Sunday, December 30, 2012

Strawberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

I made this as a breakfast / hostess treat for the New Year's Eve party that we are attending..SO Very Happy with how it turned out!  Will definitely be making this one more often!!

Butter Cake & Crumb Topping
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, cold and cut into chunks
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sour cream (full fat)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Filling
1 - 8oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg

Strawberry Filling
1 1/2 cup *fresh strawberries, cut into pieces
3 tbsp sugar
3 tsp water
1.5 tsp cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line an 8 inch round pan with removable bottom with non-stick baking paper or spray heavily with cooking spray.
Prepare the strawberry jam.
Combine the cornstarch and water to make a slurry in a bowl. Mix the strawberries and sugar in a pan. Cook over low heat until the strawberries release their juices about 5 minutes, then add the cornstarch mix and stir until well combined. Stir for another minute or two until it has thickened. Remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature while you prepare the rest of the cake.

* I confess, I used frozen sliced strawberries (one tub).  Just drain about half the liquid off when thawed completely and use as the recipe directs.  Did beautifully for me!
Prepare the cream cheese filling.
Beat the cream cheese on medium speed for about 30 seconds until smooth. Add in the sugar and egg and beat until well combined. Set aside.
Prepare the cake.
Combine the flour and sugar together in a bowl. Using a pastry cutter or just 2 forks, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Measure 3/4 cup of the mixture and set aside. Add the baking soda, baking powder and salt and mix well.
In another bowl, beat the sour cream, egg and vanilla extract until well blended. Using a hand whisk or a spoon, stir gently into the flour mixture until just incorporated. Batter may be a bit lumpy. Set aside.
Spread the batter in the pan, with about 1/2 inch up the sides, also leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edges bare (like making a well). Pour the cream cheese mixture over the batter, being careful not to go beyond the border. Spread the strawberry jam on top of the cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup crumbs over the strawberry filling. Bake for 50-55 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes before removing the cake.
The next time I'll do this without the wax paper on the bottom of the pan although it removed very well. I think that spraying your pan thoroughly will make it possible to eliminate this step.  The presentation is just beautiful.  I may sprinkle with powdered sugar and just wrap it up! 
Happy New Year Ya'll! xxooxx

"Geez-Us" Dip

The family favorite when it comes to game time is this Sausage Queso Dip, affectionately known as Geez-Us Dip (please don't take offense, I certainly don't mean any disrespect but you really will say "Geez-Us...this is good dip") Phase stolen from a dear friend from college - thanks Elaine!

1 lb sausage cooked. crumbled and drained (I only use Tennessee Pride)

1/2 to 2/3 box of Velveeta cheese (cubed, light or regular, either is fine)

1 large jar of salsa (your favorite brand)

or 2 -3 cans of Rotel brand tomatoes (hot, regular or mild depending on your taste)

chopped red or green peppers, sliced scallions (optional)

Add cubed cheese, salsa or Rotel and sausage to your crock pot on low heat. Allow cheese to melt and stir about every 15 minutes for the first hour. In an hour or s, if the mixture is too thick in consistency, you may want to add more salsa or Rotel to thin the mixture. If it is too thin, add more cheese and it will thicken up nicely.

Serve with tortilla scoops or Frito scoops. You'll need a sturdy chip - this is seriously good dip! Geez-Us!!!!!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Monkey Bread

This is not a cinnamon, sweet Monkey Bread...someone must have "Monkeyed" with my recipe:)

2 cans refrigerated biscuits (quarter each biscuit)
1 dozen eggs
1/2 c milk
1 lb bacon (cooked, drained and diced)
2 c Velveeta shredded cheese
1/2 stick butter
salt and pepper

Spray a bundt pan liberally with cooking spray. Whip milk and eggs together (salt and pepper as you wish). Layer ingredients in this order: Biscuit wedges, 2 pats of butter separated and spread around the pan, bacon pieces, 1/4 c Velveeta - repeat layers again, top with a final layer of biscuit wedges and cheese on the top. Pour egg and milk mixture over the layers and let the dish sit for 15 minutes. Bake at 375* for 45 minutes or until completely set. I test the center with a skewer to make sure it has cooked through completely.

Place a serving tray on top of the bundt pan then flip it over and (hopefully) the pan will slide off easily revealing a lovely breakfast bundt!

We have this on Christmas morning as it is easy to make ahead and re-heat in the morning and has a lovely presentation.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Butterscotch Haystacks

Butterscotch Haystacks

1 large 15 oz can of potato sticks
2 bags butterscotch chips
2 Tbl cooking oil

Add butterscotch chips and oil into a microwave container for 1 minute, stir and repeat for 1 more minute, stir until smooth.  Add potato sticks and stir until completely coated.

Drop in teaspoons onto waxed paper.  Allow to set until cool. 

Some recipes for this call chow mien noodles or even peanut butter, I've even seen marshmallows included.  I like just plain butterscotch and nothing else.  You can embellish it however you wish!

Peanut Brittle

I made something new this morning!  If I'd have know it was this easy - I'd have made this LONG AGO!  One dish, no clean up and microwave!  How incredibly easy!

1 cup sugar
1 cup cocktail peanuts (no skins)
1/2 cup light Karo Syrup
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon baking soda

Place foil on a cookie sheet. Liberally grease the foil with butter, set aside.

Combine the peanuts, sugar, Karo syrup, and salt in a microwave safe container. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, stir once, then cook another 2  minutes. Add the butter and vanilla and baking soda, stir well and pour onto prepared cookie sheet. Let cool and break into pieces.

Hints:  Use a plastic microwave bowl that you don't want to keep (get a cheap one at the Dollar Store or use one that is discolored from a pasta past) and use a wooden spoon that you don't care to keep.  This is very sticky and I did not even attempt to clean the dish.  I'll sacrifice a 3/$1 bowl and a .25 cent spoon!  I don't think NASA could have cleaned them!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Turkey Broccoli Casseole

1-2 lbs turkey breast (chopped)
2 bags of instant white rice
1 bag frozen broccoli florets
1 can cream of chicken soup (or cream of mushroom)
1 jar Ragu Cheese Sauce
1 sleeve Ritz crackers (crushed)
1/3 stick of butter

Well, here we are - one day post sandwiches and we STILL have turkey left here's my solution for a warm and comforting dinner on a cold evening.

Spray a 9x9 casserole dish with vegetable spray, while microwaving the rice for 10 minutes.
Drain Rice and allow to cool slightly while chopping the turkey breast into small chunks.  Add the rice, turkey, broccoli, soup and cheese sauce into a large mixing bow. I use a huge Tupperware dish as I'm not all that neat about mixing things.  Mix everything together then transfer into your sprayed casserole dish.  Top with crushed Ritz crackers and dot with small pats of butter.  Bake at 350* for 40 minutes. 
Serve with warm bread and a side salad or veggie of your choice.  I'm serving it with baked asparagus and yeast rolls tonight! 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Deviled Eggs

One of my most prized possessions is Mama's Cut Glass Deviled Egg Dish.  I can't count how many holiday dinners and meals at Birds Creek Baptist Church this dish has seen but I absolutely treasure it!  It rides in my lap and is never left for someone else to wash and return.  It comes home with ME! 
I fill it at least three or four times a year with eggs made exactly the way she did.  Oddly enough, this is the ONLY thing that I ever made as a teenager.  Even I couldn't mess this up and I couldn't make macaroni and cheese without the box and a chemistry set until I was 25!

