Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fried Green Tomatoes

Ever since the movie, everyone has heard of Fried Green Tomatoes, but have you ever tried them? They're simple to make and it's the perfect way to use up end of season tomatoes. And they're so good! As with any popular recipe, there are many variations. Some are just fried, some are batter dipped and some are served with a milk gravy (Secret's in the sauce!). Seriously, though, I chose this basic recipe because, honestly, in my opinion, it doesn't need to be anything else. It's perfect as is!

3 medium, firm green tomatoes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
2 beaten eggs
2/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs or cornmeal
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Cut unpeeled tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices. Sprinkle slices with salt and pepper. Let tomato slices stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, place flour, milk, eggs, and bread crumbs in separate shallow dishes.

Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Dip tomato slices in milk, then flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs. In the skillet, fry half of the coated tomato slices at a time, for 4-6 minutes on each side or until brown. As you cook the rest of the tomatoes, add olive oil as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper

I like nice big thick slices, but if you prefer a thinner slice, you can do 1/4 inch slices instead of 1/2 inch.
To get a really crispy fried tomato, after you season the tomato slices, you can put them between paper towels in order to absorb as much moisture as possible.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Pineapple Chicken

A few weeks ago, my brother shared some pineapple chicken that was leftover from a catered party. It was REALLY good! So I began searching for a recipe for it, but I wanted something very specific. I didn't want a recipe where the chicken is breaded, I was thinking of something a little lighter. I also wanted it to have only a few ingredients, preferably items that you might have in your pantry. And of course it had to be simple to make. Ultimately, I wanted a low fat, time saving, simple-to-prepare meal requiring only a few ingredients that would be perfect for a mid week's hectic schedule. That's not too much to ask, is it? Well, I'm happy to say that this recipe is all of those things! And most importantly, it's delicious!

3 boneless chicken breasts
20 oz crushed pineapple
2 tbs Dijon mustard
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs brown sugar
1 clove garlic, minced

Trim fat from chicken breasts. Split each breast in half horizontally so that you have twice as many pieces that are half as thick. Arrange chicken in 9x13x2 casserole dish. Sprinkle with pepper and paprika. Mix pineapple, mustard, soy sauce, brown sugar, and garlic together. Pour over chicken. Place in a 350F oven for 30 minutes or until cooked through. Serve it up with some rice and a steamed vegetable and you're set!

The original recipe didn't specify how much soy sauce to add. I just guessed that this would be a good amount. If you'd like to add more or less, go for it!!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Breakfast Casserole

I first heard of this casserole when I ran into Kathy and Brian at the Pathmark. They were buying ingredients to make it for their family's Easter morning breakfast and I thought "Mmmm, how perfect!" It would also be great for Christmas morning, don'tcha think? But why wait for a holiday? It's perfect for any Sunday breakfast or brunch when you'd like to serve a big meal without having a big mess to clean up. Thanx guys!

1 bag (32 oz.) of frozen southern style hash brown potatoes
1 pound of bacon, crisp cooked and drained, cut into small pieces
1 pound sausage, crumbled, browned and drained
1/2 cup diced onions
1 green pepper, diced
1 lb. cheddar cheese, shredded
1 dozen large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
salt & pepper

Layer the frozen potatoes, bacon, onions, green pepper and cheese in the crock pot in two or three layers. Finish up with cheese. Beat the eggs, milk and mustard, salt & pepper together. Pour over the whole mixture. Cook on low for ten to twelve hours.

Be sure to season it well. The potatoes and the eggs require more salt and pepper than you think they will. So, season as you normally do, and then add a few extra pinches of salt and a few extra grinds of black pepper.
Feel free to do as many variations as you like. You can add or substitute ham for either the bacon or sausage, or add all three! You can do different kinds of cheese and any kind of veggies you like. I'm sure broccoli, asparagus or spinach would be delicious. Add a little heat with some diced jalapeno peppers and serve it with your favorite salsa. Yum!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Warm Chocolate Pudding Cake

Usually when you think of cooking in a crock pot, you think of making soups or stews or something savory and comforting. But have you ever thought of making DESSERT in a crock pot? Absolutely! Why not bake a cake???? This one is for all the chocoholics. It only takes a couple minutes to throw together and it couldn't be simpler. This is one of those recipes where I read it for the first time and thought "How can this not be good??" We're talking SERIOUS chocolaty yummness!

