Sunday, December 26, 2021

Warm Butternut and Cheddar Dip

 

  
 OK, so here's a question for you. When you entertain, are you more likely to make the same reliable dishes to serve to your guests? Or are you more likely to try something new and different? For the most part, I think I fall into the latter category, but I do still enjoy some of the tried and true. 
 For instance, at my last get-together, I served a few party foods as my friends and I decorated my Christmas trees. We had the favorite Spinach Dip (only I like to use broken soft pretzels as dippers instead of hollowed out bread), and then I also made this dip, which was definitely something new and different.
 I found the recipe on a site called Serious Eats, and it has Fall/Winter Entertaining written all over it. It has that "warm and comforting" thing going on, and it has an amazing depth of flavor that is PERFECT for drinks with friends. 
 So here's the thing.. Even though I have it listed in its original form, I must confess I didn't do it exactly as directed. I know, I know, sometimes I can't be trusted with a recipe. In this case, though, I didn't change the recipe, I just took a couple shortcuts. Instead of fighting with a giant butternut squash, I just bought a couple packages of squash that were already peeled and diced. So much easier! And I didn't have any fresh sage, so I just added some dried sage to the mixture. I'm sure my little shortcuts didn't affect the final product TOO much, so I was willing to gamble. 
  Speaking of the final product, it was fabulous! Choose a strong hearty cracker for dipping, and your guests will devour it. So if you're thinking of stepping outside the usual recipes for your next party, give this one a try. It just might become a new favorite!
 


Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling and greasing
1 large butternut squash 
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 stick (4 tbs) butter, plus more if needed
20 sage leaves (from about 3 sprigs)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 8oz pkg cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
Crackers or pita chips for dipping
 
 
 Preheat oven to 400°F. 
 Line a baking sheet with foil. Grease a small baking dish with olive oil and set aside. Peel, seed, and dice the squash into 1-inch cubes. Alternatively, use the microwave: Poke holes all over the squash with a fork or make shallow slits in the skin with a knife. Microwave squash for 3 minutes or until the skin and flesh have softened slightly. Peel squash and cut into cubes. Discard seeds. 
 Place squash cubes on the prepared sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast squash until fork-tender and lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add sage leaves and fry in butter until lightly crisped and beginning to darken slightly. Remove pan from heat and remove sage leaves using a slotted spoon. Set aside. 
Return pan to heat, add onion, and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion has caramelized, about 30 minutes. Add more butter if onion begins to stick to pan. Stir in garlic at the very end and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Place roasted squash, caramelized onion mixture, and about 2/3 of the crispy sage leaves into the bowl of a food processor. Process until well combined. Add cream cheese and sour cream and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary. Transfer squash mixture to prepared baking dish and mix in half of the cheddar cheese throughout. Top with remaining half of cheese. At this point, the dip can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days before baking and serving. When ready to serve, bake dip at 400°F until cheese is entirely melted and browned in spots, about 20 minutes. Top with remaining crispy sage leaves and serve warm with pita chips or crackers for dipping. 
 
 
 
Tips:
Be sure to use a SHARP Cheddar cheese, otherwise you won't really taste that fabuloius ooey gooey-ness. You definitely don't want your dip to be bland. And be generous with your sage, salt, and pepper. Just give it a little taste before you bake it, and then adjust accordingly. 
This makes quite a bit, so if you don't have a crowd to feed, you could easily cut the recipe in half. 

Monday, December 20, 2021

Cream Cheese Cookies

 

 There are some ingredients that I always like to have on hand. Of course you want to be well stocked with your basic baking ingredients... eggs, milk, sugar, brown sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, and butter. But then there are the extras like chocolate chips, and nuts, and pie fillings, flavored extracts, and sprinkles.. and definitely CREAM CHEESE. 
 So, when it comes to cream cheese, for some reason, whenever I'm doing my shopping, I always question how much I have at home and whether or not I need to get more. And as a result, I always wind up getting more.. and then I get home and realize I already have 4-6 pkgs, and didn't need any at all. This is also the same sort of thing that happens with poultry seasoning as I'm doing my Thanksgiving food shopping.... do I have enough? hmmm.. I better get more just in case... but that's another story..... anyway. My dear friend, Janet, recently told me of a cream cheese shortage.... um...I think it's all at my house. yeah, sorry about that!
 So I found myself with a bunch of cream cheese and nothing to do with it. I thought.. hmm.. maybe a dip? a cheese danish? a pound cake? But then I thought, well, it's the holiday season... how 'bout some cookies? Great! Did a quick search, found this recipe on a blog called Preppy Kitchen. Looked easy enough, so I went with it. They taste great!!! But here's the thing.... they bake up to be more cakey than cookie. Know what I mean? Delicious, but not exactly the cookie I was picturing. So here's what I'm thinking.. instead of having them with a tall glass of milk.. have them with a cup of tea instead. Perfect! I think that's a much better vibe. They're sweet with just a hint tang from the cream cheese. SO good! 
 Now I know what to do with all that extra cream cheese!
 
 
 
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar  
1 egg room temperature 
2 tsp vanilla extract  
1 3/4 cups flour  
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 tsp salt
 
 
Whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl and set aside.
Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or an electric hand mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl down and mix one more time to combine. Add the dry mixture into the wet and mix on low until just combined. Use a spatula to scrape the bottom and give the mixture one last mix then cover and chill for at least an hour.
Heat oven to 375ºF. Portion out roughly two tablespoon-sized pieces and roll into a ball. The dough will be sticky so it's best to dampen your hands a bit and just wash them when they get a bit covered. Place about two inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat and bake for 10 minutes or until the edges are set and just turning golden.    Tips:Be sure to start with room temperature ingredients! It's makes a big difference!  I added a few sprinkles on top right before baking, just to make them a little more festive, but you do you!

Monday, December 13, 2021

Joey's Classic Cheesecake

 

 I was given a version of this recipe about a million years ago by my sister-in-law, Janet. She had made it and brought it to one of our family events, and after one bite I decided that this was the best cheesecake I had ever tasted. As she was describing the recipe to me, she said it was originally a pumpkin swirl cheesecake and that she just omitted the pumpkin ingredients. I took it a step further and tweaked it ever so slightly. Now it's just perfect!
 Over the years, I've made it SO many times for cast parties, holiday parties, birthdays, you name it. And it's ALWAYS a big hit. At one point, I was making it so often that the corner store next to my apartment specially ordered 3 lb blocks of cream cheese just for me. I guess they were getting tired of having to restock their supply of cream cheese every time I baked a cheesecake. LOL (true story!)
 Full disclosure... I actually debated whether or not to share this recipe or keep it to myself, but then I figured it would be a shame not to share it. It's just so good. If you like a rich creamy cheesecake, then this is definitely the one for you. I honestly don't think you'll find anything better!





Crust:

2 sleeves graham crackers (they usually come 3 sleeves to a box)
2 tbs sugar
5 tbs melted butter
 


Preheat oven to 300ºF.

Using a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process graham crackers and sugar until finely crushed to crumbs. Add butter and process until well combined. Using the palm of your hand, press FIRMLY into bottom of a 10" spring form pan. Place in oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Remove from oven and set aside.
 


Cake:

6 (8oz) pkgs Philly cream cheese

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 large eggs

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup heavy cream


 
Combine all ingredients in the order listed, making sure to mix well after each addition. (be sure to mix eggs into batter one at a time). Pour onto prepared crust. (No need to cool the baked crust). Place in oven and bake for one hour. Without opening the oven door, (resist the urge to open it!!) turn the oven off and leave cake in oven for at least 2 more hours. I usually just leave it there until the oven cools and I can remove it without using oven mitts. Remove from oven and then remove the outer ring of the spring form pan. Allow to cool to room temperature, then put it in the fridge to chill. (This step is important because it'll crack in a huge way if you put it directly into the fridge from the oven). Once it is chilled, serve plain or with your desired topping. 
 To serve it as it's shown in the photo, top it with the prettiest strawberries you can find, then add a tbs of water to a little bit of jam, and brush it onto the berries for a shiny glossy finish!