1 dozen eggs
4 -5 large Tablespoons Miracle Whip
3 teaspoons yellow mustard
3 Tablespoons sweet relish
Paprika or Parsley to garnish
1 quart zip top baggie

Boil on dozen eggs at a hard boil for 12 - 15 minutes.  The minute you remove them from the stove, start a cold water bath over the eggs and drain that hot water off zip the bag closed and remove as much air as possible.  Smash the yolks into a fine powdery texture. 

Add mayo, mustard and relish.  Zip the bag again and mix completely (just smush it back and forth in your hands until it is completely mixed).  It should be nice and golden and creamy.  If it's too dry, add more mayo two parts to the mustard.

Snip the very tip of a corner of the baggie (farthest corner from the zip top).  Use this like a pastry bag and squeeze the filling into your hollowed eggs on your serving tray.  If you want to get all fancy, use a actual pastry bag with a pretty tip to get a ruffled edge.  I just go simple and no one has EVER left one of these uneaten on the plate!  If you use a baggie, you just toss it away when you finish and there is NO cleanup! 

Garnish eggs with a light sprinkling of paprika or parsley or alternate eggs at Christmas or a red and green garnish platter but do NOT mix them both together. Garnish is one or the other!  The males in our family rave about these eggs and I love to spoil them!  If you do something fancy like adding crab meat or what not....WHY would you do that?  Deviled Eggs are meant to be simple and that is just fine with me!

Cornbread Dressing

For my money, you can keep the bird and just pass me the whole pan of cornbread dressing! I love it way too much to make it more than once a year! I am sad to admit that I never watched nor listened to my Mama when she made this but with the help of a good cookbook and my own twists on it, this is as close to my Mama's heavenly Southern Cornbread Dressing that I can get. It's not fancy and I don't want it to be!

1 large pan of cornbread - notes below
8 slices of lightly toasted bread
1 sleeve saltines
1 stick of butter
1 bunch of celery (minced)
1 small onion (minced)
8 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 Tablespoon poultry seasoning
6 eggs (beaten)

Find the biggest dish you have to mix this in!  I use a large rectangle Tupperware container and sometimes I use two of them to make this easier to handle!

Cornbread:  Take my word for it and do this the easy way (Mama, don't read this part)...use Jiffy Mix Cornbread Mix - 3 boxes, prepare according to the directions but add one extra egg (for luck).  Bake @ 350* in a 9x13 greased baking dish until the center is completely done.

Mince the celery and onion.  I use a sweet red onion and I mince all these until I can't get it any finer.  I like it in my dressing but I don't like to bite into a big chunk of anything in particular.  Add the celery and onion to a large skillet, add one stick of butter (sliced) and simmer this mixture on medium then low heat until veggies are translucent.  You may add a splash of water to help keep it wet as this takes about 30 minutes to sweat it all the way down.  Let is cool as you'll be mixing this by hand most likely - I can't mix it any other way but if you've got better "spoon" skills than me, go right ahead!

Pop your bread into the toaster and toast lightly (you want it golden, not dark brown).  Allow to cool and tear into very fine pieces.  Crush one sleeve of saltines into a fine crush.  You can use your hands and crush it really well while it's still in the sleeve.  Start by pushing each end together lengthwise and that will break the majority of the crackers, then just keep squishing it all around until they are completely crumbled.  You can also put them in a zip top bag and beat them with a baseball bat (fine, use a rolling pin if you have one)!

Tear your cornbread into a fine crumble the mix well with bread and saltines.  Add celery and onion mixture over the bread mix.  Add 1/2 the chicken stock then the seasonings of salt, pepper, sage and poultry seasoning.  Begin mixing and gradually add in the remaining chicken stock.  This is when you can taste a sample to adjust your seasonings to suit you. 

Add the beaten eggs and combine everything well.  Bake in a greased baking dish (or two if necessary) at 350* for about 45-55 minutes.  This takes the better part of an hour to cook thru, time will vary depending on how deep you've made it in your baking dish.  Make sure the center is set completely before removing it from the oven.

If you are a giblet gravy maker (and I am not) save a few tablespoons of the uncooked dressing mix to add to your gravy.  I really don't like this but Mama always did it so I'm telling it.

You can make this in advance by a day.  Just cover it REALLY well and keep it in the fridge.  To reheat, brush it with 1/2 cup of chicken stock to moisten it again and warm it up on Thanksgiving morning.

This is so wonderful that I can almost see Mama in that apron at the stove again!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Baked Tacos

This is my twist on a recipe that I saw on Pinterest (yes, I have a minor addiction to that application but I do make the things that I pin - well....mostly)!  I didn't think that there would be any big taste difference from regular tacos but I was wrong.  These were excellent and much tastier!  I'll definitely be making these more often!

1 lb gound beef
1 can refried beans (fat free)
12 white corn hard taco shells
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
1 cup taco sauce (brand of your choice)
2 cups shredded lettuce
1/3 cup sour cream
tomatoes or avacodo slices (optional)

Brown and drain ground beef.  Add shells in a 9x13 baking dish, all open side up.  Stir refried beans (you may omit these if you truly don't care for them) and add 1 teaspoon to the bottom of each shell.  Add with approximately 2 tablespoons of ground beef to each shell, pour taco sauce (I like Ortega Mild) or even salsa if you prefer over each shell.  Top with shredded cheese and slide the dish into a 350* oven for 15 minutes (or until heated thru and the cheese is melted).

Add tacos to your serving plate, top with lettuce, sour cream and tomatoes or avacodo slices (even olives might be good)...add what you like, omit what you don't. 

I think that the difference is that the tacos are hot all the way thru and that melted cheese is extra good.  We really loved the difference that baking them made!  The entire process took a 40 minutes from the moment I walked in tonight until there were forks ready to eat!  Great convenient dish for a busy Monday!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sausage Hominy Casserole

1 lb Country Sausage (I like Tennessee Pride the best)
2 cans Hominy (white or yellow or one of each)
2 cans Rotel Brand Tomatoes (mild or regular)
2 cups Shredded Velveeta (or 1/4 of a regular block of Velveeta)
1 Bell Pepper (diced)
3 Scallions (thinly sliced)

Crumble, brown and drain sausage. Drain hominy and tomatoes (you'll have to use a spoon to squish the water out of the tomatoes). Be sure you have everything well drained or your dish will be runny. Mix drained hominy, tomatoes, sausage, peppers, scallions and shredded cheese. Hold a little of the cheese to scatter over the top of the dish. Bake in a casserole dish (9x9 or 11x13)at 350* for 20-25 minutes (or microwave for 7-10 minutes).

Serve with tortillas (quarter them and serve as wedges) or this also goes well with Mexican Corn Bread.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Vegetable Beef Soup

1 large sirloin steak
1 pkg Knorr Vegetable Soup (or dip) mix - dry package
1 box long grain wild rice
1 can green beans
1 can whole kernel corn (or hominy if you prefer)
1 can diced carrots
1 can small Lima beans
1 can black eyed peas
1 can diced potatoes
1 can English peas
2 cans mixed vegetables

This fills my biggest crock pot - if you have a small pot, you may need to split this and use two crocks.

