Monday, January 18, 2021

One Pot Creamy French Onion Pasta Bake


 So, I was trying to remember where I first saw this recipe. I think it was in a text thread with one of my sisters..or my nieces… but I have no idea.. anyway… it was one of those “We should make this some time” sort of texts, and I immediately added it to my list of foods to try. (Yes, I have a list. Don’t you?)
 It seemed like the perfect thing to make during the colder months when everyone is looking for something warm and comforting. It’s from a blog called Half Baked Harvest, and it was described as being a cross between mac and cheese, and French onion soup. You can’t get more warm and comforting than that!!!
 First of all, is was REALLY easy to make, especially since you do everything in one pot. I transferred it to a baking dish, but if your pot is oven proof, you could just put the whole thing in the oven. One less dish to clean!
 So if you like French onion soup. This has your name written all over it. Thank you again to Tieghan over at Half Baked Harvest for the fabulous recipe. I’ll definitely be making this one again soon!

4 tbs butter  
2-3 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 tsp honey
1 cup dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
2 cups cremini or wild mushrooms, sliced
2 tbs fresh thyme leaves (or 2 tsp dried thyme)
Kosher salt and black pepper
3 cups low sodium chicken broth (use vegetable broth, if vegetarian)
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce (use soy sauce, if vegetarian)
2 bay leaves
1 pound of your favorite short cut pasta
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, using more or less to your taste
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, whole milk, or canned coconut milk
1/3 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese (optional)
2 cups shredded gruyere cheese

Heat the oven to 400ºF.
Melt the butter, onions, and honey together in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes. At this point, you want to slowly add 1/2 cup of the wine, 1/4 cup at a time, until the wine cooks into the onions. Continue to cook another 8-10 minutes until you've used the 1/2 cup of wine and the onions are deeply caramelized.
Add the garlic, mushrooms, thyme, and season with salt and pepper, cook another 3-4 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup wine, the broth, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, and the pasta. Bring the mixture to a boil. Stir frequently until the pasta is al dente and the broth has been absorbed, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in the cayenne, cream, gorgonzola, if using, and 1/2 cup gruyere cheese. Remove from the heat.
If needed, transfer the pasta to a baking dish. Top with the remaining gruyere cheese. Transfer the baking dish to the oven and bake 20 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is lightly browned on top. Cool 5 minutes before serving. Serve with fresh thyme. Enjoy!

Even if you’re not a fan of bleu cheeses, I definitely recommend adding the gorgonzola to the dish. You won’t even taste the “bleu-ness” of it, but it makes the flavor SO much deeper and richer. SO good!
If you can do free thyme instead of dried, DO IT. I always prefer fresh herbs over dried ones. It makes all the difference in the world. I also added a little fresh parsley over the top for a little pop of color!
Btw, one of the notes listed with the recipe is that you can use half pomegranate or cranberry juice and half chicken broth in place of the red wine. I was actually wondering if pomegranate juice was an option even before I read the note. It’s nice to know my hunch was correct!

Monday, January 11, 2021

Poppy Seed Almond Cake


   Since we're all spending much more time at home these days, I started doing what many people do... YOUTUBE. Seriously, is there anything that ISN'T on Youtube? Need to learn how to work your digital thermostat? There's a how-to video on Youtube. Wanna learn how to use a pressure canner? Youtube. Need to learn how to do a British accent? Youtube. (yes, I've literally done all of those things). And since I've started watching Youtube videos, (or as I call it, going down the Youtube rabbit hole) I’ve started to follow specific channels.
 This cake comes from Claire Staffitz, who was on Bon Appetit’s Test Kitchen channel, and now she has her own channel from her own home kitchen. She talks about many recipes from her book “Dessert Person”, and says that THIS cake is her most favorite. In her words: “It’s scented with almond extract and studded with poppy seeds, and it’s the most tender flavorful snacking cake. It’s is just a perfect cake…..It’s so easy you can bang this cake out and have it in the oven in 15 minutes.” I also love that she says “You don’t need an occasion to bake a cake.” So true! It actually reminds me of the kind of cake my Mom used to make. I noticed that the recipe uses 3 cups of flour, and I remember once upon a time, my Mom noted that using that much flour “makes a nice sized cake.” (I’m pretty sure she was talking about the favorite 7 Up Cake when she said that, and for some reason that always stuck with me).
 The other thing that makes this cake so great is the thin glaze that goes over the cake after it’s finished baking. So delicious and sweet. What’s not to love?
 Make this on a Sunday afternoon and have it with a cup of tea, for dessert, or whenever you want a late night something sweet. It really is a perfect cake!

