I crumble up the patties and mix them back in.
To make the gravy you need to make sure you have a few tablespoons of grease in the pan. If the sausage was too lean, you'll need to add butter to make up the deficit. Once it's melted, add the flour. And as to how much flour? That depends on how much grease. You want to make a roux with the flour and grease that is thick but not impossibly so. And you want to stir that constantly for 3-4 minutes over the medium heat so that it starts browning just a little but not burning. Take the skillet off the burner for a minute and add in the milk. Again, this is a by-the-seat-of-your-pants skill that you learn as you go. If you added about 2 tablespoons of flour, you can figure on adding 2 to 2-1/2 cups milk, if you added more flour, it will take more milk. What you want to end up with is a gravy that's not runny but isn't so thick you have to cut it either.
Once you have the gravy to the right consistency, add the crumbled sausage back in, and season as you like with salt and pepper. And for goodness sakes, enjoy over steaming hot biscuits for the best breakfast in the world!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Baked Oatmeal

Years ago I came across a recipe for baked oatmeal in an Amish cookbook. In the original recipe, sliced apples were layered on the bottom of the pan over melted butter and brown sugar sprinkled on top before spreading out the oatmeal batter. It created this giant oatmeal cookie but with a wonderful gooey apple bottom. LOVED it!

Than came the sad day when I got up to make this for breakfast and there were no apples in the house! *gasp* Forgetting the breakfast plan, we'd munched down on all the apples with popcorn the night before.

So what's a cook to do? Improvise of course. The sad truth was we had no fruit of any kind in the house. BUT we did have chocolate chips.

A new and grander tradition was born! If I even thought of making it any other way after that, there was a mutiny. So I present The Goodness of Baked Oatmeal that is like a Giant Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie. Yet another vehicle for the chocolate that is my friend :-)

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup melted butter (or substitute oil)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a large bowl, mix together oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and chocolate chips. In a smaller bowl, beat together the milk, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Mix wet and dry ingredients together just until blended. Spread into a 9x13 inch baking dish that you've sprayed lightly with oil.
Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes.

I always served this with a pitcher of warm milk to pour over the oatmeal. Some of us like a lot of milk, others not so much. There is no right or wrong way to serve it. Let everyone doctor it up as they like.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Apple Puff Pancake

Twice in the past week I've served this dish that's so easy and so fast to make, I'm sure it will become a favorite at your house too!

And because both times I was asked for the recipe, which required some translation (i.e., chewing of nails, looking in bilinguial dictionary, asking the hubby for help and finally having my Spanish tutor proof it -- Thanks Marcela!), I'm sharing it in English AND Spanish!

Apple Puff Pancake

3-4 apples
2-3 T. butter
1/3 c. brown sugar
6 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/2 t. vanilla
2-3 T. powdered sugar
Cook peeled and sliced apples in butter in a large skillet (I use my cast iron skillet but you can use any kind) until apples are soft. Add brown sugar and stir for one more minute, then take off heat.
Beat together the eggs, milk, flour and vanilla until well mixed. Pour over apple mixture and bake at 350° for 20-30 minutes. I know that's a wide range of time but it depends on your oven and skillet. When it has puffed up the sides and turned golden brown, it's done.
Remove from oven, let sit for 5 minutes (the hardest part!), dust with powdered sugar. Slice and eat.

Tarta de Manzana
3-4 manzanas
25 g. manteca
1/3 taza azúcar negra
6 huevos
1 taza harina
1 taza leche
1/2 cucharadita esencia de vainilla
azúcar impalpable
Pelar y cortar en rodajas las manzanas. Cocer en manteca en una sartén grande hasta que esté blanda. Agregar azúcar negra y cocer un minuto.
Batir los huevos, la harina, la leche y la vainilla hasta que tenga consistencia uniforme. Vertir sobre las manzanas. Cocer al horno a 180°C por 20-30 minutos.
Remover del horno y espolvorear con azúcar impalpable.

