Sunday, November 30, 2008

C is for Cookie!

For me, it just wouldn't be Christmas without a huge tray loaded with lots and lots of different kinds of home baked cookies. Store bought? NEVER! This is DEFINITELY one of those times when it's better when YOU make it! And besides, baking cookies around the holidays always makes a home feel more festive. I like to put on some yuletide carols or a holly jolly DVD and suddenly I'm filled with the Christmas Spirit. It's right up there with decorating my Christmas trees!
Since many people bake their cookies early in December, I figured this would be the perfect time for a week of cookie recipes. There are a couple old faves and some new faves as well. They're all delicious and simple and I KNOW you'll love them!

For more cookies ideas, here are a few websites that you might like to browse!

I always use the air bake cookie sheets, which have the pocket of air between the baking surface and the bottom of the sheet. They REALLY prevent you from burning your cookies. I also use parchment paper. You never have to worry about greasing your cookie sheet and it makes removing them from the pan super easy. Just slide the whole sheet of paper onto a flat surface for the cookies to cool. Easy!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Turkey Salad Wraps

Still have leftover turkey? Make turkey salad!
Leftover chicken? Make it chicken salad instead!
To be honest, I never really thought of writing down an official recipe for turkey salad, but I get SO many emails from people thanking me for simple basic recipes, that I figured this needed to be included. This is how I always make it, but you can certainly change it up however you like.

2 cups cooked turkey, cubed
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 ribs celery, finely diced
a few shakes poultry seasoning
freshly ground black pepper
big pinch onion salt

Stir together all ingredients. Scoop a huge mound into the center of a flour tortilla. Top with shredded lettuce (and/or tomato, cheese, pickles. etc). Fold sides in and roll it up. Slice it in half and serve.

As my Mom would say, "do you like a lot of celery? Add a lot of celery." You get the idea. Personally, I do like a lot because I love the crunch. You can add diced onion instead of the onion salt, but I find the raw onion to be slightly harsh. The onion salt is a little more subtle.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yes, yes, I know it's wrong!
But you have to admit,

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mare's Stuffing

A few years ago, my niece, Terri, asked me if I'd help her make stuffing, as this was her cooking assignment for Thanksgiving. Of course, I said Yes. Since then, it has sort of become a Thanksgiving Eve tradition. Every year, on the night before Thanksgiving, Terri comes over (usually joined by Kelli, or Katie, or anyone else who might like to join us) and we make "Aunt Mare's" Stuffing. We always make a double batch for Terri's in-laws as well. Don't you just love how traditions are born?

1 stick of butter
1 whole stalk of celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 loaves white sandwich bread
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
poultry seasoning

Preheat oven to 350F. Using a serrated or electric knife, cut bread into cubes and place in a big bowl. Melt butter in a large skillet. Add onions & celery and saute until softened. Add a little salt & pepper. Add a lot of poultry seasoning to onions & celery. Pour onions & celery onto pile of bread. Add milk until it's enough. Mix together and add more salt and pepper and poultry seasoning if needed. Bake for 1/2 hour.

Once again, here's a perfect example of my Mom's rule of adding something "til it's enough". You'll know it's enough milk and enough poultry seasoning when it's as moist and as spicy as you like it. Some people like it on the wet side, some people like it to be a little more dry. It's whatever you like! And the best way to see if it has enough seasoning is simply to taste it, of course. I like a wet spicy stuffing, so I always add A LOT of milk and A LOT of poultry seasoning.

When I say "a whole stalk" of celery, I mean the whole thing, not just one of the "ribs" that you break off. Savvy?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sweet Potato Casserole

OK, seriously, this casserole is one of the sole reasons I look forward to Thanksgiving. I mean, you have your turkey and gravy, yes, and you have your homemade cranberry sauce, sure, but it's all about the sweet potato casserole. The first time I ever tasted it was when my sister-in-law, Karen, brought it to our holiday meal and I've loved it ever since. If you've never tried it, then you need to stop what you're doing right now and adjust your holiday menu to include it. It's not something you'd serve everyday, because, well, how shall I put it....Lets just say Paula Deen would LOVE this recipe. I know, I know, it's laden with butter and sugar, but for a holiday meal, it's nice to splurge! Besides, no one should be dieting on Thanksgiving anyway!