For the Cake
2 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 tbs poppy seeds
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp almond extract

Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour your Bundt pan.
To make the batter, whisk together all the dry ingredients (the first 5 ingredients listed) in a mixing bowl. (In this case, the sugar is a dry ingredient, even though it’s technically classified as a wet ingredient.)
In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients. Pour the combined wet ingredients into the dry. Mix well for a couple minutes. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 80-90 minutes. Let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes before glazing.

For the Glaze:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tb
s butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

While the cake is still warm, use a skewer to poke holes over the entire surface of the cake. Whisk together all of the glaze ingredients. Brush glaze all over the cake and let it sink in.

Claire’s Tips:
It’s best to use room temperature ingredients because the cake will bake more evenly. Don’t have a bundt pan? Use two loaf pans and bake them for almost the same time, 75-80 minutes.

Joey’s Tips:
Make sure you keep an eye on the baking time. All ovens are different! Mine was perfectly finished about 15 minutes earlier than expected. Remember, always to watch the cake, not the timer! Also, in the video, to prepare the pan, she brushes it with oil and then dusts the pan with flour. I just used a baking spray, which is basically the same thing. It’s non-stick oil spray that has the flour already in it. So much easier! Just be sure to spray it over the sink!

Monday, January 4, 2021

Joey's Unstuffed Pepper Casserole


 Usually at the start of the new year, I like to do recipes that are warm and hearty and comforting. Nothing does that like a casserole, am I right? But right after the holidays, I’m not so inclined to have a casserole that is so heavy you need to take a nap after you eat it.
 So that brings me to this one. It’s just like the classic stuffed peppers, but it’s all mixed up together in a casserole. It has the standard combo of beef and rice, and it cooks in a nice hearty tomato sauce that won’t weigh you down. Feel free to add more vegetables to it if you like! That’s the beauty of casseroles. You can  add anything that suits your fancy! Serve it up with a fresh crisp salad and you’re good to go! Enjoy!


1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, (or more) minced
2 medium (or 1 large) bell peppers, chopped
1-2 cups cooked rice
1 29oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup water
a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs sugar
salt and pepper to taste
chopped fresh basil to taste
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Saute onions and peppers in a little oil in a large skillet. Add ground beef and cook until browned. Drain excess fat. In a large mixing bowl, combine beef mixture and remaining ingredients, adding only half of the cheese. Pour into a casserole dish. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Remove cover, top with remaining half of cheese. Bake another 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

This is a great way to use up leftover rice whenever you order take out. Just sayin!
If you’re not a meat person, go ahead and swap out the beef for something else. You could do hearty chopped cremini mushrooms, or any other vegetable, or choose your own protein!
Btw, the sugar is there just to offset the acidity of the tomatoes. Plus I do like a slightly sweet tomato sauce on my stuffed peppers. Same idea!
Don't have mozzarella? Use Cheddar instead!