1 pkg chocolate cake mix
1 pkg {3.9 oz.} instant chocolate pudding mix
2 c. sour cream
4 eggs
1 c. water
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
Whipped cream or ice cream

In a mixing bowl, combine the first six ingredients. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into a 5-quart crock pot that has been coated with nonstick cooking spray. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with moist crumbs. Serve it while it's still warm in bowls with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

Usually when you cook something in a crock pot, you don't have to be so exact with the time. If it's an extra hour on low, it'll still turn out fine. But with a crock pot cake, you want to try to hit the mark a little more closely. In other words, plan your time so that it's finished cooking around the time you'll be wanting to serve dessert. Otherwise the cake might begin to burn a little around the edges. If this happens, don't fret. Just scoop it out of the center!
For an easy variation, try different combinations of cake flavors and kinds of chips. How about white chocolate, peanut butter, or caramel chips? Can you say DECADENT?? Seriously!!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese

As I was searching for Mac and Cheese recipes, I kept finding variations of this one. It seems that everyone has a version of it, and they're all very similar. So, here's mine. It only cooks for four hours, as opposed to the all-day recipes I usually like to do with a crock pot. With this recipe, I found that the advantage wasn't that I could make it in the morning for that night's dinner. The advantage was simply that it was in a crock pot and that I didn't have to turn on the oven! It was definitely better to have a nice cool apartment when my guests showed up!

1 pound rotini pasta, cooked and drained
2 tbsp. oil
1 stick butter, melted
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
1 1/2 c. whole milk
2 eggs
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup Velveeta cheese, cubed
Kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper

Mix all together and top with a small amount of cheese. Cook 4 hours on low or 2 hours on high in your crock pot. How simple is that??

To save time, boil the macaroni in advance. Just drain them well and then pour them out onto a large baking tray so that they form a single layer. When they're cool and somewhat dry, you can put them into a large ziploc bag and then keep them in the fridge until it's time to assemble everything in the crock pot. By the way, It's probably not a bad idea to spray the inside of your crock pot with cooking spray before you add your mac and cheese. I'm just sayin'!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Coke Roast

I had originally planned to do a regular classic pot roast, but then I remembered this recipe that I got from my niece, Katie. I had heard of using Coca Cola with roast beef, but I had never tried it. Katie RAVED about it, so I thought it was worth a try. Her favorite way to serve it is on fresh bakery rolls with a slice of provolone cheese. Works for me! I made it for our weekly get together and everyone loved it! It's super simple and you seriously need no cooking expertise at all for this one. It's really that easy! Thanx Katie-Kate!

1 3-lb beef roast
1 packet onion soup mix
1 can Coca Cola
freshly cracked black pepper

Place beef in crock pot. Add soup mix and cola. Sprinkle with pepper. Cook on low for 10-12 hours. To serve, pull the beef into shreds with a fork and serve it on fresh rolls.

I guess, since the roast is cooked in cola, I was expecting a much sweeter taste, but the onion soup and juices from the meat sort of countered that. So, I added a few tablespoons of brown sugar. CJ and I decided that that was the answer.
If you'd like to add potatoes, carrots, and/or onions, go for it! Oh, and when you're cooking it for such a long time, you can get away with buying a cheaper cut of meat. It'll still turn out great! So, definitely save the expensive cuts for another meal!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Crock Pot Pizza Pasta

I wanted to do a pasta recipe, but wanted something other than the usual ziti or lasagna. Then I remembered a pizza casserole I did a few years ago and thought, why not try it in a crock pot? So, here it is. I'm really pleased with how it turned out! It's delicious and hearty and it feeds a crowd. Hope you like it!

1 lb. rigatoni (uncooked)
2 26 oz jars tomato sauce (or your own marinara sauce)
1 tbs. dried oregano
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. Italian sausage, (removed from casing)
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 green pepper, roughly chopped
1-2 cups sliced mushrooms
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
sliced pepperoni

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef. Drain excess fat. Remove from pan and set aside. Do the same thing with the sausage, making sure to break it up into small pieces. Meanwhile, mix the sauce, uncooked pasta, and oregano in a large bowl until the pasta is well coated. Spray the inside of a large crock pot with cooking spray.
Now make layers using half of each ingredient and then repeat using the other half. Layer in this order: Pasta, beef, sausage, onions, peppers, mushrooms, cheese. Place slices of pepperoni on the top and sprinkle with a little more oregano. Cook on low for about 6 hours.