4 cups canned sweet potatoes
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs beaten
1/4 cup milk
1 cup melted butter, divided
1 cup flaked coconut
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans

Drain and mash potatoes. Add sugar, eggs, milk, half cup butter, coconut, vanilla and nutmeg. Pour into greased casserole. In separate bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, remaining butter and nuts. Sprinkle over top and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

For me, it's all about the crunchy pecan topping. If you'd like to have more topping to casserole ratio, serve it in a shallow dish so that you have more surface area to put more of the crunch on top!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mom's Cranberries

Every year, for Thanksgiving, my Mom always made homemade cranberry sauce. For me, it was always one of the many reasons to look forward to Thanksgiving. Well, now, I'm happy that I get to be the one to continue that tradition. Actually, I think I might be the only person who stopped and asked my Mother how to make them. I asked her where she got the recipe (since it's slightly different from the recipe that's usually on a bag of fresh cranberries) and she told me that this was how her mother used to make them. Yes, it's easier to just open up a can of jellied cranberry sauce, but SERIOUSLY, there's really no comparison. Some people like to add oranges or other fruits, but I like them just by themselves. Simple and uncomplicated. It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without them! Give 'em a try!

1 bag fresh cranberries (12 oz)
1 1/2 cups water (12 oz)
1 1/2 cups sugar (12 oz)

Place cranberries and water in a sauce pot and bring to a slow boil over medium high heat. As they cook, the berries will bubble and squeak and eventually they'll pop. When all the berries have popped, then it's time to remove the skins. The best way to do this is to use a food mill. Place the food mill over a large bowl and pour the cranberries and water into the bowl of the food mill. Turn the handle until all the pulp is pushed through to the bowl below, leaving the skins behind.
Now you're left with a thick cranberry puree. Pour the puree back into the sauce pot and add the sugar. Stir the sugar and puree over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. You don't want it to come to a boil. It should just be a low heat, and as my Mom used to always say it should just sort of go "bloop....... bloop...... bloop..." Know what I mean? Let it cook for about 35-40 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
Pour the cranberry puree into a pretty glass serving bowl. Let it stand for a while until it cools to room temperature, then place the bowl in the fridge to chill. The puree will gel as it chills.

The cooking time doesn't have to be exact. It's very forgiving. I've let it go for 45 to 50 minutes and it still turned out fine. The longer you cook it, the thicker your cranberry sauce will be.
When you cook the cranberries with the sugar, the bubbles that form will sort of clump together and form a kind of cranberry foam on the top. When they're finished cooking, I always use a wire whisk to quickly stir out any foamy clumps. This will insure that the cranberries will have a nice smooth surface and a much prettier presentation when you serve them.

Original recipe UPDATE: 
The amounts in this recipe have been adjusted from the original post., which were originally 1 pound of each item, instead of 12oz. Since cranberries are now mainly available in 12 oz bags instead of one pound bags, I needed to change the amounts of sugar and water to insure the correct sugar to cranberry ratio. Otherwise, you might have a bit of a cranberry sitch, not unlike The Great Cranberry Debacle of 2009.
 Also one final note.. if you happen to be making quite a large batch, please be careful not to measure some things in cups and other things in pounds. You might confuse your amounts which would create another cranberry sitch.. not unlike The Great Cranberry Debacle of 2023...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thanksgiving Week!

OK, so, by now, you should be in full Thanksgiving planning mode. If you're the one doing all the cooking, don't panic! You'll be fine as long as you plan everything. Whenever I'm catering an event or cooking for a big group, I always make lists. That's how my Mom used to do it. She'd list each day leading up to the big event, and then fill in each task, depending on how far in advance she was able to do it. For instance, you can make the cranberries a few days in advance, so that's something that can be done, say, Monday night. Pies and cakes can be made a day or two in advance too, so they can be finished on Tuesday night. Wednesday night is perfect for making the other side dishes and casseroles. I wouldn't make the cole slaw in advance because it might get too soggy. It's usually not a problem to make it right on Thanksgiving day because you can do it while the turkey is in the oven. Like I said, make lists! Organization is key.
Another thing to consider is oven management. Sometimes it can be a little tricky trying to make sure all the food is hot when you serve it. I suggest making all the side dishes and casseroles in advance. Then when you take the turkey out of the oven, put all the side dishes in. The turkey needs to rest for a while before you can cut it anyway, so this is a good time to heat up everything else. You can also heat up side dishes in the microwave, then keep them covered and place them in one of those large coolers, you know like you'd use to fill with ice to keep the beer cold in the summer. It'll keep everything nice and hot for you until you get to the table. Oh, and here's another way to keep each dish hot until it's time to serve. After your casserole or side dish is hot, cover it and wrap the whole dish with a thick cushy clean towel. It'll keep the dish insulated and you'll be amazed at how long everything will stay hot.
So, there ya have it! I'll be checking my email often, so feel free to email me with any questions! Happy Cooking!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Homemade Biscuits

This recipe is from my grandfather and is a Quaile family staple. They're quick and easy, moist and delicious, and they go perfectly with any meal. They're also great for breakfast with a cup of coffee. Love 'em!

