Monday, January 13, 2020

Chicken Marsala

  Ok, this is one of those recipes that I've wanted to share for literally YEARS, but I've just never gotten around to it. Well, that is until now! It's one of my all time favorite dishes in the whole wide world, and it comes to us from my sister, Jeanie. Aka, My Jeanie. I'm not even sure where she got the recipe, but like I always say, since she's the one who gave it to me, she's the one who gets the credit.
 Years ago, she used to make it all the time, and honestly, every time I helped her make it, I wanted to eat the entire pan of it. It's just SO flavorful! The bacon, the mushrooms, the garlic, the Marsala, what's not to love? The other thing that is worth noting is that I don't remember seeing tomato paste in other recipes, so that's another thing that sets this one apart from the others. It makes it tangy and it thickens the sauce ever so slightly. YUM. It's easy enough for a weeknight dinner, and it's elegant enough for a date night or a special occasion. And anytime you tell people you made Chicken Marsala, everyone says 'ooooooooh!" because it sounds so impressive. But we won't tell them how simple it is to make! That can be our little secret.
 So thanx, My Jeanie, for always inspiring me to be a better cook and for sharing your heart and soul through food. This will always be a favorite!!

1/2 cup all purpose flour
Salt and pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 tbs vegetable oil
3 strips of bacon, finely chopped
8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbs tomato paste
1 1/2 cups sweet Marsala wine
1 1/2 tbs lemon juice, freshly squeezed
3 tbs chilled butter
2 tbs fresh parsley, minced

Place flour in a shallow dish. Place chicken pieces between two pieces of plastic wrap, and gently pound to an even thickness. Season with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour to coat on both sides. Pat off the excess flour.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the chicken and cook until lightly golden on both sides, about 10 minutes. Remove chicken from plate and set aside.
Add a little more oil to the skillet, add the bacon and mushrooms. Cook until the bacon is crisp and the mushrooms are brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste. Cook until the tomato paste begins to brown, about a minute. Add the Marsala wine, scraping up any browned bits. Simmer until reduced and slightly thickened. Stir in the lemon juice along with any accumulated juice from the chicken. Turn the heat to low, and whisk in the cold butter, one piece at a time. Adjust seasoning, if needed. Remove from heat, top with parsley. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve.

Use any kind of mushrooms you like. I believe the original recipe used white button mushrooms, but I like cremini mushrooms better, so that's how I roll. I think the original used pancetta instead of bacon, but again, use what you like! You do you!
Be sure to use sweet Marsala instead of dry. That's key!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Old Fashioned Oatmeal Raisin Muffins

  Ok here's a quick and easy one for you. It's so simple, you don't even need a mixer! You just stir it all together and you're ready to go! I made them for my sister, Patty, as she was planning to host a big party. When I asked her if she needed anything, she said "I wouldn't be mad if you threw something together for the kitchen crew, maybe something easy and quick to go with coffee", so this is what I made! It's from, adapted from her mom's recipe, and it's perfect! It's just exactly what you want in an oatmeal raisin muffin. Perfect with a cup of coffee or tea, you could add a little glaze to it if you'd like to sweeten things up a bit. It's also the perfect thing to whip up on a cold day, just to warm up the whole house with the heavenly aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg.
If you like oatmeal raisin cookies, then you'll LOVE these muffins!

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup mild olive oil (not extra virgin)
1 cup juicy raisins or sultanas

 Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper baking cups.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a medium bowl, mix together the egg, buttermilk, vanilla, and oil. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just until mixed. Gently stir in the raisins or sultanas. Scoop the batter into muffin cups. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool in the tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

I doubled the recipe, because more is more!
For extra plump juicy raisins, I soaked mine in apple cider for a few minutes before adding them to the batter. Just place them in a small bowl, pour enough cider to cover, microwave them for a minute or two, then drain them well before adding to the batter. I also gave them a quick toss in a tbs of flour. Perfect plump juicy raisins!!
 Oh, also, I used regular vegetable oil because I didn't have any olive oil on hand, just sayin'!
To make homemade buttermilk, add a tbs of lemon juice or vinegar to a 1-cup measure. Add milk to fill. Microwave it for about a minute. The milk will immediately curdle, which is exactly what you want. Works perfectly in any baking recipe calling for buttermilk!

Monday, December 30, 2019

Bacon Wrapped Dates

  OK, Friends, here it is. Here's the easy simple delicious party appetizer you've been looking for. It's so simple, you don't even need a recipe, and it's so delicious, your guests will devour them in no time. I recently read a blog that said "they won't win any beauty contests, but they'll disappear from your buffet" and it's SO true. They're not the most colorful of foods, but they're packed with fabulous flavor! It's that addictive combination of salty and sweet that I just can't resist, and let's be honest, everything tastes better with bacon, right? So here we are.
 My niece, Natalie, made these little gems for my family Christmas party and they were a big hit! And seriously, when I tell you you don't need a recipe, you really don't need a recipe! It's just bacon and dates! But if you like, I'll still write it as if there were more to it than that. Make them for your next big party, and I promise you'll be a hit too! Thanx Natalie!