I've heard from a few people that cooking this on low for 5 hours was too long, and the result was burnt pasta. I'm sorry for that! I guess the best thing to do is to check on it after a few hours (if you can) the first time you make it, and be sure to use plenty of sauce.
I only add pepperoni to the top layer because it makes the entire casserole a little too spicy for me if I include it on both layers. If you're all about spicy, then go for it! Add as much as you like!
Be generous with the sauce because the uncooked pasta really absorbs a lot. If you want, you could even add a little extra layer of sauce between the meat and the vegetables.
Feel free to change the ingredients to include whichever pizza toppings you like.
You can make this a low carb dish by omitting the pasta completely and by choosing tomato sauce that has less sugar added.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Karen's Chili

The very first thing I ever made in a crock pot was a delicious batch of chili. It was rich and hearty and warm and comforting. I got the recipe from my sister in law, Karen. Coincidentally, years later, when I asked for a larger crock pot on my Christmas pollyanna list, Karen was the one who picked my name and she bought it for me! Funny, how that worked out, isn't it? Thanx for everything, Karen!

--Ok Joey I will finally reveal my SECRET RECIPE!!! (LOL). I guess it’s best to document this since I could croak tomorrow and no one would ever know the recipe as I haven’t written it down! I took a cooking class many many years ago and we made GROG CHILI. From that recipe I developed this one. I have no idea what GROG CHILI means other than maybe it is more chunky than the usual chili. Enjoy!

1 - 28 oz can – whole peeled tomatoes
1 – 14.5 oz can – tomato sauce
1 – 7 oz can – tomato paste
1 – package chili seasonings mix (Mild or Hot depending on your taste)
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
2 green peppers – chopped into large pieces
1 large sweet onion – chopped into large pieces
1 – 64 oz can – pork and beans (I use Campbell's)
1 – 64 oz can – Light Red Kidney Beans - drained

Brown ground beef then add onions and green peppers. Cook until the peppers and onions just start to get tender. This chili is meant to be chunky so don’t break up all of the ground beef chunks.
Combine all of the tomatoes into large crock pot. Squish the whole peeled tomatoes with hands leaving larger pieces of tomato. Add chili seasonings. You can add additional chili powder if desired.
Cook for a couple of hours in crock pot. Add the beans and heat thoroughly.
In a bowl put down corn chips first, then ladle on the chili and add cheddar cheese. Voila!!!!!

Tip from Karen:
Do not add the beans too early as you don’t want them to be mushy.
Let the chili rest for all of the flavors to blend. It really is best eaten the next day!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Let's Get Crockin'!

Now that everyone is back to school, it seems that every one's schedules have become a lot more hectic. This one has to get to such-and-such practice, that one has a so-and-so lesson, and on and on. It's quite a lot to manage and it can make finding time to cook dinner nearly impossible. The solution is simple. Use your crock pot! You can assemble tomorrow's dinner tonight before you go to bed. Before you leave for work in the morning, just take it out of the fridge and plug it in! Dinner will be ready when you get home! How easy is that?
This week, I'll be featuring some delicious and easy crock pot recipes. Do yourself a flavor and try some of them! They'll make your life so much easier! Here are a few crock pot tips:

Timing Tips-
Basically, you should figure that 1 hour on high equals 2 hours on low. Usually, crock pot recipes will give you the setting and the amount of time, for instance "10-12 hours on low". This can be translated as saying "5-6 hours on high". So, suppose you forgot to turn on the crock pot for dinner and you realize it as you're driving to work. You can still save dinner by running home on your lunch break and setting it to cook for half the time on the high setting.
You can also do a combination of settings. Figure out when you'd like dinner to be ready. Cook on low for part of the time, then switch it to high for the rest of the time (or vice versa). Again, just remember 1 hour on high = 2 hours on low. As long as you figure out how many hours it needs to cook, you can adjust the setting so it'll to come out even in the end. Another thing to remember is that you don't have to be exact. If you're running a half hour late, you don't have to worry about it. The crock pot will just keep it warm for you and dinner will still be delicious and not overcooked.

Buying tips:
If you don't own a crock pot, you should SERIOUSLY consider buying one. They're not very expensive and they're worth their weight in gold. I absolutely LOVE mine (which was a gift from my sister-in-law. Thanx again Karen!)
Be sure to look at several different models. They all have different features, so it all depends on what is important to you. Some are digital and you can program them to turn on or off at a certain time. Also look at how big or small of a crock pot you might want. If you rarely cook for more than two or three people, then a smaller one would be good for you. With mine, I love the fact that I can remove the pot insert from the electrical unit, making it easier to clean. Mine also has a lid that clamps onto the top, which prevents any spilling if I'm bringing it to a BBQ or party, etc.