2 tbs. melted shortening
1 cup milk
1 beaten egg
2 tbs. sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 cups flour

Mix together all ingredients.
Fill greased muffin tins.
Bake at 375F for about 20 minutes.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Green Bean Bake

This is the famous casserole that everyone loves and it has become a yearly Thanksgiving tradition. It's simple, delicious, and is one of those side dishes that screams "home cooked meal". By the way, I know the rest of the world calls it "Green Bean Casserole", but Mom always called it "Green Bean Bake", so I'll stick with that. Great then!

1 (10 3/4 oz.) can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
3/4 c Milk
1/8 ts Pepper
2 cans cut green beans, drained
1 1/3 c (2.8 oz. can) French's Fried Onions, divided

In a 1 1/2 qt. casserole dish, combine soup, milk and pepper; stir until well blended. Stir in beans and 2/3 cup onions. Bake, uncovered, at 350F for 30 minutes or until hot. Stir. Sprinkle with remaining onions. Bake 5 minutes longer or until onions are golden brown.

You don't have to use canned green beans. Any kind will work. Fresh, frozen, canned, French cut, regular cut, all fine. If you're using fresh ones, just snap off the ends and steam them until they're almost tender, then continue with the recipe as directed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pecan Pie

This is one of those REALLY easy pie recipes that doesn't even require the use of a mixer. All you need is a bowl and a spoon. Simple, right? Just stir everything up and pour it into your pie shell. How easy is that??

one store bought unbaked pie crust (or half recipe for Easy Pie Crust)
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup corn syrup
2 tbs melted butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup pecans

Heat oven to 350. Roll out pie crust. Dust with flour. Brush away excess. Place crust floured side down in a Pyrex pie plate. Flute edges by crimping them with your fingers. Stir all ingredients together and pour into shell.
Bake 50-55 minutes or until set.
Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or chilled with a dollop of whipped cream.

For a little variation, add 1/2 cup chocolate chips!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Joey's Candied Sweet Potatoes

This is another one of those dishes where I never really use a recipe. I always just sort of throw it together and bake it. But since I've received a few requests asking "how do you make yours?", I figured I'd write it down. I usually don't even measure anything, so I'm just guessing the amounts. Like I said, it's not really a "recipe", but this is how I do it.
Hope you like it!

4-6 sweet potatoes (or enough to fill the casserole dish)
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c butter, melted
1 heaping tbs orange marmalade
big pinch kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350F.
Boil whole sweet potatoes until almost tender (30 minutes). Place them on a tray or shallow plate and allow to cool until you can handle them. Peel potatoes and cut into 1/2″ slices. In a large bowl, stir together remaining ingredients. Place potatoes in casserole dish. Pour sugar mixture over all. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes. When you take them out of the oven, be careful because the casserole pan will be screaming hot! Carefully spoon some of the glaze from the bottom of the pan over the potatoes.

Lots of Tips:
The orange is very understated and just perks up the overall flavor of the glaze. It's not a strong orange taste. If, however, you'd like a more distinctly orange flavor, by all means add as much marmalade as you'd like! You could even substitute a splash of orange juice instead of the marmalade, if that's what you have on hand, but I must say, I do like the marmalade better. I'm just sayin'!

For a slight variation, instead of using 1/2 cup brown sugar, use 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup maple syrup. You can also add a few drops of vanilla extract if you like, and whatever spices suit your fancy. (nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger)

To save time, you can use canned sweet potatoes. Just be gentle with them so they don't get all mashed up.

Do you like marshmallows? After the potatoes are finished baking, just sprinkle 3/4 cup miniature marshmallows on top, and then bake for 5 minutes longer, or until slightly brown on top.

My brother, Chris, makes his sweet potatoes pretty much the same way I do, but instead of the orange marmalade, he adds a few glugs of Bourbon. He says the alcohol cooks out of it and it "caramelizes into syrupy deliciosity". Well, I guess I can't argue with that! Thanx, Chris!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Happy 80th Birthday, Mickey!!!

Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie

There are many recipes for classic pumpkin pie, but it seems to me that this one is the standard against which all others are compared. I've tried other recipes but I always come back to this one. It's been on Libby's pumpkin labels since 1950! Clearly, they know what they're doing!