Toss the steak on the grill and cook until well done (but no charring on the outside).  Let steak rest for 10 minutes then slice and chop meat.  Save all those juices from the steak - that adds GREAT flavor to your soup.  Add meat to crock pot then add each of canned vegetables (frozen do not work as well for this recipe) including the juices of each can of veggies.

Blend the vegetable soup mix and long grain rice with 3 cups of water and microwave for 12 minutes. Pour cooked soup mix and rice over steak mix in your large crock pot.  Stir to mix ingredients then salt and pepper to taste. You may need to add more water to cover mix and make a full pot of soup. Let simmer on low for 6 - 8 hours.

Adjust the veggies to suit what you like or what you have on hand...I like to toss in the entire garden!

I like to serve vegetable beef soup with corn bread.  You can serve it with crackers or even white bread if you prefer.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Chicken Broccoli Casserole

3 Large Chicken Breasts (boneless, skinless)
2 Bags Boil in Bag Instant Rice
12 oz Chopped Broccoli Florets
2 cans Cream of Chicken Soup
1 1/2 cups Shredded Cheese (I like Velveeta or Cheddar)

Boil chicken breasts for 30 minutes then drain, shred and season with salt and pepper. Place bags of rice in a microwave safe dish, cover with water and cook for 12 minutes then drain well. Cook broccoli in microwave for 6 minutes (don't add any water). Mix chicken, rice, broccoli, soup (do not dilute soup) and cheese. Bake in a casserole dish (spray with non-stick cooking spray, 9x9 or 11x13)at 350* for 20-25 minutes.

You can make your own tweaks to this...wild rice instead of white, Cream of Mushroom instead of Cream of Chicken, Swiss instead of cheddar (would be especially nice with the mushroom soup). You can even top it with crushed Ritz Crackers and dot it with butter for a crumb's a casserole, it's not rocket with it!

Serve with a tossed salad and fresh baked bread = Dinner Time!!!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Chicken Noodle Casserole

When it comes to a cold rainy weekend...comfort food is definitely a MUST!  Less complicated, veggie filled and very inexpensive is the way to go!

1 lb egg noodles
3 large chicken breasts (cooked and chopped) or 2 cans of prepared chicken
2 cans mixed vegetables (I like canned better than frozen but either will work)
2 cans cream of chicken soup (or cream of mushroom)
1 cup sour cream
1 sleeve Ritz crackers (crushed)
1/2 stick butter
salt and pepper to taste

Boil and cold water rinse noodles (rinsing after cooking removes some of the starch and your noodles won't clump together as much).  I boil my chicken breasts because it is so easy and your chicken stays super tender and moist.  Chop the chicken or use 2 cans of prepared chicken. 

Drain the vegetables, mix veggies with soup and sour cream.  Add chicken to veggie mix then fold into the noodles. Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with cooking spray then add your noodle mix.  Crush Ritz crackers into a fine consistency (a zip lock bag makes this quick and easy - just use your hands or a small baseball bat - okay, use a rolling pin if you have one)!  Melt butter in the microwave for just a few seconds (a coffee cup works well.  Mix the cracker crumbs in the melted butter then spread them on top of your casserole.

Bake at 350* for about half an hour.  Serve with fresh baked bread and a light'll feel all snugly and comfy in no time. I promise!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pepper Steak

This is one of the very first things I ever learned to cook (I was in college - yes, I was a late bloomer in the kitchen).  After too many evenings of busy schedules and fast food, I HAD to cook tonight and this was my solution!

1 lg sirloin steak (have the butcher slice it into thin strips)
2 lg bell peppers - sliced (all green or mix 1 green, 1 red)
2 medium tomatoes - chopped
sliced water chestnuts
2 cups lite soy sauce
2 bags of instant white rice
chow mein noodles to garnish

Having the butcher slice the steak makes everything SO much easier and faster!  Add the soy sauce to a large skillet set on high (just until the temp comes up).  Slice peppers - add to hot soy sauce for 3-4 minutes (cover skillet to speed up cooking time.  Place the boil in bag rice in a microwave appropriate dish and set to cook for 10 minutes (may need a couple more if you have a low watt microwave).  Add steak and water chestnuts to the pepper mixture, cover and reduce to medium heat. 

When the rice is finished, your steak will be about medium well. Add chopped tomatoes to the steak mix, cover and reduce heat to low.  Allow steak to cook for 5 minutes (don't let the tomatoes get all mushy).  Drain rice and you're done!

Serve pepper steak over a bed of  steamed rice, top with crunchy chow mein noodles.  I came into the house at 4:45 and we sat down to diner at 5:15.   Not bad for a Thursday and I only had two pans to clean up!

You can vary this to include your favorite veggies.  Some like to add sliced onion or bean sprouts.  If you like those - go for it.  I just like keeping it simple and the taste is always amazing.  Hope you like it too!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fast Thaw and Rise Bread

Well I sure learned something this morning!  Even the best made plans can hit a snag....and a big snag at that!  I forgot to set my bread out to thaw and rise last night.  This morning I woke up and realized that I was in BIG I had to get resourceful.

I remembered Thing #2 telling me how Texas Roadhouse got their rolls to rise by using a "proofer".  So when I took my breakfast biscuits out of the oven, I left the door open for just a few minutes (warmed the kitchen and cooled the over).  I added a bowl of tap water in the center then put my frozen bread loaves in greased pans, set them in the oven (now powered off) and closed the door.  That was at 7:00 am  

Just 4 hours later, I was ready to bake!  These are two of the biggest and prettiest loaves that I've baked in months.  Sunday miracles really do happen :)!

Now if you want to know the secret to the dough, I can't possibly tell you.  You'll have to ask the people that make and package it.  I just know that I can always count on the grocery to have it in the freezer for me.  Yes, I use frozen bread dough.  I'm busy but I want to make nice bread - I just don't have the time to grow the wheat and all that jazz.  Cheaters deserve delicious hot baked bread too!

Hope this saves someones meal sure saved mine!

Chicken Noodle Soup

Does ANYTHING say comfort more than chicken noodle soup? I say NO! This is so simple and can be ready in less than an hour but I prefer to let it simmer about 60 minutes to let the flavors really intensify.

2 cans chopped chicken (or you can chop a deli prepared chicken or bake the thing yourself - no skin)
1 package wide egg noodles
2 cans diced or crinkle cut carrots (crinkle cut presents so much prettier but little guys like diced)
1/2 sleeve of celery, diced fine and sauteed until tender.
2 boxes of chicken stock (any variety is fine)

Prepare noodles as directed and rinse with cold water to stop the starches from making your noodles sticky when done. Drain and add to chicken, carrots, celery and chicken stock. Cover and cook on high for an hour...serve with saltines of fresh baked bread.

