Saturday, October 28, 2023

Caramel Pumpkin Oatmeal Squares

 Here's an easy dessert that is perfect for all your little ghouls and goblins. Firstly, it's what I call a "picky uppy" dessert, which means you can just grab it and go. And secondly, the recipe uses one of my favorite techniques: one dough is used for the bottom crust as well as the topping! That just makes things so much easier. And they're delicious! Sort of like a cross between a pumpkin square and an oatmeal cookie. It comes together pretty easily too. 
Definitely keep this recipe readily available the next time you're feeling like a picky uppy pumpkin treat!

2 c. flour
2 c. old fashioned oats
1 1/2 c firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup (2 stick) butter, melted
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla extract
7 oz (1/2 of 14-ounce package) caramels, unwrapped
2 tbs milk 
Preheat oven to 350°F. 
Mix flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, salt and spices in large bowl. Add butter; stir until mixture is well blended and forms coarse crumbs. Reserve 1/2 (about 2 1/4 cups) for the topping. Add pumpkin and vanilla to remaining mixture in bowl; stir until well blended. Press evenly into bottom of greased foil-lined 13x9-inch baking pan. Set aside.
Microwave caramels and milk in medium microwavable bowl on HIGH 2 to 3 minutes or until caramels are completely melted, stirring after every minute. Let stand 1 minute. Pour over pumpkin mixture in pan, spreading to within 1/2-inch of edges. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Lift from pan. Cut into bars.

This recipe is from McCormick. Ya know, the spice people. And I'm sure they're very excited to have you use cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. But I like to just use a tbs of pumpkin pie spice blend. It's just easier. Usually I make my own, which also includes allspice, but you can also buy it already blended. And I always add more than the recipe says. But you do you! 

Monday, September 11, 2023

Sausage and Spinach Skillet Supper

 Usually, when I'm trying a new dish, my first rule is to always follow the recipe. That was my original plan when I saw a certain recipe from Taste of Home. But then I thought of a bunch of changes I would want to make.. so I thought, ok, lets just improvise this one and see where it goes. 
Do you every do that? 
I just sort of decided what direction I wanted to go, and then started throwing things into the pan. 
  I was originally going to use a smoked Andouille sausage, but then decided it might be too spicy. So I used mild Italian sausage instead. Then I thought of using my home canned collard greens, but decided fresh spinach would be the better way to go. And I had originally planned to include baby red potatoes, but then decided to smash them into a chunky mash and then serve the meal on top.
 You taste as you go, you decide what it needs, and you adjust. Needs salt... needs a little acid.. needs a more savory note.. needs a little sweetness... And then all of a sudden, a new dish is created! 
How fun is that?
 And OMG I'm thrilled with the final result!! It turned out SO good and it came together in a snap! And without realizing it, I made the most perfect meal for this time of year... it's warm during the days, but cooler at night... this dish is made entirely on the stove top, so it doesn't require turning on the oven, but it'll hit the spot and fill you up at night. Perfect!
 So, thanks, Taste of Home, for the inspiration, even though I made a completely different dish! Maybe next time I'll follow the recipe. In the meantime, hope you like this one!
1-2 tbs olive oil
2-3 lbs mild Italian sausage links
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tbs brown sugar
2 tb apple cider vinegar
1 tbs Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
Splash of Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
3 tbs butter
1/2 cup water plus 3 tbs flour
2 big handfuls fresh baby spinach
 Place olive oil in a large heavy skillet. Over medium heat, brown sausage links on all sides. Remove from pan and slice into coins. Places sausage coins back into skillet along with diced onions and garlic.
Continue to sauté over medium heat while adding brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.
Add a few tbs butter and let them melt right into the sauce.
Make a slurry of 3 tbs flour plus a half cup of cold water. Stir it into the skillet until thickened and well combined.
Add a few handfuls of fresh spinach and place a lid to cover. It will only take a few minutes for the spinach to wilt. Stir well. Adjust seasoning if needed.
Serve with some warm crusty bread.
If you are feeding a crowd, serve it over rice or mashed potatoes. It'll go a lot further!