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (15 oz.) Libby's solid pack pumpkin
1 can (12 fl. oz.) evaporated milk
1 unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pie shell
Whipped cream (optional)

MIX sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

POUR into pie shell.

BAKE in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving.

Libby's Tips:
1 3/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice may be substituted for the cinnamon, ginger and cloves; however, the taste will be slightly different. Do not freeze, as this will cause the crust to separate from the filling.

FOR 2 SHALLOW PIES: substitute two 9-inch (2-cup volume) pie shells. Bake in preheated 425° F. oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F.; bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until pies test done.

FOR HIGH ALTITUDE BAKING (3,500 to 6,000 ft.): Deep-dish pie- extend second bake time to 55 to 60 minutes. Shallow pies- no change.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lets Talk Turkey!

OK, so, the first and most important part of Thanksgiving dinner, at least for me, has to be the turkey. It just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it! But where do I start? There are many things to consider and many steps to preparing a turkey. It can be quite overwhelming! My brother, Bobby, once called my Mom and said "ok, Mom, how do you cook a turkey?" and her first thought was to ask him "from what point?" because, like I said, there are several steps to take. She didn't know if he was asking her to start at the very beginning or if he was asking something as simple as "how long should I cook it?". So, she said to him "How much do you know?" and his response was "This is a turkey." And to that she answered "Aha. Well alrighty then.... here we go...."
There are many ways to cook a turkey. You can roast it, grill it, or deep fry it. But regardless of how you choose to cook it, there's one thing you MUST do first, and that's to BRINE your turkey. It makes ALL the difference in the world and you'll wind up with the juiciest turkey you've ever tasted. I'm not even kidding. You won't even believe how juicy a turkey can be!
To be honest, I must confess, I've never even cooked a turkey. Well, maybe once, but I'm sure I had my Mom on the phone the entire time. So, I launched into "research mode". I looked up a few web sites and then I turned to an authority on the subject, my sister, Jeanie. Every year, we have quite a huge Thanksgiving dinner, which means more than one turkey. Well, actually, we do two turkeys and a turkey breast. We all have our cooking assignments and Jeanie always cooks one of the turkeys. It always turns out perfectly and she swears by brining her turkeys. If it's good enough for my Jeanie, it's good enough to recommend to you!

Below is an excerpt from an article I found at I found it to be EXTREMELY informative when it comes to brining. Do your Thanksgiving a favor and take a quick minute to read it. You'll be glad you did! Following the article, I've listed a few brine recipes. And following the brine recipes, I've listed a few links to assist you in cooking your turkey via whichever method you choose.

You can TOTALLY do this! I know it seems a little daunting, but just relax and breathe. It just takes a little planning and a little organization. It'll all turn out fine! Promise!

Brining Your Turkey

To properly brine a turkey you need to start the night before you plan to cook. You will need at least 10 to 12 hours (plan on 1 hour per pound of turkey), a container large enough to hold your turkey and enough brine to cover it. You'll also need salt, water, sugar, seasonings, and enough room to refrigerate it. A large stainless steel stock pot or even a 5 gallon clean plastic bucket would make excellent containers. Whatever container you choose the turkey needs to have enough room to be turned so it should be big. Both Reynolds (Oven Roasting Bag for Turkeys) and Ziploc (XL Storage Bag) make very large food safe sealable bags that are great for brining.

Now let's get to the turkey. The turkey should be cleaned out, completely thawed, and should not be a self-basting or Kosher turkey. Self-basting and Kosher turkeys have a salty stock added that will make your brined turkey too salty. A fresh turkey works best, but a completely thawed, previously frozen turkey will work just as well.

Brine Ingredients:
To make the brine, mix 1 cup of table salt in 1 gallon of water. You will need more than 1 gallon of water but that’s the ratio to aim for. One way of telling if you have enough salt in your brine is that a raw egg will float in it. Make sure that the salt is completely dissolved before adding the seasonings you like, making sure not to add anything that contains salt. Brines can be spicy hot with peppers and cayenne, savory with herbs and garlic, or sweet with molasses, honey and brown sugar.

Sweetening the Brine:
Sugar is optional to any brine, but works to counteract the flavor of the salt. While you may choose a brine without sugar, I do recommend that you add sugar (any kind of "sweet" will do) to maintain the flavor of the turkey. Add up to 1 cup of sugar per gallon of brine. Like the salt you need to make sure that the sugar is completely dissolved.

Place the turkey in a container and pour in enough brine to completely cover the turkey with an inch or two to spare. You do not want any part of the turkey above the surface of the brine. Now you put the whole thing in the refrigerator. The turkey should sit in the brine for about 1 hour per pound of turkey. Brining too long is much worse than not brining enough so watch the time.