This is hard to freeze as that pasta doesn't always come back as fresh from the freezer...but you'll rarely have left overs so it's no worry!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sausage Bread

This is an excellent make ahead breakfast for times when you have a house full of overnight guests.
2 loaves frozen bread dough (thaw completely)
1 lb county sausage (brown into crumbles, drain and cool) I like mine with a lot of meat so you can use more if you want to "pork" this recipe up some :)
2 cups mozzarella cheese (again, if you like things extra cheezy, use 3 cups)

Let the frozen dough thaw for 4 - 5 hours.  If you leave it out too long, it gets crusty and is harder to work with.

Flour your work surface, roll out one loaf of dough at a time (I just pull mine by hand.  You do what is easiest for you. Spread in 1/2 the sausage crumbles on each loaf, top with a cup or so of mozzarella cheese and roll into a log. Place on a well greased large cookie sheet or in a greased loaf pan and bake 20 minutes in a 350* oven. Let cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack, since and serve. You may let this cool completely then roll in saran wrap and refrigerate until breakfast. Sounds so simple but is soooo delicious.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Apple Muffins

1 can apple pie filling
2 cups baking mix (Bisquick or Jiffy Mix)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
This is as simple as it gets folks!  No I didn't harvest, wash, peel and bake the apples from scratch (but you certainly can if you have the time)!  I am a busy baker so I take what short cuts I can.  Today's goal was to make a light and simple muffin that wouldn't have 500 calories each!
Add apple pie filling to your mixing dish and mash it with a potato masher (or a fork will work too).  When your apples are mashed to a small chunk consistency, add baking mix, sugar, eggs and oil.  Mix well and add your batter into the baking cups or muffin tin...I use an ice cream scooper and it is the exact right amount every time.
Bake at 350* for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top and centers are set. 
Now I did these straight forward and super simple.  You can embellish this with nuts, a streusel topping or even a glaze on top. 
Streusel Topping
1/2 cup baking mix (flour works too)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick real butter (softened but not melted)
1 tsp cinnamon sugar
Use a fork to "cut" ingredients into the butter, you want a medium to fine crumbly consistency.  Sprinkle the streusel over the top of batter then bake your muffins.
1 cup powdered sugar
1 t cinnamon sugar
2 T milk
Whip together then set in fridge to let the glaze thicken for about 10 - 15 minutes.  Drizzle over muffins and serve.
If you do go traditional and bake your own apples, be sure to add 1 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup cinnamon sugar to them in order to keep them sweet.  I like to mix my sugar as 1/2 cup white and 1/2 cup brown sugar. 
Grab a cold glass of milk, butter up that muffin and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Peanut Butter Eclair Jar Cake

This is a hurried lady's solution for dessert for 30 tomorrow and NO baking !!!

1 box chocolate graham crackers
2 large box vanilla instant pudding
1 cup peanut butter (creamy not crunchy)
3 1/2 cups milk
1 large tub Cool Whip, thawed - low fat is fine
2 cans chocolate frosting

You can make this in a 9x13 dish but I had a large apothecary jar on hand so I used it to make it look interesting...a trifle dish would do well too.

In bowl of an electric mixer, mix pudding with milk and peanut butter; beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Fold in whipped topping - mix lightly until all blended (I used my whisk attachment and this was super quick and didn't beat the Cool Whip to death). Microwave chocolate frosting for 30 seconds - whisk until smooth. 

Line the bottom of your container with chocolate graham crackers - some I left whole, I broke a few to fill in the edges.   Pour 1/4 the pudding mixture over graham crackers . Pour 1/4 the frosting over the pudding layer.  Place another layer of whole graham crackers on top of pudding layer and repeat process.  Top with a layer of crushed graham crackers.

I had some extra Cool Whip on hand so I added a few layers of straight Cool Whip...a lady's gotta do what a lady's gotta do!  I NEVER waste ingredients!  It may not be called for but I bet no one will complain that I went off recipe tomorrow :)!

Refrigerate for at least 12 hours before serving.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ham and Bean Soup

It doesn't get much simpler or Southern than this!  The key to GREAT bean soup is three fold.
#1 Beano (let's all be just a little bit honest here), #2 cornbread and #3 really good ham (the beans are just beans). 

2 cups chopped  ham
1 c light brown sugar
1/2 c sorghum molasses (in Tennessee, get Benton County, in Kentucky get Moonlite - they are the best in each state)
1 c water
1 large Reynolds Baking Bag with tie
1 pkg (large bag) dried northern beans
your largest crock pot
2 boxes of Jiffy Cornbread Mix (or make it from scratch if you prefer)
cooking spray

First things first, rinse those dry beans in your colander and get all the dust off them.  Then put them in a very large Tupperware box and cover with cool water to let them soak for at least 8 hours.  Pick out any discolored or "bad beans".  It takes a full day of soaking to have these ready to cook.  I start mine soaking in the morning then put them in the crock pot just before we go to sleep.  You'll wake up hungry I guarantee but it'll be oh so worth it when you don't have to cook tomorrow!

Second, take the sliced ham and place it in a baking bag.  Add the brown sugar, top with molasses then add water.  Make sure the sugar, molasses and water mix and then tie your baking bag closed  (poke a few holes in the bag to vent the steam) then bake in a baking dish @ 350* for one hour.  Remove ham from oven and open the bag (just cut a slit in the top) to allow ham to steam for 30 minutes in the juices.  Remove ham a few slices at a time.  Drain juices (those are precious and you'll need them) - chop the ham into very small pieces.  Place in a Tupperware bowl and then top with all those fabulous juices.  Seal and refrigerate overnight.  If you're in a pinch for time, buy the ham already to go - Kentuckiana makes a Brown Sugar Baked Ham.  Those are already sliced and super convenient.

Just before bedtime, place the soaked beans in your crock pot, cover with water (plenty of water) and set the heat on low cook.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  When you wake up (in the night or in the morning) check that water level as it cooks out quickly.  In the dawn of daylight (or when you are awake enough to function) add 2 cups of chopped ham and at least /2 cup of the juices from that ham.  This is the KEY to making GREAT Ham and Bean Soup.  Beans are beans, but great ham makes it famous with your friends and family!  You may want more ham it you like it meatier.  Add extra juices accordingly.

Let combination simmer all day (or at least 4 hours).  I know those beans just cooked all night but it's the addition of the ham, juices and extra soak time that make this so wonderful.

Prepare corn bread as directed....okay that's not exactly true.  I always add an extra egg (for luck according to my Mama) and (forgive me...) 2 good big pinches of white sugar.  I know that sounds awfully Yankee but Lord Love Me, I do like sweet cornbread.  You can make muffins, make it in a baking dish or bake it in an iron skillet - just be sure to spray your cooking outlet with spray before you begin.  Let cornberad cool completely or you'll eat it all warm with butter and have none to go with your soup!

Serve soup with Beano (revisit key #1) and warm cornbread.  Add a big glass of tea and you are all set for a low calorie high protein delicious dinner (the left overs are fabulous for lunches so this dish goes even farther)!!! 

This makes a really pretty delivery meal if you have a friend in need or under the weather.  I hope this warms your heart as much as it does mine.  Enjoy Ya'll!  xxooxx

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cheesy Potato Soup

There is no better comfort food that potato soup. 

End of statement, it cannot be argued. 

I learned some new tricks with this today as my ingredient stash started to came out to the be the best pot of cheesy potato soup I've ever made!