Tips:

This is an extremely versatile recipe and you can change it to make whatever kind of cheesecake you'd like. You can add chopped oreos to it, mini chocolate chips, chopped snickers bars, really anything you can think of. You can take a portion of the batter and add chocolate syrup, or pumpkin and spices, or peanut butter, then swirl your flavored batter with the the plain batter for a swirled cheesecake, or just top it with your favorite fruits, or berries or even caramel. There's really no wrong way to do it and it turns out every time. I also like to play with different crusts. For a chocolate chip cheesecake, I make the crust out of oreos. For a peanut butter swirl cheesecake, I make the crust out of nutter butters. Most times I use graham crackers or vanilla wafers for the crust. Again, the sky's the limit on cake/crust combinations. Oh, and be sure all ingredients are at room temperature before you start. That's a biggie. It makes a HUGE difference, more than you'd think it would. The batter is smoother, the finished cake is creamier, and it helps reduce cracks on the top of the cake. And if your cream cheese is room temperature, you'll be less likely to burn out your mixer. (it used to happen to me all the time until I finally bought a Kitchen Aid!) Also, be sure to use the best ingredients. Do NOT use low fat this, or imitation that. If you're going to have cheesecake, then have REAL cheesecake. There's just no substitute!


Monday, December 6, 2021

Red Velvet Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting

 


  Are you in the mood for something chocolate? Well, here’s a recipe that ticks all the boxes for what you want in a brownie recipe, and will surely satiate all of your chocolate cravings! Now, usually I would save my best chocolate recipes until Valentine’s Day (especially RED ones!), but this one just seemed so festive, I thought it would be perfect for Christmas.
Full disclosure, I’m not even sure whose recipe this is. I made them ages ago, and am just now getting around to posting the recipe. Usually I’d make a note of where I happened to find it, but for some reason that didn’t happen this time. Oh well! I guess I was in a rush. What can you do? So if this recipe is yours, please let me know!
 In the meantime, they’re the perfect "picky-puppy” dessert for your holiday party, and I just love how pretty they are. Easy too! I promise your family and friends will love them! Enjoy!


For the brownies:
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups white sugar
1-2 tbs red food coloring
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbs white vinegar


For the frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
8 oz cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups powdered sugar



Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Lightly grease a 9x13 inch pan.
 Add the butter and chocolate chips to a large heat-proof bowl. Microwave on medium power for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir. Repeat the process until they're melted together. Whisk in the sugar, vanilla extract, & red food coloring. Allow the mixture to cool for a few minutes, then whisk in the eggs. Only whisk until just combined. Gently fold in the flour with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Stir in the vinegar. Pour/spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top looks set and an inserted toothpick comes out clean or with a few damp crumbs. Be careful not to over bake or brownies can get dry. Cool completely.


In a large bowl, beat the butter until fluffy (about 2 minutes). Mix in the cream cheese until just combined. Then add in the vanilla extract & salt. With the mixer on low speed, beat in the powdered sugar about 1 cup at a time until the desired sweetness & thickness is reached. Frost the cooled brownies with a flat knife, and optionally decorate with sprinkles.


Tips:
-Feel free to decorate them however you like! I love how the cream cheese frosting makes it look they’re covered with a blanket of snow. Be creative!
-As always, whenever I make a 9x13 pan of any kind of dessert squares, I like to line the pan with parchment paper before baking. Just give the pan a light spray, then place a large sheet of parchment in the pan, with a few inches extra hanging over the sides. Then fill and bake as directed. When the pan is completely cooled (or chilled), use the extra “hanging over” bit of the parchment as handles to lift the entire batch out of the pan in one go. Now you can use a large sharp knife to make perfectly clean cuts, and you won’t ruin your pan!

Monday, November 29, 2021

Harvest Apple Cupcakes

 

  

  I was recently trying to decide what to do with a couple dozen apples, and I just couldn’t make up my mind. If you know me, you know apple desserts are my very favorite (especially with vanilla ice cream on top!) Hmm.. so many to choose from. But then I thought, wait.. are there any apple desserts I haven’t already shared? I’ve done pies, cakes, fritters, brown betty, pan dowdy, blondies, cookies, crisps…. but what's left? Then I thought.. AHA! Cupcakes!!
 So here we are. The perfect apple cupcake recipe, courtesy of Betty Crocker.
 It’s very straight forward. Mix your wet ingredients, add your sifted dry, spoon into cupcake tins, and bake. Boom. Easy, right? And then you cool and frost them with your favorite frosting. The recipe calls for cream cheese frosting, so who am I to argue??  But feel free to use whatever floats your boat.
 Perfect recipe. Give ‘em a try!

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups chopped tart apples
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (optional)


For the Frosting:
2 pkgs cream cheese
2 sticks butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar



Heat oven to 350°F.
Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups. 
In large bowl, beat sugar, oil and eggs with electric mixer on low speed about 30 seconds or until blended. Add flour, cinnamon, baking soda, vanilla and the salt; beat on low speed 1 minute. Stir in apples and nuts (if using).
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, using about 1/2 cup batter for each. 
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to cooling racks to cool. 
To frost cupcakes:
Combine frosting ingredients in order listed, until well mixed. Pipe or spread frosting onto each cooled cupcake. Store frosted cupcakes or any remaining frosting covered in refrigerator. 

 

Tips:
As you can see in the ingredients list, the original recipe adds chopped nuts, but I decided to make them optional. You do you!
When combining your frosting ingredients, be sure to turn you mixer to LOW speed, especially when adding the powdered sugar. Trust me on this!
Oh, also, the original recipe called for a can of store bought cream cheese frosting, but I prefer to make my own. Again, you do you!


Monday, November 22, 2021

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus Bundles

 

   This recipes is from Trisha Yearwood, and it's sort of an alternative (or maybe just a nod) to the favorite green bean casserole. They're super easy to assemble in advance and then bake while your turkey is doing its resting after roasting.
Oh! And don't forget the cheese sauce and crumbled French fried onion rings! Thats what really makes it! Absolutely delish!

 

1 1/2 pounds fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
8 slices bacon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup crispy fried onions


Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Divide the asparagus spears into 8 bundles. Wrap each bundle in the middle of the spears with one piece of bacon. Place the bundles seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bake until the bacon is fully cooked, about 25 minutes.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and stir. Cook until the mixture is golden brown and has a nutty aroma, about 1 minute. Stir in the mustard powder, onion powder, nutmeg and remaining 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the milk a little at a time and continue cooking and whisking until the mixture thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cheese until melted, then take off the heat.
Carefully transfer the bacon bundles to a serving platter. Pour the cheese sauce over the asparagus and sprinkle with the fried onions. Serve warm.


Tips:
-I’ve decided that the whole bundle should be wrapped in bacon, instead of just the center. So, I think the next time I make this, I’m gonna wrap the bundles from end to end. That way everyone can have bacon in every bite! More is more!
-If you can’t find Gruyere, just use any Swiss cheese.



 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Applesauce Pie


 

 OK, here’s a question for you. Are you a PIE Person?  The reason I ask is that there are people who like pie, and people who don’t really care for it. But then there are people like me…. I can honestly say that I’ve literally never met a pie I didn’t like. Fruit pies, custard pies, savory pies, meat pies, you name it, I love every one!!
 So that gives you a strong inkling of why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday!
So, what kind of pie is my favorite? Well, apple pie, of course, and for Thanksgiving, pumpkin pie is a definite must! And come to think of it, I’ll never say no to a pecan pie… or a mince pie like my Mom used to make… you can't go wrong with any of them! They’re all classics! Clearly, there’s a reason these pies have stood the test of time.. they’re all delicious!!
So that got me to thinking about what other kinds of old-timey classic type pies I could find.
 It didn’t take me long to find this recipe from one of my favorite you tubers, Miss Lori, over at Whippoorwill Holler. She has some of the BEST pie recipes, and I want to try every single one of them!
And when I saw how easy it is to make this applesauce pie, I was all in! I mean, seriously, an applesauce pie?? How can this not be good?
You literally just stir everything together, pour it into your pie shell, and bake!!! Perfect, right??
Also, the flavor is so light and fresh, you really need to taste it for yourself to believe it. That bit of lemon juice is a game changer!!
So thank you AGAIN, Miss Lori.
I'll be making this pie again and again. This just might be a new Thanksgiving favorite!!!
 