Keep it Cool!:
Don't have room in the refrigerator? Try a cooler. A cooler big enough to hold your turkey makes a good container for your turkey and brine. The cooler will help keep it cool and allow you to brine your turkey without taking up precious refrigerator space. If the weather is cool, but not freezing you can put the whole thing outside until you need the turkey. If the weather is warm fill a half gallon milk carton with water and freeze it. Place this in the cooler with the turkey and brine and it will hold down the temperature during the brining process.

When you are ready to start cooking your turkey, remove it from the brine and rinse it off thoroughly in the sink with cold water until all traces of salt are off the surface inside and out. Safely discard the brine and cook your turkey as normal. You will notice the second you start to carve your turkey that the brining has helped it retain moisture. The first bite will sell you on brining turkeys forever, and after you've tried this you will want to brine all your poultry.

Wasn't that informative? I was going to attempt to write about all of that but it seemed like a better choice to just show you the article. Now that you understand all about brining, here are a few brine recipes:

Poultry Brine

Hawaiian Style Turkey Brine

Savory Turkey Brine

Cranberry Turkey Brine

Cooking Methods:

Ina's Perfect Roast Turkey

Turkey on the Grill

Deep Fried Turkey

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cheddar Broccoli Bake

Here's another Campbell's Soup recipe that's sort of along the same lines as the famous Green Bean Casserole. It's warm and comforting and always hits the spot. Maybe try this one instead of the green beans next time!

1 can (10 3/4 oz.) Campbell's® Condensed Cheddar Cheese Soup
1/2 cup milk
dash ground black pepper
4 cups cooked broccoli cuts
1 1/3 cups French fried onions

MIX soup, milk, black pepper, broccoli and 2/3 cup onions in 1 1/2-qt. casserole.

BAKE at 350°F. for 25 min. or until hot. Stir.

TOP with remaining onions. Bake 5 min. or until onions are golden.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rice Pudding

Many people in my family have signature desserts. They're the desserts that everyone is asked to bring to every family event because they're SO good and because it just wouldn't be a family event without them. If you're looking for Cherry Cheese Pie, then you should talk to Maureen. If it's Carrot Cake you want, I'm your man. And if you're in the mood for Rice Pudding, without a doubt, your "go to" person is definitely my sister-in-law, Marianne. She's the authority! And her Rice Pudding is the best you'll ever taste!
Thanx Mare!

1/2 gallon whole milk (8 cups)
1 cup rice, Carolina long grain
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter

Bring all ingredients to a boil. Simmer 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together:

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Remove milk mixture from heat. Add egg mixture to milk mixture slowly, whisking while you add so the eggs won't scramble. Let cool. (It will thicken as it cools.) Add cinnamon if desired.

Tips from Mare:
I've had a few times when it didn't thicken up so I put it back on the stove for a few minutes at simmer and just kept stirring it. Most times that will do the trick.
When making the milk and rice mixture, I think the key is to let it come to a fast boil (stir often) over medium heat and then once it comes to a fast boil, lower the heat and simmer 30 minutes, stirring often. I start mixing the eggs, sugar and vanilla when the milk mixture has simmered 25 minutes, figuring that it will take me 5 minutes to mix everything up. Also, mine NEVER thickens when I make a double batch.

Tip from Joey:
If you add the egg mixture too quickly to the hot milk mixture, you'll end up with scrambled eggs. To prevent this from happening, you should temper the egg mixture first. This simply means to gradually warm the egg mixture by slowly adding some of the hot milk mixture in a few small amounts. After you add a little of the hot milk to the eggs, then you're free to stir the two mixtures together and your eggs will be less likely to scramble.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Roasted Cauliflower

Here's a fabulous and fresh tasting side dish that's as simple to make as can be and it's REALLY flavorful! The key to it is the lemon juice. It really wakes up the whole dish! Try it the next time you're cooking a roast or serve it as a part of your next holiday meal. It's SO tasty!

a few glugs of olive oil
juice from 1/2 lemon
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a mixing bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Add florets and toss until well coated. Place in 9x13x2 casserole dish. Place casserole in the hot oven, uncovered, for 15-25 minutes, until the top is lightly brown. Test with a fork for desired doneness. Remove from oven and sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese. Place it back in the oven for 5 minutes.