Monday, December 28, 2020

New Year's Cabbage and Peas

 Have you ever heard of the tradition of eating black eyed peas on New year's Eve? It's actually a pretty huge tradition in Southern USA, and it has come to mean many things, but mainly health and prosperity. It’s very often served with collard greens, since collards are green like money, and the peas would serve as a stand in for coins. If you serve it with corn bread, it’s meant to represent gold, and if they’re stewed with tomatoes, it’s meant to represent health and wealth.
 Being from the Northeast USA, I was never familiar with these traditions. I happened upon them just because I love delicious food! So when I saw Miss Lori on Whippoorwill Holler (one of my favorite youtube channels) making this, I immediately added it to my to-do list. Actually, I think I made it that very day! It turned out to be so delicious and so flavorful, I couldn’t stop eating it! Not even kidding. It’s true that she uses cabbage instead of the collard greens, but either way works for me! And I think the cabbage was my favorite part of the whole dish. And it was so easy! You just brown some ground beef, and while that’s happening you just throw everything else into a large slow cooker. That’s literally it! Nothing difficult or fancy, but OH SO GOOD!
 Will making this dish for the new year bring you health and prosperity? Who knows? Anything’s possible! But one thing is for certain, it will definitely give you a warm full belly. This is absolutely now one of my favorite dishes of all time. Do give it a try!
And have a safe and happy new year!


1 lb ground beef
1 head cabbage, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 whole garlic bulb, minced
32 oz. chicken stock
1 c. water
16 oz. frozen black eyed peas
1 tbs chili powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tbs oregano
I small can of tomato paste
1 32 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 can rotel tomatoes and chilis
Salt and pepper to taste

Brown ground beef in a skillet until no longer pink, drain excess fat.
Place browned beef and all remaining ingredients in your large slow cooker.
Cook it on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.

Be sure to taste it and adjust the seasonings as you like. I found that it needed just a little extra salt when all was said and done. Maybe you might want some extra cumin, or maybe you'd like a little extra garlic. Or maybe you'd like to leave the cumin out altogether. Season it the way you like it!

Monday, December 21, 2020

Cranberry Christmas Cake


 This week's recipe comes from my dear friend, Gina, who found it on a website called She said it was so good, it was already half gone as she was sending me the recipe! (btw, she also took the picture for me too! Thanx Gina!)
 I love how simple it is. Only a few basic ingredients that you probably already have on your pantry. And then the fresh cranberries (which are always stocked in my freezer, just like the author does.) Oh, and no need for baking soda or baking powder, just whip the eggs for the leavening. Cool, huh?
 So festive too. It screams Christmas, doesn’t it? Better add this one to the Christmas repertoire!

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
12 oz fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350ºF.
With a mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until slightly thickened and light in color, about 5-7 minutes. The mixture should almost double in size. The eggs work as your leavening agent in this recipe, so do not skip this step. The sugar and egg mixture should form a ribbon when you lift the beaters out of the bowl.
Add the butter and vanilla; mix two more minutes. Stir in the flour until just combined.
Add the cranberries and stir to mix throughout.
Spread in a buttered 9×13 pan.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until very lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool completely before cutting into small slices.

Variations/Tips from the author:
Blueberries swap nicely for the cranberries. Adding nuts to the recipe works too.
The addition of orange zest, orange extract, or almond extract works nicely as well.
The cake can be made in a variety of different cake pans. It can also be made into cupcakes and mini loaves. Watch the baking time and adjust as needed. One of the most frequently asked questions is whether you can bake this in a bundt pan. I do not personally recommend that. Yes, many people have said that it works, and I’ve tested it in a bundt twice myself, however, it isn’t the same cake that way. (Once it fell apart on me and another time it worked fine.) If you do decide you must use a bundt pan, grease the pan HEAVILY with butter and then flour the pan generously.
The biggest downside to baking this cake in a bundt pan is that you will miss out on the best part, that lovely crust that forms on the top of the cake.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Cinnamon Swirl Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Butter Bread



 Here we have another recipe from Half Baked Harvest via my niece, Casey. I figured since the chocolate chip pumpkin butter cookies were such a hit, why not do the same thing with a bread? (or is it cake? You decide!)
What’s not to love? Pumpkin with warm spices and chocolate chips… it’s the perfect thing to cap off this year’s “pumpkin season.” Serve it for dessert, or toast a slice of it in your toaster oven and have it with coffee.  Serious yum!