1 unbaked deep dish 9” pie shell
2/3 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 cup butter, melted
2 cups applesauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup flour

In a large bowl, stir all ingredients together until well combined. Pour into pie shell.
Bake at 350ºF for 45 minutes or until set.


Tips:
This recipe is doubled from the recipe that Miss Lori posted. I wanted to fill up my deep dish pyrex pie plate. Worked perfectly! But if you're using just a regular 9" pie dish, you'll want to cut all the ingredient amounts by half.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Joey's Scalloped Root Veggies


I've often said that Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner is my very favorite dinner in the whole wide world. One of the reasons for this, in addition to the turkey, is all the fabulous casseroles and side dishes that go with it. Yum!
But here's the thing... sometimes those casserole are so heavy, it's no wonder everyone goes to sleep afterward. But it doesn't have to be that way! Instead of a big thick heavy cream sauce, what if we lighten things up a bit? This thought was sort of bouncing around my mind for a while, so I decided to come up with something.
I recently had some sweet potatoes, turnips, and carrots, and I thought PERFECT!
I sliced them, layered them with a delicious sauce, and then baked them. The final result has Thanksgiving written all over it!
And it has all of the flavor, but it won't send you into a food coma.
So give this one a try, even if you're not looking to lighten things. It's so good!!



3 large sweet potatoes
5 or 6 small turnips
2-3 lbs large carrots
1 stick butter
1 medium onion
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 cup flour
1-2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup bread crumbs + 3 tbs butter

Peel vegetables, and slice into 1/4 inch slices. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, melt stick of butter and add chopped onions.
Saute until they soften. Add seasonings and flour. Stir until the butter and flour are well incorporated, about two minutes.
Add milk, wine, and just enough broth to make it the right consistency. Stir well over medium heat until the sauce thickens.
Into a large casserole dish, ladle a little of the sauce, and then layer slices of each vegetable, with a little more sauce in between each layer. Pour any remaining sauce over the top.
Cover with foil. Bake in a 350 over for about an hour, or until veggies are tender. Just test with a fork.
Remove from oven. Remove foil.
Sprinkle with buttered bread crumbs. Place back in oven for 20-15 minutes until lightly golden. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving.


Tips:
These amounts are just guidelines. If you’re cooking for a small group, maybe cut back on the amounts. Of course, if you have a GIANT crowd, then double everything!
-Be sure to use enough salt and pepper. This particular combination of veggies is very sweet, so you need that salt to balance it. Feel free to add fresh herbs, if you’re so inclined. Before you layer everything, taste the sauce to see if it needs anything.
-You may not need all of the broth. Just add it a little at a time until it's a light sauce consistency. On the other hand, If the sauce is too thick for your liking, just add a little extra broth. You want it to be nice and light.
-Be sure to let it sit after the last bake because the sauce will thicken up just a bit as it cools.
-Want to use regular potatoes? Go for it!  Don't like turnips? Leave 'em out! Try parsnips instead! Any root vegetables will work!

Monday, November 1, 2021

Halloween Hash

 

 

  So, it’s the night before Halloween, I have my bowls of candy ready for my Trick or Treaters, and I’m trying to decide what kind of casserole or soup I might make for Halloween the next day.  As I always do, I did some googling, but then I also did a few searches on Youtube.
 Well, I happened upon a channel that was taking part in a slow cooker collaboration, where a different channel would post a slow cooker recipe each day for the month of October, or rather Crocktober, as they were calling it. . So this recipe comes from a channel called Souper at 60. I thought, “oh that sounds simple enough,” so I decided to give it a try. I know, I know, why post a Halloween recipe AFTER Halloween is over? Well, I figured this would be a good one to make anytime and not JUST for Halloween. It turned out great! Very easy to do, no muss, no fuss, and it tasted great, especially with a little extra ketchup over the top. Very cheeseburger-ish. What’s not to love?
 So, the next time you’re looking to feed a crowd, give this one a try. Very delicious, and worth sharing, even on the day AFTER Halloween!



1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 10oz can cheddar cheese soup
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
2 tbs brown mustard
2 tbs ketchup, plus more for serving
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 (30oz) pkg frozen  hash brown potatoes
2 cups shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Brown beef in large skillet. Add onion, cheddar cheese soup, sweet relish, mustard, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce until blended. Arrange 1/2 bag of potatoes in bottom of sprayed crockpot. Top with 1/2 meat mixture. Sprinkle 1 1/2c shredded cheese 1/2 tsp salt 1/4 tsp pepper Repeat layers beginning with remaining potatoes and beef. Sprinkle with 1/2 c cheese, and remaining salt and pepper. Cover: Cook on low 3 to 4 hours OR on High for 2 hours. Top with additional ketchup and green onion, if desired.


Tips:
Be sure to drain any excess fat from the pan after you brown the meat. Otherwise, you might wind up with a very greasy dish (depending on the fat content of your ground beef).
The pkg of ground beef that I used was more than a pound, so I wound up doubling everything except the potatoes and cheese. it turned out fine!
Be sure you season it to your taste as you layer. I found that it definitely needed more salt on the potato layer.
I added some diced red bell pepper to the party, and I also did half Cheddar and half Mozzarella cheese, just because I happened to have some on hand. Feel free to tweak it to your heart’s content!

Friday, October 29, 2021

Easy White Chicken Chili

 

Usually, on Halloween, I like to post a soup recipe, but this year, I think this chili recipe will do just as nicely. (Yes, I know I already have another posted white chicken chili recipe, but more is more, dontcha think?)
So, why soup on Halloween? Well, for one thing, you’re answering the door all afternoon giving trick-or-treaters their coveted sweets. Who has time to cook a dinner with all of those interruptions? Also, if you have a houseful of kids like we did growing up, with all of us coming and going at different times of day, this was the easiest way to fill everyone’s belly. Everyone was able to just serve themselves whenever they came home. Chances are all of your ghouls and goblins will be thankful for a nice steamy bowl of goodness to warm them up after being outside in the chilly Autumn weather.
And most importantly, I do it, because my Mom did. So that settles it.
 So anyway, let’s talk about this chili, want to?
I was recently doing some canning, and my unofficial 5th sister, Roz, came over to help. She had just finished making a crock pot full of apple butter to be canned, and of course I had several canning projects going on at the same time. Since I had so much multitasking going on, she was nice enough to bring lunch, and this was it!
 The recipe is from Bush’s Beans, and the recipe was right on the side of the can. It’s so easy, it comes together in a snap! And it uses a rotisserie chicken, which makes it a HUGE time saver.
 So the next time you need something quick and hearty, try this recipe. It’s an instant hit!




2 cans (15.5 oz) Bush's White Chili Beans, undrained
1 can (10 oz) diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
1 can (14 oz) reduced sodium chicken broth
1 can (10.5 oz) cream of chicken soup
1-2 medium jalapeños, seeded and diced
1 cooked rotisserie chicken, remove meat from bone and dice


Optional Toppings:
shredded Cheddar cheese, sour cream, cilantro, tortilla strips, avocado, lime wedge


In a 4-quart stock pot, add 1 1/2 cans of beans, mash the remaining 1/2 can chili beans with a fork and add to the pot.
Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add optional toppings, if desired.


Tips:
Not of fan of heat, leave out the jalapeños. Want more heat? Add more! Or add a hotter pepper. As hot as you like it!
The best way to keep this warm is just to throw everything into a crock pot. Easy peasy! Feeding a crowd? Double everything!

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Joey's Garlic Pickled Brussels Sprouts

 

This recipe is kind of a side step from my usual mid-October posts. Usually, I would post something pumpkin or apple or Halloween-ish, but today, I thought I’d do some canning.
People often refer to summertime as “canning season” because that’s when you have your fresh produce, etc, but I like canning throughout the entire year, not just during the summer.
 So today, I decided to pickle some Brussels sprouts. WHAT??? yes, it’s true. When making pickles, you don’t HAVE to always use cucumbers. I’ve pickled peppers, onions, asparagus, even radishes! Pickle whatever you like!! And the best part is that you can change up your pickling brine to suit your fancy! If I’m doing sliced cucumbers or radishes, I like a nice sweet bread and butter pickle. But if I’m doing spears, or asparagus, or in this case, sprouts, I like a nice tangy garlicky dill.
So if you’re a fan of pickles, try pickling something other than cucumbers next time. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised! Have fun!