If you have other things baking at the same time, you can bake this at 350F instead of 400F. It'll just take a little longer to cook through.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cathy's Grilled Chicken Marinade

Here's another awesome recipe from my fabulous, gorgeous, talented, youthful, vibrant, funny, caring and all-around wonderful sister, Cathy
Thanx Cath!

Here's my chicken marinade. It doesn't have a name. And it just sort of evolved from trying different combinations of things I had in the pantry. Anyway, here's what I finally came up with, and I must say, it's tasty.

Large package boneless chicken breasts

Whisk together the following:
1/4 cup Kraft Zesty Italian dressing (or whatever Italian dressing you like)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. Montreal Steak seasoning
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. soy sauce (low sodium)
Optional: a couple of splashes of orange juice

Either pound chicken pieces to flatten them out a bit, or cut them cross-wise so they are half as thick. Pour marinade over chicken (either in a shallow dish or in a ziploc bag) and let sit in fridge for as long as you can. Overnight is great, but a couple of hours is fine, and even 1/2 to 1 hour will work, although chicken won't be quite as flavorful.

Remove chicken from marinade (discard marinade) and grill chicken pieces on outdoor grill or inside on a good grill pan. Serve with your favorite side dishes.

Note: This is also really good cold, sliced into strips & served in your favorite pasta salad.

Goes great with Roasted Asparagus and Rosemary Roasted Potatoes, as shown in the picture.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chicken Francaise

Tom and Amy came over to my place for dinner a few weeks ago and they asked if I could show them how to make Chicken Francaise. Frankly, I had never made it before, but as always, I thought "How hard can it be?" Well, I found a recipe for it and gave it a try. It was FABULOUS! The sauce was super easy, it was quick to prepare, and it's so flavorful that someone might think you went to a lot of trouble. I think this recipe now falls into the category of "go to" dishes when you want to impress someone. Give it a try!

1 egg, beaten
1 lemon, cut in half
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
3 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
5 or 6 tbs butter (plus more, if needed)
1 (10.75 ounce) can chicken broth
fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

In a shallow dish or bowl, mix together the egg and juice of 1/2 lemon. In another shallow dish or bowl mix together the flour, garlic powder, and paprika. Slice each piece of chicken breast horizontally so that you have twice as many pieces that are half as thick. Dip chicken breasts in egg mixture, then flour mixture. Shake off excess flour. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken breasts and saute until golden on each side and almost cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside. Repeat until all chicken is cooked, adding butter if necessary. Add 1 tbs of the seasoned flour and one more pat of butter. Whisk together to make a paste. Add chicken broth. Using a spoon or whisk, scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add juice from the other half of lemon, a handful of chopped parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Add chicken back to the pan. Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

The key to this recipe is the freshness that you get from the lemon juice and the parsley. Whatever you do, do NOT use anything but freshly squeezed lemon juice and fresh parsley. Using that stuff in the bottle and also dried parsley just wouldn't cut it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cherry Cheese Tarts

Here's an easy cheesy dessert that you can make if you're in the mood for cheesecake, but you don't have the time. It only takes a few minutes to whip up a batch, so give them a try! You'll love 'em!
By the way, my fabulous, gorgeous, talented, youthful, vibrant, funny, caring and all-around wonderful sister, Cathy, left a comment with a few more tips, but they're such good ideas that I figured they needed to be included as part of the recipe, not just in the comments section. So, I moved them!
Thanx Cath!

18 foil or paper muffin cups
18 vanilla wafers
2 8 oz. pkgs. cream cheese
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 can cherry pie filling

Place muffin cups in muffin pans. Place 1 vanilla wafer in each muffin cup. Blend all ingredients except pie filling. Spoon filling into cups over wafers, dividing the filling between the 18 cups, (about 3/4 full). Bake 15 minutes at 350F degrees. Chill. Spoon pie filling over each tart.

Joey's Tips:
Clearly, you can use any favorite pie filling instead of cherry. Blueberry tarts are fabulous! You can also switch up the cookies as much as you like. Try adding some pumpkin pie spice to the cheese mixture and substitute gingersnaps for the vanilla wafers. YUM!

Cathy's Tips:
You can also skip the fruit topping, and just mix in mini chocolate chips into the batter before baking. A chocolate wafer cookie as the "crust" makes it extra decadent. This is also really good with fresh fruits, and makes a pretty presentation if you use a mixture of fruits (like strawberries, blueberries & kiwi).

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Individual Strawberry Trifles

Here's a little dessert that is absurdly easy to make and assembles in a snap. Who knew that something so simple could be this delicious and elegant??