Sliced bacon, any thickness
Pitted dates

Heat oven to 400ºF.
Place a sheet of parchment or foil on a baking sheet.
Cut each slice of bacon in half. Wrap each half-slice around the whole date. Place seam side down on your baking sheet. Continue until all of your dates are wrapped. Bake until bacon is crispy, 25-30 minutes. Remove to a plate, and serve.


If you don't want to bake them, you can saute them in pan over medium low heat, turning them so that they cook through, about 20 minutes total.

If you'd like to get a little fancier, stuff the pitted dates with any kind of cheese before wrapping them. Cream cheese, goat cheese, or even any kind of smoked cheese would be fabulous. I've also seen people just placing a whole almond inside each date. You could even do both! Stuff it with cheese, place an almond inside, wrap the whole thing in bacon and then bake. Be as creative as you like!
Oh, and if you want to secure them with a toothpick before baking, it's probably a good idea to soak your wooden toothpicks in some water before putting them in the oven. Just sayin!

Monday, December 23, 2019

Ginger Spice Cookies

  This recipe comes to me from my school chum and longtime kindred spirit, Kathleen. We live far away from each other, but I still follow everything she does on social media. If she's not cooking, canning, or baking, then she's knitting up a storm. (maybe SOME day I'll learn how to knit!).
 Anyway, her hubby made these cookies for her, just as a reminder of the spiced wafers she had growing up. (what a guy, right?) And as soon as I saw them, I asked her if I could share the recipe. TBH, I'm not even sure where she got the recipe, but like I always say, since she's the one who gave it to me, she's the one who gets the credit!
 They SCREAM "holiday" and they're the perfect thing to add to your cookie tray. I have to say, I love how they have a crackled appearance, and the coarse sugar makes them sparkle. How festive is that? Perfect with a cup of tea, or an ice cold glass of milk. You might even leave a couple out for a certain night time visitor from the North Pole! Thanx again, Kath, for another great recipe, and thanx to hubby David for making them! Enjoy!

2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
3/4 cup  (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1/2 cup crystallized ginger
1/4 cup molasses 
sparkling white sugar for coating

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.
In a separate large bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, crystallized ginger, and molasses. Add the dry ingredients, beating gently until evenly blended. Cover the bowl and chill the dough for a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes; overnight refrigeration is preferable, if you have the time. 
Preheat the oven to 400°F. 
Lightly grease two baking sheets, or line with parchment paper. Shape the dough into 1" balls, and roll each ball in sparkling sugar. Place the balls of dough 2" to 3" apart on the prepared pans. Bake the cookies in the center of the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until they're golden and set. Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool them right on the pans.

Whatever you do, don't skip the crystallized ginger. It gives the BEST punch of ginger flavor!
Whenever I bake cookies, I ALWAYS use parchment (instead of greasing the cookie sheet). It's just easier! And btw, you can use the same sheet of parchment over and over, if you're making several batches. No need to use a new piece every time!

Monday, December 16, 2019

Cranberry Glazed Ham

   My Mom used to always say that it's good to make a ham because you can have it for any meal. A glazed ham at dinner, ham sandwiches for lunch, or ham and eggs for breakfast. My FAVORITE way to have him is glazed with something sweet and syrupy, so of course I've always loved trying different types of glazes, from orange marmalade, to ginger ale, to the favorite brown sugar. And I've been trying to find the right cranberry glaze recipe, simply because I just love 'em with everything. (I'm the guy who stocks up the freezer with MANY bags of fresh cranberries while they're still available in season, just so I can have them throughout the year). So I was thrilled when I saw this recipe on a blog called The Food Charlatan (who got it from Food Network Magazine).
 Not only is this recipe delicious and simple, but it's also special enough and worthy of being your next holiday meal. Yes of course everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe help to make the season bright, but sometimes you might like to have a gorgeous Christmas Ham instead, and this one is just as festive as you want it to be! It's sweet and tangy and there's just the tiniest bit of spice. It's perfect for Christmas Dinner, or brunch, or your all-afternoon open-house party. Or just make it anytime you're in the mood for a fabulous ham dinner. Your family will love you for it!

2 cups fresh cranberries 
1/4 cup water 
1/4 cup honey 
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar 
1/2 cup brown sugar 
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
5-6 pound cooked ham,  (such as a spiral sliced ham) 

 Combine cranberries, water, and honey in a medium saucepan. Set over medium heat. Stir occasionally for about 4-5 minutes, until most of the cranberries have popped. Add Dijon mustard, vinegar, brown sugar, and cayenne pepper. Continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes until the sauce has thickened some and is syrupy. Remove from heat. If you have an immersion blender, use it to puree the sauce. (If you don't, transfer the mixture to a regular blender. Leave the top of the blender vented (to allow steam to escape) and cover with a towel. Blend it up until smooth.)
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.
Place the ham in a roasting pan with rack and use a sharp serrated knife to score the ham diagonally.
Use a brush to coat the ham all over with the cranberry sauce.
Place the pan in the oven and roast for about 20-25 minutes per pound. (You don't need to worry about the internal temperature too much since the ham is already cooked. You just want to make sure it's hot all the way through.) 20 minutes before you think it will be done, brush with sauce one more time. Serve the ham with the remaining glaze (Warm it up in the microwave or on the stove since it will be cool by now.)