3-4 lbs Brussels sprouts
7 large cloves garlic
4 cups white vinegar
3 cups water
2 tbs yellow mustard seeds
2 tsp celery seed
1 tbs mixed peppercorns
2 tbs dill weed
2 tbs sugar
2 tbs salt
pinch red pepper flakes


Combine brine ingredients in a medium sauce pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Let it simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, trim the root ends of the sprouts, then slice them in half through the root. (if you slice it through the equator, the leaves will fall apart!). Also slice your garlic cloves in half. If you’re not going to can them, let the brine cool slightly so that it’s not boiling hot. Place the sprouts and garlic cloves in large glass container, then pour brine over. Let cool completely, then store in the fridge.
For canning, wash and heat your pint sized jars. (this made 7 pint jars for me). Fill your jars with sprouts, and two pieces of garlic each. Pour your hot brine over them until full, leaving an inch head space. Use a plastic knife to debubble, wipe your rims, then center your lids and place your rings finger tight. Waterbath or steam can them for 10 minutes, turn off heat and let them sit in canner for an extra 5 minutes, then move them to a towel lined counter to cool completely.
For best flavor, let them sit for a few weeks before cracking into them.

Tips:
Ok, yes, I know, I know. A few weeks is a long time to wait, but I promise it’ll be worth the wait! I was thinking of serving these at Thanksgiving, so that’s why I’m making them now!
Switch up the brine however you like. Do you have a favorite pickle recipe, use it!
Want it to be more garlicky? Add more garlic! Want it to be spicier? Add more pepper flakes. It’s whatever you like!
Most pickle brines call for equal parts water and vinegar, but I like a stronger hit of sour, so I always go a little extra on the vinegar side.
Wanna add some fresh herbs? Go for it. I think I may use fresh dill next time. Want it to be sweeter? You can literally add up to 2 cups of sugar to this recipe. Don’t have any of these spices? Just add a couple tablespoons of purchased pickling spice and call it a day. It will all work.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Sweet Potato Cake Squares

 

Usually, when Autumn rolls around, I immediately jump into “pumpkin everything” mode. But this time, I thought, how about sweet potatoes instead? They’re pretty much interchangeable in baking, so I figured Why Not? Then I found a pumpkin cake recipe, gave it a few tweaks, and this is where I landed. It turned out perfectly! The flavors are very similar, but just the tiniest bit lighter, I think. And it came together in a snap.
 I made them for some of my dearest friends, and everyone absolutely loved them. I know your friends will love ‘em too! Enjoy!




For the Cake:
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice blend
1 tsp cinnamon
4 eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups cooked sweet potatoes 


For the Icing
6 oz soft cream cheese
5 tbs soft butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract


Heat oven to 350ºF.
 In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. Set aside.
 In a mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar.
Mix oil and mashed sweet potatoes into liquid mixture and beat until well mixed. Add sifted dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. 
Pour into a greased and floured 9x13 baking pan.
 Bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until cake tests done. 



Icing:
Beat cream cheese and butter. 
Slowly beat in powdered sugar and vanilla extract until completely smooth. 
Spread over cooled cake and cut into squares.


Tips:
The two biggest things to remember: don’t over mix, and don’t over bake. Other than that, it’s all pretty straight forward!
Don’t have sweet potatoes? Use pumpkin or butternut squash instead!


Monday, August 16, 2021

Cowboy Beans



If you know me, you know that I LOVE baked beans. I love 'em in any kind of casserole, and yes, I happen to be famous for my own baked beans, thank you very much.
So, when I happened upon this recipe for Cowboy Beans, I knew I'd be making it sooner than later. It comes from one of my favorite Youtubers, Miss Lori, from Whippoorwill Holler.
Now, usually, I would google a million other recipes, just to compare ingredients and methods, but this one looked so good, I didn't even bother. (I even texted a couple of my nephews to say "how can this not be good?) The recipe below is almost exactly as dictated in her video, only I swapped red and green peppers for the yellow ones that Miss Lori used, and I guessed at the amount of BBQ sauce. Pretty much everything is to taste anyway, so if you like a lot of something, add a lot!
Thank you Miss Lori for another great recipe! I'm sure I'll be making this one again!



1 lb ground beef
1 (14oz) pkg smoked sausage
1/2 lb bacon
2 (28oz) cans baked beans
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 onion
1 cup BBQ sauce
Salt and pepper

In a large pan, brown your ground beef. Drain excess fat and place beef in a large mixing bowl. While the beef is browning, slice your smoked sausage and bacon strips into bite sized pieces. Place the bacon and sausage into the pan. Sauté until browned and slightly crispy.
While the bacon is cooking, dice your onion and peppers.
When the bacon and sausage are done, use a slotted spoon to place them in the bowl, but leave the fat in the pan.
Now add your vegetables to the pan and sauté until they begin to soften. While they're cooking, add your cans of baked beans, and your BBQ sauce to the bowl.
Add your vegetables to the bowl and give everything a good stir.
Add salt snd pepper to taste, and more BBQ sauce, if desired.
Pour into a big casserole dish, and bake uncovered for  about 45 minutes to an hour at 350.
Serve as a stand alone dish with some corn bread, or as a side dish with your favorite barbecue, some tater salad, and a mason jar of sweet tea.



Tips:
I love the idea of making this a stand alone dish, so I think next time I might just treat it like a bowl of chili and melt some Cheddar cheese over the top with a big dollop of sour cream. Doesn’t that sound awesome?
If you'd like to add some heat, add a diced jalapeño or some Tabasco sauce to taste. You do you!
 

Monday, August 2, 2021

Simple Summer Squash Starter

 

This is an easy side dish that is as simple as can be. If I’m being completely honest, I debated on whether or not to post it, because it’s not really a recipe, exactly. It’s just a few veggies sautéed together. Does that count as a recipe? I guess it doesn’t really matter. Anyway, I’ve made it several times over the last few weeks because it’s just so good, so I figured I’d share.
 So lets talk about it for a second. Want to?
It’s just any combination of sliced summer squash… Zucchini Yellow Crookneck, Pattypan, any kind you like… sauteed together with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and fresh basil. Thats it. No bells and whistles, just as simple as that. But here’s the thing.. You can either serve it as its own side dish, along with grilled chicken, or fish or any other main dish you like. Or else you can use it as a starter for other dishes. Toss it with any kind of pasta for a main dish. Add some sautéed diced chicken and a little heavy cream for a rich and creamy sauce. Toss it into any casseroles, soups or stews whenever your dish needs some fresh vegetables. The possibilities are endless!
Last week, I made a casserole that I’ve been calling the Kitchen Sink Casserole, because it had everything in it but the kitchen sink. I started with the summer squash, added cheese tortellini, then added shredded chicken, basil, oregano, parmesan cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese on top, and then baked it in a giant casserole dish. It was a HUGE hit and it fed a crowd. Doesn’t that sound amazing?? it’s also a great way to use up all that extra zucchini from your garden. So, I hope you’ll give this a try. I’m sure you can think of loads of other ideas! Enjoy!


vegetable oil
Zucchini or any other kind of summer squash, sliced or diced
Onions, diced
Tomatoes, either fresh or canned
Garlic, minced
Fresh herbs, such as basil, oregano, thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Use as much or as little of each item as you like.
Slice or dice all the veggies. Toss them into a big skillet or wok with a little oil. Toss them around the pan until they’re tender and cooked through. That’s all there is to it. Add fresh herbs, and season to taste.
Depending on the size of your skillet and how many veggies you have, you might want to sauté them separately or in batches, and then toss everything together after they’re cooked. That’s it!


Tips:
I like to use canned sliced stewed tomatoes. You could also use diced or whole canned tomatoes and then cut them up. I wouldn’t use puree or crushed, because I like the large pieces of tomato. If you’re using fresh, you can choose to peel them or not. Either way would be fine.
If your squash is not too large, you don’t have to peel it. The skins are very tender and add delicious color to your dish. If you let your garden squash grow quite large, then the peels became quite tough and much less palatable, so peeling them would definitely be a must.
You can make a big batch and then just store it in the fridge or freeze in ziploc freezer bags. I made a giant batch and then pressure canned it in jars (which is actually not recommended, but what can I say… I’m a rebel.) You do you!