2 pints strawberries
2-3 tbs sugar
1 Entenmann's pound cake (or other brand, or your own)
Redi Whip (or other brand, or fresh whipped cream)

Select 4 of the most picture perfect strawberries. Set aside.
Wash, hull, and slice remaining strawberries. Toss with sugar in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.
Slice pound cake. Using a glass or a cookie cutter, cut pound cake slices into rounds. Set aside.

In four large stemmed glasses, layer ingredients like this: whipped cream, one cake round, strawberries, whipped cream, another cake round, strawberries, and whipped cream on top. Garnish each trifle with one of the reserved whole strawberries.

Substitute any fresh fruit or combination of fruits for the strawberries. You could also use any kind of cake. Lemon cake with raspberries, chocolate cake with cherries, the combinations are endless. Yum!

Friday, November 7, 2008

How to Roast Peppers

If you've never roasted your own peppers, you seriously don't know what you're missing. They have a wonderful smokey flavor that you just don't get when you buy them at the grocery store. Not only that, store bought roasted peppers cost you an arm and a leg for a measly little jar. You definitely get more bang for your buck if you roast them at home. So, better flavor, more economical.....seems like a no brainer to me! Not only that it's quick and easy to do. Basically, you just char the outsides of the peppers, put them in an airtight container to steam for about 20-30 minutes and then the skins come right off. Serve them on some Italian bread with lots of garlic and olive oil, and that's all there is to it! They're so much better than the ones you buy in a jar. Try it! You'll be SO glad that you did because it's better when you make it!

BIG thanx, once again, to Trish and also Alana for making this video possible.
And thanx to Denny for supplying the peppers!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Broccoli Rice Casserole

My sister in law, Terri, found this recipe in the Taste of Home magazine. It's really simple to make and it's REALLY yummy. I made it a few weeks ago for some friends and they loved it! Your friends will love it too. You MUST try it!
Thanx Ter!

1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
2 (10 oz) pkg frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
2 tbs butter
1 lb. Velveeta cheese
2 cans condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
6 cups cooked rice

In a large pot, over medium heat, saute onion, celery, and broccoli in butter until softened. Stir in cheese, soup, and milk. Simmer until cheese melts and sauce is well combined. Meanwhile, place cooked rice in a greased 9x13x2 casserole dish. Pour cheese mixture over. Do not stir. Bake uncovered at 325F for 25-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. It will thicken as it sits.

This recipe can be cut in half and baked in an 8x8x8 casserole pan.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Trish's Chicken Divan

Once again, my fabulous friend, Trish, has come through with another recipe that is nothing short of divine. This is one of those dishes that I have to stop myself from eating because I'll just keep going until it's gone. I'm serious! The last time she made this, I had to keep telling myself things like "Joe, you're're had're not hungry anymore.....step away from the table." Well, I have to say that to myself any time Trish makes a fabulously creamy wine sauce. SO good!!!
Thanx again, Trish!

2 (10oz. pkg) frozen chopped broccoli
6 cups shredded chicken, cooked
2 (10 3/4oz) cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp curry powder
salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
2 tbs butter, melted

Preheat oven 350 degrees F.

Remove wrappers and open 1 end of each box of broccoli. Microwave full power for 2 minutes, until thawed. Drain the broccoli and put into large bowl. Add the shredded chicken.

In medium bowl, combine soup, mayonnaise, sour cream, cheddar, lemon juice, curry powder, salt and pepper to taste and wine. Whisk together to make a sauce. Pour over the broccoli and chicken, mix well with spatula.

Place the mixture into a 9x13 inch casserole dish sprayed with vegetable oil cooking spray. Smooth with spatula. Combine the Parmesan, bread crumbs and butter and sprinkle over top.

Bake for about 30 - 45 minutes. Serve over rice.

If using fresh chicken, cut into bite size pieces. Put flour and paprika into a bowl. Coat the chicken with the flour mixture. Saute with butter until brown.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Lentil Soup

Here's a great soup recipe which was given to my by my niece, Tricia. Thanx again Trish!

Hey Uncle Joey,
I wanted to give you this recipe I got from my boss' mom - Joanne Newman. It is a SUPER EASY recipe for lentil soup and it makes a pretty big batch. I know some people like to add some type of meat like ham or something to their lentil soup, like my mom, for instance, and while that is great too, I prefer the soup without the ham flavor. This recipe is also really healthy and great to have on a cold day :)

You will Need:
-1 bag of lentils (rinse in strainer)
- 1 clove of garlic
-1/2 to 1 small onion- depending on your preference (I used 1/2 an onion)
- chicken broth about 3 or 4 cups
- 1 cup fresh softened carrots or 1 can of carrots
-1 cup of chopped celery
-Morton's Nature's seasoning (or any type of seasoning blend)

Dice onions and garlic. Spray bottom of pot with Pam and saute the onions and garlic until softened. Add chicken broth and lentils. Add carrots and celery. Add Nature's Seasoning to taste. That's pretty much it.
Just let it cook until lentils and vegetables are soft. When ready to eat, sprinkle some Parmesan or Locatelli over it with some crushed red pepper.