When you are browning the sausage links, you don't have to cook them all the way through..just brown them on the outside and cook through enough to be able to slice them.
Not a fan of spinach? Try another type of green, such as collards or kale.
For an extra added touch, try crumbling some crisp bacon over the top as a garnish!

Friday, September 1, 2023

Joey's Salisbury Steak Casserole


Ok this is an EASY one! 
One of my favorite comfort foods is a Salisbury Steak. It's just a hamburger that is browned on both sides and smothered with caramelized onions and brown gravy. Sounds delicious, right?  It's perfect with mashed potatoes and a side dish. Boom, dinner's ready.
So then I thought instead of doing mashed potatoes, how about some extra wide egg noodles? Perfect!
I made it as easy as possible. Frozen hamburgers, jarred beef gravy, And then, once assembled, I melted  some mozzarella cheese over the top. How does that sound?
Omg it turned out so good, I ate two bowls of it. It just seemed to hit all the right notes. And now that the nights are starting to get a little cooler, this one easily hits the spot. You don't even need to serve anything else except maybe a crisp side salad. 
So give this one a try. 
Beef and noodles. Easy, right?
 What's not to like? 🙂

1 lb bag extra wide egg noodles
6 frozen hamburgers, thawed
2 large onions
2 large jars beef gravy
Splash Worcestershire sauce
Splash soy sauce
Salt and lots of black pepper
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
A handful of snipped fresh chives (for garnish)

Heat oven to 350F. 
Place egg noodles in a large pot of aggressively salted boiling water. Give them a stir. Boil 8 or 9 minutes. Be sure not to overcook them. Drain. Pour into a large casserole dish. 
In the meantime, cut each defrosted burger into several large bite sized chunks. Place in large skillet with a little oil over medium heat until brown on all sides. Resist the urge to move them about. Just let them alone so they can brown. Do this in batches if needed. As the pieces of beef brown, remove them from the pan and add to the casserole dish. 
While the beef is browning, roughly chop the onions. You want nice big chunks, just like with the beef. 
When all the beef is browned and added to the casserole,  drain the pan, add a little more oil (or even butter) and sauté the onions until they begin to caramelize. This step can take a good 10 minutes or more. When they are caramelized to your liking, add them to the casserole dish. 
Now empty the jars of gravy into the pan along with the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Simmer until well heated through. Add a few pats of butter, if desired, just to make it rich and velvety. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Pour gravy over everything in the casserole dish and toss well until everything is evenly coated. Top with mozzarella cheese, then Parmesan cheese. Bake in oven for 30 minutes until heated and bubbly. Sprinkle with snipped chives. 

As I was enjoying my SECONG helping, I realized I had missed the opportunity to add sautéed fresh mushrooms and maybe even some frozen peas just before baking. That would take it even higher, dontcha think? I think I need to try that next time. 
This can be made and assembled a day or two in advance and then covered and refrigerated until time to bake and serve. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Ham and Pea Pasta Salad

Here's a recipe I saw Miss Lori making on Whippoorwill Holler, (one of my favorite youtube channels.) Of course, I kind of tweaked the amounts here and there, and I may or may not have added a little extra seasoning, but it's basically the same as it was written. It's really the perfect recipe for a big BBQ because you can make it the day before, and it feeds about a million people. Tweak it however you like, add more/less or omit any of the ingredients as you prefer, and season it to taste. Easy peasy. Literally! 
Thanx again, Miss Lori!

1 lb box elbow macaroni, cooked
3 hard boiled eggs, diced
2 green onions, minced
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 large rib celery, finely diced
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1 cup diced ham, or more if desired
1 can water chestnuts, chopped
1 cup mayo, or more as needed
Salt and pepper to taste
Sprinkle of fresh dill
1 packet Good Seasons Italian dressing mix
Crumbled bacon on top, if desired

After you prep all the ingredients, just place everything in a big mixing bowl and give it a good toss. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Top with bacon just before serving, if desired.
If you make it the day before, just store it covered in the fridge, and then give it another stir before you serve it, adding a little more mayo, if needed.
No, you do not have to cook the frozen peas. Just thaw them. Since they're flash steamed before they're frozen, they're ready to eat!
For a little extra zing, add one or two tbs of brown mustard. You wont really taste it, but it will make everything taste brighter!