5 lbs large russet potatoes
2 cans evaporated milk (low fat is fine)
1 1/2 cup milk (skim, 2% or whole milk - it all works, you may need a bit more depending on thickness)
1 large box Velveeta Cheese (2% is fine)
1/2 stick butter (real butter)
salt and pepper to taste
1 package of real bacon bits or 1/2 lb of bacon fried and crumbled
2 chopped scallions

Peel and dice potatoes, try to keep them a consistent size.  Put into a large pot of boiling water and cook until very tender and water begins to thicken.

Remove potatoes and drain 80% of the water (don't let any of your potatoes get way - use a colander).  I just eyeball this process - most of the water out...just a little left in the pot.  I use my potato masher (yes, the old fashioned kind with an handle - I have Mammy's) and lightly mash your potatoes.  You want it lumpy but thick. 

Add mixture into your crock pot or you can simply return it to the stove top and finish it on the spot.  Add evaporated milk and regular milk (the evaporated milk makes it creamier).  Cube the Velveeta and add to the soup mixture.  Add Salt and Pepper to taste.  Drop in the butter.  I have to admit, the butter was a rescue effort as my soup's sample taste was "too thin".  This did a GREAT job of improving the taste and consistency.  Wish I'd have done that years ago!

If your soup is too thick, thin it with more regular milk.  You can always thin it but you cannot thicken it well.  If you need to thicken, you can mash the potatoes more but it will only work so much.  Better thick than thin (that's what I say)!

Let cook on low until cheese melts.  Serve topped with bacon bits and a few scallions. 

Top with bacon and a few scallions.  I serve this with freshly baked bread...if it's a carb-comfort fest...why not go ALL the way!  Serve Honey Butter with your bread and it's even better :):)

If you refrigerate your left overs, you may need to add a touch of milk for re-heating.  It tends to thicken overnight.

An inexpensive and delicious way to end out a brisk and busy day!  Tater UP People!!!

Pumpkin Pie

Happy Fall Ya'll!  It has cooled off nicely and there is a nip in the air....and a PIE in the oven!

Pumpkin pie is one of the lowest calorie desserts you can make and yes (sadly) I'm back on the calorie counter so I'm trying to be a good girl this weekend (at least calorically :~)!

1 can Libby's Pumpkin Pie Mix (make sure it is the MIX - not just the plain pumpkin)
2 eggs
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 frozen pie crusts
1 small container of Cool Whip
pumpkin pie spice (just to garnish)

Yep, it's THAT simple!  I am a busy woman and I don't have time to fret with a dozen ingredients.  The simpler, the better!

Mix the pumpkin pie mix with the eggs and evaporated milk.  Pour mix into pie shells.  I take aluminum foil and cover the edges of my pie crusts to keep it from over baking.  You may have those fancy pie crust covers from a kitchen shoppe but aluminum foil works exactly the same.

Bake in a 400* oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350* for another 40 or so minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  I check mine at 30 minutes and remove the aluminum foil from the crusts.  They brown up nicely in those last few minutes.  Your total cooking will be close to an hour. This recipe makes a pie for you and one to share!

I top mine with a dollop of Cool Whip and if I've got my fancy pants on, I might even sprinkle it with a dash of pumpkin pie spice to impress my husband!  If it's just me...I can't wait that long and just dig right in! 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Captain Rodney's Cheese Bake

Now, this is not MY recipe but I had to share it with you.  I was introduced to this dish almost a year ago.  A friend at work brought this to a pot luck and we ate everything but the pot she brought it in!  This is RIDICULOUSLY Good Stuff.  I came across the glaze at a wonderful local gift shoppe today and it reminded me that I should make some to enjoy while we watch the football games with this weekend. 

1/2 cup mayonnaise (lite is fine)
One 8 oz pack cream cheese (room temperature - reduced fat is fine)
2 cups grated cheddar cheese (I don't skimp on the cheese is oily)
2 green onions (finely chopped)
10 Ritz crackers (crushed)
8 slices bacon (cooked and crumbled) or 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1/2 cup of Captain Rodney's Boucan Glaze

The glaze must be shaken vigorously prior to pouring ( you need to get all the spices to mix).  It's easier if you flip the bottle upside down while you mix your gets a head start on those spices moving as this glaze is quite thick.

Mix mayonnaise, cream cheese, cheddar and onions in greased spring form pan. Top with crushed crackers and bake at 350° for 15 minutes. Top with bacon then glaze.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes then remove the sides of the dish.  Serve warm with crackers (I like a buttery cracker like Ritz but use your favorite).  Also good dipped with apple slices and celery.  There will be NO leftovers. 

If you have an oven appropriate pretty baking dish, you can certainly use that as well.  I've even taken the wild hair and added chopped pecans instead of bacon.  That will suit any vegetarian that you may need to feed.  It is still wonderful.  The glaze is usually found in gourmet / gift / kitchen shops or at some grocery stores.  You can also purchase it from the Captain Rodney web site.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

This will make your house smell heavenly!

1 Box White Cake Mix
1 Package of Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (generic is fine)
2 Cans of Prepared White Cake Frosting
Foil Lined Cupcake Liners
4 Eggs
1/3 Cup Canola Oil
1 Cup Water
Baker's Secret Baking Spray
Muffin Tin

You'll need to crush the cookies, I use a gallon zip lock bag and a small baseball bat.  It's cheaper than therapy and I hate cleaning up the food processor.  I'm pretty mighty with the bat so I double bag my cookies.  Squeeze all the air out, seal the bags - step out onto the patio, name those cookies after what frustrates you and whack away!  :)

Mix the white cake mix as directed.  I use whole eggs but you may choose to use the whites only if you prefer. When the batter is ready, add 1 cup of smashed cookies (I usually add twice that as I like a LOT of cookie in mine.)  Some add a whole cookie to the bottom then 1 cup of bits.  You do what suits you best.

Place the cupcake liners in the muffin tin.  I really prefer foil lined as they make your cupcakes come out so beautifully.  I spray each liner very lightly with a spritz of Baker's Secret Baking Spray. Fill cups 2/3 full of batter.  Bake at 350* for 15 - 17 minutes or until the centers are set.  Don't over bake, your cupcakes will be dry and crumbly.

Remove cupcakes form the baking tin and cool completely on a wire rack.  Whip the canned frosting to make it fluffier.  I whip mine right in the container, it makes one less thing to clean up.  Frost the cupcakes and garnish with remaining cookie bits.  These do not have to be refrigerated.  They are very pretty in presentation and are especially addictive!

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

This was a first attempt me last night as I've NEVER tried a filled cupcake.  A friend is becoming a groom this weekend and this was his wish - and you know I cannot turn a groom away so I set off into my own version of Cup Cake Wars - the Home Edition!

1 Box Yellow Butter Cake Mix
1 Small Box Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix
12 oz.  Milk Chocolate Chips (Milk or Semi-Sweet)
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
Cupcake Liners (foil lined only)
Baker's Secret Spray
4 eggs
1/3 cup Canola Oil
1 cup Water
1 1/2 cups Cold Milk (whole, reduced fat or skim)
1 Medium Pastry Bag with Small Round Tip
Muffin Tins

Prepare instant vanilla pudding mix as directed and place in the fridge for it to chill and thicken.