Tips from Tricia:
Since this soup can get rather thick, I added more broth as I needed it. I ended up using 2 med. sized containers of broth. Also, since the soup is not very brothy, I found that putting the celery in a bowl of water and microwaving it for a minute made the softening process go a bit faster. As with the carrots, I bought fresh baby carrots that you can microwave in the bag, which made them softer, too- or just use the canned carrots and you wont have to worry about it :) Hope you like it!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Caprese Crustini

Trish told me about this delicious and flavorful appetizer. It's an easy variation on a simple caprese salad. You have your fresh tomatoes and your soft mozzarella cheese, but instead of using fresh basil leaves, just top each tomato with a little pesto sauce. It's SO tasty! Your guests will love it!
Thanx Trish!

Italian bread
fresh tomatoes
basil pesto sauce
fresh mozzarella cheese

Place sliced bread on a baking sheet and place under broiler for a minute or two, just until lightly golden. Flip them over, and place them back under the broiler to toast the other side. Top each one with a slice of tomato, a tsp of pesto sauce and slices of mozzarella cheese. How easy is that? Enjoy!

You can use store bought pesto or make Chris's Pesto Sauce (it's really yummy!). After you assemble the crustini, you can drizzle each one with a little olive oil, if you like.
For another favorite variation, try my Oven Roasted Caprese Salad!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pumpkin Crunch Torte

I received this email from my fabulous, gorgeous, talented, youthful, vibrant, funny, caring and all-around wonderful sister, Cathy.
Thanx, Sissy!
and thanx Laura!

Joe - This recipe comes from my friend, Laura Schiavone, from my dance group. Poor Laura always gets stuck bringing dessert because she is such a FABULOUS baker, despite the fact that she is also a fabulous cook. Laura is so good, that she bakes desserts for restaurants -- you know, those cakes that the restaurants charge $8 per slice??? Once, she did a wedding, where the centerpiece for each table was a beautifully decorated, incredibly tasty cake (each table's cake was different!). She's so talented, and she is kind enough to pass along recipes to me whenever I ask. Anyway, this pumpkin crunch torte has become a once-a-year must for our get-togethers, usually when we see each other right before Thanksgiving.

It does involve a few steps, but it is really not as hard as it might seem by looking at the long recipe. And it is so worth it, especially for something special like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner ... (not to mention you are absolutely guaranteed to impress the hell out of everyone!) So, here goes...

Crunch Top:
1 1/2 cups finely chopped nuts (your choice)
1 1/2 cups finely ground vanilla wafer cookies
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted

Mix all the above ingredients with a fork until well blended. Divide among 4 round cake pans, pressing firmly onto the bottom only of each pan.

1 1/2 sticks softened butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 16 oz. can pumpkin
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice

Cream the butter and sugar for 10 minutes. Add the pumpkin, yogurt and eggs to the creamed mixture.
Sift together the dry ingredients, and add to pumpkin mixture.

Divide the batter among the four pans that already have the crunch mixture in the bottom. Smooth and even out the batter. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Stagger pans in oven and rotate halfway through baking time.

Whipped Cream:
1 quart heavy cream
3 tbsp. confectioners sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Whip together until stiff peaks form.

Place 1st layer on cake plate, crunch side down. Spread evenly 1/4 of whipped cream on layer. Top with next layer and repeat procedure. On the top layer, spoon or use a pastry bag to place whipped cream around outside edge of the top layer, and make a nice pretty mound in center as well. (This is just to make it decorative - you can actually just mound the whipped cream on the top however you like.) If you like, top the whipped cream with chopped nuts for an extra decorative touch.

Tip from Joey:
Make sure to follow the recipe as it's written and don't take any shortcuts. Yes, it says to cream the butter and sugar for TEN minutes. You won't even believe the fluffy texture that is created by this!
If you don't have four layer pans, you can mix everything up as directed and then just bake two layers at a time, or you can buy four disposable aluminium pans. You can find them at any grocery store or dollar store. They're very inexpensive and I think they're slightly smaller (like 8 1/2" rather than 9"), but they'll work perfectly for you.