Monday, June 12, 2023

Joey's Easy Sauteed Parmesan Veggies


  I was recently taking inventory of the contents of my fridge, and quickly realized I had the makings of an easy fabulously delicious side dish. I had already planned to bake some chicken cutlets in the oven, so this simple little veggie saute seemed like just the thing to go with it. 
 I started with a few pieces of bacon, because bacon makes everything better, then I threw in a couple veggies, just to use up what was in the crisper drawer. In this case, it was broccoli, red bell peppers, onions, and some crushed garlic. What's not to love, right? And after they finished cooking, I just tossed the whole thing with grated Parmesan cheese. And that's literally all there is to it! It was heaven in a pan!!! What I had originally thought of as just a little throw together user upper turned out to be a side dish that goes with anything from a piece of grilled chicken or a summer burger to a holiday meal or a roast dinner. Use whatever veggies you have. It will all work! Be creative and enjoy!!

4 strips of bacon, cut into lardons
2 pats butter
1 bunch broccoli, cut into florets
1 medium onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Splash of soy sauce (optional)
1/2 cup (or more) grated Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, place your bacon and butter over medium heat. Let the fat render, stirring quite often until it starts to crisp. Add the veggies and stir until coated with bacon fat and butter. After a few minutes of stirring and sautéing, add about 1/2 cup water to the pan along with soy sauce, if using. Cover. 
Let it steam for about 10 minutes. Now remove the pan, turn up the heat a little, and continue to cook until almost all of the liquid is evaporated. Top with grated cheese. Toss gently. Serve immediately.

The best thing about this dish is that you can change it from season to season. Use whatever is fresh! Add some asparagus in the spring, some zucchini in the summer, some butternut squash in the fall.
Use any veggies you like! Carrots, cauliflower, and sugar snap peas would be awesome!
The soy sauce I used was just one little packet leftover from take out. It just adds a little umami to the dish, but you can't really detect that soy sauce flavor.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Joey's Slow Cooker Cowboy Franks and Beans

  I was recently in one of those moods where I just wanted to throw a bunch of things together and see where it lands. Since I've been on a slow cooker kick lately, I figured I'd stick with it. Then I just started throwing things in. This is basically how it went:
 I knew I wanted to do an embellished hot dogs and beans dish, and I remembered seeing one on The Spruce Eats blog... so I kind of had that in mind as a flight heading.....  I cut up a package of hot dogs and threw in some home canned pork and beans. What else... oh! smoked sausage would be perfect... and maybe I'll add some red beans.. great... Needs some aromatics... ok... chopped onions and peppers.. garlic? sure, why not. hmm... what else... something to make it saucy.... BBQ sauce, ketchup, mustard, molasses, maple syrup... just a little of each...moving right along... now, what about spices... chili powder? yes, but not too much... cumin for a little Cowboy flare..... salt and pepper..  do I want any more heat? hmm... maybe not this time... OK, now give it a taste... good, but not sweet enough... oh! brown sugar! duh, can't have baked beans without brown sugar.... another taste... just a little more salt...MUCH better. Now I'll just let it cook all afternoon while I'm at work, and when I get home I'll whip up a corn bread. 
 That's literally the flight of ideas leading up to this dish. It turned out SO GOOD! I had thought about pouring it over mashed potatoes, but this time I'll just serve it with some corn bread. 
 Could I have added bacon? Yup. How about some heat like a minced jalapeno or serrano pepper.. or just plain crushed red pepper flakes...absolutely... could I have made it more substantial by adding potatoes? or even some browned ground beef? Definitely.  The point is I was cooking flavors that I like in a way that sounded good to me. So, for the people who say they don't know how to cook... take it from me... it can be as easy as throwing a bunch of things into a  slow cooker and seeing where it lands!!

1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pkg (8) beef hot dogs, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 lb smoked pork sausage, cut into coins
1 28oz can pork and beans
1 15oz can red beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbs mustard
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tbs chili powder
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper

Place all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for about 6 hours or on high for 3 hours.
That's literally all there is to it. 