If you'd like to make this when fresh cranberries are not in season, just use a couple cans of cranberry sauce. It won't matter if you use whole berry or jellied cranberry sauce because you're going to puree it anyway!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Bourbon Sugar Pie

 OK, so, at the risk of sounding pretty obvious, I'm just gonna say this: Whenever I make a recipe with a specific star ingredient, I want to be able to taste that ingredient! Crazy, I know, but just go with me on this. If it's a Vanilla Brownie, I want it to have a STRONG hit of vanilla. If it's a Bailey's Irish Cream Cupcake, then I want to be able to taste the Bailey's Irish Cream! Know what I mean? It seems obvious to say this, but you'd be amazed at how many recipes I try that have a specific ingredient in the title, but there's no flavor of that ingredient to be found. Or maybe it's only just a little hint of that flavor.
 Enter, THIS recipe. When I tell you that it's a bourbon pie, I mean it's a BOURBON pie. One bite, and you definitely get the flavor. It's strong, yes, but in a really good way. My friend Jason said "WOW, bourbon." And it's so smooth that my friend Judy said "oooooooh that's really good" in a "boy that's smooth going down" kind of a way. hahaha
 I guess the best way to describe the texture is that it's similar to a Chess Pie or a Pecan Pie without the pecans. Sweet and syrupy and gooey and delicious. And it's perfect with a swirl of freshly whipped cream on top.
 I was originally gonna post this Betty Crocker recipe for Thanksgiving, (because who doesn't love pie at Thanksgiving?), but it was a busy week and I never got around to it. But then I figured "why not post it anyway? Pie is just as good for Chritmas as it is for Thanksgiving!" So here we are.
 It's REALLY easy to make, and I've literally already made it four times this month. It's just that good! And, side note, when you tell people it's a bourbon pie, everyone's reaction is always the same: "oooooooohhhhhh." Not even kidding. haha.
Give it as a holiday gift. Make it for your family.  Or friends. Or even just for yourself. It's definitely this year's favorite new dessert discovery!

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup bourbon
3 eggs, slightly beaten 
1 tsp salt
1 unbaked 9" pie shell, either homemade or store bought
Sweetened freshly whipped cream

Heat oven to 350ºF.
In a medium bowl, mix all filling ingredients until well blended. Set aside.
I used a Pillsbury ready-made pie crust, (which is my go-to brand). Just roll it flat, place it into your regular (not deep dish) pie plate, fold the edges under and flute to make a decorative edge. Pour the filling into pie shell. Bake 60-70 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the center is set. Cool completely on cooling rack, about 2 hours. Garnish with whipped cream. 

Ok, here's the thing.. the original recipe directs you to blind bake the crust. In other words, partially bake the crust before you pour the filling into it, and then bake it with the filling for another 70 minutes. I did exactly that, just as instructed, only my crust turned out to be FAR too done. So then I made it again, and I figured it has to bake for over an hour. The crust will be cooked enough! So I just poured the filling right into an unbaked crust, baked it for 70 minutes, and it turned out perfectly. The bottom wasn't soggy, the outer edge was perfect. So that's how I'll be doing it anytime I make from now on. Also, the original recipe from Betty Crocker didn't have any salt in it. But it is INFINITELY better with the added tsp of salt. Be sure to include it! Btw, this recipe fits a regular pie plate, not the pyrex deep dish. I thought about increasing the amounts so that it would fill up a deep dish pie, but the pie is very sweet and very rich. I think it's fine just as it is!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Cheesy Corn Casserole

  This is a recipe that I made quite a long time ago, and I've been waiting for just the right moment to post it. And guess what, the time has come! Yes, yes, I know I have several corn side dish recipes, but really, can one have too many? I think not! More is more!
 My usual go-to corn casserole is more of a corn pudding. It's much sweeter, with corn bread mix and creamed corn. This recipe goes in a more Southwest direction, with lots of Cheddar cheese, tomatoes, and peppers. And the jalapenos give it a nice little kick. YUM! It's from Cooktop Cove and it was an instant hit when I made it for my friends. It's perfect for the cooking novice who would like to contribute to the holiday meal or potluck because it's SUPER easy! You just stir all the ingredients together, and bake! It doesn't get much easier than that, right? I seriously need to make this again. You should too! Hope you like it!

3 cups frozen corn
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed and finely diced
1 1/2 cups milk
5 tablespoons butter, melted
5 eggs, whisked
6 tablespoons flour
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350ºF.
In an 8-by-12 casserole baking dish, add all the ingredients. Stir with a spoon to mix everything up. Bake for 50 minutes. Let sit on counter for 5 minutes to set.

I know the recipe says to add all the ingredients to the baking dish and then stir, but I prefer to use a large mixing bowl to stir everything, and then pour it into the baking dish. I'd much rather have more room to stir than worry about washing another dish, know what I mean?
Also, I used a 9x13 baking dish instead of an 8x12 dish. Use what you have!