I'm not much of an apple snob when it comes to cooking with them. I'll use whatever is on hand. Now for eating out of hand, nothing beats a good Honey Crisp. Unfortunately that variety has not made its way this far south yet. So y'all eat a few for me, okay?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Summer Stuffed Tomatoes

Is there anything more wondrous than a sun ripened tomato fresh off the vine? During the season we have tomatoes at almost every meal, including breakfast. Summer Stuffed Tomatoes is a great way to use those large beef steak tomatoes!

Remove small slice across top of stem end of LARGE, FIRM, RIPE TOMATOES. Carefully scoop out most of the pulp of tomatoes, leaving shells intact.
Combine chopped pulp with:
1 cup chopped, cooked, cold chicken
1 chopped celery stick
1 teaspoon minced onion (I usually add more)
2 Tablespoons chopped green pepper
2 chopped hard-cooked eggs
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
Enough mayonnaise to moisten and bind ingredients together.
Refill tomato shells with mixtures. Chill. Serve cold.
[Note: Tuna can be substituted for chicken.]

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Fettucini Alfredo

I am a fan of the pasta and this recipe has become the fall-back meal when in a hurry, in need of comfort food, or just a crazy bad craving for cheese. Oh, and this is definitely NOT a low-cal recipe! But it is quick, easy, yummy, and uses only four ingredients (not counting salt and pepper).

1 lb. fettucini
3 Tablespoons butter
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup shredded fresh parmesan (or asiago or romano or any other sharp, salty hard cheese)
salt and pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to directions. While it is cooking melt butter over very low heat and beat heavy whipping cream with electric mixer until stiff. Fold whipped cream into melted butter and over low heat bring it to a very light simmer (WARNING: DO NOT BOIL!!!). After draining pasta, put back into pan and toss with butter and cream mixture and shredded cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy creamy, cheesy goodness!

Saturday, June 7, 2008


In Argentina grilling is a huge part of the culture. It is called "asado" and the predominant meat being grilled is beef. Of which they grill about every part and that could lead to some amount of squeamishness, but my policy is "don't ask, don't tell".

Here in the U.S. we grill beef, pork, chicken, fish... We have found that chimichurri, a typical and very delicious Argentine condiment for beef, compliments ANY MEAT. It's full of garlicky goodness and as one person online described it, "'s like dragging your steak through the garden!"

Not hard to make, amazingly delicious. You can thank me later :-)

You can either put it right onto the meat (the preferred method at our house) or off to the side for dipping. Some like to marinate their meat in chimi before grilling. We don't but that's certainly an option.

The great thing about chimi (as we call it), is that you can make a big batch and it will keep in the fridge for weeks. Beause of the oil, you'll need to either get it out in time to come to room temperature, or if you're like us and never remember stuff like that, you can just warm it quickly in the microwave or set the container into a bowl of hot water for a while.

Once you've had chimi you'll never go back to A-1 steak sauce again!


* 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
* 8 cloves garlic, minced
* 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
* 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
* 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
* 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
* 1 teaspoon black pepper
* 1 teaspoon salt

Finely chop entire bunch of parsley, add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Italian Sub

When warm weather hits, we eat a lot of sandwiches that require little or no cooking. This is a favorite that my sister-in-law shared with us many years ago. (I've gotten a LOT of great recipes from her!)

1 loaf French or Italian bread (depending on whether you want a long/skinny or short/fat sandwich)
1/4 to 1/2 lb. deli ham (we like honey maple ham but use what YOUR family likes)
1/4 to 1/2 lb. deli salami
1/4 to 1/2 lb. deli cheese (we like provolone but, again, use what your family likes)
2 tomatoes, sliced
several lettuce leaves
balsamic or red wine vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Optional: sliced onion, pepperoncini, olives, etc.