If you'd like, you can brown the meat in a saute pan before adding to the slow cooker, but I didn't. Full disclosure, I just didn't feel like washing another pan. I bet it would add a nice depth of flavor, tho. maybe next time.
Try any beans you like. Black beans, white beans, pinto beans...any will work!
Instead of the slow cooker... 
you can also just simmer in a heavy cast iron Dutch oven pot on the stove over low heat for about an hour.Just give it a stir e ery so often to make sure it's not burnt on the bottom.
You could also do a Shepherd's Pie sort of vibe.  Place the meat and bean mixture in a casserole dish. Spread some mashed potatoes over the top and then cover with shredded Cheddar cheese. Bake another 15-20 minutes until it's heated through and the cheese is melted.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Blueberry Cream Cheese Bars


  Whenever my family has an occasion to celebrate, my first question is always "what can I bring?" What can I say..... that's just how I was raised. My Dad used to always say "when you go to a party, you ring the doorbell with your elbow." (meaning your hands are full, carrying whatever you brought to the party). Most times it'll be an easy dessert, or something "picky uppy", which is a highly official term we use to describe party finger food. Sweet or savory, it's always the perfect thing for a party. So when my nephew Gregger and his newly intended, Britny, announced their forthcoming nuptials, I immediately started looking for a picky uppy something to bring to their engagement party. 
  Sometimes, I'll have something specific in mind, which often requires a trip to the store, but in this case, I eyed the fresh blueberries that I already had in my fridge, and that's the direction I went. A few more ingredients from my well stocked pantry, a google search, and this is where I landed. 
 It's my own adaptation of a recipe I found on a blog called Dance Around the Kitchen. Simple. Easy. And best of all, I already had all the ingredients. Perfect!
 So lets talk about the recipe for a minute. I've seen this method before. You make one recipe for the crust, then use half of it for the bottom layer, add a middle filling layer, and then use the rest of the crust crumbled over the top. Great. But here's the thing... it always seems to me that there isn't enough crust dough to go around. I like to make a solid bottom crust, and enough crumble to almost cover the top. So my adaptation was just to bump up the amounts a little to make more crumble crust/topping. I suppose I should have done some math to increase the proportions equally, but I didn't. I just sort of added more to each measure. I guess it's very forgiving because it turned out perfectly. And it had the perfect amount of crust!
   So, congratulations, Gregger and Britny! I'm so thrilled for both of you! And I'm glad the blueberry bars were a hit at your engagement party!
 And the next time you need to "ring the doorbell with your elbow', try this recipe. 
You'll love 'em!

1 cup butter softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour
2 cups quick oats (uncooked)
8 oz cream cheese (room temp)
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (or raspberries)
Sprinkle of cinnamon, optional

Preheat oven to 350ºF
Prepare a 9x13 pan by lining with parchment paper or coating with cooking spray.
 In a large bowl, mix the butter, sugar, and brown sugar. Stir in the baking soda, salt, flour, and oatmeal until combined. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of the pan and bake for 13 minutes.
While the bottom layer is baking, make the filling.
Place the cream cheese in a large bowl and stir until smooth. Slowly add the sweetened condensed milk with a whisk to make sure it's mixed well. Then add the vanilla and egg yolk. 
Once the bottom layer is done baking, (no need to cool), pour the cream cheese mixture over it and carefully spread it out. Add the berries on top of the cream cheese layer. Sprinkle the remaining oatmeal crumble on top and press it down lightly. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon, if desired. 
Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. 
Let cool completely, then chill for at least an hour before cutting; store in the refrigerator.

When stirring the cream cheese, be sure to get all the lumps out before adding the condensed milk. It'll be harder to get the lumps out if you add them all at once! Don't ask me how I know...
If you're not a fan of blueberries, try something else! Cherries would be great. Pineapple would be amazing. Diced strawberries would be awesome. Or combine whichever fruits you like. Diced peaches and raspberries would be fabulous. You do you!
Btw, I added cinnamon, but you don't have to. It just seemed to me that the crumble is very similar to an oatmeal cookie, so why not? Turned out to be a good decision!