1/2 cup pumpkin butter*
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup melted salted butter
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp plus 1 tbs ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a (9x5 inch) bread pan.
 In a large mixing bowl, stir together the pumpkin butter, pumpkin puree, melted butter, maple syrup, eggs, and vanilla until combined. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and salt, mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
 In a bowl, combine the granulated sugar with the remaining 1 tablespoon of cinnamon.
 Spoon half the pumpkin batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar, reserving 2 tablespoons of sugar for topping the loaf. Add the remaining batter over the sugar. Run a knife down the center of the loaf 1-2 times to gently swirl the sugar. Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon sugar over top of the batter.
 Transfer to the oven and bake for 55-65 minutes, or until the center is just set. I usually cover the bread with foil at the 30 minute mark to prevent the top from burning.
 Remove the bread and let cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting...or just eat it warm with a smear of butter (you should do this!). Enjoy!

*Recipe note from the author:
Pumpkin butter substitute: you can use 1/2 cup additional pumpkin puree plus 2-4 tablespoons all purpose flour. Start with 2 tablespoons flour, then add 1-2 tablespoons more of the dough feels a little too wet. Don't add more than 1/4 cup additional flour.

Joey’s tips:
-Buying spices can be pretty expensive, especially if you’re only buying them to try this recipe. Instead of buying all four, you can just use a pumpkin pie spice blend. It won’t be EXACTLY the same result, but it’ll be pretty darn close!
-Since you’re only using 1/2 cup, what will you do with the rest of the can of pumpkin? Simple! Make two loaves and freeze one!

Monday, December 7, 2020

Egg Nog Pie


 OK, here’s a question for you… Do you like egg nog??
It’s a simple question, right? But who knew it would be so divisive?? It’s almost as crazy as the great “pineapple on pizza” conversation (which I LOVE, btw). If you bring up the topic of egg nog on social media, you’ll see an onslaught of comments ranging from one extreme to the other. Either people LOVE it, or they find it to be absolutely repulsive. Such was exactly the case when my fabulous friend, Audrey, recently posted, not that she didn’t like it, but that she has “never tried it, and never will.” Well, when it comes to food, I would always say to at least try it!
 And yes, of course I am, have always been, and will always be Team Egg Nog.  It’s sweet and creamy and tastes like a milkshake! What’s not to love? And I love to bake with it too! If I can find some new egg nog dessert every year, then it’s a good Christmas, I say.
 I’ve done egg nog cupcakes, egg nog ice cream, egg nog fudge, egg nog trifle, egg nog cookies, egg nog quick bread, even an egg nog French toast casserole. I simply can’t get enough! But somehow or other, I’ve never gotten around to making a fabulous egg nog custard pie…..until now!
 It’s just exactly what you think it will be: rich sweet delicious custard made with egg nog, and a little pinch of nutmeg to go over the top. Perfect with a little swirl of whipped cream. It also comes together in a snap because you just stir it all together and pour it into your pie shell. Easy!
 So if you love love LOVE egg nog as much as I do, I think you should try this pie. And Audrey…. well, maybe this pie will change your mind! 

1  1/4 cups white sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups eggnog
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp rum extract
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 (9 inch) prepared, unbaked pie crust, thawed

Heat oven to 350ºF
Mix the sugar and flour together in a mixing bowl. Beat in the egg nog, eggs, and vanilla to make a smooth mixture. Stir in the butter. Pour into the prepared pie crust.
Bake until the custard is set, 45-55 minutes. Cool before serving. Top with whipped topping, if desired.

Btw…I found this recipe on All Recipes . com and frankly, I have no idea who the author is. And of course, this is my tweaked version. Whenever I make egg nog anything, I always add just a little rum extract. It makes it taste more like egg nog! Also the original recipe said to bake it for 35-45 minutes which was nowhere near enough. You’ll know it’s done when the center puffs up a little and is no longer liquid.