Friday, July 2, 2021

Red, White, and Blueberry Cheese Icebox Cake

 


 Here’s another no-bake dessert that is perfect for your 4th of July celebration. It’s an ice box cake!! Have you ever had one? It’s actually nothing new, and not even really a cake. It’s just layers of sweet creamy deliciousness sandwiched between layers of graham crackers, (in this case with added strawberries and blueberries). And then as it chills, the graham crackers become soft and more like cake. So you can slice it into squares, and it sets up just like cake! Clever, huh?
 I recently made it for my niece, Terri, and her family, and it got RAVE reviews! It’s kind of one of those desserts where everyone goes back for just a little bit more. No judgement here! And it’s easy enough for the cooking novice to make. Perfect! If you’ve never tried one, you absolutely must!




8oz pkg cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups heavy cream

2 lbs strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
1 lb blueberries, washed and picked over of any stems
2 sleeves graham crackers


In a mixing bowl with a wire whisk attachment, starting on a low speed, whip together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract. Scrape the bowl and gradually add speed until the mixture is smooth. Turn mixer back to low speed. Add all of the cream. Slowly increase speed again all the way to high. Mix until the cream is thickened to a nice spreadable consistency.

In a glass 9x13 dish, spread a thin layer of the cream mixture across the bottom, just to give the crackers something to hold onto. Place a layer of graham crackers, breaking them as needed to fit. Do another thin layer of cream. Now do a layer of sliced strawberries, and another layer of cream.
Do the same thing again, only with blueberries this time. (crackers, cream, blueberries, cream.)
The last layer of cream should use up the remaining cream. Arrange strawberries and blueberries on top in any decorative pattern.
Cover with foil and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.


Tips:
When I say 2 sleeves of graham crackers, I just mean that usually they come 3 sleeves in a box, and I used 2 of them. Just use as many as you need to cover each layer.
Be sure to do this way in advance to give the graham crackers time to absorb the cream. That’s key to making it more like a cake texture!
 Also if you’d like to make this for July 4th, you could easily make a flag design on the top. Just put a square of blueberries in the upper left corner, and stripes of red strawberries with the white cream mixture showing between them.
Don’t like strawberries?  Use raspberries or cherries instead!
Not going for a patriotic theme? Use any kind of fruit you like! Blackberries, peaches, pineapple, any fruit will work!

 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

No Bake Banana Split Dessert

 



 I was looking for something that SCREAMED summer dessert. You know, something to bring to a BBQ, something that would feed a crowd, something that you know everyone would love.
 Then I remembered seeing something similar to this about a million years ago, and immediately knew that this was what I wanted.  “….now…if I could just remember who had that recipe… was it my sister in law Terri? hmm… I can’t remember.” Then I figured there MUST be one online somewhere, and of course there was. Actually, there are a million versions. I just picked this one (from Browneyed Baker) because it most closely resembled what I was picturing in my memory.
 It’s the perfect thing to bring to your 4th of July BBQ, or frankly any summer event. And it’s the perfect thing to make the day before. Have fun and customize it with your favorite banana split toppings! No matter how you do it, I’m sure it’ll be a hit! I mean, come on… who doesn’t love a banana split??

For the crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tbs sugar


For the filling:
12 ounces cream cheese (at room temperature)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

8 oz Cool Whip


For the fruit and toppings:
3 to 4 bananas (sliced)

20 oz canned crushed pineapple, drained well

16 oz strawberries (hulled and sliced)

8 oz Cool Whip

1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)

Chocolate syrup

Maraschino cherries

Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish; set aside. 
In a medium bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter with a fork, stirring until all of the crumbs are evenly moistened. Dump the crumbs into the prepared pan and press firmly into an even layer. Refrigerate while you prepare the next layer.
 In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the Cool Whip until thoroughly combined. Spread the cream cheese mixture on top of the graham cracker crust.
Arrange the banana slices in a single layer on top of the cream cheese filling, top with an even layer of the crushed pineapple, and then an even layer of the sliced strawberries.
 Cover with the Cool Whip, smoothing the top. Sprinkle with the chopped walnuts, then drizzle with chocolate syrup and top with maraschino cherries. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Leftovers can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.



Tips:
Instead of refrigerating my crust, I baked it at 350ºF for about 10 minutes. I know, I know, it’s supposed to be ‘no bake” right? Well, what can I say? I like a baked crust!
Also I used pineapple ice cream topping instead of crushed. A, because I had it on hand, B, because I worried that the juice from the crushed pineapple would make it too runny. Hindsight, I think I would have liked the crushed pineapple better. Turns out that the pineapple topping made everything VERY sweet, and I think the crushed pineapple would have tasted a little bit more fresh. So now we know! I’ll just be sure to really drain the pineapple very well!
Btw, I used WAY more bananas than the recipe says. I just sliced enough to make a solid layer!

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Caramelized Onion and Bacon Dip

 


 This recipe comes to us from one of my favorite youtube channels, Whippoorwill Holler. Miss Lori and Mr Brown recently posted a video of how to make this dip, and I immediately knew that this would fall into the category of “how can this not be good?”
 And I have to say the timing of their video couldn’t have been more perfect. A day or two before, I had cooked a dinner of Salisbury steaks for my niece Terri and her family, and I had LOTS of caramelized onions leftover. This would be the perfect way to use them up!
Then I was invited to my sister Cathy’s for a little outdoor hang. Now I had the perfect occasion to try it! Clearly, all the stars were lining up for me try this recipe! I even had all the other ingredients on hand. How perfect is that?
 And OMG is it good!!!!! It’s everything you want in an onion dip, only better. Keep this one in your arsenal of party foods. I guarantee you’ll come back to it again and again!
 

1 cup sour cream
3 oz. softened cream cheese
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
4 to 6 slices crispy bacon, chopped
1 pound sweet onions
Salt and pepper to taste


Place bacon in skillet over medium low heat. Slowly render the fat and cook bacon until it’s crisp. Remove from pan. Chop bacon to small bits. set aside.
Using the same pan, pour out all but about 2 tbs bacon fat. Add sliced onions. Sauce over medium heat until caramelized. This should take a good 20-30 minutes. Don’t rush!
While your onions are caramelizing, mix together the rest of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Let the bacon and onions cool, then add them to the mixture. Adjust your seasonings. Chill until ready to serve with potato chips or Doritos.

Fun fact: You can make caramelized onions in your slow cooker! It’s true! Just throw a few pounds of sliced onions into your slow cooker, toss with a few tbs melted better, salt and pepper, turn it to high, and in about 5 hours, you’ll have caramelized onions! Just be sure to leave the lid slightly ajar so that the extra moisture can evaporate.

Tips:
This dip is the perfect example of how my Mom used to always say “if you like a lot, add a lot.” Do you like a lot of bacon? Do you like a lot of black pepper? Add as much as you like. I added extra bacon and a little extra splash of Worcestershire sauce. YUM.
Btw, full disclosure, since I had LOTS of caramelized onions, I basically doubled the whole thing, although my amounts may or may not have been exact. I just used what I happened to have on hand. Speaking of which, I used regular vinegar instead of white wine vinegar.
For a little extra oniony garnish, sprinkle with chopped chives or scallions for a pretty presentation.

 

 

Monday, June 7, 2021

Miss Dot's Pound Cake

 I was recently watching an episode of Home Town. If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s an HGTV show where home renovations are done in a small town in Mississippi. So, in this one particular episode, they were talking about the house being renovated, and that it used to belong to someone that everyone in the neighborhood knew simply as Miss Dot. And Miss Dot was famous for baking pound cake and bringing it to any new neighbors who happened move into the neighborhood. Well, during part of the renovation, they discovered the famous pound cake recipe and they even contacted Miss Dot to see if she’d bake a cake with them to give to the new homeowner. Awesome. Love it.
  So, of course, you know I wanted to try the recipe. I know, I know, shocker. I googled and found the recipe that the show posted on IG. I already had all the ingredients, so I made it that very day. It was SO good! delicious and buttery, and so moist you don’t need any icing at all.
 OK, so, I’m so thrilled with it, that I decided to call my sister Jeanie to tell her about it. Coincidentally, she had just baked her favorite pound cake recipe a day or two before. I said, “omg great minds, right???” And when I asked her what recipe she used, she said it’s her favorite pound cake recipe, and that it’s from Southern Living. (You know where I”m going with this, right?”)
Yup, as we compared recipes, we discovered that Jeanie’s Southern Living recipe was exactly the same recipe as Miss Dot’s! I think it’s pretty funny that Jeanie and I both decided to make the same pound cake at the same time and received the recipe from two different sources. Seriously, great minds think alike!
 OK, so, can we talk about the actual cake for a minute???? OMG it’s SOOO good! Like, seriously, you don’t need any other recipe after this one. This is THE only pound cake recipe you’ll ever need from here on out. It’s just that good. And it couldn’t be easier. You just mix up the ingredients, (which you probably already have on hand) pour them into a pan, and bake. That’s it!
And if you don’t own a bundt pan, this cake is reason enough to buy one. I think I need to bake another one because the first one’s already gone!