Split loaf of bread down center, length wise, place face up on pan and stick in oven at 450 degrees for about 5-10 minutes until lightly browned (ovens vary).
While bread is browning, mix oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in pie tin (or similarly large, low pan). You're going to need enough in which to dredge all the tomato slices and lettuce leaves so it could be anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 cup. Sorry to be so imprecise but it's really a preference thing.
Remove lightly browned bread from oven, leaving on pan while you "build" the sandwich. Layer dredged tomato slices and lettuce all along one length of bread, then layer the deli ham, salami and cheese and any optional ingredients you want to add. Drizzle any remaining oil and vinegar on other half of bread and place on top the loaded half. Ends up looking a LOT like the one Hugh is holding. :-)
Mmmmm, good!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chocolate Scones as a base for Strawberry Shortcake

I had a hankering for scones on Tuesday. Also had the need for some chocolate. Initially I was going to make my old standby: chocolate chip scones. BUT (and thank goodness there is a BUT to this story) I decided to check online for some other options. And found this recipe. Which is amazing. Which also makes a GREAT base for strawberry shortcake. But can be eaten alone and savored for each bit of chocolatey goodness. Or with a little strawberry or raspberry jam for a little extra kick. These were so good I'm making another batch today. And sharing it with you. 'Cause that's the kind of friend I am.

2/3 cup heavy cream
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa (I prefer the Dutch processed cocoa)
1/2 cup sugar
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup chunked chocolate (your favorite candy bars) OR chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together cream, egg and vanilla in small bowl, set aside. Mix dry ingredients (flour through salt). Cut butter into dry mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in chocolate chunks (or chips). Add cream mixture to flour mixture until dough comes together. (I had to add a couple more tablespoons of cream in order for it to hold together.) Transfer to floured surface and form 8" circle. Brush top with a little cream and sprinkle on couple spoons of sugar. Cut into 8 pie shaped slices and transfer to greased baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes. Allow to cool and ENJOY.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Chicken Feta Burgers with Yogurt Cucumber Sauce

1 slice bread
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
2 Tablespoons finely chopped onion
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 lb. ground chicken
salt and pepper to taste
Tear bread into pieces and soak in milk for 5 minutes. Add egg, onion, feta and ground chicken. Mix well and form into patties. Salt and pepper to taste and grill for 5 minutes or so on each side until done but not dry. Serve how your family likes them (on buns, alone, in pita shells...) with lettuce, tomato, and so on.
NOTE: If you serve in pita shells, a little yogurt/cucumber sauce is a great alternative to mayo. So here's the recipe for that, too:


1 to 1-1/2 cups plain yogurt (less for thicker sauce)
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
2 cloves garlic, crushed
juice of 1/2 lemon, about 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons
salt and white pepper, to taste
Grate cucumber and squeeze out excess liquid (I use a fine mesh strainer for this). Mix all ingredients and refridgerate until ready to use.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Stupendously Delicious Chicken Salad!

I can't just call this plain old chicken salad -- this is the best stuff I've ever had ANYWHERE! Every time I serve it I get requests for the recipe, including the bridal shower Daughter and I hosted a couple weeks ago.

2 1/2 c. diced cooked chicken
1 c. finely chopped celery
1 c. sm. seedless green grapes
1 c. chopped walnuts
1 tsp. minced onion
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream, whipped
1 c. mayonnaise
In a bowl, combine chicken, celery, grapes, walnuts, onion and salt. Whip cream and mix it with the mayonnaise. Fold this dressing into the chicken salad mixture. Cover bowl and refrigerate for several hours. At serving time, serve salad on greens with garnishes (which I leave to your discretion since you know what your family/guests will eat and I don't).

We typically serve it on croissants for special occasions like bridal showers and such, but for regular we eat it on bread, crackers or, as they suggest, just piled up on a big ol' lettuce leaf with tomato wedges on the side.

And while I usually cook up a whole chicken and de-bone it for this recipe, I've also been known to use rotisserie chicken from the deli department. We especially liked it the time I used the lemon pepper rotisserie. Clearly a recipe you can adapt as you see fit. But DON'T mess with the dressing of heavy whipped cream and mayonnaise. That's what makes it so yummy!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Lemon Squares

Lemon squares just scream "SPRING!" to me for some reason. Maybe because spring is when all the yellow flowers seem to bloom: forsythia, tulips, daffodils...and yellow leads me to Lemon Squares. What? You think in a straight line and don't see the connection?