I also have a smaller one, which just has the basic settings.(warm, low, and high). It's not digital, doesn't have the clamp on lid, and doesn't have the removable insert. I've used it a million times and I like it just as much as any crock pots with all the bells and whistles. My point is that you don't have to spend a million dollars. I'm sure you'll be thrilled with whichever one you buy.
Great then!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Italian Sun Dried Tomato Bread Stuffing

One of the best ways to use stale bread is to make stuffing. Usually, I make it with regular white bread, but in this case, I needed to use up a loaf of sun dried tomato bread. I figured, why not? It's not exactly rocket science. I just made it as I normally would, and then added some Italian flavors to it. I came up with a delicious stuffing that has a decidedly Italian flair. Perfect! Now, don't hold me to the amounts. I kind of did "a little of this and a little of that". Whenever I used to ask my Mom how much of something to add to a recipe, she'd say "Til it's enough." So, if any of my amounts aren't right, then by all means, add more "Til it's enough!"

1 big loaf sun dried tomato bread
1 stick butter
a few glugs of olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 or 6 ribs of celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
dried thyme or poultry seasoning
a few sprigs flat leaf parsley, freshly chopped
Italian seasoning
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
a few splashes of milk or chicken stock

Cut the bread into into cubes. Place cubes in large mixing bowl. Set aside. In a large saute pan, melt butter and add olive oil. Add celery, onions, and garlic. Saute over medium heat until tender. Add a few shakes of thyme, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Remove from pan and add to mixing bowl. Give it a good stir so that the bread absorbs the butter and oil, which have now been infused with the herbs and spices. Add a few splashes of milk or chicken stock until you've reached the desired moistness. Using your impeccably clean hands, squish the bread until it's mixed thoroughly. Pour it into a buttered casserole dish. Drizzle a little more olive oil over the top. Sprinkle with a little more freshly chopped parsley. Bake at 350F for about 20-30 minutes.

Use whatever bread you have on hand. Any kind of herb bread or garlic and tomato bread is fine. Oh, and about the amounts...I like a very spicy very wet stuffing. So, I usually add LOTS of poultry seasoning and lots of chicken stock. This is the part I was talking about where you "add it until it's enough". If you don't have chicken stock or milk you can use water and a little granulated chicken bouillon. If you'd like to take it a step further, you can add Italian sausage, either mild or hot, whichever you like. Just remove it from its casing, brown it in a pan, then add it to the mixing bowl with everything else. You could even add some of the sausage drippings instead of olive oil. That would give it an extra sausagy flavor. Is that a word? "sausagy?" hehehe

Friday, September 19, 2008

Chicken Stew

I always love getting recipes from my sister-in-law, Marianne. She cooks the most amazing food! So, when we got to the topic of chicken stew, I asked her how she makes it. She told me that this one is her favorite. I'm thrilled that she shared it with me! Also, today is the perfect day to share it with you, since today is Bobby and Marianne's wedding anniversary. Happy Anniversary guys! And, once again, thanx for the recipe!

5 cups chicken broth (I use Swanson's)
2 pounds boneless chicken breasts, trimmed
5 tablespoons butter (I used unsalted)
4 carrots peeled and sliced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 tsp. salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 tbs. all purpose flour
3/4 cup dry sherry (I was afraid that this would make it taste to "winey" so I only used about a 1/4 cup)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. thyme
2 bay leaves
black pepper
1 1/2 cup frozen peas
4 tbs. minced fresh parsley

Bring broth to simmer in Dutch oven over high heat. Add chicken and return to simmer. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until chicken is just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate and tent loosely with foil. Transfer broth to large bowl.

Return empty Dutch oven to medium high heat and melt butter. Add carrots, celery, onions and salt and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in flour and cook stirring frequently for about 1 minutes. Stir in sherry, scraping up browned bits. Stir in reserved broth, cream, thyme, bay leaves, and pepper and bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until stew thickens.
Remove bay leaves and return stew to a rapid simmer. Shred chicken and add to stew along with any accumulated juices, peas and 3 tbs. parsley. At this point, you can add your favorite dumplings if you like.

Tip from Marianne:
I usually transfer the stew to a large baking dish, make Mashed Potatoes and spread them over the top of the stew. Pour a little melted butter over the potatoes and brown in a 350 to 400 degree oven.

Tip from Joey:
Instead of spreading the mashed potatoes over the top as with Shepherd's Pie, I like to serve it as my Mom always did. When I was growing up, we always poured the stew on top of the potatoes, instead of the other way around, so I'll stick with that. Just put two big bowls on the table and let everyone choose his own potato to stew ratio. Oh, and instead of cooking the chicken in the broth, you can save a little time by just using a store bought rotisserie chicken. They're so darn convenient, aren't they?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Easy Chili Cheese Dip

Whenever I invite a group of friends to my home, I always like to serve something new and different. Sometimes, though, I don't have the time to create something new, so I'll turn to the tried and true old favorites. Some of the best recipes are the ones that you throw together in 5 minutes. This was the case a few weeks ago.
Every week, I get together with some of my favorite friends, and we watch Project Runway. I made this dip for them, and to say they loved it was an understatement. They went crazy over it! We were joking that it should be called "Vulture Dip" because of the way everyone was devouring it. I'm glad I made a double batch! I was surprised to find out that they had never had this recipe before, since I've been loving it for years. I thought everyone knew this one! Well, in case you don't, here it is. It's embarrassingly simple to make and it'll be the hit of your next party!