Prepare cake mix as directed on the package (I always add an extra egg to each box - it just makes it so much more moist). 

Line your muffin pan with any foil lined cupcake liner.  It's important not to use paper liners as they tend to stick to your cupcake and they cannot handle the chocolate ganache.  I like to lightly spray my foil liners with just a spot of Baker's Secret baking spray.  Your cupcakes will come out just beautifully!

Fill each liner 2/3 full of cake batter.  Bake 12 - 15 minutes or until the centers are set in a pre-heated 350* oven.  Remove cupcakes from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely.  Don't get ahead of yourself...these need to be completely cool before filling.

Place the tip into the pastry bag (I have to confess it has been so long since I've piped frosting, I'd forgotten how to secure mine - second try was MUCH more successful).  Use a pointed small round tip.  I place my pastry bag in a tea glass then flip the edges of the pouch over the top rim of the glass.  Fill the pastry bag with the pudding mix.  Twist the top tight and insert the tip into a cupcake.  Squeeze firmly to insert the filling into your cupcake.  You will notice a slight "puff" in the cupcake.  Do not overfill.

Place heavy whipping cream in a small sauce pan and heat it until small bubbles start to form on the edges.  Add chocolate chips and remove from heat.  Whisk constantly until all chips are melted.  Pour over the tops of the cupcakes or dip the tops into the ganache if you prefer.  Word to the wise, this can get messy so be prepared.

Chill in the fridge for at least an hour or even overnight.  I keep mine chilled until just before serving.  They were FABULOUS!  Not a single left over!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Chicken Tenderloin

Best Chicken Tenderloin Ever and only 4 ingredients!
1 pound chicken breast tenders
1/2 cup Italian Dressing (drain and discard spices)
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1 and 1/2 teaspoon honey
Mix dressing, lime juice and honey together. Pour over chicken tenders, making sure all tenders are covered; marinate for 1 hour. Braise tenders in a non-stick pan or grill to lightly golden in color but not dry.

Every bit as good as Cracker Barrel and those are my all time favorites!  Quick, easy and delicious!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Snicker Salad

Oh My Goodness!  Where has THIS been all my life!  Just put your skinny jeans away and get set to have your lips kiss you back for this MOST delicious treat!

This is enough to feed 10-12 or to take to work on food day.  You can easily halve this for family serving.

1 bag mini Snicker bars (freeze then chop into halves or quarters)
6 small Granny Smith apples...the more tart, the better
1 large tub Cool Whip
1 large box Vanilla instant pudding mix
1 cup milk

Unwrapping the Snickers was the hardest part of this recipe...I'd enlist a friend to do the unwrapping...they can easily be bribed if you let them eat one or two!

Chop Snickers into halves (I did quarters so the bites were nice and small).  Core and chop the apples (skins on).  Add the pudding mix to the Cool Whip (right in the tub - why dirty a bowl).  Whisk together (this will cause the Cool Whip to reduce) add milk and continue whisking until well blended.

Pour whipped mix over the apples and candy until all pieces are covered.  Store in the fridge until ready to serve!

I was worried that the apples would brown but I served this eight hours after prep and it was just lovely!  Tastes like carmel apples with NONE of their messiness!

Happy Fall Ya'll!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Citrus Cole Slaw

Looking for something light to add to your Sunday dinner...I found this while digging in my recipe box this morning...haven't made it in will be revived today!

2 cups shredded cabbage
8 - 10 cherry tomatoes halved
1/2 cup orange juice
juice of 2 limes
salt and pepper

I like the purple cabbage if I can find it already shredded...the color is really pretty.  Use what is handy.  Combine the cabbage and tomatoes (just chop a small one and drain some of the juices on a paper towel if you don't have any cherry tomatoes on hand).  Mix oj and lime juice and toss the juice mixture over your slaw.  Season with salt and pepper to taste...cover and chill for a couple of hours before serving.  Light, fresh and no mayo to spoil your picnic!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ice Cream Sandwich Dessert

Another no bake wonderful dessert option.  Super simple but really delicious!  Just remember to make a day in advance so that you can freeze it overnight or at least 6 hours before serving.

24 ice cream sandwiches
16 ounces of Cool Whip
1 jar caramel sundae topping
1 bag of your favorite candy crushed or chopped

Lay half of the ice cream sandwiches (whole) in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch pan, trimming the last couple to get complete coverage. Top with half of the cool whip, half of the caramel sundae topping and half of the candy. Lay down another layer of ice cream sandwiches. Top with remaining cool whip and spread out evenly with a knife, making a lip around the edge so the sundae topping won't run out and over the edges. Top with remaining candy, cover and freeze for several hours (or overnight) before serving.

I used English Toffee bits from the baking could chop up Reeses cups, candy bars or even cruch Oreo's...your favorite will make this unique!

Graham Cracker Cake

It's too hot to bake so I tried this instead - and man was it good!  Presentation is very pretty, holds together well when served and only 5 total ingredients!  It was a HIT! 

2 pounds fresh strawberries, washed
2 lg tubs Cool Whip
2 boxes honey graham crackers
1 large chocolate bar, finely chopped or shaved
Fudge ice cream topping

Save a few of the best-looking strawberries and set them aside for the garnish. Hull the remainder of the strawberries and slice each berry into thin slices.

Spread a small spoonful of Cool Whip on the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking pan, or a similarly-sized platter. Lay down six graham crackers (whole) - you may need a couple split to cover the bottom of dish entirely. Lightly cover the top of the graham crackers with more Cool Whip, and then a single layer of strawberries, sprinkle with shaved chocolate. Repeat three times, until you have three or four layers of graham crackers (depending on how deep your dish can allow).  I lightly  press the crackers to make sure you don't have air pockets in between layers.  Spread the last of the whipped cream over the top and swirl it lightly with a spoon. Add a few more strawberries.

Refrigerate for at least four hours, or until the crackers have softened completely. Garnish with additional berries,  Drizzle with chocolate syrup just before serving.  This recipe makes 2 8x8 pans.

If you're in a very patriotic mood - add blueberries for a red white and blue presentation!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Cranberry Orange Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch of salt
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries (rinsed and drained)
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped (optional)
1/4 cup margarine, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in orange zest, *cranberries, and pecans. Set aside. * I rinse my cranberries and drain them on a paper towel so that the color doesn't run so much in my bread batter.  You never know who is allergic to nuts so if this is a gift, you may be better off skipping the pecans...the bread is still wonderful without them!

In a large bowl, cream together margarine, sugar, and egg until smooth. Stir in orange juice. Beat in flour mixture until just moistened. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 45 mintues to an hour in the preheated oven, or until the bread springs back when lightly touched. Let stand 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.   I let mine cool completely then sprinkle with powdered sugar. 

Wrap in cellophane, tie with a pretty ribbon and deliver!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Kahlua Cake

Simplest and Easiest thing ever and MAN is it delicious!

1 box chocolate cake (baked and cooled in a 9*11 dish)
8 oz chocolate mousse (prepared as directed)
1 lg tub whipped topping
1 pkg English Toffee bits (or 6 smashed Heath Bars)
1 cup Kahlua
wax paper
sealing plastic wrap (I like Saran Cling Wrap)

After cake is baked and completely cooled, pierce cake in many places with a metal skewer or knife point.  Brush 1 cup Kahlua over cake and allow to sit for several hours or cover with saran wrap and let sit overnight.