For the crust:
2 cups flour
16 Tablespoons of butter, unsalted and softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
grated zest of one lemon
For the filling:
4 eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

3-4 Tablespoons of confectioners' sugar for sifting over top after they're baked.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To make the crust, mix all ingredients in bowl or food processor until ball of dough forms. Wrap ball in plastic wrap and refridgerate until chilled to make handling dough easier. Press dough evenly onto bottom and 3/4 inch up sides of ungreased 9"x13" pan. Bake on middle rack of oven until lightly colored, about 15-20 minutes. Cool on wire rack while you make the filling. Leave oven set at 350 degrees.
To make the filling, beat eggs until light. Add the sugar gradually and continue beating on medium high speed until very light and airy, about 5 minutes. On low speed mix in lemon juice, flour, baking powder and salt just until combined.
Pour mixture over crust and bake until filling is set and light colored, about 25 minutes. Immediately sift confectioners' sugar over the top. Cool and cut into 24 squares.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Party Parfaits

So today is the bridal shower for one of my daughter's best friends. I had an idea to use the Best Chocolate Pudding Ever in a special way for parties.

'Cause instead of the traditional shower cake we are having us a little dessert buffet. Originally we had planned to have brownies for the chocolate offering but we're also having lemon bars and that just seemed too much the same.

So...came up with a little idea that I'll share now:
Bake the brownies. I added some Ghirardelli chocolate chips because I was feeling all Emeril and wanted to kick it up a notch!
Once the brownies are cool I cut out little rounds that fit perfectly into the bottom of a small clear plastic cup available at Walmart and other fine stores. Had trouble finding the right size cutting tool until while rummaging through the pantry I saw a can of tomato paste. Aha! I checked and yep, perfect match.
That was last night. This morning I commenced to making the Best Chocolate Pudding Ever and filling the cups about 2/3 full with that. It chilled while I worked on other things.
And for the final touch I whipped up some real whipping cream (heavy whipping cream and a few spoons of sugar) to top it off.
Mmmm, good! And pretty, too.

Much better than plain old brownies :-)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Creamed Chicken Over Cornbread

We arrived home around noon today. We've been on the road eleven of the last 16 days. Feeling just a wee bit tuckered. After a lot of fast food meals on the road, I'm going to share something I plan to make in the next couple of days. For a southern girl who loves cornbread and gravy with equal passion, this is the ultimate comfort food! Typically I share quick and easy recipes but today's offering will take a little more work. But let me assure you, IT WILL BE WORTH IT! And it's not hard, just a little more time consuming than the ones I've been posting.

Creamed Chicken Over Cornbread

1 chicken, whole (around 3 lb.)
6 cups watter
1 stalk celery
1-2 carrots
1/3 c. butter
1/3 cup flour
1-1/2 cups light cream or half and half
1 Tablespoon grated onion
1 10 ounce bag frozen peas, thawed
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Rinse chicken, place in large pot with 6 cups water. Add salt, celery and carrots (washed but not peeled). Cover and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour until chicken is cooked (the cooking time depends on how big the chicken is). Remove from heat, remove chicken to platter until cool enough to handle. Reserve the broth. (I often cook down the broth while letting the chicken cool, so the flavor is more intense.) Strain the broth before using later in the recipe.
When chicken is cool enough, remove the meat and dice. Discard skin and bones.
In a heavy saucepan melt the butter on low, add the flour and stir until bubbly (3-5 minutes). Add the cream and 1-1/2 cups of the reserved broth. Cook, stirring until mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Stir in chicken, onion, peas, sage, pepper and Worcestershire sauce.Salt to taste. Serve over cornbread (recipe below). IF by some bizarre chance you don't care for cornbread [what is wrong with you, anyway?!] you can serve over biscuits or other bread products.