1 lb Velveeta cheese
1 can Hormel chili

Cut up Velveeta cheese into cubes. Place in large glass bowl. Pour chili over cheese. Microwave until cheese melts. Stir until well combined. Serve with chips. See? I told you it was simple!!!!

You can choose the Hormel Chili with beans or without. Either one will work fine. Aso, if you'd like to kick up the heat a little, you can use the spicy Velveeta or add chopped jalapenos. If you don't have Velveeta, you can substitute 2 pkgs of cream cheese. It'll be slightly different, but it'll still be yummy. For another delicious variation, instead of using chili, add a jar of salsa with your Velveeta or cream cheese. Delish!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Peanut Butter Swirled Brownies

Can I just tell you how much I love peanut butter? Seriously. Creamy, crunchy, honey roasted, I love it all. Go even further and swirl it into some brownies and I'm in heaven! This is a quick and easy upgrade to your regular boxed brownie mix. Serve it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Now THAT's what I'm talkin' 'bout!

1 brownie recipe, either boxed or your own
1 cup peanut butter
3 oz cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Mix up brownie mix as directed. Spread half of brownie batter in a 9x13 pan. Mix together peanut butter, cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla extract. Spread peanut butter filling on top of brownie batter. Drop dollops of remaining brownie batter over peanut butter filling. Swirl with knife. Bake in a 350F oven for 30 minutes.

I used a boxed mix, but instead of adding 2 tbs of water as the recipe required, I added 2 tbs of Kahlua. It added just the right punch!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Hell Yeah!" Tortellini

My sister, Reen, told me about a recipe that she found in a magazine. Being the Queen of Substitutions, she didn't make it exactly as written. She substituted frozen spinach for bell peppers, and added onions (which weren't originally part of the recipe). When I made it for my weekly Project Runway get together, I didn't exactly stick to the recipe either. I chose to go with the peppers instead of the spinach and to keep the onion. Oh, and I added a couple other things too. So basically, it's a whole new dish! I asked everyone if they liked it, and they gave me a resounding "Hell Yeah!" So here it is, Ladies and Gentleman.
Hell Yeah Tortellini!

2 tbs olive oil
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 bell peppers, cut into strips
1 large onion, cut into strips
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, chopped
a few shakes crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups chicken broth
a few glugs of white wine
1 tbs granulated chicken bouillon
a few shakes of Italian seasoning
1 pound cheese tortellini (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
grated Parmesan cheese

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant, bell peppers, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, 6 to 8 minutes.
2. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
3. Add the broth, wine, bouillon, Italian seasoning, and tortellini. Cover and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the tortellini are cooked through and most of the broth is absorbed, 12 to 15 minutes.
4. Stir in the parsley and some Parmesan cheese. Spoon into bowls and sprinkle with a little more Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Whenever I cook eggplant, I always like to salt it first, to get rid of the bitter juices. Just place slices of eggplant on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Let stand a minimum of 30 minutes so that the bitter liquid drains out. Give it super quick rinse under running water (to get rid of the excess salt) and pat dry with paper towels. Then go ahead and chop it up into chunks. It really makes all the difference in the world!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Will's Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Muffins

I was recently at Reen's house and I noticed that she had some bananas that were rather ripe. Well, that's a little bit of an understatement. They were, to put it politely, on the brink! I said "Reen, you need to bake something with those bananas, they're perfect!" And without missing a beat she said "That's WILL's specialty!" She went on to tell me how her son, Will, bakes banana bread muffins and everyone goes crazy for them. Truly being his mother's son, he adds a twist to the original recipe and he puts his own personal spin on it. Sometimes he puts chocolate chips in them, (which is his favorite version). He also sometimes bakes them in mini muffin cups, breaks off squares of a Hershey Bar, and tops each one with a square of chocolate just as they come out of the oven. Can you stand it?!? The chocolate melts and becomes a sort of rich icing. How awesome is that!!! Thanx Will!

1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of melted margarine or butter
2 eggs
1 cup (2 or 3) mashed bananas
3/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 cups of flour
1/2 cup of Hershey's chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.
Cream margarine and sugar. Add eggs. Then add mashed bananas. Sift the dry ingredients together, then mix them in gradually.
Add vanilla. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into greased muffin cups. Bake for 15 minutes.