(all ingredients at room temperature)
3 cups flour
3 cups sugar
3 sticks butter
8oz bar of cream cheese
6 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

Beat all ingredients well.
Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan.
Place in a cold oven.
Bake at 300ºF for an hour and a half.



Tips:
The most important thing s to make sure you let everything sit out until room temperature. Otherwise everything just doesn’t mix as well.
Even though the recipe includes a 1/2 tsp salt, I used salted butter. Full disclosure, I use salted butter for everything. I just think it tastes better.
And my best tip for a moist cake… double the amount of vanilla extract, and don’t over bake. You want to take it out of the oven as soon as it tests done with an inserted tooth pick.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Peas and Pasta Salad

 

 I was recently making a giant VAT of BBQ sauce, you know, just to have on hand for all of my favorite summer BBQ dishes, and I was trying to think of side dishes to go with them. In my world, that usually means potato salad, cole slaw, or macaroni salad. MMM macaroni salad… now there’s something I haven’t had for a while… maybe lets try to find a new variation? Want to?
 So I did some searching, and here’s where I landed! It’s a Food Network recipe from Sunny Anderson, and I figured, why not?
 So.. here’s the thing.. full disclosure.. I made the recipe exactly as written.. and I already decided to change a few things. Usually I would save all the tips and variations for after the recipe, but I think this one needs to be said first.
 Well, first, as I was making it, even before tasting it, I wanted more color.. so I added some red bell pepper.. chopped down to a fine confetti. Looks great! OK now to taste it…
whoa… it’s very sweet. Like, VERY sweet. I mean, it does make sense, sweet side salads are a very Southern thing, so that tracks. But it was just a little too sweet for me. The Miracle Whip is very sweet, the peas are sweet, and she even adds sugar. Then I went and added the red bell pepper, which is also sweet.
 My brother Denny was here while I was making it, and we decided that the bacon, onion, and cheddar cheese go a long way to balancing that sweetness, as well as a good hit of salt and pepper.
 So there we have it! A new macaroni salad recipe to try! How sweet do YOU like it? Give it a try and let me know!



1 pound cavatappi pasta
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 (15-ounce) jar salad dressing (recommended: Miracle Whip)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
10 ounces frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
6 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled


Cook the pasta in salted boiling water as directed on box for al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and place the cooked pasta in a large bowl filled with ice water to stop the pasta from over cooking. Stir until the pasta is cool, then drain in a colander shaking to release as much water as possible.
To make the dressing: In a large bowl mix the red onion, salad dressing, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and sugar. Taste and then season with a pinch of salt and grind or two of pepper. Add the pasta and completely coat with the dressing. Add in the peas, cheese, and bacon. Cook's Note: If making ahead, cover and refrigerate the salad until ready to serve, then add the bacon right before serving.



Tips:
As I said, it was just a little too sweet for me. I think I’d prefer to get the natural sweetness from the veggies, rather than adding sugar and Miracle Whip. So I would just use regular mayonnaise, (and by that I mean Hellman’s) and then just omit the sugar completely. Also, I liked it better after it had a chance to sit for a while, so, if you can make it a little ahead of time, do it!

Monday, May 24, 2021

Cioppino Linguini

 


 Have you ever heard of a dish called Cioppino? It’s seafood stew from San Francisco that was originally meant to use up the extra sea critters that were accidentally caught in fishermens’ nets. From what I understand, it was originally served as a stew, but I’ve also seen it served as a soup along with some hearty crusty bread. Well, I thought, what if we make it into a thicker sauce and pour it over linguini??? That’s gotta be nothing but fabulous, right?? Now all I needed was an occasion to cook up all this wonderful seafood.
  AHA! I know.. I’l cook it for my gang of friends! Since we’re now all safe and healthy, and we can FINALLY have group get togethers, and since most of them have not seen my new house, this was the perfect time to try out my Cioppino idea. I made it an entire seafood night!  
Mini salmon cakes (which were a HUGE hit) and crab dip were my appetizers, and this linguini was the main course. I used a Tasty recipe as a base, and then just tweaked it ever so slightly…Served with a nice salad, and then followed up with carrot cupcakes and lemon trifle for dessert. I’m pretty sure no one was hungry by the time they left! And everyone LOVED the pasta.
 So whether you serve it as a stew, a soup, or poured over linguini, this is the dish you need to serve to the seafood lovers in your life. Definitely good enough for your next celebration meal!




2 large carrots, peeled
2 ribs celery
1 bulb fennel
1 large leek, rinsed well
1 onion
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
6 or 7 cloves garlic
1 tbs EACH dried oregano, basil, thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 6oz can tomato paste
1 bottle clam juice
3 cups white wine, divided
2 28oz cans crushed tomatoes (with water to rinse out cans)
A couple big pinches of salt
1-2 tsp (or more) crushed red pepper flakes
A dozen little neck clams
1/2 lb mussels
1/2 lb shrimp
1/2 lb large scallops
1 lb cod fillet


 Finely mince first 8 ingredients. (It's easiest to pulse everything in a food professor until almost pureed). Add a few tbs olive oil to a large pot over medium heat. Place minced aromatics in pot. Stir well. Let them cook for a good 10-15 minutes, stirring often, until they begin to soften.
Add oregano, basil, thyme, bay leaves, and tomato paste.
Continue to cook and stir for another 5 minutes.
Add clam juice, 2 cups white wine, and the canned tomatoes. Swirl each can about half full with water, add to the pot.
Add a big pinch salt and a tsp or two crushed red pepper flakes.
Bring the sauce up to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. After it simmers for about a half hour, it's ready for the seafood, but you can let it go longer. (I let mine go for at least an hour). You can even go up to this point a day in advance. While your sauce is simmering, prepare your seafood.
Remove shells and devein shrimp. Keep cold. Set aside.
Scrub mussels and clams. Discard the ones with broken shells. If you see one that is open, give it a little tap tap with your finger. If it doesn't close, discard it.
If the mussels have a beard, just pull it off. Now soak the clams and mussels in a bowl of ice cold salty water. Let sit for 15 minutes. Do this two more times.
Keep ice cold.
Cut the cod into bite size pieces.
Now it's time to add the seafood to the sauce.
Shrimp and pieces of cod can be added directly to the sauce.
In a large skillet, place a little olive oil over high heat. Place scallops in hot pan. Sear on each side. Set aside. Add a little butter to the pan. Add the clams and mussels and a cup of white wine. Cover. Let stem for a good 10 minutes. Remove cover and dump the clams and mussels along with wine and butter into sauce. Fish out the bay leaves. Stir it all together. Let it simmer until all the seafood is cooked in the sauce. Taste to adjust seasoning.
Boil linguini to desired doneness.
Place in giant pasta bowl, pour sauce over all. Top with a little chopped parsley, if desired. Serve with lots of hearty crusty bread.


Tips:
I chose these kinds of seafood because they’re the ones I like best. Choose which ones you like! I’ve seen recipes where people add salmon, even squid. You do you! I bet a big ol’ crab leg or two would be heavenly. If you want to add more seafood than the amounts I've listed, go for it!
I found that adding about 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes brings just the right burn to the dish… but if you want  it to be really spicy, feel free to add more.
I you’d rather have it as a soup or stew, just use an immersion blender to blend the sauce smooth before adding the seafood, and then skip the linguini. Frankly, I love all the chunky bits in the sauce, so I just left it as it was!