Cut cake into 1 inch cubes, layer bottom of trifle dish with cake, top with 1/2 mousse then 1/2 whipped topping and 1/2 English Toffee bits.  Repeat layers and cover cake with a non stick topper (wax paper is best) then seal well with a sealing cling wrap so that it is air tight.  Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.  Serve chilled.  Left overs keep beautifully as long as your storage container is air tight.

My first ever Kahlua purchase and the results were just OUTSTANDING!!! Now, what to do with all this left over Kahlua?!?!?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

White Sangria

1.5 liters of dry white wine
1/2 liter of soda water
1/2 liter of Sprite or Diet Sprite (or other citrus soda)
1 bag of frozen berries

Cut peaches and pears into bite-sized pieces. Combine wine, soda water and citrus-flavored soda in a large pitcher. Add peaches, pears and raspberries. Chill sangria before serving.  Freeze some of the fruit to keep your drink chilled longer on hot summer evenings!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cornbread Salad

I have to admit...I was skeptical on this when I first tried it but WOW - this was a HIT!  Not only was it a great dinner but the left overs held up amazingly well and make a yummy lunch!  I haven't liked a new recipe this much in ages!  You're always being invited to a Summer cook out and need to bring a dish!  This fits the bill wonderfully!   Ya'll HAVE to try this for yourself!!!

1 pan cornbread cooled & cubed
1 package Spring Mix (or lettuce of your choice)
1 pint cherry tomatoes (halved)
2 cans red beans, rinsed and drained
2  cans sweet corn drained
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese ( (I mix sharp and mild cheddar)
1 bunch scallions chopped
2 diced bell peppers (mix and match pepper colors as you like)
1 cup shredded carrots
16 ounces Bacon Ranch Dressing

Layer a large bowl with half each of cubed cornbread, lettuce, and remaining veggies then cheese; spoon half of dressing evenly over top. Repeat layers with remaining ingredients and dressing. Garnish with green onions is optional. Cover and chill at least 2 hours. Before serving toss gently or serve layered.

Play with the veggies, include what you like, omit what you don't like.  The corn and the beans really make this salad wonderful.  The texture is fantastic and it is a very hearty dish.

I did this presentation in pint jars for individual "picnic" size portions!  I am so pleased and have plenty to share tomorrow at the office! 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Unstuffed Peppers with Pan Roasted Squash

It's Monday .... and Man was it a MONDAY!  I had every intention of coming home and making a beautiful presentation of stuffed bell peppers with zucchini and squash k-bobs on the grill...then the aforementioned MONDAY and RAIN...both foiled my enthusiasm and I folded my grand plan.  The thing about having to feed your family is having your ingredients on hand and being forced into plan B is that resourcefulness shows up and becomes your new BFF!

Today's solution was - Unstuffed Peppers and Pan Roasted Squash!  And I must say...dang good in BOTH cases (even if I do say so myself:)!

Unstuffed Peppers is exactly what you would imagine

3 Bell Peppers (washed, seeded and halved)
1 lb ground chuck (browned and drained - ground turkey or chicken is fine if you prefer)
1 box of long grain wild rice (prepared as directed - I microwave mine for 10 minutes)
1 small can tomato sauce*
3 Tbl Worcestershire Sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste

I placed my peppers in the skillet with the lid on for about 5 minutes on each side to start the roasting process.  When they began to cook and become tender, remove them and chop into cubes.  At that point, start your rice in the microwave and add your ground chuck to the skillet, season beef with salt and pepper, then brown and drain.  When the beef is done, add back to skillet, add chopped peppers, add cooked rice, 1/2 cup water, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce.  Allow mixture to simmer for 10 - 15 minutes on low heat until flavors blend.

* If you like a zippier taste, substitute Rotel Brand tomato sauce for a spicier flavor!

This was all ready in less than half an hour!  It tasted great and would feed four easily.  For us it was one REALLY hungry man, me and two lunches :)

Since my k-bobs were a no go...I tried something I've never done before - I pan roasted sliced squash.  No oil, no breading, nothing...just sliced the yellow squash and zucchini and put it in a non-stick skillet and seasoned it with salt and pepper.  That's it...just let it roast about 4 minutes on each side.  It will brown slightly.  It had a great texture and was so good we were nibbling on it as fast as it came out of the pan!

All I added was a quartered tomato and that plate had every possible pretty color and was a thing to behold!  On the table by 6:00 pm, a relatively healthy dinner with easy clean up.  My Monday is improving by the minute!  Hope yours does too!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lent Style Italian Bread Pizzas

Ash Wednesday Pizzas

Today is Ash Wednesday.  While I am not of a faith that observes many of today's traditions, my family is and I always try to make extra sure that I don't forget their views today and on Fridays during lent.  Respect goes a long way in a family and I value their dedication to their faith. 

I am a good Southerner but even I can stand only so many fried catfish dinners!  I am from the "Catfish Capital of the South" but even a Paris, Tennessee lady has her limits :)

Today's solution to a no meat dinner was Italian Bread Pizza...Lent Style!

1 Loaf Italian Bread
8 oz Ricotta Cheese
2 c Shredded Italian Cheese (I like Kraft Italian Blend)
1/4 c Feta Cheese - optional
1/4 c Grated Parmesan Cheese (again, Kraft is fine)
1 1/2 c Alfredo Sauce (I like Bertolli)
1 1/2 c Spaghetti Sauce (brand of your choice)
1 Bell Pepper
4 Green Onions
1 c Sliced Mushrooms
2 Roma Tomatoes
2 c Fresh Spinach
2 c Petite Shrimp
garlic flakes (or powder, or 1 Tbl. minced )
onion flakes (or powder)

Chop all veggies into a medium to fine chop (depending on how chunky you like your pizza veggies).  Saute (in a pat or butter or in a splash of water for a lighter version) green peppers first until they start to soften, add green onions, then mushrooms and cook until they start to tender.  Add tomatoes at the last minute as they take just a minute to cook - you don't want them mushy.  Drain and set veggie mix aside.

Chop spinach into small pieces.  Saute in a pat of butter for just a minute or two.  Spinach looks big when raw but cooks into 1/4 it's original volume.  As soon as it wilts and turns a darker green, remove from heat and set spinach aside.

Saute shrimp for 4 minutes or so, until they are cooked tender, drain and set aside.

Mix Alfredo sauce with 4 oz of Ricotta cheese, sprinkle in 1/8 c shredded Parmesan cheese.

In a separate bowl, mix Spaghetti sauce with 4 oz of Ricotta cheese and remaining 1/8 c shredded Parmesan cheese.

Slice your bread horizontally then into sections.  I cut big pieces for the hubs and small ones for me.

Spread each slice of bread with just a small dab of butter.  Sprinkle each slice with just a tiny pinch of onion flakes and sprinkle lightly with garlic powder (I like to use heavier garlic on the Shrimp Pizzas).  Place on a greased baking sheet.  Place in a 350* oven for about 7 want it to warm and toast but don't use the broiler (it will burn on you in a New York minute)!