2 Tablespoons butter
3/4 cup flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups cornmeal
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
[NOTE: It's good to start the cornbread while chicken is cooling.]
Melt butter in cast iron skillet while mixing dry ingredients in a bowl. In a small bowl mix egg and milk, add to dry ingredients along with melted butter. Stir just until mixed, pour batter into hot skillet. Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

This is one of those recipes you can adapt to your family's personal preferences. Replace the peas with a different vegetable or leave out the vegetable entirely. Add or delete seasonings as you like. Serve it over mashed potatoes instead of bread. Or noodles. I mean, really, this is a very versatile recipe. And it's so delicious!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Fresh Mozzarella Penne Pasta

Our daughter made this for us on one of our recent visits. It was really yummy! It's a nice, fresh pasta dish that I think works especially well as we head into spring and (finally!) warmer weather. Roma tomatoes weren't available so she used regular ones, and it was great.

Fresh Mozzarella Penne Pasta
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
3 medium tomatoes or 5 to 6 Roma tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoons crushed red pepper or to taste
1 (16-ounce) package uncooked penna pasta
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, toss mozzarella cheese with tomatoes, avocados, garlic, olive oil, basil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and red pepper. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and return to pan to keep warm. Add tomato mixture and toss to coat thoroughly. Transfer onto individual serving plates and garnish with parmesan cheese.

Makes 4 servings.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Culinary Arsonist

Our family, especially hubby, is big on puns and loves to make a play on words. [The youth group even dubbed puns "Ivanisms" in his honor.] So we weren't surprised when he came up with a new descriptive phrase for Daughter: culinary arsonist.

No, this isn't a reference to that unfortunate incident last year when she melted the stove hood and singed the kitchen curtains.

As you may remember, she's a foodie and now works at an upscale restaurant. Her boss loves that Daughter is exceptionally good at selling their weekly specials (generally quite expensive) and asked how she does it. Surprised by the question, Daughter replied, "Why, I just tell them about it!" But don't all the servers tell customers about the specials? Of course. So why is she selling more than the other, more experienced, servers? Simple. She really gets into describing how the food is prepared and her enthusiasm is contagious. She gets people all fired up about the food. Hence, she's a culinary arsonist :-)

There was a lot of cooking and eating going on at our house this weekend. It's what our family does best. On Saturday we finished off a pan of moussaka, big bowl of salad, croissants and a pan of chocolate pudding cake served with Breyers vanilla. Sunday it was maple glazed ham, mashed potatoes, peas, salad and Amish baked apples with homemade whipped cream. And tonight there was one piece of lasagna left in the pan at the end of the meal but everything else was "over" as our Ugandan friends would say.

I'm guessing we weren't alone in our gluttony filled holiday weekend. So what did your family have?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sunnyside Egg & Sausage Casserole

I'm sharing a great B&B recipe for Easter breakfast that uses up some of those hard boiled eggs your family has colored. Like everything I share, it's quick and easy to put together. And, oh yes, it is oh so yummy!

1 pound hot sausage
6 to 8 hard-boiled eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 1/2 cups grated cheese (sharp)
Slice eggs and place in buttered casserole dish. Cook and drain sausage. Spread over eggs. Spread sour cream over sausage. Combine cheese and breadcrumbs and sprinkle over sour cream. Bake 20 to 30 minutes @ 350 degrees until bubbly. Serves 6.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Amish Baked Apples

We live in a rural area with a lot of Amish. Boy, can they cook! And this is one of my favorite Amish recipes. The resulting sauce tastes like caramel and there's always extra that I save to top ice cream at other times.

This is melt-in-your-mouth, oh-my-goodness, how-did-I-live-without-this delicious!

And it's quick to put together which is always a plus on busy days when company is coming!

Amish Baked Apples

4 very large or 6 medium size apples
1-1/4 cups brown sugar
scant 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cups water
2 Tablespoons butter
vanilla ice cream (optional but highly recommended!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Core and quarter apples [I have an apple peeler/corer so I use that instead]. Place apples in 3-quart buttered baking dish.

Combine brown sugar, flour, and salt in small bowl. Stir in lemon juice and water and pour mixture over apples. Dot with butter, sprinkle with cinnamon (add as much or as little as you want).