Thought from Joey:
Clearly, you could make these without the chips, but why would you? I'm just sayin'!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Patty's Low Fat Coconut Macaroons

My sister, Patty, made these cookies for Tori's party a few weeks ago. I LOVE them! They're as simple to make as they are sweet and chewy. As Patty says, "The low fat part is great, but I like them because they are fast and easy and only use a few ingredients (which I usually have in the pantry)." Works for me! Thanx Pat!

2/3 cup low fat sweetened condensed milk
1 cup corn flakes
1 cup rice krispies
3/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut

Thoroughly combine all ingredients. Drop mixture in walnut-sized mounds 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes at 375F or until cookies start to turn golden brown. Remove cookies from sheet after one minute of cooling and cool completely on wire rack.

To make sure your macaroons don't stick, use parchment paper or a silpat liner instead of greasing your baking sheet.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Paula's Pineapple Upside Down Biscuits

I was browsing around Paula Deen's web site, just looking through her recipes for something new and fun, and I happened to find these little beauties. Now, I know I say every recipe is simple to make but seriously, these are INSANELY simple and you won't even believe how delicious they are! They'd be perfect for the novice cook because you only have a few ingredients, barely anything to measure and they're in and out of the oven in no time. I challenge you to eat just one! They're THAT good!
You MUST try them!

1 (10-ounce) can crushed pineapple
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
10 maraschino cherries
1 (12-ounce) package refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (10 count)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Grease 10 cups of a muffin tin. Strain the can of crushed pineapple, save juice for later.
Combine the pineapple, sugar, and butter, and mix well. Divide the pineapple mixture among the muffin cups. Place a cherry in the center of each muffin cup, making sure cherry hits bottom of cup. Place 1 biscuit in each cup on top of sugar and pineapple mixture. Spoon 1 teaspoon reserved pineapple juice over each biscuit. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden. Cool for 2 minutes. Invert the pan onto a plate to release the biscuits. Serve warm.

I'm thinking you should probably make a double batch. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'!

Thursday, September 11, 2008


As I was typing up different recipes, I realized that I couldn't, in good conscience, post a recipe today of all days, when there are so many other more important things on our minds. It just seemed so trivial to be typing "add a teaspoon of this" or "a tablespoon of that." To me, it's more important to stop for a minute to honor the memories of the many lives that were lost. Everything changed on that day. Our country was changed. Our lives were changed forever. Even now, I'm moved to tears as I write this to you.
So, please, forgive me for not posting any recipe today. Allow me, in my own humble little way, to pause for a moment of silence. And if I may ask a favor, please send a positive thought to someone who might need a little extra help getting through today.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Creamy Pesto Gnocchi with Green Beans and Ricotta

So, I went to Reen's house to help Jude learn how to parallel park a car, and Reen had just made this delicious recipe for dinner. I was STARVING at the time, so I couldn't resist diving into a big plate of it. I LOVED it! I immediately wanted a picture of it and asked her for the recipe. Thanx to Natalie for typing up the recipe and emailing it to me, and thanx to Will for taking the picture! Oh, and by the way, congrats to Jude for passing his driver's test!

1 pound gnocchi (refrigerated or frozen)
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound green beans, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1 8-ounce container store-bought pesto sauce (or 1 cup of Chris's Pesto Sauce)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup ricotta

1. Cook the gnocchi according to the package directions. Drain and return them to the pot.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon salt. Add the green beans and cook until tender, 3 to 4 minutes; drain.
3. Add the pesto and cream to the gnocchi and cook over medium heat, stirring, just until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Divide among bowls and top with the green beans, ricotta, and 1/4 tsp pepper.

Try this sauce on any number of differently shaped pasta!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rich and Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Sometimes I overlook the recipes for what I call "basic dishes", just because I usually don't think of them as needing an official recipe. They're just the things my Mom always cooked a million times, so I learned how to make them from watching her. Take mashed potatoes, for instance. Mom always just boiled the potatoes, then mashed them up with a mixer, and added butter, milk, salt, and pepper. Here's a slightly different but simple recipe that is as easy as it is delicious. I saw them make it on America's Test Kitchens, and seriously they know what they're doing. They try a million different ways of doing something and then they tell you which one they thought was best. So here it is. By the way, it always cracks me up when people say "Wow, REAL mashed potatoes!" Are you kidding? What do you usually have? INSTANT??? Please. There's just no comparison!