Monday, May 10, 2021

Smothered Pork Chops

 


  Many years ago, when I was first learning how to cook, my Mom used to have a big dinner every Sunday night. On one occasion, I asked her how she decides which foods to cook. I said “how do you know what foods to make?: She responded “You need to have all the parts.” In other words, you have your main component such as a protein, and then you have your sides, such as your starch and your veggies. She also told me that we eat with our eyes first. I’d have a plate of baked chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans.. and she’d say “you need something red or orange on that plate.” Carrots or cranberries would do the trick, and now I’d have “all the parts.” Makes sense, right?
 Ever since then, that’s how I plan my dinners.
 So when I started to make THIS recipe.. I thought.. “uh oh.. everything on the plate is looking very BEIGE… pork chops, gravy, mashed potatoes, apple sauce… they all taste great, but I need a little color on the plate.. so I added some grilled vegetables… MUCH better. Even though I was only cooking for myself, I still needed to eat with my eyes first.
 Ok, so lets talk about this recipe, shall we? SMOTHERED PORK CHOPS! Serious yummy Sunday Dinner factor going on here. I first saw it on one of my favorite Youtube channels, Whippoorwill Holler. Miss Lori was making some Smothered Chicken, and she mentioned that she likes to do pork chops the same way. I thought, oooo YES, I need to do this. They turned out exactly as perfectly as I imagined they would. Simple, delicious home cookin’, and no experience needed!
 So, add this to your Sunday Dinner rotation. Your family will love you for it! And don’t forget to include all the parts!


6-8 pork chops (with or without the bone)
1-2 cups seasoned flour*
1/3 cup oil
1 large sliced onion
minced garlic to taste
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk


*Use any kind of seasonings you like. Miss Lori used salt, pepper, celery seed, onion powder, poultry seasoning, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. I used salt, pepper, thyme, and garlic powder.


Heat oil in a large wide shallow pan over medium heat. Dredge the pork chops in the flour, then shake off excess. Brown the pork chops on both sides. We’re not cooking them all the way through, just browning on both sides. Remove the chops to a side plate.
Add sliced onions and minced garlic to the pan. Add a little more oil, if necessary. Sauté for 5-10 minutes until they soften a little bit. Take a few heaping tablespoons of the leftover seasoned flour, and add them to the pan. Stir well to coat the onions and garlic. Let it cook for a minute or two. Now add the chicken broth. Use a wooden spoon the scrape up any browned bits in the pan. After a few minutes, add the milk. Continue to cook just a few more minutes until everything is well blended, and the gravy is slightly thickened. Now add the pork chops back to the pan, (along with any accumulated juices) and be sure to smother them with the gravy. Cover the pan, and turn the heat down to medium low. Let it simmer for about 25-30 minutes.
Serve with mashed potatoes, grilled veggies, and applesauce!


Tips:
If you’re using this recipe with bone-in chicken, it will probably take 35-45 minutes.
Instead of cooking on the stove top, you can use an oven proof pan, and place the whole thing in a 350º oven. I think I might do that next time!
 

Monday, May 3, 2021

Mini Lemon Drop Cupcakes

 


   Over the years, I’ve noticed my blog definitely has a pattern. Of course, it’s seasonal…. warm spices in Autumn, hearty stews and soups in Winter, fresh fruits and produce in the Summer. But in the Spring, it’s always a little bit of a variety. Very often, I’ll do Brunch recipes, or the odd novelty dish that I’ve seen bouncing around the interwebs. But another thing that says SPRING to me is something lighter and brighter, specifically, citrus. Lemons, oranges, limes, grapefruits… there’s just something about them that makes me think of brightness and freshness… a fresh start, if you will.
 So today, I’m sharing these perfect little jewels of lemon-ness that I found on a blog called Butter with a side of Bread. They’re so easy they come together in no time, and they bake in half the time as regular cupcakes. Simply delicious! I made them for Easter… brought half to Cathy’s house for brunch, brought the other half to Jeanie’s house for dinner. They were a big hit at both events! Definitely a dessert to add to your repertoire. They’re irresistible!


Cupcakes
1 box lemon cake mix
1 box instant vanilla pudding 3.4 oz, dry mix
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sour cream or yogurt
1/2 cup milk

Lemon Glaze
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp grated lemon zest from 1 lemon
2 tbs unsalted butter melted
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
1/4 cup hot water



For the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Coat mini muffin tin with cooking spray. 
Beat the ingredients in a large bowl with a mixer for several minutes until blended and smooth. Fill each muffin about 1/2 full. (Use a small cookie scoop!) Bake for about 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool the pan on a wire rack for about 2 minutes and then turn the muffin pan over on a wire rack so that all the muffins are upside down.
Cool completely. Meanwhile,  make the glaze.


For the glaze:
Place the wire racks over waxed paper. Beat the glaze ingredients in a medium bowl until smooth.
Dip muffins in glaze to coat the bottoms (which are now the tops!) and the sides and let the excess drip off back into the bowl.
Place each lemon drop back on the wire racks until the glaze is set.



Tips:
The best tip in this entire recipe is to use the small cookie scoop. It’s the perfect tool for filling your cupcakes!
Usually this is where I would add a tweak or two, but not this time! This recipe is awesome, just as it is!
The only tweak I can think of is maybe trying an orange or lime version. I bet that would be pretty awesome, dontcha think?

Monday, April 12, 2021

Gulf Shrimp Jambalaya


When I first made this dish a few years ago, my thought was to save it and post it for Mardi Gras. But it seems that every year, some circumstance comes along and I wind up posting something else, or I just don’t have my act together in time.
 So, since I’ve been in a seafood mood lately anyway, I decided to post it now, because who cares if it’s not Mardi Gras, right? It’s just too delicious to wait any longer! And if you’re looking for something hearty and flavorful and seafood, then this one is for you. The recipe is from Chef Anne Burrell, and it’s everything you want in a jambalaya. It’s VERY easy to make too, so you should give this a try, even if you’re a novice cook. You’ll be thrilled that you did and I guarantee it won’t be the last time you make it! Thanx Chef Anne!


2 pounds medium gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound andouille sausage, cut into rounds
2 green peppers, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 Spanish onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
Kosher salt
Pinch crushed red pepper
3 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups long-grain rice
2 fresh bay leaves
1 bundle fresh thyme
5 scallions, whites and greens thinly sliced, for garnish


For the shrimp stock: toss the shrimp shells in a large pot and fill with water. Bring the water to a boil, turn off the heat and let sit for at least 15 to 20 minutes, although longer is fine. Strain the shells and discard.
Coat a large, wide pot with olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Add the andouille and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the sausage starts to brown. Add the peppers, celery, and onion to the pan, season with salt and a pinch crushed red pepper. Cook 7 to 8 minutes or until the mixture has softened and is very aromatic. Toss in the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes. Add the tomatoes and cayenne. Stir in the rice.
Add 4 cups shrimp stock, bay leaves, and thyme bundle. Season with salt and taste it to make sure you are on the way to something delicious. Cover and cook over medium heat for 25 minutes.
Stir in the shrimp and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink. Serve garnished with chopped scallions.


Tips:
Usually, this is where I would talk about how I would tweak the recipe, or change it in some way. But this time, I’ll tell you not to change a thing! This recipe's absolutely perfect as it is! Follow it exactly as written, and you’ll be a hit every time!

Saturday, April 3, 2021

3 Ingredient Slow Cooker Biscuits and Gravy


 OK here’s a recipe that you simply MUST add to your repertoire. It’s one of the easiest recipes you’ll ever see, it feeds an army, gives you a ton of bang for your buck, and it’s delicious! I’ve seen it bouncing around on social media, and it’s been on my to-do list forever.
 Funny story.. when I was testing it, I needed feedback.. so I grabbed my crock pot and off I went to my sister Cathy’s house for everyone to have a taste. She said “you brought the whole crock pot?” I said “well of course! That’s not unusual is it? to just show up at someone’s house with a crock pot? I think not. “
 Anyway, I found this recipe on a site called groceryshrink.com. I’m not sure if it’s her recipe or not, but that’s where I got it, so she gets the credit! If you like biscuits and gravy, then you will absolutely LOVE it. Not even kidding.