Bake uncovered for one hour, basting twice. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Easy Tiramisu

Last night we had a little celebration in honor of my BIL's birthday. Sort of last minute planning so I made a simple but very yummy dessert: Tiramisu

I've used a variety of recipes over the years, and it can get pretty complicated. But I found this VERY EASY recipe online yesterday and quite honestly, it's my favorite version so far.

Tiramisu is my family's ABSOLUTELY FAVORITE dessert, bar none.
Easy Tiramisu
1 lb. low fat cream cheese (you can use regular if you don't mind the calories but DO NOT use fat free; tried that, not pretty)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
20 lady's fingers (a light, oblong Italian cookie with powdered sugar on one side)
OR: pound cake cut into ½ inch thick slices
2-3 Tablespoons cocoa powder to dust
1 ½ to 2 cups of prepared very strong coffee
2 Tablespoons sugar
shavings of dark chocolate to top

Chill whipping cream and bowl.
Mix coffee and sugar and chill.
Whip the whipping cream until it reaches stiff peaks.
Mix cream cheese and sugar in medium bowl until smooth. (Add more sugar as desired.)
Fold in the whipped cream to create the cheese mixture.
Soak lady fingers (or pound cake slices) in coffee for a couple seconds, rotating to coat all sides. Place one layer on bottom of an 8x8-in. pan.
Spread half the cheese mixture on top. Smooth with a spatula or spoon.
Sift half the cocoa powder on surface of layer.
Apply second layer of lady fingers (or pound cake) and remaining cheese.
Sift remaining cocoa powder and top with chocolate shavings.
Cover in plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Honey Mustard Chicken

1/2 cup liquid honey
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/2 t. curry powder
2 T. melted butter
4 boneless chicken breasts
bread crumbs to coat
salt and pepper

Combine honey, mustard, curry powder and butter. Coat each piece of chicken with this mixture, then roll in bread crumbs. Salt and pepper to taste. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Easy to double, triple, whatever, depending on the size of your family. Takes about 5 minutes to put together and 45 minutes to bake, so less than an hour from start to finish.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Beef and Rice Good Stuff

1-1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, chopped
1/3 lb. mushrooms, chopped
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 16 oz can peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 c. long grain rice
2-1/2 c. chicken or beef broth (we prefer the beef)
salt and pepper to taste
In large skillet, combine beef, onions and garlic. Cook until beef is no longer pink, stirring to break up the meat. Drain any accumulated fat (we use really lean beef so there isn't any).
Add peppers and mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce and tomatoes and cook until most of liquid has evaporated. Stir in rice and broth. Simmer, partially covered until liquid is absorbed and rice is soft, stirring occasionally, about 20-25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

*** Now my kids liked vegetables but for those whose kids balk when seeing bits of vegetables, you can omit the mushrooms and peppers. You're losing some flavor but it will still be good. And you can substitute an 8 oz. can of tomato sauce in place of the chunkier peeled tomatoes. Obviously, using tomato sauce will mean you don't have to cook very long before adding the rice and broth. ***

Saturday, February 9, 2008

BEST Chocolate Pudding EVER

3 egg yolks (you can save the whites to make chocolate meringues!)3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
3 cups of milk at room temperature*
3 Tablespoons butter
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips**

Beat egg yolks in heavy saucepan. Add cornstarch, sugar and salt and mix until well blended. Slowly add milk, whisking so there are no lumps. On medium low heat cook mixture, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbles start to appear in center of pan -- about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla, stirring to dissolve butter. Add chocolate chips and stir until melted and creamy. Pour into dessert glasses. You can eat this hot (my favorite way) or chill until cold (my hubby's favorite).
* I am always in too much of a hurry to wait for the milk to reach room temperature so I just heat one cup of milk in the microwave for a minute and add the other 2 cups of cold milk and it's just about right for room temperature :-)
** You can eliminate the chocolate (although who would want to do that?!) and have really good vanilla pudding.