2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes
3/4 c. heavy cream
6 tbs butter
1 tsp kosher salt
pepper to taste

Peel potatoes and slice them into fairly thick slices. Place the slices in a colander and rinse them under cold running water to remove excess starch. Place potatoes in a large pot. Add just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and cook potatoes until they're tender, about 20-25 minutes.
In the mean time, heat cream and butter together in a small sauce pan. Drain water from potatoes. Put hot potatoes back into the pot over medium heat. Stir until excess moisture has evaporated. Use a potato masher to mash potatoes, making sure to get out all the lumps. Add cream and melted butter. Stir until the cream and butter are absorbed and the potatoes start to pull together. Salt and pepper to taste.

One way to insure a creamy and perfectly smooth consistency is to use a potato ricer. It looks like a really huge garlic press. Just press the cooked potatoes through it and then stir in the butter and cream. Your potatoes will be silky smooth.
To take it a step further, mash the potatoes as directed and then stir in some minced garlic or french fried onion rings, as much as you like. Yum!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Cantaloupe Salsa

My fabulous, gorgeous, talented, youthful, vibrant, funny, caring and all-around wonderful sister, Cathy, gave RAVE reviews for this recipe, so of course I HAD to have it. I absolutely love fruit salsa variations and I had never had one made with cantaloupe. How deliciously fresh! Thanx Cath!

I made this salsa twice in the last week. My friend Merri Griese taught me how to make it when I was at her house for the weekend in Sea Isle. It's sooo yummy and incredibly easy. I personally could have just eaten it with a spoon right out of the bowl, but I tried (somewhat unsuccessfully) to restrain myself and eat it with tortilla chips instead. Thought you might want to put it on the website one of these days.
Talk to you soon!

1 medium, ripe cantaloupe (or 1/2 of those really large Jersey ones), chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
1 handful cilantro (or to taste), chopped
a few splashes of white wine vinegar (regular white vinegar works too)
a few splashes of canola or vegetable oil
Salt and fresh cracked pepper

Mix together all ingredients. Serve with tortilla chips.

I think this would work really well as a topping for grilled chicken or fish too.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Broccoli Salad

This is another one of my favorite cold salads. I love how the sharpness of the cheddar cheese cuts through the sweetness of the dressing. It's a really nice blend. My fabulous, gorgeous, talented, youthful, vibrant, funny, caring and all-around wonderful sister, Cathy, made it for a family party a few weeks ago and of course, everyone loved it. It's always a big hit! Thanx Cath!

1 c mayonnaise
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c vinegar
2 big bunches broccoli
1 c sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 lb. (or more) bacon, crisp fried and crumbled
1/2 cup golden raisins
salt and pepper to taste

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sugar, and vinegar. Cut broccoli into florets and add to bowl with cheese, onion, bacon, raisins, salt and pepper. Toss everything together until well coated with dressing. Cover and chill for a few hours or overnight before serving.

Cathy told me that some people like to blanch the broccoli, but she just puts it in raw.
These amounts are just guidelines. As I always say, use the Cass Quaile rule of cooking. "If you like a lot of something, add a lot".
You can take a quick shortcut by using a bottle of cole slaw dressing instead of mixing up the mayo, sugar, and vinegar. But like I always say, it's better when you make it!

Friday, September 5, 2008

How To Decorate a Cake

I'm so glad I got to do a video with my sister, Jeanie. She's the most amazing cook and she decorates the most beautiful cakes!!! I asked her if she'd mind showing me a few simple techniques. No, I won't go into the entire process of "this is how you bake the cake, and this is how you make the icing", etc. I figured I'd jump ahead a little and ask Jeanie to show us a basket weave design, and a few borders. Now, I know there are portions of the video where you can't really see what she's doing. That's OK. My goal is to just give you a little intro into the art of cake decorating and hopefully inspire you to dabble a little. That's what I did! I went to a craft store, went over to the cake decorating section and picked up a few of the basic supplies. I honestly had no idea what I was doing. I bought a piping bag and a star tip. Then I came home, made some butter cream icing and practiced making swirls on a plate. Before I knew it I was trying specific techniques and decorating cakes for friends. Like I've said before, I've never had any formal training in cooking and that includes cake decorating. I just like to try things and learn as I go. Jeanie, on the other hand, has taken classes and has become quite good at what she does!

Here is a picture of the finished cake from the video. She made it for Ros's birthday and I think you'll agree that it's BEAUTIFUL! Notice the shell border around the base, the basket weave up the sides, and the reverse shell border around the top. Pretty amazing, huh? With a little practice, you could do this too!

If my video isn't clear enough for you, you can learn more techniques from Wilton.com. They seem to have written the book on cake decorating.