1 lb breakfast sausage (in a bulk log)
2 cans refrigerator biscuits (the small ones that come 10 to a can)
2 cans cream of mushroom soup


Brown and drain the sausage.
Layer 1 can of biscuits in the bottom of a greased slow cooker.
Top with half the sausage and then 1 can of cream of mushroom soup.
Repeat the layers once more.
Cook on high for 2 hours just before time to serve breakfast.
Or 4 hours on low.



Tips:
When I made it, it tasted very salty to me. I mean, I know that different brands of sausage have different amounts of sodium, but just keep an eye on that. Maybe use a low sodium cream of mushroom soup? I think I will next time.
Not a fan of cream of mushroom soup? Try cream of something else instead!
Don’t want to use the slow cooker? Bake it in a casserole dish at 350F or until golden.
One other thing… the original recipe suggested setting your slow cooker to a time delay, so it would be ready for breakfast first thing in the morning, and if your cooker doesn’t have a time delay setting, you could also use an outlet timer. If you don’t feel comfortable setting it out on the counter for that long before it cooks, then you could just leave it in the fridge overnight, take it out early in the morning, and add another hour for the cold crock.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Coconut Cream Puffs

 


 Very often, I’ll invite friends to come over to my house to cook with me. Of course, the first question I ask is “what is your favorite food?” Sometimes, we’ll do an entree, as in the case of my nephew Tommy, specifically Chicken Parm. Other times, as with my friend Maryann, we’ll learn how to make homemade jam. (that was a virtual lesson!)
 This time, I asked my friend, Chewie, what his favorite food is, and he said he loves coconut cream pie, and also cream puffs. So, naturally, I figured, why not combine them and make coconut cream puffs! Perfect, right?
 And then that thing happened again. That thing where I go looking on my website for a specific recipe, because “I’m SURE I had to have posted it during the last 13 years of blogging”… but no… it’s nowhere to be found. How does this keep happening? Has it really been that long since I’ve made cream puffs? Oh, well, it’s fine. No time like the present.
 So here they are. This recipe is from Tasty, and it’s a basic recipe for Choux Pastry (pronounced SHOO pastry), which can be used with any cream filling for cream puffs or eclairs. It may seem a little daunting, but it’s a pretty simple recipe to follow. And the payoff is HUGE. They turn out light and fluffy and perfect! Definitely worthy of your next holiday or special occasion! Thanx again for the suggestion, Chewie!



For the Cream Filling:
5 egg yolks
2 cups half & half
1 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the Puffs:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1 pinch salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs, plus 1 more for egg wash


Preheat oven to 425˚F (220˚C).
To make the cream filling whisk together egg yolks, half and half, and coconut milk in a medium saucepan over medium/low heat.
Once combined, add in sugar and corn starch, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and comes to a light boil.
Remove from heat and mix in the shredded coconut and vanilla extract. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least two hours.

To make the puffs, combine the butter, water, coconut milk, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Allow all the butter to melt and bring the mixture to a boil.
As soon as the mixture begins to boil, reduce heat to medium-low and add in the flour.
Using a wooden spoon, mix thoroughly to incorporate the flour. Continue stirring until the dough starts to pull away from the sides and a thin film forms on the bottom of the pan (about three minutes).
Remove the mixture from heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Let the dough cool slightly.
Add in the eggs, one at a time, being sure to fully incorporate each egg before adding the next.
Once the dough comes together, transfer it to a piping bag.
Pipe onto a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet into 1½-inch (3 cm) mounds.
Smooth out any peaks/ridges caused by piping with a wet fingertip (this will ensure your puffs cook evenly and maintain a nice ball shape).
Then brush the dough with egg wash and place in preheated oven.
Bake for 15 minutes at 425˚F (220°C). Then, without opening the oven, reduce heat to 350˚ (180˚C) and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
Remove puffs from oven. Using the tip of a knife, cut a small “x” into the bottom of each puff and transfer (“x” side up) to a cooling rack.
Just before serving (or up to two hours in advance), pipe the cream filling into the cooled puffs. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.


Tips:
You know I’m always one to tweak a recipe whenever I’m so inclined, but this recipe is pretty flawless. There isn’t much I would change! I will say, though, that I would add a little coconut extract to the cream filling, just to bump up the coconut flavor. And also the recipe doesn’t specify this, but it’s definitely easiest to use a mixer to add the eggs (still one at a time) to the dough, rather than stirring them in by hand. I mean, why wouldn’t you?
Oh, and one more thing… when I took the picture, it didn’t occur to me that maybe you’d like to see the yummy filling inside, and I didn’t slice one in half. You’ll just have to take my word for it that they’re filled with yummy coconut pastry cream !




 

 

Better than Plain Roasted Potatoes




   Roasted Potatoes. What's not to love, right? They're the perfect side dish and they go with anything and everything. So lets talk about 'em for a quick sec, want to?
  At the very base, roasted potatoes are just that.... potatoes that are often peeled and diced, seasoned, tossed with a little oil, and roasted in the oven. Fabulous. Can't go wrong. But there are a couple things I like to do to make them a little easier, and definitely better than plain.
 For one thing, I like to use baby potatoes. Red, gold, any color you like. The point is that they're small, they require minimum prep, and the skins are tender so they don't need to be peeled. All you need to do is cut them in half and they're good to go.
Now lets talk about seasoning. You can't go wrong with just your basic salt and pepper. But the thing about this one is that you need more salt and pepper than you think you do. My friends always rave about my potatoes, why? Because I aggressively season them! It really does make the world of difference. You can use other seasonings too.. Old Bay is a personal fave.. or you could even do curry or cumin, depending on which direction you'd like to go. Love it. You could even use herbs to flavor your potatoes. Just be sure to use herbs that can hold up to the roasting. Thyme and rosemary would be fabulous. I'm a HUGE fan of rosemary roasted potatoes with a nice roast beast. Yum.
Next... the other thing that I feel is a MUST with roasting potatoes is the addition of onions. Potatoes and onions are a match made in culinary heaven. Even when I'm out at a diner and ordering a fabulous breakfast, I always ask them to add onions to my home fries. The same applies here. Yes, you could just peel and chop up an onion and toss it with the potatoes or do the favorite Onion Soup Mix potatoes. YUM. But this time, I made it easy and just chopped up some scallions. No onion-peeling necessary, and you still get delicious onion flavor and the bonus of a nice pop of green. Easy!
 The only thing left to talk about is fat. You need some kind of fat to coat them for roasting. Usually, I just go with your basic vegetable oil. It's simple and does the job. Sometimes, if I happen to have some saved bacon fat, I'll use that (which is FABULOUS btw). You could also use olive oil, but that's a little more expensive. The one thing you don't want to use is butter. Why not? Usually you think of butter on potatoes.. perfect, right? Wrong! If you toss your potatoes in melted butter and then roast them, you run the risk of burning the milk solids that are in the butter. I suppose you could use clarified butter to eliminate that risk, but that adds more work. I'll just stick with vegetable oil, thank you very much. If you want buttery flavor, you can always toss the already-roasted potatoes with a little butter just before serving.
 So there we have it. Everything you need to know about roasted potatoes. Make a ton for dinner, and then serve the leftovers at breakfast the next day. SO good. You really can't go wrong!

 Even though I never really think about this as a recipe... this is how I do it..

2-3 lbs baby potatoes, rinsed, dried, halved or quartered
3 or 4 large scallions, sliced
kosher salt and black pepper, or other seasonings, if desired
vegetable oil or rendered bacon fat to coat

Heat oven to 400ºF.
Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Toss until well coated.
Pour all onto a parchment lined baking sheet and spread into one even layer.
Roast in oven for 45 minutes until fork tender. Garnish with fresh chopped scallions.


Tips:
One of the great things about this is that you can cook these potatoes while you have something else in the oven, even though it may be at a different temperature. If you're roasting a chicken or a roast beast, you could place the potatoes in the same pan, and then baste them with the juices, or just roast them as directed on a lower rack in the oven. The lower temperature will just mean that the potatoes might take a little longer.
When you arrange them on your baking sheet, be sure to spread them out into one even layer. It really helps everything too cook evenly and aids in roasting instead of steaming. Also, arrange them so they're cut side down for best results. Also, I like to turn them about half way through the cooking. I just use a flat edged spatula to flip them over, like you're turning over a pancake. Helps to brown everything evenly, and also makes sure the potatoes aren't stuck to the pan!