Remove bread...spread 1/2 of your bread pieces with the Alfredo mix, add spinach, then shrimp. Sprinkle with just a pinch of Feta cheese, then top with Italian Cheese mix. (You can omit the Feta cheese of you are not a fan.)

Spread the other half of your bread pieces with Spaghetti sauce mix, add sauteed veggies then top with Italian cheese.

Place bread back on the baking sheet and pop it in the oven @ 350* for 7-10 minutes (until your cheese melts and starts to be golden). 

Remove and serve! 

I don't come up with stuff in my head very often but today I had an "on it" moment and came up with this concoction!  The hubs LOVED IT!  When you're a hit at 6:00 for dinner, you've had a pretty good day Ma'am (or Sir)!

Get creative and use zucchini or other veggies and amp this up to suit.  The secret to really good sauce is mixing the Ricotta with your sauce and adding the makes a wonderful base!

Serves 2-4 depending on appetites and if you want left overs for lunch tomorrow!

You don't have to make both types, just pick a favorite and go with it!  Do all cheeses for the kids and mix in some shredded cheddar!  There are no rules in Pizza....just no meat until after Good Friday!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Chicken Cannelloni

My very favorite Italian dish!  Had this today and I LOVED it! 

Mangiare e Divertirsi - Eat and Enjoy!

3 doz. Cannelloni noodles, packaged or fresh, cooked
3 whole chicken breasts, boned
1/4 c. butter
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 c. drained cooked spinach, finely chopped
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. flour
1 qt. milk, scalded
1 c. heavy cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 to 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. butter, for dotting top  

Cannelloni, needs to be cooked....I don't like to boil pasta...I just set it in hot water on the counter for 20 minutes while I get the remaining ingredients ready - then drain well.
Saute chicken breasts in 1/4 cup butter until slightly browned. Remove from fat, drain well, cut into pieces.  I like very small'll have an easier time if you cut your chicken to a fine chop. 
Combine with 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese and finely chopped spinach, mixing well. 
Melt 1/2 cup butter.  Use wire whisk to blend in flour; slowly add scalded milk, whisking vigorously. Cook and stir in microwave for 30 seconds per cooking session until all is smooth and creamy. Stir in heavy cream, and add seasonings to taste.
Add about 1 cup of sauce to chicken mixture and mix well. If filling tends to dry while Cannelloni are being filled for baking, add a little more sauce, you don't want this to be a dry mix.
Spoon about 2 tablespoons of  filling into each Cannelloni, making sure each tube is well filled. Arrange rolled tubes in two layers in buttered oblong 11 x 9 x 2 inch pan. Sprinkle each layer with grated Parmesan cheese. Cover with sauce, spooning it so that all Cannelloni are well sauced. Dot top with bits of butter.
Refrigerate, covered tightly with foil, overnight if desired, or bake at once. To serve, bake in preheated 350 degree oven for about 1/2 hour or until tops are lightly browned and sauce is bubbly.
Makes 2-3 dozen Cannelloni.
Serve with salad or even with just grilled asparagus and tomato'll want a light side to off set the pasta in this dish.  Serve with a crusty bread - you'll want that bread to get all those sauce droplets!  Don't forget the Vino! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Crunchy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

You can change this up to include any meat of your choice.  It makes a delicious way to make Sandwich Night much Tastier!

sliced sourdough bread
sliced mozzerella cheese
2 eggs
1/8 cup whipping cream (or milk if prefered)
1 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1 Tbl. butter
Remove the crusts from the sourdough bread, form sandwich by placing sliced mozzerella between two pieces of bread.  Whip eggs and cream (milk) and place sandwich in the egg mix to coat.  Dredge sandwich in Panko Bread Crumbs.  Melt butter in non stick skillet - add sandwich and grill on both sides until golden.

Crunchy Cheesy Goodness!
This really vamps up the sandwich and makes a beautiful presentation.  Wonderful served alone or with Tomato Soup!  Kids and adults will both rave over ths simple twist on a classic comfort food!


Monday, February 13, 2012

Chocolate Martini

This is the adult version of Chocolate Milk!  Love, Love, Love This!!!
1 1/2 shots chocolate liqueur
1 1/2 shots creme de cacao
1/2 shot vodka
2 1/2 shots half-and-half
Chocolate Syrup and Chocolate Sugar for embellishment!

Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake and pour into a chilled cocktail glass!
Happy Valentine's Day - Romance is Amazing!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Stuffed Peppers

I LOVE bell peppers!  We grow a ton of them each summer but they never last thru the fall.  Today I broke my resolve and bought them at the grocery - I almost passed on from the price!  I think we should grow these professionally, the profit margin is amazing!

1 pound ground beef
1/2 lb sausage (Italian or Country sausage, your choice)
1 cup long grain white rice (cooked)
4 bell peppers (any color pepper is fine)
2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
salt and pepper to taste

Wash the peppers, cut the tops off and discard the seeds and spines.  Blend the ground beef, sausage, cooked rice, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce and spices in a mixing dish.  Blend well then stuff into peppers.  You can put the tops back on if you like that look.  Some people like to add a little grated parmesan cheese on top. 

Some like to cut the peppers in half horizontally then add the filling.  They will cook faster if you do this.  It's a good option if you're in a hurry.

Bake at 350* for 40 - 50 minutes.  Peppers should be tender and your filling should be well done in the center.  I like to serve this with corn on the cob and a light green salad.  Normally a summer meal for us but with all the warm weather we've had this Spring fever is way ahead of schedule!  Enjoy!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Say Cheese (balls)

Mix It
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) Cream Cheese, softened
1 pkg. (8 oz.) Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1Tbsp. finely chopped onions
1Tbsp. chopped red bell peppers
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. lemon juice
Dash ground red pepper (cayenne)
1/2 cup thinly sliced ham chopped
Make It  - Beat cream cheese and Cheddar in small bowl with mixer until well blended.
Add all remaining ingredients except nuts and crackers; mix well. Refrigerate several hours.
Shape into ball; roll in nuts. Serve with RITZ Crackers.

Change It - Keep the base of 16 oz softened cream cheese w/ add 8 oz shredded cheese but change up the flavorings:

Tex-Mex flavor - use shredded seasoned taco cheese, added 1 tsp. chili powder, top with chopped peppers or scallions
Cajun flavor - use shredded mozzarella cheese, add old bay seasoning and finely chopped shrimp, top with crushed saltines
Italian flavor - use Italian salad dressing mix (dry) and mozzerella & shredded parmesen cheese, top with crushed breadsticks w/ sesame seeds or with olives
Fruity flavor - use a can or crushed drained pineapple, omit shredded cheese, add chopped peppers, onion flakes . top with in pecans.

Twist It - make individual (golf ball) size servings.  Serve by adding a lollipop stick in each...cute presentation and everyone gets a sample all their own.

Keep It - wrap your cheese ball tightly in saran wrap so that it holds its shape and no air gets to it. If you made mini's keep the flavors seperate when you wrap a tray of them (put sticks in just before serving).  You don't want flavors blending with their neighbors while they chill. Refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours then serve.  Accompany with crackers, breads or veggies of your choice and say "CHEESE"!