Thanx again to Jeanie and also to Aniell for making this video possible! And Happy Birthday Ros!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Three Bean Pasta Salad

I love taking existing recipes and then switching them up to create new dishes. That's exactly what I did here! I took Bruce's Three Bean Salsa and added pasta to it! It turned out to be the perfect side salad! I used black, red, and white beans, but you can use any that you like. I bet you could even warm it up and serve it as a meatless entree. In that case, I think I'd saute the onions and peppers just until they soften before adding them to the dish. There's really no wrong way to do it. However you decide to serve it, it'll be great!
Thanx again, Bruce!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

DelBorrello's Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole

I'm always talking about all the fabulous cooks in my family. My sisters and brothers (and all of their spouses), nieces, nephews, and of course my Mom. Everyone in my family seems to have at least one signature dish.
Tricia's husband, Chris, the newest member of the Quaile family, told me he only knows how to make one thing, Tater Tot Casserole. He made it for everyone when we got together at Jeanie's to watch the closing ceremonies of The Olympics, and everyone loved it. So, when he asked me if I'd like the recipe, I said "Of course!" It's simple, easy and delicious! Thanx Chris! Welcome to the family!

OK Joey, here it is.
There are three really great things about this recipe. First, it is easy to prepare and is great for parties. Second, you can make this dish as healthy (adults) or unhealthy (kids) as you want. Third, since this is a casserole dish, you can play around with and substitute different ingredients according to you and your family's taste. The recipe below is my personal spin and the one I personally love the most!

1 1/2 lbs of lean ground beef
1 large diced tomato
1 small diced onion
1 can of cream of mushroom (or cream of celery) soup
1 package of shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and Pepper
and of course 1 package of tater tots

1. Preheat oven to 425F
2. Brown beef in skillet (season beef with salt and pepper)
3. Drain and pack beef to bottom of 13 X 9 glass casserole dish
4. Add diced tomatoes and onions evenly throughout pan
5. Add can of cream of mushroom soup evenly
6. Place tater tots neatly across top in nice rows
(cover entire dish so that all you see are tater tots)
7. Place dish in oven for about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes or until tater tots
are fully golden brown and crisp.
8. Add the whole package of shredded cheddar cheese during the last 5 minutes so it melts.
9. Take out and Enjoy!!!

Chris's Tips For a Healthier Dish:
Substitute beef with ground turkey (tastes the same)
Add more veggies such as green beans
Go easy on the tater tots
Use cheese more sparingly

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Fresh Orange Salsa

I was in the mood for something fresh and light, and this recipe was just the perfect thing. It also just happens to be fat free and dairy free for those who might be choosing to refrain from using those ingredients in their diets. Make some for your next get together. I'm sure your friends will love it!

1 cup fresh orange segments
2 cups diced tomatoes
2 tbsp. red onions
2 tsp. jalapeno
4 tbs. fresh cilantro leaves
juice from one lime
salt and pepper to taste

Finely chop all ingredients and place in a large bowl. Gently toss to mix thoroughly.
Cover and refrigerate until your guests arrive. Serve with tortilla chips.

You can switch this up with any favorite fruits, such as ruby red grapefruit, peaches, mangoes, or even cantaloupe.
Also, try it as a topping for grilled chicken!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Easy Time Squares

Last week, I went to my sister's house to watch the closing ceremonies of the Olympics. Whenever there's a family get together, one only has to tell one person, and then word spreads like wildfire and suddenly my whole family shows up, usually with tons of food. My sister-in-law, Marianne, (who is an amazing cook), made these and I instantly knew I wanted the recipe. They're SO delicious and light and buttery! Thanx Mare!!!

"Hi, Joe, here is the recipe. My girlfriend, Michelle Cullen Fimiani, who I went to grade school and high school with, gave me this recipe. Towards the end of my pregnancy with Kim, I kept waking up around 5:00 am and couldn't fall back to sleep. So I'd bake these and then take them into work (I figured if I was getting fat, everyone else might as well join me!). Today, Michelle does professional baking for private parties and business functions. I'm glad you enjoyed them - sometimes it's good to pull the cobwebs off an oldie!"

2 sticks softened butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups sifted flour
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time. Add flour and lemon juice. Beat until smooth. Spread into a greased jelly roll pan, approximately 10 1/4 X 15 1/2. (I use Pam for baking to grease the pan).

Section off into approximately 20 - 24 squares (take a knife through the raw batter and draw the squares). Place about a tsp. of preserves or jam or even pie filling in the center of the square. Do Not Press into the center -- the cake will bake around the filling.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until golden brown at the edges.
Remove, place on cooling rack and slice once again where original sections were drawn. When cool, sprinkle with 10X sugar.